Nutrition, food, and diet have all become much more complicated than they need to be. What should I eat before a workout? When should I eat before a workout? Should I drink during workouts? Will eating Vegan make me leaner, faster or feel better? Do I need to change my diet before starting my first race? Is beer bad for you? What is Paleo eating? AAAH.
The world of nutrition and particularly sports nutrition has exploded over the last twenty years as more and people have taken their health seriously and become involved in physical activity for fitness and the internet has been able to deliver information that was previously reserved for elite athletes, or only found in the dusty science journals and on microfiche at the college library. Information that the top athletes in the world have used to improve and maintain strength, fitness and health is now available to anyone with an internet search engine.
With our present concerns about our health and longevity there has also been an increase in the numbers and types of special diets out there, diets that are meant to increase our energy, personal power, stamina and lean mass. Here then, are some common sense nutrition basics - bearing in mind that that special diets, food intolerances and allergies are beyond the scope of this post.
Eating to Feel Well
Still the oldest and most common sense idea in the book is the idea of looking at your body as if it is a fine tuned machine similar to a sports car. The type of gas you use has a direct correlation to how well the engine runs. Looking at food as fuel, the concept is that you want to choose foods that nourish and support your body and the training you desire to do. You can also train to eat, which is also a driving force for many people: they enjoy food, fine dining and sweets, and training is one way to manage their weight and health.
For performance I prefer the eating to train version, as it puts the power with you, the individual, to make healthy, informed choices about what you are putting into your body without being obsessive. Over time, the emphasis on good choices leads to overall feelings of wellbeing in training and out, and the habits stick for good, merely because you feel better and your engine runs better. And having fries and a burger one night while out with friends at the pub, isn’t going to kill you because you consistently take care of yourself.
The other aspect to nutrition is portion control: something that North American society has lost almost completely. The rise of fast food, discount shopping in bulk, and mass consumption turned bigger into better for everything, including food. Most people eat too large portions for the amount of energy they expend each day, even active people. Because of the emphasis on eating more, and eating quickly, people have forgotten how to understand when they are full and to stop eating before that point.
Simply put, you only need to eat as many calories as you burn in one day. Eat more than what you use and you gain weight over time: eat less and you gradually lose weight, especially lean muscle. You don’t even have to count calories. A healthy person can listen to their body, know when they are hungry, and can eat accordingly, stopping when they are full. However, to reset our bodies from over eating to moderate eating for health, might require a good Nutritionist and diet plan at first, in order to create the new habits.
Doing exercise is a great way to learn how to eat better. After training, you will often feel hungry, since you might not have eaten for a while and your body is looking for energy to replace the energy it just spent. Making good choices, and fuelling your body slowly and with good quality food, will teach you to listen to your hunger signals and to take care of yourself well.
Good choices: There are many resources out there for nutrition and food choice, but Nutritionists recommend choosing whole foods as much as you can. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain rice and pastas and bread, eggs, lean unprocessed meat like steak, chicken breast, pork and turkey. Food that is as close to its natural state as possible is the rule to follow. The less packaging, and the fewer ingredients, the better. Think a grilled fresh chicken breast, with fresh steamed broccoli and brown rice over a highly processed Pizza Pop. A bagel with peanut butter and banana is a better choice than a packaged cookie, muffin or granola bar.
The basics to eating for energy are to have a general diet that is nutritious, whole, and in line with the energy that you expend each day. I like to add that for most people, sustainability and pleasure should also be considered. Don’t obsess over the perfect diet. Eating a strict diet that restricts foods you love (unless you have a real food allergy that makes you sick) isn’t a whole lot of fun, and takes a lot of energy to plan. I like this article that looks at our relationship with food.
Fuelling to Train
For general training, there are 3 key aspects to sports nutrition: 1. eating and hydrating before workouts, 2. eating and hydrating during workouts, and 3. eating and hydrating after workouts. If you have limited time to train, you want to make the most of each session. Being nutritionally ready to perform is very important. For the scope of most training under 2 hours and for events of under 90 minutes hydration and nutrition are not as crucial to success as they are in longer endurance events like ultras and Ironman where athletes will run into depletion during the course of the event, therefore what follows is general good advice that will be a starting point for the beginner.
Eat before your workouts: You want to start workouts with energy to complete the session, but you don’t want to feel full or have stomach upset from something that you ate. Aim to consume 60-100 grams of carbohydrates between 1 and 3 hours before your workout. (I.e. one energy bar and a piece of fruit or a bagel with jam and a piece of fruit.) Keep the foods high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat. Your goal over time is find the right foods and timing that work for you as you will replicate this nutrition on race day.
