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nervousAt runcoach, we work with thousands of new runners taking aim at their very first half marathon or marathon.  Our goal is to provide you a training path toward success in all of your running endeavors, but as you get started, there are things to avoid, including the following …

 

Don’t change everything at once – make sustainable transitions

Many runners choose to start on the road to an ambitious goal because of a milestone, a health concern, or similar “wake-up call.”  These motivations are strong, but making wholesale amounts of huge changes to your life all at once can result in commitments that don’t stand the test of time.  Embrace the challenges and positive energy provided by the added training – we’ll make sure to give you a progressive plan. Piece by piece, examine the additional areas you want to take on with an incremental approach.

 

Take running advice with a grain of salt

Yes, this sounds strange to warn against taking a lot of advice by giving advice, but the truth is, the internet and magazine stand are chock full of tips on how to build speed, burn fat, eat well, shape your abs, shape your butt, stretch your pinky toe (or don’t stretch your pinky toe at all!) and everything else.  With so much advice out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed about what you should trust.  Many of these advice sources are good, but again, it is not a great idea to take one of absolutely every dish from the buffet.  Keep a file of interesting articles and advice, and over time begin to get a more detailed picture of the types of dietary, ancillary, and other changes might be most helpful to you, leaving aside the more tangential advice for future goal race campaigns.

 

Your five year-old fitness shoes may not be up for the task

Shoes degrade both by use and over time.  While the many different styles of shoes can require some shopping, it is worth making sure that your feet are comfortable and prepared to handle the growing length of your runs.  A pair of shoes that has served as your “running shoes” for many years of sporadic casual use is probably not going to be the best springboard for a healthy and successful goal race campaign.  Invest in some well-fitting running shoes and hopefully in doing so, gird yourself against many potential injury problems.

 

Running can help regulate sleep, but it also requires sleep!

Many new runners or others embarking on their first sustained exercise regimen report the regulative effect running can have on sleep habits.  However, the maintenance of a progressive training plan will require adequate rest.  Your body will need to be stressed in order to be prepared to handle a long race. It will need to recover in order to adapt and be prepared to be stressed again.  Prioritize sleep to get the most out of the work you are putting in.

 

Don’t pick a goal race more than a year or less than a couple months ahead

Picking a race to far into the future can decrease the level of your immediate commitment to the task, where as a goal too close can encourage going over the top and getting injured as you press on toward a goal you wish was a few weeks or months later.  3-6 months is a great sweet spot for a half marathon, with half a year to a year allowing a relaxed and thorough buildup for a goal marathon.  Successful campaigns can most definitely be had with varying timelines, but choosing a horizon that matches your need for a particularly paced buildup can greatly increase your chances for finishing successfully!

 



Part 2:  Running Through the Pandemic – Recovery from Injury

 

For the second installation of Running Through the Pandemic, I want to share my personal injury recovery from this year.

 

Tom_pelotonFirst off, injuries are no fun.  As I’ve discussed training, time trials, and social distanced running with you over the past 2 months, I realize that some of you are in the same boat as me = unable to run.

 

In normal times injuries leave us without our beloved “Runners’ High”, often time a lack of focus, sometimes weight gain, and a general ambivalence about our path forward. It feels like this is magnified 10x via our current disruptive work environment, home schooling and overall lack of socialization.

 

I began to experience chronic knee pain in January.  Unfortunately, this we not the typical tight quads and non-firing glutes.  On July 16th, I had a scope of the knee to remove some loose pieces and examination of the trochlea head.

 

Not surprisingly, my surgeon discovered evidence of all the 60,000 miles of running my knees have endured over the last 30 years.

 

My recovery has been slow.  I am near pain free walking but can’t do single leg squats which is one of the markers, my physical therapis Ky set as a prerequisite to running.

 

Frankly, this has left me unfocused in everyday tasks, less productive, generally ambivalent and somewhat rutter-less.

