To Be a Running Coach

I’ve been a RRCA certified running coach for several years. I truly enjoy coaching and helping runners achieve their goals. If you’ve been thinking about hiring a running coach, do it! Coaches can help athletes of all levels achieve goals, stay accountable to a training program, and inspire you to believe in yourself. Still need convincing? Check out my post on reasons to hire a running coach.

This weekend, as part of another role in my life, I sat in on a running coaching class. Doing so as a certified, and experienced coach, has been an interesting experience. I have a few observations.

 

First, there are many types of coaches. I think many people assume that a running coach is a running coach. One of the keys to a positive coaching experience is having a strong goodness of fit between you and your coach. This refers not just to personality, but to training philosophy and beliefs about running. Most of the coaches-in-training talked about their running philosophy – everything from how much cross training to include to how long the optimal long run before a marathon should be. There was some overlap, of course, but many divergent ideas were presented about every idea. Some coaches-in-training planned to forbid cross training other than pool running. Others wanted trainees to run 18/20/22/24 as a marathon build up. Neither of these sounded like great ideas to me, but they seemed to find it workable. Some individuals had strong reactions to ideas presented and were willing to fight over the supremacy of their ideas. Others were open to learning and were flexible in their ideas. If you’re looking for a coach, find one who believes what you believe, or whose ideas sound feasible and reasonable to you. Don’t be afraid to interview coaches to find one whose ideas are compatible with yours? Not sure what the best training strategy is ok? That’s ok! Find a coach who seems interested in you, and who seems open to your ideas. They’ll lead you when it comes to running strategy, but be sure that you and your coach are compatible. Strong goodness of fit will lead to happier training and better results for you from a coach who understands YOU.

Hearing the coaches-in-training talk about developing training plans based on their strongly held beliefs about what works *for them* was a surprise. I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd. I read a great deal of literature about the science of running and have let the science dictate my own training. I usually try training plans myself before asking a client to run that plan. I study the literature and read the books – I believe the science and value the science over my own experience.

Finally, it’s clear to me that people love running. The coaches-in-training were passionate, engaged, and vocal about their belief systems. It was wonderful to be in the company of people who love running as much as I do.

Summer running

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.

On the Run, Again

If it seems like I’ve been traveling a lot, that’s because it’s true. I have been here, there, and everywhere. Some of my travel has been personal travel or races – my favorite kind of travel. But, some of it has been work travel. Work travel is hit-or-miss when it comes to fun. Some work trips are great fun, but, generally, work trips are a parade of bad food, bad hotel gyms, and bad locations. I’m staying in a hotel this week that is quite possibly the worst hotel gym I’ve ever seen. I’m starting to become a bit of a hotel treadmill connoisseur. I’ve seen the good:

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The ugly:

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But this one can only be described as bad. The air conditioning doesn’t work, leaving the whole room a stuffy 74 degrees. It positively reeks of mildew. All the equipment, and by “all the”, I mean one treadmill, one ancient elliptical, and one recumbent bike, is rusty and more than a decade old. The treadmill is off center and wobbles precariously any time the speed goes above 5.0 miles per hour. It’s not good. Thinking there may be a solution on some facet of the problem, I talked to the hotel management about the air conditioning. Their response was to close the gym. I guess you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. Now I’m missing my mildew and my wobbly treadmill.

Travel isn’t all bad. There are great adventures, like the day I ran 7 miles round trip to get deodorant I had forgotten to pack.

SLC

There are amazing restaurants with delicious foods I can’t find at home (like cheesy cornbread!).

Jim N Nick's

 

and great scenery.

Multnomah

Overall, it’s pretty great. I love traveling and the new joys it brings to my life.

Hit the Trail

Spring is a great time to add trail running to your training to take advantage of spring weather and enjoy nature. Here are my basic tips for getting started with trail running.

First, find a good trail. No single trail is the same. From wide, crushed rock trail like the airline, or rail trail, to single track cutting through trees, trails offer a wide variety of running surfaces and scenic options. In Connecticut, we are lucky to have an amazing trail system including the blue blazed trails, Joshua’s Trust trails, and a variety of town-maintained trails. Get to know your trail by researching online, or by asking other runners and hikers.