Workout timing has to be taken into consideration. Early morning workouts require only an early breakfast taken prior to training, while evening workouts means paying attention to nutrition and timing throughout the day. If you train after work (but before supper) you may need to have a pre-training snack (fuel) about an hour before training, especially if lunch was over 4 hrs prior. Timing your lunch to fall 3 hrs before you afternoon training session is a good practice. You want to avoid skipping breakfast and lunch if you are doing afternoon training sessions. The caloric shortfall to missed meals will leave you depleted and weak in your training. During busy days at work, count backward 1-2 hours from the estimated time you will get to your after work session, and have a snack ready: banana, small sandwich with peanut butter and honey. Over time you will find what works best for you and stick with that.
Hydrate before workouts: it is proven than being dehydrated negatively affects performance. Even a 1% loss in body weight due to dehydration will slow you down, so become friend with your water bottle! Sipping on water will keep your hydration levels up, but sports drink, and even juice, contains electrolytes that are more effective at hydrating your body. 1-2 hours before a training session, ensure that you have drunk about 500ml of fluid. Drinking too much too close to a workout doesn’t give your body time enough to absorb the fluid. Fluid will either slosh around in your stomach and create cramps and a full feeling, or will hamper you with bathroom breaks.
Fuelling and hydration during workouts: For sessions over 90 min or in really hot climates people will need to consume about 200-300 calories per hour for optimal energy to complete the session successfully. A sport gel has an easy to use pack of 110 calories and a blend of Carbohydrates and electrolytes that are scientifically formulated for endurance sports. One gel every 30 minutes of exercise, taken with 8-12 oz of water is recommended and proven to be beneficial to sport performance. There are many gels on the market now, in a variety of flavours. Take the time to find the one that works for you and that you like. Drink 8 oz water or an electrolyte drink every 15 minutes for the duration of the session.
Every person has a different rate at which they sweat, and there are 2 basic methods of seeing if you are getting enough fluids.
1. The urine test: if your urine is barely yellow, you are well hydrated. If it is dark yellow, you are not hydrated enough.
2. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. The amount of weight lost is equal to the amount of water lost. For each pound of weight lost, you need to replace with 20oz of water.
How to Carry Liquids and Gels
Walking and running present their own problems as carrying a water bottle in your hands is cumbersome and throws you off your natural balance. There are excellent bottle carrying belts on the market now, ones with comfortable wide waist bands that hold several smaller bottles. For long runs over 90 minutes I recommend taking water with you as it will increase your enjoyment and performance of the session.
A lot of running shorts and tights have small pockets build right into them, perfect for carrying along one or two gels.
Eating Post Workout
Plan for and aim to eat within 15 minutes of completing your workout or race. The food you eat should contain some protein, be high in carbohydrates and 150-300 calories. High carbohydrate foods will replace the glycogen your muscles need in order to repair and recover from the stress they were under during your training session. Refuelling right after a session helps your body recover faster from the session so you are stronger and more ready for the next day. When you are able to train better you will improve faster and will be setting yourself up for success at your race. A common strategy is to have 200-300 calories ready to consume at the end of the session: a smoothie, banana, or small sandwich.
On a personal note, when I was racing full time, I saw the full spectrum of dietary habits. I saw athletes eat barely anything at all, vegetarians who were the pickiest roommates ever, and athletes who survived off massive amounts of fast food and slurpees. I roomed with athletes who hated the onerous job of eating and only ate one food group and those who ate everything in sight, including any left over food on my plate. There were athletes who meticulously ate the exact same food before every race, and those that ate whatever was served them. I am obsessed with words and dictionaries more than I’m obsessed with food, and I am not a Nutritionist, but as a retired ex elite athlete and coach, in the end, I still approach food with common sense, encourage people to avoid fixating about the perfect diet, and to just enjoy the process of creating habits that support their goals.
Over the course of my career, there were many times when I didn’t have a coach next to me, giving me cues, or keeping me on track. I ran as many miles alone as I did with my training group. While we have lots of classes, coaches, clinics and leaders in the fitness world, learning to be independent, and your own best coach is a good skill to practice. This week I share some of the things that contribute to developing a sense of independence - and confidence - in your training.
The ability to be paying attention to what is happening right now, fully accepting of it, appreciating it, and not wishing for anything more, or for it to be different. Particularly, to not be distracted by ‘thinking’ - by music, your outside environment, or your unhelpful thoughts.
