Fun Runs for Fitness

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Theme races have exploded onto the fitness scene, and people of all ages have gravitated and embraced this craze. In previous years, the most popular fun run has most likely been the annual Thanksgiving 5k Turkey Trot in your neighborhood. While Turkey Trots everywhere will no doubt remain an integral part of Thanksgiving Day for fitness inspired families, here are some races that will not only keep you active, but also allow you to have a blast doing it!

Color Run

Also known as the Happiest 5k on the planet, the color run is an untimed race where participants are covered with different colored cornstarch-based and toxic-free powder at each kilometer. A rainbow of colors then explodes onto everyone in celebration of the finish line. This race is extremely family- friendly in that it is walk and stroller friendly, but can easily accommodate any running enthusiast.

Electric Run

The electric run boasts a similar foundation of color and enthusiasm as the Color Run, but with an added nighttime twist. Contestants walk, run and even dance through various light displays that are coordinated with music along the course. Colorful and eccentric costumes are highly encouraged, and due to time-of-day, this race caters to spunky adults.

Warrior Dash

This is a traditional mud-run where participants race through mud pits, tunnels, slippery hills, cargo climbs and more! The obstacles provide for an added challenge that appeals to runners, fitness enthusiasts and 5k novices alike. While there is certainly a competitive edge to the nature of this race, the ability to modify and adjust to each obstacle is there for those who desire the adventure with slightly less intensity.  Participants must be at least 14 years old to compete due to the slightly chaotic nature of the course and obstacles.

Run for your Lives

This run puts an eccentric twist on your traditional mud run! Here, the motivation behind your run is that you are literally “running for your life”, and this is fueled by the extremely popular Zombie trend. Zombies are chasing you as you are running through mud and working around various obstacles. Flag-football comes into play as participants have 3 flags around their waists, throughout the race. The object is to make it through the race without the zombies getting all 3 flags.

5k Foam Fest

Think mud run meets car wash, and add various costumes and limbs to the mix for an extremely fun finish line. Obstacles on this course are a mix of traditional mud pits, climbing walls, tunnels and rope courses that are followed by inflatable bouncy slides and contraptions covered in fluffy white, soapy foam. This race focuses more on the silliness of the obstacles, and running only adds to the mix, so if you’re looking for a more traditional running-oriented 5k, a different race might be worth looking into.

Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k

Geared toward a wide variety of varied-level runners, this race is referred to as America’s Sweetest Race. The actual race itself is a traditional road race, but what lies at the finish line is what creates the stand out—upon completing the race, each participant receives a hot chocolate, chocolate fondue and various dipping treats. Talk about a reward!

"Barefoot" Running Shoes?

Photo Credit: Aleser PD

One of the fastest growing trends in running shoes is the minimalist or “barefoot” shoe. These shoes have been flying off the shelves of exercise and fitness stores across the United States. The shoes are designed with a minimum of amount of material between the runner’s foot and the ground in order to mimic running in bare feet. The risk of injury is high for barefoot runners due to scrapes, cuts and bruises from the high-impact on runners’ feet. Minimalist running shoes provide little support, but can protect the feet from injury.  Do these shoes actually help you get more from exercise value from your run? 
Manufacturers of these shoes claim that barefoot runners tend to land each step near the balls of their feet near the big toe instead of on the heel as runners wearing regular shoes. Landing each step on the ball of the foot reduces the impact on the feet and legs. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) exercise physiologist Pete McCall recommends minimalist running shoes that mimic barefoot running because the foot has better contact with the ground. According to McCall, regular running shoes have an elevated heel that can interfere with balance. Wearing minimalist running shoes during your walk or run may also increase the dexterity of your feet and toes. ACE sought the assistance of a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to conduct a study of the effectiveness of the barefoot shoes. A group of casual joggers were given a pair of barefoot shoes which they used for 20 minutes three times each week for 2 weeks. At the end of the trial period, about 1/2 of the subjects had changed from the common heel-strike style of running to landing on or near the balls of their feet. 
The bottom line on bare-foot style running shoes is that they provide no cushioning for heel-strike runners  who should either not wear the shoes or change their running style to a toe-strike gait. Heel-strike runners risk injury to the feet and legs if they run or jog in minimalist style shoes. Be prepared to change the way you run if you want to try a pair of these shoes.

