Category Archives: Running

Everything about running.

The Long Run

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Running Long

It doesn’t matter if you are training for a 5K, an Ultra Marathon or any distance in between, your weekly training plan will have one workout in common, the Long Run. It is the bread and butter of running. The Long Run, if it is done right, will increase your aerobic base, will build up your endurance and will boost your confidence. Is the Keystone of any running training program.

Slow and easy is something we hear a lot from coaches when it comes to Long Runs. You see, the Long run has many benefits and here are some of them:

  • Improves Oxygen use and Glycogen stores.
  • Trains the cardio, respiratory and muscular systems to work more efficiently.
  • Maximizes our ability to burn fat and spare our limited muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) stores as well as improving our leg strength.
  • It helps with resistance to fatigue both physical and mental.
  • Teaches patience and discipline.
  • Adapts tendons, ligaments, joints and bones to the stress of running (reduces chance of injury).
  • Increases the quantity of mitochondria (responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy).
  • Improves our focus and determination (especially in longer races).

And the list could possible go on a little longer (pun intended).

How long is the Long Run?

When it comes to the Long Run distance and pace aren’t so important. Time spent on your feet is! Anything between 45-90 minutes our body learns to increase its ability to transfer and use oxygen more efficiently (aerobic). It also builds muscle strength without too much stress.

Anything over 90 minutes our body learns to depend more on fat usage for energy instead of Glycogen (running efficiency). We all have almost an unlimited energy supply from fat but only a couple of hours of Glycogen.

If you are training for long races it is recommended to run no more than 180 minutes during your Long Run. Running for this long helps us accomplish two things. First, your legs will get very tired but will become stronger and better able to handle running for such long periods. Second, you will experience fatigue and have to be mentally strong to simply keep going, knowing that you are going to continue to feel tired. However, it’s important to remember that feeling tired is what training is about.

Besides all of these different benefits, you are also avoiding one of the number-one risk factors for injury. Going too fast, too far too quickly can be a recipe that doesn’t taste too good. If you are new to running start with 45 minutes and add 10 minutes every other week to your Long Run. Every three to four weeks cut back the time of your Long Run to give your legs and body some rest. Consistency and variety will keep you running for a long time!

Run Long

Takis

 

 

The Importance of the Warm Up

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Warm Up to a better performance.

Have you ever started a run and felt sluggish, heavy and thinking “I don’t think I can do this today”? But you stick with the run and things progress, eventually you start feeling a little more confident. Your legs loosen up and you start to gain speed slowly without too much extra effort. Then you enter the specific stage (speed, tempo, stamina workout) of your training run and things are just not happening. If you have felt all this you are not alone. Most of us roll out of bed in the morning or get back home from work and head out the door to “get this run over with” without much preparation. We skip the Warm Up part of our workout.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you skip the Warm Up you are cheating yourself of your best performance. Don’t fool yourself by saying “I’m not a fast runner or an elite”. It doesn’t matter if you are a 17 minute 5K athlete or a 30 minute one. You may have noticed the “fast kids” warming up before a race and you think “Well their coach tells them they have to”. Yes, and they also run sub 20 minute 5Ks.

A proper Warm Up gets your body and mind ready of what is about to take place. It can be broken down in three parts.

1. Mobility

So what do you need to do for a proper Warm Up? Here are some things I do before every run. First I do some hip-openers, chest-openers, squats, leg swings and lunges about 2-4 sets. These exercises open up my chest so my lungs fill up with more air during my run. Loosen up my hips and joints so they don’t stiffen my run. Mobility workouts, here Matt Fitzgerald describes a few of the workouts you could do before your runs.

2. Energy Delivery system

Right after that I head out the door for an easy mile or two. That gets the heart pumping and Oxygen-rich blood flowing to the working muscles. Warming up the muscles and tendons gets them ready for the hard work to come and will prevent injury. Next, is time for a few running form drills. These will “wake up” the nervous system which is an important part of the Warm-Up. They are great co-ordination exercises. Jason Fitzgerald demonstrates the basic Running Drills in a short video. You’d want to do these on key-workout days and not before Easy or Long runs.

