How to stay fit, healthy and motivated in 2019- Part 1

December is a busy month, many people don’t have as much time to train, get less sleep, and more eating and celebrating. With the New Year 2019 coming, often people choose to follow a very strict diet or intense training to make up for the lack of fitness for the last month. But the best way to kick start a Healthy & Fit New Year is to plan a sustainable training year and a clean, balanced enjoyable diet. First, start thinking about your running goals and start planning for 2019. Following an established program can help runners ensure that they choose the right races that will follow their fitness level. Signing up for a couple of exciting races will ensure that you stay motivated, fit and keep training to enjoy a great year 2019! Consider these steps when planning your year, either on the trail or on the road.   

  1. Know why you chose specific goals or races- For each race or goals you are targeting, figure out the reasons you picked those goals; personal best, new adventure, new distance, more challenging course. Being aware of “why” you chose specific goals will help you stick to your goals, keep you motivated and avoid other temptations that might come in the way. Make sure you set up goals that are achievable and realistic.
  2. Reflect and look at the past year- Once you’ve set up your goals, reflect on your previous running goals, experiences and training for the past year. Then look at the big scheme and ask yourself;
  • What have your running goals been in the past?
  • Have you been able to achieve them?
  • What have you learned?
  • Have you set up new goals?
  • Will these new goals support your long term running happiness?
  1. Choose two main events- Focusing on two main races can help structure your year. Once you’ve decided on two main races, you can sign up for smaller races to help you train for your main ones. For example, you can sign up for a 25k race and a 50k race later in the year as your main races.
  2. Connect with runners who have experience- Especially in trail running, connecting with trail runners who have a lot of race experience can help you decide whether those races would align with your goals. Experienced runners or coaches are great resources to get information on specific races (course, technicality, gear, support). Reading race reports or feedback from runners can also be very helpful. Experienced runners can also give you detailed feedback on their training background and efficiency for those specific races.
  3. Set up your training calendar- At the beginning of the year, set up your calendar with your planned events and training program. Start with the main goal, and work backwards from there. Start planning each month, some runners find it helpful to divide the year into three-month sections, to periodize the training schedule. Make sure you update your calendar regularly.
  4. Try to join or set up a running group with similar plans- Sharing training runs, races with nice runners can make the training and racing a lot more fun and help you make it to the finish line feeling good. They are many trail and road running groups of different levels.
  5. Stick to your goals- Running is very helpful (especially running outdoors in nature) to stay physically and mentally healthy and happy! Consistent training can be challenging for some runners, stay focused on your goals and do the training. To make it easier, you can hire a coach, or write your own specific training plan. Remember why you set up your goals, stay focused, and connect with the running community.

These steps could make 2019your Best Year Ever! Happy New Year!

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

Top Superfoods for 2019

Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Superfoods help improve your overall health, well-being and prevent chronic disease. When combined with a balanced-diet and regular exercise, adding superfoods to your daily meals can provide benefits to many different aspects of your health.

Seaweed is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and zinc, and it’s also high in iodine, which you need for healthy thyroid function and regulates energy levels, mood and weight.

Not only are hemp hearts and seeds a great source of plant-based protein, they also have an optimal ratio of 3:1 omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great way to fight inflammation throughout the body while building strong muscles and bones.

Moringa is increasing in popularity, and for good reason. In addition to being full of protein, iron, and calcium. Moringa is a great source of vitamin C that will promote a healthy immune system, it is also a good source of antioxidants that will help prevent free radicals from causing damage to the body cells.

Tigernuts aren’t actually nuts, but rather a type of tuber that is very high in insoluble fiber, which aids in digestive health. Tigernuts also contain high level of iron, vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium, enzymes such as amylases and lipases, that could help with digestion. They’re also rich in monounsaturated fats, the same heart-healthy type found in olive oil and avocados. And because they are rich in the amino acid arginine, they could also improve insulin sensitivity and help control blood sugar.

Chaga Mushrooms:
Chaga mushrooms have grown increasingly popular, particularly blended into coffee, tea, and other beverage mixes. These fiber-rich mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants like selenium, and have anti-inflammatory effects as well. They have also been linked with lowering cholesterol, boosting heart health, and managing chronic illnesses.

Cassava Flour:
The resistant starch found in cassava and cassava flour is a type of fiber that feeds your gut bacteria and helps boost your digestive health while also lowering inflammation. It may also help control blood sugar and help you feel fuller after eating, which could help with weight loss. Cassava nice soft flour and is a great alternative to wheat flour for gluten-free eaters.

