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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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I Run Gum.

Happy Running!

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

 

Run Your Goal Race with Only 3-4 Days of Training a Week

I never studied exercise science. I’m neither a sports therapist nor a physical trainer. I am not a doctor of any kind nor an elite athlete or one who’s been in the game forever. What I am, though, is very confident that you can run your goal distance even if you just have time for 3-4 days of activity a week.

TAKE NOTE: You should only take this post to heart if you really only have 3-4 days of which you can dedicate some time to training. If you have the ability to train and be active for 4, 5, or 6 days a week, then, if you plan well and train smart, that may help you in your goal of finishing your goal race.

I am not speaking from experience. I generally run 6 days a week and I love every second I’m out there, but I want to keep stressing that I firmly believe what I’m saying. The catch, though, is that you can’t get away with just any 3-4 training runs or workouts that you want AND this opinion of mine may not be applied to distances of certain ultramarathons such as the 100k or 100 miler. Additionally, it may not get you to reach your goal time or PR. But…I believe…you will be able to cross the finish line.

Many people I know think I’m either crazy or that I have some sort of super power to be able to train and run marathons and ultramarathons. Let me put these beliefs to rest. I do not have super powers and neither do any of the marathoners and ultramarathoners that I know or have run with. Some may be crazy, though (I’m looking at you Marathon Maniacs). So how do we do it? Simple: Discipline. It takes a disciplined person to cross the finish line of any race so it’s not like only ultrarunners have a special claim on a unique form of discipline. Those who run or do any kind of exercise regularly and sometimes vigorously are disciplined in what they eat, when they train, how much they train, what social luxuries they may need to give up, how much sleep they might have to sacrifice or how much more sleep they have to get (we can never win when it comes to the Zzz’s).

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It’s not fancy and I can’t trade it or sell it or anything. But this is the most special medal I own because of how much I put my heart into what it took to cross the finish line in this 50 mile race–my first ultramarathon. You don’t have to run an ultra, but I know you can cross whatever line it is you have your eyes on.

I actually think it’s for some of these reasons why those who say things like, “Wow, you’re crazy,” or “Oh, my gosh! I could never do anything like that! I can’t even jog a mile!” You’re wrong, my friend. If you wanted to, you can indeed jog a mile and you can also run a 5k, half marathon, marathon, and ultramarathon just like I and others can. What is stopping you (and this may not apply to everyone) are the limitations you are creating for yourself. It doesn’t help to think that you can’t do something because it makes it more likely that you will stop yourself from trying or if you do try, you may stop or give up before you’ve really given it your all. When it comes to running, I think people’s time comes into play. Time is precious. I understand and I agree. I (like everyone who works and volunteers and has hobbies and loved ones and animal companions to spend time with) wish there were more hours in the day. But to cross that finish line, you don’t need to dedicate as many days to running as you may think.  You can take that 5-7 days of running a week–or what you think is required to complete your goal race–that is preventing you from taking the next step and turn it into 3-4 days of training.

What takes place during those 3-4 days?

  1. A medium-distance run. This varies depending on your goal race. Want to run a half marathon? Your m/d run may be 6 or 7 miles. Want to run a marathon or 50k? This run be between 9-13 miles (maybe up to 15).
  2. A long run. The long run also varies and is run at a slower pace than your goal pace (about 60-90 seconds slower is generally what I’ve come across). For the half marathon, your long run may be 9-10 miles. For the marathon and 50k, your long run will likely be between 14-20 miles (perhaps up to 24 or 25 for the 50k distance).
  3. A light run. Your light run can be something to just wake you up in the morning or just a nice evening pre- or post-dinner run or jog. If you’re goal race is the half marathon, a light run may be 3-5 miles and if you’re eyeing the marathon or 50k then your light run may be an easy 5-7 miler. I included the light run after the long run because some runners like to take a recovery run the day after they logged the long run, although this doesn’t have to be the case for you.
  4. A cross-training* day. This is a day to do something other than running, but the activity is still rigorous enough to make you work up a bit of a sweat and should be at least 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration (likely not exactly continuous). Cross-training can take the form of cycling, mountain biking, swimming, playing recreational sports, rock-climbing, hiking, Stand up paddle boarding (SUP), etc.