3. Practice race/training pace

After the energy delivery system is set up and the muscles warmed is time for a few Strides. I only do those before a race or a speed workout. I run the pace that I will race or train for 20-25 seconds to see what it “feels” like for that day. And I only do 3-4 repeats. You’d want to do this right before the race (2-3 min before the start) or the start of your workout and not every time you run.

Once you incorporate this Warm-Up routine into your training it will become part of it and it will feel natural. Not only your performance will improve but your running Form will too.

Run Strong.

Takis

 

Running Nutrition

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Running Nutrition.

For any long distance runner, a Running Nutrition strategy is an absolute necessity. Do this wrong or don’t practice it before race day and you are risking failure. Is hard enough for our running bodies to cover the long distance add dehydration and/or lack of Carbohydrates and you have the “Bonk”. But not all fuel is created equally and not all runners can follow the same fueling techniques.

Practice Hydration

You should practice your hydration strategy during your long runs. After a few of those runs you should be able to dial in to exactly what works for you. Carry your hydration so you can sip along the course. This way you can avoid the slowing crowded runners at the water stops. Besides, the race may not be offering the same products you are used to hydrate with. If you don’t want to carry a bottle (or two) with you check with the race administrators to find out what they will be offering at the race. During your long runs practice with those same products. If you don’t want to carry your bottle, you may want to place water bottles along your route or park your car on a loop of 3-4 miles long so that you have access to your hydration . I personally carry my own bottle. On longer runs I double the concentration so I don’t have to carry more than one bottle. It works for me but may not for you. Practice it!

Fueling your Long Run

Glucose, sugar-the simplest of all Carbohydrates, is the main source of fuel in our body. Stored as Glycogen in our muscles and liver is the fasted burning fuel. A well-trained runner has about two hours of Glycogen supply to burn. It is very important to replenish the stores of it to avoid hitting the “Wall”. Again something you have to practice on your long runs along with hydration. Fuel is easy to carry with you. Raisins, dates, gummy bears, gels etc. all should fit in your short pockets. Find out what the race will be offering and practice with it if you don’t want to carry it. Always take 3-4 ounces of water (2-3 sips) with any fuel, it will be distributed to your muscles quicker.

Glycemic indexes for common sugars Scale: 0-100 where 100 raises blood glucose levels fastest

glucose ~99

maltodextrin ~85

high fructose corn syrup ~78

sucrose ~68

agave nectar, raw honey ~30

brown rice syrup ~25

fructose ~20

Choose your sugars wisely. Slow burning sugars (low glycemic) will burn slower and will sit in your stomach longer which can give you digestive problems while running.

Dialing in your Nutrition is never easy but with practice you will find what works the best for you. As with Everything else don’t try anything new on race day.

avoid the Bonk

Takis

Aerobic Capacity and Running

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Running Economy

Imagine your running body having a gas tank like that of your car. You fill up and go till it runs out. How far did you get? Can you go further with the same tank? Yes you can by increasing your aerobic capacity. There have been many studies about the affect of aerobic capacity and our running bodies.  Reference

Aerobic Capacity

Most of the running we do as runners is in the Aerobic state. Meaning that our muscles get all the energy they need through Oxygen absorption. But first let’s take a look at how our running body generates the energy to run. Described in the simplest way: When we breathe air, Oxygen gets into our lungs, from there it catches a ride on the red cells in our blood and travels to the heart. The heart will then send the oxygenated blood to our working muscles. Once there, Oxygen will burn Glucose into energy (called ATP) for the muscles. Then as we exhale we get rid of the by-products that are CO2 and water vapor. The faster we run the higher the demand for Oxygen from the muscles and the more blood the heart will have to send. Thus the faster breathing with faster running.

Improving Running Economy

The more Oxygen our body can absorb the higher energy return for the muscles. Therefore our ability to absorb higher amounts of Oxygen (VO2Max) out of the blood makes us faster. Very well trained runners will have the highest absorption of Oxygen. Although some people have the genetic gift of high VO2Max there’s hope for the rest of us too. We can improve our VO2Max by running at faster paces, also called Speed training workouts about once per week. That is not running at an all-out effort. Instead is a little faster than Cruise Intervals pace, or when you feel your breathing getting much faster while your pace is increasing, a little faster than our 5K pace.  Fast but not uncomfortable.

