Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Runner's Palate: June Recipe (Post-run Breakfast)

One of the great things about blogging is meeting people from all over the coutry, even the world. One such person I've befriended is a fellow runner and blogger from Sioux Falls, SD—Jeff Pickett. Jeff's the host of Life Isn't Over (At 40 or Any Age) where he posts video clips of his journey into training for his first marathon (Twin Cities Marathon) coming up in October. Another cool thing about Jeff is that he's lost over 48 lbs., bringing his bodyfat from 33% to 6.5%. Go Jeff!

If Jeff ever decides to change careers, I think he could go into producing a "how-to" television show. He has a great knack for conveying good information with just the right amount of comic relief sprinked in. I think it's his honesty and openess about his triumphs and failures on his marathon journey (as well as his humor) that make the clips so compelling.

I asked Jeff if he'd consider doing a guest video posting for you guys—RunnerDude's readers. He took me up on my offer and wanted to know what he should do the clip on. Well, since it was the beginning of the month and time for another The Runner's Palate recipe, I thought it would be great for him to share one of his favorite recipes, and that's what he did. So, drum roll please........... Introducing Jeff Pickett and his recipe for the ultimate post-run meal—the breakfast burrito (and the crowd roars)!

Pump Those Arms!

Ever get to the end of a race and you just have nothing left? Not talking about hitting the wall. Your mind is clear, but you've just run out of steam? I sure have. Well, oddly enough this lack of steam could be due to lack of upper body strength. As runners, we tend to focus on the legs and pay little if any attention to the upper body. Your arm and leg movements are actually interconnected. Your left arm pumping-action works in conjunction with your right leg and your right arm pumping-action works with your left leg to help move you forward. It's kind of like follow-the-leader. Your arms are the leader. So, if you have strong arms and a strong pumping action to carry you through that last bit of the race, your legs have no choice but to follow the leader. Having a strong core will work to support that arm action as well as your legs.

Don't worry, I'm not talking about adding 20-pound guns to each arm, but doing the following routine will give you that extra strength to pull you across that finish line.

1. Shoulder Shrug Using Dumbbells

2. Lateral Raise Using Dumbbells

07 Beginner: Shoulders - Dumbbell Lateral Raise - For more funny movies, click here

3. Bicep Curls

Arm & Shoulder Workouts: How To Do Bicep Curls

4. Tricep Dips

5. Abdominal Bicycle Crunches

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marathon Training: A Different Approach

A good friend of mine (Dena) asked me the other day if I had ever posted on the Furman marathon training program. I'm so glad she asked, and I'm so surprised at myself for not having written about the Furman approach to marathon training sooner. I even have a copy of the book about the program Runner's World Run Less Run Faster signed by Ray Moss one of the authors. His inscription reads, "Train hard for life and win all your races." Now that's a good mantra! I'm even considering the Furman method for my Marine Corps Marathon training which will start in July. Funny how something can be so close that it could bite you and you're still unaware, so thank you Dena for reminding me!

In the forward for Run Less Run Faster, Runner's World executive editor, Amby Burfoot, talks about the time-stressed lives we lead and how that affects the goal of all runners: "to run the best we can with the limited amount of time at our disposal." Burfoot goes on to say that Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss (all colleagues at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina) have developed a proven, efficient marathon training system—FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) also known as the 3Plus2 Training Program.

The key to FIRST is less running. Don't be fooled into thinking that less means easy. In this case, less means more. Not more miles, but instead, more focused and intense workouts. It sounds odd but runners using the Furman approach train less and 16 weeks later they're running faster. A couple of my running buddies (Less and Fred) have used FIRST and stand by the program. They both agree, though, that the program is not easy and the workouts are hard, but that the program works.

So enough lauding of FIRST; how does it work? Well first of all there's a different philosophy that's the basis of the plan. The plan places quality over quantity, intensity over frequency, and fast running over accumulated mileage. Nitty-gritty-wise, the plan consists of three quality runs each week and two cross-training workouts. The three runs are comprised of a speed workout (track repeats), a tempo run, and a long run. The three workouts work together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold running pace, and speed. Also, FIRST differs from most other plans in that it has you running the longer runs at a faster pace. This helps prepare runners for both the physical and mental challenge of a 26.2-mile race.

The plan is meticulously laid out in the book Run Less Run Faster. The authors have managed, however, to present the information in a very user-friendly manner. The three weekly workouts are based on the runner's current running level (this is all detailed in the book). The other great thing about the book is that it provides training plans for all 16 Boston qualifying times. Need to run a 3:10 to qualify for Boston? There's a plan for you. Need to run a 3:3o (that's me)? There's a plan for you. There are separate training plans for men and women.

I'll keep you posted on my training and let you know how it's going. I think my friend Dena is going to use the Furman plan too. Wish us luck!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

New RunnerDude Contest! Funniest Running Photo

Since the Running Mantra Contest was such a huge success, RunnerDude is sponsoring another contest—The Funniest Running Photo Contest. We all have (tucked away in a drawer somewhere) those not-so-flattering race-finish photos where we look like a zombie. Or maybe you, a family member, or a running buddy ran in a costume or theme race as the back-half of a cow or sported a pink tutu. Or take new shot of that goofy runner hidden in you or a running buddy. Doesn't matter as long as it's running-related and humorous, just make sure it's G-rated and appropriate for all audiences. RunnerDude will select ten photos to be judged by you the readers. The owner of the winning photo will receive a $50 REI gift card!

