Running is one of those things that has always been there for me, it’s helped me solve problems and never let me down as long as I planned well. I spend a lot of time thinking and running allows me to do that while feeling this euphoric state of freedom, maybe that’s what I’m hooked on. Whatever it is, it’s definitely an activity I want to continue on some level for the rest of my life.
Through my thirteen years running, I’ve committed all these sins on in some way, shape or form, and sharing the lessons I’ve taken with you. Some good life lessons can be found in some of these also, don’t learn the hard way like I did!
Obsessing with running, or anything for that matter. Don’t get so obsessed with running that that is all you are doing to achieve fitness. Sure to become a great runner you must obviously run a lot, but it’s essential to balance running with other dimensions of fitness such as strength and flexibility. Oh, and you need rest, DO NOT skip rest days. While it may sound counterintuitive, resting is where you build up from all the breaking down running does to you.
Adding too many miles, too soon (another life lesson in disguise). Let’s face it running, is a tough sport and gravity is working against you and all of the precious joints in your body especially in places like your ankles and knees. The human body is amazing and can adapt to running many miles, but you have to have patience and give it time to adjust.
Avoiding the weight room like the plague, because you might put on muscle weight. Strong muscles help you sustain all of that running and keep you healthy or injury free. Sure you might gain some lean mass, but that’s just going to make you a more powerful force as your feet glide more effortlessly against the pavement.
Trying to outrun a poor diet. Sure running burns a ton of calories, but it’s not magic. On average running burns around 80 calories give or take based on your individual body weight, pace, and incline. Running longer and harder also increases your appetite which makes it easy to take in more calories than your burn, especially if you load up on junk food. Aim for a balanced diet, with indulgences in moderation. I approach this with the 80/20 rule of eating balanced most of the time and treating myself from once in a while to avoid deprivation. A balanced diet will also give you the nutrients you need to stay healthy as a runner and enjoy the sport more.
Running should not hurt. Yes, running is hard, and sometimes your muscles will be sore during and after running. However, it’s critical that you make sure you are not ever running through anything that just plain hurts. Even if the pain stops after mile one or two, you need to get to the root of what is causing that pain. When we run our bodies release a lot of neurotransmitters that act as pain relievers so in a sense you are under the influence of these and may think things are ok but could be putting yourself at risk for an overuse injury. Stop, rest, do some cross training, or get it checked out before you keep chasing running goals.
This has been one transformative year! I didn´t mean to leave the blog stranded this year, but 2018 kept throwing challenges my way. But I´m happy to report things are looking like they are finally making a turn for the better (fingers crossed)!
Where do I start! In February, which feels like years ago I successfully completed my first marathon. Yeah, a whole 26.effing 2 miles I conquered all on foot! The event I choose to take on was the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA. The setting was everything I love to set my eyes on like ocean waves, surfboards, and a VW bus show during packet pickup. What made it even better was being there with the people I love, my Mom, best friend, cousin and my love of 20 years Chad.
We were all enjoying our time in SoCal, especially since we came from temperatures ranging from zero to five degrees back in the "good life" state. Whoever thought that one up apparently didn't do that in February! The day before the race we did so much sightseeing, I had arrived at the starting line with tired legs. Something that is not recommended, but it happened. I remember being incredibly mind blown that I getting ready to do one of my favorite activities along the ocean in Surf City and it was the dead of Winter!
Since I was off to a rough start before the race started, I set my playlist to some chill beats to make sure I was taking a relaxed pace in the beginning. There were a few things stacked up against me such as tired legs, not fully acclimatized to the warmer weather, and there were a few mild hills. I was under the impression it was flat, but their definition of flat differed from my Midwest version of flat I had envisioned.
I cruised right along at turtle pace because I needed to finish this race. I had way too much training and travel invested not to. But I was also a bit troubled in my mind. Chad did not make it to the race that morning because he felt very ill. Knowing his health history I had been very concerned, but he insisted he was fine but could not make it. This was very sad and disappointing for both of us. He had been to most of my races, and he had been looking forward to hanging out in HB while I ran for as long as I had trained. He sent me encouraging texts through the run, and I also kept asking him how he was. He merely said hurting, but I´ll be fine and would send something encouraging like a good job! Or you got this!
It was a long journey home traveling with someone that is so ill. He was in such bad shape, the airline ticket agent gave us all TSA Precheck. But we did finally make it home, which meant off to the hospital where we found out he only had maybe 6 months but probably closer to 4 to live, and ended up being around 2. Looking back, it was one of the longest darkest 2 months I had ever spent.
