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holiday-mealA little more than a month from now, you’ll have the chance to consider some potential New Year’s resolutions.  Where you will start from on January 1 will have a lot to do with how the next few weeks go.

While the holiday season can provide some of the happiest moments of the year, it can also wreak havoc on your running goals.  Here are some ideas for how you can make the most of the season and keep your motor running before hitting the ground full speed on January 1.

Even if your schedule doesn’t normally include morning running, consider scheduling your runs for the early hours.

The first few weeks of December often include more events outside of your control than potentially any other time of the year.  Office functions or extra hours / shifts at work, recitals, school events, and holiday obligations for school aged kids, other civic, religious, or social events and obligations –the calendar can get pretty crowded.

That run you already scheduled after work can quickly get pushed to the wayside when you find out from your spouse at 4 that you need to be somewhere you had forgotten about at 6:30, dressed neatly and with a bottle of wine for the hosts.  Maybe your mom needs you to drive her across town for that special ingredient she wants to put in the pie she is making tomorrow and aren’t you just the one to take her this evening after work but before they close at eight?  There goes the run.

Late in the month, family meals (in addition to food shopping and preparation), odd schedules, the irresistible pull of a bowl game or the warm couch (and the inevitable snooze), can successfully thwart the most stalwart runner in their efforts to stay on track.    If you are able to run in the morning, even if it is not the best series of workouts you have had all year, you at least ensure that you don’t put yourself in a gapingly large training hole.  At this point, it is dark in the morning AND in the evening, so you probably won’t miss much there.  You will however, be able to give yourself a silent high five every day, even when the rest of your schedule may leave you scrambling.  So, block it in now!

Stay hydrated

Yes, you should drink water because you are training and you want to stay hydrated.  But, the holiday time is also a key hydration zone in many ways that will also help you feel more like yourself when you do get a chance to hit the road or the treadmill.  Maybe travel is in your plans. As we have mentioned before in Personal Best, you should aim to drink a cup of water for every time zone you cross while flying in the dry air-conditioned atmosphere of an airplane.  If mountains or other dry, snowy climates are in your future, this is also important as high altitudes and dry air can leave you under-hydrated before you realize it.  You may already be out of your element or preferred weather conditions for a time during the holidays, so everything you can do to at least keep your body working well will be key to move from just salvaging a situation to a place where you get some quality running accomplished despite the challenges.

Even if your holiday plans do not include travel, proper hydration remains crucial to staying on track.  It can assist with digestion when faced with a gauntlet of rich foods and a never-ending stream of chocolates in the break room.  It can also help combat the dehydrating effects of holiday related alcohol consumption and give your family feast some welcome company in your stomach so you are not as likely to go overboard for the fifth time this week.

Include the family in some running

Find a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog 5K /10K the family can walk or jog together while you get in a tempo run.  Pick an outing or two where others can walk or hike while you and whomever is up for it can run.  Plan a run during someone else’s shopping or errands, so they can go crazy in the stores while you take off for a few miles down a nearby bike path before meeting them back at the car.  Think in advance of ways you can meld your run seamlessly into another’s schedule so that you can avoid missing a quality hour with family when everybody is finally home and you’ve just decided to head out on the trail.

Enjoy what you do get done, and don’t worry about what you can’t fit in

If you are unable to perfectly complete every single day’s training from now until the end of the year, you are probably not alone.  The holidays are special because you do often have the time to travel or to visit with friends and family in ways your schedule wouldn’t normally permit.  It is important to enjoy these times and maintain a balance that keeps running in perspective.  If you have a choice in days of the week to get certain things accomplished or can recalculate your schedule in advance to account for certain problem dates coming up, try to prioritize the hard workouts and long runs, so if you don’t get everything in, you will at least have tackled the most challenging days.  However, even if you are stymied in this effort, the important thing is that you don’t fall completely out of touch with your goals, that you don’t let guilt over two or three days missed keep you from getting back to the schedule next time out, and that you stay healthy.

Everyone, from world class athletes to beginners, will find the holidays to be a time requiring flexibility and variation in their typical routine.  You are not alone.  Look ahead as best you can, stay relaxed, and see if you can arrive on January 1st with only minor adjustments needed instead of a complete overhaul.  Perhaps you will have even learned some tips that will make the next holiday season even better.



trainingAt runcoach, we love celebrating the great race results that roll in after each weekend.  Although sensible training and belief can ensure that many race days proceed well, occasionally an off day or an unexpected turn of events affects us all.

