Archive for the ‘Fitness Training Tips!’ Category

Blog post by Adam W. Chase – Trail Editor for Running Times and Co.

Author of the “Ultimate Guide to Trail Running”, which may be purchased on http://www.trailrunner.com

Trail runners can learn a valuable lesson from mountain bikers when it comes to climbing: Optimize efficiency by “downshift” for better traction and a more comfortable spin. When the hills get steep, top trail runners alter their stride for the use of small steps and many ultra-distance trail runners find it more efficient to alternate between walking and running, using a long, swinging stride, when they aren’t running.Uphill Running
  1. Use a lower gear when you find yourself struggling with a high heart rate or over-exerting the muscles in your legs. A shorter stride enables you to remain relatively light on your feet, allowing for easier clearance of barriers and capricious direction changes to avoid rocks, roots and other obstacles.
  2. Engage in power hiking, especially when you are already somewhat spent, the grade is particularly steep, the footing is iffy, or at high altitude. This is often more efficient and even faster than running, giving your heart and lungs a break.
  3. Shift from running uphill to walking in a fast, swinging style smoothly, keeping your heart rate steady. Keep in mind, that it is best to deploy a “steady forward progress” strategy until you see the top of a climb when, if you feel strong, you can pick up your cadence and lengthen your stride.
  4. Think about your posture. An upright stance is key because it affects breathing, digestion and lower back pain. By staying in an erect position, you will improve traction and push-off while relieving back strain that can be caused by leaning too far forward.
  5. Keep your trunk straight to allow for a fuller range of motion in your hip flexors and to open your breathing passages without compressing your digestive tract — which can lead to an upset stomach, especially on longer runs.
  6. Look up! Staring at the trail directly beneath your feet can reduce the important flow of oxygen, so be sure to focus uphill.
  7. Concentrate on leg motion, and visualize your steady breaths forcing oxygen to the back of your legs, glutes, hamstrings and calves. A corresponding steady arm swing will help you power up the hills and maintain forward momentum.
  8. Avoid favoring one leg, especially when leaping up big steps. This can result in disproportionate strength between the legs and a need to stutter-step to time push-offs for the power leg. Alternate using both legs for planting and pushing off in order to remain equally balanced.
All of these tactics for better uphill running should be practiced and, if you don’t live near trails that have climbs, you can apply most of these tips to stairs or stadiums, which are reasonable substitutes for hills. During your hill running, don’t forget the mental aspects. Remember to focus on rhythm, tempo, momentum, and form to maintain steady movement.

WOD @allandnieva.me

Ok, burpees are awesome.

Now… don’t get me wrong – I hate burpees.

But I still think they’re awesome.

They aren’t pleasant, but when was the last time you did something ‘pleasant’ that helped strengthen your body, torch fat, and improve your overall fitness? Exactly.

I don’t do them because they’re fun. I do them because they me get awesome. Now that I’m turning 40, I need all the help I can get. Just sayin’… =D

Having said that, here are my top 5 reasons for doing burpees.

1. They’re a great addition to any workout

When I’m on the road, adding burpees to my routines helps bring the entire workout to another level.

2. They work your entire body and your cardio abiity at the same time

Burpees are a dynamic, fast-paced, intense exercise that stresses your entire body AND cardio ability. Unlike isolation exercises like biceps curls and triceps kickbacks, burpees are a full body exercise. That means you’ll work pretty much every muscle in your body while doing them, so you’ll actually burn more calories in less time when you do burpees.

3. No equipment needed

You can do burpees anywhere since they require nothing more than your own body to do them.

4. They’ll get you stronger.WOD @allandnieva.me

Burpees are the ultimate example of functional fitness, meaning it’ll help you with everyday activities – carrying groceries, lifting a suitcase over your head in an airplane or playing with your kid at the playground.

With every rep, you’ll work your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. After a few sets of burpees, your legs will feel a bit like lead, your arms will shake and you’ll feel your muscles getting stronger.

5. They boost your endurance (no treadmill necessary).

Want to get fit in a hurry? Whether your goal is to train for a race, try a new sport, get in shape for spring hiking season or just to look good, burpees will get you there, fast.

