NTC Beirut: Boys Are Welcome

In the Trump era, equality has taken on an urgency that goes beyond Girl Power laptop stickers and singing along to Beyonce lyrics. As is standard when it comes to gender perks, girls are left out except when it comes to Beirut’s NTC. In a twist of irony, NTC Bey sessions were only available to women; that is, until this month. As of March 1st, Nike Training Club’s classes at UEnergy gyms will now be co-ed as all beasts are considered equal head by ladybeast Diala, the official NTC Trainer.

NTC sessions are so quick and efficient lasting only 50 minutes tops; it’s no wonder the guys were getting jealous they didn’t have access to FREE circuits with a trainer and potential mates (as in “friends,” tihihi). If you ask me, this is great for both sexes. Not only does it allow for another biweekly gathering where you can meet new friends with a common interest in fitness and a healthier lifestyle, something that is lacking in Beirut, but you also get to be pushed by the competitive nature of training. Although biologically speaking, males and females differ in their capacities to lift and strength-train, having supportive bros pushing you to be a fierce ladybeast is always helpful. Did I mention skimping on monthly gym memberships now that you can run & train for free with Nike? For NTC, all you have to do is call the corresponding UEnergy branch on the same day to book a spot.
After 4 months of marathon training, my Nike peeps and I have reached a certain level of camaraderie I haven’t had since my university years. Much like the days when I’d come disheveled wrapped in a ginormous hoodie to Nicely Hall pre-exam having hardly slept, my Nike bros & I have seen each other at our most raw and gross. Suffering together with all masks dropped brings you closer; perhaps closer than those who have only seen the coiffed and carefully curated color-coded version of you. All activities that require bonding via social interaction while your body is undergoing stress lead to formations of tight friendships (basketball, hiking, chopping tabbouli ingredients), especially given that we commune to decompress after long workday nightmares, on and off the road. You’re already in this mindset of shedding bullshit and dropping facades. Ain’t nobody got time for drama. Within NRC or NTC, much like in classrooms, you’ll find people you can connect with without the need to be at the alcoholic watering hole complete with why the heck is this guy talking to me vibe. Don’t get me wrong though, we eat, drink, and be merry. There is one common ground that all my Nike gymrat athletes share: we do all this because we love food. Turns out, coming together to get healthy has helped me find my fellow foodies. Maybe at NTC, you can find your people too. Or you can just come run (and eat) with us regular runners at NRC. I guarantee you’ll be welcomed at both.
March
And NRC runs every M/T/Th 6:34pm at Nike Souks – Downtown Beirut
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Finding Your Footwear: Nike Running Shoes 101

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When it comes to material possessions, these three S’s are my kryptonite: sunglasses, stationery, and sneakers. Even before I became a runner, I had too many kicks to count; running just gave me an excuse to go full throttle on the athleisure trend, to the point where friends flat out tell me not to wear Nikes on dates or upscale outings.

But what I never understood pre-NRC was that, when you were looking for more than a pearly pair of white AF1s, you had to look beyond the exterior of a shoe. When it came to running or training, you needed to ignore aesthetics and get to know the shoe: it’s all about inner beauty. After blisters, black toenails, and swaths of BodyGlide, you learn that picking the right shoe for your body and activity is essential to your performance and continued dedication to a sport. It’s kinda like love: you can try to force it but, if you’re not the right fit for each other, it’s just torture that will end with you on the couch avec a tub of Chunky Monkey.

As I learned last year, finding your one shoe love can be a tough and expensive lesson if you don’t do an online background check. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet here to save you the trouble. Don’t sweat over getting the shoes, sweat when using them.

