Earlier this week I was chatting on the phone with one of my runners, a 66-year old female. I will call her Jane Doe. She loves running and has placed within her age group in local races. In general, she is shy, quiet, and very compliant. She has the attitude of “tell me what to do and I will do it” and quite frankly, it is because she is afraid to make mistakes. This fear is rooted in the fact that she came to me stuck in the injury cycle.
In working together over the last 8-months, we have been able to get her out of injury city and to a personal best in the half marathon. Over the last 3-months we were building up for a marathon and, like many races planned in the first half of 2020, COVID-19 has shut it down to help prevent further spread. Prior to the race cancellation, I was certain if we stayed the path we were on, we would continue to stave off injury and onto a marathon PR for her.
With the cancellations of races here, there, and everywhere, along with many corners of the globe going to stay at home orders for many of the working population, I wanted to give my runners something to focus on that would challenge them and boost their health and fitness with their now reduced mileage since their marathons were cancelled. I offered them a one-month resistance training program that they could do at home, delivered to them on an app on their cell phones.
While explaining the resistance program to Jane Doe, she told me that she has never worked out in a gym, nor lifted weights for that matter, so she was both nervous and excited. What she doesn’t know is that she is getting an incredible gift. Have you ever heard of age-related loss of muscle mass? Do not be shocked when I tell you that age related loss of muscle mass begins gradually at the age of 30 and accelerates after the age of 60. Age of 30? What? How many of my readers surpassed age 30 a decade or two or three ago? Remember the old saying “use it or lose it”? Same story with muscle folks, starting very early in life.
Don’t you worry though, you can attenuate this loss with resistance training, as it is well-documented in scientific literature, including a 2019 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research I am currently using as my reference. Let me just list for you the benefits associated with resistance training as we age and in parentheses, I will follow it up with what it means to you most. 1 - Slows down age related intra-muscular adipose infiltration (slows down that “after 40-50-yr old weight gain” many people complain about). 2 - Improves physical performance (helps you stand up from sitting on the ground faster without assistance). 3 - Improves muscle quality (a bit of definition). 4 - Improves bone density (more resistant to osteoporosis). 5 - Improve insulin sensitivity (body uses glucose more effectively, decreasing blood sugar). 6 -Improves psychological well-being (works the crazy out of you. Just kidding, but a lot of research shows exercise has antidepressant and anti-anxiety side effects). 7 - Management of chronic health conditions (obesity, remember that intra-muscular adipose infiltration or the improvement of insulin sensitivity, type II diabetes prevention). 8 - Let’s get real, the benefits go on and on.
In an aging, yet healthy person absent of disease, comes biological changes that decrease muscle mass, strength, and function. All the previously mentioned factors compromise physiological resilience. In today’s atmosphere of angst, fear, and uncertainty of the pandemic fueled by COVID-19, physiologic resilience is a must. Let us not forget that movement is medicine and your health is your wealth. What about running? I am supplementing my runners’ run training with the resistance training. Research supports that concurrent training, a combination of strength, power, and endurance training in older adults seems to be the most effective strategy to counteract declines in muscle mass, strength, cardiorespiratory fitness and functional capacity.
If you didn’t know, along with being a running coach, I am a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a master’s degree in kinesiology (the study of movement), as well as a certified online trainer. I can deliver custom made resistance training programs designed with the equipment you have at home, as well as budget friendly programs. Check out the services section of my website!www.runwithgina.comwww.runwithgina.com
In September I hosted what I called an Attitude of Gratitude taco party for my runners that are local to me in San Diego. I said a few words and thanked them for trusting me with their bodies and training. I asked them who makes a runner a better runner, the runner or the coach? They answered the coach and I answered the runner. Who is right? Is there even a right answer?
When I posed the question, I had a couple of things in mind. First, the fact that 80% of the runners that come to me, I must ask them to suspend their beliefs about how training is supposed to be. Each runner must have an open mind, or I already know my system will not work for them. They must have a mindset shift. In my niche of runners, we talk about the mindset shift a lot. Only the runner can make that change. Second, I had a famous coach in mind, Alberto Salazar. Remember, this conversation was happening in September. Many people in the past would have called Salazar the best running coach because he produces the best American distance runners, many going onto the Olympics. The truth is, the best distance runners went to train with him at the Nike Oregon Project. Talent came to Salazar, not that he developed the talent. There is a difference. In his day, he was a talented runner, but talent doesn’t mean you know how to develop a runner over time. It doesn’t mean you understand how the body works. A running “coach” is not just a title. It isn’t because you have been there done that. It isn’t a weekend or online certification. It is an understanding of systems. Systems in the body; metabolic, physiologic, biomechanical, and even psychological.
