2017 Chicago Half Marathon Athlete Guide Now Available

Welcome to the 21st annual Chicago Half Marathon and 5K weekend!

We are thrilled to be celebrating 21 years of bringing Chicago a premier half marathon experience which showcases both the beauty and vitality of our hometown. With a course that unfurls through Hyde Park and the Museum of Science and Industry, take in the radiant glow of Lake Michigan as you wind down traffic-free Lake Shore Drive.

With 12,000 athletes coming from 50 states and 4o countries, this is Chicago’s time to shine!

Before the big weekend is finally here, be sure to download the 2017 Athlete Guide. This page info source contains schedules, maps, race logistics and everything else guaranteed to help you find success over the weekend.

> 2017 Chicago Half Marathon & 5K Athlete Guide

Best wishes for an incredible weekend!

Trust in the Taper

We are officially one week and five days away from the main event at the 2017 Chicago Half Marathon and 5K and with training days waning down to the main event, it is time to talk about: the taper run. Sure, for most of us, we look forward to that week with a sigh of relief as it means that the miles start getting shorter but for others, there seems to be an uncertainty about it.

“I feel so good after my long runs; why should I cut back now?”

“If I start cutting back now, I’ll lose all the progress I’ve made.”

Don’t worry, you are not alone with this. It is not uncommon for athletes to feel this way but allowing your body to properly heal and recuperate after long runs is just as important. The last thing you want to do is push yourself too far and end up completely unmotivated on race day or worst case scenario – end up injured.

What to Expect When Tapering

Two Weeks Out

  • Reduce your total weekly mileage by 20 – 25%
    • Restock your body’s depleted glycogen supplies
    • Repair tissue damage
    • Refocus and mentally recharge
  • Perform runs at an easy pace
    • You should be able to hold a conversation while running
    • Targeting a goal pace? Segment 3-5 miles minimum at goal pace
  • Cross Train
    • Throw swimming. yoga, etc in the mix to keep you active without too much pressure on legs & feet
  • REST
    • Seriously, rest.

One Week Out (Race Week)

  • Reduce your running to just 4 days this week
    • Light, race pace workout early in the week
    • Reduces the stress/anxiety from tapering
  • Stay OFF your feet for the rest of it
    • Injuries are most prevalent one race week. Take a breather and rest.
    • Focus on mental stability and nutrition. It’s all about balance.

For some, tapering could be like a roller coaster. At first you are ecstatic about the short runs but then can run into anxiety or nervousness as you start to feel restless. There are ways of battling this anxiety as well. One of the main concerns will stem from the excess time you now have that you are not dedicated to training.

Battle Taper Anxiety

Rest

The week leading up to the event should have you recovering and rejuvenating. Going to bed early and sleeping in will fortify your mental stability and overall emotional strength. The time off your feet will give your muscles a chance to repair. Don’t forget to stretch and include minimal exertion such as a 15-20 minute walk to keep those muscles active.

Positive Thoughts, Positive Outcome 

Training for an event is just as much a group as at it is an individual goal. This is the best time to surround yourself with your loved ones who have supported you along the way to the Finish line. Maintain run club meets if you have been training with others if only to keep everyone in check.

Be Realistic for Race Day

Set up a strategy for race day. With only a handful of days between you and the Finish line, now is the best time to set realistic goals for race day. You know how far you can push your body. Be cognizant of weather, overall health and training.

While everyones training regime is different, the tapering process remains consistent. You do not want to sabotage your month of hard work, trust in the taper.

Works Cited:
 “Tapering.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/413190-the-effects-of-exercises-on-the-circulatory-systemhttps://www.runnersworld.com/taperin

Managing Burnout

We’re hitting that point in training where burn out becomes a real thing. This happens to everyone. We start to tire physically and mentally, our runs may feel harder, we may struggle with motivation or our schedules just seem to be jam packed and overwhelming. If this is happening to you, the biggest thing to remember is to not fret.  You aren’t alone.

Keep in mind that summer training brings heat and humidity, which only compounds how draining endurance training can be. Even the most elite of athletes slow down under such conditions. Here are a few brief points to consider, although physical burnout and mental burnout are not necessarily mutually exclusive either!

