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Running For FUN!!

 

 

Keep it FUN!

What elements of your running make it fun for you?   Do you run competitively, run for fun, or both ?  What are your future running goals and how do they support your lifestyle?  Do you find it rewarding to push yourself towards your upper limits or to keep expectations on the lower side?  How do you keep your running fun, manage your life, and satisfy all of your personal goals?

By setting goals, establishing a plan, and proper execution you will be on the road to success!  The satisfaction that comes with your goal achievement will keep things fun and rewarding at the same time.   I think that when balanced correctly running can be a fun lifelong activity and a compliment to everything else you do.  That being said, I have seen a number of athletes struggle with keeping this balance between sport and life.   Competing at your highest level and keeping it fun and sustainable over time can be a common challenge that you may encounter.   Identifying your true level of commitment combined with appropriate goal setting will be the key here.  When the goals don’t match ones level of spare time, work schedules, and family life we run into many conflicts.  These problems then create an environment where runs are missed, goals aren’t achieved, and running isn’t so much fun.   As a coach I have recently emphasized the need for more attention towards this issue and running plans that fit life better.

Running can be much more fun if you keep the balance between life and sport.   Your goals of the sport and how you will implement running into your life will be the deciding factor.  Tangible goals, attention to the plan, and steadfast execution will guide you in your journey.   Whether you’re attempting to qualify for the Olympic Trials, compete locally, or just to stay in shape, we all need a direction in which to run.  This destination gives us a purpose and will keep us motivated over time.  Running is much more fun when you have a destination!

Running with a destination can serve you in a variety of different healthy ways and lead to an overall good time.  The physiological and psychological rewards are significant and can be an integral component in maintaining your overall sanity.  How many times have you heard runners refer to their running as a form of personal counseling and well being?  The therapeutic qualities of regular running can be huge and can translate across everything else that you do in your life.   Use your running to your advantage and let the positive outcomes help to make your days more enjoyable.   You will be healthier, fitter, stronger, and ready to tackle all of life’s challenges head on.

(Valeria Curtis: 2019 Houston Marathon)

Is setting ambitious time goals and pushing yourself to the max what really does it for you?   From athlete to athlete the goals may be different and the joy of running may hold a different meaning.  Valeria is a mother of two, living in Minot North Dakota, with an enlisted husband that is gone away from home for large blocks of time.  She runs close to a hundred miles a week and thrives on setting serious running goals.  Recently, she narrowly missed her Olympic Trials berth of (2:45) in Houston.  Although she missed the goal she remains engaged, hungry, and running for fun in search of this goal in the upcoming season.  She does a wonderful job of keeping the balance in life and allowing herself to train at this very high level.   Athletes can fall into the trap of setting goals that require too extensive of a plan to fit their lifestyle.   When this happens it can lead to a loss of joy for the sport, poor performances, and in some cases being totally burnt out.  Keeping the balance with tangible goal setting and plans that support the rest of your life will be huge in keeping it fun for years to come.

 

Post Season Blues

With the end of every season comes the finality of another chapter in our personal book of running.  A time to reflect on the season that has passed and to evaluate our progress.  Time to kick back a bit, relax, regenerate, and reward ourselves on another season, well done.   What do we do with ourselves now that we have so much free time on our hands?  Although we know this break is essential to our long term success it can still be a tough adjustment for many.   Here are some examples of how some of our folks make the most of their down time and deal with the in-between season blues.

Michael Lombardi:  “Hitting the weights extra hard during the in between season always cures the blues for me!”

Christine Carbonetti:  I look forward to the in between because I use that time to focus on cross training and getting stronger in the weight room. There does come a point, however, where I’m ready and excited to jump back into training. I think having that break allows for us to get recharged and ready for what’s to come.

Alyssa Risko:  “In the off season I welcome the needed rest but not the little aches and pains that come with the lack of movement/mileage!”

Erin Wrightson:In the off season, I drink more wine and eat more pizza & tacos!”

As we look back at the season it’s important to ask ourselves some important questions.  Did we reach the goals that we had set for ourselves?  Were our goals and plan something that worked well with the rest of our lives and could be repeated going forward?  How can we be more efficient and do it better while still enjoying the process?  After all, we want to be sure that the journey is as enjoyable as possible and is sustainable over time.  Setting sensible goals that fit our lifestyle will put us in the best possible position for success.  We are not professional athletes and therefore we will have many priorities that rank above and beyond that of our running.   Take advantage of the free and get caught up on everything.

Jaclynn Stankus:  “The time in between my marathons where my body is recovering helps me to reset myself physically and mentally.  It lets me focus on other areas of my life and take care of myself in ways that I may neglect during hard training.  I begin the new season with a new attitude and a clear head.”

Emily Camenga:  “In between seasons, I really miss the focus and motivation that comes with following a specific training plan. In planning each day with specific intent and purpose, all other areas of my life are better organized. When the methodical training season comes to an abrupt end, it’s hard not to feel a little lost and disconnected.”

Danielle Turk-Bly:  “Running is one of the few luxuries that we are given that bridges the agony of pushing past what is comfortable and the reward of doing something you didn’t think possible. The off season can be daunting, because you know you are in the pursuit of more, but the immediate task of holding back leaves you craving the pain and the accomplishment it brings when you can push past it.”

