Might As Well Jump

What if I told you there was a way to improve your speed, agility, power, endurance, balance and coordination in just five to ten minutes a day, three times a week?

And not only that, it would be fun?

Most runners are always looking for a way to get stronger and faster.  More running usually is the best way to do it, but there’s a limit to how much running you can do with your body and your lifestyle.

This is where plyometrics come in.  Plyos are high-velocity movements that generate power which translates to more speed and stamina on your runs.

In other words, jumping.

Studies have shown that adding plyos into your weekly routine improves muscle strength and running economy.  One study of highly trained athletes showed that after 9 weeks of plyo training 3 times a week, elite runners increased their running economy by 4.1%!

Yes, please!

Does that mean that you have to do a million burpees and box jumps to increase your power?  Those are great, but there’s a more fun way.

Jumping rope.

Jumping rope works all the major running muscles (calves, quads, glutes) as well as your stabilizer muscles (core, shoulders, back and chest) used to turn the rope.

It also increases the elasticity of your Achilles tendon, making it a great choice for runners prone to this common injury.  When you jump rope, you strengthen your feet, ankles, and calves, which all support the tendon.  You are training your feet to land properly, avoiding some of the alignment issues that can cause Achilles tendon pain.

As far as calorie burning, jumping rope is roughly equivalent to running, but there’s no way you can keep it up as long!

The first thing you need, obviously, is a jump rope.  But don’t get one of those old-school ones that are actually made of rope or covered in plastic rigatoni noodles.

You need a speed rope. They cost less than $10.  The thin cable is easy to turn fast so you can spin the rope quickly.

Here are a few pointers to getting the hang of it if you haven’t jumped rope since the fourth grade.

Keep your arms low on your sides and turn the rope with your wrists only, not your whole arms.  You want to jump exactly once per rotation and avoid that “double bounce” thing that a lot of people do when they start.  In order to do that, it means you need to spin the rope quickly so that it passes under your feet in time.

You’ll need to have great posture with your core tight and your shoulders down and back in order to jump rope smoothly.  Just like running!

Be sure that you are landing and taking off on your forefeet.  Don’t crash down flatfooted or with your heels.

A great routine to start off with is one I borrowed from pro athlete Sarah Brown.  Often sidelined with Achilles injuries, Brown and her coach had to come up with ways for her to get her explosive speedwork in without so many risky sprint sessions on the track.

Her routine is 10 jumps with both feet, 10 with only the left, 10 with only the right, and then 20 jumps alternating feet.  Aim for 3 to 5 sets of these allowing for short rests in between sets if you need it.  The entire thing takes less than 10 minutes and is perfect right after an easy run.

When you get bored with that, add in some high knees, jacks, front-to-backs, and side to side moves. Have fun and play with it!

There are tons of jump roping videos on YouTube and here’s one that talks about all the benefits from a super fit dude that can do all the tricks! (Or mute it if you just want to watch a buff guy jumping on the beach!)

I keep my jump rope right next to the front door and after I get back from a run, I’ll grab a drink of water, and then jump for a few minutes.

Of course, just like with running, you can get carried away with too much of a good thing.  If you go too hard too soon with your new toy, you’re going to end up hurt, so go easy on it at first.

The routine I’ve described is fairly low impact since you are only jumping a few inches off the ground, typically much less than you would running, so you can jump rope several times a week without adding much more stress to your training.  But add a heavier rope, throw in some double unders, and you are changing this into a high-impact exercise that requires recovery time, so be sure to factor that in.

For now, I’m just keeping it simple as the marathon miles are starting to add up.  But if a few minutes a few times a week are all it takes to make me a stronger, more powerful runner, then I’ll take Van Halen’s advice and jump!

 

My Favorite Vegan Pancakes and Waffles

At any given moment, our freezer has no less than three different varieties of pancakes and an assortment of waffles.  If I’m going to go to the effort of making pancakes (not really that much effort, but still), I want lots of extras for quick breakfasts on busy mornings.

I have so many favorite recipes for no-egg, no-dairy waffles, that to share just one wouldn’t be fair.

