Race Day Dos & Don’ts

Running a race is always an experience, whether you are excited, scared, or both (exscareded?).  Whatever you do, don’t let your feelings get the best of you, causing you to deviate from your tried and true routines.  Follow the tips below to ensure you start off your race day with a strong foundation.

DO fuel properly

Most runners look forward to the pre-race carboloading, but if not done properly you’ll feel like a bloated Oompa Loompa.  Carboloading is really only beneficial for half-marathon and marathon distances, so don’t eat TOO much pasta before your next 5K. Your body will burn glycogen (converted carbs) and fat during your race, but carbs are the most efficient forms of energy.  Monique Ryan, RD, a dietitian featured in Runner’s World magazine, suggests beginning to carboload a few days before your race and gradually increasing your glycogen stores so that they are full by race day.  Pasta is always a good choice, but don’t limit yourself to just dinner carbs. Bagels, fruits, and granola bars are great options – just watch out for anything with too much fiber…don’t want an emergencies!

DON’T try anything new

Race days aren’t the time to try out your new shoes or buy a new pair of shorts to run in. Your race day outfit should be a tried and true staple of your training. This will prevent blisters, chafing, missing toenails and any other pitfalls of being a runner.

Not trying anything new also applies to food. The days before a race isn’t the time to get Indian food for the first time.  Stick with what you know won’t affect your stomach, whether that be the Mexican joint down the street or a PB&J on white bread.  Whatever you do, don’t eat a new-to-you fiber and protein bar before your run and then be shocked that you have to stop at every Porta Potty for the next 10 miles…not that it happened to me or anything…

DO make a good playlist (if you run with music).

I like to make a special playlist on Spotify for each race. I add some new music and change the order so I don’t know what’s coming next, but it always features some staples like “Shut Up & Dance” and the Rocky theme (#Phillyyo).  If you prefer to be totally surprised, have a friend craft one for you or use Spotify’s pre-made running playlists. They offer songs with BPMs that correspond with your pace so it will help you hit your goal time.

DON’T forget anything

Lay out what you need the night before. Races start at the crack of dawn, or at least feel like it. Don’t waste time the day of searching by the light of your iPhone for the socks you absolutely need.  Create a flat runner with everything you need from head to toe, including headphones, fuel and sunscreen. It cuts out morning surprises.

Flat
Flat Annie…adult beverage not included (but desired).

I also put together my breakfast ingredients (my go-to is a piece of toast with a little PB and some honey, two pieces if it’s a longer race) so I know where everything is in the morning. Anything to get a few more minutes of sleep, am I right?

DO remember this isn’t life or death

RELAX. Seriously. It’s just running. You have trained for this. You are ready. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and breathing. Best part? If it’s your first race or first time racing that distance: automatic PR and the bragging rights that come with it.

As you become more accustomed to racing you will create your own list of dos and don’ts. Remember that what works for you isn’t going to work for someone else, so much like you should run your own race you should also prepare for your own race.  While there are many factors of race day you won’t be able to control, focusing on the ones you can will alleviate stress and increase confidence, leaving you to run your best!

Take it outside!

I’m a wimp in the winter, especially if there’s any snow or ice on the ground.  I once ran 15 miles (FIFTEEN! Not an exaggeration!) on the treadmill because I stupidly agreed to a spring marathon without realizing it meant training through an icy, cold winter, and I couldn’t bring myself to slip and slide on the ice.  Needless to say, I am traumatized for life.  Maybe that’s why I take any workouts I can outdoors as soon as humanly possible. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way which means a plethora of outdoor workouts to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to go at it alone or if you like a group fitness class – there are options for everyone.

Steps Workouts

While not everyone is as lucky as I am to live by the famed Rocky steps, any steps (think the local high school or college stadium) or inclines provide a great workout.  Combine intervals of running up and down inclines with body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips or planks!  Since doing cardio on an incline TORCHES calories and increases your aerobic capacity, even a short workout will do wonders for you.