PHYSICAL BURNOUT

Some signs of physical burnout are:

  • Sluggishness
  • Soreness
  • Weakness
  • Putting on Weight
  • Insatiable Hunger
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargic

 
Do not fret! These can all be handled. The important factor is to recognize the root of the problem. As a beginner, training for this long or with this amount of exertion may be new to your body and it is simply your body giving you a red flag. For those who are used to training, we often push ourselves harder and further since we know what our bodies are capable. This too could be detrimental. Take a step back and look back at the past week. Things to pay attention to:

  • Pay  more attention to diet. Things like anemia wreck havoc on your energy.  Make sure you are getting a wide variety of nutrients or maybe even take some daily supplements.
  • Try breaking up your meals into multiple smaller meals through the day. Aim to be eating something 6 times a day.
  • Pay attention to hydration. Especially with the warmer temperatures, increased focus on hydration should be continual;  not just right before a run.
  • Over-training is also a huge culprit. Endurance athletes tend to be that “Type A” personality and forget the importance of rest. This becomes more and more essential as we increase mileage;  you MUST let your body recover in order to rebuild stronger.
  • Pay attention to the heat and the weather as you should SLOW DOWN given some of the temperatures we’ve been experiencing.

 
MENTAL BURNOUT

Some signs of mental burnout:

  • Lack of motivation
  •  Zero enjoyment
  • Difficulty in seeing the ‘end goal’
  • Anxiety
  • Doubt
  • Uncertainty

 
Mental stability actually plays a huge role when training. We are all pushing for our personal best, pushing past our boundaries. We as humans thrive on being challenged; on being pushed outside of our comfort zone. Ways to combat that small voice of doubt that sometimes pokes its head out:

  • Shake it up. Use the different drills we post to lessen the monotony.
  • Have a friend to rely on? Be accountable to someone to meet for your runs.
  • Even if it means driving to a new location, try different running routes.
  • Don’t be afraid to take mental reprieves.  Maybe focus on some other cross training instead. Things like yoga, biking, swimming, pilates, and strength training are all great cross training events!
  • Buy some new gear!  Whether it be a new gadget, a nice new running shirt, etc.  Sometimes when we have something fun to distract ourselves, it helps!
  • Play a game with yourself when you run. Whether it be to say “hi” to everyone you pass on your run, or pulling out trivia questions or riddles every mile, changing your pace based on your playlist (or maybe even create an entirely new playlist!), something different can go a long way.
  • Use functional running.  Need to drop your car off for an oil change? Go for a run while you wait? Or run home from the auto shop! Run home from work instead of driving (Yes, this may require some advanced planning). Run to drop off your rent check. Whatever the errand, so if you can incorporate running to make it happen!

 
You have made it this far in your training. These are just small obstacles on your way to greatness. Do not give up!

Is Alcohol Ruining Your Workout?

Sometimes, a nice, cold drink after a long, hard day is necessary. But, have you ever wondered how the alcohol may affect your body and your physical performance during your workout? According to some studies, alcohol has the ability to interfere with your muscle growth as well as cause your post-workout recovery process to slow down. So, how can you enjoy a stiff drink without ruining your workout and your physical performance?


Let’s hear some facts first…

According to Women’s Health, when you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol as opposed to other fats and carbs. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone found in the body, also begin to rise in the presence of alcohol. In turn, this increases fat storage in different parts of your body. Along with a disruption in your muscle growth, recovery and metabolizing processes, alcohol also causes a disruption in your sleep patterns and nutritional intake. Because alcohol is not a nutrient, it cannot be stored as energy into the muscles. Therefore, it is stored into the body as a fat. According to an article posted by Laura Schwecherl on Greatist, “alcohol’s effect on the liver can also cause a shortage of oxygen, which interferes with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP) — a direct energy source for muscles.” Alcohol also goes hand in hand with dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates you and, as a result, slows down your muscle recovery process and can inhibit your workout performance.


On the other hand…

While too much alcohol consumption puts you at risk for greater health problems, it is not all together bad. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol (consumed in moderation) can actually provide some health benefits for you as well! According to an article posted by Mayo Clinic, alcohol could possibly offer you benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes. However, they also state that “the evidence about the health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.”

So, while alcohol has been proven to hinder athletic performance and cause some unideal conditions for the body, it is not something you need to totally steer clear from. In moderation, alcohol can be okay for both men and women. While we do not recommend throwing a few back before your big race day, a post-race celebratory beer is something athletes (21+ of course) can enjoy without negatively affecting your body!

