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Rest is Best

May 21, 2021

Written by Rosie Edwards.

We are runners. And for many of us (as runners), our mentality is to GO, GO, GO! We love to push the boundaries of what we think our bodies can do and live to test the waters in order to gain that extra 1%.

But have you ever stopped to think about how our bodies absorb all of the hard work that we put in?

Insert the HOLY GRAIL of training, REST.

rest_is_best







You might notice the Runcoach schedule has a "6 day max" of run day assignments.  Why does every individual need at least one day off? Let's find out:


- Recovery: Training is a stimulus or stress which elicits a response. We stress our bodies through physical activity. It is within recovery that we see sper compendation of fitness development through cellular adaptation, further capillarization in the legs muscles, and improved blood chemistry to move oxygen to your working muscles. 


- Injury prevention:
It’s no secret that running can be hard on the body. Many of us are road runners. We pound away at the concrete in preparation for our next big opportunity to go fast. Our muscles, joints and bones need a break from this.

 

- Mental breaks: Sure, running is fun, and it can be a great stress reliever. However, a rigorous training program can be mentally challenging, too. A rest day helps to give you time to enjoy other hobbies and avoid burnout.


- Replenishing glycogen stores
: When training we use the glycogen in our muscles for energy and it can be a training regimen in itself to keep these stores topped up through adequate nutrition. A rest day provides you with a day to top them up in preparation for your next big run.

 

So next time that you put your feet up, feel good about it. The rest is part of your training too, after all.



You wouldn’t know it by the strength of her British accent, but Rosie has been in the US for over 10 years. She arrived in Indianapolis to run track and cross country at Butler University. Since then she has progressed through the distances, from 1500 meters to the marathon.rosie_bio3

Rosie is fresh of the plane from her most recent race at the British Olympic Marathon Trials, where she placed third with a time of 2:31. Wowza! She loves all things science-based and enjoys putting her Sports Science Degree and running experience into practice.

 In addition to her coaching on Runcoach, she is a strength and mobility coach and today we asked her to share a few little tips, which may help in your next race build-up:

 Hips don’t lie~

Hip mobility is a huge focus area for runners, whether you are in a car, seated at a desk or watching TV at night, sitting with your knees and hips at 90 degrees can be a little tough on the body.

As runners, hip extension is paramount when opening the stride. However, the everyday seated position can lead to tight and shortened hip flexors which can decrease the length of our stride, costing us precious seconds over each mile and even leading to injuries.

 If you have the ability to sit on an exercise ball rather than a chair it will help to keep your hips mobile throughout the day, while activating and recruiting stabilizing core muscles.

Here are some of her favorite hip-opening stretches.
stretchs2

Another key area that we often neglect are the adductors. If we asked you to log how many steps we take in the forward motion compared to the lateral motion each day we'd wager that the majority of us only build in lateral movement when turning very tight corners.

 This is why our adductors can become weak and as a result, tight.

By adding a little focused work to strengthen these stabilizing muscles we can once again work towards decreasing injury risk.

Strength exercises for this exercise include clamshells, monster walks, and lateral steps with resistance bands.

One of her favorite stretches can be viewed below. The mountain backdrop certainly makes the stretch more enjoyable.

Hold each stretch for 1-2 minutes or move gently in and out of the stretch for mobility, avoid aggressively bouncing.

s3
Taking a few minutes each day to focus on the little things can pay dividends in the long run, no pun intended. Happy running.



Q:  After some of my long runs I completely crash for the rest of the day, and I can't afford to be down for the count - I have stuff to get done!  What can I do?

A:  Make sure you are leaving for your runs with a full tank - hydrated, and with 100-200 calories at least in the hour or two before you start.  Plan for and consume 4-8 oz of electrolyte replacement beverage every 2-3 miles (25-30 mins.) for long runs beyond an hour.  And, most importantly, replenish with carbohydrates as soon as possible after your run = 15-30 minutes max.  A banana, apple, orange, peanut butter sandwich, or energy bar with primarily carbs and some protein included are great choices to save in your car or keep ready at home for your return.  We know that in a depleted state your body will grab carbohydrates and convert them to working glycogen quickly.  So the post-run quick meal (100-200 kcal) within 30 minutes is key.  Miss this window and you'll be playing catch up the rest of the day!


Q:  What should I eat the night before a race?