Trail running

Once you’ve found a good trail, prepare for the hazards you might find on the trail. If it has tall grasses or thick underbrush, consider wearing pants or tall socks to deter ticks. If your trail is sandy or has small, loose stones, tall socks or gaiters will help keep debris out of your shoes. While many trail runners use specially made trail running shoes, which have more aggressive tread and a closer to the ground feel, they aren’t always necessary. Consider how “technical” your trail is when selecting your footwear and gear. Generally, a more technical trail is one that is, more narrow, winding, steep, or has trail hazards like roots and rocks. Use good judgment in planning your trail run in order to match your trail with your ability.

Next, focus on safety. Take your dog or a buddy, or write your route out and share with a loved one. Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Consider carrying water and a snack. Carry your cell phone and identification for emergencies. Once on the trail, keep your eyes on the trail so avoid rocks and roots. Focus on looking three to four feet ahead to create an imaginary “line” of travel, a plan for where you going to step for the next few steps. This will keep you focused and alert to potential hazards. Finding a line will become easier as you become more comfortable running on the trails. Make sure that you’re alert and be aware of landmarks and trail markings.

When trail running, it’s best to run by time, rather than distance to begin. Trail running can be exhausting at first and it can take much longer to cover the same distance on a trail than on a road. I generally add one to two minutes to my pace per mile, even on trails I know very well. Slow your pace and take time to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trails. Run by time, effort level, or heart rate and avoid comparing your trail pace to your road pace.

Finally, work to improve your trail running performance by including strength and balance exercises into your training two to three times per week. Exercises that strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet are particularly useful. Consider adding lunges on a pad or stability disk, single leg squats, bridges, dead lifts, calf raises, and other exercises using a wobble board or stability disc to develop foot and ankle strength and stability.

Once you’ve tried trail running, grow your confidence by running on the trails at least once per week. Try new trails and make friends with other trail runners. As you grow in your confidence and strength, tackle more technical trails, or sign up for a trail race. Trail running can be a great way to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy Connecticut’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the trails!

Product Review: Shower Pill

My favorite days are multiple workout days. I love a good two-a-day. Between my own workouts and my yoga teaching, I have lots of opportunities for multiple workout days. Multiple workout days lead to serious questions that can only be described as “fit girl problems”. Questions like: “Should I shower now, or 6 hours from now when I get home?” “How bad is it if I don’t wash my hair after this sweaty run, and just wait until tomorrow when I want to look pretty?” And, the real question – “Is it bad to just change clothes and not shower?”

I confess. I don’t shower after every  single workout. Sometimes there isn’t time. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it – like those days that I run in the morning and know I have a super sweaty hot yoga class a few hours later. I know this calls my personal hygiene into question. I do shower once a day at minimum. I swear I’m not dirty…I just like to maximize my shower power. I like to earn my shower. Sometimes this results in questionable shower-timing decisions. For a long time, I have used Wet Ones, or other hand wipes in between workouts for a quick clean up. They don’t really do the job. They manage to remove some of the sweat and grime from the gym of the road. I am cleaner, but never really feel clean.

Enter the ShowerPill. I had heard about ShowerPill for a while now from my friends in the fitness community. I don’t know why I never tried them, but I had wanted to. When the team at Fit Approach contacted me about a review opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I had been wanting to try ShowerPill, and now I had the perfect opportunity.

ShowerPill is an antibacterial wipe for the entire body. It is alcohol free, so it’s safe to use on sensitive skin (including the face), and has aloe and vitamin E. I got a 10-pack of ShowerPill to try.

ShowerPill package

 

I decided that the first ShowerPill use would be a double run day. I had a 14+ mile run in the morning, 2 hours off, then a 5 mile race scheduled in the afternoon. The afternoon race was an important one – I would be representing not only my running club, but the RRCA as a state rep. At a minimum, I couldn’t be smelly. This was an important test. I hopped into a changing room at the local running store (location of run #1) post-run.

ShowerPill test

The first thing that I noticed is that ShowerPill is soft and thick, like a real washcloth. It has a great, fresh scent. It *feels* like it will clean the whole body. It is damp, not wet, and the wipe left my skin feeling soft and clean. I actually felt clean. Really clean.