The in-between seasons break is a great time to catch up on things that may have been neglected while we were in serious season training.  It’s time to prioritize different aspects of our life and restore some life balance.  Not only will this please our family and friends but it will do wonders for our own body and mind.   Keeping the peace in our households is always a must if we are going to be able to sustain this pursuit towards our goals over and over.

As we runners we have the tendency to think that more is always better and that rest periods will only lose us fitness.  The part about losing fitness is correct, while more is definitely not always better.  I frequently have new athletes to our program that don’t understand the importance of this lower volume training period and letting go of some fitness.   We are so consumed with the daily runs and the desire to always be improving that it’s tough to embrace the down times.  Make the most of the down time by recovering your body and tending to the rest of your lives and get back to the start line better than ever.

Embrace the in-between seasons and make them as productive as possible.   There is no reason for sadness or the post season blues.  Consistent improvement in your running is not a linear journey and there will be many ups and downs in training, racing as in life.   Navigate your way through the peaks and valleys with a disciplined approach and reap the rewards of another great chapter in your personal book of running.

The Roller Coaster of the Marathon Season!

Each year I work with beginner to veteran marathoners as they enter into their next marathon season.  Whether in search of a Boston qualifier, a PR, or to just finish it’s going to be a long grind.  It takes patience, consistency, and the ability to adapt to the unforeseen circumstances that will come their way.  Programs will last anywhere from twelve to eighteen weeks, depending on experience and the goals of the athlete.   In the northeast you can settle for the fact that you will be building your base in the heat of summer or in the ice and snow of winter.  The fact remains that you will face your share of adversity in all of your marathon campaigns.  Many of which they will have absolutely no control over and be forced to make the best of in order to conquer your marathon goals.

Each week you will spend between six and fifteen hours of your life grinding it out on the roads, trails, or treadmills.  This doesn’t account for prep time, fueling, refueling, strength, rehab, or recovery time.   The commitment here is real and it takes a special athlete to manage everything that life will throw in your way.   There is work, family, friends, sickness, injury, and the weather all to be accounted for.  Then there are the completely unforeseen life tragedies that will come our way and leave us wondering if it’s all worth it.  Below is a collection of quotes on how the adversity of the marathon season has affected these prospective spring marathoners.

Diane Harris: “I have faced the largest adversity that I’ve ever seen in this training block.  Between my travel schedule and awful weather there have been moments that I’ve just wanted to give up completely.   But by keeping in contact with my coach to adjust workouts and having a super-strong running support system it has helped to keep me focused on the goal.”  #Bostonbound2018

Ariane Hendrix:   “I have to remember that one bad run, race, or injury does not determine the entire season.   we have had terrible fires out here in California this winter and many days where I just could’t run outside.  I have to remember to keep fighting because In the end it will all be worth it!”
Adrienne Ruscika:  “I remind myself that comparing myself to others or even my past self when coming back from injury is completely unnecessary and detrimental to my current training. Everyone is different and every training cycle is going to be different. What matters is being smart, putting in the hard work, and working on mental toughness so that I can execute on race day.”
 Kim McGregor Law:  “As I get older I have had to reevaluate some of my goals, and as a runner I have found that having a good plan, working smarter, listening to my body is the key.   I can still have big goals and patience will get me there!”
Christine Carbonetti:  “Learning that not every run should be at medium to medium hard pace has been very beneficial in my training.  This was especially true in my last training cycle for Philly.  Keep the easy runs EASY so that you can perform and hit your paces on your hard days.”

Jessica VanKirk:  “Every season is completely different and I never know what to expect.  This season has been particularly tough for me, but I’m trying to remember that I want to be a lifelong runner not a once in a lifetime runner.   I have to allow my body time to heal from injury and I will run again stronger and faster than before.  My friend told me that I’ve encountered a few speed bumps which lead me on a detour.   I will make it to my original destination, it may just take a little longer than expected.”

Mike Routhier:   “Just because you have been a runner for more than 20 plus years, doesn’t mean anything.   I’m glad that I finally decided to try something new and get the perspective of training through the guidance and support of someone else.  This has been hard for me since I had always done my own training plans and have always been in absolute control.”

Michelle Davis:  “It seems impossible until it’s done. It seems unthinkable until you find yourself doing it. 🏃marathon training” 💪

Zach Hill:  “Winter Marathon Training: Just… git… er… done!!!”

Top 10 Winter Recovery TIPS!

 

The RECOVERY season is upon us and it’s time for a much needed break from the fall racing season as we prep for an amazing spring campaign!  In this article we will give you our  Top Ten recovery Tips to help you maximize your winter recovery/running and have you ready to crush all of your spring goals.

Everyone knows how much we all love running through the winter in upstate New York!  The temperatures are brisk, winds are strong, and the snow is flying.   How can we make the most out of this time of the year and get ourselves optimally prepared for spring racing?  Is it possible to race hard all year round and expect ourselves to be at our best when it really counts in our peak spring season?  How can we optimize this time of the year and get ourselves optimally prepared for the upcoming spring racing season?   Here in Albany we have the Winter Series and supported long runs throughout the coldest months of the year.  It doesn’t get much better than that as they are a great resource for runners here in the capital district to get great supported long runs in with a gang of folks.

At Nark Running we always designate December through mid-January as one of our two annual RECOVERY BLOCKS of the year.  The other of which is from mid-May through the end of June and corresponds with the end of the spring racing season.  These blocks depend on which peak races we have run and what races our annual plans consists of.  These recovery blocks are one of the most important and most commonly neglected time periods in most training plans.   There is no better time to begin to apply our  Top Ten Recovery Tips than when the holiday season is upon us and the first snows of the season are falling.  Our training volume has decreased, races are sparse, and speed work is not a priority in our weekly running schedules.  Here we go!

Top 10 RECOVERY TIPS

1.   Mental Healing:  As runners we are psychologically and unable to maintain our highest levels of mental fitness all year long.  In order to be in top shape for our peak races we must have give our central nervous system (CNS) a break.  The mental stress of hard training and racing takes a toll and must be honored if we are going to smash our goals in the spring.   It’s these down times that allow us to rest and regenerate our minds and give us an opportunity to get sharp again in the new season.  After all it takes great focus, motivation, and determination to execute our plan and complete a long enduring season.

2.  Less Is More:   Although training volume and intensities are significantly reduced at this time it gives our body’s a chance to absorb all of the past season’s exercise stimulus.  At this time we adapt to all of the training stress that our body has endured over the course of the past season.   Most folks have the hardest time understanding that losing fitness, gaining some weight, and shifting priorities for a short time is a good thing.  During this recovery time the “Less Is More” principle is such a great concept to embrace and to allow ourselves to reap the rewards.

3.  Musculoskeletal Healing:   Our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones need a break from the constant pounding of the roads and trails.   The constant repetition of training and racing can eventually break us down if these recovery breaks are not inserted in to the plan.  This recovery time where we rest and reduce mileage gives our structure a much needed break and allows it to have a chance to regenerate.   While completing our running season and big races we do damage on a cellular level to our skeletal muscle and immune system.   Neglecting these breaks can lead us to be more susceptible to illness, over training staleness, and injury.

4.  Physiological Adaptations:   While running we use use three main energy systems to provide use with energy and power to propel us across the land.   Our aerobic, anaerobic, and creatine phosphate systems cannot function at their highest levels constantly throughout the entire year.  This is why in most training programs that a periodized approach to training is used to improve fitness levels towards a peak season of races.   We train these systems in a strategic order in hope of developing the highest possible levels of fitness and the fastest race times.  As our lactate threshold and Vo2 Max climb to new heights and we are able to sustain faster and faster paces over various race distances.  In our recovery phase these markers of fitness come back down as volume and intensity of running is diminished.  Our energy systems get a chance to stabilize to normal levels, get recharged, and ready for the upcoming season.  The mark of a quality training program is one that takes advantage of these down times as a calculated priority of training.   After your recovery is complete we begin to rebuild your systems towards the peak levels that will be needed later in the season.   You crush your big races at the end of the season, you reset, and start over again with this process.

5.   Don’t Race:   The winter recovery block is a critical time to limit or even completely eliminate hard racing and high intensity speed work.  Every season new runners come to me with misguided ideas of racing in their recovery and early base phases.   I highly encourage and recommend that the priority at this time of the year be rest and easy base building.   We always take advantage of the early HMRRC Winter Series for supported long runs but wait until February to begin higher intensity workouts or early season races.   Performing intense speed workouts or racing too early or too frequently in a training block lowers the body’s blood pH (a measurement of acidity levels)  and can sacrifice optimal seasonal gains later. (A. Lydiard)   Folks that abuse this fact may collect a pie at the Hangover Half but find themselves flat when the more spring serious races come about.

6.  Shift Priorities (temporarily):  This is the season to focus on some other things that may or may not be running related.   When we are in serious training there are many things in our lives that may get neglected just because of our training.  This down time is great time to catch up with family, non-running friends, and just do activities that you may just not get to in the regular season.   These fresh new activities will do wonders towards getting us refreshed and sharp for the season ahead.

7.    Goal (soul searching):    As we know, without goals we can’t be optimally successful in our training and racing.   Goals are an essential piece to the puzzle that give us direction, motivation, and guidance in our season.   Sometimes it can get difficult to decide on what our next season’s goals are going to be.  We lack clarity and the ability to decide on what exactly we want our priorities to be.  Sometimes a little time away from running can get us the clarity needed to once again make an assault on our best past performances.  This recovery time is a great time to rethink our priorities and get new, exciting, and challenging goals established.

8.   Get Strong:   Recovery time is the greatest time of the year to begin to get strong again.  Our muscle tissue takes a whipping during the regular racing season.   Our skeletal muscle fibers (fast and slow twitch) are pushed to the absolute max as we consistently train and race a variety of distances up through the ultra marathon.   A solid strength regime designed for runners can address this overall muscle fatigue and weakness that has developed throughout the season.   We recommend continuing strength throughout the season but it’s understood that sometimes as running volume peaks and the big races ensue it can be tough.  The recovery block is a great time to once again begin to prioritize the gym and address our strength deficiencies.   This is the time to focus on bolstering our CP (Creatine Phosphate) Fast Twitch system while fortifying a foundation of complimentary strength to assist our aerobic system demands.

 9.  Plateau Busting:   Plateaus in running performance will happen and sometimes they can totally halt your desired progress.   Our mind and body can get tired, overworked, and just plain stale.  The training and racing that we did before seem harder than ever while the results are not up to our usual standards.  The recovery block is a great time to address this issue and get the refresher that we need.   For longevity and consistency purposes in training these proactive breaks will keep us sharp while being able to once again regain former peak fitness levels.   Take a couple strategic annual breaks each year and train more consistently than ever in 2018.

10.  Injury prevention:  In order to be a successful runner we will need to stay injury free and consistent in our training.   The December/January recovery time is a great time to get any minor injuries or nagging discomforts under control.   In many cases a small break from training can be the remedy needed to get rid of any nagging muscle or joint soreness.   These recovery breaks will be essential in keeping an environment in place that promotes a trend of continuous improvements over the long haul.

Top 6 Exercises That Runners Don’t Need To Do In The Gym!

Runners and triathletes have specialized STRENGTH needs that differ from the the sedentary person that is going to the gym in search of “that burn” or just needs to get into shape for summer.   The average person or athlete that trains for a non endurance sport needs a much different STRENGTH program than that of an endurance athlete.   It drives me absolutely crazy to see endurance athletes jump into these silly metabolic, barre, or boot camp classes for STRENGTH gains.  Runners and triathletes do anywhere from four to twenty hours of weekly aerobic/conditioning based activities.   Do you really think that runners/triathletes need anymore of this when you go to the gym for your STRENGTH training?  Below are my top 6 STRENGTH TRAINING ERRORS made by endurance athletes when they go to the gym for STRENGTH.

1.   Burpees: (high reps for conditioning)

Do we really need to be jumping onto the floor and getting back up again in hopes of raising our heart rate and creating a tough challenge?   It would be a much better use of time by spending this time lifting some weights.  The primary goal of squat thrusts or burpees is for conditioning purposes and not for STRENGTH building.  The exercises and movements that we do in the gym need to be dedicated to activities that help to build STRENGTH and not replicate the exercise stress of our endurance events.

2.  Light weight lower body: (body weight or light weight high reps squatting and lunging)

We spend so much of our time on our feet with the repetition of running and are constantly moving our own body weight around unloaded.  There is just no need for body weight exercises on the lower body when our primary goal is to gain lower body STRENGTH.   This lower body STRENGTH  that we are in search of in the gym should be a complimentary STRENGTH that helps to enhance our running.  Once again, we don’t need to replicate the same unloaded movements that we are doing for between 4-20 hours a week in our endurance activities.  We need to load up the squat bar, pick up some heavy kettlebells, or move some heavier loads with that lower body.   This will help to achieve our goal of building STRENGTH while at the gym.

3.  Battling ropes:  (high rep conditioning sets)

The primary goal of battling ropes is for conditioning purposes and can serve as a GREAT tool for the sedentary individual in search of that washboard stomach for summer.  That being said, endurance athletes are already getting a ton of aerobic and anaerobic system stimulus each week in your regular training programs.  Traditional fitness programs are filled with daily rope intervals to kick up the intensity in their workouts.  This exercise stimulus closely resembles that of the speed work sessions that you may already be doing on the roads and track on a normal weekly basis.  Therefore if you goal is to be building STRENGTH while in the gym then you will be missing the mark on spending too much time on this one.

4.  Sled pushes:  (sled pushes for conditioning)

Another great fitness tool that trainers/coaches utilize all across the fitness planet is that of the SLED!   It is a FABULOUS tool for both STRENGTH and conditioning purposes in our general populations.   Where trainers go wrong with our endurance athletes is that the sled is systematically misused and not applied correctly to meet the needs of the endurance athlete.   The sled is either weighted too light or placed incorrectly into the workouts.

5.   Single joint range of motion exercises:  (isolation bicep and tricep exercises)

With busy training schedules it’s super important that as endurance athletes we need to be efficient as possible with our gym time.  Spending time focusing on single joint range of motion exercises does not fit the bill.  Everything that we do in competition requires full body coordination, stability, and STRENGTH.  Although standing in front of the mirror and cranking out bicep curls may be aesthetically pleasing to you it just doesn’t have much carryover to sport.  Focusing on complex or full body movements will be a much more productive use of time and carryover more directly to your running, riding, and swimming.

6.  Machine based exercises:  

In the 70’s machine STRENGTH training was popularized with the bodybuilding boom.  When we use machines for our STRENGTH we completely remove the stability element from our training.  With endurance events stability plays a huge role in our sport and can be simultaneously challenged with our strength by doing activities while on our feet.   STRENGTH exercises that resemble the movement patterns of our sport are going be much more efficient and have far more carryover to our competitive events.

7.  BONUS:  HIIT Training or METABOLIC strength workouts:

This one here is a HUGE ERROR that is made by endurance athletes all across the land all the time. Light weight high rep training with short recoveries, although a great option for the sedentary population is just not appropriate in large doses for endurance athletes.  Repetition ranges over 12-15 reps or timed sets of 45 seconds or more with short 15 second recoveries will not achieve the STRENGTH goals that you are in search of.  These types of workouts are geared for folks that don’t do any ancillary cardio and need a STRENGTH/cardio mix to complete their exercise needs.  For endurance athletes the goal of the gym is for STRENGTH as we will achieve our cardio goals in our regular training.  Drop the conditioning workouts for more true STRENGTH based workouts.

In the article above I have attempted to give aspiring endurance athletes the guidance that you will need to either fine your STRENGTH routine or change to one that will meet your endurance goals more efficiently.  Our sport is very demanding and having a STRENGTH program that compliments our sport is essential towards injury freedom, consistency, and performance at our highest levels.  Get to the gym and get STRONG!

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10 tips to RUNNING at your BEST!!

