Welcome to Week 14!
You have now reached the last week of the RunSport Training Program and are looking at the start line. You’ve done well! I hope you have learned some good training habits, practiced some new skills and made some new friends. I also hope you feel proud of yourself!
This week is a lighter training week, called the Taper. The taper, is not so much a recovery or rest week, but a week to sharpen and propel you to race day.
Sessions are shorter, so you can be at the start line rested and fresh and ready to go. There will be some small amounts of intensity to remind your body of what it knows about pushing effort and moving well. Embrace these short sessions, and use them to wrap your mind around positive race day mindset as well as a way to tap into the energy you want to use on race day.
A few reminders about this week:
Avoid the temptation to test out your fitness, for some sort of reassurance that you are ready. You are as READY as you will be. That is what race day is for - that is the big test! That is the culmination of the momentum you have carried through the last 13 weeks.
Trust that you are ready. If you are here, you have done all that you can do to get ready for the race this year. There are no more fitness gains this week, only a chance to rest up and be sharper.
Remember that this race is only one event in many that you may do. You have likely learned a lot of get here to this point, and you will learn a lot on race day. And then you can take this learning into your next clinic, training plan, or simply into you walk and run training in the future.
DO eat and drink and sleep as well as you can. Give yourself the opportunity to excel on race day. Take care of the small details that will ensure you succeed on Sunday. Be organized, plan ahead, take care of yourself.
Do keep to a routine this week and avoid trying anything new. This is not the week to start ballroom dancing (ouch! My achilles!) or rock climbing or basketball. These things will only make you sore or tired for race day.
Communicate! Let your peeps know that your big race is coming up and that you may be a bit nervous on Friday or Saturday night. You may be a bit quiet, or anxious or need some space. It’s all ok, just be nice to the people who have your back!
If you have any questions at all this week, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the contact form on my website.
You’ve all done awesome - I am so excited for you all!
Here is your eat, sleep, start, pace, and complete race day low down for the TC 10K!
There's a lot to cover, I've left out my usual storytelling and made it brief!
The day before the race, eat well. Eat normal, healthy, wholesome meals, the same as you always would. Do not overeat or undereat. A common favourite pre race meal is pasta with grilled chicken and some veggie. Basic. Potatoes, rice and some protein are also good, as is a tuna sandwich. There is no magic food, just simple and good food that you know works for you.
The morning of the race, get up and have your pre race meal at least 2 hours before the event. Don’t drink more coffee than you are used to and don’t drink a massive volume of water. This just makes for inconvenient bathroom stops.
Try to practice your pre race meal at least once before race day, before a morning training session. A favourite pre race meal is a toasted bagel with peanut butter and honey, and a coffee. If your'e a smoothie person, throw one on. If you find something that works, don’t veer from this.
If you are going to be on course for more than 90 minutes, you may want to consider a gel or small bar of approximately 100 calories at 45-60 minutes but this is something you want to practice in training as well.
Stay hydrated the day before the race, but it’s not necessary to over hydrate or pre hydrate or take any special hydration formula. Do what normally makes you feel good for training and in your daily life. Avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine is a good idea however, as both can interfere with a good sleep and hydration.
If you are going to drink on course, take small sips at aid stations.
Well before bedtime, the night before, put out your pre race clothing, pin your number, have your favourite lucky socks and underwear ready to go. Plan when you will leave the house and where you will park if you are taking your car.
Go to bed at a normal time and get your normal amount of sleep, but don’t sweat it if your sleep is short or not too great. You’ll still have plenty of energy for race morning. If you are a bit keyed up, then do something to stop that. Read, have a cup of sleepytime tea, or lie in bed and listen to a calming sleep meditation. Or simply lie in bed and relax and breathe. Imagine yourself on race morning, being calm, excited, ready and confident. Tell yourself that all is OK, and then rest.
When you wake up, switch that pre race brain on, the one you prepared the night before. Everything is planned and ready to go so there is no second guessing or thinking about that logistical stuff.
Eat your breakfast and drink your tea/coffee in the peace of your own space and feel happy that it’s finally race morning because it’s going to be a great day!
You already have this figured out. Leave early enough to nail this! There is lots and lots of parking on city streets, all within 1.5 km of the race start. And it’s simply a fantastic walk through downtown to the Legislature from any direction.
Start Area and Bathrooms
Study the maps online before race morning, and if you have time, go check it all out in the weeks beforehand. Find out where they are and line up early!
If you don’t have a Sherpa handy (AKA personal assistant, spouse, BF of GF or mom) then use the clothing drop. It’s a handy service and never a big deal.
Pre Plan your warm up. You may want to do an abbreviated version of what you do on clinic night or a light walk or jog about 30 min before the race. Light, slow and easy, just to warm up the body temperature. Do some arm circles and light stretching and simply stay calm and in the moment. Be amazed at yourself for being there, at this super cool event!
Have an idea of where you should be in the corrals and seed yourself accordingly. If in doubt, be conservative as it’s much easier to run past people at 3km, than to feel like the world is swimming over you at the mass start.
Standing and Waiting
Make friends, and simply be patient. Swing your arms and check your body for being relaxed. Check that your laces are tied tightly, for the 15th time.
Remember, there may be thousands in the race, but you are only really starting with the 100 friends that are right with you. Don’t think too much about the numbers of people, there is room for us all.
Look up, look ahead, and make space for yourself. Be agile and ready to break stride or to move around someone. Especially, right off the start gun, where it is really crowded, don’t fiddle with anything or make any sudden unexpected movements. Hold your line steady and be super aware.
OOPS! Have to tie your shoes because you didn’t do it in the corral while you were waiting for the singing of Oh Canada? Forgot to start your Garmin? Please don’t stop abruptly in a foot race as this will cause a pile up behind you. Slowly make your way to the side of the road, in a diagonal forward moving fashion. That is, don’t suddenly shoot sideways to the curb across oncoming runners. Once safely out of the way, take a quick look behind you before stopping and re tying your shoes.
