Nutrition Basics

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

If you’re just getting into running, you’re probably like I was: hungry, all the time. Now that I’ve been running for awhile, I have developed some strategies for balancing my nutrition during training. No joke, I actually gained weight when I trained for my first marathon. I ate everything in sight, and I suffered injury after injury. I blamed my shoes, but in hindsight, my poor diet might have had something to do with it.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I can safely tell you that what you eat and drink during training makes a huge difference. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me and you run 25-30 miles a week during training season, you feel entitled to eat whatever the heck you want! But not so fast, you still need to be mindful. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

  • Don’t skip breakfast. Like, ever. Eat it before you get in the car or before you open your email at work. Heck, whip up a smoothie and drink it on the way in! This will help you avoid the mad rush to Chik-Fil-A at noon.
  • Try to eat more protein than feels possible. Its benefits are real and important. I’m not a huge fan of fake food, but I will drink the occasional Muscle Milk if I’m protein-starved. And a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie helps after a hard workout. If you can drink milk, make it chocolate and recover with a yummy treat.
  • Hydrate all day, every day. If you are going to be doing speedwork or long runs, you better be hydrated. In addition to water, I’ve added green tea to my afternoon for a little caffeine and extra hydration. There are other good things about green tea, and every little bit helps when you’re in the throes of training.
  • Get snackin! I eat all day. Try keeping nuts, dried fruit, chocolate or whatever you love stocked in your desk or car. Don’t feel bad about snacking; just don’t keep cookies and candy around. They’re empty calories and not worth the investment.
  • Alcohol. When I’m training, and I mean seriously training, I cut out alcohol (save for a couple very special occasions). It sounds lame, but I promise you’ll feel the difference. Your pants will fit better too. And when your race is over, you’ll be able to celebrate, very cheaply.

My daughter recently reminded me of an interesting phenomenon that happens when you eat better and run more: you don’t want to eat junk food, you actually crave the healthy stuff. Maybe it’s evolutionary, like when we migrated across the plains and there was less time to find and eat Taco Bell. Or maybe, as you log your miles and become more aware of your overall health, your diet just follows suit. Either way, the world of physical fitness and diet are inextricably entwined. You can’t really do one really well with out the other. — Amie

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Rookie Rule #25

Pump [CLAP CLAP] You UP.

A week ago, a friend and newbie runner asked me, “Can you help me with some strength stuff? I don’t even know where to start.”

Sometimes I take my background as a jock for granted, and I neglect to realize that unless you’ve had a coach breathing down your neck while counting your bench repeats, you probably have no idea what the heck to do in a weight room. Or where to start with “strength stuff.”

Fear not! You can build strength and speed without a single piece of equipment. All you need is a little guidance and a little gravity.

Start by breaking strength into three key areas: Arms, abs and legs.

Push-Ups

Arms:

  • Push-ups: Yes, they can be hard, but that is because they are the most effective upper-body strength exercise you can do. If you need to put your knees on the ground for support, it’s totally fine. Make sure your back is straight, your eyes are looking down and your butt is tucked in (no air-humping and passing them off as push-ups). Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.
  • Dips: Sit with the heels of your hands on the edge of a sturdy chair seat. Slide your butt off the seat and support your weight with your hands. Bend your elbows back and slowly lower your butt toward the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in. Your body should just clear the seat. Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.

Crunches

Abs:

  • Traditional Sit-ups: Just like you used to do in gym class! Lay flat on the ground with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and sit up slowly. Lower your torso back to the ground. Repeat. Slow, steady movements are the key here. Suggested: three sets of 20 with a minute rest in between sets.
  • Crunches: Lay flat on the ground, cross your ankles and raise your knees in the air. Place your hands behind your neck and crunch up toward your knees. Remember, you want to engage your abdominal muscles, so don’t use your arms to yank your neck up. Suggested: three sets of 20 with a minute rest in between sets.

