Summer XC Running Tips + Sample Schedule

running

Hey guys! Sorry, but I’ve been super busy with my internship + other busy work that I haven’t had real time to sit down and just write. Thankfully, I managed to carve out a bit of time today to sit down a jot a bit of my thoughts down.

Firstly, I can’t believe a month of summer has already gone by! It seems like just days ago I got off on summer break. Admittedly, I don’t feel like I spent my month as productively as I could’ve, but I guess that’s why it’s called summer break, right?  

At least my summer running has been going pretty well! Having gotten injured last summer in preparation for XC and also this past track season (which is so dreadful), I knew I did not want to risk any injury this summer. So, I decided to be super careful with my buildup, and make the effort to track all my runs (miles, workout, comments) in a google spreadsheet to track my weekly progress and see how I was feeling. Surprisingly, it has worked really well for me so far (crossing my fingers) and though I’m nowhere near optimal shape/speed for XC season yet, I’m getting there slowly but surely.

I wanted to share a few of my key workouts/runs I do each week, and also a brief sample/overview of my current training schedule. Everyone’s running fitness and level is different, but I hope this can give you just a little glimpse and inspiration!

Here are some of the more major workouts/runs I’ve been doing, and that you can try out too:

#1) Fartlek Workout

Fartlek, the swedish word for “speed play”, is just like what it sounds like: it’s basically a continuous run where you vary your speed in between, interchanging between running hard and running easy. Fartlek workouts are great for people of any fitness level because you can make it as easy or as hard as you want, depending on your current shape/how you’re feeling that day. Fartleks are usually run outside on a trail/route, preferably with some rolling hills. These runs are great because they are challenging, but you finish feeling refreshed rather than fatigued.

A sample of some fartlek workout ideas are:

  • Hilly Route: Run hard uphill, easy run on flats, run hard on downhills
  • 4 mins “on” (faster pace, I usually run it at tempo pace, a pace I can hold for around 40 minutes) , 2 mins “off” ( recovery pace) x 4 times  + warmup and cooldown
  • 3 mins “on”, 2 mins “off” x5 + warmup and cooldown
  • Song: During the chorus, run hard, during the other parts, run slow

 

The great thing about this is that you can really adjust it to your own level. For some people, the “on” part may be a jog/run and “off” a simple walk, while for others the “on” would be run at 5k/tempo pace and “off” at recovery pace. You can also vary the number of times you run the fartlek ( thus adjusting the number of minutes you run). This run is especially great for cross country runners because during a race, you don’t know how far you’ve gone, so you really have to rely on feel for judgement.

 

#2) Tempo Run / Tempo Intervals

Tempo runs are one of the most important runs for cross country training. A tempo run is basically a steady effort/pace, usually somewhere around 10k pace or a bit slower. Tempo runs are great for developing your Lactate Threshold (LT), which basically determines how fast your body can clear lactic acid from your muscles. Tempo runs are great for developing strength, speed, and also stamina and mentality, as it really is learning to be comfortable in the “uncomfortable”. You should feel that the run is “comfortably hard”.

 

I like to run my tempo runs in 2 variations: sustained tempo runs or tempo intervals. Sustained tempo runs are anywhere from 15-30 minutes long at a tempo effort, while tempo intervals are interval runs at a tempo pace (or slightly faster). Depending on where your fitness level is, it’s easy to build up your tempo runs to a greater mileage/faster pace.

 

Some Tempo Run Ideas are:

  • 10 mins warm up, 20 mins sustained tempo, 10 mins cooldown
  • 10 mins warm up, gradual tempo (increasing pace), 10 mins cooldown
  • Warmup + 4x 1000m at Tempo Pace + Cooldown
  • Warmup + 3x1500m at Tempo Pace + Cooldown
  • Warmup + 4x1000m at increasing pace, slower than faster (start slightly slower than tempo pace, finish slightly faster than tempo pace) + Cooldown

 

I like to run my tempo runs either on a trail outside or sometimes even on the treadmill, as it is easier to determine my pace and keep my pace. Tempo runs take lots of mental toughness, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to where you want on your first try. Remember, gradual buildup is key.

