Guest Post: Have Your Best Run Yet!

I love Clever Training (send me an email to get a code for 10% off!) and buy lots of my training gear from them. Many people know about their awesome selection of running, triathlon, and training gear, but most people don’t know that Clever Training also hosts a great blog with training tips, fun stories, and information about the latest gear. When Ron, the CT Blog guy reached out to me about doing a guest post, I was super excited. I love reading the CT Blog and thought that you would, too. Here’s his post, a set of great tips for having your best run yet. Thanks, Ron!

Have Your Best Run Yet

Any dedicated runner knows that the key to having an amazing run depends on many factors. Perhaps most importantly, it starts with your mentality. Here are a few ways that you can pump yourself up and prepare yourself for your best run yet:

Recognize Negative Thinking

Many runners know that the body can be perfectly capable, but if the mind is not thinking positively, it can have a huge impact on the quality of your run. The trick is to recognize negative thoughts and remember that you have control over them. When a negative thought wanders through your mind, call upon a cue word or song that replaces the negativity with something positive. Focus on the pumping of your arms or your breathing, and you might be surprised at how much easier your run becomes.

Wear the Right Gear

Those shoes you bought for 20 dollars may have been a steal, but you aren’t doing your feet any favors. In order to keep your feet going for long distances, you will need to spend a little more to find the right shoe that is properly insulated. In addition, consider switching from cotton shirts and shorts to moisture-wicking workout clothes. This will help keep the sweat from sticking to your body and turning cold quickly. Having the right workout gear for your runs will allow you to go further distances in comfort.

Learn Proper Breathing

Many long-distance runners make the mistake of breathing too much. This deprives your lungs of oxygen because you are not getting all of the CO2 out of your lungs. Your lungs need oxygen to power you through those distances, so slowing down your breathing will relax you and fully give your lungs the oxygen they need, making running slightly easier. If you get a stitch in your side, matching your stride to your breath will help ease the pain.

Stop Setting Rigid Goals

Setting goals can be good for running, but if your goals are too rigid, then it can fill your mind with a defeatist attitude when you know you are failing to hit that goal. If this happens, don’t focus on the failure to meet your goal. Instead, have back-up goals. For instance, if you set a goal to run nine miles and know that you won’t make it by mile four, set a mini-goal of reaching eight miles instead. Change your self-talk be more positive, and it will help keep you motivated rather than having you want to give up in frustration.

Use Others as Motivation, Not Comparison

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and this is true in the running world. There is always going to be someone faster than you or who can go longer distances, and this is something that everyone should accept. Instead of getting down about this, use that person as a source of motivation for your next run. Acknowledge that you are only competing against yourself, and that’s all that matters for your enjoyment.

How To: Race in Multiple Races

Back when I first started running, everyone I knew was training for one event. We would pick a race – a 10k, a half, a full, and train for that one race. We would build our training program around the race, run it, and then enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Lately, more and more people are choosing to run in back-to-back races. Some run multiple events in one day, or one weekend. Others have been planning seasons that include three or more events in a series. I’ve tried running in multiple events and I love it! I have run in Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic several times – with four races in two days. I’ve run in Disney’s popular Goofy and Dopey race series, with 39.3 or 48.6 miles across multiple races. This fall, for the second year in a row, I will run four marathons in four weeks. This type of multiple event racing isn’t for everyone, but, if you’d like to give it a try, here are my top tips for multiple event racing success:

