Category Archives: Fit Friday

Fit Friday: An Almost Trio of March PRs

March 2017 was a solid running month for me.  I raced three weekends in a row, hitting new PRs at the marathon and 8k distances while getting very close at the 5k distance.  It was my best month of running race-wise in a while and I’m really happy with it. 

The month started with a tune-up 5k.  I had no real expectations but knew I’d perform pretty well on tapered legs.  When I lined up to start the Big Wish 5k I looked at the distance on my watch but not the time.  I wish I would have.  Knowing my start time would have shown me that coming into the finish I was only seconds behind my best.  I had plenty left and could certainly have added another one to my March PRs if I March PRshad been more aware.  Lucky for me, I have plenty of 5k opportunities coming up over the next few months.

My marathon PR the following Sunday felt good.  It wasn’t the race I wanted to run after Mile 22 but I hit my goal and qualified for Boston.  I learned a lot during this race that I’ll be taking with me into my next training cycle.

My March PRs rolled on at the Shamrock 8k.  While I hadn’t run an 8k in years and a PR was almost inevitable, I’m still proud of my Shamrock effort.  I smashed my previous best by 90 seconds five measly days after running a marathon.  Imagine if my legs were fresh.

After almost three March PRs, it’s exciting thinking about what I can get done this fall.  I’ll be racing for PRs at the half marathon, 10k, 5k and 5 mile distances.  It’s likely I’ll count that five miler as an 8k since they’re so close.  I don’t have a fall marathon planned but am looking forward to Boston 2018.

Meredith

Did you have any March PRs?  What distance?

Fit Friday: Taper Madness

I thought I might be able to avoid it but I was wrong.  I’m barely a week into my One City Marathon taper and the lack of miles has done it.  Taper madness is here.  With 15 days to go, I feel ready to race though I know more time to let my body rest will only be a benefit.  Here are a few of my go-to taper madness ‘Do’s and Don’ts’.taper madness

DO
Start reading.
  Take all those non-running hours and grab a book.  Or a tablet or an e-reader.  Even if you’re not actually running, you can get your fill of running excitement from any number of books.  One of my favorites is Eat & Run, home to a great story and some tasty recipes.

Meditate.  Practice relaxing.  That hour you’d be running is the perfect time to meditate and visualize yourself yourself crossing that finish line.  Get all the details from who’s standing near the finish line to what it reads on clock then remember if you’re not starting in Corral 1 to adjust it for your expected finish, not the gun time!  Visualization can be incredibly powerful and the more you see it happening, the more likely it is.

Plan.  Study the course map to create a game plan for hydration, find out what food is on the course and decide if you’ll be packing your own.  Figure out what your pacing strategy is.  Then come up with a few alternatives because we all know nothing ever goes just as we planned it.  Learn how you’ll get to the start and home from the finish area.  What’s the deal with gear check?  Read the race’s FAQ page to help you develop a bulletproof plan for success on marathon day.

DON’T
Be a Weather Monster.  Yes, the weather is a big concern for a 26+ mile event when you’re out there for hours and hours.  No, you can’t do anything about it.  Checking it every hour for three weeks will just stress you out and that’s no good at all.  Get a ballpark idea of what the race location’s weather is typically like that time of year, use your plan and make an educated guess.  The truth is it’ll probably change anyway.taper madness

Change.  Whatever you’ve been doing for the last 13 weeks, keep doing it for the next three.  Your body is repairing, healing and getting ready.  If your taper madness boredom leads to happy hour, you’re wrecking those weeks of hard work with poor sleep and dehydrated muscles.  Stick with the diet, nutrition and sleep patterns that have successfully carried you through your training.

Get nervous.  Something always goes wrong but that’s OK.  You trained then you planned and you’re going to show up.  There’s only so much you can control so don’t worry about anything else.  Bad weather, misplaced water stations and potholes all happen but with a solid plan you’ll be just fine.  Trust your training and yourself.

Meredith

What are your favorite ways to tackle taper madness?

Yasso 800s + Super Long Run

There are less than 50 days until my spring marathon and this week was a tough one.  I kicked it off with a full round of Yasso 800s Monday and threw my long run in two days early for the sake of better weather on Thursday.  Both workouts were tough but surprisingly fun.

Yasso 800s are a famous workout that can be varied all training cycle long.  This was my peak week with a full dose of 10 repeats and they went well.  Used as a reasonably close predictor of marathon finishing times, each repeat features 800M of work and an easy jog of the same duration for recovery.  Since the prediction tends to be about 5 minutes off of actual finish times, I was aiming for each 800 to be at a 6:50 pace.  This would theoretically get me across the line in 3:25 and an adjusted 3:30, my goal time.yasso 800s

I had a great time getting back into action after a down week with this one.  My goal was to run each repeat in 3:25, 6:50 pace, on fresher than usual legs to simulate somewhat of a taper.  It worked!  I was contending with some headwind and benefiting from a tailwind at different points but my repeats were 3:22, 22, 18, 23, 18, 18, 17, 22, 16, 16.  The session left me feeling really excited for race day.

