Whether you are an avid runner or find yourself in the staunch no-running crowd (I struggle with the in-between), there is a case to be made for speed.  For runners looking to reduce their 5k, 10k and Half-Marathon times there is no better way to take minutes off a PR than working two or three speed sessions into weekly workouts.  For non-runners weekly speed-work sessions can be a kick-start to fat burning and muscle building.  Recruitment of the fast-twitch muscles used in sprinting can lead to rounder backsides, stronger legs and increased agility.  Here are a couple of simple speed-work concepts that are easy to employ, with silly names you wont forget, guaranteed to bring you from slow to silly-fast:


Tabata (tuh-bat-tuh)


This method uses 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of active rest for a total of 8 rounds, resulting in 4 minutes of work.  This can be done on a track on a neighborhood football/soccer field or on paths/sidewalks. (This can be a great rowing workout as well.) Once you have warmed up completely, it is easiest to set up a watch timer for 10 second intervals.  Sprint for 20 seconds (two sets of beeps on your 10 second timer), then walk for 10 seconds (one set of beeps).  Repeat continuously for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes).


In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state work 5 times per week.




Fartlek, which means “speed-play” in Swedish was developed in the 1930’s as a solution to increase the speed of Swedish cross country runners while also reducing their overall level of fatigue by reducing overall mileage wile increasing the quality of the workout.  The original fartlek protocol is as follows:


  • Warm up: easy running for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Steady run at hard pace for 1.5–2.5 km
  • Recovery: rapid walking for about 5 minutes.
  • Start of speed work: easy running interspersed with sprints of about 50–60 m repeated until slightly tired
  • Easy running with three or four “quick steps” now and then
  • Full speed uphill for 175–200 metres
  • Fast pace for 1 minute.


The whole routine would be varied in terms of length of each portion of the routine based primarily on feel and is then repeated until the total time prescribed on the training schedule has elapsed.  For many runners the “by-feel” nature of the workout above can be unnerving and requires discipline and solid running experience to execute correctly.  As a runner employing the technique above, knowledge of your own limits and strengths as well as honesty regarding the level of effort put in is essential.  For most runners, simplification of these principles is appropriate.   Some simplified variations are included below:


  1. Fives

Warm up: 5 minutes

Steady state: 5 minutes of quick running.

Active recovery: 5 minutes of brisk walking.

Transition: 5 minutes of jogging.

Repeat the steady state, active recovery and transition until a total workout time of 30-60 minutes is reached.

  1. Mean Minute

Warm up: 10 minute jog

10 second sprint

20 second jog

30 second walk

Repeat for 15-20 minutes

Each workout try to cover more ground than the last workout in the same amount of time.


Try mixing these into your weekly workouts and reap the benefits of speed work.


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It’s that time of year…Flu season, cold season, “Rick from the office just won’t take a sick day, and so he’s been coughing all over the copy machine, season.”  If you work with other people or have children in daycare (my 3 year old is our main household germ transmitter thanks to daycare), picking up a bug is nearly inevitable (but that’s not a reason to resist taking the Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea).  For those of us who like to work out or need to workout, this can present a bit of a problem and will likely result in some feelings of guilt, grumpiness or anger.  But, it may be ok to keep up a workout even though you are a little under the weather (bring hand sanitizer and tissues or a towel to the gym, so you don’t pay it forward).

sick when workout

Dr. Laskowski, of the Mayo Clinic, provides the following advice:


  • Exercise is generally ok if your symptoms are above the neck (this is true for the colds as well as hypochondriacs). If you’ve got a runny nose, congestion, a minor sore throat, feel free to battle on.  However, consider reducing your level of exertion to account for feeling crummy.
  • Don’t exercise if your symptoms are below the neck e.g., chest congestion, body aches, upset stomach.
  • Don’t exercise if you have a fever.


That being said, it may be more beneficial to focus on rest (especially a solid night sleep), recovery and stretching.  In order to maintain the progress you’ve seen from the effort you’ve already put in, try to eat clean (fruits, veggies, broths, marrow, some meat), drink lots of fluids, and stretch (unless you’re my husband who only eats Mountain Dew and Candy when he’s sick…if that sounds like you, Good Luck!).



