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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Category Archives: Q & A

How Running Makes Us Happy

“If you aren’t enjoying running, then you are doing it wrong.”  — P. Mark Taylor

My friend Von asked this question the other day:

“Why am I not as happy on the days I don’t run?
Even if I don’t run, I’m still working out.
So, why does it have to be running?”

I know that Von works out hard on his non-running days.  This just makes it crystal clear to him that something about running is unique.  It makes his whole day better.  Even though that other exercise is important and good for him, he doesn’t get that same full-day benefit from his non-running exercise.  Well, Von, here are some of the many ways that running makes us feel better.

A Simple, Soothing Break

Despite the beliefs of many, running actually relaxes you in some important ways.  One of the most important is simply getting your muscles AND the mind to relax.  The gentle rhythm of running in proper form provides a soothing beat.  With each step, gravity pulls on your muscles and loosens them up a little.  Much of the tension built up through the challenges that you face day-to-day seem to slip away gradually.  It is almost as if gravity is giving you a massage while you are working to get healthy.

Running is not just physically soothing, but also mentally soothing.  On a run, one can get lost in the sights and sounds around them.  Some people hear the rhythm of their feet.  Some tune in to the birds and the breeze.  Other choose to run through scenic landscape.  In this way, the sights, sounds, and smell of a run provide an escape from the world, a mini vacation.

You will not get this kind of soothing break from all kinds of workouts.  A high-intensity workout will not produce the same results.   While it may be highly productive for health, an intense workout lacks the soothing, rhythmic effect of a run.

Endorphins

Endorphins can be released through many different forms of strenuous exercise.  Technically, endorphins are “a morphine-like substance originating from within the body.”  Your body releases the endorphins to counter the stress created by the pain of  the exercise.  Beyond the time of the exercise, the endorphins hang around long enough for you to be a bit more relaxed.  This “endorphin rush” can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.  Running has the edge over most other exercises in that more endorphins tend to be produced, especially in people that run nearly every day.

Runner’s High

As wonderful as endorphins may be, they do not cause runner’s high.  This is a common misunderstanding.  Runner’s high is due to a completely different system with a very different effect.  Runner’s high is actually caused by anandamide.  Anandamide is another substance that is created by the body to guard against pain.  Both endorphins and anandamide serve the same purpose of allowing us to continue our efforts in the presence of pain.  The difference is in the timing.  A second line of defense, anandamide tends to be released after longer periods of ongoing exercise.

A second difference is the particular effect.  While endorphins impact your system in ways similar to morphine, anandamide acts more like HTC.  HTC is the chemical present in marajuana.  In this way, runner’s high really is high in exactly the same way as smoking marajuana.  While endorphins do not cross into the brain, this is where anandamide does its work.  Runner’s high is stronger and longer lasting than an endorphin rush.

Here again, it is possible to get runner’s high from other sports, but you are much more likely to find the “sweet-spot” for anadamide while you are running.  If you want to increase your likelihood of getting runner’s high, you should run at tempo pace, just a little faster than your 10K race pace.  This pace adds just enough stress to cause the body to produce anandamide but not so much stress as to overwhelm your body.  It is the “just right” pace for a great workout and a trip to La-La-Land.

Conclusion

Like many other sports, running can make you happy through setting & meeting goals, by helping us get healthy, and by being happy & proud of our consistent efforts.  Like other sports, there are things about running that help us relax.  As far as setting the tone for a happy day, however, running edges out the competition.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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Wise Running: More on Motivation

I recently posted a blog about motivation, an excerpt from my 2nd book about to be published.

http://wiserunning.com/2013/07/27/wise-running-models-of-motivation/

 

Today’s post adds a little and is a response to the requests of two fledgling runners that are trying to find the motivation to be more consistent.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose and role of running in your life?
  • Why did you start?
  • Why do you continue?

When you have answered these questions, write the answers down and post it on the wall.  When it is time to go for a run, read these before you decide whether you will run or not.

The second thing that I want to share is consistency leads to rewards.

