Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't Waste Your Money

Livestrong.com has a lot of great info on nutrition, strength training programs and basic health concerns, myths and facts.  Here's one I thought was interesting:

Sports Jelly Beans

The Claim: Sports jelly beans (also called sports beans) are touted to enhancing endurance performance. 

The Facts: Sports beans are not more effective than carbohydrate-based sports beverages or a carbohydrate-based sports gel [50]. However, sports beans were recently compared with raisins (Sunmaid brand), which performed equally to sports beans for enhancing endurance performance [51]. But subjects rated the raisins more pleasurable to consume. So raisins might be the better choice as they are 3-4 times cheaper, and contain more health-promoting phytonutrition.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/550744-the-20-most-overrated supplements/#ixzz1f8DfflwM

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Make It A Habit To Imagine

When Lee Evans trained for the 400-meter race in the 1968 Olympics, he did more than run revolution after revolution around the track with the stopwatch ticking.  He also spent many hours quietly visualizing the race as he would perform from beginning to end.  He imagined every stride he would take, one after another.  As he did, his actual running form gradually improved, and so did his times.  In Mexico City, he not only won a gold medal, but he set both an Olympic and a world record (43.8 seconds) that lasted twenty-three years before it was finally broken.

What are you imagining?  How will you accomplish it?

-- The Mental Edge, by Kenneth Baum

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"If you light a lamp for somebody else it will also brighten your path."


Maybe your next race doesn't have to be about your personal best or improving your time.  Maybe your next run can be with your sister, or daughter, or grandchild.  Perhaps you can run with someone slower than you to talk them through the hard parts.  And cross the line with someone you love.  Because maybe, this one can be about somebody else.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wait Training

Runners who over train and become subject to overuse injuries as a result of thinking that more training is better and will help one meet goals more rapidly. The problem can manifest as either a serious of recurring overuse injuries or chronic fatigue syndrome, affecting the entire system. The bottom line is that with chronic injuries due to over training, you will never achieve sufficient training loads to produce prolong improvement.
Therefore, the journey of mastery asks that you enter into a new time zone in which you slow down to go faster. Running creates numerous opportunities for you to slow down, develop, and practice the virtue of patience. We recommend that you develop strength in this area through wait training: notice the natural flow of events and then act accordingly. This requires constant vigilance as you monitor your progress with regard to levels of energy, fatigue, soreness, staleness, slumps, plateaus, spurts, enthusiasm, and burnout. Too much too soon, that familiar hurry-up sickness, invariably leads to injury or illness -- nature’s way of telling you to slow down, reevaluate and take a break. Learn to read your body, and initiate small adjustments in your training to avoid excess overload and injury.

Don’t think of mastery as the capacity to endure, but as an act of perseverance. See it, instead as the willingness to be at peace and give yourself time to develop as an athlete without placing limits on how long it will take to reach mastery. 
Think for a moment about the race between the tortoise and the hare. Through the inner qualities of consistent, deliberate, steady, slow movement, the tortoise arrived sooner than the quicker yet spastic, inconsistent and fatigued hare. Haste does, indeed, make waste. And remember, if your running life is a good one, a life of mastery, most of it will be spent on a plateau.

Running Within by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving this week.  And as a little gift to you, here is a discount code for $10 off the inaugural Phoenix Half Marathon, which will take place March 3, 2012.

Code: phx10

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Why Fitness Is Essential For Kids...And The Brain

The fascinating correlation between fitness and the brain continues to amaze me.  The book Spark has solid proof that physical exercise not only improves the body, it improves brain function and activity.  Here's what I've learned from just the first chapter:

On the outskirts of Chicago, Naperville Central High school and its faculty have adapted a fitness-based approach at their school.   While only 6 percent of the U.S. high schools offer a daily physical education class, P.E. is required at this school and in fact, Illinois is the only state that requires daily phys ed. 

As this school has come under a microscope for its practices, Naperville students have excelled.  Some 30 percent of the U.S. schoolchildren are overweight -- six times more than in 1980 - and another 30 percent are on the cusp.  In Naperville's district, an astonishing 97 percent of freshmen (in 2001 and 2002) were at a healthy weight according to body mass index guidelines.  These same students scored consistenly higher on test scores than their unfit friends.   There is no doubt fitness and brain use go hand in hand. 

