Ultimate Guide to Running Hydration

The countdown for the NYC marathon is on and part of me is sad that I won’t be lining up this year, ready for redemption. Sure I PR’ed last year, but I also crossed the finish line looking pretty haggard due to the wind and likely mismanaged hydration/fueling.

It’s no surprise that even the simplicity of water has become an area of confusion for many runners as studies change each week: drink before thirst…no, no this could lead to overhydration (hyponatremia), drink your body weight x’s 123, drink less, drink more, throw your hands up and wave ‘em around…

What’s a runner to do?

Learn to trust your body and of course test all advice before race day. You’ve read all about how dehydration impacts performance, so let’s instead talk about what to drink, when and how. ultimate guide to running hydration - what to drink, when and how As a long time runner, I have learned how to follow the cues of my body. I don’t need to drink a great deal while running and when I did test out “the rules” it usually resulted in feeling bloated and nauseous, not exactly conducive to a great run.  Following are what I’ve found to help me and the runners I have coached over the years.

One of the major complaints for runners is that feeling of slosh while running. Some of this is due to waiting too long to drink and then guzzling, some of it is due to trying to follow guidelines that are causing us to take in more than needed.

Here are a few strategies to figure out your needs:

  • Ensure 30-45 minutes pre-run you’ve had at least 8oz
  • Start carrying water on every run (then you won’t forget on long runs)
  • Try sipping it every mile
  • Still feeling thirsty? Try sipping every couple minutes
  • Still thirsty? Check your pre-hydration again
If you don’t like the taste of flavored water, you can also take something like Salt Stick tablets before and during the run to help balance out sweat loss as well.

Not sure how to manage those cups on race day?

Slow down to grab the cup, squish together so you've created a peak on one end making it like a funnel to pour down your throat. Again sip if needed rather than feeling you must chug it all. Some people prefer to walk through each aid station to ensure they get in water, I hate to lose momentum so I practice the sip or carry my own water. Do what works for you.

How to hydrate on the runPost run, again it’s time to sip not guzzle which usually leads to an unhappy stomach. All the blood is currently diverted from your digestion, so you want to ease in both water and food. One great way to do this is with a recovery smoothie which can contain a lot of hydrating foods along with water.

Do you need a sports drink? No. Skip the artificial chemicals (nothing in nature is neon),

Do you need electrolytes, probably (depends on the distance). Learn more about electrolytes and how they impact your running.

If you answer is yes to any of these, adding some electrolytes to your water can help:

  • Are you a heavy sweater?
  • Is it a longer run than normal?
  • Have you been feeling fatigued on recent runs?
  • Do you have muscle cramps during or post run?

Personally I like to carry water on short runs and a  Vega Sport electrolytes or coconut water for longer runs. The slightly sweet taste also helps your brain believe it’s getting fuel and can reduce gels needed.hydration race sign  Not sure I agree, but I like the enthusiasm.

One of the biggest frustrations for many runners is finding the right method to carry water.

I reached out on Facebook to get your feedback and the options were pretty varied with no particular consensus other than different strokes for different folks. One of the benefits to carrying your own water is being able to sip it rather than feeling rushed to slug it down or not having it when you want it.Options for carrying water on the run - pro and con of eachHere are the pro’s and con’s of some different sizes and methods of carrying water:

  • Hydration pack — hands free, easy to sip anytime, can be hot and more clean up time
  • Handheld small Nathan Quick Shot – light, fits to palm, low water volume
  • Handheld large Camelbak — keeps water cold, plenty of fluids, must be conscious of form
  • Fuel belt holster – extra storage, good volume, bounce or chaffing issues
  • Stash water/water fountains - nothing to carry, but pre-planning required
  • Beer hat — sometimes you just need to party

Thanks to my friends at Poland Spring for the extra motivation to talk hydration today, you’ll be seeing tips from other bloggers as well prior to NYC to help everyone get through Fall marathon season in one piece!

Poland Spring Cheers is their awesome campaign to send a little extra love to those who have supported so many of us in getting to the start line healthy and happy {even if totally nervous}. Video booths will be available to the public during the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff Event on 10/26 and the TCS New York City Marathon Health and Fitness Expo on 10/30.

Here’s my personal “thanks a million”...watch to find out who it's for:

If you can’t drop by, you can still create your own video and share it on your social channels using #polandspringcheers to say thanks to those who have supported you.

What do you carry for hydration?

How much do you drink on the run? 

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This is a sponsored post on behalf of Poland Spring. All opinions, water sloshing belly moments leading to the above tips are my own. Image source The Q Speaks.

Could a 5K make you a better distance runner?

