Allison Pohle

Yes, You Can Run a 5k!

July 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm , by

The Color Run image courtesy of Brian Hall

I still remember the pit of dread in my stomach when I lined up to run the required timed mile for my high-school gym class. Although I was active, I never considered myself a runner, and the last thing I wanted to do was be evaluated on how fast I could struggle around the track on a muggy spring afternoon.

It took me a long time to learn that running doesn’t have to be a terrible timed experience. In fact, I’m still learning that running can be fun. Events such as The Color Run, Diva Dash and Mudathlon are convincing reluctant athletes like me that running a mile, or even the 3.1 miles that make up a 5k, is completely doable. After all, it’s much easier to forget the burn in your legs and your lungs when you’re crawling through a mud pit in a tutu or being splashed with a rainbow of powdered color.

After talking to some experts, I learned the best tips for 5k training, whether it be a traditional road race or a wacky trail filled with obstacles like a 50-foot bubble tunnel.

  1. Begin training at least two to three months in advance. Training for a fall race in the summer will make the autumn event easier, says David Alm, communications director of NYCRUNS. The drop in temperature will give you a boost and makes running easier than it is in oppressive summer humidity.
  2. Find a plan that works for you. Many new runners have had success with Couch to 5k plans and apps for their phones. These workouts will give you daily combinations of walking and running for your skill level that will help prepare you for the big race. You should also plan on exercising at the same time each day to get yourself into a routine.
  3. Grab a buddy (or two!). If it’s a little too humid or you aren’t feeling motivated, a running buddy will help get you up and moving. That’s why Jim Halsch, president of the Greensboro, North Carolina, Running Club, calls running partners “accountability buddies.” Your ideal partner is someone with a similar skill level and goals. He also recommends having two running partners if possible: “A dog can count as one, but a dog can’t call 9-1-1 if you’re injured.”
  4. Find the perfect shoes for you. There are a lot of expensive running shoes available that promise to deliver the best results. However, a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that for many people, ordinary sneakers work just as well as the high-tech lace-ups. Make sure they fit well and don’t rub or irritate.
  5. Start slow and stay consistent. It’s perfectly okay to do a combination of walking and running until you build up the stamina to run the whole stretch, Halsch says. Our bodies take time to build up connective tissue and lean muscle, so becoming a marathon (or even 5k) runner doesn’t happen overnight. Also, Alm says that before you try to run faster, you should be able to maintain a conversation at your current pace.
  6. Don’t overindulge. It’s easy to negate all of the hard work you’re doing with extra treats. Alm warns against thinking that you deserve an extra slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream because you got in your daily dose of sweat. “With running, we’re creating a perfectly tuned machine that will recognize that maybe you shouldn’t eat that extra waffle because you’ll feel too heavy afterwards,” he says.
  7. Have a blast. Get down and dirty at Mudderella or bring out your inner fighter in a Warrior Dash. These runs aren’t as intimidating as they sound because most aren’t timed and are filled with amateur athletes. In fact, 60 percent of The Color Run participants are running their first-ever 5K race. Pretty Muddy was designed specifically for women to enjoy an athletic event without feeling intimidated by male competitors. Just remember that these 5ks use more muscle groups than traditional runs, so you might be a little more sore afterward if you’re used to road races. To train for these events you might incorporate more strength training into your workouts. But then again, no one has quite perfected the art of training for a mud crawl or bubble tunnel run just yet.

8 Tips for Safer City Cycling

July 15, 2013 at 11:23 am , by

What do I have in common with Leonardo DiCaprio? Sadly, not much. I’m not a famous Hollywood heartthrob and I’ve never been nominated for an Oscar. But Leo and I share one common interest: bicycling. In fact, we’ve both participated in New York City’s new bike share program by hopping on Citi bikes and pedaling around the Big Apple.

Leo and I aren’t the only ones. Since New York’s bike share program launched a little more than a month ago, New Yorkers have pedaled more than 1.28 million miles, which is enough to bike to the moon 5.3 times. Similar programs are catching on in other cities, too. Chicago’s bike share program launched in June, San Francisco’s program will debut in August and Portland will add a program next spring. There are currently more than 12 established bike shares nationwide.

Convenience is the main reason these programs are catching on, says Susi Wunsch, founder of the bicycling website The bikes are available year-round at all hours of the day, and customers can pay to rent a bike for a short period of time, or they can buy a weekly or monthly pass.

