August 16, 2014
The dog days of summer hopefully allow each of us a bit of time on a hammock or a sandy towel. Even if your relaxation time is just a train or a plane to another work commitment, here are a few selections to consider for runners looking to pass the hours, give themselves a distraction, or just take a break.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Written by Laura Hillenbrand, the author who brought us the story of Seabiscuit, this tale tells the story of Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympic 5000m runner. While about a runner and a successful one at that, this volume focuses on the amazing trials, tribulations, and will to live Zamperini experienced and displayed after crashing in a B-24 hundreds of miles from land during World War II. With the film version (produced by Angelina Jolie) set to come to movie screens in the upcoming months, you’ll want to get your hands on the book in advance, and find out how the strong will of a committed distance runner played into unimaginable challenges in a completely different context.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Former war correspondent Christopher McDougall has a foot problem, and a combination of frustration, curiosity, and fortuitous circumstances suddenly find him completely enmeshed in the culture of the amazingly gifted Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Copper Canyons area of Mexico. Examining a variety of aspects of running, including footwear, diet, genetics, and more, McDougall challenges and explores many aspects of running the average athlete seldom questions. If you are curious about why many runners are interested in minimal shoes or barefoot running, this book will lead you right to the source.
Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream
Runcoach board member Meb Keflezighi became a household name this year with his win at the Boston Marathon, but his resume already included a win at the New York Marathon, an Olympic Silver medal and much more. Years before the accolades, Keflezighi’s family escaped war torn Eritrea to eventually end up in San Diego, where Meb earned a scholarship to UCLA and began his ascent to the top of the distance running world. If you are looking for inspiration from a true embodiment of the American Dream, look no further than this book!
Once a Runner
Most runners would agree – there should be more novels written about distance running! Until that time, you can’t go wrong with a classic of the narrow shelved genre, Once a Runner. The story of Quenton Cassidy as told by author John L. Parker illustrates how one top flight athlete navigates the various crossroads faced while pursuing his singleminded goal of distance running excellence at the glamorous mile distance. Originally self published in 1978, this book has enjoyed several subsequent printings and carries with it an almost cultish cache among many distance running fans. Definitely near the top of the list of the canon and worth a read.
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
Even non-runners are familiar with the name Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile under 4 minutes. However, hardly anyone realizes how close it was to being another name that we remembered for the ages, 60 years past that historic day of May 6, 1954. The details of the successful record attempt are enjoyable as the details of the efforts by John Landy and Wes Santee to be the first to achieve the feat as well. Neal Bascomb explores that special time from all angles and provides us with a greater understanding about the well spring from where both Bannister’s mile and the subsequent 1300 or so men who have broken that mark since might have come from.
While there are plenty more worthy tomes available at local bookstores and online, we hope you have a chance to check out these or other great running books, and understand a bit more depth about the historical underpinning of the sport you enjoy.
August 07, 2014
If your usual palette of running or walking routes is dominated by flat paths, there are several reasons why it makes sense to include some hill work in your regular rotation. Similarly, if your favorite loops include plenty of hills, there should be lots of motivation to savor the opportunity to get out there and plug away up the slopes. Even if your workouts are generally confined to a treadmill, raising the incline can also provide a taste of hills
In the past, we have detailed some basic tips for getting up and down hills efficiently. Even if you remember these tips, it is always good to periodically remind yourself of the basics which may have been neglected when other concerns become priorities while out for a run or walk.
Assuming you are moving efficiently and in a way that will help prevent injury, there are a number of good reasons to stick with this type of terrain, even if it is outside of your comfort zone.
Hills help you learn how to manage challenges without stressing out
Races (and even training) can often include unanticipated hurdles to clear, or rough patches. Adding some terrain where the pace may be slightly more difficult to come by or where your rhythm is disrupted can help remind you to move with efficient form. Hills encourage you to focus on slower, rhythmic breathing, which can also help even as the hill is crested. In short, hills help remove distractions and increase concentration on the task at hand. That can help, even if the going is currently a bit more tough.
Hills can turn a fear into a strength
Avoiding hills intentionally or unintentionally because they are difficult might be a way to avoid some more challenging workouts, but they also might obscure an opportunity to develop a new strength. Consider whether you want to approach a hilly section of your goal race with the attitude of dread or one where you tell yourself, “This is my time.” Practice on hills and you might find that you can cover that type of terrain better than others in your typical pace group. Rarely does it make sense to truly charge up a hill in the midst of your half or full marathon effort, but approaching the base of a climb with confidence that you are at least or even better prepared for the challenge than your fellow racers is an extremely positive feeling to have. You can even have a significant impact on your training partners with that positive attitude and help their confidence as well.
Hills can raise your heart rate without the pounding
When your schedule calls for efforts over a certain amount of time with qualitative descriptions for the paces, such as “uptempo,” an uphill path can achieve the desired effort with less gravitational pressure than would be required on a flat or downhill route. If impact related injuries are a concern or even if extended periods of time on hard surfaces are a concern, an uphill route can mitigate some of those stresses while not compromising the desired effort level. You may not be traveling that exact same speed as a flat path, but your cardiovascular system will be similarly stimulated.
Hills are strength work for key muscles
Running or walking up hills places an increased demand on your glutes, and calves, not to mention your quads, which are pushed both on the uphill as well as the downhill portions of your workout. These muscles are key for any goal race where serious fatigue can set in. Including hills sensibly in your weekly routine can help challenge these muscles and prepare them to handle the extraordinary requirements of a lengthy effort over an unforgiving pavement course.
Running or walking hills can be great for these or other specific benefits, but they also can just be a fun new challenge. Embrace what they offer and get the most of your time on the hills. Even if you don’t enjoy the process 100% of the time, it is usually time well spent toward the achievement of your goals. You may not enjoy them at the moment, but you will likely be glad for them when on the victorious side of the finish line.
August 05, 2014
It is amazing how rumors or wives tales can be passed among friends or down through the ages, affecting the behavior of thousands without any basis on solid ground. Even an experienced runner or walker can be operating off of a faulty or outdated instruction manual now and again. Although we bring up these topics periodically in the blog, they are always worthwhile to review.
More mileage is always better
False. Training allows you to prepare for the race task, and extended periods of significant volume could allow you to be prepared for very challenging tasks. It also could leave you injured and unable to do any challenging tasks. Your runcoach schedule is calibrated to consider what you have done in the past and will help you safely progress, prioritizing the goal of arriving at race day ready to do your best. This means planned and regular recovery. Every week will not necessarily include more mileage than the last. Consistent training over time is the best way to gradually increase your volume, but in many cases other aspects of your schedule can make an even bigger difference than merely just mileage alone.
You must carbo-load before every race
False. Race-organized pasta feeds and a sincere effort to prepare as well as possible often lead participants down a road of excessive consumption the night before a race. There is scant evidence that loading up in this fashion can effect shorter races such as a 5K or 10K, and even in longer efforts, fueling effectively during the race can often have a bigger say in the final analysis. Consider also how much a body can process in 12 hours. Consuming 3 or 4 times your typical size dinner must be dealt with, and that process might interrupt your morning more than any lack of energy you were worried about to begin with.
You can train at your current fitness and still progress
True! Hundreds of thousands of workouts for thousands of plans has reinforced our conviction that a training plan based on paces associated with your current fitness level can allow you to adapt and perform at a progressively higher level. Training specifically for goal pace sounds like a great idea, but you might not have figured out exactly how far you can progress in the time between the current day and your goal race day. What if you were actually in better shape than you thought? What if you didn’t progress as far as you hoped? Would you still embark upon that pace? Of course not. We provide the tools you need to make successful race efforts with confidence, knowing you have done the work to support your plan. This doesn’t mean that you never have workouts that include paces faster than what might be your goal pace - your 5K pace will always be faster than your marathon pace, but the data is based on you and your current fitness.
Exercise is bad for you as you age
False. A widely cited and encouraging Stanford University study reinforced what avid runners have felt for years - that running actually has a positive effect on most aging athletes. Senior citizen runners tracked for over 25 years have no increased incidence of osteoarthritis issues in their knees, have lower mortality rates, and generally have delayed onset of mobility and other issues related to aging. Certainly older runners need to take good care of themselves, adjusting their schedule as needed, but sensible running actually appears to benefit a person as they hit the silver years.
Studies have found similar benefits from walking: http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/research-points-to-even-more-health-benefits-of-walking
You aren’t a real runner if you don’t run fast
False. One of the great things about our sport is that it provides an unlimited amount of access points, from walkers to Olympic sprinters and everyone in between. Some of us are triathletes and some of us don’t have time to train for longer distances, sticking with 5Ks. Some of us enjoy track workouts, and others stick mainly to the trails. As the ranks of adult runners and walkers increases, so has the definition of “athlete” broadened as well. Any arbitrary cut off for what constitutes a “real” athlete could be just as nonsensical as saying that if we can’t match Usain Bolt or Meb, why try. Count us among those who are glad the sport is inclusive, and we look forward to supporting you as you achieve your personal bests on the road ahead.
July 18, 2014
In order to fully enjoy the benefits and experience of outdoor exercise, it is important to stay safe. Although some basics seem fairly simple and even obvious as sound preventative measures, even experienced runners and walkers might do well to review a few simple safety tips. Although mishaps are rare, the habit of good safety practices can really make a difference that one time when you are desperate for help.
Tell someone when and where you are going
If someone is expecting you at a certain time and you don’t arrive, they might send the help or make the call that might prove crucial in that very small chance that you really are in trouble. If no one is aware that you are past due or where you might have gone, those who care about you might have a much tougher time tracking you down. Leaving a note on the counter, sending a text, or just telling a friend, family member, or co-worker what you are up to is a good habit to keep. Even if you live alone, leaving a note to be seen by someone else in the event another needed to enter your house while looking for you, a text to someone else, or even an online calendar entry take next to no time at all, and can help others to track you down if things really have gone awry.
Whether you are running or walking at dusk or dawn, in bad weather or hazy good weather, on a remote trail or a busy road, it does not hurt to wear bright clothes. Make choices that ensure other pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and others can see you. Be visible to traffic coming the opposite direction when you don’t have an ample shoulder, be visible if you are sharing a bike path with quickly moving wheeled vehicles, and be visible if you turn an ankle, fall into the bushes and need some help. If you don’t like loud clothing, a bright hat or even a white hat / visor can often do the trick. Time to jump on board with the neon trend, even if that means donning a reflective vest at night. That split second of recognition can make a huge difference in a challenging traffic situation.
This piece is not the space where we talk in depth about the value of hydration as a training tool. However, water can be crucial if stuck in hot weather or other challenging situations. It is such a simple thing to bring a water bottle that we might take it for granted, but if you have ever been in a prolonged situation where clean water would have been useful, you will likely never forget again.
Be aware of your surroundings
Just like the defensive driving course you took as a high schooler, runners and walkers should always keep their surroundings in mind. Scanning the path ahead will allow you to stay one step ahead of dangerous situations. Keep your eyes open for individuals who might be following you in city locales, for quickly opening car doors, for cars entering and exiting driveways. Be on the look out for wildlife that might pose a problem in less densely populated areas, aggressive dogs with no visible means of restraint or territorial boundaries, and topography with an ankle-challenging pothole ahead. Furthermore, either ditch the headphones, wear them in one ear only, or turn the volume low enough that you can still be aware of the ambient noise. That moment of awareness can make the difference.
When possible, go with a buddy
Many of us run or walk solo more often than not, but when possible, it is always safer to go along with a friend who can help if something goes awry, and make any individuals with less than wholesome intent think twice about encountering you.
Finally, leave a trail
Well, not literally like Hansel and Gretel, but GPS enabled devices, a phone that can indicate your location even if you are unable to – these things can make a big difference. You might already be carrying your phone for music, but it may prove to be even more important in this capacity. With running shorts now sporting several pockets, and companies coming up with new types of light pouches every day, there are many ways to carry these things without impacting performance or your enjoyment.
One of the most interesting and perhaps culturally curious trends over the past several years has been the transition of chocolate milk from a treat for kids, to a serious nutrition application for competitive athletics. Surprisingly, a significant number of studies have been done to measure the effect of chocolate milk on performance over the past several years, charting the performance and recovery of cyclists, runners, soccer players, and more. In study after study, chocolate milk performs extremely well, as an option for recovery and refueling. If you have had a hard time wrapping your head around this idea, consider the various properties of chocolate milk as you would your favorite sports drink or water.
Optimal carb/ protein ratio
Many runners are well versed on the importance of refueling soon after running, and that carb snack 10-15 minutes after the workout can be rendered even more effective by the incorporation of some protein, at a about a 4:1 ratio between the two. Sports drink manufacturers have spent years creating an artificial beverage with those numbers. Chocolate milk features a ratio right along those lines naturally – no lab experiments necessary!
Key nutrients for bone health
Chocolate milk contains a wide variety of nutrients, many of which are great assets to good health and performance. Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and others are directly related to bone health and growth. One 8oz glass of chocolate milk provides approximately 1/3 of the recommended daily value for Vitamin D and nearly the same percentage of the recommended amount of calcium. As such, it is a great way to access some of our key nutrients from food rather than supplements or engineered beverages.
Plenty of electrolytes to replenish those lost in sweat
A glass of milk provides potassium, sodium in amounts that help an athlete stave off the effect from lots of sweating. There are actually more of each in chocolate milk compared with some of the most popular sports drinks, and certainly more in chocolate milk than water. If you need to sweat and sweat often, chocolate milk will help you replenish what you have lost and speed the recovery process.
Protein, a great builder
There are not many sports drinks that can also incorporate protein effectively, and it is even more difficult to have them do so if taste is a consideration. One glass of milk provides nearly 20% of the daily, recommended amount. Like pizza delivery that is both prompt and provides excellent pizza, protein found in chocolate milk is a great way to get this needed nutrient, in a very efficient manner.
Besides these many benefits, other studies have indicated even more reasons to consume chocolate milk, such as the presence of B vitamins, and other assets. Each of us has an individual preference for our recovery and fluid replacement vehicles, whether due to taste or if our bodies can process it effectively while running and without GI distress. If you are looking for an alternative or have never tried overtly refueling after exercise, chocolate milk might be a good place to start, and an enjoyable beverage to have stocked in the fridge for even the non-runners in the family.
July 07, 2014
Along with warm temperatures and more daylight, summer in our urban and suburban areas can also bring more days with poor air. Running is an activity typically considered beneficial to your health, but a huge dose of smog inhalation doesn’t seem like a great idea either. What else do we need to know?
Why is running in bad air a problem?
When we exercise, we require more air, breathing more rapidly and deeply than when we are on the couch. We also tend to breathe through our mouths, which means the protective capabilities of our nasal passages don’t help filter out some of the less desirable particles in the air as they normally would.
These less desirable particles come in many forms, as detailed by leading voices such as Roy Shepherd of Toronto Western Hospital, as far back as the early 80s in the lead up to the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Some, as in carbon monoxide emitted from car exhaust, inhibit the body’s ability to transport oxygen via red blood cells by sticking to the bonding points on the oxygen molecules. Less oxygen means impaired performance over the course of your session. Other chemicals such as the sulfur oxides coming from industrial sites, may gum up water particles in your body to create acidity and irritation in your airways.
Is that problem serious?
Certainly, many of us run all summer in heavily polluted areas and feel ok. Others have great difficulty. If you are pre-disposed to asthma or allergies, if you notice that your airway gets itchy even when others around you are fine, or you feel like you have a lingering common cold in polluted conditions, you should definitely be cautious. Pollution does increase the risk of some serious health issues, such as stroke, asthma, and heart problems, but exercise helps to reduce those risks as well. Visits to the doctor definitely tick up during smoggy periods, but then again, exercising regularly can keep you away from the clinic over the long term.
How to reduce the risks associated with running in polluted air
There is no way to completely eliminate the effects of the polluted air that summer might bring, even if exercise is taken out of the equation. However, we can do some things to help mitigate the negative impact and protect your body as much as you can.
Research is still ongoing, but studies appear to generally indicate that the benefits of exercise over the long term are greater than the near term negative impact of bad air while doing so. Listen to your own body, use common sense and the tips above, and hopefully the smog of summer won’t prevent your enjoyment of summer training.
June 27, 2014
Having a hard time understanding the FIFA World Cup? Wondering how you can relate to 11 men kicking a ball past 11 other men into a rectangular frame with an onion bag attached? What does it all have to do with the regular runner? Consider the following facts and gain a little insight into how the World Cup players compare to our own efforts and output.
Even goalkeepers run almost a 5K during a match
Estimates for the distance run by soccer players had widely varied through the years, but newer technology has allowed us to zone in fairly accurately on the range of distances covered by each player. In the first match played by the US, FIFA furnished information to indicate Michael Bradley ran the furthest at 7.9 miles over the course of the match, followed closely by fellow center mid Kyle Beckerman and the combined efforts of Alejandro Bedoya and his sub Grant Zusi at 7.8. The biggest surprise might be that Tim Howard traveled 2.9 miles, even as a goalkeeper! A soccer match is essentially a 90 minute fartlek. That might mean their average pace is 12 minutes a mile or more, but a lot of the running done is quite quickly.
The fastest soccer players are about the same speed as Allyson Felix
Arjen Robben, the Dutch goal scorer with the “dodgy flapper” running arm carriage, has already clocked runs of up to 19.3 miles per hour, which just about matches Olympic Gold 200m medalist Allyson Felix in spikes and at full flight. Ramires of Brazil also hit 19.3 mph, and Jermaine Jones of the US actually hit 20 mph against Ghana. The fastest footballer of all time, according to FIFA data gathered by Yahoo!, is Antonio Valencia, who had a run of 22 mph while playing for Manchester United. In comparison, Usain Bolt hits about 27 mph at full steam. Not bad!
Referees have to pass a strict fitness test
Referees might have different training plans, but they must all pass some fitness tests given by FIFA before they take the field. These include two tasks. The first is 6x40m dash with a max of 90 sec rest while walking back. Men have to run 6.2 seconds each, and women are required to run 6.6 seconds. That’s about 14 second 100m pace six times in a row on 90 sec rest. The second test is 10 laps around a track, running 150m, walking 50m, running 150m, walking 50m. At the international level, men have to run each 150m in 30 seconds with 35 seconds to walk each 50 meters, while women must his 35 seconds for the 150m, and 40 seconds for the 50m walk. We may disagree with their decision making, but if they are out there, at least we know they are fit. Mark Geiger, the first American referee to blow the whistle at the FIFA World Cup, told Runner’s World that his training included fartlek, tempos, speed work, and mental training, which allowed him to pass his FIFA test easily and arrive even better prepared than required. He ran track and cross country in high school, and continues to help out as an assistant cross country coach at his local high school.
Soccer players might have a better VO2 Max than you!
A Dutch study reported on by Scott Douglas of Runner’s World found that the average footballer’s VO2 max was about 63. Many times, these measurements are extrapolated from a “beep” or “bleep” test, an exercise where an athlete runs back and forth across a 20 meter stretch between pre-recorded beeps. The beeps progress in rapidity through 21 levels of approximately a minute each. When an athlete fails to reach the line twice in a row, they are stopped. Exact stats on the VO2 max test results from these back and forth beep tests and other measurements are hard to come by as clubs and countries are reluctant to release the information, but Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is rumored to have registered 75, while Neymar of Brazil reportedly has reached 73. David Beckham also legendarily actually beaten the beep test, as Michael Bradley has reportedly done just before the World Cup. Like many other sports, the variance of soccer player fitness measured in this way is wide, with defenders typically registering lower scores than rangy midfielders, etc. We might never know the actual scores for these professional athletes, and although neither skill will likely ever be needed it is fun to consider what Neymar’s half marathon pace might be on his runcoach pace chart, just as we might like to know if we could put a penalty shot past Tim Howard. Keep dreaming!
