The Thrill of Repeat Racing: Q & A with Sheila Monaghan

Nuun is fielding a team of fitness editors for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. on April 27. One of our team members, Sheila Monaghan, will tackle the half six days after running the Boston Marathon. Monaghan is executive editor of Equinox’s Q blog and an accomplished runner, duathlete and triathlete based in New York City.

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What’s your motivation to do the Nike half six days after running Boston? What do you hope to run at both?

I ran the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco back in 2009 and loved the experience—it was my first major women-only race, and I’ve wanted to do another ever since. Plus, I love D.C.; I lived there for some time after I graduated college, so I’m so excited to experience the feeling of racing in that city. The half marathon is my favorite distance, too. It’s long enough to require endurance but you can also run hard, so I find it really gratifying.

Boston is extremely special to me this year. I was at the race last year but, thankfully, had left the finish line area about three minutes before the bombs exploded. It’s been on my mind and in my heart ever since.

I knew I was going to come back to Boston no matter what, but in the weeks that followed last year’s race, I decided I wanted to try to break my PR of 3:11:38, so I’ve been training hard in the hopes of making that happen. If not, of course, there will be other races. But I’d love to come to the Nike Half with a new PR in hand, and run as well or better than my March NYC Half time of 1:26:00, if possible. It’s a tall order, but I’m going to go for it! That’s the fun and joy of racing, to me: Setting a goal and challenging myself.

Have you done such quick turnarounds before? 

I have. My first back-to-back was Boston to Big Sur, six days apart, in 2011. I was terrified at the prospect, especially with the challenging hills in Big Sur. But it was magical – the scenery was so beautiful and I felt great. Later that same year I did the NYC and Philly marathons two weeks apart, and I set my PR at Philly, so I am a fan of the back-to-back. One training calendar, two chances to race! Last year, I competed in the duathlon world championships two weeks after I completed my first Ironman, so I’ve experienced the multisport two-fer as well.

Will you do things differently in the immediate aftermath of Boston than if you weren’t running the half the following Sunday?

There will be considerably less pizza and beer than there would have been without a race the following week. I will be focusing on maximizing my recovery those days immediately after Boston with ice baths, foam rolling, hydration and sleep. And then I’ll introduce some light running later in the week just to keep the legs fresh and ready to turn around in D.C.

Is it difficult for you to be so running-centric for a little while given your experience as a multisport athlete?

I feel little pangs watching cyclists in the park or seeing my triathlete friends post about their swim workouts, for sure. But I made a conscious decision to focus this first half of the year on improving my running times, and I knew that to do that, I’d have to turn off my multisport brain for a bit. I made a similar agreement with myself last year while training for my Ironman, that was my big goal and the other races couldn’t become priorities.

This year, I chose multisport races that take place in the late summer and early fall so I’d have time to catch up with my swimming and cycling after Boston and D.C. I’ve had people tell me that to hit my ceiling as either a runner or a multisport athlete I’d have to eventually choose one path, but I enjoy them each too much to do that right now!

Given that women now make up more than 60% of half marathon finishers, what’s your take on the role of women-only races in 2014?

I think women-only races are awesome, and I expect there will be even more of them in the coming years. They have such a great energy and vibe. Nothing against the guys! But I think these races give women runners a much-deserved platform, a place to both compete and to shine.

What’s your favorite Nuun product, and why?

I am bona fide obsessed with Cherry Limeade Active! It is my jam, and it got me through my Ironman training last year. The tabs are great for cyclists because you can pack them in your bike bag and refill your bottles when you’re out on the road (or at the 56-mile mark of an Ironman) instead of lugging around three or four water bottles.

Cherry Limeade has been my go-to for long runs this training cycle as well. I don’t do well with a lot of fluids or gels while I’m running—I have a sensitive stomach—and Nuun gives me the energy I need without making me feel like I’m drinking a heavy, syrupy sports drink. I repeat: I’m obsessed.

5 Fun Facts: Caffeine

Many people equate caffeine with coffee. But, as any decaf sipper can tell you, they’re not the same. Caffeine brings physical and mental benefits regardless of how you consume it. Here are five of our favorites.

Nuun Energy provides 40mg of caffeine per 16oz serving.

Nuun Energy provides 40mg of caffeine per 16oz serving.

1. CAFFEINE CAN BOOST YOUR ENDURANCE.

Many of the studies showing athletic help from caffeine focus on time to exhaustion, or how long you can maintain a certain level of performance, such as 85% of maximal heart rate. These studies consistently show a time-to-exhaustion boost of 6-12%. A related benefit is that caffeine has been shown to lower perceived effort at a given intensity level. That is, your heart rate and other physiological markers might be the same as if you hadn’t taken caffeine, but working out at that pace will feel easier. Result? You’re more likely to stay out on the road or trail longer.

