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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.



Breathing on the Run

August 12, 2020

breathing

Breathing on the Run
Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne

This is a popular question from our athletes - "How do I breathe while running?

Breathing is important because we feel awful when it is ragged and shallow. Conversly, we feel better when we are running easily enough that we hardly notice it at all.

The faster you run, the quicker you will reach a point where you will have to concentrate on breathing to continue at that pace.  That is because the additional strain of the pace over time has caused your muscles to demand more oxygen on a quicker schedule. 

So how do you breathe better?

1) Relax 

Breathing is an art. Stay as relaxed as possible in your upper body. Drop your shoulder, extend your torso and neck, and drop your mouth.

During hard efforts, your body craves oxygen. So, you will need both your nose and mouth to intake oxygen. 

2) Focus on Form

Running posture often falls apart when we get tired – the shoulders hunch over, arms get tense, neck and jaw almost lock. 

Remind yourself to draw your shoulders away from your ears and straighten up nice and tall.  This allows for your lungs to have the maximum room to pack in more air and may be able to help ease symptoms of a side stitch by stretching out the afflicted area.

3) Breathe deeply

You can practice breathing properly even when not running. Start by sitting in a chair or lie down on a yoga mat. Place you hand over your belly. 

Inhale with your nose and feel your stomach/ diaphragm fill with air. You should feel the hand on your belly button rising. Exhale through the mouth.  A deeper breath is like sticking your water bottle directly under the faucet stream vs panting is like splashing it with droplets of water.  Fill up those lungs so they can do what they do best – get air to your screaming muscles!

4) Find a rhythm

Start by doing this on easy runs/ walks. Count your footsteps. Your breathing pattern may be 2-2 or 3-3, that is, it takes two footfalls (one landing of either foot) to inhale and two footfalls to exhale, etc.  

However, when you are tired and air is at a premium, try to spend a bit more time on each inhale than you do on each exhale, for what might end up as a 3-2 rhythm or a 4-3 rhythm.  The most important thing you can do is to fill your lungs with each inhale. Take your time, try to relax yourself generally by the almost meditative counting of your breathing rhythm, and / or let a favorite song guide your brain through the pattern. All of a sudden, you’ll be at the next mile marker or water station.



Breathing is different for everyone. All of us from novice to experienced runners, need to practice techniques in low stress situations before taking them to the streets in the big race.   Listen to your breathing on easy runs to find out what your natural patterns are.  Try to maintain a tall posture and open your chest when the running is easy before forcing yourself to find that position when the running is tough.  Test out a 3-2 pattern or a 4-3 pattern on your next interval or tough workout and see what feels right.  



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It is amazing how rumors or wives tales can be passed among friends or down through the ages, affecting the behavior of thousands without any basis on solid ground.  Even an experienced runner or walker can be operating off of a faulty or outdated instruction manual now and again.  Although we bring up these topics periodically in the blog, they are always worthwhile to review.

 

 

More mileage is always better

 

False.  Training allows you to prepare for the race task, and extended periods of significant volume could allow you to be prepared for very challenging tasks.  It also could leave you injured and unable to do any challenging tasks.   Your runcoach schedule is calibrated to consider what you have done in the past and will help you safely progress, prioritizing the goal of arriving at race day ready to do your best.  This means planned and regular recovery.  Every week will not necessarily include more mileage than the last.  Consistent training over time is the best way to gradually increase your volume, but in many cases other aspects of your schedule can make an even bigger difference than merely just mileage alone.

 

You must carbo-load before every race

 

False. Race-organized pasta feeds and a sincere effort to prepare as well as possible often lead participants down a road of excessive consumption the night before a race.  There is scant evidence that loading up in this fashion can effect shorter races such as a 5K or 10K, and even in longer efforts, fueling effectively during the race can often have a bigger say in the final analysis.  Consider also how much a body can process in 12 hours.  Consuming 3 or 4 times your typical size dinner must be dealt with, and that process might interrupt your morning more than any lack of energy you were worried about to begin with.

 

You can train at your current fitness and still progress

 

True! Hundreds of thousands of workouts for thousands of plans has reinforced our conviction that a training plan based on paces associated with your current fitness level can allow you to adapt and perform at a progressively higher level.   Training specifically for goal pace sounds like a great idea, but you might not have figured out exactly how far you can progress in the time between the current day and your goal race day.  What if you were actually in better shape than you thought?  What if you didn’t progress as far as you hoped?  Would you still embark upon that pace?  Of course not.  We provide the tools you need to make successful race efforts with confidence, knowing you have done the work to support your plan.  This doesn’t mean that you never have workouts that include paces faster than what might be your goal pace  - your 5K pace will always be faster than your marathon pace, but the data is based on you and your current fitness.

