Wear Test Wednesday: You Had Me at Coffee

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There are those you like coffee and then there are those that love coffee. Then there is one more level of coffee addition. These are the athletes that drink it and use it before during and after their workouts. These groups of people have a deeper relationship with coffee than with their own friends sometimes. I’m one of these people. I’m a full-blown coffee addict and I don’t plan on getting help any time soon.

I’m also busy, I don’t have time to buy loads of veggies and calculate the correct balance of carbs to proteins. I don’t want to make a huge mess in my kitchen and grind everything down to a pulp (only to find out I made enough shake for a small country).

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Enter Rumble Supershake. They brought a simplified ready-made protein shake and even better they made both a vanilla and chocolate version. This shake was the answer to most of morning and post workout problems. I had breakfast to go. Check. When work gets busy and my stomach starts screaming at me, I have a mid day snack to tie me over. Check. I’m in the middle of the woods, finished a trail run and I NEED protein, its there waiting for me. Check

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The benefits of Rumble are endless. It’s great for diabetics and athletes who are concerned about high sugar intake. It’s a shake that has all the greens a person needs in one day, the right amount of carbs and 20grams of protein. It’s not vegan, but the company uses the highest quality New Zealand whey powder. Even though it does use whey, I’m still able to drink it, because it’s 99.9% lactose free. In the past I would have to use brown rice protein powder, which is great but not as complete.

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Rumble Supershake has recently added a new Flavour and this is something to get really f**king excited about. The new Coffee Bean flavour has rocked my world. I honestly thought the coffee bean would naturally be more like a mocha coffee flavour. I was so wrong. It’s got a very smooth and gentle coffee flavour which tastes like a cold brew coffee. The coffee content is small, only 111gm per serving. The best part is the great coffee flavour is naturally occuring through organic fair trade coffee beans. It’s a smooth dosage and I don’t feel wired after drinking it or that I’m exceeding the recommended dosage of caffeine. In case you want to know what that is, it’s recommended people should stick to 400mg or less.

This small company from Victoria. British Columbia has really started to grow. You can find their product in almost every health food store, whole foods, some grocery stores and now in the U.S.A. Check the store locator on their site to find them near you.

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Rumble Ambassadors jump for joy over new flavour!

What the F**K is a Fartlek?

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The Fartlek run is widely used by coaches and runners everywhere. Still the number one question I get about running when I send out coaching plans, what is a fartlek? It’s a simple running exercise and often time’s not understand why it’s important to add to your training schedule.

What the F**K is a fartlek?
The dictionary says it’s “a system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied to eliminate boredom and enhance psychological aspects of conditioning.” This is a very good description actually.
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The word Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play” which was developed by a Swedish coach named Gösta Holmér way back in 1937. A fun fact: this training technique was designed for the Swedish cross-country team who kept getting beat by Paavo Nurmi and the rest of the Finnish team. Fartlek’s are great for the beginner runner to add small spurts of running or faster runner into their run and even better for elites athletes to train specifically for their events.

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Fartlek’s are more fun with friends

If I were to ask any one of my friends what makes up a fartlek, they would most likely answer, 1 minute fast running with 2 minutes of easy running. This would be absolutely correct, but the fartlek is not confined to this format.
An example of a Fartlek for the walk / runner: Walking for 5 minutes and running for 1 minute, each week increasing the running time and decreasing the walking time.

Fartlek’s can go as long as 1-2km sections of faster running with a shorter jog break between. No matter how long you decide to make your fartlek section, the most important part is to ensure you are working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. It’s a workout that is not meant to tax your body and be a full out sprint session. Adding in fartlek sessions will help with running form and best of all leg turnover. Fartlek’s are essential to get you race day ready. They simulate the ebb and flow of a race where alternating speeds are just part of competition. Even though you have a target pace on race day, terrain, crowds and aid stations will create variations in your pace, a fartlek prepares your legs and mind for these changes.

You should ideally add one Fartlek session per week into your run schedule. Make it fun! Try a music Fartlek where you pick up the pace for the duration of the chorus. Alternatively you can do a lamppost fartlek where you do your pickups from one lamppost to the next then easy run to the next lamp post and repeat.

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Get yourself race ready! Use the Fartlek

Mizuno Fit Friday: Running Drills Part 1

Today on Fit Friday I want to share with the runners out there some important running drills. I’m starting with A and B for now. These two exercises are essential to do before any workouts and your race.

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Running A drill

These drills are essentially to prepare you body for the motion of running. The series of drills are basically slowed down, exaggerated running movements broken up to narrow in on each phase of the running form. Start with the Running A’s, you bring your knee up toward your chest and allows the arms to follow naturally as they would if you were running. Rather than bounce through the move, you need to make sure to have contact with the ground at all times. The movement is coming only from the hip, pulling the knee in an upward movement. The A drill will start to increase blood flow and range of movement in the hip and pelvis area. This drill is more about warming up the muscle.

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B running Drill. End position.

