Author Archives: Guest Bloggers

Top 3 Tips for New Runners

Top 3 Tips for New Runners
Karl, SF Marathon Training Coach and Runner

I love the smell of Cytomax in the morning……….it smells like victory. However on this morning all I can smell is fear, uncertainty, and nervousness. No, I’m not on the field of battle or amongst my fellow runners in a corral waiting for the starting gun. I’m standing in front of the SFM training class of 2010.

As I walk around to meet my newbies I can’t help to think of my introduction to running……  Ah yes, a cool autumn morning the sun is just starting rise and there is a cool nip in the air. As I take a moment to enjoy the fog dancing in the trees my world is shattered.  “Private! Private!! Just what do you think you are doing?!?! Shut up and drop!”  20 pushups later I’m heading down a narrow trail freaked and stressed, soon a sense of calm took over, my pace picked up, then I was hooked. Though I won’t be yelling at anyone today I hope I can inspire them and ease their minds a bit. There is a good feeling in knowing that in the next 18 weeks I’ll get to help people push themselves to the limit, reach a huge goal, and find strength that they never know they had.

Running involves a bit more than slapping on some shoes and putting one foot in front of the other in rapid succession; granted for some it comes that easy. For the rest of us we need to learn how to run efficiently, what shoes, clothes to wear, and when to drink water.

The three most common things I have to tell new runners are:

1.       Get your shoes properly fitted. Don’t buy shoes because they look cool and will look good while you are strolling about town. Go to a running specialty store or sporting goods store that has a properly trained staff. They will put you in a shoe that will work best for your running style. Sports Basement, Road Runner Sports, Fleet Feet, and Metro Sport are a few of the several places in the bay area that can take care of you.

2.       Don’t run in cotton. Well you can if you like chafing and the feeling of wearing a wet towel while you’re running. Synthetic blends with the ability to wick sweat work best; check the tag to be sure the product wicks moisture.

3.       Don’t forget to fuel and hydrate yourself before and after your runs. Fuel, Food, water, and sports drinks are your friend, get to know them. You don’t start a road trip without filling your car with gas. So why would you set out on a two hour run on an empty tank? It doesn’t have to be a big meal, peanut butter and toast will do the trick. Personally my pre-run fuel of choice is Slim Fast; I’m not drinking it for diet reasons. I like it because it doesn’t sit heavy in my stomach, it hydrates, and it’s a good source of carbs and protein. In the end you just need to provide your body with fuel so you can break the fasting cycle……breakfast. After a long run (60+ min) you need to refuel with carbs and protein (4:1 ratio). This meal is needed to replenish glycogen stores and should happen within 30 minutes but don’t go over an hour; doing this will help to speed up post run recovery by preventing you body from looking to your muscles as a source of fuel.

In the end most  listen and those that don’t come to me and ask why they are constantly tired, sore, and “Why is my skin burning?” I just smile and remind them of the big three.

Another thing I tell my new runners is that they will get a lot of information of the coming weeks and it’s up to them to pick and choose what will work for them in the end, what works for me may not work for you……. You can lead a runner to the water stop but you can’t make them drink.


Training Tips from GU Energy

As you ramp up your training volume here are a few things to keep in mind that the scientific community has learned about endurance nutrition. The team at GU Energy is proud to be the official on-course energy product of the San Francisco Marathon and we have spent nearly 20 years working with professional athletes and leading scientists to formulate and optimize performance energy products for endurance athletes.

