Just Checking In- One Week to Go

It’s just a little over a week until my next half marathon which will be my 41st half marathon in state number 39. The race is in Utah and I’ve never been there but am hugely excited about all of the hiking my family and I have planned to do after the race, so yes, it will be another racecation for us. With only one week to go before the race, how am I doing?  Well, for some reason it feels like forever since I’ve ran a race, even though I ran a half marathon in San Diego in November- Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state so it really hasn’t been that long.

My training plan, which I’ve just cobbled together myself based on other training plans I’ve read about or otherwise came across consists of running just three days a week.  I know some of you may be gasping and saying to yourself, “Only three days a week?  That’s crazy!” When I was younger I would run four or five days a week depending on what I was training for, but for the past several years I’ve just been running three days a week.  However, I also ride my bike outside (or indoors if it’s too cold outside) one day a week, go to yoga class one day a week, go to core class one day a week, and lift weights one day a week. That leaves me with doing some form of exercise every day of the week. I feel like yoga, cycling, and maintaining muscle are all extremely important for runners and I just don’t have enough time in the day to do all of that plus run massive amounts, work full-time, take care of my daughter, and do all of the other million things I need to do. I can get by with it by running half marathons but I know I would need to add another day or two if I was training for marathons.

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Zion National Park awaits! Photo credit NPS

So how do I get enough miles in by only running three days a week? Obviously there is zero room for any “fun runs” or any other kind of easy or recovery run days. I run either hills or do a tempo run one day, speed work another day, and a long run, a.k.a. a “leg strengthening run” on the third day. Why do I call my long run my “leg strengthening run?”  I just started calling it that recently because although my legs surely get stronger on my speed work days, I feel like putting in the miles is what really strengthens them and gets them ready for a half marathon. I’ve seen training plans where they’re called “long slow distance” runs, but I prefer “leg strengthening run.”

But back to the original question- how am I doing with only one week to go? I’m not sure, to be honest. I had a rough start in my training because of a cold that turned into bronchitis and once my cough finally went away after weeks, just when I was finally feeling better, I got another cold. The second one wasn’t nearly as bad as the first cold but it did put a damper on my running.  I remember having to stop running multiple times on one of my long runs to blow my nose in the tissues I had thankfully brought. I’m over all of that but I’ve also had this strange pain in my right leg that I’ve had a hard time figuring out what the cause is. The best I can determine, it’s a knot that firmly wedged itself in the soleus muscle of my calf. Anyway, it hurts, sometimes a lot, sometimes not as much but the pain does seem to come and go.  I’ve been foam rolling, rolling on a lacrosse ball, and getting massage therapy. Last night when I did speed work, my leg started to hurt and after I was done, my leg hurt a lot.  If this happens during the race, I’m not sure I’ll be able to run through the pain for that long. We’ll see, I guess.

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Bryce Canyon; photo credit Warren Russell

I will be in a new age group for this half marathon, as my birthday is two days before the race. I’ve checked last year’s results, though, and there’s no way I’ll be anywhere near the top three for my new age group. This is a downhill course and either that’s why the previous times are all so fast, or else women from this part of Utah are just super-speedy!  I’m definitely looking forward to the downhill course. The last downhill course I ran was Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state and I loved that race, and it was my fastest finish time to date, so who knows what might happen at this one.

Finish times aside, I’m just looking forward to running a race in a new state and having tons of fun with my family in Utah and Arizona and seeing the sights including Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park (our National Parks Pass will come in handy!).  My daughter is also running a 5k, while I run my half marathon.  I wish I could watch her but the start times are the same so I’ll miss it but my husband will be with her, photographing and videoing it for me.

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Grand Canyon; photo credit Rob Parsons

Does anyone else have any races coming up?  I know a bunch of you have been racing a lot this month and I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences.

How to Run With Your Dog

My dog is a better runner than I am.  I’ll admit it freely.  She has perfect form and looks beautiful when she runs.  I, on the other hand, have a grumpy right leg that causes me to look more like I’m hobbling than running half the time. If only I could run as naturally as my dog does I would surely be a better runner.

If you’re a runner and you just got a dog (or you’ve had a dog for a few years but just never ran with them) and are interested in running with your dog, where do you get started? Just pick up the leash and take your dog out for a run? Well, you could, but I don’t advise that. There are some things to keep in mind when training your dog to run with you.

To begin with, let’s take a look at your dog. If you have a tiny little pup, chances aren’t great you’ll be able to run with your dog. They just won’t be able to keep up. If you have a dog with a pushed-in snout like a pug, they most likely won’t be able to breath well enough when running since they’re prone to breathing problems anyway. Older dogs aren’t a good choice especially if they have arthritic hips, legs, or feet. If you’re unsure if your dog would be able to comfortably handle running, just ask your veterinarian. For puppies, the age range when they’re ready to go running varies by breed, so you should definitely ask your vet to be sure.

