SELF magazine

As a coach, I take pride in guiding my clients to better form and energy efficiency. I also encourage trying new things. So if you come to me as a road runner, I am going to advise you to hit the trails. Highlighted in the November 2014 issue of SELF magazine are a few of the reasons why I say getting outside and getting dirty are good for you.

Sean O’ Brien 5050

Today’s the day!!! Online registration opens for the Sean O’Brien 50M/50K/26.2 trail races in the Santa Monica Mountains.

February 1, 2014.

New course.

Same rockin’ Race Director Keira Henninger.

This will be one of my trail running club, CV Trail Runner’s featured races, so look for training runs in the months to come. If you would like a personalized training program, send me an email at

Go to and register, because it will definitely sell out.

Jamba Juice Ambassador!!!

A little brightness in these dark days of the Springs Fire…I am thrilled to announce I have been selected as an Ambassador for Jamba Juice!!! If you know me, you know I hit Jamba Juice after every endurance run. It is my preferred recovery drink. Keep an eye out for my next sponsored event. Come by to say hi and sample some products. See a list of new Fruit & Veggie smoothies at My favorite is Orange Carrot Karma!!!
If you have an upcoming event and would like Jamba Juice to join in the fun, send me a message. Cheers to living healthy! More
Photo: A little brightness in these dark days of the Springs Fire...I am thrilled to announce I have been selected as an Ambassador for Jamba Juice!!! If you know me, you know I hit Jamba Juice after every endurance run. It is my preferred recovery drink. Keep an eye out for my next sponsored event. Come by to say hi and sample some products. See a list of new Fruit & Veggie smoothies at My favorite is Orange Carrot Karma!!!
If you have an upcoming event and would like Jamba Juice to join in the fun, send me a message. Cheers to living healthy!

New Year~New Trails~New Inspirations

Happy New Year!!! 2013!!!

A cliche day to say the least, but if today is that day you decide to start a new then I am your biggest fan. Wherever you find inspiration; a date on the calendar, an undiscovered trail, your children…I do not judge. I embrace.

Lots to talk about.

Together with a few friends, I am starting a member only trail running club in the Conejo Valley. Our season kick off run will be Sunday, January 13 at Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, Ca. Come check us out and see what all the buzz is about. Visit our Facebook page CV Trail Runnners to join and get more details.

My photography passion is slowly turning into a small business…keep an eye out for new pictures posted on this site and my Facebook page~Erica Gratton Photography.

I recently had my race report from North Face Endurance Challenge published at Runners Illustrated. Runners Illustrated is on line publication for all things running; great articles, product reviews and happenings. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read my report, follow the link below. Grab a drink, settle in, read and then stay a while. It’s a great site.

As one year closes and a new begins, I leave you with this quote from Mary Pipher ~

“Maturity involves being honest and true to oneself, making decisions based on a conscious internal process, assuming responsibility for one’s decisions, having healthy relationships with others and developing one’s own true gifts. It involves thinking about one’s environment and deciding what one will and won’t accept.”

Always be true to yourself…now get out there, hit the trails and discover what it is that makes you you!



Food is Fuel

Food is fuel.

As an athlete, you know that.

You consume three forms of potential fuel or macronutrients/food – carbohydrates, fat and protein. Depending on how hard you work (the intensity) and how long you go (the duration) during exercise determines what proportion and when your body uses them.

Glucose (sugar) is the principle energy source for your body. Blood glucose can be used immediately or stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. During exercise, muscle glycogen is converted back into glucose to be used as fuel for your working muscles. As your muscles are converting their glycogen into usable glucose, your liver is converting its glycogen back into glucose as well. The liver’s glucose is released directly into the bloodstream to maintain your blood glucose level. Your working muscles “pick up” this blood glucose and use it in addition to the glucose from their own private stores.  The primary source of energy for your brain is from that same blood glucose. So keeping your body sufficiently fueled during exercise is extremely important.