1. Set tangible goals:  One of the BIGGEST errors that I see is when runners set goals that are just out of their reach in the current season and too ambitious for current fitness levels. What this does is sets up a training block where expectations are lofty and when they are not met in the early season it sets a negative tone for upcoming training and races.  It’s critical to develop early season confidence which can be applied throughout the training block as things begin to ramp up and peak races soon approach.  Setting reachable goals is an integral part of building the confidence necessary to be as consistent as possible while executing a long grinding training plan.

2.  Have a plan:  Once your seasonal goals have been established it will be time to get your plan together.  Whether you hire a professional coach or make up the plan yourself it will be an essential element to you reaching your goals.  Your plan should consist of a strategic approach to training with progressive workouts and long runs that gently prepare you for your peak races.   It will be key that your plan takes into account your personal and professional life and has a balance that will allow you to navigate through your life and keep training consistently through the peak of the season.

3.  Be flexible:  Your running and life will not always go exactly how you may be expecting it to go.  Be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to your plan and your life to allow for you to be successful.  Athletes that get too rigid in following their plan will likely end up getting frustrated and fall off track when things don’t go exactly to plan.  The best plans are those that change to meet the ups and downs of your regular life.  A solid running and life balance will be the key to your longevity as a runner.

4.  Be disciplined/patient:   Your fitness takes time to build or prime and a slow burn approach is much preferred to a get results NOW strategy.  Your physiology is very complex and your body’s energy systems prefer to be developed in a preferred order.  Now this can differ from athlete to athlete but there are some concepts that remain constant from runner to runner.  For example we know that racing too often in your base phase is a bad idea and can compromise high level gains later in the season.

5.  Run practice races:  Another HUGE error that I see is where we have runners (especially marathon runners) that think that they don’t need to race in preparation for their peak marathon events.   Running and racing fast is a skill that must be refined and practiced in order to be sharp.  The seasonal races that you put into your schedule serve multiple purposes and are very important components to any successful season.  We must practice the race type intensity many times in order to be able to call on this skill on race day.  Without this experience athletes are likely to fall short of expectations in those big events at the end of the season.

6.  Always listen to your body:   This concept will be one of the most important of all in keeping you injury free, on the roads running, and crushing all of your goals.  There is a time to follow your running program and there’s a time to alter the plan to fit your needs.  When your body is telling you that it needs a break or it it can’t handle the prescribed workout, you better LISTEN!  Sometimes it’s best to sneak in that extra day off or to bypass your weekly speed work session in favor of an easy run.  Give yourself that extra day and pick right up where you left off.

7.  Strength Train:  It’s essential to have a complimentary strength program for the demands of all of your running miles.   A proper strength program that is designed for runners will be an important component in keeping you injury free and consistent in your training.   As we run and race our running muscles get fatigued and break down in the latter miles.  Some extra support, stability, and strength will be crucial for that finishing kick and completing those quality long run miles.  Rep ranges in the 3-8 range will be optimal for enhancing power and creating strength gains that will directly translate to your running.

8.  Taper correctly:  The process of tapering is one that is constantly used incorrectly by runners all across the land.  In many cases we miss that sweet spot and either taper too much or not enough.  Now, we must consider that all athletes are not the same and each will respond differently to various tapering methods.  At some points of the season we won’t even taper, others will require just a short reduction in volume, and then the marathon will require more.  I have found a huge benefit in having athletes for many consecutive seasons as this lets me learn how each individual responds to different tapering methods.  Once we get this formula down we can count on consistent performances on race day each time out.

9.  Value your base phase:  For some reason so many athletes (Whitney Earnest) think that the base phase is less important than other phases of training.   When in reality the base phase is probably the most important part of every training block.  This 6-8 week block lays a critical foundation for all of the other training elements that will follow.   Establishing that aerobic base while growing your mitochondria and preparing your musculosketal system for the demands of faster running happens here.

10.  Know your current fitness:  With the birth of every new season come goals, expectations, and dreams.  Whether your season is focused on the 5k or the marathon there will be a significant commitment made and goals to achieve. In order to construct the right plan, keep on track, and not over train it will be essential to know your current fitness to start the season and as it progresses.  So many folks just guess on their fitness or use grandiose goals to gauge training intensities.  When we do this it’s very likely that we will be training too fast, too much, too early in the season.  Your training program must start where you are at and work towards where you want to go.  It must be progressive and match the needs of your physiological systems.  To get that big bang on peak race day takes patience and persistence and most of all TIME!

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It’s all about our RECOVERY and BASE phases!

In a perfect world we could just run and race at our highest level all year long.  We would run constant PRS and be at the top of our game for every race throughout the season.  There would be no reason to even have seasons as we wouldn’t need any down time and we would just keep cranking out HUGE performances all the time.  Honestly, wouldn’t things get pretty boring if it was that easy and that was the way things were to go?

Then we “WOKE UP” and realized that we’re not all superman and just like in every other sport there is an off season, pre-season, competitive season, and a championship or peak season.  A periodized string of phases are essential in bringing us (the athletes) to our peak levels of performance a couple times a year.  The RECOVERY and BASE phases of your season will turn out to be two of most important times of your training block.  In many cases we will target two main seasons in a year where in which we will attempt our peak half/full marathons.  Along the way, we will recover from the preceding season, rebuild our base, strategically target our weaknesses and quickly refine our strengths.  All this in hope of creating the newest and strongest version of ourselves in the new campaign.

