Saturday, March 16, 2019

What Type of Race Trainee Are You?

Life can get crazy when you're training for a half or full marathon, and sometimes life and throw things at you the can affect your training. If you are working with a running coach, remember he has created a plan for you. Also remember that your training plan is a guide, a guide created specifically for you and your goals.

As a running coach for going on 10 years, I've come to realize there tends to be four types of race trainees—the "Sporadic", the "Checker-Offer", the "Ignorer" and the "Communicator."

The Sporadic trainee tends to use the plan as a suggestion. He'll keep his normal run routine and then decide to throw in some of the workouts in their plan. Or they use the plan for a few weeks, then go rogue for a while and then maybe get back to following the plan. This runner often wonders why they are not seeing the progress they expected.

The Checker-offer trainee is that runner that has to do every workout in the plan regardless of circumstances that might dictate otherwise. For example, if the runner can't get in his/her long run on Saturday and moves it to Sunday (which is fine) he/she will still do the speed workout scheduled for Monday (which isn't good), just because it's on the plan. The desire to check off every workout overrides common sense or what they're body might be telling them. This runner feels like a failure if every workout is not checked off as completed.

The Ignorer trainee is the runner that ignores the signs of injury. The Ignorer tends to use the not-so-useful sayings, "run through the pain" or "no pain no gain." This runner has trouble distinguishing the difference between regular delayed onset muscle soreness or discomfort and pain. And... sometimes they know the difference, but keep on running because of fear if they take time off, they'll lose everything they've gained. Often this runner will keep running through pain until a serious injury occurs.

The Communicator trainee is the runner that uses his/her plan as a guide. This person communicates with his/her coach when she has to miss a run and not sure if or how she should make it up. This runner will communicate with her coach when she's been sick, when she's experiencing pain that's affecting his running. This runner will ask questions about fueling and hydration. This runner will text, call, instant message, and talk in person with her coach.

Can you guess which of these four types have a higher risk of injury?

To the Sporadic trainee: Your plan has been crafted by your coach just for you and your goals. The plan is created with consistency as it's foundation. Doing the runs and workouts as prescribed on a consistent basis will help you safely reach your goals. Running hot and cold isn't going to help your reach your goals.

To the Checker-offer trainee: Your plan is a guide. Yes, it's important to get in as many of your prescribed runs as you can, but that doesn't mean doing every single run just for the sake of having a check mark on each workout. If you miss a run, sometimes it can safely be made up, but other times it's better to miss the run completely rather than squeeze it in just for the sake of completing it. For example, putting two hard runs back-to-back is not recommended. Keep in mind that long-and-slow is "hard" and short-and-fast is "hard." So, if you miss a long run, don't try to make it up by putting it the day before your speed workout. Maybe instead, you do the make-up long run, and then either rest or run easy on the speed workout day. When in doubt, consult your coach. He/she can help you figure out how/if you should make up the run.

To the Ignorer: Communicate with your coach when you're experiencing pain. He/she may have some initial suggestions for how do deal with your issue. Or he may say you need to check in with the doc. Better to be safe than sorry. Instead of putting off seeing the sports doc or physical therapist, schedule that appointment. Much better to find out it's nothing than let things linger until you have a full blown injury and you're off running for several months. You'd be surprised how many times, I'm not aware one of my runners has had in issue until I see them in a boot. Listen to our body. Taking a rest day is much better the plugging through a workout just to get it done. Use the following pain scale to help you decide what to do when feeling discomfort or pain.
1-10 Pain Scale for Runners
Mild Pain: Rating 1-3, is the type of pain you feel when you start to exercise but it usually goes away as you start to warm up and continue running. The pain may be inconsistent and moves around the body, or you feel it bilaterally (in both knees, for example). Mild pain or discomfort is common and considered safe to run through. Apply ice at any areas of concern after your run. A bag of frozen peas works really well.   
Moderate Pain: Rating 4-6, pain that doesn't cause you to limp or alter your stride, will probably respond well to a couple days of rest, pain-free cross-training, and icing as needed. If it doesn't, go see the doc.

Severe Pain: Rating 7 to 10, requires immediate doctor attention. This kind of pain you feel before, during, and after the run. It usually starts at the beginning of a run and increases until your stride altered or you stop. Don't let it get that far. 

