Archive for the ‘Slacker’s Guide Series’ Category

frozen yogurt scale

Frozen yogurt can be a healthy snack.

Whether it’s a 3 p.m. slump or late-night craving, your body knows when you need an energy boost. And since you run and burn more calories per minute than almost all other exercisers, you can eat whatever you want, right? Unfortunately not. But don’t worry, you can still find tasty foods that fill you up, giving you an energy boost for your next run.

Here are some quick tips for healthy snacking:

  • Think like a goat. Go for plant foods of all sorts as they tend to be high in vitamins and nutrients and free of “bad fats” like trans fats and saturated fat. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to snack on at home, and carry along seeds, nuts and whole grain snack bars when you’re on the go.
  • Pack up. Stash healthy snacks at work, in your car and in your purse, briefcase or bag. Keeping healthy foods on hand will hold you over between meals and allow you to ditch your vending machine habit or skip the drive-thru fries after work.
  • Eat like a kid. You can still enjoy some sweet treats or junk food favorites once in a while, just in moderation. Have a kid-sized portion by eating just one or two cookies, a small bowl of ice cream or a handful of chips. Allowing yourself to eat some junk food once in a while can satisfy your cravings so you’re less likely to gorge yourself in desperation and then bask in guilt.
  • Substitute. Try low-fat or low-calorie versions of your favorite snacks. If the craving for ice cream hits, go for some fat-free fro-yo topped with fruit. If it’s chips you’re after, try crunching on some whole grain chips, pita chips or homemade popcorn instead.
  • Eat in more than out. Most restaurants have a lot of fat and salt in their food, as it’s mass produced and often not made with low-fat or low-calorie ingredients. There are, of course, healthy options for eating out, but many items you think are healthy often are not. I went through a phase of looking up nutrition information for a lot of restaurants and I was shocked to learn of the high fat content in a Quizno’s veggie sub (31 grams of fat in a small one), for instance. Save yourself some money and excess calories by eating at home as much as possible.
eating at coffee shop

If you eat out, go for small portion sizes and lean meats or veggies.

So you’ve been kicking butt with your running program, recording your runs, getting all fancy with new running gear and sharing your running progress with everyone who’s anyone (that is, anyone on your social networks). And it’s been a whole week and you’ve only taken off that one night to go drinking…oh and that one day your head hurt…and the time you got lost in the parking lot and walked extra, which must count as a workout, right?

If you go on a short vacation, take a break from running and just relax and do your slacker thing.

Ok, so the running routine can get old, especially after the initial excitement wears off and you don’t look like a before and after commercial. And let’s face it, as slackers, we’re not exactly known for stick-to-it-ness. But before you toss your new running shoes to the back of the closet, try these tips to keep you running without getting bored and apathetic:

  • Prioritize. How many things in your life do you really need to do? The key to slacking successfully is to just pick a few things to stick with, and forget the rest. We’re not trying to be rocket scientists or world leaders here, we just wanna get fit and live in a slackerish ease. So forget that gym membership you never use, ditch the extra activities in your schedule and streamline your social life. Unfortunately work will have to stay on the priority list, but other than that, stop committing to all those activities you probably won’t stick with anyways. Just do a few consistently and you’ll be less stressed and have less people’s expectations on your shoulders. This will also garner you social points by preventing you from being that annoying, well-rounded person who does everything.

Running is one of the few things I've stuck with in my life, and I can help you stick with it too.