#3) Long Run

The long run is arguably the most important run for a cross country runner (and even more so for half marathon/marathon runners). Long runs are what they sound like: runs that are long. This varies from person to person, of course, but long runs are normally 1.25 – 1.5 times of your normal recovery run length. For example, I run an average of 8 km per day, and my long run is usually around 11-12km (1.35-1.5 times). These runs can be run at a sustained tempo pace (a bit harder) or at a recovery pace. I usually run my runs at the pace I would run a easy run, as I know that the length of the run is enough of a challenge for me.

For some elites, long runs can go up to 2 hours long or more, but I would say for high school cross country, your long runs should definitely by under 1 and a half hours, but that’s just me. Long runs are crucial for building endurance (duh) and not to mention increases your capillary growth, number of mitochondria (which produces ATP!), myoglobin concentration, maximum VO2, and a lot more.

Sample Long Run:

  • 1 hour at easy pace, preferably on trails or course with hills
  • Progression Long Run: Start a conversation pace and finish at tempo pace
  • Tempo Long Run: Run the entire course at a sustained pace, not as fast as tempo but you should finish quite tired.

It is crucial that you don’t increase your long run length too much every week. The maximum increase should be about 10%, so if you ran 10km last week, the longest run this week should be 11km.

 

#4) Hill Repeats/ Hill Sprints

One of my most dreaded workouts is hills. Hill repeats/hill sprints basically fill my legs up with so much lactic acid and I always feel like quitting in the middle. But, hills are a very important part of cross country training, and many race courses contain at least 1 big hill or various rolling hills. Hill workouts are important because they act as speed workouts, help improve your form, and have a lower risk of injury than speed workouts.

There are 2 types of hill workouts: Longer hill repeats or short hill sprints. While the longer hill repeats are usually run at a tempo pace and help improve your lactate threshold, hill sprints are key in improving your fast twitch muscle fibers. Both are important for you to power through your race!

Sample Hill Workouts:

  • 8 x 200m Longer Hills, 6 x 50m hill sprints
  • 8 x 1 min hill repeats, 3 min recovery jog
  • 30 min run + 8 x 15 second hill sprints
  • Continuous hill run

 

So here is a sample of my week of summer training:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday
40 mins easy 4 mins on, 2 mins off x 4 fartlek + 6 x 30 second strides 45 minute recovery Run 3 x 1500m Tempo Pace 45 minute Recovery run 7 mile (11.2km) Long Run Rest

Hope you enjoyed my post and learned something new. If you guys have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email at christinay1213@gmail.com. I would love to help out! Let’s all get after it! After all, cross country champions are made in the summer 🙂 

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Pic Creds: Mark Callon 

Have a great rest of the week. Peace out!

 

Healthy Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe

Recipes

This pancake recipe is so easy, healthy and fluffy (what more could you want?) I’ve made pancakes many times and this recipe never fails to make the best traditional pancakes. It’s so good, you won’t even notice it’s healthy!

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My ideal Saturday morning consists of waking up late, watching some TV or Youtube Videos in bed, then getting up to prepare a BOMB breakfast! Unfortunately during the school year, that doesn’t really happen, especially being busy with so many activities, classes, and mounds of school work. Thankfully, summer break means no more of all of that, and my ideal Saturday morning could actually become reality!

For me, breakfast is the most important and arguably the BEST meal of the day. Firstly, breakfast foods are the best foods (you can have sweet, savory, or anything in between!) and it also keeps me fueled for the rest of the day. I don’t know about you, but without a good, hearty breakfast, my brain and body won’t function correctly for the rest of the day.

That’s why I LOVE having pancakes for breakfast, especially on the weekends! Not only are they super fluffy and delicious, they are also customizable to any preference, and not to mention gives me an excuse to eat more sweet stuff 🙂

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Pancakes in the pan!

