Category Archives: Racing

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.  Want proof?  Here’s why professional runner Molly Seidel started hiding her stats.  Easier than hiding your run data is not taking them it all. Also known as running naked, here are three reasons to take a deep breath and start running with a bare wrist.gps watch

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 and 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!

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.

Run by feel.   Listening to your body is incredibly important.  Easy runs are important and should actually 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

Are Racing Flats Right for You?

It’s race season!  That brings up the question of needing a pair of racing flats.  With so many fancy shoes out there, do you need a special one for race day?

The answer is maybe.  The contrasts between training shoes and race flats isn’t as dramatic as the differences between basketball and trail shoes but they are there.  More than looks or drop, the type of shoes you want for race day depend on what kind of runner you are.  Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ll want to stay clear of racing flats.racing flats

You’re a new runner.  Throwing on a lighter shoe won’t actually make you that much faster.  Hours of training and hard work do that.  A less cushioned, less supportive pair of racing flats is more likely to lead to an injury than a new PR.

Marathoners.  The marathon is a long race and you’ll be taking lots of steps while beating your body up.  Don’t make it worse by stripping away the layer of protection between your foot and the road.  Happy feet are fast feet so give them a little love on race day with nice comfy shoes.  The longer the race, the more shoe you’ll need.

Heavier runners.  You’ll need that extra cushioning for support over the length of the race and the barefoot movement hasn’t been all its cracked up to be.  Typically, less protection means more injuries.  No matter what the scale says, your gait can have a big impact on how much pounding your bones take with each step and swapping into a lightweight shoe on race day can change the way you move and lead to injury.

You’re injured.  If you have any hint of soreness, fatigue or muscle strain, stick with your trainers since you probably won’t be pushing yourself for the race’s entire duration anyway.  It always better play things safe than toy with making a minor injury more serious.

You didn’t train in them.  Nothing new on race day, right?  That especially goes for shoes.  Whether you’re tackling the course in brand new trainers or fancy racing flats, definitely spend time training in them.  Take them out for easy runs, a track session or two and maybe even a long run.  You have to prepare your body for the demands of a lightweight shoe.

Coach Meredith

Easy Running for Faster Running

Slow down!  We’ve all heard it but we might not know why. Here are a few of the reasons easy running is important and how it will benefit your next race.

Easy running might seem boring.  How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster?  The truth is you can’t.  To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable.  But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to.  A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury easy runningor burnout.  The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation.  Building this foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.

Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up.  You need fast days to work on turnover, mitochondria and VO2max but easy days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal.  As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.

That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble.  Your body has to take care of itself after hard 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.  Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives 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 and remember that easy is relative.  Some days it will be closer to race pace while the run after a hard workout might be slower. Make sure the pace is conversational and your heart rate stays low.

As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  Keep the goal of each workout in mind when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything.  Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.

Coach Meredith

How to Run Your Best Race

Race season is here!  And we all want every one to be our best, or at least pretty good.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every time.  Bad races happen.  Sometimes we’re running a training race just for fun and other times our day goes completely off course leading to results we’re not happy with.  No matter which one your event is, here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to make any one your best race yet.best race

Practice.  Replicate every part of race day you can before hand.  Get up and eat like you will that morning.  Test out different nutrition strategies for during the race on your long training runs.  Then practice messing it all up.  Run in any kind of weather you can while making sure none of those winter layers chafe.  Race day is unpredictable and the more prepared you are for the unknowns the closer you’ll be to having your fastest race yet.

Plan.  Know where you’ll park and if the race starts where it ends or is point to point.  Figure out what nutrition is on course or if you’ll need to bring what you’re comfortable with.  Decide where you’ll meet your family afterwards.  Doing all of these things will help eliminate unknowns which will make race day less stressful for everyone.

best raceFocus on you.  You’re trying to run your best race.  Not another runner’s.  Don’t worry about how fast the people around you go out or what they’re going to do later on.  You’re only in control of your own performance and pushing too hard early will cost a lot towards the end.  Stick to the plan you made during training and the rest will fall into place.

Have fun.  Getting tense or stressed out in the middle of a race is a sure fire way to perform poorly.  We run because it’s fun so let’s keep it that way.  Stay loose, smile at the water stop volunteers and say ‘thank you’ to the course marshals.  It’ll keep you happy, positive and well on your way to a wonderful finish.

Use these tips and you’ll be a few steps closer to having your best race day yet.

Coach Meredith

Bed Time: Sleep Basics for Runners

There are days when you just can’t stop thinking about it.  Bed time.  It’s so cozy and comfy under those sheets.  Wanting to catch up on the sleep you didn’t get last night.  Looking forward to waking up feeling refreshed and strong.  While individual sleep needs might vary greatly, there’s no one who can survive without it.  Runners typically need between 7 and 9 hours per night but that can change as sleeptraining volume and intensity fluctuate.

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 relaxes and 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.

Put the phone down.  When the sun goes down our bodies release melatonin, the sleep hormone.  The blue light emitted by most technological devices wrecks that cycle and make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.  Wearing blue light blocking glasses for two hours, or leaving your devices behind for 30 to 60 minutes, before hitting the hay can aid 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

Running 101: IT Band Syndrome

Dreaded IT Band pain!

Runners stretch it, roll it and ice gun it but sometimes those muscle fibers just get grumpy.  While it might be a bother, it is also preventable and treatable.  A frequently experienced injury, many runners don’t know what the IT Band does or how to deal with it.  Here’s a little bit more to help you understand what you’re facing with IT Band pain.

The illiotibial band (ITB) is a large fibrous group of fascia that runs longitudinally down the outside of the upper leg.  Anchoring at the iliac crest and tibia, it’s a bunch of passive rubber bands that extend, abduct and rotate the hip laterally.  It also helps stabilize the knee while storing energy to support running and walking.IT band

IT Band syndrome (ITBS) is an inflammation of these tissues and typically presents with outer knee pain.  That is the area where the ITB should slide over bone and muscle easily. If it’s not sliding due to inflammation or tightness, pain will result.  Sometimes the pain can be felt along the entire length of the outer thigh and it’s often a result of overuse.  Two examples of exercise patterns that can lead to overuse are increasing mileage too quickly or running on hard surfaces.

There is good news, however.  There are several ways to treat and prevent ITBS.  The first step in treatment is to rest long enough for the inflammation to subside.  Second is to work on improving mobility of the hip and knee.  Limited range of motion in either joint can cause extra stress to the ITB and lead to inflammation.  Foam rolling and proper warm up to increase circulation to these fibers before a workout will help it slide painlessly.

Strength training with a qualified coach is one of the best solutions to ITBS.  Having muscles strong enough the support your increase in mileage or the strain of a downhill marathon will help prevent ITB irritation.  Hip, glute and abdonimal core strength are paramount to any solid strength training plan for runners who want to stay healthy.  These muscles also ensure your IT band gets the support it needs.

A final possibility is that it might not be it your IT Band at all.  The ITB is so passive it’s hard to know how it might get injured.  Since that research isn’t ready yet take a look at the muscles around it: your hamstrings and quads.  When these muscles get tight or damaged they can put stress on the IT band.  Relaxing the tight muscles through improved mobility or foam rolling can release stress on the ITB to reduce or eliminate pain.

Want to stay ITBS free?  Take good care of all the muscles it works with.  Be sure to strengthen, stretch and warm up properly.

Coach Meredith