Brian’s Blog

What Should You Do If You Didn’t Achieve Your Running Goal(s) This Year?

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“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Hello Runners,

If you have run your event(s) for the year, or will do so soon, I recommend that you take some time off from running after your event(s) are done. In fact, I recommend taking at least two weeks and as many as five weeks off. I would not recommend taking more than five weeks because you will lose a significant amount of fitness that you trained so hard to gain this year!

However, physically and mentally, your body can benefit from some time off from running. This might be a great time to reconnect with family and friends, or do some other activities you wanted to do, but didn’t have time for while training. Recently, I chatted with my brother, who lives in California, for about three hours. I chat with him every other week, however it’s often after my long runs and is usually for no more than an hour. I’ve also made more time to play guitar, which has been a lot of fun!

I hope that your season was successful and that you achieved your running goals for this year. However, if you didn’t achieve them, don’t get discouraged. Recently, I’ve been reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, which discusses the power of passion and perseverance and thus, seems relevant to this post.

This year I did not achieve my goal of breaking three hours in the marathon, but I’m not going to give up! Instead, I will reflect upon what worked and what didn’t work and learn from this, as I prepare for my next attempt. I think back to how it took me a few marathons to break 3:15, and how many days I looked at that goal on my refrigerator door. However, I persevered and not only broke 3:15, but once I did, I said to myself, I can train better and break three hours.

So, if you didn’t achieve your running goals for this year, don’t get discouraged for long. Instead, take a few minutes to reflect about the following…

What worked this year for you? What were your successes?

Were you more consistent with your training, speed work, warmups, strengthening exercises, stretching and foam rolling?

Did you explore some new areas with your runs, meet some new people that you ran with?

Were you better with your hydration and fueling during long runs and/or your event?

Were you making food choices that helped you better optimize your running performance?

I was happy with my training consistency and most of my speed workouts this year, although I could have done more speed work. I explored some new areas with my long runs, which made them more enjoyable! For most of this past year I was consistent with my training and noticed significant improvements in my core strength. I got to run with a friend on a consistent basis, which also made training more enjoyable.

What didn’t work and could be improved upon? If you could go back and change anything in your training, what you did during race week, the morning before your event, during the event itself, what would you change?

Were you set back by any injuries?

Was your training plan not appropriate for your goals, fitness level, and time you had available for training?

Did you not make hydration and nutrition a priority and this held you back?

Did life get in the way of your training at any point? 

As my training progressed, I was not as consistent with my strengthening exercises and foam/lacrosse ball rolling and stretching. This most likely contributed to some plantar fasciitis that developed. Fortunately, I addressed this quickly, and as a result, I only had to take minimal time off from running. However, this was a reminder that I needed to be more consistent with my strengthening exercises and foam/lacrosse ball rolling and stretching. I will prioritize these more next year, and either wake up earlier or perform these during the day.

I also had to cut a few speed workouts short because I ran out of time and will need to plan better for them next year.

Finally, I had an unexpected family matter that I need to go back to New York for, which occurred when my marathon was, so I missed it. At that point, I felt my body and mind needed a break from training and decided not to jump into another marathon shortly afterwards. However, I got in a solid year of training, took a couple of weeks off from running, and have resumed training again for an early spring marathon.  

So, take some time off from running to enjoy other aspects of life and take some time to reflect on your running for this past year. Again, if things didn’t go as well as you had hoped, think about what did go well, and continue doing that, and also think about what didn’t go well and how you might change it.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

Avoid Stress on Race Day, What You Should Do The Night Before and On Race Day

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Hello Runners,

In the last two posts, I discussed what to consume the night before and morning of your event.

In this post, I will talk more about your preparation the night before and morning of your marathon, as well as what to pack if you are traveling for a marathon.

Packing list for travel to marathon, don’t forget these items if your marathon is not local:

  • Running shoes
  • Race outfit (shirt[s], shorts/pants, socks, sports bra)
  • Throwaway shirt (if it’ll be cold when the race starts, but you don’t expect to need extra layers the whole time)
  • Disposable poncho
  • A jacket, sweatpants, and anything else to keep warm before the start that you can hand off to someone (a garbage bag works and has the added advantage of being a portable privacy stall if you need to pee and the line is too long, which it will be)
  • Hat or headband
  • Gloves
  • Any compression gear, braces, or straps that you wear
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Band-Aids if you use them
  • Plastic baggies to store different foods, tablets, etc.
  • Anti-chafing lubricant
  • Anti-blister powder
  • Fuel belt or other bottles/pouches
  • Race packet (unless you’ll pick it up at the expo)
  • Whatever food you plan to eat before, during, or after that you might not be able to find at the expo or a grocery store (specific types of gels, sports drink, electrolyte tablets, for example)
  • Extra running clothes (if you plan to do any light running in the days before the race)
  • Headlamp (probably not needed for most road races)
  • Tissues or toilet paper, for emergencies
  • Maps, race information, and anything else that needs to be printed if you won’t have access to a printer
  • Marker or tape (if you want to write your name on your body or clothes so spectators can yell it)
  • GPS device if your spectators will need it (many roads may be closed, so it can come in handy)
  • Camera

