What Should I Eat Before A Long Run or Race?

“Food is fuel”

Ah, food. One of my favorite topics. It nourishes our bodies and keeps us alive. It’s delicious and a key part of numerous social events. It also fuels our workouts and aids in recovery of the tough ones.

IMG_3955

This is what my pre-run looks like

Last week, my friend, Trav, embarked on his longest run prior to an upcoming half marathon. With 12 miles on the plan Saturday morning, he asked my advice for what he should eat to help him make it through. Naturally, I was happy to provide my two cents.

On many occasions, I’ve had people ask me what to eat the morning of a run, and also what they should eat the night before a race.

As food is perhaps the most important choice you make before a long run or race – the morning of and the night before – I decided it would be a great topic for this month’s Q&A series.

Q: Why should I eat before a run or race?

A: The basic answer is to eat something that you know won’t upset your stomach, and is enough to fuel your needs without making you feel heavy. Some people focus on fat or protein, while most stick to the tried-and-true carb-load strategy. No matter which you choose, food plays a major role in how well we perform in endurance runs.

The most important piece of advice I can give to everyone is experiment and find what works for you. That said, don’t do this experimenting and try something new or wild the night before a your big race. You might wind up with stomach trouble throwing off your entire run.

Here are three each of my top meal suggestions.

The night before:
The right pre-run dinner serves a two-fold purpose: it sits well, leaving you feeling satisfied but not bloated, and it provides proper fuel rich in carbs and some protein. There are three I’ve found that strike a perfect balance.

Dinner

Spinach and zucchini noodle pasta Friday helps me get thru 18, 20, and more miles Saturday

1. Pasta and Garlic Bread
There’s a reason pasta is synonymous with pre-race dinner. This is my classic night- before-a-marathon dinner and I’ve been doing it for years because it has worked well for me. I typically combine spinach-based pasta noodles (not wheat-based) with zucchini noodles, add a few extra veggies, and finish with a red sauce. Carnivores, you could add the meat of your choice. I top it off with two small slices of garlic bread. This one is the heaviest and most carb-rich of my favorites so I typically reserve it for my biggest long runs when my metabolism is at its peak, and the night before a marathon.

2. Pizza
Pizza-lovers rejoice – this food favorite is a great pre-run meal as long as you keep it light. There are so many variations of pizza you can do, from lighter lavosh crust to regular (I’d avoid super thick or deep-dish style), to various meat and veggies. In addition to keeping the crust light, I also recommend going light on cheese and sticking to a basic tomato sauce.

3. Breakfast for Dinner
Eggs, potatoes, and toast or frozen waffles with peanut butter. I’ve found this one, packed with more protein, is the least substantial and carb-rich of the three so it’s not enough for me during marathon season. But, it has proven to be great the night before lower mileage long runs or a 10k race.

The morning of:
Again, everyone’s stomach is different so experiment with your morning fuel on shorter runs to find what works. It’s best to allow at least an hour and a half or more between eating and racing to ensure everything has time to settle.

1. Banana
It’s probably the one you knew was coming and with good reason. Bananas are friendly on most stomachs and provide good carbs without feeling heavy.

2. Toast with Peanut Butter
Another that’s probably not a huge surprise again, because of its ability to digest easily in most of our guts. The peanut butter adds the slow energy release that helps sustain you through the miles.
p.s. This was my recommendation to Trav before his 12-miler.

I personally like to combine the two above; two slices of wheat bread, a light dose of peanut butter, topped with half a banana, sliced. My favorite race-day breakfast.

Gel

When actual food isn’t an option

3. Get or Energy Blocks
There are some who just can’t deal with food in their stomachs the morning of a race. Or, what if you oversleep and have less than an hour from the time you jump out of bed to the moment you step up to the start line? An energy gel or blocks are a great option for both of these scenarios. They offer a few calories, a kick of caffeine, and just enough substance so you’re not running on an empty tank.

With all of these scenarios and, especially with gels or blocks, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Happy running!

Do you have more questions about foods for runners? Or any questions about lifting, running, or working out in general? Submit your question to be answered in an upcoming blog by leaving a comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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The Value, Power, and Importance of Failure

“In order to grow, first we must fail”

It’s here – the week of the 121st Boston Marathon! I’m so excited for, and very jealous of, all the wicked fast runnahs who get to go to the expo and pick up their bib, take in all the energy and sights of the city, and make the trek from Hopkinton down Boylston Street. And, of course, enjoy the victory and a special 26.2 brew.

