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Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson ran track and cross country at the collegiate level, culminating in a trip to the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Champtionships. After college, Matt wasn’t ready to give up his competitive running career, and found a new passion for the sport through training and racing in trail races and ultra marathons. Matt’s friend and college teammate Clay Holton interviewed him on what it’s like to transition from being a collegiate athlete to an ultramarathoner and what advice he would give other runners looking to continue their competitive running careers after college.

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How long have you been running? What made you start enjoying it?

I have been running competitively for a little over 10 years now.  I decided I wanted to try out cross country at the end of my 8th grade year in school (2006).  My  middle school PE teacher at the time was also the high school cross country coach.  He talked to me about joining the cross country team going into my freshmen year of high school after we ran the mile fitness test in PE.  I had always played football during the fall up to that point, but for whatever reason I decided to give running a try.  Looking back now, I can’t really think of a time when I didn’t enjoy it.  I have always loved sports that require a lot personal motivation and hard work to get better.  Regardless of my talent level in any given sport, I have always prided myself on being a hard worker.  I think that was the initial draw for me towards running.  It truly is one of those sports where you only get out of it what you put into it.  Outside of that, I have always loved the “team” aspect of the sport.  The camaraderie and respect amongst runners is unlike any other sport I have ever been around.  My best friendships in life have come through the sport of running.

Did you run in college? What was your favorite distance to run? What were some of your best times?

Yes, I ran at Augusta University (formerly Augusta State University and Georgia Regents University).  While I ran both cross country and track at the collegiate level, I would have to say that cross country has always been my favorite.  I am a true cross country guy at heart.  As far as my favorite race distance goes, it’s pretty simple…the longer the better (an early sign of an ultra-runner to come, haha)! In college that meant the 10k.  I have to admit…I was always a little jealous of the NAIA guys though, because NAIA sanctions  a marathon national championship every year, haha.  I did race a couple half marathons in college and really enjoyed those.  As far as time goes, I ran 26:05 for 8k in cross country, 15:59 for 5k,  and 33:25 for 10k…nothing crazy fast, but times that I am proud of.  Unfortunately, I was plagued with some untimely injuries during my last couple track seasons.  I also ran a 1hr 13min (5:35ish pace) half marathon.  I had a fifth year of eligibility in track, so I had an entire fall to just train in preparation for the spring.  My coach and I decided to play to my strengths and give a half marathon a go.  I actually think that my half marathon time is my fastest PR once you start converting it to shorter distances.   I definitely think I have still have some PRs in my legs whenever I decide to take a break from the trails.

Do you have a favorite college XC/track racing moment?

I have many great memories from my college running experience, but the best would definitely have to be qualifying as a team for the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Championships.  That was literally my biggest goal in college and had been a team goal for four years.  That entire fall was a dream season for us.  As seniors, we were able to win our second conference championship and go on to qualify for nationals.  Toeing the line at a national championship and ending my career on the biggest stage (at the collegiate level) with all of my brothers (aka teammates) was a dream come true, and a perfect way to close out my cross country career.  It is truly something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

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What kinds of races are you training up for now? What are some of the highlight races you’ve done since college?

My post-collegiate career thus far has consisted mostly trail racing (with a few road races mixed in).  After college I was looking for new ways to challenge myself and get me excited to train, so I decided to turn to the trails.  I have always loved running on trails, and I feel like my strengths as a runner suit me well on them.  I have raced in several Xterra races, as well as other trail races ranging in distance from 10k to 11.5 miles.  I also competed in my first  ultra marathon (50k) this past April! Racing a 50k was equally one of the most awesome and hardest things I have done in my entire life.  It tested me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways like nothing else ever has.  I found out a lot about myself that day.

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Do you have a coach or any specific training partners?

I currently do not have a coach.  I read /research a lot, talk to people, and use knowledge I have gained over the years.  That was a decision I came to after college for a couple of different reasons. One, being married now, working full-time, coaching, and having a number of other responsibilities/obligations to take care of throughout the week, my schedule is constantly changing.  I have always been a very meticulous when it comes to my training.  Now that I am in “the real world”, I have had to learn to be much more flexible with my training.  Sometimes that means switching workouts to different days because of the way I feel or a lack of time…others it might mean missing a run completely.  Bottom line, life happens and things come up sometimes.  I have learned to go with the flow and not get frustrated if my training week doesn’t go exactly as planned.  With all that being said, if I have a coach putting in the time and effort to write training plans, I want to make sure I am giving that back by following exactly what he or she has planned for me.  I have always maintained the mindset that if I am going to commit to do something, I am going to do it right.  As I continue to adjust to “the real world” and my new normal, I will definitely consider going back to having a coach.  Right now, I am having fun writing my own workouts and experimenting with new things in ultra training.  It keeps things fun, and as corny as it sounds…that is always most important!  In regards to training partners, my main one is my wife, Tia!  I also run a lot with the high school athletes I coach, as well as a few of my former co-workers.  I will always take any opportunity I can to run with people!

