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Ashley Benson

Ashley Benson

CaptureAs with any new adventure, when you are starting off, it can seem dauting to set a goal. To take some that stress off, we’ve asked our coaches for their top tips.

A goal, no matter the caliber is critical to keep you focused. A goal should be ambitious, but not so wild that it will take you an exceedingly long time to reach it. As a beginner, you will see various levels of successes rather quickly. Use this to your advantage and set several personally relevant goals.

 

(1)    Exercise Regularly – Run consistently

This can be simply to run/ walk/ move your body and sweat 2 – 3 times per week, for a month. Building a routine is the first step toward meaningful change in your life. Your body adapts the more times you teach it to do a skill. Continually running/ walking will improve the response within your body

(2)    Run a Specific Distance

Be it one kilometer, mile or 5K – marathon, set a distance that you can be proud of completing. Time or pace is not relevant at this point. This is a personal record of the farthest distance you can cover in one-go.

(3)    Run Non-Stop

Set yourself a goal to run on-stop over a realistic distance. At first you can even make it a goal to run around your neighborhood without stopping, then move up to a loop around your local park.

(4)    Select a Race

Live events are a rare luxury for now, but you can still register to support a race organization which is meaningful to you. Most virtual races will send you a finisher medal, and other awesome swag. These are treats to reward you for reaching the goal. 

(5)    Weight Loss

Lots of people start running to lose weight. Just like setting your eyes to run a certain distance, you should set a weight loss goal for each week and each month. Experts recommend 0.5-1kg (1-2 lbs) as a safe weekly weight loss goal.

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.


 

 
October 04, 2020

Tips for Race Eve

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

 

Get the your pre-race shakeout done before noon

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

 

Avoid walking around aimlessly at the expo

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

 

Plan your morning checklist

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

 

Stay in charge

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

 

Eat early, and in moderation

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

 

Hydrate early and not only with water

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

Written by Dena Evans
Updated by Ashley Benson 

Beginners and experienced runners need to navigate successfully around other runners, walkers, obstacles, and shared spaces alike.  Although many small communities of runners may have their own language and habits for dealing with various situations, it is instructive to keep in mind a basic knowledge of common running etiquette.   Like many things in life, the golden rule applies.  Sometimes with outstanding running etiquette, we can even influence another runner to employ more people-friendly tactics their next time out.  Here are a few tips on how to manage a few recurring situations.

 

Passing someone coming the opposite direction

On a bike/ pedestrian path, sidewalk, trail, or other two-way, directional running surface, pass others as cars would.  If you are in the United States, that means bearing right, but perhaps that might mean bearing left if in the UK.  If you are running with a group, take care not to take up the whole path and slide into single file as necessary to let the oncoming runner have a straight path.  If necessary, make eye contact and even take a half step to one side to indicate your planned passing lane when you think confusion might be occurring.

 

Passing someone from behind

If moving in the same direction as the person you are trying to pass, again pass as cars would, with the faster party (you, in this case), moving by toward the center of two directional surface path or sidewalk or if narrow, on the left. First, alert them to your presence by saying “On your left” loud enough for them to hear you and not so close as to startle them.  Give it a little gas if you can and pass quickly so as not to dwell in the “two abreast” stage of the pass.

 

If the person in front of you is wearing headphones and can’t hear you, give a wide berth as you pass to avoid startling them.

 

If in a race, pay special attention before and after fluid stations, heading in and out of sharp and curbed corners, and at a turn around so as not to cause a pileup or a chain reaction.  You and the other runners are entitled to hold your own space, but it is your responsibility to maintain that space with the people immediately in front of you, and to not encroach that space by dangerously slipping by someone right at the curb before or after a turn.  If looking for a particular line for an advantageous tangent to a distant corner, to stay out of the wind, or for another reason, you must allow a step and a half of space between yourself and the person you are passing before moving in front of them into their lane / line.  If in doubt, give the other runner an indication by announcing your intention with an “on your left”, “head’s up” or a point of the finger where you are headed so they can see what you have planned.

 

If passing a horse on a trail, make sure you alert the rider well in advance of your arrival, and plan to walk around the backside of the horse with a wide berth.  Yes, that might be annoying and a disruption to your run, but a worse disruption is a startled horse and back kick into your stomach.  Don’t take any chances.

 

Running with a group

If running on a surface with any regular oncoming running traffic at all, two runners across is probably the maximum appropriate amount of width.  If running with three or more with plenty of room, be prepared to maintain the responsibility of yielding to an oncoming runner if you suddenly come upon one rather than force them to the shoulder or the bushes.  Even if there is no oncoming traffic, running with three across can prove a hazard as cyclists, cars, and other runners might be coming from behind and have to swing wide into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting your group.

