The long standing joke for half marathoners and full marathoners is to carb-load the night before with a big plate of pasta.
The truth is, much more planning goes into proper pre-race nutrition than just simply overloading the night before. More importantly, if you planned on doing it all in one meal, you may end up hindering your performance with fatigue, gut issues, and inflammation.
For those of you who are just starting your running journey you may be wondering, what is carb-loading? Carbohydrates in the form of glycogen are your body’s preferred fuel and for races lasting longer than 1.5-2 hours, filling up these fuel stores are key to helping you go the distance.
Athletes need carbs to maximize the stores of glycogen in their muscles and liver. Your body only has so much room for this fuel source, so carb stores are needed to help you maintain your energy. Ever hear someone say they, “hit the wall” or “bonked”? These terms are other favorites and refer to your body running out of fuel. When you run out of your energy source your pace may start to slow, your muscle will cramp, and fatigue will set in. Through carb-loading, athletes have excess carbs stored in the liver making it easier for their bodies to release during races and long runs. Carbs also help with hydration. For every gram of stored glycogen there are four grams of water stored along with it. Hydration is extremely important factor when racing.
What does carbo loading look like?
It is always a good idea to gradually introduce any new stimulus into a training or nutrition plan. Carb-loading should be no different. Runners should prepare to increase their carb intake little by little prior to their event. This will ensure you have excess glycogen in your liver for your muscles to feed from during endurance exercises.
What are some best practices for carb loading?
Typically you should start carb-loading three to four days out from a race. In general you will need to slowly add more of a mixture of carbohydrates such as rice, legumes, potatoes into your meals. As you gradually increase your intake of carbs per meal, you will want to eat less fat and fiber.
Carb heavy meals, without practice and nutrition training on the gut, can cause extreme stomach upset. Be sure not to go overboard on the carbs.
The day before the race, stick to only simple carbs that are easily digestible.
Common Mistake When Carb Loading
Consuming all the carbs in one sitting
Doing this does not give your body enough time to fill its stores properly. It can leave you lethargic for the rest of the day and the following morning!
Eating more than you usually do
You've worked so hard in your training, do not deviate too much from what you have done in your build up. Yes it is important to top off your glycogen stores but it does not mean “stuff yourself” to get fuller glycogen stores. You are simply adjusting each meal to have a larger carbohydrate component.
Don't look at the scale
Gaining weight while carb-loading is natural. That’s because carbs help you retain water. Remember that for every gram of stored glycogen, you’re storing 4 grams of water. If you gain some weight, that’s actually a good thing. It means your body has the fuel and hydration ready to race.
Eating too much fiber
As you increase your carbs, runners should reduce their fiber intake in the last three days prior to a race. This is because fiber can be taxing on the GI system.
Experimenting with carb loading for the first time
You never want to “try” something new on race day. It is best to always plan ahead of a couple of long runs in your build up with some carb loading meals so that you know what to expect and how your body will respond.
Practicing will help you dial in your carb-loading plan just like you dial in your race nutrition plan. Then, once you know what works best for you, pre-plan your meals the last three days so you cannot stress about what to eat.
Not eating enough carbs
Runners typically eat healthy and know how to fuel themselves during their training. Race week can be a slight exception for those following low carb eating habits.
Not drinking enough when carb loading
Not all carbs are created equal.
There are different types of sugars: fructose, sucrose, glucose. Different carbohydrates have different ways to reach the bloodstream. Therefore, runners need to consider of what they’re drinking with what carbs they’re eating.
“Sports drinks contains fructose, glucose, and sucrose which are different sources of carbohydrates. They contain some sodium which helps with the transportation of glucose, meaning sodium is an important part of carbohydrate utilization." Running, and more specifically faster or higher intensity aerobic running, predominantly uses glycogen which is the body’s stored carbohydrate source. Eating a high proportion of carbs in the days leading up to an important race can ensure that glycogen stores are topped up, thus providing a runner with the maximum available fuel for the upcoming hard effort.
Do all races require carbo loading? No.
