CJ’s Lessons Learned – Biting Off More Than I Could Chew

As some of you know, I picked up running again in the spring of 2008 after almost twenty years away from it. After finishing Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner by Dean Karnazes, I was ready to start training for a 100 miler! No sweat, right? I remember how humbled I was after running 6 miles for the first time. After that outing along a treacherous Ohio highway shoulder, I decided to tone down the “100 mile zeal” a bit by signing up for a 50k trail race and a road marathon.

At this point, it was the end of April. The 50k trail race was scheduled for the third weekend in August and the road marathon would be the last weekend of September. Did I mention these would be the very first races I would be running after a 20 year running break? Let’s just skip the 5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half-marathon, etc.

I weighed nearly 30 pounds more than I do now and had absolutely no clue what I was doing. No plan, no coach, no rhyme or reason in my training. Just head out the door and see what happens. I was a decent basketball player so I just figured I’d naturally get the hang of this running gig. How hard could it be?

Carnage on the Potawatomi Trail…

By the time the Silver Lake 50k arrived on August 23, the longest training run I had managed was 18 miles. Now I had to run 31 miles on one of the toughest trails in the Midwest…the vaunted “Poto” trail in Pinckney, Michigan. What’s another 13 miles?

When the gun fired at 7am it was 70 degrees with 80% humidity. There were over 40 brave souls who shuffled off into the woods and another 25 in the 50 mile race on the same trail. By the 18 mile mark (coincidence?) of this brutal course, I was a walking zombie. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. My legs refused to turn over any faster than a 13 minute-per-mile death shuffle over the last 10 miles. It’s a scary feeling to be in that kind of misery with so far to go.

5 hours 31 minutes later, I crossed the finish line in 92 degree heat with 85% humidity. I was thoroughly defeated and humbled. What are those famous words we utter after outings like these?

“Never again.”

Oh, but wait. Remember that road marathon I signed up for? It was now a month away and the dread washed over me as I anticipated it while slouched in a lawn chair. I’m not sure I ran one step during the week after the 50k. When would the soreness in my legs subside? Did I do permanent damage? Was the road marathon even an option?

After the Silver Lake 50k…Stick a fork in me, I’m fried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Carnage in Akron and Beyond…

September 27th arrived sooner than I would have liked. My body was still having a hard time forgiving me for what I had put it through the previous month. The gun fired and over 3,000 of us began our journey on the streets of Akron. My goal was to run a sub 3hr 30min race. Things were on pace until that mystical 18 mile mark (seeing a theme here?). It was then that I began to experience the dreaded cramping in the hamstrings.  “Nooo…not now!!”

I thought I’d done a fairly good job of fluid intake. Nonetheless, I was forced to pull over to the side of the road and stretch. At this point, both hamstrings began to seize up into grapefruit-sized knots and I was in shear agony. Seeing my discomfort, a kind police officer came over to see if he could help and offered me his bottle of water since I was between fluid stations. After what seemed like 10 minutes, I thanked him and began attempting to run. Imagine someone trying to run with two stiff, straight legs and you’ll have an accurate picture of what I must have looked like. Spectators probably gasped as I hobbled by. Haile Gebrselassie’s marathon world record (broken several times since then) was certainly safe on this day.

Eventually, my stride loosened up and the cramping eased, though not completely. It was a great feeling to finish inside the Akron University football stadium where thousands of friends & family members awaited their loved ones. After all was said and done, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Again, I was humbled. Again, I uttered those famous post-race words…never again.  Did I learn my lesson? You be the judge…a few days later, I signed up for the November 6th Lithia Loop Trail Marathon in Ashland, Oregon. Again, I suffered. A few days after that race, I signed up for the December 5th Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana. Again, I suffered…this time in 24 degree weather while running in 2-3 inches of fresh snow. Had my sanity returned after this outing? It took one more “pain and torture” fest before I finally got the hint. The race that finally broke me completely was the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, California the following March. I sometimes refer to it as the Way Too “Cruel” 50k.

Lesson Learned…

Something finally sank in after running that last “cruel” race in March 2009. My training was not only woefully deficient but I wasn’t exposing my body to the kind of rigorous terrain I would encounter at many in these races. For example, I lived in Findlay, Ohio at the time where it’s flat as a pancake. The Way Too Cool 50k contains a significant amount of downhill that can grind a person’s quads into hamburger if they haven’t practiced downhill running. Sure enough, my quads were finished in that race by the halfway point. I simply didn’t have access to that kind of downhill terrain in NW Ohio.

From that point forward, I decided not to sign up for races in which I couldn’t properly train on similar course terrain & grade. I would do a much better job researching the course layout and knowing the specifics of things like fluid stations, course markings and elevation gain/loss. If I was going to continue this wonderful sport of running, I owed it to myself (and my body) to learn from my failures and also to glean knowledge and wisdom from more experienced runners.

