Swimming: A Perfect Cross-Training Activity for Cyclists and Runners

Swimming is one of the best methods of cross-training because it allows athletes to take a break without compromising their workout schedule. Running and cycling every day is not recommended because it is hard on your joints and your body needs about 2-3 days of rest each week. Thus, swimming allows you to utilize different muscles and gives your joints a break while still keeping up with endurance or speed work. All in all, it’s a favorite method of cross-training for many types of athletes.

Facts about swimming/water exercises:

  • Water cushions stiff joints, allowing for freer movement.
  • It also cushions joints that are injured by the impact of land exercises, making it ideal for rehabilitation.
  • When immersed to the waist your body only bears 50% of its total weight.
  • When immersed to the chest your body only bears 25%-35% of its total weight.
  • When immersed to the neck your body only bears %10 of its total body weight.
  • Water exercises can also relieve pain or stiffness by allowing freer movement without all of the weight bearing.
  • Water provides 12 times the resistance than air which helps build strength and endurance.
  • Swimming is a great cardiovascular workout, making it a great cross-training choice for runners and cyclists.

Here are two swimming workouts to try:

Running in Water
To run in the water, use belts that are specifically designed to keep you in a vertical position while in the water (the belts also offer buoyancy which allows you to run in motion while in the pool). Try to imitate your normal running form. Keep your fists closed. Allow your legs to move forward. Take short and fast strides. You can also switch to high knees and march in place.

To figure out how long to do this exercise for base it upon your land workouts; for example:

1. If you normally run an interval of 10 x 400, take that time and multiply it by 10.
2. 10 x 1:45 is the effort that should be used in the pool.

Swim Laps
Alternate between freestyle, breaststrokes, and backstrokes to help reduce muscle fatigue. Start off by doing about 10 laps back and forth in the pool.With each lap, see if you can improve your time (if you’re going for speed). For endurance, increase the number of laps. Remember to start out with a number of laps and a speed that is comfortable to you and work up gradually to avoid injury.

How do you use swimming as a cross-training activity?

Runner’s Story: My Track Record

My Track Record

Heart Rate Monitors USA got the chance to interview Greg of My Track Record and we have to say, we’re impressed! Not only is Greg a great blogger (we love the video posts :) ), but he’s also a past member of the United States’ 100K World Championship team. We wish him all the luck in the world in achieving his future goals, as well as congratulations for his past achievements. Enjoy our interview!

How did you get started in running?

As a kid, I loved sports in general, so I tried everything. Long-distance running was one of the only sports I was good at, so I stuck with it. (The story of the day when I realized I was suited for long distances is told here:

What do you love most about running?

Perhaps the fact that, in general, hard work is rewarded and progress is easy to measure. If you increase your commitment to running, your times get faster or your weight gets lighter or whatever. You don’t have the complications of teammates, frequent changes in equipment and venues, etc. To a large extent, it’s just you against the clock.

What are your personal records so far in your sport?
My best times are 15:03 for 5 kilometers, 30:58 for 10 kilometers, 2:22:32 for a marathon, and 6:52:52 for 100 kilometers.

Do you have any running goals for the future?

Of course I do. I’ve been struggling with an Achilles tendon problem for the last six months, so my goal for 2011 is simply to get healthy again. After that, I would like to make it back onto the United States’ 100K World Championship team, which I was a member of in 2005, 2007, and 2008. And I’ll turn 40 in 2013, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to turn in some strong masters times at all distances from 5K on up.

How do you keep in shape?

When healthy, I run every day, with one or two speed workouts per week plus a longer run on the weekend. I also do some commuting by bicycle, though I hesitate to call it cross-training, and chase my 4-year-old son around the playground from time to time.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a runner who is just getting started?

Experiment with different kinds of running — fast vs. slow, continuous vs. intervals, roads vs. track vs. trails vs. treadmill, timed vs. untimed, morning vs. evening, solo vs. with friends, shorter vs. longer — to see what’s most fun for you. Too many people get locked into a pattern that simply represents what they’re used to, not what they enjoy most.

Thanks for the interview Greg!

For all of you Heart Rate Monitors USA readers, be sure to check out Greg’s blog, My Track Record!

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A Simple Calf Stretch To Get You Moving

RunnerGearing up for your next run, workout, or trip on the bike? Be sure to stretch out your calves using this simple and easy technique that goes through three simple stretches.  Remember – stretching before exercise can help eliminate injury. Plus, it just feels good!

OK – let’s get started:

Start out by stretching the outer part of your calf, called the gastrocnemius. Start out by sitting with both legs straight. Loop a jump rope around the ball of one foot. Grasp each end of the rope and then flex your foot back toward the ankle, toes toward your knee.