And to be honest, I’ve found so many recipes that work so well, that I haven’t bothered to even change them up much.  So here’s a roundup of my favorites:

Hannah Kirshner’s Best Ever (Vegan) Waffles:

Hanna’s Kirshner’s Best Ever Waffles. Accidentally vegan, delicious on purpose.  From Food52.

When Food52 calls something the “Best Ever (Vegan) Waffles,” you’ve gotta try it.  Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, they are exactly what you want in a waffle, vegan or not.  And they are full of protein (if you’re into that sort of thing!).  I half the oil called for and they still turn out great.

Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes:

Fluffy, tropical pancakes with grilled pineapple rings in the center.

Chocolate Covered Katie is the girl to follow if you have a sweet tooth, but are still trying to (pretend) that you are eating healthy.  Our kids love these pancakes and I love how the sugar in the pineapples caramelizes into a deep brown color.  Pretty sure that Katie is still single because her recipes are typically only enough for one normal person or two people who’ve already eaten something else.  I quadruple her recipe.

Apple Cinnamon Waffles:

Can’t you almost smell how good these are?

My notes next to this one in my recipe book say, “*AMAZING! NO SUBS!” so suffice it to say, it’s a hit in our house.  (Almost everything that I’ve made from Minimalist Baker turns out this well, so I’m not surprised. ) Soft, buttery, sauteed apples drench crispy cinnamon waffles.  Don’t wait until fall to make these!

Vegan Coconut Milk Waffles:

Vegan Waffle

These coconut milk waffles remind me of funnel cake from the county fair.  And it’s oil-free!  The original recipe is deliciously sweet (the recipe is from The Art of Dessert, after all!), so I typically half the sugar.  Even my traditional-waffle-loving husband likes this simple recipe!

Brownie Batter Pancakes:

I promise it’s healthier than it looks, but you don’t have to tell anyone!

Chocolate Covered Katie does it again with a decadent but healthy, teeny tiny single-girl recipe.  To say my kids love this one would be an understatement.  We sprinkle these with a touch of powdered sugar and then hose off their chocolatey faces in the back yard.

These are just some of my favorites, but I’m always adding to my collection!

What about you?  Do you have a favorite breakfast recipe?

 

Aquafaba Mango Ice Cream

Aquafaba is a miraculous ingredient.  The liquid from a can of chickpeas that you normally dump down the drain can be whipped into meringues, baked into cookies, and frozen into ice cream.

What’s normally thought of a waste product is actually one of the greatest egg substitutes that’s ever been discovered and it seems that there is almost no limit to what it can do. (Well, don’t try to make an angel food cake with it, but that’s another story.)

Aquafaba whipped into stiff peaks

At only 5 calories per teaspoon, with a touch of carbs and protein and almost no fat, it makes the lightest, creamiest, and impossibly delicious ice cream!  And, no, it does not taste like chickpeas at all.

Each enormous serving has less than 100 calories!

Even if you are not vegan, you’ll want to try this just for the sheer magic of it.   It really is that amazing.

And no ice cream maker required!

I love mangos and when they are on sale, I like to grab a big box of them.  And they make perfect ice cream.

But you can substitute any fruit you like with this recipe.  It really is that simple.

Scoops easily even without using an ice cream maker!

Just 5 ingredients (or fewer if you omit the lime and salt) and four hours in the freezer and you’ll have your own delicious treat that hits the spot after a hot summer run!

I swear, this recipe is so good, even my non-vegan husband loves it.

Yields Makes 4 HUGE servings

Aquafaba Mango Ice Cream

Light, creamy, low-fat mango ice cream with less than 100 calories per each enormous serving!

15 minPrep Time

4 hr, 15 Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (180g) aquafaba, or about the amount from a standard can of unsalted chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup (about 50g) powdered sugar (more or less to your taste)
  • 1 cup (about 165g) sliced fresh or thawed frozen mango
  • 1 teaspoon (about 5g) lime juice
  • dash table salt

Instructions

  1. Beat aquafaba on high in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. This can take up to 12-15 minutes, so be patient!
  2. Meanwhile, blend the rest of the ingredients in a blender on high until liquified.
  3. Add mango sauce to whipped aquafaba and mix slowly until just incorporated.
  4. Pour into a freezer-safe container and let freeze for 4 hours or more.
  5. Scoop and enjoy!
Cuisine: Dessert |

Notes

Each serving has 93 calories, 23.3g of carbs, 0g fat, 0.9g protein.

