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Running & Beer

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Beer and running seem to be a match made in heaven.  From infiltrating local running clubs, races, the Beer Mile, and as a reward for any hard workout or race, beer has added yet another social element to the running scene.

Chemically speaking, brewing beer occurs from the fermentation of starch by yeast.  The sugars in the grain are metabolized which creates the alcohol and CO2.  Although beer is 90% water, and typically four to six percent alcohol, it is still considered a diuretic. Beer does contain sugary carbs, nutrients from the hops, starch, and some electrolytes, but the alcohol content puts a damper on these benefits.  So if you plan on having some post-run brews, grab a glass of water and a snack to have before the beer.

Even with the alcohol content, beer has health benefits when consumed in moderation. Moderate consumption means one 12-ounce beer per day for women, and two for men (but don’t think that the days you don’t have a beer can be added to another day and still be considered “moderate consumption”).  In moderation, beer has been seen to lower risks of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages; contains multiple B vitamins and chromium; helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol; contains hops that are rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols; and can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

While it seems quite normal to have a beer after a run, having beer during the run may seem a little extreme, but that’s exactly what the Beer Mile is. We caught up with some of Canada’s top beer milers to share their running & beer stories:


Jim Finlayson

I was one of the rare ones who didn’t really drink beer. Had my first one 2nd year university, 1992, and didn’t care for it. Felt way too bloated, too, and I couldn’t understand how my roommates could drink more than one. And so their surprise when I ran my 5:09 beer mile world record in 2007.

My first beer mile was in 2005. It was a fundraiser for melanoma, in honour of a local triathlete who had passed away. We had a huge crowd. 75 participants and over 100 spectators. The Times Colonist newspaper was on hand. I only did it to support the cause. At the time the world record was 5:42 and I figured if things went really smoothly I could be 6:20-30. Certainly wasn’t thinking anything faster than that, and so I chose Guinness, which isn’t beer mile legal (only 4.4%, and it needs to be a 5% beer). It was late December, just before Christmas, and we ran it in the rain and dark. I had no idea what my splits were. I just ran as hard as I could. Someone told me after the race I’d run 5:12, which seemed impossible to me, but it was corroborated by the official timers. The mark didn’t count as a record since I drank Guinness, but I knew then I would return the next year with a legal beer, which I did, and ran 5:20 drinking Keepers Stout from a can. The year after that I ran 5:09 with Granville Island Winter ale, which stood as the world record for 6 years.

I didn’t run a single beer mile after that until Flotrack hosted the World Championships in the fall of 2014. By then I was a master, with suspect speed and no chugging practice. I thought I would get dusted by these University kids. Figured I would come last. Nick Symmonds was in the race, Lewis Kent, Corey Gallagher. These boys were big and fast and young. They were brash and controversial. In the media guide all of our fastest chug times were listed and mine was the slowest at 8 seconds. Our mile bests were listed, too, and I was nearly the slowest there, with my personal best from 16 years prior. But for whatever reason my body takes to the beer mile. I ran 5:20 and finished 3rd. A year later I took another serious crack at it on the track, just because my curiosity was intense, and ran 5:01 which still stands as my beer mile best.

This nascent beer mile frenzy… I feel like it’s a bit of a supernova. After that first World Championships and before the first World Classic the beer mile burned pretty brightly, and so when I went to the pub with my mates I would order a beer in whatever bottles they had, Sleeman or Heineken or (preferably) anything from Phillips, and I’d get my friends to time me. They’d pull out their iPhones and set them on the table, and as soon as the waitress put the beer down and turned away, I’d go. The truth is I don’t love beer. I can enjoy it, sure, but I’d rather train than sip at it. I’d rather see if I can get under 4 seconds than nurse one. So the waitress would leave and my boys would be ready, and I’d train there in the pub, getting down to 3.37 seconds once, confirmed by the backup timer. We’d only be there for an hour or 90 mins and I’d drink two beers in that time, and they’d be in my hand for less than 10 seconds. It helped having the stage. I wanted pressure on me. I wanted to have the possibility of being ridiculed if I screwed up and spat it out my nose, and so the pub was ideal. I was preparing for the big races. Never had the urge to run after, though. Not on those nights at the pub.

I don’t really fall on either side of the pro/con argument. Clearly I’m not contra beer and, more generally, drinking, but I don’t drink much. I like the environment mostly for the socials. I know alcohol can interfere with recovery and sleep, but I also know keeping the governor on too tight can have the same detrimental effect.


Corey Gallagher

I’ve always thought of myself being a beer connoisseur. I love trying new beers everywhere I go. One of my favourite winter celebrations is our Winter Beer Mile (we also hold a summer one) here in Manitoba. My first one was in 2006, during my first year of university. Every year after CIS championships the team would host an underground beer mile. This time conveniently fell around by birthday, which is on St. Patty’s Day, so it was a fun way to celebrate with everyone.

