Fuel for running – and life

It’s been a while since I have blogged, life has been hectic as I prepare to move from Austin to the San Francisco Bay area – I’ll be the new Provost at Menlo College starting in July. As always, running is one of the ways I deal with stress, and I’ll be running a 5k this evening, the Trail Foundation’s Margarita Run. Given that it will be hot, humid and I’m tired from traveling, I have to think carefully about how I will prepare myself for tonight’s run. For me there are four distinct phases of fueling a run. The first is what I eat for my regular meals. I try to avoid running on empty – I always eat something before a race, and I’m blessed with a digestive system that can handle almost anything before a run. When I ran track in college, I would always be in the first event of the day, the long jump, and the last, the 4×400 relay, so I learned early on that I had to be able to eat and run.

These days, if it’s a morning run, I’ll often eat some yogurt and/or a banana, and for the second phase of my run, the actual run itself, it depends on how far I am going. If I’m running more than an hour, I always take water, and some gel, chew or other type of fuel. I used to drink a lot of Gatorade, but found that I wanted to control my water vs sugar intake a bit better, depending on the heat and humidity.

In many ways, I find that music is another way to fuel my run, so I’ll call it the third phase.  I usually listen to dance music to keep me going. Songs by Michael Jackson, Prince, or the latest pop or R&B is fine, I’m usually into my head so that I’m mostly focused on the beat.  I don’t always use music, only for longer runs. If I’m running less than an hour, I like to use the time to work through problems in my head, or just zone out for a while.

The fourth phase of my run is recovery, which starts with stretching and some drills to strengthen problem areas. This is also where I usually treat myself to a hot chai latte, or hot chocolate. I use almond milk instead of cow’s milk, but it gives me the protein and carbs my muscles need to recover from a run. I will sometimes take supplements that help with recovery if I’m training intensively, but I haven’t done a marathon in a while, and I’m sticking mainly with 5ks and 10ks with the occasional half marathon thrown in. I find that if I have been doing my training right, the recovery from these types of races isn’t much of a problem.

I always have to keep in mind that I am getting older (50!) and I have always paid attention to my back issues, meaning I have to make sure that I have strong abs. I switch up my cross training on a regular basis to keep myself from getting bored, and train different types of muscles. I have all the tools I need at home to do a variety of workouts, including kettle bells, dumb bells, a medicine ball, and I’ll even do some hula hoop when it’s nice out. I focus on my abs with some pilates, yoga and just plain old fashioned push ups and sit ups. Every few years I’ll meet with a personal trainer to get some training tips and learning the latest ideas on staying in shape.

Overall, I find that it’s important to maintain a regular workout routine to keep my energy levels up during the day, reduce stress, and to sleep well at night. I look at running as important to both my physical and mental well being. I need fuel to keep running, but running and working out is my fuel for life.

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When I'm running well-fueled I feel like Wonder Woman!
When I’m running well-fueled I feel like Wonder Woman!

Love, Loss and Resilience

3M half marathon 2014 Melissa MarshThe day after my last post, my family experienced a horrible tragedy.  My niece, Melissa Marsh passed away unexpectedly from complications of diabetes.  Melissa was only 31 years old, and leaves behind a 7 year old son and his father. Of course, Melissa was loved by all of us in the family.  I felt a special kinship with her because we both were the youngest girls in our family and also had two older brothers who always gave us a hard time. We are still in shock at the loss of someone so young.  The tragedy is compounded by the fact that her father, Rick Marsh, passed away from kidney cancer two years ago.  Her funeral was the two year anniversary of his passing.

I had planned to run the Austin 3M half marathon, and as in dealing with past losses, I turned to running for stress relief.  However, this time around, it was more difficult to get motivated for today’s race. Some days, since Melissa’s passing, I have felt like all the energy was drained from me.  As someone who promotes health and fitness, it was a cruel irony that diabetes would be the cause of my own niece’s death. It’s only been in the last few days that I have been able to even contemplate the thought of how Melissa might want us to go forward without her. Over the last few days, I had been uncertain how I would feel come race morning.  And yet, as I crossed the starting line a single word came to mind: Love.  I realized that this is what gives us resilience during these very difficult times — love of family, and knowing that the love of those we have lost is always with us. I wore the grey ribbon that was made for Melissa’s funeral as I ran the 13.1 miles today.  This one was for her, and all those who ran with me in spirit today. I will miss her terribly, particularly her wonderful hugs but I will go on today and watch her beloved Seahawks hopefully beat the 49ers in the NFC football championship.  I know she is with the whole family today as we cheer on our team.


Running in all kinds of weather — gotta love it

It’s well known that I love running and have been an athlete all of my life.  I rarely let the weather keep me from getting out, even the extreme weather we have here in Central Texas.  I ran the Hill Country half marathon in Marble Falls during our first bout of cold weather back in October.  It has been a season of major shifts in the weatherHC half marathon finish, with highs getting up to the 80s just a few days ago.  We are currently in the middle of a cold snap that will take us down into the 20s tomorrow (with a windchill into the teens).  Our current weather brings back memories of my days running track in Spokane, WA for the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups. There was many a track meet Terri - Stanfordwhere the temps could be in the 30s, or 40s. We learned to adjust to the weather back then, wearing heavy sweats when necessary. My first year at Stanford was lovely…until I went home to Spokane for Christmas. It was one of the coldest I could remember, temps in the 20s when I arrived, and down to negative 20s after a few days.  I finally was able to get out and run when it warmed up to the teens.  There was lots of snow on the ground, but I managed to make it a few miles.  I wore a scarf over my face to avoid breathing in too much cold air.  I was very happy to get back to California after that holiday.  I have lived in many places with a variety of climates, but Austin’s has certainly been the most changeable.  In a few months the temps will start heading back into the 80s and 90s and we’ll be back to the sweaty and muggy running days that I have learned to love.  I love to run, and have managed to figure out how to do it in all kinds of weather. Running gear has evolved to the point where you can stay warm without having to put on heavy layers, and for those hot days, they can wick away much of the sweat.  As a shop-a-holic, I love shopping for new running clothes and checking out the latest fabrics. So an advantage to living in Austin is that I get to try out gear for all types of weather!Web-Terri_Givens-8779-Edit It has been said so many different ways, “making lemonade out of lemons” etc…its all about making the best of your current situation and keeping a positive attitude.  I find that running helps me keep my positive outlook on life, and when I’m feeling down, it helps pick me up, regardless of the weather.  Whatever you do, the main point is to stick with it.  There are so many benefits to exercise, going way beyond the no such thing as bad weatherphysical benefits.  And when I really can’t get outside, I have all kinds of activities I can do, from Zumba on the XBox, to jump rope, even hula hoop!  I do crossfit a few times a week, since I’m a firm believer in strength training as cross training. So whatever you enjoy doing, don’t let the weather get you down.  Treat yourself to some new gear to help deal with the weather if necessary, or if you’re like me, just because. As the holidays approach, consider a gift of fitness for a friend or loved one.  There are lots of great groups (like Fit on Your Feet! ahfcoop.org), fitness gear from places like Texas Running Company and many others. Whatever it takes, keep moving!lapping the couch