Fueled by Food, but how?

Let me first preface this by saying I am not a nutritionist or specialist on any kind of diets, but I have tried a number of ways to eat and am willing to share what I know. What I have learned is that any “diet” is usually a fad that is not meant to be long term. What I know is that eating the right way for you and your health concerns will be best for you in the long run. Each person has different nutritional needs, limitations, and allergies. I have friends that each run the gamut. I personally cannot thrive on a super low or no carb way of eating because it triggers headaches and weakness or dizziness when I run. My body needs carbs to function.

With this in mind, I have also learned that I cannot eat junk food and think that I will have incredible runs over the next few days. Instead, I am often met with a sugar high, a headache, and a quick visit with my couch for a few hours. My mindset about food is this: if you eat well, you will run well; if you eat like crap, you will run like crap. It has worked for me time and time again.

While that slice of cake may be enticing at the time, my body certainly puts up a fight after it’s been consumed, and I always lose. Headaches and a crash landing on the couch are not where I want to end up after I eat. These reasons are why I try to fuel my body with food that has nutritional value: lean proteins, some dairy (almond milk for me), vegetables and fruits that are as colorful as the rainbow, whole grains, and even the occasional treat of a bowl of ice cream every once in a while! Water is yet another undeniably valuable drink that our bodies thrive on and need daily.

As for fuel for runs, I have navigated through the selection in our local running store and tried them all. I have found that after several miles, my stomach is sensitive to the amounts of sugars in some gels and chomps. It is best to try out several types of fuel, including but not limited to: gels, chomps, tablets and powdered fuel to be added to water, electrolyte drinks, gums, and even a waffle! Each runner I have met has a new favorite and will vehemently tell you what doesn’t work for them. My favorites at the moment are cherry limeade Nuun tablets, that you place in water to dissolve, and black cherry Clif Bloks. If you are interested in trying the Nuun tablets, you can order at http://www.nuun.com and use the code “hydratewithus18” for 25% off 4 tubes until May 31st, 2018. I use both types of fuel to keep my electrolytes and energy up while I run.

As a new runner, it is best to try different ones, on different runs, to compare and contrast and see how it makes you feel, if it gives you enough or too little energy, if it causes stomach upset, or if the flavor is even something you can tolerate on your runs. Another consideration for the type of fuel you use is whether or not you need a drink to swallow the fuel or for it to work appropriately. Please read the packaging on each type of fuel to use it as recommended.

Overall, fuel in the form of food you eat on a daily basis and fuel you use during your runs both influence performance or lack thereof on any given run. If you have dietary restrictions or concerns, please talk with your doctor and or nutritionist before starting a new style of fueling your body to be sure it fits your needs. Remember, your body is like a well-oiled machine when it is fueled properly!

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Running Etiquette

Running etiquette is something that is not often discussed, but honestly, should be. Having run for most of my life, I have learned runner etiquette is not only appreciated, but expected. I have come up with a quick list of things to be conscious of whether you are running on the roads, trails, or during a race.

  • When you see a runner coming towards you, provide room for them to pass as long as it doesn’t put you in the way of traffic. If it does put you in the way of traffic, step to the side and stop for the brief moment that let’s the other runner pass.
  • If a runner or cyclist calls out “on your left,” please move to the right so that they can pass you. As a courtesy to others you are about to pass, please use the same phrase, even if they are not running.
  • If you are running on a narrow road, sidewalk, or trail, do not run side by side with your running buddies as it makes it impossible for others to pass safely.
  • If you are running an out and back route, be sure to not make a sudden u-turn because others may be behind you and may run into you!
  • If you are using any type of fuel during your training (gels, blocks, granola bars, etc.), don’t leave the packaging behind on the ground. Place it in your pocket until you see a garbage.
  • You are NOT bigger than a car, truck, bus, or RV. If they are barreling down the road, don’t cross the road in front of them or you risk serious injury!
  • Run against the traffic so that drivers, cyclists, and others can see you.
  • Pay attention to crosswalks, use the crosswalk buttons, and always watch for turning vehicles.
  • If you listen to music, make sure you can still hear sounds around you for your own personal safety and to watch out for traffic and emergency vehicles.
  • Seriously, don’t poop in someone’s yard in the wee hours of the morning. This made national news a few years back, and it really wasn’t necessary. Respect your surroundings; the neighbors will appreciate you for it!

Enjoy the miles, and please, use your manners!

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Why Do You Run?

This very question has been thrown around a lot in my world lately. I’ve seen it posed in varying running groups I take part in, on a few blogs, asked in person, and presented as a tagline for a local race. Since being benched from running due to an injury, I have thought a lot about why I personally choose to run. I have come up with a number of reasons, and many are still relevant today.

