Monthly Archives: February 2015

Fuel and Running – Part 1

I cannot stress enough how important FUEL is to running. You may be the fastest runner, having the highest VO2 max and the most fatigue resistant leg muscles with many hours of training…… but you would still be rendered COMPLETELY useless if you fail to fuel enough for your metabolic system to provide sufficient energy. You can testify to this fact if you have trained hard for a marathon but hit the wall after passing the 30KM mark.

The BONK

The much dreaded bonk where your blood glucose level stoops too low due to insufficient fuel intake. It is the point where you have almost completely cleared your muscle and liver’s supply of glycogen. Your brain gets fuzzy and you JUST WANT TO STOP RUNNING!

Glycogen depletion, ATP exhaustion and the accumulation of lactate have all been suspects that contribute to fatigue.

The Metabolic Story

ATP – the body’s energy currency – is what your body uses to power up your active muscles (RUNNING!) and to carry out every other activity (Anabolism and Catabolism).

We derive energy from the food we eat, mainly carbohydrates, fats and proteins (lesser extent). The muscle tissue, liver and adipose tissue are where these macronutrients are stored until we need them during movement/exercise.

When you run, adrenaline is released to kick start the metabolic process. Ultimately, carbohydrates and fats are broken down in a step by step process (Thankfully, we need not know the process. We will leave it to the body to handle) to produce ATP.

No ATP –> No Energy –> No Muscle Contraction. You can see how fuel and the metabolic system are crucial limitations to running performance.

The Supply

You’ve got to supply your body with fuel to meet its demands. Providing enough fuel during training is just as important as fueling enough for race day.

It is not easy to get it right. You have to constantly experiment with yourself. Try new things and stick to what works for you.

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I had trouble meeting this balance 2 weeks ago at the RHB race. My training was as per usual except that I decided to increase the intensity on that particular week. I made the mistake of NOT compensating the extra work with extra fuel.

On race day, I felt completely drained. So much for doing extra work. All of it was lost because I didn’t have sufficient FUEL.

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Glycogen stored in the liver is responsible for maintaining blood glucose concentration within the acceptable range. Your brain relies heavily on glucose to function. The problem is that the active brain uses the stored glycogen in the liver when you sleep. A race first thing in the morning can wreak havoc if you fail to eat a proper breakfast to top off your already glycogen-depleted liver.

Well, let’s just say I didn’t fuel enough throughout the week AND on the morning of the race.

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I don’t know if I’m exaggerating but I just wanted to stop running after 8KM.  I could not brain the situation. I was feeling cold and clammy, pins and needles everywhere……it was just not my day. Thanks to Victor (fellow Puma Pacer) who ran up to me just to cheer me on! Not forgetting Kartini who yelled from across the road and Rashid who overtook me halfway. Nice to meet ya’ll! Every little bit of motivation counts! The cherry on the cake was when I was in 7-8th place when I arrived at the finish line (when I knew exactly how many people were in front of me). WHAT?!

Thankfully, the organizers checked it through with the timing chip and I managed 3rd place!

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The sister came in 4th in the 21KM category. 😀

More on fuel storage and how to maximize them for performance in my next post.

Till then, EAT WELL FOLKS!

Keep Running!

How to Stay On Track This Chinese New Year!

It’s that time of the year again, one of the biggest celebrations for the Chinese – Chinese New Year! And that usually translates to endless feeding sessions. Somehow, your stomach turns into a black hole during this season.

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Runners, health freaks, fitness enthusiasts and gym goers are probably more worried than they are excited. They are faced with the dilemma of enjoying and indulging or staying fit and on track with their healthy eating habits. I say, why not both? There is always a need for the ultimate balance, the best of both worlds. Indulging in your favourite foods AND staying in tip top condition. In reality, it is easier said than done.weight loss

I know how it feels like, been there done that! Once you hit the relaxed and stress free mode, you tend to want to go all out and indulge in all the glorious rich foods that Chinese New Year (or any other celebration) has to offer and break free from your healthy habits. You comfort yourself by saying that you’ll “get back on track” once the holiday season comes to an end. I usually fall into this trap. I tell myself that I’ll indulge NOW, and work twice as hard LATER. Well, that usually never happens.

