My Pacing Problem

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source: usafmarathon.com

Pacing is a very important issue for runners, runners who are concerned with optimal performance that is. The average runner will have a goal of what he/she would like his/her next 5k, 10k, half-marathon or full marathon time to be and if he or she is really serious about it then that runner will have a plan or pacing strategy to make it happen. It is a common belief among coaches and athletes alike that practicing proper pacing will bring about running success and ensure you achieve your highest potential. Said professionals believe that pacing is not necessarily a natural ability but a skill that can be refined and sharpened through practice and training in your tempo runs and interval sessions.

We’ve often heard the cliché expression – pace yourself – and while it maybe an overused euphemism it applies just as much to running as to other areas of life and maybe even more importantly so. “Running the correct pace can be the difference between running a personal record or not,” says Coach Richard Airey. In other words, you start off too fast and you run the risk of burnout or you get caught up in the race excitement and allow the race to dictate your pace, the result being you end up running much faster in the beginning leading to a forced and much slower finish.

The newbie or inexperienced runner is susceptible to this as so often we are driven by competition. It takes only the thought that someone will out-perform you to get your juices flowing and you’re off but it is the disciplined and experienced runner who understands that in most cases or races placing and medals happen at the finish line, which could be twenty-five miles down the road.

Enter me, certainly not a newbie but not quite so sure I fit in the category of experienced, or maybe it’s just that I’m not very disciplined, whatever it is and for sure it’s something, I continue to be challenged by this pacing concept. Oftentimes, if I race with a pacer, and this certainly is an option where available, I tend to do pretty well. On the other hand, left to my own devices, I usually end up struggling with an even pace for any race greater than a half-marathon. Too, I have tried running negative splits (second half of the race faster than the first) and have only been marginally successful with that. There is empirical evidence to support this as the most efficient and effective way to attain your goal with studies showing that record holders from 1500 meters to marathons have been negative-split runners, see here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19116437 I have been told this can be remedied with coaching and practice. Since I have been practicing, I can only deduce that discipline is lacking and thus I feel I can benefit from a one-on-one approach. If skill is indeed what this pacing thing is about, I feel more than equipped, only I need those skills honed and developed.

With Boston in mind, I have been focusing on speedwork: tempo runs, hill repeats and interval sessions. Maybe I can benefit from some track work; though with all the cold airof late, my breathing has been taking a beating. I can only hope this leads to something good. Off to find a coach, wish me luck!

 

 

The Power Of Sleep

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houstonchronicle.com

It’s funny how as you grow older you come to recognize how much your body depends on the little things you take for granted, and while you may have been able to squeeze by on say, bad eating habits, regular partying and drinking, late nights, poor rest and little sleep, as you cross the mid-thirty threshold whether runner or not, you begin to feel, look, and in many cases, perform differently. Your body lets you know in no uncertain terms that unlike before when you could get by on the fly of youth, now you would have to earn it. Those eight hours of restfull bliss that you credited only to growing minds have once again become a necessary reality for both the athlete and healthy-minded individual.

Dr. Matthew Edlund, director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, claims “you’re always remaking your body,” and you need sleep to do that. While we sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, rebuild muscles, and rewire our brains. Studies have found that chronic sleep deprivation decreases the time before an athlete reaches exhaustion. And, even one night without sleep decreased the distance test subjects were able to run in a half-hour (Sleep In — It Will Make You Faster, By Kelly O’Mara, competitor.com)

Honestly, I enjoy sleep. In my book, it ranks high up there on my sacred list of things that give unequal enjoyment – demands nothing in return. Thing is, in this day and age of relative unconectivity and constant movement, where we are busy going nowhere fast, it has become more and more difficult to find the time to do so. Amid a lot of struggles, the struggle to garner enough rest on a daily basis has become only too real. As a result, I find myself unable to fulfill my highest potential in many activities that require strenuous effort and attention. In other words, I’m way to tired, way to often. I’m also convinced that were there to be increased hours in the day, we would find even more ways to fill it up and sleep would still be neglected. Sleep just can’t win and for that matter neither will we, not if we continue at the current rate; at some point out bodies are going to yell “enough!” Why should it take that for us to stop and take notice? The red flags are there if we will but open our eyes to them. They include: constant and easy tiredness, lethargy, crankiness and short-temperedness, moodiness, poor concentration and inattentiveness, decreased strength and mediocre performance.

