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Personal Best - October 2011

Race Weekend Tips for Friends and Family

Every athlete must marshal the vast majority of effort needed to accomplish a big goal race.  However, many runners and walkers who embark on an ambitious training season must rely also on the help and support of family and friends.  Whether providing rides, fluid support, space in the family calendar, or just emotional support, oftentimes these individual can be difference makers, especially since they are often the motivation for the individual to keep trucking when things get tough on race day.

 

While athletes get a great deal of advice and tips on how to manage their training and race, friends and family can be left empty handed when wondering how best to support their runner or walker.

 

Here’s a road map for every support person or team to take into consideration (since we wrote it – you don’t have to feel selfish about handing it out)!

 

Designate a czar of logistics

One common situation is that the decision for a large group of friends and family to come to the race creates additional stress for the athlete.  Everyone definitely means well, but numerous calls to ask about where to stay, when they can visit with the athlete, where they should watch on the course, and so forth, can increase the perceived pressure when nervousness may already exist.  Designate a family member who will serve as the traffic cop for this type of planning, someone who will coordinate flights and airport trips, hotel stays, dinner reservations, and various rendezvous with all those who wish to be included.  This person should be well versed in the details available on the race website for the course, the expo, and the post-race reunion area.  If a new person pops up who wants to support the athlete, the athlete can then confidently connect them with the logistics czar, who can walk them through the plans already in place.

 

Consider the Athlete

It is not uncommon for friends and family contingents to begin to build a life of their own as race day approaches.  Interest in various sight seeing expeditions, brunch or dinner locations, matching t-shirts, expo shopping trips, and more ideas may continue to grow and expand.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans that don’t include the athlete, respecting the runner’s need for rest and calm before (and rest and recovery after) the race.  However, keep in mind the race that your runner has trained for and the needs they have in final preparation.  For example, if everyone wants to eat dinner at 9pm at an exotic restaurant, but the athlete expresses a desire to eat simple pasta at 5pm and go to bed early, consider compromises and alternatives (such as having one person from the group have dinner early with the athlete).  Race weekend isn’t a democracy; it is a narrowly focused time period with one specific and very demanding aim..  Be proactive, and ensure the physical and psychological needs of the competitor are paramount.

 

 

Determine a simple post-race plan, including a fall back plan if things haven’t gone well

At smaller races, athletes are easy to connect with after they finish.  However, at many large races, the post-finish process can be very crowded, and may take some time.  Cell phones have been left at home, at the hotel, or in the race baggage, so old-fashioned methods of communication must be relied upon.   Races often offer reunion areas, but it may make sense to pick an alternate landmark or process to find each other as the reunion areas may be clogged.  Friends and family need to be patient with post-race logistics.  Oftentimes races require a lengthy cool down area, and the competitor may not feel especially perky after running a 10, 13 or 26-mile race. If more than one person is racing, they may also want to greet each other within the finish area before heading out.  Determine a plan for reunion if things go as planned, and an option if things do not.  The runner should have a plan if forced to withdraw mid-race (read the race materials), and the czar of logistics should be well versed in this process as well.  The same goes for brunch, lunch, dinner or whatever is the first item of business after the race.  Consider that the athlete may not be in a position to eat a large meal, walk a long distance, or sit in the car for an hour.  Try to plan accordingly and be prepared to be flexible.

 

Marshal the energy of the support group into loud and visible demonstrations of support

Make a plan to provide an inspirational boost to the competitor or competitors in the race.  Large signs, strategic course placement, and clear visibility can be a huge boost, but require an organized plan to account for pacing and transportation variability.  Don’t miss out!  Think through how the group will get from point to point and how the problems that might occur can be addressed.  HOWEVER, again also consider the athlete’s needs.  Should they prefer a lower-key approach, respect their wishes and support as requested.  It is their day!

 

Race weekend can be an intense, but significant and memorable weekend on many levels.  Everyone involved wants to provide support, but the greatest energy must be saved for the actual task itself.  Keep that focus in mind at all times, and hopefully your athlete can look forward to a happy and unified reunion when the finisher’s medal has been finally placed around their neck.



The Taper

August 30, 2011

beach_running

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.

 

You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.

 

The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.

 

Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.

 

As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.

 

Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.

 

Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.

 



You're in the race - now what?

When we choose a goal race, we are often preoccupied with the deliberation leading up to the final clicks on the screen.    When the rush of the final commitment wears off, we are left with the training to be done – which of course is where we come in!