Next, stretch the soleus (inner calf) by sitting with one leg straight and the other one bent with your foot facing up, almost like you are going to push off the floor with your heel. Grab the bottom of the foot on the bent leg and keeping the heel to the ground, pull your foot toward your body as far as you can. Go slowly to avoid strain.

Then, it’s time to stretch the Achilles tendon. Sit with one leg straight and one leg bent. Bring your heel close to your bottom. Keeping the heel to the ground, grab the toe of your shoe and pull the foot toward your body.

That’s it. You’re done in just three steps. Now be sure to repeat on the other leg :)

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How Much Does a Good Pair of Running Shoes Cost?

This is a guest post written by Lauren Dzuris. If ever you have the question, How Much Will it Cost you can find the answer at our website. It was designed to help you find the cost of just about anything!

The saying, “You get what you pay for”, couldn’t be any truer than when it comes to a good pair of running shoes. You want to make sure you get the support you need, the durability, cushion and the comfort all in one shoe.

A good pair of running shoes helps you run for longer distances and longer periods of time, although, if you go the cheap route, you may have an injury or just have soar feet when you’re done.

So, what are some good running shoes to consider?

I would go with any brand that is well known and has good reviews. I preferably like brands like Asics, Adidas, Nike and Reebok. If they have good reviews, you know that others who have actually tried them liked them and would recommend them to you.

They don’t have to be the most expensive shoes on the shelf, but you probably won’t find them for a “cheap” price.

That brings us to the question of how much does a good pair of running shoes cost?

I would say the average pair of running shoes costs anywhere from $80-$150. That is a wide range, but it’s true. You could find a great deal on a pair of Nikes for $80, or you could find the top of the line Asics for $150. It’s not to say you have to pay that price to find a good pair, but that’s usually the going rate.

Shopping for a good pair of running shoes takes some researching and may take a few days to find a good pair. Certainly don’t settle for the first pair you come across. There are several styles, colors, designs, features and prices to consider. Most importantly, when you find a good pair, stick with it!

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Tips for Completing a Marathon after Pregnancy

This is a guest post written by Lauren Dzuris. Lauren runs FindMyCarSeat, a Convertible Car Seat website that also offers Booster Car Seats to make car seat shopping easier on parents by giving them all the advice and tips they need to keep their little one safe!

Young Woman Working Out

We all have our goals that we want to complete. Whether you’d like to make a certain amount of money with your new business, or you’d like to run your first marathon, it takes both motivation and dedication.

Although you may be feeling a little out of shape after your pregnancy, you are more than capable of getting back into shape. You can start training on a daily basis, and accomplish your goal of completing a marathon. Don’t think it’s possible? Try a few of these tips and see how it is!

Wait at least six weeks: You definitely want to get the OK from your OB/GYN. They will be able to tell you if you’re healed enough to start running. Once you get the ok, you’re good to run.

Have a plan: It is important to come up with a plan. This will keep you on your toes and let you know what you need to do to accomplish this goal. Are you going to do this with a friend or family member for motivation? Have you found where you want to run this marathon and how you’re going to train? Ask yourself all the important questions to figure out a plan.

Figure out your deadline: When is your deadline? You can figure this out by learning when the marathon actually is. You should be able to do a little more than 26 miles in order to complete it.

Rest: Running mile after mile is exhausting. Make sure you get your rest. It is important to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, although since you’re training so hard, it wouldn’t hurt to get more like ten hours!

Stretch: Stretching can increase your weight loss and your flexibility so make sure you do this right before you warm up, and maybe stop half way through to get a really good stretch in now that you’re warmed up.

Increase distance: Make sure you increase your distance steadily. By increasing a half mile a day, you’re not really noticing the extra work you’re putting on yourself daily. Do whatever you can in a day, and if you can’t go any farther, don’t push yourself. If you push yourself too hard you’ll want to give up, and you may result in an injury.

There are several tips you can use to help you complete your marathon. Most importantly, have fun, think about how you can cross of the goal you’ve complete, and show your family that you’re a strong, and healthy new mom.

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Runner’s Story: Old Man Running

We have another inspiring story for you! Allen Leigh, of Old Man Running, was kind enough to share his story with us and we have to say, it’s quite amazing. You can read more about how running actually saved his life here, but for now, he’s going to share his best running tips and advice. Enjoy!

Allen Leigh of

Allen Leigh of

How and when did you start running?
I started running at age 38 due to having pain in my feet when I was on my feet for several hours. I had been raised in a small Utah town in which I walked or rode a bike everywhere. I completed four years of college during which I walked several miles each day just going to and coming from campus twice a day.

After my Sophomore year of college I worked at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as a Bell Hop and was on my feet all day. During my off hours, I hiked 90 miles in the canyon, including a rim-rim hike of 26 miles. The upshot of this is that I had very strong legs and feet until…until I bought my first car and started driving everywhere. After a few years, my feet started to hurt. For example, after 6 or 7 hours of doing yard work, my feet would be so sore the next morning that I had to crawl from my bed to the bathroom. On top of all this, I was born with a very stiff skeleton (a bone specialist said I had the opposite of double joints).

