December 04, 2013
Don’t let the passing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday get you down – there is still plenty of time to make the runner in your life light up when opening your gift. If you are stumped for ideas, here are a few safe paths to tread. Likewise, runners, feel free to forward this on to non-running friends and family if they need a bit of prodding or direction!
There are many small and low-key items which may seem trivial and perhaps even downright weird to anyone who doesn’t run on a regular basis. These small tokens, however, may provide a path straight to your recipient’s heart. An assortment of gel packets, chews, bars (GU, Power Gel, Clif Bar, etc) in a favorite flavor or range of flavors, breathable or cushioned socks, Body Glide, gloves, warm headband, earphones, and hand warmer packets are examples of the type of item that doesn’t take up too much space, but are regularly used by many runners. Bottle belts, handheld bottles, Camelback systems and other fluid delivery systems are often plentiful at your local running store. Various balls or rolling devices can help your runner treat the odd ache and pain or avoid it altogether. Sunscreen, deodorant, and other items may not scream “gift,” but with a cheeky delivery and some good humor, you can own your creativity as serving a utilitarian goal. Several companies have seasonal flavors or special deals in December, making this time of year a perfect opportunity to increase the impact of your generosity on the same budget.
Reflective gear for nighttime running
A head lamp, Velcro reflectors, a sporty jacket with reflective piping or detailing, and other items can combine the desire to freshen up your favorite runner’s wardrobe with a gift that shows you care for their safety as well. Particularly if your runner must run before work or after on a regular basis, winter is the time these are most needed, both potentially as an extra layer against the elements, and as help to remain visible in traffic.
Go Green! Make a gift toward their cause of choice.
If the runner in your life “has everything they need,” but has a goal race with a charitable drive planned for the spring, use the holiday season as a time to make a contribution toward their total. They will appreciate your interest in what is likely a cause close to their heart, and your gift will be remembered months later as they achieve their goal with your encouragement. Plus, most of these donations are tax deductible, which helps redefine the “going green” theme yet another way!
Fresh flowers? How about a fresh pair of shoes?
Does your runner frequent a local specialty shoe store or buys the same shoe over and over? Do a bit of research and/ or talk to the store to determine if you can purchase a pair of their favorite shoes in the correct size and have them waiting for a fresh start January 1. Is this gift the most beautiful and poetic of presents? No, but the one thing runners use the most is footwear. If you are looking for a gift that will definitely be used, this one is it!
Want to give a game changer? Here are some ideas….
If the holiday spirit has you ready to make a significant purchase for your favorite runner, there are many things runners often dream about, but may not feel are needed enough to invest the capital. A GPS watch is a very popular item on many runners’ letters to Santa, and a treadmill can often be the difference maker for a busy runner as they try to fit everything in. For those looking to cross train, items like an ElliptiGO or an indoor elliptical machine can also be well received. That said, some of these purchases are highly individual in nature. Be very confident in your plan’s positive reception and do your research if you go in this direction, particularly if the gift might be received as an admonition to “get in shape!” Read the warranties, keep the receipts, and be prepared for some assembly in a few cases.
Read all about it!
There are a wide variety of autobiographies and biographies on famous runners, as well as advice books about how to train, and popular volumes like Born to Run and Unbroken. Your bookstore or online resource could be the source for hours of enjoyment for your runner, and you could be the conduit for them learning more about their sport. Read up!
Help them recover from the holidays, or just recover from the long run
A massage gift certificate, a pedicure for the toes ravaged by marathon training, a promise of dinner after the race, a yoga studio gift card, or a surprise spa treatment certificate at the hotel where they will stay following their next goal race could be ideas for a supportive family member or friend who wants to treat the runner in their life.
Give the gift that keeps on giving – runcoach!
If you know a beginner who could use some sound training guidance or have a runcoach customer in the family who you hope keeps up the good work, contact us to extend a subscription or provide a gift! You’ll help them achieve their goals, and if you are already a runcoach user, perhaps you will find an ally as you hook another onto the joys of running.
