Category Archives: Exercise Science

Book Review: The Endurance Diet AND Giveaway

One benefiit of “frequent” airline travel is that I’ve had the opportunity to read more books in the past few weeks than I’ve read in all of medical school. A few weeks ago, a publisher reached out to me to see if I was interested in reading an advanced copy of Matt Fitzgerald’s new book The Endurance Diet. As I talked about in my post on nutrition recently, I’ve been looking for ways to improve my diet even with my hectic schedule so I said I would be happy to.

In full disclosure, I was skeptical before I started reading. I vehemently disagreed with Fitzgerald’s prior book on nutrition (Racing Weight) where he advocated that runners all have an optimum racing weight and provided a calculation that for most regular people, would leave them hungry and thin. I’m glad I gave him another chance, however, because he hits it out of the park with The Endurance Diet.

Based on interviews with elite endurance athletes across the world, Fitzgerald essentially reviewed their diet logs during training and looked for trends in general approach to diet and the balance of macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins are your macros). His initial hypothesis was that there would be differences depending on sport and region of the world but what he found was that there was extraordinary similarity between all top level endurance athletes AND that when an athlete had experienced a performance breakthrough, a shift in diet towards the endurance diet had preceeded the change.

From this, Fitzgerald deduces five key habits:

  1. Eat everything.
  2. Eat quality
  3. Eat carb-centered
  4. Eat enough
  5. Eat individually

None of this is revolutionary, of course, but Fitzgerald takes it a step farther with his Diet Quality Score and associated app (available on iPhone and Android). Basically, you get positive points for quality foods and negative points for less quality foods. Your goal is to get to +20 quality points a day. The catch? All foods can be both, so for example, your first glass of wine for the day is a +1 because of the known benefits of wine  and beer for health. The second (and third and fourth) areall -1. Similarly, the first few servings of fruits and veggies are +2 but after a few, they become zeroes and then negative. The whole idea is to eat a range of healthy foods in moderation. What a concept!

My own performance has been mixed. My first day was a +4, in part because I had just gotten home from a trip and we didn’t have much in the way of food. I had a granola bar for breakfast (-1 for refined grains, -2 for sweets because of its sugar content). The next day, however, I had 19 points after a grocery store run and a big, green salad and fresh fruit. Days when I’m home, my quality score is near 20. When I’m traveling or on an interview day, I’m lucky to break 5. What this has led me to conclude is that I need to have two goals; 20 for normal days and 10 for interview days since I don’t have control over what is served. Example of how my behavior has started to shift? I’m sitting in the airport writing this and instead of getting a dressing soaked salad, I had raw veggies, an apple, two hard boiled eggs and almonds (+8 if you were curious…) Although I don’t know what I’ll have for dinner tonight, I am confident I can find a cup of green tea, a glass of wine and another piece of fruit during my journeys.

The only major drawback that I can see is that Fitzgerald isn’t prescriptive about serving sizes and even says that his are variable; for example, when he makes a sandwich, he counts the two slices of bread as one serving of whole grain because who makes a sandwich with one slice of bread…Although this flexibility and individuality are nice, it could set some people up to be too permissive with serving sizes and be counterproductive.

All in all, I highly recommend all endurance athletes of all levels give this book some attention. It is a reasonable, accessibly approach to nutrition which is something most of us real people could sorely use.

I do have a copy of Fitzgerald’s book to giveaway to one entrant.** There are four ways to enter and you can do one or all of them to up your chances!

a) Comment on this blog post: What diet approaches have you used in your running in the past?

b) Follow me on Instagram (@runswatrun) between now and December 20th and shoot me a message on that platform to let me know you’re entering.

c) Follow me on Twitter (@runswatrun) between now and December 20th and send me a DM letting me know you’re entering.

d) Share this post on your own social media accounts and tag me as you do!

