Brian’s Blog

Have Fun with a 5k Early in Your Marathon Training

Hello Runners,

I encourage you to consider running a 5k in your first two months of half- or full-marathon training. I found an organization called Park Run (https://www.parkrun.us/) that does local free 5ks throughout the year.

First, running a 5k can be a nice change from the normal routine of weekend long runs, which your body and mind will greatly appreciate! If you do most, or all of your training alone, a 5k will be a great opportunity to be around and connect with other runners. In addition, being in a race environment can be motivating and inspiring and help you enjoy and appreciate your training more.

Also, a 5k early on in your training can be a great way to determine your baseline fitness. Your performance from your 5k race can be used to predict your performance in a future half- or full-marathon, depending on your training for the next 12-16 weeks. This training will need to include long runs and other workouts that appropriately stress your aerobic system, such as progression and threshold runs.

Your pace for a 5k can be used to determine paces for your training runs by using prediction calculators. I use races and prediction calculators with almost all of the runners I coach, to tailor their workouts, so they are getting the most benefit, while training at paces that are most appropriate for them.

There are several online calculators that can be used including:

www.macmillanrunning.com

However, you need to use these intelligently in predicting your future half- or full-marathon pace. This includes taking 5-10 seconds off your 5k time and then plugging into the predictor calculator. Keep in mind this is a projected pace for these events, and certainly not a pace you would run these events at now. After all, you won’t have done long runs much more than 8-12 miles at this point.

You should aim for a negative split in your 5k. That is to run the last half of the 5k faster than the first half. The easiest way to accomplish this is to keep a consistent pace for the first three miles and then speed up for the last 200 meters or tenth of a mile. Also, Coach Jay Johnson, in his book Simple Marathon Training, recommends running the first mile very conservatively, including running the first half mile at a pace that is challenging, but comfortable. He says don’t worry about those people who pass you because most of them will be running a positive split (slower second half of the 5k). He suggests a negative split race is a better predictor of your aerobic fitness than a positive split race.

Make sure you recovery well from your 5k. You should perform a cooldown after the 5k, including walking and then stretching/foam rolling. Also, I recommend a brisk walk or other low to moderate cross-training the next day for approximately 30 minutes. You may want to take the following day off from running completely before resuming your running.

So, go out and enjoy a 5k!

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

  • Simple Marathon Training, Jay Johnson.

How to Speed Your Recovery from Races and Difficult Training Runs

Hello Runners,

Congratulations to all those who ran the Colfax Half- or Full-Marathon on Sunday.

This reminds me of the importance of recovery, either from an event, such as a half- or full-marathon, or a tough training run. In a previous post (link to this), I discussed the importance of recovery. One important form of recovery is sleep, which I got plenty of after my 15 mile run on Sunday! In previous posts, I discussed tips (link here), as well as foods and supplements (link here) that can help you improve sleep to aid your recovery.

Research has shown that another important form of recovery is the use of cold or contrast water therapy (alternating between heat and cold). After my second marathon, I used ice baths for the first time. Basically, I ran cold water in the tub, got in and then added ice. This was not enjoyable, but wow, did it work! It only took me a couple of days to physically recover from this marathon, whereas for my first marathon it took about a week.

Although I don’t use ice baths very often, I do use cold water in the shower, after some of my challenging training runs. I recommend not overusing ice baths because they can stifle some of the important fitness adaptations that occur during the recovery process. However, I would recommend them, or contrast water therapy after events, such as half- or full-marathons, or tough training runs in the last few weeks before your event.

Cold Therapy for Recovery

What is it?

  • Immersing body parts or whole body in cold or ice water
  • This can be in a bath with cold and/or ice water, or even using a cold water shower
  • To see benefits the water temperature only has to be as low as 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit

Benefits

  • Evidence from research has shown that following intense exercise with cold water immersion reduces muscle soreness over the next several days
  • Research has also shown that taking an ice bath reduces the drop in performance that follows a high-intensity, long-duration effort (like distance running)

When and how long should you expose your body to cold therapy?

  • You only need to soak for 10-15 minutes maximum, you may try shorter amounts of time such as 5 minutes to build up tolerance
  • You should perform cold/ice water immersion within the first two hours after your event or hard training session
  • Continue to perform ice baths for up to two days after your event, or hard training session, if you are still sore

How does it work?

  • Cold therapy constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown
  • Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a faster return of blood flow, which helps move the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body
  • Immersion in water exposes the body to hydrostatic pressure and this pressure helps clear out waste products and reduces inflammation in the muscles
  • Cold water temperatures also decrease nerve impulses, reducing pain from soreness or injury

Other Tips

  • To make the ice bath experience more tolerable, fill the tub with two to three bags of crushed ice, then add cold water to a height that will cover you nearly to the waist when seated
  • Before getting in, put on a warm jacket, a hat, and neoprene booties if you have them, make a cup of hot tea, and collect some entertaining reading material to help the next 5-15 minutes fly by

Contrast Water Therapy (CWT)

  • An alternative to cold/ice water immersion to help speed recovery

What is it?