Cheers

Cheers, runners!

For many, the Boston Marathon represents years of hard work; for others, it represents the ultimate goal; for an entire city, this week brings painful memories yet is an example of people coming together and coming out strong – one might say, #BostonStrong.

The Boston Marathon means something a little different to everyone, from major significance to nothing at all. For me, it has changed throughout the years, starting as a measure of prestige, evolving into a dream, becoming a reality, and now being a special memory.

But more than that, for me the Boston Marathon is an example of the value of failure.

Failure? Isn’t a marathon, especially this one, an example of success?

I’ve shared my journey to the Boston Marathon, my quest to run a marathon in a qualifying time to earn my spot. How hard it was to miss the qualifying mark, not one, but two times, before achieving the goal. How I was able to learn from each failure and apply it to my next training season and race. How my fear of failing nearly got in the way of success.

Signs

Just as we encourage for success, let’s not shy away from supporting acts of failure.

I think that’s the part of my story that’s most important. We’re taught from a young age that failure is a bad thing. It starts with the shame of bringing home a failing grade on the report card. It follows us to adulthood where the word itself takes on a new meaning, becoming more of an adjective or noun than an action (for my non-grammar nerd readers, that means the conversation goes from, “I’m scared to fail,” to, “I’m scared of being a failure.”)

But failure can be a really good thing. It can mean you’re trying something. It can mean you’re going out on a limb. It can mean you’re taking a big risk. And what’s the payoff to a big risk? A big reward. If you never try anything big, you’ll never achieve anything big.

From muscle failure in the gym to personal failures in everyday life, we grow so much more when we fail first.

What have you achieved in life that you can attribute to failure? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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What Is Cupping and Why Should I Try It?

“Embrace the suck – in this case, a literal ‘suck’”

You noticed it on Michael Phelps at the 2016 Olympics. If you follow my friend, KJs Fit Momma, you saw it in her photos. And you’ve likely heard about it, especially within the past year. It’s called cupping – but what exactly is it?

Cupping2

From Mallory to Michael, it seems all the cool kids are cupping

Hallmarked by circular, bruise-like marks on the body, cupping massage is an ancient technique used for therapeutic purposes. Similar to traditional massage in respect to using techniques to mobilize tissue, cupping offers a host of benefits including enhancing blood flow, resetting or calming the nervous system, and reduced muscle tension.

As someone always interested in learning more about strategies to help my body deal with some of my more intense workouts – and, especially now during marathon training season – I was curious about cupping and its benefits for runners, workout enthusiasts, and just in general.

So, I recently sought out a local expert, Dan Senn. Owner of Strength Training and Massage by Dan Senn MS, LMT, CSCS, Senn has been experimenting with cupping for more than a year. He also has an extensive background in kinesiology, exercise physiology, and sports medicine, and was kind enough to share his expertise on cupping – what it is, the benefits it offers, and why it’s something we all should consider trying.

LP: Give us the basics – Cupping 101 if you will!

DS: I guess the most basic description I can give is like sticking the end of the vacuum cleaner hose onto your skin, although the actual experience is much less traumatic. In fact, most clients find it very relaxing shortly after the initial placement of the cups.

LP: Okay, whew, no actual vaccums are involved ha ha – so what exactly happens in a cupping session? Cupping3

DS: Two approaches are generally used; one, moving the cups in various directions, or two, “parking” the cups. Moving, or “rolling” the cups involves slightly pulling the cups away from the body and gently moving the cups over target areas. This technique is very useful for breaking up adhesions and releasing restrictions that prevent our body from moving in a fluid manner in which it was naturally intended to. “Parking” the cups for short periods also allow the suction to “work” on very localized areas such as muscle trigger points, which are often responsible for referred pain.

Cups come in different types, sizes, shapes, and means of creating suction. I prefer to use glass and silicone cups, depending the area worked.

LP: Is cupping like massage, acupuncture, or a type of physical therapy?

