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Nutrition toolbox to help fuel your body

 

When I first started running, little did I know about properly fueling my body for training and performance. It wasn’t until after a few workouts I would feel depleted, that I realized I needed to change my eating habits in order to continue training. Although, I ate a well-balanced diet, I found myself skipping meals while my body was screaming for more fuel.

Did you know that according to Active.com, you will be burning an extra 100 calories roughly for each mile that you run? After learning this fun fact and doing more research on my poor eating patterns, I started to adopt a healthier diet that includes these essentials: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium.

Here are my top 8 ways to stay healthy:

  1. Breakfast – This is my favorite meal of the day, not only because I have the chance to burn the calories off, but because I like to include boiled eggs, multigrain bread, oatmeal and yogurt.
  2. Pre-Run – Before the run, I normally don’t eat. I will have my caffeine fix and a glass of water to keep me hydrated.
  3. Pre-racing breakfast – If I am racing, I will have a bowl of oatmeal with some brown sugar and fruit. Sometimes, I will have pancakes with fruit, about a couple of hours before the race. If there is no time to eat, I will bring a protein bar with me or have a smoothie.
  4. Lunch – Usually, I will have some soup or a salad.
  5. Snack – If I am running after work, I will bring an apple or any other light snack before the workout. This will sustain me until dinner.
  6. Water – I drink plenty of water, about eight cups a day. I make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. I like to find routes that have water stops along the way or I bring a water bottle with me.
  7. Vitamins – I take vitamin C each day to fight off any colds.
  8. Next day racing – I am racing the next day, I eat foods that I know agree with me; otherwise, I’ll end up with an upset stomach. I also avoid creamy sauces or spices. Making healthier food choices was key to improving my running and a quicker recovery.

I still enjoy having snack foods and I do have a sweet tooth, but I keep everything in moderation. Now I keep healthier snacks around like pumpkin seeds, so I won’t overindulge.

How to take care of yourself when running in hot weather

Running in hot weather can cause heat-related illnesses, zap your energy and diminish your performance if you are not properly aware of the dos and don’ts before heading out.  The consequences of being ill-prepared for the heat could lead to permanent brain damage or even death due to severe heat stroke and dehydration.

In 2002, while living in South Korea, I suffered from heat exhaustion after running 10km in the heat. I was quite ill and needed medical attention. From that bad experience I learned to hydrate enough before working out, not push myself like I did in the race, and not to race that same day for another 200 metres. I also learned that I don’t run well in the hot weather. My runs are done early in the morning or in the evening.

To keep you safe in hotter than normal conditions, here are my top five running tips that have helped me and are good reminders.

  1. Know the best time to run: Everyone has different levels of tolerance for running in hot and humid conditions. If your run is negatively affected by the heat, try to avoid running in the hottest part of the day, which is from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If there isn’t an option, try to choose routes in the trails where shade will keep you cool.
  2. Clothing: Wear sweat-absorbing fabrics to help keep you dry and comfortable. Try to avoid moisture-absorbing fabrics like cotton in anything from socks to shorts to t-shirts.  The lighter the garment, the better off you will be. Wear sunglasses and running caps to protect your eyes from the sun year-round.  Your cap will also help shield you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays while preventing your scalp from getting burned. It comes in handy on rainy days too if you’re not a fan of the water beating down in your eyes.
  3. Sunblock: To protect your skin from sun damage and to prevent skin cancer, apply sunscreen before your run.  A very pleasant benefit to protecting your exposed skin is it slows down the natural aging process.  Wear the right SPF according to the pigmentation of your skin.
  4. Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids. Drink at least two to three liters of water a day. Runners need to drink at least two cups of water two hours prior to running and another cup thirty minutes before.  Invest in a water bottle to carry with you or plan your route where you know of multiple sources of water.  Anytime you feel the heat, take a few sips of water as needed.
  5. Slow the pace when running or cross training in the heat. Pool running is a great alternative to running. It can be done with or without a flotation vest and can mimic the running motion in deep water.  Another option is the treadmill, the advantage being if you need to stop early you’ll still be back where you started.  Many gyms provide fans and water fountains. If you feel more tired from the heat than normal, it’s best that you stop and try again later.

After your run, drink plenty of water or a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. Don’t forget to eat some cooling foods as well, such as watermelon or cantaloupe.