It's not that the Communicator trainee will never get hurt, but because they are keeping in constant communication with his/her coach, they are more likely to head off possible injury. Be proactive when training. If you're in a group training program, your coach may be working with dozens of runners. Never think he/she is too busy for your questions. Also, don't assume he knows exactly what you're going through. Communicate with him. That's what he's there for.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Silage Patches to Horror Books

It’s been two years since my dad passed. He was, for the most part, a quiet man. Quiet and reserved unless he was in the pulpit or watching football on TV.  Dad had his everyday voice and then his pulpit voice. His sermons were not all fire and brimstone, but he’d definitely get animated and this deep bellowing voice would come out of him deep from somewhere. I remember he used that voice once when I was squirming around as a kid in the church pew during one Sunday service. I didn’t squirm much after that.

When I was in elementary school, we lived in a small community, Mt. Hermon, near Snow Camp, NC. My dad was the minister at the Methodist church. We lived in the parsonage, a small little house beside the church. Cow pasture in front of us. Cow pasture beside us. Silage patch in the woods behind us. The church on the other side of us. In case you’re wondering, silage is fermented moist fodder (in our case, corn I believe) stored in a pit dug in the ground and covered with a heavy black plastic tarp that can be fed to livestock. Man, in the heat of the summer, whew! The smell of the fermenting silage was horrid. I can still smell it up in my sinuses to this day!

It’s odd the smells you remember as a child. Among mine (some more pleasant than others), include the stench of fermenting silage in the heat of summer, cow dung in the fields beside us, the fresh smell of my grandmother’s (Mama Mac’s) pound cake, my grandfather’s (Papa Henry’s) oil paints, the Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco my other grandfather (Papa Mac) put in his pipe, the  pungent sweet smell of fallen rotten apples from the trees that lined our yard,  pop corn and non-filtered cigarettes at the little league games, magnolia blooms from my great Grandma Stewart’s yard, and Sunday after-church pot roast with carrots and potatoes.

Certain sounds stick with you as well. I remember the cows mooing in the fields around us, my grandmother (Mama Henry) who’d reply “Woooo!” whenever you’d be looking for her and call her name, the absolute nighttime quiet of living out in the “country”, and my dad cursing at the lawn mower. My dad rarely ever cursed, but when he did, it typically was at the lawn mower. Another rare time (other than when in the pulpit) when I’d hear that bellowing voice. That same bellowing voice would be conjured up during football viewing on TV too. During football season, I’d be tucked in my bed surrounded by stuffed animals waiting for the next, “Ref, are you Blind!” “Go! Go! Go!” “Get it together!” “Woohoo!” “WeeDoggie!” Hey wait. Weedoggie? Is that where I got that from? Hmmm…

It was hard to sleep during those nights. I was startled more than scared, never knowing when the next bellow was coming. Remember, it was a small house. Dad was like that at my brother’s baseball games too. Those poor refs. So, as a result I spent a lot of time during games at the concession stand. Now that I think of it, that may have been when I started gaining weight as a child.  I remember going off with kids I didn’t know, digging in the dirt, playing tag, climbing rocks, making and throwing dirt bombs, and I’m sure lots of other things I’ve blocked from my memory.

Times certainly have changed. I can’t image when my kids were young, letting them wander around with strange kids and just expecting them to be back by the end of the game. Of course, we didn’t wear seat belts, got left in the car in the summer at the grocery store (windows down), and 16-year-old high school students drove our school buses, too. Somehow we survived. A different time. 

I do remember one eventful ball game when the game wasn’t the highlight. The featured entertainment was one of the ball player’s mom who started fussing at and whooping-up on her husband who had been cheating on her with another mom. It was like a live episode of All My Children. Yep, right in front of the bleachers and all the metal green and white woven fold-out lawn chairs. I remember it got dead quiet, except for the yelling mom. Everyone stood still, eating popcorn and staring. Kind of like an early Housewives of Alamance County. Another night, I remember my dad helping break up a fight between two other dads at the game who happened to be members of our church. Who says small town life is dull?

Sort of no big surprise that I never got into team sports. I did play two years of little league baseball and a year of midgets football. Did they really call the league midgets? It was the 70s. My brother was bitten by the team sports bug (baseball, football, basketball), but somehow I missed that bug. Maybe it was all the Avon Skin-So-Soft my mom put on me that she was told made good bug repellent.

