Trail Runner Road Running?

As a trail runner, I have looked at road runners with curiosity, especially those that run canyon roads. I always wonder why would you run on the road if you are right by a beautiful trail?

Is there a place for road running in a trail runners training? Yep. There are a number of reasons to run on the road as a trail runner. It’s not ideal and I try to avoid it when I can.

On vacation, it can be difficult to find nearby trails where you can get your daily dose of running, but you definitely don’t want to skip your run, so you head out on the road. Another reason to run on the road while on vacation is if you are in a place where the city because of buildings or culture is an attraction. There’s no better way to explore than running up and down streets.

Winter can be a challenging time to find trails clear enough of snow that they are runnable and not all runners take winter off or change to a winter sport. Road running in the winter poses its own challenges because it gets dark earlier and light later, make sure and take a headlamp, tail light, and reflective vest. You also need to watch for sliding cars.

Convenience is another one. Sometimes you just don’t have time to get to the mountain, but you need to run. Runners are busy people with family and work obligations. Fitting in a run can be a challenge some days. It’s okay to run on the road when you’re short on time. The trail will still love you.

Supporting a fellow runner. Beginning runners can be hesitant to jump right to trail running. If you’re pulling someone into running. Running on the road is permissible, in fact, supporting a fellow runner who is running the road is pretty much always permissible. Trail runners are some of the most community oriented runners who would give you their last drop of water or piece of food on the trail.

Recovering from an injury, especially one involving twisting of a joint. The uneven surface, rocks, roots, and river crossings ubiquitous in trail running increases the risk of re-injury. Running on the even predictable surface of a road may get you back out running earlier than if you wait until your body is ready for a trail. And the earlier you can get back out there, the less fitness you lose.

Running on the road is different than running on trails, pretty obvious. I suggest road shoes rather than your trail shoes for a few reasons. The pavement will ruin your trail shoes and trail shoes have thinner bottoms than road shoes. If you are going to be running on the road for more than a week or two, think about grabbing a pair of road shoes.

Definitely invest in a reflective vest, headlamp, and tail light if you’re running in the dark. Cars need to be able to see you as early as possible. Wearing earbuds is also something to think about because you need to be able to hear the cars approaching you.

I know there is research out there that says your body adjusts to the surface you are running on and that there is the same impact to your body regardless of what you are running on, however, my experience is different. My muscles feel the road a lot more than the trail. I can run a fifty-mile race on trail and not be sore, but if I run a marathon on the road, I’m sore.

Run-It’s who I am.

What does it mean to be a runner? Do you have to run a certain number of days a week? Do I have to run a certain number of miles or time? Do I have to have been running for a certain amount of time? Do I have to race? What if I take a break from running of a month, two months, three months? What if I’m injured and have to take six months or more off of running?

These are all questions I’ve contemplated while out on the trails, especially over the last four months. These questions and other similar ones, have jogged around my head because my ability to maintain a consistent running schedule over the last six months has been seriously compromised by a hamstring injury.

I began to ask myself what it really means to be a runner. I’ve written blogs about being a jogger or a runner.  The defining feature addressed in that blog was speed, but I’m talking about something different here.

I’ve been running for awhile and I’ve run in races from the 5k to the 100 mile. Being a runner is a big part of who I am, it’s more than what I do. It’s not I run, it’s I am a runner. Losing running is like losing a part of myself. Some may think I’m being overly dramatic, but many of you will understand.

Running has made me a better person; more patient, understanding, compassionate, and mindful. It’s given me appreciation and gratitude for what I have; opportunity, health, material objects, freedom, and dreams.

You do not have to run for a specific number of days each week or a specific number of miles, or a specific amount of time. You do have to run on a regular basis though. You’re not a runner if you jog across the street to get lunch every day. I’m comfortable saying you are a runner if you run two days a week for twenty minutes, even if you run walk those twenty minutes. As to distance, it’s whatever you cover in those twenty minutes. Many runners don’t measure by miles. They measure by time.

You can call yourself a runner after you’ve run consistently for a month. It’ takes 21 days to form a habit, and if running has become a part of your weekly routine, you’re a runner.

Now the big question for this post—taking time off. Runners have to rest for a lot of different reasons and runners get injured and have to heal. Sometimes this takes a long time. If you’re still a runner in your heart and mind, if your intent is to get out there as soon as you can, if the reasons for your time off is to make you a better stronger runner, You’re a runner.

As long as being a runner is woven into who you are, you are a runner.

Run Present

We’ve all heard these catch phrases, “be present,” “mindfulness,” and “just be.” It can be difficult to be present in the moment we find ourselves in. We’re always thinking about what is coming up next in our lives. We make plans for the next day, week, month, and year.

And there are days we are stuck in the past remembering what happened in our lives sometimes for the joy it brings to us, sometimes to try to understand what happened, and sometimes to brood and despair over things we cannot change.

In the world we live in, we have to plan for our futures, but it shouldn’t consume our present. As for our unpleasant past memories, learn what you can from them and then let them go.  You lived through it once, don’t replay it in your head over and over again.

There are so many things vying for our attention every moment of every day. Our attention has become a commodity. Everyone wants it and we are the ones who don’t ever have it! You only have to look around you as you walk down most city streets or even a hallway of an office. People are doing multiple things at the same time. We have a constant flow of information from multiple sources assailing us every waking moment.

What’s the big deal you might ask? I mean everyone does it: they are thinking about the future, thinking about the past, and processing information from a million sources all the time. No wonder so many of us are exhausted day in and day out. This type of “living” is not living at all. We miss so much because we move from one thing to the next before the prior thing was even finished.

