Training Framework

Training has many different aspects to it, but I think we all have a tendency to focus on the physical running part more than anything else. Running is definitely one of the defining aspects of our training, but our training should include much more than just running.

When anyone asks us what our training looks like, we immediately go to how many miles we’re running and how many days a week. They might as what we’re training for and we’ll throw out the name of our goal race or possibly just the next one on the schedule.

Even if you’ve never really thought of it, our training encompasses more than just running. Training can be broken down into physical, psychological, and nutritional. Making sure you take the time to consider each of these separate from the other, guarantees you’ll be thinking about them and adding them to your training plan in some form.  You can set goals related to each of these different aspects of your training.

Physical training includes your running, strength training and rest days. Running is at the core of our training and it is our goal. We want to run for life not just for the next race and because of that goal all of these other aspects of training get pulled in. Being the best runners, we can be means we need to address speed, endurance, and strength in our training schedule. If you want your training to mean anything, you have to rest. Without rest our body cannot adapt and get stronger.

Psychological training includes strategies for dealing with down times during a race, lack of motivation in training, boredom, going out too fast, and rest. Ultrarunners know finishing a race hinges on pushing past the low points, and there will be low points. Getting through months of training and any injuries takes mental fortitude like you wouldn’t believe. Being prepared for these challenges is critical to getting to the starting line let alone the finish line. Psychological rest is being able to find other things you enjoy that reduce your stress level because if you get injured and have to take time off, you need to have other things you can focus on to get you through and back to running.

Nutritional training includes day to day nutrition and hydration, race day nutrition and hydration, and recovery nutrition and hydration. All runners think about race day nutrition, but not all of them think about their day to day nutrition or their recovery nutrition. The same goes for hydration. Yeah, we all laugh and say we run so we can eat whatever we want, but for most runners eating ice cream, fatty burgers, pizza, and French fries is not going to help you reach your running goals. There may be an argument for recovery though, at least for your postrace meal. Our body gives what it gets. Try different ways of fueling and hydrating your body during training, and you’ll be able to dial it in making your race a success.

Limiting our definition of training to just our weekly running schedule or our next goal race is short sighted and won’t get us what most of us want, which is to run healthy and strong for the rest of our lives.

Running Preggers: Trail, road, or treadmill?

Sometimes we don’t have much of a choice about where to run, but some of us are lucky and have many options. Over the last few years, close to 100% of my running has been on trails. It has been amazing, but now I have to adjust back to being more flexible about where I run. I hate having to run anywhere other than in the mountains. I really do. But in reality, I know that there are actually few runners who are able to run exclusively on the trails.

Running while pregnant makes you take a lot more into consideration when you are choosing your running routes. Safety and listening to your body become even more important when you’re pregnant. I’m not saying we runners throw caution to the wind when we’re not pregnant, but when it’s just you, you’re more willing to deal with uncomfortable conditions and slightly higher risks.

During the first trimester, and longer for some women, you must contend with being tired and not feeling well (morning sickness). Both of these can put a huge damper on running, especially, if you have the option of sleeping in later and just running on the treadmill or road instead of driving to the mountains.

Throwing up while running is not something unusual in the ultrarunning world, but it’s also not something we want to deal with during every run either. Choosing a short loop route closer to home or a treadmill when morning sickness is lurking around every corner is more appealing. Then if something goes wrong, you have the option of stopping right away and getting home or at least somewhere more comfortable quickly.

The trails are ideal for the increased urination problem, at least for those who have no qualms about peeing in the woods. Roads make it difficult because you have to plan routes with bathrooms at regular intervals. However, that may not solve the problem. In my experience, there is no predictability to when you will need to go. Sometimes it’s every thirty minutes; sometimes it’s every ten. I can’t seem to make it longer than 45 minutes when running. What’s worse is you may not realize you need to go until you bounce just right and then you have to go RIGHT NOW.

