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Mustard and Leg Cramps

Has anybody else ever heard that mustard is good for cramps? Well I certainly never had until this afternoon. Today I learned that during the football games at school, it’s a common practice to give the players mustard when they are cramping. Mustard? I had no idea and when I asked, they didn’t seem to know why either.

So why should you eat a packet of French’s yellow mustard when your legs are cramping?

It is believed that mustard helps with cramping because of the turmeric. And it can’t be dijon, spicy, or honey mustard. It has to be yellow mustard. The turmeric, which gives mustard its yellow color, has anti-inflammatory properties which in turn, helps with muscle cramps. Studies have yet to prove this relationship and if somebody offered me a bottle of mustard to help with cramping, I might have to pass and tell them to come back at lunchtime. But if you’re interested in trying this home remedy, here is a four step process from I like Step 4 – carry packets of yellow mustard with you at all times. ¬†At least I know when I’m out running and start cramping, I can go to the nearest McDonalds for a quick fix.

I guess mustard is good for things other than making a tasty sandwich…

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


PS: I will be writing about my VO2 max test tomorrow. But I will say this: it was a real confidence booster and I guess the past 11 years of working out have made my heart and lungs pretty darn efficient. ūüôā

On a Personal Note…

I try to keep my blog posts informative with a little bit of personal info to go along with what I write. However, these past few days are causing to me ¬†to practically burst at the seams and I need to get my thoughts out. I’ll do my best to be brief, but bare with me…

Some of you may know that I’m a teacher with a love of running. During my spare time, I train for marathons, blog, and lead an all girl run club. If you know me personally you know that I have more energy than your normal person, six hours of sleep is sufficient for me, and I’m very rarely in a bad mood. People energize me and even more so, people who share my love of healthy living and endurance sports.

Having said that, let me rewind to yesterday. ¬†Yesterday I was at the gym for an easy workout. There was a trainer beside be working with her client and I decided to turn my music off and eavesdrop. I’m always curious to know what advice the trainers are giving. After about 30 seconds, I actually got irritated. The trainer was sharing her story, what worked for her, and how she lost 20 pounds. Maybe the teacher came out in me or maybe I was reminded of the book I am reading, but all I could think was¬†this is NOT about you. Why are you talking about yourself? Why are you signing her up for the 10 meal a week plan delivered straight to her door? ¬†I’ve worked with several trainers before and only one has been worth the money. Everyone else wanted me to be just like them. Only Chris understood me as a runner and an endurance athlete. He gave me the tools to reach my goals and that is what I think a trainer should do. Give someone the tools to make small lifestyle changes, have high expectations, and don’t spend 10 minutes chatting about what you did over the weekend. Make it worth the person’s money and make them sweat – even if it means making them uncomfortable. That’s what they signed up for anyway – someone who is an educator, motivator, nutritionist, and a leader who can help them achieve a goal they can not achieve alone. I think I’d be a pretty good trainer (and educator, motivator, nutritionist, leader, etc.) …

Now on to today… I went to do the first part of the QA with Duke this afternoon. Basically they moved the machine and they need someone to come in so they could calibrate it. Enter me, the volunteer. ¬†After the second part of the QA tomorrow, I’ll get to do my max test, which I’m actually a little nervous about. After my cousin told me I’d be spending 10 minutes in the pain cave, my excitement somewhat dwindled. But regardless, that is tomorrow so no need thinking about it today.

This afternoon Barbara hooked me up to 12 electrodes and a breathing machine. While turning me into an experiment, she told me how she went from being a teacher to an exercise physiologist, to a nanny, to a waitress, and back to working as an exercise physiologist. Something about her story and personality really inspired me. Not only had she been a teacher, but she started a track team at her school, completed a half Ironman, and ran a marathon. Barbara was kind, energetic, a triathlete, a marathon runner, and a former teacher who now works in fitness. I liked Barbara.

I love what I do, the people I work with, and the students i teach. ¬†And at the same time, there is almost this burning desire to just¬†do¬†fitness, exercise, health, wellness, and life with other people. I feel like I have so many good ideas and a willingness to help others learn the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Heck, in addition to Spanish, my students also know about spinach smoothies, chia seeds, and meditation. I like to think of it as a well rounded education ūüôā

More than anything, I believe in the power of health and in the ability to achieve great things. I believe that when given the right tools and with the right motivation, people can achieve anything they set out to do. I just want to help people get there.

And I don’t exactly know why, but this video inspired me tonight. Who knew Arnold could be so motivating? Thanks Ross Training for the video!



Here is to a fabulous Friday!


