Boston_StrongFor many runners, the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon has been a “where were you when you heard” moment in the year that has passed since.  In the immediate aftermath, many marathoners fielded repeated questions from casual acquaintances and close friends and families alike, concerned for their safety if they were running, concerned for their safety even if they weren’t running, curious about details about which the runner in question may have had no additional information than the average person.   Runners may have even dealt with a lot of “could have been me; could have been my family” feelings.  In general, many of us spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the race, the events which led to its premature ending, and how to respond.

 

The events of last April 15, where three lost their lives and 170 were injured, struck a chord among many, whether they were familiar with the experience of running a marathon or not.  Late summer Boston qualifying event registrations swelled as athletes started training for a chance to hit a mark before the September entry date.  Athletes who may have never run a marathon or even a 5K before pledged to train and enter this year’s race.  Runners whose race was left incomplete by police road blocks vowed to prepare again in order to finish what they started.  “Boston Strong” iconography became immediately understood as the extra dose of motivation needed to accomplish any array of tough tasks.

 

With the 118th running of the historic race only a few days away, the adrenaline is pumping through the collective veins of a race field ranging from Massachusetts native and American hope Shalane Flanagan down to the “run to finish” athletes in the third wave.  If your Patriot’s Day does not include the chance to join with these individuals as they strive for a national catharsis on behalf of all of us, what can you do to make a difference while the eyes of the world are turned to this bittersweet occasion?

 

Encourage others

Overcoming fear with courage has been a driving desire for many taking part in this year’s race.  For many of us, the fears that prevent us from getting out the door and starting down the road to a fitness goal are not nearly as sensational, but no less crippling in their ability to let inertia prevent us from moving forward.  Consider with whom you can partner to start toward a new goal by engaging in regular exercise. Make a point to come along side them with encouragement this week.

 

Donate

Marathons and charity drives go hand in hand these days, but if you are able and have been looking for a way to make a tangible difference, this race and those running it provide a group of people and causes who are likely some of the most highly motivated athletes to take on the fundraising challenge, including a lot of first timers.  Check out the list of official Boston marathon charities or scroll down your Facebook page.  Likely a runner you care about and believe in is working hard toward a big goal on Monday with others besides themselves in mind. Get behind them if you can!

 

Set your own new goal

Your training plans might not include Boston, or maybe the will was there, but the qualifier or time to train well was not.  Use the opportunity to consider what breakthrough you have been delaying and make some concrete plans toward getting past it.   Many have shown tremendous commitment and perseverance this year as they prepared for this particular race.  Let their stories inspire you to do something inspiring yourself!

 

Reflect, remember, and process

Running can often be our escape from the stresses of every day life. Depending on how close you were to the events of last April 15 or how shaken you were by the news, you may not have had the chance to be mindful of any grieving process you may have been going through, even if it feels a bit remote and true grieving is not the word you would use to describe how you processed your feelings about the tragedy.  Because we have some of the common experiences shared by those directly affected by the bombings, we would do well to make sure we haven’t glossed over any lingering doubts about future situations, talk it through with others equipped with helpful insight, and be conscious of our resolve to move forward confidently.

 

“Boston Strong” is a powerful phrase.  This week, consider how you can truly embody the spirit of the words and encourage others to do so with lasting, positive impact.

 

 



The pace run or track workout has concluded and the first tide of satisfaction washes over.  Although the “heavy lifting” of the workout may be in the rear view mirror, some of the most important work in your training schedule still may lie ahead.  We often focus on the pace runs and long runs, but the recovery between those hard days is what helps determine how well your body will adapt and be ready for the next challenge.  Take your recovery seriously.

Recovery doesn’t begin when you finally tuck into bed the night following your workout.  Recovery begins as you unwind your body from the hard work just accomplished minutes before.  Busy schedules may tempt us to skip a cool down jog, but it’s important to reserve some time for this last piece of your workout.  Even a couple easy laps after your last hard interval or pace run can help unwind your body and your mind.

