Category Archives: Strength Training

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

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

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

5 Tips for Safe Strength Training

Temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter and working out in the fresh air is loosing some of its appeal.  When the weather turns, more people turn to the gym to keep their routine going.  Everyone can benefit from lifting weights but increasing the amount of time you spend strength training can also increase your risk of injury.  Here are 4 tips to make sure you’re safe strength trainingpracticing safe strength training to stay injury free all winter long.

Find a coach.  One of the best ways to ensure safe strength training is to use a coach or trainer.  Partnering with a certified professional who will help you learn the proper way to perform movements while pushing you to try new things is the best thing you can do to protect yourself.

Take it slow.  If you choose not to work with a coach, resist the urge to dive in head first.  Take a little bit of time to educate yourself on what each muscle group does and what exercises are the best to work on making it stronger.  Get comfortable with movements before increasing weight, making sure you’re performing each one properly for every repetition.

Take it seriously.  Just because your passion is running and not lifting weights doesn’t mean hitting the gym should be taken lightly.  Warming up and cooling down are important parts of any workout, especially when you’re pushing muscles to do something new or hard.  Safe strength training means showing those days respect and putting in the time to treat your body well.

Mix it up.  A big part of safe strength training is trying new things regularly.  When you give your body a new challenge, it’s forced to constantly respond, burning calories and getting stronger every workout.  Changing up your routine also prevents overuse injuries that come from performing an exercise to excess without a break.

Recover.  Foam roll, stretch and mobilize after each workout.  Safe strength training includes being ready for the next day’s workout.  Listen to your body and take a day off or try something new when you need to.

Use these five tips for safe strength training to keep your gains on track without risk of being derailed by an injury this winter.

Coach Meredith

5 Parts of a Good Cool Down

Warming up before working out is important and doing a good one can be the difference between a decent workout and a great one. Unfortunately, many people neglect a proper cool down, which can also make or break the next day’s workout.  Just like warming up gets muscles ready to work hard, letting your body cool off afterwards helps muscle start to recover.  Here are five parts of a good cool down plan.

Decrease stress:  Your heart and muscles are working hard during a workout.  Your heart rate is high, your blood vessels are expanded and adrenaline is pumping.  Abruptly dropping the amount of work your body has to do from 10 to 0 can lead to pooling of the blood in those expanded vessels, dizziness, nausea and, in extreme cases, fainting.  A good cool down includes time for your heart rate to slowly return to normal with low intensity activity.

Hydration:  If you worked up a sweat, you’ll need to replace the fluids you lost as soon as you can.  During your cool down, work to quench your thirst by taking in up to 32 ounces of fluid.  Your fluid of choice can be water, chocolate milk or sports drink.  Replenishing your fluids should include electrolytes to replace the salt you sweated out as part of the drink or as an additional tab dropped in.

Food:  Eat within 30 minutes of a workout.  The same way your cool down is a good time to fill back up on fluids, it’s a nice time to plan what’s next on your plate.  Your muscles will be craving protein for rebuilding torn fibers and carbs to fuel the process for both today’s and tomorrow’s workouts.cool down

Mobility:  Doing mobility exercises in an integral part of a good cool down.  Foam rolling, stretching and other drills will all kickstart the recovery process.  Each one will aid in clearing lactic acid from tired muscles, breaking up adhesions and getting the nutrition muscles need to them.  Adding one or more of these activities to your post workout routine will not only help you feel ready for the next day’s session, it will help you perform better, too.

Reflection:  A good cool down will give you time to chat with workout partners, evaluate how the session went and what you improved or need to work on next time.  This can be a perfect time to journal, practice breathing exercises or improve mobility.

Take these five tips with you to your nest workout and have a good cool down.  These simple things will help you feel better before, during and after your future workouts.

Coach Meredith

Everybody Needs a Foam Roller

It’s true.  Every athlete, especially runners, should have at least one foam roller in their workout arsenal.  They might look like misplace pool toys but the ultimate self massage tool is more than just a big foam cylinder.  Here are the basic reasons you’ll want to add one to your workout routine.

