Monthly Archives: December 2012

Holiday Survival: Choose Your Battles

Now that you know not to panic, after all, even of you are an above average weight gainer, you still are only looking at a couple of pounds. With this peace of mind, you can try a few simple strategies to negate that one pound and maintain your sanity during the silly season.

Choose Your Battles

‘Tis he season to be merry, so don’t be a consistent spoil sport! After all, the is very little reason to be one. Choose your events where you will allow yourself to indulge and let it go. It won’t kill you. Especially if you keep your other meals of the day reasonable. But it will pay off to keep an eye on the calendar, making sure there are not too many events too close together. It may also mean making some priorities about which events are really important, and which ones do not matter so much. If you are going to make excuses and strain your will power, do so at the events that do not matter as much. For the really important events, enjoy them!

For the events that matter, and want to enjoy:

Plan ahead:
Make it a reward. Rack up a certain number of workouts and on plan eating days so that you feel “earned” the treat. Enjoy the party and dodge the guilt.

As for keeping the day’s calories under control, I have seen two strategies that might work based on your personality.

1. Don’t eat.
In other words, restrict calories throughout the hours leading up to and following the event. The danger is being so hungry that you really overdo it. Then you might feel guilty and then try to overcompensate by sending yourself on a five hour Belgian death march of a bike ride through rain, sleet and snow.
2. Eat ahead of time.
Fill up on low calorie, fiber rich vegetables beforehand. You can blunt your appetite, probably avoiding a lot of high calorie treats. This might not be much fun, since now your favorite treats don’t look as appealing. You might end up sad and bitter.

So choose which events matter and pick a strategy. Maybe blend the two. Whatever your plan, just having a plan puts you way ahead of most people. Even if your execution is less than perfect, you will still likely come out ahead. Just the fact that you addressed the issue and thought about it means you have a much better chance of success.

For myself, my battles are the actual holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. So I relax the rules and enjoy whatever looks good. Every other day is just that, just another day to eat plant based, starch based and healthy. I stick to my usual eating habits. Feast days are fine, but two to six weeks of intermittent feasting is not.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!


How to Become a Kenyan

Inspired by Kenyan runners?

I sure am. Want to become a Kenyan, or at least like a Kenyan runner?

I sure have, and I am not alone.

There are two ways to become Kenyan:

1. Move to Eldoret or Iten, eat ugali and sukuma wiki every day. Run a ton with the various training groups and live and breathe running until you get fast. Adharanda Finn  tried this, and wrote an interesting account of a European living, training and racing in Kenya in his book Running with the Kenyans.

Don’t want to pack up the kids and live in a third world country like Finn? The you’ll have to improvise and adapt. Here are a few Kenyan secrets that could be modified to fit a Western lifestyle.

  1. Build the Biggest Aerobic Base You Can: I recommend the Maffetone Method. A large part of Kenyan success is the years of easy to moderate aerobic running they do as kids. Many people are also surprised at how slow even elite Kenyans train much of the time. Aerobic fitness is the most important factor, and you can’t fake it for long.
  2. Don’t Run Barefoot, Run Like You Were Barefoot: Remember that Kenyan runners get shoes as soon as they can. But years of running barefoot have given them a fantastic stride. For Westerners who have lived their lives in shoes, a different approach is needed. Spending more time barefoot, running in less supportive shoes, training on natural surfaces and focusing on a high cadence efficient stride can pay off big.
  3. Simplify: The more you focus your life energy on running, the more improvement you can make. Take a close look at lifestyle factors that interfere with training and recovery. See what you can eliminate or reduce. Read Thoreau and remember his maxim, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!
  4. Periodize: Know when it’s time to train, and when it’s time to take a break. Know when it’s time to go hard, and know when it’s time for recovery.
  5. Rally the Troops: Find others to train with. Kenyans rarely train alone, and they feed off that group energy to get more done. Join a club, find a partner, go to races, get a dog. Lots of folks get more done when part of a team.

Extra Credit:

Eat a simple starch based, vegetarian diet. The Kenyan dietary secret is not the ugali and sukuma wiki, but that it is starch based with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to do this based on a number of different starches, fruits, and veggies to suit anyone’s taste.

OK, so you can’t really become a great Kenyan runner, especially if you missed out on a Kenyan childhood. But you can still learn from some of their habits. Who knows? Maybe a PR is in store for you this season.

10 Reasons The Kenyans Will Always Be Faster: Part 2

Last time I served up five reasons that the Kenyans will always be faster than you or me. But it takes more than those five reasons to dominate the world. So here are five more to learn from. The only question I have about these amazing runners is: Will the relentless push of the modern world will some day sink the Kenyans? Will they eat junk food? Will the kids quit running around for years? Will some other country get hungrier and work harder?

6. Group training- Kenyans don’t train alone like most endurance athletes. They always train in groups, and feed off each others’ energy. The power of a community devoted to the same project and supporting each other helps everyone.