BUT FIRST, most models have an upper mesh for breathability while the heels have responsive cushioning but Nike has patented technologies when it comes to the engineering of their footwear. Before we get to the goods, here’s a quick vocab lesson:

Free: allowing your bare foot to do what it does naturally but with protection
Lunarlon: 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon and allows the force of impact to be evenly distributed
Flywire: strategically placed filaments that function like cables on a suspension bridge to offer support precisely where it’s needed
Zoom Air: durable airpockets that reduce the force of impact and return to original shape to brace for the next round
Dynamic Support: more soft foam on the lateral side for cushioning and more firm foam on the medial side for support

Now, there are three main categories of running shoes: run stronger/faster/longer. Anyone who does 5Ks or more regularly should go to the “faster” category. Let’s associate each with one word to break it down.

Run Stronger: flexible
(Nike Free RN/Motion/Distance/or FlyKnit)
Free RN: Free outsole and soft foam cushioning
Motion: Free midsole & outsole plus dual-density cushioning
Distance:
Lunarlon midsole with upper mesh of Flywire cables
FlyKnit:
Fits like a sock with Free outsole and soft foam cushioning



Run Faster: lightweight
(Nike Air Zoom Elite/Pegasus/Structure/FlyKnit/Streak/Wildhorse)
Elite: forefoot Zoom Air unit and Flywire mesh
Pegasus: two Zoom Air units (1 forefoot & 1 heel) with lighter
Structure: Dynamic Support in the midsole and more overall stability
FlyKnit: Fits like a sock but is mid-cut so your foot is locked in and ready for speed
Streak: a FlyKnit model with Flywire cables, Zoom Air unit in heel, and anatomical toe shape and midfoot shank for power and propulsion
Wildhorse:
Dynamic Fit with rock plate in forefoot to protect from rough terrain, rubber forefoot for wet tracks, abrasion resistant mesh, ideal for trail runners

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Fun fact: Allyson Felix’s kryptonite is Hot Cheetos and Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. Essentially, it’s like we’re the same person.

Run Longer: cushioned 
(Nike LunarTempo/LunarGlide/Air Zoom Vomero/Air Zoom Odyssey/LunarEpic FlyKnit/Airmax/Zoom All Out)
LunarTempo: Lunarlon cushioning, midfoot Flywire cables
LunarGlide: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, Dynamic Support cushioning
Vomero: double Zoom Air units in front & back, Flywire cables, and ankle support
Zoom Odyssey: triple-density Dynamic Support on the midsole, heel & forefoot Zoom Air units, Flywire upper mesh
LunarEpic FlyKnit: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, pressure mapped outsole for targeted cushioning
Airmax: full-length max air unit, polyester yarn body, waffle pattern outsole for even weight distribution, Flywire cables for dynamic fit
Zoom All Out: Asymmetrical Flywire cables for midfoot support, fits like a sock, waffle rubber outsole, segmented rubber crash rail

Nike models come out every year and runners await to see the colors, adjustments, and slight upgrades. Much like the iOs updates, auto body kits, or Pantone color of the year, based on research & design, Nike comes out with enhanced versions of running shoes every March and September. Pegasus is already on its 33rd iteration. Once a year is around the average time you should go for a new pair but trading in your sneaks is based on how much mileage they get. At around 400K, they’ll be worn down enough that your soles are going to need fresh cushion and you can track that by tagging your shoes on the Nike+ Running app in case you’re too much of a wa7esh to notice the pain.

Although heavier than other models, I’m a Vomero gal. I’m waiting for the 12s softer Lunar midsole and firmer cushioning so I can retire my half marathon 11s.  Remember, you can keep your older kicks for hikes and outdoor activities, strength training sessions at the gym, or donate them to the Beirut Marathon Association.

BambiRunsBey42K: There is No Finish Line

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#wou7oush

This is the 10th and final installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

When you’re undergoing a training season that culminates on one day, you forget about one minute detail: the marathon is a race. This was of no importance to me personally since I had no intention of even trying to win such a title but, in the end, you are still racing yourself. You may not shoot for the gold but you are attempting to beat the clock, be it to make a new PR or to make it under the maximum allocated time-window. My goal for this run was the latter and I did it. And so did my team.