Some ways, aside from keeping your goal in mind, of combatting the sleep-depriving demon are:
1. Create an atmosphere for rest and relaxation: thus, your bedroom should be used only for this purpose with the correct temperature and lighting providing an ambience that is relaxing and sleep-friendly.
2. Have a set schedule where enough sleep is factored in per day: this could mean giving yourself a specific time to go to bed and treating it as you would your training schedule (sacred).
3. Go to bed earlier if you are an early riser to ensure your body gets enough rest. 
4. It helps to relax before bed to get yourself in the zone: eat dinner early, tone down activities and sources of entertaining stimulation and stay away from caffine and alcohol.
5. Nap as needed when sleep-deprived: this can help greatly in reducing stress, restoring energy and concentration though it is not a substitute for being well rested.
There is no denying that each individual is different and so has different needs and so while we all need sleep, we may need different amounts and at different times. Your best bet is to find out what works best for you. While 8-10 hours is the average need of an athlethe, you may find that you feel well and rested after 7 or 9 hours. It is your body and your call, you get to determine this based on the red flags noted above. As you come to discover the power of a good night’s rest, you may discover the reasons behind you falling short on that PR goal.
Watch: The Importance Of Sleep video

Running Through the Storm

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Supposedly, we are in for a bit of a nor’easter as a storm off the coast of North Carolina is set today to make its way through Virginia, Maryland, Philadelphia and Washington D.C (those states expected to get the worst of it) all the way out to Boston. Landfall is expected later tonight.

Exciting times for New Yorkers, as we head into the weekend and the grocery store, because who knows, we might be stuck inside for all of one day! Some of us are hoping anyway, though not really I think, New Yorkers are the least sedentry of people. We are a up and about lot for the most part and enjoy storms (not devastating ones) and such, which gives us the opportunity to stop for a minute – only from work – gear up and head out, whether to sled, skate, ski (out in the mountains) and, of course, run. The scences are those of reckless abandonment, purposeful fun and carefree gaiety to see the kids, kids-at-heart & dogs even, having a field day in the snow; with us, runners, valiently getting our run on amid the cherry winds and slush. I mean you have to see this – such a New York thing. That is, providing we have a wonderful snow storm, which is totally possible – the adventurer/optimist/rebel in me declares.

2 inches or 6 inches or even 10 ( hardly likely unless you’re way out on the island or upstate) is not enough to keep us down or inside. More than likely, there are those of us with plans ready on how to either get or make the most out of it, and who can blame us, anticipation is sweeter for its uncertainty. Regardless, winter wonderland holds many pockets of joy for its proponents and I for one am just about ready to get on with it already. It’s like I always say, if it has to be this cold, it may as well snow. That way I can be cold with reason ( not saying my reasoning makes much sense but whatever).

I’m not sure even I believe this, but I’m actually looking forward to a snow run! I mean, what the heck right? Gotta tell yah, I’ve come a long way and I’m proudest of me. Who would have thought – just about a year or so ago I would have been like “uggh..brr…” now here I am, ready to run. And I do mean ready – mind, body, spirit and gear all in one accord. LOL.

Life is indeed full of surprises –  and hope and potential and passion and so much good stuff. The secret, I believe, is our ability to let go of our inhibitions and embrace it regardless of how it is presented to us, knowing that we have the power to form it into what we will. So, go on ahead then, enter winter wonderland, enter at your own risk. I promise not to do you much harm only to wring as much fun out of you as I can. You make me feel brave. “Big wink.”

Character Traits of the Successful Runner

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Cold and brutal weather brings about varying responses from many of us. In the northern parts of the United States, many people are very tolerant of this kind of weather and even enjoy it. Maybe it has to do with their having settled here by choice or their having acclimatized easy enough; whatever the reason, you will find arguments for and against running in the worst of winter and runners enough in support of layering, lacing up and braving the elements.