I thought my stiff skeleton might be the cause of the pain in my feet, and I went to a bone specialist. He examined me and said the muscles in my feet were weak and that I should do anything I wanted to do to strengthen them. I began running. I had experimented a few times with running, through the influence of a friend at National Guard summer camp, and I thought running would strengthen my feet. It did, and I kept on running.

What’s been your biggest achievement as an athlete so far?

In terms of running, my four marathons at age 46-47. However, I think a bigger achievement is just that I’ve been running for about 38 years.

Do you compete in any running events regularly? If so, which ones?

No, although there is a local 5K that I like to run each June. Later, after I get my long run back to 15 miles, I’d like to do a half-marathon each year. I’m a very competitive person and like to compete with myself. But, I don’t want to race on a regular basis. I prefer to just run for enjoyment.

What are your goals for the future?
Two years ago I had serious blood clots that literally shut me down. I finished a 22-mile week with a 7-mile run on Saturday. On Monday I could only walk about 200 feet. I was in the hospital for 5 days, and when I left my walking was up to 400 feet. My wife and I walked together, and when our walking got up to 1 1/2 miles, I started to mix in small amounts of running. My long run is currently 7 miles, about 60% running and 40% walking. I alternate short runs with short walks, about 1 minute for running and a bit less for walking.

My immediate goals are to get my Monday or Tuesday rest run to 5 miles (I’ve achieved that), my Wednesday or Thursday medium run to 7 miles (I just did that but my body isn’t used to it yet), and my Friday or Saturday long run to 10 miles. After I reach those goals and my body is getting used to those distances, I’ll increase the medium and long runs until my three runs are 5, 10, 15 miles. At that point, I will consider doing a half-marathon once or twice a year.

What is your favorite thing about running?
I run for enjoyment. I enjoy the running. I enjoy being outside. I enjoy the birds and animals that I see. I even enjoy picking up trash along the path I run. I do almost all of my running on the Jordan River Parkway that follows the Jordan River from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. I like to run the Parkway, because it gets me away from city streets and the resulting smog. It gets me out in nature. I pass quite a few walkers, runners, cyclists, etc., and I enjoy nodding hello to them. There is an older man, who I see once or twice a week, who rides an electric scooter, and I always stop and talk with him. I enjoy races, too, but they are a secondary interest in my running.

What’s a normal workout routine for you?
I don’t do much in cross training, so I don’t have much of a workout routine. I run three times per week, and I stretch before and after I run.

Do you have a favorite runner or athlete?
George “Doc” Sheehan. Even though I never met him, he was my mentor, and I attribute my 38 years of running with only one minor injury to following his advice: enjoy my running, listen to my body, and modify my running by how my body feels. I grew up in running before the technical gadgets were invented, and I learned to listen to my body and run according to how I feel. In my training site ( I’ve posted an essay by Doc Sheehan which was the first thing I read in the running literature. I’ve dedicated that post to Doc Sheehan.

Do you have any running gear that you love?
I’m not into running gear very much. My shoes, shorts, long pants, technical T-shirts, nylon wind breaker, a wide-brim hat, and my Fuel Belt are all I have and need. Oh yes, I have an old Garmin GPS that I use to measure distance when I go on a new path. I don’t carry the Garmin on a regular basis. Just when I need to measure distance or check on my pace. I try not to check on my pace very often, because I don’t want to become obsessed with running faster. I run for enjoyment and let my speed increase naturally.

What’s the one mistake that you see most new runners making?
Pushing themselves too much. Abnormal soreness, pain, side stitches, a high resting heart rate are not normal. They are statements from our bodies that we’re doing too much. If one feels pain, lack of energy, abnormal soreness, he or she should do the natural thing and walk or stop running. It’s abnormal to push ones self through pain. If your body tells you it can’t handle the stress of running, do what ever it takes to reduce the stress. Pushing through the pain increases the stress, just the opposite of what your body needs.

If you could give one bit of advice to a new runner, what would it be?
Run because you want to. If you don’t like running, then walk, swim, cycle, or something else. Listen to your body and enjoy what ever you do.

Thanks Allen!

Be sure to check out Old Man Running for some great running tips, advice, and of course, some insight from Allen!

Tips for Running in Cold Weather

plaine dans les vosgesBrr! The weather outside sure is getting frightful depending on where you live and if you’re like us, you’re probably already feeling Old Man Winter blowing down your neck. But don’t worry – you don’t have to let cold temperatures spoil your plans to get in shape or to go out for another run. With a little bit of care and some of these tips for running in the cold, you should be able to enjoy your exercise routine without discomfort or an increased risk of injury. Remember – winter can be a tough time to get some running done, but with the right tools and knowledge, it’ll be a cinch.