The cool down provides an often crucial transition period for your body and mind as it goes from high intensity requirements to preparedness for the next activity of your day.  The cool down does not have a huge amount of science proving its necessity, but it’s important that you don’t stop completely and immediately after long, hard exercise,or take your heart rate from extremely high to extremely low in moments (this is why many marathons and half marathons automatically build in lengthy post-finish straightaways to walk and collect fuel).  Let your body temperature drop gradually instead of getting straight into the car sopping wet with sweat.  Giving yourself a moment to jog, roll, and stretch before getting into that same car can prepare your tired muscles for the commute and prevent the onset of post-workout tightness.  A week later, that post-workout tightness can resurface as IT band or low back tightness, from which it may be just a stone’s throw to an injury as workout loads increase.

Stretching has been discussed in the running media a great deal lately, with the once familiar pre and post-run routines now discarded as outdated and not a necessary precursor to injury prevention or better performance.  While we encourage dynamic exercise as a part of our Active Warm-up, we also encourage athletes to be knowledgeable about post-run foam (or other tool) rolling and stretching (even if you only have those precious few minutes). Even if you don’t practice both or each every single day, it is wise to keep those tools in your arsenal.  They help the body transition from the tension of the hard workout to post-run life. 

Another key aspect of recovery is rehydration and refueling.  If running longer than an hour, consuming about 1/3 of your calories burned per hour through sports drink or food can help ensure success.  Making sure to get at least that much food down the hatch in the first 15-30 minutes after working out (even if you don’t feel hungry), can make a significant difference in how quickly your body will begin to prepare itself for the next hard task.  Waiting 2 hours and then eating a huge meal or a pitcher of beer is an absolute no-no! This will delay your recovery and adaptation for your next workout.  Bring a snack and a low sugar sports drink to your workout and consume them when you are done.  You’ll take the edge off the hunger (and avoid a need for a ridiculously huge meal later).  You will feel stronger for the rest of the day and more importantly for your running, eliminate needless time where you body is hunting around for fuel sources in vain.

When you do get to hit the hay, an evening workout may leave you wide awake.  While this may be unavoidable, morning or midday runners should feel nice and tired when bedtime comes.  Resist the temptation to let a post-hard workout or race day act as a reward to not worry about sleep.  In fact, those nights are most crucial. This is your body’s time to repair and prepare for the running ahead. Do your level best to get good sleep the night after a hard day and give yourself the best chance possible for future success and injury free running.

Human nature, the demands of every day life, and other unpredictable aspects of modern living may intervene and prevent you from always executing a perfect recovery routine.  Do your best, try to chalk up small wins each day, and integrate good habits as much as you can.  Your body will respond with more good days, and hopefully your future successes will encourage you to continue treating yourself well post-run.



calendarLike the recipe of your favorite dish, your runcoach training plan combines many difference types of ingredients.  Each of these ingredients are important, even as some of them come in large quantities and some are just a pinch of salt on top of a mound of flour in the bowl.

 

Your runcoach pace chart provides a wide array of paces for various types of workouts prescribed on your individualized schedule,.  Your marathon, maintenance, 80% and half marathon paces are paces your body should be able to handle for long durations – paces at which your cardiovascular system can keep up with the oxygen demand of your muscles for extended periods of time.  Even though you may not be out of breath during this type of running, your muscles are building more extensive and efficient pathways for oxygen and energy delivery.  In addition, your mind is preparing for the lengthy race task ahead.  If you are using a heart rate monitor, this running is done somewhere in the range of 65-85% of your maximum.

 

While some “Pace Runs” on your schedule might be prescribed at slower paces, “threshold” running is designed to challenge you at a comfortably hard level.  This pace should be sustainable for a shorter period of time, say 20-25 minutes, but should not feel easy to continue much beyond that duration. It should also not feel hard after just a few minutes of running.  This area of pacing helps to challenge your body to become more efficient with handling a steadily accumulating blood lactate level (something you will have to do in races shorter than a half marathon).  Threshold workouts are ideally executed at about 88-92% of your maximum heart rate.