In October, Salazar received a four-year ban from coaching athletics for doping charges for playing with the hormone levels of some of his runners. Dirty, dirty. You have the most talented young Americans and their everything is compromised. In the spirit of good old debate, not because I agree with what he did, how else would you develop talent in a runner that has already achieved their inherent ceiling of ability? When the best in the country come to you, how do you make them better? I say regress. Take one step backwards to take two steps forward. Yes, I published that statement. At least I am consistently consistent going against popular opinion.
What about the picture attached to this blog? The picture of Mary Cain that went viral on November 7th in an Opinion piece in The New York Times. Most people didn’t know who she was, but found the story appalling, because it was. She told her story, in her words that she was the fastest girl in America until she went to train with Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project. This story is easily Googled, so I will spare you all the details, but bottom line she claims she was starved, emotionally abused, and publicly ridiculed for her race times that got worse instead of better while training with Salazar. She later found the courage to leave Salazar and the program.
I started composing a blog about Salazar on October 6th. I revisited it on my computer before composing the current blog. The timing would have been incredible with the Mary Cain story coming out one month later. I felt compelled to compose this blog now because so many of my runners tagged me on social media on the Mary Cain story, shared it in my private Facebook page for my runners, and even texted me the story. I feel bad for Mary Cain, but for me the story is larger than just her story. It is about the role of the coach, mostly who is “qualified” to coach. Lastly, it is about the relationship between the coach and the runner and I believe that is why so many of my runners felt like I needed to know about the story.
So, what do you think…who makes a runner a better runner, the runner or the coach? On another note, thanks for reading and when you are ready to find out what a relationship can be like with a coach, check me out!
Long time no blog folks! For those of you that have followed the blog from the inception, thank you! For those of you that are new, welcome! If you didn’t know, Run With Gina was featured in Runner’s World Online last week. Wow, what an honor and a humbling experience! I know that my runners and I have a mutual respect, built from mutually beneficial relationships. I am always flattered when they say kind things to me or hear what they have told others. The Runner’s World story, a human-interest story, apparently resonated with lot of people and they ALL reached out.
I was shocked to receive messages from all over the world, praising me for the work I have done. Quite honestly, I lost track of the kind words from complete strangers. However, there was something even more shocking. I was completely blown away with the stories people wrote me in their emails, desperate for help and the number of runners that are 3-5 weeks away from their race and sidelined by injury. Yikes, panic button pushed!
Although these runners are not my clients, runners, or come on now, “customers”, I do feel obligated to help those that are in panic, because I was thrown a bone by being selected to be written about in an online publication with millions of readers all over the world. Those that reported being injured with 3-6 weeks to go until their marathon had a common denominator. What is that you ask? Too much too soon with both distance and intensity, too little miles during the week to support the long run, or too many miles per week. Training errors! The Run With Gina way is to deliver the least amount of intensity and load to achieve the desired result. Don’t get me wrong, not all my runners remain non-injured. The majority that have gotten injured, I know for fact that I have pushed for low miles and more rest days when not training for a race, but people want more. Runners want more. More is not better when training or when trying to maintain. I know I have also had to fight for what I believed was best for my runner when he or she resisted having lighter mile weeks. News flash, running breaks you down, rest and recovery practices build you up.
I think why some of the runners that wrote me are injured is because they think marathon training HAS to include long runs over 20 miles. Has to have speed work. Has to have tempo runs. Has to run six days a week. Has to do a weekend long run even when not training for a race. Has to cross train, so they think going to group fitness classes instead of running is just as good as running. Think stretching is the answer to “tight muscles”. Been told custom orthotics will solve all their problems. There is a lot of black and white thought patterns out there and no shades of grey.
The messages have left me with the realization that Run With Gina in some ways is a paradigm shift. Not all of my runners do speed work. Not all of my runners do tempo work. I would prefer nobody spends their entire Saturday morning running, because someone told them they had to run 22-miles to prepare for a marathon. I have fought hard for my paradigm shift with a lot of people, because their beliefs have been etched in their brain by some other program, book, magazine, or self-defined running guru/coach. Can anyone give me the definition of “coach”? The proof is in the pudding with those that have suspended their beliefs when they come to me. Call it Kool Aid, call it chance, call it whatever you want, but I know it to be science…the laws of biomechanics, exercise physiology, AND yes, exercise psychology.
Ladies and gentlemen welcome some shades of grey in your life! If you didn’t see the Runner’s World article, here is the link, https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a28622308/runner-turned-injury-into-coaching-business/
If you reached out to me and haven’t heard back, it is because I had to move those with immediate needs to the front of the line. If you heard back from me and now are waiting for another response from me, standby! I still need to prioritize all the men and women that have helped build Run With Gina from the beginning.