7.6.4
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http://theplantedrunner.com/aquafaba-mango-ice-cream/

Make Your Own PB Chocolate Protein UCAN

As much as I would love to believe that people come to my site to read my sage training advice and chuckle at my endless witticisms, I (sadly) know that’s not the main draw.

People want the recipes!

By far the most popular thing I have ever posted is my recipe for DIY Generation UCAN, a sugar-free race fuel made with slow-release carbohydrates that you can mix up in you kitchen for pennies.

So when a reader recently asked if I had a version of the Chocolate Protein UCAN, I decided to rise to the challenge.  I’ve already posted my chocolate version, but it’s naturally low in protein by design.

Of course, my version will not contain whey powder (obviously not vegan, but even if I weren’t plant-based, I wouldn’t recommend it, and here’s a few reasons why) xanthan gum (I’m okay with this ingredient, but I don’t like thick drinks), or sucralose (an artificial sweetener that definitely should be avoided) like the original contains.

The protein of choice instead is PB Fit Peanut Butter Powder, which makes this a rich peanut butter chocolate flavor.

PB Fit does contain a little sugar, so if you are looking to make this sugar-free, use a defatted peanut butter powder or flour that is sugar-free.

One scoop of UCAN’s protein version contains 110 calories for a 30 gram scoop, 18 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat.

My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat.  Mine also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.

Now I’m not going to lie and tell you this tastes like drinking a luscious chocolate peanut butter milkshake.  But it’s still pretty good.

And let’s be real:  not even the pricey commercial version can claim that that people are ending their meals with UCAN milkshakes for dessert simply for the scrumptious flavor.

This is performance fuel, not dessert, and it works!

For me, this is far superior to any gel or other race fuel that I have ever tried and keeps me going without the crash!

Let me know what you think!

Make Your Own PB Chocolate Protein UCAN

Liquid starch-based fuel that is an alternative to gels or chews.

My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat.  Also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.

5 minPrep Time

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon (14g) PB Fit
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) cocoa powder
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon Morton's Lite Salt
  • 10 drops stevia extract or other sweetener of your choice
  • 2 to 4 ounces of water or more, depending on preferred thickness

Instructions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients except water in a small measuring cup with a spout.
  2. Slowly add enough water to your desired thickness.
  3. Stir thoroughly and pour into a small running bottle.
  4. Shake before drinking.
7.6.4
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http://theplantedrunner.com/make-your-own-pb-chocolate-protein-ucan/

When RICE is Wrong: A Better Way to Treat Overuse Injuries

It might start as a little twinge.  Or a dull ache that grows little by little.  Maybe even a stabbing pain surges through the back of your heel forcing you to stop mid run.

Oh no.  You are injured.

If you run, there’s a good chance that you’ll get injured sooner or later.  Up to 79% of us per year are smacked with some kind of running injury, making the odds of making it through a single year on two healthy feet almost a rarity.

So you suck it up, pop an anti-inflammatory, prop your foot up on a bag of frozen peas and settle in for a week-long Netflix binge session.

But you might not be doing yourself any good.

In fact, ice, NSAIDs and rest could actually make your injury heal slower.

Wait, what?

The common response to any soft tissue injury is the classic RICE treatment that we all learned in basic First Aid.  RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation and, along with taking an anti-inflammatory pill for pain and swelling, it’s prescribed for every common ailment that running can throw at us from acute ankle sprains to achilles tendonitis to hamstring pulls.

Except in many cases it’s the opposite of what you want to do.

The first step is to determine what type of injury you have before grabbing the Advil and the remote control.

There are two types of running injuries: acute and overuse.  When you trip and twist your ankle, that’s an acute injury and the RICE protocol works.  Immediate icing has been shown in research to dramatically improve sudden inflammatory response so go ahead and ice your swollen ankle, elevate it, and rest.

But that same treatment is not going to help your aching achilles and will probably end up slowing your healing.

So as backwards as it sounds, overuse injuries can heal when you continue to run and can be completely cured when you micro-damage the tendons and muscles even more.

