All the Ways I Recover from Running

It seems like the topic of recovery after a running or workout session has come up a lot lately in many different places from blogs to social media. As a 40-something runner, recovery has become more important to me over the years. When I was in my 20’s I don’t think I ever stretched and I know for sure I never used a foam roller or did any yoga.

Over the years, I also seemed to be plagued by running injuries, too. When I was an undergraduate in college I had shin splints that almost stopped me running completely, they were so painful. After picking running back up after a few years off, I had little aches and pains and minor running problems over the years but fortunately nothing serious.

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My daughter and me after going for a hilly run in the Canary Islands recently

One of the worst for me was struggling with a tight IT (iliotibial) band; this was around the time I started seeing a massage therapist regularly, which is one of the ways I recover from running (regular massage therapy). Massage therapy helps me to get rid of the knots and tight muscles that would otherwise continue to get worse and no doubt cause more serious issues. I get a deep tissue massage once a month and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I continue to run mostly pain-free.

I don’t remember exactly when I started going to the yoga class at my gym but I do know I was in my early 30’s. I had talked to some other runners who recommended yoga to me, so I naively went, not really knowing what to expect honestly. Over the years I’ve been a member of 3 or 4 gyms and have had probably around 10 different yoga instructors at these gyms. Yoga has undoubtedly kept my hamstrings and hips from just bunching into tight balls and refusing to do what I want them to do. I truly believe everyone would benefit from doing yoga once a week, whether you’re a runner or not. Believe me when I say not all yoga instructors are created the same, so if you go to a class and don’t care for it, try a different instructor and see if that changes your mind or try watching a show or DVD and doing it at home.

The foam roller and I have a love-hate relationship. I love how it loosens my tight IT bands, calves, quads, and hamstrings but I hate how painful it can be, especially on my IT bands. Nonetheless, I use my foam roller religiously after every run and have done so for years after my aforementioned problems with my IT band began in my 30’s. I also stretch my hamstrings and legs after a run, and have found it works best to stretch first then use the foam roller.

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My trusty foam roller after a recent run fueled by Honey Stinger and nuun

Another way I recover from a run is by refueling my body with carbs and protein. After reading Roar by Stacy Sims (you can see my book review here) I began to make sure I consume plenty of protein along with carbs after a run. In the book, Dr. Sims recommends women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle especially when hormone levels are high.

The final and most important thing I do to recover from the stresses of running is making sure I get plenty of sleep. I think getting enough restful sleep is hugely important for everyone, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or if you never exercise; we all need to get enough sleep every night. Our muscles repair when we’re not working them so we need to make sure they have plenty of time for that. I think probably everyone understands the importance of getting enough sleep but a lot of people underestimate just how much sleep they need and don’t make sleep a high priority in their busy lives.

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My puppy sleeping

What about you guys? I’m sure I probably left something out. How do you recover from running or exercise?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands- Teide National Park and An Alternative to Barranco Infierno

I’ll save the best for last here and begin with Barranco Infierno. A popular hiking trail in Tenerife is Barranco Infierno (Hell’s Canyon in English), 350 meters above sea level, and open every day from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm, weather permitting. Only 300 visitors a day are allowed entry to preserve the flora and fauna of the area. Entrance to the trail costs 8 euro per person. What can you do if you get there like we did only to be told the area was closed due to weather?

My husband thought we would have to just go back to the car and try something else since we couldn’t hike in Barranco del Infierno but then I noticed a small sign to the left of the ticket area and I walked over that way to check it out. There was a sign noting an alternative hike that was 6 km so we decided to take it. Even better, it was free!

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This trail is moderately difficult as it has virtually no shade and goes up and up. It took us about 2 hours to hike to the top, including taking some rest breaks, and 1 hour to hike back down, with no stops. Along the way, we saw many different types of plants and these tiny lizards that would dart in and out of the rocks. The trail is very well-marked and easy to follow the path to the top.

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Look for this sign to the left of Barranco Infierno for alternative trails

The views kept getting better along the way and we kept stopping to take photos. When we reached the top, we all agreed the view was one of the best we had ever seen and the hike was well worth it. There were also several people paragliding in the area and we watched them soar over the ocean and canyon.

