Staying Focused

©DARIO_ACOSTA_PHOTOGRAPHY-22It’s easy to get excited about new fitness goals. However, for most people that enthusiasm dies somewhere down the road. The gym after New Years is packed for 4-6 weeks, and then many resolution exercisers give up, get bored, lose focus, get injured, or face frustration.

Are you one of those people? If you are, you are not alone. Like we say in the marathon community, the marathon is mostly mental. Regardless of your physical goals, your mental focus is going to be trained along with your body.

What will work for you? Sadly, there is no one way we all tick. For me, signing up for races, and setting goals for those races keeps me on track. I know that if I want a chance at my goals in the future, I am going to have to put in the hard work. I also keep running photos of myself enjoying a race, fighting through fatigue, and other visual reminders around my apartment. Writing down my workouts as I complete them on a calendar I made with recent race photos also helps. I am reminded of how much I love my sport, even on those days when I’d rather not train.

Find positive things you can use to motivate yourself. Tell friends and family about your goals, and they can hold you accountable. Find a gym or training buddy. Rely on your coach – after all, part of your coach’s job is to keep you focused and on track.

Gearing Up

DSC_9745Let’s talk about gear. Running, in general is a very cheap exercise choice. All you really need is a good pair of running shoes. However, there are a few other items that can make your running experience better.

Socks: cotton socks cause those nasty, painful blisters. I ran in cotton socks for years, and powered through those painful bubbles on my feet. Investing in some running socks is worth the price. Running socks are expensive compared to the cotton ones, but they will change your running life. Seriously.

Non-cotton clothes: You can go run in those sweats and a tee, and be totally fine. Hell, I used to for years. However, if you are running in summer heat or winter cold, investing in some running clothes will make running far more comfortable. Here’s why: cotton is not designed to wick moisture away, and sweating in winter while wearing cotton will make you cold and clammy. Cotton in summer will make you feel hot and heavy as cotton gets heavy as it holds all of that sweat. Also, cotton can cause chafing. Not fun.

Bodyglide: This miracle, deodorant-looking tube will be the best $7.00 you will spend on running gear. Simply apply the stick on spots where chafing occurs. Sports bra, sleeves, thighs – everyone is different regarding chafing problems and often what you wear (cotton is not good) can factor.

Running watch: While this gadget is not necessary, especially for novice runners, it’s a tool I personally never run without. Here’s why: data gathered gives you an honest assessment of how every workout went, where improvements occur, and more. Even though I always have my watch on my wrist, there are many workouts when I don’t look at it while on the run. Recovery runs, for example, I go by feel.

Other helpful gear: Running cap (great for sunny and hot days!), winter gear, running sun glasses (you can find them at race expos for $20.00!).

Fad Diets

img_6239-editLadies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – I am going to tell you the truth, which you probably already know but are still hoping isn’t true – Fad Diets do not work and should be avoided at all cost.

Magic pills, fasting, cleansing, juicing, Atkins, Paleo, the Acai Berry Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, Medifast, hCG, The Tapeworm Diet (yes folks, that’s a real thing!) – DO NOT DO IT!!!! There is NO factual evidence that any extreme diet or lifestyle has any benefit at all. On the flip side, they could all be extremely dangerous.

Yes, you will probably lose weight from one of the above diets, but it will be water weight, or worse yet – muscle weight. If you are training, you need water weight (dehydration is very dangerous), and you should be aiming to gain muscle, not lose it.

At the end of the day, a balanced diet is all you need. What does that mean? Well, you’d have to go into that with your coach in greater detail.

The point is, unless you KNOW that a diet is healthy, it’s probably too good to be true. By all means, add juicing to your already-balanced diet, or incorporate some aspects of the Paleo diet – but jumping on the bandwagon is bad. And stupid.

Commercial, magazines, ads in magazines – they are all out to make money, not to help you lead a healthy life style. Got it? Good.

