Running For Freedom – Of A Different Kind

Jannine Myers

Independence day is just a few days away and if you’re a runner, I’m willing to bet that your celebration plans will be preceded by an early morning run. As runners, I know how grateful we all are to have the freedom to run wherever and whenever we want to, and while Independence Day is certainly not about “running,” it encompasses all of those things that we desire to do without having any type of restraints placed upon us.

For the most part, I believe that we do enjoy the benefits of living in an independent nation. Others might argue however that we are not free at all, and that our independence is a sham, hidden behind what is really a dictatorial society which forces us to adhere to certain rules and regulations. But while there may be some truth to that, I don’t think we are so enslaved by such rules that we feel extremely oppressed and violated. On the contrary, I believe that we ought to feel blessed that we live in actual homes, buy food and clothes and cars for ourselves, go on vacations, and do things that we love to do – in our case, run.

And that brings me to the point that I really want to discuss in this post. Yesterday, I listened to a few words presented by Buddy Rathmell, a representative and strong advocate for StopSlavery.org. Buddy shared about the work that he and his family are doing in Thailand and Cambodia, work which involves various projects with a common objective in mind: to end the evil practice of human trafficking and rescue women and children who are currently caught up in it.

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For these women and children, I’m sure the concept of “Independence” conjures up emotions and feelings much different to ours. While we think about being freed from the chains of government regulations and Corporate America monopolies, they dream of one day escaping the chains of sex slavery.

In lieu of this year’s Independence day, which is typically celebrated with good food, friends, and fireworks, can I suggest that we also celebrate by adding a small gesture of goodwill into the mix of it all? In his very short speech yesterday, Buddy Rathmell also advised that one of their largest sponsors recently retired and is no longer able to contribute on a regular basis. If you’ll please take the time to visit the website  StopSlavery.org, I hope you will find it in your heart to give a small donation (to help break the chains of literal captivity and oppression), and here is how I propose that we do this:

  1. On Independence Day, when you head out for your morning or evening run, view it as a “Run For Freedom” run, with the aim of donating a single dollar for every mile you run.
  2. Send your payments either to me (via paypal to myersnz1@yahoo.com, cash – in person, or check – in person or by post to PSC 557, Box 1692, FPO AP 96379), or donate directly via the website. If you donate directly via the website, would you mind:
  •  a) selecting Buddy and Jen Rathmell under the option which asks you which fund you would like to donate to,
  • b) typing in Run For Freedom where it asks you to enter your “Organization”
  • c) sending me a short message (myersnz1@yahoo.com), advising that you made a contribution

Please consider making a difference this Independence Day, and make your run worth it!

[For the non-runners reading this post – please also consider making a donation of $5, $10, $25, or any other set amount]

 

Running the Path Less Traveled

Trail runners are less likely to play it safe in life

Out on a group trail run in Okinawa recently, a photographer who came along to take some action shots was a little startled as we began climbing a particularly narrow and rocky stretch of trail. As he kept his eyes to the ground and tried to steady himself with each footstep, he asked if any of our group members had hurt themselves on our trail runs.

“Of course,” I said. “We’ve had broken toes, cuts and grazes, and even a couple of stress fractures.” As quickly as the words spilled out of my mouth, they were just as quickly forgotten; my mind was too engrossed in the moment and the immediate joy of maneuvering my way across slippery rocks and dirt.

Later, as I reflected on the morning’s run, my thoughts returned to his question. It brought to mind an incident when another runner new to the trails had come out to join us. We had started out on an overgrown trail that day, and the new runner, a young woman, had gone on ahead with the lead runners.

A few minutes later, as the rest of our group followed, the young woman came tearing back towards us in a state of panic; she was terrified of what might be looming in the long cuts of grass. Okinawa is known for its indigenous and potentially lethal “habu” snake, and, like it or not, the prospect of crossing paths with one is a reality for local trail runners. The woman yelled, “You girls are crazy!” as she high-tailed it back to the safety of her car.

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Really? Are we crazy? Do we love our sport so much that we have become blinded to its dangers? Or are we simply more willing than others to take risks?

Trail running can result in bold and positive changes in the lives of those who truly embrace it. I read an excerpt recently from the book Running the Edge: Discovering the Secrets to Better Running, in which the authors implied that the majority of adults will end up settling for “average”—or, in other words, mediocre—lives. Trail running does not allow for mediocrity, since every run involves elements of surprise, vigor and risk.

As I think about this concept and how it applies to my own life, I hope that it spills over into the lives of my children. My oldest is a high-school graduate, currently working in the field of event management but also considering possible college options. Strange as it may sound, I’m not entirely in favor of her falling in line with the mainstream order of things—which, for a female high-school graduate, generally involves going straight to college, followed by the pursuit of a good job, a successful spouse, a family and, of course, material wealth and career advancement.