First thing first, what exactly does a foam roller get used for?  Foam rolling, of course.  Foam rolling is a form of self massage also know as myofasical release.  The soft tissues that support and protect muscles are called fascia.  During a hard workout these fibers can become inflamed and their ability to function restricted.  That inflammation leads to sticky spots knows as foam rolleradhesions between the muscle fiber and the fascia.  Those adhesions result in decreased blood flow, tight muscles, soreness and pain.  Hitting these inflamed areas with a foam roller, or rolling them, presses on and stretches the fascia, helping to release the adhesions and ease pain.

Using your favorite foam roller after a workout is one of the best ways you can prevent soreness and stiffness while aiding in quicker muscle recovery.  You can also use your it before a workout.  Foam rolling during your warm-up will increase blood flow to muscle groups that are going to work while breaking up any leftover adhesions from the previous day or days.

Not only will 15 minutes with your foam roller get your body back on track for your next workout, it’s one of the best ways to prevent IT Band Syndrome and can improve mobility and lower your risk of injury at the same time.  You can foam roll all of the major muscle groups, being sure to avoid the lower back and any injured areas and hit smaller muscle groups with different tools like Trigger Point Balls and Supernovas.  There are lots of options out there, so play around and find the one that works best for your body and the intensity of your training program.  Any way you decide to hit your hard working muscles, you’ll be saving yourself lost training time and money spent dealing with injuries.

For help getting started with your newest fitness toy, check out our Foam Rolling 101 video and help those tired muscles feel better today!

Coach Meredith

 

Overcoming Bad Workouts

Everybody has bad workouts.  Hopefully they don’t happen often and aren’t so bad they cause an injury.  Either way, they can still put a crinkle in your day.  Having a rough day in the gym or at the track can be the result of lots of factors, some of which you just can’t control.  Maybe you were running late, missed the group class you love and went at it alone.  Maybe you’re injured or feeling sick.  Figuring out what went wrong is the best way to prevent it from happening again.  Make sure you can bounce back from bad workouts quickly with these tips.

Get enough sleep.  Sleep allows your body time to heal from the last gym session or just daily life.  Having a bad night, or a night without enough sleep, can wreak havoc on your body and suck out tons of the energy you plan on using in the gym.  One great thing about sleep is the human body’s ability to catch up on it.  While this shouldn’t be a regular practice, and seven to eight hours a night are recommended for most people, it’s good to know there’s a reason you want, and are allowed, to sleep in on Sunday morning.

Eat right.  Giving your body the right type of fuel for the workout you have planned is just as, if not more, important than getting enough sleep.  Whole grains and less sugar will aid in preventing the exhaustion many people face an hour or two after lunch.  If you’re going to burn a few hundred calories in the gym, make sure you replace those with quality food items.  Stay properly hydrated before, during and after your session and be careful of caffeine, which can wake your body up for a workout or push it over the limit and cause nausea and shakiness.

Have good goals.  Set a good goal (check out our goal setting series on YouTube).  Write it down.  Look at it every single day.  Get together with a fitness professional and discuss both your goal and a path to reach it.  This keeps you focused and on track, prevents boredom, provides a support system in the gym and gives you accountability.  All of those positives can help turn a few bad workouts into a learning experience that stops them from occurring in the future.

Beware of over training.  Bad workouts can be a sign of over training or injury.  Use a variety of equipment and styles so your body doesn’t get overloaded.  Try alternating weight lifting days with cardio days and always leave at least one day per week for complete rest and recovery.  If you start feeling worn down, unusually sore and grouchy or dreading the gym, it might be time for a few extra days off.  Listen to what your body tells you and take what it’s saying seriously.

