Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creating new habits

Congrats to everyone who was a part of the Disney Princess Half, you all are amazing!  The worst part about training for something like that is that you have to do it by yourself, every single step.  The best part is, when you cross the finish line, it means so incredibly much for that exact same reason!

So now that it's over, what now?  I understand we all lead incredibly busy lives, but taking care of ourselves is one of the most important things we can do.  Living a healthy lifestyle and yes, exercising, is a key component of taking care of yourself.  The hardest part about making changes like this is the beginning, establishing a new routine.  It seems impossible when you're first starting, but then you adapt and it becomes the new normal.  You've already gotten through that initial change when you started training for the Princess Half.  Now I'm encouraging you to stick with this new routine.

It doesn't matter if you fell in love with running or never want to run another step, I encourage you to find something active that you can do on a regular basis.  It might be running or walking, hitting the gym, riding a bike, dancing, yoga, but pick something and stick with it!  See if you can find a new goal or target to give yourself something to aim for if that will help keep you motivated.  You owe it to yourself, and right now it's just a matter of keeping the existing momentum!

It's been a pleasure coaching you all, and as the proud uncle of a Rett girl, thank you for helping support this amazing cause!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Race day preparations

It's been a long journey getting here, but race day approaches!  Before the nervousness starts to really set in, here are some things you can do beforehand that will relieve some anxiety!

5-7 days pre-race:

  • Make sure you have any supplies you'll need for race day.  Energy gels/Gu/Cliffshots, your race day breakfast (same thing you've been eating before your training runs!), etc. 
  • Weather so far looks to be a low of 60 degrees on race day, so you probably won't be cold.  However, if things change or you want to be overly prepared, bring an old sweatshirt and sweatpants that you don't mind donating to charity (or buy something at Target or Goodwill).  You can wear them beforehand when you're going to the start line and waiting (which could be 45-60+ minutes of waiting), and then 5 minutes before the race starts, take them off and discard them at the sidewalk.  Tons of people do it, and local charities come by after the start and collect them.  If your hands tend to get cold, a $2 pair of gardening gloves or cheap knit gloves work great.  At very cold races, I'll sometimes even wear the gloves for a couple of miles until I warm up, and then discard them.  I'll also usually bring a big trash bag from home and keep it tucked into my shorts.  If it starts to rain before the race, put a hole in the bag, put your head through the hole and wear it as a poncho.  May not be Project Runway fashion material, but it will keep you warm and dry!  And if you don't need it, toss it on the sidewalk before the start.
  • Have your friends & family sign up to track you live during the race:
  • If you're not going to bring your cellphone during the race, try to arrange a meeting reunion spot after the race.  The finish line is always a zoo, but they usually have a reunion area with signs such as A-C, D-F, etc by last name.
1 day prior:
  • Get your shirt and race number at the expo.  The expo can be a ton of fun, but try to avoid being on your feet walking around for hours and hours.  And remember, no matter how tempting that cool new thing you see at the expo is, stick with what you know works for the race!  New stuff causes blisters, distractions, confusion, etc!
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol/caffeine if you can starting the evening before the race, you want to stay hydrated
  • Attach your race # to the shirt you'll be wearing.  If you're going to wear a sweatshirt that you're going to discard before the race, don't attach your number to that!  
  • Arrange for a wakeup call and use a phone or alarm clock alarm as backup
  • Lay out everything you'll wear on the floor the night before to make sure you have everything (I had a friend who realized at 9pm the night before she forgot her running shorts, luckily she had time to find some). 
  • Head to the inspiration dinner and get ready to meet some amazing people!
Race morning:
  • Get up, have your breakfast and hop on the bus.  
  • When you get to the start area, get in line to use the port-a-potty.  The lines will probably be pretty long but should move quickly.  Once you've finished, turn around and get right back into line because you'll probably have to use it again in a few minutes!  Totally normal, it's actually a good sign because it means you are well hydrated.
  • When the gun goes off, keep putting one foot in front of the other like you've been doing all along! 
During the race:
  • The port-a-potties tend to have pretty big lines the first 2-3 miles, but lines will thin out after that.  Also, the bathrooms inside the park are usually open for races if you spot one, and they are much nicer and cleaner than a port-a-potty.
  • Stick with your run/walk routines.  If you're feeling fantastic at mile 10 and want to run the rest of the way, go for it.  But until that point, better to be conservative and do what you know works.
  • The Disney characters are usually out there cheering you on, you can stop and take a photo with them if you like (but the lines may be pretty big for the popular ones like Cinderella).