The week rolled on with some 400M repeats Wednesday and my longest training run of the cycle on Thursday.  It was a test with lots of marathon pace miles early then a few faster ones at the end.  I started this 5-4-3-2-1 run with a one mile warm up then 5 miles at marathon pace.  The next two segments, 4 miles and 3 miles, were each separated by an easy mile.  The two mile section was at half marathon pace.  After a painful easy mile 18, I rocked Mile 19 at 10k pace, finishing with a nice easy cool down.  It was definitely a challenging but enjoyable workout.

Meredith

What are your favorite marathon training workouts?  Do you like Yasso 800s?

Fit Friday: Running Alone

Some people love to run in groups and some of us don’t.  I definitely prefer to do the majority of my running alone.  Maybe it’s because I’m an only child or because my schedule is funky.  After a sibling-less childhood, I grew accustomed to being alone and having to entertain myself running aloneso that I actually learned to like it.  I need it.

So I go running alone and it’s glorious.  No phone, no friends.  I especially like doing my long runs on Thursday mornings.  I know there won’t be anyone else out there.  Just me, the road and a few squirrels, yay!  This piece from Runner’s World sums up my feelings nicely for the most part.  I’m picky about ‘my people’ and value my peace and quiet.  A 15 mile run is my time to think, or not think, about what’s going on in my life without any interference.  It’s good prep for when I actually race and will undoubtedly be too busy running my own race to worry about who’s with me.

Is that to say I like running alone so much that I’ll always turn down an offer from a pal?  Absolutely not.  I’m the first one to tout the benefits of running groups or clubs.  Check out this post.  If friends and camaraderie are what get you out the door, that’s awesome.  The exponential increase in social running groups has been wonderful.  People make new friends, hit new goals and get healthier every single day with their running ‘tribes’.  It’s just not what works for me and even on a group run I’ll usually end up alone.  I’m happy to socialize before the run or after, cheer for the final finishers and congratulate everyone but I’ll do my running alone.

Meredith

Do you like running alone?  Why or why not?

Less Sugar, More Plants

We’ve all heard it.  We’ve all thought about it.  Some of us have even tried it.  Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, raw.  The idea of eating less sugar, less processed food and downing more plants and clean food.  It sounds easy but the truth is it isn’t.  Changing your diet is hard.more plants

I tried paleo and it didn’t work for me.  I had a lot of trouble meeting my caloric needs and felt tired/grumpy/cruddy without carbs.  I also tried going dairy-less for ten days.  Not only was I seriously craving some cheese, I didn’t notice any difference at all in my digestion and energy levels.  Lactose intolerant I am not.  Vegetarian lasted about three whole days for me.  Soda was never a factor, nor was coffee.  I’ve been a water drinker with the occasional apple or orange juice, protein shake, glass of milk or chocolate milk, sports drink and boozy treat (maybe more than occasional with those) for as long as I can remember.

So while I won’t be going paleo or vegan any time soon and don’t need to kick a caffeine habit, I am trying to clean up my eating.  With part of my Unbeatable Mind training focusing on nutrition and goals to PR at several distances this fall cleaning up my eating is something I’ve finally committed to.  My first step was to add more plants to all of my meals by making it easier to do so.  I spend meal prep time more plantschopping veggies for cooking, salads and snack time.  This one ended up looking like the Italian flag but I’m enjoying preparing more food because it makes me think harder about what I’m actually fueling my workouts with.  It also makes healthy snacking more convenient when all I have to do is reach in the fridge.

As a bonus, think I picked the best time of year to add more plants to my fridge.  So many fruits and veggies are in season that finding a few tasty ingredients to top my salad is easy.  I know all of the additional fiber is helping my body clean out toxins while the vitamins and minerals keep my insides functioning at their peak.  I’m excited to see what eating more plants and less sugar does for my performance as race season approaches.

Meredith

Have you added more plants to your meals?  Are you paleo or vegetarian?  Why?

Fit Friday: Yoga for Runners

I used to think yoga was boring.  And, honestly, it can be.  Recently I’ve stepped up my yoga game as part of my Unbeatable Mind training and taking it seriously has helped me get more from my practice as well as start to enjoy it.  I’ll always be a runner but a little something else never hurt.  Here are some of the big benefits of yoga for runners.

Strength – Yoga can make you stronger.  Without looking like a body builder or becoming muscle bound and losing your ability to move quickly, practicing yoga will help strengthen every muscle and bone group you have.  Because yoga never uses one muscle group independently of another you get more bang for your buck with each pose than you would sitting in a gym’s machine.  Increased strength in the core, arms and legs means better endurance, more efficiency and faster race times.yoga for runners

Mobility – Look at the hip extension of an elite marathoner moving at race pace.  Now look at yours.  Mobility, or the ability to move a join through a full range of motion, is incredibly important.  The more your hip can open the faster you’ll get where you’re going.  Yoga for runners improves mobility at all joints, increasing ease of movement, reducing stiffness and potentially erasing some of those regular aches and pains you have before warming up.

Prevent Injury – A big benefit of yoga for runners is getting muscle groups to lengthen and strengthen in balance.  When doing downward dog, my arms, wrists, lats and deltoids are strengthening while my hamstrings, calves and Achilles are stretching to create stability in that position.  This helps eliminate the muscle imbalances created by pounding pavement for miles and miles each week that eventually lead to injuries.

Improved Breathing – If you can’t breathe, running gets really hard very quickly.  Hello, speed work in humidity!  Adding some yoga for runners to your regular routine will help increase lung capacity and teach you how to breathe properly using your diaphragm.  Filling your lungs completely instead of breathing shallowly and quickly means more oxygen gets to working muscles and more toxic carbon dioxide is removed, keeping your heart and stress rates lower.  Better breathing means better running!

Whether you use it to warm up, stretch out or as a cross training workout all alone, there’s lots of good information on yoga for runners here.

Meredith

What are your favorite yoga for runners poses?  How often do you practice?

Fit Friday: Summer Running Tips

Summer is here and if you’re looking to race this fall, you’re likely training through some heat, humidity and sunlight.  Summer running is serious business, especially for those looking to rock marathons or hit a PR early in the fall.  Training hard when it’s hot can have benefits when things cool back down but it can also be dangerous.  Here are five ways to stay safe while still summer runninggetting a good session in during hot summer workouts.

Stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated doesn’t mean just drinking water.  In fact, too much plain old water can become a problem sooner than you think.  That’s because when we sweat we lose plenty of salt, too.  Having a sports drink, salt tab or other form of electrolyte with you for any outdoor workout is a must.  Put water bottles out along your route or choose one with accessible fountains, sinks or friends who’ll cheer you on.

Slow down.  Your body is dealing with enough when it’s hot out.  Adding the stress of a hard track workout doesn’t help.  Don’t worry about your goal pace or how long it takes you to get there.  Run by effort when it’s warm and give your body time to adjust to the season change over a few weeks.  Then you’re clear to step up the intensity for short times as long as you feel up to it.

Dress lightly.  Have a sports bra you love but kept covered up all winter?  Show it off!  Wear as little clothing as you can get away with.  If you are going to wear an entire outfit, go for light colors and sweat wicking fabrics.  Try to remember the Body Glide, too.  A hat or visor along with sunglasses is always recommended and a good layer of sunblock put on 10 minutes before you head out can’t do anything but help.

Change your schedule.  It’s cooler in the morning and evening than it is at noon or 3pm.  Try to get your run in when there’s plenty of shade as the sun comes up or goes down.  Check out different routes at different times of day to see where you’re offered the most coverage.  You might even want to hit the trails.  If you’re schedule just can’t adjust, don’t be afraid to stay inside and tackle a treadmill workout.

Know the signs.  Pay attention to what your body tells you.  No workout is worth the risk of serious hurting yourself.  Lightheadedness, dizziness, cramping and not sweating anymore are all possible signs of a heat related injury.  Especially on low humidity, breezy days, summer running can sneak up on you and it’s even more important to be aware of what’s going on inside your body.

Meredith

How do you deal with summer running?  Do you like it or hate it?

Easy Running for Faster Running

Going out for an easy run might seem pointless.  It’s hard to make sense of getting faster by running slower.  The truth is you do actually have to run faster sometimes if you’re going to lower finish times at races but you definitely don’t want to do it all the time.  A balance between hard and easy running workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury, easy runningovertraining or burnout.  The ultimate purpose of an easy workout is to build a foundation you can then load intensity on top of.  The lower effort runs allow your body to adapt to the stresses of road running while still being able to recover fast enough that you can get out there day after day.

Taking your workout intensity down with easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch/fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without leaving you begging for an ice bath.  While some people might consider dramatically slower than race pace runs (up to 2 minutes per mile!) pointless, it’s important to remember every workout has a purpose.  Yes, we all need fast days to work on turnover, VO2max and race pace but getting time on your feet, recovering quickly and having a nice relaxing run isn’t logging ‘junk miles’ if your session has a purpose, it’s working towards your next race goal.

When you ask yourself why you’re running ‘so slow’ keep in mind that going hard all the time is begging for an injury (trust me!).  Your body has to adapt, recover and repair after a beat down on the track or a big hill.  Muscles are damaged and full of waste.  Blood vessels have to expand while learning how to process the higher oxygen demands you just put on them.  An easy running day can actually help speed those adaptations by clearing waste from muscles and increasing circulation.  If you go hard every time you run your body never gets the chance to adapt to higher demands you’re placing on it and things like overtraining, stress fractures and burnout all become big risks.

