The Science Behind Eating for Race Running

The Science Behind Eating for Race Running

Eating the right foods at the right time is an essential science when it comes to race running, both before and during are key times to maximize on all the hard work you’ve put into training.


Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles, and are the body’s most easily accessible form of fuel. You want to make sure your glycogen stores are as full as possible at the start of the race to give your body ample fuel to use before having to refill. Think of it like getting your car ready for a road trip – the fuller your petrol tank at the start, the longer you can drive before having to stop to refuel.

Two to three days before the race you should eat more carbs than normal to stock up your glycogen stores. It is recommended that you aim for 8 – 12g carbs/kg/day.


For the day before your race, go back to eating as you normally would. This gives your digestive system a chance to revert to normal after the increased work it’s been doing to digest those extra carbs. You also want to ensure that you don’t have any extra waste in your digestive system at the start of the race, this could lead to digestive discomfort once you begin.


The meal you eat 3 – 4 hours before your race is the most important of them all. The purpose of this meal is to top up your liver glycogen from your overnight fast. Getting this meal right will set you up for a good race but getting it wrong could ruin your race. It should be predominantly made up of easy-to-digest carbs – fruit, cereal or potatoes – however, be sure to include a small amount of protein to stabilise the blood sugar and a small amount of fat to make you feel full.

When it comes to drinking before and during the race, this is where things can get a bit trickier. Luckily the body has an inbuilt feature which lets you know when you should drink, and it’s called thirst. For races shorter than an hour, your thirst signals are exactly what you need to follow. Before and during the race, just sip on water whenever you feel like it. Your body is easily able to withstand that amount of exercise without consuming liquid. For races longer than an hour you will need to plan your fluid intake. The amount of fluid will depend on the individual and the weather conditions, but the rule of thumb is to aim for 100 – 200ml every 20 minutes.

It is also recommended that you consume a small amount of carbs during races longer than an hour, to top-up your fuel sources. Again, think of your car while on a road trip. While you may have started the trip with a full petrol tank, you will reach a point where you will need to top it up to keep going. Your body works in the same way. The recommendation is 30 – 90g of carbs every hour, and try including some easy to eat snack bars.

Test out your body’s reaction to intake and running in pre-race running trails. Use the longer runs to create a food and drink regime that works for you. Try out different food combinations for your pre-race meal, and different fluid and carb quantities during your run. When you’ve found a routine that makes you feel good – stick to it as your go-to.

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Buying Right: How to Read Nutritional Labels

Food labels can be very confusing and tricky to understand. We often don’t have time during our weekly grocery shop to work out what each item’s nutritional label is telling us. Knowing how to read a nutritional label is far more important than you give it credit for. This is a “how-to” in knowing what key things to look out for, as a means to assist you in making the best choice, and essentially making your shop for healthy food a whole lot easier.



Source of fibre: means the food contains at least 2g of fiber per serving.
High source of fibre: means the food contains at least 4g of fiber per serving.
Low fat: means the food contains no more than 3g fat per serving.
Reduced in Calories: means the product contains 25% less energy (Calories) than the original food it is replicating.
Light: means the product is either reduced in fat or reduced in Calories.
Cholesterol-free: means the product contains less than 2mg cholesterol per serving size and is also low in saturated and trans fat.

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The Essential Guide to Hydration

The Essential Guide to Hydration

Water is the major constituent of the human body, with every major system influenced by fluid balance. Water is responsible for clearing toxins, carrying nutrients to organs and cells, lubricating joints and bones and regulating our body temperature. Adequate water intake is essential to assist your body systems in functioning optimally. Over the past 40 years, however, humans have been dangerously misled by sports drink companies to believe that we need to drink ahead of thirst to be optimally hydrated. In fact, excess water consumption can have some serious adverse effects on physical and mental functioning. So we need to drink enough, but not too much…so how much should we drink?