What I do favor for her, and for my younger daughter, is a life that’s constantly evolving by order of what’s meaningful and purposeful to them, as opposed to what society expects of them. I want to encourage them to risk following different and “scary” paths, if that’s what it takes to reach their goals. Many of their peers will choose to stare at their hopes and dreams from afar, too afraid to move towards them. I hope, however, that my daughters will acknowledge the poisonous snakes, the dangerous rock crevices and the hidden tree roots, and recognize that they are merely obstacles and notroadblocks.

Such is life for the trail runner. Every path traveled is full of obstacles that threaten to stop us in our tracks. Yet, diverting to a safer, more traveled path that leads to an “average” destination simply isn’t an option.

Build Your Aerobic System By Running Slower

Jannine Myers

Last week I talked about training in a glycogen-depleted state, with the objective being that your body will improve it’s ability to utilize fat as fuel. It’s an interesting concept, since many articles and books on long run nutrition prescribe a steady intake of simple carbs, both before and during longer runs. Another interesting long run strategy that I’ve been reading about suggests that optimal fitness can best be achieved by building a solid aerobic base, which relies on slower-paced runs.

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Proponents of this type of training believe that most athletes don’t do enough training in the aerobic zone, and therefore compromise the development of an optimal aerobic system. A lot of generic marathon training plans, for example, include several weeks of base/aerobic training (before introducing an anaerobic phase), but these periods of aerobic training may not be long enough.

Chiropractic Physician, Dr. Steve Gangemi, says that the premature transition from aerobic to anaerobic workouts can result in “physical and mental burnout, illness, injury, and poor aerobic development.” He suggests fully building your aerobic system by following one of three options, including Dr. Phil Maffetone’s Maximum Aerobic HR Formula. The Maffetone Method – http://sock-doc.com/2011/03/aerobic-or-anaerobic/ – will most likely have you running at a much slower pace than you are used to, and it may be hard to stick with the plan, but some athletes who have been experimenting with this formula have been seeing considerable improvements in their run times.

Running Coach Amanda Loudin is one athlete who has been following the MAF system of training, and she noted on her blog recently, the difference between her four-mile run splits prior to commencing MAF training, and four weeks after starting MAF training (http://misszippy1.com/2013/06/maf-test-2-wow.html):

  •  May: 9:37, 9:51, 10:23, and 10:31
  • June: 8:55, 8:55, 9:07, and 9:04

I’d say that’s quite a remarkable difference, but let me emaphasize that Amanda had to force herself to run much slower than she normally would. Using the MAF formula, she worked out what her maximum aerobic heart rate is, and then she commited to running at a pace which kept her heart rate no higher than that. Read her comments below:

  • “I am beyond thrilled with it. And I still have three months to go. I am also noticing that my clothes are starting to loosen up, another indicator that my body is turning to fat for fuel. Not a bad side effect, I’ll admit. More than anything, all of this tells me I am on the right path. It has been hard; it has tried my patience; it will continue to do so. But do I consider it worth it? Heck yeah. My only regret–not starting it sooner!”

So, two things to consider then, if you’re wanting to try a couple of different long run strategies to improve your overall ability to run faster and longer:

  1. Try doing some, not all, of your long runs on an empty stomach. Here’s an article –   http://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/cience-of-bonking-and-glycogen-depletion/ – that can tell you a little more about glycogen-depletion training, but please do more research yourself before seriously experimenting with this.
  2. Try doing your long runs at a deliberately slower pace. Read this article by the SocDoc (Dr. Steve Gangemi) , for a little more information: http://sock-doc.com/2011/03/aerobic-or-anaerobic/, and of course, do more of your own research.

 

Vanilla Fig Bars

These are one of my favorite bars, and they’re so easy to make!

2 cups cashews, 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/8 tsp celtic sea salt, 15 drops vanilla creme stevia (or several drops vanilla extract), 1 cup dried figs (soaked in 1/2 cup water for 12 hours).

  1. Place cashews in food processor and pulse to texture of gravel.
  2. Pulse in coconut, salt and vanilla
  3. Pulse in figs, with a little of the water if it seems too dry
  4. Press mixture into a 8 x 8 inch baking dish
  5. Refrigerate, then cut into squares (keep refrigerated)

So delicious!

Banana Quinoa Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla soy milk, 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds,1/4 cup canola oil, 1/8 to 1/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa, 2 ripe bananas, mashed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed. Allow to sit for one minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar, and vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa and banana and mix until the large lumps are gone.

Pour into muffin tin and bake for 20 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Embrace Those Hills

Jannine Myers

Some of my recent runs have not been enjoyable. I love to run in the early hours of the morning, but lately it’s often been just my nine year old and I at home and so I have not been able to leave the house to go and run. On those days I’ve waited until later in the morning when she’s at swim practice (or elsewhere), and consequently those runs have mostly been under a hot beating sun.

