Summer training: why’o’why!

Summer training is the best.

I’m partial because I love summer, heat and mosquitoes. Ok, too much enthusiasm, I love summer and heat, mosquitoes are just a reminder that this is not a heaven on Earth.

You suffer but in a different way. 

You know that runners just love to suffer, we do marathons for fun. But training in heat is something completely different.I don’t know about you but for me it’s the same scenario every year. I’m slower and I find it more difficult to run due to the temperature but I always always always think it’s me, that I’m out of shape. And I go back to those years when I was slower than I am now. And somehow it makes me more humble.

Temperature paradox

As we all know heat is a killer for your speed, muscles (hydration, cramps!) and overall it’s a bummer training like that..but..(talking from personal experience) it’s much better to train in summer heat and then do a race in autumn than train in winter and then do a spring marathon. Simply because if you do well or average in heat you’ll be flying in lower temperatures while training in cold weather will never prepare you for a sudden burst of hot weather in springtime.

Just summer

Forget the temperature,suffering and mosquitoes. There’s so much light, you don’t have to spend half an hour to get dressed to go for a run (winter running, I don’t miss you!), autumn races are so distant and you can always go for a swim or bike ride when it’s too hot to run! 

Do you like running in the summer?

What’s your favourite season for running/training?

Have you already planned your fall races? 

Comrades Marathon_my dream race

That’s the race I dreamt about for the last 5 years.

I was never ready. It was never the right time.

It was so intimidating.

And last year I thought to make myself a birthday gift and I signed up for.

Comrades, 87 hilly km, road race, the oldest road ultra marathon.

The Ultimate human race in South Africa.

 Why Comrades?

Comrades marathon 2019

Few years back I started to listen to podcast about Ultra Trail and although Comrades Marathon is a road race, it’s been mentioned so often and with such a passion that it became my ultimate goal. 

Comrades Marathon is a road race more less 89 km (55 miles) long held annually in KwaZulu -Natal province of South Africa and it was run for the first time in 1921. One year it starts in Durban and finishes in Pietermaritzburg and it’s uphill (like this year), the year after it starts in  Pietermaritzburg and ends in Durban (downhill edition). Something that I’d do one day if I was quick enough and injury free. I was constantly injured and slow so Comrades, so challenging and distant (literally) was for me like Boston Marathon for so many other runners.

Did I become faster? A bit but what’s changed was my perception of this goal, not my speed. I just told myself ‘now or never’. So 2019 Comrades Marathon was my ‘now’.

What I expected and what I got in return

The ultimate human race with a rigid cut off time, that’s what I had imagined. From the race reports I knew I could expect a hilly course and hot weather. Even if the race takes place in the middle of the south african winter, it’s still South Africa

Start line at 4.30 am

At the start line everyone was so chilled I had doubts if it was a competitive race. We were all hugging each other and wishing a great race to one another. We started at 5.30 am, for the first hour we were running in the dark. Still, from the first to the last km I saw (and heard!) people cheering like their lives depended on it. I have never experienced a crowd like that in a race. When you run there are two things that can fail you: your body and your mind. Physically I was ok all the way. Mentally…I was carried by that crowd for the 87 km. I floated on that energy.

yep,I floated for 10h

I feel like I’m floating now. I feel so full of this experience yet so homeless because I arrived at my summit and what should I do now? So enriched and free but what shouldI do with this freedom? Time will tell, let’s enjoy the ride.

I’m looking forward to..

It doesn’t have to be big or revolutionary. All the thigs that keep you excited and smilig when thinking about them. In casual order here are things I’m looking forward to:

New season of ‘She’s gotta have it’. (Netflix)

I’m not a huge follower of TV series, I used to be but now I’m so impatient I can’t even get through the first 3 episodes (I usually give a new serie a ‘3 episodes trial’). I was positively surprised by this one, made like some sort of movies I like, great soundtrack and an interesting main female character. Nola is New York based artist of color and her social life is…well, flourishing. To my pleasant surprise I discovered that it’s made by Spike Lee! Can’t wait for the second season coming soon!

New Skepta album

Some musicians never fail you. And I don’t mean Madonna. I love some good hip hop and I have to say that british hip hop is worth exploring. Skepta is not a newbie on a music scene and he never fails. I pre-ordered his new album coming out 31st of May and the first two singles are as good as always.

‘Igorance is bliss’ out on 31 of May!

European elections

I’m always excited about politics, you’ll never hear me say ‘oh, those politicians, they will promise you things and after the elections they will do the same old thing’. Politics is always an interesting game, I’m listening,watching, I’m worried, terrified, excited but I always participate. And, on Sunday I have actually a candidate I can’t wait to vote! Isn’t that a wonderful perspective?

My next trip

I’m leaving on 5th of June for South Africa. I’m happy and a bit worried at the same time cause I’m travelling alone but I feel this is the right moment to make this trip happen. If not now, when? I’ll tell you all about it soon!

What are you looking for in the next weeks or months? Any running related events?

What’s on your playlist?

Any good netflix serie to recommend?

What we’re doing wrong comparing to professional runners?

Once you’re hooked on running, or even before that, you try to have a sneak peek on what pros are doing. Of course we don’t believe we could run as fast but maybe there’s a secret we don’t know about? A perfect shoe or a magical pre-workout snack that will make you faster? I read a few books, listen to different interviews with professionals and here are my conclusions or rather guesses on what we do extremely different in comparison to Mebs of the world

Running too hard on easy runs and too easy on hard runs.

That’s the first one that came to my mind as I’m guilty AF. I don’t know what is it but I have to prove on every run that I can push to a certain pace, doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing or I’m feeling sick. On the other hand when going gets hard, like during an interval training I ….quit easily thinking I just can’t do it. Or maybe I can’t stand the constant pressure considering I’m trying so hard on all my weekly runs? Anyway, professional runners are quite slow on their easy runs comparing to their race or hard sessions and they’re so chill about it.

Me on most of my runs. Just kidding, I sweat much more.

We run and run only

I’m not going to harass you about cross training, we all know the drill: you should do strength training, try to do other sports, ecc.Pro runners do all this but also much more, they go for sports massage, prioritize sleep, eat well,eat to fuel their bodies. They treat their bodies like a lean running machine that deserves attention, we sometimes treat ours like a insubordinate kid that must be punished. We ask ourselves to run be we don’t give back if not in form of food that makes us feel bad and/or guilty afterwards. Don’t treat yourself like a dog, don’t reward yourself with food. Give yourself an additional hour of sleep, massage, stock up your fridge with good quality produce.

We try to emulate professionals but pick the wrong things

What watch do you wear, what shoes? It must be something that you’re having for breakfast that makes you so fast!- these are literally questions pro athletes get in the interviews. People want to know about their morning routine and then the only thing they get out of it is the type of juice someone gets for breakfast.Don’t get stuck on singular, specific thing. It’s not important what exactly they eat, it’s important that is quality food, that caloric intake is matching the energy expenditure. Don’t copy the specific workouts but think about the logic behind the whole plan or just get a coach.

Wherever I travel I seek fruit…

We do same things and expect different results

We go for a run, it goes bad, we archive it and repeat the same thing another day. Pros seem to be more thoughtful about not only racing but training. Did it feel good, if not maybe changing something might get it better. It’s not always ‘your fault’ and even if it is, make changes. Pros very often have training journals, not only to write down the pace but also to write down the sensation from the run. They have courage to slow down or change the specific workout. That’s how you avoid injuries or draw conclusions when they actually happen.

Write down how your day and your training is going, a training journal is a great idea

Do you have a favourite athlete?

Have you ever tried to apply to your workout or daily routine inspired by another athlete? If so, what?

Weird habits_runner’s edition

Don’t tell me you don’t have one. Runners are superstitious and either we already are creatures of habit of we become ones. Once you start to run you learn that you should have your race routine, pre-race routine, pre morning run routine..anything that will rule out the failure.Of course failure comes but in the midst of routines we create our own weird habits.Here is a small list I heard of

Ironing your running clothes

Not only for the race but for everyday run. I know, I thought that technical t-shirt shouldn’t be ironed but I don’t ironing at all. There are some runners  who will iron all the technical stuff.

Listening to the same lucky playlist.

I admit, it might get a bit boring listening to the same song, I’d love to change my playlist but if you have your lucky song/playlist and it puts you in the right state of mind: why not?

Wearing the same outfit to every race

This might be quite smart move: wearing clothes you know don’t cause you trouble makes your race chaffing free.

Painting your nails red for a race (female version but I don’t judge if you’re man and doing it).

I actually do it (almost always), I love red nails, I feel festive and ready if I have my nails painted red. Do I go crazy if I don’t? I use to, then I ran a few good races without red nail polish and now I’m not panicking, I just like to have them that way.

Running around the block just to cash in the missing meters.

You know that sometimes you ran the usual route but somehow you miss the last 200 meters? Some of us will run till the pgs watch will show the complete distance.

Wearing lucky charm/buffer/you name it/ to a race

It’s the similar logic (if you can put superstition and logic in the same phrase. Oh wait, I just did!) like with a fav playlist or outfit. You feel better wearing it and it reminds you of a good race so you like to have it with you.

Do you have your superstition or habit regarding running?

Are you superstitious at all?

Do you have your running routine? Do you freak out when you miss it or have to change it?

5 things that can go wrong during a marathon

You lose your mind (and heart)

Everyone is telling these days that running is an experience you can share with others, how it’s great to run with others, how others can help you etc. I’m sure it’s true for some of us, I myself have been always a lone runner (sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song but it’s less fancy) so I can’t tell. What I know for sure is that in the end running a race is between you, your legs and a finish line, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. So if you lose it during the race other can cheer you up but it’s your responsibility to get it together. How? Try to think how awesome it will be to finish, how much you want it. Try thinking about something unrelated to running. Try to smile. I know, it sounds stupid but it works. Your brain doesn’t’ know the fake smile from the real one so it sends all the good chemicals to your body no matter what. So smile, if it really won’t help (and I assure you it will) at least you’ll look good on photos.

