It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post. I’ve been busy! Last week was filled with coaching and organizing a cross country camp for 52 of my 7-12 athletes. It’s a full week which includes not just running, but PiYo (pilates / yoga) for runners, guest speakers from D1 college athletes, H20 Hunger Games (running in disguise. insert evil laugh), cross training bike rides, outdoor movies and camping, trail running, swimming (cryotherapy), and clinic discussions (this year on GRIT). However, this morning is the first official day of our fall cross country season. It’s the First Day to Greatness!!
Have Faith in the Process
I’m reminded every time this time of year, how important it is to teach young runners to have patience with themselves. So many are just learning to run and I mean this literally. We have to teach them to be able to jog continuously for 100 meters. One step in front of the other. Then we set the next goal of 200 meters, then to a quarter mile, then so on an so forth until eventually being able to race a full 2 miles (for middle schoolers) or 5k (for high schoolers).
This process can be somewhat difficult to realize for young runners. “Patience Grasshopper” is what I joke and tell some of them. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other runners who seem faster or more fit and let it be the demon in the attic that is telling you that you aren’t a good runner. This is hogwash! In the seven years that I’ve been coaching now, I can’t reassure you enough by telling you how many times I’ve seen a new incoming 7th grade runner just stick with it by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. The short term goal at some point ends up turning into more of a long term goal and the kids come back out, year after year. Before you know it, we’re reminiscing at their graduation parties and looking back at pictures of them in jerseys that they swam in because they were so little at the time.
My current coaching tactics have me thinking that teaching kids how to draw themselves into the present mindset and to just focus on controlling what they can control. If they can master this then, not only might they achieve what we refer to as “the zone”, but more so the bi-product of success can be achieved.
How Do You Define Success?
This can be a tricky question. We’re teaching young runners to define their character and themselves thru the process with attitude and effort, and to take on the identity of being a “distance runner”. A “distance runner” that tells themselves, “I do hard things”! A runner who can look themselves in the mirror afterwards and be proud of the reflection of someone who has given their best.
In the same token, there is a definite real tangible goal that we strive towards. We want personal improvement and PR’s (personal records). We want them as a team to strive for top placement at each meet. We hope that our end goal is qualifying and getting to the State meet. We hope that the bi-product of all their combined hard work and effort and daily “controlling what you can control” mindsets, will get them to “the deck” (top placement at the State Meet).
Between these two personal short term and long term goals, and our team short term and long term goals, we will achieve greatness. The runners will find success in themselves and a process and effort put towards something bigger than just themselves. This is SUCCESS!! And today was the first step on our way and First Day to Greatness!!
Do you get paid to run? Are you endorsed by running shoe companies to wear their shoes while running fast, with the hopes that it’ll influence watchers to go out and buy XYZ shoe brand so they can be fast too? Do you get to include daily naps and massage and a dietician into your lives so that you can run and train all day every day at maximum ability? Do you have a nanny that comes and keeps watch over the children so that you can go log miles? For the vast majority of you, this is NOT our reality or running way of life. Today’s Holy Mother Runners from Iowa blog post features two “real” women from the Midwest and how they have kept running in their lives despite work, families, and the day to day chaos so many of us keep as a barometer of normalcy. It may find you just as motivated if not more to put that next race on the calendar, once you hear how relatable and real these “mother runners” from Iowa are.
Response to the Holy “Mother Runner” Campaign
Last week after posting a contest for my Holy “Mother Runner” campaign, two local Moms won an RMC t-shirt and guest feature for my RMC podcast. Ironically both mother’s who have daughters that run cross country at the school I coach at. Their daughter’s have both participated in the program as 7th and 8th graders and will be entering their third year this coming fall season as incoming Freshman.
Suzie has two teenage children both heavily involved and active in sports and activities. She herself is a child physical therapist and has a service-oriented career. I believe she may also assist her husband at times with his custom home building endeavors. Needless to say Suzie lives a busy life but still tries her best to live an active life of fitness as well.
Suzie strives to teach her kids that being active and setting goals for themselves should be fun. And to do what you can thru the process towards those goals so that you can “look back with no regrets”. As a mom who understands the importance of the journey, she says she does all she can to offer support but let her kids somewhat define what that support looks like. She offers to take splits for them during their races, and of course emphasizes the lifestyle of eating well, and helps them with the at home physical self-care that’s necessary to prevent injury.
First Time “Half”er Tami Flockhart
Tami had running seeds planted at an early age with her involvement in track and field as an short and middle distance track runner. Since then, she’s continually defining her running life and returned to it after a bet with her husband that he’d take dance lessons. Tami has recently trained and completed her first ever half marathon. She chose to run the Des Moines Women’s Half Marathon as her first and says she may choose to do another this fall.
Tami also attests to the difficulty of how to manage work, kids, life and yet have enough ambition to complete long runs on the weekends. She inspires for her daughter to follow suit and turn it into a life sport. And of course takes the opportunities with her daughter to teach life lessons from her participation in the sport and thru the empathy of being a distance runner herself.