  • Exposing the body to alternating bouts of hot and cold water

Benefits

  • Benefits for recovery from an event, such as a half- or full-marathon, or particularly tough training session, seem to be similar to those of cold/ice water therapy

When and how long should you expose your body to CWT?

  • Most research studies have shown that alternating between water temperatures of 45-68° F for the cold water and 93-106° F for the hot water is best
  • Each immersion should last between 3-5 minutes and the total immersion time should be between 20 and 30 minutes
  • You should end your CWT with cold and not heat
  • Use CWT for the first two hours after an event or particularly tough training session
  • Perform CWT for the first two days after an event or training session, if soreness persists

Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the use of cold therapy or CWT for recovery.

As a reminder, I am offering a new coaching option to help you achieve your running goals. Each month you will receive a customized training plan with workouts to progress you toward achieving your running goals. During the last week of each month, you and I will have a 15-20 minute coaching call to discuss your progress, and address any questions or concerns you have regarding your training. I will then send you the next month’s workouts based on your progress and your running goals. During the month you will also have the opportunity to email me questions that you have.

In addition, you will have access to my Facebook Training group, which will allow you to be part of a community of runners. This will give you the opportunity to be supported during your training, as well as ask questions and receive training tips.

To initiate the process, we would have a 30-minute free coaching consult to discuss your running goals, running history, current training, favorite workouts, and any current or past injuries.

The cost for this coaching option will be $59/month, which is a significant savings from the customized weekly coaching service that I offer ($159/month).

For questions email me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

Ways To Have Fun With Your Training Runs and A Special Offer To Help You Achieve Your Running Goals

June 23 pic 1 6 mile morning runHello Runners,

As I finished my second week of marathon-specific training this past week, I was thinking about the importance of making training enjoyable and different ways to do so. I will discuss several of these ways later in this email. However, before I do, I want to share with you a new coaching option I am offering runners to help them achieve their goals.

For this new coaching option, you will receive a customized training plan with workouts for the entire month. During the last week of each month, you and I will have a 15-20 minute coaching call to discuss your progress and address any questions or concerns you have regarding your training. I will then send you the next month’s workouts based on your progress and your running goals. During the month you will also have the opportunity to email me questions that you have.

To initiate the process, we would have a 30-minute free coaching consult to discuss your running goals, running history, current training, favorite workouts, and any current or past injuries. The first month of your training will include a 5k or 10k race, or similar time trial, based on what is most appropriate for your fitness level and running goals. The results from this race or time trial will be used in subsequent training. Each month you will receive a new training plan with workouts to help progress you towards achieving your goals based on your progress from the previous month.

The cost for this coaching option will be $59/month, which is a significant savings from the customized weekly coaching service that I offer ($159/month).

For questions, or to get started, either reply to this email, or email me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com

Now, back to the ways to make your training more enjoyable, which I will include in your customized training plans.

Immediate gratification

  • Training for a half- or full-marathon takes a lot of dedication and at a minimum you will be training for 4-5 months. So at times, it might be difficult to get excited about a goal that is months away, while you are struggling through individual training runs or other workouts. Therefore, you need to celebrate your small wins along the way, because as humans we are hardwired to seek out immediate gratification. So, set yourself up to receive immediate gratification for each of your workouts. Is it stress relief, a sense of accomplishment, the hit of endorphins that make you feel awesome! Whatever it is frame your training and workouts around this to better help you enjoy your training.

Celebrate the small wins

  • Also, celebrate the small wins you are achieving as your progress towards your ultimate goal, such as completing that first 10-miler, 20-miler, difficult speed workout, etc. Share this with your significant other, family, friends, etc. Let them know how awesome you are. You deserve it!

Do the workouts you enjoy

  • Most runners have favorite workouts they enjoy doing, so perform these periodically, to help you enjoy your training. One of my personal favorites are ladder workouts, such as performing 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 4-, 3-, 2-, 1-minute work bouts (commonly referred to as intervals) at a somewhat hard to hard pace.

Incorporate shorter races in your training

  • It can be helpful to incorporate some appropriate shorter races into your training. Being in a race/event atmosphere can help re-invigorate you and help bring more energy into your subsequent training. Plus, doing an event can help you see the progress you are making in your training, which certainly can be motivating!

Run in an area you enjoy

  • Do you have a favorite place that you enjoy running? Then, do at least some of your training runs there. This may require driving, so wake up a little earlier to get to your favorite running spot and enjoy it.

Vary your training routes

  • One of our most basic needs is the need for variety. So, satisfy this basic need by varying where you perform your training runs. This might include doing some runs on trails, if you perform most of your runs on the road, or mixing in a few hills, if you usually run on flat terrain. I love to explore new areas, and so I will incorporate this into my runs, especially my long runs.

