Monday, September 27, 2010

The 5K Race: Simple and Effective Training Tips

The 5K race. Many runners have a love hate relationship with this distance. On the one hand, it's a short race. If you're not too concerned with time, then most anyone with a basic fitness level can run or run/walk the distance. On the other hand, however, if you're racing it, it can be a grueling distance.

To race a 5K, you're pretty much in high gear the entire race. There's very little ramp-up time and very little room for any back-sliding. That however, is what appeals to many runners. They love the rush of adreniline and challenge that a 5K provides.

So how do you train for a 5K? There are a lot of different theories on training for a 5K, but the one common thread of most 5K training plans is speed work. I personally think that three types of runs are key to 5K training—Lactate Threshold Runs, Aerobic Power Runs, and Endurance Runs.

Lactate Threshold Runs are more commonly known as Tempo runs. Lactate has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. Ever feel that deep down burning sensation in your legs when you've pushed the intensity of a run? That's due to the buildup of blood lactate (a waste product of the energy production). Because you've ramped up the intensity so quickly, the body isn't able to clear it out of the blood stream fast enough, so you feel a burning sensation and you begin to fatigue and slow down. What many runners don't know is that lactate can actually be used as a source of muscle fuel. The key is pushing out that lactate threshold. In other words pushing out the point at which you feel the burn. A great way to do that is through tempo runs. These are runs in which you run about 30seconds slower than your 10K race or at about 80-90% of your Max Heart Rate. So, it's a slightly uncomfortable run, but not a run where you're completely wiped-out at the end.

Typically a tempo run begins with a slow mile and then you pick it up to your tempo pace for a certain distance and then pull it back down to a slow pace again for the last mile. For example, in a 4-mile tempo run, you’ll run a slow 1-mile warm-up, 2 miles at tempo pace, and then a slow 1-mile cool-down.

Aerobic Power Runs are another great training tactic to help build speed as well as increase your body's ability to take in more oxygen that's utilized at the muscle level for energy production. Aerobic Power Runs are typically run as intervals on a track. The intervals are fast and usually run at 90% of your Max Heart Rate. Each interval is followed by an equal distance slow interval or equal time but slow interval. For example if you run a 3:30 800m, then you'd either slow-jog or walk another 800 or you'd slow-jog or walk for 3minutes 30 seconds. Typically, I recommend the same-distance-slow-recovery-interval for someone new to intervals. For a more experienced runner, I'd recommend the same-time-slow-recovery-interval. Running at this high intensity level with recovery intervals in between, helps your body's ability to take in more oxygen, get it into the blood stream, and down to the muscle where it's used to make energy. This is referred to as your VO2Max. For some sample interval workouts [click here].

Endurance Runs (or long runs) are also beneficial to 5K runners. Usually when you think of a long run, half-marathon or marathon-runners come to mind. Long runs can also benefit shorter-distance runners due to the muscle endurance-building benefits of the long run. "Long Run" is a relative term. Someone training for a 5K doesn't need a run as long as someone training for a marathon. Where a marathon runner may build up to a 20+ mile long run, a 6-, 7-, or 8-miler will suffice as a long run for a 5K runner. These runs are to be run at an easy converational pace, usually about a minute to 1.5 minutes slower than race pace. Think endurance-building, not speed for these runs.

One more workout that I like to throw into the mix is what I call a 1-Mile Pacing Workout. This strategy is great for 5K runners as well as young cross country runners who need help with consistent pacing. This workout is similar in structure to an interval workout, but it doesn't have to be run on a track. It also is similar to a fartlek which is when a runner adds bursts of speed (a fartlek) into a regular run. Unlike these runs though, a 1-mile pacing workout will help a 5K runner do three things:

1. Learn the feel of his/her race pace.
2. Have more evenly paced splits.
3. Experience running consecutive race-pace miles.

Often, because a 5K race is so short, runners will bolt out at the start with an amazing (but unrealistic) pace that they're unable to maintain for the course of the race. Or, they'll start out too slow, only to need a miracle to get that last mile up to the pace they need to achieve the desired finish time.

The 1-mile pacing workout will help a runner achieve a more evenly-paced run which will often result in having a little left in reserve at the end, so if desired, he/she can pull out the stops during that last tenth of a mile for a fast finish.

First the runner needs to determine the desired race time goal. For an example, let's say a runner want' to achieve a 21:00 5K. His 1-mile pacing workout would look like the following.

5-10-minute warm-up jog
1-mile at a 7:00min pace
4:00min recovery run at slow pace
1-mile at a 7:00min pace
4:00min recovery run at slow pace
1-mile at a 7:00min pace
5-10-minute cool-down jog

During the next 1-mile pacing workout, the runner repeats the same workout, but decreases the recover runs to 3-minutes. During the next workout, the recover runs decreased to 2-mintues, then 1-minute, and eventually to 0 mins and the runner will be doing three consecutive 7-minute miles.