What is the next big race you’re training for? Any specific time/place/finish goals?

My next big race will be The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in San Francisco this December!  I would be stoked to come home with a top-ten finish!  I have learned that time/pace on the trails isn’t quite as relevant because of the varying terrain/course conditions from race to race.  I am just excited for the opportunity for the challenge of competing against some of the best athletes in the sport.  Leading up to it I plan to compete in a smaller race or two (both road and trail).

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What kinds of workouts are you focusing on? Do you have a favorite workout?

Again, the specific workouts I am focus on really depends on what race I am training for.  However, throughout most of the year my training is usually going to incorporate some sort of tempo run, long run, and faster paced intervals or hills, among general mileage/recovery runs.  I also do strides throughout the year to help maintain foot speed/overall running economy (even when training for an ultra).  More specifically for ultra races, I have learned that it is important to research the course you are going to be racing and do your best to mimic that terrain in training.  The further I get into a training cycle for an ultra, the more my workouts become focused on helping me encounter/prepare for what I will see on race day (same applies for practicing nutrition intake as well).  As far as my favorite workouts, I have always loved long runs!  I also love longer progression runs and fartlek runs….basically any “effort” based workout that is less focused on hitting specific splits, and more focused on “feel” and allowing your body and the workout to progress naturally.  Lastly, I enjoy running any sort of hill workout.  I have learned that practicing downhill running is just as important as practicing uphill running when it comes to ultras and trail racing.  Right now in training I have been working on increasing my overall long run distance, as well as practicing my climbing and descending.

Do you run mostly on roads or trails?

Definitely TRAILS!!!

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I saw recently that you started being sponsored. What kinds of sponsorships do you have?

Yes, I currently represent four different companies as a brand ambassador in my training and racing:  CEP Compression, Nuun hydration, and Headsweats performance headwear.  The team I run for, Anchored Elite, is also sponsored by Janji.  Janji is an awesome running apparel company that also works to provide clean water for those who need it in countries all around the world!  I am very thankful to have the support of these great companies as I continue to pursue competitive trail running!  I truly love their products and would highly recommend them to anyone!  For any other running gear needs I go to Fleet Feet Atlanta!

Lastly, do you have any advice for runners who want to continue running competitively post-collegiately? Or advice for runners who are seeking to get any sort of sponsorship?

For those that might have a dream to continue running competitively post-collegiately, I encourage you to not give up on that dream.  My main motivating factor was not wanting to look back in 10 or 20 years and wonder what I could have done in the sport if I stuck with it.  One of my favorite quotes has become “Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go.”  It is not always easy considering the majority of post-collegiate runners aren’t supporting themselves by running, but it can be done.  Set new goals for yourself after college so you have a sense of direction and purpose with your training and racing.  Also, always make sure you maintain a healthy balance in life.  I believe too much of one thing can be a bad thing.  Now that I am working full-time and married, I have had to learn where running fits into all that.  Make running something you do, but not who you are.  Adjusting to the “real world” and all of life’s demands can be difficult sometimes, so you have to learn to be flexible.  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have to cut a run short because “life” happens.  Ultimately, you have to find ways to continually make it fun.  You have to enjoy the process before you can enjoy the result.  As far as gaining sponsorships, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies yourself.  Most of the time, unless you are at a world class level, companies aren’t going to come find you.  Find products you love and believe in and start there.  Put together a “running resume” and start sending it out to companies that you are interested in.  Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back right away from companies.  Positivity and persistency can get you a long way when it comes to both running and seeking out sponsorships!