The body has enough glycogen stored to last for about 75-90 minutes. For most runners, this equates to doing a 5K, 10K, 15k, and maybe a half marathon without having drained glycogen stores. If this is the case, and assuming you already eat carbs as part of a healthy diet, you shouldn’t worry about carbo-loading before the race. As it was mentioned earlier, eating too many carbs may hinder your performance as you may feel bloated or lethargic the next day due to the additional water retained as part of the glycogen building process and ingesting too many carbs.
Those who are running 75 minutes or more however—running a half-marathon, marathon, and ultra marathon it would be well advised to consider adding extra carbs to their pre-race diet. Again it is recommended to do this in the two-to-three days prior to the race given that you have already practiced this method in a couple long runs.
A good guideline is to aim for seven to eight grams of carbs per kilogram body weight three days before the race; eight to 10 grams per kilogram two days before and 10 to 12 the day before. This will ensure that your glycogen stores are topped up and provide you with the most available stored fuel for the race.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have not practiced carb-loading, do not worry! This will not make or break your race. It won't undo any of the training you've put in. Your race day nutrition can will play a huge role in managing your energy stores during the race.
When I try to think of words to encompass running, the following come to mind: movement, outside, routine, endorphins, happiness, camaraderie, community, drive, endurance, mental health, positivity, appreciation, challenge, grit, and strength.
Start the Morning off Right
I get my main run completed most mornings or with an evening shake out if I can. Running in the morning really does set me my productivity level and brain functionality for the day. Going out before work for a few miles, coming home getting showered, and ready to go to work puts me in a positive mindset to attack the work day. No one has ever said they really regretted going for a run. If anything, most people would tend to agree that missing their run sets their day up incorrectly.
While most people's reasoning for not running, its difficulty, is one of the reasons why I like running. For me, if something is not easy, it isn't worth it. Some days you really don’t want to go out for a run but when I finish we feel like you have accomplished getting closer to your goal (fitness, a particular race, mental clarity, etc.).
Running is a form of endurance and is an ongoing battle in your head. It is so easy to give up, but what does that accomplish? Whether it’s to go out and run on your own for a few miles, run your first marathon or complete your first ultra run. The physical element of it all is important; however, how you train yourself mentally is where you need to practice. Breaking your race into smaller, do-able, segments, what are your motivations for the race, trust in your training, and be positive.. Overcoming your mental battles empowers you in other aspects of your life when challenges are thrown at you.
The Key is Consistency
Running most days feels like a routine and delivers some consistency in my life. It is routine, it is just something you do without question or thought.
Since I’ve been running I’m a lot more driven at work. Completing big, challenging races gives you the ability to think that you can achieve a lot more in work and no task seems insurmountable. It definitely gives you a positive mindset and a can do attitude.
Running has made me fitter, healthier and I think more about my diet. Everyone still loves that after long run pizza; however, running definitely has made me think more about what I am putting in my body and focus on how I can recover fast, fuel correctly, and make better choices.
I have made a lot of friends through running through running clubs, races, park runs, events and Strava. The whole running community is so friendly and there is so much camaraderie. Everyone is always lifting each other up.
Get out in Nature
Opt outside! Running has given me the ability to travel the world, enjoy local trails, and heal my connection with nature.
The 24-hour race. No set mileage distance, just a set time. The runner's goal in this event is to see how far she/he run within 24-hours. For some, it may be to qualify for the US 24-hour team. If this is the case, then you do have a set mileage you need to hit. Men 145 miles and women 130 miles. Usually the race is held on a looped course or a 400 meter track.
In a common ultramarathon, where the distance is set, your intentions are probably more focused on setting a new PR. Exploring how much faster you can complete 50 miles or 100 kilometers. In a 24-hour event on the other hand, you want to establish a target distance. It is really up to you on how far you want to go. What is the amount of mileage that is achievable for you? You apparently have to base the feasibility on what you accomplished during your training thus far.