Note: If your goal is to run a 21:00 5K, but you're not yet capable of running a 7:00 mile, then your initial set of workouts should be at a pace you can run. So, maybe you begin with 8:00miles and once you can do three 8-minute miles consecutively, then you can go to a series of workouts running 7:30-minute miles and so on until you get down to the 7:00 minute pace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recipes for Runners: Black Bean Lasagna

I'm always on the lookout for healthy recipes. Something that's good for my training and that the family will like too. Not always an easy task, but I hit the jackpot with a recipe for Black Bean Lasagna that I stumbled upon in the September 2010 issue of Reader's Digest which they actually got from Taste of Home.

The Reader's Digest article starts with a really amazing factoid—"You can cut your risk of heart attack by nearly 40% if you eat a 3oz serving of black beans daily." I doubt most people are going to eat black beans everyday, but it's enough of an eye-opener to want to add them as frequently as possible.

Actually, in my household, we eat beans (all kinds) rather frequently. Our problem is changing up the menu so we're not always having the same old beans-n-rice dish. That's why, this healthy version of a traditional lasagna recipe caught my eye. I made it for the family and it was a hit. Makes 12 servings so there were leftovers which were perfect for reheating for a quick lunch.
Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think. Don't forget to send in your own recipes to be featured on the blog and get a chance at winning a $25 gift card to and a free box of 3BAR energy bars! [Click here] for details on how to enter.
Black Bean Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (16 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 carton (15 ounces) reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend

Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, cilantro and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

In a small bowl, combine the egg whites, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Drain noodles. Spread 1/2 cup bean mixture into a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with three noodles, a third of the ricotta mixture, a third of the remaining bean mixture and 2/3 cup cheese blend. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
Servings: 12
Prep: 25 min. Bake: 40 min. + standing
Nutrition Facts: 1 piece equals 279 calories, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 455 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 18 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 1-1/2 lean meat, 1 vegetable.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BibFOLIO! A Great Gift for Runners!

I can't believe it. In just a couple of months it will yet again be gift buying time. Runners can often be hard to buy for, especially if they wear a particular shoe or particular brand or cut of clothing. Do they like fitted or baggy? Do they like gels or gus? Powerade or Gatorade?

Well, I discovered a great Website for finding just the right gift for you or your running friends and family. It's They sell running apparel, running lights, hats, jewelry, ornaments, awards and more. They also personalize many of the items they sell.

If you're like many runners, you probably have a drawer, box, or file cabinet stuffed with your old race bibs. For many, the bibs are a symbol of accomplishment, almost a badge of honor. I have a drawer like that. So my curiosity was piqued when I saw a product on the Gone For A Run website called a BibFOLIO. The concept is simple and as you add racing bibs and your collection grows it becomes a great memory and conversation piece of races run. Another cool thing is that the BibFOLIO's can be personalized with photographs and/or a name or a message.

I asked the fine people at Gone For A Run if I could review the BibFOLIO. They were awesome and agreed. They let me chose one in which I put a photo and some text. I chose to put the finisher photo from the marathon for which I set a PR—Chicago '07—and of course I labeled it with "RunnerDude."

Even though the BibFOLIO I selected needed to be personalized, it came very quickly. It was very simple to assemble and add my race bibs. Most of the bibs from more recent races, fit nicely into the 8" x 8" dimensions of the BibFOLIO, but a few of the older ones I added were larger and hung out the sides. Seems like the older bibs also varied in the location of the safety pin holes, so for a few of them I had to punch new holes before adding them to the BibFOLIO, but that was easy enough to do. I was really pleased with the final product. It's a pretty cool gift idea and storage solution.
To check out all the BibFOLIO design options [click here]. One of my favorites has a brick wall on the front. That would be great to store all those killer races you conquered. The one pictured in this post is the one I had personalized. Except for the picture of scrawny me on the front, I think it looks pretty cool.
CONTEST! is holding a special contest drawing, just for the readers of RunnerDude's Blog!! They're giving away one free BibFolio. The winner can choose from any of the BibFOLIO designs, even ones to be personalized!! How cool is that?!

To enter, all you need to do is "Like" their FaceBook Fan Page and then send them an email at by September 28th. In the Subject line of the email put "RunnerDude Raffle" and in the body copy put your full name and address. That's it!

Be sure to check out all the other great running gift items at

Note: Even though provided me with a personalized BibFOLIO for free, I was not in any way encouraged to write a positive review of the product or their website. My review is based entirely on my own personal experience using the product and website.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't Run on Empty!

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is "What should I eat?" The question sometimes is related to before running. Often it's about fueling during the run. Other times it's referring to refueling after the run.

The best advice I can give is don't treat your body like I treat my minivan. Yes, I said, it. I drive a minivan....a 10-year-old one at that! What of it? Real men drive minivans. Right? I said, don't treat your body like I do my minivan. What I mean is don't always drive around with only a fourth of a tank gas. Seems like my "low gas" light is on more than it's off. So, to avoid that panicked feeling on a run, you know the one you get on a 20-miler when you realize you left your gel packs in the car (kind of like the same feeling you get when you're in the car-rider pick-up line at your kid's school and you're praying you'll have enough gas to get your kid and off the school grounds before the engine kills...not that I've ever had that feeling), follow the before, during, and after fueling and hydration tips below.

