Smart Running: Training smarter, not harder in times of high stress

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Smart running is how you get the most bang for your buck. It involves the time, mileage, and intensity of your training load each week, recovery time between sessions, how often you race, and what cross-training activities you do to assist with fitness and/or strength. In light of the recent world events which have injected a lot of stress and uncertainty into society and individuals alike, training smarter, not harder, is the way to go for now I do believe. I call it baking a cake. I want to bake a really good cake right now – my base. Then I’ll get ready to ice it later for race season when it eventually comes back around. 

I’ll admit, it took me a while to get to this headspace of tuning in with my body, and not being so rigid or structured with training. I would be lying if I said I didn’t use running as a form of coping mechanism when COVID-19 altered the way we live our lives. I was able to keep up the early mornings, harder sessions a few times a week – basically my normal training load and intensity I was doing during the collegiate season. However, onsetting fatigue and gradual discontent with a high focus on running at this time wasn’t making me happy. Instead, I decided to completely tune in to my body and use my times of higher energy to work harder, and lower energy to settle into long and slow mileage. 

 

I now run at the time of day I best feel like it, not necessarily first thing in the morning like I usually do during school or season. I don’t put pressure on how many sessions a week I do. I’m happy if it’s just 1, and what day it is, doesn’t particularly bother me. I do a few runs with team-mates and friends for the social aspect and pure joy of getting out on the trails. I am fit, not necessarily top end fit, but I don’t need to be right now – that’s not what it is about. I’ll get ready to ice my cake when the time comes. 

This is a lesson for life. Coping mechanisms are unsustainable and will result in fatigue, which then takes time to recover from. If you keep it up, it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle – like a Catch-22. I hope you get the opportunity to cash in on this advantage COVID-19 has given us to build solid values and foundations around what we do and love. All the hard work and base-building, and the personal introspection this time has ignited, will pay off later. I’m certain of it.

Smarter Running and training load: how do you manage your milage?

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Mileage is something that should be gradually built, based on your background and skill level in the sport, and your injury history (because an injury is a part of any sport you compete in, at a high-level). Working with a coach who monitors this, and adapts it to suit your goals and personal needs is the best path to success and reducing injury risk. The general rule of thumb is don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% a week, sometimes 15%. You should have down weeks too, particularly after harder training ‘blocks’. 

Training ‘blocks’ can be period of a few weeks (mine were generally 4-6 weeks), where there is a focus on something for a particular race or season. I know I can build the top-end speed fitness in 4 weeks that I need for faster track races, for example. My coach, team-mates and I work closely at this with race-specific workouts when the key races of the season are coming up. 

This is also known as ‘periodized training’. We can’t keep extremely high levels of intensity up all year round, as it is unsustainable. So we have times of base building, speed building, endurance building, strength…you get it. 

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I’ve never been a particularly high-mileage runner and personally have had success with this approach, and minimal injury particularly from increased running load-induced stress. My ultimate running training schedule involves 5-6 days of running, with 1-2 doubles (25-30 mins each), a swim session, and 2 running strength- specific sessions. I’d rarely go over 100km a week. Off this training, I’ve managed to qualify and compete in some pretty cool events, and run some nifty times. There’s no doubt I will creep my mileage up in the future at some point – try it, give it a go, test my limits. I don’t want to be left wondering. It’s a bit like Mario Andretti’s quote:

 

“If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough” – Mario Andretti

 

Sometimes it is good to take some risks. Just know when it is the right time to test the waters here. 

What is Smart Running?

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Smart running is all about tapping into your personal needs, training and race goals, goals, and desires in life external to running and sport, injury history, and the context in which you are living in. To have the smartest approach to running, your program should be individualized and flexible. You and your coach should have open, honest communication which allows for program adaptability. I’ve been lucky to have this for the duration of my running career. If you don’t feel like you can communicate with your coach, then you might need to re-evaluate your training set-up to better suit your needs. 

 

“It’s better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation” – Herman Melville

 

No one ever truly succeeds if they spend the majority of their time copying or imitating others. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great deal to be learned from coaches, mentors, training partners, elite-athletes etc, but these lessons should just be parts to building your ‘whole’. We learn a lot just from our own experiences in the sport. Whether this is in sessions, races, mentally tough situations, long-run banter and discussions with our training partners, running training through a global pandemic…..

I like to information gather when making decisions about the training approach. I’ll consult my coach, tap into how I feel, map out a rough training timeline calendar to key races. This ensures my preparation is optimal and doesn’t induce injury in the build-up. Further, it must be manageable with the rest of life’s commitments and hobbies. If you’re anything like me, you might enjoy a few things outside of running. In fact, I’ve found keeping up my hobbies like music and singing, surfing, skiing, doing outdoor activities with friends, website management and blog post writing, etc make me a better runner – as I’m my happiest self. So I stress to my teammates and friends who ask if you enjoy lots of things, find a way to achieve balance. Running more is not always better. It can help – but there is a time and place to increase and reduce load. 

How does stress impact running training and performance?

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My coach at Boise State has a good analogy for how stress can impact running training and performance. It also most often ends up trickling through other aspects of our life. We want a sustainable approach that is optimal for long-term success and caters to changing needs, goals, and shifting life situations. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when more things are out of our control. We need to focus on what we can control. 

My coach calls it the ‘cups’ approach. Bear with me. Imagine your life is balanced between different cups, that are each half-filled with water. Considering this analogy, most of us have cups for:

  • Work
  • School/College 
  • Social life
  • Family 
  • Sports/Exercise/Training
  • Recovery/downtime/me-time
  • Hobbies 

 

All these cups need to be balanced with certain amounts of water, not overflowing. This is optimal to reduce stress and anxiety in our life. Before you think, “that’s impossible” – hear me out. 

If 1 cup is overflowing with water, for example – a heavy load at work, something else has to give.  Some of that water needs to go somewhere else to balance the extra work stress out. 

If multiple cups begin to overflow, we start to spread ourselves thin. Don’t panic if this is you, especially at this time in the world at present. We just have to reevaluate priorities and potentially make a few shifts or changes to better suit our needs. 

So, next time you want to push your limits or step outside your comfort zone in training, for example, make sure your cups allow for this. Same for any other endeavor. You’ll recover better, perform better, and develop smart habits for the future. It’s establishing foundations for long-term success in running or whatever it is you want to do. 

 

Being a Student-Athlete in College

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Being A Student-Athlete in College

When you think college athlete or student-athlete, the common things that come to mind are becoming part of a college team, NCAA (national collegiate athletic association), high-quality fields of talented individuals, traveling to meets, fast cross country courses, lots of team gear, completing a degree, and moving out of home – potentially even overseas. All these things are a part of the student-athlete experience. I personally chose to come to the US and study at Boise State as a graduate/masters level collegiate athlete. I was offered a sport halfway through my undergraduate degree in Australia, after winning the 2017 U20 National Cross Country Championships. It was fair to say that this race changed my life forever. A bold statement, but sitting here at my computer now and reflecting on my first year living in Idaho, this is an extremely fair conclusion. 

It was difficult to make the decision to move my life overseas aged 21 when I felt comfortable in Australia with my coaching set-up and university team there. However, I felt like I needed to take on a new adventure. I wasn’t quite ready to go into the working world full-time (I tried this for half a year before I left), Sydney is expensive to move out of home in, and a collegiate athletic scholarship would provide me with the luxury of being ‘paid’ in a sense to do what I love, be a part of a team and make new friends, move out of home, live in a foreign country and see new places,  and experience the true long-term independence I had been craving. 

What does it mean to be a student-athlete?

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If you’re a student-athlete, you are expected to balance your academics, training, and college life – and do it well. I have improved my time management skills immensely, learning to prioritize and time-block (scheduling – I personally love to use Google Calendar) so I can travel to meets stress-free and perform at my best, and have the social life that I desire as a graduate student in a new country. This was a must for me. I am the best athlete I can be when I’m happy, which means a balance of social life, study (I study a master’s of music performance in vocal studies), and training. 

I had some idea of what to expect when I moved to America to study at Boise State as I had been in continual contact with the coaches, asking them numerous questions for over 9 months. I wrote a list every time I thought of a question and would cross them off as I asked them. The coaches were always willing to answer, and answer promptly. 

 

What are the benefits of being a college athlete?

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The support system is one of the biggest benefits. I’ll use my school, Boise State, as an example. The program here has been designed to optimize training and student-athlete health, so you can perform at your best and balance your other life commitments. We have multiple training staff that attends our training sessions, a team sports-performance psychologist, sports nutritionist, and some excellent athletic trainers and athletic training facility. We are allowed to visit the athletic training room 6 times a week if we wish and work with the athletic trainers to address niggles and injury concerns, and recover from training sessions/workouts. Often we go straight after practice, as the center is right near the athletics track. The room is decked out with foam rollers, compression boots, thera-guns, cupping, and dry needling kits, an ice bath, compression ice gear, heat packs, and a small rehab weights and equipment area. 

The Training

The training is slightly different from home, which is to be expected with any new coach and program. We keep with the standard recovery run, 2x workouts a week for the most part (including fartleks, tempo runs, track sessions, grass sessions), a mid-week longer run, a sprint session, and a weekend-long run to finish off the week. The main differences for me were the addition of pre-cross country season altitude training up in the hills and ski resort in the warmer months, the team-based focus including groups for workouts, and a very season centered workout approach (Outdoor, indoor track, and cross country). 

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Team Focus

There is no denying that team camaraderie and a team-based focus is crucial to student-athlete life. One cross-country season at Boise State was enough to show me the immense importance of working as a team in what is often regarded as an individual sport, and as a result, I have friends and training partners for life, all around the world. In cross country, it is so important that the team finish as high as possible, so we need the whole team to perform at their very best, to place well in meets. To do this, we must work together in race scenarios to optimize the result at the end. It is also important to mention that I love having people to run with all the time. I can choose whether I go solo on some days, but for the most part, it is nice to know that I always have friends up for a jog. 

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Finances

Yes, we do get a stipend. The university pays us a certain amount each month to cover living expenses such as groceries, rent, phone bills, potential car payments, and entertainment money. This will differ from university to university. 

Travel

Traveling and team camps are also another perk of being a collegiate athlete. In this past year, I’ve had the opportunity to visit states such as Utah, Washington, Oregon, and Indiana for competition, and explore heaps of Idaho. We also have a team camp once a year, which is a great way to meet new teammates, and have a weekend away in a cool part of Idaho. 

Student-Health Support and Athletic Trainers

I mentioned this earlier in the post, however, it is important to mention it as a massive benefit of being a student-athlete. We have amazing athletic trainers who help us manage niggles and injury, to get us running and healthy again. I also have worked with the sports psychologist and sports nutritionist to optimize my mental toughness and mental skills, and diet to match my energy needs. 

Student-athletes and academics: how do you balance it?

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A good college program will have an Athletic Department Academic Advising facility and resources. At Boise State, we have PRECO, a study area with printers, computers, and group study areas right where the athletic facilities are such as locker rooms, the weight room, and staff offices. For undergraduate students, they are expected to log a certain number of hours studying in the PRECO center – as a graduate student, this is not required, however, I took advantage of this resource to remove myself from the distractions of home. Our team academic advisor is brilliant – she handles inquiries about classes, difficulties with the competition, and class commitment and helped me keep on track with my academics over the past year.

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The school expects you to get a medium range GPA each semester, to meet the academic eligibility standards so you can compete in collegiate competition. Most student-athletes in the past 2 years have recorded an average of GPA 3.0 or higher. This is definitely achievable. It is truly about time management and making sure you work productively. Some tips I utilize include:

  • Work to your chronotype (early bird or a night owl, maybe you’re a bit of both!) I am an early bird – so I like to start my day with an hour of work, and then train. Or train, then work. 
  • We are more creative when we are tired, as our brains are more easily distracted. That’s why you come up with cool ideas right before you fall asleep. Keep a journal beside your bed to jot down anything you need, so you don’t forget
  • Eat the frog first – do your least favorite piece of work first thing. This way you’ll ease into the day better, and recover better from training by facilitating a less stressful environment in the evening. 
  • Make your to-do list visible. I pin mine up on the wall at the beginning of the day and have a sticky note open on my desktop. 
  • Make sure your workspace is neat and free of distractions. Maybe put the phone in a drawer on silent for a couple of hours?
  • Download f.lux for technology screen lightning that suits the time of day you are working. 

