What’s for Breakfast?

There are two types of people in this world: breakfast people and non-breakfast people.  I am definitely a breakfast person.  I typically wake up hungry and head to the kitchen in my pajamas.  The idea of running before breakfast is just horrifying.

Some people swear by the fasted run to help encourage fat-burning.  This is best done in the morning before breakfast so your muscles burn their stored glycogen quickly because you’ve been in a fasted state since the night before.

To me, this is the definition of misery.  Being hungry on a run is almost as bad as being too full.  In theory, the concept of being able to use your nearly unlimited fat stores as fuel more efficiently sounds good, but there’s not a whole lot of science that seems to back up that this will make you faster.

So I don’t do it. I always eat something before I head out the door.

I’ve experimented with a lot of breakfast options.  Oatmeal was an early staple, but it doesn’t stick with me long and during one of my first half marathons, my oatmeal didn’t settle very well, so I’ve been wary of it. (It was probably nerves, not breakfast, but still.)

Then I shifted to the classic peanut butter or almond butter on toast.  Two slices of whole grain bread, either store-bought or homemade, with or without jelly.  This is still often my breakfast, but sometimes I feel like I need to eat a little less bread and focus on more whole foods.

Then I listened to a podcast with elite runner Tina Muir and she mentioned that her breakfast was sweet potato with almond butter.

sweet potato
Image from: http://www.beginwithinnutrition.com/2015/08/28/breakfast-sweet-potatoes/

As weird as this sounds, it’s really delicious!  And really filling.  Almost too filling.  On runs where I had downed a sweet potato in less than an hour before, my gut felt like I was carrying a softball.  Not ideal.  I still like this breakfast, just not right before a run.

Next I came across a recipe for breakfast bars made with oats and flaxmeal and no flour.

Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars

I can’t ever make a recipe exactly the way it’s written, so of course I tweaked it a bit.  Sub PB Fit powder for the peanut butter in the bars (more protein, fewer calories), add some hemp seeds (nice dose of iron and healthy fats) and skip the peanut butter cooked on top (not worth it since it didn’t add much flavor).  I like to spread some almond butter on them or coat with a little chocolate.

This was a hit!  My pan makes 8 bars and I’ve found that one bar with a cup of coffee can fuel a ten-mile tempo with no hunger pains and no heavy feeling.  Each bar has about 255 calories (with peanut butter topping, not chocolate), 28 grams of carbs, 13 grams of fat, and 9.2 grams of protein.  A little bit of everything.

By no means am I saying that this is a substantial breakfast meant to last you until lunch, but I’ve found that it’s just enough to last through a run without weighing down my belly. It’s not overly sweet, but not too muffin-y either.  I also love that they are make-ahead and ready straight from the fridge.

The kids like them too (with chocolate, of course), so I’ll be looking for ways to make different versions.  Dried fruit, cinnamon, chopped apples…lots of possibilities!

I’ll keep you posted.

What do you eat for breakfast?  What doesn’t work before a run?  Can you do a fasted run?

 

Apple Pie Endurance Gel

Last weekend was my son’s seventh birthday.  Instead of a cake, he wanted apple pie.  So I found a recipe for mason jar hand pies and went to work.

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They turned out so cute and were so great for a party!  No plates or forks to deal with.  So yummy.  And with the leftovers, I crumbled a few into my homemade vanilla ice cream (coconut-milk based) and made apple pie ice cream. Dangerously good.

As I was making the apple pie filling, I thought, this would be so good as an endurance gel!  I couldn’t find anything online to use as a base recipe, so I made my own.  I think I have a new favorite!

Your body can only handle so much sugar during long distance running, but it has been shown that a 2:1 mix of glucose to fructose allows your body to absorb more than either source alone. Plain corn syrup (not high-fructose) is a cheap and easily available source.  Agave syrup is anywhere from 50-90% fructose (it’s hard to pin that number down since processing varies), so I like to use a mix of those syrups in my gels.  They both have a light texture that is easy to swallow on a run, rather than a thick, toothpasty feel that some commercial gels have.