In addition to working as a virtual marathon coach, I also work as a dental hygienist. A few years back I worked with a dentist that was also a long-distance swimmer, cyclist and participated in sprint triathlons. One day while on a long bike ride with his brother, a medical doctor, the dentist didn’t feel well. He had a pain in his chest and numbness in his arm, so his brother took him to his office and hooked him up to an EKG. That same day he was admitted to the hospital next door and had heart surgery. Later in the hospital room, he said the cardiologist on call walked into his room and said, “You need to change to a vegan diet ASAP”. Looking the overweight cardiologist up and down, he was offended! When he told me the story, he was still offended. The cardiologist was an overweight vegan. What does that mean? The dentist was a lean, mean, working out machine and needed stents placed in his heart. What does that mean?
A few years back, I was training with a dietician for a marathon. Her fueling (eating) habits at the time were horrible. She just didn’t eat because she was too busy. She had a lot of stress in her life with her young family and work, and she ended up getting sick several times during the season. I remember saying to her, “You have all the right answers to your health, yet you ignore them”. I am pretty good at giving it to people straight up, whether they like it or not. I give it to myself too by the way and that is a big part of this blog.
I have been a little low on time lately. I suppose being busy is better than being bored, but sometimes being busy comes at a cost. At this time last year, I picked up whooping cough and I lost a lot of fitness. This year, my business went off with a bang. That is good news! But as I got busy, something happened to me. It became difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I am fortunate to say in all my adult years, I have never woken up and said, “I don’t want to go to work today”. That is the truth. Starting a couple of months ago, my alarm would go off and I just felt like I didn’t get enough sleep, even when I knew I had a decent amount of sleep. Okay, so I don’t get 8-hours, but I sleep hard and have functioned in the past on less sleep. This just didn’t feel right. I would go to work and I would drag for the first part of the morning. One time, I went to workout before work and cut it short so I could take a nap in the office. This is not good. What is wrong with me?
It is true I workout far less than I used to before I basically had two full time jobs. I used to run five days a week and now I run three days a week or do a gym workout. My body composition has changed and when I look in the mirror, I see fat where I used to be firm. Yikes! That scale hasn’t changed though, so that is always deceiving. It must be my lack of consistent exercise. This is sad, I’m the coach. Is the saying true, “those that can, do and those that can’t coach”? Is this a do as I say, not as I do situation? To be honest, the fluff doesn’t bug me as much as how I felt when I woke up in the morning. I have always hit the floor running figuratively, if not literally. I don’t even know how to turn on snooze on an alarm. I felt like I was just so fatigued and had no reason for it. I felt so odd in my own skin that I even went to the doctor for blood work and have my follow up in a couple of weeks. I know, something is off.
This week I went to continuing education classes and took a couple on wellness and nutrition. The majority of the information was not new to me, as I have taken many of these classes at every level; continuing education, certifications, undergraduate and graduate school. However, unless you are submerged in something, sometimes you forget reality. My fluff and fatigue aren’t due to my reduced exercise. Let’s be honest, I still exercise more than most of America. At just under 5’5” and 125 lb., I am still within healthy limits and dare I say, “skinny” compared to most Americans. The answer to my fatigue and my fluff are in my nutrition. Yes, I said it, in my nutrition. My name is Coach Gina, and I give nutrition suggestions to my clients. Hello! Shame on me.
The athletic Gina, the one that used to work out sometimes twice a day and qualified for the Boston Marathon in every marathon she didn’t pace someone else, used to food prep. She used to measure all her food and log it in a journal, long before apps could expedite it for you. As a non-meat eater, I used to eat spinach salad daily that I made at home, packed with all kinds of phytochemicals. I was by far one of the healthiest people I knew. Not just because of the exercise, but because of the way I fed my body. This is where I have failed myself the most. I exercise less now, because I prioritize the sleep I do get. This doesn’t mean that I should feed myself substandard fuel. First, I just don’t eat enough in the day and when I do, it is lacking the nutrient dense phytochemicals. Where are phytochemicals found? In fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Yep, everything that was in my meal prep salads and less likely to be found in the quick take-out meal.
Here is the reality. I still exercise enough that my body composition fat/muscle ratio would have not changed much had I been eating the way I did for many years. But more important to me, is my general health and well-being. I am not a fan of staying in bed after the alarm goes off. I have places to go, things to do, and people to get to and that feeling of fatigue sucks. I’m happy to say that I haven’t experienced it in the last couple of weeks. Now that I have a grip on reality again, I hope to move forward with my old, healthier habits as my priority.