Cheap Workouts

Summer is a great time to try some new workouts because so many gyms offer free or majorly discounted classes outdoors during the summer months.  One of my favorite local yoga studios, Priya Hot Yoga, offers donation based (at least $5 is suggested) outdoor classes once a month to benefit a local charity.  A local park hosts a hip-hop class (free!) every Tuesday during the spring and summer.  While you might not be a yogi or dancer yet, you can branch out with your workouts without hurting your wallet.

PHY Class
Yoga studios are pretty, but check this view out.

Outdoor Bootcamps

If you are more of a group fitness warrior, preferring a team mentality to solitude, there are plenty of outdoor boot camps to choose from.  Some local gyms will offer summer-long specials for outdoor workouts allowing you to log some workouts without ever setting foot indoors. A few local favorites are Core Fitness and Fit Academy.

If you’re looking for something a little cheaper (aka free) look for a local November Project.  With over 40 chapters worldwide, there might be one close to your town.  Started in 2011 in Boston, the goal was to keep each other accountable to health during the winter months but a little accountability never hurt in the summer either.  After all, how often have you skipped a workout to go to happy hour?  Yeah, me too.

New Ways to Commute

A workout doesn’t have to be a dedicated hour of your day.  Take advantage of the nice weather by creating a more active commute to work or when running errands.  I am about two miles away from my office so I walk when I can.  It saves money (when I don’t stop to buy an iced coffee) and adds another 30+ minutes of activity to my day.  If you live further away, maybe get off the subway a stop early and walk the rest of the way or jump on a bike. If driving is your only option, use your lunch break for a brisk walk.  Since researchers have shown that sitting is just as bad as smoking, any opportunity to get up and move should not be wasted.

The best part about these workouts? You can continue your new habits even when the seasons start to change.  Either keep the workouts outside or incorporate the new moves you picked up at boot camp into your regular gym routine. You’ll have had three months to shake off the cabin fever and will have the warm memories of summer to keep you motivated.

What’s your favorite way to take exercise outdoors? Any good classes I need to check out?

5 Training Tips to Increase Your Speed

When I first began long-distance running, I had two goals for any race: Don’t die and don’t finish last.  After a few (dozen) races, I thought “Maybe it’s time I start to aim higher.” While I know that I am not going to win any races or even be considered a front-of-the-pack runner, I know I can be a better version of myself. I started incorporating tips I found in order to get faster, and it culminated in a big PR at last weekend’s Broad Street Run. They aren’t hard and fast rules, but suggestions that can help you in your running journey. Incorporate one or all and do it your own way – running isn’t the same for everyone.

BSR 2017
Not dead, not last, and actually on my way to a PR! (S/o to the boyfriend for being a much better race photographer than the professionals.)

1. Start lifting weights. – You don’t need to Hans and Franz to get results from strength training. A 2008 study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed a group of runners who did squats in addition to the regular running routine.  Their “time to exhaustion” increased by over 21% as compared to the runners who did not do squats.  Either look online for a training program you can do yourself or check out a group fitness class such as Body Pump. I normally get my strength training from a mix of boot camp workouts and [Solidcore] classes…anything is better than nothing so find out what works for you!

2. Cross train. – According to Active.com, Runners who cross train become better overall athletes. Taking the time to rest your running muscles and develop new ones through swimming, cycling, or yoga increases overall fitness as well as decreases the pounding on joints that can lead to injury. So take a moment to try a new activity and reap the positive benefits.

3. Follow a training plan. – While you can find formal training plans online (Hal Higdon is my favorite), a training plan can be as simple as planning out your workouts week by week.  Planning ahead ensures you hit your recommend mileage as well as keeps you on track to incorporate strength work and cross training so you can run your best race.

4. Run with faster friends. – I have no scientific evidence for this one, but in running like in life, surrounding yourself with people who are better than you will then help you push yourself to be better. I run shorter runs with my boyfriend and I do my best to keep up. Just make sure to be up front with your new running buddies. Most are very understanding of your desire to be faster and will work with you so that everyone can get what they need from the workouts.

