Lessons Learned: Choose the Ground you RUN on!

It is always best to run on the softest ground possible.  Concrete being the worst!  I learned this lesson the hard way, running down hill full speed on concrete will result in a fracture!  If you can choose, always run in dirt!  Next best is asphalt then concrete.

When doing hill repeats, run up the hill and slowly jog or walk back down.  Your bones take the impact no mater how strong your think your muscles are.  Save the down hill running for your race, not for training!

Lessons Learned: Enjoy the Run, Don't Only Train

I don't know about you, but after I got my Garmin I was surprised by a few things.  First, I was surprise to find out that I wasn't running quite as far as I thought!  I was off by about 1/2 a mile which added up when I did my usual loop!

Second, I started to realize that my pace was faster than I thought, so I started to push myself to get faster.

Third, I slowly started using the heart rate monitor and started following my heart rate during speed drills, endurance runs and hill runs.

Next thing I knew, I was constantly checking my pace, distance, heart rate, and time.  Slowly I became so addicted to  tracking my progress, I lost the love of running because I was pushing myself so much.  All of my runs were specific training runs: endurance, drills, hills, etc.

When I first started running, it was for some ME time!  Time to get away from my daily problems, pray, and work things out in my head.  After I got my Garmin all those things went away.  My daily run had turned into training.  Training requires work and hard effort which can kill your enjoyment of running if you let them.

Running is a choice, training is mandatory, an obligation, a commitment.  That makes all the difference in the world.
When you freely choose to do an activity, you come to it with enthusiasm and energy.  An activity that is forced upon you saps all your strength.  Remember why you started running in the first place and don't lose sight of it!

I schedule a FUN RUN day where I leave my Garmin at home and enjoy the run!  I take time to pray and enjoy the beauty of my running trail.  Take time after your hard training season and just relax and remember the joy in your run.  This is why we need to rest in between races, to recharge our body and mind.  Don't lose your love of the run!


Lessons Learned: Water stations are hazardous to your PR!

I have completed 11 full marathons and 4 half marathons.  I have seen other runners be taken out of the race due to slipping at the water station.  Now, I learned to carry my own water and stay clear of the water stations during a race.  I try and run straight through them so I don't get ran over by other runners, or completely cut off by other runners going in for a drink.

You can never get enough water at the water stations to stay hydrated since, water is almost impossible to drink out of those cups while you are running.  You are supposed to crimp the side of the cup so you can make it a spout and pour the water into your mouth instead down the front of you.  You can never get more than a swallow or two unless you want to stop and drink a few cups.  During one marathon, they switched to clear hard plastic cups that you couldn't crimp!  Then there is the cup aftermath.  Cups thrown everywhere and the puddles of water.  Not a good combination when you are running!

My advice, try out different hydration devises and see what works best for you.  I tried the belts and they ended up rubbing the skin off my back and I never felt like they held enough water.  That and I don't like to run with anything around my waist.  So I now run with a water bottle in hand.  It works out great!  My husband hands me a fresh water bottle every 7 miles so I don't have to stop at the water stations.  I try and drink after every mile marker to ensure I am drinking enough and so far so good!  I also train with my water bottle.  I can stop and fill up at a local park if necessary.

Remember hydration is mandatory, so drink smart!

Lessons Learned: Train Smart!

Run hard and really push it on your hard training days and ease up on your easy run days. We tend to not train hard enough on the hard training days and too hard on the easy days. For example on speed drills, get your heart rate up into your maximum zone and hold it there for a few seconds, as long as possible.  Really make each drill count.

On your easy run day, take it easy, leave your watch at home and don't worry about your speed, time, pace. Enjoy the run and take it slow.  Often we feel so great we tend to go out way too fast and over do on the easy days.  This will cause us to take the enjoyment out of the run and push it too hard every time we run.

Lessons Learned: Fuel Your Runs.

It doesn't matter if it is a short sprint run or a long endurance run, you have to eat right to perform right.

Before your run: Short runs only need a little fuel...small banana does the trick. Longer endurance runs need a good balance of carbs and protein. My go to meal before every marathon: I like to eat 2 slices of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter and a small banana, and a cup of coffee, the caffeine helps aide in speed endurance and numbs the muscle pain.  Try and eat at lease 1 hour before you run.

During a long run (anything over an hour) you need to refuel during your run with carbs: I prefer Huma Chia Energy Gels. You should take in carbs every 45 minutes after you begin your run.

Then for recovery you want a good combo of 3:1 Carbs to protein meal. Chocolate milk is a popular recovery drink. I prefer a protein bar or healthy meal. Rehydrate with lots of water. You need your recovery meal within an hour of completing your run so your body can begin the recovery and repair process.

Lessons Learned: Gradually Add Distance

1. Start out slow.  Don't feel like the first time out to run you have to run like you did as a kid, as fast as possible.   Remember, you are running for an extended amount of time, not just running to the kitchen!

2. Find a pace that is comfortable to maintain and you can still breath!  If necessary, slow it down.  You should be able to maintain a conversation while running at an easy pace.  If you can't, then you need to slow down.

3. Get outside.  Many only run on the treadmill and that is great, but if the weather and running conditions allow, try to take it outside.  You get a better workout and you challenge your core muscles more by going through different terrain.

4. Start out easy, 15 to 20 minutes tops!  Don't worry about how many miles you have traveled, just get your time in.  Once you can run for an hour, then calculate the distance.

5. Gradually add 5 minutes to you "long run" day each week.  Usually you run 3-4 days a week with a rest day or cross training day in between.  You never want to increase by more than 10% in distance each week.

