Winter Foods for Healthy Running

Note: The following post was originally written for Eugene Marathon as I am a 2017 Ambassador for the race organization (Use code “AMB2017WB” when registering for the Half or Full to save money!).

Depending on where you live, winter training can be challenging. Morning runners may be lacing up before work which could mean pre-sunrise runs in the finger-numbing cold which could very well limit the kind of workout that realistically takes place: really fast runs because your body is dying to warm up or rather slower runs because it’s sub-40 and you are out there before the sun has woken up. Evening runners can’t catch a break either; it might be a tad warmer than in the morning, but probably not by much. No matter your struggle though, you choose to train throughout this season because you are a force to be reckoned with; because you don’t back down when it gets tough; because…you are a runner. And you already registered for Eugene 2017. (Right? Right??)

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Training outdoors during the winter months takes a lot of will and a lot of energy, but it should also include some cautionary steps. Generally, people get sick more often during the winter months and because training for a half or a full marathon can take quite a toll on the body, it is ever-important to make sure you are taking the proper steps to make sure you are handling winter training well. Of course, this means the common sense stuff such as wearing gloves and hats if necessary and certainly running in long sleeves and perhaps a jacket if it’s raining, but what is also very important to not forget is that the food you eat during this time is more than just fuel for the furnace, but fuel for recovery and nourishment as well.

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You can’t train if you can’t train so the most important goal for every runner no matter the season should be to remain healthy. “Healthy” can mean injury-free, but it can also mean free of sickness and with both of these definitions, proper nutrition is important. Eating healthily is not something that comes easy for many people during the winter season so thinking about ways to help you stay on top of your nutrition game can be helpful. One way to do this is to make a list of winter foods local to this area and keep it on your fridge or wherever you will see it often. When you are going grocery shopping or looking for what to make for dinner, play around with a couple of those foods and reap the benefits of the nutrition of the seasonable fruit or vegetable. Below is a short list of only some of the foods that are in season or still in season in the Pacific Northwest area during some or all of the winter months. As you’ll see, it’ll be rather difficult to sustain yourself on only these foods, so remember that this is just a way to get you to include healthy, in-season produce into your diet.

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Beets (and beet greens)          Brussels sprouts

Carrots                                     Cabbage

Chard                                       Collard greens

Cranberries                               Kale

Leeks                                       Mushrooms

Mustard greens                          Potatoes

Shallots                                     Spinach

Winter squash                           Turnips

Watercress

“Winter foods” can also mean foods that one generally eats when the weather gets colder, a.k.a. comfort foods. One of the common realities of winter-eating, for many, is eating foods that make us feel full and warm. Let’s face it: watercress and kale just won’t cut it and that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean that watercress and kale can’t be added to foods that we do love to eat in the winter, such as chili, vegetarian or otherwise. Great idea huh? Or add some of these and other ingredients into a hot, easy-to-make stir fry with some potatoes or brown rice. Talk about a filling meal that would provide a ton of nourishment and nutrients! Adding a ton of vegetables to your soups and even some seeds or nuts (cashews would be great!) is another easy way to make sure you are getting the extra nutrients you need when training such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, and more.

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My go-to winter foods that are not in the produce aisle include oatmeal, brown rice, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. And how would I “nutritionize” these dishes even more? Adding kale or spinach to the brown rice or mashed potatoes is simple enough. Adding hemp hearts or ground flax seeds to oatmeal is a great way to boost its nutrition profile, but so is adding a few leaves of spinach if you’re up to it. Savory oatmeal, anyone?

So think about the foods you gravitate toward in the winter months and brainstorm some ways to add some vegetables, fruit, or whole grains and seeds to it to give it the nutrition kick that it and you could use during your training.

–The author is a sucker for a good peanut butter and jam sandwich and challenges all to add spinach, turmeric, and cinnamon to their next PB&J. See you in Eugene, May 5-7!

 

PS: If you have any questions about nutrition in general or nutrition with regards to training, please don’t hesitate to comment here or email me (info in About page).

 

 

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Dealing with ITBS and RWI

I’ve been found guilty of a RWI, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one. That’s right: I’ve been “Running While Injured”.  :/

For over a month now, I’ve been dealing with some knee pain, but the pain isn’t always there. When I wake up, it’s fine. When I walk, it’s fine. When I bike, it’s fine. When I run, it’s not fine. So have I not run since I first felt the injury? I wish I could tell you that I’m always disciplined enough to back off of running completely when I’m dealing with an injury, but in this case, that was not the case.