November 28, 2013
Running is easy to take for granted, especially if the last few months or years have been relatively free from injury. Even if that has not been the case, Thanksgiving is a great time to take stock of the ways in which running can make a significant difference in our lives. Which of these makes you thankful for running this holiday?
Reason #1 to be thankful for running – health benefits
No exercise is perfect, but running has been found in studies to provide a tremendous number of health benefits, ranging from an efficient way to burn calories and lose weight, increased “healthy” cholesterol readings, decreased risk of breast cancer, improved protection from osteoporosis, help resisting heart disease and many other ailments. For many runners, an occasional ache and pain will send them to the sports medicine doctor, but as a habit that positively differentiates your health from a sedentary person, running is pretty darn effective.
Reason #2 to be thankful for running – stress relief
This could also be captured under health benefits, but for many runners, the chance to “clear the head,” regroup from a stressful day behind or ahead, to do some background thinking about intractable problems or issues can be one of the chief reasons they get out of the house and go each day. While many time providing an actual physical separation from the whirlwind of a busy and stressful life, running can be a crucial lifeline to quiet time for many and as such an irreplaceable part of the daily or weekly schedule.
Reason #3 to be thankful for running – new experiences
Whether on a lonely bike path or trail with only the company of a curious deer or exploring the busy streets of a new city just visited for the first time, running allows us to get out and experience the world around us in a way that is much different than the seat of a bus, car, or in front of the computer screen. Even in the average and ordinary day, we can observe people and nature in new ways, informing the way we go forward afterward. Traveling to races near and far also allows runners to explore interesting parts of their city, county, state, and even far away regions of the country and world on the ground level. The entry fee might be pricey, but the experiences at these local races as well as those farther afield are often priceless.
Reason #4 to be thankful for running - the people
Some runners do go it alone, but for many runners, the social aspect is an essential component of their running experience. Whether a formal group, a bunch of friends, a particular running buddy with whom you always have great talks, having a running or training partner (even if only on an occasional basis), can provide a great basis for a friendship that often extends beyond the run after a while. Because running is a pursuit with particular challenges and joys, these running friends can often be among those who begin to know you best because of your shared goals and perspectives on health and healthy living. In addition, many times running can bring together family members who are working toward a shared training goal for fitness, charity or both. These experiences often provide memories for a lifetime.
Reason #5 to be thankful for running – the accessibility
Running has something for almost everyone. Fast and competitive athletes have outlets to challenge themselves at the highest level, while beginners and recreational runners have countless (and growing ways) to participate in short and long events of every distance and for every interest area. Put on a pair of shoes (or not), and put one foot in front of the other – that’s it. As coaches, we are well versed in the nuances of running form, training plans, race strategies, and other minutia, but at the core, running is an activity able to be enjoyed by 1 year olds and 100 year olds alike. It doesn’t have to look the same, go as fast (or slow), travel the same routes, or manage the same distance for any two individuals. Your goals are yours alone, and your running, even amongst friends or teammates, is as unique as a snowflake. At runcoach, our approach in providing individualized plans is an obvious expression of our understanding that each runner is distinctive, and this holiday season, we share our gratitude that running allows for all the distinct personalities we meet to enjoy running equally as much in their own way.
November 21, 2013
At runcoach, we work with thousands of new runners taking aim at their very first half marathon or marathon. Our goal is to provide you a training path toward success in all of your running endeavors, but as you get started, there are things to avoid, including the following …
Don’t change everything at once – make sustainable transitions
Many runners choose to start on the road to an ambitious goal because of a milestone, a health concern, or similar “wake-up call.” These motivations are strong, but making wholesale amounts of huge changes to your life all at once can result in commitments that don’t stand the test of time. Embrace the challenges and positive energy provided by the added training – we’ll make sure to give you a progressive plan. Piece by piece, examine the additional areas you want to take on with an incremental approach.