Before the Run: Eating before a run is important to ensure you have the energy you'll need to sustain you during your workout, especially if it's a hard or long workout. The trick is timing. You don't want to have hunger pangs but you also don't want cramps from running on a full stomach. If at all possible, it's best to eat 1.5 - 2 hours before your run. This will give your food time to digest. This means getting up a little earlier if you're a morning runner and eating a mid afternoon snack if you're an afternoon runner.

I know, I know, you're saying, "I already get up an hour or two before the sun even thinks about getting up. How can I mange to get up any earlier? And even if I do, I probably won't be hungry." I hear ya. Well, if your run is within 30 minutes, you'll probably be just fine on an empty stomach. I'd still recommend trying to drink a little water. If you're running between 3o minutes and an hour, I'd recommend drinking some sports drink. That way you'll at least get some fast acting "liquid carbs" in your system for some energy on your run. If, however, you're going to be running over an hour, I would still recommend getting up that 1.5-2 hours earlier. You'll need more in the ole tumtum for longer lasting fuel to sustain you on that longer run.

So you've got the timing down, now what should you be eating? Before a run, the meal/snack should be high in carbs. A little protein is good too, but keep the fat content low. Fatty foods can make you feel sluggish during your run. Some protein is good, but a lot can be slow to digest, contributing to a sluggish run as well. One of my favorite before run snacks is an English muffin toasted with peanut butter and a little jam. A great convenient store snack I've discovered is a Nature Valley Oats-n-Dark Chocolate bar and a banana. That combo is divine!

Hydration? Before the run, it's best to drink 16oz of water about 2 hours before the run. This gives the water time to pass through your system and for you to void it (pee) before the run.

During the Run: If you're running less than 1.5hrs, you really don't need to worry about eating during the run. If you've properly fueled prior to the run, you'll have enough energy to sustain your run. Most of your fuel in a shorter run comes from glycogen stored in the muscle. If, however, you're running longer than an hour, especially if you're running 2+ hours such as in a marathon, then refueling during the run becomes more important. Once you deplete your muscle glycogen, then you start to use glycogen stored in the liver. Nothing wrong with that. That's actually what's supposed to happen. However, just like your car will eventually run out of gas, your liver will eventually run out of stored glycogen.

Your body is able to store about 2000 calories of glycogen (fuel) which will take you about 18- 20 miles depending on your pace. I can hear those mind gears just-a-turning. Are you putting 2 and 2 together? 18-20 miles is about the time most marathoners hit the wall (if they're going to hit the wall). They simply run out of fuel and their body fatigues and the muscle firing fades away. SMACK! They hit the wall.

So, on those long runs, be sure to restock those glycogen stores along the way. Don't wait until you're on empty to try to fill them back up. It will be too late to do you any good.

So, how do you do this? Well, the simplest way is to start drinking a sports drink about 45-60 minutes into your run. Be sure to try a variety of sports drinks during your training to see which one works best with your system. (Never use a sports drink during a race that you haven't used during your training.) You can also use energy gels, bars, and some newer products that are similar to jelly beans and chews. Ingesting a sports gel about every 45 mins or about every 5-6 miles works well for most runners, but test out what timing or distance works best for you. The main thing is to begin the refueling before the tank gets empty. Some runners can tolerate solid foods during the run. I have one friend that takes a frozen Crustable (those little packaged PBJ sandwiches in the frozen foods section). By the time he's ready to eat it, it has thawed. Again, test out solid foods, gels, bars, etc. during your training, not during a race.

Hydration during the run? Well, if you're running less than an hour, water will do you just fine. Depending on how you perspire and how hot and humid it is, you may want to carry some water or stash some on your route. For runs longer than an hour you'll need to begin drinking a sports drink. After an hour of perspiring you will have begun to deplete your electrolytes (i.e., sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, etc.). These are key ingredients in helping your body absorb the water you take in. Ever been on a long run and you've been drinking water constantly, but is just seems to be sloshing around in your stomach? That's probably because you've depleted your electrolytes and your body isn't able to absorb the water, so it just sits there in your stomach. Also, don't wait until you're thirsty to drink, that could be too late. Drink on a regular basis, throughout your run.

After the Run: Simple carbs and protein are key ingredients in recovery for runners. Most research says that a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein within 30 minutes after a workout is optimal in speeding-up recovery and getting your tired, broken-down muscles the nourishment they need to rebuild and repair. Nonfat or lowfat chocolate milk actually has this 4:1 ratio and makes a great post run recovery snack. Be careful to keep the protein to a 4:1 ratio after a run because too much protein can slow rehydration and glycogen replenishment.