Walking & Jogging Safety Tips

Photo Credit: Carol Walker CC-BY-SA-2.0 2010
Walking is an excellent way to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Walking and jogging are ideal ways to get a good cardio workout and strengthen your body. If you are walking or jogging outdoors, there are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe. 
Walk or jog with a friend, a group or  in a public place where other people are around. Many public parks provide scenic walking and jogging trails. When the weather is nice, these trails attract the casual walker and serious exerciser alike. There will probably be lots of people around during pleasant weather. Some trails are closed at night and holidays, so be sure to check with city’s park management for walking trail schedules. Avoid walking or jogging in isolated areas alone or in the dark. Don’t walk in unfamiliar areas or unlit streets. If you must walk or jog alone carry personal protection, such as an emergency whistle or personal pepper spray. Contact your local law enforcement agency for training and tips about personal protection devices. Always carry your cell phone with you when walking or jogging alone. Let someone know where you will be at all times and the approximate time you should return home. Write your phone number and the phone number of a friend or relative on a sticker and attach it to your shoe lace or on  a wrist band.
Always wear a medical alert bracelet if you have any medical condition that may require emergency treatment. If you suffer from asthma, diabetes or take any type of prescription medication regularly make sure your medical alert bracelet contains this information. Don’t wear headphones and listen to music when walking or jogging in public areas or near a street or highway. You won’t be able to hear a car or a person coming up behind you. Avoid talking on your cell phone when walking. It is just as distracting to talk and walk as it is to talk and drive.  Remain alert when walking or jogging. 

For more safety tips for walkers, joggers and runners, see:
Mount St. Mary’s University, Walking & Running Safety Tips 

Springfield Missouri Police Department, Safety Tips for Walking at Night

Outdoor Exercise and Cold Weather

Runners and joggers should take a few extra safety precautions when exercising outdoors during cold weather. Snow, ice and sleet increase the likelihood of a fall and injury. Running outdoors in cold temperatures can result in breathing difficulties. Runners and joggers are in danger of frostbite on the face, fingers and toes when the temperature drops below freezing. You can safely exercise outdoors if you take a few precautions. 
Photo Credit: Sebastian Ballard CC-BY-SA-2.0
Wear several layers of clothing instead of one bulky layer. The air between layers of clothing serve to insulate your body against heat loss. Remove a layer of clothing if you begin to overheat and put it back on if you start to get cold. Protect your hands and feet from cold or injury from frostbite in extremely cold weather by layering socks and gloves. Put on a pair of gloves and then a pair of mittens over the gloves to protect your fingers. If your hands begin to sweat, you can remove the mittens. Wear two pairs of socks to protect your feet and toes. You may need to wear running shoes a half size larger to accommodate bulky socks. Always wear a warm hat when outside during cold weather. A lot of body heat is lost through the head. Wear ear muffs or a thermal headband to protect your ears from the cold. 
When the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or if there is a very cold wind chill factor, consider indoor exercise. If you choose to exercise outdoors during extremely cold weather, take extra precautions to protect your body from heat loss and frostbite. Wear a ski mask to protect your face from the cold and wind burn. Wear thermal undergarments when the weather is extremely cold (below 0 degrees Fahrenheit) and the wind is blowing.

Drink plenty of water during cold weather exercise. You may not notice that your body is becoming dehydrated when the air is cold. Run a little slower than you would in warm weather to help avoid sweating which can lead to chills. Running or jogging at a slower pace is also important to help avoid falls due to slick ice covered paths and sidewalks. Avoid exercising outside during rain and sleet because wet clothing can cause your body to lose heat. 

For more information and safety tips, see: