Tag Archives: strength training

Missed Workout + Single Digits!

My spring marathon is less than 10 weeks away.  That means I’m into single digits in my training countdown!  The first seven weeks have flown by and I’m feeling great about where my training is.  I must be because for the first time ever I have a completely missed workout on my calendar that’s barely made me blink an eye.

My missed workout was the result of Winter Storm Helena causing some trouble in Virginia Beach this past weekend.  I planned ahead enough to get my long run checked off Thursdaymissed workout before the storm hit, leaving a strength session and mile repeats for the weekend’s work.  Friday night a few inches of sleet formed a base layer for three inches of snow.  Photo credit to my friend Ann who was brave enough to trek out there.  For me, forget it!  I swapped my days knowing I could run on my treadmill Sunday if I had to.

Or so I thought.  Just as I was pulling on my running gear to tackle the dreadmill Sunday our power went out.  Well, I’ll just wait but, of course, with no power there was also no heat.  The indoor temperature dropped quickly with the 30mph winds and way below freezing outdoor conditions.  No, thanks.  With the dog radiating heat from his bed, Doug and I bundled up to go somewhere warm(er).  By the time we got word our power was back on I had downed a cocktail or two and one stuffed tummy.  Not exactly quality running preparation.missed workout

Not getting all of my planned miles in for the week was disappointing but definitely not the end of the world.  Running 49 of 55 scheduled miles is pretty good considering I crammed them in over 4 days and the surprise rest day was nice after such a heavy load for me.  I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures, melted snow and getting outside later this week.

Meredith

How do you handle a missed workout?  Do you try to make it up or let it go?

3 Things I’m Loving Right Now

Tuesday isn’t the usual day for Favorites but who’s counting?  I’m loving these three things right now and got a little Monday excited to share.  Here they are!

Shoes.  I picked up a pair of Saucony Zealot ISO 2s last month and am really liking them right right nownow.  It took a few miles to adjust to all of the cushioning.  At first I felt like my gait was a little funky and the shoes themselves were a little clunky or heavy.  I definitely lose some feel of the ground in them but the comfort level is a nice trade off.

The cushioning makes them a great long run shoe while the 4mm drop doesn’t take away from the amount of work my legs have to do.  Winning!  I don’t think I’ll race in them since they’re so heavy but I do right nowlook forward to continuing to train in them.

Games.  I’m a nerd.  I Lumosity regularly and have a daily Sudoku calendar.  Yes, I even let a week pile up then complete them.  That said, I was excited to find this oldie when I went to clean out a closet.  A present from Mom and Dad way too long ago, I’ve toted it around for years.  I’m excited to be back working at it.  Rush Hour presents a tactile brain challenge that doesn’t force me to stare right nowat a computer screen.  Perfect.

Fitness.  With marathon training kicking off next week, I’m ready to be back in the gym.  That sounds backwards doesn’t it?  I like the challenge of Crossfit as a compliment to my running and enjoy the workouts.  I am careful to not let my strength training have a negative effect on my important runs.  That’s why I avoided this one.  Even though I didn’t participate in the super hard WOD, it felt great to be back with my friends for the EOD 131 Memorial Workout Saturday.  Bring on the cleans and burpees!

Meredith

What are you loving right now?  Any new shoes or workouts?

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?

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?

Fit Friday: Bad Workout Blues

The bad workout blues are an unwritten part of every training plan.  A less than perfect run or strength session is bound to happen at some point during a 12 to 16 week training cycle.  When it does happen, a bad workout can turn your day upside down but hopefully it doesn’t happen often or cause injury.  I battled through a few while prepping for my first marathon and learned a few important things about beating the bad workout blues.  Here are the ways I avoid or treat them to bounce back quickly.

Get enough sleep.  I love sleeping but that doesn’t mean I always get enough.  I try really hard to stay on a bedtime and wake-up schedule so I’m at least getting as much shut eye as I can.  Sleep allows your body time to heal from your last workout and since your next workout is only as good as your recovery, it makes perfect sense sleep is a key element.  Having a sleepless night can wreak havoc on your body and suck out tons of the energy you plan on using for bad workouttraining.  Thankfully, one great thing about sleep is the human body’s ability to catch up on it.  On the rare occasion I’m not hopping out of bed bright and early for work or a long run, I take the chance to sleep as late as I can and you should, too.

Eat right.  At least aim for the 80/20 rule.  Fueling your body with the right things is just as important as getting enough sleep.  Whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies along with less sugar (unfortunately that does include booze).  I’m also caffeine free, no coffee or soda which helps me sleep.  On a two hour run I can burn around 2,000 calories and I want to be sure I’m replacing them with quality food items (maybe a well deserved glass/es of wine, too).  All that eating kicks the digestive system on and to work properly, it needs lots of water.  Proper hydration before, during and after a session is also super important.

