Running Essentials: Fuel

I see and hear a lot of questions about fueling for runners. I can’t really tell you what the best strategy for you will be, but I can tell you about my own experience. This fuel strategy has come from a lot of trial and error, and I really do believe that is what it takes to find it.

About 20 minutes before I run, I will have a carbohydrate snack. For me, it needs to be something very mild and easy to digest. If I have a race, which requires me to get up very early in the morning, I’ll start with toast or half of a bagel and peanut butter. I will then eat a pack of belVita Breakfast Biscuits spread out over the time before the race. If it’s just a training run, I will eat a banana or just two of the belVitas. This seems to work for me for any kind of workout, not just running.

If I am running for more than an hour, I need a steady source of carbohydrates to keep my energy up. I have tried a lot of things and have not had a bad experience with any of them. Through my trial and error, I have determined what works best for me, and is the easiest for me to carry and eat. Honey Stingers makes a lot of good products, which are easy on my sensitive stomach. My favorites are the chews and the waffles. They work really well, but are harder to carry in my belt. The chews are sticky and take up a lot of space, and the waffles crumble easily. I just continued trying things until I found something that worked for me on all fronts.

My current fuel of choice is Jelly Belly Sport Beans. According to their website (www.sportbeans.com), “Sport Beans jelly beans are a first-of-its-kind carbohydrate replenishment for sports performance from the makers of Jelly Belly®. They have been specially formulated to fuel and replenish the body during exercise. As glycogen stores in the muscles become depleted during prolonged exercise, a carbohydrate source helps maintain blood sugar levels to keep you going.” They come in Lemon Lime, Orange, Berry and Fruit Punch. There are also “Extreme Sport Beans” that have caffeine, but I have never used those. Sport Beans are easy to eat, and carry, and they are basically candy. Who doesn’t want to eat candy?

I know there are some who can run on an empty stomach, but I am not one of those people! As I said, the right fuel is different for everyone, and takes a lot of experimentation. I hope this has given you some ideas for different things you can try. For those of you who are runners, what do you use to fuel? Feel free to reach out to me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and let me know if there are any other running or fitness questions you would like to see me cover. I am by no means an expert, but I would be happy to share my experience!

Note: All products mentioned here were purchased by me and all opinions are my own, and just that…opinions!

Running/Fitness Essentials: Hydration

Summer has not yet begun, but hydration is important any time of the year. Besides, if you live in the kind of climate I do, it’s going to be summer from now until October! No matter what the weather is like, if you’re like me, you sweat a lot when you run. I see and hear questions all the time about what to use for hydration, so I thought I would share what works for me. What I use might be overkill, but I like it!

During my run, I start with Smart Water, then add a Nuun Active tablet. Smart Water is purified water with added electrolytes. I’m sure you can use any kind of water, but I figure I can use all of the electrolytes I can get and I like how it tastes. Nuun comes in four varieties: Active, Energy, Plus for Nuun, and All Day. I use Nuun Active for my hydration. According to their website (nuun.com), “packed with electrolytes, light flavor, clean ingredients, nuun active hydration is the perfect sports drink.” I sweat a lot when I run and I feel like adding the Nuun to my hydration strategy has made a big difference.

Post run, I like to drink Vita Coco coconut water. According to their website (http://vitacoco.com), “Coconut water is the clear, fat-free liquid inside young, green coconuts. It’s naturally rich in minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes. ..” You can get it in many different brands, but this one is my favorite. They make coconut water in original, pineapple (my favorite), peach & mango, lemonade, orange, lemon tea, and chocolate. It makes a big difference in how I feel after a run.

This is the hydration plan that works for me, but everyone is different. You have to play with different products and find out what works the best for you. If you’re still trying to find the sweet spot with your hydration, I hope this has been helpful for you. Stay tuned and I will be sharing my other run/fitness essentials! What do you use for hydration during/after a run or workout? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Please let me know if there are any essentials you’d like to know about, or if you have any other questions about running and/or fitness. I am by no means an expert, but I love sharing what works for me.

A quick update on Beginner Shred: I just started level 2. It gets a lot easier, within just a few days’ time. I progressed more quickly than I expected to, and I’m already starting to notice muscle definition in my arms. I did have to skip a day unexpectedly for back pain (not related to this workout), but other than that, it went really well. Other than my injury-related rest day, I have been doing it 5-6 days per week, first thing in the morning. It really gets my day off to a good start. Onward and upward! I will check back in when I am finished with level 2. What workouts are you doing? How do you hydrate when you work out or run? I’d love to hear about it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments!