Remember to listen to your body as this is your guide to stay within the boundaries of not overdoing it. Being a good listener could save your life.

www.runwithit.ca

Stapedotomy surgery improved my hearing and ability to focus

Losing my hearing didn’t happen overnight – it’s like the volume was turned down gradually over the years.  Humans are incredibly adaptable and will find ways to deal with most situations. I was always too busy and too ready to dismiss hearing problems as something that came and went with allergy season and the occasional ear infection. The inevitable result was a loss of hearing that was slowly getting worse. It reached a point where I couldn’t hear what people were saying unless they were facing me. Add a little ambient noise to the room and I would have to lip-read to understand what was being said. Depending on the seriousness of the conversation, I would occasionally fake a smile or nod knowingly if I missed something rather than embarrass myself by asking for a repeat.

I finally made the decision to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Jane Lea. After a thorough examination and hearing test, she diagnosed me with otosclerosis, a genetic disorder that occurs when one of the bones in the middle ear, the staples, becomes stuck. In that state it is unable to vibrate, rendering sound unable to travel through the ear. If you think getting diagnosed with otosclerosis is a bad thing, think again. This was fantastic news because the condition was treatable.

At the time, I was speechless. I didn’t want to admit to having a hearing issue which I considered to be a nuisance. I had not allowed my diminishing hearing to direct me to a conclusion of having a health issue that needed to be dealt with. I actually believed myself to be in perfectly good health. Later, I researched Stats Canada to learn that more than one million adults across the country reported having a hearing-related disability, a number more than 50 percent greater than the number of people reporting problems with their eyesight. Other studies indicate that the true number may reach three million or more Canadian adults, as those suffering from hearing problems often under-report their condition, myself included.

To repair my hearing loss, Dr. Lea gave me two options, which were either get a hearing aid which was the safest, non-invasive route – or have laser stapedotomy surgery which included a negligible (two percent) risk of losing my hearing. I wouldn’t be able to have my hearing returned if the operation was unsuccessful. I was unsure about the ear surgery as I didn’t want to lose what I had left. After thinking about it for a few weeks, I decided to go for the surgery. I confess to being nervous right up to the surgery date because I really couldn’t imagine how my hearing was going to be almost magically restored. Yet Dr. Lea was confident it was my best option and there was a high success rate with this type of operation.

The day of the operation I was nervous because surgery of any kind was foreign to me. I was thinking, “What if the anesthetic doesn’t work and I’m still awake? Should I tell them?” And, “Are all those tools on the tray for me?” And of course, “You will remember to wake me up when it’s time, won’t you?”

The staff at St. Paul’s Hospital was amazing. Before going under, the nurse had a calming effect as she held my hand. When I woke up Dr. Lea was smiling and I could hear better already. What a feeling. The sounds were beautiful and no words could describe the feeling.

Even though you go in expecting the best result, it was still such a relief to learn everything went exactly as planned. There would be no more coping or struggling to hear.

When I came home that same day, I could hear my feet hit the floor for the first time in about two years. It was surreal. I could hear so well that my ear would ring. It spooked me at times being able to hear so perfectly. It was going to take some getting used to. I couldn’t work out for a few weeks so when run day finally arrived I could hear my feet hit the ground. By not having to struggle with my hearing, all of my other senses seem sharper too. I’m more focused on every task than I ever remember being. My overall confidence is no longer an issue. The benefits of having the stapedotomy surgery will last a lifetime.

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

Cross training tips to enhance running performance

When I first started running, adding any cross training into my workouts wasn’t important …..so I thought until the day I tore my hamstring. It was a day to remember as I was in pain but also upset because I couldn’t run…not even walk properly. My world came crashing down and I didn’t know how I could live without running. It was caused from overtraining and having a poor core. Despite the fact I was in good shape, little did I know  incorporating some cross training would  have made me a stronger and healthier runner.

My visit to my physio suggested I pool run for six weeks. Six weeks seemed an eternity at the time, but I did what I was told.  I didn’t enjoy it at first but knew it was the only activity to keep my fitness. I pool ran three times a week, and once a week,  I would be in the pool for about two hours. This would be considered my long run, mimicking as close as possible if I were running.

During that time I learned about the benefits of cross training and I found water running had given my legs a break as it is low impact. It also added variety to my workouts. I learned to love pool running and still do at times.

Fast forwad, these days I still cross train, but I go to the gym and work on my core strength.  I am injury free ever since and my running has improved.

What I benefitted the most from cross training is that I learned about a new activity such as pool running, pilates and core exercises..

