We’re Having A Heat Wave- Quick Summer Long Run Tips

Chicago is boasting some seriously warm temperatures right now, as is the rest of the country.  Instead of a lengthy post today I wanted to just do a quick one with some reminders for hot weather running.  Right now many of you are in marathon training as well as for other distances.  Summer is race season!  That means most of us are doing long runs this weekend and it is a great time to do a quick discussion on hot, sweaty, long runs (very sexy, right?!).

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate:  Don’t just down water the morning of the run.  Make sure you are drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your long runs.  Once you get dehydrated on a run, it is hard to reverse the situation.  On the flip side, always make sure you don’t over hydrate as this can lead to rare but very dangerous health conditions as well.

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When you can’t drink from the Fountain of Youth I recommend plain old tap water too!

LSD means long and slow:  Long runs are meant to be done at a slower pace than your other weekly runs.  It is perfectly acceptable to go 30 seconds to even a minute slower per mile on these runs.  The point of these runs is to be spending lots of time on your feet.  It isn’t a dress rehearsal for the marathon.  So don’t fret about pace.  Just get those long miles in.

When it gets hot and humid, you have to slow it down even more:  While heat takes it out of you, nothing is more detrimental to your runs than humidity.   If you start looking at your GPS and scanning your paces you are going to become very discouraged.  Know as soon as you head out on a hot and humid day that you are going to have to run at a much slower pace.  When the weather takes a turn like this, forget your pace and make it your goal to just finish the run.

Remember that over time your body will get used to this:  Just like cold weather running or training at altitude, as you continue to train in the heat and humidity your body will adjust and you won’t suffer like you do in those first few days.  Be patient with your body.

Go ahead and add some salt:  If it is going to be humid on the day of your long run, don’t be afraid to add a little sodium to your diet.  Ordinarily I don’t recommend a high sodium diet, but with as much sweat as your body will lose on a long run, that added salt will help your body to retain some water and help to make that long run more doable.  A bowl of chicken noodle soup the night before your run can work wonders.

Plan your recovery:  One thing I love do on a long, hot run is look forward to my recovery.  Before I head out I like to take some almond milk, chocolate protein powder, a banana, and some peanut butter and make a delicious smoothie.  I blend it up and leave it in the fridge.  When I come home I have a deliciously cold, protein packed drink waiting for me.  Add a tall glass of water with a Nuun tablet and you are on track for a great training session the next time you are ready to go.

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How do you cope with hot and humid running?  What is your favorite way to recover?

Running and Summer Skin Care

I enjoy running in the summer.  I love the sun and don’t mind the heat that much.  The sun loves me in the sense that I have always been one to tan quite easily.  I can step outside for 10 minutes and come in with tan lines.  I was the envy of my friends on spring break and rarely have I ever burned.

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Seriously, that tan!

But over the years I have spent plenty of time out in the sun, especially as I became a more avid runner, and sadly I have started to see some of the effects of the sun on my face.  A few years ago I got sun damage on my forehead in the form of dark blotches.  I’m certainly not getting any younger and I have to live in the skin I am in for the rest of my life.

Now that I am pregnant I am also prone to chloasma or melasma, also known as “pregnancy mask.”  Increased estrogen causes a rise in melanin production in pregnant women.  Up to 50-70% of women end up with dark blotches on their skin due to this increased production.  Sun exposure makes these spots worse.  Fortunately they tend to disappear after delivery, but no one wants to walk around with a splotchy face for several months.

Runners, namely marathoners, are especially prone to melanoma.  Studies have shown that runners are at a much higher risk of skin cancer.  Knowing how much time we spend outdoors training in the summer, it is no wonder that we are putting ourselves at danger.  Add all of the sweat on our skin and the sun reflecting off of it for hours and you can see how damaging this could be.

Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to protect our skin.  Below are a few tips to keep you safe and your skin glowing:

Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you head out for a run.

Wear at least an SPF 30 and try to reapply after every 2 hours.