  • Combine activities. Got a date? Need more time with your kids or family? Take advantage of your relationship and drag the other person on a run with you, in the name of “quality time.” This way you can combine your obligations and expend less time and energy than if you did everything separately. You will get extra points for being a positive influence in another’s life (seriously, running’s one of the best gifts you can give someone, and it’s free).
  • Reward yourself. When it comes down to it, we all enjoy a pat on the back in some form or other. Choose something you enjoy (well, except a bacon burger or box of doughnuts — ok, let’s just say stay away from the food rewards) and give it to yourself once you complete all of your workouts each week. Your gift to yourself doesn’t have to be big, but remember, it’s the thought that counts, and since you’re giving it to yourself, you won’t wanna slack here.
  • Rest. This step should be the easiest for you, but sometimes the honeymoon phase of a new workout plan can make even the most dedicated of slackers googley-eyed and giddy to run for days on end. Even if you don’t want to, give yourself one to two days of rest per week so your body can recover from your runs, and your mind can also vacate the workout circuit. Play video games, lounge, eat, talk, shop or just do nothing on your off days. And before you know it, you’ll be rarin’ to go again (or ok, at least plodding out the door) on your next run.

Whether you’re running your first 5K race or have trudged through a few, some race day tips can help you not only survive the race but maybe even enjoy it. Here are some words of wisdom for slackers everywhere:

  • Me beating a guy at the end of the Urbanathlon race.

    Pre-register for the race. I know it may be against your procrastination tendencies, but you will have to get up extra early on race day if you haven’t registered yet, and there may be a line of other slackers waiting to register too. This can cut into your pre-race bathroom time or even make you late to the starting line. Then there’s no chances of winning this thing. Plus pre-registering can save you a few bucks to drink with later.

  • Don’t go out too fast. There’s nothing that says newbie quite like a sprinter at the beginning of the race who dies less than half a mile in. Save some dignity and your lungs by pacing yourself. It feels much better to pass people at the end than to die during a race and get passed, even if you get the same overall finish time.
  • Sprint to the finish line. This will get people excited and garner you applause no matter how slow you’ve been running the rest of the race. Make a nice show of it and congratulate the finishers around you at the end. You are truly a champ.
  • Grab the best food right after the race. Everyone snatches up free stuff, so beat them to the best snacks and drinks by walking straight to the food tents after the race. Once you get your goodies, go stretch, with your treats safely secured by your side. Now you won’t have to snack on a plain bagel and green sports drink leftovers.
  • Bask in your glory. Impress all your slacker friends, your mom and anyone else who’s easily wowed by taking home a finishing prize. Most races offer free T-shirts to all entrants, at the least, and some offer finishing medals and ribbons too. Display yours with pride. You plodded through 3.1 miles for that thing.

Stop thinking about needing to run and just go. Save some mental effort.

Though it sounds strange, running is actually an ideal sport for slackers. Why? Because running burns more calories than any other cardio activity so you don’t have to do it for as long as other exercises.

Let’s say you want to burn enough calories to lose 10 lbs. It takes about 3,500 calories to equal one pound, so you’ll need to burn 35,000 calories to lose 10 lbs. A 155-lb. person burns about 350 calories by running for 30 minutes at a 10-minute mile pace. The same person would burn about 150 calories walking at a speed of 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes or 300 calories during half an hour of cycling at a speed of 11 miles per hour. So, it would take this person about 100 runs, 233 walks and 117 bike rides to lose 10 lbs. If you’re slacker, the path of least resistance is running because you don’t have to do it as much.

As any slacker worth his salt knows, the less you have to work, the better. So if you want to lose weight, here’s how to make running work for you, so you can spend the vast majority of your time doing other, more fun things…or better yet, nothing at all.

  • Run regularly. To burn calories, you need to exercise regularly. There are no short cuts to losing weight, but at least choosing the exercise that burns the most calories can help you keep your workouts short and sweet.
  • Run faster. The higher your running intensity, the more calories you will burn. Try doing intervals, fartleks or tempo runs to speed up your running pace and accelerate your weight loss plan.
  • Stop pigging out. Just because you’re exercising more (or, who are we kidding, at all) now doesn’t mean you can pig out and cancel out all your hard work. You would have to exercise more to burn junk food, fast food and other calorie-packed foods with no nutrients, so save yourself the trouble and eat healthy stuff that is included in an actual food group. 
  • Run farther. Increasing your run times will help you burn more calories to lose weight faster. Add a few minutes to your runs each week and you won’t even notice the extra work.
  • Take a break. As all slackers know, doing nothing can be therapeutic. So follow the do-nothing lead and take at least one day off from running a week so you don’t get burned out or injured from overtraining. Just remember to get crackin’ again when your workout week begins.