Start slower than you think you should. It will still be too fast. Let people pass, check your ego, listen to your effort and sense of work rate. Think Zone 2 effort, patience and consistency. Slow down on the up hills while keeping energy constant.
If you feel you need to walk, this is totally ok, but start using your watch and give yourself 2 min walk breaks for every 10 minutes of running, unless you have a pre set walk/run plan.
Making Friends/going solo: the Extrovert and the Introvert Runner
Some people want to run with others, some people want to walk alone. Some people laugh and chat all the way through a race, and seem to be able to make lifelong friendships through the shared gruelling experience of endurance, while others will be quiet and draw only on inner strength. These athletes have a look of intense concentration and focus and just want to do their thing. Alone. There is room for both types of athlete on race day - however recognize which type you are and be mindful of others. The last thing an introvert wants is to have a chatty run partner knocking their elbow for 8 kilometers.
Do what comes naturally. To that point, there is no rule about how much fun you can have while participating in an event. As long as you aren’t getting in the way of other people enjoying their own race, and you are using common sense and good sportsmanship, then go ahead, have a great time!
Be aware, keep your head up, no sudden movements, and keep your place in the queue. Yep, be Canadian at the water stops and be polite. It helps to make eye contact about 10 metres out of the station, with the person you want to take water from. You can point to the cup in their hand, which indicates that you want that cup and that assures you are both ready for the hand off. If you miss the cup, try to avoid putting the brakes on as there is likely a runner right behind you and you’re going to cause a collision.
Sportsmanship: Be Nice and Have Good Manners
This includes being nice to volunteers and spectators as well. Foot races are what we do for fun, and they are not a contact sport; aside from the jostling that may go on at the beginning of the race, or during a water station, give other participants space to do their thing.
I am not even going to elaborate on this. Just BE NICE.
Drafting and passing
The nuances of playing the game of racing while still being a good sport.
There are no rules against drafting others in foot races, but there are the usual unspoken rules about doing your part and not being a total ‘taker’. It can often be windy coming back along Dallas Road from the Ross Bay cemetery in the TC 10k, and if you are with a group of runners, it makes sense to take turns pulling and drafting. Pulling is the name for the person in front, who is leading into the wind. Drafting is what you are doing if you are running as close behind that person as possible in order to stay out of the wind. You save energy by drafting, a significant amount of energy, so it’s only fair that you do your bit and run at the front for a bit as well. Sometimes you are barely hanging on in the draft and when you go to the front to pull, your place slows considerably. You may get passed back quite quickly, but hey, at least you tried and you made the effort. That counts as being a good sport. Drafting for 9.9km and then outsprinting the dude who pulled you through the whole race just doesn’t cut it.
The only thing you need to know about passing, is that you need to make it clean. Don’t feel badly about needing to pass anyone, as this is your race. You can give the person a nod or smile of encouragement as you pass, and just make sure you don’t cut them off too soon after the pass.
A side note here about passing at the start: Seeing as most people start too fast and have to slow down, a lot of passing and jostling happens at the start of races. Eventually the back and forth ends as people settle into pace. You can simply avoid the energy cost of all that accelerating, by being patient for the first 1-2k and don’t get caught up in having to pass or chase every person out there.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that while a lot of blood flow is heading to your heart and lungs, your brain is still working. Use you head and stay calm and positive. Even when swept up in the heat of the moment and the fun of the competition, we need to keep perspective and use good judgement. Remind yourself often while you are out there, that it is your choice to be in the race, that it is a wonderful gift to be able to run through the streets of Victoria on a Sunday morning. No matter what happens out there, you put in a lot of effort and training to get to the start line - be proud of what you've done!
I hope this answers a lot of questions for race day, and is a refresher for those who have raced before. If you still need an answer to that concern or question you’ve been mulling over, please contact me here. I love helping to make race day smoother for you all.
Run For Joy
I started my last facebook live Q and A with a statement about one of my favourite aspects of sport performance: you can’t wait to feel motivated. Motivation happens as a result of good planning and great habits. It only takes a brief scroll through Instagram to notice that the world is full of inspiring words and photos, however, one of the most important things people learn through this process of following a clinic schedule, is that habit and action create far more meaningful results, than reading about motivation or inspiration.
Right now, with 3 weeks remaining in your RunSport program, and the pull of the start line is coming, I would like to plant the seed that will help you continue your motivation to train.
It isn’t over at the finish line.
Are you ready for the day after the TC 10K?
As we get caught up in the momentum of our training, planning and preparing for sessions meticulously (or even winging it) we sometimes can’t see that we are giving an energy and passion to something that is unmatched elsewhere in our lives. You have a training plan mapped over several months and every couple of days is a session that brings you closer to your goal. From taking care of your time management to tinkering with your nutrition and gear, you create a forward momentum to your goal race that becomes a constant part of your life. You are committed to eating well, sleeping well, and making positive choices on a daily basis to support your clinic night and goal race. You even have a vision of what that finish is going to look like and how you feel crossing it. This is awesome and a fantastic part of sport, but do you have a picture of the day after?
Without even knowing it sometimes, athletes have a huge emotional-as well as physical-- investment in their goals. The more important the event, the larger the investment and when the event is all over, there is sometimes a feeling of letdown as all that energy dissipates across the finish line. Without the goal pulling you forward, there is an emotional void and a sense of letdown or post race blues after the adrenaline wears off. This is totally normal behaviour and being prepared for the week after your goal race is as essential part of season planning.
A Zen approach would suggest that all events are neither good nor bad, they just are. While sport is full of highs and lows, weathering everything with a sense of the satisfaction and wonder creates a peaceful relationship with your journey. Here are some other general tips for preparing for the ‘other’ side of the finish line.
1. Have a plan for what’s next. Whether it is a two week vacation, signing up for another clinic, or a detailed recovery plan, plan your post race training well in advance to race day. If you are planning on a break, then make sure you know how you are going to fill your time. Knowing what to do and what you want to do after the race goes a long way to filling the void.