And, the kids at Naperville have taken what they were taught in high school and continue to use these skills in their lives today.  One student, Jessie, went on to college and pushed herself academically as well as physically.  During her freshman year at Embry-Riddle, whenever anything stressful would come up, she and her roommate would run laps on the stairs in her dorms.  "These days, every hour is sucked up with something," she says.  "Every time I know that a whole bunch of tests are coming up - when I'm really stressed out - I think, OK, you know how to handle this.  It's definitely a relief to know that I have something to fall back on.  If I didn't have that, I'd probably just go eat or something.  But I know that exercise will spike up my brain activity, and so I think, Just go do it.  I wouldn't know that if it weren't for my gym class." 

Stay tuned for more Spark.  I am loving this book....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You A Suburban Or a Prius?

Loved this post from therunningfront.com on how to run a marathon versus a 10k.  How's day two of your challenge coming, by the way?

As you enter the week prior to the race here are a few visualizations to help you set your plan.  Running your bestmarathon is part art, science, guts, faith in what you can do, and a little luck.  Running your best 10k is mostly about fitness. The best analogy I can think of is this: if you have trained your body properly with the right mix of aerobic level training and some up tempo stuff in recent weeks, you have built your efficient hybrid engine ready to race the marathon.  Many of you have driven in a Prius and watch the subtle shifts between gas and electric on the screen.  You do not perceive these shifts. Your engine runs on gas, electric, or a mix- depending on the effort.

You are starting the race with one gallon in the tank- assuming you have eaten a nice meal the night before with a breakfast top off.

If you are in all gas mode, your engine will run about 1.5 hours at a strong pace….then you are out of gas.
If you are mostly electric you can run all day, but maybe maybe not so quickly.
If you are using the proper mix you will go quick and efficient for duration of your event, and you can even do some topping off along the way.
The glucose utilizing pathway is the gas. This is your stored glycogen and blood glucose (pasta meal and breakfast) – easy to access for ready energy.  The fat utilizing pathway is the electric.  In marathons you must be in hybrid until the last few miles.  Hybrid is where your energy  is coming from both sources.

Many runners are in great “10k shape” (an all gas event), then run their marathon in the gas mode- and usually crash.  Glycogen sparing strategy need not apply in races of less than an hour as long as you had a good pre-event meal to fill the tank. In marathons and ultras- top end fitness matters little and can only be applied very near the finish. Glucose gives 36 ATP per molecule, fat 460 ATP per molecule.  You must tap into the fat burning tank. Now you know how a bird can migrate 7000 miles without an energy bar.

So how do you know you are running in your best hybrid mode?

This is difficult because the sense is not as profound as aerobic/anaerobic.  A slight increase from your optimal pace will switch you from hybrid to all gas without you realizing it, and the effects are felt miles later. Charging up hills early will tap your gas quickly.  If you want to speed up early…don’t. Relax and maintain effort, not speed.

You must rehearse a bit in training.  I focus on relaxation and breathing.  If I’m breathing one cycle to 5 steps, then I’m hybrid.  If I’m breathing faster I’m using mostly glucose as fuel.  Belly breathe- allow lower belly to blow up like a beach ball on inhalation and pull your belly button back to your spine on exhalation.  Then you will fill the lower lung areas where oxygen exchange occurs. Notice the breathing efforts of those around you and many are rapid breathing- they tend to suffer somewhere past half way.  Rehearse complete relaxation from the top down- eyes, jaw, shoulders, allow your legs to relax and extend behind you, relax and soften your knees and ankles.  Find you own cue for this.  If you use the Heart Rate Monitor in training strongly consider one during the event.

In a marathon, the last 3-4 miles you will be all gas to maintain the same speed as fatigue sets in.  The breathing is usually on a 3 to 4 steps per breath cycle- that is OK.  Still stay relaxed and use the cues that you have rehearsed to keep your form. Your heart rate is higher now.  Speed up only when you can “smell the barn”, maybe after 20 miles.

Land softly, especially on the early downhills.  I run with a forefoot/midfoot landing harnessing elastic recoil. Focus on posture and hip extension. Use a slight forward lean from the ankles.  I’m never sore after marathons now and feel I can keep doing them until I enter the retirement home. I won the Air Force Marathon in 2:38 four weeks ago and feel fine now for another effort.  With good form it is “No pain…thank you”.