2. Caffeine doesn’t dehydrate you.

It used to be common to warn athletes that caffeine was a diuretic, or something that resulted in water loss from the body. That’s now known not to be the case. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), for example, has issued statements clarifying that, over the course of 24 hours, caffeine doesn’t result in dehydration if you’re used to consuming caffeine. ACSM has also stated that, because caffeine isn’t a diuretic, drinks containing caffeine count toward meeting your daily fluid needs.

3. Caffeine can increase your mental focus.

Any college student pulling an all-nighter could tell you how caffeine can help you stay alert. For athletes, what’s important here is the clearer thinking and quicker decision making associated with caffeine. In some endurance events, that could take the form of better being able to stay focused on your goals as fatigue sets in. In other events, it could mean that little extra bit of hand-eye coordination that elevates your golf game, or leads to staying in the saddle on a bumpy mountain bike ride.

4. Caffeine can improve your mood.

We don’t mean the well-known short-term pick-me-up long associated with caffeine. We’re talking about findings such as a Harvard study, in which women who consumed caffeine were 15-20% less likely to report incidents of depression than women who avoided caffeine. And caffeine need not act alone in this area: In one recent study out of Sweden, people who were given caffeine and light therapy during the winter reported greater mood improvement than their fellow sunlight-starved Swedes who received only caffeine or light therapy, or neither.

5. Caffeine can improve your memory.

In a study published earlier this year, people looked at random images, then were given either caffeine or a placebo. Twenty-four hours later, they were tested on how well they recalled the images from the day before. Those who had consumed caffeine scored much higher on correct image recall, suggesting that the caffeine had helped them to more accurately consolidate their memories.

Meet our 2014 Hood to Coast Runners

This year, Nuun’s very own Ambassadors will be leading the way as our two teams conquer the 200 miles journey from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon during the 2014 Hood to Coast relay. Read below to meet the runners and find out why they are excited to run Hood to Coast. Continue to follow the fun by searching #nuunHTC on Twitter and following each runner below.

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George O. | Henderson, NV | @georgeokinaka
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Strawberry Lemonade

I am really excited to run Hood to Coast with Nuun because it is probably a once in a lifetime experience, and I am really looking forward to building new friendships with my fellow Nuunbassadors and the Nuun staff!

Sean M. | Phoenix, AZ | @sean_mcmanus
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Cherry Limeade Energy

Why are you excited to run Hood to Coast with Nuun? Hood to Coast is the Superbowl of running relays. To have the opportunity to run HTC this year with the Nuun team is a runner’s dream come true! Nuun has been such a great company to be a part of the last couple years, and I can’t wait to share the Nuun Love out on course by keeping all runners hydrated!

Hyla R. | St. Helens, OR | @HylaRidenour
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Cherry Limeade

I’m excited to run HTC with Nuun because epic adventure requires epic hydration! I love Nuun and look forward to sharing my passion for their products, and optimal hydration, with my fellow runners on the course!

Lisa B. | Born in UK, lives in Florida | @LisaBuohler
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Strawberry Lemonade

I am so very much excited to be part of a fantastic team of dedicated and determined athletes that believe in the power of hydration and electrolyte balance and share a love for a fantastic product. All show enthusiasm to work together as a team and share the power of Nuun.

Amanda R. | Prescott, AZ | @Momwhotris
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Cherry Limeade Energy

A relay race something I have never done before and way out of my comfort zone. But it will only make it that much more fun and challenging for me.  I am even more excited to meet my fellow “Nunnies” in person and to consume massive amounts of Cherry Limeade Energy…watch out I’ll be flyin’!

Justin F. | Winter Springs, FL | @JustinLFricke
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Lemon + Lime, Strawberry Lemonade

I’m excited to run Hood to Coast with Nuun because I get to spend 24 hours in a van and running with some of my fellow Nuun Ambassadors. It’s a great way to see Oregon, a state I’ve never seen. Honestly though, I’m really looking forward to drinking and having all the Nuun my little heart desires, right at my fingertips, all the time.

Melissa C. | Austin, TX | @melissalicia512
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon

The opportunity to represent this fantastic company at the Mother of All Relays is truly an honor! Hood to Coast is one of those races everyone absolutely needs to experience. This will be my second relay and I’m looking forward to spreading the #nuunlove in the PNW with my teammates who are just as crazy about the product (and running!) as I am. Can’t wait to run hard, have fun, and enjoy every single second of the journey with Nuun from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon!

Rachel M. | Cullman, AL | @runinhighheels
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon

I am so excited to run HTC with Nuun because it has always been a bucket list item for me. When I started running, I never thought this would ever be a possibility for me to do something like this! These people are my kind of crazy and I can’t wait to make some amazing memories with them!

