A Workout Tip Coffee-Drinkers Will Love

A Workout Tip Coffee-Drinkers Will Love

Jillian Michaels said on her podcast recently that caffeine can help boost your athletic performance. Although, I should note that she doesn’t like the idea of getting your caffeine from coffee, but rather a supplement that also contains antioxidants and that helps slow the absorption of the caffeine in your system.

In the book, The Metabolic Effect Diet, the authors suggest that, for some people, a cup of coffee a half an hour before a workout can help improve workouts.

"Coffee" (c) 2005 by Timothy Boyd, under a CC Attributions: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

“Coffee” (c) 2005 by Timothy Boyd, under a CC Attributions: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

I will find any reason to have a cup of coffee during the day, so I wanted to know more.

But wait. Isn’t coffee dehydrating? That is a myth, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., who wrote an article, “The Facts About Caffeine and Athletic Performance,” for Active.com. So that’s good. But how does it help improve a workout?

In her article, she says there have been a lot of good studies on this topic, and that most of them conclude that caffeine helps improve athletic performance, and even makes the effort seem easier.

“The average improvement in performance is about 12 percent,” she writes, “with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise (eight to 20 minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters.”

She also said more benefits have been noticed in athletes that rarely drink coffee. Darn.

By the way, coffee and caffeine react differently for everyone. Definitely experiment with caffeine in training, not on race morning. And use common sense when it comes to caffeine consumption, advises Clark. More caffeine is not better. Remember: If you choose to get your caffeine from coffee, steer clear of specialty coffees (i.e. lattes).

So, how much caffeine should you take if you want to enhance your workout?

“A moderate caffeine intake is considered to be 250 mg/day. In research studies, the amount of caffeine that enhances performance ranges from 1.5 to 4 mg/pound body weight (3 to 9 mg/kg) taken one hour before exercise. For a 150-pound person, this comes to about 225 to 600 mg.” (There’s about 200 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee, for reference.)

Let me know if you use caffeine in your workout? How has it helped you?

How to Get that Stinky Smell Out of Shoes and Sports Gear

How to Get that Stinky Smell Out of Shoes and Sports Gear

Well, it’s fall and back-to-school time! And, if you are a parent (or if you are reading this and are in school, yourself), then you know it’s also back-to-sports time.

You also know that means it is back to washing some seriously stinky socks and uniforms, and dealing with smelly shoes and sports gear.  Ugh!

You don’t have to have a child in sports, though. My kindergartner comes home with some pretty stinky feet after wearing his shoes all day, playing on the playground and riding on the hot bus.

You don’t want your house smelling like a locker room. And you don’t want to send your child to his or her game with stinky gear. Washing uniforms and socks is easier, of course, since you can throw them in the wash.

(Click here to learn more about Stink Free Sports Detergent.)

But what to do about the stuff you can’t throw in the washing machine? Getting the odor out of running shoes, or off of soccer shin guards or hockey pads seems more difficult.

That’s exactly why 2Toms created Stink Free Spray.

Stink Free is a shoe deodorizer that also works on sports gear and even in gym bags and lockers. You can spray it on anything that is hard to wash.

It’s safe to use on leather, canvas, satin and denim shoes, in work or riding boots, on hockey and football pads, in helmets, and on motorcycle gear—anything that smells, really.

Stink Free Spray uses a formula that doesn’t just mask the odors caused by sweat, it completely eliminates it.  And Stink Free does not use perfume in its formula. Once the spray dries, there is no smell at all.

If you’ve ever thrown something out, or thought about throwing something out, because it smelled and you didn’t know how to wash it, then you definitely need to try this.

For example, let’s say your husband wore his expensive fur-lined Crocs on a hot day in the summer…with no socks on. Just a hypothetical. But you’ll be glad you have some of 2Toms’s Stink Free Spray.

Go here to learn more and read more about Stink Free Spray.

Do Compression Socks Work?

“How’s Shalane doing?” I asked my husband from the kitchen. He was watching the women’s 10,000 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow with me.

“I think she’s in the front still.”

I came over closer to the TV and instantly knew he was wrong. “No she’s not,” I said. “None of those women are wearing compressions socks. Shalane always wears compression socks.” (She finished 8th in the race.)

Some runners, like elite distance runners Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi, wear compression socks during races. Some athletes wear them after races for recovery reasons.

What is it about these socks? Should all runners be wearing compression on their legs? Do compression socks work?

Compression socks were originally created to help diabetics improve circulation. Now, many compression sock manufacturers—such as CEP, Zensah, PRO Compression, The Recovery Sock and others–say that their product(s) can help runners, cyclists, triathletes and other athletes race and recover better with benefits like increased oxygen delivery to muscles, decreased muscle fatigue and lactic acid, and cramp prevention.

