STRENGTH-TRAINING FOR RUNNERS 101

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STRENGTH-TRAINING FOR RUNNERS 101

Running is a sport that gives back exactly what you put into it, and that’s what makes it such a fair sport. The more you run, the better a runner you become, it’s that equitable. Every step that you take is a step toward building you into a stronger and more resilient runner, but your progress doesn’t have to be limited to what you do out on the roads. A lot of your running strength can be developed in the gym or by engaging in various forms of strength training designed to improve your running mechanics and those muscles and joints that support you.

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RULES OF THE RHODE FOR RUNNERS

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RULES OF THE RHODE FOR RUNNERS

I’ve been on a George Sheehan binge lately, but how could you not be? He was an accomplished athlete, a best-selling author and an inspiration to an entire generation of runners! If you haven’t heard of him, then please look him up! He wrote eight best-selling books and hundreds of magazine columns, revealing his unique ways of thinking about running and his passion for the sport.


For this week’s Corner, I decided to pay tribute to the man and to honor some of his amazing work. He once wrote about the ‘Tried and True Rules’ of the road for runners, a guide for all of us on maintaining good running habits as we go about our lives. It’s like you’re listening to your very wise running grandfather, imparting his wisdom to you. Read on and enjoy!

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HOW TO COPE MENTALLY WITH AN INJURY

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HOW TO COPE MENTALLY WITH AN INJURY

As runners there are three words we never want to hear, “No more running.” It’s tough news to digest and especially if you are just starting to find your stride or you have a racing coming up. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the sport and they happen to many of us but as you go through your own abbreviated version of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief - denial, anger and acceptance - here are a few things to keep in mind and help you cope mentally with being injured.

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ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR INJURY PREVENTION

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ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR INJURY PREVENTION

Nobody likes to be injured. It stinks! It takes time away from your running, it’s full of uncertainty, and it can be discouraging. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to limit your risk of getting injured.

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BE SAFE AND BE SEEN: ESSENTIAL GEAR FOR RUNNING AT NIGHT

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BE SAFE AND BE SEEN: ESSENTIAL GEAR FOR RUNNING AT NIGHT

Why do we run at night? Well, for one we love Rhode Runner group runs. We also sometimes have no other option because of work commitments, or it may be the only time when our friends are available. Running at night can also be calming and meditative, and perhaps we run at night because we just can’t stand the treadmill.

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HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE TREADMILL

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HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE TREADMILL

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE TREADMILL AND USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

It’s not always fun to use, but a treadmill could very well keep you on track this winter. There’s a reason treadmill classes like Mile High and Heartbreak Studio are so popular. A treadmill not only gives you a chance to run when the weather is bad, it also allows you to hit your workout paces and times precisely. As much as we may dislike them, treadmills (or "dreadmills" as they’re sometimes affectionately known) take all the guesswork and uncertainty out of the equation when it comes to training.

You may have already found yourself on one of them this year. Or perhaps you’re getting ready to do your first run on one, or even your first workout. In addition to their convenience and precision, there are many ways to use treadmills in your everyday running training; easy runs, tempo runs, interval workouts, even long runs can all be done on a treadmill. Just ask our store manager Pat Moulton!

When running on a treadmill, there are a few important things to consider. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your treadmill running experience:

Set the right incline.

If the treadmill is set at a 0% incline, running on it becomes less of an effort  than running on a flat road at the same pace. Essentially meaning that the treadmill is helping you along and while that seems like a good thing, it’s really not. I recommend running on at least a 1% incline no matter what type of run it is. There are various ways to adjust the incline and speed of a treadmill in order to mimic the effort required to run a certain pace outdoors on a level surface. This handy chart illustrates that very well.

Learn the controls.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various controls in front of you, before you start your run. Although treadmills pretty much look the same, they vary by manufacturer and some have more options or “bells and whistles” than others. Learn which controls you need, and how to use them BEFORE you get on, and eliminate this from becoming a distraction during your run.

Be aware of time limits.

Some treadmills automatically stop after a certain time has elapsed, for example 60 minutes in. This is meant to encourage you to get off so that someone else can get on, but it can also break your rhythm and interfere with your run. Be aware of it, or ask a staff member what to expect before you start.

Plan your workout ahead of time.

There are a variety of workouts you can do on a treadmill, and some machines even allow you to input your entire workout before you begin. This can be very convenient, but at the very least, write down your workout and bring it with you. It’s also a good idea to keep a stopwatch handy in case you need to measure any rest time in between intervals.

