Training Tip: Energy Food

Many people run to lose weight, but I maintain a delicate balance of staying lean while still fueling myself well. I often remind myself when I am training hard that yesterday’s energy in equals today’s energy out.

The body can absorb only so much in one sitting. I eat often (every two hours), choosing from fruits, veggies, and a balance of carbs, protein, and fat. I learned a lot from working with nutritionist Dr. Clyde Wilson from Stanford.

Dr. Clyde taught me that when carbo-loading, my body can store only about 400 extra calories from loading the day before, so there is no point in adding more than this amount to my typical intake. I also learned to spread the load over the two or three days before a race.

Living and training at altitude requires me to closely monitor my iron levels. I avoid calcium and wheat in conjunction with the iron-rich foods because they hinder the absorption of iron.

I also make sure I get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of supplements, every day I add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to my cereal or eat some sardines, salmon, or walnuts. I also focus on foods that are naturally high in antioxidants, such as green tea, berries, cinnamon, and other antioxidant-rich food. Great recovery foods include pineapple, whey protein, and juice.

I try to avoid consuming a lot of sugar, but I still include it in my coffee, and like to end my meals with the darkest chocolate I can find (in moderation, of course). I eat lots of healthy rice and grains, as these provide the ready fuel I need. The healthier I eat, the more I crave such foods and enjoy giving my body high-quality fuel. I like to focus on what I can eat, not on all the things I am choosing not to eat. When I do make an occasional indulgence, I realize I don’t really miss the highly processed and refined foods that fill our supermarkets today.

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Training Tip: Running Logs

Excerpted from Running with Joy:

When I first started running, I kept a very detailed training log. My dad still has my high-school journals and often referred back to them when he coached our local high-school cross-country team to numerous state titles. I was adamant about keeping my log up-to-date. I loved to record my workouts and add up my mileage at the end of the week. I bolstered my confidence before races by seeing how far my workouts had progressed and how much work I had done.

In college I grew tired of keeping a log. I also came to the realization that keeping a log showed that while I had worked harder than everyone else it didn’t necessarily mean I would run faster. It was the beginning of the realization that as in life, so in training: Sometimes less is more. I also realized that my intensely passionate personality easily became obsessive about running. Keeping a detailed training log was adding to my struggle with becoming overly focused on my running goals.

I didn’t return to a training log until I began to journal before the 2010 Boston Marathon. My coach has e-mailed me workouts on spreadsheets since 2005, and I have saved them all, but I rarely recorded my times. Sometimes I wish I could look back on a more detailed training log. Once I am all done with running, I will probably wish I had kept a better log, but right now, not keeping a log works best for me.

Keeping a detailed training log and recording my thoughts in a daily journal leading up to the 2010 Boston Marathon has been life changing. Writing is relaxing and deeply therapeutic, so this has been a powerfully positive tool in my life.

The best log is one that you enjoy and that is easy to use. There are many logs to choose from today, including online logs, spreadsheets, and even smartphone applications. When I was keeping my journal, I just opened up a Word document and started writing. If you are philosophical like me, perhaps writing in a journal will be better than plugging raw data into a traditional training log. Experiment and find what works for you. I do recommend writing in some way to remind yourself on a daily basis of your goals.

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CNN Interview — God is My Coach


Watch as Ryan explains about his “unconventional” coach to CNN. CNN Interview with Ryan Hall, “God is My Coach”

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How It All Started

Excerpted from Running with Joy:

I have always been a dreamer. My siblings and I all played some kind of sport growing up. My dad pitched for Pepperdine University and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. As a kid, I wanted to follow in his footsteps—my dream was to be a pitcher in the major leagues, to one day stand out on the mound at Fenway Park—but as a five-foot tall middle schooler who barely tipped the scale into the triple digits, I spent most of my time sitting on the bench in basketball and football. I practiced pitching for hours in my backyard, usually throwing a tennis ball against the side of our house, inadvertently crushing all our Christmas lights in the process. Despite my work ethic, I struggled to get a fastball past my bigger and stronger peers.

In those days, my only athletic success seemed to be running the mile in PE. I broke the school record, running a 5:32 as an eighth grader, but I didn’t enjoy it. My dad was a triathlete and solid marathoner (around three hours), and he could see my God-given ability before I could. In fact, he told me I could be a world-class runner if I wanted. But I really wasn’t interested in any sport that didn’t have a ball—that is, until a normal car ride to a basketball game turned visionary.

I was 13, starting out the window of a Suburban full of rowdy, we just-got-out-of-school-early teammates. But I wasn’t feeling it. I was gazing out the window and daydreaming when I was suddenly overwhelmed with a crazy urge to run around the lake. The feeling is hard to describe—it was a vision from God, an unveiling, a seed He planted in me. In a moment, I could hardly wait to do something I would previously never have enjoyed. The desire was intense. (I experienced a similar moment years later when I first seriously considered moving up from the track to the marathon.)

The Saturday morning after that ride in the Suburban, I laced up my basketball shoes and headed out the door with my dad (who was curiously supportive of my bizarre idea) for what would prove to be a painful and slow 15-mile run around the lake. My hometown, Big Bear Lake, California, offers many cool things to do—skiing and snowboarding, skateboarding, fishing, baseball, basketball, football—but running was not among them. We had two dirt tracks (flooded with water most of the year) and no high-school track or cross-country teams. In those days, runners were seldom seen. I embarked on a journey that none of my peers would understand.

The run was hard—really hard. We had to make numerous stops, and by the time I finally walked through our front door and collapsed on the couch, morning had become afternoon. My calves ached like never before, my lungs burned from the thin air (we were running at 7000 feet), and I winced in pain with every step. My unorthodox shoe choice only made matters worse. I would never have imagined that such a painful first run would be the beginning of a running career. However, as I lay on the couch, my grumbling stomach begging for food, God planted two more seeds in me. One was that I had been given a gift to run with the best runners in the world. The other was that I could use that gift to help others.

That epiphany launched my running journey.

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Ryan is going to the Olympics!

After placing 2nd at Saturday’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Tx, with a 2:09:30 time, Ryan Hall qualified to be part of the U.S.
team competing the London 2012 Olympic Games. Congratulations Ryan!!

You can read more about Saturday’s race here.

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