Where and how to run on area trails
Now that summer is getting closer and there's more daylight, it's a perfect time to explore some new running routes. One of the best choices for seeing nature and experiencing a lot of different views is to get out on some area trails. Two easy-to-use resources that can help you find nice places to run are the Montgomery County Trail Challenge and Circuit Trails. Either resource will give you details about the trails you're interested in. You can also drop by the store to talk about area trails as we've run on most of them. Another great source are other runners that you will see out on the trails.
Once you get to the trails there are a few simple rules you might consider using. First, it's important to remember that runners aren't the only people using the trails. You'll see bikers, walkers, hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers and nature lovers of all types. All of those are going at different speeds with different attention spans and different ideas about what appropriate use of a trail is. In our area, there are some trails that are wide enough for all to easily coexist while there are also ones narrow enough that when two people meet, one has to yield to the other.
Common sense is the way to go here when encountering someone on a trail. I usually think of three things that are all related to each other in some way; effort level, who has the harder terrain, and who is out of control. You should usually yield to a person at a higher effort level, like someone doing speedwork or hiking at their maximum effort. Harder terrain would be someone going uphill while you're going down, a person crossing a stream right when you're getting to it, or children trying to keep up on a bike ride. Out of control could be the person flying down the hill while running or on a bike, new trail users unfamiliar with these unwritten rules or totally distracted people who are out of control of either their emotions, dogs or people they are with. A fourth, entirely different, factor is the person who assumes what they're doing is more important than what you're doing and will follow none of the rules above. You usually don't have all four of these conditions occuring at the same time but if you do you should definately yield!
If passing from behind, it's good to give a verbal warning of some type so that the people in front of you know that you're coming up on them. You usually pass on the left just as you would if driving a car. A lot of the time if I'm running at a faster pace like speed work I'll also use a hand signal like pointing the direction I'm passing in so that if someone is coming up behind me to also pass, they'll know I'm moving to the left to pass or back to the right after passing. That keeps me from suprising the bike rider out for a quick spin and they'll appreciate not wondering what you're going to be doing next. If you're group is running towards someone, it's best to move to a single-file line until you get past them and then you can go back to your group formation.
It's also a great thing to greet fellow trail adventurers as well. I'm known as the Peace Guy out on the Pennypack trail as unless running some faster speedwork, I always give the peace sign to everyone I see.
Finally, remember to follow all trail signs. You may think it's okay to run on a trail that looks safe but there is usually a good reason that it's closed. In a later blog, we'll get to some essential trail gear and now to make sure that you aren't damaging nature while on the trails.
What do I wear?
One question we're frequently asked is how do I know what to wear when I run or exercise? Today there are a lot of different choices in apparel that will work well in any temperature or type of weather.
What most people don't realize is that you are generally helped more by what you don't wear than by what you do. The human body works great as a furnace but not so great as a refrigerator. As a result, once you get too hot it's hard to get cooled off while if you're too cold you can easily add more to warm up. Generally, if you feel a little cool at the start of a run, 20 minutes in you'll feel perfect. I usually head out dressed like it's 20 degrees warmer than it really is. If you follow our guidelines below you should be able to run comfortably in any type of weather. I've used these to run in 3 degree weather in Chicago and 104 in Tampa and both runs ended up feeling about the same.
Below are our recommended guidelines for what to wear.
70s and up - Use a singlet, skimpy top, or sports bra with shorts or quarter or half tights.
50 to 70 - Use a short-sleeved shirt or sports bra with shorts or quarter or half tights
30 to 50 - Use a long-sleeved shirt or a short sleeved with arm warmers, and tights or running pants
30 and down - Add protection for the hands and ears to what you used for 30 to 50. Another layer in extreme cold.
If it's raining and warm add a cap to keep vision clear but dress the same as for a warm day
If it's raining and cool add a cap and a water-resistent jacket.
If it's snowing add a cap if possible. Also make sure that you are running where you have traction for your shoes.
None of the above accounts for the wind but most long-sleeved tops and jackets are now wind resistent. If you know it's going to be windy and cold, it's best to start running into the wind so that you get warmed up and then have the wind at your back for the last half. If you run into the wind at the end, you'll probably be sweaty and end up getting colder.
Lots of people wonder about what to eat and drink before, during and after a run. Even more obsess about it to the point of worrying, which can negatively effect the fun and relaxation that a run often is all about.
The large amount of supplements that are available now can confuse anyone including us! To make it easier for you to figure out what you need to do, we've created an easy to follow chart that will help you to decide what you want to do. We've also included a few common sense suggestions that should help you with your pre, during and post run nutrition needs.
