When should I change my running shoes?

This is one of the most common questions among runners of all levels. The condition and life within your shoes have a huge impact on your body, and quality of your training sessions.

Below is an exchange between Coach Hiruni and Runcoach Athlete and avid endurance runner Andrei Marinus.

Andrei: I run over 200k per month, and a good pair of shoes (even on sale is easily over 100USD). So here’s the million-dollar question… When do I have to change them again?

Coach Hiruni: Excellent question. Most folks who take running seriously search for an answer to this question. There are general guidelines some shoe manufacturers have (400-600km or 250 – 400 miles) for wear and tear, but not everyone wears shoes the same way.

Andrei: Yes, I noticed very few of them mention a higher mileage. It could be the shoe company tries to sell as much as they can. But I also understand the reasoning - after a certain mileage, the shoe loses its advertised features, and stop protecting the runner.

Coach Hiruni: As a coach I am also reluctant to recommend running high mileage in one shoe, because I have the best interest of my runners at heart. I want you and my other runners to be protected when you leave your door for a run, and continue to stack up days, weeks, months of consistent training. There are aspects on your shoe and within your legs you can use as a guide to know it is time to upgrade your footwear.

Andrei: So it seems, the best judge should be the runner? I should listen to my body. Once I start to receive signs of pain or discomfort or simply just not the same bounce as before, it is a signal.  Though pain is universal, everyone experiences it differently. For me it is usually a bit of tightness in the ligaments around the ankle. I have ignored this in the past, telling myself that some Kenyan runners are doing marathons on bare feet, so if I keep running in worn out shoes, I would still be protected. How I wished I didn’t do that … I ended up at an orthopedist who promptly put me offline for two months. Imagine how I felt going from over 200km to zero … Let’s just say I had learned my lesson, and ever since I am really listening to my body.

Coach Hiruni: Agreed. Some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. Most people can also tell by simply looking at the bottom of the sole of the shoe. The tread (just like a tire) should look fresh. If you notice pieces missing, or the shoe just looks “old and tired” that’s a red flag! For some people this can happen as early as 200km into wearing a shoe.

Andrei: Right on that point. Look at the sole of the shoes that I ran in when I got my marathon PB and my first ultra-marathon. They will be always close to my heart, but I know they have to go. There is almost nothing left at the back the shoe, right where I land.

 pic1   pic_2

I am running in zero drops, you can imagine with no sole left at the heel, I kind of converted them into negative drops…



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Runcoach plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. We wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



What To Do When Your Goal Race Gets Delayed?
Don’t Give Up.

amanda_2As the global pandemic nears year one, the mass participation road racing scene is still far from normal. The optimist in you hoped 2021 would finally be the year in which live road race returned to its full glory. Still, races are getting postponed (with valid reason) to the second half of the year. How long should you hold out hope?  What to do with extra time?


First and foremost, absolutely hold on to that optimism! Your favorite road race, standing among strangers, butterflies in your stomach, and the minty muscle cream scent in the air will return. But I empathize with you, as my own race opportunities dwindle away each month. You’re allowed to feel disappointed. Allow yourself the time to go through the stages of coping using the techniques below.


1) Work On Weaknesses

Life is all about perspective. In any circumstance, the way you frame it allows you to move forward. I encourage you to see the delay as extra time to prepare (different from extra time to wait to start).

We all have areas of opportunities to develop and refine. Whether it’s physical (shin splints, weak glutes, runner’s knee, tendonitis), a target weight-loss goal, or mental (anxiety, mental strength to dig deep when it feels hard) the additional months can be invaluable to prepare your body and mind to have an exceptional race when it’s “go time”.


2) Scale Back

A common topic I discuss with my athletes is over-training. It’s the quickest way to kill your joy for running. If your goal race is a half marathon or longer, and the race is postponed, there is no additional benefit to keep loading up on miles. Instead, shift your focus to maintain fitness and find smaller goals to excite you.


3) Setup Time Trials

If this is a new word for you, think of a “Time Trial” as a practice race. Having a goal that you can chase on your own terms can be a big win (especially given the uncertainty  in today’s world). Time trials can help to gauge your fitness, practice pace, try out race tactics, go through race day logistics like type of breakfast, and hone in on the mental side of racing.

Jeff_brune_boston_2Runcoach athlete Jeff is in a similar situation to many BQ athletes. He was hopeful Boston 2021 would go on in April. Most of his preparation in 2020 was done with hope of running a memorable 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. With the recent news of Boston getting pushed back to the Fall, he’s once again reassessing his training.

