I’m A Newbie: Adding Mileage

Hey there, Newbies! How are your workouts going? Do you love running yet? Have you felt that “runner’s high” that we seem to yap on and on about? Yeah, sometimes that one takes a while. But I bet you feel better already. Keep up the good work and, in the mean time, let’s talk about building mileage.

A question I get asked a lot is “How much mileage should I add to build up to a <insert distance> race?” The conventional wisdom is 10% each week. I have heard the 10% rule since I was a little tike running in my bright pink Umbros and cotton t-shirt. (It was the style back then, don’t judge). I like the 10% rule for long runs, but not so much for mid-week workouts. Here’s what I would do:

Work your way up to running 3 miles straight. Once you can do that, you can start training for just about any distance, you just need the time to train right. Mix up your weekly workouts (3-4 of them) between an easy run, interval training (aka THE DREADED SPEED WORKOUT) and a tempo/hilly run. Use one of your miles as a warm-up and break up the workout portion so that it adds up to about 4-5 miles (this turns into 6-7 when you’re marathon training, but let’s not put the cart before the horse, ok?). With breaks in between during interval workouts, you’ll be able to cover more miles than if you just continuously run. This will also help you build up your mileage on your long runs and make it easier for your body to do what it does during those longer miles.

Ok, now onto those long runs. This is where I like the 10% rule, with a modification. I would start with one mile more than you have ever run and make that your start distance. Once you feel like you’ve conquered that distance, add on 10% (if you start at 4 miles, you add on .4 miles = 4.4 miles, the next time you add .44 ≈ 5.0 miles). I feel like you need to cover every new distance twice before you move onto adding more, but that’s just the way I roll.

And here’s the trick: Every three weeks, taper back and run a shorter long run. This will give your legs a little bit of a break during a time when you’re adding a bunch of mileage AND offer you the opportunity to go a little bit faster and rock that shorter long run! Score!

Don’t be afraid of adding distance and struggling through a long run. We all have those days. If you start having unusual or nagging pains, please taper it back and do more strength training. The dangers of adding too much too soon are well documented and include developing shin splints, ITB syndrome, tendonitis of just about any and all tendons in your legs, lower back pain and a whole host of nasty stuff that’s really annoying to get rid of. So, listen to your body and be smart about your mileage.

I’m headed out to Summer Streets tomorrow morning! Woohoo! My favorite time of year! If you’re in New York City, it’s must do. Also, don’t forget about Escape To Yoga Island happening tomorrow at Governor’s Island. Stop by and show some love to my luluelmon folk. All day yoga!

But before that, go out and run!

Post-Long Run Recovery

Runners talk a lot about running long runs and races and all that jazz, but I hear very little about what happens after you stop running. Most professional athletes are taught to respect the recovery as much as the run, and so should you! Recovery is where the growth takes place and without growth there will be no progress.

If I’m honest, the first thing I do after a long run is go to the corner store next to our apartment and get drinks and whatever food sounds good. Sometimes it’s watermelon, sometimes it’s pita chips. Because I sweat more than the average bear (it’s true: in yoga class the other day I was the only girl who looked like it was raining down on her; true story), I tend to crave salty items pretty much immediately. I don’t judge after a long run. And also, the Diet Lemonade Ice Tea from Snapple has been calling my name recently.

The perfect lunch. I had a sandwich, too, but it didn't make it to the photo shoot...

Most people jump into the shower first. Not me. Reason? Well, I am sensitive to dips in my blood sugar and once my body realizes I’ve stopped running and my sympathetic nervous system chills out, my parasympathetic nervous system takes over and the first thing it does is totally freak out because I haven’t eaten in a very long time. How do I know this? Oh, I do this very lovely little thing where I get very dizzy and nauseous and it usually ends with my gorgeous husband shoving some carbohydrates down my throat so that I don’t pass out. Very sexy indeed. So, I’ve learned my lesson. Food first.

The very simplest rule of thumb for post-endurance activities is eat whatever you can tolerate first, since your stomach is probably not the most inviting place on Earth. Second, eat protein within about a half an hour to get those amino acids flowing to your muscles for rebuilding. You see, in order to achieve optimal (and speedy) recovery time, your body needs protein right away. Not so appealing, I know, but very necessary.

I’ve recently found that because the temperatures are so high at the end of my long runs, I am desperate for a slushy immediately after I stop. I mean within seconds. So, I’ve tried a slightly (I mean, ever so slightly) healthier version in navigating the end of my runs so that I am nearby a Jamba Juice. You health nuttys out there are going to tell me there’s sugar in those drinks. I know. That’s what I’m going for! I need a little pop of sugar and something that easily digests in my stomach to boost my blood sugar levels and get me home. It helps that it’s sweet and cold, too!

Mmmmm...Mango-a-Go-Go!

