large-smiley-facesMany of our members are in the middle of their fall goal race training, building up for a winter race, or tapering for an upcoming red-letter day.  The first big long run of a cycle can be exciting, but training demands a lot from your body.  Occasionally you find yourself waking up a little creaky, taking a bit longer to get up from your chair at work, or stressing out about taking an extra flight of stairs during your taper (shouldn’t your legs feel absolutely perfect ALL DAY, EVERY DAY)?  If you are in midst of or on the cusp of tapering, take a peek at our tips for a successful taper.  However, if you are in the middle of a big cycle and don’t feel quite as fresh as you did at the start, take a moment and refresh yourself with one of these quick tips!

 


Get up

Nothing builds creaki-ness more than a 2-hour run followed by 8 hours straight in a chair, staring at the computer.  Make sure to regularly get up and walk around during the course of your day (once an hour is a good rule), whether it is spent in the office, behind the wheel, or in an otherwise mostly stationary position.  The blood flow is good for your recovery, and the resetting of your scenery can be good for your outlook.

 

Drink Water

Many runners are very conscientious on race day or long run day, but don’t have the same commitment to hydration on the average Tuesday.  If you are making repeated demands on your body, prepare it best by keeping your body well –hydrated even on days when the pressure is off.  Keep a glass of water just small enough to need refilling regularly.  Buy a bulk pack of your favorite non-caffeinated beverage and keep it cool in the fridge.  Even if you don’t like water, give yourself a healthy source of hydration to look forward to.  You’ll get your walk and your water at the same time.

 

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Yes, do exactly this.   Although foam rolling can be inconvenient in work clothes and locations, keep one around.  If you have a moment and a quiet, carpeted corner, the loose muscles gained can provide a new lease on the rest of the day.  If you don’t keep one handy, you can’t do it.  Keep one under the desk.

 

Take a mini sleep-cation

The race is eight weeks away, and in your mind, you only need to concentrate on sleep the week of.  However, at least half the battle of the race is getting to the start line in the best shape you can be.  Life may not allow you to get a solid 8 hours each night, but if feeling run-down, take 2-3 nights where you commit to an earlier bedtime.  Call it a race week rehearsal if you need to justify it to yourself.  You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel, so much so it might convince you to carve out more sleep on a regular basis!

 

Go grocery shopping

On your way home tonight, go grocery shopping and get the good stuff.  A steady diet of take out can be both more expensive and less healthy than a load of appealing groceries.  Refresh your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Food is fuel for all your hard runs.  Fill your tank with food that will help you achieve your goals.  After all, if you opened your fridge and found fresh produce, you might eat it!

 

 

 

 



1354465380_horoscope-2013Whether you have just begun training with us for a goal race some time in the future, or have been a long-time runner who needs a bit of motivation or a new goal, the beginning of a new year is a great time not only to set new goals, but to do so in a way that will stick. 

 

Ensure accountability

If you have a big goal you hope to accomplish, chances are you will be more likely to follow through if you have a mechanism to ensure that any doubt or lapses will be noted and you don’t get off track.  Many times, the term “accountability” takes on a negative connotation, but in reality, a positive motivational tool tied to an accomplished goal can be a decisive element that puts you over the top.

 

Accountability can take the form of a reward you commit to enjoying upon accomplishing your goal. While that may offer a simple and straightforward way to motivate yourself, consider your rewards in the context of the lifestyle change you are most likely trying to embark upon by setting the goal.  So, if your goal is weight loss as a part of your effort to run your first half marathon,  having a huge blowout meal at the best restaurant in town serve as your motivator to get through your next long run might not be the best reward.  Instead, pick a reward that reinforces the positive changes you hope to make.    Of course we don’t want you to become mercenary so a few guilty pleasures from time to time are perfectly acceptable.

 

Enlist a friend or family member who knows you well enough to nudge or budge you when you are veering off course.  All of us have times when motivation is lacking in some way or another, and by asking another person to remind you of your goals and keep you on track, you have already ensured that your will power and motivation need not be 100% all the time.  Arranging at least periodic running opportunities with another runner or group will also motivate you to show up and complete your task if for no other reason than the reluctance to stand someone up!

 

You might not need a big reward to look forward to or need to have others with which you feel comfortable sharing your goals.   Many of you enjoy our online training log for that very reason.  Many of our longtime members indicate they love nothing more than to see a string of blue days in a row!   Another written log or an X on each day of the calendar can be effective tools.  Print out your goal race entry confirmation and post it to your bathroom mirror or write yourself a note that pops up on your smartphone calendar on the days of your tough workouts.  Most importantly, take some time to consider how you typically respond to challenges -  what paves the way for the times your are successful and what stands in your way.  Figure out the simple ways you can keep yourself accountable and hopefully next year you’ll be resolving to achieve some new goals.

 

Have Fun

Oftentimes, the resolutions we make are as a result of leaving difficult tasks undone.  Things that have been left unfinished for some time as a result of inertia or procrastination are going to be difficult to all accomplish suddenly because of a simple change of heart.    If your goal appears to be an uphill trudge the entire way, look hard for ways to find some fun along the road.    Again, if this is a prescription you are giving yourself to jumpstart a larger shift in behavior or lifestyle, you want to make sure the change is something you can live with and enjoy for some time. 

If you have a choice of races, pick one with a great course, an established fun vibe, or another trait that will make the experience about more than just the run.  If running in the dark gets you down, make sure to set aside time on the weekends to run during the day to give yourself a break from what has been difficult.   Take some time to explore new routes and scenic territory around your neighborhood or city.  Pick a hilly run and stop at the top to take in the view.  Take some time to consider what it is that you really enjoy about running (even if you only enjoy it a little bit), and scratch that itch as much as possible.

 

Note Incremental Progress

The biggest goals often take a while to accomplish and progress may not always be linear.  If your new year’s resolution is a long distance goal race, it might help (we typically recommend this regardless) to run a few intermediate distance efforts to note fitness progress and encourage you that your are slowly crossing the canyon toward your big day.  In running, as in many other things in life, your result may be subject to forces beyond your control.  Your training could go completely smoothly up until three days before the race, when you catch a cold or turn an ankle.  Creating a field of multiple data points will allow you to evaluate the process rather than only having the one race to either make or break your perspective on your efforts.

 

Above all else, we encourage you to set goals!  Reach high, assume you will be successful.  Take a step in the right direction today. Making the choice to set a goal to begin with is not an insignificant part of the process.  Once you have, we look forward to helping you get there!



runner_in_stormThere will likely come a time when weather will interfere with your running plans. Read on for a few quick tips on how to "weather" the storms with your goals intact.

Safety first, always.
Runners by nature are some of the most stubborn people around.  A lengthy daily running streak, an even number mileage total for the week, or the fear of recording a zero in the log all can be highly motivating factors.  When a huge weather event prevents even a minimal amount of activity, let the visceral disappointment of not following through on plans be a reminder of how joyful you will be to run another day when things are better.  The joy of the future is a wiser and better movtivator for safe behavior than a false feeling of invincibility when conditions are not safe.

Narrow your focus.
Ideally, you would have gotten in both your long run and your track workout.  Ideally, you would have done the tempo run on the usual path that now has a tree lying on it.  Well, things are not ideal, so shed the focus on what can't get done and zone in on what can be done.  If it is Tuesday and the weather is expected to improve by the end of the week, you might not be able to get everything in, but you can probably get one crucial component in.  Focus on doing a good job with that one challenge, and be encouraged that at least one important training element kept you moving the ball down the field.

Avoid running alone.
Slippery streets, snow drifts, gusty winds, power outtages leaving poorly lit paths - if the weather has moderated, but challenging climate elements linger, taking a companion on your run can help ensure both of your families that someone else can help if a problem arises. 

Overestimate your bottled water needs.
Everyone needs to hydrate, but if you are running while power remains out or in a dry winter environment, you will need more than the average person.  Stay ahead of the situation with a periodically replenished water supply in good times.  If supplies are limited during lingering storm conditions, budget liberally for your needs.

Keep a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously.
If you are safe, be glad.  If you have to take more than a preferred amount of time off during a storm, think of the early modern Olympians who would have to ride a boat across the ocean on their way to meets and would find their way to the medal stand anyhow.  Remember the Chilean miner.  Be glad you aren't earning your living by running if running is unwise. Plan on impatience, and as necessary, let your stir craziness serve as a source of humor for those with you.  Remember, your running is something that you do affirmatively for your health and well being, not something that is more essential than safety, food, and water. Always look forward to clearing skies- they will come eventually!



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Few life changes will have a greater impact than the arrival of a newborn.  Both the physical challenges for mom, as well as the stark changes in family schedule and breadth of responsibility for both parents can justifiably upend priorities.  This can wreak havoc with the comfortable patterns of habitual runners.

Chances are, unless you have had a very quickly moving adoption, you have been well aware that changes in your running routine await the arrival of the new bundle of joy.  Very likely, transitions have already occurred for mom with the ups and downs of pregnancy.  Whether a quick return to work or flexibility for extended parental leave is on the horizon, here are a few tips and ideas for runners in the throes of new parenthood:

Consider how baby gear purchases, such as a stroller, can assist you in the eventual pursuit of a return to running. Yes, that sounds crass – you are about to enjoy one of life’s greatest blessings, and running should come to mind?  Well, if there is anything that you intend to continue doing on a regular basis after your baby comes, it probably saves time and money to anticipate how you can manage that practice within the context of your baby’s first few years at home.

