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The bosu ball can be used for physical recovery, strength training and increasing flexibility when used by athletes. Noted by Trail Runner Magazine, using a bosu ball is a great way to prevent common injuries – and strengthen your legs and core.

When I trained for  Brazen Racing trail half marathons, which are hosted on notoriously difficult courses, I used the bosu ball to help work on my balance and stretching.  It’s a costly initial investment, but if you incorporate it into your at-home workout routine, you can potentially find a new way to sneak in a quick workout.

Your gym likely has at least one bosu ball you can use with the free weights.

Once you’re familiar with the bosu ball, you will find a variety of different workout routines. posted a great story that covers 10 full-body bosu workouts.  You’ll be amazed how easily you can mix in weight training while using the bosu ball, but always remain physically aware if anything occurs.

Brief training video and additional reading material available after the jump: Read more… »

It’s winter time here in Northern California, and that means we should be prepared for rainy weather from November through March.

I’ve seen riders asking on Twitter, “How to ride in the rain?” and “Cycling in the rain tips” – so this seemed like an appropriate time for this post.

To help you stay safe out on the road, here are a few different tips and techniques to help give you a refresher.

Here is a great video from the Global Cycling Network:

The video provides great insight into what regular cyclists should do if they are thinking about heading out for a training ride or a race in the rain.  Fundamentals should remain the same, but there are definitely things we should all keep in mind while out there.

There are added tips I’ve included available after the jump, so give them a read. Read more… »

The Joy of Half Marathons

Why run a half marathon?

Half marathons successfully transitioned from obscure running event to new popular running craze for casual athletes across the United States.

Here is what Wade Morehead, Houston Marathon Committee executive director, told Competitor:

“The half-marathon is a great achievement that requires preparation and training. [They are a] great way to get race experience as you build toward your first marathon or to run in between marathons to stay in shape and enjoy what race day offers.”

Besides less physical and mental dedication than a full marathon, many runners find half marathons to be ideal because there is less time commitments required. No longer, slow runs of 20+ miles, 4:00 hours of run time, which also means increasing mileage is easier.

Many experienced runners don’t taper for a half marathon, while beginners do have a few things to think about before race day.

Most beginner half marathon training plans call for runners to log three to four runs, averaging 20-25 miles per week, and run a half marathon safely.  Nutrition is a lot easier for a half marathon, because runners don’t empty our glycogen reserves and need to follow strict diets and nutritional plans.

There is a great demand for half marathon races, with more than 30 new half marathons making their debut in 2012, and that number could increase in the future.

Don’t forget an added bonus to half marathons: The atmosphere at half marathons tends to be more festive and jovial among the casual runners. Even when nervous about running a half marathon, there is less stress than full marathons and other events which require additional training.

Tapering for an event

I am often asked about tapering for a big event.  I don’t usually taper because I don’t do many “A” events that I peak for.  I usually do events that are within my standard training zones so I can push it hard for one day, take a rest day then get back to normal.  I can usually do a half marathon or an international distance triathlon on a day’s notice.  Anything longer will require training and a training plan.  Some people can run a mile on a day’s notice  and need a plan for a longer distance.  Other people can run 50 miles on a day’s notice.  It is up to you how you should train and what you need to train for.

Let me start out by saying “Tapering is hard!”.  There is a reason that I don’t usually taper, it is easy to mess things up while tapering.  You can probably do a Google search any distance event taper training and find at least 5 different ways to taper for the event.  It is not a bad idea to read a few different articles then plan your taper from there.  I will explain my taper and reasons here.  When you ask yourself these questions, you should give yourself honest answers.  Sometimes, we give ourselves politically correct answers but that is not really the goal.

A.      You will need to ask yourself what are your goals?  My goals for a half ironman are listed below:
1.       Cross the finish line healthy in less than 7 hours.  I said I did not care about the time but I had a massage scheduled for 7 hours after the start.
2.       Set a personal record (PR) on the bike.
3.       Show up to the start line healthy.
4.       Run the whole course.
5.       Look good on the run.
6.       Finish in less than 6:30.
7.       Ideal would be to finish in less than 6 hours but not likely.