*Blog credit goes to Clay Holton. The original blog post can be found here: http://www.holtonphysicaltherapyandperformance.com/matthew-johnson-transition-from-college-xc-to-ultras/

 

Avoiding Heat Illness While Running or Cycling in Summer

Avoiding Heat Illness While Running or Cycling in Summer

Bob and Jack running the Rocky Raccoon 100

In some parts of the country, where winter weather can be brutal and unpredictable, folks have waited for what seems like an eternity to get out into the warm, welcoming sunshine to train. Whether you run or cycle, training during the hot summer months can be done safely but requires some adjustments and for you to be diligent in paying attention to your body. Heat illnesses can become deadly serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heat illnesses kill approximately 625 Americans a year making it imperative that you take extra steps in your training routine to protect yourself from the dangers of heat exposure and illness. Symptoms of heat exposure start with leg cramps, clammy skin and mild fever; escalating into profound sweating, dizziness or fainting, headache, fatigue and weakness. Heat stroke symptoms include confusion, lethargy, high fever, nausea and even seizures.

Preventing your body from ever experiencing these symptoms is key to remaining on track. To prevent heat-related illnesses make sure to take extra precautions during any summer day. Remember, heat exposure can happen in temps less than 80 degrees and on both sunny and overcast days. Make sure to stay fully hydrated with both water and sports drinks that contain both salt and sugar. Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that is lightweight and made of fabric that is meant to keep you cool. Also, try to plan your training during the cooler part of the day, taking breaks in shaded areas whenever possible.

At HeadSweats, our entire focus is on keeping the wearers of our running hats and cycling caps comfortable and protected from the elements. Our proprietary fabric technology helps to keep you cool, while the included headband helps keep sweat away from your face and eyes. Include a HeadSweats visor hat or running cap in your running apparel and stay safe during your outdoor activities.

How Much do You Know About HeadSweats?

How Much do You Know About HeadSweats?

With school letting out all over the nation for summer break, we thought we would hit you with just one more test to see how much you’ve been paying attention. Take this short quiz to find out just how much you know about HeadSweats cycling hats and running caps.

  1. What fabric technology is utilized in the manufacturing of all of our hats, caps and visors?
  2. What industry loves our hats and visors at the workplace?
  3. True or false: We only have hats for the serious runner or cyclist.
  4. What important element is included in each of our cycling caps, running hats and visor hats?
  5. Which HeadSweats fabric technology is meant to help keep you safe while being active at night?
  6. Which HeadSweats fabric technology is great for cold weather activities?

Since 1998, HeadSweats has been producing the best in headwear for elite athletes everywhere. Our hats, caps and visors are recognized throughout the world at the most famous athletic events in the world. Known for our quality and appreciated for our fashion, HeadSweats is the premier manufacturer of cycling caps and running hats and visors that are favored by those who use them.

Answers to today’s quiz:

  1. Eventure™ is the fabric technology that is the core of every one of our proprietary technical fabrics that create our line of hats and caps.
  2. Not only do cyclists and runners love our products but it turns out that chefs and restaurant professionals do too.
  3. False. We have a line of casual hats too.
  4. All of our performance hats include our patented sweatband.
  5. Eventure™ Reflective included in our hats and caps keep you visible at night.
  6. Eventure™ Fleece hats and caps keep your head protected from the cold.

 

Tips for Running with a Stroller

Tips for Running with a Stroller

At Headsweats we know it can be tough to find time to work out. We also know that your running time is an important time for you to de-stress but what’s a Mom to do when your running routine clashes with quality time with your little one? Though you may wince at the thought of bringing your little one on your run with you, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help make running with your toddler a fun and quality time.

  1. Let your little guy know that this is your special time in order to get as much cooperation as possible. Don’t expect to be able to run your max the first few times you do this. Find out what both your limits are without causing any meltdowns by starting on the small side – maybe just two or three miles at first.
  2. Make sure that both of you are completely comfortable. Choosing a good jogging stroller is key in avoiding issues for either of you.
  3. Make a game out of it. Choose your running outfits together (along with your Headsweats running hat or visor), going through a checklist of running needs and allowing him/her to choose a stuffed animal to take along if desired. Allow a special snack and even special running music to take along.
  4. Point out special landmarks and parts of the run where special things happen. Build anticipation before you begin by creating a counting game: “If we find 8 black birds today, we…” make it fun for them and it will be more fun for you.
  5. Make sure that you are also keeping both of you comfortable by wearing a quality running cap or hat that helps to shade your eyes, keep you cool and your sweat out of your eyes.

 

Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid Before and During Running

Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid Before and During Running

We’ve all heard the advice about carbo-loading before your big race; or drinking a ton of water to get hydrated before a marathon. But where some pre-race nutrition guidelines can actually help you to run a successful race, others may actually hurt your chances of finishing at all. Avoiding these nutrition mistakes before and during your race will help you in the long run (pun intended).

