I always look at a course before racing it. Previewing a course takes the mystery out of racing and gives you concrete landmarks to focus on during the race. Knowing where the hills are, the corners and the straight stretches, including areas likely to be windy or calm is an integral part of setting up a pacing and racing strategy and getting ready for race day. Over the last two kilometres of the race, as the legs start to tire, knowing how long you have to go is a good way to push through the final moments of discomfort.
Here is my take on the course, with tips for both beginners looking for pacing and completion cues, and more seasoned athletes looking for personal best times.
Pacing: very fit runners will be able to absorb the fast start as their legs will be fresh, and be able to take momentum in the small rollers around Yates and Vancouver, 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 through town, and leaving too much energy on the early stages. The training you have done should give you some idea of your pace, and if in doubt, start on the easy side and build your way through the race.
Start: It’s easy to get excited here with the beautiful inner harbour adding inspiration to the morning. There will be plenty of spectators on the causeway in front of the Empress and along Government. The first kilometer is open and flat along Government to Yates so a good place for competitive runners to get out to a fast start and for the rest of the pack of runners and walkers to find space and a comfortable pace.
1-3K Mark: A right turn onto Yates at 1 km brings the first uphill stretch of the race and the start of the rolling section which lasts for 2 km. Yates is not a huge incline, and it rises and flattens at Douglas, and again at Blanshard. Runners should be thinking ‘light’ and ‘quick and relaxed’ on the hill, working on getting up the rise effortlessly by using the arms well and breathing deeply. Focus on getting to the end of each block well. Novice racers will want to make sure they are running and walking their own race and not ‘sprinting’ to keep up with others in all the excitement. The end of the first uphill section comes just before 2 km at Quadra, and then there is a fast section down around the corner onto Vancouver. Use gravity and try to carry momentum past View Street and up the hill across Fort and to Burdett, where you get to feel the pull of gravity again as you turn left onto flatter Richardson and get to find your rhythm all the way to Moss Street in the heart of Fairfield.
3-4K Mark: Moss Street is a long straight stretch where runners can really start to find a rhythm and enjoy the race in this beautiful neighbourhood. A sharp left at May Street gives a short 20m uphill surge before a 1 km gradual downhill to Memorial and the Ross Bay Cemetery. For athletes hanging on for personal bests, maintaining contact up this little surge will be important. At this point, just before 5 km, the course bounces you onto beautiful Dallas Rd and at this point, you feel you are racing for home. However…
5-7K Mark: This is where the race typically starts to feel hard and participants should expect discomfort to rise and have prepared some strong positive thoughts here. What’s there not to love about the second 5 km of the TC 10K? The only major hill of the race appears right after the 5 km mark, as runners climb past Clover Point (just keep focussing on the top of the hill, pretending there is a magnet with your name on it, pulling yourself up mentally) to wind their way past the bottom of Cook Street and Beacon Hill Park. This section can be windy and knowing that you might be up against a headwind is always good to anticipate. Work on relaxing and being calm into the wind, and know that everybody has the same wind to deal with.
7K Mark: There will be a lot of cheering around the beautiful Beacon Hill Park and when you get to Mile ‘0’ and the Terry Fox Memorial, you start the wonderful fast downhill to Ogden Point. There is about 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 10 or 15 or 20 minutes left to run is positive information! You should feel gravity working for you in the section (“Fly! Glide!”) As you start your push for the finish, and just past the Duck Pond you will be able to see the tall red and white striped towers of the Coast Guard station less than one kilometre away, which stand at about the 8 km mark of the course.
8K Mark: When you get to Ogden Pt and start the journey through James Bay to the inner Harbour, 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: Just before 9 km you can see the massive glass topped condo of Shoal Point. Starting here, at Erie, there are seven (7!) corners to run through before the finish! I try to run through these corners like an elastic band, slingshotting past each one. As you get closer, the roof of the Empress comes into view, then the IMAX sign on the Royal BC Museum. As you round the last bend onto the finishing stretch on Belleville, the old Wax Museum building (now the Robert Bateman Centre) is the last main landmark to focus on, and about halfway between you and the finish, before you round the slight curve and see the finish line banners. With people lining the street, finding energy to finish strong is not a problem! 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!
