Winter Hydration

winter-water

Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to be hydrated. The body’s thirst response is reduced by up to 40% in the winter. When you get cold your blood vessels constrict slowing the blood flow to your extremities which is why your hands and feet typically get cold first.

In the winter we don’t always feel sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. It means your clothing is doing its job. Winters in Utah are very dry, more try than the summers actually, because the water in the air is frozen. I have to put lotion on a few times throughout the day and my hair frizzes nearly every day. This dry frozen air can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated, so don’t neglect this critical aspect of your winter training.

Another contributing factor for winter dehydration is losing water through your lungs. The colder the air the more water vapor is present in your breath. You can see it when you exhale. It freezes and you can’t breath it back in.

The first step in maintaining your hydration is developing the habit of taking sips throughout your runs. Frequent small sips of water is easier on your body and reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. If you wait until you want to guzzle the water, you have waited too long and are now trying to play catch-up, which is never a good place to be in.

Next is your clothing. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature allows you to have more stable water and electrolyte loss. Wear layers you can take off and put back on as needed.

Be aware of how much you are drinking. This is huge because many of us get in our zone and we don’t really pay attention to how much we are sweating or when the last time was we sipped on our water or how frequently we are doing so.

Winter hydrating can be a challenge if you run outside in temperatures below freezing. There are insulated handhelds and hydration packs (snowboarders and skiers use them). You may need to break up your run to keep your water from freezing or get a really nice friend who is willing to bring you water every so often.

If you are using a hydration pack and it’s not insulated make sure and blow the water out of the tube and mouth piece every time you take a sip. If you leave it in the tube, it will freeze leaving you with nothing to drink.

 

 

Creating Lasting Change

lasting-change

It’s resolution time!! January of every year most of us make resolutions about how to change our lives to make them better or to get into a better place  allowing us to do the things we really want to be doing.

The problem is after about six weeks we give up. We might drag it out for another two weeks, but ultimately the changes don’t hold, so how do we create lasting change?

First, start with your language. Resolution just has a negative connotation, even if it’s a positive word, it carries some heavy baggage because so many people give up. I use the word goal.

Second, don’t go into things at full throttle. If you are new to swimming, you don’t jump in the deep end. It’s the same with any other exercise program you begin as well as other areas of life. Go slow.

Third, don’t set the bar too high. Change takes time. You can’t expect to go from novice to expert overnight. That type of approach results in injury. Slow and steady wins the race. Learning to do something properly is more important than learning quickly.

Fourth, Forgive yourself for set backs, but hold your self accountable too. Beating yourself up for mistakes is not going to help you move forward. If you miss a day, it’s not the end of the line. Start fresh each day. You also know when you are making excuses. Excuses to not do something, are a dime a dozen. Find reasons to follow through.

Fifth, track your progress. Keep a chart and check off days that you have followed through. You can take it a step further by tracking improvements such as weigh lifted, pace, distance, or whatever it is you are working toward.

Sixth, celebrate success. Don’t go all crazy and eat a cake or something silly that could set you back in your goals. Try little rewards, like new socks, new shoe laces, a new headband. Anything to make you feel good about what you are doing.

Having a support person who has the same goal and is committed to reaching it, is very helpful in maintaining a commitment to change your life style.

Can’t Make it Up

extra-credit

Life isn’t like high school— you can’t make up the work. There’s really no credit recovery system in place. And there isn’t extra credit. Sorry.

This is why it is so important to catch waning motivation early, injuries, overtraining, and even boredom. When you miss a training session, sleep, or a meal (among other things in everyday life outside of training), you can’t go back and insert it. Your body just doesn’t work that way.

So what do you do if you miss a critical training session or don’t sleep well the days coming into a race? You press reset and move forward. Don’t look back and for god’s sake don’t try to “make it up” or get “extra credit.” The only thing you will get for your efforts is less. You’ll deplete your body and it won’t be ready for the next session, if you try to throw in an extra workout. You also run the risk of an unnecessary muscle strain or similar minor injury, especially, if you are a beginning runner or not used to doing two a day workouts.

Sleep—that precious recovery time a body needs (and my mind despises). If you lose it, it really is gone. Harvard Medical School actually did a study on this very issue click here for the study. The sleep foundation summed up the findings, “Even when you sleep an extra ten hours to compensate for sleeping only six hours a night for up to two weeks, your reaction times and ability to focus is worse than if you had pulled and all-nighter.”

