Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Be a Run Mentor

One of the things I love most about running is its inclusive nature. Running truly is one of the very few sports that accepts all ability levels, all ages, male and female. I realized this back in 1984 while attending my very first 10K. Actually it was my very first race period. I was a freshman in college. I had been doing a little running and saw an ad for the Great Raleigh Road Race. I was a student at NC State at the time and thought, hmmm,  I'll give this a try.

Not knowing what to expect at all, I showed up. I think I ran that 10K in 1:06:00. I really didn't know if that was good or bad. I really didn't care. I ran hard and had a great time. I remember sitting there in the downtown square afterward watching the age group awards being given out. I looked at all the runners in the square and I realized, these people are just like me. I must be a runner. It was the first time I really realized that I run, therefore, I am a runner. It opened an entirely new world up to me.

Never having been a team sports kind of kid, I never was very athletic growing up. I played a year or two of little league baseball and football, but it just wasn't for me. That day in 1984, I discovered running was for me. Been at it ever since....over 30 years.

As a running coach, one of the things I love the most is helping new runners. Whether its brand new runners, just leaning the basics or a new race trainer. I love the excitement they bring. They are usually hesitant and a bit fearful of failing or not being as good as the other runners or even worse not being accepted by the other runners. This usually comes with lack of confidence in their abilities. But soon they realize that running isn't about keeping up with others, it's about challenging yourself.

Occasionally, when away at a race or some other running event and I'll hear an "experienced" runner talk about newer, slower, or less experienced runners in a negative manner. I really don't understand these runners. I reason it as possibly a lack of confidence in their own running, so they bash the slower runner. Truly sad, but like I said it's a rare occasion. I guess in every bushel you'll have a bad apple.

I asked my running friend, Bart Yasso of Runner's World his take on the inclusiveness of running and he told me,

"Thad, as runners, we each have a duty to accept the role as mentor to a new runner or someone who doesn't think he or she can walk around the block, let alone finish a 5K. We are runners! So let's spread the message. The acceptance of all abilities is what differentiates running from every other sport."

I totally agree, Bart! I've seen so many lives enriched even turned completely around for the better by simply taking that leap of faith into running. When I hear someone talk about a slower or less experienced runner in a negative light, I usually reply back with, "You're talking to the wrong person. I ran my first mile (40lbs overweight) in 18 minutes wearing long plaid pants and a pair of wallabees." 😊 (True story.)

We all start somewhere. Whether we want to be really fast or just enjoy the journey is entirely up to the runner, but in either case we're still all runners.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No More Shoe Woes-The Mizuno Wave Rider 20

If you've been following me on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter then you're probably aware that I've been struggling with finding a long run shoe. My favorite Hoka Huaka was discontinued and the suggested replacement just did not work for me.

So, I decided to go back to another maximalist shoe that I had previously worn the Altra Paradigm. I had worn several pair of the 1.0 and 1.5 version, but the new 2.0 version was revamped and in doing so, the shoe was created smaller. The 9.5 that I had always worn was now too small. My toes were actually hitting the end of the shoe. I returned them for a 1/2 size larger thinking maybe the 10 would fit like the old 9.5, but alas, the 10 was larger than the old 9.5 and my foot slid around. ARRGH!

Desperate, I tried several other shoes, the Sketchers Go Run, the Hoka Vanquish and Clayton, and Asics 33-M, and one of the Adidas Boosts. None worked for my feet. Now don't get me wrong, all of these shoes work for other runners, I just have particular feet. With all the miles I put in with my job, I have issues with Morton's neuroma, dropped metatarsals, Achilles issues, etc. So finding a shoe that works with my feet and will accommodate my custom orthodic is problematic.

When a shoe company decides to do a major overhaul on a shoe or discontinue it all together, it's quite traumatic for me. Oh by the way, the company that makes my favorite short run shoe (the Pearl Izumi Road N3) is stopping making running shoes all together! What's up with that?!

The other day the owner of a local running store here in  Greensboro, NC dropped by with a pair of the new Mizuno Wave Rider 20 shoe for me to test out. I was excited. Could this be the shoe? I was a little skeptical because I haven't worn anything but a maximalist shoe for long runs for quite a while, but with none of the previously mentioned shoes working for me, I was more than willing to give them a test run.

Last year I ran 4 marathons and the beginning of this year I started with my first 50K with very minor foot issue...because my Hoka Huakas were working fine, but then when I wore out my last pair, my shoe woes began. I'm currently training for the Richmond Marathon. We have about 15+ runners going to Richmond to run the full and the half. So, I was really excited to be able to run with my runners. But, due to my shoe and foot woes, I've gotten way behind in my marathon training. Last Sunday, however was a glimmer of hope.

On Saturday, I tested the Wave Rider 20 on a short run without my orthodics. They felt really good during that run. But it's the long run that's the real test. I have several shoes for which I can get in a good 8-10 miles before my feet start giving me problems, but after that, my feet begin to break down. My fore foot has so little natural padding, that I need a shoe that had good fore foot cushioning. My sports med doc told me he's never seeen a foot with so little natural padding. And for some other foot issues, I need to wear my custom orthotics on the longer runs. So, the trick is finding a shoe with good forefoot cushioning that then will also accommodate my orthodic and not be too tight.

On Sunday, I tested the Mizuno Wave Rider 20s on a long run. I ran 17 miles with the orthodics in place and the shoes felt really good. Another good sign was that after the run, I wasn't doing the old-man shuffle like after many of my recent runs. Just the opposite happened. My feet felt pretty good. And other than just a little stiffness from the miles, I felt great.

