Sydney’s fun-run season is in full swing and this week we’ve got AGOGA’s running guru, Vee, guiding you through your running with some of her best training, nutrition and hydration advice! Although we’ll focus on getting you ready for the City2Surf and the Blackmores Running Festival, you can definitely use this advice for any running events or personal goals. Over to you Vee.
Let’s be honest, with only five weeks before the City2Surf (C2S), you won’t be breaking any records unless you’ve been following a good running program for the past three months. Week five pre-race is a ‘peaking week’, even for elite athletes, which means you’re already at your top fitness levels and not just starting your training.
Significantly increasing your mileage and speed, and changing your shoes and running technique with just over one month before the race is likely to end up with injury. Why is that so? While you can improve your strength and cardiovascular fitness in five weeks, it takes much longer for your ligaments and tendons to adapt to the mechanical load. Even if you feel stronger and fitter, avoid running too far (and too fast too soon). It takes months to get used to pounding the pavement.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run C2S at all! Just enjoy it as a FUN run, not an Olympic RACE. Instead of pushing yourself beyond your current fitness level, jog and even walk up the heartbreak hill. Leave your ego at home 😉
- Avoid running every day and have at least one full day off training each week
- Run on grass or a trail when you can (or at least once a week); it’s better for your joints
- Listen to your body and don’t push yourself if you are experiencing any joint pain. Instead, increase the amount you rest, stretch, roll sore areas with a foam roller (or get a massage) and ask us for advice.
- Do your strength work!
- Reduce your training volume gradually into the last few weeks pre-race
- Have good running shoes and avoid big changes this close to the race
You’ve been trying hard to lean up or keep lean and all of a sudden you keep hearing that you should eat all the things you’ve been told to stay away from…pasta, rice, toast with jam, jelly beans, Powerade, energy gels and other sugary and starchy foods. Carb-load or not to carb-load? What’s the best diet? Are there running superfoods? The easy answer is that a healthy balanced diet is always the way to go. Having said that, here are some questions that Vee commonly gets asked…
Do you need carbohydrates when training for C2S?
Yes, you do… and you also need protein and fat. Just use common sense.
Although it is important to have some carbohydrates, especially post-training, try to avoid high GI foods and sugary treats and choose moderate amounts of good quality carbohydrates such as sweet potato with plenty (and various!) vegetables and fruits, beans and quinoa. Each meal should also contain some protein to help muscle repair and to prevent muscle wasting. Think fish, lean meat, poultry, cottage cheese, eggs, legumes and nuts. Good fats such as avocado, nuts and fatty fish (all in small amounts) should not be forgotten. I recommend eating more on the days you train and less on the days you don’t.
Should I carb-load?
The answer is NO unless you are running a half or full marathon. Carbohydrate loading has no effect on performance in events lasting less than 90mins. Carb loading does not equal food binging of great quantity and dubious quality. The point of carb loading is to increase the % of carbohydrates in your diet while maintaining the same energy intake. This means that athletes who carb load (i.e. marathon runners) often eat the same amount of calories but more of the calories come from carbohydrates and less from fat and protein. Even if you’re doing proper marathon training, it still doesn’t give you a free ticket to binge eating. It’s actually possible to gain fat while training for a marathon if you overeat on a daily basis.
What about gels and other supplements?
You don’t need them either. Lots of the advice in magazines and websites rely on scientific literature aimed at elite athletes. If you sit in an office all day and then go for an hour-long jog, you don’t need energy gels and an extra sandwich. Instead of becoming a super-athlete, you might end up gaining unwanted weight and even running more slowly.
What foods are great for runners?
There are few foods that are especially great for runners:
- Bananas are one of the best natural foods for runners. Their high carbohydrate content makes them a good source of energy plus they are rich in potassium and magnesium (essential minerals that runners lose as they sweat). They have about the same nutrient content as energy gels…minus the nasty chemicals. As a matter of fact, I don’t take any sports gels as my banana + coffee combo does the trick.
