Category Archives: Running

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

Tin Foil Chicken and Vegetables

We all know nutrition is an important piece of building a better athlete.  I like to use the 80/20 rule, and this tasty tin foil chicken and vegetables makes it easy to save that 20% for pizza or cookies.  A fantastic week night meal that’s quick and simple, it’s also packed with muscle building protein, good for you fiber and lots of healthy nutrients.  Switching out one or two ingredients makes the dish easy to customize for multiple uses during the week.  With the ingredients below each serving is home to less than 300 calories and quite filling.

Tin Foil Chicken and Vegetables
Servings – 2-4
Prep Time – 10 minutes
Cook Time – 30 minutes
Difficulty – 1

Ingredients
2-4 boneless, skinless (antibiotic free) chicken breasts (to lower cook time, divide into sections)
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
2/3 cup black beans drained and rinsed
2/3 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-4 Tablespoons taco seasoning
2-4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2-4 large squares of tin foil

Instructions
Pre-heat oven to 375.
Add olive oil, peppers and onion to sautee pan and cook until onions start to become clear.
Place each chicken breast in center of one tin foil sheet.
Season chicken with taco and cayenne powders.
Top each chicken breast with tomatoes, corn, black beans, green pepper and onion.
Fold tin foil into packet around chicken with small opening to vent.
Place in oven for 25-20 minutes or until juice runs clear.
Serve by carefully opening foil packets and pouring chicken, vegetables and juice onto a plate.chicken and vegetablesThis simple tin foil chicken and vegetables recipe can be switched up by adding squash and carrots or swapping out taco flavors for basil and thyme.  You can see how the calorie count would change when plug in your choice of ingredients in or add a side of quinoa here.  Use fresh vegetables for a colorful and delicious meal that’s great all year long without pulling you away from family or training time.  Give this tin foil chicken and vegetables recipe a try.
I love it and know you will too!

Coach Meredith

Join Your Local Running Group

Spring is coming!  There’s no better time to get out there and start logging the miles.  In fact, you see them everywhere.  Runners.

Any day of the week, all hours of the day you can find someone working towards their next PR.  Oftentimes, you’ll see groups of them together smiling, chatting and laughing while they tick off those long runs.  And you can join them!

There are lots of benefits to joining your local running group, whether it’s five people or five hundred.  Most of them are free or provide some benefits for a small membership fee.  Here are just a few of Team ECRP‘s favorite reasons: running group

Guidance:  When you’re part of a big running group it’s inevitable there will be someone at every level of experience and ability.  That makes each outing a perfect time to learn something and become a better runner.  Have a nagging heel pain?  Someone else has, too.  Trouble fueling on those long runs?  There’s probably a brand of gel somebody loves that you haven’t heard of yet.  Take advantage of the opportunity to further your running knowledge and you’ll reap the benefits.

Motivation:  Perfect running days are hard to come by.  Constantly forecast checking and saying ‘at least it’s not raining’ are sure signs of a runner.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get out the door.  Having a few friends to meet up with provides accountability on ugly days and can keep you going when a run gets tough.running group

Safety:  Just like your friends can hold you accountable and help you forget about how awful that 20 miler was, they help keep you safe.  Especially for women there is safety in numbers.  Having at least one buddy makes everyone less likely to be attacked in any way.  It also means faster access to whatever you need if there’s an injury or medical emergency.  Use your local running group to make new best runner friends and you’ll never have to worry.

Socializing:  This is the most important one, of course.  We all love our post long run beer, taco, pizza or all three and, honestly, there’s nothing runners like to talk about more than running.  A local running group is the perfect place to find people to run with, learn from, race with or just plain old hang out with.

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

5 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 five 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.

Slow down!  A lot runners have trouble slowing down.  Running at a medium pace all the time, however, is a recipe for trouble.  Using a treadmill can help you take things easy and keep them that way for a recovery run or easy session.

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

Prepare for Winter Running

Winter running is tough.  For a lot of people, that means snow, below freezing temperatures, ice, wind and the potential for missed training days.  Even when we do our best, combating the challenges of winter running is a challenge.  Our bodies start to behave differently when temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit whether we like it or not.  That means we have to adapt some aspects of our training to continue safely.  Here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to stay warm, and running, all season long.

winter running

Layer Up.  Wear sweat wicking layers close to your body and heavier layers on top of them.  A wind and rain or snow blocking outermost layer is ideal.  It’s always easier to remove something than put more on.  Stocking are great under running tights and wool socks are always cozy.  You never know what the race day weather will do making winter a great time to try new gear.

Grab add-ons.  Winter running requires a few more accessories than the summer does.  We humans lose 85% of our body heat through out head and hands so in addition to your usual fuel and hydration, you’ll need gloves or mittens, a hat or ear warmer and maybe some Yak Trax to help you handle the road conditions.

Warm up.  The colder you are the harder it is to perform well.  Instead of heading outside to warm up like you normally do, get going indoors.  Stretch and mobilize before opening the door.  Have space for drills?  Keep those inside, too.  Try jogging in place, jumping jacks or burpees along with some intense breathing exercises to get your blood pumping, heart rate up and mind ready to tackle a chilly outing.

Dry off.  Get somewhere warm and put on dry clothes as quickly as you can post workout.  Not only will this help your body start recovering faster, you’ll be less likely to catch a cold or be miserable.

Break it up.  If the weather is nasty and it’s dark out or you’re too busy to get all those miles in at once, split them up.  Do one run in the morning and one in the evening.  Aim to have at least 4 hours between those sessions for adequate recovery.

Get friendly with the treadmill.  Ah, the dreadmill.  It’s an unfortunate necessity of winter running.  Luckily when you make friends with one you realize they aren’t so bad after all.  A treadmill can be just as effective as an outdoor workout and is, especially in poor conditions, much safer.

Coach Meredith