Your body is constantly using and replenishing its glycogen stores. Whether you eat a diet high in carbohydrates or not, influences the size of your glycogen stores. This is why you hear athletes say they need to “top off” their glycogen stores. The more you have to tap into or convert, the longer you can go…in theory anyway. There are other contributing factors as to how long you can exercise. The fact that your body can only store approximately 1800-2000 calories or enough fuel for 90-120 minutes of continuous vigorous exercise is one of them. It takes approximately 20 hours for your body to restore it’s depleted glycogen stores. So your rest days are doubly important. Your body needs rest to repair it’s muscles for performance gains and to restore
its glycogen stores. Imagine it this way: if you do not allow sufficient rest, it’s like going into a race without a full tank of gas. You would never set off on a road trip without a full tank. If you did, you’d have to stop sooner than the rest of the field to refuel, right? Seems silly when you can start off full!

Ok, so we’ve talked about how your body uses carbohydrates as fuel during exercise. Now let’s talk about another source of fuel-fats. Stored fats are broken down into fatty acids that are transported in your blood to working muscles. This process is considerably slower than the conversion of carbohydrates for fuel. In addition, fats require oxygen to be broken down. Fats cannot be converted and mobilized quick enough to meet the energy demands of sprinters or athletes performing hill repeats or interval sessions. In these shorter more intense bouts of exercise, carbohydrates are the only form of fuel that can be used to generate ATP anaerobically. Think of ATP molecules as chemical energy.

In comparison, during moderate to intense exercise lasting 4-6 hours, fat contributes up to 70% of your body’s energy needs. Highly trained endurance athletes use more fat for energy while sparing their muscle glycogen stores compared to less fit athletes at the same level of exercise. However, as you pick up the pace, your body shifts from using fats and carbohydrates as fuel to burning more muscle glycogen. Your muscles and brain need a steady supply of glucose to keep working. Remember this : Fats burn in a
carbohydrate flame. Sport drinks containing carbohydrates provide working muscles with a readily available source of glucose. Sport drink carbohydrates enter the blood stream for immediate use. If you do not have enough carbohydrates to be broken down as glucose for muscle and liver demands, your body will shut down. “Hitting the wall’ essentially means there is no more glucose available to your working muscles and “bonking” is used to describe the insufficient blood glucose (or low blood sugar) needed for proper brain function.

Lastly, protein may only contribute up to 15% of your energy needs when your glycogen stores run low. Protein is necessary to repair exercise induced muscle damage and to replace amino acids lost during prolonged exercise, but it is not an immediate source of fuel for exercise. It can be converted into glucose and used as fuel during prolonged bouts of exercise. It may even delay fatigue and enhance mental strength, but it is not your body’s first choice for fuel.

In the end, the most influential factor in your performance (injury and ability aside) is your body’s limited carbohydrate stores. Even though the leanest runner may have enough fat stored to supply up to 100,000 calories, enough for over 100 hours of marathon running, you will experience fatigue and be unable to maintain your current pace, if you deplete your muscle glycogen stores.

As an athlete, you need to educate yourself. If you physically train your body for peak performance, you need to fuel your body for peak performance. Your body is a perfectly engineered machine…a divine creation. Your bodys energy systems work in perfect harmony, switching between one source of fuel to the other, depending on what you ask it to do. Your job is to supply your body with adequate fuel to keep that harmony. Practice with different fuels to find the perfect cocktail for race day. Food is as important
a piece of your athletic puzzle as your training. Train smart. Fuel smart.

Running at Altitude

I recently gathered some information for a client I am training for the Tough Mudder race July, 8 in Running Springs, California. The race is held at 6800 feet above sea level…not too high, but for us SoCal folks it may pose a challenge. Thought I would

Altitude Acclimatization and Running

Here is what happens when you travel to an area of higher altitude:

The plasma volume in your blood (the watery part) decreases and the red blood cell concentration increases. This natural compensation occurs because your body is trying to get more oxygen to your active muscles. Your heart kicks into overdrive to deliver more blood, so your breathing becomes more rapid to get more oxygen. Keep in mind when you are feeling out of breath that the percentage of oxygen in the air at altitude is
exactly the same – 20.93%. So do not panic, you will not die from lack of oxygen! It’s actually the atmospheric pressure that decreases as you ascend, therefore decreasing the partial pressure of oxygen in your blood…if that makes sense.