The only draw back being, its March in Winnipeg, which means there was also a fair amount of snow to shovel.   We would gather the team on a Friday night, hang out and shovel the track for hours. We would then wake up the next morning a bit rough around the edges, and dreading what we were about to do. My first beer mile were terrible, I ran around 14 minutes and was definitely penalized for not holding down my contents.

I’m happy to say things have greatly improved since then, and I look forward to our Winter Beer Mile every year.  Since my first year of university, our Beer Miles have grown beyond just the team. We get all types of people coming out (family members, friends of friends etc) as it’s a great fun and active way to bring people together over beers.

I always look forward to enjoying a casual beer once Beer Mile training is done. Nothing beats a nice cold beer after a hard workout or long run. However, during training I don’t allow myself any casual sipping beers, I practice chugging with everything.

Feature Friday – Sports Practitioners

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We’ll be talking with various local Sports Practitioners over the next few weeks for our #FeatureFridays. This week, we’re talking to Chris Napier at Restore Physiotherapy – check it out!


PHYSIOTHERAPY FOR RUNNERS

Physiotherapists are highly qualified health professionals whose main goal is to help people get better and stay well. Using advanced techniques and evidence-based care, physiotherapists assess, diagnose, treat, and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders. Physiotherapy helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life. Physiotherapy extends from health promotion to injury prevention, acute care to rehabilitation. Physiotherapists, put simply, are the experts when it comes to assessing and teaching movement.

At Restore Physiotherapy, we believe in one-on-one treatment time with plenty of time dedicated to assessing the injury to get to the root cause. This is followed by a comprehensive treatment program utilizing exercise, manual therapy, and movement re-education to improve symptoms and prevent re-injury. As a running specialist, I take a detailed history of the problem as the runner presents it (location/type of pain, duration, aggravating factors, etc.) paying careful attention to details about changes in training, footwear, surface, and other variables. Since most (or arguably all) running injuries are a case of “too much, too soon” any sudden change in one of these variables can present an opportunity for injury to develop.

A gait analysis on a treadmill is also an important part of the assessment of the runner to determine if biomechanical factors are involved in the manifestation of the injury. These risk factors may not be evident on a simple physical examination so a gait analysis is not to be left out. Running injuries often develop when tissues break down due to poor form or maladaptation to the stresses placed on them. While careful progression of training volume and intensity can prevent most injuries from occurring, runners are known to push themselves and train through early signs of injury. Poor biomechanics exacerbated by a state of fatigue can result in typical overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy, patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, and medial tibial stress syndrome (“shin splints”).

When assessing a runner on the treadmill, I look for biomechanical risk factors ranging from a slow cadence and increased vertical impact force to poor geometry in the lower extremities at foot strike. Treatment may consist of correcting faulty mechanics (only if they are determined to be involved in the injury), changing stride characteristics like cadence or stride length, and strengthening the appropriate tissues to withstand the repeated forces of running. Throughout the treatment process, the gradual overload principle must be followed, being sure to increase overall workload by approximately 10% per week. Too much and the runner may break down; too little and the body will fail to adapt to greater loads.

Here are some tips on how to prevent the most common running injuries:

  • Identify any recent changes in your training (volume, intensity, surface, footwear, etc.) as most injuries are a result of “too much, too soon”
  • In the initial stages of injury, stop running if the pain changes your running gait or increases as you run. If you are able to run with mild pain, and without changes to your mechanics, it may be ok to continue running through the injury—consult your physiotherapist
  • Running is a one-legged sport: focus on exercises that improve eccentric control of the body over the stance limb (single leg, weight-bearing, dynamic, plyometric)
  • Have a gait analysis performed and correct any significant gait abnormalities with gait retraining if considered to be clinically relevant
  • If you’re starting to feel burned out—mentally or physically—take a week or two of easy running before a forced break due to injury occurs

Chris Napier
Sport Physiotherapist, Restore Physiotherapy
PhD Candidate (Biomechanics), University of British Columbia
Athletics Canada Physiotherapist


My decision to accept the opportunity to serve as the Director of Chiropractic Services in early 2013 for Fortius Sport & Health was an easy one.  Working as part of a team in a state of the art facility, where collaboration, integration, and innovation are the fundamental pillars is any sports practitioners dream.

As chiropractors, we not only evaluate and treat sites of injury but look at the individual as a whole.  We observe overall posture and alignment, as well as the quality of movement through sports specific actions to identify areas of dysfunction and get athletes back into the activity they love.

