Is your running dragging you down into the dumps? Are you stuck in a serious plateau? If so (and you want to do something about it), you’ll want to change up how you think about training. Regardless of what race you might be training for, variation in what you do, how you do it, and even when you do it can be the difference between an average race and an awesome race! The more your training varies, the more your body has to adapt and the more your body adapts, the stronger and faster you will be. Continue reading
Optimizing Your Racing Potential
Racing to your optimal performance level is complicated because there are so many factors that go into performing at a high level. A lot goes into running fast. It’s so much more than being physically prepared. I know a lot of runners who are in peak fitness shape and yet cannot perform to the level they’d hoped to have achieved. Why is that? Well, there are. Continue reading
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band): how to identify if you have it, fix it, and prevent it from returning
According to Runner’s World, ITB is “one of the most common overuse injuries among runners.” Competitor Running says that the IT band is a “thick piece of connective tissue that runs parallel to the femur from the hip to the knee.” Continue reading
Planning a Racing Season
Winter time is here. I hate running in the winter. I don’t enjoy being cold. Ever. Luckily, planning a racing calendar is something that motivates me to get out the door when it’s really cold, windy and truthfully, I’d rather be doing anything besides running outside.
When I’m building a race calendar, a lot of factors go into my decision. I often ask myself if the race is “worth” my time. Let’s break that down, as that phrase “worth it” is not intended to be elitist in any sense.
- Is the race helping me reach a goal?
- Does it fit into my life calendar?
- Is the price fair for the race distance/experience I’ll have?
After thinking about those questions, I look at whether the pros outweigh the cons. Even if a race passes the above tests, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll race it. Then I ask myself these questions:
- Am I in shape or out of shape?
- Do I feel like racing?
- Do I need to race for motivation or for another reason?
As you can see, I don’t just race to race. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding to race… Sometimes, I’ll go 4-5 months without racing. Why? There isn’t a need to or a race that satisfies all of my above qualifications!
Ok, so let’s say I’ve chosen a racing calendar. It has 4-5 races spread out throughout 3-4+ months. I’ve adjusted my training to focus specifically on the goal race and I work backward. What do I need to do in training to be at my best for the goal race? I focus on just the goal race as the other races are less important. They are crucial for me to do them, but not in the sense that I am looking to run a PR or a perfect race. In these non-peak races, I’m purely looking to work on strategies such as pacing, nutrition, and getting rid of nerves. That’s all they are there for!
When to back off even if I have a scheduled race on the calendar.
Numerous times to “skip” (ie. NOT RACE) even though a race is on my calendar:
- If an injury occurs during training
- If I don’t feel recovered from training or a race
- If my goal race has changed
- If something in my non-running life has come up
So many reasons to NOT race… Be picky. Be choosy. Figure out what’s important to you and why you’re always racing. Just know that you’re not going to get everything out of yourself if you race week in and week out over the course of 5 months. There’s little time to train effectively when each weekend there is a race. Good blocks of uninterrupted training will ultimately be the most rewarding and the best strategy to performing well in a select few race.
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The long run is considered one of the most important aspects of distance running training. A long run has a similar intensity to an easy or moderate day of running with the main difference being time spent on your feet. Long runs fit neatly into our training schedule and have numerous physiological, physical, and mental benefits that make this type of run one of the most important runs we do on a weekly basis.
Reasons for Doing Long Runs
The most important reason for a long run is to condition the muscles to delay the onset of fatigue. By doing this, the body must learn to physiologically tap into and utilize energy reserves from fat storage sites after the glycogen (fuel stores in the muscles, converted over from carbohydrate food sources) have been depleted. Through long run training, the capacity to store more glycogen within the muscles increases. An increase in glycogen stores translates into the ability to maintain one’s pace during the marathon and delay the onset of fatigue.
Besides delaying the onset of fatigue, long runs also work on strengthening the heart (increasing stroke volume) and open the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles. We can also see benefits physiologically in the increased number and size of mitochondria and increased myoglobin concentration in muscle fibers.
Finally, a distance runner should realize that not all long runs will be easy to complete. Bad patches will arise, and when they do, the better one can persevere through these stretches will develop the necessary mental toughness needed for racing.
Benefits of Long Runs
As a distance runner, there are numerous benefits that we can gain from doing our long runs. Most of these benefits are physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular adaptation, increased size and quantity of mitochondria, and increased use of fat as a fuel source. While others, like mental toughness, experience, and added mileage are both mental and physical benefits. Let’s go through each and see how they benefit us.
• Cardiovascular adaptation: By running more miles, we strengthen our heart and improve its ability to get oxygen-rich blood to our working muscles. While this happens during all running, it especially happens during the long run.
• Adaption of fast-twitch fibers: After roughly 90 minutes of continuous running, the slow twitch fibers that become depleted and our bodies switch to using fast twitch fibers. So in essence, long runs over 90 minutes also become a form of speed work.
