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.

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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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John Scudder’s Journey to 2:39:57 in London

 

My Journey to the 2016 London Marathon

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(The last 4 weeks)

    It is Easter week and I am on a one week family ski trip in Langenfeld, Austria. I just ran a  1:19:45 flat course half marathon this past Saturday in Rheinzabern, which is almost five  minutes behind my half PR of 1:15:09 just two years ago. Running feels like a chore to me, my  legs are very heavy, and any kind of faster running like intervals, tempo runs, and marathon  pace runs feel extremely difficult. I am tired after a long winter season marathon buildup  averaging between 75­80 miles a week with a peak of 90 miles last week. Skiing with my family  during the day is so much fun, but trying to get in 75 miles during the week in the mornings and  evenings seems like an enormous undertaking.

  Despite this, I grind through the week and choose difficult mountain runs on a few of the training  days. I am getting too soft on hills and I need a kick in the ass. I am slightly annoyed with my  good friend, former high school teammate, and professional running coach Matthew Nark of  Nark Running Strategies on my Wednesday morning 10 x 90 seconds at nearly an all­out pace  with short recoveries. His prescription for the day feels impossible and my legs just won’t allow  for it. I fail to come close to the prescribed pace, so I jog to the nearest steep hill and punish  myself with 10 x 10 second hill sprints with walks back down. I run easy the remaining 3 days in  Austria, but given the hills and mountains my HR rarely stays low.     After a tiring four­hour drive back home on a warm and almost summer­like 60 degree Sunday  evening, I put on my singlet, shorts, and head lamp and take off for my last 20+ mile run before  the London Marathon and my last run of a long week. The goal is a 22 mile long run with an 8  mile marathon pace goal finish. I manage to complete the long run, but with only 7 miles at well  below goal marathon pace, nearly 20 seconds per mile behind pace. At this point I am not  confident at all that I am even remotely ready to run a sub 2:40 marathon, a time goal I set out  to achieve over four years ago.

Three weeks out   

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This week of running has not started any better than the last. I skip my Wednesday 2 x 5k  tempo run due to fatigue. I cannot imagine trying to run any faster than 8 minutes per mile  today, so I jog on a leisurely 10 mile lunchtime trail run. It is Thursday and I do not feel much  better than yesterday, but I lace up my shoes and head out to the local track. I average only  marathon pace on the first 5k, well short of the 5:30s/mile pace I am shooting for. After a short  rest, I average 5:40 pace on the second 5k. Ok, so maybe that isn’t too bad, and maybe I still  am pretty fit.     After a couple days of easy running, I head out for my Sunday 15 mile long run with the goal of  running the second half at marathon pace. My total weekly mileage after today’s long run will be  around 60. I can feel that the additional rest and reduction in mileage is helping my speed.  There is a noticeable extra pep in my step today. My stride feels faster and easier to maintain. I
nail the fast finish run and even manage to run near half marathon PR pace for 3 of the faster  miles. Things are looking better.

Two weeks out 

I will continue to reduce mileage down to a total near 50 this week. I start the week with an easy  bike ride to and from work with friends. I give myself a reward with a Biergarten stop on the way  home. It has been a long buildup and a cold beer sounds good right about now. My Wednesday  workout of 12 miles with 12 x 60 seconds nearly all out and 60 seconds of jogging goes well  despite strong gusty winds and heavy downpours. I choose a nasty hilly trail route because I like  the mental and strength boost the Austrian mountain running has given me.  With just over 10  days before the London Marathon, my confidence is improving, but I am still unsure if I am  ready to achieve my dream marathon time of a sub 2:40.

     It is now eight days before the race and Mat wants me to run 8 x 3 minutes at tempo pace  (5:30s/mile) today. I run very well in the 10 mile workout while my boys bike and giggle loudly  riding through mud puddles next to me on a flat and fast bike path alongside the German  Autobahn. I feel much more confident in my speed after this run today and running is becoming  fun again. Today, just a day after yesterday’s intervals, and a week out from race day, Mat  wants me to run a 5 mile marathon pace fast finish at the end of a 10 mile run. I struggle greatly  to keep up with marathon pace on the windy, rainy, cold, and hilly 10 miler. I have doubts that I  am not ready to hold a 6:05 pace for 26.2 miles and perhaps Mat is having me do too much  faster running so close to the race.

  One week out

I run a very easy five miler on Monday. I will take Tuesday off and run my final marathon pace  tune­up on Wednesday. On a warm and sunny Wednesday I run 8 miles including 5 x 5 minutes  at London goal pace. Suddenly, 6 minutes per mile is feeling much easier. I am happy the  forecast calls for much cooler weather than this in London. My energy levels have been rising  rapidly throughout this final week of my marathon taper. I start carb loading on Thursday  morning with a large portion of sweet potatoes and beet juice with one boiled egg. I slightly  increase my overall calorie intake while replacing most of my normal portions of fats and  proteins with healthy sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, rice, fresh fruit, small  portions of fruit juice, plenty of vegetables, pasta with tomato sauce, and unsalted pretzels. I  also reduce caffeine intake and increase water consumption throughout the week.     It is Friday, and Mat has me run 5 miles with 8 x 100 meters at a very fast pace. I go shirtless  on a 70 degree sunny day in Germany before my afternoon flight from Stuttgart to London.  The  sun feels great on my back. I finish the five miles feeling fresh and ready. Yes, it looks like once  again Mat knows exactly the recipe to get me ready for a peak race and a chance at a new PR.  The forecast for London is well below normal temperatures with a chance of sleet, snow  showers, or rain and it will certainly be windy. I think if the weather is not too bad in London,
then it is still possible to achieve my goal. Mat and I discuss that I will need to run a smart  negative split race by conserving energy until later in the race and finish fast. It worked in Berlin  and it will work again if I can execute.

Marathon day in London 

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After 7 hours of sleep I wake up feeling fresh without an alarm clock as I have all week. I notice  some text messages from my very understanding and supportive wife and children and it lifts my  spirits. I pound a half liter of water right away. I prefer to drink more before a marathon on race  day as early as possible and drink much less in the final 90 minutes before the race. The last  thing I need is a bathroom stop when I am trying to trim 34 seconds of my 2:40:33 PR. To date  out of all the marathons I have run with a time goal, I have never had to stop for a toilet, quite  the opposite of what I go through in the weeks and months of training beforehand.     My legs are well rested and I can feel the positive effects of three days of solid carb loading and  last night’s pre­race dinner of calf liver with pasta and tomato sauce and a glass of red wine at  Fiddie’s Italian Kitchen. I look out the window and see that it is raining. The forecast calls for the  rain to move out within the hour. I eat a breakfast of three pieces of white toast with butter &  honey, one banana, one cup of rice cereal with almond milk, a small portion of mandarin  oranges, a small portion of scrambled eggs, a cup of orange juice, and one cup of black coffee.  It is 7:40 AM and time to head out. The race starts at 10 AM and it will take an hour on the  London Underground and Southeastern Railway to arrive in Blackheath with plenty of time  before the point to point race starts.    I arrive in Blackheath around 8:45 AM. It is easy to figure out where to go because there are  crowds of runners in front of me. It is about a half mile walk from Blackheath station to the  runners’ start areas. The town looks like what I would expect a nice English town in April to look  like; we walk by a few nice pubs and restaurants with flowers outside on what appears to be a  main street. Police officers have the area covered and well­secure as they call out where the  runners should go. The smell of grilled food is already in the air so early in the day. I have a  buzz that this could be my day as I snap off some selfies and other photos.     As we walk closer to the start area, I notice a huge line of people making the big mistake of  walking in their race shoes through medium length wet grass. I find my way to a sidewalk  slightly out of the way. Like Mat said, I need to control every variable possible to have a  successful race, and avoiding water­logged socks and shoes is one of them. There are three  blimps towering over the open fields, one for each runner start areas: green, red, and blue. I am  supposed to go to the blue area for the UK Championships since I qualified for this race with a  sub 2:45 marathon time and I am a member of the UK running club Serpentine. Any member of  a UK running club or any UK citizen who runs under 2:45 in a marathon qualifies to run with a  UK Championship entry.