I wasn’t running every day with this injury, but I definitely wanted to find out what it was, if I was going to be sidelined for a while, and how I needed to manage my recovery. After the first couple of times, the knee pain would set in after 5 miles or so of running and would render my last 2-3 miles a slower, wobbly experience of the poorest running mechanics I could unintentionally muster. So many things to address here…First, I learned that it wasn’t inflammation or bursitis as I thought it could be. It was a condition that I hadn’t dealt with since my sophomore year in high school: Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). ITBS isn’t a fun condition to be sidelined with, but it’s also one of the best injuries to face as it is not that difficult to fix. Continuing to run while dealing with ITBS, however, is not one of the ways to fix this issue which brings me to my next “thing to address” and the main topic of this post: Running while injured.

rwi5Image: Athletico.com

There are some injuries that just don’t let you run and there are some injuries that, depending on the severity, may still allow you to run, but prevent you from continuing to train. If you are dealing with plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or ITBS, you might still be able to log some miles, but I doubt you would feel that the quality of these miles match what you were achieving before the onset of the injury. So if you are logging miles, but not able to mix up your training or increase the intensity at times, are you still training? What’s worse, those miles you are logging might be worsening your condition. I was en route to this being my situation.

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I have run about 6 times or so since a run mid-November when the pain from ITBS caused me to have to walk some of my miles just to get home. One of those runs, a 6.5 miler, was done on snow-covered trails and the blanket of snow provided a layer of soft ground that prevented an ITB flare-up. I had read about the impact of running being a cause for flare-ups in addition to running downhill, but this was the first time I was able to get in a run on soft enough ground where I didn’t feel any pain; regular, non-snowy trails still resulted in flare-ups. So when I arrived in New Jersey, I decided to test out the IT band on a route that had as much grass as possible. I managed to get in 5 miles before the flare-up occurred, but I needed to get home so I slowed down to 8 minutes for the remaining 2 miles to get home without too much regret. I haven’t run since, but have biked and continued my stretching routines and I’ll probably head out and test it again sometime next week.

rwi2 The New Jersey 7-mile run allowed me to feel mentally better than I have in a while, but that massage stick was my best friend for the next two days.

But what caused this ITBS problem to begin with? My educated guess: repetitive speed training. Was this intentional? Not at all. In retrospect, being in a Masters Degree in Nutrition program seemed to have messed with my approach to training and certainly the time I have for runs so I was treating every day as a speed day just to fit in 10 or 15 mile runs. Not good, I know, as this and not stretching after these repetitive training runs is what I firmly believe has led to my current bout of ITBS.

But here’s the good news: I drove to the local track today and logged 3 miles in 21 minutes without any pain. I guess my active recovery training over the past few weeks as been helping.

Regarding Recovery

Proper active recovery is key when it comes to fixing ITBS issues and helping you get out on the road or trails sooner rather than later. See, with a running injury, sometimes complete rest is not the best way to recover. Recovery, in a way, is its own training. There are certain activities and stretches to be done, certain activities to avoid, and even proper nutrition that can help with recovery depending on the injury. (For stretches that I used, see the video at the end of this post.)

In my case with ITBS…

Activities to include:

  • Certain stretches such as stretching my hips–tight and weak hips can result in ITBS.
  • Exercises such as isometrics.
  • I’ve also included biking to avoid losing too much fitness and to continue some general healthy cardiovascular exercise as well.
  • Strength training and squats to strengthen muscles that may have been too tight or weak, leading to my IT band issue.

Activities to avoid :

  • Running too soon; before really giving your stretches and exercises time to work may be defined as “too soon”
  • Certain types of running; I can forget about speed training and hill repeats until I’m recovered.

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Dealing with ITBS at the end the year has been kind of a blessing. I’ve been forced to pay more attention to my body and stretching which is ever-important and probably the only thing I preach, but practice poorly. Well, my Running 2017 NY Resolution is just that: to pay attention to stretching before and after my runs.

ITBS has also allowed me to use the winter break to relax and fully recover, mentally and physically, from the year. I’ve been planning my 2017 racing schedule and I’m taking my recovery seriously so that I can return healthy and ready to hit the trails and roads for marathon and ultramarathon training. Current races that I’m looking at for 2017 will be a blog post coming soon so check back for that!

Happy Running and Happy New Year!

I hope 2016 was good to all of you and I hope 2017 will only be better!

This video below is what I used to figure out what stretches I need to be doing. Thanks Physical Therapy!

 

 

Run Less to Run Faster

You read that title right. Running while in graduate school has been quite eye-opening this summer, but I learned something important that I only had an inkling about prior to this summer: it is possible to run less yet still run faster (in my opinion and experience).

The nutrition program at National University of Natural Medicine where Val and I now both go to school has been incredible on all levels. Meeting new people was and always is wonderful. Learning about nutrition and whole foods as medicine has been great. Getting into the community and visiting local farms was a new and rewarding experience that occurred weekly.  But the busy-ness that comes with school eventually caught up with me and began to affect my running. At the beginning of the program, I had no choice but to keep up with my training. I was scheduled to run The Oregon Marathon 2 weeks into the summer term and so I was still fitting in short speed workouts during week 1 of school and a few workouts during week 2 as well.With only 7 weeks of training after 2 months off from running due to a glass-puncture in my foot, I still managed to run a 3:01 best time at that marathon on July 16th and secured a second Boston Qualifying time. I was thrilled and excited to see what this heightened fitness would lead to this summer, but after the next week of just a few light runs to keep my legs moving yet still allow me to continue recovering, graduate school was definitely in full-swing and my hopes at achieving running goals diminished.