After the winner is determined, a posting will be added to the blog showing all the submitted photos. So email your photos to by midnight Saturday, June 6th, 2009. RunnerDude will have the top 10 photos posted for you to vote on by Monday, June 8th. You'll have until Sunday, June 14th to cast your vote. The winner of the funniest running photo contest will be announced on Monday, June 15th.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lady Southpaw: Taking It All In Stride

Want to be a more efficient runner? Increasing your stride might be the answer. Most top elite runners have a stride rate around 180 strides per minute. Checking your stride is really simple. Start running and once you're up to your regular pace on a regular run, time yourself for 1 minute while you count each stride. Don't worry if your stride is below 180. That's where most mortal runners will find themselves. To improve your stride rate, try focusing on your stride periodically during a regular weekly run. Get some arm action going too. If you pump your arms a little faster, your feet tend to follow suit.

Another way to help increase your stride is to listen to music while you run that has a beat that mimics something around 180 beats per minute. Don't have time to count the beats of all the songs on your playlist? You're in luck! Erin Sholl (a Battle Creek, Michigan transplant in Brooklyn, New York) is working on her independent songwriting project: Lady Southpaw. Her mission is using vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, computer beats, keyboard synthesizers, harmonica, accordion, and even a baglama to design songs for running. So far she's written six new songs based on research about music and the brain, getting in "the zone," and developing a consistent optimal running stride rate.

Erin ran her first marathon last fall through Team in Training and now she has her sights set on the 2010 NYC Marathon. While fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society she was inspired to write a song about the experience and give it to her donors as a thank you gift.

At one time Erin was a certified personal trainer so she has a fundamental understanding of running biomechanics and training programs but she's mainly coming from the perspective of a "nerdy artist." She likes experimenting with sounds and bringing together big ideas like the ultimate music listening experience with the ultimate running experience and finding the zone where they meet. So, she did some extra research and took some time to write the songs. Erin's been documenting her progress about what she has so far on her blog—Running Rocks. She's hoping it's only the beginning. You can find out more about Erin and Lady Southpaw on her website.

Most of the running songs Erin's created are written at tempo of 180 bpm but the first one is written at 160 to help you work up to that speed. She says that if you count the number of times your left foot strikes in one minute it should be between 80 and 90 times. Multiply that by 2 and you'll have your 160 or 180 beats per minute. Erin's stresses that you should work on short quick steps to reduce the impact on your joints, helping to prevent injury.

Erin wants to add more songs to the six she's written. She knows you need a lot more songs than six to train for a marathon, but she wants to make sure she's on the right track and make sure that her future songs are something that runners want to hear.

If you'd like to try a free song in return for giving Erin some feedback, write to Erin at The Songs for Running will be released for sale later this summer. Right now you can get the Lady Southpaw self titled E.P. (which is not written for running) from most online music retailers including iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.

Check out the clip below of Lady Southpaw in action playing for runners in the HOHA Classic 5K race in Hoboken, NJ.

Making Tracks Every Day. Literally!

The other day, a fellow running buddy (Mike) asked me if I had ever heard of Matthew J. Ketterman. I asked why and he said that Matthew's a guy from our city (Greensboro, NC) who has run every day since 1991. I responded, "Oh Matt! Sure I know Matt." Matt's only 37, but he's a bit of a legend in these parts for his long lasting running streak.

This phenomenon of running every day is known as streaking. The United States Running Streak Association(USRA) defines a running streak as running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices). There's actually a website ( that lists the active U.S. running streakers. That's where my friend Mike discovered Matt and his 18-year streak.
I'm an avid runner, but I can't imagine running every day. That definitely takes some determination and commitment. I think having three kids ended any inkling I may have ever had about starting a running streak, but I marvel at those who can achieve such a life-long goal of running every day. One such marvel is Robert Kraft. Kraft lives in South Miami and has run 8 miles every day since March 21, 1975! This past March he completed his 100,000th mile. To learn more about this determined man they call "The Raven" check out the video clip below from ESPN.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vacations on the Run

Many of you will be hitting the road soon for a vacation. defines vacation as a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel. Why not make that "other activity" or "recreation" running related? Some vacations can be busy and hectic trying to fit in everything you and/or your family want to do. So, while you're on vacation this summer, take some time to chill and don't forget to get in a run or two. Running during your vacation can be a great way to get away from the hectic vacation schedule, spend some quality time with your spouse or children, explore the area where you're staying, and/or just enjoy a new and different running route.

Before you pack up the minivan and head out, do a little investigating on the Internet and checkout some of the running venues where you'll be staying. USATF has a great site where you can check out running routes that runners all over the U.S. have mapped out as well as map out your own local routes to leave for others to find. is another great site for finding running routes of runners across the country. is a great site for connecting with other runners. I have used Athlinks to find running groups in the cities I've visited for business trips. Just search members by state. Then you can select various Athlinks members from the city you'll be visiting and email them about the best running routes in their area. You might even want to ask if there are any scheduled group runs in the area in which you can participate while you're in town. Some other great sites to connect with fellow runners include,, and

Not tech-savvy? Not to worry. May take a little more leg work, but call the hotel or campground where you'll be staying and ask if there are greenways and/or running trails in the area. Or better yet ask them if there are any running clubs in the area that you can contact. You also could contact the Parks and Recreation Departments in the areas you'll be staying to see if they have any info that would be helpful.

