Race Report: Oddessey Half Marathon

Around mile 10.5, coming over Falls Bridge.

Around mile 10.5, coming over Falls Bridge.

As my first of 16 weeks into marathon training came to an end, I decided to take my first long run to a race course. My program called for a 13-miler, with the final 5 miles at Marathon Goal Pace. Negative-split runs aren’t easy, especially long runs. With other runs out there, and fluid stations every 1-2 miles, I decided a race would be a slightly easier way to focus on this first long run, practice hydrating with cups, and pacing myself amongst a crowd. So I hopped into the Oddessey Half Marathon, in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

The Oddessey Half is a race capped at about 3000 runners. It’s well organized, clearly marked, and there’s a pretty great Beer Garden at the finish line – courtesy of Sly Fox Brewing Company. The course has some pancake-flat miles, and some super extreme hills. It offers a little bit of everything. It also offered soup-like humidity. The predicted thunderstorms for Saturday night that would have swept the humidity away never showed, so when I stepped outside at 5am, it was a sticky,80+ degrees, with humidity over 75%. An additional challenge.

It was a good thing the race started at 7am, as every minute counted – temperature and sun intensified with every mile. While some miles had ample tree coverage and shade, other miles were in full-blown sunshine.

With the extreme humidity, I made an executive decision to adjust my plan and run the 5 marathon-paced miles at the beginning of the run. This turned out to be a smart move. I maintained Marathon Goal Pace for about 8 miles because I was feeling really good, and then allowed my body to slow down a bit. The humidity began to grind at my gears, and so I willingly let pace go. After all, this was supposed to be a long run and not my race.

Running with other runners is always an education. I’ve learned so much about myself as an athlete, being patient on the course, and how to run and race smart. I used the athletes around me to push the pace in the humidity for those first 5 miles, and then I willingly allowed runners to drop me and make their own choices while I did my own thing. Instead I focused on my form and efficiency, and spent moments observing other runners out there. I did more passing between miles 4-10 then I expected, including about a half dozen ladies who had gone out fast. As I gained on them, I could tell they were hurting. You can learn so much by a runner’s stride, form, and breathing. You can tell if that person will try to hang onto you or willingly let you go. I passed my final female around mile 9, putting me in 4th position. I never saw another lady out there for the remainder of the race.

Humidity is extremely humbling. Few runners handle it well, and for me it’s usually a matter of time before my body crumbles. Around mile 10, I remember my head feeling hot. I also remember my pace drastically dropping by about 15-25 seconds per mile. My quads began to feel like cement bricks, and my feet began to lose their quick and powerful contact with the ground. Instead I could feel every stride becoming heavy and slow. Dehydration was becoming an issue, and I was ready to be done. That final 5K was a grind, and some of it in full sunshine. The final mile of the Oddessey is a pretty epic climb – you run down it around mile 3, so you know what you have in your future. That hill had no shade. When I finally made the turn off of MLK Drive and to the hill, I was glad to be so close to the finish, but also dreading the abuse my tanked quads would take. I tried to relax, but even as my pace slowed, it was a struggle. My right calf felt as though it was going to cramp a few times, which is rare for me. So I did something I rarely do – I walked part of the hill. Yes, I stopped running and power-walked up part of the hill. I didn’t care if 10 females were about to pass me. I kept telling myself to be smart. This was a training run. I had a track workout on my calendar for 48 hours in the future. I needed to make good choices. So I did a walk/run negotiation, which probably was not expected for 4th Place Female, but there you have it.

The final quarter mile is flat, and I just let my body lead. A runner near me asked to kick with him, and though tempted, I refused and told him to drop the hammer. Again, not my race. Just a run. A run I was VERY happy to be finished with. I crossed the finish line tired, dehydrated, and happy at my pacing and decisions.

I waited at the Beer Garden, drinking a few pints and chatting with runners as we cheered in other finishers. Multiple runners collapsed on the final stretch, needing medical attention. Two were taken away in ambulances. On the course a runner dropped out and needed medical attention near me around mile 5. Watching runners in serious destress made me even happier with my decision to run smart, hydrate often, and respect the weather. Some days we learn lessons the hard way. I’m glad this was I day I didn’t need to.

Balancing – a look at how your coach makes it all happen, and how you can too!

img_6834-editEvery once and a while I get a request for a blog topic. Today I am indulging myself to fulfill a recent request. One of my regulars at Mile High Run Club, (very strong athlete and badass lady!), requested I write about what it’s like to coach and pace my own roster, teach full time at the studio, and still get in my own training and goals. While at first I thought this might be an unrelatable but perhaps interesting topic, the more I thought about it the more relatable it seemed. So many of my athletes juggle very long hours at work, private lives that sometimes involve families, the stress and fast-pace pressure of living in NYC, while tackling their own goals. So while my life/career is probably very different from yours, perhaps some tricks and priorities in my life will help you figure out out to better balance your journey with running.

Let me start by saying I am not a professional athlete. I have never been one. So my drive in my own training has never been fueled by a sponsor, collegiate team, pro team, etc. The only pressure or goals I have are those I’ve put on myself. My guess is that’s how most runners operate – self-motivated and training and racing because they love this sport!

