Performance, recovery, and weight loss, can you have it all? 

Maybe you’ve just signed up for your first 10km, or you’re trying to qualify for Boston. You’re sure that all this additional cardio will cause you to drop a few pounds and you’ll be running your best in no time. Not so fast. It can be a bit of a rude awakening if you realize that you’re not losing any weight, or even putting on few extra lbs. So why does this happen? 
 
Let me first say that I am far more concerned with what my body can do than how it looks. But, when you want to run well, it does hinder performance when you have to carry excess weight - so there is strategic benefit to being leaner.
 
If you ask any trainer how to lose weight, nearly every single one of them will say focus on H.I.I.T and lifting heavy weights.
 
Running certainly burns through a lot of calories while you’re doing it, but it doesn’t keep your metabolic rate up afterwards as much as heavy lifting or H.I.I.T. In addition to that, distance running can leave you feeling starving that night or the next day. Because of this, you’ll probably consume more calories on your actual WO day, and burn less the following day.
 
It is possible to lose weight when training for a marathon without compromising your recovery and strength, but it’s not easy. This fall, I had to drop 12 lbs for a fight, at the same time that I was training for a 100 mile run. In order to make weight for the fight I had to lose 1 lb a week, and of course I was running long distances to train for the race. I’m not one for unhealthy diet tricks or skimping on recovery, so during this process I dialled in on a few healthy ways to keep both goals on track.
 
Here are my top 8 tips to help cut the pounds.

1. No booze

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Yup, this one sucks, I know. Aside from the excess calories, booze will hinder your weight loss by messing with how you metabolize nutrients. Once you consume even a single drink, your body stops burning any other fuel (carbs, fat, or protein) in your system until it’s finished with the alcohol.

 

 

2. Do a few of your workouts fasted 

One or two workouts a week fasted will bump fat loss for the day. When you work out fasted, you are using fat stores for energy instead of the immediate supply of glucose from your meal.

3. Get cold 

The main point here is that your body burns extra calories while trying to keep warm. On a more detailed level, when your body is cold it activates brown fat, which burns through calories trying to acclimatize to the temperature. Never heard of brown fat? Get a deeper look here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699856/.

4. On race day or long run day you must EAT                                                      

Fuel during the race, fuel after, just eat. You know you need to burn more calories than you eat to lose weight, but this doesn’t need to be every day. If you’re overall consumption for the week is lower than what you put out, you’re still in a deficit. Fuel during races, demanding long runs, or any excessive training days. Trust me on this one, if you skimp on big days, you’ll end up too far in a hole and it may lead to a binge later in the week. Fuel your body! Remember, performance is your first goal.

5. Track your macros

You need to be 100% aware of what is in your body. Make sure your protein is up, your fats are within reason, and your carbs are timed around your workouts. I can almost eyeball a meal and get within 5 grams of my macros at this point, and I still lack protein when I’m not focused. Track for a few weeks, make sure you’re hitting your protein goals and are dialled in on what you’re consuming. It’s also really easy to overestimate intake of peanut butter and other high density foods. While they are healthy and beneficial, a serving size is actually only 15grams, which is far less than the standard kitchen spoon.
 
** need help setting up your macro goals? Email me and we will get you sorted

6. Mix in a strength training day

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Strength training is key for weight loss. Lifting will ramp up your metabolic rate throughout the day. Multi joint movements and high tempo lifting will double as a cardio workout at the same time as creating more lean muscle mass. They won’t leave you as hungry at the end of the day, plus you’ll burn more calories when sitting later. It’s a double whammy.

7. Yerba Mate tea 

All the energy of coffee but rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. According to https://bebrainfit.com it may help burn fat by by ‘reducing appetite, increasing energy expenditure, improving insulin sensitivity, and burning stored fat.’  https://bebrainfit.com/yerba-mate-benefits/.  Whenever I’m cutting weight, I consume only one cup of coffee and stick to Yerbe Mate tea for the rest of the day.

8. Consider the smashed phone rule 

If you dropped your phone and it got a tiny crack, would you decide, ‘ah well it’s already broken I might as well run it over?’ Probably not. Apply the same principal to your nutrition. If you eat a cookie or have a drink, just return to your plan, you have not completely broken yourself with that one slip!
 
Just remember that if your goal is performance, you need to fuel your body first and foremost. Try these tips, but be sure to listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs! 

 

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The Power Hike

A good friend of mine from my hockey days is running a 50km trail race this summer. This person is a serious athlete and one of the best hockey players I know. Since she’s an elite athlete I assumed the fundamentals of race strategy would be innate knowledge for her. During our conversation, however, she said, “but I have to hike the up hills, so it’s not really a run for me.” “Hold up,” I said, “You are NOT supposed to run the up all of the hills. You are doing it right. Power hiking is a more efficient & more time effective strategy.”

 

A trail race of any distance is almost guaranteed to have a few steep accents during the course. Attempting to run fast up these hills will empty your gas tank in a hurry, and worse than that, you’ll often find that you’re not even moving much faster!

 

Solution?

