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 ...
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the New York City Marathon that ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners from around the world are about to converge on New York City for the TCS New York City Marathon, and they will all have something in common: They want to have the best experience possible. The marathon is huge, loud, packed with deep crowds and lined by some of the city’s most iconic sights. For the uninitiated, it is an inspiring – if a little bit overwhelming – experience. If you’re one of them, take heed of these tips and get the inside track:
1. Bundle up.
While the forecast looks good for this year’s race, the weather in New York City can be unpredictable. Some of my most intense memories of the New York City Marathon are of nearly freezing before the start in the staging area at Fort Wadsworth. Plan to spend hours out in the weather prior to the start with little to no shelter. There are a few tents, but for the most part, runners are out in the open and exposed to the wind and potentially cold temperatures. You may want to wear some old clothing, such as heavy cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and then discard them at the start. In the past, race organizers have collected abandoned clothing and donated it to shelters. That way, you’re keeping yourself warm doing something good for the community at the same time.
2. Don’t be late.
Race organizers have devised an effective plan to get the thousands of runners out to the start, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re on the correct ferry or bus. If you miss your ride, you may have a really difficult time getting to the start. I have heard stories of people thinking that they could “grab a later ferry,” only to find themselves out of luck. Every seat will be full, so stick to your assigned slot.
3. Bring only what you need.
Security will be tight this year at the New York City Marathon, as it has been at most major marathons over the past few years. If you’re thinking about bringing anything other than your running gear and energy supplies, you should check the prohibited items list on the marathon’s website. Keep in mind that sleeping bags and tents – which seem like appealing ways to stay warm at the start – aren’t allowed.
4. Understand the first few miles.
The start of the New York City Marathon is a massive undertaking that uses multiple waves and multiple corrals in each start. The course is actually split into three separate routes for the first few miles, with all of the courses eventually converging. What this means is that if you are trying to see or meet someone on the course, you need to understand that you might not be talking about the same “mile 5.” Also, keep in mind that there are separate color-coded mile markers on the course until mile 8, after which they all finally converge.
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.
As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:
1. Arrive early.
Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.
2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.
Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.
3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.
Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.
4. Keep your pace steady during turns.
The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.
With the summer quickly coming to an end, runners will start to see the sun is coming up a little later and setting earlier. Outdoor workouts are suddenly feeling a little cooler, darker and maybe a bit damp. Is it time to start thinking about moving workouts indoors?
Not so fast. Fall still offers some great opportunities to get outside. So before you trade the running path for the treadmill, take advantage of the beauty fall has to offer with these five tips:
1. Stay outdoors as long as you can. Although the light is dimming and the weather is cooler, fall is a just a preview of what’s to come. Soon it will likely be much darker and colder. Fall is a transitional season, so look at it that way. Remind yourself that cool, damp and dark might seem dreamy in a few short months, when the alternative is snow, wind or driving rain.
2. Layer up. Wearing a light outer jacket that’s easy to take off will keep you warm at the beginning of your workout and is easy to take off a mile or two down the road. The rule of thumb is to dress for weather 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. This is because as you warm up, your body will feel that much warmer. So if it’s 50 degrees outside, wear base layers as if you were running in 70-degree weather. Wear your outer layer while warming up and take it off as soon as you’re warmed up. You don’t want to overheat, which will just soak your clothes and can lead to chaffing, chills – and general stinkiness – later on.
3. Wear reflective gear. Once the light dims, it’s a good idea to wear reflective clothing and carry a light with you when you run. Reflective clothing and lights help cars see you when you’re on the road. Most running gear, including many brands of shoes, hats, gloves and jackets include reflective strips that will make you easier to see. You can also buy a reflective vest that will slip over the top of your clothes to really increase your visibility for cars. Carrying a light or wearing a headlamp will help you see the ground so you don’t stumble and turn an ankle when running in low light.
Lots of my age-group duathlon buddies have expressed surprise and a bit of consternation about draft-legal racing on the bike coming to our part of the sport. I’ve talked to a number of people that have said they don’t feel that draft-legal racing will be safe and they want to avoid those races that head that way, but here’s the thing: draft-legal is coming. We all need to start thinking about it.Draft-legal racing has been the norm at the elite ITU level for some time now. Many people may not realize that it has also been the norm for juniors and Under 23 (U23) as well, essentially training a whole new generation of athletes as youngsters to learn how to race draft-legal. Outside of the United States, draft-legal is not frowned upon as it seems to be here. In the US, we seem to have been trained to “hate” drafting on the bike as that’s been the rule since the beginning of the sport for most races here.