Instead of chopping apples and boiling them down for syrup, I bought a can of frozen apple juice concentrate (55% fructose, 20% sucrose, 25% glucose) and it worked beautifully.  With the addition some salt for sodium and some cinnamon and ginger for flavor and potential anti-cramp powers, I had some seriously tasty fuel for pennies.  Because the apple juice concentrate has so much sugar, this gel has more calories than my usual recipe with the same volume, which I think is a good thing.  Less to carry!

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Serves 1 gel

Apple Pie Endurance Gel

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon frozen apple juice concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons pure corn syrup (Karo is a good brand)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients well and pour into a gel flask (silicone travel bottles work great!) or into homemade FoodSaver bags.
  2. Store in freezer until ready to use.

Notes

Each gel contains 147 calories, 34 carbohydrates, and 173mg of sodium.

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http://theplantedrunner.com/apple-pie-endurance-gel/

Run Slow, Get Fast

Most runners cringe at the word “jog.”  If a non-runner asks, “How was your jog?”  the most likely response is a curt, “my run was great, thanks.”   But I have learned to embrace the jog.  If professional jogging were a thing, it would be my thing.  I run really slow most of the time.  Sometimes I’m tired from the workout the day before or I’m just not feeling into it and running slow simply feels better.  Other times, I feel fine and running slow can feel like a bit of a drag.  But I put on some headphones and listen to a podcast and run slow anyway.

I credit all my slow miles as one of the main reasons I have not been injured as a runner.  I’m fresh and recovered on my speed days from running easy the day before.  The day after a hard workout more easy miles help recovery.

Sarah Crouch, an elite marathoner who was the second American in Boston this year, puts it this way, “You cannot run too slowly on a recovery day, only too fast. Make sure you understand that. It is a simple concept that is notoriously hard to grasp.” 

If you want to learn about the science behind easy running and completely geek out (like I do) about mitochondrial and capillary development, Jeff Gaudette, head coach at Runners Connect, (the program I follow) has a great article explaining the concept in more depth.

Your aerobic system develops at any speed, so you might as well go slow.  I’m talking at least 2 minutes and probably 3 minutes slower than your marathon pace.  For example, my marathon pace is somewhere around 7 minutes per mile (hopefully 6:50!) and my easy days are in the 9 minute range.

But there’s something up with our egos that makes us hate to go slow.  Maybe it feels embarrassing to log slow miles on Strava or run slow with a faster friend.  Whatever it is, we need to get past it.  Slow is good!  But make sure you’re still actually running.  If you go so slow that you are shuffling and losing your good form, that’s not as helpful.  Be proud of your jog!

I had a fantastic long run yesterday with a high school friend of mine who’s in town with her family on vacation this week.  She kept apologizing for being slow and I had to keep telling her no, it was great; I want to go slow!  (She’s also comes from flat sea level, so running in the summer in the mountains is going to be hard on anyone who’s not used to it.)  Maybe she thought I was just trying to be nice and run slow for her.  Not true.  I’m not nice and I’m running slow for me, not her!

I’m taking back the word “jog.”  No cringing, no shame.  I’m owning the jog. So the next time someone asks me about my run, I’ll reply, “my jog was great, thanks!”

Chocolate Hummus

For my kids who have a year-round calendar, it’s already back to school.  So that means the struggle to make healthy, tasty, nut-free lunches is on.  One kid likes sandwiches, the other doesn’t.  One kid loves avocados, the other hates them.  One will eat last night’s leftovers, the other won’t touch them.  It’s almost enough to make me just shove a few dollars in their backpacks and have them just eat the weird, processed school lunch.  Except I tried that and they hated it.  After one week of school lunch, my daughter asked, “Mama, could you make me lunch again please?”

This morning, my son announced he wanted a blueberry bagel for lunch.  My husband had brought a big bag of fresh bagels from a great place near his grandmother’s house after a recent visit and I needed those to be out of my reach as soon as possible!  When I asked what he’d like on top, he said nothing.