Hydration after a run? Each person is different and your hydration needs can vary from run to run depending on how much you sweat, the temperature, and your pace. Calculating your sweat rate is a great way to get a good handle on your specific hydration needs. To begin the test, weigh yourself just before a run. Then reweigh yourself after the run (before you change your clothes) and record the second weight. It should be less than the first. Each pound lost equals 16oz. of fluids. So, if you lost 2 lbs. on your run, you'd need to drink 32oz of water to replenish what you've lost. That doesn't mean gulp down 32oz immediately after the run, but it does mean to begin replacing what's been lost as soon as you can. If you're drinking the chocolate milk or a sports drink within the 30 minutes for refueling, those liquids can count as a part of your rehydration too. Do this test on several different runs (distance, pace, weather conditions, etc.). Then you'll be able to gage your rehydration needs for future similar runs when you're not able to weigh before and after.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Win a Free Landice Treadmill!!

Looking for great quality treadmill or elliptical machine? Landice is holding an amazing contest! Now through October 8, Landice is giving you a chance to win a Landice L7 Pro Sports Trainer Treadmill or an E7 Pro Sports Elliptimill! I won a Landice treadmill in a drawing back in the spring. It's a great top quality treadmill. I use it with clients in my studio. To read a review I did of my Landice [click here].

It's easy to enter and fun! All you have to do is:

  • Like Landice on Facebook
    Post a photo to their wall using the photo link under the text box.

  • The only requirement on the photo is that it has to have their name, “Landice” in it.
  • Tell all your friends to vote for your photo by “liking” it.

The photo with the most votes WINS!
They've had several entries so far. The "Wonder Woman" photo is just one example that a contestant has entered. Visit the Landice
Fan Page to see all the entries, vote for your favorite or post your own!!

Good Luck!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Run!

If you live in the Triad, NC area, be sure to mark your calendar for the upcoming 4th Annual Great Pumpkin Run 5K and 1 Mile Walk! Proceeds from the run will benefit the
Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries of NC, Inc.

There will be a prize for the runner in the best Halloween costume and relay races and games for the younger crowd. Following the run there will be refreshments, a drawing for door
prizes and an Awards Ceremony.

For more information [click here].

And the Winner Is...

CONGRATULATIONS to Felipe Benavides the winner of the Hudson Sport Deluxe Heart Rate Monitor!
Thanks to all the participated in the contest. If you haven't already, check out the other two contests currently running on the blog:

RunnerDude's All-Call for Training Recipes
RunnerDude and New Balance 759 Prize Drawing

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Balance Sponsors Reach the Beach Relay Series!

Global athletic leader New Balance is proud to announce an official multi-year partnership with the Reach the Beach Relay organization. As part of the partnership New Balance will serve as the title sponsor of the new "Reach the Beach Relay Series," which includes the 12 year-old 200-mile New Hampshire-based fall relay (taking place this weekend) as well as the new, 191-mile Massachusetts-based spring relay event that will kick-off this May 2011, traversing from Mount Wachusett to Horseneck Beach State Reservation. 2010 represents New Balance's fourth year sponsoring the Reach the Beach Relay event and the tenth time New Balance has sent associates to compete in the race."
The Reach the Beach Relay draws people from all over the country to come together for two days, focused on having a great time running," said Daniel Green, integrated marketing associate for New Balance. "It is a unique event in that it engages both novice and veteran runners alike in an experience that is physically challenging and socially rewarding. As a brand founded on running we are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring such a positive experience to even more runners two times a year with the new Reach the Beach Relay Series."
In addition to adding another Reach The Beach event to its sponsorship calendar, New Balance has enhanced its presence at the upcoming fall 2010 Reach the Beach Relay event to include more corporate participants and additional activation efforts. The company will send a total of 7 teams to participate in the race, including 3 teams of New Balance corporate associates, 1 team of New Balance Boston track club members, and 1 International team from Germany, composed of NB Germany associates, retailers, and media. The final two teams are composed of key New Balance running specialty retail partners including Fleet Feet, Naperville Running Company, Start Line, The Running Place, Running Zone, and Performance Running Outfitters. Each New Balance van will be adorned with corporate branding and offer race participants a unique way to engage with the brand.
For the 2010 fall race New Balance will host an expanded "New Balance Tent Village" at Bear Brook State Park, offer a robust assortment of official RTB race merchandise, and have a booth at the race start and finish showcasing their Fall 2010 gear."
The relationship between the Reach the Beach Relay organization and New Balance has been a strong collaboration born of mutual passion for the running community and a shared desire to create an exceptional race experience for participants," said Rich Mazzola, Reach the Beach co-race director and founder. "We are thrilled to partner with them for the new Reach the Beach Relay Series and be able to reach even more runners with their innovative products."
Win a Free Pair of the New Balance 759!

In honor of the new Reach the Beach Relay Series and New Balance's sponsorship of the series, RunnerDude and New Balance are giving you, the readers, a chance to win a free pair of New Balance 759s, the top shoe New Balance is recommending for the race! To check out a RunnerDude review of the New Balance 759, [click here].

To enter, simply email RunnerDude at Be sure to put NB759 in the subject line and put your full name in the body copy of the email. The deadline to enter is September 30th. The winner will be posted on the blog on October 1st.

Each email entry will be assigned a number in the order that it's received. The True Random Number Generator will be used to determine the winner.

