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Coach’s Corner: Tea, A Runner’s Best Friend

Posted Jan 27 2011 3:22pm
You have heard stories of British Royalty sitting down at teatime to enjoy a warm cup of the ancient brew for centuries. It’s regal, sophisticated and a really big deal in many parts of the world. Tea comes in a multitude of forms and I believe has some huge benefits for runners. It has many advantages over coffee and other caffeinated sports drinks that can make for better runs as you attempt to navigate the last weeks of winter without losing your mind and motivation.

Tea is a wonderful alternative that offers runners a kick of caffeine that is much milder than a cup of java or sugar laden sports energy drink.

The Brew: Tea comes in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions. Herbal non-caffeinated tea can be used before bed or after dinner as a sweet alternative to dessert. Chamomile and cinnamon can be found in many of the herbal teas and add a wonderful sweetness. I use either Earl Gray or Black tea on a daily basis and love Bengal Spice after dinner.  Green tea is also very popular although it is definitely an acquired taste.

Make Your Tummy Smile: Coffee can easily upset your stomach and bring about cramps and stomach irritation during a run. When you head out the door in the morning, a cup of tea offers a gentle dose off caffeine (35-60 mg) to put pep in your step without side effects in most users.  I typically drink half a cup of warm tea before heading out the door in the morning and finish the rest when I get back.

Go Cold: There are some amazing ice tea makers that allow you to brew in advance and simply pour a fresh cup anytime. This can be a time saver in the morning and offers a super punch to your regular workout beverage.

Don’t Forget the BEES: Honey is a great sweetener to both hot and cold tea that is completely natural and not refined like table sugar. 1 to 2 tablespoons usually do the trick.

Coach’s Brew: Heat a cup of water in the microwave or stovetop to boiling or almost boiling temperature. Insert the tea bag into the water and listen for a sizzle or fizzing sound which signals that the water is just right. You can soak the bag for as little as 30 seconds with the option of just leaving it in the cup depending on the desired strength. Once the strength is right, I add some honey and a little milk to increase the smoothness and bring the temperature down a few degrees.

My favorite tea’s are from Twining and include their Earl Gray and English Breakfast blend.

You may still need additional caffeine throughout the day and coffee can do the trick. Just think of tea when it comes to early morning workouts or when smooth jolts of caffeine are needed to kick you into gear for your next workout. You can save calories and avoid the excessive sugar and caffeine content found in many pre-bottled options.

How do you like your tea? What other beverages do you incorporate into your run training?

-Coach Jerry

(Coach Jerry has competed as an elite runner at virtually every distance over the past 20 years. He has PR’s of 2:35 marathon, 29:50 10k, 14:09 5k, 4:13 mile and 1:09 half marathon. He has also completed multiple Triathlon’s and conquered the Ironman. Jerry has coached at the High School level and coached Carnegie Mellon’s track and cross country team.)

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