“How about some sunbutter?” I inquired.

“No.”

“Hummus?” I tried.

“No.”

“Nothing?!  You gotta have something!” I was practically pleading with him at this point.

Then I remembered seeing a few chocolate hummus recipes online and decided to throw something together before school.  After several taste tests and adjustments, we had a hit.  It was almost as good as chocolate frosting, but not quite as sweet, and certainly much healthier.  I think if I tweaked it even more, I could make a really good cake frosting out of it.

I think this will be in the lunch rotation for a long time!

Serves 2 tablespoons

Chocolate Hummus

10 minPrep Time

10 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of homemade chickpeas or one can of store bought, drained (save the liquid for later, known as aquafaba)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup seed or nut butter (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put everything in the food processor and blend until smooth. Use the aquafaba (or water) to thin as you go, adding it slowly as you process being careful not to add too much.
  2. Taste and adjust sweetness to your liking.
  3. Spread on bread, bagels, or use at a dip for fruit and veggies.

Notes

adapted from Greatist.com

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http://theplantedrunner.com/chocolate-hummus/

Crawling My Way to Running Faster

The idea of functional movement seems to everywhere for me lately.  How can we move well through life?  As runners, we tend to move only in one direction:  forward.  It doesn’t matter if I can touch my toes or squat with my heels touching the ground.  Or does it?

Aaron Alexander is a physical and massage therapist and was being interviewed on a recent No Meat Athlete podcast.  He talked about all the ways we runners can integrate different movement techniques into our day to not only become better runners, but to feel better with every movement.  Little kids have perfect running form, yet somehow start to lose that around the time they enter school.  Too much desk time and not enough barefoot play time changes the way we move and subsequently the way we are able to move.  Luckily, we can change that.  Alexander’s website, www.aligntherapy.com has some great videos and tips for stretching, strengthening, and moving so that we can get the most out of our bodies no matter what our lifestyle.  He even has videos on how to sit better if you’re stuck at a desk all day.

One of the challenges he has clients do is to be able to squat with your heels touching the ground.  I tried it and I can only do it if my squat is really wide with my toes facing outwards.  With my feet straight ahead and shoulder-width apart, I’m probably a couple of inches off the ground.  When I was really into yoga before I started running, I could do a flat-footed downward dog, but I’m a long way from that now.  I asked my almost-7-year-old son to try it and he could do it with effortlessly.

So I’m going to work on this.  The way to begin is by placing a book under your heels and practicing 30 seconds a day.  Gradually, you can switch to a skinnier book until your heels can reach the floor.  Just doing it a few times trying to take a picture for this post was enough to improve some. I’ll get there.

Then yesterday in my strength class at the gym, our instructor decided to make us really move to work our legs.  We cleared the room of our weights and did walking lunges and squats forwards and backwards.  Then we put our hands on the ground and crawled without letting our knees touch and keeping our butts down.  Then the same movement laterally.  Then jumping squats across the room.  It was really tough, but great to actually move in a way our bodies once might have had we had not decided to sit in chairs all day.  And if I have to admit it, it was a little fun too!

Runners do not have to be flexible gymnasts to run well and some say it might even be detrimental.  Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments function as a spring which, if stretched too loosely, does not effectively propel you forward with a long stride length.  But being flexible within the full range of running motion is important to get all the length out of your legs possible.

And what is also important to remember (which I often forget), is that running is not absolutely everything.  Being able to move well for life is.

Catching Pokemon Catchers

I am not the type of person to play games on my phone.  I’d rather read an interesting article than play a video game. So of course, I don’t know anything about Pokemon Go, the latest mobile game craze.  But as an outside observer, it is fascinating and is clearly changing behavior, quite hilariously.