But the good visits are fond memories and goodbyes will always hold a special place in my heart. I went to one of his paracentesis procedures, and as he was being wheeled around, he would tell the nurses I ran a marathon. He made it seem like it was a big deal, but I know the pain he endured by far exceeded my finishing a marathon in 6 hours.
A full marathon is no joke, it´s so far, such a long trip and words just cannot describe the feeling of crossing that finish line. But after hitting most of the aid stations for gels, and sports drinks along with a shot of beer around mile 22 or so from the tailgaters at the beach I finished! It´s kind of a shock when you reach the finish line, maybe you get an extra dose of endorphins that rush in once your body stops and mind processes you are done. I'm not sure what exactly happens but is so surreal like a massive, slowest yet fast rush you could ever feel. It's intense but very short-lived, although you do ride the afterglow endorphins aka "runners high" for a while longer.
The things a marathon and training will teach you will change your life forever. You get into a place in your mind where you are nothing, just a being floating across the earth with your feet. It´s a form of ego death if you will. Sadly but also grateful for this marathon timing that prepared me to deal with one of the most significant losses of and transitions of my life. Chad passed away on April 12th after a 7 year battle with liver disease and a struggle with addiction that nothing could change.
I wouldn’t wish this bittersweet marathon experience upon my worst enemy, but it's the cards I was dealt so I had no choice but to face the tragedy, survive and come out stronger counting my blessings.
What did this teach me?
1. Time passes quickly, cherish the present because soon all you will have is a memory.
2. Life knocks you down, but you'll stand up on a stronger foundation.
3. Change always happens, adapting is not easy but once accepted is the best thing for your peace of mind.
4. But there are some things you can never change.
5. Running a marathon will change you because you have so much time to yourself in training. It will not be easy but you will get through it, and it's the best feeling in the world!
I'd love to hear about your marathons, (running or non-running related) that changed you this year!
And I am going to be rolling out some new things on here to help you run further and stronger in races and life. Be sure to hit join so you don't miss out!
What a year 2017 has been! So much went wrong and so much went well, I’m exhausted after this year I am hopeful 2018 offers a different screenplay.
Without going into a ton of detail this year forced me to say goodbye to some exceptional individuals, go through a roller coaster ride that went through hell and back with a loved one, and even a clumsy running injury. Not an overuse injury, just tripped on my feet. I am hopeful since the last week has been pretty smooth that it will be a nice sail into 2018 and that the year brings more balance to contrast 2017's craziness.
It’s always so easy to fall into negative thoughts, and looking at the good things can quickly get sidelined and derail our days, months and even years. While there were so many times filled with trial and tribulation, it's important to reflect on the many good things that happened, so here are some things that did go in my favor during 2017.
I taught my first ever community education class about running. It was a good experience, and I'm reflecting on how to make this class even better the next time around. I was also able to complete the required continuing education classes just in the nick of time to recertify as an Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. I’m also excited to share the things I’ve learned from the American Council on Exercise Sports Conditioning Specialist Program.
However, education is only part of the equation when it comes to running, so I’ve also had an excellent opportunity to experiment with my training in trying to achieve some personal bests this year. I was able to run my heart out in 17 races in and around my hometown, and am incredibly grateful to the Platte River Fitness Series for putting on so many great events, so these opportunities are accessible to us in a small community. I was able to get some personal bests in the 5K, 10K and half marathon this year.
What I learned is that it takes time, consistency in training and a can-do mindset to achieve personal bests in running. And by consistency in running, I don't just mean run more. Of course, you will naturally spend the majority of training time running, but you can't neglect strength training that builds you up as a runner, balance and mobility work, flexibility and rest. I’m happy to have accomplished all of this without any overuse injuries, only one klutzy injury that was entirely preventable.
As I say adios to 2017, I look to moving on to bigger and better things for 2018. I will set out to try and finish 26.2 for the very first time. After this feat, I look forward to having more time to spend on creating content for Miles and Munchies and the ability to deliver online training running coaching programs. These will be individually tailored to help you be the best kind of runner you want to be. Whether that’s just starting to incorporate running into your fitness program, tackling a brand new distance or nailing a PR, Miles and Munchies will be able to get you there.
While the slight competitor in me loves to push to nail a PR, it's never worth it if you end up driving yourself to the point of losing the enjoyment of running. I want to help you find the balance that leads you to find joy in running. That's why the programs I develop are balanced to help you get better at running without overdoing it, mainly how to train smarter not harder.
Running has helped me overcome many obstacles in life over the 12 or so years we’ve spent together. If you can power through the initial tough part of starting anything new, make it a habit, and find flow, you will find bliss in running, and it can become your lifestyle. Sadly, so many people give up before they even get close to that point and I think it’s because they try too hard.
