All athletes know their next workout is only as good as their recovery from the last one. If you’re not able to bounce back from a tough session the next one will certainly suffer. No matter what type of event you’re training for, proper recovery is key to continuing progress. While we can’t always be perfect, here are four pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if improvement is your goal.
Starve. Eat! Eat something as soon as you can. Waiting too long will lead your body to breakdown rather than rebuild mode. Protein bars, chocolate milk, your favorite protein powder or a nut buttered bagel can get you through in a pinch but you’ll definitely want some protein, carb and fat within 30 minutes of wrapping up. Next be sure to get a full, well-rounded and nutritious meal within two hours.
Get cold. An ice bath might feel good but it’s not always the best idea. Dropping your core temperature too soon after a session shuts down the body’s all important inflammation response and prevents damaged muscles from getting the nutrients they need. This study found that heating muscles improved post recovery performance more than cooling them with a few exceptions. When working out multiple times a day cooling can speed the recovery process between sessions. Cooling can also aid in lowering core temperature before bed time, leading to higher quality sleep. So go ahead and take that hot shower, it won’t hurt.
Booze it up. That’s not to say you should skip the post race party. The entire list of pros and cons for a post run beer are covered here but if you’ve just finished a marathon, focus on giving your body something good for it first. It wants it! On the other hand, if all you were accomplishing was an easy fun run with pals, you can probably get away with a cold one along side your glass of water.
Skip the Nap. If you’re not planning a nap after your long run you’re going to miss out. Sleep is paramount to proper recovery. There are big benefits to a little snooze. Those include muscles being repaired, blood pressure dropping and your brain being recharged. The best idea is always to get a good, full night’s rest with 8+ hours of sleep but a nap is a great way to kick off the process.
Focus on recovering properly from every single workout and you’ll see progress.
Everyone loves a good song. It gets you pumped up for your workout and can keep you going when it gets tough. Unfortunately most training runs don’t feature bands or DJs along the course. That leaves it up to us runners to provide our own tunes and that’s most often by listening via headphones. While rocking out during a workout can have benefits there are also potential drawbacks. Here are a few of the pros and cons Team ECRP faces when making the choice to run with or without headphones.
Relaxation – Music is a great tool for helping runners stay relaxed while working out. If you’re singing along you’re not getting tense and that’s a good thing. Especially during a tough workout a little distraction, as long as you can keep pushing, goes a long way to making it more bearable.
Cadence – One of the keys to good form and fast finish times is a high step rate or cadence. Using headphones so you can listen to a song with the right beat or a metronome can be a big help. The key is to use those headphones as a tool to help you improve and not become dependent on them for success.
Safety – The way a song can help you relax or stay on the beat also means it’s a distraction. From the trail below you to emergency vehicle sirens it’s important to be extra aware of your surroundings when you have something in your ear. Try only putting in one side or keeping the volume very low. You’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you as well as your favorite tune. That’s a win for everyone.
Dependence – Counting on something with a battery life can be risky. If you’re unable to power through a rough session without your music, what happens on race day? You’re usually not eligible for awards if you race in headphones anyway. Get used to ditching them every now and then to prepare for when something doesn’t go your way.
Everyone want to run faster. Setting a new PR is an amazing feeling and there’s no runner who doesn’t love it. Getting to that new PR, however, requires lots of hard work. A big part of running faster is actually practicing running faster and it sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, it’s challenging. Aside from building strength and endurance, the most important part of getting comfortable running at a faster pace is staying relaxed. Relaxed running is smooth, good form running and that means it’s also fast running.
We all practice plenty of easy relaxed running. Long runs, recovery jogs, group workouts. But how often do you practice relaxed running at a faster than conversational pace? Not often. Many runners, especially new ones, equate faster running with harder effort. While that’s true, harder effort doesn’t mean clenched jaws, stiff arms and lifted shoulders. Tension is bad. More effort should lead to a faster pace but no change in form or locomotion. To accomplish that most people need lots of practice. Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to start getting acquainted with faster but still relaxed running.