Remember This:

If you run consistently, running will reward you with endorphins, health, the satisfaction of meeting goals, and connections to a network of positive people.

If you only run once in a while, running most often feels like a punishment.

 

The final thing to add is a quick note about runners high.  It is an awesome feeling that is different from a rush of endorphins.  Running becomes easy and you feel very relaxed and happy while you run.

The more consistent you are with your running, the more likely it is that you will experience runners high.

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Now it is time for our fellow runners to share!

  • What benefits do you get from running more consistently?
  • What tips would you give to runners to help them become more consistent?

Post your response in the comments below.  Thank you!!

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

Marathon Nutrition

...about the same time as the last one...

Carrying my calories on a Fuel Belt.

Amy left this note for me on Facebook:

“I was just curious if you had any tips or blogs or any help on nutrition for running a marathon! I ran my first Marathon about a week and a half ago. It did not go to well, I got really dehydrated and hit the wall fast, after that ! 17-23 turned into the death zone! Anyway I did train but my stomach is just not that good and cramps a lot! So it is hard for me to drink a lot and eat much of anything while I run! Also I lost weight training which is okay but I do not want to lose weight again! I am going to start my training up again in June for the Chicago Marathon. I would just like to feel good while I run and I know the key to this is nutrition! Distance wise I felt I was prepared! I am pretty sure I did not eat enough food before, looking back now! So if you have any pointers, info, book whatever I would love to hear it!! If it matters I do not run to fast but would love to pick it up for next Marathon! However not feeling like death would be great !!”

Amy, you are not alone!  When I first started running marathons, I didn’t even like to drink on the run.  The idea of drinking 4-6 ounces of every 2 miles seemed crazy.  That is one of the reasons that I had trouble starting at about mile 17 on my first marathon as well.

Marathon Nutrition is a tricky thing.  For most of us, our bodies will begin to run out of resources somewhere between mile 15 and mile 17 if we are not careful before and during a marathon.  I will split the nutrition advice into three stages: training, tapering, & race day.

Nutrition During Training

Before I get specific about foods and supplements, let me make one comment about weight loss.  Marathon training means an increase in weekly mileage and a gradual increase in the distance of your weekly long run.  As your mileage increases, your need for nutrition increases.  As a result, marathon training is not very compatible with weight loss.  You need more carbs during marathon training, not fewer.

As for the specific foods to eat to maximize the benefits of your training, the answer is simple: eat healthy.  Instead of cutting back on food to get healthy, you should be changing the kind of food that you eat.  As with any time, you need a balanced diet.  You also need to eat less and less processed foods while increasing the amount of simple natural foods.  Dietician Cassie is always talking about striking a balance at each meal with PFC: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  In marathon training, it is still ideal to balance these three, with an increased emphasis on carbs.  While carbs are the focus in the last days of the taper, you must keep eating healthy fat and a good amount of protein at each meal.  Here is my blog post about protein for runners.

Some folks, including me, need a little extra help from supplements during marathon training.  I need extra the electrolytes offered through capsules, tablets, drinks, & powders.  I mostly stick with Endurolytes Capsules from Hammer Nutrition.  Each electrolyte supplement has different directions to follow.  Personally, I need more than the average person.  I know that I need more electrolytes when my leg muscles are twitching a little bit while I am relaxing after my workout.  Finding your electrolyte balance during  training & especially on your long runs can save a great deal of pain and cramping during the marathon!

Nutrition During the Taper

The taper is usually about two weeks of gradually lowering your mileage and effort as you approach the marathon.  Nutrition for most of the taper period is no different from during the rest of training.  It is normal and healthy to gain a few pounds, especially during the last week before the marathon.  Your body knows what is coming and is storing energy, electrolytes, and water.  This weight gain is good.  You will use it all during the marathon, I promise!

In the last 48 hours before the marathon, you will no longer stick to the protein/carb/fat balance that you normally consume.  You will gradually reduce your intake of protein and fat while increasing your healthy carbohydrates.  You also want to shift towards carbohydrate sources that have less fiber.