 

Can NCAA Athletes have jobs?

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If you are an American citizen, you can have a job anywhere in the city or on campus, and work the number of hours that suit you and fit in with your training load, academics, and social life. You just have to submit a form to the student-athlete compliance office to let them know you have a job and the details. There are rules set by the NCAA that you must meet to ensure you retain student-athlete eligibility. For example:

 

  • You can’t use your name, image or likeness to make money at current. However, there is debate and talk of change around this rule in the near future
  • You must be paid the going rate for the job you are doing
  • You must be hired under the intention that you are the right fit for the job, and not simply because you are a student-athlete.

 

If you are coming to the US from another country, the rules are slightly different. My F1 student visa allows me to work up to 15 hours at an on-campus job. It is more limiting in options than for a US Citizen, in this sense. The jobs are well-advertised and not too tricky to apply for. We use a platform called ‘Handshake’ and have careers advising center which was helpful for me when looking for an on-campus position last semester.

Any student-athlete can apply for internships if they are approved or organized by the athletics department. I know plenty of athletes that take advantage of this opportunity during the long summer break.

Fun facts about college athletes:

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  • When we travel, especially for track meets, in our free time we can often explore the city we are staying in. For example, when we traveled to Seattle we could explore some of the city in the evening if we wished
  • When recruits come to visit, often we will throw team events and dinners to introduce them to the team, the team culture, and show them around Boise. It’s super fun to be a tourist in your own city for a little bit. I’ve eaten at some nice places and met some lovely potential teammates by being involved in the recruiting process. I personally made an official visit to BSU before deciding to commit to the program. 
  • You can choose whether you live on or off-campus. I live off-campus and like this option, as I can separate school life from personal life more effectively 
  • We do get awesome new shoes often from our team sponsor Nike. We are very lucky to receive this support. It’s like Christmas every time we get a gear drop! 

 

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  • Yes, we do have a social life. Boise has a great down-town. I love to go dancing when it fits in with competition and training, it has great Italian, Mexican, Japanese (yes, including poke bars), Vietnamese, Thai food, and there’s even Himalayan which I recently discovered. It has a nice bar scene, including cocktail bars, distilleries, and wine tasting cellars. I’m over 21 now, so it is silly to deny that this isn’t a small part of my student life here. I’m an avid post-long-run beer fan. Shout out to Boise Brewing Company. 

How to Build Mental Toughness For Runners

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How to Build Mental Toughness For Runners

Running is a very physically tough, and psychologically demanding sport. Mental skills training for mental toughness is an essential ingredient in any pursuit that you desire to reach your full potential in and explore your boundaries. This goes for sport and life in general. We have to find that balance of physical and mental training and recovery. Interestingly, mental skills training fatigues the brain, as does a hard session fatigue the body – so we must train, recover, and adapt. 

Your mind can be your best friend or your own worst enemy. It’s important to establish some tools to utilize when out training, racing or facing your next physical challenge. To run at our very best, it’s important to recognize what your own strengths and weaknesses are. In doing so, you can take advantage of your strengths, and become more aware of areas you struggle a little more with. Think of it as optimizing your own mental toolkit. 

If you want to find out what your top character strengths are, take this quiz run through The University of Pennsylvania (yes, it has quite a few questions, but it should take way too long and it is reliable!). You’ll have to enter a username and email, don’t worry, you won’t get spammed. Take the Top 7 as your top character strengths. I did this, and my results showed my top strength was curiosity and interest in the world, the second was fairness, equity and justice, and third, creativity, ingenuity, and originality. I keep these in mind when I approach running training, teamwork, and racing. This way I can truly frame my running mindset to assist me in performing at my best. 

What is mental toughness?

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Mental toughness is the ability to perform at a high range of your potential consistently, under the ever-changing and often unpredictable conditions of competition and high-demand situations. A mentally tough individual will be able to execute their task with a desirable level of focus, determination, resilience, and calmness under stress and pressure.  

Mental toughness is often a key determiner whether you finish at the front or at the back of a pack. One study conducted on Australian footballers determined that the group that exerted the highest levels of mental toughness favored “both mastery- and performance-approach goals and self-determined as well as extrinsic motivational tendencies”. In the paragraphs below, I’ll go into more detail about these specific mental skills which can be adopted to develop mental toughness. 

The great thing about mental toughness is that it can be developed and trained, and studies have shown that it is innate to humans as it was a crucial characteristic that impacted survival ability in prehistoric times. We train mental toughness by building an ‘artillery’ of mental skills. These are characteristics such as focus, determination, dedication, resilience, performing in high-pressure settings, selective emotional ability under high-stress situations, confidence, perseverance, self-belief, the ability to work with a team, positivity in difficult situations and motivation (I’m sure there are many more you can think of!). Some of these character strengths you will find come more naturally to you, whilst others will require practice and work. Ultimately, it is about honing in and capitalizing on your strengths and improving weaknesses that could be beneficial to your sport or endeavor. 

We can build mental skills in a sports psychology setting or make time to deliberately practice them. We are kidding ourselves as dedicated sports people if we think that mental toughness is something that will come magically to us – it takes dedication and deliberate commitment to improve at anything and perform at a high level. I personally utilize sports psychology through the collegiate system. A general session involves assessing strengths and weaknesses, reflecting on the experience, and how I could go about the scenario next time. A sports psychologist or mental skills trainer will assist in building key areas to perform well at the particular discipline and to meet the personal needs of the athlete. 

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You’ve already taken the first steps to build your mental toughness by simply educating yourself on what it is. I found it super helpful for my own pursuits to learn that our body can actually go beyond our physical perception of pain and tiredness when we hit this stage in a race or hard training session. The voice in your head telling you to “slow down”, “stop”, “give up”, “this is too hard” is better known as the pre-historic brain/ monkey brain or mind/survival instinct mind. It is simply your brain trying to stop you from hurting yourself. It doesn’t know the difference between a race and a real situation of life-or-death. Just like your legs don’t know you are running a 10km race, rather than a hard 10km training session with your teammates. It’s all in your mind. Mental wandering and negative self-talk are the key inhibitors to us performing at our absolute physical best. This is why it is essential to train will-power, self-control and decision making under pressure. We need to find a way to automate decisions and execute a plan of some sort, to prevent the mind wandering. 

How does the mind work in a hard training or race scenario?

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When we race or train hard, the pain and discomfort we experience are from the emotional part of our brain, as I mentioned before. It is intended to protect us. We simply need to make a decision – the brain will process this decision based on a number of factors, including personal expectations coming into the event, past experiences in similar situations, level of desire to achieve (resilience, motivation, goals, perseverance), and stimulus feedback to the brain, including fatigue, fuel, environmental setting etc.

There are a couple of things we can do to calm the monkey mind, take the extra stress and anxiety out of the race day or hard session equation. Firstly, we can train our willpower. Will power is the ability to control your attitude, thoughts, feelings, impulse, and execute a task with clear, beneficial, goal-oriented decision making. You probably already exercise it in some sense – like setting an early morning alarm for training and not questioning whether you go or not. You just do, it’s not really a decision up for debate. Same with attending a hard training session you might be dreading. Unless injured or sick, show up and see how it goes – you may just surprise yourself. However, as humans, we only have so much will-power each day. Take into account that our will-power is highest earlier in the day, along with our ability to exert self-control. This is where the common notion of doing your hardest tasks earlier in the day, or first thing comes into play. 

The harder and more stressful the decisions,  the number of decisions, and the complexity of decisions all dip into our will-power stores. The goal is to make a lot of these decisions more automated (subconscious) and focus on the ‘when’ of the decision (timing is everything), rather than the how, which can cause extra stress if over-thinking occurs.

We want to capitalize on the time of day when we will make the best choices, and practice our strategy of will-power and decision making at this time of day to suit our needs. 

Just like physical activity requires recovery, so do mental reserves including will-power (recovery is just as important, it is where we get stronger, after being ‘broken down’ in some sense in training). If our willpower is low, our ability to make clear and beneficial decisions and exercise self-control is hindered. Physical fatigue will also contribute to lower will-power which in turn, impacts decision making + self-control. Sleep, adequate recovery, and nutrition can aid us in these areas. Athletes or high-achievers in any discipline should aim for at least 8hrs of sleep a night on most nights to perform at their best. It has even been stressed to me many times that 9-10hours is ideal – however many of us would struggle to do this in today’s busy world. Healthy, energy-dense meals are also key. Carbohydrates (in particular – glucose), fuel our brainpower. If you experience ‘mental fog’ or ‘blur’, this could be a reason why. 

 

What are some mental running strategies?

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  1. Set yourself some goals and intentions! You’re going to hate me when I say, ‘write them down’. Really – do it. Get it on paper, or record it via voice memo if you must. Whatever. It is just crucial that these goals become a physical manifestation in some sense. I like to stick mine on the wall. Goals work best if they are categorized: 

 

  • Process goals: this is the ‘journey’ as I like to put it. Where you’ll direct your focus and deliberate intention
  • Performance goals (short term and long term): aka. Some short term goals may be new PB in this 5km race or run comfortably for 10km. These goals help focus our execution and are the technical and strategic notch in our belt. A long term goal could be to qualify for a team, eventually run a marathon (make sure you do some very solid, consistent, long-term training to build up to this!)
  • The more detail, the better. List your hows, whys and ways of getting there. There are many paths to achieving a particular goal. 
  • Be flexible. Things change, life chucks curve balls. The more practice you have at adapting and adopting, the better off you’ll be long term. 

 

  1. Self- talk. You have to practice this. A great website I came across explains self-talk as: 

“Self-efficacy is the unshakeable belief of an athlete that they can meet the challenge they are facing. It is arguably the cornerstone for any great performance.” 

We must question our own inner dialogue. Are our thoughts mostly negative? positive? What emotion is behind most of our thoughts? Recognize your own patterns! Often our mental talk/self-talk is habitual. So if any bad habits have formed which are not of benefit to your performance, or hold you back in any way, it’s time to put in some work to change them. 

My in-race or session self-talk is very simple, involving just a few ‘cue-words’ that are easy to digest for the brain in a high-pressure, fatiguing situation, and don’t have any emotional association words involved in the phrase (things like good, bad, can’t, can etc.). My coach in Australia taught me to adopt ‘breathe, relax, momentum’. I have thought these 3 keywords for an entire 5km race. It worked a charm. If I felt my mind start to wander, I drew it back to these simple thoughts. I had already thought through my race execution plan, so this is all I had left to think about. Remember, on the track, course, court, field, meeting room- wherever you are trying to execute at your full potential and at a high-level – you are your own best friend or worst enemy. 

 

  1. Exercise your ability to be in control yet flexible to challenge and change. Often a scenario will change in a race very quickly. This is what makes them so exciting. You should be ready to adapt your plan and decisions based on perceptions and feedback. This is best practiced through hard training sessions and racing. Throw yourself in the deep end, and learn from mistakes, then try again. 

 

  1. Make decision making more automatic. The more decisions we can make subconscious, often the better. This is because less energy is used to make this particular type of decision. Again, racing and training is the place to practice and learn how to execute this mental skill. Personally, by the end of track season, I have cultivated a very personal plan as to how I best execute my distance (1500-10km). I take into account a sit-and-kick race situation, or a slow burn scenario, and go from there. I practice both conditions in training, so I can put my best foot forward if I need to sprint from home or maintain a high-pace for a longer period of time. I also learn to prioritize my decisions – don’t sweat the small stuff, particularly things you can’t control, such as the weather.