  • The Carbo-load. The myth is that you need that extra boost of carbohydrates to help fuel your body through the race. In actuality, the place you may be running to is the restroom and not so much towards the finish line. Don’t overload the night before, but rather consume normal quantities of carbs the week before the race and allow your body to process them in the way that it should without the glut.
  • Experimenting with something new. Trying a new food or energy supplement right before or even during the race can bring unexpected results – and not in a positive way. New foods can cause stomach distress and leave you dehydrated and unable to experience the race at your optimal levels.
  • Burning calories without replenishing. If you are running longer than an hour than you are going to want to refuel during your event. Keeping handy sources of carbs on hand can help you avoid feeling lethargic and spur you further on.
  • Skipping breakfast the day of the race. Whether you normally skip breakfast on any given day, or if race day jitters make you feel slightly nauseous, you’ll want to overcome those issues and make sure to get in a quality breakfast anyway. Keeping your blood sugar steady and providing you with energy to start your race off on the right foot are why eating a wholesome but light breakfast. Opt for a smoothie if solid food leaves you feeling too full.

With all of the advice out there about race day nutrition it is important to find out what works for you. We do know that no matter what preparation you’ve made for your race, we’ll be there to provide protection during your race. Headsweats running caps, hats and visors are specifically manufactured with runners in mind with innovative and breathable fabrics and our exclusive built-in sweatband that helps keep you comfortable and your sweat out of your eyes. With the coolest in visors for men and women, Headsweats look great every step of the way.

 

5 Reasons Women Should Run on a Regular Basis

5 Reasons Women Should Run on a Regular Basis

The reasons to begin running on a daily basis certainly outnumber that which we can include here, but there are benefits of running that are important enough for women to recognize as reasons to get out of bed or off the couch and start running. As runners ourselves, we’ve experienced these benefits first-hand and are confident that you will too.

  1. Burn calories and lose that extra weight. Though the amount of calories per mile burned is fully determined by a number of mitigating factors like pace, weight and changes in elevation, the average amount is said to be about 100 per mile. You do the math.
  2.  Avoid bone issues like osteoporosis as running helps build bone density.
  3. Increase that heart rate and decrease your chance of heart disease.
  4. Improve your overall mood. Running releases endorphins which elevates mood and increases levels of happiness.
  5. Get away from those that take away. Your job, family and others can all have a draining effect on our energy levels. Replenish physically, emotionally and mentally by taking an hour run and be ready to handle all that being a woman requires.

At Headsweats, our focus is always aimed on keeping runners, both men and women alike, fully protected and comfortable while running because we believe we could all benefit from taking a healthy run . Our running hats are expertly constructed from the most innovative materials, providing the wearer with unmatched comfort and style. Encourage Mom to start her own running routine with our new selection of running caps and visors for Mom in attractive colors that acknowledge just how awesome Mom really is.

Run For Your Life

Run For Your Life

For a good portion of every society running just seems pointless. Its not really understood why runners continue to subject themselves to a sport where most of the time, the effort outweighs the benefits. But for runners who experience that high, know how breaking past emotional and physical boundaries can make them feel accomplished and content. However, studies show that there are a number of physical and mental benefits that even the most dedicated of runners may not be aware of.

Recent studies show that running just 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week actually decreases your chance of premature death by as much as 50 percent. It turns out you literally can run for your life – in a positive way. Improving cardiovascular health, runners benefit from a more properly functioning ticker.

Running at certain intensities and distances also increases our fat burning capabilities and the sweat that is generated by a good run removes toxins from our bodies. Serotonin is also produced when we run, which contributes to that “runners high” that we often hear about. Serotonin contributes to heightened feelings of happiness and contentment.

Increased levels of daily energy, weight loss and decrease of illness are all additional benefits enjoyed by regular runners.

At Headsweats our mission is to help our running and cycling friends with the best in running caps and running hats. Our hats include technologically-advanced fabrics and headbands that aide in keeping runners and cyclists comfortable and safe. Available in a variety of styles, colors and fabrics for different needs, each of our running visors, caps and hats are made with only the best and innovative fabrics available. Browse the entire selection and let us know if we can provide any assistance.