 

One of the best ways to recover from a tough race is to have a short memory.  In every race, there are many things a runner can control:  clothing choices, food choices, pacing choices, fueling choices, and more.  Likewise, there are several factors that are beyond the control of the athlete:  the weather that may prove those clothing choices to be wise, the digestive system that may repudiate those food choices, the topography or wind that may prove those pacing choices to be miscalculated and events like an unexpected bathroom need or unseasonably humid weather which may show the fueling choices to be inadequate.  Because we really do not control quite as much on race day as we believe we do, it is unproductive to dwell on a disappointing result when it was significantly affected by one of these factors.

 

Certainly, we also know there are times when we weren’t quite as tough as we had envisioned, when the effort given seemed monumental at the time, but retrospect asks the question, “Was there more in the tank?”  In these times just as well, we need to avoid miring ourselves in what could have been and focus on what we plan to do next time out.

 

Because running is a singular pursuit, requires such strong task commitment both over the long training cycle as well as during a race effort, and the sense of accomplishment is so great when done well, runners often have a hard time divorcing our overall confidence from one or two tough days out of many.  But, we should.  Difficult things by definition would be easy if everyone could do them, and running long distance is most definitely a difficult thing.  Without minimizing the value of finishing a large goal or glamorizing the somewhat sanitized notion that the victory is only in attempting to begin, if you have trained well for a goal race, you have should have satisfaction for what you have learned about yourself along that journey.  A race completed, but not as fast as expected, is a race where the spirit of perseverance yielded a finishing result, which on a better day would be the type of commitment that will indeed lead to a PR.  If Murphy’s Law prevailed on a particular day, you have a great story and a lesson of resilience in the face of a gauntlet of unexpected difficulties.

 

Sometimes, the tough day has definite antecedents in choices we have made or training that trended less positively than we would have hoped leading in.  This is where the running log enters into the conversation.  When the dust is settled, an examination of any correctable factors is well in order, but always in the context of fact versus feelings.  Beating oneself up over situations that can neither be redone nor controlled next time is not productive.  Preparing to do battle with more training, a mellowed sense of humor, and a renewed sense of hope is crucial.  Carrying the burdens of a previous tough race is a heavy load.  If you are able to leave that load and focus on the opportunity ahead rather than the unrealized promise of a previous race, you have the opportunity for a much more positive experience.  Running toward a goal is always more productive than running away from a fear. Daily, practice focusing on the run at hand, the potential of the present day, and the joy or challenge of the experience presently underway.  Have a short memory, and in doing so, you’ll leave more room for new ones!

 



When post-goal race elation subsides and the physical recovery period is well underway, many runners have a difficult time turning the corner toward the next horizon.  Some athletes come away from a goal race so hungry for the next one that they over-enthusiastically barrel down the road toward the next goal without giving their bodies ample time to rest. Instead, for many runners, a huge bucket list item is a hard act to follow, even if we know that goal setting has finally allowed us to move the needle on long sought hopes.

 

The knowledge that the physical challenge of a long race can be described as a “how” rather than the “if” it was the first time is a powerful tool. Addressing the “how” requires a bit of work above the shoulders, both before and during the races ahead.  We’ve written about a few of these topics on the blog, including the areas listed below:

 

 

At runcoach, we love to see runners break through and achieve their goals week after week, but we know sometimes the immediate road ahead has a focus on general fitness rather than a big goal race.  We are here for you either way, and your individualized program can adjust to meet your needs for the run tomorrow as well as your destination goal race in 2014!



Race day is almost here! Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race. Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air. Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training. When you go to pick up your race number and run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs. Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone. You followed a terrific training schedule and are well prepared.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before. Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta). Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat a light breakfast of 200-300 Kcal of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink. If you have a normal pre-race breakfast then stick with it. Don't try any new foods before the race. Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains or will be cold. This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants. Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear a t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away. This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before (less than 5 mins) the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut as soon as the gun goes off.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 5-10 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles. Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Stay on top of hydration. Fluid stations will be located at 4 stations throughout the course. Take note of these opportunities to rehydrate and plan to drink 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence: Have confidence in your ability and your training. Remember all those hard workouts you did. Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control: You must relax yourself early in the race. You absolutely must go out under control for the first half of the race. We want to save a little bit for the final miles.

