Wednesday, January 27, 2016

8 Helpful Tips to Get You That PR

So much goes into training, both physically and mentally that after months of preparation and sacrifice, crossing that finish line is a feeling like no other!  We all decide to run races for different reasons.  Some to keep the weight off and stay in shape.  Some to prove to themselves they can do it.  Others love to run with friends and family for more of a fun, social event.  And some do it because they like the competition, with themselves and others.  Regardless of the reason we begin training for an event and despite how competitive think we are, or are not, one thing is certain for every runner...PR's are AWESOME!  [In case you are newer to running, "PR" stands for personal record.]  PR's show us what we are capable, they show us that discipline and hard work pay off, that we are both physically and mentally stronger than we ever thought possible.  PR's also give us a new lease on our running, it revitalizes what may have become stagnant and gives us new goals to reach for!
As a performance coach and avid runner myself, I am often asked for tips on how to get faster.  Just like any run training programming, there is no one-size-fits-all magic formula that works for every person and every event.  But over the years, I have managed to see some significant improvements in my own pace as well as in my clients', so I figured I would share a few things I have found to be helpful.

1. Be Ambitious, But Be Realistic
I know this may sound a little contradictory, but you need to have big, scary goals to shoot for.  Even though these goals may frighten you a little, they really are not too much out of your reach if you're willing to work!  So first and foremost, with running and any type of training, you have to set some action goals.  In an past blog post, I discussed the importance of S.M.A.R.T. goals and running is no exception.  Setting a goal too high will cause unnecessary stress in your training and potentially set you up for failure.  It could also lead to over-training, burn out or even worse, an injury (been there done that).  And of course setting your aim too low doesn't give you that edge you need to step out of your comfort zone.  After all, the joy in PR'ing is pushing yourself and making it happen!  Use some of your past events and training runs as a good litmus test for your goal.  Take some of your paces from your best training runs and consider how many seconds you could shave off each mile if you really pushed it out there.  Use some "reverse engineering" with a pace calculator to determine what your PR would be if you shaved off that amount of seconds per mile.  Now that you have set your goal, here are some things to do to make it happen!

2. Cross Train
I cannot stress enough the importance of cross training.  And I am not just talking about swimming, biking and other cardio.  Getting in the weight room has been hands down one of the absolute most important components of my increased pace.  Since incorporating strength and conditioning into my regular training, I have gotten leaner, stronger, more powerful and thus faster.  Runners often shy away from lifting, especially heavy, because they fear they will bulk, be too sore or don't think they have time for it.  None of which is true, trust me.  Strength training will increase lean muscle mass, improve bone density, and increase strength and power, all of which improve running economy.   Body weight exercises like squats, push ups, planks, lunges, etc., are all a great place to get started if you have never done a strength program, but eventually you will need to incorporate resistance with dumbbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, etc.  Remember, don't be afraid to lift heavy (for example: 4 sets of 6-8 rather than 3 sets of 15-20), push yourself in the weight room, not just the trail!

3. Check Your Nutrition
They old saying goes, "you can't out train a poor diet," and that couldn't be any more true.  As runners, we have a tendency to think "hey, I just ran 10 miles, I should be allowed to eat all the food."  Obviously it is vital that we are refueling our bodies, making sure we are replenishing all those calories we just expended, but we must do so with the right foods and the right balance.   A good example is when I trained for my first marathon back in 2010.  After each long run, I plowed through countless unhealthy foods, thinking it was all evening out.  I'm not one to pay attention to the scale, but as I noticed my clothes getting tighter and tighter, I knew I had probably put on a few pounds.  Race day came and went and I felt it went well for my first marathon, but at doctor's check up about a week later, I realized I had gained over 10 pounds during training!  That was a very humbling experience for me and since making adjustments to my nutrition, I have managed to keep my weight down and continually shave my time.  Be sure to eat real food, drink plenty of water and keep your portions in check..  Avoid processed foods, added sugars and alcohol.  Also avoid the urge to devour everything in sight after a long run.  Have your post run meal planned out and include tons of water along with the meal to prevent overindulging.  If you're still struggling with portions and nutrition, I highly recommend downloading the MyFitnessPal app to track your diet.  What gets measured gets accomplished!

