Tag Archives: racing

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

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

 

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

What Did You Say? Running Terms for the Non-Runner

Lots of runners have friends who aren’t.  In spite of the fact that one of us might be hanging out with people who could care less about your latest long run, there’s only one thing we like more than actually running.  Talking about running.  To make sure your friends can stick with you, give them Team ECRP‘s basic list of running terms to guide them.

Race Pace – This is the pace at which a runner tackles a race.  It varies with race distances since we run faster for a 5k than we do for a marathon but the idea is always the same.running terms

LSD – This does not reference the narcotic and there’s no hallucinating here.  It stands for Long Slow Distance run and is a staple of all training plans.  Usually run on the weekends it’s the longest run of the week.  The one your runner friends stay in on a Friday night for.

Fartlek – Swedish for speed play, fartleks aren’t only fun to say, they’re fun to do.  Used by the best runners in the world, these constantly varied outings are an important part of training at any level.

Bonk – Also known as hitting the wall, it typically happens around Mile 20 of the marathon.  Bonking is the moment your body starts to quit on you.  You’re out of fuel, energy and the final 10k is pure willpower.  It is possible to avoid, however, through proper mental and physical training.

PR/PB – Personal Record in the US and Personal Best both here and abroad this stat is a runner’s most prized.  It’s their fastest time a given distance and like race pace, it’s different at every officially timed distance.

Foot Strike – Runners don’t strike like unions, they strike the ground with every step.  A hot topic of debate lately, foot strike is often equated with another running error known as over striding.  It’s not the concern it was once thought to be and for the most part isn’t brought up too much these days.

DNF/DFL – Did Not Finish or Dead F*****G Last.  There are a million reasons you might DNF a race.  From injury to bad weather popping up before you’re finished, every serious runner has had one.  DFL, however, is less common.  Since someone has to be last, races usually have a sweeper.  The sweeper stays behind the final participant and makes sure nobody gets left behind.

BQ – The ultimate, bucket list goal for many runners.  BQ is one of the most hallowed running terms.  Short for Boston Qualify, it means you’ve earned the right to run in America’s most famous Patriot’s Day race.  A challenging feat, getting that BQ is a dream come true.

And this just covers the basics.  There are a ton of running terms out there to learn if you want to.  Luckily, if you take these with you next time you go support a friend or family member at a race no one will know you’re a newbie!

Coach Meredith