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 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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