The version 20 is actually revised version of the 19 and in this case (finally) the revision is good. Mizuno has included an entirely new Wave plate technology for a softer, smoother ride with an even more responsive feel. And I have to say that my run lived up to the hype. This is a more traditional shoe with a 12mm heel-to-toe drop. I usually wear a lower drop to account for the extra thickness my orthodic adds, but with this shoe, it seemed to work well. I've decided, that for me, the lower drop was contributing to my Achilles issues. Keep in mind that this is my experience. Lower drop shoes work great for many runners. I just have picky feet. The Wave Rider 20 isn't your lightest trainer, but at 9.6oz, for the responsiveness they were providing, they felt pretty light. I was really pleased because many of the maximalist shoes I've been wearing felt heavy and clunky. Never thought I'd go back to a more traditional shoe for my long run, but hey, never say never.

Spring Race Training Meeting!

Hard to Believe, But Training for Spring Half and Full Marathons is Just Around the Corner!

Training for spring races starts at RunnerDude's Fitness as early as November for some of the early spring marathons! Whether you definitely have a 5K, 10K, 10Miler, Half or Full Marathon selelcted for the spring or you're just contemplating the possibility of racing in the spring, come to our free info session to learn more about the RunnerDude's Fitness Race Training Program. 

No obligation to register. However, there will be special savings for those who do register for race training during the meeting on Nov. 6th.

What: RunnerDude's Fitness Spring Race Training Info Meeting
When: Sunday, November 6th
Time: 6:30-7:30pm
Location: 2309 W. Cone Blvd. Ste. 120 (Directions)
Cost: Free!

No need to RSVP, but if you'd like to let us know you're coming, click here.

Note: No obligation to register for training at the meeting, but those that do will recieve a special savings of $25 off Full, $15 off Half and $10 off 5K/10K/10-Mile Training.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Beginning Running Program Starts Soon!

Thinking about learning to run? The Next RunnerDude's Fitness Beginning Running Group starts Nov 10th!

With our program, we don't just set you off on a run/walk program, we teach you the elements of good running form, how to breathe properly, and we provide you a supportive group that will safely help you reach your goal of running 30 minutes with no walking by the end of the 12-week program.

Our program focuses on good form and building endurance, not pace or speed. Even though it's a group format, each runner is encouraged to run at their own pace. During the group runs, runners use a GYMBOSS interval timer that beeps when it's time to switch from a run to a walk and vice versa. This is great because it frees you up from always looking at your watch. Also, everyone in the group is running the same amount of total time (30 minutes). So while some may cover more or less ground depending on their natural pace, you'll all start and finish at the same time. No one will feel pushed too hard and no one will fell held back either. The group aspect is that you all have the same goal and you're there to support each other and hold each other accountable. 

Participants  also get a copy of Full-Body Fitness for Runners, a 170-page book chock full of nutrition info, good running form info, healthy recipes, and over 90 full-body exercises designed for runners. This is a great resource to have during the program and after! 

Also....a video running stride analysis is included in the program. Cost is only $100 for the 12 weeks. 

For more information and/or to register, go tohttp://runnerdudesfitness.com/beginning-running/

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why Only 20?

One of the most frequently asked questions by my marathon trainers is, "Why is our longest run only
20 miles?" It's a valid question. When they trained for their half marathon, their longest run was 13 or 14 miles so most would assume they'd run 25, 26, or 27 in their marathon training. Like in many cases with non-running circumstances, the obvious, may not be the best scenario.

The Internet is a culprit in making most novice marathoners think they should run the full marathon distance prior to race day. You can find all kinds of plans online that may or may not go past 20 miles during training. Then, you'll also have runners read about how the Olympians train and they'll see their 26-mile long runs and think, well, "They do it, why shouldn't I?"

So let's back up a bit and think about the structure of a typical marathon training plan. Online, most full-marathon training plans are 16 weeks. I create 18-week plans for my runners. But given a typical 16-week plan, the typical novice marathoner comes into training with a long run of 8-10 miles. If you start week one of training at 9 miles and each week progress by one mile you'll be at 23 miles the weekend prior to race day. That's not providing any taper (which is typically the last three weeks of training). So, you'll still not get to your full marathon distance and you'll not provide any taper in which the body has time to rebuild and repair prior to race day.

Also, as a coach, I like to get the full picture of a runner before I start training with them. Ideally it's best if a runner come into training with a strong base of at least a total weekly mileage of 20-25 miles the 4 weeks before their training officially starts. Most don't have this. So, I need to make sure that when they start the ease into their training and don't do too much too soon.

The other factor is pace. Remember those Olympians doing their 26-mile long training runs? Yep, they do such runs, but those Olympians are only out there on those long runs for a faction of the time that a novice runner will be. While they may be out there 2.5 hours, a mere mortal runner may be out on their feet for 4-5 hours. Lets assume that the Olympian and novice runner have an equal stride count (yes that is possible). In a 2 hour run, the Olympian may have his/her feet hitting the ground around  21,600 times while the novice could be making as many as 43,200 foot landings covering the same distance. Doing that week after week can really take a toll on the body drastically increasing the chance of injury.

I know you're thinking, but Ultra runners run much longer. Yep, they do. However, their training is entirely different from that of a road marathoner. Ultra running often takes place on trails providing a much more forgiving running surface. Also, ultra running's focus is usually geared more around completion rather than time. Ultra running also involves typically some walking. Fueling, hydrating, pacing, it's all a different animal with an ultra runner. Ultra runners also rarely run the full distance prior to race day. Kind of hard to get in a 100-miler prior to race day. Usually ultra runners will run back-to-back long runs on two or more consecutive days. It's more about time on their feet.

