If the Shoe Fits

You may be wondering what type of shoes are best for running, walking, and hiking. Every foot (or set of feet) is different, so there are no absolute rules about shoes. I highly recommend shopping in person at a specialized running or outdoor adventure store where the sales people are trained in fitting you for shoes. These trained professionals can help you find the best shoe for your particular feet and needs. However, there are a few generalized tips I would like to share:

Mileage

Most running, walking and hiking shoes are designed to last 300-500 miles. If during the pandemic you have been walking 3-5 miles a day (good for you!), that means you will need to replace your shoes after 100 days. That’s about every 3 months! Rather than buying a new pair every 3 months, I recommend buying two pairs at the time (or more!) and rotating which ones you wear. Your feet will thank you for rotating your shoes regularly. And not only will your feet feel more comfortable, you will also have an easier transition when it is time to break in new shoes. It is never advisable to wear out one pair completely and then start with a brand new pair. Not only do I rotate the shoes I run in regularly, I also rotate my shoes in and out of the “run rotation”. What do I mean by that? Obviously, I use my best (read: newest) shoes for running. But before they wear out, but when they are no longer the “best” (say when they get to 250 miles of wear), I stop running in them and wear them while doing errands or casual walking.  So the last 150-200 miles are less intense on my feet (and the shoe) than the first 250.

Fit

As I mentioned earlier, every foot is different, but you will want to have plenty of room for your feet to expand while running, walking, and hiking. You may have heard about runners’ getting black toe nails. This occurs when the toe bumps up against the shoe mile after mile. Make sure you have plenty of space for your toes to move inside the shoe. When shopping for shoes, try them on at the end of the day, preferably after you’ve done some walking or running already so that you get the truest fit possible. Do not try on running shoes first thing in the day. Also, especially if you have wide feet like I do, look for a shoe with a wide toe box. That will also help make sure your toes are not pushing against the front of the shoe. Remember that since you will want room for your feet to expand while running, walking, and hiking, these shoes will typically be a larger size than your dress shoes. I typically wear a size 6 dress shoe and a size 8 running shoe. A good rule of thumb (pun intended) is to have at least a thumb’s length from the end of your toe to the end of your shoe.

Features

Aside from a good fit, there are a few additional features to look for when picking a shoe for running, walking, or hiking:

  • Breathability.  Sweat creates chaffing and blisters. If you have never experienced chaffing and blisters, trust me that you never want to! Good shoes are designed to make sure there is enough airflow around your feet to wick away sweat. Also, some trail running shoes and hiking shoes are specifically designed to let water drain out of them, which is a huge benefit if you run through puddles or across streams. This feature also helps a lot when running in rain.
  • Cushion.  How much cushion you should have is primarily a matter of preference. Personally, I am more comfortable with minimalist shoes that have very little cushion because I have found that literally “feeling the road” helps my running stride. But that is just my preference and yours may be different.  Many (ok, maybe “most”) people prefer more cushion than less, especially as they increase mileage. I recommend trying out the shoes in person to see which level of cushion feels best to you.
  • Support.  Shoes can offer support in the arch as well as minimize pronation (ankles rolling inward) and supination (ankles rolling outward). If you already know that you supinate (your shoes are more worn on the outside of the heel than the inside), you will want to buy a “neutral” shoe. If you tend to pronate, you will want to buy a “motion control” shoe. If you are not sure what type of support you need (if any), I recommend visiting a specialized running or outdoor adventure store as I mentioned before. There they will ask you to run around the store or on a treadmill so that they can analyze your stride first-hand and better advise you on what type of shoe is best for you.

And finally, a word about price. Running, walking, and hiking are relatively inexpensive sports, which is a great thing. Unlike cycling, snowboarding, and other sports, they do not require a lot of gear. Nevertheless, I highly recommend investing in good quality running shoes. These shoes will typically cost you $100 or more at full price, not taking into account sales or clearance discounts. While that may seem daunting at first, your feet will thank you for making the investment in their care and comfort.