Another thing I never got into as a kid was horror movies. My brother loved them. Of course we’re talking about the 70s. This was well before Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason and the Halloween movies of the 80s. He would beg my parents to let him stay up to watch whatever scary movie of the week was on TV. Cable didn’t exist back then, so these “scary” TV movies didn’t come on very often, but when they did, he wanted to stay up and watch it.  One time he bargained with my parents. He’d come home from school, take a nap, so he’d be able to stay up longer to watch the movie. It worked. Funny thing is that most of the time he stayed up, I did too (without the nap bargain). I was about three years younger and too scared to watch the movie, so I’d sit at the kitchen table reading the Sears catalog.

Our house had a family room and kitchen all in one, so the table was in eyesight of the TV. I remember peeking over to see the TV and when it would get too scary, I’d dive back into the toy section of the Sears Catalog. I spent a lot of time at that table with a catalog. Oddly enough, I can’t help but think I gained some early insight into concise text and layout design. Used those skills for 13 years as a writer/editor at a publishing company and still use those skills today owning my own business with developing promotional materials, creating and maintaining various websites, writing my blog, and my book.

Another thing that’s odd, yet funny too, is that while I was a bright kid, my reading was a little delayed. I could read and comprehend fine, but my reading ability was slow. In my mind I had to read every word and being a reflective kid. I’d get distracted by the words and content. So, while other kids would zip through a book, I’d still be on the first chapter. Today, I’d probably still be stuck in 2nd grade. Seems like today, they want kids reading in kindergarten. I actually got to play in kindergarten. Even took naps on those red and blue trifold mats. And yet again, somehow I survived. No Accelerated Reader, no Dibels, no end of year tests, don’t even think we took the CAT test back then. But here I am, a pretty functional adult….I think.

I use to stockpile books. I loved going to the library at school. One time my mom took me to the public library and I thought it was amazing. But because my reading was a bit labored, I never actually read many of the books I hoarded. Ironically the first novel I read completely from cover to cover was a horror novel in middle school. Yep, the kid reading the Sears catalog at the kitchen table to avoid the scary movie his brother was watching, picks a work of horror for his first book. Amityville Horror was my first read. No work of literary fiction, but the story line mesmerized me and I couldn’t put it down. Once I realized it didn’t matter how long it took to read a book, I became a ravenous reader.  And like anything, the more practice I got, the faster and better I got. The love or horror resurfaced as an adult during my Stephen King phase when I read all his early Bachman books as well as his classics like Pet Cemetery, Carrie, Cujo, Christine, etc. Then I had a Southern fiction phase. Yes, my reading is diverse. Clyde Edgerton’s Walking Across Egypt still makes me laugh when I think of the seat of the woven cane chair breaking, leaving poor elderly Mattie Rigsbee stuck, bottom hanging down, legs in the air. Love that book!

Reading really helped me as a teenager and young adult. It took me places I had never been. Taught me things I didn’t know. Expanded my horizons. As a kid and even today as an adult, I often felt like a fly on the wall looking down at what was going on instead of being immersed in the actual living of life. Books helped me experience life. Helped me gain confidence. I still hoard books. It’s really hard for me to part with a book once I’ve invested time with it. It’s like it’s become a part of me. Why would I want to discard it? 

My father liked books too. Of course he had a ton of books on religion, but he also enjoyed western novels. He loved Louis L’amour books. He also was an avid reader of nonfiction-history, politics, religion, true crime. Guess I got my diverse reading from my dad.

Not sure why this is all on my mind, but it’s good to take time and reflect on the things that played a part in making you who you are today. Silage patches to horror novels. Not sure what that says about me, but I’ll take it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

One More Chance To Join the RunnerDude's 1000 Mile Club!

Awesome news! Junction311 Endurance Sports has partnered with RunnerDude's Fitness and will be providing special RunnerDude's 1000 Mile Club medals to all members reaching their 1000 miles during 2019! WeeDoggie! So, all club members get the t-shirt and magnet and those reaching their 1000 miles now will receive this awesome medal! And don't forget, those runners that reach 1500 miles will receive a mystery bonus! (Actual medal design may vary.) I've extended registration until Feb 3rd (my birthday!). For more info and/or to register go to

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Stepping Out of Your Box

A brand new year, 2019 is just a couple days away. For many, a new year is a time for resolutions and a fresh start. Resolutions are great, but only if you follow-through with them. More often than not, resolutions are so lofty and unattainable from the get-go that the individual who set them quickly gets discouraged and quits. 