This morning I grabbed the opportunity to get some miles in while my daughter was swimming on Camp Foster, and as hot as it was, I could have chosen to run a flat route to make it easier on myself, but there are a few decent hills on Camp Foster and as much as I dislike hills, I’ll choose them if I see them. Today however, I was half regretting my decision as I painstakingly made my way up the third hill in the blistering heat. That’s when I remembered a great little article I read the other day by cycling coach and personal trainer, Kelley Heye. In her article she offered five empowering tips on how to embrace, rather than run from hills. Read them below; they gave me the extra push I needed this morning:

http://www.athleta.net/2013/06/17/do-not-look-up/

June 17, 2013 By 

Kelley Heye Charging Stairs

  • First – Make friends with the hill! Remember, most of the population will be panicking when they reach a hill and move way too fast, eventually stopping in their tracks. Use this knowledge to your advantage, find your personal rhythm, calmly keep moving and watch to see how many “haters” you pass on the way up. (That’s my favorite part!)
  • Second – When the elevation starts to go up, shut everything out of your head, listen to your calm slow breath like it’s music and “focus” on that. If you start gasping then slow the hell down and get your focus and breath back.
  • Third – Do not look up. Look straight ahead just up the road, but do not look up the hill! If you look up and see how far you have to go you’ll freak yourself out, panic and lose your focus. The climb is almost always easier than you think it will be.
  • Fourth – Break the task down into small, easy to digest chunks. Think to yourself, “Let me just get to the first switch-back,” once there, get yourself to the big tree or some other small goal and keep it going, all the way to the top.
  • Lastly – Never anticipate the top. Trust that it’s there and keep going until you find it. Remember, once you’re over the top you get to go down!

Banana Pumpkin and Berry Bars with Protein Powder

This is my modified, semi gluten-free and reduced sugar version. My daughter and her work friends enjoy these as a post-workout snack. These were also a hit with Anna’s much younger elementary-age daughters.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas, ½ cup canned pumpkin, ½ tsp vanilla, 1 egg, ¼ (or less) cup agave nectar, 1 single-size applesauce, or ¼ cup canola oil

Mash bananas in a medium bowl. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla until blended. Beat in egg, agave and applesauce (or oil), stirring well.

Ingredients

½ cup gluten-free flour, 1 ¼ cups coconut flour, ¼ cup protein powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 cup chopped pecans, or walnuts, ½ cup dried blueberries, or blueberry-flavored, cranberries, ½ cup shredded carrot, 2 tbsps pumpkin seeds

Stir together flour, protein powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture, until just moistened. Stir in nuts, blueberries, carrot and pumpkin seeds.

Spoon into 13×9 inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Smooth top and bake 20 to 25 minutes (coconut flour cooks much faster than regular flour, so check after 20 mins or so).

What! Do My Long Runs On An Empty Stomach?

Jannine Myers

Have you all been noticing lately an increased interest in a training strategy which advocates the idea of running on low carbs? I have. Runners are referring to it as “glycogen-depletion” training, and the basic premise behind it is that doing some long runs when the muscles are depleted of glycogen will theoretically improve the body’s ability to use fat as fuel. If the body can be trained to rely on fat for fuel during the early stages of a run, then there will be more glycogen available in the latter part of the race which is when we need it the most.

Supposedly, a large number of East African runners practice glycogen-depletion training, although it’s not known if they do this intentionally or because they simply don’t have time to properly refuel between workouts. At any rate, it appears that a lot of runners are now jumping on the band wagon, eager to see if a low-carb strategy will work for them like it does for many of the elite Ethiopians and Kenyans.

In an attempt to find some credible proponents of this type of training, I came across a post on Greg McMillan’s coaching website [mcmillanrunning.com]. Here’s an excerpt from the post titled The Marathon Long Run:

  •  another way to really increase fat burning is to run when the carbohydrate stores are lowered……you are trying to maximize your ability to burn fat and spare your limited muscle carbohydrate (glycogen)  stores.…..a great way to ensure that you will deplete your carbohydrate stores on these long, steady runs is to not eat any carbohydrates immediately before or during the run. Any carbohydrates ingested will be used by the body for fuel, and we don’t want this. We want to deny the body carbohydrates in these runs so that the muscles will become better at sparing the carbohydrate stores, more efficient at burning fat and used to running with lowered blood glucose levels. Now, many people think I am crazy when I say this, but it works. It takes time to get used to if you have always been carbing up before and during your long runs, but with time and practice you can do it.

