Monday, May 30, 2011

7 Ways to Stay Motivated During Long Training Blocks

By Breanne George

Running is both a physical and motivational challenge--requiring fitness, endurance and a solid plan of action. For many of us, the hardest part isn't preparing our bodies for the race, but rather staying committed to months of training. The following advice will help you maneuver around those motivational roadblocks you're sure to encounter leading up to race day.

1: Set Goals

According to Paige Dunn, a sport psychology consultant based in the San Francisco Bay area, it is important to understand exactly what motivates you to train for a particular race in the first place. Perhaps you overcame an obstacle in your life or are in the process of doing so. Maybe completing a marathon has been a lifelong dream or you want to support your favorite charity. No matter the reason, a solid understanding of why you want to run will motivate you even when times get tough.

Proper goal setting is the foundation of motivation, Dunn says. Start with your season or race goal and break it down into daily goals, which should be specific, realistic and measurable. "These short-term goals can be individual workouts or something more mental like, 'I'm going to relax during my run or focus on my breathing today,'" she says. Daily goals help to build confidence and keep you on track throughout months of training. Dunn encourages runners to create a mission statement for each race season. "As a runner, you need to understand why this race will be a significant achievement for you," Dunn says. For women who have been running for years, it is important to continually re-evaluate your goals "otherwise you're just going through the motions," she says.

2: Keep Track

Brian Baxter, a sport psychology consultant from Portland, Oregon, recommends keeping a training log to keep track of every workout. A day or two before race day, you'll be able to flip through your log for proof of all your hard work. This reinforces in your mind that you're well prepared and deserve to be at the starting line. "When you write down your goals, it's like making a promise to yourself," Baxter says. "One of the easiest ways to not achieve a goal is keeping it inside."

3: Share Goals

In addition to writing down your goals, it is important to share them with supportive family members, friends or even a local running group. Not only will these people be there to encourage you, but because they are invested in your goal, they'll also be the first to call you out if you've been slacking. "A solid support system will help you to stay motivated and be accountable," Dunn says. For an inspirational boost, runner Kara Thom says she corresponds with her best friend and former training partner on a regular basis to discuss each other's training progress. Thom, a mother of four children, says finding the motivation to run can be a challenge with her busy schedule. "My main motivation is knowing that I will be running the race with one of my best friends."

4: Keep Good Company

Scheduling a running date with a friend or group of runners like Team in Training is another way to stay motivated, says Ronda Jameel, a certified running coach and owner of Run2Dend, LLC, a Phoenix-based company specializing in training for beginner to intermediate runners. "You'll be less likely to forego your workout if you're planning to run with someone," Jameel says. Not only will a training partner keep you company, but he or she will be there to encourage you when it's a tough workout and you feel like giving up. Also consider running with your most loyal companion. "Dogs are great training partners because they are always excited to go running, whether it's a cold, rainy day or early in the morning," Jameel says.

If you prefer running alone, consider training with a coach, either online or locally. He or she will follow up with you on a weekly basis via phone or e-mail without having to be there physically while you run. "A coach keeps you accountable and knows in what areas you have more potential or perhaps need more assistance," Jameel says.

5: Spice Things Up

Months of running in the same location and at the same time of day can take its toll. Jameel recommends spicing up your routine by altering the scenery or time of day you typically run. "Do different kinds of training so you're not always running the same course all the time," she says. "Here in Arizona, we have great trails--some hilly, some flat--that train certain muscles and offer unique scenery to prevent burn out."

Also consider running certain days with a friend or listening to a new style of music or motivational audio. One of the best ways to beat boredom is to integrate cross-training exercises into your weekly routine such as yoga, cycling or swimming. "Aside from the mental benefits, cross-training exercises can help you improve your flexibility, strength, balance and more," Jameel says.

6: Make it Personal

The answer to staying motivated is a personal one--everyone has a different reason for putting one foot in front of the other. It is important to understand how you run best, whether alone or with a friend, first thing in the morning or late at night, on the trails or in your neighborhood. "There is no magical solution--you can't tell someone to be motivated," Dunn says. "They have to figure it out on their own." What is the first step to finding your motivation? Dunn explains, "Knowing yourself as a runner is key--what energizes you, excites you, inspires you?"

7: Train Your Mind

Sport psychology consultants Brian Baxter and Paige Dunn offer the following tips to prepare your mind for a successful run.

Visualize Race Day: Dunn asks her athletes to complete an imagery exercise where they write down their idea of a perfect race day. To try this exercise, visualize different aspects of race day such as what you'll be wearing, the visual and technical aspects of the course, and what it will feel like to hear your name announced at the finish line. Write down those thoughts.

Concentrate on Breathing: To keep your focus during a run, Baxter recommends circle breathing, which is breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. "When you start to lose your focus, circle breathing puts your mind in a relaxing, almost meditative state," he says. Get into a rhythm with your circle breathing. For example, concentrate on breathing in every fourth step and out every fourth step.

Listen to Music: According to Dunn, listening to your favorite music can inspire you and prevent boredom from setting in during your training runs. Try running with different styles of music to find the one that works best for you. You might surprise yourself and find that you enjoy running with relaxing music, such as R&B or classical, compared to upbeat tunes such as alternative or hip-hop.

Focus on a Project: Consider using your training runs as time to focus on a particular project. Whether planning for an upcoming meeting or thinking of ways to redecorate your home, productive thoughts will keep your focus, Dunn says.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chix Journal: Where am I Now?

