Category Archives: Racing

Running 101: Wearing Headphones

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.headphones

Pros:
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.

Cons:
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.

Coach Meredith

Relaxed Running for Fast Running

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 relaxed runningof 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.

Coach Meredith

3 Core Exercises for Runners

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 core exercisesbody 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.

Coach Meredith

Running Community: How to Give Back

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 running communityexperiences 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?

Coach Meredith

 

Say ‘Yes’ to More Running Shoes

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 running shoesshoes 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.running shoes

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.

Coach Meredith

Race Pace and Your Long Run

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.  race pace

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.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Marathon Recovery

Running a marathon is hard.  Racing one is even harder.  No matter how fast you cross the finish line your body will hurt, your mind will be tired and emotions will still be running high.  After your collect that medal and celebrate with all the carbs of any kind, it’s time to start letting your body heal.  How fast and how well you treat your beat up muscles post race makes a huge marathon recoverydifference in how quickly you can get back to your regular routine.  Use these tips for high quality marathon recovery and you’ll be back on track in no time.

Keep moving.  One of the most important aspects of marathon recovery is movement.  This doesn’t mean a tough track workout two days later or taking off for another race.  Giving muscles some easy work to do the day after racing has been shown to speed recovery but it has to be just that, easy.  A slow jog, air squats, a few push-ups and 30 minutes of yoga works wonders.  Your goal should be to keep blood, nutrition and oxygen pumping to damaged muscles without any added stress.

Mobilize.  Just getting out there are easy jogging a mile or two won’t get the job done.  You need to work tired and abused joints through a full range of motion to keep fluids moving around.  This is how you make sure muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones get the blood, oxygen and nutrients they need to repair while clearing out the debris from when they got damaged.  Foam rollers, bands, softballs and a lacrosse ball are all part of a well built marathon recovery kit.  A professional sports massage is also always a good idea.

Eat up.  You definitely burned a ton of calories covering all of those miles.  Replacing them and giving your body the nutrients it needs to repair damaged muscles is paramount.  Replenish fluids with sports drinks or salted water as soon as you cross the finish line.  When your tummy is ready, chow down on calorie loaded foods like bananas and yogurt.  After chilling out, putting your feet up for a bit and processing those foods, it’s time to head for pizza and tacos.marathon recovery

Sleep.  Getting an adequate amount of sleep will help you recover faster than just about anything else.  After the excitement of finishing and celebrating it can be tough to shut down.  When you get home try taking a warm bath, meditating and turning off all electronic devices.  Here’s a great piece on how a solid night’s shut eye can make a big difference in your marathon recovery.

Go easy on the celebration.  Yes, those free beers taste delicious but they’re just going to cause more trouble for your already hostile body.  Dehydrated muscles aren’t aching to lose more water.  Drink a bottle of water or sports drink before anything alcoholic then make sure you mix in plenty of other fluids with those post race cocktails.  A long walk or standing around for a little bit won’t do any harm but staying for the entire post race convert might.  You want to get off your feet for a few hours as soon as you can to start the healing process.

Freeze.  Cryotherapy and ice baths are wonderful tools to jump start marathon recovery.  Part of many runners’ regular plan cold therapies are effective and simple.  Lowering your temperature flushes waste from muscles, reducing swelling and lets them get down to business right away.  Have an ocean or lake near by?  Celebrate by jumping in!

Coach Meredith

Racing 101: Get Marathon Day Ready

Running a marathon is tough.  Racing one is even harder.  Whichever path you chose to cover 26.2+ miles you need to be prepared for the long journey.  Getting marathon day ready is more than simply logging those training workouts.  Making sure you’re prepared for race day is an important part of any well rounded training plan.  Here are four things every Team ECRP knows before they toe the line at their marathon.marathon day

Test Nutrition.  Everyone has to have something to eat or drink while on the marathon course.  While most of us won’t get designated bottles we can still control what goes into our bodies.  Find out what they’ll have on course for hydration and fuel then practice with it.  It might work for you and it might not but marathon day is not when you what to find that out.

Train in Bad Weather.  Not only does training when the weather’s crummy, not dangerous, make you a bad ass, it prepares you for the unknown you’ll face on race day.  It’s tough to get out there when it’s cold or raining but it’s also very important.  Determine what conditions you could face on marathon day and train in them.  Run in the cold, rain and snow and your finish time will thank you.

Wear Your Gear.  We all have favorite pieces of gear.  That pair of lucky underwear or special pair of bright race day shoes is a must for marathon day.  Those pieces are likely well broken in but that doesn’t mean our socks, hats and sports bras are.  Never wear anything new on race day especially holds true when you’re covering 26+ miles so make sure whatever you’re going to put on has been worn on at least one or two long runs during training.

Plan for Logistics.  Marathon day can be a nightmare even if the start is right outside your front door.  There’s traffic, stressed out runners, confused spectators and that guy with a dog on too long a leash.  Know where you’ll park, where the start and finish are and where you’ll meet your support afterwards.  Having a plan will eliminate race morning stress and help you perform the best you can out on the course.

Use these tips to create a plan that works for you and you’ll ace any marathon day test you face.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Injury Free Training

Every runner dreads injury.  Not only can it derail all of your recent training effort, it can be painful, uncomfortable and come with a potentially hefty medical bill.  The best way to keep logging miles without some sort of boo-boo or broken bone sidelining you is to use preventative care.  That can mean lots of things but here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to run injury free all year long.

Strength Train.  Strength training and cross training are extremely important elements of a training plan that helps you steer clear of injuries.  It will help you build muscle to support the pounding your body takes from running.  Strength training also makes you a more durable, injury resistant, athlete.  No matter what kind of strength training you choose make sure it’s something you like.  There are tons of options available out there from Crossfit to spin class so you’re guaranteed to find something fun.injury free

Listen.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis and you’ll be able to head off any injury before it happens.  Injury free running isn’t a dream.  It’s a reality if you’re able to pick up on what your body needs.  A day off?  An adjusted workout?  What about that massage you’ve been waiting for?  Stop waiting, rest up and tone it down.  No one know what your body needs better than you if you’re willing to listen to it.

Gear Check.  From chaffing to shin splints worn out, poorly fitted gear or improper gear can lead to disaster.  If you’re tackling trails, don’t wear your track spikes.  Be aware of training environment and dress appropriately.  Check in regularly with your clothing and especially your running shoes.  Crummy old shoes love creating problems from lack of support.  Stay injury free by having the right gear in the right condition.

Eat.  While every runner has different nutritional needs, eating is important.  Eating too much can lead to weight gain and numerous health issues while eating too little means your body can’t recover or build muscle like it wants to.  Poor nutritional habits can result in stress fractures, excess fatigue and bad workouts.  Consult a professional when designing your meal plan to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to stay injury free.

Coach Meredith

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