Throw in the towel.  There are days when you get out of bed and know you don’t have it.  That’s OK.  Avoiding back workouts is a good way to make sure one doesn’t ruin your day.  Taking an extra day off to let your body recover won’t wreck all the work you’ve already done and it pays to listen up when your body says ‘no’.  If you’re already in the thick of things, quit while you’re ahead.  Rack your weights, cool down and evaluate what went wrong.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: ITBS

In this fourth installment of our running injuries series, we’ll cover ITBS.  ITBS is the acronym for Iliotibial Band Syndrome, is a common running injury experience by those who are both new to and experienced with the sport of running.  A preventable and treatable injury, read on to learn more about what ITBS is, how to avoid it and how to recover when you do get injured.

What:  The iliotibial band is a ligament that runs from the hip to the shin on the outside of each thigh helping to both stabilize and move the knee joint.  ITBS is an overuse injury that occurs when this band is inflamed or tight and leads to pain with movement of the knee.ITBS graphic

Causes:  ITBS is most often caused by overuse.  This could come from a sudden increase in work load for the knee, a change in terrain or a lack of recovery time.  It can also result from running too much in worn out shoes, on banked surfaces, turning only in one direction or faulty running mechanics that cause your knees to rotate inward.

Symptoms:  Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee are the result of an inflamed IT Band.  ITBS can feel like a knee injury but it isn’t.  If you bend your knee to 45 degrees and have pain on the outside, it’s ITBS.

Treatments:  Rest, foam rolling and low impact cross training like swimming are good ways to ease and avoid further irritation of the IT band.  Ice and anti-inflamatories are also options to treat ITBS pain.  While all of these will treat the symptoms or ITBS, it’s most important to address the cause of your injury during the treatment and recovery phases.

Recovery:  ITBS often results from poor running mechanics that allow the knee to rotate inward on landing.  Strengthening glutes, working towards a neutral foot strike in a low drop shoe and increasing mobility through both hip extension and flexion are the best ways to treat and prevent this injury.  Work with a qualified coach or physical therapist to determine what caused your injury, rest to heal it then strengthen and mobilize to prevent it from happening again.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: Plantar Fasciitis

This week we continue our Running Injuries series with plantar fasciitis (PF).  A seriously no fun injury to face, PF is something all runners dread but luckily, it is 100% preventable.  Learn more about what PF is, how it happens and how to treat it by reading on!

What:  Plantar fasciitis (PF) is the most common source of heel pain in runners new and old.  It is the result of inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toe bones.

Cause:  PF is caused by inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toe bones.  These tissues, the plantar fascia, are a support for the arch of your foot and act like a shock absorber when the foot lands.  If they become overworked by too much stretching and tearing the results are inflammation and tenderness.  People who are overweight, who have weak feet, poor movement mechanics or wear shoes without enough support are especially at risk.

Symptoms:  Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a sharp stabbing pain in the foot with the first movements of your day that will subside or ease once the foot has warmed up.  The pain can resume as a plantar fasciitisresult of standing for a long period of time or when you stand up from sitting or lying down.  PF can limit the amount of running, jumping, walking and dancing you are able to tolerate.

Treatments:  Anti-inflammatories will ease the pain of PF but should be accompanied by another form of treatment to address the underlying cause.  Ice can also be used while orthotics and surgical options exist for those who have unbearable pain.  Orthotics should only be used in very extreme cases of completely collapsed or permanently damaged plantar fascia.

Recovery:  Prevention is the best way to treat PF.  Be sure spending time barefoot along with foam rolling and regular foot, ankle and lower leg strength and mobility exercises are part of your training plan.  These are excellent ways to build stronger arches, more flexible ankles and looser Achilles tendons that are less likely to become inflamed. If you do come down with plantar fasciitis, recovery can be a long road.  The most important step in recovering is to figure out what caused the injury and work to correct it.  An ideal path involves a movement or gait analysis accompanied by a custom stretching, massaging and strengthening plan for the plantar fascia and their supporting muscles.

Coach Meredith

***The post was originally written for and published on The Runner Dad***