Some people suffer from acute altitude, or mountain, sickness (AMS) when traveling above 6000 feet. Symptoms may include headache, difficulty breathing, general weakness, nausea, loss of appetite and/or sleeplessness. Your body adjusts best to altitude if you are able to travel to your race destination for a stay longer than 10-14 days. If that is not possible, experts recommend arriving within 24 hours of your race to
minimize the effects of AMS.

The two biggest challenges athletes face at higher elevations are dehydration and glycogen depletion. The air holds little water which increases the amount of water you lose through respiration and perspiration. You may not even be aware of it. So be sure to drink plenty of water even when you are not feeling thirsty. Simply carry a bottle with you and take a sip every 15 minutes. This will ensure your muscles are fully
hydrated. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as well. These tend to dehydrate people or drink more water to balance the loss. In addition to keeping your hydration balanced, your basal metabolic rate increases as the elevation increases. Which means your body needs more calories to maintain its basic life functions. This is especially common at altitudes above 9000 feet. The higher the altitude, the greater the impact. A shift in how your muscles rely on energy sources while exercising occurs as well. Instead of your muscles relying on fat for energy, they tend to use more carbohydrates (glucose) for fuel. This is great news, since our bodies use carbohydrates more readily for fuel than fats. So keep your diet higher in healthy carbohydrates to keep your glycogen stores topped off.

If you really want to have an edge over your competition, take advantage of your body’s desire to build new red blood cells. As I mentioned before, red blood cells are the oxygen carrying part of our blood; specifically hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen to working muscles. Iron is a crucial component of
hemoglobin, so eating a diet rich in iron prior to your race will help adapt your body’s natural process. Some iron rich foods are meat, fortified breakfast cereals, dark leafy greens, dried beans, peas, dried fruits and prunes.

The most important key to all of this is being mindful of your body. You now have a
better understanding of the effects of altitude on your body, so just listen to what your body is telling you while at altitude. Stay ahead of the game by drinking plenty of fluids. Water is best, but also drink fluids with electrolytes. You do not want to flush them out of your system. Sodium and Chloride are most crucial. Remember that food is fuel. Even if you have no appetite you need to eat. Don’t forget to take advantage of that carbohydrate window and begin refueling as soon as possible after your event. Chocolate milk is a great alternative if consuming solid foods right away doesn’t seem

Hydration 101

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a group of runners on the basics of
hydration. The majority of runners were first time marathoners, so hydration
was an integral unknown portion of
their training program. Below is a quick list of hydration facts and
recommendations I spoke to them about. Quick and concise. I hope you find it
helpful as well. ~ Erica


  • Men – are 60% water Women – are 50% water
  • Water is essential for weight loss, keeping metabolism working properly, transporting electrolytes and nutrients to working tissues, regulating body temps, maintaining blood pressure for proper cardiovascular function among other things. Water has numerous vital functions.
  • While one’s body is at rest, water intake usually equals water output. During exercise however, that balance is disrupted.

Pre-race water consumption and hydration:

  • Important to hydrate, but do not over hydrate. Better to drink water throughout day and not guzzle a bottle every once in a while. Guzzling will only send you running for the bathroom and flush all vital nutrients out of your body.
  • Do not over hydrate and flush needed sodium and chloride. Urine should be pale yellow in color. Not clear like water.
  • When traveling by air, be sure to drink plenty of water while flying. The dry air in the cabin tends to dehydrate people.
  • Carbohydrates are also a great source for muscle hydration. Carbohydrates retain a lot of water. So when an athlete is planning his or her pre-race meal, they should consider a meal high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are good for topping your muscle glycogen stores and warding off dehydration.

