Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ten Tips Toward Your Best Triathlon

from Training Peaks

Now that we’re getting into triathlon race season, it’s a great idea to review some important things to do so that you can have a race that is as smooth as possible. Of course these tips assume you are physically prepared (you have been training, right?) for your race!

10) Write a race plan. Have your race-day strategy planned out on paper or via electrons. The plan should mimic what you’ve been doing in your training. Have a coach? Make sure you work with your coach when developing your plan. Include packing lists in your plan. One list should be for race items (gear/nutrition) and one for “other” items, especially if you are travelling to the race location before the event.

9) Practice changing a flat tire. Because you are usually your own mechanic in triathlons, the quicker you can change a flat, the better your race will be if you were to get a flat. And practice using those CO2 cartridges! (Not all of us will be fortunate like Chrissie Wellington’s 2008 Ironman World Championship experience.)

8) Do not try to “cram” in extra workouts. Stick to your training plan. If this is an “A” race for you, you will have a nice taper so that you can enter the race rested but ready to go your race pace. Don’t negate the gains that you have made by “making sure you can do the distance” the week of the race.

7) Read the race information and attend a pre-race meeting. Many races publish information for athletes  on the race website a few days before the race. Get familiar with the course, the race rules, and know in which wave you are!

6) Focus on your nutrition several days before the race. Eat foods that you know sit well with you starting a few days before the race. Decrease fiber intake (that big black bean burrito might look good the day before your race, but there’s a good chance you’ll regret it!) I recommend planning your nutrition strategy starting a couple days before the race.  Make sure you hydrate well, but there is no need to over-hydrate (those trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night just get in the way!)

5) Get to the race site early. This leaves you plenty of time to take care of business, handle any last minute “oh craps!” and learn the layout of transition.

4) Warm-up. Get in at least 10 minutes of a warm-up. I like my athletes to do dynamic warm-ups, jog/run for a few minutes and finish with a few short accelerations to race pace to wake up the legs. Also, if the race venue allows, get in a few hundred yards of swimming as close to your race start as possible.  The shorter the race, the longer your warm-up should be.

3) Stick to your plan. You wrote a race plan based on your training successes (pacing and nutrition) so stick to it as best you can. Granted, there will be deviations, but those will be easier to handle if you are prepared.

2) Have quick but not hurried transitions. You should have practiced transitions in your training, so these should be smooth – almost second nature. Stay relaxed and you’ll be quick!

1) Smile at the finish. You’ll be in the pain cave, the hurt locker, your world of hurt, or whatever you call race day “pain” out on the race course. But you’ll have more fun if you smile through it (Or be like me and make your grimace look like a smile…the spectators will never know!).

Friday, July 29, 2011

6 Steps to a Smooth Swim Exit

By Jené Shaw

Exiting the open water is an often overlooked part of the transition from swim to bike. Many seconds can be gained and lost, so technique and planning are important.

Sara McLarty thinks about the swim exit in six steps:
Step 1: Swim toward the finish. Know the course and find tall buildings or trees to sight that are in line with the swim exit.
Step 2: Activate your legs. Kick a little extra during the last 200 meters of the swim.
Step 3: Keep swimming! Don't stop or stand up until you have run aground in the shallow water. When your fingers scrape the bottom, take a few more strokes by pulling right under your torso.
Step 4: Stand up and lift your goggles onto your forehead. This action clears your vision as you start to run out of the water.
Step 5: Unzip your wetsuit on solid ground. Running through sand and rocks is hard enough. Wait until you reach carpeting or pavement to search for that strap!
Step 6: Take off your cap and goggles when you see your bike. Abandonment of equipment can result in a penalty, so don't risk dropping these small items.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

10 Ways to Enhance Your Sprint Triathlon Training

by Ben Greenfield on the Training Peaks Blog

Are you thinking about signing up for a sprint triathlon this year? Perhaps you’re a complete beginner just trying to decide if sprint triathlon training is right for you. Or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran of triathlons, but you want some handy tips to enhance your sprint triathlon training this year.
No matter who you are, I’ve designed 10 ways to make your sprint triathlon training productive, efficient and enjoyable.