Shit show.

It might not get so dramatic but intestinal issues can sometimes finish your race. How to prevent it? If you have a history of IG issues during the race analyze what went wrong. On my last race it went soo wrong because it was super hot and I took some energy/electrolyte drink at a race food point. Lesson learnt: don’t drink something that you haven’t used before or take it with a glass of water afterwards. If, nevertheless, you feel like your intestine is not having the best day, try to limit the damage: slow down, look for a potty, drink water or eat banana (sometimes helps). If you run in the cold weather cover your stomach before the race (two layers of clothes might do the trick).

Wordrobe malfunction or dressing not accordingly to the weather.

You probably know you should rehearse that, right? The clothes for the marathon should be comfortable and perfect for the weather conditions and you should wear them especially during your long runs. That’s the best way to know if you’re clothes are really comfortable, even the softest tshirt can become a nightmare after 13 miles, you’ll never know if you haven’t tried! Still it can happen that something goes wrong. What to do? First: prevention. Put vaseline where you could have chafing, you know best, probably arms and legs, maybe your feet as well? But if your running clothes are too much (hot weather) or not enough (too cold) you have two options: dress down which is taking away some of your clothes (up to you if throw them away or tuck in your waistline) or power through. Cause when you’re cold you could of course speed up but are you able to sustain the pace? If so, go for it, if not, maybe there are some hot beverages on the food stations?

Injury

I assume you wouldn’t start a race with an injury (of course we’re all in this so we know that we would definitely go for a race with an injury). But sometimes, just sometimes it happens that in the middle of the race something starts to hurt and I’m not talking about sore muscles. It happened to me more than once: throbbing knee from the 10th km in Athens marathon and something that felt like shin splints during my Venice marathon. I’m not going to suggest to power through because sometimes it can be serious. In my case it wasn’t, I was lucky but I had my doubts in case of Venice marathon, it was my first marathon after a stress fracture so you can imagine how I was freaking out. At the end I decided to finish the race and it’s still my PB to this day but I wasn’t sure it was a good decision until the pain went away. Like a week after a marathon. I was lucky but don’t push your luck if you feel like something is not right, PB is awesome but not always you’re running for it and months without running afterwards suck.

Mother nature can be a bitch

..and there’s nothig you can do about it #spoileralert

How you can limit the damage? Training. I’m not convincing you to look out for storm and hail when planning your workouts but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Meaning going out for a long run even if it’s raining or snowing. If you can do the same run later, sure , go for it. But if you can’t go anyway, rarely a race will be postponed because of rain. Training for a marathon is getting used to being unconfortable

The common thread of all those tragedies is being mentally prepared without obsessing about it. Anything can happen, it can change your result but most probably your reaction to the unexpected will matter the most.

What is the worst thing that happened to you during a race?

What’s your limit during a race, what you wouldn’t do to finish it?


A year in a runner’s calendar

You know that I’m a runner so when I think about my calendar my mind often goes automatically to races, preparation. Still, when I think of these events they’re not the most important ones. They are part of my framework and discipline. Yes, I’m boring, thank you for noticing.

Spring

I’m supposed to be ready for a spring marathon because I’ve been training hard in the winter. Well, I always run but the extra weight I carry on after xmas is not helping as well as all the layers of clothes I wear until it’s boiling hot outside. Yes, I’m one of those people you see running in old fashioned tracksuits trying to sweat the fat out. The only difference is that I’m genuinely cold when I start running that’s why I dress like a moron.

Usually my spring marathon is a bit of a failure because I train during cold months and spring starts a day before my marathon. That’s Murphy’s law for runners and it never fails.

Summer

I finally switch to shorts and I develop a runner’s tan that means I have white feet and torso and a garmin white stripe on my wrist. I’ve already gave up on having a real even tan, there are worse things.

I suffer a lot running in the hot weather but I love hot weather so I suck it up but for the first two months of summer I can’t believe I’m slower because of the heat, I’m convinced it’s me losing my fitness. Once I get that it’s the weather the summer is over. Damn.

Autumn

Probably the best moments to run: colors, temperature, the smell of falling leaves. All the summer training is paying off, the running is easier and more often than not the fall marathon is amazing.

Winter

Not my favourite time for running: I hate cold, snow and dark and wither gives me all of that and more. Like flu and nonsense sales. I lose my mojo for everything and my favourite activity in winter is sleeping and staying warm. Maybe I’m a bear? That would explain everything.

Anyway, I’m cranky and almost always injured in winter but I overcompensate by signing up for a lots of spring and summer races. It’s easy to imagine yourself running all those kms while sitting under a blanket drinking tea. I’m still running, training, dreaming of spring.

What’s yours running/training year? Any patterns?

Anything different this year? New race or routine?


