Tag Archives: marathon training

3 Reasons to Love Easy Run Days

It’s hard for runners to slow down.  There’s nothing more fun than running fast and knocking out a good, hard sweat session.  How would you get faster without them?  Unfortunately your body can’t handle strenuous workouts all the time without breaking down.  Alternating challenging workout days with easy run days, or even more than one between, is the structure of any solid training plan.  Here are three reasons Team ECRP loves their easy run days just as much as workout days.easy run

Build – You’ll build a foundation on easy run days.  This foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of distance running over time.  Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity.

Relax – Easy days are low stress.  They’re for running with friends, checking out new routes or trails and forgetting the trials of the day.  You need fast workouts to improve turnover, create more mitochondria and increase VO2max but those sessions aren’t exactly relaxing or fun.  Easy days remind us why we love running.

Recovery –  Going fast is hard on your body.  After tough workouts it has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen.  An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery.  If you push all the time those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting over training and burnout. Easy or recovery runs give your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.

The most important thing is to make sure your easy running is just that.  Easy.  Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout.  As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  Keep the goal of each workout in mind and you’ll learn there’s no such thing as a ‘junk mile’.

Coach Meredith

4 Upper Body Exercises for Runners

Upper body strength is just as important for runners as lower body.  When those legs get tired something has to support continued movement and that’s going to be your upper body.  Having a strong back, powerful shoulders and a stable core will all help you run faster and with lower risk of injury.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to earn them.  Each one will help you improve running form and stay strong over any distance you cover.

Banded Pull A-parts – This simple banded exercise strengthens your shoulders and upper back.  Strong shoulders lead to better posture and running form by setting the shoulders in an externally rotated position.  That means arms will travel forward and back without wasting any energy crossing the mid-line.

Push-ups – There are lots of variations for push-ups and they’re all good.  Starting with a basic push-up to strengthen your shoulders, chest and core you can use them as part of a warm-up or any strength workout.  Whether you modify them by dropping to your knees or maintain a plank position all the way through, push-ups will help train your shoulders to maintain good position when the going gets tough.

Renegade Rows – This key push-up version combines strength on both the anterior and posterior chains by adding a row.  Using a light dumbbell you’ll train for good posture and a strong core with this one.  Try to avoid round headed dumbbells, especially in the beginning, because they’ll want to roll and make you work a whole lot harder to stay in a good position.

Squat to Overhead Press – A fantastic combo move, the squat to overhead press works the whole body in one motion.  Building power, improving coordination and getting stronger all are benefits of this simple exercise.  Start with light weights and make sure you’re keeping your chest up without letting your knees fall in for 10 reps before stepping up to heavier dumbbells.

Add these four movements to your routine to build the stability and strength your upper body needs to carry you over every distance you cover with good form.

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Stick with Your Workouts this Holiday Season

The holiday season can be challenging.  There are parties and sugary goodies everywhere you look.  Sleep might suffer with travel while stress can sky rocket with family and delays.  Whether it’s a running workout or a gym based strength session planning ahead can keep you on track with your training plan.  The holidays season can be stressful enough without adding a a few marathon training mileage weeks.  Here are the ways Team ECRP keeps their workouts kicking while not missing one second of family time.

Include your family.  Make it a relay race or competition.  Especially if it’s a speed workout.  Hit the local track and take your intervals to the next level as you compete with brothers and in-laws.  Stuck with a group of non-runners?  Go on a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood.  You can run while others stroll.  Getting creative and being flexible will not only get your session in, you can make memories that last a lifetime.

Do research.  Get on the internet and find a gym with a daily or weekly drop in rate near your parent’s home.  Discover a new running club and explore a new city with them.  The people you meet will not only be new friends but give you leads on other trails, routes, yoga studios and maybe even a local 5k.holiday season

Schedule it.  Flying?  Arrange your training plan so that flight day is a rest day.  Airports are rarely on time during the holiday season so planning ahead is paramount to staying on a training schedule.  Planes are germ boxes and uncomfortable which can also make sleep suffer.  Having a plan for moving workouts or even skipping one can lead to a healthier you when the new year kicks off.