Making up calories doesn’t sound reasonable to me unless you are trying to gain weight. If you’re maintaining or losing it’s counterproductive. Over eating at a meal, isn’t good for you. It can make you feel hungrier the next day, which sets you up for eating more the next day too. You eat to fuel your body when it needs fuel. You don’t overeat to replenish your body’s energy supply for work you did the day before.

So if you miss a training session, a meal, or sleep, move forward. Don’t criticize or berate yourself either, that doesn’t help anyone and can lead to less motivation and progress. Press reset and move on.

Burnout

burnout

I’m just sick of doing this over and over again. What do you do when this is what comes out of your mouth or echoes in your head before every run? Burnout is caused by repeating the same thing over and over, overworking your body at every training session, and stress.

Variety is important in every area of life you want to maintain a certain level of excitement about whatever it is you’re doing. If you run the same route, the same pace, the same time, the same distance, the same… you get the idea, eventually you just want to quite. It’s not fun anymore. Even if you do different workouts during the week, if you keep the same pattern it can lead to burnout. You have to mix it up more than that. Having a secondary sport is a great way to break things up. Try to pick something that is different from running. Running is a solitary sport for the most part, so picking something that is more social is going to keep you engaged in your training more. You can add an aerobics class or a team sport.

Overworking yourself every time you go out for a run kills motivation to run. You should absolutely work hard on your hard days, but you should have easy days too, where you leave the Garmin at home and connect with the reasons you started running in the first place. We all hear about how overtraining can cause injuries because your body is constantly taxed and doesn’t have the time to recover. But there is a mental side of it too, burnout. You become resentful of your running. It’s like any hobby, if you make it more of a job than something you do to relax and have fun, you’re going to hate it. It loses its value.

Stress in other areas of your life suck the life and desire out of other things you enjoy. If stress at work, with family, or with friends is becoming overwhelming taking a break from running for a few days or a week is not a bad thing. This may seem counter intuitive, but you’ll be glad you did and come back to it with new vigor. Just don’t take some much time off that you start losing the benefits you have gained through running. Make sure you have a good support system that can take on some of the things that are weighing you down. Maintaining your love of running includes taking care of other areas of your life.

Depression isn’t the same thing as burnout, but it’s something to look for if you are losing the love of things you enjoy. Check in with yourself and make sure you haven’t lost enjoyment in all the things you enjoy and that you’re not withdrawing from those that you love.

Keep your fire for running burning and don’t let it burn out.

Changing Your Metabolism

boost-matabolism

Your metabolism is your body’s ability to breakdown the food you eat and turn it into the energy you burn. A faster metabolism is going to get energy to your working muscles faster, but that means you need to eat more to sustain the same level of output. A slower metabolism requires less replenishment and provides a more steady stream of energy although at a lower level.

There are things you can do to speed it up and slow it down. Some of that has to do with what you are eating, but a good portion of it is also preset depending in your age, gender, and genetics.

To speed it up: Eat a healthy breakfast, and not something tiny like a protein shake, make it count. Second, caffeine. Yep we caffeine drinkers know this is true. That regularly timed poop? thank the coffee. Third, water— make sure you are getting enough water. I’m not talking about liquid in general bus specifically water. First water doesn’t have calories and second if you drink it cold it burns a few. Fourth, make sure you are getting protein at each meal. Protein helps build muscle and muscle more calories even at rest. Fifth, drink green tea. Green tea has a plant compound called ECGC which boosts fat burning. Sixth, when you succumb to temptation and eat a high fat treat or meal, follow it up with something that has a bunch of calcium. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat. It needs to be from an actual food source though not a supplement. Seventh, get spicy with your food. Capsaicin the compound that makes chili’s hot, also turns up your body’s fat burning furnace. And finally, go organic– the pesticides we use on our food, slows the metabolism down.

Slow it down: Space your meals out— the more frequently you eat, the faster your metabolism runs. Exercise at a lower intensity. Second sleep less it makes you less likely to exert extra energy. Dehydration and skipping breakfast. Not eating enough is a sure fire way to slow your metabolism because your body begins to hold onto everything it can.