Have good goals and track workouts.  Set a good goal (check out my goal setting series on YouTube).  Write it down.  Look at it every single day.  Journal your workouts and how you felt before, during and after them.  Or check the weather constantly while seeing how much you can shuffle your schedule like I do.  Knowing what’s coming keeps me focused and on track, prevents boredom and make me accountable, even if only to myself.  Having a record of what happened before a bad workout turns each one into a learning experience that stops them from happening in the future.

Listen to your body.  Bad workouts can be a sign of over training or injury.  Mix up cardio days with yoga, swimming and lifting days.  When I start feeling worn down, unusually sore or grouchy or dreading the gym, I know it’s time for an extra day off.  I’m also not afraid to call it quits when a workout is on a bad path.  One short session won’t derail my training and might prevent an injury.  Listen to what your body says and take it seriously.

Meredith

How do you deal with the bad workout blues?

Fit Friday: 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 earning quicker feet.  With my current long term goal to break a 1:30 half marathon a ways away and a 20-minute 5k a little closer (this year?), I definitely spend time working on running faster.  Here are my four key elements of training to get faster.running faster

Form.  Running fast 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 quick turnover were the first things I worked on to start getting faster.  Better form immediately made a positive difference and that’s what I spend time every day doing things to make sure it stays solid.  Mobility and drills specific to my body’s needs on that day, where I’m sore, what was tight on my last run, etc., all add up to a quality default running form.

Turnover.  When I used to run on the gym treadmill, I’d notice a difference between what was happening when I was warming up and what happened when I was working hard.  Turned out it was the change in my turnover rate when running faster that caused these changes.  When my stride rate increased my heel striking stopped, my posture improved and my hips opened up.  Learning how to maintain a stride rate of roughly 180 steps per minute was a challenge and I use at least one workout each week to keep improving because it lowers my risk of injury, makes me more efficient and a faster runner whose head doesn’t bob on the treadmill anymore.

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.  I owe Crossfit a lot of credit for helping me become a stronger, more powerful and efficient athlete.  Deadlifting, squatting, box jumping and hammering away at those double unders have undoubtedly made me faster.

Practice.  To run fast, you have to run faster.  If I want to hit that 1:30 half marathon, I need to spend some time running faster than the required 6:50/mile pace.  I’m not built for top end speed but I still spend one workout a week chipping away at it.  Building my VO2Max, increasing my turnover even if only for one mile at a time and getting comfortable at higher speeds all add up to my running faster.

Meredith

How do you work on running faster?  Speed work, strength work or both?

Fit Friday: Strong Feet are Fast Feet

It’s Fit Friday!  I’ve spent lots of time this year working for strong feet and stable ankles.  Making both more capable has definitely helped my running, jumping and mobility.  Because each foot does so much work every time we take a step, having strong ones gives you a solid base for any task you wish to perform.  Here’s how and why I’ve worked hard to develop stronger, faster feet and ankles that help me run faster and more efficiently.

Strong feet and ankles mean better balance, improved posture and stronger core alignment and engagement.  These are the ways I’ve worked on making mine the best they can be.

Practice standing on one foot without shoes.  Wobble and fight to stay standing on that one foot until you can hold it for at least a minute.  To make it even tougher, and continue making progress, try it with your eyes closed.  Practice keeping your big toe flat and foot long to help develop balance and know that each wobble helps strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your ankle.  You might be surprised how hard this is on your first try, especially with eyes closed, but it can quickly improve with a little work.

Spend as much time as possible barefoot and in flat shoes.  I love my stilettos just as much as the next girl but if it’s bad for my running, I’ll take a step back.  I’m switched from cushy slippers to fuzzy socks around the house and save the heels for special occasions this year.  Wearing a thick sole between the foot and the strong feetground prevents you from feeling what’s going on beneath you.  This ends up making us all very visually dominant for feedback on what’s happening on the ground and that is a very slow process.  By not wearing shoes to earn strong feet you can increase your foot’s ability to respond to the ground it touches, even with a shoe on, making balance better and helping protect you from potential injuries.

Take care of your feet.  Rolling the muscles of your feet on a golf ball, lacrosse ball, Trigger Point set or softball can keep them soft, flexible and relaxed.  After a hard foot workout of barefoot jump roping, sand running or balance work, massage allows blood and oxygen to start helping muscles get stronger by healing.  Remember that each step you take starts at your foot and rolls up through the rest of your body.  Taking good care of your feet can help keep all of your other muscles happy, too.