I am a firm believer in taking time to ground yourself in the present and recharge your batteries. It’s like a mini vacation right where you are. You can slip into it any time and any place. Isn’t that why we go on vacations, to get away from it all?

Running is my vacation. I try to be very present when I run and not just because I don’t want to fall on my face, although that’s a pretty good reason. I want to escape the sensory overloaded world most of us function in every single day.

Next time you’re out for a run, try to get to a trail, unplug your ear buds, feel your feet hit the dirt, feel the breeze on your face, notice the different colors around you, notice the different textures of plants, feel your breath come in and go out; be right there experiencing every aspect of your run. I challenge you all to find a new way to be present during a run.

Let me know what you find.

Appreciation

appreciation

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and really appreciate what we have right in front of us. It really hits us hard when we lose something we under appreciated.

Our health is one of the things most people take for granted. If we look around our immediate environment we’ll see others who are struggling with their health. We all have family members and friends who are dealing with some health condition that limits their ability to do some things.

I’m guilty of this same thing. There are a few circumstances where it always hits me though: race day and long runs, which in many ways are the same thing. Maybe it’s just the endorfins that make me stop, literally, and look around me realizing how lucky I am to be out in the mountains running.

I’m very conscious  of what I put into my  body and try to make good decisions about 90% of the time, but even this level of awareness hasn’t saved me from taking my health for granted.

It’s more than just our health that gives us the ability to run. Our friends and families give us the freedom and space to do our running thing. Our socioeconomic status gives us the ability to take the time off to run or not have to work two jobs. Running also takes a certain amount of financial means, not as much as other sports (cycling or triathlon), but shoes can get expensive even if you are not running in the top brands.

The condition of our country plays a role too. Can you imagine trying to be a runner in a country riddled with war? I thank my guardian angels I am able to run safely in the mountains, the city, and the neighborhoods near my home.

Another one is the availability of food and clean water. Running burns through a lot of calories and without enough food to eat on a daily basis would be difficult as would running without enough clean water.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given and don’t waste them. Work hard when you are out there and show your gratitude do those who support you in your efforts.

Finish Line Blues

blues

Wow! After months of training you’ve finally made it across the finish line of your first race. How do you feel?

Well, umm, what do I do now? Sure I have this finisher’s metal or something but…there’s this whole in my life that my training and my daydreaming about finishing filled. This is totally normal. Training may suck at first, but soon you learn to love it and you look forward to even the most grueling workouts. You enjoy the challenge and the runners high, wow, who would want to live without that.

As you approach the event you have been working towards, start looking beyond it. What are you going to do afterward. Is this the only race you are ever going to do? if not, you should find another one. If it is, then find something else physical to do. Losing those endorphins creates a drop in your mood that can last for days or even weeks.

Future plans don’t have to be running related either. There are other aspects of life set up family time or social events. Take a class in something you have always wanted to learn but haven’t had time to do.

Talk with other runners about it. Having someone validate your feelings and provide some guidance when you are down can help you start to pull yourself out of the dumps. Just knowing it’s normal can be enough to lift you a little.

Evaluate how the season or race went with an objective eye not critical. Bashing yourself for mistakes in training or during a race is not productive. Look at where you struggled and find ways that would help you improve in those aspects.

Running for me has never been about the races. It’s always been about the training. Races are just a new place to run and a staffed route (with amazing volunteers I might add). Even when I don’t have a race coming up, I maintain my running schedule, including some pretty high miles.

I like to run races, but if I can’t for some reason, I try to stay involved in the running community through volunteering at events.

If I’m injured that’s when the blues kick in, because it prevents me from running. How do I combat this, I cross train like a boss! I try to keep my mind off of it as much as I can, but also stay optimistic and realistic.

 

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.

Puddles?

sweaty-runner

I think I sweat more than any person I know when I exercise. It runs rivers down my body. During yoga, there is a puddle underneath me, my fingers are wrinkled, and I can literally wring my clothes out afterward (I’m not kidding even a little). It’s not just yoga, it happens when I run too, but the wind and outside air keep things a little more try. If I’m on the treadmill, you don’t want to run next to me or you could get splashed.

Your body produces sweat when your core body temperature rises, which triggers your body into releasing fluid to the surface of the skin where it is supposed to evaporate and cool the skin.

There are a few factors that go into how much you sweat. People are born with 2-4 million sweat glands. Women have more than men, but men’s are more active (on average) than women’s. The temperature and humidity play a role, as does your activity level and genetics.

If you are exercising intensely, you’re going to sweat more, and if you exercise frequently you are going to sweat more. That’s right, your body becomes a very efficient sweat machine the more you exercise on a regular basis and at higher intensities.  Every time you train you are teaching your body how to cool itself. Your body learns to start cooling itself earlier before your heart rate is high and you’re really working hard.

There are some other things that can contribute to an increase in the amount you sweat as well: caffeine, alcohol, smoking, your clothing, and your weight.

Sweat and salt lines can be a little embarrassing particularly for those new to the gym or those who are overweight. Try not to worry about it too much, most people are too concerned with what they are doing or what they look like to be looking at your sweat. You should wear your sweaty clothing with pride (but please wash it after one use). It means you have worked hard and earned every droplet of fluid.

The more important thing you want to think about when you are sweating a lot is getting the fluid and lost electrolytes back into your body when you are finished and even during your workout. If you start to feel nauseous, light headed, dizzy, confused or have a sloshing stomach, you need to get some electrolytes as soon as you can and definitely reduce your intensity until your body can absorb some of those electrolytes.