*I purposely didn’t include strength-training in this list because I think runners should be strength-training at least twice a week. A strong core, back, glutes, and legs are all important for running and staying healthy while doing it. There are many workouts you can find online through a quick Google search for something like “strength training for running” that will likely give you some great ideas or specific workouts to incorporate into your training regimen.

tes2 How do you get to where you want to be? One step at a time. 

So that’s it…3-4 days of training. I included 4, but the light run may need to be sacrificed if you really only have 3 days where you can dedicate time to training. Further explanation is needed, however: You need to build up to the long run. If your goal race is the marathon, then your first week of training might not involve a long run of 15 miles no matter how slow you run it. Your initial long run may only be 5 or 6 miles and may not even take place until after a couple weeks of running. Your medium-distance run, then, may only be 3 miles. Hopefully you get the idea…I just wanted to give you a gist of what it will look like when you are in a good place in your training. I still maintain that you can train 3-4 days a week even early on in your training to get you to accomplish your goal.

Something else: If you are shooting for a goal race and are adding a time-goal component that involves some speedwork, then the rough 3-4 day overview I presented will need to be altered to include training that will improve speed; this can be added into the 3-4 workouts or an additional day can be added if you are willing to manipulate your schedule to fit in some time on a 4th or 5th day for speed-specific training.

REMINDER: You should only apply this restricted 3-4 day training if you really only have 3-4 days of which you can dedicate time to train. If you have the ability to train and be active for more days each week or some weeks (not necessarily more days of running), then that may help you even more to achieve your goal of finishing your goal race.

Questions (especially about the 5k or 10k which I did not specifically mention)? I’d love to hear them! 

Happy Running!

Gear Up for Winter!

It’s already well into winter here in the U.S of A, so this post is kind of late, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be helpful to some. Sometimes what prevents people from running out in undesirable weather conditions is because they don’t have the proper gear for the occasion.

Running in cotton t-shirts in the heat of summer is not optimal for many which is why moisture-wicking running shirts are so popular. In the winter, t-shirts are obviously not going to be the only clothing worn (for the most part), but even long-sleeves are likely not going to be enough to prevent the cold from settling into your bones.

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When I made the transition from 5k’s and 10’s to long-distance running, training in the winter became something I now to be a bit more particular about. It’s one thing to run 2-3 miles on a treadmill to avoid the cold. It’s another to run 10 miles on one. The same goes for running outside in the cold, rain, or snow. Long-distance running and training meant that I needed to be properly equipped to take on the conditions that may Mother Nature set forth for me and that meant being smarter about my running gear.

The following section includes my five items that, for me, are essential for winter running. Without them, I likely wouldn’t be as consistent with my training as I’ve learned to be and I most certainly would not enjoy winter running nearly as much.

Thermal headband

The headband is essential. Like…very essential. We all try to layer up in the winter because we want to stay warm, but because heat escapes through whatever is not clothed, wearing something on your head is kind of necessary. I don’t need a full on beanie, personally, but my ears do need to be covered and it helps that my forehead gets to stay warm as well. I’ve had this Nike thermal headband since high school and it’s travelled with me so many places, I have no idea how I’ve never lost it. Yikes…please tell me I didn’t just jinx this!

Gloves

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Heat would escape the body through the hands as well—just as explained above—but this isn’t really why I wear gloves. I wear gloves not because I want to keep the heat inside my body, but rather to keep my fingers from becoming painfully numb. I know what you’re thinking: How can they be numb and yet I still feel the pain? Let’s just leave that one be, shall we?

I have two pairs of gloves for running. The ones here are my heavy duty gloves I bought a couple years ago when my old gloves could no longer keep my hands warm on a 20+ mile run in the bitter cold or snowfalls of New Jersey. I still kept those older gloves though (again, I’ve had them since high school) and I’m glad I did because I don’t really need the heavy duty gloves while here in Portland…not yet, at least! I highly recommend you invest in a good pair (or two) of running gloves if you are running or planning to run regularly. Your fingers will thank you.

