Tag Archives: training

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

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

Bed Time: Sleep Basics for Runners

There are days when you just can’t stop thinking about it.  Bed time.  Catching up on the sleep you didn’t get last night.  Looking forward to waking up feeling refreshed and strong.  While individual sleep needs can vary greatly there’s no one who can survive without getting all their body needs.  Runners typically need between 7 and 9 hours per night but that can increase as sleeptraining volume grows.

Why so much sleep?  Any training adaptation occurs during rest, making it the most important part of recovery there is.  Training breaks down muscle and tissue that is repaired by growth hormone released while snoozing.  Failure to get enough rest can result in over training and increased risk of injury.  Lack of sleep has also been shown to decrease response times and concentration.  Increases in levels of stress hormone, blood pressure and insulin resistance are also potential risks.

Getting quality sleep is a must and here are some good ways to improve your bed time routine:

Staying on a schedule is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s rest.  Go to bed and climb back out at the same time each day.  This will help your body settle into a regular rhythm that includes a normal sleep-wake cycle with plenty of deep, recovery sleep included.

Consider using black out curtains to keep any light out and making sure your bedroom is cool enough.  Wearing blue light blocking glasses for two hours before hitting the hay light can hamper your ability to conk out quickly.

Skipping caffeine and or alcohol for six hours before bed time is a must for high quality shut eye.  Both can cause major disruption to sleep patterns for a variety of reasons and it’s best to just stay clear of either substance when you can.

What about naps?  Naps can be a valuable tool for making up missed hours or getting an added pre-workout boost.  Be careful, however, to avoid snoozing for more than 30 minutes.  Anything longer than half an hour and you risk something called sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess once you’ve woken up.

What if I still don’t get a good night’s rest?  When you are short on sleep consider taking the day off to recover or at least lowering your training volume with fewer, easier miles than planned.  You could end up doing more damage pushing through a workout tired than missing it altogether.  If you’re struggling with your training and think it’s causing excess stress or preventing you from getting an adequate amount of rest, consider reaching out to a coach for help reorganizing.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runner Problems: The Strava Dilemma

If you’re an avid runner it’s almost impossible to ignore Strava.  The run tracking, group managing, kudo giving website and app is everywhere you look.  People posting, arranging outings, sharing on Facebook and Instagram make it almost inescapable.  So what’s the problem?

While getting kudos is nice and can certainly make you feel loved they’re not always the best thing for a runner.  That creates the Strava Dilemma.  Here are the reasons using the app can be a double edged sword and you might want to skip it altogether (sometimes).strava

Pushing too hard.  When you’re sharing every split you tend to get competitive.  Whether you’re naturally a fight to the finisher or someone more relaxed on race day you still have an innate desire to be at the top of the leader board.

Unfortunately, taking first place on a segment isn’t always the right focus for a workout.  Pushing to stack up at the top all the time probably means you’re not listening to your body, or your coach.  Most of your runs should be easy and in the end working hard on every outing to rock a segment can lead to serious over training, injury and burnout.  Consider skipping the leader board as an opportunity for your body to thank you for an easy day.

Quiet Time.  As stated in this piece, some runners like to be alone.  If you share that kudo earning workout from your favorite trail how long will it be ‘your’ trail or route?  Running is both a team and a solo sport but there are lots of us who like the singularity of running solo.  If you’re not ready to give up that favorite spot is sharing a good idea?

Negative Feedback.  What happens when someone makes a not-so-nice comment on your outing?  We all have bad days.  Even though the running community is generally a very supportive place, there’s one in every crowd.  Letting a Debbie Downer get in your head can have big consequences.  Make sure you take all comments with a grain of salt.  There’s always someone who’s faster, or slower, going further or placing higher.

Safety.  Most people start and end most of runs from the same places.  That makes you easy to find.  While their exact schedules might vary, making your locations harder to find might be a good idea.  Strava does have a feature that allows you to cover your starting spot.  That five mile radius circle, though, isn’t very big when you’re in it every day.  Especially if you’re running alone leaving an electronic paper trail of posts advertising where you’ll be at the end of a 20 mile run might be better left out.

Now get out there and run no matter if you’ll share it or not!

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons to Love Easy Run Days

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Stick with Your Workouts this Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Wreck Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Meredith