Tag Archives: couch to 5K

The Importance of the Warm Up

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Warm Up to a better performance.

Have you ever started a run and felt sluggish, heavy and thinking “I don’t think I can do this today”? But you stick with the run and things progress, eventually you start feeling a little more confident. Your legs loosen up and you start to gain speed slowly without too much extra effort. Then you enter the specific stage (speed, tempo, stamina workout) of your training run and things are just not happening. If you have felt all this you are not alone. Most of us roll out of bed in the morning or get back home from work and head out the door to “get this run over with” without much preparation. We skip the Warm Up part of our workout.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you skip the Warm Up you are cheating yourself of your best performance. Don’t fool yourself by saying “I’m not a fast runner or an elite”. It doesn’t matter if you are a 17 minute 5K athlete or a 30 minute one. You may have noticed the “fast kids” warming up before a race and you think “Well their coach tells them they have to”. Yes, and they also run sub 20 minute 5Ks.

A proper Warm Up gets your body and mind ready of what is about to take place. It can be broken down in three parts.

1. Mobility

So what do you need to do for a proper Warm Up? Here are some things I do before every run. First I do some hip-openers, chest-openers, squats, leg swings and lunges about 2-4 sets. These exercises open up my chest so my lungs fill up with more air during my run. Loosen up my hips and joints so they don’t stiffen my run. Mobility workouts, here Matt Fitzgerald describes a few of the workouts you could do before your runs.

2. Energy Delivery system

Right after that I head out the door for an easy mile or two. That gets the heart pumping and Oxygen-rich blood flowing to the working muscles. Warming up the muscles and tendons gets them ready for the hard work to come and will prevent injury. Next, is time for a few running form drills. These will “wake up” the nervous system which is an important part of the Warm-Up. They are great co-ordination exercises. Jason Fitzgerald demonstrates the basic Running Drills in a short video. You’d want to do these on key-workout days and not before Easy or Long runs.

3. Practice race/training pace

After the energy delivery system is set up and the muscles warmed is time for a few Strides. I only do those before a race or a speed workout. I run the pace that I will race or train for 20-25 seconds to see what it “feels” like for that day. And I only do 3-4 repeats. You’d want to do this right before the race (2-3 min before the start) or the start of your workout and not every time you run.

Once you incorporate this Warm-Up routine into your training it will become part of it and it will feel natural. Not only your performance will improve but your running Form will too.

Run Strong.

Takis

 

The terrible toos in running.

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Too soon, Too many, Too fast.

Mostly a beginner’s offense to the basic rules of running. Also seasoned runners coming from a running break or a race commit the offense of increasing their mileage Too Soon. Ignoring the “build a base” rule of training can quickly lead to injuries. Adding Too Many miles to their weekly totals and not observing the 10-20% increase per cycle also spells trouble. Coming back to training feeling rested and eager to run and piling up excess miles could sideline the runner. Also following the three cycle increase in mileage and the fourth cycle running less is the proper way to longer happier miles. And just because a runner can run Too Fast, he/she shouldn’t. Most of our running during training should be easy. As the matter of fact about 80% of the time spent running should be slow! The other 20% is a mix of controlled faster running workouts. Save it for race day! So here you have it: “the terrible toos”. Add any of these Toos to your running and you’ll be experiencing the terrible Shin Splints, Runner’s Knee, ITB Syndrome etc.

Run easy,

Takis

 

Cross Training for runners

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We all know how important cross training is for runners. Any type of cardio workout that does not involve much use of our feet is a great way to “rest while maintaining”.

As runners we have to run a lot to improve our performance. The problem is that risk of injury increases the more we run. By adding a day or two of cross training in a week gives our over-worked muscles time to repair themselves. But doing so does not increase our running performance. Cross training can only improve our total fitness.

One Study of two groups of runners followed a specific running program for six-week. One group only ran while the second group cross train as well. At the end of the study both groups showed the same improvements. Another study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise proved the same results as the first one.

Let’s not forget that the exact meaning of cross training (source: wikipedia ) is to take part in two different sports. So naturally we would not become better runners by swimming or the other way around.  To become a better runners, we have to run regularly, consistently, and with a good training plan that gradually increases in distance and speed.

So, will cross training increase your performance as runner?  I don’t think so. Will it make you less prone to injuries and more complete as an athlete?  Definitely

Train smart

Takis

 

Are your Easy Runs ruining your training?