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How Far We’ve Come
The last Beirut Marathon I was in, I walked/ran a 10K and, upon seeing the pillars marking the kilometers for the marathoners I thought, those people must be batshit. Nothing has changed on that; I still think you have to be a certain level of insane to willingly endure it. Then, deciding to dive into anything beyond a 10K was inconceivable. Five years later, I can say that this has been the hardest physical commitment and challenge that I’ve undertaken which makes it all the more satisfying.

When I started with NRC, Pacer Moe used to run next to me at the very back of the pack. He’d ask me how I’m doing and try to have a conversation while I could hardly spit out a few words as I gasped to breathe. Now, mid-run, I have chats with teammates about travels to other cities to run races. Now, Dima pushed through 42K on her 26th birthday with an injured foot. Now, Hussein, who used to run at pace 9, ran his first marathon in under 6 hours. Now, Dina, one of our youngest runners, placed 1st in her age group. Now, Nour recovered from her stress fracture and ran a kilo alongside each NRC marathoner on the track. Each runner has transformed in this process, each runner has a in the beginning story, and each runner feels the others’ victory.


The Lessons After
* Congratulate every win: Pat yourself on the back for every PR, every extra mile, every 500m sprint, every run you didn’t skip for happy hour.
* I might like running…a little bit: As much as I ran, running ran my life. I read articles, subscribed to newsletters, bought memoirs. You can’t despise a sport and be that invested in the topic itself. Look, it’s not love yet, we’re infatuated. Ya3ni fi shi haik haik.
* Your body is a fascinating, communicative vessel: Surviving rigorous training puts you so in tune with your machinery because you’re carefully monitoring what you eat, how you sleep, and what factors contribute to its optimum performance. If marathon training teaches you anything at all, it’s how to listen to your body’s signals.
* Don’t take healthy toenails for granted: oh, how I miss them so.

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Life After the 2016 Marathon
I kept thinking that I wanted this to be over with so I could have my life back but then I realized that this was only the beginning of an addiction that had begun months ago. You see, exercise is read by the brain as stress so it releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to deal and protect your brain from this stress. It’s a reset switch and, along with endorphins, blocks the feeling of pain and gives you a high. This is the healthiest addiction there is and it is exactly that because more exercise is needed to achieve the same high over time. I guess I’m just going to have to keep running.

So…I’m incorporating Sunday 10Ks into my weekly regimen. I’ll improve my 10K time and work my way up to a better long distance pace. Do I want to run the 42? Yes, one day but let’s talk about it later this week when my jelly legs stop bending the wrong way. Although I haven’t booked my flight to California yet, I’ve signed up for a Champagne Runch and the LA BIG 5K in March. I considered the LA Marathon but I’m not ready to dive into another training season on the heels of finishing my first.

And, with the conclusion of the marathon, I’m happy to say that this blog will return to posts that don’t only revolve around running, kilos, and bodily fluids/lubricants. Not those, you 12 year old.

And now, the thank yous…

To Marianne & the Nike team,
Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to learn who we are. To have this outlet for stress. To have an activity that isn’t just about consumption of burgers & booze. To create another family that won’t hug you when you say you’ve tried your best but will say,“eh ma3leh, PUUUUSH” so you will swallow that lie and find the last drop of fuel that’s escaping your carburetor.

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To Coach Mark,
You lead us to the finish by proving that running doesn’t need to be torture. That being a serious sport doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves seriously all the time. You made running fun, which I never thought was possible. You taught us how to know our bodies, know our limits, and know that we can ignore them because we were more than any of us ever thought. You pushed us beyond our accepted states. You are the magnet, we are the iron filings that, drawn to your positive charge, encapsulate you like a force-field.

To Pacers Moe, Nour, Georges, and Wafik,
Our guardian angels on the road, you guys in neon protect us while simultaneously guiding us to our own wins. Your experience, advice, and support were the stilts that made us stand tall. You called us out when you knew we could give more, even when we didn’t know we could. You are the glue, we are the macaroni pieces, whom together create the awkward art that our mothers cry over.