 

 

Works Cited:
N/A. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol: If you drink, keep it moderate.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
Schwecherl, Laura. Greatist. “Why Alcohol and Exercise Don’t Mix.” https://greatist.com/fitness/why-alcohol-and-exercise-dont-mix
Yeager, Selene. Women’s Health Magazine. “Drinking and Exercise: How Alcohol Affects Your Body.” http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise

Less is More

When it comes to building muscle and weightlifting, there is an all too familiar notion that the heavier the weights you lift are, the more muscle you attain. However, a recent study may have just proven that to not always be the case.


THE STUDY

A recent study conducted by researchers at Ontario’s McMaster University studied the effects and differences between two groups of young men randomly divided into two separate groups. Group number 1 used weights 75-90% of their one rep max (8-12 reps) over a timespan of 12 weeks. Group number 2, however, used weights 30-50% of their rep max (20-25 reps). Throughout the 12-week time period, researchers measured the 49 participants muscle strength and size, along with the hormone levels of each of each of the young men.


THE RESULTS

After examining the young men’s muscles and hormone levels, the results were nearly identical! The men who used 75-90% of their rep max did not have any significant difference when compared to the men who did not use their max. Both the muscle strength and size of the participants seemed to mirror one another, supporting the idea that completing fewer reps with heavier weights does not necessarily make you stronger as compared to if you were to complete more reps with lighter weights.

When it comes to lifting heavier weights, the case can be made that your body exerts more energy to complete fewer reps (as little as 1-5 at times). However, by completing more reps with fewer weights, your body is trained in the art of muscular endurance. The two different approaches to weight lifting will train your muscles in different ways to ultimately give you the same final result.


MOVING FORWARD

At some point in anyone’s weightlifting or workout career, however, athletes reach the dreaded plateau. Your body adapts to your workout routine and seeks a change in order to continue seeing improvements. However, the idea that more reps with lights weights can warrant the same results as fewer reps with heavier weights could be a perfect solution. If you have reached the point in your workout where you simply cannot incorporate any more weight into your routine, it might be time to change it up! Confuse your muscles with a smaller weight amount and complete more repetitions. This will train your muscles in a new and effective way in order to ensure you are still improving upon and training the strength and size of your muscles.

CK

Works Cited:
https://greatist.com/move/strength-training-lift-heavier-weights-or-do-more-reps
https://experiencelife.com/article/strength-in-repetition/

 

Keep Your Goals High and Your Squats Low!

Squatting is a workout technique that strengthens and tones our glutes as well as various leg muscles including our quads, hamstrings, and calves. Squatting is great because of the versatility of the exercise! It can be performed almost anywhere at any time with no equipment or weights! Another added benefit to squatting is that, due to the increased muscle you are gaining in your legs, you are able to burn more fat as well! More muscle = more fat burned. By engaging the core muscles in the body, squatting helps to improve and strengthen the core as well. Because squats help to improve upon this, you are able to build and maintain a better sense of mobility and balance as well. Along with these benefits, strengthening your muscles will also help to decrease the risk of injury. Adding weights to your squats can help to incorporate your upper body as well, leading to a full-body workout all in one!


 

According to an article on Experience Life by Heidi Wachter, the following list contains tips and cues to keep in mind in order to ensure you are performing the movement accurately in order to get all of the benefits out of the squat.

 

  • Begin the squat by hinging at the hips and pushing your butt back.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, balancing your weight evenly.
  • Keep your chest up, shoulders pulled back, and spine neutral.
  • Engage your core by bracing it throughout the movement.
  • As your knees bend, keep pushing your hips back so your weight stays balanced in the middle of your feet

 


By perfecting your squat during your workout, you will actually be benefitting your everyday routine as well! This is because “squat exercises are a motion that your body uses often in real life. Whenever you bend down to pick something up, you’ll be thankful that, because of your squat exercise routine, you’ll have the strength and flexibility to get the job done” (Fitday).

CK

 

Works Cited:
Fitday. “The Benefits of Squat Exercises.” http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/the-benefits-of-squat-exercises.html
Peak Fitness. “Squats: 8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise.” http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/25/darin-steen-demonstrates-the-perfect-squat.aspx
Wachter, Heidi. Experience Life. “5 Tips to a Better Squat.” https://experiencelife.com/article/5-tips-to-a-better-squat/

Get Your Head in the Game

When it comes to your health, two factors usually come to mind: your physical activity and your diet. However, there is a very important and essential factor when it comes to your overall health and well-being that some people often do not take into consideration: your mental health. Positivity and relaxation are both key components when it comes to improving upon your mental health, but there are other tips and suggestions we have for you in order to ensure your body can become and stay mentally fit!