In my view, it says a lot about the character of one who is able to put aside discomfort, unpleasantness, disappointment, inconvenience – snow storm and minus temps anyone – and a lot of other obstacles that define the running life while continuing to steadfastly pursue a course of action that sure enough has its inherent dangers, but also holds the promise of sweet success. Such a runner, in my humble opinion, is above average and subscribes to a set of defining traits and/or qualities that places him or her far above the rest.
The successful runner must have:
  • Passion – a desire and drive for the Sport of running that inspires excitement and commitment for follow-through even when the going is rough.
  • Perseverance – the wherewithal to patiently stay the course: sticking to workout schedules and training plans to ensure the desired outcome.
  • Confidence – an innate belief in oneself and one’s ability and in one’s coach and/or training plan.
  • Determination/Tenacity – holding fast to one’s belief and running MO through a demonstrated willingness to overcome obstacles and hindrances seeing them only as temporary setbacks on the part to success.
  • Focus – the ability to keep one’s eye on the goal at all times.
  • Resilience – that unique ability to bounce back after disappointments keeping focus and form.

There’s nothing like winter weather to draw us out, in many cases sifting us only to find us wanting.. or human.. though often enough it will find those of us who embrace the challenge of winter weather, using it to vilify us and our dreams of being counted among those who belong to that exclusive club of successful runners.

2016 Running Goals

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This year I’ve determined that less is indeed more. Far too often, I’ve found myself striving to keep up with me – if that makes any sense. Admittedly, I’m sure I’ve said this before – I can be a bit much at times and do tend to want to do it all but just as goals need to be realistic so must I, which means scaling back on some things in order to maximize the opportunity for success in others.

As a result, thanks in large part to my year of growth and experience last year, I’ve found myself setting just a few running goals this year, which I’ll share with you – the privileged few who I keep up-to-date with all things running as it pertains to me. Here they are:

  • Complete the Boston Marathon in a time of 3:35:00.
  • Train hard and consistently, which means running at least 5/7 days of the week and doing a weekly long run (It is not by chance that this goal follows completing Boston)
  • Run two destination marathons
  • Add meaning to my miles: run at least one of my big races for charity
  • Begin training for a triathlon in the Spring, which means practicing swimming and biking (A triathlon was one of the things on my list last year that did not happen)
  • Run at least 2 races for fun in summer
  • Keep a daily log of my miles ( For shame I have attempted this in the past with no success)

To my way of thinking, I should be ok having set the foundation, insofar as my goals are “SMART,” but more importantly, realistic & time-bound, as we discussed last week. There is no inordinate amount of pressure to perform other than what is inherent in the activities outlined in order to present some challenge and momentum to do at my best. In the past, as recent as last year, I would always set way too many goals and end up not making at least two on my list much to my dismay and disappointment. This year I’ve realized that I don’t have to do it all “today” and even if I did fall short that would be ok too. What matters is that I’ve set about my year with realistic direction and purpose with the means and resources, as far as humanly possible, to get the job done and have some fun while doing it. No more self-recrimination for me.

New Year, New You or Cliché?

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happynewyear2016quotes.com

No one puts aside time and make the effort every year’s end to come up with a set of goals that they plan on never seeing to fruition. Truth is, by the time January 1st comes along we’re totally excited about putting the old year behind us and stepping into what we perceive as a new opportunity, another chance to make some changes or get it right – if you will. And why shouldn’t we? The new year does indeed provide an opportunity for a fresh start for many of us. The startling, but then, not-so-startling, thing is why when fostered by so much determination, strength of purpose and the personal drive to realize our goals at the beginning of the year do they fall through? And oftentimes when we’re less than halfway into the year. Survey results show that an average eight percent of our new year goals are achieved by the year’s end. What is it that causes us to fall by the wayside leaving goals, resolutions, determinations – however you see them – as dissapointing slivers of what-could-have-been-if-only-I-had-the-wherewithal-to-stick-with-it.