2. Put that energy to good use. Plan on a few projects or goals that don’t revolve around racing. Switching gears and getting some other things done provides a nice balance to the single minded focus of big goal. Choose some alternate sports for a while, and ones that you can enjoy with your friends, partner, kids etc…
3. Plan to reflect on your race and your season and review your process. Reflecting is a great process for appreciating your accomplishments and finding a sense of purpose and happiness including things you love about your activity. If journaling isn’t a smooth process then simple lists will do. Make sure you include things that you did well and things that need improvement when looking at your past 14 weeks. List 5 goals you accomplished during the season and 5 workouts you loved. Note 5 things you want to learn or improve upon.
4. If your race ended in disappointment, wait several days before writing your review and give yourself time to absorb the experience before making decisions. All races are opportunities to learn, and while disappointing races are hard to take initially, they are often the ones with the biggest hidden gifts of making us more resilient, smarter and appreciative of the good moments.
5. Live in the moment AND think ahead. While most people think only of their next race or in one year season cycles, great training encompasses development in 2-4 year spans. When you know that your last training clinic is only a part of a bigger picture, you get a good sense of perspective that allows you to fully appreciate all the moments that a season offers.
More on post race planning and action coming soon! Meanwhile, keep loving your walking and running program and feel proud of where you ARE RIGHT NOW!
The TC 10k is four weeks away, and you are well on your way to being totally prepared for a great event day. On April 7th, the RunSport clinics are holding a 10K test event, a chance to practice walking or running the distance. Test events are perfect ways to hone your skills and set up some positive visualization and preparation for race day. I encourage you to approach the test event seriously but also lightheartedly. Put some serious thought into preparing, and show up calm and optimistic about it. Approach the test event with a logical and practical sense of it being a ‘dress rehearsal’. You are going to practice everything you want to happen on race day, including nutrition, hydration, mental preparation and physically practicing walking and running 10k. The more you can prepare before the event, the more likely your event will be successful, and also, stress free:
Racing is a game but it is also a commitment. By the time you arrive at the starting line, you have signed up, you have prepared, you have increased your skill level, and all that’s left to do is to enjoy the scenery, the people and the brilliant feeling of completing what you set out to do.
Here are some tips for Practicing TC 10K Event Day during the Test Event on April 7th
A great event experience starts the day before, with an intention to rest your legs and fuel your body. The day before the test event, try to conserve energy and eat three good meals that are carbohydrate rich in order to top up glycogen in the muscles. Avoid anything that is unusual: this includes novel sport activities or eating food that you would normally never eat. Stick to what you know works for you.
A seamless and stress free morning paves the way for an enjoyable event so before you go to bed the night before the event, organize for the morning so things run smoothly and you aren’t looking for lost items at the last minute. Lay out your training clothes. Plan your breakfast timing and items and most importantly, your morning mindset. The last thing you should tell yourself at night is this:
Tomorrow morning I get to wake up and test the 10K!
(Note how this language is markedly different from “I have to get up and do 10k tomorrow, inner groan.)
On the event morning, you will be ready. You know what to wear, what to eat and where to go. Your mindset will be one of excitement and anticipation about the great opportunity to train and work on being efficient, smooth, and emotionally strong and positive. A 10Km distance gives you plenty of time to experience the joy of walking and running well, which includes—if you are pushing yourself—embracing discomfort and staying mentally strong through any rough patches where doubt and negativity like to creep in. Look at the rest of the participants, and the enthusiastic volunteers, as a great big ball of positive energy pushing you on. This is what you signed up for! Anticipate the late event fatigue and have some tools on hand to re-focus. Task oriented self-talk is always good at this point. Focus on your arms, your feet, your breath, being relaxed…can do action items that you control.
Great training and racing always focuses on what you can do, not what you ‘hope’ to do. Here is a step by step breakdown of what to expect over the course of a 10k distance:
NOTE: Very fit athletes will be able to absorb the fast start of a 10k as their legs will be strong but for beginners I would advise to pace conservatively over the first three kilometres of the course so as not to go out too fast with excitement. This will ensure leaving energy for the second half.
Start: It’s easy to get excited with participants, spectators and atmosphere adding inspiration to the morning. The first kilometer is the place for experienced or more competitive athletes to get out to a fast start, or their goal pace, and for the novice to find space and a comfortable pace of work and breathing.
1-3K Mark: athletes should be thinking ‘light’ and ‘quick and relaxed’, working on feeling relaxed by using the arms well and breathing deeply. Because it is early in the distance, you want to be at pace but have it feel as effortless as possible. Focus on landmarks ahead and getting to them well. Novice racers will want to make sure they are practicing their own race and not ‘sprinting’ to keep up with others in all the excitement. Any hills? Use gravity and try to carry momentum down and up hills focussing on finding quick rhythm over the crest and onto flats.
3-4K Mark: You are into the heart of the race distance now, and should be really into a strong rhythm that takes focus to maintain. Your thoughts are on the moment, allow distractions to come and go without giving them too much energy.
5-7K Mark: This is where the race typically starts to feel hard and athletes should expect discomfort to rise and have prepared some strong positive thoughts here. Strong process cues about being relaxed and good positive self-talk should be practiced now.
7K Mark: There is 3 km to go at this point in the race and you can now start counting down the minutes left until you cross the finish line. Knowing that you have 15 or 18 or 30 minutes left to run or walk is positive information! Start giving yourself positive cues: Fly! Glide! As you start your push for the finish, having some landmarks for 2k to go and 1k to go is a good thing here. If you have pre run the course, find markers for these spots.
8K Mark: You should be drawing on all your resources to finish as strongly as possible. You can remind yourself to relax, to focus on good form, recall all the dedication and training you have done to get here, tell yourself to be tough. There is only 2 km to go!
9K Mark: How you handle yourself in these last few minutes is what you will be most proud of. It is often the effort of the last two kilometres that makes your race: how deep into the well can your source your inner and outer strength? Celebrate your efforts and soak it all up!