So, what does all this have to do with the first two stories in this blog? Everything! First off, there are a lot of things that are out of our control. Maybe the overweight cardiologist has an endocrine issue. Maybe the lean, working out machine dentist has a genetic predisposition to heart disease. What about the dietician and her poor diet? Despite her education, time just wasn’t on her side at that point in her life. But it came at a cost, she was sick a lot during that time. All three of the people and four if you include me all could use food as their medicine. This is how it was intended to be anyway. Come on, we all know this.
Have you ever heard anyone ask, what is more important, diet or exercise? Most people in healthcare have an ethical responsibility to say “both”. Have you ever heard you can’t out train or out run a bad diet? Whoop there it is! It isn’t just about weight loss or maintenance. It is about heath and well-being. It is about living life with vitality. That runners high will run out during the day at some point. You aren’t supposed to drag through the day. This comes down to the fuel you put in you. Both the quantity and quality.
In the nutrition and wellness class I took this past week, the lecturer said, “Nutrition is your shield and exercise, your sword”. If you want to keep illness away from you, to protect yourself, you need a shield. I couldn’t get this saying out of my head. I asked a group of runners this question, “If you were in battle and needed to protect yourself, what would you choose, a shield or sword”? They knew nothing more. I didn’t ask, what is more important to your health, diet or exercise. That would be a debate that may go on and on. But I wanted to see if the analogy of a shield or sword would make sense in terms of protecting oneself. What was the outcome of the blind survey? 61% of the runners chose a shied over a sword.
To all my runners or anyone that stumbles upon my blog, your health and wellness can be found on your plate. It will shield you from illness, both genetic and during stressful times. Food is your medicine and hey, it enhances athletic performance too!
Check out this link for more about phytochemicals. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090313p70.shtmlwww.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090313p70.shtml
I was very fortunate to have runners participating in races literally all over the world this weekend. My heart was full. There were great races, okay races, and “I was just glad to be finished” races. But I want to tell the incredible story of Sharon!
Everyone meet Sharon Chaix, 70 years young! Doesn’t she look pretty good for running 26.2 miles? She first came to me in August 2018 because she saw a running friend wearing a Run With Gina shirt. She went on to tell me her extensive history; breast and thyroid cancer, ripped hamstring, and three previous back surgeries with some clamps, rods, and screws surgically placed in her spine. You know, everyday stuff. She told me that she had went to physical therapy for the ripped hamstring and continued to see the physical therapist from time to time. The good news is, I have a corrective exercise certification.
Sharon hired me to do a movement assessment, gait analysis with exercise prescription and train her for the 2018 San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. Leading up to the half marathon, she started to feel like her runs were getting slower and didn’t go into the race with much confidence. After the half marathon while chatting on the phone with her, I said, “If you are happy, I am happy”. Her reply, “I am not happy”. Really? I thought she had a good race, I didn’t see the problem. I am all about the long-term development of my runners. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I said, “What would make you happy”? Her reply, “To have a younger body so I can be faster”. Mercy! Anyone find the fountain of youth yet? This set the tone for me moving forward as I trained her for the Eugene Marathon.
Guess who didn’t do any hill repeats, speed, or tempo work to train for her marathon? That’s right, Sharon. She trained 100% in the aerobic zone only. She also took part in my nutrition training and my 8-week body weight resistance training program I offer my runners. Sharon has used every service I have to offer.
Sharon’s last marathon was Mountains2Beaches and claims to have had a miserable experience. A week before the race she was telling people she didn’t think she would finish the race. Last night she was telling me she was nervous and questioning why she signed up for the race in the first place.
How did Sharon do at the Eugene Marathon? She ran the first 5k as a warmup and then ran then next 20.1 miles at an even pace. She finished the race FORTY-SEVEN minutes faster than her last marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon by more than eight minutes! AND earned first in her age group!
I hope you all can find hope and inspiration in Sharon’s story. I am fortunate to have motivated clients like Sharon that want to be the best they can be and trust that I will eventually figure out how to help them be the best they can be. Thank you, Sharon, for allowing me and the rest of the Rwg virtual family to be a part of your journey!
Want to see what virtual coach can do for you? Check out the services section of www.runwithgina.com!
The other night I fell asleep thinking about how fortunate I have been to have truly awesome human beings requesting my coaching services. I wish I could take all the credit for them feeling stronger, getting faster, body composition changes, getting healthier and achieving small and big goals alike. But I cannot. It is the partnership of me and each runner as an individual, as well as the supporting cheer squad. It all adds up to something incredible. The growth of the Run With Gina (Rwg) community has been tremendous in a very short period of time. Some people want to compare my program to group training programs and it just is not the same, plain and simple, end of that conversation.