Strides. Strides are an extremely useful tool for improving running form and getting comfortable at faster speeds. These short accelerations can be completed before a run as warm-up or after a run to instill quality movement in tired muscles. You can complete anywhere from 3 to 10 strides depending on the goal. Run for about 100M gradually increasing your pace from beginning to end to finish at 95% effort. These help reinforce good form on tired muscles or before a race and are a good way to practice relaxed running at a faster pace.
Surges. Done during a run or workout, surges are also known as pick-ups or considered a type of Fartlek. Mixing in some faster stretches during a long run will help you get used to running faster without getting tense because it’s very low pressure. There aren’t any strict pace or distance guidelines. They’re a good reminder to maintain to quality running form throughout a longer run when you might get worn out or sloppy.
Sprints. Not only are sprints fun, they’re useful! We won’t all be as fast as Usain Bolt but we can take a page from his book. Those smiles crossing the finish line, bouncy cheeks and soft hands all signal that’s he’s relaxed in spite of how hard he’s working. Practicing sprinting is a great way to teach your body to stay loose and smooth while churning out some killer repeats.
Every runner knows that having a strong center can help you run faster. What isn’t clear is what core exercises are best for building the stability and strength that best supports running at any distance. While your core is made up of many muscles this blog’s focus is on the core’s core. Made up of your abs, obliques, lower back and transverse abdominis they’re the muscles that keep you aligned and upright. That’s pretty important stuff for running.
Whether you’re an 800M runner or an ultra marathoner here are are three of Team ECRP‘s favorite core exercises. Trust us, they’re so much fun you’ll want to add them to your strength training routine as soon as you can.
Planks. Runners can never plank enough. Well, a world record isn’t necessary. With so many varieties available there is a plank for everyone. One great tool for continuing to challenge your body to get stronger is plank flash cards. Write a type of plank on one side of a card, repeat for a number of styles then record your history on each one.
Twists. Rotational stability is key for not wasting energy while we run. The more power going forward the better off we are. Strengthening our twisting muscles provides the support we need to run faster and more efficiently. You can twist in a plank and with a ball, cable or resistance band. Whichever one you choose is sure to benefit you.
Dead bugs. More like a dying bug since you’re moving but this simple looking move can really be tough. This move exclusively hits that all important transverse adominis. Right in the middle of your body this muscle is the center of your core providing stability for your spine and pelvic floor. Laying on your back it’s important to keep your lower supported and move your legs independently.
With so many core exercises to choose from it’s hard to go wrong. Give the choices about a try to develop a well rounded core that will support every mile you run and those last few marathon miles will thank you.
Runner need to do things other than run to become faster, more powerful athletes if there’s a PR sometime in the future. While strength training is incredibly valuable, agility training is equally as important and unfortunately also overlooked. Agility training has lots of big benefits from making you a stronger all around athlete to building better body awareness. Here are several fun ways to enhance your running with simple agility exercises.
Form Drills. Running form drills are usually included in a good warm up. That’s because they get your body ready to run and ready to run well. Drills such as carioca, ‘a-skips’, ‘b-skips’, butt kicks and high knees all build strength, coordination and promote high quality running form. These agility skills can be also be practiced on their own, outside of a warm-up.
Agility Ladder. Also called a speed ladder this simple tool can have big benefits. Moving your feet fast through the ladder will carry over to less contact time when you’re running. Jumping movement will build ankle strength, foot responsiveness and explosive power. An agility ladder is a good place to improve footwork, learn how to control your body and the amount of energy you’re putting into the ground.
Cones. Like the agility ladder, there is an endless number of exercises you can perform with a bunch of cones. These provide a chance for bigger lateral movements than the ladder and can be especially beneficial to trail runners. Using cones will develop your ability to accelerate, change direction and move your feet quickly. Try a variety of configurations and run on angles for the biggest benefits.
