Category Archives: Goal Setting

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

 

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

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

Running 101: Do You Need an Off Season?

Professional runners across all disciplines get an off season.  Whether they’re choosing to compete at certain times of the year or their sport predetermines it, they are sure to take time off between seasons.  For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, however, options to compete carry on all year long.  You can run a 5k every single weekend if you want to but you can’t race one.

If you’re just out there to get moving every time you toe the line, odds are you aren’t training at a very high level.  You might run for fun.  You might just run with friends.  If, on the other hand, you’re an age group or contending athlete your training is intense.  The more intense each training cycle is the more likely you are to need an off season.  Here are three reasons why.off season

Recover.  Injury prevention is a big reason to take an off season.  Our bodies cannot continue indefinitely to be beat up the way they are when we train and race hard all year long.  Work load is dramatically decreased, especially running, during the off season.  Both our minds and bodies need a break from the constant barrage of stimuli that come along with a hard training cycle.

Repair.  Take the time now to deal with any lingering issues.  See that physical therapist you’ve been putting off.  Get massages and take bubble baths.  Build strength in the muscles that got you through race season.  Eliminate weak spots and work towards strength goals that will help you run faster next race season.

Plan.  Goal setting is incredibly important.  Use this down time to look back at how your season went.  Why did it go that way?  Put time and effort in determining what went well and what didn’t rather than nailing each workout.  Decide what races you’ll target during your next training cycle and how to best prepare for them.  Set realistic goals based on past performances.

Taking an off season can be a wonderful training tool and a welcome break.  It’s the time to relax and have fun while letting your body heal and prepare for the next cycle of hard work.

Coach Meredith

Taper Week Tips for Your Next PR

Taper week, or weeks, can be challenging.  You’ll feel stir crazy without your normal work load.  Your legs will feel weak, maybe even jelly like.  You’ll be exercising and eating less to maintain your ideal race weight.  The taper crazies are a marathon staple and while they’re almost taper weekunavoidable, you can use these tips from Team ECRP to keep them at bay the best you can.

Get intense.  Running fast is fun.  Speed work should always be a part of your training plan and the week before your goal race is time to ramp it up.  You’ll decrease your overall training load but more workouts will include serious speed and intensity.  That means more fun.

Stay calm.  It sounds silly but staying relaxed during the days leading up to your race is very important.  You want to keep sleep quality high, stress low and your diet the same.  Develop a flexible plan for race day that accounts for potential weather, parking and clothing mishaps.  The more prepared you are the less likely you are to let something get in the way of your performance.

Trust the plan.  You’ve put in the work.  By the time taper week comes around any workout you do won’t give you major gains anyway.  While that increased intensity will help get your nervous system in order, it can take up to six weeks for other workouts to have measurable benefits.  Believe in the work you’ve done.

Find an alternative.  With all the extra taper week non-workout time you’ll have, grab that book you’ve been looking at longingly for the last 10-15 weeks.  Binge watch that show you’ve been hearing about (we might recommend Game of Thrones).

The two most important things during taper week, however, are to keep focused on your goal and trust your training.

Coach Meredith

5 Important Nutrients Runners Need

All runners know that to perform well you have to eat well.  Unfortunately when they try to eat the right things, or cut some bad things, they can restrict important nutrients, too.  Beware of grabbing the supplement bottle, however.  Too much of a good thing can cause stress on organs so focus on getting them from your food.  Here are five nutrients all runners need to have adequately represented in their diets.

Iron:  Iron provides tons of benefits to runners.  It’s a main ingredient in hemoglobin that takes oxygen to working muscles.  If your iron is low, you’ll feel sluggish and fatigued while recovery nutrientswill take longer than normal.  Get it from foods like lean cuts of beef, peas and broccoli, oysters and kidney or black beans.

Calcium:  We all know calcium builds healthy bones.  Running beats those bones up.  Keep them strong and avoid stress fractures by taking enough in.  Do so with dairy, kale, almonds and calcium fortified foods.

Potassium:  Like sodium, this is one very important electrolyte.  It helps those powerful running muscles contract and relax as well as maintaining fluid balance.  You can get your fill from one baked potato, bananas and dried fruit.

Vitamin E:  This immune booster is a must have.  It’s an antioxidant that also keeps blood vessels wide open and soft.  Good sources are olive oil, sunflower seeds, sweet potato and almonds.

Magnesium:  Fueling about 300 chemical reactions in the body, helping energy production and protein synthesis make magnesium incredibly important.  Most people are deficient but can remedy this by munching on a few magnesium rich foods.  Leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, peas and whole grains are good sources.

Make sure your grocery list includes some of the foods listed above.  You’ll get plenty of these essential nutrients and some tasty meals.

Coach Meredith

5 Ways to Stay Fit When You Travel

Spring break, summer vacation, holiday visits to family, all mean time on the road, in airports and away from home.  It can be very easy to get away from your home based training plan while you travel and that might spell trouble for your next goal.  Luckily, there are five simple things you can do to stay on track no matter where you are.travel

Keep a food journal.  Remember the 80-20 rule and find healthy choices while you travel.  There’s nothing wrong with an indulgence now and then, we’re only human after all, but remember that too much can set your training back.  Keeping a diary of what you’re eating can help you realize if you’ve gone too far off track.