ShowerPill wipe

I was able to completely wipe my whole body with the ShowerPill wipe and feel completely clean. When I emerged from the changing room, one of my friends commented that I smelled nice. Nice! I was shocked. I was so impressed with the ShowerPill that I carried it around and made everyone feel it. Everyone was struck by how soft and thick the cloth was. It really was fabulous – life changing, even.

For my next ShowerPill test, I wanted to up the ante. I used a ShowerPill wipe after a sweaty workout at my weightlifting gym. The floor is black gym flooring and absolutely disgusting. Any time I touch the floor, I’m covered in black dirty. Combine that with sweat and the whole thing is a mess. The ShowerPill easily handled the dirt. I wiped off and found the cloth almost black. Disgusting, but I was dirt-free. I felt clean. It worked!

Overall, I adore the ShowerPill. Now that I have them, I can’t imagine my life without them. I’m heading for Florida today and I packed my ShowerPills! I can’t go without them. I love, love, love this product.

Note: I was provided complimentary product to conduct this test. I was compensated for this review (though I spent all the money on more ShowerPills!), but the review is honest and my thoughts are my own.

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

Gear Review: Link Laces

Recently, I was approached by the people at Link Laces to review their product. Always willing to try new things, my mom and I reviewed the laces. I found them easy to use and install, but, being a regular shoelace person, didn’t have a strong opinion. So, I asked mom to review them. Mom regularly uses LockLaces and likes the elastic shoelaces. Here is what she had to say:

Link Laces are a elastic laces for shoes replacing standard laces.  The package comes with simple instructions to lace, cut, lock, and clip.    The laces were shorter than I was accustomed to, but I do not use the last hole on my shoes.  The tight spring loaded lock keeps the laces in place.

Link Laces

The shorter length meant a tighter fit when I slipped on my shoes, I tend to pull the tongue out a bit more than these would allow.  The clip cinched up nicely and I was ready for the first of several trial uses.  On the short walk, they were perfect, keeping the shoes firmly secure but not putting undo pressure on the top of my feet.  The next longer and admittedly warmer walk I had problems with the tight elastic laces. As my feet swelled, the laces remained firmly unstretchable.  I had to stop several times to adjust the tension for a more comfortable fit.  The main reason I want a product such as this is to keep from frequently stopping to readjust my laces as my feet change during my walks.   Finally I used the laces on shoes I planned to wear all day.  I encountered a similar problem, as my feet changed, the laces did not. It was not a comfortable fit.  I continued to try the Link Laces under various conditions and length of time worn, thinking it was just me or the shoes.

Link Laces in shoesI gave the Link Laces a fair chance to work, but for me, not so much.  The ease of slipping on shoes and cinching up got me out the door quick, but the trade off was stopping to adjust the laces on longer walks or warmer conditions.  It made my shoes just too tight for the long haul.  I will pass on adding these to my footwear.

Note: We were provided with complimentary product to complete this review, but were not compensated for the review.

Troy Conquers 26.2: Part 2

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 2: 3 Days and 22.4 Miles

Florida is supposed to be warm, even in January. Florida is not supposed to be approaching freezing temperatures. When we woke for the 5K, the temperature was < 36oF. Even my hardy Michigan constitution was not prepared for the cold. Normally, I have a full complement of long sleeve shirts and long pants to fight off the cold. I did not pack much and I did not pack anything that went with my costume. This is Disney – you have to run in costume, especially when you are only running 3.1 miles.

My wife and I went as Pain and Panic from the animated Hercules movie. It was awesome to hear people recognize us and compliment the costumes – hand made by the wife. I ran the 5K with my wife and took a nice easy pace. It was crowded and for someone who runs solo 99% of the time, it was the most challenging aspect. I understand people will walk these races but fighting through a sea of people who would walk 5-wide across the road was challenging. The run was fun but too crowded for me. After the 5K, it was again off to the parks and this time Magic Kingdom (super fun times).