Moving to the B drill, this movement is very similar to the A drill. The difference is you will slowly bringing the knee up towards the chest, but on the downward movement, you will snap the leg down twice as fast as you lifted it up. This drill is meant to activate the glutes, and hamstrings and promote good running form. This drill is a must do, to prevent injuries like tears and strains, which are common in the hamstring area.

The drills seem silly and waste of time and are often underused by runners. These drills work though. Rather than static stretching, which often times will turn a muscle off, drills activate the muscles, and making sure they are all firing together. Drills only need to be done before a run, workout or race, where static stretching should be done post activity.

If you have any exercises you are curious about please let me know and I will definitely feature them on Fit Friday!

Stay tuned for more fit tips and running drills in the coming weeks.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to get the latest updates.

Cross-country vs Trail running

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Cross-country season is just weeks away from starting. While some runners are moving into taper mode and prepping for there half or full marathon, there is another group of us who are just starting a new season. For the last two years, I’ve spent a good part of the time inside the trails and racing distances from 5km’s to 50miles. I love trail running but trail running and cross-country are not at all the same thing.

I remember last year at many cross-country races being asked why I’m not a fan of the sport when I spend so much time trail running. My response was always the same, “they are not even the same sport!.” Cross-country runners seem baffled by this statement. Recently at a trail race, someone said how she feels they would be good at cross-country because they are so similar. Again my response was “they are not the same sport.”

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Here are some major differences between these two sports that seem to take place on similar terrain.

  1. DISTANCE: Cross-country racing is usually 5km to 10km distances, some as short as 4km even. Trail running is generally longer in nature 7km to 100miles.
  2. TERRAIN: Cross-country has very similar terrain. In my experience, the terrain is more groomed trails, grass and not nearly as technical as a trail course. Trail running can be just as hilly as cross-country, but the climbs can be both technical and in some cases have to be hiked up. Trail runners often talk in distance and elevation. Cross-country runners will rattle on about pace and the only elevation they are concerned about is their how high their heart rate will go.
  3. SPEED: This is where things can get very different. Track-and-field athletes often attend cross-country races. This group of runners only knows one pace, FAST. Trail runners can be extremely competitive as well but often times the paces are much slower, due to the a more technical terrain and longer distance.
  4. SHOES: What these two types of runners where on their feet are very different. Cross-country runners will be sporting the typical cross-country spike. What you find in this runners bag is a container full of replacement spikes in various sizes. In cross-country you will encounter dry, wet and muddy and even snow covered trails. For each of these conditions, a particular spike will be necessary. Trail running shoes are a specialty shoe all onto themselves. Some have big lugs for better traction, carbon rock plates, extra big cushioning or even a very minimalist profile. I pick my trail running shoes depending on the technical nature of the trail.
  5. CLOTHING: cross-country runners are simple, since the races are fast and over quite quickly, it will not differ much from what these runners wear on a track. Trail runners on the other hand often have to bring their own hydration and food to get from aid station to aid station. Compression socks have become popular in this sport. Hydration packs are almost always and essential must-have. In some cases trail runners will need a crew and point where they need to change their pack, clothes and shoes.

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Trails shoes vs Cross-country Spikes

This is of course, what I’ve come to notice about the similarities and differences of these two sports. Both are fun but each has their own language, look and race day quirks. To prep and train for my cross-country season I’ll spend most of the training days on a softer surface, like grass and groomed trails. Doing race specific speeds on anything more technical is risking some major sidelining injuries.

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Trail running season never ends!

I can say I love trail running for the laid back and friendly vibe that fills a field on race day. Trail running also doesn’t seem to have a beginning or end to the season. It’s a sport that just keeps going all year round. Cross-country unfortunately has a very defined and short season, making you feel like you’re cramming for an exam.

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What I pack for a long distance trail race.

The one thing both sports have in common is, they have a very small number of participants than most road races get. This makes both sports very appealing to newcomers. It’s not intimidating to jump into a race, and both communities will welcome you with open arms.

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It’s fast and fun – give Cross-country a try!

Motivation Monday: Post-Race Blues

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I’ve talk about the post-race blues before. This is a real ailment amongst athletes. You train so hard for one big goal and then it’s just another memory. This particular bout of the blues is slightly different. I was excited to come home from my trip and spend the next two weeks cycling while I gave my running legs a break. Unfortunately the small injury I got while racing overseas was the one injury that is not bike friendly.

If I had to put it into perspective, I’m sure the absolute rest period is better for me anyway. The training cycle I’ve just completed is probably once of the most intense cycle’s I’ve done in a very long time. Mentally and physically I was 100% committed. This process takes its toll on you however. Even if you feel totally healthy, you still require a moment to rest. Without the rest you run the risk of physical and mental burnout. Having been through both of these states at one point in my life, it’s not something I can imagine having to go through again. I will take the post-race blues any day over burnout.

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Find a way to rest up!

The best way to get through a post-race state of depression requires just a few simple things.