The International Triathlon Union (ITU), which is the governing body of the sport, has started moving individual age-group events to draft-legal racing. Starting in 2016, the ITU Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon World Championships will both be draft-legal. This means that drafting will be legal in ITU races for elite, junior, U23, and age-groupers — that is for all but paratriathlon/paraduathlon. It’s already legal for all distances of winter-triathlon and cross-triathlon. This just leaves the standard (or “Olympic”) distance and longer distances races.
Clearly this feels like a test to see how age-groupers do with draft-legal racing at the shorter distance. But the writing feels like it is on the wall that the standard distance won’t be far behind.
Now, the ITU doesn’t govern all triathlons and duathlons. Many are sanctioned by national bodies like USA Triathlon or organizations like Ironman or local organizers. But again, it feels like national bodies will begin to follow suit to get their athletes ready for the overall change in the sport, so we should see national bodies start re-framing these rules sooner rather than later.
Runners are often at odds with trying to run enough to meet their goals and doing too much for their capabilities. When a runner steps over this line he or she runs the risk of over-training, which can mean an ugly feeling decline in performance. The question today is how do you know when you are over-training and what can you do about it?
Before we dive in to the signs and symptoms of over-training, let’s take a moment to differentiate a couple of things. First, over-training and over-use injuries are two different things. Over-use injuries happen when a particular body part, such as a knee or IT band is worked too hard and it essentially breaks. Over-training, as we’ll discuss, does not necessarily imply becoming injured, although the two often go hand-in-hand. Second, fatigue is a normal part of training. Many of the benefits of our workouts come from pushing into a zone that will leave us very fatigued. This again is different from over-training, which zaps us of our ability to recover and continuing making forward progress.
The best way to understand over-training is to define it and then break down the definition. My definition would be that in most instances, “over-training comes from doing too much and too intense an amount of work without enough recovery.” Now let’s deconstruct that a bit.
First, the words “too much” here are relative and can vary from person to person and even as it relates to where you are for your own fitness. It’s obviously pretty easy for a new runner to do “too much” when they are just starting out, but an experienced runner can do “too much” when they have taken time off, become inconsistent with their workouts, or are just coming out of a slack period such as a winter break. Often runners “jump back in” and try to resume what they were doing at a previous time and that may be too much for their current fitness level. Also, runners can be impressed upon by what they read in the press about elite athletes and the volume of their mileage without understanding what goes into those miles and they’ll just jump in and try to emulate the numbers they see. I hear people tell me all of the time, so and so “runs 100 miles a week, shouldn’t I being doing that?” The answer is that it depends on your level, your current fitness, your goals and (most importantly) the make-up of those miles.
One of my athletes wrote to me today with a great question about using energy drinks — drinks of the non-athletic kind like Red Bull — in their racing and training. Today, we’ll draw a distinction here between energy drinks made for athletes (those that contain primarily sugar and electrolytes) and energy drinks made for daily consumption (those containing stimulants). But first, here’s the question:
I have tried gels and chews and it’s just not for me… I have been running with an electrolyte/ carb hydration liquid, along with water. Toward the end of my long runs, last 3-4 miles I added half redbull half water mixer….
I have been doing pretty good with this combo… What are your thoughts? Any recommendations on energy/carb drinks that i should try?
On the first part of your question, it is just fine to use liquid-based sugars rather than solids or semi-solids (chews, gels or bars). Many runners ask if they “need” to use gels or bars, but in reality most elite runners actually use liquid energy drinks. They do this both because it is faster to drink out of a bottle than try opening something in a package and because being liquids are typically absorbed more quickly. So if that’s working for you then great! Just be careful not to make the mixture too concentrated. If the concentration of sugar gets to be too high, the stomach can get touchy quickly. Note however that these elite athletes tend to train their stomachs to take higher concentrations of sugars than most of us could “stomach” (pun intended), so watch out for products made specifically for elite athletes. You may need to build up to something like that over time.