RMC Podcast Interviews
The three of us sat down and recorded the informal style podcast. It felt like a casual chat about their own running and kids, or just a down to earth heart to heart from Coach to parents.
What I appreciated most, and hope that you will as well, is Tami and Suzie’s candid real runner mom balance and perspectives. Sometimes these “real” stories motivate us more since we can relate and realize our fight to fit our own goals and running identities into our lives, are successfully shared amongst so many. If you’ve ever asked yourself…How do they do it? Can you do it too?
Last week I started a blog post campaign called the Holy “Mother Runner” Campaign. My intent to starting this focused campaign is to introduce and highlight some of my favorite professional “Mother Runners” (a few that have inspired me over the years), as well as empower those of you out there that have figured out ways to incorporate running into your post-childbearing mother runner lives.
The RMC Podcast
If you follow my social media accounts you may have seen the contest and post to follow last week’s blog post, which was to highlight the first three “mother runners” out there to comment by highlighting your stories thru a podcast interview on my RMC Podcast on iTunes (a link can be found on the right of this page) as well as reward you with an RMC T-shirt.
I couldn’t believe how immediate the response was by two fellow “mother runners”, Tami Flockhart and Suzie Johannes. These two women are both Iowa locals and have successfully passed the running bug onto their daughters, who participate in our school’s cross country program.
So, stay tuned for their podcast interview later this week and get to hear each of their personal running stories and journeys with running.
“Mother Runner” – Deena Kastor
The feature “Mother Runner” in today’s blog post is Deena Kastor. I have been a huge fan of hers since she won the Bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, the first in over 20 years. To sweeten her likeness, she is also an 8 time champion in cross country.
What’s super cool about Deena now though, and pertinent to this campaign, is that she not only had her child in 2011 but has been able to return to the marathoning and half marathon community. Before we get to her post-baby accomplishments, let’s talk about some impressive performances from her past decade’s highlights reel.
In 2008 Deena won the US Olympic marathon trials. This specific race was strategically symphonic with an underdog turn-over for her after chasing down Magdalena Lewy Boulet during the last 10 miles. Watching this takedown happen and evolve via live coverage put goosebumps on my arms. Go, Go, American women distance runners!!
She has placed consistently in the Top 10 professional women’s field over the past decade in races such as the LA marathon (3rd – 2013), World Championship Marathon (9th – 2013), and NYC Half Marathon (2nd – 2010). But the creme de la creme in my current opinion was her return after having her daughter Piper Bloom. Not only had she returned to running successfully after having a child, but also entered the ‘masters’ division and found a new balance for herself both as a mother, runner, motivator and author.
Kastor has been running post-baby now for seven years and has been throwing down ‘masters’ division records in both the half-marathon and full marathon distance. There is hope for us running Mom’s after all!
Her record times range from 1:09:39 for the half, which she ran at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia and a blazing 2:27:47 for the full marathon which she nailed at the 2015 Chicago Marathon. Her Chicago masters marathon record was faster than the previous record by almost a full minute.
Not only has she been lighting up the half marathon and marathon distance at the Masters level, but she has figured out a new balance for herself as mom/athlete. She’s implemented the power of positive mindset into life and as proof of going beyond, she’s even written a book called “Let Your Mind Run”
This book is next on my iPhones notes list of “Books to Read”. I can’t wait to be recharged by what lies within the pages as I’ve always been a believer of positive mindset and the limitless power that embracing this mindset can offer.
Kastor was nearly 39 years-old at the time, and had to totally reinvent the way she lived and trained to find a new balance. She had to stop trying to mimic the training she did as a 29 year-old, reduce her mileage and the number of runs she did every week, and lower some of her training intensity. She successfully re-booted her marathon career, taking third at the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2013, ninth at the IAAF World Championships in August of the same year (as a 40 year-old), and tenth at the TCS New York City Marathon in 2014.
Next blog post will hopefully include details on my Iowa Runner Mom friends Tami and Suzie. After that, you can look forward to posts including mother runners Paula Radcliff, Kara Goucher, Gwen Jorgensen.
If you would like to recommend or nominate another mother for inclusion or highlighting within this campaign, please comment or e-mail me thru the Comment/Contact tab at the top of this webpage. And as always, please help me pay it forward to other “mother runners” out there by sharing and liking this post. Power to all you runners out there and especially you “Mother Runners”! 😀
The other day I went to grab groceries and on my way out noticed the Hy-Vee health magazine called “Balance” sitting within a wire rack next to the exit doors. I like to grab this magazine from time to time. I often find new healthy recipes in it or descriptions of some new health-related products. This July issue had a specific wellness article and ‘Hydration Message‘ called “Water Works”. I wanted to highlight a recipe out of it for you and re-iterate a few of the great hydration game reminders the article point out that are pertinent to us runners.