To say getting in my training is challenging would be an understatement. Like many folks, my line of work has me on my feet all the time! I am standing, walking or running for anywhere from 4-10 hours per day. This makes “recovery” a tough thing. While there are lots of benefits to not sitting on one’s bum all day, I have to be mindful about wearing supportive shoes as much as possible, and sitting whenever given the opportunity – the train, between classes, whenever I can. If you are a teacher, nurse, doctor, or in the restaurant or film/tv industry, you probably live on your feet too!

Then there’s my hours – fitness industry folks work some of the hardest hours out there. We coach before most people go to work (hello, 4am wakeup!), and after folks are finished with work (I’ve been known many times to get home for dinner around 10pm), and it’s truly a 7-day a week business. It’s a job that can not only take over, but completely control your life. You only get time off when you protect a day and fight to protect it, and even then I am usually responding to emails, texts and calls from my private clients. So sleep, meals and training are a challenge.

The awesome thing about coaching full time is that I am constantly inspired and motivated by the people I am working with almost every hour of every day! My fellow coaches, team mates, clients – I have a ton of inspiration around me! So I rarely have the opportunity to lose focus when I am training. That’s a huge asset.

I was asked how I get my miles, goals and races accomplished – especially when clocking miles paces my own athletes. This is a tough one. Really tough. Despite my best abilities, I’m a human and not a machine – so I need to be careful and can only clock so many miles per day. There have been years where I opted to train and race for ultras, partly because it was of interest, but mostly because it jelled best with all the pacing I had on my plate. Back-to-back 20-mile days are only beneficial for ultra marathoners. However, this year I have really gotten back to some speedier and more ambitious goals for myself, and so I have decided to be more protective of my running time. It means not being everything to everyone. Learning to say no. And thinking of my own health. It’s a balance.

I have learned to always prepare and pack food for the day. I usually have fruit or veggies in my bag, along with some trail mix. I always have a water bottle with me. This minimizes the chance of dehydration or going hours without fuel. I will sometimes try to go to bed really early if I am wiped out – even if it means skipping social events. I write my training down in my calendar with everything else that day and hold it to the same level of importance as work, appointments and errands. I am rarely in shoes that aren’t my Mizunos. My feet are my career. I need them healthy and happy. I also replace my shoes pretty darn frequently. It’s worth it. If a goal race is worth it, I will sometimes sacrifice work opportunities or sleep to get in my time at the gym or park. I never want to be resentful of my work, or feel like I didn’t put in the training necessary for doing my best on race day. Hopefully as you juggle your plate, you can find tricks that work for you.

 

Tips on what can make/break a runner

This week’s blog is about the best and the worst. As an athlete and a coach I have experienced and witnessed countless smart and poor choices in both training and racing. We often learn from expert advice or from our own experience, and so in hopes this blog helps you avoid bad choices and make many good ones, here are some of my favorite good/bad decisions a runner can make.

The Good:

  • Track your training. If you use a GPS device, this is quite easy. Track the miles, effort, and pace. This information is incredibly valuable. Many runners I know have data from the last 5-10 years!
  • If you are seriously training for a goal race, you need to keep a watchful eye on the forecast. Adjust training days or expectations for weather. There’s absolutely no excuse for missing a long run because it rained on Saturday. Plan to move your long run to Sunday or get creative.
  • Train with purpose. This sometimes means running or training LESS. If you don’t know the reason for your training that day, you should question why you are doing it.
  • Treat yourself like an athlete. This means eating, sleeping, and drinking like one. Set yourself up for success.
  • Be cautious. If something feels injured, DO NOT continue to run through it. Overtraining and injuries can usually be avoided. You are not brave, tough, or dedicated if you train through injuries. You are stupid.
  • Show up early to races. My athletes who achieve their race day goals usually get there early, and give themselves ample time to warmup, relax, hydrate, and prepare in every way necessary. Showing up frazzled and last-minute is usually the recipe for disaster. Respect your goals.
  • Learn how to fuel your body. Our bodies are pretty smart, and usually give us clue, cues and advice as to what works and what doesn’t. Like your training, make note of your fueling needs, schedule, etc.
  • Communicate with your coach! Though your coach can’t be a mindreader or do the work for you, they are there to support you. It’s impossible to be supportive when the coach doesn’t know how to help you. If you don’t have a coach, rely on your team or running buddies for support. The running community can be extremely knowledgable and supportive!