The day and night before your marathon

  • Attend to race details in advance to limit unnecessary stress on race day
  • Have a plan A, B, and C in place before the race
  • Study the course so you know where the hills, etc. are. If it’s a local race run sections of the route periodically during training. Check website and videos of the course
  • If you will have family and/or friends as spectators, put someone else in charge of where they will be on the course, so you can focus on the race. Ideally, if someone can meet you at mile 17 with a fresh shirt you can feel fresh for the last third of the race

Travel

  • You should arrive at least one day before the race, if the race is out of town
  • Even if race is local, you might consider getting a hotel room near the start line
  • If you stay at home, consider having someone dropping you off, so you don’t need to worry about traffic and parking

Race Expo

  • Avoid spending any length of time on your feet at the expo. Get your race packet and get out!
  • If you can go to the expo 2 days before on lunch break do so
  • If can’t make it to the expo until the day before the event, go as early as possible to avoid crowds and get out so you can rest

Before Bed

  • Make sure your bag is packed and ready to go
  • Make sure timing chip is fastened to shoe laces or pinned to your shirt or belt
  • Have your clothes laid out
  • Have your water bottles full

The morning of your event

  • Ideally, wake up at least three hours before your race and consume your pre-race meal
  • As a general rule, you want to arrive at your race about an hour before it starts so that you can do whatever you need to do (eating, warming up, standing in line for the Porta Pot). Take into account whether there’s a long walk from the parking lot to the start line, which there sometimes is, road closures, and whether there might be a lot of traffic driving into the race. As a rule, public transportation is a far less stressful option than driving, if your race is in an area that offers it.
  • In the hour before the race you may want to consume an energy gel (if have practiced with it during training) and sip fluids
  • Check the weather before and during the event and consider the layers you may need before the start that you might shed. For layers you will shed, wear something that you are willing to throw away
  • Be calm before the start and approach the race with “cautious confidence”. Remember you trained well for this day!

What To Bring To the Race

  • You’ll want to dedicate a bag or two for things that you’ll bring with you to the race. Some you’ll carry with you while you run; others you’ll leave with your spectators or put in the bag drop that most every race has. (If you’re going to do the bag-drop option, make sure you bring whatever sticker or identifying tag you need from your race packet.)
  • Here’s a list of things to pack in your race bag (or wear):
    • Race number and safety pins (I’d recommend pinning it on before you get to the race. Don’t forget to write your emergency contact information on it.)
    • Timing chip
    • Extra clothing to keep warm before the race
    • A garbage bag (for warmth, rain protection, and an emergency bathroom stall if the lines are long)
    • Gloves and hat or headband
    • Compression gear and any straps or braces you wear
    • Something warm to wear after the race (could be the same as what you wore before the race)
    • A throwaway shirt to wear if it’s cold for the first few miles of the race
    • Food or drinks you need before the race
    • Any food you plan on eating during the race that won’t be provided by aid stations. This includes:
      • Gels or gummies (most races provide them at at least one aid station)
      • Sports drink (with bottles) if you don’t like what the race offers
      • Electrolytes
    • A few dollars for buying food/beer/soda/whatever after the race (a lot of times you need cash)
    • A sandwich or something else substantial to eat after the race (it might be hard to buy what you need afterward)
    • Anti-blister powder
    • Anti-chafe lubricant
    • Race packet (just in case there’s something in there that you didn’t realized you’d need)
    • Course map (for your spectators)
    • Camera (you probably won’t want to carry it, so give it to your spectators)
    • Cell phone (I wouldn’t recommend carrying it unless it really doesn’t bother you)
    • Watch
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Chapstick
    • Band-Aids, if you use them
    • Headlamp
    • Tissues or toilet paper 

So, avoid unnecessary stress on race day and plan accordingly.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

 

References

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What Should You Eat and What Should You Avoid In the Hours Leading Up To Your Event

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Hello Runners,

In the last post, I discussed the importance of a hydration and nutrition strategy for your event, and offered some tips. I also discussed what to eat the week of your event, including the day before. In this post I will discuss what to eat the morning of your event, including foods to avoid.