Certainly, the start of your program is the most important thing. However, it also makes sense to begin planning travel as soon as possible, to ensure your race weekend experience is all that you hoped for.   Here are a few tips to optimize your goal race travel.

Read the race participant info early...and often

Most big races require number pick-up at a participant expo the day or two before the event.  Some races may also have a fairly complicated process set up for start area arrival and finish line departure.   Race directors know thousands of people need to get in and out and have thought through how best to get everyone where they need to be.

Before you set up any travel plans, make sure that you have a good sense of the logistical tasks required of you by the race.  The flight that arrives at 5pm may be the least expensive, but you may be out of luck if the expo closes at 6 and your flight is delayed.  Even if you are local, securing a ride or a forming a carpool to the start and away from the finish can make the difference between a successful day and one that turns south when you are rushed and hurried, or forced to stay outside in the cold while waiting for a ride.

Even if you review race day details upon initial registration, it makes sense to return periodically to ensure you have not missed any updates.  If the race’s plans have been forced to change by unanticipated construction, a different level of participation than originally expected, or any other reason, you will want to make sure you have plenty of time to make your own adjustments.

Check out the race-sponsored travel options, but don’t limit yourself to those.

Many races partner with local hotels and even some airlines to provide options for participants.  These may very well offer the best prices for places to stay within walking distance to the start or finish.  As such, they should be checked first as they often sell out early.  Before you act on a pre-pay option, however, consider hotel reservations with a closer cancellation date in case of injury or change of plans.  Also consider other ways to stay in favorable locations relative to the race.  If you are early enough, travel websites that offer flight / hotel options in combination may provide value as those negotiated prices might have been made before the race blocks were established.   Vacation rental sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com may offer houses or condos for rent at reasonable rates, particularly if you bring the family along for the big day.  Finally, never underestimate the power of a call directly to an onsite reservations agent or even the front desk of a small hotel.

Consider your regular pre-race routine and sketch a travel scenario that will allow for as much familiarity as possible.

Do you prefer to eat dinner at a certain time?  Do you try and head to bed at a certain time?  Do you prefer a certain type of food in the evening or morning before the race? Take these preferences into account when you make your initial travel plans.  How long might it take to get to and from the expo?  Where will you likely eat and how close is it from your hotel?  If you want coffee in the morning, where will you get it and are they open at that hour?

For these reasons and others, it often makes sense to arrive two days before your race so you have a day to take care of whatever you need to do without being rushed for time.  Similarly, if time and finances allow, you may be well served to depart the day after your race instead of that same afternoon.  You never know quite how you will feel or how long it might take to exit the finish area, and no one should be rushed after a terrific race effort.

If you need to make a choice between staying near the start or the finish of a marathon, by all means, stay by the finish.

Unless the start of your race is extremely early or in an obscure location, definitely err on the side of staying by the finish.  You can always get up 10 or 15 minutes earlier to get to the start with all your energy intact, but anyone who finishes a marathon will be glad that a hotel room is close by.  Very glad.

If planning a general vacation in concert with a goal race, plan to race at the start of the trip whenever possible.

Many people combine travel to a new destination with an opportunity to complete an exciting goal race.  If you do so, consider how much more you will be able to enjoy your surroundings without the concerns of a race over your head during the “fun” part of the trip.  You’ll want the freedom to walk without worry of fatigue in your legs, the freedom to eat adventurously and the flexibility to have a schedule that doesn’t demand eight hours of sleep. Yes, distant travel may require a couple days to adjust to a new time zone before the race.  However, it is always best to celebrate the completion of your goal with the bulk of your vacation after the race.

 

 



Halls_croppedTony and Priscilla Hall

July Runners of the Month 

Tony and Priscilla Hall are two University of Texas grads still living in Austin.   Priscilla grew up in Dallas, while Tony has lived in the Austin area his whole life.

 

The Halls have been married for 2 and a half years, after meeting at a triathlon in 2004. Priscilla is a Physical Therapist, and Tony is an software engineer at a startup called UndercoverTourist.com.  As they train for this month’s Vineman Half Ironman Triathlon and the Beach to Battleship full Ironman this fall, Priscilla reports that the two “just enjoy being active together, and luckily the PT background allows us to at least try to stay injury free or catch them early.”  Also sharing the Hall residence is a dog called Pork Chop.

MC: How did you start running?

