Friday, March 4, 2016

5 Fun Facts about Running that You May Not Have Known #YakTrax

Race preparation is in full swing, and I'm always looking for an edge in my performance. Of course, who isn't? It's always fun and interesting to see what everyone thinks will make them perform better on the road. Being a science geek, I'm all about the research behind the information, and I've had a little bit of fun reviewing the latest data. I thought I'd share some of my findings with you!

5 Fun Facts About Running that You May not Have Known


So did you know....

Strength Training can make you faster:

Of course, you knew this. My n=1 (me-so unscientific) could tell you this is true. But while anecdotes make for great stories, I like to rely on research when making training decisions. This review of multiple studies of strength training and running found overwhelmingly that strength training makes runners faster. In all the studies, the runners trained for 8-12 weeks, 2-3 days on average. The weight regimens varied but were mostly low volume, low repetitions. This comes as no surprise to me. But now we have proof that it's a thing.

5 Fun Facts about Running that you May Not Have Known

What are the best running shoes? Minimalist or maximalist? Motion control?

How about the shoes that feel the best? Seriously? A large retrospective study found that the best shoes for runners were not always the ones you would think. Pronators didn't need motion control shoes. Trying to "fix" a runner's gait with shoes often led to injuries. The researchers suggested that runners try on several different pairs of shoes, run in them in the store, and buy the ones that were the most comfortable. Do what feels good.

As far as type of shoes--minimalist vs maximalist, there is no definitive data to date. But I found this amazing review from Harvard University which analyzes all things foot strike.  Barefoot runners land on their forefoot, while "shod" runners (wearing shoes) mostly heel strike. And the answer to that ever present question: is heel striking bad? No! Good news for this heel striker. If you desire more information on this topic, chase the link. And the Gait Guys-yep, they have a blog--analyze the potential impact of Hoka, the most maximal shoes around. What do they say? It's all theoretical, but they are concerned that the Hokas make a runner land harder. Just because they can. Stay tuned.

Me, I'll just stick to my super cushy but not over the top Asics Gel Nimbus. Since I'm a born heel striker, they cushion my landing. They've brought me lots of good miles over the years. If it feels good, do it, right?

5 Fun Facts About Running That You May Not Have Known

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering...what are the most popular shoes? Nike, followed by Brooks, Adidas, and Asics. Just do it.

The best fuel for the long run? It's still out for debate.

I was thrilled this week to find out that I was chosen to represent my favorite long distance fuel, Tailwind Nutrition. This fuel has been used with great success by ultramarathoners, and I figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Tailwind has been a recipe for success, at least for this runner. I have a ton of tummy issues and have struggled with fueling over the years. Tailwind is a liquid fuel, and it is the first fuel I've used that hasn't sent me running to the portapotty. The company motto is, after all, "no gut bombs".

The use of carbohydrates to fuel during an endurance event and their effectiveness has been well studied. So what's new in the world of endurance fuel?

Everyone's looking for an edge. Right now, they're looking at protein.

There's been plenty of evidence to support the use of protein for recovery. This large systematic review found overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that protein following an endurance workout benefits muscle anabolism, which may lead to improved recovery of muscle function and performance. But what about during an endurance event? Should we take protein along with our carbs? The results have been mixed, and since protein has to be digested, it's probably best for those of us with tummy issues to stick to our simple carbohydrates.

Remember, there is no magic fuel, no matter what you hear. There are a ton of options out there, and every manufacturer wants you to believe that their fuel will make you run faster, farther, and even avoid the wall. Find the fuel that works best for you. Make sure you road test your fuel choices on your long runs. Don't be "that" runner...

5 Fun Facts About Running That You May Not Have Known

Heat Training is a simple as taking a hot bath after a run.