Once I was at a conference in San Antonio, TX. My hotel was along the Riverwalk. I had some free time one morning and asked at the front desk if there were any running trails/routes in the area. The nice lady behind the desk said, "Sure!" as she handed me a sheet of paper showing me a running route along the Riverwalk and through a nearby neighborhood. I ran the route and had a great run. The neighborhood was actually an old historic neighborhood with huge old Victorian-style homes. I could have just run on the treadmill in the hotel fitness room, but ended up having a great time running along the river and exploring that neighborhood and it all started by asking a simple question at the front desk.

Something I'd like to try sometime (probably after the kids are grown) is a running vacation. There are actually several services that provide running vacations such as, and You can also check in with your local travel agency to find out about other running-related trips or tours. Or maybe you want to boost your training and participate in something a little more intense such as a running camp or one of Jeff Galloway retreats.

Inevitably, while running in a new place, you're going to meet new people, fellow runners, and possibly make some lasting friendships. So, hit the trials while on the road!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Great Wipes at a Great Price!

Back in April, I reviewed a great new product called Action Wipes. I told you how they were perfect for a quick cleanup after my Saturday long runs with my running group before heading off for bagels and coffee with the gang.

A quote on the Action Wipes Website says, "Your face is not a baby's butt. Don't wipe it like one!" That kind of says it all. Action Wipes are sports wipes made specifically for adults. They're oversized moist towelettes that are durable, washable, alcohol free, and are safe for your face, sensitive skin, kids, and pets. You can even use them as a warm compress by heating them in the microwave or as a cold pack by placing them in the freezer or using them with ice.

If you recall, I was a little hesitant to use them because of my sensitive skin, but I gave them a try and they worked great! The wipe was big enough that I only needed one to clean my face, neck, and arms. The fragrance was nice. Didn't smell like a baby nor was it too perfumey. Best of all, my face didn't break out! It usually takes a few hours for a rash to develop if I'm going to have a reaction, but none occurred.

Another good thing about Action Wipes that a typical baby wipe can't do is be reused. Yep, you can through the dirty wipes in the wash and then reuse them later like a regular cleaning rag. The wipes are also good for soothing sunburn, insect bites and poison ivy, as well as cleaning scrapes, cuts, and road rash. I tried the "Big Wipes." My son recently took Action Wipes on a mission trip to Costa Rica. He said they were great for cleaning up in the humid climate.
Other great products such as natural bug repellant, slick lube, body wash, and body cream are featured on the Website.

The reason I'm reposting about Action Wipes is because Martha Van, the creator of Action Wipes, has generously provided a 15% discount to all RunnerDude's Blog readers. To checkout the Website and place an order, just click on the Action Wipes button under "The Runners Market" on the right-hand side of the blog. To receive the 15% discount, be sure to enter the code: RunnerDude at checkout. Give Action Wipes a try! You're gonna like em!

Injury Prevention: What Do the Experts Say?

As the weather warms up, many of you will be hitting the trails and road more frequently. Many of you will also begin your marathon training plans in prep for upcoming fall marathons. Sometimes when the weather's great and we're feeling good, we forget to take care to prevent injuries. Every year between 65 and 80% suffer some type of injury many of which can be prevented. Listed below are 15 tips from the "experts" to help keep running injuries at bay. The list doesn't include every injury-prevention tip or strategy but hopefully it will get you thinking about what you can do to keep yourself healthy this spring, summer, and fall.
1. “Warm up properly and then stretch. Run nice and easy for about 5-10 minutes, then stretch once you are warm and the muscles and joints are more pliable. Never stretch ‘cold.’”—Stew Smith, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL, host of Fitness Center , and author of several fitness and self defense books such as The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness, and Maximum Fitness
2. “I do a lot of cross-training with other sports, including mountain biking and windsurfing, to strengthen all my muscle groups.”Dean Karnazes, endurance runner and author of 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days—and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance
3. “The lower extremities are the ‘working muscles’ for runners. They need to be emphasized, not ignored, and a stronger lower body means greater muscular endurance.” —Ken Leistner, Ph.D., strength coach
4. “The single best thing you can do to make your running easier and more enjoyable is to run regularly with a friend.” —Bill Rodgers, a four-time winner of the Boston and New York City marathons, former American record holder for the marathon
5. “Avoid running in extreme temperatures… drink lots of fluids and get your shades, hat and sunscreen on.” —Nick Grantham, known fitness presenter and writer with articles published in leading sports publications such as Triathlete's World, Men's Health and Men's Fitness including monthly columns in Sports Injury Bulletin and Maxim magazine.
6. "Many new runners are injured because they don't take the time to put together a safe running program" —Joanie Greggains, fitness expert and author of Fit Happens.
7. “Many running injuries are a result of overtraining: too much intensity, too many miles, too soon. It's important to go easy when adding mileage or intensity to your training. You shouldn't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week.” —Christine Luff, fitness writer, avid runner, and running coach.
8. “Wearing the wrong type of running shoes for your foot and running style can lead to running injuries.”Christine Luff, fitness writer, avid runner, and running coach.
9. “Sixty percent of a shoe's shock absorption is lost after 250-500 miles of use, so people who run up to ten miles per week should consider replacing their shoes every nine to 12 months.” —American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
10. “Over-stretching or improper stretching can easily lead to injury…'s always best to begin your run with 5 minutes of walking at a good steady pace. Follow that with 10 minutes of easy running before you begin to pick up the pace a little. By doing this, you will slowly stretch your muscles, ligaments, and tendons and will be preparing them for the impending run. Using this warm-up technique will greatly diminish the chance of injury.” —Ray Fauteux, fitness writer
11. “An obvious way to prevent injury, but worth stating. Busy roads with little room for pedestrians should be out. After all, how many joggers do you see paying the toll on the interstate? Similarly, extremely rough, trail-free terrain should also be avoided as it presents unsure and unsafe footing. Your best bet is a quiet road with steady gravel/dirt on its side—grass, in a best case scenario—or on sidewalks with good “give” for your feet. Avoid running for extended periods of time on hard cement or concrete, as this can lead to stress fractures and shin splints.” —Jon Rineman, fitness writer for
12. “During hot weather, running should be scheduled in the early morning or evening hours, to avoid heat exhaustion. Do not run when pollution levels are high. Be sure to have adequate rest between training sessions.” —American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
13. “Hard workouts include long runs, races, speedwork, hill repeats, and/or any other stressful workout. Do not run two hard workouts back to back. For example, if you complete a long run on Sunday, do not plan to go to the track to do a speedwork session on Monday. Similarly, if you run a 10K road-race on Saturday, avoid doing a long run on Sunday.” — Art Liberman, author/coach, creator of
14. “With road races, people need to remember that they are running on concrete, a hard surface that requires the body to take a lot of pounding. It's more important than ever to wear a good shoe and sock combination to provide necessary cushioning.” — Joanie Greggains, fitness expert and author of Fit Happens.
15. “Perhaps the most important tip in preventing injuries is to do something if you feel things going wrong. Often runners ‘run through’ pain and this leads them to a point that a fairly minor injury ends up being a very serious one. If you are having pain, get in checked out by your doctor or a sports medicine doctor before it becomes a serious problem.” —Joe English, professional running and triathlon coach and a journalist

