Tag Archives: running

Running 101: Flexible Fartlek

The word fartlek is Swedish and means speed play.  That sounds fun!  And these runs or workouts are fun.  That’s the point.  You’re spending time at race or faster than race pace without the suffering of standard speed workouts.  Team ECRP loves having these sessions on their training calendar and here’s why you will, too.fartlek

Fartlek workouts have tons of benefits.  They will help you get faster and improve endurance capacity while getting better at closing the finish of a race.  You’ll also increase your mental toughness and ability to feel your paces.  Heck, it’s even defined as “a system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied to eliminate boredom and enhance psychological aspects of conditioning.”  So what’s the big deal and how do all of those things happen?

Fartlek work is different from a typical steady state long run because, as mentioned above, it includes short sections of faster running.  It’s also different from standard interval work because you continue to run while you’re resting or recovering.  This unstructured-ness means there’s no end to the fun you can have.  These mixed up ons and offs also keep your heart rate higher for the duration of the workout and that means improved fitness.

Option one for building a workout is to use landmarks.  Pick a road with light posts and pick it up for two on, two off.  Change the pattern each time you run that route to continue challenging both your body and mind.  A second option is to run faster when you feel like it and slower when you don’t.  Hills can also provide a good place for increasing and decreasing effort at irregular intervals.  A hilly road with regular light posts is a fartlek paradise.

Fartlek workouts are also useful at any time during a training cycle.  Since they’re so adjustable the intensity is easy to change.  The variability means you can ramp up speeds while decreasing jog time for race prep but reverse that pattern for maintenance or recovery.  To work on closing speed throw in some faster pick ups towards the end of your session.  When you’re in a rut or want to have some fun on a group run, take off for a low pressure, flexible fartlek.

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons to Run Without Your GPS Watch

Leaving your GPS watch at home can be scary.  Luckily learning to let go of stats and numbers can be beneficial for lots of reasons.  Also known as running naked, here are three reasons to take a deep breath and start running with a bare wrist.gps watch

1.  Relaxing.  Leaving the watch at home can be absolutely freeing.  No beeps, no splits, no pressure. Lots of runners are very connected to their tech. Discovering that you can rack up miles without it might come as shock.  It is possible, however, and people did this for hundreds of years.  Running sans GPS watch is perfect for recovery runs after a tough workout or race.  It’s also useful for runners in a rut or coming off a big training cycle.  Put the joy in and take the splits out to get back to the core of running: FUN!

2.  See the scenes.  Run the same routes frequently?  Odds are you’re looking at your wrist every time that pesky watch beeps to check on your split.  Since those splits occur at roughly the same spot every time you travel the same route you’re probably too busy looking to notice what’s going on around you.  Abandon the GPS watch at home and open your eyes to scenery you might have been missing.

3.  Run by feel.   Listening to your body is incredibly important.  Easy runs are important and should be easy while hard ones should be difficult.  Running naked is a good way to learn how each type feels.  It can open your eyes to potential a prescribed pace was preventing you from seeing.  If you think a 7:00 mile is supposed to be hard and see it on your watch, you might think you’re working harder than you actually are.  Logging some faster miles without the pressure of a watch can lead to big gains and faster races.

Still need data?  Try putting tape over the face of your watch or sticking it in a pocket.  While you won’t see it, stats will still record for your viewing pleasure post run.

Coach Meredith

Running Gear: Winter Wear

Winter running brings its own set of challenges.  From the potential for nasty weather that includes rain, snow and even ice to fewer daylight hours those winter months can be tough.  One of the toughest things to deal with can be your wardrobe. So, what running gear do you need to tackle those hard winter days?

That’s a hard question.  Some people are comfortable in shorts when it’s hovering around freezing and others throw on a puffer when temps hit 60.  Where you grew up, the weather conditions you were exposed to, what you’re used to and your DNA all play a part in what running gear you’ll want to sport.  Here are a few guidelines Team ECRP uses to help choose what to put on before heading out.running gear

Layers are your friend.  It’s easy to cool off but not so easy to warm up.  You’re better off dressing in more than you think you might need.  Zippers are a nice way to let additional air in and sleeves can always be rolled up.  Do not discount stockings or tucking in your shirt.  Stockings can keep you warm without adding weight and help wick sweat away from your hard working body.  Yes, even for the men.  Tucking in your shirt will help trap heat when you’re chilly and undoing it will let a little cool air flow when you’re warm.

Pretend it’s warmer.  Twenty degrees is a good ballpark.  If the feels like is 50 throw on what you would to walk around when it’s 70.  This accounts for the rise in core temperature associated with exercise.  Highly variable from person to person you’ll want to experiment with different set-ups until you learn what works best for your body.