A couple of thoughts that don't necessarily fit into the timeframe:
  • You're going to be nervous, everyone is.  Don't let it stress you out, just laugh at yourself and try to enjoy yourself. 
  • The #1 most common source of problems in first-time half marathoners is going out too fast.  There will be tons of people around, you might not even be able to do more than walk, don't worry!  It will thin out in a mile or two, and your adrenaline is going to make you want to run much faster than you've been training, fight the urge to do so!  Nobody ever ruined their race by going out a little too slow, but tons of people ruin their race by going out too fast and then falling apart at mile 10.
  • Just because they offer water and gatorade to you every mile doesn't mean you have to take some every time.  Stick with roughly the same drinking schedule you've been doing during your training.  
  • You are not going to sleep well the night before the race, trust me.  I've run thousands of races and I never sleep well, nobody does.  It won't affect your race, even if you toss and turn all night only to get up at 3am.  Two nights before the race is the important one when it comes to sleep.
  • At some point during the race, make sure you soak in the whole spectacle.  There will be thousands of people ahead of you, thousands behind you, and you're all doing this crazy thing at 6am in the morning.  It's a pretty amazing thing to be a part of, so let yourself just soak it in and enjoy it!
And probably the most important thing to remember:  You rock!  You've raised a ton of money for a fantastic cause, taken a chance undertaking something big and scary, gone out and trained despite having a thousand reasons not to every time you stepped out the door.  Instead of thinking of everything up to this point as preparation for the race, think of it instead as the race being the reward for doing everything up until now!


Friday, January 31, 2014

Dress rehearsals...

Hi all,

So if you're following my program, this weekend is the longest training session of the season (and if you're doing the Galloway version, next weekend is it).  Hopefully by now, you've gained some confidence over many other training sessions, and it's all starting to crystalize that you might be able to cross that finish line after all!  The real fun part is in 2 weeks when you "only" go 5 miles.  You'll know how far you've come when you can say to someone, "Oh I only have to go 5 miles, piece of cake!"

I've mentioned it in passing, but use these last few long runs as a dress rehearsal for the race.  While they always tell brides "something old, something new," etc, your motto for race day should be "Nothing New."  You should know what shoes, socks, shorts, sports bra, shirt, glasses, Gu/Powergel flavors, etc you'll be racing in, and you should have worn them previously.  If you're going to race in the sparkle skirt, I'd suggest doing at least one run in it beforehand.  If you're going to need new running shoes, make sure you get them soon and do some training in them, don't wear them running for the first time in the race!.  If you want to be slightly anal about it, make a list of everything you'll need.  Lay everything out the night before to make sure, and then all you have to do is double-check you've packed the list when you go to Florida.

That carries over into the actual running part of it as well.  If you're doing the run/walk intervals in your training, plan on those same intervals during the race.  Every now and then someone will tell me they've done run/walk intervals during training, but they want to run the whole race.  I try as best I can to convince them that what's worked in training will work in the race, why throw a big unknown in there?  For your first half, your main goal is to cross the finish line with a smile on your face.  Worry about pace, running the whole distance, etc in your 2nd, 3rd, or other races when you know what you've gotten yourself into.

And most importantly, be proud of what you've already accomplished.  You took on this challenge, and despite winter storms, sickness, injury, and whatever other challenges you might have faced, you're still persevering and you're going to make it.  If you've been following the schedule, you've run about 290 miles!  That's an amazingly long way to travel on foot!  Ever traveled from Washington DC to New York City?  That's only 230 miles, you could have run there!

Keep up the good work, the hard work is nearly done and then the fun part (tapering and then the race!) will be here soon!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Dining on the go...

We're getting into the section of the training program with some of the longest sessions before the race.  When you are out there for several hours at a time, nutrition and hydration during that time becomes very important.  So here are some key points for you to think about.  One of the most important things to remember is that, on race day, you don't want to try anything new.  You should have tried out every single thing during training so that you are comfortable with how your body reacts to it.  So over the next couple of weeks, your job is to experiment with the below to find out what works, what doesn't, and to fine tune the details.