 

Crossing the “threshold” literally and figuratively, leads us to paces that can only be performed for shorter, more challenging periods of time.  Balancing intervals or repetitions with just enough rest or active recovery allows an athletes to spend a significant cumulative period of time at a quick pace and high heart rate, conditioning the body and mind to operate effectively and efficiently at that level of demand, which is ideally in the mid to high 90s of maximum heart rate percentage.  If one ran a series of 800m intervals at 4:00 with 90 seconds recovery, each successive interval would see the athlete’s heart rate shoot up more and more quickly within the 4:00, but ideally not so quickly that the athlete could not complete the interval at the prescribed pace.  This effect may result in the first couple intervals of a workout feeling slightly easier than anticipated, tempting the athlete to run faster than the prescribed paces.  While this may seem logical – to run harder initially and shoot the heart rate to the moon on the first interval – the workout is designed to create its effect by the end of the session.  What may seem like a comfortable pace on the first interval turns out to be a misguided assessment as the athlete slows down precipitously at the end or requires way more rest than assigned.

 

Some athletes may wonder why an 800m or 1500m pace might even be assigned to them as they train for a half or full marathon.  Although the bulk of an endurance race training schedule includes work preparing for the paces, energy efficiency, heart rate demand, and mental effort of the longer races, workouts prescribed with some quicker paces allow an athlete to work on running economy.  Workouts or even strides on your schedule at 800m or 1500m pace provide a valuable opportunity for athletes to challenge the fundamentals of their running stride, to teach their legs to have a bit more range of motion in the stride, to strengthen their feet to push off the ground more effectively, quickly, and with strength.  Although they may seem inconsequential in the larger picture, even small improvements in this area can result in large gains considering how many thousands of strides we take during the course of our general training.

 

While it is normal and natural to feel more at home with one type of workout over another, avoid the inclination to slough off the types of workouts that seem unfamiliar or not in your wheelhouse.  Each of the paces prescribed in your schedule has a purpose.  Commit to executing each workout with mindfulness and a sense of purpose.  This is your best chance of turning out a race day “dish” you’ll remember for years.



The Warm Up

March 26, 2014

lady_from_behind_warm_up

Your weekly schedule has just appeared in your email inbox and it is time to sit down to consider the week’s training tasks. What track workout or tempo run is planned?  When and where will that workout take place?

We know that the actual intervals of the workout will require our greatest expenditure of energy, so naturally we psych ourselves up for those.  Far less often do we consider the importance of the warm up.  This month, we will shed some light on this crucial aspect of your training and give the warm up its due.

Most workouts include varying amounts and variations on four very important aspects:  Easy running, LIGHT stretching, running drills, and strides.

Easy running

It is not uncommon for an easy warm-up jog to be described as a way to “get the blood flowing.”  Although that phrase is often uttered with a figurative meaning, the reality is, the easy jogging at the beginning of your warm up does exactly that.    Easy running provides a bridge for your body to move from a static situation (sleeping in bed, driving the car, watching TV), to a place where your core body temperature has been raised.  This prepares your muscles to accommodate increased blood flow, allows for more strenuous contractions as required by a hard workout, and starts the processes you’ll need to use your body’s stored energy effectively throughout the session.

Light stretching

The purpose of the warm up is to execute a string of activities that will conclude when your body is prepared to begin the hard work at hand.  Taking a timeout to stretch for 20 minutes will certainly disrupt the progression of that process.  However, taking a few moments to check in with the major muscle groups after (and only after) you have been able to light the fire with easy running can provide a helpful transition to the increasingly dynamic activities in the warm up routine.   Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, and iliotibial (IT) bands can be lightly stretched (finding a cozy position for 2x8-10 seconds without any strain or hint of pain) from a standing or supine position without taking more than 5-7 minutes away from the remainder of activities on tap.

Running drills

Running drills are exercises that mimic or closely resemble some of the types of repetitive demands harder running will make on your body.  The intention of running drills are to help ensure your body has been prepared to handle these, and to also reinforce the type of angles and form habits practiced by efficient runners.  Runcoach has outlined and created short videos for a basic canon of seven running drills.  Each drill is meant to be practiced for the distance indicated immediately after which the athlete should run with good form at 1500 meter pace effort for the balance of 100 meters.