Sounds crazy, right?

Not only should you run and strength train through this type of injury, but ice and NSAIDs should be avoided.

This sounds completely backwards, but the research backs it up.

What’s going on here?

Let’s continue to look at the achilles to explain.  For overuse injuries of the achilles tendon, most people commonly refer to it as achilles tendonitis.  The “itis” suffix refers to inflammation.

But that’s actually a misnomer.

“Inflammation of the achilles tendon or its surrounding tissues is not a common finding in athletes with overuse injuries to the achilles,” says John Davis, biomechanics researcher for Runners Connect.  “Rather, their pain is caused by real, physical damage to and degradation of the small fibers that make up the achilles tendon.  Because of this, some doctors and researchers advocate renaming the injury “achilles tendonosis” or “achilles tendinopathy” to make it clear that degeneration of the tendon fibers is the root of the problem.”

Ice and NSAIDs like Advil work to limit inflammation.  If that’s not happening, they won’t help much.  In fact, there is evidence that they might make your problem worse by slowing healing.

What has been proven to heal your heel (hee hee!) is eccentric heel drops, an exercise where you slowly lower one heel off a step, then use both feet to raise back up.  Eccentrically loading the the calves ends up strengthening the tendon and actually curing the degeneration.  Ten to fifteen repetitions twice a day for 12 weeks has been shown to be effective.

Once you get good at that, throw a bowling ball in a backpack and try them!  Eccentric heel drops while wearing a weighted backpack can further strengthen the tendon so much that the pain disappears completely.

Eccentric Heel Drops

But what about running through pain?  As a coach for Runners Connect, I’m always careful about cautioning our athletes to not run through pain.

Is that always the best advice?

Turns out that running through a little pain is okay.  In fact, continuing to train might not make the injury worse, and you may be able heal your injury without sacrificing your fitness.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it is a little.  Running through an acute injury or a stress fracture is not a good idea and that could most certainly make the injury worse.

But a fascinating study on the achilles showed that a group of runners who continued to through moderate pain (rated as no higher than a 5/10 on a scale of 1 to 10), had the same positive outcomes as the control group who were only allowed “active recovery” activities such as swimming and walking.  The running group was not allowed to continue to run if the pain worsened or remained throughout the next day, but as long as their pain stayed moderate and improved instead of regressed, they were allowed to run and healed just as well as the non-runners.

The key words here are moderate and improving, so I’m not saying that it’s a good idea just to push through pain until your tendon ruptures.  That’s just silly.  But you may not have to be perfectly pain-free to still be able to go out for a run.

Of course, I want to make it clear that I am not a doctor or a physical therapist.  If you are in pain and running just hurts, please be smart and go see one of them for advice.  Preferably, find a professional that is a runner and understands the obsessed runner’s brain to give you the best diagnosis and treatment plan that will help you get healthy and back to running happy.

What makes sense for you is highly individual, but it’s refreshing to know that every minor niggle doesn’t have to banish you to the couch.

And you can save that bag of frozen peas for dinner.

 

Breaking 19:00 with a Mental Breakthrough

Runners love two things:  running and round numbers.

We don’t like to run 7.98 miles.  We like to run 8, so we’ll take an extra few steps past our destination to get that 8 to appear on our watches and our Strava logs.

And just like a sale for $1.99 seems like a way better deal than $2, getting just under that round number you’ve chosen for your race goal is so much more satisfying.

Last year my goal was to break 20 minutes in the 5K and I did that in all three races I entered.

Of course, that meant the new goal became breaking 19.

But so far this year, I hadn’t been able to even break 20 again even though I had been focusing my training on speed. Each race felt harder than the last and I was wondering if I was moving backwards.

Doubts about my ability and progress started to cloud my normal optimism.  Had I reached my peak already?  Have I set my sights too high for my ability?  Am I just kidding myself here?

So I stopped racing for 6 weeks.  You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?

All this because of a number on a clock.

I wasn’t having fun and I didn’t want to keep putting myself out there just to disappoint myself.  The marathon is where I want to focus my training and the red-hot speed necessary for a great 5K is barely relevant to the marathon.

But I still had this last 5K race on the calendar.  It was technically my “goal race” for the spring.  I wondered if I should even do it.