Maqui Berries:
Maqui berries helps lower inflammation thanks to antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and flavonoids. There’s some evidence that maqui berries can help with dry eyes and diabetes, and a small research study in people with prediabetes found that maqui berry extract could help lower fasting insulin and glucose levels.

Watermelon Seeds:
It’s likely no surprise to you that watermelon has long been hailed as a superfood, but research has shown that the seeds can be equally healthy, so don’t be so quick to spit them out. A handful of watermelon seeds is only 20 calories, and they contain fiber and healthy fats along with some vitamin E and small amounts of iron, magnesium, and folate.

Like kefir, sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, a type of good bacteria that can improve your immune health, boost your metabolism, and promote digestive health. Sauerkraut could also be helpful in preventing sickness, thanks to its antibacterial properties. “Because it is made from cabbage, sauerkraut is also packed with vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports your immune system, vitamin K for bone health, and fiber, which can help keep you regular and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Trout is high in omega-3’s, which may help promote heart health by supporting healthy blood pressure and triglyceride levels. The oily fish is also high in protein and an excellent source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHAA), which you need for a healthy heart, brain, and eyes.

Kefir, is an excellent source of vitamin B and probiotics, which are bacteria that boost your body’s immune response, production of vitamins and absorption of minerals. Probiotics also support healthy digestion and can help prevent disease, as well as depression and anxiety.

Pistachio Nuts:
Pistachio nuts are a great snack choice, as they are full of nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium. They also can ultimately help you lose weight, manage blood sugar levels, and boost your (good) HDL cholesterol. These nuts are one of the highest in protein and fiber, and they hit the superfood trifecta because they are also a great source of healthy unsaturated fats.

Avocado Oil:
Experts often agree that avocado oil is a healthier choice to cook with than coconut oil, as it has lower levels of saturated fatty acids. Avocados are a great source of antioxidants that help fight free radicals from causing damage in your body. They are also loaded in heart-healthy fats that can keep down your cholesterol and combat inflammation throughout your body.

Turmeric has been heralded by medical experts as a “wonder spice” for its anti-inflammatory benefits in helping gastrointestinal issues. Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin, which aids in inflammation and heart health, and supports immunity. It also contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help promote optimal health.

Bone Broth:
In addition to aiding in digestion and helping to heal gut inflammation, bone broth is known for being high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and collagen, a protein that gives skin its elasticity to look smooth and plump, as well as keeping your joints healthy to prevent arthritis.

Nut Oils:
Nut oils are a great way to switch up your cooking flavors and still get loads of nutrition. Whether you’re using peanut oil, walnut oil, or macadamia nut oil, all of these are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E and high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid that also help lower inflammation.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

Benefits of Training in the Winter

As the weather gets colder, some runners tend skip some training runs or end up on the treadmill. Running outdoors in colder weather has some health benefits.  Even if the winter weather in your part of the world doesn’t include snow and ice, to be exposed to colder temperature, cold winds and rain is also mentally challenging. Running outdoors in cool temperature affects our body differently.

Benefits of training in cold weather:

  1. More Energy and Calorie Burn– When exposed to cold weather and we start to feel the shivering sensation, our shivering mechanism has to activate our muscles to produce the hormone called irisin, which stimulates our fat cells to produce heat. This causes our body to burn more energy and calories.
  2. Mental Strength Build Up– To push ourselves to go run outdoors when exposed to cold temperature and wind forces our brain to get stronger when dealing with adverse conditions. This is a great training tool for upcoming races, when we never know what type of weather we will be facing, our brain will be more comfortable and able to handle challenging weather. During the colder season, many people tend to avoid going outside, which causes some health issues (physical and emotional) from not being exposed to fresh air and sunshine. Run outdoors as much as you can.
  3. Muscle Strength Training– Running in cold weather affects our muscles as they tend to get stiffer as it lowers the ability of our muscle to contract as easily. We have to keep activating them to allow good contraction activation to support our running form. A proper pre-run warm up in cold weather is essential to get our blood flow going and warming up our muscles.
  4. Higher Metabolism– When running outdoors in cold weather, our body has to physically adapt to the cold to sink into heat production called Thermogenesis. This physical process increases our energy and calorie burning, and our overall metabolism. Not only does it increase our metabolism, but it also creates better body temperature regulation.
  5. Run Faster– Running in colder temperature trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently.  When the weather is not too cold, around 10 degrees Celsius, it is considered the optimal running temperature to help you run faster and stronger.