Pack for activity.  DVDs, resistance bands and tubes are small enough to fit in any carry on and can help you workout anywhere.  If your bulky running shoes won’t fit in that carry on, wear them.  Same goes for a heavy cold weather coat.  Check out these additional recommendations for help with your travel fitness strategy.

Schedule activities.  Find out what there is to do in your destination.  If you’re in a new place, there’s no excuse not to try something.  You might check out a new class in vibrant New York City, go for a horseback ride in Wyoming, walk through wine country in Napa or scuba dive in Honolulu.  Canoeing, skiing, dancing and even a long sight seeing walk will keep you moving forward.  Even if it’s not your preferred mode of working on your fitness, any athletic activity will help you perform at a higher level when you get home.

Use your hotel.  Yes, they’re usually small, but hotel gyms give you a little space to move around.  Most hold stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals and weight machines and some have quite modern, state of the art facilities.  If there’s a pool big enough for laps or pool running, dive in.  Any hotel that’s more than one story features a set of stairs, don’t be afraid to use them.

Expect to have a tough first few days back.  Your body might still be recovering from jet lag or overindulging in food and drink.  Your muscles need a chance to get back in gear, too.  Stay hydrated, especially if you’re flying and try to plan for a recovery day once you’ve arrived back at home.

Coach Meredith

Miles: Running Quality vs Quantity

Many runners wonder what’s more important: running quality miles or just running lots of them.  The answer is both are important.  Of course you want every single mile you run to be a running quality (via linkedin)high quality one.  The trouble?  Running lots of miles, unfortunately, doesn’t guarantee they’ll be good ones.

It takes time to build the strength, stamina and durability you need to run correctly all the time.  Diving into a high mileage program without experience is a recipe for disaster.  Injuries, over training and frustration are the menu if you get overly ambitious.  Yes, it’s true that high quality along with high quantity is a proven recipe for success but not everyone has that kind of time or the necessary resources.

Beginners should slowly build mileage until their bones, tendons, ligaments and muscle can take the pounding running puts on them.  Running quality miles is much more important than volume early on.  Even experienced runners have full time jobs and lives outside of running that make it nearly impossible to log 100+ miles each week.  Does that mean you should give up on your newest goal?

No way!  It means you’ll have to focus on getting the most you can from each workout.  With a lower mileage program, you’ll likely have a bit more intensity and fewer recovery, or easy, runs.  Runners who have time constrictions might replace one easy outing with yoga or a short body weight workout rather than a longer session.  The key is to make sure each workout has a specific purpose that will help you reach your next goal and that you’re fully recovering from the harder efforts.  Remember, a few good miles are much more valuable than a bunch of not so useful ones.

Work with a coach to discover what volume works best for your body at your current level of fitness.  Then stick with your coach to get strong enough to increase it.   Making sure you can keep your running quality high as you increase your volume means you’ll be able to have both the quality and quantity you need.

Coach Meredith

5 Ways To Keep Your 2017 Fitness Resolution

There are all kind of new year’s resolutions out there.  Save more money, maintain a healthier diet and get more sleep are all wonderful goals for the next 365 days.  More than those, however, lots of people make fitness resolutions.  Things like shedding unwanted pounds, running that first 5k or getting serious about yoga practice are surprisingly common.  Unfortunately, just as quickly as those goals are set they often fall by the wayside.  Don’t let it happen to you!  Here are 5 tips for setting a fitness resolution you can stick with all year long:

Make a commitment.  A resolution is defined as “the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action, method, procedure, etc”.  A commitment is defined as “the act of committing, pledging or engaging oneself…a pledge or promise; obligation.”  The difference between two is clear.  Resolutions carry little emotional weight and are easy to move away from.  A commitment asks for you to invest, making it tougher to go off track without noticing.

Start small.  Running a marathon is a great way to get healthy.  It’s also a great way injure yourself and get frustrated.  Shedding 30 pounds is fantastic but it’s very hard, slow work.  No matter what your goal is, getting in over your head will lead to frustration and likely failure.  Setting small step wise goals like running 2 miles or loosing 1 pound a week that happen quickly keeps you feeling positive about your progress.  Lots of small goals also add up to some pretty big accomplishments!

Have a plan.  Since you’ve committed to becoming better in 2017, you will definitely need a plan.  Knowing how you’ll get where you want to go is half the battle when it comes to keeping your fitness resolution moving forward.  Take some time to figure out where your training will fit in your schedule, what you want to accomplish each week and what kind of support you’ll need.

Track your progress.  Write down what you do every single day.  Track the way you felt, what time it was, the weather, what you’d eaten before the workout along with what exercise you actually did.  It’s a great way to see you’re getting closer to your goal even after a bad day because that bad day is probably still an fitness resolutionimprovement over a few weeks ago.  You can never have too many reminders of how far you’ve come and how much further you can go.  A journal will also help you see how things like sleep, nutrition and mood can play a big role in how a workout goes.

Celebrate.  Make a celebration part of your plan.  Whether it’s registering for the race and drinking all the free beer afterwards or taking a vacation somewhere special for a recovery week, you’ll have earned it.  Yes, taking that fitness resolution to the point of success is a prize in its own right but…  After months of planning, hard work and unexpected challenges, a reward is a nice way to reinforce your success.

No matter what your goals for 2017 are Team ECRP wants you to rock them.  Use one or all of these tips to beat your 2017 fitness resolution and set the bar even higher in 2018.

Happy New Year!

Coach Meredith