Avoid what you don’t like

  • For me this is simple, I don’t like running on the treadmill, so I don’t. Yes, this means running in cold and rainy weather sometimes, but I have a much better time than on a treadmill. Also, I find the track to be boring, so I perform my speed work on roads and trails, even incorporating hills sometimes for variety.
  • So, avoid, or at least minimize running in areas, on surfaces, etc. that you don’t enjoy. Your training runs shouldn’t be a slog.

Consider what inspires you

  • I am always inspired by the natural beauty of Colorado. In fact, that was one of the primary reasons why I moved to Colorado about seven years ago. So, I choose running routes that will incorporate natural beauty in some way. This makes my runs more enjoyable and reminds me how grateful I am to be in Colorado and to be alive!

Have a strong enough and the Right Why for training

  • I always recommend runners think about their goals and reasons why it is important to achieve those goals. If you have goals that are meaningful to you, and you remind yourself of these on a daily basis, it makes it easier to put in the training necessary to achieve these goals.

You don’t need to do a bunch of 20-milers to be successful in the marathon

  • Your weekly long runs should not be a weekly “death march.” You don’t have to do a bunch of 20 mile runs to be successful in the marathon. I usually only do two when I’m training for a marathon, and instead perform shorter long runs which incorporate speed or hills. Again, I run in areas I enjoy which make the long runs more pleasurable.

Don’t need to “hit your paces” for every run

  • Yes, there are certain workouts in which attaining a certain pace for a portion of the run is important, but this shouldn’t be the case for all runs. In fact, on easy days I would recommend not monitoring your pace at all and just focusing on enjoying an easy pace run. For my weekly runs with my friend, Sam, I don’t even notice the pace until after the run, and often it’s about 2-3 minutes slower than my goal marathon pace.

Consider doing some of your easy runs with other runners

  • If you don’t normally train with others, it might make training more enjoyable to do a run on occasion with a friend or running group. Just make sure to run your own pace. Often running groups are social, so I would choose easy runs to do with these groups, so that you can keep the pace conversational. I know I really appreciate the easy runs I have with my friend every week.

Consider your training runs a gift

  • I strongly encourage you to frame your runs as a gift you give yourself and not something you feel you should do. Consider all the great benefits that you’ll get from your training runs, such as stress relief, a sense of accomplishment, more energy, inspiration, etc. If you perform your runs in the morning it is a great way to start the day!

So, have fun with your training and try a few of the recommendations I shared. If you found this to be helpful, please share this with anyone you feel might benefit.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Is It Okay To Run With My Water Bottle or Phone in My Hand While I Run?: The Importance of Symmetry and Balance on Injury Prevention and Running Performance

“It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.” – Henri Poincare

Today was my first day of marathon-specific training for the Montana Marathon in September, with my goal to break 3 hours. I ran ~6 miles and during this run (after ~12 minutes of running at an easy pace), I performed 40-60-second work bouts at ~5k pace or slightly faster and recovered with a slow jog for ~90 seconds between work bouts. After these work bouts, I ran for ~15 minutes at easy pace, and then performed 4 10-second hill sprints with a walk recovery between hill sprints, and then ran for ~10 minutes at an easy pace.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I performed foam and lacrosse/softball rolling on muscles that are commonly tight for me.

During this run, I focused on running form and thought about the importance of symmetry when running. This reminded me of a recent session I had with a runner I coach.

To help minimize the risk of injury and optimize running performance, it is important to be as symmetrical with running form as possible. There are several aspects factors which can contribute to lack of symmetry which runners can control. This includes arm swing, muscle imbalances/weaknesses, and flexibility issues. Lack of symmetry can increase the risk of certain injuries such as IT band syndrome, as well as other common injuries that occur at the ankle, knee, and hip joint.

You should be incorporating arm swing, if you aren’t already, and the range of motion for arm swing should be from the top of the hips to the nipple line (“hip-to-nip”). Both arms should swing through this same range. This can be an issue for those who are holding an object in one hand, such as a water bottle or phone. Therefore, you should not hold an object in one hand and instead, use a fuel belt or some other holder for water, phones, fuel, keys, etc.

Drill for Symmetric Arm Swing

To help be symmetrical with arm swing, I recommend the following drill. You can perform this at any time, although I feel the best time to perform this drill is during your dynamic warmup. Here is the drill:

  • Stand in front of a full length mirror
  • Bend at the elbow so there is slightly less than a 90 degree angle formed by the forearm and upper arm
  • Alternate swinging your arms from “hip-to-nip” at a vigorous pace
  • Continue for 30-60 seconds
  • Your hands should be lightly cupped with thumb gently resting on the index finger
  • Be sure that neither hand crosses the midline of the body

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you have your running form and your muscular strength and range of motion assessed at the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder joints for any muscle imbalances/weaknesses and flexibility issues that can lead to a lack of symmetry.