1. Sign-Up Now. That’s right. Don’t wait until 4 weeks out from the race. By signing up right now, you’ll trigger some very powerful components of your psyche – specifically the parts that inspire you to get off the couch or out of bed and begin your sprint triathlon training. The pressure of knowing that you are signed up for an event provides intrinsic motivation (“must be ready!”) combined with extrinsic motivation (“can’t embarrass myself!”. The latter motivation will be even more powerful if you tell the whole world that you signed up for a sprint triathlon.

2. Make Your Plan. Here’s how to perfectly design your sprint triathlon training plan: a) pick the date of the race – that’s your race and taper week; b) take the 4-6 weeks leading up to that week – that’s the part where your workouts build in intensity and race specificity; c) take the 4-6 weeks before that – that’s the part where each workout becomes longer and you develop more endurance; d) take the 4-6 weeks before that – that’s the part where you hone your skills like swim drills and run drills and strength training. Voila! A sprint triathlon training plan!

 3. Test. There is nothing else that even comes close to motivating you than a test. One of the biggest mistakes that triathletes make during sprint triathlon training is not taking a baseline measurement, then repeating that measurement several times leading up to the race. Try to test every 4 weeks: a 500m swim test, a 1 mile run test, and a 3 mile bike test are perfect measurements for a sprint triathlon.

4. Avoid Your Facebook Ironman Friends. If you just got back from an explosive 2 mile run, then log-in to your social network to find that your friend just slogged out 12 miles, you may be discouraged. It is very important, however, for you to realize that the individual who is training for Ironman is actually making themselves slower when it comes to sprint triathlon training. So don’t be discouraged that you’re not “fit enough”. For sprint triathlon training, you should pursue speed, and not slow endurance.

5. Consider Nutrition Supplementation. There are many nutrition supplements that can assist you with explosiveness, power, speed and recovery. A few of the tried and true aids that are easily accessible to enhance your sprint triathlon training include: creatine, nitric oxide, CoQ10, branched chain amino acids and glutamine. Don’t be afraid of supplements! All those listed here have been researched many times and found to be both safe and effective.

 6. Include Overspeed Training. Despite popular belief, overspeed training does not mean that you go out and swim, bike or run faster than you normally would during your sprint triathlon training. Instead, this term refers to neuromuscular training – teaching your muscles how to contract quickly and repetitively. For swimming, this could include practicing with a metronome. For running, you can include treadmill efforts at a pace that makes your legs turn over faster than they would while running outside. And for cycling, you can simply choose an easy gear and perform fast spins at 100+ revolutions per minute.

7. Do Plyometrics. Jumping, hopping, bounding and leaping exercises, also known as “plyometrics” can significantly enhance your sprint triathlon training performance by teaching your muscles to recover quickly between contractions and also produce faster and more forceful efforts. An example of plyometrics would include perform a series of 3×10 jumps up onto a bench or box before you go out for run, or chest passing a medicine ball against a wall for 8 explosive reps. Doing a single plyometric session at least once per week for eight weeks leading up to your sprint triathlon will make you a quicker athlete.

8. Don’t Taper Too Long. Tapering for 2-3 weeks is a “trickle-down” technique from Ironman triathletes that unfortunately will leave a sprint triathlete unfit and stale for their relatively shorter competition. Five to seven days will adequately prepare most athletes for a sprint triathlon, and seven to ten days are all that is necessary for an athlete who is performing rigorous sprint triathlon training.

 9. Don’t Lift Weights On Race Week. At many gyms, you’ll see triathletes rushing to the weights on race week to get that last little bit of strength training into their sprint triathlon training preparation. Unfortunately, it can take up to seven days for your body to fully recover from the muscle tearing and damage that occurs while resistance training. In the last week prior to your sprint triathlon, stay out of the weight room and skip your plyometric exercises. Instead, focus on a few quality swim, bike and run sessions at race pace intensity.

10. Do Sugar Rinses. Although your body has more than enough carbohydrate storage to last the entire length of a sprint distance triathlon, that doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid any sugar during the race. Research studies have shown cyclists to be significantly faster and have a higher tolerance to the pain of exercise when they simply tasted sugar by doing a quick mouth rinse with a carbohydrate-based sport drink solution. During the last few weeks of your sprint triathlon training, try swirling and spitting a sweet solution. You’ll find that it gives you just a little extra energy, even if you don’t actually take a drink.