Last year, as I was preparing for the Sarasota Half Marathon, I started doing "heat training". I knew from past experience that running a race in Florida in March was going to be a huge challenge coming from the polar vortex I had been running in all winter. So to simulate running in warm conditions, I ran on my treadmill wearing heavy sweats and a hat. No fan. Let me tell you how much it sucked. But as the weeks went on, I developed tolerance to those runs and got faster. I never was able to try out my training, as I had to defer that race to this year. But I did run a local half that ended up being a PR for me.

Turns out I was onto something.

Besides running in heavy clothing on the treadmill, what else is there for a runner to do to prep for a warm climate race? If only I had a sauna...but I don't. I do have a bathtub! And as it turns out, researchers have been looking at hot baths as a way to acclimate to the heat. This 6 day study looked at runners who took a 40 minute hot bath after a 40 minute run in temperate conditions. The runners ran 5% faster in hot conditions, but no faster in temperate conditions. Still, it would be worth a try! Who doesn't like a hot bath? I wonder if my husband would install a hot tub on our deck? For heat acclimation purposes..


This year I haven't been doing heat training to prepare for that Florida race (which is in about a week). I'm training for my full marathon and haven't been doing treadmill runs. Shame on me. But my focus has really been on my marathon. This Florida half is just a training run. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Pretty sure I'm going to be humbled by that Florida heat and humidity. Been there, done that.

Oh, and by the way, heat isn't the only devil. In my research for this post, I also learned that ice baths may interfere with training gains. Researchers examined strength and inflammatory markers in subjects who took ice baths after a strength workout. Interestingly, subjects did worse on performance after the ice bath; inflammatory markers (which are an indication of tissue damage and are elevated after a workout) were still elevated after the ice baths. The perfect excuse for me not to submerge myself in ice.

Running in the cold

The ideal temp for running is 52F. Right now, that sounds downright balmy to me. While we've not spent much time in the polar vortex this winter, it has been seasonally chilly. Why does running in the bitter cold feel as hard as running in 90F? Maybe I tend not to fuel properly in cold weather runs. The cold temps give the illusion that my effort isn't as hard--I'm not sweating as much. According to this article on Runners Academy, once the outside temperature drops below 32F, you start to see an impact on your pace. This is due to a variety of factors, and bottom line, runners need to pay as much attention to fueling and hydration as they do in the heat. Dressing warmly is a good idea too!

5 Fun Facts About Running That You May Not Have Known

While we are on the subject of cold weather running, I want to talk about running safely when the conditions are less than ideal. You all know I run outdoors no matter what the conditions. So when YakTrax contacted me to review their latest model, I was all over it. I've run with YakTrax for many years with great success. I couldn't wait to test the new model. But there was one issue. We've had little to no snow this winter. The last time I ran in my old pair of YakTrax was November, when we got that foot of snow. I was a little nervous about agreeing to trial these because I didn't know if the weather would cooperate!

Anyways, even though the groundhog said winter was over, we all know that Mother Nature is a fickle beast. She's teased us with some really warm days, but we've also gotten a bit of snow this past week. I was glad simply because I wanted to put my new Yak Trax to the test. These were an upgrade from my previous pairs (I've owned 2 pairs prior to this). Like the YakTrax I've used in the past, they slip over my shoes, and stay put with a velcro strap across my forefoot. This model has a strap that attaches to the toe piece, and that gave them a little extra security. I ran in about an inch or 2 of crusty snow and felt very confident that I wouldn't slip. My pace was a little slower than it would have been without the YakTrax, but that is to be expected since the YakTrax do make your shoes a little stiffer.

Running on snow with the YakTrax is much easier on your legs than running on the pavement. Obviously, they aren't intended for use on dry pavement but when I'm running in the neighborhood, it can't be avoided completely. In the past when I've run with my YakTrax, I've found that I'm more sore than when I run in just my shoes. The other comment I have is that the old YakTrax did not completely prevent you from slipping on ice. The old model just had coils and when I ran in those, I did have some wipe outs on black ice. This model has spikes on them, which is new. Hopefully, the spikes will give the runner a little more traction in icy conditions. I didn't have any slippage on my test run.

