Monthly Archives: July 2013

Looking for a good and quick pre-run snack?

For those who have read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, you know the Tarahumara runners eat chia seeds (ancient superfood) for fuel and energy on their ultra runs (50 – 100 miles).  Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorous. When soaked in water, they form a thick, gel like mass. It is believed when Chia seeds are eaten, the gel-forming reaction occurs in the stomach, forming a barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. The result is a super slow release of energy. The other result of this gel-forming reaction is the retention of water which means water loss is minimized and electrolyte balance is maintained for longer.  The Tarahumara combine chia seeds, water and lemon or lime to form a thick drink they consume before their runs. On half and full-day trail runs, I eat the dry seeds and chase it with water.

I have experimented with chia seeds during my training and I find they are quick and easy to eat before a run.  My favorite pre-run snack is to eat 3 or 4 spoons of Chocolate Chia Pudding which combines the benefits of chia with cocoa powder (caffeine), brown sugar (quick energy) and soy milk (calcium). Enjoy!

Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup soy milk (original or chocolate … for a real chocolaty experience)

Mix cocoa powder and brown sugar together until smooth.  Stir in chia seeds and soy milk.  Let mixture rest and then stir again.  Repeat a few times for 20 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.


  • If you want some extra caffeine, add 1 tsp. instant coffee powder to the pudding.
  • If you want some extra energy, drizzle 2 tsp. honey over pudding.

Can I shuffle my workout days?

Yes, but carefully. Good training plans incorporate multiple cycles. Weekly cycles (microcycles) will balance harder workout days with easy or rest days to follow. The fitness response/benefit happens during the recovery after a workout. Likely, 48 hours is the sweet spot for recovery, but everyone is unique and needs to factor in the usual suspects (age, fitness level, propensity for injury, stress, fuel, rest, sleep, sleep, and sleep). The real recovery comes during deep sleep [video] [article].

Longer cycles (mesocycles of 3 to 6 weeks) will have a gradual build up and then a lighter week for recovery for both the physical and mental aspects of long-term training. This is where you schedule your tune up races or vacations/travel.

The big picture planning (macrocycles) considers your running year where you schedule one or two “prime” races or events along with family and work commitments (this makes for interesting discussions). This prioritization is a key element for successful running and planning.

Yes, you can swap the days you schedule your tempo runs with your speed workouts and/or your long runs – but maybe not stacking your hardest workouts too close together. For you, maybe 36 hours is all you need after your long run on Saturday morning so you can do your speed work on Monday night and then tempo run on Wednesday morning. On a monthly scale, you can move your “easy” week to match your vacation. On an annual cycle you might take a 12 week plan and fit it into 13 weeks with a break (for vacation or a small taper heading into a tune-up race).

Why hill repeats?

Many races advertise a “fast and flat” course however, this does not mean “flat as a pancake”. It is very common for courses to have rolling hills and if you have not trained for these elevation changes, you may feel like you are scaling a massive mountain every time you encounter a hill. Around Lethbridge you can experience rolling hills along 11th or 12th Street South, between 6th and 10th Avenue.

Hill repeats can make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner by:

  • Improving your leg muscle strength.
  • Quickening your stride (uphill).
  • Expanding your stride length (downhill).
  • Developing your cardiovascular system.
  • Enhancing your running economy.
  • Protecting your leg muscles against soreness.
  • Being a replacement for sprint workouts.

You can reap the benefits of hill repeats very quickly.  In as little as six weeks of regular hill repeats, you can expect a significant improvement in your muscle power and speed.

Here is a short video on the benefits of hill repeats:

Knowledge & Performance: Hills

Knowledge & Performance: Downhills