Another blog post about my recovery from knee surgery!  

Where am I right now? I am on an emotional roller coaster. I feel defeated by the physical set-backs, illnesses and time off that is limiting my forward progress. Read more »

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where to Go From Here: Building the Miles

By Josh Clark

So you've been running for weeks, maybe several months, and you've probably noticed some major changes. Your heart and leg muscles are stronger. Your body has gotten better at moving oxygen to your muscles and taking away the waste products they pump out as you run.

It gets even better from here. Fitness begins to increase dramatically around the tenth week of training and climbs steadily for another two or three months before leveling off. You will probably find this to be the most rewarding period of your new running career, with each week yielding greater achievements than the week before.

Still, be cautious and don't try to ramp up your mileage too fast. Because your muscles adapt faster than your bones and joints, this is a period when many beginners run into injuries. It is a good idea to level off your distance for a few weeks. Limit your runs to three miles and give your bones and connective tissues a chance to catch up. Then, if you wish, gradually increase your distance.

Building Up the Miles

The rule to live by is to limit increases of weekly mileage to no more than 10 percent every other week. Do this by lengthening just one of the runs. Two weeks later, you can increase one of the other runs as well, and so on. After a few weeks you should consider making one run per week your long run -- up to 50 percent longer than the others. Increase either the long run or the shorter runs, not both in the same week. Don't increase your mileage every week. In fact, consider doing less some weeks to give your body some extra recovery time.

After several months you will no longer be a beginner and will have to decide whether you wish to run simply for fitness or whether to start running for performance, too. A couple of miles, three of four times a week will keep you fit and healthy. Fifteen to 20 miles a week will give you better conditioning. Beyond that, you are running for performance. Congratulations, you're no longer a beginner, and you're certainly a runner.

Your First Race

Once you have been running for a few months you may want to run a race. Your goal here should be to finish the distance, to try out the experience. The race shouldn't be more than 150 percent the distance that you normally run. Whether you intend to or not, you're likely to run faster than you normally do. Start at the back, and try not to get sucked into running too fast. If you can, start slowly--you can always speed up in the last mile.

You should check out our article on how to choose the right race strategy and have fun, soak up the atmosphere. For some reason this sport is peopled by very friendly, very social participants; enjoy the other runners and have a great race.

After you've been running for at least six months and you have one or two races under your belt, you'll be ready to start training to really race these events. Active Trainer has a variety of training programs to help you hit peak performance for the popular race distances.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hard, Fast Rules

Runners tend to be a motivated lot, always compelled to do more and do it faster. Yet this desire to push our limits can send us over the edge. When our efforts to run faster leave us sidelined with injury or as flat as Frank Shorter's race-day Coca-Cola, there's a good chance that we've gone too far. The trouble is, we sometimes don't know the difference between a great workout and an overdone disaster until a day or two later, and then it's too late. Sometimes we don't know until a month goes by and we have a horrible race! Further complicating things is that each athlete is different in how he or she responds to difficult workouts. Despite the complexity, however, here are some basic rules to ensure that you're working hard enough to get the desired training effect—without going over the cliff.

One evening during high-school cross-country practice, I was feeling feisty. Instead of running in the middle of the pack for the last interval, I launched into the lead and finished in an all-out sprint. But there was no pat on the back for winning the workout. Nope. Coach admonished me—"Hey, we train to race. We don't race to train!" That aphorism is the gauge that can successfully monitor intensity: If the end of a workout feels like the end of a race, you've pushed too hard.

If your interval times are getting slower with the same or increased perceived effort, you're either starting too fast, not giving yourself enough recovery, or both. Run at a pace you can maintain for the duration. If you can run slightly faster on the final interval, you've likely worked within the proper training zone.

Sometimes it's good to quit while the quitting is good. I advise my runners to end the workout feeling like they could run one more interval at the given pace. This requires an honest evaluation by the athlete. Most runners want to continue hammering away until the time slide occurs, but by then, you've gone too far.

You can flout these rules once or twice without penalty. But my experience has been that when athletes are constantly driven into a lactic acid—drenched, anaerobic funk at the end of the workout, they will peak quickly then flame out. At that point, only a complete break or an extended period of aerobic base training will bring them back.

Comeback Plan
If you've run yourself down, crawl back up carefully

Cut down by a third for two weeks. Gradually add back over three weeks.

Slow your pace by 20 to 30 seconds per mile.

Eight hours minimum. Every night.

Run shorter intervals when you return to fast running. Eight x 200 meters at mile pace is a good example.

If an easy track session still leaves you fatigued, take another week or two of reduced training.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to Train for Your First Half Marathon

By Coach Jenny Hadfield

If you’re reading this article, you probably want to become a half marathoner (or you’re leaning into the idea).  And if that is the case, you are in the right place. Successfully finishing a half marathon begins a plan to reach the start line safely and ready to rumble.

Start your engines.  You’ve pulled the trigger and decided to try your hand in the half marathon world. Congrats! The next step is to register for an event to build in a little accountability.  Give yourself plenty of time to train for the half (12 to 14 weeks).  Having a long runway will give you time for illness, vacations and life detours that can happen along the way.  It will also allow your body and mind time to adapt to the continual progression in mileage.  If you don’t currently have a consistent base of mileage (3 to 4 miles, three to four times per week), that is OK. It simply means your runway is a little longer (six months).   You can do it in less, but you won’t have as much fun along the way and the risks of injuries dramatically increase.