Where to run: London

While you’re reading this I’m in London,surprisingly not to run a race.

But I always pack a pair of running shoes when I’m traveling so why not tell you of my favorite places to run when I’m in London?

Little Venice and Grand Union Canal

My adventure with running started with Naviglio Canal in Milan and since then I love running while having water in sight. I don’t know what it is, a park won’t do it for me. Give me a canal and I’ll run for miles. That’s why Grand Union Canal will always be my first choice when running in London.

Grand Union Canal starts in London and finishes in Birmingham, take a run or a walk along it, you’ll see birds and boats where people live permanently. It’s an easy city escape when the city seems too busy for you!

Regents Park is in the central London and although I don’t like running in parks this one is big enough to makes you forget you’re running in one.

Plus you’ll find a canal even there! It’s a part of Grand Union Canal of course so you might start there and continue your run. Another attraction is London’s Zoo, the first time I was running past it I didn’t know it so once the animals started to scream I almost had a heart attack.

Tracks (for example Paddington recreation ground)

I hate track. When I do my intervals I’m a bit stressed but when I’m running somewhere outside of track I’m not that stressed about it like when I’m running on track. Clear, right?

Track means business (read: speedwork), you don’t venture on a track when you want to stroll or jog (although once I saw a mom with a stroller on a track, jogging. True story). Sometimes though track is necessary so if you’re looking for one, London is plenty of them and they the access is free! Free is good, especially for sports promotion. Way to go, UK!

What to pay attention when you run in London: there are no water fountains! Take a spare change if you want to grab a bottle of something to drink on your run.

Do you pack your running shoes when you go for a holiday?

Do you inform yourself where to run or you improvise?

What’s the most exotic or far away place you ran?

Pre race stress

Weeks of preparation (or not), looking forward to the date that seemed so distant and here it is.

Only few days to your (or mine) race day and you start to go mad…

Ok, I exaggerate a bit but we all know that taper week and pre race madness is real!

Stress is your friend

Just like with training:a good amount of stress help you grow as an athlete. When it’s too much you get injured.

A mental stress gives you the right amount of adrenaline kick and keeps you going like a Duracell rabbit. When it’s too much you lose all your special powers. So get the best from stress but don’t overdo it.You know, like with coffee.

Pre-race stress is understandable and quite normal. All those months come to one day, a final exam. Some of us prepare diligently with great or less great results, others are less fortunate and can’t prepare or refuse to go by the plan. Either way you can’t really do much in the last few days. Try not to waste everything by eating poorly or not sleeping or running all the miles. Apart from that: relax.

Doubts

Am I ready? Will I be ready? Have I done everything right? Would would Jesus do?

The answer is one:you can never be sure and it really doesn’t matter. Sometimes I think people ask the wrong questions or even waste time asking questions at all. We ask questions about the past: how we could have done better training, prepare better and they are valid questions before preparing for the next race, project etc.

Analyzing is good, dwelling on what’s been already done is not.

Doubts are normal thing because few of us have the certainty to be flawless. What you can do is to switch doubts, that uncertain state of things into excitement. If you think of it they are quite close to each other. Race is this d-day when you’re not sure what’s going to happen but it can be super fun and amazing. Usually it is. Unless you have diarrhea. Then it’s not that amazing. #notapersonalstory

What would Meb do?

I have no idea, I haven’t read his book (yet) but I heard he thought of dropping out of each marathon he did. Which makes him a drama queen. C-Mon Meb, you got this! Every single time!

What you can do and what I do the days before the race is rest, hydrate, do yoga, take care of my nutrition. Basically what I should do normally but I’m too lazy.

I try to take a special care of myself, treat myself better. I mask, do my nails, visualize what I will do after the race #celebrate

Do you go mad before the race?

What’s your strategy for pre race madness?

Do you have a pre race ritual?

Game changer

I think we should all make an investment in something that will make us live better, feel better, run and recover better. I mean a really powerful tool: sleep.

Sleep is my favourite.

My grandma used to tell me that sleep is the best skin care you can get.

True but it’s much more that that. Lack of sleep has a true domino effect on your life, if you fix that everything else becomes easier.

Sleep and your appetite. To be concise I’ll tell you only that our appetite is regulated by 2 hormones and lack of sleep destabilizes the level of the hormone that makes you feel satiated.

So if you don’t sleep enough you feel hungry even though you have eaten enough. When I don’t sleep enough I crave sugar as a quick ‘pick-me-up’ solution.

Sleep and your time reaction Researches show (I always wanted to use that phrase) that sleep deprived people have similar time reaction to drunk people.You probably have seen it on your own example: if you haven’t slept it’s hard to focus and remember things, simple tasks can take you a long time and you’re moody. What’s worse you can’t just make up for a week of insomnia by sleeping in during the weekend. Consistency, even if so boring, is always the key.

Why we actually have to sleep?

