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

3 Reasons to Plank Every Day

It sounds boring.  Perform a plank every single day.  There’s good reason to, however, especially for runners.  With endless options for the type of plank you choose to do there’s bound to be a few you can pick from.  No matter which ones you end up practicing you’ll get these three benefits and become a stronger runner.

Strength.  Planks increase core strength and stability while activating lots of other supporting muscles as well.  Regular plank works your entire frontal plane, from your chest to your quads.  Reverse it to hit shoulders and glutes along with those all important core muscles.  You can even add other movements to your planking.  Try a renegade row or windshield wiper for a planktougher challenge that will build strength through your whole running body.

Balance.  Performing unilateral varieties like side planks will help eliminate muscle imbalances  that can, eventually, lead to injury.  Less risk of injury is a big benefit of all strength training but especially of one side at a time work.  We all have a tendency to favor one side that becomes more and more dominant as we ignore it.  Making both sides pitch in leads to more power and more even impact during activity.

Better running.  With the strength and balance you’re building by tackling that plank each day your running form will improve.  You’ll have better posture with an upper body and core that can support faster running for a longer period of time.  Proper positioning also stretches the muscles of your foot, an area that often gets overlooked.  Fully functioning feet are an important part of quality running and planks can help.  Add those benefits together and it all means better race finishes.

Tip:  Create a set of flash cards each featuring a different variety with the type on one side and your times or reps on the other to record progress.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Indoor Workout Alternatives

Winter.  Summer.  Each comes with its own set of weather based challenges.  From high temperatures to icy roads anyone can get forced into an indoor workout once in a while.  While it might seem like the dreaded treadmill is your only option there are plenty of alternative choices that are equally as effective at working you out.  As long you’re not ditching all your miles trying one of these alternatives will keep you safely inside and ensure a quality workout.

Water running.  If you have access to a pool water running can be a great option.  Frequently used as a tool for injured runners to stay in shape while the heal, running in deep water with the aid of a floatation device is a great alternative to dangerous outdoor conditions.  Pushing through the water will strengthen muscles and hip joints while still getting your cardio in.

Strength training.  Every runner needs strength training.  It provides tons of benefits from increased endurance to better form and faster times.  There are thousands of options for exercises and classes out there so find something you like.  Focus on higher intensity activities with weights on the heavier side to build running muscles.  Perform exercises that strengthen your entire body so it can support you for as long as you want to run.indoor workout

Plyometrics.  Plyometrics can fall under strength training or it can be performed on its own.  Jumping is a great way to build running power.  Whether it’s box jumps, jump rope or lateral bounds jumping around will get your heart rate up while making your quads, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and feet stronger.

Yoga.  With the massive variety of yoga classes available at most studios you’re sure to find something that will get your heart rate up.  Mobility is a big issue for lots of runners but having a good range of motion is incredibly important.  This indoor workout will help you stretch, open up joints and relax all at once.

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

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 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

 

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

 

Speed Work: Walking or Jogging Rest?

The only way we get faster is by actually running faster.  While we can’t push ourselves all the time without inviting injury, working hard is the only way we get better.  The best way to practice running faster is with interval work.  Bursts of speed with a period of standing, walking or jogging rest between repetitions.

So which kind of rest is best for you?  Jogging or walking?  The choice you end up making can play a major role in how intense your workout ends up being.  Varying the type of rest you use during a workout can also be a good gauge of how your fitness is improving.  Did you walk for rest the first few times but now jogging rest is feeling good?  As long as the work portions are jogging restthe same pace and effort, you’re clearly increasing your fitness.

Jogging Rest
While you might want to stop and stand to catch your breath, jogging rest has big benefits.  Continuing to move will help clear lactic acid and waste in muscles, keeping your body ready to work for the next repetition and workout intensity high.  Lactate levels drop the most when recovery lasts more then 90 seconds.  This length of rest is usually associated with repetitions lasting three to five minutes or longer.

Walking Rest
Slow walking has its own set of benefits.  It allows for body to recover by clearing lactic acid and muscle waste without the extra stress of having to continue working.  This is the most used and probably best choice for most basic workouts.

Standing Rest
Standing rest doesn’t keep your blood moving very much.  Bent over, panting, hands on knees standing means you’ll face a build up of lactic acid and muscle waste during your next repetition.  That makes legs feel heavy and worn out, simulating that tired feeling at the end of a race without having to rack up all the miles beforehand.  On the other hand, your supply of power creating phosphocreatine refills when you’re standing.  This type of rest is best used when you’re working on top speed.  Repeats less than 90 seconds mean you’re burning through that phosphocreatine and need to let it refresh before taking off again.

Of course, standing, walking and easy jogging rest aren’t your only options.  You can use marathon pace to recover from 10k pace intervals.  Not recovering fully between intervals will help you get tougher for race day and become more comfortable being uncomfortable.

When in doubt about what type of rest is best to get the most our of your speed session, seek the advice of a professional.  A coach can help you design the right kind of workouts to reach your goals without risking injury or overtraining.

Coach Meredith

The Pros and Cons of Heart Rate Training

Any runner who has looked to improve their speed or fitness has at least thought about using heart rate training to get better.  Heart rate training means using a heart rate monitor either on your wrist or around your chest to constantly measure your heart beat during exercise.  This training method bases workouts on target ranges.

Some people have great success with heart rate training while others prefer to run by feel.  Here are a few of the pros and cons to training based on heart rate to help you decide if it’s right for you.heart rate training

PROS
Slow down.  Many runners get stuck working medium hard too often.  That can lead to over training or, even worse, a serious injury.  It’s difficult to separate levels of intensity using the talk test unless you’re very experienced.  Heart rate training can help give guidance on just how easy the easy runs need to be.

Know your numbers.  Knowing what your resting and max heart rates are can be a great gauge of fitness.  If one goes down and other goes up you know you’re improving.

Stay in the zone.  Just like knowing your numbers can let you know if you’re improving, they can let you know how to work out.  You’ll want each workout to be a specific heart rate zone to create the desired adaptation.

CONS
Too many variables.  There are a wide variety of things that can change your heart rate that have nothing to do with your workout.  You naturally have a higher heart rate in the afternoon than in the morning.  Hydration, weather, sleep, stress and diet can all also play a major role in how hard your heart works while you’re exercising.  This many opportunities for variance make it difficult to compare apples to apples.

Inaccurate.  Especially when working at a very high intensity level, most heart rate monitors don’t respond fast enough to really let you know what’s going on.  Breezing through a few 100M repeats?  No way you’re going to get accurate data off a wrist watch.  Receivers can get sweaty and malfunction.  They can sense things that aren’t really going on.  It might pick up a close by heart rate monitor even if it’s on someone else.

Get stuck.  It’s easy to become a slave to data.  Paying constant attention to your heart rate can end up stopping you from pushing yourself hard when you need to and that won’t lead to improved performance.

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