My resolutions tend to be challenging, but not unattainable. I learned a log time ago, that If I have too many goals, I'm going to get discouraged when I realize I can't accomplish them all. I also learned a long time ago that in order for me to grow, I have to step out of my comfort zone. So, I tend to pick one goal that's going to push me, get me out of my comfort zone box.

Sometimes I've stepped out of that box by choice and other times I've been shoved. In both cases I've learned so much and become a stronger individual. Becoming a 5th grade teacher, moving my family to Greensboro to pursue a writing/editing career, speaking in front of large groups at national conferences, being laid off from a job of 13 years and going back to school at 45, opening a small business (who does that during the great recession?), coaching hundreds of runners, creating RunTheBoro. Each of these life events were hard. Sometimes I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I'm still growing. At times, I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking, "What am I doing?" "How am I going to get through this?" 

At times I had to force myself out of my element. But over the years I've learned that your element is not cut in stone. Your element is often self-imposed. Your element can change. It's up to you. 

So, make 2019 a year of positive change for yourself. Remember that stepping out of that box can be scary. Don't leap frog out of that box. Take it one step at a time and remember the RunnerDude mantra, "Trust. Believe. Conquer!"

Thursday, December 13, 2018

RunnerDude's 1000 Mile Club 2019

Welcome to the RunnerDude 1000 Mile Club! Your goal is to log 1000 miles between January 1, 2019 and January 1, 2020! These are your miles. You can run, walk, or run and walk your miles. These can be inside, outside, or inside and outside miles. Runners (and walkers) are awesome people and as such we’re using the honor system. You can choose to log your miles however you’d like. You can go old-school and record your miles on a wall calendar or you can use a fancy app. Club members have acces to a private Facebook group page to motivate one another and to celebrate their milestones. Post a picture when you reach your first 100 miles in your year-long challenge. Post a picture of soggy you when you run in that downpour cause you had to get in your miles. Post when you compete that race you’ve been wanting to run. Post a picture when you PR in a race during the next 12 months.
All club members reaching their 1000-mile goal will be featured here on  RunnerDude’s Blog in January 2020!
In 2018 we had 8 states represented in the club (NC, SC, GA, FL, OH, MO, NE, NY)! Let’s shoot for all 50 in 2019!
Also, members surpassing 1000 miles logging 1500 miles will receive a bonus! Top Secret!
WeeDoggie! You’re going to do amazing things over the next year. 

Cost for New Club Members: $40 (includes membership, T-shirt and magnet) T-Shirts are Unisex sized and are semi-fitted.

Holiday Special!

Save 25% through 1/1/19!

(Use Code BLITZ25 at checkout!)

Shortly after registering, you'll receive and email from RunnerDude with more specifics about the club. Your T-Shirt and Magnet will be shipped in late January.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Are You Listening?

Runners are notorious for digging a hole and jumping in. We'll push and push thinking that if we just push a little harder, we'll break through that wall and that pain we’re experiencing will just magically disappear. While sometimes a little push is just what you need, other times, REST is better. So how do you tell the difference of when to push and when to rest? The key is listening to your body, knowing the difference between, "I don't wanna" and "I can't" and know the signs of fatigue and over training.

The problem is many athletes (aerobic or anaerobic) don't give their bodies time to adapt before imposing more stress on their bodies. This creates a recovery deficit—that hole you dig and can't get out of. Often runners get stuck in the recovery period or worse, they become injured. This is called overtraining. Overtraining can lead to injury. The signs of overtraining can include any or all of the following
  • persistent achiness, stiffness, or pain in the muscles and/or joints (beyond the typical delayed onset muscle soreness felt after a workout)
  • elevated resting heart rate
  • lack of energy
  • fatigued and/or achy muscles
  • frequent headaches
  • feeling lethargic or sluggish
  • drop in athletic performance
  • not able to complete your normal workout
  • depressed, moody, unmotivated
  • nervousness
  • lack of sleep and/or appetite, weight loss
  • lowered immune system
Bullet #2 above is a great way to determine if you need a rest day. Just before getting out of bed, take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply that by four. Do this a couple of days to get a baseline for your resting heart rate. If you’re feeling really fatigued during your training, check your resting heart rate. If your heart rate is just a few beats higher than your normal resting heart rate, it could be a sign that you’re over doing it. If you have a cold or virus, that can cause fatigue and an elevated heart rate too. But, if you’re not sick, it could be that you're overtraining and need to take a rest day. When you have a cold or virus, your heart rate will be elevated as your body fights the infection. When overtraining, your heart rate can be elevated. It’s in overdrive while your body tries to rebuild and repair, but you’re not allowing it to, resulting in fatigue.