 

Sound familiar?

 

When I walked on at Penn State, my coach - the late, great Harry Groves, made this guarantee to me:  if you train hard – you will improve and eventually get injured.

 

Coach Groves passed in February with a tremendous legacy of instilling strong work ethic in young men and I’m often reminded of the lessons he taught.  He had a way of challenging us with lots of explicit-ridden acronyms such as “GOYFA”, where G = Get, O = Off, Y = Your and I’ll leave the F & A to your imagination.

 

With no running in the past 6 months and probably none until at least next year, I was forced to think of how I would move forward and get off my proverbial seat.  The real impetus for the start of Runcoach was that running has always been more than a sport or exercise for me.  When I’ve been stuck, running is the milieu for a path forward.

 

Almost always injuries are mitigated with physical therapy.  Often times it is not the therapy itself, but the psychosomatic benefits of doing something as opposed to nothing.  So, I continue to be religious with my PT.

 

After years of despising the bike and spin workouts, I’ve found a new, non-inflammatory love of the Peloton.  There’s just something about that leaderboard and those spunky instructors urging me along.  I’d love to follow you on Peloton and join you for a class and my user name is RuncoachTom.

Meanwhile, my former running partner, Lester (yellow lab) continues to need his exercise and at 8 years-old my knee injury is a Blessing for him.  We routinely log 15K steps/day and sometimes stretch to 20K+.

 

The combination of my PT, the Peloton, and walking Lester keeps me moving forward.  In these times, we need to find whatever we can to resiliently keep on.

 

I also am grateful for all the miles I was able to run and those still ahead.  It is funny how much one appreciates something routine after it is gone.

 

For all of you who have been on the sidelines like me either currently or historically, I encourage you to focus on what you can do today, and the potential of what tomorrow may bring.

 

As always, any movement leads to activity which becomes a path forward.

 

Coach Tom’s Top-5 List for Moving Through Injury in the Pandemic

1. Focus on your physical therapy, flexibility and strength work as there are multiple benefits
2. Draw strength from all the great coaches and motivators you’ve had along the way
3. Find a new activity that does not aggravate your injury
4. Be grateful for all the miles you’ve logged to date
5. Remain hopeful for what the future may bring



Jerric_blogJerric restarted his relationship with running after a 15-year hiatus. His return has been nothing short of remarkable. While juggling the demands of family, a career, and training, he recently set a 27 minute personal best while completing the NYRR NYC Virtual Marathon. Read about his "not so secret" tips for success!

Major milestone:

I started running around Christmas 2018 after 15 years! Then I completed by 1st marathon in Chicago in October 2019 (finish time 4:18). Just completedmy 2nd marathon the NYC (virtual) in October 2020, big personal best of 3:51

What is the secret to your success?

There really is no secret here - you must put in the time and work for training. But I also view my running time as my "me" time." I reflect on my day ahead, I catch-up on podcasts, I listen to audiobooks, I let my mind wander...

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and how do you get over it?

The biggest challenge is balancing running with family and career. There are days when I have an early meeting so I will wake up really early (4:30am) to get my run in. If it's important enough, you'll get it done.

What is the most rewarding part of training?

Nothing beats crossing the finish line. While overall health and wellness is the over-arching goal (and Runcoach shows how you are improving which is very encouraging), crossing a finish line is a tangible milestone on this journey. And thinking of all your family and friends who support you through the good times and bad as you cross that finish line is humbling.

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community?

Follow the schedule Runcoach gives you. If you stick with the schedule, you will hit your goals. Also, be honest with yourself. If you can only run three times a week, put that in your profile so your schedule reflects this and it's not a stressor.

Anything else you would like to share?

Runcoach has really been good at predicting race performance for me. I keep doubting I'll hit those times for a race but I've managed to. The app is great and has helped me reach my goals. My coach, Hiruni, is always there to keep me focused. And no big deal but she's an 11 time Sri Lanken national record holder :)

What feedback would you offer on the Runcoach experience?