Be aware of people waiting to use it.

This goes a long way toward proper gym etiquette. Look for posted signs limiting the time on each machine, or look around to see if anyone is waiting. Or better yet, choose a time when the gym is relatively empty and go for as long as you like.

It’s true, we all hate the treadmill, but if for whatever reason (time of day, weather etc.) it’s the only option, then it’s the way to go. Make friends with the treadmill this winter. It could be your best training partner yet!

Run better. Run smarter. Run for life.

Coach Mwangi

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WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A RUNNING COACH

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WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A RUNNING COACH

How often have you said to yourself, “If only I knew how to train properly!”

How often have you wondered just how good you can be at running, or whether you could be any good at all?

Working with a running coach is often the link between casual enjoyment of the sport and being able to perform at a higher level, while overcoming those obstacles that have been holding you back!

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RUNNING METRICS: A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT YOUR WATCH IS TELLING YOU

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RUNNING METRICS: A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT YOUR WATCH IS TELLING YOU

As our season of racing begins to wind down, you may find yourself looking back at the year and evaluating how you did with your running. You may even find yourself setting some new goals, and thinking about all of the tools available to you and how they can help you get to the next level. One of the best tools you have could very well be the one strapped around your wrist.

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ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING

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ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING

(As seen through the eyes of a 9 year-old)

This is a transcription of a book about running, written by 9 year-old Margo D’Arcy. Yes, Margo is one of Mary’s two daughters and someone whom, much like her mom, was born with a gift for running! For this Coach’s Corner I wanted to share this book with you all because Margo is also a true ambassador for the sport. Take a look at how a 9 year-old views this great sport of ours and how she breaks it all down for us.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…RUNNING!

By Margo D’Arcy

INTRODUCTION

Have you been dying to learn about running? If you have, this is the book for you. This book includes: details, info and facts. This book is for anyone who wants to learn about running. Running is a fun way to exercise. I bet you’ll learn a lot. So get reading!

This is you getting ready to read this book.

This is you getting ready to read this book.

CHAPTER 1: EQUIPMENT

When you start running you are going to need gear. Here are some types of gear. Water bottle belts are useful. Water bottle belts are running belts that have pockets with little water bottles that fit inside.

When you buy running shoes (hence running shoes!) you want running shoes, not cleats nor basketball shoes, you want running sneakers. You don’t want basketball shoes because you will roll your ankle. Same with cleats.

Instead of wearing tight fitting clothes you should wear stretchy clothes not stiff. You should wear stretchy clothes because you won’t be able to run in stiff tight clothes.

If you have long hair you will need to use hair ties. You’ll need hair ties because if your hair flops in your eyes you won’t be able to see where you’re running.

You probably are thinking, “Where do I get all this stuff?” I have the answer. Sport stores! I will list some stores: Sports Authority (she wrote this before they went broke), Runner’s World (it would be a cool name for a running store!) and Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can also get these things at Rhode Runner!!! (I swear I didn’t ask her to write that). That is all the equipment you need. Run Free!

CHAPTER 2: GETTING READY FOR A RACE

If you’ve been waiting to learn about what you do when getting ready for a race this is the chapter for you. Let’s get down to business! What do I eat before a race? Have you ever heard of carbo loading? If not I’ll tell you! Carbo loading means eating nutritiouse [sic] foods before a race, because if you eat and drink sugar foods you will get hyper. You don’t want to get hyper because you will have a sugar crash. A sugar crash is when you feel energetic but you are wasting energy. After a teensy bit you feel tired, weighed down and you won’t meet your goal.

Here are some nutritiouse [sic] foods you could eat: oatmeal, spagettie [sic], rice, whole grains, fruit and veggies. Did I mention that you eat all of this a day before your race? Don’t eat it right before your race or you will get a cramp. If you stretch before your race your legs won’t be stiff.

CHAPTER 3: HOW RUNNING BENEFITS YOU

Running is a great skill. Running is just like any other exercise. Runners build strong leg muscles by running hard and exercising. Did you know that running is an Olympic sport? It is! Running can benefit you in different ways. At most races you get a medal if you finish or win. Running is hard but once you get the hang of it it’s easy.

A lady enjoying a morning run. This could be you!

A lady enjoying a morning run. This could be you!

CHAPTER 4: RACING HARD

When you’re running hard you’re probably trying to beat someone. Someone you’re trying to beat is called a competitor. To beat your competitor you’ll need these tips:

Start off slow if you’re running a long distance because soon your competitor will get tired and slow down. This is your chance to get ahead of your competitor, strive to meet your goal and finish.