I keep hard-boiled eggs in my fridge and having been loving egg salad (2 eggs, please) on a piece of whole grain bread lately. It’s a perfect combination of basic carbohydrates and pure protein to fuel my post-long run body. Along with Cedar’s amazing Fresh Bruschetta with Stacy’s Simply Salt pita chips and some cantaloupe, I have covered all my basics. Now onto the shower.

Oh, wait. No. Cold water bath first. I know, so totally not appealing at all, but necessary to prevent excess inflammation, edema and speeding recovery of those beat-up muscles. I do a cold water bath instead of an ice bath because, well, my freezer is small and I have very little ice in there. Whatever. Cold water bath is better than nothing. I save the ice water baths (with ice!) for post-marathons. I know to some (ahem, JB) it may seem grotesque to not shower immediately upon arriving home after a very sweaty, very hot long run, but I know my body and my body needs food first.

Bottom line, you need food after your run. Sorry if you’re one of those sour stomach people after you work out, but you reeeeeally should consider eating anything you can scarf down. It’ll help your recovery and keep you from getting the dizzies later. Protein, carbs and some fruits and veggies if you can! Get it all in there! Rehydrate all day long, not just immediately after, to make sure you aren’t depleting your body further of its most precious reserve. Well, most precious aside from oxygen, I suppose. I digress. Ice bath if you can take it, cold water bath if you can’t (or if you have no ice). Trust me. 15 minutes. It helps.

After that, feel free to take a little snooze! I tend to curl up on the couch next to JB and fall dead asleep if it’s more than 12 miles. But, the most important thing is to be sure to get up at some point in the day and take a little walk. Muscles soreness can be more severe if the blood supply to them is low, ie. you are a couch potato all day. So, grab your dog or your friend and take a stroll. I like to head uptown to 16 Handles, which is about two miles from our apartment, but that’s just me. I love a reward!

Whatever you do, listen to your body and treat it with love and respect. After all, it just took you on a long run. The least you can do is listen now!

Now go out and run! Or, if you already ran, take a walk 😉

Making Every Run Count

You know those days when it’s all you can do to just make it out the door for a run? Yeah, everybody has days like those, even the best runners in the world have days like those. My gorgeous husband was just saying the other day that he didn’t want to go run but once he did, he knew he’d be fine. You know what? He was. And you will, too.

You see, even the I’m-barely-motivated-enough-to-get-myself-to-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other runs have a purpose. And sometimes you might surprise yourself and end up having a super-speedy awesome run without planning on it. Every run counts in the grand scheme of things and the benefits are different for each of them.

Long Runs: Build endurance, log miles, catch up with a friend, clear your head.

Tempo Runs: Build speed, challenge your body, feel like you kicked your own butt.

Hill Repeats: Build strength, learn to appreciate the flat road, see how far you can go before you barf.

Easy Shake-Out Run: Promote muscular healing, enjoy your run, avoid prolonged soreness.

Five-Miler You Barely Made It Through AND Super-fast 20 Minute Treadmill Run: Ego boost, calorie burner, feel that sense of accomplishment.

You see? No matter how much time you have or how many miles you cover, each run can benefit you in the long run. So next time you’re thinking about throwing away a run because you only have half an hour, DON’T. Use every second of that half hour to put your heart into your workout. Remind yourself that, even though you think it’s pointless to go slog out a run, you can make every single run count, all you have to do is take the first step.

What are you waiting for? Go out and run!

Food Is Fuel: What To Eat Before You Run

Mmmmm…I love food! As an athlete, I do my best to view the food I eat as fuel for my body. As an athlete with ulcerative colitis, this is not always the easiest road to take. My body rejects all things fiber and healthy goodness when I’m sick which makes eating a challenge for me. Recently, I’ve been finding my stride with the food I CAN eat while also fueling up for my runs.

 

There are a couple of key things to pay attention to when fueling up for a run. And yes, you will have to think ahead if you want to be properly prepared to kick butt during your workouts. Sorry, procrastinators (WHAT? Runners NEVER procrastinate…), you’ll have to make this one a priority.

 

1. When did you eat last?

2. What time are you running?

2. How long are you planning on running?

 

1. What did you eat last?

If it’s been more than three hours since you’ve had anything and you’re planning on hitting the pavement for a run, you should think about having a slice of toast or something. When your blood glucose level is low you might experience dizziness, nausea, low energy and a whole host of other not-so-fun symptoms that are rather counterproductive where running is concerned. You want to make sure you’ve eaten within 1-2 hours of your workout so that your stomach is empty, but your body knows there’s more fuel on the way and your glucose levels are stable.

 

2. What time are you running?

If you are running in an hour or less, you’ll want to stick with straight-up low fiber carbohydrates like crackers, pretzels, toast or the like. Carbs move faster through your system, out of your stomach and into your blood stream to raise glucose levels and help your body access glycogen during your workout. If it’s more than two hours, feel free to eat a regular ‘ol meal with protein or whatever. The reason you want to stay away from the protein right before physical activity is basic physiology: Rest and digest. When you are at rest, your digestive system gets busy breaking down all that food but when you’re diverting blood from your organs to your muscles during activity, digestion stops. Which means, if there’s something in that stomach of yours when you get going during your workout, it’s not moving downward and likely will try and go up. Yuck.