The Bad:

  • Skipping the taper or recovery. Elite athletes know to respect these important steps to training, so why are any of us the exception to this step? Respecting the taper doesn’t mean pausing all training, either. I’ve had plenty a runner “not run” during the taper, which is almost as bad as blowing through the taper at high speed. Training cycles exist for a reason. If you don’t understand them, do some research or ask a coach.
  • I have never heard a runner say “I shouldn’t have listened to my coach,” but I hear “I should have listened to my coach” all the time. If you hired a coach, there’s probably good reason for it. Trust that person you are paying good money to guide you!
  • Eating something new the night before or morning of a race or long run. This rarely ends well.
  • Trying new socks, shoes, or a new outfit for a marathon. Your long runs are dress rehearsals for everything – including wardrobe. Trying something new risks blisters, chafing, bloody nipples, and general discomfort – none of which are supportive of a successful race.
  • Winging it on race day. While plans don’t always pan out, having no plan at all is like dancing with the devil. Study the race course, and have a plan on pacing, fueling, and how you are mentally breaking up the race distance.
  • Giving up before you begin. It’s impossible to have a good run or race if you doom it before you start. Yes, speed workouts, long runs and races usually hurt. But dooming yourself sets you up for failure.
  • Just as one good race or workout doesn’t define you as an athlete or human being, neither does one bad one. The athletes who learn to really care about their goals but also keep a healthy perspective are usually the ones who succeed and enjoy running for life.

Setting New Goals for a New Year, Successfully!

corky-2816As one calendar year is about to come to a close and we look to the New Year, fitness and health frequently take center stage. This is often a time of reflection on the previous year – races, health, nutrition, happiness, and a time of anticipation and dreams for the future – getting health or weight on track, attempting your first race, working to set new personal race records, trying a new sport, dropping a dress size, sweating on a daily basis, gaining muscle, eating a balanced diet – the dreams and possibilities are endless!

While sorting through your goals, I recommend you do a few things in order to better your odds of succeeding:

  • Be honest about your level of dedication/commitment to change – and what kind of change. It may be a million times easier to achieve a 30 minute walk per day for you, than to consume over 10 servings of fruits/veggies per day – for example.
  • Be patient, and take your goals one day at a time. You are a human being, so expecting a perfect track record is dooming yourself off the bat. While focusing on each day, do have a clear goal for a few weeks, months or years from now. Each day of success will take you a step closer towards that goal or milestone.
  • Ask for help. Very few humans can hold themselves 100% accountable for real change. Rely on a friend, hire a coach/trainer, or use social media or a journal to help your accountability. Meetup groups can also be helpful.
  • Change takes time. Don’t expect to see or feel a huge difference within a day or week. However, you’ll be surprised the difference you’ll notice in a month or two!
  • Trying something new may not be right for you. Or perhaps what you try won’t be the right fit. Perhaps kickboxing is a better fit than ballroom dancing, for example. We are all different, so don’t feel bad if what you initially try isn’t the right thing! Move on and be fearless in what you try.
  • When creating a race goal, be sure to give yourself enough time to be successful! Also be sure any additional races you add to your schedule are supportive of that big goal and not destructive. A big PR in a marathon you flop on your schedule for 12 weeks from now is not wise. Understand your goals the time and work they’ll require.
  • Laugh, have fun and get creative with your goals. Not every day will be easy or fun, but I’m a firm believer that we stick to something we like, and that brings positive change to our lives. Life is too short to be unhappy or dissatisfied. See the humor and fun in everything you can!
  • Toss out the negative. Recognize triggers, and kick them to a curb. Perhaps it’s your daily mid-morning baked good from the office kitchen, or that friend who guilts you into ditching your run for happy hour each week. Everything is a choice, but you can make those choices easier by breaking bad habits, relationships and influences.

If or when you fall off your goals (remember – you are human!), simply pick yourself back up and try again. Just be sure to not do the same thing and expect a different result. You don’t need a New Year to spring into your goals. Tomorrow is just as good as January 1st.

Empowering Each Other – and remembering our words have influence

If you frequent my blog or know me in person, you probably know that I am all about girl power, healthy body image, and trying my best to live as an example of what I value and believe in, while also having a sense of humor. Maybe it’s because in the past I was a self-loathing, diet pill popping, calorie-obsessed human being, or have been in the modeling world too long, but I have recently been noticing trends in behavior, whether we mean to our not, that hurt our attitude about women.

Unless you live under a rock, it’s pretty obvious that women in the USA are held to high “standards” of beauty. Part of that is Hollywood, part of that is the media and beauty magazines, the other part is what we choose to demand from ourselves or the women around us. For example, I can choose to read tabloid/beauty magazines or not. I can also choose to read them and compare myself to every photoshopped, genetically gifted, or miserably starved model/actress in the magazine of my choosing, or I can refuse to compare myself. Yes, it’s hard to do. But don’t make the assumption that because someone “looks” ideal or perfect to you on tv or a photo that they are. There are a ton of tricks to the trade. And eating disorders, body dysmorphia and exercise anorexia run rampant. Ironically, many people are in denial about their disorders or issues, and are extremely good at fooling themselves and everyone in their lives. Skinny doesn’t equal healthy, happy, strong, or anything other than skinny. Of course some people who are skinny ARE healthy, happy and strong – but I am going to call many folks out here. To be “model” or Hollywood skinny (remember, the camera adds pounds!) is a challenge for most women.