For example, many running families use a jogging stroller (or a stroller with that capability) for their primary stroller.  Initially, it can be used for regular stroller duty, particularly now that many jogging strollers can attach baby carriers and inserts allow for extra padding with newborn babies.  When eventually jogging becomes appropriate with the little one, everyone is used to the new gear, how it fits in the car, the baby finds it to be a smooth transition, and more enjoyable / contented baby running might result.

Moms: set a completion goal, but no sooner than 6-12 months after giving birth.  Dads: choose flexible goals in the first year.

While the experience of every mother is different, having a goal to shoot for can often inspire (to lose weight, to re-grasp a feeling of independent personhood, etc) when life seems completely turned on its head.  Set a goal too soon, and it may become a needless stressor, both logistically, and physically, when the body is out of shape and sleep is minimal.  Set a time goal too soon after giving birth, and the unpredictable physical aftermath of motherhood can create frustration.  By a year, many moms are beginning to recognize their bodies again, and having a date to look forward to (as a return to the experience of being an athlete) can be a very motivational tool.  Just enjoy your first goal race after baby to celebrate how far you have come.  Use subsequent goal races to return to previous fitness and pace levels.

New dads are also saddled/ delighted with the many transitions of fatherhood, but many times must navigate a tricky landscape of an initially supporting role in the physical sense.  Without the obvious setbacks of pregnancy and giving birth, it may be enticing to set a big goal, almost in celebration of the new family member.    However, in this particular instance, it is worth considering flexible goals.  Neither of you quite know how you will feel physically or rest-wise as these dates get closer, and the last thing needed is more stress.   One option to keep dad on track could be to pick a distance goal with three or four options in 60 day range.

Have patience with your body after baby (yes, dads too!)

For many first time parents, the adrenaline of new parenthood eventually wears off, but many nights of limited sleep remain.  Schedules change and keep changing.  Things like foam rolling, stretching, strength routines, and other ancillary activities may be cut out to preserve what little time remains to run.  Unsurprisingly, aches and pains might crop up, and the legs might not recover as fast.  Control what you can control.  Consider occasionally modifying your running routes and other patterns to avoid a fruitless comparison contest with your well-rested self.

For moms in particular, resist the urge to return to serious training until you are cleared to run by your doctor.  Be sure to progress incrementally.  Just like a marathon recovery that is too short, a postpartum running injury may not crop up immediately.  Rather it often surfaces after the premature progression has been established over several weeks or months.

Shop and prepare for running with body after baby.

One of the most common roadblocks to a successful return to pre-baby running fitness can be the first few efforts out the door.  For many moms, postpartum bodies feel like complicated new appliances with misplaced instruction manuals, what with the likely weight gain and the new demands and dimensions of various body parts.  All of us know better than to establish self-esteem from outside appearances, but without a couple running items that fit, it can be that much harder to get out and get started.  Having a high impact / supportive sports bra and shorts that fit your current size can make a difference, and are worth shopping for even in advance when you have more flexibility in your schedule.

When it comes time for stroller jogging, find the bike paths.

Just as parents at their wits’ end will drive a baby around the block, hoping to induce sleep, the stroller experience for your baby / toddler can vary wildly from soothing to disruptive, which in turn may have a direct impact on your ability to reintegrate running positively into your daily life.  Bumpy roads, streets with many stop lights, turns or undulations may be your only options, and by yourself, you might barely notice these parts of the route.  However, the stroller years might also serve as a chance to get to know the flat, off street routes in your region better than you might have before, and allow the jogging stroller experience to emerge as a positive parenting interactive time rather than a struggle of wills.



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lee_yogaStephanie Lee (pictured) has been practicing yoga for over 12 years in a variety of diverse settings that include Hawaii, Greece, Italy, and Thailand.

RC: Yoga is a commonly mentioned term these days, but what exactly is yoga and what is it intended to do?
 
SL: There are many types of yoga practices, each offering something different, but all with a common strand. Yoga can be your own sanctuary outside of the madness of the day's routines.  It's a safe, non-chaotic environment where you can find peace in your body and mind.  When you leave the studio, you can take those learnings with you and apply to everyday life situations.  Once a yogi, always a yogi.  Yoga can help you build a healthy lifestyle that complements Western Medicine. It's a loving and comfortable environment to discover the connection of your physical, emotional and spiritual body.

RC: What generally about yoga might make it beneficial for runners?
 