4. Find Your "Om'
Long, lean, limber bodies are important for running, not just running efficiency but also recovery.  Yoga provides not just flexibility and strength, but it offers a connection to your body, mind and spirit like no other form of fitness can.  You became amazingly aware of your body through Yoga, thus learning how to better listen to and train it.  Yoga helps to increase range of motion, improve posture, increase strength and increase stamina, all very important for running and recovery.  If you have never done Yoga before, start of slow and gentle.  There are several resources online as well as DVD's you can try.  Consider attending a class at a local studio and don't hesitate to inform the instructor if you are new, so they can be sure to keep an eye out for you.  I myself, am a huge fan of Hot Yoga.  The high temperatures quickly warm up my muscles allowing me to get deeper into poses and the continuous flow of the class challenges and pushes me both physically and mentally.  Adding at least one Yoga class to your weekly training routine will offer great benefits for your body and mind!

5. Speed Work
Whether you run 7 minute miles or walk/run 14 minute miles, you are a runner regardless and can certainly benefit from speed work.  Speed work typically involves short but fast intervals of running followed by a recovery period.  Through a carefully designed program, you will be able to increase your stamina and speed, as well learn to tolerate both the physical and mental discomforts while racing.  The focus while doing speed work is to reach your anaerobic threshold, which requires you to run at a MUCH faster pace than usual.  Pushing yourself hard to reach this threshold will improve your VO2 max as well as your aerobic capacity, both very important for distance running.  Speed work, however does come with risks.  If not done progressively and properly, it can lead to over training and potentially injury.  Be sure to research speed programs before engaging in one and my suggestion would be to consider hiring a professional (see #7 below).

6. Recruit a Fast Friend
Running with someone who is a little faster than you and willing to help you push to reach your goals is a sure fire way to make it happen.  And the best part in doing so, is having someone to celebrate the experience with!  Of course, be sure to return the favor one day, by helping someone else get their PR too.  If you do not already have someone in mind like a BRF (Best Running Friend), consider joining in a local running group.  You're sure to find people to pace you and push you in large groups, plus they are a lot of fun!

7. Hire a Coach
Running and performance coaches are not just for the elite athletes.  Don't think for a second that just because you are not working towards Olympic status, you cannot enlist the help of a professional!  Coaches are available to offer guidance, programming, support and encouragement to runners of all ages, distances and fitness levels.  Running coaches will work specifically with your running needs and goals to train for a particular event.  From those goals, your coach will design a specific plan of action including mileage build up, speed work, tapering, etc., to help keep you on track safely and effectively.  A performance coach, like myself, will get you stronger, leaner, more powerful and of course, faster.  Performance coaches design sports specific strength and conditioning programming to target what is needed to take your "game" to the next level.  Again, we are not just for competitive athletes.  Performance coaches work with anyone looking to improve performance by building lean muscles mass, improving strength and power, increasing flexibility and improving aerobic capacity.

8. Don't Give Up
You've set your ambitious, yet attainable PR goal and you feel as if you are doing everything right to make it happen.  But for some cosmic reason, it just didn't happen at your last race, or the previous one even the one before that.  Now you're thinking your goal is too high, it isn't going to happen and you're just not the runner you thought you were.  DON'T beat yourself up and DON'T give up!  Maybe you were over trained, the weather was horrible, your head just wasn't in it, things happen...learn from them.  Evaluate the various factors of race day and the days leading up to it, that may have come into play causing you to come up short.  For the things you can control, determine what you need to do to change them, ie: footwear, attire, music, pace groups, training program, etc.  And for the things you have no control over, it's important you are equipped with the right mindset to deal with it.  You can't change the weather, there is nothing you can do when you are sick, sometimes courses are just way harder than we anticipated.  Being prepared, having a positive, no excuse attitude and just staying focused and persistent will sooner or later (hopefully sooner) get you that much deserved PR.  So no matter what, never, ever give up!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Last Long Run for Marathon #5 Done!

Week 3 of 2016: MLK Day and last long run for my next marathon

Monday was in memorial of the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King.  Schools and many businesses close to honor his life and achievements, so that meant no preschool for my munchkins that day.  I did, however, still have to teach my usual spin class at LA Fitness, so to their excitement, they got to accompany me to the gym.  I knew I wouldn't get much done work wise that day having the babies home with me, but I was also super excited to get to spend the day with them.  I didn't do much weights that morning either because I wanted to maximize my time with them, so just a little core before my class.  That afternoon, we got to have lunch with daddy, ride scooters in the beautiful weather and get frozen yogurt.  I'm sure they would agree, it was a super awesome way to spend the day!