Before I bring down the mood, I want to talk about someone who I think is an excellent example of body image. She’s a model, she eats (she posts more photos and recipes about food than anything else!), and she shares her flaws but not in a “look at me, I’m not perfect, I have work to do, wah wah wah kind of way.” No, she posts photos of her cellulite as if to say “Hey look, I’M A FUCKING HUMAN – and modeling is about bringing who you are  – flaws and all, and working your angles, working with immaculate lighting, photographers, and Photoshop.” You many have guessed it – I am referring to Chrissy Teigen. I have never seen her post anything negative about herself looking for attention on social media. If you don’t follow her – you should. She is hilarious. And real. But yes, more “beautiful” than most of us. She, in my opinion, is an excellent example of a model EMPOWERING women. And here’s the thing, if Chrissy were posting negative things about herself, she is putting all of us women down. I mean, if someone who makes a living being beautiful and photogenic isn’t “good enough,” than who is?!? I am sure that Chrissy, like many women, has insecurities. She’s human. But she doesn’t weigh us down with them. I don’t personally know Chrissy, but follow her on twitter and IG, and you cannot help but like her and want to be her friend.

Unfortunately many women don’t present themselves on social media with Chrissy’s positive attitude. No one is perfect. And frankly, I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to try to hold themselves to that standard. It’s exhausting. And really annoying. I am totally for people doing what they want to be happy and comfortable in their skin. Tattoos, Botox, implants, dropping or gaining body fat, packing on muscle – you do what will make yourself happy. But there’s a difference in going on that quest for yourself and projecting it onto the women in your life. Perhaps instead of saying “I need to drop 5 lbs. to be perfect, I am such a fat ass,” say “It’s really hard to shave off those final few pounds, but if I can work at it, so can you! Hard work is just that – it isn’t easy!” Can you see how those messages are completely different, while still sharing your goals?

Maybe I don’t take myself or life as seriously as many women. I get that. But our bodies are all aging, changing, and adapting – all the time. Some of us will be out thinnest in our teens – perhaps partly genetics and partly choice – nutrition and exercise are CHOICES, after all. Some of us had baby fat until our early 20s and blossom into the “thinnest” version of ourselves in our thirties, forties or fifties. Obviously some of that is genetics, aging and growing – things we don’t get to control. Some women fall in love with a form of exercise or sport, and their body transforms do to that new-found interest. Sometimes medication, job schedules, personal relationships and other factors will affect our bodies. It’s important to remember that “thin” should never be the ultimate goal.

Our power as women in the USA is only as powerful as we make ourselves. Equal pay, paid maternity leave, reproductive rights, being viewed as “the weaker sex,” all while also being told by outside influences of what we should look like and value – that’s a whole lot to handle. That’s stressful. I don’t know about you, but stress is a trigger for me to binge. Let’s please help ourselves, as women, by empowering each other. It’s okay to want it all – our ideas of the perfect body, a career and a family – whatever it is you want – but let’s please not impose our demands and expectations of ourselves onto our fellow ladies. Let’s lift each other up and support one another. Next time you turn to social media, please think twice about the image and attitude you are putting out there, and how that will make the females seeing it feel. Your friends, family and strangers will begin to form opinions based on their gut reactions to what they see. None of us want to come across as putting down others. None of us want to be viewed as self-obsessed narcissist. But I bet many of us want to come across as positive, supportive, and perhaps someone other people can look up to – because we exude something good. You don’t know what insecurities your audience may be harboring – or the age or mental comprehension. Girl power is positive. Girl power is supportive. Girl power says “you can do anything!” – so let’s do some empowering.

 

Fat America

There is nothing wrong with indulgences, as long as you KNOW what you are doing!

There is nothing wrong with indulgences, as long as you KNOW what you are doing!

There’s that saying: You are what you eat. Love it or hate it, I suppose there’s some truth to it. Americans are often consuming packaged, easy to prepare food. Not only is it accessible, it usually tastes good, and as a culture, we tend to work long hours and prioritize our jobs and making an income. It’s no wonder fewer and few Americans actually cook their own food or have any real understanding of basic nutrition. And let’s face it – ignorance is bliss. America is full of blissfully ignorant people. This isn’t to say we are stupid. It’s that if we are in denial, we can always point blame or accountability elsewhere.

Personally, I rarely eat at chain restaurants. In NYC we have so many restaurant options, and I tend to gravitate towards the privately owned, Ma and Pa places. But the awesome thing about chain restaurants in NYC is the following: they are REQUIRED to list nutritional info on the menu. This eliminates ignorance. You have the calorie content of your future meal in front of you before you order. For someone wanting to watch their nutrition, sticking to chain restaurants would be a way to honestly make educated choices for every meal consumed. On a rare occasion, I dined at a chain restaurant last weekend. America, we have a problem.

Chris and I sat down to dinner at Pizzeria Uno in Astoria, right across the street of the movie theater. We wanted to grab dinner before seeing Jurassic World, and didn’t have time to really wander and make the movie in time. I haven’t eaten at a Pizzeria Uno in probably 10 years, and so there was something exciting about eating there. I realize that to Suburbanites, that probably sounds strange. I opened the menu, and was in shock. We could only find 1-3 entree options on the menu for UNDER 800 calories. This isn’t including calories in bread, appetizers, drinks, or dessert. Ironically, all of the salads were over 1000 calories. The pizzas, designed to be shared, topped the chart at 3500-4500 calories.