“During just one hour of exercise your body can lose more than a quart of water. Drink before signs of thirst appear, and hydrate before, during and after workouts.” – American Council on Exercise
One of the things I tell my cross country team is this – you can’t wait until you feel thirsty to hydrate properly! Hydration thru the summer months is a marathon and you have to pace yourself for the long haul. So many of the kids come to practice having just barely rolled out of bed. Needless to say, most do not take the extra time to get up even earlier than necessary (they are out of school after all) before they need to get to our “optional” summer practices and focus on hydrating. So, what I tell them to do is focus on the 24-hour pre-hydration game.
If we eat a well-rounded diet, that includes some sodium, potassium and other electrolytes than this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Here even is a fun recipe from the Hy-Vee July periodical that includes a yummy cool and refreshing electrolyte popsicle. Thanks, Hy-Vee!!
Hydration Pre-Game Strategies
First strategy I talk thru with the kids on my team are a nice simple math problem. Divide your weight in half and that’s an approximate baseline for how many ounces a day you should consume of water. Simple and easy right?!
100 pound runner / 2 = 50 oz. H20
Then I have them look at a visual or either their own water bottle or a standard size bottled water, which is just over 16 oz. So, we know that in this instance a 100 pound runner would need to consume at least 6-7 bottles of commercially bottled water thru out the day. Double check your own water bottle and see how many ounces it is.
BUT – Hold the phone!! This does NOT include the sweat that is happening during their ‘beast mode’ cross country practices in the mornings. So,…make that at least 7-8 and perhaps a nice post-run snack of banana and peanut butter for protein, carb, potassium and sodium replacement. Done!!
Many, like mine (pictured below) are even larger than store bought water which makes hydrating a less daunting task if you only have to tell yourself to get thru 1 before lunch, 1 thru out the afternoon and maybe (depending on your weight) another to sit on thru the evening.
Fun Fact & Kudos America!!
According to the Beverage Marketing Corp. which Hy-Vee cited on page 63 of their free store magazine,
“Bottled Water is now the top drink in the country. Americans downed an average 39 gallons of it in 2016, surpassing soda. “
That’s some real “HYDROPOWER!”
SO…set yourself up to have a great run tomorrow and go fill up your glass or water bottle and get drinking!
P.S. Next blog post I’ll share a new campaign idea that will hopefully enable and empower all of you amazing “mother runners” out there. Stay tuned!…
After my 1/2 marathon attempt in Cedar Falls on June 24th, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the island of Aruba. It was very much an intentional choice to schedule our celebratory get-away until immediately following the race. I’ll tell you today ‘How I Handled Recovery After Running My 1/2 Marathon’.
Why We Chose to Wait Until A Month and a Half After Our Anniversary to Celebrate
This is pretty cut and dry really. When I decide to train for a specific 1/2 or full marathon I hold nothing back and put all my cherries in one basket. What I mean is, I follow a training plan to a ‘T’, I stop any consumption of alcohol (I like to indulge in the occasional glass of wine), and I eat 90% of the time very purposefully and intentionally (meaning no french fries, which is a favorite along with limiting refined or overly processed foods and sugars).
Our Anniversary happened to be May 2nd and we wanted to honor our marriage by going someplace we’d both never been to. Aruba was the perfect choice for us and we have many great memories from our time there. However, had we gone ahead and gone on vacation while I was in the midst of training I would’ve been confronted with not being able to truly kick back and enjoy the entire vacation like I would’ve wanted. Which, I didn’t feel was fair to my husband.
Furthermore, we’ve both agreed that me running alone in unfamiliar territory is not smart and potentially unsafe. Often times my husband will ride his bike along next to me on long tempo runs or for portions of a long run during marathon training but we weren’t willing to pay to transport his bike on the plane to Aruba.
In terms of alcohol consumption for athletes, well…I could get on a lengthy soap box of the detrimental and overall systematic effects of alcohol on our bodies and the effects of detraining it has on athletes. Perhaps this will be my next Coaches Corner Friday blog post, but in a nutshell, it’s simply no good. And it just seemed unrealistic for me to expect that I wouldn’t want to indulge in a glass of wine or a cocktail while on vaca.
*Let me add here that my soapbox rant on alcohol and it’s effects on athletic performance is directed towards anyone reading this who wants to get the best out of themselves in terms of athletic performance. Or anyone who is under age or a minor, since we all know you should NOT be partaking if you are not yet a legal adult! As for you adults out there, take my own opinions on this matter with a grain of salt and make your own opinions according to what your individual athlete or non-athlete body “needs”.
Passive Recovery vs. Active Recovery
It is generally recommended by some sources and thru a general understanding of exercise science that we should allow our bodies anywhere from 5-7 days recovery after a half marathon for recovery and up to two weeks after a full marathon.
Here is a very helpful and straightforward set of guidelines to follow for recovery post race.
While in Aruba, we chose to completely go into ‘veg’ mode the first day and laid around on the beach under an umbrella. How can you not be inspired to just relax when your senses are hearing the sound of waves, feeling a constant ocean breeze, seeing aqua blue ocean, and feeling fine white sand beneath your feet?!