A:  You should eat familiar foods at a normal dining hour.  The day before a race, incorporate plenty of carbs, but do not stuff yourself with two pounds of pasta.  Eat a moderate amount of a well balanced meal (pasta, chicken breast or bolognese sauce, salad, roll is one example) at dinner, and sip both water and sports drink throughout the day.  Steer clear of alcohol.

One mistake a lot of people at destination races make is to set out from the hotel for dinner at 7, head to a casual dining restaurant which is busy on weekends, wait 45 minutes or an hour for a table, and all of a sudden, start dinner at 9pm when the alarm clock is set for 5am.  Plan ahead and give your body time to assimilate the food and get ready to sleep! You and the line of people behind you at the porta-potties will be grateful.


Q:  How much should I drink during a marathon or half marathon?

A:  First of all, we recommend taking a drink to the start line and consuming 4-8 oz right before the gun goes off.  This is your first water stop.    Plan to consume 6-8 ounces of fluid every 2-3 miles or 25-30 minutes.  For bigger races with aid stations every mile or two, one good rule of thumb is to just take fluid every time (so you don't have to think about it).  A good strategy is to alternate sports drink and water.  Pinch the top between your thumb and fingers, and you can nurse it for a few more yards.  Most importantly, do not wait to consume fluids until you are "thirsty".  At that point, you are already playing catch-up.  Drink early, and when in doubt, choose the electrolyte replacement drink over water - then you'll get both the minerals and the H2O necessary for hydration.


Q: Everybody says I should try this (bar/ gel).  How do I know if it is right for me?

A:  Practice!  Your initial long runs serve as trial and error nutrition workouts.  Once you find your comfort zone with a particular drink, gel or bar include consumption in your longer and more rigorous workouts. Nutrition-wise, nothing you do on race day should be brand new territory.  We recommend consuming a gel packet (always with fluid) or similar amount of carbs through another source such as a banana every 45-60 minutes during a marathon or half marathon, which means you should also be doing this on your Big Kahuna long runs.  Keep in mind if you are following the earlier recommendation of energy drinks every 25-30 minutes you may not need the additional gel/bar/banana replacement.  Many utilize a combination of drinks, gels and food to provide quick available carbs within the race.  Everyone's body is different - make your refueling plan during workouts as deliberate as the other parts of your race preparation and you'll have one less unknown to worry about!



Laura and Colfax have a special relationship. If you are on Instagram @runswithcolfax is sure to brighten your day, especially if you’re lucky enough to catch a photo with Colfax staring at the camera!

 laura1

Laura is a Mom, Veteran, Dietitian, Triathlete, Runner and many more. So you might wonder how she gets it all done in a mere 24-hours? We asked, she replied “It’s habit, beginning with planning and prep the night before”.
Below is an extended Q&A with this super woman. 

 

How or why did you start running? How did you find Runcoach?

-          I originally started running in high school, 24 years ago (eek!). I didn’t make the cut for my school’s soccer and softball teams, so I thought I’d give cross country a try, and then also ran track and field. I took a break from running competitively during college, and then decided to see if I could still run a 5K when my now-husband (fiancé then) was deployed to Iraq in 2004-2005. It turned out I could, and I’ve basically been running regularly ever since.

-          I honestly don’t remember how I first stumbled across Runcoach! I think I saw it mentioned on someone’s blog or Instagram feed a couple years ago and checked it out. After years of using free training plans I found online or wrote up myself, I knew I needed something a little more individualized to not only push myself a little harder but also be appropriate for my personal fitness level and goals.

 

What motivates you to get out the door each morning?

-          These days, it’s habit more than motivation. It’s just what I do, and I know the rest of the day I’ll feel a lot more relaxed and productive if I run (or work out) first thing. Also, Colfax pops up ready to go as soon as my feet hit the floor, and his excitement certainly helps.

 

laura2How did runs with Colfax become a regular thing?

-          It was initially my husband’s plan for us to get a dog that could run with me, since I run early in the morning by myself. We have another dog but she’s never been interested in long slow distance! Sprinting is more her style. He did a lot of research into the breed that would be the best fit for our family, lifestyle, and ability to run long distances, and decided on a Brittany. We got Colfax when he was 4 months old and started him out with walks. After he turned one, I started adding short running intervals – a quarter mile at a time to start, and then gradually built it up from there. At the time, I didn’t think he’d run EVERY run with me, but when I saw how much he enjoyed it, it soon became a regular thing.