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Most of us follow some kind of a training program. It can be a couch to 5K, a Half training program or even a Marathon. As you already know, if you are following a program, most of your workouts are “Easy Run” days. The purpose of those days are to either help your body recover from a previous hard workout or to prepare you for an upcoming one.  They are great workouts that help rebuild our muscles from tiny tears that occurred during hard training and make those muscles stronger. So to reap the full benefits of an Easy day you must slow down.

How slow do you go on Easy days? The answer is simple: You can not go “too slow” but you can go too fast and that will add to the stress and muscle fatigue and your next workout will suffer from it. Continue doing this and not only your training will become counteractive but you also risk injury.

Greg McMillan shares a great post on Easy running and other workouts by doing The Talk Test while running.

The Talk Test Zones

Endurance Zone – carry on a full conversation

Stamina Zone – speak in 1-2 sentences

Speed Zone – speak 1-2 words but definitely not a lot of talking

Sprint Zone – grunts, moans, aack.

As you see here the EZ zone is pretty much a relaxing run that you could actually carry on a conversation without having to gasp for air. Now if you are not running with a partner talking to yourself may seem as a sign of insanity to innocent by passers. But then again when they see you running they already think you’re half crazy.

Run Slow

Takis

 

To Pee or not to Pee

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Okay I know the title grabbed your curiosity but this question comes up often in many runners heads while doing long distance races. I have witnessed more than once, especially during Ultras, runners shorts been soaked with pee. Gross, I know but is a fact that some runners rather sacrifice a pair of shorts than seconds off the clock. It happens to a lot of us, that sudden urge to pee especially when we are out for a long time. During training runs is not a real issue but in a race it can be. Port-a-potties aplenty on the course but who has time for that, right? There is actually a scientific explanation for this urge and is called: stress incontinence

stress in·con·ti·nence
noun
  1. a condition (found chiefly in women) in which there is involuntary emission of urine when pressure within the abdomen increases suddenly, as in coughing or jumping.
    If you have ever experienced this condition you may want to read this: peeing on the run . Now as far as the other nature call while running, well you guys are your own…..I’m not even going there.
    Run Strong

Masters Runners

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When you hit 40 and you are a runner you are a Masters Runner. It doesn’t matter if you are a forever long time runner or a College Track star who took 20 years off running and now coming back or you decided to run for the first time in your life after your 40th Birthday. All Master Runners are not created equal of course but same rules apply to all.

First and foremost Be Kind to your body. At an older age your body is not as forgiving as it once was when you were 20 something. For newer runners choose your shoes carefully. Make sure they are made for your style of running and your particular gait. Shoes off the shelf at Target may be a great deal but don’t usually “match” every runners feet and although you could get away with it as a younger runner you will increase your chances of injury as a Masters. A gait analysis at your local running store will point you to the right shoes and your feet will thank you!

Run for the Hills. There is no better running strength workout than running hills. From Hill Repeats to incorporating hills into your Long Runs is a great way to strengthen your running body. For the Masters athlete this should be sufficient strength training.

For your Need for Speed. Schedule one day for Speedwork  and add a set of 6-10 Strides of 20 seconds long (5K to Mile Race pace) towards the end of one of your weekly EZ runs and that should be sufficient speed training for the week.

Less is More.  Junk miles are no longer on your training menu. Cut back on your miles. As we age we take longer to recover, avoid over-training due to miles pileup. For your Long Runs make sure the day before and after are OFF days. Add running drills once a week and yoga for runners after your hard runs.   Yoga Recovery for Runners

Recovery, Recovery, Recovery. Do not skip on the most crucial day of your training. Even for the younger runners is important to take a day off after a hard workout but for us Masters is Mandatory. Your body needs the time to rebuild and extend the gains from the work out. Add days OFF to your training schedule even if it means you create an “extended cycle”. Instead of the typical 7 day training schedule you can extend yours to 8,9 or 10 days, so your Long Run is every 8,9 or 10 days and not every Saturday or Sunday.

So running in as a Masters is not all gloom and doom. You will need to adjust and in doing so you can enjoy a long running and racing career well into your retirement years.

savvyrunning

Further Reading

 

 

 

 

 

How does the shoe fit?

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                                                  They say that running is an inexpensive sport. All you need is a pair of shoes, shorts and a t-shirt. In some cases running can be also done barefoot and even in the nude although the latter is not recommended. For most of us running is a very simple pleasure and can be enjoyed in it’s simplest of forms or you can add gadgets and expensive sportswear to fit your budget. One thing that we all need though is a shoe that “fits”.