With my energy and ability to train every day newly diminished, I needed to make adjustments to my goals for the summer and fall. I had to reevaluate my desire to run an ultramarathon in August or even September–I just didn’t have the time for the required training–and if I was going to set any shorter distance goals, I had to make the most out of the times when I was actually able to get out for a run . The biggest change to my training was that I was (and am continuing) only running about 3 days (sometimes 4) a week. It wasn’t that that’s all I wanted to do; it was all I had time for. When I realized this, I didn’t want to waste a single one of those runs. I ran some 10 milers and one 15 miler, but I did a lot of shorter distance training runs which were run at quicker paces than I was used to running even on a speed day. I quickly found myself running 7 miles at 6:30 pace without much effort. I had a couple track workouts where I recorded the fastest workout splits of the year that included: back-to-back mile times of 5:18 and 5:19, 400m at 68s, and a 200m sprint at 28 seconds on a wet surface. All of these timed intervals, as well as all of the track workouts I do, were run as part of a workout and not as a solo time trial so I’m never running them more than 90% of my current ability. But it was the result of running a few 6-8 mile runs and hitting a 5:50-5:55/mile pace for a couple miles without intending to do so or feeling like I was putting in that much effort that I knew I had to focus on 5ks to half-marathons this fall.

A possible running week for me looked like this:

Monday – zip.

Tuesday – 8-10 mile run; moderate pacing

Wednesday – zilch.

Thursday – 5-7 miles; intense pacing

Friday – nada.  (or maybe a 4 mile run; easy pacing)

Saturday- 7-10 mile run; combination of moderate and intense pacing

Sunday – 90 minutes of pick-up soccer; moderate activity

There were some inclines and declines and those runs and occasionally I would swap out a moderate run with a track day or if I was lucky I got to run 4 days in a week instead of 3, but I never stressed about it. Why? Because I was getting faster without trying to and all I could do was scratch my head and wonder how this happened. Did I gain a bonus fitness level from the marathon back in early July? Did graduate school somehow give my energy levels a boost? No. None of that. Rather, I attribute my noticeable bump in fitness to more rest. 

Let’s be clear: by  “more rest” I do not mean more sleep, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing; the benefits of increased rest and sleep are well known and supported. Rather, I simply mean that my body was allowed to rest and better recover from linear running more this summer than I can ever recall in recent years of running/training 5-7 days a week. I suppose you could say that graduate school has been a bit of a Catch 22: I get less sleep due to being so busy, but being so busy has been forcing me to take more rest days from running.

Resting and super delicious and healthy Made in Nature snacks? Most definitely part of my summer.

min2 I cross-trained with soccer a lot this summer and still consider this a rest from the demands of road running.

In August, I ran the first ever 5k at the Portland Meadows horse track on a hot August morning and clocked a 19:48 on a sand course which made this 5k one of the most difficult 5k experiences I’ve ever had.

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I also raced a 5k this past weekend and I ran my fastest time of roughly 17:03. The best part: it was in the rain, on wet pavement, I started about 3-5 seconds behind the line (no separate time for gun time and chip time as there were no chips), and I ran well in the lead for the entire race. I know my body can go 16:45 with better conditions and am hoping to achieve that this fall as well as achieve a half-marathon PR. With the support of great people and teams such as La Vida Veggie, Nii Foods, and possibly others, I’m hoping for a great fall running season.

I wanted to end with what I think a possible week could be or should be if you were to try and alter your weekly routine to include more rest days. Here’s just one possible scenario and it should certainly be modified depending on your experience, goals, and fitness:

Monday- Rest

Tuesday – 10-12 miles (medium distance run; final couple miles or 15 minutes at a slightly faster pace; include some hills on the route if possible)

Wednesday- Rest

Thursday – 5-8 miles (shorter distance run; a few of these miles–middle to end miles–should be around or slightly slower than half-marathon race pace) OR Track day- intervals can include 1 mile repeats, 800m repeats, 400m repeats, or a combination of these and other speedier short distances)

Friday

Saturday- Long run (relative to your goals and fitness; easy to moderate pace); e.g. 15-20 miles

Sunday – Rest

If you’d like help with your own running goals such as running a faster time, running your first race of any distance, or any other goal, I would be honored to have you reach out to me so we can discuss! Comment below or email Wilfredoben@gmail.com so we can connect.

Happy Running!

 

 

 

Change Up Your Scenery: My Run on Sauvie Island

Sometimes you just need to change it up a bit.

Work ended for me early this year (perks of being a substitute teacher; until I’m a full-time nutritionist of course!) so I decided one morning last week to take a quick drive out to Sauvie Island–located right on the outskirts of NW Portland–and it was such a great decision.

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It was about 55-60 degrees–perfect running temperatures–and I managed to wrap up my run right before the grey clouds started to roll in.  Don’t worry. It was early enough where traffic was even lighter than it always is so I didn’t risk anything by taking this bridge picture!

