Gearing Up for Spring Running

by Benita Zahn

As the grass greens and flowers bloom, visions of PR's dance in my head. Okay, I exaggerate. But I do think of races to sign up for and miles to cover and that has me thinking about running shoes, associated gear and where to cover the miles.

Can you remember the days when there were 2 choices in shoes: Nikes and Nike knockoffs? I still remember the blue Nike knockoffs I bought at K-Mart as I embarked on my running life. Sunscreen back then meant Coppertone and it wore off as the miles ground on. All t-shirts were made of cotton, as were running bras, and anti-chafing ointments were something we only dreamed about. Hydration? When you finished your run there was nothing fancier than Gatorade. Ah, those were the days! In many ways that simpler time was sweet. So much less to worry about, which brings me to the beach. 

I'm penning this while in Hilton Head, SC. I've had the opportunity to log my miles along the ocean. Sometimes the headwinds are so strong, I must pause, regroup and run the other way. Some days the firm sand gives way to a softer surface. In short, what would normally be a routine workout takes on new dimensions. It's never boring and it entices me to lace up the shoes and get out every morning with a zeal I don't always have back home.

So how to keep that enthusiasm going when I return to the 518? It's a question all runners face at some point. Do you simply log the miles because you have to? You know, “time to make the donuts.”

For starters - seek out new routes. If nothing else, research finds that it helps you prepare for a race. By tackling an unfamiliar route, as you would on race day, you're able to craft strategies to tackle hills. It also keeps you mentally sharp and focused. In short, you're not bored and that means you pay more attention, not only to your surroundings, but to your running form and breathing. 

If you can, seek out a beach. Running on sand helps improve your performance. That's because it strengthens tendons, ligaments and smaller muscles. They have to work harder to stabilize the body compared with running on a firmer surface. It also encourages your core muscles to engage for the same reason. We expend 1.6 times more energy running on sand because of this stability challenge. And of course, the softer surface is also kinder to your joints. But be aware that you may be at greater risk of rolling an ankle if you run on the softer, loosely packed sand, so stay closer to the surf. 

Shoes or no shoes when beach running? I'm a shoes on kind of gal, but whatever floats your boat. I'm always amazed when I see a shoeless runner toe the start line. I'd be hobbling by the quarter mile mark! As for the right shoes to run in - seek out an experienced fitter. I'm always a fan of stopping by Fleet Feet. What's a good shoe for a pal of mine is not necessarily right for my feet. 

Hydration? YES! For starters we should all be consuming 60-70 fluid ounces a day, yet most of us fall short of that. As a health and well-being coach I encourage my clients to start the day with 8 ounces of water. When we run, most experts agree, we should consume 8 ounces of water 15 minutes before heading out. If your run is longer than an hour you should be sipping regularly. The amount depends on your sweat rate. To determine that, weigh yourself before your run and afterwards for a run lasting 1 or more hours. It's recommended you replace each pound lost with 20-24 ounces of fluid and do this with foods containing carbs and electrolytes. The old peanut butter and jelly sandwich works just fine. If you're not sure you've hydrated well after the run, there's always the urine test - it should be light yellow in color. If it’s darker, drink up. As for what type of hydration bottle to carry, that's personal preference. I like a small, hand-held bottle, but it only holds 8 ounces, so for very long runs I have to plant a bottle along the route before heading out. 

As for sunscreen, my current favorite is from Beauty Counter because it lasts, but plain old zinc oxide works just as well. And like many of you I swear by Body Glide. That said, I recently ordered a few new products. Once I test them, I'll let you know how they perform. And don't forget to protect your lips and scalp. 

Here's to a great start to your running season. I hope to see you soon racing along a road or a bike path enjoying the wonders of spring and remember to stop and smile.

BenitaBeachFINAL.jpegAbout Dr. Benita Zahn

Benita is a certified Health and Wellness Coach working with clients at Capital Cardiology Associates. Benita spent more than 40 years as a health reporter and news anchor at WNYT in Albany, NY. She covered issues such as wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition, and the latest health care trends. Benita’s work has taken her around the world and across the USA. She continues to produce and host “Health Beat” a digital health interview program that posts every Monday and Thursday on and can be heard on the station’s podcast. Benita is a contributor to the weekly “Live Smart” page in the Times Union, the HMRRC Pacesetter and the new magazine 55+LIVING. Benita also created and co-hosts the podcast EVERYTHING THEATER.

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