Although urban cycling is a healthy, eco-friendly and economical alternative to public transportation, there are some risks involved. Most  accidents happen when bikers slam into a car door that someone is opening, says orthopedic surgeon James N. Gladstone, M.D., co-chief of sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. (A good reminder to look first before you open one!) Another is when drivers make illegal right turns from the left lane. When these accidents happen, bikers risk road burn, kneecap bruising, fractures of the collarbone and wrists—and sometimes worse injuries.

Before you test your pedaling prowess on busy streets, Susi suggests you practice on roads with less car traffic and always ride at your own pace. Once you do gear up to cycle next to traffic, be sure to follow these tips to stay safe and get the most out of your spin:

1. Ride in a straight line. It’s tempting to cheat traffic lights or cut close corners, but Gladstone warns against swerving or zig-zagging through traffic. You never know when someone in a car will suddenly change lanes without signaling or rush through a light. You should also ride in the same direction of traffic, not against it.

2. Use hand signals when changing directions. They might look a little silly, but they’re important to ensure that other cyclists and drivers know which way you’re turning. Refresh your memory on the standard hand signals here.

3. Avoid the “door zone.” Ride at least four feet away from parked vehicles or cabs to avoid car doors that open unexpectedly.

4. Don’t ride distracted. “Sure, having your earbuds in makes for a nice ride, but it’s not smart in the city streets,” Gladstone says. And, of course, don’t text and bike.

5. Ring the bell. They aren’t just for kids! Use a bell to warn other cyclists, drivers and pedestrians of your approach.

6. Get a helmet that fits. The best helmets sit level on your head about two finger-widths above your eyebrows. And only two fingers should fit beneath the chinstrap. Bike share programs don’t provide helmets, so you’ll need to bring your own.

7. Look up and look ahead. Don’t just look down! Gladstone says a lot of bikers keep their eyes on the road, but instead need to be aware of traffic lights, doors of parked cars and potholes.

8. Stay visible. Wear bright colors, or even a fluorescent neon vest if you feel so inclined. You want to be sure that everyone you share the road with can see you (even if you’re not Leonardo DiCaprio). 

How to Assemble the Perfect First-Aid Kit

June 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm , by

Each morning, when I step into the jam-packed subway car to get to my job as the newest Ladies’ Home Journal editorial intern, I learn something new by watching my fellow commuters. The woman who almost pulled out the top row of her eyelashes with her eyelash curler taught me that makeup should always be applied at home. And the aspiring opera singer busking at the 6 train entrance showed me that a screeching soprano isn’t pleasant if you’ve missed your morning coffee. But perhaps the most notable thing I’ve learned is to pack a change of shoes. The women who pair their polished pencil skirts with sneakers aren’t unfashionable. They’re smart.

After tackling escalators and uneven pavement in heels, I learned the hard way that I should follow their lead. I now know I should wear what’s comfortable and wait to change into cute summer shoes at the office, but my feet are already covered in blisters. That’s why my first assignment—to cover the 125th anniversary of first-aid kits—was not only a cool opportunity but also a fitting reminder to always have Band-Aids and other supplies handy!

While at the event, I picked up a few tips from the pros at Johnson & Johnson on how to assemble a first-aid kit. Oh, and I got to meet actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (that’s her, in white, with me), who served as a celebrity spokesmom on behalf of being prepared for emergencies.

1. Start with the essentials: Every first-aid kit should include plenty of bandages in different sizes, surgical or nonlatex gloves in case you want to protect your hands from blood, gauze pads, a thermometer, scissors, antiseptic wipes, pain-relief medication and tubes of antibiotic and hydrocortisone ointments.

2. Now personalize: Whether you’re an athlete, gardener, fashionista or mom (or even all of the above), be sure to include items that will help heal potential injuries specific to you. If you spend a lot of time in the yard gardening, for example, you might include aloe for sunburns and ibuprofen for back pain, while a strappy sandal enthusiast (like me) might throw in a friction block stick and moleskin to soothe blisters.

3. Keep allergies in mind: If a family member has seasonal allergies, keep a supply of over-the-counter meds like loratadine. For skin rashes or hives, stash some calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and diphenhydramine antihistamine pills.

4. Create a list of contents: It’s easy to throw health-care supplies inside a container, but labeling every item and creating an inventory will help you find the essentials when you really need them. Tape the list on the inside of the lid and keep it updated as you replenish supplies. You should also include the phone numbers of your doctor and specialists so anyone who uses the kit can reach help if needed.

5. Have more than one: Assemble one first-aid kit for the home and think about doing a smaller, portable one to take in your purse or keep in your car—especially if you have active, accident-prone kids. (Aren’t they all?) You’ll feel more confident if you’re prepared, says Gyllenhaal. “Having a bag ready and filled with supplies makes me a more chill mom when things come up.”