Your shoes matter too.  I will be running in the zero-drop Newton MV2, which I wore with comfort and success at the Air force Marathon. Not that you are going to change your shoes in the next day based on my advice, but make strong consideration to not running in minimalist racing flats, unless you have trained substantially in them and adapted to a natural barefoot style gait. I advocate gradually adapting all of your training in the more minimal and level shoes.   If you relax your lower legs and load the springy tendons in your feet and Achilles, then these shoes with no heel elevation put you in perfect position to allow natural elastic recoil of plantar fascia, Achilles, calf muscles, and hip flexors.

New research and runner’s experience is now making the case for running with a more efficient stride and questions modern running footwear. The evolving world of modern sports medicine is going back to the future too and rediscovering what evolution has taught us.

Now a few extra ways to get from start to finish quicker on the same gallon.

If you can add a little gas along the way then you can go more into gas mode.  This works a little at best.  If running too fast you shunt all blood to working muscles and nothing digests.  If you are in hybrid the early going you can continually add fuel- the key is not only the correct fuel, but the right pace.  An energy gel  every 25 minutes is easy to digest and tops off the tank.  Carry them with you at the start.  The weight is nothing compared to the benefit you will get.  If you do the gels then you can drink water instead of the energy drinks which are often less predictable on the run. Marine Corps has a gel station at Mile 9, 13, and 23.  Carry 2 gels at the start (one every 3-4 miles or so) and top-off  along the way.
Maintain effort on uphill.  Your pace will slow. You can easily use all your gas here if your effort increases.  Shorten your stride, relax, and use your arms.  Then allow gravity to take you down. The first hills in Arlington and Georgetown can feel “easy” but if run too hard can drain your gas quickly; so go easy up them.

If it is windy get behind a group.  This can save lots of physical and mental energy.

If you are having a “bad patch” – try to refocus on relaxing, fuel a bit (sometimes a blood glucose drop triggers the sense of doom), and have faith in your training and race plan.  Another nice trick is when you hit mile 21 it is not 5 miles to go, it is 4 and change. Mile 22 is 3 and change to go.  Just run to the next mile marker and count them down one by one. Smile and enjoy the party in Crystal City. This gives you some mental refreshment after crossing the lonely bridge from 20-22 miles.
Do not over drink water. This can lead to a dangerous condition called hypontremia and severe electrolyte imbalance.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Twenty One Day Challenge

My sweet friend Rhonna over at rhonnadesigns.com issues a 21 day challenge every year to help make a new habit or break an old one.   Here is her blog post and now I'm extending her challenge to you and doing it myself!

1. Pick ONE habit to make or break.
It can be a physical, emotional, spiritual, mental goal...something that YOU feel you want to improve in your life.
**I chose to focus on core exercises everyday. I've got the running down, but I always forget the core for some reason. And when I DO exercise it daily, my other ailments seem to be better. A strong core= a happy Rhonna.

2. Pick a way to document it. You can scrapbook it. art journal it. photograph it. write it down in a notebook. whatever will help to solidify this new habit. for YOU. tailor it to YOU.
**In past rounds, I did art journals, and I loved it!!!! But, right now, I've got lots on my plate & sadly, it's not realistic. But, I CAN be creative AND document with my phone..so, this is my 'LITE' version. I will be taking pictures on my phone & adding the quotes for my creativity exercises.  All on my phone. love that.

3. Commit to it for 21 days straight.  This is when the success comes in. It takes 21 days or 3 weeks for your body, muscles, brain to all come together & make or break this habit.
It can be done.
**I've done round after round & not only do I feel better about myself, gain more confidence, see the changes I want to see, but I get more creative!!!! seriously...it works hand in hand with the 100 Creativity Exercises...I LOVE it!

I'm committed. Are you?

Welcome new-comers, & welcome old-timers....let's do this!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ERG And The Unfortunate Incident of the Volunteer

My running career did not actually begin with me running.  I started out as a water girl -- handing those paper cups to runners clear back in the early 1970s.  My father, Herm, ran the local chapter of the Parks and Recreation.  He organized everything from dodge ball tournaments to softball round robins.  If you participated in any team or individual sport in the City of Mesa, you knew my dad.  And following the trickle down effect, the Funk kids were first in line to volunteer at the charity races and events around town. 

I can't remember which race we first had to hand out those cups --  maybe it was the annual Turkey Trot.  But what I do remember, were the thousands of (mostly men) and women who charged past us in their Dolphin shorts and singlet tees with their arms outstretched in need of refreshment.  Our system was simple:  hole 'em high, hands near the bottom, and let the runners grab the drinks easily and be on their way. 