Tuesday is the day I would typically do speed-work but because I had to do my long run on Thursday, I used it as a tempo run.  I started out a little faster than I have been these past few months in hopes to start getting my base pace back up.  Surprisingly it went really well and I was able to knock out 5 miles at a 7:30 minute mile.  Not where I used to be, but seeing improvements like this definitely makes me hopeful I will soon be there again!

Rather than doing my usual heavy lift day and spend my long run the following day regretting it, I figured I should do some laps in the pool instead.  Swimming was something I always struggled with.  Back in my tri days, it was my absolute worst event (I was so glad it was first so I could get it over with)!  I avoided the pool like the plague for many years, but early last year I was feeling somewhat burnt out with running and wanted to give swimming another shot to mix it up.  I am so glad I did.  Not sure if I had just gotten stronger, leaner and more conditioned, or if I just finally decided to let go of my fears, but I felt as if I were a mermaid!  It was all of a sudden so natural to me and I found myself actually enjoying it.  I began incorporating swimming as a regular part of my training regimen until I began training for my full marathon last fall.  I was spending so much time on specific training runs that I did not have time for swimming, but when I ended up getting hurt half way through training, swimming was all I could do.  But once again, marathon training came back into my life and bye bye swimming.  Wednesday was the perfect opportunity to pick it back up and glad I made it happen.  I even made some friends in the pool and guess who is now doing a triathlon this May!?!

Since training for my last marathon this past Fall, my training runs have been all over the place.  I was finding myself getting more and more frustrated if they did not go as EXACTLY as planned.  The self inflicted pressure and stress cause me to lose a bit of my love for running, which is NOT cool.  After getting hurt last fall, my knee jerk reaction was to jump right into another race to get that BQ I have been working so hard for.  But with my poor attitude, overtrained body and not quite healed injury, I am realizing my dream may have to wait yet again.  Rather than getting pissed off, I have decided to let go (for now) and just enjoy the process more.  So with this last long run for my 5th marathon, I made a promise of myself to just run and have some fun.  Run the miles not only because I had committed to doing so, but also because I get to do so, and it is what I love to do.

7:15am start time (for safety purposes, I typically wait for sunrise) and off I went.
It was only about 42 degrees when I got going.  I was half excited about the weather and half concerned since I have not a clue what to wear! #runnerproblems  I figured I would dust off everything I have purchased over the years for cold weather running, put it all on and peel it off as I go, lol.  I did have my watch, but I changed my settings to not see my pace.  My goal was to just run the miles, and that is exactly what I did.  For 15 straight miles it was just me, the trail and my thoughts (well and of course my iPod).  One foot in front of the other, refusing to give up or give in.  It wasn't easy, I wanted to stop and walk several times, but I was committed to just run,even if it's slower than I'd like.  Then, out of nowhere, and just what I needed was a friend of mine and fellow runner, Kim.  Kim and her friend Kris had just dropped their kiddos off at preschool and were out for a 5 miler.  Just what I needed, some running buddies!  For almost 4 miles, we talked about our families, our jobs, and our running goals.  We kept a solid pace and the miles just flew by.  Before I knew it, we were back to their cars and I only had 3 miles to go.  I couldn't have been more thankful for saving my run when I needed it the most.

Having had that little pick me up from my friends was exactly what I needed to crush those last few miles and even had some great negative splits at the end!  Finished all 22 miles in about 3 hours with an average pace of 8:30.  I know this pace is not what will get me that BQ I had originally hoped for, but I am completely ok with that and am hoping to pull off a good PR for this one.  Like I always say, there will be other races.  I've learned a lot both physically and mentally over the past two years of running, more than I had learned in the first 15.  So I'm excited to move forward with a much better attitude and start crushing some goals, but most importantly, have some fun!

Friday, my legs were a little sore but I still wanted to get a quick upper body pump in after I taught my Friday morning group.  Did mostly shoulders and biceps, and of course foam rolling.  Didn't make it to hot yoga that evening, but it was probably for the best, I needed some recover.