Collection: Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective. There will always be lots of distractions on race day. The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy. Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the race itself. Well, I can guarantee this: you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Races usually ebb and flow, runners rarely feel terrific the entire way. We always hit little walls. If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race. If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point. It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left. The difference is that some people find it and some don’t. Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better. You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a runnining machine!

You are programmed to give your personal best so. . .

Go get that last cup!


 

 RelaxJeff Foxworthy, before he was famous for hosting a game show asking if we were smarter than fifth graders, became a household name in many parts of America by asking simple (humorous) questions by which one could identify oneself with a particular (colloquial) demographic.

 

Even if you have been running for several years, you may still be in denial about whether or not others should consider you a “runner.”  Here at runcoach, we’ll let our inner Jeff Foxworthy allow you to decide if you have crossed the Rubicon from a person who runs to an actual, bonafide, dyed in the wool, “runner” by asking a few simple questions of our own.

 

Take heart, even if you answer yes to each of these, at runcoach, you are among friends.  We’ve all done at least one of these a few times…

 

If your foam roller is now “too soft”….you might be a runner.


If you fall ill and your initial concern is whether or not you will have to take a “0” in the training log…….you might be a runner.

 

If you have eaten a gel packet for a snack, even when you haven’t been, or are not currently running……you might be a runner.

 

If you when you see John Hancock’s signature you think “Boston Marathon” instead of “Declaration of Independence”…….you might be a runner.

If you wear your running shoes on the plane for regular travel because you are willing to risk your other clothes being lost, but your running shoes are non-negotiable…..you might be a runner.


If you deliberately save old sweats for race day throw-aways……you might be a runner.


If I say “Heartbreak” and you say “Hill” instead of “Hotel”……you might be a runner. 


If you have started to wear your Garmin occasionally as a regular watch….you might be a runner.


If you stop your watch at stoplights and/ or run up and down the sidewalk until the light turns and you can cross…..you might be a runner.


If you have ever given someone bad driving directions because you know your current neighborhood, town, or location better via the pedestrian paths…..you might be a runner.


If you have jogged circles in a parking lot for the sole purpose of ending on a round number for minutes or miles for the day or week…..you might be a runner.


If you know your personal bests from 5K to the marathon by heart…..you might be a runner.


If you have ever run a couple extra miles at the end of your run for no other reason than it was a nice day…….you might be a runner


If you look forward to traveling west because you’ll naturally wake up early and can get a run in…….you might be a runner


If you can’t help making mental notes of inviting dirt trails and smooth bike paths alongside the road while you are driving…..you might be a runner. 


If you have made the decision to join a community of athletes training with the best individualized, online training on the web…..you might be a runner, and we’re glad to have you aboard!

 



Running can be a life-changing activity, a passion, an outlet, sometimes (hopefully not often), it can even feel like a chore.  As many long-time runners can attest, running can also teach many lessons that are readily transferable to a wide array of life situations.  Some of these examples are encapsulated in the encouragement runcoach (like many other running coaches through history) gives you along your training journey.

 

Run through the Line

Running, belief, commitment, and a willingness to see the task to completion are crucial components to success.  Many times a premature decision to evaluate a project or a race midway through eliminates the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or a change of fortune in the late stages of the race.  Marathoners go through rough patches, and can weather them and find success if belief and commitment are strong.  Many a start-up or a long term project has also gone through a dark season or two before things finally look up.  Commit to running the race until completion, and earn yourself the chance to enjoy the good that might still be possible.

 

Plan your rest days into the schedule

Although not every runner keeps the same schedule of rest vs. training days, every runner has a better chance of avoiding injury and training interruptions when they are able to plan regular rest into their schedule.  Try to push through when rundown, or ignore a nagging sore spot, and an unplanned, and much less convenient rest period might be just around the corner.  Similarly, a non-stop schedule of work and stress can often adversely affect our health.  Although we don’t always have control over our schedules, most would agree a balanced life includes times of planned relaxation and recharging for the next challenge.

 

A positive attitude makes an enormous difference

Life and running have their fair share of challenges and unanticipated roadblocks.  Depending on your perspective, many of these are temporary, and loom frighteningly large or completely manageable.  When you retain a fundamental belief that a viable path exists out of your current bind, and when you attack a problem with the belief that the problem has a knowable and doable solution, you have a much greater chance of success than when a defeatist attitude emerges first.  Get through that mid-race rough patch by reminding yourself of your training and the strength it has given you.  Pick your way through a tricky professional patch by relying on the skills that have brought you to that point.  Stay positive, and it will soon take the idea of giving up off the table.

