Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Give me a beat

Listening to music gives you an undeniable emotional edge when running. In fact, some races will not let runners who are professional or vying for an age group prize listen to music as it is conceived as an unfair advantage.

There are purists out there who think that listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. takes too much away from the experience of running and inhibits your ability to get in "tune" with your body. There's also the safety aspect to consider. Running with music obviously hampers your ability to hear oncoming traffic...or bears.

But, I think those that take advantage of audio company far outweigh those that don't. So, for those of you who DO listen in...I thought it would be great to get the ultimate play list going.
Songs that I favor tend to be ones that I know well and can hum or sing along to or that remind of happy times. A nice thumping beat doesn't hurt either. Here is a sampling of what is on my running playlist right now:

Bruises - Chairlift
Lose Yourself - Eminem
You Make My Dreams Come True - Hall & Oates
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard - Simon and Garfunkel
Home  - Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros
Lonely Boy - The Black Keys
Callin' Baton Rouge - Garth Brooks
Rockin' the Suburbs - Ben Folds
Paper Planes - M.I.A
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Sunshine - Jonathan Edwards
Faith - George Michael
Time to Pretend - MGMT
See The World - Gomez
Messages - Xavier Rudd
Anything by Vampire Weekend

Let's hear it from you. Post your favorites in the comments. Remember - there are no judgements when it comes to taste in running music!

Run for your lives,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Give it a rest already

Rest and recovery are just as important to any training plan as the workouts themselves. While some people long for their days off from exercise, some people really struggle with stepping back for a day or two.  By giving yourself time away from running, you allow your body to adapt to the stress you have been putting it through and come back stronger. Failing to allow for adequate recovery can lead to disproportionate fatigue, feeling flat during all your runs, injury, or burn out.

Aside from the physical break you are giving your body, recovery days are a good mental break from endurance training. They also give you a chance to reconnect with family and friends or catch-up with things that may fall by the way side while you are focused on your running schedule.  Not that I have any experience with that. I’m just guessing it might come up from time to time.
Aside from not running on rest days, there are a number of ways to enhance or speed up your recovery following your runs. They include massage, foam rolling, legs up the wall, or ice baths.

Massage – I don’t think this one needs much explanation. There are a number of highly skilled licensed massage therapists on the island that can work wonders on sore muscles or trouble spots. Lately, I’ve been visiting Linda at Northwoods Massage and have been very happy with the results.

Foam Rolling – Foam rolling is essentially self massage. While it’s not usually as effective as a full on massage by a professional, using a foam roller in a very good alternative and can be used every day. Fair warning, this is not a fun exercise. Be prepared to cry and shout profanity. This means it is working. A particular sore or painful muscle indicates that is deserves extra attention and is most likely very tight or weak. Take heart that this will become less painful as you work to eliminate knots and soften your muscle facia.
Here are a handful of links that show some good foam rolling exercise:

Legs up the wall – This is actually a restorative yoga pose that many runners and triathletes swear by. All it involves is lying on your back and sticking your legs up a wall. Stay in the pose for 1 minute for each mile you’ve run and try hard not to fall asleep.  Oh yeah…don’t get up too fast or you’ll wind up back where you started.

Ice baths – Full disclosure here…these can actually be more miserable than foam rolling. I have taken ice baths. I’ve taken many ice baths. I have been reduced to tears by ice baths. And I will do it again. Submerging yourself in ice cold water for 15 – 20 minutes post run will do wonders for inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But they are painful. Oh man, are they painful. I recommend having a good book, magazine or powerful narcotic to distract you while you are sitting there watching the clock until you can get out. 

Run for your lives,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting warm...

Good article from Running Times on recent research on the best strategy for warming up before a race or long workout.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Last cycle of training for the half!

Here is the last four weeks of training for the half marathon.  The long runs in this phase are plenty long enough for you to practice your race day strategy, including what shoes and clothing you will wear and your nutrition plan. 

Your long run will peak at 11 miles, but don't fret too much if you only reach 10.  Don't worry about the fact that these runs still leave you shy of the 13.1 you will run on race day. Your training and tapering, along with the excitement of race day will easily carry you those extra couple of miles to the finish line.
As your weekly mileage continues to grow and reach it's peak, rest and recovery become especially important.  Listen to and respect what your body is telling you and relish your rest days. 

The taper week, which is week 12, is critical component of the plan. I will be posting soon about the ups and downs of the taper. 

Run for your lives,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stretch it out

Stretching ain’t what it used to be. Gone are the days of standing and bouncing your way to touching your toes. There are a lot of different approaches to stretching these days, with some folks saying that it’s not at all necessary.  And, while I think that some people can probably get away with little or no stretching, I believe that most people can benefit from practicing an efficient stretching routine.  I am an advocate of dynamic, as opposed to static stretching. This means that you stretch through movement, rather than holding your muscle in one position for a period of time.  If you choose to stick with static stretching, never stretch a cold muscle! Either perform your stretching after your workout or after you’ve warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, can be done before or after your run.