We did take several daily walks along the beach in the sand and surf, which was quite refreshing on my legs and feet. The sand and its ripples were like a massage underneath my feet and tired arches. The cool water was like a heavenly form of cryotherapy. The beaches in Aruba literally stretch for miles between resorts and just walking felt very therapeutic.
Not the Norm, but it’s ok!
It felt quite weird and yet a little liberating to not have to wake up and start the day before sunrise to log miles, or think about what kind of workout I needed to get in for the day. No structured meal planning, or constant efforts of trying to push dense calories of protein and carbohydrates into my body.
Instead, we shared Margherita pizzas, sipped on Sangria while listening to live music on the beach piers, and just planned the day by asking ourselves what we felt like doing that day.
I was plenty entertained and distracted by our off-road Jeep excursions to some National Aruba parks and offroad trails, exploring more native and locally secluded beaches, observing and watching sea turtle nests to hatch (one of my ultimate all-time favorite animals) and even saw herds of wild goats milling about the island. Rest and recovery wasn’t as hard as it sometimes can be and it wasn’t until Day 4 that I really became antsy.
So, now I am stepping into full coaching XC mode and running with the team. We have morning practices every day thru out the entire summer. It can be like corraling cats some days and the mileage that I personally log while trying to keep track of everyone can vary on such a broad spectrum. But this is a beautiful freedom to have and I have so much fun running with the kids. It is such a great reminder of how innocent running can be and how to run FREE for the rest of the summer.
Coincidentally, I’ll step back into more training and mileage build-up on the same day that our official XC season starts which is August 6th this year. Since my running ‘bestie’ and I are running for the GOTR charity and hoping to raise enough money to run in this fall’s Chicago Marathon, we will build our mileage together. It’ll probably be much less structured training since our main goal is just to run the marathon for charity and we aren’t time focused. Here is a quick YouTube video I made as an educator of what I’m trying to do for the GOTR charity. I’ve also attached a link to a previous blog post which talks about what exactly GOTR (Girls on the Run) is and how you can donate to my cause.
You can also find a link to my Girls on the Run Charity Donation page on the top right of the screen. I have already been humbled and blessed with a few contributions and donations and consider it a direct support to me and my running endeavors as much as I hope my contributors and donation sponsors feel they’re paying it forward to a GREAT cause. In fact, I wished there would’ve been something like this available to me as a young girl.
Regardless, thank you in advance if you choose the time to click on the following links and check it out or even make a donation. It is a good feeling to know you can contribute positively into this world which seems to harbour so much negativity where we go.
Last week I wrote a blog post regarding hydration and how to set yourself up for a successful run in the heat. Today’s post is just a DIY Sports Drink recipe I found from an old “Women’s Running” magazine.
DIY Sports Drink
I especially love this recipe in lieu of store-bought Gatorade or Powerade. What I love about it, is that you can control the amount of sugar and omit any artificial coloring or ingredients.
Personal tip with this is that I use Himalayan sea salt, which includes trace minerals. Read up on some of the benefits of trace minerals found in sea salt thru this link – https://bit.ly/2lr7T2N.
Tried and True
I’ve even had my cross country team girls make up their own electrolyte drinks following this recipe. We made some simple substitutions like oranges in addition to or in lieu of lemons or limes. I’ve also personally substituted Agave syrup in lieu of honey if I didn’t have any on hand. However if you have seasonal outdoor allergies, local raw honey can acts as a natural anti-histamine. Read more thru this link – https://www.diynatural.com/local-honey-for-allergies/
Have fun with it and let me know if you come up with any refineries or personal concoctions of the like!
This morning was the Sturgis Falls 1/2 marathon in Cedar Falls that I have been training for, for the last 10 weeks to qualify for the NYC marathon in 2019. Here is my Sturgis Falls 1/2 Marathon Race Recap
An Early Start
The alarm clock went off at 4:00 am this morning. I had set the coffee maker, because I can’t do without. Toasted 3 bagels and slathered with peanut butter. One for me, one for Joel and one for Tori. And shoved 3 bananas in my bag. Filled two full mugs of coffee and also mixed up my amino energy with water. I always eat the same thing on race mornings and time it an hour and half out from race start.
The course was relatively flat except for about a 100ft. elevation gain at about mile 9. Of course, like typical fashion, everyone took off (5k and 1/2) relatively quick, around 6:40 the first mile, before settling in on the out and back flat trail stretch along the river for approximately 8 miles. This section was nice and shaded as well. Race temp started at app. 62 degrees, I think.
I had expected water stop at every 2 miles like the brochure said, but the first one ended up being at mile 3 and then not again until mile 6. This was the first of a few hiccups thru out the morning.
I had planned to take a Honey Stinger gel w/ caffeine at mile 8 and then chase it with water, but I was a little nervous since the first several planned water stops weren’t available as planned. (For the record, I do not typically carry my hydration belt with me if the race is going to have planned water stops.)
