serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews
 

A Strong Upper Body Can Drastically Improve Your Run

August 5th, 2013

Runners have the tendency to focus primarily on the strength and condition of their lower body.  Obviously strong and well conditioned legs are vital aspect of a well-built runner.   However, upper body strength plays a key role in a runner’s form, efficiency, and overall success.  I realize how time consuming both running and putting in work at the gym can be.  The good news is that some of the best upper body workouts can be done in your garage, outside on your porch, or even at the park where you do some of your running.  The location of your workouts is not so much of a contributing factor to your success, but consistency is the thing that will be the game changer.  Just like training for a trail or road race, you must be just as consistent with training your upper body as well.

If there’s one thing I learned from my PT sessions as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, besides running my ass off, it’s that you can never get enough pushups and pull-ups in for a workout.  With that being said, I’ve taken this vast knowledge of military-style workouts and tweaked them in a way to SERIOUSLY step up anyone’s upper body strength.  Pull-ups are considered one of the best upper body workouts because it works every muscle above the waist.  I know there are some “modifications” out there now to the pull-up, such as the kipping pull-up that crossfitters use, but I like to stick to the old fashioned method.  The traditional pull-up forces you to use only your upper body muscles to reach the top of the bar.  Pushups are also an excellent upper body workout that can be done just about anywhere.  It is best to mix up your pushup routine with various styles of pushups, but again, the key is consistency as it is with anything else.

Having a strong upper body, as well as a solid core, allows you to keep your proper running form even as your legs begin to tire.  Not only does this help during your run, but it will also help fend off those nagging injuries that can occur.  As your body becomes tired during a run, your running form will begin to weaken.  Many runners don’t realize that this isn’t happening because of weak legs, or a poor conditioning level.  This is happening because your upper body is wearing out faster during your run than both your lower body and cardiovascular system.  According to a Runner’s World article online, Olympians, and elite runners alike, are taking part in strength training to help improve their running game.  According to the article, “Based on the various training programs used by the elites, it’s clear that we don’t yet know the ideal strength training routine. What we do know is that strength training in many different forms results in better running economy and an improvement in running time to exhaustion. Put simply, you’ll be able to run faster, longer and stronger.”

I will be posting my own personal pushup and pull-up workouts, with pictures, very soon.  It will be a very useful tool for runners at any level, and your upper body will love you for it (except for the initial soreness).   Bottom line; don’t neglect your upper body.  Think of running as a full body workout.  For that reason alone, it is just as important to have a strong upper body as it is to have a strong lower body when you’re out there burning up the street or trails.

Remember to keep an eye out for my military-style workouts that are coming very soon on Seriousrunning!

Brian Ansley – Adventure Racer Joins SeriousRunning

August 1st, 2013

Barb Wire Crawl

My name is Brian Ansley, and I’m a former United States Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.  I did two tours of duty conducting combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for a total of 27 months.  Once I became a veteran, I realized that I needed to fill the lack of excitement that the civilian world recurrently brings to the table. I started doing road races, triathlons, and duathlons in 2010. In 2011, I became very serious about racing and eventually began running at the Ultra Marathon level.   In addition to traditional-style endurance races, I also began to run obstacle races. I qualified for the Spartan Race World Championship! Get $10 off, Use Code: SPEAR10 – Sign Up Now!, and placed in 14 additional races in the state of Texas throughout the year. 

In my free time I enjoy lifting weights, running, kayaking, hiking, and pretty much anything outdoors.  I also still remain true to my military roots, and continue to do military-style workouts on a weekly basis.  Much of my military-style workouts include a very intense pushup and pull-up workout, as well as ruck marches to strengthen both my lower and upper body.  In the past few years, I have really focused on my diet and what I put into my body.  I eat all organic foods, and stay away from genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and preservatives.  I don’t follow any one specific diet plan, but I do try to minimize the amount of processed foods and grains that eat.

SeriousRunning has provided me with an exceptional opportunity to share the things that I love to do. My interaction with like-minded endurance athletes, veterans, and highly motivated individuals is an invaluable instrument to help others, as well as myself, to reach new levels of physical and mental toughness.