**Important note: Colfax is a champion racer. Check out his first-place medal from Palmetto Running Company. Congratulations to Laura on placing first in her age group as well. A truly DYNAMIC DUO!

 

What do you enjoy most about your wellness routine currently?

-          It’s MY time. The rest of my day is often dependent on the priorities of others – at work and at home as a wife and mother of 2 young boys – so the time I spend running and working out is often the only time that’s completely within my control. I have always loved to be active (I’ve been an athlete since age 5), so spending my free time moving in ways that make me feel good physically and mentally is a high priority.

 

What are some of your personal wins?

-          I’m most proud of the times I tried something I’d previously never thought possible, like triathlons, marathons, reaching new training mileage/intensity milestones, remaining active through two pregnancies, and clawing my way back to even higher levels of fitness postpartum and now as I get older. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at what my body can do when my mind gets out of the way.

What are your future goals?

-          The half marathon has broken my heart the last 4 times I’ve run it, all due to situations out of my control. But I’m not giving up! Someday I hope to break my PR of 1:51 (set 8 years ago). I’m also looking forward to eventually running another marathon and breaking 4 hours, but in the meantime, I’m having fun focusing on what I’ve recently decided are my stronger distances – 5K and 10K – and hoping to continue setting PRs in those distances.

 

Laura and Colfax, we are rooting for you both to reach new levels of fitness, personal bests, and enjoy every second of your journey!
Photo cred: Laura from @runswithcolfax 



After all the time and effort you invested in training, you want your hard work to pay off on race day.  Here are 10 tips to keep in mind in the final days before the big day. jva_2racing

1. Hydrate. Dehydration can make even an “easy” pace feel harder. Consume plenty of water in the days before the race.  Sip fluids in small doses throughout the day to avoid stomach upset. 

2. Stick to familiar foods. Avoid the temptation at the expo to test out new sports foods and drinks. Stick to foods that have given you a boost during training without upsetting your stomach.  Avoid any new foods or ingredients to avoid GI distress.

3. Stick to the training plan. In the days before the race, it’s tempting to cram in extra mileage or intense workouts to propel yourself to a PR. That’s not a good idea.  You can’t boost your fitness at this point—you only risk injury.  Use the time to rest, run easy, and get plenty of shuteye. You want to feel springy and energetic, and ready to unleash all the strength, and speed you worked so hard to develop.

4. Don't diet...Some runners attempt to cut back on calories during the taper, as they cut back their miles. But in the days before the race, you want to be building up your stores of glycogen so that you can have them to burn during the race. If you’re training for a half-marathon or a marathon, aim to get 70% of your daily calories from carbs in the final three days of your race. If you try to restrict calories, you could end up at the starting line feeling depleted and fatigued.

5. ...But don't get carried away with carb-loading. Other runners use the race as an excuse to eat with abandon. That can lead to GI distress, a heavy-legged feeling at the starting line, and a race that's derailed by emergency pit stops.

6. Review the course. Review the race route and course elevation, or if you can, drive or run on stretches of the course. Take mental notes on where you’ll have to push and where you can cruise. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line feeling composed, strong, and exhilarated.

7. Gather your tried-and-trusted gear.  Resist the temptation to use or wear something new for the special occasion of race day.  A gear or clothing malfunction before or during the race can rock your focus and derail the day you’ve worked so hard to prepare for.  Plan to race in the shoes, apparel, gear, and gadgets that have been reliable in training.

8. Review your logistics.  What are your plans for picking up your race packet? How will you get to the race in the morning and get home afterwards? Where will you park? Make a plan for race weekend, write it down, and stick to it. Spending time to nail down these logistics will help relieve stress on free up energy you need to focus.

9. Reflect on your training. Add up all the miles you logged to train for this big event. Take note of all the times you pushed yourself out the door for a tough workout when you would have rather stayed in. Draw confidence from all that you accomplished on the way to the starting line. Take time to reflect on the major milestones you hit—say the first time you completed a mile, achieved a new personal best, or hit a pace that once felt impossible. Use those memories and that pride to fuel your confidence heading into race day.

10. Reset your goals.  Have a few time goals for the race. Consider how your training went,  how healthy you feel, and any niggling aches and tweaks you may have developed along the way. If work, life, illness or injury got in the way of training, save your original time goal for another day. And be sure to set process goals for the race, which aren’t tied to the numbers on the finish-line clock. You might aim to run up the hills you previously walked, or try to do a negative split—that is, finish the second half the race faster than the first half.

