Author Archives: Coach Meredith

Bed Time: Sleep Basics for Runners

There are days when you just can’t stop thinking about it.  Bed time.  Catching up on the sleep you didn’t get last night.  Looking forward to waking up feeling refreshed and strong.  While individual sleep needs can vary greatly there’s no one who can survive without getting all their body needs.  Runners typically need between 7 and 9 hours per night but that can increase as sleeptraining volume grows.

Why so much sleep?  Any training adaptation occurs during rest, making it the most important part of recovery there is.  Training breaks down muscle and tissue that is repaired by growth hormone released while snoozing.  Failure to get enough rest can result in over training and increased risk of injury.  Lack of sleep has also been shown to decrease response times and concentration.  Increases in levels of stress hormone, blood pressure and insulin resistance are also potential risks.

Getting quality sleep is a must and here are some good ways to improve your bed time routine:

Staying on a schedule is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s rest.  Go to bed and climb back out at the same time each day.  This will help your body settle into a regular rhythm that includes a normal sleep-wake cycle with plenty of deep, recovery sleep included.

Consider using black out curtains to keep any light out and making sure your bedroom is cool enough.  Wearing blue light blocking glasses for two hours before hitting the hay light can hamper your ability to conk out quickly.

Skipping caffeine and or alcohol for six hours before bed time is a must for high quality shut eye.  Both can cause major disruption to sleep patterns for a variety of reasons and it’s best to just stay clear of either substance when you can.

What about naps?  Naps can be a valuable tool for making up missed hours or getting an added pre-workout boost.  Be careful, however, to avoid snoozing for more than 30 minutes.  Anything longer than half an hour and you risk something called sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess once you’ve woken up.

What if I still don’t get a good night’s rest?  When you are short on sleep consider taking the day off to recover or at least lowering your training volume with fewer, easier miles than planned.  You could end up doing more damage pushing through a workout tired than missing it altogether.  If you’re struggling with your training and think it’s causing excess stress or preventing you from getting an adequate amount of rest, consider reaching out to a coach for help reorganizing.

Coach Meredith

4 Hip Strength Exercises for Runners

The muscles of your hips and glutes are the driving force behind running.  The stronger they are the more they will help you stay healthy and hit fast splits.  Mighty glutes are a must for harnessing your body’s power while stable hips mean good form through all your miles.  Use these four hip strength hip strengthexercises to get those muscle groups going and reap the rewards during your next race.

Side lying hip raise.  Begin by laying on your side.  Using your bottom shin and elbow as support, simultaneously raise your hip off the ground and top leg into the air.  Keep your shin bones parallel.  You’ll build all around hip strength with this exercise as both hips work through the entire movement.hip strength

Glute bridge/single leg.  This exercise strengthens your your glutes for more power.  Lying on your back, bend your knees so your heels are close to your butt.  Using your glutes push your hips into the air with a strong, stable core.  Stick one leg out for the single leg variation.

Clahip strengthm shells.  Fire up your glutes with this simple movement.  Laying on your side, stack your legs with bent knees.  Keep your feet together while you raise your top knee into the air like you’re opening a book ( or a clam shell).  Really squeeze the active glute and maintain a neutral spine with a strong core to get the most out of each rep.

Donkey kicks.  Donkey kicks are sure to fire up your glutes.  As your running powerhouse you can’t do enough to get them ready for a workout.  Starting on all fours, raise one leg behind you with the knee at 90 degrees until your hip is open.  Engage that side’s glute and use a pulsing contraction to active and strengthen your booty.  Be sure to keep your lower back still as you move by having a strong core and controlled breathing.

Donkey Still

While these exercises might look simple they can be tough in the beginning as your body learns new firing patterns and works muscles in new ways.  As with most strength programs start slowly.  You can always add a band or other form of resistance later!

Adding these exercises to your strength routine will help you become a more durable runner who can stay healthy for the long term.  For help with an appropriate strength program seek the guidance of an experienced coach and get stronger today!

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries: Why Did That Happen?

Runners get hurt all the time.  Whether it’s from doing too much without a day off, slipping on a rocky trail run or simply stubbing a toe, getting hurt happens.  Running injuries are more than common and bouncing back from one can be as simple as ice and elevation or as complicated as surgery and physical therapy.  In truth, however, they’re quite often very preventable.

Were you tackled in a football game?  That’s easy to source.  Do you have daily low back pain and discomfort?  Maybe your hamstrings are tight or weak.  Are you having knee pain because you over running injuriesstride while you run?  Foot pain from weak glutes?  Finding the source isn’t always easy but it’s always necessary.

