Preparing Your Legs for the Longer Distances

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, our distances are getting longer.  If you’ve been coming to most of the weekend runs, your cardiovascular system is ready.  If you’ve been doing the midweek training, your joints are readyNow it’s time to focus on your muscles.  Let’s work on making them more powerful and efficient so you can still feel strong when you’re taking on those double-digit distances.

One way to do this is to run “strides”.  Strides are short bursts at high speed, followed by a slow recovery that’s at least 3 times as long as the time you spent at high speed.  For example, if you run hard for 30 seconds, give yourself at least 90 seconds for recovery.  Better yet, 2 minutes.  Then repeat it a few times, focusing on good running mechanics each time.

  • Keep your arms low at your sides
  • Lean forward just enough so that your body naturally falls forward
  • Land on your mid-foot first, then let your heel hit, so your footsteps are quiet

The best time to do strides is either as part of your warm-up, or toward the end of an easy pace run.  The physical and mental benefits of strides include:

  • Builds leg strength
  • Improves anaerobic capacity (making it easier to run hard)
  • Increases “running economy”, teaching your body to be more efficient
  • Improves speed
  • Adds some variety to the longer distances

Keep this up, along with the speed workouts we’ll be adding throughout the rest of the season, and as the distances get longer, you’ll be able to approach them with a feeling of “No problem.  I’ve got this.  Bring it on!”  You will be strong, confident, and one step closer to achieving your race day and lifelong goals.

Go Team!

Proper Nutrition: Before, During, and After your Runs

A special thank you to David Wiss of Nutrition in Recovery for his presentation this morning.  This article will be the first of several which will highlight parts of his presentation, for those who were unable to attend, as well as for those who’d like to review the wealth of valuable information which was presented.  In this week’s Coaches Corner, I’ll focus on nutrition immediately before, during, and after the workouts.

Before:  Aim for a breakfast of about 70 grams of carbohydrates, eaten an hour before your planned start time.  Fat and fiber tend to slow digestion, so while those are an important part of an overall healthy diet, neither is helpful immediately before a workout.  Before a workout, choose low fiber, low fat carbs such as potatoes or oatmeal.  Also, if you are going to have coffee, drink it after you’ve had a meal, and drink at least as much water as coffee.

During:  After the first hour, start hydrating and replacing electrolytes every 15-20 minutes.  Sports drinks, or water and GU are options.

After:  When you finish your run, try to get some fluids, low fiber/ low fat carbohydrates and protein into you as quickly as possible so your body can start rebuilding.  Immediately replenishing your glycogen stores will also help your body learn to store more glycogen, providing you with the extra energy you’ll need for your longer distances.

And most importantly, remember that there is no “one size fits all” diet.  These are general guidelines.  Please experiment with different foods and different quantities, within these guidelines, until you find what works best for you.


How to Burn Body Fat while Feeling Great on our Longer Routes

If you were building a campfire, you probably wouldn’t create a pile of big logs, throw a lit match at it, and expect the result to be a warm, long-burning enjoyable fire.  You’d first put some small sticks under the logs, and light those.  You’d carefully manage those sticks, and after a while, those sticks would all be burning, and eventually the bigger logs would catch fire and begin that slow long burn. You’d have a campfire that would last for hours, and you’d feel great as those big fat logs slowly burned down.

Imagine the logs are your body fat, and the right kind of sticks are a good breakfast. If you start your long runs/walks with a good carbs breakfast, you’ll have some fuel to get your body warmed up and moving, and soon, your body will transition to burning both the good carbs and some body fat.  If you start with no breakfast, your body will rely on your glucogen stores, but those will run out within an hour or so, and you’ll soon be out of energy. Fat burning probably won’t happen.  If you start with a high sugar breakfast, you’ll get lots of energy right away, but it will fizzle out quickly, just like the match, before your body heats up and you can switch to burning both carbs and fat.

So, what constitutes a good breakfast?

  • Your meal is eaten about an hour before the run so your body has time to digest it. Try to eat before leaving for the meeting spot, rather than eating in your car right before you start.
  • It’s not too much. A few hundred calories is fine.  More than that and you may regret that  lump in your stomach for the first few miles.
  • Good carbs with some protein.  Examples include oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, cereal and milk, a whole grain bagel with peanut butter, and some of the healthier breakfast bars.   If you’ve got some low fat pasta, rice or potato leftovers from dinner, that could work as well.

Since our routes will be getting longer, we’ll be learning more about proper nutrition for athletes at the next team breakfast.  See you all next Sunday!


It’s All About Your Perspective

So, how was your vacation?  Yes, YOUR vacation.  It was the same as the one I just took.

I went to an international tourist destination, a place known for its moderate temperatures, low humidity, and 300+ days of sunshine annually.  It’s a place where the year-round green mountains meet the sparkling waters of the Pacific.  It’s a place where not only is beach access free to all, the beach practically begs you to enjoy it, with its miles of well-maintained bike path that welcome cyclists, runners, walkers, skaters and those who just want to stand there to enjoy their surroundings.

And, best of all, I didn’t have to book an expensive hotel, take vacation days, or buy a plane ticket.  I just hopped in my car and drove to the Santa Monica Pier to enjoy my morning run. And, I even got to run with lots of friends as I soaked in the beauty of my surroundings. How awesome is that?!  I hope you all enjoyed this Sunday’s training as much as I did, if not more.

We’ll be taking mini-vacations together every Sunday through March 19th.  I hope you’ll be out there to enjoy as many of them as possible with us.