 

  1. Glucose levels! Not really a mental skill, but worth a mention. New research shows that a hit of glucose (in the form of glucose-rich food) can temporarily restore our mental strength including will-power and ability to make good in-race decisions. This is because to perform at our best psychologically/mentally requires adequate blood glucose levels in the brain. You hear about nutrition strategies in the marathon which is for physical and psychological benefit. However, the question being posed now is? Even in shorter races less than an hour in which our glucose levels will not be depleted too significantly, could a shot of it benefit our mental capacity? Food for thought. Literally. 

 

  1. Sleep. It is commonly known that 6hrs or less of sleep, particularly bad sleeping patterns over a long period of time will impact our mood, emotional capacity, ability to make good decisions, mental clarity, self-control, and will-power. 

 

  1. Learning to relax in a high-pressure scenario, such as a race. If we stress too early, we are draining energy, which is detrimental to our race. A way to practice this is to work on persevering when pain, fatigue, and tiredness hit us in training and less-important races, so we are ready for the big day/important side of the season. 

 

  1. Framing and perspective. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your expectations. Even expectations of others. You are only human, and I know most athletes don’t go through rigorous training to not put their best effort in on race day. We are not here to waste time and opportunity. If you don’t achieve what you desired, give yourself a certain time to be upset, and then move on and reflect, focusing on the next thing. The great thing about sport is there is always another race/event/challenge. Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then too. Running isn’t life or death, it is something we do, love, enjoy and at the end of the day, it should be fun!

 

Returning briefly to the mental framework – make sure you don’t do any mentally challenging activities too close to a race or difficult training session. This is because our ability to perform is hindered when we are mentally fatigued. Again, this involves will-power, which impacts decision making, emotional state, and self-control. The more we race and put ourselves under these high-pressure conditions, the more we train our will-power to work in a positive symbiosis with pain and onset fatigue. 

Does Visualization or Imagery help with training mental toughness for running?

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Visualization is the process of establishing mental imagery of how you might like to execute the race. This technique is a mental skill that should be a part of our mental skills ‘toolbox’, as I like to put it. It is how in ‘theory’ you can experience race day and run the race before you have actually run it. You can visualize pre and post-race processes, and the race itself. For example, this could involve the morning of the race, how you’ll feel warming up, and/or the race itself. In terms of race visualization, I personally like to mentally run through sections of the course and have a best-case scenario and plan B strategy ready to go. If you can see the racecourse beforehand, or have a map as a second-case scenario, base your visualizations off this. As this was my first cross-country season in the NCAA competition, I had to plan my visualization off maps, and then the day before the race after running on the course, I could base my imagery off the course itself. I actually enjoyed this process, as moving from map to the physical reality of the course allowed me to make mental connections which were much more memorable. Think of it as an ‘ah huh!’ moment, like when I realized that the hill we were jogging up on course inspection was the big long one I planned to overtake others on based off the course map we were given a few days before. For some athletes, it is possible to visualize their plan/s of execution from the start to finish. If this resonates with you and your scenario, go with this. 

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You do have to find the time to practice visualization. I like to practice before I go to sleep at night. This way, it is the last thing I contemplate for the day. I channel how I want to feel emotionally, how I envision my body moving across the course, how I will take certain corners, undulations, hills, and the finishing sections. Yes, it is detailed, but it is worth the effort. You’ll feel less nervous on race day, coming into it with a flexible plan of execution that is thought through. Consider making it a habit, and a part of your race day routine and strategy. 

How do you stay motivated to keep running and training?

You are in control of how you feel and choose to feel, and as soon as you can recognize this, you can start practicing your ability to exercise this and enhance it as mental strength. A good word for it is attitude.  I’m not saying emotionally regulate, we all feel tired and lack motivation sometimes, and in turn, heading out for a run or doing that tedious task you had on your list for the day is the last thing on your agenda. Acknowledge it, and then take action as to how you will approach the task ahead. Often, you’ll feel better having done it. Luckily in running, you get that lovely endorphin high, which is a natural mood booster. 

When I say ‘take action’, what I mean is to make the decision on your attitude. This can involve the decision to pump yourself up and carry out some mood-boosting actions or ease into the run with a sense of calm and mindfulness. As an athlete, you’ll need to figure out what these techniques are for you. I will go into some personal examples below. 

Motivation also correlates with expectations – you can set them for yourself or choose to let the run unfold more naturally. When I’m tired, I take it one step at a time like putting on my shoes, stepping out the door, and zoning out to a podcast. The best athletes in the world know what amplifies and intensifies their feelings (boosts their desire to train, in a sense). For me, it’s playing some high energy music, doing my hair in braids or in a potential race hairstyle I want to try, and putting on what I consider my ‘fast’ activewear. If I want to calm myself down after a stressful day, I will focus on my breath, or rope a friend or teammate into training with me if it is a solo session (it helps distract from the ‘tiredness’ or stress, which often we carry in our body). 

It is impossible to be in a high-energy, motivated state all the time, but we can develop the mental skills to get us out the door regardless of our emotional state. Who knows how you will feel on race day? Think of it as practice for that. Often goal-setting helps us stay on track and find that bit of motivation we need to push forward. I like to make it an unquestionable decision. Unless I’m sick or injured (and all the other situations I don’t need to list), I go. It is a part of my routine and I’m a better Lara to everyone if I do, no point in denying that!

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 best ultramarathon shoes

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 

When you think ultramarathon, what often comes to mind is crazy long distances, rugged terrain, ascents and descents (elevation gain, maybe?), varied weather, aid stations, camaraderie, and a massive sense of accomplishment. An ultramarathon shoe is a tool and a very important one at that, that must be tried and tested in training so the runner can rely on it on race day. It has to endure the weather, terrain, and distances. Trail-running is a sport is becoming increasingly popular (especially in light of recent world events), so I thought this may be a good post to explore as the running community expands. In no particular order, I’ve looked at a few popular long-distance, ultra-marathon running specific footwear (trail ultras) – the tech, the fit, and the cost-point. 

Consider what terrain you’ll be spending a significant amount of time on, the distance covered, and potential weather conditions. Why? Because you’ll need to consider the sole and materials of the shoe, so they best suit the conditions. Personally, I like a shoe that works well in mud, on rocks and sandstone escarpments (where I run in Australia has a ton of this) and sand. I also like a sole where I don’t feel sharper surfaces or rocks putting pressure on the bottom of my feet and metatarsals. 

 

Shoe 1: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

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In the trail and ultra community, this is a well-loved shoe. Having taken a pair for a spin myself, I really enjoyed how it felt like a true ‘race’ trail shoe. Lightweight, well-cushioned, and responsive. The sole isn’t overly aggressive either, so you can run a variety of trail terrain in them. However, the mid-sole of the shoe is particularly thick, so if you like that close to ground contact, and to really feel the heel-to-toe push off, this may not be the shoe for you. After all, Hoka are known for their cushioned shoes, with the rocker feature. If you know your trail shoes, you shouldn’t be surprised about this! The sole is Vibram, with excellent traction/grip- so it does work well on the trails. 

The stability is more on the neutral side, as to be expected from a trail shoe. This allows for better traction and responsiveness on uneven ground and reduces the risk of a dreaded sprained ankle. One thing I did notice about this shoe, is it is better suited for a narrow foot, such as my own. I struggled to find a trail shoe that fits as well as the Speedgoat did. It does fit true to size and width, from the description. 

This shoe has a heel drop of 4mm and weighs around 9.2 ounces for women, 10.8 for men.

 It prices around $145.

Shoe 2: Salomon S Lab Ultra 2

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This is also a highly-discussed and popular shoe in the trail-running world. Salomon promotes this as their ultramarathon specific shoe. Being the 2nd generation model, Salomon has had some time to up the game on the technical features. According to their website, they have improved the weight of the shoe, the durability and kept all the comfort features onboard. The shoe, in essence, retains its speedy trail race purpose. Salomon is known for making shoes that are durable and can deal with almost all terrain. Mud, snow, sand, tree-roots, wood-chips – you name it. The midsole is made of long-lasting polyurethane foam, which Salomon describes as ideal for ultra-running. Their outsole is made of what they term their ‘premium Wet Traction Contragrip’. Since it is a trail-racing designed shoe, I have read from reviews that it generally doesn’t last as long as others, especially if it has been put through the trials of an ultramarathon, or training for one.

This shoe weighs in at 285g (men), and an 8mm heel drop. It prices at $180, however, Salomon is offering it for $135 currently.

 

Shoe 3: Saucony Peregrine 10 

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Saucony promotes this as one of their best trail-running shoes, perfect for uneven and varied terrain, climbing, and descending. It is a neutral shoe, as per most trail running shoes, and is cushioned so they have comfort but still retain that responsive edge. This shoe is great for rocky terrain. Saucony has integrated a rock plate into the sole of the shoe, so you’ll be right on sharper stone surfaces. Further, the outsole has been made to work well in tough conditions that promote wear and tear. Some reviews have said the shoe is quite flexible and therefore is very responsive. Make sure to break this shoe in before you use it for longer runs, including an ultramarathon. 

This shoe weighs 10.7 ounces for men (303g) and 9.3oz for women (264g), and has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. It currently retails for $120 as per Saucony’s website.

 

Shoe 4: Salomon Sense Ride 2

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Different from the S Lab Ultra discussed above, this shoe is perfect for both training and racing and works well on most terrain. This is the perfect shoe if you’re new to ultramarathon training and don’t want to invest in a specific racing shoe just yet. Salomon discusses their technologies for each part of the shoe. The outsole is what they label, ‘Contagrip MA’, which is a sole that is composed of different compounds of varied densities. In utilizing this material, different parts of the sole of the shoe can be harder or softer, as required for the style of shoe Salomon are designing. This ensures that the shoe will likely last longer on varied surfaces. Where the shoe is more likely to wear down (the edge of the heel, as an example), the compound will be higher density and more rigid as a result. The Midsole of the shoe uses ‘Vibe’ technology (it is written on the side of the shoe) – to which Salomon explains “attenuates vibrations” to optimize shoe responsiveness in contact with the ground. To put it more simply, the shoe is designed to absorb shock and adapt appropriately for the comfort of the wearer. The Chassis (the framework or membrane of the shoe to put it in other words, i.e, the insole board or structure), is designed to prevent feeling rocks or sharp surfaces on foot.

 

I do like how they used a quick-lace system for this shoe. It makes life a little easier. If you’re not a fan of this, you could buy laces to lace the shoe normally. I also like the rigid toe box so if you hit large rocks with the front of your foot, or trip up, you don’t get a nasty bloody toenail as a result. This is a big must for me when buying a durable trail shoe. 

The Sense Ride 2 has an 8mm heel drop, and weighs This shoe won’t break the bank, at $84, down from $120 as per Salomon’s website.

 

Shoe 5: Asics Gel-Fujitrabuco 8

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I have personally used these shoes and really enjoyed them. My feet feel supported for a trail shoe, and I don’t feel the rocks underfoot. For me, this is a big bother if the trail has a lot of stones and I know I’ll be out there for a while. The shoe has a rock protection plate in it, which is great. Asics praise this trail-running shoe for its comfort and durability, alongside excellent traction on the sole. I can confirm that the sole grip on this shoe is great, I’ve tested it out in some pretty muddy conditions, such as Boise’s wet, muddy foothills sand. It makes for a whole lot nicer of a run. 

In terms of shoe tech, Asics claim that their ASICSGRIP outsole has bettered the traction on the shoe for wet and slippery surfaces, and uneven terrain. Stability is also an important factor for those who require or desire a bit more support, especially over the ultra-distance. Asics explains that they have improved this on the latest model of the Fujitrabuco, compared to the 7. The shoes also have reflectors on them, great for racing or running at night (in which most ultra’s you will be!)

One thing I did notice was the shoe isn’t too heavy, even though it looks it from the photos online. I was quite surprised when it arrived and felt how light it was compared to my expectations. It weighs around 12.2oz or 346grams, with an 8mm heel drop. These shoes won’t hurt the wallet too much, coming in at around $130. 