Endurance or speed that seems to be the option for most runners. But what if we could actually improve in both areas by combining the two...a real mind bender, eh?! After pondering this idea and talking with friends, Kathryn showed up with some very good details on why we should stop shunning the 5K during distance training.

It seems as though there is a great divide amongst runners. You're either distance with the half marathon or marathon or speed with 5K or 10K. While preference often depends on natural ability and propensity towards speed, available training time and running buddies, most of it depends on what you enjoy.

Just as 5K runners can benefit from longer runs by increasing their endurance, distance runners can make some big gains in performance by throwing in a few 5K's.

It is not only a fun break from marathon training, but preparing for a 5K can actually help your legs get ready for the longer stuff.

How to improve your marathon time by running a 5K

Getting Out of Your Pace Rut
When you train for a marathon, you get really good at setting a pace and cruising there for hours upon hours. If you’ve reached your goal time and are happy with your performance, that’s great! But if you want to get that time down even just a little bit, you’re going to have to give your legs a little kick (get it?).

Doing some shorter workouts at a faster pace can help to get your legs used to going a little faster. For example, if you do 8 miles at 9 minute pace every day, you’ll get really great at running exactly that pace.

But if you do one workout a week of 4 miles at 8 minute pace, your body will eventually adapt to that faster pace, and then you can train it to sustain that pace a little longer by bumping your fast run up to 5,6,7, then 8 miles.
Break a running rut

Increased Leg Speed and Turnover
Preparing for a 5K requires some speed work, and that can be a good thing. Interval training teaches your legs what it feels like to go faster. As the muscles and other tissues in your legs are challenged by doing repeats of 400 meters, 800 meters, or more, they actually adapt to the stress being placed upon them. That means more recruited “fast twitch” muscle fibers, more flexible and springy ligaments, and a strengthening of the muscles used to propel you forward.

When you teach your legs to have faster turnover (the speed at which your legs cycle through from one touching down to the next), you improve your running economy. In some cases, speed work can actually lengthen your stride as well, leading to more ground being covered with each step. And in a race that spans over 26 miles, the less pounding on that pavement- the better! trackfinish

Embracing a new Discomfort
Marathon training forces you to become comfortable with pushing your body to go farther, but 5K training helps you start to embrace a new kind of discomfort. It's the lung burning, legs on fire kind of discomfort that scares many distance runners. Each time you dip in to that zone, you are once again mentally preparing for those difficult miles late in the marathon. You might also find that you are able to run a little bit faster than you realized!

Giving Your Brain a Break
Marathon training always has its ups and downs. Some days everything is clicking and you feel great and you want to run forever. Other days, every mile seems like a chore. Just toeing the line at a marathon is a daunting task, because you know what’s about to hit you.

For a marathoner, a 5K seems teeny tiny, and that can be a good thing. Because every now and then, we all need a little mental breather. Doing a shorter, quicker race can be a good way to prevent that mental fatigue that can really interfere with your motivation. Running a 5K allows you to test out your training and get a quick boost of motivation when you realize all that endurance is paying off in other ways. CDR - Beltline Run 1

Kathryn is an avid runner who has been a lover of the sport for over 12 years. When she's not running or writing about running, she loves to be outdoors- preferably with her awesome dog, Honey. You can catch up with her over at Chicks Dig Running!

Thanks Kathryn!! I would add that 5K's can make great practice races to work on managing race day nerves and to drag more of your friends in to the insanity of our world!

Do you run a variety of race distances?

Are you more a fan of endurance or speed?

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OMGega 3 Meals for Busy Athletes

While I considered creating some sparkling new recipe today, what I love most about fish is the simplicity. It doesn’t require anything fancy to make it feel like a quality meal!

Satisfying and high in protein without making me feel weighed down, ya know what I mean?!

The AHA {American Heart Association} has long recommended 2 servings of fish each week, which sounds like a superior idea to me. BUT when buying fish we tend to buy a big package and well even for this repetitive eater 4 weeks of salmon is a bit much. 

Enter the Sizzlefish omega pack…wohoo!! 2 pieces of a variety of fish means I can try something new each week, which is also great to ensure I’m rotating foods per ALCAT.
Quick and easy meal ideas to incorporate more Omega 3WHY EAT MORE FISH
As athlete's we get amazing benefits from beefing up our omega 3 intake. While we can take pills to do this, there’s something satisfying about getting it from our food…there’s also some science to say it’s more beneficial from food than a pill!

Even after controlling for a range of other factors that might have accounted for differences in brain health, eating baked or broiled fish was still a significant predictor of a healthy brain,” said Dr. James Becker after a brain study.