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I didn’t know what I wanted to run as I had a bit of flexibility in my marathon training schedule for various reasons. I didn’t want to drive out to Sauvie Island (about 14 miles from my apartment) and not put in a good workout so I knew the run would be a quality one either for marathon-specific pacing or just for endurance. I told myself I would run at least 10 miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to 12 or 13 miles. Well, I felt great early on so I decided I’d make the run a good half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles. I ran it on the moderate-to-quick end of my training pace spectrum averaging 6:50 for the run (went out in 7:34 which was a bit too slow but I hadn’t known I was running a quick 1/2). I closed well with the last 3 miles each under 6:30 pace. It was a really good run especially since it’s not like I planned to run a time-trial half marathon or anything and there were no rest days involved, but I appreciated the change of scenery even more…I think you’ll see why.

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Running past sites like these doesn’t happen every day in Portland proper. Portland is beautiful for running, don’t get me wrong, but Sauvie proved to be a very nice getaway run and it’s one that I’ll return to a couple of times before my marathon. It’s no wonder Shalane Flanagan (whom I deeply admire) and her Bowerman TC teammates train out here some days.

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Sauvie Island doesn’t have bike lanes like Portland does, but it doesn’t really matter as Sauvie drivers actually follow the courtesies that these signs suggest!  I didn’t have to worry about a car once which made it possible for me to keep my pace steady.

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This hawk was flying circles around me both times I approached her nest. She was not a fan and the sounds she started to make at one point..let’s just say she helped me to speed up a bit!

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The grey clouds (much more grey clouds to the left of this view) were starting to roll in on my way back  to my starting point so I picked up the pace a bit. Someone tell Mr. Fisherman to leave the fishes alone…They’re not bothering him!

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I snapped this cool aerial photo of Sauvie Island as I flew past it taking off from Portland airport on route to Phoenix for my connecting flight to Philadelphia’s airport. You can see the bridge from my first picture to the north of this photo crossing the water. It’ so crazy how small the island seems when you’re running on it. It’s not huge by any means, but there’s quite a lot of land on that island!

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This run was sponsored by Nii Foods. Okay, not really, but the marathon I’m training for (The Oregon Marathon on July 16th) is indeed sponsored by Nii Foods and I’m so grateful for their support! I love being a member of the Nii Tribe! They make delicious dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan bars that are nutritionally dense, so tasty and in 5 flavors, at least one of which you are sure to love! Try them out!

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One of the best benefits of a hard run with an additional afternoon run scheduled for later in the afternoon is an incredibly delicious vegan blueberry chocolate-chip pancakes breakfast made from scratch!  Comment for the recipe or search “3 ingredient pancakes” in the search tool.

We all have our favorite running routes or at least running routes that we are very comfortable running. We know the mileage markers without even glancing at our GPS watch; we know the level of car or people traffic at various times of the day; we know when to speed up or when to save energy for that hill; and so many other reasons for why our favorite routes are actually our favorite. But sometimes it can be a truly wonderful experience to just go somewhere new and run and reduce the monotony of your exercise routine. Mixing things up can help people become less bored and likely to drop the activity which is not an uncommon occurrence with running. Running somewhere new can also help you learn something new about your community or city or state. Heck, like me, you may even find one of your New top-places to run. You really don’t have anything to lose and as they also say, “You won’t know if you like it unless you try it.”

Be adventurous. Take your running or biking or walking or hiking to a new place. Meet new people. See new sites. Explore. And have fun.

Happy Running!

 

 

5 Ways to Stay Hydrated For a Run

The official start of summer is almost here, but I’m sure you’ve already experienced some rather warm days or downright scorchers…I know I have! Here in Portland, we had two 100 degree days last weekend sandwiched between a couple 90-92 degree days. “Unseasonably hot” is an understatement to explain those early June temperatures But as they always say, the run must go on!

I have a marathon coming up in July–still trying to decide between two: Foot Traffic Flat or The Oregon Marathon–and there’s no time to waste! My training period is shorter than I’d like to be by at least 4 weeks so I have had to take advantage of every opportunity to run that there has been.

When it was 100 degrees, as previously mentioned, this mentality didn’t shift. Of course, the planned mileage was altered and I didn’t run for 13 or so miles in 2 hours in 95 degrees, but I did run for 10 miles which took almost two hours due to stopping several times to cool down. I had two bottles with me–one was for drinking and so it had an electrolyte tablet in it, and the other was to use on me to cool me down when by body was heating up…man did that help! I remember when my mom was out for a run one time a few years ago and it was 90 degrees and humid back in New Jersey at the time. You were dripping sweat just from walking to your car. Well, she got lightheaded and dizzy after about 2 or 3 miles and called me to pick her up and I’ll never forget the sound of her voice. She knew she was hot and thirsty which she has experienced, but she was actually afraid something was wrong with her because she had never felt like this way before. Luckily I picked her up and she had been standing in the shade to cool off and she was completely fine, but my heart was racing the whole drive to get her.