• Increased size and quantity of mitochondria: Mitochondria are the powerhouse of cellular respiration – the ability to turn food into energy. Therefore, the bigger and more mitochondria we have, the better our engine will run.
• Increased number of capillaries and capillary density: Bigger capillaries mean we can carry more oxygen to our working muscles. More capillaries equal more oxygen, which means you can run faster and longer in an aerobic state.
• Increased glycogen storage: Muscle glycogen is the body’s primary source of fuel during exercise. Long runs teach your muscles to store more glycogen.
• Increased use of fat as a fuel source: Although fat is a less efficient source of fuel, the more your muscles can use it early in a race, the less likely they are to become depleted of muscle glycogen.
• Experience with long runs and glycogen depletion: You can gain a lot of experience from running for an extended period of time. The more you run log and to depletion, the more confident you’ll be that you can handle the discomfort in a race.
Ways to make a long run feel “easier”
• Hydrate before, during and after races.
• Eat a meal high in carbohydrates within an hour of finishing running.
• Do a dynamic warm-up of stretches and drills before your runs and a static stretching routine after your run.
• Massage or “put your legs up” after a race or long run.
• Wear compression gear to alleviate swelling.
• Consider running for time rather than distance. Going for time will enable you to be flexible and open-minded about your route.
When you design your next training plan (or get a coach like Marc at TrainWithMarc to do that for you), remember the importance of the long run and be sure that you’re scheduling one every week to 10 days during your training cycle.
For details on how you can train, run, and race with TrainWithMarc, find us on the web:
I have been getting brand new runners lately and I thought that even us seasoned vets could use some reminding about what it takes to go from a good runner to a great runner.
1. When in doubt, something is better than nothing. Go get a mile in. Chances are, it won’t be as bad as you think it is and you’ll continue on for a few miles.
5. As runners, we have to be flexible with our training. That means that if Tuesday looks better than Wednesday (weather, scheduling, life-wise), we should probably try and do our hard workout that day. It doesn’t mean let’s put off our workouts to Friday and Saturday because we didn’t have time.
Be sure to share this with new runners – it’s great advice that I’ve picked up on over the years!
As a virtual or online running coach, you won’t find me with a stopwatch in hand overseeing my runners during their workouts. It’s not possible, even if I wanted it to be. I have runners in all corners of the country, and so, as you can imagine, a lot has to be said and then implied when we do interact. An online coach is there in spirit and, if I’m doing my job correctly, the athletes I coach become, in effect, my assistant coaches. They ultimately make the call on whether they do that last repetition, or how fast they run their recovery runs…
Within the coach/athlete relationship, a lot of communication happens. Some of it is explicit within the daily training (run this pace, with this much recovery) and some of it is general advice (hydrate, stretch, be flexible and be open minded). Regardless of what type of information I’m passing on, my goal is to make the runners I coach smarter runners who race faster.
That being said, here are some of the key pieces of information I’ve shared with them throughout the summer as we’ve built, tinkered, and fine-tuned our approaches to their peak races. (These are in no particular order).
Taking Care of Yourself
- Don’t neglect foam rolling, massage, icing, and stretching. All of these will make marathon training possible.
- Let’s not be running at the hottest part of the day…
- Be careful of the heat. Hydrate often and run when the sun is not as strong – early in the morning or late at night.
Training (and Racing) Philosophy
- “Comfortably hard” is a range of effort that is roughly 10k to half marathon pace. Roughly a 6 out of 10 in terms of effort.
- Run days – or days that you run the day after a workout should feel hard only because of fatigue. Don’t make them harder by running them too fast.
- Cross training can be done as swimming, biking, or on the elliptical. Anything that gets your heart rate up, but doesn’t bother your injured area are all GREAT forms of XT.
- Most runs should start slower than they finish. When you finish a run, you should feel “fast” and not slogging through the run. And, the pace on an easy run should be comfortable and finishing like you could go out and run for another 2 miles if asked.
- Remember that “easy” pace varies based on weather, course/loop, current fatigue, etc
- Always adjust your pace to reflect the conditions (heat, sun, lack of sleep, hills, etc).
Having an online running coach is great for runners who don’t need their hand holding and can get their training done because they want to get it done. The coach/athlete relationship works well when both communicate, ask questions, and are flexible. If runners, whether coached or not, take the 9 tips above and put them to good use, they will ultimately be a better runner and athlete.
Contact Marc to get coached.
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The move from being a runner who might dabble in cross training to a multi-sport athlete (swim, bike, run) can be a fun challenge that enhances your running potential. For many runners, jumping into a pool can be a big scare, but don’t worry: lots of practice will help you overcome any fears about being in the water that you might have. The same can be said about biking; long hours in the saddle and cars whizzing by can be nerve-wracking.