Runcoach has been key in my running journey. The free version gives you a training program that is flexible and will adjust automatically for missed runs and multiple races. The paid version gives you 1:1 coaching (mine is super-friendly and helpful!) and allows for even more customized training schedules. I'm very happy with Runcoach!



It occurs to me that we spend a good deal of time with emphasis on the keys to our training approach:

  • >Pace
  • >Progression
  • >Recovery

However sometimes I see even the most organized, motivated runners miss out on some of the basics.  Everyone knows to wear sweats and bundle up in the winter months, but what about the kind of cold Fall presents.  It's tricky to dress for the 40 - 50*F (5-15*C) days.

As always I am most concerned that all you remain healthy.  Remember if you're healthy, you're aerobic economy can be continuously developed through stress, recovery and compensation/conditioning.

So here are a few basics for running attire in the 40-60 degree temperature range.  hiruni_fall_clothes

  1. Wear a long-sleeve shirt and short sleeve shirt or vest over. It's key to keep the core warm.
  2. Wear long tights or knee long tights for women. And tuck your shirt into the tights.
  3. Consider light gloves and a hat or earband.
  4. If it's windy, a light windbreaker is a must. 
  5. Avoid cotton clothes. As you sweat the clothes will drench in making you colder.

As you run you will feel warmer, that's your body's engine heating up. That's why I suggest dressing for how you will feel 20 minutes into the run then the first mile. If you are running long, bring a change or clothes of a warm sweatshirt to change into after you finish up. It's never fun to be sitting in your frozen sweat on the drive home. 

 



Written by Jennifer Van Allen
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne 

ashley perrott tri mediumOne of the most challenging parts of getting fit is staying healthy and injury free.  Dr. Ashley Perrott  is an Ironman finisher, busy mom, and family medicine physician at Novant Health Salem Family Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (See photo, left, of Ashley with her parents and brother). Dr. Perrott is answering some of the most-common questions our users have on staying on track. 

How do you know which aches and pains you can keep exercising through, and which ones should send you running to a doctor?

 

Muscle soreness can be expected for 1-2 days after a more intense workout or more intense week of training.  This soreness should improve daily.  Recovery with rest or light workouts after an intense workout can help muscle soreness and stiffness. Try a light massage or foam rolling. 

Muscle injuries lasts longer than 1-2 days. You may notice the inability to complete a light workout or even regular activity.  Rest will generally help this pain.  Any pain that gets worse with activity should prompt the athlete to reduce speed/intensity to avoid injury.  Muscle pain or weakness that persists despite rest is a reason to see your MD.

Joint or bone pain, swelling, or redness may represent more significant injury.  Certainly a specific episode of injury (rolling ankle, falling, tripping) that causes deformity should prompt an evaluation at the MD in some fashion.  

If your joint pain feels worse with pressure on that joint (expecially if your are just resting and can feel the pain) schedule a doctor appointment immediately. 

Reoccuring pains, these are aches and pains that show up like clock work should be addressed. Shin splits, IT band stiffness, runners knee, achilles tendonitis are all chronic pain that tend to simmer down and flare up as you increase activity. It's critical to address the root cause of these pains, perform corrective exercises, and break the pain cycle for good.


Have a question about staying healthy and injury free? Contact Us. 






Tips for Race Eve

October 04, 2020

check-list-mdThroughout your training, you likely have given a lot of thought about how you will handle the challenges of race day.  Another day worth giving a fair amount of consideration is the day before the big day.  Before it sneaks up on you, here are a few general tips for making sure your “Goal Race Eve” sets you up for success.

 

Get the your pre-race shakeout done before noon

Certainly, many athletes have been successful when their schedules require them to do whatever pre race shakeout walk or run they have planned later in the day.  However, doing these few miles earlier in the day will likely put you in a spot where you are exercising at the time of day you will be on race day, and give you the maximum amount of recovery.  While probably minimal in actual physical benefit, it can make a difference to an athlete looking to feel in rhythm.

