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Posts tagged ‘performance’

Nasal Breathing

One of the benefits of going home to visit family (other than getting to see my family of course) is I get to learn what new and exciting things my super speedy runner cousin has been up to. Well other than letting me ride his Elliptigo, (so much fun!!), my cousin shared with me a few awesome fitness websites, a few new books, and a little info on nasal breathing.

Question: How do you breathe when you run? It’s not something I typically think about either but based on my running pics, I can say for a fact I breathe through my mouth and not my nose. Mouth open, oxygen in, aerobic glycolysis starts, and I keep running. It’s what comes naturally to me, right?

Well I did a little reading after my information session with cousin Dan, and it seems breathing through the mouth is in fact, not natural. Infants breathe through their noses and it is only when something prevents them from nasal inhalation, that they open their mouths. It’s an emergency response.

Here are some of the things I read about nasal breathing:

  • it allows you to better utilize oxygen
  • you breathe cleaner air because it is better filtered
  • it slows down your heart rate
  • it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which calms the mind and rejuvenates the body
  • it produces less metabolic waste than breathing through your mouth
  • and the most common thing I read about nasal breathing… it’s hard!

Yesterday I tried a little nasal breathing during my run. Other than feeling like I was blowing snot everywhere (sorry, gross I know), I felt like I was suffocating . I was only able to get up to six breaths at a time before I had to open my mouth. But I did notice a little increase in pace. That was probably because I was at the end of my run, but maybe a little nasal breathing helped. Today I have a hard speed workout so I doubt I’ll be trying my nasal breathing at the track. Perhaps I’ll save it for my easy run tomorrow.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


Running Update: Last week I ran 45 successful miles. I had two speed workouts, one at the track and one tempo run, and they both went very well. This week is my low mileage week so I’m enjoying a few shorter days. And Friday will be my long run day because we are leaving for San Francisco on Saturday. So excited!! Yesterday’s run is here.

Muscle Memory

For the next seven months, I’ve vowed to treat myself like the runner I know I can be. It’s fun to think about and as I mentioned earlier this week, the next few months are all about massive base building and strength training.

In the meantime, since I’m still not running, I’ve been able to get quite in tune with my body. Due to the fact I don’t have the beautiful outdoor scenery to distract me, only the same people I see every day at the gym, I’m focusing a lot more on exactly what I’m doing with my body when I move. The most important thing I’ve learned? My muscle memory is whack!

Just to give a few examples:

My right shoulder creeps up to my ear, I squeeze my left toes, and my right foot leads everything I do. I’ve also realized I do not engage my quads and hip flexors like I should. I learned this Tuesday when I did an exercise on the cable machine that required me to push back with my foot. Other than the fact that my left foot was beyond tense, (I could hardly get it to flex like I needed it to), my quads and hip flexors didn’t want to do much of anything. Then I noticed my shoulders and toes today while on the stair climber. Slowly but surely my right shoulder got closer and closer to my ear as my left toes squeezed harder and harder. It got to the point where I told myself to forget the planned intervals and just get that stupid shoulder to go down. I’m pretty sure I have some bad muscle memory going on…


Muscle memory can best be described as a type of movement with which the muscles become familiar over time. Muscle memory thus becomes an unconscious process. The muscles grow accustomed to certain types of movement. This is extremely important in different types of training for sports. The more often you do a certain activity, the more likely you are to do it as needed, when needed… This is one of the reasons that with many activities that involve the body’s muscles, like playing an instrument, learning appropriate technique is always stressed. You want your muscle memory to reflect the correct way to do things, not the incorrect way. Your muscle memory can actually play against you if you’ve constantly been practicing something the wrong way.

I really like this quote from LifeHacker:

The key to building good muscle memories is to focus on the quality of the quantity. 

Quality over quantity. Why am I too stubborn to realize this? As a runner, I’ve always been about the numbers. Pace, mileage, PRs, etc. Obviously that’s not the best habit to have. Therefore, in addition to focusing on the strength and base building over the next two months, I want to improve my muscle memory. I need to stop practicing the bad technique and perfect the good technique. My running will be thankful 🙂

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Recovery Update: My legs are still quite sore from the hip flexor strengthening exercises I did on Tuesday. However, I can tell the strength training exercises I’ve been doing are helping me to sit up straighter, engage my hip flexors, and open up my back. The overhead lunges are my new favorite exercise. I’m also starting to keep a record of all the exercises, stretches, workouts, foods, etc. that work well for me. I need to remember how these exercises make me feel and why they are beneficial for my running. If not, I’ll soon be back to where I am now. Injured.

