There seems to be tremendous interest right now in the health effects of sugar in our diets. Many people say that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is leading people to be overweight. Documentaries like "Fed Up" talk about both the addictive nature of sugar and how the idea of "eating better and exercising more" makes little sense when the environment makes it practically impossible to eliminate sugar additives from your diet in the first place. No matter how hard you try, the deck is simply stacked against you, so the thinking goes. So 21 days ago I set ...
Summer vacations can be tough for runners. On the one hand, when we’re off work, we may assume we’ll have plenty of time to run. But on the other hand, the demands of family activities, travel and even jet lag can leave us with little energy or time to exercise. But with some smart planning, you can sneak in a bit of exercise to keep from falling too far behind in your training. Start with these four tips:
1. Develop an exercise routine you can literally do anywhere.
Whether you find yourself in an airport, on a tropical island with no roads or in a hotel room with a sleeping child, sometimes you just can’t run outside and need to improvise. In cases like these, turn to a set of exercises that can be done anywhere and without any equipment. It’s surprising how much exercise you can get with simple movements like pushups, situps, burpees and lunges. Start with 10 of each and try to do three or four sets, or as many as time allows. Change the intensity by varying how many you do and how fast you do them. You can also add weight to exercises such as squats or side lunges by simply wearing a loaded backpack or holding something else traveling with you.
2. Get creative.
Runners are creatures of habit and love to work from a plan. But when you’re traveling, try to avoid getting hung up the specifics of a workout. Remember: Something is better than nothing. I recall being on a small island in Thailand where the longest road was only a quarter mile – a serious, well, roadblock, to my plan to run 20 miles as a part of marathon training. So I swam in the ocean for a few hours instead. And guess what? I still met my race goals. The key is to stay flexible and creative and to emphasize making something happen.
All runners – and, heck, even many non-runners – know of “The Wall,” that infamous barrier that looms 20-plus miles down the road in a marathon. Legend has it that “The Wall,” as its name implies, is an obstacle of such proportion that it can reduce even the swiftest among us to a dead stop. But here’s the catch: This wall doesn’t really exist.
There are, however, a number of things that runners do, or fail to do, that lead to them to run out of gas late in a marathon. Here are four of them – and how to avoid them:
1. They go out too fast.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood principles among runners is that the speed (or pace) they can sustain declines by about 15 to 20 percent as the race distance doubles. Put another way, if a runner can run a 5K race at a particular pace, his or her 10K pace will be 15 to 20 percent slower. The same runner will slow down a similar amount going from a 10K to a half-marathon, and then again from a half-marathon to a marathon, and so on. Without understanding this rule of thumb, most runners don’t know how much they should slow down in a marathon as compared to shorter races. As a result, they inevitably go out too fast in the first half of the race.
Coach Joe’s Tip: An easy way to understand your true marathon pace is to run a 5K race and then use a race result prediction tool to calculate what your goal pace should be for the marathon. After figuring out that pace, practice it during training and then run it from start to finish on race day.
2. They haven’t trained enough at the right pace.
Understanding your target marathon pace early on is important because it gives you time to practice running that pace. Doing so forms the muscle memory needed to repeat that action over and over again. On race day, you want your goal pace to feel natural, rather than foreign. Keep in mind that varying your running pace by just 15 to 20 seconds a mile requires big changes to your step rate (or cadence), stride length and gait – patterns you don’t want your body to default to during the race.
Coach Joe’s Tip: Spend time practicing your target marathon pace in training. Each week, aim to complete one progressively longer run (increasing the distance by 2 miles every other week until you get to 18 miles) and one shorter run (4 to 6 miles) at your marathon goal pace. Try to also run 18 consecutive miles at that pace at least twice while training for the race.
Runners experience many ups and downs as they go through the days and weeks of their training routines. Some days feel great. Other days? Well, not so much. If you ever find yourself scratching your head wondering why your last run felt so horrible, ask yourself these five questions to shed light on the possible reasons:
1. What did you do in your workout yesterday?
Much of what dictates your energy levels during runs is related to where your body is in the recovery process from previous workouts. The first question I ask myself when I’m feeling particularly crummy is, “What did I do yesterday?” An especially long run or taxing speed workout can require at least 24 hours of recovery time. Depending on a runner’s level of fitness, this amount of time can stretch out to 48 hours or even longer. It’s important for runners to keep track of their workouts and to try to keep some space between the longest and hardest ones. When not fully recovered, most runners have difficulty achieving their workout goals.