SeriousRunning – Trail Running, Adventure Races, Military-style Fitness

July 25th, 2013

Hello, I’m Chris Barber, CEO and co-founder of SeriousRunning.

In 2008 I separated from the Army after 4.5 years of service. I knew I wanted to be an “entrepreneur,” so I started in commercial real estate development. I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I attended graduate school at night with hopes that would give me a clearer vision of my career path, but it didn’t. The military taught me tons of intangibles, but my experience didn’t seem to fit any of the skills needed for the jobs I was seeking. While I enjoyed my years of service and performed well, I left the military because I wanted to be in a different type of organization and making that career transition seemed impossible at times.

I joined my brother and took over one of his newly launched web properties, SeriousRunning. I’ve been a runner my entire life and know a lot of about the subject, but I didn’t know anything about technology or websites. I reasoned, ‘I didn’t know Field Artillery but I learned how to do that, how tough could it be?’

I spent years posting, engaging, and learning on SeriousRunning until I finally worked too hard, my running (plus jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division) caused my knees to give out. After MRIs, PT (physical therapy, not physical training), and many appointments, my final prognosis from the VA doctor’s was, “Stop running.” Thanks…

I spent about 2 years off running but was able to get a 2nd, non-VA opinion recently. This time the prognosis was similar, but actually helpful, “You ran too much, stop running, cross train and build up the other muscles in your legs.” So I was too serious of a runner. I’ll guess I’ll have to add that to my other two weaknesses, “working too hard” and “being too nice.”

So I reached out to my battle buddy from Iraq, Brian Ansley (who called me in less than a minute after us not speaking for years) and told him I wanted to do a race in 90 days with him and he’s all for it! He’s a stud and crushes adventure races, so hopefully he doesn’t embarrass me. We’re going to be working on SeriousRunning together and telling you about our adventure race in 90 days as well as tips for military style training. We’re deciding between Spartan Race, XTERRA, or Tough Mudder right now. Any recommendations on which race are appreciated!

What I hope to accomplish with this race:

1. Prove to the doctor’s that I can still run at a high level

2. Prove Veterans can be successful in Internet and Technology jobs

Running was my passion in 2008, that’s why I started SeriousRunning, but getting Veterans Technology jobs is my passion now.

Running and exercise helped ease my transition from a combat environment to civilian life. I was lucky that I had a brother working in Technology and was given the chance to learn a growing industry; I want to give other Veterans this same opportunity. Ansley is about to start graduate school in Environmental Studies and feels like he’s one of the lucky ones too. His story is much more powerful than mine. We both have a passion to help more Veterans become the lucky ones like us. Even if we have to stay up all night

 

Happy Trails,

Chris Barber 

 

Cross Training

July 16th, 2013

 

I thought I’d ease back into this blogging thing with the ever popular “toes with background” picture. Gotta get ready for the XTERRA World Championships

I took this picture to show the alignment in my legs. See how they don’t seem symmetrical? It’s because they’re not, I didn’t cross train. The swimsuit? Oh, no, that’s just my ordinary swimsuit. It’s suppose to be like that.

The problem is that my quads are freakishly larger than the rest of the muscles in my legs because of too much running (apparently there’s such a thing). My experience in the Army was to always push through walls and not to feel pain, but I’ve since learned that it’s better to train smarter. I didn’t listen to my body and pushed way too hard.

When you over train one area of your body you ignore the other muscles. It’s all about opportunity costs, pick what you want to improve and start there. For me right now, it’s everything but my quads….

So I swam. And then layed out.

And gave some muscles some much needed attention.

Internet Marketing Internships for Military Veterans

July 15th, 2013

I want to help military Veterans get outstanding employment in the civilian world. I think our military Veterans are currently the United States’s best resource and can make a deep impact. The problem is that military Veterans just don’t have the right skills for today’s economy. It used to be that a “business manager” was a viable career path, but that’s no longer the case in our hyper-digitized society, everyone must not only be able to manage, but also create value with individual skillsz.

