Monthly Archives: April 2015

4 Corners of a Healthy Diet

We all know maintaining a healthy diet can be hard.  Fad diets might look great but they’re almost always a bad idea.  More important than jumping on the latest bandwagon are getting plenty of the right ingredients, enough sleep and lots of exercise.  Luckily, there are four simple changes you can make to your meal plan to help you perform better, feel better and recover faster.

Cut calories by up to 40%.  A healthy diet isn’t one that stuffs you at every meal.  Eating until you’re full and saving the rest for later might mean eating a little more slowly so you can feel when you’re full before over indulging.  Decreasing caloric intake has benefits such as extending life, delaying onset of numerous diseases, enhancing performance and allowing your body to reach its optimal weight.  Read your food healthy dietlabels, stick with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, dine on lean cuts of meat and get plenty of fiber to help you fill up without racking up the calories.

Get lots of antioxidants.  Antioxidants are the human body’s cleaning lady.  Free radicals create all kinds of mayhem by attacking healthy cells in your body and can cause premature aging, diabetes, and cancer.  Antioxidants work to counteract and neutralize these free radicals, so having plenty of them in your body helps keep you looking young and disease free.  Even better news is that all of these antioxidants come from the brightly colored vegetables that are a big part of your healthy diet.  Five servings a day of foods like almonds, broccoli, tomatoes, pinto beans, berries, carrots and pineapple will keep your snacking, and free radical fighting antioxidant, supply fresh.

Eat foods that have a low glycemic response.  The glycemic index (GI) measures how the carbohydrates in a given food change blood sugar levels.  High GI foods are quickly digested and cause spikes in blood sugar levels while low GI foods digest slowly.  Slowly digested carbohydrates help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss by controlling hunger.  A healthy diet leaves out high GI foods like white bread, white rice, and sugary drinks, includes a few medium GI foodshealthy diet include whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes and corn tortillas and loads up on low GI fruits, vegetables, intact nuts and legumes.

Eat healthy fats.  A healthy diet is home to good-for-you fats and kicks the bad, saturated and trans-fats to the curb.  Eating lots of bad fats, which are usually solid at room temperature, has been proven to increase levels of bad cholesterol and your risk of disease.  Healthy omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and protect the heart while benefiting overall health.  Bad fats are found in butter, cheese, fatty cuts of meat, commercially packaged cakes and pizza doughs, candy bars and margarine.  Healthy fats are in olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, peanut oil, and avocados.  Omega-3s are a special type of fat best gotten from fish that have been proven to benefit heart and brain health, reduce symptoms of depression, support healthy pregnancies, ease joint pain, decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer and protect against memory loss.

Take these tips to the grocery store on your next trip and start working on a healthy diet today.  Your body will thank you by being healthier, happier and performing both mentally and physically at a higher level.

Coach Meredith

Why Running Cadence Matters

Everyone has heard the word ‘cadence’ at one time or another and those who run or race regularly have probably heard it during a conversation about running.  Cadence is defined as “the beat, rate, or measure of rhythmic movement.”   Your running cadence is the rate at which your feet hit the ground, typically in steps per minute (spm) measured with one foot.  The magic running cadence number seems to be 90spm counted on one foot and while elite runners can have cadences that reach to or even past 120spm, it’s important to remember every runner is an individual and this value can vary.

Why does it matter?  Higher running cadences are associated with lower ground contact times, reduced lower body stress, decreased injury rates and increased running economy.  All of those reasons mean that whether your base running cadence is 65spm or 80spm, you can benefit from working on picking your feet up faster.  The many possible sources of longer contact times are beyond the scope of this article, but the results are the same.  The time your foot spends on the ground is seen as rest and long contact times are often associated with injuries like shin running  cadence (strideuk.com)splints and stress fractures.  While resting feels good, it isn’t the best way to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner, especially when those points are a Start and Finish line, or stay injury free.  In the end, a lower running cadence mean longer ground contact times, more rest, more potential for injury and slower race times.

So how do you decrease contact time, lower your risk of injury and clock faster race times?  Work on increasing your cadence.  The best way to start raising your running cadence is by using a metronome.  These devices create a beep, tone or click at a predetermined rate, giving you a steady, constant rhythm to train with.  When using a metronome to keep your cadence, it can be easier to choose a single foot, divide your desired cadence by two and concentrate on getting one foot on the ground with the beat.  If one leg is hitting it, the other will follow suit, keeping you in rhythm without lots of distracting noise.  Want more than a click?  There are also phone apps that will do the job and playlists that feature songs at your desired number of beats per minute available, too.

Start cadence training by establishing your initial running cadence.  Count right foot falls for 15 seconds and multiply by four.  Add 5% to this number and set your metronome to it for your first series of drills.  Pick up the beat while running in place, then take off for 200-400 meters, seeing if you can stay with it.  Continue to work in short intervals until you can stay with the beat through the whole thing.  Gradually make your intervals longer and don’t be afraid to really get those feet moving by working at cadences 10-15% higher than your comfort level for short periods of time.

Increasing your cadence can be hard work but in the end it will make you a faster, more efficient runner.

Coach Meredith

Run For Beer: Alcohol and Performance

Will run for beer.  Will run for wine.  These little phrases grace hats, headbands, and stickers alcohol and performancenear race courses every weekend.  It’s a great premise, running to burn the calories you know you’ll be enjoying after your workout.  Unfortunately, alcohol does more than simply replace your now missing calories.

Dehydration.  We all know that hydration is an important part of being able to perform at peak levels.  Alcohol acts as a diuretic, each gram of alcohol we consume generates 10 milliliters of urine.  This can equate to lots of bathroom trips and serious dehydration.  Muscles are 75% water and leaving them thirsty can result in fatigue, weakness and electrolyte imbalances with as little as 2% dehydration having an impact on your athletic performance.

Muscle Performance.  Not only will thirsty muscles not be able to perform at their peak, they won’t get any stronger.  In addition to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, alcohol can reduce the protein synthesis required for muscle building through a steroid hormone called Cortisol.  Cortisol is released in response to low blood glucose levels that results from indulging in alcohol and works in opposition to the systems that build muscle.  Cortisol can even tear proteins apart, resulting in muscle atrophy and making you weaker instead of stronger.

Sleep.  ‘Passing out’ is not the restorative sleep any body needs, especially those looking to be active the next day.  While one or two beverages might help relieve stress and make hitting the way a bit easier, alcohol does interrupt your sleep patterns.  To feel like we get a good night’s sleep, we have to enter REM sleep, which alcohol prevents.  Poor REM sleep can lead to tiredness during the day, an inability to concentrate and an overall crummy mood.

Weight gain.  Most of us know all of the empty calories associated with alcohol can lead to weight gain.  What we need to know is how.  Ethanol (alcohol), like a carbohydrate, is processed by the human body as sugar.  When we load the body up with processed foods or booze, blood sugar levels spike, insulin resistance decreases and everything the body can’t immediately process is stored as fat.  To learn more, check out this video from P360 in San Diego.

Hangovers.  Not only will have a headache after a night of boozing, your coordination, reaction times and balance will all be suffering, too.  You’ll also be less motivated to actually get out there and exercise while simultaneously inclined to eat something greasy and unhealthy.

There’s nothing wrong with having a fun and enjoying a few cocktails, it’s a great way to celebrate setting a new PR or finishing your first marathon.  Make sure you don’t end up steering clear of your recovery workout the next morning, by including water in your drinking plan, having food with your fun and stopping alcohol consumption long before bedtime.

Coach Meredith