The human body is an incredibly impressive system and has pretty good ways of letting you know when somethings not quite right. When it comes to hydration, your body indicates that it needs more water through the signal of thirst. When you lose water your blood sodium concentrations increase. This is sensed by receptors in your brain, which produce hormonal changes that you feel through an increase in thirst. An increase in thirst generally leads to a behavioural change of you seeking out fluid to ingest. The ingestion of water reduces the blood sodium concentrations and through the same pathway as before, reduces the sensation of thirst. Listen to your body, when you’re thirsty – drink water and when you’re not – stop drinking,


It is recommended that women should consume 2l of water per day, and men 2.5l per day. Exact amounts are dependent on individual body weight and size and vary depending on activity levels and the temperature (heat) for the day. This equates to 8-10 glasses of water a day. Some useful tips to help you get your 8 glasses in.

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle to carry with you and sip on throughout the day.
  • Use an App to track your glasses. In-App notifications will remind you to drink throughout the day. Give Daily Water a try.
  • Get into herbal tea. Herbal teas give your glass of water a delicious flavour without adding any extra sugary flavourings. In the winter months, it serves as a nice warm pick-me-up and in summer you can add some ice to make a refreshing iced tea.
  • Drink a glass after every bathroom break. Link drinking water with one of your most common daily activities – going to the bathroom. Drinking a glass of water every time you get up to use the bathroom will get you into a habit in no time.
  • Set a timer on your phone for every 3 hours and when it goes off consume a glass of water. There’s nothing like your alarm screaming at you to get you into a routine.

What’s the Real Deal with Post-Exercise Stretching?

What's the Real Deal with Post-Exercise Stretching

After an exercise session, the body undergoes two vital processes – it RECOVERS, and it REMODELS. What is the difference between these two processes and where does stretching have a place? We take a look at the science behind your bodies different processes, when these different processes should be employed, and who would benefit from them. 


During exercise our muscles utilise fuel sources in the body to perform the work required. As a result of breaking these fuel sources up into usable chunks, waste products are produced and stored in the muscle cells. The physical work performed by the muscles also leads to a disruption in the muscle fibre structure through multiple micro-tears. Recovery is the process whereby the muscles reset in preparation for your next exercise session; the cells are cleared of the waste accumulation and micro-tears are repaired. Recovery is the key event required to repair and rebuild your muscles between exercise sessions and is vital for athletes with demanding training sessions. There are a number of well-researched strategies that have been shown to help maximise this recovery process. Surprisingly, stretching is not one of the processes which aids in recovery.  


When we exercise, our bodies adapt to the exercise stressor by changing our muscle structure and physiology. This change in muscle structure is known as remodelling, and it is this remodelling that leads to all the positive benefits of exercise. Remodelling is the process that leads you to become fitter, stronger and healthier as a result of the exercise you are doing. Similar to RECOVERY there are a number of scientifically backed things you can do to aid your bodies remodelling ability. 

These include proper nutritional intake, massage, sleep and stretching. The most notable benefit of muscle stretching exercises is its ability to improve range of motion flexibility. By improving your range of motion your body requires less energy to perform a movement and with increased flexibility in the joints, you have a reduced chance of injury when performing the movement. Regular stretching over time has also been shown to improve blood flow to the muscles. Improved blood flow to the muscles helps to reduce post-exercise soreness and improved recovery time – all as a result of the greater nutrient supply used to rebuild the muscles.  


If you are an athlete preparing your body for its next training session or event then your primary focus is RECOVERY and no, you should not stretch.

If you are exercising to generally be healthier, improve mood or lose weight then REMODELLING is your primary focus and yes, you should stretch. Stretching will assist your muscles remodelling, improve your range of motion and blood flow, all of which are extremely beneficial in the long run.

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Maximise Your Post-Exercise Recovery

Maximise Your Post-Exercise Recovery

Recovery after exercise is essential for your muscles and tissues to repair the microtears they sustain during exercise and become stronger. Muscles need anywhere between 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, but you can speed up this process by implementing recovery strategies. 


Proper nutrition is essential for recovery. Protein sources are made up of amino acids, which are the building block of cells, tissues, enzymes and hormones. Protein is thus essential for the rebuilding of muscles post-exercise. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for muscles. Consuming carbohydrates during recovery is important for replenishing the body’s glycogen stores. A post-workout protein shake is a quick and easy way to get these essential nutrients in.