Get Outside

_MG_8975_final_A When asked about running by friends, acquaintances, family, strangers, and clients, often one tool comes up in conversation: the treadmill. Some people swear by the treadmill, and I have known athletes how have trained entirely on a treadmill for a marathon. if it’s for you, who am I to argue?

However, know this: your gate, form, mind, and muscles are used in a very different way on a treadmill versus running outside. Think about it: on a treadmill, you are running on a belt, so you are never really engaging those muscles that make you move forward. You are predetermining your pace, which will often times limit the runner. Outside, you will most-likely go faster. Mentally, staring at a wall, in a controlled climate is nothing like running outside or running a race. On the belt, your gate never really changes and your stabelizers that would activate while going around a turn, downhill, uphill – you would first have to mentally change it by pressing buttons on a treadmill.

My advice: GET OFF THE TREADMILL!!!!! It’s boring. It can cause knee problems. It won’t prepare you for a race. The ONLY reason I would suggest my clients run inside would be if it is unsafe to run outside. Rain, heat, wind, cold – those are not good reasons. And guess what, you cannot predict what the weather will be like on race day, so you need to learn to adapt.

Bonus: Running outside is freeing. It allows you to explore locations you probably wouldn’t otherwise see. And it’s easy to find a running buddy.

Track Your Training

img_6405-editI have all of my athletes track their training. The distance, pace and how they felt. Why? Well, this can be valuable information for the future. Plus, you can look back and see how far you have come, which is always a confidence booster.

I ask my athletes to share with me their training, as certain patterns can be important for a coach to recognize.

Personally, I track my workouts two ways. I write them all down on a calendar, and include any strength training or other forms of exercise. I take my Garmin with me on every run, so my running data is all collected on my Garmin page.

Find a way that works for you. Cause you know I’m going to ask you!

When sitting on the sofa counts as training

img_6502-editLet’s face it, in order to achieve your race or fitness goals, you will have to put in the work. There is no magic way to cheat the system.

The good news is that when you have rest days, take them as rest days! Often, runners get into the routine of their training, and at some point it feels very strange to have days that are for rest. Force yourself to take them when scheduled. Remember, rest and recovery are part of training. That time off helps your body heal so that you are ready for the next workout.

When you have a rest day, sit on the couch guilt-free! Enjoy your day. If you find you must get some activity into your day, take a short and leisure walk.

Remember, the last thing you want to do is wind up mentally or physically burned out and overtrained. Take those schedules days off.

Post-Run Refueling

DSC_0112It has become common knowledge in the fitness world that refueling properly after a workout is very important. Getting nutrients in the body quickly post-workout helps the muscles recover fast, which means you will heal and be ready for your next workout!

While I often take a protein shake after a hard run (a track workout or a long run), on other days I prefer either a glass of chocolate milk or a serving of Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt packs an impressive amount of protein in few calories. Most range from 12-16 grams of protein for 120-160 calories! Also, yogurt is great for your stomach, and most Greek yogurt is low in sugar. NOTE: “regular” yogurt is NOT the same thing. The protein is way less, the sugar way more.

Chocolate milk is the perfect combination of protein, carbs, sugar, vitamin D and calcium for replenishing. Mix it yourself, and you’ll save money. A serving of 16 oz. 1% milk and a serving of chocolate syrup run you about 265 calories. Winter tip: heat it over the stove at a low temperature and it will taste like hot chocolate!

Yak Trax

yaktrax_pro-300x300While many runners choose to take off the winter months, or trade them in for cross training in a gym, some runners power through the cold elements. If you train in a climate that gets snow and ice, I highly recommend getting yourself a pair of Yak Trax.

Yak Trax cost around $30.00, and easily attach to your shoe. The metal springs make it possible to maintain good traction on snow and ice-covered surfaces. The last thing a runner wants to do is slip and fall or compromise their stride to prevent falling. They even work on steep hills!