With regard to the Red Bull you’re just adding another layer of stimulation to the mix. Red Bull and most energy drinks have stimulants in them like Caffeine or Taurine. While these stimulants don’t actually give your muscles energy, they do boost your mental state and this can be important late in a run or race. Red Bull also has sugar in it (both sucrose and glucose), so you are getting more sugar energy from the drink as well. This may be important, because there are many types of sugars and changing sugars can either be helpful or harmful depending on your stomach.
Let’s get real for a moment about marathon pacing. If you’re running a marathon parts of it are going to feel somewhat unpleasant. This is true for just about everyone. However, a marathon is a long journey and the pace feels different at different points along the way. By understanding how the pace should feel at the various stages of the race, you can avoid either going out too hard or too slowly and hopefully make the tough parts go more smoothly.Before we jump into the play-by-play of the marathon, let’s reemphasize that knowing your pace is an important skill for marathon runners. Understanding what pace you can run for a specific distance is where the growth comes for most runners as they progress over time. At the beginning of a marathon runner’s experience the focus just tends to be on “getting through it” but after doing a couple of big runs, runners are more likely to start setting specific goals and it takes paying precise attention to pace to meet those goals. It’s also important to understand that the pace that we can run and sustain is scientifically related across a spectrum of distances. To say that another way, if you push yourself as hard as you can at 5K, we can calculate pretty specifically how fast you can go at various other distances. This knowledge can take the guess-work out of your pacing, but it requires a little work to get there in terms of testing yourself and then paying attention to your pace as you train and race.
So let’s say you’ve arrived at a target finish-time for your next race in a race. There are a couple of race strategies that you can use to get there — put here in the simplest of terms:
1) “I’m going to ‘wing’ it” — you can just go out and see what happens. This is the strategy for more runners than you might think. Unfortunately, it puts you at the highest risk of blowing up late in the race, because you really don’t know what pace you should be running at the beginning.
2) “I’ll go out hard and pray” — you go out hard to “bank” time for the slow-down that will likely come at the end of the race. This is also a tremendously common misconception of the way pacing works. Colloquially speaking we would say that for every minute you get ahead of your pacing capability in the first half the race, you’re going to pay for it with four minutes in the second half.
3) “I want to run a negative split” — Some people try to warm-up slowly over a number of miles and then crank up the pace in the second half. This is actually quite difficult to do in practice unless you’re talking about a very narrow negative split (or leaving a lot of time on the table). The reason as outlined below is that you become more fatigued as you go along so it feels harder to run THE SAME pace as the miles advance. This means that trying to increase the pace late in the race is pretty darn tough (but not impossible).
4) “I want to run an even pace” — The smart money is on trying to run your goal pace for the entire race. The best runners in the world execute their pacing plans down to extremely narrow margins — such as 5K splits within 1 second of each other across the whole race. We don’t all have to aspire to that sort of precision, but it certainly is a benchmark to envision what’s possible.
So how is that pace going to feel? I like to break down the race into quarters for simplicity and here’s what I say about each part of the race.
First Quarter (miles 0-6) — The first quarter of the marathon should feel fantastically easy. You should be running on a combination of sheer adrenaline and being well rested from a light week (or weeks) coming into the race. The focus of the first few miles of the marathon should be warming up and holding back to avoid going faster than goal pace. If the pace in the first quarter of the race feels too fast, you’ve most certainly gone out too hard. Happily if you are paying attention and are running the correct pace early enough you may not have done yourself in. Ignore it and you will pay for it later.
You might think that running and weight loss are a match made in Heaven. Many people would have us believe that running is a ‘free pass’ that let’s us eat whatever we want and stay thin forever. Unfortunately, the truth isn’t quite that rosy. Staying thin and losing weights means paying mindful attention to what we eat, even when we have a lifestyle that includes lots of exercise. Today, four key weight loss tips that runners should keep in mind.1) Running is not a free pass to the buffet — Contrary to popular belief, you can’t eat whatever you want, even if you are a runner. Why not? First off, running doesn’t burn all that many calories in relation to the number of calories that may be packed into the modern foods that we eat. If we assume that we burn very roughly 115 calories per mile when running it’s going to take a lot of miles to burn off a high-calorie meal. Let’s go crazy and have a plate of Pesto Cream Penne at Calfornia Pizza Kitchen: 1,210 calories. That would take you 10 1/2 miles to burn off. And that doesn’t include the bread, salad, desert or a drink. Plus there’s worse news here: 690 of those calories come from fat, which isn’t especially helpful to fueling your runs. So that advice that you heard about carb loading needs to be taken carefully.
