Few random Q&As on running

Are you on Quora?

Quora in an online platform where people can ask questions and other users who deem themselves experts or just think they know the answer can reply. I like to read and comment on Quora and reply to questions about running. I’m not an expert, I just ran a few marathons and running is a passion of mine. I thought it would be fun to post a few questions from Quora I replied to. If you like them please follow me on Quora  https://www.quora.com/profile/Hanna-Gierzynska-Zalewska or just give a look on the website!


Why do people pay to run a marathon? Why not just run the 42 km on any other day?

Because you want to measure yourself on a given day on that distance and have a proof of that. And a medal. And photos.

You want to test your luck, maybe you’ve trained but on that day you will suck anyway.

Travel: you want to run where you’ve never ran before. Sometimes running a race is a cherry on top of your training.

The best way to know is to run a marathon or watch a marathon in person.

What it means to ‘hit the wall’ in the marathon?

When you finish your physical and mental energy. I would argue that it’s mainly your brain because when it senses that your finishing glucose it just goes on energy saving mode to save itself. There’s enough glucose for the brain so it says to your body to shut down. Which sucks cause you mentally and physically feel like you can’t go any further BUT

You actually can, you just have to tell your brain ‘I know what you’re up to, you’re not fooling me’ and go on.


Will anyone ever run the marathon under two hours?

Humanity is getting there and the latest record in marathon (Eliud Kipchoge 2h 1 min in Berlin Marathon) shows that we’re close.

I’m quite positive that it will happen.


Is it important to monitor the heart rate while running? If yes, why?

It could be very useful as it gives you a feedback on intensity of your workout or your overall health. If you don’t have a special heart condition it’s just something you might use not something that is necessary. Many runners look at heart rate monitor too religiously.

When I would strongly advise running with a heart rate monitor? If you’re running while pregnant as you must keep your heart rate way lower that before pregnancy.


Should I treat life as a sprint or a marathon?

Orienteering but without map and compass.

Who are you looking for on social media?

I’ve been shying away from social media recently.

Because I got bored and annoyed.

We all know that Instagram photos are not all real, most of them are filtered and for many people it’s a daily job so they work hard on light, angle and perfect shot.

I know and still I got bored of people who yesterday were normal and today they’re trying to sell me proteins.

So I stop following or paying attention to merchandise and I ask myself

Who do I look for on social media?

A lot of people I follow on social media are athletes, entrepreneurs or creatives so mostly people that inspire me, that are in the position I’d like to be one day. I look into their insights, I look for their advice and I’m jealous in a healthy way. What it means? I envy but at the same time I think how to get one day in that same spot they are in.

Then I follow people who are not super humans but make me smile and never fake a smile themselves.

Sometime though I have a weak moment and all I want is peace and quiet and I don’t mind being vulnerable.

That’s why people I follow must be authentic. If they show me 24 hours of their day or 7 days of their week I can’t believe it’s all smiles and roses. I’m not looking for drama so I don’t need to see your tears but don’t sell me motivational quotes all the time. Authenticity, weakness and getting up after you fell. And celebrating your victories.

You might say I look for a real life online while we all know real life is elsewhere. Social media are a huge part of my life so yes, I want realness on social media as well. I look for humor, art, information and opinion. There are no more boundaries between real and online life and we’d better get used to it and make online world better.

I don’t mind people having their accounts set like a pieces of art but that’s quite evident and you know what to expect. I don’t mind people putting some filters on their photos or telling their stories in a certain way.

Just tell your story, choose your filter, choose your soundtrack but be true.

How to get over a failure aka get back on track

I trained, I was ready, I couldn’t wait. And when the race day came all went wrong. I wasn’t enjoying myself, I was tense and my pace followed. The race I ran twice the third time wasn’t that magical and fun as I remember. I finished with the worst result in years (1h51min) and I was quite down. Still am. What next? Am I as good (relatively) as I imagined or maybe I’m a fraud? After the last sentence you can imagine how I feel. But life goes on and I want to run. Have you ever been in a similar situation? How to get out of this post failure funk? Here’s my personal list, apply this to every failure

Analyze&learn. This is the worst part for me but maybe not for you. What went wrong and how to prevent it next time? Mental part, execution or some detail that ruined the whole thing? When running some things are predictable, routine, like e.g. eating before and during the race, clothes you’re wearing, your pace strategy. Other things like weather or sudden gastric issues are out of control. What you do when unexpected happens? When I got late into pre-race area I panicked and tried to surpass everyone. I was so tense for the first half and then… I just stopped caring? I still have to figure that out.