After a good ten minutes of searching the menu pages and weighing my options, I opted for a soup and side salad for dinner – still combined over 500 calories. Chris and I then split the 1300 calorie cookie sundae, bringing my total calories for that meal to about 1000.

Now here’s the thing: it was REALY HARD to find something to eat that wasn’t half of my recommended daily calories. If it’s that hard to make good choices, no wonder America is so obese. And sure, as someone who is usually incredibly active, eating a 3000 calories dinner here or there isn’t going to kill me, but I am pretty sure my lifestyle is not the norm. Having just come back from vacation (in other words: no exercise and all the guacamole and pina coladas I could stomach), I was looking to eat lighter and get back to my normal diet. Knowing how much Americans eat out, and how few cities and states require nutrition information on their menus, of course we are a fat nation. If I ate out at a place like Pizzeria Uno 3-5 times per week, even training as I do, I would probably be a good bit heavier. If you are someone looking to drop weight, you will NEVER DO IT if your lifestyle involves this kind of eating.

Chris and I asked ourselves if seeing the nutritional info before placing our orders affected our ultimate decisions, and the answer for both of us was: YES!!!!! Chris joked that the nutritional info ruined dinner for him, and I can agree – no deep dish pizza, appetizers or really ANY entree made it in front of my face.

If you are unhappy with your weight, be honest about your meal choices. Nobody is forcing any of us to eat out all the time. If you are needing or wanting to drop weight, the first thing you should do is stop eating out and start cooking. You’ll save calories, money, and KNOW what you are putting on your plate. Learn about nutrition – simply the basics will help. Measure and weight ingredients and know the calorie total per serving. Does this take some fun out of eating? Probably. But will you be healthier, lighter, and wealthier? Yes.

Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power. The informed are always the successful ones. You have two paths to choose from, and the choice is yours.

Debunking Diet Delusions

Today’s blog is about nutrition habits. Many folks looking to hire a trainer or sign up for a marathon are hopeful that with committing to something physical, they will magically be able to eat everything they want and lose weight. It’s a nice thought, but usually not true. In fact, it’s not uncommon for folks to gain weight during their first season of training – because it is really easy to say “hey, I ran today!” and eat everything. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that burning 500 calories on a run doesn’t erase the calories in a burger and fries.

Did you know that many elite athletes are very careful about their caloric intake and nutrition habits? It may sound silly and unnecessary, but it’s quite often true. Folks who may be running 120+ miles per week are careful to not gain any weight. Yes, someone running 120 miles per week can afford to eat a hell of a lot more calories than the folks running 20 mile weeks, but my point is that to be their best, they need to be strong and as light as safely possible. The same is true with you and your goals, if they are based on pace and a time. If your goal is to lose weight, nutrition when training becomes incredibly important.

When I meet with new clients, I am sometimes told they want my physique. They joke to “sign them up” for whatever I am personally doing. I should also say that many friends and family assume I eat anything and everything all the time. I don’t. When I am visiting friends and family, I am often choosing to indulge. We are at a party, a celebration, out at a restaurant, a family get-together, or they simply see me on a day I am indulging because I simply want to. These same family and friends don’t believe me when I say that what they see me consume isn’t the norm. Do I eat bagels, cake or pizza everyday? Nope. Not even close. Do I talk about food, blog about it, dream about it and love it? Yes, guilty as charged. So I wanted this blog to showcase the reality of what it takes for me to be fit, strong, and extremely goal-driven – and perhaps you can apply some of what I do to your own life and goals.

Here are a few facts about me you may not know:

  • I very rarely weigh myself. In fact, in the last year I have only weighed myself to keep track of dehydration levels when training and racing Ultra Marathons (12-24 hour races).
  • I keep track of everything I eat, every day. I use an app. on my phone. I want to know what I am consuming and I find I need to keep myself accountable – be it calories, grams of protein, servings of fruits that day – I track EVERYTHING.
  • I also track my activity. Hours of sleep, time standing, running, weight training. I keep all the data.

To show you what my nutrition usually looks like, I am listing below 2 random days from the past few weeks. One day is an “average” day for me, the other is a “rest day,” – and I tend to eat more calories and junk on rest days. I’ll also make note of my training on the “average” day.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015: an example of an “average” day for Coach Corky.

  • Breakfast: Coffee, 2 TBS. Half/Half, 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, 1 cup fresh blueberries, 4 tsp. brown sugar
  • Lunch: 1 large sweet potato, 5 tbs. parmesan cheese, 2 links of turkey sausage
  • Dinner: 1 cup Goya black beans, 2 whole wheat tortillas, 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • Snacks: 1 orange, 1 Gala apple, 1/2 fresh pineapple
  • Total calories consumed: 2084
  • Training: weight trained for 1 hour, ran at a moderate pace for 1 hour
  • Total calories burned: 2837

Saturday, May 9, 2015: an example of an indulgence day

  • Breakfast: Coffee, 2 TBS. Half/Half, 1 large avocado, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • Lunch: 1 Larabar protein bar, 1 pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food FroYo
  • Dinner: Whole wheat pasta
  • Snacks: 1 brownie, 1 orange, 1 Gala apple, 1 banana, 3 bottles of Sierra Nevada beer
  • Total calories consumed: 3902
  • Training: ran for easy coaching miles for 50 minutes
  • Total calories burned: 2513

As you can see, some days I burn more than I eat and other days it’s the opposite. I usually try to focus on consuming fuel that makes me feel good – I want to be strong and healthy for my training. But I am also human, and am a really great stress eater.