  • Plan your season around the events as a whole, rather than around one event. For example, this fall I will run four marathons in four weeks. My goal is to run four marathons in four weeks, not to run one marathon well, with a few extra after that. Planning to run only one marathon, then running four sets me up for disappointment, fatigue, and injury. Plan a training season around your goal – which is multiple events in the season.
  • When running in multiple events, you simply can’t train the way you do for a single event. your base fitness has to reflect the nature of your challenge. When building your base, build a base fitness that will prepare you well for the challenge at hand. This means I need to run high mileage multiple weeks in a row to prepare for my four marathons in four weeks extravaganza. Doing Dopey? Plan to run long runs back to back most weeks, with three to four consecutive days of running. Match the training to the specific challenges of your goal.
  • Let your body be your guide. When you’re striving for a new goal, it can be temping to push through aches and pains. Treat the body well, and listen to its cues. Achieving a multiple event goal requires a healthy, fit body.
  • Find a cross training activity that you enjoy. Engage in it often to prevent burn out and to recovery from bouts of hard running.
  • When you have multiple events in one day, practice running twice in one day. Learn how your body responds to multiple events and work on a rest/fueling/hydrating plan that mimics the specifics of your goal events.
  • When you have multiple events across multiple weeks, every event before the last is part of the training for the last event. Plan paces and race strategy accordingly. Remember that every event you run is preparation for the next, so a tough day or a poor performance is just part of the training process.
  • Learn to recover well and practice recovery throughout the training. Develop recovery strategies that suit you and will work within your goal time frame. Develop a long and short term view on recovery. Think of recovery not just as something done in the days or weeks after and event, but something done in minutes and hours after each event. What you do in the first few minutes after racing, and in the next several hours, can make a big difference. Develop a daily routine for recovery and wellness.  Practice season-long recovery strategies, too, including such as massage, foam rolling, and other body work. The quality of your next race depends on your ability to recover as well as you can in the time that you have before the event.
  • The goal after your first event is to be recovered enough to race again. When races are very close (hours to days), accept that some fatigue will be part of every event after the first. When you have a week between events, use that week to recover, rest, and prepare the body to race again. As the time between events becomes longer, expand the rest/recovery time and start to add in easy-paced running. Use the time between events to maintain the fitness you have, not to train.

Dopey

Racing multiple events can be exhilarating and can add a new challenge to the racing season for even the most accomplished runners. When planning carefully, runners can have great success (and a lot of fun!) running multiple events. Need help planning your multiple event calendar? Consider hiring a running coach. More information on training with Dr. Rachel Runs can be found above, in the Coaching tab.

Running Safety

Lately, the news has been filled with cases of runners in bad situations –interactions with motorists that went poorly and stories of serious harm seem more common. In the majority of situations, runners have done everything they could to avoid harm, but we can never be too careful. Here are some of my favorite safety tips.

First, stay alert to your surroundings. I know many runners enjoy running with music piped directly to their ears through a variety of noise-cancelling headphones. It is safest to run without music, fully able to hear the world around you. If you must run with music, consider leaving one headphone out of your ear and keep the volume to the lowest possible level. This will enable you to hear things going on around you, and help you stay alert for dangers that may be difficult to see. You’ll also be a good running citizen when you can hear the instructions and prompts of those around you.

Run against traffic when on the roads, or on sidewalks when available. By facing oncoming traffic, you can observe the driving habits of cars near you. You can also react more quickly to danger you see coming.

Look both ways before crossing streets (and train tracks) and make sure the driver of the oncoming car acknowledges your right of way before entering the roadway. You may have the right of way, but you still need to obey traffic signals that apply to pedestrians. Cross only in designated crosswalks and be courteous of drivers. Consider using hand signals or pointing in the direction you wish to go. This lets motorists know where you’re headed next.

Wear bright clothing and clothing with reflective details for dusk and dawn runs. If you must run in very low light, wear a headlamp, or a vest with flashing front and rear lights. Vests with built-in LED lighting are inexpensive and easy to find on the internet. Wearing one if you must run in low light will make you significantly more visible to others.

Carry or wear identification. I use a RoadID, a small wrist band (also available as a shoe tag, ankle band, and comfort wristband on RoadID.com) that includes my basic information. At minimum, include your name, date of birth, and the contact number of someone who can help in the event you are medically incapacitated. I have a medical condition, so I’ve paid extra to obtain a RoadID with a special code that enables first responders to access my medical information online in the event I’m unable to speak for myself. In a pinch, you can write this information on the inside of your shoe.