In fact, burpees are one of the best exercises EVER to boost your conditioning and endurance for sports and other activities. Even just 10 burpees in a row will make your heart pound and your breath get quicker. Do them consistently and you’ll find your conditioning getting to the next level.

allan

 

Success is the sum of small efforts

Ok, so the title is a bit misleading.  I started my ‘Resolution’ last year, about one week after I returned from running the Spartan Beast in Sacramento.  My goal was to improve my cardio AND physical strength to a point of balance.

The purpose behind my ‘Resolution’?  To be able to create workouts that help me have both strength and energy to get me through my days as a pilot at work, as a dad at home, and a obstacle-eating monster on the courses!  🙂

My main weakness was my cardio, so I started running.  A LOT.  In fact, I started running more intensely than I was completing my WODs.  After about a month, I proved to myself what I already knew – you can’t train for an ‘Obstacle Race’ by just running.

Two weeks ago, I was in Vancouver, BC, Canada with family for the Christmas holiday.  During that time, the days were filled with planned activities, so I opted to go running almost every day at 5am.  Nike+ recorded a total of 19 miles (a first for me) over five days, with a steadily decreasing average pace per mile.  I kept feeling better with each run. I was mentally strong, and even stronger physically.

After a good stretch, re-hydration, and proper recovery nutrition I had tons of energy.  I had enough to get me through the morning, then with light meals, I could go on until midnight!  All this, despite a sick nephew, niece, and brother-in-law in the same house.

The day after we returned from the trip, I was back on shift for another seven days.  I didn’t have much time for running, but I DID have time for ‘Crossfit-type’ workouts while I was on shift, when I could find the time – which I did everyday.

Now, after having made such great gains with cardio – I found I had greatly decreased my overall strength.  Getting through 100 pushups, or five sets of pullups, or even a few sets of air squats just seemed to be way too difficult than I remembered.

Surprisingly, I could jump rope for about 10 minutes with an average of 100 jumps per minute for the entire time.  So, my cardio was still good, but my upper body strength seemed to have disappeared.  The way my clothes fit was an affirming indicator to me.  My dri-fit shirts were hanging off me and my flight suit was no longer tight in the shoulders.Success

So…  what did this all mean to me?  Exactly what I knew before – You can’t just train for obstacle races by just running.

Running is an important part of training, but being able to literally pull your own weight up a rope, over a wall, or through a ditch-full of muddy water under barbed wire is equally important.  The ability to successfully accomplish the ‘physical’ tasks comes through ‘physical’ training.  While you need to improve your cardio ability with running, you also need to maintain or build up your core strength, and associated muscles.

So… what does this mean for you?  It means that the WODs I will be posting starting Wednesday will incorporate both a running regimen, in addition to the physical component.

Now, for those of you who still only want the physical component of my WODs, they can still be done by themselves for a great workout.  That’s totally up to you – my goal is to prepare myself for obstacle races.  These WODs are what I do (in addition to the running) to do just that – to ensure I’m ready for the next race.

The biggest criticism about my WODs is that it is not a ‘Program’, meaning there aren’t different phases to follow that eventually lead to a goal – fat loss, strength, size, etc.

I agree.

My WODs were designed to be a program.  I’ve just been sharing what I have been doing to keep my body in state I need it to be for race day.  Individually, they serve as indicators to me as to how I’m doing.  I know what the fatigue feels like during an obstacle race.  When your mind is still pushing, but your body is aching, your lungs are burning, and your muscles just don’t seem to want to do what you tell them to during an obstacle.

The WODs I post help point out my weaknesses to me, so that when I work on the next WOD, I know what I’m aiming to accomplish.  This is why you may enjoy some of the WODs more than the others – they’re for me.  HOWEVER…  even if you don’t do the WODs in order, you get exposed to workouts you can accomplish when you find out your own areas to improve.  That helps you decide on your workouts when you start looking at improving your overall health.  YOU get to decide on the workouts depending on what you YOU need.

I wish I could be there for each of you.  I loved training motivated individuals like yourself (if you’ve been following my WODs, I can only presume that you’re motivated).  Of course, if you have questions, send me a message or leave a post.  I’m pretty good about following up.

My hope for the year is that I can be a part of your positive life changes.  Albeit a small part, but a part nonetheless!

I hope you continue to enjoy the posts.  I’ll be running tomorrow morning, but I’ll see you on Wednesday!

We got this!