The next 3.5-4 miles included approximately a 1.5 mile slow incline like I mentioned before of about 100ft. elevation gain followed by the descent of the out and back stretch. I definitely slowed and down way too much (8:11 mile) during that climb and couldn’t stop thinking about how thirsty I was. On the descent of course, then I tried to open up my stride and gain my cadence and turn over back and got it back down to 7:23/mi which was back on pace.
I kept track of how much time I had put in the bank during the first 4 miles which was about 63 seconds. But I had lost over 2 minutes over the next 6 miles. That was a lot to have to make-up.
I was able to take my gel somewhere around mile 8 luckily. Weird thing was as I was focusing on the last 2-3 miles of finishing fast, just like I had practiced was that I saw not only my husband and daughter that had come to cheer me on, but I also saw my Dad and his wife which was a nice surprise. Of course, he yelled the same things he used to yell during XC and track meets when I was in high school. Talk about De Ja Vu! It was so good to have them there though and will be a memory I will forever cherish!
Also on the long decent my right knee IT band started barking at me. I told it to shut up and started focusing on driving my knees just a little higher on each stride to compensate. I had practiced my long runs with fast finishes
I got to mile 12 and before I knew it, I saw my daughter and she was telling me to get going and that the finish was just straight ahead. But my Garmin only read 12.12 miles. How could that be?!
She wasn’t lying, the Finish hit at 12.25miles. My last mile was 7:10 and I had practiced almost all of my long runs with fast finishes and recruiting when I was tired, so I guess I was mentally prepared to give whatever I had left in the tank. I finished in 1:32:03. My goal was 1:37:00. I placed 7th overall and 2nd in my age group. The temperature at the finish was maybe 72-74 degrees. Virtually little to no wind this morning.
Course Re-Routed due to Flooding
So, after I crossed the finished I was deflated to find out that the course was indeed short because of flooding the river cresting that morning. I’m not sure now if this will even qualify as an NYC time qualifier. I’ll have to wait and see, but I”m not going to hold my breath. I’ve decided for now I’ll enjoy taking a little time off from competing and focus on the next goal which will be running for the GOTR charity in this next fall’s Chicago Marathon.
Thank you to all of you who sent me texts and likes and responses wishing me good luck this morning. You guys give me confidence and help to make it purposeful. I gave it all that I had and came home with no regret. Yes, I am disappointed at the course being re-routed but if it was truly re-routed because of the flooding, well then…we can’t control Mother Nature and I refuse to be bitter about it. It would diminish everything I’ve worked for over the last 3 months. So I will focus on appreciating the journey and what’s to come!
Well,…here it is! The Final Week 10 of 10 in my Training Diary of Get to NYC Marathon. This is what the week looked like…
Training Diary – Final Week 10 of 10
(Week 2 of 1/2 marathon Taper)
Monday – 4 miles easy at Marathon pace. Was very hot and humid and boy was I feeling it. Not a real reassuring day of running considering I’m entering week 2 of taper going into the race. Ran 2 miles before cross country practice and another 2 with the middle school runners. Of course as always, I did lunge matrix prior to the run and SAM work afterwards.
Tuesday – 4 miles. Pretty much the same as yesterday. Followed up the run with 4 x 150 meter striders for turn-over. Feeling somewhat tired today for some odd reason. Will get to bed early, continue to hydrate and eat well.
Wednesday – Was scheduled to do 6 miles with 4 miles at HMP (half marathon race pace). Got up at 5:15am to eat and head out by 6:15 before going to coach XC practice. The 4 miles were on pace, but felt challenging in the uber humid conditions and rain. Warm-up @ 8:41 mpm then the miles looked like this; 6:59, 7:01, 7:06, 7:13. Ended up doing another 3 miles at practice easy pace. SAM Hard after.
Thursday – 2.5 miles easy at XC practice plus CORE X routine by Jay Johnson. Came home and completed 4 x 150m striders.
Friday & Saturday – I’m scheduled to take these days off and then race on Sunday. I will most likely do some walking and or light, short and easy jogging just to keep the cobwebs out.
Sunday – RACE DAY! Goal Sub 1:40:00
Dear Racing Self,…
No matter what happens on race day, be proud of yourself! The hard work doesn’t culminate just on race morning. It’s been a cauldron brewing over the last weeks, months, years of running. The journey and what you’ve been able to put towards it, is just as acknowledgeable if not MORE than the outcome of the race itself. Give it your all and cross the finish with a sense of satisfaction and peace with your performance.
On race day and in the moment, run one step at a time, one mile at a time! Don’t lose sight of the present and control what you can control – mindset, effort, and attitude. Take a deep breath when you find yourself mentally getting ahead of yourself and reel it back in. Remember, Desi and her mantra “keep showing up” and “run the mile that you’re in”!