Here is a nice pre-run dynamic stretching routine that I follow and adapted from Runner’s World. Don’t start too quickly. Start slow and steady, focusing on form. As your muscles get looser and the exercise get easier, you can increase the speed in which you do them.

Swing one leg out to the side, then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side. Next swing one leg front anad back. Repeat 10 times on each side. Feel wobbly? Hold onto a steady object.

 While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to your glutes. When this is easy, try it while jogging. Do 10 reps on each side.

Get in a "pike" position (hips in the air…like down dog). Put your right foot behind your left ankle. With your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Lift your left leg up, bending the knee so it points out. Try to tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand without bending forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.

 Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do 10 reps on each side.

Step forward using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight.

Run for your lives,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

When the going gets tough...

As your runs grow longer and the days grow shorter, struggling with motivation to get out and exercise is not uncommon. Everyone, from newbies to professional athletes, struggles with the motivation demon from time to time. A lack of motivation can keep you from even starting a run or cause you to call it quits before it’s time.  
Getting going and staying strong
Having trouble making it out the door or even putting on your shoes? Been there. Everyone has. And if they say they haven’t, they are lying right to your face. Bold face lie. So WHEN this happens to you, try one of these handy tips.
  • ·      Set a goal – Setting a goal and having a plan to get you there are great sources of motivation. If you are planning to run any of the events at this year’s Run the Rock, you’ve likely got this one dialed in already. But a goal doesn’t always have to be a certain race on a certain day. It can be as simple as committing to exercise three days a week or as detailed as setting a new personal best at distance you’ve run before. Regardless of what the goal is, write it down somewhere you can see it every day to remind yourself of what you’ve set out to do.
  • ·      Run with friends – Having a set running day with friends is a surefire way to get your out the door. Chances are, you are much more likely to bail on a scheduled run if you only have yourself to answer to, but knowing someone is waiting to join you keeps you on track.
  • ·      Buy new gear – Buying a new pair of shoes, skookum running top or hi-tech gadget can get you excited about running and give you the boost you need to reboot or kick start your training plan. Who doesn’t want the town to see them running in their brand new neon green kicks?
  • ·      Keep a record – Keeping a log or journal of you training is a great way to keep track of your progress and revisiting it when you aren’t feeling the mojo can give your ego just the boost it needs by reminding you what you’ve already accomplished and how far you’ve come. They can also be really useful for identifying patterns in your training and may allow you to figure out when and why you struggle sometimes (especially true if you include your nutrition in your log!).
  • ·      Give it 10 minutes – Ok, so you really really don’t want to go for a run today. Maybe you’ve had a long day at work or it’s raining sideways and you just don’t think you can muster the energy to lace up and move out. Do it anyway. Run for 10 minutes and if at the end of those 10 minutes you still don’t want to be there, give yourself permission to go home. If you opt to turn back, then clearly it wasn’t in the cards for you that day and so it goes, but I’d be willing to bet that 99% of the time you will keep going with no regrets.  I have regretting skipping a run on many, many occasions, but never have I said, “I wish I hadn’t gone on that run.”

Making it through
So you’ve made it out the door and have been running along just fine when suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) you decide you don’t want to be running anymore. Maybe you’ve gone out too hard or maybe that kindly Ram Hemi just douched you with no remorse. Whatever the reason, things have gotten tough and you’re not having fun anymore. Try one of these techniques to get you home.
  • ·      Run with friends – I know, I used this one already, but it works equally well during a run as well. The chatter and comradery of your pals will distract you from you discomfort and can also make a long run so much more entertaining.
  • ·      Have a mantra – As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, this actually works. It turns out there actually was something to that Little Engine that Could. Having a go-to phrase, or even a single keyword, can remind you how tough you are and what you are capable of. It can be anything you want it to be as long as it works for you. Examples? “Looking good; feeling good.” “I got this.” “Eye of the tiger.” “Just keep swimming.” I think the cornier they are, they better, especially if they can also make you laugh.
  • ·      Make small goals – This is a good way to get through the tail end of a tough run. Pick a random spot down the road…a light post, a tree, even a crack in the asphalt and tell yourself to run to that. Once you are there, pick a new spot and run to that. Keep doing this and you’ll be home sooner than you think. Another technique is to count your steps. Count to 10, 50 or 100…it doesn’t really matter. Pick a number, count to it and then start over. It’s just another way to take our mind of what ails you.
  • ·      Confront the pain – “Oh hello there. I was wondering when you’d show up. I have to be honest with you and tell you I was hoping I would see you today. But here you are. Now get lost and don’t come back.”

What I really hope is that none of you struggle with motivation at all, but if you do I hope you find some use in these tips. Above all else, remember how lucky you are. It doesn’t matter how slow you run or how far you go, it is faster and farther someone sitting on the couch. Running is gift not everyone chooses to accept. Now hit the road.