Jeff Galloway makes the following suggestions:

  • Rules:
    1. Don’t try anything new.
    2. Go through the same schedule and foods that worked for you in training.
    3. If you hear sloshing in your stomach, you don’t have to drink for the next 30 minutes.
  • 24 hours and before: Plenty of liquids all day long, especially electrolyte fluids. Before marathons you can eat extra carbohydrates.
  • 18 hours before race: Start eating small meals, every 2-3 hours. Keep drinking fluids. After lunch, cut out red meat, fried foods, dairy products, fats, nuts, and roughage.
  • 12 hours before race: Don’t overeat. Only light, digestible foods like energy bars, bread, small sandwiches, which you’ve tried before long runs and races. Keep drinking water and electrolyte fluids. Avoid salty foods.

Nutrition on Race Day

Before a marathon, you need to have a substantial number of calories in the morning.  One expert suggests consuming enough easy-to-digest carbs to provide 200 calories for each hour you are awake before the race.  Keep it simple.  Avoid fat of any kind on race morning.  Whatever you eat that morning, get it in your body about 3 hours before the start.  As the start approaches, shift to your race fuel.  (gels, sports drink, …)

Water mostly, with some electrolyte fluid, in small, regular amounts.  Cold water is absorbed quicker. I recommend 6 oz. every hour, 8 oz. on hot days.  If you want Vitamin C, take it two hours or more before the race.

DURING the marathon is even more complicated.  For a half marathon, most just need one or two gel packets to make it through.  There are mathematical formulas involved in the calculations for marathons and other races longer than the half marathon.  At 160 pounds, I know I personally have to consume around 1,100 calories through gels and sports drinks along the marathon route in order to avoid running out of energy.

Here is what Lucia Mahoney from FitBodyNutrition says about fueling during the marathon:

  • under “normal” conditions, the average runner needs 16-32 fluid ounces per hour of exercise. For best absorption, drink 1/2-1 cup of fluid every 15-20 minutes. You will require more on very hot or humid days.
  • for every pound you lose on a run, 2 cups of water are required to replace.
  • 1 pound of sweat = loss of 500 mg sodium (the equivalent of 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • dehydration will increase body temperature, reduce blood volume and thereby weaken muscular endurance and strength. Result —-> you slow down
  • your gel or sports drink should include electrolytes; studies show that ingesting electrolytes (remember: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium) during the run will improve performance and help delay fatigue. Electrolytes are important for muscular contraction and for optimal absorption & retention of fluids
  • **how much do you need?** Carb intake during prolonged exercise should be approximately .5-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per hour. A 165 lb (or 75 kg) athlete would therefore need 37.5-75 grams per hour. That is equivalent to 2-3 gels or 1-2 gels plus 8-20 ounces of sports drink per hour (most gels contain 20-25 grams of carbs and sports drinks contain 12-14 grams/8 oz)
  • important: each gel must be taken with 8-10 ounces of water (not sports drink) to promote absorption and avoid gastrointestinal distress

Remember This:

Start your eating and drinking within the first mile or two.
If you start your fuel and water intake after 2 miles,
you may have already ruined your marathon.

Be careful to consume enough of everything your body needs to succeed at the task that you are asking it to accomplish.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

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Whether to Eat Before or After Running (or other exercise)

Question:

Is it better to eat before or after exercising?
How soon after eating is it okay to run?

P. Mark’s Answer:

You can eat before or after.  It depends on what your eating and how long it takes to digest.  Typically, your body takes about 3 hours to fully digest a large meal.  A small meal can be digested in as little as 2 hours.

The consequence of this: if you eat a meal of any size, you should wait at least 2 hours before challenging your body.  If the exercise is extremely light and easy for your body, it might be just fine.  Anything beyond that requires serious resources from your body.

Problem 1:  Your body fluids can’t be in two places at once.  Extra blood gets routed to the area of your gastrointestinal system so that it can absorb and deliver the incoming nutrition.  Digestion also diverts some of the water in your system to that process.  These combine to yield a significantly lower flow of blood to your muscles.  If you go fast enough that your body prioritizes the exercise over digestion, then you have other problems.  You could feel some cramping in your GI system.