Keep it simple.  Remember you don’t even need a gym.  There are thousands of body weight exercises you can do without any equipment in a small space.  While it might not be fancy this type of workout can be extremely effective, especially if it’s not your usual routine.  It’s easy to throw a resistance band in your suitcase.  They don’t take up much room and can expand the number of exercises available to you exponentially.

Start planning now for that road trip and you’ll have no trouble staying on track with your workouts this holiday season.

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Wreck Recovery

All athletes know their next workout is only as good as their recovery from the last one.  If you’re not able to bounce back from a tough session the next one will certainly suffer.  No matter what type of event you’re training for, proper recovery is key to continuing progress.  While we can’t always be perfect, here are four pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if improvement is your goal.

Starve.  Eat!  Eat something as soon as you can.  Waiting too long will lead your body to breakdown rather than rebuild mode.  Protein bars, chocolate milk, your favorite protein powder or a nut buttered bagel can get you through in a pinch but you’ll definitely want some protein, carb and fat within 30 minutes of wrapping up.  Next be sure to get a full, well-rounded and nutritious meal within two hours.

Get cold.  An ice bath might feel good but it’s not always the best idea.  Dropping your core temperature too soon after a session shuts down the body’s all important inflammation response and prevents damaged muscles from getting the nutrients they need.  This study found that heating muscles improved post recovery performance more than cooling them with a few exceptions.  When working out multiple times a day cooling can speed the recovery process between sessions.  Cooling can also aid in lowering core temperature before bed time, leading to higher quality sleep.  So go ahead and take that hot shower, it won’t hurt.recovery

Booze it up.  That’s not to say you should skip the post race party.  The entire list of pros and cons for a post run beer are covered here but if you’ve just finished a marathon, focus on giving your body something good for it first.  It wants it!  On the other hand, if all you were accomplishing was an easy fun run with pals, you can probably get away with a cold one along side your glass of water.

Skip the Nap.  If you’re not planning a nap after your long run you’re going to miss out.  Sleep is paramount to proper recovery.  There are big benefits to a little snooze.  Those include muscles being repaired, blood pressure dropping and your brain being recharged.  The best idea is always to get a good, full night’s rest with 8+ hours of sleep but a nap is a great way to kick off the process.

Focus on recovering properly from every single workout and you’ll see progress.

Coach Meredith

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 of 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

Agility Training for Runners

Runner need to do things other than run to become faster, more powerful athletes if there’s a PR sometime in the future.  While strength training is incredibly valuable, agility training is equally as important and unfortunately also overlooked.  Agility training has lots of big benefits from making you a stronger all around athlete to building better body awareness.  Here are several fun ways to enhance your running with simple agility exercises.

Form Drills.  Running form drills are usually included in a good warm up.  That’s because they get your body ready to run and ready to run well.  Drills such as carioca, ‘a-skips’, ‘b-skips’, butt agility trainingkicks and high knees all build strength, coordination and promote high quality running form.  These agility skills can be also be practiced on their own, outside of a warm-up.

Agility Ladder.  Also called a speed ladder this simple tool can have big benefits.  Moving your feet fast through the ladder will carry over to less contact time when you’re running.  Jumping movement will build ankle strength, foot responsiveness and explosive power.  An agility ladder is a good place to improve footwork, learn how to control your body and the amount of energy you’re putting into the ground.

Cones.  Like the agility ladder, there is an endless number of exercises you can perform with a bunch of cones.  These provide a chance for bigger lateral movements than the ladder and can be especially beneficial to trail runners.  Using cones will develop your ability to accelerate, change direction and move your feet quickly.  Try a variety of configurations and run on angles for the biggest benefits.

Include at least some of these agility training exercises in each of your warm-ups and add a few more to your normal non-running routine.  You’ll get stronger and faster with their help.

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

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