Take running advice with a grain of salt
Yes, this sounds strange to warn against taking a lot of advice by giving advice, but the truth is, the internet and magazine stand are chock full of tips on how to build speed, burn fat, eat well, shape your abs, shape your butt, stretch your pinky toe (or don’t stretch your pinky toe at all!) and everything else. With so much advice out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed about what you should trust. Many of these advice sources are good, but again, it is not a great idea to take one of absolutely every dish from the buffet. Keep a file of interesting articles and advice, and over time begin to get a more detailed picture of the types of dietary, ancillary, and other changes might be most helpful to you, leaving aside the more tangential advice for future goal race campaigns.
Your five year-old fitness shoes may not be up for the task
Shoes degrade both by use and over time. While the many different styles of shoes can require some shopping, it is worth making sure that your feet are comfortable and prepared to handle the growing length of your runs. A pair of shoes that has served as your “running shoes” for many years of sporadic casual use is probably not going to be the best springboard for a healthy and successful goal race campaign. Invest in some well-fitting running shoes and hopefully in doing so, gird yourself against many potential injury problems.
Running can help regulate sleep, but it also requires sleep!
Many new runners or others embarking on their first sustained exercise regimen report the regulative effect running can have on sleep habits. However, the maintenance of a progressive training plan will require adequate rest. Your body will need to be stressed in order to be prepared to handle a long race. It will need to recover in order to adapt and be prepared to be stressed again. Prioritize sleep to get the most out of the work you are putting in.
Don’t pick a goal race more than a year or less than a couple months ahead
Picking a race to far into the future can decrease the level of your immediate commitment to the task, where as a goal too close can encourage going over the top and getting injured as you press on toward a goal you wish was a few weeks or months later. 3-6 months is a great sweet spot for a half marathon, with half a year to a year allowing a relaxed and thorough buildup for a goal marathon. Successful campaigns can most definitely be had with varying timelines, but choosing a horizon that matches your need for a particularly paced buildup can greatly increase your chances for finishing successfully!
November 14, 2013
The red coffee cups are out at Starbucks and the Christmas carols are playing in stores. The holidays are certainly almost upon us, which for many runners means some disruption in the daily running routine.
For many of our runcoach athletes, this may mean some time off, either due to vacation or unexpectedly busy weeks. Many athletes want to plan ahead by blocking off time in their schedules, but we encourage runners to log what actually occurred as it happens or upon return, and let the system then adjust for the appropriate course moving forward. Prioritizing long runs and pace runs can often allow a sparse period for daily running to elapse without too much loss in fitness progress. Our hope is to encourage you to do anything you can do, and not be discouraged if you can’t complete the entire schedule on a given week or two.
Over the last few years, we have given some advice on coming through the holiday season like a champ. If you are viewing the upcoming months with trepidation about all the changes the season may bring, read some of our tips and reflections and take heart – you are not alone!
The holidays require some flexibility and a positive attitude! Read about some basic strategies for surviving the holidays with your goals intact.
Big storm on the way? Holed up in a much colder environment? Read on about how to weather the weather and still be productive in your running.
If you are going to need to run in the dark, don’t leave the house without our tips!
Need to cross train in the gym or pool? Which cross training discipline is the best for you?
If you are hoping to start the new year with some resolutions, here are some tips for actually sticking to them!
Most importantly, take a deep breath, keep a sense of humor, and fix your eyes on the horizon. You can do it!
November 12, 2013
A little more than a month from now, you’ll have the chance to consider some potential New Year’s resolutions. Where you will start from on January 1 will have a lot to do with how the next few weeks go.
While the holiday season can provide some of the happiest moments of the year, it can also wreak havoc on your running goals. Here are some ideas for how you can make the most of the season and keep your motor running before hitting the ground full speed on January 1.
Even if your schedule doesn’t normally include morning running, consider scheduling your runs for the early hours.
The first few weeks of December often include more events outside of your control than potentially any other time of the year. Office functions or extra hours / shifts at work, recitals, school events, and holiday obligations for school aged kids, other civic, religious, or social events and obligations –the calendar can get pretty crowded.
