Food = Energy

Food = Energy

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ice baths (cold therapy) after running

I promised a post explaining why I got into (albeit slowly and hesitantly) a tub of freezing cold water after each of my long runs last allow me to deliver. 

Since picking up distance running, I've had to do a good deal of reading. I had a lot to learn as my introduction to running in high school was as a sprinter on the track team. There are several important bits of knowledge I've retained over the years such as that of arm swing mechanics, breathing techniques, forefoot and mid-foot running, and, of course, recovery.

As far as recovery goes, there really is so much that falls under that umbrella. You have: sleep, nutrition, rest, recovery runs in a certain heart rate zone, compression, massage therapy/rolling, and the focus of this post, cold therapy. All of these means of recovery are important (nutrition and sleep obviously very much so), but one that is overlooked either due to not knowing about it or ignoring it is cold therapy.

If Mo can quite obviously feel discomforted getting into these tubs of swift torture, then I feel much less guilty about not jumping into mine!

As with anything in life, there are pros and cons of cold therapy and not just at the superficial level (pro: good for me; con: freakin' freezing!). Let's start with the cons, but I'll keep it brief. According to a Competitor  article, one of the cons physiologists argue is associated with cold therapy is the fact that the inflammation ice baths is used to prevent and/or reduce is actually beneficial for runners. To these individuals, the battle of dealing with the inflammation and running on tired, sore, "flat" legs is a good means to adapt to that kind of stress. It makes sense, really. Think about it in terms of life. If we don't ever experience stress, struggle, or failure, then when those inevitable things happen, it can really affect us. But if we learn to cope and handle stress (in whatever way is right for each individual) then will likely be better off for future times stress creeps into our lives. So this con of ice therapy seems to be a big one and definitely one to consider. So I like what the professional runner Emily Harrison says is a good approach which I will get into shortly.

Let's get to the pros; the pluses; the "why you should consider ice therapy." First things first, cold therapy or Cryotherapy constricts blood vessels and reduces metabolic activity, thus reducing tissue breakdown and swelling. Why is this good? Well, when you run or complete a hard exercise activity, you have essentially damaged the muscles and tissue fibers that were used to get you through the exercise. The damage is fine. You lived right? But if you try to do back-to-back hard exercises, whatever they may be, those muscles may work for you, but it is not likely that they are functioning optimally and thus lowering your performance. So yeah, I may be able to get through to back-to-back long runs or speed workouts, but my times are going to be slower the second day, or if I'm pushing it to actually run harder or run faster times, I'm greatly increasing the risk of injuring myself.

Cold therapy is helpful in this case because it reduces that inflammation that is occurring after a hard workout and thus allowing you to do what needs to get done either the next day or perhaps that evening. It is for this reason why collegiate and elite track athletes, as well as other professional runners, use ice baths after racing, no matter the distance. Often, these competitive athletes need to perform very well again the next day or even that same day so ice baths are a way to help that recovery process.

Usain Bolt celebrates 200m by having an ice path Need more convincing? Okay, that's horrible. Don't just do what the freakishly incredible professionals are doing just because they are super-athletes. Really.

Now, back to what professional and runner coach Emily Harrison advises: periodize your use of ice baths.


Simply put: periodization is what more competitive runners do so that, if done correctly, they will peak and run their top performance at their goal race or event. So when EH says to periodize the ice baths, she is suggesting that in the beginning, when you are building your base fitness, don't ice. Let the inflammation build up and have your body learn to adapt and overcome the built-up stress. But later on in your training, when you are starting to incorporate tough speed workouts to bring that fitness in and target your goal pace, you may want to also introduce ice baths to speed the recovery process. Running a tempo run on the roads, Tuesday, an interval workout on the track Thursday and a 2 hour or longer run on the weekend is not an easy thing to do even if you are only doing that and not running the other days. But sometimes training calls for that and any safe means of recovering should be considered to prevent injury (especially when your just weeks away from your goal race!).

Alright, well I think I've gone on long enough for one post.  I hope you'll at least give ice therapy a try. As is always the case with doing something new, remember that it is all an experiment. Every person is different and what works for one person, even many people, will not necessarily work for you. Try ice therapy. Try the opposite (warm bath, with or without Epsom salts). Try rolling. Try icing specific joints or areas that frequently ache and pang after a workout. When you try something, you learn something. You become an active part of your recovery and that can only be a good thing!

Happy Running!