These ten rules of sprint triathlon training, brought to you by Ben Greenfield and the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, will ensure that the build-up to your race is smart and highly effective. For more practical and useful tips just like this, go to!   If you’re interested in having Ben as your coach or using a training plan written by Ben, check out his plans on TrainingPeaks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

5 Little Things That Make a Big Difference on Race Day

By Amanda McCracken
You've diligently logged your miles, your time, your heart rate, your hours of sleep and perhaps even your daily caloric intake. You've followed your plan to a "T" and religiously nailed your workouts day after day. You even skipped the biggest barbecue party of the summer because it was two nights before your big race (the most important night of sleep). The only room for error is misfortune (flat tire or bad weather), right?

Wrong! Here are five important practices that are often overlooked on the way to the start line.

#5: Check your gear.
Are your tires pumped? Do you have a spare tube and a CO2 cartridge in case of a flat tire? Do you have an extra pair of goggles? Do you have body glide to ease out of wetsuit transition and prevent chafing? Are your shoes laced with the elastic laces for easy on and off removal? Are the laces so tight they are going to create a bruise over the top arch of your foot? Ladies, do you have extra tampons in your bag in case of a race morning surprise? If you are using deep dish wheels, be sure to bring the adapter to pump your tires.

#4: Rehearse transition and warm up before your swim.
Many of you know that the number one rule of transition is NOT to be in transition! Ideally you've practiced your transitions during training but did you also visualize the perfect transition on race morning? Have you rehearsed the steps in your mind?

Entering the water is really your first "transition". Get in the water for a short warm-up (even if just for a few bobs) before the start of the swim. This helps your body get accustomed to the temperature of the water, which helps pave the way for a calmer swim start.

Remember, excellent transition times can be the difference between several age group places.

#3: Be diligent about nutrition.
While this is an immensely dense subject, I want to highlight a few things to remember. Be sure to eat your dinner (low in fiber) about 12 hours before your wave starts so that your body has time to digest it all. If you can manage getting up early enough, eat your breakfast about two to three hours before the start of your race. Make sure your bottles are full of the fuel you used in training. Pack extra gels that you know your stomach can digest. Depending on the heat and length of your race, you should have a couple of electrolyte tabs on hand, too.

It's easy to get distracted during the race and forget to address your nutritional needs until it's too late. Before your race, draw up a nutrition map. Figure out when you are going to take gels and how much/how often you will hydrate.

#2: Know the course.
If you live close to the race site, you should pre-ride the course. If you don't have time or energy to ride/run the course, then drive it the day before. Do you know where the hills are located? How about the wicked potholes and the sharp downhill turns?

Then scope out the swim course and take a mental note of where the main buoys are located.

Finally, know where the run/bike in and out spots are located, and where the finish line is. I like to run the last 400-meter stretch before the race so I have a good reference for when to pick up the pace. Don't let an athlete outrun you for a first place age group award simply because you think the finish line is further away than it actually is.

#1: Tame your mind.
Triathletes often psyche themselves out before the race even starts. Avoid over analyzing the way your body feels the week before the race. Tell yourself it's a well-trained machine that's ready to perform.

When you get to the race, keep your "blinders" on. Don't let the looks of someone's solid six pack or shiny deep dish wheels intimidate you. Remember, it's the motor inside that really matters.

Be sure you have a script that you've rehearsed to help battle the potential negative talk, fear and panic in the race. What are you going to tell yourself when your legs feel like lead and you've just been passed by your ex's new flame? Make sure you've got a mantra you can peel out of your sticky gel pocket to do battle. I like to draw out my own "word map" of the course. What am I going to tell myself when I get to point "X"?

Being mindful of the details can help prevent things like getting a DNF (Did Not Finish) due to a flat tire, panicking in the water, bonking, getting lost, or mentally cracking. Simply plan ahead and keep your mind in check.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Race Strategy - Be a Thinking Athlete

by Marilyn McDonald
Endurance Corner

We are now into the thick of the race season. Your "A" races are here or just around the corner. You've spent months planning your training and planning your life towards this part of the year.

Part of having a successful race is coming up with a solid plan for your event well before your race day. I like to use the technique of having athletes actually write out their race plans starting with the day before the race, race morning and the event itself. I feel there is value in actually writing it out, really thinking about it and then having it to read back to you before and after the event.