Hydration in training:

  • Plan your race. Race your plan. One’s bodywill not be able to handle the water load on race day, if one has not trained it to do so in training runs. Simulating race day water intake in training isessential.
  • General rule is 2-8 ounces at a time every 15-20 minutes. For most adults – one gulp is roughly 1 ounce. The average water bottle is 20 ounces. Example: 5 gulps (5 ounces) every 15 minutes. That’s 4x in an hour. One water bottle should last you 1 hour of exercise, if following these guidelines. Do not rely on thirst to trigger your need to consume water. Similar to when an athlete is done exercising, he/she should consume some carbs with a little bit of protein. Often, athletes are not hungry. That doesn’t mean he/she shouldn’t eat, because they don’t have the urge. Athletes know better. Same with hydration. Just because one’s not thirsty doesn’t mean one shouldn’t drink. Dehydration is cumulative. If you get behind it, it’s hard to catch up!!!!!!!
  • Suggest drinking a sports drink with carbs and sodium to prevent hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition caused by low blood sodium. Kind of like Diabetes, but in relation to sodium not sugar. It can be a result of prolonged sweating due to exercise or over hydrating with too much plain water. The sodium concentration in your blood becomes diluted if you consume too much plain water.
  • Women are more at risk for hyponatremia due to a smaller starting blood volume. What does this mean? Sweat formation starts in your plasma (the watery part of your blood). When you sweat, plasma passes through the ducts of your sweat glands and permeates out the skin. If you have less blood volume, you have less sodium to start. Make sense?
  • In addition, when we sweat sodium and chloride are reabsorbed back into the blood and transported away to be used again. The human body is pretty darn smart if one thinks about how all these systems work in perfect orchestration. As our activity increases and we sweat more, the less efficient this absorption rate is because the sodium content of the blood is higher. More is lost. Other electrolytes do not get reabsorbed like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Making it more essential to keep a balance through proper electrolyte replacement via sports drinks or salt supplementation.
  • Sweat rate changes due to training and climate conditions, but is greatly affected by genetics. Examples of sweat rates in male and female and trained and untrained athletes: trained males – 35 mmol/L (sodium), untrained males – 90 mmol/L(sodium), trained females – 62 mmol/L(sodium), untrained females – 105 mmol/L (sodium). Chloride stays the same variable. Potassium stayed was unchanged due to it being intracellular (inside) the cells. As opposed to sodium and chloride that are extracellular (outside) of cells in bloodstream. Here’s how to estimate your individual hourly sweat rate: pre exercise weight-post exercise weight (lbs) + fluid intake during activity (ounces) = individual hourly sweat rate. Does not factor in urine output, weight should be taken in the nude and 1 lb equals approximately 16 ounces of fluid.
  • Referring back to replacing essential electrolytes – Plan your race, Race your plan. Find out what sport drinks a race is going to have (who are the sponsors?) Athletes should try using the same products that will be at aid stations in training. Do not use a new product on race day! Or try using a salt supplementation in training. Some people experience nausea and/or vomiting so experiment before. Generally 1 tablet (200-350 milligrams)/hour. These tablets dissolve very easily, so put them in a Ziploc bag before heading out for a training run.


  • Signs of dehydration – elevated body temperature, increased HR, headaches, flushed skin, light headed, only urinating small amounts that are dark yellow in color, cramping, vomiting (it slows the rate at which fluids empty the stomach and move to the intestinal tract for absorption)
  • Common misnomer – Sport drinks are not always the culprit for causing stomach upset and diarrhea. Sometimes it’s dehydration. As stated before, dehydration slows the movement of fluids out of the stomach and subsequent absorption into the intestinal tract. Don’t get caught in the bad cycle of increasing dehydration by not drinking. An athlete may be trying to avoid the one thing he or she believes is causing discomfort.
  • Remember the analogy of beef jerky: Muscles are meant to be supple and bright in color. Not brittle and dry, but muscles without water will become just that. This increases their likelihood of injury as well as making it extra hard for them to move efficiently and perform at their peak.