Muscle weaknesses/imbalances can also negatively affect symmetry while you run. It is common for runners to be stronger (dominant) on one side; often the right side. Therefore, it is important to perform strengthening and mobility exercises to address any muscle imbalances/weaknesses that can cause a lack of symmetry. The exercises you perform should include unilateral exercises, which would be performed by one side of the body. One great unilateral exercise that I recommend all runners perform, especially early on in their training, is clamshells.

Clamshells

  • Lie on your side with your torso and pelvis both perpendicular to the ground
  • Straighten the spine
  • Slowly lift the belly up off the floor to create a stable core position
  • Squeeze your glutes tight like you have a quarter stuck between your butt cheeks
  • With your feet resting on each other, lift only the knee up until it’s level with the hip
  • Lower the knee down keeping the glute contracted the entire time
  • Start by performing 8-10 repetitions on each side, and over time gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can perform 20 on each side with proper form

If you haven’t already done so, go to the welcome page on Denver Running Coach (www.denverrunningcoach) to receive videos on strengthening exercises, including clamshells, as well as ways to improve flexibility and mobility for any muscles that are tight and have limited range of motion.

Although perfect symmetry is most likely impossible to attain, we should strive to be as symmetric as we can while we run. This will help make us a more efficient, and thus faster runner, while helping us minimize the risk of injury.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Recover Better With Better Sleep: Sleep Aids That Can Help You Improve the Quantity and Quality of Your Sleep Part 2

In the last post, I discussed different sleep aids that you can use to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. This is important for facilitating recovery from challenging runs that you have and will allow your body to undergo certain adaptations, which will allow you to become a better runner.

As I promised, I will discuss other sleep aids in this post, focusing on what you eat and the timing of what you eat, as well as supplements.

What and When You Eat Matters

The food you eat before bed can affect your sleep. Research has shown that a high-carbohydrate meal may be detrimental to sleep. Even though a high-carbohydrate meal can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be a restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals can promote a deeper and more restful sleep. If you still want to eat a high-carbohydrate meal for dinner, you should eat it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it.

Avoiding caffeine before bed is also important and for some people caffeine should not be taken less than eight hours before bed to optimize quality and quantity of sleep.

Certain Foods with Sleep Promoting Properties

Taking the following foods before bed (such as dinner or dessert) can be helpful in promoting both sleep quality and quantity.

Almonds: Almonds are a source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium which also may help improve sleep quality. In fact, my wife and I have had success as far as sleep quality when taking almond milk before bed.

Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in the brain to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

Kiwi: Kiwi contains serotonin which regulates your sleep cycle. The antioxidants (vitamin C and carotenoids) in kiwis may also help promote sleep due to their anti-inflammatory effects. This is another food that my wife and I have been eating before bed, which also seems to be beneficial.

Tart Cherry Juice: May be an effective sleep promoter due to its high melatonin content.

Fatty Fish: Including salmon, trout, and mackeral contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and this combination has the potential to enhance sleep quality because both increase production of serotonin.

Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the best food sources for melatonin. Walnuts also contain fatty acids that help increase the production of serotonin.

Passionflower Tea: Contains apigenin, an antioxidant that produces a calming effect and increases GABA, a brain chemical that inhibits other brain chemicals that induce stress. 

Supplements

There are too many to talk about one blog post, however I will mention a few. Be aware that there is always the potential issue of the quality of supplements and possible side effects. So you should check with your physician before taking any supplements.

Melatonin: I recommend using this sparingly, such as when you experience jet lag from travel, because taking this often can affect our body’s natural production of melatonin. This supplement may also be beneficial for daytime sleep quality for those whose schedules require them to sleep during the daytime.

MCT or coconut oil: take 30-60 minutes before bed. Dave Asprey discusses the use of MCT oil in his book The Bulletproof Diet as a helpful sleep aid. MCT or coconut oil can be effective for minimizing any food cravings that might keep you awake, because it provides a slow-burning source of fat fuel and won’t cause insulin levels to spike, which occurs when you have carbohydrates or protein. Dave provides a recipe for a beverage called the Non-Coffee Vanilla Latte, which specifically incorporates MCT or coconut oil. I have used this beverage to help improve my own sleep. Here’s the recipe:

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of hot filtered water
    • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or ghee
    • 2 tablespoons MCT or organic coconut oil
    • 1 teaspoon unsweetened vanilla powder
    • ½ teaspoon organic cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of cardamom or ½ teaspoon of raw organic honey
  •   Add all ingredients to a blender and process until all are incorporated. It is important that they are blended with blender, Vitamix, etc. and not just stirred by hand

Magnesium: Magnesium promotes sleep by reducing inflammation and it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Magnesium also appears to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain messenger with calming effects. The best forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, aspartate and chelate because they are the most absorbable forms. Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide.