I got lucky. I had a brother that introduced me to technology and the Internet early on. I want to pass that luck to other military Veterans.

The first person I’m going to help is Eddie. Eddie has 23 years military service, is a SFC in the Army, and is preparing himself for the civilian world by taking classes in web design at night. He’s using the post 9-11 Bill to pay for it. I used the post 9-11 Bill myself to pay for (a very small portion) of my MBA at Emory University in Atlanta. I’m going to give Eddie some projects to work on for SeriousRunning and National Trail Running Day and connect him to industry professionals.

I’m also going to work with Justin. He was in the Marines for 4 years and is currently in the Army guard. He has a job that allows him a lot of free time in front of a computer so he’s going to try to write a couple of articles and learn how to create quality online content. He can then use these skills writing other sites like About.com. He’s interested in trying adventure racing but he just needs the shoes to take that first step. I’ve got plenty of extra shoes and I can only wear one pair at a time so I’ll help him make that first step.

If you are a Veteran and are interested in learning more about the Internet business please feel free to email me at chris@seriousrunning.com. Those two examples are real people that are beginning an Internship now.

Areas of study:

Social Media

Blog Writing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Email Marketing

Event Marketing

Digital Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Online Advertising

SEM

Google Adwords

Google Analytics

Potential perks include free race entries, gear, and marketable skillz. Plus doing fun, extreme stuff like XTERRA adventure races.

Requirements are that you must commit to 10 hours per week and 1 weekly phone lesson. Please simply send an email describing yourself and what you are interested in to chris@seriousrunning.com. No resumes please. Internships are open now and will last until November 1st.

Happy Trails!

Chris

Co-founder & CEO

SeriousRunning & National Trail Running Day

Running for military Veterans

July 15th, 2013

After serving for over 4 years in the Army, I started SeriousRunning without any idea of what to do. I had no experience in technology, social media, or “business,” only an attitude that “I can accomplish anything,” supplied by the U.S. Army. After being in combat, everything else in life is easy.

But it’s actually not, it’s difficult for Veterans to find equal paying jobs as civilian’s with the same years of experience. Civilian employers don’t seem to value military experience the same ways, they only value experience in particular skill sets. This is a mindset I hope to change, this is a problem that I want to try to help solve.

I’m starting by employing Veterans myself. All of SeriousRunning and National Trail Running Day’s proceeds will go toward employing Veterans.

I’m also going to raise awareness for the Veterans employment problems by running the XTERRA World Championship, a highly visible trail triathlon in Hawaii. Running is what connects my military persona to my civilian self. The regiment and structure of fitness is what separates those who execute, with those who can’t seem to take one step forward. I’ve been running prior to, during, and post my military service, but was told by doctors to stop running, but they didn’t say anything about trail triathalons….

If you’re interested in helping Veterans find employment, please email me, Chris Barber at chris@seriousrunning.com.

SeriousRunning back in bizness.

July 15th, 2013

SeriousRunning is back in business. The business of getting back in shape. After 20 years of competitive running, I had to stop due to injury. After MRIs, physical therapy, and a variety of treatments, I gave up on cardio exercise for the past 1.5 years. After trying all of these remedies, my doctor’s final advice was, “Just stop running.” I was devastated.

Running is what I had been doing my whole life. As long as I can walk, I want to run. Recently I got a doctor’s 2nd opinion, the prognosis: “You’ve over worked your running muscles, stop running….but do do any other fitness activities.” So I’m back and ready for my next challenge baby! I guess I’ll just have to be more careful about my only weakness, that I work too much…

I thought my knee issues stemmed from jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division or maybe from “taking a knee” too many times in Iraq, but I think I just overworked my running muscles. I’ve learned the importance of cross-training and plan to give myself a trail triatholon race goal instead of purely a run. I love to trail run, running will always be my passion, it’s what I’m best at, but we learn and grow by challenging ourselves in new ways. I will be competing in the XTERRA World Championships.