RunforJoy Founder Lucy Smith is a 6 time Winner of the Times Colonist 10K and 19 time Canadian Champion in running and multisport. She has run various incarnations of the course over the last 20 years and looks forward to testing it out as a 52 year old this year!
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 you are 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
If you have been training for the 30th Annual TC 10K over the past few months you have likely learned one of the greatest lessons in sport:
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 training schedule, is that habit and action create far more meaningful results, than does reading about motivation or inspiration.
Right now, with 3 weeks remaining until race day, 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.
I encourage you to approach the last weeks mindfully - that is, do your training, as you have been doing it, with good habits and practices (nutrition etc) - and TRUST that you will be as ready as you can be for Race Day (if you have been (mainly) consistent with training until now).
Your fitness may be to the point where you can work well in discomfort by now, during your faster intervals, but resist the urge to go beyond that in the hope that you can boost your fitness even more right now.
Resist the urge to test yourself too much because you are curious. Save that curiosity and challenge for race day, or you risk leaving your race in a training session. The training over the next 3 weeks is to prepare you for your best effort, not BE the best effort.
With weeks of training under your belt, your body is fitter and stronger, but also is carrying fatigue and you have to be particularly careful not to overdo it right now – which is easily to do with your excitement and enthusiasm! Injury prevention is still our goal.
Maintain patience for the process, and trust that you don’t need to do anything extra or find extra magic out there. The magic is in the process and the mental preparation for things to go well.
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 ends 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!
We see people walking, running, jogging and walking with poles. Why the poles? I have always felt, as a coach, that there is more than one way to feel healthy, get fit, and enjoy being active. The best way to do this is the way that works for you! In order to understand a bit more about pole walking, I have invited our resident expert, Linda Shaumleffel, to weigh in on what is Nordic Pole Walking (NPW). She has generously donated this blog post so we can all learn a little more about all the folks that show up at the TC10K. Read on.....
Poles have been used for many years, for climbing Mt Everest, for rehab, during ultra long cross-country foot races, for balance and stability, and hiking in our local forests. What makes NORDIC STYLE pole walking different? Like running, NPW is used for FITNESS and racing. NPW is derived from cross-country skiing and the poles are used to gently propel the pole walker forward.
TWO BIG BENEFITS!
There are TWO BIG BENEFITS: 1) using poles turns the athlete into a 4-wheel drive machine using 90% of the body’s muscles all in one fluid motion, and 2) the downward pressure on the poles creates an upward lift on the lower body so that pressure is relieved from sore feet, knees and hips. Runners who have developed sore knees over the years LOVE NPW because they can still train hard and compete…and get even fitter than before!
Another feature of NPW: Beside improving posture, the oblique muscles and abdominal floor get exceptionally strong as they counteract the rotational forces created through shoulders stabilization while pushing the poles back.
It doesn’t seem fair! NPW feels relatively effortless, BUT IT BURNS TWICE THE CALORIES of walking and jogging. AND the 10% of muscles that get to de-stress in NPW? The neck and shoulders! Sign me up! Desk workers are now just starting to discover the beauty of NPW. Anything to relieve stressed neck and shoulders.
SURPRISINGLY HUGE WORKLOAD!
To watch well trained Nordic pole walkers is a picture of flow and elegance. NPWers use straighter arms, and push the poles behind their body, while maintaining great posture. It looks effortless, and relative to many sports, it is. But when we calculate the WORKLOAD (repetitions x weight over time) the workload is surprisingly large and explains why published science reports so many health benefits occurring relatively quickly with NPW. For example, if I pole walked 1000 steps in 10 minutes and pushed on the pole strap with only 3 pounds of pressure, the workload on each side of the body would be 1500 pounds, the weight of a cow. The scientific prescription for health with NPW starts at 30 minutes of pole walking three times a week. In 30 minutes, the workload with the same three pounds pressure would add up to 4500 pounds, the weight of a car, on each side of the body. You would get fit if you lifted a car three times a week! How is it possible? One push of the pole at a time.