SL: There are a wide range of benefits from practicing yoga.  Not only is it physically challenging to your body, it's an opportunity to relax and focus the mind with wonderful benefits to all of the internal organs in need of repair and detoxing. Yoga improves your posture and blood flow, it lowers cortisol [hormone released in response to stress], releases tension, provides an immune boost, helps regularity and most of all aids in peace of mind.  It's an inner balance. Yoga, paired with running, can create more flexibilty, strengthening of the joints and muscles, and gains in your ability to stay focused.  It can enhance your breathing and provide you with a better night's rest.  In all yoga practices, you need to spend that time within your own body on your mat.  In some practices like Bikram, you are facing obstacles such as remaining in the studio throughout the entire 90 minutes with absolutely no talking in extreme heat.  It is a very challenging environment as at times there can be up to 60 people in some classes.  This is where you need to pull your wandering mind back in and focus on being present within yourself and your own abilities to complete the class.

RC: What are a couple beginner poses or exercises a runner might try to explore these benefits?

SL: Some basic, yet very beneficial poses a runner may be interested in incorporating to their workout are the following:
Half Moon, Eagle, Separate Leg Stetching (which are all in the standing series), plus Wind Relieving Pose and Half Tortoise, which are a part of the floor series [ed note:  Runcoach does not have an association with or specifically endorse any of the sites used to illustrate each pose].  It would also be advised to incorporate controlled breathing and meditation as these can go hand and hand with a runner's world.



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Although we earn a small reprieve from the early morning darkness with next month's time change, many runners are just settling in for a long winter of running in the dark.  Whether you rise early to beat the rush before the workday begins and the kids wake up, or fit in a run at the end of the day, nighttime running is a fact of life for many athletes.  Here are a few tips for staying safe and maximizing these workouts until the sun reappears.

Avoid risk-taking

While running the same route again and again might seem unappealing, or stopping your awesome tempo run briefly to make sure a passing car sees you, it is always worth it.  Stick to routes where lighting can help provide safety and mark your path, even if that means doing multiple loops around a few block radius.  Head to a local track and run while kids are playing soccer or lacrosse under the lights in the evening.  Put off exploration of that new trail until the weekend when you can run in the daylight.  Set aside the headphones so that you can be alert to your surroundings (yes, you can do it).

Choose routes for the presence of sidewalks away from the roadway.  Consider places of business where early morning activity takes place in a typically safe manner, such as a gas station, bagel shop, or Starbucks and include them on your run.  Check for daily sunrise and sunset times so you can safely estimate when you will need to be in spots that are safe for those times of day.  In short, give yourself at least one more measure of safety precautions than you would ordinarily take.  That may mean boredom and repetition, but is always better than not being able to run at all or risking adverse events

See and be seen

Many running apparel companies and specialty brands have introduced reflective clothing and devices to help runners stay safe in the dark.  Sometimes we focus on being visible to cars and others by wearing reflective gear, and other times we focus on keeping our path lit with headlamps and other illuminating devices.  In reality, both are important at all times.  A hard fall because of an unseen root or sidewalk crack is dangerous, and of course it is crucial to be visible to vehicular traffic.   It isn’t always possible to be completely visible in the dark, but taking care to be seen and to seeing where your feet will travel can be a crucial safety precaution.

Keep others in the loop

Whether you live with others in your household or reside independently, leave a note, a text, or other word where you plan to go every time.  If you encounter any trouble on an evening run, it may be until daylight before anyone is aware of your extended absence or be able to see you in distress alongside a road.    Particularly if doing something strenuous or extended, such as a long run for a marathon training cycle, estimating a time of return can help ease the mind of others who aren’t used to the length of these runs, as well as determine when you are indeed overdue.    Whenever possible, try to meet others for nighttime runs.  Both as a safety measure and as added encouragement when the winter is at its darkest and coldest point, a partner or group willing to meet you at a nighttime hour can make all the difference.

Be creative

Roads and outdoor tracks may not be the only venues for getting in runs.  Enclosed walkways, indoor public spaces, the perimeter of a well-lit parking lot, and even a circuit of long hallways in winter-affected cities might provide occasional safe locations for runs when things are truly awful and dark.    Consider a short-term gym membership, even if just to break up the workout by running there, doing some miles on the treadmill, and running home.  If winter is really getting the best of you, consider sampling some indoor cross training disciplines you have been waiting to try, or investigate the possibility of all-comers indoor track meets in your community as a way to get in a good hard effort inside.

While nighttime running may not be pleasant for many, runners across the country and around the world have thrived with a schedule comprised primarily of workout times before dawn or after dusk.  The good news is that sunlight is likely around the corner as spring returns, and the challenge of darkness is an opportunity to exercise the type of commitment and persistence that will serve you well when faced with a rough patch in your next goal race.  Embrace the challenge, stay safe, and keep up the good work.



There are almost unlimited ways to get an enjoyable workout in when you are in a recovery cycle, need to give a running related sore body part a rest, or when you are hoping to add activity without additional running mileage.  In the chart below, we focused primarily on activities which function as running replacements in terms of cardiovascular stimulation vs activities like yoga, which may have other helpful primary benefits such as flexibility, etc.

Have a question, comment, or recommendation on your favorite cross training exercise? Weigh in on the forum!

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