Give yourself a break In Italy people use to say ‘not all doughnuts come with a hole’, that means not everything you do will be a success. It’s a part of life and although it seems so deep and philosophical please remember that you shouldn’t identify with your failure. It was a moment in time and it passed and you should pass over it. You’re not your mishap, it just happened to you.

Put things into perspective. Will you remember this particular event in a week, month or a year? Maybe but will it matter and will that weigh on your overall happiness? It will if you choose to dominate your life and change your attitude. Make a list of things that go well in your life and list of things that are more important in your life than this event that went wrong.

Focus on next goal Every time something bad happened to me I look amazed at nature. Somehow I expect that the world should notice I feel bad and stop for a while. It’s stupid, naive, but sometimes with all the violence and conflicts that happen around the world I wonder how come the globe turns with no regards to what is happening.

Still, the sun rises and so should you. If failure left you with no love and passion for what you were doing you need to move to the next thing that will make your heart beat faster. But if you still love what you failed at then ‘dust yourself off and try again’ as the one and only Aaliyah used to sing.

In my case running is always raising my heartbeat so I’ll stick to it. I’m used to trying over and over again.

Do you dwell on your failures? How do you get out of the post failure funk?

Downtime! No malfunction, just relax.

My marathon went great and I can enjoy my downtime! Good news, you can enjoy it too!

Seriously, can we ease into the new year slowly? New year will surely have another challenges for us.

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ so let’s give these words some meaning.

Self care

Are you one of those people panicking during the Christmas time? Presents, polishing the house, preparing the dinner, traveling to find your family? In theory this should be the most amazing time of the year, in practice it’s a source of anxiety for many of us.

Let’s face it, we don’t need presents as we probably get what we want ourselves and probably your family don’t need luscious gifts as well. But if your loved ones are different and require something expensive…honestly you shouldn’t fall for it. Take a look at some charity websites and see how much you need to pay for a Christmas dinner for a homeless or elder person, how much it costs to feed a homeless dog for a month. I don’t want to seem a Mother Teresa here but it puts things into perspective and doing good (make that donation!) makes you feel really good.

If you want to make a present I would suggest giving an experience (travel, race enrollment, dinner or drinks together) rather than an object. We all have too many stuff but not enough great memories!

Training

I know some of you are doing ‘run every day in December’ project and if it makes you feel good, let be it. Me, myself and my two legs are taking some easy time. Training for a marathon has been tough for me mentally because I love logging miles but the pressure of great performance wasn’t easy. That doesn’t mean I won’t be running, I love it! Possibly I’d like to maintain my pace if not getting faster but I’d like to dedicate some time to strength work and yoga. My right tendon is begging me for some attention and I’ll do my best to send away the inflammation I have.

And of course I’m dreaming of next year races, I have something big planned for the second half of the year but springtime is free in my book…Send me some race suggestions, I love to plan!

Are you having some downtime? How are you using it? Are you loving Christmas or you just can’t relax in December?

Health is simple. It’s not easy.

Health is boring. It’s not sexy like well made Instagram photo. Health is simple yet not easy like a grandma recipe for a homemade broth.
Eat better. Sleep better. Move more. Don’t be a dick.
That’s it.

Sleep better. Going early to bed and wiping your mind of all thoughts or prioritizing your sleep over something else (morning run or mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed. Yes, I’m pointing finger at myself. Guilty AF) is, in my opinion, one of the biggest changes in your life. Actually, it’s life changing.