Falling is something you want to think about too. When I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t like falling, but the chance of falling never stopped me from bombing down the side of a mountain. Now, I think a lot more about the risk of falling a route poses. Early in pregnancy falling is really unlikely to harm the baby. Even into the second trimester, baby has a lot of room to move and is protected by muscles and amniotic fluid. As baby gets bigger, they don’t have anywhere to go to get out of the way of an impact making the risk of falling increase throughout pregnancy. The shift in your center of gravity adds to the likelihood of falling too. As does the instability of your joints because of the hormone relaxin (more on this in another post).

Weather is another thing that plays a bigger roll in deciding on a running route when you’re pregnant. I’ve always said there’s no bad weather, only bad gear, but when you’re pregnant, that’s different. Extreme high and low temperatures have a bigger impact on you when you’re pregnant and ice. Rain shouldn’t be too problematic as long as you stay warm. Ice and snow are another problem entirely (see previous paragraph).

As far as calories go, they get used up quicker the further along you are in your pregnancy. In the first trimester you shouldn’t need to adjust calorie intake. Starting with the second and then throughout the third (and if breastfeeding) you’re going to need more calories, 300-500 extra per day. This could mean taking something small on shorter runs. A two-hour run was no problem without calories for me, now that I’m just past twenty weeks pregnant I’m starting to feel the drag in the last 30 minutes.

Air quality is the one thing runners, along with everyone else, pregnant or not, should take into consideration when deciding where to run. You need your lungs and heart. Running when pollution is thick in the air will increase your risks for health problems in the present and in the future. One thing that the ULTRA research study has uncovered is a higher rate of allergies and exercise induced asthma in endurance runners and one of the hypothesizes is because we’re out in the pollution more than the average person, we develop these types of problems more than others.  When you’re breathing for two, it’s even more important for you bite the bullet and run indoors on a track or treadmill.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Years!

My running update: I’ve developed a bit of pain in my left knee, which I think is begin caused by all the treadmill running and lack of foam rolling. I’ve backed off my miles this week, but plan to bump them back to the 36 miles as soon as my knee is feeling better.

Aid Stations

I’ve talked about aid stations a few times and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but the volunteers at aid stations do a lot of work. For the past three years, my friends and I have put together aid station 13 at the Salt Flats 100, which is at mile 89.7. It’s kind of an unpleasant place as far as the course goes.

It’s about a half mile below a mountain saddle. It’s really the last climb in the race and they stop you before you hit the top! Although I’m glad my aid station is not right in the saddle. This race can be very winding, rainy and snowy all in the same race. This year was no exception, although, we had the best weather this year compared to the last two.

As a runner and an aid station captain, I think it’s important to have something special about your aid station. Our is pizza. We love pizza. We have a propane stone pizza oven and bake pizza right there for the runners. They can have it cold or hot. It only takes a minute to warm it up after we’ve baked it. We buy a bunch of pizza’s from Papa Murphy’s Pizza and it’s been a beautiful thing for three years. The pizza is always a hit, cheese is the favorite. By the time runners reach mile 90 your stomach is either screwed or starving.

This year we also had birthday cake out there because it was one of our volunteer’s birthday. The cake did not get as much love as the pizza, which surprised me. I would have eaten it at mile 90 (I will eat birthday cake here or there, I will eat birthday cake anywhere). Maybe there was too much frosting.

One of the things I find the most difficult, particularly in a smaller race like Salt Flats, is keeping broth and romen noodles warm. I wish we had a microwave. Keeping the romen simmering or warming on the stove turns everything to mush and keeping it going causes it to turn to steam and disappear. Having warm choices in the dead of night when the wind is howling and the rain is coming down is critical.

Vegan and vegetarian options are necessary to have as well. Many ultra runners are health conscious and environmentally conscious. We spend so much time in nature and among the wild things of the earth, how can we not become apart of it. There are many products which are “accidentally” vegan and easy to have at aid stations: oreo cookies, sweedish fish, hummus, tortillas (no lard or sugar), fruits, and veggies of course.