Like learning to play the piano, there is a skill to be learned in NPW and muscles to be strengthened to do NPW “effectively”. It takes patience and focused training to learn any new skill, including the skill of NPW, but once learned you’ve got it for life: the strength and fitness benefits just keep piling up.
HISTORY OF NORDIC POLE WALKING
NPW was created to be summer training for Finish cross-country skiers in 1930’s. It came into the mainstream in the mid 1990’s when citizens in Europe wondered why only athletes got to do this great exercise. Now, NPW is the fastest growing adult exercise/sport in Europe. In Europe they NPW race every weekend to boot. The Medical Service Plans of Germany and France endorse NPW by refunding every adult annually the cost of NPW lessons, because they know how effective NPW is at improving health. They have read the published research.
Poles are not all the same! Different poles for different jobs. NPW poles have a comfy “glove strap” and a “barely there” handle. See videos at www.nordicpolewalkingvictoria.ca
NORDIC POLE WALKING MESHES WITH TC10K TRAINING CLINICS
I am pioneering a NPW PROGRAM at the Shawnigan Lake TC10K Clinic. On Clinic Day we focus on NPW technique and strength drills. On Day 2 of training participants focus on two specific drills and technique variations as they flow from flat to up and down hills. On Day 3 of training participants start building endurance by increasing time spent pole walking. Compared to pole walking, plain walking feels hard. The Shawnigan Lake participants LOVE NPW.
I’m a retired Olympic rower who competed in the “four boat”. I have envisioned and tested competing in NPW in teams of four people called QUADS, where 4 pole walkers strategize together, snaking their way through the course, to get their entire team across the finish line the fastest. It is an amazing team experience! We’ve done it. It’s FUN! And those pole walkers can go fast. The fastest single pole walker recorded at the TC 10km is 71 minutes. The quad teams have the potential to go even faster!
HISTORY OF NPW IN TC1OKM EVENT
Speaking of the TC10km, Nordic Pole Walking has been an official category since 2015. There are two divisions: recreational group who are happy to start in the last gate, and the competitive group including quads who start at the 1:20 -1:29 gate. The massive imagined liability issue of poles flailing about did not materialize; the pole walkers have some of the best “road etiquette” in events.
NORDIC POLE WALKING CHANGING PEOPLE’S HEALTH
It is my business to teach people the classic form of NPW. Since 2012 I have introduced over 2500 participants. For the most part, everyone can do it; most people love the feel of it in their bodies even after the first experience. I have heard some amazing health turn-arounds because of a regular practice of NPW!. Doctors, physios, chiros, and surgeons exclaim, “I don’t know what you are doing, but keep it up.” NPW is easy to keep up! It feels good, is EFFECTIVE, affordable, convenient, and has fun elements. It is also a great cross-training for cyclists and runners. When you get the opportunity to try Nordic Pole Walking, give it a shot to see how your body feels about it.
NORDIC POLE WALKING…HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KNOW?
Try it. See if you like it!
B.Ed (UBC 1972)
Retired Olympian (1976 rowing)
Nordixx Canada Master Pole Walk Instructor
-speaking, instruction, & poles-
"Health is a habit; make fitness yours."
During my life, 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 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, and experiencing my environment while taking a break from pulling out my wallet and consuming is truly peaceful for me.
More recently, I have found out that Airbnb hosts can be great resources for running trails, and have found places to run both in Tofino and Mahone Bay NS, that I hadn’t travelled 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. Vacations can be a challenge to training if you are travelling around a lot, visiting friends or relatives, or staying in a snowy or really hot climate. They can also be challenging if you are compulsive about exercise (let’s just be honest!) and getting your training in is your physical and emotional regulator, so it’s worth thinking about and planning ahead.
Here are a few tips about how to train while on vacation, with some advice about time management, but also some suggestions on how you can train your brain to relax as well, and set your expectations before you leave town, so it works for you.
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 + recovery week 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.