 

Pace yourself

Life is a marathon, and not a sprint.  We say this because we understand that a marathon takes a great deal of patience, training, and learning to succeed.  We also understand that if you start out with a pace that throws caution to the wind, then your end result might be a bit unpleasant.  A life a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Stick to your plan, keep a steady, confident tempo, and arrive on time and in one piece, both in life and in the race.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

This saying, along with its cousin, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect,” reminds us that it pays to consider our goals and to make sure we have rehearsed the requirements of the day as much as is possible beforehand.  Just like that important presentation or pitch, rehearsing your fueling patterns during your long run or embarking on routes similar in topography to your goal race will teach you how to flesh out the tricky parts and handle them more confidently.   We perform better when we can eliminate unknowns and focus on executing our plan.  Running long distances can be a great incubator for us to reinforce that habit.

 

There are many other sayings and phrases out there that encapsulate the similar challenges and successes we go through as runners in and out of our training shoes.  As runners, we are fortunate to have a great laboratory every day, and hopefully our lives are better for it even after we slip off our shoes.



 

Day Before

Whenever possible, pick up your bib number, timing chip, and goody bag the day before the race.  This way, you won't have to worry about rushing to get it on the morning of the race.  (Added bonus - you will be more likely to get your desired race T-shirt size if you pick it up early!)

Once you have your bib number, pin it to the front of the shirt you will wear on race day.  (Don't pin it to the back).  Most races will have boxes of safety pins for your use.  Take four so that you can fasten all 4 corners. 

Dressing The Part

For race attire, consider some "throw away" warmups for the start.  These will protect you from the elements if it is cold or rainy.  Old socks can come in handy for keeping your hands warm.  Some runners will even wear the t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away.  This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Once the race starts, you WILL warm up.  Be prepared by wearing lighter clothes underneath your "thow away" sweats.  A good rule of thumb: Dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is. That's how much you'll warm up once you start running.

Hydration

Drink Gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated before the race.  Clear urine is a good sign.  At some point (usually 10-20 minutes) prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start.

Breakfast

We always recommend eating breakfast and an essential, light breakfast is important on race day.  2-3 hours before the race, try to consume 200-400 calories of food you are accustomed to and can easily digest.  Your body will need that fuel in the latter stages of the race. 

Don't try a new food the morning of the race.  Instead, experiment with different foods beforehand or stick to things that have worked for you in the past.  The best breakfast foods contain both complex and simple carbohydrates and high-quality protein (in small amounts).  Your breakfast should include some healthy fats, but also in small amounts.

Heading to the Start Line

There will often be race day traffic so allow plenty of time to get to the starting area.  You will need time to stretch out, do a warm up jog, and use the bathroom.  (Warning:  The lines for the bathrooms at road races are always long.  Don't wait until the last minute to go!)

Pace

Remember this is an endurance race and the key to success is pace.  As soon as the gun goes off remind yourself that you have a long race ahead of you.  Check your breathing, body tension and other physical markers to gauge your pace.  If you are running faster than a pace you can maintain throughout the whole distance, slow down immediately.  The goal of any successful race is to run every mile within 10% of your average pace.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence:  Have confidence in your ability and your training.   Remember all those hard workouts you did.  Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control:  Feel comfortable with the pace for the first 1-2 miles.  Stay relaxed and controlled.

Collection:  Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective.  In the typical big city race there will be thousands of distractions along the way.  The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy.  Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left.  The difference is that some people find it and some don’t.  Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better.  You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a running machine!

As a machine you will have to dig down at the end to determine if you will have a good effort that you can be satisfied with or not.

Go get that last cup!


logoIn July, many athletes begin training in earnest for a fall goal race. We’re glad that this year, more runners than ever are doing so with runcoach.

 

A runner announces their new training cycle with a fresh pair of shoes brought home from the running store, or an acknowledgement they are about to embark on their first official long training run.  Then, he or she often gets the fun questions to answer – Wow!  When / how did you decide to run a marathon?  Why did you choose that race?  What time do you want to run?  In contrast, runcoach wants you to be able to answer the questions no one will ask – Wow! What is your predicted half marathon time?  Do you have access to a treadmill?  Can you run on Thursdays?