Strides

Consider the last time you observed the start line of a competitive road race or track race.  Many times the athletes involved take complete repeated short running bouts of 30, 50, or even 100 meters just before the competition begins.  These final preparations are called strides. These strides listed on your warm up are most definitely related (as their lower-key cousin) to these pre race sprints.    A chance to concentrate on good form for 20-30 seconds and provide the body a few more sustained efforts that keep the body warm and prepared to work hard are the final touches on your warm up routine.  If you have ever done a workout with a short warm up and felt rusty on the first effort, only to find yourself feeling markedly better on the second bout, then you know firsthand the importance of strides.  Please see our video description of strides here.

While warm up is a crucial physical preparation process, it can also be an invaluable time to review the mental elements you’ll need to employ during the workout and distance yourself from the everyday cares that will be waiting when you return through your front door.  Let your warm up free you of the world’s gravity and transport you to the weightless state of focus on your workout.  Complete each step with care and you’ll find your workouts will benefit.



images

 

While the GDP takes its annual dip on the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament as thousands of otherwise productive individuals are glued to the television in defense of their bracket picks, let’s take a moment to consider the ways in which this annual rite of passage can mirror our own distance running and racing endeavors.

 

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it

When a team cuts down the nets and “One Shining Moment” plays into our living rooms three Mondays from now, one team will be mixing tears of joy and wide grins as they savor a moment they will likely remember for the rest of their lives.  Why?

 

One reason is that the NCAA tournament is extremely difficult to win.  An individual player likely has played for 12-15 years before they have the chance and likely endured plenty of hours in an empty gym after everyone else had gone home. A team ascends to the top of the ladder placed under the rim only if they have matched the consistency of a strong regular season, the good fortune to maintain relative health amongst their ranks, and a six game hot streak just at the right time.

 

Athletes running marathons and half marathons must have the same discipline as the college athlete who still shoots 100 free throws after practice and takes 500 jumpers per day.  When everyone else wants to run five miles and call it a day, we must have fortitude to tuck three gels into our pockets and set out for that 18 miler.  Many marathoners are the first person in their families to even attempt such a feat, and are adults who have yet to experience the high of serious athletic accomplishment.  While distance racing is growing in numbers, those numbers are still a mole hill compared to the mountain of others who would not choose to train for a marathon for the life of them.  Take pride in confidently choosing and navigating the road less traveled.

 

Never underestimate the unexpectedly effective opponent

In the NCAA tournament, occasionally a top seed is eliminated early on by a team that would likely have no chance of winning if the same game were played another 20 times.  However, on that one day, an underdog can assert itself and wreak havoc over the expected order of things.  Similarly, we run the risk of getting ambushed by last minute issues if we have not prepared for the very real possibility that things may not always be perfect, or have not conscientiously thought through all the easily knowable pitfalls.

 

With marathon and half marathon training and racing, there is a very real possibility that an athlete may temporarily not feel very good at all in a way that should have no bearing on the final outcome.  Most of our runcoach athletes take their running preparation seriously, but we also encourage runners to do research on their race to understand race day procedures, travel plans, fuel availability on the course, weather conditions.  Missing some pre-race instructions can derail the best laid plans.    Even if something goes wrong, if we have a solidly built foundation of training and keep a calm attitude, that mishap need not carry the day.  Picture yourself as the top seed which doesn’t get flustered when the low seed plays tough defense and has a scoring spurt midway through the second half.  Rely on your training, think logically, be patient for the issue to resolve itself, and “survive and advance” to the next stage of the race.

 

It takes a village

On the basketball court, even the most illustrious of individual players is no match for a strong, cohesive team.  In running, an individual race is the final product, but likely many cooks were in the kitchen, helping to prepare the athlete to do battle from the start line.  Running can be a very singular pursuit, but goal racing almost invites the crucial contributions from others.  Every basketball team needs speedy little point guards, medium sized small forwards, and tall, lumbering centers.  Marathon training often requires time (found often by others temporarily shouldering additional responsibilities), medical practitioners who give massages, provide support, and prescribe the occasional diagnostic test. Encouragement on that raining Saturday morning, with the longest run of the training cycle on tap, can be a difference maker allowing you to get through and recover from the toughest assignments.  Even the person who prepared your dinner (if you did not do it yourself), plays a part in keeping you healthy and on track with your recovery schedule.