Long distance triathlon racing is long! In other sports you might consider 15 minutes to two hours a long endurance event. We plan on being out there racing all day and maybe even into the night. A lot can happen in this time. It is a long time to stay focused and cope with adversity. Ask yourself these questions:
  • What are your expectations from the event?
  • What are you hoping to achieve and learn from this event?
  • How are you going to stay on task?
  • What are your refocus strategies when things outside your plan are thrown at you?
  • Has your preparation matched your expectations?
Having an answer and a strategy for each of these questions will help you race to your potential.
It's great to lay out a nutrition plan, a pacing plan, expectations of yourself and how you'll deal with each task physically, mentally and emotionality.

Some athletes are going into their events prepared to go after a win or a place; some are just hoping to finish. Each will have very different situations thrown at them throughout the day. For everybody, it's a long hard event that ultimately tests our ability to adapt and push on to what we set out to do. That is key in endurance racing: adapt and push on to what we set out to do.

It's good to keep in mind things like your power meter may just not work that day, or you may forget to bring your watch. The guy you were going to race all day and compare yourself to is hurt and pulled out. The mile markers may be set slightly off. The swim course could be set slightly off distance.

When you are out there racing the single most important skill I think you can use is your internal gauge of pushing yourself to your best each and every step of the way. Be a thinking athlete.

Are you taking care of the things necessary to have a successful long race? Are you fueling well? Are you holding a pace that you know you can handle based on your fitness level and race distance? Is your form under control? Are you relaxed and focused? These are all indicators I think you can dial in on race day and adapt and change to continue to be successful as the day goes on.

There are things in your control and things out of your control. Focus on the things within your control!

Remember why you started this journey and why you're out there on the course. Embrace the challenge of the day and enjoy the fact that you are out there doing what you love.

See you at the races.

For more Marilyn, drop by an Endurance Corner Camp. She will be sharing her experience at our June Boulder Camp and July Women's Camp. USAT coaches will earn 10 CEUs for each.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why You Should Stop Running Long on Sundays

By Rich Strauss
Endurance Nation

Many Ironman athletes, training plans and coaches schedule the weekly long run on Sunday, after a long bike on Saturday. The reason often given is: "You need to practice running long on tired legs."
This is NOT a good idea and here's why:
  • A long run on tired legs is just another opportunity to practice running slowly on tired legs versus running more quickly on fresh legs. The best way to become a faster runner is to create opportunities in your training week for you to run faster, not slog through a run on wooden legs.
  • The recovery cost of a long run done on Sunday, after a long Saturday bike, is much greater than that same run done mid-week. The net is that Monday, often Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday's workouts begin to become compromised, especially as that weekend volume gets up to a four-to-six-hour bike ride on Saturday and two-and-a-half-to-three-hour run.
  • Any long run in training will have at least an hour or more where your legs feel OK. That is, they feel like you're starting a long run after a long bike the day before. Contrast this to Ironman race day, where you're coming right off a 112-mile bike after a 2.4-mile swim. After you get your legs back, around mile six or seven, your legs will feel, at best, like they do around mile 15 of your best long run...then it just gets harder. My point is that your tired legs on Sunday long run isn't even close to what it's going to feel like on race day, so why bother?
I made the switch with my athletes to a mid-week (Tuesday or Thursday) long run about eight years ago and never looked back.

Some benefits of running long during the week are:
  • The long run can now accommodate some get-faster work.
  • You can separate the long run from the long bike with a no-legs day on Friday.
  • You can weight the cycling to the weekend. A three-hour semi-long ride on Sunday has a MUCH lower recovery cost than a hard two-and-a-half hour Sunday run. This mean a much lower chance that it, and it's combination with the Saturday ride, will affect your early week workouts the following week.
  • Finally, it may create a social opportunity for you on the bike on Sunday--a Sunday ride with friends. Riding with other athletes, especially those stronger than you, is a very, very valuable opportunity that we encourage our athletes to seek out.
I've been fighting this fight for years and it's a clear line that separates old from new school. It clearly identifies coaches and self-coached athletes who get it versus those who don't have enough experience, haven't done it themselves, and/or haven't stepped back to think things through more critically.