The primary purpose of sleep is to induce a state of recovery in the body. Muscle building hormone concentrations increase during sleep, which assists with rebuilding muscles after exercise. Insufficient sleep decreases the activity of these growth hormones and as a result, reduces muscle recovery. 


A great way to soothe achy muscles is to alternate between hot and cold temperatures. When showering, alternate the water between as hot as you can handle for 20 – 30 seconds and then as cold as you can handle for 20 – 30 seconds. The contrasting temperatures create an external pumping of the blood bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the muscles for quicker recovery. 


Not only does a hot bath post-workout make you feel relaxed and calm, it also aids with circulation, ridding the muscles of toxins. The hot temperatures from the water pull toxins to the surface of the skin and as the temperatures of the water start to cool down, toxins flow out of the body. Adding Epsom Salts to the bath is especially beneficial in alleviating soreness. Chemically, Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which in salt form pulls excess water and metabolite build-up away from the injured tissues and in turn reduces swelling.  


Evidence shows that massaging muscles reduces the production of cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulates the mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cell essential for cell function and repair. The combination of these two things helps the muscles to repair from muscle damage. Try using a massage oil for an extra aromatherapy experience. 

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Tracking Your Fitness Progress

At halfway through the year it means you’re entering month six of the health and fitness goal you set your mind on at the start of the year. When embarking on a weight loss journey it’s relatively easy to track your progress. You can weigh yourself, compare pictures of yourself between months and assess the way your clothes fit. When it comes to tracking fitness progress, however, this can sometimes be a little more complicated with different activities requiring different measurement approaches. Here are a few of my favourite, free fitness tracking apps:


Keeping track of the amount of weight you have lifted is the simplest and most effective way to know if you’re getting stronger. The body adapts to exercise quite easily so it is important to keep your muscles challenged through changing up the exercises you are performing and increasing the amount of weight you lift.


HeavySet is a workout tracker for strength training. It allows you to enter the exercises you complete in your workout with the number of reps, sets, and weight for each exercise. The App automatically produces user-friendly progress charts, which show you your volume, reps, sets and weight progression over time.


FitBod, similarly to HeavySet, allows you to enter information pertaining to your workout to track your progress over time. In addition, it has the functionally to capture basic information on any muscle fatigue you may be experiencing and based on this, recommends a workout for the day. FitBod aims to be both a log book and a trainer.


Development of the GPS has made tracking outdoor endurance exercise an App developers dream, and to date, there are multiple Android and iOS compatible Apps to track your endurance activity.


Runtastic uses GPS to track your running, walking and cycling routes. Using this information, it creates detailed graphs of your progress. An advantage to this App is that it also has the ability to track indoor treadmill and stationary cycling activity. The goal setting feature on this App is what makes it my favourite. It allows you to set a running or cycling goal and tracks your progress towards achieving it.


MapMyFitness provides you with feedback on your workouts to assist you in progressing and improving. The App allows you to track both endurance and strength-based workouts and allows you to save routes and workouts to refer back to later. This feature makes it very efficient to use and enables you to directly compare your progress when completing an identical workout.


Testing yourself once a month is a good way to assess how much you have progressed in that month. If endurance exercise is your main focus, complete a specific route or predetermined distance once a month aiming to go as fast as possible. Your improvement in fitness can be measured by how much faster you complete the route. If strength exercise is your main focus, complete the exact same set of exercises at a specific time point each month aiming to lift as heavy as you can safely lift with good form. Compare the weight you are able to lift to the previous month.  


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How To Get Your Steps In At The Office

How To Get Your Steps In At The Office

You’ve likely heard the advice that you should aim to make 10,000 steps a day. This magical number actually comes from promotional content for a pedometer sold in Japan in the 1960s and not extensive scientific calculations.

Irrespective of how this number came about, it serves as a good reminder to keep moving throughout the day.  For those of us with office jobs, reaching anything close to 10,000 steps in a day can be a daunting task. Sitting at a desk puts huge stress on your back, neck and spine muscles, which in the long term could lead to muscular imbalances and increased risk of injury.

