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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Winter. Summer. Each comes with its own set of weather based challenges. From high temperatures to icy roads anyone can get forced into an indoor workout once in a while. While it might seem like the dreaded treadmill is your only option there are plenty of alternative choices that are equally as effective at working you out. As long you’re not ditching all your miles trying one of these alternatives will keep you safely inside and ensure a quality workout.
Water running. If you have access to a pool water running can be a great option. Frequently used as a tool for injured runners to stay in shape while the heal, running in deep water with the aid of a floatation device is a great alternative to dangerous outdoor conditions. Pushing through the water will strengthen muscles and hip joints while still getting your cardio in.
Strength training. Every runner needs strength training. It provides tons of benefits from increased endurance to better form and faster times. There are thousands of options for exercises and classes out there so find something you like. Focus on higher intensity activities with weights on the heavier side to build running muscles. Perform exercises that strengthen your entire body so it can support you for as long as you want to run.
Plyometrics.Plyometrics can fall under strength training or it can be performed on its own. Jumping is a great way to build running power. Whether it’s box jumps, jump rope or lateral bounds jumping around will get your heart rate up while making your quads, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and feet stronger.
Yoga. With the massive variety of yoga classes available at most studios you’re sure to find something that will get your heart rate up. Mobility is a big issue for lots of runners but having a good range of motion is incredibly important. This indoor workout will help you stretch, open up joints and relax all at once.
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.
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.
Can I run? Should I run? Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners. This is a tough question to answer. Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds. What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another. Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.
Weather. Take into account the weather. Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well. Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea. Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions. Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts. You’re better off being healthy!
Move Around. Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own. Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode. We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse. If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.
The Neck Rule. If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go. When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out. The single exception to this rule is a fever. If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.
Activity Level. Many tapering marathoners catch colds. Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers. You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation. You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.
Training is hard work. There are tons of factors that play a role in getting you to the starting line without any serious bumps in the road. One of the most important, however, is staying motivated and on track with workouts and recovery. The best way to do this? A running buddy!
A running buddy is more than just someone to complain with then the weather is bad or celebrate with when you hit that freshly earned PR. Here are three of Team ECRPs favorite reasons to gather up all of your running friends and hit a workout together.
Better workouts. Whether you’re on the track with your running buddy or a stranger, having some competition will help you push yourself a little bit more. Like going out with the fast crowd at the start of a race, we all want to be in the front. If your buddy is a faster runner, they might pace you for a speed session where you’re more likely to work harder and stay consistent. If your buddy isn’t quite as quick as you, let them help you take it easy on a recovery day.
Socialize. There’s nothing as tasty as those post race beers. It’s even better when you have your training partner to celebrate with after you cross the finish. A running buddy can introduce you to tons of people. A running network is a great way to find your next race, explore new places to run or discover a perfect new piece of gear.
Accountability. It rains. It snows. Outside can be cold or hot or windy. On those tough days when you’re lacking motivation or the weather’s bad, your running buddy is there. You’re going to show up when you know someone is waiting for you. The suffering you endure together creates toughness you’ll need on race day. It makes memories and can help you see the bright side of a not-so-good workout.
The really good news is that you can have as many running buddies as you want. That’s one of the benefits of joining your local running group. You’ll find a friend for any distance or any speed and rock your workout together.