Pick an event, any event.  I ran my first half marathon in my county because I could train on the course and I wanted the home court advantage.  When you pick the race, it serves as your carrot for the season, so it is in your best interest to find one that inspires.   Do you want to run through wine country or in your hometown?  Do you want to toe the line with thousands or a few hundred?   Since this is your first, it is also wise to find events that support your pace (run, run-walk or walk) and those that offer courses similar to your terrain.  There are enough nerves in tackling your first event, let alone having to worry about short cut-off times or super challenging terrain.  Keep it simple.

Find a training plan that suits your needs.  The body adapts and improves at an efficient rate if you make small changes along the way.  The key to going longer, stronger and tapping into your inner endurance athlete is to have the wisdom to start from where you are rather than where you want to be.
The first week of the training plan should closely match that of your current training plan (or slightly more, maybe 10 percent).  If you jump into a program that requires a large jump in mileage, frequency or intensity, you will be on a fast track to burn out, aches and pains and possibly drop out.  Think of this like education. Take it one grade at a time.  Your body will pay you back in dividends by recovering from the workouts so you can progress along the way.  Less is more when you’re first getting started.  Hold back the reigns of excitement and take it one step at a time.

Make it social.  Research suggests training in groups not only inspires better performance, but the ability to run longer more easily.  This is especially important for the weekly long training runs.  The miles fly by as you talk about the movie you saw, work, the kids or solving world peace.  There are a lot of fantastic training groups at local running stores, charity groups and gyms.  Or it can be as simple as you and your best friend.

Practice patience, grasshopper.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t turn into a half marathoner over night.  Expect to roll through good and not-so-good training days.  At the end of the season, it all comes down to the consistency overall, not the handful of workouts that felt so hard you wanted to cry.

Listen to your body and go with the flow of your life.  Our body has an excellent communication system that would kick Twitter’s butt.  Listen as you train for aches and pains that don’t subside in a day or two.  In most cases, the pain will subside with a little tender, loving care.  If the aches stick around longer, its time to dial down the program for a few days and cross-train with activities that don’t aggravate the aches and rest.  A few days of active or complete rest can be the answer to most training aches.  It all starts with listening…

Use your gears.  The greatest difference between running for fitness and for a long distance event is that the former is horizontal and the latter continually builds throughout the season.  The progression requires training at the scheduled effort level (intensity) to allow efficient recovery.  If you run the long run too hard, it delays the recovery process and can have an effect on the performance of your next workout.  The number one mistake I see most newbie half marathoners make is in running all the workouts at the same pace (their normal running pace).  Find your gears (effort levels – easy, moderate, hard) and practice discipline as you train.  You’ll know you’re on target if you are able to run longer or faster and you’ll know if you’re pushing too hard if those times and paces decline.

Learn, grow and evolve.  There is a wonderful running community from which you can learn many helpful tips along the way.   Join in the conversation on the forums and read the informative articles.  Stop by my AskCoachJenny Facebook page and ask a question or learn from others.  Getting connected is a great way to maintain momentum and motivation along the way.

Think outside the box.  It’s easy to get caught up on the miles when training for a half marathon but there are a lot of other ingredients that play a vital role in your preparation.  Strength training as little as 15 to 20 minutes twice per week builds a solid foundation that will improve muscle balance, running efficiency, and help you maintain optimal form for the duration.  Weaving in 5 to 10 minutes of flexibility work (stretching, foam rolling) can relieve muscle tension that is common in repetitive sports.  Including cross-training activities (cycling, elliptical, yoga, swimming, skating) in your program reduces mental fatigue, balances the musculature and adds spice to the regimen.  Think of it like making a tasty bowl of chili.  It’s the balance of the ingredients that makes the meal.
Practice makes perfect.  Every long training run or walk is an opportunity to practice for race day.  Consider it a dress rehearsal and dial in hydration on the run, the timing of your pre-run nutrition and fueling on the fly. Think of apparel, shoes and anything and everything related to race day.  Keep a log and track what works and what doesn’t.  From chafing apparel to your favorite gel flavor, you’ll create your personal training recipe for success along the way and it will serve as a means of validation when the race nerves set in the week before the event.

Beat taper madness.  Speaking of nerves, a funny thing happens on the way to the start line.  A tiny gremlin I call taper madness sits promptly on your shoulder about seven days out from the event with a goal to break you down mentally and emotionally.  His presence can make you second-guess everything from what to eat race week to which foot to start on.  This is happening as the training volume is tapering down to allow recovery from the demands of the season so you can toe the line strong, fresh and ready to rumble.  The gremlin is fueled by your nerves but can be easily knocked off by keeping faith in your program.  Review your log and remind yourself how far you’ve come.  This is the time to breathe, keep the mind stimulated and the body rested.  Adding mileage to soothe the mind can hurt the body on race day.

Go with what you know.  If you’re going to be a half marathoner, you need to know the number one rule.  That is, don’t try anything new on race day.  Refer back to your log and stick to what is tried and true. Avoid the temptation to buy that cute, new top from the expo to wear on race day.  Eat familiar foods, gels and avoid making drastic changes in your life.