So, in a nutshell:
1) Wear the correct shoes and change them frequently
2) Increase mileage slowly
3) Warm-up and cool-down before and after running
4) Vary your running surfaces

5) Avoid hard workouts on consecutive days and add cross-training to your plan

A great resource for all runners' libraries is Joe Ellis' book Running Injury-Free . Also, check out the video clip below from for a few running injury-prevention tips.

How to Prevent Running Injuries -- powered by

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Wishing everyone a happy Memorial Day. Take a moment today to ponder all those who have given their lives to help protect our country and secure our freedom. And, be sure to take a moment to say thank you to all the men and women (and their families) who have and are currenlty serving in the military. (To learn more about the history of Memorial Day, click on the picture of the flag.)

Sports Gels Galore!

In Friday's post "Gatorade, Powerade, Accelerade, Oh My!" we learned why many runners (including myself) bonk or hit the wall in a marathon. Basically, our bodies have the ability to store about 2000 calories of glycogen (energy) which gets a runner about 2 hours or 20 miles. In a marathon, that puts most of us with about a 10K left to run and not much fuel left in the tank. Sports drinks and sports gels play a vital role in helping keep those glycogen stores from reaching empty.

Sports gels are kind of a hybrid of sports bars and sports drinks. They basically do the same thing but they're a lot more portable. Sports gels do not provide hydration, however. You'll still need to drink water and/or sports drinks to replace vital fluids lost during the race.

Most sports gels are a combination of complex and simple carbohydrates. One of the first "gels" used by runners was straight honey. Honey contains fructose and glucose, slowing the rate of absorption of carbs which provides energy over a longer span of time. Today many packaged sports gels still contain honey and one brand Honey Stinger is still made mostly of honey. Complex carbohydrates found in gels are usually comprised of brown rice syrup which takes longer to digest and absorb. Some gels also contain extra sodium and/or caffeine. Most gels contain between 100-120 calories and about 25 grams of carbs, but this varies widely among the brands on the market, so check the labels.
In general most gel makers suggest that you ingest one gel every 30-60 minutes of exercise. This will vary from person to person depending on his/her caloric needs and how intensely he/she is running. Don't worry, the gel makers aren't telling you to take so many gels just to make an extra buck. The key to using gels is to get them in your system before you actually need them. If you wait until your feeling fatigued, then you've probably waited too late. Also, because many of the gels contain a good portion of simple sugars, taking them strategically throughout the race will help you avoid that sugar rush and crash.

Some runners experience GI problems when using sports gels. This is probably due to not consuming enough fluids along with the gels. So, not only will taking in plenty of fluids throughout the run keep you well hydrated it will also help keep GI intolerance from the carb-loaded gels at bay.

Is there one sports gel better than another? Not really. Experts say that the best thing to do is buy some and try them out well before race day. Use what you already know about yourself to help you make a good choice. If sports drinks comprised of more complex carbs do better for you, then the same probably holds true for sport gels. If caffeine bothers you, then avoid ones with added caffeine. If you sweat a lot, look for one with more sodium. Also, taste and texture may be a determining factor in your selection. I have friends that swear by GU and love it. I really don't care for it's texture. It's too thick for me.
The chart above compares some of most the common sports gel brands (PowerBar Gel, GU, Carb Boom!, Accel Gel, Cytomax Gel, Hammer Gel, e Gel, Honey Stinger). At the bottom of the chart are some newcomers to the scene—beans, shots, and chews (Sports Beans, Cliff Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger Energy Chews). These new products are somewhat like jelly beans or gummi bears and provide the same benefits as a gel. After reviewing the chart, check out the video clip below from RunningWarehouse for a recap on how and when to use sports gels.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meals: Three a Day or Six?