How to recover

How to recover from physical exercise

Having been a powerlifter for many years, I had to be constantly reminded that improvements in strength occurred BETWEEN training sessions, NOT during them. I always pushed for ‘more’ during workouts and sometimes extended them on days I felt especially good. In fact, our training sessions were sometimes so intense that working on deadlifts, or chest, or back for a second time during the week actually saw a decrease in strength! Recovery was of utmost importance. Less rest = less performance.

Now that I’m running and have been training for distance and endurance, I find I have to remind myself again that improvements occur during the recovery period between training runs.

So, really, it’s the same across the board for whatever physical activity you are trying to improve upon – improvements occur during the recovery period between training sessions, not during the training itself. Not only does your body rest and recover from the muscle trauma, but physiological adaptations to training occur as well.

When you finish a long run or a race, you are weaker, not stronger – just as it was after an intense power-lifting session. How much weaker depends on the severity of the training stress. If the stress is too great and you don’t recover before your next workout or race, your performance and ability to adapt to subsequent training sessions declines. So, taking time off is just as important as the effort you endured. However, there are five things you should be doing immediately after your ‘session’ and during your recover period.  Here they are:

1. Refuel

Replenishing carbohydrates after physical exertion is listed numero uno for a reason. As in my case for endurance training, performance is influenced by the amount of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) in skeletal muscles.  So, since intense endurance exercise decreases muscle glycogen stores, it is imperative to replenish them immediately after a workout or race.

‘Glycogen resynthesis’ is most effective if you take in your carbs within the first 30-60 minutes after your physical session. Delaying carbohydrate ingestion for longer than that after a workout significantly reduces the rate of glycogen resynthesis.

To maximize the synthesis/storage of glycogen, consume 1.5 grams of simple carbohydrates (sugar, preferably glucose) per kilogram of body weight every two hours for a few hours after your workout or, if you can eat or drink more often, consume 0.4 to 0.6 grams every 15 to 30 minutes.

Some studies have found that eating protein and carbohydrates together maximizes recovery, although the total amount of calories consumed seems to be more important than the carbohydrate-protein mix. Since consuming protein helps rebuild skeletal muscle fibers that have been damaged during training, protein has its own merit for optimal recovery.

Initially, consume carbohydrates from fluids. For most commercial sports drinks, such as Gatorade, the above recommendations correspond to about five 8-ounce glasses every hour for a 154-pound runner. Admittedly, this is a lot to drink. To meet your recovery needs, “carbohydrate replacement” drinks are a better option than “fluid replacement” drinks like Gatorade. Chocolate milk, with its high carbohydrate and protein contents, is an effective post-run recovery drink.

2. Rehydratewater

Water is vital for many chemical reactions that occur inside our cells, including the production of energy for muscle contraction. When you sweat during exercise, you lose body water that can affect cellular processes. In addition, your blood volume decreases and becomes thicker if you don’t replace fluids, resulting in a lower stroke volume (amount of blood pumped by the heart per beat), cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute), and a decreased oxygen delivery.

Running performance starts to decline with only a two to three percent loss of bodyweight due to fluid loss. The best rehydration fluids are those that contain sodium, which stimulates your kidneys to retain water. If your run is of a low intensity and lasts less than an hour, plain water in combination with a balanced diet is just as effective.

A good indicator of your hydration level is the color of your urine, with a light color indicating adequate hydration. If your urine looks like apple juice, keep drinking.

3. Reduce Inflammation

With hard training comes muscle damage and inflammation, which is exacerbated with downhill running. This leads to muscle soreness and reduced muscle-force production. While research has shown that ice massage or immersion in cold water doesn’t decrease the perception of soreness, it can decrease the level of the enzyme creatine kinase in the blood (an indirect indicator of muscle damage). So take a cold bath after your hard workouts and wear a hat to prevent hypothermia. Limit your stay in the water to about 10 minutes to prevent frostbite.

4. Limit Other Activity

Since any physical activity you do during the rest of the day when you are not running will influence your rate of recovery, it is important to limit your non-running activity. For example, if you are training for a marathon and run 20 miles on a Sunday morning, it would be unwise to go hiking with your kids and dog on hilly trails that afternoon, as that will affect your next run.