My program is based on several principles, some of which I have blogged about in the past, such as my brand of using evidence-based research as the foundation of performance enhancement and reducing injury incidence. I also subscribe to the theory of four ingredients for athletic success by former Olympian, Olympic running coach, exercise physiologist, researcher, and my exercise physiology professor, Dr. Jack Daniels. The four ingredients to success in the opinion of Dr. Daniels are; inherent ability, motivation, opportunity, and direction.
By the way there is not one college or elite level running coach that does not know Dr. Jack Daniels, his work and his contributions to distance training as we know it. Every book you can buy on marathon training should have his name/work somewhere as a reference. The four ingredients to success are not scientific principles Dr. Daniels is known for but have become guiding principles in how I work with my runners. Lets take a closer look at them and what they mean to Rwg.
Inherent ability; this is the genetic component. No matter what your talents are, there is a ceiling for your potential. I am not working with performance athletes, but I am working with people that took up recreational distance running and want to be the best they can be. It is my job to figure out where they are at and if their desires even match their inherent ability. If so, pave the road to get there over time and if not be truly transparent with them so we can find smaller goals to achieve and celebrate.
Motivation; athletes that use their inherent ability and those that may not have a high ability but keep working towards their personal best. The motivation of my runners is very high. Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect, also called the “observer effect”? Simply put, it is the concept that behaviors change when one knows they are being observed. As a virtual coach, I have a proactive style. I am always watching what my runners are or are not doing via my coaching platform. They know this and complete more runs than someone might when they know the accountability from the coach is slim to none. I can honestly say that since the inception of my virtual half/full marathon coaching program, 97% of my runners have completed 90-100% of their run training in preparation for their races. That is pretty good statistics if you ask me, especially when sometimes my biggest competition is the couch and Netflix.
Opportunity; environment. The environment of the Rwg family is extremely motivating as well. I may be a virtual, individual coach, but the virtual family has provided more support and motivation to my runners and it is truly worth its weight in gold. There is A LOT of power in vicarious experiences. The proof is in the pudding with those that invest time in being their best. Naturally, it has others wondering what their possibilities may be. It has been incredibly awesome and humbling to watch the dynamic of the Rwg family evolve into something so inspiring.
Direction; coaching, training plans, and teachers. Ah, the last ingredient to success, the “direction”. Let’s get real, you can get a training plan online anywhere or from any group training program. What you won’t get is “my” training plan/coaching. Have you ever heard of pride of ownership? My name is on my plan, stickers, shirts, and hats. It is my brand. I take pride in what I have to offer others that goes leaps and bounds beyond just run training. I offer a mutually beneficial relationship built on honesty and trust. Skeptical about what a virtual coach can do for you? Only one way to find out. You invest in me and I will invest in you.
Ah the Boston Marathon. What can I say about the Boston Marathon? It is the world’s oldest annual marathon and an age-group runner’s dream to meet the qualifying standard. There is a saying in Boston, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change”. Sometimes it can be favorable, outright nasty, or bipolar. Who remembers the favorable tailwind of 2011, the inferno of 2012, or the headwind downpour of 2018? Although this blog post will be geared towards the age group recreational runner, Des Linden comes to my mind immediately because she ran the 2011 tailwind, 2018 downpour, and this year.
Let’s take a closer look at her performance in all three races. In 2011 with the assistance of a tailwind, Des came in second place, running 2:22:38. At the 2018 downpour she persevered the elements to come in first place with a time of 2:39:55. This year she finished in fifth place with a time of 2:27:00. What gives? Do you think she prepared more or less for each year? Likely not. Five minutes is a lot of time for a professional runner, by the way. The unpredictability of the elements in Boston can make that much difference. This year, Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia took first place female with 2:23:31, which is actually almost six minutes slower than her personal best at the 26.2 mile distance.
I also ran the 2011 tailwind and the 2012 inferno. I may still have PTSD after the 2012 Boston Marathon, which ended up being the second hottest Boston Marathon to date. I ran that race one hour and sixteen minutes SLOWER than my personal best in the marathon. Was that embarrassing or what? No, it wasn’t. I trained hard for the race. I followed the schedule my coach at the time gave me. I never missed a day and I did everything else right to support my training. It simply was what it was.
In yesterday’s Boston Marathon, I had three runners competing. None of them had their best race. As a matter of fact, all three of them had the cards stacked up against them from the start. None of their bodies were 100% going into it, but they got on that bus to the starting line in the dark, cold rain and eventually made their way to the finish line during the midday sun with hot and humid conditions. Hello bipolar weather and welcome to Boston!