PH: I was always active, playing team sports, so when I went to PT school, I needed something to do to workout without needing a team.  I started to run, but it was never more than three miles.  I thought it was a big deal, but when I graduated I got something in the mail -  run a marathon in Hawaii.  I had no idea what I was doing, but finished the race.  I did everything wrong, but got addicted.  So, I started doing that instead of team sports.

 

TH:  I played on the basketball team in high school.  Our coach required us to do cross country, although that wasn’t really supposed to be a requirement.  I was always a challenge seeker, which led me to the Marine Corps, which led me to marathons and triathlons.    The day after high school graduation, I went to boot camp -  infantry reserves for 6 years during college.

MC: Who is your running role model?

PH:   That’s a tough question for me.  I am in a running group I run with on Tuesday, and there are so many runners with good outlooks…the runners of Texas Iron, they are a great group of athletes that I have really enjoyed running with.

 

TH: I honestly I have never been strong doing the running. Now I am getting as strong as I ever have been, and it is mostly because of my wife.  She is my running role model for sure.

 

MC: What has been your most memorable running / racing experience?

PH:    Honestly, I would have to say the February race in New Orleans [2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon].  I totally surpassed my goals. My PR was 3:45 and the old Boston requirements were 3:40. I had time goals on my arms, but I was trying not to pay too much attention to them. I ran 3:31. It was pure happiness, not because I qualified but because I didn’t think I could do that.

 

TH:  Probably most recently. I have never been as consistently trained as I have been recently. We were on a vacation visiting my brother-in-law and nephews in New York.  Priscilla, as diehard as she is is, is always looking for a race.  She found the Super Hero Half Marathon.  We didn’t taper at all, just figured we were going to do that as a part of training.   My goal was 2:05.  I finished the first loop in 1:01, and said, “Let’s see what I can do!” I ran the second loop in 54 minutes.

 

 

MC: What have you enjoyed about working with Focus-N-Fly?

PH:  I really enjoy the track workouts.  Surprisingly, I may not say it while I am doing it, but before when I was doing a track workout, it would just tell me the workout. This [FNF] tells me the paces and exactly what to do.  I like that sometimes it is more like a fartlek workout, sometimes shorter distances like 200s.  It is a bit like a surprise every time.

 

TH: I have never run to a proper schedule before, so I just like doing it and getting after it.

 

MC: What is one part of your racing routine you can’t do without (sleep, pre race meal, tie shoes certain way, other ritual)?

PH:  I am a very superstitious person.  My favorite color is green and I have this one pair of green underwear I wear on every marathon or long race.

 

TH:  Do you really?  I don’t even know this!

 

PH:  I do equate certain outfits with bad or good days, so if I have a bad race, I won’t wear that outfit again for a race.  I also add up the numbers on my race numbers and see if it is a good number or a bad number and try to beat the odds if it is a bad number.  I also need to have at least one good run in my race outfit beforehand.

 

TH:  If she gets a bad number, then her mindset is a overcoming, but if it is a good number, then she sees herself as being expected to do well.

 

MC: What is your favorite place to go for a run?

TH:  Probably the hike and bike trail at Lady Bird Lake.

 

PH:   Probably the same thing.  I do run in my neighborhood a lot, but that is just because it is convenient.

 

MC: In the next year, what goals do you hope to accomplish?

PH: I hope to get into Boston and run the Boston Marathon, and if I don’t, that is the way it is, but at least I know I qualified.  If we do another Ironman, then I’d like to do a sub four for the Ironman run.  My last ironman was in Austria last summer.

 

TH:  Next year, I hope to complete an Ironman and I hope in the course of that, actually run a marathon.

 

 

 



Heat







Runners often love to keep a routine.  In fact, many of us are downright stubborn.  Most of the time, like the last few miles of a marathon, this is an asset.  However, in the warmer months, the conditions may dictate the need to make some adjustments in order to keep your training on track for your fall goal race.   Sometimes, being willing to adjust can help you make the best of an admittedly less than perfect set of conditions, and provide a great opportunity to learn that you can succeed even if you have to deviate from your plan just a bit. 

In this episode of Personal Best, we examine a few quick tips encouraging you to adjust your training for the hottest time of the year.


