The Importance of Sleep for Runners

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The Importance of Sleep for RunnersDo you have trouble sleeping? Find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night? Do you wake up in the middle of the night only to have difficulty falling back to sleep? There’s just no getting around the importance of sleep for runners.

Unfortunately, many people could answer yes to one or more of those questions. Millions of people would be considered chronically sleep deprived which means they’re never fully rested. It also means they’re less alert on the job or other routine tasks they try to perform throughout the day.

As runners, we simply can’t afford to be sleep deprived. Without a doubt, quality sleep for runners is the most important recovery tool we can utilize.. And when I say “quality” sleep for runners, I’m talking about the deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that helps facilitate the recovery we need from all the mileage we demand from our bodies. As we enter into deep REM sleep, blood flow to the brain decreases and shifts toward muscles, giving both our minds and bodies time to rest & recover. The more REM sleep I get, the more refreshed I feel and ready for peak performance during the day. I notice a real difference in those first few steps out of bed after a great night of sleep.

Most of us who follow sports have heard the initials HGH which stands for human growth hormone. Unfortunately, many professional athletes over the years have illegally received HGH injections in order to improve athletic performance. But as we get into a deeper sleep, our bodies actually release HGH naturally. This natural hormone is released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream which then helps rebuild damaged tissue and strengthens muscles.

When we’re in a chronic state of sleep deprivation, HGH production decreases and our bodies simply cannot recover properly after our workouts. In fact, too little sleep will lead to an increase in cortisol production-another hormone associated with responses to stress. Too much cortisol will slow our recovery time. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt when given proper rest. For example, after a hard session of repeats or a race, the body will tend to release more HGH in that night’s sleep in order to aid in the recovery effort. I also find myself going into more extended deep sleep after I’ve done a harder long run.

A Few Tips to Improve Sleep for Runners

1.) Reduce caffeine consumption

I know, this one is tough for many of us who love our caffeinated drinks. I would encourage you to make it a rule to keep all caffeine consumption before noon. Enjoy that 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning and switch to caffeine free drinks like tea in the afternoon. It may take a few days or even a week to notice the difference but eventually your body will thank you in the form of sleep as you reduce and strategically time the intake of this stimulant.

2.) Don’t run within 2 hours of heading to bed

When we exercise, we increase our heart rate. A higher than normal heart rate will prevent us from falling asleep very quickly. Getting your run in the morning or early afternoon is ideal. This allows your body the time it needs to return to a normal heart rate, especially after a harder workout when the HR goes higher. I’ve noticed a decreased quality of sleep after I’ve chosen to run shortly before going to bed.

3.) Limit evening alcohol consumption

Many people, runners included, have the nightly habit of winding down with a glass of wine or a good craft beer. And initially it’s true that we become more relaxed. But we pay the price in the early hours of the morning when we should be enjoying some deep sleep. When we consume alcohol shortly before we go to bed (especially more than 1 drink), our livers have to process that alcohol which will increase heart rate. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night sweating after a heavier night of drinking? This is part of the body’s response to getting rid of the alcohol. It’s one of the reasons we toss and turn as we try to resume sleep. Simply put, consuming alcohol very late into the evening places more stress on the body and will affect sleep for runners. If you must have that pint of beer or glass of Merlot, finish it by 6pm to ensure a better night’s sleep.

4.) Natural sleeping aids

As someone who has typically had more difficulty falling asleep (unlike my wife), I’ve experimented with various natural sleeping aids. chamomile tea has been one of the ways I’ve enjoyed winding down before bedtime. Chamomile is a natural herb that people have been using for centuries to aid things like stomach relief and sleep. You’ll find several brands and varieties of chamomile tea in your local grocery stores.

Another natural sleep aid I’ve seen benefit from is a capsule called Power to Sleep PM by Irwin Naturals. This supplement contains things like magnesium and Valerian root which are well known for their calming effects on the body. I find that when I take the recommended dose of 2 capsules, I usually feel a tad groggy after waking in the morning. Taking 1 capsule seems to be just right, especially in conjunction with a cup of chamomile tea.

Perfect CalmFinally, a third supplement I’ve been taking  in the evening that can improve sleep for runners is a brand new product by BodyHealth called Perfect Calm. The key ingredient in Perfect Calm is magnesium. It’s an incredible relaxation-enhancing supplement that helps restore healthy magnesium levels, provides calcium-magnesium balance, and supports the body’s natural response to stress. I’ve been doing 1 scoop in 6-8 ounces of warm water about 30 minutes before heading to bed and I’ve been pleased with the relaxing effect. As a runner, this is the kind of supplement you can immediately begin seeing results from.