You run ahead of your competitor. He/she charges to get in front of you but fails. You look back, your competitor’s face is beet red. You turn the corner...surprise! You see the finish line. You run your heart out. Yay! You’ve won!

Thank you for reading this book. I hope your next race is successful!

GLOSSARY

  1. Nutrisouse [sic]: Nutritious food are good for your health.

  2. Competitor: Someone you’re competing against.

 

As you can see, the questions we have about running and the way we look at our wonderful sport is not all that different from the way a 9 yr. old would look at it. It can be a complicated sport, but at the very root of it, our sport is simple. As Margo says, "running is hard but once you get the hang of it it’s easy.”

Well done, Margo, well done!!!

 

About the Author:

Margo D’Arcy is a 4th grader at the Peace Dale Elementary School in Peace Dale, RI. In addition to running, she can be found playing some tenacious defense on the basketball court, her other passion. Margo is also a member of Girls On The Run and has even run in a few road races.

Margo D’Arcy is a 4th grader at the Peace Dale Elementary School in Peace Dale, RI. In addition to running, she can be found playing some tenacious defense on the basketball court, her other passion. Margo is also a member of Girls On The Run and has even run in a few road races.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING MULTIPLE GOALS FOR YOUR RACE

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING MULTIPLE GOALS FOR YOUR RACE

THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING MULTIPLE GOALS FOR YOUR RACE

Yesterday I had a chance to race in another local 5K. This was my 3rd 5K of the year but also my most uncertain one given my preparation (or lack thereof) and it got me thinking more about the importance of having multiple race goals.

You may remember that a little while ago, I wrote about the importance of setting SMART running goals and while setting these longer-term goals, asking yourself how your running has been going lately (point #1 in the article) and being brutally honest with yourself. The same can be said for the weeks and even days leading up to a race. We sometimes get so fixated on a particular goal that we ignore any signs to the contrary. I believe in psychologists call this confirmation bias. The tendency to look for information that supports a belief (or goal) and to ignore or reject any information that opposes it. If you ask yourself how your running has been going lately, you can usually zero in on a few key indicators, then adjust your race goal based on this information. Some of these indicators may be:

How your speed workouts have gone

Have you been able to hit your workout targets consistently and have they felt appropriately hard/comfortable? Workouts (speed work, tempo runs, progression runs, fartleks, etc) are usually the best indicators of your fitness level, although they alone don’t tell the full story. It also depends on the quality of your recovery and the overall volume of running, that is, your weekly mileage.

How well you’ve been able to recover

How much recovery time have you had in between workouts and has it been quality recovery? There are a few ways to determine if you’re getting the recovery you need - the way your body feels when you foam roll, the way the next successive workout feels, the amount of sleep you get per night - these can all be indicators of the quality of your recovery.

How much mental fatigue you’ve had

Believe it or not, mental stress can be just as draining as physical stress but it may not be as easy to identify. Take stock of how much mental fatigue you may be going through, and how it’s affecting your energy level and your running.

Whether you’re dealing with any injuries

As runners we’re always dealing with a nagging little injury but the real concern should be if anything is serious enough to require backing off of your training. This can (and should) influence the ultimate race goal.

What your legs feel like the day before the race

Are your legs fatigued or do they develop fatigue quickly when you walk up a flight of stairs? This “stair test” is usually one of my favorite indicators of the condition of my legs before a race. You can also tell by foam rolling your muscles. Do they feel sore when you foam roll them the day before the race? This can be a very telling sign.

Some of the other factors that can be identified early on and alter your race goals are the weather forecast, the time of day the race starts (evening races may present a different challenge than morning races) and even the level of competition you may be facing (will there be people to push/pull you to a fast time?).

So what exactly does it mean to set multiple race goals and what should they be?

Your A Goal

This should be aggressive but measured. It should be the goal you’ve been targeting in all of your workouts. You can look at it as “aiming for the moon”.

Your B Goal

This should be a few seconds slower per mile than your A goal. It’s usually a cautious and very realistic goal (translating into a higher chance of success) but it should also be satisfactory to you. You can look at it as “missing the moon but landing among the stars”. Still a good outcome!

Your C goal:

This should be even slower than your B goal and it usually has the highest chance of success. Your C goal time is more of a benchmark time, to build on, rather than a breakout race time.

Setting multiple race goals is important and every race should be approached this way. Your running training should be fluid and should be able to accommodate a few different outcomes.