Last year I made a post about morning running and I’m still a morning runner but I’m no longer a ‘run no matter what’ type of runner. I’m not lazy when it comes to running and I think many times an additional hour of sleep would have done me more good that a 10 km. Sleep deprivation and a consistent sleep deprivation, I mean 1 or 2 hours of less sleep for more than a week is a real negative game changer. You feel sluggish, you miss things, you’re negative, you’re more hungry! Try to get in at least 7 hours of sleep and go to bed before midnight.

Eat better. I said better, not perfectly. Nobody eats like people on Instagram, most of them do those photos because this is their job. Yet, it’s nice to have a great meal. You’d probably never have a perfect meal plan, because life happens. Or you just tired and you want this cake, pizza, fries and eating better is a process. How to change this? Again, I’m not an expert, I can only speak for my experience and I will in the future. For now I’ll just leave you with this concept, quite new but already supported by scientific research: your gut controls your behavior. Sounds spooky, I know but in short your gut bacteria have a huge impact on how you react. If you eat poorly your gut will be populated by type of bacteria that not only will damage your immune system but also affect your brain and probably your emotions. In short if your gut is populated by wrong type of bacteria it can lead not only to obesity but also to depression.

If you’re interested read more about it here:

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-43815370

Move more. Don’t roll over your eyes, moving more does not mean running or power lifting. Movement is everywhere, join in. 30 minutes a day of a brisk walk. You can do that after lunch or after dinner. And yes, use the stairs when you can. Movement is disguised in different moments of our day, don’t think about it as a workout, think about it like taking some fresh air, giving yourself some space and time to breath. Switching from one closed space (office) to another (supermarket and then home) will never help. Speaking about time to breath: there are 3 extremely powerful methods to free your mind for at least a while. Put down your phone, try to count your breaths for few minutes and not to think what to do next, try to prolong your inhale and exhale time staring from 4 (you could arrive up to 6 or 8 if you want). I like to think about breath work as an ‘internal shower’ for your body.

Don’t be a dick.  What that has to do with health? It’s not difficult to get. Our health is also our mental health, our wellbeing and it’s influenced by everything we get into our bodies, that is food and emotions and what we give out, like the energy we spend and give to others. I can bet it’s not easy to sleep, digest or think when you’ve argued with someone or had a stressful day. We’re nurtured by everything: food, air, relationships, news. If you’re eating a macrobiotic clean diet but you’re a nasty little prick to others it won’t work. You can have a 6 pack-abs but in a long term it won’t work because this perfect little picture of yours is false. So don’t be a dick.

Stereotypes about runners


How many times you’ve read an article on what people who are not runners hate about people who run? Runners brag  about running all the time, spend too much money and time on training and so on.

You know what? It’s not so easy to be a runner as well. We roll eyes every time we’re asked how long is the marathon and if we run every day and if we won the last race we’ve participated in. Because we’re tired being asked the same sometimes, let’s face it, really ignorant questions. Oh, I shouldn’t probably say that but common sense is for free. I don’t ask a mother if she wants to spend every second of her day with her children, or a fitness coach if he/she never eats chocolate.. Let me get through a short list of questions we get:

  1. You run you should have a professional runner’s body. That’s also a reason some people are afraid to start running, they’re just intimidated. And even if you run for number of months or years you don’t have to look like an athlete the way you imagine it. We’re tall, we’re small, lean, robust or overweight. We gain weight, we loose weight, we get injured and we’re out of form, then we get snatched or we don’t. Running is a privilege not an obligation. Some of us treat it less serious others get religious about training. We’re very diversified among us.
  2. If you run you should be fast. But we’re not professionals. Our capabilities changes as we get older, as we get stressed or have a blissful period of happiness and less stress.
  3. You’re runner, you have to run all the time. Actually rest is a part of training. To be honest even if I ran in the morning I will get jealous if I see someone running later that day but I think I’d hate running every day. Time off is a good idea both for your body and your brain.
  4. How come you take elevator, you’re runner. Because I’m tired. I do take the stairs quite often but yes, we runners do get lazy and we don’t think about our fitness all the time.
  5. You’re a runner, you ran a New York City Marathon, right? It’s one of the most popular marathons in the world and for sure someone who has a vague idea about racing has definitely heard about NYCM. Most of the runners would like to run it, some people who would like to run only one marathon in their lives will choose that one. This doesn’t mean though all runners have done it, there are millions of other, even more prestigious, races
  6. Marathon? You know, the first guy who did it actually died. Not true, Philippides was a professional and he ran more that a distance of a marathon, according to our standards he ran an ultramarathon and he survived as he was trained to run long distances. His job was to deliver messages on foot and horses ha to be spared for other tasks.
  7. You think less of all non-runners. No, we don’t. More time passes less we want to talk about running as we want to have other friends, non-runners and running is such a  natural of our life we don’t feel the need to talk about it all the time.

