Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Secrets to Success: 8 Minutes to a Stronger Core

When I first started at Ferris State seven years ago, I was introduced to a part of my body called a "core". I had no idea what this meant; in high school all I had ever done was run. Other than messing around on a few machines at the gym, and playing with a medicine ball from time to time, there was no consistency with my supplemental exercises.

As you know now, I am the queen of doing "the little things" to make sure I am ready for race day. For six years I did 12-14 minutes almost every day; variations of planks, crunches, and other ab exercises that would strengthen my core. This would make my running form better....which would lead to me running more efficient....efficient running=faster running.

Around a year ago, all motivation disappeared for core strengthening. Doing abs became a chore. If you said "Lets do Abs!", I would respond with "ugh". I ended up only doing abs around twice per month, finding various excuses of why I missed yet another day of it.

This summer I realized this needed to change, but I had worn out those exercises from college, and it was time for something new.

By only doing a few minutes of planks, followed by these exercises I am going to share with you, you can strengthen your core even better than you would with crunches and scissors. And whats even better, is that it can be done in under 8 minutes!

All you need, is a full length foam roller, and some concentration. This will also help remove the association of a foam roller with pain....this wonderful runner toy is still making you better, just with a burning sensation, rather than a muscle exploding!

Just incase you wanted to see my awkwardness in person!

I explain the exercises on my youtube channel, which you can find through the following links:

Secrets to Success: Planks


Secrets to Success: Foam Roller Core Strengthening Exercises

After you have watched the videos, you can print these out as prompts to help you.

Elite Athlete Tina Muir demonstrates the variations of planks she uses to strengthen her core to supplement her running.

Please try not to laugh at my look of concentration, these are tough!
Elite Athlete Tina Muir demonstrates the foam roller core strengthening exercises she uses to supplement her running.

After doing this, I feel it more in my lower abs, you know that deep part that tends to be the only part that never firms up....the part that stores those extra cookies you should not have consumed? I really feel a difference in strength in this area, and it also strengthens your hips, which we have all learned recently are critical in your success as a runner.

Hoepfully these help get you out of your core rut, just like they have for me.

Did you miss my other Secret to Success Posts? Check them out HERE

What core exercises do you do? Ever feel burned out from certain exercises to where they become a chore?

Would love you to follow me:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meatless Monday: How to Create the Perfect Grilled Flatbread

Happy Monday! 

I had a wonderful weekend. The highlight of which was spending four marvelous hours with one of my favorite people in the world. Lisa (tobi) is about to embark on The World Race (if you have not heard of it, you should check out her blog; absolutely incredible). She is one of those people I could talk for hours and hours, and yet never run out of things to talk about, and understands me on a level that almost no-one else can.

Steve has now left for Kentucky, and once I get the house packed up (and hopefully sold), I will be heading out there too!

Last week we decided to make the most of the grill before we packed it away, and made flatbreads. I know the combination of flavors may be a little adventurous for some of my readers, but I promise you it tastes wonderful; the tang of the gorgonzola is matched perfectly with the sweet of the pear and onion. The arugula adds its own peppery/spicy flavor that tops it off. This is definitely a gourmet pizza, but give it a try, and you will be open to a whole new world of possibilities! Or you could just use tomato paste and cheddar cheese....the choice is yours :)

How to Create the Perfect Grilled Flatbread; Pear, Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion from

Gorgonzola, Pear, and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

Preparation time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves 2 BIG flatbreads


1 serving flatbread dough (I adapted this recipe and made a half batch)
  • 1 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 cup warm water (should feel hot)
  • 1/4 cup warm milk 
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups flour  (I used 1 cup bread, 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1/3 onion, cut into slices
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil/butter
1- 1 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (I used BelGioioso)
1/2 pear, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup arugula
1/2 tbsp honey


For the Flatbread using Mel's Kitchen Cafe instructions (I edited to match this recipe)

  1. In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook), mix the yeast, honey, water, milk, oil, salt and 1/2 cup of the flour until well combined.
  2. Gradually add the remaining flour until a soft dough is formed. It will pull away from the sides of the bowl to form a ball but still be slightly soft to the touch (see the note). Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes until it is soft and smooth.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap; let rise until doubled, about an hour or so.
  4. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough pieces rest for 10-15 minutes (this helps relax the gluten so they are easier to roll out).

While the dough is resting, heat up the butter in a skillet over a medium high heat. Add the onions, and when soft, turn the heat down to low, and cook for 10-15 minutes until browned, and caramelized. Set aside.

Returning to the dough, working with one piece at a time, on a lightly greased or floured counter, roll the dough about 1/8-inch thick into a large circle, about 7-8 inches in diameter.

Rub one side of the flatbread with butter/spray. 

Place the greased side down onto a pizza stone over a high heat. Cover the side facing up with cooking spray/butter. Close the grill for 3-4 minutes, until the base of the stone is beginning to brown. 

Flip the flatbread, and immediately place toppings on; starting with 1/2 the gorgonzola, followed by the onion and argulua. Top with the other 1/2 gorgonzola, and drizzle the honey over the top. Close the grill, and cook until all the cheese is bubbly, and the base is browned slightly.