Athletes and fishy benefits:

  • Reduces inflammation from long runs
  • Helps to reduce swelling
  • Prevents blood clots
  • Increases the body’s natural use of DHEA
  • Improves brain function
  • EASY to cook (10 minute dinners)
  • High in protein, usually lower in calories

Omega fish options:

  • Salmon
  • Sablefish
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Catfish
  • Atlantic Cod
  • Haddock

One reason I’ve heard many shy away from eating fish at home is not knowing how to prepare it or what to really eat with it. I get that, it’s something new for a lot of people.

Keeping it super simple, over the last month each week I’ve pulled out a couple filets from my Omega 3 pack from Sizzlefish to thaw overnight. The next evening, I put it on a baking sheet then popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

While the fish was cooking, I simply decided what veggies sounded good for the night and trust me they all pair up just fine with a little garlic salt or cracked pepper.
12 ideas for eating more fishHere are a few ideas to get you started:

Catfish served with a salad of spinach, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, brussel sprouts and butternut squash. This one literally only needed some spices as the flavors worked so well together.

Salmon served with a salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and lightly drizzled with Vega Antioxidant oil.

Haddock served over brown rice, spinach and sautéed zucchini and yellow squash.

Tuna with 2 tbsp hummus, 1/2 sweet potato, 1 stalk celery, cherry tomatoes…mash it all up!

In case you do want some more multi-step ideas (i.e not my thrown together meals), here are some awesome options to get everyone on board with fish.
Salmon FajitasMustard glazed sablefish
Salmon and bok choy with miso glaze
Fish Chowder - The Lean Green Bean
Indian Spiced Tuna Cakes - Cotter Crunch
Salmon Fajitas - Gimme Some oven (pictured above)
Lemon and Lavender Broiled Trout - Sweet C’s Designs
Baked Haddock (with greek yogurt topping) - Focused Intent
Spicy Ginger Salmon - The Big Man’s World

How often do you eat fish?

Any favorite combo’s I need to try?

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Transitioning from the half to full marathon

Is a marathon simply twice as hard as a half marathon?

If only! The best estimate I’ve seen is that the marathon is roughly 3.5 times as hard. Smile

Working with my Saucony 26 Strong cadet Jodi has helped me remember all the little things that go in to making the jump from running 13.1 to 26.2. Since I know many of you are considering this leap, I wanted to pull out a few of those things and hope they help you make the leap when ready. What it really takes to transition from half marathon to marathon trainingHow to transition from running half marathons to full marathons:

Worry less about speed and more about time on your feet. During the middle to peak phase of training, you are helping your body get used to the stress of moving for extended periods of time and turning on your fat burners so you won’t need to rely on too many gels.

  • You don’t need to be a certain pace to go from the half to the full
  • You do need to have a sold amount of running under your belt; rule of thumb is at least a year
  • Recognize the value of walking as part of training
Funny SHirtI love this shirt! STLrunnergirl instagram - “My name is Debbie, but most people call me on your left.” 

A first time marathon plan can easily be 18 to 24 weeks, which is a VERY long time to stay motivated for something that’s in the distant future. This makes it far too easy to skip runs here and there. Instead focus the first part of your training on a half marathon around the mid-way point, this will allow you to increase miles and still enjoy some speed work for a new goal.
--- >> How to pick the right marathon plan

Technically the body can store enough glycogen to get you through a 20 mile run, which is why you are far less likely to bonk in a half marathon. The marathon represents a new challenge of maintaining steady energy throughout to beat the dreaded wall.

  • Stop over fueling - You don’t need a gel every 30 minutes. This is often what leads to gastric distress and of course turns off your fat burning which is the long term energy we want to rely on over carbs.
  • Gel, food or blocks - It’s time to figure out which kind of fuel works for you.
  • Hydrate - Putting electrolytes in your water while running will provide the immediate taste of sweetness in the mouth which can trick the body in to believing it’s received carbs. This alone helped Jodi stop using gels on runs during the week and need far less on long runs.
  • Options for fueling with whole food
  • Tips for pre, during and post run fueling

Don’t look too far ahead in the training plan or work with a coach who only gives you a few weeks at a time. When your longest run ever has been 13.1 miles it can and should be mildly terrifying to realize that many weeks your long run will be longer!

  • Just deal with the current long run, not next week.
  • Celebrate every new personal distance record, it makes those miles more exciting
  • Remember this is a mental game and that pain might be all in your head
  • Learn the difference between discomfort and pain
    Shut Up Legs

While I do love the benefits of solo long runs, having someone at your side during those new personal distance records training runs. That’s right suddenly your weekend long run is longer than your previous race distance…it’s mentally scary to realize that! If you can’t find some one crazy enough to also train for a marathon, ask friends to meet you for portions of the run or get a friend to bike along with you.

I have loved watching all the cadets and wanted to get their thoughts on the process so far as well.