That run you already scheduled after work can quickly get pushed to the wayside when you find out from your spouse at 4 that you need to be somewhere you had forgotten about at 6:30, dressed neatly and with a bottle of wine for the hosts. Maybe your mom needs you to drive her across town for that special ingredient she wants to put in the pie she is making tomorrow and aren’t you just the one to take her this evening after work but before they close at eight? There goes the run.
Late in the month, family meals (in addition to food shopping and preparation), odd schedules, the irresistible pull of a bowl game or the warm couch (and the inevitable snooze), can successfully thwart the most stalwart runner in their efforts to stay on track. If you are able to run in the morning, even if it is not the best series of workouts you have had all year, you at least ensure that you don’t put yourself in a gapingly large training hole. At this point, it is dark in the morning AND in the evening, so you probably won’t miss much there. You will however, be able to give yourself a silent high five every day, even when the rest of your schedule may leave you scrambling. So, block it in now!
Yes, you should drink water because you are training and you want to stay hydrated. But, the holiday time is also a key hydration zone in many ways that will also help you feel more like yourself when you do get a chance to hit the road or the treadmill. Maybe travel is in your plans. As we have mentioned before in Personal Best, you should aim to drink a cup of water for every time zone you cross while flying in the dry air-conditioned atmosphere of an airplane. If mountains or other dry, snowy climates are in your future, this is also important as high altitudes and dry air can leave you under-hydrated before you realize it. You may already be out of your element or preferred weather conditions for a time during the holidays, so everything you can do to at least keep your body working well will be key to move from just salvaging a situation to a place where you get some quality running accomplished despite the challenges.
Even if your holiday plans do not include travel, proper hydration remains crucial to staying on track. It can assist with digestion when faced with a gauntlet of rich foods and a never-ending stream of chocolates in the break room. It can also help combat the dehydrating effects of holiday related alcohol consumption and give your family feast some welcome company in your stomach so you are not as likely to go overboard for the fifth time this week.
Include the family in some running
Find a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog 5K /10K the family can walk or jog together while you get in a tempo run. Pick an outing or two where others can walk or hike while you and whomever is up for it can run. Plan a run during someone else’s shopping or errands, so they can go crazy in the stores while you take off for a few miles down a nearby bike path before meeting them back at the car. Think in advance of ways you can meld your run seamlessly into another’s schedule so that you can avoid missing a quality hour with family when everybody is finally home and you’ve just decided to head out on the trail.
Enjoy what you do get done, and don’t worry about what you can’t fit in
If you are unable to perfectly complete every single day’s training from now until the end of the year, you are probably not alone. The holidays are special because you do often have the time to travel or to visit with friends and family in ways your schedule wouldn’t normally permit. It is important to enjoy these times and maintain a balance that keeps running in perspective. If you have a choice in days of the week to get certain things accomplished or can recalculate your schedule in advance to account for certain problem dates coming up, try to prioritize the hard workouts and long runs, so if you don’t get everything in, you will at least have tackled the most challenging days. However, even if you are stymied in this effort, the important thing is that you don’t fall completely out of touch with your goals, that you don’t let guilt over two or three days missed keep you from getting back to the schedule next time out, and that you stay healthy.
Everyone, from world class athletes to beginners, will find the holidays to be a time requiring flexibility and variation in their typical routine. You are not alone. Look ahead as best you can, stay relaxed, and see if you can arrive on January 1st with only minor adjustments needed instead of a complete overhaul. Perhaps you will have even learned some tips that will make the next holiday season even better.
Published in Training Tips
November 07, 2013
At runcoach, we love celebrating the great race results that roll in after each weekend. Although sensible training and belief can ensure that many race days proceed well, occasionally an off day or an unexpected turn of events affects us all.