Lunges

Legs:

  • Forward Lunges: Stand up and put your hands on your hips. Step your right foot out a stride’s length (your knee should be at a 90-degree angle to your ankle) and lunge forward as your left knee dips toward the ground. Step back. Repeat on the left. If you do them right, you’ll FEEL IT the next day. It’s the feeling of getting stronger, so deal with it. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each leg with a minute rest in between sets.
  • Cross-over Lunges: These work the same as standard lunges, only instead of stepping your right foot out, step your right foot across your body a stride’s length. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each leg with a minute rest in between sets.
  • Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Place your hands on your hips. Then, quickly raise up to your tippy toes. Hold it for a few seconds and lower slowly back to your heels. Repeat. For added difficultly, balance on one leg or go to a step. Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.
  • Clam Shells: Lay on your side, bend your legs slightly, keep your feet together and raise your top knee like a clamshell. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each side with a minute rest in between sets.

As a general rule of thumb, I alternate an arm exercise, a leg exercise and an ab exercise into a set. Then, I pick a new set of exercises to rotate through. For example:

  • Set 1: Push-Ups/Sit-Ups/Forward Lunges
  • Set 2: Dips/Crunches/Cross-over Lunges

You get the idea.

Another easy way to work strength training into your exercise is to incorporate it right into your run. Since you don’t need any equipment for these exercises, you can do them on the go. For example:

  • If you’re outside, stop half way through your run and do a few sets of strength exercises. Complete your route and do a few more sets of strength exercises.
  • If you’re inside, warm up for 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Do a set of strength, and hop back on the ‘mill for 2-3 minutes. Alternate running and strength exercises for 30 minutes. Cool down on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes.

It’s that easy. No weights, no dumb bells, no need to feel intimidated. Now, go get your strength on. — Aidz

Rookie Rule #24

Your Gear Check Checklist.

Runners have stuff. Lots of stuff. Keeping track of it all, especially on race day, can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you get through gear check with ease:

Pick the right bag. Some races now issue specific bags to be used at gear check. If your race doesn’t, be sure to use a bag that 1. looks unique (think of it as a bag claim at the airport) 2. closes tightly and 3. is easy to carry.

Pack your bag the night before. When you’re laying out your clothes the night before the race, pack your bag, too. It’ll be one less thing to think about in the morning when your mental capacity is, um, diminished.

Affix your gear check tag. No one wants to wait in line behind you at gear check while you struggle to loop your tag onto your bag. Do it in advance.

Take the necessities. What are the necessities, you ask? Everyone’s a little different, but this is what you can find in my gear check bag.

  • A whole new outfit — shirt, pants/shorts, underthings, shoes, socks. Maybe you’ll need them, maybe you won’t. Better to be safe than sorry. For colder-weather races, bring a dry stocking hat, gloves and jacket. And socks. Did I mention socks? Bring extra socks.
  • ID.
  • Money.
  • Chapstick.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Phone.
  • Small towel.
  • Snacks. If it’s a small race, or if you’re on a strict diet, BYOSnacks.
  • Plastic bag to put your gross stuff in.

Arrive early. Like we’ve said before, arriving early for a race is a must, especially when you have gear to check.

Get your stuff and get out of the way. Once you reclaim your bag, clear out of the gear check area and find a spot to change, fish out your snacks, etc. Don’t create an unnecessary traffic jam just because you can’t wait to grab your phone and post your PR on Facebook.

Or, of course, you can enlist a loved one to be your own private gear check station. In which case, be sure to pack an extra sweaty hug to thank them for being your pack mule. — Mags

 

Rookie Rule #23

Bad bib placement.

Bad bib placement runs in this family.

Pin Your Bib Front and Center.

Race gear can get complicated. Layers! Energy supplements! Ear buds! The list goes on and on.

But here’s something you need not over-complicate: Your race bib.

It’s easy, folks. Pin your bib on your stomach. Below your chest, above your crotch, right in the middle of your torso. If you’re questioning bib placement, aim for your belly button. (An added bonus of proper bib placement? It’s flattering to the mid-section. You’re welcome.)