What shoes do ultra-marathon runners wear?

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Ultramarathoners wear shoes that are going to last a few tough training sessions, race day, and perform optimally on trails which vary in terrain, incline and can last in unpredictable weather conditions. There isn’t one specific shoe that is going to work better than another as it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Also, most people are looking to spend within a range to suit their budget. I recommend trying shoes on in-store if this is possible, or ordering a few pairs and returning the ones that aren’t suitable. Most places allow for this, especially in these times. Otherwise, read up as much as you can on shoes, and get the advice of teammates, friends, or family in the sport (this is where this post can help out as well!) You’ll assist yourself on the path to achieving your best and being the best ultramarathon runner you can be in a pair of shoes which you feel the best in and are right for your foot type. Which leads perfectly into the next question….

 

What are the best shoes for running ultramarathons?

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Any one of the shoes discussed above may be right for you and your goals, training load, foot type, and injury history (if any, hopefully not too much). There are a few more brands that I didn’t discuss which do good ultramarathon running shoes. Here are some you can check out:

  • Altra
  • Innov
  • Merrel 
  • Nike Trail Running collection (Did you know they have a Nike Pegasus Trail? I love to jog in my Peg 36’s, and it was cool to learn there’s a trail shoe version of this model) I also hear the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6 isn’t a bad choice either)

As I always stress, take into account your foot type. For example, I have narrow feet, one foot is half a size bigger, and I pronate slightly more. So I’m going to look for a shoe that is slim fitting, doesn’t irritate the heel or Achilles of my bigger foot, and has slightly more stability or a stability piece integrated into the model of the shoe. Most ultramarathon shoes are neutral in design, as this is best for varied terrain and prevention of ankle sprains. The shoe is more flexible and your foot can adapt to the changes in terrain easier with this type of fit.

It’s also important to consider cushioning and heel-to-toe drop, as the higher the shoe is off the ground, the more likely you are to sprain an ankle. For me, this is a no-go, particularly when fatigue hits, and my step or stride is prone to becoming more clumsy in a race or session. 

 

What shoes do elite ultramarathoners train in?

The best wear the shoes they feel most comfortable and confident in. They definitely trial and test their shoes before race day, whether it’s in speed specific, race-specific or base-building training sessions. Know the shoe and how it works. I know of elite ultramarathoners who swear by Salomon and others who love Saucony. It really is about personal preference. Often companies that align better with the outdoors scene, trail running specifically and are known for durable, reliable gear, will draw in the ultramarathon crowd on a larger scale. 

 Keep in mind, most elites have a sponsorship of some sort, so it is likely they’ll be sporting a specific model of their sponsorship line of shoes. They’ll probably promote them too, on social media and on race day. Also, to end on a nice note, I saw plenty of these beautiful wildflowers which have just started to bloom on the trails today. What a beautiful time of year to be clocking in mileage….

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Running Dehydration Symptoms

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Running Dehydration Symptoms

Water intake is absolutely crucial in facilitating blood flow to the key parts of the body that are under stress when we run. It’s common knowledge that blood carries oxygen, nutrients, and sodium to working parts of the body, those being our heart, lungs, and muscles. When dehydration occurs, our blood thickens, reducing the rate of blood flow to these key systems and body components, reducing performance and placing undue amounts of stress on the body. Think of it like this – blood transports our fuel: food and water! Generally speaking, the harder you run, the more water your body will use.

 

How do you know if you’re dehydrated whilst running?


There are a number of easily identifiable symptoms which I’m sure you’ve heard of before. The first one is feeling thirsty. It is true that you’re already dehydrated, or on a path to dehydration if you feel thirsty. So drink before you feel the signals. Other symptoms include (this list is not exhausted):

  • Increased fatigue and feeling a lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Dryness in mouth
  • Stomach upset, often runners complain of gastrointestinal (G.I) distress
  • Cramping of muscles – for me personally, my calves cramp at night sometimes causing a bad sleep if I haven’t had enough water in the day
  • Seeing stars, feeling dizzy and/or lethargic
  • Inability to/and or difficulty concentrating 

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In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine stated that “dehydration = 2% of body weight degrades aerobic exercise performance in temperate-warm-hot environments and that greater levels of dehydration will further degrade exercise performance.” Thus, the aim is to begin exercise well hydrated, and maintain fluid levels throughout long bouts of exercise, and replenish afterward. It’s pretty simple really. If you can, step on the scales first thing in the morning, before you go on your next long run, and immediately on return, step on the scales. If a bodyweight loss is greater than 2%, “endurance performance will suffer.” 

From a medical standpoint, dehydration is caused when running by a number of factors, including respiratory losses (sweating and heavy breathing), substrate oxidation (burning energy, measured from indirect calorimetry measurements), water oxidation and lack of water availability to the bladder. With all these factors combined, up to 2% of body mass loss can potentially occur. 

 

Does dehydration affect running?

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We need to remember that around 60% of our body is composed of water, so it makes up a fair amount of our total body weight. As discussed above, if the runner were to lose roughly 2% of their body mass, endurance performance will decrease. This means a slower pace, reduced recovery ability, and an all-round bad experience. Why let something you can control and plan for race day, ruin your run? If we drink fluid in the correct amounts, timed well, we can ensure better performance on your next run or race day. 

Have you ever heard of the term “bonking” or “hitting the wall”, in association with running?  Bonking means a sudden loss of energy and a high onset of fatigue. Dehydration can contribute to “bonking”, which essentially leads to a drastic reduction in athletic performance and a potential inability to continue the athletic activity. It is also largely a result of a lack of glycogen availability to send to the muscles and liver. I’d recommend for events longer than an hour, sipping on a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution, alongside easy to digest snacks to prevent bonking. For events less than 1 hour, staying well hydrated in the days before, the morning of and afterward is crucial. 

Another thing to consider is some people sweat more than others. This can be to do with the person’s gender, size, and weight. What this means for the runner, is it is a very personalized approach. The plan must be tried and tested. Don’t try something new on race day, or too close to race day. 

 

How do you avoid dehydration when running?

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The top priority is to replace water that has been lost through sweating post-exercise for shorter running sessions and sip on water for sessions longer than 1hr. It is also important to maintain hydration throughout the day, including before exercise. No need to go overboard, however, a glass of water in the morning, first thing can really help kickstart the day and set you up for a better run. As someone who hasn’t drunk enough water in the past, I recently made it a habit to have a glass of water as my first task in the morning, and I have felt better throughout the day as a result of this. 

An Oxford Academic article observed the relationship between dehydration and endurance performance in competitive athletes. The main takeaways from this article are the importance of beginning exercise well-hydrated for longer bouts of endurance exercise (which can be monitored by urine color; pale is generally better), and encouragement of mouth-rinsing with sports drinks throughout the activity. 

It is possible that Mouth rinsing Carbohydrate solutions could be beneficial for endurance performance, i.e running. This process involves sipping and swishing around a “carbohydrate-electrolyte solution” in your mouth during the endurance event. Whilst there has been little study on the potential benefits of this method, the evidence suggests that endurance performance around 1 hour in length if the “subject has fasted”, can have a beneficial effect on performance.  I have done this myself in races around 10km, and longer runs, however not in a fasted state. What I did find from a performance standpoint is less hunger upon finishing my run, I didn’t feel as fatigued at the end, and I felt I could’ve run further if I desired. I do believe there is something to be said for this. This particular study revealed that “studies using functional MRI and transcranial stimulation have provided evidence that carbohydrate in the mouth stimulates reward centers in the brain and increases corticomotor excitability.” Essentially, the brain is tricked into improving performance which is likely associated with corticomotor excitability. 

 

How do you hydrate before running?

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I personally like to drink a glass of water in the morning first thing, with a light snack if I am doing a morning run. If I am going to run a little later in the day, I’ll ensure I’m sipping regularly. If I have access to a hydration formula, like Nuun, SOS Hydration, or Hydralyte Sport as examples, I’ll add a tablet to my water bottle for the day. This is even better than water from a hydration standpoint. I’m a big advocate for finding a personal balance for training, recovery, and a racing strategy. This can improve your performance and ability to recover well. During a race or long run, I like adding Tailwind powder to my bottle as it is a preservative-free (better for you, and your gut!), electrolyte and carbohydrate solution. 

I want to break down my personal race strategy so you can see an example: 

  • 48 hours before a race, I ensure I am sipping on water regularly, and having an electrolyte tablet at least once a day. I don’t want to be dehydrated on any day leading into a race. (Unless of course, you are deliberately practicing dehydration for a race environment/personal factor of performance)

 

  • Morning of the race, I make sure to have a glass of water first thing and sip on water (not excessively), up until 30-45 minutes before the race. The reason I point out not to overdo it is because a glugging gut can hinder performance.

 

  • For longer races around 10-21km (10km is a personal preference, not necessary unless hot conditions) utilize aid stations, and don’t carry a personal water supply unless necessary. In trail events, however, I often carry water and others will do the same due to the nature of the race. For marathon and ultramarathon distances, personal aid station drinks are a good idea. This should be pre-planned, tried and tested well before race day for this scenario. 

 

  • Post-race, it’s important to replenish lost stores. I like to drink an electrolyte solution and aim to consume a couple of cups of water in the 30 minutes after a race. Normally 1 before cool-down and another after. Keep sipping on water throughout the day, and the day after whilst the body recovers from the effort. 

 

  • Don’t forget that it is also optimal to refuel carbohydrate and protein stores within 30-1 hour of hard/long effort or race finish for maximum recovery benefit. Carbohydrates will top up your depleted glycogen stores and protein will help kickstart muscle tissue damage.

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Is it ok to drink water during a run?

Absolutely. If I’m doing a long run, I’m a big fan of carrying a water bottle in a belt with me, often with some tailwind solution if the run is 75 minutes or more. If this is a no-go for you, you could potentially design your run route around access to water (water fountains/bubblers, run via home). If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere more rural, or a running around trails, planting water bottles might be a good idea. Think of it as a mini aid station!

 

What about over-hydrating?

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Yes, there is such a thing as drinking too much water. This is known as hyponatremia and can be just as dangerous as dehydration, if not more so. The key to knowing what hydration plan or method is going to work best for you personally, is through processes of trial and error. In sports medicine terms, being over-hydrated causes a low sodium level in the blood and blood volume is reduced. The hormone ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) is released, which retains water. This dilutes the blood, lowers the sodium levels, and prevents consistent blood flow and necessary nutrient transportation to the body.

 

Some nifty tips to hydrate well, and save money

  • Save your money with the fancy electrolyte tablets and instead try a small amount sweetened iced tea powder sachet (I use these)
  • Try making your own hydration drink. I love the Run Fast Eat Slow Cookbook recipe. It’s all about sodium content, a bit of carbohydrates and water of course!  
  • Eat watermelon after running with your meal – it’s got simple carbohydrates for quick glycogen replenishment and has a nice water content.

 

Ice Bath After Running

ice bath after running

Taking An Ice Bath After Running

Ice baths are a well-known method that many athletes, particularly runners, incorporated as a part of their recovery regimen. It’s important to any sports-person that recovery is optimized, time-effective and sport relevant. For athletes regularly involved in competition, It is essential that they recover quickly for their next training session or event, especially if they are competing within a close time framework. This allows them to perform at their best, under the given circumstances. 

A few other things to consider are the individualization and periodization (what time of season you are in), the goals of the athlete, and if there is an injury involved, all of which impact a recovery routine. Personally, I like to establish a recovery routine that is quite diverse, so the body doesn’t get too used to one method. I include stretching, neural flossing, foam rolling, trigger ball releasing, Normatec boots (or anything similar), dry-needling, sports massage, A-stem/Graston technique and the occasional ice bath. Recently, I purchased a pair of recovery sandals/flip-flops to walk around the house and run errands in. We’re heading into Summer now in the US, and I don’t want to be stuck in a pair of crappy flip-flops 24/7 which aren’t optimal for a runner’s feet. After all, they are your assets! Try https://www.oofos.com/.