 

Sidebar: I learned this the hard way during cross country season when I was about 11 or 12. My favorite breakfast that Mrs. Obi-wan used to make us (and still is!) is poached eggs and toast. Well, we thought it’d be a good idea for me to have a decent breakfast before a race one morning. Oh boy, was THAT a bad idea. Let’s just say I never ever did that again.

 

3. How long are you planning on running?

If you’re going out for a relatively short, easy run, you may not need anything to get you through it. If it’s a speed workout or a likewise difficult run on your schedule for the day, have a good solid meal 2-3 hours before your run and then rock it out. In a pinch, I’ll grab some Shot Bloks just so that I have something to work with. If it’s a long run that’s in your near future, you’ll want to plan ahead the night before and eat smart for the following day. Easy on the protein (have a little bit so you’re not stuck in the bathroom during your run), eat good carbs (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), and don’t go too bananas with the fruits and veggies at dinner (ha! bananas, get it?) so as to avoid the whole bathroom situation. That morning, stick to easy-to-digest carbs or whatever works for you pre-run.

 

Me? I have a Luna Bar and some toast about an hour before my long run and that works great. I don’t feel hungry during my run and am not relying on my Shot Bloks as much, which allows me to focus on my run, not my stomach.

 

You gotta find out what works for you but if you check in with your body and ask yourself these three questions, you’ll be able to narrow down your options and make good choices to fuel your run. Remember, in the end FOOD IS FUEL for your body. Acknowledge that you are an athlete and treat your body as such. Cookies are a sometimes food now. Even Cookie Monster says so.

Now go out and run!

 

 

Flying Rocks Hit Me Sometimes

They do. Here’s what happened:

True story. I was running along the river underneath the FDR, minding my own business, when suddenly *WHACK* Right. Between. The. Eyes. A giant rock tiny pebble smacked me in the forehead, leaving me stunned and standing in the middle of the sidewalk furiously rubbing my head, searching for blood. No blood (hooray!). I jogged home, hoping I wouldn’t have a gigantic bruise on my face that would leave me explaining my story to everyone so they wouldn’t think something bad about Justin, and ran to the mirror to assess the damage. Nada. A little red spot, but no more worse for the wear. It did get me thinking, though. Here are my thoughts.

I fall down, trip, and get generally sick-feeling occasionally when I run. Don’t you? I mean, even sometimes? Well, when I go out and run I sometimes run to Brooklyn or over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey (what’s up, Jersey!) and anywhere else my little heart desires. Problem is, if something happens to me and I’m not able to communicate with paramedics or passersby who find me, they wouldn’t know who I am or who I belong to. Scary, right?

In case of emergency, call Chi-Chi!

That’s why I love my Road ID (shameless plug, but I was definitely NOT compensated for this post or given any free schwag). It’s $20 and has all the pertinent information on it that one might need if I end up on the side of the road somewhere. Given that I have a medical condition that can sometimes sideline me during a run, this little velcro/stainless steel wonder might just save my life one day. I even bought one for my husband because here’s the thing: there are dozens of hospitals in this city and if I ended up in one, these are the three people I’d want notified right away. I can’t imagine my poor husband pacing in our tiny little apartment, worried sick because I didn’t come home from a run. This makes us both feel better about going for a solo run in our big, bad city. And seriously, it’s tiny and weighs nothing.

Some of you might not know the story of Trisha Meili, the Central Park Jogger. Back in 1989 in New York City, Trisha went for a run in Central Park shortly after 9 p.m. Hours later, two men wandering the park found her near death from a brutal beating and rape. In a coma, with 75 percent blood loss, a fierce blow to the head and severe exposure, doctors worried that this young woman might not survive and they didn’t even know her name. For days they couldn’t identify her or let her family know she was alive. If she’d had a Road ID, it might have been a different story.

*PS. Trisha is an active volunteer with the Achilles Track Club and her book, I AM THE CENTRAL PARK JOGGER: A Story of Hope and Possibility inspired the Hope and Possibility 5 miler I am running this Sunday. Come on out and join us!*

Super-light and doesn't get in the way

If that isn’t a case for you to spend $20 for a Road ID tag or some other form of identification, I don’t know what is. Just click the link and get it. They even have this cool interactive feature that allows the doctors or whomever is working on you to go to a link that brings up your ID page (and whatever you choose to put on it) to better treat you or contact your next of kin. How modern are we?! Here’s the link:

http://www.roadid.com/Common/LearnMore.aspx?PID=3

So, buy your new tag. I promise that I will stop mothering you about leaving a note telling people where you are going or when you should be expected back. Need more coaxing? Watch 127 Hours and then try and tell me it will never happen to you. That’s what they all say…

Now go out and run (before it rains)!