A month or two ago, I decided I want to drop a little bit of body fat. Why? Well because if I want to be my fastest and my best out there for goal races, I need to be light. Trying to drop what little excess weight I have is tough. It’s like that last little bit your body is hanging on to and doesn’t want to give up. So I made sure to focus on weight training, running, and eating less than I burned. Did I lose the fat? Probably a little bit. But I am not going to lose sleep over it. I feel stronger, and am lifting more than ever before in my life, and am getting back to some speedy running and so things are going in the right direction.

Your journey and your goals are your own. Just be aware that when you see a coach, athlete or person on the street you don’t know – you have no idea what goes into their training and what genetics, sacrifices and dedication may have been necessary for what you see to be possible. Am I going to torture myself to be the lightest I can be? Nope. It’s not worth it to me. And as long as I feel healthy and capable of achieving what I want, the rest is gravy. Mmmm…gravy. No, I don’t eat gravy frequently. But it is damn delicious.

Answering NYC’s Questions

With teaching group classes, I always welcome questions during and after class. I thought it may be helpful to highlight some questions that have popped up frequently, and answer them as I have in person. After all, if folks I have coached in person have brought up the following questions numerous times, the odds are some of you may also have the same questions. Let’s get cracking!

What are the best kind of running shoes?

Despite what shoe manufacturers will tell you, there is no one shoe that is the perfect shoe for all runners. If a sales person tells you that their brand or style is perfect for you, run for the hills. Your feet, body weight, stride, weekly miles, terrain, experience, injury history – all are factors when finding the right shoe for you and your running career. I would, however, recommend you keep the following brands in mind when shopping: Mizuno, Brooks, and Asics. These brands are popular with mid-long distance runners, and are the brands of choice at most races. That doesn’t mean those brands are right for you. A shoe should feel like an extension of your foot. If it doesn’t, it’s not right. If you are in the right shoe, insoles and orthotics shouldn’t be necessary.

Are there workouts I can do to trim and tone my thighs?

You cannot target one body area for weight loss and body fat. If you want more definition, you need to lose body fat percentage in general. Zoning in, targeting, etc – that’s not how our bodies work. You can tone up by weight training and losing body fat – that combination will give you visual results. However, based on your genetics, you may never have thin or toned thighs – for example. Your thighs may be the last place you’ll lose body fat, and the dedication to lose that final bit may be extremely challenging. Instead, I would highly recommend folks looking to tone up focus of safely losing some body fat, and instead focus on weight training, and a healthy amount of cardio.

I have pain in my shins. What do I do?

Shin splints often occur when an athletes takes on too much too soon – going from little or zero mileage to running every day, running intense workouts too frequently, or running in old shoes. To help ease shin pain, stretch and foam roll your calf muscles, ice, and perhaps take some anti-inflammatory. Cutting back on mileage and intensity and focusing on some rest days will also help. If the pain continues, see a sports doctor or physical therapist. I am not a doctor, FYI.

I have been training really hard. How come I am not seeing an improvement in my speed?

Improvements in fitness sometimes take time, and very rarely can you expect to see or feel huge improvements in a few days or a week. In fact, you should expect to put in hard work for a few weeks or months before improvements appear by leaps and bounds. Remember that rest and recovery is just as important as the hard work, so if you are someone who rarely takes a day off or skimps on sleep, you may be getting in the way of your own success. Adding some additional rest and active recovery days may help your paces improve.

Is there a way to run on the treadmill that targets my butt?

If you are trying to target a muscle group like your glutes, hills can help. However, you also need to make sure you are activating your glutes and hamstrings. Many runners are quad runners, meaning we overuse our quads and don’t take advantage of the power our glutes and hamstrings offer us. If you are trying to gain strength, shape or size, you need to weight train that area. Running alone will not offer glute definition.

How do I know what my goal race paces or efforts should be?

This is sometimes hard to navigate. When setting your goals for the coming year, I encourage you to be ambitious but also realistic. For example, if your current Half Marathon best is 2:00, aiming for a 1:25 in your next Half Marathon is probably too ambitious. However, aiming for a 1:50 or 1:40 may be ambitious but also reasonable with hard work. If you achieve that goal, then work down to the 1:25. If you have taken a lot of time off from training, or are tackling a new distance, go by effort. This is especially true when training in heat or humidity. As you improve, your paces should hopefully drop towards your goal paces – though you may need to curve your expectations as you go further into training.

When trying to improve, should I focus on more miles or quality miles?

