Monday, July 14, 2014

The Blue Arrow Trail - Cairns

A beautiful trail run or walk in Cairns is the Blue Arrow - a loop that follows on from the very popular and smaller Red Arrow track.  The Red Arrow is around 1 km long and is a straight forward uphill then downhill loop. I run that a few times each Wednesday as it's near where my girls have their hockey training, so it's a convenient hill workout. There are always plenty people walking or running the Red Arrow track at any time!

The Blue Arrow is a bit longer and for me takes about an hour to run combined with the Red.  My best time is 58 mins, but I haven't run it in a long time and I'm sure I could go a little faster than that now - but maybe not yet as fast as my speedy husband! It's kind of uphill with a few flat parts for the first half, then downhill, flat with small uphills for the second half. A good interesting twisting, turning trail, and nice and shady for running in the tropics on hot days!

At the weekend we took our girls around the Blue Arrow track for a walk - so it was a good opportunity to take a few photos to show the trail!

This warning sign is at the start of the Blue Arrow track.  The track isn't hard to follow, but I guess I wouldn't want to be on it after dark!

So here's a few pictures of the trail itself:

A view from near the start - out over the sea and the Great Barrier Reef. You can see Green Island from up here.

There are LOTS of steps..

And plenty of roots..

A nice distinct and clear track.

 You definitely have to be careful where you plant your feet!

There are some interesting trees and plants along the way..

Towards the end, the trees thin out and it gets brighter!

And you finish off by going down the well worn and quite civilised concrete Red Arrow Steps:

So there you have it. The Blue Arrow - Cairns. A beautiful walk, or a good trail run!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Limiting Beliefs

There is nothing that holds you back more from achieving your goals than your own limiting beliefs.
I do believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. This year I've set my mind to improving my running
So far I've won my first trail running medal and improved my PB time for a 5 km run by nearly 2 minutes.
There is however something I noticed in that last 5 km run, and I've noticed myself doing before and tried to change.  I didn't expect to run that fast in the 5 km race, and there was someone else I knew in the race that I didn't expect to even be close to. During the last couple of kilometres of the race, I could see this person ahead of me, and I was surprised but my first thought was that I couldn't catch them but I would try to keep them in my sights.  In the end they only beat me by less than 20 seconds.  Also at the end of the race, when I could see the clock and realised that I might go under 23 minutes, I managed to sprint to achieve this even though I believed at that point that I was going as fast as I could go.
Looking back at this, it makes me wonder if I could have beaten this person had I had a different attitude in my mind. If I'd had the belief in myself that I could do it. Honestly, I think I could.
Running is more than just who can go the fastest. A lot of a race is in your head. The more I run in various races, the more I'm starting to see this.  I think to improve my time further, I need to do some more races to get used to running with and against other people. And try to never limit my beliefs.

Last year before my daughter took part in her first school athletics carnival I told her the story of 'raising your hand'
A teacher asks their students to raise their hands as high as they can in the air. 
The students do this. Then the teacher asks them to raise their hands just a little bit further. Again the students do this - pushing their hands just a little higher.
The teacher then asks, "So what happened the first time I asked you to raise your hands as high as you could? If you had, you wouldn't have been able to raise them any further."
The point of this story is to show that even when you think you've given all you've got - there's always a little more left in the tank to give!
My daughter took this to heart, and in her first race, the 80m sprint, she was in 4th place with 20m to go, then she put on an extra burst and managed to win the race. Afterwards she said she told me she remembered what I'd told her about raising her hand further, and she did just that.
I need to remember this story myself, and next time I see someone ahead of me in a race - don't think, "I'll never catch them", instead I need to think, "I can catch them - let's go!" and push just that little bit harder. I might even surprise myself!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cairns Post 5km Fun Run 2014

In June, I ran my first ever 5 km 'race'.  I often run 5 km from home, and have run several trail races, but never just a straight 
5 km road race, until this one.

 Earlier this year I tried out a 5km training programme I found free on the internet. I stuck to the programme and did timed runs just from my house at the beginning and end. So I had my 'fastest time' to beat of 24 mins and 17 seconds.  Of course that was running 5 km on paths, roads, crossing roads, up and down slight inclines and measured with my husbands Garmin watch.  So I was interested to see what my time would be on just a straight forward flat 5 km run.