Gather support by Communicating
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, and sitting in the sun or playing mini golf with the whole family. Not to mention happy hour hijacking the best of intentions. Before the sun comes up is a perfect time while in hot areas, and in the gym on a treadmill before you hit 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, or the aforementioned happy hour.
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 hadn’t thought of. “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 Aunt Iris 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 food snacks: 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!
Run for Joy (wherever you find yourself!)
As a coach, I love to support and learn from observing how other people have their own experience in sport, while giving them the foundational skills to find that experience and the opportunity to touch on their potential. It’s the same kind of philosophy I have in parenting.
For instance, when my children wanted to climb trees, I sometimes helped them find trees that were within their ability and size (I would find trees that had lots of good branches and branches low enough for them to get up on their own.) I would ensure they had the right footwear to climb trees, then give them some skills – staying close to the trunk, making sure you can have 3 points touching at all times, test your footing – and then I would let them have their own experience climbing the tree. I tried very hard not to colour their experience with my own fears (of them falling), or how high they should go. Most children, when given the chance to take reasonable risks, have a good sense of their own limitations and the only way for them to learn is to learn free of judgement.
In running and most of sport, the moments of truth come when we ask ourselves to go faster, longer, acquire a new skill and move out of comfort. I can’t make anyone do any of these things. I can provide the knowledge around skills and can choose the environment that supports them, and then I stand and watch the magic happen.
If you are ready to take on the challenge of going a little faster this season, here is a primer on executing a great training session.
Get excited! This means that you come to the session 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, standing tall and being in an engaged frame of mind.
Warm up well
Do 10-15 minutes of light warm up running or walking. After the warm up do some dynamic stretching such as leg swings and arm circles, and stretch out body areas that feel tight. Before the intervals, do a set of run drills and strides. Drills and strides activate the muscle fibres fully for training and create mental preparedness. Strides are 10 seconds of fast dynamic running or walking, at the pace you will hit in the intervals but not your all out speed. You should be able to be relaxed and hold perfect form for the stride. Walk or jog for 30 seconds between stride efforts.
Attempt to pace the whole workout evenly; that means maintaining the same speed throughout the intervals and being mindful of energy to be able to complete the whole set. Your effort will need to increase and you should have to focus with concentration as the set goes on: this is to be expected. Begin each interval with a burst of dynamic running or walking, pumping arms and legs to get up to pace, but not sprinting. After a few seconds relax into pace and check that you are breathing well and staying relaxed in the upper body. Allow your mind to focus only on moving well. Be aware of your goal effort and tune into this pace. You can keep this as a sense of internal or perceived effort, and/or use a device that will show heart rate, speed and distance covered. Over time you will learn more about your own effort and pace.
Once you have gained expertise in pacing and effort, commit to the pace and discomfort of the interval, not relenting at the first sign of fatigue. This sense of discipline to ‘hold strong through discomfort’ is best honed in practice and creates emotional fortitude for the stress of race day. The more you practice this, the better you get.
Learn where the half way section of every interval is and focus on that second half, maintaining rhythm and attention to the body. As you fatigue, put emphasis on your biomechanics, keeping tall posture, being graceful, relaxed in shoulders, face and torso. Think intently about forward momentum and doing a good job.
Finish it off
Be strong right through the finish of every interval, resisting the urge to give up even a second early. This is another example of small ways you can be constantly mentally tweaking your game. Keep moving. Shake out the arms, exhale deeply, walk or jog lightly for 10-15 seconds to facilitate lactic acid dispersal. Walk and jog between intervals. Keeping the legs moving helps your blood move through the body for the recovery and prepares you for the next interval. Resist the urge to rush impatiently into the next interval.
Sports Psych 101
Mentally prepare for the next interval by letting go of the one you just did and only focussing on breathing, relaxing and the one coming up. Notice if you have thoughts or habits of negative self-talk (`That was not fast enough`), or a ‘fail to succeed’ (`I can’t hold this pace for the set`) mentality very common in athletes.
During my career as a high performance athlete I must have repeated “C’mon Lucy, be tough!” about a million times to myself. It never got old.