Many people just roll out of bed and hit the road or trail. However, having a little nutrition onboard before you start isn't a bad idea. About an hour before you start consider having a low-fiber, high carb snack like a banana, toast with jam, or handful of dried fruit combined with water or an energy drink. You'll want to experiment with this to figure out what works best for you as each person is different. A few easily consumed nutrition products that work well for this purpose are Honey Stinger waffles, Gu energy stroopwafels, and Nuun hydration. If you're closer to run time Honey Stinger or Gu gels or energy chews as they get in your system a little faster.
Most people take a gel or some chews about 15 minutes before beginning a run. Depending upon the intensity of the workout most will also take a gel or chews every 45 minutes during the workout. However, it's best once again to experiment and find what ratio works best for you. We currently stock 20 different gel and chew flavors from Honey Stinger and Gu with some having caffine and some being caffine free. It's easiest to pick a flavor that looks like something you might enjoy and try it on a run before buying a large amount of them. Experimentation with different flavors and timings will give you the best ratio. Currently I take a gel 15 minutes before and have found out that taking one every 30 minutes for the entire run works best for me. The flavors that work for me are caramel flavors or chocolate as anything fruity doesn't work well. However my sister uses only fruity as chocolate or caramel upset her stomach. That means she tends to use chews most of the time as they taste a little fruitier to most people.
As you can see, the choice between gels and chews is mostly personal preference. Chews have a solid consistency and are usually easier to digest and can be taken without water. However if you don't want to have to chew the nutrition, gels are the way to go. I find it tough to take chews when I'm running at race pace so I tend to use gels then. In the summer, I'll also tend to use gels as I take them with water which rehydrates me a little as well. Also, a gel left in the car is still usable but forgotten chews become a syrupy and unusable mess. In the winter though, when I'm generally just getting miles in, gels tend to thicken or freeze on longer runs so I'll use chews instead.
What to drink during a run is also highly personal. Some people like water while others use a Nuun hydration or Gu Roctane energy drink mix. Using water with gu or gels works well but you need to be careful about over-sugaring yourself if you combine a drink mix with gels or chews. Sometimes the combination can upset your stomach or make you nutritionally crash, also known as the bonk. It's a fine line between success in nutrition, average or feeling bad and like I've said above you need to experiment to find out what works best for you. Over the years, I've found that for drinking about 6 to 9 ounces an hour by sipping some every half mile works best for me.
After a run, in order to maximize any training benefits and to recover, having some properly timed nutrition is also a good idea. Most research points towards the optimum time being within 20 minutes but most people aren't able to do that unless they are ending their run close to home. As a result, within 2 hours is a good guideline to follow. Some good choices that will give you the carbohydrates and protein essential for recovery are greek yogurt, banana or a smoothie, cereal and milk, or a bagel with an egg. If you're running later or don't feel like breakfast foods a lean-meat sub like turkey or pasta with meat sauce can also do the trick. If you're running right before work and are rushed a little, a protein bar will get you started and then you can add in more after you get to work.
If all the above leaves you a little confused, stop by and we can go over your specific nutrional needs and make some recommendations that should get you started down the road to nutrional success. Getting it right can be challenging but once accomplished your running, mood and overall fitness will improve.
By Issy G.
I follow just about every running outlet on the Internet, so I had always believed that I was pretty in-the-know about all things running. Sure, I might have known every stat about the top runners in the nation. But I wasn’t aware of one of the most pressing issues in the running community. I didn’t understand why some of the girls around me looked so unhealthy, or why rising stars in high school fizzled out and faced injury after injury.
I hadn’t heard of the term “female athlete triad” until my junior year of high school. The triad consists of three components: low energy availability with or without an eating disorder, menstrual dysfunction, and low bone density. These three components wreak havoc on the female body, and can lead to long-term or permanent damage such as broken bones or infertility. I think that it’s pretty revealing that I was clueless to a phenomenon that affects so many women and girls. In fact, around 78% of high school athletes experience one or more of the three components of the triad (Hoch). Why didn’t I know that the triad was especially prevalent among female endurance athletes like myself? It had taken me ten years of running to even hear the term, let alone understand its consequences and effects on girls in the running community.