 My husband offered his Garmin watch for the run, but I don't usually run with it and so decided not to. I didn't want to be checking my pace all the time on the watch. I run 5 km quite often at home, so thought it best to just go with the pace I know from that.

 The run today was a 'fun run' with hundreds of competitors; so I made sure of getting as close to the front as I could for the start.

Before the start of the race, a friend told me to focus on a runner in front of me and try to stick with them. I did this with several different people who I then passed! By around the 3 km mark I found someone to focus on that I didn't catch, but found it did help me to keep going to try to keep up with them.

 I was hoping to get under 24 mins for the run, and was watching my watch now and again to see where I was with that. Close to the end I knew I'd done it, but within sight of the line I saw the big clock showing it was still on 22 minutes, so despite thinking I was by then running as fast as I could, I managed a final sprint across the line to break the 23 min mark!

 I'm so happy with my time - 22 mins 54 seconds.  Faster than I thought I would go - and a huge lift and motivation for me in my running. I'll definitely be doing more 5km races and will be back for this particular one again next year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Coral Coast Enticer Triathlon 2014

In June, I competed in an Enticer triathlon up in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. I did it a year ago to support my youngest daughter who was then 10 years old and doing her first triathlon. This year she was confident enough to go it alone so I decided to do it again just for me. It was a 300 m swim, 10 km bike ride and 2.5 km run. I run a lot so that part was no problem. I have a bike and like riding, so that didn't worry me either. But I'm not a swimmer so the swim was the part that worried me.

This year I was just as scared about the swim, plus it was a windy day and the sea was quite choppy! However, I think the fact that I knew I'd done it before and survived helped me, as did the decision I made before I started that I was just going to do breaststroke, which I find far more comfortable than freestyle, despite lots of people telling me that you should do freestyle in a triathlon.  So the swim went by fairly quickly and before I knew it I was running out of the water filled with total relief that the hard part was over! Transition for me wasn't a speedy thing. I know you're supposed to fly in, slip on your
shoes and helmet and you're off. But I dried off my feet, put on my shorts and t-shirt, my socks and running shoes, tied my laces, helmet on, carefully lifted down my cheap mountain bike and set off on the cycle.

I really enjoyed the ride, pedalling hard and going as fast as I could.  Several ladies flew past me, cruising along on nice skinny light road bikes! But I wasn't in the race to win - just as a challenge to myself and against myself.

Finally I finished the bike leg, and got to the run up and down the beach to finish off the race.  I could feel my leg muscles were really heavy after the ride, and could still taste the salt water I'd swallowed on the swim. But once I settled into my run and my legs loosened up a bit I enjoyed that too, and even sprinted for the finish line! I was happy to achieve my goal of finishing in under an hour. I did it in 51 minutes, and later found that I was only 46 seconds away from a 3rd place medal in my age category! Amazing!!

 Although I enjoyed the triathlon and feel a great sense of achievement having completed it, I don't have a great desire to do it again next year. To do more, I would want to improve, which would mean more swim training, and looking into buying a road bike - neither of which really appeal. I definitely enjoy running - particularly trail running more right now. But perhaps one day I may look at triathlons again - maybe in 15 or 20 years time !

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fitness Karaoke Style

One morning last year I woke up with aching leg muscles but as I had not done any kind of exercise the previous day, I was puzzled as to why. Then, when I swallowed and found my throat dry and sore, I remembered the previous evening – we’d had a karaoke party at our house!

 Now I'm a big fan of karaoke and I have to admit I do like to hog the microphone but I had never thought of karaoke as a form of exercise – let alone one that would leave me with aching muscles. Singing Karaoke is not a static activity, far from it; you have to work that stage, or living room floor, move to the rhythm and of course, crouch down now and again to croon to your audience who are listening raptly from their comfortable seats on the sofas.

Thinking about all this, I began to see that singing karaoke in your living room is potentially a great workout. What a discovery! No need to go to the gym, or sweat it out on a run. All I need to do is belt out some of my favourite tunes with feeling. Sing with my whole body as it were. Sadly, I had not personally discovered the next fitness fad.  Fame and riches were not to be mine on this occasion, as apparently, karaoke fitness is already all the rage!