 

AVOID HIGH SUGARS

Our body creates and supplies glucose for our bodies, which our brains need throughout the day. However, the simple sugars which are located in junk food cause peaks and drops in this circulation, and therefore upset the balance of our brain. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that only 5% of our caloric intake come from sugars. Today, however, people are consuming close to 5 times that much! Studies have shown that high sugar consumption can lead to low levels of insulin. As a result of this, cognitive functions such as memory and learning skills can be at risk

 

GET MORE PROTEIN
The amino acids found in the protein we consumer are key components for a healthy brain. They provide essential materials that are needed to create the neurotransmitters that our brains depend on. Experts have stated that 20-25% of our daily diet should come from protein. According to Psychology Today, “The hormones and enzymes that cause chemical changes and control all body processes are made of proteins.” Therefore, the basis for our brain’s daily function stems in part from the proteins we consume!

 

REGULATE YOUR STRESS WITH VITAMINS

Everyone knows how stressful stress can be on your body. Stress hormones, however, can be regulated by vitamins such as Vitamin B, B3, and C. These vitamins can protect your body and its neurotransmitters from stress hormones that can have a negative effect on your body and your health.

READ A BOOK

We know that when it comes to your body, it is important to exercise and stay physically active. When it comes to your brain, however, we do not realize that we need to do the same thing. Reading is the exercise of the mind! It can help to stimulate your brain and reduce your levels of stress. Reading has also been linked to improvements in memory as well.

REMEMBER TO SMILE

Research shows that a regular gratitude practice has the capacity to create new neural pathways that support a more positive outlook. Being around positive and uplifting people has also been shown to increase your happiness and overall sense of feeling. This is important to remember for you personally because, after all, you don’t want to be that one friend responsible for bringing everyone else’s mood down!

CK

 

Works Cited:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200301/brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/06/sugar-brain-mental-health_n_6904778.html

 

Exercise and Circulation

When it comes to your body’s daily functioning, circulation plays an essential role in assisting keeping you alive. Your circulation affects all parts of your body including your heart, brain, lungs, stomach, and muscles. So, it should come as no surprise that exercise can play a role in circulation. Exercise and the circulatory system have a mutually benefitting relationship. According to Donald Dengel, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, “exercise makes the circulatory system stronger, more flexible, and more expansive — all at the same time. A healthy circulatory system then returns the favor by boosting athletic performance.” Exercise has also been proven to prevent and also help to cure the arterial damage that comes from unhealthy eating and unhealthy lifestyles in general.


When it comes to the mutual relationship, here are six ways in which exercise and circulation go hand in hand.

  • Exercise promotes blood-vessel health
  • Exercise helps inoculate against chronic disease
  • Exercise reduces heart-disease risk
  • Exercise bolsters athletic performance
  • Exercise improves lymphatic function
  • Exercise makes the heart bigger and stronger

When it comes to your heart, exercise plays a vital role in keeping it happy and healthy. When you exercise, your heart rate increases. As your fitness levels begin to improve, your heart in turn becomes stronger, thus decreasing your resting heart rate. According to Live Strong, “As you exercise, the hormone adrenalin causes your blood vessels to expand to allow passage of a greater-than-normal volume of blood. This is called vasodilation, which is a short-term response to exercise and is one of the reasons your surface blood vessels may become more prominent during exercise.” Another important component with exercise and circulation comes from the effect exercise has on your red blood cell count. By continuously working out and improving your fitness regime, you increase the number of red cells in your body. As a result, your body can transport more oxygen to parts of your body.

 

 

Works Cited:
Dale, Patrick. Live Strong. “The Effects of Exercises on the Circulatory System.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/413190-the-effects-of-exercises-on-the-circulatory-system/
Bergeson, Laine. Experience Life. https://experiencelife.com/article/how-exercise-affects-circulation-and-vice-versa/.

Feeling Blue

For centuries, water has been associated with healing and spiritual properties that we have incorporated into our daily routines and cultural practice. Have you ever found your mood significantly change when you are near a body of water? There is almost a sense of pure serenity and peace when you are looking out over a lake or ocean. Why does this happen? Why does nature, and, more specifically water, sooth us the way it does?