If you are just beginning your running journey, focus on slowly increasing your miles and keep the paces easy. Don’t go out and run hard, but instead focus on comfortable, conversational miles. Once you build the quantity up to a good number, you can then focus on quality – speed, hills, long runs, etc. If you are a runner who is already clocking consistent miles, focus on quality instead of quantity while training for a goal. Do the least amount of running necessary to achieve your goals – this may still mean 60 mile weeks while marathon training for your ambitious goal – but you also may be tempted to push to 70 mile weeks because you have heard more miles are better – but more miles means injury risk and chances for burnout increase.

Do you have questions for me? They can be anything running, nutrition, health or fitness related. If so, shoot me a comment, a message on twitter or FB, or in class next time.

Body Image in Athletics

img_6222-editPeople come in all shapes and sizes. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes. It’s often an odd transition viewing yourself as an athlete, but I ask all my clients to do so. When you slightly change your perspective of yourself, you’ll view your nutrition choices, sleep, training, priorities, and life differently. I find this shift is extremely important for folks who struggle with nutrition/weight and with time-management and sleep. Instead of viewing food as “good” or “bad,” you start to think about your training, and what choices will properly aid you in pre-run fuel, post-run recovery, or general nutrition. Suddenly you won’t feel “bad” about a food choice, because your perspective of you as a human being will be different. The same is true with sleep – you’ll suddenly be aware of how it’s an important component of training – and that if you want to train harder and improve, you’ll need to get more Zzz’s.

I remember when I personally went through the shift, and how I finally felt settled and had an “identity” as far as food goes. I’ve been pretty open about my relationship with food and body image in the past, and I know I am not the only person who has struggled with it. But running and training for challenging race goals gave my body a purpose, a hunger for achievement, and I became excited and dedicated to doing what it took to morph my body for those goals. I too referred to myself as “not a real runner” for a long time – dismissing my involvement in this sport because I wasn’t professional, fast, or taking it seriously.

Over the last 5 years, my body has changed a lot. There have been years where I was curvier, years where I was rail-thin and friends voiced concerns, and years where I have been muscular with relatively low body fat. My size has swung from 6-0 and everywhere in between, and changes depending on what I am training for, how hard I am training, and honestly how I am feeling. There are some months where all I want to do is eat, and I need to pull myself up off the couch and into the gym or the park. There are other months where I feel so motivated and energized, I forget to eat and am struggling to take in enough calories. As you can imagine, this changes my body. And though I hate to admit it, it changes how I feel about myself.

What’s interesting is how I am perceived – often by strangers, casting directors, acquaintances, and friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I must always look “athletic,” because the topic usually comes up in conversation. I have had casting directors and the like ask if I am a gymnast, yogi, dancer, Pilates instructor, CrossFit activist – the list goes on. Ironically, few guess “runner.” Perhaps, to be fair, this is because runners come in all shapes and sizes. But to hear “Really? You don’t look like a runner -” it somehow feels like a stab in the gut. I usually am quick defend myself, saying I am not a sprinter (so I am not rocking large powerful muscles and very low body fat), and I am also not an elite middle or long distance runner – folks who are often associated with looking unhealthy, waif-like, and gaunt. Here’s the thing: while I am indeed a runner, I am not a professional athlete. Folks expect to see the stereotype on magazines, winning marathons or track events – not the folks who are “better than average” but also are not training full-time.

I assume if I struggle with being judged, and often have to defend my body and my choices, that other folks out there do too. Unfortunately, females are judged based on how they look before they can even open their mouths. And while I shouldn’t assume this is only a female thing, being female myself, I can only speak for the ladies.

To the folks who judge – I say go watch a race. You will see all body types cross that finish line – 5K through Marathon. You will see the elite runners you expect us all to resemble, you will also see body types doing amazing things that will honestly catch you by surprise. Don’t judge, be inspired. After all, they are the ones training and clocking miles while you sit there on your ass and point a finger.

And while some folks are probably not aware that making assumptions or judgements about a person’s body and sport can be hurtful, we should all remember to think before we speak. It’s the same with fat shaming, or assuming someone’s life is easy because they look like our idea of a “model.” You have no idea how hard someone might work for their sport, or to maintain a healthy weight. You also probably don’t know how hard that person has worked to achieve where they are today.

Being an athlete is hard. It’s a huge time commitment, which makes it a big part of your identity – whether you realize it or not. Wear that identity with pride. Train for your sport and your body will reflect your hard work, and hopefully give you the result you want. There is no perfect body or size. What’s perfect for you is what will help you achieve your goals and feel your best. If I was told gaining 10lbs. would make me faster and set crazy PRs, I’d be the first in line to pack on those additional pounds – assuming it wouldn’t hurt my health, of course. Sadly, that’s not true. Your body is your tool in this world, and we are only given one. What we do with it is our choice.

Recently when given the whole “Really? You’re a runner?!” response, I carefully explain that indeed I am – and that runners come in all shapes and sizes, and their bodies will usually be different depending on the distance and pace one runs. I figure if I cannot stop that awkward comment from arising, perhaps I can educate the person asking and they’ll think twice before assuming something about body types in the future. And for the record, I have never taken one yoga, Pilates, CrossFit or gymnastics classes – so all of those guesses are WRONG. Go figure, right? And while I used to be a dancer, it has been a few years since I have been in class. Again, proof that many snap judgements are totally off-base. I am ever going to look like Shalane Flanagan? Nope. Am I ever going to be as fast as Shalane Flanagan? Nope. And that’s OKAY!!!!!