 

Minding your manners on a busy track

Unless the track is empty or no one present is running for time or fast enough to encounter each other, do not jog in lane 1 of the track.  Many tracks encourage this through gates or signs to jog in outside lanes. Even if not, a community track is a treasure for all who use it and a very expensive item to resurface.  If you want to continue accessing your home track, it is best for all to allow lane 1 to wear out as slowly as possible.  Therefore, if you don’t need to use it for timing a workout, don’t.

 

Again, unless the place is empty or traffic is limited enough to definitely avoid bumping into each other, do not run the opposite direction (clockwise).  If you do for some reason, it is your responsibility to yield to those running counterclockwise.  Likewise, do not ever run clockwise in lane 1, unless you really, really, have the place to yourself.

 

If passing from behind on a track, always do so to the outside of the person you are passing, particularly if both of you are too out of breath to let them know verbally that you are coming by.  If someone (toddler, random person talking on their cell phone, slouchy teenager, or similar) is standing or otherwise blocking your lane while not running hard themselves, give them a sharp “TRACK!” before you come upon them to give them time to move out of the way.  Likewise, if you accidentally are daydreaming or forget where you are and hear “TRACK!” while standing in a particular lane, it is your responsibility to get out of the way immediately as you would hope another would do for you.

 

Fluid stations

Do not cut off other runners in a crazy diagonal direction to get fluid.  Fluid stations are often areas with slippery footing, and race-ending injuries can occur even when best intentions are met with poor geometry.  Prior to the station, merge as you can so all runners can get a clean shot at the drinks without banging into each other.  If you need to stop and consume whatever it is you picked up, do so AFTER you clear the table and out of the main line of travel.

 

Drafting

If it is windy, or the road is particularly cambered, runners will often naturally form a single file or thin line as the race stretches out.  However, if it is just you and one other poor runner, by yourselves into the wind for five miles straight, it is bad form to just silently just have them take the brunt of the weather without offering to take turns if evenly matched.  If you are hanging on to the pace for dear life and there is no way you could help, at least acknowledging their help or asking if it is ok for you to run along with them for a bit is far better than just wordlessly breathing down their throat the entire way.

 

Assorted other Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do shake hands with someone you just worked with or competed against for a large portion of the race.
  • Do look oncoming runners in the eye and say good morning or hello.  If running by yourself, this can also be a way for others to have remembered you if you go missing on a run.  Sounds scary, but it is true.
  • Do not knowingly (when possible) bring meandering children on training wheels or hard to control (even if good natured) dogs to a location where people are running hard for time in narrow confines.  Freak injuries and accidents from this type of thing are more common than you may realize.
  • Do wipe down your treadmill in the gym for the next person, even if they aren’t yet present.
  • Do not stop short in lane 1 of a busy track or in the middle of a busy bike path if doing timed intervals.  Decelerate by stepping to the side or the inside of the track, or take a glimpse behind you first to make sure no one is immediately on your tail.
  • Do not randomly “race” some person you just came upon in the park without exchanging pleasantries at least or acknowledging you are trying to stay with them.
  • Do completely clear the finish line of a race before engaging with your watch to check splits, etc.
  • Do not keep the beeping function of your GPS device on during a race.  It may not match up with the race markings and quickly becomes a stressor and annoyance for anyone running with you.
  • Do not wear headphones unless in a situation where you are sure it is safe for you and others to do so.  If doing so, always keep them at a level where you can still hear the ambient noise around you.

 

Most importantly, keep it light and try not to take yourself so seriously when situations requiring etiquette occur.  We all put a great deal of effort and time into our running, but most of us do so for the fun, relaxation, and enjoyment of the sport.  Acting in a way that allows your fellow runners the chance to do so as well is the least each of us can do for each other.

Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Ashley Benson 

Ryan_Victah_Oly_TrialsRyan Hall was the first American to break one hour in the half marathon, running 59:43 in January of 2007 at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  His first marathon later that spring represented the fastest debut of any US athlete (2:08:24), and his current personal best of 2:06:17 ranks him second to Khalid Khannouchi on the all-time American list.  After winning the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, Ryan finished 10th in Beijing, and has placed 3rd and 4th overall in the last two Boston Marathons, running 2:08:40 in 2010, the fastest American time in the history of the event.

On December 1, John Hancock announced Ryan's inclusion into the 2011 Boston Marathon elite field.  Before he can tackle Heartbreak Hill again, however, he will need to train through the winter like the rest of us.  Ryan took a few minutes with us to share some insight about winter and holiday running.