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View from the top 

While we were in Tenerife, the weather took a turn for the worst and heavy rains with strong winds moved in for a couple of days. Knowing that Teide National Park would be colder and windier because of the elevation of the park, I didn’t want to go on a day with 100% chance of rain. Fortunately on our last full day in Tenerife, the weather was sunny with no rain in sight so we left our hotel room early with plans to spend the entire day at the park.

Teide National Park is the largest of the Canary Islands’s four national parks with its crown jewel Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain at 12,198 feet (3,718 meters). Weather-permitting, you can take a cable car up to Mount Teide but you need a permit to hike to the summit. Mount Teide is still considered an active volcano, with the last eruption in 1909. There are 37 trails in the park so you can spend many days hiking here but camping is not allowed in any nature reserves or national parks in Tenerife.

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One thing to keep in mind that I knew ahead of time but still didn’t prepare adequately for was just how much colder and windier it is in Teide National Park than in the rest of Tenerife. We ended up stopping at a small town about 20 or 30 minutes outside the park to buy gloves for my daughter and me, a winter hat for my husband, and a fleece pullover for me. When you go to the park, be better prepared than I was and wear a pullover (or even a winter coat if you’re going in the heart of winter), gloves, and a hat even if it’s supposed to be sunny and warm at your resort that day. Dressing in layers is a great idea because you can adjust accordingly throughout the day.

There is a cafe in the park with a wide array of foods like pizza, sandwiches, salads, and snacks along with hot and cold drinks. We had talked about picking up lunch from a market on the way and eating it at the park but that somehow never happened so we ended up eating lunch at the cafe. As you might expect, the food at the cafe is average and over-priced, on-par with other cafes at national parks we’ve been to. There is also a bathroom in the cafe but you have to pay 50 cents per person to use it.

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Snow-capped Mount Teide

Beyond dressing warmly and in layers, my one big piece of advice is to stay until the sun goes down before you leave the park. There are a few advantages to this:  1) the cyclists that you will encounter entering the park will have already have left so you don’t have to contend with them on the road leaving, 2) many other people will have already left so you don’t have as many cars to negotiate the roads with, and 3) the park is beautiful at dusk.

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Hiking at Teide National Park was our last full day in Tenerife, as I mentioned earlier, and we couldn’t have ended our vacation on a better note! Teide National Park was definitely a highlight of our vacation in the Canary Islands and if you’re planning a vacation to this area, it’s a must-do! Even if you don’t enjoy hiking, you can drive around the park and take some photos at pull-outs along the way. Because it’s such a large park, you can easily spend an entire day here (it would take several days to hike more than a few of the 37 trails). I’ll have to add Teide National Park to my list of some of my favorite national parks I’ve been to around the world.

What are some of your favorite national parks?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Sometimes You Fall

Last weekend when I left to go out for my 10 mile run, I felt great! My legs felt good, I felt pretty well-rested, and the weather was absolutely perfect. I was ready! I had gone about a half mile down an asphalt pedestrian trail I’ve probably walked/ran/cycled about 100 times and then I fell. Hard.

I have absolutely no recollection of tripping but I assume that’s what happened. It felt like someone was literally pushing me forwards presumably because of the momentum I had going while running. I tried to pull back when I started to fall but couldn’t so I skidded along the asphalt about 5 or 6 feet until I finally rolled onto my shoulder, thinking that would stop me, and it did. Instinctively, I didn’t want to fall on my hands but I didn’t know how else to stop other than rolling.

There was a nice couple walking their dog who came to my rescue. They asked if I was OK, and handed me one of my water bottles still full of nuun that had flown out of my hydration belt. I was a little stunned, because like I said, I really don’t remember tripping, but I stammered something like I would eventually be OK, and I thanked them after they also handed me my sunglasses that had flown off me as well.