- Chia seeds are an ancient superfood packed with important nutrients such as omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A, B, E, and D, as well as other minerals. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein, more calcium than milk, more omega-3s than salmon, more iron than spinach, and more antioxidants than blueberries. Chia seeds have been used by legendary Mexican running tribes to stay nourished and hydrated. Be aware that chia seeds do not contain carbohydrates. Add banana to your chia pudding 🙂
- Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant. They are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese and copper and they are easy to digest.
- Green vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties. Low-grade inflammation resulting from exercise-induced muscle damage can result in overuse injury and other health issues if left unaddressed.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Nutrient-dense food, good sleep and consistent, adequate hydration are ALL necessary for good performance, post-exercise recovery, and optimal health. Drink at least 2L of water each day and even more on heavy training or humid days. If you want to be more specific, you can weigh yourself before and after a long run to see how much water you have lost. Ideally, if you have been drinking throughout the run, your weight will be about the same. A loss of fluid corresponding to 2.5% bodyweight was proven to reduce exercise capacity by 45%!
Vee’s best tips to help you stay hydrated
- Create good, consistent drinking habits. Start your day with a big glass of warm water and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to kick-start your digestion.
- Get a big, BPA free bottle (800ml-1L). It doesn’t have to be expensive, I like to re-use the 800ml VOSS water bottle I buy from Coles for just a few dollars, which is made from glass (naturally BPA-free).
- Set yourself a goal of drinking 2-3 full bottles each day. Drinking from a big bottle makes your consumption easier to track – I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than count up the single glasses of water you drink each day!
- Keep your bottle on your desk, or somewhere you can see it all the time, so you’re constantly reminded to take a sip.
- Eat clear soups and lots of fresh and steamed veggies, as well as a piece of fruit or two each day (dark skinned is best). All these foods contain lots of water, plus other nutrients essential for radiant skin.
- Instead of black or even green tea, choose an organic herbal tea, such as ginger, mint, rooibos, or any other blend that takes your fancy. Another option is to drink hot water with slices of lemon, fresh ginger and a tiny bit of honey or stevia. Besides being hot and delish, it will give you a boost of vitamin C and anti-inflammatories, which act to boost your immune system and prevents colds and flu (perfect for this chilly winter).
- Make your own lemonade! Squeeze a few fresh lemons, or limes into a glass jug, add filtered water and stevia. YUM!
VEE’S OTHER PRO TIPS
- Join a running group. It’s the best way to meet new friends, get some good advice and make sure you stick to your training program by keeping you motivated and accountable. AGOGA’s running group meets at 5.30am every Tuesday for an indoor training session and at 7:30pm Wednesday for an outdoor ‘long and slow’ run.
- Be your own cheerleader – start your run with a positive affirmation such as “it feels great to be in the fresh air!”, or “one step at a time.” This helps to shift control from your subconscious (where negative thoughts may exist) to the frontal lobe (which lifts your mood).
- Shift your attention from how you’re feeling, or how long you’ve got to go, to your technique. Think about how you’re running and adjust your technique for each different terrain you cover. This makes you feel powerful, athletic and productive.
- Pump up the tunes – music is proven to enhance running performance. It makes a big difference on the days you feel unmotivated. Download cool playlists and get good quality earphones.
- Go on ‘weekend run adventures’. Literally drive to a new location and explore the new area with a good run. The time goes so much faster when your mind is occupied looking at beautiful new scenery.
We hope this advice supports your running, and stay tuned for the next AGOGA running blog post which will feature our best pre-race and race-day tips!
In the meantime, if you want to supercharge your running then come along to the AGOGA Running Clinic on Saturday 16 July from 10am-1pm, starting at Waverley Park and finishing up at AGOGA. All participants will have an individual video analysis of their running technique, learn about ideal running form and corrections for common issues, participate in running drills and strength training, as well as practising effective warming-up/down, stretching and myofascial release work. At only $109 per person, this is an invaluable workshop for anyone looking to boost their running. Book here to secure your spot!