PS: Just an FYI: Val and I are heading home to NJ tonight to visit our family. I'll blog while I'm there but certainly will not try to do so every night. I've been missing my and her family so much so I don't want to use what limited time we have there writing a blog post every day. Hope you understand!

PSS: Just in case you don't feel like opening up a search engine and reading some more, here are some more reads about cold therapy/ice baths/cryotherapy: 
Runner's World

Runners Connect


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Miles and Soccer

Last week marked the first official week of Pick Your Poison training. The PYP relay race will be on July 25th and I've opted to run the 12 hour option solo. It will be my second timed-event, having run a 6 hour timed-event last summer in Pennsylvania. I have no idea what it will feel like to run for 12 hours so the training plan I developed for myself is more focused on time rather than mileage. For example, when training for a 5K or 1/2 marathon, daily runs and workouts are generally based on a number of miles. At least that's how they have been for me. Well, for the 12 hour, I will be turning those daily runs from X number of miles to X number of minutes or hours. At least that's the plan. The only time I'm planning on switching back to miles is when I've scheduled a track workout for the week, which despite me not running the 12 hour at a goal pace, I'd like to keep some speed and break up the monotony of distance training. 

So what does that mean for my weekend runs? Well, they've now turned from 15, 18, 20 mile runs, back into solely timed runs. This past weekend I had my first scheduled double long run where I run a certain number of hours Saturday morning and then a certain number on Sunday morning, thus trying to mimic running on tired legs which I will be doing come race day. So I ran 4 hours on Saturday and covered just over 29 miles and was going to run for 2 1/2 hours on Sunday, but I had to consider our plan to play soccer that afternoon. So I switched the 2 1/2 hour to a 90 minute run and covered 11 miles, bringing my total mileage for last week (ending Sunday) to 60 miles. 

During Saturday's 4 hours, I knew I was going to need to do something different to adequately recover enough to run more the next day, let alone get in a game of soccer. Plant-based vegan nutrition wasn't going to cut it. So as soon as I walked in the door, I ran the bathwater and filled the tub with what felt to me like ice-cold water. Why'd I do this? I'll explain in a post this week or you can Google (Yahoo or Bing work too!) it yourself if you're soo dying to know. 

Had to throw these on as well to help speed recovery. Compression socks and sleeves assist in good circulation of blood and oxygen which is slowed after a tough workout or being on your feet all day. Sometimes medical conditions also cause people to use compression socks for the same reason.

It's going to be tough getting through the distance training that's ahead of me. And especially tough because of the soccer kick I'm in and need to balance as well as 2 community college classes I'm pursuing which I'll also explain why in another post. What's going to make it easier to handle, though, can be explained in the following pictures:

Yes! We got a new fancy blender since we left our other semi-fancy blender back in New Jersey. Val was so excited when our Blendtec finally arrived. We got it for a steal as we purchased it refurbished from the manufacturer. Saved a couple hundred bucks and still got the awesome warranty. If it breaks, send it back and we get another! 

So now we can finally enjoy these blends all summer long! I love them after my runs as they are so refreshing and nutritiously rewarding if done right (e.g. not too much fruit as the sugar can add up quickly).

Okay, so this may be some splurging, but summer outings with Val are definitely something to look forward to. This amazingly delicious and beautiful-looking pizza was from Portobello Trattoria, the fine-dining Italian vegan restaurant we went to for her birthday last Friday.

And our desert: Molten Lava Chocolate Cake. Nothing else to say.

That's all for today. Remember to check in this week for why I tortured myself by soaking in ice-cold water after my long runs this weekend!

Happy Running!!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Happy NDD and Happy Birthday to my better half

Happy National Donut Day!!

Okay, I'm cheating. This picture was actually taken in February when we went to Portland's famous (famous may be too strong of a word here, but oh well!) Voodoo Donuts for the first time. GF they are not but vegan they are. They reminded me of the Dunkin Donuts donuts I used to have before I started to become health conscious (and vegan of course). I have a PB&J donut which I wasn't a big fan of, but Val's got the winner: a maple frosted Bavarian creme which was purely delicious and oh so calorically (I swear that's a word even though Google Chrome is telling me otherwise) abundant. I'll try and get there tonight to celebrate NDD right although we do have other plans tonight. (See you non-vegan readers who think vegans only eat lettuce! Val and I can really live it up when it comes to food! Admittedly, we're already an old-married couple when it comes to anything else that "living it-up" could apply to.)

We will be enjoying some fine vegan Italian dining at Portobello Trattoria tonight to celebrate Val's birthday! She's 23 today so please join me in wishing her a "Happy Birthday" on the count of 3. 1...2...3....Happy Birthday Val!

