Category Archives: Fitness

5 Keys to Marathon Recovery

Figuring out the best path to a complete marathon recovery is challenging.  Your body is torn up.  Your mind is fried.  Getting up and moving, let alone taking a lap around the track, is the last thing you’re looking forward to. but how you recover can have a huge impact on when marathon recoveryyou’re ready to start training again.  Here are five ways to make sure your marathon recovery helps you get back to business as soon as you want.

Keep moving.  One of the most important aspects of marathon recovery is movement.  This doesn’t mean a tough track workout two days later or taking off for another race.  Giving muscles some easy work to do the day after beating then up has been shown to help speed recovery but it has to be just that, easy.  A very slow jog, air squats, a few push-ups, sit-ups and 30 minutes of yoga works wonders.

Mobilize.  Just getting out there are easy jogging a mile or two won’t get the job done.  You need to work tired and abused joints through a full range of motion to keep fluids moving around.  This is how you make sure muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones get the blood, oxygen and nutrients they need to repair while clearing out the debris from when they got damaged.  Foam rollers, bands, softballs and a lacrosse ball are all part of a well built marathon recovery kit.

Eat up.  You definitely burned a ton of calories covering all of those miles.  Replacing them and giving your body the nutrients it needs to repair damaged muscles is paramount.  Replenish fluids with sports drinks or salted water as soon as you cross the finish line.  When your tummy is ready, chow down on calorie loaded like bananas and yogurt.  Put your feet up and rest a bit until you’ve processed those and can head for pizza and ice cream.marathon recovery

Sleep.  Getting an adequate amount of sleep will help you recover faster than just about anything else.  It can be tough to shut down after a big race so try taking a warm bath, meditating and turning off all electronic devices.  Here’s a great piece on how a solid night’s shut eye can make a big difference in your marathon recovery.

Go easy on the celebration.  Yes, those free beers taste delicious but they’re just going to cause more trouble for your already hostile body.  Dehydrated muscles aren’t aching to lose more water.  Even though there are carbs in there, make sure you mix in plenty of other fluids with those post race party beers.  A long walk or standing around for a little bit won’t do any harm but you do want to get off your feet for a few hours as soon as you can to start the healing process.

If there are other marathon recovery traditions you swear by, like ice baths and massages, stick with them.  Just make sure you don’t neglect these key elements of getting your body ready to go back to work.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Try Trail Running

As spring gets closer so do many goal races.  After a tough winter training cycle and a hard race effort, ease back into summer base building with trail running.  Here are five good reasons to hit the dirt this spring, summer and fall.

Weather.  Warm weather can put a real damper on your desire to go out for a sweaty run.  Luckily, trail running provides one huge benefit lots of roads don’t.  Shade.  When things start to heat up trail runningoutdoors running early in the morning or at night is ideal.  Since that isn’t a possibility for everyone shaded dirt paths can give you some relief from baking sunlight and heat.  The trees can also protect you from rain drops and oftentimes a windy day.

Surface.  Roads, sidewalks and treadmills are hard.  They’re hard on knees, hips, ankles and sometimes, brains.  Getting off a man-made surface and onto some good old fashioned dirt for a little trail running will give your joints a break.  The softer surface can help protect you from injury while challenging you body to respond to something new.

Strength.  The same way dirt softens your landing and gives you beautiful scenery to look at, it helps make you stronger.  Balancing on trails as you traverse paths covered in leaves, roots, streams, holes and hills make you work harder.  Your core activates to keep you upright, your ankles and calves have to be more flexible and responsive and as your stride shortens to give you more security, you’ll land more on your mid-foot, protecting you from injury.

Fun.  Trail running forces you to spend time with nature.  You’ll see wildlife and jump over a few squirrels all with a smile on your face.  The slower pace gives you time to genuinely enjoy your surroundings without any of the pressure associated with a tough track workout.  Pushing your body to learn how to respond to the toughness trails present without worrying about how fast you’re going will be a big bonus when you get back on the road.

Accessories.  Trail running invites accessories.  For the fuel belt, water pack, trail shoe, energy gel, sunglasses, visor, shorts with pockets runner, trails are the spot for you.  With your next water source usually unknown, taking hydration with you is a must.  Try that new arm band for your phone and snap a few photos during your workout.  Since you’re out there having fun, don’t be afraid to try new things that could help you perform better in the future.

So head on out there and start trail running!  Changing your scenery and your pace is good for your body and your brain.