Unfortunately this new version of ourselves is going to take time and nurturing to top that finished product of the past season.  It’s going to take a strategic approach, discipline, patience, and a killer work ethic to get where we want to go.  The BIGGEST mistake that we see made all the time by coaches and runners all across the land is that they race far too much and never let they body come down for much needed rest and regeneration of the recovery phase.  Check in with these guys and see what Alberto Salazar, Brad Hudson, Greg McMillan, or Joe Vigil are doing with their athletes after a long enduring season.  Do you think these guys are sending their folks out to do 20+ mile long runs, speed work, or racing while in these recovery phases??  I can guarantee you that Galen Rupp is resting and relaxing following his 2nd place Boston Marathon performance and getting ready to begin to re-establish his base and tackle his next marathon.

In a perfect world we would get anywhere from 3-5 weeks of RECOVERY following a long and enduring half/full marathon season.  Our structure of the skeleton, muscles, ligaments, and tendons all need a break and this recovery season of lower stimulus will be just what the doctor ordered.  Then we consider our minds, the psychology, and the mental stress associated with the grind of a hard season.  Every part of us needs a break and when we neglect this RECOVERY phase we will set ourselves up for a less than spectacular upcoming season of performances.   In this recovery phase there will be no racing, a serious decrease in weekly and long run mileage, and NO speed work.  In fact this is the time to get some extra days off, catch up on some things that we may have been missing in our lives, and just chill a bit.   As we physiologically mature and develop as a runner it will take us less and less time to get back into the racing shape of the past.  This is time to let your body absorb as much rest as possible and get ready for the new base phase ahead.

As we enter this new BASE PHASE it’s key that we understand the main objectives here.   The main goal of the base phase is to lay a foundation of easy miles to then build upon.  In this time period running that accumulates lactic acid will be detrimental to future seasonal aerobic development.  During this time our goal is for the development of a rich capillary network and powerhouse mitochondria.  This is achieved with a steady diet of long slow distance and intensity levels appropriate for our base phase.  By doing longer intensity speed work and irresponsibly racing we can drive down our blood PH and put ourselves in an early season aerobic deficit.  Our base must be solidified before we introduce longer duration intensities above the intensity of our lactate threshold or 85-92% of MHR.  Shorter duration CP system work, hill reps, and steady state runs can be ideal for this time period of training as they don’t facilitate the production of lactate and allow for our mitochondria network to flourish.

 The discipline, patience, and commitment displayed in working our RECOVERY and BASE PHASES will produce the running rewards that most only dream of.  Being intelligent and selective in our approach to training will be the key to our longevity and accomplishing all of our goals.  Sure, every race and every season is not always going to go exactly to the plan as we have intended but these strategies above will keep you one step ahead of your competition and on course for amazing things!

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Is the Runner’s Strength Project right for me?

Last weekend, we launched The Runner’s Strength Project(RSP) and the response has been great! Runners everywhere are now using the program and are already enjoying it.  Coach Mat is manning the Facebook page, taking questions and providing even more content on how to use strength training to help your running.

We’ve received some great questions about the program so we thought we’d have Mat write up the most common ones so you can determine if the Runner’s Strength Project will help your running.

Q: Why did you create the Runner’s Strength Project?

A: I’ve been using this system with my runners for a number of years and having great results. In order to ever reach your potential as a runner it’s essential that you are injury free and consistent in your training. A few years ago, I saw that too many runners coming to me were weak and couldn’t stay consistent in their training. I knew that if I could create a strength program that would give them the strength to handle running and also fit with their run training and busy work/life schedules, they would excel. That’s where this program was born.

Q: How do I know if the RSP is for me?

A: The RSP program is designed to accommodate all ability levels of runner.  Because the program is progressive, you’re able to pick the appropriate exercise scheme to meet your individual needs and adjust recovery times as needed to control intensity.  Just like run training, having a strength program that can easily be modified to meet the needs of many different ability level athletes is extremely important and a key aspect to any successful program. Remember, everyone requires different levels of exercise stimulus to get her where she wants to go in a safe manner. I’ll guide you through that process in the RSP and monitor the RSP Facebook page to answer your questions as you train. (You can even check out a complimentary core workout I just posted on the RSP Facebook page. Click the image below.)


Q: What is the difference between the RSP program and the other strength programs for runners?
A: I think what Greg liked when he visited my gym and saw the results from my runners was that this program takes the best of strength training (so the training is uber-efficient) and blends it with run training. Since I’m a running coach and strength coach, he liked that the strength program we offer is 100% specialized for the exact needs of the runner.  He’s not a fan of strength trainers that push their runners so hard in the gym that their running suffers.  As a running coach, I understand that. I want runners to be strong but this can’t interfere with their run training. The two must work together. That’s the idea behind the RSP.

It’s also important to acknowledge that runners have very special strength requirements as the day to day demands of our sport are very significant.  You must be tough to be a runner!  A unique level of specialization in training is needed so we are sure not to overstress the lower body of the runner.  This is an area where many strength programs for runners go wrong.  As runners we need complementary strength, not just strength that is just going to wear us down. That’s why we see the best results with routines of shorter repetition ranges.  Our main focus with this program will be on the torso, hips, core, and upper extremities – the parts of the body that provide us with essential stabilization and support to power our running movements. 


Q How can the RSP help me today?

