Community Spirit: 8 Benefits of Running with a Group
There’s no denying the benefits of a running community. They’re almost too numerous to count. Here are a few of my favorite reasons for lacing up with friends instead of hitting the road solo:
Wear light clothing (so you can spot ticks) but not white clothing (ticks are attracted to white).Wear bug repellent. The CDC website offers some natural options if you are not interested in wearing chemical sprays while running.Run on paved trails or crushed gravel rather than dirt trails. If you must walk through mowed grass, pick up your feet rather than shuffling.Avoid running underneath trees. Ticks can drop onto you from trees as you are running. If you feel something small hit you from above, make sure you brush it away. I have often gotten them this way.Make sure your socks are tight to your body. Some types of socks (like roll-down anklet socks) provide a reservoir for ticks to fall into between the sock and your ankle.Follow the CDC’s recommendations to check your clothing and your body. Follow their checklist, look at your feet and between your toes and then shower right away. Also, be sure to shake out your running shoes and keep them outside.
Look for our Q-and-A later this summer on keeping your running program strong as race day gets closer.Laurie LasseterMarathonerACE Certified Personal TrainerRRCA Certified Running CoachEdward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
- Get medical clearance. Check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to build up to a running program. This is especially important if you are older, have other cardiovascular risk factors, bone/joint issues, are taking medication or have other health concerns. When in doubt, check with your doctor. Once you have your doctor’s approval, it’s time to get to work!
- Choose the right footwear. Before you start the walking portion of this program, make sure you go to a reputable running shoe store for a professional shoe fitting. You’ll use these shoes for the walking and running portions of your training program, so it’s worth investing in a well-fitting pair. Good shoes go a long way toward preventing unnecessary injuries.
- Start walking. It’s crucial that you take steps to build up a strong walking base. If you aren’t currently walking, start with 10 or 15 minutes per session, 2-3 times the first week. After the first week, you will slowly build walking duration and frequency. The plan looks like this:
- Week 1: 10-15 minutes per session, 2-3 times per week
- Week 2: 15-20 minutes per session, 3 times per week
- Week 3: 20-25 minutes per session, 3-4 times per week
- Week 4: 25-30 minutes per session, 3-4 times per week
- Add some running (ease into it). Now that you walk for 30 minutes at a time, add some brief running intervals. Start with an interval consisting of 1 minute of running, followed by 2 minutes of walking. Over the next several weeks, increase the length of the running intervals. Continuing from the four-week plan above:
- Week 5: 1 minute of easy running followed immediately by 2 minutes of walking. Repeat this sequence 10 times for 30 total minutes. Do this workout 3-4 times per week, in place of your walking from Weeks 1-4.
- Week 6: 1st workout: 2 minutes of easy running followed immediately by 1 minute of walking. Repeat this interval 10 times for 30 total minutes (1 min. walk/2 min. run x 10). 2nd workout: 3 min. run/1 min. walk x 7. 3rd and 4th workout: 4 min. run/1 min. walk x 6.
- Week 7: Progress to 5-7 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Do as many intervals as you can fit into 30 minutes.
- Week 8: Progress to 8-11 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Do as many intervals as you can fit into 30 minutes.
- Week 9: Progress to 12-15 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Do as many intervals as you can fit into 30 minutes. By the end of this week, you are doing only 2 intervals.
- Week 10: Progress to 16-20 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Then complete the 30 minutes with running.
- Week 11: Progress to 21-25 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Then complete the 30 minutes with running.
- Week 12: Progress to 26-30 minutes of running/1 minute of walking. Then complete the 30 minutes with running. By the end of this week, you should be running 30 minutes without a walking break.
- Train for a race! Once you have completed the program above and have a good running base, build on this to train for a goal race. A 5K would make a great first event. Look on our blog for tips on effective training, injury prevention, and preparing yourself for race day.