B.      Look at your schedule
1.       Events are supposed to be fun.
2.       Live your life.
3.       Will it make you happy to skip a day out sailing to save 1 minute on a marathon?
4.       Will a day out sailing one week before the marathon be the difference between finishing and a DNF?

C.      What type of racer are you?
1.       Speed
2.       Endurance

Comments for A – Do you notice how I have finish healthy is number 1 but starting healthy is number 3?  I must have told myself that exercising for 7 hours will heal any injuries that I start with.  In my case, I was recovering from a run injury so I trained more for the bike than the run.  Looking back on this list, after I finished the event, I can say that my number one goal was to finish any way possible.  But that was not my goal when started tapering.  I tapered to list.  I did not bother add swimming to the list because I knew that I could and would do a sub 40 minute swim.  It should have been on the list.

Comments for B – I had a 5 day weekend the week before the event.  I could have been taking it easy to help me arrive at the race in peak condition but I did not.  I was out riding my bike all over Northern California during the long weekend.  I decided that riding my bike around the week before my “A” race would cause me to not meet goal number 2.  To me, having fun for a few extra days was worth risking goal number 2.

Comments for C – My goal is to complete races so I can go into a race pretty well rested.  People who plan on speed are rested when they do slower workouts for similar durations as peak training.

Now that we have examined ourselves and understand our goals and schedules, we can think about tapering.  Typical taper time is 1-3 weeks.  For a really big race like a marathon or half iron man triathlon, I like to taper for two weeks.  I could taper for 3 weeks and handle it physically but I don’t think I could take it mentally.  It is really hard to slow down after you have trained for 4-12 months preparing for an event.  I cycle my training in 3 week cycles where I build for 2 weeks, back off for a week the repeat.  Because of this, I average my workout time for the last 3 weeks before taper then cut back on the average going into the event.  For example:

For an average of 10 hours training per week, I would train
8 hours per week 3 weeks before the event
6 hours per week 2 weeks before the event
4 hours per week 1  week before the event

It is not a good idea to work on speed or strength during the taper phase.  The reason for tapering it to arrive at the start line healthy and ready to race.

Group runs

Let me start out by saying – I love group runs!

A lot of people are nervous about doing group runs or working out with a group.  I hear a lot of reasons why people don’t want to join a group.  I think the number one reason people don’t join a group is because they are afraid of something.

Afraid of being dropped
Afraid of being bad-mouthed or teased
They don’t want to be seen at the back of the pack
Nervous of being around people who are in great shape
Don’t want to commit to a routine

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?  If they do, don’t worry.  Most experienced people who run with groups, understand group running and what it is like to be the new guy.  We all started at one time.  Most of us understand what it is like to be a beginner and run at the beginners pace.

Don’t worry about being at the back of the pack.  When I did my first triathlon, I did not care where I finished.  I wanted to finish.  As I progressed, my goals changed accordingly.  I am racing in a half ironman triathlon next week.  My goal is to finish healthy.  Every now and then, I will pick a half marathon that is suited to me and try to place in my age group.  I the idea is to get out and do it.  Have fun while you are doing it.

Group runs can be fun for everyone.  Last week, I went out on a group run and wound up with someone who wanted to pick up the pace and distance.  Since he was tired, I did all of the talking.  Since I am training for a long triathlon, that is all I have to talk about.  When we got back from the run, my running partner was telling the group to run with me because you hear the craziest things.  I told him about how tired I get after a 6 hour bike ride if I don’t eat properly.  To me that is normal.  To most people, it is odd.

Get out on a group run.  You will add something to the group.  The more people who are in the group the better options there are for everyone.