With some of my more experienced runners, I've used back-to-back long runs. Usually the first "long run" will be a more moderate distance maybe up to 10 miles, and then the following day will be a more traditional marathon long run distance eventually going up to 20 miles.

It's not that I won't or haven't ever taken a runner past the 20-miler, it's just not my typical plan of action. With a more seasoned runner who is willing to dedicate themselves to a longer plan (about 25 weeks) I can take them safely closer to the marathon distance in training and still have time to incorporate dropback weeks for recovery and the taper weeks at the end of the plan.

Properly training marathon runners is all about taking them where they are currently at fitness-wise and running experience-wise and gradually building upon that to reach race day. Another question I'm often asked, especially by running buddies after they've compared training plans, is "Why does he have this distance, and I have that distance?" Or "Why do I have this workout and my buddy doesn't? A coach writes his plans based on the individual. Sometimes that creates a variance in plans. That's a good thing. Doesn't mean one is weaker or stronger, It means you're at different places or have different goals.

Research, as well as my on experience with training marathon runners, has shown me that runners entering training with a really strong base prior to training, having a starting long run around 10 miles (for which they are already acclimated to), then strategically building their long runs with the goal of getting them really acclimated to the 18-20 mile distance by taper time will lead them into race day solid and strong. That extra 6.2 miles will not be a problem. They may feel those extra miles depending on how hard they're pushing it in the first 3/4 of the race, but they'll definitely be able to handle it. Bonking or hitting the wall, usually isn't related to not having trained those extra miles. Hitting the wall is usually a result of improper hydration and fueling during the race.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

10 Tips to Better Eating

I've always eaten a pretty good diet, but for the last 3 years, I've really focused on better, healthier eating on a consistent basis. As a result, my immune system is stronger, my cholesterol levels (LDL and HDL) are awesome, and I've lost over 20 lbs which I've kept off. Weight loss was not my main goal, but it was a nice benefit. Being healthy was and is my priority. Below are 10 tips I have to offer in helping you transition to a healthier eating and a healthier lifestyle.

1. Think Lifestyle Change not Diet. If you're thinking of "diet" in the sense of what foods you're eating, that's okay. But if, "diet" refers to something you're "going-on" more than likely you won't succeed, or if you do, eventually you'll return to your old eating habits. I'm not being pessimistic. Research shows, that most diets, in particular very restrictive diets, just don't work in the long run. When changing your eating habits, you need to think, "Is this something I'll be able to continue doing for a lifetime?"
2. Take Ownership of Your Eating and Lifestyle Change. I've had new prospective clients come to me and say, "I need you to get me to lose 20 lbs in a month." Red flags immediately go up when I hear this. When I hear, "I need you to get me..." I know right off the bat, this person isn't ready to take ownership of the changes ahead. I learned way back when I was 13 years old that someone can't change until they're ready to change. I was an overweight kid. My parents and friends often tried to get me to do various things to lose weight. But it wasn't until the summer before entering high school when I decided that I didn't want to go to high school heavy, that I was ready to make a change. At that young age, I took ownership of the situation and changed my eating habits and lost weight. 40 lbs to be exact, before my freshman year.
3. Expand Your Eating Horizons. Take a field trip to the grocery store. Shop the perimeter of the store. That's where you'll find all the fresh produce and meats. Most of the processed and packaged foods are in the center isles. Check out the fruits and vegetables. Pick them up. Feel them. Read the tags and labels. Pick something to try. I did that with Brussels sprouts and now they're my favorite veggie. I've learned to cook them in several different ways. Eat the rainbow. Fruits and veggies rich in color often contain the most nutrients. Incorporate a variety of dark green veggies. Kale is a super veggie full of nutrients and antioxidants. It can be added to salads, eaten cooked, and even added to smoothies! Sweet potatoes are another nutrient dense food. They can be baked whole or sliced and baked on a sheet brushed with a little olive oil. They're awesome!
4. Pay Attention to What You Are Eating. It's a given that you should pay attention to the types of foods you put in your body, but also, pay attention to the "act of eating." Think about it. How many times have you gone to the cupboard for a snack and then before you get back to the couch you've eaten it all? So what do you do? You go back and get more. How many times have you picked up fast food and eaten the fries out of the bag on your way home. Then all you have left is that burger or sandwich. Even though you've already eaten the fries and should be somewhat full, you don't feel satisfied, because all that's looking at you on the plate is the lonely burger. Another good trick is to portion your snack. Have you ever grabbed a box of crackers or chips and before you know it the bag/box is empty?  Instead of eating out of the bag or box, pour a single portion size in a bowl to eat. That way you're more aware of how much you've eaten. Learn to pay attention to the food you are eating.
5. Eat at Home or Prepare Your Meals for on the Go. Eating out is the easiest way to rack up the calories. Most fast food and even sit-down restaurant meals can contain an entire day's worth of fat and calories....in one meal! That doesn't mean you have to pack carrot sticks and celery for lunch. Remember, you're not on a diet. Preparing your own meal gives you control over what goes in it. You know exactly what you're eating. You'll also save money. Even if you eat a fairly healthy meal at an establishment such as Subway, you're going to pay $6-$9. That's $30-$45 for lunch in a 5-day work week.
6. Stop Drinking All Your Calories. Sweet Tea and regular sugary sodas are full of empty calories. Drink water or unsweetened tea with lemon. At first you'll miss the sweetness, but you'll eventually get past it and actually enjoy it.
7. Splurge Every Now and Again. There are times to celebrate and sometimes, that means enjoying foods that may not be so healthy. That's okay. There is a time for birthday cake. There is a time for pumpkin pie. There are times for those favorite family foods. When you save those special foods for special times, they actually taste better. Just be sure to eat a moderate portion. Earth Fare has a "Top of the Day" muffin that's pretty awesome. It's really pretty healthy for a muffin, but I know it's probably high in calories. Each Friday, if I've gotten in my weekly runs and workouts, I'll treat myself to that "Top of the Day" muffin for breakfast. That's my special treat. I look forward to it. Find your weekly special treat.
8. Eat Throughout the Day. Because I have workout groups that start at 6AM, I'm up every morning at 4:30am. And because I have evening classes that I lead, I'm usually not done until around 7:30 or sometimes 8pm. So, I've learned that 5 meals/snacks a day work best for me. I ,keep my calorie intake the same as if I ate 3 large traditional meals, but I spread it over five. So for example:

