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

Welcome to East Coast Run Project!

Welcome to the East Coast Run Project Running Coach Blog!

running coach

I’m happy you’re here and can’t wait to help you become a happier, stronger and more durable athlete. This blog will cover everything from running your first 5k to marathon nutrition, strength training specifically tailored to runners and just about everything in between.

ECRP wants everyone to reach their running goals while reducing the frequency of injury and having as much fun as possible.  From an ultra marathon to stealing second base, East Coast Run Project is the running coach with answers to your running efficiency and power questions.

Whether you’re marathon training, half marathon training, racing or going from couch to 5k, we’re here to guide your running adventure and cheer along the way.

Posts will come directly to your chosen inbox on the 1st and 15th of each month (subject to change) and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to send them in!

Work hard.  Recover correctly.  Reach your Destination Faster.

Welcome to the team!

Coach Meredith