DS: Yes absolutely. The difference with massage is it uses pressure applied in various directions, whereas cupping massage uses suction, which is the reverse of pressure. The effects of cupping therapy are similar to regular massage and acupuncture, with the intent of pain or stress reduction, general or specific muscle relaxation, and enhanced movement function.

LP: What’s the “science” behind cupping?

DS: Scientific research is not as extensive as one would think, given the duration in which it has been used as a therapeutic modality. However, science has fairly well established its effectiveness to enhance local blood flow, and facilitate muscle function and joint range of motion.

Its increasing popularity has also come from its novelty as a modality. As more people are exposed to it, curiosity creates a demand for it, as more therapists begin offering it as a service.

LP: Cupping sounds – and looks – painful. Is it?

DS: Although you’ll find claims that the therapy is relaxing and pain-free (which it most often is), it can also be uncomfortable depending on the severity of the issues associated with the target tissues, the location of the target tissue, and the goals of the therapy.

Cupping1

It’s not just me, right – that looks kinda painful?

The amount of suction can be adjusted. Light suction can be used for a more relaxing effect and less aggressive approach. However, if the goal is to release stubborn trigger points or break up adhesions and scar tissue, a more aggressive approach may need to be used. For the most part, discomfort slowly melts away after the cup is initially applied.

And yes, those bruise-like marks, technically called petechia, can serve as “battle scars” and good conversation pieces, but not everyone gets them. I’ve found marks to be very inconsistent from one area to another on clients, and very inconsistent among clients.

LP: Now for a couple of scenarios that would apply to all readers:

1. I’m a runner – why should I try cupping?

DS: Runners can reap the general benefits of decreased muscle tension, enhanced mobility and function by addressing adhesions and restrictions in the facia, and general relaxation.

Common issues found in runners can be addressed such as plantar fasciitis, IT band tightness, and muscle strains and tightness throughout the legs or low back. I personally start with regular massage therapy and end with cupping, so the runner benefits from the regular massage therapy as well. In addition, the type of massage can be tailored to the needs of the runner, whether it’s for pre-event, post-event, or injury specific purposes.

2. I’m not a runner but I work out – why should I try cupping?

DS: Similar to runners, cupping massage can be used to address muscle tightness, pain management, and facial restrictions that inhibit performance in the gym.

3. I don’t work out – should I try cupping?

DS: Yes, cupping massage can benefit anyone, really. It’s simply one tool in the toolbox to manage pain and muscle and connective tissue issues.

LP: Is there anyone you wouldn’t recommend try cupping; maybe someone with allergies or certain conditions?

DS: People who have blood clotting issues, are on blood thinners, have renal or heart failure issues, or have inflammatory skin issues would not be recommended to try cupping.

I would also avoid cupping over fractures and recent injuries that are still in the acute inflammatory stage.

Lubricants are also often used to aid in moving the cups around, so check the ingredients to ensure you have no allergies to its contents.

LP: Let’s say someone takes the plunge and gives cupping a try, what can he/she expect to feel after a session?

DS: Some clients report feeling energized, while some feel a bit drained and light-headed directly following a session. General muscle soreness may also follow treatment similar to traditional massage.

LP: Anything else you’d tell those unfamiliar with cupping who are curious about it?

DS: Try it. If you don’t like the feeling of cups being suctioned onto your skin, stick with massage or other modalities.

I will say, all of my clients who have received cupping treatment have given me very positive feedback, with all of them asking for cupping in subsequent sessions.

 
Again, a big thanks to Dan for taking the time to answer my questions and share more about cupping.

If you live in the Fargo area and are interested in trying cupping, contact Dan on Facebook. He returns messages quickly (I should know, I creeped his page and messaged him out of the blue to be a guest on the blog – he was very polite and quick with his response!). If you liked this post and think others would be interested too, please share on Facebook and Twitter.

And a last piece of advice for those who choose to give cupping a shot: Dan recommends hydrating prior to the session, and continuing to hydrate as well as eat after the session.

Have you tried cupping? What did you think of it? Leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter. I plan to give it a try after Fargo Marathon and write a follow-up blog about it, and would love to include others’ experiences along with mine.