Carry your cell phone, and a small amount of cash. You never know when you might need a ride, a tasty beverage, or a donut mid-run.

Vary your running routes. Run in familiar areas if possible, but try to avoid taking the same route over and over again. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be home. I share this information with a loved one or fellow runner (who knows this is important). There are also several run tracking apps available that provide real time tracking for runners to be shared with individuals you identify. Among the most popular are the RoadID app and RunSafe. Both have alerts that can be customized for use in the event of an emergency. Run with someone when you can, or in populated areas.

RoadID app

Be cautious about where and how you post your routes on social media, including run tracking apps. If you run often enough, you’ll be tempted to start tracking your runs with GPS and posting them to Gamin Connect, Strava, Nike Plus, or some similar social sharing site. Be sure that your security settings are at least somewhat private, or don’t post runs that start or end at your house. Protect your personal information. Be wary about posting routes on other social media sites if your privacy settings are loose.

Be nice to other people. Avoid verbal altercations. Mind your manners and be a good citizen.

Carry something that makes noise, or practice whistling. You may need to get someone’s attention, or alert wildlife to your presence. Being able to make a loud noise is good.

While we can’t fully protect ourselves from the unknown, we can all take basic steps to reduce risks while still enjoying the sport we love. I hope that you stay safe out there.

Thinking Spring

Spring is coming. I know it. As I look out at the piles of snow, and shiver in -10 degree temperatures, it doesn’t seem like spring will ever come. I dutifully count down the days until the first day of spring (less than four weeks!). I plan my spring training and register for spring races. If I keep thinking about spring, maybe it will come. Spring is coming.

Spring is a great time for running – for renewing running patterns and starting new running habits. My annual springtime tradition is a big running gear cleanse.

One of my favorite spring traditions is spring cleaning. I love clearing out old things, donating my unwanted items, and getting organized. My love of spring cleaning extends to my running gear as well. Each spring, I go through my running clothes, coats, shoes, and accessories to assess their usefulness and determine what needs to be retired or replaced. Use the spring to wash all running coats, jackets, outerwear, and accessories. Zip up zippers, place mittens and other small accessories in a garment bag, and wash everything on gentle with a sports-specific detergent. Hang coats, match mittens, and organize each item. Look carefully for signs of wear and take note of things that need to be retired or replaced. Spring is a great time for good deals on winter apparel and if you know what needs to be replaced, you can stock up at lower prices. Carefully go through anything that has stretchy fabric and look for signs of wear – tights that don’t quite hold their shape, or socks that slip. Retire those items that are showing signs of wear. Keep your new gear fresh by washing in cool water with a sports-specific detergent following my handy instructions.

Ladies, spring is an excellent time to sort through sports bras. Each spring, I go through sports bras carefully and replace any that are more than one year old. The life expectancy of a sports bra depends on a number of factors, including intensity of exercise, how you wash it, and how often its worn, but most sports bras last 75-100 wears, or about 6-12 months, depending on your usage. After that, the bra is likely not providing effective support, or could be providing uneven support. Replace older bras, and replace any that were purchased when you weighed more or less, or that were around before a change to your breast shape (like childbirth, nursing, or treatment for breast cancer). Indulge in a new bra and feel supported during each run.

Couch to 5k

It’s almost spring! At least, I hope it’s almost spring. Lots of my running coaching clients are training for a springtime race, including a few first time 5k runners. I love 5ks and think they’re a perfect first race. Think a 5k might be for you? Here’s a training plan to get started! Right click and save the picture for your very own printable copy! Or, contact me (follow the link above) and I will email you a pdf of your own.

DrRachelRuns Couch to 5k Plan

Up the Tempo

As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners looking to increase speed. To run faster you have to run faster, and many runners are hoping to do just that, myself included! We’ve all heard the terms tossed around – tempo, fartlek, and intervals, but many runners aren’t sure how to combine those runs to make a training plan that not only makes sense, but helps them get faster. To start, its essential to understand the different types of runs and the purpose behind them.