Pace yourself.  The number one thing you can control on race day is your pace.  It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race and go out too fast, only to find yourself crawling across the finish line. Think tortoise, not hare, and hold back the reins for the first half of the race by keeping the effort at a pace where you can talk.  If you can hear your breathing, you’re running too hard.  At the halfway point, begin to slowly dial up the effort and count down the miles.  In the final 3 miles, go fishing.  That is, focus on a runner ahead and reel them in.  There is nothing in the world like having the strength to pass people (nicely) in the final miles of a race.  Besides, it makes for a much cuter finish line photo.
Celebrate your accomplishment.  There are very few people that will ever cross a half marathon finish line.  Take the time to fully celebrate your accomplishment.  Whether you choose to run another half marathon or not, you only run your first half marathon once.  Take it all in and give yourself a high five.  You’ve earned it.  

Coach Jenny Hadfield is an Active Expert and the co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the Running for Mortals and Training for Mortals series. She is also a columnist for Women's Running and Runners World.

Coach Jenny has trained thousands of runners and walkers with her training plans. Improve your running performance or train for your next event with Coach Jenny's Active Trainer Plans. You can ask her a training question on her Ask Coach Jenny page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chix Journal

Surgery is Tough, Rehab is Tougher

Head over and read my latest post on!  And read the other women's posts too, they are great.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hit the Hills for Running Speed

Matt Russ

A healthy dose of hill running should be included in your workouts each week. Hill work is some of the most productive training you can perform.
There's no doubt that runners who regularly hit the hills get faster. However, you should vary your hill routines throughout the season just as you should vary your training. Because hill work is more stressful, progression is important.

Outdoors vs. Treadmill

I am often asked if running outdoors is more productive than running on the treadmill. The answer is that they both have their place in a good running plan.
The advantage of the treadmill is that you can set your workout parameters. If you're trying to keep your heart rate down during base training, you simply select a pace that keeps your heart rate in that zone.
With hill work, you can vary the pace and incline to create just the right amount of stress for your workout. It may be hard to find a long hill with a steady incline so the treadmill can create just that. You don't want to start off your hill work with too steep of an incline.
With the treadmill, you can increase the incline slightly each week and the resistance is constant. That being said, many athletes find it difficult to stay focused on a treadmill. It's important to include runs on varied terrain and downhill. The treadmill doesn't provide this. As you get closer to your goal race, I recommend trying to duplicate the race course and spend less time on the treadmill.

Hill Progression

The most important aspect of base training is staying aerobic and keeping your heart rate down. Hills will obviously drive your heart rate up but that doesn't mean you should eliminate them in base training. In fact, this is the best time to build a strength for the season. As the season progresses, intensity should as well. The following workouts are in order of progression throughout the season. It's important to follow this progression or overtraining and/or injury could result.

Hill climbing: Walk to run faster? Correct; I start even my fastest and most seasoned athletes out with hill walking. Walking on a steep incline can get your heart rate up just as much or more than a slow run and there is less impact and eccentric load. It is a great way to strengthen the gluteals, hamstrings and calf muscles. Hill walking is performed during transition phase and early base training. I also recommend trail hiking.

Base/endurance hill intervals: This workout is a bit more structured. I start the athlete out at a low base aerobic level and increase to a higher aerobic level towards the end of base and into general preparation periods. I prescribe intervals of five to 20 minutes with five to 10 minutes of recovery between efforts, up to two times a week. Pace and incline must be adjusted to keep heart rate in the zone. This may mean running very slow, but you will feel resistance on your legs. This is a good workout for the treadmill, but it can definitely be performed outdoors with a little planning.

Steady hill intervals: We take the top of your aerobic zone and hold a narrow heart rate range. Because this workout is more precise, it is easier to perform on the treadmill. Again, I prescribe intervals of five to 20 minutes with five to 10 minutes of recovery between efforts, up to two times a week.

Fartlek hills: This is one of my favorite workouts. On a hilly course, you will push hard on the uphill sections and run a relaxed pace on the downhill. This is an unstructured workout and is best performed outdoors. Fartlek hills build strength, power and aerobic capacity.

Tempo hill intervals: These hill intervals are performed at a much faster pace. Your heart rate will be slightly below threshold or your 5k race pace. I prescribe intervals of five to 15 minutes with at least 10 minutes of recovery between intervals. Perform this workout no more than once a week.

Hill bounds: Bounds are a springing motion with plenty of vertical power. Picture leaping from point to point with a long stride as you climb a hill. You want to work on producing quick, explosive power. I prescribe hill bounds of 50-75 meters. Recovery is a slow walk back down the hill. Usually four to eight of these will be enough. Perform this workout no more than once a week.

Hill sprints: Now we're talking ... This is hill speed work with no heart rate prescribed. On a hill of approximately 100 meters, start off at a moderate pace and build to a sprint. In the last 10 seconds, sprint as hard as you can to the top of the hill. I prescribe this workout no more than twice a month in race preparation period. I may prescribe several sets of three to four hill sprints. Recovery between sets is 10-15 minutes of easy running. Recovery between efforts is a slow walk back down the hill.

Hill strides: These are a technique drill. A lot of runners slow their stride rate and lengthen their stride as they attempt to power up a hill. The exact opposite should take place. Count your strides going uphill. Your stride rate should be around 30 right foot strides in 20 seconds. Work on a short, fast, efficient uphill stride. You should perform these in all periods throughout the season.

Don't forget that hill work is more stressful than running the flats. It's important to increase incline gradually and to let your body adapt. If you experience any calf or Achilles area pain, stop immediately and take a few days off. Don't resume training until you are pain-free. Hill work will help prevent injury and strengthen your tendons, joints and ligaments, but only if the stress load isn't too high. Fitness can't be rushed and hill work is no exception.

Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes around the country and internationally. He currently holds licenses by USAT, USATF, and is an Expert level USAC coach. Matt has coached athletes for CTS (Carmichael Training Systems), and has been certified by Joe Friel's Ultrafit Association. Visit for more information, or e-mail him at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

4 Easy Ways to Lower Your Marathon Time

Experienced endurance athletes can blast past plateaus with a few tweaks to their nutrition and training. Use these tips to set a new personal record:

1. Eat and drink more.

To improve your performance and speed recovery, fuel your body with a pre- and post-workout snack. Choose snacks with 10 to 30 grams of protein and 30 to 90 grams of carbs (for example, chocolate milk or toast with peanut butter). Hydrate with 16 ounces of water two hours before you train and 6 to 8 ounces of water every 10 to 15 minutes during your session. For intense workouts lasting more than an hour, opt for a sports drink.

2. Do massage on recovery days.

The most important day of your week is your day off. In addition to plenty of downtime and light stretching, give yourself a massage. Using a foam roll or tennis ball, spend 30 to 60 seconds working through sore spots. This will help your body recover faster and perform better. Click here for a sample routine using the foam roll.

3. Change up your tunes.

If you speed up the number of steps you take per minute, you can cover more ground in less time. You can use your favorite music to set a goal pace of about 90 steps per minute. Find a song that has 90 beats per minute (BPM) and practice running with the beat of the music. Use this site to measure the BPM of your favorite songs.

4. Train faster.

If your training primarily focuses on long, slow runs, it's time to vary your pace. Incorporating interval training can make you a stronger, more efficient runner. Twice a week, perform an interval training session. Click here for a sample interval routine.

About The Author 

Darcy Norman – In addition to being a Physical Therapist and Performance Specialist at Athletes' Performance, Darcy is a Project Manager for the Performance Innovation Team.  Read Full Bio

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jeff Galloway's Magic Mile Race Prediction Formulas

Jeff Galloway

(for the 5K, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon distances, based upon a one mile time trial)

Why the Magic Mile
After having worked with over 170,000 runners over 30 years, I've compiled hundreds of performances and have established a prediction formula based upon a one mile time trial. In other words, every 2 weeks or so, you can run a measured mile (at a good, hard pace for you) and use the time to predict what you could run at longer distances.

This assumes that
* You do the training needed for the distance and time goal (See my books Running Year Round Plan and Galloway Training Programs)
* The temperature on the race day of your race is 60F or cooler
* You pace yourself correctly and take the walk breaks necessary for your goal (see the same two books for details)

Take your one mile time and adjust as follows:
add 33 seconds for your pace for a 5K
multiply by 1.15 for 10K pace
multiply by 1.2 for half marathon pace
multiply by 1.3 for marathon pace

Here's how to do the one mile time trial:

1. warm up with a slow one mile run
2. do a few acceleration-gliders (See my books Running Year Round Plan and Galloway Training Programs)
3. pace yourself as even as possible on each quarter mile
4. run about as hard as you could run for one mile--but no puking! (finish feeling that you couldn't have run more than a football field at the same pace)
5. keep walking after the time trial for 5 minutes, and jog a slow 1-6 miles, as needed for the mileage for that day

Predicting race performance:

Take your last 4 one mile time trials
Eliminate the slowest
Average the other three
Use the prediction formula for your race
Adjust for heat and humidity: slow down by 30 sec a mile for every 5 degree temperature increase above 60F

Click here for the pace calculator (and entire article)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Team LUNA Chix Website

The new is live!

There are some big and subtle changes to the site.  Overall, the site is more interactive and easier to navigate.
Some of the new features include:
Chix Journal Bloggers: Follow 4 Chix from around the country (and Seattle's own LaVonne!) during the highs and lows of the season:  
  • LaVonne - Seattle Tri Team Leader, as she gets back in the game after knee surgery (this is me!  check out my FB page too!)
  • Mary Lou - Buffalo Run Team Leader, as she continues to look forward on her weight loss and athletic journey. 
  • Kelly - former Chicago Run Team Member, a young breast cancer survivor searching for her new "normal"
  • Linda - former Pro LUNA Chix Member, now a professional working mom heading back to work after the birth of her first child
Updated Home Page: Bringing to life the pillars of our program -- Chix Life (our Chix Journal, Local and Pro Team Stories/Blogs), Local Teams, Pro Teams, Breast Cancer Fund
Improved shareability across the site. Sign up to follow any blog, comment on posts and share with friends via Twitter, FB and email. Comment and let us know what you think! 

-Improved navigation of advice and tips:

-Our own video page, complete with new videos and hosted from YouTube!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Running is Bad for your Knees

posted byCharlie Nickell
At lunch, a friend of mine goes into this long-winded diatribe why running is going to “ruin my knees.”

If one more person tells me that running is bad for my knees, I’m going to vomit. These are the same individuals who knew me when I stunt doubled for Kiko the orca in “Free Willy.” It all seems very ironic. When I was overweight, nobody felt compelled to inform me that my body mass was unhealthy. No one warned me about my 240-point cholesterol level, rapid/irregular pulse, horrendous triglyceride count or weakening back.

Nope, but after years of solid running, people close to me are all of a sudden outspoken health experts and extremely concerned about my well-being. They all mention running pioneer Jim Fixx’s infamous fatal heart attack or sprint record-holder Florence Griffith Joyner’s early demise. Everyone brandishes some obscure exercise-death fact or famous fluke fatality myth. The whole conversation is as off-course as the Exxon Valdez.