5. Move up a corral. – Much like running with faster friends, racing with faster racers could help you improve your time tremendously. Don’t line up with the elites, but moving up to run with people who plan to run at the faster end of your pace will help you start strong and finish stronger.

Will these tips turn you into Usain Bolt? No. But will they help you become a better runner in whatever way that applies to you.  I know I’m never going to be an elite runner, but there is no greater satisfaction than looking at the race clock and realizing you’ve shaved seconds or even minutes off your time.

Did I miss anything? What tips do you have for people who want to become faster runners?

Grad classes, house buying, and races…oh my!

I have been all over the place the past few months.

When I wasn’t taking some of my final classes in my graduate program, I was working on finding a house.  My boyfriend and I will be moving to Manayunk in June if all goes well, but we looked at probably 25 houses before finding THE ONE. Not only is it time consuming, it’s emotionally draining…at first it’s fun and then you’re like “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE JUST FIND ME A PLACE TO LIVE THAT IS PERFECT AND CHEAP.” Spoiler alert: doesn’t exist. But we did find one we loved, so hopefully everything goes according to plan!

Now that I’m in my final grad class and we’re going through the home buying process, I am finally refocusing and paying attention to my health and fitness goals.

Being busy shouldn’t be an excuse, but sometimes it is.  Not to say I didn’t workout and do my best to eat well, but I wasn’t really focused on anything. I was definitely enjoying myself, but now it’s time to get back on track with a hopeful PR at the Rock and Roll Philly Half in June!

How am I going to do that?  Well, first off, I’m giving up my expensive fitness classes.  Did you guys know buying a house is expensive? I did, but I don’t think I let myself believe it. So until we are settled and I’m feeling more financially secure, I am cutting way back on my time at the fitness boutiques around town…wah.  Luckily, my work gym kills it with classes, though not necessarily with the schedule.  The past few weeks have shaped up to look a little something like this:

Monday: running and Body Pump

Tuesday: yoga or barre, depending on what times work better for me.

Wednesday: swimming

Thursday: spinning

Friday: running and Body Pump

Saturday: long run

Sunday: rest

I don’t know if 6 days a week will be the norm for me, but I will keep doing it until I’m not enjoying it anymore.

Focusing on food will be important as well. I’m lucky that I’ve been craving mostly healthy foods these days, but some health issues have sent my cravings all over the place. Hopefully a visit to the doctor this week will help with that, but I need to take time to realize that just because I want something doesn’t mean I should have it.  Not every day is treat yo’self.

Treat
Def do it, just not as much as I have been doing it…

Meal planning has been key to save calories and dollars.  On this week’s menu:

Maple Soy Salmon & Roasted Asparagus (I adapted it from this Skinnytaste recipe)

Italian Pulled Beef Sandwiches (again, Skinnytaste because if it ain’t broke…)

One Pot Sausage & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

Ground Turkey with Potatoes and Spring Peas

I also whipped up some Kodiak Cake blueberry muffins for my mid-afternoon snacks at work.

Hopefully all of this pre-planning will keep  me mostly on track for the week. We’re not perfect, but if you’re not aiming to be your best…what’s the point?

Here I go again on my own (ish)…

My last attempt at a marathon wasn’t pretty.  It was the Rock N Roll DC in March 2015 and I had basically set myself up for failure…

  1. I had to train through winter. I hate winter.
  2. We had a pretty bad winter, so I slacked off and didn’t stick to my training plan like I should.

It poured the entire first half of the race and I tripped in a pothole around mile 15. I ended up half running/half dragging my leg behind me until mile 21 when I realized how stupid it was to keep doing something that made me so miserable/injured…and I quit.

I don’t quit.

So that brings me to the Philly Marathon 2016, which I am running November 20. I couldn’t let my last marathon be a DNF.