6.  If you are feeling great, and can easily run for an hour or 5-6 miles then you can start adding in speed drills.  Do Not ADD speed work in until you can run 6 miles.  Speed drills help you run faster and in the beginning you just need to get the distance down and your form down.

7.  Try to land on your mid foot, not your toes and not your heels.  When you look down at your feet, they  should be facing forward and not turned out.  This will help on knee pain.  Also make sure your upper body is completely over your foot and you aren't landing with your foot out in front of your body.

8.  Get the book "Chi Running" if you really want to work on your form!

9.  Set goals, find a 5K or 10K that you can start to train for.  This will keep you motivated and excited about running.

10.  Enjoy the run, don't over train and take all the enjoyment out of it.  Remember why you got started, enjoy the euphoria feeling and the rush of endorphins and your alone time!  Time to think, time to pray, time to work things out in your mind and time to train your body!

Lessons Learned: Listen to Your Body

After the San Francisco Marathon, my hip flexors were pretty sore.  The 7 hour car ride the following day didn't help either.  I rested up the week following the marathon, forced myself not to run and let them heal.  I still did my regular training but no running.  I was feeling pretty good and really ready to run, so I got back into my routine running Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Since I am not training for anything right now I decided to skip the speed drills for now and just do some easy runs and hill runs too since I live in the hills an can't avoid them.  I always like to maintain 13 miles as my long during the off season so I took it slow and did the 13 that following Saturday.  It went well, I wasn't trying for any special time, because again I am not training for anything and want to give my body some down time.

It is so hard not to push myself harder and faster when all I have been doing since Christmas is train!  The mental shift is almost impossible, but I know what is best for my body, I just need to listen to myself more!  Well I blew it, big time.  I pushed it too much and tried for another long run, 12 miles the week later and at mile 6 I felt my hip flexors ache again.  I wasn't evening pushing it but it was too much.

This week I decided to let them rest and repair.  I still did my core work and resistance training that I do with my clients, but no running.  I really missed it!  I even had a dream about running last night!  Again, I forced myself not to spring out of bed and run today.  Tomorrow I will take it slow and easy and see how it goes, not push it.

We need to listen to our bodies and allow them ample amount of time to heal otherwise we end up injured again and again and then we can't run!  It is a hard lesson to learn but an important one.   Don't get caught up in what others are doing and feel like you are inadequate, too slow, or not doing enough.  It is hard not to compare yourself to other runners, but you must learn your body and what you can do and be proud of your accomplishments!   There is a reason we call it a PR (Personal Record) because it is YOUR personal record, not your fellow runner's.

Lessons Learned: Practice Your Course

After you register for a race, take a look at the elevation chart and map of the course.  You need to train for it.  Notice if there are a lot of up hills or down hills, twist and turns.  Find a route that will mimic those conditions so you are better prepared for your race.

When training for a road race, you need to practice on the road. Don't do all your training on the treadmill. You have to get out there and experience the pavement, the changes in level ground and elevation. Often we train on the same route or track everyday, but in the race you may have to go up and down curbs, around corners, over dirt paths, concrete, and asphalt. This can all effect your running form and if you haven't practiced on it, may cause your shoe to rub a different way and lead to blisters.

When road running, trail running, or the like you are using your core more, trying to maintain balance while your land on uneven ground. Training on a treadmill is always the same soft, easy landing. Also, a treadmill pulls your leg back when you land and when you run on ground you have to propel yourself forward, not relying on the treadmill to pull your leg back for you. You need to be able to push yourself forward and not try to keep up with the pace of the treadmill.

If you will be running a hilly course, make sure you practice on some hills. If its mainly flat, get used to running at the same pace and exertion over an extended period of time. The nice thing about a hill, it gives your body a chance to switch it up and use your muscles in a different way while you climb the hill, then you get a little rest as you coast down the hill.

It is always best to be prepared for your race so you can perform at your best and finish strong!

Heart Rate Monitors: Are You Using Them to Benefit Your Training?

My heart rate monitor keeps me from running too hard on my easy run days. By keeping an eye on my heart rate, I can tell if I am working too hard. Often times, I am running in warmer conditions and I need to slow down my pace to stay within my proper heart rate. A hot day will always raise your heart rate.

When doing hills, intervals or tempo runs I can watch and monitor my heart rate to make sure I am working hard enough. I check my heart rate and make sure I am exerting the right amount of energy to get the most out of the workout.

If you go out too fast and struggle to run the last few miles of your run, use a heart rate monitor to keep your effort level and under control at the beginning of your run.

First, you need to determine your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to do this is by subtracting your age from 220. Just remember your maximum heart rate will go down as you age as as you get fitter.

When you are running an easy run day, Long Slow Distance Run, your target heart rate should be 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Often times we are running way too hard on our easy run days, keeping track of your heart rate will make sure you aren't over doing it.

On tempo runs, intervals, and hills your target heart rate should be 78-88 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is when you need to make sure you are working hard enough, exerting the right amount of effort to benefit from the training run.

If you are running within 5% of these ranges and are able to maintain a consistent pace through the end of your workout, you have found your target heart rate for that particular run. Most beginners find they are running much too hard on their easy run days and not hard enough on their hard days.
~Info adapted from "Running with Joy" Ryan Hall

When I am was trying for my Boston Qualifier, I was watching my pace, making sure I stayed below the projected pace so I would cross the finish line in time for my BQ. If I hadn't had my Garmin with heart rate monitor, I wouldn't have known my pace and wouldn't have been able to qualify for Boston.