Avoid running in the sun at the most intense times of the day between 10:00am-4:00pm. I also recommend avoiding these times because it is way to hot!

Wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes and also keep you from squinting which will increase wrinkles and skin damage.

Make sure you get your shoulders and gentlemen don’t forget your heads!

Many companies now make great clothes with SPF built into the garments.  These are also great for the beach.   You might also want to consider getting a running hat or visor.  While I can’t stand to have a hat on when I run, I love having a great beach hat for my post run cool off.

I also tend to have oily and acne prone skin which kept me from wearing sunscreen for a long time.  But I have two products that I love using and wanted to make sure to share both with you:

The first is a powder based SPF from Peter Thomas Roth which comes in a tube and is easily applied with the brush.  This serves a twofold purpose for me.  While it is easy to dab on before a run, I love, love, love, that I can put it on my skin over make up over even sans make up and not have to worry about my skin looking greasy.  This stuff is amazing!

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This one is my ultimate favorite as it has a built in acne medication included.  I haven’t been able to find it anywhere lately so if you find it, please let me know!

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The second is Neutrogena Clear Skin SPF.  This stuff works well on runs and doesn’t streak into my eyes.  It also keeps your skin from getting too greasy and doesn’t cause breakouts.

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I also love this because it is oil free, easy to pop in a running belt and doesn’t run when you do!

Thanks to these two products there is no reason to avoid throwing something on your face before you go for a run or even just head out the door for the day.  Stay safe!

What is your preferred sun protection product?

Pregnancy Update 35 Weeks: Slowing Down But Keeping It In Style

We are closing in on the 8 month mark.  It is both exciting and just a little bit scary.  The past few weeks have brought some changes to our house.  For one, we have our nursery set up and we are as ready as we can possibly plan on for Baby Dudek’s arrival.

In the past few weeks my lower back and hips have started to ache and that has changed running a bit for me.  Up until last week I was able to continue running about 35-40 miles per week.  But the heat that set in last week along with my hip and back pain left me not really feeling the running like I was in the past.  So this week I opted for an every other day running plan and backed away from my daily 7 miles.  To be honest, we were also up in Michigan at our house and the area is incredibly hilly.  I think the hills were taking a toll on me.  I was happy to avoid them last week.

I ended the week on Friday with an acupuncture treatment that left me feeling like a new lady.  That was just in time for Rock and I to coach our group long run on Saturday morning.  While I can still run somewhat comfortably, I am no longer able to do the full long run with the group.  They finished 12 miles and I was able to get in 9 for a total of 20 miles this week.

Photo credit to Colleen.  I swiped this from her!

Photo credit to Colleen. I swiped this from her!

As with anything in life, I think it is important to keep our running in perspective.  It is meant to be an enjoyable part of our lives.  It can play many roles for us.  Running is my way to stay healthy and also to keep my weight in check (when I am not pregnant).  But it is also when I get some alone time to clear my head, plan my day, or work out any kinks in my mind.  When running starts to become a chore or something you dread it is important to take a break and step away.  Find some other form of exercise to enjoy for a little while.  And when running becomes difficult due to injuries or other circumstances, such as pregnancy, it is a great time to take a break and figure things out as well.

For me, I realized this week that I might need to stop my daily running and switch to every other day.  I might even need to take even more days off in between and there might come a time when I have to hang the shoes up for awhile.  The key is to not let the pressure of feeling like you have to run stress you out.  It will always be there and waiting for you when you are ready to get back.

Outside of running we have been enjoying some great times together and this weekend was no exception.  Rock’s brother got married this weekend and we had a blast living it up and celebrating the newlyweds.  It was fun to clean up and get out of running clothes for a few nights and feel like a normal woman.

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Rocking a sparkling water in a wine glass. It makes it feel so much more exciting!

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Congrats to Mitch and Tara on a beautiful wedding!

How was your weekend?