The Proof is in the Data

Fitness trackers are an easy, objective way to track your workouts. I say “objective” because perception has a lot to do with how much we think we are working out.  Lately, my trusted Garmin Fenix 6, whom I love dearly, has been quite snarky and judgmental. I have gotten back to my run routine and I have been feeling pretty good about my progress. Nevertheless, my fitness tracker has been telling me I am losing fitness. At first, I just blew it off. It is just a computer after all, right? Obviously, my human brain knows more than my watch, no matter how sophisticated my watch may be. When I kept getting messages that I was losing fitness, I started making up a bunch of excuses: I’m running slower because I don’t want to suck in all the smoke, I’m running at altitude and that’s harder (never mind that my watch knows I’m at altitude and it is supposed to take that into account), I have not kept to my normal eating routine and that must be the reason…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And then yesterday it finally hit me. I have ignored my strength training routine for MONTHS now!  Yes, I have been doing strength training. But ever since my crossfit gym closed in March for COVID, it just has not been the same. I have done some virtual workouts on Zoom, but not being in the same room with everyone has given me an excuse to slack off.  Since I do not have the same equipment at home, the weights I have been lifting have been much lighter than they would have been if I had been at Crossfit. I have gotten “busy” (oops! there’s another excuse!) and not done strength training as many days a week or for as long each time as I would have if the gym were open. Basically, I have just slacked off. At the beginning of COVID, I increased my running to compensate. But over time, I have migrated back to my normal running routine of 3 days a week and not done much else the other 4 days. I feel fine. Or so I think. Fitness is a lot like body weight. If you do not track it (by monitoring your health statistics or weighing yourself regularly), changes can be so gradual that you do not even notice them; until one day you cannot zip up your jeans, or you cannot lift the box of cat litter.  But apparently my fitness tracker knows better. By monitoring health statistics such as heart rate, oxygen intake, etc, it has identified that my fitness is declining despite my not even noticing…yet. An that is the pivotal word…YET. One day, I will find that lifting the 45 pound box of cat litter and carrying it up the stairs is a lot harder than it used to be. Actually, I have already noticed that.  But again, I let myself convince myself that it was not really true. I am just tired today, I told myself. I have not yet gotten to the day when the cat litter just will not make it up the stairs. But apparently, that day is on the horizon.  I guess I better get working on fixing that! And I have my fitness tracker to thank for alerting me.

While I am very attached to my trusty Garmin, there are many, many fitness trackers on the market and more are coming every day. Even Apple has gotten into the game as fitness trackers are really just mini-computers that you wear on your wrist.  So how do you know which is the best for you? Check out this fact-filled article that tested more than 12 different kinds of fitness trackers through over 200 hours of research. If you are curious about what fitness trackers actually do and how they do it, this article is a must read.

And if you are looking to expand your repertoire of exercises you can do indoors, without a gym, and without equipment, check out this video from Week 1 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge. Every Thursday from October 8 through December 25, I’ll be going live on Facebook at 8am PST/11am EST with a new exercise. By the end of the Challenge, you will have at least 12 new exercises to help you stay fit during the busy holiday season. Be sure to follow along here.

60 Seconds to No Excuses

Think you are too old, too out of shape, or too “anything else” to work out? In 2019, CNN reported:

 “I do pushups,” the 86-year-old [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] told an audience at Berkeley Law, adding that she planks, “both front and side,” as well as does weight-bearing exercises with her personal trainer.

According to news articles, Ginsburg—may she rest in peace and may her memory be a blessing—did not let chemotherapy treatments stop her from working out, nor did she let gym closures during the shelter-in-place stop her from staying in shape. Think you are too busy to work out? If Ruth Bader Ginsburg can make time, you probably can too.

That brings us to the next question…exactly why type of workout should you do? Laura McKenna, founder of Strength & Shield Coaching, recently posted an article that answered this question with “whatever form of exercise you will keep doing”. In other words, do something you enjoy. Because if you enjoy it, you are more likely to keep doing it. In her words,

“What’s most important is that you are consistently moving your body, doing something that is aligned with your personal health and fitness goals, that you’ll actually do because you enjoy it.”

I could not agree more!  As you probably know from these emails, I enjoy walking, running and hiking because they do not require a lot of equipment and give me the opportunity to be out in nature, which is my happy place. But a lot of people tell me they do not have time (or, perhaps, the desire) to leave the house. That is totally OK! There are plenty of activities you can do at home (even in small spaces) that will keep your body moving. Yoga and stretching immediately come to mind, and these are great activities to help you deal with the stress on your body of sitting all day.  Body weight strength training also comes to mind. And again, you do not need a lot of space or special equipment. Next week, WIM Run the World will launch the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge. Yup, October 8th is only 12 short weeks away from Christmas. If you have not yet started your Christmas shopping, you may want to get on that. However, my goal is not to stress you out about your holiday to-do list. It is to encourage you to find a way to fit fitness into your routine, which I hope will help you relieve stress as the holidays approach.

Each week until Christmas, I will be sending a video of a new exercise that you can do in a small space, with no special equipment, in less than 60 seconds. Yes, that’s right, in less than 60 seconds! I would like to encourage you take a break from your computer (or the TV, or Christmas shopping, or whatever it is you happen to be doing) and get up and move for 60 seconds. What have you got to lose? And you may even learn some exercises you did not know before that you may enjoy and that may motivate you to get up and move around once a day, if not more. You have nothing to lose (except maybe 60 seconds) and everything to gain!

And in the meantime, if you would like to take a walk, run or hike with me (virtually), remember that we meet 6 days a week and you can find the schedule and get the zoom link here.  And by the way, if you would like to know more about RBG’s workout, you can check out the book by her personal trainer here.  