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Behind the Scenes Running 26.2 – Part 3: How to Run the Marathon

“No one fucks with someone who runs 26.2 miles for fun”

We’re closing in on spring marathon season. Whether Boston this month or a local race next, you’re all in at this point. You’re tough and you’re tired. Your metabolism is high and you’re hungry all the time. You’re so excited and so exhausted. All in all, you’re a badass.

Hopefully your training has gone well. But all that time you’ve been putting in to weekly mileage goals, calculating long run splits, counting carbs and protein – have you stopped to think about executing on race day?

Marathon training is so consuming, many of us lose sight as to why we’re actually doing it. Now, it’s time to focus on what to do when you step up to the start line on race day.

Closing out this marathon-focused, three-part mini series on the blog: How to navigate, enjoy, or just get through those 26.2 miles of a marathon (with Parts 1 and 2 included).

The Start Line

What to expect
People. Everywhere. From fellow athletes and pace leaders to race officials and spectators, the area will be full of people.

How to train for it
On days that are tough, visualize this moment. Remind yourself of the pride and excitement you’ll feel stepping up to the start line with your fellow athletes.

What to do on race day 

PaceTeamStart

Find us. We’ve got your back.

Find your correct spot. Unless your name is Meb, Shalane, or something equally elite, don’t line up at the front of the pack. You’re going to piss off those racing for a win or top finish, and throw off your entire pace within the first mile. Instead, locate the pace leader that’s nearest your goal finish time or the one that matches your pace. You don’t have to line up with them but at least use it as a guide to know where you should be.

Mile Markers 1-4

What to expect
The crowd will be thick and adrenaline high. You’ll be excited and may feel tempted to push your pace to get around people or, simply because you feel great.

How to train for it
Do plenty of easy practice runs to hone in on your comfort pace. This pace will be what you strive to stick to throughout the miles – not so easy that it throws off your stride, yet not too fast you risk emptying your tank too early.

Vol

Up early, out in the cold just for you – volunteers are the best.

What to do on race day
Thank the volunteers and spectators whenever you get the chance. As the miles go by and you get fatigued or in a zone, you may become numb to the outside world so take the time to show your gratitude now. These people deserve it.

And that temptation to push your pace and race, obstacle course-style, around other runners? Resist. Run at the pace you’ve trained to run at or maybe just a little bit faster.

Mile Markers 5-8

What to expect
You should feel good and strong, likely having settled into a comfort pace. The crowd, while thinner now, will still be fairly close together.

And if you’re running a race that has a four-person relay, you’ll hit the first relay exchange point in this mileage block. Expect a ton of spectators (feed off their energy), possibly some minor congestion (runners will be switching in and out), and a sudden burst of faster runners around you (the newbs that just hit the course).

How to train for it
Practice your early hydration strategy during long runs. These miles are when you’re going to need your first pit stop or two for water or sports drink. Get used to, both the concept of running slowly while drinking (expect spills and liquid up your nose) and the feeling of having a little liquid in your belly while running.

What to do on race day
Because the pack will still be close and you’ll encounter a relay checkpoint, remain aware of your surroundings and keep in tune with your pace so you stay on track. If you haven’t yet stopped at an aid station, it’s a good idea to down a couple sips of water or sports drink in this mileage block.

Mile Markers 9-13

What to expect
It’s unlikely fatigue will have set in yet. Those of you who have run a half marathon will likely notice how much better you feel now, compared to how you feel at this point in a half marathon. You should feel mentally good that you trained hard and are poised to hit the second half of your race, and physically up to the task.

How to train for it
Try to incorporate a few 9, 10, and 11-mile runs into your training plan, outside of your long runs. I can’t tell you how big a confidence booster it is when you can hammer out 10 miles on a Monday night – especially considering that was a “long” run for you only a few weeks ago.

Lifting Heavy Weights

Love your muscles, grow your muscles.

Another thing you should incorporate into your training is weight lifting. Specifically, upper-body focused lifting. Think about your body when you run. Shoulders back and strong, core tight, arms pumping – your upper body plays a big role in sustaining long distances. Conversely, a weak upper body might be shoulders hunched, core not engaged, and arms simply stabilized – not ideal for continuing another 13 miles.

Those of you shaking your heads and saying, “I don’t have time or energy for that, I’m training for a marathon!” believe me, I feel you. The more you run, the harder and more frustrating lifting can be. But I’m only talking 20-30 minutes one or two times a week. That’s enough to give you the benefits and doable to incorporate into your busy schedule.

