07 NovKeep Food Un-Processed, And Run Further

Food-Un-ProcessedJust add a piece of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk, and you have a great meal in minutes. Doesn’t fill you up? Pop another lean entree in the microwave, and you’ll still come out ahead of the pot pie. Hint: For great taste, Coleman recommends spicy pasta dishes and Mexican entries such as enchiladas and burritos.

BROWN BAG IT: Clearly, the sandwich is the sine qua non of the brown-bag lunch, and it should consist of three essentials: whole-grain bread; lean-meat filler, such as tuna, turkey, or chicken, or a protein-rich, vegetable-based filler such as tofu or peanut butter; and condiments, such as tomatoes, lettuce, and mustard for a meat filler, or nuts, seeds, or raisins for vegetarian sandwiches. Include a small bag of carrots, a snack pack or a piece of fruit, plus iced tea with lemon or a fruit drink, and you have the perfect brown-bag lunch.

“Just don’t eat the same sandwich every day, or you’ll soon get bored and turned off by it all,” warns Coleman. “Variety is the key to brown bagging.” So mix and match. Buy plenty of lunch supplies at the beginning of the week so you have several options available. Then alternate tofu one day with a lean meat the next. Or try cooked and mashed pinto beans mixed with garlic and onions on pita bread.

PAY HOMAGE TO OMEGA-3S: Here’s a quick primer: Your brain functions by sending chemicals back and forth between nerve endings. Omega-3 fats may actually help you grow more nerve endings, making your brain function at a higher level. In other words, we’re not talking about eating smarter here, we’re talking about becoming smarter. Plus, omega-3 fats have been shown to improve your heart health and lower arthritis risk. You’ll find omega-3s in the foods that follow:

FISH: Your best sources of omega-3s are cold-water ocean fishes such as tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring. The cold-water part is key. “The same fish raised in warm water contain considerably less omega-3s,” says Dan Benardot, Ph.D., R.D., author of Nutrition for Serious Athletes. “Fish manufacture more omega-3s to help them stay flexible in cold water.” Also remember that canned fish with a high fat content, not a low one, contain the most omega-3s.

GREENS: Sorry, but in this case, “head lettuce” is not the one that’s going to make you smarter. Instead, go with rougher, darker greens such as arugula, kale, and mustard greens for high omega-3 content. Then cover them with olive oil and crushed flaxseeds (crushing releases the omega-3 oil from the seeds) for a tasty and “smart” salad.

2 FEEL BETTER

Here are three simple ways to feel better about yourself, your running, and your world:

TAKE AN ACTIVE LUNCH: We know what your favorite activity is, but if you can’t run at lunch, try one of these options:

TAKE THE STAIRS: A good 10- to 15-minute stair climb at lunch will get the heart pumping. Exaggerate your knee lift and pump your arms much as you would on a stairclimber machine. Try for at least four flights at a brisk pace before resting. Then repeat.

WALK AND TALK: Have a meeting with a colleague? Suggest a “business walk” in the building, or head outside. Keep the pace brisk but conversational.

STRETCH IT OUT: A 10-minute stretching break can boost your energy level and flexibility. After a 2- or 3-minute walk to warm up, focus on the major running muscles: hamstrings, quads, and calves. Plus the lower back, shoulders, and neck muscles. Hold each stretch steady for at least 20 seconds. Pause a few seconds, then do it again. Go for three sets of each stretch.

READ TO RELAX: You’ve just come home from a stress-busting 4-mile run at the end of a particularly hectic day. After dinner, your options for unwinding are: (A) watch an hour of “reality TV”; (B) clean the spam from your e-mail in-box; or (C) crack open a good book and recline on the couch.

We recommend C. “People who do a lot of reading know that it is one of the best ways to relax,” says Moonyean Carlton, a librarian at the Boston Public Library. In fact, the feeling of being “inside” a good book has been compared to meditation. The secret is to pick a genre–mystery, science fiction, romance–that you enjoy, then indulge. Some good reads in the running realm: The Four-Minute Mile; Once a Runner; Prefontaine; No Finish Line; and The Other Country,

GIVE SOMETHING BACK: An absolutely foolproof way to boost your mood–and improve the world in the process–is to perform an act of service or charity. Some surefire options:

CLEAR A PATH: After one run each week, take a few minutes to clear debris or pick up trash on your favorite trail or running route. Keep a pair of heavy-duty gardening gloves in your car for this purpose, and a stash of plastic garbage bags as well. Use this cleanup session as your cooldown.

LEND SUPPORT: Volunteer at a road race, or at a local high school track meet. “You don’t need prior experience for high school meets,” says John Scott, head boys track coach at Akron Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio. “You can help lime races or judge the relay events. We always need extra help.” Scott recommends arriving at least a half-hour before the meet, then looking for a head official or coach, who will put you to work.

BE A COACH: The Road Runners Club of America offers coaching certification programs to teach adult running from beginners to advanced. On the Web, visit www.rrca.org for more information.

3 RUN FARTHER

Running longer will improve your strength and boost your endurance, making all your runs feel easier. Plus, you’ll have more energy overall. Here’s how to get there:

GO LONG: The once-a-week long run remains the key to building endurance. To extend this run, simply start at the level where you are now, and add 1 mile per week. Once you reach 10 miles, run long every 2 weeks, still adding Just 1 mile each time. During the “off” week, cut your long-run mileage by half to give your legs a break. Your long-run progression will look like this: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 5, 11, 5.5, 12, 6, 13, 6.5, 14, and so on.

Unless you’re training for a marathon, which requires runs of up to 20 miles or more, stop at 15. If you can manage this every week, fine. But if it beats you up too much, alternate 15 and 10 miles every other week. Remember to do all your long runs at a comfortable, conversational pace. (Running faster will not help you gain endurance.)

DO A MID-WEEK BOOSTER: Each week, in order to boost your endurance still more, throw a longer-than-average training run into the mix. At least 3 days before your long run, do a run that is half the length of your current long run. Hint: For even more added fitness, run the middle 2 to 4 miles of this mid-week booster at a slightly faster clip than your regular training pace.

FUEL UP FOR ENDURANCE: For long runs, plain water isn’t enough. You need energy replacement (carbohydrates) as well, plus electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which aid in muscle function and help regulate body-fluid levels. The easiest way to get all these is with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, which are “pre-mixed” and contain the proper concentrations of water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Energy bars or gels work fine, too, as long as you take water with them to keep you hydrated.

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