If you are prepared, the magic will happen.
Have Fun with It!
I found a great article the other day about our need for achievement. As a coach who often puts the emphasis on practice and process, I still get curious about our need to set big goals, and the sense of satisfaction that arises from the grit and hard work of accomplishment. The author, Stephen Handle writes, “One often overlooked need we share is a “need for achievement” – this is our desire for significant accomplishment, mastering of skills, or achievement of high expectations. We don’t have to be good at everything to be happy, but we usually like to be good at something. We all crave a type of passion, skill, or talent that we can excel at and rise above the norm. It helps us define ourselves as individuals. A healthy need for achievement isn’t about becoming better than others, it’s about becoming better than your previous self. It’s about identifying a goal you want to reach in life and being willing to put in the necessary steps to make it happen”.
Any of you who are currently training for something, will identify with this.
Creating and experiencing a flow or a peak performance (an achievement) is one of the greatest joys of being an athlete and is one of the most satisfying aspects of my coaching. Observing someone succeed is pretty much a manifestation of what’s awesome about sport.
While time management and training is primarily about carving out time, choosing to train, and setting a schedule, time management is also about seeing possibility and not getting railroaded by your own barriers to success and achievement.
Here are 5 of the most common barriers to time management and achievement and how to identify and overcome them:
1. Lack of motivation to train
An inability to get training done leads to low morale, and lack of momentum in training habits and an inability to get stronger. Some people have no trouble getting out the door, while others do. If you are the latter, the best is to keep your mind out of it (“Do I want to train right now” is not a good question for you), and just set up a schedule and stick to it. Schedules create habit and good habits create positive momentum.
There are 5 key things that will help you:
1. Plan when the workout is going to happen---preferably on a weekly, not daily basis—plug them into calendars on Sunday.
2. Organize your equipment so you are always prepared
3. Eat and sleep to support your training.
4. Decide how you are going to talk to yourself in training before you start. Decide to delete the negativity. You don’t even have to be overly positive. Be OK with neutral.
5. Celebrate your recovery day because you have worked so hard and deserve it.
Watch for ways you may repeatedly talk yourself out of doing well. Also called negative self-talk, this is going to the negative as a default and an inability to appreciate the good things that can happen in training. Sometimes the negative happens - we make a mistake that’s correctable, or something out of our control negatively affects and outcome in training. In this case, recognizing the negative is important, and accepting and using the experience to become better is a good thing. Moving on quickly is important. However, only looking for the negative, or talking and reflecting on training in absolutes and generalized statements may not be helpful.
‘It was a terrible workout, the worst ever. What a tough pill to swallow and I am wondering if it was my new shoes, the jacket I was wearing, maybe the food I had for lunch, and if I am really just not that good at this.’
If this is a consistent way of talking to yourself, it means that you may just have trouble being good to yourself and it’s a habit to look for everything that went wrong, instead of what may have gone right and what you can improve on to expect success in the future. If you have this habit, you may want to talk in ‘fact’ not ‘feeling’. You can ask yourself: what went well and what didn’t go so well. No judgement, just solution. While learning from experience is always a good thing, being able to take away and appreciate that good things happen every time you go out and train is a valuable exercise in self-esteem and intrinsic joy. I often ask people to find one thing to pat themselves on the back for in every race and training session. I don’t mean getting carried away with big HIGH Fives and celebrations - keep it humble and appreciate your small efforts that worked out.
3. Nervousness and Anxiety
Nervousness and anxiety causes muscle tension which is not the optimal state for athlete performance. Being able to perform relaxed is the biggest challenge for most athletes. Being relaxed and calm emotionally can have a huge impact on how your body reacts to intensity. The self perpetuating spiral of (confidence + self-belief + being relaxed) = success is one of upward movement.
Worry can be debilitating, anxiety can stun us, so it’s best to recognize worry early, not ignore. Worriers can be highly creative and imaginative people, and if asked about their worries, will often talk about things in the future that are either highly unlikely to happen or outside of their control. Or they allow other things to displace the worry and derail the race, such as not going to the race because the weather is bad.
Sport Performance worry can be tamed by recognition, relaxation, and visualization.
Name that thought: there is that worry feeling again. Notice and don’t judge. Then ask yourself a question: can I take action to help me? If you are worried about having enough calories before your training night, this requires one action: make sure you have calories. If it’s not something you can take action with (it might snow), you don’t have to analyze it. Worried about performance? Start with the facts, not expectations: only you know how well prepared you are physically and what you are realistically capable of. Once you know what’s reasonable to expect, use a visualization technique to see yourself performing this task well. Expectations that aren’t realistic can breed worry and future disappointment. You can sidestep this stress by performing reality checks on your expectations.
Relax and breathe and focus: breathe deeply. Breathe the worry out and away.Worry and anxiety is best helped by recognition, and then focusing on process, process, process. Things you can control: breathing, arm swing, footstrike, relaxation
Visualize: How do you see your happiest most prepared self? How do you want to feel. Use you imagination to your benefit: imagine the best case scenario.
4. Dealing with Distractions
We have all watched great athletic moments and achievements and seen the look of total concentration and flow on the face of the athlete. They look determined but also unflappable. They know that when something is not relevant to the outcome of the race, they will not give it energy. Through careful training, they have learned to ignore distractions. For example, for years, I have run at our well loved trail Elk and Beaver Lake in Victoria. This is a multi use trail and I expect to see other walkers, runners, dogs, bikes, and horses. I expect that some of these other users may cause me to veer, swerve, slow down, stop, or otherwise shift my momentum, however, I allow none of these distractions to shift my focus. Instead, I purposely practice keeping focus, while staying safe, and not allowing judging thoughts to arise, especially if I am performing some training with intensity.
Distraction control starts in training, by identifying when you are habitually getting distracted and then teaching yourself a new habit - techniques to re-focus. It starts with awareness, then quickly learning to identify the distraction without judgement, then, just as quickly, to re-focus on your process.
