The creators are calling this Strava Update the biggest update of the year. You can now create Strava Group Challenges for free, have access to personalized Strava Segment suggestions and map feature upgrades. I recently updated my Strava Challenge or How to Create A Strava Challenge article to display the most up-to-date steps on this process now that there has been a Strava app update. Over the past year, I’ve had many athletes, clubs, and businesses reach out asking how to create a Strava challenge, and I’ve had to guide them through what used to be some tricker steps. Thanks to this update, creating a strava challenge is now extremely simple. Click the link for a step-by-step guide on how to create a strava challenge for free!
However, you do have to be a Strava Subscriber to create Strava Group Challenges. Alternatively, I discuss how to create sponsored strava challenges (paid), and strava challenges for your strava club which are entirely free.
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Strava App Update
The Strava app update has allowed users to engage in a much more customizable manner with the digital platform than ever before. Below I’ll discuss the specifics of each individual component of the Strava app update.
The ability to Create Strava Group Challenges, in my personal opinion, is the best update of this launch. Here’s a breakdown of what you can and can’t do with this feature:
Creating a Strava Group Challenge: The Basics
You can create a Strava Group Challenge for any of the 32 different sports that Strava offers. Think along the lines of run, bike, swim, hike, alpine ski, backcountry ski, canoe, nordic ski, kayaking, surfing. You name it. Amazing.
You can control the time limit on your Strava Group Challenge. Anything from a day to a year. I tested out creating a challenge for over a year, but it auto-reverts you back to a year.
You can invite athletes to your Strava Challenge, but they must be following you.
The cap on athletes you can invite is 24 athletes
Strava Group Challenges are Private Challenges. These aren’t like the sponsored challenges you can join, which are likely brand affiliated.
You must have your activities set to public or followers only if you want the activity to count for the challenge and be ranked on the leaderboard.
A funky feature: Strava Photos affiliated with the activity (the ones you upload) will be featured on the group challenge page. How neat!
You can choose whether you compete for total distance, time or elevation in the window of time the challenge runs for.
Simple. How fast can you run or wheelchair compete over a distance of your choice.
‘Longest Single Activity’
Also simple. A competition for the most distance someone can complete in one single activity upload. You must set a minimum distance for this challenge.
Strava Group Challenges for Non-Subscribers: What can you do?
For non-subscriber (non-premium Strava members), you can create up to 3 Strava Group Challenges for free. If you want to test the feature and create unlimited challenges, you can always sign up for your free Strava Premium trial by clicking here.
Non-subscribers can join up to 3 Strava Group Challenges.
Strava will encourage you to sign up to Strava Premium after reaching the 3 participation/creation limit.
Strava Club Challenges: What does it mean for your Strava Club Challenge?
For Strava Club Challenges, this isn’t the best option. We are capped at 24/25 athletes in total, and those athletes must be following your personal Strava account. You’d then have to personally invite them to your group challenge.
This may be user-friendly for small athletic clubs, friend challenges, or a small workplace, but isn’t the most ideal way to create a challenge for your Strava Club.
I can walk you through how to Create A Strava Club Challenge in my Create a Strava Challenge article, click here. Alternatively, contact me personally via the form below.
Every seasoned Strava user is familiar with Strava Segments, Strava Segment hunters (haha!), and achieving personal bests, crowns, and all that fun stuff.
Strava Segment Suggestions now personally recommend routes and new segments for you to run, ride, hike, ski, etc. What’s pretty neat about this new feature is the user-friendly organization of segment discovery. There are 6 categories of suggestions.
Most popular roads near you
New segments you haven’t tried and tested
Break a PR/PB: Strava will show you segments where you are super close to breaking a PR!
Climb the Strava leaderboard rankings
Become the new Strava Local Legend
Complete a workout incorporating new areas and/or new Strava Segments
Strava users can also filter suggested segments and routes by distance, activity type (run/bike, etc.), elevation, and surface. I personally love the surface feature, as it allows me to choose when I hit the trails or the concrete.
How Running Changed My Life: My not so glamorous story
It might sound overly dramatic when I say, ‘running changed my life’. The reason I say this is because we’ve all heard it before, a story about a person who struggled through various life adversities and found an outlet in sport or another profession that requires dedication, resilience, and many years of hard work. I’m no different from those people, however, I only truly figured out just how important this sport is to me at the beginning of 2021. It isn’t just something I do, it is a lifeline. This may be unhealthy, or what is often coined ‘an over-reliance because the question is always raised – what happens when you get injured? What happens if for ‘insert reason here’ you can’t run anymore?
Injury is a part of competitive, high-level sport. If I am going to push my body and test my limits, an injury may just be heralding that I’ve found a limit or pushed it a bit far this time. Next time, I’ll approach it differently, in a smarter manner, or address the weakness. Then try again. This is the beauty of sport. You’re either all in for the journey and can understand this, or you’re not willing to risk it. I have had multiple sprained and dislocated ankles from trail running, and a torn tendon from sudden, consistent high-mileage and not enough rest. I’ve learnt my lessons, and I still very likely have many more to learn. The trials and tribulations of being a distance runner!
“There is always darkness before dawn.”
Running has always been a part of my life.
I have always run in some way for the most part of my 22 years. I’d mostly use it to train for other sports or dip my toes in junior and high school cross country for fun. I didn’t experience true competitive running until 17, in my final months of high school. I ‘accidentally’ won a race I entered on a whim, coming back from a week of high altitude nordic ski training. I wasn’t having the most success in nordic skiing, and running seemed to click with me better, and suit my busy life schedule in final exams. After all, you truly can run anywhere – there aren’t a lot of excuses.
This race win was a really big moment for me. Primarily because I didn’t feel like I always fit in throughout my entire schooling. I was sporty, but also very academically driven and was a part of all the school vocal and music-writing groups. I didn’t really have a ‘group’ and there were times I felt extremely ostracized because I wasn’t defined by something. I wasn’t heading out to parties every weekend. I achieved everything I wanted, but not without a fair share of tears, excessive hours of studying and training. Suddenly, after winning the Sydney Harbour 5km, I was known as a ‘runner’. People seemed to change the way they treated me. Almost with more respect. I don’t think this is a good thing, I think we shouldn’t categorize people and define them by what they do – but it got me through, and it definitely still has a lasting impact.
One very cold, rainy morning at 5:30 am, I turned up to a training session with a group in centennial park, Sydney. I might sound a bit strange, but I love training in crazy weather – I am used to it having a background as a nordic skier when we’d wait in the nordic shelter waiting to hear if our heat was going to still run in gale force winds and sideways snow. One time I raced a 5km skate race without poles, the wind was so strong. It was all good fun. I stuck with the consistent run training program my coaches prescribed and never looked back.
Running Saved My Life in multiple low points and in contextual depression.
Fast forward to 2017, and I’m in training for the Australian Cross Country Championships. I’d had a killer year with multiple wins and massive improvement – what is known as the upward training trend in a runner’s improvement before they hit a natural plateau. Unfortunately, a very close family member was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, and I knew I would have to step up my game to support the family in a way I never had before. Aged 18/19 I was not the most emotionally mature, so to comprehend the emotional rollercoaster I went into auto-pilot with my run training. I won the U20 Australian XC Championships because I was so determined, fuelled by very strong emotions and a sense of helplessness. My sick family member was able to come especially to watch this event and to come home with a title I doubted I would ever achieve meant the world to me. To this day, this is one of the most important and joyful days of my entire life.
I am so lucky that my family member has recovered, and I have learned the importance of life at a young age. It is short. It is so important to do everything you can to shape your life around what you value and surround yourself with people who make you a better you.
Long story short, running really saved me during this time, and I am extremely lucky that I was able to run consistently during this period.
The past 1.5 years have been the toughest of my life – more specifically the last 10 months. The coronavirus situation in the U.S. was handled very differently from my home country, Australia. I made the choice early in 2020 not to return home to Australia. My family and I hoped that the situation would clear up for a visit home later, which we now know isn’t the case. Running on a collegiate cross country and track team, I found myself in multiple quarantines which I didn’t handle particularly well. I was lucky enough to never catch the virus and obtain a full dose of vaccination recently. In my first quarantine, whilst being tested continually I was allowed out once a day to run at odd hours in a mask. That was the only thing I could do – so of course, I ran myself silly.
