Category Archives: Mental Toughness

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

Prepare for Winter Running

Training for a spring race often means training all winter long.  Winter, for lots of people, means snow, below freezing temperatures, ice, wind and the potential for missed training days.  Even when we do our best, combating the challenges of winter running is tough.  Our bodies start to react differently when temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit whether we like it or not.  Here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to stay warm all season long.

Layer Up.  Wear sweat wicking layers close to your body and heavier layers on top of them.  A wind and rain or snow blocking outermost layer winter runningis ideal.  It’s always easier to remove something than put more on.  Stocking are great under running tights and wool socks are always cozy.

Grab add-ons.  Winter running requires a few more accessories than the summer does.  In addition to your usual fuel and hydration, you’ll need gloves or mittens, a hat or ear warmer and maybe some Yak Trax to help you handle the road conditions.

Warm up.  The colder you are the harder it is to warm up.  Instead of heading out like you normally do, get going indoors.  Try jumping jacks and burpees along with some intense breathing exercises to get your blood pumping, heart rate up and mind ready to tackle a chilly outing.

Dry off.  Get somewhere warm and put on dry clothes as quickly as you can post workout.  Not only will this help your body start recovering faster, you’ll be less likely to catch a cold or become ill.

Break it up.  If the weather is nasty and it’s dark out or you’re too busy to get all those miles is at once, split them up.  Do one run in the morning and one in the evening.  With the exception of your long run it’s usually OK to break things down when you need to.  Just make sure you maintain an adequate recovery window between them.

Get friendly with the treadmill.  Ah, the dreadmill.  It’s an unfortunate necessity of winter running.  Luckily when you makes friends with one you realize they aren’t so bad after all.  A treadmill can be just as effective as an outdoor workout and is, especially in poor conditions, much safer.

Coach Meredith

How to Run Your Best Race

We all want every one to be our best race.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for most of us.  Bad races happen.  Sometimes we’re running a training race just for fun and other times our day goes completely off course leading to results we’re not happy with.  No matter which one your event is, here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to make any one your best race race

Practice.  Replicate every part of race day you can before hand.  Get up and eat like you’ll have to that morning.  Test out different nutrition strategies for during the race on your long training runs.  Then practice messing it all up.  Run in any kind of weather you can while making sure none of those winter layers chafe.  Race day is unpredictable and the more prepared you are for the unknowns the closer you’ll be to having your best race yet.

Focus on you.  You’re trying to run your best race.  Not another runner’s.  Don’t worry about how fast the people around you go out or what they’re going to do later on.  You’re only in control of your own performance.  Pushing too hard early will cost a lot towards the end.  Stick to the plan you made during training and the rest will fall into place.

Have fun.  Getting tense or stressed out in the middle of a race is a sure fire way to perform poorly.  We run because it’s fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  Stay loose, smile at the water stop volunteers and say ‘thank you’ to the course marshals.  It’ll keep you happy, positive and well on your way to a wonderful finish.

Use these tips and you’ll be a few steps closer to having your best race day yet.

Coach Meredith

Durability: Mental Toughness

Mental toughness sounds cool, even useful, but what exactly does it mean?  A mentally strong athlete is dedicated, comfortable suffering and driven.  When the going gets tough they hunker down, embrace the suck and remember what they’re working for.  It’s someone who has the ability to cope with many demands in a consistently superior way to their opponents while remaining focused, confident and determined.  That’s the kind of athlete East Coast Run Project builds.

An invaluable asset in competition, mental toughness is more than just being dedicated.  Yes, believing in your goals is a huge part of succeeding butmental toughness ‘mind over matter’ isn’t just something people say for the sake of saying something.  It’s true.  Your brain is programmed to sell you short.  Ever feel like you can’t run one more step then accelerate when the finish line comes into view?  A big fan of the status quo who’s adverse to pain and suffering your brain will shut things down long before your muscles.  Here’s a study that explains it in detail.  In short, your mental state does not always reflect your physical state.  You are truly stronger than you think you are.

Part of mental toughness is about accessing everything you’ve got.  Most importantly it’s finding the strength to use your brain to beat, well, your brain.  After you’ve accepted that your body can do more than your mind wants to you can use it perform at a higher level.  By misleading cyclists about a competitor’s speed this study discovered they magically had the ability to perform at a 2% (!!!) higher ‘maximum’ speed.  They pedaled faster than their ‘100%’ because they thought they weren’t there yet.  Their brains were tricked into thinking it was status quo when it wasn’t.

The fastest way to trick our brains?  Positive self talk.  Instead of muttering ‘this sucks’ or ‘is it over yet?’ in the middle of a muscle shredding workout, smile.  Saying ‘I got this’ or ‘this workout feels good‘ can actually make it easier.  It’s been shown that a repeated positive statement can give you the extra push you need to hit a new PR, finish within the time limit or conquer that fear.  Step one in developing mental toughness is finding that phrase.  Find the words that will keep you moving forward when things get hard and learn to use them.

Coach Meredith

Note: Telling yourself you’re fine when you aren’t isn’t always a good idea.  Injury and over training happen when we ignore and push through pain signals from our bodies.  Part of being a mentally tough athlete is listening to your body, knowing the difference between good pain and bad and knowing what’s on the line if you push past it.