VO2 Max Testing

This past June at a friend’s wedding, I was chatting with a girl who works with Duke University. ¬†She mentioned her lab needed volunteers for a stress test and for a VO2 max test. ¬†I couldn’t give her my phone number fast enough. ¬†This was like a Christmas present, but 6 months earlier and it was free! I’ve always wanted to be hooked up to a machine while running really fast at an incline just so I can learn my VO2 max, max heart rate, and all of the other things those machines can tell you. A few years ago I actually researched where I could get this done in the Raleigh area. ¬†Thankfully I waited because now I’m getting it done free of charge ūüôā

This will be a two day process. Tomorrow I’m going to get a stress test. I was told this would be fairly easy and short. Friday is when I get to do the fun stuff. I first have to go through the second part of the stress test and then afterwards, they are going to do my “max test” as Brian told me over the phone this afternoon. ¬†I wasn’t really sure what all this included so I called back to the lab on my way home to clarify. ¬†Basically I was told that once I went through the 8-12 minute test, they could tell me anything I wanted to know. ¬†Max heart rate, VO2 max, aerobic threshold, lactate threshold, heart rate training zones – anything. This is the best back to school present I could have ever asked for!!! ¬†It’s kind of bizarre how excited I am about this. ¬†Maybe because I think this will tell me how “fit” I really am and what I am really capable of accomplishing. ¬†I’ll know and understand exactly what my body can¬†do. Be on the lookout for a recap of how it went after Friday.

I get distracted by my earphones on my iPod. I hope I can deal with this ūüôā

Photo Source

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Why I think Minimalist Running is Right for Me

Before I say anything, I want to preface this with the following… my body is my body and what works for me, is not the same as what works for you. Every thing about every individual is different in some way, and my feet are not the same as yours. ¬†That’s why there are so many different types of running shoes – because there are so many different types of running feet.

Now onward…

I have finally come to a very well researched conclusion Рminimalist running shoes are right for me. Ever since I tried them for the first time last May, I thought they might be the best shoe for me. However for some reason, I still went between my Minimus and my Newtons.  I never could make up my mind. And even more recently, I was loving my Brooks PureConnects so much, that I put my Minimus aside for 2 weeks, running only in the Brooks. After much trial and error, injuries, and a thorough analysis of my body (weak areas, strong areas, out of whack areas), I have made the decision minimalist running shoes allow me to run my best.

I first tried my New Balance Minimus back in May 2011. I remember the run so clearly… It was a Saturday morning and I only had time for 6 miles because I was translating at 8am. ¬†I decided to head out in my Minimus and put my other shoes by the door so I could come back to change after 1/2 mile or so. ¬†As I waited for my Garmin to connect to the satellite, I was so nervous. It was like I was going on a job interview . ¬†I didn’t know what to expect after those first few steps but I just knew it was going to be painful. ¬†To my surprise, the run was anything but painful. From the moment I started, I couldn’t believe how easy it felt. ¬†I no longer felt off balance and my feet didn’t hurt one bit. ¬†I actually ran over 6 miles in those shoes and my feet, calves, and body never suffered once. The crazy thing is when I got in my car to drive, I literally felt (and heard) my hip and back pop into place. My first thought was Oh my gosh, that feels amazing!¬† I was on a runner’s cloud nine all day.

And then I got indecisive….

I’m not sure why I can’t accept a good running thing when I have it. Perhaps I was feeling the need to make use of my $150 Newtons. Whatever the reason may have been, I started doing my long runs in the bulkier shoes and before long, I was out of commission for a month. ¬†For some reason, whenever I run in shoes with cushion, it’s like my right foot rolls out and puts a tremendous amount of strain on my peroneal tendon. ¬†It’s sloppy form and because my right side is quite a bit weaker, the effects are amplified. Put me in a pair of Minimus and my form adjusts itself right away. ¬†It’s like I need to feel the ground beneath me. ¬†It gives me a better idea of what the rest of my body is doing, which allows me to make adjustments as necessary.

Last week I hardly ran at all. ¬†My sloppy form had put a little too much stress on my leg and I knew I needed to take it easy. ¬†However, I have been practically dying to get back to my training schedule. Today I decided I was going to attempt my speed workout but call it quits if I was hurting. ¬†I had 8 miles planned with 4 mile repeats. Up until I started stretching, I was¬†still¬†debating what shoes to wear. (I really don’t know why I make this so hard on myself.) I went with the Minimus and the leg that had been bothering me for over a week, felt great. I was so happy and thankful that I was¬†easily¬†able to complete my workout. The pace felt easy, the form felt great, and my leg didn’t bother me one bit. Mentally, those were the fastest 8 miles I had ever run.

