Short Answer Mondays: Stretching and Carrying Water & Energy Gels

running-advice-bugIt’s time for another edition of Short Answer Monday, where we tackle more reader questions. This week we look for a quick solution to stretching and we take a look at how to carry food and fuel with you when running long.

Question 1 comes from Lisa:

“Quick, I only have a few minutes to stretch before my run and a few minutes after my run. What are your favorite 3-5 stretches for those times when time is lacking.”

First Lisa, it is nice to hear that when you’re pressed for time you’re still trying to work some stretching in. Most runners, quite honestly, don’t stretch at all. There is a lot of debate over the need to stretch and what it really does for you, but let’s just assume for the sake of this answer that some stretching is a good thing. For those of you that need a basic refresher on how to stretch, start by reading a short article on the basics of stretching which includes a link to a video at the end.

Picking out a couple of stretches for runners that are in a hurry depends a bit on who you are as a runner and your body type. For beginning runners, the most important stretches are the ones that focus on the shins, calves, lower legs and feet. Beginners need to stretch these areas to avoid getting shin splints, because inflexibility in the calf muscle in particular tends to lead to shin splints. Stretching the feet is also important for beginners to avoid a condition called plantars fasciitis, which is an inflammation in the bottom of the feet.

For more advanced runners, the stretches that would be most important would include the 1) calf muscle, 2) soleius muscle (the lower part of the calf), 3) the hamstrings (the muscles in the back of the leg) and 4) the quadriceps muscle (the muscles in the front of the leg).
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Product Review — PowerBar Electrolytes Drink Mix

Here at Running Advice and News, we’re big fans of electrolyte drink mixes. That’s to say, fluid replacement drinks that provide only electrolytes, rather than those containing both energy (sugar) and electrolytes. It’s our view that de-coupling energy and electrolyte replacement is a good idea for many runners and triathletes, because if a stomach problem prevents them from taking in more sugar during a race, they can still re-hydrate and potentially work through the stomach problem.

PowerBar ElectrolytesWe like electrolyte drinks so much that we awarded our 2007 Product of the Year to Nuun Active Hydration, which is the leading product in this class. Nuun Active Hydration comes in tablet form and can be dropped into a 16 ounce bottle of water to turn it into a no calorie electrolyte drink. For fans of Nuun, don’t worry, we still love it and would whole-heartedly recommend it.

But now PowerBar has entered the market with their own version of an electrolyte only drink mix. The product is called simply Powerbar Electrolytes Drink Mix and it is on store shelves and available on-line now.

PowerBar Electrolytes comes in a powder form that is packed in individual foil tubes. The tubes can be ripped open and then the powder is dumped into 16 ounces of water. One of our first observations about the product is that it takes some shaking and a little time for the product to be disolved into the water. Once the product is well mixed, no granules appear on the bottle of the bottle.

In recent tests, our athletes have had favorable reviews of the new PowerBar Electrolytes. We’ve had no reports of stomach issues, as we would expect from a product that only contains about 10 calories per serving (and would therefore contain a very low concentration of sugar to upset the stomach). A few athletes have commented to me that it’s “pretty sweet” or “a lot sweeter than Nuun.” Nuun, for those that have not tried it, is not sweet at all, so we would agree that this new product does have a much higher sweetness profile.
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2007 Product of the Year Award: Nuun active hydration

Running Advice and News announces our pick for 2007 Product of the Year: Nuun active hydration fluid-replacement drink.

Nuun takes the guess-work out of hydration for endurance sports.

Nuun active hydration is a phenomenal product for marathon runners, triathletes and other long-distance athletes. It handles one of the most important elements of any athlete’s race-day needs: replenishing electrolytes and re-hydrating the body as you lose fluid through sweat.

Electrolytes are critical for the absorption of fluid and an important piece of the puzzle in both staving off dehydration and avoiding over-hydration.

If you’re thinking that Nuun sounds like just another fluid-replacement drink, then you need to see one very important difference. The key distinction is that most fluid-replacement drinks also contain energy (in the form of carbohydrates). The approach with Nuun is to separate your re-hydration from your energy replacement tools.

As an electrolyte-only product, you can keep drinking Nuun without risking the stomach upset that can come from drinking too much of an energy drink to re-hydrate.

Strategically this is important, because if, in a key race, you were using a combined energy/fluid-replacement drink and you developed stomach problems, you could then also lose your ability to re-hydrate. Without a hydration tool, you could be forced into dehydration and a potentially critical situation.