In the second quarantine, we experienced a team shut down. This meant no more practices for the rest of the year and a lack of familiar training structure that we’d become so accustomed to. I found myself sinking into quite a low place, feeling like I’d only just got out of the first quarantine. Radiating pain in my adductor longus started to appear due to overuse combined with poor biomechanics due to lack of strength and conditioning work to supplement my mileage over these quarantines. The inability to run pain-free and a team shut down weighed on me. With an abundance of time alone with my thoughts, I think I began to feel slightly homesick and get really stuck in my thoughts. At one point I needed some medication to help me out of this hole alongside some serious meditation and mindfulness work. During this time I turned to books, I learned new songs on my guitar, I went on walks and collected various rocks/crystals, and learned about how they are formed in the different ecosystems of Idaho. Looking back, it is important to know what you enjoy outside of sport and keep fostering these alongside it.
Early this year I had to take a break from collegiate running as I couldn’t handle high-pressure situations or more quarantines. I was also in a situation that involved a serious breach of trust, and in a minor car accident which sent me plummeting further into the ‘weeds’ (an analogy). I honestly hit a very low spot, and am still working my way out of this. I am frustrated at myself for not being able to bounce back from this quicker. I am working on acknowledging the headspace I am in, and justifying that these new feelings I am experiencing are normal given the situation. The biggest part of all of this is not feeling like I was a part of something, being away from family and away from my team-mates felt extremely lonely. After all, I moved to the U.S. to run collegiately. At one point, the team and the lifestyle of the team were all I knew in this country.
Over the last 2 months, I have made a very large effort to get myself back on track. I gave myself an all-or-nothing attitude. I made a choice. My mentor calls it, ‘The Choice Point.’ It is to ‘act in a manner that is either consistent or inconsistent with your values.’ Essentially, if we let ourselves think consistently in a negative manner on auto-pilot, we don’t make any changes. I like to trouble-shoot this by allowing myself to feel the feelings for a minute or so, and then choose to act in a way that is beneficial to me. Sometimes we won’t be able to do this and instead fall back into old habits. That is ok – practice grace for yourself in these moments. It takes practice and consistent work. As does every skill. The simplest way to remember is when you have a choice about a feeling or action, stop and evaluate, then act in a way consistent with your goals and values.
Some food for thought – we also create our reality through the thoughts, feelings, words, visuals, images, and conversations we experience day in and day out. Watch that the narrative you are creating in the present and moving forward doesn’t follow a consistently negative storyline. We are in charge. The past is the past, it happened, it will resolve naturally. We can only impact the now because only the now exists. It might sound airy-fairy, I know, but it’s the stone-cold truth.
Running Social Media is not reality
This is so important to remember. Everything you see on social media is the carefully selected, best parts of someone’s life. This includes my Instagram, Facebook and Strava. It is just running and sports, and the best parts selected. Why would I post the bad days, or write about the bad times? No one really wants to see that or hear about it. Social media is meant to be a quick fix. But maybe we should normalize this? I wonder what change or response it would create across these platforms if people were a little more genuine about what they post and how they post.
Essentially, it is what they want you to see. In the case of sponsored athletes and professionals of certain disciplines, it is often what is required or expected by the receiving audience. Don’t get sucked in, or as I am trying to very lamely coin, ‘Don’t get stuck in the suck.’ It’s an addiction – looking at what others are doing, what equipment they have, the scenery they get to run in, their stats. The negative side can be a game of comparison or ‘I’m not good enough’. The positive side can be a place of camaraderie, knowledge sharing, connecting with friends and family, and having a laugh.
Running is my fallback when the going gets tough
When push comes to shove, running is my fallback. I won’t lie about this. I simply am a better person if I get out the door each day to run. Whether or not this is considered ‘healthy, I don’t really care. I make it through my injuries perfectly fine and with a greater knowledge of the human body and how to take care of my own even better. I can’t even shoot out some decent anatomy terms now! Not the coolest party trick, but I will take what I can get! I also love to work hard so when rest time happens, I can really kickback.
“It’s not what you think you can do that holds you back, it’s what you think you can’t.”
Thank you again, Malia.
(Malia, my team-mate was sitting opposite me the entire time I wrote this article, firing these inspirational quotes at me as I harassed her with questions about how to write and structure this article. Much love.)
If the idea of meditation running or running as meditation seems like a foreign concept to you, consider the fact that you’ve probably already participated in it. Many of us like to pop in the ear buds and check out while logging our miles, especially for long distances. For some, this is the easiest way to “get through” a workout.
However, the idea of meditation running is not to “get through” your run, but rather “get into” your run. Meditation and running do not have to exist as separate entities. In fact, for those of you who prefer to proverbially “kill two birds with one stone,” meditation running can save time allowing you to benefit from both at once.
Running as meditation can turn what sometimes feels like a chore, or something you’re forcing yourself to do, into an adventure. It offers deeper meaning, mental clarity and healing on top of your physical fitness routine. In the state of today’s world, who doesn’t need a little clarity and healing?
If you’ve ever gone out for a run in a new neighborhood or on an especially craggy trail, chances are good that you’ve participated in meditation running. Meditation in itself is not meant to clear your mind, but instead to become present in the given moment. In a new city or on a rugged trail, you must be vigilant and focus on where you are and the ground beneath you. This action causes you to be present in the moment and to concentrate on right now.
This is just a simple and common example of how you may have already used running as meditation. You can set out to purposefully participate in meditation and running, and I will tell you how in the following sections. Of course, distracting thoughts are going to pop up now and then. That’s normal and expected. Acknowledge them and come back to the moment. Put a pin in those recurring thoughts for later, and be careful not to follow them down the rabbit hole.
How to Meditate While Running
Meditation while running is not necessarily hard, but it may require some practice. This is especially true for those who prefer to zone out with some tunes while running instead of tuning into your zone. The following ideas are a good starting point for learning how to practice meditation while running. Later, I will give you a few more resources to help you use running as meditation.
Counting Breaths or Footfalls
Counting your breaths or foot steps can help keep you grounded in the now. Make up a pattern such as a 1, 2, 3, 1, 1, 2, 3, 2 count or count by twos or fives. You can even incorporate counting breaths to footfalls and take note of which foot lands on what numbers each time.
Acknowledge Pain or Discomfort
Obviously, intense pain means you should end your workout immediately, but I’m talking about the normal running aches and fatigue that sometimes appear. Don’t ignore these tinges, but don’t focus intently on them, either. This also goes to uncomfortable or stressing thoughts. As mentioned, put a pin in those, save them for later, and come back to now.
Use Mantras or Devotions
Whether you choose a quote from Rocky or prefer a Bible verse, mantras can help keep you focused and present in the moment. Simply repeating positive phrases like I am strong and bold, I can do all things, or I am tougher than this trail can keep you focused. The key is concentrating on what you are saying and repeating it.
Be Aware of All Sounds and Sights
It may be a bird chirping in a tree or a simple stop sign—just take notice and focus on it for just a moment. Perhaps you choose to run as the sun rises and sets. Focusing on the grandeur of the setting and which senses are being triggered can offer a feeling of relaxation—even when you’re running. It may be easier to focus on things by stating what you see, hear, feel, or smell. For example, you could say to yourself I see a tall, green Oak tree, or I feel a gust of cool air on my neck.
Mindful Running: Being in the Moment
Running Meditation has many benefits beyond maintaining your physical fitness and health. For example, let’s go back to rugged trail running. You have to constantly scan the terrain ahead of you and make decisions about where your foot should fall to reduce the risk of injury. You might be dodging low-lying tree limbs, circling around mud pits, or hopping over roots and other natural debris.
All this focus directed at the trail in the very moment you are running it keeps other thoughts and worries at bay. There simply isn’t time to think about problems such as how difficult the run actually is when you are running with the mind of meditation. Instead, you are able to explore the world around you, reflect on it and connect to it.
Not only can running meditation offer practice in meditating, it can also help you improve your running. Perhaps you want to run faster or longer distances. Most often, the only things holding us back are the thoughts we have. Meditation can also help to increase your response inhibition, or ability to ignore the instinct to slow down or stop due to muscle aches or fatigue and keep running.
Another highly-rated running meditation book I found is Still Running: The art of Meditation in Motion, written by Zen-practitioner and long-time runner, Vanessa Zuisei Goddard. Like Running with the Mind of Meditation, Still Running offers instructions on practical ways to practice meditation and running. Additionally, it focuses on the power of being still and how that can lead to “wholehearted” living.