Karaoke yoga, karaoke spin classes… it’s a whole new world of fitness I never even knew existed.  Did you? Take a look here and see! But forget about the spin and yoga part for a moment, you don’t need to add anything to karaoke to make it a workout. If you really get into the groove and feel the moment, you’ll be working your body up on that ‘stage’ and working up a sweat as good as any gym class! Here’s what’s really going on when you’re belting out your favourite tune through that microphone, pretending to be Bon Jovi or Taylor Swift!

Burn some calories 

 Singing in itself burns calories, on average around 130 per hour but just singing along to the radio in your car is only the beginning. Once you’re singing standing up, with a microphone in your hand, the number of calories burned jumps up again. Think strutting your stuff across the stage like a real rock star, or belting out those ballads with your arms flung out wide and your legs taking you into a half squat as you build up to the chorus. When you get lost in your karaoke moment, every muscle in your body is lost in the moment too, and you don’t even realise how active you are!  

Sing your way to a six-pack! 

 Not only does singing burn calories, but …wait for it, it can also help you on your way towards that six-pack! How? I hear you cry; well, normally when we breathe, we just expand our ribcage, but when you sing, you use your diaphragm, the large dome-shaped muscle across the bottom of your rib cage.  This muscle is in turn part of your ‘core’- those muscles that you strengthen to get that six-pack. Since muscles don’t work in isolation but together in unison, strengthening your diaphragm by singing should then assist in strengthening your overall core. Now that’s a bonus!   So, Karaoke in the pub while sipping on a bottle of beer? No you don’t!  It’s off to the gym to karaoke at a spin class, while sipping on a bottle of water.  See? Exercising can be fun – and you won’t even know you’re doing it!

 "Image courtesy of [imagerymajestic] /".

Monday, July 7, 2014

Barron Gorge Trail Run - race report

Back in March I ran the Barron Gorge Trail run up here in Cairns for the first time. There are 2 choices of distance for this run - 18 km and 11 km. I did the 11 km run and was so happy to win my first ever trail running medal, coming in as third overall female finisher!!  Yippee!!

 The run starts at Stoney Creek car park and you run back along the bitumen road for around 1 km before turning off into the bush and heading steeply uphill on a narrow track through trees and long grass for around 2 km.  This was a hard slog, but it's a pretty steady gradient so I soon got into a rhythm. Just before the top my foot caught in a root and I tripped and felt flat on my face, winding myself a little and over-stretching my shoulder in trying to save myself!  No lasting damage though so I jumped up again and after around 45 mins came out at the top where the track split for the 18 km and the 11 km run.

 The next part of the run went along a ridge then descended down a steep and very slippery track (there'd been a fair bit of rain in the days leading up to the race) to the river crossing.  The river was only about calf height and it was nice and refreshing to wade through it - much easier than trying to balance my way across on top of the rocks.  This was my first time running after a river crossing and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I forgot that my feet were soaking wet. No rubbing from wet socks - just nice cool feet, how nice!

 The next half and hour or so was mostly flat along a ridge with wait-a-whiles and lots of branches and roots to run around, over and under.  For this section of the run I was completely on my own - couldn't see anyone in front or behind me, and it was such a beautiful place. It was a peaceful and wonderful part of the run - and I had to marvel at the fact that I was 'alone' out in the bush, with my snake bandage and whistle 'just in case'!! Fortunately I saw no snakes, bush pigs or cassowaries and only got one cut on my ankle from a wait-a-while!

 The last 40 mins of the run was when I really started to fatigue.  Any vaguely uphill parts of the trail I had to walk - and it really felt like I was plodding slowly then.  It was about then, just before the trail turned into it's final descent that I was overtaken by 3 ladies. They were slowly jogging uphill past me, and I just had nothing left to keep up with them. The final 30 mins of the run was from Glacier Rock downwards. I've done this section of the trail before and it was nice to be back on a familiar track.

