I Always Go Commando

When it comes to underwear, I’m very particular. Sports bras have to fit me just right—they need to hug my chest tightly, without being too constrictive. The best one I’ve found: Adidas Supernova Glide Bra. It’s supportive and prevents jiggle, yet it never chafes. I also love that I can snap my miCoach heart rate monitor right into the front.

But I wouldn’t dream of stepping into a pair of underwear for a run. (Especially not the set in this photo. Though, they’d be perfect for other, ahem, athletic endeavors.) I think they’re pointless—isn’t that why running shorts are lined? Still, I’ve seen a number of “sports panties” for sale lately. (I told you I’ve been online shopping…) To be an authority on the subject, I think I need to swipe my debit card and try out a pair this weekend.

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 11 days!

Do wear underwear when you run?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Eating On The Run: 3 Snacks That Can Help You Reach The Finish Line

In her new book Running For Women, Kara Goucher talks a lot about, well, running. (Who better to do that than a pro-runner gunning to win the Boston Marathon?) She also covers nutrition. My favorite message from her chapter on food: “Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full.” That’s always been my mantra when dining, but what about when you’re on the run?

If you’re just heading out for an easy one, you don’t need to worry about eating or drinking anything fancy—Kara reports plain old water is perfect. But for anything over an hour, it’s a good idea to replenish your carbohydrate levels during your pavement pounding session. You can do this with sports drinks, like Gatorade, or by sipping water and eating specially formulated gels, gummies, or chews. (I like to refer to this stuff as “run candy”—you can find a colorful assortment of it at almost any sneaker store.) They all work, but it’s important to find one that your stomach tolerates and that you can maneuver easily from your pocket to your mouth. It’s also smart to figure out which one works for you before race day (your tummy will thank you!). Here’s what I’ve been experimenting with:

1. Clif  Shot Roks Protein Bites I have a tough time chewing while I’m on the move—I can’t even walk and chew gum without biting the inside of my mouth. So when I bring these with me, I have to stop to snack. They’re actually designed to be a post-run recovery food, but I like eating a couple in the middle of my runs. (Maybe because I let myself take a break.) They’re delicious and really keep my energy up.

2. Nutrilite Endurance Cubes I discovered these during this season’s marathon training after reading about them on Kara’s blog (clearly, I like her writing). Kara uses them to supplement sports drinks when she does her longer runs. Because I have a chewing issue, I sort of let the cubes melt in my mouth. It’s fun to use them to count down the miles—I’ll pop one every 10 to 15 minutes and when the pack’s empty my run is done.

3. GU Energy Gel I’ve been downing this stuff since high school, so it’s almost like bringing a faithful friend along with me when I go out for long runs. I like GU for three reasons: it’s the right size for that little pocket inside your running shorts, it always gives me a boost when I’m starting to feel sluggish, and it comes in yummy flavors. (The chocolate mint tastes like an Andes candy!)

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 12 days!

Do you snack on the run? What’s your favorite run candy?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Tapering: For Running And Fashion, It’s Best Not To Over Think It

The taper portion of marathon training is a lot like a pair of pants that get skinny at the ankles—you think it’s going to be great, but then you wonder if it’s making your butt look big. Tapering requires you to drop the intensity of your workouts down to about 60% of the load you’ve built up to over the course of training. It can make you feel a little lazy.

This week, miCoach has me scaling back both my mileage and my speed, and next week I’ll barely be breaking a sweat—nothing on my schedule is longer than 40 minutes. After weeks of two to three hour runs, seeing a 25-minute session on my calendar seems ridiculous. I’ll practically be stopping before I get started—what’s the point of tying my shoes? Still, all those easy runs will be great for my body. My muscles will have plenty of recovery time and I’ll restock my fuel stores, which will help my legs feel fresh for the ultimate workout on April 18.

Shorter runs also mean I have more time on my hands for sleeping, eating, worrying about whether or not I trained enough, and online shopping. My legs are going to do well, but I’m not sure if my brain and my bank account will make it through the next two weeks without feeling drained.

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 13 days!

Do you feel lazy when you dial back your workouts? More importantly, should I buy these pants?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Crunchy Or Smooth: Peanut Butter Is The Bomb!

After my long run yesterday (16 tough miles, I think my body is still recovering from being sick), I made myself a bagel. Planning to top it with peanut butter, I pulled a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator Natural Peanut Butter out of the fridge (I keep it there to prevent the oil from rising to the top of the jar—it’s a little harder to spread, but cuts back on all that stirring). While waiting for the toaster to do its thing, I ended up sitting on a stool in the kitchen spooning the contents of the last half of the jar into my mouth. (I was forced to smear cherry preserves on that bagel instead.)