If you're like me, you probably grew up eating three meals a day. Breakfast was pretty light, lunch was a little bigger and dinner was the largest meal of the day (except for Sunday's when lunch was the biggest meal). Then several years ago I started hearing about the importance of breakfast and how it actually should be the biggest meal of the day to provide you with the needed energy for the day ahead. Around that same time, researchers were saying that dinner should be the lightest meal because there'd be no time to burn all those calories before going to bed, increasing the chance of it all going to fat.

Then about 10 years ago Jorge Cruise wrote a book called The 3-Hour Diet that really turned the diet world on its head. Cruise presented a three-point approach:
1. Eat breakfast within one hour of rising.
2. Eat every three hours.
3. Stop eating three hours before bedtime.

Cruise says that eating systematically like this increases your BMR (baseline metabolic rate), increases your energy levels, and decreases your appetite. Most nutrition experts agree that irregular eating patterns can affect weight loss, but scientifically there's not a lot a proof supporting that we're better off eating six smaller meals instead of three.

Jorge Cruise is a well-spoken, good-looking, fit, charismatic guy and I think that's part of his appeal to the masses. Plus he once was overweight and used his method to lose the weight and become one of biggest fitness gurus on the planet. So, he has some street creds with the us regular folk. Who would you rather listen to, a guy in a lab coat or Jorge? Check out the clip below that gives a 10-year overview of Cruise's success.

Most scientist aren't disputing Cruise's eating plan, they're just saying that there haven't be any studies to support his theories that eating more smaller meals increases your metabolism causing you to burn more calories. One team of nutrition researchers recently concluded that whether you eat 3 or 6 meals a day, weight loss ultimately comes down to "how much energy (or calories) is consumed as opposed to how often or how regularly one eats." Basically it comes back down to what we already knew: Calories IN = Calories BURNED. If you want to lose weight, you need to shift the equation to Calories BURNED > Calories IN. So, which ever method (3 meals or 6) helps you to eat fewer total calories at the end of the day and burn more total calories at the end of the day is the method for you.

This debate of how many meals to eat made me wonder about runners. Well as a runner, I think you need to think of your body as a machine and because you're constantly running that machine, you need to be constantly refueling. I don't eat 6 meals a day, but I do eat just about all day long. To me the key is what you're eating. I usually have a hearty breakfast of oatmeal or English muffins with peanut butter and jam. Then about midmorning I'll have a handful of almonds and sometimes even a small square of dark chocolate. For lunch I'll have something like a turkey sub from Subway with some Sun Chips. Then by mid-afternoon I'm ready for a granola bar. Dinner can be iffy with a busy family, but we try to eat healthy. Even if we pick up fast food, we try to eat grilled chicken and baked potatoes or something like that. Often I'll even have a yogurt sometime after dinner. I try not to eat anyting after 10PM though. The point is that I'm feeding my body all day with good foods for two reasons. First, I'm running a lot and I need to make sure my glycogen stores are full. Second, I've discovered that if I don't have that healthy midmorning snack, then I'll gorge myself at lunch. Same thing with the mid-afternoon snack. So listen to your body, but listen carefully. Is it a craving that's calling you or is it your body saying it's time for some fuel. A handful of almonds or a cup of yogurt is great; a Snickers bar not so much.

Runners are also different in their diet needs from the regular Joe on the street who's a non-runner. Typically runners need a diet based on a 50 percent carb, 25 percent protein, 25 percent fat ratio. For more information on the speicific diet needs of runners check out Madelyn H. Fernstrom's book The Runner's Diet (Rodale Books, 2005). Look for an upcoming post reviewing Fernstrom's book on RunnerDude's Blog. Training for a marthon? Check out Nancy Clark's Food Guide for Marathoners (Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2007). Bon Appétit!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

CEP Socks Update

Earlier in the month in the post "Not Just for Grandma Anymore!", I reviewed CEP Compression Running Socks as a means for quicker recovery. CEP running socks are the first scientifically proven compression running socks to maximize power, boost energy, and speed recovery time. CEP Running O2 Sportsocks maximize muscle oxygenation and boost energy with CEP's compression technology for all-day benefits. The company says that you’ll run with less effort, increased speed, decreased recovery time, reduced fatigue and optimized performance.

I tested the socks for recovery purposes and was extremely pleased. To read that review [click here]. Derek, the president of the company encouraged me to try the socks while running too. So that's what I did this past week. I ran an 9-miler and a 5-miler wearing the socks. Both times I was pleasantly surprised with how good they felt. It's hard to describe, but your legs, the calves especially, just felt solid. I suppose that's due to the compression. My calves, especially the left one tends to tighten up, especially on longer runs. I experienced no tightening on the 9-miler.
The 5-miler I ran was a very last-minute kind of run. My daughter has been home sick for the past three days, so I haven't been able to run. On Thursday, however, my 13-year old daughter offered to watch her little sister, if I wanted to run. I wasn't sure which to be happier over, that my 13-year old offered to watch her little sister without any prompting or the fact that I was able to run. Both were great! So, I yanked on my CEP Socks and running shoes and flew out the door. I decided to make this a 5-miler a tempo run so I could get back to my nursing duties. Man, I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline rush from being able to run, or the socks, but between the two, I was quit speedy! I felt the same support as on the long run.