I’ve made different variations of pancakes many times but had failed to nail the perfect traditional buttermilk pancake. After looking through hundreds of different recipes online, I decided to take some of the best tips and tricks and make my own variation. They turned out perfect~~

For me, the best pancakes are golden-brown, fluffy, subtly sweet, crispy on the edges, tender in the middle – being stackable is also a plus! I realised that baking powder and baking soda could really add to the fluffiness of the pancake. In addition, I also decided to make my own buttermilk (using milk + vinegar) to get that perfect traditional buttermilk flavor, and it worked perfectly!!

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Making my own ‘buttermilk’!

 

I also saw a tip online that mentioned adding applesauce to the pancake batter, which has no sugar but adds sweetness, and it didn’t fail. I also decided to add in 1-2 tablespoons of agave syrup to get additional sweetness to shine through (I have a big sweet tooth!) These pancakes were just right in sweetness and left my sugar cravings satisfied!

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One important part of ‘healthifying’ these pancakes was to substitute regular flour with whole wheat flour. Because whole wheat flour is a lot denser and heavier than normal flour, I was afraid that completely replacing all the flour would change the texture and taste a lot. I resorted to half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, which was the perfect compromise – the pancakes retained the fluffy texture while having the extra benefits of wholegrain!

 

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These pancakes were just TOO GOOD, and let’s just say I was quite proud of myself 🙂 My entire family loved it too! It was the perfect way to spend a lazy (and much-needed) Saturday morning.

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Yes, that’s ice cream AND caramel syrup in the background 🙂

 

Tips:

  • The pancake batter will be quite thick, but don’t worry – it’s the key to producing fluffy pancakes!
  • You can use this pancake recipe as a base and add any toppings/flavor variations you want! Let your imagination run wild : )
  • For the buttermilk, try to use actual milk (not plant-based milk, it won’t react to create the reaction needed to thicken the milk – it’s chemistry ), and try to use 2% fat or above, as it will retain more of the traditional buttermilk flavor
  • If the pancake batter is too thick, spoon it into the pan and spread it out using a spoon or spatula to the desire shape.
  • Use a half-half combination of white + whole wheat flour or 100% white whole wheat flour (100% whole wheat flour will possibly be too dense!)

 

Hope you guys enjoy!

 

Healthy Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

  • Servings: 15 regular sized pancakes
  • Difficulty: easy/medium
  • Print

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup and a dash of milk
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of white vinegar/lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Directions

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon powder in a bowl and whisk until incorporated
  2. Put white vinegar in the milk, and wait for 5 minutes
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, applesauce, vanilla extract, agave syrup, and whisk together
  4. Slowly whisk in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Batter should be quite thick, but if too thick (doesn’t fall off the spoon), add a bit more milk/water
  5. Heat a pan, wait until hot, then spray with non-stick cooking spray
  6. Make pancakes! Spoon the batter into the pan, using a spatula to spread it out (if it’s too hard). When bubbles start to form, flip the pancakes.
  7. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy! I love my pancakes drenched in maple syrup, with some fresh strawberries, and maybe a scoop of ice cream too 🙂

Nutritional Info:

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Chocolate Protein Fluff Recipe!

Recipes

Delicious, nutritious, filling, and the best breakfast/snack/dessert to beat the heat!

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How was your week? Hope that it was sweet and not too stressful. I’ve just started my summer break a few days ago, and these few days have not been productive at allll – mostly spent in bed almost the entire day binge watching Youtube Videos, going out occasionally for some good food or a short run.

Feeling kind of guilty for being so unproductive, but also a much needed break from school!

Been also trying to start experimenting with more food in the kitchen and developing some new and original recipes for you guys! Being in the kitchen feels like a second home to me, I feel so comfortable and content 🙂

One of the first simple recipes that I feel that is good enough to share with you guys (a milestone achievement, if I may say,) is this Chocolate Protein Fluff! It’s packed with the ideal amount of protein and carbs for the perfect post-run or post-workout snack. So delicious, creamy, and soo ideal for this HOT summer heat!

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This protein fluff is made with:

Ripe Bananas (frozen)

Some type of liquid (water, milk etc. – I used hazelnut milk, my current fav)

Ice

Protein Powder (I used Quest Chocolate Milkshake flavour – bought on Redmart!)