The principles to follow during the hours before the start of the race

  • In the two to four hours before your race, eat a meal with some protein and simple carbohydrates, and drink lots of water or sports drink. The more time until the race, the larger this meal should be. Minimize fiber and fats, since they can cause digestion issues. So, if you’re going to eat something like a bagel or toast, this is one time when you should go with white over wheat. Most importantly, don’t try anything new on race day!
  • Some good pre-race foods: gluten-free bread and/or cereal, fruit, smoothie, almond butter (not too much though). The more liquid and easier-to-digest these foods are, the better.-
  • In the hour before the race, don’t eat very much. Most experts recommend only water, sports drink, or energy gels at this point. I personally don’t drink much at this stage, to avoid having to use the bathroom during the race. Standing in the start corral already having to pee is no good, as this causes unnecessary stress and Porta Pots at the early aid stations will be jammed.

What to avoid before and during your event

  • Sports drinks or solids that include fructose or malodextrin, these can cause gas, bloating, and GI distress. Also avoid wheat, dairy, and fermentable fruits, including apples and pears before your event.
  • Artificial sweeteners and other chemicals including sugar alcohols, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Large amounts of fiber

What to eat before your event

  • Blended and juiced foods
  • Small amounts of caffeine – in research studies caffeine shown to improve endurance performance
  • Easy-to-digest carbohydrates including white potato, sweet potato, yam, white rice
  • Easy-to-digest fats including MCT oil and coconut oil
  • Easy-to-digest proteins such as vegan protein (pea, rice, or hemp containing digestive enzymes), essential amino acids, or hydrolyzed collagen protein

In a future post, I will introduce future considerations as far as nutrition for your next event. These can help you better utilize fats more and spare the limited amount of carbohydrates you have available. Thus, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What’s Your Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Your Big Race?

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“Plans Are Nothing: Planning is Everything” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello Runners,

So, you’ve put in some great training, and you have a goal, and maybe even a purpose higher than yourself, which can get your through some of the toughest portions of your marathon. The weather on your race day is ideal. You’re able to run without any injuries. But, you could still fail to achieve your goal on race day due to dehydration or fatigue caused by burning up all your available carbohydrates.

Therefore, you need a plan before and during your event to make sure you stay as hydrated as possible, and don’t run out of available carbohydrates. Basically, we don’t have enough available carbohydrates in our body to complete a marathon. We need to take on additional carbohydrates during our event.

Where so many runners fail on race day is not having a game plan for how they are going to hydrate and fuel themselves during their event, or they have a game plan ahead of time, but don’t follow through. Also, many runners rely on what’s handed out at the event without practicing with it ahead of time (sports drinks, gels, etc.), and sometimes found out the hard way that what’s handed out is not best for them.

So, what’s your hydration and nutrition strategy for your event? How often will you drink? Will you use a sports drink? If not, what will you eat, so that you have enough energy to finish your marathon? Hopefully, you have been practicing your strategy during your training and have a plan you will use during your big race.

Practice Hydration and Nutrition (Fuel) Strategy During Your Long Runs

Your long training runs are a great time to practice hydration (how often and how much you will drink) and figure out what you will use for fuel during your event, as well as when you will consume this. There are lots of options available as far as fuel, including sports drinks, gels, beans, chews, real food, etc. You may want to practice what will be handed out at your event, that way if it works for you, then you don’t have to carry your own fuel.

Most likely your event won’t have these, but here are some fuel options you might try: SuperStarch by UCAN, Infinit-E by Millenium, and Vitargo. Some other options which are lower in calories, but provide electrolytes include Osmo Nutrition and Skratch Labs. Ideally, practice under similar conditions that you will experience during your event.

The Week Before Your Event

Before I talk more about your hydration and fueling strategy during your event, I will mention what you should do both the week of and the day before your event. After all, you want to start out with a full tank, otherwise, you will be trying to play catch up during your event, and that won’t work and will negatively impact your performance.

So, be sure to hydrate well throughout the week before, and especially the day before your event. Limit alcohol consumption during that week, as well, especially the day before your event. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.

During the week of the event, this is the time to load up on carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits (such as blueberries). You should also be consuming proteins including nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, fish, other meats, if you normally eat them. Fats are the nutrient you need least during the week of your event.