To my wou7oush,
The high that I feel is not the BDNF endorphin cocktail coursing through my veins; it’s the result of seeing my inspirational beasts get their medals only to, like a wolf entering their pack’s cave, walk into a circle of teammates where they can collapse into palpable safety. You are truly champions. I wouldn’t have done this without your cheers, your smiles, and your contagious willpower.


There is no finish line for we are runners and the streets are waiting for us to return.
Much love to you all.

(Photos collected from team)

5 Essentials for Marathoners

With just a few days left until the big day, here’s a list of some products all marathoners may need, available at Wesley’s, my literal home away from home. I wrote a list of suggested products for new runners but this post is for longer distances like the marathon.

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NEW: BodyGlide Anti-Chafing Balm
The biggest when it comes to anti-chafing balms, BodyGlide has entered Beirut! We’ve got the original BG, For Her, Foot, Skin, and Cycle in two sizes (standard and travel). Apply this on all sensitive areas to avoid rashes and irritation caused by chafing (friction from skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin). This product isn’t exclusively for athletes; it’s also for those who suffer from various forms of chub rub during their daily life. #thickthighssavelives

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Yogi Muscle Recovery Green Tea with Turmeric
This is a double win when it comes to healthy points. Green tea is recommended to runners because it’s loaded with stress-reducing amino acids that elevate your metabolic rate and up muscle mass. This Yogi variant has turmeric, an extract from curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory yucca root and blackberry leaf. Every box, priced at 8500LL, has 16 tea bags with little messages on the tags for that fortune cookie effect.

Another good option is Runa tea which contains Guayusa, a leaf with twice the antioxidants of bagged green tea and ~30 fewer mg of caffeine per cup than coffee.
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ProBar Energy Chews
On long distance runs, you need to refuel every hour or so. Each runner has their own preferred mid-run snack based on trial runs (edible gels, chews, or good old-fashioned nuts & dates). Wesley’s carries the 4 flavors of ProBar energy chews (2 with caffeine, 2 without). Each pack costs 4500LL and has 2 servings of 4-5 chews.

Do not take gels or chews with electrolytes (Gatorade). Your body will overload and you’ll need a potty faster than you can find one.

Coconut Water/Oil

Coconut water for hydration after the miles are done and coconut oil all over errythannnnng to soothe the skin. As I’ve said multiple times, coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and moisturizer. Coconut water is 3250-3500LL each and an 84oz jug of coconut oil is 48,000LL.

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Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt or a Cryopak Ice Pack
After putting that much stress on your muscles, you need to help your body recover. Epsom salts in a warm bath will do wonders for aches & pains. Stock of this therapeutic soak flies off the shelves so grab it while you can. A 6lb bag is for 24,000 LL.

Icing your knees and joints for 15min intervals is helpful as well. The Cryopak is usually for coolers but at 3500LL, this reusable plastic pack can be better than the lumpy bag of peas in your freezer.

Make sure to test the chafing balm and chews on a practice run before the 13th so you know it’s a good choice for future runs. Marathon Day is not the day to test the new, only tried and true.

Good luck fellow runners!

BambiRunsBey42K: Two Weeks to 21

This is the 8th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Two weeks away from the big day and I feel like such a fraud. Even though I’ve gone down to the half and my training intensity has gone down due to a mix of tapering and late nights at the office, it’s been a long road to November 13th and, at 13 days away, I’m feeling spent.

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PC: Marc Tanas

When with the group, we feed off of each other’s energy. But once you go home and you’re solo again, it wanes. Because of this, I began my Google expedition to find fuel. Fuel to keep my head in the game, fuel to save on my mental hard drive for those negative thoughts post 16K, and fuel to make my legs endure another 2 weeks of training.

On the Mental Hard Drive
It began with Ed Whitlock, an 85-year old who ran his latest marathon in under 4 hours. Runner’s World says, “he just runs slowly, for three to four hours a day, around a cemetery a little more than 100 meters from his front door.” That could not be more fitting. He’s giving death a giant middle finger. I’m 28. No excuses.