The company Hammer Nutrition, which specializes in optimal sports performance through quality nutritional foods and supplements, also advocates a “less is best” approach. And Dr. Mark Cucuzella, who won the 2011 Air Force marathon at age 44, had this to say about glycogen-depletion training:

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“Dr. Peter Snell studied this after his Gold Medal career. By glycogen-depleting, the type 1 fibers recruit the type 2 oxidative fibers and capillarizes them; this occurs after an hour. Lydiard runners did weekly 20 milers without food but then reloaded at post-run breakfast, so no bars or gels in the longer training runs.”

 I find all of this quite intriguing and intend to follow through with more research. If you’ve already tried this type of training, or are currently following a glycogen-depleted training plan, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Consistency Pays Off

Jannine Myers

Most runners, I find, are quick to try new training methods or ideas that others seem to have bought off on, and I for one am always experimenting with new shoes and gear, new techniques and strategies, and new foods and fuels. Just recently, for example, I tried incorporating a set of “cooldown” dynamic stretches into my weekly running routine, but as with many other things I try, my enthusiasm wore off after a couple of weeks.

As I considered how many times I have started and stopped new “habits,” I began to feel a little disappointed in myself. But then I realized that even though I may not follow through with all of my new ideas and goals, I am however fairly consistent when it comes to practicing other great habits, and that consistency has paid off.

Here’s a few things that I always do, to work towards optimal training:

  • It took me a long time to get this one, but I finally did and I now understand why so many coaches emphasize it: Keep the easy days easy, and the hard days hard! I used to push myself hard in almost every workout, until I realized that my body wasn’t recovering well because I never eased up on it. Now, I enjoy running at a leisurely and relaxed pace on my “easy” run days, and I exert myself on my “hard” run days. My body has responded so much better to the recovery time afforded on my easier run days.
  • I log all of my runs. Here’s the thing though – I don’t log them for any other reason except to keep a record of my shoe mileage. I’ve had enough injuries in the past to warrant my overly cautious attention to how many miles I run in each pair of shoes I own. My shoe log, which I keep online by using the http://www.runnersworld.com/log, enables me to follow the mileage of all of my shoes, and switch them out before they are too worn.
  •  Here’s one that I am almost fanatical about – eating a quality post-workout snack or meal, and eating/drinking it within 15 minutes of completing my workout. If I get home from a long run, I will immediately replenish my glycogen stores with some type of recovery drink, and then eat a well-balanced meal within the next hour or so.
  • Sleep! Everyone who knows me well knows that I’m in bed early, and now and again I cop a few jokes at my expense because I can rarely stay awake past 9pm. But that’s okay, I have lots of runner friends who also turn the lights out early. And here’s the reality – if you’re serious about your running, and you train hard, then sleep carries as much significance as nutrition does when it comes to recovery.

Those are a few of the habits I consistently practice, and which I truly believe are necessary for optimal performance. How about you, have you failed to follow through with certain training practices but managed to adopt some sort of consistency in other areas? If you can’t get it all right, then work on getting a few of the of the more important things right.

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Don’t be Fooled by Quick-Fix Diets and Exercise Plans

Jannine Myers

It’s around this time of year that people start to frantically look for ways to quickly drop some weight and tone up saggy looking muscles. With nothing but hot summer days ahead and inevitable weekend trips to the beach or pool, there’s no more hiding behind winter “cover-up” clothing. The lax, and often poor habits that many fall into during the festive season and colder months, result in unwanted excess weight and sudden panic when it comes time to shed the layers of clothing.

I’m all about taking steps to get active and lose excess weight, but not the way that so many people opt to do so. You know what I’m talking about right? The quick “Lose 20 lbs of Fat in 30 Days,” or “How to Tone Up Your Body in Two Weeks.” There are so many of these programs out there, all promising amazing results if you’ll follow their instructions to the letter.

The five-day Bikini Blitz diet

The amazing diet that lets you eat as much as you want
 ..and you still lose 14lb in less than a week

The Bikini Workout

Get Beach-Ready with 10 Exercises



But how long do their promised results actually last? I know people who have followed “quick-fix” diets and exercise programs, and I’ve seen them lose weight rapidly, but I’ve also seem them months later either at their original weight or heavier. Heck, I remember my own bouts of yo-yo dieting when I was much younger, and I also remember how wonderful I felt when I dropped several pounds, and how miserable I felt when I regained them.

Even so, with all the evidence stacked up against these diets, revealing them for the shams that they are, people still search for them online in desperate attempts to lose weight. Worse still, is the abuse of diet pills and laxatives as an ongoing means of losing weight. None of these strategies are going to provide lasting results or health benefits; on the contrary, they may even harm your body.

So come on ladies, if you, or someone you know is searching for that quick-fix weight loss remedy, try to divert that focus onto a more sustainable and long-term strategy that looks instead at healthy lifestyle changes. Sure, it may take longer for the weight to come off, but you can at least take comfort in the fact that you will be losing weight safely, and more effectively, since the weight loss is more likely to be permanent.