Are You Too Sick to Run?

Can I run?  Should I run?  Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners.  This is a tough question to answer.  Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds.  What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another.  Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.too sick to run

Weather.  Take into account the weather.  Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well.  Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea.  Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions.  Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts.  You’re better off being healthy!

Move Around.  Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own.  Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode.  We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse.  If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.

The Neck Rule.  If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go.  When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out.  The single exception to this rule is a fever.  If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.

Activity Level.  Many tapering marathoners catch colds.  Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers.  You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation.  You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons You Need a Running Buddy

Training is hard work.  There are tons of factors that play a role in getting you to the starting line without any serious bumps in the road.  One of the most important, however, is staying motivated and on track with workouts and recovery.  The best way to do this?  A running buddy!

A running buddy is more than just someone to complain with then the weather is bad or celebrate with when you hit that freshly earned PR.  Here are three of Team ECRPs favorite reasons to gather up all of your running friends and hit a workout together.running buddy

Better workouts.  Whether you’re on the track with your running buddy or a stranger, having some competition will help you push yourself a little bit more.  Like going out with the fast crowd at the start of a race, we all want to be in the front.  If your buddy is a faster runner, they might pace you for a speed session where you’re more likely to work harder and stay consistent.  If your buddy isn’t quite as quick as you, let them help you take it easy on a recovery day.

Socialize.  There’s nothing as tasty as those post race beers.  It’s even better when you have your training partner to celebrate with after you cross the finish.  A running buddy can introduce you to tons of people.  A running network is a great way to find your next race, explore new places to run or discover a perfect new piece of gear.

Accountability.  It rains.  It snows.  Outside can be cold or hot or windy.  On those tough days when you’re lacking motivation or the weather’s bad, your running buddy is there.  You’re going to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.  The suffering you endure together creates toughness you’ll need on race day.  It makes memories and can help you see the bright side of a not-so-good workout.

The really good news is that you can have as many running buddies as you want.  That’s one of the benefits of joining your local running group.  You’ll find a friend for any distance or any speed and rock your workout together.

Coach Meredith

 

3 Keys to Winter Training

Winter training is hard.  It’s dark, cold, windy, snowy or worse.  Unfortunately, working out during the bleak winter months is a must if you’re aiming for a spring race.  On the flip side, it winter trainingcan be fun to experiment and explore new avenues for staying on track with your training.  Here are three ways Team ECRP stays on track to rock their spring races.

Mix it up.  Try new things.  Crappy weather outside can force you indoors for workouts.  That doesn’t always mean the treadmill.  Try a spin class or going for a swim.  You can easily replace some of your easy aerobic runs with another activity that requires an equal effort without risking feeling like you’ve missed out.  You might even find something you really enjoy and want to stick with when the weather warms up.

Find a friend.  Or five or fifty or more.  Joining a training team or local running group can help you accomplish things you might not have ever imagined.  Running with a group can provide you with that accountability that helps you drag yourself out of bed on those dark, bone chilling (until you’ve warmed up) mornings.  A group can also help block wind while bringing laughter and memories that will keep you warm for a lifetime.

Be prepared.  Have a plan in place to deal with bad weather days.  Make sure you warm up before you head outdoors and have a dry set of clothes waiting for your return.  Most importantly, prepare your mind.  Be flexible with your winter training plan, unafraid to switch workouts to different days or perform a substitute activity.  Be sure to listen to your body but realize that pushing through a yucky run or two will only make you more prepared for race day.  You never know what you’ll face at the starting line.

Use these tips to power through your winter training and be ready when the weather’s nice to hit any goal you set.

Coach Meredith

 

Speed Work: Walking or Jogging Rest?

The only way we get faster is by actually running faster.  While we can’t push ourselves all the time without inviting injury, working hard is the only way we get better.  The best way to practice running faster is with interval work.  Bursts of speed with a period of standing, walking or jogging rest between repetitions.

So which kind of rest is best for you?  Jogging or walking?  The choice you end up making can play a major role in how intense your workout ends up being.  Varying the type of rest you use during a workout can also be a good gauge of how your fitness is improving.  Did you walk for rest the first few times but now jogging rest is feeling good?  As long as the work portions are jogging restthe same pace and effort, you’re clearly increasing your fitness.