Unfortunately, there is not any solid research to back up these claims even though many runners and cyclists swear by these socks. In fact, you can find compression gear for almost any part of the body these days—tights, shorts, sleeves, shirts.

“Very little evidence exists (ie. two to three studies out of 15-plus) from a sport and exercise perspective that compression garments improve performance when worn during exercise,” said Rob Duffield, a professor at the School of Movement Studies at Charles Sturt University, in a Competitor Running article last year.

In the article, the author points out that studies have not been able to find any difference in “running times, VO2 max, oxygen consumption or heart rates” between athletes wearing compression socks and those not wearing them.

Sports physiology professor Elmarie Terblanche, from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said that most studies are done in a lab. So how reliable can those studies be? She decided to test compression socks in the real world and she found that athletes who wore compression socks “had significantly less muscle damage and were able to recover more quickly.”

Oh yeah, and they also ran 12 minutes faster on average.

Of course, Terblanche’s findings were, technically inconclusive. But, like Flanagan, some athletes swear by these tight-fitting socks. Boston Globe writer Shira Springer says that Flanagan “started wearing the knee-high tight-fitting socks to keep her calves warm as she dealt with an Achilles’ problem.”

Now, compression socks are practically the 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist’s trademark.  “It’s very natural for me,” said Flanagan in the Boston Globe article. “I feel like I’m preventing injuries by wearing them and staying warm.”

Don’t mistake compression socks with knee-high socks. Compression-specific gear is very tight—the socks can even be difficult to get on! A pair of compression socks can cost anywhere from about $20 to $80 (or more).

I’m not a world-class athlete, obviously, but I did wear a pair of CEP compression socks during long training runs and during my first marathon. I won’t say I felt energized afterward, but my calves and shins felt pretty decent post-race. In fact, I had to sprint across a stadium parking lot to catch my friend before she left with my keys.


I wore The Recovery Sock during a tough, muddy 7-mile trail race earlier this year. Even if I don’t always wear them during a long run, I definitely wear them after. Maybe they don’t really work, but they feel like they do…and that’s all that matters to me.

So, if you’re on the fence about compression socks, it definitely can’t hurt to try them out…and they may just help you run and recover faster.

We’d love to hear from you.  Do compression socks work for you? Let us know in the comments!

Side Cramps when Running: How to Avoid and Get Rid of Them

Side cramps. Side stitch. Side ache. No matter what you call it, getting a cramp in your side while running is just plain annoying. It hurts, too, and can affect how you run.

What Causes Side Cramps when Running?

In an article on WebMD, Olympic runner and running expert Jeff Galloway says that side cramps when running happen due to shallow breathing, “not breathing deeply from the lower lung.” This would explain why I got a side ache during the first three miles of the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon the last two years in a row. There is so much excitement. I’m high-fiving spectators, cheering for bands and not paying attention to my running or breathing. Galloway says the side pain is a “little alarm” letting you know that you aren’t breathing right.

Exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise Pete McCall says in the WebMD article that a side stitch can also be from “an imbalance of blood electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium and sodium) in your body.”

How to Get Rid of a Side Stitch

Here are a few ways to get rid of and avoid side cramps when running from Galloway:Galloway Training Program

Practice breathing deep: “Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing from your lower lungs, your stomach should rise and fall.”

Don’t start too fast: This is a good rule to follow anyway. Running too fast out of the gates is a good way to get a side stitch. “It’s always better during the first 10 minutes to be more gentle,” Galloway says in the article. He also says that nervousness can cause runners to breathe faster and “revert to shallow breathing.”

Slow down, breathe deep: If you get cramping in your side during your run or race, slow down to a walk, says Galloway. “Do the lower lung breathing while walking, maybe [for 2-4] minutes.”

Eat or drink: If your side ache is from an imbalance of electrolytes, taking an energy gel and some electrolyte-infused fluids, such as Nuun. That worked for me both times.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? Please share in the comments!

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but last weekend I went for my long run without applying any blister prevention product between my toes.

I have squished toes. They all overlap slightly, which means I get blisters in between my toes (and sometimes on the bottom of them, too!) during long runs unless I remember to treat them pre-work out. If you also get toe blisters, 2Toms has blister-prevention products you can use to stop them.


BlisterShield 8oz Shaker BottleBlisterShield is a powder that, when applied to the foot, repels moisture. Shake BlisterShield into your sock before your run and it will help keep your skin dry and prevent those blisters that occur because of that sweaty friction in your sock. (For tips on how to apply BlisterShield, click the link.) BlisterShield doesn’t “soak up” the moisture and lose its effectiveness. It repels moisture so it can continue to work for long periods of time!

