Category Archives: Strength Training

Are You Too Sick to Run?

Can I run?  Should I run?  Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners.  This is a tough question to answer.  Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds.  What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another.  Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.too sick to run

Weather.  Take into account the weather.  Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well.  Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea.  Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions.  Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts.  You’re better off being healthy!

Move Around.  Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own.  Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode.  We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse.  If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.

The Neck Rule.  If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go.  When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out.  The single exception to this rule is a fever.  If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.

Activity Level.  Many tapering marathoners catch colds.  Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers.  You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation.  You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.

Coach Meredith

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

 

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

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

The Value of Plyometrics for Runners

Plyometrics are one of the most valuable tools runners can have at their disposal.  They are defined as “a system of of exercise(s) in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.”  The goods news that includes running.  Yes, running itself can be a plyometric exercise, especially sprinting.  The second piece of good news about plyometric work is that it’s tons of fun while benefiting your running in several ways.plyometrics

Those benefits include building power, strength and coordination.  Explosive exercises have been shown to increase your running economy and speed more than dynamic weight training.  How?  Jumping requires lots of fast twitch muscle fibers to work together.  The advantage of training fast twitch fibers to work is that it teaches muscles to generate more power.  The more force you put into the ground the less time you spend there.  Less time on the ground means a faster finish in your next time trial.

Plyometrics also teach our bodies to use oxygen more efficiently.  If a muscle can generate lots of power or force quickly it’s going to be more efficient at any speed or effort level.  Yet another advantage?  You’re likely to be a little less sore after a good hard plyo workout than you might be after a heavy weight training session.

To start your plyometric program, find things to jump on, over and up.  Boxes, agility ladders, stairs, hills or even nothing at all will give you plenty to work with.  Examples of exercises include box jumps, jumping rope, agility ladder drills, bounding and skipping.  Jump squats, jumping lunges, single leg hops and broad jumps are other useful options.

The variety of exercises you can include in your plyometrics routine is endless.  Find and consult with a qualified coach to begin your plyometric training and see better finish times in just a few weeks.

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

Running 101: Cross vs Strength Training

Often used interchangeably, cross training and strength training are something all runners should have in their training plan.  They are, however, not the same activities.  Cross training is any activity that increases or maintains your fitness while giving you a break from your most trained modality.  That means biking or kayaking if you’re a runner and swimming or rowing if strength trainingyou’re a cyclist.  It also means strength training.  Strength training is a type of cross training that makes your muscles stronger, not just give your body a variety of stimuli.

Cross training makes us better athletes.  It gives our bodies different stresses to respond to and leads to more flexibility with improved coordination.  It helps prevent injury, aids recovery and staves off boredom.  Having options other than running is also a must for when the weather gets ugly.  Too hot, too icy, too windy or too dangerous, you don’t need to miss a workout if you have a solid cross training option ready to go.

Strength training, on the other hand, is meant to make us stronger.  Building muscle mass isn’t strength trainingour goal as runners but being tougher is.  A weak core means poor posture and less speed.  Stronger legs generate more power and last longer in a race.  Unilateral strength exercises eliminate muscle imbalances and improve balance.

Runners should focus on exercises and activities that will strengthen running specific muscles while being sure not to neglect your incredibly important upper body.  Improve power with box jumps and jump rope.  Maintain good posture with push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep your core strong with planks and sit-ups.  Stay even with lunges and step-ups.

Any quality training plan will include both cross training and specific strength training.  They are key elements in building a quality athlete who is injury resistant and ready to compete successfully.

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

The Lowdown: Beer and Running

Beer and running naturally go together.  Runners love a post run cold one, right?  Races are sponsored by beer companies, we get complimentary ones after we cross the finish line, group runs meet at bars.  The list goes on but does that mean you should be throwing them back?  Check out these pros and cons to the post workout beer.beer and running

Socializing.  There’s one thing runners love as much as running and that’s talking about running.  Post race recaps in real time with your friends is something everyone looks forward to and they’re fueled by booze.  Isn’t that why running clubs were invented in the first place?  It’s true.  Downing a cold one is a great way to connect with connect with other runners.

Health benefits.  Beer can help you turn carbs into energy with its B vitamins and chromium while the flavonoids in dark beer counter cell damage to help prevent heart disease and cancer.  It can also help you relax and that’s all good news for pairing beer and running together.

Hydration.  Beer is alcoholic and alcohol is a diuretic.  That means it helps take water out of you without replacing it.  That’s bad news when your body is trying to work hard or repair itself.

Sleep.  Since beer dehydrates you, it makes you use the restroom more.  That means disrupted sleep and less quality recovery as you fail to reach deeper sleep states.  It might also make you snore, which only serves to make your sleep even lower in quality.  Poor sleep leaves us grumpy in the morning, too, making it harder to get a good workout in the next day.

Gains.  Human growth hormone is what makes us stronger and faster.  It is produced when we’re in those deep sleep states alcohol keeps us out of.  Alcohol will also delay almost any healing process so backing off when you’re injured is key for getting back in action.  The carbs in beer are automatically stored as fat since the sugar raises our blood sugar levels.  That leads to major potential for weight gain.

In the end it depends what your goals are.  Was it a recovery run just to get your legs moving?  Go ahead, drink that delicious post run beer but have a water with it.  Did you just destroy a brutal strength and speed session?  That beer might not be the best idea.  Knowing the effects of alcohol on your can help you might the right beer and running choices.

Coach Meredith

Running Books for Your Reading List

There’s only one thing runners like to do more than run.  That’s talk about running but unfortunately our vocal cords occasionally need a break.  At that time, break out this reading list featuring some of Team ECRP‘s favorite, and most useful, running related books.

Pre (Jordan) – The story of America’s most fabled tracklete, Pre is a biography of Steve Prefontaine.  Well crafted and uncomplicated this exciting tale lends itself to page turning.  reading listWhile also providing a bit of education on the history of track and field, this short novel should be on every runner’s shelf.

Eat & Run (Jurek) – This chronicle of Scott Jurek’s ‘unlikely journey’ to ultramarathon greatness is peppered with lots of smiles and tasty recipes.  With a main focus on how nutrition effects performance, Eat & Run is a great resource for vegetarian and vegan athletes.  Even for meat eaters these recipes are worth a try.

Anatomy for Runners (Dicharry) – Get ready to learn.  Chock full of knowledge, Jay Dicharry’s guide will lead you to happier and healthier running.  Doesn’t the subtitle ‘Unlocking Your Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention’ sound enticing?  Anatomy features exercises and explanations that are easy to understand and process.  A must read for runners serious about improving.

Born to Run (McDougall) – This massive best seller should definitely be on your reading list.  Even if you’ve already covered it, consider cracking it open again.  This epic tale of one runner’s desire to end foot pain started the minimalist movement.  No matter how you feel about zero drop shoes, the story of Mexico’s Tarahumara will inspire you and that next marathon registration.

Ready to Run (Starrett) – ‘Unlocking your potential to run naturally’ is Dr. Kelly Starrett’s goal with this big book.  So get ready.  This guide will teach you more about movement that you likely care to know but it’s 100% worth it.  The founder of MobilityWOD.com has worked with professional athletes from all fields of play and wants you to become a stronger, more efficient runner.

Build Your Running Body (MacGill/Swartz/Breyer) – Bob Anderson, the founder of Runner’s World, calls this the ‘best running book ever’ and there’s no arguing with that.  Yes, it’s full of physiology and science however it’s easy to understand and digest.  Following the guidelines in this book will help you run faster, reduce injury risk and have more fun.

Coach Meredith