5. Taper Before Competition and Increases in Training Load

The most effective adaptations occur when you are recovered from previous training and best prepared to tolerate a subsequent overload. You can’t train hard all of the time. While you improve your fitness during periods of hard training, you also increase your fatigue. Periodic decreases in training load will give your body time to adapt to the training stress and reduce fatigue, making you ready for a higher load of training.

How much or how long you need to taper depends on the severity of the training load, your level of fatigue and the distance of your upcoming race. Usually a week is sufficient, with a longer taper for longer races.

When I was first asked about completing the ‘Tough Mudder’, I was helping build a school complex in Honduras enduring 100F+ heat and high humidity for 7-8 hours a day with no issue.  I had completed the 60-day ‘Insanity’ workout three times, was an active Crossfitter, and was in reasonably good shape. However… I couldn’t run.

I could do one hour ‘cardio’ sessions.  ‘Tae bo’ had nothing on me.  Neither did those one hour kickboxing classes or other aerobic sessions offered at the gym.  I had no problem with those.

I did, however, have a problem with running.  I just wasn’t good at it.  It hurt.  A lot.  I didn’t know how to make it better.

If a hungry lion had appeared in front of me, I might have been able to run away for about two minutes before just lying down and becoming a tasty Filipino dish (or maybe a slightly wet and salty Filipino dish, but I digress…).

But, I was going to be running the ‘Tough Mudder’ in about six months and a BIG part of it is R-U-N-N-I-N-G.

The Tough Mudder is about 13 miles long.  So, a half-marathon distance.  Yes, there are obstacles but, to me, I wasn’t as worried about those as I was about the running.

Weird, I know.

Ice cold water, barbed-wire mud crawls, and even electricity shocks didn’t scare me as much as the feeling of struggling to breathe AND move at the same time.

So, I had to train.  Specifically, I had to learn to run.

I’m no pro athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve played competitive sports long enough to know that training is about preparing your body for some physically strenuous event.

Your goals are to learn proper technique, improve on that technique, then push for speed and strength, all the while trying to prevent injury.

This is how I did it.  Others may have a different plan of attack.  This was mine.

Step 1: Learn proper running technique

I had a gait analysis completed at a running store here in Mesa, then again in Tempe.  I learned I had flat feet.  I also learned that the way I was landing and pushing off each step was a root cause of my knee, back, and ankle pains.  I also learned that I was wearing the wrong shoes.  Minimalist shoes were the complete opposite of what my body needed.

I had to learn proper technique.  I spoke to runners, watched videos, and researched online.  Then, armed (or footed) with the proper shoes and tried to apply what I was learning.  The key was to take it slowly.

Decades of bad form and inability to run weren’t going to change overnight.  I had to work on it.  On each run I would specifically work on one or two technique items.  Relaxing my shoulders, timing my breathing, landing mid-foot, watching my tempo, etc.

Admittedly, for the first two weeks I couldn’t go a half mile without stopping.

But I kept at it – at least twice a week.  Sometimes three.

Step 2: Increase Distance

As I became more comfortable running, I slowly increased my mileage by the 10 percent rule every other week.  Like I said, slow and steady.

I let my body adapt to the longer distances.  I only used water to rehydrate and tried to listen to my body when it need to refuel.

By the end of four months, I was up to seven miles at about a 10-minute pace.

Step 3: Increase Speed

I learned that speed will come more easily if you have developed a good aerobic base.  However, I felt I had reached a plateau and couldn’t push faster than a 10-minute pace, so I began HIIT runs (High Intensity Inteveral Training).

I used the telephone poles along the road for a consistent distance marker.  At each pole I would change from a walking pace, to a jogging pace, to a striding pace (long, drawn out steps), to a hard sprint, then repeat the schedule.

The first time I, again, found myself only able to do that for a half mile.  I was completely worn and had to walk back home.

It was a little discouraging.  I felt like I was starting over again, with only two months left to go.

However…  I already had a decent aerobic base and found that each consecutive HIIT run became longer and faster.  In about four weeks, I was able to do a 3-mile HIIT run in about 24 minutes!  I also found that my ‘mile time’ on regular runs was averaging in the low 8-minute range, but was occasionally able to hit a mid-7-minute mile without feeling completely gassed.

At first I just pushed myself until it felt like my asthma was going to kick in.  It was a crude way of training, but it worked – for a time.