Let me tell you what’s bad for your knees: inactivity, bowling, football, basketball, sitting, aerobics, reality shows, small children, begging, laying carpet, catching a baseball game and owing certain people money are all legitimately risky for the knee caps. Week leg muscles lead to deteriorating support ligaments, tendons and bones, which, in turn, lead to bad knees. Running strengthens ligaments, tendons and bones.

The list of knee-deterioration culprits is long but running doesn’t fall into the top 25. So, why the confusion, misguided concern and annoying conversation about my running and my knees? It’s a given. Most people have no clue what they are talking about (including me) outside their microscopic zone of expertise. But, even that doesn’t explain it.

Last checked, there is a 99 percent chance you’ll die from heart failure or heart disease. Why is it my south-county neighbors know more about their imported cars than the thing ticking inside them that’s going to silently kill them in the middle of the night? Most people can tell you what type of gas mileage their SUV gets but ask someone their resting heart rate, and they look at you as if you just asked, “What’s Starbucks?” or “I’ve never been in a Mercedes before, are they expensive?” Why do kids know more about their iPod’s processing speed and their computer’s storage then their own precious hearts?

Fact is, we’ve forgotten as a society what our bodies were designed to do. By looking at our physiological construction, it’s obvious we weren’t designed to drive cars. If we were, we would have evolved with tiny little legs, superior eyesight, patience, fully rotating heads and a cell phone embedded in our craniums. We weren’t really designed to ride bikes as our body disintegrates (as with cars) at impact speeds greater than our structures can withstand. We are as a population, designed to run. It really is that simple.

Biologically, evolution moves slowly, and by most accounts we aren’t much different than the hunter/gatherers who preceded us eons ago. Those early versions of humans hunted in small groups (like trail runners) and wore down their prey by literally running them into the ground. Man was the undisputed endurance king, and for a million years we ran (running), killed (competition), ate (aid station) and slept (recovery). What happened to this fantastic lifestyle? What happened to the human race?

It’s a classic tale of mind over matter. From a developmental standpoint, the human mind is light years ahead of our physical bodies. Mentally and, subsequently, technologically we have rocketed forward while physically we haven’t changed one iota. Anytime you have a discrepancy like that crammed into a 6-foot-by-2-foot shell (the body), something has to give. And, it has.

What happens to caged animals denied the ability to hunt and run free? Just go to a zoo. They are out of shape, depressed, grumpy and lazy. Sound like anybody you know? What happens to people shoved in cubicles, forced to sit all day and nourish themselves at Taco Bell? Those are loaded questions. We all know the answers.

Do me a favor, runners: The next time someone tells you that running is bad for your knees (or your health), just remind them that they can live 100 or more years without legs but they’ll last less than 60 seconds when their heart stops. And then ask, “What did you say your resting heart rate was again?”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Use the Treadmill as a Training Tool

By Matt Russ
USA Triathlon 

Some athletes do not particularly enjoy training on the treadmill as it mitigates the stimulus, the fresh air and even the social aspects of running outdoors. However, it is a valuable tool that can be used in a variety of ways to improve your running.

The first thing to note is that not all treadmills are created equally. Many commercial-grade treadmills perform such a good job of reducing impact forces, that I consider the treadmill a soft surface similar to a trail or crushed gravel. If you are in the market for a treadmill and consider yourself a career runner, I suggest biting the bullet and purchasing a quality treadmill. A used commercial treadmill is often preferable to a new home-grade model in my opinion. Commercial treadmills have stronger motors, rollers, frames, belts, superior impact absorption, and are generally designed for years of constant use and abuse. They are also quieter.

The length of the deck is an important feature, especially if you are a tall runner. I recommend a deck length of at least 60 inches. Most of the variations within a model line are electronics, audio/televisions, and features; in other words, more things to break. Look for a DC motor and a low maintenance deck such as a wax impregnated deck. Some stores specialize in selling used equipment, and may even offer a warranty on refurbished/pre-owned models.

I am often asked how running on a treadmill differs from running outdoors, or how running mechanics are modified on the treadmill. This is debated and there are definite differences, but the best answer I usually give is "slightly." The moving belt causes a slightly different muscle recruitment pattern compared to outdoor running, particularly in the hip flexors. Putting the treadmill on a one or two percent grade will more closely approximate outdoor running and outdoor wind resistance. In comparing video files from hundreds of runners, both on the treadmill and outdoors, I have found that most of the same mechanical traits and form (such as posture, arm motion, gait patterns, shoulder rotation and vertical travel) are present in both conditions.

The treadmill is actually a great place to address economy in a controlled environment, and it is easy to capture motion from 360 degrees. Another advantage is that the moving belt creates a level of consistency that makes it easy to identify asymmetry in gait and stride. For example: simply listening to footfalls can indicate a short stride on one side, or an athlete that is weighting one leg over the other in compensation for an injury. It is also easy to time stride rate using a metronome and to work on rhythm.