The Issue

While almost half of the U.S. population takes calcium-containing supplements, most of the products do not contain anti-stress magnesium, which is a problem because magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D all depend on each other to properly function. Although an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium unless we’re subsisting on a diet mostly made up of dried seaweed and coriander leaf we’re not getting enough!

The Solution

Perfect Calm helps the body achieve calcium-magnesium balance. In addition to supporting the body’s healthy response to stress, magnesium supplementation can also benefit cardiovascular health, proper digestion and—along with calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D—bone health.

A 2015 systematic review of supplemental nutrients for tackling stress in women noted that low levels of magnesium negatively impact cognitive (brain) health and the ability to cope with stress effectively.

One serving of all-natural Perfect Calm provides nearly 90 percent of a full Recommended Daily Value for magnesium.

Ingredients

A highly absorbable blend of magnesium carbonate and citric acid—which, combined with water, creates magnesium citrate.

Perfect Calm comes in 8oz and 16oz sizes and in two delicious effervescent flavors – Tangerine and Berry Lemon.

Here’s a short video of Dr. David Minkoff, founder of BodyHealth, introducing Perfect Calm:

Here’s to some sweet dreams ahead and great sleep for runners!

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Oatmeal Protein Balls

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Oatmeal Protein Balls

I thought I’d share this easy recipe for oatmeal protein balls with you!

As runners, we’re always on the lookout for healthy yet satisfying foods that fuel our runs and aid in our recovery. The following recipe is one that my wife Shelley stumbled across and decided to make a couple days ago. I’ve already enjoyed several of these little “power pellets” (remember PAC-MAN?) which make a great snack alongside a cup of coffee. Give it a try yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Ingredients:
1 cup old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
3/4 cup nut butter (all-natural peanut, sun, cashew, etc.)
1/4 cup milled flax seed
2 T honey

Preparation Instructions:
– Mix ingredients together in bowl.
– Roll into 1 1/4″ balls
– Eat immediately and/or chill the rest.
*While going to the work of making balls, double or triple the recipe to have plenty on hand for easy to grab snacks! Freeze for up to 1 month.

If you’re interested in receiving more training and nutrition advice, you can sign up for a free 30 minute consultation with me here: http://www.trainwellracewell.com/free/

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A Colorado Springs Running Coach with a Passion to Help Others

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As a Colorado Springs running coach, I’ve had the wonderful privilege of working with a variety of runners who have incredible “before and after” stories. In this post, I’d like to share my own story of transformation which fuels my passion to help others write their own story and achieve their running goals.

For me, I had noticed my weight creeping upward with each passing year. At that time, I could barely break 30 minutes in the 5k. In 2006, I specifically recall my wife talking me into running a local 5k race and every step was miserable. Upon finishing, I crumpled onto the cold asphalt and thought I was going to die. The searing pain in my lungs wasn’t something I wanted to sign up for again anytime soon. I was horribly out of shape and I knew it.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2008 that I decided to take up running again after nearly 20 years away from the sport. I eventually caught the “running bug” and haven’t looked back since.

With each passing year, I’ve continued to learn and grow as a runner and even became a Colorado Springs running coach.

I can still hardly believe the guy on the left (picture below) transformed into the guy on the right.

Colorado Springs running coach

LEFT: The guy on the left was 32 years old and weighed 207 pounds with a high percentage of body fat.

RIGHT: The guy on the right is a 43 year old National Class masters runner and Colorado Springs running coach, weighs 155 pounds and just recently ran a near personal best of 16:33 at a Turkey Trot 5k.

Over the last few years, I’ve also had the privilege of helping others reach more of their potential as runners. I enjoyed coaching so much that I decided to become USATF Certified and put more time into studying this incredible yet simple sport. Being a Colorado Springs running coach has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with runners of all levels.

So whether you’re near the front of the pack or toward the back of the pack, I believe I can help you squeeze out more of your ability! How do I know this? I’ve been there myself and know what it takes to improve. It’s not an overnight process but with hard work and consistency, you’ll also see your running improve and reach goals you never thought possible.

I’d love to chat with you over coffee about your goals and share some ideas that could help you improve your running, no strings attached.

To schedule your FREE 30 minute coffee consultation in the Colorado Springs or surrounding area, please fill out this form

Here’s to achieving new breakthroughs!!

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CocoMint Christmas Cheer Smoothie

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Christmas smoothieBaby, it’s cold outside! But smoothies can be enjoyed all year round. Here’s a seasonal smoothie recipe from my book Smoothies For Runners 2.0.