A common mistake a lot of people make when starting anything new or some type of change in their life is that they make too many changes all at once. This new lifestyle becomes very overwhelming because everything is so unfamiliar. It's just easier to go back to old ways and forget about the big picture.
So as you are setting out on new goals or resolutions in 2018, keep it simple at first. With a major goal such as losing 50 pounds, getting organized or running a marathon make sure you begin that journey with small steps. Start out with something simple like adding more fruits and veggies to your diet instead of completely overhauling your diet and eating a bunch of stuff you are not used to. Or decluttering a drawer versus trying to declutter your house all at once or alternating running with walking when you are first starting out. Chances of successfully meeting your goals are higher when you start out this way because once you have some success (no matter how small), you can continue to build on that one step at a time because you have some confidence that you can succeed.
So instead of diving into your goals with an all or nothing mindset, try changing your approach to make small changes that will have a lasting impact.
So cheers to saying goodbye to 2017 and ringing in a new year full of opportunities to be your best self!
Another small thing you can do to help you reach your running goals in 2018 is joining the e-mail list. You'll stay up to date and be the first to know when Miles and Munchies rolls out new programs and running tips.
An easy fix to one of the biggest dilemma's women face whether you're headed out to the water or putting on shorts for a run!?
I hope everyone has had a happy and active summer! This summer has been crazy busy for me with training, races, gardening, camping, yard work and all the other fun summer activities that come around this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is get active in the water whether that's the pool for laps or a lake for stand up paddle boarding.
Getting in the pool can be a great form of exercise. Swimming or running laps in water increases your heart rate and strengthens your muscles, not to mention it’s the most refreshing form of exercise when the mercury is high. Another great form of exercise is Stand Up Paddleboarding. When you’re first starting out with this sport, it serves as a strength workout as you work on pulling your bodyweight out of the water after you fall off of the board. Once you get the hang of it and spend more time out of the water, your core muscles work to keep you upright on the board, and your obliques go to work as you paddle forward. Eventually, you can paddle your way to a great cardio workout!
The only downside is those activities send many of us ladies into the bathroom for a razor and shaving cream before we head out. Precious time and water lost having to jump in a shower to shave before you go and then having to shower all over again. What I’ve been guilty of doing in the past is quickly running a razor over dry skin (ouch!), or using conditioner which leaves a film that just doesn’t feel right! I’m so glad ran across this breakthrough product from Busy Beauty that is a showerless shave gel, perfect for this warm weather dilemma.
At first, I was hesitant to try it because right before it arrived, I ended up with a poison ivy rash thanks to my dogs. The last thing I wanted to do was try a new product that would be in between my stinging skin and razor. After reading the product label I took a chance, after all, it was labeled sensitive skin and also contains natural essential oils like tea tree oil, ginger root oil, eucalyptus and clove oil which are all work as skin antiseptics and protectants.
I applied the product and shaved as I usually would, with one difference I wasn’t using any water! The gel didn’t have an overpowering scent and was clear which made it feel nice and clean. When I was finished shaving, I simply used the excess left on my skin as a moisturizer. I’ve always had very dry skin, and after using this soothing product I noticed my skin was very soft, this was probably the best post shave moisturizer I’ve ever tried! This gel is going to be a staple in my toiletry bag from now on!
Another thing I liked about Busy Beauty showerless shave gel was that it is an environmentally conscious product because it’s paraben, alcohol, and cruelty-free. The product container is conveniently 3.4 ounces which makes it, purse, small bathroom cabinet and TSA friendly. So the next time you find yourself on an adventure, I recommend having Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel on hand.
Enjoy the rest of the warm weather, and if you want to simplify your beauty routine like I did with Busy Beuty showerless shave gel you can find it here
Also be sure to keep in touch by joining the
Miles and Munchies e-mail list.
With the temps falling into pleasant temperatures to run in, this is prime racing time. If you’ve been training hard these last few weeks to get ready for that key race don’t forget to recover from those workouts. To improve at anything, you know you have to push yourself. After finishing a challenging workout you feel pretty accomplished and good (thanks to endorphins). You may even want to treat yourself to a reward, like a movie, late or some other special treat which is fine. But unless you’re treating yourself to a massage, your muscles could probably care less about that “cheat” food or flick.
Whether it’s a long run, speed work, or lifting weights you need to take the appropriate steps to recover. Your muscles will thank you and you’ll notice that you can get back to pushing yourself harder sooner by incorporating these simple things into a recovery routine.
Loaded with anthocyanins, which help guard cells against cell mutation and have lots of souped up anti-inflammatory properties that help decrease swelling in tired muscles.
Watermelon is full of one particular amino acid, L-citrulline which does a good job of reducing muscle soreness. Amino acids are building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of lean muscle.
