Monthly Archives: May 2015

Hill Running Basics

Hill running is a major tenet of most training programs from 5k to ultra marathon.  If it’s not a regular part of your running workouts, a special hill work session is usually scheduled at least once every two weeks in a quality training plan.  To be successful running hills, you have to be good at going both up and down them as well as have the power and endurance to do it more than once.  To rock the next hilly race course you face, here are a few tips to help you build the hill runningstrength and power it takes to go up along with the control and balance required to get safely back down.

Pick the right hills.  Not all hills are created equal.  While there are lots that can help your hill running improve, training on one that’s too long, too short, too steep or not steep enough can render your workout ineffective.  Running a long, gradual hill can increase strength, ankle flexibility and reduce neuromuscular inhibition, leading to better coordination.  Sprinting a short steep hill will help build power and decrease neuromuscular inhibition, making it easier to run hard and fast.  Choosing a hill that matches your workout is key to getting the most out of it.

Run at the proper speed/tempo/heart rate.  Sprinting all out up and zooming willy nilly back down your favorite local hill isn’t an effective way to train.  Plan your hill running workouts to target specific zones of strength and cardiovascular effort by working out on the right one at the correct intensity.  Practice a downhill tempo that’s faster than going up, practice using gravity to help you recover on the way down and be sure to take appropriate rest between repeats.

Downhill matters, too.  Leaning back on a downhill is common, we are trying to slow down to maintain balance.  Unfortunately, leaning back ignores a chance for a gravity induced, no effort increase in speed.  Keep your spine straight and perpendicular to the downhill surface to take advantage of a bonus pick up in pace while increasing your stride rate to get the most out of the hill’s ‘easy’ side.

Treat hill running like strength training.  Don’t let it take over your running schedule and be sure to allow your body some extra time for recovery.  A good hill workout should be done once every 8-10 days or even once every two weeks.  If your normal route includes some hills, that’s great, but to really get the most out of them a special hill only workout is your best bet.

Use these hill running tips to help build your training plan and find success on the next hilly race course you face.

Coach Meredith

Building Weekly Mileage

One of the first things you want to consider when deciding to increase your weekly training mileage is if you really need the extra volume.  If you’re prone to injury because of previous ones, short on time or just running to hit a mile goal rather than get a quality workout, ramping up the weekly mileage might not be something you need.  In contrast, when you’re graduating from the 5k to the half marathon, adding to your weekly mileage can be important part of your training plan.  To be successful, you’ll need to increase your endurance and strength enough to handle the kind of strain running 13+ miles puts on the body.  This goes for any increased race distance, 5k to 10k, half to full, full to ultra and so on.

Increasing your weekly mileage can be intimidating.  There are lots of ways to approach building the increased fitness needed to rock a longer race distance and no matter which method you choose there are a few things to weekly mileageremember that will you stay injury free.

The 10% rule.  This classic weekly mileage increase theory calls for adding no more than 10% of your previous week’s total number of miles to this week’s schedule.  If last week included 20 miles, this week you could safely up that to 22.  Gradually building weekly mileage can help prevent overuse injuries like stress fractures and general over training but the 10% rule itself doesn’t necessarily need to be followed.  Work with a coach to take into account the surfaces you run on, other parts of your training plan and lifestyle factors before choosing how many miles to run each week.

Intensity first.  Instead of adding a few miles each week, try increasing the intensity of one of your workouts.  The higher intensity workout will give you benefits such as increased bone density, maximal fat burning and improving running economy.  A short, high intensity workout will take less time than logging lots of long, slow miles and can protect you from overuse injuries.

Get strong and mobile.  Prepare your body for increased weekly mileage with strength training.  Build stronger, more adaptable muscles through bodyweight exercises, weight lifting and mobility work.  Keeping muscle balanced and loose will help keep injuries at bay and allow muscles to repair themselves as quickly as possible.  A bodyweight workout can be just as effective as the traditional recovery run at helping your body repair after a challenging session.

Quality over quantity.  Pay attention to those newly added miles.  Are they hard?  Are you just pounding the pavement?  Getting a quality workout is going to go a much longer way towards being successful at your longer race distance than running without a specific purpose.  Don’t be afraid to stop increasing your volume if you feel the quality of your workouts decreasing.

Think about these four factors before jumping into increased weekly mileage and you’ll have fewer injuries and faster race times.