  • Breakfast #1 (4:45am): Toasted English muffin with peanut butter and preserves, coffee
  • Breakfast #2 (9:00am): Lowfat Greek yogurt with diced banana and walnuts added
  • Lunch (1:30pm): Turkey sub with veggies, Sun Chips or fruit, unsweetened tea
  • Mid Afternoon Snack (4:30pm): Banana with peanut butter smear
  • Dinner: (8:30pm): Varies, but usually sautéed veggies and grilled tofu, chicken, or fish, unsweetened tea (Note: I don't like eating dinner this late, but it's the nature of the beast due to my profession. Because I eat dinner so late, it tends to be a light meal.)

This may not work for everyone, but what will work is having a regular routine beginning with breakfast and not skipping meals.
9. Watch the Red Meat. Nothing wrong with having a good burger from time to time. But more and more research suggests that limiting your intake of red meat helps reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests limiting red meat intake to 18 oz (cooked weight) weekly.
10. Begin with Small Changes. Evaluate what you're eating. Decide on one thing you can stop eating or replace with a healthier option. Small changes like this will lead to big changes over time. Do you really need that mid morning doughnut? Eliminate it or eat an apple instead. That could save 1300 cals and 80g of fat in a work week! One small change. One big effect. Once you see that changes the small change is making, then make another small change. My son lost over 100 lbs using this method. He mastered what I call the art of moderation and accountability. Have that pizza once in a while, but instead of 4 slices, have two.  Or maybe just one slice with a nice salad with lowfat dressing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shin Splints No More

Whether you're new to running or training for a marathon, runners can fall victim to ouchy shins. This pain down the inner or medial portion of the lower leg along the shin is commonly referred to as shin splints. Often a runner experiencing shin splints will first notice the pain after the run. Overtime, the pain will surface during the run.

The correct term for what you're experiencing is medial tibial stress syndrome

The cause of medial tibial stress syndrome is often debated, but most agree that it's caused by overuse. 

Experienced runners think of shin splints as a new runner's problem. So, they're often baffled when they experience the symptoms themselves. A seasoned runner can experience shin splints with a sudden increase in training frequency or intensity. Ahhh....sound familiar? That's why seasoned runners often experience shin pain during the early stages of race training or even later in marathon training if the runner starts to up the intensity or push too hard. 

Other causes can be lack of calcium, running on hard surfaces, running hills, ill fitted running shoes, or severe overpronation and heel striking. 

A runner who has a heel-strike foot landing, lands with the foot out front. When the foot lands in front of the body on the heel, the toes lift up. The muscles down the front of the leg are the muscles used in lifting the toes. So, new runners who heel strike usually experience this pain, because all of the sudden they are using these muscles a lot and as a result they're "talking back" to the runner.

Actually if you just sit in a chair, lift your foot off the ground, then continuously flex the foot at the ankle lifting the toes up and down for 30 minutes (about the length of a short run), the muscles along the front of the lower leg will more than likely become sore, if those muscles are not used to being used. Over time the runner will acclimate as those muscles get stronger. However, another way to alleviate the issue is for the runner to work more toward a midfoot foot landing where the foot lands flat underneath the runner's center of mass. This takes out the heel strike and toe lift altogether. It also helps the runner to run more efficiently since they are working with the oncoming ground pushing off instead of having to work against the ground when the heel strikes then having to pull the body forward before pushing off.

Experienced runners often experience shin splints when they ramp up training and widen their stride to increase pace. The wider stride causes more toe lift taxing the muscles down the front of the leg. So again, the muscles will acclimate over time, but reigning in the stride and working on increasing turnover and adding lean from the ankle will help them get that needed speed without taxing the shins.

Sometimes the pain, soreness, or swelling is felt on the outside or lateral side of the shin. This is called lateral tibial stress syndrome. 

So what do you do if you have shin splints? Recognize the symptoms and act promptly. If you notice soreness on either side of the shin after a run, ice and elevate the leg. Ice is great for reducing inflammation. I always tell my runners to keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. It makes a great ice pack. Just place the ice on for 5-minutes on 5-minutes off for about 20-30 minutes. Icing throughout the day may help as well. Anti-inflammatory painkillers may add additional relief. If it's still sore the next day, take a break from running. Swim, cycle, or do other low-impact exercise for a few days.

Evaluating your running shoes is a good idea too. Is it time for a new pair? Do you have 300-500 miles on your shoes? If so, it might be time for a new pair. Were you properly fitted and have the correct type of shoe for your feet? If you're not sure, go to your local running store and ask them to evaluate your feet and help you get the best shoe for your foot type. If you're a severe overpronator, custom orthodics may help with shin splint symptoms. Analyzing your stride can also be useful. Are you overstriding and heel-striking? If so, work on pulling-in that foot landing. Strive more for a mid-foot or fore-foot landing under your center of mass. This helps the body work with the oncoming pavement. It also helps the body work more like a shock absorber.