The UK Championships meeting area is perfectly situated close to the race start line within the  blue area. It has two tents for championship runners to change and stay warm in, which is quite  a luxury on this lower 40s F, chilly, and breezy morning. The area has many port­a­johns and  fewer people so I will not have to wait in long lines to go to the bathroom my usual 3­5 times in  the hour before a big event due to nerves or whatever else causes the issue. I am very fortunate  I am starting in this area. I am thankful that my fellow Serpentine running club teammate, Alex  Jeffreys, brought my jersey to Berlin so that I could take part in this amazing event. It relaxes  me. I am no longer concerned with whether it will rain or how bad the headwind might be.     15 minutes before the race start a man with a loudspeaker announces to us that we need to  move our clear bags storing post­race items to the truck so they can transfer them to the finish  area. I keep on my arm sleeves, a headband, a pair of cheap gloves, and a warm 8 year old  long sleeve running shirt that has an old stench to the point that no washing machine on earth  could take the smell away. I ditch two of my seven gels I have brought along for fuel because I  think five will be enough. I hand over my bag and head to the start line. A couple of minutes  before the gun goes off I throw my old shirt and the headband to the side of the road. It is go  time.    Race ­ 5k ­ Time 18:55 – Diff 18:55 – Pace 6:05/mile, 3:47/km    The gun goes off and I quickly settle into what I think is a tad slower than goal pace. I am  thankful I started up towards the front because the road is not all that wide. I notice quickly that  many people are trying to pass and run aggressively. I know this is folly. Starting too fast in this  race is something I will avoid at all costs, as I have been burned late in many previous  marathons from fast or even goal pace starts. Around mile 2.5 I throw off my arm sleeves. It is  very chilly, but I am already warming up despite the increasing wind speed. There are  occasional speed bumps on the course in the first three miles and the marathon staff personnel  call out warnings to the runners.     Having just run the Berlin Marathon last fall, I am disappointed that these streets are rougher on  the feet and legs. The road is not as smooth as the perfect streets of Berlin and it feels as if it  will be easy to trip up if I am not careful. I am definitely going to feel my feet and legs ache later.  I take note and focus on staying with the marked blue line, which is the shortest possible path  along the marathon route that officials create mainly for the elite athletes up front. I make sure to  watch out for other runners and not step on anyone or be stepped on. It is more crowded three  miles in than I expected.     Despite my efforts to start slower, my first 5k is faster than the 6:08/mile pace Mat and I agreed  to target in the first 20 miles. I know from the past few years of sub 2:40 marathon attempts that  I need to run an average of around 19 minutes per 5k through the entire race.  Our goal was to  come in slightly above 19 minutes per 5k for the first 30k with energy still in reserve and then  finish as fast as possible in the final 10+ k. I clocked the first 5k in 18:55. I am not worried  though because up to this point I haven’t been sporadically speeding up and slowing down, I
haven’t been weaving around people, and I have been relaxed, save for the slight anxiety about  the running surface and slightly increasing winds.    Race ­ 10k – Time 38:12 – Diff 19:17 – Pace 6:12/mile, 3:52/km   

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I have now found the conservative pace that I was looking for the first 5k. The Garmin  Forerunner 620 has been inaccurate on two of three mile splits earlier on by showing my  average lap pace as my goal of around 6:08, but then flashing an actual faster split three to four  seconds lower to my surprise. Can I trust this watch? It functioned poorly under the Frankfurt  skyline in October and I went out too fast in the first 10k of that marathon. I still have plenty of  packs to follow and I notice runners are still running very aggressively this early in the race. The  wind is starting to pick up from my front right side and sometimes as a headwind. I am starting  to feel warmer. I finally ditch the gloves and down the first of five GU gels I am carrying along at  mile five.    Race ­ 15k – Time 57:26 – Diff 19:14 – Pace 6:11/mile, 3:51/km    We pass the packed and rowdy area of the Cutty Shark and I feel a surge of adrenalin despite  keeping the pace on target. The crowd support is great here. I hear many calls of “Go  Serpentine!” We turn gently to the right and head straight into the headwind. I am focused on  tailing people closely to avoid energy loss from the wind. I know that a small amount of wasted  energy now can derail me in the end. I notice that this race seems to have water stations every  mile and that relaxes me. I take Salted Caramel with caffeine GU gel number two at the 15k  mark. I am confident that I am on the desired pace now and fixated on seeing 6:08­6:09/mile on  my Garmin.    Race ­ 20k – Time 1:16:33 – Diff 19:07 – Pace 6:09/mile, 3:50/km    I am totally focused and “in the zone”. My breathing is fine and I am running comfortably hard. I  am locked very close to 6:08/mile pace. I feel like I definitely still have a chance at a sub 2:40. I  cross the London Tower Bridge enjoying the huge crowd support at km 20.    Race ­ Half – Time 1:20:34    I remember Mat and I discussing that I would be about 50 seconds behind pace after 20 miles. I  do the math and figure I am about 25 seconds behind pace right now. I am roughly on track,  and I have plenty of reserves still to go harder later. I am also now running with the wind from  my back and it feels effortless.    Race ­ 25k – Time 1:35:19 – Diff 18:46 – Pace 6:02/mile, 3:45/km    We are running towards Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. I down my fourth GU gel of the day  and slip in my two fastest miles thus far without burning too much energy. The crowd support
was supposed to be weak in this area but plenty of people are out cheering the runners on. The  wind is helping me slightly now and the cool mid to upper 40s F air feels good. I notice at 25k  that I have already begun trimming the time deficit too early. It is a reminder that I need to be  careful in the next 5k to conserve energy for the remaining 12.2k.