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That’s all! Literally takes 4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes to make. All you need is a food processor/powerful blender. For me, they’re a great post gym snack, coming in at around 130 calories per serving.

If you end up baking this, tag me on instagram @a.runners.fuel ; I would LOVE to see your creations!

Peace out!

Chocolate Protein Fluff

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients

1/2 a large banana (frozen)

a dash of hazelnut milk, or any milk/liquid of your preference

~10 ice cubes

1/2 scoop Quest Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder (or any of your own choice!)

Directions

  1. Blend the ice cubes in food processor until fine consistency
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend, adding milk as needed. You may need to scrape off the sides a few times and reblend, just be patient!
  3. Decorate! I topped mine with frozen strawberries, bananas, and chia seeds.

Nutritional Info:

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Purpose.

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Me eating a fake piece of bread. I thought it was real. It’s not.

So, this won’t be an ‘intro to me!’ post, you can find that under the ‘about me’ section of this blog.

Rather, I wanted to talk about my purpose. Why did I suddenly decide to start this blog, and what do I want you (and me) to get out of it?

Well, it’s simple.

Around 4 years ago, when I was around 7th grade, I decided that I was suddenly too fat and wanted to lose weight. Badly. I had been quite a chubby kid basically all my life (I absolutely ADORED food), but I didn’t really care what others thought of it. That was until I got to middle school.

Suddenly, the social pressures and expectations hit me hard. I remember the last straw was when I came in last in the mandatory timed kilometer for the 4th time in a row in my ENTIRE PE Block ( I think I ran a 6:45?) I was super embarrassed. No one probably cared, but to me, it was one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

From then on, I vowed to myself that I would become healthy and fit and pretty. I was already quite an active kid (surprisingly), participating in sports from soccer to swimming, but from then on, I started to add running into my daily regimen. Almost every day, I would go to the gym and run on the treadmill. At first, I ran painfully slow (I think 7km per hour??) for 10 minutes, and I would be completely out of breath. Slowly but surely, though, I managed to build that up to 15, 20, 30, then even 40 minutes at a 10km per hour pace after less than 6 months.

While all this was happening, I also started to restrict what I ate. At first, it was just cutting down on simple things, like trying to stop ordering soft drinks when I went out, or reducing my full bowl of rice to 1/2.

I guess you could call by ‘diet’ successful, at least momentarily. Exercising more intensely + eating less did show its results – I got fitter, I ran faster, I felt prettier. And I was ecstatic. But, the more I progressed, the more intense I got. I upped my cardio and restricting my eating, up to the point where it was clearly getting unhealthy. Eating and exercising were constantly in my head, and I couldn’t shake it off. It almost became an obsession, and this was started to affect my mood and my health.

Thankfully, with the help of my family and God grace, I realised that what I had intended to become ‘healthy’ was actually becoming very unhealthy and consuming my life. When this realisation hit me, I knew I needed to change my mindset. As a growing teenager and now quite a serious runner, I had to properly fuel my body and my mind. I slowly started to not restrict my eating, instead focusing on eating “whole foods” most of the time but also allowing myself to eat intuitively – which means cake + ice cream + cookies + fries (more than) a times a week 🙂

By eating more wholesome foods and also being mindful of my exercise, I was able to become stronger and healthier in mind and in body. Though as a high school varsity runner I sometimes still have thoughts to restrict my diet (which is needed sometimes), I try to find a balance between health and happiness.

That’s why I started my food instagram (@a.runners.fuel) a few months ago, to share some delicious yet nutritious meals and hopefully inspire people to eat healthy on their own too. But I found that instagram was a bit restricting (let’s just say it’s very based on looks), and I wanted to create something alongside it that is more authentic, real, and where I can write a lot more 🙂   I wanted to start a food blog, to share my passion about food, running and fitness to students and student-athletes worldwide through nourishing recipes for the body and the soul. To give my advice and tips for people trying to find that delicate balance between food and health. To write about my life, my experiences as a student and a student-athlete. To share a bit of my life with you.

Hopefully, you all will be willingly to share a bit of your time with me.

Peace out and God bless!

Christina