Renota Canova – Ryan Hall’s New Running Coach

Yesterday I watched this video of Ryan Hall discussing his new running coach – Renota Canova. I had never heard of Canova so I did a little research on him tonight. It turns out he’s coached quite a few very successful marathoners and has a very specific approach to training.

Canova has coached Moses Mosep, a 2:03:06 marathoner, Floerence Kiplagat, and a long list of other runners. You can check them out here. His approach to training is very detailed and you can read a great explanation of it here. But for a quick summary, here are a few of the details:

  • All out hill workouts
  • Circuits (jumps, high knees, back kicks, etc.) between moderately paced intervals
  • Shorter intervals
  • Fast long runs (long runs should be done at roughly 95% of marathon pace)
  • marathon pace intervals with moderate rest
  • High volume intervals (ex: 10x1600m @ 15k pace)

In other words extensive hill work, circuits, increasing the intensity of amount of hard running, with great differences in intensity between hard sessions and recovery days.

Sometimes I wish I had enough time and money to travel to Kenya and learn from the best. I wish Ryan Hall all the best with his new coach. His best race performance is yet to come, kind of like mine. 😉

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


The Professionals and Sleep

Sleep is essential. It allows the body to repair itself and helps improve our brain’s ability to function. The average American gets 6.44 hours of sleep, which puts me in the category of being average. My local running hero, news anchor Kelcey Carlson (who also has 2 kids), gets around 4 1/2 hours and still manages to run sub 3:15 marathons. (Some people are just wired differently.) But the elites, they are in a completely different sleeping category…

I found this infographic that describes how much sleep some of the top athletes get during a day. Lebron James and Roger Federer spend literally half of their day in bed. I imagine the other half is spent training and eating. Yes, most of us do not have the luxury of sleeping 10-12 hours a day but I think 7-8 would be an improvement. Maybe that’s why I haven’t made it to the Olympics yet. 😉

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Today was an easy 6 miler. I ran a different route and incorporated a few more hills. I also had to go sans music because I desperately needed some quiet time. Nothing super excited but here are my stats. Tomorrow is my longest track workout to date.

Racing Weight

What if I lost a few pounds? How much faster could I run?

I never think of myself as needing to lose a few pounds. Generally speaking, I’m a pretty small person. At work if I don’t wear heels, I am easily mistaken for a student. (Maybe I’ll appreciate this when I’m 40.) But I am curious… what if I could give up my chocolate habit and sweet potato fries just until the marathon in March? How  much faster could I potentially run? According to one of my running books by Bob Glover, my ideal racing weight is 108 lbs. That is 3 lbs less than what I weigh now and for someone who is 5’2, that’s kind of a lot. Read more

Inspiratory Muscle Training

Did you know that when you breathe, you only use a small percentage of your lung capacity? And did you also know that inspiratory muscle training, which is commonly used to treat people with asthma and COPD, is used by athletes to increase breathing power? Read more

2nd Surge

I’ve tried tried a myriad of energy gels in my years of running. Right now I have two boxes of 2nd Surge and 1 box of Honey Stingers energy gels sitting on my kitchen counter. I like the Honey Stingers and the fact that they are more natural, easily digestible, and have B vitamins, which are super important during strenuous exercise. However, the taste is not my favorite. I’m a chocolate gel person and after years of using GU chocolate (because for some reason I didn’t realize I had another option), I found 2nd Surge. I was reminded this past Saturday why I love 2nd Surge… Read more

Adaptogenic Herbs

Although I have not been doing a good job of listening to my favorite podcast, Ben Greenfield Fitness, I am at least still able to follow his blog. I was reading this post today, and his mention of adaptogenic herbs reminded me of how MUCH he talks about them. He always mentions his adaptogenic herb tea on his podcast and also includes them in his blog posts occasionally. I finally had to ask myself today, What are adaptogenic herbs?

Basically these herbs are used as supplements to help fight of stressors to the body. They can help slow down stress and aging, enhance the body’s resistance to stressors, maintain antioxidant balance, mediate inflammatory response,  and manage endocrine and neuroendocrine balance. In other words, they help the body to maintain a state of homeostasis. Think ancient Chinese medicine…

Dr. Bertrand Babient

There are many different types of adaptogens, but some of the best-known herbs used to protect the body against degeneration and aging fall into the following three categories:

Global system regulators
These herbs are known to have a global impact on the body and to prevent aging. They are Pamax, ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), rhodiola, ashwagandha and Holy Basil.