I get to train through the summer, which is hard because of humidity but easier than winter for me (I HATE ICE!!). I’ve also lost about 10lbs since the race in 2015, so I think that will be helpful to me come race day.

The training plan I’m using was made for me by my friend’s father who is an amazing runner.  I’m running 3x/week, with 2-3 days of cross-training. My body responds the best when I am not running super high mileage but still getting the necessary cardio in each week.  I’ve mainly focused on swimming, spinning, and yoga for my cross-training, but I recently rejoined Classpass and I look forward to adding in RowZone, pilates, and strength training to supplement my running.

As far as goals for my race go, I’d love to run a sub-5 hour marathon, but my #1 focus is finishing strong. To me, it’s much more important to cross the finish line happy and healthy than to hit some arbitrary time.

Here goes nothing!

 

 

Passions (Not the soap…RIP)

I’ve been at my current job for about 4 years now and I’ve been bored for 3 and a half of them.  I like my coworkers, love my company, but as far as my day-to-day job goes….eh.  I don’t feel challenged. I think that lack of stimulation is working its way into other parts of my life.

While I search for another job, I’m left figuring out how to reignite passion in other areas of my life.  I committed myself to training for my 4th attempt (hopefully third finish!) at the marathon distance. I rejoined Weight Watchers and have been working on cleaning up my diet and losing weight so that I feel like (and run like) my best self. I started a book club with my girlfriends from high school, which definitely helped me rediscover my love of reading.

Unfortunately, very rarely do you find a job that encompasses those things and allows you to make a living doing what you love.

So I have continued to find ways to do that outside of the office.  I love writing, so hence my return to blogging. My goal is to add in a little freelance writing, not necessarily for extra money, but for the love of it.  Maybe there will be fitness certifications in my future allowing me to share my love of working out with others.

Don’t get me wrong…I am still ferociously on the job hunt. I know that I can find a job that fulfills me more than I am fulfilled currently, but maybe I am meant to get my jollies outside of the 8-5 hours.

I’ve started by picking up a planner and following a pre-written “To Do” list (I. LOVE. LISTS.) in hopes of focusing my efforts after work.  It can be hard to come home after the office and gym and focus on another task, but I am always happy when I start.

Right now, I just need to try and stay focused on my goals!

PhelpsFace
Not this focused, though. Don’t want to scary anyone.

 

Cleaning up my diet.

It’s no secret I’ve struggled with my weight.  I’m an emotional eater and that is not an easy habit to break.  I’ve tried severely limiting my “approved” foods, My Fitness Pal, juice cleanses and low-fat diets.

Tina

The only thing that has ever really worked for me has been Weight Watchers, but when I started it a few years ago the plan emphasized a low-fat diet without paying much attention to the quality of foods.  As I learned more about proper nutrition, I realized that it really wasn’t the way to go.  Yes, half an avocado is more than 2 tablespoons of fat-free cream cheese, but which is the better option?

With the new changes to the Weight Watchers plan, I noticed a shift in their thinking: encouraging a healthy, well-rounded diet as opposed to low-fat.  I think that’s a positive step in the right direction for those who struggle with the scale.

I started it again after coming back from my vacation to Arizona in March.  While we hiked a lot, we also ate ALL the Mexican and drank most of the beer. 🙂  I regret nothing, but when I looked at the photos from the trip, I realized that my outward appearance didn’t reflect how healthy and fit I feel.  I knew that my workouts were on point, but I had to take an honest look at my diet…and portion control.

I joined Weight Watchers, pulled out the measuring cups and started tracking every morsel of food that passed my lips, be it an egg white veggie omelet or four margaritas and some chips and salsa. Just because I didn’t track it doesn’t mean I didn’t eat it, and the best tough love comes from within.

So far it’s working.  I’m down 8lbs, which might not seem like a lot, but it feels like 80 to my brain and my clothes.  I have a few pounds to go, but I’m aiming for steady, sustainable weight loss and it seems like I’m on the right track.