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  Race ­ 30k – Time 1:54:09 – Diff 18:50 – Pace 6:04/mile, 3:47/km    I have shifted from being careful not to go too fast to being careful not to go too slow now. I am  close to 6:08/mile pace, but the Garmin is showing readings at times of 6:15/mile or more. I hit a  couple 6:08 miles. But then at mile 18, I record a 6:14, my slowest split of the day so far. This  surprises me because throughout the mile my Garmin lap split was showing 6:08 pace. My  confidence slips slightly and I realize I have to pick up the pace to goal pace or slightly better, at  least temporarily.

  Race ­ 35k – Time 2:12:57 – Diff 18:48 – Pace 6:03/mile, 3:46/km    I rip off a 5:55 19th mile without digging too deep, passing many runners and my confidence  returns. But am I starting the kick too early? Any faster now and I may jeopardize the finish. I try  to push slightly faster than 6:00/mile pace, but we are now heading back towards the Tower  Bridge and the headwind is catching me at times. There are no runners to tail because most are  going slower than me. I conserved energy while they went out too fast and now they are paying  a heavy price. I see a lot of runners in agony and some even dropping out or moving off to the  side of the road.     As I pass the 20 mile mark with a 6:05/mile goal pace split I consume the fifth and final gel from  my belt. I feel confident that I have fueled and hydrated properly during the race so far. Now it  comes down to a final 10k where the real race begins. I start my kick gently and hit the next mile  in 5:59. Not exactly as fast as I wanted to go, but it may be good enough. I pass through the 35k  mark and notice that I am a few seconds faster than 2 hours and 13 minutes, the pace I needed  to be on track for a 2:40 marathon. I still have energy reserves and I have not hit a wall yet. I  notice so many people are cheering for my UK running club Serpentine as I run by. I  acknowledge their support as best as I can without using too much energy.    Race ­ 40k – Time 2:31:42 – Diff 18:45 – Pace 6:02/mile, 3:45/km    I hit another mile split at 5:57. This gives me confidence that I am actually slightly ahead of pace  now. I am starting to lose energy though, and I drink the sports drink Lucozade offered on the  course. I know my friend Andi and his fiancé will be spectating around mile 22.5 and I hope to  see them. Within a few seconds of thinking this, I see Andi waving and cheering my name loudly  in front of me on my right. I wave to him as best as I can with my right hand and smile. The  crowd is so loud. I am struggling to hold pace now, but I am invigorated from seeing my friend  on the course. I am trying desperately to hold on to the pace and I run two consecutive 6:08
miles. Just before I run over the 40k mats I see that I am 18 seconds ahead of the needed 2  hours 32 minutes pace. This is a huge confidence boost. I can do this!    Race ­ Finish ­ Time 2:39:57 – Diff 8:15 – Pace 6:03/mile, 3:46/km 

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My Garmin shows a 6:00 split for mile 25. I see the London Eye to my left across the Thames  River. I remember reading tips on the London Marathon that said when you see the London Eye  to your left you will know you are only a little over a mile away. All I need to do is hold onto a  6:00/mile pace the remainder of the way and it is mission accomplished. But I am really  struggling now. My heart rate is soaring from near 160 in the first half to the mid 160’s later and  to now over 170. I am starting to feel my breathing go out of control. I have a cramp developing  in my right chest muscle and on the lower right side of my abdominals. This isn’t good.     I see a sign showing 600 meters to go. I am not sure that I can pull this off. I feel myself slowing  and I have anxiety now about where my time stands. Further ahead of me a sign shows 400  meters to go. I see on the clock there is approximately 1 minute and 27 seconds between me  and a sub 2:40 marathon as I pass by it. I know at this point I must sprint the remaining 400  meters or fail. A “Pain is temporary” quote from the Nark Running Strategies Facebook group  just popped into my head. I feel like there is somebody sticking me with a dagger in the right  side of my chest and right abdominals. My breathing is completely out of control. I turn a right  corner for the final straightaway.     The crowd support is epic. I can hear the cheers and yelling but my vision is blurry except for  the big red finish line in front of me. I run full speed across the finish line mats in relief and  immediately stop my watch. My breathing is still out of control, but I am done now, finally. A few  seconds pass. I look down at my watch with anticipation. Did I do it? 2:39:58. Marathon staff  personnel are tending to ailing and fatigued runners who just crossed the finish line. I let out a  loud “Yes!” three times. Many workers and runners look back at me and smile. By running the  final 400 meters at a 5:26/mile pace, I finally achieved my goal of a sub 2:40 marathon. And Mat  Nark had me trained and coached perfectly to sprint at the end when I needed to the most.

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How Do You Measure Your Success As A Runner?

 

How can I get faster?

Am I improving?

Can I do It?

How fast can I get?

Am I good enough?

Running is a sport that is truly based on your own individual improvement.  It’s you verses yourself and at the end of the day the only thing that matters is whether or not your time has improved.  We challenge ourselves to improve on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.  It really doesn’t matter what our competitors, friends, and team members do as long as we have put our best foot forward and have been true to ourselves.  Surely we aren’t always going to be thrilled with all of our performances as that would be far to simple.

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Running is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of dedication, consistency, and drive.  Fabulous results will come only to those that put in all of the necessary hard work.  It’s all about getting out for that early morning AM run when all you wanted to do was sleep in.  Bundling up on a sub-zero afternoon to bang out that six mile loop that you have done so many times before.  Going to the track for your weekly speedwork in the heat of the day as that was the only time possible to get it done.   It’s all of these actions that will get you to the finish line that much faster.  Repeating these activities over and over and putting your best foot forward with every step will get you there.

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How do you quantify your success as a runner?  So many get caught up in the game of comparing themselves to others and what everyone else is doing.  This comparative strategy will only lead you astray and leave you constantly walking in the shadow of others.  Your success as a runner is truly measured by the level of personal enjoyment, fulfillment, and progress towards your individual goals.   For some this may be the conquering of the five hour marathon or in other cases it could be the hurdle of the thirty minute 5k.  It’s all a matter of setting yourself some tangible goals and reaching them in a your chosen timeframe.

I want to do it!

I can do it!

I will do it!

I did it!

Only a select few of us will ever get the opportunity to grace the front page of Runner’s World as seen below.   Set some goals, get a plan together, and get busy training for those goals.  In given time you will all have the opportunity to celebrate the fruits of your labor and enjoy all of your running success.

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Chasing The Unicorn: How The Little Runner Girl Will Earn Her Boston Marathon Qualifier.

Hey Guys! It’s Erin over at the Little Runner Girl and I am so excited to talk to you guys about why I made the leap and decided to get a coach.   I have no plans to be an elite runner (even if I did have plans, I’m not sure they would come to fruition, I am just being honest here!)  So why would I hire a coach?  Running coaches aren’t just for experienced or elite runners.  They are for everyone!  Whatever level of runner you are, whatever you are hoping to achieve (losing weight, running any distance from 5k-marathon, Boston qualifying), everybody can gain something from hiring a good  coach.  I already had this post in my head and when my coach asked if I’d want to guest post on his blog I knew this was the perfect post.  He gave me free rein to blog about whatever I wanted, but with fall marathon training about to start, this seemed like as good of a time as any.

Finishing the OK 5k 2 weeks ago with a :40 second PR-- 3 weeks after I started with Nark Running Strategies

When I started running about 2 years ago, I didn’t know many runners and I didn’t know anything about running. I immersed myself into learning anything and everything I could.  I read every article, reached out to people via social media to ask questions and searched tons of blogs.  I ran every training run solo.  I got injured and still ran #runnerprobs.  It was mentally draining training through the summer for a fall marathon and not having anyone to keep me accountable or anyone to share in my whining and complaining on 20 mile runs in 90 degree heat. If my plan called for a certain track workout, I had no idea how to execute it properly.  I didn’t know what a tempo run was, what a fartlek was or even just how to properly train for the goals I hoped to accomplish. Google was my friend ( ie: how to run yasso 800’s). I joined a local running club for a few track workouts and runs, but it just didn’t seem for me.  I still had no idea what I was doing and I felt dumb asking how to do the workouts (Don’t feel dumb, please ask.  You’ll save yourself lots of time and frustration).   I would attempt them on my own and give up because they were hard.

 After training for my 2nd marathon this past winter, I knew I wanted and needed more out of myself and my running.  I reached out to a runner friend, Allison, who had joined Plaza Fitness/ Nark Running Strategies back in January (she finished her 3rd Boston Marathon in 3:17:31 this year).  She had NOTHING but great things to say about the group and about her coach, Mat, and it sounded exactly what I was looking for.  When I checked out the Facebook group, I noticed how they really motivated and encouraged each other (I also saw how many PR’s were being achieved.)  Falling just short of my BQ in April and already looking ahead to Chicago in the fall, I knew this was the time to get some help.

Allison and Deanne at mile 17.5 of this years Boston Marathon.

There are tons and tons of different training plans out there and I know a lot of people who have had success doing it that way.  I find it more difficult because the training plan is generic.  It’s not tailored to my needs and goals.  Using a training plan that had no speed-work while training for the NJ marathon this year probably wasn’t the best choice for me when I was trying to earn a BQ.  And like I mentioned above, I didn’t meet that goal.  I had reached the point in my running where I did everything I knew how to do and couldn’t figure out how to push past the barrier.  I needed guidance and so after a few back forth emails and meeting Mat, I hired him to help me reach my goals.

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 A running coach designs your training plan to optimize your performance and simultaneously minimize your injury risk.  I told Mat about my past training and what my goals were for the summer and for my fall marathon.  One thing I never made a priority was strength training so, in addition to coaching, I also signed on for two strength training classes a week.   I ran my first 5k 3 weeks after joining and had a 40 second PR.  My previous 5k time was from April at the peak of marathon training when I was in fantastic(ish) running shape.  This 5k PR was just 2 weeks ago and coming off of marathon recovery.  I could already see a HUGE difference.  I felt ready.  My body felt stronger and my running seemed to flow easier.  Even my form was improving.  That weekend there were 23 PERSONAL RECORDS achieved by Nark Running Strategies runners.  I don’t think I have to make a convincing argument that the training I/we are receiving helps us in every aspect of our running.

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Before I would just follow whatever plan I had chosen (loosely) and sometimes would just completely change a workout.  With my training plan done for me every Sunday, I don’t need to question why I’m doing a specific workout or run because my coach knows what my goals are and what I need to be doing to achieve them.  Instead of going out racing every weekend like I used to, I did one 5k this month to see where I was fitness wise and my next race won’t be until mid-July.

Coaches are the voice of reason and seem to be the only people on planet earth that can rein a runner in  and explain why recovery and rest are important parts of training.  And surprisingly, I listen.   My goals for this training cycle are a sub-21 5k and a sub 3:30 marathon in Chicago.  More than anything though(okay, equal to wanting a BQ), I’d like to go through this training cycle injury free.  Something I NEVER(this is not an exaggeration) included in workouts was a warm-up and cool-down.  A good coach will make that a priority and every speed-workout I do, Mat includes both.   When you are injured less often, you can train more consistently.   Coaches keep you accountable and consistent. I believe that what sets apart good training versus great training is consistency.  When you train more consistent, you become a better runner and ultimately your coach can help you become faster and more fit than you ever thought possible.  Staying consistent means staying motivated and a coach keeps you on your toes and reminds you why you are working so hard.

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Long story long, if you’re having trouble figuring out your next step in your running, it’s probably time to hire a coach.  The great thing about hiring a coach is that they are accessible ANYWHERE.  Maybe you travel a lot or you like to get your run done in the mornings, you don’t need to have a coach physically by your side every moment of your training.  Your plan will be there for you, you fill out your log for them to review and they will be there for you with any questions or concerns you may have.  I have texted my coach at 6am (sorry) and at 10pm (sorry again) whenever I have a question about a workout or to see if I could possibly maybe run a race next weekend (the answer was no.) If you are dedicated about reaching a goal and willing to go the extra mile in your training then investing in a running coach is 100% worth it.  Do the research, ask questions and run fearless.

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If you’re interested about learning more about my work with Nark Running Strategies, visit my blog over at The little runner girl and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have!  If you’re even more interested about joining us for group runs and training, check out the website or facebook for more info!

Happy running!!

 

 

Source: http://blog.narkmovementstrategies.com/?feed=rss2