 CHIROPRACTIC CARE FOR RUNNERS

All sports expose participants to repetitive stresses due to the repetition of similar movement patterns over and over.  Running is certainly no exception.  Every step, depending on how fast one is moving, will impart forces of 2 to 5 times body weight into your structure.

Every runner will attest to the common aches and pains or injuries such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, hamstring strains, or the ever present tight glutes. Helping you manage the forces associated with running is where chiropractic comes in.

Using manual therapy, we provide detailed treatment to involve myofascial soft tissue structures and joints in combination with traditional chiropractic manipulation, when necessary, to improve mobility and musculoskeletal function. In this manner we not only assist in resolving current injury but also look to improve performance and reduce future injury occurrence.

SELF-CARE FOR RUNNERS

When we work to optimize posture, ensure muscle tone is well maintained, and joints are moving well, the body can more efficiently manage the repeated stresses associated with running.  Adding daily self-care (which includes strengthening and mobilization of the major muscle groups and joints) to your chiropractic care will help to keep you injury free and enjoying your runs.

There are a number of areas to address in our daily routines, and below are a couple of my favourite stretches (downloadable PDFs).

INTEGRATED ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT AT FORTIUS

Fortius SportFortius Sport & Health is an integrated athlete development centre strengthened through philanthropy and focused on optimizing athlete performance for life. Situated just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, it is home to a state-of-the-art training facility as well an integrated team of sport medicine and science practitioners.

At Fortius, chiropractors work with sport medicine physicians, physiatrists, physiotherapists, kinesiologists (hydrotherapy), massage therapists, optometrists, biomechanists, physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches and dietitians to deliver precise, customized treatment and training plans for athletes of all ages and abilities.

Our chiropractors collectively have provided performance and injury care across multiple sports, including NCAA Swimming, Olympic/World Championship level Track and Field, CFL and NFL Football, Ironman Triathlon and International level soccer.

Whether you’re a professional training toward a World Championship, your first 10km, or simply wanting to walk for health, we would be honoured by the opportunity to be part of your care team, assisting you in accomplishing your athletic goals.

Visit www.fortiussport.com to learn more or to book an appointment today.


Feature Friday – March 3, 2017

Although Massage Therapy is a well embraced form of rehabilitation, its progression over the years from spa and relaxation work, to specialized therapies such as pre-natal or athletics, to being included in preventative medicine such as injury prevention, is an important awareness to have.

Many seek out an RMT when a problem arises, and of course, this is an appropriate time to get soft tissue work. Massage Therapy, however, can be used as a means to help prepare an athlete for competition, as a tool to enhance athletic performance, as a treatment approach to help the athlete recover after exercise or competition, and as a manual intervention for sport related musculoskeletal injuries (such as promoting tissue and system health before breakdown begins).

Getting injured is every active persons worst nightmare – it impairs performance, delays training and conditioning schedules during recovery, and they also hurt!. Many injuries, however, can be prevented altogether with the right rehabilitative care (in combination with a proper training program, nutrition and water intake, sleep, and equipment) and Massage Therapy can play an invaluable role! Soft tissue work such as Massage monitors muscle tone, helps to eliminate scar tissue, increases mobility, increases range of motion, reduces muscle hypertonicity, and promotes relaxation (that one is cliché but surprisingly valuable!). RMTs involved with athletics are also often competent with sport related taping, or have specialties such as Graston Technique or ART, which have traditionally been done by Physiotherapy or Chiropractic.

If you use your body on any kind of regular basis for sport, Massage and soft tissue work should be an integral part of your life, whether it be to take care of the big and small issues that get in the way of efficient and pain free movement, or to help you prevent those issues from happening in the first place.

Impulse Sport Therapeutics is a multi-disciplinary clinic with locations in West Vancouver, North Vancouver and Port Moody.

The 5 Worst Habits of Runners

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Runners are guilty for developing poor habits that they believe will enhance their training, but can actually negatively affect training and increase their risk of injury.  Here are some of the ones we see most often, and what you can do to prevent them:

  • Running too much.  More isn’t always better.  Runners make the mistake of ramping up their mileage too quickly before they allow their bodies to adapt to the training.  Overuse injuries are caused primarily from running more than the body can withstand.  Abiding by the “10% Rule” is the safest way to increase mileage; if you’re running 30km per week and want to do more, do 33km the following week and so on.
  • Hip/core work isn’t a part of the training program.  Another way of preventing injury is by incorporating a simple core and hip strengthening routine.  When injuries occur it’s typically from muscle weaknesses and imbalances that cause runners to compensate.  By adding hip and core exercises into your weekly routine, it helps to stabilize the leg with every stride, and helps to maintain good posture while running.
  • Running on the same route/surfaces.  Changing the variability of your running routes and surfaces can help to keep injuries at bay.  If you always run the same flat course on the road, it might be time to hit the trails.  Mixing up the surface you run on can help to strengthen stabilizer muscles in your legs and feet, and avoid overloading any other muscles.  Using softer surfaces like trails and rubberized tracks will reduce the impact on running on your body which is best when you’re tired, or needing a recovery day.
  • Skipping rest days.  Overtraining can lead to a multitude of problems from injury, increased risk of sickness, and loss of motivation.  Rest days are a crucial part of any training program as it allows the body to absorb all the work it’s done throughout the week.  If that day is skipped your body doesn’t have the time to rest and will continually breakdown until the point of injury.  Listening to your body is key to realize.  If it’s feeling unusually fatigued or if there’s any nagging pain, it’s probably time to take a day off.
  • Not wearing the best shoes for your feet.  Shoes are the most important tool any runner has.  If they are worn out, or have an improper fit, that can increase the risk of injury.  Shoes are typically good for about 300-500 miles, but after that the cushioning and stability starts to wear out.  If you’re unsure of what shoes are the best for you, head to the nearest run specialty store and have the experts help you figure out what you should be wearing.  They’ll provide a wealth of knowledge.
Training Partners

The Benefits of Training Partners

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Running, long distance running in particular, is the epitome of individual pursuit.  It provides a mental break from the hustle and bustle of the work day, a chance to tune in to what’s going on with one’s body, and has the flexibility of being done whenever one decides to lace up and go.  However, on the days where it’s hard to get out of bed, or find the motivation to workout, a training partner or group may be exactly what you need!

Running partners/groups help create a tight-knit community in a very individual sport. While it may not be possible to train with others all the time, when the opportunity presents itself to meet up with others to run, take it!  There are so many benefits to running with others:

  1. Accountability: It can be hard to find the self-discipline get out of bed for a 6am run, especially on cold, dark mornings.  The temptation of hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep in the lovely warmth of a blanket cocoon can be too enticing. Setting plans to meet a running buddy or group will ensure you get out of bed in time.  The accountability will reduce the chances of skipping a run, slacking during a workout, or cutting the run short.
  2. Diversion: When you’re running with a friend, it allows for mindless conversation.  The act of running side by side without the intimidation of eye contact, creates an environment where it’s easier to talk freely and openly.  Some of our closest friendships arise from spending hours pounding the pavement alongside, talking about our life concerns, daily happenings and experiences.  Not only do these conversations clear our minds of clutter, they also help the miles fly by.
  3. Variation: Running with a buddy can provide a wealth of knowledge.  Everyone has their favourite running routes and more often than not, they’ll be different than yours.  Not only can you learn new running routes, but they may have different variations of workouts that could enhance your training.  Providing insight to new recovery modalities, articles, recipes, problem solving techniques, support in personal anecdotes, and cool upcoming events are a few of the benefits of a training partner.
  4. Performance: When running alongside someone, it’s an instant motivator.  Training with someone who is slightly faster pushes you to work harder to keep up, which can improve your performance.  Be careful to choose a comrade who isn’t too much faster so you aren’t pushing too hard and putting yourself at risk of injury.  An even-paced partner is ideal as it’s easier to work off of each other.  Not every day is going to be a good day for both of you, so on the days you’re feeling sluggish, they’ll be there to help pull you through and vice versa.  Plus, they won’t let you slack during a workout when they know you should be there stride for stride.  Everyone loves a wingman.
  5. Safety:  Like the old saying goes, there’s safety in numbers.  This is especially true for runners.  On dark morning and evening runs, it’s always better to have someone with you.  There are too many times where runners go out by themselves with their headphones in and are completely oblivious to those around them, and the potential safety risks.  Stick to familiar routes during the times where there aren’t many people around and plan to run with someone. Also, if you fall or get injured, someone will be there to help you get back home safely.

Looking for groups to run with? Check out of Q & A sessions with of some of the Vancouver Run Crews for an idea of which group might be a good fit. RunGuides.com also has a great list.

