Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tears of the Heart

One of the truths that I'll be following is that if you cling to your positives and back away from the negatives it will help with the healing.

Training and racing are a positive and a constant for me. It's healthy, relieves stress and takes up time that could be spent in unhealthy pursuits. It's easy to fall into a hole with depression that is hard to crawl out from. Even if you do make it back to the light your mind and body can be wreaked. I'm not going to allow that to happen.

One of the most common health conditions in the United States today is depression. We are in an economic crisis, the housing market is horrid, jobs are hard to find and if you have one you keep your mouth shut about what you don't like. I think the high rate of depression and the high rate of obesity are directly related. It's comforting to sit and eat, instant gratification, life sucks but the snacks and junk food are so good. We always have in the back of our mind that once this life crisis is over we will get back to a healthier lifestyle, but once you fall in the hole it's hard to climb out.

Having high self esteem is one of the major antidotes for depression you have to care enough for yourself to fight for your sanity. Yes depression is a type of insanity, it's curable and treatable but if left unchecked it can be terminal. As you fall deeper into the hole your drinking and possibly even drug use dramatically increase.

So my watch cause for now is look out for my heart, my sanity and my future. I don't want to do things now that will cause me to jeopardise any of those. I want to come through this with all intact.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Friday, November 27, 2009

Life Changes

Yesterday my wife and I decided to go our separate ways. Now that old saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life", has special meaning for me. Since this is a blog about wellness, and part of wellness is handling the stress of partner changes, I thought it would be ok to write about this.

The challenges are many and some are going to be difficult. One of the stages you go through is the guilt stage, "could I have done better". Even when the change has been a long time coming it's never easy and you judge yourself. The task now is to try and do as you had wish you had done before.

I'm going to make a promise to myself that I will come through this stronger than I was before. I know I'll go through some difficult periods but with the right frame of mind I think it will be ok. I will have the do stuff period of getting a new house for me and buying everything to put into it.

Thanks for reading.

Single Panda

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Racing and Eating

People involved with firearms have had a debate going for a hundred years about what is better a little bullet that goes really fast or a big bullet going slower. Same goes for getting advice about what to eat before, during and after a half or full marathon. You have completely different points of view.

Some people will tell you that if you eat anything before a race it needs to be very light and at least an hour before. Other people can be seen chugging a sports drink to wash down a bagel just a few minutes before the race starts. Other people look like they are going on a grand adventure with their belt filled with special foods and drinks that are "Scientifically developed", for optimal performance.

During a race it's the same thing, some people have special fluids, gels, Goos and food to eat along the way. I've seen everything from peanut butter sandwiches to beef jerky being eaten on the move.

I'm going to give you my take on this subject. I was a competitive runner for over 30 years and a race walker after that. In addition I worked with a lot of military personnel, helping them get in shape to pass their required fitness tests and athletes training for competition. So I have some opinions derived from experience and trial and error.

My personal pre competition meal is a cereal like Special K or Cheerios, with a banana cut up on top and skim milk, I add a glass of water and a cup of coffee. I'll eat this about 2 hours before start time. I eat and drink that far ahead for a couple of reasons. 1. I want the meal digested and not sitting in my stomach. A meal eaten shortly before you start will still be pretty much there when you finish your race, so it really didn't do you any good because your body had to channel blood to your stomach for digestion of that meal and that means some of the blood that would have gone to your muscles has gone to digestion instead.

A runner because of the bouncing has more problem with stomach distress than a walker so it's even more important for a runner not to have a belly full of undigested food. My number 2. reason is that I don't want to have extra potty breaks. Your body uses the water and other fluids for a lot of purposes. One important use is to clean out the waste from the cells and send the "Sewer water" out as urine. This is important since your body is removing lactic acid from the exercise effort. But starting the race with your stomach full of water will just cause you to have to make a pit stop soon after you start when the potties along the way are the most crowded.

During the race you use an average of 100 calories per mile. In a half marathon you really don't need to eat anything. You have more than 1300 calories already stored in your body for use. Just drinking the sports drinks will supply you with plenty of extra calories along the way. Sports drinks are a good idea because they have the salts and sugars to replace what your using. The food in your stomach from a pre race feast is just going to sit there and make you uncomfortable.

In a marathon you do need to keep your calories coming in but not with food, once again you need the sports drinks for fluid replacement and the salts and sugars. But it doesn't hurt to use a gel or Goo if you have used then in training and they sit well with you. I will eat several banana halves during a marathon and toward the end I'll have a couple of gels and maybe a bag of sports beans. When you don't eat a little along the way during the marathon you start really running out of energy somewhere between miles 18 and 22. A cup of sports drink at every water stop is a good idea and if you want to add a sugary product like a gel or Goo it's ok. But you don't need to eat a gel every mile! And once again real food will not be digested and supply energy unless your body sends that blood needed for muscle performance to digestion instead. A sugar product is for all intents and purposes pre digested.

Of course you want to drink a little water or sports drink at every water station. Dehydration will get you during the race long before you will starve to death. A good way to gauge your hydration level is to look at the color of your urine. If its dark yellow your getting dehydrated and if it's clear your ok. You want to go to the race with clear urine not dark yellow. You start a marathon dehydrated and your going to be in trouble before it's over and you probably won't finish.