Pain and Panic

Seriously Florida? It was a cold morning for the 10K again. Thankfully we didn’t get rid of the Mylar blankets and hand warmers from the day before. We needed them again and once again found ourselves in a parking lot for over an hour waiting to start the race. Thankfully, Dr.Rachel had brought us some fantastic Lululemon gear (yay Christmas presents) that got put to use immediately.   We did family shirts as most of the family was running, thus we could layer up a bit better. Just like the 5K, the 10K was crowded and challenging to move through. I had moved back to my wife’s corral and started last which was likely part of the problem. Again, the course was flat and fun for a rather leisurely pace. We finished in good time and good spirits. Two races down and feeling very good we took the rest of the day a bit easy.

Family

Half marathon time. Third morning of waking up at 0300 and prepping to run. We were tired and tired of being cold. The half was supposed to be warmer during the run but the morning was still chilly. I jumped back in to the wife’s corral and started with her again. After about 5 miles we broke and I headed off alone. I was focused on time and making sure I hit my 16 min/mile pace requirement. There was no stopping allowed for miles 6 to 13.1. I picked up the pace and cruised, catching and passing my mother and Dr.Rachel who started several corrals ahead of me. My Chef Linguine (Ratatouille) costume always draws a few compliments and reminds me why Disney is great for races. People are here to have fun as much as they are to run. I can’t say I remember too many costumes I passed besides a family doing a spectacular “Up”. For me, this race was all about getting through and then resting for the big show on Sunday. I got my snack box in time to wander to the finish and cheer on the wife as she crossed.

After running the 22.4 miles it was time for rest, food, sleep, and worry. Three days and three races down! I had done well and was feeling great still. Next up: the marathon.

On Feet, Spurs, and Pain

If you’ve been following along, my mom is my best running friend and my favorite race partner. She’s always ready for fun, and willing to try any new race or event. We love racing together.

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Lately, mom has been on injured reserve, taking some time off due to injury. As much as I missed my race buddy, I was sorry to see her hurt and missing what she loved. In this post, my mom shares her experience of diagnosis and treatment for a heel spur, including the dreaded cortisone shot.

Mom says:

In August, I began to notice a slight pain in my right heel as if I had stepped on a stone with bare feet. I put it off as too many days walking on paved surfaces training for a half marathon. A day off I thought would rest the foot and I could continue on. The next days were a succession of off and on days and no relief for the heel tenderness.

In September, I headed to Michigan to visit family. Although I took all my workout clothes and shoes, I could not walk a mile. Research led me to think the culprit plantar fasciitis so I ordered new shoes, compression socks, and various shoe inserts. I tried a few foot exercises half heartedly. Nothing seemed to help. I bought more inserts, this time from Dr Scholl, that had cushioning since just wearing a shoe was painful
When I returned home, I called my general practitioner and got an appointment. By then, walking to the mailbox was a teeth gritting event. She took x-rays, a heel spur was the culprit of the pain.

Next stop was a podiatrist who reviewed the x-rays. She pointed out that I had arthritis in both big toes (suck it up, Buttercup), a spur on my right heel, and another on the bottom of my foot. The spur on the back of my heel was causing no discomfort unlike the one on the bottom of my foot. Plantar fasciitis untreated probably caused the spur to develop. Her plan to “get me back out there” was a shot of cortisone, prescription Meloxicam, foot exercises, and a night time foot brace.

I had heard the horror stories about cortisone shots but was pleasantly surprised when a topical numbing spray was first applied prior to the injection. Pressure but no pain. The injection site would be tender for several days, but that was minor compared to the relief. My heel would feel odd for several days as if a wad of cotton had been shoved under the skin. Not numb, but pain free heel area made life better.

Now the end of November and I’m headed back for a check up. I have been following the exercise plan, taking the Meloxicam, and feeling much better. I added air plus gel orthotic shoe inserts to my shoes. The gel inserts are superior cushioning for my heel area, better than any other brand I have tried , and I’ve tried almost everything out there. I replaced all my walking and running shoes and am trying new types that offer more arch support. I am more careful of the miles on the shoes and the type of miles, replacement cost is minor compared to the months of pain. It feels great to be back out, even short distances. Although not running yet, I hope to soon.

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training. I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. 🙂

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time.  I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!