No training to a 5K

Getting healthy is hard but it does not need to be painful.  When you lead a comfortable sedentary lifestyle, it can be really hard to get started.  If you make it painful, the chances of you repeating the effort decrease dramatically.  Getting started is the biggest hurdle.  Once you start, take it easy.  You will get stronger as time progresses.

  • Do it – Get out the door and take that first step.  Decide when you are going to train and do it.  It is amazing how many excuses we can come up with to skip a workout.  I am currently training for a triathlon.  I am training for more than 15 hours per week and I still look for reasons to skip a workout.
  • No pain – I know about the old saying “No pain, no gain”, but that is not always true.  If you get a pain in your side, do not suck it up and keep going.  Relax; there is nothing wrong with slowing down or walking.
  • No huffing and puffing – If you are having a tough time breathing, slow down or walk.  There is nothing wrong with shuffling along and getting it done.  You are training to get stronger.  When you are starting out, moving is the primary goal.  Get out and do it.
  • Start easy – When I started running the telephones were about 100 yards apart in my area of rural Pennsylvania.  Paradise, Pennsylvania to be exact.  I would run from one telephone pole to the next, and then walk to the next pole.  I would make it about 3 or 4 poles then I would start walking a little bit early then start running a little bit late.  After a couple of weeks of this, I would run for 2 poles then walk one.  Before the summer was over, I could run 3 miles without stopping.
  • Distance before speed – Do not worry about your speed.  Work your way up to a distance of 2-5 miles then work on speed by using the same telephone poles.  The same thing happens when you are working on speed as distance.  Working on speed can bring tears to your eyes.  Know the difference between lung pain and body pain.  If you are not sure, assume it is body pain and slow down or walk.  Injuries mess things up.

I know these tips are general in nature.  The idea is for you to find tips from a lot of sources and do what works for you.  Take it easy, have fun and don’t get hurt.  I excel at the having fun part but I am not too good at taking it easy and staying healthy.

We had an early season ride with the SFTri club today. It was officially called the “Season, Kick-Off ride”. I just love having the season kick off ride in January. We had a great turnout of close to 60 people at the start area. With that many people, we were stretched out all over the place. It was a lot of fun to be out riding with people with so many different riding levels. The ride leaders did a good job keeping us all herded together and not getting lost. As people started signing up, the leaders started adding more information to the ride log. The weather was perfect and the company was great.

I rode along with some people from the PacWest triathlon club. They told me about their masters swim program at the Mill Valley High School. I may join them for a swim some day but I don’t think they have a lane slow enough for me.

I stopped at Bicycle Odyssey in Sausalito to replenish my supplies and fix a flat. Tony the alleged owner was great. He did not have to be so nice to someone who is spending $40 to replenish a bike pouch. He told me what kind of rim tape to use, removed the packaging and lent me a pump to fill my tire. The CO2 bottles cost $4.00 each and are made of metal that has to be recycled. Regrettably, I did not take any pictures of the inside of the store. I will take some pictures, the next time I visit them. It is a truly awesome bike shop. We get so used to the big box stores, we forget about the cool shops that are run by great people who sell things at competitive prices.

Full blog post available after the jump:



Trust Oprah. When she ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994, she finished with an impressive time of 4:29:15!

Gym selection

I am trying to make a point about gym selection.  Any gym that you use is a good gym.  Everyone has to try out different things to see what works for them.  I love going to Mariner Square Athletic Club but a gym membership is not about love.  It is about going to the gym.  One of our young readers recently joined a gym.  She did her research carefully and joined a gym close to work.

When I changed jobs, I did the same thing.  I encourage you to try things and join a gym that you will attend.  If you join and do not go, find another gym and ask yourself why you joined and did not go.  I did not go because of logistics.  It may look like I am slamming Bally’s but I am not.  I am pointing out things that were in my decision process.  I am a member of Bally’s and highly recommend the gym to anyone who works in the Fremont/Newark area.