I frequently hear a runner say, "but it's in my plan." Runners often mistake a training plan for LAW. A training plan is merely a guide to help you reach your goal. A training plan is like a travel plan...a map. Changes will most likely need to be made along the way. A plan doesn't know the factors you may be dealing with in a given week...the stress of the job, lack of sleep from a sick child, dealing with allergies, that pothole you stepped in and twisted your ankle, that unplanned work trip thrown at you. Sometimes life has a different plan for you than what your race training plan had in store. A training plan is based on an ideal world. A training plan also, does not know how long your body may need to recover after a particular workout. The plan is your map. You are the driver and your running coach is your AAA consultant. 

A good rule of thumb to use when listening to your body and following a plan is to never put two hard runs back-to-back. Short and fast (speed workouts and tempo runs) and long and slow (long runs) are considered "hard runs." If you've had to miss a hard run, don't make-it up if you have to butt it up next to another hard workout. For example, in my plans, typically runners do a speed workout on Mondays, rest or cross-train on Tuesdays then do a tempo-type run on Wednesdays, run easy Thurs or Friday, do a long run on Saturday, and have complete rest on Sunday. So, if a runner can't do his/her long run on Saturday, the runner is more than welcome to run it on Sunday, but then that means no speed work on Monday. Another scenario would be if a runner missed his/her Monday speed workout, the runner could do it on Tuesday, but then no tempo run on Wednesday. Missing a workout altogether is better than putting two hard workouts back-to-back with no recovery time, just so the box can be checked off on your plan.

One of the things a coach hears all too frequently is a runner saying, “We’ll it hurt pretty bad, but I pushed through the pain and got it done.” Unless it’s the last 100m of a 5K and you’re in the running for a cash prize, my first thought is, “Why? Why push through pain?” As a coach, I’m always thinking long term. What is going to keep you running for the long haul.

My number one rule for my runners is if you have to alter your gait (your running stride) in any way to compensate for pain, DO NOT RUN.  Altering your gait to help manage your pain will more than likely end up causing a completely different compensation injury.

Running through pain is never a good idea. If you’re experiencing pain along the shin, hip, iliotibial (IT) band, or any area of the body that’s beyond normal muscle soreness, ice it, elevate it, take your usual choice of anti-inflammatory medication, and rest. When you no longer feel any pain, ease back into your running. Use the following 10-point pain scale to help evaluate any pain you’re experiencing:
  • Mild pain (rating 1–3): The type of pain you feel when you start to exercise, but it usually goes away as you start to warm up and continue running. The pain may be inconsistent and move around the body, or you may feel it bilaterally, which means you feel it in the same joints in both limbs, such as in both knees. Mild pain or discomfort is common for new runners and considered safe to run through. After your run, place ice on any sore areas. A bag of frozen peas works really well.
  • Moderate pain (rating 4–6): Pain at this level is more than mild pain, but it’s not enough to cause a limp or alter your stride. Typically, a few days of rest, low-impact cross-training, and icing as needed will help. If it doesn't, go see the doc.
  • Severe pain (rating 7–10): Pain at this level requires immediate medical attention. This kind of pain you feel before, during, and after the run. It usually starts at the beginning of a run and increases until your stride is altered or you stop. Don't let it get that far.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Eat, Eat, What to Eat

Proper fueling is often a problem for runners. Whether it's a time issue, an allergy issue, or a gut issue, runners have to make the time to figure out what works best for them.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a running coach, is "What's the best thing for me to eat?" Problem is there is no "best food" for a runner to eat. There are however, some parameters that runners need to keep in mind when fueling for a run. From that point on, it's up to the runner to figure out (by trial and error) what works best for him/her. I always tell my runners that the training period for a race isn't just physical training, it's also mental and the nutritional training. Use those long runs to test out different foods to see what works best to meet your individual hydration and fueling needs.

Often, a runner will come to me exasperated because his/her runs have felt so fatigued and labored. Many times, after talking through various reasons that might be contributing to the lack-luster runs, improper fueling surfaces as the culprit.