I highly recommend YakTrax if you like to run or walk outside and have to contend with snow. I love this product. But I hope this is the last time this season that I have to use them!

5 Fun Facts About Running That you May Not Have Known

YakTrax sent me a pair in exchange for my unbiased review.

What new things have you recently learned that has benefited your running? What's your favorite fuel? Is your pace affected by temperature extremes? Shoes--minimal, maximal, or moderate?

I'm linking up with the Friday Five aka the DC Trifecta: Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia












73 comments:

  1. It always amazes me when people post in FB groups and on forums asking for suggestions for running shoes. How does anybody else know what features you're looking for and/or what will be most comfortable on your feet? Although I suggest that everybody be properly fit for shoes, finding the right shoes for you is all about trial and error and finding what feels most comfortable on your feet.

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    1. And now we have the science to back it up!

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  2. The heat training date is really interesting. When I am running in the summer heat and humidity here in NC, it can be brutal, but I know it will be helpful for fall racing. Fueling for a long run is such an individual thing, and I feel quite lucky that I can use ordinary gels. However, there are several people I run with who have tried practically every product on the market and are still looking. One even made her own energy balls to carry!

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    1. I agree--how did I not know that I have been heat training all along? Espom salt baths > ice baths :D

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    2. Hot baths for the win!

      Like with the shoes, seems like fueling is highly individual. Really, the only common denominator is carbs.

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  3. I never heard of heat training - interesting concept!

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    1. I hadn't hear of it until last year..and was pleasantly surprised. But it makes sense, if you think about it.

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  4. Nice collection Wendy! I would guess you've been talking to my coach - he shares similar info with me ;) he's a big one of not trying to change someone's natural patterns of movement - run stride, cycling cadence, etc - unless there's an injury resulting from the natural movement pattern. With sufficient repetition our bodies will self select the most efficient way to transport our own physiology. Fascinating, but it does make sense.

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    1. I think everyone is just trying to find that magic ingredient to make them run faster!

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  5. I'm definitely with you on the strength training thing! And like you - I say "just do you". Everyone is different in their likes and dislikes, so find what works best for you and Just do it!! Re: shoes, nutrition, clothes, training!

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    1. I agree! A lot of people just don't know where to start. And there are so many self made experts out there, it can be hard to know what to do.

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  6. That heat training stuff is interesting! It makes sense, but it would never occur to me to take a bath after a run.

    And - I'm a huge fan of strength training! Plus, I just can't run every day...need to mix it up!

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    1. I think a hot bath after a run is a lot less tempting than say, one before bedtime. But it sure beats running in the heat!

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  7. It was in the mid 40s when I ran in NYC on Tuesday - it felt glorious! I am ready for some milder weather but not Florida-style!

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    1. I am so ready for my Florida trip! Slow pace and all!

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  8. I always thought the reason I ran slower then it is maybe like less than 15 degrees outside was because I was wearing so many layers- and maybe that is part of it? But from what you are saying, it could be the actual temp slowing me down too!

    As far as fuel, I totally agree there is NO magic formula. A friend of mine is running a marathon, and even though she ran one before, it was like 10 years ago. She keeps asking me what to eat and drink and I am trying to assure her there is not just one option. Experiment and find what you like.

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    1. It has to do with cold muscles as well as increased lactic acid production in the colder weather. This was really interesting for me to learn about!

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  9. I've only recently over the last couple of months started strength training to coincide with my running schedule and it's been going really well. Whilst I don't seem to be any faster, I do feel stronger/can run for longer on my runs which is definitely a positive!

    Interesting to hear about heat training (though I dislike having baths!). I HATE running in the heat.. so much so that I didn't run for 2 weeks on holiday as it was too hot and I just don't cope well at all. Fortunately, we don't have THAT many hot days here in the UK and normally it's bearable. ;)

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    1. We get have extreme temps in Chicago--polar vortex in the winter and brutally hot humid conditions in the summer! But usually we have time to acclimate to the heat.