Runners shoes must be a good all around “fit”, by that I mean not only your feet feel good in them but also that the shoes are made for you depending on the amount of  Pronation you parents gave you at birth.

For some of us when we run, the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground first, as we transition the foot naturally rolls some to the inside and then we toe-off from the front middle of the foot. That is called Normal Pronation (or Neutral Pronation). Some of us tend to roll our foot more inwards after the foot lands (Over-Pronation) and others tend to roll outwards after the initial land of the foot (Under-Pronation  a.k.a. Supination). Every one of us lands, no pun intended, somewhere in between all these different forms. Unless you can determine what type of Pronation you have by looking at the soles of an older pair of athletic shoes

Source: Runner’s World and DukeHealth.org

you may want to visit a reputable Running Store near you to have a gait analysis performed (everywhere I’ve been was Free) and they will put you in the right shoe. This is a sure way to make your running experience more comfortable and it will prevent unnecessary injuries.

I have met many people who say ” Yeah, I tried running but it hurts too much to run”. If they only knew…

 

 

Hooked and Got the t-shirt to prove it!

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It has been a long time but I still remember the day that I came home through the garage door into the laundry room kicked my shoes off and shouted “Honey, I just ran one mile!!! Did not stop once,  it felt hard but now it feels amazing”.  Still on-the-high of that morning’s run I started searching for a 5K race in our city that was two – three months away to allow for proper training.

I found one! I signed up and got the T-shirt to prove it! After 12 weeks of training I lined up at the start line. This was an inaugural race and a very small one. Only 187 runners participated. Among them my oldest son, my daughter, my nephew and his girlfriend. They had all been inspired by my excitement about running and had signed up and trained for the race.

Race Day

It was the first Saturday of June and in the Southeastern United States it can be pretty hot and humid and It Was! I remember it was 82 degrees and about 100% humidity it was the kind of weather you want to be by the pool or at the beach not running on asphalt.

The horn went off and the race clock started ticking. Runners and walkers alike took off on a grassy area that circled a pond and you could feel the heat rising from the ground. About half a mile in the race we had cleared the pond and the grass and now we were running on asphalt. At this point I was feeling great. I was passing runners left and right, literally.

Rookie mistake

A mile in the race and I started feeling out of breath. I had started the race too fast for my abilities. When that happens you are using precious energy all too fast and guess what? You don’t have enough to finish the race. By the time I reached the water/aid station (mile 1.5) I was walking. Grabbed a cup water thanked the volunteers and took off running again having recovered some after walking. It did not last very long and I was walking again. That went on till we turned the last corner and I could see the Finish line. People, family and friends were standing by and were cheering on the runners as they were turning in for the final 250 yards of the race.

The Finish Line

Out of nowhere my energy came back. Felt strong almost as strong as I felt at the beginning of the race. In front of me was a guy about my age and my competitive-spirit whispered to me as it didn’t want him to hear “you’ve got to pass this dude” and I tried, I gave it all and as soon as I got next to him the dude started speeding up. With 25 yards left we were both at all-out speed and he got in front of me right at the Finish. I didn’t care. I just ran a 5K, I finished a Race. I was a winner! I had ran (and walked) it at 32’40”. The short race came to the end quickly and they announced through the loud speaker that it was time for the awards.

I got hooked

They were doing what is called three deep Age Group Awards and Overalls. The overalls are 1st 2nd and 3rd Overall Male and Female and the Age Group is normally in 5 year increment groups for male and female separate. They started with the overall winners and then moved to the Age Groups. When they got to mine the first guy in my A.G. had also placed in the Overall category so he was skipped which means it gave my group’s 4th guy a placement in the 3rd place and an award. They started to announce 1st place then 2nd place and 3rd place. Nope, none of these names matched mine but honestly did not expect it. But wait….the 3rd place guy is walking up to get his award and picture with our Age Group….that’s the dude. The guy that beat me at the Finish Line. His time 32′.38″ he got me by 2″.

On the drive back home all these thoughts were running through my head….What if I had walked 5 steps less….What if I didn’t stop for water….What if I hadn’t started as fast?  I would be going home with an award today. I was so close! That did not really bother me but it light a fire in me. Later the same day I started looking for my next 5K race. I was hooked!

This is how it all got started. A few years fast forward, I crossed the finish line at the Bad Marsh 50K Trail Ultra-marathon (that is 31.07 miles). By that time I had run several races mostly 5Ks, a couple of 10Ks and a couple of Half Marathons.