I still really like my Brooks PureConnect, and I think they are perfect for a short recovery run. Super light weight with just the right amount of cushion. However, I finally think I understand my body can not run in this type of shoe all the time. I run better in a very minimal shoe. Period. It must run in the family because my super speedy runner cousin is the same way… a former Newton runner turned minimalist.

My last race I ran in the Minimus and won for the females. Like I said, minimalist shoes allow me to run my best:)


Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Slow

Today I went out for my my first run (other than a few miles here and there), in about a week. ¬†As soon as I stepped outside, my Garmin started beeping¬†low battery.¬† My initial reaction was NOOOO! But then I realized this was a good thing, as I wouldn’t be constantly checking my pace. My leg still doesn’t feel 100% so I needed to take it easy. ¬†I tried going slow and I did a good job at that for the first mile or so. After that, I’m certain I was going about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes too fast. Why can’t I slow down?? I think part of my problem is my pride. I don’t want other people thinking¬†geez, she’s really slow¬†or to get passed by the grandpa behind me. For some reason, I feel like I have something to prove to the random cars driving by because I know judging runners is exactly what I’m doing while driving down the road. (I’m kidding. ¬†The only thing that crosses my mind is to yell Go runner, go!)

Easy runs are good for us and there is nothing wrong with going slow. ¬†I really need to get over myself…

Matt Forsman,

Running slow applies “gentle” stress to the key physiological systems required to run at a high level. Gentle, easy running helps to let the healing begin. Think of it as “active recovery” that helps facilitate blood flow gently to the damaged muscles that need help.

Independent of expediting the healing process, running slow is the most effective way to build a base. There are a million different training philosophies and approaches that you can utilize to get into quality running shape. Virtually all of them include some kind of base building phase comprised largely of easy runs.

This blog entry from The Lola Papers does a great job of summarizing the slow recovery run – it’s for recovery. No race and no competition. The author describes the run as a vacation, a siesta of sorts. Just giving your legs a break while still doing what you love.

Tomorrow is a track workout and Wednesday will be a slow day – I insist. I’m pretty sure if I can master the slow run, my rate of in juries will decrease. Now I’m off to do my alignment exercises and back stretches. I have to keep proactive with the injury prevention ūüôā

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


On a side note, today was the first day back for the students. I have 90+ students and I can already tell they’re fabulous. I wholeheartedly believe that when given the opportunity and in the right environment, kids really do want to excel. Here is to a great school year!


Must slow down!
Photo Source: Parutakupiu, Wikimedia Commons

A Little Inspiration

I was a little bummed out this weekend because I didn’t get to do my 15 miler. ¬†However, I was okay with skipping it as long as it helped me stay off the injured list. ¬†And it was also nice to do something a little different. ¬†I slept in until 6am, enjoyed breakfast with Mario and then went to the gym for a really long workout – bike, run (I did get in a few miles), elliptical, weights. ¬†Anyway, I needed a little motivation to keep my running spirits up.

Read more

The Spine

When I was doing Bikram Yoga every week a few years ago, one of the quotes that always stuck with me was something along the lines of¬†If you have a healthy spine, the gods will chase you, and you will have a healthy life.¬† Recently, I’ve been trying to self diagnose myself. ¬†Do I have scoliosis or no? There is definitely a small curvature in my spine and when I saw an Xray of it back in March, you could tell it curved to the left. ¬†However, last night after talking to my mom who says I was never diagnosed as a small child with scoliosis, I decided the years of muscle imbalance are what is causing my spine to go to the left. ¬†That means there’s still hope and I can fix it!

Now, in addition to my meditation every morning, I’m also doing some spine exercises. As I read on a blog post the other day,¬†If it’s important, do it every single day.¬†This is important to so I’m working on it…

The first thing I am including into my day are some alignment exercises. ¬†Here is a link to the exercises I am doing. ¬†I just started these so I don’t really know how it’s working yet. ¬†However, I really think paying attention to my alignment along with continuing to strengthen my right side, will help my spine issues. The other thing I am doing are the yoga poses from the bikram class. Yes, I know you are not suppose to do these out of order from the 26 posture sequence, but I make sure I am completely warmed up before I begin. Also, I go very slow and am careful with my back. The poses that I do are the cobra, locust, full locust, and bow pose. And finally, the last thing I am doing is trying NOT to cross my legs every time I sit down. ¬†That one is probably the hardest and I have to constantly remind myself. ¬†Oh well, I’m sure I can change this habit soon enough.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. ¬†The weather is finally starting to cool down here in NC and it is fabulous! I’m looking forward to some fall running.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Locust Pose
Photo Source: Satheesan, Wikimedia Commons