Photo credit:  Victah Sailer

Coach:  Growing up in Big Bear (California) and now training in Mammoth, Flagstaff, and other high altitude locations in the winter, you must regularly encounter some rough running weather (cold temperatures, snow, ice, etc).  How do you tweak your training to account for these less than ideal conditions?

RH: Training during the winter months is certainly not my favorite season to train through, but the weird thing is that I always come out of the winter in the best shape of the year.  I don't know what it is about training in the snow, cold, rain, etc. that makes me feel better than I typically do,  but I know that its worth it for me to tough it out through these gray months.  The hardest thing for me to do is to be flexible in my training schedule from week to week.  For example, if I am scheduled for a big tempo run on Friday but the snow is coming down in buckets I have to have an open mind and be flexible enough to move the workout back, which in the past has been difficult for me to do.  If I am not willing to move the workout back it means I have to be flexible to do the workout indoors on a treadmill or at least wait for the afternoon sun to clear the roads.  Luckily, now my coach is in charge of the weather and my workouts so it all works out.

 

Coach: I assume that the challenges of winter training might encourage mental toughness.  What are some key things you remind yourself during the winter to help keep you focused on the training vs the challenges that might be posed by the weather, shorter daylight hours, etc?

RH: One of the aspects of running that I love the most is the challenge.  I think we all run, to some degree, because of the challenges we face in training.  I don't like to give myself excuses with the weather.  Sure, sometimes I'll wait it out to try and run in the best part of the day but there are those moments when the wind is blowing hard and snow is coming down and I am in the middle of a workout trying to run against the wind and I remind myself, "What if it is like this in Boston on race day?"
 
I know that race day can hold a variety of conditions and I must be ready for them all. So, when I see the flags whipping when I wake up on race morning I can smile because I know I have prepared for it.  I think there is also something to be said for being able to block out the cold and wind.  You teach yourself that you can push yourself hard when things aren't perfect.  Whenever things are not perfect in training, I remind myself that they probably won't be on race day either.

Coach: You come from a large family with several folks who enjoy or have enjoyed running.  Did you have any running related holiday traditions with your family growing up or nowadays with your wife, Sara? Or have you heard of any fun ones from other families you might like to try in the future?

RH: Well, this isn't necessarily running, but last year after a long run, Sara and I went out into the forest to hike up a mountain and cut down our own Christmas tree.  That was a first for the both of us.  It was fun, but I was drained for what felt like a week after that.  This year, we will probably go cut another Christmas tree, but on an off day from running.  Other than that, Sara and I have done a jingle bell run a couple years back and had a lot of fun.  There is nothing like ending a cold run at a coffee shop with a hot chocolate waiting.                                                         

Coach: I know you enjoy doing some cooking from time to time.  Any favorite holiday dishes you might recommend for our runners trying to stay on track with their training when so much good food is available?

RH: Cinnamon rolls were on my mind until I got to the end of your question.  Many of my holiday favorites like turkey, egg casseroles, and yams are actually super nutritious.  They just are usually prepared in unhealthy ways even though healthy versions are out there and are equally tasty.  I love fresh winter foods like squashes, brussel sprouts, and cranberries.  This year I am hoping to get to cook the turkey.  I have a new healthy and unique recipe that is so good.  It requires skinning the turkey before brining it for 24 hours, baking it at 350 for the first hour, then turning the temperature down to 180 for the next 23 hours.  It's the most tender and tasty turkey I have ever had.  With that said, I think moderation is the key during the holidays.  I like to enjoy an occasional homemade dessert because I do like a good sweet every now and again and I always want to honor the person who took the time to make the dessert.                                                                                                                                        

Coach:  Like you, many of our Runcoach runners are heading into the holidays while training for spring marathons or half marathons.    Some folks feel like the race is so far off it won't matter if they skip out on training for a few weeks now, and others are nervous and feel like the race is just around the corner.  How do you recommend folks maintain a good balance with months ahead to train?

RH: Good question.  I would suggest to plan your training ahead so you know what days are going to be tough to get out the door.  Use these days for off or recovery days.  As long as you have a good plan with the long term goal in mind you will be alright.  I make sure I am doing the proper workouts during the proper phases of training.  What I mean by this is that I know that even if I am not killing my workouts in December and January it is fine because they aren't my biggest workouts in preparation for a spring marathon.  If I was killing my biggest workouts in December and January, then I would be concerned.  I wait to do the meatest part of the my training in February and March.
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