 

Next year offers fresh opportunity

The basketball tournament has made several incremental changes through the years, while keeping the core experience somewhat similar every March.  If things don’t work perfectly one year, a team can return and make amends the following spring.  Similarly, a marathon or other goal race which did not go according to plan may need not be the end of the road.  Almost all marathons and half marathons are annual affairs as well, and the turn of seasons offers another chance to succeed where success has previously been difficult to attain.  Good coaches are always learning (just as we are from you every time you enter your run in your log), but successful athletes are often also resilient enough to stick with what seems like an intractable problem and take a second try to attain the runners’ version of “One Shining Moment”  - the finish line.

 



app_logo_croppedAt runcoach, we thrive on the data we receive from you – every workout logged, every piece of feedback received – all of it helps us further customize our training plans and help you reach peak performance.

 

We are thrilled that our new iPhone app has GPS functionality.  Our training plans can take you from wherever you are to wherever you are going along a completely unique and individual path.  Click on today’s date and press “Let’s Go,” and our app will guide you step by step through your scheduled workout and record the distance and path traveled via satellite.  If a run outside of what is schedule is required, just press the “Run” button on the top left corner, and our app can track you every step of the way.  Your prescribed workout, the pace and route you will actually run – even reminders about warm-up, drills, recovery jogs, and other details are right there for you.   While many running apps require unpacking your phone from your pocket, pouch, or belt to determine split times, ours even reads these details to you.  All the tools you need to execute and complete your workout are along for the ride in an easy to read and understand format.  When you finish, you can even share your success and progress with friends by posting your route and splits to Facebook in one click.

 

In short, we hope our app allows runcoach to be an even more vital and useful tool for your real time running and racing needs.   We will continue to hone our efforts to provide the absolute best mobile app products, including forthcoming functionality around editing workouts on a daily basis, integration with additional devices and an Android app.

 

We always appreciate hearing from our runcoach athletes, and as we launch the app, we would love to hear your feedback.  If you have downloaded the new app, please take a moment with our survey and let us know what you think!

Haven't tried the app yet?  Download it here



Need a bit of motivation?  We all have our moments where the light at the end of the tunnel seems a bit dim.  Take heart, and be encouraged by the words and sentiment of a few top athletes and coaches throughout history.

 

He’s not a runner, but he is undeniably one of the greatest….

 

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.

Michael Jordan

He probably never ran a marathon, but he motivated many….

 

The only time success comes before failure is in the dictionary.

Vince Lombardi

Famous for his gutsiness….

 

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Steve Prefontaine

Joy in the daily run, even when you are a two time Olympian….

 

That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success.  They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.

Kara Goucher

Believe in your dreams….

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.

Doug Larson

Have patience….

Good things come slow... especially in distance running.

Bill Dellinger

Mental toughness requires practice, even for a 3-time world Cross Country Champion…

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.

Lynn Jennings

How the first sub 4:00 miler felt about running…

We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves.

Sir Roger Bannister

And finally….

If it was easy, I’d do it!

Seen on a marathon spectator sign

 

 



imagesWhile we have many athletes who have been training with runcoach for years, we also love the constant influx of beginning runners or runners now tackling their first challenging goal race.  On the blog, we talk about all sorts of topics, but we also have an extensive archive of short pieces detailing some of the most fundamental aspects of running.  So, whether you could use a quick refresher, or have been anxious to ask these questions but too shy to reach out, here is a sample of some tips we believe can help you reach your full potential!

 






Tips for running hills

 

What to do with your arms while running

 

How to breathe while running

 

How to choose the right shoe

 

What is a taper and how do I do it well

 

The art of hydration

 

Avoiding the post-run bonk

 

The mechanics of the running stride

 

Beyond these few topics, there are dozens of articles on our blog covering everything under the sun.  We have Q&As about almost every imaginable ache and pain with experienced practitioners, interviews with professional and world class athletes, and even a few profile of fellow runcoach athletes like yourself.  Check it out!



images-1Watching the Olympics can be a humbling experience, seeing athletes fling themselves fearlessly up into the air or hurtle down a mountain at 80 miles an hour with their chins just an inch or two off the ice.  Unlike the summer games, where many more of the sports have recreational or youth access points which familiarize them to the average viewer, the winter games can seem a bit more exotic if not from an alpine region.   Even so, the first week and a half of the Sochi Games has featured a lot of narrative, which can teach each of us a bit about our own athletic pursuits.