Whether you are new or a seasoned runner it is never too late to add cross training into your workouts. Whether you are injured or not cross training has many benefits.  It will improve your running and keep you in the game.  Visit a personal trainer to get you on the right program.

For more tips from Christine about achieving the perfect running form and how tos regarding avoiding and alleviating seasonal allergies, click the links.

Twitter: @christineruns

YouTube – runwithit

Top running tips for conserving energy with efficient style and form

When I first started running, I had  inadvertently adopted a few poor running habits that zapped my energy and caused me to run slower. To get the most out of my running performance and to stay injury free meant developing good running habits. This is always the key to healthy lifelong running.

I was new to the sport of running and had picked up poor running habits -which was easy to do. Having a busy schedule  led to my  thinking that stretching wasn’t important anymore, and neither was checking the weather conditions. The ramifications, however, can be substantial. By not stretching all of your muscle groups after a run, you are setting yourself up for injury that can shelve your running for six weeks or more. And being unaware of an approaching storm or sudden change in temperature can leave you unprotected from the elements at the worst possible time.

Here are my top five tips for adopting a more efficient running style:

  1. Stretching is not only a workout in itself, it’s an essential component to running that offers many benefits, such as improving your athletic performance through increased flexibility, while substantially lowering your risk of injury. Surprisingly, there are many runners that still don’t stretch. Stretching should be done after a 10-minute warm up jog, and again following your workout when your muscles are warm. Hold each stretch for 60 seconds or do two sets consisting of 30 seconds for each stretch.
  2. Carrying your shoulders high and swinging your hands across your body are counter-productive and will deplete your energy, resulting in poor running economy. To correct this you should run relaxed with your shoulders low. Focus on pumping your arms front to back, and your feet will follow. This allows you to conserve energy, especially while running uphill.
  3. Give yourself at least 90 minutes to digest your food before running, otherwise you may experience muscle cramps or an upset stomach. Always carry a water bottle for longer runs, or choose a route where water is accessible along the way.
  4. Avoid clenching your fists, especially as you become increasingly tired. Keeping your hands relaxed will help you to maintain control without cramping or side stitches.
  5. Always dress for the weather conditions – especially at night – for safety. Wear bright, neon, glow-in-the-dark garments with lights, so you can be seen by cars, buses, bikes, etc. For colder weather, wear layers that can be peeled off, carried, and re-deployed as needed. Older shoes lose their cushioning properties and can lead to injuries such as shin splints.

Before going for that run or participating in an event I always double-tie my laces to avoid losing time in a race or wasting time on a training run. I also wear sun screen, even when running on shaded routes. Suggestion-I wear a running cap with brim that will protect my eyes all year round from the sun and the elements.

Hopefully by following these tips your experience will be that much more enjoyable in the long run. Pun intended!

Twitter: @christineruns

YouTube – runwithit

Runners’ Health: Don’t let allergies hold you back

Spring is here and so is allergy season. There is good news however for allergy sufferers who run, as their condition may now be controlled and prevented if necessary steps are taken. After suffering for long enough, I decided to visit my doctor to learn which of many allergy medications would be the most suitable. I was diagnosed with rhinitis (hay fever) and was prescribed with Flonase (nasal spray) and Reactine,which are taken before the workout and have certainly helped to make my running experience more manageable.

Back in 2001 when I was living in South Korea, my sinuses had to be drained because of extremely high air pollution and more pollen than I could handle…not conducive to comfortable running.

It is difficult enough to run but to have hay fever on top of that makes your workout less enjoyable. So seeking tips as to how to go about diminishing symptoms was my goal during a phone interview with Dr. Jack Taunton, who was chief medical officer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Dr. Taunton stated” I discovered that certain regions across North America are harsher than others when it comes to allergies. The West Coast of British Columbia is a particularly troublesome place for allergy sufferers because of the vast amount of forested areas and voluminous species of plants and grasses.”

Dr. Taunton further alluded to some people being allergic to certain foods, such as strawberries, some vegetables, dust and pet dander that may trigger an allergic reaction, adding, “Some triathletes are even allergic to certain types of chlorine in the pool,” also showing that for some unlucky people there is no escape. He suggested seeing an allergist (specialist) when symptoms become difficult to manage and to isolate exactly what type of allergy you have.