You'll most likely be sweating during the race.  Those of you in colder climates may not be sweating much in your training sessions, but trust me you will be in Orlando.  As you sweat, you become dehydrated and so need to drink regularly to stay hydrated.  The more dehydrated you become, the weaker and more prone to cramps and side stitches you become.  The number one rule of hydration:  If you wait until you are thirsty before you start drinking, you've waited too long.  Other symptoms of dehydration:  dizziness, nausea, inability to concentrate, muscle cramping.

How much should you drink?  Typically I recommend anywhere from 10 to 20 ounces per hour.  A typical bottle of bottled water is about 17 ounces, so you should be drinking a whole bottle every hour.  Rather than downing it all at once, try to drink some every 15-20 minutes so your body has time to process it, rather than having it jiggle around in your belly.  I always have someone tell me that they absolutely can't drink anything when they run. If that's you, try drinking a few sips (or even a single sip) every 15 minutes.  After doing it for a couple of runs, gradually increase the amount.  Trust me, if you go 3-4 hours without drinking anything, you are in for a long day, so train your body to handle it in your training sessions!

What should you drink?  My suggestion is a sports drink like Gatorate, Powerade, etc.  They are all pretty similar in what they do for you, so see what tastes best to you.  Why that over just plain water?  Sports drinks also include salt, sugar, and electrolytes.  The salt helps prevent muscle cramping (and some people who sweat a lot may even want to consider taking salt tablets), the sugar replaces the energy stores you burn up while running, and the electrolytes theoretically will also help prevent cramping.  They haven't announced which sports drink will be available on race day yet, so for now use whatever tastes best to you.

Hyponatremia:  This is the opposite of dehydration, some people take in so much fluid and not enough salt that they actually become over-hydrated.  It's pretty rare, so don't worry too much about it, but just be aware it can happen if you drink lots of water and don't sweat much.

Pro tip:  On race day, they will be handing out cups of water and sports drink that you can grab as you go by.  People tend to spill it all over themselves when drinking and running, which is not fun when it's sports drink.  If you watch the elite runners, they will pinch the top of the cup so it makes a spout instead of a big circular opening.  Makes it much easier to get it into your mouth that way!  Share the tip with others and they will think you are a pro!

What about eating during the race?  Remember how I recommended to eat and drink something before you start any training session (as well as race day).  Some people like to eat during the race itself as well.  This is essential for anyone doing a full marathon, but it's still very helpful for half marathoners as well.  Most people use a gel packet such as Gu, PowerGel, Cliff Shots, Sports Beans, or any number of other options.  Each brand also comes in a ton of different flavors, some also have caffeine.  Try a bunch of different ones out and see what you prefer, they all work the same way so it's really personal preference.  The best way I can describe them is it's like eating cake frosting.  My suggestion is have some water handy after you eat them to help wash it down.  I recommend one gel every 60-90 minutes.  While they aren't really super-appetizing, my guess is within 2-3 minutes you'll feel a sudden surge of energy, they do work!  But you will find there's a big difference in taste between them, so try out a bunch until you find out what works best for you.

On race day, they will have water, a sports drink, and one or more gel stations on the course for you.  While training, you'll have to fend for yourself.  I recommend a water belt, which is basically a waist belt that holds one or more water bottles.  I prefer one bottle at the small of my back, but others prefer several small bottles spaced around their waist, or even a type of glove that holds a water bottle.  Fill it with your favorite sports drink and away you go.  Most of them also have small zippered pockets to hold your gel packets.

I hope your training's going well, let me know if I can help!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Eating and drinking!

Hi all,

Sorry I've been a bit MIA recently, but remember you can always email me or reach out on Facebook if you have a specific question!

Someone brought up the question about what to eat before, during, and after training.  This might be more info than a lot of you really want, so feel free to skim and I'll highlight the important stuff.

General diet:  In large brush strokes, you probably already know what's good for you and what's not.  I'm not saying you have to live on kale and broccoli 24x7, I'm saying that a balanced dinner of some chicken and veggies is better than grabbing something at McDonalds.  Having a balanced diet will help you feel better and will give you fuel to burn as your training increases.  Here are the main categories of foods.  The research changes almost weekly, so here are some of the key points that have become generally well accepted.