Protein and Carbs
Exercising breaks down muscle proteins, so by ingesting protein post workout you can begin protein synthesis aka rebuilding muscle. Consuming about 20 grams of protein post workout is optimal for muscle repair. But don’t forget about replacing carbohydrates too! This is especially true if you’ve been running because you’ve depleted glycogen stores. And if it happens to be your resistance training day, research shows that taking in a combination of carbs and protein post workout stimulates greater increases in strength. A 3:1 ratio (carbohydrates:protein) is what's recommended. The best time to take in your post workout protein is as soon as possible, but there is a window of up to three hours if your schedule won’t allow it right away.
A few protein sources
3 eggs, 6 egg whites, or ¾ cup egg substitute
¾ cup cottage cheese
3 cups yogurt
1 ½ to 1 ⅔ cup of dried beans or lentils (also a carb source)
Studies have shown that foam rolling is effective in reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Invest in one of these handy recovery tools and your muscles will thank you.
Obvious, but often forgotten: Sleep & Hydration!
Did you know your body releases human growth hormone during sleep which stimulates healing and growth of muscle, tendon, and bone?
And when you're dehydrated exercise feels more difficult. This makes sense especially since the body is made up of around 60% water!
Run, recover and share!
Train hard and be sure to have a recovery routine that restores you for the next workout. Share these tips with all of your running friends so they know all about recovery too!
If you would like to know more about running like proper form, best exercises to support it and more don't forget to join my list! I’ve been working on researching all things running and putting it all together in an e-book that will help keep you injury free and running mile after mile for years to come.
I’ve been a slacker on blogging this summer and I am so sorry if you were looking for a June and July post. It's been summatime so I’ve been on the go and this year I found a new way to be out on the water. I picked up a SUP and am loving taking it out.
Apparently I’m not the only one because Stand up paddle boarding is working it’s way up to being the hottest way to stay fit across the country. And if you haven’t tried it yet here’s five reasons why you should grab a paddle and jump on a board.
Tips for Getting Started
Get comfortable with the fact that you might be taking a swim, but this time of year that can be a welcome time to cool off.
You can start training for the instability of water by standing up on an inverted Bosu.
Place the Bosu upside down next to something you can hold onto so you can get balanced. The easiest way to do this is find a smith machine and place the bar about chest level. Center the Bosu and place it about a couple of feet behind the bar, giving yourself enough space to grab onto the bar for support and step on the Bosu. Use the bar as you need to, but ultimately the goal here is to let go and completely balance on that Bosu.
Taking it to the Water
Start out lying prone (face down) on the board so you can get the feel of the water and waves. The fin on the bottom of the board, should be on the same side as your feet are. Position the paddle with the fin side towards your head and handle side by your feet.
When you feel ready, climb onto your hands and knees, get stable. Then crunch your knees towards your shoulders to bring your feet in and get them placed about shoulder width apart. Your hands are still on the board, almost like a downward dog. When you're feeling stable gradually begin bringing your torso up. Once you are standing, you’ll want to quickly start paddling and gain some momentum because that will help you stay balanced.
Once you get the hang of it, work on your paddling technique by taking long steady strokes, keeping the paddle near the side of the board. It also helps if you lean your body weight in towards the side of the board that you are paddling on. I like to paddle about 3-5 times on one side before I switch sides.
Don’t get discouraged, the type of board makes all the difference in how easy or challenging stand up paddleboarding is. The board I use is 25” wide 8’ tall and almost 3” thick and weighs 15 pounds. It’s portable and gives me a great workout!
Not quite ready to stand up. Try a plank on your board!
August 3rd is National Watermelon Day
Stay hydrated with watermelons! Since there are about about 92 percent water and soaked with nutrients you can't go wrong. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There's even a modest amount of potassium and watermelon also contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that can curb musle sorness after a tough workout.
May is National Runners Month
Running is one of those things like guacamole people either love it or hate it. Since May is National Runners month, this month's post is dedicated to running and why I think can be one of the best ways to get on a fitness journey. I've spent the last 11 or years doing some form of running and let me tell ya what a long strange trip it’s been. It's amazing to think of how far my two feet have taken me on this journey, because becoming a runner can help you be fierce and overcome a lot of shit in this crazy world.
So let's rewind a little, growing up I was never into fitness. Surprising, huh! I hated running and when given the option to skip PE a couple of days a week, if I learned how to play an instrument that’s what I chose to do. Looking back, today if I was given that option even though I love music I know I’d pick PE class and I blame a running habit for making me the fitness enthusiast I am today. Although, in a perfect world kids should get a healthy dose of both music & the arts with lots of physical activity.