I just cancelled my membership at Mariners Square Athletic Club in Alameda today.  It was very sad to for me to give up my gym.  Unfortunately for me, I rank logistics above quality when it comes to going to the gym.  Mariners Square adds 30-45 minutes to my morning commute.  Bally’s subtracts 10 minutes from my morning commute.  Mariners Square is more of a full service Athletic club that costs about $75 per month.  Bally’s is a meathead, no service club that costs about $25 per month.  For my life style, the price difference does not matter.  It is all about convenience.   Logistics can be the difference between using the gym and having a gym membership that is not used.

Here are the differences between my two gyms.  Keep in mind that I am only talking about Bally’s at the Fremont location.  I hear the other locations are better.

Mariners square

  • Clean
  • Check-in people know the names of regulars
  • Pool
  • Steam room
  • Multiple hot tubs
  • Clean sauna
  • Clean showers
  • Clean floors
  • Clean equipment
  • Towel service
  • Hangars in a locker for use
  • Weights are organized
  • Dumbbells are organized
  • Members can cycle through the equipment
  • Personal trainers are available for questions
  • Personal trainers know your name
  • Personal trainers help with your workout routines
  • Did I mention it is clean?
  • Stationary bikes have foot straps
  • Good free weight area
  • People share equipment and weights
  • People do not like to share lap lanes
  • Janitors are always cleaning things


  • Dirty – I bring alcohol to sanitize the floor where I will stand
  • Great selection of machines
  • Great selection of free weight equipment
  • The selection of equipment encourages me to try new things
  • Machines are in great condition
  • The weight room is a mess
  • The weights (plates and dumbbells) are never organized
  • People leave weights on the machines and bars, probably because putting them away is frustrating in a dis-organized room.
  • Few to no janitors
  • Sauna
  • Stationary bikes do not have foot straps for fear of theft
  • Personal trainers are not approachable, probably because they are busy and jaded.
  • Personal trainers can forget about appointments
  • People camp on the equipment, spending more time resting than working.
  • There is enough equipment to make up for people camping on the equipment
  • Did I mention the place is dirty?
  • The dumbbells are all over the place and never in order

Seeing the differences in the two gyms, it seems like I would stay at Mariners square.  If the two gyms were right next to each other, I would pay $150 per month to go to Mariners square and would not go to Bally’s if it were free.  They are not next to each other and you can’t beat location.  Bally’s is a pretty good gym.  It just looks bad compared to Mariners Square.  The guy who maintains the equipment is spectacular.  All of the equipment is in great shape.  It is not the maintenance guys fault the exercise bike straps get stolen.

My reason for selecting a gym is location.  You may like the amenities.  It is your choice.  Look around and pick a gym that you will attend.  I will miss Mariners Square but I will adapt to Bally’s.  I am sure that I will be praising the personal trainers in 6 months, after they get to know me.

Tapering can be difficult for athletes unaware of how or when to let their bodies rest before an event.

It’s extremely important to utilize before strenuous workouts, but is still often ignored.

To get an inside perspective about tapering, Alameda Runners recently asked an expert about the importance of giving your body a break.

Ada Wells, MPT, Physical Therapist & owner of ProBalance, Inc. had this to say regarding event tapering:

“Tapering before a marathon or other long distance event is extremely important as hard training the two to three weeks before an event will not only not give the athlete any additional training benefit, it will actually increase the runner’s likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal injury. Fatigued muscles will be less likely to properly support joints in their proper alignment and will be more susceptible to strains, tears, etc. It is in the runner’s best interest to have the muscles and body rested so that they are at their peak during the race and beyond.”

Often times we like to cover vocal points that are commonly brought up among athletes, and tapering certainly is one of those subjects. I published a story related to the importance of tapering previously, while Ted discussed how he is horrible when it comes to tapering.

Is tapering ‘crucial for optimum performance’? It’s certainly not a topic that will die down soon – and it’s very much something you should follow.  More on this subject in the future.