There is no greater personal power, than to not allow others to disrupt our flow. In that regard, distraction control is also a powerful choice:
Say you get cut off by a dog and have to break stride. You have a split second to make a choice to either get mad, upset and emotional, or move on and refocus. Anger in that moment will not help, will cause tension and tension is detrimental to peak performance. Your choice.
5. Non-productive emotions
Anger, fear, worry, boredom, frustration are not productive in the training and racing environment. The most consistently successful athletes have a refined and specific focussed emotional mindset that works over and over for them. They bring it to practice again and again and they race in this same mindset, leaving non-productive emotions for another time. I am not saying to minimize your feelings, however, in the athletic arena, you may want to focus on a specific mind set that works for you.
A final note on fear. I believe that the path to any achievement is necessarily going to include some fear. New territory is a bit scary. However, heading straight into what we find uncomfortable and finding it not so scary after all - but invigorating - is an amazing learning. The repetition of being brave, small acts of personal bravery and courage build resilience and self-esteem. Every time you show up to practice even though you are a little scared, this is what builds character. You recognize that working through personal fear and finding space for it, alongside building skills and confidence: this is the true beauty of sport. It all comes down to choosing the path with ‘heart’. If your heart is in it, there is no failure, only experience.
Lucy Smith March 2018
During my racing career, I have run the streets of Paris and the forest of Noosa National Park in Australia’s Gold Coast. I have run around the walled city in China, through the Park Guell (Gaudi Sculpture Park) in Barcelona and along the most stunning trail high up in the Laveda on the island of Madeira. Often finding places I wouldn’t have seen if I had been walking around town, sometimes running with a new local friend, and many times, finding the most amazing forests and trails, running while travelling is both rewarding and soulful. Being outside, being active, experiencing my environment while taking a break from pulling out my wallet and consuming is truly peaceful for me.
Recently, travelling as close to home as Tofino, the host of the AirBnB was super excited to help as soon as she found out I was a runner, and I discovered a couple of trails that I hadn’t run before. While I have had help from countless Concierges at hotels around the world, the locals who run can be very helpful at pointing you to places you may never find on your own.
Vacations are a treat and a much needed break for most people, and time to spend alone, with friends or with family. They can also present athletes with restricted training times and an interruption in an otherwise predictable routine. Holidays can be a challenge to training if you are travelling around a lot, visiting friends or relatives, or staying in a snowy or hot climate. They can also be challenging if getting your training in is your physical and emotional regulator, so it’s worth thinking about and planning ahead. During my recent fb live event I talked about how to train while on vacation, with some tips about time management, but also some advice on how you can train your brain to relax as well, and set your expectations before you leave town.
Unless you are travelling solo, with a running group, or with a partner who is as enthusiastic about fitting in training as you, you basically have 2 choices. Choice A: is to be flexible, and work as hard as you can to fit some training in. Choice B is to decide you are on holiday; you may train or you may not, but either way is OK. (Option B is a good way to give yourself a break from having to fit in your training around the schedules of others or other disruptions due to travel.)
How to Train away from Home
Take Active Recovery
Vacations are an obvious time to take a week or two of active rest, or to take an easy recovery week. If you can, plan to have a down week for the week that you travel, and preferably the first week on a multi-week vacation. That way, the jet lag, and acclimation comes during your easy week. Plan your training ahead as much as possible taking into account that you will have to be flexible. Even if you can do little else, it is realistic to plan a week of only run or walk training. Cross training activities like cycling and swimming may be restricted. Walking and running is the easiest and most time-efficient of the three sports to fit in, with merely running shoes and the outdoors necessary.
Let everybody know that you will be training a few times, and will try to work around family and group activities.
Get it in before the day starts, as later in the day it is more likely you will be tired from body surfing, hiking, sitting in the sun or mini golf with the whole family. Before the sun comes up is perfect while in hot areas, and in the gym on a treadmill before you hit the the slopes for the day. More than likely, everybody will still be sleeping when you return, so you haven’t missed anything and you’ve gained a zen like start to your day. Another good time can be before dinner, when everybody is having their downtime after the day.
Do advance research on the location you will be visiting. Is there a gym for strength or treadmill options. What are the trails like? Is there a local store that holds free drop in runs? Even if you can’t get in your usual sessions, 20 minutes easy training and doing drills and maintaining feel is better than none.
Or read this article in Runner’s World about why you should run while travelling.
Including this awesome tip I haven’t used yet. “Look up Races to Steal Their Routes
Of course you’re not actually stealing anything, but following a race course can give you some peak views: “It’s handy to look up races in the area, because those are usually on some beautiful trails or scenic spots in a city, and they have the course maps on the race website you can use to help guide you,” says Boris.”
Take advantage of free ME time!
If you are a parent of young ones who relies on childminding or pre-schools for time to fit in your training, vacation training can be a challenge, but again, gather support and plan. Also be prepared to head out the door at the last minute, when plans change and the kids are at the pool with Uncle Fred and suddenly you have 30 minutes on your own!
Be flexible and adventurous
You might have to get up earlier, train at odd hours, or drop a training session. You might have to choose between that soon to close breakfast buffet and that 45 minute run. Chances are, if you are an active parent, you have already mastered the skills of “creative time management, training and childcare”; here’s the chance to test out what you have learned. Drop your expectations of the perfect training - just enjoy wherever you are and whatever you can do.
Have Snacks at the Ready
Bring or buy snacks to keep on hand in the hotel room. Some energy bars for calories in a pinch are always a good idea. I generally hit a store right away when I travel, and get a few days worth of real food: almonds, trail mix, bananas, apples, salty snacks like pretzels and bagels. I also buy a good bar of chocolate, and bring those Starbucks instant coffee packets so I am not hunting for a coffee shop on my first morning.
Most of all just be prepared to be flexible and easy going, possibly missing training for the chance to go zip lining or simply taking a great hike along the beach with your kids.