Rich Strauss is the head coach and co-founder of Endurance Nation. Please visit Endurance Nation to learn more about their triathlon coaching and free training resources.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Benefits of Running Slow

By Matt Forsman

Talent can take you far, but as many elite runners can tell you, talent is nothing without the commitment to train hard. The best runners on the planet frequently log weekly mileage in excess of 100 miles.

This weekly gauntlet often includes hill work, intervals, fartlek, and other gut-wrenching workouts designed to separate the pretenders from the contenders. No pain, no gain, right? Not exactly.

Believe it or not, a significant portion of the mileage logged by the best runners on the planet can best be characterized as "easy." How easy? Try a minute to two slower than race pace.

Some of these individuals can crank out 26.2 miles at sub-5 minute pace without batting an eye, so what's to be gained from slogging out a few miles at a comparatively "glacial" pace? A lot, actually.

Before we get into the specific gains you can get from running slow, let's take a closer look at running "fast." When we run at a fast pace, we’re putting tremendous strain and stress on bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

At the end of a tough run, your body sustains microtears in muscle fiber, dehydration, glycogen depletion, and more. Good thing most of the best runners in the world have a team of people to take care of them after a tough tempo run.

There's serious trauma associated with the act of running fast. Running fast all the time clearly won't work over the long haul because sustained trauma over time will inevitably lead to burnout and breakdown.

Enter "slow" running. Most athletes who have done a tough run and have tried to run the next day know (or will come to know in short order) that trying to run fast/hard isn't a good idea. Chances are their bodies have microtears in muscle fiber, marked soreness/fatigue in the legs, and general flatness across the board.

In theory, you could take a full day of rest after a tough run the previous day, but you’re not maintaining or enhancing your running fitness too much by doing this. Granted, rest days absolutely necessary and I would never say otherwise.

But, the "gentle" stress of an easy run interspersed between taxing runs is a good way to maintain your running fitness between challenging runs and help to expedite the healing and recovery process.

The Benefits of Running Slow

Running slow applies "gentle" stress to the key physiological systems required to run at a high level. Gentle, easy running helps to let the healing begin. Think of it as "active recovery" that helps facilitate blood flow gently to the damaged muscles that need help.

Independent of expediting the healing process, running slow is the most effective way to build a base. There are a million different training philosophies and approaches that you can utilize to get into quality running shape. Virtually all of them include some kind of base building phase comprised largely of easy runs.

This base building is particularly important for those brand new to the sport. Logically and intuitively, this makes sense. You need to expose the body to gentle, consistent stress to develop the key systems to just support the act of running and then gradually introduce running that’s a bit faster and more intense, if desired.

Think of slow running as the foundation of your running house. You wouldn't build a house without a foundation. Building a regular running routine or regimen is no different. Without a solid foundation of easy miles, you're looking at a house that's liable to collapse under duress.

If avoiding collapse is the ultimate goal, slow running is the answer. There many runners who simply build a solid, easy base and are very happy with this. They tend to avoid injuries over the long haul. This is another thing to consider when logging easy miles. There is a lower incidence of aggravations and injuries associated with running easy.

Achieving personal bests and winning races require doing some hard running, but there's increased risk associated with this. If your long-term goal is to run for years and years, limiting the number of times you push the envelope is a wise approach.

But, you don't have to choose between being a tortoise or a hare.  Too much "tortoise" and you’re looking at performance plateaus. Too much "hare" and you’re looking at increased risk of aggravations and injuries. You can actually be both. Ultimately, it’s training a bit like both that will take your running to the next level.

The reality is that most runners suffer from a bit too much running like the hare. So, the next time you find yourself out on the road trying to set a landspeed record, reflect on the training you’ve done recently. It just might be time for you to run slow and take it easy.

Matt Forsman (AKA Marathon Matt) has been a runner for more than 20 years and a USATF/RRCA certified coach for more than five years. He has worked with thousands of runners in the San Francisco Bay Area through his group training programs that regularly attract 150 to 200 runners per season and a plethora of individual clients. Matt has contributed to Runner's World, NorCal Running Magazine, and other publications. You can learn more about Matt at

Saturday, July 9, 2011

3 Ways To Get the Benefits of Barefoot Running Without Actually Running Barefoot

By Ben Greenfield

With the surging popularity of barefoot running, it would seem that for the triathlete, barefoot running currently ranks up there with all-you-can-eat buffet coupons, a Clydesdale triathlete cycling in front of you on a windy day, and unicorns that toot free energy bars.