Coach Joe’s Tip: Try to spread long runs and speed workouts across the week, placing two to three days between your hardest speed or “quality” workouts. Completing two intense, quality workouts in a week is a good goal for most runners.
2. What did you eat yesterday?
The energy you put into your body in the form of food also affects your energy level. The food you eat before your workouts gives you energy to fuel them, while what you eat after workouts provides you the tools you need to recover. If runners don’t eat enough carbohydrates the day and morning before workouts, they’ll be low on fuel. Without fuel, there’s no energy. And, if they don’t eat enough protein after their workouts, they’ll hamper the body’s ability to recover properly.
Coach Joe’s Tip: Runners should plan their eating to support their workout needs. Aim to eat complex carbohydrates (including bread, rice and pasta) the night before a long workout. Eat or drink at least 15 grams of protein – about the amount in a container of yogurt – in the first hour after a workout to give your body a better chance to recover.
The Boston Marathon is special to many people – runners and non-runners alike. Marathon runners from all over the world aspire to earn their ticket to Boston, and running Boston is often the highlight of their running careers. But if someone asks why Boston is such a big deal, not everyone has the answer on the tip of their tongues. I’m an exception. Here are five reasons why I think Boston has earned its status at the top of the marathon running heap:
1. You have to qualify to run Boston.
The first reason Boston is so unique is that it’s a qualified race. In other words, in order to register for the race, you must have already run a marathon at a particular (relatively fast) pace. The Boston qualifying standard drives many people throughout their careers as a mark of achievement. But while the Boston Athletic Association wants the race to be challenging to get in, it doesn’t want to exclude non-elite runners.
While race organizers tightened the standards to qualify in 2012, they still aim to allow approximately the top 5 to 10 percent of runners into the race. Think about that in contrast to the marathon at the Olympics, where only the top two runners from the United States participate. That’s a much stricter standard, and it’s also an example of how high the bar can be for elite competitors.
2. Even you can run the Boston Marathon.
Despite Boston being a race that requires a qualifying time, it’s achievable for non-elite runners. That makes Boston unlike almost any other “elite” event because many of us have a shot of competing alongside the absolute best runners in the world. When you spot someone wearing a Boston T-shirt or jacket, you know they met a high standard to get there.
Spring for runners means it’s time to hit the roads again. Whether you’ve been indoors training on the treadmill or just taking a break for the winter, spring is a period of transition for your body – not just the environment. Translation: It can be a tough time mentally since you may feel out of shape. But the truth is, the break likely did your body good and you just need a little adjustment period before your running takes off to new heights. Here are four reasons that help justify why you feel a little bit terrible on your spring runs:
1. Your body needs a break.
First and foremost, after a long stretch of running or training for a fall marathon, your body needs a good break. The physical and mental load of running year-round is too much for most runners. By the end of the fall racing season, it’s time to let the mind and body unwind. This is true for all levels of runners, yet many beginners and intermediate-level runners are afraid to take time off for fear of losing momentum. Take a cue from elite runners: Even they take four to six weeks off to catch their breaths, reset their brains and get ready for a brand new season.
2. Your progress is cyclical.
Runners who fear “losing momentum” or “starting over” need to understand that their bodies improve most when their training cycles rotate between hard and easy. Rather than doing the same routine over and over – which can lead to a plateau, or a flattening out of progress – maximize your gains by forcing your body to adapt to new and different training loads. Most good training plans will include an easy phase to build a base, more rigorous training to focus on speed and strength, and goal-specific or endurance training to bring it all together for a race. After all that comes a letdown period, which gives the body a chance to relax. The winter off-season supplies that break naturally for those who take one.
3. You gained weight.
If you embraced your winter break as fully as I did – perhaps by taking a little too much comfort in all that comfort food – you may have put on a few pounds. When you start running again, then, remember that this additional weight will change the way you feel. If you’ve put on, say, 8 pounds, just imagine yourself carrying a gallon of milk along for your run. Of course, the weight is likely stationed more comfortably around your midsection than an awkward milk jug, but the point is that these additional pounds will make it harder to maintain the pace you ran comfortably in the fall. But don’t let those newly sprouted love handles discourage you: A few pounds should naturally come back off when you increase your exercise load. You’ll likely also see some welcome changes in your body, such as new muscle or a more toned physique overall.
