Runner Hacks

I’m writing this on five hours of sleep with a 2:50 a.m. alarm. Today was one of the rare, but ‘part of my job’ days where I had to be at work at 4 a.m. There are certain triggers that make me my most productive, most creative or most delirious. Today is a little bit of both and the trigger was being up before the sunrise. The other big trigger is when I’m sick. Seriously, 8 p.m. on a Friday and you can bet your ass I’m on the couch with a glass of wine on my third hour of binge-watching. But, strike me with a nasty cold and I’m waiting to accept my tenth mission from the chore-gods. I deliriously digress…

As I was sitting in a meeting yesterday, we got off-topic and started talking about working out on lunch breaks. YES, it sucks to get back to your desk and be a sweaty, hot mess the rest of the day. YES, it sucks to slip back into your work attire from said sweaty, hot mess. But when it’s 5 p.m. and you realize you can just go straight home because you got your fit girl on instead of your fat girl on (we have the most irresistible peanut butter cookies in our employee cafeteria…) it makes all the four hours of gym smells worth it. In said discussion, I went on and on about my lunch time workout hacks, when finally a lightbulb went on. “Hey! I should write a blog on that!”

So here you go. 6 Lunch Time Workout Hacks (so there’s no excuses).

  1. Baby wipes are not just for babies! I love me some green tea or aloe vera-infused Huggies. While nothing is as good as an ice cold shower after a sweaty betty sesh, a nicely scented wipe down can get you through the 4-5 hours you have left in the day.
  2. Pack your hair dryer. Now, I know you aren’t washing your hair in the employee bathroom sinks, but your hair will be wet from perspiration, as will other areas. Use the cool setting on your Revlon 5000 to eliminate any moisture. A small desk fan can be helpful, too.
  3. Freshen up with some dry shampoo, pack your foundation for touch-ups and don’t forget to carry a travel-sized deodorant and some perfume to re-apply post workout.
  4. Bring some dryer sheets or foot powder for your work shoes. Either will absorb the sweat and eliminate the stink.
  5. Pack extra underwear. You may have read before that I’m pretty particular about my undies when it comes to working out. If I’m going to workout at lunch, I have a pair to workout in and a fresh new pair for when I get back into my work clothes. Trust me, it makes a huge difference.
  6. If still doubtful, remember that even a 30 minute walk is great for your heart. Bring some tennies (don’t hate on the pencil skirt and Nikes look) and explore the walking areas outside your workplace. You won’t get quite as sweaty, your makeup won’t smear and you never know what new discoveries will come about.

Injury Prevention 102

Nope, you read that correctly. I’m calling this “Injury Prevention 102” because there are things I do every run that not only protect my body from sprained ankles or whacked out backs and inflammation, but from chafing, stomach issues and more. Because let’s face it, any sort of pain, whether internal or external, can be considered injury – especially if there’s ways to stop it. From the obvious to the not-so, here’s a few tips to prevent injury while running:

  1. Vaseline is your bestie. Your BFF. Your Soul Sistah. Before a run, rub it anywhere and everywhere that bounces, jiggles or rubs – no shame. Chafing is a bitch and unlike post-run exhaustion, it can hang around for days.
  2. Drink lots of electrolytes, before and after longer runs. Your stomach bounces around quite a bit when that mileage starts to rack up which will have a bad effect on you as soon as mile three. Try Nuun hydration tabs – one the night before, one before your run starts and if you’re feeling any sort of stomach pain, one after. Aside from that, extra electrolytes will keep you from dehydrating during your run.
  3. Eat more food. Pre-run, get your good carbs and fats, post-run, get your protein. When your body loses energy – which food provides naturally for us – you’ll become sluggish, lose form, lose focus, maybe even get light-headed.
  4. Post-run may be the most important part of your run. Take the time to stretch – and stretch everything. My favorites include pigeon pose and forward lunging into my hips. (There’s probably a simpler term for that but I like to be descriptive… yeah, that’s it.) If anything feels particularly sore, ice it. Take an Epsom Bath. Foam roll. Then stretch some more. Spoil that body – it carried you far.

Run to Eat or Eat to Run?

Quick update with a side of relief: doctor says my feet could just be inflamed, but at worst, show signs of plantar fasciitis. I’ll be resting for a few days, icing three times daily and upping my Ibuprofen dosage. Positive thoughts will have me back in no time, right? 

I’m a creature of habit so of course I have certain routines down. One of them is doing all of my meal prep for the week on Sundays – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s a nice stress reliever and sets me up for success every week. If it’s there, I’ll eat it. If I’m unprepared, I’m more likely to eat out, spend more money on food and eat rather unhealthy. Plus, I get more time to myself when all I have to do is pop my portioned food in the microwave.