10 Reasons Running is Badass
1. It makes you feel truly free. You feel the breeze across your forehead, see the world move below your feet with each step and look out farther into an endless horizon. In a world with constant deadlines, notifications, and meetings running can be a nice liberating change of pace.
2. It can be enjoyed in solitude or among company, quiet or loud indoors or outdoors. It can be a sport for lots of different moods. Somedays I feel like cranking the tunes and zoning out or other days I like to head out with a friend. Nothing beats catching up and burning some calories at the same time. I'm also a deep thinker, so running gives me a place to do that without standing still.
Of course running outside is better, but if weather takes you indoors the treadmill doesn’t have to be the dreadmill with the right program! Hill climbs, intervals or sprints can be a recipe for a great treadmill workout that won’t leave you watching the clock.
3. Endorphins are involved in natural reward circuits, aid in pain management and possess morphine like effects. Scientists are still trying to find out exactly why the body produces them. What they have found is that they are produced in response to prolonged, continuous exercise. Let’s just be thankful the body does this, cause I’m sure this mechanism has helped all of us push through some pain and cross that finish line!
4. Endocannabinoids are what’s getting you that sweet runners high. Shown to be responsible for improvements in mood after moderate intensity aerobic exercise. In mice it has been shown that blocking the endocannabinoid receptors (but not endorphin receptors) inhibits the anti-pain and anti-anxiety/stress relief effect of running. Scientists also think that this is what signals endorphins to be released. That’s dope!
5. Cardiovascular benefits Keeps your heart healthy and strong. Also helps you keep fit so you can make it to the top of the stairs without getting winded or keep up with you kids that are running around with all this energy you wish you had. Start running and you’ll soon discover that energy boost I’m talking about!
6. Stronger Bones & Muscles We lose muscle mass and bone density as we age. Running can be a good way to counteract that. But it's not an excuse to completely ditch strength training!
7. Increase your longevity Running and exercise in general can be the fountain of youth at the cellular level by protecting telomere length. At the cellular level, telomeres are the part of cells related to aging. Our cells are constantly dividing to produce new cells that replace old worn ones. In this process, chromosomes carry all the information needed to generate new cells and telomeres protect that information. And as telomeres get too short to do their job, cells age and stop working right which is basically what aging is all about.
8. Helps you sleep How many times have you struggled to fall asleep? Running can help with that.
9. Race Swag/Post race parties Nothing is better than feeling great after a race, having some race swag to take home and a good excuse to enjoy a cold one before noon! Best Post-Race Bash: Bolderboulder
10. Finding common ground with many cause we’re in good company. In 2014 a whopping 18,750,000 runners crossed the finish line with 57% of that number being Women!
Ready to get started?
So there you have it, some reasons I love running! Ready to get started running? That’s great! But let’s do this safely because it’s kind of like the Sun it must be treated with respect and the last thing you want to happen is the terrible too’s: Too much, too soon usually leads to injury and then running won’t be so great and you may never want to do it again.
First, check your foot type and make sure you’ve got the right shoes for running! Here’s a link to a great guide to do that from Runner’s World
Now that you’ve handled that very important first step you may proceed. Please don’t skip this, trust me it will save you miles of misery in the long run.
Follow the guidelines below, aim to work on running every other day. You can still exercise in between those running days but stick to lower impact movements like biking, swimming or yoga.
You have to walk well before you can run
We have to get good at walking before we attempt to take it up a notch into running. So begin by working up to being able to walk briskly for 30 continuous minutes. Once you’ve established that base, you can begin adding bursts of jogging into your routine for the next couple of weeks or so. Start by adding 30 seconds of of running and walk briskly for the other 4 minutes and complete that up to 6 times.
Gradually increase running time and decrease walking time as your body adjusts. Aim for reaching a 1:1 ratio, so 1 minute running, 1 minute walking. From here, try adding to the running time. So the next step up would be 1 minute 30 seconds of running, then when that becomes easier move up to 2 minutes and so on. Try to keep your “resting” at one minute or below. Work towards eventually reaching 20 minutes of steady running/jogging. If you're struggling to maintain 20 minutes try a slower pace. Think being able to say a complete sentence during your run, if you're struggling to get words out you're hitting your lactate threshold and your body is going to say STOP before you reach your goal.
Try a 5K Race
Now you’re ready to complete your first 5K race. Warning: These can be addictive! You can enter another race, but give yourself enough time to recover. I can’t stress enough how you don’t want to overdo it. I know that you're all thinking I’m nuts! Like why on earth will you want to actually keep running if and when you’re completely exhausted or in pain. I can’t explain it other than it has to do with reasons 1, 3, 4 and possibly 9.