This is a great recipe to bring out during the Christmas season with mint being a constant theme. The fresh peppermint leaves will ensure that this is technically a green smoothie. Peppermint has long been shown to be a remedy for indigestion or an upset stomach. This herb also aids in breathing (a benefit for runners) and can help relieve symptoms of colds related to allergy. Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla or chocolate coconut milk, depending on your
preference
8 fresh mint leaves
1 frozen ripe banana
1 scoop Garden of Life® Smooth Vanilla Organic Plant Protein
1-2 drops Peppermint oil extract (optional for stronger mint
lovers)

Blend all ingredients until smooth

*Training Tip

For whatever reason (weather perhaps?), many people seem to have the idea that a good time to take it easy with training is around the holidays. In my opinion, this isn’t always smart. Not that you have to train like a maniac during this stretch but it’s a good idea to still stay consistent. Slacking off too much will lead to a loss of heart (cardio fitness) and an increase in weight. We all know it takes a lot longer to gain that precious fitness than it does to lose it. It also takes more effort to lose those stubborn pounds than it does to gain them.

It’s really easy to get out of our routines around the holidays but staying consistent in our exercise habits can help us stay strong mentally and physically. My wife knows how important my daily run is to my overall state of mind and gladly sends me out the door.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good run!

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Cinnamon Roll Recovery Smoothie

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For you smoothie lovers, here’s a quick video we did while making the Cinnamon Roll Recovery smoothie. It’s basically a cinnamon roll in a glass!

You can find this recipe along with 23 more delicious smoothie recipes in my latest book Smoothies For Runners 2.0.

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Lose Weight…Not Energy

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Low Fuel

Many endurance sports reward lower weight. But sometimes losing weight can cause you to feel weaker than you did when you were heavier, simply because you’re running on fumes.

If we cut back on calories but maintain our workout schedule, our fuel tanks are going to be running low. Simply put, glycogen depletion can lead to a loss of pure power & energy.

It’s important to time your fueling properly—and consume the proper fuel—to prevent that from happening. Here are six tips to help you run strong while working toward your ideal training & racing weight, regardless of your body type.

Tip #1: Eat to Run

Quality runs and high-intensity workouts will help you lose weight, so you don’t want to sacrifice your performance during these key sessions. Fuel your workouts and cut back during the rest of the day.

That means topping off your tank with a 150 to 200 calorie snack that will provide sustained energy, such as a Larabar, banana with peanut butter, or a light smoothie. If you’re planning to be out for more than 90 minutes, take extra hydration which might include Nuun tablets or Hammer Heed mixed in your water bottle.

Afterwards, have some recovery food available. My personal go-to recovery is a scoop of Garden of Life protein mixed with water in a shaker bottle. It’s 15-20 grams of quality protein that provides my body with immediate rebuilding material.

When possible, time your run so you finish around mealtime. That way, you can just eat as you normally would when finished. Sometimes my wife will have a good breakfast ready and waiting for me upon returning from my long run.

Tip #2: Pace Your Weight Loss

Gradual weight loss will be less disruptive to your training and ultimately less draining than trying to lose a lot quickly. If you’re aiming for significant weight loss, you have to be fine with the occasional failed workout.

I’ve had many high-intensity workouts where my body simply fell short on fuel yet I was still able to finish most of what I had planned. When this happens in training, it’s not a big deal. If it happens during a key race, you may fall short of your goal. This is why it’s important to make sure you have a full tank before that big race.

Tip #3: Eliminate Empty Calories

If you’re running a lot, including racing, and trying to cut weight, you need maximum nutrition with little fluff. That means cleaning up your diet to avoid empty calories.

I enjoy a tasty craft beer from time to time but when I go into lean mode, this is one of the things I cut out. I sometimes refer to beer as “liquid fat” due to its high empty calorie content – a whopping 7 fat calories per gram!

These are things most of us know (heck, even kids know it), but it’s also important to cut out chips, cookies, donuts and soft drinks which are all filled with empty calories. “Empty” means they’re void of any dense nutrition. It’s like filling your car with watered down fuel.

Aim for high quality, real food such as fruits, vegetables, quality carbohydrates (i.e. brown rice, sprouted grain bread), high quality protein sources (i.e. wild caught salmon), and healthy fats (i.e. avocados) as they come in whole foods. I try to get a large green salad with lots of variety everyday if possible.

Tip #4: Increase Protein

Weight loss puts you in a catabolic state so it’s important to take in extra protein to prevent unnecessary muscle loss. Losing muscle will only hurt your running performance.