The rest of the track was very well marked and every time I began to doubt I was heading in the right direction, I would look up to see another ribbon tied to a tree! Such a well organised race by the Cairns Road Runners! - Thank you! I enjoyed this last section of the run, even though I was exhausted. I knew there were no more uphill sections and was able to push knowing how far I had to go.  I made good time going down, and was buoyed by a few hikers I passed who all stopped and cheered me on, stepping off the track to let me past! 5 minutes before the finish I overtook one of the ladies who had previously overtaken me on the uphill section.  I knew how close the end was now, and looking at my watch saw how close the 2 hour mark was.  I slipped and tripped, almost took a few wrong turns but pushed through that last section desperately wanting to get under the 2 hour mark. I was so happy when I crossed the last bridge over Stoney Creek, turned the final corner and saw the finishing line and timer.

 I finished in 1 hour 59 minutes and 6 seconds!  Exhausted but feeling very pleased with myself, I helped myself to some fruit and water then went with my husband who finished just ahead of me for a cool off in Stoney Creek river. Bliss! After a few minutes cooling soak, we were called back up for the presentations, where I was given my first ever trail run medal. 3rd place female overall - and only 5 minutes behind first place.  I was so pleased with myself that I wore my medal the whole rest of the day! The Barron Gorge Trail run is incredibly beautiful and was so well organised. I'll definitely be back again next year - hoping for a different colour medal!! :)


Sunday, July 6, 2014

5km Running training programme review

Earlier this year I decided to try a 5 km running training plan. It was a free plan from online at Runners World.

I was really pleased with how I went with it, and the results gained.   Just before I started the plan, I went out and timed myself run 5 km from our house. I've previously measured this run so I knew it was the right distance, but also used a GPS watch to confirm it.

  My 5 km time was 25 minutes and 26 seconds (on Jan 17th)

 So then I started the plan.  I printed the plan off and put in on the fridge so that I could see it each day and check off the days as I completed them. This was really important for me as I find checking off completed workouts and seeing this visually and constantly really helps my motivation. I got up early through the week and did the runs before the rest of the house got up so the time didn't eat into my day. I also found this a great way to start the day too. I didn't generally eat anything before running, just drank some water, and occasionally had a small banana half an hour before running, although I didn't find this made much difference. 

Doing 'strides' after my runs was something new for me. Basically once I'd finished my run, I'd do sprints up and down our street for 20 seconds each, walking for 40 seconds between each one. Most days I found these more tiring than the long run, perhaps because I'm just not used to sprinting! For the days when I had to run certain parts of my run at a faster pace, I found this tricky out on the roads and paths to judge without a GPS watch. Some days I ran on our treadmill at home and this made pacing much easier.

 The runs throughout the 5 weeks were well balanced. They all pushed me and there were days when I didn't feel like doing them but I did stick to the plan and completed all the runs. So the big day was today - 'race day'.  I warmed up and set off at a good pace, determined to beat my previous time. After the 5 weeks of training I did feel stronger in my running and felt confident I could go faster. It was a hot and humid day - nearly 60% humidity and just over 30 C .

 I pushed hard the whole way. My first kilometre was fast (4 mins) and just before halfway I knew I was doing well when I was faster than I'd ever been at one of the turns.  The final kilometre was hard, especially thanks to the slight uphill incline, I had a stitch and everything hurt!

When I finished I checked the time and was so pleased!  Much faster than 5 weeks previously.

  My new 5 km time was 24 minutes and 17 seconds (on Feb 23rd).

 An improvement of 1 minute and 9 seconds in just 5 weeks. I'm pretty happy with that. I would definitely recommend this intermediate 5 km running plan. It was easy to follow, pushed me without being too much, and the last 'taper' week seemed just right to prepare me for 'race day'.

I followed this training programme once again, leading up to a 5km race I entered in June.  In that race I recorded a new personal best time of just under 23 mins!  Definite success.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Brown or white rice?

Which is better for you, brown or white rice?

Our family generally eats white rice. The main reasons being that it cooks faster and it's cheaper. However, personally I prefer brown rice and have always thought it the healthier option, so I've started substituting it in our meals once a week when I have a little extra time to cook it. Quite by accident the other day I stumbled across something that said white Basmati rice is actually better for you than brown rice. What? Since the large bags of cheaper white rice that I usually buy are in fact Basmati, I had to check this out so see if I was sneaking in this one weekly meal of brown rice at extra expense and time for no reason.  