What to do on race day
While most runners won’t feel fatigued yet, if you do, consider taking an energy gel pit stop. Keep it quick though, you don’t want to fall out of your rhythm too much this early on. Also, resist the urge to stop and stretch this early, as it could actually cause your muscles to feel sore or stiffen up too soon.

Mile Markers 14-16

What to expect
Mentally, this is a good place as you’ll know you’re more than halfway there. That said, slight fatigue may start to set in your legs, glutes, even upper body, especially if the weather is significantly different than what you’ve trained in. Upside, you’ve likely seen some really great running signs by this point – and there are more to come!

How to train for it
Practice eating an energy gel, blocks, or something of that nature on your long runs as this will likely be the point you’ll want your first boost. Be sure you have water along, as all energy products go down and sit in your stomach much better with water. Plus, it’s just a good reason to make sure you’re replenishing fluid and staying hydrated.

What to do on race day
If you haven’t yet, take that energy gel pit stop. Again, keep it quick so you don’t lose your rhythm or give your muscles a chance to stiffen up. Then get back out there. You should feel good and a boost of energy post-gel!

Mile Markers 17-19

What to expect
I’m gonna give you the bad news first – these three miles are often the most mentally-tough ones of the race. You’re far enough in now that you’ll be feeling some fatigue, yet you feel so far from the finish line.

The good news, though, is if you haven’t yet had any issues with stomach trouble, you’re likely not going to as long as you stay properly hydrated. High-fives for successfully avoiding the port-a-potties!

How to train for it
Schedule at least one long run that exceeds 19 miles. If you’re run a marathon or two, you may even consider two that hit the 20-mile mark.

Legs

Those big legs & butt will be your BFF on hills & in the late miles.

And, I’m going to hit you with one more lifting task – this time, for your legs. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks famously said, “The legs feed the wolf,” referring to the intense conditioning he imposed on his players (I’m not sure of the factual nature of these words; this may have been a quote written into the movie for entertainment value but I still love it). Basically, stronger legs are going to be your friend as you head into your final miles, and running alone won’t get your legs to their full potential.

Be the best conditioned you can be by incorporating one dedicated leg workout into your week – again, I’m talking just 20-30 minutes, focused on quality moves like squats, single-leg deadlifts, and glute work.

What to do on race day
At this point, your mental game needs to get strong. Remind yourself the miles you have left is a single-digit number. Hooray! Remember how quickly mile-marker 9 came today? That’s the most you have left to go. You’ve trained for this distance, you can go further.

Mile Markers 20-26

What to expect
You’ll feel tired. You may find yourself wondering why you signed up to do this. You may be tempted to walk or stop altogether.

How to train for it
Towards the end of training and during your biggest long runs, start pushing your pace in the final four miles. Practicing a strategy of digging deep and pushing those last miles vs. slogging through and mentally cursing them will pay off.

What to do on race day
Remember when I told you your mental game needs to get strong in miles 17-19? It’s going to get you through these miles even more so than your legs. Yes, the mental game is THAT important in finishing a marathon.

Because these miles can be so daunting, mentally and physically, there’s a strategy that many people (including yours truly) have used on race day. Assign something to every mile. Something you’re running for; something that can keep you going. I’ll share my examples to show you what I mean.

I’ve dedicated mile 21 to my friends Megan and Sue’s mothers who passed away from cancer. Thinking of them and all the other people trying to beat the disease made me feel strong and like I could do it.

I’ve dedicated miles 22 and 23 to people who wish they could run but can’t. Either they’re too afraid to try, or they’re injured and wish they could be running. Thinking of them has made me feel grateful that I get to run marathons.

I’ve dedicated miles 24 and 25 to my biggest supporters. My parents, family, and friends who have encouraged me and who I know are mentally cheering me to the finish line in that moment. And, obviously, the most important person and one who has sacrificed the most for me to be there, Chris. Thinking of them always makes me feel determined and like I can’t let them down.

And I always dedicate mile 26 – and the 0.2 – to myself. Because, ultimately, I run for me.