Setting your pace is just as important as deciding the amount of mileage you want to run. In fact, this decision is going to be your main pre-race planning scenario. Some runners deciding to start the race in a fast gear and then shift to a lower gear as the day turns into night. Other runners will begin slowly and attempt to finish stronger. However, then there are those who plan to maintain a steady pace all through 24-hours. Runners moving fast on the course usually take longer rest periods; while those who go slow and steady almost never leave the course except for shorter breaks.
It can be helpful to break down the day into more digestible morsels and set your run/walk strategy accordingly. 24-hour races are more of an intervals game. This type of training run should should have been a focus, along with practicing with a timer set according to your planned pace.
Besides needing a long holding charge watch, you’re going to need fuel and extra gear. The importance of replenishing lost calories and fluids plan a huge role in how you will perform. Make a plan for how many times you’re going to change shoe, socks and other clothing. Prepare for inclement weather - bring a waterproof jacket, etc. First Aid medication and tools to treat your blisters/chafing. 24-hour events allow for ample crew and aid station accessibility.
Take especial note of how you plan to stay up and running through the night. When it’s the graveyard shift, caffeine is going to be friend.
Preparing your mind
Most of us ultrarunners get fulfillment in set distances and running through beautiful trails. Seeing varied landscapes can certainly take your mind off the numerous aches. A 24-hour track race with its looping course however doesn’t offer such an advantage. After one loop you have probably memorized every detail of the course - and that is fairly boring. That is why it is recommended to divide the day into intervals. Counting how many hour are left can just discourage you. 30 or 10 minute distance goals can help your sanity.
DON'T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR OUR EAST COAST 24 HOUR TRACK EVENT!
pFor most it is the internal, personal challenge that runners seek when deciding to train for a half/full marathon. You might want to test your limits and prove to yourself that you can go the distance. Or maybe it was one of your pushy runner friends who said, “it will be so much fun!” Whatever reason you had that made you commit to the training, remind yourself of it often during the months that lie ahead. When your legs are tired or the weather is nasty, maintaining your motivation will help you get out the door.
Starting to Run
Start planning early: It is important that marathoners run a consistent base mileage for at least a year before embarking on a full marathon training program. Building base mileage for half marathoners takes about 6 months time.
What is a building a base?
A running base is like the foundation of your house. The foundation supports the demands of progressive mileage and intensity that comes with a training plan. It is the bridge that connects your racing seasons together and prepares your mind/body for the harder efforts during training and racing. When you begin a training plan, it starts out at a low level and continues to build week to week until it peaks just before race day.
One of the most common causes of injury is building weekly mileage too quickly—we cannot stress enough “DO NOT underestimate the importance of consistently running at least 20–30 miles a week regularly before committing to training for a marathon”. Start small: Running a few shorter races—5Ks-10ks before a half marathon and 10ks-half marathons before your marathon.
Deciding on that First Marathon
Marathons range from quiet, low-key races on backcountry roads to spectator-lined urban races with tens of thousands of runners. Choosing a marathon close to home may offer a "home field advantage" with the opportunity to train on the course’s roads; on the other hand, choosing a "destination" race can really stoke your motivation.
Primary Building Blocks of Marathon Training
Most marathon training plans range from 12 to 20 weeks. Beginning marathoners should aim to build their weekly mileage up to 50 miles over the four months leading up to race day. Six runs per week is adequate giving yourself one day off for recovery. The majority of these runs should be run at an easy enough pace to be able to carry on a conversation. When building base mileage, never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from week to week.
The Long Run
Your next step is to build up to a weekly long run. This should be done once a week on either a Saturday or Sunday. Your long run will extend about 10% every two weeks. Every 4 weeks, scale it back by a few miles so as not to overtax your body and risk injury. For example, you might run 13 miles one weekend, 14 miles the next, then 15 miles, and then 13 again before moving on to 16 on the fifth weekend.
A long slow distance “LSD” is substantially slower pace than usual, it builds confidence, lets your body adjust to longer distances, and teaches you to burn fat for fuel. Long runs for half marathon training can train up to 10 miles and most marathon training plans usually peak at a long run of 20-22miles. With proper training, your body will take advantage of the peak fitness state your body will be in, the recovery and rest you offer it during a tapering period, and the race adrenaline and ambience of race day will provide you the rest of the miles needed to complete your distance.