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  10. I am curious about heat training. I have a race in September that is exposed (no trees, no shade) and it is generally very, very hot. I got sick a few years ago when I ran it because I was not used to the heat. Good post. I think it's important to look at the current research. I agree with the strength training. I am a lapsed crossfitter!

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    1. The heat is my biggest challenge. I can deal with the cold (you can layer and peel as you go) but with the heat you have to really pace yourself. Note to self for next Sunday.

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  11. I think I've been getting faster this training cycle, and now I'm wondering if weight training and boot camp are the reasons for it? If so, awesome!! :)

    I've fallen into the trap of overthinking my running gait/form, now I just make sure I wear shoes that are comfortable. The Nike Pegasus are my favorite of all time! I land sort of mid-foot and wear neutral shoes, but I recently received some shoes with a lower drop that I'm curious of whether they'll work out for me...

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    1. The Nike Air Pegasus were my first loves. Then Nike did an overhaul and they didn't work for me anymore. I've since moved on...

      I tried a lower drop shoe and it gave me shin splints! Back to my Asics...

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  12. Have never done the hot bath but have definitely done the ice bath. I still think it helped me in recovery. Big fan of YakTrax! They don't help on ice, but snow they definitely make a difference.

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    1. Oooh, I'm cold just thinking about an ice bath. Nope. And now I know it doesn't help all that much, so I"m good... :p

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  13. For YEARS I ran in minimal-ish shoes. Not barefoot, but maybe 4 mm drop maximum, with little cushioning. I recently switched to some "maximial" shoes, and despite the low drop, my legs and feet are a mess. I'd be interested in reading that Harvard study about the maximal shoes !

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    1. The Harvard study was actually about minimalist shoes. There isn't a ton of data on the maximalist shoes yet. I'm sure it's coming. We do like our extremes, don't we?

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  14. Great info! That's interesting about the Hokas making a runner land harder. I haven't tried Tailwind Nutrition yet and I'm thinking about it. Those Yaktrax look cool! Strength training is definitely helping with my running.

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    1. Some "experts" liken those super cushy shoes to landing on a trampolene and having to "stick the landing". I don't know if that's a fair comparison. It's an interesting theory, tho!

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  15. I think Nike is the top seller because its the only brand kids/teens/young adults will entertain. All these high school track teams. All Nike. All the time. The lady next door (who moved out) has a hot tub on her deck just begging me to trespass.

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    1. That is so true! My youngest would only buy the Nike running shoes he needed for rugby conditioning.

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  16. I'm so glad to read this about strength training, I mean I knew it was good for you but it's always nice to have studies to back up your knowledge. I don't know how much "faster" I've gotten but I KNOW I'm much better prepared to tackle a long hard run than before. I think the proof is in the pudding, no I mean the recovery... ;) I recover much better because I put in my strength training.
    Fascinating info on heat training too. Had no idea about using the bathtub either, course I don't think I'll be testing this, lol. I think I've got running down pat in the Mississippi heat! Great post Wendy! Have an awesome weekend!

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    1. Yep,you've got built in heat training. Some of us have a little tougher time getting it done this time of year! Come join me in Sarasota next weekend! There's still available bibs.

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  17. You are so smart to prepare for the warmer weather. Ii never do and sometimes it affects me like last Dec but this past Feb, it was freezing in FL.

    I haven't needed my YakTrax this winter - YAY!

    I only take GU for long runs - so far so good. I'm afraid to switch. I may need more if I were as fast as you LOL.

    Finally found my perfect shoe - one that doesn't hurt my foot - NIKE Zoom Vomero 10s. Happy Runner!

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    1. I didn't heat train this year. So my mantra for Sarasota will be to pace myself. You know me...that's going to be my biggest challenge.

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  18. CrossFit has helped my running so much! I also tend to run A LOT slower in the cold. My muscles just freeze haha.

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    1. No kidding! Those frozen muscles don't do much...