The Finish Line

What to expect
Emotions and extremes. You may cry, you may laugh; you may feel a burst of energy or like you’re going to pass out. Either way, you can’t help but feel pride. I don’t care if it’s your first marathon or tenth. It’s an incredible accomplishment that comes with an incredible feeling.

How to train for it
Likewise with the start line, on days that are tough, visualize this moment. After long runs, practice your immediate recovery strategy so you can implement it on race day. Whether it’s a pared-down version of stretches, putting your legs up against a wall, eating – it will all help you navigate the post-race area and ensure your recovery gets off to a good start. Also, always go for a short walk a couple hours after a long run; it will help your legs recover.

LinsAmy

Meet up with friends & take obligatory post-race pics.

What to do on race day
Enjoy your victory! Happily accept your medal, walk the route that takes you through photos, water, snacks, and the meeting area. Be sure to take water. Enjoy a snack right away, if your stomach is up for it – if not, at least take something to-go. Do a quick stretch and keep moving so your legs don’t cramp and stiffen too badly.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, force yourself to get up and go for quick walks. It may seem like resting all day after a marathon is the best strategy but it’s the opposite. Keep moving! Also, if at all possible, avoid stairs. If you must, take no shame in using the handrail.

There you have it – what to expect from a marathon, how to train for a marathon, and how to run a marathon.

Good luck to all who have a spring marathon coming up! If you’re running Fargo Marathon next month, my lovely Twin Cities Pacers team will be out there with you; me, personally, leading the 4:20 finish pace group. Hope to see you out there.

Is there anything in this series I didn’t cover that you need to know? Leave a comment tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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How to Deal With 3 Common Running Injuries

“Turn a setback into a comeback”

Injuries. They’re the worst, whether you’re a casual exercises or a professional athlete. You know it’s really bad when you drive by the gym or see someone out running and are overcome with feelings of jealousy and sadness. And no one is immune; all of us have dealt with an injury at one time or another.

QuestionFace

The face that screams, “Ask me anything.”

A couple weeks ago, as I was heating up my soup in our cafeteria, one of my coworkers asked me about plantar fasciitis. A few months back, while washing my hands in the bathroom, another coworker asked me about hamstring issues.

Not just at the office and my coworkers, I’ve been asked about injuries, particularly running injuries, in a variety of places and by different people. Kaia’s question most recently about plantar fasciitis made me realize it would be a perfect topic to address in this edition of my health and fitness Q&A series.

Q: Why did I get (insert common running injury) and how do I deal with it?

A: As I do with many entries, I feel this one especially needs my standard disclaimer: I’m not a certified, formally-educated health and fitness expert. I’m just a girl who works out, runs a lot, and has experienced a ton of health and fitness-related things.

Also, know that every injury – its cause, symptoms, and coping strategies – is different for everyone. What I’ll do here is mix my own experience with common scenarios I’ve heard over the years to provide a little advice for dealing with three of the most common and annoying running injuries.

1. Plantar Fasciitis
You probably have it if…
…you feel a prickly, stabbing, or burning sensation in your foot or towards your heel. It’s typically worse in the morning, right after you get out of bed, and makes walking unpleasant, running downright painful.

It was likely caused by…
…your feet not getting the support they need. Whether you need stability or cushioned shoes, custom or standard orthotics, everyone’s feet, arches, and gait are different. So, everyone’s shoe and support system needs to be tailored to them.

You can address it by…
…getting the right set up for you.

If you’re not sure of your arch type and gait, an expert at a good running or sporting goods store can help you find the right shoes, and an orthopedist or other physician will advise on orthotics. You can also do the towel test to get an idea of your arch – see more about that in the first part of this blog.

Pain can be eased by wearing specially-designed socks at night that keep your foot stretched. You can also roll a frozen water bottle or tennis ball under your foot.

Going forward, ensure you’re changing your shoes and orthotics as frequently as needed to match your miles and wear you’re putting on them. I also recommend arch-support socks – not sure there’s actual science behind them but I wear them and have had no issues with PF since. And, finally, your non-workout shoe choice matters. Hard-soled shoes are good. Ladies, high heels are bad. JUST SAY NO to flip-flops.

As for recovery, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – plantar fasciitis usually requires taking a hiatus from running or walking. The good news is, biking, swimming, and other exercises are okay, as long as you’re not putting impact on your foot.