Breakfast happens to be my favorite meal of the day. Nothing warms my belly more than the scent of eggs in a pan or bread being toasted. I typically go for two types of breakfasts – either a sandwich or a scramble. If I start my day with a workout, I’ll up my protein and carbs. If I’m getting ready to run, I’ll eat toast with peanut butter and a banana. I don’t count calories, I eat clean and am always focused on what’s going to fuel my body for the day. What’s my workout? What mindset do I need to be in? How does this food make me feel?

There’s so many cliches I can fit in here – like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or that you need food to fuel your workout but I’m going to make it even simpler than that: I just like to eat!! Here’s a few ideas for meal prepping a week of breakfasts – try one, try both, switch up and savor the flavor:

  • Thomas Double Protein English Muffin with two sunny side up eggs, two slices of turkey, and low fat cheddar cheese seasoned with salt, pepper and red pepper. Enjoy open-faced.
    • Switch up: instead of cheddar, you can also try plain whipped cream cheese
    • Protein: up the amount of turkey or use Canadian Bacon
    • Good fats: Add a slice or two of avocado
    • Make enough for the week, wrap in tin-foil and pop in the toaster oven for a few minutes to heat up.
  • “Sara Scramble”(at least that’s how I have it in MyFitnessPal) – brown a pound of lean ground turkey, add in six eggs, a carton of egg whites and all the veggies you want. I usually go with green and red bell peppers and spinach. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro and red pepper.
    • Split into mason jars for the week so it’s pre-portioned and ready to pop in the microwave
    • After you’ve reheated, add goat cheese or feta cheese and a couple tablespoons of fresh salsa (always check the ingredients!)
    • If you’re eating after a workout, add an English Muffin, dry, for carbs.

For other meals, I really like these containers from Amazon.com. They are durable and compact, making it easy to store plenty of meals on one shelf in my fridge.

Race Day Do’s and Don’ts

I’m not an elitist or snobby runner by any means but I do get anxiety over race day faux pas. Few things can be more frustrating than when someone breaks common courtesy or protocol during a race – it just kills your vibe, man. Granted, if you’re signing on to a race of five to ten thousand people, you just have to know these things are going to happen, but while running at the Star Wars Half Marathon last weekend, I couldn’t help but feel I must do my due diligence and teach at least one person how to save the world. Or just get someone to lessen my anxiety. I’m pretty sure I got through an entire mile just by listing out my pet peeves of life. Don’t judge me… running is emotional. And also… don’t be a Racehole.

5 Courtesies to Keep in Mind When Running a Race:

  • Walking is okay! But please stay to the right so those still running don’t have to weave in and out of walkers. Keep this in mind at water stations as well – not everyone will stop.
  • Hang on to your trash! Whether it’s your GU Energy Shots or aid station water cups, don’t be a Littering Larry. Hold on tight till you pass a trash can or stash it in your fanny pack until you cross the finish line.
  • No sudden stops! Just like walking – having to stop is quite alright. Put your hand up to let the people behind you know you are getting ready to halt.  Running is not a contact sport and we are not trained to tackle. It could get ugly!
  • Avoid aid station greed! Chances are the aid stations have tons of people ready and willing to hand out water or electrolytes. Look behind you before heading to one side and don’t grab the first cup you see. Move forward to someone looking for a friend (this will also get you through faster and back on your way.) Be sure to thank the volunteers that want you to get to the finish line hydrated and full-spirited. And don’t be a Littering Larry!!!
  • Watch your surroundings! Perhaps most importantly – be aware of the other runners on the course. If you nudge someone, turn and apologize. If you feel someone wanting to pass, let them. If someone trips, pick them up. If someone needs encouragement, cheer them on. Remember – we all want to get that medal at the end so whether we know each other or not, we’re in it together.

Sock it to me

Before every big race, I have pre-big-day traditions that, like carb-loading and hydrating, I wouldn’t feel ready to run without. In anticipation of running the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland in ten days, I thought I’d share one tradition that has turned out to be one of the most important, albeit, life changing.

Buying new socks.

12088345_10100805221621448_2303560925920131562_nI instantly feel fifty years older after typing that, but it’s true. One of my favorite race day preparations is heading to the Reno Running Company and scoping out the two synthetic foot coverings that will take me anywhere from ten to soon twenty-six-point-two miles. What color should I get? Should I stray from my favorite brand? Would it be weird if I sniffed them gleefully in the middle of the store because I never thought I could know such happiness?

Sorry, that got weird.

