Marathon Training: The Long Run

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If you’re running the TCS New York City Marathon in November or have another marathon coming up in October, like me, the experts would suggest that right about now is a good time for your first long training run. Long runs, as part of your overall marathon training, are important for a variety of reasons, but particularly to allow you to ascertain what your body can do to date. This is not your first run, tempo run, sprint or a race; it is the opportunity to engage the distance you’re running with a substitute of similar factors to bring about a simulation of what your marathon day run will be like. It can range from 18 to 22 or even 24 miles, this all depends on what your goal and your training plan is.

Here are some reasons why you need that long run:

1. Training Gauge

It’s an opportunity to test and assimilate how far you’ve come and how far you have to go in your training.

2. Builds a Race Strategy

It provides an opportunity to try out a race strategy you may want to implement on race day. For example; pacing yourself while wisely utilizing energy gels and hydration fuels on course.

3. Nuetralizes the Fear of the Unknown 
Long runs can be a form of initiation for many first-time marathoners; it eliminates the fear of the unknown, and provides a race-day simulation that incorporates distance, companionship, encouragement and motivation to the newbie marathoner when done in an official setting.

4. Prepares You Physically and Emotionally for Race Day
It builds your endurance, stamina and confidence so that you will face marathon day fully prepared and confident in your ability to run 26.2 miles.

5. Cardiovascular Enrichment
As with all forms of exercise, running more strengthens our hearts and its ability to provide oxygen-rich blood to our muscles (CompetitiveRunner.com).

6. Teaches Your Muscles to Store Glycogen                          
Long runs teaches your muscles to store more glycogen, the primary source of fuel during exercise, this is very important to avoid “hitting the wall” on marathon day.

7. Ups Your Performance    
Depending on the regularity and duration of your long run and this would depend on whose training plan you’re using, it could be an instrumental part of your training to assist with speed, endurance and strength training leading up to PR and even a possible coveted placement at the finish.

8. Helps Burns Fat as Fuel  
When your glycogen storage decreases as is the case on a long run, your body fat becomes a secondary source to provide energy for your muscles.

9. Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers to help out in slow-twitch tasks

10. Increases Mileage and adds to Experience

Practice indeed makes perfect. The more and longer you run perfects your knowledge of your body, its capabilities and of the sport of running.

In essence, the long training run is essential to you not only running but completing your marathon. Additionally, it is good practice for general race training from 5ks to marathons and beyond as it helps to hone pace, endurance and strength skills while also building up the runner psychologically. In my humble opnion, it is the key to running your best marathon.

Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

Cross Training for Runners

Recently there has been a surge in the idea that Cross Training can benefit runners, increasing strength, endurance and building muscle. It is suggested that Cross Training can be supplemental to running, providing variety while strengthening and building muscles that normally atrophy with overuse and helping with speed and endurance to make you run longer, faster and better.

According to Dr. Vonda Wright, in her power play video above, what one needs to be a great racer goes beyond good sneakers and great nutrition. She claims, that what makes one a great racer is metabolic efficiency, balanced muscles and total body fitness. I believe she’s right on target with her attempt to get us to question and stretch ourselves.

There exist a ton of information on the best exercises to optimize your running potential, so much so, that it can be difficult to decide where your best results lie. Most trainers and runners agree that exercises, which target core areas and strengthen those that you use for running, which would pretty much mean your total body, are the ones you need to focus on. Some are: Swimming, Biking, Gym Workouts to include core work such as planks and squats; Yoga and Pilates are great for this, and Light Weights. Biking is great for strength training and targets your quads, gluts and legs without the impact of pavement pounding. Swimming is no impact and great for upper body and shoulder strengthening. It helps with stability and control and helps you stay in line when running because it builds core strength. Also, as with biking, runner’s knee and other susceptible injuries are a misnomer. Finally, there is so much to do at the gym..where to begin? Kettle bells! I love the feel and result. They have the advantage of giving your muscles and gluts a good workout-great butt booster girls-but lower the risk of injuries associated with heavier weights. Kettle bells can be included in a circuit workout that may include butt kicks, burpees, jumping jacks, planks and high knees. Remember the idea here is to be lean and fit so the focus should be on less weights and more reps. This will keep you in good stead, strengthening those muscles that will help you to be a more efficient and effective runner.

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Happy Cross Training guys.

Video

Running In Sochi

The Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics is on! And it’s buzzing. From Track Speed Skating to Moguls and Freestyle Skiing and any and everywhere in between, the games provide something for everyone. Spanning some 90 years with its first official game in 1924, its been hosted more or less every four years like its summer counterpart, and have graduated from its early history of Scandinavian domination, its predecessor The Nordic Games, to include countries as far north as Canada and as far south as New Zealand and Australia. It also includes countries from South America and the Caribbean.

imageThis year the games of The XXII Olympiad boast a field of events that tests athletes endurance, skill, precision and speed on the ice.  To my way of thinking, many of these “snow/ice sports” share something in common with running, the big difference being  that they’re performed on ice. Take the Biathlon, Speed Skating, Short Track and Cross-Country, these are all sports with a running component with the adage of skates and skis as it would be impossible to run on ice without them. I recently watched a video of learning to cross-country ski and it was telling to see how one literally has to learn to run (diagonal stride) with skis on, only adding poles as you become more proficient. Since running is all about speed and endurance, I relate on a less icy level.

However, my favorite to watch at the Winter Games has always been Figure Skating. This year Russia’s own 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, the youngest recipient of a gold medal for Team Russia, is a treat to watch.  Yulia LipnitskayIn the women short program on Monday, she put on one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen in figure skating and could well be the star of the show. I suspect an upset is imminent as former predictions for the popular Women’s Figure Skating event did not include her among USA, Japan, South Korea and Italy favorites. It’s the event to watch Feb 19 & 20.

What is super cool is that these games show us that while winter could be cold, harsh and unsettling to a lot of us, we’d do better to accept it for what it is, and what it brings and too, for all the sporty running things we can get up to.  If over 2000 athletes can do it then so can we. Winter Olympics 2014, we ❤️ you!

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