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

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

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

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discussed in the running media a great deal lately, with the once familiar pre and post-run routines now discarded as outdated and not a necessary precursor to injury prevention or better performance.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

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

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

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



The Warm Up

March 26, 2014

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

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

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

Easy running

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

Light stretching

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

Running drills

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

Strides

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

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



holiday-mealA little more than a month from now, you’ll have the chance to consider some potential New Year’s resolutions.  Where you will start from on January 1 will have a lot to do with how the next few weeks go.

While the holiday season can provide some of the happiest moments of the year, it can also wreak havoc on your running goals.  Here are some ideas for how you can make the most of the season and keep your motor running before hitting the ground full speed on January 1.

Even if your schedule doesn’t normally include morning running, consider scheduling your runs for the early hours.

The first few weeks of December often include more events outside of your control than potentially any other time of the year.  Office functions or extra hours / shifts at work, recitals, school events, and holiday obligations for school aged kids, other civic, religious, or social events and obligations –the calendar can get pretty crowded.

That run you already scheduled after work can quickly get pushed to the wayside when you find out from your spouse at 4 that you need to be somewhere you had forgotten about at 6:30, dressed neatly and with a bottle of wine for the hosts.  Maybe your mom needs you to drive her across town for that special ingredient she wants to put in the pie she is making tomorrow and aren’t you just the one to take her this evening after work but before they close at eight?  There goes the run.

Late in the month, family meals (in addition to food shopping and preparation), odd schedules, the irresistible pull of a bowl game or the warm couch (and the inevitable snooze), can successfully thwart the most stalwart runner in their efforts to stay on track.    If you are able to run in the morning, even if it is not the best series of workouts you have had all year, you at least ensure that you don’t put yourself in a gapingly large training hole.  At this point, it is dark in the morning AND in the evening, so you probably won’t miss much there.  You will however, be able to give yourself a silent high five every day, even when the rest of your schedule may leave you scrambling.  So, block it in now!

Stay hydrated

Yes, you should drink water because you are training and you want to stay hydrated.  But, the holiday time is also a key hydration zone in many ways that will also help you feel more like yourself when you do get a chance to hit the road or the treadmill.  Maybe travel is in your plans. As we have mentioned before in Personal Best, you should aim to drink a cup of water for every time zone you cross while flying in the dry air-conditioned atmosphere of an airplane.  If mountains or other dry, snowy climates are in your future, this is also important as high altitudes and dry air can leave you under-hydrated before you realize it.  You may already be out of your element or preferred weather conditions for a time during the holidays, so everything you can do to at least keep your body working well will be key to move from just salvaging a situation to a place where you get some quality running accomplished despite the challenges.

Even if your holiday plans do not include travel, proper hydration remains crucial to staying on track.  It can assist with digestion when faced with a gauntlet of rich foods and a never-ending stream of chocolates in the break room.  It can also help combat the dehydrating effects of holiday related alcohol consumption and give your family feast some welcome company in your stomach so you are not as likely to go overboard for the fifth time this week.

Include the family in some running

Find a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog 5K /10K the family can walk or jog together while you get in a tempo run.  Pick an outing or two where others can walk or hike while you and whomever is up for it can run.  Plan a run during someone else’s shopping or errands, so they can go crazy in the stores while you take off for a few miles down a nearby bike path before meeting them back at the car.  Think in advance of ways you can meld your run seamlessly into another’s schedule so that you can avoid missing a quality hour with family when everybody is finally home and you’ve just decided to head out on the trail.

Enjoy what you do get done, and don’t worry about what you can’t fit in

If you are unable to perfectly complete every single day’s training from now until the end of the year, you are probably not alone.  The holidays are special because you do often have the time to travel or to visit with friends and family in ways your schedule wouldn’t normally permit.  It is important to enjoy these times and maintain a balance that keeps running in perspective.  If you have a choice in days of the week to get certain things accomplished or can recalculate your schedule in advance to account for certain problem dates coming up, try to prioritize the hard workouts and long runs, so if you don’t get everything in, you will at least have tackled the most challenging days.  However, even if you are stymied in this effort, the important thing is that you don’t fall completely out of touch with your goals, that you don’t let guilt over two or three days missed keep you from getting back to the schedule next time out, and that you stay healthy.

Everyone, from world class athletes to beginners, will find the holidays to be a time requiring flexibility and variation in their typical routine.  You are not alone.  Look ahead as best you can, stay relaxed, and see if you can arrive on January 1st with only minor adjustments needed instead of a complete overhaul.  Perhaps you will have even learned some tips that will make the next holiday season even better.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop and prepare for running with body after baby.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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Although we earn a small reprieve from the early morning darkness with next month's time change, many runners are just settling in for a long winter of running in the dark.  Whether you rise early to beat the rush before the workday begins and the kids wake up, or fit in a run at the end of the day, nighttime running is a fact of life for many athletes.  Here are a few tips for staying safe and maximizing these workouts until the sun reappears.

Avoid risk-taking

While running the same route again and again might seem unappealing, or stopping your awesome tempo run briefly to make sure a passing car sees you, it is always worth it.  Stick to routes where lighting can help provide safety and mark your path, even if that means doing multiple loops around a few block radius.  Head to a local track and run while kids are playing soccer or lacrosse under the lights in the evening.  Put off exploration of that new trail until the weekend when you can run in the daylight.  Set aside the headphones so that you can be alert to your surroundings (yes, you can do it).

Choose routes for the presence of sidewalks away from the roadway.  Consider places of business where early morning activity takes place in a typically safe manner, such as a gas station, bagel shop, or Starbucks and include them on your run.  Check for daily sunrise and sunset times so you can safely estimate when you will need to be in spots that are safe for those times of day.  In short, give yourself at least one more measure of safety precautions than you would ordinarily take.  That may mean boredom and repetition, but is always better than not being able to run at all or risking adverse events

See and be seen

Many running apparel companies and specialty brands have introduced reflective clothing and devices to help runners stay safe in the dark.  Sometimes we focus on being visible to cars and others by wearing reflective gear, and other times we focus on keeping our path lit with headlamps and other illuminating devices.  In reality, both are important at all times.  A hard fall because of an unseen root or sidewalk crack is dangerous, and of course it is crucial to be visible to vehicular traffic.   It isn’t always possible to be completely visible in the dark, but taking care to be seen and to seeing where your feet will travel can be a crucial safety precaution.

Keep others in the loop

Whether you live with others in your household or reside independently, leave a note, a text, or other word where you plan to go every time.  If you encounter any trouble on an evening run, it may be until daylight before anyone is aware of your extended absence or be able to see you in distress alongside a road.    Particularly if doing something strenuous or extended, such as a long run for a marathon training cycle, estimating a time of return can help ease the mind of others who aren’t used to the length of these runs, as well as determine when you are indeed overdue.    Whenever possible, try to meet others for nighttime runs.  Both as a safety measure and as added encouragement when the winter is at its darkest and coldest point, a partner or group willing to meet you at a nighttime hour can make all the difference.

Be creative

Roads and outdoor tracks may not be the only venues for getting in runs.  Enclosed walkways, indoor public spaces, the perimeter of a well-lit parking lot, and even a circuit of long hallways in winter-affected cities might provide occasional safe locations for runs when things are truly awful and dark.    Consider a short-term gym membership, even if just to break up the workout by running there, doing some miles on the treadmill, and running home.  If winter is really getting the best of you, consider sampling some indoor cross training disciplines you have been waiting to try, or investigate the possibility of all-comers indoor track meets in your community as a way to get in a good hard effort inside.

While nighttime running may not be pleasant for many, runners across the country and around the world have thrived with a schedule comprised primarily of workout times before dawn or after dusk.  The good news is that sunlight is likely around the corner as spring returns, and the challenge of darkness is an opportunity to exercise the type of commitment and persistence that will serve you well when faced with a rough patch in your next goal race.  Embrace the challenge, stay safe, and keep up the good work.