 

Avoid walking around aimlessly at the expo

If possible, take care of your bib number pick up two days before, when the process will likely be less impacted by crowds and nerves. If you want to order an official race shirt for a family member or yourself, you can often do that online.  If that isn’t an option or the expo is only open the day before, be strategic.  Decide what, if anything you need (want) to purchase, and make deliberate progress to accomplish that efficiently.  A big race expo could keep an athlete busy for hours, with myriad vendors hawking various energy bars, drinks, clothing, and other gadgets.  There is a time for testing all these things, but hours on your feet and a bunch of weird stuff in your stomach the day before is not a winning formula.  Be mercenary.  Get in and get out.

 

Plan your morning checklist

Sometimes nerves can get the best of us in the lead up to a race.  Many athletes find comfort in knowing that they just have to check off a series of steps and can focus on the doing rather than worrying if they forgot anything.  Lay out your exact outfit and pin on your bib.  Have your breakfast food ready and a bag packed with extra long sleeves, cold weather gear, or whatever you need for a meteorological surprise.  Riding a train or parking where you need change or funds?  Have that ready so you aren’t standing in line for a fare card or digging through your car for change. Let the race be about the race, and not about these mundane details.

 

Stay in charge

When friends and family are just as pumped up about race day as you are, they unfortunately don’t have an outlet like you will.  This can lead to some over enthusiastic ideas, too much excited energy and chatter, and epic plans that may not have anything to do what is best for you.  Gently make clear that your itinerary the day before is your itinerary, and while you appreciate their love and support, on this particular day, you need to prioritize the race.

 

Eat early, and in moderation

A lot of thought is often put into a pre-race dinner, but one important one is how your body will deal with that dinner in the hours between dinner and the race.  Plan to eat a bit earlier than normal.  With many races on Sunday, Saturday night can mean a bit of a wait in a restaurant, etc, pushing you to a later time of day when you actually are chowing down.  Eat familiar foods that you know will sit well  - no risk taking.  Even if you are doing a marathon the next day, keep in mind that your body can’t suddenly process a huge amount of food in a short time.  What isn’t used, is discarded, which can be a distraction on race morning.

 

Hydrate early and not only with water

Hydration is a key part of your race day prep, and it is important to make sure you aren’t trying to accomplish it on the morning of the race.  Throughout the several days before the race, include enough water and sports drink (for electrolytes) that your urine is very light yellow.  You are in good shape if that last day before the race, you are able to carry around a bottle for the occasional sip and top off.



So, where do you see yourself on December 31, 2020? hi-5

In a time of chaos, limited social life, increased time spend at home, apparently more "free" time, have you taken the time for some self-reflection. As runners, we are conditioned to set goals based on upcoming races. Well, that's not a sure thing anymore.

Does that mean you shouldn't set goals in favor of not having your heart-broken time and time again? Absolutely not. There is still plenty to strive to accomplish, endorphins to collect, and lifestyle changes to make.


1. Revisit personal annual goals
You may have wanted to run a Boston Qualifier or finish your first ultra-marathon. With both of those events now cancelled, think about why you wanted to reach those goals. 
- Set a smaller goal. Think running a personal best in a one mile - 5K or completing your longest long run ever. Things you can control as an individual have a higher chance of success. 
- Was your audacious goal tied to hopes of weight loss, or a more consistent running routine? That can still get accomplished. Start by setting up your schedule to allow you to dedicate 20-30 minutes per day to exercise. Repeat this for a few weeks, and you're at the start of a routine!

Once you set and complete smaller goals, you are more likely to remain motivated to reach the big, long-term goals. Otherwise, losing motivation could make your goals seem unattainable and increase the chances of veering off course.