  1. Stay active. This doesn’t mean go out and run when you shouldn’t, but walks, easy cardio at the gym or start adding core training. This is a good time to start a strength training program that will stick for your next season
  2. Don’t be ashamed of how you feel and spend time with friends and family. Social interaction is the best medicine even when you really don’t feel like being around anyone.
  3. Do something nice for yourself. Pamper yourself and take a moment to enjoy the things you never had time for while you deep in your training.
  4. Start thinking and planning for your next season. This is a good time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work last season. More important than looking at your strengths, assess your weaknesses. If you have coach, together make a plan. If you don’t have one, consider adding one to achieve your next goal.
  5. If your funk last more than a week, consider seeing your doctor. Although you may think it’s just the blues, it could be more serious. Examples could be iron or B vitamin deficiencies, which are very common with athletes.
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Try new activities

With one major goal down, I have my next goal set in stone. Since I’ve committed the next two years of my life to going back to the basics, the next stage for me is cross-country season. I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with this sport. I’ve been looking forward to this season and will be planning to attend the Canadian Championships in Kingston.

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Mizuno Fit Friday – The Inch Worm

Whether you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete, you need to have a strong core. The muscle groups that make up your core are the Abdominal muscles (Internal and External Obliques, Transverse Abdominus and the Rectus Abdominus), the Glutes and the small muslces in your back call the Erector Spinae.

Especially for runners, the main muscle groups you think you use are quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. By the time you are at the end of your marathon, all these muscles have stopped firing and it’s the core muscles that are being used to get you across the finish line. Naturally you want to ensure you target these muscles often throughout your training program.

Between work, family, friends and then training the gym seems like a dainting task. I try to keep things simple in this department. Easy 10-15 minute exercises I can do at the gym or in my house.My favourite one and the most simple full core workout is the inchworm, or as some call it the caterpillar.

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It’s simple to do and after three or four sets you will feel the burn. To start get yourself into a plank position where your wrists are under your shoulders and your hips are in a neutral position. You should not feel any pressure in your low back to start.

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From the plank position you slowly walk your feet to your hands until you come into a downward dog position. Keep your hands planted under your shoulders and even separate your shoulder blades as you move your feet forward.

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Plank with a pushup

Hold downward dog for a breath and then slowly walk your hands back out to your neutral plank position, keeping your feet planted. Once you are back at the start position continue the movement until you get to fatigue. What I like to do is set a goal ahead of me around 20M away and not quit until I reach the goal.

This exercise can be done everyday after your workout or every other day. To make it a bit more challenging once you get the hang of it, you can add a pushup in the plank position.

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My Adventures in Lyon: Part Trois

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With an unexpected 1500M finals in my legs, I only had two days to recover for the half marathon. My friend Sebastien is also a runner so he understood my need to take it easy. So we spent the day seeing an amazing graffiti museum where many of my favourite artists have left their mark. If I hadn’t befriended Seb, I would not have known such a fantastic place existed.

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That evening, as I packed and prepped for my race, I had resolved myself to the idea that no matter what this was going to be a very uncomfortable half marathon. I had also realized, that I’ve never done a marathon with an injury and I’d be going against every principle I usually follow. The morning started at 5am, and as I made my way to the metro station, Lyon was still awake and enjoying the weekend.

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Mentally I felt amazing. Based on my previous half marathon times, I could possibly be in contention for a medal. I warmed up and my legs still felt heavy, but I kept telling myself, after a few kilometres things could change. As I headed for the start line, my heart was smiling. As much as I love the track, the half marathon is absolutely my favourite long distance race. I felt like I was amongst my own people. I understood these folks and knew how to relate.

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From the word go, the race sucked (at least for me). It hurt in ways I haven’t experienced. The night before my coach said “you have experienced the burn of the 800M and the fatigue of the Ultra distance, you can get through this race.” As I raced, I had to keep telling myself this, because I was actually feeling both the burn and the fatigue at the same time. By 5km it was clear this race wasn’t going to be a medal race or even a personal best. It was going to be a test to see how much I can endure. I’d committed to finishing and pushing the limits of my mind and my body. As coach Timo so wisely tells me often, “a good sailor knows how to sail without a wind.”

As I crossed the finish line, I took a deep breath, and was thankful it was all over. After a moment to think, my heart felt heavy. It was a feeling I can only describe as a broken heart. As much as I love the half marathon, I felt it was time we see other people and take a break. I understood so clearly the need for specificity. I have many strengths and many weaknesses, but my strongest assest is my running range. I love to run no matter what the distance. In order to accomplish some of the short term goals I have in mind, the longer races will have to take a back seat. This made me sad. I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to say goodbye, but some part of me wants to for now. I’m not quitting; I want to give myself the chance to become even stronger.

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The WMAC games were so many things for all of us. Amazing, hard, intense, fun, inspiring, painful, grinding, but it was a dream come true. It was my first games but I know it won’t be my last.