Please, please, please…Do not underestimate the sun and the heat. It can be very dangerous to do so and the danger can really sneak up on you. I’m not saying don’t run or be outside; just be well-prepared. And hydration is an important part of that preparation.

Here are my 5 ways to stay hydrated before and during a run:

no1        Small Bottle

4  I use amphipod bottles because I like the way they feel in my hand. They are ergonomically designed which makes them, for me, easier to hold which is important because you don’t want to run with any sort of added stress or discomfort other than what may be in your head. This small bottle pictured above is 10 oz and I use it on warm to mildly hot days of mileage anywhere from 8 miles to 14 miles. I have two of them so if I need one to be a water squirting bottle, the other can be my hydration bottle. It’s perfect. Nuun is my electrolye of choice but 16 oz is ideal for a whole tablet and so I only use half a tablet when I use these smaller bottles. It’s a tad lighter since 10 oz is more than 8 oz, but it’s still drinkable and I’m not doing it for flavor anyway!

no2  Large Bottle

5 This larger 20 oz Amphipod bottle is probably one of my best running investments. I’ll use the larger bottle for anything over 15 miles or 2 hours of running in temps ranging from warm to hot. It took some time to get used to running with over a pound in your hand, but I got used to it quickly. The design of the amphipod bottle really helps here. I have two of these bottles and I’ve used both on a run with the same purpose as stated above. I am contemplating using two bottles for the July marathon as one 20 oz bottle proved to not be enough during my last marathon. You may not like the idea of holding a bottle while you run–although I promise you that you will likely get used to it–and so there is another option you may prefer.

no3Bladder pack or pack with pockets

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A bladder pack allows you to run with a lightweight, running-specific pack with a water bladder inside and a straw that connects to it. This can be a heavier option depending on the pack you choose and how much water you put in it, but it can be a life-saver for those who run long, in very hot temperatures, and/or those who sweat a lot. When I was training for my first ultramarathon, I was running with a walking-pack with a bladder (not meant for running and so it was on the heavier side) but I realized that I prefer a lighter pack that can maybe hold a bottle in the pack and free up my hands for an additional bottle or two. The Nathan pack pictured above is super lightweight and doesn’t offer much for carrying purposes, but it has two pockets which are great for my cell and for my 10 oz bottle. That way, I can run without anything in my hands, or I can hold another bottle. Also, there is enough room for keys and/or gels or dates if you desire the calories on the run.

no4  Bottle Stash!

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Another option is to hide your bottles of water or hydration beverage along your running route. This option requires a bit more time to place your bottles (depending on your route), but can be pretty convenient if you really don’t like running while holding anything whether it be on your back or in your hands. You can stash a bottle in a bush somewhere or behind a tree that stands out. If you are running on a looped route near your home, an option is to leave a bottle on your porch or maybe your mailbox. I haven’t done this before as I don’t mind holding anything, but it’s definitely a good option for staying hydrated during the run.

no5Hydrate Before

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And I’ve saved the most important for last! You can plan to down two 20 oz bottles during your weekend long run, but if you haven’t hydrated or are actually dehydrated from the beginning, those 40 oz will likely not prevent you from feeling the effects of poor hydration. Muscle cramps. Tiring. Slow paces. Increased effort to run. Fuzziness or dizziness. It’s all possible when you’re dehydrated from the start. Throughout the week you should obviously be drinking plenty of water, but it’s important to be getting all of your electrolytes through proper nutrition as well. Fruits and plenty of vegetables are great for this, but make sure your sodium intake is good as well especially if you will be running in the heat often and even more especially if you are a heavy sweater. To help with my hydration and electrolyte intake, I try to always have coconut water (my favorite is C2O) waiting for me in the fridge to help out with my potassium and sodium (not high in sodium though) levels.

There you have it! Five options for staying hydrated before and during your summer running (and even your fall, winter, and spring running).

Run smart. Run Happy.

Hills Need Love Too

If you were a high school athlete and your school campus had any kind of land that would be geographically defined as a hill, you probably hate hills. Too bad coaches often forgot to explain why hill-training is not punishment, but rather an important and really beneficial training workout.

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Incorporating hill repeats or running on hilly routes (especially trail running that includes a lot of elevation gains and losses) can really boost your fitness level. Running hills enhances aerobic capacity faster than what takes place when running mostly flat routes. Training on the hills also improves the strength of certain muscles such as the calves, quadriceps muscles, and those ever-important glutes. There are additional benefits for runners who regularly include hills in their training:

  1. It inadvertently reinforces proper form/posture (unless you are running them with improper form such as hunched over or excessively leaning back).
  2. It improves explosive power which is really helpful for sprinting and shorter distance racing such as 1 mile, 5k’s, and 10k’s.
  3. It strengthens leg muscles that you may or may not typically use when running on flat routes. This improves your general running ability which is very helpful for distance running and trail running.
  4. Running hill repeats speeds up lactic acid build-up in your legs and continuing to run them or run after you complete the workout teaches your body to run through lactic-acid build-up (or better use the ATP-energy-that lactic acid generates) which is what causes your legs to feel like lead unless you’ve properly trained to be able to push through this feeling.