Susie S. | Born in England, lives in Hawaii | @longrunergy
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Lemon + Lime

I’m excited to run in the HTC because I love the energy and excitement of relays! Plus I’ve never been to the Pacific NW and am looking forward to soaking up the scenery of the area.

Joe S. | Boston, MA. Stationed in Fort Drum, NY | @RecyclingRunner
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Kona Cola

I’m excited to meet my teammates, to take on a huge goal by running the mother of all relays and of course doing my best to represent such a great organization like Nuun!

Tasha M. | Spokane, WA
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Kona Cola, Cherry Limeade, and Watermelon

I have been wanting to run Hood to Coast with Nuun for a couple of years now. I am excited to meet new people and have an epic weekend of running and promoting the #nuunlove.

Lauren S. | Born in S. Jersey, lives in Baltimore, MD | @BreatheBlog
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon + Lime Energy

I am excited to run Hood to Coast because it’s an experience unlike any other I’ve had before! I’ve been wanting to do a relay race for a while and getting the chance to do the biggest relay with a group of Nuun-loving strangers sounds awesome! There isn’t a better way for me to explore the PNW for the first time than running.  I’m so enthusiastic about running the race, making new friends, meeting the Nuun team, and having tons of fun.

Elisabeth W. | Los Angeles, CA | @ewallerscott
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Cherry Limeade

I’m excited to run HTC with Nuun because I love relays, I love adventures and I really love Nuun! I’m excited to make new friends (strangers running lots of miles & sharing a van for ~30 hours = fun new friends!) and spread the #nuunlove with other teams throughout the course. I think this will be the adventure of a life time and I can’t wait!

Jenny R. | Portland, OR | @jennypennysue
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon

I’m really looking forward to the combination of running a relay that I love, the support of a company I believe in and the enthusiasm of a bunch of strangers who will be new friends by the end of August!

Doug C. | Washington, DC | @dougcassaro
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Lemon + Lime (Active and Energy)

I’m excited to run HTC with Nuun because of all the other great runners I’ll get to meet. Northern Oregon is a place I’ve never been, so I can’t wait to explore this beautiful part of our country. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how excited I am to drink loads of Nuun the whole weekend, especially Nuun Energy!

Jim C. | Madison, AL | @JPC_Marathoner
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon

Why are you excited to run Hood to Coast with Nuun? I have been wanting to try a long distance team relay race for several years. To get the chance for my first one to be Hood to Coast is unreal! Plus, to get the honor of promoting Nuun while participating is icing on the cake.

Liz G. | Maryland | @eglomb
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Strawberry Lemonade and Fruit Punch

I’m excited because I’ve seen the teams that Nuun has fielded over the years and now I get to be one of them!

Kevin Y. | Las Vegas, NV | @kevlv
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Tri-Berry

I am excited to run the epic HTC relay with Nuun because I know it’s going to be one big Nuun party! It’s going to be awesome to meet other Nuunies that share my same passion for running. And who better to run this challenging race with than those who inspire and motivate me?!

Eric R. | New York City, NY | @DirtyOldSneaker
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon

I’ve only been a runner for eight years but was hearing about this race long before and thought all the people doing it were nuts. I’m proud to be one of those nuts now and couldn’t think of a better way to run it that with a team that my favorite electrolyte tabs put together. I’m looking forward to meeting runners from around the country and conquering the race with them!

Sophia D. | Palo Alto, CA | @trails4life
Favorite Nuun Flavor: Watermelon and Banana

Ever since I first ran Mt Si Relay while in college at UW in 2008, I have been looking to run HTC. I have been hearing about the race for years and the epic adventure and fun times along the course. I’m excited to run with the Nuun team this year because I will get to share both my love of running, and my love of Nuun with people along the course. One of my favorite things to do while hiking is handout Nuun to dehydrated/under-prepared hikers, so I can only imagine the fun we can have passing out Nuun and tagging vans along the HTC course with hundreds of other runners around us. I am also excited to be holed up in a van for a few days with other like-minded crazy runners, making new friends and lasting memories.

 

Spring Training: How to Get Ready to Get More Active

The longer daylight hours and warmer temps of spring mean you want to get outside and play. Trust us, we know the feeling. But we also know the feeling of having done too much too soon after being less active during the winter.

“It’s important to have a good foundation of the necessary flexibility, mobility, strength, and stability prior to beginning or increasing any level of activity,” says Daniel Frey, a physical therapist and avid trail runner in Portland, Maine. “Proper pre-training conditioning will minimize your risk of injury and decrease intial soreness.”

As Frey point out, when your body isn’t ready for a big increase in activity, that initial soreness can turn into an injury that might sideline you for weeks or months. He and physiotherapist Phil Wharton, who has worked on Olympic and recreational athletes in a wide range of sports, agree that too-rapid increases in activity most often lead to tendinitis. That injury, in turn, can then cause more serious, compensatory injuries such as runner’s knee, ligament damage and stress fractures.