Are ice baths good for recovery after running?

This is a hot topic of debate, and currently, a large body of research has been conducted around the topic and studies are ongoing at present. I decided to consult a number of studies from accredited journals (the perks of having access to a university library!), and Sydney SportsMed Specialists to double-check my findings. What is an ice bath? Basically, it is 10-15 minutes in very cold water (50-59 F) after an intense exercise session.  Many professional sports outfits across numerous contact and collision sports promote the benefits of ice baths with their athletes.

Interestingly, Ice Baths may not be all they are hyped up to be. Other recovery methods are likely to be better from a sports medicine standpoint. However, I’m a believer in placebo also, so if it makes you feel good, then go for it! The evidence for ice as a treatment for acute injuries is also under challenge, Although the jury remains out on that one. 

A study was conducted for the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, on the effect of an Ice Bath for recovery in U/20 Rugby Union Players. There was no significant difference between the group that did utilize an Ice Bath and the group that didn’t post-session (specifically, this was tested after multiple shuttle workouts, a 300m running test). Considering this, the article illustrated that “during pre-season training, the physical work undertaken may be more important than the recovery protocol for improvements in fitness parameters tested in this study.” Just food for thought. 

Further, a research article from The Journal of Physiology (2017) concluded that “cold water immersion (CWI) is no greater than active recovery upon local and systemic inflammatory cellular stress in humans” (pp. 1857). In other words, active recovery is no better than taking an ice bath. What the article did mention, however, is that CWI “may be useful within competition settings..with a short turn-around, of a particularly damaging nature, or in high environmental temperature” (1858). Yet it posed that during pre-season, it might hinder the athlete’s ability to adapt to the training, and potentially hinder performance. What is concluded: Cold Water Immersion has “a lack of impact..on the post-exercise inflammatory and cellular stress response” (1858). Briefly coming back to the comment on environmental temperature, CWI is certainly a very important intervention in the treatment of exercise associated heat illness, say during or after an endurance event. It does, however, seem of less importance in recovery from training or competition.  Please note, that the study only included 9 young men, aged 19-24 years doing resistance training 3 times a week, so it was not a particularly large study.

I wanted to take a further look into the potential benefits of cryotherapy on provoking an anti-inflammatory response. A study published in The European Journal of Applied Physiology (2013)  utilized a  randomized trial to examine the “effect of cryotherapy on the inflammatory response to muscle-damaging exercise” (2577). The study involved 20 active males completing a 40-minute run downhill (10%), at 60% of VO2 Max, to “induce muscle damage”. After they completed the exercise, they sat in an ice bath (5 degrees C) for 20 minutes. From the results gathered, 20 minutes of immersion did not impact the level of soreness or assist the short-term loss of strength after the muscle-damaging exercise. 

So, with all this information, what is beneficial when it comes to Cold Water/Ice? I find that the well-known R.I.C.E method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) is pretty trusty. If I have irritation or inflammation in a particular area, I’ll R.I.C.E it for 20 minutes, 3 times a day. If you’re lucky and own or have access to the Ice compression gear/technology, go for that! I do believe that there is still a lack of research surrounding hot and cold water immersion/contrast therapy. There will always be the proponents and the detractors. The timing surrounding this recovery method and specific temperatures need to be questioned and clarified with further research.

Why do Ice Baths make me feel good?

The placebo effect may arise from the fact that the CWI causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the arterial vessels in the peripheries) and the feeling of the warm blood rushing in from the core when one gets out of the bath can give an invigorating feeling and make you feel good. This gives the feeling of improved perceived recovery.  It also may decrease the effects of heat and humidity, if the athlete is playing or training in those types of environmental conditions, by lowering the core temperature a degree or so.

What about after HIIT training, specifically for runners?

ice bath after running

This paper focuses specifically on a group of 9 runners who did a CWI (cold water immersion) after a HIIT session. One group participated in CWI immediately post-session and the other 3 hours after. The study was conducted to determine whether it would improve next-day exercise performance. 

The study showed some benefits of CWI in a yoyo test. Note, that this is not training or competition, but could be an indicator of potential benefits of an Ice Bath. More study is needed as to how much benefit, which is unknown at present, and a larger sample size of runners…

What do you do after an ice bath?

In terms of the post Ice Bath routine, there isn’t too much to it. Simply dry off well, change into some warmer comfy clothes, or my personal favorite, compression gear, and recover after your workout or event. If you’re finding it hard to warm up again, try a hot drink or soup. 

How often should you take ice baths after running?

Generally speaking, ice baths are best utilized after sessions that involve high muscle-damaging activity. For the runner, a hard interval session, tempo session, between track events or post-race are all good times to take an ice bath. 

Remember, you don’t have to immerse your entire body in the bath if you don’t want to, just soaking the legs is also common. 

Should I take a warm bath after an ice bath?

It’s not ideal to jump straight into a warm bath or hot shower after an Ice Bath – it kind of defeats the purpose. Unless you’re deliberately doing hot and cold contrast therapy to recover, stick with just an ice bath. If you absolutely need to, take a luke-warm shower after, but nothing too hot (like your usual shower, sadly).  

How long should you ice bath after running?

I know the recommended amount of time for an Ice Bath immersion lies around 5-20 minutes depending on how accustomed you are to them, and how cold the water is. If you’re a first time user, start off with less and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stay in for the whole length of time. If the water is super cold, go for less time, and vise versa. I personally set a timer and try to relax. Placing a big warm towel beside the bath is a must, it makes the whole idea of an Ice Bath easier to digest. 

Remember to cool down/warm down after your event before hopping into an Ice Bath, however, so your muscles are relaxed and heart rate (HR) has had a chance to decrease and signal the body to begin the recovery process. 

 Should you stretch after an ice bath?

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It’s a good idea to stretch after any hard training session or event, after a cool-down/warm-down. However, if you didn’t find the time, or hopped straight into an ice bath after your session, once you hop out and get warm, it is a good idea to do some light stretching. Don’t stretch when you are cold, immediately after the bath. I also stress the importance of moving around a bit throughout the day or evening post-race. Don’t get stuck in the same position for extended periods of time, as this hinders recovery and tightens muscles. 

How to Start A Running Blog

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The Set-up basics: Laying down the foundations

The Essential Questions 

It is important to establish a clear purpose/s and goal/s for your website or blog. This will guide your focus when creating the platform and content, and allow for smoother decision making as you follow the construction process. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
  • What are your short and long term goals with this website?
  • Why are you establishing this platform of communication to the world? 

I recommend writing these down in a notebook that you dedicate to jotting down anything to do with your blog, small business website (whatever your purpose!). These can be anything from ideas for your next blog post, random late-night to-do thoughts, or miscellaneous stream of consciousness writing. Whatever, get creative. 

 

Trello.com

This nifty ‘to-do list’ style website will help you keep track of what you need to do, what you’re working on, and what you’ve finished: https://trello.com/. The great thing about it is you can add multiple users who can also adjust the list, and see what you’re doing. Everyone’s on the same page!

 

Establish a domain 

This is your URL to your website. In other words, your web address (like a home address). It is easy to get confused and assume this is your ‘website’. The website is the product that is created once a ‘host’ server is established (the house). URLs were created to get around the issue of IP addresses, which is an identification number that computers use to communicate with each other. These numbers are difficult to remember, so personalized URL creation was established to make this much easier. 

Before you purchase a domain, you need to make sure to check if the name is available. The links inserted below will lead you to the domain purchase sites where you can also search URL name availability. Choosing a ‘.com’ URL is best in most cases, as it is easy to remember and the most widely used URL style.

start a running blog 2I also recommend choosing HTTPS secured links, as these sites are more trusted by Google, and therefore rank better.

 

If you’re running a business from this site, clients are more likely to feel safer purchasing off an HTTPS secure site. See the links below are, ‘https’ before the ‘www.’ This is what I am referring to:

I highly recommend WordPress. Statistics show that it “powers over 30% of the entire internet”, (for an interesting read see: Venturebeat.com). WordPress is great because of its variety of options, versatility, and user-friendliness. 

 

Popular domain establishment sites + cost breakdown:
  • Namecheap 
    • Around $8.88 a year for a ‘.com’ link. This is a very simple, cheap option and seems to work well. Unlike Wix, discussed below, it is just for the purpose of establishing a domain. 

 

  • Wix
    • Wix is slightly different, as it allows you to purchase a domain, web hosting and website building software all in the same package. You can choose this option which consolidates the number of websites and platforms you use to help create your own website. However, I have found that using a specific website link ‘Namecheap’ to purchase a domain, a separate hosting server like ‘host-gator’ and a specific website builder like ‘WordPress’ just as effective. If not more! 
    • Wix has multiple different plans, which it advertises as ‘per month cost’. Select the one that best suits your needs (referring back to the purpose of the site in section 1 of this post). From a personal standpoint, I’d recommend the ‘Unlimited’ plan, as it has lots of options. The simple ‘Connect Domain’ plan is very limited and can be frustrating in this sense. 

 

  • Godaddy – https://www.godaddy.com/domains/domain-name-search?isc=gofd2001aj
    • Similar to Namecheap, you can purchase domains quite cheaply on Godaddy. I tested out a domain I’m interested in which ends in ‘.com’. It offered me $0.99 for the first year, and around $17.99-19.99 every year after that. However, if you buy multiple years in one package, it is often more economical. 

 

You’ll need a hosting server 

Websites need to be stored on a server, as we mentioned above. This is essentially ‘the house’ to your address (URL). A web hosting service provides the user with the services required for the website to be viewed on the internet. For example, when you search for a website in a browser, the browser connects you to the server and the web page is then delivered to you through the browser. So, a browser is just a gateway between the server and your web page. 

I like to use Hostgator. It is cheap, links with WordPress (a great site builder) and has awesome customer service. 

  • Host Gator – www.hostgator.com  
    • Host gator has 3 plans, as shown in the link above. I recommend a Hatchling Plan if you are just starting out, and only planning on establishing 1 domain. This is $2.75/month. However, if you plan on owning multiple domains in the future, the Baby or Business plan would suit your needs better. 
Install self-hosted WordPress via QuickInstall
  1. Log in to your cPanel on www.hostgator.com (the server hosting site discussed above)
  2. Hit the menu page labeled Software, and then click ‘QuickInstall’
  3. Under ‘Website Essentials’, hit ‘One-Click Installs’
  4. Then select the WordPress icon on the next page. 
  5. Select which domain you’d like to have WordPress installed in to. 
  6. Complete the form that will appear
  7. Congratulations, you just need to check your emails for your WordPress login credentials and a link to your WordPress admin page, and you can begin building from there!

For a more comprehensive explanation, visit this website: 

https://www.hostgator.com/help/article/how-to-install-wordpress

Designing your website

 

It’s highly recommend that you use WordPress. Statistics show that it “powers over 30% of the entire internet”, (for an interesting read see: https://venturebeat.com/2018/03/05/wordpress-now-powers-30-of-websites/). WordPress is great because of its variety of options, versatility, and user-friendliness. 

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Getting started with WordPress 

To begin, pick a minimalist theme/suited to the aims of your website. Why minimalist? It draws attention to what is important in your website, which is the content. 