  • The Good:  unsaturated fats (mostly plant-based oils), usually liquid at room temperature.  Examples include olive oil, avocado, and nuts
  • The Bad: Saturated fats (mostly animal-based fats) tend to be solid at room temperature.  Examples are butter, lard, etc
  • The Ugly:  Trans fats are thought to be the worst kind.  Anything with the word hydrogenated is probably a trans fat.  Pre-packaged food (cake mixes, ramen, most fast food, donuts, chips, etc) and margarine are high in trans fat
  • Generally 20-30% of your diet can come from good fats.  Eliminating fats altogether is generally not the best option.  Fats will make you feel full, so you actually eat fewer calories and they have more energy per gram than carbs or protein.
Carbs get a bad rap.  The brain runs purely on carbs, and muscles run primarily on carbs.  That being said, here are some more details:
  • Eating too many carbs (or more accurately, having carbs as too high of a percentage of your overall diet) can cause spikes and lows in blood sugar.  That means uneven energy throughout the day, cravings, weight gain, etc.
  • There is what's called a glycemic index, which basically measures how quickly carbs turn into blood sugar.  Low glycemic foods take longer (e.g. beans, vegetables, fruits) than high glycemic foods (white bread, breakfast cereals, pretzels, etc).  More details if you're interested here
  • Generally 30-50% of your diet should be carbs
  • Carbs are your main fuel source for regular training
Protein repairs muscle damage, strengthens the immune system, makes hormones and enzymes, and is a small source of energy.  Training in essence is all about breaking down your muscle fibers through exercise, then rebuilding them stronger, so protein is key.
  • "Complete proteins" have all of the essential amino acids, and those only come from animal sources.  Since amino acids can't be stored for long periods, vegetarians and vegans need to get these amino acids from supplements
  • The average athlete needs 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  In other words, a 150 lb cyclist needs 3-6 ounces of protein daily.
  • 15-35% of your diet should be protein

So with that general knowledge, what does it all mean for you as an athlete?  

Before you train (especially efforts longer than 1 hour):  Eat something 30-60 minutes before you start training.  Experiment with what works.  Some love half a banana, others prefer half a bagel with peanut butter, others prefer a protein bar.  In the beginning it may cause some GI discomfort, in which case try either smaller amounts or something different next time.  The morning of the race you will have to eat something, so figure out in your training what works best.  I generally find I need some protein and carbs, so half of a bagel with peanut butter works best for me.

While you train (esp. efforts longer than an hour):  Here it's really going to be a matter of what your stomach can handle.  If you're out there for 1, 2, 3, 5, or more hours, you need to take in some fuel while you are running.  Gatorade, Powerade, there are a ton of different sports drinks out there.  Experiment with what you like and what your stomach can handle.  You'll need to either carry a bottle with you or have someone meet you periodically during your session.  I'll do a separate post just on how to drink during your run.

After you train:  Once you stop exercising, the first 20 minutes are a key window where you can take in fuel.  The goal is to take in some water, protein and sugar in that window to help your body start repairing itself, so chocolate milk actually works pretty well (milk has protein, and the chocolate version has sugar).  The Keynan runners typically drink tea with lots of milk and sugar. Most sports drinks have the water and sugar, but few have protein (since they are designed to be drunk during training, and protein is hard to digest while you're exercising).  For the first 20-30 minutes after exercising, your body is like a sponge for these things, and after that window it is harder for the body to process them.  If you're going somewhere to do your run, bring something for afterwards so you have it ready as soon as you stop.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's time to start training!

I neglected to post a reminder last week, but if you're following my training plan it's time to start that training!  You can read about the plan here:

About the training schedule

or you can just download the pdf directly here (I added the full date range to each row to make it easier to read):

The training schedule pdf

If you forgot or weren't able to start, no worries but it's time to start this week then!  Remember, you don't have to do it every day, aim for 3 or (ideally) 4 times a week.  Will it be hard to make the time to do it?  Almost certainly, but starting out is the hardest part.  Once you get in the habit/routine, it becomes much easier!  So get out there, even if you can only do 10 minutes that first time!  That's 10 minutes more than just sitting on the sofa, and you can do some amazing things just by getting out there.

A tip for motivating yourself to train is what I call public accountability.  Letting people know how it's going is going to force yourself to get out there so you have something to say.  Let me (and your fellow teammates!) know how it went by adding a comment!

