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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Let It Snow, Lets Go Run!

So if any of you have looked outside lately I am sure you have noticed the RIDICULOUS snow that we are getting here in Michigan!!  For those of you not in Michigan, trust me it is absolutely ridiculous.  Here is a testament to Michigan weather being crazy and random, today we have (so far) close to 4-5 inches of snow, yesterday I ran outside for 3 miles!  Nuts I know!  As I drove through the blizzard today, I drove past where I ran yesterday and was like wow, I honestly cannot believe about 24 hours ago I was chugging along on that sidewalk, that is now covered in ice and snow and wintery white-ness.

Now I am not a snow lover.  I know there are tons of people that love snow, look forward to the first snow of the year, but honestly I dont get why.  1, I hate being cold, I hate being cold so much that it is almost painful for me to be cold and no this is not an exaggeration!  2, who likes driving in the snow?  Really?  Its probably one of the most frustrating things about living in Michigan!  (and other northern states/areas as well!)  and 3, what this whole blog is all about! Running!  Or lack there of when it is snowing outside!  I mean I am all for conquering the elements, going out there and proving that you can tackle mother nature and show her whats up.  That she wont keep you down!  But I also am fortunate enough to have a treadmill.  That actually just got a wonderful TV mounted right infront of it (Thanks Dad!!).  And I have seasons 1-4 of The Office sooo....thats what I did while I ran my 4.5 miles today, watched almost 2 episodes of The Office!  But not everyone is as lucky as I am.. So basically I am like the Grinch of snow.  Even if it didn't snow on Christmas, doesn't really bother me.

So first of all, yes I ran outside yesterday!  I must admit, I could barely compose myself when I realized it was 40F outside, in December, 2 weeks before Christmas, and I could run outside.  I was beyond excited!!  No treadmill, score!  So I laced up my shoes, got on some ColdGear and went for it!  I was so excited I kept thinking hey, I can probably run a good 4-6 miles, and I would be so happy if I did that outside in December!  Woot!  But alas, this was not the case...

Sure, things started out ok.  I ran my first mile just fine, but then it started with my hamstrings.  They just felt so...weak, and tired and like I was running through jello or something!  Sure I had taken off 2 or 3 days of running, but I ran a good distance before that break, what was wrong with me?  My legs were tired, I felt slow and sluggish, it just was one of those days.  One of those horrible running days that just destroy your confidence in your running.  I dont know about all of you, but if I have a bad run, it just totally bums me out.  I start to feel like wow can I even run 2 miles?  Is my endurance destroyed?  Of course when I really think about it these are silly things to think of, but I cant help it.  It really gets me down!  So mile 2 came, and I literally felt like stopping.  It was horrible I just felt like crap!  And then it hit me...Subway..I had eaten Subway before my run!  Oh no!

I know you are all thinking what?  Subway?  But Jared ran a marathon...well folks, Jared is a better man than me.  At least when it comes to digesting Subway sandwiches.  Not that I am knocking Subway in any way, Subway is an excellent fast food choice especially when compared to McDonalds, Taco Bell and all those other grease fatty places we all know.  But I have horrible luck with Subway + Running in the same day.  I waited 3 hours to run yesterday and it felt awful, one time I ate Subway around noon, ran at 530pm and still felt horrible when I ran!  I am not totally blaming this on Subway, maybe my body is just weird, who knows!  But I cannot have Subway as a pre-run food!  My guess?  Either the sodium content (although subway is low in fat and calories, depending on the sandwich, the sodium content is high in all choices!) or the fact that I just can't resist to Jalapenos and spicy peppers on my sandwich is what messes me up.  Speaking of sodium content, this is definitely one little thing we should definitely watch out for, whether you are a runner or not!  Too much sodium = Water retention because that sodium is dehydrating you, so be mindful of sodium, along with calories and fat and sugar and protein and fiber...lots to watch out for, but it all makes a huge difference in how you feel and how you perform in your runs!