    • Under the ‘appearance’ menu hit ‘themes’
    • Selecting one of these themes establishes how your website will look to the audience. Different themes allow for different customization options and enhance certain features. For blogs, we generally recommend something that is simple: it draws the readers attention to your post, not clogged up side content. 
  • Pick a font, generally speaking, one with the word ‘Sans’ in it works best
    • You could use ‘Open Sans’ font 
    • To choose from a variety of fonts, visit https://fonts.google.com/. Here you can download fonts in a zip file, and use them in wordpress when writing content. 
  • Set up your pages → under ‘pages’ menu in WordPress
    • Homepage (seen by the audience)
    • Content/posts page (seen)
    • Contact (seen)
    • Find us online (hidden, this is purely for link building) 
    • Brand Guidelines
      • (hidden, this is where you record the details of your site building you might forget, such as your chosen font, color palette codes, etc)

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Widgets 
  • (WordPress admin → Appearance → Widgets)
  • Widgets are small blocks that have particular functions that you can add to your website. It affects the design and aesthetic layout of your site.
  • Some of the key widgets I have chosen to use are:
    • Archives (monthly archive of site’s posts)
    • Navigation Menu (to display different pages on your site)
    • Recent Comments (displaying comments on your posts)
    • Recent Posts (most recent posts)

 

Plugins

Plugins are how we add extra features to a website. They enhance the user experience of the website. Some of these will run in the background, whilst others are interactive and customizable. This is a good order to install the basic plugins to begin with, for ease of use:

  • Classic editor → enables the WordPress classic editor, old-style edit post screen. Supports older plugins
  • Really Simple SSL → SSL(Secure Sockets Layer), ensures the security of your website
  • Yoast SEO → an SEO solution for WordPress. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and works effectively with the Google algorithms.This runs in the background and enhances your site. Some of the features include:
    • Keyword and synonym optimization
    • Readability analysis → reading-ease score 
    • Image optimization → helps you rank images 
  • Insert headers and footers → to insert code or text into the header and footer of your website pages, for softwares to track and gather data, such as Google Analytics
  • Popup Maker → create popups, easily edit their theme, design, size. You name it!

 

Gravity Forms Plugin

Sadly the Gravity forms software does have a cost to install and utilize as a feature, but it is well worth it, and a small investment for long term gain. This feature costs $59 and can be added directly to WordPress via the plugin installation. – https://www.gravityforms.com. It allows you to:

  • Easily create web forms and manage form entries within the WordPress admin. This is important if you want to establish a Newsletter or Contact Us page, which is highly recommended for any website type. 
  • Install the Gravity Forms Plugin, hit activate, and enter the support license key you received upon downloading the software via the Gravity Forms website. 

 

Your Analytical Toolbox (how we gather data to enhance your website)

 

This section will teach you how to set up the essential software you need to gather data and analytics, optimize your experience as a website owner, and better the audience’s experience of your platform. This covers what you should begin with, and what you should set up soon after you’ve got the hang of things. 

 

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Keywords Everywhere chrome extension

https://keywordseverywhere.com/

When I mention ‘Keywords’, this is what I am referring to. Keywordseverywhere is a browser add-on (or extension) that has a free or premium version. The premium version after a few months of establishing and getting the hang of your website is optimal. For now, install the free version. Here you will be able to see the related keywords to your google searches, and what other people are searching related to those keywords. 

The premium version is fantastic, as you can see “monthly search volume, cost per click and competition data for keywords on multiple websites like Google Analytics, Google Search Console etc.”

It’s a good idea to target your blog posts and content around keywords which are not overly used and could rank well on Google with some smart post writing, promotion on various social media and link building methods.

 

Set-up Google Search Console  

The Google Search Console (GSC) will be one of your foundational go-to tools for reports on analytics regarding the performance of your organic-search traffic in google. GSC assists in establishing that your site exists with Google. It makes your site searchable and builds trust with Google. 

It also provides you with valuable analytics for your website. For example, the number of times your site links have been clicked via a google search engine result (known as an impression, which will discuss a bit later). It also reports on:

 

  • Post-click data regarding engagement with the content in your site such as:
    • E-commerce conversion rates
    • Performance of an individual blog post (via the posts unique link)
    • Bounce rate (the number of people who visit a website and navigate away after only viewing a single page)

 

Steps:

  1. Install Search Console: https://search.google.com/
  2. Add your website and verify it with Search Console. To do this, select the ‘property dropdown in Search Console’. Next, hit ‘+ Add Property’ on the dropdown. Add the property under the specific category. 
  3. You’ll be asked to verify the domain or URL’s added to the Console. You can verify it immediately or do this later. 
  4. Once you verify, it is important to enable GSC data sharing → click ‘Admin’ and then ‘property in which you want to enable Search Console data sharing’.
  5. Hit ‘Property’, then ‘Property Settings’. Scroll down to Search Console Settings, and you should see the URL/s that you have added. This confirms that your website has been verified in GSC and you now have permission to make changes.  
  6. Select the ‘Reporting view’ for the URL you want to see the GSC data.

Note: GSC keeps data for at least 16 months.

Set-up Google Analytics

Google Analytics allows you to collect simple data about your website. 

Steps:

  1. Install Google Analytics and create an account: https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
  2. Set up a property (your website) in your Analytics account. To do this, hit ‘Admin’, then hit the ‘Account’ column. Select the account to which you want to add the website/URL. 
  3. In the ‘Property’ column, click ‘+Create Property’ → hit ‘Web’, and enter a name for the property 
  4. Enter the website URL, and make sure to select the protocol (this should be ‘https’ which we looked at earlier in the post). Also, enter the simple domain name eg. www.website.com
  5. Select your industry category, and reporting time zone.
  6. Hit ‘Create’, and accept the terms of service. Then hit ‘Finish’.

 

Next, we have to ‘Add a new view’ for the property (your website). 

  1. Sign in, hit ‘Admin’ and then select the page titled ‘account and property to which you want to add the view’.
  2. Under the ‘View’ column, click the menu, then hit ‘+Create View’
  3. Hit ‘Website view’ for the online copy of analytics, or ‘Mobile app’ for a mobile analytics view. They are slightly different from an analytical standpoint. 
  4. Enter a Name for the data, select your time zone.
  5. Hit ‘Create View’. 

 

Note: if your analytics account is going to be linked to a Google Ads account, data from Google Ads will be automatically imported to any ‘New View’ you create in Analytics. 

Learn and become familiar with the meanings of the data segments in Google Analytics. Visit: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3123951 

 

Find your Google Analytics ID to add a tracking code to your website
  1. Sign in to your Analytics account
  2. Hit Admin, then select your desired account from ‘Account’ column 
  3. Select a ‘Property’ (your website) from the ‘Property’ column
  4. Under Property, click tracking info → tracking code. The ‘Tracking ID’ will be displayed at the top of the page. 

Now that you have your ID, you’ll want to add it to your site. I recommend installing the ‘Headers and Footers’ Plugin to your site, so you can copy and paste this information onto your pages. See the screenshot below from https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008080

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Tip: Be sure to install the Google Analytics App, so you can gather data from your device! Global Site Tags allow for on-demand data tracking via google analytics for each page of your website. 

 

The Google Marketing Platform 

It’ll be useful to make an account on the Google Marketing platform to manage your Google Ads accounts and to install these other software products for your website. Similarly, you’ll have to paste a bit of code like the one above into the header or footer of your website pages you wish to have the software chosen active on. 

I recommend installing:

  • Google Optimize → this allows you to create the best possible version of your website, in an everchanging online environment and the outside world. For example, you can create variants of your webpage and content (or experiments) and test them against other variables to see how they would perform before your release the content. 
  • Google Tag Manager → Free tag management. This allows you to manage and utilize marketing tags (code snippets) on your website. From there, you can track multiple features of your website such as conversions and analytics. 
  • Data studio (data reporting)→ to generate data reports of analytics to make smarter business decisions

https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/

 

Writing your first blog post

 

 

Keyword Targeted Post Writing
  • Use it as a means to write about what you actually want to write about
    • Answer the question, and segue into the similar topic….
  • Remember, posts with more writing content generally do better overall! At least 1000 words is key. 

 

Always begin with a photo that is relatable to the audience and post

 

start a running blog 7

 

  • Humans love visual content, our brains respond to it easily. Draw your audience in with a lovely, high-quality photo before your first paragraph of text begins.
    • Of course, this should relate to the content discussed, and if possible, include a human body part in it. Why? Our brains are hardwired to respond to visuals first, it is our first true connection to the outside world when we are born. As a baby, we’d seek out faces we recognize, and associate them with comfort (subconsciously). Further, visual input sparks emotion. Emotion is key to igniting a response from the potential audience. 
    • Label the image description and title the keyword of your post. For example, if you are writing about ‘5K Meal Plan’, the first image would be called ‘5K meal plan 1’, and so on. 
    • Trickle images throughout the post. I’d say around 2 for a post around 1000 words. 

Getting your website out there

 

start a running blog 15

 

We like to take a multi-faceted approach, which means to expose the content of the website to many different marketing platforms. Think visual content sites like Pinterest, interactive blog platforms such as Tumblr, popular forums platforms like Quora, and the usual suspects Instagram and Facebook. Here, we engage with users who are interested in the content you are writing about, or products you are selling. The multi-faceted approach establishes the foundations to achieve the best possible number of impressions for your content (the number of people who are exposed to your content, whether they choose to engage with it or not). Likely, some of these users will engage with your post (your ‘Reach’). This is your audience, from whom we gather data to further refine the marketing and exposure process.

Sound complicated? It’ll get easier as we go. Trust me! 

Link Building 

Link building involves answering questions regarding your topic and specifically, the keyword/s of your post on popular forums (like Quora). For example, I searched for people asking questions surrounding ‘Best 5K running shoes’ on Google. I answered questions in a popular running forum called ‘Let’s Run’, ensuring I added my link to the bottom of the post, directing the readers to my website. With Quora, it is the exact same process. I highly recommend reading these great in-depth articles surrounding Quora Back-Links and Types of Backlinks to build your knowledge in this area. It is a really effective way to build the popularity of your website and, eventually, make the front page of Google search results. 

 

Types of Backlinks: Backlink Matrix and Backlink Portfolio

https://codyschneider.com/types-of-backlinks/

 

How to Build Quora Backlinks That Get Indexed

https://codyschneider.com/quora-backlinks/

A quick tip with Quora, be careful of posting your link too many times, as Quora admin may remove your posts. Just answer a few specific questions targeted to your keyword in focus. 

 

Pinterest

To begin, create an account on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.

Canva → https://www.canva.com/.

      • This is where you create your pins for Pinterest. 
      • Keep it simple and neat, with a key image (the one you used on your post). 
      • For example, I used a simple theme, and selected my color from my color scheme on Coolors.co. See below

Coolors.co

Color palette selection platform → establishes your websites color scheme. Record the codes (for example, #F303BA) somewhere same, such as your Brand Guidelines page you have/will create (WordPress admin → pages) 

Here’s my example:

 

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  • Head Back to Pinterest. 
    • Hit your user icon and the ‘+’ to ‘Create Pin’. Add the pin image you created on Canva. In the description add the keywords associated with your post.
    • Remember to include your URL link to your post. 
    • Congratulations, you’ve created your first blog post associated pin. 

 

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Tumblr 

Tumblr is a cross between a social networking site and a blog. Creating a Tumblr account will be purely for the purpose of increasing exposure of your website on the internet to a greater audience. You can copy the individual links of your posts to your ‘Find me online’ page on WordPress, and then index them (see Link Building). 

To begin, create an account on https://www.tumblr.com/. Just like we did on WordPress, select a theme, a font, and post your content from WordPress on Tumblr as well. We should treat it like a system. What goes up on WordPress as a content post, should also be made into a pin on Pinterest, a Text AND link post on Tumblr, and so on. Always remember to utilize the keywords of your post, and link back to your site. On your dashboard you’ll have these options available to create targeted posts:

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Facebook ads/Instagram ads 

Running facebook ads is an essential part of advertising a business or product. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Facebook users in the U.S log into Facebook on a daily basis. From this statistic we can conclude that there is large market exposure potential on this platform. The great thing about Facebook ads is it is extremely easy to ‘target’ the users you want to market to, and it runs your ads on Instagram as well. 

 

The targeting features facebook offers are: 

  • Audience targeting, with customizable features 
  • Location
  • Gender

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  • Interests → keywords can be used here! 
  • People with connections to your app, page or event
  • Language
  • Behaviours → people who have visited your website or interacted with your content

 

You also need to select your budget and duration of the promotion. 