If you've run the New Hampshire Reach the Beach Rely before, I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Calling All Running Chefs!

Last month, I posted about a great new energy bar called 3BAR. 3BAR is the creation of Erin DeMarines a competitive triathlete, certified nutritional consultant, certified sports nutritional consultant, certified personal trainer, fitness model, and founder of E-Fit Foods, Inc. 3BAR has grown to become a leading energy bar of triathletes and people seeking a "clean, natural, low sugar, wheat and gluten free, and vegan energy bar. To check out my review of 3BAR [click here].

The recipe for 3BAR originated with a cookie recipe from Erin's grandmother. In honor of Erin and her grandmother's cookie recipe which evolved into today's 3BAR, I'm holding an all-call for your own special training recipes. I'm looking for those special dishes you have created while training. Could be a snack or a main entrée. Could be something you only eat while training or maybe it's a healthy dish you eat all year long that provides that extra fuel to sustain your active lifestyle. To get an idea of some previous recipes featured on the blog [click here].

Each recipe will be featured on the blog, so be sure to take photos of your creation as well as some photos of you and your family/friends making and/or eating the celebrated dish. Each submitter of a recipe will be entered into a contest drawing. Each recipe email will be assigned a number in the order that it's received. Those numbers will be entered at True Random Number Generator to select a winner. The winner will receive an assorted pack of 3BARS (15 bars total-a $30 value) provided by Erin and E-Fit Foods, Inc. (Thanks Erin!) and a $25 gift certificate to! The winner will also be the first to have their recipe featured on the blog. All of the recipes will be featured (one a week) in the subsequent weeks.

To enter, simply send your recipe and photos (jpeg format) to Be sure to put "Recipe" in the subject line. Also, be sure to include your full name and a little bio about yourself along with your recipe. The deadline for submitting a recipe is October 3rd.

I look forward to reading and testing all the recipes!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fat-Blaster Fitness-Walking Workout Group!

Do you live in the Triad, NC area? Are you a stay-at-home mom or dad, retired, or someone who just happens to have mid-mornings free and you want to lose weight and get in shape? Then check out RunnerDude’s Fat Blaster Fitness-Walking Workout Group! This 4-week high-intensity fitness-walking workout group will get you well on your way to losing weight and getting into shape, just in time for the holidays!

Each 45-minute walking session (beginning at 9:30AM) includes intervals consisting of low intensity, high intensity, and lower-body exercise moves to tone your lower body. You’ll be slimmer and stronger in no time! The 4-week program includes
  • Information packet containing the walking/workout plan & other helpful fitness & weight loss tips
  • Five 45-minute group walks each week
  • RunnerDude’s Fitness/Off’n Running Sports Technical T-shirt
  • 10% Off Coupon for Off’n Running Sports
  • 15% Off Coupon for any RunnerDude’s Fitness services or programs (You can use it for a second round of the Fat-Blaster Fitness-Walking Workout Group!!)
  • Motivational Emails

The Fat-Blaster Fitness-Walking Workout Group begins with the first walking workout on Monday October 4th. Register by September 30th!

Not in the Triad area? No problem! Ask me about purchasing just the 4-week plan with online support!

Friday, September 10, 2010

And the Ask the Author Winners are....

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question to Matt Fitzgerald, author of the new book, RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. And thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer them. The winners of RunnerDude's Ask the Author contest are listed below along with Matt's replies. Each winner will receive a free copy of RUN!

Question From Wayne Ball: Ok, so this may be better answered by Ritalin but how do I keep focused on my body/mind during runs? While running I do attempt to listen to my body (breathing, heart, aches & pains) but my mind wonders incessantly.
Matt's Answer: Wayne, there's absolutely nothing wrong with letting your mind wander when you run. It's good for you. The only time it's necessary to really focus on running while you're running is when you are pushing against your limits, and in that circumstance such focus becomes automatic. (Try to do long division in your head in the last 400 meters of a 5K!) My book, RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, is not about teaching runners how to think about running while they run. In fact, the best runners actually think the LEAST while they run. That quietude of mind is itself a product of a strong mind-body connection. Read my book to learn why.

Question from Caleb Kinney: I recently suffered from a metatarsal stress fracture. How much rest do you recommend during a training week and how much rest is needed preceding and following races?
Matt's Answer: Caleb, the optimal amount of rest varies between athletes and even for the same athlete at different levels of fitness and experience. The most effective way to determine how much rest you need is to listen to your body. It will always tell you and it's never wrong. You just have to listen and know how to understand what your body's telling you. I discuss how to develop and use this mind-body connection in RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel.
Question from Erin Grantham: Recently, I've been having a left calf issue. I usually stop, stretch and get back out there. Lately, I've noticed I'm starting to get tingly in my feet (almost like coming back from it being asleep when running!). I usually just power on through it but now I'm wondering if that is such a smart idea. At what point do you say, this pain is preventing gain and just STOP. And how do you differentiate between what good pain and bad pain should feel like? I guess to sum it the heck do I get in tune with my body?
Matt's Answer: Erin, that is a key challenge in running, and one I address thoroughly in RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. Only experience combined with paying attention can teach us to discern the difference between normal pain and what I call "red flag" pain. But I believe it always remains necessary to take some risks in training, and that the occasional injury is an unavoidable consequence of pursuing performance in running. Accepting this reality can itself be helpful, though.