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If you have a dog that’s a good breed and age for running and you’re ready to begin, just remember to start slowly and gradually add miles. This is the same advice for any runner, really. You wouldn’t just go out and run 5 miles without any prior running experience so you shouldn’t expect your dog to do the same. Nor should you just step out your front door and start off at a fast pace.

When you head out the door, walk for a few minutes to warm up and get your dog to use the bathroom then gradually increase your pace. If your dog is having trouble keeping up, slow down and stop if necessary. It could be they just need to use the bathroom, or maybe they truly are tired and need a walk break. Go by your dog’s cues and pace for the first several times you take them out running. 10 minutes is a good start for a first-time run with your dog. If that goes well, gradually increase that amount to a distance your dog can easily handle.

Also, your dog should know some basic commands before you attempt to run with them. They should know how to walk calmly on a leash, not dragging you to every tree or squirrel in sight. If they can’t walk on a leash they’re certainly not ready to run on a leash. “Leave it” is immensely useful when walking and running with your dog, as is “wait” or “stay.” If you’re at a crosswalk waiting for a traffic light to change, “sit” can be helpful. I like to use a command to let my dog know it’s time to start running, “ready.” When I say “ready” she knows right away that’s her cue to start running.

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I like to use a 4-foot leash because I feel like I don’t have control of my dog when I use anything longer than that. Your dog should not be pulling you, just as they shouldn’t pull you when you walk them. Use a corrective command if they start to pull to make sure they’re close by your side. You also don’t want your dog to charge at someone else who walks or runs by you.

Weather is also a huge factor when running with your dog. If it’s hot and humid, you shouldn’t be running with your dog. Likewise, if it’s been snowing and the areas where you’re running have been treated with salt, it’s not a good idea to take your dog there, as the salt can hurt their feet. On the subject of feet, check your dogs feet and pads when you get home to make sure there are no cuts or other damage.

If your dog is panting more heavily than normal, starts acting lethargic, vomiting, or drooling heavily, call someone to come and pick you and your dog up and take you to a vet if necessary. Dogs can experience heatstroke and overexertion just like humans. Don’t ignore the warning signs and don’t just give your dog a ton of water hoping that will be enough. Again, like humans, dogs can also drink too much water and this can be detrimental.

Running with your dog can be a fun way to add some variety to your runs. My dog is a wonderful running partner in that she never complains about how hard it is; in fact she never complains about anything ever. She’s always happy and excited to be outside and the sheer joy she experiences when running is palpable. If only I could be more like my dog!

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How many of you run with your dog or have been considering running with your dog? What kind of dog do you have? Any and all comments are appreciated!

Happy running!

Donna

 

Protein for Athletes- How Much is Enough?

We all know we need protein to help build muscle and keep our strong bodies healthy, but if you’re an athlete it can be confusing to understand just how much protein you need. While the USDA recommends most people consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight per day, for endurance athletes this number rises to 1.0 to 1.6 grams per kilogram a day (0.45 to 0.72 grams per pound).

Basically this means you need to conscientiously make sure you have a good amount of protein at every meal if you get more than 30 minutes of exercise a day. I’ll break this down into examples of daily meals and good sources of protein in the following paragraphs. It is entirely possible to get enough protein by eating whole foods, which means you don’t need to load up on protein shakes to get enough protein in your daily diet.

 

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Choose my plate

I personally had been slipping as far as getting enough protein and my recent breakfast choices for sure didn’t have enough protein. Lately, I had been having a serving of a healthy grain (often a homemade zucchini muffin) and a serving of chia seed pudding made with coconut milk which had only around 8 grams of protein even with the sliced almonds I would sprinkle over the top. Lunch typically includes Greek yogurt, which has around 15 grams of protein. My main course for lunch may include anything from tuna fish to lentils to homemade leftover pizza or other leftovers from dinner. Dinner typically includes a high protein source like chicken, fish, or sometimes beef. During the day, I usually have a serving of fruit that has zero or minimal protein and a fruit and nut type cereal bar with 3-5 grams of protein for snacks.

When I added it up, my protein consumed throughout the day was surely falling short of the recommended levels for endurance athletes. I recently read something that was a great reminder to increase my protein Runner’s World article.  Short of having eggs every day for breakfast, protein shakes for lunch, and piles of meat for dinner, what is the best way to achieve more protein in your diet?

Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, meats, fish, milk, dried lentils, lunch meats (look for natural varieties which don’t have all of the added chemicals), nut butters, nuts, tofu, edamame, avocado, green peas, wheat germ, and quinoa are all good sources of protein, as well as protein powders when necessary. It is possible to get all of your proteins from whole foods, however, and whole foods are always better for your body than processed food (including powders).

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What would a typical day look like that provided an endurance athlete enough protein to fuel their body?

Breakfast might be Greek yogurt and a banana covered in 2 tablespoon peanut butter and coffee with 2% milk:  29 grams

Lunch could be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, an apple, and a handful of nuts:  40 grams

Snack might be a serving of cheese:  7 grams

Dinner could include a piece of salmon, baked sweet potato, mixed greens, broccoli, and green beans:  32 grams

This adds up to 108 grams of protein.  For most endurance athletes, this would be enough protein, even nearing the high side of 0.72 grams per pound.  You could always supplement with a snack of hummus with baby carrots or sliced cucumber, or add a serving of beans to lunch or dinner, or have a protein shake if that’s not enough protein for your body.  You could also make your own high protein energy bars.

Lately, I’ve changed my breakfast choices to include a protein so that every meal has roughly 30 grams of protein, and I’ve been making my own hummus with chickpeas for a high protein snack.  I also try to eat more fish for dinner to limit red meat and try to incorporate salmon at least once a week.  While, I’m not touting a high-protein, low-carb diet, I do feel a diet higher in protein can benefit most athletes.  Personally I think high-quality healthy carbohydrates are a necessary part of everyone’s diet and they get a bad reputation when they’re lumped in with other carbs such as refined sugar.  I feel that everyone’s body is different and what may work for one person may not for another, but in the case of protein, athletes definitely need more than the average sedentary person.

What sources of protein are your favorites?  Any good ones I left out?

 

 

I’m an Ambassador- Now What?

Not that kind of ambassador. Without even fully understanding what it would entail because I’ve never been an ambassador before, I submitted my request to be an ambassador for Nuun during 2017.  Guess what- I was selected!  For those of you not familiar with Nuun, it is a company famous for their hydration products.  You just add these little tablets made from plant-based ingredients to water and get tasty electrolytes to help fuel your activity whether it’s running, hiking, cycling, swimming, or whatever else you do where you’re sweating a lot.  There are 4 basic products:  nuun active, nuun energy (with caffeine), plus for nuun (with dextrose and sucrose for high intensity exercise), and nuun vitamins.

Most people that use Nuun products are very enthusiastic about them.  They are happy to promote them to other people and tell all of their friends and fellow athletes to give Nuun a try!  This is the backbone behind the Nuun ambassadorship, in my opinion.  I am happy to do this, but I am also unsure what is “expected” of me as an ambassador.

I know many of you out there are or once were Nuun ambassadors or ambassadors for other companies.  I’m asking you to help me out here.  I’m a newbie.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed for the average runner like me until I became a blogger.  I always thought companies only wanted people like elite runner Kara Goucher, who just happens to also be a Nuun ambassador this year, to tout their products.

So I ask all of you that either are currently or used to be ambassadors for products, what advice do you have for me?  Am I over-thinking this?  I’m certainly not trying to pretend like this is some huge sponsorship or anything over the top like that, for those of you not familiar with pretty much any of what I’m talking about.  I get discounts on the products and access to an online community but as far as what I’m seeing that’s pretty much it.  In return, I’m supposed to help promote their products.  Is that it in a nutshell?  For those of you that are or have been ambassadors for products, what’s been your favorite and why?

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Why I run

I’ve been running pretty much since I can remember.  I remember running on the track team in grade school and how my lungs would ache on those chilly mornings in West Virginia.  I remember the sheer thrill I would feel as a kid when running with our dog through our neighborhood and how happy our dog looked.  I remember running to stave off the freshmen 15 in college.  Then I remember getting shin splints during one run in college and almost crawling back to my apartment, followed by the agonizing pain I felt when all of my leg muscles seized up in the shower.  I decided to take some time off running at that point and I did not run again for about four or five years.  Then I realized how much I missed running and I decided to train for my very first 5k.  The race I chose was on the 4th of July in North Carolina.  Being young and naive, I didn’t even think twice about running through the heat and humidity that envelopes the North Carolina summers.  Fortunately, the race was in the evening, but I remember it was still extremely hot and humid even after the sun had gone down.  It was during that summer that I remembered why I run.  It’s not to stay in shape or lose weight. It’s not so I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.   When I run, I feel free.  I feel alive.  Sure, there are times when it’s painful and not much fun, but I know when I’ve finished a run, I will feel satisfied that I’ve put my all into that run and I have done my best.  I run because I love it, quite simply.

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