**The book is released on December 27th, 2016 so I will get the copy to the winner after the first of the year.

 

Why I Am Trying a 9 Day Training Cycle

It’s no secret that my schedule is wonky at best. I am occasionally on a Monday through Friday workweek but most of the time, the idea of weekend or workweek is irrelevant. Add in the fact that I start coaching full time this coming week with meets almost every Saturday and half my weekend instantly evaporates. On top of this, I have call requirements and a fall full of interviews, some of which are a long travel from Burlington.

In addition to this scheduling nightmare for the fall, I’m also in desperate need of a better recovery plan. Thanks to the above schedule, my ability to increase sleep is limited and by definition, I’m on my feet all day, sometimes in very awkward positions. How then, to create more recovery time so that I can keep chasing after my athletic pursuits? One option is to increase my intensity but drop my volume. I ran a very successful first marathon on 35 miles a week, so this is a possibility I’ll likely reconsider during residency. The other option and the one I’ll be trying out this fall is the 9 day training cycle. 

The premise is simple: instead of trying to do a speed workout, tempo workout and long run in 7 days, you do it in 9 days. The nice part of this is that each harder effort is followed by both a recover run and a regular run and increases the likelihood you hit hard workouts fully recovered. Because there are more days to play with, the added benefit of flexibility is a good fit for the inevitable travel delays that I’ll experience this fall.

Here’s what my first “week” back will look like:

50 8/24/2016 Hard 8/1:1 x 10 Legs
50 8/25/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/26/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/27/2016 Hard 8/3 by 1 at T Legs
50 8/28/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/29/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/30/2016 Long 12 Legs
50 8/31/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 9/1/2016 Regular 7 Core

How do you adjust mileage for a 9 day cycle? As I’ve addressed in comments before, I prorate all of my mileage to get the right day to day load.  In the case of the example above, 50/7 is a daily load of 7.1, so my workouts are (daily load + 1), recovery is (daily load – 1) and regular is 7. Long run will start at about 25% of my total mileage and increase. After this 9 day set, I’ll go to 55 miles per ‘week’ and adjust accordingly.

When do you have an off day? I’ll be taking an off day on the 4th recovery day, which is every 12th day. Right now, I take an off day every other week which can be anything from 8 to 13 days. I think with the additional recovery offered by the 9 day schedule, I’ll be okay with this being on the long end but it will definitely be something I pay attention to when I reevaluate.

How long is my experiment? I’ll be trying this through early October, enough to go through 6 microcycles. If I feel like it’s an improvement over my current schedule, I’ll keep it going through the rest of the fall. if not, I’ll either go back to a 7 day schedule or try something new.

Anyone ever do a 9 day cycle? 

How To Structure a Training Cycle (When You Work Full Time)

I had a brief opportunity to live the pro life this fall but as anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a few months knows, that didn’t result in a huge breakthrough but instead left me disappointed and a little heartbroken after Philly. All’s well that ends well, but upon reflection, I thrive when my schedule is busy and struggle when all I have to focus on is training.

One of the biggest questions that I get from people in real life and people on the internet alike is how I fit training in around the horrendous schedule that is medical school. Third year has been the absolute hardest of the years in terms of scheduling (and thankfully I’m officially a 4th year Friday at 2 pm), but I’ve still managed to hang on to a fitness base and ramp up for spring races. Part of this is a systematic approach to a training cycle, which goes something like this:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. My goal race for the early Spring is the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in early May. It’s sponsored by Skechers and many of the new Northeast athletes are getting together to aim for a sweep. I don’t need it (or expect it) to be a PR, but I do want to put in a good performance. To run a solid half, I need to have some reasonable long runs under my belt, spend time at tempo pace and get in some general speed work. Whenever you approach a goal race, it’s also critical to know what that race will demand course-wise. For Plattsburgh, the course features a LOT of sharp corners (not unlike the middle miles of Vermont City Marathon), so I need to be prepared to have my momentum disrupted and get refocused quickly.
  2. How will I get from here to there? Between now and May, I’m also scheduled to run the New England Trail Championships in April. While this isn’t a goal race, it’s a great opportunity to challenge myself for approximately the same amount of time I’ll likely be on my feet for the half marathon. Because it’s on trails (a river trail with reasonable footing but dirt nonetheless), I’m making sure to get in plenty of trail work on my recovery days and will be hitting Balboa Park next week for both recovery runs and a trail tempo workout.
  3. Where will I go from there? After the Plattsburgh Half, my next scheduled event is the US Mountain Running Championships which are WAY out of my comfort zone. It’s safe to say that from May on, I’ll be running a lot more vertical feet than I usually do but even between now and then, I’m working on increasing the vertical feet I run every week. I’m limited on the treadmill, but when I do a recovery run, I do it at a serious grade. When I’m able to be outside, I choose the hilliest routes I can find. Once the half is done, I’ll be heading to the mountains for a workout at least once a week with long runs on the Long Trail. Why not start this before Plattsburgh? Because the muscles and skills that let you go uphill fast are not the muscles and skills that help you race on the roads.