The conclusion would be that we don’t expect of people who don’t run to know all about running but we don’t like to be judged by the cover, that is our bodies, shoes and the term ‘runner’.

Knowing how long is a marathon is kind of basic knowledge, for the rest: be open and tolerant.  Maybe one day you could go out for a run and once you do..you’re one of us!

Last 60 days of 2018..are you diving in?

Is it November yet? Get ready, New Year’s resolutions are coming your way!

I now some people hate them and I can imagine why. Instead of stressing about that can we just ease into 2019 by doing something good for ourselves and maybe setting ourselves on a path we’d like to take in months to follow?

Just an idea, last 60 days of 2018, what you’d like to do? I have some small goals that I’d like to achieve by the end of this year, the bigger ones will need time but why not lay down the foundation now?

Here is my list. Short because, you know it’s only 2 months left…

Headstand. You probably have no idea how big it is for me. I’ve been practicing yoga for years but I still haven’t done a headstand or as pros call it: Sirsasana. It’s not about doing what everyone does or calling myself a ‘true yogi’ because I think there’s no such thing. Yoga is not a competition and I’m not competing even with myself (as I do in running), it’s about conquering my own fear. I’m terrified of going on my head since I remember. Approaching this fear and getting rid of it seems almost impossible.

Nutrition course. Right now I’m almost done with the basic nutrition course I started in the summer and once finished (keep your fingers crossed for the final exam!) I’d like to embark on a 1 year journey with more in-depth course. Although I’m more and more interested  in Indian and Chinese medicine I think a course based on western approach will complete or give me a good start. Nutrition and wellness has been a big passion of mine for a long time and I feel it’s time to do something about it.

Be kind to myself but push myself when needed. Do you find this part difficult? I do. Sometimes I just have to let go or slow down but every time I need to do it I tell myself it’s laziness. The fact is I’m rarely lazy and if I am maybe I need to be. And I have to find the truth and objectivity inside myself to recognize these moments.

Marathon. I gasp writing this, if you follow me you know how badly my half marathon went and mentally I haven’t recovered from that completely. The biggest obstacle I’ll have to face is mental. I’ll have to stay focus and believe, be sure that I’m able to to what I trained for. It’s funny, I’ve done more that 15 marathons and I’m still struggling at times like a newbie. This will be a race like this. The beautiful and the ugly part of distance running: you may train but the final result can always be a surprise. If the final result is not what we imagined we usually call it disappointment.

Ok, that’s my list, I think it’s quite challenging but doable.

Any thoughts?

5 for Friday!

5 random things that made my day recently. Here we go: 

Yin yoga. I tried this last Sunday thinking it was going to be a slow restorative practice. Wrong! It was slow but very intense. In yin yoga you hold asanas for 5 to 10 minutes and the purpose is to release your connective tissue as it holds tightness. In a way you ‘lubricate’ it. Our body golds to trauma and memorizes the pain that’s why yin yoga can release also an emotional tightness. Challenging and beautiful!

Tweet by Rich Roll (@richroll) on his 52 birthday. If you don’t know about this guy he’s a ultra-marathon runner, triathlete, wellness ambassador, author and host of amazing podcast. And vegan. His story is incredible and the best part is that he didn’t figure his life out when he was 20 or 30 but much later. His ,message in his birthday was: age is just a number, the important thing is to find your meaning in your own time.

