Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Sugar Challenge: Fin

As of 11:59 a.m., I've completed the August sugar challenge. Besides one sweet to be polite and eating a little more Dark Cocoa Karma cereal than I should have, it went pretty well.

I'm going to be honest: I'm pretty pumped for some sweets again. I already took a couple of zucchini brownies out of the freezer, so they can be my first sweets tomorrow.

I'm not going to overindulge though. I'll myself to two sweets a week for the duration of my marathon training cycle. I am also going to take up a new challenge. More information on that tomorrow.

I hope your August went well. Here in Minnesota the end of August means the coming of fall and with it some great running weather.

If you did the sugar challenge--even part of it--I'd love to hear how it went. Comment on this post, Facebook, or Twitter.

Run well.

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's hot, but don't over-drink

In 1985, seventeen runners were hospitalized during the Comrades Marathon. It was hot, so you might guess most were hospitalized due to heat injury or dehydration. You'd be wrong. According to Science Based Running, "nine of them were overhydrated: their blood sodium levels were dangerously low. In the 1987 race, three runners nearly died of the condition, and some runners in the U.S. have indeed died of overhydration" (Science of Running).

Overhydration, called hyponatrimia, is a serious and dangerous condition that can lead problems including confusion, nausea, muscle spasms, comas or death.

While all this sounds scary, there's a simple solution to this potentially dangerous problem. Exercise scientists and nutritionists such as Tim Noakes and Matt Fitzgerald recommend drinking to thirst. You've probably heard, "if you wait until you're thirsty to drink, you're already dehydrated."

This may be true to some degree, but your body is actually pretty good at telling you when its thirsty. We are all an experiment of one, so some may need to drink a bit more. I tend to miss my body's thirst signals, but sometimes seeing a water stop reminds me I'm thirsty. Still, it's better to err on the side of drinking too little than drinking to much.

By all means, drink water and stay hydrated, but as you're doing those long and intermediate distance runs, remember to drink to thirst.

For more information on training and racing in heat, check out the following posts:

Run well.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tabata Workout

Here in Minnesota, the weather is perfect for running. I'm pumped to get in a long run in the cooler morning temperature, but a two hour workout isn't always feasible. If you're looking for a shorter, efficient workout, try a Tabata interval. The above video shows a Tabata workout for runners.

Tabata workouts are named after the a Japanese physician and researcher. Dr. Tabata was hired by a speed skating coach to test the efficacy of the team's training program. Read, The History of Tabata from if you're interested in more detail.

Now, Tabata has become all sorts of things--group fitness classes, circuit training with weights, and running workouts--quite a bit different than the original workouts done by speed skaters on stationary bikes.

The concept, however, is fairly simple: Bouts of intense exercises, with short rests in between the intense efforts. These workouts are also called high intensity interval training (HIIT). For a runner, this could be sets of sprinting followed by sets of jogging as follows:

  • Do a 5-10 minute walk/jog before starting.
  • Begin your workout with a 20 second sprint followed by a 10 second rest (walking).
    • Start by doing this 4-8 times
    • A set of 8 of these takes 4 minutes.
  • If you are newer to exercise, don't go all out on the sprints.
  • Try to find a hill to do this workout. 
    • Sprinting uphill reduces impact forces that can lead to injury.
  • Work your way up to doing more intervals, or more intense intervals.
  • Don't do this workout more than a few days a week, and always recover a day or two between workouts.
So how efficient is this workout? Those original speed skaters doing Tabata training showed more aerobic and anaerobic improvements than a group who did moderate training for a longer period of time. So, if you're crunched for time or would rather do something intense and painful rather than spending more time at a moderate pace, this workout might be a good one to try.

You can find all kinds of variations on this Tabata workout, or workouts like it, on You Tube. There's also many smart phone applications with a timer that counts the interval times. Here's a link to a Tabata application for Android: Tabata timer with music. Applications are also available for Windows and iOS.

Run well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August Sugar Challenge: One week to go

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I've heard from a few readers who have taken the August sugar challenge, and are limiting their sugar intake.

One of the best ways to reduce sugar intake is to eliminate sweetened beverages, or at least downsize. Do it for one week.

The American Heart Association recommends less than 36 grams of added sugar in one's daily diet. One medium soda or sweetened coffee drink can put you over the limit for one day. Read, Weight Loss Tips: Rethink Your Drink for more detailed information.

One week. You can do it!

Run well.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sugar Challenge Solutions

Going sweet-free in August hasn't been easy. As I wrote in my previous post, I have had a couple of lapses (BBQ sauce and extra servings of cereal), but I haven't ate a true sweet for 18 days now.

Temptations of delicious-looking brownies from Hy-Vee made it to our house this past weekend; a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream in the fridge; and samples of sweets in Target, Sam's Club, and Hy-Vee on our shopping tour of Apple Valley and Lakeville last Saturday--all of which have looked incredibly appealing.

Fortunately, the temptation to eat sweets seems to be diminishing, but I know the whole month is going to be a challenge. For a long time there was, and still is, a common myth propagated by the self-help industry that it take 21 days to make or break a habit.

Then, in a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it actually takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to start to feel automatic. Read about it in "How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit" from The Huffington Post.

Here's a couple of things that have worked for me during this sugar challenge:

  • Alternative snacks: Rather than always going for sweetened cereal, I've been eating more fruits and some veggies for a snack. My neighbor has brought over some delicious cherry tomatoes from his garden, and we've been keeping washed blueberries and grapes in a visible spot in the fridge. Unfortunately, I've still succumbed to sweetened cereal, though all of it has had less than 9g of sugar per serving. 
  • Reduced Sugar Baking: I made some whole wheat and oatmeal banana bread last weekend, and I used Truvia rather than sugar. Truvia alone doesn't work that well in a lot of things--one of our friends described it and other alternative sweeteners as "hollow" tasting, which I think is right on. But, in banana bread it works fine. I think the natural sugar from the overripe bananas masks the absence of real sugar.
  • Out of sight, out of mind: Laura was kind enough to keep the Hy-Vee brownies in the back of the cabinet. There's a lot less temptation to go for a sweet when you have to look for one. 

That's all for this post. Stay tuned for another sugar challenge post in the near future.

Run well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August Sugar Challenge

As of noon today, I'm halfway through the August sugar challenge. I've heard from a couple of you who wanted to join in the August challenge, and I'd love to hear how you're doing. If you want to start now and go for the last 15.5 days in August, feel free to join.

Here's a summary:

  • Pick one sugary food or drink to eliminate from your diet for the month of August. 
  • Limit yourself to one sweet a day, week, every other day, or whatever. 
  • "Eliminate" processed sugar from your diet.
Read all the details on the August Sugar Challenge post.

As for my challenge, it's hard to say where I am. I haven't eaten any "sweets" per say, but there's been a couple of unitential slip ups, along with a couple of lapses in self-control.

I wanted to limit myself to not eating anything with more than 9 grams of sugar, but I accidentally had chicken tenders with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce, and it has 16 grams of sugar.

As far as self-control goes, I've gone back for seconds on my Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma Wheat Biscuit Cereal a couple of times. If that counts as a sweet, and I'd say it does, I'm somewhere in between bronze and silver. 

So for the rest of August, I'm going to continue going "sweet free" as much as possible, trying to stick to the limit of nine grams. There is, however, the matter of politeness. So, if someone makes me some sort of special sweet treat, I won't say no.

Feel free to leave a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or at the end of this post to let me know how you're doing.

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