Winter running jacket

The old soccer warm-ups were no longer cutting it. It’s crazy how much I’m just realizing how much my wardrobe/gear has changed since transitioning to running longer distances. I used to run in soccer warm-ups all the time and be just fine. But two years ago I got a gift card for Dick’s Sporting Goods for Christmas and I decided a top-quality cold-running jacket was what I needed most and I’m so glad I made that decision. This Nike Storm-Fit is the best winter apparel item I own and I wouldn’t have made it through half of my winter runs without it. It cost a pretty penny, but it was worth it. If you are on a budget, do some research (this includes reading reviews) and try and find a good winter running jacket that is appropriate for use in the temperatures you’ll be running in…That’s right: they aren’t all made for a one-size-fits-all winter. This Nike one has a bit of ventilation so I don’t get overheated, but not to the point where I feel any cold air coming through. And I bough it in orange for the extra visibility. 🙂

Very good moisture-wicking long sleeve

cold

A good long sleeve is also essential. A clutch winter jacket is important, but not every run requires one. Sometimes all you’ll need is a long-sleeve to go under a lighter jacket or your favorite running tee and you’re good to go. When those times come, it helps to have a go-to long sleeve that wicks moisture away from your body (this keeps your body from being overheated, but also from being chilled from wearing a wet shirt) and is comfortable for faster runs as well as slower, longer ones.

My go-to is surprisingly from a brand I’ve only ever found at Marshall’s (Hind) and boy do I love this shirt. I wear it in the dead of winter as well as when the seasons are transitioning from warmer to colder and from colder to warmer temps. It was a cheap buy, but one of those rare gems that you are so proud of yourself for finding!

Light

I never used to wear a light when running, but that’s because I didn’t need one. I could run my 3-5 miles in the daylight no matter the time of day and keep it during daylight hours. Nowadays, a long run can have me taking off before the sunrise or have me still trekking through when the sun starts to set or after it’s already dipped below the horizon. Just as you get annoyed when a car doesn’t have its lights on when driving, so too do drivers get annoyed and downright angry  when they don’t see you because you have no reflective gear or lights. Safety is important. Purchase a light and/or good reflective gear. There’s really not much of an excuse, especially if you are a runner of the darkness. This light by Nathan cost me $10 at a local running shop (Foot Traffic) here in Portland. It clips on to almost anything. It’s light and doesn’t bounce. And it has a bright still-light and an option to have it strobe.

Gear up and enjoy the winter running. Could you tell that I like running with something orange?

Oh, and I figured I’d share my favorite online store for running apparel and gear: www.RunningWarehouse.com

Happy Running!

A Break from the Solo Run

I’ve been doing pretty great about keeping up with my running and training since I’ve been back in New Jersey. Val and I are here visiting family and friends for the holidays so I wasn’t sure how much I’d find the energy to get out for all the runs I’ve wanted to when time is so limited before we leave. Luckily, it hasn’t been an issue. I’ve hit the track twice. I put in a 10 mile tempo run with a negative split (finishing the second half of the run faster than the first half). And I ran a 16 miler with Val’s uncle which I’ll get into shortly.

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It’s been great spending quality time with those we’ve deeply missed.

Saturday night was when the left image was taken and of course they decided to order in from a new Thai restaurant on Main St. in Metuchen. What made it even worse was that the host said they could cook several enticing dishes without fish sauce making them completely vegan. Knowing we’d be eating dinner rather late (7:30-8pm) and that I had to be up early for a long run, I opted for white rice instead. White rice?! Not brown rice? Nope. I knew white rice would be easier to digest and I knew my body could use that energy much more readily in the morning.

friends3  So white rice was my carb-intake and Olivias vegan coconut macaroons provided the fat. 🙂 Wonderfully delectable, Olivia!

I called it a night while Val went out with friends after dinner and tea…and more wine. I enjoyed a nice dinner, stories, and laughs with family and friends and I knew I shouldn’t be tiring my body out even more and then asking it to run 20 miles without proper sleep so I know I made the right call for my overall well-being. I got right into bed and about 6 hours later I was up for a run.

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Up at dawn and felt great! If I wasn’t feeling it, the last thing I’d do is grab my phone for a quick pic, so you know I’m not lying!