Coach Meredith

Race Day Etiquette: Runners and Walkers

Race day can be a stressful time.  Whether you’re chasing a new PR, trying a new distance or just easing back into things from an injury, adrenaline is flowing and the race environment can race daybe electric.  You’ve trained, you’ve fueled, you’ve arrived and you’re ready to rock.  Here are a few things that can help ensure both you and every other participant has a great race day experience.

Respect your corral.  Line up in the correct one, if you’re assigned.  If there aren’t corral assignments, ask around and try to line up with a group that has the same goal time.  If you plan on running 10:00 miles refrain from starting with your friend who will be running 8:00s.  Why?  Slower runners at the front can cause traffic jams.  Faster runners will be forced to pass, adding distance and costing valuable seconds when aiming for a new PR.

Water Stop:  If you’re drinking, stay close to the tables and don’t crowd at the first one, you’ll get faster, smoother service further down.  If you’re not thirsty, stay in the middle and keep moving.  No matter where you decide to grab hydration, know what’s going on around you before coming to a complete stop.  If you can’t get fluids down smoothly while running, try a power walk or step to the side.  Done drinking?  Try to aim that empty cup towards a trash can.

Walking:  Walkers are racers, too.  Just like at a water stop, if you’re going to take a walking break, make sure those around know it’s coming.  Make for the edge of the course, put a hand up or even shout it out.  This will prevent you from being run over or into and keep you out of another’s race day way.

On course:  Stay skinny.  Whether you’re running or walking, stick to traveling one or two wide.  Courses are often on narrow roads or trails, sometime with moving traffic only a cone’s width away.  Lining up three or four across and not allowing enough room for someone to pass can irritate other participants and cost them valuable seconds they’ve worked hard to shave off.

Finish:  One of the best parts of race day is the Finisher photo right after you receive that fancy new bling.  If you’re waiting for a friend to come through for a photo-op, step to the side or even consider a location away from the hustle and bustle.

Snacks:  We all need to refuel, rehydrate and relax after a race.  Take only what’s been allocated for you in the finisher area.  Those who finish behind you deserve the same nutrition, fluids and goodies you do.

Pack these race day etiquette tips in your drop bag and everyone will have a smooth event experience.

Coach Meredith

5 Tips to Prepare for Summer Workouts

The warmer weather is coming and it can play a big factor in your training, racing and overall fitness.  The heat, sun and humidity that come with summer workouts can be very dangerous.  Avoiding the possibilities heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration are key elements of a good summer plan.  Here are five tips to help you prepare for summer workouts.

Prepare for summer workouts by checking your schedule.  As the daily high temperatures climb, it can be incredibly valuable to change your workout schedule.  If you’re working out in a gym, you can stick with whatever works best right now but if you’re training means you’re outside, hit the road or track in the early morning when it’s coolest and the sun isn’t shining directly overhead.  If mornings aren’t an option, try to find a place to put workouts in the summer workoutsevening.  The setting sun and dropping temperatures will help you stay cooler than earlier in the day.

One fun way to prepare for summer workouts is to try something new.  If you usually go for a post work run in a sunny park or a bike ride on black paved roads, try stand-up paddle boarding or a lunch hour spin class.  If you can find an alternative indoor or water based workout you enjoy, skipping the great outdoors for a day or two to stay safe won’t make you feel like you’re missing out.

Put a good hydration plan in place.  An important element of preparing for summer workouts is keeping your body full of fluids.  Staying properly hydrated can eliminate lots of risks associated with hot workouts.  Sweat rate and fluid intake is also a good way to gauge your exertion level when the heat might make it hard to tell just how difficult your run, bike or outdoor strength training session is.

Go shopping.  If your workout wardrobe is full of long sleeved tops and full length bottoms in winter warming dark colors, purchasing light colored options is a good way to prepare for summer workouts.  The light colors will reflect rather than absorb the sunlight, keeping you cooler from beginning to end.  Investing in a hydration pack can be a good addition to any equipment collection and be sure to stock up on sunblock, sunglasses and hats.

The heat and humidity that play a role in summer workouts can make it hard to tell just how much effort your expending during a session.  Prepare for this by easing into the warmer weather.  Start with comparing a workout you’re familiar with to how you feel after performing it on the first hot day.  Slowly add time to outdoor workouts and be aware that you’re working harder just because it’s hot out from the moment you begin.

Use these tips to help ward off the dangers that come with summer workouts and stay safe, healthy and fit all year long.

Coach Meredith