Tag Archives: Runner training

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

 

Running Nutrition

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Running Nutrition.

For any long distance runner, a Running Nutrition strategy is an absolute necessity. Do this wrong or don’t practice it before race day and you are risking failure. Is hard enough for our running bodies to cover the long distance add dehydration and/or lack of Carbohydrates and you have the “Bonk”. But not all fuel is created equally and not all runners can follow the same fueling techniques.

Practice Hydration

You should practice your hydration strategy during your long runs. After a few of those runs you should be able to dial in to exactly what works for you. Carry your hydration so you can sip along the course. This way you can avoid the slowing crowded runners at the water stops. Besides, the race may not be offering the same products you are used to hydrate with. If you don’t want to carry a bottle (or two) with you check with the race administrators to find out what they will be offering at the race. During your long runs practice with those same products. If you don’t want to carry your bottle, you may want to place water bottles along your route or park your car on a loop of 3-4 miles long so that you have access to your hydration . I personally carry my own bottle. On longer runs I double the concentration so I don’t have to carry more than one bottle. It works for me but may not for you. Practice it!

Fueling your Long Run

Glucose, sugar-the simplest of all Carbohydrates, is the main source of fuel in our body. Stored as Glycogen in our muscles and liver is the fasted burning fuel. A well-trained runner has about two hours of Glycogen supply to burn. It is very important to replenish the stores of it to avoid hitting the “Wall”. Again something you have to practice on your long runs along with hydration. Fuel is easy to carry with you. Raisins, dates, gummy bears, gels etc. all should fit in your short pockets. Find out what the race will be offering and practice with it if you don’t want to carry it. Always take 3-4 ounces of water (2-3 sips) with any fuel, it will be distributed to your muscles quicker.

Glycemic indexes for common sugars Scale: 0-100 where 100 raises blood glucose levels fastest

glucose ~99

maltodextrin ~85

high fructose corn syrup ~78

sucrose ~68

agave nectar, raw honey ~30

brown rice syrup ~25

fructose ~20

Choose your sugars wisely. Slow burning sugars (low glycemic) will burn slower and will sit in your stomach longer which can give you digestive problems while running.

Dialing in your Nutrition is never easy but with practice you will find what works the best for you. As with Everything else don’t try anything new on race day.

avoid the Bonk

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

 

Is running a competitive sport?

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After a Sunday’s group run we gather for coffee. Needless to say we flood the coffee bar with sweaty, smelly bodies and for some reason we feel welcomed. Even the other patrons don’t seem to mind us but we do get curiously examining looks all the time. Usually there are running discussions buzzing all around the coffee bar. Different subjects depending on the table you’re sitting at. But there was one that became more of a general discussion “Is running a competitive sport or individual”?

With Boston around the corner and with a few of our group going to the prestigious running event, this was a timely subject. Of course ideas are like assholes, everybody has one! And there was not a shortage of them.

Competitive Sport

So what is a competitive sport? Here’s what wikipedia has to say: 

Sport (UK) or sports (US) are all usually forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.

That definitely describes any running event from the 100m Sprint to the Marathon and more. A group of athlete’s competing for 1st place and there’s never a lack of entertainment nor spectators who can reach over a million at some events. So there you have it running is a competitive sport. Or is it?

You vs You

Let’s take another look at this. You don’t hear someone ask you “Did you Win the Marathon?” But, you do hear “Did you set a PR ?”(or a PB depending on the Continent you are at that moment). I personally think is rude to so blatantly ask a runner the PR question unless you know them well. But you can always drug it out of by asking “how was the course?”,”how was the weather?” or “how did you feel during the race”. If that runner set a personal best you’d know by now! I think all of us strive for a PR. We may even place at the top in our age group from time to time but a personal record shines better than that reward.

So if you run for a Personal Record (or a Personal Best) seems that those are individual goals and don’t have much to do with competing with other runners. Right? Let’s face it, in any race but especially the Marathon you have the front-runners or the leading group or simply the Elites. It’s the pack of runners that are competing and they are about 30 to 50 of them and as the race goes on the pack thins down to about 6-8 runners. They are competing for 1st place and a very generous reward most races. The rest of us are trying to beat our own Best, we are running for a new PR. It is You against You on the course. Can’t care less about the runner in front or behind you.

I think it all comes down to each one of us. If we all run at six minutes pace then we would be competing at races. Personally I think running is an Individual sport for the majority of runners and a Competitive one for the Select few.