Some things to keep in mind for training and racing:

  • On average, athletes need to take in about 200-350 calories an hour during a multi-hour endurance event like the SF Marathon. Anything more than that and you risk decreased performance due to gastric distress.
  • Athletes need a significant amount of those calories to be carbohydrates (anywhere between 40-60 grams) due to the body’s need to use glucose as fuel during endurance exercise.  Endurance events can burn through the body’s stored glycogen pretty quickly. That’s what’s called bonking and that’s why you need to eat DURING the event. Keep the glycogen pilot light burning and stay hydrated and you cross the finish line.  It’s that simple.
  • Humans need at least 15-30 oz of water per hour during endurance events, depending on heat, humidity and pace (among other things). Performance decreases after losing just 2% of body weight from dehydration.
  • Electrolytes help the body retain the fluid you do take in and put it to work in muscle contractions, which means you can go faster and stay out longer.
  • It takes between 24-48 hours to completely recover from a workout and replenish your glycogen stores, which is why taking a  well-formulated recovery drink inside the magic 30 minute “Glycogen window” after training is so important – fail to replenish your fuel stores and you fail to be ready to train again the next day.

You can see how all of these principles require the athlete to practice and customize their nutrition plan before race day. We design GU products with these needs in mind and that is why we recently launched the Performance Energy Sampler and created the first gel way back in 1991.

The original idea behind GU was to find the quickest way to deliver an appropriate amount of calories to an athlete during competition without upsetting his or her stomach.

You’ll notice there is maltodextrin in GU gels and maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate (remember the 40-60g of carbs per hour from above?). Studies have shown that some complex carbs are digested faster than simple sugars like table sugar and honey. There is also fructose in GU gels which your stomach processes much faster than maltodextrin but doesn’t produce a sugar high which you might get from those simple sugars. This matters because the quicker your body can process the carbohydrates the less blood needs to be diverted from your muscles to your stomach to process the sugars. You go faster and stay out longer as a result.

Taking 1 packet of GU Gel and mixing 1 packet of GU Brew Electrolyte in a large water bottle gives you the right calories (240), fluid (20 oz.), electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and carbohydrates (54g) that you need to sustain a winning pace.

And lest we forget recovery, that oh-so-important but often neglected part of training.  You’re probably running multiple times a week now with many back-to-back training days.  You’ll need to recover after each one to train hard the next day so make sure you are taking a recovery drink within 30 minutes after each workout over 90 minutes or so.

Enjoy the time spent training and best of luck on race day!

-The GU Energy team

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To Goo or not to Goo

To Goo or not to Goo
Cynthia Bates, Whole Body Health

Today I went out to talk to runners training for the marathon. One of the questions that came up was “to Goo or not to Goo” – what do you do to sustain energy on a long run?

Let’s start first with the physiology of the digestive system. Digestion is one of the bodies long-term projects. When our body is under any kind of stress (physical, emotional or psychological) our “Fight or Flight” mechanism switches on and long-term projects like digestion shut down. What this means, is that if you body thinks you need to be running away from a saber-toothed tiger then it’s going to put whatever food comes into the body on hold. What this feels like is gas, bloating, nausea as the food putrifies in the stomach and small intestine. Not good.

So, my first recommendation is to make sure you eat enough extra calories the day before a long run so you don’t need to eat WHILE running. The body can store up to 2,000 calories depending on your size and metabolism which should last you a couple of hours. (More on this in a future posting!)

My second recommendation is to eat some healthy fat 30 minutes to an hour before you run so you have some longer-acting fuel in the system. Something like an apple and 2 Tb of almond butter or ½ cup granola with berries and ½ cup full-fat coconut milk. A client of mine has taken to just downing a spoon of Flax seed oil before he heads out and says it really keeps him going.

However, if you are running over two hours, your body is going to need refueling and something as easily as absorbable as possible, thus the gels and goos.

I have taken a look at the commercial preparations and the “healthiest” ones are those with organic ingredients, rice syrup or honey vs maltodextrin or sugar and include extra vitamins and minerals.  But, I have challenged myself to come up with an even healthier alternative….STAY TUNED!

Run,Eat,Repeat’s “Salty Carbs”

Hello! This is Monica from Run, Eat, Repeat ( . I write a little blog about my two favorite things – running and eating.  Sometimes these two topics collide in a great way when I have to figure out what to eat before I run.  My go to meal is Salt Carbs.

The night before a long run or race I swear by salt carbs. I believe in carb loading, but I also make sure that I eat enough salt as I sweat abnormal amounts 😉

My go-to meal is a big stir-fry with tofu, veggies and copious amounts of brown rice with soy sauce. It doesn’t hurt that this is one of my favorite meals too!