It is popular for events to have pasta dinners the night before an event. This is more traditional than beneficial. This pasta will really not help you during your event. In fact, you may want to have a salad with some nuts or a small bowl of pasta or white rice for dinner, and eat a larger meal for lunch or in the early afternoon. This larger meal should consist primarily of easily-digestible carbohydrates (such as white rice and white pasta), with some protein, and little fat. Avoid spicy foods and any new foods. Beware of eating a lot of fiber the day before an event and FODMAP foods (beans, onions, garlic, dried fruit, apples, pears, etc.), which can cause gas and bloating.

During Your Event

Don’t consume anything on race day that you haven’t practiced with during your training. Several years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I made an annual habit of running the Baltimore half-marathon. I really enjoyed that event and the crowd support throughout much of the event was great! Within the last few miles of the event there were people who traditionally would hand out gummy bears. Boy, was it tempting! Many people indulged. I passed and recommend you do the same. If you want gummy bears, have them after the race.

General guidelines for hydration

Water loss through sweat of as little as 2% can negatively affect performance, if fluids aren’t replaced because of:

  • Decreased blood volume resulting in the heart having to work harder
  • Increased usage of carbohydrates which can lead to fatigue happening sooner
  • Ability to dissipate heat is reduced
  • Imbalance of electrolytes which can cause cramping and weakness
  • Possible cognitive impairment

Keep in mind this will depend on your sweat rate and the conditions of your event. If you sweat profusely you will likely need to include electrolytes as well. In general you should consume 250 to 500 mg of electrolytes per hour. See previous post. During your event drink 3-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (a gulp is ~ one ounce), basically drink to thirst.

General guidelines for nutrition

The main cause of fatigue in those participating in endurance events is running out of available carbohydrates in the body. You will need to determine if you will use fluids or solids for your carbohydrate fuel, and which you will use. If using solids, you may want to wash these down with water, don’t use a sports drink to wash them down. During your event, make sure you using something that doesn’t bother your stomach, contains little or no fiber and that you consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (~120-160 calories) every hour. For events lasting 4 hours or longer you may want to consume ~60 grams/hour.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that you may need to carry your own fuel, whether it’s a sports drink or solid, during your event. This has been pretty much the case for me in every marathon I’ve run. I don’t do well with the sports drinks typically handed out at events.

Even if you have a strategy, you may need to develop a plan B and possibly plan C. What if you encounter heat and humidity during your event? What if they run out of sports drink or water at an aid station? (This happened at the Chicago marathon several years ago).

You should be well-hydrated before the start of your event. You should have eaten a well-balanced diet on the day before your event to ensure that carbohydrate stores in the body are maximized. Also, you should start calorie and fluid replacement early in your event.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

Importance of Running For A Higher Purpose To Help You Through Challenges During Your Training and Event

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“The deepest of all human needs in the need for meaning and purpose in life and work.” – Brian Tracy

Hello Runners,

Every once in a while we hear stories of people performing amazing feats of strength to pick up a car to rescue someone trapped underneath. How are people able to do so, and can you use this to help you overcome significant challenges in your training and event?

In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis set out to break the record for hiking the Appalachian Trail (2185 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia) in less than 50 days. At that time, the overall record was 47 ½ days held by several competitive male athletes who specialized in ultra-endurance events. However, 12 days in, and with 1650 miles to go, Pharr Davis was broken-down, depleted, and ready to give up. Shin splints and diarrhea had been wreaking havoc with her body for the past 4 days. Negative thoughts and fear were poisoning her mind. She was off the pace she needed and was ready to give up. She approached a juncture on New Hampshire roads where she was meeting her husband, Brew. She told him she was quitting. However, Brew reminded her that he had given up so much of himself to support her on this hike, and that achieving the record was a team effort.

At that point, she realized that the hike was more than about her and the record. Instead, she focused on the love of her husband, being in nature, and the love of her god. Her psychological stress removed, Pharr Davis pushed through her physical discomfort and broke the record by 26 hours. She had harnessed the power of purpose to overcome her fears and doubts. She had focused on something beyond herself and reflected on her core values, allowing her to courageously confront challenges and improve her performance.

We have the ability to do the same. Research by Dr. Victor Stretcher has shown that when people focus on a self-transcending purpose, or a purpose greater than themselves, they become capable of more than they ever thought was possible. Stretcher believes that this is due to ego minimization, which is important because the ego’s job is to protect our “self” and to shut down and flee when faced with threats. When we transcend our “self” and minimize our ego, we can override the fears, anxieties, and physiological protective mechanisms that often hold us back from achieving major breakthroughs.