Running Meditation Apps
If you are interested in guided meditation while running, try out a running meditation app. When I went to the app store, I was inundated with meditation apps for relaxation. However, with continued research, I stumbled across Headspace, a website and an app that focuses on meditation for focus and relaxation.
Additionally, Headspace has partnered with Nike to provide a Mindful Running Pack within the Nike Run Club (NRC) app. Choose the length of time you want to run and pick from runs with titles like “Don’t Wanna Run Run,” “Breaking Through Barriers,” and “Mindful Miles.” Then, you simply set out on your preferred route and listen in. This running meditation app does all the focusing for you.
Final Thoughts on Meditation While Running
As you can see, meditation can coexist with running, or other activities. You do not have to be sitting still to reap the benefits of meditation, and practicing meditation while running has its own benefits including lowering stress, easing depression or anxiety, and making your runs easier.
It may take even the seasoned runner some practice, but I’m certain with the help of this article and the resources I discussed, anyone can do it. If you want a little more guidance, don’t hesitate to try a running meditation app. Happy trails!
Cross Training Workouts should be a part of any runners training program. Cross Training Workouts for Runners provide a more holistic approach to training. By holistic, I mean that we learn to use different muscles, different combinations of muscles and ligaments, different patterns of movement (biomechanics), different mental proprioception, and challenge the body in different ways. Essentially, we keep it interesting and I believe that the athlete becomes more well-rounded.
It is really tempting to simply want to run as the sole activity of training. It makes sense right? You are a runner, and to get better at running, we have to run. However, cross training workouts are the difference between what we want and what we need.
This is about listening to your body. Whilst engaging in various forms of cross training does not use the same biomechanical patterning as running (as in a running ‘stride’ or form), the heart is still beating, and therefore you are still improving the amazing engine that is your body.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
– Ryan Sandes (Pro Salomon Trail Runner)
Trying a new form of training can be daunting. You can feel vulnerable from the feeling of ‘newness’ after being comfortable in one or a few sports for a while. I personally hadn’t been on a mountain bike or road biking (other than commuting) for a while. Today I decided to take what is a very dodgy, extremely old model mountain bike that I use as transport in Boise and go for my first mountain/road bike ride. Why? I felt like it and I had a curiosity to explore the contagious stoke that the biking community of Boise and Idaho have. I am having a small break from running for physical and mental health purposes. I also wanted to challenge myself a little bit.
It was a blast. I caught the bug, and I will be trying it again. All it took was one ride. I truly believe this is the same for others, so I encourage you to try a cross training workout next time you are unmotivated to run, feel a little niggle occurring or simply want to experience something else (and still keep the heart beating). I even got to experience the beautiful golden hour in the Foothills of Boise. See my photo below.
This is my favourite photo I have ever taken. I’m not entirely sure why, and it was a bit rushed honestly. My hands were freezing and my heart rate was through the roof after climbing a hill in the cold air. It was exhilarating though. I think it is the colours and obscurities of the sunlight.
Cross training benefits are numerous, particularly the benefits of cross training for runners.
“The Struggle was real, but every second was worth it”
-Nouria Newman (French Slalom Canoeist, Red Bull)
When runners get injured (and I am speaking for myself here too), it can be quite amusing to observe their habits of self-diagnosis before they actually get a diagnosis. Often they’ll use Dr. Google, the usual rehab methods involving tape and ice, maybe they’ll even be wise and take a few days off. However, we can prevent injury often by cross training, and learning to move our body in many different ways, utilizing many different muscles, in different coordination and patterns of movement.
To put it simply, we allow our body and mind a break from the repetitive movement of running. Often this allows the muscles, ligaments and tendons to heal a bit so you’re better prepared for your next run.
My mum who is a sports medicine physician in Australia once shared with me some very wise words about cross training for running. The heart is still beating. It doesn’t know the difference between a long swim, long run or long ride. She explained this to me whilst I was recovering from one of many sprained ankles. Whilst our musculoskeletal patterning may differ, we are still getting a very valuable training effect.
We are also training our mind differently. We are building mental toughness. For example, when I choose swimming as a cross training workout, I am inflicting myself (or am I actually benefiting myself?! That’s the paradox!) staring at some pool tiles and a black line for a significant amount of time. This is difficult when I have the privilege of looking at stunning mountain or seaside landscapes when I run outside.
Personally, my biggest cross training benefit has been the comfort I have in knowing that if I get injured, I am fully capable of throwing myself into a variety of other sports. In these sports I am distracted from my running injury, yet finding joy in a new and refreshing activity. Again, this is why I’d encourage you to integrate cross training workouts into your running schedule.
Below is a list of cross training examples I can think of. Maybe you could integrate a cross training session in instead of a second run, or even in replacement for a recovery run. Looking to increase endurance training load? Why not pop in a cross training workout.
“This is your life, live it with passion”
-Thabang Madiba (Salomon Trail Runner, South Africa)
Cycling as Cross Training For Running
The hardest part about going for a road bike is simply getting on the bike in the first place and starting (at least I find). Whether it’s the cold, the heat, or preparing the bike for the ride. As always, be cautious of vehicles, animals, pedestrians, weather conditions etc. I suggest doing a hilly route and sprinting up the hills, floating the flats, and relaxing on the downs for a solid endurance workout.
Spin biking can be a blast, especially with music. I like to create playlists where each song/track has a specific workout purpose allocated to it. For example, there is a mix of sprint songs, high RPM (revolutions per minute) songs, out of the saddle climbing songs, and in the saddle climbing songs, plus recovery songs. It can make for a great workout. If you have the option, you could even try a spin class for some extra motivation.
Mountain Biking as Cross Training For Running
Mountain biking as cross training for running is great as it challenges your proprioception and reaction time, along with continual changes in leg and body movement to navigate the natural changes/variations on the trails. The uphill climbs can really challenge you, as often you’ll be navigating around rocks, facing patches of sand or mud, or avoiding other cyclists and pedestrians (if you’re unlucky). The downhills are simply a hoot.
“I think the mountains have helped keep me alive, keep me going, and keep me focused on this is what I’m doing right now”
– Jim Morrison (The North Face Mountaineer and Brand Ambassador)
Swimming as Cross Training For Running
Swimming is one of my favourite forms of cross training for running. I feel like it works every part of your body, and challenges you to control your oxygen capacity and therefore the breath. To work with the breath when physically exerting yourself is very humbling, and in its own unique way, grounding. The silence of being underwater, and swimming being a solo activity, is also quite meditative. There are so many swim workouts searchable online. I like doing a warm up, cool down, sprint and distance mixed sets, and in the pool fartlek style workouts.
Elliptical as Cross Training For Running
The elliptical trainer is one of the simplest forms of cross training for runners as almost every gym has one, and it doesn’t require you to own any extra equipment. It’s also quite similar to the action of running, without the impact. Many runners I know and train with will supplement running with a session on the elliptical.
Nordic Skiing as Cross Training For Running
This is a challenging cross training activity but the benefit is the miraculous fitness benefits you’ll receive from investing time into skate or classic cross country skiing. It is truly a total body workout. Some of the highest recorded VO2 max levels come from nordic skiers. They have to use both their arms and legs uphill, ski downhill without edges, sidestep corners and maintain a very good sense of balance. Also, altitude is often involved, which means altitude training benefits as an extra.
I guess what I am trying to communicate, or the moral of this post if you like, is don’t be afraid to try something new, or take some time off if you need it. Running will always be there for the most part. We don’t want to be risk-averse, as this doesn’t equal an enriched and life fully lived. If we don’t take a risk here and now, we can’t expect to learn new things about ourselves.
You may have heard of these innovative, Swiss-designed running shoes before. I had the chance to try a few models in 2018-2019 and was recently reintroduced to them whilst surfing the internet reading about the latest running tech for some content inspiration (as a running shoe nerd does). I decided to explore a few popular models of On Running shoes below, discuss the shoe technology and include a brief account of my own experience in a couple of pairs.
For a quick bit of context, On is relatively new to the running shoe market, appearing in 2010 and founded by three athletic and innovative running tech pioneers – Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann, and Caspar Coppetti.
Here’s the interesting thing I came across when reading about On Running – The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) released a study conducted with a pool of test runners, finding that On runners promote “lower pulse rates and lower blood lactate levels”.
Here’s a lovely photo of Roger Feder and the On Running founders + shoe tech experts, repping On Running. Not my own photography or content, sourced directly from ON, here.
According to the Wall Street Journal, On Running shoes set out to design a shoe that helped find a “middle ground” between the barefoot, minimalist running vs the cushioned running shoe debate.