I first started running to prove to others that I could. It was a defiant, in your face, way to prove I could run faster than the boys in my elementary school. It became my way of hushing those in high school who told me I wasn’t an athlete, and I surely could never be a runner. As I traveled and moved after college, it was a way to prove that I could meet goals others thought I would never reach.

Another reason I run is to meet those goals. I don’t let others choose the goals for me, but I let others inspire me to dream big and chase goals! I’ve set goals that scare me. I’ve set A, B, and C goals to mentally prepare myself for the worst, middle of the road, and the best possible outcomes. When I first moved to Hampton Roads, I had not run a race of any kind outside of track meets in high school. My first goal was a half marathon. It was lofty, but it was scary and exciting and it kept me running! (And I finished it!)

Running can be a super personal adventure. One of the biggest reasons I run is for those who can no longer run. My mom and dad were both athletes, and super active as adults. My mom lost her battle to cancer when I was 12. I run to honor her, to chase dreams that are bigger than me, and to give it all I’ve got because she believed I could. I run for my dad because his multiple sclerosis has taken away his ability to even walk anymore. I run because I know he wants me to chase what I love.

I also run because of the feelings I have before, during, and after a run. The excitement prior to a run always makes me a bit jittery and ready to go. During a run, I feel nothing but adrenaline, determination, pure will, and hard work from pushing my body to do what I know it is physically capable of doing. After a run, the feeling of accomplishment, of being worn out, of being cleansed from the inside out, both mentally and physically, is fulfilling and definitely my happy place.

Lastly, I run to clear my head. Running is where I find my happy place, my happy pace, and my hope. As I heed the directions from the doctor to rest, I eagerly, and not so patiently wait for the days when I can run again. (Listen to the doc if you get injured. They always know best!)

So, ask yourself, “Why do I run?”

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Tunes or No Tunes?

I often get asked if I run with music or not. When I first started running during high school, I never ran with music.  As I ran during my college years, when I was no longer on a team, and after, I found myself putting in my head phones more often. When I first moved to the beach, I ran with music all the time. I found myself running with one ear bud in one ear so I could hear whoever I was running with talk to me. The more running I did, the more I listened to music.

The more times I did this, the more I changed my playlist. Then I decided to sign up for a 50K, and my coach recommended trying to run without music to listen to my breathing, how my body felt, and how my footsteps fell on the road and the trails as I ran. While running without music had become foreign to me, it was a welcome quiet. The silence allowed me to do exactly what my coach wanted. I listened to my breathing, and realized how ragged I sounded. I could feel my heart pounding. I could hear when I landed softly, and when I was slapping the ground with my heels too hard.

I started to appreciate the quiet. While I still chose, and now also choose, to run with other running buddies, the quiet of no music in my ears is still peaceful and welcome. Now I just listen to my friends talk about whatever conversation comes up on our run that day! I do enjoy the silence on solo runs quite often. It allows me to sort through my thoughts, clear my head, and feel like I’ve let go of the load on my shoulders by the time my run is done.

While I do appreciate the quiet, I often am found with both ear buds in my ears on any given race day. I tune the world out when I am racing so that I can focus on what I am doing. I am paying attention to my pace and my breathing, and pushing myself. I like the music to distract me from those around me, and it’s helpful to have a playlist full of music I love to listen to!

Honestly, listening to music or not while you run comes down to personal preference. If you are contemplating listening to music while running, try it out with just one ear bud in your ear so that you can hear your own body and everything happening around you. If you choose to run with music in both ears, be sure to keep the volume low enough to hear oncoming traffic and emergency vehicles. If you are on the trails, it is wise to run with only one ear bud in as well, just in case a wild animal comes along. This way you won’t be startled if an animal crosses your path!  If you prefer to run without music, enjoy the sounds of nature happening around you!

 

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Cold Weather Runner’s Advice

I am through and through a lover of cold weather for a solid run! My breathing is much easier, my pace becomes more steady, and I don’t get as overheated in cooler temps. My personal opinion of perfect running weather is 45-50 degrees and sunshiney! And you better believe I will still be in short sleeves and shorts! I am notorious for being hot on any given run.

As the temps in my area have crept closer and closer to the teens and single digits, my attire for both work and workouts has changed. For work, it’s easy enough to pull out my cuddle duds and fleece lined leggings to go under my dresses. It’s also pretty simple to add an additional undershirt and a scarf to complement my outfit and keep my neck warm. As a runner, dressing for colder temperatures, wind gusts, and possible snow and ice is a bit different.