Also, Dr. Tim Noakes noticed that runners were able to speed up during the final stretch of a race when the end was in sight and questioned why so many runners, seemingly overwhelmed by fatigue, were able to do so. Through his research, Noakes showed that physical fatigue occurs not in the body, but in the brain. It’s not the muscles that wear out, rather, it’s the brain that shuts them down even though they have more to give. This shut down is an innately programmed way of protecting ourselves. Basically, our brain intervenes and creates a perception of failure before we actually harm ourselves. Noakes suggests the brain is our “central governor” of fatigue and that our “ego” shuts us down when confronted by fear or threat. In other words, we are hardwired to retreat when the going gets tough. However, Noakes says it is possible to override the central governor with transcending purpose, such as someone saving another person trapped under a car by lifting the car, or Jennifer Pharr Davis’ performance in breaking the Appalachian Trail record.

Every year people with little or no running experience join organizations like Team in Training to complete their first marathon in support of those with cancer and other diseases. Many of these people have run no more than a 5k in their life, if even that. Another challenge these runners experience is that the training programs used by these organizations often include minimal mileage during the week, thus making the weekend long runs much more difficult. However, many of these runners still push through because they are running for something bigger than themselves. In the case of Team in Training it’s for those with leukemia and lymphoma.  Others run for loved ones who have been stricken with other life-ending diseases, including other forms of cancer.

So, what’s the higher purpose that you are running for?

The idea of transcending yourself can be applied to other areas of your life as well, such as your work.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this post with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Peak Performance. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Rodale, Inc. New York, 2017.

Tim Noakes. “Time to Move Beyond a Brainless Exercise Physiology: The Evidence for Complete Regulation of Human Exercise Performance.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 36, no. 1 (February 2011): 23-35

Tim Noakes. “J. B. Wolffe Memorial Lecture. Challenging beliefs: ex. Africa semper aliquid novi,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 29 no. 5 (May 1997): S71-S90.

Overcoming Challenging Runs with Mindfulness and How You Develop Your Mindfulness Muscle

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“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

Hello Runners,

Recently I’ve had some really challenging runs including a 20-miler. Certainly the further we get into marathon training, the more challenging the workouts can be, whether it’s a 20 mile run or a tempo or marathon goal pace run for a sustained period of time.

In these situations, as well as those in other areas of our life which require us to push ourselves to help us grow as a person, we need to get uncomfortable being uncomfortable. Obviously, easier said than done. This is something that elite runners are able to do quite well, and there are probably aspects in your own life in which you do this well. Maybe it’s with your job and/or juggling multiple responsibilities. Maybe it’s giving an important presentation or networking.

As Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness share in Peak Performance, when you begin to feel uncomfortable during a tough workout or event it can help to have a conversation with yourself such as, “This is starting to hurt now. It should. I’m running hard. But I am separate from this pain. It is going to be okay.”

This touches upon the importance of being mindful and developing mindful fitness, which you can apply to other aspects of your life such as giving a presentation, dealing with a challenging client, dealing with a challenging child, etc.

By being more mindful, you create the space for you to choose how you respond to stress, instead of having an automatic response to stress. While you are immersed in the challenge, you can use mindfulness to remain calm. After a challenge, mindfulness lets you choose to turn off stress and transition to a more restful state.

Developing mindfulness is like developing a muscle. One great way to do so is through mindful meditation, which I do for a few minutes each day, typically first thing in the morning and before I go to bed.

Research studies have shown mindful meditation to be extremely helpful in overcoming stress in military personal, and it can help athletes in all sports manage stress, improve focus, and enhance performance.

To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the moment, without judging yourself and without being distracted by stressful experiences from the past or stressful anticipation of the future.

Guidelines for Mindful Meditation:

  • Choose a time to meditate when other distractions are minimal. A great time might be first thing in the morning or before going to bed. Another option might be during your lunch break.
  • Find a quiet, comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff
  • Set a timer so that you are not distracted by thoughts about the passage of time
  • Begin breathing deeply, in and out through the nose
  • Allow your breath to settle back into its natural rhythm and focus on nothing but the sensation of breathing, noticing the rise and fall of the abdomen with each breath; if thoughts arise, notice them and don’t suppress them. Acknowledge your thoughts and use your breath as an anchor. You might visualize your thoughts as puffy white clouds and watch them disappear across the sky. Direct your focus back to the sensation of your breath.
  • As you conclude your meditation session, sit for a minute or two, become aware of where you are and then gradually get up.
  • Meditation can be a challenge itself because our mind can be super active and it can be difficult to quiet the mind. So, start with one minute and gradually increase the duration, adding 30-45 seconds every few days.
  • Consistency is important in building your mindful muscle, just like building any other muscle. Along those lines frequency of meditation is more important than duration.
  • Apply your growing mindfulness abilities in everyday life and have calm conversations with yourself during stressful periods
  • Realize when you want to “turn it off” and then choose to leave stress behind. Pausing to take a few deep breaths helps to activate the brain’s command and control center, instead of allowing the portion of the brain that responds automatically to take over.