I started SeriousRunning with my brother, Jeff Barber, in 2008, and at that time trail running, adventure racing, and XTERRA began gaining popularity. I ran many of the XTERRA trail races and wrote about them here. I started National Trail Running Day in 2009 and had thousands of participants in the inaugural year. 2013 date TBD.

I want to come back from this injury, accomplish my goals, and prove to myself that “I’ve still got it.”

Hope you enjoy my efforts. I also plan to improve this site, please feel free to send me a message at chris@seriousrunning.com. Happy Trails!

The newest obstacle race to land in the US, The Battle Run

December 7th, 2012

 

The newest obstacle race, The Battle Run coming to Atlanta.  Check it out and see if you are up to the test.

The Battle Run is a military themed obstacle and mud race that will challenge you in ways you never thought possible.  With challenging and sometimes frightening  obstacles, The Battle Run will force you to face your fears, rely on the people in the trenches with you, and push you further than you ever thought you were capable of going.  I’ve been in the Army and there are a lot of things I couldn’t have done without the help of others.  Sounds like a great concept to teach teamwork in the individualistic sport of running.  It’ll be interesting to see who works together and who leaves their comrades behind.

According to the race director Cameron, “Your athleticism will be tested.  Your mental resolve will be crushed.  You will be broken and battered until nothing but a hardened, battle ready, monster remains.”

The Pitch:  Do you have what it takes?  Register for The Battle Run and find out! The first stop on The Battle Trail is Atlanta, GA on August 3rd, 2013.  The exact location is yet to be announced but negotiations are underway with a very special venue  Registration for this event is now open and details can be found at www.gobattlerun.com.  There you can register and use coupon code FIRSTINLASTOUT for a short time to receive $10 your registration.  Other discounts include military 50% off, Emergency Medical Service Professional $10 off, Students 10% off and Team Registration $10 off.  Visit the website and register today for the time of your life that will surely reveal what you’re made of!

Taos Ski Valley Up and Over Trail Run Race Recap

July 16th, 2012

This year’s Taos Ski Valley Up and Over Trail Run is scheduled for Saturday August, 25th at 9 am.  Nancy Hobb’s tells us about her experience at the race.  Think you can handle it?  Then Register.

Imagine standing at a race start line, looking upward, and seeing only the first 1/4 mile of the race course because the trail bends around the back side of a ski mountain and the summit is so far above you that it is not visible from the base of the mountain.

It is with trepidation perhaps, or maybe excitement, or even dread, to consider a climb of more than 2,600 feet in three miles before reaching the halfway point in a race course. Once the initial shock is over—the climb of course—it’s all downhill.

Getting back to the climb…think rocky, unstable footing, no shade, lack of oxygen, gut-busting steepness, heavy breathing and even some gasps and groans from the effort. Oh, but the views! Incredible if taking the time to enjoy them. Me, I was dizzy from the elevation gain and had no plans to stop. Why? Competition. There were two women ahead of me. A top-three place finish was great considering how I was feeling on the uphill, yet I knew if I could just maintain, I could pick up time on the descent and maybe make up some time and a place…or two.

Before the race I estimated about 12-14 minute miles on the uphill, 7 minutes per mile on the descent. I figured this after looking at a tiny ski-trail map of the Taos Ski area online and judging how long it took me a few weeks prior to run to the top of Vail Mountain on a similar elevation gain over three miles.

For me, it’s a bit about planning. Some people don’t care about the course, the terrain, or the competition, they just show up and run. I like to know all of these elements of the race plus what the weather is going to be on race morning, where the restrooms are, what the trail looks like just beyond the start line, what the approach to the finish line looks like, and everything in between. If possible, I like to run part, or all of the course before I race. Certainly not practical when arriving the night before the race.

Of the 31 runners on race morning, Saturday, August 25, for the Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10k Trail Run, only a few decided to stand on the start line. Trepidation perhaps. Starting at 9,207 feet with 2,612 feet of elevation gain looming. Trepidation for sure, if not dread.