You’ll notice I didn’t give a timeframe to achieve these goal in and here’s my reasoning behind that. Everyone is different and will adjust to the impacts of running differently. The main point is to gradually build up the strength in your body to sustain this high impact activity. This may take one person four weeks, and another person 6-8 weeks and that’s ok!
Listen to your body
The one thing I can’t stress enough to do through this process is to listen to your body! At the end of the workouts you should feel tired but not completely spent, so you could do more if you wanted to. If you find yourself completely exhausted or a constant pain somewhere, back off and spend more time walking until you adapt.
If the pain doesn't get better in time, it may be a good idea to see a sports doc. Some people just have different mechanical structures and need to make a few adjustments before they can hit the road running. Once it's figured out nothing can stop them from becoming excellent runners! Sometimes it's as simple as doing a few extra exercises for muscle imbalances other times an shoe orthotic helps.
Learning to listen to your body and knowing when to stop is a very important for injury prevention in the long haul. Once you get into running and finish a race or two, you might catch the race bug, then be ready to add more and more distance which is great! But if you don’t know how to back off and keep pushing through, you run the risk of hurting yourself and having take some major time off from running. Something, that anyone who loves running (including myself) fears the most! To date, I’ve never sustained any form of major running injuries. I credit this to resistance training, good nutrition, the right shoes (and not wearing them too long), cross training from time to time and backing off as needed.
If you’ve thought about running I hope this helps you get started off on the right foot!
Sharma, Archana, and Deepali Verma. "ENDORPHINS: ENDOGENOUS OPIOID IN HUMAN CELLS." (2014).
Raichlen, David A., et al. "Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity." European journal of applied physiology 113.4 (2013): 869-875.
Prabakaran, Sudhakaran. "Endocannabinoids mediate runner’s high." Sci. Signal. 8.401 (2015): ec322-ec322.
Heijnen, Saskia, et al. "Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise—A Review."Frontiers in psychology 6 (2015).
Ludlow, Andrew T., and Stephen M. Roth. "Physical activity and telomere biology: exploring the link with aging-related disease prevention." Journal of aging research 2011 (2011).
2015 State of the Sport-U.S. Race Trends http://www.runningusa.org/2015-state-of-sport-us-trends
Shammas, Masood A. "Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging." Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 14.1 (2011): 28.
Fitness trackers have been out for a few years and it seems like almost everyone is sporting a gadget on their wrist. Ok, maybe not everyone but here’s a few facts about the humans sporting these little data collectors.
I finally joined the club, and have to admit I’m sporting one of these things for fitness optimization (now you can guess my age! haha) but the other very real reason was simply because I was in the market for a new watch. With my background, I’ve always been very skeptical about how accurate these sporty little wristbands could actually be. So, naturally I declined jumping on the Fitbit wagon like most of my friends have over the years. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this thing that pretty much flops around a person's wrist was going to get a heart rate, let alone an accurate one.
I think it’s great that people are wearing them to get on track with their health, but you have to be careful because they can only tell you so much at this point. Here’s the thing, I’m a data junkie in terms of HR documentation during training and in general. Maybe that’s what going to school for Exercise Science does to a person!? So I am excited about the things any tracker can help you keep track of like heart rate during training, sleep information, and the friendly vibration on your wrist reminding you that it’s time to move! when you’ve sat on your ass too long!
Which tracker did I choose? During my exercise physiology studies at the University of Nebraska Human Performance lab we always used Polar heart rate monitors and it’s no secret that Polar is reputable for accuracy in heart rate monitoring. So naturally, I was eyeing Polar products for the right tracker and it was worth the wait. I was looking for something that also would have a few features a smartwatch so ended up getting a Polar A360 and while it’s far from perfect, I’m pleased with my investment.
What about accuracy
First of all, what a fitness tracker won’t do is keep extremely accurate records. Yes, they will urge you to get up if you’ve been sitting on your bum too long but I did notice some discrepancy of about 10 beats per minute when sporting my chest rate heart rate monitor compared to the wrist based activity tracker. But hey, not bad for a watch! And the simple thing that will solve that so I have the accurate training records for my heart rate will be upgrading my chest strap to a model that can bluetooth into my activity tracker and the Polar flow app, which is great. But for now, I’ll just sport a couple of wrist devices like this.
The image on the left is my heart rate at rest within 3 beats. The image on the right was during exercise (running) but a second after when I stepped on the rails to snap the picture (sorry for the shaky picture). The difference is 11 beats.
The lack of accuracy is also going to affect calorie counts so if you’re counting calories in versus calories out, be careful. In fact, calories should be somewhat of a secondary thing you keep track of. Yes, if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain, you don’t want to take in more energy than you expend because that will create a weight gain but more importantly you should focus on macronutrients. Making sure you are getting enough protein, carbs and fat, but not too much. The ratios of those macros will change depending on your activity for the day. Nutrition gets complicated, so let’s just stop there for now.