Coach Meredith

Easy Running for Fast Running

Easy running might seem pointless.  How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster?  The truth is you can’t.  To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable.  But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to.  A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury or burnout.  The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation.  Building this foundation is easy runninghow your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.

Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up.  You need fast days to work on turnover and VO2max but easy running days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal.  As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.

That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble.  Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts.  It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen.  An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery.  If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting overtraining and burnout.  Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.

Make sure your easy running is just that.  Easy.  Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout.  As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  It’s important to remember what the goal of each workout is when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything.  Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.

Coach Meredith

4 Ways to Keep Training Fun

Training for a big event can be stressful, exhausting and financially draining.  Sometimes it feels like all you’re doing to training, eating, working and, hopefully, sleeping.  When training kepp training funbecomes a drag it can negatively affect your performance.  Here are four ways to keep training fun and reach your goals.

Focus or refocus.  Get focused on what your goal is.  Maybe it needs to change.  Make sure you established an attainable goal to begin with.  If you’re training for a marathon and you dread that next long run it might be time to think about switching to the half.  Taking the pressure off and revisiting your original goal later will give you a chance to figure out what you’re really in it for without risking injury.

Relax.  Odds are there won’t be someone waiting at the finish with a check to reward you for all the hard work.  Don’t take your training too seriously.  Remember to laugh.  Keep training fun by taking it lightly.  Yes, it’s good for you but your life doesn’t depend on completing that Ironman.  A sprint tri and a few cocktails with friends is probably better.  Balance your workouts with everyday life things, not worrying about missed sessions or that last split.

Race more.  Adding a few 5k races to your marathon training plan or a duathlon to your Olympic triathlon schedule will give you a break from your routine, give you a chance to gauge your progress and hang out with some other runners.  Find a race here to keep training fun, there’s one every weekend!

Change sports.  Have you been running and running and running so much it’s a chore?  Maybe your body and mind are craving something else.  Try hitting the weight room or a month of spinning classes.  Just like rechecking your goal, switching up the main activity you practice or learning something new can be just what your body and mind need to keep training fun and avoid overtraining.

Use these tips to keep training fun for the entire length of your program and hit your next fitness goal with ease.

Coach Meredith

4 Keys to Running Faster

Ultimately the goal of any runner who wants to hit a competitive goal, from breaking a 2 hour half marathon to nailing a sub-15 minute 5k, will have to work on having quicker feet.  Running faster is hard work and can sometimes become frustrating.  Here are four key elements to becoming a speedier runner and hitting your next racing goal.running faster

Form.  Running faster than you currently do is hard work.  It’s even harder if your elbows are swinging way out, you’re heel striking or breaking at the hip.  Developing proper posture, a mid-foot landing and solid turnover can be the first step in running faster.  Having good form should be the base of any quality program and since we all move a little bit differently, it’s a good idea to get together with a coach for a gait analysis before making any drastic changes.

Turnover.  Moving your feet faster, increasing cadence and stopping overstriding will help two things.  First it can decrease your risk of injury.  Increased turnover can help stop heel striking, meaning your foot spends less time on the ground, and it’s hard to get injured in the air.  Second, it can make you faster and more efficient.  Elite distance runners have an average cadence or step rate of 180 steps per minute reaching upwards to 220spm in elite sprint races while less experienced runners can hover around 165.  Getting out there with a metronome to help you find your current beat then trying to stay on it as you increase the speed for several 100M striders is a great way to start upping your turnover and get used to running faster.

Power.  The more power you put into the ground with each step, the more will be returned to your legs for the next one.  Strength training is the best way to build power.  Exercises like box jumps and jump rope mimic the muscle needs you have when running.  Sit-ups and push-ups are great for posture and mid-line stability.  Sprinting up hills and squatting under loads (with supervision) will build legs that are ready to race.

Practice.  To run fast, you have to run faster.  If you want to run a 2 hour half marathon, 9:09/mile pace, you’ll need to spend some time training faster.  Building VO2Max, improving form and increasing turnover all come from getting out there and pushing yourself hard.  Interval and tempo sessions are the best way to work on these things and need to be included in each week’s training plan.

Find a coach to help you get started and you’ll be running faster by the end of this training cycle.

Coach Meredith

Join Your Local Running Club

No matter where you live, if you look out the window early on a Saturday morning, you’ll likely see a group of runners smiling as they trot by.  Those happy runners are probably all members of a local running club and you can easily join their ranks.  Not only is a running club easy to join, there are tons of other benefits to getting involved with a bigger group as well.  Here are a few of the good things you get when you team up with your local running club.