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We are pretty spoiled by the temperate climate here in SoCal, but this winter, we have been experiencing especially cold temperatures. It can be challenging to get motivated when it’s chilly outside, however, if you have a black lab that still needs to go out in the morning, it’s a lot easier to tolerate the cold temperatures when you are dressed appropriately for the conditions. This means dressing in layers. My husband had a track coach in high school who mandated the number of clothing layers to be worn on a given day.

 running in the cold

For example, a 30 degree day would be a “four layer day” meaning:

  • Base Layer: Tights/Under armor
  • Fitness Clothing: Running Shorts/Shirt/Singlet
  • Thermal Layer: Sweatshirt and Pants
  • Wind Layer: Wind Jacket and Wind Pants


A 70 degree day; however, would be a “three layer day” meaning:

  • Base Layer
  • Fitness Clothing
  • Either Thermal OR Wind Layer


I bring this up because layering is personal and should be fine-tuned to each individual’s comfort level.  However, the basic principles for appropriate layering in cold weather are:

  1. First layer, should wick moisture away from the body; Look for appropriate technical fabrics, such as synthetics and or wools.  Try to avoid cotton fabrics as they absorb sweat and moisture and you will end up cold and damp (This rule also goes for your socks)
  2. Second layer, should regulate body temperature and provide insulation.
  3.  The Third layer should protect against elements such as wind, rain, sleet or snow. Technology continues to advance for us outdoor enthusiasts; look for a fabric that is treated with a hydrophilic coating inside and a hydrophobic coating on the outside. This allows warm moist air to escape from inside, while preventing rain or snow from penetrating the shell.


The rationale and need for layering is based in peer-reviewed scientific research which indicates that in cold weather running is effected due to:

  • In cold weather the human body has a higher reliance on carbohydrate energy stores, a lower reliance or ability to utilize fat stores, and has a higher oxygen consumption for a given level of activity
  • Additionally, explosive power and dynamic strength is limited based on muscle temperature (which can be significantly lower in extremities


Studies show that runners and endurance athletes are especially susceptible to cold weather conditions based on their low body fat percentages and slender builds.  So, if you’re a 6’1 220lb power athlete who happens to be running a 5K in 40 degree weather, dress how you’re comfortable and happy.  If you’re a 5’2 110 lb endurance athlete who is running a 5K in 40 degree weather, put some layers on!

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As we all know, one of the major perks of living in Southern California is the opportunity for outdoor exercise all year.  We’ve all called our friends and family on the East Coast or in the Midwest to gloat about the temperature in January.  However, in order to take advantage of outdoor exercise opportunities most of us have to bike, run or walk are in twilight or nighttime hours.  Night workouts can be fun, exciting and dangerous; especially when it comes to seeing others and being seen after the sun goes down.  In order to put accidents in perspective; the following are some statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


  •  69 percent of pedestrian killed in 2009 were males.
    •  70 percent of pedestrian accidents occurred at night (4 p.m. – 4 a.m.).
  •  Almost three out of every four pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas (72 percent).
    •  The top four states for pedestrian fatalities are California, Florida, Texas, and New York. These four states make up 41 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide while only accounting for 5 percent of the total traffic fatalities across the country.
    •  Nearly one-half (48 percent) of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (16%, 17%, and 15% respectively).


The following are some tips for staying safe when running, biking running and walking at night.

  • Always cross at crosswalks.  Limited visibility (including drastically reduced peripheral visibility), glare and distractions, crossing mid-block is almost twice as likely to result in an accident.
  • Always wear reflective clothing. This ensures that others can see you clearly at night and reduces your chances of being hit.
  • Carry a light, wear a headlamp, put a light on your bike and put a lit collar on Fido. Always check to make sure you have fresh batteries or that your battery pack is fully charged.  This is especially important for pedestrians who don’t often carry lights on Multi-use paths.  Most people drastically over-estimate how visible they are.
  • Establish a route or variety of routes, stick to the route your taking, and tell someone where you’re going.
  • Always walk or run facing traffic, always ride your bike with traffic.  Note that bicycles are considered vehicles in California and should be ridden on roads or paths only, riding on the sidewalk can be dangerous, because drivers aren’t usually looking for fast moving bicycles.
  • Make eye contact with drivers while crossing the street or changing lanes.
  • Bring identification with you.  Include emergency contact information, blood type and allergies.


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