Here are some great tips (and tools) from Heart Rate Monitors USA for running in cold weather:

1.) Dress Warm. This one is kind of a no brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many people neglect to wear enough layers while running in the cold!  Start with a bottom layer of thin, moisture-wicking fabric. Try to stay away from cotton as this holds the moisture and will keep you wet, making it harder to actually regulate your body temperature. Then, follow up with a outer, breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex to protect against wind and precipitation. If it’s really, really cold, include a middle layer of polar fleece for extra insulation. Finally, don’t forget to protect your hands, face, head, and feet with gloves, a moisture-wicking sock liner, a hat, scarf or face mask, and a pair of nice thick wool or fleece socks.

2.) Plan your run. Wind chill and temperatures can mean a yes or no on whether or not you can go running at all. The general rule is to run in what you feel comfortable in, but to be safe, don’t run when the temperature dips below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20. Temperatures like these can actually penetrate those layers of warm clothes. If it’s too cold, hit the treadmill or an indoor track instead.

3.) Check with your doctor. If you have any problems with your heart, breathing, or just any health concerns in general, check with your doctor before braving the elements. Cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks, so it’s best to proceed with caution. No matter what your level of health, always be sure to stretch and warm up. Going for a run in the cold without stretching is a recipe for injury. Practice preventative care by taking at least 15 to 20 minutes to stretch and do a warm up before beginning your run.

4.) Wear sunglasses. Although it’s snowing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still be affected by harmful UV rays. Wearing sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and sunglasses, even in the middle of winter, is a smart move if you want to take care of your body. Remember – cold temperature and winter winds actually have a drying effect on you skin. Not to mention, sunglasses can also help you in the event of snow blindness. The rule of thumb: polarized lenses are usually best.

5.) Stay hydrated.
Despite the cold weather, you’ll still end up heating your body up and sweating, which means that you’ll need some additional moisture. Drink water before, during, and after your run by carrying along a Camelbak reusable water bottle or another type of canteen.

Hopefully with these tips, you’ll be much more prepared for what the winter may bring. In the meantime, feel free to share some of your best winter running tips with us in the comments!

We’d love to compile a list of your tips for a future post!

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A Thought For Runners…

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle
when the sun comes up you’d better be running.

(But, unless you’re a runner, you won’t understand.)


5 Tips for Marathon Runners

November is the month for marathons. In fact, one of the world’s most famous marathons, The ING New York City Marathon, is set to take place tomorrow. If you’re participating in this monumental event or starting training preparations for another marathon in the future, you’ll want to check out some of these great marathon running tips from Heart Rate Monitors USA. Besides being a great training aid, these tips are sure to keep you moving and motivated as you look to hit your best time. Now, take a breath, give a good stretch, and dive into these marathon running tips and hints:

Gear up for your marathon with these tips.

Gear up for your marathon with these tips.

  1. Before the marathon, get to know the course and if you can, mimic it in your workouts. This will this help you be more comfortable with the terrain, which can come in handy if you’re running in an unfamiliar environment. Can’t mimic the course entirely? Then practice running on the same topography (i.e., if you’re running in NYC, get used to flat concrete).  Use a sports watch or heart rate monitor to keep track of your progress.
  2. Besides training your muscles, you’ll also need to train your stomach. Practice drinking the same liquids you plan on recharging with during the marathon runs and even pace yourself at the same rate. If you only have a few moments to recharge at an aid station, then get your body used to the grab and go beforehand. It’ll definitely help prepare you for proper hydration.
  3. Get fashionable. Well, not quite, but you need to dress for the marathon properly. Avoid wearing heavy cotton clothing and instead, opt for lightweight fabrics that let your skin breathe, like Coolmax or nylon. When it comes to socks and shoes, pick what you’re wearing well before the marathon so you know whether or not your feet are at risk for blisters. Make sure you have a shoe that gives good support but is still lightweight.
  4. Start changing your internal clock a week or so beforehand so that you can function at your best on the day of the marathon. Start waking up earlier and run around the same time as you would in a race. Make sure your body is used to eating, using the bathroom, and getting out the door at a time that’ll work well on race day. Trust us – it’s so much easier than trying to drag yourself out of bed the morning of.
  5. Eat a smart diet leading up to the marathon, but a few days before, start concentrating on eating more carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pastas and whole grains. Compliment these extra carbs with plenty of fruit, juices, low fat yogurt, veggies, and sports drinks so that your body has the right fuel for the race.  Don’t confuse more carbs with more fat though. You still need to keep that fat count low, so opt for red sauce over alfredo when you order your pasta.

Want to learn more about the ING New York City Marathon? Then check out their official page for entrant info, race week info, and more.

Have any other marathon running tips? Share them with us in the comments!

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