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The first two weeks of August were filled with amazing performances, as well as the emotions that occur when things do not go according to plan.  When watching these breathtaking physical feats and (taped-delayed) moments of extreme anticipation, it can be hard to see a connection between the accomplishments of the world’s best athletes and our own everyday endeavors. However, there are several lessons these thrills of victory and agonies of defeat can teach us.  Here are a few:

1. Do not let a discouraging start prevent good things from happening by the end.

Early in the swimming competition, Michael Phelps barely squeaked into the final of the 400 IM, only to be assigned an outside lane and finish shockingly fourth and out of the medals.  For one used to the rhythm of “swim, win and repeat,” the walk from the competition pool to the warm down area must have been a long stroll without the interruption of the national anthem played in his honor.  However, by the end of the meet, almost no one looked upon his efforts as anything less than the coronation of the most decorated medalist ever.

Like many of our races, Phelps’s schedule was a marathon, not a sprint, and given the opportunity to turn things around, he was able to refocus and end on several high notes, with individual and relay golds alike.  Next time some other early mishap threatens to derail your day, (ie your alarm doesn’t go off, the first mile or two feels harder than it should, you miss your first fluids, etc) keep in mind the confident mentality you had the evening before all that occurred.  You are still that person.  Your training hasn’t just evaporated instantaneously.  Plenty of positives remain to be had.  Giving up mentally only assures you that you will miss out on at least some of those takeaways.

2. “Normal” is oftentimes more than good enough.

During the qualification of the women’s team gymnastics competition, elder stateswoman Aly Raisman was seen looking Gabby Douglas straight in the eye, encouraging her with the admonition, “Normal, Gabby.”    With some of the most complicated and challenging routines in the competition, Gabby Douglas was obviously prepared to do what it took, both for the team and her own all-around competition.  She just needed to execute and not let the big stage take her out of her familiar rhythm.

Many times we expect race day to be a completely breathtaking day and we act like it,  We feel the need to don a cape and become some “super” version of the boring everyday person who does the neighborhood loop at 6am.  By the time the gun goes off, you have prepared your body to handle the challenges by working hard on all the days when there is no adrenaline involved.  The excitement of the day may indeed make the same pace feel little easier to start, and that’s in your favor.  However, be confident in the work you have put in, that your “normal” will be plenty to accomplish your goal.  Take pride in the execution of your plan, and let your faithful and consistent adherence to it herald the success of the day.

3. Let your resolve be strengthened by your training partners and / or immediate context.

Galen Rupp took silver in the 10,000 meters, earning the first U.S. men’s medal in that event since 1964.  Ahead of him was only his training partner, hometown favorite Mo Farah.  Immediately behind both of them were the Ethiopian Bekele brothers, with Kenenisa the two time reigning 10,000 meter champion and world record holder.  Rupp has been one of America’s best for the past several years, but how did he kick these guys down?

As reported in the USA Today the following morning, Rupp told the press that the last lap reminded him of practice back in Oregon, saying, “I knew if I could stay close to Mo, then good things would happen.”   Some of us have the luxury of training partners or familiar faces in local races we can use to help buoy us when things are getting tough.  “If they can do it, then I can do it,” we tell ourselves, and many times, it works!  The larger lesson here, though, is that when we break challenging and formidable tasks down into smaller, more recognizable, and less daunting parts, we can relax enough to use our energy only for the running rather than the worry.  Focus on the things you know and can control.  Draw confidence from that knowledge and let the unknowns go.

4.  Ability needs execution to produce a result.

After several years of frustration, dropped batons, tripping and falling, and various other mishaps, the United States track and field relay teams finally put together four clean preliminaries and four crisp finals.  The women won gold in the 4x100m and the 4x400m, while the men took home silver in each.  Sure, the men’s 4x100m was beaten by a world record-setting Usain Bolt and company from Jamaica, but their silver medal time equaled the previous world record and set a new US best.  The women absolutely crushed the world record in the 4x100m and scared the US record in the 4x400, winning by a country mile.