This consistency of the treadmill applies to speed and grade as well. You would be hard pressed to find a perfectly consistent surface outdoors, or a hill that has a steady grade for any given distance.
The treadmill offers a key advantage for hill repeat training in that downhill running is not required. Downhill running, especially at speed, involves the most impact and damaging eccentric contractions, and can be very hard on the knees. If you have a history of injury or are trying to mitigate impact forces, you can attain a quality and controlled strength endurance workout without the downhill stress.
For athletes performing high intensity intervals and tempo work, the treadmill offers some benefit over outdoor training. The feedback received on a treadmill is real time, and a specific speed/pace can be dialed in. I find that athletes tend to challenge themselves a bit more on the treadmill, and are often surprised at how fast they are able to run with a forced pace. Because heart rate-based training is affected environmentally by heat, humidity, and state of hydration, workouts can be prescribed more accurately using pace. Pacing via mile splits or track workouts are more reactive. The treadmill forces you to be on the pace all the time and offers a unique challenge. You also do not have the constant tight inside turns of track repetitions.

It is important to note that your body cools itself mainly through sweat evaporation and running on a treadmill in a warm environment can lead to overheating. Make sure you have adequate air flow coming toward you, preferably in the form of a large fan.

I don't recommend performing speed work on the treadmill. Speed work involves rapid acceleration/deceleration that cannot be duplicated on the treadmill. For speed workouts under 400 meters, I recommend the track or road.     

The treadmill offers an advantage in convenience (weather is not a factor), perhaps safety (depending on where you run) and even privacy, but should not be the exclusive mode for a performance runner. Certain workouts may be better performed on the treadmill, but it should not be a complete substitute or replacement for outdoor running. If you have an upcoming road race, your body will need to acclimate to the harder surface and different muscle recruitment that occurs on the road. A trail race requires lower leg stability and strength over road racing, and that cannot be developed to any extent on the treadmill. In general I do not recommend more than 30 to 40 percent of training occur on the treadmill. Think of it as an effective tool in your training toolbox; useful, but by no means exclusive.

Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes up to the professional level, domestically and internationally, for over 15 years. He currently holds the highest level of licensing from both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and coaches athletes of all levels full time. He is also freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit for more information or email him at
This article originally was published in USA Triathlon Life magazine. USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the national governing body for triathlon--the fastest growing sport in the world - as well as duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. Visit

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Workout of the Month: Key Swims

 by Marilyn McDonald

Late last month I was spoke with Bevan and John at IMTalk about my thoughts on swimming, my experience and my personal position on swimming. You can listen to that pod cast at
Here are the three key swims I think you need per week as we head into the race season.

Long Aerobic Strength
Count your stroke count and time your distance and effort. Do the same stroke count and time for each.

Choose any one of the following sessions. Always include a warm up and cool down.
  • 10x 400 swim on 10 seconds rest.
  • 6x 800 pull with band and buoy.
  • 3-4x 1000 pull with small paddles.
  • 3x 1500m.
  • 1 hour continuous swim open water in wet suit with paddles.
Race Test Set
  • 30x 100 on 40 seconds rest. Best possible time for all. Stroke rate and pace at or slightly above race intensity.
  • 12 x 200m at race pace on 15 seconds rest. Maintain same time for all.
Speed Set
  • Warm up well with 1000-1500 of mixed swimming.
    20x 25m max effort on equal or greater rest.
    5x 100 on race pace on 5 seconds rest
    Repeat both steps 1-4 times through.
    25s can be max swim or max turn over band only swimming.

  • Warm up well with 1000-1500 of mixed swimming.
    4-6x 50m max effort on 20-40 seconds rest.
    8x 100 on race pace with 10 seconds rest.
    Repeat 2-4 times through.
If you have more than three days of sessions in your weeks program and you have more time to swim I recommended one easy technique focused session and on 3-4k session where you do a 2k main set of steady swimming on short rest.

Be fit on the swim -- it effects your entire day! What you do in the water directly impacts your bike and impacts your run. Triathlon is a start line and a finish line, it pays to be ready in the water!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Swim Fast to Get Fast: The 50s

By Gale Bernhardt

In an earlier column, I encouraged you to try some fast 25s to boost your swimming speed.

I've received some posts on the community board and in a few e-mails that people have been trying the workouts and, lo and behold, they are swimming faster. Excellent!

Now that you've mastered some of the shorter workouts, let's bump the distance up some. Below are new workouts for you to try:

Workout No. 1

Complete a mixed warm-up totaling 500 to 1,000 yards/meters.
After the warm-up, go through the following set two or three times:
  • 2 x 25 — Build speed throughout each 25
  • 2 x 25 — Swim half the distance as fast as you can, it doesn't matter if it is first half or last half. Swim the "other half" easy.
  • 1 x 50 — All-out fast
  • 1 x 50 — Easy
Make your swim interval something that gives you 5 to 10 seconds rest on the 25s, about 20 seconds of rest on the 50-all-out-fast and about 90 seconds on the 50 easy.
After the speedy set, head into your main set. The main set can include swims in the 100 to 300 range.

Workout No. 2

Complete a mixed warm-up totaling 500 to 1,000.
After the warm-up, go through the following set two to four times:
  • 4 x 25 — Build speed throughout each 25 (Make the swim interval something that gives you about 10 seconds of rest.)
  • 1 x 50 — All-out fast (Make the swim interval something that gives you about 20 seconds of rest.)
  • 1 x 25 — Easy (Make the swim interval something that gives you 15 to 20 seconds of rest.)
  • 1 x 25 — All-out fast (Make the swim interval something that gives you about 10 seconds of rest.)
After the speedy set, head into your main set. The main set can include swims in the 100 to 300 range.