Before my last race I wasn’t going to have access to brown rice so I made sure to snack on pretzels as an afternoon snack. (pb pretzels pic)

Other salt carb options I’ve tried:

–          Thai food – noodles with soy sauce is a similar combo

–          Pizza

–          Soft Pretzel

All is carb-loading talk is making me hungry! But, I have to admit, one of the perks of running is being able to enjoy my favorite foods mentioned above and knowing they are good running foods too!

I know everyone is different so the most important thing is to figure out what works with your body during training. And it’s key to make sure you do a “test run” (no pun intended!) with your pre-run eats before any race!  The last thing you want is to have stomach issues the day of a race. Aren’t race day jitters bad enough?!

Hopefully, you can find a meal that you love and loves you back on that run J If you have any questions feel free to contact me at or

Happy Running!

Running Yoga

Running Yoga
Ryan DeMatteo, Yoga Instructor

I would not call myself a runner, though like many I have participated in the act before.  Running is of a universal language for many species living on our planet.  The banana slug may not speak it, but it may be that running (like everything) is relative.  Maybe that slug is running? Maybe not.  From my observations any individual that runs needs feet, legs, hips, heads and most importantly a reason.  Be it the child for play, me for the phone, the morning for exercise or the training for marathon; there is motivation behind those body parts. There is motivation behind all movement, for every living thing.

Yoga is a household word that has also come to represent many things.  It is widely defined as stretching, contortion, gymnastics, physical therapeutics and meditation.  To some these definitions are true, though yoga is as relative to the individual as running.  The word yoga is a Sanskrit term that goes back five thousand years in ancient India.  The root of the word is ‘yuj’ meaning to ‘bind’, ‘join’, ‘yoke’ or simply ‘union’.  Yoga was originally (and in some cases still is) an investigation of the mind and spirit.  It’s practices can include but are not limited to the chanting of ancient verses, bodily austerities, intricate breath control, and investigation of the subtlest parts of the mind.  These techniques have been designed and refined to reveal the the highest states of existence. And to seek the motivation behind it.

Now we may ask, how did such an esoteric word become a household term? Because Yoga can be applied to and seen in anything.  The entire universe can be split into subjects and objects, qualities and quantities, runners and ran.  And when we begin the practice of yoga, it first asks us to define these distinctions in our own lives.  What am I doing and why? Yoga then aims to actually do Yoga by showing us the meeting place of these two forces.  So the next question behind our drive for knowledge is… HOW?

You can say, I run for exercise or I run just for the love of it..but these are only statements of opinion, even if they are true. When you are running, actually in run, then you have the opportunity to experience why you are running. The whole body is being joined in run and there is nothing else… Well yes traffic, dogs, wet grass, and the rest of it.  But at some point the mind goes completely quiet… and there is only running.  This is the practice of Yoga.  I’m sure all of you have felt it at some point in time even if it was for half a city block. And in those moments (or shall I say between moments) there was no runner and no body being ran, there was only (if I may put it this way) ‘runningness’.  The forces had joined so the mind didn’t need to speak at all, for once it had nothing to do!

Often when the experience of the mindless state is realized, we want more of it.  So a striving for a more yogic life or more ‘runningness’- becomes extremely important and difficult to recreate.  And here arises the question of WHAT is the best way to do this?

We can push ourselves to the physical limits of possibility, but it is hard to sustain that drive. It is rare to experience that “mindless” state of yoga if the mind is constantly yelling at the body- faster, harder, higher!!  The body will tire and then retire.  The mind will get upset or angry.  This is not a productive way of working.  And as you marathoners know it is true balance (yoga) that defines the line of endurance.  As nature reveals- working in balance is the only sustainable way.