No surprise each of these ladies focused mainly on ATTITUDE. Marathon training obviously takes a dedication to the physical work, but it’s the areas where we grow mentally and emotionally that have a lasting impact.

Best thing about having a coach?
Bridget - My coach, Lora, is an inspiring runner and human being, and I've been trying to adopt her positive, philosophical attitude since the day we met. After a particularly difficult or disappointing run, which happens to everyone but seems like the end of the world/your running life at the time, Lora convinces me that it's just a run and shouldn't be taken too seriously (although, of course, one should try to determine any particular cause of said bad run, which should then be avoided in the future). She also reminds me to remember to ENJOY the run and to focus on why I'm choosing to run to begin with. Because she inspires me to focus on the beauty in the everyday, seemingly mundane things, I'm able to stay positive and have been winning the mental game thus far.

Biggest mental hurdle?
Allison - So far the biggest mental hurdle has been is getting back on track after a small injury. I  strained my hip flexor (not running) and have not been running as much for the past 2 weeks. I had a half marathon warm up run today and I was kind of hesitant to run it. I talked with Sarah (my coach) and my orthopedic and we decided for me to just run at a comfortable pace and not race the half. I was happy that I completed it (not a great time, but oh well). I ran the whole thing and had minimal discomfort. I am ready to start increasing my miles again now that I know I can do it!

Amy - My biggest mental hurdle during training has been myself. Training for a marathon is no joke: it takes a lot of time, discipline, mental and physical energy. But I have found that I am my biggest hurdle. I am a hurdle to myself when I doubt my physical ability, my body and my training. I am a hurdle to myself when I feel that I am not fast enough or not strong enough. I am a hurdle to myself when I do not rest or cross-train or fuel properly. But when I let go of most of my performance expectations, trust my body and my training... I know I can (and will) cross that finish line.Amy RBC 25K Race

Other questions about marathon training, let me know in the comments!

12 ways to avoid marathon training burnout
How to pace yourself running outside 
10 marathon training secrets every new runner should know

Have you made the leap to 26.2? What’s something you learned during training?

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16 Halloween Race Costume Ideas

What to wear? What to wear?

As if this isn’t a big enough conundrum for me on an normal day, throw a Halloween race in to the mix and more than once I’ve found myself having a major melt down a day before when I realized I didn’t know what to wear!

Keys to a great race costume:

  • No paper - if you sweat it falls apart (where did my magic 8 ball go?!)
  • Temperature appropriate - the gorilla suit in Miami a bad a idea…in Minnesota fine.
  • Breathable skin - if you paint your face beware it could run or hinder sweat, resulting in overheating
  • Masks - Breathing and seeing may be harder than you expect, test it out.
  • Use your running gear where possible to ensure no chaffing and comfort
  • Have fun! Let’s be honest that’s the main goal.
    16 tips and ideas for race costumes from the hard core DIY to last minuteWhether you want to go all out, cheap and easy, scary, funny or Disney this round up of race costumes is sure to give you a few ideas to keep the crazy at bay for this coming Halloween Race Season.

Pin it for later for ideas throughout the year too! Who says costumes are only meant for trick-or-treat

Princess Leia - Costume Run Grapes Race Costume - PIxPatesserie
Ready for a full on DIY project?  Snow White Running Costume and Cinderella and Prince Costumes
DIY Snowwhite Race Costume cinderella-and-prince-charming-costumes
I was so impressed with the conversion of normal clothes to outfits by these two!! First up care bear race costumes made from old sweatshirts and second minions made from cut off jeans! Homemade Carebear Costume - Feathrencox Minions Race Costume - 
Followed by two more pairs of friends who managed to turn some normal threads in to full on costumes with just a little bit of flair! Band t-shirts and face pant give off the KISS vibe, while a leotard never fails to make us think of the 80’s and has the added benefit of being perfect for running! Gene Simmonds Race Costume Richard Simmons Race Outfit
Finally just a little bit of creativity kept these costumes cheap and easy for a run. Cutting up old sheets or extra material to form the Pac Man ghosts and decorating a plain white shirt to create an iPod costume.
Pacman Race Costume - Jessica Flory Ipod race costume 
Thanks to my friend Monica for this amusing Ariel costume and Dani for her amazing Disney themes.Ariel Running Costume Woody Costume from Dani

Pulling out existing costumes and adjusting them slightly for running purposes tends to be my personal go to..what can I say I like to reuse things! Here a quick stripe shirt find at Wal-Mart becomes Where’s Waldo and a Khaki shirt just screams boy scouts!
Wheres Waldo Race Outfit - MRK814 Girl Scouts Race OutfitHalloween Race Costume Captain America 
Photo Alt text shows the name of the person or site where it was found if I could locate the original source!

Have you ever raced in a costume?

If so, what was it???

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