14 Feb 2014

My Training Plan: Week 6

My running training for this week is Week 6 from the Learn to Run 10K program.  The first session, which I did on Wednesday this week, was a real push over all of the previous sessions.  By far, this was the most difficult, the most exhausting, and required the most determination.  The run consisted of 5 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking and repeated 7 times.  Including the 5 minute warm-up and cool-down, the run was just over 8km in 50 minutes.

* from SportMedBC's Learn to Run 10K program.
For the first time in a long time, this run completely exhausted me.  I even had to stop and heave somewhere during my 6th interval.  It felt great to sweat hard and really have to push through and challenge myself.  The next couple of sessions for this week are a bit lighter, going back to 3 minute runs and 1 minute walks.  Some needed recovery.  I really enjoy that this program provides ups and downs: some runs are more challenging than others while others are intended as time to recover.

Overall, more and more, I find myself constantly looking forward to my next run.  I have to use restraint not to run every day (I know my body still needs time to recover).  I have prioritized my runs higher and higher on my list of things to do.  However, as my runs are getting longer, I find the biggest challenge is finding time for runs any longer than 50 minutes.  I have to limit my workday lunchtime runs to 50 minutes and move runs longer than that into my evening routine.  There, the challenge is finding time for my runs without compromising time with my family.

13 Feb 2014

Gear: Saucony Kinvara Nomad Jacket

For the last few years, I have struggled to find ways to keep warm during my bike rides throughout the winter months.  I have historically resorted to using a loose-fitting pullover wind-breaker thrown on top of a couple extra layers for warmth.  When I was biking, this was only partially an issue.  The wind resistance was never an issue because I was only clocking against myself.  What bothered me was more the noise of my jacket flapping in the wind.  This year however, as a runner, the bouncing movement of my loose-fitting jacket was just too much.  I have mostly survived by simply wearing a good base layer (top and bottom) underneath my usual shorts and dry-fit t-shirt.  But there were definitely days where I wanted an extra layer for warmth or an outer layer to keep me dry.

And let's be honest here, I live on the west coast of Canada just outside of Vancouver where it rarely dips below 0C - so I need more protection from the elements (i.e. wind and rain) than the temperature.

So I decided it was time to invest in a light running jacket.  On our way home from a trip to Seattle this past long weekend, I was determined to find one at the Seattle Premium Outlets.  I browsed through many athletic brands' stores (Under Armour, Reebok, Adidas, Puma, Nike) without success.  In all fairness, none of those brands are actually running brands even though they each do have some running apparel.  But then, I found the Saucony store.

Because my shoes are Saucony and I am often brand loyal, I was immediately optimistic.  The store did not have many to choose from, but they did have one men's running jacket: the Saucony Kinvara Nomad Jacket.  The version of the jacket I bought has been discontinued; however, I believe the only differences between this one and the new one is aesthetic (i.e. colour patterns).

The jacket has a windproof and water-resistant softshell front to block wind and rain and a mesh panel on the back for breath-ability.  It is more than just a shell and does provide some added warmth too.  It fits me perfectly in a Medium (although I usually wear a Large) and still has room for an added layer underneath if necessary.  There are some good, bright reflective strips as you can see in the pictures from the camera flash.  It will be ideal for both running and evening bike rides, keeping me warm and making me a bit more visible to passing motorists.

To test it out, I wore it out on an 8km run today during my lunch break and it was awesome.  I enjoyed the added warmth and the shelter from the wind was great.  Towards the end of my run, the sun came out and I was close to getting too warm - the point where if it is sunny and over 6C I will probably go without the jacket.  But for any temperature under 6C, especially in wind and rain, this jacket will be perfect.

Overall, I am very happy with this purchase.  Most of the running jackets I have seen are listed for over $100 and even up to $200.  This one had a sticker price of $115 with 50% off so I paid just under $60 for it.  Great value for my dollar.

4 Feb 2014

Nutrition: Protein Powder

Among the healthy and fitness minded people I know, there is a bit of a debate going as to whether protein powder is necessary.  Some, mainly those that eat very healthy balanced meals anyway, believe that if you eat properly in the first place, protein powder is simply redundant.  The other faction believes firmly in a post-workout shake, even if you eat nothing but plain chicken, fish or beef, raw veggies, fruit, glass of milk, and lots of water.

While I don't always live by this, I am of the belief that nothing replaces healthy eating.  Sure, we splurge on junk now and then, especially with a young kid in the house and when time is of the essence.  But nothing can replace a healthy diet.  This article in Runner's World provides a bit more information on the value of protein in your active diet.  One key item in this article, cited from the USDA's Recommended Dietary Allowance, is that an average weight 165 lb runner should have 75 to 120 grams of protein daily.  I'm about 9% heavier than that, so using that same calculation, I should be aiming for 81 to 130 grams of protein daily.

So, all that being said, after a run or a bike ride, I like to have a protein shake along with my meal.  Part of the reason for my belief system comes from a few years ago  when I got heavily into bike riding.  I would average over 400 km per month and over three hours per week (usually three separate one hour rides).  I wasn't very calorie conscious back then so once I got to my peak performance, I started dropping weight like crazy.  With some helpful prodding from my wife, who is far more nutritionally aware than me, I researched diet and proper calorie intake, had my wife teach me about balancing calories and all that, and massively increased my food intake on days I went for my rides.

The end of it was that I had to completely re-think the way I eat before and after my bike rides and runs and I knew that I had to increase my protein intake specifically.  But my one issue here is that I am lactose intolerant so getting additional protein from milk and yogurt wasn't possible.  I already incorporate milk and yogurt into my diet to the extent that my body can handle it and we already eat as much chicken, fish, and red meat as we are comfortable eating.

So I started researching protein powders.  My wife helped and had a preference for powders that didn't load up on carbs, had low sugar and sodium, and, ideally, were natural.  A number of my friends recommending using the website and online store SVN Canada, so that's where we conducted our research.

The one product we found that fit our criteria and that both my wife and I could agree on was North Coast Naturals 100% Iso Protein.  The price was reasonable and it fit in with our nutritional goals.  We have gone through several tubs of it to date, and we continue to order it again and again.  I alternate between the vanilla and chocolate, both of which are awesome.  It's smooth, easy to mix, and tastes great (and I typically really don't like protein powders).  My wife also uses it in some of her breakfast smoothies.

Overall, I highly recommend it.  I definitely give this one two big thumbs up.

And a second nod here also to SVN Canada.  Great resource for reviews and products.  Fast delivery (usually within 24 hours, always within 48 - but, granted, they ship from within the Lower Mainland so it is also a short distance for those in and around Vancouver).  Great, fair pricing.  And for the two times I have had to contact customer support, they also have great customer service!