Alternate hard and easy workouts while listening to what your body tells you during warm up.  Maybe today isn’t the best day for those all out 100M repeats or a 5k time trial.  Make sure your easy running is just that, easy.  A conversational pace with a low heart rate up to two minutes per mile slower than race speed.  Keep the benefits of easy running in mind when you’re a little tired or a little sore and never be afraid to slow things down.  As long as your workout has a purpose, you can’t go to slow.

Meredith

How many easy running miles do you log?  Do you have trouble slowing things down?

Got Sand Running? 5 Reasons You Should

Spring has sprung and as temperatures warm up the sandy of a beach looks more and more appealing for everyone.  Runners especially can benefit from hitting the beach.  Sand running is a great tool to get faster, increase strength, see some fresh scenery or stay cool on a hot day.  There are lots of types of sand, from packed wet sand to deep fluffy sand but no matter which one you choose, there are big benefits to be had.  Here are five great reasons you shouldn’t overlook those early morning or evening hours when it isn’t too crowded to get a workout in.

Strength.  With or without shoes sand running is a good way to sand runningearn stronger ankles and feet.  The uneven surface forces your body to respond in ways it doesn’t have to on the road or track. Your core has to work harder to maintain balance and large muscle groups are given an extra challenge.  For even more ways the beach makes you stronger, check out this list.

Cadence.  The best way to get anywhere in the sand is with short, quick steps.  Practicing this higher cadence by running faster in the deep sand will help you see improvements back on the road.  Give it a try by running as fast as you can 2-3 time with rest in the sand then slide your shoes back on and repeat on the road.  Instant gains!

Stay Cool(er).  A hot summer day is hot no matter where you are but being next to the water certainly helps.  Running in the surf keeps cool water running over some of your body at all times and the ocean breeze will likewise aid in preventing overheating.  Be wary of strong winds and plan your run accordingly.

Scenery Change.  Take things easy.  You’re already working harder than you would on the road, trail, track or treadmill.  Enjoy what nature has to offer and use sand running time to have some fun.  Try remembering all of the birds you saw or stop to watch the sunrise/sunset for a minute between repeats.  Unless you live down the street from a shoreline, get the most out of each experience.

Be careful.  Make sure you have a way to stay hydrated when you’re out there on a sunny, warm day.  Take a water source with you or put a bottle at your turnaround point.  Check tide tables and run a low tide, making sure to stay even by running an out and back course on the slanted surface.  Watch for holes, shells, other beach debris and rough patches of packed sand that can cause blisters and abrasions.

Take these tips on your next trip to the beach and reap a few of these big benefits from sand running.

Meredith

Do you run on the beach?  What’s your favorite thing about sand running?

New Training Cycle + I’m Sore

My new training cycle is in full gear.  Even though I’ve been ‘racing’ all month, the events have been more workouts than actual races as I’ve been slowly building my mileage back up.  Since my off season three weeks ago, I had weekly miles of 12, 16 and 20.  My goal this week was to hit 25 miles and add in some tougher sessions.

Monday was a rest day but I got things going with Tuesday’s Crossfit and the first official strength training workout of my new training cycle.  I definitely missed lifting weights while prepping for and recovering my marathon so it felt great to be back in the gym.  The WOD included back squats, front squats, kettle bell swings, burpees and overhead squats.  I dropped the weight for all exercises way down knowing I’d be sore as heck the next day and had fun.

Nailed it!  Wednesday morning I was pretty darn sore.  My quads were very unhappy, my shoulders mildly unhappy and luckily the rest of me was mostly neutral.  I did an easy four mile run that afternoon at 8:30 pace to shake out then spent twenty minutes with my best foam roller friend.  My legs felt much less sore Thursday morning but were still a bit touchy.

I debated swapping my schedule around since Thursday was supposed to be the second tougher workout of my new training cycle.  Speed work didn’t sound super appealing but I decided against moving the workout and hit the track for a better than I thought session.  Not that I was expecting much with my quads still less than 100%.  I almost forgot how much fun running those two curves can be.new training cycle

This morning I hit the gym again for strength training but focused on upper body to give my legs a breather.  Tomorrow is a rest day while I travel to Delaware for this week’s long run at the Coastal Delaware Half Marathon.  I’ll be pacing the 1:55 group and look forward to picking up an extra mile or two before the race to hit my 25 for the week.

All new training cycle soreness aside, it feels good to be getting back into a groove.  I know I’ll regain my fitness quickly and have a long summer to work on becoming a better athlete for my fall races.

Meredith

How do you deal with soreness?  Have you started a new training cycle?