Make sure you push and motivate yourself to go run outdoors in colder weather, rather than skipping your run or going on the treadmill. Your body and brain will benefit from the winter.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

Interview With Gone Running

Gone Running. Hong Kong already has a multitude of ultra trail races. What makes Ultra Hong Kong different?

Martin. For sure it does. Hong Kong already has a multitude of races of all sorts. What the GreenRace is working to achieve is a unique race day experience with premium venue, racepacks, food and awards all sustainably sourced. We’re passionate about about creating Hong Kong’s first Zero Waste trail & road events and we’ve made great strides towards this. We’d also venture to say our Start/Finish point from the Country Club at Hong Lok Yuen is unique; particularly with the amenities on offer.

GR. Maybe you can tell us a little about the course. Will runners have run most of these trails before?

Martin. Perhaps a lot of the ultra-folks will have run much of these trails beforehand. We are really focusing on a unique overall race day experience: from the course, to high quality food & hydration at check points, to the unique start/finish venue.

GR. What about check points? Anything special for runners?

A. CPs will be VERY well stocked with treats. Tailwind is an obvious staple, but we’ll also be having European styled CPs with a variety of high quality & healthy quick energy foods!

GR. The private start and finish The Country Club at Hong Lok Yuen looks a bit fancy. Tell us about this.

Martin. It’s an amazing venue and we’ve been very fortunate to partner with this Country Club. We’re aiming for make this venue as good as it may sound to some. Certainly we’ll have great catering and a variety of beverages on site! Shower passes will be distributed to at least 100 runners in each category.

GR. What will be “green” about this race?

Martin. Perhaps the question should be what’s not Green about this race?:) We’re getting better and better with this (we hope!). From no metal awards, no disposable cups, no pins or disposable metal/plastic in racepacks, eco-friendly packaging, no plastic bottles, no disposable course markings, opt out of racepack items & donate to HK community causes or help fund student green projects, donating 5% of net race proceeds to HKCleanup for cleaner trails and coastlines + creating increased awareness of the environmental issues facing HK! We’re always looking for new ideas to make our GreenRace model even greener. Our first week of January Braemar GreenRace packs had next to no disposable metals or plastics and we intend to improve upon this for our April Ultra. So please do reach out to us!

GR. Ultra Hong Kong is on 1 April. This is not a joke right

Martin. No joke! We’re hoping for cooler weather – but we’re preparing for whatever we’re given. Like at the GreenRace Plover in September, we’ll have ice baths on hand and a tonne of cold drinks on hand, plus surprise CP’s for those really in need of little extra hydration boost!

GR. Any other Green Race events that we should look out for?

Martin. Of course! We have a full calendar for 2017 with our next races coming up:
GreenRace Pottinger (15km and 6.5km) – 20th May 2017
GreenRace Road Race (21km / 14km / 7km) – 12th June 2017
Also, the LBCTGR Short Course Series is in full swing so don’t forget to add the LBC Stairmaster races to your run calendar for: 8th & 15th April! The top placing male & female for best 3 of 4 LBCTGR short course events will be hoisting one serious cup above their heads!

Interview with LoopUnite Partnership

Martin Cai is a Race Director at The Green Race (TGR), an organisation working towards the creation of sustainable trail running events in Hong Kong. They provide finishers with sustainable options for medals, vouchers from sponsors and additional racepack items. Vision and collaboration with other like-minded organisations is enabling them to build a loyal community of GreenRace runners across Hong Kong. They are also expanding to other countries in Asia, including Japan and Singapore.

We caught Martin on a ferry ride to Mui Wo, with the entire team and runners heading for a training run on a Sunday morning.

Native to Canada, Martin has been running since he was a teenager. But as many other expats, he switched to trail running as soon as he moved to Hong Kong nearly 7 years ago. Working in corporate finance with an education in Resource Management from The University of British Columbia, his new passion has always been the outdoors. Starting up the GreenRace was an opportunity to get back out to the green side of things once again.

LOOPUNITE. So how did you start TGR? And why Green?

Martin. The more I was running, the more I was feeling guilty about the waste generated at running events. At the same time I started looking for a personal trainer and met Vlad Ixel and Etienne Rodriguez just over 2 years ago. Through a few attempts and learns, The GreenRace was born and the rest has quickly become history!

LU. How challenging was it to convince people to join your races? A green agenda may not have been at the forefront of runners minds as much as it is today.