I believe it is really important for people to develop this skill of mindfulness in training for several reasons. Mindfulness brings your attention to what is happening with your body in the moment. When you are mindful, you are more likely to be relaxed and without tension, and this will improve your body’s ability to move effectively. When you are paying attention, you will notice when something isn’t quite right - like a small ache or pain - and you can stop and stretch, slow down or stop before it becomes an injury. When you are mindful you aren’t distracted my multitasking, and this is both powerfully beneficial to your mental health and helps increase your intrinsic enjoyment for training. If you are mindful you don’t ignore a pain that will become an injury.
There is another quality to mindfulness, though, as it pertains to your goals, and priorities.
I feel there is a helpful correlation to mindfulness and learning to train by perceived effort. This is beneficial for beginners to aerobic exercise as it will teach you to listen to your body - and it is simple and gadget free. At first, even a slight increase in pace will feel hard and uncomfortable, but over time you will find that your body is adapting and you can go comfortably for longer. The other benefit to training by perceived effort, and not being a slave to that screen on your wrist, is that your body is not a robot. Sleep, stress, age, coffee, and other environmental factors can affect your heart rate, causing confusion and sometimes stress in athletes trying to attain unreasonable rates of work based on what they think they should do (that is, based on a quantitative system of improvement for the sole sake of compiling data). “I ran this loop at x pace last week so I need to run it at x pace this week, or I did x miles last week and I want to do x miles +n - no matter what). Learning your own effort levels in the absence of a coach is a solid start to training and staying healthy.
As Olympic marathoner Lorraine Moller puts it in her wonderful article about self-coaching called Becoming a Body Whisperer, “All champion runners can tune in to their bodies' signals to such a high degree that they have the ability to optimally divvy out their effort over the distance required using precise split-second decisions. They don't have the time or mind-space during a race to check their monitor data, make a cell phone call to their coach and wait for him to call back with instructions on whether to increase or decrease their pace after downloading it into a computer. Nor would they want such a clumsy system when their inner technology is so much more sophisticated, speedy and accurate. Although such a scenario is laughable, many runners proceed as if this were the case and fall apart when the race requires them to be self-reliant. By contrast, every champion athlete, almost without exception, is an expert body whisperer whose trust in their internal abilities of gauging effort, pacing and timing is unwavering”.
Spend some time training alone and by feel
Training without a watch, or any technology will help you tune into your effort, and help you learn to trust your instincts about pace. Train on your own, without a watch, without HR monitors, music or any gizmos. Choose a route you know will take you roughly the amount of time you need for one of your aerobic easy training days. It doesn’t have to be exactly the 20 or 30 minutes, but close, within 5 minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable training without a watch, because you are new to the sport and do not know your routes, you can wait and do this session when you have some data for the routes that you do often - like in your neighbourhood or around a park. Another option is to do smaller loops - time yourself for one loop. Now you know how long it takes, roughly, to do this loop. Now go do the loop again as many times as you think you need in order to hit the prescribed training time. Or simply go out and back. Wear a watch on the way out, then take off the watch and train by feel and effort for the way home.
Aerobic development is important, but not to the point where you injure yourself
To walk or run long distances, the development of the cardiovascular system through aerobic endurance sessions is necessary, but also unique to individuals. Some athletes can work their way up systematically and gradually and logically into high mileage, some people will always break down after a critical point of volume.
Learn to avoid volume for the sake of volume, (which I believe is governed by the law of diminishing returns for anyone not training as a full time athlete, or over the age of 45). Avoid overtraining through too high volume by listening to your body and having a flexible mindset with your training log. Aches and pains that persist 24/7, fatigue, constant injuries to your knees, ankles and hips, and a general feeling (called intuition or gut feeling) that you are not making gains by training so much, means you need to limit your volume, or at least find a way to satisfy your aerobic needs by cross training. Long trail running hikes (where your pace is really easy, and interspersed with walking), hiking hills in the off season and pre-season in order to build aerobic capacity and lower limb strength and resiliency (Mt Doug, Mt Finlayson, Caleb Pike etc), and cycling will all give you the aerobic benefit you need, plus the strength required for fitness walking and running.