Chances are we may already have a fair idea for the reasons behind our inability to follow through, but I’ll go ahead and posit anyway that those very said goals that we are bent on achieving at the beginning of the year need to be mainly two things: realistic and subject to time constraints. This is the reason why many psychologists and other professionals agree that goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. I particularly latch on to realistic and time-bound because we need to be clear on the difference between dreams and goals as this can mean the difference between success and disappointment.
Dreams fall somewhere along the lines of fanciful and wishful. While many dreams do and can come throug it may not be prudent to set a dream you have as something you would like to achieve in a year’s time. Because a dream is inherently lacking in direction, focus, strategy, planning and sometimes even in reality it does not fulfill the “SMART” criteria and can be viewed as setting oneself up for failure. For example, I dream of running the World Marathon Majors Series; however, the chances of me fulfilling that next year is akin to impossible due to varying factors such as opportunity and money. Thus, that wikl not be listed as one of my goals for next year; maybe in a few years but not in 2016. See, goals need to be realistic. I can dream of doing many things, even talk myself into thinking I can do those many things but if at the end of the day there are insurmountable obstacles to prevent them happening and they remain unachievable then they are unrealistic. Realsitc goals are goals that can be achieved with resources you either have or can obtain in the time-frame needed. In addition to realistic, goals must be bound by a period of time. This way they’re easier to manage and provide you with the focus to get it done. An example would be to say, “next year I will run 4 marathons, 1 in each season.” From this you can tell I am pacing myself and providing ample kopportunity to run a marathon every 3 months.
While I could go on about goals being “SMART,” we’ve been over that so many times already I feel it’s important to point out that if you remember anything in setting yourself goals for next year it is to try to do it with someone – a buddy –  who can hold you and you can hold accountable. We, humans, respond better when we are held accountable to someone. We tend to be more committed, more focused, more motivated, we’re all-round better at performing or even out-performing when we have someone supporting, encouraging, demanding and providing insight. It is no secret we were never meant to walk this life alone nor should we have to face challenges alone. Life is better in twos or threes or fours or… you get the picture. Your Happy New You depends on you.

T’was Merry Running on Christmas

patch.com

patch.com

I ran away to Georgia for the Christmas break and was given the gift of Christmas in July, for running anyway. While I chose to take the positive out of that – you guys know how much of a summer girl I am – there is no denying the extreme and severe weather events that have been flooding different parts of the Midwest and south. I can only be thankful for what I deemed a blessing where I was while keeping in prayer those who have been the victims of stormy weather elsewhere.

For my part, I was able to sweat up a storm and put some mileage under these running shoes; this fit in perfectly with the laid-back southern life of those peachy folks in Georgia. While some would argue for it being humid, wet and overcast, I felt that given everything happening elsewhere, we were in a pretty good place even to taking it as a gift with a bow of sunshine.

In Georgia, Christmas is that time we come together (actually Christmas Eve) with family and friends, we go to church and celebrate Jesus, we share eats and drinks and exchange gifts at Christmas parties then we come home, open family gifts ( yay..there was some running stuff in there) too much hilarity and goofiness, followed by games such as taboo, headband etc until the wee hours of the morning, and if we felt awake enough, which we did, we put on a movie – this year mission impossible: rogue nation won out – and we ended up with it watching us at about 6am. Then it was off to serve Christmas breakfast down at the local mission until 10am and then back home to breakfast and clean-up and finally..sleep around 2pm. I awoke at 6pm to Christmas dinner, after which it was – let the binge begin – Downton Abbey Season 1 until it ended or I passed out, whichever happened first.

IMAG0006~2_1The morning after is Running time. Though there was no over-eating for me, I judiciously followed my after-Christmas-Day-tradition. It was up and running about 9am for a couple of hours at one of my favorite running spots. At Brookfield Park, I revelled in the sounds of nature and the cool breeze and kiss of sunshine. I felt like nature responded to my deep sense of appreciation as the sky appeared bluer, the birds sang merrier, the rustle of the leaves were louder and the fall colors (still evident) were brighter, even the sun was hotter and that was ok..it’s Georgia’s  merry christmas and I love running it. I’m pretty sure the local folks wonder at my over-enthusiasm but I always feel right at home as there are other like-minded runners out – enthusiasm a bit tapered maybe – but we rock running all the same and that’s all that matters.

Most times I’m lucky to get a quickie of a run in the next day – this time I didn’t – but the Falcons won Sunday Football, big deal in these parts – then it was back into travel gear and I headed back to the big A where I was greeted by a not-so-very-welcome chill. From 70 to 40 in a matter of states; this is New York.