Question from Tina Wardlaw: I use the book Run Faster to come up with workouts and I'm glad you've written a new book. I read a short portion of it and you wrote that if you have a problem fading at mile 20 of the marathon, you might want to run back-to-back 20 milers, or a long run with 14-16 miles at marathon goal pace or a 27-30 mile run before your goal marathon. Do these suggestions apply to middle-of-the-packers like me or just the speedier set? Those look like tough training runs!
Matt's Answer: The point I wanted to make in the section you read is not that marathon runners with a bonking problem should try those specific workouts. Rather, the point was that all runners should feel free to get creative and trust their intuitions to come up with possible solutions to the barriers they face. So, if your intuition tells you those example workouts would be too hard for you, they probably are! So, what does your intuition suggest as an appropriate alternative?
Question from Marcus Grimm: One of the things I enjoy most about your books is that it's pretty obvious that you try virtually everything you write about, from nutrition and supplements to gear and training programs. However, like all of us, I'm sure that some things that you've tried have become critical staples in your own personal training whereas others, long-term, haven't given you the benefits you'd hoped. I'd be curious to know which of the subjects you've covered have become vital to your training over the years. Would be curious to know, as well, of any that didn't work out for you, realizing that with everything, it's always very personal.
Matt's Anwser: Marcus, Interesting question. If you are familiar with my past books you know that I have long favored a nonlinear approach to periodization, where high-intensity training is in the mix throughout the training cycle. But I learned the hard way that this approach creates a risk of becoming stale and overtrained before race day. You feel on top of the world 10 weeks into the training cycle, but the wheels come off after 14 weeks. So I've since shifted to a periodization approach that blends nonlinear elements with linear elements. High intensity is still always in the mix, but I keep it dialed back until relatively late in the training cycle. As for practices I've held onto, I've always been a big believer in strength training, including heavy weightlifting, and the older I get the more convinced I become of its importance.
Question from Mark Ulrich: As I'm inspired by Alberto Salazar's success in revising the running form of Alan Web, Radcliffe and Goucher, and cognizant of Dr. Jack Tupper Daniels' observation that all top athletes maintain a running cadence of ~180 steps per minute (spm), over past month I've begun applying the Evolution Running recommendations to improve my own running form. Being an engineer by education and hoping to approach this process systematically I've found that I've been successful at speeding-up my running cadence (which by default had previously been close to 165 spm) by listening to Podrunner techno tracks, which have highly percussive fixed beats per minute approaching the Daniels' determined optimum of 180. By concentrating on a quiet mid-foot landing with a slight forward lean from the ankles I'm encouraged that a better running form has emerged. I judge this improvement by my recent ability to simultaneously increase both my total weekly mileage and my pace versus my prior efforts, and feel that the new form is less jarring and flows smoother than my former slower cadence heel-landing stride. Using the treadmill as a means of me simultaneously avoiding the oppressive summer heat while allowing me to discern whether the 180 spm cadence is applicable across all paces I feel that it's not. I.E. when I speed the treadmill (at 1.5% grade to make its pace equivalent to running with normal wind resistance) 30-seconds faster than my goal marathon pace, that holding my cadence at merely 180 seems unnatural - based on the acceleration of my breathing rate which I use as a gauge to my exertion - i.e. drifting to a cadence close to 185 reduces my exertion level. Conversely, when I run on the treadmill at a pace of 30-seconds or more slower than my goal marathon pace I find that my optimal cadence correspondingly slows somewhat, i.e. closer to 177 spm. With that lengthy background, my multi-part related question (sorry!) is....

  • Have you seen other runners' successfully convert and improve their running form (i.e. without the benefit of a running coach)?
  • Do you agree that a runner's cadence is a key element of their form?
  • Do you generally agree with Dr. Daniels' observation of runners' general optimum cadence of 180 spm? If so, does he see any logic in my view that the actual optimum varies slightly corresponding to the runners' level of exertion & speed?

Matt's Answer: Mark, a stride rate of 180 per minute is commonly observed in elite runners, and so is a marathon pace of 4:55 per mile. I believe that turning the former observation into a prescription for all is no wiser than turning the latter observation into a universal prescription. In other words, saying, "Run at a stride rate of 180 per minute because the elites do," is not unlike saying, "Run your marathons at 4:55/mile pace because the elites do." I believe—and the best scientific evidence suggests—that all runners find their optimal stride rate unconsciously and automatically, given the totality of their running mechanics. Therefore, artificial efforts to impose a higher stride rate are more likely to decrease than increase efficiency. Stride rate can increase, but this will only happen in a beneficial way as a consequence of getting faster. So I recommend you focus on getting faster and let your stride rate take care of itself. I've generally moved away from my previously held belief that conscious manipulation of stride mechanics is a good idea, and I explain why in RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trust in Your Training and Stick to the Plan

Distance running, especially the marathon, can really play with your mind. Some of the "mind games" that occur during a distance race are actually protective mechanisms that kick-in when your brain thinks you're in danger. These alerts to the brain can be heat related, hydration related, or fuel source related, just to name a few. Your brain is rather amazing. It's a better sensor and monitor of your body systems than any computer could ever be.