As a coach, I have to sit back and do a critical appraisal of what I did or did not do for my runners. Did they run too much or too little? Did they train too fast or too slow? Why weren’t their bodies 100% if that is what we always want to strive for? A big part of my brand is the goal to reduce injury potential. The truth is, sometimes our bodies turn on us. Take me for example. I sustained stress fractures in both feet while training for my first marathon. Who was at fault, my coach? I don’t think so. It was multifactorial as many injuries and illnesses are, which is exactly what my runners were faced with from the start.
I am incredibly proud of my runners for their tenacity to cross that finish line regardless of what their finishing time would be. It takes a lot of courage and humility to put yourself out there to be “watched” by all your friends, family, and those that say they are cheering for you, but really may not. Remember, not all your followers are your fans. Speaking of humility by the way, do you know what makes a coach valuable? First, to have humility. Second, to have compassion and relatedness. I have been compliant with my training and fractured bones in my feet. I have been compliant with training and ran my personal best. I have been compliant with training and ran my personal worst. It is what it is yo! We are all human, which means we are not perfect. But the human spirit says, keep on keeping on because you never know when you will be at your very best. Never stop believing in your possibilities. Love to all my runners for believing in me, the same way I believe in all of them.
P.S. The picture is of me in the 2011 Boston Marathon medical tent. Mercy!
Back in February I wrote a blog post about a 3-week low sugar experiment that 31 runners participated in. Didn’t read it? It is a must read for the epic results and ah ha moments. Just return to the blog section of www.runwithgina.com to check it out.
As mentioned in the low sugar blog, the biggest ah ha moment for me was that many of the runners were eating like dieters and not athletes. The bottom line is, if you want to perform your best, your nutrition needs as much attention as your run training. As far as nutrition goes, I believe some recreational runners have fear based thinking. The fear of gaining weight, so they don’t eat appropriately for their level of activity. Many out of shape or overweight individuals will take up running as a way to lose or maintain weight loss and maybe it works for a minute, but if you chronically have higher energy output (exercise) and chronically lower energy in (calories), your body will get out of whack and the weight loss plateaus or like me when I trained for my first marathon, gain weight. You will also notice performance decrements after a while too. I gained 10 pounds when training for my first marathon, yikes! It was not muscle weight, as I have pictures to prove it.
The runners in my 3-week low sugar experiment were excited to move onto a second, longer experiment with all the improvements in objective variables; decrease in scale weight and inches off the hips/waist and equally important, subjective variables; improved sleep, clearer skin, less joint pain, no heart burn, less sugar cravings, less bloat, and less fatigue.
The second experiment was an 8-week experiment where each participant would have a goal of the same macronutrient profile. However, each runner’s calorie needs were calculated based on their age, sex, height, weight, and ACTIVITY level using the Mifflin-St.Jeor equation. When the numbers were crunched, the backlash began, and the excitement waned away. One participant felt the calories were too low compared to what she typically consumes. Many and quite honestly, I lost count, but let’s just say everyone that chose to reach out to me regarding their calories told me it was too high compared to what they typically consume. Why was this a problem? Fear based thinking…I don’t want to gain weight. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, after spending I don’t know how much time crunching numbers for 34 participants, most of them chose not to fully participate from the get-go. With that, I cannot give the best synopsis of the experiment over a larger sample size.
What can I tell you? During this experiment, I asked the participants to take pictures so we could see body composition changes. Five participants did and we did indeed see body composition changes. This is a shift in fat and muscle. The scale can remain the same even if you lose fat, due to a gain in lean muscle mass. This was one of the big lessons of this experiment. You can eat more, when your body requires more, and you will not gain weight back that you previously lost. The participants also took part in this study during ever increasing training mileage and didn’t miss training to fatigue or under recovery, which is where under fueling would fall.
If you participate in a sport at a recreational level and want to be the best you can possibly be, this requires a mindset shift not only with appropriately loaded training, but with fueling your body like an athlete. We live in a time when there is an abundance of information literally at our finger tips. As a healthcare provider, I frequently have listened to consumers (of information) tell me, “I read” or “I heard” this and that and it couldn’t be farther from the truth or a twist on the truth. One of my runners once told me, “Everything you tell me is completely different than what everyone else has ever told me”. How did that make me feel? It made me feel proud quite honestly. I don’t coach by tradition or trends. I coach by science and with it comes a feeling of pride and integrity. Do you want someone to invest in you the way you should invest in yourself? Check out the services section of www.runwithgina.com
P.S. I was going to include some of the photos of the participants (as I have been given permission), but I think I will leave it up to them to share if they choose when they share this blog post across social media.