Let’s talk tempo. A tempo run is a run that is done at a “comfortably hard” pace. Depending on who you ask, there are several different types of tempo runs. I will focus on the most traditional, the lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold, run.

Most runners have heard of lactate. Lactate is often blamed for muscle fatigue, though it’s really lactate plus some other acidic by-products of metabolism that build up in the muscles. At any rate, as your body works harder, acidic stuff builds up in the muscles and makes them less able to work as hard. You slow down when lactate accumulates faster than your body is able to clear it. When you run at lactate-threshold pace, you’re training your body to run at the fastest pace at which you can keep blood lactate levels pretty stable, thus keeping the muscles going and the pace steady.

A LT tempo run is designed to help your muscles get better at using/clearing the by-products of metabolism so you can run for longer at a faster pace. The more training you do at a quick pace, the longer you can keep blood lactate stable and the higher your “threshold”, or the level at which muscles reach their acidic limit. Basically, by running at your current threshold pace, you increase your threshold pace. Higher lactate threshold leads to the ability to run faster, longer, at easier effort.

To get this great effect, you have to train at the right intensity. There are several ways to determine if the intensity is right. Most experts say that a good tempo/LT pace is the pace at which you could run for an hour, but no more. For me, that’s hard to pinpoint, so I use some other, well established, methods to find the right pace.

  • Recent race pace – LT pace is usually about 25-40 seconds slower than your all-out 5k pace
  • Heart rate – LT pace is around 85% of your maximum heart rate

LT pace will vary based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running, and other factors related to training and stress. To make it a little easier, I often use simpler tests to determine my tempo pace. Tempo pace is about an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of rate of perceived exertion (if 3-5 is easy and 9-10 is racing a 5k). Tempo pace is also the pace at which you can only utter a few words (and those words make sense), but can’t form a complete sentence.

Once you’ve found the right intensity, the next step is to determine the amount of time to spend running at that pace. A good tempo run should have an easy warm up and cool down, with a period of comfortably hard running in the middle. There are three usual types of tempo runs, short tempo runs, classic tempo runs, and long tempo runs. Easy, right? A short tempo run might be a 12-25 minute run with a pace at the fast end of the LT range. These shorter tempo runs are best for short distance race preparation, like 5k or 10k training. A classic tempo run includes 25-40 minutes of steady running at LT pace, and is a great run to include in the training plan for any distance. Finally, the longer tempo run, a tempo run that’s done at the high end of the LT pace range, with that pace held for 40-60 minutes, is a great run for runners training for longer distances. Longer tempo runs have the added benefit of training the body to run in a slightly uncomfortable state for longer periods of time, a mental and physical skill essential for success at half marathon and longer distances.

If you’re hoping to get faster, a tempo run is a great run to add to your training plan. Start with one every 10 days or so, and move up to one tempo run, or other speed-development run, per 5-7 days of training. Now, let’s get speedy!

Beat the Heat!

As I write this post, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the mercury is climbing. It’s humid, hot, and I’m running tonight. In a futile effort to stay cool, I’ve collected some of the best hot weather running wisdom.

1. Modify your runs. First, and most importantly, modify your runs and make adjustments to accommodate the heat. Don’t expect blazing fast times on boiling hot days. Save speed work for cooler days, and cut back on your pace when running in the heat. Consider modifying your training plan to run fewer miles at slower paces for the duration of a heat wave. Be patient and allow yourself to adapt slowly to the heat.

2. Mix it up. Take your runs inside. In the worst heat, consider running on a treadmill or indoor track. Runners World magazines’ online resources include some great suggestions for excellent treadmill workouts, perfect for the hottest of days. Taking speed work inside in hot months ensures that you’re training well, and safely. Consider including more cross training with swimming, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and cycling. Pool running is a great option for those with handy pool access.