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I wasn’t running this run solo, though, which is how I’ve run all of my long runs for well over a year. In fact, I’d say 99% of my runs have been solo runs. It’s not that people don’t like me…I just don’t like them! Kidding!!! I think I’m just training so often which makes things a bit easier when I only have to rely on me. But this run, what I thought was going to be at least 20 miles, was going to be a dual effort with Val’s uncle, Tim. Tim is set to run the Watchung 50k on 1/9/2016, his first ultramarathon, and wanted me to join him for a long run. He forgot he had to meet someone in Connecticut by a certain time so our 20+ mile run was altered to a 16 mile out and back route that to us to the top of Washington Rock before we turned around.

What was so great about this run was how FAST it went. I don’t mean that we took the run fast, because while we went faster than we would have if we had run 25 miles or so, we didn’t run at a pace thatprevented us from conversing. What I mean by “fast” is that the 2+ hours flew by thanks to the great conversations we had throughout the run. We talked about family, work, our fitness goals for next year and everything in between. Before I knew it, we were approaching the point that would bring us to a 1 mile ascent up to Washington Rock and present us with a beautiful miles-long view of New Jersey before us. Too bad the iPhone 4 he brought with us couldn’t capture any pictures that would do any justice to the beautiful view we had.

It was a very welcome break from the solo run that I usually run and I’m glad I had the accountability there as well. Had I not have had plans to run this long run with Tim, I likely would not have wanted to run more than 10 miles in the 30 degrees we ran in. Heck, I probably would have just woken up to coffee and Val’s mom making us breakfast and there would have went my hopes for a long run.

Moral of the story: It may help to break away from the solo run every now and then. The runs go by quicker when you’re with someone. One of you is likely to have a stronger run (Tim thanked me for pushing him especially up the 1 mile hill and during the last few miles when I like to finish strong). And lastly, the accountability  that comes with planning to meet up with a running partner or group really helps on the days when the weather is just downright crummy. I wrote a post not too long ago about this last benefit as one of the ways to help one stick to their fitness goals so feel free to check it out if this aspect interests you.

 

12 In the beginning of our run we were greet by 4 deer and with a mile and a half left, 4 wild turkeys graces us with their presence. Funny enough, 4 turkeys also decided to cause Val’s family’s dog to bark incessantly while we were having breakfast. Maybe we should have just played this lucky number and perhaps won it big that night. “And tonight’s Pick-6 lottery winning numbers are: 4. That’s it!” Ha! I wish.

4 We kept it real classy for our coconut waters after our run. I have no idea why Tim grabbed wine glasses for our postrun hydration beverage, but I wasn’t upset that he did.

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All hydrated with water and coconut water meant that I could enjoy several cups of my favorite morning delight. If we were keeping it classy with the coconut water wine glasses, then we kept it real fancy with the espresso machine.

 

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Val’s aunt knew the way to our hearts. Kasha (buckwheat), shitake mushrooms, and avocado was on the menu for the morning. Then they opened the bag of everything bagels and my heart beat 5x faster. Then I saw peanut butter and my heart beat 10x faster than that. 

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Did you get a good look at that breakfast meal? I’m salivating just staring at that food! Plant-based and incredibly delicious…and nutritious.

Well, that’s that. Are you a solo runner? Do you ever divert from being the lone runner you’re used to? If so, what is that experience usually like for you?

Happy Running!

 

4 Ways to Help You Stick to Your Fitness Goals

I sometimes go through these periods of struggling to get in the desired workout each day. When my schedule is busier than usual, I often have to prioritize and deadlines are higher in importance than a daily run. I respond to the lesser running with trying to eat better and maybe more strength training, but running makes me happy and makes me feel good, so these periods of less running aren’t something I like to go through  unless I’m doing it on purpose.

I was texting back and forth with my mom yesterday and she was telling me that her running has kind of fallen by the wayside lately. She’s uber busy at work and so her lunch break runs haven’t been happening. On the weekends, my dad likes to wake up earlyish and go out for the day and by the time they get home, my mom is tired or it’s dinner time and in generally any case, the motivation to run isn’t there for her. I thought that there may be many others in this same boat and I know I’ve been in similar situations as well.