On Running labels their sole technology ‘Cloudtec®’. Their website explains that the technology provides a soft, cushioned feel upon the downstride/landing, and then propulsion moving into the next stride. The aim when designing the technology was to create a shoe that doesn’t compromise cushioning for minimalism and minimalism for cushioning. Essentially, On Running promotes their footwear as an amalgamation of both, boasting a lightweight design.
The materials of the shoe are antibacterial (that’s pretty neat, huh), as per the On Running Website – this is super cool. No one likes nasty toes after miles and miles. The shoe upper also uses tape instead of stitching, which is better from a waterproof standpoint and aesthetically.
I personally tried the On Cloud X and On Cloud Flow. They definitely have a different feeling to other running shoes. I instantly noticed a kind of ‘massaging’ feeling on the soles of my feet, and found them quite comfy to work a 6-hour standing job shift I had at the time. Running my Sunday long run the day after, my legs didn’t feel fatigued from standing most of the day before – whether this was the shoe or not, I can’t be certain, but I don’t have too many suspicions.
The shoes are extremely lightweight, I felt very ‘free’ in them. Very different from a more traditional Nike Structure, Brooks Adrenalin, or Asics GT 2000. Not necessarily ‘better’ (this will vary based on individual needs, likes, and purpose), just very different. They are unique!
I can definitely vouch for the fact that the shoe has a very minimalistic design aesthetically, which is very Swiss in nature. They definitely stand out on the shelf amongst other shoes, mainly due to the ‘clouds’ on the sole (the cushioned sole segments, to describe them in the text). The design between the On Running Women’s Shoes and Men’s shoes didn’t vary too much, they’re pretty neutral. This is important as often I found particular colors of running shoe models didn’t sell if they were too exotic or ‘out-there’ for most customer tastes.
I loved the heel in the shoe, a lot of times I find with my extremely narrow feet, I tend to slip out of many shoe models at the heel. The On Runners I tried provided a secure fit at the heel.
Launched in late 2015, this shoe is a great all-rounder, meaning it is an excellent training shoe. It will work well on roads, even trail, track, and turf. The cushioning is on the softer side, making it a more ‘forgiving’ shoe in this sense. As expected with a training shoe, the On Cloudflyer provides more support (not a neutral shoe) and fits a bit wider. The shoe weighs 280g/9.88 oz and has a 7mm heel to toe drop. The general model is $159.99.
The model also comes in a Waterproof engineered design, coming in at $179.99 – On recommends purchasing a size up for all their waterproof models.
Launched in late 2016, the On Running website explains that the On Cloudflow was the first shoe of their collection to launch with a total of 18 Clouds (the sole, as I discussed earlier). The Cloudflow is best for both training and racing, particularly road racing.
Why? Because the cushioning on this model is more midway on the scale – not soft, but not completely firm. Therefore it can provide forgiveness on the downstride but doesn’t dissipate too many forces to impact the power through to the next stride. As expected with a training/racing model, it is a neutral fit.
The shoe weighs 8.29oz / 235g, with a 6mm heel-toe drop. The On Running website explains that the Cloudflow is great for faster training, 10km, half marathon, tempo runs, and longer intervals. The shoe is $139.99.
On Running discuss how 2017 was a year where the company chose to focus on designing performance shoes engineered for speed specific training and racing. The two models released were the On Cloudflash and On Cloudrush.
Definitely a racing shoe, these guys both have a 5mm heel-to-toe drop and are categorized as neutral stability.
The differences between the Cloudflash and Cloudrush is that one is more suited to Road Racing (The Cloudflash). Whilst both have more minimal cushioning compared to other On Running models, the Cloudflash has slightly more than the Cloudrush, to reduce the impact from cement/road/gravel etc.
The Cloudflash, therefore, could make a great interval/tempo/speed practice shoe AND racing shoe.
First launched in 2015, the Cloudflyer is categorized as a more supportive stability shoe that still retains the ‘lightness’ On runners are known for. Also primarily a training shoe designed for the road and other mixed terrains, it is great for mid-distance training and road training.
The Cloudsurfers weigh 11.64 oz/330g and have a 6mm heel-to-toe drop. They’re a bit heavier than other On Cloud models.
The On Cloudventure launched mid-way into 2016, designed specifically for trail running and the conditions mother nature can throw at us. The Swiss-style of engineering remains prominent, retaining the same lightweight properties as other On Running models. The cushioning is moderate on this model, which is necessary for a trail shoe requiring more stability in the sole for the harder off-road terrains.
They’re waterproof, have neutral stability, and as expected with a trail shoe, a more minimal 6mm heel-to-toe drop to prevent facilitating ankle sprains on uneven surfaces.
The shoe weighs in at 10.41 oz/ 295g, a little heavier than other On Cloud models.
Strava Challenges: How To Create Strava Challenges For Your Strava Club or a group
In this article I’ll discuss how to create:
Strava Group Challenges (The June 2021 Strava Mobile-App Update)
Strava Sponsored Challenges
Strava Club Challenges
The Strava Update in June 2021 means that users can now use the Strava mobile app to create Strava Group Challenges or Strava Challenges for free. I was recently asked to expand on the process of creating a Strava Club Challenge by a few running companies, individuals, and groups, who have a goal of providing their members with virtual races during the shift to an increasingly virtual world amidst the global pandemic. It inspired me to write a walk-through post dedicated to creating Strava Club Challenges and now, Strava Group Challenges after the Strava Challenge Update.
What is to note, however, is this isn’t specifically an update to be able to create Strava club challenges, this is for creating Strava group challenges, which means you don’t have to have a club to create a Strava Challenge.
Strava Marketing Consulting
Want one on one help? Hire me as your Strava Consultant – I work with individuals, clubs, businesses, and start-ups. Get in touch with the form below:
Strava Group Challenges: How to Create Strava Group Challenge
Create a Strava Group Challenge. I will walk you through how to create a Strava group challenge, entirely free on the mobile app (only, hopefully, they update this to the main website also shortly). Please note, this is different from a Strava Club Challenge, which are Challenges for Strava Clubs. However, I will walk through how we can use the Strava Group Challenge method to create a club challenge further on!
For this article, I created a Strava Group Challenge, called test challenge 1.
On your Strava app, click the ‘Groups’ icon on the bottom right of the app, which will take you to the page in the screenshot below.
Next, hit the + create a group challenge, which will take you to a screen where you can choose whether to base your challenge off who can complete the most activity, who can complete an activity in the fastest time possible, or who can go the distance – see screenshot below.
You’ll then be taken on a step-by-step process to decide on the specifics of your challenge. You’ll be asked about time frame specifics, which is a great new addition, and you can then choose which athletes to invite.
I decided to click ‘Challenge settings’ (the 3 orange dots in the far right top hand corner) to see what else Strava Club Challenges offer users.
It turns out users can allow other invitees (or people you invited to the challenge), to invite others to the challenge if you click the toggle to on, which I have done. See the screenshot below.
Great! Now you’ve created a Strava Group Challenge. You could try this with your local run or cycling club, your workplace, friend groups – you name it.
Just remember to have your activity set to Everyone, not Followers Only, so it counts towards the Strava Group Challenge you’ve created.
Still need help? I’d be happy to walk you through personally – Contact me here.
What are Strava Sponsored Challenges, How do I create a Strava Sponsored Challenge?
Strava Sponsored Challenges are a tier of Strava Business. The reality is, Strava Sponsored Challenges are expensive and therefore not within the budget of many Small Businesses operating a Strava Club, let alone virtual running clubs that use Strava as their base/platform to operate. The Strava Business platform explains that the Sponsored Challenges start at USD 15,000, with the maximum investment being -200k. These challenges “scale based on duration, targeting, and promotion.” This means that you have the benefit of choosing whether your sponsored challenge is:
Distance-based (Eg. Run your fastest 10k)
Time-based (Eg. Complete 10 hours of running this fortnight)
Duration based (Eg. Run 100km this month, or 30 minutes 5x a week)
Elevation-based (Eg. How far can you climb in a month!)
Users would also receive a custom brand-designed badge for their Strava Badge cabinet. These small components help boost the impressions of your brand on Strava, likely generating new followers, club members, and fans of your brand on Strava.
If you see an official Strava virtual race advertised, this is an official Strava Sponsored Challenge. If you’re interested in investing in a Strava Sponsored Challenge, you can get in touch with Strava through the FAQ page.
