Tag Archives: racing

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

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

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

 

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

Marathon Training: Fun with the Long Run

Every training plan includes a long run each week, ten days or two weeks.  They can be six miles or 25 miles but they’re a part of any quality training plan.  The aerobic benefits are massive while long runs also build mental strength and physical durability.  Mixing up your long run by adding a different challenge to it can make training both more fun and more effective.  Try one, or all, of these favorites from Team ECRP during your next training cycle.long run

Slow + Steady.  The regular long run, performed at an easy pace, holds the pace steady for its entire duration.  This is the best type of run when you’re starting to increase mileage or tackling your first 20 miler.  It strengthens your legs and your mind by making you push through the point of being tired.  You’ll build resistance to feeling tired and teach your body to burn fat, our best source of stored energy.  It also won’t leave you physically or mentally exhausted to the point that you aren’t up for it as often as you should be.

The End.  A fast finish long run simulates those final miles of a hard race.  The last 10k of a marathon and the last kilometer of a 5k are both challenging when you’re going for a new personal record.  A finish fast run will help build strength for late in the race, develop that closing kick so many runners look for and make you mentally strong.  You’ll run the last few miles of your run at goal race pace or maybe the last 1.5 as hard as you can.  For marathoners, this hard workout is also a chance to check in on fueling and hydration strategies for race day.

The Race Pace.  Running miles are your goal race pace is an absolute necessity but not all of your miles should be that speed.  Adding them to your long run is another way to push your limits and adjust to feeling tired.  After a proper warm-up, do some miles at race pace.  Run a recovery mile then do more miles at goal race pace.  Examples include 3-2-1 with a mile recovery between or, for marathoners, 5-4-3-2-1.

Surge Run.  This run is just what it sounds like.  You get to surge every so often and run faster.  Start these later in your run, after the halfway point.  Pick things up to 5k pace for one minute then recover for five minutes.  You can eventually lengthen the surges, decrease recovery time or add more repeats.  Like the other long run variations, this type of workout will build strength, mental toughness and resistance to fatigue.

No matter what kind of long run enhancement you choose, it will be a hard workout.  Account for the mental and physical toll it will take in your recovery and upcoming training plan.

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

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