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6 Training Tips to Steal From Boston Marathoners

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Today marks the 121st Boston Marathon and this morning, thousands of runners will toe the start line of the 26.2-miler, the oldest annual marathon in the world. The race is known for its history but also its challenging course: It starts with several fast downhill miles—so people tend to begin too fast and find themselves tired and with aching quads by the time they hit a series of notoriously tough hills late in the course.

To race Boston takes not only hours and hours of long runs and speed work in prep but also strategic training for strong legs and good pacing. Read on for lessons learned from training for the Boston course—and tips about how you can use them to be a better runner yourself, whether or not you'll ever hoof it up Heartbreak Hill.

1. RUN IN THE RAIN. 

Getting wet while you work out sound less than pleasant? Get used to it. "Race day in Boston often presents runners with imperfect weather, like rain and cold," says Michael Meliniotis, a coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, and an age group runner who has finished 13 marathons (including three in Boston). "To manage those conditions, you need to experience them first." That means if you have a outdoor run planned and it starts raining, don't take your miles to the treadmill; make yourself jog in bad weather now and when you encounter rain or sleet or snow later, it won't seem like such a big deal. To keep from slipping, shorten your stride a bit. And to make it a little more comfortable, make sure to wear a waterproof running jacket and hat, suggests Ali Baldassare, a Precision Running coach at Equinox in Boston. "Staying as dry as possible will reduce your chance of chafing or getting blisters, and it helps keep your core body temperature warm," she says.

2. DON'T GIVE IN TO THE WIND.

Along with occasional showers, Boston runners are also often hit with heavy spring winds. "Depending on how strong and persistent the wind is, it can sometimes feel like you're getting punched in the stomach or slapped in the face over and over again," says Baldassare. It takes a lot more effort to run into the wind than when there's no breeze, so she recommends maintaining a consistent effort level and not paying attention to your pace. And help yourself out a bit by wearing form-fitting clothing, she says: It'll cut down on some of the resistance.

Wind at your back? That can give you an awesome boost, but there's a lesson to learn with a tailwind too, says Meliniotis. Take note that it's helping you run a little faster, and if the breeze stops, don't try to keep up the same pace, he advises—as you could end up raising your effort level too much and zapping your energy too soon.

3. DON'T GO OUT TOO FAST.

Competitors in any road race tend to start speedier than they planned to because of adrenaline and the excitement of the starting line—but it's even easier to begin too fast in Boston because the first four miles are a steady descent. Keeping your pace on track is both a science and a feeling. Wear a Garmin or other watch with GPS and check in on your speed every mile or two, then adjust your pace if you need to. However, Baldassare recommends not keeping your eyes glued to your wrist but paying attention to your breath and how your body feels to judge your effort. "During a race, your target pace might feel ‘easy’ because your adrenaline has kicked in and you settle into your groove. The mistake happens when you're feeling good and you think you can do more, or run faster. Don't. Hold back and save it for when you're going to need it the most—the last few miles of your race."

4. STRENGTHEN YOUR LEGS

The early downhill section of Boston may seem like a breeze, but it actually gives legs a beating, especially your quads. In addition to practicing running downhill often, doing leg exercises like lunges can prep your quads to better handle the impact. "Strength training is crucial and such an integral part to any good running program, especially when it comes to hill running," says Baldassare. Also, focus on engaging your abs and glutes to take some of the impact off your quads and spare them from some soreness later, suggests Meliniotis. It can also help to take quick, light steps on the downhill and make sure you're not over-striding, he says; to do so, pay attention to where your feet go and try to make sure they're always landing directly under your body.

5. RUN HILLS THE RIGHT WAY

After the initial decline on the Boston course, runners hit a set of rolling hills. Your approach should vary depending on whether you're heading up or down, says Baldassare. On the uphill, she recommends leaning into the incline from your ankles and to move your arms more. "Pumping your arms parallel to your body revs up your energy," she says. Then when you crest the hill, don't put on the brakes! "Too often I see runners go into recovery mode down a hill," says Meliniotis. "Downhills are not recovery, they're an opportunity. Think about it as a roller coaster and you're gaining momentum." As far as form goes, continue to lean forward slightly so you don't land on your heels, which can hurt your knees.

6. SAVE SOME ENERGY FOR THE END OF YOUR RUN

Probably the most well known feature of the Boston course (besides the pumped-up cheer section in Wellesley) are the Newton Hills, including the infamous, dreaded Heartbreak Hill. They're fairly tough on their own but can feel downright torturous if your quads are already aching from the first two-thirds of the race. The secret of powering up tough terrain late in the game: Run some hill repeats at the end of your workouts. "It'll train your body how to efficiently use energy later on, when you're tired," says Baldassare. “The more your legs become accustomed to the energy demands of your running, the better they’ll be able to adapt and perform.”