What's good about brown rice?

What I found was that brown rice is generally more nutritious than white rice because it contains the whole grain and has not had the fibre and some vitamins and minerals stripped off in the milling process. Brown rice has more fibre, protein more vitamins (particularly B vitamins) and minerals than white rice. More nutritious sounds good to me, and more fibre means that you will feel fuller quicker and so portion control should be easier.  

Why is Basmati rice so good?

However, the reason that Basmati rice is good is that it has a low GI. Most white rices have a high GI, and brown rice has a low GI, but Basmati's GI is around the same (or some sources say even lower) than brown rice. 

 So what is "GI" and why does this matter.  Well to put it simply, GI, or Glycemic index, is the measure of how fast a food is broken down by your body and the sugar or blood glucose absorbed.  High GI foods are good for after a workout to quickly replenish your body, but at other times, low GI is better as it means less insulin is required by the body and it better for long term blood glucose control.  It should also leave you feeling full for longer and help stave off those hunger pangs.     

 So overall, I think I'll still keep on with our once a week of brown rice, knowing that I'm giving our family a few extra nutrients in doing so.  It is good to know though that we're also using 'the best' of the white rices for our other meals. Also, since brown rice is more filling thanks to the fibre content, this should help me try to reduce my portion size - something I'm trying to do since my metabolism seems to be slowing down the older I get, so my eating habits are having to be adjusted accordingly - a habit I'm finding hard to change!

 Do you eat rice? - Brown or White? and is that choice for taste or health?

Friday, July 4, 2014

How to push yourself like a pro

What motivates you?

 A picture of someone who is fit - a body shape to aspire to?             

Or perhaps someone exercising in a beautiful place?       


Or maybe it's words that may inspire you to workout.

I believe that motivation and inspiration can and should be found in many different forms.

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing, that's why we recommend it daily. - Zig Ziglar

This is one of my favourite quotes. Motivation is something I feel I'm pretty good at - both for myself and motivating others, but it is still something I struggle with and am working on constantly.  I find motivation in so many different places, but find I cannot rely on one source entirely.   

Daily routine motivation

For a while I was putting daily motivational quotes on my Facebook page. Each morning I'd look for one that fitted with how I was feeling and my goals for the day. For a while it worked a treat, but then it started to become routine, and honestly sometimes a bit of a chore. I started to just pick random quotes just because that's what I did every day. I stopped doing it for the right reasons and it meant nothing. I sometimes barely read the quotes. This can also be reflected in workouts. If you're doing the same thing day in day out, it will after a while become routine, boring and won't be doing you as much good. To keep your motivation up, you need variety.  

Variety is the spice of life

Setting different short term goals each month for example can help keep you motivated.  Perhaps one month you may be aiming to lose weight, another to get a faster time for a run, or another to try a new workout programme.  I find doing different things helps keep my motivation up. Both setting the targets and goals, and also having a defined end to my workout plan- whether it be one month or three. There is a sense of satisfaction in completing it - seeing the days checked off the plan. Then a week of recovery afterwards to plan and anticipate the next challenge and programme.  

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going - Jim Rohn

So it's all very well to get yourself motivated, have your goals set and your plan worked out, but once you've got past the initial excitement and drive, then how to you keep going? In a workout, what motivates me to keep going is that I said I would do it. I've found that having a timetable or plan to work through is what really helps me. If it's written down or printed on a piece of paper, then I have to do it and tick it off, otherwise that blank space would haunt me, and the guilt would be awful. I would feel I'd let myself down. Once I've got my plan, I make it part of my daily routine. Find a time where you know you can fit it in - whether that means getting up early before work, going out at lunch time for a run, or working out in the evening. Once you schedule it in, you make it part of your day, and not something you have to find time for. Wanting to set a good example for my kids also keeps me going. I feel I can't berate them if they're feeling too lazy for their sports practice, unless I show that I stick to my own exercise plans. I may not have team mates to show up for, but I want to show by example how important it is to follow through with your plans and schedules - for your own piece of mind.  