3. Think shade. When the weather’s hot, run your runs in the shade and at the coolest times you can manage. Run early in the morning when the weather is the coolest, or in the evening when breezes are more likely to come up. Run on shaded paths or in neighborhood with trees. Consider plotting a route that takes you past shops or big box stores so you can duck in for a little air conditioning – or bail on the run entirely. Run on the grass or on a trail if you can.

4. Chill out. If you’re planning to run in the heat, take precautions. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear loose fitting clothing made of wicking material, and as little of it as is reasonable. Wear a hat or visor to keep sun off your face. Some evidence suggests that cooling the extremities before and during hot runs can help, so consider wetting your head, carrying a wet cloth, or even putting ice in your clothes. It’s crazy, but it works. Some runners also swear by drinking an ice cold drink just before the run.

5. Carry water. Hydrate early and often with water and, if necessary, an electrolyte replacement product. Consider your individual hydration needs and plan accordingly. Not sure how much you need to drink? A quick consultation of google will tell you everything you need to know about how to hydrate and what to avoid.

6. Consider your non-running activities carefully. Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them regularly, or before a run, can put you at greater risk of heat-realted illness due to dehydration. Talk with your doctor about how to take your medication, and stay safe in the heat.

Finally, protect yourself. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and take steps to prevent problems before they start. Here are some of the basic heat-realted illnesses, including their signs and symptoms. As always, consult with your medical professional with regard to heat safety.

Heat cramps:

When dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, large muscles cramp. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrating during runs.

Hyponatremia:

When excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels, headache, disorientation, muscle twitching can result. Emergency medical treatment is necessary. To prevent problems with hyponatremia, don’t drink more than about 32 ounces per hour and consider a sports drink over water. Talk with your medical professional about your hydration needs.

Heat exhaustion;

Dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance that results in a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F. This causes headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, and clammy skin. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrated during runs. Slowly cool down by applying cool water the the head and neck, seek the shade and get out of the heat.

Heat stroke:

Heat stoke occurs when exertion and dehydration prevent your body from being able to regulate core temperature. Core body temperature can exceed 104° or more. Heat stroke is usually accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if heat stroke is suspected. Emergency personnel will cool and rehydrate the individual safely. While waiting for help, get out of the heat and cease activity.

Stay cool, my running friends.

2014 Resolutions: Running Coaching

Do your 2014 New Year’s Resolutions include running? Would you like to achieve a new fitness goal? Run a new race distance? Get a PR? If so, consider running coaching.

For a limited time, get 20% off running coaching services. Between January 1, 2014 and January 31, 2014, contract my coaching services (any service, including plan development) at a 20% discount. Just mention that you saw this post and let’s get running!

To learn more about the benefits of working with a running coach, read my post, Why Hire a Running Coach.

To learn more about working with me as a coach, click the “Coaching” tab, above.

Stretching and Yoga and Rolling, Oh My!

This week, I began coaching a half marathon training group. I was not too surprised to see that the pre- and post-run routines of many of my runners included a bit of awkward shuffling, and a half hearted calf stretch. Most runners underestimate the value of a good stretching, warm up, and cool down routine in injury prevention. And, for many newer runners, or runners transitioning to a distance at which recovery becomes super important, just don’t know what to do. Enter the awkward shuffling. This post is dedicated to pre-rehab, in hopes that it will inspire just one of you to begin cultivating a stretching. rolling, and strengthening routine that promotes injury prevention.

Pre-Run
Before beginning a long run, it’s a good idea to warm up. Most runners know this, but few heed this sound advice, myself included. My desire to warm up properly when it’s 10 degrees outside is limited, but ample research supports the value of a dynamic warmup in injury prevention. Maybe you’ve heard the stretching cold muscles causes injury advice. That’s true, but a warmup that includes dynamic (read: not static) stretching can activate stabilizing muscles and warm up large muscle groups – both good things. A good dynamic warm up includes key movements that activate muscles in the legs and core. Start with a few walking lunges. Do some old school butt kicks. Try a few leg swings to activate the glutes. Finish up with a few tippy toe walks or toy soldier walks. Simple. Spending 5 minutes on this easy series will not only help with warm up and neuromuscular activation, but will likely prevent simple strains and other nagging injuries from taking hold. Here’s a video of another version of a dynamic warm up that focuses on neuromuscular activation (especially good if you’re training on uneven surfaces. like trails).