Start trying to stand on one foot while you brush your teeth and the other while you brush your hair, work on not wearing shoes at home and give them a little extra care each night to have strong feet and ankles that can carry you anywhere.

Meredith

Do you have strong feet?  How do you work on them?

Mountain Bike Cross Training

moutain bike cross trainingI didn’t run yesterday.  I wasn’t really feeling like it, had wiggle room in my training schedule and opted for a day of mountain bike cross training.  It was an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon outside by the time I got around to working out so I chose to ride my bike up the Boardwalk to First Landing State Park’s Cape Henry Trail and back.

It was a blast.  I rode 16 miles on roads and dirt trails with pit stops at each of the trail’s fitness stations in both directions.  As soon as I entered the woods I started practicing taking pictures on the move.  This was my third try and isn’t bad for a first timer, right?  After ‘mastering’ that, a four mile warm up put me at the first of these mountain bike cross training stops, a stretching mountain bike cross trainingstation.  I stretched my legs and shoulders then hopped back on my bike.

The next stations were all separated by about a quarter mile each which definitely helped increase the challenge.  My second stop was agility tires (5 times through) then it was step-ups for 2 minutes and push-ups (15).  These stops definitely got my heart pumping and it felt good to use the 90 second bike portions to take some deep breaths.

After that was the sprinter’s chair for 20 leg lifts each time I passed it.  Even though I had stretched, this exercise made it clear how tight my hamstrings still were from the previous day’s deadlifts.  My tight hamstrings got back on the bike to head for my next mountain bike cross training challenge: parallel bars.  I’m not amazing at dips and expected to struggle with traversing this obstacle.  It was nice to fight through and have some unexpected success, especially the second time through.  I’ve been working on getting my push-up numbers higher and think that mountain bike cross trainingplayed a part in powering over this tough one.

While I’ve also been practicing getting my strict pull-up number to increase, the overhead ladder was not a good one for me and I skipped it on the return route.  My sweaty hands lack the grip strength necessary to complete it but it also kills my left shoulder.  Not worth hurting myself over.  A little further along, I did rock 10 strict pull-ups (2×5) each way on these bars that were nice and slippery, riding away proud of myself.mountain bike cross training

The final station heading out was crunches but I did 30 sit-ups each way.  They were harder than I thought after core work on the parallel bars and pull-ups!

I hit the trail head at Mile 8 then took a turn around the parking lot before heading back into the woods for my second round of fitness stations.  I had a great time doing this mountain bike cross training workout and using the park’s fitness stops for the first time.  This hour and a half workout will definitely stay in my ‘I don’t want to run today’ choice of workouts.

Meredith

Do you bike for cross training?  Ever use fitness stations on trails or in parks?

Fit Friday: Maintenance Mode

My spring race season is a few weeks old and my fall training cycle isn’t coming up too quickly.  This no man’s land of heat and humidity is the perfect time for me to be in maintenance mode.  I’m taking the work I do seriously but trying new things and exploring different kinds of workouts.  The low pressure, maintain but not test myself thing is new to me but two weeks in, it seems to be panning out OK.

I’m a competitive person.  I like to improve, beat my old PRs and place in my age group but I realize that constantly trying to be at the top of my game is exhausting.  Taking a break from intense training weeks gives my body a real chance to recover and heal, getting both stronger and faster.  My training isn’t based on periodization but is a modified to my preferences and psychosis Crossfit Endurance program.  Drop a long run?  I just can’t do it.  I tried.  It went badly.  I’m in race mode or I’m not and right now, I’m in maintenance mode instead.  In this year’s maintenance mode, I’m running an average of 25 miles a week made up of a short interval run, a long interval run and a long run.

I’ve had fun taking some of my long runs to the sand and choosing to do a long interval session on the treadmill.  The fun continues with my strength training during these lower mileage weeks as I work on adding strength and power to each of my running steps.  I’m enjoying my maintenance mode more than I thought I would and maintenance modeexpect when I hunker down for my fall races I’ll see some improvement across the board thanks to my stronger body.

But, even as I’m taking my training easy but still seriously, I am giving myself a little summer fun leeway on my nutrition.  Have to have some fun!  Here I am after this morning’s rainy 400M repeats on the Boardwalk, half into a brutal 15mph headwind, indulging in National Donut Day with a Dunkin Donuts chocolate glazed.  That poor donut didn’t stand a chance.

Have a great weekend!

Meredith

Do you break up training cycles with a maintenance mode?  Did you enjoy a donut today?