Saturday, March 29, 2014

Doing Things Right ... The 22 Hours When You Do Not Run

Sadly everything exciting has to come to an end and I am on my way back to reality from the training camp in Portugal. Escaping from "reality" to a place with almost perfect conditions gave me the great opportunity to become more aware of what the great Meb Keflezighi says: it's not that much about the 2 hours you run, it is much more about what you do the remaining 22 hours you do when you don't run. So I came up with a little list as a reminder to myself for the times when the circumstances are not perfect. I hope it can inspire you as well :) What would you add?

Finally after years of work, I can see myself as an athlete .. thank you Tom Craggs, coach from RunningWithUs for taking the photo.

1) Pre-running routine - TRX activation exercise

It must not necessary be a TRX exercise, it is one part of it for me. My physio sets up a pre-run routine for me in order to get my body in the right set up, so the pounding does not do more damage than necessary. Due to a ligament operation on my knee more than 10 years ago, it turns out I have been planting my right foot incorrectly, precisely my right knee does an ugly inside turn when I land on it. So right now I have a set of exercise to help correct this. It is a long term goal and will not be corrected immediately, but I can tell you I feel the difference if I don't do my exercise.

After that of course for the tough speedy session there is also a warm up, dynamic stretches and drill sets before such a training (eg. speed, intervals, hills ...).

2) Easy runs easy

This is easy rule, but it can easily go wrong based on circumstances ... as for me, I wanted to keep up with the fast girls on the first days of camp = big fail for me! Couldn't complete the afternoon sessions afterwards! Another thing that happens often to me is getting over excited with the environment you run in - like the beach on the photo, or combing back to your beloved city as would be Paris or New York for me. Just stay relaxed! Easy / recovery runs are there to flush out the hurting substances out of your muscles and to help you recover for the next training.

3) Leg dips after each session

Much has been written and proven about benefits of ice / cold baths after running improving recovery and reducing inflammation in your legs. At home I would do them only after the really really hard or long sessions, because it takes time, it is quite uncomfortable etc. Having the cold pool next to your hotel where you can simply step in and stay in for 10 minutes makes things way easier! As you have such a chance, go for it!

Pool leg dip...

.. and sea leg dip - even more pleasant with the beautiful views :)

4) Core sessions

Same with previous points, getting in your core work might get tricky during your normal busy weeks. But especially for marathon running, your core is extremely important as your running stride is way more efficient when your core stays up through the entire race. If your core is not strong enough, it will eventually start collapsing little by little which makes you work harder to sustain same pace.

Planking selfie :o)

One of the favorites from The Coach ... keep your arms and legs as close to the ground as possible and start rocking on your back ... ufff!

5) Stretching

Not much to say, find stretching routine that works for you and stick to it after every run. OK, OK, I might have several options = a "minimal" version if I am pressed for time and then full option that I would do if I have enough time or after the tough sessions. Obviously, doing the stretches in the nature and beauty of Portugese sun is little more fun than at my kitchen floor at home :)

My favorite stretch that stretches out your flute but mainly the spine.

Stretching those inner sides of your thighs - very important, almost every runner is shortened and not really flexible here.

6) Afternoon naps

There is always so much to do ... but finding those 20-40 minutes to take a nap can make huge difference in your afternoon session! Trust me, I tried :)

7) Recovery tools

Again, there are many of those, what works for me is legs up, compression socks and I have fallen in love with the Compex Runner device. You actually place electrodes on different parts of your body and choose appropriate program and let the device work. It can strengthen your muscles, improve recovery by bringing more blood to the muscles or treat your little aches and pains. The last two have been the big thing for me lately. Really great! More detailed review is coming ...

Of course, the great thing is to get an actual massage, but that is not always available - no people or no money :) But as an active runner who demands lot from your body, try to treat the body from time to time with nice massage. Don't forget things like sauna or steam bath. They are very nice especially during winter when they perfectly warm you up to the deepest tissues. What I have learned though with running is that I cannot stay in as long as I was used to. If you overdo it with sauna and get all maxed up and exhausted, they are very good health benefits for your cardiovascular system, health etc., but unfortunately you will be quite maxed up for the next session. So don't do intensive sauna before hard sessions, just a quicker, shorter ones. Trust me, I tried! :)