 

Master the art of the power hike. Power hiking is different from regular hiking, first and foremost because you are still attacking that hill with purpose. Secondly, you’re using your entire body to get up the trail as efficiently as possible. Here are a few key tips to help you master the power hike.

 

1.     Lean forward

In order to properly use your body you have to lean forward. A great system is to try to keep your upper body parallel to the grade of the ground. You’ll be able to fight gravity most efficiently in this position. As a bonus, it uses different muscles and might give you a little more pop in your run post climb.

 

2.     Use your hands

Look through photos of trail races and you often see racers using poles. On climbs, the poles help runners push off the ground and make their steps more powerful. However, many races don’t allow poles, so while you’re power hiking you can use your arms to create the same effect. Try this by putting your hands on your knees and pushing into your legs as you climb.   

 

3.     Practice

Power hiking isn’t terribly complicated, but it should be practiced before race day. The downside of the power hike is that you’re in a more crunched over position and may find that your back gets sore or that you’re not able to fill your lungs to capacity. Spend a little time even once a week on your power hiking form so that you’re not caught off guard during the race.

 

4.     Get comfortable with your own timing

One of the most difficult things during a race is forgetting your own strategy and getting caught up in what the guy next to you is doing. Practice a few longer runs and get comfortable and confident on the grade that you’ll be hiking, deciding when to run and when to slow down.

 

5.     Practice the transition

When you get to the top of a steep hike and the road flattens out, use that flat to run! This is a fitness component as well, so must be practiced in training. There are often few flats to pick up speed during a trail race, so be sure to use them all to your advantage.

 

Where to start - Get out there and give it a try! 

5 reasons why trail running can make you happier

It’s the beginning of a new year. People are discussing their resolutions and goals and hoping to keep them past Feb 1. While I’m not a huge fan of resolution making, I do like the fundamental reason why we do this. Essentially, we are all looking at our life and wondering what change can we make that will make us happier.

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With this collective desire to make positive change in mind, I thought you might like to hear how one addition to my life, trail running, has made me happier, and might do the same for you.

1. The act of being in nature scientifically makes you happier

 “Science is proving what we've always known intuitively: nature does good things to the human brain—it makes us healthier, happier, and smarter”– Natural Geographic

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

The obvious part here is that when trail running, you are in nature. The part that is harder to explain, is that trail running forces you to connect with your surroundings in a deeper way. Racing through the forest is overwhelming and all encompassing. Your stress dissipates, your mind feels free, and your body seems to work better. You’re not just standing or observing, you’re learning and growing, you’re experiencing the terrain. Each step takes focus and care. It’s a straight line to mindfulness. You leave the forest feeling euphoric.

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2. The community

Trail running is a beautiful thing, but without question it’s also a physical and mental battle.

During the race you become a tribe with your fellow racers. I’ve met some of the most amazing people on the trails. I’ve listened to their stories and told them mine. Cold, wet, exhausted, or drained, runners will still hang around the finish line to rehash the route and marvel in what they have just finished. Trail racing is guaranteed to introduce you to a new world of like-minded people.

3. The places it takes you

Race directors hand pick trails that are some of the most gorgeous places you will ever see. If you want to truly see what your province, state, or country has to offer, go sign up for a trail race. Right now.

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4. The overall health & fitness benefits

Signing up for a race gives you an immediate sense of outer accountability.  It will keep you on track and get you out the door when you need a little push.

One of the best parts of preparing for the trails is that you train like a complete athlete. Even a short race will have you climbing hills, descending steep sections, rocky sections, or leaping over logs. You’ll have flat sections for speed and tricky sections for balance. You’ll need both an aerobic and anaerobic base. Here are a few keys things you get to work on when you train for the trails:

Balance

Agility

Speed

Strength

Focus

Quickness

Pacing

Cardio

Endurance

Mental Toughness

5. The sense of adventure and accomplishment.

This one is hard to explain. It must be experienced. There is a sense of mystique taking off into the trails. It’s about the awe and wonder about starting in to a beautiful unknown territory

There are moments during almost every race where you suddenly realize you haven’t seen a little ribbon marker for a while. That you’ve probably gone the wrong way and have to find your way back to the route. You might find you are running alone, have no idea where you are and seem to wish you had more food or water. That’s as raw as it gets for some of us these days. It’s just you, out there in the most beautiful places, trying to go as fast as you can. It’s a real adventure and will leave you glowing.

 

Sounds interesting?

Step One:

Choose your race. You don’t need to make any commitments today. Start with researching races around you. Trails come in all shapes and sizes. 5km to 100km and beyond, flat or mountains, just start daydreaming. See what catches your attention.

And always remember, any distance is doable if you decide you want to do it.

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Define Your Why: My Story

I remember the first time I signed up for a race that scared me to the core. I was sitting on a ferry with a knot in my stomach that had been there since the day I left my fiancé, just two months before our wedding.

On this day I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed a challenge. I needed something to work towards and focus on.

I needed to feel like I was strong, and that I could get through anything I put my mind to. 
I opened my computer to get some work done and randomly saw an ad for an Ironman triathlon. I signed up on the spot. I didn’t know what the distances were, how triathlon worked, or if I could still swim. I was immediately excited. Then I thought I’d throw up.