So if your workload has suddenly piled up; if your lunch breaks involve you eating while working instead of getting in your afternoon workout; if you tell yourself that you’ll run in the afternoon and then by the time you get home, you’re completely spent and have no motivation to lace up and go; or any other situation has caused your fitness goals to, in your eyes, slowly fade away into nothingness, then the content below may…may…help.

4 WAYS TO HELP YOU STICK TO YOUR FITNESS GOALS

no1    Have your workout clothes and gear alreay laid out

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This is such an easy thing to do and it works so well for me. Ask Val, if you ever see her, and she’ll support my claim that I often have my shorts (yes, even in the winter), top, second top or jacket, socks, thermal headband, gloves, and watch on the coffee table or dresser ready to go for the morning. The only times I don’t do this are for when I have an afternoon run, but even then I try to have everything prepared. I feel like I treat the time I enter my apartment to when I get out of my building as T1 or T2 (Triathlon reference for you triathletes out there!). Basically, I want to get in my apartment, feed the cats, get changed, and be ready to hit start on my Garmin as quickly as possible before the rain or the cold or whatever I’m binging on Netflix has the time to work its full power on me. If you have everything you need ready to go, it could very well be the best reminder or subtle motivator that you could create for yourself.

no2    Find a running buddy

Accountability is something that helps people in all areas of life. Supervisors, deadlines, and check-in meetings can hold people accountable at work just as having a workout partner can hold you accountable in your fitness or exercise life. I advise just finding one partner as you’re less likely to leave him or her to run or workout by themself, but if there are three or more in the group, you may think that it’s okay to skip because they have other company. But if you’re the kind of person that hates to let anyone down or will be there if you say you’ll be there, then by all means join a group for the accountability.

It helps to be completely open with your partner as far as expectations you have of them. Do you want them to text or call you to remind you of your scheduled run? Are you prone to forgetting water or being late? Do you often go out too hard and slow down midway through the run? Having open communication between you and your partner will make the experience better for both of you (or all of you) and will increase the chance that you appreciate the arrangement and keep to your fitness goals. Oh, and you don’t have to have a partner for every run! Twice or even once a week may be enough to help keep you motivated to maintain your fitness on other days. Keeping a strength training log and a nutrition log and comparing notes with each other each time you meet may also help you keep your goals in check.

no3   Sign up for a race…and tell the world!

You read that right. Blast that ish ALL OVER social media! Seriously though, signing up for a race can help keep you accountable for meeting your fitness goals and getting in your daily exercise. If you paid $25-40 for a 5k or even upwards of $100 (maybe me…sheesh!) for a half marathon,  you are probably going to make sure your money doesn’t go to waste by you not being able to run the race. And be smart about when the race is. There’s no point in using a race that is 8 or more months away to accomplish this because that’s not close enough in time to light the fire under you or keep it lit. Choose a race or event that is far enough away to properly train for it but also close enough for you to be thinking about it almost daily. THEN, when you have signed up for such a race, announce it to family, friends, and even on your social media accounts. When you do this, again, it may help keep you going to the gym or getting outside to make sure you don’t disappoint yourself by telling everyone that you had to back out of the race due to lack of fitness (and even though it’s likely that an excuse will be made, you’ll know the truth).

no4 Watch really motivating YouTube videos

You probably don’t see this often on lists of motivating habits, but it’s definitely on mine. When I watch running videos or documentaries on YouTube or Netflix–and I do so often–I am quite instantly inspired and motivated to get out and run the greatest workout of my life. There’s something about watching beautiful running and exercising that just makes you want to do it. I think that’s the case with watching anything done beautifully; it makes you want to try it out. So go and search for motivational running videos or documentaries or famous track and field clips or whatever is that you like to do. If watching a clip really works for you, then perhaps it can be a daily habit that you can do during lunch. Use that inspiration and allow the beautiful imagery and scenery that your watching on the screen to become your reality.

These are a few of my favorite video clips to watch and I’m re-inspired each time. What’s great is that they each speak to me in a different way: Nick Symmonds’ 800m clip speaks to my love of track; the Tarawera Ultra speaks to my love of long distance and ultra running; and the first one of just running speaks to my absolute love of running in the general sense.

Are there any habits that you’ve formed that you found works for you or your partner? How do you stay motivated to keep to your fitness goals?