To enquire about a sponsored challenge, follow this link and hit the ‘Get In Touch’ orange bar at the top right corner of the page. See the screenshot below for an example.
For now, let’s walk through how we set up Strava Group Challenges and Strava Club Challenges, now completely free.
Previously we had only 2 options when it comes to setting up a Strava Challenge for your club, free of cost.
A Strava Segment Challenge
Utilizing the Strava Monthly Run Challenges created by Strava, and filtering the leaderboard to view your ‘Club’ member attempts only.
The new 3rd option, creating a Strava Group Challenge.
I’ll walk you through each option below…
1. Strava Segment Challenges: How to utilize Strava Segments to Create a Club Challenge.
Strava Segments are lots of fun, there are those athletes who are familiar with the term ‘segment hunting’ (I myself don’t participate in this), providing consistent mini ‘race like’ efforts to users who seek to achieve the best effort (time) on a particular GPS plotted map course (segment). If you’re a Strava Premium user, you can draw your own segments and publish them for your own personal use, or, as we are about to discuss, as your course for a Strava Club Challenge.
Strava Segments work via GPS Sports watch connection to the Strava app, the GPS route will then be recognized by Strava as a ‘route’ with particular segments that have been run. It will then upload the athlete’s effort for that particular route to Strava.
See my screenshot below of a past Virtual Run I completed hosted by the Strava Club – ‘Pace Athletic’. Pace Athletic used the Spit to Manly Strava Segment as their Strava Segment Challenge course.
When the athlete has finished their effort on the Strava segment, Strava will place the effort onto the segment leaderboard. This is accessible via the segment homepage. In this case, the ‘Spit to Manly’ segment. In the screenshot displayed below, there is a grey box down on the bottom right of the screen. See ‘View Overall Leaderboard’? Click on that!
The Pace Athletic Strava Run Club will determine their segment challenge winner by filtering out the leaderboard to just ‘Club’ member efforts. You can select your club on the dashboard to the far left by hitting the name of your club, under ‘My Clubs’. See the screenshot below for an example.
This is a great example of a local running business establishing a Strava Club, and then using a popular Strava Segment to set up a club challenge. It will promote their brand, services, and spread camaraderie associated with the brand. I personally completed this challenge and won’t forget it for a while – it is great real-time marketing, connecting dedicated and motivated athletes directly with the business or brand.
The great thing about a segment challenge and filtering out a leaderboard for club-specific results is, it is entirely free!
2. Strava Run Challenges: How to utilize the Strava Monthly Run Challenges as a Club Challenge.
Option number 2.
First, click on the Challenge tab at the top of the Strava Page Dashboard. It’s underlined in orange at the top of the page in the screenshot below. Here’s a link to Strava to get you going.
You’ll notice all the Strava Challenges appear on the page. See the screenshot below – As an example, let’s click into the ‘October 5k’ on the bottom row, one to the right. Here’s a quick link to the page: Strava October 5k Run Challenge
Next, you’ll be directed through to the October Strava 5K homepage, as shown in the screenshot below:
Displayed in the screenshot above, see the tabs running horizontally above the bolded word ‘Leaderboard’? Two tabs across hit ‘ My Clubs’. This will filter out the results just to include the members of your club who have joined the Strava Run Challenge and completed 5k in that particular month, so in this case, October. Here’s a link to the challenge page if you’re interested: Strava October 5k
This is how we determine our ‘winners’ if it is a prize incentive-based challenge. At the end of the month, be sure to check the leaderboard and take note of your winners.
3. Strava Group Challenges: How to utilize the Strava Update Feature to create a Club Challenge
Option number 3. The June 2021 Strava mobile app update, Strava Group Challenges.
I walked through earlier in this article how to create a Strava Group Challenge. It requires two things:
The Strava Mobile App
Being a Strava Premium Subscriber.
This option is really only best for small sized clubs right now, because you have to individually invite each member, and you personally have to be following them on your individual athlete account. I hope Strava will update this in the future to be a club feature also. We will see!
The method is pretty basic for this one.
Create the Group Challenge on the mobile app with the few easy steps we walked through early in this article, and then invite your club members individually.
Create a post on your club, and maybe update the club description to remind your club members to complete the challenge. See my screenshot below for what I mean when I say ‘update your club description’. It’s the textbox below your club name. See how I have the link to a segment challenge (Option 1 from this article), that I created for this club?
Unfortunately you can’t generate a link to your Strava Group Challenge on the mobile app, but maybe in the future it will be possible. I will keep you posted!
Promoting Your Strava Challenge
You have a few options here.
The best ways to promote your challenge on Strava is:
On your Club Page as a post – don’t rely on 1 single post, post about it consistently, create a space for discussion
On your personal Strava athlete profile connected to the Club as a ‘post’
On your Club Homepage under the heading, within your ‘Club Descriptor’ text.
Run Facebook Video Ads targeted at individuals with an interest in Strava (Via Facebook Business Ad Manager – do not do a boosted post off your personal Facebook page. Contact me if you need to know why…)
Instagram ‘My Story’ promotion and actual posts, every day or at least every second day, for the duration of your challenge. Facilitate and create engagement with your athlete community.
Post it on your Facebook Business Page each day
Post it as a physical event on Facebook, link directly to the Strava event info on Strava.com, and invite all your Facebook users to the Facebook Event.
After researching Strava Challenges for a few months now, I often would come across the term, ‘Strava Hidden Challenges’. I was interested and found that Strava users were experiencing difficulty finding challenges to suit their abilities and sport each month, hence the term ‘Strava Hidden Challenges’ – Challenges that Strava doesn’t advertise on a large scale.
Enter Komm Club. According to their website, this is a platform that lists all the upcoming, currently active, and past Strava Challenges for Strava users to reference. The platform even allows you to link up Komm club with Strava so you don’t miss out on challenges and would like to be notified as such.
Do you ever find yourself thinking out on a run, “why am I doing this?” Why do we put our body through pain, wake up ridiculously early, sometimes when we don’t want to, and still hit the pavement or trails?
I contemplate this question often, and what I found for me and others I have asked is that the role running plays in our life changes frequently. For example, I run as it brings me joy, to challenge myself and test my limits on occasion, to learn to be a good team-mate, to be a better decision-maker under pressure (think quick decisions in racing) to better my mental and physical health, to escape traumatic events and situations (as an outlet), and sometimes, quite honestly, running is a coping mechanism for me, especially in times of emotional challenge.
I was inspired to write this post as I think it’s important to explore this question as a runner. The answer to this question at certain points in your life can reveal the place you are in from a mental health standpoint. Tuning in to this is an immensely powerful tool. I personally have utilized it frequently over this tumultuous world context at present, particularly when I notice I am using running to cope with stress or other life issues. There’s no problem with this when it is ‘your why’ on occasion, however, it is important to recognize if there is a trend and address it.
Why do runners like to run?
My lovely team-mate Olivia and I, out for a run and laugh.
Interestingly, a lot of my team-mates began running because they weren’t so good at other sports. I can definitely say I am in this boat.orning can often provoke some philosophical thinking (at least for myself!). Sometimes I find it quite meditative, especially on early morning sunrise trail runs. I feel like I am awake before the ‘world’ wakes up in a sense, and very at peace with myself in nature.
But this isn’t always the story. As soon as I recognized that I tended to place running as a sort of stress coping mechanism tool I asked myself, what is the goal I am trying to achieve by placing running as this form of “tool” in my life? I couldn’t come up with a good answer. I recognized this trend in the early stages of COVID quarantine, back in March and April of this year (2020). I came to the conclusion that running can definitely play this role for me at times in my life, but it is dangerous if it becomes the sole reason for running when races and practices are nowhere to be found.
Recognizing the trend was my first step in truly understanding my motivation to run, and the role running plays in my life. It actually took COVID, when races are canceled and running is purely self-motivated, to realize these things. It is an important self-discovery as an athlete and has skyrocketed me for further growth.
It’s important to discern that the role running plays to us personally, and our motivation to run are both interconnected and different. Let me explain.
Role: The function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation.
So, running as it fits in our life – what function does it have for you? Because it makes you happy? You like the challenge and testing your limits? Physically and mentally bettering yourself? A coping mechanism? A stress-relief tool?
These will obviously change depending on the situation and context, as the definition states. The role running plays to us personally underlying motivators to a goal/goals we are trying to achieve. Like goals, our ‘why we run’ should evolve over time as you evolve as both an athlete and a person.