We got some last minute instructions about the course and were informed that there would be no countdown to the start, we were to just “go” after we heard a gun shot. Of course no one knew when the gun shot would come so we nervously waited with our fingers on our chronographic watches. Somehow I was in second place right from the start and I was taking it easy. Only one fellow took off in the lead and he, like many rabbits, became a turtle as the race went on. I made the first switchback turn and slowly approached the second before a few men passed me. A woman I spoke with at the start then surged past me in the first 1/2 mile. Her name was “Tas” I later learned and she had run the race last year, in the first year of the event. At the start she told me that it took her about 1:10 to 1:12 to race it—so I guessed she was probably last year’s winner since the organizer told me the women’s winning time for 2006 was 1:12. She would be my competition along with another woman I saw warming up at the start who just “looked fast.”

I settled into what I felt was a comfortable, yet oxygen-deprived, 12+ minute pace and a solid top-10 position which I hoped to keep up for the duration of the climb. Consistent pace is what I suggest to runners for this type of event. “Get into a gear that you know you can sustain for the duration of a climb,” is my best advice.

There would be three aid stations on the course, one halfway to the top, another at the summit, and a third at about the 4.5 mile point. When I looked at my watch and saw 25 minutes at the first aid station, I knew that my 12 minute pace was a fleeting dream and I was hoping now to go under 50 minutes on the climb.

The second woman passed me somewhere along the climb before that first aid station, she was the one who “looked fast” as she warmed up at the start. I could see her just ahead of me for the rest of the climb and I figured if I could just keep her in my sights, I could catch her — just maybe — on the descent. Considering how I was feeling toward the top—dizzy, unsteady, depleted, tired—that dream was in jeopardy of becoming rather distant as well. I managed a sub 50 minute ascent so that invigorated me…sort of.

It is amazing how cresting the top of a climb can change your attitude rather quickly. Just three miles to go and all downhill. This is my kind of running.

Tas was right, it was steep…and rocky. The speedy second-place woman was just ahead of me tiptoeing down the mountain. I blasted past her and she yelled out, “You go sister!” Inspiration for sure.

The descent was my strength, but the pounding was pretty intense and the footing was a bit treacherous in spots. I even had to slow down in several sections and amend my seven-minute pace accordingly. I passed the final water stop and knew I still had a mile or so to go. It was fairly solitary running, much like many trail races that have small fields and are also rather challenging. I saw one other runner ahead of me on the trail whom I thought I would catch, but didn’t, and heard no one behind me.

There were no spectators on course save for the aid stations and a few supporters who hiked up from the finish line to cheer on their friends, which also adds to the solitary nature of trail racing. When I saw some supporters near the finish line they urged me on saying that I only had 1/2 mile to the finish line. It was a bit longer than that, but close enough to ramp up my pace a bit.

I crossed the line in 1:13:05, good enough for second woman and sixth overall. Pleased to be in the top ten, second among the women, and equally pleased that we top-three women were all in our 40s.

The race awards ceremony started after everyone had crossed the finish line and post-race chatter was well underway. Every participant received a coupon for lunch with their race entry. Lunch, along with a cute T-shirt and some great swag made the nearly four-hour drive from Colorado Springs more than worthwhile. Add great volunteer support, and this low-key, small town event is a must-do mountain race for your August racing calendar.

Article by Nancy Hobbs from www.trailrunner.com

FILA Skeletoes Minimalist Running Shoes Review

March 1st, 2012

fila-skeletoes-minimalist-running-shoe-review-soles

Several months ago I acquired a pair of Skeletoes running shoes from FILA. If you would like to skip all of the details of the review below, I will cut to the chase: I have thoroughly enjoyed using these shoes for running, hiking, walking, playing basketball with my children, skateboarding, and a number of other activities. They have been an excellent minimalist shoe for trail running and cold-weather running, although my preference would be for a thinner and more uniform sole (such as the Soft Star RunAmoc). However, the thicker sole has allowed me to use them for a greater variety of activities.