Jogging Rest
While you might want to stop and stand to catch your breath, jogging rest has big benefits.  Continuing to move will help clear lactic acid and waste in muscles, keeping your body ready to work for the next repetition and workout intensity high.  Lactate levels drop the most when recovery lasts more then 90 seconds.  This length of rest is usually associated with repetitions lasting three to five minutes or longer.

Walking Rest
Slow walking has its own set of benefits.  It allows for body to recover by clearing lactic acid and muscle waste without the extra stress of having to continue working.  This is the most used and probably best choice for most basic workouts.

Standing Rest
Standing rest doesn’t keep your blood moving very much.  Bent over, panting, hands on knees standing means you’ll face a build up of lactic acid and muscle waste during your next repetition.  That makes legs feel heavy and worn out, simulating that tired feeling at the end of a race without having to rack up all the miles beforehand.  On the other hand, your supply of power creating phosphocreatine refills when you’re standing.  This type of rest is best used when you’re working on top speed.  Repeats less than 90 seconds mean you’re burning through that phosphocreatine and need to let it refresh before taking off again.

Of course, standing, walking and easy jogging rest aren’t your only options.  You can use marathon pace to recover from 10k pace intervals.  Not recovering fully between intervals will help you get tougher for race day and become more comfortable being uncomfortable.

When in doubt about what type of rest is best to get the most our of your speed session, seek the advice of a professional.  A coach can help you design the right kind of workouts to reach your goals without risking injury or overtraining.

Coach Meredith

The Pros and Cons of Heart Rate Training

Any runner who has looked to improve their speed or fitness has at least thought about using heart rate training to get better.  Heart rate training means using a heart rate monitor either on your wrist or around your chest to constantly measure your heart beat during exercise.  This training method bases workouts on target ranges.

Some people have great success with heart rate training while others prefer to run by feel.  Here are a few of the pros and cons to training based on heart rate to help you decide if it’s right for you.heart rate training

PROS
Slow down.  Many runners get stuck working medium hard too often.  That can lead to over training or, even worse, a serious injury.  It’s difficult to separate levels of intensity using the talk test unless you’re very experienced.  Heart rate training can help give guidance on just how easy the easy runs need to be.

Know your numbers.  Knowing what your resting and max heart rates are can be a great gauge of fitness.  If one goes down and other goes up you know you’re improving.

Stay in the zone.  Just like knowing your numbers can let you know if you’re improving, they can let you know how to work out.  You’ll want each workout to be a specific heart rate zone to create the desired adaptation.

CONS
Too many variables.  There are a wide variety of things that can change your heart rate that have nothing to do with your workout.  You naturally have a higher heart rate in the afternoon than in the morning.  Hydration, weather, sleep, stress and diet can all also play a major role in how hard your heart works while you’re exercising.  This many opportunities for variance make it difficult to compare apples to apples.

Inaccurate.  Especially when working at a very high intensity level, most heart rate monitors don’t respond fast enough to really let you know what’s going on.  Breezing through a few 100M repeats?  No way you’re going to get accurate data off a wrist watch.  Receivers can get sweaty and malfunction.  They can sense things that aren’t really going on.  It might pick up a close by heart rate monitor even if it’s on someone else.

Get stuck.  It’s easy to become a slave to data.  Paying constant attention to your heart rate can end up stopping you from pushing yourself hard when you need to and that won’t lead to improved performance.

Coach Meredith

Jared Ward’s Olympic Advice

Winter is coming around and is often a time when people set their spring goals.  Thinking about that, I recalled a great learning moment i had in November 2016.  It was the opportunity to meet and listen to Jared Ward.  Not only is he an incredibly kind and intelligent person, he finished sixth in the marathon at Rio 2016.  Known as the fastest mustache in the marathon Ward won the 2015 US Marathon Championships in 2:12.56.

Always eager to learn everything I can that will make me a better coach, I was excited to attend his meet and greet at a race expo.  These are some of the highlights from the 90 minutes he spoke to us and Jared Ward’s paraphrased thoughts on:jared ward

Your first marathon:  Spend time on your feet.  Ward suggests cross training on a elliptical or bike “if additional running is pounding your legs.”  He emphasized building up your mileage and developing aerobic fitness as marathon readiness tool number one.

Handling Heat and Humidity:
Train your stomach.  “It’s a muscle, too,” he says, and can be taught to handle the additional fluid you’ll need.  Practice during training runs by downing 3-4 ounces of fluid instead of the usual two.

Fueling a long run, marathon, ultra or anything really:
Find what works and stick with it.  Try different varieties of gels, blocks and fluids until you figure out what sits well in your stomach and isn’t a distraction.

Cross training:
When he was looking for something to do, a friend suggested Jared Ward join him in the mountains of Utah, where he lives and trains, for a mountain bike ride.  Just as they were about to take off, Ward was told that after the ride he wouldn’t want to run anymore.  He “still loves running” but has found mountain biking to be his favorite alternative.  He “hate[s] swimming” and believes everyone should find what works best for them.

Easy Runs:
Ward emphasized the importance of making easy runs just that, easy.  Keep the pace casual and focus on making sure the time on your feet runs “don’t interfere with your next workout.”

If you ever have the chance to meet the muschtached mathematician marathoner, grab it.

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Embrace Cold Weather Running

Winter has arrived in some parts of the world and is creeping up in others.  No matter if you’re already fighting cold temperatures and winter precipitation or prepping for it, cold weather running is an unavoidable part of training for a spring race.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s tried cold weather runningand true methods for powering through those cold, dark winter training runs.

Dress up.  Cold weather running means layers.  It also means less daylight and more of a need to be seen.  Headlamps, reflective vests and brightly colored clothing are all encouraged in the dark, cold months.  Just think of all the fancy gear you can add to your collection so you’re prepared for anything nature throws at you.  Neon windbreakers, reflective striped tights and lights on your shoes make cold weather running more fun than those hot days with little to wear.

Take a friend.  Since there’s less daylight, it’s more important that you have a run buddy during winter than summer.  There’s power in numbers for lots of reasons.  Increased awareness of your surroundings, the ability to draft in the wind and body heat.  Other advantages of a running buddy or group during cold weather running include laughter, camaraderie and someone to trade fashionable reflective gear with.

Warm Up.  Get moving before you head outside.  The warmer you are before walking through the door the less you’ll notice how cold it really is.  Try jumping jacks, single leg bridges or squats.  Anything that gets your heart rate up is fair game.  It’s also nice if it your chosen exercise hits muscles that are about to work.  Think hamstrings, glutes and shoulders.  Be careful not to break a sweat, however, that will make the outdoors worse.

Ready to Finish.  Just like you warmed up before you went out, get ready to come back.  Having dry clothes to get into quickly is incredibly important.  They’ll warm you up and increase your comfort level.  Hydration is important in winter too, so having a nice warm drink at the end can be a real treat.  A tasty snack can help keep you motivated to finish a run.  Who doesn’t love a big post run slice of cake?  Make sure it contains both carbs and protein and you down it within 30 minutes.

Keep these four things in mind when the winter rolls in and your cold weather running season will fly right by.

Coach Meredith

Marathon Training: Fun with the Long Run

Every training plan includes a long run each week, ten days or two weeks.  They can be six miles or 25 miles but they’re a part of any quality training plan.  The aerobic benefits are massive while long runs also build mental strength and physical durability.  Mixing up your long run by adding a different challenge to it can make training both more fun and more effective.  Try one, or all, of these favorites from Team ECRP during your next training cycle.long run

Slow + Steady.  The regular long run, performed at an easy pace, holds the pace steady for its entire duration.  This is the best type of run when you’re starting to increase mileage or tackling your first 20 miler.  It strengthens your legs and your mind by making you push through the point of being tired.  You’ll build resistance to feeling tired and teach your body to burn fat, our best source of stored energy.  It also won’t leave you physically or mentally exhausted to the point that you aren’t up for it as often as you should be.

The End.  A fast finish long run simulates those final miles of a hard race.  The last 10k of a marathon and the last kilometer of a 5k are both challenging when you’re going for a new personal record.  A finish fast run will help build strength for late in the race, develop that closing kick so many runners look for and make you mentally strong.  You’ll run the last few miles of your run at goal race pace or maybe the last 1.5 as hard as you can.  For marathoners, this hard workout is also a chance to check in on fueling and hydration strategies for race day.

The Race Pace.  Running miles are your goal race pace is an absolute necessity but not all of your miles should be that speed.  Adding them to your long run is another way to push your limits and adjust to feeling tired.  After a proper warm-up, do some miles at race pace.  Run a recovery mile then do more miles at goal race pace.  Examples include 3-2-1 with a mile recovery between or, for marathoners, 5-4-3-2-1.

