4 Reasons to Race One Mile

One mile isn’t very far.  It’s a racing distance most half and full marathoners are familiar with for only one reason:  mile repeats.  But there are a few things can running one mile all out, as fast as you can, do for you.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite, and useful, reasons to race one mile the next time you have the chance.

It’s fun.  While time trials are an important part of every training plan, training can get boring.  race one mileFinding a one mile race might be a challenge but take advantage if you can.  These short, fast races often have similar perks to longer and bigger events because they often take place together.  They can also be exciting to watch and lead you to set new goals.

You learn.  Using your one mile race time will help you establish training paces for other types of runs.  You’ll get feedback on where you’re strong and what you need to work on.  Racing one mile multiple times in similar conditions is also the best gauge around to see how your fitness is improving.

Bonus speed.  Races always give you an edge over training and that means you’ll run just a bit faster.  Not only will you be faster in a race than in a normal time trial, the benefit of pushing harder than you do in practice is seeing the quicker final result and gaining the confidence you need to power through hard workouts.

Recover quickly.  One hard mile is not twenty.  That might sound silly but it’s true.  Time trials are typically done as part of a bigger workout on days when your legs are feeling fresh.  Racing one mile means that mile is your workout.  You’ll recover quickly from it and be ready to tackle whatever your next training week has in store.

Training to race one mile is different than training for your longer race but including it, or any time trial, in your bigger plan is always worth it.

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

Taper Week Tips for Your Next PR

Taper week, or weeks, can be challenging.  You’ll feel stir crazy without your normal work load.  Your legs will feel weak, maybe even jelly like.  You’ll be exercising and eating less to maintain your ideal race weight.  The taper crazies are a marathon staple and while they’re almost taper weekunavoidable, you can use these tips from Team ECRP to keep them at bay the best you can.

Get intense.  Running fast is fun.  Speed work should always be a part of your training plan and the week before your goal race is time to ramp it up.  You’ll decrease your overall training load but more workouts will include serious speed and intensity.  That means more fun.

Stay calm.  It sounds silly but staying relaxed during the days leading up to your race is very important.  You want to keep sleep quality high, stress low and your diet the same.  Develop a flexible plan for race day that accounts for potential weather, parking and clothing mishaps.  The more prepared you are the less likely you are to let something get in the way of your performance.

Trust the plan.  You’ve put in the work.  By the time taper week comes around any workout you do won’t give you major gains anyway.  While that increased intensity will help get your nervous system in order, it can take up to six weeks for other workouts to have measurable benefits.  Believe in the work you’ve done.

Find an alternative.  With all the extra taper week non-workout time you’ll have, grab that book you’ve been looking at longingly for the last 10-15 weeks.  Binge watch that show you’ve been hearing about (we might recommend Game of Thrones).

The two most important things during taper week, however, are to keep focused on your goal and trust your training.

Coach Meredith

4 Favorite 5k Race Week Workouts

Race week is stressful.  What’s the weather doing?  How early do I need to get to the start?  Is there parking?  It’s even worse if you’re traveling.  Will my flight be on time?  Does the hotel have an airport shuttle?  Is parking free?  Luckily having a solid week leading up race day can help race week workoutsease some of the race day stress.  These are some of Team ECRP‘s go to race week workouts to ensure a stress-free morning and successful race day.

Best done two or three days before race day, these short repeats focus on form and quality.  Race week is for sharpening up your body for hard work, not for making gains.  Throwing short bursts of speed into your otherwise lower mileage week maintains your fitness without additional stress.

400M Repeats – After a full 2 mile warm up complete 4 x 400M repeats at 2k pace with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or fast walking in between.  Running this workout faster than 5k pace will make your race day pace feel like a breeze.

Short Sprints – This is one of our favorite race week workouts because we still get to cover some miles.  Performed at faster than race pace to keep those strides long and powerful, these 30 second efforts are tons of fun.  Run your normal full 2 mile warm up then complete 8-10 repeats of 30 seconds at mile race pace with 5 minutes of easy jogging.

Alternating 200s – This workout alternates 200M of work with 200M of very easy jogging.  Complete a full warm up of at least 2 miles before starting 8-10 repetitions of 200M at 5k pace and 200M at recovery pace.

Easy Run – No matter what workout you choose to do, you’ll need an off or rest day before your race.  A shakeout run the morning before you toe the line is a staple for most runners.  It allows you run easy while getting muscles moving and blood flowing without depleting any glycogen stores or extra energy.

Mix and match these race week workouts for each 5k you’re tackling or find one you like and stick with it or mix it up each time.  Either way, make sure you have fun and remember to save it for race day.

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: Benefits of Shorter Steps

Taking shorter steps while running might sound counter intuitive.  For some people, it might actually be true.  For many others, especially a large percentage of recreational runners, shorter steps are the answer to many running form and injury issues.

Just about anyone who runs knows that ‘heel strike’ isn’t something you want to hear.  It has a really bad reputation that it doesn’t necessarily deserve.  It is, however, often equated with over striding.  Taking steps that are too big almost always results in heel striking while heel striking shorter stepson its own isn’t the horror you might have heard.  Shorter steps have several benefits over ones that are too big and here are four big ones:

Faster turnover:  Taking shorter steps means you’ll take more of them over the same distance.  That might sound like it also means more work, it actually means less.  If each step is shorter, your feet spend less time on the ground and less time on the ground means less time to get injured.  With your feet underneath you, you’ll also have forward momentum on your side and be able to use gravity to help you move along.

Stop stopping:  Landing with your foot out in front of you is the same as putting on the breaks.  shorter stepsReally.  It’s the same thing your dog does when they don’t want to go.  Put their center of gravity behind their feet, throw those paws forward and say ‘nope’.  Keeping your feet underneath you with faster turnover will keep your body moving forward with less effort.

Happy muscles.  When we kick that leg out in front during over striding, our quadriceps are doing the bulk of the work.  That muscle does not want to do that.  Ever tried to walk down stair after a marathon?  Yup.  It’s not fun.  Shorter steps fire up powerhouse glutes and hamstrings for happier running muscles.

Reduce injury risk:  Faster turnover, no braking and happy muscles mean a lower risk of injury.  You’ll get to use the elasticity of your Achilles, foot arch and calf to absorb the impact of each step rather than the bones and joints that hit when you over stride.  Once muscles are doing the work, instead of bones, risk for any number of injuries can decrease.  IT Band issues, knee pain, hip pain, ankle issues and general body soreness can all decline with proper stride length.

The best way to determine if you’re running with an appropriate stride length is to have a professional gait analysis.  A quality running coach will let you know if shorter steps can help you earn better form and faster times.

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