Research shows that people who eat diets that are rich in protein maintain their lean muscle mass which you need to turn those legs over. This is possible even as you’re trying to lose extra fat.

This is another reason I like having a good quality lean protein powder on hand like Garden of Life. By throwing a scoop in my shaker bottle twice a day between meals, I’m adding an extra 30-35 grams of protein at a cost of only 200 calories. That’s what you call nutrient dense!

Tip #5: Go to Bed a Little Hungry

If you’re looking to maintain fitness while losing weight, go to bed a little bit hungry. It won’t kill you and it’s an easy way to lose a pound a week. In times where I go into lean mode, I typically have a rule of not eating after 7:30pm. If you must eat something after that time, stick with a piece of fruit like an apple or an orange which is low calorie and high fiber.

Tip #6: Make Sleep a Priority

Shortchanging sleep puts your body in a constant state of stress, which increases stress hormones like cortisol which promote fat storage and make it that much harder to drop those pesky pounds. This effect can be even more pronounced if you don’t get enough sleep while also trying to lose weight.

Cutting calories has already put extra stress on your body, not to mention the extra training. Don’t add more stress if you can help it, or you risk overtraining symptoms and a lowered immune system.

Here’s to staying lean and mean on the roads and trails!

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TWRW Podcast 003: Conversation with Travis Macy

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Ultra Mindset CoverIn this edition of the Train Well Race Well podcast I sit down with Travis Macy of Evergreen, Colorado.  Travis recently released a fantastic book titled The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life.

  A few of the things we touch on include…

  • His beginnings as an athlete and the influence of his Dad
  • His decision to go pro while training near the top of Mt. Evans in prep for the Leadman competition
  • How “being a wannabe” is one of the 8 core mindsets mentioned in his book
  • The moment he decided to ask one of his rivals to coach him
  • Why it’s actually important to have an “ego”
  • Advice for other parents who endeavor to pursue their own athletic goals
  • His greatest passion
  • His recent focus on running and some upcoming races and pursuits

Travis Macy is a speaker, author, coach, and professional endurance athlete. He is the author of The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life, and he holds the record for Leadman, an epic endurance event consisting of a trail running marathon, 50-mile mountain bike race, Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, 10k road run, and Leadville 100 Run, all above 10,200′ in the Rocky Mountains. Travis lives with his wife and two young children in the mountains around Evergreen, Colorado, and his sponsors include Vitargo and HOKA ONE ONE, among others.  You can find out more about Travis and his speaking & coaching services at www.TravisMacy.com

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What to Do if Your Garmin Forerunner 110 Won’t Charge or Has a Blank Screen

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garmin 110 blank screenWhat do you do if your Garmin Forerunner 110 won’t charge or has a blank screen? Unfortunately, the Garmin Forerunner 110 is known to have some issues with not charging or simply having a blank screen.  CJ had given me this watch when I first started running more consistently and it helped me stay on track.  However, I’ve been having problems with it recently and so did some research on how to correct it.

I thought this information would be helpful to other runners as well, so here it is:

1)  Try these simple fixes first.

Here are some simple ideas that worked for some users as posted originally in the Garmin forum online:

  • Unplug the charging adapter from your computer and connect the other end to the watch. Then press and hold in the light button for 15 seconds; with the light button depressed, plug the connector to your computer.
    https://forums.garmin.com/showthread.php?13548-Forerunner-110-will-not-charge
  • Hold down the Light, Start/Stop, and Lap/Reset buttons for about 30 seconds.
  • Hold down all four buttons for about 7 seconds.
  • Hold down the Light button for about 6 seconds.
  • Hold the “Light” button down for 10 seconds. Wait for the screen to go blank & 10 more seconds for the watch to come back to life. If it does not wake up, plug it into a power source.
  • Plug it into a different USB port.
  • Leave it plugged in for a few days, and eventually it will spring back to life.
  • Attach the USB clip, but don’t attach the clip to a USB port, and hold the Light button for 6 seconds.
    https://forums.garmin.com/showthread.php?10639-Forerunner-110-Blank-Screen-(Dead)





2) Check whether there is a firmware update available.

You can do check for firmware updates here:  http://connect.garmin.com/firmware

3) Try a master reset.

How to perform a Factory reset for Garmin 110:

NOTE: This will delete all your previously saved workouts on the watch.

  • Hold and press start/stop and lap/reset buttons
  • Add the light button and it should beep
  • Release the start/stop button (upper right) and there should be another beep
  • Release the lap/reset button (lower right)
  • Release the light button

This worked for me!