- Strides (accelerations): Do these 30-40 second speed accelerations to improve your running economy and leg turnover rate (cadence). They are easy to do and don’t take a lot of time. Start with your warm-up for 10-15 minutes at conversation pace. Then, to do a stride, build your speed for 30-40 seconds, then gradually slow back down to conversation pace. In the first week, add 1-2 of these strides near the end of one of your easy runs, then add another stride each week until you are up to 6-8. This will improve your running efficiency and economy, but won’t significantly improve your overall speed and capacity. These are a good choice if you are a beginner but want to get a little bit of extra leg speed for your race. Incorporate strides for a few weeks before you try one of the other methods below, just to get your body used to running at a faster pace.
- Hill repeats: Find a hill that takes approximately 30-60 seconds to run up (if training for the 5K) or about 1-2 minutes (if training for the half marathon). For your hill repeat workout, do a 15-20 minute warm-up on flat ground, then do 1-2 hill repeats, running uphill as fast as you can with good form and then jogging downhill. Each week, add another hill repeat to the total until you are at 6-7 total hill repeats. Hill repeats build leg strength, overall speed and aerobic capacity. These are a good choice for a beginner/intermediate runner, especially if you have a history of injuries because this type of work builds aerobic capacity and leg power with minimal impact. (Running uphill is lower impact than running on flat ground).
- Tempo runs: Tempo runs are longer speed runs done for a sustained period at a somewhat fast, but controlled, pace. Generally, these will be done at a pace that is a bit faster than your half-marathon goal pace. In your first week, do a 10-15 minute warm-up at conversation pace, then do a 15 minute tempo run followed by a cool down. Each week, add 5 minutes to the total until you are at 30-40 minutes. Tempo runs improve your performance at a higher speed with an emphasis on endurance and are a great choice if you are an intermediate runner training for the half marathon.
- Intervals: These short distance runs, performed at a fast pace with a timed recovery between each one, are done over a measured distance (800 meters is a good distance for most people). Perform them at a pace that is faster than (or right at) your 5K goal race pace. As an example, do your 800-meter repetition, then jog slowly back to the start as your interval (rest period). Start with a 10-15 minute warm-up, followed by 1-2 800-meter intervals, followed by a cool-down. Each week, add another repetition/interval to the total until you are at 5-6 repetitions. This is a good choice for more advanced runners and for advanced 5K runners wanting to improve speed significantly. Don’t do this type of speedwork if you are injured or injury-prone. Shorter intervals can also be done (400 meters or less), but these further increase the risk of injury, so I generally don’t recommend them.
- Femoral neck stress fracture: This is a serious cause of anterior groin pain in runners. Usually worse with activity such as running or walking and better when not weight bearing on the hip, femoral neckstress fracture is caused by repeated stress on a bone which causes a small crack to develop. This can occur after increased training loads when runners increase their volume. It may not be visible on an x-ray, and a physician should evaluate persistent groin pain, as more advanced imaging such as an MRI may be needed to diagnose. This type of injury requires prolonged rest from running to heal. Lack of treatment can prevent proper healing of the bone in the femoral neck.
- Iliotibial band syndrome: This is a very common type of injury that runners experience. The iliotibial band is the large ligament that extends from the hip to the lateral knee. Runners commonly mistake this pain for a knee injury. It is typically felt as pain on the outside of the knee as the IT band tightens and causes friction against the lateral knee. IT band pain can also be felt anywhere along the IT band all the way to the hip. Just like femoral neck stress fractures, it is an overuse injury caused by too much mileage, over-pronation, running on uneven surface, or worn out running shoes. You may need to rest once you notice pain to your IT band. Look at your running shoes and make sure they are evenly worn, as over-pronation may cause more stress on your IT band. Try to run on even surfaces. If you run on a track, make sure to switch directions every few laps. Self-foam rolling is key in treating IT band syndrome as it stretches the IT band.
- Runner’s knee: Runners knee encompasses a term for any pain in, around or under the kneecap. It can be caused by malalignment of the kneecap or chondromalacia. Chondromalacia is softening of the cartilages under the kneecap where it deteriorates and causes pain. Chondromalacia pain is often worse when going up or down stairs. Imbalances in muscles can also cause abnormal tracking of the kneecap over the femur, causing pain. These muscles can be strengthened by performing Vastus Medialis Oblique or VMO exercises<https://youtu.be/vynEuGZKDEc>. This strengthens the quadriceps muscle so that the patella tracks normally over the distal femur. Runner’s knee injuries may require a reduction in training volume.
