Tag Archives: training

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

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

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?

Get Ready for Zero Drop Shoes

Running in a pair of zero drop shoes doesn’t mean you’re running all but barefoot down a hot pavement road on race day.  It doesn’t even make you a minimalist runner.  Going for a run in a zero drop shoe simply means your shoes are flat or level from the back to the front and your foot is parallel to the ground when standing still.

Running shoes have typically been built with more cushioning under the heel than the forefoot.  The height difference between the shoe’s raised heel and lower toe is measured in millimeters (mm) and called the ‘drop’.  This measurement can very from 0mm to 15mm depending on the zero drop shoesshoe but as the barefoot, minimalist and natural running movements have gained momentum, shoes with massive drops are starting to disappear.

Why?  Many recent scientific reports have found that running miles and miles with our heels dramatically higher than our toes can lead to big time injuries by creating additional heel strike forces, heavier landings and excessive foot movement.  Ever tried running in high heels?  Putting the foot in an unnatural position for the task you’re asking it to do is begging for trouble.  Running and biomechanical expert Jay DiCharry believes that running in a flatter shoe is ideal because it lets the body stay in a natural position without having to compensate for how the shoe might try to make the foot move.

Switching to zero drop shoes can decrease the landing forces on your hips, knees and ankles and worked in with stretching can make you less susceptible to injury.  Sounds great, right?  Be careful.  Transitioning to a pair of zero drop shoes isn’t as easy as picking them up at the store.  If you’re currently in a shoe with a big drop, start making the change to a flatter shoe by decreasing your drop by only a few millimeters.  Trade your 12mm drop shoes for an 8mm pair and give your body time to adjust to a possibly new movement pattern and different stride rate.

The transition period should be 6-8 weeks and build by only a few miles each one.  Decrease the drop in your shoes with each pair you buy until you hit zero, giving yourself plenty of miles to acclimate every time.  With thousands to choose from, it’s easy to find the lower or zero drop shoes that will make your body happy.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Swim this Summer

Need a break from the heat of training on the road or in a hot gym?  It’s time to go for a swim!  Swimming has lots of benefits that transfer over well into other sports without a loss of fitness or increased risk of injury.  If you live near a beach, river or lake, hop in.  Natural bodies of water provide nice scenery and you might make friends with some wildlife (be sure it’s safe and you’re allowed to be there before diving in).  If you have pool access, head there, grabbing a swim cap and pair of goggles on the way.  Luckily, no matter where you swim, you’ll reap these five benefits.

Spending one hour swimming freestyle in a pool can burn tons of calories.  How many?  Up to 590 calories for a 130 pound person and close to 1,000 for someone who’s 205.  Add swimming against the current and that number can increase quite a bit.  Of course, these numbers vary based on your weight, metabolism, what stroke you’re using and how fast you’re moving but with the water to keep you cool, it beats an hour baking in the sun.

Going for a swim can help build strength.  Water provides 12-14% more resistance than air (unless you have a nasty headwind) while using 2/3 of the body’s muscles with each movement.  Because you use both sides of your body evenly to swim in a straight line it’s also a good tool to help eliminate muscle imbalances and increase flexibility.

If you’re fighting an injury getting in the water is a great way to maintain fitness while letting yourself heal completely.  Not currently injured?  Swimming can reduce your risk of injury in the future.  Because it’s low impact, spending your recovery day in the pool might be better for your bones, muscles and mind than an easy run.  Swimming helps to strengthen joints without pounding them while the horizontal position improves respiratory control and circulation, a key factor in quality healing.

When you decide to go for a swim it doesn’t have to mean staring down at a lane marker for an hour.  Lots of options are available for those who want to explore doing more than racking up the laps.  You can strap on some weights and run in the deep end, try Aqua-Zumba or aqua-aerobics, mix it up by swimming one lap using only your legs and the next only your arms.

Whether you’re swimming in the ocean with a training group or at the local gym with your neighbors, you’re bound to end up with a few swim buddies.  Triathletes, swimmers and recovering runners love to talk about their sport and that can lead to some long lasting friendships.

Skip the sunblock and go for a swim this summer.  You’ll maintain your fitness, stay injury free and avoid all heat related dangers completely.

Coach Meredith


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

Proprioception: Become A Better Runner

Proprioception is a big scientific word but learning to love it it can help you become a better runner.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Proprioception (n) as ‘the reception of stimuli produced within the organism’.  Dictionary.com give a slightly more friendly definition: perception governed by proprioceptors, as awareness of the position of one’s body.  Proprioceptors are sensors in all of our muscles and tendons that help control balance.  That second definition makes it pretty easy to see how improving our proprioception could help our running performance.  Better balance means after steps and the more aware we are of what, how and when our body is doing something, the more efficient we can become at responding to it.