At that point I had gone through what, in my opinion, was the most impressionable part of my life as an athlete: my body had changed as I hit puberty, and I had adapted. My perspective of myself and others in the sport was changing as well; I was much more conscious of the other body types I saw on the line. Although I made it through this time healthily, many female athletes are not so lucky. I’ve definitely dealt with my share of health issues, but they’ve always been manageable and relatively minor. I never developed an eating disorder or lost my period as a result of running. I’ve never had a stress fracture due to a lack of estrogen or nutrition. Not every female runner can say the same.
One of the most high profile cases of the female athlete triad is that of Mary Cain. In her New York Times Op Ed, she recounts how “an all-male Nike staff became convinced that in order for [Cain] to get better, [she] had to become thinner. And thinner. And thinner.” I had grown up hearing about Mary Cain’s incredible performances, and like so many others, I had simply accepted that she was ‘burnt out,’ and that her career was over. I never questioned who or what was responsible for the breakdown of her body, and thought that this was just what happened to high school phenoms. After watching her OpEd in the New York Times, I felt as though there was finally some light being shed on an issue I’d been witnessing for a while, an issue that had really shaken my faith in the running community. I hoped that people would begin to care about the long term well-being of female runners, and not just sit in awe of stars who burned really bright when they were still just girls. I hoped that young girls would be able to pursue their goals in a sustainable way, without putting their bodies on the line.
One of Cain’s allegations in particular stuck with me. When describing her time with the Nike Oregon Project, Cain says, “I got caught in a system designed by and for men, which destroys the bodies of young girls.” It’s not just one program or one coach that caused Cain’s downfall. Rather, the lack of regard for and miseducation about female bodies in this sport is what causes girls’ bodies to break down. Alberto and his all-male team did not adapt Cain’s training to be feasible or sustainable on the female body. Cain points to the lack of female coaches as one of the factors that made her feel so unheard and hopeless at the Nike Oregon Project. Again, this rings true across the running community, not just for the Oregon Project. According to a 2018 study, just ten women held head track and field coaching positions at NCAA Division 1 schools, compared to 83 men; for cross-country, 17 women and 86 men (Strout). I think that disparity is significant, and that with more female coaches, female athletes will be more seen and heard.
I don’t want to come off as offering a be-all-end-all solution to such a complex problem. I know that it’s not as simple as hiring more female coaches, or requiring coaches to learn about the triad and prevention techniques. But I do think that female athletes deserve to be heard and voice their grievances with a system that exploits their successes and then discards them when their bodies begin to break down. Cain’s story resonated with so many women in the running community, including myself. She helped to expose the flaws in the system, and has demonstrated how the stories that we tell can help to enact tangible, positive change in the running community. As I enter a more intense phase in my running career, I do so with hope. I believe in this sport and the running community to continue the narrative that Cain started. I believe that we can teach sustainability and health. And I believe that we can get really fast, on our own terms.
Hoch, Anne Z et al. "Prevalence of the female athlete triad in high school
athletes and sedentary students." Clinical journal of sport medicine :
official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine vol. 19,5
(2009): 421-8. doi:10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181b8c136
Cain, Mary. "I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike." The New
York Times, 7 Nov. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/opinion/
nike-running-mary-cain.html. Accessed 2 June 2020.
Strout, Erin. "American Running Needs More Female Coaches." Outside, 14 Sept.
Accessed 2 June 2020.
By Issy G.
When it was first announced that Indoor Nationals had been cancelled, the first emotion I felt was relief. Of course, other thoughts entered my mind; I was incredibly disappointed to hear that I wouldn’t have the chance to race against some of the best two-milers in the nation, or to see my friends and teammates run, jump, and throw their hardest. But with this cancellation, I realized that I would have to take pride in my fitness without proving it to others, which was a huge change to my training and my mindset as a runner.
I’ve been lucky enough to compete in many exciting, high stakes meets over the course of my high school career. The competition that I’ve raced against and the results that I’ve ran to are some of the best memories of my life. But I don’t think that we hear a lot about the other side of those meets, when things don’t go quite according to plan: the anxiety in the hours, days, even weeks leading up to a race, or the disappointment of a poor performance on a big stage. I’ve struggled with these anxieties and defeats especially in my senior year. Looking back, I realize that I should have been savoring every moment I had to run in a high school race and be with my coaches and teammates.
