How To Find (& Use!) Your Perfect Fuel

Back in the early days of marathoning, there was water. That’s it. And sometimes, there was barely even that. You wonder why runners looked like this at the end of marathons:

Gabriela Andersen-Schiess staggers toward finish line of LA Marathon in 1984 (image courtesy of Paul Chinn, LA Herald-Examiner/LAPL)

Maybe there was something else going on with Ms. Andersen-Schiess, but certainly she could have benefitted from some sustenance at this point, no?

Gatorade® became the drink of choice for professional athletes in the late 70’s (had been around since 1969) and not long after, along came the Powerade® and Power Bar®, which looked like a poop log and didn’t taste much better. About a decade ago, we started hearingabout Gu® which looks and tastes just like it sounds. Not long after that, Clif Shot Bloks®, Sport Beans® and Nuun® tablets started making the scene and really making a go at being the fueling mechanism of choice for runners the world over.

I tried Gu®. Didn’t work for me. Made me gag and made my hands all sticky. I cannot cope with sticky hands during a race. It makes me nuts. I tried PB & J sandwiches, but they were too tough to get down in the later miles. I liked eating Rice Krispy Treats® for a while, but again with the sticky situation. Plus, all the chewing made me inhale air into my tummy. No good. I grabbed Sport Beans® from a very kind Marine Corps officer during my first Marine Corps Marathon in 2004. The consistency worked for me, but they were far too sweet for me. (Yes, I said too sweet for me. Don’t look so shocked)

What I’m saying is that there are a lot of fueling options out there and you have to find the one that’s right for you. It’s gotta be something easy that you can chomp down in a few seconds so you don’t waste time with wrappers and stuff. It’s gotta be tasty, or at least, it can’t make you gag. It’s gotta have some redeeming qualities: electrolytes are a must, caffeine is a bonus. There are just so many to choose from!

During my most recent Marine Corps Marathon training, I gave Clif Shot Bloks® a go and it’s been true love ever since.

The mid-miles may have sucked (me and the POJs were best friends), but I was STILL properly hydrated and fueled up for the big finish in New Jersey.

Once you find your magic fueling product, you have to know when and how to use it. Too little and you bonk, too much and you barf. Yuck. Here are some tips on how to fuel while running.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Treat your long runs like a dry-run for race day and figure out when you need refueling and how much. I know I need water with my Shot Bloks® and that I need to eat 2 about every 4-6 miles, so I plan ahead with water stations and pay attention to when I ate them last.
  • Start early. This helps to prevent the bonk. You don’t want to be playing catch-up with your fuel or your hydration. I start around mile 5/6 and stop at mile 23. After mile 23, it’s all fluids for me because my stomach is too upset. But figure out what works for you!
  • Stick to your schedule. Race day is not the day to abandon all practices and wing it. You will likely be nervous and excited on race day, so follow your training fuel schedule to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Accomodate for weather. Windy days will make you feel like you have dry mouth. Swirl and spit with water, don’t ingest at every single aid station. You will sweat more on hotter days, so Nuun® tablets or Enlyten® strips might be the way to go so that you’re not ingesting too many fluids or too much fuel, but you have plenty of electrolytes. Don’t ignore your hydration if it’s cold outside. You’re still sweating and burning crazy calories and you still need fuel.

Trust your training. Training with your fuel is just as important as training your body. Without it, you’ll likely not hit that sub-four hour/Boston qualifier/just finishing the damn race goal. Practice with your fuel. Figure out what works for you. Make a schedule to follow during your race. Pack enough to get through your race. Trust yourself. Trust your body. 

Now go out and run!

Tell me, what are you fueling with these days??? Hey, New York City Marathoners, what are you carrying with you in TWO WEEKS (yikes!)?


Fitness News Fridays

Hey everybody! Today I am meeting up with one of my fabulous lululemon athletica friends to work on my personal goals. JB got me started on setting goals a few years ago (we have them listed on a legal notepad on our desk and we check them off as we complete them one by one) and I have learned to love it. I used to hate it because I was afraid of failing. But, as we all know, failure is just another opportunity to succeed disguised as a really crappy day.

In honor of today being a goal-setting day, I decided to check one thing off of my goal list this morning: Barry’s Bootcamp. One of my favorite New Yorker things to do is try new workouts in the city and Barry’s has been on my list since it opened in Chelsea a few months ago. I took a class with the very fabulous Keoni Hudoba this morning and had a BLAST! We did a Full Body class that alternated between treadmill intervals and light weight-training. I love this kind of workout and I love it even more doing it with a whole class full of people. Group suffering! I highly recommend you try it out if you find yourself in NYC. I will definitely be adding it to my workout routine.