I can't

I like my comfort zone. Working from home means I have to be self disciplined and motivated to get things done, to organise my time, and not give in to the temptation to sit on the couch and take a break, or just read another couple of chapters of that great book I'm reading just now, or even take a cooling dip in the inviting swimming pool calling to me from our back yard. It's the same when I exercise, I have to push myself mentally all the time. 

When it comes to a hard part on one of my DVD workouts - like  sets of 16 push ups and mountain climbers, I know it's coming, and try to prepare myself mentally.  When my muscles begin to struggle and shake and my natural instinct is to stop because it hurts, what keeps me going is that I've done it lots of times before, so the excuse in my head that is trying to say, "I can't" just doesn't stand up, because I know I can. 

 I think one of the commonest excuses in exercise is "I can't".  I know, I've used it a lot. However, the more times I have said "I can't" but subsequently found that "I can", the easier it becomes to overcome this excuse the next time. 

 For me personally, a huge step forward in getting over the excuse of "I can't" came during the birth of my eldest daughter.  Now whether or not you've experienced childbirth yourself, it is accepted that it is a painful experience.  I remember reaching the stage with the pain that my brain said, "I can't". Now I was well into labour, and there was no stopping. I was too far along for any major painkillers, so had to suck it up and get on with it. It wasn't a matter of self-discipline or pushing myself, I simply had no choice and had to do it! And of course I did. So sometimes now when I'm feeling the pain in a hard workout, run or climb, I flip my mind back to that moment when I really, truly thought "I can't", and I realise that what I'm feeling is nothing compared to that day, and what I found I could do. For me this works. Do you have a similar experience or point in time that you can draw on?    

Motivation to stop

So motivating yourself to get up and do something is one thing - I think I'm pretty good at that. However, for food, it's a different kind of motivation - not to push myself to do something, but instead I have to STOP myself from eating. I truly LOVE eating and when I'm exercising, I often think about what I'm going to drink and eat afterwards and looking forward to that helps me keep going, great - a form of motivation! BUT, I know I eat portions that are a little too big, and rather too many treats and sweet foods. I love cooking and baking and am sadly not so disciplined when it comes to snacking and trying the food as it's being prepared. 

 It's a constant battle with my mind. I exercise a lot and do get very hungry. I've always had the viewpoint that if I do a really hard workout, then I can treat myself to some 'bad food': coke and chips, chocolate and cakes.  But I do tend to overindulge in these treats, and the fitter I become, the more I notice the  negative effects of  not eating sensibly and healthily. I've never been one to watch my weight, although looking at photos of myself at certain stages of my life perhaps I should have!  

So what now?

I feel like I've learnt a lot about motivating myself to exercise over the past few years, and have reached a stage that I'm reasonably fit and enjoying exploring a variety of exercise and fitness options. Now my big challenge is to motivate myself to eat better, which I believe will in turn have a positive effect on my fitness.

 I think sometimes it's easier to motivate yourself when you've reached an extreme. If you've reached the stage that you're very overweight, or perhaps a health scare makes you reassess your eating and lifestyle habits. I have never been very overweight nor particularly unhealthy, but still feel that I need to make changes. What is important is your own feelings about yourself.  When I look back at some photos of me, I see clearly where I want my body to be, and that motivates me to workout and watch what I eat.  
Having kids also motivates me to lead a healthy and active lifestyle to teach them and lead by example.   What motivates you to take care of your body and your health? Do you have any tips to share on how to motivate yourself to either do something or stop doing something? What has worked for you?

 Photo Credit: mark shaiken : : photography via Compfight cc Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hydration for Exercise

After realising that hydration doesn't just mean 'drinking lots of water', I decided I should learn about how to hydrate myself properly for exercise ! Here's what I've learnt in basic terms.
If you're exercising moderately for 45 mins to 1 hour, then your body should have enough carbohydrate stores for energy. So for this amount of exercise, just eating well and drinking water should be fine.
Over the past year, I've increased the amount of exercise I do and the intensity - and now I do a hour's hard workout most days with longer ones at intervals, so I really need to be looking at ways to hydrate and replenish my body other than just plain water.