Post race hydration:

  • Rule of thumb is 2.5 cups of fluid for every lb. lost during exercise. An athlete can estimate how much fluid one typically sweats off by weighing his or herself pre and post exercise. And be sure not to rehydrate with lots of plain water. Athletes need electrolytes post race too. They have been known to induce hyponatremia
    post race after drinking too much plain water.

Knowledge is power. Plan your race. Race your plan.

Childhood Obesity-No More Excuses

Childhood Obesity – No more excuses

Whether you are a parent, a teacher or simply a neighbor to young children, we as a society need to end childhood obesity. No more excuses. No more wasted time. We need to act now. Knowledge is our greatest asset in this fight against childhood obesity. As adults, we are responsible for providing a healthy future for our youth. It is our duty to make good choices on their behalf and to assist them in building the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Let’s start by taking a look at the facts. Then we’ll look at ways to keep our youth moving. Knowledge is power.

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, water, muscle, bone or any combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

The hard facts are disturbing, but shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look around your community. Childhood obesity is a serious concern to our future as a nation. Children who are obese face immediate health risks that can cause long term health effects. So even if you are not directly affected by this concern, you should be. The cost for treatment of these conditions may bankrupt our health care system.

Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 70% of obese youth age 5-17 had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. These same children are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. In addition, obese youth are at a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological
problems such as stigmatization and poor self esteem. Children who are obese are also more likely to be obese adults and therefore more at risk for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer.

As a concerned parent or community member we can prevent most of these conditions by creating healthy lifestyle habits. Genetics play a role in some cases, but getting up and getting out is our best prevention. Ask yourself, when was the last time my child or neighborhood kid played outside till dusk? It rarely happens anymore. Gone are the days of running around, catching fireflies, and adventuring till dark. Safety seems to be a greater concern more than it was 30 years ago, but handheld electronics, computers and TV gaming are equally to blame for sedentary children.

Children need to be physically active. Regular physical exercise helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles. It also helps prevent the health concerns mentioned earlier. Physical activity also reduces the feelings of depression and anxiety. Creating a more focused mind and promoting a sense of psychological well being.

It’s simple. A healthy lifestyle is a choice. You would not allow your child, niece/nephew or neighbor child to cross the street if a car was approaching. Nor would you choose to send that same child to school with a temperature. Choose to be healthy. Choose to live a long, prosperous life. It’s contagious and it starts now.

Get outside and get moving. Grab the bikes, go for a hike, skip to the lou my darling…just get moving. Parents, neighbors, aunts and uncles – we need to tip the “caloric scale” in the opposite direction. Since children rely on our knowledge, we need to take back control. We need to increase their calories expended versus their calories consumed. To do that, we need to involve them in more physical activities. It is an easy concept, but needs to be made fun for children to stay engaged. Below are a few examples of some simple activities with a fun twist:

(1)    Make it an adventure. Set the alarm. Rise before dawn and drive to a hiking trail. Strap on the headlamps and listen to the sounds of nature. If that’s too adventurous for your youth, then…

(2)    Simply hike after dawn and make a scavenger hunt list. Kids love to hunt for and find things. Need more incentive, give a token prize for the winning child or team.

(3)    Ride the bikes to a local park for
some free play time. Invite some playmates to meet you.

(4)    Create a kids “boot camp” in your backyard. Make an obstacle course with stuff from around the house. Kids love to crawl and tunnel through things and jump and climb on obstacles. Keep it fun and safe.

(5)    Go for a run on the hard sand at the beach. Keep an eye out for dolphins or whales. Play “I spy” for other ocean animals, birds, seashells or silly sunbathers.

(6)     Keep it simple. Jump rope and play the name game or a good old fashioned game of freeze tag. Kids love to run.



For more information and ideas to get moving, please visit

For information on creating and maintaining a healthy diet, please visit




Statistics provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-NPAO-Obesity Facts