Good luck!

After you cross the finish line, be sure to tell us about your training and racing experience. Share your story here. 



App_logoUpdated by Rosie Edwards

“Just put one foot in front of the other! “  Seems easy enough, but how does your stride really work?  Understanding how you run can help you to understand what stresses and strengths your body has as it covers ground day after day.

 

Running is differentiated by the instant where both feet are concurrently airborne, as opposed to walking, which always includes one foot on the ground.  Some describe the running stride in two phases, support and swing, while others divide the stride into three stages[i] four stages[ii], two stages with multiple stages within these larger divisions[iii], five stages[iv], and more.

 

Regardless of how the stride is divided, many of the ways in which the stride is discussed cover similar ground.  Like the chicken and the egg, as the first one ends, the next one starts, although some have strong feelings regarding whether or not the stride should technically begin at toe-off or while the foot is in the air[v].  For our purposes, we’ll begin with the lead foot about to return to the ground, the hamstring and gluteus contracting and preparing to absorb the coming contact with the ground.  Watching an athlete running on a treadmill helps to more clearly visualize this aspect of the stride.  The leg anticipates pulling the body past the ground underneath and the large muscle groups on the back of the leg in particular help to initiate this pulling motion as the lead foot heads toward the ground.

 

Once the foot hits the ground, the body absorbs the initial contact (whether heel, midfoot, or forefoot), with a bending leg and a collapsing foot (pronation), as the muscles contract to control the joints and effect of the shock caused by gravitational forces[vi].  If bouncing on a trampoline, the trampoline can provide the absorption and return forces needed to propel oneself up again.  In other words, one can bounce on a trampoline with straight legs as the leg muscles aren’t required to contract and extend to return the body to the air.  On the solid ground, the legs must provide the absorption and propulsion.  This requires them to bend and give.

 

Next, the weight of the body travels forward in preparation for the toe-off from the forefoot.  This response is not unlike a rubber band or a spring.  The joints and ligaments of the foot flex and contract to allow transition from the initial landing point on the foot, to a point where the foot is absorbing maximum downward stress, to the toe-off where the hip flexor is extended and the opposite knee is flowing forward and up.

 

When the foot leaves the ground, it cycles underneath the body, and follows the knee forward and downward to ideally land underneath the body to efficiently recreate the cycle again.  As speed increases, the amount of time spent during this portion of the stride increases and the reciprocal percentage of the time during the stride spent on the ground decreases.  The dynamics of this portion of the stride vary widely, depending on hip flexor flexibility and strength, naturally occurring angles of the body, length of our legs relative to our overall height, and current speed.

 

As with all parts of the stride, each runner brings their own physiological idiosyncrasies to the table.  However, each of our strides, rather than a forgettable, automatic process not worth a second thought, is rather an amazing series of actions and reactions that we demand from our bodies thousands of times in a row in even one run.  There is debate about how much we can change our strides to resemble those of the Olympians on TV, or even the winner of last weekend’s 5K.  Each of us, however, have the opportunity to increase the chances we can continue to stride as our best version of ourselves, by being mindful to strengthening and balance exercises in our legs from foot to hip, and by seeking to increase flexibility and avoid prolonged muscle tightness.  Even if your stride isn’t perfect, these steps can help you resist and postpone fatigue, and stay healthy enough to continue training your legs to move you to the finish line as best they know how.



[i] Dugan, S. and Bhat, K. (2011). “Biomechanics and Analysis of Running Gait” Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America http://demotu.org/pralados60/files/2011/05/DuganPMRCNA05running.pdf : p 612 Retrieved August 6, 2013

[ii] Parker, Ron. “ The Running Stride” http://www.trackandfieldcoach.ca/the%20running%20stride%20with%20photos.pdf Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iii] Phillips, Matt. “Introduction to Running Biomechanics”  http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/running-biomechanics/ Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iv] Barreau, Matthew. “The Five P’s of Running Form” http://www.brianmac.co.uk/runform.htm

 

[v] Novachek, Tom. (1997) “The Biomechanics of Running”  Gait and Posture, Vol. 7. http://www.elitetrack.com/article_files/biomechanicsofrunning.pdf p79-80 Retrieved August 7, 2013

[vi] Dugan and Bhat: p. 609



Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?



Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at info@runcoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Taper

April 01, 2021

beach_running

Updated by Rosie Edwards

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.

 

You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.

 

The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.

 

Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.

 

As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.

 

Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.

 

Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.

 



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