Don’t be a sheep
One of the greatest challenges to group training environments, is what I call the ‘fastest common denominator effect”, where the pace of the group is dictated by the fastest participants. Been there, done that, a thousand times. I have warmed up too fast, done long runs way too fast, cooled down too fast and gone out too hard over and over and over again. As a coach, I either encourage everybody to warm up at the slowest pace possible to keep the group together or in the case of particularly persistent ‘fasties’ I let the ‘fasties’ get ahead and learn for themselves that leaving their best training in the warm up isn’t the optimal way to get stronger. I’m known for saying at the beginning of warm up: “No one goes ahead of Coach Lucy”
Good training habits have wonderful application to real life. Really listening to yourself is a huge confidence building skill. Knowing how to tune into your body, and just appreciate its movement and strength, and let the distracting thoughts go is a positive mindset in a world full of comparison and distractions. Learning when to back off without judgement from a too fast pace, a too energetic training partner or a too long long run, is one of the best skills and gifts you can absorb. For one, it is refreshingly free of ego, to be mindful and to train at a pace that is right for you, instead of clinging to the idea that you have to ‘keep up’ to count. It reduces anxiety (will I be able to keep up; will I be able to complete this?) and it frees you up for listening to your own body and perceived effort.
And finally, here are my Top 3 suggestions to being your own best coach
1. Commit to getting good sleep; many studies have shown than consistent sleep and bed time routines enhance healthy bodies and ability to train. Training when energy is high is optimal. At least for key sessions.
2. Pay attention to eating well. Fuel with a good uncomplicated diet of nutritious food. Plan fuel (calories) for late day sessions so you don't show up hungry.
3. Make patience your mantra: hard work, commitment and practice are still the best guarantees to success.
Run For Joy!
A run down on shoes, clothing & how to not blind your running partners with your headlamp
Your top priority is to find a training shoe that fits well and that suits your foot, gait and biomechanics. While there are shoes in every colour of the rainbow and for every purpose - racing, tempo, long runs, recovery, cushioning, barefoot feel - the consumer must sift through the hype and trends and maintain a focus on getting the right shoe for them.
A sport specific retailer is your best bet for getting the right pair of walking or running shoes for you. Fitness walkers often buy running shoes as walking shoes can be too heavy and inflexible. All makes of shoes fit a little different so trying on various models to find the best one for your feet is important. You will be more likely to avoid injury with the right pair of shoes, so try on a few, and one you have your model that works resist the urge to try different brands or new fads: stick with what works. The higher end running shoes have superior cushioning, flexibility, responsiveness and workmanship, things you should consider when making your choice. Ask around in your community for referrals and make sure to get fit at a proper sport specific store. Educated employees will be able to check your gait and make sure you are in the right support and cushioning.
How long to wear a pair of shoes
This is a hard one to answer definitively because running shoes are so different from each other and each person is individual in weight, style, where they train, and just how hard they are on their shoes. Wearing worn out shoes almost always leads to pain and discomfort in the shins, knees or feet and can lead to other overuse injuries. Because of the durability of the rubber outsoles these days, don’t check for wear on the bottom of the shoe, but for the ‘dead’ feel in the midsole, the blown rubber part that provides cushioning. It becomes unresponsive after a time and also can pack out unevenly. Generally, shoes last about 500-800km. You can do a rough calculation from the time you get your new shoes and mark your calendar for about when that 450-500km mark might be. At that point you can start being aware of a tired shoe and also start looking for another pair, if you liked that one.
Minimal, maximal and old school
Barefoot, minimal, maximal or traditional - everybody has an opinion and debate is ongoing on whether barefoot running is actually superior to the shod foot surrounded by support and cushioning. One thing is clear: shoe technology is more advanced right now than it has ever been. I have been training in running shoes for over 30 years, and the shoes on the market today are superior in every way to that first pair of runners I owned.
There are four basic types of running shoes out there: neutral, supportive, cushioned and lightweight. (As of the writing of this article a 5th category has emerged - the carbon fibre plate energy assisted shoe - but due to controversy around the fairness surrounding this, I will leave this out for now. They are also ridiculously expensive.) Generally, cushioned shoes have more midsole material and are used for longer endurance days as they provide more cushioning against the forces of landing, and lessen the impact of running on the body. A lightweight shoe is used for faster running: intervals, tempo and racing, where carrying less mass can increase speed. Neutral shoes work well for athletes with good biomechanics and efficient strides, and a supportive or corrective shoe works well for athletes with biomechanical deficiencies. The correction provided by the shoe can minimize stresses to the knee, hips and back. Cushioned and lightweight shoes can be neutral or corrective. Within each category, there are also road and trail shoes. Technical trail shoes have been a great addition to the running shoe market. With a more studded outsole for good grip over rocks and roots, water shedding uppers to keep the foot dry and the ability to keep out pine needles and small rocks, a good trail shoe makes the forest environment a very enjoyable experience.