At the group Wedge run through the park yesterday, it was obvious who was there exercising like always and who was there to catch Pokemon.  Ghostly pale couples, each with a phone in an outstretched hand clung to to the edge of the path, oblivious to runners and bikers passing by.  My running buddy Doug and I passed no less than three smokers fixated on their cell phones, slowly walking in the middle of the path, clearly not out there for their health.  As we ran by, one guy shouted, “hey, could you log in for me and run?”  Doug and I looked at each other and laughed.  Every couple of minutes, we’d point out Pokemon players to each other.  “Pokemon.  Pokemon.  Pokemon.”  We had our own game.

Over beers after the run, we talked about the newcomers at the park with the other runners.  I thought it would be a fabulous business idea to take people’s phones on runs for money.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s thought of this.  There’s a few people in the area who are advertising that they will do just that so you too can be a Pokemon master!

While I will never get into something like this, I think it is absolute genius that a game will get people moving and be outside.  The key to regular exercise is to enjoy it and have fun and if this is what it takes, I’m all for it.  Although, it seems like this game engrosses people a bit too much, leading them to walk into traffic and fall off cliffs.  But setting that part aside, it seems to be creating a community at the same time.

Not to mention providing a little entertainment for us runners.

 

Hello New Shoes, Bye Bye Blues

“I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything’s right,” Paolo Nutini sings.  There’s just something about new shoes. This will be the pair that I love every step, I tell myself.  This will be the pair that make me feel light and free, yet cushion my entire foot just the right amount from impact.  This will be the pair that take me farther and faster than the others.  They are neon green hope held tight with bright turquoise laces.

I tried on about a half dozen of them in the running store, prancing through the racks of technical tees in an exaggerated jog, scrutinizing each step.  Too much forefoot squish in one.  Heels slipping out of another.  One pair I was set to dislike from the beginning because I’ve never liked anything from the entire brand, so of course I didn’t like them, even though they didn’t feel bad at all.

I’ve worn lots of different brands of shoes and seem to fall in and out of love each time.  For my first marathon, I wore minimalist Merrells.  (That was a mistake.)  Like so many people at that time, I had read Born to Run and was thoroughly convinced that next-to barefoot was the way to go. (It’s not.)

For my downhill marathon in Utah, I wore Altras.  Still considered relatively minimalist, the roomy, zero-drop (aka flat-footed) shoes worked well for me, despite the black toes I earned slamming my nails against the front of my shoes careening down the mountain.  But when I went to buy my next pair of those, I was disappointed that the model had changed a bit and the toe box roominess suddenly felt like clown shoe ridiculousness.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2014 in Altras
Big Cottonwood Marathon 2014 in Altras

For marathons three and four, I was a Nike girl.  The Lunaracers were light and airy, but could handle a bit of pounding.  I can’t exactly say why I stopped wearing those.  From a vanity point of view, I have to say they are not the sexiest pair of kicks.  With a skinny toe box and a wide heel, they are the running version of a Weeble.  Or a bowling pin.  I decided to try something different.

Best shot at Chicago (2)

For easy and/or long runs, I have been wearing New Balance Fresh Foam in a couple of different versions for the past year or so. They are fairly light for a trainer and fit my feet well.  But for track and racing, I have fallen head over heels for Saucony’s Type A6.  My size 8s weigh an impossibly light 5 ounces and feel like next to nothing on my feet, yet provide just enough cushioning over the pavement.  I wore these for my last Boston and couldn’t have been happier with them.

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So when it came time to get another pair of trainers, it was Saucony for the win.  I went with the Kinvara 7.  I’m hoping they will give me many miles of happy feet for the start of my new marathon cycle (four months to go!).

And I’m also hoping that Paolo Nutini is right.

 

Escaping With a Good Podcast

I nearly always run with headphones.  Not on the track or the trails, but whenever I’m out for a run alone, I’m listening to something.

I used to listen to music exclusively.  Upbeat, current pop/dance music gets my feet moving a little faster and the time goes by a little quicker.  I still listen to music for faster runs, but if I’m out for an easy session, I’ll choose a podcast instead.