There are more benefits to running hills, such as enhancing your mental fortitude and discipline, but just these four reasons alone should be enough to get you to start incorporating them into your exercise routine no matter if you run, cycle, swim, walk or participate in any other activity or sport.

Here are a few ways to include hills into your workout and give hills the love they deserve:

Hill

  1. Hill repeats – Easy – Going to that steep and/or long inclined hill that you always pass by is a great first step. The next step is to run up. And down…and repeat. For an “easy” option, simply run or jog up the hill at an easy pace and just focus on breathing and proper form. Make sure your arms are still swinging and your breathing is controlled. How many repeats (up and down counts as 1) you should do is up to you and depends on multiple factors such as your goals, the grade or slope of the hill, the length of the hill, and even your fitness, but two to three is a good beginning goal.
  2. Hill repeats – Hard- Nearly the same as above but instead of an easy pace, you are running hard, resembling a sprint or strides. Hill sprints can really build that explosive power if that’s what you are looking for and they will certainly speed up the lactic acid buildup. I wouldn’t recommend hill sprints if you are just starting to add hills into your workouts; wait until running up hills is a bit more comfortable for you. When sprinting hills, proper form and breathing is going to be even more important so make sure those arms are swinging and you are aware of your breathing.
  3. Hilly route- An easy way to incorporate hills into your routine is to simply find a running route that includes them! Rolling hills count as does a mostly flat route with just a few hills to climb. A flat route with one really steep and long climb is great too. If you know where the hills are, just go run around that area.
  4. Don’t cut corners- Starting with where #3 ended, if you know where the hills are, don’t avoid them! We all know that cutting corners is cheating someone out of something so don’t do this to your own training. If you come across a hill on a new route or if you typically turn around or make a turn to avoid a hill, opt to run the hill(s) instead. Either run up the hill, go back down, and continue along your running route or run up the hill and keep going (if you can) to possibly discover a new route you may really enjoy. 

     

    The benefits of hill running will present themselves rather quickly. Initially, your legs may feel sore or heavy the next day or even the first week after your first hill workout, but after some time (weeks, probably), you should start to see results such as increased leg strength when working out or running, not getting as tired as soon, running quicker paces with more ease, and other positive effects.

    Another immediate benefit, depending on where you live, is realizing that the view really is better at the top!

Hill3

Willamette River. Portland, Oregon.

 

Happy Running!

 

Fuel Up with Run Gum

I’m finally back to running and it feels so, so good.  The only part that doesn’t always feel good is waking up and getting out of bed. While my hand and fingers can move at lightning speed to snooze my phone alarm, sometimes the act of keeping my eyelids open while in bed is more strenuous than a 3 hour run.

Once I’m finally up and out of bed, getting out the door is easy. I brush my teeth, feed the cats, turn the electric kettle on to heat up water for my coffee for when I get back, grab my shoes and proceed to lace up on the porch. It’s a routine and that routine helps me get through the pre-coffee part of my morning. But since I don’t have the time to wait around for coffee, sometimes the run can be somewhat of a struggle.

As I said, I have no problem getting started, but when I’m tired, it’s pretty difficult to get to the pace that  I’m happy with or shooting for. Sometimes I like an 8 minute mile pace which is doable even in my pre-coffee stupor, but other times I’d like to get to a 7:30 or under pace and that’s not as easy. So what do I do when I want my morning runs to be at a tad quicker pace? Recently, I’ve turned to Run Gum.

RG3

Run Gum was created for athletes by Nick Symmonds and his long-time friend and mentor Coach Sam. They offer three flavors of Mint, Fruit, and Cinnamon so pretty much everyone’s taste buds are covered here. With Caffeine, Taurine, and B-Vitamins as Run Gum’s most important ingredients, Nick and Sam engineered a gum that is, biochemically speaking, a purely energy-boosting food that does not involve food sitting in your stomach. As a long-distance runner that sometimes trains for and runs ultramarathons, eating food while on a run is important to do, but when I want to run early morning workouts and when I want to get in speed training even when my energy is low, food in my stomach is generally not a good thing.

RG1

A few minutes before I head out the door for my run (either morning or afternoon after work) I pop a piece in (two pieces in a packet) and I chew it throughout my whole run. Some athletes I know just chew it for 5-15 minutes, but I chew it for at least 30 minutes, sometimes for much longer. And yes, it works. Within minutes I feel lighter on my feet due to a quicker turnover; basically: I have more pep in my step. And this feeling lasts for the entire run or workout. Last week Val (my fiancé) and I played our first full-field 90 minute soccer game in several years and we were both drained at half-time. As soon as the whistle blew to signal the end of the first half, I grabbed some water and then ran to my car to get some Run Gum that I kept handy. We each popped a piece in right before were about to take the field and her exact words after the game ended were, “Babe, that gum is magic.” Yes, Val. It is like magic. Does that makes Nick Symmonds the Harry Potter of energy boosting foods? Or perhaps Dumbledore?