While the minimal trainer trend has reached its zenith, any shoe with less than a 10mm drop, is super flexible and neutral counts as minimal. The main thing that separates the new minimal shoes from the traditional shoe is the rear foot to forefoot drop (measured in mm). The difference in height between heel and toe in traditional shoes is significant, at about 15-23 mm. In a barefoot or minimal shoe, the attempt is to mimic the barefoot, so there is either a zero drop in heel to toe height, or less than 10mm. Minimalist shoes look flat, and they are. A minimal shoe will often work (but not always) for a naturally efficient runner or an elite athlete that has strong feet, a midfoot plant, and been training for years, but most efficient runners can run well in anything. For a new runner, doing too much too soon, in a minimal shoe will most often result in soreness in the calves and Achilles as the drop puts too much tension on this part of the lower leg after years wearing shoes with a greater toe to heel rise. A less efficient runner can learn to run well in a minimalist shoe, but needs to be very patient in progressing to this form of running. I do believe that we can all improve foot strength by running drills, walking and doing our strength in bare feet, but it takes time to get used to this.
At the other end of the spectrum are the maximalist shoes, which provide ultra cushioning across the whole foot platform, but still possess the flexibility to assist a natural foot movement. Designed to provide cushioning for athletes running long distances, they have become a favourite for people who are returning from injury and for reducing impact fatigue of long distance urban walking and running, especially on pavement and concrete.
Whether you go for a minimalist, maximalist or traditional running shoe, make sure you shop around and try them on. This is one product you don’t want to buy just because there’s a sale, it’s cheap online, or is a cool colour. There is a reason that your local running specialty store hasn’t been usurped by Amazon yet. The personalized service and ability to try shoes in the store and at home is crucial.
What to look for in a shoe, (and it’s not your favourite colour.)
Forefoot width and heel cup:
It is a positive trend that shoe companies are now building shoes with wider toe boxes that alleviate pressure on the toe joints and metatarsals. For someone with a narrow foot, however, a too roomy toe box provides excessive movement that either causes chafing or injury. Trying on different brands and models, even in the same width, will give you an idea of the most comfortable fit.
The heel cup is one other area where you won’t know until you try a shoe. Depending on your ankles, and heel sensitivity, different shoes will feel different. The last thing you want is for your shoe to be digging into your ankle bone when you train.
Racing flats: comfort versus speed:
While some athletes can get away with a really lightweight shoe for racing, others prefer the comfort of more cushioning. In long distances, being comfortable and managing sore legs and calves is more important than pure energy return, so a trade off to a more cushioned shoe can be the better choice. Testing out racing flats in training will give you a good idea of how you adapt to a racing flat. Keep in mind that trainers are generally incredibly lightweight now because of the advancements in midsole technology so weight is not a huge issue anymore. I often race in my lightweight trainers.
If you have sensitive feet or race in bare feet, finding a shoe with a smooth lining is crucial and a few companies make this a priority now, as even with socks on, runners often end up with chafes and blisters wherever there might be a seam in the shoe.
A few companies have tried to improve on lacing systems, by going asymmetrical or other devices but in my opinion, nobody has been able to improve on the traditional system. Whether you go with elastic or standard laces, pay attention to tension on the laces and find the right level of tightness for your foot and stick with it!
Water and Soggy Feet:
On the west coast, winter training tends to be wet, so make sure your shoe works well when having a shower. A soaking squishy foot can cause blisters and a slowdown in pace. Some companies, make a trail shoe with drainage systems.
For years we all trained in cotton sweats and cotton t-shirts. We were just as fast as we are now, but we are a whole lot more comfortable in our moisture wicking polyester fiber running clothes these days. Your running apparel is the one area where you can branch out and have fun with colors and styles. There is a whole fashion show of excellent running clothing out on the market now, including running skirts and comfortable running bras for women.
While you will have to develop your own fashion sense and unique style for your training outfit, I will offer a few tips for comfort and function:
Love a pair of shoes? Love your local running shop? Found a great deal on the perfect run jacket (sorry, the perfect run jacket still doesn’t exist but I’ll let you know when it does), then share your information with your friends! That’s what the warm up and cool down are for!
Welcome to Week 2 of the RunSport 14 week Training Program. This week we are still focusing on practicing the good habits that will carry us through the whole program: paying attention to what we are doing, learning about posture and form in order to have a strong foundation to start from, and showing up with a positive mind set.
Before some pointers on walking and running form, I am going to reinforce the ‘show up’ mindset again as an introduction to the next week of training:
Preview your weekly training schedule, and look through it with anticipation. This helps you plan logistics for key sessions and to start the mental preparation that is needed to perform sessions for the week.