Description of the FILA Skeletos shoe:

This is a toe shoe, with many similarities to the Vibram FiveFingers. Their distinguishing feature (aside from the cool tread which looks like foot bones) is that they only have four toe pockets instead of five. No, this shoe is not made for a mutant sub-population with only four toes – the fourth toe pocket is designed to accommodate the last two toes of the feet. The intent is to facilitate the process of putting the shoe on the foot. The sole of the shoe is similar to a Five Finger sole, in that it conforms to the contours of the foot, and is quite minimal. The upper is made of a neoprene-like material that expands well and conforms to the foot. A single velcro strap at the top of the foot secures the shoe, with an additional velcro strap at the heal to adjust the overall fit.

About me:

Until a few months ago, I was running between 30 and 60 miles a week (I had to quit running at the end of 2011 while I finished my doctoral degree and searched for a job). Since 2007, I have been a barefoot purist, running without anything on my feet and disliking the way many have used ‘barefoot running’ as a substitute for ‘minimalist running’. This, of course, has made winter running a bit difficult, as I’ve always been too proud to cover my feet, even when temperatures are sub-freezing (the two exceptions being for December marathons with start temperatures in the 20s). Aside from the two winter marathons that I ran in Land’s End slippers (similar to leather-bottom moccasins), I have run one marathon barefoot, as wells as some 5k and 10k races. I also enjoy summer all-comers track meets, and typically compete in the 1500/mile. To keep myself fit for track racing, my weekly running typically incorporates short intervals at the track (400m) and tempo runs. The majority of my running over the past few years has been done in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, but I have also run barefoot (in a variety of conditions) as I’ve traveled within the U.S. and abroad.

fila-skeletoes-minimalist-running-shoe-reviewBenefits of the FILA Skeletoes:

1. Foremost, these shoes have enabled me to begin trail running. Although I love to mountain bike, I didn’t realize how exhilarating trail-running would be. As I’ve increased trail running, these shoes have performed excellently.

2. The four-toe design of the shoe greatly facilitates putting them on the foot. Although I have never run in Vibram FiveFingers shoes, I have put them on my feet a number of times, and always had great difficulty (because of the final toe). I’ve been told by friends who use FiveFingers that this process gets much easier as the shoes break in, but putting the shoes on my feet was never an issue with the FILA Skeletoes. The four-toe design was an excellent concept.

3. The shoes have performed quite well on trails and in wet conditions. The tread didn’t cause problems, even when hiking over wet logs.

4. The upper material is dense and is excellent in cold-weather conditions – my feet have always felt quite warm while using the shoes in low temperatures.

5. In my opinion the shoe is pretty cool looking.

Review of FILA Skeletoes:

1. When it comes to running, my preference is for an extremely minimalist sole (such as that of the Soft Star RunAmoc). The sole of the Skeletoes has some structural reinforcement and additional material around the heel, ball and toes. Have said that, they don’t have more structure than the Vibram Five Fingers, and are much more minimal that almost every other minimalist running shoe on the market.

2. After several months of use, the upper material has started to separate from the sole at the side of one of my toes (see last photo). This hasn’t affect the functionality of the shoe (I have still been able to use them without even noticing the separation), but I am now self-conscious while running in them because I have a toe sticking out of the shoe (yes, I’m a very proud person). This is also indicative that their durability may be sub-standard.

3. While the dense upper is good in cold weather, it isn’t good in warm/hot weather. Despite the fact that my feet rarely sweat, I have found them to be hot and sweaty after using the Skeletoes in warm weather.

In conclusion, I have really enjoyed my Skeletoes. While I don’t consider them my ideal running shoe (since I prefer an extremely minimal sole for trail running), the additional structure that they have built into the sole has made them ideal for a greater variety of activities than would have been possible with a more minimal sole. Aside from trail running and cold-weather road running, I have used them for running errands, hiking, playing basketball with my kids, and skateboarding. I would highly recommend them for an individual transitioning to minimalist trail running as well as an individual who is looking for a minimalist shoe that would be well suited for a wide range of activities.