Written on December 25, 2013 at 10:31 am , by FITNESS Intern
Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern
The impending winter weather can discourage even the most enthusiastic runners from finding their stride—and that goes for four-time Olympic gold medalists, too. Jamaica-born sprinting superstar Sanya Richards-Ross knows a thing or two about the dedication it takes to lace up and get out there each day.
A sprinter at heart, Richards-Ross has to really push herself through long runs during pre-season training, which typically coincides with chillier months. “After my season is over, I usually take about 6-8 weeks off before we start training again, and that’s always my least favorite part of training,” she says. “It’s long runs; it’s a lot of reps and light weight in the weight room. Just really preparing myself to take training to the next level. Once my training transitions to where I’m on the track doing repeat 200s, 300s and 450s, that’s the part I do like because my body just feels great.”
Richards-Ross takes a comprehensive approach to training, integrating weight lifting and Pilates for the crucial benefits of strength and flexibility, which is why she is so powerful in her cardio-based sport. And when it comes down to it, her favorite workouts are the ones that focus on building that incredible muscle! “I love when we are doing Olympic lifts like power snatching and power cleans and squatting. I love those powerful movements in the gym and I love to really push myself. It’s so full-body and so explosive, and it correlates to the track so well,” she says.
Most sprinters are known for preferring hot, dry weather, so the upcoming months will force Richards-Ross to put her motivational mantra to good use. Whenever her training days are less than exciting or she simply isn’t feeling 100 percent, “I refuse to lose” is the mindset that gets her through it. Not to mention she really bundles up, tunes into some power songs and tries her best to forget about the cold conditions. In case you’re wondering what music inspires her (we definitely were!), she switches off between the likes of Jay Z, Drake, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Bob Marley, depending on her mood.
Her 400-meter solo and relay performances have earned Richards-Ross the reputation of the Fastest Woman on the Planet, but her talents extend past the track and into the academic setting. “My dad always encouraged me to not be one-dimensional, so even though I was having tremendous success on the track and doing really well, he always challenged me to read and do well in school because as much as I hoped to make it to the Olympics and be one of the best in the world, I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in that basket,” she says. This mindset not only helped her become a straight-A student, but also pushed her to work even harder when it came time to run. “When I had my homework and training, and I had a lot on my plate, it was easier to get everything done. When I only had one thing to do, I’d kind of procrastinate. I always just felt so fulfilled when I was able to accomplish all those tasks.”
When it comes to fueling up for and recovering from her grueling training regimen, Richards-Ross is all about the high protein diet. She reaches for protein shakes after a tough weight room session, grilled chicken before a meet and egg whites with fruit and smoked salmon for breakfast any day of the week. “I mostly juice my vegetables because I’m not really a big fan of them—I know that’s terrible for an athlete—but there’s a few I like, and the rest of them I just juice and knock them out,” she says. And even the top athletes in the world have guilty pleasures. “Mine are the purple bag of Skittles and rum raisin ice cream. Don’t put those in front of me before a race, because I’m going to eat them!”
At the end of the day, according to Richards-Ross, it’s most important to pick an activity you enjoy. “A lot of people go into the gym and bite off more than they can chew and just get totally turned off. Start at a level that is comfortable for you; do something that’s fun whether it’s Zumba or biking,” she suggests. “There are so many things you can do to be active and healthy that don’t mean you have to go and lift 100 pounds or run on the treadmill for an hour.”
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Written on November 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
Granola-topped yogurt or smoothie? Power bar or peanut butter on toast? Coffee or juice? Why is it that, come race day, we always question fueling? Lucky for those running in this weekend’s New York City Marathon (and anyone else looking to tackle a big race anytime soon), we got the 26.2 diet dirt from sports nutrition expert Ben Greenfield. The coach, ex-bodybuilder and Ironman triathlete is the go-to pro on prepping for peak performance. Here are Ben’s top five tips on eating for the run and recovery. Hint: Carb-loading isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Stick to what you know. OK, you’ve heard this before, but according to Ben, many athletes still break down mentally and try something out of the ordinary the week—or even day—of the race. Not a good idea. “Do exactly in the race as you have practiced in training,” he says. “Remember to train with what you’re going to use in the race about four to six times before the race. That’s what it’s going to take to train your gut to get used to the fuels you plan on using.”