Podcasts are perfect for keeping your pace slow and even, which is how easy runs should feel.  I also love how I can be completely absorbed in an interview and barely notice the miles clicking by.  My mind is distracted from the boredom of repetitive runs on familiar routes and I forget about those nagging excuses to quit and call it a day. With pop music on the other hand, a song ends every third of a mile or so, constantly reminding you of how far you have to go.  It’s much easier to allow your mind to wander listening to music than a podcast where you feel almost actively engaged in a conversation.

Like many people, I got hooked on podcasts when the Serial series came out over a year ago.  Each week, more details of the story of a cold case were revealed and I could not wait to hear what happened next.  When that season ended, I looked around for something else to fill that void.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Rich Roll Podcast:  Plant-based athlete and author, Rich Roll interviews what he calls “paradigm-busting” culture changers who do incredible feats across the globe.  One week he’ll be talking to an Olympian swimmer, next will be a documentary filmmaker, and the following will be a guy who climbed the highest peaks on the seven continents plus the two poles in record-breaking time.  Roll is a skilled interviewer who truly engages his guests in thoughtful conversation.  Listening to his podcast is like being a fly on the wall at a really cool dinner party.

Run To The Top Podcast: Hosted by elite Saucony athlete Tina Muir, this podcast is mostly about (wait for it) running (were you surprised?) with interviews of top coaches, athletes, and influencers in the sport.  I would not say, however, that Muir is a natural interviewer.  At times I am a bit frustrated that she doesn’t ask more in-depth follow up questions or challenge her guests a little more often, but she is improving her skills and she brings on some very interesting people.  Overall, I find the show well worth a listen each week.

Mortified:  I don’t listen to Mortified regularly simply because each podcast is too short for most of my runs, but I still highly recommend it.  The premise is adults read their teenage diaries out loud to a live audience.  I have laughed so hard listening during a run that I nearly doubled over on the sidewalk.  Hysterical.

Endurance Planet:  I’m new to this one and I’m still deciding if I like it.  Triathlete coach Tawnee Prazak hosts a super-nerdy podcast getting into the science of nutrition and endurance training.  Her diet advice leans heavily Paleo/low-carb/high-fat/no grains which I’ve always been skeptical of, but I don’t immediately dismiss, either.  Because of some of her interviews, I’ve been experimenting with adding more whole fats into my diet and I’m liking how I’m feeling fuller longer.  I will never be low-carb or low-grains, but she doesn’t prescribe that for all athletes and knows that marathon runners have to have a higher mix of quality carbs, so I’ll keep this podcast in rotation for a while.

What about you?  Do you have any podcast recommendations for me?  What do you listen to on a run?

Way Upstate New York

What a difference 2000 feet makes!  That and a 15-hour drive north.  Running along Lake Ontario is a road runner’s dream.  Smooth and flat with a lake breeze and cloud cover–it will make anyone run a little faster.

After such a long day cooped up in the truck yesterday, being able to run felt so needed.  I didn’t have a length or pace in mind, but wanted to go a little harder than an easy run, but not quite a true tempo.  With the temperature about 15-20 degrees cooler than North Carolina, my legs felt light and my lungs easily settled into a rhythm.

The wonderfully-named Point Salubrious outside the town of Chaumont, NY has a beautiful 6.5 mile loop with lake views and interesting lake cottages.  So I parked in town about 3/4 of a mile away to get a total of eight.  My husband and son chose the same loop for their bike ride and it was fun to catch up with them after they stopped and admired a new friend’s boat.  A few minutes earlier, I saw my husband biking ahead of me and I hollered out to him.  He waved a bit cautiously and kept going.  I figured he must have been trying to catch up with our son around the bend, but then remembered he left wearing an orange shirt this morning.  This biker was wearing blue.  Oops.  He must have thought I was just a really friendly runner!

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I’m looking forward to exploring more of the area on runs.  As long as I’m next to the water, I’m happy.  It’s such a gift to be able to run in a completely different environment than I’m used to.

Of course, this vacation is not about running.  I’ll still get them in, but it will also be nice to relax and be more connected to family and less connected to the internet.