But although I didn't grow up in a small pack of wolves or come from a remote tribe of natives living at 18,000 feet of elevation, I will readily admit that I can understand and agree with the benefits of barefoot running, especially the part about making your feet strong.

After all, if you spend all day in big, padded shoes, each of your feet will be like the little fairy tale princess who is never allowed to venture outside the confines of the mighty fortress: really weak (but still pretty hot) and easily wounded, bruised or broken by the slightest of encounters with the roughness of the real world (like witches or dragons or big rocks). In other words, you need to treat your feet more like a fairy tale peasant ­ ready and willing to traipse naked and dirty through the forest and fields.

The problem is, even though barefoot running is really good for strengthening and stretching the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones in your feet, it's pretty dang inconvenient at times.

Take my house for example. Outside my front door is a world of concrete, pavement, broken glass, small stones and pine needles that turn a casual barefoot running attempt into an adventure in pain management and self-wound care.

So in order to turn my feet from a princess to a peasant, I have to tack an extra 10-15 minutes onto a barefoot run to drive, bike or run to a soft, grassy park, take off my shoes, pray there are no sprinkler heads, then run around and around and around until I'm dizzy and bored, and finally spend the time investment getting back home.

But shouldn't it be possible to get the foot blessing benefits of barefoot running without actually barefoot running? You bet! Here's 3 ways to do it:

1. Calf Raises and Single Leg Balancing: Both of these activities can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. Perform calf raises while in the shower (work up to 50 double leg or 25 single leg), and single leg balancing while brushing your teeth. Once single leg balancing gets easy, try to shift to your toes, and also try to do more difficult activities on one leg, such as dumbbell curls, typing on your computer, or making love. Of course, this strategy requires you to walk around your house without your shoes on, but that's one place where your pretty princesses will hopefully be safe.

2. Bosu Ball or Balance Disc: You'll find either of these balance devices at most gyms, and you can easily buy them at a sporting goods store. Stand on either for 3 sets of 30-60 seconds on one leg with your eyes closed. For added difficulty, add partner taps, in which a partner attempts to throw you off balance with light shoulder taps. You can also do exercise like dumbbell curls and dumbbell presses while you stand on these balance devices.

3. Jump Rope: Repetitive impact with a plyometric hopping motion like jump rope will stress and strengthen the bones and soft tissue in your feet, and teach your joints to absorb impact properly ­ similar to barefoot running. Practice both double and single leg hopping, and if you¹d like to count like a schoolgirl, knock yourself out. If you don¹t have a jump rope, try jumping jacks in your barefeet or socks. I actually do these in my office, and I haven't been fired yet.

Today¹s high-tech, ultra-supportive shoes can definitely leave your feet weak, just like that fairy tale princess. But a consistent combination of the activities outlined above can leave you with strong feet ­ without actually requiring you to do barefoot running. And if you are a princess reading this article, my sincere apologies. I'm sure you're good at other stuff.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top Marathon Runner Gives You 10 Training Tips

James Pearce
Liverpool Echo   

One of Britain's top marathon runners, Liz Yelling, has compiled a top 10 of training tips. Yelling won bronze at last year's Commonwealth Games and was eighth in this year's London Marathon.
1. Ring fence your exercise time. You won't get to the finish line without protecting your time to train. You've made a personal commitment to your health and well-being so it's important to you. Prioritize your time and stick to it.
2. Create incentives. Set goals and reward yourself when you reach them. These will provide you with drive and commitment towards the 5k and help you gauge how your fitness is progressing.
3. Plan your attack. Know what you are going to do in your week and when. Your plan should be progressive, structured and appropriate to your exercise history, level of fitness and 5k goals.
4. Variation is the spice of running life. Doing the same type of running can make your routine boring. Don't just do the same run every day. Mix it up and try different things like varying the pace, terrain and time you run for.
5. It shouldn't be all hard work. Avoid packing all your runs together. As a rule of thumb, for every day of 'hard' running, take two days rest or easy running.
6. Fuel yourself. Running is a great calorie burner but you still need to replace the energy you've used. Carbohydrate is the body's fuel for exercise so eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.
7. Get some support. Running with friends is social and builds togetherness. Getting a coach can help you get the right advice from an experienced specialist and keep you motivated.
8. Get the right kit. Specialist running shoes are a must for injury prevention. Choose running kit that is functional and comfortable.
9. Be patient. Don't expect immediate results. Successful running takes time, but you'll love the benefits of looking and feeling great when they arrive. The more you do the easier it gets.
10. Enjoy it and have fun! Running shouldn't be a chore. It's something you do to boost your health, wellness and vitality. Just being out there doing it is a brilliant achievement and you should remind yourself how well you've done.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Foot Exercises to Improve Your Pace

