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??)

winter

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.

erad2

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.

erad6

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.

erad5  erad8

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).

 

 

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.

5

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

8

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!