Ongoing good daily nutrition is vital to a runner in training for an endurance race, such as a marathon. On a daily basis, runners need a healthy balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

For a while now, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. The rising popularity of low- and no-carb diets has given the general public the impression that carbs are their enemy. Carbs are like anything: In excess they can be bad.

Your body needs carbohydrates to function properly. Carbs provide fuel for the body. They also help regulate the metabolism of protein and fat. If the body does not receive sufficient carbohydrates, it could begin breaking down protein for energy production. Protein can be used as fuel, but it’s not very efficient, and when protein is used as fuel, less is available for its main function—rebuilding and repair. The protein-sparing action of carbohydrates protects the body’s stores of protein.

More important, command central—your brain—needs carbohydrates for proper function. Through the digestion process, carbohydrates are converted to glucose. Glucose is the fuel on which the body functions. Unlike other muscles in the body, the brain can’t store glucose. Instead, it depends on a steady supply of glucose from the blood circulating through the body. Ever feel light-headed during an afternoon workout and then realize you skipped lunch? That light-headed feeling might be the result of low blood sugar, which means you’re low on that steady supply of glucose in the blood flowing to the brain. Not a good feeling. When you eat something, that light-headedness usually subsides.

There are “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” It’s the bad (simple) carbs that give the good (complex) carbs a bad rap. Unfortunately, simple carbs are prevalent in our diet. They are found in convenience foods such as cakes, cookies, crackers, breads, and so on. Foods such these are made with refined/processed grains, which are quickly digested and converted to fat in the body unless activity ensues soon after ingestion.

Complex carbs take longer to digest; therefore, the body has more time to use them as fuel. These include vegetables and whole grains. Complex carbs are also high in fiber, which has many benefits for the body.

Forty-five to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. That’s about 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day. The USDA recommends a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. To get a better idea of how that correlates to portion sizes, recommends that adults eat 2.5 cups of vegetables, two cups of fruit, and six ounces of grains every day. When working out intensely or training for a race, your carb intake should be closer to 65 percent. On days when you’re not working out or running, your carb intake should be closer to 45 percent.

When shopping for complex carbohydrate products such as bread or pasta, look for 100 percent whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat. If it’s unclear how much whole grain a food contains, check the nutrition label. Low fiber means more refined (or processed) grains. Also check to make sure the sugar content is low. Then check the ingredients list. The ingredients are listed in order of how much the product contains. “Whole grain” or “whole wheat” should be listed as the first ingredient. If you’re still not sure, buy products that have the highest fiber content per serving (at least three grams or more).

Products that contain 100 percent whole wheat will also contain more protein since the grains have not been refined. Try to find products offering at least eight grams of protein. Whole-grain foods also provide many important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, just to name a few.

Avoid products made of “enriched flour” or “enriched bleached flour.” That means refined grains have been used. These grains have been stripped of most of their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. “Enriched” sounds good, but it really means that some of the vitamins and minerals have been added back to the flour. Fiber, however, can’t be added back to the flour.

As previously mentioned, raw or cooked vegetables are great sources of complex carbohydrates. Technically, fruits are a simple carbohydrate, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Whole fruit is full of fiber and is nutrient dense, so while the body may digest it more quickly, whole fruit is a great source of both carbohydrates and fiber. Go light on fruit juice. Even if it’s 100 percent fruit juice, this very concentrated version of the fruit greatly increases the sugar content. Whole fruit (fresh or frozen) is a better choice. Dried fruits are also a great choice. Dairy products such as skim milk and cheese are more good sources of carbohydrates.

Protein is easily one of the most overused supplements. Supplement advertisements have the public believing that protein makes muscle bigger. This is very misleading. Protein doesn’t zoom to your muscles and magically make them grow bigger. Protein does, however, help rebuild and repair muscle fibers. After a hard workout, protein is a necessary ingredient in the muscle-rebuilding process, which makes muscles stronger. Protein is found in muscles, bone, blood, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. Protein also helps regulate the body’s water balance and transport nutrients, supports brain function, and makes muscles contract. Protein also helps keep the body healthy by fighting off disease. Important for runners, protein helps produce stamina and energy, which can keep fatigue at bay.