 

Exercise is bad for you as you age

 

False.  A widely cited and encouraging Stanford University study reinforced what avid runners have felt for years - that running actually has a positive effect on most aging athletes.  Senior citizen runners tracked for over 25 years have no increased incidence of osteoarthritis issues in their knees, have lower mortality rates, and generally have delayed onset of mobility and other issues related to aging.    Certainly older runners need to take good care of themselves, adjusting their schedule as needed, but sensible running actually appears to benefit a person as they hit the silver years.

 

Studies have found similar benefits from walking: http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/research-points-to-even-more-health-benefits-of-walking

 

You aren’t a real runner if you don’t run fast

 

False.  One of the great things about our sport is that it provides an unlimited amount of access points, from walkers to Olympic sprinters and everyone in between.  Some of us are triathletes and some of us don’t have time to train for longer distances, sticking with 5Ks.  Some of us enjoy track workouts, and others stick mainly to the trails. As the ranks of adult runners and walkers increases, so has the definition of “athlete” broadened as well.  Any arbitrary cut off for what constitutes a “real” athlete could be just as nonsensical as saying that if we can’t match Usain Bolt or Meb, why try.  Count us among those who are glad the sport is inclusive, and we look forward to supporting you as you achieve your personal bests on the road ahead.



Originally posted September 6, 2014. Written by Dena Evans.
Updated by Ashley Benson

Technology has improved our lives in myriad ways.  GPS devices have allowed us to track our endurance efforts, recording our pace, distance, heart rate, and many more metrics besides.  While providing a wealth of information, our relationship with the technology can become complicated and far more entangled than we could have possibly imagined.   These devices are best as a tool to help us train effectively and analyze where we have gone.  While possible that your GPS device can provide some accountability, take this quiz and see where you are on the spectrum of maintaining a healthy balance and perspective with your wrist-born tech.

 

Do you always round off your runs or walks to an exactly even number (5.00 miles, 3.50 miles exactly, 40 miles precisely for the week, etc), even if you are doing a lap around the parking lot or go up and down your driveway three times?

If your answer is yes, you probably enjoy order over chaos, and completion of your goals.  You might also like to look at tidy numbers on the screen. None of that is bad in and of itself, but it is always good to remember that training has a purpose and shuffling in circles for 27 meters to make a full mile doesn’t really make you any more prepared for the race.  Consider spending a week where you purposely don’t end on an even number in any run.  Encourage yourself that your achievement of the total includes the experience of the effort along the way and that your training need not be 100% perfect 100% of the time to be in a position to achieve your goals on race day!

Do you have a floor or ceiling pace under or over which you never go on training run / walk days?

If your answer is yes, you probably are trying to faithfully complete your training efforts at the paces prescribed by your runcoach pace chart.  However, always make sure that you listen to your body.  If you have a sore / tight muscle, feel tired from the prior day’s workout, are sick, or have another legitimate reason to be in true recovery mode, it is fine to slow dow.  Occasionally what felt like your easy pace turns out to be 30 seconds per mile or more.  Recovery is key to being prepared for the next hard day.  Sometimes, that requires doing a little less and easing off a bit (and being ok with that when you look at your watch).

Now that you have a GPS device on your wrist or in the palm of your hand, do you find yourself checking your pace almost reflexively every 50 meters along your route?

If this sounds like you, you might be just excited to have a cool toy to consult. But, with constant reliance on the watch or app (which is not always 100% accurate due to trees, weather, and other factors), you might also be at risk for missing a chance to understand and gain a feel for what your race pace or other paces might be.  While you might want to keep careful track of your mileage, occasionally pick a route you of which you already know the distance, and run it without your watch, gauging your effort based on what you perceive to be the pace.  You can log the miles accurately as you have measured it previously and using your total time, can figure the pace. However, you have taken an opportunity during the run to stay in touch with your instincts and listen to your body.

Do you avoid certain routes because of spotty satellite reception (and the shorter distances/ slower paces you might be given credit for on your device as a result)?

If your answer is yes to this one, you are human! We all like to see our best selves recorded and the greatest return on our efforts.  However, if the preoccupation with the numbers is causing you to miss out on tree covered paths, excellent trail running, and safe routes on bike paths that travel through tunnels, consider mapping these on the computer and manually entering in the distances, or just noting your estimated differences when uploading your info.