You can also use guided meditation to develop mindfulness. This may be easier, especially if you are just starting out. Some apps which will guide you include Insight Timer, Headspace, and Pranayama. (Disclaimer: I have no associations with Insight Timer, Headspace, or Pranayama.)

So, incorporate a few minutes of mindful meditation into your day and strengthen your mindfulness muscle to help your performance during difficult training runs and your next event.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

 

References

Peak Performance. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Rodale, Inc. New York, 2017.

Beyond Training. Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing  2014.

Jha AP, Stanley EA, Kiyonaga A, Wong L, Gelfand L. Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion. 2010 Feb;10(1):54-64.

Jha AP, Morrison AB, Dainer-Best J, Parker S, Rostrup N, Stanley EA. Minds “at attention”: mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PLoS One. 2015 Feb 11;10(2)

Solberg EE, Berglund KA, Engen O, Ekeberg O, Loeb M. The effect of meditation on shooting performance. Br J Sports Med. 1996 Dec;30(4):342-6.

Zanesco AP, Denkova E, Rogers SL, MacNulty WK, Jha AP. Mindfulness training as cognitive training in high-demand cohorts: An initial study in elite military servicemembers. Prog Brain Res. 2019;244:323-354.

Gaëlle Desbordes, Lobsang T. Negi, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, B. Alan Wallace, Charles L. Raison and Eric L. Schwartz. Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 01 November 2012.

Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes. What are the benefits of mindfulness, July/August 2012, Vol 43, No. 7

Lillian A. De Petrillo, Keith A. Kaufman, Carol R. Glass, and Diane B. Arnkoff.  Mindfulness for Long-Distance Runners: An Open Trial Using Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE). Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, Volume 3: Issue 4, Pages: 357–376.

Rachel W. Thompson, Keith A. Kaufman, Lilian A. De Petrillo, Carol R. Glass, and Diane B. Arnkoff. One Year Follow-Up of Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE) With Archers, Golfers, and Runners. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, Volume 5: Issue 2, Pages: 99–116.

Lucia Bühlmayer, Daniel Birrer, Philipp Röthlin, Oliver Faude, Lars Donath. Effects of Mindfulness Practice on Performance-Relevant Parameters and Performance Outcomes in Sports: A Meta-Analytical Review. Sports Medicine, November 2017, Volume 47, Issue 11, pp 2309–2321.

 

Use Proper Stress and Rest To Achieve Your Maximum Potential

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“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle”

I will add to this quote proper recovery.

Recently, I have been reading Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and (running coach) Steve Magness. It’s a book I highly recommend. As an 18-year old Steve Magness competed against several Olympians in the mile in an event called the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. This was quite remarkable considering that Magness was competing against such high caliber runners at such a young age. He did not win that day, but he still ran the mile in 4:01. Unfortunately for Magness, his running career plateaued that day and he was never able to run a faster mile. Magness attributes this to an improperly designed training regimen that did not incorporate proper stress and recovery; especially recovery. For his training, Magness would run 9 miles in the morning, go to school, lift weights, and then run 9 miles again in the evening, and he would do this every day. Magness shared that he experienced burned out and his running career ended soon after.

However, we get to benefit from Magness’ experience. Yes, I realize that we are not elite runners like Magness, however if we don’t train and recover properly we will plateau, as well, and not achieve our maximum performance.

Proper training includes providing the proper stress to our body, based on our health, fitness, running history, age, goals, and injury history. We need to include some runs that are challenging, but still doable. Our training program should progressively build our endurance and speed, and then include race-pace specific training for our event. We also need to recover properly during our training. This might include a run at snail’s pace. Or, this could be a day off from running, in which we incorporate supportive low- to moderate-intensity cross-training. Massage/stretching, diet, and sleep are also important components of recovery.