Optional Main Set

An optional main set to include after Workout No. 1 or 2 follows:
  • 3 x 100 on a swim interval that gives you 10 to 15 seconds of rest. Swim all of these at a steady pace.
  • 3 x 100 on a swim interval that gives you 15 to 20 seconds rest. Negative-split each 100.
  • 3 x 100 on a swim interval that gives you 20 to 30 seconds rest. Swim these so that each 100 is faster than the previous one. The last one is a fast one.
If you have the time and fitness, go through the set of 100s twice.

Workout No. 3

Complete a mixed warm-up totaling 500 to 1,000.
After the warm-up, do 4 x 25 building speed throughout each 25 (Make the swim interval something that gives you about 10 seconds of rest.)
Take one minute of rest, then do:
  • 6 x 50 — All-out fast. No holding back. Expect the fastest one to be the second or third one. It's okay if speed fades some, just swim fast. Make the swim interval something that gives you 80 to 100 seconds of rest between each 50 swim.
After the speedy set, head into your main set. Keep it primarily aerobic. If you swim really, really fast (like the instructions tell you to do) you won't have much high-end speed for the rest of the workout.
The biggest mistake you can make in the workouts above is to try to be a Sammie Save-up. Of course there are times when you should be holding some speed in reserve so you can negative-split a swim; but not in these workouts. Cut loose and see how fast you can go.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flexibility Training: Swimming Stretches

By Brian Dorfman

I think of swimming as the savior for the triathlete. Swimming is the perfect compensator for biking and running.

In fact, the breathing, rhythm and extension in swimming are an invaluable counter movement or counter position to biking and running. If an athlete can't swim, they lose a lot more than just speed in the water.

Swimming will stretch tight quads from biking and strengthen the back for running. Yet it's the shoulder that's essential for swimming longevity. Use these stretches to take care of your shoulders and swim forever.

These stretches aid the shoulder girdle and the side of the torso, and will decrease compression, support range of motion and strengthen the torso. More specifically, we'll access the powerful pectorals (pects), versatile deltoids, valuable rotator cuff muscles, elastic latissimus dorsi (lats) and the underrated intercostal (rib) muscles.

You'll find that slight shoulder or hip rotation can modify the intensity of the stretch, or target a different area. Also, when you stay in a stretch, breathe deeply and compare the difference in the stretch at the top of the inhale versus the end of the exhale.

Front of the Shoulder Stretch: Pector Elongator

Maintaining open, fluid movement in the front of the shoulder during swimming will decrease compression in the joint. With biking and running, the shoulder tends to rotate inward and lift up toward the ear.

This same movement in swimming will add to tension and compression in the neck and shoulder.

The pector elongator is a great stretch to use before or after a workout.
  1. Stand with your right hip about two or three feet away from a wall.
  2. Place your right hand on the wall at shoulder level, behind the torso. Keep your elbow loosely bent.
  3. Now rotate your elbow forward and maintain this forward rotation throughout the stretch.
  4. Twist your upper torso to the left, while retaining elbow rotation, to create a stretch in the front of the right shoulder.
  5. Hold the stretch for five to 12 breaths.
  6. Switch arms and repeat.
Variations can be created by moving your hand up and down the wall or by stepping farther away from the wall. Pector elongator is intense, so go easy. When you start to feel the stretch, stop and inhale deeply into the area being stretched.

Also, using a doorway will give you a perfect stretch at home or at the office. The hard part of this stretch is continuing to maintain a forward rotation of the elbow.

Deltoid/Rotator Cuff Stretch

Every shoulder problem seems to have rotator cuff involvement. These muscles are unique because they function as a ligament at the joint, and a muscle in locomotion. Located above the rotators are the deltoids, which can be stretched along with the rotators.

Deltoid/Rotator Cuff Stretch
When an athlete has any type of shoulder problem, this is the first stretch I introduce. It's ideal because it takes care of the muscle, the joint capsule and the range of motion.
  1. Stand facing the wall, approximately a foot away.
  2. Draw your right arm across your body.
  3. Place the back of your right hand on the wall at shoulder level.
  4. Move your left shoulder toward your right hand as far as you can, then lean the right shoulder toward the wall.
  5. To create a slightly different stretch, place the front of your hand on the wall.
  6. Hold the stretch for five to 12 breaths.
  7. Switch arms and repeat.
There's room to be creative with this stretch. You can walk the hips away from the wall or experiment with your hand in different locations. To intensify the stretch, use the floor instead of the wall.

The key is to move the shoulder that's not being stretched down, and slowly lean the involved shoulder into the wall, floor or couch. (see step 4).

Side of the Torso Stretch: Lateral Bend

Lateral Bend
The side (lateral) muscles of the torso have a great deal of strength, power, endurance and elasticity. This natural elasticity adds power without increased mass.

This stretch will allow you to be more effective in the reaching part of your swim stroke and have more power on the recovery part.
  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Expand your chest, lift your ribs and raise both hands over your head.
  3. On exhale, pull your abdomen back and lean to the right.
  4. Hold this position and inhale into the ribs.
  5. As you exhale, pull abdomen back and lean to the left, hold, inhale into the ribs.
  6. Repeat this side-to-side motion to the right and left four to six times.
Move from one side to the other on an exhale, allowing for a deep inhale into the ribs. This will increase both extension and strength. Keep the chest slightly in front of the hips and rotate the top of the pelvic girdle back—this will elongate the lower-back muscles and stretch the lats.

Lateral bend is a great stretch to use after a hard workout because of its effect on the lower back.

To concentrate the effects of flexibility training, your breath should be long and smooth, and your mind should be focused on the area you want to effect. Easy, extended breathing like this will improve both performance and recovery. Race and train forever.