Use Your Race Mistakes To Hone Your Next Training Plan

Jannine Myers

Some of you may remember a post I wrote last summer; it was about my disappointing second place “loss” at the annual Futenma Magic 10-Miler race. It was disappointing because I had held the lead for almost the entire race, but ended up losing to a fellow competitor who basically had more stamina and energy. As we turned the corner towards the finish line, I simply didn’t have the power and speed to maintain the lead. As disappointing as that was, I decided to learn from that experience and focus on strength and speed-specific workouts for my next race – which was the Courtney Tengan 10k a few months later.

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Winner of the Magic 10-Miler

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Second place

Determined to do better in the 10k race, I set my focus specifically on strength and speed runs; I delegated Tuesday to speed runs and Thursdays to hill runs. Furthermore, I never strayed from my plan. One of the key factors I believe – maybe even the key – of a successful training plan, is simply being consistent; there’s wisdom in  the saying, “practice makes perfect.” I didn’t run a lot during that training period, but I did keep up with my two hard runs a week, as well as a semi-long run on weekends. Here is an example of the types of speed and strength workouts I did:

Hill Workouts for Strength

  • 6 x 1 minute uphill (on a moderate incline) at a pace that forced me to reach fatigue by the end of each repeat. I slow-jogged back down and started the next repeat either right away, or after a few more seconds to allow for a proper recovery. I challenged myself each week by either increasing either the intensity, number of repeats, or length of time (for example, 8 x 1 minute, 5 x 90 seconds, 4 to 6 x 2 mins).

Various Intervals for Speed

  • I did a variety of interval workouts, ranging from 8 x 400m with 200m recoveries, to 4 x 1000m with 400m recoveries, and always with an easy warm-up and cool-down mile (or two) at the start and end.
  • I also did a variety of tempo workouts where I would run, for example, a total of 60 minutes and break it up as follows: 15 mins easy, 3 x 10 mins fast with 5 min recovery pace between each set. Or, a 70 min run with descending intervals: 10 min warm-up, 20 mins/15 mins/10 mins with 5 min recovery pace between each.
  • On long run days, I sometimes did progression runs where I broke up the total mileage into thirds and progressively ran each third a little faster. Or, I sometimes picked up the pace significantly over the last half mile/mile; I don’t have a strong finishing kick, so a better strategy for me was to try and improve my speed and stamina over a slightly longer distance, versus trying to sprint the last few hundred meters.

Doing one hill workout and one speed workout once a week, consistently and without slacking on effort and intensity, I was able to do what I set out to do. I not only won the Courtney Tengan 10k race (which has a horrible hill at the end of the first loop and again at the end of the course) and finished several minutes ahead of the second-place female, but guess who that second-place female was? My rival from the Magic 10 mile race!

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[For more tips on how to train for increased speed and stamina, read my Futenma Magic 10-Miler post]

A Recipe For Matcha Lovers

Jannine Myers

On a trip to Taipei last November, my girlfriends and I sampled the most amazing matcha cookies; tasting those cookies led to a brief follow-on phase of matcha-flavored cravings. I came home from Taipei, bought some matcha powder and tried a few different recipes. One of the recipes I tried was raw matcha cacao bars; I made them right before I left for New Zealand during the Christmas break and rediscovered them in my freezer last week. I don’t know if it’s because they have been sitting for so long and the bars have been thoroughly infused with the combined green tea and cacao flavor, but the taste has improved significantly from the day they were first made. I’m really enjoying these bars at the moment, and if you’re a green tea lover I think you’ll enjoy them too.

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Ingredients

1 2/3 cups pitted dates
1/3 cup cacao powder
2 /3 cup raw whole almonds
2 tbsp matcha powder
2 tbsp coconut oil (make sure you melt it if it has solidified)
1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsps cacao nibs
Directions
Put all the almonds into a food processor and pulse into roughly grounded pieces. Next, add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse until completely combined. Once all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, transfer to a piece of parchment paper and use your hands to press the dough into a large rectangle or circle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in saran wrap or parchment paper and chill on a baking tray in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cutting.
Cut into desired size of bars (or use a cookie cutter for fun shapes!). Lightly dust with a bit of matcha powder. You can store the bars (layered between parchment paper if you want to avoid them sticking together) in your refrigerator, or do what I did and keep them in the freezer (I have been taking a few pieces out each morning and letting them sit at room temperature for a couple of hours). Enjoy!

Dietitians Are Not The Only Authority On Nutrition

Jannine Myers

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Some weeks ago, after advertising on social media an offer of Nutrition Counseling services, I was contacted by an R.D. (Registered Dietitian) who asked me to remove my ads. He explained that nutrition credentials of any kind – with the exception of an RD certification – do not provide a legal license to give out nutrition advice. He also added that if I were truly interested in giving out the best possible nutrition advice, then I should become a Registered Dietitian.

As it turns out, he is partially correct – the laws vary from state to state. In some states it is actually illegal to practice as a nutritionist without an RD certification, while in other states a person can practice either with a license from a Board of Nutrition, or with no certification at all. But legalities aside, I’d like to suggest that the best nutrition advice doesn’t always come from a Registered Dietitian.