Now okay, by now you may be saying ‘I just thought yoga could get my steel cable hamstrings a little looser..?’  It can, but not just by using another steel cable to wrench the first one open.  So, lets now look at the physical side of yoga practice for another example and maybe it’ll also help those hammy’s.  Lets take forward bends.  I often see runners in the park or waiting for the light, bending forward to touch their toes.  Now bending forward to just stretch the backside of the legs and torso is not a balanced stretch.  Part of the body is being stretched, part of it is over working to hold the stretch and other parts we don’t even know exist.  To over simplify, in a forward bend, the front of the torso and legs also need to be engaged.

Try this (on an empty stomach please):  stand up, forget about what you just read, and simply bend forward to touch your toes.  Observe the length of the front torso.  The stomach is short and the chest is most likely caved in towards the diaphragm.  Now try it again like this: while standing, lift the top of the chest towards the sky- lengthening from the abdomen all the way up.  This is a backwards bending action of the torso.  Now keeping that length to the front body slowly bend forward at the hips (on an exhalation).  If it helps- bring the hands to a wall or chair and push down for leverage to keep the front body long.

You may have noticed a vast difference in your poseor it may only seem slight.   But the point is that the second set of directions is helping to bring more balance in the body during your forward bend (which are actually called forward extensions in yoga).  This allows the breath to better fill the lungs as they become more open. It allows the organs more room to continue working and allows the energy in the body to more readily move.  If the body were a machine (thankfully it is not) the more well oiled the parts- the more productive the machine.  The better we know all the parts of the machine- the more easily we can keep them oiled!  So in Yoga practice we do postures (called asana’s in Sanskrit) to seek the body’s most organic alignment and reveal it’s restrictions.  If we reveal our restrictions, we can then finely tune our motivation to address our weak areas.

To sum it up, there is motivation behind all actions of the body be they aggressive, lazy, natural, or unknown.  The more we become aware of these actions, the more we become aware of the motivation. And the more we become aware, period.   And when there is yoga, the whole organism is in it’s peak performance, it’s own organic purpose.  And if that state wouldn’t improve your marathon this year, then we better go ask a banana slug for some help.

Run well.

For a more in depth look at the details of yoga practice for runner’s, see Jean Couch’s “The Runner’s Yoga Book”.
My blessings to Francis  for the opportunity to write and teach.

Running for Weight Loss

Running for Weight Loss
Warning: Patience Required.
Daniel Howell, Dietitian

Thinking about becoming a pavement pusher to become fit and lose weight?

Yes, when it comes to weight loss, running encompasses all that is right in this world. The word is out…because the sport of running has exploded. According to Running USA, in their annual state of the sport series, from 1988 to 2008 the amount of runners registered for road races had skyrocketed by nearly 5.6 million. Not only has the overall number of runners increased, but the gap of male to female runners has virtually closed. As of today, women account for nearly half of all road race entries. Running USA’s Marathon Report showed an astronomical rise in numbers, stating “Overall, there were 42,000 more U.S. marathon finishers for 2009 than the previous year or a 9.9% increase (425,000 vs. 467,000) or in other words, 2009 had a larger percentage increase than the previous four years combined.”

So why do you run? Is it the serenity that floods the body while that magnificent ball of fire peeks over the horizon at precisely 6:02 am, or is it the adrenaline that courses through your veins as you gasp for air while you struggle to push one more inch of pavement. If you have not experienced either of these moments, you will! Running can bring you peace, empowerment, strength, freedom, and yes, weight loss. Running holds the ability to shed pounds like no other sport. Unfortunately, making “rookie” mistakes can bring weight loss to a screeching halt or even lead to weight gain (not uncommon for a novice runner.) With a little patience and the right education and coaching, you will be well on your way to ultimate weight loss. Allow me to explain.

False Perceptions

Running for weight loss truly takes one step at a time. So many people jump into the sport and expect over-night results. What’s new, right? They respond with, “ I run four days per week, my feet hurt, my knees hurt, I’m hungry, I find it getting harder and harder to get out of bed, and to top it all off, I’m gaining weight!” They are frustrated! Sound familiar?