Avoiding the post-race blues

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Post-race blues are commonly experienced after any big goal has been accomplished.  From running your first 5k, to obtaining the elusive Boston Qualifying time, there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into the buildup for a race.  The same questions bounce around in everyone’s head: “What now?”; “What’s next?”; and “Do I want to do this again?”.  Similar thoughts and feelings are experienced when a race is unexpectedly cancelled.  All the hard work and effort that was focused on this one event can feel as if it was all for naught.  So when a race doesn’t go according to plan due to poor pacing, subpar weather conditions, or injury, it leaves people disgruntled, especially when it’s something out of their control.  If this is something that sounds familiar, here are a few ways of getting over the post-race blues:

  1. Debrief.  After any race, it’s always a good idea to go over the pros and cons from the race.  Start by listing off the good things that happened as it’s instinctive to leap onto what went wrong.  When analyzing the problem areas, you’ll learn about what did work, how to rectify any problem areas, and what you can do to improve next time around. Write down these notes, and visualize how to make the next training cycle better, faster, and more fun for smoother sailing into the next event.
  2. Set a new goal. Once a race is said and done, it can be hard to find the motivation to run again. Having just put your body through months of training, your body requires ample recovery time post-race and this is the ideal time to set a new goal.  There are so many great races throughout the year that signing up for a race in a different distance, city, or sport is an easy way to keep the training momentum going.
  3. Mix it up. After debriefing, the dos and don’ts that were experienced can spark some training changes when building to the next race.  Incorporate different training regimes like spin classes, strength sessions, and swimming, or find a group to train with that may provide new ideas for different running routes and workouts.  By keeping training fun and exciting it helps to keep the motivation up, and the blues at bay.
  4. Keep things in perspective.  Things typically happen for a reason. The reason may be unclear initially, but when you look back down the road there are things that point out why something did or didn’t work out as you had planned.  It’s important to remember that although sacrifices are made to execute a training cycle properly, there is a lot more to life than that one race.  This isn’t meant to downplay any goal that’s been achieved, big or small, it’s just a way to keep it in perspective.  At the end of the day, friends and family will be cheering and supporting you no matter the outcome; there will always be another race to sign up for, and you’ll have learned something about yourself that you didn’t know before the journey began.

Post-race blues are likely, but not inevitable.  Keep moving forward, sign up for your next event, and keep that training routine rolling!

Looking for your next event? Find the next Canada Running Series event near you!

Intro to Foam Rolling

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Foam rolling is well-known in the running world, and for good reasons. Essentially it’s like having a personal massage therapist at home, that can benefit your running in so many ways. Training and hard workouts can cause little tears in your muscles that then rebuild to make muscles stronger. Sometimes these adhesions bunch together forming knots that can limit the movement of the muscle, thereby putting it at risk of injury. Foam rolling can help to break down these knots and return your muscle to full function. Rolling isn’t limited to the rehabilitation of injured muscles; it can be a beneficial tool in every aspect of training:

  • Boost your workout.  Maintaining fluid muscles contractions can enhance their mobility, range of motion, and improve posture while sitting, standing and moving around.  Improving general muscle function will translate into better workouts by having the muscles function at their full potential.  Foam rolling as part of warmup will helps to prime the muscles for the workout by increasing blood flow to the muscle and reducing muscle tightness that could negatively affect running form.
  • Reduce muscle soreness. We’ve all be victims of delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS) which is the pain and stiffness in muscle that occurs from lactic acid buildup after hard workouts or an activity your body isn’t accustomed to.  Incorporating foam rolling into your cooldown can help to increase blood flow to the muscle, flushes out leftover lactic acid, primes the muscles for light stretching and helps your muscles repair.
  • Prevent injuries.  A lot of running injuries can come from having tight muscles that pull on joints and cause imbalances.  Rolling before a workout can help to remind the muscle to relax and reduce any compensation from excessively tight muscles.  Plus it’ll ensure that all the proper muscles are being used throughout the activity.

When using a foam roller, these are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Roll back and forth over the targeted area for 30-60 secs.
  • If there is an exceptionally tight spot (aka a trigger point), work on the knot/adhesion then move onto a different area.  Return to the original tight spot to work on the muscle once it’s had a chance to relax.
  • Refrain from rolling over bony areas such as your knee caps.
  • If you have an injury, be cautious rolling over the affected area.  Too much direct pressure could worsen the issue.  Instead roll the areas around the injury to help loosen the surrounding muscles.
  • “Hurts so good” sensations are acceptable, but any pain that causes you to wince is best to avoid.

Here are the top 5 areas for runners to roll and how to do it:

  1. Quads:
    1. With both quads on top of the rollers, support your weight with your hands on the floor.
    2. Utilizing your arms for leverage, move the roller up and down the entire length of the quads being careful to avoid the kneecaps.
  2. Calves:
    1. Place both calves on top of the rollers and place your arms behind you to support you in a seated position.
    2. Move your hips back and forth to move the roller along the length of your calves.
  3. Hamstrings:
    1. Either place both hamstrings on the roller, or for a more intense roll cross one leg over the other with the roller under the lower hamstring.
    2. Using your arms as leverage, move your hips back and forth (similar movement to when you roll your calves) to move the roller along the entire hamstring.
    3. If doing one leg at a time, switch sides and repeat.
  4. IT Bands:
    1. Lying on one side, rest your hip on the roller.  Using your arms to support you, bring the opposite leg into a position that helps support your body weight.
    2. Slowly move your body along the roller around where the seam on the outer side of your pants would be.
    3. If it’s especially tender, don’t roll directly on the IT Band and focus on rolling the outer edges of your quads and hamstrings by slightly tilting your body forwards/backwards on the roller.
    4. Switch and repeat on the other side.
  5. Glutes:
    1. The glutes are a big contributor to injuries in runners.  Essentially using the same form as the IT Band, place one butt cheek on the roller and move it back and forth from the hip into the quad/hamstring region.
    2. Switch and repeat on other side.