Truthfully, socks are often overlooked by runners (including myself for a long time) and like a great pair of running shoes, they can, and do, make all the difference. From protecting your ankles to warding off blisters and cuts to helping with blood flow — here are four tips for picking the perfect running socks:

  1. Avoid cotton at all costs. Since our feet happen to be one of the parts of our body where we sweat the most, you need a fabric that will control moisture. Otherwise, you risk a soggy foot and bigger chance at a few nasty blisters. Instead, look for socks with synthetic fiber that will wick the moisture off of your feet.
  2. Get the right fit. Since I’m a long lost cousin of Big Foot (size 11s represent…), I tend to buy mens socks because they provide full coverage and better ankle support. And because no part of your body is safe from chafing, a good fitting pair of running socks will protect you from the aforementioned worst feeling in the world. If you’re purchasing at a running store, they’ll most likely have some samples you can try on, or at the least, a good exchange policy.
  3. For faster recovery, try compression socks. Lots of runners wear them on long runs to support blood flow, while others will wear them post-run to reduce lactic acid build-up.
  4. Get funky! Pick your favorite color, pick a bold pattern, pick something that’s you because when your feet hit the pavement, nothing is more important than feeling confident that you’ll have a rockstar performance.

And there you have it! My favorite brand is Feetures, but I’ve also purchased from Brooks and Nike. What’s your favorite brand?

Self Doubt and the Finish Line

Content strategy is one of the many skills I’ve picked up along the way and thanks to many long runs, admittedly nights of heavy wine pours, silence during an epsom bath or simply just passing the time, I’ve created some pretty great, executable ideas.

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could seek support, both from myself and from others, where I could offer my novice running advice, and where I could put career skill (which I so enjoy) to personal use. With each run and each workout, I focus on this blog. I’ve come up with posts focused on training advice, funny tips to make running seem less intimidating, social media posts that would make for great race week motivators. Yeah, those social media posts…

On mile 8 of my 9 miler this weekend, I started thinking about Transformation Tuesday. How I can’t wait to post a picture of my former self and say, “This girl is about to run her first full marathon.” All of a sudden I was a ball of emotion. I probably cried myself through that last mile – which was seemingly more like my eyes became an ice cube dispenser because it was so cold outside. I was overwhelmed and on the verge of an anxiety attack. But I had to finish.  What helped me power through? Thoughts of my size 24 jeans. Thoughts of not being able to fit into my desk in high school. Thoughts of bullies making sumo sound effects when I would walk by. All these things that haunted me for most of my life because of how much I weighed.

You see, the pounds may be gone, but those moments are engraved in my head forever. Those moments made me, yet they’ll also always haunt me. There are still days where I hear my estranged mother calling me fat, random strangers telling my dad that I’d be really pretty if I lost some weight, boys in high school refusing to acknowledge my existence because of a silly number on a scale. To all those people, all those moments in my life: thank you. You made me. You broke Me. You encouraged me to lace up my sneakers and experience a world I was never privy to.

The intent of this post is not to seek pity nor words of fortitude, rather to inspire and say this: just like a slice of toast with peanut butter before your next training run, use those moments of self doubt and rather-not-remembers as fuel. Fuel your desire. Fuel your journey. Fuel your life. And fuel a better you.

As I rounded the corner, a quarter mile to the end, I said to myself, “Hell yeah. That girl IS about to run 26.2 miles.”

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Flashback: Here’s me in 2008 on a tour of Harry Potter filming locations in London. 

Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell…

Over the weekend, I took a break from training and instead participated in a 5K fun run ahead of a night of holiday debauchery – the Santa Dash. Unintentionally, I ran my fastest 5K in three years: 29:48. As I rounded the corner of the last half mile, my pace was such that I wanted to ‘kill’ everyone in my path and see how strong I could finish. (PS; ‘kill’ in the running world simply means you passed another runner and I slayed.)

I felt awesome. I ended up finishing #36 overall and walked back to my car reflecting on my running journey and how I never thought ‘just a 5k’ would be like ‘just brushing my teeth.’ Seamless, easy, routine, but not twice daily.

I should note for those that don’t know, I used to be really, really overweight. Running was one of the many life changes I’ve made that helped me shed 75 pounds (depending on the day). I played soccer for eight years as a kid, but perfected my position at Goalie so I wouldn’t have to run. When I got to high school, I quit during the first day of tryouts because they wanted me to run a mile as my warm up. 

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to Couch to 5k. Every other day, I’d spend my lunch break at the gym (and the rest of the afternoon smelly… note to self, future blog post: tricks to working out on a lunch break and not return looking like a hot mess.) The app does just as it pretty much says – helps you go from not running at all, to completing 3.1 miles (or 30 minutes) without stopping. The first few weeks went by pretty quickly and soon enough I was consecutively running 10 minutes, 20 minutes, one mile, two miles, three miles… I was unstoppable. And, I was hooked – as noted by all the different 5K Fun Runs I was signing up for.

How it works:

  • 3 times a week
  • 30 minutes to include: warm-up, walk/run combo, cool down
  • Each week, total running-to-walking ratio increases until you can run 30 minutes straight
  • The app will queue you when to run and when to walk
  • Voila! You can even create your own playlist to go along.

So, to all those who cringe at a mile, or to just running from your car to the front door during a rainstorm, my advice to you – there’s an app for that.