Races to Keep You Running this Winter

Source: running magazine.ca

Source: running magazine.ca

Rumor has it we may be in for a mild winter or maybe that’s just me and wishful thinking. Yesterday on my speed workout, our group were surmising that it could have either been a mild or stormy one given the presence of El Niño affecting the pacific jet stream. Our coach, the authority figure on all things weather..NOT..pointed out that this winter phenomenon occurs every seven years or so and we’re about due. I’m not sure how much of that I’m buying but I’m a bit of an idealist and cannot help but lean and hope on the mild side. Mind you, I love snow – the pretty kind – just like the next person but living in New York has taught me to appreciate it only when it serves my purpose, selfish I know, but the reality can be just as brutal I promise you. Either way we’re running, so it’s all about finding a way to make the most of it. One way to do this is to run races that will bring out the best in you; challenge, fun, variety, adventure and/or excitement is but a race away, all it takes is the right pair of eyes and a heart determined to make it happen. I’ve scrounged up a few with you, and well, me in mind:

1. Emerald Nuts Midnight Run, 4 miles, Dec 31, Central Park, NYC
2. NYCRUNS Central Park, Jan 10, 10 & 5 Miler
3. The Color Run, Jan 13, The Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
4. Walt Disney World Marathon, Jan 10, Orlando, FL
5. The Battan Memorial Death March Marathon & 14.2 miler, March 20, White Sands Missiles Lane, New Mexico
6. Mississippi Blues Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, Jan 9, Jackson MI
7. Arkansas: Little Rock Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, March 5-6, Little Rock, AK
8. The Spartan Cruise featuring a Private Island Obstacle Sprint Race, 3+ miles,March 6-9, The Bahamas

If you’re thinking traveling is too much of a hassle, then you’re probably a bit more sedentary than I am, as I look forward to races outside of home and usually take to places I haven’t visited yet, all for the novelty and excitement of a new course, a new crowd and a new experience. Regardless of winter, I’ve always been about getting the most out of life as much as I can and when I can. I won’t allow a mere change in season to alter that nor will I allow it to pass me by without taking advantage of the covert opportunities for running enjoyment. All you have to do is step out on faith with one of the races mentioned above. You’re welcome!

Essential Wear for Winter Running

Source: runnersforum.com

Source: runnersforum.com

My last couple posts would have seen to getting you ready for this season’s running; since I figure I’m sorta responsible for your up and out, it’s all I can do to make sure you’re properly equipped to do so by getting you in gear. While it’s all well and good to have a well-thought-out training plan and the right attitude, if you lack the proper tools to execute your plan, it’ll all have been for nought. The concept of dressing for success does not only apply to the corporate person but really speaks to anyone who seeks to win at what he or she chooses to do. Hence why running in winter requires paying due attention to wearing the right apparel.

Coach Jenny Hadfield, writing for Active.com, insists that your winter wardrobe should include running jacket,hat, headband, gloves, tights and long-sleeve shirts. Duh right? But you may be surprised how thoughtless we can sometimes be. Accidents and illnesses happen in most cases without warning and before you know it all your well thought out plans could be shot to hell in a careless run; our goal is to make sure you stay wise, warm, healthy and safe as much as we can. A general rule of thumb is to dress 20 degrees warmer than it actually is as the body generates enough heat while running to ensure that if you’re adequately covered you will be just fine. Slightly cool is a good place to start. Just make sure to layer up using more or less layers as the temperature determines. Adding to the above, wearing the right fabric is very important to wick moisture away from your skin to keep your body as dry and warm as possible.

My experience has taught me that I’m one of those “always cold people” and so I’ve found that depending on how cold and/or windy it gets, I may alternate, drastically sometimes, between as much as four layers on top; a vest, a base ( technical shirt) layer, sometimes a fleece top (vest) and jacket and double layers of tights and pants to just double layers on top and a tights and shorts at other times.  Mittens or gloves or two depending, a headband and a hat is understood. Very rarely do I wear sunglasses but always sunscreen as I try to do as much of my winter training runs at the time of day with the highest sunlight to absorb whatever rare amount of vitamin D that’s available, as well as to minimize exposure to the cold.