I asked a teammate on a recent run why she runs, looking for a variety of answers for this post. She said because it makes her happy. Surprisingly, I hadn’t thought of this first thing, but as an athlete who dedicates so many hours to running, it should be the number one reason. At the end of the day, when competitions and formal practices are canceled, we run to have fun and because we love it. better ourselves as people and athletes and become a stronger team player.
“Running is my meditation, mind flush, cosmic telephone, mood elevator, and spiritual communion”
– Lorraine Moller, Olympic Bronze Medalist
Motivation: The general desire or willingness of someone to do something or the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
This often changes, different to the role of running. Often races are our motivation, but with no racing, that has had to change. My motivations each day change from a desire to explore a new trail, to feel like I have achieved something first thing in the morning, to catch up with teammates, to maintain fitness for when races do roll back around, to get to the lovely brunch + mimosas waiting on the other side of a long run…
Motivation to run and role running has in our life can be the same at that very moment. For example, if I am highly stressed, and looking for some outside time, to make myself a little tired and get a hit of endorphins, I am running for mental health and stress relief.
When running becomes a coping mechanism to deal with stress, adverse life situations, trauma, and other mental health challenges, it can honestly be a savior. It is great we have a tool like running to help us through these tough times.
The danger is, what happens if we get injured or sick, and we can’t run for a while?
It’s important to have other things you enjoy and can throw yourself into when you can’t run. Running playing the main role in your life as a coping mechanism is risky, as I mentioned earlier. If you think that you might fall into this boat here and there, or full-time, I challenge you to learn an instrument, find an art form you’re passionate about, learn a skill, like Indian Curry cooking and the purpose of different spices (I learned how to make a variety of curries from scratch over COVID, it was super rewarding and I now have a new life skill).
Interestingly, at my lowest point this year I had very little energy or motivation to give to running at all. Even if I wanted to, mentally I was drained, which meant physically I had nothing to give. I got myself out of this rut, and I’m much better for it, as a person and athlete.
Stress is stress to the body, I was always told growing up by the influential sports people in my life. The body can’t tell the difference between stress caused emotionally, to stress accumulated from physical fatigue. I keep this in the back of my mind and provide myself with forgiveness, patience, and love when needed in regards to training if things are on the tougher side. It’s just life! Besides, put things in perspective – for those younger runners out there, missing a session will not impact you in the long term. Distance running is a long term game, reliant on consistency, intuition, self-awareness, and mental + physical health.
Imagine your life is balanced between different cups, that are each half-filled with water. Considering this analogy, most of us have cups for:
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.
Running motivation quotes to get you fired up!
I have a few favorite quotes.
“Fortune favors the daring”
– Virgil, The Aeneid
“I always keep in mind that it’s better to be undertrained and healthy rather than incredibly fit but injured”
– Ashton Eaton, two-time Olympic gold medalist & world record holder
“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”
– Shaquille O’Neil (15x all-star, won 4 NBA Championships)
Remember, we are all just trying to do our best as people. Running is a reflection of life in this sense – hurdles, barriers, obstacles, tough days, great days, proud moments. Feel through them all, one step at a time.
Running Nutrition: A Guide to Fueling for Performance
Fueling to perform at your physical and mental best is a very different cup of tea than simply fueling to be a healthy individual. Running nutrition is one crucial piece of being a good runner, and we are constantly learning new things in the area from both scientific research and from tuning in with our own body.
A couple of things inspired me to write this post. The first was my teammate Bella (@bella_brickner), who wanted some ideas on what to eat before running (we often run in the mornings together), and asked me what my personal race nutrition strategies were. The second was experiencing some altitude effects on a recent ascent and descent of Mt Superior in Utah I completed. To be the complete athlete, you can’t skimp on nutrition. It’s fuel. There are a lot of diets out there (not the kind that involves needs based on food allergies or intolerance purposes) – keto, paleo, gluten-free etc, however, whilst these may work for the occasional athlete and ones we hear promoting their nutritional choices on social media, more often than not, a well-balanced and diverse diet will suit best. A good friend said if you’re driving yourself crazy planning and overthinking food, you’ll often make worse choices in the long term because it’s not sustainable to be in that mindset. I’ve learned this the hard way as a younger athlete, but lessons are there to be learned. The earlier, the better.
What to eat before running?
Nutrition can improve an athlete’s performance immensely. For example, maintaining optimal fluid balance levels, and providing the body with more fuel (carbohydrate) to perform better and help with “lactate accumulation from anaerobic efforts”. Anaerobic meaning the high-end, very high-intensity efforts.
I always eat before I run, normally a bowl of cereal or toast. It tides me over to breakfast, I don’t get distracted mid-run by sudden onset hunger, and I feel more energized. After all, if it is a morning run, you’ve fasted all night, so your body will thank you when you give it a little boost. Thus, I tend to get up a bit earlier to have some digestion time and sip my coffee or tea.
It’s recommended that you eat before you run if the session falls into any of the following:
Over 60 minutes in length
A long run of some sort
Training at higher altitudes
You have multiple sessions or events across the day
Note: This list is not limited to the following, just a quick guide.
I typically eat any of the following before a run…
Dry oat, quinoa, or wheat-based cereal. My favorite is pumpkin and flaxseed granola (you can often get this in the bulk food section or Nature’s Path brand in a box, which you can get at Winco, Wholefoods, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s etc). I eat it dry because the extra liquid or dairy can sometimes cause stomach upset). You could even make your own.
Cornflakes or oats with almond or another type of non-dairy based milk. In my overall eating habits, I normally have a mix of dairy milk for some things, and non-dairy based for others just to ensure my calcium levels remain in check. Before a run, I go for a non-dairy based option. I don’t need to explain why!
Whole-wheat or white toast (Sourdough is the better option here) with jam/jelly or peanut/almond butter. Here you get a little bit of protein and healthy fats mixed in with the necessary carbohydrates to top up the muscle glycogen stores pre-run. Being very easy to make, it’s a no-fuss option.
Rice cakes with nut butter, jam/jelly, or honey and butter. If you’re celiac, gluten-free, or don’t typically pick a bread-based option pre-run, rice cakes can be a good alternative.
2+ hours before:
You can generally eat a more substantial meal if you have more time before you head out for a run. Some of my favourite options are:
Oatmeal with banana, peanut butter and cinnamon. This is my pre-race go to meal, as I can replicate it at home, and it is always at the event hotel buffets. I’ll generally do 1-2 cups of oatmeal, a scoop of almond or PB, slice the banana on top, and dash with cinnamon/maple syrup. It’s delicious, and it ticks the boxes in terms of endurance training based nutritional needs.
Scrambled eggs on toast (maybe with some sneaky sides like avocado, mushrooms, salsa, arugula or spinach)
Bagel with cream cheese/nut butter/avocado etc – Bagels are a great source of quick carbohydrates and with the amount of bagel flavor varieties on market, there’s something for everyone.
Want to know some handy tips and tricks for your next grocery shop? Check out my post on Grocery Shopping For Runners – Click here.
What to eat the night before a run?
Deciding what to eat the night before a run will be dependent on what type of running session you have the next day. If it is a more endurance-based session, make the ratio of carbohydrates to other components on the plate slightly higher.
For a shorter, intensity-based session, you can keep it a bit more balanced.
My all-time favorite dinner time meal if I have to run early the next morning is homemade pizza with a side salad such as Caesar Salad, see photo below. Yes, there is a glass of pinot grigio to accompany because we all need a bit of fun and indulgence- Barefoot does an affordable, decently tasting option. This hits my CHO, Protein, Fats, and taste requirements on all levels.
Home-made Pizza Night + the works!
The great thing about the meal a night before a run is that you don’t have to stress as much about pre-planning it, due to the digestion time you’ll have. The morning is slightly different.
However, if we are discussing a pre-race dinner meal, I follow the KISS method (Keep it simple stupid). What works best for me personally is:
Rice (white, long-grain) – I want a source of carbohydrates that doesn’t upset my stomach but gives me a good bang for my buck. I was told by my sports dieticians in Australia many times that Rice has more bang for your buck than pasta. I stick true to this.
Shredded chicken with light seasoning, or canned lemon tuna in oil. I like to keep my proteins on the lighter side of things.
A mix of roast vegetables. I chop up a bunch of broccoli, beans, a variety of purple, white and sweet potatoes and mushrooms, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt, and bbq seasoning, and chuck it in the oven.
I throw all these ingredients together, and sometimes have a side of Italian season, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce (it just depends on the mood I’m in).