2) You do need carbohydrates, but you don’t need sugar — I know that strictly speaking carbohydrate and sugar are in the same family of nutrients, but they have very different impacts on your body. You have likely read that carbohydrate is helpful to fueling your runs, but loading up on sugar is not at all helpful to a lifestyle that leads to weight loss. Eating sugary foods quickly raises your blood sugar making you feel full quickly, but the effects of this surge are not long lasting. You’ll be hungry again quickly. And simple sugars aren’t good for stocking away to be used in endurance workouts. So the first thing to do here is to look at the ingredients of what you eat and try to eliminate added sugars. The second thing to do is to eat foods with slowly processed sugars (also known as low glycemic index foods). A helpful tip here is to eat starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta the night before a long run, but watch out that your food choices aren’t loaded with hidden sugars. Get other natural sugar in your diet by eating whole fruits. The fiber in whole fruit slows its digestion in the body, giving you longer lasting energy and less of a sugar rush than other highly sugary foods. Plus fruit is packed with healthy vitamins and anti-oxidants.
3) Eat small, frequent meals — Eating smaller, more frequent meals keeps your blood sugar more consistent and keeps hunger at bay. Perhaps worse than other people runners get “hangry” when they get hungry. Their bodies do need calories for fuel and hunger is simply a signal that you need to eat. But the longer you go between meals, the more prone you are to over-eat. Keep hunger at bay by eating frequently. Learn to snack on healthy foods like nuts and whole fruit. If you’re saying, ‘I’m not really that hungry’ by dinner time, you will be less likely to pig out late in the day before you settle in for the night.
Temperatures are up out there runners and they seem to be staying that way this summer. Running in the heat can be challenging, even dangerous. If you take the proper precautions and the right expectations, you can run smart and keep the heat from hurting you. Today, six quick tips for runners to deal with running in hot weather.1. Slow down — running in hot weather is very much like running up hill. Just as running up a hill requires more effort, running in hot weather also should slow you down. And the hotter the weather, the steeper the hill. The problem is that we runners want to hit our pace goals. Comparing a hot weather run to a cool weather run is not an apples to apples comparison. Slow down as the heat goes up. Trying to run at a similar effort level that you would in cooler weather.
2. Dress in loose, light clothes — wear light-weight, breathable clothing, rather than tight form-fitting fabrics. The body cools itself when air moves across the skin and comes in contact with your sweat. Loose, flowing, fabrics aid in cooling much more than tighter fighting clothes. Tight fitting clothes are fine for the gym or running in cooler weather, but when you’re braving heat that feels like the Sahara, dress like you live there.
3. Cover your head — keeping the sun off your head both cools you and keeps the sun out of your eyes. The later relaxes your shoulders and upper body. Hats are also handy because you can dunk them in cold water or even put ice in them as you run. The cool water will drip down your neck, providing even more cooling power.
4. Increase your fluid intake — You need to be consuming as much fluid as your sweating. If you sweat a ton, then you need to drink a ton. We’ve written plenty on this topic. Here’s one of our videos where I talk about hydration with a sports scientist from Gatorade.
5. Drink your electrolytes — plain water only does half the job. You need sodium, potassium and magnessium as well. If you are a salty sweater (someone typically with a white ring on your forehead or white lines on your clothes after you dry out), that is a visible sign of the sodium that you are losing. Use a drink like Nuun that contains electrolytes, but doesn’t contain sugar that may upset your stomach. Click here to view or buy Nuun on Amazon from our Amazon store.
6. Run early — run when you are fresh, the sun is less intense and temperatures are relatively cool. Afternoon workouts in the heat are tough both physically and mentally.
Stay safe and healthy out there runners.
Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time
Why should you run speed work? Today I tell you runners the importance of speed workouts in just two quick minutes. Watch to find out why speed workouts are so important to your development as a runner.
This week on RUN Time from Running-Advice.com.
Run Time is the talk show for runners, featuring interviews, discussions, quick tips and more. Run Time is hosted by Coach Joe English. You can follow Joe on Twitter as @coachjoeenglish
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