Then my friend Veena who ran it with me last year said she might go, so that was enough incentive for me to hit the register button.

The Downhill at Dusk 5K, as the name implies, is downhill, but not the entire time.  The first mile has a short but steep descent, the second mile is flat, and the finish is an annoying uphill.  My watch calculated it as 45% downhill, 45% flat, and 10% up.

Last year I got a nice 21-second PR in 19:33 (6:17/mile pace).

It is not an automatically fast course for everyone since downhill running can beat up your legs more than you think if you are not prepared for it.  It’s also very easy to go out too fast on the first downhill without realizing what you are doing to yourself, coming back to haunt you later as you crawl up the final inclines.

Which is what I did last year.

In 2016, I certainly went out too fast and remember feeling the struggle start in mile two.  By mile 3, my pace had slowed by an entire minute per mile and the last tenth of a mile was a painful stagger, nearly two minutes per mile slower than the start.

Pretty much the opposite of what you want to do in a 5k.

But this year, I had no goal.  After flatlining on my progress this spring, I decided the time goal simply didn’t matter.  All I wanted to do was race hard and get it over with as soon as possible.

Getting below 19 minutes never entered my mind.

But here’s what did:  calmness.  Clarity.  Relaxed focus.  And even a little fun.

Call it the elusive “runner’s flow.”

I was even relaxed enough to say a few words mid race to the guys running around me, which is usually impossible when you are in the red zone.

I have been practicing getting into the right frame of mind while racing and running hard and it certainly paid off on Saturday.

I only glanced at my watch at the first and second mile splits and instead focused on how I felt.

Mile 1 felt easy and light.  I ran it 3 seconds faster than last year at 5:44, but my breathing was calm and smooth so I wasn’t worried about it being too fast.

I was expecting to start hurting in Mile 2 at about the same spot as last year, but that point never came.  There were no other women ahead of me to chase this year so I focused on the men, pretending they were women and making myself smile at the idea.  The water station at the end of Mile 2 seemed to arrive much earlier than I anticipated and again, I was three seconds faster than last year at 6:08.

I was actually feeling good and repeated that fact to myself over and over again.

But Mile 3 is where this race really starts. I knew what to expect this year and just focused on staying strong.  I wasn’t doing the math and didn’t bother looking at my watch anymore because it didn’t matter at that point.  I remember thinking as I turned the corner to start the uphills, this is the last 5K you have to do for a while.  It’s almost done. Just get there, just get there, just get there.

I later found out the Mile 3 split came in at 6:24 vs 6:43 in 2016.  The hills slowed me somewhat, but they were not a struggle this time.

The finish line is in a parking lot and the course makes a sharp right turn off the road with about 50-75 meters left to the finish.  As soon as I turned, I saw the race clock ticking at 18:45.

Huh?

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!! 

I had no idea that I was so close to my dream goal and just pumped my arms and legs as fast as they would go in a desperate attempt to beat that clock.  I ran at full speed across the timing mats not stopping until I was well past them to be sure that I gave it my very best shot.

I made it by a literal split second: 18:59.2.

I closed the final tenth of a mile at a 6:16 pace compared to my exhausted 7:36 last year.

Veena also did awesome, knocking out a PR for herself after a long break recovering from injury, earning her a second place finish!

I plan to go more in depth about the mental work that I have been doing in future posts.   I credit staying calm and focused as equally important, or perhaps even more important, as the physical training.

This race felt better and less intense but yet was faster than last year.  Sure I’ve logged a lot of miles in the past year, but the breakthrough was more in my mind than in my legs or lungs.

Naturally, this begs the question, am I now reconsidering 5ks and going for an even faster goal?  18:45 or 18:30 perhaps?

As enticing at that sounds, I think the lesson I’ve learned here is to hold those time goals a lot less tightly.

Training with a goal in the back of your mind is probably a good thing.  But maybe racing without one is better.

Can I Start Marathon Training Yet?

After taking the spring off of racing marathons, I am so ready to get back to it.

I feel like I’ve been wearing someone else’s wardrobe for the past few months by racing 5 and 10Ks and nothing ever fit right.  I just want to put my jeans and t-shirt back on and get back to my passion.

So I have chosen my fall race, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on October 1.

The course is a lovely, point-to-point race along Lake Michigan.  With only a couple hundred feet of elevation drop over the entire course, it is about as flat as you can get.

Here’s the course profile for the first half:

Course elevation profiles always look a little more dramatic than they actually are.  The little rises and falls will feel almost imperceptible over this distance.

And the last 5K has a nice little descent which will be welcome at that point!

Besides the favorable course and the likelihood of good racing weather, the other reason for choosing Milwaukee is because I went to college there at Marquette University.  It’s always nice to go back and visit and hopefully catch up with some of my dearest friends from back in the day.

My sister also lives in Wisconsin, so hopefully she’ll be able to come out and be ready with a steaming bag of french fries for me at the finish line!

Milwaukee is a beautiful, fun city and while I didn’t run in college, I’m really looking forward to running there this fall.

Besides the race itself, I am mainly looking forward to getting back into the long grind of marathon training.  I know that sounds crazy to anyone who doesn’t run them, but I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I train for a marathon.  I haven’t really fallen in love with the shorter races as I had hoped, and I have been a bit disappointed that I haven’t seen my times improve this spring.

Well, actually, I’m not sure if that’s true or not.  My racing times certainly haven’t improved, but there have been a few bright spots in workouts that have given me hope.

Nothing dramatic or clear cut, but a few track laps here and there that I know that I wouldn’t have been able to hit a year ago.

Little moments that show me that I’ve got it in me, I just need to coax it out at times.

For now, I’ve got one last 5K to race tomorrow and that’s the Downhill at Dusk 5K that I raced last year.  (Just rereading my race report is making me wonder why I’m doing this to myself again.)  It’s a very steep downhill the first mile, cruising to flat the second, with a nasty little crest at the end.

I’ve got no goal this year, except just to race it hard with an open mind and see what happens.

Because as soon as I cross that finish line, marathon training begins.

 

The Hilly Easy Run, or How to Spice Up the Slog

By now, most runners know that in order to run fast, you have to spend a lot of time going slow.  Around 80% of the time, in fact.

If you run five days a week, two of them, if not three of them, should be slow and easy.  If you run every day?  Then it’s more like four easy runs a week.

Many of the runners I coach at Runners Connect find this concept very hard to grasp.  They’ll say that they are running easy, when they are actually running just a few seconds slower than marathon pace.

Sorry to say, your marathon pace is not your easy pace.  (Unless you run marathons far below your ability, but that’s another post.)

For reference, I typically run my easy runs 2-3 minutes slower than marathon pace.

“But I feeeeel good!” they’ll tell me after running a good 90 seconds faster per mile than they should.

Running so slowly is uncomfortable for me,” they’ll protest while logging an “easy” run that is actually right in between medium and hard.

Or the flat-out, “I want to run, not jog.” Sigh.  Jogging will make you a faster, stronger, and more resilient runner.

Unfortunately, what makes you feel good in the moment while you are running is not always what you should be doing.

Running slow and easy is just like eating your vegetables.  You gotta do a lot of it to be at your best.

Potato chips feel good, but no one’s going to say consuming a bag of Lays is going to help your running.

The idea of eating salads every day might make you feel uncomfortable at first, too, but it will certainly help with your health.

And lots of people would rather skip the veggies and eat fried chicken, milkshakes, half pound burgers covered with slabs of cheese, washed down with gallons of beer, but that’s not doing the body any favors.

So the trick to learning to love your easy runs is exactly the same as learning to love your greens–spice them up!

Instead of a boring slog on the same flat route you always run, find some hills.  Forget all about pace (seriously, you Type A runners–just let it go!) and just keep the effort easy, even if it means you have to stop or walk a bit on the inclines.

You want to keep your breathing slow, relaxed and even and your effort level should be exactly the same as if you were running on flat ground.

You should be able to sing a song out loud while running and freak out the neighbors.

That means that if you are used to seeing 7- or 8-minute miles on your easy runs, get your ego prepared to see some 9s, 10s or even 11s.  Let all the pride you attach to pace (we all do it, I promise) go and instead make your challenge be how smooth you can keep your effort level.