Next, you’ll be guided to design the look of your ad, with the features shown in the screenshot below available to you.

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Facebook ad budget

It’s a great idea to create a budget spreadsheet on google sheets to manage your costs for 12 months. Pick a budget that you can sustain for 12 months, and work with this.

Here is a template for $150 a month to get your started. This is quite a low budget if you are wanting to monetize the blog or small business website in any form. However, we have to start somewhere! This template is customizable to your needs. 

Facebook Ads Spreadsheet

Your Newsletter – Connecting with your audience

 

Mailchimp

www.mailchimp.com

Mailchimp allows you to create newsletters, ads, landing pages, and CRM tools. 

  • You can create your first Newsletter on Mailchimp about your blog post, and target subscribers who register via a popup form they receive when they visit your website.
  • Below will show you how to create a popup and link subscribers from your WordPress site to Mailchimp. 

 

Zapier → Connecting Gravity Forms, WordPress and Mailchimp 

Create an account on www.zapier.com, the workflow management website now, to make your life easier later. 

Once you’ve made an account, create your first Zap. 

  1. Choose Gravity forms under ‘App’
  2. The ‘trigger event’ should be ‘New Form Submission’

 

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3. Next, in section 2. Select Mailchimp, and under ‘Choose Action Event’, select ‘Add/Update subscriber’. See below:

start a running blog 13

 

4. Congratulations! You’ve created your first Zap, and now your newsletter subscriber form submissions from your website will be directly linked to Mailchimp. 

5. Head over to WordPress and add a new Plugin. It is called the Gravity Forms Zapier add-on → for the smooth integration of Gravity forms and Zapier, so your newsletter list subscribers are automatically sent to your configured zaps!

6. Under the forms tab in your WordPress Admin menu, hit forms, and select the ‘Newsletter’ form you have created.

7. Under Settings on the ‘Newsletter’ form editing page, you’ll see a new column labeled ‘Zapier’. This confirms the connection is established.

Let me know if you start the process of creating your own website! I’d love to hear about it. Still got questions? Comment below or you can visit the ‘Contact’ page above.

Grocery Shopping Tips for Athletes on a Budget

Grocery tips for athletes on a budget 1

 

There’s no doubt it’s crazy times we live in right now. We need to be smart with spending whilst still fueling our body to stay as healthy as possible.  I run at the moment for the pure joy of it, the outdoors time each day and the mental clarity it provides. When I’m consistently running, I’m almost always hungry. It is important to consider the necessary nutritional intake for any training you may be doing at this time. Stress is stress, whether it be physical or mental, so eating well, and enough is essential to keep the immune system in check. Don’t let this one slide right now.

I’ve put together these tips for you, so you can save some extra cash in these next few months (or however long this thing is going to last!), and still enjoy your cooking and eating.

 

Write a list

Writing a grocery list might sound like a frustrating thing, however, it will ensure your grocery trip is the most cost-effective and time-efficient. You’re more likely to stick to your grocery budget if you write a list!

There are so many phone apps for writing shopping lists. A few I recommend in America are Mealime, Anylist, and Cozi Family Organizer. For my Aussie readers, Grocereaze, Buy Me A Pie! And Out of Milk.

When writing a list, it can be handy to categorize it. Most grocery stores will have the fresh produce and potentially specific colder goods in the first few aisles or entry section, so I tend to write these on the list first, as shown in my sample template below. Often the bakery section and bulk produce are in the same area, so I place any goods I need from these sections next. The middle aisles hold the cheapest food items, that last the longest. Essentially, your non-perishables like canned goods, preserves, nut butters, cereal, pasta, rice, etc. Meats and often dairy goods are in the same general area towards the back or sides of the store. I like to add these goods to the right side of the list. There are also frozen goods, pharmaceuticals, toiletry needs, and cleaning products, which I put at the bottom of the list.

 

Navigating the grocery store like a pro

Have you ever walked into a grocery store, and not known where to start? The middle aisles hold the cheapest items that last the longest. Keep in mind that this is great for saving money. If you’d rather fruit and vegetables that last a while, remember you can always get canned, frozen, or chop them up and freeze them yourself. I like to freeze bananas and chop up veggies to freeze for roasting or stir-fry later.

Grocery tips for athletes 2

 

Another nifty tip is to always look high and low in the aisle. Fun fact, grocery stores make most of their money off brands paying to have their product placed in prominent positions around the store, not you as a consumer. The most expensive products will be placed in the middle. Generic brand products often taste the same, so save money where you can here.

Always look at the price per weight, ounce or serving if applicable. You’ll always get the better deal. The first situation I think of where I use this most is milk and toilet paper (although I wouldn’t stress about the latter, there isn’t any, anyway). Also, always buy in bulk for goods you use often. It’s the same deal with cost-effectiveness. Think oats, rice, flour, sugar, pasta, olive oil, chicken stock, seasonings, etc.

 

Choosing the goods.

On a budget, being open to eating cheaper cuts of meats is prime. Chicken thighs are cheaper than chicken breast, and often marinate better and contain all the flavor. Don’t believe me? Try cooking a curry with chicken breast, and then try one with thighs. Life changer.

Do your own slicing, dicing, and shredding. The stores always charge more if they make cuts or shred the item for you.

Shopping in categories for the time savvy

I’ve found it’s a good idea to have a knowledge of where you can buy produce the cheapest, packaged goods, and toiletry products. This makes grocery shopping most effective cost-wise, however, if the stores are far apart and you don’t own a vehicle, this can be a little tricky. For example, in Boise (Idaho), close to Boise State University campus and downtown, we have an Albertsons, Wholefoods, Trader Joe’s and Winco. There’s a Walmart, Costco and Fred Meyer in other areas of Boise, but they’re not easily accessible by bike or particularly close to BSU campus. These are also cheaper options.

 

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  • For organic produce at a lower cost: Albertsons (open nature generic brand products), Trader Joe’s (How is it so cheap for good quality? Check out this post)
  • Cheapest: Winco, Walmart
  • For organic produce, regardless of cost: Wholefoods, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s (organic veggie section), Fred Meyer (organic section)

 

Savings programs?! You can get more bang for your buck

Most people’s first thoughts on joining a rewards program are annoying advertisements including multiple emails, flyers and potentially an annoying card that sits in your wallet, hardly being used. However, I’ve found Albertsons ‘Just for U’ rewards program really helpful in saving money, and also for the occasional free grocery item giveaway if I decide to shop at this location. Essentially, you make an account, and each week you can choose which coupons you add to your account. These coupons automatically deduct from the cost of groceries when you enter the phone number you registered at the checkout. Look out for ‘FREE’ groceries each week. I got a free bag of Open Nature Granola for 2 weeks in a row, some Kite Hill yogurt, and have had free bags of coffee on multiple occasions.

I know Wholefoods have rewards for Amazon Prime members. Prime members get an extra 10% off sale items, weekly deals (look for the blue prime member store icon), special deals on online grocery shopping with Amazon-like free delivery.

 

Moocho App: free grocery money

This app is worth downloading if you shop at Albertsons. For $5 free grocery credit upon downloading the app, use referral code: 293683.  Ask to pay with Moocho at the counter and collect 1 Mooch for every $5 you spend. At 20 Mooches, you get $7 worth of grocery credit at the store. The app also connects up with Starbucks and other popular fast food joints, but given the COVID-19 restrictions, these might not be utilized at the moment.

Best 5k Running Shoes

 

Best 5k running shoes 2

 

Selecting the best 5k Running Shoes to optimize your race is important to the athlete. It is essential to find the best-fit considering factors such as the individual’s foot type, biomechanics, race, and training goals, training level (from weekend warrior to elite athlete), weekly/monthly mileage, and speed. For elite athletes, selecting the best racing flats for 5k is important. Now is the perfect time to find your best shoe before races start up again, hopefully in a few months. There’s time to test and try shoes out on varied surfaces, research shoes, and talk to fellow teammates or training partners before you commit to purchase. I’ve found quite a few nifty running shoe discounts online as companies desire to increase profits and sales turnover in an unstable economy at present. Try any of these, dependent on your location, to find your best 5k running shoes:

International:

 

Australian

 

These shoes are in no particular order, and there are many more that I’d recommend also, so just comment or contact me and I will be able to provide insight into other shoes on the market. I tried to be brand diverse, exploring a few different shoes on the market to give an all-around overview of what is available. 

Shoe 1: Nike ZoomXVaporfly Next%

These shoes have earned worldwide acclaim, and you may have heard of them before as these snazzy shoes have been worn by Eluid Kipchoge and Mo Farah to run some very speedy times. Having worn these shoes before, I instantly noticed the bouncy cushion under my feet, linking it to the ‘energy return’ and optimization of running efficiency Nike promotes under the label of these shoes. The engineering behind this is the ultra light-weight carbon fibre plate in the midsole of the shoe, cushioned between two ZoomX foam layers. This ZoomX foam is Pebax-based, meaning it is lightweight, provides optimal cushioning and optimal energy return. This time around, Nike footwear engineers have added 15% more ZoomX foam on the Next%, compared to the previous model, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, increasing the energy return even further than 4%. This is according to Nike engineers and independent studies conducted (see https://bit.ly/3duMjnF)

The traction on the sole of the shoe ensures grip on the track, wet or dry road and even works well on gravel surfaces. These shoes have a 40mm sole, and a 9mm drop, which means they are very well cushioned and can help prevent muscle fatigue leading up to race day. I have personally felt less muscle fatigue the day after a session in these shoes. Further, the Vaporweave upper is a woven blend of thermoplastic polymers and nylon which have water and sweat resistant properties. The laces are looped through slashes on the sides of the shoe, requiring no band and securing the feet nicely for a comfortable fit. 

Weighing in at around 190grams, this shoe is lightweight and speedy, but not at the compromise of cushion and comfort. 

These shoes are a little pricey, retailing for around cheapest price $180-$300 USD, but I find most reputable stores are retailing them for $250USD (based on online figures). Grab yourself some fresh kicks here: https://swoo.sh/3boPR9c

 

Shoe 2: Asics Lyteracer TS 7

I thought I’d throw in an Asics shoe as this company has some pretty decent shoes for road racing and I often find they are under-explored as an option for athletes. Particularly those requiring a bit more support in the foot. The shoe is a great all-rounder, versatile on the track and road. I would use this shoe for shorter distance road races, like the 5k, up until the marathon (however watch the wear and tear, it is important to not wear an overused shoe for a marathon, it’s a long way). You want to break in a shoe, trial it out, and feel comfortable to run in it for the full 42.2km. 

This shoe has a 10mm heel drop (or gradient), slightly more than the Nike Next%. This ensures good absorption on hard surfaces through the heel/midfoot dependent on the athlete’s biomechanics when in the landing part of your stride. Asics claims that the “Speva Foam midsole” combined with the  “high-abrasion rubber improves durability to ward off wear and tear”, allowing the shoe to be used for larger amounts of mileage before a new pair is needed (https://asics.tv/3boPP14) This is a plus. Then again, I always say it is dependent on the runner’s biomechanics, the surfaces the shoe is used on, and how often the shoe is used in the athlete’s shoe rotation which determines the mileage a shoe can handle…..

Further, I always find Asics suits narrower feet, like my own. The lacing system also allows for a tighter, supported fit in this sense. I always prefer this extra support. Why? If I going to be running on the road and harder surfaces a lot, I want my foot to be landing with optimal placement in relation to my biomechanics, to reduce my risk of injury. The shoe needs to work with my body, not against it. 

The shoe is designed for those who have a neutral or under pronation type, however over-pronator type feet can also use this shoe (I am a over pronator) for racing and workouts as this is not as essential. Over-pronation means when the foot naturally rolls in more than usual. Neutral explains itself in a sense, “neutral”.  My training shoes are more important to me to have stability features for over-pronation than a racing flat. 

The women’s model weighs around 179grams whilst the mens is 235grams.