On a week to week basis, my Sunday night is spent looking at my goals for the cycle and deciding how my week will work towards those goals. On a macroscopic level, I always know where I am (base building versus strength building versus specific training) but microscopically, it’s all dictated by my schedule and where my legs are at. It takes some flexibility and a lot of faith, but it always works out in the end.

Week of 3/8/16: Goal of 45 miles with 2 workouts (continuous tempo and hill intervals)

Day Workout Focus Strength
Day 1  Regular Run Chest and Back
Day 2  Tempo Effort (continuous) Legs
Day 3  Recovery Run (on trails) Core
Day 4  Regular Run Biceps and Triceps
Day 5 Interval Work (30 second hill repeats) Legs
Day 6 Regular Run Yoga
Day 7 Long Run (90 to 120 minutes relaxed pace with strides after) Core

How do you approach your training cycles? Do you have a bigger picture and tweak it week to week or take things a week at a time and see how you feel as races approach?

Recently Read: Orthorexia, Gender Equality and Mental Toughness

Although I have a lot of articles bookmarked this week, I don’t have anything bookmarked about the ongoing doping scandal or the provisional suspension of Russia by the IAAF. I have plenty of thoughts about it, but I haven’t found a way to put them into words that doesn’t just devolve into screaming. I imagine I’m not alone in this. For so many of us, running is pure and simple and scandals like the Nike/Salazar issue and like the systemic doping uncovered in Russia taint everything. It’s hard to look at the success of a runner now and not wonder “Is she doping?”

Orthorexia is an issue with which I’m highly concerned, especially with the proliferation of running and healthy lifestyle blogs. I’ve written about it before but was happy to see this article about the issue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for healthy eating and fueling the body with real food, but not at the expense of balance or the development of an obsession.

We had QUITE the spirited debate in our house the other night about the issue of equality in running last Friday. With others, Kasie Enman has started a campaign to improve equality in distance running and nordic skiing. At the core of the issue are two facts: 1) teams are not always the same size and 2) distances are often shorter for women. On the first point, I’m in 100% agreement that the teams should be the same size. I cannot fathom why they are not besides some old argument that men are inherently more interesting to watch race than women. On the second, however, I disagree with Kasie and others who are calling for equal race distances and fall more in line with Lauren Fleshman’s view. Injury and eating disorders are extremely prevalent at the college level (in men too, see my sub-point in a moment) and that only goes from 5K to 6K for women. If women had to go from 5K to 8K over the course of the summer, the mileage required and the increase in workout length would increase injuries enormously. From another perspective, it would make developing college level talent difficult on high school coaches and recruiting a nightmare for college coaches. The athlete who is successful at the 5K may not have the ability to stretch out to the 8K. Furthermore, the athlete who excels at the 8K in cross country may not have the cross over to also be your middle distance runner in track. Joe’s perspective on the issue is that there isn’t a compelling reason NOT to have them be the same distance and Alex Hutchinson at Sweat Science agrees. Joe said it “sucked for guys to jump in distance, so why not have everyone do it.” While I don’t agree with spreading the misery just for the sake of fairness, perhaps there’s another way to achieve equality. Why not bring everyone down to the 6K?