Fast and Slow Twitch

twitches-fast-and-slow

 

The HURT 100 is ten days away and I’m going to need some fast feet if I want to keep a respectable pace during the race. HURT 100 is in Hawaii and the rain forest root systems can be treacherous. They practically grab ahold of your toes and don’t let go until you have hit the ground with your ankle at a stomach turning angle. Over the last few months I’ve been working on my agility in preparation for this hard truth.

The issue is this, I’m an endurance runner. My focus is sustained energy and effort rather than cyclone feet and legs. I asked a friend of mine to show me some agility exercises I could do to improve my foot work. He’s a soccer player, you see, so he has really fast feet.

I’ve been working on this for about three months. I’ve improved, but I’m nowhere near his speed. And I never will be. Why? Because I’ve never needed to develop those fast twitch muscles. I don’t have to run while keeping control over a ball as people are placing their feet between mine and in front of mine to get the ball away.

There are two general types of skeletal muscle fibers known as fast twitch (T-1) and slow twitch (T-2). Your fast twitch muscles are the ones give you that burst of speed or movement. Slow twitch are those endurance slow burners. Even as an endurance runner you recruit your fast twitch muscles when your slow twitch become tired. And as a sprinter you use your slow twitch muscles as your fast ones recover.

You can improve both sets of muscles, but your genetic make-up determines much of what you have. To build and improve your fast twitch muscles, focus on HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Weight lifting and explosive movements, to make it more fun you can play competitive sports, such as soccer, basketball, football and the like. You have to get outside your comfort zone and push your body. Then you rest for a bit and do it again.

For those slow twitchers a sustained lower level effort will increase their efficiency and longevity. You can’t change one type of muscle into the other, at least there is no evidence that supports the ability of muscle fibers to be converted from one to the other.

You have to work with what you have by choosing events and distances that rely your strengths. But it’s also good to step outside your box and chose events and distances that don’t.

Dangers of Yoga?

yoga-dangers

As many of you know, I recently took up Bikram Yoga. I have absolutely loved the practice and plan to continue even after the HURT 100 in January. One of the things I do when I begin any new training regimen is research.

I’ve been researching yoga including the spiritual side of it, the different types of it, and it’s long and taboo and controversial history. I am certainly not an expert or even close to knowledgeable person when it comes to the different types of yoga. I know there are a bunch including, but not limited to Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa (flow yoga), Bikram, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Tantra, power yoga, and others.

The different schools of yoga use the same asanas (postures) for the most part. The duration they hold them, what they call them, and the alignment can be a little different. The other difference is the ethical values and how secular they are.  I’m not going to get into the spiritual side of things or the taboo issues either, but I feel obligated to get into the possible dangers of yoga. The reason I feel obligated to do this is because, I’ve encouraged others to get into the practice and the dangers are not obvious and are really kinda hidden by the yoga community for the most part.

There are approximately 300,000 people in the US who practice yoga, probably more. Yoga started to Explode in the 60’s and 70’s and it took the medical community a while to catch up and start looking at the benefits and the dangers. Currently, Yoga is self-regulated, which means yoga teachers are not required to undergo any type of official training or certification. Some disciplines do require their teachers to complete 4-8 weeks of training.

The biggest concern with some postures is your neck. Many yoga postures require practitioners to bend their neck further than it would normally do. Yes, you say, but that’s what yoga does makes you more flexible. I know, but there are some joints that do this better and carry less risk of injury. Because of the intricate weaving of nerves, arteries, and veins going through your neck/spinal column the potential for injury increases and the damage can be severe.

The postures that place you most at risk are the shoulder stand, head stand, plow, knee to ear pose, half wheel, and cobra. Some of these postures can be modified, so they are safer to practitioners, but if you haven’t had instruction on how to make them safe, you could be setting yourself up for life long injuries. The most serious risk in these postures is a stroke. Yep, you can cut off the blood supply to your brain long enough to cause a stroke. You can cause serious injury anywhere along your spinal column such as herniated disks.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice and I still love yoga and will continue to practice, but the information I’ve learned will definitely change how I practice and which postures I use. Injury risks come with all sports and recreational hobbies, it’s about knowing what you’re up against and being able to take action to prevent it.

What’s the take away?

  1. Do your own research
  2. Research and ask your teacher questions
  3. Listen to your body; yoga shouldn’t hurt, it stretches but doesn’t hurt. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. Know your limits, which can change from day to day
  5. Go slow and don’t show off.