Run with a grateful heart! Be grateful to the ones who have supported you along the way and who are supporting you thru out the race. Run free and remember why you have always loved to run. Running has empowered you, given you purpose and made your life GREAT!
After you finish, no matter the result, be humble and be grateful!! Celebrate with family regardless of what the black and white says on paper. If you qualify for NYC, then plan and dream of the future and what’s to come together. If you don’t qualify, celebrate the attempt and know that you were brave in trying. Keep trying, keep dreaming and look towards your next goal! There is more to have and to hold!!
One of the topics that takes up constant brain real estate with runner’s this time of year is, how to successfully run thru the summer months. You may have even already noticed lot’s of health and fitness articles or running articles specifically tipping you off on the best products out there to help you run or exercise thru the summer months. I want to take more of a subsurface look, within this post and the next several I”ll be posting, about the specific things runners have to manage in their lifestyles 24/7 in order to be able to get thru a run safely, prepare for the next run and recover from the previous run. My inner science geek loves understanding and learning about how we are physiologically affected by things like heat, dehydration, sodium loss, and an imbalance in minerals in our body due to excessive sweating. Today’s blog post though is dedicated to Starting the ‘Running in Heat’ Round Table Discussion.
So, before we jump off into the deep end of the Running in Heat hot topic (haha, no pun intended…well ok, maybe somewhat intended;)) I want to just cover a few basics today.
Some common terminologies that you may come across when you read or hear information regarding dehydration are hyponatremia, thermoregulation, and heat acclimatization. I also want to briefly just introduce a concept called “carbohydrate depletion/loading” and tell you why debatably it can be deemed as an unsafe regimen if you’re running in the heat and humidity but may have to save this slightly lengthier topic for the next blog post. First things first,…terminology.
What is Thermoregulation?
In a nutshell, thermoregulation is our bodies abilities to maintain an internal body temperature despite the external surrounding temperature. A few weeks back I wrote a blog post called How Being “Soft” and Teeth Chattering Have Real Effects on Running Performance”. In my post, I talked about how the cold and rainy weather conditions affected runners and may have been the cause to an early “bonk” on marathon day for runners during this last Boston Marathon. Even pro athletes were unable to physically find a homeostasis thru the harsh high-calorie burning race day weather. This concept stepping on the fringe of hypothermia effects. Today’s post on thermoregulation in hot and humid conditions is similar, yet on the opposite end of the Fahrenheit gauge, and addresses hyperthermia
When your body is overheating, it’s cooling mechanism is to sweat which also contributes to a runner’s ability to thermoregulate. This is of course at the expense of any stored body fluids. Jack Daniels, Ph.D. schools us in his book ‘Daniel’s Running Formula‘, “when a loss of fluid causes body weight to drop 3-5%, adverse effects on performance will occur.”
Concurring exercise scientist, Robert Murray quotes;
“If sweat loss is not replaced during exercise,” says Robert Murray, PhD, an exercise scientist who serves as a consultant for the Quaker Oats Company, “the resulting dehydration compromises cardiovascular and thermoregulatory function, increases the risk of heat illness, and impairs exercise performance.”
The “Science of Sweat”
You may also like to read one of the dedicated chapters in the book ‘Marathon’ by Hal Higdon, called “Drinking on the Run”. The book breaks down the “Science of Sweat” and gives us science geeks more insight into the relationship between dehydration and blood volume.
If you choose to read, you’ll learn a little bit about one of three roles in preventing muscle cramps when running long distances or running in hot and humid weather. Higdon quotes and elaborates from several sources. The first, Nancy Clark, RD, director of nutrition services for SportsMedicine Brookline in Boston and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook says, “the three roots of heat cramping are salt loss, dehydration, and muscle fatigue”
Secondly, he quotes Dr. Eichner, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and a member of the Runner’s World Science Advisory Board.
“Sodium is key, not only to maintain blood volume but also to help nerves fire and muscles work. Sodium depletion short-circuits the coordination of nerves and muscles as muscles contract and relax.” – Dr Eichner
According to Dr. Eichner in Higdon’s book, he suggests that sodium depletion can be one cause of muscle cramping. He proceeds to advise a few strategies like, ample long runs within your training to build muscle endurance, and a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables which of course contain necessary vitamins and minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. He also recommends alternating fluid intake between water or a sports drink, at fluid stations during a marathon. Amongst a couple of other cramp preventing strategies he caps off his advice by suggesting that runners learn their sweat rates by weighing themselves naked before and after a 1-hour run.
He gives this ratio, “losing 1 pound equates to losing 16 ounces of sweat”. For me, this may be an aggressive measure of action but if you are one that would consider yourself an extreme sweater or only have the option to run after work in the hot late afternoon or early evening summer, then this may be more of a reality for your proactive running self.
You can read up and find more specific ways to calculate and test your fluid loss in Daniel’s Running Formula book, which includes Worksheets for Calculating Fluid Loss and Determining Fluid Needs.