I hope if you are struggling with your own relationship with food, body image, weight, or role in your sport that you are kind to yourself. Don’t let a stranger’s uneducated opinion sway how you feel. And if you are looking to become lighter and leaner, remember that there is no quick fix – it’s a process. You don’t owe anyone anything. But you do owe it to yourself to be happy in your skin.

Fad Frenzy and Detox Domination

28200_574974599374_24301763_33376923_2796281_nThe New Year always brings with it an odd array of health choices. My twitter, FB and Instagram accounts are flooded with the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve blogged about the topic of fads, detox supplements, and all that loony business, but apparently America is still full of suckers willing to drop their dime on any possible “too good to be true” gimmick. America, STOP IT. Seriously. You are smarter than this. I totally understand wanting to buy into Dr. Oz’s newest “miracle whatever,” or some Buzzfeed trend started by someone who received some sort of Nutrition Certification online, and therefore is “the voice of science.” Again, STOP IT. Do I need to reach through my computer and shake you?!?

Okay, so some of you are shouting “yes, Coach Corky – preach!!!,” while the rest of you are like “but I read somewhere, or so-and-so swears by…., etc.” Take a deep breath. I am going to assume that you are all intelligent people. I am also going to assume that you work hard for your dollars and are not looking to go out of your way to waste your hard-earned cash. Let’s also just agree that the health/fitness/weight loss industries are multibillion dollar industries. Because that’s true. And that’s a lot of dollar bills.

Let me also just remind you all that for YEARS, I was one of those Americans after the quick fix, and would drop money on anything promising a miracle. I cannot tell you how much money I spent on diet pills in college. College. When I was super poor. Or the money spent of different colon cleanses, detoxes, juice cleanses – you name it, I probably bought into it. If a talk show doctor mentioned some miracle whatever, I was that hopeful person that thought maybe this was the answer I’d been searching for. Why? Because I was unhappy with my body and had zero self-confidence. I also thought that anything “detox” or “cleanse” was truly beneficial and healthy. When you are desperate, you will grasp at straws. So please understand when I say I have been that desperate American who tossed science and logic aside when tempted by trends, and I didn’t care to stop and question what was being promoted. Truthfully, a small part of me wanted to assume that not everyone would sell lies – something being marketed had to be the real deal, right?!?

Okay, so back to today. If you are tempted to try a juice fast, oil pulling, no GMO, sugar-free diet, etc., be the smart person that you are and DO YOUR RESEARCH. And I don’t mean “go find websites that back up what you want to hear.” No. I mean look for medical journals, articles posted by doctors (NOT celebrity doctors!), and reach multiple sources. Anybody can post their thoughts and theories on the internet. It’s your job to be skeptical and play Devil’s Advocate. If I wrote an article swearing by the “Ice Cream Diet,” gave reasons why it worked, and then listed my credentials, it could very possibly become the next fad. Which obviously is ridiculous, right? Right. But come on, that would sound amazing. If you are still confused, pick up an anatomy book. If you knew anything about the body, you’d know toxins aren’t something you can “detox” with a cleanse – you have organs in your body that do a brilliant job keeping your body clean and healthy without your insane desire to interfere. Your personal doctor is the only one qualified to suggest you interfere or change your body’s natural process.

Okay, so now some of you are going to swear that your detox, oil pulling, cayenne pepper, juicing, whatever is making you feel like a million bucks! You have more energy, your skin is softer, you have lost weight, etc. – you will swear your magical new lifestyle is working. Guess what? It probably isn’t. What are you experiencing? One of a few things. The placebo effect should not be underestimated. You WANT your product or new lifestyle to work, so you are already looking for every possible sign that pill is what’s making something better. Or you are losing water and poop weight (sorry, it’s true!) if you are on a cleanse of some kind, so obviously with less stuff in your gut you’ll weigh less. This is temporary. And if you are in fact, actually feeling better, it probably isn’t due to the one thing you are doing but how that shift in choices is altering the rest of your life. For example, if you are juicing for breakfast, perhaps that is replacing your typical breakfast of processed junk – so of COURSE you are going to feel better – you are starting your day with something nutrient-dense instead of empty. Most people also find that if they make smart and healthy choices for breakfast, they are more likely to eat healthy the rest of the day.

I implore that instead of funding the fads and trends of the health/fitness/weight loss world, toss your money where you KNOW it will do good. Eat a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Go to the gym and be active every day. Get 8 hours of sleep per night. Drink lots of water. Despite what everyone out there in the media wants you to think, there is never a quick fix that will give you longterm results.

In the end, you’ll just end up frustrated and with less $$$$ in your pockets if you chase after the fads. Instead, always seek out the advice of a professional you trust. And there is absolutely no reason why a smart person should trust the likes of Dr. Oz or anyone in his circle and making money off our desperation. Your best resource is a doctor or nutritionist you trust, who doesn’t have endorsements, a book, or other financial incentives to swing their advice.