Then I found how to determine my maximum aerobic heart rate.  I used the “180 Formula”.  Simply subtract your age from 180 to determine what your ideal maximum heart rate should be – THAT became my ‘number’.  There are other factors like illness, surgery, allergies, etc, but I didn’t take my heart rate often enough to know if I was wavering 5-10bpms from the ‘ideal’.

I just aimed to maintain my ‘number’ during runs.

Why?

I learned that running faster than your ideal maximum aerobic heart rate is actually counter-productive.  Research shows that doing so prevents the production of capillary beds in your lungs and muscles.

What does that mean?

I actually don’t know.

Just kidding.

It means that you aren’t allowing your body to physically grow to become more efficient at shuttling nutrients and waste through your system.

If you let your heart rate get close to, but not exceed, your maximum aerobic heart rate, you’ll find that your speed will gradually increase, but your effort level will remain the same. You’ll be able to run longer distances faster and without pain or injury.

Like I mentioned earlier, THAT is your overall goal.

The one magic ingredient: Consistency.

You have to keep at it.  Period.  No excuses.

Unless you keep at it, you will not get closer to the results you desire.

So, how did I do?

Our team finished the Tough Mudder in just under three hours and I returned to work the next day with no pains!

Fast forward eleven months, and I completed the Spartan Beast in four hours.  It was cold, windy, and rainy.  The running surface was a pitted and muddy farmers field. BUT, I survived, and felt relatively good considering that this time last year I was still struggling to just RUN.

However, with consistency and a desire to ‘be better’, I have come to actually enjoy running!

Kinda.  =D

If your goal is to prep for a race, I say, “Go for it!”.  It isn’t always easy, and you’ll have days where you struggle, BUT if you remain consistent, are willing to try new things, and track your progress,  you WILL find that your body is MUCH more capable than you imagined.

Questions?  Post them below.

An article written by Mindy Solkin from ‘Windy City Sports’
Do you know how to run? This isn’t a trick question. It’s vital for successful running to understand both the physiology of running (how our heart, lungs and muscles work) and the biomechanics of running. If you picked the right parents you may be lucky enough to be a genetically talented runner. 

Most people who run never think about the movement of their bodies. They go through the motions as if by rote, disassociating the sport from the task at hand. But runners need skills training, just like a tennis player needs to learn how to hold the racket.

Assessing your body in motion and correcting faulty biomechanics with technique and strengthening exercises will ultimately allow us to “play” our sport to the best of our ability. Here’s how.

Body Alignment

Because the running motion is a series of changing postures using ballistic motions, the tendency is to displace the center of gravity (the point under your navel) by running in a vertical hopping style instead of the preferred forward-leaning position.

Creating one smooth line from head to toe with a 10-degree lean from the ankles (not the waist), will allow for a controlled falling movement. The smoother the motion, the less energy expended to cover a given distance.

Slower runners tend to use a hopping motion due to the foot hitting the ground in front of their body rather than under it. When this happens, a braking action takes place, which can cause the dreaded shin splints.

Form drill: While holding onto a sturdy object, stand sideways in front of a mirror with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lean forward until you’re nearly ready to fall and rise up on the balls of your feet.

Make sure your chest and butt are not sticking out. The line should look like a smooth 10-degree forward lean from head to ankles.

Stride Right

Improving your stride length (the angle of your legs when they are the greatest distance apart) and your stride frequency, or turnover rate (the number of foot-falls that hit the ground in a given time) will help to prevent injuries and make you a faster runner.

When the stride is shortened due to vertical bouncing and lack of running-specific strength, a sinking action occurs, keeping your foot in touch with the ground for a longer period. Staying in the air longer requires more strength but will enable you to cover more distance.

Increasing back-kick height, so that your lower leg raises to a nearly parallel position to the ground when it’s behind you, and improving hip extension strength, so that your knee lifts higher in front, will increase your stride length.

Taking more footsteps per minute will optimize your stride frequency. Try to aim for 90 steps a minute.

Form drill: To increase stride length, start by marching in place with high knees, then run in place with high knees and finally start moving forward in this exaggerated marching position with quick footsteps for about 30 yards.

Arm Motion

While the lower body takes a lot more effort to correct, adjusting your arm swing is more of a tweak. Many runners swing their arms across the chest, so that the elbows point out to the sides instead of behind them. The upswing of the arm should allow the hand to stop at mid-chest height, while the hand should drive backwards to the side of the body on the backswing.