Include at least some of these agility training exercises in each of your warm-ups and add a few more to your normal non-running routine. You’ll get stronger and faster with their help.
There’s nothing quite like going for a trail run in the spring. Blooming flowers, cool breezes and fresh air make for lovely running weather after long cold winters. Whether it’s you and nature or a group of your favorite running buddies there’s something special about getting away from the road. Here are four great reasons to check out your local park this spring.
Scenery – The city and its lights are awesome. They provide the opportunity to run at all hours in relative safety. But even those attributes can’t beat getting lost in the woods. Of course, not actually lost. There’s no better place than a nice long trail run to spend some time with your thoughts while admiring the foliage and animals waking up for summer. The change of view will also do your brain good. Check out this study on just how hitting the trails makes us happier.
Surface – The dirt you’ll face when on a trail run is a welcome break from the hard pavement most of us usually run on. Even treadmill runners can benefit from the soft surface of dirt. The decreased rebound you feel on turf means your race tired knees and hips take a little less pounding every step.
Strength – Running on an uncertain, uneven and sometimes covered surface means your ankles and feet have to work extra hard to keep you upright. Not only do your feet have to quickly react to the challenges of climbing hills, hoping over roots, dodging rocks and splashing through streams, your calves, quads and core are also pushed to respond quickly to the constantly changing path. A little extra work on the trail means better results on the pavement and a stronger, more durable running body.
Accessories – There’s no better time than a nice long trail run to try out new running toys. Check out some new trail shoes (they’re comfy). Want a brighter headlamp? Perfect opportunity. That old CamelBak need replacing? Good timing. You can also stock up on things for the upcoming fall and winter with sales at your favorite running retailer.
**Trails are also dangerous places. Wild animals are exactly that, wild. Remember to play to safe with snakes, bears and even squirrels. Wear some reflective gear, a headlamp if the dark is a risk and bring water. Be sure someone knows where you’re going, what time you should be back and how to handle it if you’re not.**
Runners need strong hips. They’re the driving force behind every stride you take and the better they are able to perform the faster you’ll cover ground. Tight hip flexors and weak glutes are common and contribute to a myriad of injuries from IT Band syndrome to runner’s knee. Strengthening your hips and glutes helps prevent injuries while improving running form and increasing speed. Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite hip power building exercises.
Fire Hydrant. This simple body weight exercise is a winner for working the hip abductors. Start with your hands and knees on the ground in an all fours position then lift your leg away from your midline. Be sure to keep your hips still while focusing on the activation of hip and glute muscles. Pause at the top then repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.
Clam Shells. Another uncomplicated exercise, clam shells also work the hip abductors. You can step the difficulty up by adding a resistance band above your knees but that’s not necessary to get the benefits. Begin lying on your side with a neutral spine. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and hips to 45 with your top leg stacked directly on your bottom one. Keeping your feet together raise your top knee away from the bottom one (abducting your hip). Pause at the top then repeat for your target number of reps and sets.
Seated Band Hip Abduction. Use this move to earn strong hips and glutes. Begin sitting on a bench or chair with a flat back and feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart. Place a resistance band around your legs above the knees. Grip the front of the bench with both hands and maintain good posture while you pull your knees apart. Do not let your knees cave in after you pause and return to the starting position for your goal reps and sets.
Strong hips are important and using these three exercises will help you earn them.
The running community is amazing. From elite athletes to first time 5k runners the support and enthusiasm is tangible everywhere. While there are running events all year long, spring and fall are home to most of them. Every weekend from March to November is packed with some kind of race. After participating in a few, it’s nice to give back and help other runners have the great experiences you do. Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to give back to your local running community.
Volunteer – If incredible people stopped volunteering for running events, 95% of participants would be priced out and thousands of events would be canceled. With a multitude of places to pitch in there’s sure to be a spot for you. Consider a water stop, handing out medals or directing traffic. Can’t make it on race day? Help with packet pick-up or pre-race course set-up.