Acclimatizing to Heat
Scientists have discovered that the runner’s body will eventually acclimatize to heat after a couple of weeks of training in these conditions. In fact, your heat tolerance can allegedly increase by 50 percent by conditioning according to one of Iowa’s very own exercise physiologists at the University of Iowa, Carl Gisolfi, Ph.D. And according to previously mentioned Dr. Murr,ay we will expand our blood volume.
Through the process of acclimatization, we can even train our bodies to become more efficient sweaters and the sweat glands being to learn to conserve sodium. Don’t forget this is our bodies defense mechanism in the form of condensation and cooling the hot engine within.
Main lesson here is not to wait until race day to perform a litmus test on your body’s ability to effectively function. If you are able to train during a cooler time of day (morning or evening) to ease into the acclimatization process than do so. Also, it’s pretty easy to snag up non-porous or ‘sweat wicking’ materials now that help keep heavy fabrics acting like “sweat blankets” off of the skin. If you’re going to wear a hat for sun protection off of your face, try placing a wet sponge or even a dollar bin gel ice pack tucked underneath.
Of course, there are also a myriad of other hydration paraphernalia products out there to run with such as Camelbak hydration backpacks, Nathan hydration belts, etc. I have both of these and use them not just for fluid but to keep cell phone in tow for the “just in case” scenarios.
Obviously, you’ll also want to make sure you’re drinking prior to running. My simple advice here is if you’re an early bird runner (time of day when it’s actually the most humid) then start your hydration and fluids the 24 hours prior. Don’t overestimate your ability when it comes to running in the heat! Be conservative to start off and perhaps choose a route that loops past home instead of an out and back. Or at the very least runs past a few splash pads or parks with drinking fountains along the way. Know that the process of acclimatization may take 7-14 days and that you should plan to slowly progress any training into hotter temps.
You may also balance the hydration efforts with some slightly salty snacks like tortilla chips and guacamole (bonus two-fer for the healthy fat), pita chips and cottage cheese (bonus carb to protein ratio), or some sweet and salty trail mix.
I saved this term for last because after putting such a heavy emphasis and focus on dehydration and the safeguards in relation to running in heat and humidity, a concept like hyponatremia almost seems somewhat contradictory. But does it?…
During the summer months the risk of dehydration, of course, has you constantly thinking about drinking as much as possible thru out your day. And back in the day, you used to hear the advice of drinking 8 glasses of water a day. However, can the same advice apply to two drastically different sized human beings? I mean, if our adult bodies are made up of something like 60% water doesn’t it stand to reason then that someone like Shaquille O’Neal would have more of a percentage of a hydration requirement versus someone my size which is 5’3″ and somewhere around 105lbs?
I like the more scientific approach and advice of drinking half your body weight in ounces a day. Simple math = simple hydration recipe.
So, with that being said and a realization being made in correlation to the ratio of our body mass vs water, we can take another step towards concluding that even further on the scale of hydration there is a risk of over-hydrating. Now, over-hydrating is not necessarily a word or scientific concept but the point I’m getting at is the definition and extreme case of hyponatremia.
“Hyponatremia means low blood sodium. Excessive fluid consumption lowers the concentration of sodium in the blood.” -Amby Burfoot, ‘The Thinking on Drinking’ (pg. 288, Marathon The Ultimate Training Guide).
You rarely hear of these instances but they are still a real cause for concern, especially if you’re running long distances of a half or full marathon. Amby Burfoot shares the analogy in Higdon’s book of marathon runners who sip from their water bottles the entire day before a big race, while they’re meandering around the health expos and such, and then consume water at every aid station during the first 4-5 hours of a marathon. It quickly gives you a visual of the sodium in the blood being diluted and sodium concentrations then becoming too low.
How Does a Carbohydrate Depletion/Loading Regimen Affect Dehydration?
Here is a quick synapse in my own layman’s terms and according to what I’ve gathered or understood from articles and books out there of what carbohydrate depleting/loading regimens are and why endurance athletes sometimes implement this regime as part of their training strategy.
Without getting too in-depth on the dietary strategies of a carbohydrate depletion/loading regimen (and because I’m not a professional dietician), what I can tell you is that it is basically a strategy that stemmed from scientists discovering that endurance capacities and race performances being enhanced after heavy carbohydrate consumption.
Scientists say that our muscles store carbohydrates in the energy form of glycogen and distance or endurance runners and athletes have shown stronger or faster performance by loading these energy stores prior to a race performance. The philosophy is that if endurance runners limit carbohydrate intake and deprive the muscles of their glycogen, then essentially they’ll learn to perform from a depleted state. Then just prior to an athlete partaking in their chosen endurance event they load the muscle stores and body with a high carbohydrate intake and then the glycogen “starved” muscles hoard, for lack of better terms, the glycogen and the equation comes full circle.