Here’s to a new PR

Cheers,  Takis

 

 

The Road That Leads to Athens

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Athens Marathon start

If you are standing at the Start Line in the small town of Marathon, Greece on the second Sunday of November you are exactly 26.2 miles from Athens. It doesn’t matter what part of the World you are coming from. That distance on that day is the same for all. I live in a small city in the South Eastern U.S. close to 6,000 miles from Athens. For me is a long trip to reach that destination. But it’s not the miles you log on the trip that lands you at the airport before Race week, it’s the miles you log with your feet to get you ready for that Sunday in November that will lead you to Athens. This is my journey to the Athens Authentic Marathon.

The History of Marathon

Over 2,000 years ago the ancient Greeks heroically defended their land against the invading Persians. You can read more about the battle here:  History of Marathon.  On the day they pushed the Persians back into their ships, a soldier/messenger named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the Victory. The distance he covered is unknown to this day. If Pheidippides ran straight to Athens over the mountain of Penteli, then he ran about 20 miles, the shortest possible way. But Historians believe that he took the more flat route either to the South or the North of the mountain and that distance would have been about 25 miles.

26.2

In the late 1800’s the distance of Marathon became an Olympic event but the actual distance varied between events. Early 1900’s during the London Olympics the route was extended so that the Finish Line was in front of the Royal Box. That year the distance was 26.2 miles. The organizers decided to make that distance Official for accurate records.

Okay enough about History, let’s get to the Marathon business. And for now is actually more like Half Marathon. I want to run the Palmetto Bluff 13.1 on March 12th. This race will give me a pretty good idea of my current fitness and set a starting training benchmark.

You can follow my training on Strava. It is also updated daily on the right sidebar on this blog’s main page.

 

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

 

Yesterday the training schedule called for Cruise Intervals. At 60°F the temperature was great but the 95% Humidity was a killer.
A couple of miles in the run my Garmin buzzed “run for 2000 meters” and I started pushing the effort to about 8:30 m/m pace which is my slower side of the Cruise Interval range (8:30m/m – 8:05m/m). It was almost a struggle to keep the pace for the duration. I did not carry water on this run because it was a 3 mile loop and I had the chance to grab a sip of water from my bottle every time I ran by my car. This was also a new route for me with a lot of uneven pavement which made things a little more challenging since I mostly running on flat roads.

When I finally finished my work out walked to my car to get the last out of my water bottle I realized how much I had been sweating during the run. My shirt was a darker color from wicking sweat and my legs were covered with sweat droplets. During the Winter we don’t think much about hydration and Electrolytes because…well is Winter. On my ride back home I was thinking to myself if I had made this workout harder than it should be by not hydrating properly before and not taking electrolytes.

Tomorrow’s workout is a Steady State Run. Weather predictions are very similar so it will be Hydration and Electrolytes and see what difference will it make!

Adidas Boston Boost 6

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Adidas Boston Boost 6

The last pair of Adidas Bostons have arrived. The 2017 model will soon be out to replace the 6s. This is my 5th pair of Bostons. Adidas improved on the already great Boston 5 last year but I honestly don’t think they can improve it any more. I love this shoe! All my long runs are in the Bostons. They have a very comfortable feeling from the time you lace them on. The shoe has an amazing “energy return” all the way up to the end of it’s life which for me, average built 142lb runner, is around 350-400 miles (yep worth every penny!)

I ran close to 1500 miles in 2016 and 90% of that millage was done in the Bostons. It is the perfect hybrid running shoe between training and racing. I keep two pair of Bostons on rotation during training and one pair only for racing. I also run with a 4mm drop shoe for shorter distances just to change things up and strengthen different parts of legs/feet.

I’m anxious to see what Adidas has in store for us this year. As I already mentioned there isn’t much room for improvement with this shoe. Only one thing…..Adidas please come up with different color options this year other than the solid black, white and solid navy blue. Let’s add some flair to our feet for fun and safety!

Always keep a couple of pair of good running shoes on rotation while you are training. Retire your shoes once you start feeling your legs getting fatigued soon after the start of your run. There isn’t a good measure of millage that a shoe should be retired at. That depends on various factors as in the type of shoe, the runner built, the terrain you mostly run on and how efficient of a stride you have. Always go by how it feels. If your last couple of runs were not feeling good in the same shoe but the runs in the alternate pair were okay then you know is time to put this pair out to pasture!

Fresh legs = Happy running

Takis