Well, I will talk about the "real" nutrition = real food in the next part, but if you are really in the intense phase of training, it is very hard to go without any supplements, vitamins etc. The Coach suggests for me to have those vitamins: C, B, E + coenzyme Q10 before the big races (it improves nutrient metabolism). I also drink Matcha Tea throughout the day to boost the antioxidants and not fall asleep at the desk :) Another thing is the fuel for your hard sessions or for the immediate recovery after the tough or long sessions. I have been using Generation UCAN for few months and am very happy with it. It is a starch but one that does not spike your insulin and can last you for 90-120 minutes of effort = no gels for my half marathon, YAY! Lot of stomach issues solved :) 

Back to business ... all the coaches at experts at the camp and in all the running media emphasise, that you should have some quality calories in in the 20-30 minutes after your hard/long session. It does not mean that you need to eat immediately. Banana shake or such a nutrition shake will definitely work. What it does is that it makes your body more ready to absorb the nutrients that you get in the real meal you will eat probably one or two hours later. (you know after the bath, phone call with The Coach, Garmin data upload, cooking etc :) ).

8) Good nutrition

Well, this is realatively easy for me, what I would emphasize is the #JERF hash tag = JUST EAT REAL FOOD. Please! It actually does not mean whether you are vegetarian, paleo, vegan or raw eater, most of those "new" directions of nutritional thinking have one in common = avoiding the processed stuff. And if you avoid the processed stuff, you will naturaly eat healthier choices with more fruits and veggies.

Personally, I have been eating not super strict Paleo diet for almost two years now and I love eating this way. Paleo = no grains, no legumes (beans etc.), no dairy. I had troubles when I went to low-carb / ketogenic diets. It can work for the "volume" part of training, but as you ad speed work sessions, you need those carbs. Lot of people ask me where do I get my carbs from, basically tons of fruit, sweet potatoes, little honey here and there, the Gen UCAN shakes and occasional rice usually in the form of sushi (rice is not paleo, it is grain, but one of the less harmfull grains and I do not do it very often).

I think the 80 - 20 % rule is what you should aim for. 80 % time stick with the clean diet, 20 % time treat yourself. We should enjoy our lives! I would also have "recovery" period after my two A races each year = about a week or two when I treat myself to whatever I want = croissants in Madrid after Berlin last autumn. Croissant = 1000 % not paleo :D The only thing is that the longer my body is used to the good fuel, the less I crave the other stuff and the worse I feel after eating it. Burger with bacon and cheese with fries is my biggest treat still :) (no bun of course!)

... this was usually my breakfast at the camp, one more smaller plate of just fruits would follow.

Alternative recovery meal when you want to skip the "powdered" stuff and have time to go for the real thing.

One of the dinners ... salmon & shrimp kebab and ton of veggies :)

This was great treat, went for a fancier dinner one night, the first picture is "amuse bouche" and I didn't eat the ravioli, goat cheese salad for starters, steak with just veggies and pineapple "carpaccio" as dessert. Oh YUM!

Red meat is pretty crucial to keep your iron and ferratin levels up. I am getting to get those checked asap after talking about the usual deficiency in lot of endurance athletes with Nick Anderson.

9) Enjoy the process and have fun!

Well, you should not obsess about your running, it is very good to have other interests becose there might be times when you cannot run. 

My office by the swimming pool some of the days. Love my espresso ... only decaf now before the race :(

Definitely a treat meal, I also thought it looked very funny (can you see me blushing now?), did not eat the pastry though, only the banana and ice cream. They would not have real whipped cream, I did not want the chemical stuff from the sprayer, so better went without it.

Thank you for staying with me up here :)

What are your golden rules to stick with?

What do you need to work on more?

Have you ever been to running camp?


  1. Barbora - I love your post and will defo take some tips from it.

    1. Hey hey hey, long time no see :) I hope your journey home was OK and you keep it on rocking. It was lovely meeting you and I am looking forward to see your running and tennis progress!

  2. Fantastic summing up of our beautiful week, if only we could do that more often. love your food ideas, am trying to reduce/have no processed food. Well done on a wonderful run in Prague! Happy running.

  3. Dear Anne, thank you for stopping by! It was awesome and you are so right! Would love to do this more often! And thanks for the cheers, I can't wait for the Prague marathon to be here!!! Good luck with the nutrition an don't hesitate to get back to me if you need any advice :)