2. Attend to your mental and physical needs

Take this strange “down time” from always needing to be in tip-top shape to rebound physically and mentally.

Aches and pains should not be part of your everyday life. If there is an area in your body that’s troublesome, take the time to rest and heal. Then discuss a plan of attack, which includes specific exercises to strength the supporting muscles and tendon with your coach. Same goes for a mental refresh. Burn-out is extremely common among distance runners. Take some pressure off yourself.

Working toward big breakthrough require both physical and mental energy, so it is important that both aspects are attended to when making an appropriate goal for the next time around.  If emotions are high or you are unusually physically worn down, setting a goal will more difficult and irrational.

 

3. Take inventory about what you liked and disliked about your past races

Did you use to race for charity and find your cause to be a crucial motivator?  Did you enjoy (or not enjoy) any travel involved to get to your race site?  Were you enthused by the crowds or did you enjoy the solitude of a less populated and more scenic race route?  Pick the top three enjoyable aspects of your race experience as well as the three aspects that were most problematic to help narrow down what types of races/ goals will suit your preferences.

Once you have a list and your motivators and dislikes, let’s get to work setting up the next challenge.

 

4. Use the resources at your disposal

This is especially key when we consider the change of seasons. If you live in a region where the winters are particularly cold or the summers particularly hot, or if you have become accustomed to doing long runs or challenging workouts during hours that can go from light to dark depending on the season, keep these in mind when selecting your next goal.

If it’s difficult to spend a great deal of time outside, then select a goal that’s short and fast, so your efforts can be concentrated appropriately. Remember, improving your speed is a valuable tool for any runner.



notesTraining hard for your big fall goal race is the most important things you can do to increase the odds of success on your big day.  Putting in the work may not mean that a challenge or two may yet await when you finally pin on your bib number.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing to greet the morning with a resilient mind.

 

Create quantitative and qualitative goals

Your primary goal may be to finish, or to hit a certain time, and that may be the guiding light in your training thus far.  However, consider all that you have learned or are learning about yourself along this journey. Having goals that take into consideration this gained knowledge and experience, as well as the memorable nature of the accomplishment can be important in case the primary goal appears far off or doubtful during a rough part of the race.  Intermediary time goals, goals to keep a certain attitude or pace through various distance markers, goals to consume certain amounts of fuel or fluid at certain times, even goals to promise to smile and enjoy the last few miles or to take a selfie at the finish line can occupy your brain and keep you on track to your ultimate quantitative goal.

 

Break down the race into smaller pieces

A half marathon or marathon can seem quite daunting when considering the full length.  If intimidated or feeling nervous, concentrate on one part of the race at a time.  Focus on making it through each 5K or 10K, to the top of the hill ahead, the tree around the bend, or even just to the next mile post.  Building a pile of small “wins” along the way can build a growing confidence that will form a crashing wave of certainty once the finish line is closer than the start.

 

Plan your focus for when a rough patch occurs

Rough patches are common for almost all marathoners and half marathoners.  These periods might mean a mile or a few where the progress seems much more hard fought than anticipated.  Oftentimes, these patches dissipate and a second wind of confidence follows. Experienced racers can look back and use previous experiences to remind them of the temporary nature of the difficult stretch, but first timers must also be armed with a quiver of motivation when the going seems unexpectedly difficult for a time.  Perhaps you had a personal motivation for starting your training, a charitable goal, a family member to which you’d like to pay tribute with a great effort, or other talismanic aspect that served as a catalyst for this entire endeavor.  Plan to remember your primary motivation and the reasons why you embarked from the starting line, and even remind yourself with a piece of clothing, or even a note written on your hand or arm.

 

Wear your heart on your sleeve (or better yet, your name on your chest)!

Spectators love to have something to yell besides “Yay!”  “Go!” and “Great job!”  Savvy racers looking for a bit of encouragement label themselves to give the crowd something to shout.  Even if they aren’t truly your personal cheering section, an enthusiastic spectator yelling for you individually can be an irresistible attraction to carry on.

