Current Favorite Foods

Summer eating is by far my very favorite! The abundance of fresh fruit is incomparable to any other season. With September rolling in and, hints of fall in the air, I am holding on to the flavors of summer for as long as I possibly can. Here are some of my current favorite foods:

Cantaloupe

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Bell Peppers

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Homemade Trail Mix

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Fresh Mozzarella

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Tomatoes

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Soba Noodles

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Watermelon

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Yum! What’s on your plate these days?

Happy Running,

❤ A

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Confidence and Running

Having confidence as a runner goes much farther than how many miles you are logging a week, what pace you keep on your workouts and, how fast you can finish a marathon. Confidence in your running must be developed over the course of your time spent as a runner. And, if you are open to the idea of learning from your mistakes and owning up to who you truly are, you can find confidence. What I am trying to say is that confidence comes from within you. For me, running gives me confidence. I am confident because I run. I am not a runner because I am confident. Here is an example of how the progression of my confidence levels have grown the longer I have been a runner.

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In the first two years of high school, I would start getting the jitters the day before a meet. On the day of the meet, the butterflies in my tummy would be so bad, I thought I would be sick. As the bus rolled out of my high school driveway and to the site of the course or track, I would calm myself down enough to eat a lunch and pray. Warming up with my team always helped get me a little more relaxed. I think that as a young runner, I ran very tense because I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my abilities.

For the last two years of high school, a few things changed. I switched schools and wanted to prove that I could contribute to the cross country and track team there. I had figured out that I was in control of my efforts and, I started putting more thought into how I could actively play a role in my improvements. It worked, and I became less and less nervous before races.

In college, the jitters came back but, I was lucky enough to have joined a strong team that was very supportive. There was not a lot of room for any demons to pour doubt into my mind. My confidence grew as a college runner because of the environment I put myself in, the belief I had in my team and, the guidance of great coaches.

As a post-college runner, I have actively made the decision to continue competing to the best of my ability. I do not get very nervous anymore (or, at all). Despite not having a team, I have found a lot of support in the community around me, my training partner, my coach, and the city as a whole. As an adult, my confidence stems from the belief that I can create all the positive energy I need, to be successful and happy. Running enhances that belief.

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Here are three ways that you can boost your confidence as a runner:

  1. Find the best way to remove self-doubt from your mental thoughts. Whatever works for you, practice that, every single day.
  2. Surround yourself with people who emanate something you want to see in yourself, and who support you in your journey.
  3. Hold your chin up. Yes, literally hold your chin up. Look up! Smile! Even if it is fake….if you do it long enough and start to believe that you are a confident person, you will become more confident.

Happy Running, everyone!

❤ A

September Goals

I literally cannot believe that September is here! My goals are very marathon based and, I am so excited about that!

  1. Stay healthy in the last build up for the Chicago Marathon
    1. No injuries, stay well fed and hydrated, start mentally preparing, etc. Running is very holistic!
  2. Smoothly execute double workouts before my taper
    1. I started doubles in August – it is exhausting but I love the thrill of it! I want to get through a strong month of doubles with no injuries! I have done it before, I can do it again!
  3. Eight Pull-ups!
    1. 10 is an overall 2018 goal…I successfully got to 7 in the month of August. Time to step it up and attempt eight in September!

What are your goals this month? Are you staying on track with your 2018 resolutions? Now is a great time to check back in!

Happy Running!

❤ A

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Hill Training

But Coach…..I am running a flat race. Why do I need to do hill training?! I have heard this exact sentence from track runners and marathon runners of many abilities. You signed up for a flat race. It is 18 weeks away. Your coach has incorporated hills into your training….but, your race has no hills! You even studied the elevation map on the racer website to make sure. But, the hill workouts aren’t going away. And, you hate hills! So, why do them?

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Great question, runners! Let’s be clear here: I do not hate hills. I do not live in a flat city. I run races that incorporate hills and flat terrain. I am racing a very flat marathon in 12 weeks. I am currently doing hill training.

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Why do we train on hills when our races are flat?

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Because to become strong, you have to challenge your body through a stimulus that will make it work harder than it needs to on race day. A cross-country runner practices hills to become more efficient at hills because they are an inevitable part of their racing environment. A road racer may choose a flat race but will still train on hills in order to teach his body how to do something efficiently, even when he does not need to perform that activity in his performance. Hills are a part of endurance training and, should not be avoided. There are multiple variations of hill workouts, all with different purposes for different runners. Powering through a few hill repeats a week during your “flat-marathon” training will prepare your body in a versatile way for your race. How? By forcing you to use muscles that you are not using when you run on flat terrain.

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The next time you have a hill workout, embrace it! Hills really do make you stronger. They may never get easier but, they will make you faster.