Note: All products mentioned here were purchased by me and all opinions and reviews are my own.

Beginning Again…with Beginner Shred

While I was planning this post I went back and read my last one, which was several months ago.  It was about how I’m constantly abandoning this blog, because I feel like I have nothing to share.  It was another post about how I’m starting again and I’m going to keep fighting.  Well…here I am again.  I often feel like I have nothing to give and I can’t help anyone, because look how much of a mess I am.  Maybe this is exactly what I have to give.  I’m someone who makes mistakes.  I’m someone who lets life get in the way or gets down and frustrated and quits.  I’m also someone who keeps starting again.  One of these times I hope it sticks, but I’m not going to stop fighting until it does.

 

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Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s where I am right now.  I have done all 3 races at the Princess Half Marathon weekend for the first time since I was injured in 2015.  I am working on taking care of myself and making my health and well-being a priority.  It seems that this is something many people struggle with.  How do we balance it all?  I don’t think anyone has it all figured out.  All we can do is keep trying, and that’s what I’m doing right now.

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After I got back into running, and had my comeback half marathon, I needed a new challenge.  Strength training has never been my thing and I’ve always wanted to work on it.  After a trip to the Dollar Tree, where I hit the jackpot on workout DVDs, I discovered Beginner Shred with Jillian Michaels.  I like a lot of her other videos and this seemed like great way to get myself back into strength training.   It includes three twenty-minute workouts (not including warm-up and cool down), which combine strength training and cardio intervals.  Each workout increases in intensity and is meant to be done for 10 days.  This is very similar to her other DVDs, but it is meant to ease you in.  It makes a good choice for people who are just getting into fitness or starting over after some time off.  I just completed day 5 of level one, and I’m excited to see how it goes.  Stay tuned for my progress, and other fun things.  Let me know if there are any common weight loss or health and fitness questions you have.  I’m certainly no expert, but I’ll do my best!

Keep Getting Up

I feel like I’ve written almost this same blog post so many times over the last couple of years. For one reason or another, I have had to start from zero on my fitness journey many times. I’ve let it get me down and discourage me from sharing, because I felt like I didn’t have enough to give.

This time didn’t seem any different, but once again, God has used a song to speak to me. Music is powerful, and this song is no exception. It played while I was in the gym, starting over for what seems like the millionth time. It’s only been a day or so since I told myself that I probably can’t run another half marathon. “Can’t” is that word I used to hate so much. It’s the word that got me to start running in the first place. I started running because I refused to admit that there was something I couldn’t do, just because I was afraid to try. For so long, I’ve felt like that girl was gone. The girl who never stopped trying, no matter how many obstacles got in her way? I thought she was gone forever. For the first time in a long time, I saw a glimmer of her in me again.

I’ve gotten off track again! The song! It is called, “Keep Getting Up” by Mandisa. The words have been speaking to me for a while, but the person in the song always felt just beyond my grasp. Today, as I got lost in the words, I felt them start to sink in. They actually started to feel possible.

It’s not gravity that tethers us to the ground
What if it’s only doubt and we can somehow shut it out
Get mad and shout, “I won’t stay down”

I still have a lot of work to do, and I know I’ll still have tough days, but today was the start of something. Today, I started to feel like me again. That girl is still in there, fighting. Step by step, day by day, maybe even minute by minute, I’ll get her back. I have to.

My first race ever! One of the best days of my life.

Budget-Friendly Planner Option!

It seems like a lot of people are on a planner kick right now. Pretty planners, colored pens, and stickers are really popular. Maybe I’m just late to the bandwagon, but I’ve only recently noticed it! I’ve always been terrible about writing things down, but it has really been helping me organize my thoughts lately. There are a lot of really beautiful (REALLY EXPENSIVE) planner options out there. Those books are really nice, but I was looking for a more budget-friendly planner option.

I was browsing at Family Christian Store recently, and a table full of bright colors caught my attention. I am attracted to sparkly things and bright colors, much like a 6-year-old girl. What can I say? But I digress…this table was full of items in a new line by Sadie Robertson. You may know her from Duck Dynasty or Dancing with the Stars. She has created a line of planners, cards, prints, and other stationary items. They feature Bible verses and inspirational quotes, and beautiful artwork.