Another file saved: Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the NYC Marathon I’ve mentioned before, once said, “Hurry slowly. Move ahead, but be patient.” It will take time to get better and the endurance you build is not only the physical kind. You need to endure the process.

And then there’s this:


I’ve begun to fall off the wagon when we’re so close. Like the tortoise though, you can’t lose focus. Look for motivation elsewhere, find a boomtastic powersong, plan your post-finish line celebratory meal. Mine is fatteh from Le Professeur in Mar Elias.

Sundays Have Changed
Sundays in Lebanon are commonly associated with grandparents, meat on grills, and/or arak in the mountains. I can’t remember the last Sunday I’ve had that equaled that. Sundays during training seasons mean waking up before 4am, having your eyes water excessively while running at 7am (because they’re like why the f*ck are we doing this now?), being worn out before 11am, and staying hungry until 10pm when you pass out.

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PC: Marc Tanas

I missed yesterday’s morning run simply because I fell back asleep on the couch at 6am. This is just another lesson that training teaches you: set multiple alarms, drink the coffee earlier, and do not sit down on anything squishy for longer than 15 minutes. That last one may be misinterpreted. I meant the sofa, freaks.

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Sunday Mood.

Just for Kicks

A doctor told one of my teammates that the body isn’t built for the marathon, effectively saying, “you’re not supposed to be doing this.” And yet, here we are. I confess that I do not like running. It may seem blasphemous to say that as a NRC runner but, as a sport, it is grueling. It beats you up and knocks you down. However, every time you fight back, you’re taking control and proving that you call the shots. You’re telling your brain that you’re not going to fail, that you know your pain, that you do belong here even when your joints are shrieking. 

Accepting Your Strength
The 21 is still a formidable distance but, considering where I am physically, it is a enough. As a friend of mine said, “mish hayen bas mish mot” (it’s not easy but it’s not death). I don’t mean to make my future-marathoners feel discouraged but I’m recognizing my body’s capability right now. But that’s me. If you’ve seen my fellow beasts train, you’d know that they’ll be eating the 42 for breakfast in two Sundays. And I’ll be having fatteh.

BambiRunsBey42K: One Month Left


This is the 7th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

The temperature has begun to drop as we make our way through October. One second we’re three months away from Marathon Day and the next, it’s Thanksgiving and all we’re worried about is how to expertly wear elastic waistbanded pants to hide the holiday weight gain.

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Breaks in Training
With each injury, flight, or skipped run, a runner can feel themselves take steps backward. Some would see these interruptions as needed breaks but, in the training world, they are breaks in momentum. In a matter of a few weeks, my athlete habits had begun to evaporate. I was forgetting to drink all my liters of water, slacking off on meal prep, and missing cross-training days at the gym.

After talking with my NRCers, it is a common peeve that we all have. As soon as we start to improve, something gets in the way and once you’re back, you feel like you’re starting from the bottom again…

But now we here: 4 weeks (3 Sundays) away.

I have to admit, I can’t wait to get my life back but I don’t want all this investment to start to go downhill when we’re so close to the peak. On Tuesday’s 8K, Coach Mark said, “Open your stride, stop being afraid of your injury,” and in trusting him, I was able to get back to and maintain my (slow) average pace. The trick now is to keep doing that.

Sunday Tapering 
Prior to Marathon Day, runners need to start cutting back on the kilos when running weekly long distance runs so their bodies can stay ready but avoid fatigue. Yesterday was my first Sunday back with the group post-NYC and I finished 16K but not with a desired pace. I’ve got less than 30 days to get it down just enough to make it across the finish line in under 3 hours comfortably. I don’t have a goal time in mind, I just want to get it done so I can have a benchmark for the future.

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Trying out NTC
I had to skip a Friday run to go to an extra Spanish class and I also won’t be attending Monday runs for a while for the same reason. I DID go to a NTC session though. Read more about that here.