If you read my last blog post, you know that I had a nutrition experiment going with a group of runners. The takeaway for me was, they don’t eat like athletes, but more like dieters. This subject has brought up nutrition awareness among my cohort but has also brought up performance and recovery nutrition. We live in the information age. We are surrounded by information, both accurate and inaccurate with more inaccurate information than anything. How people receive information, process information, and pass on information is heavily based on their emotions regarding the subject. This is true with religion, politics, sports, and just about anything, but especially nutrition. Nutrition is food, food is weight, weight has many of us in emotional turmoil with fear-based behaviors.
As an athlete centered coach, I invest time into making sure my runners have the appropriate information to make informed decisions about their training and race day strategies. I preached nutrition previously for improved recovery and performance. As a matter of fact, I covered runner nutrition in a blog post from 7/31/17 and can be found in the November 2017 archives on my website. http://www.runwithgina.com/blog/runner-nutrition-explained
But what about real-time race nutrition strategies? You must fuel your body to perform! No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is common sense. If you are taking your car on a road trip, you would need to put fuel in it. Because of fear-based behaviors, runners don’t do it. “I don’t want the calories”. Guess what? You need the calories. “My stomach doesn’t do well with carbohydrate gels”. Guess what? You must train your gut to receive the nutrition. It is true, some people have runners’ colitis and can’t take in anything, but that is a small percentage of runners. Those people100% know if they fit into that category.
Carbohydrate utilization or what your body needs and uses is based on duration and intensity of endurance activity. I have been telling my marathon runners that the guidelines for carbohydrate needs during a marathon is 30-60 grams per hour. Most carbohydrate gels have 21-24 grams. If you are running a 4-hr marathon on a course that provides a sugar-free electrolyte replenisher, how many carbohydrate gel packs would you need to sustain your run? This is a matter of hitting the wall or not hitting the wall, because your muscles will run out of stored carbohydrates at 2-hrs and 30-minutes of running. I won’t do the math for you because this is something people really need to be thinking about. I know there are some of you that are thinking, “Well, I am a fat adapted athlete. My body utilizes stored fat as fuel”. Again, fuel utilization is intensity based. The lower the intensity, fat is used as fuel. The greater intensity, carbohydrates are used as fuel. This is why in marathon racing, the negative split is so important. Early on, your body uses fat as fuel with a lower intensity to spare the stored glycogen (carbohydrate) for later in the race.
What about the half-marathon distance? Yes, you need fuel if you are a recreational runner, running over an hour. In 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, stated that carbohydrate needs are 30-90 g/hr based on duration and intensity. You can see the infographic in the cover picture by Dr. Asker Jeukendrup.
Because I live in an evidence-based world, I must do my due diligence and cite research to back up the above information. In a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers studied two groups of recreational runners in the Copenhagen Marathon. One group freely ingested carbohydrate based on their timing preference, while the other group used scientific principles of ingesting carbohydrates at 60 grams per hour. The group that ingested carbohydrates at 60 grams per hour ran the race 4.7% faster. These were recreational runners that run 3:38-4:20 in the marathon. A 4.7% improvement at that duration is a difference of 10 minutes! Taking off chunks of time is not about running faster in training. It isn’t always about running more miles. Sometimes it as simple as how you fuel your body. By the way, GI distress was low in the two groups and there wasn’t a difference between the two groups in regard to GI distress.
Who wants to shave a lot of time off their half or full marathon time? I’m going to assume most people. Don’t let your tank go empty on race day!!!!!!!!!!
A few years ago, as I was filling up my car with gas, I found myself looking at an advertisement for the gas station. The add touted their gas and oil as being better for your car engine with cleaner emissions, therefore providing superior performance of your car engine. Did you know many mechanical devices we use daily, replicate how or bodies or other things in nature work? People that work in healthcare had to study science; anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, biomechanics, the list goes on and on depending on the eventual field of expertise. Beyond expertise, it is a use it or lose it situation. As quickly as the information is memorized, it is gone unless it is used in daily practice or unless processes are understood vs just memorizing information. Interestingly, all the science subjects previously mentioned come into play with achieving your best as a runner. Seeing the gasoline advertisement really resonated with me, beyond the intended purpose of the advertisement. It was from that moment on that I started saying to my runners…back when I only had five runners, “On race day, we want your body to perform like a well-oiled machine”.