Speaking of equality, I loved this YouTube video that kicks off the #covertheathlete campaign.

A great clip with Jenny Simpson about being calm at the starting line. As an athlete and coach, I’m always interested in tactics for race day zen and I loved her quote that This is home. It reminds me of the wisdom my captains brought to the team before the State Meet, gleaned from their leadership class: “Same race, different day.”

Finally, an article shared by my friend Annie who played lacrosse for UVM and still satisfies her need for competition by randomly showing up and running marathons about preparing for the end of a competitive career.

Depleted

Apologies for a super long post but as I’ve been struggling silently for a stretch of time, I was desperately searching for other runners with similar situations so figured I’d at least contribute to someone else’s search! Caveat: Although I give medical advice in my real life, I am not your doctor and nothing here should substitute for seeing your own doctor!! 

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’ve been struggling for a few months with overwhelming fatigue and dead legs, leading to exponentially slowing workouts. At first, I assumed this was just a side effect of being a third year medical student. Then I attributed it to my sinus infection and ten day course of Augmentin. After the dust settled from that, however, and I still felt like I was trudging through quicksand and ending workouts on the track in tears, I realized I needed to call in reinforcements. Running isn’t always fun but I’m not someone who hates running or dreads workouts and when I do, I know something is up.

I don’t have any history of anemia nor do I have any major risk factors. I eat red meat (theoretically, it turns out I don’t really eat much of it), I cook in cast iron, I take a multivitamin with iron and I don’t have heavy periods. My only risk factors were high miles and the concurrent risk of foot strike hemolysis (banging your feet on the ground a lot kills off red blood cells) and serious insensible loss (sweating) from a hot summer. As a coach, however, iron deficiency anemia is an ever-present threat to team performance. After my own experience, I even sent apologies to the athletes that I’ve coached over the years who have been anemic because I totally didn’t understand what they were going through or how miserable they were.

I finally got into my doctor’s office last week and convinced them to check my iron levels. I wasn’t totally successful at this, but I did manage to get a ferritin and a hemoglobin/hematocrit done. If you’ve been through this as a runner, I’m sure you recall the struggle to get them to check iron in the first place. Many will just check a hemoglobin and hematocrit which is insufficient because you can have a perfectly normal H+H and still be well on your way to an iron deficiency anemia. Here’s how: ferritin is the storage form of iron and your body will do anything it can to keep your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels stable which includes drawing down your ferritin. If your ferritin is low but your H+H is normal and you don’t replace the stores of ferritin well, it’s only a matter of time til your other numbers drop. Bottom line: demand that your ferritin be checked!

They wouldn’t share my actual CBC values with me (clearly I need to switch offices) and made snarky comments about how I “know too much” but I did ultimately find out that my ferritin was 18. Not good. The table below outlines what we use when considering the various stages of iron deficiency.

From Uptodate

From Up To Date

As you can see, I fall in the category of iron deficiency without anemia. For a regular person, this might be tolerable. For an athlete who depends on her red blood cell mass for oxygen transport and her cytochromes for ATP generation, however, this can have enormous performance effects. At this point, the data on optimal ferritin levels for athletes remain mixed but 50 is almost universally accepted with a small group advocating for levels of 80.