The strength of the human body and mind is amazing. It’s inspiring and rewarding to be able to give back to the sport I love so much.

Running for Weight Loss?

Many people start running because they want to manage their weight. Losing weight can be very difficult for a multitude of reasons. It’s hard to be hungry and say no to things you love to eat. It’s also difficult to force yourself to go to the gym or exercise when your energy is lagging because you’re eating less.

Exercise, such as running, is only one piece of the equation of losing weight. Losing weight may seem simple, eat less than you burn each day. But…it’s not. People are horrible at estimating calories going in and calories going out. Keep your plan reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement and bring your awareness along.

People start and stop weight loss plans all the time. Part of the problem is they are not seeing results or they get stressed and give up. Implementing a diet or exercise is a step forward and doing both is even better. But it all comes down to practicality.  The research out there shows that the most effective diet is the one you can stick to regardless of its approach (low carb/high fat, paleo, gluten free, whatever).

It’s the same with exercise. Do what works for you. If you can only fit in three twenty minute sessions a week, do that. Don’t succumb to the pressure of five to seven days a week for an hour if it doesn’t fit your life. You can always work up to it, if you want.

You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. You need to be aware of what you are eating and make healthy choices. Eating aware means not only knowing the quality of what you are eating, but when you are eating, and how much you are eating. Many of us put food in our mouths unconsciously; we pass by the candy bowl on the secretary’s desk; we grab a quick snack and a big gulp when we put gas in our cars. Eating more slowly allows your body to recognize when it is full. Using smaller plates or leaving space on larger ones will help prevent over eating. Remember you don’t have to clear the food off your plate. And if you have children, you don’t need to finish their food.

Foods low in sugar and high in protein and fiber will make you feel full longer. Eat as much unprocessed fruits and veggies as you can get your hands on. If you are having a sugar craving, eat berries or mangos. Consuming less processed sugars will also reduce your cravings for them. Eat a breakfast with high protein, which will reduce snacking before lunch. It will also reduce calorie intake throughout the day.

Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Your body can send hunger signals when it is actually thirsty. Reduce your intake of drinks filled with sugar. We consume 400 calories a day on average through our choices of drinks. It’s very easy to drink up to 800 or more calories a day with our soda and sweet coffee drink consumption.

So what are the keys to weight loss: reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement, and awareness.

Graduation

’tis the season of graduation. Every May and June, thousands of people graduate from high schools, colleges and universities around the United States. So with graduation on the brain, how do you know you’re ready to graduate to the next race distance?

There are multiple opportunities for graduating in our life times. Each time we achieve a new level in any aspect of our lives we could say we have graduated. When most people think of graduating, they think of transitions in the educational setting to the next level.

Our youngsters graduate from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, with their associates degree, bachelors degree, masters degree, and doctorate degree. As far as running goes we move up from 5k to 10k; 10k to half marathon; half marathon to full marathon; marathon to 50k; 50k to 50 mile; 50 mile to 100k; and 100k to 100 mile.

Basically, you graduate when you successfully complete a course of training. That’s all fine and good, but when it comes to running how do you know you have “successfully” completed a course of training?

Many runners don’t begin with the shortest distance and work their way up. They just jump in where they want too. Some proceed to longer distances and others stay where they are comfortable. Here we are talking about those runners who want to move up in distance, although there is nothing wrong with staying put. It’s a personal lifestyle choice because as you move to the next level, your running impacts more and more of your lifestyle.

We know the training that goes into each level of achievement is more difficult than the last.  It takes over our lives a little more with each step. It can change our sleep needs and nutritional needs. It changes the way our body functions (usually for the good but there are injuries too). Our time commitment to running increases and we develop friendships with new people.