Remove, and allow to cool for 2 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (calculated on 1 cup cheese)

441 calories, 10g fat, 602mg sodium, 86g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 14g sugar, 0mg cholesterol, 4g protein

What strange combination of flavors have you tried and enjoyed? What have you grilled recently?

What #MeatlessMonday recipes do you have this week? Starting September, Deborah and I will be creating a weekly linkup together!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Adapting to Weather Changes: 10 Tips to Help Training in Heat

The last few posts have all been about major changes, and I think it is time for a post with some useful content for you to read. Therefore it is time for another Adapting to Weather Changes Post; If you missed the previous two posts, they can be found here:

Adapting to Weather Changes: Wind

Adapting to Weather Changes: Humidity

It is that time of year; the temperatures are high and there is a very short window early in the morning before the heat soars. This can make running somewhat difficult, as the sun beaming down on your head and the heat waves wiggling on the asphalt; make you feel like an egg on a frying pan. Or is that just me?

A study that analyzed over 1.7 million people in marathons all over the world over the course of 10 years, found that air temperature had the biggest impact on running performance. There was a significant correlation of high temperatures with a decrease in performance in each of the 60 races analyzed.

This graph shows the difference in performances as a whole for Chicago marathon in 2002 and 2007, where temperatures were 5.4 °C (41.7°F) and 25°C (77°F) respectively. Paris temperatures in 2002 also show the impact of temperature as temperatures were 7.6°C (45.6°F) and 17.4°C (63.6°F).

You can clearly see that in 2007, when temperatures were higher, performances were impacted.

However, this time of year, it can be impossible to avoid the heat, especially on long runs, and race start times are set. What can be done to prepare for training in the heat? Here is my advice on how to handle running in the summer.

Adapting to Weather Changes: 10 Tips for Training in the Heat by elite athlete Tina Muir

Be smart about time of day

If possible, try to run/workout before the sun fully rises in the morning, or later in the evening as the sun is setting, to avoid the sun beating down on your head. If you have a long run, be sure to start early so you only have a short amount of time in the heat.

I try to run in the heat of the day once per week as preparation for races that are on exceptionally hot days, but all my other runs are done early in the morning.

Stay in the shade as much as possible

If you must run/workout in the heat, it is best to go in covered areas as much as possible to limit the heat from the sun raising your body temperature even higher. 

Areas with tall trees are the best places to run in summer, as the trees block the sun, and therefore the heat.

Avoid running on black top surfaces

When the sun is out, asphalt and other black surfaces will reflect the heat back up, making it even hotter. Try to stay on lighter colored surfaces, or grass as much as possible.

This is also a great opportunity to give your body a break from the pounding of hard surfaces.

Use the correct accessories

Wear a hat to keep the sun off your face, again keeping you cooler, and providing a psychological boost.

It is also important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses often. Especially when it is a clear day and there are plenty of reflective surfaces around the city/town.

Dress appropriately

This means wearing loose fitting, sweat wicking fabrics, that will pull the sweat from your body and onto the material. This will keep your body temperature down as it helps the effectiveness of sweating for cooling your body down.

Some people also believe it is better to wear a T-shirt in warm weather to take the sweat off your skin as it cannot evaporate fast enough.

Reduce warm up time for workouts/races

Your muscles will warm up much faster as the temperature rises, which may reduce the amount of time you want to spend running beforehand to prevent overheating.

Slow down

Accept that running/training in the heat is much more strenuous on your body, as its priority is to keep your internal body temperature constant, therefore your performance becomes secondary. You will likely feel as though you are working much harder to run a slower pace, that is okay, everyone else is in the same position.

Even if you have multiple workouts in the heat, you will not lose fitness because once the temperature does drop, your body will be much more efficient. Think of all those fall races where you will be able to fly!

Place ice cubes/cooling packs on your wrists and the back of your neck

This helps to lower your body temperature prior to a race/workout. This is only temporary, but can relieve some of the psychological stress heat brings. 

I actually used this one when I raced in Texas, and found it was very helpful.

Use water cups for more than just drinking

If you are in a longer race where you have access to water cups (or have a Sherpa :P), drink as much as you can, and dump the rest over your head. You guessed it....this helps reduce your body temperature, and feels very refreshing!

Rehydrate rehydrate, rehydrate

This is THE MOST important of all. You will sweat a lot more in the summer, and will need to replenish that water as soon as possible. Weigh yourself (naked) before you run/workout, and then weigh yourself (naked again) when you return. The weight you lost during the workout is how much liquid you need to consume. On hot days you will also have to replenish your electrolytes. This is where I love to use Enduropacks to spray into any drink. Continue to drink lots of water until your pee is completely clear.

Do you like training in the heat? What other tips do you have for summer training?

Would love you to follow me:

Resources Helou, Nour ElTafflet, MurielBerthelot, GeoffroyTolaini, JulienMarc, Andy; et al. PLoS One7.5 (May 2012). 

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