In struggling through the past few weeks, I decided that in addition to figuring out my iron, I also felt that it had come time to see someone for sports nutrition. I eat a well-balanced diet and have a pretty high level of “food literacy” thanks to being raised by a Registered Dietitian but had to accept that if I managed to get iron deficient, I might not be as good at nutrition as I assumed I was. At the very least, I knew I needed some support in figuring out how I got to be so deficient and whether I had an absorption issue. My mom recommended a colleague in Burlington who specializes in sports nutrition and last Thursday, I had my first meeting with Kim (http://www.wholehealthnutritionvt.com/). To prepare, I had to keep a food diary and I was so unbelievably nervous about what she would say. What if I’d totally been fucking up nutrition for years and didn’t know it?! Was I eating too much? Too little? Needless to say, I had nothing to be nervous about and am really looking forward to working with Kim over the next few months. We’ll meet again next week but my homework for this week was to stop taking my multivitamin and get going on my new targeted supplements: iron, magnesium and methyl factors. I need to get some more blood tests to evaluate my full iron picture, Vitamin D, B vitamin and other cellular function tests, but Kim felt that because Philly is approaching rapidly, we needed to start supplementing for my most likely deficiencies. Ever the skeptic of any supplement, I ran these by my mom and she wholeheartedly agreed that these were all reasonable recommendations.

The process of repleting my iron is relatively simple; I’m taking Gaia liquid iron three times a day. Why liquid iron? I have an extremely sensitive stomach and when I’ve tried even vitamins with iron in the past, it’s resulted in me vomiting almost instantly. Ferrous gluconate is typically the easiest iron to tolerate and liquid iron is the easiest form of ferrous gluconate. So far, so good. It looks like motor oil and tastes like Jagermeister but it’s staying down.

The magnesium and methyl factors were new information to me, which is a perfect example of why you see someone who is an expert. Magnesium is a critical co-factor in the body and the symptoms of a deficiency are diverse including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and muscle cramps and weakness. Causes of deficiency include chronic stress, poor diet, heavy exercise and use of antibiotics. I’ve started to take Natural Calm, a magnesium powder, every night. Not only does this give me my daily value of magnesium but it can help counteract the constipation associated with iron supplementation. There are multiple ways to take magnesium but a dissolved form is most easily absorbed. Finally, methyl factors refers to a super complicated cycle in the body that still makes me twitch from the medical boards. If you’re really interested, this paper is actually a great summary of methylation but suffice to say, if you can’t methylate (and a significant number of people are deficient in the gene) B12 and folate, your ability to convert certain amino acids into energy in the Krebs cycle is severely hindered. I’m trying these methyl factors once daily.

Now that a tiny bit of the puzzle is figured out, it’s time to replenish my body and aim forward towards Philly. I’ll keep updating here as I make changes with Kim and get further into my iron supplementation. Here’s hoping quicksand turns to firm ground again soon!

On Anorexia Athletica

As everyone who regularly reads this blog knows, coaching is a central part of my life and I spend a lot of time learning as much as I can about both the physical and emotional elements of effective coaching. Will is similarly interested in coaching and has spent an enormous amount of time researching anorexia athletica, an increasingly common condition that is unfamiliar to many coaches and athletes. Unlike anorexia nervosa where a person’s body habitus usually gives away the condition, anorexia athletica is far more insidious and subtle. In fact, an athlete suffering from anorexia athletica may have what looks to be a “perfect athlete’s body.” I’ve become increasingly concerned about anorexia athletica as a number of popular bloggers have normalized obsessions with excessive exercise and “clean eating” and mainstream running magazines have run multiple articles on how to eat clean, weight loss for performance and “strong as the new skinny.”

Will recently made a training video for coaches and athletes on anorexia athletica (I’m just the narrator) and I think he did an incredible job of fitting in all the key elements including recognition of AA, performance impacts of AA and how to get help for an athlete about whom you are concerned.

Will HIIT Training Really Make Me a Faster Runner?

Post-Philly with LT. The LOVE statue was much smaller than we anticipated.

Post-Philly with LT. The LOVE statue was much smaller than we anticipated.

LT has been my running buddy since I moved back to Burlington. She drove with me to Philly, has logged countless miles with me around Vermont and I’m going to miss her terribly as she and Chris move to Oregon this summer. For the past two years, LT has been working on her Master’s in Exercise Physiology, the culmination of which was a thesis that aimed to quantify whether HIIT really makes you as fit as people claim. I was particularly interested in her findings because she used fit athletes and her control group did 30 minutes of vigorous running. Essentially, she emulated what summer training for XC looks like.