Remember to practice your meals prior to race day, as this is the best way to avoid stomach upset. You can afford to have a few uncomfortable sessions here and there, to learn what works for you, rather than make a mistake on the important event day.
What to eat after a long run, and what to eat during a long run?
A long run can be the most energy-draining session of the week, especially if you’re running beyond the 80-90 minute mark, where the body’s glycogen stores are depleted. It is recommended that the athlete intake some form of carbohydrate and fluid to rehydrate if running longer than this. SDA states that generally, you won’t need fuel (CHO) “during exercise sessions lasting less than 60 minutes.”
So why do we need to top up our carbohydrate stores after the 80-90 minute mark?
Keep blood glucose levels on track as this “fuels your muscles and brain during exercise”
“Get the most out of your training session by sustaining intensity for longer”
Curb simple sugar cravings later in the day, as the metabolism is likely to be high for the rest of the day post long run
Many runners don’t top up their carb stores, but establishing a common practice or habit could benefit you in the long term, and create a more tolerant stomach. Food for thought. This reigns especially true if you are training for a half marathon distance or further, where taking on fuel whilst on the run is essential.
Hiking up Mt Superior, Snowbird, Utah
Some quick carbohydrate top up food ideas that I have tried and tested:
CLIF Shot Bloks– There’s no crap in these, no preservatives or additives, which is a must for me. They come in lots of flavors and you can get caffeinated bloks too. My favourites are the ginger ale, citrus flavor, or orange flavor with caffeine. There are 33 calories per blok, and I tend to pop 3 bloks before I run, and 3 at the 80-90 minute mark, and I’m right to go.
Chopped up CLIF Bars– I also enjoy CLIF Bars because there are no preservatives or added artificial ingredients. These bars pack a punch in terms of energy provision and can be hard on the gut if digested all at once, without water. That’s why I chop them up into around 6 smaller pieces. I used this nutrition method on a half-marathon XC Ski race, and a 22km hilly trail race, and never had a stomach upset or issue. My favourites are the Cool Mint Caffeinated bar or the White Choc Macadamia flavor (non-caffeinated).
Tailwind Nutrition Endurance fuel – I love putting this in my water, no preservatives or nasty added ingredients. My favourite is the lemon flavor. Not only does it hydrate and replace necessary electrolytes, but there is 25g of Carbohydrates per scoop. Tailwind recommends: “For endurance workouts, mix 2-3 scoops per 24 oz of water per hour.”
Banana Chips– you can get these at pretty much any good supermarket. Think Trader Joe’s, Winco, Albertsons, Wholefoods, Safeway etc. I’ve included the link to Bare Snacks simply Banana Chips if you want to bulk order them online.
What to eat after a long run
Every runner I know looks forward to the post long run refuel. Many of us finish this final session of the week on the hangrier side of things. I have a few key go-to’s which really hit the spot. I’ll generally choose one over another based on what time of day it is. For example, if it’s closer to brunch/lunch, I’ll make a savory option, whilst if it’s in the morning a sweeter option works better for me.
Oatmeal with the works.
Mixed in egg whites x2 (yes, it does work, it doesn’t taste bad, and you’re gonna get some extra protein for your fatigued muscles)
If you’re not into trying what I just mentioned above, you could always stir in a scoop of protein powder. Just watch that it is in accordance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Guidelines) in your sport. You can check your substances on GlobalDro. Just be aware, that sometimes substances can be contaminated.
Peanut butter or almond butter stirred in.
Fruit: Chopped banana and berries on top – I like to always keep frozen berries and bananas in the house
Finished off with a dash of cinnamon, honey, brown rice syrup or maple syrup.
Omelet with the works + toast or roast potatoes
I normally do a 3 egg omelet, which I make by combining it with a dash of milk and TJ’s “nothing but the elote” seasoning + Chilli Lime seasoning, and a handful of Mexican cheese blend or mozzarella. I’ll then stir it with a whisk, then pour the mixture into a small preheated skillet with oil. Put it on medium-high, and keep an eye on it.
In a separate pan, I’ll be roasting/frying up the veg to put inside the omelet. Bell peppers, corn, a green de-seeded jalapeno, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and spinach are my normal go-to’s.
Seasoned veg in the skillet
Once the omelet is looking well cooked on the outside and starting to cook nicely in the middle, pop the veggies from one pan into the omelet pan, on top of one side of the omelet, and fold the omelet over. Top with more cheese or whatever you like.
I honestly never make these myself, I always buy them, but they’re delicious and really hit the spot. If you haven’t tried a Gyro, you haven’t truly lived.
Smashed Avo on toast with feta, tomatoes and poached eggs, with a drizzle of sweet balsamic and olive oil. Exactly what it says, no need for further explanation.
These are just a few of my favourites. All provide a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and good flavour for optimal post-long run recovery. Timing-wise, I tend to have a snack 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of running, and a meal from above within the hour. I’ll probably be hungry again in 2-3 hrs time and have another meal. Listen to your body here.
Want to know some handy tips and tricks for your next grocery shop? Check out my post on Grocery Shopping Tips For Runners (especially good if you’re budgeting too!) – Click here.
Coffee For Runners: The Benefits of Caffeine for Athletes
If you participate in sports competitions regularly, it’s likely you would’ve heard athletes discuss the use of caffeine for performance-enhancing benefits. Just walk down a busy street with coffee shops near popular running or biking trails on a weekend morning, and you’ll often find cycling or run groups having a brew. Coming from Australia, coffee is a big deal. In Melbourne and Sydney in particular, Coffee is an art. You could spend a whole day exploring different coffee roasters and the varied eclectic atmosphere they create for you to sit and enjoy your brew. I’ve enjoyed exploring coffee shops in my new city, Boise.
Caffeine For Runners: Is Caffeine good for runners?
Caffeine is often recommended for runners as it can have a slight performance-enhancing effect if the individual times their ingestion correctly to their race/event start time and correctly for the duration or distance of the race. 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, the focus can increase and their perception of effort may be decreased. What’s not to love about that? I’m personally a big fan of coffee before racing.
Here’s an even niftier trick you can consider which I came up with whilst out on a long run one Sunday morning. 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, up to 5 days before a race. Whether it is a placebo effect or not, I can’t be sure, but I know I definitely feel the effects of the caffeine when I drink coffee on race day after no coffee for a few days (a temporary coffee fast, you could call it). 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!
The only drawbacks of using caffeine is the risk of GI distress, the need to urinate and potential jitters. Getting the jitters isn’t such a big issue for distance runners, as our sport doesn’t require us to be still to execute a good performance (unlike an archer, or 100m sprinter on the start-blocks, for instance). To avoid GI distress, we train the stomach in practice to be able to handle varying amounts of caffeine, well before race day.
Should I drink Caffeine before a run?
For many runners in particular, including myself, coffee is a big part of my morning routine before training or races. One study evidently highlighted that more than two-thirds of Olympians use caffeine as a pre-workout supplement. In the hotter months, particularly when temperatures can hit 45 degrees C or 100+ Fahrenheit here in Boise, I’ll reach for the cold brew pre-run. In winter when it is significantly cooler, it’s a double shot latte or Americano. Investing in a coffee machine is your best bet for convenience and financially, especially if you’re a student or student-athlete.
I love how my morning cup of coffee increases my alertness and awareness. Most of the time I find myself running in the mornings within 30-1hr after hopping out of bed (especially in the summer). I’ll pair my coffee with a small snack to help with the digestion of the coffee and satiate my hunger during the training session. A pre-run snack that pairs well with coffee is normally a bowl of cereal with non-dairy milk or toast with jam/honey or nut butter.
If you’re an individual who believes they can’t eat before or close to a run, I urge you to train yourself to be able to take on board something, including a coffee. Training is time to practice for race day – you can survive a few uncomfortable running sessions in the short term, to invest in optimal long term nutrition.
Does Drinking Coffee make you run faster?
There’s evidence to support the benefits of caffeine in endurance-based sports. Most caffeine supplements are 2-3 shots dense (80-120 milligrams), as this is believed to be the best amount to consume to improve performance. Many online sources discuss using 5mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. With 1 cup of coffee containing around 95-120 mg of caffeine, you may have to have a double shot or two cups to get the full effects.
Coffee works to improve your performance in a few ways. Most notably, it can reduce your perceived levels of exertion during difficult endurance activities, including running.
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. I’ll have 1 strip 30 minutes before the race, and 1 just before I line up for the race if I’m using Revvies.