That’s what’s great about Run Gum. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy its benefits. Just like coffee or caffeinated tea, it can be consumed in similar scenarios. Studying or working late? Feeling the 2 o’clock sleepies? Give Run Gum a shot to keep you alert and energized.

rg6 Sometimes I even Bike Gum! 

Val and I are playing our weekly soccer game tonight and you can guess what I have ready in my bag. This time, though, I have plenty to go around! I’m confident that they’ll love the boost they get from the Fruit-flavored RG I have for them. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether they’ll think Nick is running’s Harry or Albus…

Some just chew gum.

RG2

I Run Gum.

Happy Running!

—————–Want to give Run Gum a try? Order it here.

 

Lesson Learned

This spring season hasn’t been what I thought it would be. Receiving a puncture wound from stepping on glass during what should have been an “easy” sub-7 minute 10 miler back in February was not part of the marathon training plan! I promise…I wrote it myself!

I thought that once the sutures were taken out of my foot after waiting far too long to seek proper professional care that I’d be able to run just fine. Admittedly, I started to think that part of why I was hesitant to step down normally on a light jog was because I knew the sutures were still in my foot. I can tell you now that the presence of the sutures was not the reason for my cautious running mechanics…pain was actually present.

erad4

But not three days after the sutures were out, I ran a 5:49 mile. I shouldn’t have and I wasn’t supposed to. I intended on finding a pick-up soccer game (plenty of those around here in Portland), and the last field I checked out ended up being the track near my apartment where I run my track workouts. I decided I’d jog a mile or wo to make up for not playing soccer, but afer jogging a mile and completing a training hurdles routine, I felt really good and decided to run a second mile; I had no idea I’d run it in under 6 minutes. That effort, coupled with a week of about 30 miles and a slight muscle strain I felt while playing soccer the following weekend, have rendered me back to square one on my recovery road back to running.

asics4 Square one includes having to wear my old Asics clunkers as the extra cushion prevents my foot from hurting when I run.

I rushed back into running. My favorite thing to do was put on pause for 2 months and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It would have been one thing to just jog a mile or two a day for a week and let my foot and leg muscles remember what it is to run; it’s another thing to run 5 miles one morning and 5 mile in the afternoon or to run 8 miles in one run two days in a row. I should have known better. And I should have listened to the podiatrist who told me to ease back into running and to still take it easy for a few weeks. Well…I learned that lesson the hard way.

I had to take an additional five days off from running last week due to the constant throbbing of my foot whenever I ran. I continued and continue to play soccer as, almost miraculously, running in my soccer cleat results in no pain whatsoever, so I’ve stayed in decent enough shape. It stinks, though, that I went from training for a personal best Boston Qualifying marathon time (my first one was last fall here in Pdx at the Portland Marathon) to being tired and tight after a 3 miler at 8 minutes per mile pace; but I did this to myself.

The moral of the story is clear: If the foot doctor says you need to ease back into running or activity, you should probably listen. 

erad2

Don’t rush things. I love running and I couldn’t to get back to doing it, but this means two things: 1) I have enough passion that won’t allow running to ever get away from me and 2) I need to learn to respect the stress that running has on the body especially when recovering from any kind of injury.

Train Smart & Happy Running!

Injuries Suck!

No pictures today, but I think you’ll survive.  The reason is two-fold:

  1. I just don’t have any. And,
  2. Even if I did have some, working them into a post while I’m at work takes way too much time.

We’re always pressed for time aren’t we? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish we had at least 1 more hour in the day. 25 hours. It sounds like a great number, doesn’t it? That’s an extra hour to get errands done; to spend with our loved ones; or to run. But alas, we only have 24 and we have to work with what we’ve got. So if I have to go to bed at 11 because I’m catching up on shows or writing up track workouts and I have to wake up at 5:00 or 5:15am to get a decent run in, then so be it. I’ll sacrifice the hour of extra sleep to make sure I get to do what truly makes me feel fully alive, especially after not being able to do it for 8 of the last 10 weeks.

Returning from an injury is something I haven’t experienced in years and not running for 2 months really did leave something unfulfilled in me for that time. I started to get used to not running after the first few weeks of my injury. I started frequenting the gym during that time–cycling and strength training saved my sanity and shortened the time it would take me to bounce back–but it wasn’t the same as being outside and moving my body through the world around me. Over the past two weeks of running, I’ve been hyper-aware of the pure bliss that I feel from running. As I climb the hill, turn out of my apartment complex, and embark on another daily running journey, I feel invigorated and anew and so grateful for the body’s ability to heal; the body truly is a remarkable thing.