Halloween Fun with LT and I

Halloween Fun with LT and I

Study Design: LT took athletes from SUNY-Cortland’s Field Hockey team and divided them into two groups: endurance or HIIT. The Endurance group served as the control and did 30 minutes of runner at 75 to 85% of predicted HRmax, somewhere between easy and tempo. The HIIT group did a 3 minute warmup, 8 rounds of 20 second of burpees or squat-tuck jumps with 10 second recovery and a 3 minute cooldown for a total of 10 minutes. Training sessions were Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four weeks.

At baseline, athletes had an average VO2max of 44.96 and a Running Economy of 213.42.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the groups. However, both groups improved aerobic capacity as measured by VO2max by >6% over the four week intervention. Interestingly, the time invested to make these improvements was vastly different: the endurance group did 90 minutes per week while the HIIT group did 30 minutes per week.

At the end of the study, athletes had an average VO2max of 47.78, an increase of almost 2.8 points in 4 weeks.

Implication: The “so what” of LT’s research is incredible. Here’s what I’m most excited about:

  1. Time: We’re all busy and we generally acquiesce that when we’re busy, our training suffers. This research suggests that even though we may not improve running economy with just 10 minutes, we can maintain and even improve our VO2max.
  2. Injury Prevention: I am constantly trying to find ways to make my team fitter without more pounding on the roads and this study offers an idea about summer training approaches, when we only meet three days a week and when we delicately balance increasing fitness with increasing risk of injury. Same goes for the injury prone runner: if someone can maintain or improve VO2 max with just 6 minutes of running, I have a great option for my runners who just can’t tolerate a season of tempo runs.

I’m so excited about this study that I’ve already put it into action for our summer runs. On Wednesdays, we are no longer hitting the roads for a 30 to 45 minute jog. Instead, we’re doing a brief warmup followed by a circuit that includes HIIT. Last week, we used a short, steep hill and did hill sprints (real, all out sprints) between body weight exercises.

During the season, I’m not completely sure how I’ll fit this into our schedule. One thing I’m considering is using it in the awkward weeks where we have a Tuesday meet but still need to get a second workout in without totally ruining legs for a Saturday race.

If you’re interested in reading the whole paper, let me know.

Have you tried HIIT? Would you be willing to after reading this?

Why Do I Feel So Horrible When It’s Humid? (A Scientific Answer)

Will and I were plodding through town the other day, lamenting how horrible our legs felt in the 61 degree dewpoint and oppressive sun when I whined/asked “I know why I don’t evaporate sweat in this weather but WHY do my legs feel so terrible.” Ever the well-read scholar, Will replied not with his own whining retort, but with an awesome concise answer on precisely why we all turn into plodding wrecks in the humidity.

We’ve long know that there is a threshold temperature at which our brains and bodies essentially shutdown. It’s why we worry about overheated runners in a marathon or people with uncontrolled fevers. The link between this threshold and running performance, however, seems to be a less direct link. Essentially, it’s the speed with which you APPROACH this threshold temperature that matters. An analogy could be drawn to accelerating in your car: you can get to 60 by slowly depressing the gas pedal or you can floor it. The end point will be the same, but the slope of the line is different. With body temperature, a steeper line means your central nervous system (CNS) puts on the warning lights earlier and tells your skeletal muscles that you’re exhausted to keep you from overheating. Or, as the author of this seminal work on hyperthemia notes “the organism can anticipate…and avoid a catastrophic outcome.”

The other piece of warm weather running that we’ve come to understand is that it’s a one shot deal; once the warning signal has come on for the day, no amount of external or internal cooling will turn that signal off and let you feel peppy again.

So where does this science hit the road? It’s summertime almost everywhere and we’re all dealing with heat and humidity on a daily basis. Since we can’t take off running until the temperatures cool down in October, the natural conclusions are as follows:

1. Take it easy in the heat. Sort of a no-kidding conclusion but it’s worth thinking about the slope of your temperature line when you do your workouts this summer. You can get them in, but make sure your warmup is slow enough so that you don’t flip the kill switch before you’ve even started working hard.