A version of this story first ran in 2016.

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Health
This Fitness Startup Lets You Pay for Gym Time by the Minute
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In a perfect world, factors like time, money, and convenience would never stand in the way of your workouts. But as anyone who’s signed up for a gym membership and never got around to using it knows, that isn't always the case. A new startup aims to make fitness more accessible to people who are unwilling or unable to make a serious financial commitment up front. As Fast Company reports, POPiN lets users at several participating health clubs in New York City pay for gym time by the minute whenever they want.

The concept applies sharing economy principles to the fitness industry. Members with the app on their iPhone or Android phone can choose from four gyms currently partnered with the startup. Each center includes luxurious amenities that are normally exclusive to members paying roughly $200 a month. With POPiN, users can walk in, check in with the front desk, pay $.15 to $.26 for each minute they’re there, and check out before they leave. A 45-minute workout might end up costing them around $8.

The average gym membership goes for nearly $60 a month, and gyms depend on the fact that a significant chunk of their customers let memberships go to waste. POPiN claims it is designed for people who might be more comfortable hitting the treadmill every day one week and taking a break from the gym the next, as opposed to adhering to a strict schedule. With a variety of fitness centers in their system, POPiN also wants to give its users greater access to a diverse range of equipment than they would get with a single gym.

The app has been around for only a few months and is limited to New York City for now, but the long-term plan is to expand to more cities across the country within the year. If you’re still waiting for POPiN to arrive in your area, here are some more app-based ways to improve your exercise regimen today.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Animals
15 Examples of the Most Epic Metamorphoses from Youth to Adult
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We’re all familiar with the most dramatic metamorphosizers of the animal kingdom: butterflies. They go from a tiny egg to an awkward wiggling caterpillar to mysterious pupa to a delicate, colorful winged creature. However, there are many other animals besides butterflies that undergo dramatic transformations from youth to adult. Here are 15 of the most epic metamorphoses seen in nature.

1. LADYBUGS (COCCINELLIDAE)

What’s black, white, and red all over? Many ladybugs are—but only in their final stage of life. Turns out these little beetles undergo one of the most epic metamorphoses in the animal kingdom: For most species, after adult female ladybugs mate, they lay a clutch of tiny yellow eggs right in the middle of an aphid colony, usually on the underside of a leaf. Eggs hatch in a week, revealing spiky black worm-like larvae that readily gobble up the aphids around them. When a larva is fully grown, it changes into a blob-like yellow pupa. Finally, the black, white and red (or sometimes yellow or orange) insect appears.

2. MAYFLY (EPHEMEROPTERA)

Mayflies, the less-elegant cousins of dragonflies and damselflies, have one of the most unique metamorphoses of all insects. Most insects’ life stages move from egg to nymph to pupa to adult, but mayflies do not have a pupa stage. Instead, it is the only type of insect to undergo a subimago stage, meaning it’s almost an adult in the sense it grows wings … but cannot fly long distances and isn’t yet sexually mature. The mayfly’s final life stage, the fully flighted and sexually mature imago or adult, is extremely short, lasting just a few hours to a few days.

3. PEACOCK SPIDER (MARATUS)

Left: Jurgen Otto, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Right: Jurgen Otto, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Peacock spiders are tiny, venomous, and beautiful (especially the colorfully rumped males) arthopods native to Australia. Male peacock spiders are so beautiful, in fact, it’s hard to believe that, like all spiders, they go through some not-so-glamorous life stages: egg, egg sac, spiderling, adult. When male peacock spiders reach sexual maturity they try to seduce less-colorful female peacock spiders by performing a showy dance.

4. NUDIBRANCH (NUDIBRANCHIA)

While adult nudibranchs are essentially colorful and ornate blobs of the sea, they don’t start out that way. In fact, after hatching, nudibranch larvae are tiny, plain-looking and have small snail-like shells. Over the course of two months they morph from this plain stage into adults, along the way getting larger and more colorful, losing their shells, and growing gills and feelers, called rhinophores.

5. CROWN OF THORNS STARFISH (ACANTHASTER PLANCI)

Another sea creature that looks completely different as an adult than a juvenile is the crown of thorns starfish. When looking at an adult, it’s easy to see where this creature gets its name: It’s completely covered with dangerous-looking sharp spikes. But after hatching, it looks like not much more than a translucent, floating blob. Over time it grows arms, and later, spikes, then fixes itself to rocks where it feeds on coral.

6. IMMORTAL JELLYFISH (TURRITOPSIS DOHRNII)

The secret to a long and prosperous life, it turns out, is to be a jellyfish. The aptly named immortal jellyfish begins life as an egg, like all other jellies. It then enters the free-swimming larva stage, then settles down into a polyp on the ocean floor, and then finally morphs into a sexually mature jellyfish. Unlike most other jellies, an immortal jellyfish is capable of reverting back into the polyp stage at any time it faces environmental stress, attacks by predators, sickness or old age—essentially being reborn as a young jelly.