Back in the day there was a VERY new drink trying to break into the runner's market called ERG. ( I had to google it just to make sure my memory served me correctly.)  ERG was a lesser-known electrolyte replacement drink similar to Gatorade, but without the commercialism-- or taste.  ERG was nasty.  Even as a kid I couldn't swig down the sour stuff.  But it was that very drink that we had to hand to the runners as they passed our tables one year.

"ERG at this table!  Water straight ahead!" we yelled.  But without fail, some unknowing runners would take the cup from our hands, chug down a gulp of the pee pee drink, and throw it down in disgust.  "I wanted WATER!" they would yell to my brother and I as they ran past us.  "Why did you give me THAT?!" 

Vivid, vivid memories (or nightmares?) I have of panicking and stressing over those mishandled cups of ERG.  I had given the wrong drink to the wrong runner and they were MEAN about it.  There's nothing worse than being yelled at by a stranger for doing what you thought was a good deed. 

So why do I share this little tidbit from my childhood?  Well, it all comes down to thanking the volunteers.  Local running races, no matter what the size, could never come to pass without  volunteers.  As the Ironman Arizona registration captain, I have an unpaid staff of almost 200 just to check in the 3,100 athletes that require race-day wrist bands and number packets.   In fact, Iroman AZ has nearly 4,000 volunteers that help with the event.  That's more volunteers than racers. 

And most of these people spend hours of their time serving strangers, without a single thank you from any athlete. 

If you're a racer, an athlete, a novice, or a pro, make sure you take the time to smile or say thanks to one of those kind souls at your next race.  Give a high five to a supporter, hug a course pointer or a wet suit peeler, yell a big "thank you" to one of those aid station managers. 

"Tis, after all, the thanksgiving season.  

And there will be one less child scarred for life whenever she hears the word ERG!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


In the above video, it is shown how the size of the bowl, plate, or spoon that you use can significantly influence how much food and how many calories you consume. In the study Ice cream illusions: bowls, spoons, and self-served portion sizes, 85 nutrition experts at an ice cream social were randomly given either a smaller (17 oz) or a larger (34 oz) bowl and either a smaller (2 oz) or larger (3 oz) ice cream scoop. After serving themselves, they completed a brief survey as their ice cream was weighed. The researchers found that when nutrition experts were given a larger bowl, they served themselves 31% more without being aware of it. In addition, their servings increased by over 14% when they were given a larger serving spoon.

In a study from the University of Pennsylvania, psychologists conducted an experiment in an upscale apartment building in which they left out a bowl of chocolate candies with a small scoop. The next day they refilled the bowl with M&M's, but left out a much larger scoop. When the scoop size was increased, people took 66 percent more M&M's!

The conclusion: use smaller plates, bowls and utensils, even if somebody laughs at you for eating your soup with a teaspoon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Off Season Success

There's a great article in this month's TRIATHLETE magazine that clarifies some specific off-season rules.  I'm going to incorporate these into my own client's training plans.  Here a list of what the coaches from the magazine Shaw recommend:

1.  Do not run a marathon in January.  Doing a long-distance event during your prime recovery time is a sure-fire way to wind up injured or burned out.

2.  Focus on short, intense workouts.  Do short runs and bikes that will boost your lactate threshold and power output.

3.  Gain Weight (on purpose).  By training at a heavier weight, you're teaching your body to recruit more motor neurons and muscle fibers, like of like recruiting more people to work on the assembly line.  When you lose that weight, you don't need as much oxygen and can get more miles to the gallon.

4.  Swim.  A lot.  The best time to crank up the swim is in the months when it's not great for cycling.

5.  Hit the gym - but not for the elliptical.  Weight lifting can help improve running and cycling economy.  You've spent the season breaking down your house, now you have to repair it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trottin' Time

With T minus two weeks until Turkey day, it's time to start thinking about all the festivities that come along with this great family weekend -- including running in your local Turkey Trot 10k!

In my little corner of the world, The Turkey Trot has been just as much a part of our Thanksgiving Day as stuffing and pumpkin pie.  The Mesa event has been hosted by the Sertoma Club for 42 years.  It's a pretty low key event that starts and ends at the local Red Mountain Park.  And with a nine a.m. start, there's no excuse to NOT participate.  Throw the turkey in the oven and grab your running shoes and start banking those fat burning calories.  You'll be glad you did!

I like these three strategies for performing your best in your next 10K.  Thank you Runner's World.