A: By getting started today we can get your body adjusted to your new program before you get into your more serious summer run training or preparation for a fall half or full marathons.  Adding RSP to your program will have an almost immediate effect on your upcoming races.  You will also be able to tolerate a heavier training load in the coming months and will recover much quicker from tough running workouts.

The ability to recover faster, train more consistently, and add some extra work into your program is often that extra push that you need to get you to the next level in your running.  It will make the last half mile of a 5k so much more tolerable and allow you to dig down and finish with that finishing kick that you have been lacking.  And for marathoners, those last 4-6 miles of the marathon can actually be enjoyable with a little extra total body strength.  A common theme of the past season with my marathoners was the statement, “I never hit the wall and I could have kept running right past the finish line!”  Get STRONGER, FITTER and FASTER this year with the Runner’s Strength Project.

Ready? Let’s get started
Runner’s Strength Project

Mother to Marathon Runner! “Colleen’s Transformation Story”

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In November of 2007, my second child was born.  I arrived at the hospital forty pounds overweight and knew that unless I delivered a forty pound baby, I needed to make a change.  As a mother of two young children, running seemed like a good way to reclaim the fitness.  It also seemed like a good way to develop a community of encouraging, inspirational friends.  I never ran track or cross country when I was younger, and I didn’t even know anyone who ran, but I didn’t let that deter me.   Before leaving the hospital I signed up for a half marathon… with hills… in June.  I know. Call me crazy but I needed something to get me started.

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I ran three days a week.  I put the baby in the stroller and I pushed her.  I wasn’t doing any speedwork or strength training, but I still managed to complete my first half marathon in 2:01.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to run WITHOUT pushing a stroller, though I was so sore that I couldn’t go up and down stairs for two weeks.  My “social” running continued for five years.  I was complacent in my training, and was happy to just “run” a race.  I raced all distances, but focused on at least two marathons per year.   I got my marathon time down to 3:52, but couldn’t seem to break past it.  Then things got worse.  A marathon that I hoped to finish in 3:45 took me over five hours!   My poor performance left me disenchanted with running altogether and I knew that I needed to make another change.

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That’s when I started Runner’s Strength Project with Mat.  I knew I needed to get stronger – much, much stronger if I was going to run faster.  And boy did it work!  Having just completed the New Jersey Marathon in 3:35, I can easily say that using the Runner’s Strength Project was the best decision I’ve ever made for my health and fitness.  Not only have I gotten faster, but my racing performance has improved, too.  I ran my marathon with a negative split and crossed the finish line feeling STRONG, FAST, and (most importantly) HAPPY!   2016 has been my most EPIC racing season to date – and it’s only May!  I have achieved PRs in every distance from 5k to marathon.

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Regular strength training using the Runner’s Strength Project has transformed my body – and in a short period of time. The picture above was taken during a 5k in August of 2014, just a few months before I started using the Runner’s Strength Project system by Coach Mat. At the time, I felt pretty good about my fitness level. As you can see from the picture below, I had tremendous untapped potential, which Mat helped me reveal through this strategic, structured strength training program. The challenge of kettlebells allows for consistent improvement, increased energy, and expeditious recovery.

I never imagined that at age 42 I would be in the best shape of my life! I feel excited and privileged to serve as a role model for my children. My daughter was recently admiring my muscles and exclaimed, “Mom, I don’t want you to be skinny – I want you to be STRONG!” And I am. Happy, healthy, strong!

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Now, I can’t guarantee that by using the Runner’s Strength Routine you’ll drop over 15 minutes from your marathon time but I can say that it’s helped me feel better about myself, my capabilities and about my potential as a runner (and just an overall healthy person) and I bet it’ll do the same for you.

Colleen

Check out the Runner’s Strength Project here:

MEGA Half/Marathon PRS at the Shore and Everywhere in Between!

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The weekend of May 1st turned out to be very productive weekend for the NRS family.  We competed at a handful of events and exceeded expectations in many cases.  You will not always have the best weather on race-day and must adapt to the conditions that you are given.  As always our athletes were prepared for anything and delivered on the BIG day.  We have featured 5 athletes below and their feelings following their big peak races.  In running you won’t always achieve your goals and there can be great disappointment following events where you underperform.  In our case we MUCH to celebrate following this past weekend of activities.

The Tiberio x 2 connection absolutely CRUSHED IT in their half marathons while BIG Mike rocked out a stellar 1st marathon with Miss Konderwich at his side!

Andrea Maynard and ‘My Girl” Emily Russell both delivered over 2 min improvements in their half’s.

John Sullivan and Katelyn Mennella both whacked a homerun in Albany with a 10k PR and a race win!

Cebula, Beardsley x 2, Bowden Wise, and Jim McMorris all continued to deliver consistent performances right on time!

Erin Wrightson (Thelittlerunnergirl) made one more step towards her sub 3:20 marathon with another season Pr!

The “Running Renegade” Erica Trimble finished her 1st marathon just a hair over 4 hours and Cara Wolf rocked the Long Island half w a 4 min PR.

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I’ve been working with Mat for about 17 months now and I’ve improved my marathon time from 3:28:00 down to 3:13:32 at New Jersey.  We sat down at our initial meeting to talk about my goals and he created a program specific to me and the results speak for themselves.  Not only has Coach Nark helped me get faster, he also helped me learn how to be a more efficient and smarter runner.