Golden milk. You know I love wine but recently my drink of choice is golden milk! No, that sounds sad and false. Still, I’ve been drinking it a lot lately. Golden milk is a mix of spices but the main one is tumeric (it makes your curry yellow) and on a cold evening it’s a perfect soothing hot beverage. Try it!

Guilty pleasure: “The discovery of witches”. I never read Twilight or saw a movie but this book seems to be in the same genre: witches, vampires, demons. I guess I’ve been reading to many serious books and manuals lately and I have to give my head a break. Still, it’s written quite well and it’s been made into a series. It’s the most frivolous book I read in a while and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Running in the dark. I did it on Tuesday. 6.30 am and it was a strange experience as I don’t do it so often any more. When I used to do it I was running early in the morning in the city while now I ran in the suburbs. Pitch black. It was really amazing, strange, scary and thrilling experience. I’ve seen a Big Dipper on the sky and a lots of hares passed my way. I was a bit scared as I didn’t know where to put my feet but it was exhilarating at times. Not won’t fancy waking up at 6am again but still..


Any guilty pleasures, anyone? Comfort food? Something you’ve tried recently? Share!

How to avoid injuries: 4 simple advice

The short answer is: you don’t

But of course the longer answer is: it depends. Experienced runners know what to do but it doesn’t mean they apply those rules. Why? Because we’re mad, we’re addicted and we always think that running will heal everything. Just another one, only 10 km and I’m done.

Runners: we’re different..

Pay attention

Injuries (I’m not talking about accidents) usually don’t come from nowhere. They creep on you, they come as a nagging pain, small ‘thingy’ that grow bigger until it becomes unbearable. Like taxes. But, unlike taxes, you can avoid them or mitigate the damage. Sometimes a day or two of rest will do the trick: you have a tense muscle and if you run on it you might pull it. Or maybe you should change your running shoes but you forgot to keep track on how many miles/kms you run in them. Pain that stays with you is always an invitation to stop and find a reason why. Or at least stop.

Don’t be greedy, good things come slowly

Most of us believe we’re made of iron (or rubber, you choose) and we can do whatever and our bodies will follow. News: you’re not a Superman, if you start running too much too soon you will get injured. It sounds so obvious but we still forget that your body needs to adapt to a load of workout. A small amount of it will make you progress and become faster and stronger but if your body will be subjected to too much too soon it won’t be able to process it.

Small addition of kms (miles)= you’re sore, big load too soon= you’ll be sorry.

Invest: foam roller, massage and maybe a coach.

Aah, investments..they said running was the cheapest sport of them all. But then you decided to run more, race, eat gels wear fancy shorts and have a smart watch that tell you that you’re slow.

To be honest you can skip most of the gadgets (keep the shoes and sports bra) but invest in foam roller. This torture device will give you a good muscle release, use it on your legs, glutes or even on your back. It hurts sometimes (almost always) but it works like a good deep tissue massage. If roller is not enough go to osteopath that may spot flaws in your posture and maybe give you some corrective exercises. Another good investment is a good coach. If you keep on getting injuries maybe someone should take a look at your running routine and goals?

Running is not enough

That’s the saddest and most interesting part. The saddest because running is fun and everything else is sooo boring.

Interesting because in reality there are a lots of other sports and activities that can make you move, be entertaining and even…wait for it..make you a better runner. Cycling, hiking, swimming will condition your muscles differently and will help you building endurance. Personally I consider very beneficial taking up activity that you won’t take so seriously as your other sport. You’re a great runner? Start dancing and laughing at your lack of coordination!

Ok, that’s it. I’m sure there’s a way to avoid injuries but they happen anyway to even the best of us. The art of dealing with it is another blog post…

Treat yourself as you would treat your friend

Have you survived the September detox/back to work/school/grind? I did nothing of that but it doesn’t mean September hasn’t been hard on me 😉

I’ve already talked on this blog what I think about all the detoxes (apart from one I will talk about later). Why do we think it’s ok to punish ourselves while we actually need the opposite: care, attention and encouragement? Here’s what I have in mind

Let’s talk to ourselves like we actually like ourselves

Can you imagine a conversation with your friend that goes like this:

You friend: I’m going to try this new job/run a marathon/learn Spanish

You: Are you sure? Have you ever succeed in anything? It will end up like every time you try something.