Post-Run
After your run, cool down properly. I can’t emphasize this point enough. It isn’t good for the body to come to an immediate and complete stop. The muscles and circulatory system do not see stopping the Garmin and lying on the grass as a cool down. Cool down with a few minutes of gentle jogging or walking, then, return to the pre-run dynamic movements. Stretch the body with dynamic moves before static moves. After the run, stretch the key running tight spots – glutes, hamstrings, quads, IT band attachments, and calves. Like yoga? Try a few poses. The best post-run poses for runners include triangle, pyramid, pigeon (or reclining pigeon), happy baby, and spinal twists.

Maintenance
Keep loose in between runs with a strengthening and stretching routine that highlights key muscle groups used in running. I may be biased since I am a yoga teacher, but yoga is a great way to improve muscle activation and build stamina while increasing flexibility. Yoga classes which feature vinyasa, or movements linked with breath, can be particularly useful for runners, as they emphasize dynamic motions and more complicated muscular movements in a series. Look for a yoga teacher who is an athlete, or ask other athletes which yoga classes they prefer. With so many styles to choose from, there’s a yoga class for everyone.

For muscle maintenance, nothing beats a regular session with a foam roller. A foam roller is just what it sounds like – a cylinder, or roller, made of foam. By positioning the roller on the body and then rolling the body across the roller, the runner loosens up muscles and breaks up adhesions that can cause painful injuries. Foam rollers are inexpensive and easy to use. If you’re new to foam rolling, check out this helpful article and video series about self-massage with the foam roller. Aim to foam roll between once a day and twice a week. Many runners also like The Stick for self-massage. The Stick is a thin pole with a number of rolling beads set into it. The Stick is great for precision massage in tight spots that might be inaccessible to the larger foam roller. The Stick is also much smaller than a foam roller and easily transported. I carry a Stick in my running bag so that I have it for every run.

The bottom line – a good system of pre-rehab that includes massage, stretching, and strengthening, can be an important step toward staying healthy and injury free. Thinking about injury prevention before and after every run can not only help in preventing nagging running injuries, but can improve performance through muscular activation. So, instead of shuffling awkwardly before your next run, try a dynamic warm up to give your body, and your mind, a boost.

Yoga for Runners: Volume 1

For those of you not in the know, in addition to my super fun work as a running coach, I am also a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. I love vinyasa-style yoga and enjoy teaching yoga for runners. Yoga is amazing for runners. It links mind and body, which can result in great performance gains. The increase in flexibility provided by a regular yoga practice can reduce injury risk. Sold on yoga? Ready to get started? I’ll share with you a few of my favorite poses for runners and athletes of all levels.

Half Kneeling Lunge – Psoas Stretch

Psoas stretch.

Psoas stretch.

This pose doesn’t have a nice Sanskrit name, but it’s highly effective. Most runners have tight hip flexors (the illiopsoas group). Tight hip flexors are made even more tight by frequent sitting, a problem for most of us who work desk jobs.

To perform this stretch, begin in virasana (hero pose). Raise up using the quadriceps muscles. Extend the right leg to place the sole of the foot on the mat, knee at 90 degrees. Hips are square and abdominal muscles are engaged and mulabandha is engaged. Gently tilt the pelvis up toward the belly button by drawing in the abdominal muscles. Shift the hips forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip and the psoas group is lengthened. Extend the left arm over the head. To stretch the TFL and its attachment site, shift the hits three to five inches to the left, maintaining the hips and abdominals.

IMG_1374

Spend 20 seconds to one minute in each pose. Return to kneeling and then to hero pose to rest. Enjoy!