Useful videos on technique can be found on YouTube for further guidance.

Habits for a Better Morning Workout

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Not all of us are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first thing in the morning, and even those who are need a little planning to jump into a workout as soon as they’ve stepped out of bed. Rolling out of bed to a hot cup of coffee and breakfast sounds much more appealing than lacing up your shoes and heading out into a cold, dark morning. However, research shows there are many physical and psychological benefits to working out first thing in the morning: increases metabolism which keeps calories burning throughout the day; promotes endorphin release in the brain which improves your mood, positively starting your day; provides a sense of accomplishment knowing you’ve finishing training before the workday begins; and it can increase mental capacity allowing you to be more productive throughout the day.

If you’re someone who struggles with morning workouts, here are a few tips that can make it easier:

  1. Prep and plan: if you know it’s going to be a battle getting out of bed, have your clothes laid out, your music uploaded and iPod charged, and any extras you may need (credit card, gym membership, equipment etc.). This will eliminate any frantic hunts for your favourite shorts or headphones and will get you out the door in a jiffy.
  2. Set an alarm, or maybe two: There are several ways to ensure you actually get up in the morning. If setting one alarm isn’t enough, set two. Light alarms that gradually brighten the room as the scheduled wake-up time approaches are far less annoying than a blaring alarm clock. However if those are too passive, go for setting an alarm that is placed far enough away so that you’d have to get out of bed to turn it off. It’s easier to stay out of bed once you’re already up!
  3. Drink up: The average person sleeps about 7 hours per night, which is a long time to go without drinking any water. Water loss occurs during sleep through every exhalation, so get into the habit of drinking a glass or two of water as soon as you get up. Even the slightest bit of dehydration can reduce exercise performance. Be sure to drink up before, during and after your workout. For vigorous workouts, add some electrolytes into your water to help retain water in your system when you need it most.
  4. Eat something: It’s important to eat some kind of food prior to a workout. Typically you haven’t eaten for 8+ hours, so consuming a carbohydrate- and protein-rich snack/meal is ideal. Opt for slow releasing carbs like oatmeal, whole-grain toast, or an apple and pair it with a protein source such as eggs, Greek yogurt, or nut butter. Try not to consume too much fat before a workout. Some nuts or avocado is great, but no greasy bacon breakfast sandwich otherwise your interval session will be runs between bathroom stops. A proper combination of macronutrients will stabilize your blood sugar levels and be a great fuel source before intense exercise.
  5. Warm Up for a little longer: No matter how much you move around while sleeping, it’s not enough to leap out of bed and start a workout immediately. A longer warmup is necessary for a few reasons: it primes your nervous system for higher levels of energy exertion; it increase mental acuity; it loosens and lubricates your muscles and tendons; it increases your heart rate, respiration rate and oxygen delivery to working muscles. Incorporate some lower back exercises as well for increased mobility and stability, especially if you’re prone to back stiffness.
  6. Consistency is key: Waking up early and getting your workout done early becomes easier the more often you do it. Turning this into a positive habit that can be maintained throughout busy work weeks and everyday life is beneficial when time is limited and you want to continue working towards your goals.

Cold Weather Training Tips

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Snow and temperatures well below freezing levels aren’t typically found in a Vancouver winter.  We west coast folks are blessed with rain and temperate conditions, so when Mother Nature decided to throw a real Canadian winter at us, it sent the running population into a frenzy.  Combine the frigid temperatures with minimal daylight hours and the urge to stay inside to keep warm and dry, it’s tough to motivate yourself to get out the door.  Here are a few ways to make cold winter running bearable:

Dress appropriately
Wearing the right apparel during your runs will help to keep you comfortable and safe.  The key here is layering.  Start off with a lightweight, breathable base layer; anything made with merino wool is a great option.  Any technical material will wick away moisture from the skin, keeping you dry and warm.  Next, depending on the weather, add a windproof or water-resistant shell/jacket.  The most important thing is to stay as dry as possible; water-proof jackets aren’t as breathable and can cause you to sweat more leaving your clothes damp and cold underneath.  Complete your winter outfit with good socks, again merino wool is excellent, and gloves/mittens.  The benefit of layering is that if you begin to get too hot, it’s easy to de-layer and re-layer at any given point.