To Thine Own Health Be True

Greetings from Northern Michigan. Rock and I are up here at our lake house for a few days for what is likely our last solo vacation before the baby arrives. I suppose you could call this our Babymoon. So I apologize for the pics because while they don’t pertain at all to the post, it is just too beautiful up here at the lake to not share some of these beauties.   
 So, I have an embarrassing confession. A few weeks ago I had a nagging pain on my foot. It was driving me nuts and when I finally looked at it, there was a plantar wart. Ugh!  I of course wanted to immediately get rid of it. I know they are common and not a huge deal but I also know from past experience that if it wasn’t taken care of quickly it could spread and get worse. 

I found the closest and most convenient podiatrist and made an appointment for the next day. I couldn’t get in to my regular doctor and since this was a minor issue, I just wanted to hurry up and get it dealt with. 

At the doctor’s office I was waiting in the chair and he came in and took a quick look at my feet. I mentioned that I am a runner and while pregnant have been doing around 40 miles per week. 

He scanned my feet, shook his head, and gave a shrug. He then began explaining that while the wart was a minor issue he was very concerned with the large calluses on my feet. He said that because I was pregnant these calluses were a clear sign that I was running improperly and could be causing serious damage to my feet.    
I think we can all agree these are not that bad when it comes to runner’s feet!
Then he added that before he met with me he happened to look at my insurance info and was happy to report that we had great insurance that would just so happen to cover the orthotics my feet would need. And he could have them custom made for me in his office. Hello red flag!

What I neglected to tell this “doctor” was that I am a running coach. While I might not be elite, I am accomplished and know a lot about the sport. However, even the most amateur runner who has scoured Facebook posts has seen numerous pics of other runners’ feet. And you know what?  There’s a reason we hesitate to get pedicures. We hang onto our calluses for deal life. Those bad boys are part of the sport and we work hard to get them. We even brag about lost toenails!

The moral of this story is when you are in an appointment and get a bad vibe, you need to go with your gut. My gut said this guy was trying to ride this appointment for all he could. I knew what I needed and confidently said no (without being rude because it wasn’t necessary).   

If you find yourself with a doctor and his diagnosis or reasoning doesn’t sit well with you, it is important to follow that feeling. Learn to know your body and its limits. Know what seems to be a major issue and something that isn’t debilitating. And if you don’t feel a diagnosis is right, get a second opinion. 

On the other hand, I have also been injured before and known the injury was not good. Like the dummy I was when I chose to keep running on it. One time I knew I had plantar fasciitis but kept pretending maybe it was something else. I knew I needed to rest but continued to run thinking that maybe, just maybe it was something else. Two months later I saw myself sulking at the doctor’s office as he told me I needed to take a month off. In the meantime, I had made my foot much worse than it originally had been because I didn’t want to stop. 

While we need to know when to walk away from a doctor or diagnosis, it is just as important to be honest with ourselves. Athletes and especially runners become very aware of their bodies and their aches and pains. We know when something just isn’t right. It is important to be honest when our bodies need a rest or recognize when we need to see someone for help. 

Get yourself a great line of defense. Shop around and find a doctor who works with athletes and has your best interests in mind. Even my ob/gyn is a runner and I really appreciate her input and honesty when it comes to my sport and my health. 

I also have a fantastic massage therapist who happens to be a competitive runner. He knows how my crazy head works and I trust him when he tells me it is time for a break or that we can work through an issue.  

Most importantly, we all need to know our bodies. Know your limits and know what feels good and when you don’t feel right. Know when rest is needed and know when to seek help. A healthy runner is a strong runner. 

My Favorite Stretches For Running

Now that we are in full swing training season this summer I get a lot of questions regarding what are the best stretches to be doing for running.  To be honest, and if you know me well, I am terrible about stretching.  There is a lot of evidence that shows stretching before a run can actually hinder your performance.  It isn’t always necessary.  And on the flip side, stretching isn’t always necessary after a run either.