If you’re a good friend this conversation wouldn’t go that way, first of all because you believe your friends can achieve whatever they want and even if you don’t positive encouragement is way more effective that bringing people down. I’m almost sure that the person you talk negatively like to nobody else is you. Every day. I’m always amazed how powerful words are and what an amazing power positive thinking is. This is coming from a very skeptic and sarcastic person (that is me). Each time I read a positive quote I feel a rush of courage and good energy. I guess positive thoughts  have the same effect on your mind as the good, nutritious food for your body. Don’t think it’s easy for me, for lot of people it’s not.

Practice, write it down, put on a positive song.

wait for it…

Let’s leave our cell phone for at least 30 minutes a day

This one is extremely difficult for me as I take my phone everywhere. And by that I mean literally everywhere #TMI.

Two weeks ago I had no Internet connection for 2 or 3 hours and I went crazy. I realized how much I depend on Internet, social media, emails etc. Funny enough I managed to do so many things in that 3 hours and when I had Internet back I discovered that nothing actually happened when it I was gone. Of course I didn’t practice digital detox since then because…I’d rather go hungry. Just kidding, everything is worse than being hungry but I’m convinced  that putting  my phone down for 30 minutes is a challenge. Willing to take the challenge with me? Hey, at least you can do in 30 minutes everything you’ve been postponing whole week and then stay on Instagram for the rest of the day..

Sometimes you scroll though your Insta feed and sometimes you put your phone down and take your mala

Let’s get physical

Yes, you can interpret this one however you want. At this point of my life running is my game but I think you should always aim for your activity of choice. Hike, jump, dance, walk, do yoga or pilates. Why? I do this because moving my body changes my mood from any state to awesome (endorphins, heyyy) and I have time to think things over or think about something else than everyday troubles. My best ideas come when I’m running, I sort my thought out when I’m getting tired. Sometimes I get so exhausted during my runs that I have no choice but to honest with myself. You know that state when your body is so out of energy that all is let is pure thought? If you don’t, try. You and your body need to reconnect and this is the best way to do it. Weirdest and most amazing thing? You’ll be tired and soon after full of energy.

Me after a run: happy

Let’s give ourselves a treat aka #treatyourselfwell

The easy choice would be buying something lavish, booking an expensive trip or going out for a dinner in Michelin restaurant. I’ve had a fare share of expensive gifts ‘from myself to myself’ in my life and the joy lasted for a very short time. Can I get more creative? I go back on the theme of being good and gentle with ourselves, dedicating attention and time that we deprive ourselves of because ‘it’s only me’. I’m very grateful to my mum and my grandpa for teaching me that eating should be, whenever you can, on a set table. Even if you eat on your own, especially if you eat on your own. Preparing your food with care, even if you eat alone. So if I eat on my own I set a table and prepare the food I like. No shortcuts. Attention is priceless and I’m worth attention. Let’s treat ourselves to something simple and something that put our needs first.

A wild asparagus risotto I made only for me. Because I like wild asparagus and I love risotto.

And now…a treat for you! Recently I’ve discovered  2 ways how to make easily plant milk, or as someone call it : mylk. It’s simple and it’s fast and it’s economical. I mean: win win and win!

Nut milk: you need your nut butter of choice, I’d choose something  without as clean as possible, that is peanut butter with only peanuts and no additional and useless sunflower oil, etc. But it’s your call I don’t judge. Ok, so you take a 1l of warm or hot water, add a generous teaspoon of your peanut butter or almond butter and blend it for 30 sec/1 min. Done. Of course you can add some sweetener if you like: honey, stevia, maple syrup, etc but you don’t have to. Done.

Hemp seed milk: the same procedure. Add 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds to warm or hot water and blend for few minutes. Add sweetener. Or not. Done.