In addition to being a strategically smart product, Nuun is also an amazingly convenient product. Nuun comes in a tablet form, which is carried in a small tube. A tablet can be dropped into a bottle of plain water, turning it into a complete electrolyte solution for re-hydration.

I’ve used Nuun with my athletes for the better part of two years now and I have seen it bring people back from the brink of major hydration problems. It has a mild taste that works even when the stomach is in distress. Personally, I’ve used Nuun at hot races at both the Ironman and 50-mile trail running distance and it has worked wonders for me.

Now for those of you that are avid readers of my columns, you will know that I only occasionally review products. I do this on purpose, limiting my product reviews to those products that I find important for all of you readers. It is my hope that by singling out this one product today that all of you might it in your next long workout and use it in your races in 2008. I think it will really be a help to you.

You can read my original review of Nuun by clicking here.

You can find our more about Nuun at their web-site

Congratulations to Nuun for making an outstanding product, one that every long-distance athlete should give their consideration.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
for Running Advice and News (

Disclaimer: no compensation in cash, or of any other kind, was paid to secure this endorsement. There is no relationship between Running Advice and News and the company or companies that make or sell the product in this article.


Training & Product Recommendation: Hydration and replenishing electrolytes with Nuun

One of the biggest issues that you’ll face in long distance races is managing your hydration. As the race gets longer, and you sweat for hours, you need to take in more and more fluid to fight off dehydration. Once you start getting dehydrated, you’ll start to experience a marked loss of performance, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramps.

And when you sweat you are losing more than just fluid – but electrolytes as well. Electrolytes are minerals that help you absorb fluids into your cells. Once you’ve lost enough of your electrolytes you stop being able to absorb plain water. This leads to a cycle in which you may be drinking tons of water and just peeing it straight out – not helping you at all with your hydration.

The answer is typically to use a sports drink, such as Gleukos, Gatorade, Gu2O, or Accelerade. These products provide you with fluid and electrolytes, but they also contain energy in the form of carbohydrates. That’s a good thing, because in a long race you’re working hard to replenish your energy stores. I’m a huge, huge, fan of Gleukos, because it is so easy on the stomach and does such a great job keeping me well fueled.

But, in a really long race, such as an Ironman triathlon, ultra-marathon, or adventure race, you’ll be taking in fluids and food for hours on end. What I’ve found tends to happen in these long races is that you start to have a difficult time tolerating all of the sweets and sugars in sport drinks and energy gels. Personally, my stomach and taste buds can only handle so much of the sweet stuff.

That’s where Nuun comes in.

Nuun is an electrolyte replacement product that does not contain any sugar. It’s essentially a non-energy electrolyte drink. Nuun (pronounced “noon”) is delivered in the form of a tablet that you drop into a bottle of plain water and (voila) it fizzes up and turns the water into a well-balanced electrolyte solution. You carry a small plastic tube of the tablets and can make gallons of the fluid with just one tube of twelve tablets.

What’s in Nuun? Nuun contains all of the critical electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. According the company’s web-site, it contains the following:
Sodium (carbonates) 360.0mg
Potassium (bicarbonate) 100.0mg
Calcium (carbonate) 12.5mg
Magnesium (sulfate) 25.0mg
Vitamin C 37.5mg
Vitamin B2 500mcg

Nuun is very helpful in fighting off not only dehydration, but over-hydration (or hyponatremia) as well. Because of its electrolyte properties, you can drink it without the risk of diluting the sodium content in your blood. This means that there is much less of a worry about over-hydrating, which can be as serious (if not more so) than dehydrating.

In my longest races – such as Ironman Arizona and my ultra marathons, I’ve used Nuun and I just love it. I can carry the Nuun tube in my hip pack and drop a tablet into my water bottle as I fill it at an aid station. This past weekend, running two marathons in San Diego, I used Nuun to keep myself well hydrated through 52.4 miles of running.

So Nuun is a product that I think you should highly consider trying out. It’s a great addition to put into your fuel bags as you head off to your next long race. Added to great products like Gluekos and Gu, it will help keep you performing optimally and keep the ugliness of dehydration at bay.

For more information click here ( )

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the company that makes Nuun in any way and I have not been paid (or even asked) to provide a recommendation of this product. I just like the product that much.

Coach Joe

Running Advice and News with Coach Joe – a blog focused on marathon racing, training and motivation. Bookmark us at or use your favorite RSS feed reader to get the latest news and articles. Running Wild is also now available on Facebook and My Space.