 

In short, one of the significant ways runcoach is different than almost any other training solution is the amount of focus we place on you and your current profile, rather than your hypothetical goals and hypothetical self.  Don’t get us wrong – we are completely invested in providing a path to progress your running as far as you can go.  However, instead of taking a random target and working back from it, we take your actual current profile / performances (or if there are no current or relevant races, we instruct you how to produce a hard effort to approximate a race).  From this, we forge an appropriate, sustainable path forward. Achieve mastery at your present level, then recover, adapt, and perform at peak productivity.

 

What if your goal was to break 4:00 hours for the marathon, but in 20 weeks, it turns out you might be actually better prepared to run 3:45?  What if you had in mind a 1:35 half marathon time, but forgot to factor in the crazy hills and stiff headwinds notorious on that course.  Goal setting is an important motivational cornerstone, but we know at runcoach that each person begins at a different spot – in their experience level, in their current fitness, in their weekly schedules, and in their natural strengths and weaknesses.  Our system provides our athletes with a program that is unique to each person, because each person is indeed unique.

 

As with any new coach/ athlete relationship, initially an athlete might be skeptical if the assigned workouts differ from what is expected.  Often we hear from runners who are used to a “go until you can’t go any more” approach to workouts, or a pattern of going hard everyday out on the roads. Other athletes have never followed a structured plan before and maybe sell themselves short on what they can do over various distances. Hundreds of thousands of workouts and successful goal races have reinforced for us that an approach including proper stress based on your current fitness profile, followed by sensible recovery, will lead to racing at peak performance.

 

Today, an aggressive approach and an ASAP mentality are present in many of the products we buy.  It is easy to be antsy over a five-minute wait when you are used to getting your Starbucks latté made in two. Remember when traveling across the continent or the ocean meant a risky wagon or boat ride and the very real possibility that waving goodbye to home was forever? Now, we are grumpy when a five hour plane ride is delayed one hour. Patience is in short supply.   At runcoach, we want you have fun answering the enjoyable questions from friends and family, but we also want you to be knowledgeable and confident enough about your present fitness to answer the tough questions as well.  We’re ok being the ones with the answers to the unpopular questions, and we’re excited that as our athletes achieve these goals, these unpopular questions are becoming much less so.



beach_runningAt runcoach, we love the enthusiasm of runners fired up after a successful first marathon or long goal race.  Many athletes find the cycle of goal setting, progressive workouts, and solid race performance to be an enticing combination, one which quickly beckons them again.  As a runner becomes more confident in the ability to complete the training cycle, execute the race, and recover, he or she may begin to look further down the road and plan two or three goal races ahead.  But, how many marathons are too many?

 

Each athlete comes equipped with an experience level, injury history (or lack thereof), and other daily commitments specific to them.   Each race also has its challenges and advantages – course difficulty, transportation set-up, weather, etc.  A tough combination of these factors might produce a decision to take things one goal race at a time, but if things are aligning well, we suggest taking about three-four months between marathons.  At most we recommend 4 marathons per year.

 

Many avid marathoners have found a rhythm with an annual fall or spring marathon, or maybe two marathons per year with plenty of time to recycle and train between each.  Other runners prefer to include goal races of different lengths interspersed between marathon attempts.  That could mean a target half marathon in the spring and a big marathon goal for the fall, or a season of running shorter races such as 5Ks and 10Ks to work on speed, while leaving a longer distance race for later in a particular year.  There is no “one size fits all” answer for these race choices, except our desire to make sure you leave enough time to train properly and arrive at race day ready to do your best.

 

It is not uncommon for runners to go through a period of time where enthusiasm is high and things are coming together so nicely a successful string of narrowly scheduled races can come off well.  However, it is also not uncommon for runners to change that pattern by necessity only after something has not gone well or nagging soreness has turned into an injury.  Your runcoach schedule is designed to progress you toward your short-term goals but also keep you healthy so that you can keep striving toward other long-term goals.  It is far better to have six excellent experiences over the course of two years with more to look forward to, than three experiences followed by a long string of injury and uncertainty.

 

Yes, there are those that can manage a spectacular workload and race frequency, but there are also those who must take the greatest of care to arrive intact at one goal race per year.  Most of us are between the two, and are hoping to continue our running and racing for years and decades to come.  Stay patient, and keep a sane race schedule.  We’ll help you train well, and together we can plan for many congratulations and “high-fives” ahead.



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