Sitting at a desk for long periods of time has also been linked to obesity and depression, but regular walks throughout the day can help you stay healthy and increase your productivity. Whether short walking breaks during the day lead to reaching 10,000 steps or purely serve as a mental break here are a few tips for upping your step count while at the office:

Park as far away as possible

Opt for parking on the top floor of the parking garage or at the bottom of the street. There will likely be more parking’s to choose from and the few extra minutes it takes to get to your office is a great way to add a burst of exercise to your day.

Keep a smaller water bottle on your desk

Making sure you stay hydrated throughout the day is important for your digestion and cognitive function, but rather than keeping a daily water allowance sized bottle on your desk opt for a smaller one. Needing to fill up your water bottle gives you a reason to take a walk down the passage. If you have a choice of water dispensers, pick the one further away for some extra steps.

Use the bathroom furthest away

If you’re staying well hydrated, you will likely need to take frequent trips to the bathroom. Pick a bathroom on a different floor and take the stairs to get to it.

Grab your coffee from ‘that place down the road’

Instead of grabbing your morning coffee from the coffee shop at the entrance to your office block, pick a café further away from your building. This will not only add a few extra minutes to your coffee run, but the extra steps and change of scenery will aid in clearing your mind and boost productivity.

Walk around during phone calls

It’s not uncommon to spend a large portion of your day on the phone. If you don’t need access to a computer while on the call, stand up and walk around while chatting. For an extra mood booster, take your call outside in the sunshine.

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Why Sleep is the Foundation of Health

We spend between ¼ – 1 ⁄ 3 of our lives sleeping. Allocating that much time to one activity must mean it’s pretty important. Sleep is the time when the brain engages in a number of activities necessary to life, all of which are linked to quality of life.

It is recommended that we get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep. Once you get below 7 hours of sleep objective impairments in brain and body functioning can be measured. Most people don’t realise how chronically sleep deprived they are. People get used to having a constantly low baseline wellness level and accept it as normal, but there is actually a better version of you waiting out there – it just takes a little education to get there.

Adequate sleep is vital for brain plasticity, which is the brains ability to adapt to input. Your brain needs sufficient sleep to process what it has learnt during the day and convert this information into memories to refer back to later. When you have inadequate sleep, any new info you take in somewhat ‘bounces’ from your memory bank and gets forgotten, rather than being converted into memory to save. Ironically – you are suffering from sleep deprivation to get more work done but the lack of sleep decreases your brains’ ability to complete the work.

If you are actively taking steps to lose weight but are getting insufficient sleep, up to 70% of the weight you lose will come from your lean muscle mass and not fat. This is because a lack of sleep decreases the body’s sensitivity to insulin and as a result it becomes stingy with giving up fat. Additionally, insufficient sleep causes two critical appetite hormones go in opposite and uncomplimentary directions. Your Leptin levels (the hormone that sends signals to your brain informing it that you are full) drops down and your Ghrelin levels (sends the signals indicating that you are hungry) go up.

When it comes to exercise, inadequate sleep means that you aren’t able to exert yourself as effectively and can increase in your risk of injury. The aim is balance! A good diet and regular physical activity aid your ability to sleep, and good sleep aids your ability to lose fat and perform physically better.

Short sleep is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality. 1 This is displayed in a real-life global experiment across 1.6 billion people each year. An increase of 24% in the number of heart attacks is observed in Spring in countries subject who implement daylight savings, resulting in sleep time.

During deep sleep the body ‘restocks’ the immune system to fight infection.  Research has shown that reducing individuals sleep time by as little as an hour results in a 70% decrease in production of natural killer cells, which are critical to the innate immune system’s ability to fight infection. 3 People who get inadequate sleep are 4 times more likely to catch a cold. You may have noticed that when you are sick all you want to do it sleep. That’s because your infection has indicated to the immune system that you are under attack and need to restock your immune cells.

The half-life of caffeine, or the amount of time it takes for half of it to be out of your system, is 6 to 8 hours. Caffeine has a quarter-life of 12 hours, meaning that if you have a cup of coffee at noon there is still a quarter of it circulating around your brain at midnight. Some of you reading this might be thinking “caffeine doesn’t affect me negatively, I can have a cup of coffee just before bed and still fall asleep easily and stay asleep”. Unfortunately, it is impacting your sleep, you just aren’t aware of it.