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I assessed the damage and realized nothing seemed broken at least. My shoulder felt like I had just ran full speed into a giant tree or something and it was rubbed raw and was bleeding. Both hands were bleeding on the fronts and backs. My left knee was gushing blood and my right thigh and right forearm were scraped but not bleeding.

In a daze, I walked the half mile home where I washed all of my cuts and scrapes (OUCH!), put on antiseptic cream and tons of Band-Aids, took a couple of Tylenol, and iced my shoulder and knee. After about 20-30 minutes I decided to go back out to finish my run. My thought process was I was probably going to just feel more sore the next day so if I waited to run then it would most likely be even more painful than if I just sucked it up and went back out then.

Surprisingly, I had a fairly good run when I went back out the second time that day. My times were pretty good and I felt pretty good overall (albeit sore from the fall). I’ll admit, I was a little tentative about falling again when I first started back out, and I decided not to go back the way I was originally going to run, which has cracks, gaps, and bumps all over the asphalt trail. I knew I would have to face that demon again eventually, I just didn’t want to do it quite so soon.

While I was out running I started thinking how sometimes it’s almost good to go through things like this when we’re training for a race (I’m running a half marathon in May). It shows me that if this happens during a race, unless it’s more serious, I can continue running and everything will be OK. A couple of weeks ago it was cold and misting light rain when I was supposed to run 40 minutes. I didn’t have the option of waiting until later that evening to run so I went out and realized it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was.

Although it’s not always been the case, usually I end up feeling pretty good at the end of a run, even if I didn’t feel so great in the beginning, or the weather was crappy so I dreaded running in it. The old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” definitely seems true in the case of runners. I think this applies to the emotional and mental aspect of running as much if not more so than the physical aspect of running.

Have any of you had a bad fall when running? What happened? Did you feel like it made you a (mentally) stronger runner afterwards?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Exploring Natural Parks, God’s Finger, and a Botanical Garden in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Let me start with God’s Finger or El Dedo de Dios, as it’s called in Spanish, since that’s the place that had me intrigued by the name but then came as a disappointment once we learned the truth. Near the town of Agaete, God’s Finger is a rock formation about 30 meters high in the Atlantic Ocean off the northern part of Gran Canaria. Or, it was until a tropical storm broke off the top in 2005 and it fell into the sea. We didn’t learn the history of all of this until we arrived at the area and couldn’t find any kind of rock structure that might resemble a finger. Finally, we saw something on a local shop, Googled God’s Finger, and found the complete story.

Why did we end up at God’s Finger in the first place, you may ask? Well, I was checking out places to hike and other towns of interest, and God’s Finger came up, but the author failed to mention that it fell off many years ago and there’s really nothing to see now. Not that it would have been something worth going out of your way for even when it was still standing, but I thought since we’ll be in Agaete anyway, we’ll check it out. If you go to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, you’ll know to skip God’s Finger.

Agaete, on the other hand, is a beautiful little port town you shouldn’t skip. The Agaete Santa Cruz de Tenerife ferry route connects Gran Canaria with Tenerife, which is how we got from Gran Canaria to Tenerife. Besides taking the ferry, the other option is to fly.

When I checked prices for my family, there wasn’t a huge price difference between flying and taking the ferry and since we enjoyed the ferry from Gozo to Malta last fall, I made reservations for the ferry. Long story short, the inter-island ferry is also something you should skip. The water was extremely rough (we had been warned by some ex-pats prior to taking the ferry that this is often the case) and honestly the only thing to see the entire way there was the water between the islands. Skip the ferry and fly instead.

Back to Agaete. Puerto de las Nieves is the port town with some shops and restaurants (many selling fish, not surprisingly). Walk around this area, take in the scenery, and grab lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants. We ate dinner here one evening and were lucky enough to catch the sunset.

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Puerto de las Nieves at dusk

About a 30 minute drive north from Agaete is Amagro National Park or Macizo de Amagro.  This park is full of natural monuments or geological formations. If you have several hours, a rental car, and don’t mind winding roads, take the GC-200 for one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever take to Tamadaba, south of Agaete. Tamadaba is a natural park with a large picnic area and camping areas and is beautiful. We also stumbled upon a very picturesque beach in this area, Playa de la Aldea and walked around here for a while.