Cellular and immune regulators
These herbs, also called companion adaptogens, are used specifically to support the immune system of the cells and to prevent degenerative diseases. They include turmeric, green tea, rosemary, grape seed (proanthocyianidin), grape skin (resveratrol) and ginger.

Specific regulators

These herbs target specific issues and include licorice and fo-ti (for energy and sleep), gotu kola (for connective tissue), ginkgo biloba (for circulation) and royal jelly (for mental alertness).

There are quite a few articles out there on the importance of adaptogenic herbs and their role in the response of the adrenal glands to stressors. This article from Livestrong gives a brief description of this role as well as explains how to incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your diet. From what I’ve read, it seems adaptogenic teas are a pretty easy and convient way  to consume them. I tweeted @BenGreenfield to ask what brand he drinks and I’m still waiting for a reply. (It was only 10 minutes ago.) (UPDATE: Ben Greenfield uses TianChi and says nothing else even comes close.) In the meantime, here is a very detailed description of the importance of adaptogenic herbs as well as what herbs come from what part of the world and what they are good for. Maybe I’ll substitute my green smoothie for a new tea 🙂 I think it could be a good addition to my diet…

Photo Source: Wizdomseeker, Wikimedia Commons

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 🙂

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

Blue Lips

First I would like to give a huge THANK YOU to the two girls selling lemonade along the Tobacco Trail this morning.  If it weren’t for them, I’m sure I would have slowly been walking back to my car.  You see, it was hot today and I didn’t refill my bottle with enough fluids.  Therefore, around mile 17 when I was about to run out of my GU electrolyte drink, I thought I might start begging strangers for water.  🙂  Luckily two sisters along with their mom were selling lemonade and cookies at mile 17.9.  Although I didn’t have any money with me, they filled up my bottle with the coldest, most delicious lemonade ever. I immediately felt like I came back to life and when I got to my car, I drove back to where the girls were to pay them.  They’ve got a good thing going and I’m going to start carrying a little cash with me from now on.  Next time I might want a cookie!

When I got home today, I noticed the same thing I notice every time after a run longer than 15 miles – my lips are blue.  It never fails.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw this back in 2005 – I was so concerned.  But then after a shower and lots of fluid, they returned to normal.  However, I still do not know why I get them and it still makes me a little worried.  I spent some time reading today about what others have to say about the cause of blue lips.  Here are some things I found:


Blue lips may represent a type of cyanosis caused by a lower level of circulating oxygen in the red blood cells. It may also represent a high level of an abnormal form of hemoglobin in the circulation. If normal color returns upon warming and/or massage, the cause is due to the body part not getting enough blood supply due to cold, constriction (of the tissues or the blood vessels that supply the tissues) or some other reason. If the lips remain blue, then there may be an underlying disease or structural abnormality interfering with the body’s ability to deliver oxygenated red blood to the body.

Julie Boehlke, Livestrong:

If you are experiencing symptoms such as blue fingers, fingernail beds, lips or skin when you exercise or overexert yourself, this could be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have a pre-existing medical condition which affects your oxygen levels, you may notice the bluish tint, which is called cyanosis.

Severe Dehydration: All of the signs of mild and moderate dehydration, plus: blue lips, blotchy skin, confusion, lethargy, lack of sweating, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, rapid and weak pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, high fever, little or no urination

Dacia Rivers, Livestrong:

After a cold run…

If you look in a mirror, you might also notice that you look paler than normal. Your lips might even look blue because of the cold and exertion. In general, you don’t have to worry about cold hands and feet and even blue lips at the end of your run, as long as you feel fine otherwise.


For me. I’m going with my blue lips are due to dehydration. As Dr. Timothy Noakes suggests, drink to thirst. Well I was super thirsty and had nothing to drink. Therefore, I was probably a little more dehydrated than I should have been.  Perhaps lack of oxygen might have something to do with it also, but I’m not sure how to determine that one. Either way, I feel fine now so as long as they keep returning to a normal color, I’m not going to worry too much.

I’m considering shortening my out and backs so I can refill more frequently to try and avoid the really thirsty situation again.  Once I got that amazing lemonade, I felt like I had just started running.  It was amazing.  Something to keep in mind for next Saturday…

And check out my delicious lunch this afternoon: An organic bison burger with guacamole and sweet potato fries.  It was amazing!

I ate every last bite. Yum!


Happy Trails and Happy Running,