Be prepared to consider running at other times of day

Perhaps you squeeze in your run at your lunchbreak or at the middle of the day.  Although that may usually provide your best time to run, consider planning ahead, at least on your harder days, to run in the early morning or evening.  Yes, there are benefits to training in the middle of the day to late afternoon vs early in the morning, but the amount of performance benefit lost by training in 95 degrees with 90% humidity is far greater than the impact made by training in the early morning before the sun is overhead or in the evening when it goes down.  Plus, this is also the exact time of year when many runners are beginning to take on new training challenges related to their fall goal races and are vulnerable to a bad day or two if the conditions are not conducive to a strong performance.  If your work/ family schedule doesn't allow this temporary change on a regular basis in the summer, look ahead on your schedule to a few of the most rigorous workouts and do everything you can to protect a favorable time of day in which to complete those at least.

If you can't switch the time of day from when the sun is directly overhead, you can also.....

 

Be prepared to consider running in different venues

Yes, your workout sheet may say "Track," but oftentimes the temperature of a track surface can be several degrees warmer than the surrounding areas.  Use your car odometer or handheld GPS to measure out your track distances on a bikepath or safe road, preferably one that offers a stretch with a bit of shade.  Yes, the surface may be a bit less perfectly flat and reliable than the track, but you will ultimately feel better the closer you can come to a reasonable temperature in which to complete the workout.   Run along a street with more intersections (being careful and paying attention to traffic) that offers shade.  Run the same short loop twice where you might otherwise do it as part of a longer loop that includes much more exposure.  Do what you need to do to accomplish your workout, and allow yourself to be able to recover and come back well the next day.  Come race day this fall, you'll be glad you made a less scenic, but safer choice.

Many gyms will offer trial memberships, or reasonable prices for a month or two in the summer.  Take advantage of these and get on a treadmill.  Some runners are diehard outdoor runners.  However, consider how pleased you will be to run at the right pace, particularly with the luxuries of a waterbottle and towel that you do not have to hold yourself, potentially a TV to watch your favorite team play, etc.  You're not a wimp if you go inside to run on a treadmill!  You are an athlete that is prioritizing your performance and wants to feel good doing it.

 

Plan your running around fluid intake

Many of you know to hydrate, before, during, and after longer runs.  We discussed that topic a few months ago here.  However, there is no time of year where it is more important than the summer.  Before you head out on your normal route and in addition to your normal plans, which may include bringing along a water bottle or camelback, consider adjusting slightly as needed to incorporate parks with water fountains, and vendors or convenience stores that won't mind you buying a quick bottle of sports drink with sweaty dollars pulled from your shorts pocket, etc.  During these months, you will need significantly more fluids than normal, and because you should be in the habit of taking them before you are really parched, you are going to need to plan for a larger amount of intake and at more spots along the way.  In addition to drinking, plan to splash water on your head and neck, and other key cooling areas like the back of your wrists and knees.  Don't get caught out! Finish strong because you have been hydrating the whole time.

 

Wear light colored, breathable fabrics

Although another simple step, it bears reminding that lighter colors absorb less heat, and breathable fabrics will help keep you, if not cooler, then less hot and sweaty.  A hat or visor and sunscreen are key also both to avoiding the immediate problems posed by a sunburn as well as long term problems.  Stay consistent!  Plan ahead for the day.  Bring bodyglide and/ or an extra pair of socks if your sweaty feet tend to cause blisters or too much slipping, and a shirt for afterwards so you aren't sitting in your car dripping and sweating.  It is amazing how much better you will feel if you take care to attend to your attire.

Generally, we think of winter as the harshest season.  Often, summer actually provides the greater challenge because we tend to forget how severely the temperatures can affect us.  In addition to the above, it is important to note that all these steps are important both for your training as well as to avoid heat stroke and non-running related serious heat/ sun ramifications.  Take pride in your training, but not so much that you are not willing to adjust and be flexible if the conditions are unsafe.  If in doubt about a choice you are making to go ahead with a workout, and you don't have a trusted fellow runner to discuss it with, contact us at help@runcoach.com!



large-running-race-start-line

Many of us set running goals that culminate in a large race event with thousands of people.  Even if you are not completing your goal race at the ING New York City Marathon (more than 45,000 starters) or the Zazzle Bay to Breakers (more than 50,000 starters in 2011), your race day experience will likely not resemble your typical “roll out of bed and head out the door” long run.  How do you manage to find your normal, confident, well-trained self in the midst of a completely abnormal situation?  Try these tricks for race day success.