Us runners are always known as the crazy fools who will run in anything. All the nay-sayers are right. We WILL run in anything, and we DO run in any kind of weather, winter included! So, new runners, here are some ideas of ways to figure out your best attire for running in colder temperatures.

  • Layer your running gear and have the shirt closest to your core be a sweat-wicking one that is a bit more snug than the rest of the tops you have on.
  • Wear long tights in the winter even if you can tolerate the cold so that you don’t risk permanent damage to your skin. I frequently grab my lined tights on days where the temperature is in the 20s or below to keep myself warm and to keep my skin from drying out and cracking from the wind and colder temps.
  • If you are unsure of how many layers to put on, start with a long sleeve, sweat-wicking running top, and add a running windbreaker on top. If this is not enough, either try an additional long sleeve between the jacket and the first layer, or try a heavier jacket. My go to for winter tops are my Under Armour cold gear long sleeve fitted, sweat-wicking top, a long sleeve technical race shirt, and my Under Armour cold gear winter running jacket that is water resistant and has a hood.
  • Try a heavier sock, possibly with smartwool. I have a pair of Farm to Feet socks that are a wool blend. I was given these as part of my race swag from running the Blue Ridge Marathon a few years ago, and love to wear them as the temps get colder. My feet stay toasty, and my socks still won’t slide around in my running shoes from being sweaty because they are breathable.
  • Wear a headband or beanie that covers your ears. Wind in the winter can be brutal, and our ears can surely suffer from the cold and wind. Keep your head covered to keep the heat in your body.
  • Gloves or mittens are definitely a must, as it is proven we lose a lot of our body heat through our extremities. Save yourself some big bucks by raiding the $1-$2 racks at the big box stores for those little gloves that can be easily tossed in the wash. I’ve lost a glove or two along the way when I’ve taken them off and haven’t tucked them all the way in my pockets. No need to be glamorous on the runs, so why not wear a mismatched pair of gloves?
  • Vaseline is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your face from getting windburnt and hurting like crazy after coming in from a winter run. A thin layer of Vaseline applied to your entire face (forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin) will keep your skin moisturized, and stop the wind from leaving your face raw and red.
  • If you have asthma like I do, the lack of moisture in the air can be dangerous. I often do 1 of 2 things to help me breathe. I wear a neck gator, that slides down over my head, and is worn over my neck. I can pull it up over my mouth and nose if I am struggling to breathe, and the moist air helps my breath become steady once again. I also put a dab of Vicks VapoRub under my nose when I run to keep me breathing easy!
  • Last, but certainly not least, is a pair of sunglasses. If you are brave enough to try running on the snow, protect your eyes from the harsh reflection of the sun on the bright white snow by donning a pair of shades. I’ve tried shades from all kinds of stores, and finally settled on a pair of polarized running sunglasses from Tifosi. You can easily find these at many running stores. I found mine at Running Etc. in the hilltop area of Virginia Beach.

As always, run with care in the winter time. Snow and ice can create hazardous surfaces to run on. Be prepared to run a little slower than normal, and to drink as much as you would on a hot day. Going a bit slower, and being more precise about footing can cause you to sweat just as much on a warmer day. Enjoy the miles and stay warm!

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Resolution vs. Goals

As the end of the first day of 2018 approaches, I have been thinking about resolutions for the new year, as many of us do. The more I look at the word resolution and it’s direct definition, the more I feel like it’s more of developing a dream to do better, be better, etc. It doesn’t have any concrete sustenance to the word. There are no specifics to help guide you to achieve the resolution.

This year, since I can’t seem to wrap my head around a resolution, I’ve decided setting goals are where I would rather expend my energies. Goal setting seems more tangible, more easily defined, and definitely more attainable than a lofty dream. As I think about the goals I want to focus on, I need to be realistic in what I can do in a year’s time. My own goals involve the three following: continue to write monthly, run races that only give back to the local community, and continue to chip away at my student loans.

Like many others out there, I have aspirations and a bucket list to complete before the final date is stamped on my headstone. I want to continue to write to share what I know, encourage educational and valuable conversation, and to learn more about what I don’t know. I love to write, and I feel sharing my knowledge and interests can excite, encourage, inspire, and even encourage banter. My goal of writing monthly is two-fold in that it will keep my writing skills sharpened, but it will keep my brain thinking at a higher level as well. (Sometimes it’s tough when you teach little ones all day long, and your brain is in constant children appropriate conversation levels.)

I absolutely thrive on running. It fuels the fire in my soul. It makes me feel alive with every step I take. I couldn’t possibly live without it. I want to make sure my running, especially when I race, gives back to the community in which I live. I feel it’s important to show compassion, and knowing each race entry supports a local charity warms my heart.