Before exercising
You need to hydrate your body well before a long hard workout, race or game, (whatever your choice of exercise is).  Your body should have the full balance of electrolytes (sodium and potassium seem to be the main ones needed), and plenty of carbohydrates for your body to use as energy. That's why you hear about 'carb loading' before a long distance race.

Chia Seeds
Chia Seeds have been used in Central America - particularly Mexico, by the locals for thousands of years - mixed with water to sustain them on long journeys from settlement to settlement.  The Tarahumara people of north Mexico are renowned for their long distance running abilities. They are said to drink a chia seed drink before they run to give them stamina and hydration.
Chia seeds absorb about 10 times their own weight in water. So if you soak them for around 15 mins, they form a kind of gel. When ingested, your body only slowly breaks the gel down to release water into your system, making chia 'gel' excellent for keeping your body hydrated over long periods of exercise!
I really like the sound of this - chia seeds apparently have no particular taste, and you can add them to pretty much anything. Chia seeds also have plenty of other great nutrients including protein, fibre and omega 3! All round great. I'm definitely going to be trying these.

Isotonic Sports Drinks
These drinks are formulated to have a similar content of sugar and salt to that which we have in our bodies. This means that when we drink sports drinks, the water is absorbed quickly into our bloodstream . ( We also gain the energy from the sugar and replace the salt that we have sweated out.)
Sports drinks can be helpful before, during and after a major workout to maintain your body's balance of fluids and electrolytes while also keeping up your energy levels.

During exercise
It's not really easy or feasible to eat during a major workout, race or game, so the body needs something to nourish it that is quick and easy to ingest. As mentioned above, sports drinks can help this by providing more than just water to rehydrate. You can also buy special power gels for this purpose- although the ones I have tried I really haven't enjoyed the taste.
Taste is important for proper and sufficient exercise hydration. If a drink or gel tastes pleasant you're much more likely to drink enough of it to get what your body needs out of it.
I've also read that sipping a sports drink every 10 - 15 mins during your workout helps keep your body hydrated and balanced, so I try to do that now and have to say that I've noticed a difference in my more constant energy levels - rather than pushing hard for a longer period, then taking a break for water or a sports drink.

After exercise
Again once you've finished, you need to replenish what your body has used up during your strenuous workout. Sports drinks as mentioned above help do this quickly. Another thing I've found that is supposed to be really good for rehydrating your body and replacing lost minerals, is celery juice! Celery has plenty of soluble sodium, which is perfect for replacing that which your body has lost by sweating. Celery is also a very watery vegetable, so provides hydration too!  Mind you the idea of munching on a celery stick after a big workout isn't so appealing,  but I have started to have freshly juiced apple, orange, celery and kale juice, which actually tastes really good, and is packed full of natural sugars and sodium to replenish your body.
On the subject of celery....apparently in the ancient Olympic games, one of the prizes awarded to winners was a crown made from wild celery! So not only is it nutritious - but it's an Olympic vegetable!

So after learning all of this, what does it mean I'm going to do?
  • Consciously keep my body hydrated at all times, plenty of water, but also electrolytes too, I'm enjoying my fresh juice with celery in, I'm also going to start adding chia seeds here and there in my diet, particularly before a major workout or race.
  • Sip water regularly during my shorter workouts - but once they start to go over an hour, I'll add in sports drinks, or maybe one of my freshly squeezed juices in a bottle.
  • In the few days leading up to a big race (I don't do that many, only a handful in a year), I'll increase my salt intake, and hydration with not only water, but fresh juices, chia gel and maybe sports drinks too.
At least I feel much more aware of what my body needs now, and how to prepare for harder and longer workouts as I become fitter and push my body more and more!

The Great Pyramid Race - after turning 40

Since I began to exercise more than to just keep fit, I've found that as a result I have to pay more attention to how I train and what I eat and drink. Maybe part of that is my age too; reaching 40 last year I'm realising that I can no longer just eat, drink and do what I like and expect my body to cope and recover in the same way it did in my twenties.
Before our annual Pyramid Race (a 12 km race up and down a steep hill)  last year, I knew I'd trained more than in the previous years and instead of just aiming to finish, I knew I was capable of finishing in a good time together with the top female runners.  I was excited at this prospect and determined to do my best.
The previous year in the race I was aware that my mind and focus let me down. When the going got tough, I gave in mentally, finishing in the same time as the previous year - no improvement in a year, which really annoyed me after I thought I'd trained lots!
So last year I'd worked on pushing myself through the hard bits and was happy that I was in the right head-space to not give in when the going got tough.