Train better. Train smarter. Train for life.

Coach Mwangi

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TIPS FOR RACING (AND RUNNING) IN THE RAIN

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TIPS FOR RACING (AND RUNNING) IN THE RAIN

We’ve all had our share of wet & windy runs this year, but what happens when you have no choice but to run in the stuff, especially on race day? It’s one thing to train in it, but when everything is on the line, you need to be well-prepared. 

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A FEW THOUGHTS ON MDI (AND RACING ON HILLY COURSES IN GENERAL)

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A FEW THOUGHTS ON MDI (AND RACING ON HILLY COURSES IN GENERAL)

A FEW THOUGHTS ON MOUNT DESERT ISLAND (AND RACING ON HILLY COURSES IN GENERAL)

This past weekend we traveled up to Maine to take on (and take over!) the Mount Desert Island Half and Full marathon (MDI), and what started out as a routine team trip turned into a much more unique running experience than many of us had anticipated.

Mount Desert Island is the largest island off of the coast of Maine. Bar Harbor is a breathtakingly beautiful town on its eastern side, and this is where we stayed and where the full marathon began. The half marathon start was in a town called Northeast Harbor, a little further south. I was signed up for the half marathon, so my perspective on the race is skewed toward this course which was essentially the second half of the full marathon course. However, I talked to enough people who ran the full marathon to gain a good sense of what that experience was like. With over 600 feet in elevation gain (and almost as much elevation lost) the half marathon course was challenging, if not daunting, but it also provided a valuable perspective on racing these types of courses. Here are a few of my takeaways from this weekend’s race:

Know the course, but don’t obsess over it

It was good to get a general sense of where the hills were going to be, but because of the sheer number of them, and all of varying distances and gradients, it didn’t make sense to try to game-plan for each one. Running a hilly course does not allow you to get into the kind of running rhythm you can enjoy on a flat surface, which makes it hard to target a specific pace. You almost have to treat each climb like its own separate challenge and run the race on feel. The hills in this race didn’t stop until mile #11, then it was a very welcome descent to the finish. Courses like this are hardly ideal for personal best times or conducive to time goals, unless you’ve run the same course before and know exactly what to expect.

Train on hills

There’s really no way around it. If you’re going to race on a hilly course, you have to train on hills. You can do a fair amount of strength work (i.e. lower-body weight training and specific strength endurance workouts on flat surface) but the best way to prepare for the physiological demands of running hard uphill is to mimic this in practice, and to do it often. This can be done either in interval training (hill repeats) or as a longer run (a hilly tempo run or fartleks on hills). You can also incorporate hills into your long run as a way to challenge your aerobic base; long runs are the second easiest runs of the week in terms of pace (after recovery runs) but a hilly course can add a dimension of strength to this “easy” run.

Work on your core

Hills are notorious for challenging us to the point where our form breaks down, but it doesn’t have to. The hills at MDI were so relentless that it felt like someone was pounding my form into submission. I began to feel the strain in my hamstrings, then my glutes, and on the steepest hills there was even the temptation to lean forward and try to approach the hill with my upper body first, as opposed to my hips first. This is why all-around core strength (abs and lower back) is very important; it allows the body to maintain form even when it is fatigued. Bottom line, work on your core and you will last longer on those hills!

Be mentally tough

I have to admit, there were a few points during the race where I was almost broken, mentally. I still felt within myself physically, but there were thoughts running through my head that would have forced me to slow down had I entertained them long enough. I stopped 3 times to adjust my shoes (I was starting to develop blisters) but beyond that I did not allow these thoughts to take over. When you’re running on a challenging course, especially when you’re running in “no man’s land” or alone/in between groups, you have plenty of time to think, and when you’re struggling, the dominant thought is to alleviate this struggle and bring you closer to a state of comfort. You have to be mentally tough in order to ignore these thoughts and tendencies, because you’re in a race, and as they say, “no guts, no glory”. This is especially true of hilly courses. The harder you push yourself, the more you will have to celebrate when it is all over.

Look around you

Most hill courses are scenic, and part of the reward for training for these challenges should be the ability to enjoy where you are and what’s around you. Especially during the longer-distance races. Take a moment to look around, even for a brief moment, and appreciate the environment that you're in. It might be a clearing in the woods, or a cliff overlooking the ocean, or simply a pristine stretch of road filled with fall colors. As a friend alluded to this weekend, these races tend to be over before you know it, so enjoy them as much as you can.