Runners are social.  When they aren’t actually running, they love to talk about running.  They drink beer and talk about what they’re fueling their long runs with.  These people can relate to all of the things your non-running friends think make you crazy.  Group runs and activities build strong friendships no matter what your speed.local running club

Motivation.  Bailing on an 18 Miler a few weeks before marathon day because of bad weather?  Not if you’re supposed to meet the gang.  Runners want to be out there with friends.  Miles go by much faster with some conversation and encouragement.  The accountability running with a group provides will help you stay on your training plan and hit any goal you choose.

Guidance.  There is inevitably going to be a runner with more experience, speed or injuries than you.  Want to run a race?  Someone can probably give you the details.  Running with someone faster will help make you faster.  Hearing about an injury means you’re less likely to get it.  A big group of runners is a library full of knowledge that’s just waiting for you dive in.

Safety.  Early morning and night are both dangerous times to run on the road and trail.  With a group or at least one friend who has the same workout scheduled on the same day to join you, you’re a whole lot less likely to get hit by a car or worse.  Two blinking red lights are better than one.

A few more extras that come with joining usually include discounts at running stores and races as well as community service opportunities.  To find the closest local running club to you, check out the RRCA website and search by state.

Coach Meredith

Prepare for Cold Weather Running

Like it or not, winter is here.  With it came the cold weather running most of us deal with all season long and it can be a total de-motivator.  Here are some great ways to conquer the cold, stay on track with training and head into spring ready to rock.

Layer up.  When it’s zero degrees out following the rule ‘dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer’ means extra clothes.  Breathable, sweat wicking fabrics with vents are your best bet for staying warm without overheating.  Don’t be afraid to try stocking under long tights or wool socks.  Remember, you can always take a layer off if you get too warm.cold weather running

Gear up.  Gloves, an ear warmer, shoes with as little mesh as possible and a dry change of clothes are all a must when prepping for cold weather running.  Additional winter running tools include reflective vests and headlamps for the waning daylight and YakTrax for managing very snowy conditions.

Warm up.  When the weather’s nice, warming up outside is typical.  When it’s cold, warm up indoors.  A stretch and some burpees or jumping jacks gets everything moving before slipping out the door.  The cold doesn’t feel so chilly after your blood is pumping and muscles are ready to work before going outside.  If you’re not solo and are waiting for a group, stay in a warm building or toasty in your car instead of standing around letting your body get cold again.

Watch the wind.  There’s always a steady breeze here in Virginia Beach and winter winds can be brutal.  Running into the wind is always tough but it can also cause sweat to freeze and your core temperature to drop a little bit more.  Start your run into the breeze then you won’t have to deal with cold, damp clothes getting even colder on the second half of your run.

Stay hydrated.  Cold weather running might not feel as sweaty as when it’s hot but just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean your body isn’t burning through fluids.  Skip the ice cubes and put warm water on your route or carry it between layers to prevent freezing.  Also check any water fountains on your route to make sure they’ve been left on once temperatures dip below freezing.

Undress.  ASAP!  Swap out sweaty running clothes for dry ones you have handy.  Wrap up in a big fluffy beach towel or washable blanket.  Your core temperature drops quickly after cold weather running which can lead to chills that take a long time to shake.  Get warm and dry as soon as possible by drinking a warm hot chocolate, putting a hat on wet hair and swapping out sweaty sports bras for something more comfy.

And don’t forget, when cold weather running becomes unbearable, a run or two on the treadmill won’t be the end of your running career.

Coach Meredith

What do you love about cold weather running?  How do you prepare for a cold run?

4 Ways to Steer Clear of Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining syndrome is easy to catch and hard to shake.  With new year’s resolutions, goals and dreams in full swing this season, it’s especially something to be careful to avoid.  When you’re starting a new routine there are a few things to take seriously so you can avoid being forced to take an unwanted break from working out due to to overtraining syndrome.

Overtraining syndrome occurs when the body is exercised at a frequency and intensity that exceed its recovery time.  How can you tell if you’re over training?  The results of overtraining can include exhaustion, a loss of progress in both strength and cardiovascular fitness and injury.  Feeling sluggish after a workout instead of energized and having disrupted sleep patterns are also symptoms.  If you’ve been overtraining, take enough time off to heal fully even it seems like forever.  Of course, the best way to treat overtraining is to avoid it in the first place.  Here are 4 ways to prevent it from sabotaging your plans for the new year.