Surge Run.  This run is just what it sounds like.  You get to surge every so often and run faster.  Start these later in your run, after the halfway point.  Pick things up to 5k pace for one minute then recover for five minutes.  You can eventually lengthen the surges, decrease recovery time or add more repeats.  Like the other long run variations, this type of workout will build strength, mental toughness and resistance to fatigue.

No matter what kind of long run enhancement you choose, it will be a hard workout.  Account for the mental and physical toll it will take in your recovery and upcoming training plan.

Coach Meredith

5 Things Your Training Plan Needs

Training is tough.  Once you’ve picked that goal race getting there can be kind of crazy.  There are potential injuries, there’s bad weather to power through, there will be soreness and bad days.  A good training plan will help you overcome these challenges and toe the line on race day with all the tools you need to be successful.  Here are five elements your plan needs.

Miles.  You have to have an aerobic base to be successful at any racing distance.  The further and faster you want to go the more important these miles become.  While we don’t all have time to log the number professionals do, running 100+ miles per week, but you do have to push yourself.  Running those ‘easy’ miles makes you better at processing oxygen and increases mitochondria density.  That’s code for more energy production and better ability to use it.  More time on the road makes you mentally tougher while also building stronger muscles and making your stride more efficient.training plan

Speed Work.  To run fast you have to run fast.  Not only does running faster than race pace teach your body how to work hard, it gets more comfortable at those faster paces. There are big benefits to incorporating speed work into any training plan.  You’ll get stronger, faster and more efficient while having a little, or a lot, of fun with each workout.

Strength Training.  Being a stronger, more durable athlete means you’re going to be a better runner.  Work with your coach to develop a plan that will work for you.  Maybe a day with weights and a day of pure plyometrics will suit you best.  Squats and sit-ups after a run count and so does anything that challenges your body in a different way than running.  A solid strength plan will focus on muscle groups that help you run faster like hamstrings, glutes, lats and core.

A Recovery Team.  This team can be as simple as you and a foam roller or as complex as you’d like to make it.  Taking into account your nutrition, sleep and body care are incredibly important.  You might consider meeting with a nutritionist at the start of your plan and regularly throughout it.  A weekly trip to the massage therapist is never a bad idea to loosen up tired muscles and keep them that way.  Give yoga or pilates a try to keep muscles happy.  Your plan should include finding which methods work best for you and sticking with them.

Flexibility.  Potentially the most important element of a training plan is flexibility.  Bad weather, injuries and life can all happen at the worst moment.  That peak mileage week or prep race you’re running might not pan out the way you wanted it to.  That’s OK.  Being flexible with what’s on your weekly schedule will help you deal with an extra day off when your foot is sore or a shortened workout because it started thundering.  Maintaining flexibility means you are confident in the work you’re doing and don’t need to sweat a missed mile here or there.

Most important of all is keeping a record.  Whether it’s online with Strava or Garmin Connect, a spreadsheet or handy customized notebook, there’s nothing more valuable than looking back to see how far you’ve come.

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons to Start Running Hills

No one likes to see a race course filled with hills.  It makes for harder work and less of a shot at a PR.  Fortunately there are big benefits to running hills while you train for any race, especially an up and down one.

Pure Strength – It’s hard work running uphill.  running hillsMore muscle fibers have to fire and generate power to maintain your flat ground pace running uphill.  It also requires different muscles to work in different ways than flat running does and that’s good for building powerful running glutes.  In contrast, running downhill gives your quads tons of work to do and is also something that should be practiced regularly.

Build Confidence – If you can rock it in practice, you can beat it on race day.  Tackling hills on training runs is an invaluable tool in preparing for the unknown of an unfamiliar race course.  Being comfortable with running uphill a bit slower than race pace and down the other side a bit faster can be a huge benefit on a tough course.  Learning to control your downhill speed can also be a big help later on in a net downhill race.

Speed Work – Like speed work on flat ground, running hills makes you work harder than normal.  The knee drive and power required to run uphill lead to better running form and glute activation.  It’s a good place to work on increasing turnover or cadence for faster running and lower injury risk long term.  Increased resistance to fatigue and increased overall endurance are additional benefits of hill sprints.

Adding hill work to your training plan is important no matter what your next running goal is.  Make sure you use a qualified coach when you’re ready to start running hills so you do safely.

Coach Meredith