Organize – Put together your own race. You’ll need some of the valuable volunteers mentioned above but if a cause is near and dear to you, support it! Putting together an event can also be a great opportunity to meet others in your area. Between sponsors, volunteers, t-shirt printers, timing crews and participants organizing a race will bring you into contact with tons of people who love running. Who knows? You might even find your next chance to give back.
Cheer – Happen to crash into a race during your long run or while exploring a new city? Stop and cheer for a few minutes. Spectators are the backbone of the running community and some people pick races based on how many will be out there. It won’t cost you a thing and you might just be the one encouraging word that helps a someone hit a new PR.
Coach – There are lots of organizations that need volunteer coaches. From your local track club to the national Girls on the Run there’s nothing more rewarding than helping children find something they love. Even if one of the kids you work with isn’t the next Usain Bolt, the rewards you’ll reap are great.
What are your favorite ways to give back some of what the running community gives you?
A closet isn’t any good unless it’s filled. Filling one with running shoes is often inevitable for passionate runners. Luckily there’s more than not being able to find the floor to owning multiple pairs of shoes dedicated to running. Here are three of Team ECRP‘s top reasons to keep several worthy pairs at your disposal.
Different purposes. The biggest reason you’ll want to have more than one pair of running shoes is that they don’t all perform the same job. Some are built for racing on the track and others for the trail. There are light shoes for racing and cushy ones for recovery. Most runners train on a variety of surfaces and paces so it’s important to be prepared with the right gear for your workout. Have a pair of dedicated shoes for each environment you’ll be tackling.
Models Change. Constantly and not always for the better, in fact. With shoe companies competing and technology changing there is always something different on the market. Your current favorite shoe might not exist the next time you want t buy it and that can be disappointing. Yes, you can grab 20 pairs of what you like each time you hit the store but they’ll wear out too. Owning a variety of brands and models can protect you from that disappointment.
They age. Just like everything else shoes get old and wear out. Soles wear down and stop providing traction while insoles break down and can’t give support. Old shoes are a recipe for injury and pain and throwing on a fresher pair can really open your eyes to needing some new ones. You can check out this post to see if your current pair needs to be replaced.
While there are lots of other good reasons to add more running shoes to your collection these are the most important ones. Having a choice model is every color? That’s just a bonus.
Training for a race is big commitment. There are lots of miles and hours spent getting ready for the event and most of those miles are not spent at goal race pace. Why not? It’s too hard on your body to stay at race pace all the time. Finding the balance between hard workouts and slower ones is important. In fact, the majority of elite runners’ miles are spent at paces slower than their goal speed.
But you have to run fast to run fast! Yes, and while any good training plan includes specific tempo workouts sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Luckily, your long run is a great place to add some faster miles. Adding race pace running to your long run is a challenge that will get you both physically and mentally ready for a race day effort. As your body adapts to spending time at goal pace, it’ll get easier. It also provides a good chance to practice your fueling strategy.
One of Team ECRP‘s favorite long run with race pace miles workouts is the 3-2-1. It can also be lengthened for marathon training to a 5-4-3-2-1 effort. Run at least a mile warm-up then a mile easy between each section of race pace work. The cool down is up to you. This workout has you spending plenty of time getting comfortable at your goal pace without shredding your legs for the rest of the week.
A second option is to do a fast finish run. Take the first two thirds of your run at normal long run pace then finish fast. That can be at goal race pace or gradually faster all the way to the end. Examples include a 20 miler with 10 miles at long run pace, 8 miles at race pace and a 2 mile cool down. For a half marathon try a 13 miler with 8 miles at long run pace then 5 miles of getting 5-10 seconds faster per mile.
By breaking faster miles into sections you’ll be able to spend more time at goal pace with less wear and tear. It will bring variety to the long run and help those workouts fly by. Be careful not to include them too often, however. These are challenging workouts and you’ll need time to recover.