Accessories like gloves, mittens, hats, ear warmers and wool socks are a must.  Blood goes away from extremities to keep working muscles going and leaves these end of the line body parts vulnerable.  Frost bite is no fun and can happen quickly.  These small running gear additions are easy to stow in pockets when you get warm. Except the socks. They also come in all kinds of fancy colors and patterns, giving you lots of ways to have fun with your gear on what might otherwise be an unexciting run.

Wind and precipitation can also throw a wrench in your running clothing plan.  Waterproof gear can trap heat while getting soaked will make you quite a bit cooler.  A headwind will likewise cool you.  When you turn around, however, the tailwind will warm you up again.  Headwinds also take more than they give.  A big headwind can slow you down almost twice as much as an equal tailwind will help you.

No matter what you wear while you run, have something dry to toss on when you’re finished.  You’ll want to get that sweaty running gear and all of the bacteria it holds sooner rather than later.  How soon?  That depends.  The human body is very adaptable.  It will adjust to any condition you repeatedly put it in if given enough time.  Even though you have those dry clothes handy, it can benefit you to stay in the sweaty ones just a tad bit longer.  This helps your body learn to deal with tougher conditions and could make your next crummy weather run a little less so.

The best way to find what works for your winter training wardrobe is to get out there.  Try different combinations of running gear on short runs.  Most importantly, training in any weather will make you ready to race in whatever conditions show up on race day.

Coach Meredith

4 Reasons to Love the Treadmill

Treadmill.  A running dirty word.  Affectionately known as the dreadmill, ask just about any runner and you’re sure to hear how much they loathe running on one.  They’re inside and they are boring.  Unfortunately treadmills get a bad wrap.  The gym staple can be both a valuable training tool and steady partner.  Here are four reasons Team ECRP (sometimes) loves their treadmills.

Safety.  Hopping on the old ‘mill can help keep you safe.  Running indoors can keep you away from potentially dangerous streets in busy or strange cities.  Especially during dark early mornings, late nights or slippery winter months having the ability to run indoors is great.  Sometimes it’s hard to beat a place where the temperature is controlled, the running surface is dry and the lights stay on.  The softer surface of a treadmill can also keep your body safe from injury.  Reduced pounding and a level belt will help protect tired tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones while staying out of the sun can help prevent skin cancer.

Weather.  There’s bad weather and then there’s bad weather.  Heading for cover every time it sprinkles or the wind picks up isn’t the best way to prep for race day but sometimes mother nature has other plans.  Hurricanes, blizzards and heat waves are all good reasons to stay inside and, maybe, away from windows.treadmill

Speed.  The last chunk of a hard workout is usually hard.  That’s the point, right?  If you really want to push yourself and work on maintaining a hard pace for longer, let the treadmill help you.  The belt won’t unintentionally slow down due to fatigue so as long as your feet keep moving, neither will you.  More time at a faster pace can contribute to faster race times and build confidence.

Hills.  Hill training can be tough for those who live in the flat lands.  Long, steady hills that are safe to run might be hard to find no matter where you are but usually a treadmill isn’t too far away.  Since incline is a feature on almost all ‘mills, put it to good use.  It’s easy to get in a killer hill session while working on both form and strength by pumping up that incline just a bit.

Coach Meredith

Running Strides: Why and When

A staple of any advanced training plan and a must do on any scholastic track or cross country team, strides are a wonderful tool.  Running strides has many benefits and missing out on them might leave speed on the table.  The good news is that running strides is both fun and good for you.  Here’s a guide on how to get the most from the strides you run.running strides

What are strides?
Strides are a short pick-up designed to focus on form.  Each one lasts for 15 to 30 seconds with about 1:40 recovery and reaches close to mile pace on flat ground.  Note that a stride is not a sprint!

Why run strides?
Running strides will improve your form.  It should be exaggerated and focused on during each pick-up with good posture and a relaxed body being paramount.  Strides also help develop muscle memory and encourage higher cadence which can mean increased speeds over the long haul.  These fast bursts at the end of a workout remind your legs that they have the ability to go fast when they’re a little tired.  That not only builds confidence but can help your become more fit.  Spending little bits of time at faster paces adds up to make a once seemingly way too fast race pace closer every time you hit it.

When should I run strides?
Running strides can mix up the middle of a longer run or close out an easy one.  Tossing some in the middle of a session is a great way to build fitness while having fun.  Try not to leave them for the very end of a workout or you might end up skipping them.  Additional times for strides include warming up for a race or before a tough workout.  Since they prepare your body to run fast and work hard using them is a must.