7. Heroes- By now, Kenya has amassed so many great runners that it is easy for a young runner to look up at a clear path to success. Everything from how to train, to top notch competition is easy for a Kenyan to picture. Quick, name today’s greatest American marathoners? Drawing a blank? Most do. There are not many, and one of them is of Kenyan descent, naturalized, but grew up here. We have football and basketball stars, they have runners.

8. Competition- Can you imagine what it must be like to compete at the national level in Kenya? It must be like the World Championships every single time. Only the fastest survive. If it were not for the rules limiting a country’s entries, the World Championships and the Kenyan Nationals would be the same thing. Out of this crucible comes world class running.

9. Renato Canova- Well, coaching, in general, not just Canova. Seeing the immense potential in East Africa, a number of European coaches have taken to living in a third world, developing country just to train he world’s fastest runners. That is a beautiful thing. With a talent pool as deep as Kenya, new training and coaching techniques can be tested to the maximum level possible. It would be lIke working in Ferrari’s Formula 1 racing division. You do not hold anything back, you figure out the fastest way to get from point A to point B. Nothing else.


They are hungrier than anyone else. I mean that mostly figuratively, as in they want it more, and they do what it takes. They run more. A lot more. Running and racing is a chance to make a life that is very hard to come by in East Africa. They do not mess around, they chase it and wrestle it down or die trying. How many American runners have that simultaneous pressure and motivation? And in many cases, they are literally hungry. Poverty can be a great motivation, and if you have the stride that might win an international marathon or Olympic gold, you chase that with everything you’ve got.

Relax! The Holidays are Here!

The holidays are here, and with it comes all kinds of anxiety about all kinds of things. But one of the big ones for many people is holiday weight gain and loss of fitness. Athletes are often terrified about losing their hard won fitness as the season winds down, and the days get shorter, close and wetter. Everyone worries about the dreaded weight gain, whether casual exerciser or top age grouper. There are roughly six weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year’s, which seems like a long time with which to do all kinds of damage. Fittingly, it seems every fitness or health oriented magazine or website has all kinds of complicated advice about how to avoid the pitfalls. I have got a simpler plan, don’t worry about it.

Research shows that the average holiday weight gain for adults is one pound.

That’s it. One pound.

The problem is that most people never lose that pound, so after ten years, you have ten extra pounds. Also, the more overweight you are, the more you tend to gain.

But, if you are reasonably active and motivated, you can deal with that pound. You can prevent it with a few counter measures strategically applied. Even if you gain some, you can implement some austerity and lose it after New Year’s. It really is not as bad as you think. All through human history there were periods of feasting, and gaining a few pounds was not a bad thing. Things have changed a bit now, so we must exercise more caution, but there is no reason to get paranoid. You can enjoy the holidays, indulge some, and still get right back on track for the coming season.

So, do not fret. It is not the end of the world, only the end of the year. Just flex that muscle between your ears a bit and you will be fine.

10 Reasons Why the Kenyans Will Always Be Faster

Everyone wants to know the Kenyan secret. Why are they so darn fast? Well, there is no one reason. We all want the easy some explanation even while we know that there is no such thing. If there was, we could all do the same thing. Or we want to find some genetic explanation so that we can believe that everything is out of our control and excuse ourselves from trying. It’s not genetics, if it was they would be battling the the Tanzanians, but that’s not happening. Instead, the Kenyans have a perfect storm of advantages that have led to their dominance for decades. Since it’s complex, don’t expect much to change any time soon.

1. Diet- well, sorta. The near vegetarian diet works really well. I admit my bias. I think this is a bigger reason than people acknowledge. Not eating the standard Western disease promoting diet for most of their lives gives them an advantage. As modernity continues its invasion, this advantage may disappear.

2. They Run as Kids- A lot! By the time they start competition training, they have an incredible aerobic base few Westerners have achieved. They do this by running to and from school twice a day, running to visit friends, running everywhere.

3. They Run as Kids- They do most of this running barefoot, so develop a fantastic, efficient stride. The first thing they do when training seriously is get shoes, but their formative years are barefoot developing on incredible foot and lower leg strength. And a stride that everyone agrees is the most beautiful in the world.

4. Simplicity- When they train in a training camp, they literally eat, sleep and train. There are no distractions like Internet, TV, movies, mass media, social media etc. Being so focused makes recovery easier. Contrast that to our hectic lifestyle, where many athletes skip sleep to train. Kenyans sleep whenever they want, since there is nothing like a post workout recovery nap.

5. Periodization- Kenyans focus their training in intense blocks for specific races where all distractions are eliminated. Then, when it’s over, they go home, relax, forget about running, rest, recover, eat, put on some weight and refuse to worry about it until the next training period. Spending lots of time with family maximizes their recovery and keeps a work and life balance that us Westerners can only envy.