The debate is still open on that.For a long time we thought it was all about regeneration of our bodies but the newest researches shows that the main reason might be different. Every day we see different things, receive a lot of informations and stimuli. It seems that sleep is the moment we’re saving those informations on our internal hard disk. Crazy idea, right? Consider this: we use only a small amount of our brain and during sleep our brain activity and overall body activity doesn’t just stop, it goes on.We’ve managed to land on the moon but we still are not sure how and why our brain and body function.

Did you know that the idea of sleeping 7-8 hours per night is quite new notion? It’s a XX century ‘invention’, before that time it was believed that 4 hours will be enough.

Ok, so how many hours per night do you sleep?

Are you waking up rested?

Do you wake up during the night?

Are you a sound sleeper or anything can wake you up?

Lazy runner

Days are getting longer and warmer.

Races are approaching.

And all I want to do is stay on the couch, read and watch films on YouTube.

I know, that’s the motivation you’ve been looking for.

Honestly there’s no reason to be lazy: the weather is great, running is going well and I no longer have those pains in the left quad that were making me so anxious.

Have you ever experienced this state of laziness? Partially I blame the weather for this, spring has come early (not complaining) and now is playing hide&seek with us

Once I’m out running I still enjoy it but I find it so difficult to get out! On the other hand, on the rest days I can’t wait to be running again!

I have some suspicions to why it happens

  • I sleep poorly these days, melatonin helps but I still wake up too early
  • Changing weather makes me moody
  • I lost my morning routine which makes me procrastinate in the morning
  • I eat more sugary stuff
  • The last dentist visit resulted in taking a lot of painkillers which I usually don’t take and my body feels ‘out of normal’

Out of that list I think that poor sleep is the most aggravating of all and the most difficult to manage for me. I can more easily deal with other issues but sleep. Damn, sleep is so powerful mood boosting and recovery tool. Sleep is my favourite.

Food trends: do you follow?

If you pay attention to new healthy crazes on Instagram or Youtube you probably know that celery juice is the new black. Celery prices are going over the roof because someone made a claim that celery juice will change your health.

I guess eating more vegetables is always better than having less of them and green juice a day won’t hurt anyone.

Do you want to have a brief round of recent health trends with me? Let’s see what’s been going on recently in the fitness world.

Celery juice

To juice or not to juice…

It supposed to help you with

  • Inflammation
  • Gut health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Pay your taxes (I was just checking if you were reading)

From what I read and heard from  people who had it form some weeks it can be good to your health. In my opinion though any vegetable juice is low in fructose, has a lot of vitamins. So if you fancy a celery juice (a round of applause), go for it, you can’t go wrong with vegetable juice. I think that like with all of Instagram trends there’s no solid proof (aka long term research non based on animals) to prove its miracle benefits.

Chia seeds


They became healthy few years back among runners as a perfect source of Omega 3 and a great way to stay hydrated. Why? If you ever put chia seeds in a liquid you’ll know that they absorb it. So if you add them to your smoothie, porridge or even water you’ll ingest a sort of gelatin consistency. In theory that could keep you more satiated for longer. It’s like a gift that keep on giving. Plus they are a source of micro nutrients and vitamins like zinc or phosphorus. They do contain Omega 3 but the short- chained ones (ALA) that must be converted into long-chained Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) before our body can use them.

And they are still quite expensive, rightly so because they grow in Central America.

Superfoods, both because of the way they are sourced (high standards cost) and because they support local agriculture shouldn’t be cheap.

Are they worth the hype? Yes, but if you want add Omega 3 to your diet take flax seeds as they contain more Omega 3.

Grind them in the blender and add to your salad, smoothie. Hydration? There’s no way around it. Drink water, eat fruits!

Intermittent fasting

Again, I’m a fan of intermittent fasting,meaning a way of eating where you alter the period (or a window) in which you eat with a period when you don’t. I theory we all do that every day, that’s why we break fast every morning after hours of non eating. Still, real benefits of fasting can be obtained after at least 10 hours of not eating. What are they?

  • Your muscles adapt better to burn fat
  • Improvement of gut hormones levels and insulin sensitivity: that’s why intermittent fasting is often advised to diabetics
  • Your body uses better the surplus of the energy from the food

These are the main ones but definitely not the only ones.The thing with IF is that it’s not a weight loss diet and so many people think it is. It can help you to improve your hunger levels but it won’t do the work for you!

I have to be honest, I’m a fan of all of above mentioned trends, they will do you no harm and potentially can make you healthier. Try them, maybe they will work for you. What I always ask from myself and others is critical thinking. No one gives you a free pass on that. Don’t bottle down juice and expect to be healed. Check your sources, don’t take anyone’s word for it, not even mine. I’m not a dietitian, I just like nutrition, I read. Do your own research!

Packing for a race

I normally pack in one bag but by normally I mean not for a race.Do I even travel anymore if not for a race? Anyway..if you have this problem I think I might have a solution

What you actually need?

Make a race list and if you don’t have an app for this download a…grocery shopping list, mine is called MyGroceries (#shocking) and it works just fine both for shopping and for race packing.