7. FLATFISH (PLEURONECTIFORMES)

Think of Pablo Picasso’s most asymmetrically painted human face, stick it onto a fish, and there you have a flatfish. These fish, which include flounder and sole among other species, begin life inside tiny eggs that float up to the surface of the sea. For a few weeks, a larval flatfish swims upright and looks just like a typical baby fish. But after a few weeks its skull bones shift and one eye migrates to the opposite side of its face, forcing the now-lopsided fish to swim sideways. Eventually, when its facial features all move to one side of its face, it changes color and moves to live on the bottom of the sea, its blind side facing down.

8. EASTERN HELLBENDER (CRYPTOBRANCHUS ALLEGANIENSIS)

Left: Pete and Noe Woods, Flickr // CC BY 2.0; Right: Projosh More, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Also called the snot otter and devil dog, the eastern hellbender is a giant type of salamander not exactly known for being beautiful in its adult form. Slippery, wrinkly and the color of mud, they’re right at home at the bottom of rivers, where they can live up to 50 years. Like all salamanders, hellbenders begin as eggs. From their eggs they hatch, coming into the world small and adorable. As time passes, they grow larger and less cute.

9. CHALAZODES BUBBLE NEST FROG (RAORCHESTES CHALAZODES)

Don’t let this lime-green frog’s bright and cheery looks fool you: It lives in only one tiny area in India and is critically endangered, threatened most by an ever-shrinking habitat. These creatures were once believed to lay eggs that developed into tadpoles on pond surfaces like many other frogs. But in 2014, it was discovered that they had a different reproductive strategy: The frogs crawl into a living bamboo shoot that has a hole in it (probably created by insects or rodents) and lay their eggs there. The creatures skip the tadpole stage entirely, hatching as froglets. Because they don't have a tadpole stage, the species doesn't require water to lay its eggs.

10. MIMIC POISON DART FROG (RANITOMEYA IMITATOR)

Mattias Starkenberg, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Covered in bright hues spotted, striped, banded, and blotched with contrasting black, the poison dart frog is one of the most striking-looking of all amphibians. Yet they don’t start out that way. After hatching, young mimic poison dart frogs are looked after by their mother, who lays a clutch of unfertilized feeder eggs to provide them with some nourishment (and, at least for some species of poison dart frog, toxicity). Tadpoles are brown and black, growing more colorful with age until they reach their fantastic adult form.

11. KEA (NESTOR NOTABILIS)

The kea is a large, vulnerable species of parrot native to New Zealand, with green and blue feathers on its back and brown and orange feathers on its underside. While adult keas appear majestic and beautiful, they don’t start out that way. Baby keas retain an alien-like, sparse white hairdo for several months after hatching. Keas are considered a very intelligent species, observed working together and using tools.

12. LAYSAN ALBATROSS (PHOEBASTRIA IMMUTABILIS)

Laysan albatrosses are another species of bird where the babies are very little like their parents. But unlike baby keas, baby Laysan albatrosses hatch as adorable fuzzy gray blobs. As they grow older, the babies slowly grow adult feathers and lose their baby feathers. This leaves them with unique hairdos that sometimes make them look like human celebrities. Ringo Starr, anyone?

13. FLAMINGO (PHOENICOPTERUS)

Left: Getty Images // Right: iStock

Unlike keas and albatrosses, baby flamingoes look a lot like their parents, except they’re missing something: color. Flamingo chicks hatch with gray and/or white feathers, over time taking on the same pink hue as their parents, which becomes more intense over time. Why? Well, you are what you eat, and flamingoes eat shrimp and algae rich in carotenoids, the same pigments that cause shrimp to turn pink when cooked.

14. VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (DIDELPHIS VIRGINIANA)

Virginia opossums are scavengers, eating carrion and rotting vegetation, and that helps keep the environment clean. Virginia opossums are native to North America, where they’re the continent’s only living marsupials. These opossums have pouches for carrying their babies, just like kangaroos. Also like kangaroos they give birth to large numbers of navy-bean-size babies, which grow inside their pouches. When they’re born, they look more like pink jellybeans than animals. Over the course of three to five months, they mature, growing fur, sharp teeth and long tails.

15. GIANT PANDA (AILUROPODA MELANOLEUCA)

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Giant pandas are called giant pandas for a reason: They’re enormous in size, weighing up to 250 pounds. But these bamboo-munching bears don’t start out that way. When born, giant panda cubs weigh just 90 to 130 grams (about as much as a small apple). Besides being way smaller in size, baby pandas are also quite sparsely furred—and so they look very different than what they will as fuzzy black-and-white adults.

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