The forearm essentially stays parallel to the ground and the hands are gently cupped with palms facing toward each other. The arm swing should be one smooth movement with a 90-degree angle formed by the upper arm and forearm. The shoulders should be relaxed and held away from the ears.

Form drill: Standing with one foot forward and knee bent, and the other leg outstretched behind you, and holding lightweight dumbbells (two to six pounds), move your arms vigorously forward and back for about 25 swings each side, while concentrating on keeping the 90-degree angle, palms toward each other and elbows driving back.

The Short and the Long of Running Form

Adapting your form to your particular long-distance running event is a smart move. For shorter races such as a 5K, you’ll need to take quicker footsteps and have a moderately long stride. Quicker footsteps are a more tiring process but are suited for shorter races. For the marathon, you’ll want to conserve more energy, so your back kick should not be too high.

Form drill: Practice this on a treadmill. Put the speed at a comfortable pace, faster than marathon pace but slower than 5K pace and count your footsteps within a one-minute period to give yourself a baseline.

Then, change the speed to both faster than and slower than your baseline to simulate 5K and marathon pace, respectively. Count your footsteps within one minute at these two paces. During your next training run on the road, try to simulate the paces and footsteps of your treadmill run. Notice the mechanics of your form and try to simulate that on race day.

Mindy Solkin is a USATF, Level III-certified running coach.

I found the quick tips in this article written by Jerry Lynch, Ph.D. for ‘Runner’s World’ to be very helpful to me.
One of the keys to optimal running performance is relaxation. A relaxed mind produces a relaxed body—an efficient body, a fast body.Relaxation has been an important factor in the success of some of the greatest runners in history.The secret to smoother, faster running is to focus on being relaxed, rather than “efforting” more power. Efforting causes muscles to tighten. Athletes who stay loose run best.

Make some time every day to get into a relaxed mind-body state. Sit in a hot tub, sauna or steam room. Listen to restful music. Practice yoga, meditation or visualization. This will make it easier to relax during a run or race.

Relaxing while you’re running seems incongruous to most runners, but it’s easily accomplished. Here’s what to do when you begin feeling tight and tense.

  • Let your jaw slacken and your eyes soften and droop. Facial muscles control the degree of tension in the entire body. Relax the face and you’ll relax the body.
  • Keep your upper body perpendicular to the running surface–shoulders back, buttocks forward.
  • Make sure your hands are not clenched but closed softly, as if you are holding eggs.
  • Focus on a smooth stride. Avoid over- and understriding, as they waste energy.
  • Shake out your arms, relax your shoulders, and carry your arms low with elbows firm but not locked.
  • Try this: As you run, repeat the word “calm” or “relax.”
  • Don’t apply power; float with strength.

Article by Mackenzie Lobby for Runner’s World

Mental fatigue can negatively impact physical performance, according to a study out of Bangor University’s School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences. Researchers split athletes of similar capabilities into two groups prior to an exhaustive cycling exercise. One group performed a tough 90-minute cognitive task, and the other watched documentaries. Once on the bikes, the mentally tasked riders displayed significantly less stamina than the movie watchers, and felt the exercise was more difficult. Their physical performance suffered because their brains were tired.

 

The challenge, then, is to find ways to change your thought process and realize that your body can handle a workout. Refocus, acknowledge that you’d rather crash on the couch, but put on your running shoes anyway, says Marshall Mintz, Psy.D., a clinical and sports psychologist.

“Once you get going, even if it’s for an easy three-miler, it almost always feels good to be running,” he says.

Restate Your Goals
Deciding between the remote control and your running shoes? It isn’t easy to get out the door without a clear reason to run. “If you can’t answer, Why am I doing this?, you won’t last long,” says Rick Lovett, a running coach and coauthor of Alberto Salazar’s Guide to Road Racing. He suggests keeping a training log that includes your goals and the reasons you run, whether that’s to reduce stress, or for friendship or better health.

Energy solution When you feel the urge to call it quits at the end of a tough day, pull out your log and review your lists. Staring at your plans in black-and-white will make it tougher to lounge. Rice, for example, keeps the dates of several shorter races leading up to her goal marathon prominently marked in her log. “It energizes me to see that I have those little races ahead of me,” she says.