Martin. We are focusing on creating a greater benefit than all those medals and goodies’ bags. People think you need to give up so much for a green lifestyle. It’s not true. You can have almost everything and be closer to wasteless than you may think. We are working to create more value for the runners without necessarily telling them what they should or should not do to ‘save the earth’. There is a very thin line between urging people to go green and schooling them.

LU. Was it easy to find the sustainable solutions in Hong Kong? How did you manage the logistical side of your races? Does it include more costs?

Martin. There is nothing that can’t be done in Hong Kong with a bit of will – Where there is a market there is a way. Once we started exploring the opportunities, we felt connected to the entire community. Financially, it’s been challenging in the beginning as better quality can mean higher costs, be it a compostable bag or high quality T-shirt that lasts longer or is made from natural fibres. In just over two years, we have managed to become profitable and help change perceptions around how these sorts of events can be just as fun without the trail of waste. It’s great to see Hong Kong in action – Keep your friend close, keep you direct competition even closer! Hong Kong business thrives with direct competition ‘setting up shop’ right up alongside you. We’re all learning from each other – and making trail running better for everyone, including Mother Nature.

LU. What are your future plans? Do you see your community growing?

Martin. Heading into 2018, we find ourselves within our 3rd financial year already! I can think of no other place on the face of the earth, where time moves as quickly as it does in Hong Kong and we still have a very long list of work items. This is a very big year for us – we feel we have invested our time, passion, and capital into creating brand and loyal following. Our definite focus is on quality. We now have a great responsibility to continue innovating and surprising with new green focused ideas that can help make life better for all of us in Hong Kong, one sustainably sourced bamboo fork at a time #noplasticforks! We are especially grateful to Loop Unite for partnering with GreenRace to jointly create what we hope will be some of the cleanest and greenest top end trail running events in Hong Kong.

Motivation Holiday Training

Christmas Holidays are always a busy time of the year, between work, family, parties and travelling. Some people find it challenging to keep a consistent training schedule as they are busier and more tired. To stop training for a few weeks, party, eat more, drink more could be a bit challenging once the holidays are over and races are coming up. Focus on setting some schedules and training goals you will be able to follow and sustain.

Holiday Training Strategies

  1. Set microgoals: With regular training plans or schedule, usually they are set up as monthly plans, during the holidays break up your monthly plan, and set up a realistic program schedule weekly. Every Sunday, create a training plan for the week according to your weekly busy schedule, as some weeks will allow more open days for training. The key is to maintain your momentum by starting a clean slate each week, creating goals that will be reachable according to your weekly schedule.
  2. Be accountable: To make sure you will be able to follow your weekly training plan, and stay motivated so you don’t give up or skip days just because you don’t feel like it, create some strategies. Set up your training goals on Strava, print it and post it on your fridge or at work, share it with family or friends. By setting up your goals and posting them will make it more challenging to skip the training and keep your more motivated.
  3. Be social: If you find it easier to train when running with other people, try organizing some runs with friends, or join a running group, connect with other runners on Strava or social medias. Running with others can be a great inspiration to keep going.
  4. Cross-train: According to your busy schedule, you can add some cross-training workouts, it can be easier to mix it up with your running schedule, perform some workouts at home, or at the gym if you are travelling. Find different ways to train to keep your body very active. By performing workouts your body isn’t used to, you will burn more calories and develop new skills and strengthen some muscles differently.
  5. Add some shorter, higher intensity workouts: With a busy schedule, adding some shorter and more intense training sessions will maintain your fitness level, and keep you motivated. By adding one or two shorter, higher intensity workouts per week will boost your metabolism, maintain your fitness level during the holidays, make it different and fun.
  6. Enjoy the outdoors: Regardless of the weather, depending on where you are or travelling to, make sure you train outside once or twice per week. Running in cold weather, hot or humid or ideal weather can all have many health and mental benefits. Running outdoors can boost your mood and break the feeling of isolation, especially for office workers/runners.

To keep you going during the holidays, you will be surprised how little you need to change to maintain your motivation to move. Set yourself up for reaching your goals by organizing your training schedule weekly, keeping things fun and fresh.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

Long-Distance Training Runs

If you want to train for longer distances, marathons, ultra-marathons or just increase your aerobic capacity, adding a long training run to your training plan is a must. Long-distance runs have many other health and physical benefits.

If you are training for a half-marathon, full marathon or ultra-race, adding one or two weekly long runs is the most important training method to improve your muscle endurance and increase your aerobic capacity.