Here are some places you should not pin your bib:

  • The back of your shirt. No one behind you cares what your number is, and photographers can’t tag your photos. Come on, you’re smarter than that.
  • The top of your shirt. Aside from looking dumb, this is going to rub you (potential chafing hazard) and adversely affect the way your shirt moves.
  • Hanging off the bottom of your shirt. If you don’t pin all four corners, you risk annoying bib flappage mid-race. Also annoying, your legs are going to kick your bib.
  • The side of your shirt. Yes, I’ve seen people do this. I have no idea why people would do this. Do not do this.

And please, attempt to pin it on straight. Happy racing, Angels! — Aidz

What is a Newbie?

I’m currently training with a friend of mine, who jokes that she’s recently been referred to as a “newbie.” She’s been running her whole life, and she’s very good at it, so she’s hardly a newbie in my book. But how, exactly, does one classify a newbie?

Is it someone who’s only run a few races, and maybe only for charity/fun and not competitively? Maybe someone who runs slower than a certain pace? Could it be someone who hasn’t completed a marathon? (C’mon, that’s silly; marathons are hardly an indication of running expertise.)

So I asked myself, what is a newbie? And I was stumped. I can tell you how I felt when I joined a running group in Toronto, back when I was a “newbie” …

Oh. My. Gosh. All of the people in this group have run long-distance races. Who in their right mind runs 26 miles! Freaks!
I am totally wearing the wrong clothing. This old T-shirt doesn’t say the words “dry” or “fit” anywhere.
What the heck is a split? How does one know their splits?
And what’s the conversion between a mile and a kilometer? UGH.

What’s my pace? It’s the speed I go before I can’t talk anymore. I have no idea what that is.
I don’t have a watch. WHY didn’t I wear a watch?!?
I hope I can keep up; everyone looks so fast. 

The good news is that every running group has newbies. Every race has someone who’s running their first [insert distance].  I can’t tell you how long it takes to go from newbie to bona fide runner, but I can tell you this: it doesn’t matter how many races you’ve run, the distance you’ve covered, or the speed you move. You are a runner if you show up and believe in yourself.

It’s not about expertise, but about experience. I think that’s why people ask me for advice; I’ve experienced a lot of running scenarios, but I’m not necessarily an expert in anything. Just stay the course, and when you show up at a race more nervous about your goal than your running attire, you are probably no longer a running newbie.  — Amie

Rookie Rule #22

just-get-ready-to-start-somewhere1You Gotta Start Somewhere.

“I’m not a runner. I can barely make it a few blocks without having to stop and rest.”

“I don’t know how you do it. If I even run a mile, I want to DIE.”

I hear these statements from people almost weekly. My response? “Well, you gotta start somewhere.”

I didn’t wake up one day and decide to go run a marathon and voila! Piece of cake! No. I’ve been there, too. My first 10K training run, a friend and I went .75 miles then heaved and huffed and rested for a few minutes before completing the return trip home — at the end of which, we both wanted to pass out.

The key is, you gotta start and you gotta keep after it. Those first steps suck. Even now, as a seasoned runner training for my fifth marathon, the first mile out the door is pretty much always awful.

But it gets better. It gets easier. Give it a chance. — Mags

Rookie Rule #21

Be Patient.

pa·tience [pey-shuhns]; noun

1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.

 

The world we live in has conditioned us for instant gratification. We want results now. We hate waiting. And this mindset can easily seep into how we view our running and our training.
someecards.com - I need to file a missing persons report for my patience.

Notice I’m using the word “we” here because although I no longer consider myself a newbie runner, I still struggle with this every time I start training for a new race. I want to run faster and longer IMMEDIATELY. Why is 3 miles soooo difficult when months ago, I was running 10, 12, 14 like it was nothing?!? I want to be comfortable at those speeds/distances NOOOWWW!!!

But eventually, reason seeps back in. If you put in the work, you will get there. You have to be patient and trust in your training.

Whether you’re trying to go from walking to running, training for your first 5K or ramping up mileage for your first marathon, the advice is the same. It takes time to get there, and patience is a virtue all runners need. — Mags