One of the best ways to recover from a tough race is to have a short memory. In every race, there are many things a runner can control: clothing choices, food choices, pacing choices, fueling choices, and more. Likewise, there are several factors that are beyond the control of the athlete: the weather that may prove those clothing choices to be wise, the digestive system that may repudiate those food choices, the topography or wind that may prove those pacing choices to be miscalculated and events like an unexpected bathroom need or unseasonably humid weather which may show the fueling choices to be inadequate. Because we really do not control quite as much on race day as we believe we do, it is unproductive to dwell on a disappointing result when it was significantly affected by one of these factors.
Certainly, we also know there are times when we weren’t quite as tough as we had envisioned, when the effort given seemed monumental at the time, but retrospect asks the question, “Was there more in the tank?” In these times just as well, we need to avoid miring ourselves in what could have been and focus on what we plan to do next time out.
Because running is a singular pursuit, requires such strong task commitment both over the long training cycle as well as during a race effort, and the sense of accomplishment is so great when done well, runners often have a hard time divorcing our overall confidence from one or two tough days out of many. But, we should. Difficult things by definition would be easy if everyone could do them, and running long distance is most definitely a difficult thing. Without minimizing the value of finishing a large goal or glamorizing the somewhat sanitized notion that the victory is only in attempting to begin, if you have trained well for a goal race, you have should have satisfaction for what you have learned about yourself along that journey. A race completed, but not as fast as expected, is a race where the spirit of perseverance yielded a finishing result, which on a better day would be the type of commitment that will indeed lead to a PR. If Murphy’s Law prevailed on a particular day, you have a great story and a lesson of resilience in the face of a gauntlet of unexpected difficulties.
Sometimes, the tough day has definite antecedents in choices we have made or training that trended less positively than we would have hoped leading in. This is where the running log enters into the conversation. When the dust is settled, an examination of any correctable factors is well in order, but always in the context of fact versus feelings. Beating oneself up over situations that can neither be redone nor controlled next time is not productive. Preparing to do battle with more training, a mellowed sense of humor, and a renewed sense of hope is crucial. Carrying the burdens of a previous tough race is a heavy load. If you are able to leave that load and focus on the opportunity ahead rather than the unrealized promise of a previous race, you have the opportunity for a much more positive experience. Running toward a goal is always more productive than running away from a fear. Daily, practice focusing on the run at hand, the potential of the present day, and the joy or challenge of the experience presently underway. Have a short memory, and in doing so, you’ll leave more room for new ones!
October 30, 2013
When post-goal race elation subsides and the physical recovery period is well underway, many runners have a difficult time turning the corner toward the next horizon. Some athletes come away from a goal race so hungry for the next one that they over-enthusiastically barrel down the road toward the next goal without giving their bodies ample time to rest. Instead, for many runners, a huge bucket list item is a hard act to follow, even if we know that goal setting has finally allowed us to move the needle on long sought hopes.
The knowledge that the physical challenge of a long race can be described as a “how” rather than the “if” it was the first time is a powerful tool. Addressing the “how” requires a bit of work above the shoulders, both before and during the races ahead. We’ve written about a few of these topics on the blog, including the areas listed below:
At runcoach, we love to see runners break through and achieve their goals week after week, but we know sometimes the immediate road ahead has a focus on general fitness rather than a big goal race. We are here for you either way, and your individualized program can adjust to meet your needs for the run tomorrow as well as your destination goal race in 2014!
October 24, 2013
Congratulations to all those who have completed their goal races over the last few weekends! Whether you are basking in the afterglow of a milestone reached, or still awaiting the joy of the finish banner, it is important to consider the crucial training period of recovery.
Previously on the blog, we’ve covered a variety of topics related to recovery that are worth a quick read or re-read. These include:
Throughout each of these, the main thread is the admonition to take recovery seriously. One of the ways runcoach differs from template training plans or social training groups that focus solely on the one goal race is the inclusion of a recovery cycle into your plan. As runners ourselves, we know that running is an ongoing pursuit for many, marked brightly with the signposts of big goals along the way, but more importantly, something we enjoy doing every day.
