Tag Archives: health

3 Day Taper Experiment: Unnecessary

Friday morning, after running, I went to get my hair straightened. Since I couldn’t get my hair wet for 2-3 days after that, it seemed like a good opportunity to experiment with tapering. Although I didn’t have a race on the schedule, I decided I wouldn’t run until Monday morning (3 days = 72 hours of no running), and then go for a tempo run, not race effort, but challenging enough.

 
The plan:
· No running for 3 days.
· Tapering mentality: good sleep, good nutrition, grid rolling, light physical effort.
· Go for a challenging run Monday morning: 11K/6.8M total, with last 5K/3.1M tempo at average pace 04:24 Min/KM (07:05 Min/Mile).

 
I did everything right:
It would have been nice to rest and indulge for 3 days, but since I don’t take 3 straight days of rest often (or ever), it was worth it to take the opportunity to treat it as a true taper and try some things out.
My nutrition was spot on, I ate healthy and nutritious foods, and roughly counted calories so I wouldn’t overeat or undereat.
I got 8 hours of sleep every night for 3 nights, which you have no idea what a luxury it is for me. I could feel how this affected my mood, my energy levels, and even how I look (no dark circles under my eyes for 3 days!).
I did very little physical activity, took care of my feet by wearing comfortable shoes, and took care of my legs by using the grid roller every night for at least 10 minutes (which is longer than my usual 5).

 
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Pay off time?:
Maybe my expectations were too high about what the taper would yield, I was sure the last 5K tempo of this run would feel comfortably hard at the most. My reasoning was that if the pace I was planning on running is hard effort for me under regular circumstances, then after a good taper it would feel somewhat easier.
In reality, this run felt hard from the beginning. My legs were stiff and not cooperating. I didn’t think too much of it during warm up, and just took it easy and ran at a slightly slower pace than my usual warm up pace. 2K warm up and 3K easy pace later, my legs still felt heavy. The 6th KM was a mix of 200 meters accelerations followed with an easy recovery pace for another 200 meters. And then tempo time started. And I was a mess. I couldn’t get to goal pace for the first 2KM, and although I made up for it during the next 3KM, it felt really hard and I considered stopping and/or lowering my pace every 30 seconds or so until the end of the run.

 
Results:
Average pace for the tempo 5K was, incredible enough 04:23 Min/KM (07:04 Min/Mile). Yes, I managed the time I wanted, but this run was still a failure in my opinion:
· I couldn’t get to goal pace for the whole first 2KM. This is a relatively long distance to not be able to get to a certain pace. I did a 6K before the tempo, and 6K seem like enough of a warm up. I think stiff legs from not running a few days are to blame.
· The whole 5K tempo (both when running under goal pace and over goal pace) felt hard. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy run, but I wasn’t expecting hardly being able to make it.

 
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Verdict:
3 days of rest is too much for me. I might consider doing this again before a long race (a marathon, maybe a half), but not for anything shorter. I might do 2 days rest, or even just 1 day rest with a day of light running or cross training the day before.

 
I’m glad I got to try this out before an actual race, and there were certainly positives to this taper experiment: figuring out a good nutrition routine, getting 8 hours of sleep, and giving my body some well deserved rest.
Next time I take a few days off I will ease back into physical activity, and not try to come back with a hard run. As for my upcoming 5K race.. maybe I’ll take 1 rest day the day before.

 
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Do you have your taper figured out, or are you still trying out different ways to taper?



 

My Mary Poppins Gym Bag and Locker

I always wonder how other people go to the gym and manage to bring only a small bag.
Despite having my own locker where I leave a bunch of stuff, my gym bag always feels like it’s about to explode. I feel like Mary Poppins (or Dora the Explorer for you youngsters) taking stuff and more stuff out of my backpack.

 
I shower at the gym between 3 and 5 times a week, so I like to leave as much as I can in my locker. I buy doubles of a lot of personal items and just leave one at the gym.