Speed work is an critical, albeit, optional, element to incorporate into your training program. Speed sessions increase aerobic capacity and make your easy runs feel even easier. Intervals and tempo runs are the most popular forms of speed work.
Intervals are a set of repetitions of a specific, short distance, run at a substantially faster pace than usual, with recovery jogs in between. For example, 6X 1 minute hard pace, with 1 minute of slow jogging (or even walking) between the repeats.
Tempo runs are longer than an interval—generally in the range of 30-60 minutes, depending on where you are in your training. During a tempo run you will run at a challenging, but sustainable, pace. This teaches you physically and mentally how to sustain challenging work over a longer period of time. Remember, it is important to always allow your body to warm up and cool down with a few easy miles at the beginning and end of any speed session.
Rest and Recovery
Rest days mean no running. They let your muscles recover from the week's workouts and help prevent the greatest enemy of of any runner - injury.
If you are really needing some activity on your recovery days, doing some cross-training is a great option. Nothing high impact.
Tapering: In the two or three weeks leading up to your marathon, scale back significantly on overall mileage and difficulty of your runs to let your body rest up for race day.
Hydrating on the run
Nearly all half/full marathons include water and aid stations along the way. If you plan to carry your own water on race day, buy a hydration pack long in advance and get accustomed to running with it. Never try something new on race day.
Fueling on the run
Many marathoners tell the tale of "hitting the wall" or "bonking." Your body can only store so much glycogen. As this level gets depleted over the course of your marathon, your muscles will begin to tire and feel heavy. Consuming small amounts of carbohydrates can help prevent you from hitting the dreaded wall.
Again, be sure to practice fueling on your training runs to see what your stomach tolerates best, so you can fuel confidently on race day.
Full/half marathon training takes a lot of time and you are running for long periods of time and usually at early hours. Joining a training group provides direction and friends for mental, physical, and emotional support, along with safety.
There are two basic ways to keep track of your running—by time or by distance. with so many tech tools designed to track your mileage with considerable accuracy it makes this debate even hotter amongst the running community. Truthfully, there are advantages and disadvantages to each method and the one that you choose should depend on your specified needs and preferences.
Running by time often works better if you are on a tight schedule; while running by distance can push you to stay motivated. If your running a consistent pace, your mileage and speed will likely be the same no matter which method you choose. A good idea is to run by time for each individual run, but be sure to track your overall mileage for the week to be sure that you are running enough miles or not running too many miles.
Running for Time
One reason to run for time is that it is easy to fit a run into your daily routine. When you only have a certain amount of time available, a timed run ensures that you can get in a workout without having to worry about hitting a certain distance.
Running for Distance
If your training for a longer event, running by distance can be an important factor. Covering a certain set number of miles each run can be motivating at times and it encourages you to keep a continuous pace so that you can achieve your day's goal.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is a good idea is to run by time for each individual run, but be sure to track your overall mileage for the week. Personally I like to run 60-75 minutes 6 days a week and then have a specific mileage goal for my long run. But, when things are not feeling easy, it is nice to switch gears and make your long run 2 hours - no set mileage. Time on your feet is what matters, not pace, and not mileage - especially as a beginner.
The 1st annual Run it to the Summit is taking place Sunday, August 1st at Song Mountain Resort. The two LIVE race options are available - Single Summit boasting 594 feet of elevation gain in no less than a half mile AND the Double Summit boasting 1,188 feet of elevation gain.
This year's first Double Summit event has some great competition in both the female and male categories.
Double Summit Contenders:
Laura Kline: Laura's resume is substantial to say the least. A break down of Laura's accomplishments: Triathlons: 2013 Ironman All World Athlete in the 35-39 Age Group, All-American Triathlete in 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2013, and Represented Team USA in 2008. Duathlons: 1st in the 35-39 Age Group at the 2015 ITU Long Course Duathlon, World Championship (8th Overall Female), 2014 Long Course Duathlon National Champion, and 2012 Short Course Duathlon World Champion. Ultra Running: 2nd Place – 2018 USATF 50k road National Championship, 2nd Place – 2016 USATF 50k road National Championship, and so many more.