Dan Brady

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Kelly Piotrowski

I joined the Nark team last May to train for my first marathon. Based on everything I had previously heard, it seemed like the obvious place to go to get a solid training plan that would ensure I could complete a marathon. Little did I realize that the program was so much more than merely a weekly training plan. It’s a program that allows you to have the opportunity to interact and work out with some of the most talented, enthusiastic, and kind runners in the area. The Nark team paired with rigor and intensity of my training plan has allowed running to mean much more to me than solely trying to finish a race.  I recently completed my second marathon and had my second  PR of 7 minutes. I have also PR’d in the 5k and half marathon on the way to this fabulous weekend.

“One thing that this program has opened me to is the “running life” – which I’d take anyday over a PR!”

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 Lynn Hansen
 I have improved by over 14 minutes. My running routine before was just running the same pace for all runs. I have learned to push myself during speed work and long runs while beginning to enjoy the slowness and benefits of a recovery run (this was harder then making myself run faster). After a injury in the fall, I added strength workouts twice a week and saw immediate benefits. As a mother of three with a full time job, making the time to fit in my workouts was at times a scheduling nightmare but the progress I saw made it worth. The benefits of working with others has really surprised me – I was a bit intimidated by some of the ultra fast runners but I soon started to learn from their experience and applied to my training.
 Colleen Murray
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2016 has been my most epic racing season to date … I’ve been running since 2008, in all distances but focusing on at least 2 marathons per year … Over the years, the marathon distance has become my nemesis … I’ve tried several methods to increase my success with this distance, but had only been able to achieve 3:52:52 alone …  Since coming over for both with strength and run coaching, I have shaved 17 minutes off my marathon time … Most recently completing NJ marathon 3:35:26 …. And most importantly negative split by 3minutes and 32 seconds and crossed the finish line feeling amazing !!  Aside from this distance, my 5k time and half marathon times have improved dramatically.

Frank Gwinn

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When I first got started I was coming of an injury and hadn’t run in 6weeks. I wondered if I’d ever run again. Not only have I completed two marathons with NRS but I PR’d at multiple distances with. Including a 15 minute marathon PR. I have remained injury free and I’m a more accomplished and confident runner
New Jersey Half/Full, Middlebury Half and everywhere in between turned out to GREAT events for many as we come near the end of our 2016 spring season.
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Check out these AMAZING results:

Allison Connor 3:34:18! No PR but ran with Mike Konderwich and Colleen Schermerhorn-Murray and had an amazing day!!

Emily M Russell 1:35:53, 2:23 PR!:)

Michael Cebula 1:38:45 – No PR – No hip pain – Even pacing – Happy!!
Colleen Schermerhorn-Murray 3:35:41 (8:09/mi) .. 7:00 PR !!!! 💕💕💕
Kelly Piotrowski 3:49:20 (8:46)…6:30 PR with Lynn Doody Hansen !

Lynn Doody Hansen That’s right!! We killed it! Big thanks to Kelly for pushing me through the last miles after that darn Boardwalk killed my legs and feet!

Tom Tiberio 1:33:03 – 7:06 – 5:03 PR

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Melissa Tiberio 2:03:30 (9:26)- 3:32 PR
Cara Platt Wolff 2:09:28…9:50…4 min PR!
Phil Yoss 3:39:04 (8:17) … first non triathlon marathon so definitely pr. Could have paced better.

Jim McMorris 1:45:19 – 8:03 pace. No PR but very close to target

Mike Konderwich 3:34:16 – 8:11 – PR – First Marathon!

Lynn Doody Hansen 3:49:20 – 8:46 – PR of 7:30!

Erin Wrightson 3:26:06 – 7:50 pace- 3 1/2 min PR — also this team is freaking amazing!!! So happy and proud for all of you!!!

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 G. Bowden Wise 4:29:35. No PR.

Erika Akers Beardsley 1:47:31 – 8:13 pace – no PR but I gave all I had and I am blessed to run another day (not tomorrow but another day). Happy to be getting better each one gets me closer to where I was

Mary Walsh 2:23:39-10:58 pace-3 second PR! If I ever learn to run tangents I’ll be all set. My watch had me at a 10:50 pace for 13.25 miles! But, it’s still an official PR…just woulda been a better one for 13.1. But I’m pleased 😊

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Dennis Beardsley 1:33:38 7:09 Nine pace no PR I left nothing on the table
Andrea Marie 1:36:12- 7:21 pace. I guess the course was a bit long so my GPS gave me 13.19 at 7:18 pace. I PR’d by 3 minutes and 9 seconds. Still working on finding a gel that doesn’t reek havoc on my stomach. I got 7th for women and 1st in my age group smile emoticon

Jessica Bashaw 1:25:47 – 6:33pace – PR of 35 seconds
Erica Trimble 4:00:17 – 9:09 – automatic PR

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Bill Drapeau Some really awesome performances here! Congrats to all!!
John Sullivan Truly inspiring performances! I will channel your energy on 6/12…..if you don’t mind wink emoticon
Rachel Preusser 1:36:19- 7:21 pace- no PR- lots of puke but I know what I did wrong and how to correct for the real deal in May.. lesson learned
Katelyn Mennella 25:06 – 8:06 – no pr
Whitney Frazier Earnest 2:07:18 – 9:44- no pr but race WIN!
John Sullivan Spring Run Off 10K – 46:21/7:28. PR – not sure on time diff but 7:28 beats the 5K pace I’ve been working from.

GET YOUR CONSULTATION NOW!

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