 

Station your supporters at strategic points on the course

If you do have the luxury of a bit of a cheering section, consider where you will likely have a tougher time.  Certainly between miles 18 and 22, vocal support can help temporarily delay or distract you from the final challenge of a marathon’s last few miles.  Knowing where you will see family and friends can also provide the intermediate goals mentioned above, as well as the visual representation of the motivation you need to be strong and maximize the benefits of the training you have done all these weeks.  Some racers are fine as solo competitors, but oftentimes the trip to the starting line has taken a bit of a village of support.  Enjoying that village’s encouragement along the way can help make the far side of the finish line even that much sweeter.

 



tom_blog_3What a crazy year this has been.  We’ve gone through a pandemic of the century, lost loved ones, observed the pain & suffering of so many, and seen our running industry turned upside down.


I’ve read countless inspirational stories from many across the U.S. and around the world.  As I’m hopeful that we may be through the worst, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my experience of the last six months with our wonderful Runcoach customers and anyone else that might find my perspective helpful.


This is a bit selfishly cathartic for me but I’m hopeful my experience and some advice may be beneficial.


This will be a 6-Part Series with the following topics:


  1. Running with Bad Air Quality

  2. Recovery from Injury (My Knee Surgery)

  3. Alternatives to Running with Current Restrictions

  4. Some Perspective on Black, Indigeneous and People of Color from a Running Lense

  5. Running After Coronavirus Symptoms

  6. Our Path Forward to Road Races & What We Can Do Now



Running with Bad Air Quality

Many of us in the northwest part of the country and now with extensions to the midwest, have experienced extremely poor air quality from the tragic fires in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.


As runners, we always want to push through adverse conditions. I haven’t been running (more to come on that topic) and I’m acutely aware of the detriments of inactivity.  However I believe that poor air quality has long-term bad effects.  So what can we run in and what can’t we?


Here are my thoughts:


  1. AQI readings above 100 are a non-starter - please find alternatives (see below)

  2. AQI readings in the 80-100 range may have an effect and should be considered with caution

  3. AQ below 80 is probably safe but you should still listen to your personal biometric feedback in this range


Personal biometric feedback is your breathing within and after a run.  There is a difference between wheezing and heavy breathing.  Think of wheezing as strained breaths where you can feel it down deep in the lungs. You will feel wheezing from asthma and unhealthy air during and after your run.  We don’t want to run through wheezing as the lungs are remodeling to transport necessary oxygen and some tissue could be dying.


On the other hand, heavy breathing is normal and we experience this through heavy exertion.  A great marker to distinguish between the two is how you feel after a run.  You should not have labored breathing or any wheezing within an hour of workout completion.


Here are my favorite sites/apps to check the air quality.


  1. Purple Air - this site uses a community of personal air sensors at residences and businesses to provide a view of your area’s AQI

  2. AirVisual - this is an app available for iPhone and Android users;  it uses 10,000 locations to evaluate, predict, and report on current and future air quality


So what to do if the air quality is poor?


  1. Wear a mask?

    1. I’ve been walking in an N-95 mask which seems to keep out many particulates; there are many varieties to choose from

    2. I haven’t experienced the new Under Armour sports mask but heard it is comfortable for runners

  2. Run on a treadmill if possible

  3. Consider an alternative workout indoors such as the Peloton (more on this in an upcoming post), Elliptical, pool for swimming or deep water running, or any of the HIIT or other at-home workouts with a cardio focus

  4. Adjust your plan - ask your coach or look at the forecast and pick a better day to run


The bad air quality won’t be here forever.  In these times, it is important to remember those who have lost lives, homes, pets and much worse in the fires.  Still the loss of your workout is personal and not to be diminished.  I like to think of how much I appreciate running in these times and the hope that I will have the opportunity to run in clean air soon.



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