Some "pre-hab" exercises can help strengthen the ankles and lower leg which may help keep runners from experiencing shin splints. Check out the video below for some simple but effective ankle and lower leg exercises. If you're currently experiencing shin splints, wait until the soreness/pain has subsided for a couple of days before doing any exercises.

As with any pain/soreness that persists after a couple of days, check in with your medical professional immediately. If you're not able to put pressure on your lower leg, definitely head to the urgent care. Persisting pain along the inner shin could be a sign of an actual stress fracture in the bone. 

If lateral pain persists, it could possibly be compartment syndrome which can be pretty serious. This is more related to poor circulation in the affected area because of increased pressure in the area. 

If you're having to alter your stride to compensate for pain, then you need to check in with your sports doc immediately. Compensating for one pain can often cause other problems in other areas of your body.

Another tool that I've discovered that's useful in strengthening the muscles running along the shin is The SHINTEKK. This device uses a series of different strength resistance bands to help strengthen the anterior lower leg muscles.  The device basically does the same thing as the exercises I demonstrate in my video above, it just make doing them easier and handier. The device doesn't allow for much lateral strengthening of the lower leg muscles and ankle, but it's awesome for easily and quickly strengthening the anterior tibialis muscles in the lower leg.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gu or Not To Gu, That is the Question

For this round of race training, I have quite a few runners new to training for the half-marathon and
full-marathon distance. I love working with newbies to distance racing. They have so many questions and are so eager to learn.

One question that has surfaced over and over during this training cycle is, "What about GU? Should I be using sports gels? When should I use them?

Each of my runners gets a training packet that's several pages long and in that packet is information on and "rules of thumb" for pre-run fueling, during-the-run fueling, and post-run fueling. But like most of my race trainers, the sections of the packet that gets viewed the most are pages 1 and 2--the training schedule and the workout descriptions and their personal training paces. LOL!

I think another reason these questions keep surfacing is that they keep hearing other information from their running friends...."Well, I use this." "I take that." "I use Gu this many times during a run." "Oh, don't use that." "You don't need this." "You should do this."

And you know the problem isn't that these well-meaning runners are giving them bad information. The problem, is that they are giving these new distance runners solutions for what works for themselves. With so much and such diverse information, my new-to-distance runners become overwhelmed and not sure what to do. Also, as a new distance runner, and well, like most anybody, they want "the" definitive answer. There in lies the problem. There isn't one answer.

Remember, up in paragraph two of this post, I mentioned that in each runner's training packet, I provide them with "rules of thumb" for fueling? Well, that's really as specific as it can be. Rules-of-thumb, guidelines, a set of parameters. Each runner, then has to use the 14-18 weeks of training to figure out  (based on those parameters) what works best for them.

I had one runner that in the marathon race, she used a gel about every 10 minutes. I would not recommend that to anyone, because for most that would cause stomach distress. But for her, it worked. She determined that for herself through her training. Whether it was more of a mental security factor or a physical need, I'm not sure, but nonetheless, it worked for her.

So, unfortunately I can't tell my newbies, "Here do exactly this." But, what I can provide them with the following parameters.

During training, eat a well balanced diet of approximately 45-65% high quality complex carbohydrates, 20-35 % polyunsaturated fat/monounsaturated fat (and yes a little bit of saturated fat), and 10-35% protein (from lean meats and plant sources).

Your body can store about 2000 calories of glycogen (fuel) in the muscle. This is your primary source of fuel on the run. If on a regulare basis, you're eating a good balance of the macro-nutrients listed above (Carbs, Fats, Protein), then you should be keeping your glycogen stores in good check.

Sports Gels, chomps, blocks, chews, etc. are designed to help you keep from completely depleting your glycogen stores during longer runs. If you're running an hour or less, you really don't need sports gels and the like. If you're running 1.5 hours or more, then it's a good idea to start supplementing with an additional fuel source.

Most fueling supplement companies suggest taking their product every 45-60 mins, but again that's just a recommendation. I personally take one about every 5 miles, but again, that's what works for me. The true key is listening to your body and getting into a routine of taking such supplements in a regimen that provides you with fuel before you feel like you need it. If you wait until you are fatiguing to take something, then more than likely it won't get into your system in time for it to really do you any good.

The other thing to keep in mind is that gels, chomps, chews, bars, etc. are not the end-all source of fuel. I began running marathons back in 1997. Back then then only fuel I know of that was available (at least where I was in NC) was PowerBar. It basically was a nasty leather bar that you chewed on and chewed on and chewed on. I think I'm still chewing on the first bar I took back in 1997. LOL! Not too long afterward, PowerBar started making PowerGel. But before that, about the only thing available was Gatorade for fuel.

Somehow runners prior to the 2000s were able to run distance without these handy little packets. That's the key word....Handy. Usually a serving of fuel is about 100 calories, These products are convenient, easy to carry, 100 calorie packets of fuel. It takes out the guess work. Simply open and eat.  However, you can use real food too and it be just as effective. Here again, you have to experiment with what works for you. I have one runner who eats dates on the run. Another eats an oatmeal cookie (kind of like a ginger snap). Another runner carries a little baggie of pretzels. And still another makes little pbj sandwiches for long runs. They all have around the same number of calories comprised mostly of simple carbs for quick and easy digestion.