Meant to improve form, have some fun running fast and build fitness running strides is an invaluable and simple tool for everyone.  If you’re not comfortable adding strides to your next easy run, reach out to a qualified coach for help.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: The Right Running Shoes

Running shoes.  There are more styles, colors and types than most people know what to do with.  That doesn’t mean, however, they aren’t important.  The things you put on your feet when you head out the door for a run is ta crucial factor.  Shoes can make you faster, slow you down, protect your foot from debris and help stabilize an unsteady gait.  Making you feel pretty or more fun is usually an added bonus.  Here are a few kinds of footwear you might find while browsing and what each can do for you.

Training shoes.  This is a comfortable everyday shoe with a reasonable drop and amount of cushioning.  Covering 20 miles in these old friends should be no sweat.  You’ll spend the most time with these trusty companions so learn to love them.  There are tons of choices in this type of shoe so get fitted by a professional and make sure your feet are happy.running shoes

Racing Shoes.  New or returning athletes won’t initially need a pair of race specific running shoes.  This special pair of kicks is designed to help you go a bit faster on race day.  With lighter materials and less cushion they’re daintier than your training shoes.  The oftentimes lower drop in light shoes will make your entire leg stretch a little bit more with each step and the firmer build will make each muscle absorb a little more impact.  Those factors put additional stress on your body making them less than ideal for lots of training miles.

Tempo Shoes.  The above paragraph not withstanding, training in the shoe you’ll wear on race day is very important.  You risk a serious injury if you only train in cushioned shoes then go out to race a marathon in a racing shoe.  This lighter weight trainer is somewhere between your race shoe and training shoe, leaning towards the former.

A recovery shoe.  This cushy, comfy shoe is for the easy days.  Recovery running shoes are fluffy and have lots of padding.  They have a big drop to give your muscles a break from all the  stretching and contracting of a lower drop pair.  While the shoe won’t provide any extra benefit like a massage or compression it will give your legs a breather.

A trail shoe (or something else).  A special model designed for the roughness of unpaved, gravel and dirt surfaces not everyone needs a trail shoe.  Typically heavier with a thicker sole running shoes dedicated to trails are a good tool if you’re heading off road.  Additional options include spikes for cross country or track running, racing flats and any other special occasion footwear you can find.

Coach Meredith

4 Hip Strength Exercises for Runners

The muscles of your hips and glutes are the driving force behind running.  The stronger they are the more they will help you stay healthy and hit fast splits.  Mighty glutes are a must for harnessing your body’s power while stable hips mean good form through all your miles.  Use these four hip strength hip strengthexercises to get those muscle groups going and reap the rewards during your next race.

Side lying hip raise.  Begin by laying on your side.  Using your bottom shin and elbow as support, simultaneously raise your hip off the ground and top leg into the air.  Keep your shin bones parallel.  You’ll build all around hip strength with this exercise as both hips work through the entire movement.hip strength

Glute bridge/single leg.  This exercise strengthens your your glutes for more power.  Lying on your back, bend your knees so your heels are close to your butt.  Using your glutes push your hips into the air with a strong, stable core.  Stick one leg out for the single leg variation.

Clahip strengthm shells.  Fire up your glutes with this simple movement.  Laying on your side, stack your legs with bent knees.  Keep your feet together while you raise your top knee into the air like you’re opening a book ( or a clam shell).  Really squeeze the active glute and maintain a neutral spine with a strong core to get the most out of each rep.

Donkey kicks.  Donkey kicks are sure to fire up your glutes.  As your running powerhouse you can’t do enough to get them ready for a workout.  Starting on all fours, raise one leg behind you with the knee at 90 degrees until your hip is open.  Engage that side’s glute and use a pulsing contraction to active and strengthen your booty.  Be sure to keep your lower back still as you move by having a strong core and controlled breathing.

Donkey Still

While these exercises might look simple they can be tough in the beginning as your body learns new firing patterns and works muscles in new ways.  As with most strength programs start slowly.  You can always add a band or other form of resistance later!

Adding these exercises to your strength routine will help you become a more durable runner who can stay healthy for the long term.  For help with an appropriate strength program seek the guidance of an experienced coach and get stronger today!

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries: Why Did That Happen?

Runners get hurt all the time.  Whether it’s from doing too much without a day off, slipping on a rocky trail run or simply stubbing a toe, getting hurt happens.  Running injuries are more than common and bouncing back from one can be as simple as ice and elevation or as complicated as surgery and physical therapy.  In truth, however, they’re quite often very preventable.

Were you tackled in a football game?  That’s easy to source.  Do you have daily low back pain and discomfort?  Maybe your hamstrings are tight or weak.  Are you having knee pain because you over running injuriesstride while you run?  Foot pain from weak glutes?  Finding the source isn’t always easy but it’s always necessary.