Last week I had 31 runners conclude a 3-week long nutrition experiment and I am really excited to give a synopsis of their results. Let me first disclose that I am not a registered dietician or medical doctor, but a healthcare provider, coach, and personal trainer, qualified in guiding the experiment without telling them what to eat. Each subject kept a three-day log of what they consumed to get an average of their individual macronutrient profile and how many calories they typically consume. Throughout the experiment, they were supposed to hit that average for macronutrients and calories every day and make up what they expended in exercise calories. However, the “experiment” was to reduce their sugar content to specific grams. This was a reduced sugar experiment, but they still had to consume just as many carbohydrates as they did prior to the study, therefore, changing the quality of some of their carbohydrate consumption.
Initially this was tough for many. They had to overcome their sweet cravings, pass on treats at weddings, parties, and the office break room. It was torture in a society that eats socially and takes comfort in foods, especially the reward center in the brain that responds to sugar. They became food loggers and their awareness for what they put in their body became a lifestyle. Grocery store trips took longer, and restaurant food ordering became complicated. It wasn’t easy at first anyway. They were forced to eat with intention. Consciously, not just habitually. Not habitually grabbing for the cookie in the break room or the “protein” bar that has more crap in it than protein content. Was all this trouble worth it in the long run? They were blindly following my lead after all.
To share the stats of all 31 of the experiment participants would be tedious, so I will share a glimpse into the magic. The results were incredible!!!! Both objective measurable data, weight and waist/hip circumference and subjective observations. In my opinion, the subjective observations, the ah ha moments were the icing on the cake. Okay, bad pun for this experiment, but you get the picture.
At the cessation of the experiment, everyone experienced some weight loss or loss of inches off their waist and/or hips. Many people lost more than one pound per week. The largest weight loss during the three-week experiment was 10 pounds, with several people losing more than 5 pounds. The largest loss in hip and waist circumference was 3.5 inches from the waist and 2.5 inches from the hips. Most of the participants lost at least one inch off their waist and hips. Hello saggy pants! Good thing the trend is in.
Not everyone had favorable results. The smaller someone is to start, the less weight they have to lose. But what about that icing on the cake? What about the subjective observations? Some of the experiment participants reported; improved sleep, clearer skin, less joint pain, no heart burn, less sugar cravings, less bloat, and less fatigue. Oh, and some of them love their new found, sexy waist!
But what about me? What did I learn? I learned I have been failing some of my runners. Not all of the experiment participants were following my training plan as some are friends of Run With Gina (Rwg). It was crystal clear in the three-day data collection portion of the experiment, many of these runners were eating like dieters and not athletes. Remember, in the intro to this blog, I said, to perform like a well-oiled machine you need to put fuel (food) in your body. Hello under eaters! Under eaters, yet some of them had pounds to lose? How does that work? Here is another interesting point, that gives a hint to the latter question. It turns out seven of the females in the experiment stand 5’1”. The female that runs the most in that height group, eats the least, yet weighs more than most of them. No, this is not a muscle weighs more than fat thing. One needs to eat to build muscle. This is too much energy out without enough energy in and chemical/metabolic processes in the body cannot work properly. Under fuel = under performance. Under fuel with excessive energy out = the body goes into survival mode and holds onto the body fat and chemical reactions that need to occur, cannot occur.
Just like your car, whether you are driving it fast or slow, it still needs fuel or a charge if you are driving an electric car. Your body expends energy (calories) whether you are running/exercising or not. The majority of our calorie needs come from basal metabolic rate (BMR). As a matter of fact, about 75% of our energy needs come from BMR. BMR is the rate at which the body expends energy to maintain basic physiological survival. For the average male that is 1500 calories just to fuel his day, not his athletic performance. Then there is the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF represents the energy (calories) required to digest, absorb, transport, mobilize, and store nutrients. You need those nutrients to fuel your body! TEF uses up about 10% of your calories. Lastly and the only thing people seem to think about is thermic effect of physical activity (TEPA). TEPA is only about 15-30% of your energy expenditure. So many people don’t even consume what their body needs for all the metabolic processes to occur. Including weight loss and athletic performance. No more under fueling guys!
The 3-week reduced sugar experiment was so much fun, informative, and successful that 32 people are moving onto a longer, more controlled experiment. I cannot share the details because I can’t give away all my success secrets. But here is what I hypothesize; the experiment participants will be consuming more calories than before. The participants that need to lose weight, will lose weight. The participants that are “normal” weight at the start, will see visible body composition changes. All participants will see improvements in recovery from their running/exercise, which will support better performance.
I want to thank all of you that take the time to read my blog and share my blogs across social media. Coach Gina, Run With Gina, Rwg is a healthcare provider first before all things and then a coach and personal trainer. I try my best to bring the “personal” into coaching. I have said it before, people don’t pay for coaching/training, they pay for the coach/trainer. If you are reading this blog on Facebook, check me out at www.runwithgina.com