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  19. I love running in those low 50's- it really is the best- a little bit of a shock at first but the best! Don't worry about that Florida humidity, remember I will be behind you! I think yoga has had a big impact on my running too- makes me feel great and stronger little bit by little bit!

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  20. That heat training sounds brutal, but totally worth it for us Floridians. I run at 5am to avoid the sun, but I may be doing a disservice to myself by doing so. Thanks for the heads up.

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    1. Probably not! I'm sure it's pretty warm at that time of day! In the summer here in Chicago, I get up before the sun too. It actually makes my runs more enjoyable.

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  21. My #1 criteria for fueling - it must not contain any sugar alcohol (Xylitol, Sorbitol, etc.) That is just a recipe for gut disaster (not everyone is affected that way, but I am super sensitive to it.)

    I'm getting better with the heat, the price I pay to live in paradise! I just make sure I take my Endurolytes and have water with me.

    I run in a more traditional shoe (8 mm heel drop) Nearly 20 years without any serious long term injury - I'm not messing with that!

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    1. I am a label reader too, which is why the only gel I can stomach is Clif. It contains cane sugar. Otherwise I'm stoppin...

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  22. I'm working on strength, something I didn't do enough of last year. I hope to get faster. Also, I haven't found my "go-to" fuel as of yet (pre-run). I'm going to try smoothies which is something I've only tried once. I live in Birmingham, AL so spring/summer is usually my heat training. I always hate it, but I do believe it helps!

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    1. My pre-workout fuel is coffee and chocolate soy milk. Works for me..

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  23. I wholeheartedly agree with you on strength training and think it is especially important as we age. Love my yaktrax too!

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    1. That aging thing is exactly why I started strength training. That and I can't do those high miles anymore.

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  24. I haven't taken an ice bath since I trained for my first full marathon in 2008 - and then I was training through the ridiculously hot VA summer, so the baths felt good.

    I know I need to strength train more. I still suck at getting myself to do it though.

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    1. Oh, I'd never do strength training on my own. I definitely need my coach to push me!

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  25. Great post!! I have been intrigued with Hokas but went the opposite direction bc I don't like a lot of cushioning.

    I applaude you for your heat training. 😂

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    1. I'm intrigued by Hokas, but you know us old folks. Change is hard.

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  26. No magic potion found, yet. I won some Tailwind which I have yet to try. But, I will. I want to hear a brilliant suggestion for training in humidity. For me, it's not necessarily the heat -- kinda used to that one, but the moisture in the air. I guess we can run on the TM in the steam room? Actually, I wish I had one of those handy. Enjoy your trip to sunny and warm Florida!

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    1. What do they say? It ain't the heat, it's the humidity? Isn't that the truth! Wish you could join me in Florida!

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  27. Interesting study on heat training, although I can't remember the last time I took a bath! Funny you mention running shoes - I've tried minimal Nike Frees to maximal Hokas - both didn't work for my feet and eventually settled for the type of shoes I've been wearing which are stability shoes, the Asics GTs currently works best for my feet but I hate it when they update the shoes each year and the shoes I was used to wearing become endangered.

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    1. Same here--I don't routinely take baths. Altho if I had a hot tub, that would be a different story!

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  28. Oh that bathtub/heat thing is interesting. So is the shoe thing. My PT use to run competitively for Nike and says those are the worst shoes and so cheaply made. I never ran in nikes so I don't have an opinion on that.
    I do like the super cushy shoes but have also heard they may promote injuries. This concept I am very interested in. I'd love to have a discussion with you just about shoes!!! -M

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    1. I'd welcome it! I should probably write a whole post on shoes--heck, I've had so many foot issues I could write a book!

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  29. Thank you for saying that running in the bitter cold is hard because I felt like there was something wrong with me! When its mid 20s or below my legs take SO long to warm up and do not want to move as fast.
    I got my first pair of Yaktrax this year (I think the newest version) and they've worked great so far!