While there are several strong medalists and performers among the current relay pool, the United States has always had a strong sprint corps, deep in every event, and capable of putting on a show like that every Olympiad.  The only thing stopping them has been the seemingly small detail of how to get the baton successfully around the oval.

For us, it is instructive to remember how special a performance or an experience can be if we just execute the small details.  Did we remember body glide?  Did we tie our shoes with double knots?  Did we leave time to have a good breakfast and adequate fluids before heading to the line?  Did we follow our race plan and not get sucked out into a field of fool’s gold with several consecutive milesplits way ahead of pace?  We can’t control the weather or what others will do.  However, when we nail the basics, we can leave room for the special day to occur.  You may never run the backstretch like Allyson Felix, but then again, she may never run a half marathon or marathon, so in some ways (ok, in only one way) you’re even!



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Claire Wood, Senior Footwear Product Manager (Performance Running) at New Balance

Claire Wood has spent a career working in running footwear design and sales.  After stints at industry sales powerhouses Mizuno and Brooks, Claire now works with New Balance in their Boston headquarters, leading the development of some of their most popular recent styles. 

rc: Sometimes when shopping for shoes, a salesperson will ask you to run a bit so he or she can analyze your gait.  What types of things are they looking for to help determine the best shoe for you?

CW: In this case, the salesperson is looking to identify any biomechanical tendencies – meaning what your body and mechanics by default are doing. This could include the popular overpronation, meaning to roll inward a significant amount that could lead to injury. Overpronation is very common, and a variety of stability shoes address this. Always tell the sales person what prior injuries or areas of pain you often experience. Pain on the inside of the knees or shins could be from rolling inward upon impact and can be easily remedied.

rc: What are the key aspects of a shoe that determine what kind of runner it is designed for? 

CW: Running shoes have gotten so elaborate that it can often be overwhelming to try to figure them out. Running shoes all fall within a certain category, Neutral, Stability, or Control. Neutral means that the footprint and basic design of a shoe is for a runner with a pretty efficient biomechanical gait. A stability shoe would have a higher density of material, found on the medial side of the shoe to bring additional protection to counter forces rolling inward. Control shoes are the highest degree of stability – and are less common than neutral and stability shoes. Always make sure that whatever you’re fit in feels comfortable, as nothing should hurt. In addition to the basic categories, running shoes offer a variety of heights which situate your foot in various positions off the ground. This is called “offset”, and is an important aspect of the shoe. Always make sure you’re never transitioning too rapidly from a shoe higher off the ground to a shoe much lower to the ground, also called a “minimal shoe”.

rc: What are some ways in which current shoe technology has evolved to better serve runners?

CW: The goal with any running shoe should be to make the experience better for the runner, and let the runner think about the run, not the shoe. Materials in the upper of the shoe have become much thinner and more pliable, allowing for a more secure fit with a much lighter feeling over the foot. The materials that make up the midsole – foams, rubbers, and plastics, are also significantly more innovative. The goal with technology in running shoes is that it improves cushioning, stability and the overall performance of the shoe. This could mean the protective element or the actual feel – be it bouncy or plush.

rc: What are the next frontier(s) for shoe design?  What kinds of challenges are you and other shoe designers looking to tackle over the next several years? 

CW: The next frontiers of shoe design are always focused around the goal of making the run better. Just as our iphones, laptops and vacuums are getting lighter – this is the goal of running shoes. It is important, however, to never sacrifice something in order to make a shoe lighter. For a runner logging a lot of miles or with an injury history – there is often a fine line. That said, the focus of footwear has shifted to not only include what is under the foot and on top of the foot, but the actual position the foot is in throughout the entire gait cycle. Having an awareness of this and helping runners better their overall form – feet, core and upper body included, is all part of what we believe is inclusive to footwear design. Thinking of the foot as an extension of the body, it is our duty to think of the footwear design as an extension of all elements that affect that foot.



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