Valerian Root: Valerian root is one of the most commonly used sleep-promoting herbal supplements in the US and Europe. However, safety remains uncertain for long-term use, and in special populations such as pregnant and lactating women.  

Glycine: Glycine is an amino acid thought to act in part by lowering body temperature at bedtime, signaling that it’s time to sleep.According to the research, taking fewer than 31 grams per day appears to be safe, however more studies are needed.

L-Theanine: Consuming a daily supplement containing 200-400 mg of this amino acid may help improve sleep and relaxation.

CBD oil: now legal in at least 30 states, this supplement has gained popularity as a sleep aid the past few years, although research is limited as far as its effectiveness. There are people that I know, including my wife, who swear by CBD oil as an effective sleep aid.

If you have, or suspect you have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, you should meet with a specialist, if you haven’t already doe so, to be assessed and have a treatment plan developed for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel might benefit.

Sleep well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-fall-asleep

The Bulletproof Die. Dave Asprey, Rodale Inc: 2014.

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“The effect of magnesium supplementation on the primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. J Res Med Sci 2012 Dec; 17(12): 1161-9.

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“Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Anitioxidants Contribute to Selected Sleep Quality ad Cardiometabolic Health Relationships: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Kanagasabai T, Ardern C. Mediators Inflamm. 2015; Oct 19.

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“Risks and Benefits of Commonly Used Herbal Medicines in Mexico.” Rodrigues-Fragoso L, Reyes-Esparza J, Burchiel S, Herrera-Ruiz D. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2008 Feb 15; 227(1): 125-135.

“The role of GABA in anxiety disorders.” Lydiard RB. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003; 64 Suppl 3: 21-7.

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“Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Am J Med 2006 Dec; 119 (12): 1005-1012.

“Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.” Fernandez-San Martin MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, Sancho-Gomex P, Calbo-Caldentey C, Flores-Mateo G. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun; 11(6): 505-11.

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“New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: glycine improves the quality of sleep.” Bannai M, Kawai N. J Pharmacol Sci. 2012; 118(2): 145-8.

“The nature of human hazards associated with excessive intake of amino acids.” Garlick PJ. J Nutr. 2004 Jun; 134(6 Suppl): 1633S-1639S.

“The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans.” Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, Liley DT, Harrison BJ, Bartholomeusz CF, Phan KL, Nathan PJ. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004 Oct: 19(7): 457-65.

“The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Lyon MR, Kapoor MP, Juneja LR. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54.

Recover Better Through Better Sleep: Sleep Aids That Can Help You Improve the Quantity and Quality of Your Sleep

Last Sunday’s afternoon long run was a tough one! The run was hilly and I threw in a few hill sprints to make it even more challenge. After I performed my strengthening exercises and cooldown, I was ready to go to bed! This reminded me of the importance of recovery and different ways to we can recover to get the benefits from a tough training run. Click this link to read this previous post:

Marathon Training 2019 Day 18: How To Get Better Sleep and Sleep’s Importance As Part of Recovery Part 1

One of the most important modes of recovery is sleep. The amount and quality of the sleep (it should be a high quality deep sleep, in which you go into a deep sleep throughout the night) that we get are most important to our recovery and will help facilitate the adaptations stimulated by our tough training run, so that we can become a better runner. After all, if we are doing a tough run to become a better runner, we ought to get the benefits from our effort!

To help me improve the quality and quantity of my sleep, I took a teaspoon of magnesium chelate (the brand I use is Garden of Life and usually take the Raspberry Lemon flavored one. Disclaimer: I have no affiliations or investment with Garden of Life) before I went to bed that night. I also used a guided meditation/hypnotherapy, and not only fell asleep quickly, but was able to sleep well throughout the night.

There are other sleep aids that I have used, and you may have used a few of these as well. I will discuss a few of these below and continue with more in the next. This is not an exhaustive list, but there may be a couple that might help make it easier for you to catch more Z’s and better facilitate the recovery process from your training runs:

Lower the room temperature in which you sleep

  • This one you may need to experiment with to find the temperature which works best, however you should adjust the room temperature to somewhere between 60-75 degrees Farenheit.
  • Also, taking a warm bath or shower before going to bed can help speed up the body’s temperature change. As you body cools down afterwards, this can help send a signal to your brain to go to sleep.

Meditation/Hypnotherapy/Breathing Techniques/Listening to Relaxing Music Such as Buddhist Chants

  • Sometimes my wife and I use a guided yoga shavasana from her yoga instructor that has helped us fall asleep
  • You can also using a breathing technique such as the following:
    • First, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth and make a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four.
    • Hold your breath and mentally count to seven.
    • Open your mouth and exhale completely, making a whoosh sound and mentally counting to eight.
    • Repeat this cycle at least three more times.
    • Initially, you may need to shorten the counts for holding your breath and exhalation
  • Listening to relaxing, soothing, and sedative music can improve sleep quality. Research has shown that Buddhist music created from different Buddhist chants for meditation can also been an effective sleep aid.

Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule

  • Our body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, cues the body to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule.
  • You should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Get Light Exposure During the Day, But Minimize Exposure At Night

  • Irregular light exposure can disrupt circadian rhythms and negatively impact the production of melatonin, a hormone essential for sleep
  • Therefore you should be exposed to light during the day (this should include natural light), however minimize light exposure at least 30-60 minutes (avoid screens, such as phone, computer, TV) before doing to bed and while sleeping (may consider using blackout curtain)
  • Disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones, so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions.

Journal and Visualize Things That Make You Happy

  • Journaling 15 minutes before bed can be helpful. Write down how you are feeling at that moment, including both positive and negative thoughts, including any stress and anxiety you are feeling.
  • Practice and concentrate on an environment that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed to help you fall asleep. You might also incorporate gratitude.

Aromatherapy

  • Use an essential oil diffuser which will infuse your room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep.
  • Research has demonstrated that lavender and damask rose oils have been effective for sleep.

In the next post, I will discuss other sleep aids that can improve sleep quantity and quality, including foods and supplements.

If you have, or suspect you have sleep apnea, you should meet with a specialist, if you haven’t already, to be assessed and have a treatment plan developed for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Sleep well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-fall-asleep

“Thermoregulation as a sleep signaling system.” Gilbert SS, van den Heuvel CJ, Ferguson SA, Dawson D Sleep Med Rev 2004 Apr; 8(2) 81-93.

“Sleep, vigilance, and thermosensitivity.” Romeijn N, Raymann RJ, Most E, Te Lindert B Van Der Meijden WP, Fronczek R, Gomez-Herro G, Van Someran EJ Pflugers Arch 2012 Jan; 463(1): 169-76.

“A warm footbath before bedtime and sleep in older Taiwanese with sleep disturbance.” Liao WC, Chiu MJ, Landis CA. Res Nurs Health 2008 Oct; 31(5): 514-28.

“An official American Thoracic Society Statement: The importance of healthy sleep. Recommendations and future priorities.” Mukherjee S, Patel SR, Kales SN, Aya NT, Strohl KP, Gozal D, Malholtra A, American Thoracic Society ad hoc Committee of Health Sleep. Am J Respir Crit Care Md 2015 Jun 15; 191 (12(: 1450-8.

“Circadian rhythms, sleep deprovation, and human performance.” Goel N, Basner M, Rao H, Dinges DF. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci 2013; 119” 155-90.

“Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep and affect.” LeGates TA, Fernandeez DC, Hattar S. Nat Rev Neurosci 2014 Jul; 15 (7): 443-54.

“Melatonin: an internal signal for daily and seasonal timing.” Trivedi AK, Kumar V. Indian J Exp Biol 2014 May; 52(5): 425-37.

“Music therapy improves sleep quality in acute and chronic sleep disorders: a meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies.” Wang CF, Sun YL, Zang HX. Int J Nurs Stud. 2014 Jan 51(1): 51-62.

“Sedative music facilitates deep sleep in young adults.” Chen CK, Pei YC, Chen NH, Huang LT, Chou SW, Wu KP, Ko PC, Wong AM, Wu CK. J Altern Complement Med 2014 Apr: 20(4):312-7.

“Effects of music videos on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with chronic insomnia: a randomized control trial.” Lai HL, Chang ET, Li YM, Huang CY, Lee LH, Wang HM. Biol Res Nurs 2015 May; 17(3): 340-7.

“Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial.” Digdon N, Koble A. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 24 May 2011.

“The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.” Hwang E, Shin S.  J Altern Complement Med 2015 Feb: 21 (2): 61-8.

“Effect of lavender aromatherapy on vital signs and perceived quality of sleep in the intermediate care unit: a pilot study.” Lyttle J, Mwatha C, Davis KK. Am J Crit Care 2014 Jan; 23(1): 24-9.

“Effect of Rosa damascene aromatherapy on sleep quality in cardiac patients: a randomized control trial.” Hajibagheri A, Babaii A, Adid-Hajbaghery M. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2014 Aug; 20(3): 159-63.

Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation: Key to Achieving Your Running, Fitness, and Weight Loss Goals

During my run yesterday morning, I was thinking about the importance of mindset during training and accomplishing goals, whether it’s completing a first marathon, qualifying for the Boston marathon, improving health through exercise, or weight loss, etc. I’ll admit it was not easy for me to get up this morning and run. It was a drizzly and dreary morning; not very inspiring for a run. So, in these situations I use a few things to help motivate me. First, I remind myself of my goals.  If you haven’t written down your running/exercise/health and wellness goals for 2019 yet, then you need to write them down and post them somewhere you can see them daily. Remember, these are goals that are important to you! I’ve also developed an association with exercise, in which I feel great during exercise and after I’m done. So, I remind myself how fantastic I will feel after I’ve completed my run and strengthening exercises. If that isn’t enough, then it’s time to listen to my favorite inspiring music, such as the theme to Rocky.