Stay safe
The days of winter are short and make most runs occur in the dark.  Thankfully there are plenty of streetlights around the city, but combined with even the brightest of jackets, runners are not often seen.  Wearing extra safety gear such as headlamps, reflective gear, and mini lights are a great start. They help you to see where you’re going and help others to see you.

Learn to adapt
Working out in the cold isn’t always the most comfortable; your nose runs, it’s harder to breathe, your hands and feet get cold, your eyes water and your cheeks sting. These are all part of the experience. Once you get used to running in sub-zero temperatures, the shortness of breath goes away, and wearing proper mitts and wool socks can help reduce any risks of frostbite. In really cold conditions it can be hard to determine your exertion levels especially when you aren’t sweating as profusely during hard workouts. It’s important to remember that even if you aren’t hitting your target pace, the effort exerted is still considered valuable training. Effort-based sessions are great and you’ll know when the weather is too extreme to safely train in. At that point adapt to doing an easier effort run and save the workout for another day, or hit up the treadmill.

Protect your eyes
Cold, clear days usually means beautiful sunshine and blue skies. However, if there’s ice and snow on the ground, the sun’s rays can reflect and be extremely harsh. Wearing sunglasses is an easy way to protect the delicate tissues of your eyes and can help prevent them from watering because of the cold or windy conditions.

Always have a change of clothes
Bundling up for a winter run is important, but remember that as soon as you stop, any sweat that has accumulated in your base layers will start to get cold very quickly. If you’re ending your run at home, jump in the shower and get warm clothes on as soon as you walk in the door. Heading for coffee with friends after? Be sure to pack lots of warm layers: tights, shirts, jackets, socks and for the ladies, a dry sportsbra. Keeping any wet fabric against your skin can cause a chill that’s incredibly hard to warm up from no matter how many coffees you have!

Don’t forget the H2O
Just because you aren’t sweating as much in cold weather doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink water during and after your runs. It’s just as important to remain hydrated during the winter as the harsh conditions can dry you out incredibly fast. If you’re taking fluids on your run, fill the bottle up with lukewarm fluids to prevent them from freezing or being too cold to drink comfortably.

Plan your route
Heaven forbid something goes wrong during a workout, but you want to be prepared for it if it does. Plan your running route ahead of time and let people know where you’re going. Ideally use a loop course that doesn’t take you too far from stores or residential areas so that in case of an emergency you’re able to get help or call for a ride home.

Getting back on track after the holidays

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The holidays have a knack for veering even the most dedicated runners off-track. The desire to stay warm inside, eat and drink with friends, and let loose easily overrides the will to go into the winter weather and exert oneself out in the elements. However, when the socializing lessens, reality sets in and leaves people fretting over the time “lost” from training. Remember that taking a break from training isn’t a bad thing. It allows people to decompress and be ready to hit the ground running for their spring goals. Returning to training can either be exciting or daunting. Use these tips to help ease yourself back into the daily grind:

  1. Sign up for a race/event
    It’s a lot easier to find the motivation to kick-start training again if there’s a goal/endpoint. Training for the sake of training is hard to get motivated for, but by signing up for a race it will keep you on track and accountable to put the time and energy into getting adequately prepared.
  2. Treat yourself
    There’s nothing quite like a new pair of shoes or piece of clothing to get you fired up to train again. If something as simple as having a new shirt to workout in is enough to get you out the door, it’ll be money well spent. Not a clothes person? Even buying a few new songs to add to your workout playlist can do the trick!
  3. Just put your shoes on
    One of the hardest things to do is the first run back after a break. There are so many negative emotions that go through peoples’ heads – of not being fast anymore, that it’s going to hurt, that they’re out of shape etc. A few weeks off isn’t going to deteriorate your fitness, just your mental strength. So head out on your favourite route and you’ll find once that first run is done, the endorphins will start flowing and you’ll breathe in some fresh air then remember exactly why you keep running. After that, you’ll be more willing to get out again and ramp it up.
  4. Start slow
    There’s no need to go and bust out an intense workout on the first day back thinking you’ll be right back where you were before the break. It’s smarter to ease into it by doing a couple easier runs and then gradually begin to add in some intensity as you get back into the groove. If you’re dying to get back into workouts, begin with some unstructured fartlek style workouts to get some turnover, or incorporate some hill repeats. These workouts are great strength builders but are effort based leaving you satisfied at the end of the session.
  5. Stay consistent
    Create a realistic schedule and adjust your day to facilitate your training. By staying accountable to a program it’ll recreate positive training habits. Simple things like: training with a run group/training buddy a couple times a week; meeting or coffee post-run so you have to get out the door on time; or signing up for a class to use as cross-training are all great ways to keep you accountable and consistent.