4) You can also Contact Garmin Customer Support

If none of the other suggestions work, try contacting Garmin’s support here: http://www.garmin.com/us/support/

 

Has this happened to you?  If so, what worked to bring your Garmin 110 back to life?

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How to Use a Foam Roller for Injury Prevention in Running

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Foam roller - injury prevention in running

 

Roll Those Injuries Away!

It all started on a chilly evening in early December 2012.  A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join him in a track workout where he was planning to do a 12 x 200 meter interval session with each repeat being 3-4 seconds faster than 5k race pace.  Thinking I could use the leg turnover, I happily responded, “Sure I’ll join you!”

We did less than a mile and a half of warm-up (should have done at least 2 miles) and then hit the dirt track at a local middle school.  The first 7 repeats felt pretty good but then I felt a slight twinge in my lower right hamstring on the eighth rep.  As I continued to push, it got worse so after 8 repeats, my workout was finished.

What was I thinking by doing 200 meter repeats in chilly weather without a proper warm-up?  Part of the reason I shortened my warm-up was to get started with the workout before we ran out of daylight.  I paid the price for that mistake.

For the next couple months, I continued to re-aggravate this injury anytime I would push the pace below 6:45 per mile pace.  It was frustrating to say the least.  I finally decided to visit a massage therapist that a friend of mine recommended.  Pam lived up to her reputation of making grown men cry as she worked on numerous stubborn areas, especially in my legs.  Pam said I was as stiff as anyone she had worked on.  As she put it, “It’s like you’re running on boards!”  That’s pretty stiff.

It was then that she asked me if I ever used a foam roller, to which I replied no.  She said it would be one of the best investments I could make, especially considering all the stiffness my body was carrying.

 

Why a Foam Roller Helps Runners

Over time, running can create overuse injuries and tight muscles.  If these aren’t addressed, it can create pain that prevents us from doing what we love which is putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.

A good foam roller can help iron out areas that have become tight.  We all have trouble areas where knots can develop.  By taking a foam roller and targeting these knots, we allow our muscles to have a more full range of motion.  Think of a knot in a rope.  When you remove the knot, you lengthen the rope.  For every knot you add to the rope, you shorten it.  You want your muscles to have their full range of motion when running, otherwise, those knots can progress to muscle strains or even muscle tears.

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way by enduring a lower hamstring strain that lingered for over three months before I finally turned a corner.  For some people, their injury may occur in the calves.  Others may experience pain in their ITB (illiotibial band).  Regardless of where the pain crops up, tight muscles can lead to a chain reaction where various parts of the body carry too much load and finally give us a warning signal.  It’s when we continue to ignore these warnings that injuries occur.

Common areas to work on with a foam roller include…

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • ITB
  • Quads
  • Gluteus muscles (aka “glutes”)

 

How to Use a Foam Roller

In the video below, running coach, CJ Hitz, will show you how to use his favorite foam roller to address the ITB, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.

 

 

My Favorite Foam Roller

best foam rollerIn my opinion, Trigger Point Performance Therapy makes the best quality foam roller on the market.  I happen to own “The Grid” version of their foam roller which offers even more targeted massage action with the grooves and grid pattern on the roller.  This matrix pattern also helps increase circulation.

Trigger Point also makes a “Grid Mini” which is the most travel friendly foam roller on the market and easily attaches to any gym bag, backpack, or can fit inside your suitcase.  On the bigger end of the spectrum, they also offer “The Grid 2.0” which is double the size of the standard Grid foam roller.

 

Conclusion

If you can get into the habit of rolling out those trouble areas once a day, or at least every other day, you’ll be on your way to nipping potential injuries in the bud before they rear their ugly heads.  Some runners prefer to use the foam roller immediately after a run.  I prefer to use it before going to bed along with a ten minute routine of exercises I do to end my day.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get rolling!

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TWRW Podcast 002: Conversation with Justin Ricks

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Justin running in Moab

Justin running in Moab

In this edition of the Train Well Race Well podcast I sit down with Justin Ricks of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Justin has run 2:22 for a road marathon but his main focus has been in the trail running scene.  A few of the things we touch on include…

  • His beginnings as a runner and the influence of his family
  • His dramatic weight loss
  • His interest in getting back into Ultras
  • His traveling adventures with his wife & kids
Justin is sponsored by La Sportiva as a member of their Mountain Running team.  He’s also a member of Team Colorado, arguably the strongest group of mountain/trail runners in the country.  Besides being a competitive runner, Justin also works with GrassRoots Events where he helps direct several races and offers his coaching services.

 

Listen to the interview below:

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Click Here to Discover 6 Proven Practices to Help You Run Faster