Erika Zazzara: When it comes to discipline, Erika's name always comes to mind. Erika has a long history of cycling prior to her entry into the Ultra Running scene. Erika's running break down: 2019 Morgan Hill Meat Grinder Marathon/2020 Morgan Hill Meat Grinder Half Marathon - 2nd place female/1st place female; 2019 Frosty Fat Sass 6 hour - 1st Place female; 2020 Table Rock Challenge - Last One Standing - 2nd place female, and English's Ridge Rumble 2018 10 miler and 2020 20 miler - 1st place female.
Lee Berube: Lee is the favorite male contender coming into this race. Lee holds multiple FKTs in the ADK mountains, 2017/2018 Whiteface Sky VK - 1st, 2021 Mount Washington Road Race - 3rd place. His uphill abilities seem to be strengthening with each race he does.
C Fred Josyln: C Fred has been a well known marathoner in the Syracuse area before moving to Pennsylvania to continue on the C Fred racing tradition of powerful, strong, running. Fred's PR in the marathon 2:18 at the Rock & Roll Marathon in New Orleans. The 2016 Camusett 50k - 2nd place earning him a spot on the USA Road 50K Championship Team. Send 'em Fred.
Jason Mintz: With a tally of 22 Top 3 placements out of his recorded 34 Ultrasignup races, it is safe say Jason is a strong contender. He has always had a way of just jumping into a race at any point of his training and throwing down miles and pace with surprising ease. Jason has run five 100 milers (including Western States 100), 2020 Cactus Crusher 20 miler - 1st place, and 2020 Morgan Hill Meat Grinder Marathon - 4th place.
Eric Boyce: Eric is a strong uphill and mountain runner from Central New York. He is a huge advocate for growing the running community in all forms from track to road to trail and mountain. He just recently finished 16th (5th Master) at Mount Washington Road Race. He is also putting on his own mountain race...Swain Mountain which is 6 days after Run it to the Summit!
AJ Beers: AJ is one of the dark horses for taking the win. He just recently broke 16min for the 5K and is very good at climbing and mountain running. We are very happy to have him participate in this event.
WAY TO GO WOMEN!!!! 59% of Run it to the Summit participants are women!!! Women are up to the challenge and ready to run!
According to Livestrong.com in 2019, "About 77% of trail runners are men and 23% are women. The percent of women trail runners has increased from 18% in 2013 to 26% in 2019." Our stats are proving the growth of participation amongst women in the running scene and we could not be happier!
RUNNER SPOTLIGHT! Elene Numerget
If you have met Elene or chatted with her through the OneNY Facebook group, you will know about her journey into running. Elene is venturing into the unknown by signing up for Run it to the Summit, having only done a few trail races.
In 2014, Elene was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes - at the weight of 300 lbs and causing harm to her health. It was then that Elene changed everything realizing she had her daughter needed to live for. Elene was on the right path and lost a bunch of weight and even began running a little.
Then in February 2015, Elene's younger sister, Diana, was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma. One of the worst brain cancers imaginable. It came as a shock since her sister was the healthiest of the 3 siblings (a huge runner who had done multiple marathons including Boston in 2004). This news shook Elene's world. Elene kept moving even through the difficulty. Diana kept fighting and running while having experimental treatment at Duke (she was a professor there), but passed away on New Year’s Eve. Elene began to struggle with depression and her weight inched up; however, this did not stop her from continuing to control her diabetes through diet, medication, and exercise.
In 2016, Elene made a vow to complete 43 races in Diana’s memory…42 for her age and 1 more for Elene. Elene accomplished her first 5k in 57 minutes and her latest 5k she accomplished in 38 minutes!! In 2017, Elene needed to do something about her health and started the process to get bariatric surgery. That finally happened on 12/4/2018 and since then, she has gotten down 85 lbs. Elene has so far completed more than 60 races in Diana’s memory! Elene says that Run it to the Summit is looking to be the toughest event to date; but, she is more than up for the challenge! We know she will do great!