Take no more than 2 sets of clothing for the race, it’s not a beauty contest. If the weather changes drastically you might get something from the race expo. Hint: check out if you have everything once arrived at the hotel and before heading out for the race expo.

Recap: you need your running clothes, energy gels, of course your shoes and other gadgets like cap, gloves, chafing gel, gps watch and charger for it.

And of course your shoes. My personal advice if you take plane for the race: always put your shoes in the hand luggage. If your main luggage gets lost you can always buy running clothes but buying and running in the new pair of shoes is a bad bad bad idea.

Imagine them gone..

What should be on your ‘emergency list’?
Ahhh, emergencies. Don’t we love them. All the unplanned problems like gut issues, flu, sore throat. You might notice that I mention all possible health issues. The thing is all the other running related emergencies you can resolve easily aka buy stuff. If you, on the other hand, have fever, something you ate made you puke, ecc. it’s better to have something on hand. I know, I sound like a grandma. Call me running grandma.

Things I put on my emergency list? Painkillers,pills for urinary infections and anti-fever pills. You might say that if you need those you shouldn’t run and you’re probably right. Sometimes you’ll decide non to run and it’s ok, sometimes you take one pill and your ready to go the day after . No matter what will be your choice you still need a pill

A ‘nice-to-have’ list

Not so important as emergency list but I would argue that you still need to think about it. It’s all about relaxing and feeling a bit less overwhelmed and more like at home when you’re away. You know best how to achieve it. For me it’s a herbal tea and a good book the night before, for you it might me and essential oil or your favorite good mood play list. Something to chill is easy to find, just remember to take it with you!

My go-to de-stress set before the race

What’s on your list to pack for a race?

Do you have an emergency list?

How do you relax before the race?

I want them all

..especially electronic devices: gps, power meters, massagers, oxygen levels measures, compression sleeves. All the hydration belts, caps, earphones,glasses.

Oh, and socks, never enough socks, right?

I want all the gadgets and if I only had a black American Express and could switch off my conscience..  

Are you tempted by the gadgets? If so, let’s take a look at what might be useful and what..can wait

Fancy GPS

How fancy? The thing is those new and sophisticated watches cost a lot. How advanced are you with you’re running? Maybe the simple entry level model will do and won’t break a bank. If you’re running for some time now and you’re doing long runs, intervals, tempo runs or you’re thinking about multi-sport then maybe the more expensive watch is a good idea. Think twice and if you have doubts research first, I can recommend the DC Rainmaker blog for everything tech related.

Bottom line: you’d probably don’t need that fancy watch if you’re a beginner

New running clothes…that you actually don’t need. In every race pack I got a technical t-shirt and most of the pants/shorts don’t wear out that easily. In general running clothes last. Have you noticed that although you probably own numerous running t-shirts you wear the same 3 all the time? I justify owning more and more technical winter gear as it dries slowly and the temperature can change from chilly to super cold overnight and you need something really good for keeping the sweat away when it’s cold outside. Apart from that: save your money on running clothes and put them into running shoes fund, you’ll need them!

Bottom line: save your money!

Compression sleeves/socks There are compression socks that you wear during a run and other types for recovery. Nowadays they don’t cost a lot and you can get them on sale and, in a opinion of someone with big calves aka me, they do make a difference. From what I understood they prevent the lactic acid from accumulation and help blood circulation. It’s worth give them a try, especially if you have circulation problems. If you don’t, just use them when needed, like during your long run.

Bottom line: worth a try!

Massagger (like Compex, Mark Pro, ecc.) This one is fancy and potentially useful. And deadly to your wallet. I said  ‘potentially useful’ because it all depends on level, intensity and frequency of your activities. The more you do the more useful it can be. Do you work out numerous times per week, find yourself fighting with cramps, sore muscles? Do you invest a lot into sport massage sessions? Maybe you also have a partner who work out? You do cross fit, running, biking, weight lifting? If you answered ‘yes’ to more than one of the above questions then you might consider a compex or similar. It’s costly but effective.

Bottom line: it depends.

All the supplements and protein powders

I’m convinced we all should supplement Vit D (combined with vit K) as we don’t get enough sun exposure to synthesize it. Magnesium supplement could be a good idea if you work out and have some trouble to fall asleep.

And then it all depends on your blood results and what you do (sports, life). In general it’s hard to overdose vitamins but ask your doctor anyway (and don’t sue me). If you’re an athlete try your best to eat balanced diet. Do you need protein shakes? I personally take them after a long run because I can’t stomach anything solid. But for me long run starts at 21 km or more. Stop obsessing over losing muscle, make them in the first place. Get your veggies, fruits and invest in good food. If it’s not enough look for protein shakes and other powders.

Bottom line: real food first, astronaut food later!