So you’ve set your sights on a 5K race. Maybe you got roped into it by your co-workers, you want to participate in a charity event or you’ve been running and want to try your hand at racing. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to run 3.1 miles with lots of other runners and test your mind and body. Congratulations! Now all you need to do is prepare for it.

Here’s a crash course in how to train for your first 5K, so when race day comes, you’ll feel good and have fun without crashing and burning.

Stretch after your runs to keep your muscles from tightening up.

  1. Build up your running base. Give yourself six weeks if you have already started a running program, or eight weeks if you haven’t run since that time someone chased you.
  2. Start slow. Work out for 30-minute sessions five times a week. If you’re not used to running, alternate walking and jogging until you reach 30 minutes. For instance, walk for 5 minutes, run for 3 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 3, until you hit half an hour. Don’t worry about your running speed at this point.
  3. Keep running. Stick with your routine and gradually add more minutes running until you can run for 30 minutes. If you start out running in 3-minute segments, for instance, add 2 to 3 minutes of running to the segments each week until you hit 30 minutes.
  4. Add speed workouts to your plan after four weeks of steady running. You can do interval training or tempo runs. If you do a tempo run, pace yourself to go at your goal pace for the race. Do a 10-minute slow jog to warm up then run for 1.5 miles at your goal pace and cool down with a 10-minute jog. Do one speed workout per week.
  5. Rest. Give yourself one day off a week so your body and mind can recover from training. If you don’t rest, you’ll be more likely to get injuries and burn out on training.
  6. Cross train. Set aside one day a week to do a different exercise that you enjoy — whether it’s cycling, tennis, basketball or dance. Working different muscle groups will help you get in better shape and give your body a break from running.
  7. Taper before race day. Tapering means to cut back on your workouts so your body will be fresh and rested on the day of the event. Give yourself a day of rest before the race, and two days before the race do a light, slow run of a mile to loosen up your muscles.

Even a slow, short run is better than no run.

Sometimes the hardest part of running is just getting out the door. Excuses are always plentiful – whether you’re tired, hungry, it’s too sunny out, too rainy, too cloudy, your favorite show is on TV or your eye is twitching, it seems like there’s always a good enough reason to skip a workout. But if you give in to the excuses one day, before you know it you’ll be skipping workouts left and right and joining the ranks of the complaining non-runners.

Here’s how to kick your excuses to the curb and get back to running strong:

  • Keep track of your workouts. If you record each run, you’ll be more likely to stick with the program to keep your records on track. Preventing your weekly mileage totals from plunging can be more motivating than you might suspect.
  • Share on social networks. Sites like Daily Mile and Nike Plus allow you to broadcast your runs on social networks like Facebook and Twitter while also offering personalized charts and milestones to you help you stay motivated. The running sites also have their own social networks, where you can add friends and cheer people on. Knowing your friends and family are cheering for you will encourage you to keep running and updating.
  • Make a deal with yourself. Tell yourself you will just run 10 minutes and then if you still feel like you can’t run, you will turn back and come home. Getting out the door is usually the biggest obstacle, and chances are, once you get started on your run, you will stick to it (unless you have an injury, in which case you should rest).
  • Reward yourself. On days when you feel sluggish or reluctant to run, give yourself an incentive. Be creative with your rewards and think about what you enjoy. Watching a movie or your favorite show, cooking a favorite meal, buying a new pair of running shorts or going out with friends can inspire you to get your run done.
  • Run with a partner. Grab a running buddy or join a running group — which you can find on sites like Meetup.com — and you’ll be less likely to skip runs because someone will be counting on you. Running with people also makes your workouts more fun and seem like less of a chore.