The Church of the Long Slow Distance (LSD) that all runners attend services at each weekend. 20%-30% of your weekly mileage should come from your long run (i.e. someone running 40 miles per week might do a 12-mile long run (30 percent of weekly mileage)).
Benefits from running long.
Key physiological adaptations that occur in the body during a long run are:
When you run long, you increase the enzymes within your muscle cells and grow capillaries/mitochondria. This allows for more oxygen to be delivered to the working muscles. You also strengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the process. Physiological adaptations like these will even help you in shorter races like the 5K; as it is still primarily an aerobic activity. The stronger your muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments become, the more efficient you become in race-specific training.
Other benefits from your long run:
How far is far enough?
The LSD is performed once a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday. Runners whom not looking to complete an upcoming marathon, should look at where their current level of physical fitness is at to know how far they should reach. Runners that are not used to running long, must slowly progress their running time up to 90 minutes. This will properly stimulate the body's adaptations. Once the body is adapted, they can continue to progress their runs up to 2 hours. Basically, progression is the key word.
While you are adapting to running longer, your attention should not be focused on pace. You want to run at a conversational pace, if it feels too hard then it probably is. Tempo runs and workouts are for building lactate threshold and long runs are not. They should be carried out at a comfortable and conversational pace, as stated. Once 90 minutes feels comfortable, try to finish the last 15 minutes of your long run quicker - pushing at the end.
How can you tell if you are ready to up your mileage and that you are adapting?
So, you have made the decision to begin your running journey, congratulations! Running is a great sport that provides a variety of both physical and mental benefits. Running is an activity that helps to improve aerobic fitness, weight loss, reduce stress, increase lung capacity, lower cholesterol, and a way to find solitude or a way to meet an entire overly welcoming community.
Initial Cost : $0 - $200
Another benefit to running is that it is very low cost to start. It is recommended that a good pair of shoes, some moisture wicking clothing, and a positive attitude is all that you need to get going. Although for some, even these few items are not a necessity to purchase to get started. If you are new to running, below are just some general prices for some of the essential gear that you might want to consider if your a starting out.
1. Shoes - $80-$130
Shoes can vary in price depending on your needs. Finding the right shoe can be somewhat daunting if you are new or even just getting back after a long break. Going to a specialty running store is a good idea to get a feel for what pair of running shoes are comfortable for your foot and running style.
2. Clothing - $15-$75
Running gear like shorts, tanks, tights are all made out of lightweight moisture wicking material. They will help keep you dry (drier) and comfortable in all types of weather conditions. While these aren't a necessity, they will definitely aid you in your running. Getting new gear is also a motivator on somedays, because who doesn't want to go out on a run wearing some new threads?!
3. Safety Gear- $15-$75
This is not a necessity but it might be something to consider, especially if you run alone often. There are many items out there that are meant to keep runners safe depending on the environment being run in (night, winter, for self defense, etc).
4. Sports Watch- $15-$300
Again, this is not a necessity but there are several different types of watches that can track all types of data to keep a runner on track in their training plan. The benefit of a watch vs a phone is that depending on the technology / person, it can provide a connection to the outside world or not and they are lightweight and water resistant.
Use the Run/Walk method. This method is a great way to begin your running. It allows you to adapt to running at the right intensity as well as build the muscular skeletal system to handle the forces that running places on the body. This plan gradually increases the portions of run vs walk so that running becomes the preferred activity of transportation.
Workouts and Intensity
Make It Manageable. Workouts might be challenging in the beginning, but they shouldn't be so hard that you never want to run again or can't due to injury. For workouts, doing a proper warm up is essential. This will help prepare you physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. During each workout, begin at a comfortable level and gradually raise the intensity slightly. A good measure of intensity is if you can complete a full sentence of speaking while you are running then it is at the right level.
Aim for consistency in your new running program rather than speed or distance. Establish a weekly running schedule to get into a regular running habit.