Staying Fit During the Apocalypse

I hope you all are breathing clean air these days! Those of us on the west coast really got a taste of what the Apocalypse could be like.  The picture below was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the entire Bay Area for hundreds of miles (including my town of Healdsburg) looked much the same. By the way, this is not sunset. It is mid-day! And according to the website purpleair.com, which measures the air quality index around the world, it was many times worse in Oregon and Washington.

SF Chronicle

Many of us were stuck inside for more than two weeks. As a result, several people reached out to me asking what to do when they could not get out for a walk, run or hike. Personally, I am a huge fan of exercising outside in nature because nature itself provides an additional boost of good vibes and really complements the endorphins that come from the exercise itself. But sometimes, getting outdoors just is not possible.  That does not mean, however, that we are destined to sit on the couch during these times!

Being indoors is a great time for strength training. Even if you do not have equipment at home, body weight exercises such as pushups, planks, sit ups, and squats can keep your muscles engaged so that you minimize your fitness loss.  If you want to add weight but do not have access to dumbbells, cans of soup, bags of dog food, and boxes of kitty litter work just as well.  And of course, there are plenty of cardio exercises that can be done at home and in small spaces such as jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and the often dreaded burpees.

If you are interested in expanding your repertoire of easy-to-do exercises, join me for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge (starting October 8th) when I will demonstrate exercises you can do anywhere, anytime, with no equipment or simple things you already have around the house. Each exercise will have several options to take into account various fitness levels, so everyone will be able to do each one. I will be posting to Facebook Live on Thursday mornings at 8am PST (11am EST) and will send the videos out by email as well for those you who are anti-Facebook. If you want to follow along live, be sure to join our Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/wimruntheworld. And yes, October 8th is just 12 weeks away from Christmas.  Shocking, I know!

Now you may be asking yourself, how important is this really?  So what if I spend two weeks sitting on the couch? That’s not going to kill me, right? True, you probably will not die (at least right away or as a direct result of spending two weeks on the couch). However, it will help you.  It is true, I promise! While I know this from personal experience, I also love reposting articles and research that shows how much being active can actually BENEFIT you. It is not just about preventing heart disease or obesity or other illnesses. Exercise can have a huge positive impact on not only your body, but your life.  And according to this article, it can even make you smarter! 

Walking Mistakes to Avoid for Weight Loss

Many people begin a walking routine with the goal of losing weight. Walking is a great low impact way to get and stay in shape. Below is an article by certified physical therapy assistant Marc Lindsay that outlines 10 walking mistakes to avoid if you want to lose weight and how to fix them.  I love this article because, well, I could not have said it better myself!  Not only do I follow these 10 rules in my personal fitness routine, they provide more benefit than just weight loss. These are great guidelines for starting any fitness routine whether or not your goal is to lose weight. Weight loss is just a “free” bonus! And who doesn’t like free bonuses?!?


1. You’re Never Varying Intensity


While walking at a leisurely pace is better than no exercise at all, research shows walking at a brisk pace is the best for torching calories and weight loss. If you find it hard to up the pace, try doing so for shorter intervals of 1–2 minutes, with a minute of recovery in between. This high intensity-style workout can help rev your metabolism and break through a weight-loss plateau.

[Carla’s note: even shorter bursts of higher intensity will be beneficial. So if 1-2 minutes is too much for you, don’t fret! Start with 15 or 30 seconds and work up to longer bursts over time.]


2. You’re Always Taking the Same Route


If you stick to the same route, over time your body adapts and it won’t be as challenging. To boost weight-loss (and keep things exciting) change your scenery a couple days a week. This could be a hilly trail, the beach, an urban hike or even a new park. Not only will you feel mentally refreshed, but different terrain also engages different muscle groups to burn more calories.


3. You’re Not Strength Training


Strength training is a key part of weight-loss since it helps build muscle, which burns more calories at rest compared to fat. Whether it’s with simple bodyweight exercises or using equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells, strength training can help you build the core, glute and hip strength needed to walk further and faster. It can also help prevent injury, which means you’ll reach your goals sooner.
 

4. You’re Not Using Proper Form


Poor walking technique slows your pace, causing you to tire more quickly, and potentially results in injury. Since this can affect how far and long you are able to walk (or keep you from walking altogether), working on improving your form is essential to losing weight. Pay attention to the following on your next walk:

  • Stride length: A lot of walkers overstride. If your steps are too long, your speed can suffer and more stress is placed on your joints. To check your stride length, lift a foot and lean forward. Where the foot naturally falls is where you should be striking the ground. Shorter steps increase your cadence and make it easier to walk faster.
  • Arm swing: Swinging your arms helps you get more power and propels your forward motion
  • Standing tall: Slouching as you get tired is a common problem when walking. While you might need to strengthen your core to make it happen [Carla’s note, see step 3 again!] , work on keeping your back straight and your head up.

[Carla’s note: poor walking and running technique is the number 1 cause of injury. Increasing activity should not be painful. With proper form, everyone can increase their fitness level injury-free.]