Improving on the Hills – Ben Greenfield’s Advice

First and foremost, HAPPY FRIDAY! Today is my last Friday before the students come back to school. ¬†By 4:00 pm today, I finally felt like I was ready for 96 smiling faces Monday morning. And as with most Fridays, I spent the afternoon thinking about my run for the weekend. ¬†I have 15 miles scheduled and to be quite honset, I’m not sure if I’m going to do it. ¬†My peroneal tendon has been bothering me, and I don’t know if it’s worth risking an injury. ¬†But in my perfect world where I do run tomorrow, I have to make the decision where to go – a nice flat trail to get in the distance & maybe some tempo miles or the hills of downtown Raleigh, which are also the hills of my race in November. Decisions, decisions.

I think a lot about the hills in the City of Oaks Marathon. ¬†Mainly because I remember how painful they were when I did the race a few years ago. ¬†In addition to visualizing me attacking the hills and hill repeats, I’m still constantly searching for other suggestions. This afternoon I was reading the transcript from one of Ben Greenfield’s podcasts and as luck would have, he shares three of his recommendations for dealing with the hills. ¬†Behold, new advice…. I can’t wait to try suggestions #3.

His first recommendation is plyometrics – single leg jumps, stepping off a platform & then explosively jumping up again, and counter jumps where you are dipping down and jumping up again. ¬†Lucky for me, I LOVE jumps like this and do them quite a bit. ¬†I’ll just need to incorporate more platforms starting next week. ¬†His second recommendation is strength training and in particular¬†single leg squats, lunges, reverse lunges, deadlifts, and squats. ¬†Recently, I’ve been aiming to do single leg squats twice a week at the gym. ¬†I also do almost twice as many on my right leg since it’s actually 3/4″ smaller than my left. ¬†Definitely a muscle imbalance going on there. Ben Greenfield’s last recommendation is Lydiard hill drills. ¬†Here is a description of the work out. ¬†Basically, instead of continually sprinting up the hill and jogging back down, you bound up the hill, not focusing on speed but instead on relaxation and springing off the ball of your foot. Then you jog back down and down and do a hard effort sprint 4-5 times (50-200 meters). There is a great hill that is also part of the marathon course where I love to do my hill repeats. ¬†If I am going to do my bounding/sprinting, I think I’ll make sure it’s early in the morning. It is a pretty busy street here in Raleigh.

On a side note, my meditation is going quite well. I found a great podcast this morning to lead me through my meditations. ¬†It definitely helps to have someone talk me through the process instead of me trying to do it on my own. It is making me much more aware and now I have to ride to work in silence. The radio really bothers me and I prefer to be in my own thoughts. It’s crazy what can happen in only 5 short days.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and runs lots of happy miles.

Sending many happy running thoughts your way,


Luckily, these are NOT the hills I have to run ūüôā
Photo Source: Alex Bibins, Wikimedia Commons


A few months ago I read The Power of Habit but Charles Duhigg. ¬†It was an incredibly interesting book and gave me great insight into my habits, how to create new ones, and how to change bad ones. ¬†For example, every time I randomly fall asleep (in a chair, sitting on the couch or anywhere really), the moment I wake up, I want something to eat. ¬†I’m not hungry but I want something to eat. ¬†My habit loop is: ¬†sleep -> food -> feel satisfied. I mean what’s better than a power nap and a delicious scoop of almond butter? Read more

Scoliosis and Running

Three times in the past two months I have been asked “Do you have a mild form of scoliosis?”. ¬†My initial thought was oh no! Can I run with scoliosis? Well, I think so…

Jim Thomas, Livestrong

According to psychotherapist Li Feng Tian in the “Musculoskeletan Consumer Review,” “One can usually participate in any type of exercises with scoliosis.” If you have scoliosis, posture and muscle changes caused by the condition may restrict your movements to some extent. In rare cases, your endurance may be affected by reduced lung capacity. But Tian says curvature of the spine won’t be worsened by exercise. And if running or jogging bothers you, back off for a few days. If it still bothers you, a muscle imbalance might have been aggravated, and it may be time to check in with a physical therapist.

I definitely favor one side over the other and often times feel I am curved a little more to the left.  Are there any other runners out there with scoliosis? How do you handle.  For me, I know I need to continue to focus on strengthening my right side. But what are my other options?

Happy Trails and Happy Running,