That’s because simply taking time off until your injured body feels better isn’t the answer.  Without understanding where your injury came from you’re likely to go out and sooner or later go through the same thing again.  So what’s the solution?  Find and treat the source (poor mobility, bad form), not the symptom (pain, strained muscle).  Examples include foot problems from a lack of glute strength or knee pain from over striding.  The location of your injury isn’t where it presents because your body compensates to continue functioning.  These compensations can end up causing something even more serious.

To get to the root, ask yourself these questions:

What was I doing?
Are my movement patterns correct?
Do I have adequate mobility to perform these movements safely?
Am I using the correct equipment?
Do I take care of my body before and after a workout properly?
Am I over training?

Answering these questions will probably mean getting help from a coach, doctor or teacher who has the knowledge to guide you.  Get to the root cause, upstream or down, of your problem and kiss (most of) those running injuries goodbye.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Love Rest Day

Running is hard.  When training regularly the human body is put through stress after stress to get stronger and faster.  It’s called progressive overload.  Constantly challenging our bodies in new ways to perform better on race day.  To reap the benefits of that hard work, however, we need to recover.  That’s where the ever needed rest day comes in.  Included in any quality training plan, here are five reasons to love giving yourself a day off.

Reflect.  Taking a rest day gives you an opportunity to review your block of training.  You can rest daydecide if you liked something, didn’t like it, did it well or had an ugly workout.  Knowing what made each session a great or not-so-great one will help you adjust your plan so you can move forward in a positive way.

Recover.  Pushing yourself during workouts is a must for improved performance.  Easy days are a must, too.  Each workout creates micro tears in muscle fibers that need to be repaired.  Along with those beat up muscles go tendons and bones.  Blood flow to tendons is a lot less than to muscle and they take longer to recover.  Bones likewise get damaged and need to rebuild from being landed on thousands of times.  A day off can be a big boon for avoiding tendonitis, stress fractures and any other over use injury.

Balance.  Every workout produces a stress hormone called cortisol and too much is a bad thing.  Rest days help get cortisol levels back in balance so you can feel fresh for the next session.

Adaptation.  Not only does a rest day let your muscles repair damage, it repairs them better than they were before.  Allowing your body to heal is when it actually builds those more powerful muscles, stronger bones and tougher tendons.

Learning to listen.  Do you feel good after your rest day?  Experience a boost in performance?  Great!  You nailed it.  On the other hand, if you still feel tired or unreasonably sore after one rest day, take another.  Pay attention to what your body tells you.  An extra rest day will never derail your entire training cycle.  It’s better to be 10% under trained than 1% over trained.

Train smarter not harder.

Coach Meredith

3 Lunges Every Runner Needs

Runners need strength training.  It’s an important part of building speed and becoming resistant to injury.  That doesn’t, however, mean throwing a few random exercises together and having at it two or three days a week.  The key question for any strength work is ‘will this exercise make me better at my sport?’  With these three varieties of lunges the answer is an absolute ‘yes’.  All lunging exercises target the quads but these three specifically hit other muscle groups you need for powerful, stable and strong running.  Give each one a try and see how they can help you become a more powerful runner.lunges

Side Lunge – Also known as the lateral lunge this version strengthens your hips and glutes.  Especially those all important glute medius and minumus muscles.

Perform It:  Begin standing with your feet together, core engaged and good posture.  Then step one foot out straight to the side, bending the knee, pushing your hips back while maintaining an upright chesLungest while shifting weight to the foot that just stepped sideways.

Curtsy Lunge – You might not be getting ready to visit the queen but the curtsy lunge will help you prepare to run faster.  These lunges strengthen your hips and glutes by activating all three glute muscles, the maximus, medius and minimus.  The calf also gets some work in this exercise making it good for your whole leg.

Perform it:  Begin standing with both feet together.  Cross one leg behind the other while reaching sideways and back, just like a curtsy.  Remember to keep your chest up and your front knee above the ankle.

Lunges

Step Back Lunge – Also known as the reverse lunge this exercise fires up your quads just like the others but generates more hamstring and glute activation than a standard forward lunge.

Perform It: Standing with good, strong posture and feet together step one foot back on the toe while dropping that knee to the ground.  Maintain a flat back and the front knee behind the toe.  A small forward lean will help the glutes get a little more work but isn’t necessary.

It’s easy to add weight to any of these lunges by holding a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest.  Get out there and start lunging today for a stronger running body!

Coach Meredith

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons for Runners to Strength Train

All runners need to strength train.  That doesn’t mean taking up CrossFit or hitting the gym on a daily basis.  You can get all of the big benefits listed below from a simple, body weight program two to three days a week.  Read on to find out how starting to strength train will make you better athlete.