To summarize, your allergies are caused by the environment or certain foods, according to Dr. Taunton, and the best we can do is try to manage the situation. So what can you do to enjoy your workouts more? “Try breathing more through your mouth,” says Dr. Taunton. Try running when the pollen counts are lowest (check the weather report), wear sunglasses to prevent itchy, watery eyes. Avoid running on trails or in parks at the most dangerous times (for your allergies). Before your workouts, take an antihistamine medication like Reactine. Nasal sprays and eye drops are often available by prescription only. Allergy shots may be the answer and it is also suggested that Green Tea may help provide relief. As already mentioned, however, the best idea is to visit your doctor first to find out if you do suffer from an allergy condition.

Twitter: @christineruns

Instagram – runwithit_christineblanchette

Run With It on YouTube

Should you go running with your dog?

On a typical morning before work, I am out the door by 5:30. The Vancouver streets are quiet and mostly deserted, except for a regular runner ahead of me with a frisky, four legged friend at his side. The pair always look happy, enjoying each other’s company on these cold winter mornings. They were like dance partners in perfect synch, running step for step. It made a delightful picture. A dog may be the most reliable companion to share in your running journey, because they are always ready when you are.

Does this image inspire you to run or walk with your dog?

There are many benefits to running with your dog, including keeping you both fit and enjoying bonding time with your favourite furry friend. They also provide comforting security, especially for women who run by themselves in secluded areas. But, before going for that run or walk with your wiener dog, dachshund, or pug, however, knowing the dos and don’ts of running with your pet could save you both a lot of grief and injury.

According to Vancouver-based veterinarian Dr. Kathy Kramer, you can’t just decide one day to go running with your dog. Owners need to be committed to their pet first. “Running requires training, since most dogs like to sniff along the way and get easily distracted,” she said. “Not every dog is cut out to be a marathoner.  Common sense dictates that while you may try to run with your border collie, you would leave your bulldog or Chihuahua at home.”

The best runners are athletic breeds, or dogs over 20 kilograms, Kramer explained. It’s important to do your research. For example, greyhounds are sprinters and not long distance runners while labradors, golden retrievers, border collies, and German shepherds may enjoy the freedom of a marathon. Larger dogs like great danes or mastiffs won’t enjoy running because it will put pressure on their joints.

Training for any distance requires following a proper program, and it is the same principle when running with your dog.

“Dogs also require conditioning like people do,” Kramer said. “A person would be crazy to start out by running 10 kilometres, so don’t expect your dog to do it!  The same wear and tear that affects a person’s joints will affect a dog’s as well. Acute injuries, such as soft tissue sprains or ligament tears can happen quickly.  As the dog ages, the percussive forces of running can cause arthritis to start at an earlier age.”

When you and your dog encounter someone on the trail, it is best to pull off to the side to let them pass without interacting.  A dog might be occasionally spooked and one should not assume others want your dog to greet them. People will feel safer when the lead is shortened.

Some smaller breeds will love running and some larger dogs would rather be couch potatoes. A good running companion depends on personality, stamina, and overall health. Dogs with high stress levels may not be able to run in the city.  Dogs that are prone to heart disease should be thoroughly screened for starting a serious exercise program.

It is also important to remember that dogs are stoic creatures who won’t show pain or discomfort until there is real damage. Heat stroke is the biggest risk during the summer. Dogs only sweat through their footpads and can easily overheat, even in normal temperatures.  Always have water handy for your dog anytime you run. If your dog is limping, call your veterinarian. Sprains or ligament tears can be very painful even though your dog is not crying out or will let you touch the injured limb.

There is some debate about the best age to start training your dog to run. Most dogs have finished growing by 16-24 months.  Kramer says if you start slow and on a soft surface, you can start to train the dog at around 12-18 months.

Will you try running with your dog this spring? Let us know in the comments below!

Nikki Scott turns to her passion for running to beat major health issues

Nikki Scott’s survival in 2005 was not guaranteed. A car accident resulted in a broken back and ribs, and a dislocated collar bone and sternum. A disc in her neck was herniated and both of her lungs collapsed. A serial marathon runner, doctors told her she would never be able to run again.

But against all odds, in 2008, she completed her first half marathon.

For most people, coming back from a debilitating accident like that in just four years would have been impossible. But Scott had to undergo a second incident in August of this year. The Surrey, B.C. native’s world would change again when she took a serious fall, resulting in a deep cut, a bacterial infection, and a subsequent battle to keep her limbs.

