Friday, November 21, 2014

Run Forrest Run!

The Governor’s Cup Road Race is one of the oldest, prestigious, well run and fun races in South Carolina.  The half marathon is the featured event and takes runners on a challenging course through the hills and neighborhoods that boarder beautiful downtown Columbia.

I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Governor’s Cup as I had not raced since July, missing a couple key events due to illness.  I have recently started working with a new coach (yes coaches have coaches too) and I was excited to see how my fitness had improved since we started working together.

The morning brought perfect weather for racing and I was ready to go. I had my plan to run near the top of my heart rate for most of the race and watch the pacing per mile with the goal to really push the envelope the last three miles.

With an aggressive race strategy in hand; I knew the race was going to be fun, but also painful as running at near max effort for 13.1 miles was going to be as much a test of mental toughness as it was physical toughness.

One benefit of racing is you can always push yourself harder, faster and for longer duration in a race than you can when training.  As I set off for my 13.1 mile venture, it dawned on me the numerous and various incoherent, random and sometimes funny thoughts that race through a runners mind when pushing near maximal effort.  Here is a glimpse into my mind during the race:

Mile One – clop, clop, clop of the runners feet…wonder if this is what the Kentucky Derby sounds like?
Mile Two – I’m cold, I think I under dressed!
Mile Three – Did I lock the car?
Mile Four – Now I’m hot, so much for proper wardrobe execution!
Mile Five – Maybe I should try and some Gatorade in my mouth!
Mile Six – I wonder how many times I have looked at my watch already? Did I pay the mortgage?
Mile Seven – If I fall down this hill, I hope whoever helps me stops my watch! Tacos sound good!
Mile Eight – Oh great, a dog off his leash. I hope he doesn’t bite, oh who cares!
Mile Nine – Ouch this is really starting to hurt, oh look, a bird! I wish I could swim this well!
Mile Ten – I think I am going to puke, no cant puke that would take too much time.
Mile Eleven – I thought liked hills….I was mistaken!
Mile Twelve – Ok almost done and feeling good. Oh great there is a runner back at mile 12 that is already done and they are cheering us on. Show offs.
Mile Thirteen – Why do I do this?  I don’t want to do this ever again.
Race End – A new personal best by nearly 6 minutes!  I Can’t wait to do this again!

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Having a Ball

One of the best ways to maximize the training effect from your workout happens to be the best way to maximize recovery.  A proper warm up session of light intensity stretching or easy aerobic activity primes the muscles so you have a more effective workout and lessen the chances of injury.

Conversely, once muscles are worked from a long workout session, they are fatigued and have several small micro tears that need to be repaired in order to be ready for the next bout of activity.  Muscles also tend to tighten up after strenuous activity and releasing these muscle fibers to a relaxed state will make the recovery process much quicker.

Traditional recovery has been in the form of light stretching and deep tissue massage. While one can stretch on their own, deep tissue massage is time consuming, expensive and requires, well, a second set of hands.  While foam rollers are very good for self-massage, they don’t always allow you to really work those sore spots or “knots” that so frequently cause discomfort and reduce the intensity and effectiveness of the next workout.

I have found a softball and or baseball to be one of the most highly effective recovery tools available to anyone who exercises. The hard density and circular construction make it the perfect vehicle for working out those hard knots or sore spots and those hard to reach places such as the psoas and where the muscle heads connect between your calves and hamstrings, and hamstrings and butt.

Another benefit to a softball or baseball is that you can work out tight muscles without actually doing anything. I will often lie on my back and slide the ball under my glutes and lower back and roll around until I come across a sore spot. When I do, I let my body weight melt into the ball and allow the pressure to ease the muscle tension. I repeat this action two to three times for about 20 seconds each time. To get better leverage on my hamstrings, I like to sit in a dining room chair, place the ball under my legs and go through the same process.

In order to get full benefit from your softball or baseball, take some time to do some easy self-massage or go to a massage therapist for a Swedish or deep tissue full body massage.  Ask them to make note (you will probably be able to feel this) of especially tight or sore spots. These are areas you can then focus on when using your softball for self-massage.

Proper recovery is critical to maximizing your exercise program and the use of a simple softball and can make sure you are ready for the long haul!  Batter Up!


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fueling Your Spin

One fitness trend that is rapidly growing in popularity is spin cycling classes.  Most large fitness centers have a spin studio and the rise in popularity has led to spin only studios that offer many different classes and levels of complexity that appeal to the casual exerciser to those endurance junkies that compete in long distance endurance events.

There are many advantages and attractions to spin classes.  These include social elements, high intensity in a short period of time, a fun and motivating environment and accountability. While spin classes are fun with music, lights and entertaining and engaging instructors, they can also be very intense and produce a high calorie burn which is what many time crunched people are looking for.

While most spin classes are 45-60 minutes in length, you want to maximize your time on the bike to have a quality workout.  In order to perform at your best for the short burst of effort, proper fueling for your ride is extremely critical.  Many people ignore this aspect of exercise and hit the wall or “bonk” during their spin class. Here are some guidelines to make sure your tank is full with the proper fuel and timing in order to bring out your inner Tour de France!

Before Exercise
Consume a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You should drink enough so your urine is a clear color throughout the day. Shortly before your workout, drink about 8-ounces of water so that you’ll have
a sweat-loss replacement readily available.

Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat.  Start with breakfast and
if you’re skipping it, you’re making a big mistake. You should eat approximately 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrate-rich foods, or about 6–10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of your body weight per day. If you’re eating a low carbohydrate diet, your muscles will feel chronically fatigued and you will feel the dreaded BONK.

The complex carbohydrates found in potatoes, pasta, grains and dried beans are essential for maintaining high energy for training. You only want to eat these carbs before or immediately following a workout when you body needs them. During the remainder of the day opt for lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes to keep your blood sugar stable.

I prefer a PowerBar Performance bar or a 24 ounce bottle of Gatorade Endurance 60 minutes before an intense workout.  The sugars will be used as fuel for the high intensity effort.

During Exercise
While some state water is important, I opt for drinking one bottle (24 ounces) of Gatorade Endurance or PowerBar Perform during my work out instead of water.  Both have an excellent mix of slow to fast releasing sugars, potassium and sodium.  Exercise reduces the sodium and potassium levels in the body though the sweat response and drinking water only can further reduce your sodium and sugar levels.

Post Workout
What you do immediately post workout is as important as what you do before and during. Your muscles are in a state of fatigue and you have greatly depleted your glycogen stores.  I recommend a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrates and protein. I prefer Endurox R4 as it is the best recovery drink I have found. You will also want to make sure you rehydrate properly with 16-32 ounce of water.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.