5. You’re Not Focusing on Proper Nutrition


A hard walking workout can sometimes make you feel hungrier than normal. While you want to fuel your walks with smart snacks, it’s important to pay attention to your overall diet, too, to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit for weight loss. Tracking your food intake and keep you motivated to reach your goals.



6. You’re Not Using Weights Correctly



Some people use ankle weights to burn more calories and make their workouts more challenging. However, if you prefer this style of workout, adding weights should be done with caution. Ankle and wrist weights can place extra stress on your lower back, hips and knees, causing muscle strains and other injuries. If you choose to use ankle weights, limit it to no more than one or two days per week. Keep it to easy walks, and avoid using them on days when you have a longer duration or high-intensity interval training. If you want to increase the intensity of your workouts without relying on ankle weights, trying hitting the trails, where hills and other challenging terrain can boost your calorie burn and help build strength.

[Carla’s note: See step 3 again! incorporating strength training into your fitness routine safely through the use of body weight exercises will improve your overall health. Personally, I am not a fan of ankle weights for the reasons Marc mentions above.]
 

7. You are Sedentary for Long Periods of Time


Studies show a direct correlation between sedentary behavior and obesity. Even if you are getting out for a daily walk, it will be harder to lose weight if you’re sedentary for the remainder of the day. Setting an alarm reminder to get up and walk for 5 minutes every hour can help counteract the negative effects of sitting. Moving more throughout your day will also up your step count, help you lose more weight and contribute to overall health.

8. You’re Setting Unrealistic Goals

Goals are almost always a good thing. They can provide motivation to exercise daily and push you to challenge yourself. However, it’s important to avoid habitually setting unrealistic goals. For instance, your goal may be to walk a marathon. But if the event you want to complete is only a month away and you’ve never walked more than a few miles at a time, it’s going to be difficult to ramp up your mileage for a marathon without getting injured. Failing to meet your goal or expectations can lead to disappointment and negative thinking.


9. You are Procrastinating
 

Whether it’s mindlessly surfing the internet or not using social media to your advantage, it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid your walk. If you don’t have a set routine it can be easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow” or procrastinate until you end up shortening your workout or skipping it altogether.

To avoid procrastinating, set a schedule and try your best to stick to it. Whether it’s waking up early, exercising during your lunch hour or making a post-dinner walk a habit, you’ll be more likely to make your daily walk a consistent part of your routine if you set aside a dedicated window of time when you can make it happen. If you miss one day, don’t beat yourself up, simply resume your routine as soon as possible.

10. You are Not Going Long

At least once per week, try to include a longer walk. This could be a weekend day when you have more time or first thing in the morning. You can even include your family (on part of or all of your long walk) to help you stay on track. Each week, increase the distance by about a mile, or 15 minutes. Not only will a longer walk improve your stamina, but it will also help you build up to increasingly longer distances and burn more calories in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to incorporate these guidelines and more into building an effective fitness routine for yourself, join me for the Finding Joy in Motion Program, starting this Tuesday, September 15th. 

Every Step Counts!

I saw a post in a Facebook group for runners today that asked people for advice on how to stay motivated when they just do not feel like running. Guess what…there are lots of days even the best, most dedicated runners do not feel like running. Just like there are plenty of days that many of us just do not feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Has that ever happened to you? For whatever reason, you just do not feel like getting out of bed. Maybe you did not sleep well the night before. Maybe you are dreading what is waiting for you when you do get out of bed…a work meeting, a task that you are not looking forward to, whatever. What do you do? Do you stay in bed? If you do, how has that worked out for you? I find that the more I try to put off something, the more it haunts me…until it’s done and I can put it behind me, of course. Most of the time, despite not wanting to get out bed, we just do…even if we do not want to. And then what happens? We go on with our day and we eventually feel better.

It’s kind of like that with running. For that matter, you can insert any activity into that sentence. If you just start, it eventually gets better.  The first step is always the hardest. Once you get going, it gets easier. As Newton famously said (ok, I’m paraphrasing here), an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. The key to getting going is to just start.

I’ll make a confession…I skipped my track run this week. I told myself it was because of the air quality. But in reality, the air quality was not any worse this week than it was last week, when I did go to the track.  That was just an excuse I gave myself. I have had a lot on my mind lately and that has been preventing me from getting a lot of things done. I have not been as productive at work as I usually am and I am not really looking forward to tomorrow’s long run either. There are plenty of excuses to not go…I am not feeling all that great (no, it’s not COVID, just stress), the air quality is not much better than it was earlier in the week (although it’s not worse, which is something to be grateful for) and it is going to be really hot (temperatures are expected to be in the 100’s, but of course I could get up early to beat the heat).   But here is the thing about running (and pretty much everything else in life too): once we start, we are going to start feeling better. The first step is the hardest. In fact, getting dressed is really the hardest part. I usually lay out my clothes the night before so that if I manage to trick myself into getting up and getting dressed to run before my brain fully wakes up, I know there is a significantly greater probability I will actually do it. It is just like getting up and getting dressed to go to work…well, back in the days when we actually got dressed and left the house to go to work. And that brings me to an excellent example…have you noticed that it is harder to be productive in your pajamas or in yoga pants than when you are dressed “professionally” (whatever “professionally” means to you)? It is all about mindset. A button-down or collared shirt or uniform does not in and of itself make you more productive. But it sets the framework for your mind to think “it is time to work now”.