By Lauren Hargrave

As fit and active people, we often take our feet for granted and instead choose to concentrate on the larger vanity muscles. We like working the areas we can see or the ones that help us fit into our skinny jeans.

However, ignoring these small paddles, we miss out on one of the most important aspects of all athletic endeavors: performance.

The human feet have 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. They are our shock absorbers and push the pavement away with the entire weight of our bodies, powering us through our run.

The stronger your feet, the more power you have in your push and the faster your legs can move.

If you're a runner looking to shave multiple seconds off your mile, or minutes off your marathon, these foot strengtheners will get closer to your goal. Please note, it is important to remain barefoot during these exercises so that your feet can fully articulate.

Barefoot Calf Raises

These are a good warm-up for any speed or strength-training workout because they wake up the entire lower half of the body. Stand barefoot with your feet hips distance apart and slowly raise and lower your heels.

When lifting, make sure that the tops of your feet, your ankles and calves are all in a straight line; if your ankles bow out, you could wind up with an injury.

If you are unsure about your form, it may help to have a chair or railing nearby for balance and to start by performing these exercises in front of a mirror.

Heel-Raised Squats

For those looking for a more interesting way to squat, these are for you. Unless your balance is so good you can practically levitate, you will probably want to rest your hand on a railing or chair, and place a block or small round ball in between your upper thighs. Once your props are in place, stand with your bare feet hips distance apart and lift your heels off the floor. Once you feel stable, squeeze the ball or block between your legs and bend your knees as far as you can while keeping your heels raised and back straight. Hold here for a count of 30, then rise up an inch, and drop an inch.

Repeat for a set of 30 and then finish with another 30-count isometric hold. To get the greatest benefit, make sure that your heels do not drop as you squat and try to keep your thighs parallel to the ground at all times.

Barefoot Squat Jumps

Jumping barefoot is one of the best exercises for your feet, and you can add a medicine ball to get a more intense lower body workout.

This exercise is best performed on a soft surface, so try to find grass, sand or carpet if you can. Then stand with your bare feet hips distance apart and if you're using a medicine ball, hold it to your chest.

Bend your knees as far as you can while keeping your back straight and then explode up, pushing off the ground with as much force as possible.

If you're using a medicine ball, push it over your head as you leap for a little shoulder and triceps workout. Try to land softly to protect your knees, and repeat for three sets of 20.

Balancing Poses

Borrowed from yoga, balancing poses are a gentler way to strengthen your feet. Start with your bare feet touching, then slowly bend forward, touch your toes with your hands and lift your left leg into a split.

Stay here for 10 breaths, slowly lift your body until your left leg and torso are parallel to the ground and your arms are pointing towards your back foot like airplane wings. Slowly count to 10.

From here, lift your torso until you're upright and slowly drop and the lift your left leg until it's pointing in front of you. Don't touch the ground and don't lean backwards; stay here for 10 breaths.

Finish this set by bringing your left foot to rest either above or below your knee. Bring your hands to your waste or prayer position in front of your heart. Stay here as long as you can stand it, and repeat on the other side.

Alternate Walking on Toes and Heels

These exercises stretch and strengthen your feet and are a good cool-down. Walking on your toes strengthens the calf muscles and stretches the toe extensors. Walking on your heels strengthens the foot extensors, and stretches the calves and bottoms of your feet.

Start with your bare feet hips distance apart, raise your heels off the floor and take 50 steps on your toes. Walk back the way you came on your heels, careful not to lock-out your knees.

Lauren Hargrave is a writer, endurance athlete and a fan of all things related to physical and emotional well being. She also takes one week challenges from friends and family and writes about them on her blog 50 Two Cents.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

5 Ab Exercises for Runners.

By Dena Stern

According to a recently published study "runners who did these moves four times a week shaved a minute off their 5K times in six weeks."