Lastly, I know I am not the only one out there chipping away at the student loans that funded our educations. While my degrees are necessary to teach, and I have certainly used what I learned in college, it is still daunting having such a big dollar sign hanging over my head. While I will keep the actual dollar amount to myself, I will continue to make progress monthly on my loans. My goal will involve reading financially savvy blogs, tips, and ideas to be even more frugal.

What are your goals for this year? What tips, thoughts, or ideas do you have to share with me? I welcome your input!

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Just Say No to a Marathon

Just reading the headline may perplex you, especially if you are a runner. You may ponder my reasoning, and begin scratching your head as you process the possible whys. My reasoning actually began 23 years ago on a track in Upstate New York when I realized that that ever-fleeting feeling of personal success could be achieved more often than I thought. I had been approached about joining the track team a year earlier, and was quick to say no before the coach could even get another word out. Somehow, he later convinced my dad that I would be a great track athlete, and here I was on that very track I had initially said no to.

I was scheduled to run many 100s, 200s, and a warm-up and cool-down run around that track that night. My warm-up and cool-down runs are not what stuck in my mind. The exhilaration at the completion of each 100 and 200 meter run were what motivated me to keep going until I had completed my scheduled work-out. The feeling of complete and utter exhaustion after those same 100 and 200 meter runs was my internal sign that I had given my workout all I had. The combination of this exhaustion and exhilaration is like a different euphoria that you wouldn’t know unless you are a runner. The epitome of a runner’s high hits when you know that you have given a run, a race, a workout your absolute best and hardest efforts.

The thought of saying no to a marathon came to me after a particularly miserable marathon earlier this year. I realized that I had nothing left to prove. I had completed my tenth marathon, on my own two feet, alone, and I wasn’t happy. I was glad the damn thing was over. I’ve lost count of the number of races I have run, but it’s up there in numbers, and I have never felt so relieved after a race simply because it was OVER. I didn’t relish the medal. I didn’t enjoy the finish line celebration. All I was happy about was that I no longer had 20 mile long runs on Saturday mornings; I no longer had to give up a significant chunk of my time to training, resting, fueling, stretching, and crosstraining.

Training for a marathon is not something that comes easy to any person, even if you have previously been or currently are an athlete. It is 20+ grueling weeks of training that involves long runs, short runs, potential bridge repeats or tempo runs, crosstraining, extra sleep, extra food, finding out what fuel works for you, and time away from friends, family, and other commitments. Choosing to do a marathon is not something to be taken lightly. If you commit to doing a marathon, you have to commit to doing all of the aforementioned activities that go along with it. You will be running when your friends and family are sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You will be running when your colleagues are going to happy hour after work. You will be running when the weather is hot, cold, wet, windy, and just miserable. When you are done training, yes, you will be able to say that you have completed the marathon distance. However, you will not have the immediate gratification of the feeling of success or a runner’s high until AFTER you have completed the marathon.

If you choose to run a different distance, where the outcome still allows you to cross a finish line, you can have that same immediate gratification I felt after completing my workouts on the track all those years ago. I have found that the marathon is not for the faint of heart. It can be done, but it is not for everyone. Even as a seasoned runner, I feel that I am incredibly more satisfied with a shorter workout. I can compare workout to workout and physically see improvement on my times. I can document how I felt before, during, and after each workout and see the fluctuation of progress or backsliding. In a marathon, you continue to build mileage from week to week, with the occasional cutback week, which allows for lesser mileage and more recovery. It is challenging to see progress immediately made from run to run. You can still document each workout, how you feel before, during, and after, and compare and contrast, but it doesn’t have the same, quicker turnover in progress that shorter distances do.

My reasoning behind dialing back from the marathon is not because I have given up on the distance, but because the 10k distance is more satisfying. It’s like a tempo run that challenges your ability every step of those 6.2 miles. Unlike running a marathon, a 10k can be run where your muscles feel pushed just beyond their limits at a manageable, but slightly uncomfortable pace. I have been taught to run a 10k as a negative split run where you run each mile slightly faster than the last one. The training for the 10k involves lots of ladders on the track, reminiscent of my time on the track all those years ago. The same Cheshire Cat grin I had at the end of each of those workouts was the same grin that was plastered across my face when I completed my ladders on the track recently. My joy for running was back, and the 10k was the fuel to my fire!

With this said, I encourage all runners to find the distance that fuels your love for running. Each individual is different, and each individual will have different goals. Find your sweet spot that allows you to have that instant feel good moment that feeds your passion for the sport. I reignited my love for running when I started doing those same track workouts on the track just a few short months ago. I rediscovered those moments of the instant feelings of success. In my honest opinion, find your distance, fuel your passion.

 

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