After each run, I took a quick shower and put the socks back on for a couple of hours for recovery. My kids tease me about my new black "dress socks" that I wear around the house (my CEP Socks are black). I really did have strong reservations about wearing "socks" when running and how effective they'd be, but I'm a believer now.
The chart at the left shows you the benefits of wearing CEP Socks and how they compare to the competition.
If you're interested in getting your own pair, now is the time! CEP Socks is offering the readers of RunnerDude's Blog a special 10% discount. The company has a great 30-day money back guarantee, which is great so you can test them out and see what you think with really nothing to lose. If you'd like to take advantage of the discount, just click on the special RunnerDude CEP Sock button on the right-hand side under the "Runners Market." While you're at the Runners Market area, also check out PaceTat, The Stick, and RoadID for some other really cool and useful running products.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gatorade, Powerade, Accelerade, Oh My!

The other day I stopped by a convenient store to pick up a sports drink for my run. I was amazed at the number of different brands to choose from. There were four or five varieties of Gatorade and a couple for Powerade. This made me curious about the history of the sports drinks and gels, so I did a little digging and found some cool stuff (I know, I have too much time on my hands).

A Little History: Looks like we've known for quite a while that the body uses carbs and fat as fuel. Back in 1911, physiologist Nathan Zuntz reported that fat and carbohydrates were both used as fuel for muscles. In the early '20s, researchers at a Boston marathon realized that some runners finished the race with blood sugar levels that were considered hypoglycemic. They discovered that by giving these runners candy during the marathon, it kept them from becoming hypoglycemic as well as improving their performance. In 1932, Harvard researchers reported that by giving dogs carbohydrates during exercise it increased their endurance. In 1967, when the Florida Gators were being badly beaten by Georgia Tech, the Gators were given a drink created by Dr. Robert Cade that contained electrolytes and carbohydrates. As we all know, the Gators came back to win the game and the first sports drink—Gatorade—was born (took about 20 years for it to really catch on with the masses). Carb-loading before a marathon was first done by Ron Hill at the European Championship Marathon in Athens in 1969. He won the race. He tweaked the process for the '72 Olympics in Munich by doing a long hard run followed by three normal training days with hardly any carbs followed by three days of little to no training but took in large amounts of carbs. Terrorism delayed his preparation and the marathon by a day. This time he took 6th place. In the early to mid '70s there was some debate over whether or not fluids mixed with carbohydrates were good for you. By the 1980s several studies showed that taking in carbs during races longer than 90 minutes improved performance and that if the solution was less than 8% it didn't hinder gastric emptying and fluid balance. In the 1990s sports drinks became much more popular and sports bars and gels started to appear on the market.
Today: With all the recent advances in sports nutrition there's almost too much to choose from on the market. Did you know that Gatorade has 11 different sub-brands on the market? (Original, AM, Fierce, X-Factor, Rain, Tiger, G2, Carbohydrate Energy Formula, Endurance Formula Power [powder], Protein Recovery Shake[powder], and Nutrition Shake[powder]). But that's not a bad thing. Today we have access to a broad selection of carbohydrate powders and drinks that include a combination of complex carbohydrates like maltodextrin and simple sugars like fructose and sucrose. You do need to educate yourself about the products, make sure you read the labels, and test out different products well before race day. Not all sports drinks contain the same ingredients. Some contain sodium, caffeine, and/or protein. The amount of fructose and/or sucrose (simple sugars) varies and some use artificial sweeteners. And don't forget there's always subjective things like taste that may play a factor in your selection. For example, I love the powder version of Accelerade, but the bottled version has a really weird feel in my mouth. You'd think they'd be the same, but their not.

Luckily because there are so many different varieties of sports drinks on the market, you're likely to find something to suite your needs. For example, if high amounts of fructose or sucrose give you stomach issues you can now find ones that have lower amounts like Gatorade G2 or ones that use complex carbs like LIV Organic Sports Drink or Powerade Zero that contains no carbs but does provide electrolytes and sodium.

With so many different types of sports drinks on the market, it's hard to know exactly which one you need. I've yet to see one that says on the label, "Drink me if you run more than 2 hours and sweat a lot." I've discovered three different groups of sports drinks—isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic. Doesn't mean much to ya, does it? You're not alone. Didn't mean must to me either until I sorted out the three. Okay, here's a breakdown that might help clarify the three types of sports drinks and when you should use them:
Isotonic Sports Drinks—Contain electrolytes and 6-8% carbs. Isotonic sports drinks usually contain about 120-170 calories per 500 ml of fluid. Probably the most common type of sports drink, isotonic sports drinks are good for normal replacement of fluids lost through normal sweating incurred during middle and long distance runs. (Examples: Accelerade, Gatorade [original], Gatorade Endurance Formula, Powerade [original], PowerBar Endurance Sport [powder])

Hypotonic Sports Drinks—Contain electrolytes and a small amount of carbs. This type of drink replaces fluids quickly but doesn't provide much of an energy boost. If a runner uses hypotonic sports drinks on a long run, he/she will need to supplement with sports gels to get the needed carbs. (Examples: Gatorade G2, Powerade Zero, Amino Vital)

Hypertonic Sports Drinks—Contain about 10-15% carbs and usually about 240-320 calories per 500 ml of fluid. These drinks are designed to replenish carb levels after exercise or to top off the glycogen stores before an endurance run. Hypertonic drinks are good for marathons or ultraruns. Due to the high levels of carbs, if hypertonic drinks are used during exercise, it's very important that a runner also take in some isotonic or hypotonic drinks too to help replace fluids. (Examples: Endurox R-4, Gatorade Performance Series, PowerBar Performance Recovery, Isopure Endurance)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carb-Loading: Two Approaches

Yesterday's post ("Breaking Through the Wall"), spurred some great comments and emails from readers wanting more information on carb-loading before a race. So, I did a little digging to widen my horizons on the topic. Here's what I found.