Everyone's running form is slightly different but there are a few key aspects that a new runner should keep in mind. It is important to be mindful of your form, but don't allow it to hinder your enjoyment. Proper form can lead to a more efficient runner. There are a few tips to follow. Remember to stay upright, run 'tall' and relaxed, keep your head lifted and look up ahead so that you can see other runners / cars coming. Your arms should swing naturally back and forth from the shoulder joint (rather than your elbow joint). There should be a 90-degree bend at the elbow. Your hand should almost graze your hip as it moves back and forth.
Nutrition and Hydration
Be aware of your eating and hydration habits. The timing and content of what you eat and drink will effect your running. Again, each individual is different and each weather condition requires different fueling/hydration. Immediately before and during your runs, less is generally more. If the run is generally going to be an hour or less, your nutrition and hydration needs are most likely going to be met in the days / hours before you run, and then after your run.
When you first start your running program, you'll probably feel excited and energized about your new commitment. But, you're likely to experiences challenges along the way and these will test your motivation. In challenging times, relying on other peoples experiences can be very helpful. Many runners join a group. This can either mean physically or joining an online group that you can ask questions or advice. Different types of running groups appeal to different types of runners. There are groups that run to train for a specific race, groups that focus on the social aspects of running, and even groups that run for charity or for a common cause.
There are many different platforms to track your runs. When you feel like you are at a low point, it is a good idea to look at all the progress you've made. If you feel that you haven't been doing enough, then you can start making a change. If you have been doing too much then you can adjust as well.
Find a Race
A race may or may not be on every runner's radar but it certainly can help you focus your training and motivation. There are so many different types of races for every kind of runner, and each one can offer up different levels of swag, environment, competition, etc. Whether you do well or not at these races, the running community is there to support you in your result, good or bad.
May is mental health awareness month. May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help. COVID-19 was instrumental in the boom of new runners this past year which sparked our interest in coaching/nutrition into finally becoming a legal business. Seeing so many people starting to run and become invested in their health not knowing where to begin, their next steps and having so many general questions made us want to reach out to everyone and lend a hand. Running is not only beneficial physically but also mentally.
"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
I, Lauren, am no stranger to mental health worries. I suffered/suffer from crippling anxiety and I cannot explain the triggers of it some days. Anxiety takes away many of your freedoms, you become prisoner to it and it controls your emotions as well. Anxiety tried to take away my passion of running but my deep determination to want more and more from running forced me to consistently lace up my shoes, even it was just to the treadmill or an out and back near my house. Running made me feel alive, feeling the blood rushing through my veins, the pulse under my skin, and the mental clarity. I am very open about needing Trintellix for depression (depressed because I have anxiety) and Xanax for calming me down when I am experiencing turmoil. Being open about my anxiety helped me to get a sense of control over it. If someone knew that I was having a difficult moment, it made me feel more relaxed about my feelings and could get under control faster.
For those trying to find something to keep their mind quiet or to channel their energy physical exercise has many health benefits. Taking your running outside in an open space on the roads or trail has other benefits, like lessening feelings of loneliness and isolation, a feeling of a sense of achievement, completing a goal. When you exercise and run, chemicals are released into your body that improve your mood. These naturally produced chemicals in your body floods your bloodstream and moves into the brain. This provides short-term feelings of reduced stress and calm. These chemical are called endorphins and serotonin. Running regularly can improve your mental health, reduce stress ( blood circulation to the brain is increased and the part of your brain that responds to stress and improves your mood is affected. This causes a change that temporarily improves your reaction to stressful situations), depression, and anxiety. your sleep habits, your memory, and ability to learn.
The key take-away for people who are not running is that just getting started is important. Through only a few minutes of running a day and building up gradually, you can start to experience all the benefits listed above. For instance, some brain imaging studies have shown that within ten minutes of doing a light jog you can get the rapid electrical activity in the hippocampus (Hippocampus is a complex brain structure embedded deep into temporal lobe. It has a major role in learning and memory. It is a plastic and vulnerable structure that gets damaged by a variety of stimuli. Studies have shown that it also gets affected in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders. - ncbi.com), giving you some real mental health benefits. The hippocampus is really important for emotional processing. If you look at conditions like dementia, cognitive impairment or even depression, this area of the brain shrinks. Also, running results in an increase in activity the anterior cortex - the key problem-solving and emotional resilience. For people who are already running there are continued benefits going up in a linear fashion from 30 minutes to about 300 minutes a week, where we believe the mental health benefits start to plateau.