2. Consider shortening your warmup and external cooling in extreme conditions. Racing a 4th of July 5K? If the weather is forecast to be seasonably hot, it’s a good idea to shorten your warmup, keep it extremely easy and try techniques like an ice vest and cool compress to flatten out the line until the race.

3. Keep the faith. Everyone feels horrible in the heat and humidity, even people who claim to “run well in the heat.” While this may be due to making smarter choices in the heat, there is very little person to person variability in heat tolerance or critical temperature threshold.

How do you manage in the heat and humidity? Does it reassure you to know why hot, humid runs feel so darn tough?

How I Use Nuun and Discounts for Everyone!

Discount Code at the bottom!

As many of you know, I became a member of Team Nuun at the beginning of the year. Since then, I’ve been furiously working to test out as many of the Nuun products as I can so that I could do another product review for everyone and share how I’ve incorporated all the Nuun products into my running (and studying) life. Prior to being sponsored, I’d only used the Active as it was available in my local running store. Now that I have run of the farm, however, I’ve tried Natural, Energy and All Day.

Typical order in our house.

Typical order in our house.

Not as many people know why hydration is so critical for me personally. I have a heart…feature (hate the word condition) where even moderate dehydration can cause a significant rise in my heart rate, colloquially known as “holiday heart.” It is among the worst feelings in the world. For me, my heart hammers against my chest wall, I struggle to breathe and I can’t even hold my head up. I struggled with it a lot at the end of college when I was coaching sailing on Lake George (sun + long hours = disaster) but really hadn’t had a problem with it again until second year when my schedule got crazy and my hydration stopped being a major focus. During the fall, including one race, I had six runs where my heart went nuts and I had to pray I’d make it home. It’s always terrifying because I’m never totally sure whether it’s the inevitable time when it goes from tachycardia to arrhythmia. Because I’ve struggled with it recently, one of my quiet New Years Resolutions was to refocus on always being as hydrated as possible. With the exception of one or two skipped beats, I’ve been doing really well. So here’s how I use Nuun to support my running, prevent my holiday heart** and generally keep my life on track.

First Thing in the Morning

Nuun All Day: 95% of the time, I start the day with an All Day tab in my regular water bottle. It tastes great but doesn’t have the salt of the Active tabs so it’s an easy way to get 20 ounces of water down before you can even open your eyes.

Flavors: Blueberry Pomegranate and Tangerine Lime are my favorites, Grape Raspberry is good (and I usually never like Grape flavor), and Grapefruit Orange doesn’t work for me. I was bummed to find out that I don’t like the Grapefruit because I generally love that flavor.

Recommendation: Buy the Mixed 4 Pack first (60 tabs) to see what you like the best.

Lunch Time

Natural Hydration: This product appears to be missing right now from the Shop (I’ll ask about it), but this is the clear favorite in our house. In fact, now that I know it’s sold out, I just hid the last tube from Will. Tangerine Ginger is my flavor of choice and it is DELICIOUS. It’s made with Stevia so is a little sweeter, perfect to go with lunch and (try) to avoid diet soda with my sandwich.

3 PM Slump

Energy: This is where Nuun really started to shine for me. I started replacing my 3 pm cup of coffee with a Nuun energy instead and used this exclusively when I took Step 1 because it helped to quench my thirst AND keep me awake without the diuretic effect of coffee. The myth about coffee dehydrating you has been debunked (here and here, for example) but I still prefer to avoid the jitters that happen after a few cups or lay awake all night. One tablet contains 40 mg of caffeine, about half a cup of coffee and for me, it’s enough to get me through 3 pm with 20 ounces of fluid instead of 8.

Flavors: I love the Wild Berry, which also appears to be sold out right now. Lemon Lime is pretty good and I couldn’t do the Cherry Limeade; tasted like baby aspirin to me.

Recommendation: Buy the sampler pack and find out what you like, then try to sub out a cup of coffee for a bottle of Nuun. I haven’t been doing long enough runs to need hydration recently, but I’m also looking forward to using the Energy during long runs and races in lieu of caffeinated gels and to mixing it into Sarah-ade.

Post Workout

Active: The original and the one with lots of flavor choices! I have a Nuun Active after every run and sometimes two after hard workouts or between workouts. When you break down the electrolytes, it is isotonic with sweat (fancy word for same) so it satisfies the cardinal rule of fluid management: replace what you lost.

Flavors: I LOVE Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade, like Lemon Lime and Orange, tolerated Fruit Punch and BLECH NEVER AGAIN to Kona Cola. That being said, Will almost exclusively drinks Kona Cola, so I’d recommend trying it if you can because it seems to be polarizing. I cannot wait until Lemon Tea and Watermelon are back in season, because I suspect I’ll love both.

Recommendation: Pick a flavor you typically like and order one to try. The only one I’ve hated was Kona Cola, the rest were fine even if I didn’t love them. Flavors are introduced fairly regularly too, so keep an eye on the site for new ones.

Bonus

Nuun also has some cute gear, my favorite item of which is the Trucker Hat. My original one disappeared only to end up on my brother-in-laws head, so I had to buy a second one. Fits great, great color and perfect for wearing to the gym or up on the Podium after a race.

Discount for Everyone!

Finally, the only reason you read all these words, is that from now until March 26th, everyone who shops with Nuun and uses the code “LuckyNuunFriends” gets 20% off almost all the products on the site! This is a great way to try out Nuun for the first time or stock back up before the temps climb again. If you shop between now and March 17th, you also get a free St. Patrick’s day pint glass. Your call on whether you use it for beer or Nuun…

**Although I am halfway to being a Doctor, this is not intended to be medical advice nor should it be interpreted as such. If you have a similar or any medical condition, please seek the care of your physician.

20 Minute Leg Workout for Runners

This is my 20 minute, no BS leg workout that can be done at home or at the gym and hits the key muscle groups for building a strong drive train. Start with 8 to 10 reps of each exercise and 2 full sets. As you get stronger, add more reps in with an eventual goal of 20 reps per exercise. This is a little different from “traditional” weight training, where you usually top out around 12 before increasing weight. Endurance sports required a slightly different approach to lifting; because we primarily want muscle strength that helps us out when our bodies are exhausted, lifting for endurance tends to focus more on higher reps and lower weight. There are certainly times for lifting heavier weights (base building season, for example), but for in season strength training, stick to more reps and less weight.

One of the reasons I put videos** here (and WAY less than perfect videos) is to inject some reality into how hard it is to build real, functional strength. I’m not perfect at these exercises, they aren’t easy for me and it’s okay if they aren’t easy for you! #keepingitreal #nophonyrunningblogs

1. Single Leg Squat. It’s okay to hold onto something for balance here (I still do!) but your real focus is controlling your motion down and up and teaching your knee to track in the midline. Only go down as far as you can stay controlled.

2. Plie Squat.

3. Step-ups. Keep these to 10 reps and add an additional set once you feel fluid.

4. Plie Squat Jump. I don’t use weights for this because I like to use my arms to help get an explosive upward movement. Focus on landing lightly; if you are slamming into the ground, you’re missing a key part of the movement.

5. Donkey Kick.

6. Fire Hydrant.

7. Pendulum Squat.

8. Deadlift. You can do this with a straight bar or dumbbells. I usually use a straight bar at the gym, but don’t have one at home so use dumbbells at home. Focus on keeping your back flat (but not artificially straightened) and on driving hip bones up as you stand up.

9. Weighted Squat. If I’m at the gym, I use the Smith rack but at home, I rest the dumbbells on my shoulders for these. If you have a shoulder or rotator cuff injury, I’d recommend just using body weight instead. As with any squat, focus on keeping your knees midline and behind your big toe.

What other at-home exercises do you do? Hardest one of these for you?

**PS sorry the first two are sideways. It is just not my week for technology!