Category Archives: Wellness

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

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

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

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

Healthy Holidays: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to get together with family, see old friends and eat lots of delicious food.  It’s also an easy opportunity to eat too much, eat the wrong things and end up feeling way off track with your meal plan.  Prevent each of those dining issues, stick with your meal plan, stay on track and get through this food filled holiday with these thanksgiving buffettips.

Get active.  Check out a local Turkey Trot.  You’ll have some fun and burn calories while making room for dinner.  Not in the mood for a jog?  Challenge your family to a backyard football game, play tag with the kids or take the dogs for a nice long walk.  Any activity that gets your blood pumping earns you an extra slice of turkey.

Eat before you eat.  Thanksgiving buffets can be delightfully tasty, especially when you’re very hungry.  Packing your plate with too much food is one major source of holiday season weight gain but it’s easy to prevent.  Eating something light and healthy before you head out will help stop you from over serving and over eating.

Scan before serving.  Look at all of your Thanksgiving options before piling anything on your plate.  Not only will this mean fewer trips to the buffet, it will help you make better for you choices.  Pick out dishes that are filled with vegetables and lean meats but light on greasy butter.  Limit desserts and alcoholic beverages to a minimum so make sure you get the one you like on the first try.

Make your own.  Just because it’s not a pot luck meal doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to pitch in.  Ask your host what you can bring to help out.  If you make it yourself, you know what’s in it and how much you can have without feeling guilty afterwards.

Take these Healthy Holidays tips with you to your Thanksgiving destination for a happy, good for day of feasting that won’t leave you feeling off track.

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