You will feel ridiculously slow on the inclines and that’s okay!  Shorten your stride so you can keep your cadence light and quick and just pitter patter your way up the hill with your nice forward lean.

You will be rewarded at the top with a descent where you can open up your speed a bit to take advantage of gravity.  This is where you can have some fun!

But don’t speed up so much on the declines that you accidently increase your effort level, of course, but it’s a treat to go a little faster while keeping the effort nice and easy.

Another point to make on the declines is to remember to keep your footsteps light and avoid the natural tendency to brake with hard footfalls.  You should keep your nice slight forward lean that you have on the inclines to almost fall downhill rather than stomp down it.

If you keep the effort level easy, running hills will add variety to your runs and will strengthen your legs and lungs for race day.  Running flat will soon seem extra easy and long hills late in a race will no longer have the power to defeat you.

And who knows?  Maybe just like veggie lovers who eventually start to crave kale, you’ll learn to love your easy runs.

 

 

Big Ol’ Beet Burgers

By now, most runners know they should eat their beets.  Loaded with dietary nitrates, beets have been shown to increase performance in runners as well as decrease our perception of effort.

Win/win, right?

I’m always looking for ways to add beets to my diet and these colorful beet burgers are just right for warm weather barbeques.

I’ve loved making Isa Chandra’s beet burgers, but I can’t help but tweak her recipe a little.

Along with the beets, a key ingredient in my version is walnuts.  Walnuts contain an essential fat called alpha-linolenic acid (usually abbreviated as ALA), or omega-3 fat.  It’s only found in just a handful of plant foods (ground flaxseed and chia are two more) so it’s important to try to eat a good source of omega-3s each day.

So colorful!

What’s great about these is that you can swap out the beans and/or the grains (yes, quinoa is technically a seed) for whatever you have on hand and they’ll still turn out great.  No quinoa?  Sub brown rice.  Don’t like pintos?  Go for black beans.  You really can’t mess up here.

Whole grains and beans are great sources of iron and zinc, two nutrients that are absolutely essential for overall health, not to mention running performance.

Looks weirdly similar to ground beef!

And while I’m not a huge fan of fake meat substitutes, it’s almost scary how much these look like beef while you are making them.  But after they are cooked, they are a brilliant magenta pink, guaranteed to catch everyone’s attention at the table!

A cookie cutter makes shaping easy

This is a great reason to make a few extra cups of beans or rice whenever you are cooking them for something else to tuck away in the freezer.  That way, awesome veggie burgers come together in just a few minutes.

I like to make huge batches of these because beets can be a little messy to work with.  I’d rather only clean up once and have a nice stash of homemade burgers in the freezer for a quick lazy meal.

Pretty patties can be baked, grilled, or dry pan-fried

The vitamin C in the beets help you absorb the iron to help move oxygen to your hard working muscles. And it’s even better if you top your burger with the beet greens!

Loaded with guac, tomatoes, onions, and ketchup!

These patties can be a little delicate, so be careful with them on the grill.  I like to play it safe and dry fry them or use a pan on the grill and cook them until they start to get just a few slightly charred spots.

Delicious way to get all your nutrients!

Yields 10 big burgers

Big Ol’ Beet Burgers

A bright pink, delicious vegan burger stuffed with plant superpowers!

40 minPrep Time

12 minCook Time

52 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw shredded beets (about two medium)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2.5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa or other whole grain
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled pinto beans or one 15 oz can drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel or crushed whole seeds (optional but yummy!)
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 cup panko or fine breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Peel the beets and shred with the shredder attachment of a food processor. Remove shredded beets from machine into a large bowl.
  2. Switch to the S blade and pulse the walnuts until crumbly, but not so long that they turn into butter.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, beans, quinoa, and shredded beets and pulse 15-20 times until the mixture comes together but still has a slightly chunky texture and looks eerily like ground beef.
  4. Transfer back to the mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Use your hands to squish everything together so it's evenly incorporated.
  6. Refrigerate bowl for 30 minutes
  7. Preheat your cooking surface(I like well-seasoned cast iron), if cooking right away, and shape into patties, either by hand or using a cookie cutter.
  8. If your cast iron is well-seasoned, you will need very little or no oil. If not, use a light spray or swipe with a neutral high-heat oil like canola.
  9. Cook for approximately 12 minutes, flipping a few times on each side until they are just barely charred and heated through.
  10. Serve with all your favorite burger fixings!
Cuisine: American |

Notes

Inspired by Isa Chandra's Quarter Pounder Beet Burgers

http://www.isachandra.com/2012/02/quarter-pounder-beet-burger/

7.6.4
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http://theplantedrunner.com/big-ol-beet-burgers/

 

Could Those Electrolytes Be Making You Fat?