Visualize yourself performing well on training days, see yourself having a successful session and being happy and satisfied during those workouts. The stronger the visualization becomes, the more likely it will be reality.
Timing A morning session indicates you have to be ready to get going early in the day, and an afternoon session means you have to plan meals and nutrition, and also take into account personal fatigue that might happen later in the day for you.
Logistics Decide when and where the session will take place and be prudent with your energy in the hours leading up to the session. Make sure you plan nutrition for the session. Eat a light meal 2-3 hours before the session and be hydrated. Nothing derails a session like the completely avoidable event of being lightheaded and hungry, or having stomach cramps from eating too close to the session.
Rough Patches Having a bad day? You are not the first person to have a bad day, or an off training session. It happens to us all, and makes us human. An off day is an off day, nothing more and nothing less. What you make of the day – your judgements about it, your self-talk around it, and your behaviour and attitude – is up to you. Life goes up and down. Put the effort in to the best of your ability, don’t expect miracles when your energy is low, and while there is no magic pill, the magic comes from the hard work you put into consistently.
Training like You Mean IT
Get excited! This means that you come to the session ready, ready to give best effort and having made the decision to have a good day. You are not coming to ‘wait and see what happens’. As a coach, I call this ‘training like you mean it’. It means arriving early, prepared, with positive energy, and standing tall. Not having a great day? Go to Plan B: Rough Patches. (see above).
Posture and Form
Even after 40 years of running, I spend time in every training session paying attention to my form. I do quick scans for tension - working on being relaxed through my neck and shoulders and arms, tall in my trunk and quick and smooth in the way my legs are moving, and thinking about my feet tapping lightly on the ground as I run. In essence, I pay attention to, and give myself feedback for whether I am being my most efficient self, doing the best work I can do in that moment, and because it’s always evolving, training never becomes stale for me.
Walking and Running both share posture awareness as the core to improving and maintaining efficiency, but they are different movements, so below are two different sets of bullet points - things to keep in mind as you train. While these may seem like a lot of things to think about, you don’t have to nail everything all at once. Sometimes, just reading information about thinking about your own stride is enough to create a mind body awareness. You can also just pay attention to one part of your body at a time, and then relax. The other tip is to check in every 10-15 minutes, not constantly being vigilant.
Walking Posture and Form
Good posture will make it easier to go the distance, with less fatigue. Here are some posture pointers for stronger striding during your next walk.
Stand up tall. Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain erect, but not tense posture.
Keep your eyes on the horizon or towards the distance. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles below and avoid looking down. This will help you to stand taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Using muscles in the front of your trunk to straighten up will take pressure off your back.
Bend your arms. Have a relaxed and natural feeling bend to your arms. You’ll be able to swing your arms faster, which helps increase your speed. It also prevents swelling caused from blood pooling in your hands as you walk longer distances.
Relax your shoulders. Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
Maintain a neutral pelvis. Don’t tuck your tailbone under or over arch your lower back.
Keep your front leg straight but not locked. As your leg swings through to the front keep it soft, you’ll have a smoother stride and be able to propel yourself forward more easily.
Aim your knees and toes forward, within your own biomechanics, however proper alignment will reduce your chances of injury.
Land on your heel. This facilitates the smooth heel-to-toe walking motion that will carry farther and faster than if your foot slaps down on the ground with each step.
Run Form and Posture
Stand up tall. Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain erect, but not tense posture.
Keep your eyes towards the where you want to go. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles below and avoid looking down. This will help you to run taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Using muscles in the front of your trunk to straighten up will take pressure off your back.
Bend your arms. Have a relaxed and natural feeling bend of about 90 degrees to your arms. Try to avoid too much cross body swinging. Hands should have no tension (you could hold a feather without crushing it)
Relax your shoulders. Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
Look to where you want to go, use strong arms to propel the legs and feel a strong push off from the back toe-off as your foot leaves the ground.
Lean a little - think of your body as being perfectly balanced along a slightly forward leaning central axis.
A midfoot strike creates less ground time, reducing forces of impact on the body, which helps prevent injuries and increases overall speed. A midfoot strike is quiet and quick. Think ‘quiet and quick feet’ as you run. Your base runs, while slower, should also be reinforcing this midfoot technique and good posture gained from drills and shill strides.