Gatorade and similar sports drinks provide basically the same thing as sports gels. So when taking a sports gel or your homemade energy food source, it's best to wash it down with water not sports drink? Why? Well, since the both provide essentially the same thing, you're basically getting a double whammy of carbohydrates. For some this can cause stomach distress. So rather than risk that, wash down your energy foods with water and save the sports drink for a hydration stop when you're not taking a supplement.

So, again, many are probably still frustrated that I haven't provided "The definitive Fueling Solution," but you have some guidelines. Use your training time to experiment and discover what works for you. Each runner is unique and you have to discover your own tricks of the trade.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dehydration: The Hidden Culprit

If you're a runner, you probably know all too well about training-related injuries. If you've not experience one personally, then you probably know someone who has. Often such injuries are caused by doing too much too soon, over-training, pushing too hard, or coming back from a previous injury too soon. And then there is the occasional injury that just happens for no apparent reason. But, one cause of running related injuries that's often overlooked is simply dehydration...not drinking enough H2O.

When we see a plant wilting, the first thing that comes to mind (even if you have a brown thumb) is, "Gee that plant needs water." But when it comes to a running-related injury we often look for the most complex reasons for why an injury has occurred. Often it's as simple as not drinking enough fluids pre-, during-, and post-run. 

Okay, I'm pretty sure they're are some naysayers out there, but maybe this will change their minds. Research shows that when you dehydrate a muscle by only 3%, a runner can lose about 10% of contractile strength which can cause an 8% loss of speed. A study conducted at Ball State University showed a 7% drop in speed over 10 kilometers by runners who were dehydrated by just 2%-3%. That's only 3-5 lbs for a 165 lb runner.

So what exactly is Dehydration? Dehydration can be defined at a loss of 1% or greater of body weight as a result of fluid loss. The signs of dehydration are varied, but here are a few:
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heat Intolerance
  • Dry Mouth or cough
  • Flushed Skin
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Light-headedness
  • Dark opaque urine 

So how does dehydration cause running injuries? Well, the human body strives for balance (homeostasis). Proper fluid levels helps maintain this balance. Proper heart function, blood pressure, blood flow, muscle function, temperature regulation, proper digestion, joint cushioning, energy production all depend on sufficient fluid levels in the body.

Dehydration is often the hidden culprit. You may think your pulled calf muscle is due to that intense hill workout....and that may very well be the main cause, but doing the intense hill workout not properly hydrated is setting yourself up for injury. You're muscles aren't going to perform at 100% when not well hydrated. Also, not properly rehydrating after a hard workout or long run puts you in a hydration deficit going into your next workout.

Your brain doesn't work as well when you're dehydrated either causing changes in mood, irritability, lack of concentration which can all affect your judgement on a run. 

There are going to be some individuals who read this and think, "Well then, I'm going to drink gallons of water each day during training to offset dehydration." Like most things, however, too much of a good thing can be bad. Over hydration can deplete your electrolyte stores (sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride magnesium) which are needed as well for homeostasis. Sodium is needed for proper hydration and potassium is needed to help a muscle relax after contraction. Potassium also is important in regulating blood pressure. So, don't overindulge. There is a formula you can use ( Men: drink daily in ounces your body weight x .35; Women: drink daily in ounces your body weight x .31), but I recommend to just drink water throughout the day. You can have your caffeinated beverages (i.e. your morning coffee), but don't count it as one of your water sources.  

The Sweat Rate Test is a great way to make sure you properly rehydrate after a run. Do this test on a mild day and on a really hot/humid day. This way you'll know about how much water to replace after both types of runs.

Sweat Rate Test:
  1. Weigh before running (running clothes on, but shoes off); record the amount
  2. Run for 60 minutes
  3. Weigh after running (running clothes on, but shoes off); record the amount
  4. For each pound lost, drink 16oz of water. (i.e. 3lbs lost = 48oz)
No need to gulp down the replacement water, but make sure you replace that lost water in the hours after your run.

Drinking water is great for most workouts lasting 45-60 minutes. But, if you're running over an hour, be sure to drink a sports drink or use an electrolyte replacement tab in your water to offset the electrolyte loss from perspiration. For runs longer than an hour, sports drinks will also provide fuel (carbohydrate) replacement for your muscles. On long runs, its a great idea to wear a hydration belt, carry a handheld water bottle, or stash some bottles of water and sports drink along your route. FYI: Drink water when taking an energy gel or GU. Drinking sports drink when taking a GU can give you a double-whammy of carbs causing stomach distress.

Monday, July 18, 2016

10 Tips to Prevent the Marathon Training Blues

Runners often get discouraged when training for a marathon. Their lack of performance and/or motivation can be due to numerous factors. In the video below, I share 10 tips for helping to prevent the marathon training blues. If you're currently experiencing the training blues, listen to the tips and see if any of the suggestions may be the cause of your discouragement with your training.
(Correction: In Tip#3, I state "the body sends blood to the muscle layer to help cool down the body." I meant to say, "the body sends blood to the skin layer to help cool down the body, causing less blood to get to the muscle layer, which makes you fatigue quicker."

10 Tips to Prevent the Marathon Training Blues from Thad McLaurin on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Keeping Your Electrolyte Stores in Check?

For short runs, drinking just water after the run is fine, but for endurance runs, it's important to replace lost electrolytes after the run. On runs more than an hour, you need to be sure not only to kick in some fluids with electrolytes during the run, but you need to be sure and replace them after the run too. Not replacing the lost electrolytes can lead to an electrolyte deficit leading into the next run and that's not a good thing. So what are electrolytes? Electrolytes are macronutrients the body uses to keep the body systems working properly. Runners often hear about two electrolytes (sodium and potassium) but there are actually five electrolytes.