Carbs: A yes…sort of. “If athletes limit carbohydrates, then taking in extra during race week become far less important,” says Greenfield. Should you decide to nosh on a bagel or big bowl of pasta, two to three days prior to the race will do the trick. Ben’s easy-to-digest suggestions: sweet potatoes, taro and white rice. (Phew, I guess we can still use the excuse that we’re carb-loading…)
Rule of yum. When it comes to pre-run drinks, err on the side of caution. “Juice is simply empty calories that actually has potential to cause blood sugar spikes,” explains Greenfield. But what about java? Stick to just one cup, so long as you have sipped on it prior to a long run in the past. No one wants an unplanned porta potty pit stop.
To GU or not to GU? That is always the halfway point question, and according to Greenfield, energy chews/replenishers may not be as necessary as you think. “The more sodium you take in, the more your kidneys are going to push out,” he says. Opt for electrolyte capsules such as Athlytes, Endurolytes or Salt Stick instead of the sugar-laden stuff. Effervescent tablets like Nuun or GU Brew are also good options.
Recover like a champ. The old school ways of thinking—foam rolling, ice bath, massage, post-workout shakes—are instilled in our brain for a reason. They work! In addition, Greenfield suggests a few options that may not have crossed your mind. “I’ve found the occasional acupuncture session to be an incredibly useful method for everything from nagging aches and paints to full-blown adrenal fatigue,” he admits. Another tactic to consider? Deload (also known as an easy “recovery week”) every four to eight weeks, according to Greenfield. Hey, it can actually improve your fitness levels, especially since it takes a minimum of 72 hours to recover from a tough run.
Still concerned about what to eat the morning of your race? Greenfield suggests blending (it’s easier on your digestive system!) an energizing kale smoothie with coconut water or coconut milk. “Blending or juicing helps to pre-digest the food so your body doesn’t have to work as hard during digestion,” he says. This frees up precious energy for you to devote to your stride! For efforts greater than three hours in duration, add 20-30 grams of protein powder to the mix (Ben’s fave is Mt. Capra’s DEEP 30 protein). Ben also swears by ATP energy sources like X2Performance to naturally increase energy, enhance endurance and improve recovery. Best of luck this weekend, runners! You’re going to kick major asphalt.
Now tell us: How do you fuel up for a big race?
Written on September 5, 2013 at 10:43 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Need to stir up your go-to healthy eats? Robin over at Knead to Cook has what you crave—muffins, cookies, pies, you name it—without the guilt. And whoa, it shows! The fit mom who sticks to an impressive six-day workout regimen (three days running, the other three hitting the gym for cardio and lifting) cut down on sugar and recently lost over 30 pounds, making major PR strides. We’ll have what she’s having! From lightened-up, homestyle Italian dishes to perfect pre- and post-workout fuel (check out her addictive No-Bake Energy Balls below), this gal cozies you up to her table like you’re a part of the family and proves that nutritious cuisine can taste good, too.
My favorite way to workout: Running, especially in the fall and winter. I’m definitely a cold-weather runner.
My biggest motivators: My two daughters. I want them to look at me as an inspiration for what is possible. They shouldn’t use age as an excuse—ever!
My favorite fit snack: Non-fat Cabot cottage cheese. It’s packed with protein and I mix it with Justin’s almond butter; it’s such a treat! I cannot get enough of it.
Motivational mantra: “No one ever drowned in his own sweat,” by Ann Landers. I actually have it written on the chalkboard wall in my kitchen and I look at it every single day.
My “I did it” moment: Even after running a marathon, my biggest “I did it” moment was recently, at the Beach to Beacon 10K, when I ran it in 49:01. That’s my fastest race time yet, thanks to my recent 31-pound weight loss.
No-Bake Energy Balls
- 1 c old-fashioned oats
- 1 c toasted coconut flakes
- 1/2 c dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 c almond butter (or whatever nut butter you have in your pantry)
- 1/2 c flaxseed meal
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1/3 c + 1 /4 tsp raw honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
Mix together in a bowl and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Remove and roll into balls. (Robin uses a small scooper!) Place in an airtight container to refrigerate for 5-7 days, although they will most likely be long gone before that!
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