 


US Speed Skating Uniform Drama Lesson I - Avoid Letting the Distraction Become the Focus

The US long track speed skating team is used to a regular quadrennial dose of medals, and with returning top athletes like Shani Davis in the fold, much was expected of the team this time out.  While Under Armour had spent millions of dollars supporting the team and developing what was seen to be the fastest skin suit ever, the initial sub-optimal performances teased out vocalized doubts about whether or not the suits were actually slowing the athletes down with the new technology, as they had not been used before the actual Olympic Games.  Media chatter has become louder, the team switched back to the old suits, and yet, the athletes still had a tough time.

 

As recreational runners, we can obsess about our outfits and our gear, but once the gun goes off and the competition is still ongoing, it is important to focus on the task at hand. If possible, avoid evaluating your performance and the causes of its perceived success or failure until it is actually over.  Doubt and questioning of the course of action and plan you have chosen may be merited, but it won’t do much besides distract you from committing the energy needed for the task at hand in the meantime.

 

US speed skating uniform drama Lesson II - Avoid Trying Something for the First Time on Your Goal Race Day.

Likewise, the speed skating federation wanted an extra advantage by bringing out the new suits just for the Olympics with no prior competition trials.  Similar to trying a brand new pair of shoes or a new pair of shorts on marathon race day without knowing if those shoes will give you blisters or those shorts will chafe is not the ideal course to take.  Race day is a time to eliminate question marks.  Try out everything you can beforehand so you have more knowns than unknowns while racing.  Thankfully for many of us, we don’t have other national federations trying to gain a split second advantage over us as we try to set our own personal best amongst tens of thousands of other runners, so no harm done in breaking out those new socks in your tune-up half or on a long run.  Plan ahead and stick to the plan!

 

Trackster to Bobsledder – Switch things up and extend your running “career”

Although not the first to make the transition, Lauryn Williams and LoLo Jones made headlines this winter as former summer Olympians whose explosiveness as track and field was also a valuable commodity in the bobsled event.  While Lolo Jones hasn’t retired from hurdling, a fall and a failure to medal in the last two Olympics likely had her seeking a way to direct her energy away from the frustrating missteps.  Lauryn Williams has announced her retirement from track following the 2013 season, but after being introduced to the idea by Jones, has ended up winning the silver medal as the pushing athlete for the top American bobsled driver.

 

Although we don’t run for a living, it is often an important part of our daily life.  We rely on it for stress relief, time with fellow runners, goal setting, and many other roles.  When injury or a descent from previous PRs comes upon us, it can be tempting to just give up and walk away.  Many runners find new pastures in trail races when road races become overly demanding on joints and muscles.  Team relays can allow athletes to participate in events without requiring the extent of some of the more demanding training that better days might have featured.  Incorporating regular cross training can help athletes extend their running careers with more recovery, and find success in duathlons or triathlons.  Helping others through mentoring youth, taking leadership roles in charity running organizations or other opportunities can also extend the running life with additional texture even as PRs no longer are quite the focus. Today, we are fortunate to have so many interesting and diverse running events available on a given weekend – consider challenging yourself with a new discipline and / or distance, and hopefully you can prolong the enjoyment running gives that much longer.

 

Figure Skating’s New Scoring System -  Add up the good things instead of deducting for mistakes

Back in the cold war-era days when skating was judged by how close one came to a perfect 6.0, every imperfection meant sure deductions from the elusive 6.  Now, skaters have a chance to earn points for their technical and artistic components on a level system that rewards for excellence rather than deducts for mistakes.  A small difference, for sure, but a huge one that also relates to how we might view our own running.  A perfect day is very rarely had.  More likely, we can have what we would describe as a “successful” day in a variety of situations which leave us feeling positive about the workout, run, or race as we finish.  Every so often, things come together brilliantly and we experience the once in a lifetime zone. But, if we focus on the many small things that are adding up to a successful day than the one or two things that might differentiate this day from an almost hypothetical perfect one, we will have many more positive memories to help us continue scaling the next mountain.

 



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