But there’s more than that happening in the health and fitness world this week! Here’s what you might have missed:

  • Deena Kastor has some words of encouragement for you. She’s just the best.
  • It’s always sad when a young person dies, especially when it’s from a sports-related injury. The question I ask myself is: Football is a rough sport. Don’t the athletes and their parents take some responsibility for playing/letting their child play a rough sport and risking injury? My baby brother, The Golden Child, played football in college and I love the sport. It’s a tough discussion to have in light of this and many other tragedies.
  • Don’t feel bad. I can’t do a head stand either. Probably for all of these reasons and more.
  • What’s the “BEST” exercise? Whatever one you will do consistently, I say.
  • Kourage Athletics is a company owned and operated by Kenyans making running clothes. Pretty cool.
  • The CDC and FDA want to give food “star” like movies or restaurants based on nutrition to make choosing good for you food a no-brainer. Thoughts?
  • Is there a “genetically determined level of preferred energy expenditure?” this study asks.

…And finally, if you missed them, here are two reviews of our BRICK workout from last weekend. I, for one, am glad these gals had a good enough time to write about it 🙂 Thanks, ladies! If you missed our workout last weekend, we’re on for a second one by popular demand on Saturday, October 29th. Come on down!

Happy Friday, everyone! Is anyone racing this weekend or all we all tapering? I have a 20 miler on Sunday so look for me all over Manhattan if you’re out for a run. The weather is perfect and there’s no better time of year to lace up your kicks and…

…go out and run!

When To Get a Run Coach

Ahhhhh, marathon season. In the age of social media, blogs and internet articles, advice is in abundance. What should you eat? How many days should you run per week? What should your mileage be? How do you deal with a pesky IT band problem? What are the best shoes for you? The “answers” are everywhere and everyone swears they’ve got the silver bullet to get you across that finish line.

But sometimes you need a coach.

Ryan Hall has famously dropped his coach after a bummer finish in Chicago. Kara Goucher split from Alberto Salazar this fall and I haven’t found out whether or not she has a new coach/team yet. There are plenty of other examples of famous, extremely successful professional athletes who don’t have coaches. Gina Colata from the New York Times wrote about the conundrum between getting a coach and going it alone this week (she’s keeping hers, by the way).

So, how do you know when you should bother trying to find a coach?

1. You’re changing your distance. There is a HUGE difference between running a half marathon and a marathon. They are completely different beasts and should be treated as such. A coach can help guide you through the trials and travails of adding on mileage without beating your body up.

2. You want to get faster. Sometimes it’s a simple difference in workouts that will make you faster. Sometimes it’s having someone tell you what your goal pace for a weekly speed run should be. Sometimes it’s being held accountable for your workouts and effort. Coaches can help with all of this and have lots of tricks to help you PR.

3. You keep getting injured. Good coaches are excellent at being bossy. They tell you when to back off the speed or mileage and when to see a physical therapist/acupuncturist/massage therapist/orthopedist about a nagging injury. They’re also the ones who can help with strength-training routines to combat common injuries (or, at least they should be).

4. You need motivation. Coaches are excellent motivators. I remember Coach Mustache my freshman year of high school. He never said an unkind word to me or berated any of us the way you might imagine a coach would and we all ran our BUTTS off for him. He just knew how to motivate us (Conference! Regionals! Sectionals! State!).

5. You’re new. Get. A. Coach. Pleeeeeeeease. There are some tricks and tips they can offer you that will make running so much more enjoyable, thus increasing the odds that you will keep on doing it. Remember, “most people don’t run long enough on their first wind to realize they have a second.” Don’t be that guy. It can be discouraging. Get an expert’s advice.

There are certainly bad coaches out there and, as noted in the NYT article above, there isn’t any national overseeing body that certifies running coaches. However, making sure your coach has some sort of education where anatomy and physiology are concerned is key. Also, your coach should be a runner. That might go without saying, but I’m going to go ahead and say it since a certain trainer seems to be spouting advice all over TV about how to run a marathon and he/she HAS NEVER RUN ONE. I mean, seriously.

If they haven’t been through the hell at mile 23, I’m tuning out. Just being honest.

Anyway, there are great coaches out there and it’s even better to join a team where you can commiserate with others about how much hill workouts suck and that marathon course is super-fast and what’s your goal time at this weekend’s race? Teams are great and they usually have multiple coaches with different training styles, so find one you like. Find one you gel with. Find one you trust. And then GO FOR IT!

Now go out and run!

 

How To Love a Good Run In the Rain

Confession: I have not always loved running in the rain. In junior high and high school cross country, it meant slogging through seemingly endless miles of mud and yuck soaked to the bone in my cotton uniform to a finish line that looked like a brown Slip ‘n Slide only to ride home on a bus with a bunch of sweaty, dirty, smelly, filthy runners. Yuck.

Bless the Obi-wans for coming out to those cross country races and standing in the rain to watch me trudge past them. It could not have been fun for them, either.