On Saturday, I figured I could knock out my usual 8-10 miles, but I quickly realized my legs did NOT agree with me!  A super slow treadmill 5k, that even involved some walking, was about all I had in me.  I foam rolled some more then hit up the pool for about 1000m swim.  Again, really digging on this swimming.  It was ultra cold, cloudy and windy that day, so me and the boys were all bundled up.  We spent some time with some friends and had a nice relaxing evening at home!

Sunday started off pretty chilly with temps in the 30's!  By lunch time, it had warmed up to the 50's and the sun was shinning bright.  The boys' had their soccer game that afternoon and despite a bit of a chill in the air, it had shaped up to be an absolutely beautiful day.  When I mentioned how gorgeous it was after we got back from soccer, my husband said "Yeah, you should get you a run in!"  If he suggested it and it willing to watch the kiddos, I'm so going for it, and I did!  No watch, no music, just a few quick miles around the neighborhood was all I needed for an absolutely perfect Sunday afternoon run.  My legs felt great and I hadn't enjoyed a run like that in I don't know how many years!

This was a pretty good week of training.  Glad to have my last long run complete and now I can focus on some speed work then start tapering down in preparation for the big race.  I am also excited to be back in the pool and plan to make that a regular part of my training.  My lifting always take a big hit during long run weeks and that is one thing I'm missing consistently in my life.  I am looking forward to getting back after it and getting my muscles back!  Who knows, maybe I will finally work on that other fitness goal I have been thinking about for years.  Definitely quite a different direction than my endurance sports.  But we shall see!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

One Word...Burrrrrr

Closing out week two of my yearly reviews and all I can think about was how chilly this week was down here.  It had been so hot all this "winter," even reaching record highs.  Everyone, myself included spent much of the time complaining about the heat and hoping for cooler weather.  Then BAM, 40 degree temperatures came out of nowhere!  The highs barely reached 60 and most days were overcast and windy.  It's kind of silly to complain about getting what you wished for, just wish there was a bit more of a progression into the cooler weather.  Needless to say it was quite a shock to the system and made my running attire a bit tricky.  But hey, if that is my biggest issue, then life really ain't that bad!  So here we go with week 2...

Monday was the typical spin and lift day.  I continue to try and do more leg work.  Dead lifts, squats, box jumps, the fun stuff were involved in my dreaded designated leg day.  Monday was also the first day it was insanely cold (well by Florida standards) but was still sunny, so it was actually one of those really refreshing days.  I even got to wear long pants for the first time in probably a year which had me jumping for joy!

Tuesday was dedicated to speed work.  I actually LOVE speed work.  I only recently started doing it about a year ago and in the past few months have gotten more structured with it.  I had to take some time away from speed work when I suffered an injury to my heel and achilles last Fall, and I'm still taking it a little slower.  But here was my fun speed workout from Tuesday:

1 mile warm up @ 8:30 pace
400 @ 6:18 pace
800 @ 6:23 pace
1200 @ 6:31 pace
1600 @ 6:40 pace
1200 @ 6:27 pace
800 @ 6:19 pace
400 @ 6:09 pace
[400 RI between each]
1 mile cool down @ 8:00 pace

The 1600 was a little slower than I had hoped and a bit of a struggle, but I pushed through and know what I've got to work on.  The weather was actually a little warmer and sunnier that day too!  And of course what helped my sore legs, not to mention really tie my outfit together, were my Tiux compression socks.  They are the absolute best!

Wednesday was a super busy work day and also the day I get to work out with my husband.  He made the workout so of course we were Olympic lifting.  I actually barbell benched 100lbs for the first time ever, so that was pretty exciting for me!  Time was limited but we got a lot done and I sure felt it the next day.  Wednesdays are also the days I teach an evening yoga class at LA Fitness.  I had a great turn out (thanks to New Years Resolutions) and a great class.  I love me some yoga and so do my kiddos, here they are practicing their sun salutations in their play room.