If you were never tempted by all the running gadgets than I seriously envy you. There are times I’d buy all the things I don’t need but then I open my wardrobe and see so many running clothes I don’t know what to do with. I have a new GPS watch. I try to supplement the essentials and not to go overboard with all the new superfoods, I’d rather spend more on the farmers market. Anything new on my wishlist? Sure but I don’t have limitless resources and at the end of the day I tell myself that the most important things in my running is my body and mind, I must take care of them first.

Confessions of an ex race junkie

My name is Hanna and I used to race every weekend.

Or every other weekend.

Ok, I wrote every other weekend just to make you think I wasn’t a junkie. I was. Big time.

I don’t know where are you in your running history but for most of us it goes like this:

  • You start running, God knows why, and you suffer. No breath, crampy legs, the struggle is real
  • The struggle is less painful
  • You still suck at running but somehow you enjoy it and becomes your thing. You may even meet other people who enjoy the same type of masochism.
  • You sign up for your first race and even though it’s stressful the adrenaline, going for the race, all the rituals before and after, seeing your friends makes it the best thing ever.
  • You’re officially hooked

Maybe you’ve been there or maybe you’re heading there,I’m not in a Race Town anymore. I’m actually trying to get back but let me tell you why I don’t live there anymore

It’s pretty stressful. Even if you tell yourself it’s only just for fun and you won’t give your all, that the race is just a part of training. The adrenaline is contagious and there’s no way you won’t be at least a bit nervous. Your ‘fight-or-flight’ mode will inevitably kick in. Imagine living this every weekend. Waking up Sunday morning with that tingle in the stomach..You’re only racing against yourself but…

It’s not the way you want to train. Some runs are easy, some are faster. If you race instead of training you’ll always give 100% instead of taking it easy. Then if you race you should recover the week after.

Once you recover you race again which means you never train, you just rest and recover. You will have a wall full of medals but few PR’s.

Can I get a mortgage for this? You might race close to home but it will cost you money and time. Races are getting more and more popular and even if you plan ahead traveling for races can damage your budget.

Racing is a lifestyle. If  you want to live that way, that’s ok just bear in mind you have to organize everything around it. No more lazy weekend mornings, either you travel for a race or you wake up early to go on a start line. No brunch or Sunday roast with non running friends (do you still have non running friends?) Then you recover so Sunday afternoon is quite different as well: cold baths, foam rolling or legs up against the wall. But you decline most of the invitations for the weekend anyway, racing, remember?

Someone said: injury? Recovery and steady training makes you less prone to injuries, needless to say racing all the time is not. Plus after the race you body is weaker also in term of immunity and you can get sick quite easily.

I think the main reason I quit compulsive racing was stress and being exhausted all the time. Plus I wanted to bring my running on the next level and constant racing wasn’t helping at that. Instead of getting faster I started to become slower and irritated.

I’m not sure if there are a lot of addicts like I used to be, for sure not having a family on your own can limit the damage in the first place, I mean you want to and have to spend time and money on your loved ones as a priority. Otherwise you can slip quite easily into the new lifestyle which is being away every weekend and collecting bibs.

Are you addicted to racing? Maybe you used to? Why dis you quit?

What do you love about racing?

Any race on your calendar?

A week in the life of a runner, winter edition


If you like me, movement and running are a very important part of your life. Thankfully it’s not all of my life and I try to live a balanced life although there are times all I’d do would be running, hiking and biking.

But life is not an Instagram feed and we all have to squeeze sport to sometimes busy schedule. Here’s an example of my winter week of running

Monday rest day,

Maybe the one and only rest day. God had a free day on Sunday but who am I to rest on the same day as God? I’d rather take Monday as it is hard enough for million different reasons. Monday is when I recover after a long Sunday run. I’d like to tell you I go for a massage or sauna but let’s be real. My osteopath is on sick leave and I don’t trust anyone else plus I have a lot of races to plan so the budget is tight so..I’ll go for foam rolling and tumeric tea (and some tiger’s balm for aching muscles, it’s the best!)

Tuesday easy run

run in the fog and since it was also a short one I’ll do and abs or legs workout afterwards. I’m sweaty anyway so why not take advantage of that?

Wednesday speed work

That run left me unsatisfied but hey at least I have a goal to reach for…a quick strengthening workout for legs and I’m done. Shower!

Thursday rest day

so I’m squeezing in a longer session of mobility and strength exercises. Honestly: I hate them, at least part of them but I guess these are the ones I need the most.

Normally I prepare some falafels or veggie burgers in batch to freeze and have them ready for those days I need to have a quick lunch.

Thursady gives me a breath of fresh air, I needed a day off. I promised myself to foam roll this year..I’ll do it tomorrow.

Friday I feel the air of weekend and everything looks brighter on Friday so I do my quick’ish run in the park and quick abs at home. TGIF!