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The 18-month planner turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, but much less expensive than some others I had seen (Plus…I had a coupon! Bonus!). It is spiral-bound, with a laminated cover and a tab for each month. The tab features an inspirational quote or verse. There is a year-at-a-glance calendar, month-at-a-glance, and a weekly calendar with more writing space. In the back, there are some note pages, a couple of sheets of stickers, and a pocket.

Monthly inspiration
Monthly inspiration
Month at a glance
Month at a glance
Week at a glance
Week at a glance
One of three pages of stickers
One of three pages of stickers
Pocket
Pocket

I am by no means a planner expert, but this is just what I need and it makes me smile. I love it so much that I wanted to share it with all of you. I’m kind of new to this whole planning thing, but it is actually fun! Maybe it is that 6-year-old girl that still lives inside me. Pretty pens and stickers and sparkly things, oh my!
Note: This is not a sponsored post and the product reviewed here was purchased with my own money.

Passing the time on the Dreadmill

I’ve just finished my first full week of getting back on my fitness track, so I thought I’d give you a little training update! I went to the gym 6 of 7 days this week, and completed 3 training runs. I alternate with cross training using a combination of 30 minutes of cardio (bike, elliptical, etc.) and weight training.

I’m not back up to my full running capabilities, so I am not running the entire distance. I’m still covering the miles though! For my short runs, I walked 10 minutes, ran intervals (15sec running/30sec walking) 10 minutes, and walked 10 more minutes. I set the treadmill on a bit of an incline and 4mph to give myself a bit of a challenge during the walking portions. For my “long” run, I did the same ratio of walking 1/3, run/walking 1/3, and walking 1/3. It was harder than it used to be, but it felt good. Next week, I plan on increasing the ratio to 1/2 and 1/2.

As some of you may know, I hate the treadmill. Unfortunately, because of the hot weather and allergy season, it has kind of been a necessity for me. I have figured out a couple of ways to pass the time, and thought I would share them with you.

1. Podcasts: Find a subject you enjoy, and search for podcasts. My favorites involve running, Disney, and pop culture.
2. Audiobooks: Find books you like to read, or people you like to listen to. I like to find audiobooks written by funny people. They are usually read by the author, which makes them even funnier. I usually try to find good deals on Audible, but I have also gotten them from my local library.
3. YouTube videos: This is my current favorite. If you are lucky enough to have wifi where your treadmill is, you can watch them either on a device, or on the treadmill itself. I am lucky enough to have internet on the treadmill at my gym. Right now, I am enjoying Disney vlogs. People film their Disney trips, so it is kind of like you are experiencing it with them. That definitely passes the time!

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If you do have a love/hate relationship with your treadmill, like I do, I hope some of these tips are helpful! I’ve got a long way to go in my training, but I feel like I’m off to a good start.

NOTE: I am late posting this, so I am actually on week three of my modified training plan. I am running 2/3 of the time or distance. So far, so good! I will keep you posted!

4th of July Dessert!

Hello everyone! I hope you have a safe, fun and (mostly) healthy holiday weekend! I just tried a delicious new recipe from Skinnytaste that would make a great dessert for 4th of July or any time! It is very easy, very light, and very delicious!

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The recipe is for Red, White, and Blue Fruit Skewers with Cheesecake Yogurt Dip. They use the dip for skewers made of fruit and angel food cake. I used it as a dessert topping and added a low fat whipped topping to it. I think it works either way, and would be great for a party or any time. Go to Red White and Blue Fruit Skewers with Cheesecake Dip to check it out! Thanks, Skinnytaste!

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Storing running gear…the tip that will change your life!

So…as you can see from my lack of updates, there hasn’t been much to report. My allergies have been kicking my butt this year, to the point where strenuous exercise is hard. I am getting back on track (again) this week and it feels so good! Who knew sweating would feel so amazing? It’s funny how things change. Starting over again is hard, but I can’t do anything about what has happened in the past. I can only go from here. Onward and upward!

Moving on to the real reason for this post! This tip has changed my life. I am not even kidding about that! I have always heard that it is best to lay out all of your running gear the night before, so that there is no hesitation and no excuse keeping you from getting out the door. I have found this to be true, but never really liked leaving it all spread out. It takes up a lot of room and I was always afraid I’d miss a piece. I saw this amazing tip on Facebook about storing running gear and I honestly don’t know what I ever did without it. I wish I could credit the person, but it was in a giant running group, and I don’t remember her name. If it was you, please let me know!
Ready?

It’s a shoe organizer. Hang it on the back of your door, and it will hold your watch, your headphones, your iPod and even your clothes! It is incredible. So simple, yet so useful!