You know when you're in the car-rider-pick-up line at your kid's school and you're buried, deep in the middle of the line (no way out) and your gas light comes on? Can you feel that panic? Probably makes you anxious just thinking about it. But after that initial fear passes, you remember that you have a few gallons left in the tank when the light comes on. So, you put the car in park and turn off the engine instead of idling. Knowing that little reserve is there, is very reassuring. The real fear is if you remember that the light came on several times the day before and you ignored it, and now you're not exactly sure how much gas you have left. Of course that's also the day your kid is running late and is the last one to make it out to the pick-up line.

Okay, you're probably thinking, where is he going with this....don't worry, there is a connection. Your brain is like that gas gauge and your body is that couple of gallons of reserve gas in the tank. Sometimes when you push your body to extremes, the self-preservation mode kicks in and your brain will actually try to slow you down. If during the race, you're running low on your carb stores, your brain can actually fatigue your leg muscles in order to slow you down. Why? Well, your body needs fat in order to survive. All the little nerves running through your body are actually coated or wrapped in something called a myelin sheath which is made of fat. If the body thinks you're dipping into your fat stores for energy, it may feel threatened and begin to fatigue your muscles to slow you down. Also, your brain needs carbohydrates in order to function. If it feels threatened that your carb levels are getting too low that can also trigger the fatigue.

The thing to know is that you're body actually has more energy in reserve and more than likely you're not in danger of running out of steam. Now let me back up a step. You're not in danger if, and let me stress IF, you've trained and fueled properly. If you've carb-loaded prior to the marathon and you've been drinking water and/or sports drink and using gels periodically throughout the race to keep your glycogen stores stocked, then you can actually override your brain by telling it that you're okay. No really, you can actually talk your brain out of the self-preservation mode by reminding it that have the fuel you need to continue. The verbal reminder and self-talk will actually help reassure your brain that you're not in danger. Now on the flip side, if you haven't put in the training nor properly fueled or hydrated yourself prior to and during the race, then you need to heed the warnings and slow it down.

A different kind of mind game that often occurs during an endurance race is self-doubt. Did I train hard enough? Should I have done an extra 20-miler? Did I hydrate enough? Did I hydrate too much? Will I look silly? Am I too old for this? What was I thinking???!!! When that nasty old self doubt creeps in, quickly kick it to the curb. Having a mantra or a phrase of encouragement or inspiration is great to repeat to yourself to keep that self-doubt away.

There's one thing I tell my clients over and over, "Trust in your training." It's a simple phrase but a powerful one. It even makes a great mantra. If you've put in the work and you've properly fueled yourself, then trust your training to carry you across that finish line. Now, that's given that you don't throw all your hard work out the window and run like a bat out of hell at the starting gun immediately depleting your glycogen stores in the first 2 miles of the race. Stick to the plan and your plan will stick with you.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Running Gotten Boring? Then Try the Mystery Veggie Approach!

When my 14-year-old daughter was two, we lived in an older house in Durham, NC. It had a big open kitchen (the old-fashioned type) with tall cabinets that went all the way to the ceiling. There was no pantry area, so we used one set of the bottom cabinets for all the canned and dry goods.

My daughter loved crawling in that cabinet and playing with the cans. We tried every type of baby-proof lock on the market, and none were a match to my daughter's cabinet-opening skills. So, we finally gave up. There were only cans and boxes in the cabinet, so we figured there wasn't much of a danger to her. The only problem was that she loved pulling the labels off all the cans.

Each night for dinner, my wife and I would laugh because we never knew what vegetable we were having for dinner. We called it the "mystery veggie." Wasn't a problem until the night we had beanie-weenies for dinner and what did we open for the veggie? Yep, a small can of pork-n-beans. Can you feel the bloat? And then there was the time that she opened a 5lb tub of peanut butter and finger painted all over the kitchen floor, but that's another story.

Those mystery cans of veggies remind me a lot of running. Each run is a new adventure, a new experience. Some runs are like opening a can of green beans, familiar and not all that exciting. But every now and then you'll open a can that's not a veggie at all, maybe it's Spaghettio's! Those are great runs. And then there's always that can of Brussels sprouts that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You just never know what a run will offer.

Even if you run the same route each day, each run can be completely different. Sometimes the difference is as abrupt as a smack in the face, like the time a Ford F150 pickup truck almost creamed me on a run. Other times the difference may be subtle like seeing the doe and her fawn standing at the edge of some woods I pass each day.

A run can be mentally therapeutic. It allows you time to get completely lost in thought. You may not even realize you've run 5 miles until you're finished. Those can be great runs. Not only did your body get a workout, but your brain did too.