After the race eating is pretty much up to you. But remember your body has just been challenged to a difficult task and it's weak. Avoiding strong drink and very spicy food is a good idea unless you want to be very uncomfortable. I like a few cold beers and something like baked fish or a pasta and chicken dish. Of course when you finish you want to drink a few bottles of water and or sports drink, your biggest challenge is dehydrating.

Thank you for reading.

Panda Rambling

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crunch Time

Those of us that are going to Walt DisneyWorld in January for the half marathon, full marathon or the Goofy Challenge are now within 7 weeks. It's down to crunch time. By now you should have all your equipment choices picked and ready to go. Especially shoes, don't plan on hoping to find the perfect shoes at the Expo the day before.

Right now your training should be going good and you should be injury free. The last three weeks are your taper period so you really have only 4 weeks of LSD and hard training. So you should be nearing the end of whatever training plan you have been following.

WHAT!!! You haven't been following a training plan and have been just going at it in a hit or miss, mostly miss schedule? What the heck are you going to do?

Well if you are injured, deal with that first. You will not want to be already hurting when you are in the corral waiting to start. Fixing whatever injuries you might have are the most important thing you can do right now. You can always do activities that don't stress your injury while you rehab it. Biking, swimming and pool running are good ways to train while your rehabbing that injury.

Training plans are ideal and if you can the best way to train for finishing a long distance event. But life has a way of slapping down our best laid plans. So what do you do if your now 7 weeks away and haven't been following a good plan? This advice is for my walkers and run/walkers. A runner who is planning to run 26.2 miles and hasn't trained might want to consider walking or at most alternating running with long walk intervals.

A walker who is in overall good shape can finish a marathon. If your training hasn't been the best this year now is the time to start doing EVERYTHING right. Start eating properly and see if you can drop a few of those extra fluff pounds you have been thinking about losing. Get serious about your stretching. Loose muscles do everything better.

Training when you are playing catch up needs to be different from a what you would do in a 6 month plan. To start with train for time not distance. You need to train your body to stay in motion for 3 to 6 miles one day and if your doing Goofy you need to be able to handle 10 hours motion over two days. You can do that. Don't worry about speed worry about your endurance. You need to be able to stay in motion, your training to finish not win. If you have an hour, walk a brisk hour a day, if you have 3, 4 or 5 hours on the weekend then get out there and walk.

You don't need 3 weeks to taper if you've only trained a month. You need to keep walking regularly right up to the last few days. Two days of rest will do wonders for you, especially if it's active rest like enjoying the Disney Parks.

Time is running out but there is still a good chance to finish your events with last minute preparing, if you do it properly.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stretching it.

Why is it so darn hard to remember to take the time to stretch after you exercise? The benefits are huge and it really does help. So why is that the part of our training that most of us neglect?

Your stride is easier, smoother and longer when your muscles are limber. When you have tight places that is where your smoothness and stride length will get hung up. Also limber muscles can exercise longer because there is less internal resistance.

To start with stay hydrated. Dry muscles are tight and easily injured muscles. Make sure you drink your water. Hummmmm, that's another thing we neglect, even though we all know it's vital to getting the best from your body. I wonder if the two are connected. Things like stretching, staying hydrated and even icing sore places are where a lot of us, me included, miss the boat sometimes.

Things that don't feel like exercise get put on a back burner because when we do stretching it doesn't feel like a workout, it feels like resting and we have much more important things to do right then. If we have an hour we are going to run, walk, swim, do weights or whatever our "real" workout is that day. We don't take up real exercise time with stretching.

When we do add stretching to the end off our workout, and I don't mean throwing a leg over something and leaning into it for 30 seconds and taking off to change, we accomplish a lot. To start with we get the lactic acid that we built up moving on out. Soreness is often that same lactic acid pooling up in your muscle tissue. We increase the range of motion of our muscles. We actually make our muscles and tendons stronger by keeping them limber.

So the moral of this story is: To perform at your best your muscles need to be limber and have the longest range of motion possible. Hydrated muscles are stronger, looser and less prone to injury.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Walking Breaks

There is a school of thought that walk breaks during a long distance run will help you go further and faster. The theory being that your body recovers from the strain of the running during the walk breaks. Jeff Galloway has made this style of long distance running called run/walk famous. A good many marathoners have used this idea to train for and finish their races.

Before I became a race walker I ran. My running career spanned many years from the late 70s to the mid 90s. During that time I experimented a lot with different techniques and ideas. One being the run/walk. In a nut shell, I didn't find it helpful and actually felt that it hindered me. My experience was once you broke stride from running to walking it was hard to get back into the run stride again.

I'm talking about the technique of running for a certain amount of minutes or a certain distance then walking a minute and running again. I found that is got progressively harder to start the running stride again. I did fine with longer breaks like run 10 min walk 10 min, but the short walk breaks really messed with my stride. I found that slowing my running was easier and once I felt recovered picking the pace back up. The same goes now with my race walking, if a pace feels to hard I'll back off for a while and then come back to it. This is easy to test on a treadmill.

When making the transition from faster to slower and slower to faster, I have found that if you let your arms lead your legs will follow. A proven technique for going faster when you can't get you legs to go any faster is to try and get your arms moving faster. Let your arms lead the pace and it helps the transition.

If you have tried the run/walk and it works for you then by all means use it. But experiment with using it in different ways, you just might find a way that works better for you. During training is the time to do this experimenting not during you race. You need to have all the bugs worked out before the starting line. Nothing makes you feel worse than to be ready for a race and then do something that causes you problems. Like going to fast before you have warmed up properly.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda