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holiday-mealA 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!

Stay hydrated

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.



large-running-race-start-lineDeck 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



large-smiley-facesMany of our members are in the middle of their fall goal race training, building up for a winter race, or tapering for an upcoming red-letter day.  The first big long run of a cycle can be exciting, but training demands a lot from your body.  Occasionally you find yourself waking up a little creaky, taking a bit longer to get up from your chair at work, or stressing out about taking an extra flight of stairs during your taper (shouldn’t your legs feel absolutely perfect ALL DAY, EVERY DAY)?  If you are in midst of or on the cusp of tapering, take a peek at our tips for a successful taper.  However, if you are in the middle of a big cycle and don’t feel quite as fresh as you did at the start, take a moment and refresh yourself with one of these quick tips!

 


Get up

Nothing builds creaki-ness more than a 2-hour run followed by 8 hours straight in a chair, staring at the computer.  Make sure to regularly get up and walk around during the course of your day (once an hour is a good rule), whether it is spent in the office, behind the wheel, or in an otherwise mostly stationary position.  The blood flow is good for your recovery, and the resetting of your scenery can be good for your outlook.

 

Drink Water

Many runners are very conscientious on race day or long run day, but don’t have the same commitment to hydration on the average Tuesday.  If you are making repeated demands on your body, prepare it best by keeping your body well –hydrated even on days when the pressure is off.  Keep a glass of water just small enough to need refilling regularly.  Buy a bulk pack of your favorite non-caffeinated beverage and keep it cool in the fridge.  Even if you don’t like water, give yourself a healthy source of hydration to look forward to.  You’ll get your walk and your water at the same time.

 

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Yes, do exactly this.   Although foam rolling can be inconvenient in work clothes and locations, keep one around.  If you have a moment and a quiet, carpeted corner, the loose muscles gained can provide a new lease on the rest of the day.  If you don’t keep one handy, you can’t do it.  Keep one under the desk.

 

Take a mini sleep-cation

The race is eight weeks away, and in your mind, you only need to concentrate on sleep the week of.  However, at least half the battle of the race is getting to the start line in the best shape you can be.  Life may not allow you to get a solid 8 hours each night, but if feeling run-down, take 2-3 nights where you commit to an earlier bedtime.  Call it a race week rehearsal if you need to justify it to yourself.  You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel, so much so it might convince you to carve out more sleep on a regular basis!

 

Go grocery shopping

On your way home tonight, go grocery shopping and get the good stuff.  A steady diet of take out can be both more expensive and less healthy than a load of appealing groceries.  Refresh your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Food is fuel for all your hard runs.  Fill your tank with food that will help you achieve your goals.  After all, if you opened your fridge and found fresh produce, you might eat it!

 

 

 

 



1354465380_horoscope-2013Whether you have just begun training with us for a goal race some time in the future, or have been a long-time runner who needs a bit of motivation or a new goal, the beginning of a new year is a great time not only to set new goals, but to do so in a way that will stick. 

 

Ensure accountability

If you have a big goal you hope to accomplish, chances are you will be more likely to follow through if you have a mechanism to ensure that any doubt or lapses will be noted and you don’t get off track.  Many times, the term “accountability” takes on a negative connotation, but in reality, a positive motivational tool tied to an accomplished goal can be a decisive element that puts you over the top.

 

Accountability can take the form of a reward you commit to enjoying upon accomplishing your goal. While that may offer a simple and straightforward way to motivate yourself, consider your rewards in the context of the lifestyle change you are most likely trying to embark upon by setting the goal.  So, if your goal is weight loss as a part of your effort to run your first half marathon,  having a huge blowout meal at the best restaurant in town serve as your motivator to get through your next long run might not be the best reward.  Instead, pick a reward that reinforces the positive changes you hope to make.    Of course we don’t want you to become mercenary so a few guilty pleasures from time to time are perfectly acceptable.

 

Enlist a friend or family member who knows you well enough to nudge or budge you when you are veering off course.  All of us have times when motivation is lacking in some way or another, and by asking another person to remind you of your goals and keep you on track, you have already ensured that your will power and motivation need not be 100% all the time.  Arranging at least periodic running opportunities with another runner or group will also motivate you to show up and complete your task if for no other reason than the reluctance to stand someone up!

 

You might not need a big reward to look forward to or need to have others with which you feel comfortable sharing your goals.   Many of you enjoy our online training log for that very reason.  Many of our longtime members indicate they love nothing more than to see a string of blue days in a row!   Another written log or an X on each day of the calendar can be effective tools.  Print out your goal race entry confirmation and post it to your bathroom mirror or write yourself a note that pops up on your smartphone calendar on the days of your tough workouts.  Most importantly, take some time to consider how you typically respond to challenges -  what paves the way for the times your are successful and what stands in your way.  Figure out the simple ways you can keep yourself accountable and hopefully next year you’ll be resolving to achieve some new goals.

 

Have Fun

Oftentimes, the resolutions we make are as a result of leaving difficult tasks undone.  Things that have been left unfinished for some time as a result of inertia or procrastination are going to be difficult to all accomplish suddenly because of a simple change of heart.    If your goal appears to be an uphill trudge the entire way, look hard for ways to find some fun along the road.    Again, if this is a prescription you are giving yourself to jumpstart a larger shift in behavior or lifestyle, you want to make sure the change is something you can live with and enjoy for some time. 

If you have a choice of races, pick one with a great course, an established fun vibe, or another trait that will make the experience about more than just the run.  If running in the dark gets you down, make sure to set aside time on the weekends to run during the day to give yourself a break from what has been difficult.   Take some time to explore new routes and scenic territory around your neighborhood or city.  Pick a hilly run and stop at the top to take in the view.  Take some time to consider what it is that you really enjoy about running (even if you only enjoy it a little bit), and scratch that itch as much as possible.

 

Note Incremental Progress

The biggest goals often take a while to accomplish and progress may not always be linear.  If your new year’s resolution is a long distance goal race, it might help (we typically recommend this regardless) to run a few intermediate distance efforts to note fitness progress and encourage you that your are slowly crossing the canyon toward your big day.  In running, as in many other things in life, your result may be subject to forces beyond your control.  Your training could go completely smoothly up until three days before the race, when you catch a cold or turn an ankle.  Creating a field of multiple data points will allow you to evaluate the process rather than only having the one race to either make or break your perspective on your efforts.

 

Above all else, we encourage you to set goals!  Reach high, assume you will be successful.  Take a step in the right direction today. Making the choice to set a goal to begin with is not an insignificant part of the process.  Once you have, we look forward to helping you get there!



runner_in_stormThere will likely come a time when weather will interfere with your running plans. Read on for a few quick tips on how to "weather" the storms with your goals intact.

Safety first, always.
Runners by nature are some of the most stubborn people around.  A lengthy daily running streak, an even number mileage total for the week, or the fear of recording a zero in the log all can be highly motivating factors.  When a huge weather event prevents even a minimal amount of activity, let the visceral disappointment of not following through on plans be a reminder of how joyful you will be to run another day when things are better.  The joy of the future is a wiser and better movtivator for safe behavior than a false feeling of invincibility when conditions are not safe.

Narrow your focus.
Ideally, you would have gotten in both your long run and your track workout.  Ideally, you would have done the tempo run on the usual path that now has a tree lying on it.  Well, things are not ideal, so shed the focus on what can't get done and zone in on what can be done.  If it is Tuesday and the weather is expected to improve by the end of the week, you might not be able to get everything in, but you can probably get one crucial component in.  Focus on doing a good job with that one challenge, and be encouraged that at least one important training element kept you moving the ball down the field.

Avoid running alone.
Slippery streets, snow drifts, gusty winds, power outtages leaving poorly lit paths - if the weather has moderated, but challenging climate elements linger, taking a companion on your run can help ensure both of your families that someone else can help if a problem arises. 

Overestimate your bottled water needs.
Everyone needs to hydrate, but if you are running while power remains out or in a dry winter environment, you will need more than the average person.  Stay ahead of the situation with a periodically replenished water supply in good times.  If supplies are limited during lingering storm conditions, budget liberally for your needs.

Keep a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously.
If you are safe, be glad.  If you have to take more than a preferred amount of time off during a storm, think of the early modern Olympians who would have to ride a boat across the ocean on their way to meets and would find their way to the medal stand anyhow.  Remember the Chilean miner.  Be glad you aren't earning your living by running if running is unwise. Plan on impatience, and as necessary, let your stir craziness serve as a source of humor for those with you.  Remember, your running is something that you do affirmatively for your health and well being, not something that is more essential than safety, food, and water. Always look forward to clearing skies- they will come eventually!



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Few life changes will have a greater impact than the arrival of a newborn.  Both the physical challenges for mom, as well as the stark changes in family schedule and breadth of responsibility for both parents can justifiably upend priorities.  This can wreak havoc with the comfortable patterns of habitual runners.

Chances are, unless you have had a very quickly moving adoption, you have been well aware that changes in your running routine await the arrival of the new bundle of joy.  Very likely, transitions have already occurred for mom with the ups and downs of pregnancy.  Whether a quick return to work or flexibility for extended parental leave is on the horizon, here are a few tips and ideas for runners in the throes of new parenthood:

Consider how baby gear purchases, such as a stroller, can assist you in the eventual pursuit of a return to running. Yes, that sounds crass – you are about to enjoy one of life’s greatest blessings, and running should come to mind?  Well, if there is anything that you intend to continue doing on a regular basis after your baby comes, it probably saves time and money to anticipate how you can manage that practice within the context of your baby’s first few years at home.

For example, many running families use a jogging stroller (or a stroller with that capability) for their primary stroller.  Initially, it can be used for regular stroller duty, particularly now that many jogging strollers can attach baby carriers and inserts allow for extra padding with newborn babies.  When eventually jogging becomes appropriate with the little one, everyone is used to the new gear, how it fits in the car, the baby finds it to be a smooth transition, and more enjoyable / contented baby running might result.

Moms: set a completion goal, but no sooner than 6-12 months after giving birth.  Dads: choose flexible goals in the first year.

While the experience of every mother is different, having a goal to shoot for can often inspire (to lose weight, to re-grasp a feeling of independent personhood, etc) when life seems completely turned on its head.  Set a goal too soon, and it may become a needless stressor, both logistically, and physically, when the body is out of shape and sleep is minimal.  Set a time goal too soon after giving birth, and the unpredictable physical aftermath of motherhood can create frustration.  By a year, many moms are beginning to recognize their bodies again, and having a date to look forward to (as a return to the experience of being an athlete) can be a very motivational tool.  Just enjoy your first goal race after baby to celebrate how far you have come.  Use subsequent goal races to return to previous fitness and pace levels.

New dads are also saddled/ delighted with the many transitions of fatherhood, but many times must navigate a tricky landscape of an initially supporting role in the physical sense.  Without the obvious setbacks of pregnancy and giving birth, it may be enticing to set a big goal, almost in celebration of the new family member.    However, in this particular instance, it is worth considering flexible goals.  Neither of you quite know how you will feel physically or rest-wise as these dates get closer, and the last thing needed is more stress.   One option to keep dad on track could be to pick a distance goal with three or four options in 60 day range.

Have patience with your body after baby (yes, dads too!)

For many first time parents, the adrenaline of new parenthood eventually wears off, but many nights of limited sleep remain.  Schedules change and keep changing.  Things like foam rolling, stretching, strength routines, and other ancillary activities may be cut out to preserve what little time remains to run.  Unsurprisingly, aches and pains might crop up, and the legs might not recover as fast.  Control what you can control.  Consider occasionally modifying your running routes and other patterns to avoid a fruitless comparison contest with your well-rested self.

For moms in particular, resist the urge to return to serious training until you are cleared to run by your doctor.  Be sure to progress incrementally.  Just like a marathon recovery that is too short, a postpartum running injury may not crop up immediately.  Rather it often surfaces after the premature progression has been established over several weeks or months.

Shop and prepare for running with body after baby.

One of the most common roadblocks to a successful return to pre-baby running fitness can be the first few efforts out the door.  For many moms, postpartum bodies feel like complicated new appliances with misplaced instruction manuals, what with the likely weight gain and the new demands and dimensions of various body parts.  All of us know better than to establish self-esteem from outside appearances, but without a couple running items that fit, it can be that much harder to get out and get started.  Having a high impact / supportive sports bra and shorts that fit your current size can make a difference, and are worth shopping for even in advance when you have more flexibility in your schedule.

When it comes time for stroller jogging, find the bike paths.

Just as parents at their wits’ end will drive a baby around the block, hoping to induce sleep, the stroller experience for your baby / toddler can vary wildly from soothing to disruptive, which in turn may have a direct impact on your ability to reintegrate running positively into your daily life.  Bumpy roads, streets with many stop lights, turns or undulations may be your only options, and by yourself, you might barely notice these parts of the route.  However, the stroller years might also serve as a chance to get to know the flat, off street routes in your region better than you might have before, and allow the jogging stroller experience to emerge as a positive parenting interactive time rather than a struggle of wills.



{mp3}ATM for Serious Runners{/mp3}


{mp3}ATM Top 10{/mp3}


lee_yogaStephanie Lee (pictured) has been practicing yoga for over 12 years in a variety of diverse settings that include Hawaii, Greece, Italy, and Thailand.

RC: Yoga is a commonly mentioned term these days, but what exactly is yoga and what is it intended to do?
 
SL: There are many types of yoga practices, each offering something different, but all with a common strand. Yoga can be your own sanctuary outside of the madness of the day's routines.  It's a safe, non-chaotic environment where you can find peace in your body and mind.  When you leave the studio, you can take those learnings with you and apply to everyday life situations.  Once a yogi, always a yogi.  Yoga can help you build a healthy lifestyle that complements Western Medicine. It's a loving and comfortable environment to discover the connection of your physical, emotional and spiritual body.

RC: What generally about yoga might make it beneficial for runners?
 
SL: There are a wide range of benefits from practicing yoga.  Not only is it physically challenging to your body, it's an opportunity to relax and focus the mind with wonderful benefits to all of the internal organs in need of repair and detoxing. Yoga improves your posture and blood flow, it lowers cortisol [hormone released in response to stress], releases tension, provides an immune boost, helps regularity and most of all aids in peace of mind.  It's an inner balance. Yoga, paired with running, can create more flexibilty, strengthening of the joints and muscles, and gains in your ability to stay focused.  It can enhance your breathing and provide you with a better night's rest.  In all yoga practices, you need to spend that time within your own body on your mat.  In some practices like Bikram, you are facing obstacles such as remaining in the studio throughout the entire 90 minutes with absolutely no talking in extreme heat.  It is a very challenging environment as at times there can be up to 60 people in some classes.  This is where you need to pull your wandering mind back in and focus on being present within yourself and your own abilities to complete the class.

RC: What are a couple beginner poses or exercises a runner might try to explore these benefits?

SL: Some basic, yet very beneficial poses a runner may be interested in incorporating to their workout are the following:
Half Moon, Eagle, Separate Leg Stetching (which are all in the standing series), plus Wind Relieving Pose and Half Tortoise, which are a part of the floor series [ed note:  Runcoach does not have an association with or specifically endorse any of the sites used to illustrate each pose].  It would also be advised to incorporate controlled breathing and meditation as these can go hand and hand with a runner's world.



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