Have you ever had an ankle injury?  Exercises to improve proprioception were probably part of your rehab plan.  Why?  Exercising the proprioceptors helps strengthen ankles and feet.  You never know what you’ll come across when you’re running, especially on trails and once we’re injured, the damaged proprioceptors have trouble functioning properly.  Failing to reteach them to work correctly can ultimately lead to more injuries on the same joint and new injuries on rocky, uneven or unpredictable terrain.  Unfortunately, injuries aren’t the only thing that gets in the way of hardworking proprioceptors.  Wearing shoes all the time takes our feet away from the ground, dulls our senses and makes us visually dominant.  Waiting for our eyes to see something and tell our brain what to do is a very slow process compared to an immediate response from the correct muscles.  A better response means better balance.

To test your proprioception, stand on one foot and close your eyes.  If you immediately start to wobble and put your other foot on the ground, it’s time to go to work.  Here are exercises to proprioceptionadd to your daily routine that will build better balance, improve proprioception and help you become a better runner.

Go barefoot as often as possible.  Take a few minutes each day to work on single leg balance exercises, progressing to do them with your eyes closed.  Eventually, add a balance board or a few BOSU balls.  Both are great additions to any workout collection.  The unstable surfaces challenge your body to respond quickly to what’s happening under your feet and are good tools for strengthening feet and ankles.  Once you can stay still for a period of time, try closing your eyes.  Eventually you can add ball tossing and other upper body exercises to the challenge.

Start practicing your proprioception today to feel stronger and safer on any running surface.

Coach Meredith

Change Your View, Change Your Outcome

We’re well into the new year and you may have noticed lots of those new people from a few weeks ago are now missing on the gym floor.  These individuals had the wrong approach to hitting their goals.  They likely didn’t look for coaching, a plan or a goal to reach for.  They set a resolution and decided to exercise in 2015.  Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between exercising and training and no one told them that changing your view can dramatically change your outcome.change your outcome

Exercise can be a chore.  It isn’t a whole lot of fun.  It’s boring.  It’s probably the same thing every single time.  Exercise can be goal oriented but often doesn’t revolve around a goal that is SMART or well defined.  There isn’t particularly a plan when you walk through the gym’s doors to exercise and that can spell disaster.  While it is possible to see progress through simply exercising, odds are you’ll end up taking one step back for every two forward and be pretty close to where you started in year’s a time.  Exercise doesn’t usually come with a nutrition plan based on what kind of activity you’ll be engaged in or a proper recovery plan, all of which can hamper progress and prevent success.  Exercise doesn’t push you to try new things.  Exercise is all about right now.  I’ll sweat now.  I’ll burn calories now.  Change your outcome, or lack thereof, by starting to train.

Training, in contrast, is not about now.  It is much more than ‘physical activity’.  A training program has a definitive moment when you will be tested at some point in the future.  There is a deadline and a plan.  A training program designed to help you reach an attainable goal in a reasonable amount of time will have structure and focus.  It will have accountability through check-ins, periodic testing and a nutritional element.  You will do things you don’t enjoy so you can have success at what you love.  Your workouts will be efficient and effective every single day.  Work and social engagements will not prevent you from doing a day’s workout.  And you will see progress, no matter what your goal is.

Making the choice to change your outcome means deciding to stop exercising and start training.  Set a specific goal and become better.  Track your workouts, be efficient with your time in the gym, fuel your body properly and take each workout seriously.  You don’t have to be an athlete, you just have to think like one.

Coach Meredith

How to Use Timed Runs

There are lots of methods people use when training for a race.  Whether a 5K, 10K, half marathon or Iron Man, every runner has a different program, but the goal of each program is the same: finish in less time than I did before.  To reach this goal, every runner needs to run for time.  There are different types of timed runs out there, and each one serves a different purpose.  Short times runs, tempo runs, and distance runs can all fall into the timed run family and each one is valuable to any training program.

Short timed runs serve as benchmarks and baselines, giving you a sense of what your race pace will be by letting you know what kind of pace you can maintain over a period of time.  They are a great way to evaluate improvement in your fitness level and give you an idea of what your next goal should be.

Tempo runs are used to increase lactic acid threshold, or the point at which muscles feel fatigue.  They accomplish this by teaching to body to work when it’s already tired.  Tempo runs start with an easy pace to warm up then slowly increase to reach 10K pace for a short time in the middle, before finishing with another block of easy running.  A 30 minute tempo run would consist of 10 minutes warm up, ten minutes at a comfortably hard pace, with a peak at 10K pace around 15 minutes, then finish up with 10 minutes of easy running.

Your long timed run is there to make sure you can finish your race.  To be successful, determine how long your longest timed run should be, estimate the time it will take you to finish your race.  If you’re racing 13.1 miles and comfortably run 9 minute miles, you can guess you’ll finish in about two hours.  Your timed runs should build up so your body is ready to work for two hours.  If your body isn’t prepared to ahead of time to work for the amount of time it’s going to take you to finish, the end of your race will be tough both physically and mentally.

No matter what flavor of timed run you plan on doing, they are a great tool when you travel.  Running for time means you don’t have to measure new routes or waste time on the internet finding something, or somewhere, that’s already been measured, giving you more time to relax.  Running for a predetermined time is also perfect on days when you don’t feel 100%.  You can run for 45 minutes without caring how far you go or worrying you didn’t get a good enough workout in because you know did what you set out to do.

Have questions about running for time or training for your next race?  Contact us at Info@FitNicePT.com!