So after my awful feeling run yesterday, as I said, I was kind of down in the dumps over it.  I personally feel anxiety sometimes before I run.  Whether it is because of a specific run that I felt bad with, or because I haven't ran in a few days and am afraid of not running far enough, I do get this anxiety somewhat often.  I usually experience it less when my running is more consistent, but I still get it from time to time.  I recently read about this on and thought I might mention it here.  Does anyone else feel this anxiety?  You go out to run and feel like you can't even run 1 mile when you probably ran a 5 K less than a week ago?  It happens more often than I thought as I saw many people comment on this topic on the article I read!  People that had ran marathons getting anxiety over trying to run 5 or 6 miles, its weird... I hope I am not alone on this problem, so I am going to offer a few solutions to it:

1.  Check it off as a bad day, and start with a clean slate.  This is basically what I did today.  I had a gross feeling yesterday while running, barely running 3 miles (maybe not even) slower than I have ran in awhile.  But today, I woke up and decided to give it a try again.  I completely let that memory leave my mind and just focused on my run today.  I stretched nice and slow to make sure I was completely loose and ready to go, and hopped on the treadmill.  Instead of setting a specific distance goal, I decided to take it 1 mile at a time and before I knew it, I was at 4.5 miles, at a steady pace, and burned almost 600 calories!  Success! That run from yesterday is so far gone from my mind now, it is out there with the snow freezing its butt off.

2.  Stick with a ritual.  I know I have a specific ritual when I run, and I had a specific ritual before all of my volleyball games.  What can I say, it just makes me feel better.  I know it is probably 95% mental but that makes all the difference in how you approach the task at hand, and the confidence you carry with you through it.  Example, before all of my volleyball games, I refused to untie my shoes before I put them on.  I had to slip them on already tied, and had to do specific stretches in specific orders.  And I swear to you that when I untied my shoes I played worse!  Same thing before I run, I slip on my shoes, stretch my muscles in the same order every single time, for the same exact count of seconds every single time, and I always start my run (when with an iPod) with the same song and then let iPod shuffle take it from there.  Maybe I sound OCD right now, maybe I actually am OCD, not the first time I have been told that or thought of that, but what can I say, it works for me.  Starting my run out with the same song each time tells me "ok, its mile one.  Take it nice and slow, before you know it when this song ends, you will be half way through mile one and nice and warmed up".  Try to get a pre-run ritual, with the way you stretch (Please always stretch btw!), music you listen to, anything!  It can really help ease your mind and leave you feeling more confident and relaxed before your run.

3.  Reflect back.  This works for me sometimes as well, I feel like I can't make it.  I feel like an extra mile is just asking too much and then I think of all of the harder things I have done in life.  I think about when I had a torn ACL, and all I could do was look outside.  I couldn't even walk, I literally had to learn to walk again, and I did!  And I played 2 more years of competitive volleyball and have ran several 10Ks and 8Ks since then.  If I can recover from that, I can do anything!  That rehab was probably the most painful thing I have ever experienced...and I am scared to go out and try and run a few miles??  Really??  Come on now.  I am sure you all have been faced with physically demanding and mentally demanding challenges (or both!) if you can conquer some of these things, then don't try and freak out over a longer distance run.  You are an amazing person that has accomplished a lot, just relax and go out for that run!

I know I have been posting a lot about inspiration to get out and run, and this is sort of like that but a little different.  This isn't based on being too lazy to run, or not wanting to run, this is for the people who want to go out and run (which hopefully is most of you!) but is afraid they can't do it.  That they can only make it a fraction of the distance they want to accomplish.  Basically, I am trying to cover another challenging topic of running!

As for the food of the day, this time I am taking it in the beverage isle.....Green Tea!!!

If you know me, you know I adore green tea.  Maybe it is my Japanese roots, who knows, but Green Tea is pretty much perfect in my mind.  Though green tea is excellent for anyone that wants to give it a try, it is especially wonderful for runners and endurance athletes!  First of all, Green Tea is loaded with antioxidants, which kill free radicals, which make our entire bodies extremely happy, healthier, and better looking ;) Green Tea is also known to increase this does not mean it can help you burn off tons of calories, actually it only really can help you burn about an extra 50-60 calories a day, but still that is good for the body!  And finally, there is recent evidence and research saying that the EGCG in Green Tea can actually possibly improve endurance performance, increase some fat burning, and possibly reduce muscle damage while performing endurance sports (Running!).  And since Green Tea can help spark your metabolism, it makes sense that it could help with fat burning and endurance.