Here’s an article for example, about a man with Type II diabetes, who was skeptical of a dietitian’s advice to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. He followed up with some research of his own and chose instead to eat a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. As a result, he lost a significant amount of weight and was eventually able to stop taking insulin.

[Read his story here – and take note of who some of the major corporate sponsors are of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Notice also how this man received a warning (much like mine), to remove or make changes to his nutrition posts published on his blog diabetes-warrior.net.]

A personal story of my own involves a visit with my 12-year old daughter to see a hospital dietitian. My daughter is a physically active girl with a very picky appetite and an aversion to “her mother’s” advice, so I thought that some guidance from a dietitian might be better heeded. I was disappointed however, when the dietitian told her that because her height and weight fall within the “normal” range, that she can afford to eat whatever she wants; he reasoned that the source of her calories really shouldn’t be a concern while she is still so young and active.

Later, when I brought this up with the dietitian privately, he agreed that while it would be ideal for her to find a balance in regards to healthy eating and appropriate meal composition, he felt that discouraging her from eating certain foods would likely result in negative food associations and ultimately, in poor dietary choices. His argument makes sense, although I’m not sure why he didn’t focus instead on the flip-side of the equation and encourage a wider choice of foods.

Another issue I had, was the dietitian’s recommendation that I continue letting my daughter eat a particular brand of yogurt that she enjoys; I stopped buying it once I realized that they contained Red #40 and other ingredients most likely derived from GMOs. The dietitian argued that I should resume buying these particular yogurts, even though they contain known carcinogenic ingredients, because they would add such minerals as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous, to my daughter’s diet. I simply don’t agree with that line of thinking because there are so many other safer food options that also provide those minerals.

My point is this: don’t be afraid to seek advice from any nutrition advisor – dietitian or not – but, make it your goal to base your selection criteria on compatibility with your health and lifestyle needs. For example, if you want a weight loss plan from someone who will also motivate you, then a personal trainer or fitness coach who also offers nutritional consultations might be exactly who you need. Or, if you’d prefer someone who will be empathetic and supportive of your commitment to eat mostly organic and non-GMO foods, then seek a like-minded nutritionist.

A Registered Dietitian doesn’t always have to be your authority on nutrition; just be smart about it and make appropriate decisions. Obviously, if it’s a special diet you need help with (you need to reduce high blood pressure or cholesterol for example), or if you’ve been referred to a dietitian by your family practitioner, then such cases warrant a consultation with, specifically, a certified RD. The main thing to always keep in mind however, is that any time you receive advice from any health professional, and it doesn’t sit right with you, don’t blindly accept it; go and do your own research and/or seek further opinions!

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

Jannine Myers

It’s getting so cold now that my food cravings are for hot and savory meals. Last night I pulled out my crockpot and threw together a very simple but flavorful spicy red lentil soup. I let the ingredients cook slowly overnight, and I enjoyed a delicious hot soup for lunch today. This recipe contains quite a few ingredients but it really is fast and easy to prepare.

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What you’ll need:

1/2 cup dried red lentils

4 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth

400g diced tomatoes with green peppers, celery, and onion

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small onion, sliced

2 small carrots, sliced

1 medium orange sweet potato, chopped

1/4 cup Thai Yellow Curry paste (add red pepper flakes, or use a spicier curry paste if you desire more spice)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)

1/2 cup cilantro – loosely chopped

Directions:

Rinse and clean lentils. Combine all ingredients except yogurt and cilantro in a 4-5 liter crock pot and cook, covered, on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Season to taste and garnish with yogurt and cilantro.

If You Want To Get Faster, Run Faster!

Jannine Myers

I received an email in my inbox this week; it was a running tip and reminder to not always try and break a record on every training run. A lot of runners actually find it difficult to run at an “easy” pace, mostly because they are afraid that they won’t gain any training benefits if the workout doesn’t feel hard enough. But easy-paced runs are written into training plans for a reason, the main ones being to develop the aerobic system and to prevent injury. I appreciated the reminder because I’m one of those runners who tends to go faster on my easy days, however the email made me also think of those runners who never go fast.

There is another group of runners who stay in their comfort zone and who never run faster; they always run at the same pace. They may increase their weekly mileage, or consistently run several times a week, but their pace never changes. If you’re in this group of runners and wondering why you’re not getting any faster, then read this simple but effective advice from running coach Jason Fitzgerald:

No pace variety. If you don’t ever run fast, you won’t ever run fast.

Without varying your speed, you’ll inevitably fall into a rut and have only one gear (most likely, SLOW!). There’s three great ways to introduce more speeds into your running:

  • Do a faster workout 1-2 times per week, like a simple fartlek workout
  • Run your easy runs SLOW and your distance and long runs moderate (but still comfortable)
  • Run strides a few times per week

By fixing this one pacing mistake you’ll feel a lot better on your runs and get a helluva lot faster.

[For more detailed advice, click the highlighted links above]

Make it your goal this year to get outside your comfort zone and try some faster-paced runs! Just as one of our WOOT stickers says: “Run WOOT, Run Hard, Run Harder!”

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