2. Irritated or Overstretched Hamstring
You probably have it if…
…you have stiffness or pain along the back of your leg, from the lower hammy area, all the way up and through your butt.

It was likely caused by…
…so many possible culprits here. Your quads are too strong and hamstrings too weak, you’re overtraining with running, you’re overstretching or improperly stretching.

HamFoamRoll

Roll out those hams.

You can address it by…
…first, getting introduced to your new best friend, the foam roller. In a seated position with the roller under your butt, roll along the full distance of your hamstring, stopping right before your knee. You can also do single-leg rolling, focusing on the inner and outer hamstrings.

Second, stop any current hamstring stretches you’re doing. If you’re overstretched, they’re doing you way more harm than good. I know, I know, I’m the post-run stretch nazi. But the foam rolling will take care of those muscles.

Third, strengthen your hammys! Both dual and single-leg deadlifts, as well as hamstring curls, are great options. But take it further; build up your glutes, too, as they play a huge role in overall balance of the lower body.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to halt all running. Ease up a bit, sure. Listen to your body, absolutely. Take care of your injury the way it works for you.

3. IT Band Syndrome
You probably have it if…
…your knee hurts when walking or running, typically on the outside of the knee. Because of the area of pain, it’s common to chalk it up to “bad knees” and assume nothing more.

It was likely caused by…
…for me, my IT band started showing signs of aggravation when I began doing speed work. For most, it’s a one of those classic overtraining, overuse injuries. It can also occur if you run a lot on uneven surfaces, on a track going the same direction, or if your shoes are overly worn.

But there’s also evidence that a weak pelvis is actually the root cause of many IT band syndrome cases.

ITFoamRoll

This one might hurt some days – but that’s good!

You can address it by…
Remember that old pal of yours, the foam roller? Get further acquainted. Lying on your side, roller under your lower hip area, roll along the full length of your upper leg, stopping at the knee.

Work on strengthening your pelvis, too. Bridges, wall squats and dead bug crunches are a few examples of targeted exercises, but keep in mind that strengthening your overall lower body with good old squats and lunges are great too.

Like plantar fasciitis, ensure your shoe and orthotics game is on-point. Unlike plantar fasciitis, there’s better news in terms of taking time off. Unless your injury is really bad, IT band syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop running. Pulling it back and decreasing mileage is a good idea, and just like with the hamstring issue, listen to your body then adjust workouts as needed.

Running injuries – at some point or another, they happen to us all. Now, I know that doesn’t make you feel better if you’re currently dealing with one but hang in there! With the right care, it’ll get better, and now that you know some of the main causes, you can be a prevention machine.

Do you have questions about running? How about lifting, food, or working out in general? Submit your question to be answered in an upcoming blog by leaving a comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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Proof You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

“You can teach an old dog new tricks”

A special mid-week blog, as Chris and I are off on vacation to Big Sky, Montana. That’s right; while normal people seek out warm weather and beaches, I’m giddy at the idea of a vacation that includes upper 30s, sun, and snow – lots of snow!

Snowboard

Montana, here we come!

If anyone needs me, I’ll be on my snowboard for the next several days so Sunday’s usual blog will be delayed til we’re back. But, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a quick story before we embark on our mountain getaway.

I started skiing when I was five, then took my first ride on a snowboard before I hit teenage years. Because I learned so young – and because I like to think I’m just naturally athletic – I picked up both quickly and have enjoyed winter sports nearly my whole life.

Knowing I’m a junkie mountain girl at heart, Chris eagerly agreed to a group spring vacation skiing in Montana. While I knew snowboarding wasn’t his thing, I assumed he had enough of a handle on skiing to be able to hang with the group.

Chris had never skied before. Like, ever. I found this out after airline tickets had been purchased. He wasn’t worried, assuming his natural athletic ability and years of hockey were all he needed to pick up skiing quickly. I was skeptical. I mean, it’s one thing to jump right in and learn something as a kid; it’s quite another as an adult. Right?

So we did what any normal husband and wife would do. We rented him some gear and headed to the local ski hill where I assumed I’d be patient, he’d be impatient, I’d speak in encouraging words, he’d speak in the language of swear words, but by the end of the day, he’d be starting to get the hang of it.