What does this have to do with dehydration? Well, it’s the glycogen in our muscles that helps store water within our bodies. So, very blatantly put, if there’s low glycogen that means there’s less water content in our bodies. A simple analogy is the no-carb diets and the body shedding instant pounds by loss of water weight. So, you can quickly see the correlation between potential dehydration and carbohydrate depletion.
*Let me add here that I am NOT a doctor, or licensed dietician, and would encourage you to do your own research on this topic and the relationship to distance running to make your own conclusions.
Tricks to Keep Your Hydration Game Strong
Okay, so now are you thoroughly confused on whether to hydrate or how to hydrate? I hope not and I hope that what you have gained was at least a better understanding of some of the terminology surrounding the hydration game topic and how to beat the heat as a runner.
No one recipe for hydration should be considered a fail-safe prescription for all! Practice and experiment safely with what works or doesn’t work for you. I will share what’s worked for me, or tips I’ve read about that I can share.
Run during the coolest parts of the day – early morning or late evening when the sun is not at it’s peak.
Choose a shady route – preferably one that offers opportunities to hydrate along the way. Concrete and asphalt are going to retain heat from the sun more than grass or a pea gravel trail
Look at your weather app and try to choose running into the wind on the return route home, which will be on the latter half of your run or core temperature having already risen from the first half of your run.
Wear loose or light fitting clothing that offers sweat wicking properties. Or if you’re comfortable with running shirtless (men) or in just a sports bra (women) then go for it.
A hat with a brim can actually trap heat being emitted from the head but you could soak it in cold water before heading out to keep yourself cool along the way.
Don’t wear black or dark colored clothing if the sun is still up. Wear light colors to reflect the sun.
Drink on the run and learn how, when, and what your body likes best to drink. Consider investing in a hydration belt, or the like, of some kind.
Take advantage of front yard sprinkers or splash pads at parks to run thru. The cool water will help you keep cool and lend a cooling effect on the surface of the skin.
Err on the side of caution and run slower or shorter distances until you become more acclimatized.
Let family or loved ones know your common running routes and take a cell phone as back up
Yesterday, I had the fortunate opportunity to be able to sit down and chat with a woman who was a 6x All-American college runner but claimed she ran in high school just for fun. She is also now finding her return to running after bearing her first child and is a young Iowa businesswoman who co-owns the Heartland Soles Running Shoe Store. Meet Lindsey Andrews, a mother, a runner, and a businesswoman thru today’s blog post and my RMC podcast.
Planting Running Roots and Transitioning thru Life’s Milestones with Running as Her Guide
Lindsey tells family tales of how she got started running and developed her love for the sport. She remains humble with her honest claims that she only ran cross country and track in high school “for fun”. But, also speaks towards the culture change that she adopted in her development as a college runner who peaked with eighty-mile training weeks and running at 6000 feet altitude and “challenging terrain” on long runs.
She elaborates on the lifestyle that was necessitated to support running that kind of mileage and intensity. She attributes the modalities that worked for her, and the importance of how and why.
Lindsey the Mother Runner and Business Woman
When I first stepped in the front door of the Johnston, Iowa Heartland Soles running shoe store, I was greeted with tiny giggles and toothless grins from Lindsey’s now seventh-month-old daughter Layla. The immediate vibe I observed was that the family-owned business and cogs behind the machine are well oiled with an all-inclusive family and “salt of the earth” atmosphere.
Lindsey and her husband Jordan were actually celebrating their 2 year anniversary of the store’s conception on paper. She actually anecdotes a funny story of a small snafu the day she and her husband biked into downtown Des Moines to submit their dream store’s legal documents. The twister is that they ended up at a local eatery and found inspiration to what now adorns the store’s interior walls.
Lindsey also opens up about her personal journey with running thru her pregnancy and her uphill climb and return to the sport now with her husband as her coach. She aspires to run in Bean Town and the Boston Marathon someday. Perhaps she’ll even be able to run in the Master’s Division in tandem with her daughter as a high school runner on the Blue Oval at the Drake Relays. These are a few of her “next chapter” dreams.
The RMC Podcast Keeps Plugging Away
As I was interviewing (perhaps more informally, chatting about running and life) with Lindsey, my brain was spinning with ideas for future podcast interviews and topics.
There are so many interesting individual stories waiting to be heard and individuals I would love to meet. The mother’s who ran thru pregnancies or returned to running successfully post-partum, professionally or recreationally. I.E. professional Mother Runners I’d love to meet or interview, Gwen Jorgensen, Paula Radcliff, Kara Goucher. Or, the collegiate runners who found themselves and developed their identities thru running in college and the lifestyle of being a full-time student and athlete. And, runners who experience and train thru the acclimatization process and science of running at elevation and the adaptations their body goes thru while doing so.
My blog and podcast have been such a blessing and inspiration for me as well, even though I set out with the purpose to inspire and motivate others. If you’ve taken the time to read this, or listen to my podcast and think you would like to share your personal story or know of someone in your life that inspires you as a runner and might inspire others as well, please comment or e-mail me! Let’s keep the running community strong and moving in the right direction!!