New research overseen by Stubbs on a small group of elite and everyday athletes produced some startling improvements in brain activity after just 20 minutes of running. The everyday athletes saw an improvement of up to 29% in their ability to deal with stress and an% increase of up to 18% in relaxation levels. There was also a drop of up to 135% in their frustration levels, and they became less prone to making rash decisions. (https://www.coachmag.co.uk/mental-health/8602/how-running-can-improve-your-mental-health)
Resources for mental health advocacy:
A spike in the popularity of the Vertical Kilometer (VK) Racing is on the rise. So, what is a VK? A VK is the practice of running uphill as fast as possible. Competitors charge up steep mountains climbing 1000m over a course usually no longer than 5km.
Smaller versions of VKs are popping up everywhere calling themselves Uphill Challenges. These challenges are found mainly in the US, as we do not have the ample amount elevation in our "mountains" like our European competitors do. Even though we do not have the elevation, uphill challenges still present an enormous physical demand and quick increase in elevation or a short amount of miles.
Regardless of your race title, VK or Uphill Challenge, how do you train for such an event?
1. Find a hill and stick with it
While a big aerobic base and fast flat road running can give you the cardio output to do well in a VK race, you will need to practice your uphill running mechanics in order to adapt to running on a steep grade. However, you don’t need to move to the Alps to train. Simply choose a local hill and sprint up it. Sprints should be in duration from 8-15 seconds. At the end of each repeat, jog slowly back down before beginning the next effort.
This is a very demanding workout and aimed at increasing your climbing power and efficiency. A proper warm up is essential and it is a good idea to start your sprints at a conservative effort and build your speed as you get a few reps under you.
2. Light feet
Find a light shoe that has lugs that can "bite" into the ground. Over any distance carrying the least amount of weight will be beneficial and will add up. Shoes that provide traction will help your grip and prevent you from sliding backwards when the terrain gets steep.
3. Know the course and what it entails
In my first mountain race I made a huge error in that I did not study the course well enough. Grades on paper / pictures do not do justice to how steep and difficult a course can be! During my race I was not mentally prepared for all the climbing and I came out wishing I had done more in my preparation.
4. Mental preparation
As I mentioned above, preparing yourself for the course, and what lies ahead in your effort level and the physical exertion placed on muscles that you don't normally use in flat road running is critical. The perceived exertion in these uphill / VK races will be higher than what you will have for a road 5k or 10k race. It's very important to manage your expectations and effort level so that you can finish the race strong!
It may not seem like an important factor in timing your eating for a race so short, however, your body will be burning a lot of calories and working extremely hard. I would suggest practicing your fueling strategy and pre-race meal such that you are able to get the most of yourself on race day.
6. Take a deep breath
As you stand on the starting line, breath in deep and relax. Your training is complete and you have made it to the start. Running up a mountain is daunting but it is also fun!
7. Short quick strides
Similar to cycling or driving a car with a small engine up a hill, using a low "gear" will be an efficient way to get up the mountain. What this means in running is that you want to take short, quick strides and focus on taking one step at a time.
8. Power hike
There have been studies that have shown that on inclines steeper than 28%, athletes can reduce their energy expenditure by walking.
Lean your torso over your hips and push hard on your leading leg. The idea is that you can push down hard on your legs with your arms and thereby transfer more power into your legs. Some races offer the use of hiking poles to aid in climbing. Since power hiking is a new movement to some, it is good to practice in order to become efficient. So get out there and practice! Your body will thank you on race day!
9. Leave it all on the course
These races finish on the summit. Once the finish line comes into view and you can feel the top, the last five minutes of racing you don't need to worry about pacing yourself. Try as best as you can to accelerate and finish will all that you have! You have made it to the top! If possible eat a snack as you steadily make your way down, and don't forget to cheer your fellow competitors as you go.