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Playa de la Aldea

I also wanted to go to a botanical park in Gran Canaria and discovered quite a gem indeed. The Viera y Clavijo Botanical Garden in northern Gran Canaria is one of the biggest and most extensive botanical gardens I’ve ever been to, and even better, admission is free! The garden is 27 acres (10 hectares), on which approximately 500 plant species endemic to the Canary Islands are cultivated.

There are several sections of the Viera y Clavijo Garden including the Garden of the Islands (Jardín de las Islas), the Garden of Cacti and Succulents (Jardín de Cactus y Suculentas), the Macaronesian Ornamental Garden (Jardín Macaronésico Ornamental), and the Hidden Garden (El Jardín Escondido) with a greenhouse. At the “Fountain of the Wisemen” (La Fuente de Los Sabios), botanists who discovered and described the flora of the Canary Islands are honored. There are no restaurants or cafes on-site so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

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Viera y Clavijo Botanical Garden

One of the things I liked best about this botanical garden is how it’s spread across different levels, so you can pretty quickly walk up and get great views of the area. If you can’t climb stairs or go up steep inclines there’s plenty to see on the main area on the ground too.

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Viera y Clavijo Botanical Garden from the top

The ferry from Gran Canaria to Tenerife that I mentioned earlier is the last thing we did in Gran Canaria. You can read my posts about some of the most beautiful beaches of Gran Canaria (and Tenerife), hiking in Gran Canaria, and things to do on a rainy day in Gran Canaria (and Tenerife) here. I’ll also have a post specific for Tenerife coming soon.

Happy Travels!

Donna

 

Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager

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I first heard about this book through the Another Mother Runner podcast several months ago but I only recently borrowed it from the library. Why the long wait? Honestly, I just didn’t really think it could be that good. I’ve read other books written by female athletes, although not a ton, but I just wasn’t that inspired by them. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.

“Roar” is not only a book for female runners but for female athletes in general and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books for women that I’ve read. Dr. Sims is not only a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist but also an athlete herself. One quote I really like from the book is “You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one.” This sums up the book well.

There are 17 chapters in “Roar,” covering everything from pregnancy to menopause to the female digestive tract, although there is some redundancy in places, but I found the book to be laid out well and easy to follow. “Roar” is filled with scientific information and while I’m a scientist and may be a bit biased, I thought it wasn’t too scientific for most non-scientists to follow. I also liked the “Roar Sound Bites,” brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Not only does Dr. Sims lay it all out there for women by explaining how hormones effect athletic performance, she gives advice on how to control hormonal effects on our bodies. For example, women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle when hormone levels are high. One thing I learned about myself is I need to be consuming even more protein than I previously thought. Dr. Sims recommends 1 gram of protein per pound per day for athletic women (this is much more than is recommended for non-athletic women).

Dr. Sims also has examples of daily diets for athletes of all kinds including triathletes, cyclists, and runners. She sometimes will give comparisons of their current diet vs. what Dr. Sims recommends they eat. There are also exercises with photos that take up two chapters of the book that she recommends for female athletes. A not-so-fun fact is that women who don’t strength train lose at least 3% muscle mass per decade after age 30.

There are also of course large chunks of the books devoted to diets, sports-specific fueling, and hydration. In addition to specific examples of recommended daily diets for athletes, there are recipes for snacks. Not surprisingly, women’s hydration needs are different from men’s because of hormones. One interesting tidbit is that Dr. Sims partnered with nuun hydration to help re-formulate nuun performance hydration powder in 2016; the partnership was announced shortly after “Roar” hit the publication stands but there are no references to any of this in the book.

There are also sections on how women can deal with extreme temperatures and high elevation including specific ways to cope and a section on recovery after a hard workout. One interesting point is that when men take an ice bath, they can start shivering and get microspasms in their already-fatigued muscles, which leads to more soreness and stalled recovery. Women, however, need help speeding up vasoconstriction after a hard workout, so women can still benefit from ice baths.