As we gear up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the fastest American runners are preparing to take on the world’s best competitors. At this past weekend’s USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, I got a glimpse of just how good, and how very fast, some of our talented American athletes are. Here are four ways they got so fast – and how you can boost your speed, too:
1. Build muscle.The first thing you may notice about track and field athletes is that most look extremely strong and lean. You might think this is because they have to wear those tiny bun-hugging shorts; but in reality, their strength leads to their speed. A stronger body means more power. Sprinters, for instance, grip the track with spikes in the toes of their shoes, which pulls their front legs backward. Meanwhile, their back legs push their bodies into the air, making them literally leap forward. The greater the strength in their legs and cores, the more powerful these motions become. Generating more power means they go further with each step.
Coach Joe’s get quick tip: To make your legs and core muscles stronger, incorporate strength workouts – think weighted exercises, classes like CrossFit or hill running – into your running routine one to two times each week. By augmenting your runs with exercise to make your muscles stronger, you’ll be a more powerful machine when it comes time to push harder.
2. Quicken your cadence.
When you watch runners on a track, you may immediately notice how quickly they turn over their feet. In fact, most track athletes do so at almost exactly the same rate. However, unlike the cartoon character “The Roadrunner,” these runners’ legs don’t just disappear into a blur of dusty circles. That’s because there’s a limit to how quickly we as human beings can physically turn over our feet. High-level track and field runners tend to run at that limit. Almost all of the rest of us, meanwhile, could stand to improve in this area.
Coach Joe’s get quick tip: Focus on picking up the pace of your foot turnover during one to two runs per week. In order to quicken your cadence, you’ll need to shorten your stride a little – especially at first. Count your steps in a normal-paced run and focus on boosting that number when you’re running foot turnover drills. By increasing your cadence just a bit, you’ll improve your running speed quite dramatically.
Over the past few years, the number of marathons around the world has exploded. Whether you’re interested in running on the Las Vegas Strip at night or meandering quietly through a forest, there’s a marathon for you. But picking out just the perfect race these days can take a little thought. Here are five things to consider when choosing your next great adventure:
Marathons can range from just a few runners to tens of thousands, and the size of the race has a direct impact on your race experience. Conventional wisdom might lead you to think that small races don’t have the same amenities as the largest races, but some small race organizers take surprisingly good care of their limited numbers of entrants. In fact, in some cases, small races might offer more food, drinks and personal attention than their big-city counterparts, simply because feeding 100 people is a lot easier than feeding 40,000. On the flip side, small races might offer nothing at all other than an organized route and a timing system. Aside from services, the size of the race also dictates the number of spectators who’ll be cheering you on (or not) and whether you’ll be sharing the road with cars. Think carefully about what you want the race environment to feel like, whether that be small and quiet or crazy and loud. And make sure to ask some questions, such as what services will be offered on the course or what the environment will be like on race day.
Coach Joe’s Pick: The Fargo Marathon has a reputation of being one of the best in the country, with amazing spectators, as many as 50 bands on the course and an indoor start and finish at the Fargodome.
I once saw a small group of bib-wearing runners doing laps around my local park. After talking to some of them, I realized they were doing a 50-mile race by running 50 laps around the park’s 1-mile loop. This sounded terrible to me. Race courses can take on all dimensions and sizes, so it’s best to check out what you’re getting into before signing up. Marathons can be held on a variety of surfaces, from trails to highways to running tracks, and can traverse anything from industrial parks to the wildest of mountains. Before signing up for any race, read through a description of the course to get a feel for what it’s all about and make sure to check out the “elevation profile” to see how much climbing and descending you’ll have in store.
Coach Joe’s pick: To get out of the city, check out the Big Sur International Marathon near Monterey, California, for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, crashing surfs and coastal cliffs.
With a surge in popularity, a number of marathons have adopted somewhat unique and unusual registration schemes to prioritize entrants. Even many small races now use lotteries or have short registration windows because they quickly sell out. The Boston Marathon is perhaps the most famous race to require a qualification time to enter, but you might be surprised to find that other races ask for qualifying times in order to prioritize registration or to determine your start order at the race. The bottom line? Plan early and check out the registration process and deadlines so you have the best shot at getting into your dream race.