Before the race
In the few days leading up to the race and particularly the morning of the race I knew I had to make sure I drank enough. The race takes place at 2 pm up here in the tropics, so it can be pretty hot and humid and dehydration can be a big problem.
So I made sure and sipped water at every opportunity, and I had my two bottles ready to take with me on the race - one water and one sports drink.

During the race
I started the race well, and for the first time in 5 years of doing the race, was up with the main pack of runners.  After the 3 km run to the mountain, I went well on the uphill, pushing through the pain and sore muscles to reach the top in 4th place in my age category. I knew I was pretty OK on the downhill part and so was feeling confident. I'd been sipping my sports drink every 15 mins or so though thought all was on track for finishing in a great time.
10 mins into the downhill, my mind was absolutely fine and feeling strong, but that was when my legs started to wobble and cramp.  I felt like I didn't have enough control over my leg muscles to be able to go downhill at any speed, so had to slow down to a walk.
The cramps were painful, but I managed to continue and finished the race in a faster time than the previous year, 2 hours and 28 minutes.

After the race
When I crossed the finish line, my legs gave way under me. It felt like every muscle was cramping at the same time, and as I tried to stretch one, another cramped as a result.
I felt frustrated as I wasn't out of breath and knew I hadn't done anywhere near the time I was capable of, but on the same note, I had crossed the line having mentally pushed my body as far as it could go on that day in that situation. I knew that at least this time my mind hadn't been the weak link.
The race volunteers were handing out sports drinks, and a friend bought me a coke. I drank these and ate lots of pieces of fruit that were also on offer in the finishers tent. Then I had one of the free massages also on offer - which helped loosen up my calf muscles which seemed the worst affected.  About 30 mins after the race, I felt rehydrated and my muscles were fine. I had no after effects from the cramps and my muscles didn't even ache the next day.

So why did I cramp so badly?
When I got home that evening, I tried to figure out why I'd cramped up so badly and gone so much slower than in practice runs.  After spending some time on Google, I figured that my major problem had been hydration.
Although nobody knows for certain, cramps may be caused my muscle fatigue, or low sodium, potassium or magnesium.
Yes,  my muscles were fatigued, but I'd never had cramps like this before in any of my practice runs or training sessions.  I had consciously drunk lots in the lead up to the race but all I'd really drunk was water.
What I think is likely that happened, is that I flushed a lot of the minerals my body needed out with the water, then when I did the race - and really pushed my body physically, the muscles just didn't have what they needed to work as hard as I wanted them to!

So what should I have done?
Once I began reading about hydration and exercise, it all seemed very sensible and logical. Of course just drinking plain water isn't going to be enough to hydrate my body sufficiently for a 2 hour plus race in hot and humid conditions. I'm no longer just going out for a jog around the streets - this is more serious exercise that requires me to take things a bit more seriously in terms of preparation, training, nutrition and hydration.
I believe I should have drunk some other drinks in the lead up to the race - perhaps some sports drinks, and also made sure to increase my salt intake a little too. Pre-race perhaps a banana for the potassium and magnesium.
I thought about my best practice race prior to race day itself . The night before that practice we'd been out at a friend's house and I'd eaten a lot of chips, crackers and dip - so plenty of salty carbohydrates. I'd also had sugary drinks as well as water.  Now I know that isn't very scientific, but I ran a great time the next day so can't have done anything too bad!

My plan from now
Knowing that I could have been up with the top runners in this year's race means that I feel that with the right training and nutrition, next year I'll get there!  I'd determined to start to learn about what my body needs to perform to the best of my ability.
My aim is not to leave this year's race to chance. I want to train and eat smart and that means educating myself. My goal is a top 3 finish in this year's Pyramid Race, in my age category.  Considering the first year I did the race - in 2009, I came last in my category, this will be a huge achievement for me. But I'm determined to get there.
With only just under 6 weeks to go until race day, I'm feeling positive and fit - just need to keep it going and get it all right on the day!