A nutritional lesson learned…

In the Silver Lake 50k race, I broke one of the cardinal rules in the area of nutrition…

Thou shalt not introduce thy digestive system to a new food or drink on race day!

Have you ever looked inside your race bag of sponsor goodies and decided to try something in there for the first time…on race day? This is precisely what I did a few minutes before this torturous 50k was to begin. Inside the race bag, I found a Clif Shot “Double Espresso” flavored gel. I thought to myself, “Mmm, I need all the energy I can get going into this race.” I quickly downed the 100 calorie pouch and almost immediately felt the caffeine coursing through my veins. Unfortunately, my stomach would protest about 30 minutes later, having never experienced this flavor previously. Talk about high octane fuel!

It’s a good idea to stick with fueling sources that your body has been used to during training. It’s also a good idea to find out ahead of time what the aid stations in your races will offer in terms of food & fluid. If Gatorade will be served, you may want to practice using Gatorade in the weeks leading up to race day. How about gels? Will the race have GU? Hammer? Clif? Your other option would be to bring your own food or fluid of choice. Either way, try to eliminate as many surprises as possible on your big day. After all, you’ve trained too hard to have something like nutrition ruin your race.

May you never bite off more than you can chew…but if you do, may it digest well 🙂

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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Choco-Caramel Almond Delight Smoothie

Choco-Caramel Almond Delight Smoothie

Choco-Caramel Almond DelightWith summer come those rising temperatures that leave us sweating buckets. Here in Colorado, we’ve already experienced quite a few 90+ degree days and we’re just finishing up June! I know, I know. Those of you in Texas and Florida are now rolling your eyes due to the fact that you’re used to those 90 degree days with a WHOLE lot more humidity involved. Some of you reading this might even be 100+ degree veterans.

I’ve long been a believer in the benefits of drinking smoothies, especially for post-workout recovery. Smoothies taste even better during the summer time when you want something cold and refreshing. They’re also very easily digested and allow your body to make the most of that nutrition in a short amount of time.

You chocolate lovers are going to absolutely love the following smoothie recipe I’ve adapted from one of the recipes in my book Smoothies For Runners 2.0. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist or all three, this smoothie is going to light up your taste buds and provide some lovin’ for your body.

Smoothie Description

Sometimes we just need to splurge and enjoy a decadent dessert. With this smoothie, you can enjoy the flavors of chocolate, caramel and almonds while also gaining some quality nutrition. Almonds are high in vitamin E and have also been shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol as much as first generation statin drugs. Almonds are a very satiating snack with 6g of protein per serving (about 22 nuts). Who knew that going nuts could be so healthy?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chocolate almond milk
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 2 pitted medjool dates (soak ahead of time to soften)
  • 2 scoops BodyHealth PerfectAmino Power Meal dark chocolate flavor (use code HITZ10 for additional 10% off)
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 Tsp. almond extract
  • Almond slices or dark chocolate chips for garnish
  • BONUS – for a sweet & salty flavor, put some salt around the rim of your glass like you would for a margarita.

Blend all ingredients until smooth

Nutrition Facts

560 calories, 118g carbs, 19g fat, 12g protein

Training Tip

If you’re going to splurge, whether it’s a decadent smoothie or another sweet treat, you might as well earn it by clearing some hard-earned calories with a nice long run. Studies have shown longer, slower runs to be very efficient at fat burning. Many runners will differ on their definition of a long run, but I believe 90 minutes or more will begin to tap into those fat stores as fuel. Most of us will agree that food always tastes better after a long run!

Juicing: A Great Way to Boost Nutrition Around the Holidays

Juicing itemsRecently, my wife and I watched the award-winning documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead for the second time since it released over 10 years ago. In the film, Joe Cross, an overweight Australian business man sets out to live on fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days to see if he can reverse his autoimmune disease and get off all medications. Along the way, he inspires others to take on this juicing “reboot” as he refers to it. I won’t spoil it for you other than to say it’s a very well done film with valuable information, inspiration and humor along the way.

Needless to say, we were motivated to buy a Breville juicer afterward and begin our own one week juicing reboot. We started the Saturday after Thanksgiving in order to detox our bodies and reset the system. My wife’s goals were to lose a few stubborn pounds and also try alleviating some soreness she had been experiencing due to inflammation caused by diet. She also wanted to see if her allergies would clear up. As for me, I had added a few pounds I could stand to lose and I also wanted to increase my fruit & veggie intake and get my body craving those things daily. We were eating salads and some fruit on a weekly basis but we had also fallen into some bad habits with sweets and things like pizza (one of our weaknesses).