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A little humor and, a little truth. 🙂

Happy running,

❤ A

 

Work/Workout Balance

Maintaining a work/workout balance is extremely delicate and requires a lot of planning. While I do not have a family to balance into work, training, and life, I can only imagine how much support and flexibility you need. I have the utmost respect for those balancing marriages, children, training, work, and the rest of life too. Because I can only speak to my own experiences, I am going to share the greatest lessons I have learned about meshing your professional work with your athletic passions (for those of us whose passion cannot become our professional work). First of all, let me start by saying that I 100% believe that you can have multiple passions in life. The work you do on a daily basis says a lot about you, the things you care about, and the ways that you want to make a difference in this world. It is okay to have more than one passion! And, it is okay to change your passion! I love the work that I do, the subjects I have studied in school, and the learning opportunities that I am presented with at my job. At the same time, I am crazy passionate about running marathons (actually, just running in general), training, and overall wellness. Balancing those two worlds is not always easy but, here is what I have learned along the way.

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Talk About It

I talk about running at work, all the time. In fact, I have my Boston Bib hanging above my desk and love answering people’s questions about it. My favorite to date is, “where did you buy that Boston Bib?”. Haha, I had to break it to my co-worker that you actually have to qualify for the Boston marathon, to get a bib. I keep a foam roller and massage ball under my desk for my afternoon stretching sessions and, nonchalantly take over the middle of our collaborative office space to foam roll and do foot exercises. Everybody around me knows that I am a runner. It is part of who I am and, there is no need to hide it. I am proud of the fact! When others know about your passions, they will be curious to learn more themselves and, they will respect your out-of-the-office endeavors.

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Set Your Bottom Line

If you are following a strict training plan or, any training plan, make sure that you schedule the time to run/lift/cross train, or whatever else you need to do, to get those sessions in. I am lucky to have learned this in college.: training is not something you do when you have time. It is simply something you do. When you set your bottom line as to when you will be training, those around you in the workplace will respect that and, will value your time more. Of course, there will always be exceptions to this rule, like when big projects or long meetings keep you behind but, like anything frequency is more important than intensity. Show the frequency of your efforts, and they will be honored. Literally, put it on your calendar.

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Honor the System

There are two systems, here (in no order). First, is the system at your place of work. It is really important to pick up on organizational culture cues and, to follow those as best as you can, especially when you are new. I made sure that the first two weeks of my training were really light while I got settled into a new job. The second system is your training system. How many times a day do you need to workout? How many days a week? At what time? Taking a look at your work system and your training system can help you line the two up. The longer you are at your job, the better you will become at figuring out what works best for you. Because of my type A personality, one of the first things that I do when I take on a new endeavor such as a new job, is create a table to show what each hour of my day is dedicated to. This helps me figure out the most reasonable times to get my training in. I recently started a salary job, which means that I have the flexibility to control my working schedule more than I did before. This has opened up a lot of time for me to get morning sessions in, and to work from home when needed.

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At the end of the day, it is important that can answer the most important question, which is WHY? Why are you at a particular job? Why is your training important to you? Why do you want to balance the two? Why? If you can answer that, you will undoubtedly find a way to organize your life around these two facets, or even more. And, to keep your mental sanity in the process.

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Happy Running,

❤ A

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Questions for the Coach: Matt Mauclair

Hello, readers! Today, I want to introduce my coach, Matt. He is super knowledgeable, passionate about endurance sports, and an overall great person!

I have been working with Matt through his coaching services, Trust the Plan, Coaching. Matt is helping me build up to the Chicago Marathon, this October. The training and feedback he has given me so far have been great!

Let’s get to know Matt a little better, through these questions I have asked him:

How long have you considered yourself a runner?

My parents said they could never get me to stay in one place, always out in my neighborhood, I grew up in dribbling the basketball up and down our front street or playing ‘RELEASE’ with my friends. I guess I’ve always been a runner but my maturation into a qualified distance runner was when I was in 10th grade and our basketball coach made us run XC to stay in shape for the season. I loved every training session, every meet, and every finish line I crossed … my teammates did not.

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Those good old high school cross-country days!

Where is the most interesting place you have ever run (for training or, for a race)?

One year, my uncle took me to climb mountains in Quito, Ecuador. On our free time, I took full advantage of the altitude and made it my mission I would use the mountains for a good building block leading into Ironman Lake Placid that summer. Amazing views, spectacular terrain … and great miles that really did pay off in that race.

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Look how gorgeous Quito is!

What is your favorite workout to do?

Not sure if you’ve seen this session on your training plan yet – and if not, this is a hint on what’s to come – but I love a session that an old friend once showed me. You do this on a slight incline, preferably a 1:30-2 min. hill, where you power skip up the hill for :30 sec. then go right into a 1:30 min. STRONG hill climb, extending your stride and really settling into a solid pace. The skips are a great power movement that strengthens your hip flexors and glutes … then making the transition into a regular hill run really fatigues you.

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Bounding up-hill….should I be scared? 😉

If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hummus and chips. No doubt.

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I could definitely live off hummus and chips, too!

What is one workout/type of workout, a recovery move, etc. that you have all your athletes do?