What To Do When Motivation is Lacking

What To Do When Motivation is Lacking

Its a problem that most of us face, the loss of motivation. Some of us lose it in the middle of a tough workday; some lose it when facing another day of cleaning house, others face it simply having to deal with other people. Runners, though generally pretty driven people, also have their lapses in motivation for getting out for their daily run. Here are a few tips that other runners use when motivation is lacking.

1. Remember your goals. If you haven’t written them down, do so. Seeing your personal goals can help you over the hump.

2. Talk to other runners. Make sure to spur each other on when the other’s motivation takes a hit.

3. Surround yourself with running. Watch movies and youtube videos, read running magazines and search for new places to run. Get yourself excited about running again.

4. Go ahead and change it up. Run at a different time of day, find a new trail, even buy new running shoes or clothes to get inspired again.

5. Take a lesson from Nike and just do it. Remember that there are always going to be days where we simply don’t feel like it. It’s ok to feel that way, it’s not ok to give into those feelings again and again. That’s why its called “pushing yourself”. Quit your whining and start the running. You’ll be happy you did.

If a new running hat or visor will get you in the mood, Headsweats offers hundreds of options in visors for women and men and running caps and hats. Browse through our site for our hats that are built to keep you both comfortable and safe during your run.

Avoiding Running Injuries

Avoiding Running Injuries

So, you were certain that you were going fairly easy on yourself, but here you are again, icing that knee or babying that shin splint. Most of us are knowledgeable in the treatment of these running injuries but how to avoid them is somewhat lesser known. If you are experiencing repeated injuries after running, a few adjustments prior to, and during your routine may be called for.

1. Injuries often come from overtraining. Adding miles, intensity or both is obviously going to add stress to the body, that’s the point; but adding too much, too quickly can cause injury to our joints and muscles. Patience is key here. Stretch yourself by adding no more than 10 percent of your average on a weekly basis. Slowly build to that goal in order to avoid being sidelined completely.

2. It all starts with the feet. Make sure that the running shoe you invested in fits not just your feet but your running style too. The wrong type can set up the wrong dynamics, causing the body to have to compensate. If these compensations are often repeated in an unnatural fashion, pain and discomfort is guaranteed to follow. Get properly fitted at a specialty running shop and replace them often. The guideline is generally every 350-500 miles.

3. Make sure to train your body overall. Strengthen the muscles that support your running muscles. Being out of balance can cause joint to overwork themselves.

4. Avoid shock. Try not to run on concrete; being ten times harder than asphalt all that shock is transferred to your legs. Look to run on grass and trails often but make sure to change it up as a sudden transfer to asphalt can be jarring to joints.

5. Keep hydrated. One of the most obvious preventions to most any injury is a well-hydrated body. Keeping hydrated before, during and after training sessions keeps joints and muscles well lubricated and moving freely.

At Headsweats, we look to always provide you with the best in running hats and caps in order to keep you protected on the running trail. Our running visors and hats keep moisture away from your eyes and wick it away from your skull allowing you a more comfortable run. Browse our full selection of running caps to find the perfect one for you.

2013 Mother Lode 4 Day Expedition Race

Ride and Run with Passion and Safety

Ride and Run with Passion and Safety

The statistics are eye-opening and a bit staggering and not in our favor. A pedestrian or cyclist is killed every 2 hours in the United States in a collision with a motor vehicle. Runners, walkers and cyclists are most likely to be struck in intersections of urban roadways at night according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with low-visibility being a key factor in these fatal incidents.

Increasing visibility during night runs or rides is of the highest priority when it comes to running or riding safely. Reflective clothing has been shown to increase visibility to more than 1000 feet. Which is why we offer hi-visibility running hats, cycling caps and visors for both men and women. We want to keep as many of us outdoor enthusiasts as safe as possible. Our super reflective caps, made with our patented materials that are both water-resistant and include the COOLMAX sweatbands, are designed with comfort, style and safety in mind. In both Ironman® or customizable styles, these reflective options, made with our proprietary Eventure™ reflective fabric, are sure to keep you safer during both early morning or late evening training sessions.

Since our beginnings in 1988, Headsweats associates have always concerned ourselves with the comfort and safety of runners and cyclists all over the United States. Always guaranteed with our 2-year warranty, each and every one of our products is manufactured with the highest quality and workmanship. Keep yourself and loved ones safer with reflective running hats and visors whenever you venture out, whether its for a quick jog around the block or an intense training session. We look forward to many years of business with each of our clients and hope to help keep you safe.

Team Tecnu