This is the mindset that prompted me to start the Finding Joy in Motion Program. Like that button-down collared shirt or uniform, it provides a framework to help you start and keep you moving. You definitely don’t have to run. You just have to show up for yourself in whatever way feels good to you. True, there are people in the program who run. But we also have hikers and walkers and aqua joggers. We even have a lady who jumps on her trampoline every day and another lady just got a new bike for her birthday! Finding Joy in Motion helps you develop a partnership with your body so that you two (you and your body!) can grow old together in BLISS!

It is not important how far you go, or how fast you go, or how you go (run, walk, bike, jump, it all counts!). What is important is that you show up for yourself. Just like you get out of bed every day (or almost every day! 😊), keep showing up for yourself.

If you would like to learn more about the Finding Joy in Motion Program. Click here.  A new session is starting on September 15th.    

Eating for Energy

This past Thursday I was fortunate to be able to join REI’s online webinar featuring Scott Jurek. Scott Jurek is a living running legend. Among his numerous accomplishments, he won the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run a record 7 times in a row. He set the U.S. record for the 24-hour distance run by completing 165.7 miles.  That is more than 6 marathons in one day!  And in 2015, he broke the Appalachian Trail through-hike speed record by completing the 2,168 mile journey in just over 46 days. I cannot even imagine what it takes to run for almost 7 consecutive weeks, but I do know it takes a lot of energy. So of course, people asked him what he eats to keep going.

As if all of Jurek’s accomplishments are not amazing enough, he did it all on a vegan diet. Jurek advocates plant-based eating for health and ethical/environmental reasons and credits his diet as the key to his athletic performance and recovery. If you would like to learn more about his diet, you can read his book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. I just added it to my Audible wish list.

I am not saying that being vegan will make you a better athlete. I certainly doubt that being vegan would make me half as good of a runner as Scott Jurek. I probably would not be even one tenth as good! But one thing that he said during the webinar really stuck with me. He said he “eats lots and lots of carbs”. You may have noticed that carbs have been vilified over the past few years and have practically been labeled the “evil food”.  And yet Scott Jurek made a point of saying that runners just cannot get enough carbs from vegetables alone. And since he made this point, I thought I would share with you this article by certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, Julia Malacoff:


8 Carb Myths Debunked by Registered Dietitians


While many people limit carbs (Think: keto or low-carb diets), they’re an essential macronutrient. Cutting back on carbs too drastically can lead to low energy levels and cause you to overeat. “There are many misconceptions about carbohydrates,” says Maria Sorbara Mora, RD.  In reality, carbs don’t need to be the bad guy. When you prioritize healthy, whole-food sources of carbs like whole-grain bread, brown rice and potatoes, you feel satiated thanks to the fiber content and possibly experience fewer cravings for sweets.  Nutrition pros outline the things they wish everyone knew about carbohydrates, debunking some major myths in the process:

MYTH 1: YOU CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT WHILE EATING CARBS

You’ve probably heard someone say they’re “cutting carbs” to lose weight. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. But registered dietitians want you to know it’s not the only way to lose weight. “It’s true that keto dieters, who drastically cut carbs, experience faster weight loss initially,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD. However, this may be due to water weight loss, and you might regain the weight once you give up the strict eating style. Ultimately, “studies show overall weight loss results from keto or low-carb diets match other, less restrictive plans.” What’s more, including carbs in weight-loss plans is often more sustainable. “Many of my clients have tried cutting carbs to lose weight, but they feel better and get more joy and satisfaction from eating when they include carbs in a healthy way,” says Cassetty. “That means mostly choosing the healthier, complex carbs and matching portion sizes to your needs.”

MYTH 2: CARBS CAUSE FAT GAIN

Another idea floating around — that carbohydrates are more easily stored as fat than the other two macronutrients, protein and fat — just isn’t true. Carbohydrates in their most broken-down form are sugar, which is extremely easy for the body to break down. “Before a cracker you eat has a chance to be swallowed, digestive enzymes in saliva have already begun the process of chemical breakdown,” says Mora. In fact, “because the molecular makeup of a carbohydrate is so easy to break down, they are needed most in the body as a primary fuel for the brain, muscles and practically every organ.”


If there are excess sugars in the body, three things can happen:

  1. Your body thinks it’s a waste of energy to create a storage site, so it increases its metabolic rate enough to burn them.
  2. They will be stored as glycogen in muscle tissue or the liver to be used for energy during exercise.
  3. Your body will begin the process of lipogenesis or fat storage.