 
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What’s in my locker:
* Makeup: makeup case with brushes, foundation, concealer, loose powder, blush, bronzer, mascara, 2 eye shadow cases, and a few eyeliners
* Hair care: shampoo and conditioner, a couple of hair treatments (the kind you leave on for a few minutes and rinse off), and after shower care such as hair oil, hair gel, heat protector, hair brush, hairdryer
* Body care: deodorant, liquid shower soap, body lotion with SPF and without, body spray, face lotion SPF, perfume, razor, Q-tips, sponge
* Pool gear: flip flops, googles, haircap

 
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What’s in my bag:
* Clean clothes, usually work clothes
* Shoes, usually low/comfy sandals to drive around, and I leave my work sandals in my car to put on when I get to work
* My swimsuit if I’ll be swimming
* A big bath towel
* A small towel to have by me when I work out
* IPod
* Hair ties
* NUUN
* Water bottle
* Keys
* IPhone

 
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Do you take a bag with you when you work out? Do you take a lot of stuff with you?



 

Why and How to Run in the Morning, and the Best Swimming Tip

I was up at 3:30 in the morning today. My kids were having a tough night, and by the time they fell back asleep, I was wide awake.
I got up, made myself some coffee, and sat on the computer.

 
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I like to read on my computer while it’s dark and quiet, besides I can never search for enough running/fitness gear online.

 
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After about an hour I was feeling sleepy and thought it would be a good idea to get a couple hours of sleep, since facing a work day after being up at 3:30 didn’t sound like fun. And then I remembered all the reasons while running in the morning is the best, and figured being tired later so I could run would be worth it.

 
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Reasons why running in the morning is awesome:

 
* Endorphins: Running releases endorphins, a chemical that makes us feel happy, and who couldn’t use a free and natural antidepressant?
* Best for losing weight: Jump start your metabolism and burn more calories through the day, need I say more?
* Wake up big time: Running is such an eye opener, you’ll get on with your day bright awake and ready to rumble.
* Get it over with: Some people really enjoy running, for others it’s a chore that serves a purpose, such as losing weight or staying healthy. Either way, knowing it’s behind you and you are free to do other things later in the day is worth waking up earlier.
* Nature and silence: Even if you live in the middle of the cement jungle, the quietness, the birds flying around, the cool morning breeze… it’s a million times better than running later in the day when it’s noisy, there’s a lot more people walking around, and you can smell the car fumes in the air.

 
I am a morning person, so waking up early to run is easy for me. If you struggle with waking up early to go run, here are some tips that might help you manage a run before work/school/other obligations:

 
* Get your gear ready: I leave everything I need on the living room so I have everything handy when I wake up, and so I don’t make a lot of noise looking for my gear and risk waking up my family.
* Mental prep: Even for morning people like me, it’s not always easy to get out of bed and get out of the house, especially when it’s dark and cold (or hot, or wet, or I’m just tired). Thinking about my run and my training the night before, usually gets me motivated enough to go out the next morning. Set your alarms: No matter how motivated you are to run tomorrow morning, chances are when the alarm sounds you’ll try to talk yourself out of actually getting out of bed. Setting a couple of alarms within a minute of each other, and putting them a few steps away so you have to get up to turn them off, could mean the difference between a run and a nap.
* Plan your route: Think in advance where you’ll run, so you can make sure the route is safe and well lighted, and also to avoid running longer than intended and being late.
* Schedule it: Figure out how long you’ll be running, and schedule your times accordingly. Allow yourself plenty of time to shower and get ready for what’s next, especially if you have to be somewhere at a specific time.
* Nutrition/hydration: You might need to try your food/drink intake a few times before you figure out what works best for you. I personally eat and drink before I run, I feel lethargic without some calories and caffeine.

 

 
Since I was up so early, I managed to get an extra long session at the gym.