Be Flexible
“You have to be organized in order to be good at several things,” says Rice. By penciling in your run for a certain time, you arm yourself with the necessary energy to get through it. That said, adds Mintz, be prepared with a backup workout plan if something unexpected comes up.

Energy solution If work demands that you stay later than planned, go for a shorter run. If a sick child leaves you homebound, work on your stretching and strength training while they sleep and save your run for tomorrow. “It’s okay for that daily structure to be flexible from one day to the next,” says Mintz.

Call a Friend
When you’re running alone, it’s easy to end up ruminating about those new clients at work or your kid’s report card. This takes all the fun out of it. When you run with other people, the social banter gives you a mental timeout. Research out of the University of Rochester in New York demonstrated that a positive social circle helps foster motivation and a greater commitment to exercise, compared with going it alone.

Energy solution Keep the numbers of some fellow running pals on speed dial, and don’t think twice to call one or two of them spur of the moment. Chances are they’re having a similar day and would love the camaraderie. And if they can’t meet you, at least they’ll be able to give you a pep talk. “With any kind of fitness program,” Mintz explains, “there’s a greater likelihood of success if you’re collaborating with someone.”

Turn On the Tunes
A long line of research shows that music can be a big exercise motivator. A study published in the Journal of Sport Behavior found that on top of helping athletes work harder, music also reduced their perceived exertion. Lovett encourages runners to try and tap into the benefits of music in advance of their workouts to help get them in the right frame of mind.

Energy solution Listen to your iPod while you answer those last few e-mails at work, or on the drive home turn off the news and put in your favorite CD. You’ll be more likely to lace up as soon as you get home. “Out of all the things an athlete can do to get energized before a run,” Mintz says, “music really lights up the biggest part of the brain.”

Manage the Moment
On those days when your mind starts ticking off the negatives Everything went wrong today. I’m really beat stop your internal debate and “manage the moment,” says Mintz, who suggests countering such thoughts with positive ones: Yes, but I’ll have more energy after I run.

Energy solution As tempting as it can be to give in to the negatives, he says, push your body to go through the motions of your running routine: Grab a quick shower or cup of coffee, put on your gear, do some jumping jacks to get your heart rate up, step outside. “The beginning of the run is always the hardest,” admits Rice. “But once I get myself out on the pavement, I’m always better for it.”

I’ve been noticing the increasing number of people around me getting sick or just generally feeling ‘under the weather’.  Then one of my training partners asked if he should try to push through his sickness and keep training.  I really couldn’t give him a definitive answer because different rules apply to different illnesses.  I’m not a physician, so I erred on the side of caution and told him to take a break.

Over the past seven years or so, I haven’t become so sick that I couldn’t train, but I used a general rule of thumb over the years and it has always helped: If your symptoms are above the neck, you can do some intense training. If your symptoms are below the neck, forget about intense strength training and take a break.

Given that my state of fitness and training habits are at a different level than the general public I’ve found that this guideline doesn’t really work for everyone.  However, I found this article by Steve Edwards for BeachBody.com that better addresses this question.

Should you exercise when you’re sick?

A reader asks, “I’m on week 5 of INSANITY and got a cold. Should I keep doing the program?” 

Steve answers: Shut it down and get some rest. It will help you get well sooner and it might end up improving your results in the long term.

When you’re sick, your body uses its recovery properties to fight the illness. When you exercise, you use these same properties to recover. To your body, trying to exercise when you’re sick is effectively the same thing as overtraining. You won’t be able to recover from exercise, rendering it useless, as well as increasing the risk of making your illness worse and lengthening your downtime.

Believe it or not, there are actually a couple of upsides to being sick. It both raises your metabolism and heightens your immune response, meaning that you can eat more than normal and not gain weight. Your immune system also releases performance-enhancing hormones that both fight the infection and help you heal microtrauma incurred during your training program. Because of these factors, when I’m sick during a training cycle I consider it my recovery week. Here is my protocol:

At the onset of symptoms I bump my vitamin C and zinc levels, drink a ton of water, and sleep as much as possible. If I catch it early enough, I’ll miss the cold. However, your body plays an insidious trick on you at the onset of a cold. Before you feel symptoms, your adrenal system kick-starts the immune response, which often results in a great workout—too good. Prior to a competition, if an athlete sets a personal record or looks too strong, their coach will often shut them down in anticipation of potential pending illness. If a workout feels spectacular out of the blue, consider backing off and adding immune-boosting supplements to your regimen.

