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Can the Gym Help My Running?

Personal Best - January 2012


January is a time to set new goals.  Runners of every age and experience level often seek ways to improve performance and results outside of the time spent out on the roads.  As coaches, we are often asked if weight training, yoga, cross training, or other gym-based activities will assist an athlete toward their running goals.  This month in Personal Best, we consider the question with a few guidelines and tips.

Why not just run?
Certainly, the best way to improve your running is to run; however, moving your body in different ways can address various weaknesses that have built over time due to the repetitive nature of running. In addition, ancillary activities can help put the finishing touches on the fitness gains from a workout regimen begun in search of weight loss or aesthetic goals.

It all starts with the core....
If time and resources are limited, there are a number if ways to help your running with some simple core work.  Exercising the core helps strengthen the area from your chest to your hip flexors, allowing you to maintain good form and posture when at the end of a race. Your core stabilizes you not only when you're tired, but helps center your running form even when fresh, assisting in the achievement of good posture and range of motion in your stride.  We discussed the importance of one of these muscles, the transverse abdominis, in a previous column, along with a few easy and simple exercises to address it when you can steal a few minutes on the carpet after coming in from a run.

If you enjoy the social nature of classes they are a great way to stay on track with your core strength objectives.  In addition to stabilization, a strong core, and good spinal / pelvic alignment can help you maximize efforts spent on strengthening other muscle groups, another reason why it is a good place to start.

Flexibility is your friend

Activities like Yoga and Pilates are also tools used by many runners to help increase flexibility and strength when muscles are extended.  Greater flexibility can be a huge asset in the effort to stave off injuries, so if that is a big goal for 2012, these might be good options for activities to incorporate into your regimen.

Boost your metabolism and body composition
Along with general weight training, some of the latest trends in fitness include CrossFit, P90X, TRX, and a myriad of home and gym-based programs to challenge your body in a multi-directional, muscle-strengthening fashion.  Some of these also include a cardio component, and many of them build upper body fitness, demand lateral movement, and require more ballistic activities than a normal running routine.

These high intensity activities can complement your training by adding a new dimension of athleticism increasing your power.  However, anything along these lines should be carefully taken into account – some body composition changes are helpful, some are not, and anything that compromises your running by creating too much and untimely fatigue, may be more detrimental than it is worth.   Any of these activities are best safely incorporated with the help of a fitness professional at your local facility.


Ease strain on joints and muscles

Every runner occasionally requires a time of recovery or the need for a day or two of cross training.  Others enjoy incorporating spin classes, swimming, elliptical, or even a fitness activity such as Zumba into their regular routine.  If you are looking for a way to integrate in an additional day of cardiovascular exercise, but are concerned about the strain on joints and ligaments, one of these low or non-impact activities could be just the ticket to keep you headed in the right direction.

 

In short….the bottom line

Cross training and multi-dimensional movements can be beneficial for distance runners.  Consider some of the disciplines below to have an even better and more balanced 2012.

Core strength exercised, Yoga, Pilates:  At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These primarily address needs for flexibility, core strength, and spinal / pelvic alignment.  Low / no impact, more meditative. 

Want to try a home-based core workout?  Check out Focus-N-Fly’s favorite whole body workout here:  

Weight / circuit training, CrossFit, P90X, TRX, etc:  At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These require more dynamic, powerful movements, perhaps with greater intensity and resultant muscle development.  For those who enjoy an up-tempo addition to their week, and who are looking to add more power / speed.

Indoor cycling, elliptical, Zumba, swimming: At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These activities can increase cardiovascular training time with minimal strain on joints and bones.  Could be used for variety or as a prelude to including an additional day of running into the schedule.


Focus-N-Fly Plyomterics and Warm-up Drills:  These can be run on a track, road, sidewalk, path or grass.  Even if you do not have time for an additional training session or two, these can be efficiently integrated into your already scheduled running to help strengthen your core and provide greater range of motion. 

Questions about the above?  Email us at info@focusnfly or tweet us a question to @focusnfly.

 



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.

 



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!




 

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!

 



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!