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!
The best way to practice caffeine intake and experiment with supplements is during training phases/periods. You can afford to make mistakes during these times – this is why it is called practice! Mastering your nutrition needs as an athlete doesn’t happen without trial and error.
Best Caffeine Supplements for Runners
For a great, convenient pre-race option (especially for Aussie based athletes, as this brand is AUS based), I use Revvies Energy Strips. They are super simple to take, simply place a strip on your tongue and allow it to dissolve. It and can be taken during a run, and right up until the start of a race. Talk about convenience! If you’re sensitive to caffeine, 1 strip is generally enough, however, if you’re a regular drinker, 2 strips are better. Revvies don’t recommend consuming more than 5 strips a day. They have 2 flavors – Arctic Charge and Tropical Hit. I personally like Arctic Charge best as it reminds me of a piece of mint gum.
Run Gum is a popular worldwide caffeine supplement used by athletes. Unlike Revvies, Run Gum is exactly what it says it is…a gum. You chew it for 5-10 minutes to effectively absorb the caffeine, b-vitamins, and taurine ingredients in the gum. Run Gum states that this immediately boosts alertness and energy, without causing stomach upset.
In terms of general caffeine supplements, I really like Tailwind. They pride themselves on natural, organic supplements that are anti-doping approved (remember to always check your supplements on GlobalDro – this is the responsibility of the athlete). For a recovery based option containing caffeine, I have used their ‘Caffeinated Coffee Rebuild’. This is great for post-session when you need a kick-start to your day. It helps to replenish depleted glycogen stores, rebuild muscles, and restore electrolytes to your body. I like to blend my sachets into a smoothie to go on my way to work, class, or morning errands. This sachet is made with organic rice protein, healthy fats from coconut milk, and a few carbohydrates added for recovery purposes (3:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates within 30minutes of exercise is the optimal timing for recovery according to Accredited Sports Dieticians). Get yours here.
Gels containing caffeine are a great way to consume more caffeine on top of your normal cuppa pre-run or top up your caffeine stores whilst you’re out running, biking, swimming etc.
From personal experience, I would practice in training and sessions using different brands of caffeinated running gels to ensure you don’t have a stomach upset on race day, and train the body to digest it effectively. This is because the rate of caffeine absorption and the effects vary from person to person. Maurten, a reputable sports nutrition company state that this varies based on weight and how used to caffeine the individual is.
Maurten is an extremely popular brand, with Eluid Kipchoge to thank for a large amount of promotion when he used the brand to fuel his victory in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. They recently released a gel known as GEL100 CAF, containing 100mg of caffeine per serving, and 25g of carbohydrates for some extra fuel whilst you’re on the run. The great thing about this caffeinated hydrogel is it is preservative, artificial flavor and colorant free. All these nasty additives can cause stomach upsets which are unwelcome come race day. Get a box of 100 servings here.
Strava recently made some changes to Strava Premium, which is known as Strava Summit. Some of the most well-loved features are now for subscription-only members. In this post, I’ll review Strava Premium, and consolidate at the end whether it is worth the small cost. You’ll have probably made your decision by then, anyway.
I want to deviate for a bit and mention how I recently listened to an interview with Noah Kagan and Mark Gainey, one of the co-founders of Strava. Gainey discussed the early growth and scaling strategies of Strava – give it a listen here. What caught my attention most is how Strava was established with the “inch wide, mile deep” customer focus strategy. Gainey and Horvath value the user experience on Strava more than anything, and this is a testament as to why most Strava features were previously free.
Gainey explained that their dedicated user base loves not only the Strava platform but the company of Strava itself, and what it represents. They decided to make most of Strava’s previously free features behind the paywall. This is because, for $5 a month (the price of a coffee!), this dedicated user base is very likely to become a premium user. The analytical features, such as route planner, Strava segment creation, and leaderboards are worth it. When I recently read Strava’s Brand Playbook, a quote stood out to me:
“Strava is a community of people devoted to putting effort into their activities. For them, being active is not a chore. It’s part of who they are. They’re people who balance their commitment with real-life” – Strava Brand Playbook
I also listened to Fitt Insider podcast with John Vennare, where he also interviewed Mark Gainey. This is also worth a listen, just click here.
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What do you get with Strava Summit?
The new structure of Strava Summit unlocks all of Strava’s features, some of which were previously free. They’ve recently integrated some new features too, such as the new “Training” tab in the mobile application which allows you to track and analyze activities on a week-to-week basis.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Strava Premium v Strava Free, which I pulled from the Strava Website:
What does Strava Summit do?
The free version of Strava no longer includes popular features such as route building, segment leaderboards, and advanced performance metrics. Free users will no longer be able to see entire segment leaderboards including specific metric rankings (such as age, gender, weight etc). Free users will receive access to view the top 10 athletes’ rankings on segment leaderboards.
To break it down (as per the Strava website as a guideline) – if you choose to subscribe to the paid service, you’ll get access to:
Compete in Strava Segments: Compete on mapped out segments (snippets of road/path/trail plotted out as a route on Strava) and compare/keep track of past efforts on these segments.
Access to a Training Dashboard/ Training Log: This feature allows you to track your fitness progression, and see what phase of training you’re in. Below is a screenshot of what a training log on Strava looks like with the paid service. You’lll see it plots the longer workouts as bigger circles, and different coloured circles for different activity types (run, swim, hike, bike etc). The total distance is tracked off to the side, and you can see all the previous years of training since you’ve been on Strava. A great digital training diary and backlog!
To set personal goals: You can set time, distance and performance goals, and track your progress across each. See a screenshot below of what happens when I navigate under the “Dashboard” dropdown menu and hit “My Goals”.
Analyze your training comprehensively: Through access to power data and HR data, Strava allows you to identify patterns in training and performance. Strava includes a Fitness & Freshness graph, under “Training” drop-down menu. For cyclists, there’s a Best Effort’s power curve graph which can be generated, under the same menu. Here’s a screenshot of my “Fitness & Freshness” Graph. Strava states that they measure this through a combination of relative effort and power-based training load.
Plan and discover new routes: Strava can suggest routes for runs and rides (you can filter it to road/path/trail only on the map feature), based on GPS activity in that geographical area from other Strava athletes. To create a route, you hit the “Explore” drop-down menu and then hit ‘Create a Route’. See a screenshot of the Strava Route Builder Screen below:
Safety Beacon: You can share your real-time location with friends and family via the app. This is a nifty extra feature to help you feel safe and supported on runs and rides.
Access to a personal heat-map: This is an interactive visual map of all your runs and rides that you’ve completed around the world. I personally love this feature, all the highlighted coloured lines show where I’ve run, and the darker means I’ve run those areas more often. Take a look below for a screenshot as an example:
Access to Training Plans: Strava provides access to fitness apps (from acclaimed apps to start-ups) which provide training plans of all sorts – from ultra-running to road cycling. Click here to learn more, and gain access to a database of varied training plans.
Strava has their own training plans for runners, available here, and for cyclists, here. Alternatively, you can access “Training Plans” via the drop-down menu on the Strava website.
Strava released a statement in regards to this change and explaining the shift over of most of the popular free features to a subscription service:
“Dedicating Strava to the community is also a commitment to longevity. We are not yet a profitable company and need to become one in order to serve you better. And we have to go about it the right way—honest, transparent, and respectful to our athletes.”
How much does Strava Premium Cost?
Strava have decided to consolidate their package model previously into a single subscription package. Now Strava charges $5.00/month for an annual subscription, with the first 2 months free if users commit to an entire year. Click here to subscribe to Strava Premium if you’re interested. Previously, Strava separated it’s subscription services into packages (incl. Cost break down) such as:
Training – (1 yr, $23.99)
Safety – (1 yr, $23.99)
Analysis – (1 yr, $23.99)
You could do combinations of these packs, or subscribe to all three for a year, totaling $59.99.
Is Strava Summit Worth it?
Well, since all of the features discussed above are, according to seasoned Strava users, the most beloved features, I definitely think it is worth sacrificing the cost of a cup of coffee a month for Strava Premium/Summit. If you enjoyed these features and engaged with them before they were placed behind a paywall, then it is little harm done to subscribe. Plus, there are some perks you could cash in on as a subscriber. See my screenshot below:
I reached the Strava Perks landing page (screen above) through hitting the “Explore” drop-down menu, and then ‘Subscriber Perks’. If you scroll down, there are even more!