These shoes are not too pricey, around $100USD. Grab your pair here: https://asics.tv/3boPP14

 

Shoe 3: New Balance 1400v6 

The new version 6 of the 1400 shoe has had some upgrades! The upper is now lighter in weight, yet maintains the same firm structure to optimize stability for a racing flat. This can be hard to find in other racing flats from other brands. An important feature for those with wider feet, is the roomy upper. New Balance tends to make shoes that suit wider feet, so I always take this in to account (I have an extremely narrow foot). The REVlite foam is continued from the older versions. It is well cushioned to the preference of many road racers, so New Balance have intelligently kept it on board as a key feature to this shoe. The Fantom Fit support cage allows for a secure midfoot fit according to New Balance, however it still maintains breathability, being constructed from a synthetic air mesh. The new tongue design also improves the fit of this shoe, compared to the old models. They took this from their track-specific footwear which I found very interesting. Faster shoe = better fit and vise versa….

This is the heaviest shoe I’ve looked at so far, weighing in around 240grams (7.2 ounces). Like most of the racing flats, it also has a 10mm heel to toe drop. Also the cheapest pair so far, these guys retail for $99.99 USD. Grab a pair here: https://bit.ly/2y9NrwW

Shoe 4: Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 6

These are a great pair of lightweight racing flats. They are super responsive, have a low heel to toe drop, and according to Adidas, acquire a “foot-hugging fit”. The Lightstrike cushioning is designed from EVA, however this particular EVA recipe has drawn from basketball shoe foam, allowing for optimal energy return particulalry through the midsole. A bit like the Nike Next% described earlier. The upper is made from a single-layer celermesh which is new to this shoe model and has a seamless appearance. It fits a little bit like a built-in bootie, which is super cool. It is lightweight, breathable, and holds the foot in nice and snug. 

The outsole is made from “quickstrike rubber”, allowing for a fast and sleek toe-off with good traction. The shoes are designed for speed! A US Size 9/UK Size 8.5 mens weighs in around 197 grams. They are a little heavier than the Nike Next%, but lighter than the Asics and New Balance options. Saucony wins in the weight department for 5k racing shoes, however. For some more quick stats, the 5mm midsole drop suits the flat and fast style and design of this Adidas shoe. It is designed to be responsive to the individual’s biomechanics and optimize energy return. 

One thing to note from some feedback is that the toebox fits narrower at front than previous Adidas racing flat models. So if you have particulalry wide feet, maybe consider trying this on in store, or looking at the New Balance option or Brooks options. 

These guys sit more mid-range in pricing, at $160USD. Grab a pair here: https://bit.ly/2QMeaWD

Shoe 5: Saucony Type A9

This shoe stands out because it is super lightweight, weighing in around 170 grams. This is largely thanks to the SSL EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam midsole, which also absorbs shock well and thus suits the road and track environments. The soft, minimalist upper aligns with the overall lightweight design of this shoe. The lowest heel to toe drop, at just 4mm, makes it suited to its label as a super-speedy road racing flat. Saucony have taken into account the importance of a road racing shoe that works well in varied weather conditions, with a wet-grip upper rubber, and lugs in the forefoot rubber for excellent traction when the athlete pushes off with their toes. 

I would keep in mind however, that the upper fit is tight. I experienced this trying the shoe on, however once my foot was inside the shoe, the toe box had plenty of room (too much for my extremley narrow foot in fact!). The shoe is also not optimal in the rain in terms of water absorption. However, many are willing to compromise this for an ultra-lightweight racing flat. 

Similar in price to the Asics and New Balance, they come in at around $80- 100 USD. Get your pair here: https://bit.ly/2WHgORh

So, what are the best shoes for running a 5k?

I can’t pin down exactly what the best shoe is. It is very much up to the individual and their needs. What might be my ultimate shoe may differ for another athlete. I see this all the time in the sport, it is very natural. However, to be more specific, needs include the fit, current training level/position, mileage, race goals both short and long term, advice of an experienced running shoe expert (in Australia and America, I take advice from my coaches, sports podiatrist, physiotherapist and running shoe specific stores like Running Science or Pace Athletic). I have personally used the Asics Tatherzeal, Asics DS Trainer and Racer, Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next%, Nike Air Zoom Streak 7 and Asics Gel Feather-Glide. These have all worked well for me. If you like a low heel to toe drop and minimal stability, go for the Nike Air Zoom Streak 7. Cushioning, I’d say the Vaporfly’s. For good stability, a bit of support and speed, either of the Asics are the go. In saying this, it has been a while since I have done a road race as I am a collegiate athlete. 

 

Best 5k running shoes 1I decided to speak to my Australian coach Gary Howard, co-founder of Australian running group Run Crew (see https://www.runcrew.com.au/) to gain some insight from someone who has been on the scene as an experienced athlete and coach for quite some time. I very much respect his opinion! The coaches at Run Crew are bloody brilliant. Specializing in distances from 800m-ultramarathons, the coaches here tailor the training to your needs, and will write online programs for you no matter where you are in the world. They also run sessions in Sydney which I attended regulalry when I lived in Sydney, and smaller coordinated groups around Australia I believe. 

Gary explained that he generally found (from experience and studies) that most are better in Vaporfly, but he has seen the Nike Streak LT be a good shoe if the individual is conditioned appropriatley to wear it. He mentioned that some good in between shoes are the Nike Streak, New Balance 1400 (discussed above) and Adidas Takumi Sen (also reviewed above). Thanks Gary for the input! Give Run Crew a look if you’re interested in joining the squad or obtaining an online runninng especially during this unstable time where we all have to socially distance from each-other for the greater good of society.)

Again, it’s all about the individual preference. I like to gather as much information and research as possible (from reliable, experienced human sources and online). I also can’t stress the benefit of trying a pair on and going for a light jog around the store if possible, and getting your foot mechanics assessed by a qualified podiatrist. This is how you ensure the optimal shoe and runner team fit. Ultimately, you’ll run a better 5k. Happy running!

5k Meal Plan: Your ultimate guide to fueling and hydrating for 5km

5k Meal Plan lara hamilton 2

Whether you’re about to run your first 5km race or you’re a seasoned pro, making sure that you’ve got energy on board and avoiding stomach upset is the key to performing your best. From personal experience, I found that it was crucial to train my stomach to be comfortable with eating specific foods 2 hours before the race. This ensures optimal performance and no G.I (gastrointestinal) problems. In terms of making sure we have enough energy and fuel on board, if a decent meal is eaten the night before, and a few hours before the race, the human body has enough energy for up to 80 minutes of endurance activity. This means “bonking”, or in other words, running out of glycogen stores for muscle recruitment is not so much of an issue for shorter races like a 5km or 10km. 

What should I eat the night before a 5k race?

A decent meal which includes a quality form of carbohydrates is really important to take on board the night before a race. It ensures our body is stocked with energy to recruit for the race the next day. Since most road races are run in the morning, here are some examples of dinners to eat the night before (tried and tested!) and breakfasts for 2-3 hours before the gun goes off! 

Personally, I like to keep it simple stupid. The night before some of my best middle to long-distance track races I eat a very simple take on fried rice:

  • Long grain low G.I rice, the Dongara kind normally (the most important component, complex carbohydrates)
  • Tuna/Salmon/Chicken or pork (lean protein, not a big fan of red meat the night before a race)
  • Shredded carrot, steamed green beans (some simple veggies)
  • ½ a small avocado sliced (Fats)
  • Topped with soy sauce, a dash of sweet chili sauce and lemon juice + salt/pepper (for flavor!)

For the morning of the race, I like to stick with a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates. We want energy to be easily accessible and be enough to keep you satiated on the start line and throughout the race. For example, I generally eat oats, maple syrup/honey/brown rice syrup, and a banana  2-3 hours before the race. This is my go-to breakfast before some of my major 5 and 10km road races. 

  • ½-¾ cup of oats, cooked on the stovetop so they are well done. This decreases digestion time.
  • 1 teaspoon of honey, or maple syrup (slightly more if using the latter option)
  • Chopped banana on top
  • Dash of cinnamon

Toast with banana and honey is also a very good option if you’re not a big fan of oats. I like to stick with white bread or sourdough the day of the race, rather than a grain bread or wholemeal/wholewheat, as this can cause stomach upsets. 

How long before a 5k should you eat?

5k Meal Plan lara hamilton 2

If it is an early morning race, I’d recommend a larger meal, and possibly a small dessert of some sort the night before, just before heading to bed. This is because some races have a gun start time around 7 or 8 am, meaning eating 2 hours beforehand requires an early rise, which might not be as convenient for some participants. However, it is recommended if you’re desiring to hit that personal best time, that you plan to eat around 2-3 hours before the race. 

For evening races, it is slightly more flexible. Eating a solid, well-balanced breakfast or brunch 8-6 hours out, another meal 4 hours out, and a snack 2 hours out to top up energy stores will ensure you are ready. 

It is crucial to train our stomach to become used to the food we intend to eat before we race when in a running context. Before race day, plan to do some of your harder workouts with the same foods on board, sticking to the same eating timings. See it as a race day simulation in a sense! The stomach can even learn to digest food closer to race time. I can now eat porridge an hour before I run, and not experience discomfort. 

Should you run the day before a 5k?

This is very much up to the individual and the coach. The best way to test which will work best for you is to try a 20-30 minute very easy jog the day before a 5km specific workout or tempo run. Do the same with taking a rest day the day before either kind of workout also. Track how you feel in a journal or online software for the period in which you carry out this test. This will allow you to gauge whether it’s best for you mentally and physically to either take rest or run the day before the race.

Personally, I have done both. I prefer to take a rest day 2 days before the race and jog 20-30 minutes with 4x 100m strides the day before the race. This is more for mental preparation over anything. No actual fitness gains will be made at this point. 

Is it OK to drink coffee before a 5k?

It is absolutely ok to drink coffee before a 5km, or any race or sporting activity for that manner. In most cases, it is actually recommended as it can have a slight performance-enhancing effect if the individual times their ingestion correctly to the event start time and duration. Caffeine can cause an upset stomach, better known as G.I distress for runners if the athlete is not used to coffee when training. However, if the individual is able to take on board coffee, their awareness, alertness, focus can increase and their perception of effort may be decreased. What’s not to love about that? I’m a big fan of coffee before racing.

Here’s an even niftier trick you can consider yourself which I came up with whilst out on a long run. I practice this regularly to get the optimum race-day advantage. As a regular coffee drinker, many would agree that we become slightly immune to the effects of coffee over time. Considering this, I only drink decaffeinated coffee and tea, or no coffee at all, 3 days before a race. Whether it is a placebo or not, I can’t be sure, but I know I definitely feel the caffeine effects when I drink coffee on race day after no coffee for a few days. On the day of the race, if it is an early start time, I take on board 2 shots, and if it is in the evening, up to 3. I’m buzzing and ready to go!

How long before a race should I drink caffeine?

Caffeine has a pretty short-acting effect, so from personal experience, I like to have 1 shot an hour out from the race, and another shot 30 minutes before. I take these in caffeine strips such as Revvies (https://www.revviesenergy.com/) in which each strip is equivalent to one shot of coffee. This reduces any chance of stomach upset which might be experienced if a coffee, particularly one with dairy milk, is ingested too close to the gun time. However, the stomach can also be trained to take caffeine on board close to a race. I can have a black coffee with a dash of milk up to 45 minutes before an event, as long as I ensure I get to the bathroom before the start, this is no issue for me. I’m firing and ready to run fast!

How much should I drink before a 5k?

Water is important for any person undertaking exercise, particularly hard efforts. However the 5km is no marathon in distance, so water doesn’t need to be taken during the race. A large glass of breakfast and small regular sips up until the race start is recommended. I often find people get nervous and sip on too much water before a race, creating a gluggy, uncomfortable feeling in their stomach. 

Again, practice this. Make sure the day and night before the race you are on top of your hydration, and you’ll be right to go the next day!