Taking recovery seriously is an important part of being able to enjoy your daily running without avoidable detours into the world of injury or illness. We attack our running goals, sometimes seeking the badge of pride for finishing, hitting a certain time, or doing something of which our friends and neighbors will be justifiably in awe. Recovering well doesn’t elicit the same sort of pats on the back or have the same cache as race results, and so makes us feel like we are weak or wimpy for needing it, and not any more accomplished for successfully doing it. By definition, the lack of incidents means the recovery period has been a success. Even so, it is important, necessary, and those that master the rhythm and resist the temptation to blow through it are often the ones who end up getting the most enjoyable race experiences over the long run. The next start line doesn’t have to be that far off – recover like a boss and you will often actually get there faster!
Deck the halls with gel and sports drink – fa la la la la, la la la la!
‘Tis the season for a goal race. It is natural to get a bit nervous, especially if you have a lot of little questions about how to handle race day. Before you tuck yourself into bed on the night before with visions of sugar plums and finish lines dancing in your head, stay ahead of a few key things that many first timers need to know, and many experienced racers need to remember.
Avoid overeating like crazy on the night before
Many athletes have heard of the term “carbo loading” and believe that means stuffing an entire pound of pasta down the hatch on the night before the race. It is true marathons require plenty of fuel, and it is also true that carbs are very helpful toward this task. However, it is also true that a body cannot process four times the normal amount of food in the same amount of time. If you eat more food than your body can digest and process helpfully, where will it go? Where will the excess end up? Ponder….. Eat until full, but not until explosion levels!
Don’t drink two gallons of water 24 hours before the race
Hydration is important, but with too much water, the bloodstream can be stripped of important electrolytes, a potentially VERY dangerous situation on race day. Hydrate consciously with a mix of water and sports drink or other fluid containing electrolytes for several days before the race so you aren’t pounding large bottles at the expo on the day before. When your urine is light yellow, nearly clear, just keep sipping so your bladder isn’t under duress with an excess amount of fluid on race morning.
Bring throw-away clothing to the start
If it is cold, cold-ish, wet, or wet-ish, an extra layer can be very helpful at the start, particularly if you are in the second wave of a large race and you are going to be standing there for 30-40 minutes, shivering and nervously fidgeting. “But wait,” you say, “It is supposed to clear up and be nice by the finish so I don’t want to bring my nice zip down.” Fine, but that’s not an excuse to freeze for three quarters of an hour before you even start running. Bring a long sleeved shirt that was already headed for Goodwill, and toss it to the curb with the rest of the detritus at the start or after a few warming miles with a hearty “Job well done!” Yes, you will look like a dork, but you will be a warm dork.
You must eat before you run a marathon
Is it physically possible to run a marathon without breakfast? Probably. Is this something you want to do, even if “I don’t normally have time to eat before my morning runs so I didn’t want to start now.” No. Way. This is folly. If you don’t normally have time to eat, you must consciously change that practice and figure out what works for you in the weeks leading up to the race so you have some fuel in the tank on race day. The nerves, the waiting at the start, the length of the run and the wait until you have food afterwards – not eating is unwise. Extremely unwise. Have a good day, and get something that works for you down the hatch. No excuses.
Likewise, you must drink during a marathon
Again, is it possible to do it without drinking? Yes. Is this smart? Not in the least. Don’t pick race day to be a hero for water conservation. Drink 6-8 oz of water and sports drink (alternate!) every 45 minutes or so, if need be in the form of several small splashes from a few fluids stations. You will have a much more enjoyable time, probably get across the line more quickly, and have a much, much more enjoyable recovery.
Do not switch horses mid-stream
Well yes, riding horses is probably cheating. However, if you have run in one style of shoe, do not change them the day before the race. Break anything new in three to four weeks before, when you have a chance to do at least one long run in them to find out how they feel. Shoes, fuel packets, clothing, pre-race dinner, pre-race breakfast – all of these things should be very status quo on race weekend. Experimentation is for folks who have one under their belt! Notch this one and then look into switching things up.