The most important thing to keep in mind with stretching is that you should always do it on warm muscles.  This means sticking to post run stretching when you already have warmed up muscles or even after a hot shower or bath in the evening.

Stretching obviously has benefits and the biggest one that most runners are looking for is some relief of those tight, achy muscles that result from long training runs.  Below I have listed some of my favorites that are helpful for working some of the common problem areas we runners tend to run into.

Downward Facing Dog: The best go to for an overall stretch

This one is great for working tight calves, hamstrings, glutes and back muscles.  It also works the shoulders and is very helpful for Achilles issues.  If there is one stretch I would recommend, this is the one to go for.  More often than not, it will get deep into the areas you are looking to work.

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Add a twist and reach back to touch a calf and you will get some added IT band relief as well an added upper body stretch.

Pigeon Pose:  The best for tight hips, glutes, and back

This is one of my personal favorites.  It really relieves hip pain.  Take your time and ease into this pose.  Let your body take a moment to relax into it and hang for a bit.

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Cat/Cow: Great for lower and upper back pain

Notice a yoga trend going on here?  I recommend Vinyasa to a lot of my athletes.  It is a great way to get deep into your muscles and also work on your balance and endurance at the same time.  This pose/stretch works the back and relieves tension where we often hold it during long slow distance runs.

Sit on those toes!  Great for Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles issues

This is one of those hurts so good stretches.  It really gets deep into your feet and toes and provides great relief after a long week of training.  I am also adding a manual stretch picture to this as well.  This will help get further into that plantar area and provide relief if you are experiencing issues.

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Cross Legged Toe Touches: Great for working that IT band

This is a variation of the toe touches from you physical education classes of yore.  Stand with your feet hip width apart and then cross one leg over the other.  Reach down to touch your toes and then reach both hands to touch the side of the floor just past the foot you crossed over.  Can’t quite get there?  Just try to touch the foot you crossed over or even that shin.  The added cross leg and turning to the side gets deeper into the IT band to provide relief in one of the most common problem areas.

As always it is extremely important to take some precautions when stretching.  Never stretch cold muscles.  This can cause more harm than good.  Opt for a dynamic warm up before doing any stretching routine.  Never ever bounce in a stretch.  Take your time to ease into a pose and then hold for 30 seconds.  Don’t force the stretch or bounce to get deeper.  Be patient and kind with your body!

Pregnancy and Running Update and Comparisons

Suddenly we are at 33 weeks.  It is hard to believe and also very exciting (and a tad scary).  This pregnancy has been incredibly good to me and I have been fortunate enough to continue running thus far.  Most weeks I average around 35-43 miles, albeit at a much slower pace than what I normally would run (approximately a minute per mile slower).  To be honest I am very happy to just be able to stick with the mileage and that makes the slower pace not a big deal.

Just in the past week or so my hips have started to become rather achy.  This happens a touch at the beginning of my run and then after, once I sit down and then try to move around again.  But otherwise, I have had a lot of luck with my activity and this pregnancy.

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This past weekend Rock and I took our Preparing for Childbirth class.  We were both a bit apprehensive about this because we were not in town for a long enough stretch of time to take the month long class.  That meant we had to go on Saturday from 9:00am-4:00pm and then again on Sunday at 9:00am-1:00pm.  That is a lot of childbirth prepping all at once.  The good news though, was that we ended up with a fantastic nurse teaching the class and we learned a lot!

As soon as the nurse found out I was a running coach her eyes lit up.  She was thrilled to tell the group that labor and delivery are a lot like running a marathon.

First, she began by explaining that like a marathon, labor is a long process.  It is important that expectant mothers and their partners do not get too excited at first and go out too hard.  Just like any race, everything is one step and one mile at a time.  If you start looking too far ahead into the horizon everything becomes very daunting and as the process gets harder and longer it is easy to become discouraged.