Personal Best:  Mental Strategies for Hard Workouts

 

 

It has been sitting on the schedule since you first looked a week or two ago.  Your first 10 or 20 miler, or the first time you are doing a tough track session more challenging than anything you have attempted to this point.  Or, maybe it is a workout or a run you have done before, but it didn’t go so well.  If one of the primary reasons we run is to enjoy ourselves, how do we find enjoyment in these seemingly daunting tasks?  Below are a few strategies for taking these challenges head on, not so you merely make it, but so you conquer and thrive.

 

US 5k champion Lauren Fleshman talks about some of these and others in our September Pro’s Perspective as well.  Read it here.

1. Remember that although this may be a first time for you, others have gone before you and have been successful.

Whether you are beginning your first training cycle with Focus-N-Fly or have been with us for 10 years, you can rest assured that every workout you’re given is based on what has worked for other runners.  It is exactly through these successful experiences of novice and experienced runners that we have built the system that is helping you now.  Know that your path has been trod before, that it is possible, and that it can be done.

 

2. Take one step at a time

One almost universally shared tip is to take a tough workout and break it down into manageable pieces.  Notice how both our beginning runner, Terri Wojtalewicz, and our experienced professional athlete, Lauren Fleshman, both talk specifically in their profiles about taking a long race one mile at a time or a hard workout one interval at a time.  You may not know if you can run 20 miles, but if it is on your schedule, you can be confident you can run a large percentage of it because it wouldn’t have been on your schedule otherwise.  So, say you know you can run 15 miles.  Beyond that, promise yourself you will run at least one more mile.  Focus on a task that will take several minutes vs. one that might take hours.   Conquer the one mile and celebrate it to yourself as you finish it.  Consider if you can focus again for one mile. Buoyed by the sense of accomplishment from the 16th mile, you might just be able to.  Before you know it, you’ll be at your goal distance and you will have built up a reservoir of confidence and positive self-talk that will be helpful for the next challenge.

 

3. Take as many variables out of the equation as possible.

No, you can’t control everything.  However, if you can set yourself up for a tough workout with food you know will work for you, and your “go to” shorts/ shirt/ socks, it may take one element of worry from your minds.  Find a routine by experimenting with fueling and clothing approaches on easy days, you so are confident in your choices on hard days, leaving your mental energy for the task itself.

 

4. Prepare in advance with the positive self-talk you are going to give yourself when you are in the thick of a tough day.

There will come a time when the run or the workout will require bigger than average effort.  What are the keys you will remind yourself of when that time comes?  Do your shoulders hunch and get tight when you are tired?  Plan in advance that you will try to relax your shoulders for 30 seconds at a time when that occurs.  Does your breathing get too shallow?  Tell yourself in advance that when it starts to go that direction, you will commit to several long and deep inhales to help get you back on track.  What are the types of encouragement from others that really have helped you succeed in running or in life generally?  Tough barking orders, or soothing positive words?  Prepare with these phrases already on tap to remind your body that you and your mind are in control and not the other way around.

 

5.  Decide if knowing the workout well in advance is helpful to you or not.

If you find that you get too stressed out thinking about a big one in the week leading up, but know that every week on a certain day that type of workout will occur, resist the urge to look ahead or forgo the weekly email for a time and instead look at it a day or two ahead just for logistical planning purposes.  You will know what type of effort is required (tempo run, track workout, long run), but you won’t have the time to build additional pressure on yourself.

 

6.  Create accountability and a reward. Enlist others.

 For many of you, just knowing you will return to the computer to log your workout is motivation enough to complete each day.  For some, you are able to train with others who can keep you buoyed even when the running isn’t coming as easily as you had hoped that day.  Others are training for a big goal with an emotional motivation, such as to honor a friend or family member, or to note one of life’s milestones.  If so, one strategy would be to create a visual reminder around the house to keep track of the steps or miles you are logging on the way to that goal, and use it as a positive motivation to keep you going as well as a reminder to those in your household to help keep you on track with encouragement, even if they know nothing about running.   Think of your training as a tower.  You want a tower that is a tall and as strong as possible, but one sub par day doesn’t mean the whole thing falls over, it just means you need to put that next block on there the next time out.