BlisterShield will especially help prevent those blisters on the bottom of your feet and toes, the ones that are caused by excess friction and heat buildup in your shoe. You can even use BlisterShield in addition to another 2Toms product, SportShield, for twice the blister prevention–extra important if you are an ultra runner or a long-distance hiker!

Learn more about BlisterShield by clicking the link. For a video and more information on how BlisterShield works, click this link.


SportShield Roll-on Reflection242x485SportShield is a full-body silicone-based anti-chafe product, and one of my favorites because it doesn’t rub off. (You can wash it off with a baby wipe or soap and water, though, after your workout.) It comes in a roll-on applicator or you can get the single-use towelettes, which would be great in an emergency pack for long-distance runners and hikers. I usually use the roll-on applicator to apply SportShield between my toes before long runs.

SportShield’s non-toxic, non-greasy formula creates a waterproof barrier between my toes. The silkiness of it allows my toes to rub against each other without friction so that I don’t get those darn toe blisters!

You can watch a video on how SportShield works or learn more about SportShield by clicking on the links.

Preventing toe blisters is really as simple as taking a minute to apply either one or both of these products, and it can save you from so much pain later. I definitely will not forget to use my BlisterShield and SportShield on my next long run!

When To Buy New Running Shoes?

Are you having sudden unexplained arch pain? Is there a strange ache in your knee? Are you wondering if you are losing your mind? Well, good news! You’re not going crazy, you probably just need to buy new running shoes!

I know because I just went through this. I’ve been running with no problems and then—WHAM!—all of a sudden I’m having strange aches and pains in my lower legs and feet. Of course, as an injury-prone runner, I freaked out thinking that I am on the verge of either a fracture or a nervous breakdown.

I’ve been running for years, but for some reason, I never remember when it’s time for new running shoes! It happens to me every time, and then I remember to check the mileage on my shoes. Palm meet forehead.

So how do you know when to buy new running shoes?

Here are a couple of ways:

Listen to your body.

Like I mentioned above, your body will probably let you know if you need new shoes. Mario Fraioli, senior editor at Competitor magazine, answered a runner’s question about new shoes in a Q&A: “Nagging little niggles in the form of sore arches, shin pain, achy knees or other small annoyances will start to manifest themselves when you’re not getting the support and protection you once were from your shoes.”

He says that while these aren’t real injuries, the persistent aches and pains could lead to injuries, so fix your footwear! If you’re not sure if this is what your body is telling you, “…go into a running store and try on a fresh pair of the same shoes you’ve been training in—assuming they’ve worked out well for you, of course—next to the old ones. If your old dogs feel flat and “dead” compared to the new ones, there you go. The best way to tell the difference is to feel the difference.”

Track mileage.

I use DailyMile to track my workouts. DailyMile has a nice feature that lets you attach specific gear to each workout. So, everytime I take my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13‘s out for a run, I tag them so that I know how many miles I’m putting on them. All shoes are different, so it’ll take a couple times for you to figure out when your favorite model of shoe’s time is up.

For example, I’ve only been running in this particular shoe since August. My DailyMile gear-tracker said my shoes has 330 miles on them, but since I’d never been through a complete training cycle with the Adrenaline, I wasn’t sure if they were ready to be replaced or not. A simple Tweet to Brooks, and they responded letting me know that my pair of shoes should be replaced between 300-400 miles.

Aha! It was time to buy new running shoes! And like Mr. Fraioli said above, I could tell as soon as I tried on the new pair that my old pair was toast. Shoe brands and types (minimalist vs. traditional), running surfaces and body weights are all factors, of course, so mileage can vary widely. (Elite marathoner Ryan Hall, for example, gets new running shoes twice a month!) But for a general guideline, check with your shoes’ manufacturer.

Press Tests

Runner and New York Times columnist Gina Kolata says in the article, “When to Retire a Running Shoe,” that her coach Tom Fleming uses a press-test method: “Put one hand in your shoe, and press on the sole with your other hand. If you can feel your fingers pressing through, those shoes are worn out—the cushioning totally compressed or the outer sole worn thin.”

In the same article, Kolata cites Rodger Kram, a biomechanics researcher at the University of Colorado. His theory is that runners should change their shoes before the ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which is inside the soles of most running shoes, breaks down. “Think of a piece of Wonder Bread, kind of fluffy out of the bag,” he says in the article. “But smoosh it down with the heel of your palm, and it is flat with no rebound.” He says a moderate amount of cushioning is good for runners, but admits there’s no real proof that cushioning actually prevents injuries.

I don’t know. Cushioning certainly feels like it helps since my shins, ankles, arches, calves and knees complain when it is time to buy new running shoes. My husband also complains, but that’s a whole different blog post.