Regardless of how you move from runner to triathlete, make sure you practice and get help from athletes who’ve done it before you. Unless you have prior swim experience, chances are this is the discipline that will take the hardest to master. Join a swim group who will motivate you, give you tips, and push you to become a better swimmer.
While biking costs the most to pick up, you’ll find that the fast pace and the wind in your face will alleviate your desires to be running. Link up with a bike group who can teach you the ins and outs of being safe on the open road, help push you to new distances and prepare you for the longest discipline in the triathlon.
New to swimming?
Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
- Swim suit – preferably one that is made for racing in the water, instead of lounging on the beach chair. Speedo makes a great (and affordable) line for new swimmers that are flattering and modest for the newbie triathlete.
- Goggles – try a few pairs on and see what fits to your head and face. Upgrade by getting a pair that protects your eyes from UV rays.
- Swim cap – optional, but a good idea if you’ll be doing a lot of swims and you worry about what the chlorine is doing to your hair.
Practice your breathing (something you don’t have to worry about on land), your stroke through the water (efficiency is key!) and how your body moves through the water (the less your body resists water, the faster you’ll move).
Swimming usually is calculated in yards (rather than meters), so aim for swimming by laps or by time. As a runner, it’s more manageable to focus on laps rather than yards or meters. Swim 8 laps the first week and increase by 2 laps every time you get in the pool. By the time it is race day, you’ll be strong enough to handle the race distance.
Getting into biking?
Here’s what you’ll need to have a safe and enjoyable ride.
Gus Andersen, a recent 2x Ironman finisher says, “You don’t need to buy new as there are lots of used bikes out there and can be of GREAT value. Find a biking friend to help you out…With new bikes, you get what you pay for and lots of people get discouraged on the bike because they buy CHEAP and then its painful (literally). A bike fit or at least working with a local shop is the best option. Good bike shops will not push you into a purchase and will let you test ride a bike for hours. A simple lap around the block is not sufficient. Bike shops don’t make their money on the bike sale really, they make it on the accessories and follow up services.”
- Helmet – a must if you want to protect your brain. There are entry level helmets and super advanced ones (for time trials), but an mid-level helmet will be perfect for you.
- Bike shorts – Most new bikers skip this crucial part of the bike portion of a triathlon. Long rides in the saddle almost require having some padded protection for your butt.
- Bike – this is the no-brainer item to be a biker and have a good bike split. Bikes range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Do your research, find a bike you are comfortable being on and will use often and then save for it. For the most part, the more expensive the bike, the faster (and easier) your bike portion of a triathlon will be.
- Clip in pedals – “Clip ins” are for the more advanced rider as they take a lot of getting used to. Clip in pedals help disperse the amount of work your legs must do to pedal. While you’re clipped in, you can push down and pull up on the pedals.
- Sunglasses – Protect your eyes from bugs, leaves, grit, and wind. You don’t want to be going 20 miles an hour and get something in your eye. Trust me.
Practice changing gears on the downhills and uphills. Find an efficient yet comfortable position on the bike and make sure you abide by the rules of the road. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on your bike, try taking in nutrition – there are a lot of products on the market, so try them before race day.
Biking is measured in miles (unless you’re from out of the USA), in which case to get a good workout on the bike, you’ll need to ride for well over an hour. Don’t get discouraged if your pace isn’t there at first, it takes time to get efficient on a bike.
Already into running?
Here’s what you probably already own.
- Running shoes – go to a specialty running store and have them watch you walk and/or run. The right pair of shoes will make the difference between having good runs and bad runs.
- Racing shoes – get racing shoes (also known as racing flats) only if you feel comfortable being in a less-supportive shoe. Most high-end runners will find that racing flats are the way to go for road races.
- Shorts – being a runner means owning running shorts. If you’ve never been in running shorts, you haven’t lived yet!
- Running/racing tops – Moisture wicking shirts will change your life. Racing tops (racing singlets) will not only keep you drier, but also promote your favorite company or brand.
- Watch – a GPS watch isn’t necessary, but definitely comes in handy if used wisely. If you don’t have one, don’t sweat it. Not all runs require a GPS, so if you don’t have one, it’s not a big deal.
The three sport discipline of triathlon can be rewarding in so many ways. Since you’re already experienced with running, you’ll find that the cardio aspect of swimming and biking to be quite fulfilling. On top of that, you’ll be able to work harder (in the pool and on the bike) without feeling the fatigue of the pounding from running. Training for a tri breaks up the monotony of just running and will strengthen your non-running muscles making you a stronger athlete.
So give it a try. Take 2 months of taking out some of your normal running and add in biking and swimming. You’ll have the same strength aerobically, but you’ll be so much more well-rounded as an athlete.
Tell us how you feel once you’ve added in the other disciplines!
Ever do a triathlon? What tips can you leave for Marc so he can rock his first tri?