During labor and delivery, it is also very common for women to hit the wall near the finish.  Just as they are getting to the very end, they often feel like they have nothing left in their tanks.  Sound familiar?  How many of us have reached mile 23 of a marathon and questioned if we can continue.  These are the times when it is most important to remember that we must take everything in life one step at a time.  The key is to try and stay in the moment and call upon what we learned during our training.

As with any race, or just about any run, they are also different every time.  I have of course heard dozens of birth stories in the past few weeks and am sure that I will hear many, many more in the next few as we get closer to our due date.  But no two deliveries are alike.  My neighbor had her baby while her husband was parking the car and another friend spent 24+ hours laboring.  I’ve watched people breeze through half marathons and others drag themselves across the finish line of 5k’s.  I myself have had 20 mile training runs that felt amazing and at the same time experienced 3 mile runs where I cried for the last two!  Just because one run sucks, we always have to keep in mind that every new day brings a new running experience.

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Our nurse referred to the fathers and partners as coaches during our class.  She explained that it was important for them to help coach and urge the mothers along.  It is their job to say things like, “Good job,” or “You are almost there.”  Mantras and positive attitudes, as you know, are what make long distance training successful and doable in the first place.

I am most certainly getting nervous as our due date approaches and of course know that labor and delivery will never be quite like a nice long run.  But it is helpful knowing that we can look at the two experiences and draw from both of them.  I find it truly amazing how many times this sport has helped me gain confidence and get through some of life’s more difficult moments.

You Gotta Hold On….

The other day while in Northern Wisconsin I did one of my regular 7 mile runs.  This run wasn’t particularly different than any other run but near the end I felt myself really struggling.  I had a half mile yet to go and let’s face it, that is often when our minds start to wander and we either rally or hit Struggle Town.

These days, my runs present new and different struggles due to the pregnancy (check back later this week for an update).  Despite those struggles I have been lucky to continue with my daily running.  I don’t push myself like I used to but on this one I knew that my body could handle finishing those 7 miles and I didn’t want to let myself stop.

It is important for us to remember that not every day is a training run.  We don’t always need to push our speed, pace, or distance.  It isn’t always a competition.  However, there is something that can always be gained from every session.  I truly believe each daily run presents us with the opportunity to learn more about ourselves or our training.

I blame Flo and Carney for this latest ear worm.

I blame Flo and Carney for this latest ear worm.

A few years ago I ran my first marathon and unknowingly qualified for Boston.  I didn’t get the opportunity to run Boston and it has been my goal to qualify again and toe the line of that big race.  My goal has been to find a marathon post baby to get myself back in shape and achieve my Boston goal.

I have to admit that as my pace has slowed with pregnancy I start to question if I will ever get my speed back to where it once was.  When I ran that first marathon I ran strong, but didn’t quite push myself anywhere near my limits.  Yet, now that I am pregnant I wonder how the heck I will find my old pace.  It seems like something from the distant past.

As I struggle with this run I realized that regardless of what my goal was on that particular day, there was something to be gained on a mental level.  Whether you are doing a 5k, a marathon, or an ultra it is almost a certain fact that you will come to a point in any race where you struggle both mentally and physically.  If you are pushing yourself, odds are that you will have those burning lungs and tired, heavy legs.  Your mind will wander and question your ability to finish a race or to achieve a goal you have set for yourself.  And it will be your job to push through that pain or those negative thoughts in order to reach your goals.

While every run doesn’t have to be your longest or your fastest, it can always be an opportunity to remind yourself of how strong you are or how far you have come as an athlete  Those last minutes of my run were a real struggle, just like those last few miles of any marathon will likely be.  And that was when I realized that it was my turn to act like Wilson Phillips and “Hold On.”  I kid you not, when the thought came to mind, Wilson Phillips popped into my head.  And that song was stuck in my mind for days as I contemplated this.

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When you feel those struggles coming on or the negative thoughts pop into your head, you truly do need to hold on.  By doing this during your daily runs, you will be able to fall back on those moments during races that come with some difficulties.  And if all else fails you can throw on some Wilson Phillips and sing along to “Hold On.”