“The third option is the most energy-consuming, so your body will not readily choose this option unless it has to,” Mora explains. This tends to happen when you’ve eaten significantly more food than your body can put to use. The bottom line — “it’s not so easy for your body to store a carbohydrate as fat. In fact, it’s pretty hard.”

MYTH 3: ALL CARBS ARE CREATED EQUAL

“A lot of people think of bread and pasta when they think of carbs, but [carbs] come in many forms, and some are more healthful than others,” says Cassetty. Often, when someone is “cutting carbs,” they really mean removing the aforementioned foods from their diet. “But pulses [beans, legumes and peas], yogurt and milk, fruit, veggies and whole grains all contain varying amounts of carbohydrate,” Cassetty points out. “While it’s a good idea to limit overly processed carbs such as white bread and desserts, studies link consumption of wholesome carbs with healthier and longer lives.”

MYTH 4: CUTTING CARBS MEANS YOU’LL BURN MORE FAT

Another common reason people cut carbs when trying to lose weight is the idea they’ll become “fat adapted” and burn more fat as a result. “It’s true your body can run on a mostly-fat diet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burning more body fat,” explains Liz Wyosnick, RD. “I want to reassure everyone the body is most often burning fat for fuel,” she says. “In gaps between meals, and during everyday activities, fat is being burned, and this process is actually more efficient if the cells have stored a little bit of fuel from carbohydrates, called glycogen.” If glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates is not available for this process, she adds, the body breaks down protein instead of fat to create it, which is inefficient. Thus, if you want to burn body fat, having at least some carbohydrates in your diet is ideal, from a physiological perspective.

MYTH 5: CARBS DON’T PLAY A ROLE IN GUT HEALTH

“Carbs are important because they help healthy gut bacteria thrive,” says Melissa Macher, RD. You’ve probably heard about the benefits of a healthy microbiome. “Good bacteria help keep our gastrointestinal tract healthy and act as an immune barrier to harmful bacteria that can make us ill,” explains Macher. Fiber, which is found in carbohydrates, plays a key role in feeding these gut bacteria. “Carbohydrates that can help feed our microbiome include whole grains, fruits, beans and vegetables.”

MYTH 6: YOU DON’T NEED CARBS PRE- AND POST-WORKOUT

Many of us prioritize eating protein around workouts to maximize muscle building. “It’s a mistake for people to focus only on protein to support their workouts or overall muscle integrity,” says Wyosnick. ”Proteins and carbohydrates work together to provide the muscle with fuel and the raw materials to rebuild and get stronger. If carbohydrates are skipped, you actually risk losing muscle mass or having poor recovery.”  In reality, it’s a good idea to consume some carbs before and after your workout (the specific timing and form ultimately depends on your goals), especially if you want to build muscle, she says. “Carbohydrates before a workout provide fast, usable energy demanded by your moving muscles and carbohydrates after provide the fuel source for muscle-rebuilding.”

MYTH 7: PROCESSED CARBS ARE ADDICTIVE

If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re addicted to sugar or pasta, you’re not alone. But the idea these foods are physically addictive is nonsense, says Kerry Fannon McCarthy, RD. “There are physical, emotional and behavioral reasons we eat,” she explains. “As a society, our thinking is very all-or-nothing. We label foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. We also like to rebel as humans. If we tell ourselves a particular food we like is off-limits and bad, we may not purchase it.” There’s just one problem: When we inevitably encounter these foods at events, restaurants or on takeout menus, we start to feel out of control. That leads us to assume we are “addicted” and can’t be trusted around these foods.  “This is not because of something in the food itself,” McCarthy explains. “Rather, it’s about the power we have given our thoughts about the food.” If you feel this way about carbs, McCarthy recommends looking into a process called habituation, which is often referred to in intuitive eating. Essentially: Make foods you’re hung up on available in your house, and don’t avoid them in social situations. Instead, aim to enjoy everything in moderation. “When we have these foods around, we know they’re there if we want them. That decreases the all-or-nothing thinking.”

MYTH 8: CARBS AREN’T GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

The truth is carbs are good for your health in ways you might not expect. Long-term health outcomes in people who eat carbs are quite favorable Macher points out. “Complex carbs play an essential role in heart health and diabetes. The fiber found in carbs has a positive effect on cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Malacoff
Julia (@jmalacoff) is a seasoned writer and editor who focuses on fitness, nutrition, and health. She’s also a certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach. Based in Amsterdam, she bikes every day and travels around the world in search of tough sweat sessions and the best vegetarian fare.

Hydration & Heat-related Illness

Here in Sonoma County, we are expecting 7+ consecutive days of temperatures above 95 degrees. So, this seems like a good time to talk about hydration and heat-related illness.

Did you know that the ideal percentage of water in the average woman’s body is 45-60%? And when you exercise regularly, your body stores more glycogen to fuel that exercise. Glycogen binds with water as part of the process required to fuel your muscles. Therefore, the more you exercise, the more water you need above and beyond the body’s general needs.