Other times, your mind is completely void of thought. Your senses are alive and you're simply taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings. That's usually when you discover all the little things you've never noticed before.

Then there's the intensity factor. That same 5-miler can be a slow easy run or a fast intense run. Maybe it's an easy recovery run after the hard hill workout you had the previous day. Or maybe it's a fast tempo run for your weekly speedwork.

The phrase "I'm bored" is not allowed in our house. Why? Well, we tell out kids that they're too creative and intelligent to ever be board. They can read, play outside, do an art project (Lord help us), or watch a favorite video they haven't seen in a while. Running's the same way. You're in control. If it's gotten boring for you, then do something about it.
  • Vary your running routes.
  • Vary the intensities of your runs.
  • Find a running buddy or join a running group.
  • Set goals for yourself such as running a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or full marathon.
  • Train for a triathlon.
  • Set a mileage goal like running 1,000 miles in a year.
  • Run for a cause.
The ways in which you can spice-up your run each day are endless.

Friday, September 3, 2010

10 Tips For a Strong Immune System!

My family has ready caught the "cold" and it's only the beginning of September! And today I walked in Wal-Mart and they were giving flu shots. Yep, it's that time of year again. Well almost. Cold and flu season usually has its heyday a little later in the fall and winter, but some "bugs" are already going around. It's vitally important for any one, especially the young and elderly to do whatever they can to ensure a strong immune system and stay healthy during this time of year.

Runners tend to be really healthy, and sometimes that can be to their detriment. Not the being healthy part, but getting cocky about being healthy. Runners need to be really careful in the fall, especially if they're training for a big endurance event. Often when you train your hardest right before the taper your immune system can actually become weakened by the added stress. Ever been training and everything is going great, only to get "the crud" right before the big race. That's often due do to the training stress decreasing the effectiveness of your immune system and making you more susceptable to bacteria and viruses.

So, what's a runner to do? Listed below are 10 tips to help keep your immune system going strong and keep you healthy during your late summer and fall training.

1. Be careful not to over-train. Over-training can not only weaken the immune system, it can cause fatigue, sore muscles, lack of drive, lack of energy, and increased resting heart rate. If you're feeling fatigued, take a rest day. Better to take a day or two off from running and rejuvenate your body than to "stick to the plan" and drive yourself into the ground.

2. Get your "D"! During the winter you're exposed to less sunshine, the main source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is key to a strong immune system as well as strong bones, both important to runners. Taking a vitamin D supplement can help ensure you're getting enough. The daily recommended allowance is only around 250IUs, but more and more research is showing that higher amounts are safe and provide more benefits. (Because of my colitis, I take a rather large dose of Vitamin D each day, plus what I get in dairy products and I've seen no adverse effects and I've been taking it for several years.) Vitamin D is obtained from a few different sources. Research shows the D3 provides the most benefits. Be sure the Vitamin D supplement you purchase has D3 listed as the main ingredient.

3. Wash, wash, wash your hands! Simple, but washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to catching or spreading illness. Also, try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse, or keep one in the car, for times when washing your hands is not an option.

4. Have a "spot of tea." Research shows that the immune systems of tea drinkers react much faster to bacteria and viruses than non-tea drinkers. They think it has something to do with L-theanine that's in the tea. It kind of "primes the pump" and puts the immune system on high alert for intruders. Doesn't seem to matter what kind of tea, either. Just be careful not to load it up with sugar!

5. Order mushrooms on your pizza instead of pepperoni! (Whole wheat crust of course.) Mushrooms support the thymus gland. This gland produces immune cells which increase your resistance to infection. Any mushroom will do, but Shiitake mushrooms are one of the best.
6. SLEEP! Be sure you're getting your Zzzzzzzzs. Your immune system actually does a lot of work while you're snoozing. If you cheat yourself out of sleep, not only will you not be well rested, you're body doesn't have the opportunity to release as much immune-enhancing compounds to keep you healthy when you're awake.

7. Eat your veggies, especially broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale. These are high in antioxidants that help protect you from viruses.

8. Snack on Almonds. A handful of almonds (~1 oz.) is a great way to boost your immune system. They are high in vitamin E which boosts production of immune cells that attack bacteria. Be sure to buy raw almonds. Steer clear of the heavily salted variety or the ones cooked in oil. Even if it's a "healthy oil" that's a lot of unneeded calories and fat.
9. Have some yogurt. Yogurt contains good bacteria that helps protect the body from the bad bacteria and infections. Yogurt also makes a great medium in which to put some fruit and low-fat granola adding even more vitamins, minerals and fiber. And men, hear this! Research has shown that eating nonfat or low-fat yogurt each day can help reduce abdominal fat in males.

10. Don't forget the C! Vitamin C has long been hailed as a cold fighter. Research shows that 8g of vitamin C a day will shorten the length of a cold. Doesn't have to be orange juice either. Bell peppers (red, green, and yellow) actually have more vitamin C than oranges.