Also, I’ve never been out running in minus anything and used to think that I’d surely die if I did but I don’t know, I’m a different person than I was even two years ago, more tolerant, more adventurous, more determined – maybe more of a badass – I like to think anyway, so who knows what the very near future might hold. Let’s just say I’m open this time around and in honor of that I’ve decided to purchase a balaclava – a mask that fits over the head, around the neck and over to mouth to protect against the cold – hell I’m sure it won’t even have to get that cold for me to don it, but regardless it’ll join my wardrobe of running must-haves. Another must-have, at least if you’re planning on going out whether ice, slush or snow, is proper shoes. I swear by trail running sneakers with as little mesh as possible for traction on the ice and to keep my feet dry along with wool socks that wicks away moisture but keeps them warm. Another option to provide stability are those removable traction devices like, Yak Trax, that you can easily place on and remove when you get off running.

I’m sure to the average runner this sounds like a lot of fuss while to the untrained eye it may even seem unnecessary but those who live anywhere there’s winter, and I’m not talking mild cold here, such folks can relate to why we would go to such lengths to protect ourselves from the elements. As to why we would go running in that kind of weather is another question altogether. I can venture a few guesses: we’re of the typical crazy-runner-type, the outfits are super cute? it’s fun if you really think about it? I think I’m running out of reasons and so now you have to go shopping – the best part!

How to Run things this Season

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

“I succeed on my own personal motivation, determination and commitment. My mindset is: if I’m not out there training, someone else is.” – Lynn Jennings

Thursday gone was not the typical running day; rather it was windy, cold and dank, with the promise of temperatures getting progressively colder within the next few weeks. This is not strange at all but merely the signs of Autumn falling behind and Winter fast approaching; which then begs the question, If this is what it looks and feels like now, what will we do when Winter gets here? Since this is no simple question, it follows that the answer is not simple at all but should be more of a determined, precise and focused response to a challenge faced by many runners who live in seasonal climates, particularly that of Winter. A double challenge exists for those of us who, not only dislike the cold, but have Spring races lined up and must thus spend our Winter months in training.

Between the holiday festivities and the cold weather, I’d wager that training for a marathon or any other endurance-type race in not high up there on anyone’s wish list, mine least of all. But I’ve figured for some time now that being a runner  means one rarely gets vacation or even have off days. We are more likely to get a rest day in-between training, but really if one is in this thing competitively – even competing with oneself – then it’s pretty much open season on running. The truth is, after a while, it becomes a way of life and is no more scheduled than eating is; however, if you’re in that place where it’s still a bit of a chore then of course around this time it becomes the proverbial millstone. And ouch, that’s darn heavy. But, lucky you and me, we are not alone. Running, while often done solo, is at base a community sport and so wherever you may find yourself this holiday season, I urge you to link up with the local running community. This may take the form of a running meet up, running group, running club, a couple running buddies or a friend – those willing to share their run, experience or just company with you – will make all the difference to your cold, wet and even icy runs.

The more structure you add to your training is the more likelihood you have of it being a success. All this means is that you should add a training plan to your schedule, holidays included. This plan should be a guide to keep you focused and engaged taking into account the necessary rest days and dutifully rewarding you for your hard work. It helps if you either do this with a group or person for motivation and accountability and stick to a regular schedule as much as possible. For sure, we can’t always be certain how things will pan out especially with the weather; snowstorms, road blockages, black ice, loss of power, any number of things could and may go wrong. While we can’t control any of these, we are certainly resourceful and determined and so it’s useful to add a plan B to your training schedule as well as to ensure maximum leverage of this training period. The gym: cross training, spin or cycling or a conditioning or aerobic class and/or the treadmill or indoor track are good just-in-case options, at-home: You Tube workout video, jump rope, Pilates, yoga or even just hooking up with a friend for a jog around the block, park or a local school track if it’s crazy out.

You will find that, as it becomes more routine than novelty, those runs will inspire more challenge and greater effort. Aside from the bonus of staying fit and looking fabulous through Christmas and into the New Year, there will be no guilty pleasures, for everything you eat is well deserved and thus tastes twice as good. You may even find that you’re actually looking forward to getting out, nothing like the fresh, cold air and a training run to work up an appetite and leave you invigorated and ready to run the world.

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