Jeff wrote, “I want to chase a half marathon PR, even at altitude I think my old PR is vulnerable”.  That’s all a coach needs to hear, a spark of motivation. We decided on a half marathon time trial about a month out from the initial discussion, with training specifically focused on crushing his current personal best.


4) Explore Off-Road

Without a tight timeline to get ready for “race day” you have a free pass to run on trails, grass, packed snow (stay upright though!). Simply do something different to shake up your usual routes.

Doing so will not only help you see some different scenery, but it will challenge your body to activate muscle groups you don’t normally use while running on a flat road.



In short, when things change... don’t quit. Instead adapt and move forward with your running shoes ON!



Part 3:  Running Through the Pandemic – Alternatives to Running

 

For the third installation of Running Through the Pandemic, I want to share what I’ve done through the pandemic as alternatives to running.

 

As we move into our 4th quarter of battling Covid-19, many of us find ourselves in need of alternatives to running.

 

In my last two posts, I shared How I Dealt with Bar Air Quality during the fires in the Northwestern part of the U.S. and my Recovery from Injury #2 after my knee surgery in July.

 

For this next edition, I want to discuss some other hobbies I’ve picked up through these uncertain times.  I realize that many of us our back in social restrictions as the virus conditions to disrupt our normal lives and adversely affect so many people.  Additionally, many will now enter the most restrictive winter season without access to gyms and normal workout locations. So here’s what I’ve done (potentially not all positive) in lieu of physical activity.

 

In April, I started fishing more at Coyote Pt. a City Park in San Mateo.  The serenity of the water and the surroundings have always been good for my soul.  Still it is the randomness of the potential and unexpected timing of the reward that drives me the most.  This past spring the San Francisco Bay had one of the best California Halibut runs ever.  My fishing partner/daughter, Riley and I were able to catch this 24” beauty which rendered some wonderful ceviche’ (email me for the recipe’;-).

 halibut

 

I also went back to my youth and taught my older daughter, Olivia how to play my favorite childhood game = Battleship.  As is often the case my 3-0 perfect record soon evaporated an the pupil has now overtaken the teacher.  She leads the series 8-4.

 

 

I also started an online game of Hearts with my mother in western Pennsylvania and my in-laws here in the area.  That has given us time to connect and of course compete during the restrictions.  An online Zoom Christmas Scavenger Hunt with my niece, Elise in Philadelphia was a success (at least in my mind) and Zoom connections have been meaningful throughout.

 

Additionally, I started to play in an online poker game with friends and friends of friends from the East Coast.  This was quite the lesson as I’ve always considered myself a good poker player until I met these guys.  Now I feel like I’ve taken a Master Class in Texas Hold ‘Em and gained what I believe are meaningful insights into playing the hand you’ve been dealt and using the information at your disposal to make good decisions.  Not sure I can entirely recommend this but I wanted to share nonetheless.

 

While I’ve tried meditation throughout the pandemic, the most impactful solace this year was my work with a life coach.  She provides insightful perspective and is an invaluable sounding board as I continue to navigate these choppy waters.

 

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed nights with my wife.  We set use Netflix & Amazon as our before bed hobby and have enjoyed The Boys (not my wife’s favorite), The Social Dillemma (a must see for all of us that look at our phones too often), and especially Schitt’s Creek based on a family that found themselves in crisis long before the pandemic.

 

That’s pretty rosy picture I’ve painted, but the truth of this journey is somewhere in between.  I’ve been moody, anxious and nearly unbearable when not exercising.  I’m sure if you asked my family and those closest to me they would tell a different story of how I’ve been throughout the year, but I keep trying and encourage you all to do the same.  I have also stopped taking calls on my way home from work – it is a terrible habit and I’m happy to be rid of it.

 

If you’ve gotten this far – thank for reading.  I’d love to hear about your alternatives to running and physical activity through the pandemic.

 

Coach Tom’s Top-3 List for Alternatives to Running Through the Pandemic

  1. Double down on all the non-physical activities that bring you joy such as reading, playing cards, watching a TV series, writing, painting, meditation, etc.
  2. Try something new that you wouldn’t normally do.  See my recommendations above.
  3. Stay the course and use this time for resilient self-care and a path forward when things do return to “normal”


Treadmill Running Tips

October 24, 2020
You may refer to it as the "dreadmill". The boring nature aside, there are plenty of benefits to gain from using the treadmill to complete your training. Whether it's unpleasant weather, or for safety reason (looking at your early birds and night owls), make the most of the 'mill with these tips.

Six Tips For Enjoyable Indoor Running:


- Always set aside 5-10 minutes to "warm up". treadmill_rc_134223
Don't start running at a high speed on the treadmill. Just as if you were outdoors, stretch lightly before starting you run. Then easy jog 5-10 minutes at a relaxed pace so that your body can prepare for the workout or run ahead. 