Here are some simple exercises Frey and Wharton recommend to be better prepared for four activities Nuun athletes love: running, cycling, golf and hiking.

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RUNNING

One Leg Squat
Why: For quad and glute strength as well as control of the lower extremity in single-limb stance, which is essential for minimizing excessive pressure on the feet, knees, hips, and back.

How: Stand with one foot on the edge of a stair, with the foot parallel to the long end of the stair. Stabilize yourself by engaging your core muscles. Keeping the other leg straight, lower the heel of that foot toward the ground, then come back up. Go down only as far as you can while keeping your pelvis level. Do two sets of 10 on each leg.

Mini Squat Forward Band Walks
Why: Build hip and core stability. These areas are notoriously weak in runners due to the repetitive forward motion involved while running, as well as lots of sitting during non-running hours.

How: Place a TheraBand around your ankles. Go into a slight squat; imagine a baseball player getting into position to field. While keeping your feet pointing straight ahead and shoulder-width apart, walk from one end of a room to the other with short steps. Turn around and walk back. As the exercise becomes easier, do it holding a small weight in front of you with both hands.

Hamstring Stretch
Why: Tight hamstrings are also common in runners. Lack of hamstring flexibility prevents you from full extension of your stride and overworks other muscles.

How: Lie on your back with one knee bent and that foot on the floor. Keep the other leg straight, and wrap a rope or towel around the ball of that foot. Contract the thigh muscles of your straight leg to raise that foot toward the ceiling. Use the rope or towel only to gently guide the motion. Exhale as you raise the leg, and hold the stretch at the top for only a couple seconds. Return the leg to the floor and do ten stretches for each leg.

CYCLING

Bike Fit
Why: This isn’t an exercise, but it’s one of the most important things a cyclist can do to stay healthy. “Having a cycle assessment and fitting by a qualified individual is essential to making sure that a poor-fitting bike doesn’t force you into poor alignment, which can lead to a myriad of injuries,” says Frey.

How: Go to a good bike shop!

One Leg Bridge
Why: Increase glute strength and core stability to improve pelvic control and balance while cycling. It also helps with hip flexor mobility, an area commonly restricted from lots of time in the saddle.

How: Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, your knees bent, and your feet on the floor. While contracting your abs and butt, raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Extend one leg while keeping your hips raised and level. Return to the start position. Do 10 repeats on each leg.

Neck Strengthening
Why: Because of the forward position in cycling, the neck muscles can become weak, strained and misaligned.

How: Lie face down on your bed with your arms straight at your side and your head unsupported by the mattress. Moving slowly and with care, tuck your chin toward your chest, then raise your head to look slightly up. Repeat 10 times.

GOLF

Stork Turns
Why: Increase trunk control and balance, helping to improve mobility necessary for golf swing.

How: Stand with both hands on top of a golf club in front of you. Lift one leg and hook your foot behind your other knee. While keeping your shoulders still, rotate the knee of your lifted leg across the supported leg. Do 10 repeats on each leg.

Pectoral Stretch
Why: Increase range of motion during your backswing to lessen the strain on your spine.

How: Stand with your arms straight in front of you, palms together, hands at waist level. Use your shoulder muscles to slowly bring your arms apart as far as they’ll comfortably go. Repeat the stretch five times, each time starting with your hands a little higher, so that on the fifth stretch your hands are parallel with your shoulders. Do two sets of five.

Clams
Why: Increase glute stability to decrease the chances of sliding or swaying during a swing.

How: Lie on your side with your legs together at a 90-degree angle and your arms together straight in front of you. Slide the top knee just a little bit over the bottom knee; this will keep you from using your back to perform the exercise. Use you’re the hip and butt muscles of the top leg to raise that knee toward the ceiling. Do 15 repeats on each leg.

HIKING

Calf Stretch
Why: Increase flexibility to minimize risk of plantar fascia and Achilles tendon-related overuse injuries.

How: Sit with both legs straight in front of you. Wrap a towel or rope around the ball of one foot. Use your shin muscles to bring the toes of that foot toward you. Use the rope or towel only to extend the stretch at the end of the movement. Hold the end of the stretch for 1 or 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times on each foot.

Single Leg Balance
Why: Improve proprioception to minimize the risk of ankle sprains or falls while on unstable surfaces.

How: From a standing position, raise one leg so that the thigh is parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Do twice on each leg. When this becomes too easy, do the exercise with your eyes closed.

Step-Ups
Why: Improve leg strength and control necessary for hiking up and down hills.

How: Place one foot on a bench or chair. Use the hip and knee of that leg to bring your other foot on the raised surface. Lower your second foot by extending the hip and knee of the leg that’s still on the raised surface. Lower your other foot to return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence starting with your other leg. Do for 1 minute.