Whether you are training for an endurance run or just looking to improve the quality of your weekly job these ab moves are a must.

Directions: Perform two sets of 12 reps of each exercise.

Instability Crunch

Begin by lying on your back on a exercise ball with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. To be safe you can anchor your feet under a stable object. Place your hands behind your head and extend your elbow out as you roll your upper body forward and up. Roll For more of a challenge try: Weighted Ball Crunch

Hip Lift

Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, palms down, and your legs bent on top of a exercise ball. Press your heels into the ball while raising your hips toward the ceiling. Your body should end at a 45 degree angle to the ball. Lower your hips to the floor and repeat.
For more of a challenge try: One Leg Hamstring Dips

Back Extension

Lie on an exercise ball with your belly button over the center of the ball and your arms and legs extended. Contract your abs and raise your upper body off the ball until your body forms a straight line from the top of your head to your ankles. Lower and repeat. For more of a challenge try: Medicine Ball Hyperextension

All Fours

Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart, facing downward with your back straight and parallel to the floor.
Raise your right leg and extend it behind you as you lift your left arm and extend it in front of you. Hold this position for about five seconds, return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
For more of a challenge try: All Fours with Weighted Balls

Russian Twist

Begin by lying on your back on top of a exercise ball with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms toward the ceiling and bring your hands together. Keep your arms straight as you twist from side. For more of a challenge try: Russian Twist with Weights

Dena Stern is a certified personal trainer and the Content & Community Manager for She works with a highly trained group of nutritionists, trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors and athletes to provide the best information, tools and motivation related to exercise and fitness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Running Tired: Four Strategies for Recovering Faster

by Jenny Hatfield
Runner's World

I feel like I'm keeping the makers of Advil in business. I'm not injured, but I'm feeling pain and soreness from pushing my body to the limit. Soaking and stretching helps, but is there something else I should be doing? Please don't say REST:) Thanks ~Kim
Hi Kim.  I'm glad you wrote as there is a difference between being injured and feeling pain and soreness from the demands of training. They both sit at the threshold, it's just that one is above it (injured) and one is just below.  Taking anti-inflammatory products is one way to deal with the pain, another is to modify your training life a bit.  Here are a few tips on how you can train hard and recover more efficiently to avoid living in a consistent state of fatigue.

  • Run by effort rather than a prescribed pace. If you run by how your body is feeling on the day, versus a specific pace (i.e. (9:45 per mile), you'll train in the right gear on the day, get in a higher quality workout and promote faster recovery.  For example, you wake up to run your weekly tempo workout and head out to a strong headwind and humid temperatures.  If you run it by your normal tempo pace, you will expend a lot more energy to get in this workout.  If you run it by feel and effort, you will get in the tempo at the pace on the day and at the correct effort thereby allowing your body to recover faster because you didn't push too hard.
  • Run truly easy on your easy days. One of the easy mistakes to make while training for a event is to get into what I call the La La Pace – where, most runs are done at the same effort which turns out to be too fast for an easy, recovery run and too slow for a speed workout. As you build and progress through the training season, it takes a toll and creates more fatigue, slower recovery times and poor performance.  Easy means not being able to hear your breathing while running.  Slow it down to recover so you can kick butt on the longer and faster workouts.  It just takes patience.
  • Mix it up. When I first started coaching running over 18 years ago, there was not one program that included cross-training.  The belief was that if you wanted to run longer and faster, you had to invest only in running.  My background in the fitness world told me different.  First, by weaving in cross-training activities you decrease the physical and mental wear and tear on the body and keep your program fresh.  Second, a successful lifelong running program is all about creating balance and maintaining durability.  Strength training (especially for your core), and lower impact training can boost your body's ability to run longer for stronger – and in doing so, reduce wear and tear, fatigue and inefficiency.  The runner that can run with the most durability over time will be running with great quality for life.
  • Inventory your life's flow. Take a look at the flow of your life outside of the miles.  The quality of sleep, stress, work, nutrition are just a few areas that if out of balance, can really take a toll on the quality of your recovery.  Sometimes making a few minor tweaks to your lifestyle (getting more sleep, upping your quality calories) can have a profound effect on your performance.
Thanks for posting your great question.

Jenny Hadfield Co-Author, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals
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