I felt the pre-race-pressure especially before Footlocker Regionals in New York. I had expressed to my coach the week before that I didn’t even know if I wanted to run in Regionals. I emphasized that I wasn't sure about where my physical health was at, but in reality, I just didn’t know if I could take another race, mentally. I vented about my frustrations with how the end of my season had gone, and how I felt as though I had to get so psyched up for almost every race I competed in that last month. It was exhausting, I told him, to have my mind constantly thinking about my next race and the competition that I would face. I was especially anxious about the competition at Footlocker, and I felt as though I didn’t really belong there because of my last couple of performances at meets. That’s when my coach told me that he knew that I could qualify for Footlocker Nationals; in fact, he expected it of me. I was shocked. I had never really imagined what it would feel like to be among those ten girls who made it to San Diego, not really. I had fantasized during my summer training about crossing the line and qualifying, but I hadn’t ever really believed that I could do it.
My coach’s confidence in my abilities gave me the extra push I needed to make it to the line that day. However, I still didn’t really believe in myself. I felt like a fraud carrying around my Outdoor Nationals bag with its All-American patch. I told myself that my performance at Nationals was months ago, and that I hadn’t proved myself in cross country yet in the way that I needed to. I didn’t let myself feel pride in the fact that I had finally broken 18 minutes in the 5k, or that I’d won in meets against some of the fastest girls in the state. By not appreciating how far I’d come that season and believing my performance that day would define me as a cross country runner, I’d already lost my ticket to San Diego.
I finished the race in 12th. Two spots and ten seconds off qualifying, to be exact. I later learned that the 11th place finisher had been invited when another girl had to drop out. I had been one place away from making it to Nationals, and I was devastated. I couldn’t think about the huge improvements I’d made from last year in cross country without also thinking about how I had given up on myself before the race had begun.
The results of Footlocker Regionals stayed with me longer than I’d care to admit. I was frustrated and embarrassed that I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of cross country during my high school career (which, on reflection, couldn’t be further from the truth). I lost so much confidence after that race, and as a result, I had a pretty terrible start to the indoor season. I didn’t believe in my abilities as a runner. I let poor results snowball. I was tired of running in little circles, and I was a bit tired of running in general.
After what seemed like a particularly disappointing race at the Millrose Games, I sat down with my coach. Tears were shed over lots of things: my latest performance, my lack of confidence in my racing, and my uncertainty about the future. We made changes to my training, but also to how I approached my training mentally. Instead of fixating on how hard a workout was, I began keeping a journal where I would write down what challenged me and how I got through it in the end. It became my “confidence journal” (shoutout Kara Goucher!), and it was almost as important as my sneakers by the end of the winter season.
I was excited for Indoor Nationals. Really! I love the energy of the Armory in New York, and I was in great shape physically as well as mentally. But as I said before, I was relieved to hear that the meet had been cancelled. Although I had made so much progress with my mindset since the beginning of the season, I realized that I still needed time to get back to who I used to be as a runner. I have loved running ever since I stepped on a track at seven years old, and I really do mean that. But over those last couple of months, that statement seemed less and less true. Medals didn’t seem to gleam anymore, and every mile I ran, I wondered why I was still doing this.
I didn’t come here to write about how these cancellations are a ‘blessing in disguise,’ or something like that. They’re not. Of course, I understand why events needed to be cancelled, but that doesn’t make going on another solo run without my team any easier. This situation is frustrating and unfair, and I am beyond disappointed that it had to happen during my senior year, or even happen at all. With that being said, I’ll have the chance to run for almost seven months without racing, if cross country in the fall goes as planned. That means seven months of runs and workouts in my journal that I can look back on and take pride in. I’ll have seven months of Sunday long runs with my sister, who will also be (is also? Time is weird right now) my teammate at Harvard next year. Seven months to run just because I want to.
I am extremely grateful that I have at least a vague idea of what comes next with regards to my running career. I have a coach who is challenging me to use this time to adjust to new training and conditions to prepare me for my next season at college. I also have a pretty awesome sister: she is not only my training partner, but someone who I can lean on when I need advice or support. I’m so thankful that running has been one of the constants in my life right now to keep me (mostly) sane. And I’m not alone! It seems like everyone wants to run during a pandemic. I think it’s telling that the way so many people are getting through this uncertain time is by going out for a run. I can understand that. I’ve gotten through some of my most difficult days in the same way: by lacing up my sneakers and putting one foot in front of the other.
About the Author
My name is Issy Goldstein and I’m a senior at Germantown Academy. I’ll be attending Harvard University next year, where I’ll be running cross country and track. Along with running, I also love writing, and I hope to combine my interests in this blog!
By Bryan D.
tHE ORC cOMMUNITY
Since its founding, The Original Running Co. has been at the center of a proud community of runners in the Delaware Valley. This is a place where runners can come together and share their thoughts and ideas.