-Use a slight incline.
Set the treadmill incline between 1-2%. Since there's no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. If you are just getting started with running or new to treadmill, it's okay to se the machine at 0%. Make it a goal to be able to run at 1% within a month. 


Did you know having the incline at 0% is actually like running on a slight downhill. Don't slack off!


-Do not hold on to the handrail or console.

These are placed for safety, not to guide your activity.  When you hold on to the rail, it hunches you over. This is not an effective running or walking form. It can cause lower and upper back pain. Keep your spin nice and straight, and pump your arms forward. 


-Pay attention to your stride.
You should have the same stride as when you are running/ walking outside. Lots of people make the mistake of overstriding (landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity). This is because the treadmill belt helps to move you forward. 
To avoid this mistake, keep the belt at a pace you can manage. Keep your stride ligh and quick. If you have a device to track your cadence use it!


-Do not step on or off while the treadmill is moving.
Most treadmill injuries are cause by falling or jumping off a fast moving belt. If you need a quick break, use the pause function or slow the speed of the machine to a very slow pace, and step off.
Top prevent needing to step off, try to be prepared with a towel, headphones, water and your phone before you get started.


-Bring entertainment
To combat the boredom, bring music, a podcast, magazine, or movie to watch. I usually don't recomend using headphones outside for safety reasons, but inside it's perfectly find. Having entertainment will prevent you from constantly checking your time and distance, and allow you to relax. 

Be sure to aware of your form still. Nice and tall spine! 



It occurs to me that we spend a good deal of time with emphasis on the keys to our training approach:

  • >Pace
  • >Progression
  • >Recovery

However sometimes I see even the most organized, motivated runners miss out on some of the basics.  Everyone knows to wear sweats and bundle up in the winter months, but what about the kind of cold Fall presents.  It's tricky to dress for the 40 - 50*F (5-15*C) days.

As always I am most concerned that all you remain healthy.  Remember if you're healthy, you're aerobic economy can be continuously developed through stress, recovery and compensation/conditioning.

So here are a few basics for running attire in the 40-60 degree temperature range.  hiruni_fall_clothes

  1. Wear a long-sleeve shirt and short sleeve shirt or vest over. It's key to keep the core warm.
  2. Wear long tights or knee long tights for women. And tuck your shirt into the tights.
  3. Consider light gloves and a hat or earband.
  4. If it's windy, a light windbreaker is a must. 
  5. Avoid cotton clothes. As you sweat the clothes will drench in making you colder.

As you run you will feel warmer, that's your body's engine heating up. That's why I suggest dressing for how you will feel 20 minutes into the run then the first mile. If you are running long, bring a change or clothes of a warm sweatshirt to change into after you finish up. It's never fun to be sitting in your frozen sweat on the drive home. 

 



young-people-walking1As with any new adventure, when you are starting off, it can seem dauting to set a goal. To take some that stress off, we’ve asked our coaches for their top tips.

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

 

(1)    Exercise Regularly – Run consistently

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

(2)    Run a Specific Distance

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

(3)    Run Non-Stop

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

(4)    Select a Race

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

(5)    Weight Loss

Lots of people start running to lose weight. Just like setting your eyes to run a certain distance, you should set a weight loss goal for each week and each month. Experts recommend 1-2kg (2-5 lbs) as a safe weekly weight loss goal.



tom_blog_3What a crazy year this has been.  We’ve gone through a pandemic of the century, lost loved ones, observed the pain & suffering of so many, and seen our running industry turned upside down.


I’ve read countless inspirational stories from many across the U.S. and around the world.  As I’m hopeful that we may be through the worst, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my experience of the last six months with our wonderful Runcoach customers and anyone else that might find my perspective helpful.


This is a bit selfishly cathartic for me but I’m hopeful my experience and some advice may be beneficial.


This will be a 6-Part Series with the following topics:


  1. Running with Bad Air Quality

  2. Recovery from Injury (My Knee Surgery)

  3. Alternatives to Running with Current Restrictions

  4. Some Perspective on Black, Indigeneous and People of Color from a Running Lense

  5. Running After Coronavirus Symptoms

  6. Our Path Forward to Road Races & What We Can Do Now



Running with Bad Air Quality

Many of us in the northwest part of the country and now with extensions to the midwest, have experienced extremely poor air quality from the tragic fires in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.


As runners, we always want to push through adverse conditions. I haven’t been running (more to come on that topic) and I’m acutely aware of the detriments of inactivity.  However I believe that poor air quality has long-term bad effects.  So what can we run in and what can’t we?