Protein is definitely a key ingredient for a strong, healthy body, especially if you’re in training. Research has shown, however, that the body has a limit at which it stops using extra protein. Studies have found that the body maxes out at two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you take more than that, your body voids it, unused, as waste. Only individuals such as bodybuilders doing heavy resistance training need that higher level of two grams per kilogram of body weight. Endurance runners need protein in the range of .8 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Sedentary people need only .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

An average male runner who weighs 175 pounds needs 64 to 119 grams of protein per day. That might still seem like a lot of protein to ingest during a day, but remember that one cup of tuna has almost 40 grams of protein. A cup of black bean soup contains about 12 grams of protein. It doesn't take long to get enough protein just by eating a healthy diet. Vegetarians may have to be a little more diligent in making sure they get the required daily amount of protein.

If you’re eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats, then you’re probably getting everything that big canister of powdered protein has to offer. So why not go the natural route?

Below are some suggestions for different types of foods to try for before the run, during the run, and after the run. These are only suggestions and by no means is a comprehensive list. 

Before Your Run
90 minutes to 2 hours before running:
Eat 30 to 80 grams of carbs.
  • Bagel with peanut or almond butter
  • English muffin with peanut butter or almond butter and fruit preserves
  • Waffle with peanut butter or almond butter
  • Banana sandwich with peanut butter
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter or almond butter
  • Oatmeal with added nuts and fruit
  • One egg on an English muffin
  • Hard-boiled egg and toast with preserves
  • Dry cereal and fruit (Add milk if dairy doesn’t bother you on the run.)
  • Energy bar with sports drink
  • Greek or traditional yogurt with fruit and/or granola
  • Small container of yogurt and a banana slathered with peanut butter
  • Yogurt fruit smoothie

Oatmeal with added dried fruit, walnuts, banana slices, and a dollop
of peanut butter mixed in to thicken up the oatmeal and lessen the "slime."

Toasted English muffins topped with peanut butter and then either
bananas and honey or preserves.

30 to 60 minutes before running:
Eat foods that are quickly and easily digested.
  • Animal crackers or Teddy Grahams with water or sports drink
  • Sports drink
  • Energy bar (Eat bars that are low in fat/protein soon before running.)
  • Energy gel
  • Fruit (A medium orange is great; choose whole fruit over juice.)
  • Small container of traditional yogurt with fruit and/or granola
  • Handful of pretzels
  • Peanut butter crackers (two or three)
  • Fig bar

Greek yogurt (I like the pineapple) with added walnuts
and banana slices.
During Your Run
Typically during a long run, it's recommended that a runner ingest about 100 cals about every 45-60 minutes. The individual prepackaged gels, chews, beans, chomps, etc. each have around 100 calories. The chews and sport beans are great because they can be rationed out, but the entire contents of the chew or bean packet needs to be ingested within that 45-60 mins. Runners often make the mistake eating one packet over the course of the entire run (say like 15 miles). That means they're only getting an extra 100 calories in during that 15 mile run. Not going to be enough.

Keep energy stores topped off during long runs with the following:
  • Energy gels, chews, beans
  • Sports drink (drink water when washing down an energy gels, chews, or beans)
  • Gummy bears or jelly beans
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Pretzels
  • Energy bars (low-fat, low-protein varieties)
  • Fig bars
  • Gingersnaps
  • Rice Krispie treats
  • Bagel

A few examples of pre-packaged "during-the-run" fuel. Remember,
other foods like pretzels, ginger snaps, and fig bars work
great too!

After Your Run
Refueling within 30 minutes after running is vital for providing your body with the energy required to begin rebuilding. Select foods that provide a four-to-one ratio of carbs to protein (about 40 to 80 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein).
  • Eight ounces skim or low-fat chocolate milk (Note: Alternative milk products such as soy, almond, etc. can be used, but check the label, many do not have the same ratio of carbs to protein as dairy milk. Some alternative milk products have versions with extra protein added that may be a better choice, but still read the label to be sure that what you're purchasing is what you want.)
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and skim milk
  • Bagel with peanut butter, almond butter, or Nutella
  • Whole-wheat crackers and peanut or almond butter
  • Brown rice pudding and a banana
  • Bowl of cereal and milk
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Hard-boiled egg, toast, and fruit or juice
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder
  • Energy bar and sports drink
  • Trail mix

Chocolate fruit smoothie with 1% chocolate milk, Greek yogurt,
and fresh fruit like strawberries and/or bananas, and ice. Frozen
fruit works great too and then you don't have to add ice!