On any kind of fast, whether it’s a water or juicing fast, the first 3 days are always the worst. It’s during this time that the body is trying to figure out what’s happening. If you’ve been used to consuming loads of caffeine, alcohol or sugar, you better believe your body is going to demand those things. As a result of “starving these appetites”, it’s quite normal for people to experience mood swings, headaches, and even some sluggishness. We certainly experienced those things, although not too extreme. I had some minor headaches on days two and three due to refraining from my two cups of daily coffee. Shelley didn’t experience the headaches since she drinks mostly decaf teas. We both experienced the sluggishness and also some mental fog those first three days.

Turning a Corner

I would say we began to turn a corner on day number four. It’s not uncommon for many people to begin experiencing more mental clarity, energy bursts, and decreased craving for unhealthy foods. This was the case for us. Trust me…once you get past the first three to four days, you’re home free. Unfortunately, many people bail before they turn that corner due to the addicting nature of food. Another thing you can expect is sharper senses…sight, smell, taste, etc.

When a person consumes a glass of fresh juice, the stomach receives it as though it’s simply water. Without the extra fiber, fat and protein, the digestion system doesn’t need to send in all the extra tools it normally would to help digest those things. Yes, you get some natural sugar rush, but you also get a rush of nutrients flooding your system. Since the body isn’t working to digest anything, you get the bonus of feeling that extra energy almost immediately. I will say that bowel movements do change with each passing day. As the body detoxes those first few days, you can expect to visit the bathroom quite “regularly” as the body gets rid of the extra baggage. Once you’ve emptied your bowels (each person could vary in terms of the time it takes), the body will simply process the fresh juice as water and you’ll be mostly peeing.

In just one week, both Shelley & I experienced some nice results. I lost 8 pounds and she lost 7. Her allergies cleared up by day four. We came off of the juicing fast with a fresh desire to eat clean and significantly increase our fruit and veggie intake. Not only are we now beginning our day with a green juice but we also intend to do a 5-7 day juicing fast four times a year to cleanse and reboot our bodies.

What a privilege to have access to fresh fruit and vegetable produce all year round for juicing. If you have farmers markets in your area, take advantage of them as much as possible. It’s especially helpful to buy produce when it’s in season.

I highly recommend watching the free documentary and doing your own juicing reboot for at least 4-7 days. Doing something like this after the holidays would be especially beneficial and will launch you into 2018 with a bang!

Here’s to juicing…the legal way!

Below is a recipe we used quite often and now begin our day with:

“Mean Green” Juice

-1 cucumber

-4 celery stalks

-2 apples (Granny Smith or Gala)

-8 leaves of kale (curly or lacinato) with stalks

-1/2 lemon (remove outer peel)

-1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Makes a 20oz glass of fresh juice…cheers!

Don’t have time for juicing raw fruits & vegetables? I’m also a big fan of PerfectGreens by BodyHealth. In my opinion, this is the best-tasting green juice powder available with a sweet apple flavor. Each serving contains the daily recommended amount for fruit & veggies, all with the convenience of being juiced and ready to go! Whether you begin your day with a serving or incorporate it into your post-workout smoothie, you’re going to love it. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your next order.

CJ drinking juice

Caramel Apple Cool Down Smoothie

Caramel Apple Cool DownIf you’re a fan of caramel apples, this is a smoothie recipe you’ll want to try. This recipe also reminds me of the Caramel Apple Pops that Tootsie Roll makes…but with much healthier ingredients (and no weird chemicals added). Apples are a great source of dietary fiber which helps bind up waste throughout the body. Not only do they contain plenty of antioxidants but Granny Smith apples are slightly higher in potassium than other varieties. By the way, eat the skin (only if organic) also since it contains a high amount of vitamin content.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 organic Granny Smith apple (cut into 4 pieces)

4 soaked and pitted Medjool dates

½ Cup raw  organic baby spinach

1 Tbsp. honey

1 scoop BodyHealth Perfect Greens Formula – apple flavor (use code HITZ10  for 10% off your order)

PerfectGreens is the best-tasting green juice powder on the market with a sweet apple flavor. Each serving contains the daily RDA for fruit & veggies, with the juicing done for you! Give it a try today

Perfect Greens Formula

 

 

 

 

 

2-3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients until smooth

*Training Tip

Similar to a warm-up, a cool down is essential after a hard workout or race in order to loosen muscles and help rid the body of lactic acid. I generally like to do a solid 1-2 miles of very easy running post-race or workout. A cool down will allow your next run to feel even better!

The Importance of Sleep for Runners

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!

Oatmeal Protein Balls

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/

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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CocoMint Christmas Cheer Smoothie

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!

Cinnamon Roll Recovery Smoothie

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.

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

PerfectAminoXP

Lose Weight…Not Energy

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!

 

**If you’re looking to lose a few stubborn pounds without losing valuable muscle mass, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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How to Use a Foam Roller for Injury Prevention in Running

 

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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