Thursday I had no goals or expectations for my training run, other than to just run.  After reading the weather report, it looked like that day was going to be a gorgeous one with temps pushing 70 and plenty of sunshine.  Apparently I either read it wrong or Orlando didn't agree with the report, because when I set out for my run, it was in the low 50's, cloudy and very windy.  My outfit I had brought wasn't really conducive for the weather, but luckily I had a jacket in the car I could use.  Having no expectations for my run, I figured I would just go around the neighborhood near our gym and hopefully knock out a solid 5-6 miles.  Of course I had to turn on my watch, I rarely run without it.  But after what felt like an eternity waiting for it to locate satellite, I said to myself "forgot it, you just wanted to go run any way, so just go run!"  And that's what I did, just ran.  No watch, no pace, no desired distance, just running for the sure joy of running.  It was the second week in a row I ran watch-less with no intentions for my run and it.felt.awesome!  Though my legs were sore and tired, it was colder than I had anticipated and I was probably going too fast at times then too slow at others, I just kept right on going.  Before I knew it, I had ran roughly 6 miles.  I plan to have many more "free runs" like that this year, just hopefully not as cold, cloudy and windy.
Yes, my poor legs were FROZEN!
Runner's high had me going until I ran out of road!

Friday is a busy work day for the hubster and I.  We try and get a lot of things done as we enter into the weekend, as well as set our goals for the week to come.  That morning, he went to his first yoga class in almost 8 years while I stayed back and got in a quick upper body pump in at the gym.  My legs were still rather unhappy with me from earlier this week and I wanted to get at least 8 miles in on Saturday, so it was just arms. 

Friday evening, I got to sneak away and get to hot yoga.  My absolute most favorite instructor of all time and owner of the studio I go to was actually filling in that evening.  I hadn't taken a class with her in years so it was an extra special treat to get to practice with her!  Almost 2 hours of hot yoga and I was ready to relax and call it a night!

Saturday was a treadmill run day.  The boys and I went to LA Fitness, they were super excited to see all their friends in Kids Klub, and I knocked out 9 miles.  I ran into an older gentleman and seasoned runner who I have spoken with on several occasions and even ran a couple of miles next to him on the treadmill.  Definitely not the same as out on the trail but still fun having a running buddy nonetheless!  I'm slowly but surely getting my speed and endurance back.  I'm realizing that at this point it is mostly mental.  I've said it before how I've lost a bit of my mojo, but I am feeling it make its way back into my life.  Just need to dig deep and pull it out!

Had a super fun Saturday with the family.  Hunter, the boys and I, all decked out in our Chiefs gear, went to the park and got in a little shopping.  We had some friends over to watch the game but unfortunately, the Chiefs lost to the Patriots.  Today, after my husband gets back from his run (pictured below, you can see how excited he is, lol) we are going to head out to our sons' soccer game and rush back for some more football watching.  I've got a long run this week (24 miles), so I'm excited to see how that goes and of course I will be posting all about it!

One thing I realized this week and I don't know how I just now realized it, is how close I am to running my 5th marathon, eeeek!  As of this past Thursday, I am officially less than a month away.  Excited, nervous, indifferent, all sorts of feelings and emotions rushing through me.  I feel as if I will be about as prepared as I can be considering I just ran a marathon injured less than 2 months ago.  Luckily, physically I am all healed.  But mentally I am not fully back in the game.  So this, my 5th marathon and what I had hoped to be my 3rd attempt at BQ'ing, will be just to see what I can do coming back from an injury and time off.  Not shooting for that sub 3:35, although it would be nice, but hopefully I will be the proud owner of a shiny new PR next month!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016, Off to a Good Start!

One of my New Years Resolutions for this year was to start blogging more and utilize this page not just for fitness and running tips but also as a bit of a journal.  I began using social media as a way to journal my running and fitness journey last summer.  It has been so neat looking back at my Instagram page and see all that I had done this past year.  All the accomplishments, setbacks and learning experiences are right there for me to reflect on at any time.  So I thought, why not take it a step further and utilize this blog page to it's full potential.

So here I am, making my first official post of 2016! I figured why not dedicate it to how this first full week of the year has been thus far and hopefully I can keep up with a weekly update for the entire year...we shall see.

Week 1 of 2016
The first few days of the new year were hectic to say the least.  We had just returned from Alabama for Christmas with the family then the husband and I headed down to Miami for the Orange Bowl.  We were exhausted from traveling and being at the game in 90+ degree weather, but that first Saturday I still managed to knock out a solid 8 miler on the treadmill.  However, boy oh boy did I feel all the effects of poor eating and inactivity over the holidays.  With my next marathon only 6 weeks away, I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me in the coming weeks!