As far as the importance of recovery, Deena Kastor, U.S. women’s record holder in the marathon, as well as one of the stars of Spirit of the Marathon, says, “During a workout you’re breaking down soft tissue and really stressing your body. How you treat yourself in between workouts is where you make gains and acquire the strength to attack the next one.” Kastor realized early on in her running career that simply working hard wouldn’t do. Deena follows up intense training runs with significantly easier recovery runs. She also sleeps 10-12 hours per night, has a meticulous approach to diet, and has weekly massage and daily stretching sessions.

The best marathoners in the world, the Kenyans, also appreciate the benefits of recovery and will alternate between very hard training days and very easy (snail pace) days. Research studies have shown this approach to be effective in other sports as well, including Nordic skiing, in which Olympic Norwegian skiers will walk uphill at a snail’s pace on easy training or recovery days.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was using a popular training program to prepare for his first marathon. The program instructed him to run a “practice marathon” during training about a month before his actual marathon. My friend followed the program and actually had a decent time during his “practice marathon”. However, his actual marathon was over 30 minutes slower. Basically, it took my friend a significant amount of time to recover from his “practice marathon” and so he lost fitness before his actual marathon. Plus, it takes a significant amount of time to recover psychologically from the demands of a marathon, typically much longer than it takes to physically recover. My friend wasn’t properly recovered for his actual marathon and his performance suffered as a result.

You need to give your body the time and space to adapt to the training stress. Rest supports growth and adaptation, which can help make you a stronger and faster runner, and can be as productive and sometimes more productive than an additional workout. Rest, although typically viewed as passive, is an active process which allows for physical and psychological growth. I know for myself that I feel much stronger and fresher after a day or two of rest, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

Also, consider that if you are constantly stressing your body with long runs and other intense workouts, not only do you not provide the time and space for physical and psychological growth, you also put yourself at risk for overtraining and breaking your body down, while significantly increasing your risk of injury. For example, a neighbor of mine used to run a marathon almost every month. Unfortunately, this took a significant toll on her body and I would see her barely shuffling along during her training runs. Her training and recovery were not optimized, and as a result she was not able to achieve her peak performance. Instead, she was in a constantly overtrained state and was constantly injured.

So, make supportive recovery an important component of your training to help you reach your maximum potential.

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

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We would love to hear from you!

If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

Peak Performance. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Rodale, Inc. New York, 2017.

What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010 Sep;5(3):276-91. Seiler S.

Should I Take Salt Tablets During My Long Runs and Half and Full Marathons?

Fueling-for-marathon-hydrating

“Strive for balance. Then shall you find harmony.”

Hello Runners,

In my last post, I discussed strategies you can use for running in the heat.

Another important consideration, when running in the heat, is replacement of electrolytes.

What Are Electrolytes And Why Are They Important?

An electrolyte is a substance that will conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are essential for many of the body’s functions such as:

  • Skeletal muscle contraction for you to run (specifically the muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium and when these become unbalanced this can lead to muscle weakness or excessive contraction)
  • Heart function to deliver the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to produce the energy you need to run
  • Nervous system function
  • Fluid balance
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Maintain proper blood pH

All important functions necessary to keep you alive!

An imbalance of electrolytes through loss can result in cramping, twitching, weakness, and if not addressed, seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.

The important electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, phosphate, and chloride.

How Are They Lost?

Electrolytes are lost in sweat when we run. They can also be lost during a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

How Should You Replace Them?

There are a number of different options for replacing electrolytes lost during exercise. Since balance between different electrolytes is important for them to function properly, I don’t recommend taking something that replaces only one or two electrolytes, like salt tablets.

Also, I don’t recommend many of the popular sports drinks including: Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, Vitamin Water, Accelerade because they usually contain lots of sugar/high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, which can upset your stomach.

Here are some sources of electrolytes you might try (disclaimer: I have no affiliations with or investments in any of the companies that produce these products):

Tailwind nutrition endurance fuel

Nuun tablets

Lyteshow liquid concentrate

Ultima replenisher mix

Optimal Electrolyte by Seeking Health

Vega Clean Energy

Skratch labs mix

Coconut water in the refrigerated section of the grocery story by any of the following brands: Harmless Harvest, Unoco, Liquitera, Vital Juice or Juice Press

Another option is to make your own using by combining the following:

  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • 1 ½ cups of unsweetened coconut water
  • 2 cups of cold water

I recommend experimenting with at least a couple of these during your training to find the one that works best for you to use for your event.

The amount of electrolytes you will need to take depend on several factors including: the temperature, humidity, your sweat rate, as well as your initial levels of electrolytes. The recommendations for electrolyte replacement typically focus on sodium. Typically, it is recommended to replace 500-1000 mg/hr of sodium for long runs and events, such as half- and full-marathons, as well as ultras and triathlons. However, you may need to adjust this depending on sweat loss. And remember, you will also be taking other electrolytes, along with sodium, to stay balanced.