Our team rocks!

Despite such a challenging course, a lot of people ran very impressive races and it’s a testament to the hard work that has gone into their training this year. We had multiple personal bests (believe it or not), near personal bests, runners in their marathon debuts (what guts!), multiple age-group awards and a two-person relay team that tore up the course! I can’t say enough about what I witnessed up there at the finish line!

The conclusion: I would go back and race MDI in a heartbeat, and I would also recommend it to anyone, as long as you train for it first!

Run better. Run smarter. Run for life.

Coach Mwangi

 

Images courtesy of Mount Desert Island Marathon.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF NEGATIVE SPLITTING IN TRAINING AND IN RACING

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THE IMPORTANCE OF NEGATIVE SPLITTING IN TRAINING AND IN RACING

With all of the racing happening this weekend, I thought I would spend a little bit of time talking about a running and racing strategy that often leads to positive results. Negative splitting is based on the idea that the last miles of a run or race should be run faster than the first ones. A slower start and a faster finished often leads to a better race time, whether we’re talking about a casual runner or the world’s fastest marathoners.

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HOW TO SET S.M.A.R.T. RUNNING GOALS

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HOW TO SET S.M.A.R.T. RUNNING GOALS

HOW TO SET S.M.A.R.T. RUNNING GOALS

Last fall I had the privilege of working with some high school cross country kids as they worked their way through the season. I joined them just after their season had begun and it soon became clear that some of the runners had not built up the necessary miles, during their summer training, to allow them to compete at a high level.

Once the season was over, the coaching staff and I sat down and came up with a goal of getting the more experienced varsity runners up to a specific mileage per week by the time the next cross-country season began. How did we do it? We worked backwards, considered all the relevant factors that could affect summer training (jobs, internships, family trips, etc.) and came up with a 10-week plan. In the process we tried to be realistic about how many miles they would start with, how often they could run during the summer, and how we would progress these miles so that they would be ready when the season began.

Setting realistic running goals is an important step in the process of S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting. This is a process used very often in business operations and can also be applied to any situation that involves goal-setting. Your running goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. In order to simplify the process while still adhering to these guidelines, there are three things you should always ask yourself:

1. Where have you been?

How has your running been lately? How many miles have you been running and how consistent have you been? Are you recovering from an injury and if so, have you given yourself enough time to fully recover? When was the last time you ran a race and how well did you do?

"Running speed and fitness develops over time so you should always take a longer-term approach."

Knowing where you have been with your running allows you to put things into perspective. If you ran a 5K in March but haven’t run consistently since then, or put in the necessary speed work, you may not be ready to set that next personal best this fall. It may be better to throw all of your expectations out the window and use your next 5K as a benchmark. Then you can set a more realistic goal WHILE you train smart and avoid injury.

2.     Where would you like to go?

What would you like to accomplish? What do you want to race next and when? Does it make sense given what distances you have raced in the past and the times you have put up?

If you have only raced 5Ks before, it may not be time to run a marathon. Instead, look to test yourself in the 10K distance and then plan a future half marathon to see how your body responds to that distance. It will tell you a lot about how well you can handle running a full marathon.

If your 5K PB is 22:00 and you want to break 20:00 it might take more than one season of running to do so, as bad as you want to break that 20-minute barrier! Running speed and fitness develops over time so you should always take a longer-term approach. Set smaller goals first, for example dropping your time by 30 seconds this year and then go from there. These smaller goals will be easier to achieve while working toward the bigger goal of breaking 20:00.

3.     How will you get there?

"The best way to become a better runner is to run more, plain and simple."

This is the most important question! How much time do you have before your next race? How often can you train? What mileage (or mileage range) do you need in order to achieve your goal? Can you realistically get to this mileage before your next race? 

Some more experienced runners will even decide to run twice a day in order to achieve their mileage goals. I’ve coached runners in this situation. They find a way to make it happen because getting to their running goals is important enough to them to make it a top priority. Obviously this kind of running schedule isn’t for everyone, but the idea is the same. It all depends on what you can do and how badly you want to succeed.

The best way to become a better runner is to run more, plain and simple. Ask yourself if your current schedule allows you to run more. Then give yourself in the best possible chance to succeed with a plan that addresses these three questions. A plan that is specific enough, has results that can be measured, is realistic and is within a specific timeframe.

Get out there and #hittherhode, and don’t hesitate to ask me about any of these principles of running goal-setting.

Run better. Run smarter. Run for life.

Coach Mwangi

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