Scientists have tracked the brainwaves of people who make these claims and despite being able to fall asleep easily, and stay asleep, these participants experienced a 20% decrease in the quality of their deep sleep. As we get older the quality of our deep sleep naturally decreases, so every 15 years the quality of our deep sleep has reduced by 20% naturally. Essentially your evening cup of coffee is aging your sleep quality by 15 years. My recommendation is to embrace the coffee culture. It’s delicious and a great social activity, just make sure to do it before noon. Alternatively, incorporate some delicious coffee alternatives.

Creating a sleep-inducing environment in the evening is the first step in aiding a good night’s sleep. On top of this Faithful-to-Nature have some great, natural sleep-promoting products.

  • Lavender essential oil offers calming properties, which can help you fall asleep faster. Place a few drops on to your wrists or temples at bed time.
  • Sleep teas contain specially combined herbal formulas, which calm the mind and sooth the central nervous system, creating a relaxed environment in the body.
  • Herbal sleep medications work similarly to the sleep teas, where a specially formulated, non-addictive herbal remedy acts to relax the central nervous system.

Ending this article with my one top tip to help you get a better night’s sleep is that you must enable your brain to associate the bed with sleep. Don’t turn your bed into a cinema, a place of work or place for eating. If you are struggling to fall asleep, instead of lying in bed awake and associating your bed with being awake, get up and go read in another room, returning to the bed only when you are sleepy. Your brain needs to know that the bed is for sleep.


Group Class Training: The Fitness Solution for Those Living Life in the Fast Lane

Group Class Training The Answer for Those Living Life in the Fast Lane

The number of fitness centres offering specific group training classes has grown rapidly in the past decade, and these days you can find a gym offering specialised group classes for almost any exercise you desire. Not only are they offering some fun alternates to your usual training routine, but they might just be the magic answer for those living life in the fast lane.

When looking at group classes from a practical point of view, everything about their structure makes them great for those with a busy schedule. Classes are generally 45 minutes – 1 hour, running at multiple pre- and post-work hour time slots, meaning you can book them into your schedule just as you would a meeting or appointment. They also save you time by doing the session planning for you. All you have to do is decide what type of training you feel like doing and the class will ensure it is structured for that purpose. Upon closer inspection, spending your allocated exercise hour for the day in a group class rather than exercising on your own, could provide you with superior health benefits.


As a start, group classes force you to remove yourself (and your brain) from the jobs of the day. When exercising on your own it is very easy to check your messages and emails mid-set, in fact, you are most likely playing music from your phone putting the temptation right in your back pocket. Group classes enable you to mentally switch off even further; with the instructor telling you exactly what to do, you don’t even need to be thinking about ‘what exercise comes next’.

As a result of this disconnection, your brain sends a signal to your adrenal gland to decrease the production of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, which can cause you to feel anxious or depressed, and negatively affect your digestion and sleeping quality when produced in excess.

Exercising in a group enables you to capitalise on those euphoric post-exercise endorphins, as the conviviality between the class attendees provides an additional release of endorphins. Research has found that those who exercise in a group experience significantly greater improvements in mental well-being and emotional stability than those who exercise alone.1


The brain isn’t the only aspect that benefits from training in a group, physically you are likely to push yourself harder. It’s known as the Köhler Effect; the idea that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group. Research shows that you will push yourself past the threshold you tend to hit when training alone when you are exercising with someone else.2 Anthropologists will debate whether a competitive streak is innate or learned, but when you are surrounded by people working hard and pushing themselves, it will motivate you (or stimulate your competitive streak) to also push yourself a little harder.

Additionally, with instructors checking your form, you’re less likely to get injured and more likely to perform the exercises more effectively.


Exercising in a group presents many benefits for any individual, but for those living life in the fast lane it may just be the solution for looking after your physical and mental well-being. And what’s more – exercising in a group is fun! This pretty simple reason for exercising in a group shouldn’t be overlooked. Having fun during your exercise session means you can push yourself harder, come back for another class and spend the rest of the day in a positive state of mind.