You should continue to consume electrolytes after your long run or event (~500 mg sodium, along with other electrolytes).

In addition, it is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet because they are a great source of electrolytes.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

 

References

Bob Seebohar “Nutrition for Triathletes” presented at USAT Certification Training 2014

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolyte-water#what-it-is

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Electrolytes panel – blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:464-467.

DuBose TD. Disorders of acid-base balance. In: Skorecki K, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, Taal MW, Yu ASL, eds. Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

How to Adjust Your Training to Summer Heat

Summer-running-top-tip-to-help-running-in-the-heat

“A secret to happiness it letting every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be.”  – Loubis and Champagne

Hello Runners,

Summer is certainly in full swing in Colorado and throughout the rest of the country.

I certainly felt the effects of the heat during my long run today, which resulted in a slowed pace and even having to cut the run short, because I started too late in the morning.

So, a couple of quick tips to help you better train in the heat include staying well-hydrated before, during, and after your runs. Also, run early in the morning or early evening and wear light colored high tech lightweight wicking fibers.

Here are a couple of other recommendations that I wanted to share with you:

Adjust Your Running Pace Accordingly

You should adjust your pace with increased heat and humidity, instead of trying to complete a run at a specific pace not adjusted for heat and humidity, and become discouraged that you didn’t achieve this pace. One way to adjust your pace is by feel. So, if your training plan calls for a long run at an easy pace, make sure to adjust the pace, so that it still feels easy, even with increased temperature and/or humidity.

Fellow running coach Jeff Gaudette has a pace calculator based on temperature and dew temperature (basically relative humidity). If you know these you can use this calculator to adjust your pace accordingly for an easy, tempo, or race pace training run:

https://runnersconnect.net/training/tools/temperature-calculator/

Beware of Proper Recovery

The summer also offers challenges as far as proper recovery. If we have to start our run earlier in the morning to beat the heat we may not be getting enough sleep at night. This can add up over time and result in us being more fatigued during our runs, especially if we are not adjusting our sleep schedule accordingly. Thus, you may need to adjust your expectations and pace accordingly, as well as your sleep schedule.

In addition, we tend to be more active with other activities during the summer, whether it’s yardwork, doing a hike or being at the beach the day before a run. These can all affect our running performance. Again, this will require us to adjust our expectations and our pace.

Recovery Between Workouts May Be Slowed

Our body is designed to stay in homeostasis to keep us alive, and this includes for our body temperature. During the summer months, more of your blood is being diverted to your skin to cool you, rather than transporting oxygen to and nutrients to your muscles to help them recover. Thus, recovery between workouts will be slowed and your muscles may not be repaired and as strong for your next workout.

Therefore, it can help, as Coach Jeff Gaudette recommends, to include an additional recovery day during your training week. You may also want to include an occasional down week. This can help you catch up on sleep, allow you to enjoy a consequence-free hike or day at the beach, and can help you avoid overtraining and getting frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

How to Help Speed Your Recovery from Long Runs to Get the Most Out of Your Training

July 5 2019 Lower South Colony Lake Trip pic 2

Hello Runners,

While I was on a recent hike I thought about something I learned from fellow running coach Jay Johnson about recovery from long runs. It is important to perform some exercise on the day after a long run, or event like a marathon, to help speed recovery. Specifically, it is most beneficial to perform a non-running aerobic exercise that will still deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscle fibers damaged by your long run. This extra oxygen will help speed the repair and recovery of these muscle fibers.

There are a variety of different aerobic exercises that can be beneficial, such as cycling or swimming. However, Coach Jay Johnson recommends that runners perform a brisk walk, or hike, at a pace of at least three miles per hour. He goes on to say this walk or hike should be performed in a flat area, or in an area with gently rolling hills.

I recommend that your brisk walk or hike be 45-60 minutes. You may also want to incorporate some foam rolling, active isolated stretching, yoga poses, or static stretching afterwards to further enhance your recovery from a long run.

So, start incorporating brisk walks or hikes after your long runs to help you recover faster and be more ready for your next tough run.

An added benefit is that the brisk walk, or hike, allows you to spend some quality time with friends and/or loved ones. I often perform recovery hikes with my wife and dog, which allows for some great connection time.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page, by clicking on the Facebook icon, which will direct you to the like button on Denver Running Coach. Thank you.