Luckily, my husband, Hunter, and I both decided it was time to lock down the diet and start the new year off right.  It really took just a matter of days that I was already starting to feel better and get my mojo back.  Taught a kick ass cycle class that Monday, and thanks to some amazing weather on Tuesday, and I had a great 6 miler out on the trail.  Wednesday, however, I was starting to feel quite a bit of soreness from the rather ambitious leg workout I had done that Monday so it was just upper body that day (side-note: I haven't really worked legs since probably before Thanksgiving so I was SORE).

Then it was Thursday, January 7....

Just another Thursday and just another day in January for most people, but for me and my family, it marked the 13th anniversary of my father's passing from pancreatic cancer.  I still think about him often and even find myself in tears at times wishing he were still here.  But there is just something about that day that has and always will be particularly rough for me, rightfully so.  He was my biggest hero and one of my biggest fans.  He did teach me so much about life, love and the person I strive to become.  He was so strong, determined and had high expectations for my brother and I, but he also had the most awesome sense of humor and infectious personality.  Family and friends who knew my father say I am the spitting image of him personality wise and to me that is the ultimate compliment because he was so amazing.

I dedicated my miles on Thursday to him.  It wasn't about the pace or the distance rather just to be out there in nature, his favorite place to be, and feel a connection with him.  The majority of my run, I had tears streaming down my face, both sad and joyful.  Time does help with healing wounds but there will always be scars.  But just like my dad would have done and would want me to do, I tried to remain positive and think about all the happy and wonderful memories we had together.  So through tears of sadness, came some of joy and even a chuckle here and there remembering how funny he was!

After such a bitter sweet day remembering my father , I was sure to hug my husband and baby boys a little tighter that night.

Friday was a busy morning at work and I had to take my husband to the airport that afternoon.  The lucky fella got to head out to Houston to watch his client who plays for the Chiefs take on the Texans in the Wild Card game (I obviously had to stay back and watch the kiddos, but I didn't mind getting the sweet boys all to myself for a weekend).  So scheduling my workout for Friday was posing as a bit of a challenge.  Fortunately, I-4 traffic miracuously cooperated and I was able to make it back to my side of town in record time.  I had just enough time to sneak into our gym and knock out a quick workout.  I figured since I was limmited on time before I had to get the kids from school, I really needed to make it count.  So it was fun circuits filled with kettlebells, TRX, slam balls and dumbbell exercises.  I figured I would see where I was at with pull ups since it had been a while since I've done those too, like the lower body (yes, I have really been slipping with my exercising, time to get back at it).  It was of course band assisted, but I was surprised I was able to manage 4 sets of 6 of them!   So of course I had to take a picture...

Hunter doesn't get back until tomorrow and  I needed to get 10 miles in this morning for marathon training.  Thank goodness the boys absolutely love the lovely ladies who work the Kids Klub at LA Fitness.  So I put them in their Chiefs shirts and we headed to the gym.  10 dreadmill miles later, that actually went pretty well, the boys and I were ready to take on our Saturday.  I actually don't mind the treadmill too much, I don't have to worry about the elements, I can do it just about any time and it's also great people watching at the gym, hehe.  Any way, mama had a fun filled day planned for these boys and as much fun as they had in Kids Klub, they were ready to get it rocking!

And a super fun day we had!  Shopping, the park, ice cream, more shopping for toys and then a movie.  These two had so much fun, they were plum tuckered out!

To top off this awesome day, the Chiefs won and will advance in the play offs!  Not to mention the boys will have plenty of stories for daddy and vice versa.

This week sure had it's ups and down with fitness and with life, but all in all, it was definitely a great start to 2016.  It showed me the importance of staying consistent with my fitness and nutrition, getting off track definitely effects my body and mind.  But I also learned that I even though I have been slacking, I am not too far gone (ie, my pull ups and solid 10 miler) so that is definitely positive and encouraging.  But most importantly, I was reminded this week how precious life truly is.  Sometimes it can be hectic and stressful, but we are so incredibly lucky to be on this earth with the people we love.  So try to not the sweat the small stuff, hug and kiss your loved ones daily, work hard, have fun and love big!