Focus on one goal at a time
As you approach the next interval, decide to do the next one well, at least as good as the one you just did, and even find a way to make it better. Find one goal for each interval.
Right before the start of the interval, shake out your legs and arms, take several deep breaths and focus your mind. Practice taking a quiet mind into each interval.
If you can achieve this, you will have fleeting moments of being in the ‘zone’, a space where direct judging thoughts cease and your concentration is like a light beam only on the act of moving.
At the end of a set of high effort work, jog and walk for another 5 minutes, take some water if needed, and then do a very gentle and easy jog for at least 10 minutes. Stretch now or make time to stretch later, as this may greatly reduce your chance of injury.
Using these guidelines, come up with your own smooth successful training routine. Soon your speedy sessions will translate into superior fitness, mental fortitude and great races.
Training with integrity: the opportunity to practice mindfulness, create better health for ourselves, be compassionate to others, and reach a little higher in our lives.
Run For Joy!
Lucy Smith, March 2019
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 postpartum, 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 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 is 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’ on what should be more of a recovery day and depending on the coach, form and technique can be an afterthought. 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 incidents. Always use common sense, be alert and take no chances with cars (impact with a car, no matter who is at fault, leaves the cyclist 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 feel good on the body.
Pool running also works as a strength drill, as resistance in the water helps build your 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. Pool running is highly recommended for injury prone 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. I feel so passionate about the benefits of strength training for age group runners (and especially masters), that I have started my own strength training educational path so that I can develop a simple program for runners and walkers.
For people currently in the RunSport clinics you have probably been introduced to the hard style version of the regular plank, a movement I introduced this year to help people connect to their core strength and how it relates to their strong posture. The plank is considered a bodyweight strength movement. It doesn’t require any equipment, needs a space only as long as your body, and like most body weight movements, the risks of injury are minimal.
The hardstyle plank, where you are tensing all the muscles in your body for 10-20 seconds as you hold the position, improves your balance, flexibility, mobility, and strength. Not only are you building strength for running, but the stability will improve your strength for all your daily activities (lifting a vacuum cleaner, taking groceries out of the car).
From the elbows down plank, you can progress to arms straight, one arm, one leg, and then opposite arm and leg up.
Strength training for runners has two purposes: it can focus on the specific needs of an athlete with biomechanical imbalances to help overcome or prevent injuries, which promotes more consistent training and hence, improvement. Strength training done as a compound, multi- joint movement, like deadlifts, single leg deadlifts or kettlebell swings (not your standard gym machine stuff, where you are just sitting down and isolating one muscle group) will promote a balanced and strong body for improved performance. Performed correctly, barbells and kettlebells used for lifts and pushes or ballistic training, requires you to brace the core strongly and this results in a strong posterior chain - your back, glutes and hamstrings, which is a huge benefit for runners.
While runners often gravitate towards squats, squats are a fairly complex movement that can put extra strain on a runner’s tired body, especially the knees. The deadlift teaches us how to hinge at the hips correctly, and increases strength for the action of running. Matt Pearce talks about the benefits of deadlifting for runners here in this Training Peaks article. Like the plank, deadlifting will also make you bulletproof for lifting boxes on moving day.
I encourage runners and walkers to find a strength and conditioning expert when starting a strength program. Someone who is knowledgeable of the Functional Movement Screen testing (FMS), which is the observation and testing of 7 basic movements in order to assess strengths and weakness, and who can help you find a simple but effective routine that works for you.
A good strength program can be fit into a 30 minute window 2-3 times a week, and the payoff with a strong posterior chain and great mobility will be noticable. Not to be confused with Olympic lifting, or weightlifting, proper strength training for runners will not cause you to gain weight, compromise your cardio training or be mistaken for Hulk Hogan. Your muscles will become stronger and denser, your mobility will improve, and your posture and stamina will create a strong platform for your endurance training.
There are a number of things you can do outside of your sport specific training - of running and walking - that will help decrease your chances of injury and increase your chance of improving. Starting a stretching program is one of these practices. 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 improves it, and can be done in a number of ways.