Watching America’s best long-distance racers can teach the rest of us a lot.
Last weekend in Los Angeles, 370 of the best American marathon runners competed for a few key slots on the U.S. Olympic team. (Only 256 finished the race.) As a runner who watched the event, I could have simply taken in the spectacle and enjoyed the excitement. But, I learned from the experience as well. Here’s what these phenomenal runners taught me – and what you can learn from them too:
1. Fatigue happens.
Most marathon runners worry that they’ll run out of gas somewhere in the late miles. This fear is warranted, as it happens to most of us at some point. After all, the marathon is a long race in many ways: physically, mentally and geographically. But many runners don’t realize that even the sport’s best participants face this challenge.
Sure, top runners make it look easy in some respects, but they also put in a massive amount of training to prepare. On top of that, many of them are supported by trainers, coaches, nutritionists and therapists. And they’re built – physically speaking – with bodies made for running. Still, as I saw last weekend, even top runners fade dramatically late in the race.
What can you learn from this? Don’t beat yourself up when the pressure and fatigue piles on late in the race. That’s just the way it feels – even for the very best.
2. Have a plan – and run with it.
One of the fundamental elements of marathon training is having a plan and executing it. For most of us, that means setting a realistic goal pace, practicing that pace over and over, and running that pace on race day.
At the trials, Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg did just that. The two women competitors ran together at the front of the race, step for step, leaving behind their rivals early on. They had practiced their pace and committed to running it, even if the rest of the field didn’t go with them. That can be an uncomfortable feeling, but Flanagan and Cragg had faith in their race plan and stuck to it. With Cragg finishing in first place and Flanagan taking third, both women made the Olympic team.
Oh what to do when we come home with our running shoes all wet?! Should we leave them outside or throw them in the dryer? No. Here are my quick tips for taking good care of those expensive running shoes when they get wet and dirty.
This is Episode 11 in our RUN Time series from @coachjoeenglish. Many more to come!
I post even more frequently on Facebook. Check it out here: www.facebook.com/runningadvice
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time
In my video this week on post-workout recovery foods I mentioned our Super Changed Recovery Waffle Recipe. In this post you’ll find the recipe and directions for making them!
The background on these waffles goes something like this. Our 8 year-old loved waffles (as do many kids) but we wanted to see if we could pump up the nutritional value in them for him. Adding things like protein and greens in foods that your kids actually like is a real bonus after all. What we found is that he liked these so much that they became his favorite breakfast item. Corrin actually came up with the idea and thus they became known as “Coco Loves you Waffles” in our house.
These waffles keep really well in the fridge. After making a batch, I put them in plastic bags and they keep for up to a week. They can be popped into the toaster and ready in a minute or two. This makes them great a recovery breakfast item after a long run, when I’m too tired to think about cooking and want something hearty in a hurry. These waffles are high in protein, which will help speed your recovery.
Surround the waffles with a glass of milk, some breakfast meat and some fruit to get yourself ready for your day.
Here’s the recipe:
Coco Loves You Waffles
1/3 cup Inspiration Mixes Ol’ Fashioned Pancake and Waffle Mix
1/3 cup VEGA Proteins and Greens Vanilla Flavor Powder
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla or gluten-free vanilla
3 eggs or egg substitute
3 tablespoons oil
3/4 cup milk or milk alternative (e.g. soy, almond, coconut)
Whisk together the vanilla, eggs, oil and milk. Add waffle mix and VEGA powder. Let stand for 1 minute. Scoop about 1/3 cup of batter into your waffle maker and cook for 3-4 minutes.
This amount makes about 3-4 large waffles in our waffle maker. The amount will vary depending on how much batter goes into your waffle trays.
Eat while hot. Let the left-overs cool. Place leftovers in plastic bags and refrigerate. Reheat in the toaster when ready to eat.
A note on gluten. I use a gluten-free waffle mix, because my son is gluten-intolerant. You can likely use a regular waffle mix, but I haven’t tried that myself.
We hope you enjoy!
Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon, USA
Running-Advice.com & RUN Time