Dr. Michelle Segar has dedicated her career to studying motivation as it relates to fitness. Here are a few recommendations that she gives as far as motivating oneself to exercise. She recommends reframing exercise and to stop thinking of it as a chore, and start thinking of it as a gift. One way to do this is instead of saying to yourself “I have to exercise”, say to yourself “I get to exercise.” This allows you to rely on intrinsic motivation, which has been shown to be a more powerful motivator, than extrinsic motivation. In this case, saying “I have to exercise/run” imposes a measure of external control and thus a lack of autonomy. However, when you say “I get to exercise”, you have full autonomy; it’s your choice. Thus, the motivation comes intrinsically, or internally.

Dr. Segar details more on motivation and fitness in her book “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.”

Also, a note on weight loss. For those trying to lose weight, I recommend reframing this to weight management, such as “I’m managing my weight”, instead of “I’m losing weight”. Consciously and subconsciously, we never want to lose. So, if we focus on “weight loss” we can be fighting an internal battle with ourselves, making weight loss difficult to attain because we want to gain back what we lost. However, if we reframe to managing our weight or weight management, the internal struggle within us no longer exists, and we can be more successful.

So grab your own personal power and use intrinsic motivation to help you achieve your goals. Enjoy the gift of exercise and treat yourself!

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

  • Pinkcast 3.01: This is how to motivate yourself when you don’t feel like exercising (Daniel Pink)
  • michellesegar.com

Incorporate Fartlek (“Speed Play”) Runs in Your Training Plan to Achieve Your Running Goals for 2019

April 7 2019 Lupines near Lake Tekapo small version“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  ― Roy T. Bennett

Today I ran ~8 miles in an area with hills, and included a progression (more on this in a future post), in which I increased the pace for the last mile.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Front lunges (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Front V-lunges (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Side-to-side lunges (5 repetitions for each side)
  • Back V-lunges (5 repetitions for each side)
  • Back lunges (5 repetitions for each side)

After these exercises I performed foam and ball rolling for ~15 minutes.

As I near the end of the fitness training portion of my marathon training and transition into marathon-specific training, I’m reminded of some of the important workouts to incorporate during training, especially early during half- or full-marathon training. One type of run, which is beneficial, is the Fartlek run. Fartlek means “speed play”, and basically means running at different paces during your run. Fartlek runs are useful to incorporate early in half- or full-marathon specific training because they can help you get used to running at different speeds while you are still building aerobic fitness. Therefore, the speed bouts during Fartlek runs should be at a pace which is still primarily aerobic (~70-90% effort). For half- and full-marathon training this pace may be anywhere from approximately 5k pace to marathon pace. The primary benefits of Fartlek runs are:

  • Trains the cardiorespiratory system and neuromuscular systems to efficiently absorb, deliver, and utilize oxygen while removing carbon dioxide and lactic acid
  • Improves endurance with low muscle stress
  • Promotes running more efficiently
  • Trains runner to manage low grade physical discomfort
  • Increases strength, improves form, and less chance of injury due to less strain on ligaments and tendons

However, when, and if, you should begin incorporating Fartlek runs depends on your fitness level and runnign history. For example, beginners may include Fartlek runs later during their training, or may not include Fartlek runs at all.

For those who use Fartlek runs, the length of time that you are running at increased speed is from 30 seconds to about 4-5 minutes. These increased speed bouts can be run on flat or hilly terrain and the length of time of each bout may be the same or different. In fact, the time bouts may be structuted (running specific amount of time) or not (running to a landmark, such as the “next telephone pole”, running at different speeds). You can also vary the recovery time between bouts to make the workout more or less challenging.

Early on, I recommend keeping these bout short (30-60 seconds) and then increase them over time. As you increase the speed bout time you may want to decrease the pace. So, early on in your training a Fartlek run might look like this:

  • Dynamic warmup
  • Run 10-15 minutes at an easy pace
  • Perform 6 30-second bouts at ~5k pace, or a pace that feels comfortably hard
  • Recover in between each bout with an easy jog for 2 minutes
  • Finish your run at an easy pace

As your training progresses and the time length of your speed bouts increases, you may beginning incorporating ladder-type speed bouts in which you increase and/or decrease the time of each speed bout and run these at different paces and vary the recovery time. This can be a great transition into threshold or tempo runs, or half- or full-marathon pace runs.