 

On a lighter note, it is ok to concede to the occasional treat as motivator, whether it is the espresso and pastry Lauren writes about, a meal at your favorite restaurant, or perhaps a pedicure for your marathon worn toes.  It need not cost anything, but if it is something you enjoy doing every once and a while, it might serve as a fun carrot for you as you travel toward the conclusion of your miles that day.

 

Remember, doing every single difficult workout to perfection doesn’t guarantee a perfect race, nor does missing one/ falling short a time or two necessarily mean you will not succeed.  What we are looking for is a field of data points, from which you can reasonably conclude you are prepared for the race. Every challenging day you complete allows you to strengthen the argument you are going to make for yourself on race day when the going gets tough, and oftentimes, those days although difficult, can also end up being the most memorable.

 

 

 



Two weeks ago one of our runners wrote me about taking the "Albert Haynesworth Fitness Test". 

For reference, Haynesworth is a star defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins.  He made headlines at the start of training camp when the 'skins now coach, Mike Shanahan, refused to let him practice until he passed a "standard fitness" test.  According to Shanahan this test was basic and had been completed by every other player.  The fact that one of his most important players couldn't complete the test irked the new coach and gave cannon fodder to the media around the beltway for two weeks. 

Here's the test:

  • Run a 300 yard shuttle run in under 70 seconds
    • Do this by running goal line to the 25 yd-line and back 6X
  • Take 3 minutes and 30 secsonds recovery
  • Repeat the 300 yeard shuttle run in under 73 seconds

Upon first glance this looks like a run of 300 yards (~275 metres) in 1 minutes and 10 seconds, a big recovery, and then the same thing in 1 minute and 13 seconds.

Oh, it isn't.  Foot in mouth

The exercise is an accute assessment of explosiveness, quickness and balance.  There are no less than twelve separate accelerations required along with ten 180 degree directional changes.

Our runner who ran the test told me "I felt like I was doing a strength test" and to an endurance runner this makes sense as we have developed our slow twitch, arobically funded systems in preparation for 3, 6, 13 and 26 Mile races.  Even though Haynesworth (listed at 6' 6" & 350 lbs) could never hang with any of us in a 5K, his ability and fitness is undeniable for his trade.  In fact my guess is that if we took a random sampling of Focus-N-Fly runners and had them race Albert Haynesworth this is the percentage of people who would beat him by distance:

  • 5K = 100%
  • 1K = 80%
  • 100m = 50%
  • 50m = 25%
  • 25m = 15%
  • 10m = 5%

In other words none of us big, slow distance runners would have any chance against a professional football palyer like Haynesworth in a short burst effort that falls right in his wheel house.

Hopefully this is thought provoking but I still haven't given you any practical advice so here it is.

We use running drills to help develop fast twitch muscles, anaerobic metabolism, and neurological response.  These drills makeup less than 1% of total weekly mileage and less than 5% of total time spent training. We also use fast interval training (<1500m pace) as an extension of this development for 5-10% of weekly mileage.   Both these exercises have specific objectives and can be beneficial.  In fact if you weren't doing these then you would have no chance against Albert Haynesworth in any race of 100m or less.  The bottom line is that we weigh this part of the regimen according to perceived value (it is valuable but not as valuable as all the aerobic work we do).

So you will continue to see the majority of your assignments focused on maintenance/easy and threshold/comfortably hard paces.  We know for certain the benefits of extended aerobic stress and they are well documented for endurance races but could they help a high-performance, short burst athlete in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL? 

My guess is they probably could and I often wonder why more professional ball players don't utilize distance running in the off season.  It has been documented that the aerobic contribution is dominant in all races from 400m up so there is a contribution at shorter distances as well.

As distance runners we need to focus on the aerobic stresses that will help us improve the most.  Just don't forget about those drills and faster intervals when they're assigned.

Oh and the next time you're watching football on the weekend and you see those big guys gasping for air - just think of the Albert Haynesworth fitness test and the fact that all those guys have passed the test. 

Pretty incredible!

 

**BTW I am posting my Albert Haynesworth fitness test results on the forum in hopes that we might get a few others to take the test and post accordingly.

 



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Focus-N-Fly plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. With this month's Personal Best, we wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



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