This would mark the beginning of an 8 month journey that would forever change my perspective on fitness, mindset, and accomplishment. 

Calling off my wedding was the single hardest thing I had done to date. There is the obvious heart break that goes along with the break up, but it’s amplified by the loss of what could have been. Deciding to forgo your big day in hopes of finding something better is both sad and scary. What if this is the person I am supposed to marry and I just have cold feet? I was so sure at one point, am I wrong again?

I had hoped that once I made the decision things would start to get easier. Ultimatley I decided that when I got married it would be with someone I had no doubts with. I made the choice, I called it off, but the pain didn’t stop as abruptly as I’d hoped.

The problem with having planned a wedding is you can’t just forget about the person. You have to spend time explaining the change to your guests. You have to call the caterers, the DJ, the venue. Worst of all, you have to try and get some money back for your cancelled honeymoon. As much as you want to just move on, logistically you can’t start the process yet.

I knew I needed something else to focus my energy on. The allure of the Ironman was a perfect.

The first thing I did was get a coach. I knew I was in over my head and needed guidance. He set me up with a plan and I began my journey to become an Ironman. 

Each day I had a workout to focus on. In the evenings I spent time researching outfits, race strategies, bike gear, running gear, swim technique, the list goes on.

Having a race that was so daunting rejuvenated me. Each day I was able to prove to myself that I had courage, strength, and the ability to do whatever I put my mind to. It was a constant reminder that life has unlimited gifts to offer. 

After 8 months of training I was ready for the race. My goal was 13 hours, and I crossed the finish line in 12 hours and 59 minutes. It was absolutely one of the most magical, tough, and life changing days of my life. 

Nearly four years later I’m still reaping the benefits. I no longer live in fear of change or unworthiness. I feel ready for whatever the world might throw in my direction. I know I’m strong, and I’ll never forget that because I proved it to myself.

Motivation Continued

Training, specifically the occasional really tough session, strengthens your mindset in a way that transfers to your entire life. In those difficult physical moments you can train your brain to react with a certain mental toughness that can not only get you through races, competitions, and training, but also through work, relationships and any curve ball life throws at you. You can train your brain and create better habits. 

What is mental toughness?  Let’s break it down. 

Quitting in the middle of a work out or eating foods we know make us sick are not physical limitations, they are situations in which we listened to the little voice in our head that said:
"I can’t”
“I'm not good enough”
"I'm tired"
Mental Toughness is having the ability to work through these moments and push your limitations instead of listening to this voice. It's the ability to stay motivated to make healthy choices day to day. It  means having positivity and not giving up when something goes wrong. 

How do we change it?
It’s pretty simple actually, we just teach that little voice to be on our side. 

Step One: Bringing awareness to your everyday self talk

Ever hear yourself saying things like "I'll just eat the cookie, I already blew it anyways! God, I look awful in this shirt". Would you ever talk to your best friend like that? I hope not! So why do we think it's okay  to speak ourselves that way? Start by noticing your inner voice when it tries to bring you down. Simply acknowledge the feeling and keep going. You don’t have to act on any of those thoughts, or believe them for that matter. Instead of immediately reaching for the chips, think, "interesting, my brain wants me to eat those chips, but in reality I want to feel good, so I don't them". You'll be surprised at how calling out your cravings and thoughts actually starts to change  your mindset. Every time you stop and don't act on the thought, you are breaking that habit and rewiring your brain to make better decisions. 

Step Two: The 3rd Person

3rd person self talk is a tool for in the heat of the moment when you start to struggle. 

For many years I thought my self talk meant I was crazy. Since I can remember I’ve referred to myself as ‘Hil’ any time I was doing any difficult like sprinting up a trail, “common Hil, you can do this”  or “just get through the next 30 seconds, you can do anything for 30 seconds”.
 
The main thing I noticed is I am 100% more positive when I’m thinking like this.
As it turns out, according to Psychology Today the top performers in business and athletics all consistently refer to themselves in the 3rd person. The science behind it? “Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain. That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.” -  Jason Moser, http://msutoday.msu.edu

Next time you feel like quitting, give it a try! Maybe even practice it when you're face to face with those chips. Nobody will hear you so why not right? 

With these two tools you can train your brain to be a positive influence, break through your limits, and stay motivated

Quick Tip - Walking!

"Canadian study found that women who walked briskly for about an hour a day decreased their belly fat by 20% after just fourteen weeks without- listen to this, this is the most important part, without changing their diet habits", Shawn Stevenson from the Model Health Show. 

The key - timing!

Instead of walking 60 minutes straight, try and split it up. Quick work outs throughout the day will keep your metabolism and energy boosted for the duration. 

George Washington University professor, Dr. Loretta DiPietro, found that walking for just 15 minutes after you eat a meal helps reduce your blood sugar response, which is a key to weight loss.

My advice? Check out this podcast at http://theshawnstevensonmodel.com/benefits-of-walking/ and get walking after every meal, for just 15 minutes!