Also, when the body gets hot (either from the environment, from activity, or both), the body cools itself by releasing water through sweat. Fluid lost through sweat, but not replaced through hydration leads to dehydration. Dehydration can be serious and can lead to a decrease in strength, a drop in endurance, and a reduction in motor skills. Dehydration can also lead to feelings of fatigue and may inhibit cognitive function.

The best way to prevent dehydration is to hydrate often and early. Hydrate before you start feeling thirsty because once you start feeling thirsty, you are already starting to dehydrate. As a general rule, you should plan to consume half of your weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. For example, if you weight 150 lbs, you should plan to consume 75 oz (150 x 50%) of water each day. This rule replaces the old saying “8 glasses of water a day”. Eight glasses, 64 oz, works well if you just so happen to weight 128 lbs (64 oz x 2).  However, the more you weigh, the more water your body needs to function properly.

And while we usually think that more of a good thing is always is a good thing, it is possible to drink too much water. While this is usually uncommon, it is more common in athletes (and yes, you are an athlete!) than in the general population since athletes are very concerned with replacing the fluids lost during exercise, especially in hot and humid environments. When your kidneys cannot excrete the excess water, the sodium content of your blood becomes diluted leading to a condition called hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening.  

Your urine should be a pale, yellow color. Dark urine (like the color of apple juice) indicates that you may be dehydrated and should hydrate more. On the flip side, completely clear urine does not necessarily indicate they you have overhydrated.  However, a good way to avoid hyponatremia is to make sure you are consuming sodium in addition to water when exercising, rather than just water alone. By including some sodium, you can ensure the sodium content of your blood does not get diluted to the point of hyponatremia. You can accomplish this by including oranges or watermelon slices in your hydration plan, if possible. Or you can carry salty snacks such as nuts, pretzels, and potato chips to consume with water while you exercise. While these are all awesome options for hiking, you may find it difficult to carry them on your long runs.  The portability of low-sugar sport drinks designed to combat dehydration and electrolyte replacement tablets make them ideal for scenarios when you are not carrying a cooler or backpack.

Dehydration is a minor illness that is easily remedied by hydration. However, dehydration can progress to heat exhaustion. The early warning signs of heat exhaustion are nausea, light-headedness, fatigue, muscle cramping and dizziness. It is imperative to recognize the warning signs and act on them as soon as possible.

At the first sign of heat exhaustion, it is important to take the following steps to help get your temperature down and cool your body:

  • Move to cooler place (under the shade of a tree or, if possible, inside)
  • Lower the body’s core temperature. Cold compresses or wet towels under the armpits are very effective in reducing the body’s core temperature. If you do not have access to a cold compress or towel, you can use a neck gaiter or bandana and wet it with water from your water bottle. If you have access to a cool stream, river, or lake that you can dip the neck gaiter/bandana into, even better! Neck gaiters/bandanas are small, lightweight and easy to stuff into a pocket or your waistband.  Like a whistle, I always carry a neck gaiter on long runs. I call it the “MacGyver Approach” to safety.
  • Remove tight or extra clothing layers
  • Replace fluids slowly. This is not the time to start chugging water or sports drink since heat exhaustion can impair your body’s ability to digest properly. Focus first on lowering the body’s core temperature and then replacing fluids slowly.

Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. Someone experiencing heat stroke may have a headache, confusion, no sweating, rapid heart rate, nausea or vomiting and may lose consciousness. When the body is hot to the touch and not sweating, you should immediately suspect heat stroke.  When heat stroke is suspected, it is vital to take the following steps:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Use cold compresses or other options to lower the body’s temperature
  • Do not give them fluids as their body will not be able to absorb them and you will only increase the probability of vomiting.

Finally, do not let all this talk about heat-related illness paralyze you. Knowing the enemy is the best way to overcome it! Now that you know the signs to look for, you can take appropriate precautions to ensure you do not experience them. Remember to hydrate early and often. And if you feel that you are may be suffering from heat exhaustion, take the appropriate steps to keep yourself safe. And do not forget to have fun out there!

Stress Relief during COVID

The blog post below was featured this week on the Team USA website sponsored by USA Triathlon. These are the people who regularly compete in Ironman triathlons. These triathlons are grueling tests of endurance over 2.4 miles of open water swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and then a full marathon, 26.2 miles.  And just to be clear, that’s all in ONE race for a total of 140.6 miles in 17 hours or less! And what are these athletes talking about these days? The benefits of WALKING. Don’t let anyone tell you that walking is “cheating”. Walking is a sport with HUGE physiological and psychological benefits as described below. Even hardcore athletes can benefit from 10 minutes of walking a day, so you can too!


PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF WALKING

By Deanna Pomfret | Aug. 04, 2020

There’s overwhelming evidence that walking produces health benefits in people especially the older population, individuals who are not currently active and those interested in maintaining a healthy weight. Here are some suggestions on how to take these learnings and apply them to a different context, the already active individual.