Here are my thoughts:


  1. AQI readings above 100 are a non-starter - please find alternatives (see below)

  2. AQI readings in the 80-100 range may have an effect and should be considered with caution

  3. AQ below 80 is probably safe but you should still listen to your personal biometric feedback in this range


Personal biometric feedback is your breathing within and after a run.  There is a difference between wheezing and heavy breathing.  Think of wheezing as strained breaths where you can feel it down deep in the lungs. You will feel wheezing from asthma and unhealthy air during and after your run.  We don’t want to run through wheezing as the lungs are remodeling to transport necessary oxygen and some tissue could be dying.


On the other hand, heavy breathing is normal and we experience this through heavy exertion.  A great marker to distinguish between the two is how you feel after a run.  You should not have labored breathing or any wheezing within an hour of workout completion.


Here are my favorite sites/apps to check the air quality.


  1. Purple Air - this site uses a community of personal air sensors at residences and businesses to provide a view of your area’s AQI

  2. AirVisual - this is an app available for iPhone and Android users;  it uses 10,000 locations to evaluate, predict, and report on current and future air quality


So what to do if the air quality is poor?


  1. Wear a mask?

    1. I’ve been walking in an N-95 mask which seems to keep out many particulates; there are many varieties to choose from

    2. I haven’t experienced the new Under Armour sports mask but heard it is comfortable for runners

  2. Run on a treadmill if possible

  3. Consider an alternative workout indoors such as the Peloton (more on this in an upcoming post), Elliptical, pool for swimming or deep water running, or any of the HIIT or other at-home workouts with a cardio focus

  4. Adjust your plan - ask your coach or look at the forecast and pick a better day to run


The bad air quality won’t be here forever.  In these times, it is important to remember those who have lost lives, homes, pets and much worse in the fires.  Still the loss of your workout is personal and not to be diminished.  I like to think of how much I appreciate running in these times and the hope that I will have the opportunity to run in clean air soon.



Breathing on the Run

August 12, 2020

breathing

Breathing on the Run
Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne

This is a popular question from our athletes - "How do I breathe while running?

Breathing is important because we feel awful when it is ragged and shallow. Conversly, we feel better when we are running easily enough that we hardly notice it at all.

The faster you run, the quicker you will reach a point where you will have to concentrate on breathing to continue at that pace.  That is because the additional strain of the pace over time has caused your muscles to demand more oxygen on a quicker schedule. 

So how do you breathe better?

1) Relax 

Breathing is an art. Stay as relaxed as possible in your upper body. Drop your shoulder, extend your torso and neck, and drop your mouth.

During hard efforts, your body craves oxygen. So, you will need both your nose and mouth to intake oxygen. 

2) Focus on Form

Running posture often falls apart when we get tired – the shoulders hunch over, arms get tense, neck and jaw almost lock. 

Remind yourself to draw your shoulders away from your ears and straighten up nice and tall.  This allows for your lungs to have the maximum room to pack in more air and may be able to help ease symptoms of a side stitch by stretching out the afflicted area.

3) Breathe deeply

You can practice breathing properly even when not running. Start by sitting in a chair or lie down on a yoga mat. Place you hand over your belly. 

Inhale with your nose and feel your stomach/ diaphragm fill with air. You should feel the hand on your belly button rising. Exhale through the mouth.  A deeper breath is like sticking your water bottle directly under the faucet stream vs panting is like splashing it with droplets of water.  Fill up those lungs so they can do what they do best – get air to your screaming muscles!

4) Find a rhythm

Start by doing this on easy runs/ walks. Count your footsteps. Your breathing pattern may be 2-2 or 3-3, that is, it takes two footfalls (one landing of either foot) to inhale and two footfalls to exhale, etc.  

However, when you are tired and air is at a premium, try to spend a bit more time on each inhale than you do on each exhale, for what might end up as a 3-2 rhythm or a 4-3 rhythm.  The most important thing you can do is to fill your lungs with each inhale. Take your time, try to relax yourself generally by the almost meditative counting of your breathing rhythm, and / or let a favorite song guide your brain through the pattern. All of a sudden, you’ll be at the next mile marker or water station.



Breathing is different for everyone. All of us from novice to experienced runners, need to practice techniques in low stress situations before taking them to the streets in the big race.   Listen to your breathing on easy runs to find out what your natural patterns are.  Try to maintain a tall posture and open your chest when the running is easy before forcing yourself to find that position when the running is tough.  Test out a 3-2 pattern or a 4-3 pattern on your next interval or tough workout and see what feels right.  



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