So how to enjoy this delicious Green Tea?  I personally just drink it plain jane with hot water and 2 good tea bags mmm but according to my Mom "Not everyone enjoys the taste of grass" So here are a few ideas...

Green tea and a little bit of honey is delicious, also it tastes great with Lemon.  Be weary of bottles green tea beverages, as the benefits of green tea (when in contact with liquids) generally can only last for about 3-4 days, so more than likely you are not getting the same benefits from those bottled drinks.  Also, milk + green tea = lots of health benefits not happenin from that green tea!  So if you need milk with your tea, use soy milk not animal milk :)

I prefer loose tea leaves, as they contain the most abundant amounts of antioxidants and health benefits.  Like most foods and beverages in life, the less it is processed, the better (trust me).  That powdery green tea you get in most grocery store tea bags is OK and a lot better than the already bottled beverages, but you are probably only getting 1/2 of the health benefits green tea has to offer!

So get some green tea!  Stay warm, and try to get running anywhere you can!

And if you love snow, enjoy and if you are like me, then lets pray it goes away!

Peace out! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Is Officially Cold....I Succumbed To The Treadmill...

I am running swiftly past mile 2 and my legs are feeling warmed up...I wait to feel the fresh air push against my skin and instead I see...a sweater, some old hangers, and too many cans of tuna and old soup.  Where am I you ask?  My basement of course!  And it is unfortunate because I am now succumbing to treadmill running.  Its a depressing reality every winter, for every runner that experiences a real winter,  you keep pushing your limits of what you consider *cold* until its finally too much.  This happened to me this past Sunday, I finally had to call it quits on outdoor running!  I laced up my Nike's, and convinced myself that it was just a slight breeze, that after I ran a mile it would feel more like 37 instead of 17 degrees out.  Oh how wrong I was when I barely made it 1 mile!  My Cold-Gear was no match for 17 degrees with a strong wind on Sunday morning!  So I sadly trotted back to my house, into my basement, and ran 3.5 miles staring at my mom's sweater, cans of tuna and soup, and our brand new washer and dryer.  Woo hoo!

But there is a plus side to this treadmill running, I can run in shorts and a T shirt in December and not freeze my butt off!!  I can see my exact pace, my exact distance, an approximation of how many calories I have burned, and even my heart rate.  But who doesn't love fresh air and changing scenery?  I know I do...

So how can you spice up the treadmill?  Make it more interesting?  Make it less dull and boring!  Well first of all if you have a TV or something infront of your treadmill that may help some, but it still may make treadmill running dull!  Lets learn some spicy treadmill tips!

1.  Try A Program!  Even my plain-jane treadmill has some programs set up in it.  Pick a program whether its a 5K race program, interval training, hills, fat burning, anything!  Pre set programs usually go for 30 to 40 minutes so you will get a good amount of running in!

2.  Make up your own program!  Although I have preset programs on my treadmill, I rarely use them.  Instead, I just create my own!
      Example: I will decide to run for 30-35 minutes and instead of tracking my distance, I will focus on training in intervals.  I do this by alternating between 2 different speeds : A slower speed, maybe just 10-15 seconds below your normal mile time, and a quicker speed, not quite a sprint, but definitely faster than your normal pace.  These paces should be spread out with the slower speed from 3-4 (but I would say no more than 4) minutes and the quicker speed 1.5-2 minutes.  For me, I start my first 3-4 minutes with a 6.3-6.4 setting or around 9:40/mile pace.  After those first 3-4 minutes, I will then do my fast pace, around 6.9-7.0 or about 8:30/mile pace, for the next 2 minutes.  I alternate between these two paces for the first 15 minutes.  If I am feeling good and not tired around 15 minutes (give or take) I will adjust my *slower speed* to about 6.5 and my *quicker pace* to 7.4 or 7.5 for the last 15 minutes!  If you don't feel up to adjusting your paces up, just stay with the 2 paces you started at.  This might seem like a lot, but it is really simple!  Not only will this keep your mind occupied by constantly watching the time, waiting for when you can *speed up* or *slow down*, but it is EXCELLENT for building up endurance!  Do this exercise (or something similar to it) for as little as a week and I bet you will notice a difference.  You eventually will be able to run longer and farther with exercises like this spread out amongst your usual running routine.