Just for Kicks
During +5K runs, you have a lot of time to think. My mind wanders to blogpost content, to-do lists, and the occasional why am I doing this again?! During one evening run, I realized runners have 3 important PBs when it comes to training season: Personal Best, Peanut Butter, and Practice Buddy.

Personal best refers to when you reach a new record pace, distance, or time. The more often you run, the less often this happens. You’re not going to beat your PB on every run but it’s the only parameter you should use when evaluating your progress. Peanut butter is the snack of choice when needing a quick dose of food that’ll keep you functioning during a long afternoon. Some runners have a spoonful before a long run. My NRC crew would qualify as my practice buddies: the people who will train along side you so you’re not climbing a mountain alone. Can’t wait to see them all charge down the red carpet soon!

 

NTC: The Other Free Nike Club

After a year of El-Tanein Diet, 10 months of running with Nike+ Run Club (NRC), and a couple weeks of failing to cross-train during marathon training season, I finally made it to my first session of Nike+ Training Club (NTC). I recently signed up for an intro Spanish class at Cervantes that coincides with both NTC sessions but, thanks to Ashura/Spanish Independence Day, I was able to join the girls this past Wednesday night. I say “girls” because the NTC sessions are exclusively dedicated to women only in effort to encourage ladies to get their gains on. Relax boys, classes will become dual gender in 2017.

The sessions, which are built around the NTC app, are intensive 1-hour cocktails of easy-to-follow workouts using body weight or basic gym equipment. Diala El Khazen, the trainer and chef who throws together a new menu for every session you attend, is an encouraging coach who uses the you-can-do-it approach rather than the aggressive tactic that other coaches go for. Much like Mark Jibran, her NRC counterpart, Diala also pushes you to complete the workout without making you want to push her off the roof of the gym where the session takes place. That’s not to say that the workout is easy; however, the session is so diversified in activity with workouts taken straight from the NTC app that before you know it, you’re on your back doing cool-down stretches on the artificial grass.

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Strength training on non-running day: check.

It’s short and sweet in comparison to the tough runs we’ve been doing pre-marathon but they’re a necessary evil as a supplement to whatever else you’re doing at the gym or on the track. The only downside was knowing I wouldn’t be able to attend anymore because of Español. Lo siento, Nike.

BUT I could use the NTC app on my own, right? First, suggested workouts are based on your average weekly workout frequency. With a wifi connection, the app and the workouts are free to download and you can select ones with or without equipment in case you don’t have gym access. If going to the gym isn’t an option, I recommend using a mat or even doing the workouts at Horsh Beirut so you have a soft surface and space.

I gave it a shot today at home. I decided to go for a workout plan that will give me a structured schedule aimed at getting lean and building muscle in a 6-week period. The app sends you notifications the night before, walks you through the workout, and will adapt the plan according to your effort level/schedule/goals. Every following workout will be according to how you performed in the previous one. I’m hoping this 15-workout LEAN FIT plan will help rid as much excess fat as possible before Marathon Day. The lighter and stronger I am, the easier the 21K will be. All I have to do now is stay away from the tortilla chips.


The NTC app aims to be your personal trainer without the ~$350/month biceps packaged in a XS Lycra t-shirt. Does it work? Too early to tell but what I do know is I had some direction this morning and that’s already an improvement over my usual method: pick 5 machines that work the upper body and do 4 reps of 12. Not exactly well-studied. It’s true that you may need a human trainer to check your form and yell at you when you’re slacking off but that’s what the free NTC sessions can do: be your guide so you can continue on your own when you can’t make it to UEnergy.

Both NRC and NTC sessions grant attendees 20 points in your loyalty account.
1000 points translates to $100 store credit.

NTC
Mondays at 7:27pm at UEnergy Bliss Street
Wednesdays at 7:58pm at UEnergy Downtown
Book ahead, spots are limited. Free of charge.

NRC
Mon/Tues/Thurs at 6:34pm at Nike Beirut Souks

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