1)  Food is fuel.  Make sure your diet isn’t the reason workouts aren’t going well.  Eat enough calories to give you the energy you need to get through the day and replenish post workout.   Stick with quality whole foods and remember that the what you put in is what you get out.overtraining syndrome

2)  Mix it up.  Your body needs constant change to keep adapting, getting stronger and improving.  If you start to lose motivation or get bored, throw something new into your routine.  Try a spin class or kick boxing while alternating hard and easy days to give yourself excitement and variety.

3)  Take recovery and rest days seriously.  Your next workout is only as good as your last recovery.  If you’re not foam rolling or hitting mobility drills each day your body is going to get worn out quickly.  Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise and not giving your body enough time to recover from strenuous exercise will inevitably cause fatigue, moodiness, and injury.  Take at least one day a week away from the gym or running and be serious about it.  Use the rest day(s) to replenish the things your body has burned through, like carbohydrates, proteins, fluids and sleep.

4)  Listen to your body.  Still feeling sluggish four days after a hard workout?  Are your knees or shoulders hurting more than they should?  Is soreness sticking around beyond two days?  Is your performance slipping?  These are all signals your body gives to let you know it needs a break.  An extra day or two or five off won’t ruin the gains you’ve made.  Take the time to recover your body is asking for and you’ll not only feel better, but come back to better results.

Coach Meredith

Avoid Fad Diets, Here’s Why

Fad diets make great promises.  Give up carbs, eat for your blood type, try South Beach and you’re sure to shed all those unwanted pounds in a few short weeks.  Not so fast.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Here are four reasons to steer clear of fad diets and stick to a solid plan of eating whole grains, fruits and veggies while getting a proper amount of exercise to achieve your weight loss goals.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Fad diets make weight loss easy.  The truth is weight loss isn’t easy.  Most of what you’re losing when you join a one of these quick fixes is water weight or due to a very restricted diet.  When you stop the diet and return to your normal eating habits, odds are you’ll gain back the weight you lost and even a little bit more.

Messes with your metabolism.  Your body has lots of practice telling you when you should and shouldn’t eat.  Fad diets that restructure when you’re allowed or supposed to eat can make long lasting changes to the way you process food.fad diets

Miss out on nutrition.  Cutting our certain types of foods, like carbs, can lead you to feel tired or low energy as your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs.  Dropping red meat means you’re missing out on an essential amino acid only it can provide.  Skipping starchy vegetables or dairy can have similar effects.  A healthy, well-rounded diet filled with fresh fruits and veggies that are accompanied by whole grains will keep your nutrition on track.

You don’t actually learn anything.  Unnaturally restricting your food while on a fad diet won’t help you learn portion control.  Taking things away doesn’t teach you to make better choices when everything is available.  Figuring out how to incorporate smaller more frequent meals, more leafy vegetables and fewer saturated fats are some of the keys to long term, successful weight loss you can maintain.

Coach Meredith

Pilates for Runners

Pilates is a wonderful addition to any training plan, especially for runners.  It builds strength, stability and power without being high impact and can also increase mental toughness.  A technique based system of moves designed to develop muscle balance, increase muscle control, improve mobility and mind body connection, practice is a must do for faster running.  Here are the biggest benefits you’ll receive when you add pilates to your program.

Create muscle balance.  Pilates focuses on every muscle in the body not just the big ones we use over and over.  Strengthening weaker muscles while maintaining stronger ones means pilatesyou’ll perform everything from daily activities to running a marathon with more ease and less risk of injury.

Lengthen to strengthen.  Pilates encourages muscles to stretch and reach.  Since running doesn’t require most muscles to move through an entire range of motion, pilates will make muscles stronger from end to end.  Strong muscles all the way through makes them able to produce more power with each contraction and that means faster running.

Low impact.  After all those miles on the road, track, trail and treadmill, it’s nice to give your body a break with a workout that keeps you off your feet.  Not only will the variety of a pilates session give your body a new challenge, your bones will appreciate the break.

Better breathing.  Pilates teaches you how to use your diaphragm and use the full capacity of your lungs for each breath.  Deeper breathing keeps your heart rate down, lowers recovery time and keeps muscles going longer.  Less cardiovascular stress when running through fuller, deeper breaths means faster finish times.

Relax.  Deep breathing combined with long, slow, full range of motion movements give you an opportunity to relax.  The concentration required to perform moves correctly also means you’ll have to clear your head of the day’s stress and pay exclusive attention to what your body is doing.

Add pilates to your routine on any day you want a good strength workout, any time you need a good recovery stretch or whenever you want to give yourself a new challenge.  Your posture, breathing, balance and running will all improve.  Click here to find a quality instructor near you!

Coach Meredth