Within the first hour, Chris looked like he had been skiing forever. I had to hand it to him, the hockey background really was the game-changer in him learning so quickly – well, that, and saying, “fuck” more times in one hour than I think he ever has before.

Now, at the age of 31, he’s as good a skier as many. Lucky me!

What’s something you’d love to do but feel “too old” to start? Or have you taken the plunge and tried something new in your adult years? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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5 Reasons a Marathon Training Partner is Gold

“People, let me tell you ‘bout my best friend”

I interrupt this week’s regularly-scheduled blog to bring you something impromptu.

Every so often, I see something that inspires a post. Today, it happened twice, which led me to shelve this week’s planned entry and whip up this one.

Before I went to the gym, my friend, Heather, shared a Facebook update about her long run and tagged her training partner in the post. While I was at the gym, I saw my friend, Tom, and his training partner running the track. In both cases, they were dealing with less-than-ideal weather putting a damper on normal running plans. For many runners, bad weather on long run day makes the miles particularly challenging.

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My all-time favorite running partner.

I instantly thought about how nice it was for them to have their running buddy to help them thru it. When I first began running, I always had a training partner. I teamed up with Jen for our first half marathon, then the following year, Aaron and Jason were my half marathon partners in crime. My former boyfriend, Zach, was crucial in my training for my first full marathon and, a few years later, I enjoyed helping my friend, Jill, on some of her 10k training runs.

As I continued to run and became a 100% Type A runner (aka, incredibly scheduled, anal, and particular about every run), I stopped running with other people. In fact, since I began running with Burton, I can count the number of times I’ve run with another person on one hand.

But even as I’ve gone away from running with humans, I still recognize the value in having a marathon training partner – or half marathon, 10k, 5k, whatever your distance. Especially for newer runners, here are 5 reasons why a training partner can be the best thing in the world.

In It Together
A training partner is built-in accountability, whether it’s getting up at zero-dark thirty on Saturday morning for a long run or squeezing in at least one leg day during the week.

It’s one thing to do it for yourself; it’s an entirely different feeling knowing that someone else is in it with you, often relying on you to keep them in check, too.

Judgment-Free Zone
You smell awful. You’re missing two toenails. You have weekly bouts of hangry moments. Most people wouldn’t be very accepting.

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All the food. ALL THE FOOD.

Your training buddy understands. They don’t judge and, likely, they’re in the exact same gross, smelly boat.

Pick-Me-Up
As a newlywed, I’ve been particularly aware of all-things marriage advice. I remember reading one quote that basically says a strong marriage isn’t two people strong all the time; it’s one person being strong when the other is weak, and vice versa.

While a running partner isn’t quite the same as a life partner, I like how this saying applies to training. I recall plenty of runs where I was struggling or wanted to throw in the towel early. But, Jen was there to pick me up and keep me going. Conversely, there were times I remember pushing Jill to finish that last half mile or encouraging Zach up a tough hill that time he was super-dehydrated. When one partner is weak, the other can be strong and get them through.

Keep it Fresh
Anyone who has been in training, from a 5k to a marathon, knows how easy it is to fall into a training rut. You’re doing the same old workouts during the week, long run Saturday, ho hum, it’s kind of dull.

LinsHeid

Heidi has been my running and let’s-try-a-new-workout buddy.

A training partner can help you see outside your little training bubble and introduce you to new things. Different interval runs, new leg exercises, even a yoga class can come thanks to an outside source, and help break up the training monotony.

They Just Get You
Training for a distance race is just as much (if not more) of a mental test than physical. And just as easily as logging all the miles can take a toll on your body, it can take a toll on your mind and attitude, too.

A training partner knows exactly what you’re going through. You’re tired and crabby? They know. You want to eat everything in sight? So do they. It’s hard to bend down? Dropping something and having to pick it up is also their biggest fear. They just get you. And you get to take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one who’s feeling all those crazy ranges of emotion.

I realized something funny while I was reading back through all this – most of these apply to Burton just as much as they would to a human. He’s always ready to hit the pavement, he’s equally as enthusiastic about food, and, he just gets me. Maybe I do have a legit training partner after all!

Do you have a running or workout buddy? Why do you continue to team up with that person? Or, if you’re more of a lone wolf like me, why do you feel it’s better to train solo? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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