Problem 2:  Heavy jostling leads to poor digestion.   It is too difficult for the nutrition to be absorbed effectively when it is swishing around.  Hence, you are getting less from your food.  This also requires that diversion of fluids to remain in effect longer.

Possible Results:  Poor Performance, cramps, &/or indigestion.  At the very least, it slows you down a little and you may have wasted some valuable nutrition.

What you CAN eat before a run or other exercise:  A small amount of simple carbohydrates can be eaten (or drank) within one hour of exercise.  That is what energy gels are designed to do: provide a blend of simple sugars and slightly more complex sugars to be used immediately by the body.

Remember This!

If you have been eating relatively healthy and in sufficient quantity,
your body has a supply of energy waiting to be used!

Glycogen is a complex sugar that is stored in your muscles and liver.  This is the fuel that marathoners have in mind when “carb-loading” the week before the marathon.  They are topping off that supply to have as much energy as possible available on race day.  If you are eating well on a regular basis, you have a supply of energy.  How much?  A person weighing 150 lbs can carry anywhere from 800 to 2000 calories.  The more healthy carbs you eat, the more glycogen you are able to store.

Hydration is just as critical, if not more so.  A body without a full supply of water will not operate well.  The tougher your workout, the more water you will need.  Work on hydration on an ongoing basis throughout the day, starting with 16 ounces of water when you wake up!

My Personal Habit:

When I am training for a marathon, I will not eat 2-3 hours before one of my key workouts for the week.  I do, however, consume calories immediately before as well as throughout my run!  Specifically, I consume the fuel that I will consume during the marathon.  Since you absolutely must consume calories during a marathon, this method of consuming calories during my workout prepares my body to run fast while processing small amounts of easy-to-digest fuel.

When I am not in marathon training, I am more likely to just follow the 2 hour rule.  Since nearly all of my runs are shorter than 10 miles, I know my body stores enough glycogen to fuel any run – because I am eating right.  🙂

AFTER any challenging run, I fuel up with high quality carbs and some protein as soon as I can.  This is the ideal time to replenish the glycogen supply and start healing those muscles.

Eat well & enjoy the run!

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The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

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Ask P. Mark: Finding Your Running Form and Stride

Today’s question comes from a newbie runner who has just started using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running.

Question:   How do you find your perfect stride?

P. Mark’s Answer:  I will give you the same answer that I give to experienced runners.  It is a bit unorthodox, but it is very effective.  In fact, I have to work on my form from time to time and I always use this method.

Remember This:

The quickest way to find good form is to run barefoot.

No, don’t run your entire workout barefoot.  Just find a nice clear path on some concrete or asphalt/blacktop and jog a few hundred feet.  Don’t sprint.   That might do some damage to the bottom of your feet.  Just start to jog and gradually pick up the pace – just for a few hundred feet, relaxing your body as you stride.  That relaxing is highly critical.  This will not work if you are not relaxed.

We choose a hard surface for a reason.  Your body will naturally tend towards moving in ways that protect your feet and knees, absorbing the impact as best that it can.  We are counting on that.  Its called Good Form.

As you begin to pick up the pace, pay very close attention to your barefoot form:

1)  How is your foot is making contact with the ground (footstrike)?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you should find that your foot will begin to contact the ground very lightly on the front of your foot, as if you were testing out the ground.  As you shift your weight onto that foot, however, you will gradually place your entire foot flat on the ground.  This distributes the weight to ALL parts of your foot:  a little on the front,  a little on the heel, and a lot on the middle part of your foot.  You should find that:

  • Every part of your foot made contact with the ground in a gentle way.
  • No part of your should foot take more weight than it can hold.