If you have a good coach, you will be placed on a plan that slowly increases your mileage over weeks and months. This way you build strength and endurance while developing proper running gate, and should keep you injury free. However, if you are looking to drop weight, patience is a 100% requirement. Let’s look at the numbers so you’ll know exactly why. If a 150-pound man runs for one hour at a 10 minute per mile pace, he has the potential to burn 680 calories. Sounds great. But if he is hitting the pavement for the first time, he will not be running for one full hour until over a month into the program. In actuality, the coach may have the man stop after one mile for his first run bringing his total calorie burn to a little over 110 calories.

Now, let’s look at the nutrition side of this equation. The same guy feels exhausted after his first run. His stomach is telling him that he is ravishingly hungry. Not knowing that he only burned 110 calories, he slams a granola bar and a sports drink because he was told he has to replenish his carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the granola bar and sports drink totaled 300 calories. If he did not change his nutrition throughout the rest of the day and continued his old bad habits, our runner would be on his way to actually gaining weight while training for his marathon. This is where the concept of nutrition periodization now becomes essential for runners looking to lose weight and compete. I’ll propose the idea of periodization in a little while.

Weight Matters

If you had to bet who would burn more calories during a 5-mile run, would you choose a woman who weights 185-pounds who runs a 13-minute mile or a woman who weights 130-pounds but runs a 9-minute mile? Survey shows . . . the 185-pound woman is the winner. Why? Because this woman not only has to physically move 55 more pounds per mile but is also doing so for 20 minutes longer. An untrained athlete’s body is completely inefficient when it comes to burning fuel. As those same athletes lose weight and continue to train, their bodies become an efficient fuel-burning machine. This change sounds phenomenal, right?  Who wouldn’t want to be an efficient, fuel-burning machine? The problem lies with the efficiency aspect. If your body is efficient, it uses the least energy possible to complete a task. I see “ah ha” moments. The less energy used the less calories burned. This means you now have to run longer and harder to achieve the same calorie burn. Do you want to know what else this means? You once again have to tweak your nutrition. The concept of nutrition periodization once again becomes relevant.

Nutrition Periodization

Periodization is the altering of training stresses throughout training cycles in an athletes program. The art of periodization was not performed until 1940 when the Soviets followed by the Romanians and East Germans brought this concept to life. If we continually demand greater strength, speed, and endurance from our bodies, shouldn’t we also provide it with nourishment that coincides with these changes? Nutrition paralleling the changes in a training schedule is the essence of nutrition periodization. Let’s break it down specifically to a runner’s schedule.

Runners spend the majority of their time building their “base miles.” If you are running your first marathon, this is where you will spend most if not all of your time. Base miles are followed by speed training days followed by tapering prior to race day.  Runners looking for weight loss must look no further than the beginning stages of base mile training for intentional weight loss. Why is this the perfect time to drop weight? This is when the least demand upon the body is actually occurring throughout your program. You are asking your body to “simply” finish the miles assigned to you. When you are in weight loss mode, you are withholding energy (calories) from your body that could be used to boost your performance on your runs. Depriving your body of immediate fuel during early training stages is no big deal. Your body will mostly likely switch its fuel-burning mechanisms and tap into your fat stores if fueled properly. However, depriving your body of immediate fuel during hill or speed training days takes away from the speed and power in which you are purposely trying to build. In other words, you are inhibiting your body’s ability to boost its overall performance with those specific training tools. On the other hand, over fueling during the first part of base mile training will not allow your body to tap into its endogenous fuel stores. As you can see, nutrition periodization is crucial to running for weight loss and ultimate performance.

Whether you are in it to win, or to simply lose weight, you want to enjoy your time and perform at the best of your abilities. Time is too precious not to kick butt and take names. With false perceptions and weight changes requiring you to alter your nutrition constantly, it is no wonder novice marathoners are notorious for gaining weight. There is no reason to worry though. A combination of patience and the right nutrition will have you fit and living with a sense of freedom like you have never felt before.

Keep the passion that drives you and hold on tight. It is going to be one hell of a run.