Another run, another breathtaking view

Saturday is kind of rest day but I fit in a yoga session if I can and it’s quite demanding one but I’m on a break up terms with yoga nowadays so one class a week is better than nothing, right? So yoga it is. A walk around town to relax, carbs for dinner thinking ahead of my long run tomorrow. What’s your carb of choice before long run? It used to be pizza for me but somehow in the past year my legs are so heavy the day after that I decided to go for risotto

Sunday runday funday which means long run. In winter I stay longer in bed because heading for a long run early in the morning means cold air and my hand and feet suffer a lot in winter..Plus I need a bit of sleep and laziness sometimes, right? I like long runs, they are like a treat for me and on Sunday I don’t need to be nowhere.

Then a good lunch afterwards, trying to put in some proteins #teamtempeh and later in the day…foam rolling finally! I should do it more often, right? But it hurts!

If I’m in a right mood I’ll go for another yoga session, maybe a yin yoga, my latest discovery and I have to say it’s the best after a long run. Steady and focusing of different muscle groups.

That’s it! I’d love to hear your week in sports or whatever you do to keep moving! Isn’t that amazing what we can do in a week?

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?

Treat yo’self.

Life gets crazy sometimes, sometimes it’s so hectic you don’t even realize until you have to stop.

My life was so stressful recently that more than one person asked me how I was doing and I replied that considering it all, I was doing fine. And I really believed that.

Then I had a horrible tooth inflammation, urinary tract infection and strapped a muscle between my ribs. All in one week.

Ok, I said to myself, I believe that I’m fine but apparently my body knows best.

I do take care of myself and I tend to have my own routine but sometimes I lose track and skip some parts of it. And then all of the sudden (which is never all of the sudden) I find myself nervous, all over the place, trying to keep it together.

When I was in South Africa I had some problems with internet connection. Great, you would say, some time for yourself. Yes, the only problem was that I couldn’t have my app for meditation online. Even though I tried to meditate on my own it wasn’t as effective as the guided version I was used to. And then I stopped. At first I didn’t notice any difference but after a few weeks it was clear how uncentered and off the balance I was. Funny thing, I couldn’t make myself to sit and do it again! Finally I started again and I do notice a difference. I’d like to practice it without my phone in the near future. If you have ever tried meditation and failed miserably trust me, I practised for a decent amount of time and never got ‘better at it’ but there’s no such thing like being good at meditation. Some days are better than others, just like your brain.

Another thing I’d like to put into practise is making some order. I’m extremely messy person so ordering my room, cleaning regularly is something that makes me pause for a moment. Having a clean desk can sometimes clean your thoughts as well. I wouldn’t exaggerate with this, I won’t become Marie Kondo all of the sudden. A normal cleaning routine, changing  sheets, putting a fresh lemony oil in my aroma diffuser or just opening wide a window in the morning. An order or cleaning among my contacts. Yep, it’s amazing how clearly you see some connections once you’re in trouble and need help…

I would like to give you a long list of things to put in practice but the reality is I don’t have solutions. In those days I just ask myself what I need, what feels good. I try not to apply mechanically all the trendy things that supposed to make me feel better like yoga, journaling and similar.

You could ask: where’s running in all this? Shouldn’t it be helpful in getting better mentally? Not for me. The more time passes the more running is just running for me. A passion, a great every day stress wipe off but nothing more. If I had a bad day at work a quick run for sure will help me to sweat it off but that’s it. If troubles or stress build up running won’t get me out of this state of mind. Running is cheaper than therapy, they say. Well folks, there’s a reason for that. It’s cheaper because it won’t replace anything. Like comfort food won’t replace comfort so don’t make that mistake either.

Do you notice when you should slow down?

Do you dedicate some time to yourself daily?

What’s your favourite treat? A massage? Day in a SPA? A glass of wine?

Do you have someone you talk to when you feel down?

Which emotions make you injured?

You’ve probably read a lot of theories on why we get injured and we all look for reasons why once we can’t run. Bad shoes, bad diet, too much running and so on. I’m not going into technicalities as I’m no expert on training, I wanted to gety down to the basic emotions that stands behind ‘too much’ or ‘too soon’

FEAR  AND INSECURITY

Most of us get get a day or two off running. But we won’t because we’ll going to loose our fitness! And the race is coming in a month so you can’t miss any session, even the easy run! And if you’re not running for two days you’ll get fat and miserable!

GREED AND IMPATIENCE

Running is about being consistant and patient. Your body has to adapt to the training load, you have to have time to develop muscles that will support you on the run. You have to go through easy runs, bad runs, missed runs, good and glorious runs.

Still a lot of us want to skip the boring and miserable runs. Hint: they will make you strong and resistant. If you don’t love the process think about another hobby.

DISTRACTION AND TOO MUCH CONFIDENCE

How much confidence is too much confidence? I guess once you start to think you can do anything without paying a price. Like riunning too much too often because you’re experienced runner and you can pull it off. Or trying new kind of gel/drink on your race because you’ve done too many to count.

Sometimes though you’re too focused on other things and you don’t pay attention. Too much work to stretch or have a good night sleep. Too much to to to foam roll or book that sports massage.

Your body is not an accessory. It can be silent and carry you on for a long time but once you piss it off you’re in real trouble.

What of the above got you into trouble? Impatience? Greed?