It was upsetting that I would get injured right before the track season officially began. For months, I had imagined leading my group of distance runners on a long road run. I heard that hoots and hollers as I sped around the track, showing my sprinters earlier on that it is indeed possible to run more than 5 sub-30 second 200 meter sprints with less than a minute rest in between each one; it just wasn’t meant to be this year. So instead of coaching by modeling, I had to coach on the sidelines. But now I’m back to running and I feel like my energy has magnified. Literally. It’s like all of my neurons are firing and my coaching brain is at 110% lately as I’ve begun strategizing the heck out of the girls and guys teams to get as many kids as I can to qualify for Oregon Track and Field HS State Championships down at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene in a few weeks. One thing that I’m having to deal with on this road to high school greatness is something I preferred to have behind me: injuries. Not mine…but I still feel their pain.

Calf tightness. Pain in the hip flexors area. Strained hamstrings. Moderate, but painful shin splints. When you push your body to the limit, there is likely to always be something that’s not going to feel 100% all the time, but seeing my high school kids continue to show up and–for those who can– put in 100% of what they have left is so inspiring.

Injuries suck. But injuries teach us a lot such as how to cope; how to avoid re-injury after healing; and how much we actually love what we can no longer do or do normally. We may have to take a few days off or even a few weeks or months, but generally, the body recovers if you let and help it to do so. Injuries come with the territory, as it is said. With love comes anger and with running comes injury. What’s good about this combination is that injuries, a majority of the time, merely fade into lessons and memories.

In the wise words of Amby Burfoot : “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.”

Be smart out there.

Happy Running!

 

 

Almost Recovered!

Okay…I know I’ve been MIA and I’m SOR…RY 🙂

I couldn’t wait to get home from work on February 23rd. It was going to be a great late afternoon and evening. The 23rd was a Tuesday so it was a 10 mile Tuesday for me as I continued my training for what I was hoping was going to be my 2nd Boston Qualifier at the Vernonia Banks Marathon this weekend (Apr. 10). Later that evening Val and I had tickets to our first Portland Trailblazers game which we got for free from her school (pretty sweet, right?).

ew10 We loved our free nosebleed section seats!

What I didn’t love was having to use Val as a human crutch to get from my apartment, up the hill to the bus stop, off the bus stop and to the stadium, inside the stadium, and back again. Why did I have to do this?

ew

That’s why! One mile into my favorite 10 mile route I ran right on top of glass from a broken beer bottle that instantly sent pain and shivers throughout my body. I remember gasping at the moment of impact, and I knew this wasn’t the pain you get from stepping on a random jagged rock with road shoes (also painful, but temporaril). When I pulled the glass out of the shoe, I realized my foot was getting very warm and I could very some liquid pooling in my shoe. Fortunately, I was not far from Val’s school so she was able to meet me and help me crutch over to a bus stop. The pain wasn’t excruciating, but that was probably just adrenaline masking the effects of the puncture.

What was interesting was how quickly I decided to not go to urgent care. I literally have no idea why I was so adamantly against seeing a doctor. Val asked if we should, and without question, I said, “Nope.” I guess I thought I could just go home, wash it out, slap a band-aid on the wound and just eat healthy food to speed up the healing process. I was sorely mistaken. I didn’t consider infection (I got lucky with this one) and Val thought that she didn’t see any glass when she cleaned the puncture site. Well, luck didn’t find me twice because 7 weeks after the incident, I finally decided to head to the Oregon Foot Clinic and lo and behold…

2018

Yeah…sorry friends who tried to help, but in the words of the doctor who pulled this out of me: “No amount of Silicea 30C was going to push that out.”

That’s right…7 weeks of not running. I actually remember jogging 4 broken-up miles 2 weeks after the injury and I had to run so awkwardly that my ankle was sore the next day from the repeated motion. I wasn’t immobile though.  I have been making good use of my gym membership and got a few days of swimming in, but mostly focused my time and energy on the bike and doing strength training. The bike has allowed me to get some kind of cardiovascular fitness training in without causing my foot to pain me and the strength training, I know, will help me bounce back quicker than had I neglected that important part of my training.

ew4 The trainer at home has been another lifesaver, mentally.

 Perfect Fuel  is pictured above and this chocolate + caffeine fuel is so great for half-way through my early morning workouts. One piece is all I need to ease my hunger from trying to train fasted. I definitely need to get back to running to really get my body used to endurance training on lower readily-available calories.

If someone asked me I would do if I were not able to run for weeks due to an injury, I’d have told them, “I’d be balled up in a corner somewhere.” Well, that wasn’t the case…

niipic I was made an official member of Nii Tribe.bw I limped around at a black-tie event with Val.

    2   I hung out with friends…

7…and made lasting memories!

2 I was treated to delicious food by our friend, Carrie, over at Our Stable Table

 12 13  And I certainly didn’t restrict myself to lettuce and carrots solely because I couldn’t run. Thank you Paradox and Back to Eden!

ew6 And most memorably, I attended the USATF Indoor Championships and saw some great competition!

And as I finish typing up this post (I started it yesterday, but the day got away from me), I am giddy because I finally ran a mile this morning. The sutures are out and I am on Day 1 of my return to running normally and consistently! It’s a good day, people.

Happy Running!