 
Running:
45 minutes progression run, with intervals thrown in just because:
10 minutes warm up
10 minutes at 05:10 Min/KM (08:20 Min/Mile)
10 minutes at 05:00 Min/KM (08:04 Min/Mile)
6 minutes at 04:47 Min/KM (07:42 Min/Mile)
9 minutes consisting of 3 intervals, each interval was 1 minute at 03:52 Min/KM (06:14 Min/Mile) and 2 minutes easy at 05:20 Min/KM (08:34 Min/Mile).

 
Ab/core work:
About 30 minutes of crunches, planks, push ups and pull ups.

 
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Swimming:
750 meters / 820 yards easy swimming, with last third of the workout being as fast as I could manage, which is really not fast at all.

 
A woman at the gym who used to swim on a competitive level told me the other day that I should try to keep my body a bit higher when I swim, with the back of my head slightly out of the water. She said my swimming technique is good (I took this as a huge compliment), but going to low underwater slows me down.
I really appreciate when people who know what they are talking about give me knowledgeable/useful suggestions like this. I don’t have a swimming or running coach, so sometimes I can be making bad mistakes without realizing it.
I paid attention to this today and tried to stay higher in the water than usual, and felt a big difference on my speed vs effort output, she definitely gave me a great tip.
With that being said, many times people give me unsolicited advice on issues that are personal, or without really knowing what they are talking about, that really annoys me.

 

What is your favorite time to run?

5:30 AM start.

How do you feel about strangers giving you unsolicited advice?

0.01% love/appreciate it (knowledgeable/factual advice), 99.99% hate it.

 

Healthy Monday for Runners: Carb Loading

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If you are going over all the details of your upcoming race, trying to figure out how to do things the best way, then you are probably wondering if you should carb load.
But what exactly is carb loading, should you do it, and if so, how to do it right?

 
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The technical mambo jambo, ADD version:

 
Our bodies store energy in the form of glycogen, in our muscles and liver.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are our main source of glycogen.
Our bodies store enough glycogen for about 90 minutes of exercise.
See? That’s it.

 
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Should I carb load?

 
Eating enough carbs before a race is not only beneficial for longer races, but it will also give you extra energy for races where you’ll be running less than 90 minutes.
Even if you are planning on consuming carbs before/during your race, carb loading a few days in advance will ensure you have the maximum energy available come race day.

 
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However, there are a few negatives to carb loading to consider before you make the decision:
Feeling bloated: a change in diet, especially consuming extra carbohydrates, may make you feel bloated.
Water retention: Our bodies store 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen.
Stiff muscles: extra carbs can make your muscles feel stiff and less flexible.
Change: sometimes the uncertainty of change doesn’t sit well on our minds, especially close to race day (see “make a plan” below).

 
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The right way to carb load:

 
Do the math: By using a nutrition app like myfitnesspal or sparkpeople, figure out what percentage of your daily calories comes from carbs, so you can gradually increase them. Keep in mind you’ll want to eat around 7-8 grams of carbs for each KG (2.2 pounds) of your weight (this is what works for me, some suggestions go up to 10 grams per KG).

 
Practice: General guidelines are great to get an idea of what to do, but they are guidelines. Your body may respond better to a bit less or a bit more carbs than the recommended range, so take the time to experiment.

 
Make a plan: Figure out in advance what you will eat and drink every day during the carb loading phase, calculate the carb and calorie content to make sure you are on track with your needs.

 
Start 3-7 days before the race: The last 2 days before the race, consume 80% carbs, the days before that, range between 50% and 80%.

 
Choose wisely: Despite what you may have heard, carb loading is not about eating a lot of starchy junk food. Chose simple and nutritious foods, without a lot of extra fat and salt. Go for complex carbs the first few days (whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, etc.) and stick to simple carbs (white breads and flours) the day before the race.

 
Get them in: Some people actually enjoy eating a lot of bread, pasta and rice. But for others it is more difficult to eat a larger amount of carbohydrates. Healthy drinks are a great way to get some additional carbs without the extra feeling of fullness, think smoothies, shakes, and natural juices.