For a better illustration of accuracy, check this article out from The New York Times, What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See.
And as if it's not enough to track ourselves, what about our furry friends. There's much technology out today, it's hard keeping up on all of it but some if is really fun. I do enjoy being able to keep tabs on my slobbery hound dog and it keeps him safe.
A tracker for your dog!?
Yes, you can even get an activity tracker for your dog! I can even keep track of how active Ben is and how much sleep he gets, which happens to be a lot at 14 hours! It's interesting to look at but the real reason he has a tracker are for when he decides to let loose and hit the streets on his own. The picture on the right is a greeting card I spotted that is probably how he thinks when he gets busted and is in trouble!
What can activity tracking do for our behaviour?
Well even the activity tracker Ben has doesn't stop him from running away, but it does help us find him when he does dart off. Just as a fitness tracker on your wrist will not make you fit, but it can help you identify positive and negative patterns that can be changed over time and lead to one or more positive behaviour changes.
Simply providing that extra motivation to keep moving can be very beneficial. I like how my device reminds me to get up after so long and alerts me when I have met my activity goal for the day. Hey, who doesn’t like reaching goals. No matter how small they are invigorating to reach. Usually after I reach a goal, I’m like hey if I was able to accomplish that, what about trying this? And then the next goal with an action plan is developed. It can be a good cycle!
Three things a fitness tracker, or any health tracking app (even if you have to access it via the good ‘ol desktop computer) can help with:
Fitness trackers are great, but might not be for everyone. First of all, a tracker can be a great thing if you’re curious about how active you are through the day, navigate technology easily and don’t sweat the small stuff. You have to be able to look at the bigger picture when it comes to lifestyle balance, like not counting every, single calorie and seeing the macronutrient side of nutrition and knowing the numbers your tracker gives you aren’t 100% accurate. If you can agree with most of that stuff and are in the market for a watch that can do more for you then it’s great. For example, I can get all my phone notifications on my wrist which has come in very handy at times. It’s not something I use very often, but can be a nice feature if you’re on the go. One thing I'm a little bummed about is not being able to skip songs from it during my workouts.
As for exercise training, I still have to sport my chest strap and watch to get my heart rate for now, but have no regrets about finally making the move and purchasing a fitness tracker. It’s nice to see some heart rate data and running stats side by side. The model I selected does exactly what I need it to, and with another investment (of around 50 bucks) in the bluetooth chest strap it will be keeping track of data from my workouts, which will allow me to measure running progress and adjust my training accordingly. It’s also nice to have everything in one place with data that can even be exported into an excel sheet. Yes, I know features I’m excited about might not even phase you, which is totally fine. I've always been different-lol
Do you sport an activity tracker?
I’d bet I'll probably still be sporting mine in 6 months, but I guess we’ll see. Feel free to check in with me to find out in October. It would be interesting to find out why people who get activity trackers ditch them. Have you had one and no longer wearing it? I’d like to know why, so drop a line in the comment box.
Ok, now we’ve both been sitting too long so I’ll leave you all with this: It’s time to move!
Where’s one place you can begin to really start to crush those fitness goals that isn’t a gym or fitness center? What if I told you that you could work out less in the gym if you clean and use your kitchen. Wait a minute? Don’t I love to exercise, and lots of it being an endurance athlete.
Of course, but in order to maximize my time spent on training it’s important to fuel up with high-quality foods. Does this have to be expensive? Absolutely not. In some ways, it can actually be more cost effective.
One example is the cost of eggs compared to meat for a protein source. Rice and beans are other examples that can be a super thrifty healthy combo, especially if you do a lot of running. The list goes on, so I’ll stop there for now.
A clean kitchen can help you eat healthier
Keeping your kitchen clean and displaying fruits and veggies so they look appetizing will help you eat them more often and stay on track. I also feel less inclined to grab takeout or place a call in for a pizza if I can open up the fridge, see a rainbow of foods that look alive because their chillin in my sparkling clean veggie drawer. Pair those up with a protein and maybe a complex carb and I’ve just done my body a favor. This is so much easier to do when your kitchen is sparkly.
You don't have to cook all the time but a little prep can go along way
Even if you don’t have time to make meals at home all of the time, this will at least help make healthy snacks more appetizing. One major complaint I’ve heard from clients I’ve worked with is that healthy food spoils quickly. Solution: Eat the food. And yes, you may also have to go to the grocery store at least 1-2 times per week to keep fresh stuff around.
Selecting frozen and canned options can also help. However, I prefer frozen because generally they have less stuff like salt and sugar added to it. But not always, review the packaging and check the labels to make sure.