Yorks, D., Frothingham, C. & Schuenke, M. Effects of group fitness classes on stress and quality of life of medical students. J. Am. Osteopath. Assoc. 11, (2017).

Feltz, D. L., Kerr, N. L. & Irwin, B. C. Buddy Up : The Kohler Effect applied to health games. J. Sport Exerc. Psychol. 33, 506–526 (2011).


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Exercise Scientist & Injury Prevention Specialist, Lindsay Starling, Tells us How to Stick to Our Fitness Resolutions

It’s been one month of diving head first into your new year’s resolutions, including those two resolutions which seem to find themselves at the top of the list each year: ‘Eat healthier’ and ‘exercise more’. As we approach February, the motivation seems to be slipping and these two resolutions are slowly creeping down the priority list. Don’t beat yourself up, the human brain is wired to favour routine over novelty, even if the routine is unhealthy. A quick google on “how to stick to your new year’s resolutions” yields some fairly customary suggestions; here are 4 unfamiliar tips to help you stay on track.

1.Focus on the immediate feelings

Within these ‘eat healthier’ and ‘exercise more’ resolutions, you’ve most likely set yourself a more specific goal, whether it be to complete a half marathon or lose 5kgs. It’s great to have more focused objectives, but when the motivation is lacking, and progress is slow, these goals can feel like a life time away. It’s key to focus on how the small health changes you are making make you feel on a daily basis. Research shows us that people who focus on how movement makes them feel and function, are more likely to achieve their weightloss goal than those who focus purely on the distant goal. Be conscious and focus on how you feel throughout each day as a result of your health changes. Do you feel more awake after exercising in the morning? Less bloated and foggy brained after eating your healthier lunch choice? Less irritable after an exercise session?


2. Portion your goal into dopamine-friendly chunks

Within your larger health goal make sure to set small, obtainable goals and when you reach these small goals, relish in the accomplishment of it. When we achieve something, our brain releases dopamine, which is aptly referred to as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Each time your brain gets a taste of this rewarding neurotransmitter it will want you to repeat that behavior so that it can get another taste. Enabling yourself to achieve your smaller goals and then enjoy the dopamine reward will motivate you to achieve your next goal with promise of your next dopamine chunk.


3. Motivation vs Intention

 Researchers have conducted studies where they split people into two groups; a motivation and an intention group. The motivation group is given motivational pep talks and educational pamphlets on the benefits of exercise, while the intention group is required to explicitly state when and where they will conduct their exercise over the coming week. Participants in the intention group were almost 3x more likely to exercise in that week than the motivation group. When planning your calendar for the week, physically write in what type of exercise you intend on doing, where and for how long.


4. Find your type of accountability

Now that you’re feeling motivated and you’ve set your intention for your morning gym session, when your alarm goes off at 5:30a.m and your bed is feeling extremely cozy no one will know if you push your snooze button three more times, right? If you had promised your friend you would meet them at the gym however, you would most likely have gotten out of that comfy bed to go meet them. When you hold yourself accountable to your goals you are communicating that your goal is a priority. If you don’t share your goals in some way, it’s too easy to give up on them because it’s like they never really existed. Find a type (or combination) of accountability that works best for you as an individual.

  • Find your motivational partner. Share you goal with a loved one who will support you through your goal and celebrate the small victories with you.
  • Use technology. There are an abundance of Apps and websites to help you track your goals or to connect you with people with similar goals. Give LARK, FITSNAP or MYGOAL a try.
  • Involve people. This can be as simple as telling a friend you will meet them at gym or will partner with them in your exercise class. Find a running group or join a Facebook group with people aiming to achieve similar goals.
  • Spend money. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that it’s a necessity to purchase a gym contract or hire a personal trainer to achieve your fitness goals, but when you know you’ve spent your hard-earned money on something, you are more likely to make use of it in an effort to get something back in return. An example of this is pre-paying for an exercise class rather than only paying for it when you arrive. If you’ve paid for it and know it cannot be refunded, you will be more likely to attend it.