“A few friends and I were out for a run in Golden Ears (Provincial Park),” she said. “We had our route planned – but soon after we got started we came up on a bear so we quickly turned around and headed back to the cars. I turned to say something to my friend and I caught my toe on a rock and wiped out. I landed on my knees and when I flipped over to sit down, both of my friends kind of gasped. Sure enough, I had a huge, bloody gash and a great big skin flap flipped open on my knee.”

“I kind of panicked when I realized that I could actually see my kneecap in the bottom of the wound,” Scott said, adding, “We all took a deep breath and started going through the first aid supplies in our packs. Luckily we had water, gauze and antiseptic wipes so we cleaned it up as best we could, covered it in gauze and wrapped my knee.”

They headed to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock where she got the wound cleaned up and stitched back together. She was sent home. Everything appeared to be fine.

However, the next morning, her entire leg was burning with pain. She was given some painkillers and antibiotics and sent home yet again. An hour later, she was heading to Langley Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Scott’s leg was infected and the doctors started her with multiple IV antibiotics.

“Over the next four days, the infection raged and spread from my toes to my ribs. My leg and torso were swollen to twice their size. The pain was unbearable and they had to keep switching the antibiotics, but the infection wasn’t responding. By the end of the week my kidneys had also failed, so they sent me off to Surrey Memorial, labelled ‘loss of life or limb’ and I was admitted into critical care,” Scott said.

She was diagnosed with Cellulitis and spent the next 20 days in hospital before her wound responded to antibiotics. The wound, luckily, healed in about three months. Scott says the infection was “stubborn and resistant”, but she is starting to return to her regular life. A month after coming home she was able to ditch the crutches and start doing physical activity again. 

“I started doing very short, 30 second intervals of ‘running’ on the treadmill. Because of the atrophy in my muscles, I have been taking things very slowly so I don’t cause new injuries, but have been working my way up to longer intervals of running and walking.”

Scott found that being fit helped her on her road to recovery. “Having that background of setting goals and devising a strategy and a plan to get there has definitely helped me figure out what I need to do to beat this injury,” she says.

Surviving a major car accident and the slow recovery process taught Scott to listen to her body and following the leg infection she also had to take it slow and let the pain and fatigue levels guide her.

Scott, a mother of two young boys, has completed 20 half marathons, five full marathons, and four ultra-marathons. She is refusing to let physical setbacks keep her from continuing her running.

“I was determined not to let my car accident beat me or define me and it has been kind of similar following this infection,” she said. “My end goal is to get my strength back and be able to run distance again, so I’ve just been setting small, manageable goals.”

Recovery strategies are not one-size-fits-all, so consult your doctor about when you should resume training. Once you do, make sure refuelling, repairing and rehydrating are part of your workout regime to help you reach your goals.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan

World Sight Day reminder for runners to get proper headgear

To get the most out of your running performance, you need to: wear proper gear, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and follow a proper running program to suit your fitness level. That takes care of the basics. Running and most forms of exercising may help maintain overall good eye health, but like our bodies, our vision is affected as we age. As we approach 40, it may be a challenge to see our fitness tracker or training watch clearly.

No doubt, it can be a frustrating experience.

Wearing reading glasses may help you see clearly, however multifocal contact lenses could be a better option for working out, especially when running outdoors in rain or snow. According to a study in the journal Age of Perception, 30 per cent of aging Canadians would rather wear contact lenses than glasses, 16 per cent would rather squint than wear reading glasses, and about one in five (19 per cent) agree they would or currently avoid wearing reading glasses because they would make them look older.

An eye condition called presbyopia often occurs around the age of 40 due to a gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects. This affects nearly 1.7 billion people. The symptoms are eye strain, difficulty seeing in dim light, and problems focusing on small objects and/or print found on items such as fitness trackers and smart phones.

With World Sight Day coming up on Oct. 12, it is a good reminder to get an eye exam, become familiar with presbyopia awareness, and be updated on the latest eye care technology such as Alcon multifocal contact lenses for the aging eye. A new option has opened up for those who run with a smartphone or fitness tracker. Multifocal contact lenses allow Canadians to see everything near, far and in between. Alcon Dailies Total1® Multifocal contact lenses replace the glasses you would need to wear to see what is ahead while on a run or view your fitness device.

Running with a watch to keep track of your times is a good indicator of your overall health, but if you are struggling to see the watch you may have presbyopia. If you have noticed changes in your vision, visit your eye doctor to get a comprehensive eye exam. More information on the Alcon multifocal contact lenses can be found at LoseYourReaders.ca.