A Final Note on Paying Attention
Good movement requires attention. Not obsessive thinking, but mindfulness of what is happening. In the early days of this program resist training to music, and pay attention to your breathing, a relaxed body and a tall, graceful posture while walking and running. Remind yourself often to check to relaxed face and shoulders, a strong but relaxed arm swing and a feeling that you are moving smoothly in a straight line going forward.
Run for Joy!
Are you training for the TC 10K?
It all starts now and you have 14 weeks to build positive habits and create success! Success is not a random occurrence. Success is something you create for yourself through careful self-awareness, planning preparation and execution. While we can emulate the success of others, feel motivated by it, and learn from it, each one of us has to create our own platforms to jump from. Personal success is that place where attitude and passion intersect.
Success in a sport goal requires some effort and specific training. While a lot of people think of training as a series of workouts for fitness, it is helpful to have the mindset that training in itself is a practice, and one that requires certain habits. You have the right, and the power to develop habits that are positive and that work for you, right from the get go. As you gain experience, you will learn what works and what doesn’t and you will be able to fine tune your training program so that you own it. If this all seems like a lot of work, it is. But it's good work, and will come with satisfaction.
In this blog we will discuss a positive and logical approach to training and how to create rituals that work for you and take you towards your goal in a productive and joyful manner. The TC10k is a goal race and a future event that keeps you motivated towards working hard, your short term weekly goals keep you working in a timely manner towards that big goal, and finally, your training sessions are really the bricks and mortar, the path your journey takes. It makes sense to create a strong, solid foundation: this is your life and health we are dealing with!
· If you have a training plan, look at it! Not just what’s coming up today, but what is planned for the week. It makes sense to look ahead at your schedules, both to plan out your week and to start wrapping your mind around the sessions that are coming up.
· Plan out when and where you are going to complete this session. Don’t leave it up to chance. Know exactly when your session is scheduled and make sure that time is sacred. Know where you are going to be doing the session so you aren’t making that decision right before the session. Be adaptable too; if something changes, move onto Plan B and become a problem solver. Find another time calmly.
· Choose environments that suit the session to ensure success. A long section of beautiful trail is a far better choice for a long run, than through the city. But if you have to train at night, a well lit city street might be your best bet.
· The people you train with are also your environment. Choose training partners that lift your spirits and motivate you, people that are fun to train with and who bring out the best in you.
· Have your gear ready to go and in good shape. Keep your running apparel and gear all in one easy to find place.
· Prepare for how long the session will take. This allows you to plan time for training into your day, including warm up and cool down, around the other tasks you have in your life.
Executing the Session
Training can mean heading out of the door for a required amount of time (or until you fatigue or get bored) or training can be a practice. Breaking a session into parts: the warm up, the main set and the cool down, will allow your body to be more prepared to exercise, and you will be able to maximize what you are able to do on that session. Paying attention to workouts and executing them correctly has tremendous pay back: you become a stronger athlete, you learn to stretch your own comfort levels and you are less likely to get injured.
Before completing a session it is important to warm up your body well. Warming up is an important step in preparing your body to perform. You need your muscles to be warm and loose and your mind to be focused on giving an effort. A well warmed body is ready for the physiological stress of the workout, and a strong mental focus provides the concentration necessary to perform well. A good warm-up therefore is the positive prelude to the great show to come.
A warm-up is nothing more than a period of light, specific physical activity that prepares the body for the activity. It should last roughly 5 to 15 minutes. Give yourself time to warm up and cool down, as rushing through warm ups may leave you feeling stressed and not ready, and failure to warm up or cool down well over the long term can leave you at risk of injury. Mentally, use your warm up to get excited, but not so nervous or anxious that tension builds in the body. If you feel too nervous, take some deep breaths, relax, and remind yourself of why you are there (I’m sure it’s not because you want to be anxious).
· Stay warm during warm up. If it’s cool outside, leave outer layers on to the extent that you actually feel warm while warming up.
· Jog, walk, or do light activity really easy for warm up, focussing on breathing, being relaxed and having a great posture
· After a warm up jog, you can try some run drills. They will further prepare your muscles for any fast running or walking that is to come.
· Some gentle stretches can follow: glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads.
· For longer easy days your warm up can be built right into your practice - just head out the door at a walk, or an easy pace until your feel your natural gait and stride falling into place.
· Cooling down is basically the reverse of the warm up, a 15 minute very easy pace to allow the muscles to relax and flush some of the waste product accumulated during a session of faster effort. For long steady effort, you can make the last 10 minutes of your session at a slower pace and very relaxed.