Stay in the moment, your regular training can resume at any time, and don’t spend time fretting about missed miles.
With some advance planning and creative time management, it is possible to have a fit holiday!
Lucy Smith is a coach, Lululemon Ambassador, mother and former elite athlete. Discovering cool places to train while travelling is one of her favourite things about running.
This blog on strength is not going to be what you expect. Generally, articles on strength for runners and other endurance athletes, are called ‘5 Exercises that all Runners Should Do” and consist of a 5-10 exercise program called Functional Strength, Core Workouts or Bodyweight Strength, the cornerstone of those programs being the Plank, and versions of it. Nothing wrong with any of that, and plank is an excellent place to start, however I want to deliver something with a bit more grit and sound science behind it. What you are going to read today, following my personal narrative around the importance of strength for endurance athletes, is not about getting your abs stronger or more defined, or making your core burn through insane mountain climber plank, but a way of creating strength with an intelligent system of training - without going to failure, fatigue or what we call burn. Save the burn for the last 200m on race day!
I am not a strength coach or expert, but as an endurance coach, I encourage athletes to take strength seriously. A good strength program will help build endurance and resiliency for your activity, keeping you injury free and helping your performance. Intelligent strength training doesn’t mean spending hours on machines at the gym watching other people text between reps. Intelligent strength training supports your endurance training, takes only 60 minutes per week, and makes you feel strong and awesome. Not only do you run better, but you are stronger for all your daily activities - lugging groceries, lifting your kids, or putting your dog in the back of the car. What follows is an article from an expert. I can tell you that I have been stronger and faster, on less run mileage since beginning a good strength program, but you might as well get the science behind my story. Strength is not just for elite athletes, the special forces or Olympic powerlifters - strength is for everyone who wants to feel strong and maximize their potential for movement.
Current Concepts on Strength Training
With thanks to guest contributer Dave Smit, Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator
Attendance at a recent seminar on strength development for endurance athletes challenged the current views on enhancing endurance performance using strength training. It confirmed my anecdotal findings regarding the need for specific strength qualities for endurance athletes, as well as military and law enforcement operators.
Without going deep into the scientific jargon, strength is the ability of the athlete to contract a muscle, cause a muscle action and or ‘fire’ and is measured using lab force platforms and field based methods that include percent of (IRM – 1 repetition max) .
The goal for endurance athletes is to improve performance on the track, road, mountain or other escape route from the gym floor. Strength training done effectively mitigates internal muscle breakdown, critical to the endurance athlete. It will improve endurance performance, mobility, and recovery.
After attending Pavel Tsatsouline’s Strong Endurance seminar in September 2017 it became clear that when conducting strength training endurance athletes should be careful and avoid subjecting their system to ‘acid baths’. Many current strength training systems have athletes performing sets and reps that cause significant disruption of the muscle cell thereby compromising the ability of the athlete to do what they really want to – compete aerobically.
Prevailing views suggest the only way to develop strength is for athletes to reach desired degrees of fatigue – whereas, technically this training should be used sparingly, in peaking situations for example. High acid baths incurred frequently result in a decrease in work capacity and force athletes to ‘put up’ with the unpleasant sensations of fatigue. In a nutshell this training disrupts many physiological processes that support improved aerobic endurance performance. Enter the Strong Endurance System.
The Benefits of Strong Endurance:
1. The Strength Program will reduce cell destruction and optimize endurance capacity and long term aerobic performance. Strong Endurance ensures muscle cell health.
2. The Strength Program will increase muscular efficiency(relative strength) without any weight gain, reduce soreness, improve hip explosiveness, reduce injury rates and increase ‘core’ or more responsibly termed trunk stability.
3. According to Russian Sport Scientist Verkoshansky (1988, 2011) it effectively allows the endurance athlete to improve on their specific sport, whether it be running, cycling or any other type of movement.
A strong proponent of this system is Al Ciampa, US Air Force Department of Defense Physiologist. With contributions from Ciampa, Pavel and Strongfirst developed and implemented what now is Strong Endurance.
Strong Endurance Strength – Nuts and Bolts
1. Implement strength training 3-4 days per week. This strength is done before you do your endurance training, or during your day off from endurance.
2. The strength exercise we will use here is one primary movement – the "Two handed kettlebell swing” using an appropriately weighted kettlebell. If you are unfamiliar with swinging a kettlebell, hire a competent kettlebell instructor. It is a movement that needs to be done with precision, and one hour with an instructor is all you need to start. Most gyms have kettlebells.
3. Do the sample program outlined below for 6 weeks. The table below will outline the volume of sets per session. You are doing 5 repeats (or two handed swings) for each set. This is a maximum of 10 seconds of work per set, with about 30-40 seconds of rest. (For instance on Week 1, Session 1 you are doing reps of 5 swings, 16 times, for a total of 80 swings. With about 30 seconds rest between sets, or whatever you need to recover). Do not go beyond 10 seconds of work per set. Your goal is to avoid lactate build up and sugar burning, therefore using the alactic system. Navigate recovery as needed and how you feel. If you use a heart rate monitor, once heart rate has dropped below 75% of heart rate maximum you are recovered and can continue with the next repeat.
4. As Al Ciampa states “push it, but don’t push it”. Be wise, the tachometer should not be in the red, it should be FAR from it. Avoid any burn, lactate or other sensation like it.
5. Warm-up using Goblet squats, halos, and a few getups and you have the perfect strength program for your aerobic sport! Seek expert advice on instruction please.
Tips for the Swing
1. Hinge, don’t squat as the swing is NOT a squat.
2. Be explosive with hips not the arms. The hips provide the power to get the KB up in the air, the arms are just there for the ride. This is an excellent video on technique.
3. Protect the back, pull shoulders back and down. If in doubt hire a qualified KB instructor. See www.strongfirst.com for instructors in your area.