Aww...Thanks for the cake everyone!

So yesterday I did indeed go play some soccer. I was so close to not going. I did a quick track workout (800, 400, 800, 400, 200, 200) and then a steep hill climb and all the while, watched the traffic I'd be sitting in crawl down the main street near me. So I made a big 2 1/2  bowls full of buckwheat, avocado, and beans for dinner and was about to call it a night, but it was only 7 and the sun was still very high so I had to get back out there. So off to soccer I went and was pleased to find them playing 5v4 on a small field set-up with small nets. I definitely don't think I could have played a full field after a track workout and a pretty big dinner. It felt great to get some easy play in and shake out any lactic acid that was still built up in my legs after the workout. And yes! I did some light stretching afterward, but play was very recreational that I didn't need to much. Feeling great today! Ready for some vegan restaurant food and delicious dessert!

That's all I'm posting about today. Keeping it low-key. I have a long run tomorrow morning and I'll hopefully get in 4 hours which will be between 27-30 miles. Body can handle it. Have to get my mind back into it! Maybe I'll post something tomorrow. If not, check back in on Monday! 

Happy Running! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Feeling sore? Don't sit around!

As you may know from reading a previous recent post, Val and I engaged in some serious cross-training this past weekend. Okay, so I wouldn't really call it the ideal cross-training for distance running, but playing soccer got us both moving and very engaged in the sport we have been missing for quite a while.

The next two days we were out of commission. As noted in the previous post, our bodies ached all over and we couldn't even lift out knees above our waist (think high-knees position). It is precisely for this reason and for what happened on the second morning after soccer why I thought this scenario make for an interesting blog post.

You may wonder how you can be in such great fitness shape (if you are) and still be so sore after doing some cross-training or participating in a new exercise or sport. Well that is exactly why you are so sore. When you do something that is new, it is very likely that you are engaging different muscles. It is likely that you never actually engage those different muscles when you perform your regular activity (for me: running; I don't typically run backwards, sideways, or kick a ball when I run) so exerting them so suddenly is certainly a recipe for soreness the next day or few days as is more likely (this is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS). Unless, however, you do what I didn't to reduce the chances of next-day sore-and-stiffness. So what didn't I do? Everything that I am about to list below which I recommend you do (when applicable) after incorporating a new exercise or participating in a recreational activity even if just for fun:

-Cool-down; This can be a light jog or run or maybe a more brisk walk. I'd say 5-15 minutes should be enough to at least combat the stiffness you'll feel the day day if you fail to cool-down

-Light stretching; You don't want to overstretch. When you use new muscles, you are doing just that--stretching them. So only light stretching is necessary and should be done after your light 5-15 minute cool-down

-Don't sit around for the rest of the day; This is surely going to lead you to feel sore and stiff tomorrow even if you did your cool-down and light stretching immediately after the activity. You don't have to exercise again and overdo it, but just staying upright and moving will greatly reduce the stiffness to follow.

-Run a bath (such an odd saying) with warm-hot water; This is going to relax and loosen your muscles and prime them for some light stretching if you want. You could even massage your legs and arms while you're laying in there, but if you just choose to relax with some music instead...who could blame you!

Still feeling sore the next day? This is very possible, but don't use that as a reason or excuse to lounge around all day. Extra movement or even a light run or some cycling will do wonders for reducing stiffness and quickening your full recovery process. Val and I learned this the hard way. We didn't run the next day, and were so stiff  the second morning. I decided to go for a light 1 mile jog and after the first half-mile my whole body felt 100x better!

I've since recovered from my stiffness (just dealing with some bruised muscles from when players thought my leg was the ball) and proceeded to finally get in a good workout yesterday morning. I haven't done a tempo run in quite a while so I decided to hold a 6:20 pace for 16 laps around the track (4 miles ya newbies! Unless you're being really technical in which case a few extra meters are required). Needless to say, my legs definitely recovered from soccer and I have to credit eating right, finally moving around when I wanted to just sit, and good old father time for me being able to bounce back like that.

Now, there is a good chance I will be playing some more pick-up soccer late this evening and you can be assured I will run a light cool-down after, followed by some light stretching so that I am not immobile tomorrow.

Before I go, I wanted to share with you one of the greatest things I came across yesterday:

I couldn't agree more! But I still hope you celebrated National Running Day yesterday!

Happy Running!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why drinking water isn't enough

It's hot. Scorching hot. The mercury in the thermostat is practically on the verge of boiling-hot.