Once I know I’m sick, I rest as much as I possibly can. I clear my social schedule, work as little as possible, and shelve any projects (even mental ones) that can wait. My diet becomes very clean. No coffee, alcohol, sugar, junk, and I drink a ton of water. Also, I eat a lot of small meals all day long. Your body needs nutrients when it’s sick but doesn’t want the energy burden of digesting large meals.

When the cold has turned the corner I begin moving more. I’ll do low-level aerobic exercise and light yoga—restorative exercise. I’ll build this gradually as I feel better, so that when the symptoms are gone I can hit it hard, right where I left off. When I follow my protocol strictly it will actually aid my fitness program in the long run.

Finally, there are times when you’re sick when hard exercise might help, but it’s rare. The most common is near the end of a cold, where the infection has run its course but you still have minor symptoms. You might have heard someone say, “I blew the cold out of my system” with exercise. Just be careful you don’t try this too early or you’ll get worse. Patience may not be your favorite part of training, but sometimes you gotta not do what you gotta not do.

Ashley Crossman wrote this great article for Active.com.  It outlines some great points for those of you training for your first race.  With my final race of the year coming up next weekend, this served as a great reminder for me.  I hope you enjoy it!
9 Race-Day Tips for First-Timers

Race season is coming up in many parts of the country. If you are a new runner or are entering your first race, your head is probably filled with questions and anticipation about what to expect on race day. Here are a few tips to help ease your anxiety:

1. Do not try anything new the day of the race. This includes food, clothes, shoes, etc. If you have new shoes, make sure you have worn them for at least two weeks prior to the race. If you’ve bought yourself new clothes for the race, make sure you’ve done at least one test-run in them prior to race day. You do not want any surprise chafing or riding up. Do not eat anything new prior to the race, including the day before the race. If you are used to eating a bagel with peanut butter, for example, prior to your long training runs, eat this prior to the race, too. You do not want to surprise your body with something that it might not agree with. The same goes for beverages. If you have never tried the sports drink that is provided on the race course, consider skipping it and sticking with water. It is always to good idea to find out what sports drink will be provided at the race and use that during your training runs so that your body gets used to it.

2. Pick up your race packet early. Some races offer packet pick-up prior to the race on race day. If you have the option to pick it up the day before, however, take advantage. You do not want to have to worry about anything extra the morning of the race.

3. Lay out all of your clothing and gear the night before the race. Attach your bib to your shirt and your timing chip to your shoe, if you have one, so that you have less to worry about in the morning. Laying everything out the night before helps to ensure that you have everything you need and do not forget an important item that you might skip over in the middle of any pre-race anxiety. It also saves you time in the morning so that you can get an extra 15 minutes of sleep.

4. Get there early. Plan on arriving at the race site early in case there are any issues with parking. This also gives you time to use the restroom (the lines are usually long), warm up, and check your bag. And speaking of restrooms, it is often a good idea to bring a few tissues with you. The port-o-potties at crowded races may run out of toilet paper, so it is always good to have a back up.

5. Do not overdress. A good rule is to dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it actually is. That is how much you will warm up once you start running. Many races offer a gear check where you can store your bag during the race, so you can always dress in layers and store your extra clothes right before the race starts.

6. Do a light warm-up prior to the race. A good warm-up would be walking or light jogging for five minutes and possibly some very light stretching. You should never stretch cold muscles, so if you do stretch, make sure you have warmed your muscles with walking or jogging first. And any pre-run stretches should be very light—save the deep stretches for after the run. You could also use the first five to 10 minutes of the race as your warm-up—just remember to jog slowly and try not to get caught up in the pack of faster runners.

7. Line up with runners of similar ability. Find the part of the pack that runs your pace. If you run a 10-minute mile, for example, you do not want to be at the front of the pack. You will likely get swept into a pace that is too fast, resulting in a negative experience for you. It is also not fair to faster runners who will have to navigate around you.

8. Start slowly. It is very easy to get swept up in the excitement and head out too fast. Doing this begs for a bad race experience because you spent all of your energy too early in the race. As mentioned above, think of the first five to 10 minutes as your warm-up and go slow.

9. Have fun! After all, what is the point of races if you do not enjoy yourself?