Nooooo!!  Not again.  Another damn nutrition article ruins the fun.

What’s the villain in our diets this time?  One of the usual suspects: salt.

But not for the reason you might think.

According to an article published in the New York Times, researchers have discovered that salty diets can dramatically increase hunger and lead to overeating.  And not just a few extra snacks.  A whopping 25% more calories.

That’s like eating an extra meal a day.

The researchers fed cosmonauts living in isolation to mimic space travel a salty diet and despite conventional wisdom, the cosmonauts actually drank less fluid than on a lower sodium diet.  And here’s the bad news:  their levels of hunger dramatically rose, even though they were eating the same amount of calories.

Hmmm…so maybe it’s not the extra carbs that cause some marathoners to gain weight in training despite running more miles.

It’s the extra salt driving us to eat more.

Salt has always been the one thing as a runner that I have felt pretty good about indulging in.  After all, sodium is an essential electrolyte that is lost in sweat and is critical for life.

At my house, we can go through a bottle of (low-sodium) soy sauce in a week.  I grind pink Himalayan salt over roasted veggies and sprinkle a few shakes on my oatmeal.

Salt makes food taste better, plain and simple.  (Remember the watermelon post last week?)   But when food tastes good, we are more tempted to overeat.

And it’s not just the salty deliciousness of the bag of Sea Salt Waffle Chips that makes us want to eat more, it’s the body crying out to eat more to make up for the extra calories it burns creating extra fluid to dilute the sodium.

It’s a double whammy.

Strangely, instead of continuing to signal your thirst to bring on more fluid to dilute the salt, your body will create its own.  Just like a camel breaks down the fat in its hump to unlock the stored water, our bodies do the same thing cannibalizing your own fat and muscles.

This process burns calories, of course, which should mean we’d lose weight on a salty diet.  But we don’t, because our brain ramps up the hunger cues, leading us to eat more (salty) food.

Athletes seem to be given a free pass, when it comes to sodium. After all, nearly every sports drink on the planet contains salt.  Marathons offer water and salty Gatorade at every mile.

Runners even take salt tabs, especially during hot races, believing that it will prevent cramping. (Probably not.)

Athletes need more salt than non-athletes, right?  Salt stings our eyes in the summer and leaves chalky stains on our t-shirts.   Of course we need to replace it!

Yes, but it’s not that simple.  Hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, is a real issue in long distance events, but what about our daily lives?

It seems like scientists might know a lot less about salt’s role in the body than we thought.

We know that water, sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes work in a delicate balance in the body.  If you take on too much water, you have to pee.  If you eat something salty, you drink, which is why smart restaurant owners provide those salty bar snacks.

Now it seems that the salty pub mix not only increases drink sales, but it probably also increases food sales too.

So what does this mean for an endurance athlete?

Sodium is still a critical element in our diets, but we should probably be careful about our consumption, just like the rest of the population.  Many exercise scientists, most notably Tim Noakes, believe that runners’ deaths from hyponatremia come from over-hydration, not from under-consuming sodium.

What’s the bottom line, then?  How much salt do athletes need?  There is no clear answer.  Some say that excreting excess salt in our diets is one of the best benefits to exercise because we consume too much.

Yet others warn that restricting salt too much is dangerous as well, especially to the heart.

What’s a runner to do, then?

If you can’t figure out why you are always hungry or if you gain weight during heavy training, take a look at your sodium intake.  Perhaps it’s a part of the (complicated) equation.

But ultimately, I think the best advice is the same as always–choose fresh, whole foods with limited processing and don’t over do it.

Make meals at home and share them with the people you love.

And maybe go a little lighter on the soy sauce.