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.
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.
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
When your running schedule calls for a break, use the time off wisely.
Runners have a strange relationship with rest days. Early in the year, it’s hard to get them to take a day off because they fear they’ll lose momentum. Later in the year, when their training loads are heavier, those same runners might be grasping for days to take a break. But no matter how far along you are in your training, resting is important because it keeps fatigue from building up and lets the body lay a solid foundation for the work to come. Here are five things you can do to rest, refocus and relax when your running schedule calls for a rest day:
1. Take a yoga class.
Yoga offers great benefits to runners. For one, stretching and lengthening leg muscles undoes some of the damage caused by repetitively tightening those same muscles when running. Stretching in a structured class environment ensures you’ll stretch your entire body, rather than just those trouble spots like your legs. Perhaps more important, yoga helps clear your head and focus on your breath. When practiced correctly, yoga combines a centering, clearing and calming environment with movement and balance exercises. Together, these factors make yoga the perfect rest day complement to your high-energy daily runs.
I’ve often wondered if I should change the name “rest days” on my running schedules to “focus days.” Off days provide much needed time to think and reflect on your progress, your goals and your motivation for running. As the months wear on, failing to take a break to check in with yourself can ultimately lead you to a sad state called burnout. As a runner for nearly my entire life, I look forward to rest days to reflect on how I’m doing, talk with friends about their running and make sure things are on track for my season. Spending some time quietly reflecting on the joy of running goes a long way when it comes to recharging our mental batteries and allowing us to do more when we get back to it the next day.
Does running on a treadmill make you feel like a caged animal, spinning your wheels like a hamster, perhaps? Does it bore you and hamper results? While many runners have those feelings, the treadmill doesn’t have to be such a drag. And, it’s actually a powerful tool – when used correctly – to do some great indoor workouts.
1. Set the incline to 1.5 to 2 percent.
Start by setting the incline on the treadmill to at least 1.5 percent. (Use 2 percent if your treadmill only increases the incline in full percentage points.) This is important because running on a flat treadmill reduces the effort substantially compared to running outside. This little bit of incline helps compensate for the lack of wind resistance and variation in outdoor ground surfaces that make running more challenging and “active” when you’re outside.
2. Vary the pace and incline.
Architecting a good treadmill workout means changing the tempo and effort level. If you’re running one pace for the whole workout, you’re not giving yourself much of a workout. First, warm up for several minutes. Then, increase the pace every one or two minutes. When you really feel warmed up and ready to run, take the pace up to a challenging level for one to two minutes. Then, back it off for one minute to recover. Repeat that routine a few times, depending on the length of your workout. You can follow the same pattern with the incline to simulate hills. The intensity should be enough that you are counting down the time for the interval to end, but not so much that you risk falling behind the pace and potentially falling off the treadmill.
Ready to take on the new year with some running resolutions that will make you stronger and faster? By setting some simple goals for yourself, you can do just that. Here are four easy-to-monitor, year-long resolutions to get you started:
Nothing sharpens your racing skills better than getting out and doing it. In fact, too many runners have a yearly goal race and then are wracked with terrible nerves on race day. You can solve this problem by simply adding one race to your schedule every month. That way, you’ll go through the process of registering, picking up your bib, getting dressed and racing once every four weeks. Not only will you get lots of practice, but you’ll also get used to running under the pressure of competition. Don’t worry: These can be local 5Ks or other low-key (even free) races. Something is better than nothing!
2. Reserve one day a week for stretching.
Runners should place a heavy emphasis on stretching and lengthening muscles to undo some of the tightening caused by running. A great way to do this is to set aside one day each week to stretch – and nothing else. The best thing to do is to take a yoga class on this day, but you can also just go to the gym and spend a good amount of your normal workout time (say, 45 to 60 minutes) stretching your body. Doing this will give you a nice, relaxing recovery day, too.
Between social engagements, shopping and cooking – in addition to year-round daily activities – runners and other athletes have to work hard during the holidays to keep exercise from falling off the calendar. Add holiday travel to the list and many runners miss their workouts. As a life-long runner who has visited dozens of foreign destinations, I’ve learned how to keep running on the go. Here are my five tips to help you do the same:
1. Use long layovers wisely.
Any time I have more than three hours between long flights, I try to plan a workout during the layover. You can do this by researching fitness centers near the airport with day use drop-in fees. Before you hit the road, do a quick Internet search for “gyms near” the airport and call or email them to see if you can pay a fee to exercise at their facility. While few airports have gyms on-site, many airport hotels do. For example, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare offers a drop-in fee at its gym, which is a short covered walk from most of the terminals. Just make sure you pack a workout outfit, shoes, a lock and a towel in your carry-on bag. In addition to making the layover feel shorter, working out will energize you more than lazing around during extra in-transit hours.
2. Bring an apparel variety pack.
It sure is a hassle when you have a specific workout planned only to find out that the gym at your hotel doesn’t have the piece of equipment you need, the pool is closed for repairs or wild animals prevent you from running outside. The latter happened to me in Thailand, where a tiger had been spotted roaming the jungle near my hotel. The staff suggested I forgo my run. (Advice accepted!) The key to staying active is to be flexible and bring what you need for different types of workouts. You might want to pack a swimsuit and goggles, for example, in case your only option is a pool. I try to bring cycle shorts when I travel in case all of the treadmills are busy and I need to hop on a bike instead.
With many of the big fall marathons behind us, a lot of you runners may be feeling a mixture of elation at accomplishing your goal and a sort of sadness that comes with completing such a large “project.” Some of us coaches call this heavy feeling the “post-marathon blues.”
But wallow not. The feeling is normal – and can pass. The key to shaking it is to get moving again with new goals and plans. Here are four ways to dust yourself off and get your head in the (new) game:
1. Line up next season’s schedule.
First, move your thinking from the past to the future. The best way to do that is to get out the calendar and pick some races that catch your eye. Perhaps you’ve noticed other runners posting about races on their social media accounts. If one sounds appealing, jot it down on the calendar before you forget. A bonus of planning now? Many races have early bird registration prices, not to mention they may eventually sell out. While the calendar doesn’t have to be set in stone yet, working out a high-level plan is a good first step to getting excited about the next phase of your training.
2. Set new goals.
Too often I hear about runners moving forward by simply registering for the same race they just finished. “I’ll try again next year,” they tell me if the race didn’t work out the way they thought it might. Instead, set some goals based on what you learned from your last performance and aim to make positive improvements. For example, a concrete goal might be something like, “I will improve my nutrition and hydration practices in the next race so I don’t run out of energy during the late miles.” Write down these goals and make working toward them a priority.