Your heart is still working whether you are walking, cycling or swimming. Point is, if you can get outside and walk you are training your cardiovascular system. These cardiovascular benefits are not limited only to when you walk. They show up in your daily life and in your other sports.

Take it to nature. Whether it’s the woods or near the water, exposure to this environment has shown reductions in stress and improved self-reported fitness and mental well-being.

A short walk can help you recover faster. Cortisol is a marker of stress. If you are threatened or challenged physically or emotionally your adrenal glands release more cortisol to help you respond to this stimulus. In the past it was essential to survival in the chase for food and to avoid danger. Today we have many stressors, some that can be avoided and others that are necessary for adaptation and growth. Much of our training for sports is a deliberate stressor, one that is necessary for growth in fitness and performance. This combined with so many of life’s other stressors can easily overwhelm us and prevent us from moving forward.

Walking is considered anabolic or stress reducing. Walking can help manage these stress hormones. A walk in the woods has shown decreased cortisol levels in subjects from numerous studies. This is important for athletes who are seeking an opportunity to recover quicker, spend time with loved ones and continue to move their bodies forward.

This is also extremely important for people who struggle with chronic stress or diseases related to adrenal function such as Addison’s disease. Get out and walk, even if it’s 10 minutes a day.  It reduces stress.

Walking has also been shown to improve one’s own body image. Too often we are too hard on ourselves. We focus on what we feel we should be doing rather than what we are doing. Some people may think that a lighter, stronger version of themselves is a better version of themselves. Appreciate where you are now and embrace what your body can do today and build from here. Walking can help you tune into what is possible today and this is what helps you cross the finish line. Believe in yourself just as you are.

When Time Stood Still

This past week, Garmin, a popular platform for tracking fitness activity, was hacked by cyber pirates and their files were held for ransom. For many Garmin users, this seemed like the apocalypse. Our watches stopped mid-workout. Data did not sync to Garmin Connect. Data did not transfer seamlessly to other platforms we use to keep track of our progress. I did not even know how many steps I took each day! HORROR of HORRORS!

I have become so used to Garmin telling me how far I went, at what speed, at what heart rate, how this activity has impacted my training, how my fitness level is progressing, how I am acclimating to heat and altitude conditions and so many other metrics that I literally stopped in my tracks. For almost a week, I was not sure I could get out bed because of the Garmin outage. I turned to Facebook running groups for support and found that almost everyone was feeling the same way I was feeling. It is the Big Brother we have come to know and love guiding us through our day. It seems like a positive kind of technology, not the invasive kind…or so I thought.

How is it possible that being active by walking, running or hiking, which I do at least six times a week and often more, losses its meaning when an app goes down? That’s crazy, right? I reminded myself that I still did the exercise, but knowing that did not seem to help me get my motivation back. I thought back to the days fourteen years ago when I started training using only a heart rate monitor. The data was not hooked up to anything. Cell phones had not even been invented yet. After I finished my activity using my heart rate monitor, I would write down how I felt about the activity in my journal. Remember those paper datebooks with a page for each day of the week? I used those to manually keep track of my progress. I wrote down my metrics (heart rate, distance, time) as well as some notes about my day before, during and after the activity. I wrote about what I ate and how it made me feel. I made notes on things that worked well and things I wanted to do differently in the future.  However, the system seemed cumbersome at the time.  Garmin and other similar tools seemed to solve that problem for me by adding up the data allowing me to analyze metrics over days, weeks, months and even years.  That seemed like a step forward, until this week, when I realized something was missing.  

It turns out that there is something extremely satisfying about tracking your progress, even if it is not in a high-tech fashion. There is value to be gained from actually reflecting on how the workout went: what went well, what did not go as planned, ideas for making it better next time, and seeing how I feel now compared to how I felt last week and last month. And there is more to that than just numbers.  Garmin does give you the option to rate your feelings about a workout with 5 emojis ranging from smiley to frowny. However, I never use that tool. How can you rate a run on a score of 1 to 5? Everything is subjective. The value comes in really thinking about the whole run and how it made you feel during the whole day. During the Garmin outage, I realized that when I am reviewing my data, I do that naturally and automatically. But I do not write it down. And now I realize that is a mistake. When I did not have the data, I did not take time to reflect. And as a result, I lost my motivation.  

I encourage you to take the time to journal after a walk, a hike, a run, or any other workout you do regularly. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Were you in a special place? How did that place make you feel? Would you like to go back there again? What was the weather like? What does it feel like to get outside during the rain, the snow, the wind, the summer heat, or the cool morning breeze?  Taking time to reflect on these thoughts can not only help you develop healthy habits by keeping you motivated, it can be satisfying in and of itself. Journaling allows you to be in the moment and reflect on the experience. And of course, by journaling regularly, you will start to see trends in what makes you happy. And once you know that, you will open up endless possibilities for continuing along the path that makes you happy.