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Bam. You’re welcome. Do you have any amazing running/fitness tips you’d like to share? I would love to hear them. Make sure you add them in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter! Have a great week everyone! Get out there and get moving!

Finding my way back to running…finding my way back to me…

Wow. Has it really been a year since I’ve written here? I suppose it has! What a year this has been. Most of it was plagued with injury, which meant I was mostly frustrated. I was in physical therapy for several months. I’m technically “discharged,” but I still have a long road to recovery ahead of me. It seems like I take two steps forward, then one step back. I am getting better, but setbacks have been a regular occurrence. I have gone from being sad to angry to afraid, and back to sad again. I miss running. Most of all, I miss who I am when I’m running.

My running has been a lot like my therapy. I would really get going for a while and then something (an increase in pain, the flu, etc. etc.) would hit and derail me. Then, I’d have to start all over again. Sometimes I’d get back to it and keep progressing for a while. Other times, I just didn’t start again for months. In the last couple of months, I just haven’t been running at all. Today…I ran. I didn’t run far, and I didn’t run fast…but I ran. I lip-synced, I danced (only from the waist up…I was on a treadmill after all), I got sweaty. It was amazing. I cannot remember the last time I had that much fun. I felt alive. I felt like me again. I had forgotten what the runner’s high felt like. It is real and it is awesome.

Since I am starting over again, I think I’m going to try to approach this like a new runner. As someone who has been running for a few years now, I remember being a little jealous of people who were new. There is nothing like the excitement and the sense of accomplishment you feel every time you accomplish a new goal, no matter how small it might be. Now, I have the chance to experience all of those things again, but with the knowledge of a more experienced runner. It might just be the best of both worlds. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it will be worth it. I am worth it.

When I go back and read what I wrote last year, it looks like I am in exactly the same spot. Sometimes it feels that way too. All I can do is go from here and work every day to get back to who I know I’m meant to be, even in small ways.

We’re on this journey together! Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter if you have questions or just need to talk to someone who understands. Blessings and happy running (or walking or whatever you love) to everyone!

Note: I wrote this last week, and technical difficulties delayed the posting. A few days after I ran, I got sick. It’s another setback, but I’m not giving up!

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Ups and Downs of Healthy Living

As some of you may know, last year was a difficult one for me. I had many struggles with my health that made it difficult to train for my second half marathon. In the weeks leading up to the race, I got sick again. So, I didn’t get the training in that I’d hoped. I still felt like I would probably be able to finish, and felt I should at least try.

Race day came, and we’ll just say that parts of my body were already feeling iffy. I got going, and the farther I went, the more I hurt. There were definitely times when I didn’t think I could finish. The one thing that remained consistent was God. He never left me, and he always let me know He was there. Throughout the race, I saw people with shirts that said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) This is a verse that has brought me strength and confidence throughout the past few years of struggle. No matter how much it hurt, I knew I could finish. I did, with a decent time, but it wasn’t pretty. In the following days, I got sick as well. So, this time, I came back sick and injured.

I won’t lie. The weeks that followed have been pretty difficult. I realize all of these are first world problems, and I don’t have an incurable disease. I know I came home to a roof over my head, food on the table, and a job. It has still been frustrating and painful. I haven’t been able to run more than a 5K distance, and cross training has been slow going as well. There were times when I wanted to quit. As recently as the last few days I have thought about it, if I’m being honest. Running is hard, and can be painful on a good day. Why do I even bother anymore? (I do get the irony that this post is going to follow the one called “Why Are You Running?” by the way…) In the last couple of weeks, I have tried to slowly get back on track. I won’t say that I am 100% confident right now, but I do know one thing. When I am running, I feel more like me than any other time. I am going to do everything I can to get back to the person I used to be.

I know that recently I have stepped away from this blog and social media. I could come up with all kinds of excuses…too tired, too busy, etc. etc. The truth is, I didn’t feel like I had anything worthwhile to contribute. I haven’t been on track with exercise, so I couldn’t give you any fitness tips. My attitude and focus have been up and down and all over the place, so I couldn’t inspire you or give you advice. What I have realized recently, is that this is precisely why I should be sharing. I am sure a lot of you have experienced struggles in the journey to healthy living. Maybe if I am honest about mine, someone will feel less alone. We’re all in this together! It is never going to be easy, but it helps when you feel like someone else understands.

PHM Medal 2015

Please feel free to contact me through Facebook, Twitter, email, or in the comments with any questions, or if you would just like to share.

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13