1. Stronger – There’s more in common between runners and lifters than meets the eye.  Just like runners need to practice running faster to have faster race times, lifters face the same challenge when they strength train.  This pattern of overloading muscles makes not only muscles but tendons, ligaments and joints work harder.  Working under reasonable loads as Box Jump 1simple as your own body weight means strong, durable muscles and joints that can take more intense training with ease.

2. Better Athlete – Strengthening your body has been shown to improve coordination.  That can translate into more efficient running form and faster race times.  Training tools such as agility ladder drills and plyometrics are an important part of the plan and build power.  Dynamic, quick weight lifting movements can also be beneficial to those looking to produce strength, power and coordination.

3.  Variety – Just like with running workouts you’ll want variety in your strength program.  This not only keeps it interesting but continues to challenge your body in new ways regularly.  Pushing your body to work in new and different ways, whether it’s a new exercise, more weight or higher repetitions is how your force it to adapt and improve. And who doesn’t want to be better?!  The good news is there are endless ways of combining exercises to get a good workout in.

4. Injury Prevention – Along with the durability you’ll gain from hitting the weight room you’ll become more resistant to injury.  Those stronger tendons, ligaments and muscles hold up under stress better than weaker ones.  In order to strength train properly most runners will have to also focus on improving their mobility and flexibility.  Increased ranges of motion make it easier for your body to work and can lead to decreased injury risk.  Another major benefit is that using unilateral (one side at a time) exercises can eliminate muscle imbalances.  Muscle imbalances often lead to injury or over use of one side.  We’re all born favoring one side but it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

5.  Speed – Muscles that lift weights become fatigue resistant.  That means you’ll use less energy to get somewhere in the same amount of time you did before.  Check out this study that demonstrates it.  Remember the strength, durability, power and coordination you built earlier?  They’ll work together to translate into faster race times.

Be sure that your strength program is designed for runners to prepare you for a stronger run rather than take away from it.  Seek the assistance of a qualified coach and start hitting the gym today!

Coach Meredith

Runner Problems: The Strava Dilemma

If you’re an avid runner it’s almost impossible to ignore Strava.  The run tracking, group managing, kudo giving website and app is everywhere you look.  People posting, arranging outings, sharing on Facebook and Instagram make it almost inescapable.  So what’s the problem?

While getting kudos is nice and can certainly make you feel loved they’re not always the best thing for a runner.  That creates the Strava Dilemma.  Here are the reasons using the app can be a double edged sword and you might want to skip it altogether (sometimes).strava

Pushing too hard.  When you’re sharing every split you tend to get competitive.  Whether you’re naturally a fight to the finisher or someone more relaxed on race day you still have an innate desire to be at the top of the leader board.

Unfortunately, taking first place on a segment isn’t always the right focus for a workout.  Pushing to stack up at the top all the time probably means you’re not listening to your body, or your coach.  Most of your runs should be easy and in the end working hard on every outing to rock a segment can lead to serious over training, injury and burnout.  Consider skipping the leader board as an opportunity for your body to thank you for an easy day.

Quiet Time.  As stated in this piece, some runners like to be alone.  If you share that kudo earning workout from your favorite trail how long will it be ‘your’ trail or route?  Running is both a team and a solo sport but there are lots of us who like the singularity of running solo.  If you’re not ready to give up that favorite spot is sharing a good idea?

Negative Feedback.  What happens when someone makes a not-so-nice comment on your outing?  We all have bad days.  Even though the running community is generally a very supportive place, there’s one in every crowd.  Letting a Debbie Downer get in your head can have big consequences.  Make sure you take all comments with a grain of salt.  There’s always someone who’s faster, or slower, going further or placing higher.

Safety.  Most people start and end most of runs from the same places.  That makes you easy to find.  While their exact schedules might vary, making your locations harder to find might be a good idea.  Strava does have a feature that allows you to cover your starting spot.  That five mile radius circle, though, isn’t very big when you’re in it every day.  Especially if you’re running alone leaving an electronic paper trail of posts advertising where you’ll be at the end of a 20 mile run might be better left out.

Now get out there and run no matter if you’ll share it or not!

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Racing Weight

Most runners have heard the phrase racing weight.  It’s a recognizable term that indicates your ideal weight for peak performance on race day.  Why does it matter?  For runners who are fit, exercise regularly and aren’t looking to shed any pounds what difference does it make?

In truth, it can make a big difference.  The addition of 5 pounds in body weight can result in a 5% detriment to race times and vice versa.  Leaning out or dropping a few pounds without sacrificing strength and power might lead to a slew of PRs.  There are also other advantages such as more efficient oxygen delivery to working muscles and improved heat dissipation.

Leaning out or losing a few pounds isn’t all about getting super skinny.  The goal is to improve power to weight ratios and become as efficient as possible.  That means muscle is incredibly important.  Having a balanced weight to power ratio makes you a faster runner.  Note that it’s racing weightunlikely, especially for women, that you’ll gain so much muscle mass it becomes detrimental to racing paces if you’re not specifically eating and training for it.  Strength training, plyometric work and hill repeats all make you a more robust runner without adding bulk.

And while being at a weight where you race your fastest and feel your best is rewarding, it’s not sustainable over long periods of time.  For recreational runners who race week in and week out or more often than once every six weeks an ultra lean, peak performance isn’t attainable at every turn.  Nor should it be.  Professional athletes push their bodies to the max with the help of coaches, dieticians, nutritionists and doctors to monitor every metric.

The diet and lifestyle required to hit a desired weight on race day isn’t easy.  It can involve strict dieting or food deprivation that aren’t the key to a healthy long term weight management plan for anyone.   The rest of us lack intense guidance from professionals and shouldn’t be taking big health risks.  Restricting fuel can lead to weak bones, softened immune systems and, for women, missed periods.   Sacrificing food for a lower number on the scale won’t help your body get stronger or faster.  Being properly fueled is a must if you want to perform well.

Remember, your weight can and should change throughout the day, week and year.  In the end, racing weight just happens to be where your body ends up when you’re peaking and shouldn’t be a predetermined number on a scale.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: IT Band Syndrome

The IT Band is a running mystery.  A frequently experienced injury, many runners don’t know what it does.  The illiotibial band (ITB) is a large fibrous group of fascia that runs longitudinally down the outside of the upper leg.  Anchoring at the iliac crest and tibia, it’s a bunch of passive rubber bands that extend, abduct and rotate the hip laterally.  It also helps stabilize the knee while storing energy to support running and walking.IT band

IT Band syndrome (ITBS) is an inflammation of these tissues and typically presents with outer knee pain.  That is the area where the ITB should slide over bone and muscle easily. If it’s not sliding due to inflammation or tightness, pain will result.  Sometimes the pain can be felt along the entire length of the outer thigh and it’s often a result of overuse.  Two examples of exercise patterns that can lead to overuse are increasing mileage too quickly or adding lots of plyometrics.

There is good news, however.  There are several ways to treat and prevent ITBS.  The first step in treatment is to rest long enough for the inflammation to subside.  Second is to work on improving mobility of the hip and knee.  Limited range of motion in either joint can cause extra stress to the ITB and lead to inflammation.  Foam rolling and proper warm up to increase circulation to these fibers before a workout will help it slide painlessly.

Strength training with a qualified coach is one of the best solutions to ITBS.  Having muscles strong enough the support your increase in mileage or the strain of a downhill marathon will help prevent ITB irritation.  Hip, glute and abdonimal core strength are paramount to any solid strength training plan for runners who want to stay healthy.  These muscles also ensure your IT band gets the support it needs.

A final possibility is that it might not be it your IT Band at all.  The ITB is so passive it’s hard to know how it might get injured.  Since that research isn’t ready yet take a look at the muscles around it: your hamstrings and quads.  When these muscles get tight or damaged they can put stress on the IT band.  Relaxing the tight muscles through improved mobility or foam rolling can release stress on the ITB to reduce or eliminate pain.

Want to stay ITBS free?  Take good care of all the muscles it works with.  Be sure to strengthen, stretch and warm up properly.

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons to Love Easy Run Days

It’s hard for runners to slow down.  There’s nothing more fun than running fast and knocking out a good, hard sweat session.  How would you get faster without them?  Unfortunately your body can’t handle strenuous workouts all the time without breaking down.  Alternating challenging workout days with easy run days, or even more than one between, is the structure of any solid training plan.  Here are three reasons Team ECRP loves their easy run days just as much as workout days.easy run

Build – You’ll build a foundation on easy run days.  This foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of distance running over time.  Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity.

Relax – Easy days are low stress.  They’re for running with friends, checking out new routes or trails and forgetting the trials of the day.  You need fast workouts to improve turnover, create more mitochondria and increase VO2max but those sessions aren’t exactly relaxing or fun.  Easy days remind us why we love running.

Recovery –  Going fast is hard on your body.  After tough workouts it has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen.  An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery.  If you push all the time those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting over training and burnout. Easy or recovery runs give your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.

The most important thing is to make sure your easy running is just that.  Easy.  Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout.  As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  Keep the goal of each workout in mind and you’ll learn there’s no such thing as a ‘junk mile’.

Coach Meredith