As always, let me know if you have any questions, that's why I'm here!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What do I need to start the training?

For a new runner, you'll hear people talking about the newest gadget, apparel item, shoe design, water bottle holder, and so much more that it's bewildering.  Here's my list of what you definitely need, recommended stuff, and optional stuff.

Definitely need:

  • Running shoes.  I've already discussed this in a previous post, but get yourself some shoes, leave the barefoot running to those who have been doing this for quite a while and know what to expect.
  • Socks:  Most people don't give a lot of thought to their socks, but they are pretty important.  The main thing is you don't want cotton socks.  Cotton absorbs moisture, so when your feet start to sweat, cotton socks can give you blisters, no fun.  Get yourself a few pairs of performance athletic socks.  They may go by names like Coolmax, Dri-Fit, or any multitude of other names, and just about any of them will work fine.  Personally, I buy whatever's cheapest at TJMax/Ross/Marshalls/Amazon, normally they run about $2/pair and usually sold in 3-packs.  The new fad these days is compression socks.  I don't have a lot of experience with these personally, but some people seem to love them and others don't.  The scientific research shows there is a small benefit to wearing them (there's no difference while you're actually running, but you seem to recover a little faster the following days), but for a beginning runner the benefit is really minor/negligible, so wear them if you think they are comfortable or cute, but don't expect them to make a 10 mile run seem like 3 miles!
  • Shorts/tights/shirt/sportsbra:  There are a ton of options out there, and again it's really going to be personal preference.  Just like socks, my advice is to stay away from cotton, it just gets really heavy and clammy when you start sweating, whereas the performance fabrics will stay much lighter.  Try some on and see what feels comfortable
  • Watch:  Get a digital sportswatch that has an interval timer.  You'll have to look at the fine print to see if it has it, but it will make doing your run/walk intervals so much easier (you can set the intervals so it beeps at you when you should start/stop each interval).  Type "interval timer watch" on Amazon and a bunch of things come up around $25-$35.  There are also lots of free apps for smartphones that do the same thing these days, so that works as well if you want to carry your phone.
Recommended stuff:
  • Hat/Sunglasses/Sunscreen:  The bulk of summer is over, but a hat and sunglasses can give you protection from the sun.  
  • If you live in extreme weather conditions, you'll eventually probably want to get some gloves, a warm hat, etc.  They don't have to be expensive.  For gloves, I normally use the type you can buy at the dollar store, and cheap gardening gloves work great too.
  • Water bottle holder:  You won't need this early on, but it's pretty handy when you get to running 6+ miles at a time.  We'll talk about how much you should be drinking during the run later, but it is important to drink.  There are a ton of different styles (ones you hold in your hand, one big bottle at the small of your back, lots of little bottles that go around your waist, etc), personal preference as to what works best for you.  
  • Foam roller:  This will come in handy if you start getting tight muscles and your significant other doesn't want to give you daily massages.  Some people will never need it, and others will find they've got really tight hamstrings or hips or calves and a foam roller will keep them healthy.  Generally about $20 on Amazon, I've bought them at Target/WalMart before as well in the yoga/fitness section.
  • Sports gels:  You won't need these for at least a couple of months, but I'll recommend trying a variety of flavors and brands and pick the ones you like.  Some of the common brands are PowerGel, Gu, ShotBlocks, Cliffshots, and many others.  You don't need them for the short runs, but when you start going out there for 2+ hours, they are a huge help

    Optional stuff:
    • Just about everything else.  GPS watches, expensive running jackets, etc.  For example, a $300 GPS watch will tell you that you ran 7.0 miles.  Alternatively, you can go to a computer and use a website like, map out your route and it will tell you the same for free.  They are great and some people swear by them, but certainly they fall in the category of fun gadget rather than an essential need.
    • Smartphone apps:  I've really only used Nike Plus, it works great but I know there are a ton of other alternatives that others like.  
    Safety note:
    • Lots of people like to run with music, some claim they can't run without it.  The organization I coached with previously had someone who was hit by a car while listening to music during a run.  If you're going to do it, be smart and don't have the volume up so high that you can't hear anything around you. 
    • If you're going to be out at night, make sure to get some reflective stuff so cars can see you!