Weeks or at least days before your race, take advantage of all the available information on the race website.  If your race requires transportation to the start or transportation from the finish, examine your options and discuss the best choices with any friends or family members meeting you.  Closely examine the course map, particularly if the race offers an elevation chart.  Knowing exactly when you can expect hills, and how often hydration, gel, porta potties, and other key items are offered can help ease your stress by eliminating some of the unknowns of a big race.

If you have a web confirmation of your entry, double check you have the correct corral or wave start time, and exactly what tasks you will need to accomplish at the expo (shoe chip confirmation, etc).  One of the key reasons to do this well before you race is to be able to contact the race organization in a relaxed way if you have any questions or discover any discrepancies.  Usually, the organization is scrambling on race weekend and is off site at the expo so get on it early.

One key way in which many large races will differ from your typical workout is the length of time you will be required to stand at the start and the amount of walking you may be required to do to get to the starting area.  Again, read through the race materials well in advance and have a sense of what this will entail.  If it worries you, remember that everyone who is racing will also go through the same process, and that all the racers in prior years made it the same way.

To help condition yourself for this and to remind yourself that you will be ok, practice by walking a half mile or a mile before starting a few of your long runs, and then walking that same distance home when you are done.  Plan to wear a last layer of clothing that you would be ok with discarding (pick from your Goodwill/ Salvation Army pile at home).  This will leave you with a bit more warmth in the wait at the start, and less of a dilemma than if you had worn your favorite and most expensive outerwear to the line.  A $3 plastic parka or a trash bag with head and arm holes punched through can also provide a cheap alternative to hold in a bit of warmth.  $1 drug store knit gloves (or multiple layers of the same) can also be handy.

Even the most experienced racers have the butterflies on race day.  Sometimes this means extra trips to the restroom, particularly if you are well-hydrated.  The amount of facilities available at a particular race can vary widely, and it is likely you will need to wait in line, sometimes for quite a while.  In addition to being very deliberate about using the facilities at the last comfortable and private location you will have before you head out, consider going right when you arrive at the staging area.  If there is a line, you will have allowed yourself time afterwards to grab a drink or sit and relax a bit, and you won’t be as stressed as if you have left it to the last minute and are now faced with a full bladder, a huge line, and 10 minutes until you need to be at the start.  A travel pack of baby wipes or Kleenex (accompanied by a small bottle of Purell) in your gear bag can also be invaluable in case improvisational measures are required, or if race management hasn’t managed to keep pace with the usage of toilet paper in the facilities available.

Finally, all of the machinations required to get tens of thousands of people in place to start a huge race require several hours of organizing the people involved.  You may need to leave hours before your race and rise at a very early hour.   It is worthwhile taking at least a time or two to get up earlier than normal before your run in the weeks leading up to the race to prepare yourself for what that will feel like on the big day.  It is difficult to suddenly go to sleep at 8pm on the night before, so don’t expect yourself to be able to get a perfect and luxurious night of sleep from an artificially early hour.  Instead, just do your best to have an evenly paced evening so your food is digested, your stress levels are low, and your body can wind down as quickly as it naturally can.

Many experienced athletes have different strategies for managing the above challenges.  2012 Olympic Marathon Trials Fourth Place finisher and our May 2011 Pro’s Perspective interviewee, Amy Hastings, reported that she plans by making Post-It note lists of all the things she will need to do on race morning between waking and beginning the race.  Others may have great ideas – if a particular issue continues to trouble you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your fellow runners or to us (write us on the Forum or tweet us at @focusnfly).  We’re athletes ourselves and have been there.  Now that you have done the hard work of training, we’d love to help you enjoy and excel on race day!




 

baby_plank_croppedTypically in this column, we look at a simple component of the running experience and attempt to help you be aware of how to maximize or at least benefit from the proper implementation of that component.  This month, we are talking about a muscle with a fancy name, but the concept is just as simple and important as topics like arm swing and hydration.

 

The transverse abdominis (TVA) is one of the innermost layers of flat abdomen muscle.  The name refers to the horizontal direction of its fibers, but the muscle stretches from the bottom six ribs down to the iliac crest, or pelvic region, helping to stabilize both regions.  The TVA also connects to the diaphragm, assisting with inhalation.  If anyone has ever encouraged you to “tighten your core” they most likely were encouraging you to regain posture that the TVA helps to provide.

As it is such a deep muscle within the body, the TVA can many times go unaddressed, even when we are making a concerted effort to do “abs” or core exercises. However as a long, strong, and deep muscle connected to many of the parts of the body that drive running performance, we want to provide some tips for how to activate and strengthen this part of the body.  As this month’s Pro’s Perspective featured athlete David Torrence attests – it really can help!