I’m a big believer of stability work, before or after a session. Balancing on one leg really fires those tendons and allows you to warm-up and build strength by not doing much more than keeping your balance. Try it with your eyes closed!

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Matt doesn’t have me do anything this intense but…balance is definitely a great warm-up/stability exercise!

Share your ideal running temperature/race conditions:

The hotter the better. I’ve raced in some pretty humid climates – Haiti, Hawaii, Louisville in August – and I just find my focus becomes sharper and my thoughts more controlled.

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The hotter the better?! Matt may be crazy but….all the good ones are. 😉

Are you a talker when you run or, a thinker?

Usually, the people I run with are much faster than I am, so as much as I’d like to ask them a question or hear about their family, I’m just trying to catch my breath … so I’ll put myself in the category of a thinker.

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We all know that feeling of trying to keep up!

Share a personal cause/organization that you are passionate about and make an effort to support:

My wife and I are huge supporters of a local Pittsburgh organization named WORK. They support Haitian families in the country with job placement and placing kids in schools. For the past two years, I’ve participated in the Run Across Haiti, that covers 230+ run miles from the North coast of Haiti to the South coast in six days. We fundraise for the families that go right into the community and help with their needs. My wife is very involved in being an educational consultant and helping run their 1:1 Campaign which allows people here in the states to personally sponsor a family in Haiti.

Wow! That is so awesome. You can learn more about WORK and Run Across Haiti, on their website.

If you had to run one distance for the rest of your life, what would it be? In other words, what is your happy distance?

I’m a distance guy. Give me a wooded trail and 30+ miles to cover and I’m all over it. To be able to get lost in the woods and really see and understand what God has given us is truly a blessing.

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Totally agree with getting lost in the woods. 30 miles is a lot, though! Wow!

Where is your favorite place to run in the Pittsburgh area?

I’m a creature of habit – my favorite place is Frick Park. The trails go on for days and the hills are unrelenting. The best of both worlds.

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Frick Park is amazing!

Who is your biggest inspiration and what have they done to influence you?

Growing up, it used to be Michael Jordan or Joe Montana for what they could do on the court and the playing field. Nowadays, it’s the everyday person who can handle raising a family, working a 50-60 hour a week job, being a wife or husband AND balancing training for an endurance event. Those are the real inspirations.

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YESSS… I could not agree more.

What are you currently reading, if anything? (Magazine, book, etc.?)

On my nightstand is ‘North’ about Scott Jurek’s Appalachian Trail expedition – great book; I also have ‘Once a Runner’ by John Parker.

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Those both sound like great reads!

Give us some tips you have on rest and staying healthy through training:

Early in my career, I would let my ego get in the way and compete with my friends and training partners as to who could garner the most miles or crazy workouts in the pool, on the bike and with running. That wore me out … as I matured, I’ve learned that it’s the ability to listen to your body, understand that sometimes it’s QUALITY over QUANTITY, is the best way to approach this crazy world of endurance sport.

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Agreed.

Most importantly….tell us your favorite ice cream flavor!

My go-to, one and done, unadulterated, most favorite flavor in the entire world … mint chocolate chip.

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Yum! Not my personal favorite but, definitely a solid pick!

If you are interested in learning about how Matt can help you prepare for your next endurance event, feel free to reach out to me, here on the blog or, directly to Matt, through his website. Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself, Matt!

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Happy Running,

❤ A

What Makes a Great Hand-Held Running Water Bottle?

I recently started using a hand-held water bottle on my long runs and, they sure keep you hydrated but they can also be a hassle. If you are considering using one this summer, here are some things to keep in mind:

Size of the Bottle

If a bottle is too big, it can cause some cramping in the hand, which can be really uncomfortable when running for a long time. Make sure that your bottle fits into your hand well and, that it does not create any ergometric problems for you.

Nathan Quick Shot Plus - 10 oz - OSFA

Available Storage

You can’t hold everything when you are running. If you need some storage space for keys, energy gel, etc. while running, you may want to consider a water bottle with ample storage space.

FuelBelt Enduro Fuel Hand-Held Running Water Bottle with Storage Pouch, 16 oz

Leaking

Read the reviews in search of any athletes experiencing leaking with their bottles. If you bottle is leaking, it won’t do you any good and, it will be a nuisance. Make sure you are paying for a quality product that will serve you well and carry the hydration that you need, spill-free! The bottle above, from Fuel Belt, is the one that I use!

Amphipod Unisex Hydraform HandHeld Ergo-Lite 10.5oz. Blue

Phone Space

We already talked about storage but what about your phone? If you don’t like run-belts or arm-bands and want your phone handy, consider a water bottle with phone space. Personally, I use my Koala Clip for my phone so, this is not a problem.

PASSU Sports Handheld Running Water Bottle 25 Oz | Neoprene Water-Proof Hydration Pack | Touchscreen Zipper Pocket Fits All Smartphones | Sweat Wristband | For Gym, Running, Walks, Travels & More

Do you have a favorite hand-held running water bottle brand? (That’s a mouthful to read!)

Happy Running,

❤ A