4. Use the right load. Women at 16kg, and men with 24kg, adjust up accordingly.
6 Weeks Kettle Bell Strength Training
Adapted with Permission from Al Ciampa, US Air Force Department of Physiology.
Total Number of Sets per session (each set is 5 two handed swings):
Week Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4
1 16 20 10 18
2 20 20 12 24
3 20 16 12
4 26 12 28 20
5 8 18 28
6 20 30 24
In conclusion, the Strong Endurance protocol is based on the idea of improving your level of conditioning by using short but powerful bouts of work, coupled with sufficient recovery periods, for an extended overall duration.
Dave Smit, M.Sc. CSCS, Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator
Certified StrongFirst Instructor.
Dave is a former elite level triathlete, and has worked extensively with both strength and endurance based athletes from high school to Olympians.
Dave is available for instruction and strength programming on request.
For most of my career, I used cross training as a way to supplement or even replace running, during times when I could not sustain my usual run mileage. There were various reasons that I had to reduce or eliminate running from my training schedule and the most common of these reasons was for injury, during the late stages of my pregnancies and post partum, or when I couldn’t find my running shoes. I am kidding about the shoes, but my point is, that I used cross training somewhat reluctantly for the most part, and as a last resort activity, when I could not run train.
After I discovered triathlon and duathlon and started competing professionally in these sports as well, cross training in biking and swimming became part of my training regime, and allowed me to train with more volume without getting injured, gave me strength, and I set my fastest times in road running and track, off a very strong, and periodized running and cycling program. Swimming was very good for my over all trunk strength as well as being an excellent low impact form of recovery.
Cross training can be viewed in several ways. It is either an alternative to your primary activity when you can’t do that (pool running when you have plantar fasciitis for instance), is a supplement to your primary activity to reduce the chances of overuse injuries (as cycling was for me), or closely linked to this supplementary aspect, cross training is a way to improve overall performance in sport by utilizing other movements and energy systems.
Cross training activities for runners and fitness walkers, can include elliptical trainers, pool (water) running, swimming, hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, in line skating and strength training.
My current view as a coach is that some form of cross training is highly beneficial for most age group athletes, especially those over the age of 40, and instead of becoming a last resort activity to stop you from going bonkers when you get injured, should be incorporated as part of your training year round, with particular emphasis on this activity for parts of the year. Focussing on training movements in something other than your primary sport is good for you: it gives your body a break from the repetitive actions of your favourite sport which may promote longevity in that sport, and it allows you to work on perfecting another activity and become more efficient at it. Just as you get good at running by running 4-5 times a week, if you focus on riding a bike for a similar amount of time, your skill and ability will improve in that sport and you will be able to get more out of it. It’s a great emotional and mental break to allow yourself to fine tune another skill as well, as well as the satisfaction of mastering a new challenge.
A few notes about cross training activities:
Biking is an excellent cross-training method for cardiovascular fitness and leg strength and has a similar workout feel to running, with a higher recruitment of muscle fibres. Cycling can be done indoors with your bike on a stationary trainer, on a spin bike at the gym, or through a spin class. Due to the high intensity interval (sweat and burn) nature to spin classes, I don’t advocate these sorts of classes during your regular training, as they leave you feeling ‘destroyed’ and there is little focus on proper form, or technique. Cycling as cross training should be done on a bike that fits well, and there should be a period during the training where you focus on good form - single leg drills, high cadence spin with efficiency for example --and generally, very aerobic riding with a good spin cadence (over 90 RPM) is optimal
There are two ways you can implement cycling into your program - as a low impact supplement to running, you can just 'spin' (high cadence and easy) as a rest and recovery workout, or you can find times of the year to train like a cyclist. That is, perform short and long bike intervals, hill repeats, sprints, tempo rides, and long base rides up to 4 hours. This would be the sort of training you would periodize into the year, simply because you love riding or you know that riding improves your strength, and it’s a nice break to let one type of training take a back seat.
If you do ride, please wear a helmet, a light at night, ride safely and defensively and obey the laws of the road. Most accidents are preventable. Always use common sense, be alert and take no chances with cars (in an accident with a car, no matter who is at fault, the cyclist is at greater risk for injury).
I have covered a lot of kilometres pool running over the course of my career, and found it to be one of the best ways to maintain run fitness and feel when getting over injuries and while pregnant. Pool running or water running is a good cross training activity for running and walking, as it mimics the style and action of your form, but is non-pounding, and is good for most injuries - like sprained ankles, bad knees, achilles, plantar problems. It is excellent for pregnant athlete as the feeling of weightlessness and the hydrostatic pressure seems to just feel good on the body. Pool running also works as a sort of strength drill, as resistance in the water helps build your core strength, and running specific muscles. Pool running is a favourite of runners because it closely mimics the action of running without the pounding, is safe, and you can replicate intervals and workouts well. Most runners come back from pool running to land running very strong, as the extra resistance on the hip flexors helps to develop strength. Pool running is highly recommended for runners who like to train every day; substituting pool running minutes for land running minutes is a good way to reduce overuse injuries due to repetitive running.
A note about form in pool running. Start with a pool running belt just to ensure your form is good, and stick with an upright posture, driving the knees up and down piston style, more than slowly pulling them through the water. Use your arms as you would with running. This short video demonstrates the pool running technique well.
These low impact trainers are found at the gym, and, after a period of adaptation, can be used to easily replicate run and walk training. You may need 3-6 sessions on the elliptical in order to feel comfortable enough to feel like you are training, and if you find you like the elliptical it can be an awesome way to cross train. I love the new trainers too -- you can hike all over the world using the video displays!
And finally, strength training will be the most valuable cross training that you can do. Strength training for runners has two purposes: it focuses on the specific needs of running to help prevent injuries, which promotes more consistent training and hence, improvement, and it should be compound, multi- joint movement, like squats or kettlebell swings (not your standard gym machine stuff) that promotes a balanced and strong body for improved performance.
Strength is a topic that needs it’s own post, so tune in to next week’s blog, where you will get some expert information and advice on the Current Concepts in Strength Training.
