Category Archives: Mental Toughness

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

 

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

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

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

When It’s OK To Quit a Workout

We’ve all had bad workouts.  We’ve all wanted to walk away before finishing workouts.  A lot of times, however, our competitive and training focused natures won’t let us.  Luckily, there are definitely times when we should quit a workout.  And there are times we should push through.  These are some basic guidelines from Team ECRP you can use when things aren’t going you way to decide what to do.

QUIT WHEN
You’re hurt.  Even if it’s only a twinge, calling it quits on a workout isn’t the end of the world.  It’s much better to be cautious then run yourself into a serious injury.  Listening to your body quit a workoutcan be hard but it’s something you have to do.  If something feels funky or your gait is off, walk away and figure out what’s wrong before you come back.

It’s dangerous.  Did it start down pouring a few minutes into your trail run?  Is there a pop-up thunderstorm just overhead?  Is the sun going down in a strange neighborhood?  Are the heat and humidity oppressive?  Any of these can be a solid reason to quit a workout.  Finding a treadmill or waiting until later is always a better answer than injury.

You don’t need it.  Maybe you’re bumping up your mileage this week or taking a recovery run instead of a swim.  It’s OK to quit a workout when it isn’t a super important one.  If you can easily sub another type of session to get the stimulus you were looking for on that day, go for it.

STICK WITH IT WHEN:
It’s hard.  That’s how we get faster and stronger.  If we never pushed ourselves to perform a a higher level, we’d never get any better.  Finishing a challenging workout is its own reward, and helps us hit that next PR, if we can do so safely and injury free.

You’re tired.  There are lots of things that can cause us to lose sleep.  Working out can help relieve stress and release endorphins that improve mood.  Staying awake for 24 straight hours just to get a workout in is definitely not the answer but even a quick jog can shake off the cobwebs and put a smile on your face.  It’s also good practice for race day.  You never know who might be partying in the hotel room next door.

The weather’s bad.  Bad weather and dangerous weather are different.  If you quit a workout because it’s cold or raining, how does that help you?  Conditions on race day are mostly unpredictable.  To prepare for the unknown, train in every environment you can.  Learn how to handle wind, rain, snow, heat and humidity.

Use these guidelines to loosely determine if you should quit a workout while you’re ahead or power through like the champ you want to be.

Coach Meredith

The Benefits of Fatigue

Fatigue can be a nasty word.  Like anything else, too much is definitely not a good thing.  Excessive fatigue can lead to over training, stress fractures, mental burnout and loads of other injuries.  An appropriate dose of accumulated fatigue, however, is the prescription for a good training plan.

Most important among those things is adaption.  No workout happens by itself.  It’s surrounded by other workouts, life events, nutrition and sleep.  It’s the build up of stress on muscles and depleted energy stores that make training work.  Our bodies adapt to these tired or less than 100% states and get stronger.  In fact, it can take up to 14 days to recover from a hard fatigueworkout.  But you’ll keep running.  Easy running is incredibly important to help torn up muscle fibers repair.  It keeps our bodies working without adding so much stress we start to break down.

We can also take advantage of accumulated fatigue when preparing for a race.  Since you’re probably not going run 26.2 miles during training, use the previous day’s workout to help make 20 miles feel like 26.  Running a steady state six to eight miler the day before your long run means you’re starting that run with six miles under your belt.  It’s like starting at Mile 6 instead of the start line and both our bodies and brains benefit.

The mental toughness garnered from a pair of fatigue inducing workouts like that is a great tool for race day.  We gain confidence with each tough workout we power through.  Every run that’s one mile longer or 1% tougher tells our brain ‘hey, we can do this’.  Once we’ve broken that ‘I can do it’ barrier enough, it goes away.  We become familiar with the tiredness we’ll experience at the end of a long race and learn to push through it.

Now, let’s not forget to relax.  We all need a down week every four to six weeks.  It gives us a chance to heal significantly before going back to hard training.  That’s also the goal of tapering.  Get rid of all that accumulated training fatigue.  Allow your body to make the final adjustments it can so you are in peak performance shape on race day.  Fill up your fuel tank, let your muscles get as strong as they can and give your brain a breather.

Use accumulated fatigue to your advantage and reap the benefits on race day.

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

Mental Preparation Means Better Workouts

Every athlete faces challenging workouts.  There are inevitable good days, bad days, OK days and ‘I want that one back’ days.  While things are bound to get tough when you’re working to get stronger or faster, solid mental preparation can go a long way to making those moments better.  What, exactly, does that mean?  mental preparation

Mind over matter is real.  If you can control your thoughts, you can control your physiology.  Sky rocketing heart rate?  Force a few deep breaths and down it comes.  Cold?  Think warm thoughts and picture sunning on the beach.  Completing a hard workout is tough but here are three ways mental preparation can take a challenge and make it a little bit easier.

Expect the worst.  Look cold or rainy for that run?  How about the huge number of reps in today’s WOD?  If you can steel your nerves and plan to be riding the pain train for a while, odds are when you actually get to work it won’t be as bad as you expected.  By planning to be pushed to your limit you’ll be grateful for each moment that’s not at max effort.

Visualize.  Just like you’re imagining all of the misery you’re going to encounter, foresee success.  Picture writing that new PR in your workout journal or posting it on the white board.  Imagine each step of the session from beginning to end and the positive feelings you’ll have as you tick off the minutes.  Use meditation or yoga to help you focus on your goal and see yourself accomplishing it.

Get comfortable.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Our bodies and minds love the status quo but that gets us officially nowhere.  We only improve when we push beyond our comfort zones and build new ones.  Those seconds or minutes of discomfort we feel, the burning in our shoulders and the exhaustion in our legs, are the times we’re stressing our bodies enough to create a positive response.  Find a motivating mantra that works for you and repeat it when the going gets tough.  You’ll be so busy staying positive you’ll never notice the pain and suffering you’re actually enduring.

Use these tips the next time your workout or run looks extra challenging.  Prepare your mind to succeed and you will.

Coach Meredith