The "BIG FIVE": 
  1. Sodium is important because it carries the water molecule throughout the body. without sodium, you'll become dehydrated very quickly, even if you're drinking water. Ever been on a run and had a sloshy stomach? If you just drank a bottle of water, it's probably just what you just drank sloshing around, but if you drank earlier in the run and you still have that sloshing around happening in the stomach, chances are your sodium stores are low. You can have a stomach full of water, but if there isn't proper levels of sodium in the body, there's no way for it to get out of the stomach to the rest of your body.
  2. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, nerve function, and strong bones
  3. Magnesium like Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, nerve function, and strong bones 
  4. Potassium is needed to relax a contracted muscle. Low levels of Potassium can lead to muscle cramps. Potassium also supports heart function and helps keep blood pressure regulated.
  5. Chloride is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood volume, and blood pressure
Sports drinks are great for during the long run, but research has shown not only are dairy drinks (chocolate milk) great for post run rebuilding, they are also better at re-hydrating the body after a long run than sports drinks. Chocolate milk is a great post run recovery and rehydration drink. It contains the right mixture of carbs and protein and drinking it within 15-30 mins after your run is idea in helping your body recover and rebuild. Chocolate milk also contains sodium and calcium, two of your needed electrolytes. 

It's a great idea to include electrolyte-rich foods in your daily diet as well as to eat post-run. Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark provides some great food suggestions below to help replenish your depleted electrolyte stores:

Sodium: chocolate milk, peanut butter, bagel, even soup! Also try some deli turkey!
Potassium: bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, peas, beans, avocado, and dried of fresh fruits like oranges, melons, raisins, prunes
Calcium: milk (regular or soy), cereal, yogurt, latte
Magnesium: leafy green veggies, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, dried beans, lentils
Chloride: olives, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery

Smoothies are an easy way to get in your needed electrolytes. No need to drive to the smoothie shop either. Below are some great smoothie ideas from nutritionist, Laura Buxenbaum that are easy to make at home.

Running Refuel Shake
1 cup fat-free chocolate milk
1 scoop 100% whey protein powder
1 banana
Crushed ice

Triple Berry Smoothie
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup skim or 1% milk
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen strawberries                                                               
1/3 cup frozen raspberries

Orange Peach Mango Smoothie
1 cup orange juice
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened peaches
1/2 cup frozen mangoes

PB&B Protein Smoothie
1 banana
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 cup 1% milk
1 scoop plain, vanilla, or chocolate whey protein powder
Crushed ice

Blues Buster Smoothie*
1 (6-ounce) container low-fat blueberry yogurt
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen sliced peaches
Crushed ice
*Recipe from SoutheastDairy.org

One of my favorite smoothie creations is the "RunnerDude Pumpkin Smoothie."

RunnerDude's Pumpkin Smoothie*
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
1 banana, sliced into chunks (freezing the banana is beforehand is great too!)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup ice
Note: for a thinner consistency, add another 1/2 cup skim milk. For extra sweetness, add 1 tablespoon honey.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Need a Running Coach?

I hear it all the time..."I'm not good enough to have a running coach." I usually respond with, do you have a personal trainer?" Answer: "Yes."

It's pretty common for individuals to think it's perfectly normal to have a personal fitness trainer, but then to think that only the elite or professional athletes need a running coach. Coach...Trainer....it's all semantics.

"Coach" usually refers to someone training athletes in a specific sports field, be it football, baseball, soccer, swimming, running, etc. Most individuals don't consider themselves athletes. Therefore they don't need a coach.  Guess what? If you are out there running and working toward becoming a fitter individual and you're doing it on a consistent and regular basis....you are an athlete. You're not an elite athlete, but you are an athlete.

 "Coach" also conjures up for many the stereotypical image of the red-faced, high school or college coach with the tight polyester shorts, ball cap, and whistle around the neck. A rather intimidating image. I had a Jr. High PE teacher like that. He didn't like me and I didn't like him.

Well, as a running coach, I'd like to clarify that running coaches today, at least this coaching dude, breaks that stereotypical mold of the hardcore, in your face, win-win coach. Does that mean I go easy on you? No way! What it does mean is I work with you where you're at and help to get you where you want to go safely and healthfully. That's really what coaches/trainers in the private sector do.

Can you benefit from a running coach? Definitely. Why? The biggest way a coach can help, whether you're a beginner or a long-time runner, is through structuring a training plan that will safely help you reach your goals. A coach is also a sounding board for all the questions you may have about your running. Is my form good? How do I control my breathing? How do I get out of this slump? How do I get faster? Is this pain normal? How should I fuel my runs? What about hydration? A running coach can answer all these questions and more. And better yet, the answers will be specific to you and your running.

Monday, May 2, 2016

First Run The Boro Run

As a way to get to better know all the awesome routes our wonderful city, Greensboro, has to offer runners, RunnerDude's Fitness will be hosting a series of 8 groups runs during the months of May and June. The first run will take place on Saturday, May 7th at 7:30am leaving from RunnerDude's Fitness (2309 W. Cone Blvd., Greensboro, NC). Arrive by 7:15am so you can get your cue sheet and meet the pacing guides. The starting point for each run will vary depending on the location of the run. Starting locations will be posted in advance here on the blog, at www.runnerdudesfitness.com, and on the RunTheBoro Facebook group page.

The routes will vary in length from 6 to 10 miles. There will be pace group leaders to help guide runners through the course. Their job isn't to keep runners at pace like in a race, rather they're there to guide runners a given pace range through the course. We encourage runners of all paces to come out.