 
Don’t overeat the night before the race: Eat a medium sized meal, 12-15 hours before the race. You want to feel comfortably full after dinner, and actually wake up hungry the next morning.

 
Race day breakfast: Don’t go overboard with your race day breakfast, so you don’t feel too full and heavy when it’s time to run. A 200-300 calorie breakfast of mostly carbs, 2-3 hours before the race should be enough.

 

Have you ever tried carb loading? Did it work for you?



 

Healthy Monday For Runners: Heart Rate

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Last year for my birthday, my husband got me a heart rate monitor/watch, which I promptly returned to the store and exchanged for something else.  At the time, almost a year ago, I was running very lightly, only twice a week, and the idea of wearing/monitoring/caring about my heart rate had no appeal to me.

 
Fast forward to less than a year later, and I’m running 5 times a week, 55KM/34M weekly average, and interested in anything that has the potential of helping me train better and stay healthy.

 
I’ve been curious about understanding heart rate, the concept of training by heart rate zones, improving my performance and my speed by better understanding the way my body works.

 
When I got a GPS watch a couple of months ago (glad I returned that original watch though, it didn’t have GPS), I decided to buy the heart rate monitor as well.  Even though I knew I wouldn’t be using it regularly, it made sense to have it.

 
I did an experiment the last couple of days, in which I wore the heart rate monitor and watch for about 30 hours, to see where my heart rate stands at different times of day doing different levels of activity.

 
 Some basic information about heart rate first.

 
Heart Rate:
Our heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times our heart beats per minute (BPM).

 
Resting heart rate:
Resting heart rate is the rate at which our heart beats when we are at a complete state of rest.
A normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60-100 BPM, however this number can go down significantly for athletes, possibly as low as 40 BPM.  This is because regular aerobic exercise makes our heart stronger and more efficient, meaning that our heart pumps more blood each time it contracts, needing fewer beats per minute to do its job.

 
Maximum Heart Rate:
The maximum rate at which our heart can beat per minute at a given age.

 
General formulas to calculate your maximum heart rate:
Forget the old 220 minus your age.  Some newer versions: 208 – (0.7 x Your Age), or another one: women: 210 – 1/2 your age – 5% of body weight in pounds, men: 210 – 1/2 your age – 5% of body weight in pounds + 4.

 
It’s important to keep in mind that same as with resting heart rate, the heart rate experienced under physical exertion also gets lower through regular exercise.   So even though maximum heart rate would be similar for people of the same age , it would take athletes longer/harder effort to reach their maximum heart rate than for someone who doesn’t exercise regularly.

 
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Wearing the monitor for the last day was easy and comfortable.  I hardly noticed I had it on for the first few hours wearing it, later during the day I became aware that I had it on, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling.

 
The most interesting finding was the difference in my heart rate measured at the same time (for a period of 6 hours) on 2 different days.
Both days I started wearing the monitor  at around 8:00 AM, and I did the same things during the time period I wore the monitor: took the kids to daycare, drove to work, and worked at my desk job.
The only difference was what took place before putting on the monitor in the morning, one day was a rest day, the other day was after a hard effort running HIIT session.

 
The first morning (rest day) wearing the monitor I averaged 50 BPM, the second morning wearing the monitor (does not include exercise time) I averaged 57 BMP.

 
REST MORNING:

 
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AFTER HIIT MORNING:

 
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According to the Journal of Exercise Physiology, the heart rate of a typical individual will return to resting levels an hour after light or moderate exercise, four hours after a lengthy workout and up to 24 hours after a very intense workout session.  These times will be less for athletes.

 
So it makes sense that even after wearing the heart rate monitor for 6 hours after finishing my workout, my heart rate was still higher than the day before.

 
My heart rate during my HIIT run this morning.
It went up consistently during warm up, and look at those little bumps, each one represents the fast part of the intervals, 6 total, approx. 3 minutes each.

 
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Training Heart Rate zones:

 
A heart rate zone is a range of a particular percentage of your maximum heart rate.  Each zone serves a different purpose for your training.

 
ZONES