The chapter on supplements was interesting to me because it’s part of what my field of study has included for my job. Many women may be surprised to read that the only recommended supplements mentioned in the book include iron, vitamin D, and magnesium. Calcium and antioxidants such as vitamin C are not recommended and in fact can be harmful. Dr. Sims’ opinion on supplements is in agreement with what I’ve also read from other scientists but this information doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream yet.

Finally, the last couple of chapters are about how men’s and women’s brains are different and how we can use this information. For example, women tend to have a greater ability for social interaction so we would benefit from things like group runs or cycling sessions. Also, positive thinking and mindfulness can be especially important for women who often need help in these areas. The final chapter is about biohacking (looking inside your physiology) and discusses everything from pee sticks to blood testing to the simple but often overlooked question, “How do I feel?”

As I said earlier, I feel like “Roar” is one of the best books geared towards female athletes that I’ve read, and I do recommend picking up a copy. I read a review on Amazon that this book isn’t for the average athlete, but is more for elite athletes, and I disagree. I’m by no means an elite athlete and there was plenty I could take away from this book. OK, now I need to go eat more protein!

Have any of you read “Roar?” If so, what did you think? Are any of you intrigued about the book now and would like to check it out? You can see if you public library has it or Amazon has it for sale here.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

History, Science, and Wine in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, Canary Islands- Some Rainy Day Ideas

The Canary Islands are full of places for outdoor enthusiasts like me. If you want to read about some beautiful beaches in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, I have a post here. My family and I wanted to go beyond exploring the beaches, though. We wanted to go to the Canary Islands and go hiking as much as possible. When there was a high chance of rain several days in a row I started exploring some indoor activities.

Being big history buffs, my family and I decided to visit La Cueva Pintada. The Painted Cave, in the historical center of Gáldar, is in the north of Gran Canaria (Calle Audiencia 2) and is well-marked with signposts. Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park is a site from the Paleolithic era and includes part of a village with over 50 houses and caves. For more information regarding hours, admission, and tours, see the website here.

Before we went to La Cueva Pintada, I didn’t expect the area to be that large, but the archaeological area was big enough that we spent quite a while here. The actual painted cave is only open to guided tours but you don’t have to spend the entire time on a guided tour. We pretty much just went with a group inside the painted cave and spent the rest of our time here exploring on our own. All of the areas have information in multiple languages, including English, French, German, and Spanish.

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La Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park
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Inside one of the homes from La Cueva Pintada

Later during our vacation on the island of Tenerife, we also needed a rain contingency plan. There was an almost 100% chance of rain and strong winds all day during one of our vacation days so we decided to go to a museum rather than sit around in our hotel room all day.

The Science and Cosmos Museum is a great rainy-day activity especially if you have children, even older kids, or if you love science and technology and don’t have kids. I saw plenty of adults at the museum without a child in sight, so this isn’t just for kids! Admission is a reasonable €5 for adults and €3 for residents. The website is here.

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The Science and Cosmos Museum

There are tons of hands-on activities at La Ciencia y el Cosmos as well as a planetarium. All of the signs for each activity area are in Spanish so if you’re not at least somewhat fluent, you probably won’t get as much out of the museum. Also part of Los Museos de Tenerife are La Naturaleza y el Hombre (Nature and Man) and Historia y Anthropología (History and Anthropology). We spent a couple of hours at the science museum playing before we went to a nearby winery, Casa Museo del Vino.

Casa Museo del Vino is much more than just a winery and I was lucky to have stumbled across it because honestly it didn’t come up in the usual searches. Located in Santa Brígida in Gran Canaria, the wine house museum combines the tasting and marketing of Gran Canaria Denomination of Origin wines along with a museum. While my husband and I were tasting red wines, our daughter was walking around in an adjacent room learning all about the history of the winery and the area and trying to pet the resident cat.

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Museum part of Casa Museo del Vino. Credit holaislascanarias.com

At Casa Museo del Vino, food is also available during busier months, with a speciality in Canary cuisine, an assortment of cheeses, and traditional sweets. Although entry is free, wine tastings and food are of course not free. We tried four different red wines for one euro each, and these were generous pours so there was enough of each for both my husband and myself. There are also a wide variety of bottles you can buy inside the store and we left with one bottle from the four that we had tried. More information with hours and location can be found on the website here.