By taking some time to prep ahead you can stay ahead of the healthy eating curve. This is not a pass to ditch the workouts and just eat clean. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Been there and done that! So not worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I love training for the 13.1 distance and yeah, sometimes going out for a good LSD (long slow distance) run might take a couple of hours but I do this for how it makes me feel not to punish myself for eating something “bad”.
Although, I will be the first to admit that a great perk from running is that you can have a few extra carbs and a cold one guilt free! But this is not to be confused with eating garbage and washing it down with a 6 pack.
You can't out exercise a poor diet
Besides that the even better part of finishing those long runs is the sense of Ahhh, you feel. It’s almost like you feel a euphoric state of freedom. A feeling that everything will be alright and that gravity is not tying you down, in a sense. A feeling that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile, so now you’re ready to tackle on whatever the world throws at you cause you feel on top of the world.
That’s what running, or really any exercise should be about. Not trying to torture yourself through something just to burn calories. It’s not that efficient when you do the math. For anyone interested in the calculation, you can find it here…
So it’s truly easier to eat good rather than try to out exercise any so called bad foods. Plus, you’ll even feel better from eating real, wholesome foods. Cause that age-old saying from Hippocrates “Let thy food be thy medicine” is point on. But of course, if you feel really ill for a long time, go see a doctor because cause ignoring symptoms do not make them go away.
Thanks for reading and here’s some tasty recipes to try out!
Yummy brunch or lunch items.
This one from Ellie Krieger that will keep hunger at bay on the fly.
Avocado Toast with Egg, Cucumber and Radish
Anytime Frittata with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes is an alternative form of comfort food from Darya Rose at summertomato.com
And for anyone interested in how my exercise routine changed this month you can find it here.
I can’t believe it’s mid February already! Time to glance back and check how those New Year’s Resolutions are going’, right? Now is not the time to panic about that if you’ve fallen off the wagon, because that’s not going to get cha anywhere. Instead, remember what did go well last month no matter how small or irrelevant it may seem. Take that, feel proud and add just one more small change for February. Do a little introspection...Were you able to stick to that fitness routine? Yes, Fantastic, keep doing what you're doing! But what if things didn’t go all that well? Don’t give up, instead try changing something. Not every exercise is enjoyable to all people. Yeah I might like running, but why the heck should you? While there’s a ton of reasons to like running and it's super healthy, but that does not mean you’ll like it. Maybe you’d rather lift a lot and train for a physique competition, swim competitively, walk, do yoga, dance...And the list goes on. So try something new and switch it up from time to time, it will help keep you psyched about your next workout.
You have to build muscle
Whatever exercise you decide on, just make sure you are doing some type of resistance or weight training also (unless, that’s what you are already doing primarily for all of your workouts). Especially if you decide that cardio is one of your favorites. There’s nothing wrong with cardio, and we all know there’s tons of health benefits to breaking a sweat. Just don’t fall into the trap of doing only one form of exercise and don’t believe that calorie burn or fat burning settings and numbers. Besides, when it's cold out why not spend more time in the weight room. I'd rather do more cardio outside when the weather is nice. Exercising outside can be very enjoyable as long as it's not too hot or cold.
The Fat Burning setting on the cardio machine has been lying to you
We burn more fat doing low intensity cardio exercise which is why cardio machine buttons have a fat burning setting and it's usually a low intensity workout, where high intensity workouts typically use more carbohydrate. Don’t get settled into a low intensity exercise routine, just because the button on the machine says you’re burning fat and it seems easy. I like to do this type of work about once a week and do higher intensity or weight training on other days. Check out my routine at the bottom of this post!
But don’t forget that cardio completely, you just have to mix and match. Kinda like piecing together a great outfit!
Strength training is where it's at
Even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, it’s a must if you are looking to tone up and see muscle definition. Trust me ladies, you aren’t going to turn into some macho looking bulky muscled beast. Which might be why you’re afraid to lift too heavy. I worked out with that mentality for years. I was a cardio addict, wait I actually still am but I also spend anywhere from two to four days a week pushing weights, depending on where I’m at on my periodization calendar. As I get closer to a race, I'll back off to two days of weight training and logging more miles. Just to give you an example, if you read my last blog, you’ll remember I’m training for a ½ in October. And since our weather here in Nebraska is usually rough in the winter, hey we just got 12 inches of snow dumped on us on Groundhog Day! Basically, running outside just kinda sucks this time of year, you take advantage of the good days when they come but can’t count on them being consistent. So, it’s a perfect reason to work on building muscle and by the time the weather gets nicer, I’ll be ready to trade some of those days out for more miles on the track.
Burn more calories after exercise