Today is SO different. I love the rain. I ran one of my favorite 21 mile training runs in the rain all over Manhattan a couple of years ago. The park is quieter, the runners are nicer and there’s something more peaceful about a run in the rain than in any other weather. The other piece of the puzzle is my beloved gear. Thank heavens for lululemon!! I mean, good clothes really make running in inclimate weather not only possible, but enjoyable.

But it’s not always roses and puppies out there. You have to be in the right mind-set and prepare yourself for a few key situations when heading out for a run in the rain. Here is a sure-fire way to have a great run in the rain, in my experience.

#1. Leave your watch/Garmin/iPod at home. The rain (and likely, the wind) will probably slow you down a little. Plus, it’s better to keep your focus on the road/trail when it’s slick and only made more slippery by fallen leaves. Unplug and enjoy the scenery.

#2. Dress for success. Wear fitted, moisture-wicking clothing and a hat or a visor. Loose stuff will whack against your skin and get heavier with every mile, especially if it’s not a good tech fiber. Here’s what I wore today:

         

Turbo TankSpeedy Run Hat, Run: For Your Life Crops & the very fabulous (and now unavailable) Run: Essential Jacket. Rain usually means a sweaty, humid run for me so I don’t like to layer it up too much under my jacket. The hat is so key for me because nothing spoils a run like problems with my contact lenses.  Also, braids for the win!

#3. Plan on getting wet. Sounds silly, right? But, if you need to be back at your desk 5 minutes after your run and you have nowhere to shower and towel off, you probably want to save your run for a time when you can. This goes for your shoes, too. Probably not a day for a double-down in the gym after your soggy, beautiful run because they will look like this:

 

Sopping. Soggy. Wet. Dirty. Basically unwearable. Dry overnight.

#4. Treat it like a fun run. Don’t try and do a massive amount of speed work or some crazy mileage on a rainy day. Go out, do your best, get ‘er done and all that, but keep it light and don’t expect too much. Dodging umbrellas on 5th Avenue always slows me down, but if I plan for it, it’s not nearly as aggravating.

#5. Just do it, already! Commit. Don’t complain. Don’t procrastinate. Get out there and run. Running in the rain is akin to reliving childhood moments so enjoy it!

Now go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: The Do-Over

Happy BTAT, everyone!

I don’t golf. I have tried. I hate it (sorry golf-lovers, it’s just not for me). My people are not a golfing people. Anyway, there is only one thing I love about golfing: the Mulligan. There are conflicting reports of where this time-honored tradition came from, but the long of the short of it is that a Mulligan is a Do-Over.

I’m a big fan of the Do-Over.

I love the idea that I can change my mind. And I do. Often. I mean, hellooooo? I am back in school in my thirties so that I can earn a degree in physical therapy and I am a good ten years plus older than everyone else in the room. Little late to the game? Sure. Better late than never, though. Big-time Do-Over.

I love having the freedom to try, screw up and try again. There was a great article in the New York Times recently that highlighted one principle’s theory that children need to learn that failure is ok and that it teaches them strength of character, a trait often missing in children and adults who have never ever failed. I can’t say that I love the feeling of failing, but when I try again and succeed, that success is so much more celebrated.

I love that forgiveness is in abundance in my life. I forget things, especially now that I have school brain, and the amazing people in my world are so incredibly forgiving when I completely flake out. Thanks for the endless amounts of Do-Overs, everyone!

I love that if I suck at something, I can always try again. I have the Philly Marathon in 5 weeks and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Running during my first serious colitis flare-up in New Jersey last May was such a terrible experience for me that I’m nervous Philly will be more of the same. I thought Jersey would be my PR and it was anything but. I guess the only way to wipe the slate clean is to attempt a Do-Over. Thankfully, Dr. Boz and I have a plan in place and new drugs doing there thing well in advance so that this attempt to PR Do-Over will be a successful one. If not, there’s always next spring. But isn’t it great that one crappy (haha! great pun) race doesn’t define my entire running career? Love it!

Whenever I think of Do-Overs, I think of City Slickers when Mitch (Billy Crystal) and Ed (Bruno Kirby, oh RIP) console Phil (Daniel Stern) by telling him that, although he married a monster and slept with the check-out girl at his father-in-law’s store, he can still have a Do-Over, just like when they were kids. Awwww. He just has to do it for himself. I love that. I couldn’t find that scene, but here’s another gem (PS. Did you know that’s the very hot Jake Gyllenhaal playing Billy Crystal’s son?!):

Anyway, life kind of is just one big Do-Over, if you think about it. We are constantly changing, or wanting to change, who we are, what we look like, how people see us. If you want to redefine yourself, your life DO IT. Don’t wait. Don’t care what people will say. Go with your gut.

And that’s why life is so much better than the alternative, because of the Do-Over. Hooray for a fresh start.

Now go out and run!

Have you had a life Do-Over? Where did it take you?