Planning an Effective Racing Season

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The start of a new year is associated with a feeling of possibility, motivation and determination that most hope to maintain through the year. However without an effective plan, goals and races fall by the wayside and can leave us feeling unfulfilled. With a strategic plan for a racing season, it’s easier to adhere to your goals and ultimately set ourselves up for success. While planning may take a little bit of time, patience and some restraint, being selective about the races you enter can be hugely beneficial for reducing risks of injury, burn-out and enabling opportunities to set new personal bests.

  1. Prioritize:
    Not all races are of equal importance during a racing season. Initially determine the goals you want to set for the season and create a plan based on that. What is the focus? Once that is determined (ie. setting a personal best; tackling a new distance; dabbling in trail races or road races), it’s easier to remain focused and on track.
  2. Pick a goal race
    Now that the main objective of the season has been set, you can choose what race is going to be the best choice for accomplishing that goal. During a season there are races that are sought after by many runners and can sell out quickly. If your goal race falls into that category it’s important to ensure you enter as soon as registration opens, and have a back-up plan if you’re unable to get into your top choice. There are many factors that go into choosing the focal race of the season: location, crowds, course, climate etc. as all of these things can play a role in the success of a race. Not good in hot weather? Don’t choose an event in the California summer. Aiming to attain the elusive Boston Qualifying time? Make sure the event is conducive to running fast times and is a Boston qualifying course!
  3. Set a performance target
    While it’s great to have a goal race, it’s important to have numerical goals as well. If it’s a distance you’ve never run before, then a personal best is inevitable. If it’s an event that you have done before, try and determine something you want to accomplish based on your past experiences. It’s important to have A, B, and C goals. ‘A’ goals can be seen as ‘inside voice’ goals, or ‘perfect day’ goals. They are the marks that you strive to hit on an ideal day if everything were to fall into place. Next is the ‘B’ goal; this is the goal that you can accomplish with proper training and preparation and doesn’t feel too lofty a goal. Finally, a ‘C’ goal is one where if it’s a terrible race day, you’ll still be happy with whatever happens. For more experienced runners ‘C’ goals tend to be merely completing the race. Having a spectrum of goals helps to avoid disappointment, and ensures a positive finish whatever the result may be.
  4. Establish a proper training cycle
    Depending on the goal race and your current fitness level, the length of a training cycle can vary. It’s not surprising that training for a marathon will require a longer build than the likes of a 5k. For experienced runners, 5-10k requires a 10-16 week plan, while half- to full-marathons are about 12-20 weeks. New runners, or people coming back from an injury may require a more gradual buildup.
    Many local run groups/crews or running stores will have clinics and workouts for people of all running levels. Joining a group can help to alleviate any stress over what kind of workouts to do, and can provide camaraderie throughout a training cycle. Hiring a personal running coach is another option for those who want a more tailored approach.
  5. Tune-up races
    During a buildup to a goal race, it can be beneficial to race in some shorter distances in order to establish a solid pre-race routine. So many race day stressors can typically be alleviated if the situation has been experienced before: pre-race meals; race etiquette; and other race day situations. The more often one races, the more natural the process becomes. Racing during a training cycle can also be used as a workout tool as they provide a more challenging workout than any solo run, and make for excellent benchmarks. They help to prepare for the mental and physical demands that come with racing so that by the time your target race happens, any race anxiety will be reduced.   However, try to avoid the temptation to over-race. With so many great races, it’s hard to pick and choose. Each race needs a role in the training and will ultimately help reach the goal that was set as a priority. Race a maximum of every 2-3 weeks. This will build race confidence and experience, but won’t cause you to be sick and tired of racing by the time the main race happens.
  6. Tapering is important
    No matter how long or short the goal race distance is, it’s crucial to properly taper. The distance of race will determine the length of the taper: short race distance = short taper period; and longer race distances = longer taper period. Be sure to trust in your training, coach, and teammates that everything that could be done for this event, has been.
  7. Plan for the after-math
    A race season isn’t finished when you cross the finish line. It’s good practice to debrief and evaluate how effective the race was. Was there anything that could’ve been done differently that would have bettered your performance? How can you use what you learned from this race to be better in the future?
  8. Allow time for a break
    Once the mental and physical stress of a training cycle is over, take a break. It may be hard sometimes when you’re feeling good and want to keep going, but know that your body needs to recuperate after a big effort. Regardless of if your targets have been hit or not, take a break from running in order to ensure you come back rested, strong and motivated for the next cycle.