That’s because simply taking time off until your injured body feels better isn’t the answer.  Without understanding where your injury came from you’re likely to go out and sooner or later go through the same thing again.  So what’s the solution?  Find and treat the source (poor mobility, bad form), not the symptom (pain, strained muscle).  Examples include foot problems from a lack of glute strength or knee pain from over striding.  The location of your injury isn’t where it presents because your body compensates to continue functioning.  These compensations can end up causing something even more serious.

To get to the root, ask yourself these questions:

What was I doing?
Are my movement patterns correct?
Do I have adequate mobility to perform these movements safely?
Am I using the correct equipment?
Do I take care of my body before and after a workout properly?
Am I over training?

Answering these questions will probably mean getting help from a coach, doctor or teacher who has the knowledge to guide you.  Get to the root cause, upstream or down, of your problem and kiss (most of) those running injuries goodbye.

Coach Meredith

3 Lunges Every Runner Needs

Runners need strength training.  It’s an important part of building speed and becoming resistant to injury.  That doesn’t, however, mean throwing a few random exercises together and having at it two or three days a week.  The key question for any strength work is ‘will this exercise make me better at my sport?’  With these three varieties of lunges the answer is an absolute ‘yes’.  All lunging exercises target the quads but these three specifically hit other muscle groups you need for powerful, stable and strong running.  Give each one a try and see how they can help you become a more powerful runner.lunges

Side Lunge – Also known as the lateral lunge this version strengthens your hips and glutes.  Especially those all important glute medius and minumus muscles.

Perform It:  Begin standing with your feet together, core engaged and good posture.  Then step one foot out straight to the side, bending the knee, pushing your hips back while maintaining an upright chesLungest while shifting weight to the foot that just stepped sideways.

Curtsy Lunge – You might not be getting ready to visit the queen but the curtsy lunge will help you prepare to run faster.  These lunges strengthen your hips and glutes by activating all three glute muscles, the maximus, medius and minimus.  The calf also gets some work in this exercise making it good for your whole leg.

Perform it:  Begin standing with both feet together.  Cross one leg behind the other while reaching sideways and back, just like a curtsy.  Remember to keep your chest up and your front knee above the ankle.

Lunges

Step Back Lunge – Also known as the reverse lunge this exercise fires up your quads just like the others but generates more hamstring and glute activation than a standard forward lunge.

Perform It: Standing with good, strong posture and feet together step one foot back on the toe while dropping that knee to the ground.  Maintain a flat back and the front knee behind the toe.  A small forward lean will help the glutes get a little more work but isn’t necessary.

It’s easy to add weight to any of these lunges by holding a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest.  Get out there and start lunging today for a stronger running body!

Coach Meredith

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons for Runners to Strength Train

All runners need to strength train.  That doesn’t mean taking up CrossFit or hitting the gym on a daily basis.  You can get all of the big benefits listed below from a simple, body weight program two to three days a week.  Read on to find out how starting to strength train will make you better athlete.

1. Stronger – There’s more in common between runners and lifters than meets the eye.  Just like runners need to practice running faster to have faster race times, lifters face the same challenge when they strength train.  This pattern of overloading muscles makes not only muscles but tendons, ligaments and joints work harder.  Working under reasonable loads as Box Jump 1simple as your own body weight means strong, durable muscles and joints that can take more intense training with ease.

2. Better Athlete – Strengthening your body has been shown to improve coordination.  That can translate into more efficient running form and faster race times.  Training tools such as agility ladder drills and plyometrics are an important part of the plan and build power.  Dynamic, quick weight lifting movements can also be beneficial to those looking to produce strength, power and coordination.

3.  Variety – Just like with running workouts you’ll want variety in your strength program.  This not only keeps it interesting but continues to challenge your body in new ways regularly.  Pushing your body to work in new and different ways, whether it’s a new exercise, more weight or higher repetitions is how your force it to adapt and improve. And who doesn’t want to be better?!  The good news is there are endless ways of combining exercises to get a good workout in.

4. Injury Prevention – Along with the durability you’ll gain from hitting the weight room you’ll become more resistant to injury.  Those stronger tendons, ligaments and muscles hold up under stress better than weaker ones.  In order to strength train properly most runners will have to also focus on improving their mobility and flexibility.  Increased ranges of motion make it easier for your body to work and can lead to decreased injury risk.  Another major benefit is that using unilateral (one side at a time) exercises can eliminate muscle imbalances.  Muscle imbalances often lead to injury or over use of one side.  We’re all born favoring one side but it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

5.  Speed – Muscles that lift weights become fatigue resistant.  That means you’ll use less energy to get somewhere in the same amount of time you did before.  Check out this study that demonstrates it.  Remember the strength, durability, power and coordination you built earlier?  They’ll work together to translate into faster race times.

Be sure that your strength program is designed for runners to prepare you for a stronger run rather than take away from it.  Seek the assistance of a qualified coach and start hitting the gym today!

Coach Meredith