How to Run a Long-Distance Run

  1. Intensity: The best training method for long-distance runs is low intensity (70%-75%of your max heart rate). To get the most benefits of your long run, it is important not to run too intense. When you first start training long-distance, try to monitor your heart rate to make sure you keep it at a lower level.
  1. Distance: You have to adjust your distance according to your current level of fitness and your planned goal. Start with the longest distance you ran previously and increase it step by step. The maximum distance recommendation for a half-marathon training is about 20-23km, for a full-marathon 35-37km, for an ultra-marathon 40-60km. That’s why when you are training for a 100km or 100-mile race, using 50-70km races is great training tools, having access to checkpoints will help support your nutrition and hydration.
  1. Duration: The duration is more important than the distance. When focusing on the time and intensity, the distance is more adjusted to your current level of endurance. For full benefits, you should run 1.5 hours if you are adding a long-distance run and if the longest run you have done is 1-1:15 hours. Remember to increase the distance gradually to avoid any injuries. For a half-marathon, a long run can be 2 hours, for a full-marathon 3-3.5 hours and for an ultra-marathon depending on the distance 4-7 hours.
  1. Nutrition: How much should you eat or drink during long runs depends on your distance, intensity, and diet. If you do your long run on the flat and under 3 hours, you will need less fueling if you did consume some carbohydrates pre-run. One of the current trends is to use the long-distance, low-intensity runs to use stored fat energy instead of only carbohydrates. Our body can only store 90-120 mins of carbohydrates energy, but once our body gets depleted it can go into our stored fat energy and train your fat metabolism.  You have to make sure that it is a low intensity run, otherwise your body will get completely depleted of energy. For runs over 3 hours, or higher intensity or trail runs, you should fuel, by drinking water, electrolytes, sports drinks, gels, energy bars or bananas. For beginners, or runners training in hot and humid weather, for runs over 1.5 hour you should include electrolytes, sports drinks, water and maybe a gel. Fueling is a crucial part of training as well, and listening to your body and metabolism is very important to support your energy, endurance, and help with recovery.

Other Benefits of Long Runs

  • Burning Fat: Endurance training with lower intensity and heart rate is the best way to burn fat as energy. Our body uses carbohydrates and fat together with oxygen to deliver the energy required by our muscles to work. The amount of carbohydrates in the energy metabolism is much higher when we train at an intense level- faster pace, speedwork, uphill. When running at a slower pace, fat is the biggest energy resource.
  • Optimise your Metabolism: When running long-distance at a slower pace and don’t refuel your body with carbohydrates, your body gets depleted of carbs, this forces your body to adapt and use fat burning to deliver the energy needed. This type of training increases the percentage of fat used in the energy metabolism and lowers the amount of carbs, needed to perform longer runs. But this type of training doesn’t work for all runners’ body type. Some runners can handle running on low-carbs, while others will not sustain. So, listen to your body type (more carb energy storage or fat energy).
  • Increase Glycogen Storage: Adding low-intensity long runs in your training, your storage space for carbohydrates in your muscles gets bigger. To be able to store more carbs in your muscles will be an efficient way to include carb-loading in your body for a race, rather than eating high levels of carbs a few days before a race when your body can only store a certain amount and cannot store enough energy.
  • Train your Musculoskeletal System: Long-distance running has a lot of impact on your joints, ligaments and bones. Your musculoskeletal system needs long runs to adapt to higher training than your heart. To stay injury-free and prepare your body for the hard impact of a long-distance race, you need to add long runs into your regular training plan.
  • Mental Training: Running for hours without stopping can be a challenge for our mental abilities. We need to be mentally strong to be able to keep going once our body and muscles get tired and our energy levels are low. Long runs are a great way to train our brain to get used to the fatigue and muscle soreness, so we can keep going feeling strong if we keep our brain happy and motivated.
  • Higher Pace Close to the End: A great way to train to increase your speed during a long run, is once you’ve been doing long runs for a while, you can start adding a bit of speed training for the last 3-5km at first and once you get closer to your highest level in your training program you can add a couple more kilometres of faster pace. This will also train your brain to get used to pushing once your body gets tired.
  • Add Some Uphill: When you are getting used to your long runs, you can run a few uphill up and down towards the end of your long run, but by making sure you don’t push too hard or increase your heart rate too much. Pushing on the uphill or sprinting should be part of short intense training sessions.
  • Listen to your body: On days when you feel weak and very tired, make sure you keep a slow pace and maybe shorten the distance to avoid over-training and injuries.
Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!