3.  If you aren't feeling the intervals, just pick a number to hit.  Whether you want to run straight without breaks or anything for 40 minutes, or you want to run 3 miles, push for that number and focus on it.  While you're running, think about your day, think about things that are stressing you out, maybe a to do list for later that day or the next day, what you want to cook for dinner, or for this time of year who you still need to buy presents for!  And what to get them!  Before you know it, your goal will be right infront of you!

I personally prefer the *create your own interval training* or #2, but that is just my opinion.  It honestly works for me every time I am bored on a treadmill.  I am not sure why it works, besides distracting your mind to pay attention to time, but it really does!  Try it!

And now, back by popular (hehe) demand, Food of the Day!  Foods that I think all runners and well just active people in general should give a try!  Today, I will be discussing...Greek Yogurt!!!!  Specifically, Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt (my personal favorite :D)

What is there to say about Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt...first of all, I honestly have no idea why anyone would buy the greek yogurt with fat in it.  I mean, it honestly does not taste different.  Usually, as many of us know, anything *nonfat* especially when talking dairy, means loss of creaminess in taste, flavor and especially texture...but wait, this is totally not the case with Nonfat Greek Yogurt!!!  Greek yogurt is always delicious thick and creamy (with our without the fat!) because this special type of yogurt is super strained!  Well, thats not what they say, but it is excessively a good a way that removes a lot of water and whey, with means less moisture, which means thick creamy goodness!  Did I mention the health benefits?  No?  Oh let me!

On average, Greek Yogurt has at least double the protein of regular yogurt, more probiotics, and (in my opinion) better taste!  As a runner, and as an active individual in general, protein is one of our bestest friends.  Without protein, we can't build stronger muscles for those long and intense runs.  And trust me, we want those stronger muscles, oh man do we want them.  Greek yogurt can help us get there!  Lately, I have been eating PNGY (Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt...too much Rachel Ray?  I'll stop...) probably at least 4 or 5 times a week.  Not only is it loaded with protein, but 1 cup has just around 110-125 calories, and because of its large quantities of protein, it will fill you up!  And if it fills me up, it will fill anyone up.

So how to eat and prepare and enjoy Greek Yogurt....the better question is how couldn't you enjoy it?  Use it as a substitute for making dressings, mix it up with some yummy flavors to use as a spread instead of Mayo, use to to make dips for chips and veggies alike instead of Mayo, or just do what I do, mix it with some fruit, jam, or honey and granola.  Yummmm!

I usually have a cup of PNGY, a table spoon or 2 of a low sugar jam, or fruit, or less than a table spoon of honey and a 1/3 of a cup of granola or cereal!  Trust me, this will fill ya up for awhile!  And it is ohhh so delicious.  Brands that I like are Fage and Chobani.  Greek Gods brands (to me) don't seem to strain the yogurt very well and they contain a lot less protein!  If you can, try to buy the PNGY in a large tub with about 4 to 6 servings in it, its definitely a lot more economical then you can take as much as you want!  This is a great food to eat after a race, a long run, or any run or workout.  I would not suggest eating it before as heavy loads of protein can slow down a runner pre-run.  But post-run?  Rock out with the PNGY!  Oh yeah!  Totally a great recovery food!

This is a rather lengthy post, but I hope it is enjoyable!  Happy Running!  I know it is sad to say goodbye to outdoor running, but try some of my tips, and just stay focused!  Burn off those Christmas Cookies!

Peace out fellow runners and athletes!