{Fitness Friday: Vegetable feta flatbread and how I plan to run a better half marathon}

Another late fitness friday post this week. I was pretty tired from my run last night and just wanted to relax on the couch with a blanket watching a movie.

First off, I came home after work and made the boy some dinner before he left for a baseball tournament. I needed something quick and delicious. I pulled out a piece of naan bread from the freezer to defrost and the counter and began making a grilled vegetable feta flatbread.

I sliced a zucchini lengthwise and sautéed in a pan with some olive oil, a splash of balsamic and a sprinkling of some italian herbs (rosemary, oregano and basil).

A handful of button mushrooms and half a sweet onion sliced into the pan..

A generous layer of basil pesto spread on the naan, topped with a sliced roma tomatoe..

Layer on the zucchini slices and mushroom onion mixture. Top with some crumbled feta cheese and a few grinds of black pepper. Into the oven at 400F for about 10 min..

I broiled it for a couple of minutes to get that delicious crispy crust and melt the cheese a bit..perfect serving for one.

As the boy ate, I headed out for my planned 10-12k training run (which turned into a 13.5km). I snacked on one of my power balls from the freezer and a small bowl of maple quinoa cereal with almond milk about 20 min before. I topped off my bottle with icy cold coconut water and strapped on my trusty GPS watch and I was off..

Today I planned a tempo run (also called a threshold run), a medium distance run at a faster than normal pace or “comfortably hard” as they call it. It’s a speed where you are working hard, not racing, but you’d be happy if you could slow down.

Many experts believe this is the single most important workout you can do to increase your speed for any distance. Tempo runs are more important than speedwork when training for half or full marathons. It teaches the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently by increasing your lactate threshold (the point where your body fatigues at a certain pace). The key to this is running at the proper intensity and at a far enough distance.

When this workout is incorporated into your training on a regular basis, the result is less acidic muscles, thereby allowing you to run farther and faster as your lactate threshold increases with each run. But this isn’t limited to if you’re training for a race, this technique will allow even the novice runner to get better and faster.

I headed out around 7pm which turned out to be the perfect temperature, the sun was almost set and there was a nice breeze, perfect running weather. I started out with some dynamic stretches, it’s very important to warm up the muscles before any run.

1. Front grabs– pulling my knee into my chest and holding for a moment, then taking another step forward, repeat about 10x per leg.

2. Walking lunges – alternate to equal 10x per leg

3. Butt kicks – taking small steps and kicking your heels to you butt – about 15x per leg

4. Toe walking – walking on the toes to stretch out the top of your foot and the shins.

Make sure to start off with a jog for at least the first 5 min. I always find the first 15-30 min the hardest, you’re trying to get into your groove and bring your heart rate up to your training zone. Some days it takes longer than others (anywhere from 4-10km for me) depending on the conditions and how I feel. It takes time for your muscles to get warmed up, the joints to lubricate and the mood-boosting endorphins to kick in. You know you’re in that zone when your breathing normalizes and the movement of running feels kind of like you’re on autopilot and you can go on for a while.

Today I took a new route down Elbow drive which is a bike/walking path that winds around right next to the Elbow river. I lovely scenic run.

For the Canmore half, I’m planning to run a negative split which I think will improve my time and overall performance (a negative split means running the second half of your run faster than the first). This is an ideal way to run a half or full marathon because it allows you to conserve your energy which means you’ll perform better overall. Normally runners do the opposite by starting out too fast (I am guilty of that), which makes sense since we feel strong at the beginning. Even 5km runners can benefit from running with this technique.

So today I did just that. I started out at my marathon pace (about 5:00min/km) and eventually ended up with a 4:41min/km in the last 6km. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, but I think it will really help me since I usually run my slowest in the last few km. I ended the run with a super steep 0.5km hill in my neighbourhood aka Murder Hill. It was a killer, but I kept a good pace and didn’t stop till I reached the top. 🙂

Lastly, the most important part, STRETCHING. A big key to staying injury free! (Believe me, I’ve had enough running induced injuries to know). It will help remove the lactate from the muscles and decrease post-run soreness and increase your range of motion. There are many sites with different examples of stretches like at Runners World here or I also like this free 20 min yoga for runners download here. I also do a 75 min yoga class the day after my long runs to aid with the stiffness and help with my flexibility.

One more thing I want to mention is making sure if you wanna start running, get the proper running shoes. Yes, they can be expensive, but think of it as an investment in your health. Head over to a store that specializes in running shoes (like Running Room, Gord’s, Strides or the Tech Shop in Calgary) and try on a bunch till you find the one that is right for you. I am partial to my Asics which have done well for me. But there are a lot of good brands out there. Believe me, your feet and body will thank you. Make sure to buy new ones every 350-500 miles.

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