Like all things training - 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. Stretching is beneficial to athletes, both as a pre training warm up, and as a way to aid recovery.
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 muscle around the bone to which is attached (the joint) dictates our flexibility. So our flexibility refers basically to how much our muscles can stretch and the range of motion that each joint has.
Flexibility varies immensely from one individual to the next, and some of it is just the body we were born with. 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 and when they have done intense training. 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, and will affect the range of motion in a joint, 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 may 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 to more soreness and injury.
Some people prefer to stretch before and after workouts, or some: 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: dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretching, or stretches that are actively engaging training movements, are usually done before training. Arm swings and leg swings are examples of dynamic stretches. Walking lunges are also dynamic stretches for the hip flexors.
Static stretches are those that are held for several seconds in order to help muscles return to their normal state, and are usually done after training. You can do these stretches right after a training session, but also at the end of the day. When my children were little, I would stretch while playing Lego or other games on the floor. University athletes can often be found stretching on the floor with an open textbook in front of them.
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.
For some great photos of post training stretches for these muscle groups, this Runner’s World article nails it.
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. Stretching these muscles before and after running can go a long way to keeping your legs stable.
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 shoulder stretches can help you stay relaxed, which helps posture and breathing.
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.
I love words, so I looked up the definition of the word FOOD, and found two meanings, with one subtle difference:
Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth. (Oxford Dictionary)
Something that people and animals eat, or plants absorb, to keep them alive. (Cambridge Dictionary)
The seemingly minor discrepancy between the definitions of Food from the two greatest
wordsmiths of the English Language fits with the general confusion around what exactly is healthy, nutritious, and good for your body. Oxford uses the adjective ‘nutritious’, to describe food, while Cambridge seems to focus on anything you eat to keep you alive.
Nutrition then, is the process of taking food into the body and absorbing the
nutrients in those foods. (Collins Dictionary).
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. Endurance athletes seem to have an independent nature yet they still need to develop good decision making skills. I had to learn to train well on my own and I learned like a lot of people, through failure. Once I had failed though, I was pretty determined not to repeat the failure. I learned about training too hard on my easy days in the hardest way possible. I was at the World Student Games in Sheffield, England, and I was a young, enthusiastic runner, excited to be alongside my idols and role models. I was so wrapped up in the experience of the event, my first really big multisport games, that I tagged along for a training run with some of the more experienced members of the Canadian Team. So happy to be just running with the elite, the best of the best, I pretty much hammered to keep up during a 10 mile run at slightly faster than 6 min/mile pace. This run ended up being a strong tempo run, (probably a 4.5 out of 5 on the effort scale at the end of the run) and, being 2 days out of my 10 000m track event, left me with nothing on race day. I will never forget the disappointment of running that championship race on demolished legs. After 6 laps, it was a struggle, and suffering through each of the remaining interminable 19 laps taught me 25 times over to never again throw away a race during 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 could argue that during my 10 mile run through the countryside outside Sheffield, in the lead up to the Student Games 10 000, I was entirely mindful. I was so mindful of my effort and my love of running that I totally forgot about my goal of running the track race in 2 evenings hence. If I had been truly mindful about what was needed of myself, as my own best coach to prepare optimally for the event, for which I had travelled across the globe, then I would have been able to run in a relaxed easy manner, for a shorter duration, and been ready.
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 to lactate accumulation and you can go comfortably for longer. The other benefit to training by perceived effort, and not heart rate, is that your body is not a robot. Sleep, stress, 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 by feel alone
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. I learned early in my career, that my heart and desire were far greater and stronger than my muscular skeletal system. While some of my peers were running 150 km/week, I rarely could hold greater than 80 before I broke down or got sick. This limited my ability to be a great marathoner and I stuck with half marathon, 10k, and 5k, and eventually added triathlon to my career - using bike mileage to boost my cardiovascular system. 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 not 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 ‘highest 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 know 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 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 be 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 simple diet of nutritious food. Plan fuel for late day sessions.
3. Make patience your mantra; hard work, routine commitment and practice are still the best guarantees to success.
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