The sun is at the highest point of the day, but this is the only time you have to get a workout in before your errands, plans, work, kids, family, or friends take over the rest of your day. So you go for it. When you are finished, your shorts and shirt are drenched and you desperately need to wash the sweat off of your skin that is still being produced from your body.

You know you're tired and that that workout really took a lot out of you. You know that you could wring out your shirt and probably fill an empty 20 oz bottle with your sweat (Okay, maybe not likely but it feels that way sometimes, right?). But what you may not know is probably what's most important for your body's health and its ability to recover from such a taxing workout.

After sweating so profusely, your body is in need of you replenishing two vital things: water and electrolytes. But what you need to be aware of is, for some, quite the paradox: drinking too much water is actually not recommended.

Sure, you need to drink water. Some runners, myself included, make sure to bring a water bottle with them when they run or do other outdoor workouts (cycling, hiking, strength training, etc.). But is water the only thing that is needed? In short: No.

A lot of water is lost when you sweat, especially during the warmer/hotter months of late spring and summer, but drinking only water will make you further deplete what your body has also lost while sweating: electrolytes. As the article will be able to explain in further detail, excess water causes you to urinate more and when you do this, electrolytes are lost (electrolytes are always lost when you pee, bleed, and sweat as they are located in your blood, body fluids, and urine).

There are several major electrolytes for proper body function but the top ones on most scientists lists are: Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium, and Magnesium. Of the many functions of electrolytes, the most important roles they have are to keep fluid levels balanced (includes water levels), to maintain muscles' ability to contract, and to transmit nerve impulses. Each electrolyte has a different responsibility in the body, but they are all required for optimal functioning and they need to be balanced in order for each of them to function properly. Therefore, you need to make sure you are replenishing the electrolytes you lost when you sweat (Not just when you exercise! If you don't sweat that much when you exercise, then you don't lose as much electrolytes. Know, however, that if you sweat a lot even when you aren't exercising, this means water & electrolytes are still being depleted.).

So you need water and you need electrolytes. How can you accomplish this delicate dance of balance? I love to use coconut water to help me out in this situation.

 C2O is probably one of my top choices for coconut water. Val and I always opt for coconut water that is not from concentrate.

 This would probably be Val's top choice. It's a bit on the pricier end though.

Coconut water is a beautiful thing. Some people can't stand the taste, but taste buds can change so I always suggest they give it a try. So why is coconut water a beautiful and natural sports drink? Here's a rundown of its nutrition content as provided by WebMD:

-It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium. 

So let's quickly discuss this nutrition breakdown. Sugar. Bad right? Wrong, unless you need to closely watch your sugar levels for a medical purpose of course. Your body just burned up carbohydrates and glycogen that was stored in your body. Sugar, especially from natural products such as coconut water, is great to begin replenishing glycogen. Sodium. It's an electrolyte so it is absolutely essential. A typical container of coconut water does not have too much sodium in it though so more may be needed from other sources such as certain veggies. Potassium. It's got a lot of this which Americans need more of in their diet. The only thing is that for the body to properly absorb potassium, adequate magnesium levels need to be present. Coconut water is not high in magnesium content so look for magnesium in your leafy greens, beans, some nuts, brown rice and sweet potatoes. When you want magnesium, think food that comes from the ground. 

So this is why Val and I love grabbing a coconut water or having some in the fridge for after a hard workout. It doesn't take the place of water, but instead of downing 16 ounces of water after a workout, I'd advise you mix in some coconut water or some fruits that will replenish your electrolytes.

I know a list is always handy but there are so many fruits and vegetables that are high in electrolytes that I chose to not make a list so not to give the impression that you shouldn't eat those not included. You can go ahead and run a Google search for "fruits high in potassium" or "veggies high in sodium" if you want these specifics, but be mindful to not exclude the veggies and fruits not present on those lists.

Wow...that was a lot and I apologize for information overload, but it needed to be done. I tried teaching my track athletes this stuff throughout the season and I will continue to push this knowledge next year as well. I wish I knew it when I was running track and playing soccer back in high school. I wish I knew that excessively drinking coffee would only work to dehydrate the the body's muscles (makes you pee a lot!) which is the last thing I needed, especially on days I went right from a 90 minute track practice to a 2 hour travel team soccer practice. So I hope you

 This is the bottle I use when I go on my medium and long runs. The brand is Amphipod and it's a 20oz bottle which is perfect for me. I never drink plain water in this. I'll always throw a Nuun tablet in there to ensure I am consuming the electrolytes mentioned earlier that are being lost as I'm sweating.
Last summer I mixed coconut water and Nuun in a bottle during a 6 hour event and that worked perfectly and tasted delicious!
Here I am before last week's 50k. See the bottle in my hand? I've learned the hard way that properly hydrating during a long distance event is absolutely essential. 

 Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand of coconut water is another one of my favorites.

Lastly, it's not a bad idea to have a general idea of how much you actually should be drinking as the numbers are different per each individual. This page from Running Competitor and this one  from Runner's World provide a formula that can be used to calculate your sweat rate  for those of you who are curious. A quick Google search for "calculating sweat rate" will provide other ways as well.

That's all for today! Would love to read some comments if anyone has anything they'd like to share such as your go-to for electrolytes or perhaps you would like to know why I didn't recommend a common sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade.

Happy Running (and Hydrating!)

Monday, June 1, 2015

The beautiful game

Stand and walk: "Creaak" "Crack." "Groan." "Ooo."
Sit. "Ahhhhh."

My whole body hurts today. Okay maybe my hair doesn't hurt and my toenails are fine. But I'm almost positive every other inch of my body is sore and in pain. Did I just run another 50k? No. Absolutely not. It's funny though is that even after that race last week, my body wasn't nearly as sore as it is today. So what the heck happened over the weekend? 

Those of you who have played or watch the sport regularly might already have a good guess as to what Val and I participated in yesterday morning. That's right: soccer. I just wanted to kick the ball around. We had originally planned to go for a trail run in the morning, but something told me to change it up. So I suggested we go to the nearby track and do a light work out if we wanted, but to just kick the soccer ball around and maybe bring a frisbee too. Well that idea quickly progressed into me finding out if there were any pick-up soccer games happening (very common in Portland). 

It turned out that two were going to be occurring; one in the early afternoon and the other at night. I'll make what could be a very long story (from me especially!) short...

9:25AM: Ran a couple hill repeats to get the blood flowing; then back inside to locate and put together soccer gear
9:50AM: Leave for Goodwill as neither of us had (and still don't have as we were unsuccessful in our hunt) soccer cleats. Had to go to two Goodwill stores to find anything and were only able to find some shin guards for Val and some indoor/turf soccer shoes for her. I just played in some soccer-looking sneakers.
11-1/1:15PM: SOCCER time(!!) with about 80 minutes of that time actually playing a full-on 11v11 (or maybe 11v12) soccer game with pop-up nets

Rest of the day? Just! And man did we need it, although today was far worse than last night. Playing soccer was a breeze although neither Val nor I have played in years. Like riding a bike, you just don't forget some things. Except we did forget how sore bodies get when different muscles are used for the first time and for a long time.

It was such an awesome workout playing soccer that we had to go enjoy a nice lunch at an easy-on-the-wallet cafe that we just love (Paradox, for you PDX readers). Pancakes, french toast, breakfast potatoes, tempeh, veggies, GF maple corn muffin--all for $20? Yes please. 

Then I had to down one of these  as I was definitely dehydrated after playing on a 80 degree sunny day with a black shirt on! 

And I guess we went a whole step further in replenishing the water and electrolytes in our bodies by eating a serious fruit salad for dinner. 
The cherries were definitely the best part. Talk about a fruit belly! I looked like a swallowed half a watermelon whole after this meal!

So today we had to suck it up and just get through the aches and pains of movement, which seeing how it's almost 9:30..I think we made it! To help get my blood flowing and get my muscles to speed up their recovery, I made sure to minimize my sitting and eat as nutritiously as possible. It's tempting to use your need for rest and recovery as a reason to sit and lounge a bit more than you usually do, but this actually slows down your body's ability to fully recover. 

Okay....whew! I think that's it for tonight. Oh.

 Started reading this book a couple days ago. Val got it for me for my birthday and she proceeded to read a few pages that day and couldn't put it down. I finally got it in my hands a couple days ago and love it so far. Definitely recommend it for those of you who don't mind reading fiction. I certainly don't!

Okay. That's definitely it. My next post will likely be about coconut water and electrolytes which is kind of fitting because whether you're in New Jersey or Oregon reading this, you're experiencing a general rise in the daily temperatures. 90s this coming weekend here in Portland: all the more to make sure you're hydrating and replenishing electrolytes frequently (Did you know plain water actually works to lower the electrolytes in your body!?  More on this in my next post..)

Happy Running everyone!