And if you’re living in Malaysia, festivities occur all year round. There is always a reason or season to be stuffing your face. Chinese New Year, Mooncake Festival… not to mention taking advantage of our multiracial culture by riding on other celebrations such as Hari Raya and Deepavali!

STAY CALM, I am here to help you! Here are my Top 5 tips on how to stay on track AND live a little. OM NOM NOM NOM……

  1. Pace Yourself…

…when it comes to food. Like running, there’s a set pace for everything. Don’t start out at an interval pace when you should be going easy.

Your brain takes a while to register (about 20 minutes) the feeling of fullness. When you eat, the hormone leptin is released which sends signals to your brain to inform it of the nutrients that the body is receiving. Cholecystokinin is also released by the intestines to further enhance the feeling of fullness.

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If you don’t pace yourself, you end up eating a lot MORE than you should within a short span of time. You will be stuffing your face faster than the brain can tell you that you are FULL! In a study published in the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism in 2014, subjects who consumed their meals at a fast eating rate had a reduced perceived level of fullness.

Don’t rush through your meal. Indulge, enjoy and savour every bite…… SLOWLY! You can also aim to eat many small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism going!

  1. The Choice is in Your Hands

Get picky when it comes to snacks. CHOOSE WISELY. There are many other “healthier”, less calorie dense foods like Mandarin oranges! I love them. I remember eating 10 a day.

What you can do is, start off with fiber rich foods: fruits and vegetables (and drink plenty of water)! This should leave you feeling partially full.

Decide on what you want to eat. If you want to spend your calories on that slice of cake/cookie that you’ve been eyeing on, then cut back on your mains.

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You can have your bakkwa (or keropok/cookies) and EAT it too!

  1. Maintenance

If you are really stressed out on your health and fitness goals during the holiday season, DON’T! It is not worth it. If you are struggling to stay motivated and disciplined, change your goals (for just a few weeks).

Eggs and cakeBe realistic. The goal for the holiday season should be focused on maintenance instead of losing or gaining. Put your weight loss goals on hold and don’t miss out on the holiday treats!

Rest well, eat well and run consistently.

  1. It is OKAY to Indulge

Yes, you heard it from me. The most important thing to remember is: Don’t beat yourself up. If you slip up, forgive yourself and move on.

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Instead of spiraling into negativity, go for a slow walk, do some yoga or hit the pool after a binge. Trust me, you’ll feel a lot better!

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Try eating a healthier meal the next day and slowly get back on track. You can do it!

  1. Just RUN Lah!

With all of that said, the best way to still be on track is to just STAY on track. This one is obvious and full proof against weight gain. It works well if you are highly motivated, determined and self-disciplined.

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Quick tip: GET IT DONE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! Get it over and done with and out of the way. That way, you’re free to help out around the kitchen or do your last minute shopping or maybe just spend quality time with your loved ones. If you’re back at your kampung, this is a great opportunity to explore on foot!

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Don’t have time? INCREASE the INTENSITY of your workout. Turn your moderate pace 1 hour long run into a fat blasting HIIT session! Incorporate some speed work into your training. It takes half the time, burns more calories during and after the workout and leaves you feeling AMAZING! The only catch is: it will feel like death (but just for 25-30 minutes).

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You’ll be lean and mean, ready to stuff your face with food. Ok, I’m kidding. You’ll just feel less guilty because you know you’ve worked your butt off for it.

The main focus during this season should be your family and friends. Use this time to catch up with them instead of stuffing yourself silly. Opportunities like these don’t come very often! There’s something so comforting and warm about being surrounded by your loved ones while enjoying a home-cooked meal.