Speed workouts are very beneficial when done right. This is the Fast Stuff in our training and should be done once a week for most of us. These workouts not only increase our VO2Max but help us learn to stay focused and become more familiar with some of the suffering while racing.

Here is a sample of Speed Workouts:

8-10 times (1:00 minute Fast with 1:00 minute easy jog).

4-6 times (3:00 minute Fast with 2:00 minute easy jog).

3-5 times (5:00 minute Fast with 3:00 minute easy jog).

As with every workout make sure you start with an easy run for 10-20 minutes to warm up. During warm up the body gets ready by activating our neuromuscular system and setting up the delivery system of Oxygen and nutrients to our muscles so we are ready by the time the workout or race begin. Always end your speed workout with a Cool Down of 10 – 20 min easy run. This will flush any Lactic Acid build up in your legs and get you ready for the next workout.  Speed workouts can be taxing to our bodies. Plan a day off or an easy run before and a day of rest the day after.

Run Fast

Takis

 

 

 

The Spirit of Running

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The greatness of the Human Spirit

Running a Half Marathon is never easy. The amount of miles and time allocated to training before the race is enormous. For some runners it can be up to four months and even longer. Week after week, Long run after Long run. We all endure the weather elements and overcome the temptation of staying in bed on Saturday mornings. For some of us our race goal is to set a Best Personal record, for others is to simply finish the race.

During my running years I have come across many runners that have inspired me. Some I have met and others I’ve read about. Last week during the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon I saw a woman walking around the Start area with a dog. She was wearing a pink T-shirt with the words “Visually Impaired” printed on the back. My curiosity was moved but in a very windy, cold and misty morning my attention was diverted back to the race that was about to start. A couple of minutes later the competitive runners lined up in the front, most of us in the middle and runners with strollers and dogs in the back. Race started.

 

“The Human Body Has Limitations; The Human Spirit Is Boundless”,                                                                                        Dean Karnazes.

I did not see that woman running until after I crossed the Finish line as I waited to cheer runners coming in. Then in a distance, the pink shirt runner appeared with her dog speeding towards the Finish line. A small crowd of spectators were cheering her on.

She crossed the Line with the biggest smile celebrating by punching the air with her fist. Then as she burst into tears she fell to the ground to give gratitude to her dog for her own accomplishment. A display not only of the strength of the Human Spirit but humility. After she accomplished what is impossible to many people she gave the credit to her dog for getting her to here. Her small hero had led her through the 13.1 mile race as he did countless miles before during training. He was a winner too! It was an incredible moment that has moved me forever. I will never forget how everyone around her was also moved. At that moment it was the Human Spirit in display in front of all spectators and runners.

“The true Test of a Champion is Not whether he can Triumph, but whether he can overcome Obstacles.”               Garth Stein

In that woman I could see: Courage, Ability, Strength and Determination. She had accomplished her goal through all that. She had endured the same wind and cold as all of us did. And did not gripe once about it. Her goal to achieve was much bigger than the elements. She and her running mate crossed the Finish line as Champions for that day.

She had displayed the top mental qualities of an Elite runner. Something that a lot of us struggle with and makes me envious of her. So many of us try to improve our running by training harder, faster and longer yet we overlook the obvious, the Spirit Running.

Takis

Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon Race

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 The Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon and 10K 2017

This race takes place in Bluffton South Carolina, USA, in a beautiful setting at the Palmetto Bluff exclusive gated community. Not fully built yet so most of the route is on nice wide paved roads surrounded with nothing but Southern Oaks, Pine trees, Palm trees and of course a lot of Palmettos. Starting the race early on Sunday morning adds to the serenity until the roads are overtaken by runners. About 700 registered runners take part, with the majority running the Half.

Race Report

This is the 3rd year I’m running the Half Marathon here. The first year I set a PR on this course. Last year I ended up walking a lot (bad choice of running shoes…a long story). This year my goal was to finish the course at a good pace without hurting my knee. As you may already know I have had knee issues the last couple of months. Not looking for a PR but a good solid run. A benchmark, if you’d like, to build on from here.

The weather

Overcast with light rain in spots and mostly misty. The temperature at start time 51F degrees. Breezy most of the time with gusts of 15 to 20 m/h. This could be a problem.