2)  How long is your stride?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have shortened your stride.  The majority of runners have strides that are too long.  The consequences of overextending your foot too far ahead of your body are large:  sore knees and other joints, heavy wear and tear on your body, and a slower pace.  Yes, sticking your leg to far forward actually puts the brakes on.  You can run faster with the exact same amount of effort and a shortened stride.  You will find yourself moving to a faster cadence as well.  In perfect form, with your new shorter stride, the number of steps you take during each minute of the run will tend to be somewhere close to 180.  That is true of newbie runners and elite runners.  You can actually find playlists of songs for runners in which every song keeps the beat at 180 beats per minute.  🙂

3)  How is your body positioned in this relaxed running state?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have very erect posture.  The most common mistake made by runners is to lean forward at the waist when they are trying very hard.  This actually slows you down and takes more effort.  You do need to lean forward a little to run faster, but you lean at the ankles, not the waist.  In other words, you don’t lean the top half of your body, you lean your entire body.  From your ankles to your head, your body should be fairly straight.

I have found myself doing short barefoot runs at least once a week, either on rest days or just before a run.  It reminds me of good form, saving me energy and saving my body from injuries caused by bad form.

Check your form frequently.  Be good to your body and it will be good to you.

Enjoy the run!

_____________

The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

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Ask P. Mark: Dealing with Shin Splints

Question 3 :   I’m currently using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running. But I’m running into a minor problem and need some advice.   My shins are starting to feel sore during the running bits.

P. Mark’s Answer:  Shin splints come from a combination of poor form, running on hard surfaces, and changing intensity levels too fast.

As for form, the idea is to set your foot on the ground gently as you land.  A good guideline for this is the sound you make.  The quieter your foot is when it makes contact with the ground, the better your shins will be.

As for running surfaces, a nice rubber track is a very kind surface for running.  If that is not available, then remember this progression:

  • Grass and dirt are softer than gravel.
  • Gravel is softer than asphalt/blacktop.
  • Asphalt/blacktop is softer than concrete.
  • Stay away from concrete when you have shin splints!

If you are suddenly training much faster and/or farther than you have recently, this can also cause issues.

Remember: 
Fast progress leads to injuries!
Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!

It can take as long as two weeks before shin splints completely fade away.  To begin the process:

  1. Address the inflammation by icing your shins and taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.
  2. While running, shift to softer surfaces & slow down, being careful to land gently.
  3. Make sure you stretch all muscles properly before and after running and walking.

You can run with some pain, but it should not be severe and it should not get worse.  In the case of shin splints, the old adage of “No Pain No Gain” makes no sense.  If the pain is too intense, skip the running for a few days.  Taking the time now will pay off down the road.

Be good to your legs and you will once again enjoy the run!

_____________

The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

.

Ask P. Mark: Dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

Question 2 :  How can I recover from plantar fasciitis while training for a race?

I have been running mainly on a treadmill and yesterday after 4 miles my foot started to hurt. I had been sensing PF for a while, and tried icing, switching shoes and so on.   My plan is to take a week off, stretch, foam roll, ice, Advil and so on but is there recovery from something like this? I want to run this race so bad I feel it may be my last so I can focus on getting better since my prognosis has been dwindling.

P. Mark’s Answer:   I understand your pain all too well!  I have short calves, so I am always dealing with Plantar Fasciitis at some level. Every morning I spend the first 10 minutes trying to relax my calves enough to walk normally.  It is 10 minutes of PF pain.  It sounds like you are doing all of the right things with the stretching and icing…

I am not convinced that rest will really do the job. Rather than full rest, I would suggest running less and exercising your calves and feet more.

http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/workouts/4-foot-exercises-00000000013639/index.html

Most importantly, before you start running, your calves and feet need to be gently warmed up and as flexible as possible.  Start by working through your range of motion at each joint while bearing no weight on those joints!  Then, warm up the muscles through simple movements while bearing no weight on the legs.  Finally, warm up the muscles while bearing weight.

If you take the time to do these things before a run, the damage to your plantar fascia should be greatly reduced and it should begin to heal, even while you are still running.

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Please visit the Ask P. Mark page to post a new question.  Thanks!

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

.

Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:

Intervals

Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

 

 

 

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