Science, history, and wine are always a good combination in my book! This coming from a scientist, history-buff, and wine-lover. I was glad to see Gran Canaria and Tenerife didn’t disappoint on any of those fronts. I know Gran Canaria also has a science museum and many wineries, so there are lots of options on both Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Do any of you like checking out local science museums, historical sites, and wineries when you travel like I do? What are some of your favorites in or out of the United States? In the United States, San Diego, Chicago and Washington, D.C. has some fantastic museums.

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

Some Things I Do Simply Because I Run

I was thinking about this when I was running the other day. There are a lot of things that I do simply because I’m a runner that I most likely would never do if I didn’t run. As I was running, I started making a mental list of some of those things. Some are maybe a little crazy to the non-runner, others are probably not so strange.

  • I keep track of my heart rate and VO2 max. Years ago this wasn’t so easy to do but now with my Garmin watch, I can just glance down and see these numbers along with a myriad of other numbers. If I wasn’t a runner, I’m sure I could care less what my VO2 max was and most likely wouldn’t even know what it is (maximum oxygen your body can use during an intense workout).
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Running in the Canary Islands was awesome!
  • I experience so much more of an area I’m vacationing in because I run. If I didn’t run, I’d just see places we drive by from the car until we reached our destination. When you’re outside running, you see and hear things you wouldn’t if you were in a car going from point a to point b.
  • I put much more time and thought into buying a new pair of running shoes than I do any other shoes I wear. I’ve bought every day shoes from consignment sales (meaning “gently used” for those who’ve never been to a consignment sale) but would never in a million years buy running shoes from a consignment sale.
  • I also have put much more thought into buying running socks than every day socks. Over the years I’ve tried so many different brands of running socks, on a quest to find ones that don’t leave my poor toes blistered and bruised. For my every day socks, I just buy what ever color I happen to need at the time. For the record, I’m a big fan of compression socks and am an ambassador for Zensah. When I get discount codes I can share, I will!
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I know I’m not the only runner who gets excited about new running shoes!
  • I’m not above quick meals for myself and my family for dinner. I work full-time. It’s extremely hard to work all day, drive home, run for 40-45 minutes, and make a home-cooked meal for three people. Because I’m a runner, quick meals are my friend, as are leftovers and crock pot dinners. Even if I wasn’t a runner, this one would still apply to me, I’m sure.
  • I often plan what I’m going to eat for breakfast and lunch around my run. Once I made the mistake of eating bacon and eggs for breakfast before going out an hour later for a run. Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve also had things that didn’t settle well in my stomach for lunch and have learned I can’t eat those before running (even a couple of hours later).
  • I’ve also consumed my fair share of runner-geared gels, gummies, packets (of jelly-like consistency), bars, and other such “snacks” designed to provide fuel during a long run. Some of these products are things I would never have eaten if I wasn’t a runner, and most of the aforementioned things I don’t eat now. Honey Stinger is a star in the field here; I’d happily eat their products even if I wasn’t a runner, they’re that good. Like Zensah, I’m also an ambassador for Honey Stinger and share discount codes when I get ones I can share.

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  • When I meet someone new, my first impression of them is better if I find out they’re a runner. What can I say? Runners are like family. We watch out for each other. If I wasn’t a runner, I’m sure I could care less if the person I was meeting ever ran or not.
  • I’ve been known to judge a city by how runner-friendly it is. If a city doesn’t have sidewalks anywhere or other safe places for runners, it gets a black mark in my book. Also, if a city is full of drivers that yell at you when you’re running or try to run you over with their car, that’s a definite black mark.

These are just a few of the things I do as a runner I probably wouldn’t do if I didn’t run. What about you guys? What are some of the strange or different things you do simply because you’re a runner?

Happy running!

Donna

P.S. If you’re running low on nuun hydration, here’s a code for 30% off, good through the end of the month.

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