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    1. I was glad to learn that about the cold, but I pretty much knew it from experience! Those legs just don't want to go when it's bitter cold!

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  30. So interesting... You may know that I run in the Nike Free, and did the entire marathon in them. Everyone is always surprised that I run in a barefoot shoe, but that is what works best for me. Someone in my running group gave me a sample of tailwind and swears by it, but I haven't tried it yet. You've convinced me to give it a try on my next long run. I definitely get GI issues, although they have been getting better over the years.

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    1. You have to do what works for you! I wish my GI issues were getting better but that isn't the case. The Tailwind has been a godsend for me.

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  31. Good to know about the ice bathes because I HATE them!!!! I am going to look into using tailwind for training for my first ultra if I can ever get this stupid foot healed!

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    1. I've been having foot issues too. I just don't go to the doctor so no one tells me to stop running! :p

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  32. I'm a horrible wimp. As a Californian, I find it extremely difficult to run in wind, cold (anything below 40), or rain. Just can't. won't. I love love love running in the bright warm sun....i know, i know....so bad. That said, I ran Boston in 2003 in 80plus degrees, the hottest on record at the time, and it felt AWESOME.....poor east coasters. I imagine it's just what we are used to....and regardless of acclimating, it's the weather with which we associate our sweet sweet endorphins. ;)

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    1. I envy that ability to run in the heat so easily. I had several friends run the LA marathon recently, and the heat didn't seem to faze them. Last year's Chicago marathon was about 80 degrees on the back half, and I just wilted...

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  33. You so reminded me to try the tailwind that I bought! Everyone at the trail running camp I went to back in October totally raved about it. I keep forgetting to try it! Tomorrow for sure!! I don't even know what my shoes are considered, regular I guess. I've worn the same style for years and years Mizuno Wave Creation. I guess they'd be considered more cushy, like not minimal at all. I love strength training and seeing your strength training pictures on your blog posts!!!

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    1. Trail running camp sounds like so much fun! I never knew there was such a thing!

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  34. I love this post! I am definitely going to have to try tailwind, I had so many stomach issues during my first marathon and I don't want a repeat of they this year! I am thankful that I now live in Florida and have no need for yaktrax

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    1. I'm heading to Florida this week! I'm excited for some warm weather!

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  35. So much great info in one little post. Yes, I agree, Wendy, whatever shoe works best for you is the best running shoe. Had I not found my maximal Hokas about 3 months ago, I'm not sure if I would be still running at this point. They really keep my foot pain at bay.
    It doesn't surprise me that strength training makes you a better runner, it strengthens your body as a whole. If I were still living Up North, I would definitely get Yak Trax, as well. I remember me slip sliding away though ice and storm in New York - not funny! Or maybe a little:):)
    One more week and you'll be facing the Florida heat Wendy! Mid day it's already in the mid 80s! You can do it though, you're a tough cookie and that Half will only be your warm up before the Marathon anyway! I'll be cheering you on from Palm Beach! Love the pic in the snow! I miss running in the cold, believe it or not:)

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    1. I'm pretty sure that I'll be running this one slow! The heat and I are not friends, when it comes to running! Now if I could get my foot to behave...

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  36. I switched to Nike Free sneakers last summer and I love them! After suffering hip pain, and shin splints, the minimalist were one thing that helped, weight training was another huge help!

    The more I read on fueling, the more I see that it's a personal choice for every runner! I am the crazy person who can eat a bagel with cream cheese and half a cup of coffee before a race, and do just fine. Where if my fiancé has anything more than a protein bar, he wills like he will throw up. I'm learning how to fuel for a marathon, and so far, two bites of a trail mix cookie half way through long runs help me finish the run.

    Thank you for the information !

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  37. Gotta love the Nimbus!! Definitely my go to shoe as well as I am a natural born heel striker too and I love the cushion. I've been doing a lot of strength training recently. Not as hard core as you, but when I was running I definitely noticed a difference!

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