The Race

Runners were summoned to the Start line. The race is chip-timed so it doesn’t matter where you start from. it times you from the moment you cross the Start line till you cross it again on the way back to Finish. A very young lady (13 y.o) delivered us the National Anthem in an Amazing way and the race started shortly after that.

A thick crowd of runners made its way through the picturesque Town Center of the community. Within a few minutes we were out on open road with nothing but trees surrounding the course. The runners starting to settle into their paces. I was between 8:50 and 9:05. It felt within my comfort zone and wanted to keep it there. The first 4 miles went by quickly. The wind was not so bad. The tall trees that surrounded us blocked most of it. Rain and mist had cleared but it was still overcast. Miles 5 through 7 the course turned and the wind started to be noticeable but not too bad, yet. At mile 8 we came upon a surprise, the road pavement ended and now we were on a hard packed dirt road with loose gravel. Not good! It was about a third of a mile and we got back on pavement. Until now I had been pretty steady holding the pace around 8:50-9:05.

Later in the race

Suddenly the route turns slightly to the left and at an open field we have the wind head on for a mile and a half. There were moments that the wind was literally stopping me. My quads started to burn trying to push through this wall of resistance. Finally, mile 11 and we turned again from the wind and gave me a chance to compose myself but I had burned a lot to get at this point. At mile 12 we turned again and again facing the wind.

The last part of the race

By now we were back at the Town Center and the wind channelling through the buildings was coming strong at us. This was the worst part. Now the wind was at it’s strongest and I was spent. With only less than a couple of hundred of yards left we made a turn to the Finish to realize the course was short by almost a quarter of a mile, 12.89 miles to be exact not 13.1. Much to my surprise because the course had been spot on the last two years and it was USATF certified. This year they had to change the Start/Finish line and someone messed up. Official time 01:58:25. Happy with the knee and the effort!

Race support

Aid stations were placed throughout the course from 2 to 3 miles apart all offered water and Gatorade and with two of them stocked with GU. As far as I know they had enough to supply all runners. Volunteers were great directing the race but crowd support almost non existent.

Post race

The medals were nice as usual. The event provides everyone with water bottles, coffee and bananas. With your race entry you also get a coupon for a cup of beer crafted by a local brewery and a coupon for a BBQ sandwich. Sorry vegetarians you can have all you can eat bananas and maybe that is what happened since they ran out early.

Overall this is a good small venue and most likely I will be back next year!

My fuel: GenU (x2 servings) 30 minutes pre-race, water during the race, one Humma Plus Gel at mile 10. Water, a banana and a bagel (I brought my own) post race.

Takis

 

 

 

 

Fats and your running body

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Our main source of energy has a bad name! If Fats were discovered today I’m sure they would be named differently. More like “energy nutrients” or the “9 calories per gram fuel cells” or “slow burning fuel” anything but Fats. We have painted a bad picture for the most important nutrient not only for runners but every person. Without them our body would not be able to absorb certain Vitamins and as mentioned already they are our main source of energy. Having said that not all Fats are created equal!

There’s the Good the Bad and the Ugly when it comes to Fats.

The Good…

These are the healthy Fats. Also known as the Unsaturated (both mono- and poly-). Found mainly in vegetable oils (olive oil, canola, soy, corn…etc) and in nuts, seeds and fish. They should be available and consumed in your daily diet.

The Bad…

These Fats will kill you! They are the Trans Fats. Found in all processed foods and all the Junk food of course. Even at very small quantities they will cause all kinds of problems like coronary disease and more. These are the ones to avoid completely.

… and The Ugly

Known as Saturated Fats they are not as bad as their cousins the Trans Fats, but they can cause problems too. Moderation is the key here! I’m sure you’ve heard a Doctor talking about cutting back on red meats, butter, cheese and ice cream right?

Grilled Salmon

So there you have it. Consume most of your Fats from the Unsaturated list (mono- and poly-). Cut back on the Saturated and eliminate all Trans Fats from your daily diet.

Choose Wisely!