So, consider incorporating Fartlek runs into your training, after you have completed a fitness training program, to help you improve your running speed and achieve your running goals for 2019. You may consider working with a coach, so that you can appropriately incorporate Fartlek runs in your training plan and get the most benefit.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 69: Train Like An Athlete, Not Just a Runner, or Risk Not Achieving Your Running Goals in 2019

March 29 2019 Snowshoeing in RMNP on KJs bday

 

 

 

 

 

Today I ran ~10 miles at a comfortable pace and included 4 x 8-second hill sprints towards the end of this run with full recovery in between hill sprints.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~60 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Bounced on stability ball with smaller ball in between knees (3 minutes)

After these exercises I did active isolate stretching for the calf muscles and ball rolling for the calf muscles and plantar fascia.

While I was performing my ten mile run, I was thinking about the importance of training like an athlete, not just a runner. Running is a repetitive exercise performed primarily in one plane of motion, the sagittal, or front-to-back, plane. However, it is important to be able to stabilize motion in the other two planes of motion, the frontal, or side-to-side, plane, and the transverse, or rotational, plane. In fact, lack of stability, mobility, and strength in these planes leads to many of the common injuries experienced by runners, including IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and issues of the knee and ankles. Therefore, runners need to train like athletes and improve stability, mobility, and stregnth in all three planes of motion. Thus, I have included exercises in the fitness training program for this. If you have not received the fitness training program, you can access this by opting in on the Welcome Page, under “Subscribe to My Newsletter.” Such exercises would include monster walks from side-to-side (frontal plane exercise) and forwards and backwards (transverse plane exercise).

You can also improve stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal and transverse planes of motion through certan modes of cross-training. One of my neighbors is a very fast runner and I see him running with his young daughter from time-to-time. Last week I saw her rollerblading, which is going to help her build stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal plane. She’s going to be a great athlete and runner!  Cross-country skiing is another great cross-training activity that will similarly be beneficial in the frontal plane. For this, and other reasons, I like to include cross-country skiing for some of my cross-training workouts. Other forms of cross-training can also be beneficial for improving stability, mobility, and stregnth, so I recommend including some variety in the modes of cross-training that you perform. My wife’s birthday was this past Friday, and we sprent a couple of days snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Snowshoeing is another great mode of cross-training. I have continued to feel the effects of those workouts in my glutes, which is also going to help me have more power in my running stride, and thus be a better athlete and runner.

So, embrace being an athlete and not just a runner, to improve your chances of achieving your running goals for 2019.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 62: Embrace Hill Running, Benefits and Techniques

March 20 Moonset on Equinox

March 21 moonset small version

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hills. We love them. We hate them. They make us strong. They make us weak. Today I chose to embrace hills.” – Hal Higdon

Belated Happy Equinox and welcome to Spring! I’m so happy that spring, my favorite season, is here.  On the equinox and the day after the equinox, there were some beautiful moonsets over the mountains. I tried to capture these during my morning runs.

In this post I want to discuss hill running a bit. As I near the end of my fitness training portion of my marathon training, I incorporated some hills on my ~8.5 mile long run today. I also performed 4 x 8-second hill sprints towards the end of this run.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~60 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I did one-minute static stretches for the calf muscles and lots of softball rolling for the calf muscles and plantar fascia!

Recommendations:

It is helpful to incorporate hills on some of your long runs. This will help you build strength in your legs to improve your strength and speed, as well as help you improve your running economy (efficiency) and help you minimize the risk of injury.

Tip of the Day:

Running on hills can be beneficial for building strength and power in the legs, as well as improving running economy (efficiency), which can be transferred into improving running speed. This leg strengthening can also be beneficial for minimizing risk of injury.

When running uphill, lean slightly forward from the ankles, shorten your stride, and increase your arm swing speed. Keep your back straight, so that you’re not bending from waist. Also, keep your head and neck in alignment with your back. Look at least a few feet in front of you, instead of looking straight down at the ground, even if you are running on trails. Don’t dip you chin down. These will all help you keep your airways open, so you can maintain normal breathing.

Unless you are performing hill sprints (previous post), hill repeats (future post), Fartlek or a paced run, such as a threshold pace run, you should not push too hard when climbing hills, and try to stay as relaxed as possible. Keep steady rhythmic breathing, as best as possible. When you reach the top of the hill don’t push the pace and effort too hard on the other side, whether it is flat or downhill.

When descending, think of running downhill like downhill skiing, if you downhill ski. That is leaning slightly forward, instead of leaning back, like you might do if you were descending a hill on a road or mountain bike. You should land on your midfoot or lightly on your heel. You should take smaller steps, so that you have better control

When running downhill try not to push the pace too hard during training, unless you are performing downhill repeats. During training, you should never push the pace on downhill portions when running on the road or other hard surfaces, because this puts significant stress on your joints, particularly the knee. If you are performing downhill repeats, I recommend performing them on a trail or on grass. If you are performing a Fartlek run or threshold paced run, I recommend performing these runs on trails, grass, or shallow (not steep) downhill.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Embrace hill running. It will help make you a stronger and faster runner.

Your friend and coach,

Brian