First of all (like I said in yesterday's post) carb-loading is all fine-and-dandy and does play a very important role in preparing you for race day, but you need to make sure your getting a steady stream of high-quality complex carbs all through your training. Always keep in the back of your mind that your body has a limit to the amount of glycogen (fuel) it can hold. It's not able to keep a huge reserve, so you need to keep replenishing the supply. The carb-goal for a runner should be to keep an optimal amount of carbs in the tank at all times.

Glycogen is a runner's fuel and carb-loading is how a runner tops-off his/her tank. A typical runner's "tank" provides enough fuel for about a 20-mile run. In my digging I discovered two different approaches to carb-loading. The first approach is more traditional and involves carb-loading over a week. The second approach is based on newer thinking and involves doing most of the carb-loading the day before the race in addtion to a very short but intense workout.

Traditional Approach: The Mayo Clinic recommends carb-loading in two phases
Phase 1: About 7 days prior to race day, your carbohydrate intake should be about 50 to 55 percent of your total calories. Continue training at your normal level to deplete your carbohydrate stores and make room for the carb-loading that takes place in Phase 2.
Phase 2: About 3-4 days before race day, increase your carbohydrate intake to 70 percent of your daily calories—or about 4.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Cut back on foods higher in fat to compensate for the extra carbohydrate-rich foods. Also scale back your training to avoid depleting your glycogen stores. Rest completely for a day before the event.
For a sample carb-loading meal plan from Stephen DeBoer, a marathon runner and registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. [click here].

New Approach: If you've tried the more traditional method of carb-loading and it didn't seem to work for you, you may want to give this method reported in the L.A. Examiner a try. It's based on a study by the University of Western Australia. I have not tried this method, so I can't speak first-hand of its results, but many runners swear by it. To read the actual L.A. Examiner article [click here].

Step 1: Eat lightly and normally the week before the marathon.
Step 2: The day before your marathon, do a 3 minute, very-high-intensity speed workout in the morning. (For the reporter who wrote the article, that meant running two-plus all-out laps at the track.)
Step 3: Consume 12 grams of carbs for every kilo of lean body mass spread over the next 24 hours. That's a HUGE amount of carbs. (The reporter who wrote the article is a runner who weighed 150lbs. To get in this amount of carbs, he drank four 18-ounce cans of ABB Carboforce . He said ten 12-ounce bottles of the new Gatorade Carbohydrate Energy Formula would work as well too.)

Keep in mind that carb-loading isn't the "end-all." You'll still need to replenish your carb stores during the race to maintain your blood sugar levels—this is when sports drink and gels are particularly effective.

Like most things, carb-loading can have its drawbacks and may not be right for every runner.

Most runners will experience some temporary weight gain from carb-loading. Don't panic, much of this weight is extra water, but if the extra weight is so much that it affects your performance you may want to reconsider carb-loading on your next race or adjust the amount of carbs you ingest.
Carb-loading can cause some runners to experience digestive discomfort. The Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding or limiting some high-fiber foods (beans, bran and broccoli) one or two days before the raced.
Carb-loading can also affect your blood sugar levels. The Mayo Clinic suggests consulting with a doctor or a registered dietitian before starting carb-loading, especially if you have diabetes, and especially if it's your first experience with carb-loading.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Breaking Through the Wall

If you've never experienced it, you've most likely heard about it—the Wall. That invisible barrier that many runners slam into somewhere around the last 10K of a marathon. Sometimes it's referred to as "bonking." Either way, it's no fun. Bonking is not just normal slowing from being tired and it's not having to stop due to leg cramps. Bonking is an overwhelming sense of fatigue and sometimes confusion that can completely defeat even the best of runners.

What causes bonking? Well your body supplies energy to the muscles by metabolizing fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are metabolized much easier and quicker than fats, so that's what the body uses first. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles. So what's the problem? Well, the amount of glycogen that the body can store is limited. Actually it can store up to approximately 2000 calories. Guess what? That's enough calories to provide energy for about 20 miles of running. Once this supply is depleted, the body starts to burn fat. Sounds like a good backup plan, but the problem is that the body takes longer to metabolize fat for energy.

What does this mean? Your body begins to slow down because it's running out of fuel. Both your brain and your muscles use glycogen for energy. Your brain is the master control center of the body, so when the glycogen supply starts to run low, the brain gets the remaining glycogen and the legs are left to fend for themselves. Your legs become fatigued and you begin to slow down. When your levels of glycogen plummet even more, your brain starts to become fatigued. Runners often describe this stage like being in a fog. At this point, some runners begin to experience confusion, become very emotional, and some even hallucinate. Hitting the wall or bonking is how your body protects itself. Your body needs glycogen to properly run your brain and muscles. When your glycogen stores get dangerously low, your brain takes over making you slow down to protect itself.