Saturated Fat Trans Fat Mono- unsaturated Fat
• Red Meat • Margarine • Olive Oil
• Coconut Oil • Imitation Cheese • Canola Oil
• Butter • Cakes, Cookies • Peanut Oil
• Palm Oil • Doughnuts • Peanuts
• Whole Milk • Crackers • Almonds
• Ice Cream • Meats/Dairy • Cashews
• Cheese • Snack Chips • Avocados
• Chocolate • Peanut Butter
• Seafood • Deep-Fried Food

 

Poly-unsaturated Fat
• Fish • Safflower Oil • Soybean Oil
• Corn Oil • Fish Oil • Cottonseed Oil

 

Related information

Eat Smart

Takis

The terrible toos in running.

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Too soon, Too many, Too fast.

Mostly a beginner’s offense to the basic rules of running. Also seasoned runners coming from a running break or a race commit the offense of increasing their mileage Too Soon. Ignoring the “build a base” rule of training can quickly lead to injuries. Adding Too Many miles to their weekly totals and not observing the 10-20% increase per cycle also spells trouble. Coming back to training feeling rested and eager to run and piling up excess miles could sideline the runner. Also following the three cycle increase in mileage and the fourth cycle running less is the proper way to longer happier miles. And just because a runner can run Too Fast, he/she shouldn’t. Most of our running during training should be easy. As the matter of fact about 80% of the time spent running should be slow! The other 20% is a mix of controlled faster running workouts. Save it for race day! So here you have it: “the terrible toos”. Add any of these Toos to your running and you’ll be experiencing the terrible Shin Splints, Runner’s Knee, ITB Syndrome etc.

Run easy,

Takis

 

Easy runs, too fast or too slow?

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Struggling with the easy!

Easy runs are supposed to be Easy. Right, I get it! But how slow or fast is easy? Recently I have been struggling with this. I think I have been running my easy-slow runs a bit too fast. My heart rate is higher than 65% of Max and the “talk-test” well, is almost there but not exactly. But I feel somewhat comfortable running at this, a little faster, pace (around 09:30-09:40m/mile). The McMillan Running Calculator and Daniel’s Running Formula have my easy runs at 10:20-10:30m/mile. I have made myself go that slow and not only feels “un-natural” but it almost hurts. It feels like I can run longer at a faster pace than a slow one! I know at a slower pace we tend to lose our running form but I have paid attention and I think I maintain my form. Not sure if this is a “mental” thing or what!

Running at different paces

One would think that going faster would be tough – not going slower. I run two or three days per week at “slow easy” pace and every other week I add ‘Strides” to one of those runs. During the week I have a Tempo/Intervals or Steady State run and of course the Long run (a little slower than easy pace). I feel that I run my body at different paces enough that it should adapt and not get stuck at a single gear.

I have been running for over eight years and have enjoyed some success. But I feel that my easy running may be sabotaging my overall training.

Run EZ.

Takis

Protein and your running body

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Protein with every meal

Protein, not just for runners but everyone striving for a balanced diet or planning to shed a few pounds should know a few things about it. According to the World Health Organization, humans need to get only 10 percent of their daily calories from Protein to maintain good health. But as runners we need more of it because running breaks down muscle and damages our muscle fibers.

Protein with every meal

According to researchers, by spreading your Protein intake throughout the day, your muscles receive a constant supply of the amino acids needed to build muscle and boost metabolism. However, if you consume too little at breakfast and too much at dinner, your body can’t build muscle throughout the day and is forced to store Protein as glucose or fat at night.

Protein intake timing for runners

After a hard run or workout timing your Protein intake is important. Within 30 minutes from your workout and up to 2 hours is the ideal window for recovery. For every pound of body weight you should consume 0.25gr of Protein for proper muscle Recovery. For example a 100lb runner should consume 25gr. and a 160lb runner 40gr. Of course you should include Carbohydrates with your recovery meal or shake and don’t forget to hydrate immediately after your workout. You should continue consuming more Protein with all your meals and snacks for the rest of the day. You want to aim for a total daily intake at 0.50gr per pound of body weight for light days. On heavier workout days or long mileage runs you should aim for 0.80gr. Although this is not a magic formula it works for me. I even add more Protein on days that I feel extra sore or sense an injury coming.

Read :More on this.

Refuel Smart

Takis