These runs aren't designed to be speed runs. On the contrary, they are designed for the runners to get to know their city and take in visually all it has to offer while exploring running routes they may otherwise have never experienced.

Runners will need to bring handheld water bottles or wear a hydration belt as water will not be provided on the run. There will be water and Gatorade for runners after the run.

The first run will be just a tad over 7 miles and will take in the southern tip of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway, parts of the Kirkwood and Old Irving Park neighborhoods as well as the Latham Park Greenway

Cue sheets will be provided for runners each Saturday in addition to the pace group leaders. After each run the routes will also be posted, so if you'd like to run a route again, you'll be able to access it.

Discover a new running route. Make new running friends. Learn more about our city. Have some fun. RunTheBoro!!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Build Confidence. Don't Break It Down.

When I was in middle School in the late 70s, I was overweight and not athletic at all.  I never wore shorts. Actually didn't wear jeans either? Evidently back then the only thing clothiers thought kids my size wore was plaid. Just what the "fat Kid" needs, right? Plaid. 

Man I can't tell you the last
time I had a burger and fries.
I remember having to run the mile in Mr. Wade's 8th Grade PE class. Yes, I ran the mile in my plaid pants and my plastic/vinyl "athletic" shoes from Pic-n-Pay. Me and Danny Weidner were the last to finish. I think I ran that mile in 18 minutes and 20 seconds. Mr. Wade did not like me. His disdain for me and the other non-athletic kids was very obvious. He even met with my parents to let them know I was different and that they probably needed to do something about it. 

Yep, I was different. Those plaid pants, that "roll" around my middle, those plastic running shoes, and that 18-min mile made me who I am today. Ironically at 51 years old, I've run 15 marathons, 1 ultra-marathon, 20 half marathons and too many 5K and 10Ks to count. Oh yeah, and I'm RunnerDude, owner of a personal training studio and running coaching facility, founder and host of one the most popular running blogs in the country, and author of a running book.

What's up with the double
pictures? I think one of
me was plenty. LOL!
I'm a huge believer in things happen for a reason. I bet if I had been the fastest kid in the class, I would not be a running coach today. Now don't get me wrong. I think kids need to be active. But, each kid is different. Some kids are team sports players. My brother was. He played basketball, baseball, football, tennis and now golfs. I tried team sports. I played baseball 2 years and football 1 year, but did not enjoy it at all. I mainly played because my dad signed me up. It's what you did in 1974. If there were other options, I wasn't aware of them.

In middle school, I had a friend who was very fit and was into gymnastics. I always envied his ability to run and do flips in the air. He was strong, but because it was not football, basketball, or baseball, he was often teased too. During those middle school years, there was a sign-up day for gymnastics at the school gym. I actually got the nerve up to go. We lived in a small town on the North Carolina Coast. I rode my bike up to the gym. I was nervous as all get out. I had sweat stains the size of Montana under each arm. I walked in, climbed up the big built in bleachers and sat there watching the others register and try out. I sat. I did not have the confidence to try out. I was the fat kid. I couldn't do that. Really all I needed was someone to say, "Hey, come try." I stayed for about an hour then walked back down the bleachers, got on my bike and headed home. No one every knew I went to the tryouts that day. 

In that small coastal town in which I lived in, there was a man, Mr. Smith, one of my friend's dad, who used to run a big 10-mile loop around the town. He'd run with his big black dog. He always looked so content running with his dog. I admired his ability to run so effortlessly. Without him knowing it, Mr. Smith motivated me to try it. One day, not long after that gymnastics tryout day, I decided to try to run. Yep, in my plaid pants and plastic shoes. I didn't go far (probably a mile or two of Mr. Smith's route), but I did run and it felt good. I did it a few more times. Nobody ever knew. 

Later that summer, I decided to lose weight. My mom was doing Weight Watchers, so I just followed the same meal plan. I lost 40lbs that summer and started High School a new person. I ran the mile in 9th grade in under 8 minutes. My confidence boomed. I was still teased, because I wasn't a jock, but it didn't matter, because inside I had grown so much.

I didn't do too much running after that until my first year in college. I ran my first 10K in Raleigh, The Great Raleigh Road Race. That's when I discovered others ran too....all kinds of people. That's the day the seeds for RunnerDude were planted. I continued to run lots of 5K and 10K races and in the late 90s I got into running marathons. Plaid pants ditched long ago, I was feeling good about my accomplishments as a runner and all this confidence was helping me in other areas of life. Running reveals so much more about yourself than just your physical abilities. That's the message we need to instill in our kids. 

If you are the parent of a "plaid pants" kid, encourage them to explore different activities. Not all kids have to be in organized sports, but maybe you can do family walks, go hiking, or see if they're interested in running. What they are interested in is the key.  Maybe it's art, music, or dance. Get them involved in what they are interested in. Once they have gained some confidence, then they'll be more likely to put themselves out there to explore more.  

Lead by example. Kids shut out preaching, but if they see you leading a healthy lifestyle, they'll come around. It may take a few years, but it does work. My 24-year-old son, Duncan initially wanted nothing to do with running or fitness...and now he's working along side me at RunnerDude's Fitness as an awesome fitness trainer and running coach.

The great thing about running (as one of my runners, Brandon put it) "it's an individual sport that's made so much better by running with friends." You can start out on your own or with a similar-level group and build your confidence. You can compete with yourself or with others. You can run solo or with others. You can make it your own.

I guess in a way, I should thank Mr. Wade. Not because he was right. But, because I knew he was wrong.