So how do you avoid the wall? Well, it sounds obvious, but a good training plan, race management, and good nutrition can help keep you from hitting that wall. All marathon training plans contain long runs. They're crucial to building endurance. More and more research is showing, however, that not only should runners do their weekly long runs, but they also need to have some at-goal-pace long runs. At some point the body needs to be conditioned to running the longer distances while maintaining the desired goal pace. Also, avoiding getting caught up in the thrill of the race start will also help keep the dreaded wall at bay. In other words, don't start out too fast. Starting out too fast is going to burn up some of that highly prized glycogen you're going to need later in the race to avoid hitting that wall.

Nutrition also plays a key role in avoiding the wall. If you're on a no-carb or low-carb diet you might as well hang up your running shoes. Complex carbohydrates are fuel for the runner. Because your muscles and liver can store only a certain amount of glycogen and because you're constantly using up those reserves in your training, you need to be consuming a steady stream of good, high-quality, complex carbs. Carb-loading the week before a marathon is a common strategy for runners, but runners need to be fueling and refueling the body with carbs long before the last week of training.

What? You've done all of that and you still hit the wall? It happens. If you still hit that wall, there are some things you can try to push you through it. First, if you can muster up the strength, try speeding up. Sounds crazy, but you'll actually use different muscle fibers to speed up. These fibers (or fast-twitch muscles) may still have some energy left to propel you forward while at the same time actually letting the exhausted muscles rest.

Mind over matter, the art of distraction, or putting on your game face can also help you avoid or get through the wall. There are two different approaches you can take—inward or outward. A more experienced or elite runner may take the inward approach—focusing on the needs of his body, taking note of how his body is feeling, monitoring his stride, pace, hydration needs, etc. A less experienced runner may take the outward approach by diverting his attention to something other than his body such as mile markers, water stations, other runners, landmarks, etc. (Personally, counting mile markers has the opposite effect on me. Marking a runner to catch up to works better for me.) The outward approach could also involve the runner using imagery—imagining he's chilling on a beautiful beach—to help him disassociate from the race and the fatigue. Putting on a game face is another outward strategy that's good to use in the last miles of the race. Getting mad or angry and determined to catch that runner ahead of you or to cross that finish line ahead can help you override your central nervous system trying to shut you down. May only last a little while, but it could help you gain a mile or so. It's best to keep the outward approach for later in the race. If you're not aware of your pace or your body's needs earlier in the race, you could find yourself hitting that wall even earlier than expected.

Another strategy to help avoid hitting the wall is to consume carbohydrates while running. This can be done by drinking sports drinks like Gatorade and/or eating carbohydrate gels, jelly beans, or shots such as GU, Power Gel, Accel Gel, Jelly Belly's Sports Beans , GU Chomps, etc. The trick in using these products is ingesting them before you begin to feel fatigued. It takes some time for the carbs to get into your system. You need to be supplying the carbs ahead of the onset of fatigue so when your glycogen stores run low, there's more on the way to replace them. Golden rule of running...never try something during a race that you've never tried in training. So, find out ahead of time which sports drink and sports gel will be provided along the course. If it's not the brand you're using, you'll need to pack your own.

The best depiction of hitting the wall I've seen is in the hilarious movie Run Fat Boy Run. With only three weeks to train, Dennis, the main character, decides to run a marathon to prove to his former fiancé that he can follow-through with something in hopes of winning her back. I won't spoil the scene; you'll have to rent the DVD to see what happens. It's humbling, humorous, and right on the money in its depiction.

It's All Greek to Me!

Looking for a good source of protein for breakfast to keep you satisfied or for that post workout refueling snack? There are lots of options, but one protein source that I've found very satisfying any time of the day is Greek yogurt. In Greece it's called yiaourti. Long before refrigeration, the Greeks discovered that if you drained the liquid from yogurt it kept longer. A straining process is used leaving an extra creamy protein-rich yogurt. In fact Greek yogurt has about twice the protein of regular yogurt. Because the liquid (whey) is strained, Greek yogurt has a higher milk fat content (~5-9%) compared to that of whole-milk regular yogurt (~3.5%). Luckily there are 2% and 0% fat versions of Greek yogurt on the market.

There are several brands of Greek yogurt on the market. You should definitely be able to find it in specialty markets like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Earth Fare, and The Fresh Market but check your local grocery store too. That's where I buy mine. Try out several brands and pick your favorite. I prefer Oikos by Stoneyfield Farms. Oikos has 0% fat and comes in two sizes—a large tub (16oz.) and an individual serving size (5.3oz.). The large-size tubs come in two flavors—vanilla and plain. The smaller size comes in plain, vanilla, honey, and blueberry. The smaller cups have just 90 calories, twice the protein of regular yogurt, and less carbohydrates.

I discovered Greek yogurt about a year ago and have been using it ever since. I had read an article about how you could use Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in baked potatoes. I use the 0% fat version and it really does taste great as a sour cream substitute. Even my kids like it. You don't feel as guilty loading that potato when it's full of protein and fat-free. Greek yogurt also tastes great by itself as well as topped with fresh fruit. I make a killer Protein Breakfast Smoothie using Greek yogurt (click here for the recipe). It's also great with oatmeal. Try it in the Ultimate Power Breakfast (click here for the recipe).