 

According to Wallace J. Nichols, PHD, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, “researchers look carefully at studies detailing the calming effect of nature on the human mind, and they find over and over that water helps amplify nature’s soothing, healing qualities.” He also states that when it comes to our bodies, we all naturally have a “blue mind,” which can be described as a meditative state that can be categorized by qualities such as serenity, harmony, and satisfaction that is actually prompted when we are in or around different sources of water. Water can be a source of clarity, entertainment, and exercise in our everyday lives.

 


According to Nichols, the following are six important benefits when it comes to your “blue mind”

  • Water gives our brain a rest
  • Water can induce a meditative state
  • Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected
  • A blue mind is a creative mind
  • Exercise by or in water is good for our bodies and brains

 


 

Another important aspect of water that draws us into it is the ability that water has to both change and remain consistent all at the same time. Our brains and bodies get a two for one special by getting the benefit of stability and consistency with the added bonus of a stimulating change all in one! The positive benefits and advantages associated with water can be important for people dealing with the stress and pressures of everyday life. According to Nichols, “water impacts all five senses at the same time with a positive, powerful image and memory,” he says. “The good memories from a day on the water help override bad memories that haunt someone and possibly help crack that shell, letting them rejoin the world.”

 

Experiencing this state of “blue mind” does not require you to go sit at the beach and watch the waves crashing to the shore (as beautiful and peaceful as that may be). Rather, it can be something as simple as taking a bath, going fishing, or drinking water! Whatever your source may be, incorporate more water into your life. Both your physical and mental health will thank you for it.

CK

 

Works Cited:
Gregoire, Carolyn. Huffington Post. “Why Being Near the Ocean Can Make You Calmer and More Creative.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/02/25/mental-benefits-water_n_5791024.html
 Wallace, J. Nichols, PHD. Experience Life. “Blue Mind.” https://experiencelife.com/article/blue-mind/

The Importance of Taking Days Off

Today, it seems as though our society has adopted this “all or nothing” type of mentality, and working out is no exception. Oftentimes, working out can be a struggle. However, for some people, taking days off when trying to reach a goal can be just as difficult. We do not want to lose any of the progress that we are making, and we would like to see results as soon as possible. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our workout routines that we forget to take days off and give our bodies the rest that they need.

According to Russel Wynter, NASM certified master trainer and co-owner of MadSweat, “when the stress is too much physiologically for the system to handle, it can and will lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint pain.” Depending on the severity of the injury, we could ironically be pushing our goals farther and farther away if we do not give our muscles a break.

More negative side effects associated with excessive amounts of exercise with limited rest include a decrease in performance, sickness, a change in your hormones, poor sleeping patterns, and a decrease in your immune system. Certified Personal Trainer, NASM CPT, Sarah Gibson states that when we experience tears or strains in our muscles and joints, we in turn activate our immune system. Rest is a key element in ensuring that take a day off and step back from the practice, our immune system does not hve enough time to fix everything. Wynter also states that, “you should have at least one day of rest before attempting to work similar muscle groups again. The general rule is it requires a minimum of 48 hours to recover with full recovery seen within 72 to 96 hours post workout.”

When it comes to the recommended time spent on cardio throughout the week, experts strongly suggest that 30-60 minutes of moderate workouts (5 times/week) or 20-60 minutes of intense workouts (3 times/week) in order to get the most of your training. In order to build strength, your muscles need time and rest to rejuvenate. Different athletes and people with different goals will have different versions of “taking a day off.” For bodybuilders and pure strength training athletes this may mean taking a break from the weights one day and doing some form of light cardio. For others, this may mean withholding from all strenuous activity as a whole.

No matter what your athletic level may be, it is important to give your body rest and time to recuperate. If not, the possible consequences that you may experience may end up doing more harm than good regarding your body’s progress.

CK

 

Works Cited:
Gibson, Sarah. Well Bridge. “Give it a Rest: It’s OK to Skip Your Workout.” https://www.wellbridge.com/fit-like-that/give-it-a-rest-its-ok-to-skip-your-workout
Rosenbrock, K. The Active Times. “Why Rest Days are Just as Important as Working Out.” https://www.theactivetimes.com/why-rest-days-are-just-important-working-out