Mindfulness, Self-Talk and Visualization
When you are training, pay attention to what you are doing. This is a habit that will make you a stronger athlete and has the added benefit of making you more calm. When you train, practice to pay attention to what your body is doing, how you are breathing, the rhythm of your feet, the swing of your arms and how well you are moving. This focus will help buffer you from the world of multitasking we are all a part of now and creates a calming effect that refreshes. Be aware of your thoughts and notice them, and try to go of the ones that aren’t necessary. You don’t have worry about dinner, or the work presentation right now.
Be mindful of what you are doing in the moment.
A huge part of doing well in anything revolves around planning for success and seeing yourself being successful at that endeavour. Plan for success constantly, by taking care of details that affect execution and by using strong visualization to ‘see’ yourself working at your best and being great.
In every session you should be mindful and alert to what is happening in your brain and in your emotional state. Being tuned into feelings that are either calm or confident, or their opposite, stress and anxiety will have great benefit to your overall program. Each time you train you are giving yourself a chance to accomplish something and to be great...and you are ingraining key habits and mindsets that you want to replicate during the more intense race environment. You can choose to have an inner 'mean' coach, or an inner 'helpful' coach. Delete the mean coach: he or she is not helpful and doesn't care about your success. If you are having trouble with this, think about how you would talk to a child you love. So now talk to yourself the same way.
Practice being relaxed for sessions, even when you are tired or not having an ‘on’ day. Develop ways that you can stay relaxed so as to perform as best as you can. This can be rehearsed body awareness cues such as ‘relaxed shoulders and back’ or ways to calm your mind and re focus on the task at hand. Becoming aware of negative self-talk and training yourself to delete self-defeating inner voices is one of the best things you can do early in a training program. As the training increases, and the peak race looms, trying to change bad habits becomes harder. Sometimes it helps to write down a new mental routine for yourself and affirm this behaviour until the new behaviours becomes automatic.
Distractions: one of the most common things that causes people to underperform is to let oneself get distracted by irrelevant thoughts about events. Distractions are usually somewhat chaotic conditions that arise unexpectedly and interfere with our perception of how things should be. When you are in the flow, distractions slide off your calm and confident exterior. When unpredictable events happen the best way to deal with distractions is to re-focus on the internal process of what you are doing and decide to get on with whatever really counts.
Training is a path in itself, not just a step towards racing. Training lets us take control of our lives, to do quality work on a daily basis, to create health and strength in our bodies and to build positive habits and routines that make us happy. Training also gets us prepared to execute our larger dream goals and gives us great life skills including resilience. Optimal training requires dedication, planning and a commitment to being our best as much as possible.
I hope the best for your next 14 weeks as you gear up to the 31st annual TC10K on April 26th! Whether you are involved in one of the RunSport Clinics, or preparing with a group of friends, or training on your own, you can check back here for weekly inspiration and tips that I hope can help you in your training!
Run For Joy!
(Victoria, BC –January 3, 2020) The Official TC10K Training Clinics will start the weekend of January 18/19, 2020 at recreation centres all over Victoria and the Capital Regional District. The 14-week training program is offered at 13 recreation centres with the objective of running or walking the 31st Annual TC10K on Sunday, April 26.
The recreation centre clinics offer a variety of locations, days and times to accommodate any schedule. Each clinic has four pace groups – one for walking, and three running levels – for beginners, intermediate and advanced. Race Ambassador and six-time winner of the TC10K, Lucy Smith has designed the clinic training program that will allow walkers and runners to train and get to the finish line successfully. Each week participants will progress in skill and fitness under the guidance of experienced clinic leaders and with added motivation from Smith.
“The TC10K is one of the most beautiful races in the world to walk or run,” says Smith, who now has a successful coaching career. “By using this race as a goal, our supported clinics will teach you to train intelligently and safely and give you many positive skills to use well past race day.”
Participants in the clinics each pay $145 + GST and receive a comprehensive 14-week training program, technical training shirt, and TC10K registration (including the event shirt).
Participating clinics are: Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, Crystal Pool & Fitness Centre, Cook Street Village Activity Centre, Henderson Recreation Centre, Naden Athletic Centre, Oaklands Community Centre, Pearkes Recreation Centre, Saanich Commonwealth Place, SEAPARC, Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, University of Victoria, West Shore Parks and Recreation, and Windsor Recreation Centre. Interested individuals who wish to join a clinic can still register directly with their local recreation centre. For clinic dates and times go to: https://runsport.ca/clinics/
Over 9,000 participate in the TC10K, which also includes the Thrifty Foods 1.5K Family Run. Early bird registration fees are now in effect until February 15. To register go to www.tc10k.ca.
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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