Data is helpful, but we should not become overly reliant on it.  As humans, we can use machines and technology to help us to our goals, but nothing replaces the individual effort and commitment we all need to achieve our goals on the day.  Continue to trust in your ability and instincts. Let your GPS devices and apps be tools, but only one of many, in your arsenal.


 

 


hydrateSummer is one of the best seasons to be a runner.  Enjoy it to the fullest by taking care of these basics.

 

Winter weather often requires the use of treadmills and other indoor facilities, but summer’s heat or thunderstorms may also force you to the air-conditioned sanctuary of the gym.  Here are a few helpful things to remember about how to adjust when running indoors.

Highlights:
- Treadmills are not the enemy
- Bring entertainment (music, movie, book, podcast)
- Bring your own sanitizer (always clean any touchpoint, equipment before use)
- Treadmill belt if softer and less impact that running outside
- Set the incline to 1-2% on the machine 
- Ease into the run. Start nice and slow. 
- Hydrate well and often. Aim to take 3-4 ounces of water every 25-30 minutes.

If running indoors may not be an option, but running outdoors is not either, you may be in a spot where cross training is in order to maintain fitness.  What cross training activity makes the most sense?  Compare and contrast the vast array of currently available options available in gyms today.

 

Heading out on some adventurous runs or driving trips that might include a bunch of miles?  Consider this list of things you might not consider, but can be VERY helpful for runners who are spending a lot of time in the car.

 

All that humidity might leave you a bit sweaty.  Before you deal with the after effects of some serious chafing, read our quick Q&A with a dermatologist about chafing and how to avoid it.  

 

While one of the most obvious topics for summer running, hydration is always worth keeping in mind, particularly if your average fluid consumption consists primarily of coffee or diet coke! Use the summer to build some good habits and read about the “art of hydration” here.

 

 

 

 



For some of us, inside running is a regular strategy. Work routine, location, time crunch, tough weather, safety precautions, rehabbing an injury, are all reasons to choose to the "Mill".  Wheter you are a regular or a newbie, here are a few thoughts on how to make the most of your time on a treadmill.

Treadmill Tips

hiruni_TMAny first timer on a treadmill can attest that the ride is slightly different than the ground in a variety of ways.  To account for these variances, we generally recommend some slight adjustments.  Without the wind resistance encountered when moving forward outside, the pace might feel a bit easier on a treadmill than on your normal run.  To approximate an equivalent demand, adjust the incline of the treadmill 1%-2%.

The second important consideration when running on a treadmill is attentiveness to your form.  With the ground traveling underneath and often a softer landing than most outdoor running surfaces, the body can easily tilt into various, slightly unfamiliar positions. If possible, run on a machine where you can gauge your posture in a mirror or reflecting window.  Try to keep yourself tall, with your weight over your feet.  The only thing worse than grumbling about running on a treadmill is grumbling about being injured because you were running strangely on a treadmill.  Attention to your form might even help you when you go outside again and have a clear, fresh picture of what your good form looks and feels like.

Because of the weather and the limitations of running indoors, you may have to adjust your workout a bit. 
> Increase the incline between 4 to 8%. The tougher grade can yield the raised heart rate you were looking for with your speed workout.
> Adjust your pace based on machine. If you are on an older treadmill don't try to run full speed. Instead make your interval longer by 1:00.
> If you are doing a tempo on the treadmill, start off 5-7 seconds slower. The belt can make you feel like you're moving your legs faster than normal. This will prevent you from pulling a hammy!


Runcoach Coach and Elite Marathoner, Coach Hiruni reports that treadmill workouts have definitely made an impact for her in the past years.  “One of the reasons I love the treadmill is that it is the best pacer in the industry. I live at altitude in a very hilly area. I can pace myself and stay on the target best when I use a treadmill. It keeps me honest and focued". 
To adjust your prescribed runcoach workout to a treadmill setting by manipulating the grade and pace, try using a treadmill pace conversion chart such as this one from HillRunner.com.  No two treadmills are exactly alike, so keep in mind you may have to make some slight adjustments with your machine.

Bad Weather and No Treadmill?

Occasionally, drastic situations may call for creative solutions.  If you are unable to run outside due to conditions and a treadmill isn’t available, all may not be lost.  If you are in an urban setting with a series of connected indoor walkways between office buildings, or within a long shopping mall, you may be able to just duck your head at curious onlookers and get at least a few easy miles in indoors.  Convention centers and long hotel hallways can even provide a last ditch opportunity on occasion.  Nike headquarters actually has a hallway where their athletes can run long strides and do so on a regular basis.  Tell that to anyone who questions you! 

The key is your safety above all. Make sure to be aware of variables like traffic, light, bacl ice, etc..   None of these options are ideal, but typically conditions which prevent the completion of a workout are temporary and a bridging solution might end up being better than nothing.