We learn about new skills and absorb new information by reading books, blogs and magazines. Our vocabulary increases as we throw out the latest terminology such as being chicked, attitude training, Athena class, Clydesdale class, bandit, aquajogging, and PR. We learn a lot about our  bodies including various tendons, ligaments and muscles.

We put into practice the skills we have learned from the prior level such as foam rolling, stretching, tempo running, packing drop bags, how to stay awake and run all night, how to manage stomach problems while running, and hydration.

You’re ready to graduate when you develop the enthusiasm, drive and grit to take on the challenges of the next level even though you don’t know everything about them.

 

 

 

 

 

Does Carb Loading Work?

carb-loading

We have all heard about carb loading before a race. Many races serve a pasta dinner the night before a race, but does it really have that big of an impact on race day? It can if it is done properly.

Why do we carb load? You want to fill your muscles with as much glycogen as you can before a race because that’s what your body uses to fuel itself while you run.

There are two main ways to carb load. There is the traditional method, which is spread over three to six days before the race, and then the 24 hours binge. The traditional method goes something like this: from Sunday to Tuesday before the race you should consume fifty percent of your calories from healthy carbs. From Wednesday to Friday 70 percent of your calories should come from carbs.

The 24 hour binge is not recommended and can make you feel sluggish rather than energized. It can give you GI issues as well and no one wants GI issues while they are running. The 24 hour binge is where you consume 4.5 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight the day before the race. If you do this, avoid eating foods high in fiber, add healthy fats and some protein to the mix to slow the release of the carbs and reduce blood sugar spikes.

Carb loading is not necessary and comes with its own risks. There are so many products out there that make fueling during a run easy, carb loading may not be worth it. If you’re running less than 90 minutes carb loading won’t help you at all because it takes that long for most people to burn through their glycogen stores.

Lastly, women don’t reap the same benefits from carb loading as men. The reason for this is believed to be the difference in hormones, estrogen in particular. All is not lost though, women can increase their calorie intake by thirty to thirty-five percent during the loading period and get the same or similar benefits.

Eat before you run, after you run, or both?

breakfast

Way back long ago, I never ate before I went out for my morning run. Then my runs grew. My weekday runs went from five miles to 10-12 miles. As they became over an hour, I had to eat something before or take something along. I just got too hungry and my energy would drop off, especially, on harder midweek runs, speed or hills.

When this began to happen, I wasn’t eating solid foods while I ran because my stomach couldn’t tolerate it. I didn’t want to use my Gu on a midweek run, so I opted for eating before my run.

Running with food in your stomach can be a big adjustment for some runners. Others are blessed with the ability to eat pretty much anything and then run or eat it while they run. I am of the later sort.

Training your stomach to run with food in it, is a process. Your other option is to eat far enough in advance of your run that you’ve digested enough of the food that your body doesn’t have to focus on both fueling your body and digesting at the same time. Not many people want to get up an hour earlier to eat before they go out for a run, at least those of us who run at 5 am already. Nor do we want to get up eat, and go back to bed for an hour.

This double focus, digestion and fueling exercising muscles, is what causes the stomach issues. Your body chooses fueling over digestion leaving the food to sit and slosh around as you run.

Not an extra early riser? Start with eating something small that is easy to digest. I began with one slice of toast. I was able to slowly move this to toast with peanut butter and a banana. Eating a small breakfast before I run is a part of my routine, even before races. I eat things I know wont upset my stomach, especially if it’s before a race. I sometimes try new things during training.

Eating after a run is essential if you want your body to be able to gain something from the run you just did. You should eat within 15 minutes of finishing a run. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but make sure it has both carbs and protein, a 4:1 ratio is recommended. Your body just worked hard and it needs nutrients to rebuild muscles and replace energy stores.

If you miss the 15 minute window don’t freak out, just eat something. After your mini meal make sure and get a full meal within about an hour. If you don’t feed your body after a workout, the workout can be mostly pointless. You’ll still get the mental benefits, but not the physical.