At runcoach we are always researching new ways to help you move more and run faster. Tonight we will introduce several new enhancements for you.
After much demand we have created a new walk program. This program is designed for members intent on walking more miles or completing a race walk. Of course the experience is powered by the runcoach engine and adjusts to your progress and background.
Secondly, we recently completed a deep analysis of your results particularly from various distances. As a result, we have made some adjustments to our predicted races times to match them even closer to your previous results. These changes came from the analysis of over 100,000 race results - you sure have been racing!
We're excited to introduce even more data-driven guidance and look forward to our future succes together.
Published in New Features
June 20, 2014
Winter is not the only time your running may take you among the clouds. Summer vacations or trips with family might bring you to the mountains. When you need to run at high altitudes, keeping in mind a few simple things can make your experience much more enjoyable and productive.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
At high altitudes, you may not feel sweaty, even after you run. However, that does not mean that you don’t need to replenish your fluids even more so than at sea level. At higher altitudes, there is less air pressure. Evaporation happens more rapidly both off your skin as well as every time you exhale. At an altitude similar to Denver, you perspire about twice as much as at sea level. If you are not being very deliberate about water intake, your running will suffer, and general dehydration may make you feel ill (headaches, nausea, fatigue are common effects) regardless. Carry a water bottle with you, drink throughout the day, and avoid caffeinated beverages. If you are concerned about how much to drink, weigh yourself before and after a run at altitude to get a sense of how much water you have perspired during the session.
Expect to adjust your paces
Running at altitude requires your body to function when your lungs aren’t getting the same concentration of oxygen with each breath. Your body has to fight harder to produce red blood cells and the whole operation makes things more difficult on your muscles to function in the manner to which you may be accustomed. If you can run an eight minute mile at sea level, doing so at an altitude similar to Albuquerque or Reno might leave you the finishing the length of a football field behind your sea level self. For instance, your Vo2 Max pace is adjusted about 3% per 1000 feet, and expect it to still feel pretty tough. Keeping a good humor and realistic expectations is key to successfully managing your schedule when heading to the hills.
It will get better...but it will get a little worse first
There is a lot of discussion about the benefits of training at altitude, but a long weekend at a mountain cabin won’t quite get you there. When you arrive, your body begins to fight the good fight to produce red blood cells, despite the paucity of oxygen. Initially, it will lose this fight, and your red blood cell stores will dwindle a bit over the first few days making these days successively more difficult to a certain extent. After your body figures out that it needs to work a ton harder, it will, and production will ramp up like a toy company at Christmas. However, this takes a about 2-3 weeks before supply can catch demand. Once you return to sea level, this high octane production will dissipate fairly soon as the air pressure yields more oxygen per breath. So, if you are serious about wanting to train at altitude, plan a longer stay, and don’t expect a huge boost months after you return.
Protect your skin
Even a cloudy day in the mountains can result in a sunburn with UV rays over twice as strong at many common mountain heights. Wear hats and sunscreen, reapplying frequently to stay ahead of sun damage.
At high altitude, your body must work harder to keep up with all the demands listed above and more. A moderate caloric increase is appropriate to keep up with your body’s needs.
While the benefits and challenges of running at altitude are still being researched, a beautiful trail run in the mountains can provide qualitative benefits that go beyond the resultant blood chemistry, and training hard and with friends can plant the psychological seeds for many a goal race campaign. Plan well, take care of your body while in the hills, and enjoy many a mile in the thin air.