-- Schedule a Tune Up:  Run a 5K two weeks (that would mean this next week) before your 10K.  Then decrease training intensity and taper three to four days prior to the 10K .  Recover with two days of rest or cross training or until any soreness subsides.  --Ryan Shay

-- Do Speedwork:  Perform fartleks (brief periods of faster running) - run fast for one to three minutes, then go easy for about half the time you spent running hard.  Fartleks improve your running efficiency.

-- Learn Goal Pace:  Run each mile 15 seconds faster until you're running the final mile at the past you're aiming for in your target event.  This will help teach your body and mind what your goal speed feels like.

--  Finish Fast:  Cover three-quarters of the race at a pace that's 45 second per mile slower than you'll run on your big day.  In the final quarter, pick it up until you're running slightly faster than goal pace.   

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just Keep Swimming, Literally

Some of us have small dreams, run a 5k, start a walking program.  Others dream a little bigger.  My friend Kent is one of THOSE guys.  He recently swam from Catalina Island to Long Beach, California, a grueling 21-mile swim through the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean.

To become an official member of this exclusive club, you must swim continuously, without holding onto a boat for support, and without wearing a wetsuit.  You are allowed pace swimmers and a GPS guided boat for navigation.  Unfortunately, some of Kent's pace swimmers got sick on the boat ride and had to bow out of their duties.  According to the Catalina Facebook page, Kent Nicholas, of Mesa Arizona, made the Catalina Channel look relatively simple. Smooth and strong swimming all night long, despite getting seasick on the boat ride out to the island, got him across in 10 hours 46 minutes. When he arrived in Palos Verdes (Friday Sept 9th), his parents, sister, and two young children were at the beach to greet him. His wife was part of the support team on the boat, featuring 2 kayakers and 4 companion swimmers.

Kent, before THE SWIM!

Here's Kent's modest account of his adventure:

My mom would challenge me to swim around sailboats moored in Mission Bay. It was scary. What monsters lurked below the bow of a sailboat or buoy? As I got older, swimming from Catalina Island to shore was something I wanted to do.

After training for months, I was all in with a support crew of six people. We started in the pitch dark from the island. I was sea sick on the way out. Minutes after entering the cold dark water, I could hear sounds that I never anticipated. I was keenly aware of my surroundings. I could see nothing except the glow stick of my pace swimmer.

I was told at one point that three of my crew members could no longer swim due to illness. I planned to swim the next two hours alone. Then three dolphin appeared. I could hear them. It was a friendly sound. I could see them. They swam below and in front of me. It was a wordless but meaningful and reassuring exchange. Things were alright. I finished and I was thankful.

Wow!  Congratulations, Kent!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ann And The Rest Of Us

Late posting photo of the hikers.  Ann, in front, is my new inspiration.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ann's Secret Spark

Yesterday I hiked Camelback mountain with a group of five friends.  The terrain was steep and rocky.  The trails were crowded, and the views were spectacular.

But perhaps the best part of the day was hiking along side 73-year-old Ann.  Ann told us to "Go on ahead! I'll be right behind you, just going at my own pace."  And indeed she was.  About five minutes after we had reached the summit of Camelback, Ann came striding up to us with a smile on her face, just barely breaking a sweat.  She had tackled the cliffs and the climbing and the aerobic workout as if it were a walk in the park.  And I wanted to know her secret.

Ann has been hiking Camelback for over 30 years.  Hiking the mountain has been part of her exercise regime that keeps her fit, alert, spunky and ageless.   She hikes the trails at least three times a week when the weather is nice, and usually starts from the more challenging Echo Canyon trailhead.  Since she's been around so long she has seen the trails fall into disrepair over the years.  "But no one would probably realize that except for me," she says.

As we continued to chat, Ann stressed the important of aerobic exercise.  She had just read the book called SPARK.  (I ordered mine from Amazon on my ride home.)  According to this book, she said, there is scientific evidence that aerobic exercise will stimulate and benefit your mind and brain.

"I could go do crossword puzzles to improve my memory, she said, "but exercise actually helps grow new cells in the brain!"

According to John Ratey, author of Spark, adding exercise to your lifestyle sparks your brain function to improve learning on three levels:  First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention,  mood, and motivation;  Second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and Third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.

No wonder Ann looked so great!

I'm off to keep that spark going inside myself, so I can look and feel like Ann in 30 years.  Now I'm off for a run!
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True