 



Add Deep Breathing Exercises To Your Routine

There are various benefits of deep breathing exercises. These range from reduce stress to improved digestion and a natural pan reliver.

When done correctly, deeo breathes release toxins, promote blood flow and foster healthy body functions and sound sleep.



Jack Daniels, an exercise physiologist who inspired some of the Runcoach ideals, said "The stronger your core, the more solid you are as you hit the ground, this reduces the need for unnecessary stabilization, and allows you to be a more economical runner."IMG_8268

What are you waiting for? It's ABsolutely time to get to work. Here are some videos to help you get started.

Side Planks
 2-3 sets
Works the internal and external obliques to build better core stability.

Hamstring Bridge 2-3 sets
Core is more than just your abs. One of the most common weaknesses we see in runners is their glutes which are the key powerhouse for propulsion with every step you take while running. 

Push-Ups 2-3 sets
Works your arms, upper body, and core. Can be done on your knees to start, and then as you build up strength, you will be able to do a full push-up!

Partner Punishment 2-3 sets
If you don't have a partner to help you out in this exercise, you can do leg lower and left controlling the resistance of gravity on your own to get a deep core exercise

Try to include core into your weekly routine and watch your form and strength increase!











coldThe good news is that regular exercise can be a strong ally against the common cold, as moderate exercise can stimulate the immune system.  However, this is tempered by the body’s reaction to the stress placed on that same immune system when the runs get long.  According to researcher David Nieman at Appalachian State University (a marathoning and ultra marathoning veteran), there is a 3-72 hour window after our long, hard efforts (90 minutes +) where the body suffers a temporary impairment of the immune system, making marathoners and half marathoners sitting ducks for the post-long run or post-race cold.   What’s a runner with goals to do?  While it is impossible to control for everything, with a few precautions, hopefully the odds will skew a bit more favorably.

 

Stay hydrated

Although we normally associate the need for hydration with the other three seasons, dry winter weather, altitude if visiting a mountainous region, or the unfamiliar humidity of a warm vacation spot can catch us off guard.  Even if just staying inside, the dry air in our well-heated homes can make a difference.  Particularly if traveling by air or consuming more alcohol than usual (ahem), staying hydrated can be a key component to keeping your body working well and running well.  An oft-quoted rule of thumb is to consume 64 ounces of water per day, or 8 regular sized glasses.  Some even suggest dividing your weight in pounds by two and using that number for how many ounces you need, or even taking 2/3 of your weight in pounds if you exercise.  If these numbers seem daunting, the point is – you probably could use some improvement in these areas, even if only incrementally!

 

Get a flu shot

True, you could get some variant of the flu that the shot didn’t cover or get sick in other ways, but a flu shot is usually free or very low cost through most insurance or direct providers and it takes about 10 seconds.  As recreational adult runners, we can’t always treat ourselves like professional athletes.  In this case, however, we can.  If you have a winter or spring goal race planned, and your brain fast forwards to a hypothetical, very inopportune flu the week of the race, then this becomes a slam dunk.  Don’t let random flu sabotage your training or racing!

 

Wash your hands like a doctor

No, this has nothing to do with running, except that recreational runners with big plans don’t like them going awry.  Wash them well, for 30 seconds with warm water and soap, and avoid touching your face to spread what germs make it through the gauntlet!  Carry some hand santitizer, and use it when washing hands isn't possible.

 

Sleep

Although sleep is always important for performance, it takes on an even greater role during cold and flu season as several studies have shown the body’s immune system can be significantly impaired with repeated sleep deprivation.  Six hours instead of eight may not seem like a big deal, but during the winter and while training hard, too many of those nights can end up having the reverse effect from what efficiency you hoped to accomplish during those extra hours of wakefulness – laying you out for a couple days or preventing training during a crucial period.  Be a jealous guardian of your sleep time, and you’ll likely be more efficient and effective during your waking hours anyway!

 

 

Eat well

It is always a good idea to eat nutritiously, but during cold and flu season, good choices of immune system boosting foods with important nutrients can be particularly important.  For example, try a bean chili – lots of veggies and beans with key vitamins and minerals, and some spiciness to clear the nasal passages for good measure makes this dish more than just a warm comfort food, according to researchers at Wake Forest.   If you unfortunately do fall prey to the flu, try these foods as a part of your "return to health" arsenal.

 

No immune system is truly immune. This winter, let your running habit be the catalyst for healthy habits that will hopefully give you (and your family) a better chance of staying active and on your feet throughout the cold and flu season.

 



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