The Chek Institute of Vista, California provides a simple exercise with 4 steps for making yourself aware of the TVA and beginning the process of activating it.

1.     Kneel on the floor on hands and knees and let the contents of your midsection rest against the abdominal wall.

2.     Keeping your spine flat and straight, take a deep breath from your diaphragm.

3.     Exhale, drawing your belly button toward your spine by actively trying to use the bands of muscle connecting your ribs and your pelvis.  Do not flex the spine or rotate your pelvis area.

4.     Hold your belly button to your spine for ten seconds.  Relax for ten seconds and repeat the process several times.

Once you are aware of and comfortable activating your TVA, one simple exercise to begin with is the plank.

Plank exercises can be done in many different variations and difficulties, but to get started, lets begin with the simplest version.  Get yourself into a lifted push-up position.  Your back should be flat – one long line from your shoulders to your heels.  Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and your arms can be either straight with your palms on the ground, or bent, resting on your elbows/ forearms.   Your head should be neutral – just extending from your neck, not tilted specifically up or down.

Concentrate on engaging your TVA muscles much as you did in the previous exercise (pull your belly button toward your spine), while you simply hold this position for 20, 30, or even 60 seconds.   When you feel comfortable with this exercise, able to do 2 or 3 times at 30-60 seconds, you could try going from resting on your forearms to your palms with arms fully extended or lifting one foot off the ground at a time slowly, making sure to maintain the same weight distribution as much as possible.

When you have built confidence with these or similar exercises, you will find that activating this muscle is an important component of our Whole Body Strengthening routine. It is particularly important in these exercises: Left & Right side planks, partner punishment, and pointers.   

As David Torrence suggests, don’t let your core “crumple” at the end of your next race.  Get to know your transverse abdominis and prepare to finish strong!

 



Pumping Iron In Your Diet

Written by Dena Evans February 28, 2011

 

 

romanticlifestyleironrich3Not much frustrates a runner more than putting in a ton of work in training only to find oneself unable to produce the desired result.    Many of us fear this scenario in connection to a potential injury, but another crucial area in which we may fail to give ourselves the best shot is with our diet and nutritional habits.

 

There are many factors involved in formulating a solid diet and nutrition plan that will power you to your next running goal.  In previous columns, we have touched on the importance of hydration and race weekend fueling.    This month, we wanted to touch on the topic of the role an iron-rich diet can play in helping you succeed in training and on the big day.

 

Simply put, iron helps carry oxygen to our muscles via the bloodstream.  It is the binding agent that allows the oxygen molecules to go for a ride from our lungs to our arms and legs, our brain, and our immune system.  All that belly breathing we talked about in last month’s column would go for naught if we didn’t have iron to help make the connection between those deep breaths and the cells that need the air to keep you on pace.

 

A normal day for anyone will include iron loss through bodily fluids (with more for women during menstruation), and the demands avid endurance athletes put on their bodies can hasten these losses.    If you have ever felt repeatedly tired over a length of time, without other explanation and on runs that previously were no problem, or if your hands and eyelids have been noticeably more pale than usual, you might want to consider consulting your physician about the possibility of checking your iron levels with a quick blood test.

 

However, to give yourself a good chance of avoiding that iron deficient state, or Anemia, in the first place, we encourage you to incorporate foods into your diet that will help you add iron on a regular basis.    Lean red meat, salmon, tuna, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, along with lentils, beans, and nuts, are great sources of iron.  Iron is absorbed very effectively when consumed concurrently with foods rich in vitamin C, so bring on the berries and orange juice.  Calcium makes it tougher for you to absorb iron, so save that glass of milk or slice of cheese for a different time of day if you are actively trying to consume a food for its iron content.  Likewise for coffee and tea, both of which also hinder the absorption process.  We encourage you to consult your physician on any drastic individual dietary choice you make, but the Food and Drug Administration’s Daily Value recommended for dietary iron consumption is 18mg.

 

Some runners enjoy the calorie-burning benefit running provides, allowing them the dietary flexibility of a higher metabolism.  Others incorporate running into an overall weight loss effort that includes a systematic effort to eat less.  Either way, if you are in it for the “long run” or maybe even several “long runs” it is important to include iron rich foods to make sure you are able to take advantage of all your hard work.



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!



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