While I would never suggest downing more than a cup of peanut butter in one sitting (a proper serving size is two tablespoons), I’m not too worried about all the fat and calories in the sticky stuff because it’s the good kind. Here’s what I mean by that: Peanut butter is loaded with protein (about 8 grams per serving), which is essential for muscle growth and repair. And the fat found in peanuts is monounsaturated—the heart-healthy kind that has been shown to lower bad cholesterol. It’s also a great source of niacin, folic acid, and vitamin E. Hello, post-run recovery super food!

And PB goes well with so much more than just J. I like to stir it into oatmeal, swipe it on apples and bananas, and whip it up into smoothies. Don’t even get me started on the magic combo of peanut butter and chocolate. One of my favorite treats: A spoonful of peanut butter sprinkled with chocolate chips. Yum!

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 14 Days!

What do you like to eat after a tough workout? Are you a peanut butter fan, too? 

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Who’s Thirsty?

I get a lot of junk mail, mostly catalogs for home stores, but every once in a while I open something I can actually use. Case in point: A pamphlet on hydration from the American Road Race Medical Society (ARRMS) showed up at my apartment recently. Just in time to help me figure out my drinking strategy for the Boston Marathon! (I also got a discount coupon for a final resting place from a funeral home—let’s hope I don’t need that one any time soon.)

To figure out how much water you should be sipping, you need to calculate how much you lose from sweating. ARRMS recommends weighing yourself naked, going for a one-hour session in the conditions and at the pace you expect to race, and then stripping down, toweling off, and stepping on the scale again. The difference in ounces is the amount of water you should be consuming DURING a run. For example, if you’ve lost 12 ounces, you should be guzzling 4 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Drink too little and you risk dehydration, too much and you could end up flooding your body.

I don’t have a scale at home, so I haven’t been able to crunch my numbers yet, but I’m planning to hit a gym soon. I carry a water bottle with me on runs longer than an hour, and typically take a swig when I’m thirsty, so this might change how I approach hydration on race day.

Count Down To The Boston Marathon: 18 Days!

Do you drink during workouts?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

It’s Time To Be A Goal Setter

This morning I had coffee with Neil Cook, a running and triathlon coach at Asphalt Green in NYC. I wanted to pick his brain about Boston—he’s run it in the past and has coached several athletes to victory there. I also wanted him to tell me that I could finish in my original goal of 3:45. Instead, I came away with a caffeine buzz, a Starbuck’s napkin full of notes, and a head swimming with numbers. It’s time for me to smell the vanilla latte and be a lot more realistic.

I’ve had a few setbacks during training this season—the flu, shin splints, crazy winter storms—but I’m not going to make excuses. I haven’t put in the mileage or the effort to hope for such a speedy finishing time. Coach Neil wants me to create three new goals for myself: 1. The one I can hit only if the marathon gods are smiling upon me (perfect weather, my legs feel incredible, complete mental focus); 2. The time my current level of fitness and training predicts; and, 3. An at-all-costs number that I’m guaranteed to reach. Which means I’m looking at: 3:55, 4:06, and just plain finishing.

If I were the type of person who set the bar low, I could be happily surprised by how well things turn out when the outcome is better than anticipated. But I’m not; my expectations have always been too high—for racing and everything else in life. It’s going to be tough to accept something as practical as 4 hours. Still, it’s what I need to do.

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 19 Days!

Do you set realistic goals for yourself? Or do you aim too high or low?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Are You Addicted To Pain, Too?

I did a speed workout this morning. Even though I was holding back, taking it easy because my body still isn’t completely better (stupid cough!), I could tell it was one of those sessions that I’m going to feel later today. And the thought of my muscles aching made me smile.

The health community refers to it as delayed onset muscle soreness, and it can creep up anywhere between 4 and 48 hours after a tough run. “It’s a sign that your muscles are adapting to the strain you’re putting them under—they’re getting stronger,” says Carol L. Otis, M.D., a sports medicine doctor in Portland, OR. Don’t let mild discomfort keep you from knocking out the rest of your workouts this week, she says. “The key is to manage the pain with ice, stretching, or ibuprofen.” Bigger, stronger, faster? Yes, please!

I know it sounds strange, but I like the pain. It makes me feel, um, alive, as though I’ve done something really tough and now I get to experience the after effects. Still, when my body is super sore I’ll hit up the good doc’s pain relief remedies. I also like to rub Ole Henriksen Muscle Comfort Lotion on my legs. It’s loaded with peppermint essential oil which leaves your skin feeling tingly and cool—kind of like the sensation you get after sitting in an ice bath.

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 20 Days!

Do you like feeling sore after a good workout, too?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.