So, there you go! I hope this helps! What are some of your tips to stay in shape for the holiday season? Do SHARE!

Happy Chinese New Year! For those of you who are traveling back to your hometown, have a safe trip!

Keep Running!

xoxo

Word text/pictures from various sources: Tumblr, Instagram

Post-run Stretching

Post-run stretching is an essential part of running that many runners tend to neglect or rather, forget. ADMIT IT! YOU’RE ONE OF THEM. I was one of them too. Keyword: WAS! These days, I spend close to 20 minutes doing a full body stretch after my run!

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When to stretch?

Back in high school, we were always taught to do static stretching before any form of sport/activity. I always wondered why that whenever I stretched before my run, my muscles would feel extra stiff, almost immovable. I noticed that I felt better on days when I forget to stretch. Eventually, I stopped stretching altogether.

Only a few years later did I come across an article on how static stretching before a run/workout was not recommended. I was thrilled when I found out because I had experienced the negative effects it had on my own without being biased if I had known this fact beforehand.

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Before your run:

Never stretch cold muscles. Do a short warm up to get the blood pumping throughout the body. The warm up should involve the large muscle groups. It can be anything from a short jog to a quick ride on the bicycle. The warm up should be about 5-10 minutes before performing any form of stretching. A good gauge would be when you start to break a sweat.

Dynamic stretching (not holding each pose for more than 2 seconds) is the preferred form of stretching before any activity. It serves to activate the muscles, warming it and firing it up in preparation for the real deal.

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After your run:

Static stretching (where you hold a stretch pose for at least 30 seconds) signals the muscles to relax. This was the reason I felt like my muscles were immovable, because it was TOO RELAXED!

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The FACTS:

The 2 proprioceptors involved in stretching are the muscle spindle and the Golgi tendon organ. The muscle spindle is sensitive to the change in muscle length and rate of change in muscle length; the Golgi tendon organ responds to the change in tension and the rate of change in tension in the muscle.

When you stretch (increase the length of the muscle), the muscle spindle would resist the change in muscle length by causing the stretched muscle to contract as a protective mechanism to prevent the muscle from stretching beyond its breaking point.

When the muscle contracts in response to a stretch, tension is produced which are detected by the Golgi tendon organ. When this tension reaches a certain threshold, it signals the muscle to relax. Again, this acts as a protective mechanism by causing the muscle to relax before the applied force causes an injury. This is why when you lift a heavy object beyond your capability, your muscles react by relaxing thereby causing you to drop the object.

Stretching uses this principle: triggering autogenic inhibition via the Golgi tendon organ.

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How long should you hold a stretch?

At least 30-60 seconds. This allows time for the signalling from the Golgi tendon organ (causes the muscle to relax) to override the signals from the muscle spindle (causes the muscle to contract).

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Why stretch?

You may not realise it but your body works REALLY HARD when you run. You have no idea how many physiological changes are at play just by taking a few steps. With every stride, your legs flex and extend to propel you forward. This places a great deal of stress on your musculoskeletal system. Over time, tension and tightness in the muscles can build up, increasing the risk of injury and compromising your performance.

Runners are usually tight in certain muscles, mainly those of the lower body. Stretching after your run is a good way to regain muscle flexibility and range of motion (to be able to continue your active daily lifestyle and of course, more efficient running!)! Also, it prevents the pooling of blood in your lower limbs by improving venous return to the heart. This ultimately speeds up recovery by flushing out metabolic waste accumulated in your muscles during your run.

Plus, it feels REALLY GOOD. Need I say more? Get stretching!Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Proper technique and form is KEY. Merely lifting your limbs to undesired levels of comfort, angles and height, pulling it here and there does not necessarily mean you’re stretching the intended muscle. Stretching takes focus and you have to KNOW what moves stretches WHICH muscle.

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Hmmmmm, maybe I’ll come up with a post-run stretch guide! What do you guys think?

Till then, have fun stretching!