March 1, 2018
Stretching is the term used for the process of elongating something nd moving it from its present state. For athletes stretching refers to the elongation of tissue, which can either be muscle, fascia, or nerve tissues. Stretching either helps us maintain our flexibility or improve it and can be done in a number of ways.
Stretching is a subject with many opinions and views, from how to stretch, to how much to stretch, to whether you need to stretch at all. Coaching advice on stretching will range from never stretching to creating 3-4 one hour stretching training session in your week, each week.
Sports science has shown us that muscles work by stretching –it is the essential action for our muscle to perform. The stretch, and the range of motion (ROM) of each muscles around the bone to which is attached (the joint) dictates our flexibility. So our flexibility refers basically to how much our muscles can stretch or the range of motion that each muscle has. Flexibility varies immensely from one individual to the next. Even when you were a kid you probably noticed that some of your friends could do the splits, or do back bends, and some couldn’t, and everybody notices that flexibility decreases with age. Increasing your flexibility is a way of keeping your body young and supple, and of allowing it to perform better and more pain free.
Each individual has an optimal flexibility and range of motion that promotes a healthy pain free body. Issues with inflexibility are generally a feeling of tightness in the muscles and joints, pain and injury. Tight muscles do not function to their full range of motion, which means that speed and power are compromised, as will be the natural efficiency for movement. Working on maintaining your body’s unique flexibility will allow you to perform better, recover faster from workouts, and will reduce the risk of injury.
We stretch to
How to Stretch
Stretching will improve muscle flexibility and performance but it is very important not to overstretch, and not to stretch overly tight or cold muscles. Overstretching is counterproductive in athletes, and causes little micro tears in your muscle tissue that can lead it more soreness and injury.
Some people prefer to stretch before and after workouts, or only before, or only after. Generally it is easier to stretch muscles when they are warmed up a little, after about 10 minutes of light exercise. There are two types of stretching we will consider for this post, static and dynamic.
Dr Nicholas Cowan, Chiropractor with FIX Healthcare in Victoria, suggests that Static (or held) stretches are the most effective for runners. ”Holding a stretch for 5-10 seconds is generally the best stretch for returning muscles to their normal state and most common for walkers/runners. These are the stretches we learned back in highschool. These are best done after you workout, or before you go to bed, when you are unwinding, talking about your day with your kids/partner/pet/stuff animals”.
Cowan also advises that holding stretches for longer than 2 minutes or spending an hour on stretching one muscle group is used for increasing the flexibility of muscles and should be done under the guidance of a professional or by very experienced people. The risk is injury is greater in long stretches and posture and technique are very important. Having poor posture in stretching will usually cause muscles in a different group to be overstretched.
There is another style of stretching that Cowan recommends - and that is a Dynamic Stretching technique which can be a fluid movement to activate the muscles you are about to use. Legs swings and arms swings fall into this category. To be avoided are the ballistic stretches from the old exercise videos which have lots of bouncing,
The main muscles groups in running and walking that need to be stretched properly are:
Quadriceps and Hip Flexors: these are the large muscles in your thighs and at your hips, responsible of the dynamic movement of running and walking.
Glutes, Hamstrings and Piriformis: the muscles in your buttocks, hips and the back of your thighs react to the movement of your front of leg muscles contracting. Working on improved flexibility in these areas can help prevent the lower back pain associated with running and walking.
Soleus/Gastrocs (calf): the muscles on your lower legs affect the function of your knees, feet and ankles, which is important to the impact of running and walking.
Pecs and Deltoids: muscles in the upper body and torso, and shoulders. While upper body isn’t as crucial, you want to avoid tension through the neck and shoulders so arm swings and stretches can help you stay relaxed, which helps posture and breathing.
Because of the postural requirements of stretching it is highly beneficial for beginner athletes to watch a professional video or work with a professional that can teach them the proper way to stretch that.
When and how much to stretch is going to be something that you learn through experience. The recommendation is to start gently and be conservative, stretching a little before and after workouts. Often, busy people neglect to stretch at all, but rush away from a workout to get back to work or home for dinner. Taking a few extra moments to stretch your muscles post workout will, like post recovery nutrition, enable your body to recover faster and better from the session, and set you up to improve.
February 20, 2018
A few coaches’ notes about the hill workouts this week and next (and again Week 10 and 11).
The grade of hill chosen for these sessions should be moderate and gentle - no greater than 8% and 5% is just fine. For weeks 4-5, a gentler grade of 4-5% is perfect, but you will be limited to what you can find in your area of clinic as well -- so please don’t stress if it’s not perfect!
A gentler grade creates less strain on the achilles and also reduces the impact of going downhill for the recovery portion of the session. This is the same for both walking and running groups - it’s an introduction to the hill repeats and how to build strength by working against gravity, having to lift the legs a bit further (working the hip flexor and the calves/achilles more), and deal with a more difficult aspect to running and walking!
Form is key, with a tall posture and a slight lean into the hill.
Strong arms, driving the body up the hill.
Look to the top of the hill, using the visual of upwards to pull yourself up.
Quick knees, driving up the hill, and quick feet, with a slightly shorter stride (the stride shortens the steeper the grade).
Run with a partner, with each taking turns ‘leading or setting the rhythm’ of the hill. Just for fun!
With WALK - walk easily and relaxed and with less effort on the way back down the hill, trying to still be light on the feet without pounding the heels in.
With the RUN - Run easily back down the hill, being as fluid as possible, with light steps. It will be a more full foot impact when running down, but still try not to land heavily on the heel.
Relax the shoulders and get in good exhales on the way down.
For those in love with visualization (like I am), you can think ‘DANCE!’ on the way up the hill, and visualize a strong magnet pulling you to the stop of the hill in one fluid motion.
Hills are a great chance and opportunity to turn ‘hills are HARD” into ‘I love the the challenge of hills, and I am GREAT at hills!
Have fun with it! Coach Lucy
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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