- Shin splints: Otherwise known as medial tibial stress syndrome, the cause is thought to be small tears of the muscle fibers near the tibia or inflammation of the periosteum (outer bone lining). Shin splints cause medial shin pain with impact and running. Stress fractures also cause shin pain. With stress fractures, pain is more localized as opposed to diffuse. If shin pain does not go away with rest, seek medical attention to rule out stress fracture. Runners with shin splints can still run but may need to reduce total mileage as shins heal. Ice shins after each run. Strengthening of the anterior tibialis muscle (in front of leg) is a key component of treating shin splints. Do this by performing dorsiflexion exercises with<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElkXCO7IsgU&feature=youtu.be> and without a resistance band or weight<https://youtu.be/jwxugMF0iSk>.
- Stress fracture: Fractures of the metatarsals are common sources of pain that require medical attention and rest from running to heal. Persistent pain to the metatarsals should be evaluated by a physician.
- Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is common for runners and presents with pain on the bottom of the foot occurring anywhere from the heel to the forefoot. The large fibrous band that stretches across the bottom of the foot can become inflamed with repeat pounding the pavement. As a runner, you must stretch this fibrous band regularly. A good way to do this is by rolling a tennis ball under your foot to stretch the fibrous tissues.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome: This type of foot pain occurs as the nerve that courses behind the inner ankle bone becomes compressed. Compression of this nerve results in arch pain and sometimes, pain in the heel and toes, numbness and tingling. This syndrome is usually caused by over pronation. You may need to see a
physical therapist or podiatrist to assist with stretching or biomechanical issues.
- Achilles tendonitis: Overuse can cause inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which can result in pain in the back of the distal leg just above the heel, and can go into the calf. Runners experiencing this should consider taking time off from running to let the tendon heal as it can develop into a chronic tendonitis. Heel drop exercises performed on stairs (eccentric stretching exercises where you stand on your toes while on the stairs and slowly let your heels drop down) may help, along with calf stretching exercises. Strengthening of the calf muscle with calf raises is important as well. Self-massage of the Achilles tendon either by hand or with self-massage stick may also provide relief.
Why Cross-Training is Crucial to your Training Plan
As a runner, you probably devote most, if not all, of your training to running. Actually, that is not a bad idea. The principle of specificity as it applies to athletic training states that training should be relevant to and appropriate for your sport. However, there are some great reasons that you should add other training (cross-training) to your schedule of weekly activities.
Overall fitness: The five basic categories of fitness are aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. The good news is that running addresses three of these aspects: aerobic capacity, muscular endurance (primarily lower body) and body composition. However, in order to be fit in a complete and balanced way, you need to cross-train. In your cross-training, try to focus on activities that address the missing items in the fitness categories list. Resistance/strength training (muscular strength), yoga or Pilates (flexibility), and rowing (upper-body muscular endurance) are good choices to balance out your overall fitness program.
Injury prevention: Running is a very repetitive sport. As a result, it puts you at risk for overuse injuries of the hips, glutes, legs, knees, ankles and feet. The main causes of these injuries are muscle imbalances and overuse that come from having running as the only component of your training regimen. In order to combat injury, it is crucial to add strength training to your routine. Focus strength training on the core, hips (glutes), legs, ankles and feet. Try to include single leg exercises (such as lunges) to help create symmetry between the two sides of your body. If you want to add more cardio training to your routine, look for exercises that work different muscle groups and/or are low-impact such as swimming, rowing and cycling.
Preventing boredom: Even if you love running, if that is all you ever do, you may eventually get bored with it. Or, at the very least, it might become stale enough that you have trouble training at the intensity required to reach your goals. Cross-training adds variety, helps keep workouts interesting and increases your chances of long-term running success. Try things you like, maybe the elliptical machine where you can read or watch TV or a hiking program to help you enjoy the outdoors at a slower pace.
Weight loss/fitness: Running can be a great tool for weight control. However, your body will likely only tolerate so much running beyond which, you may start to experience injuries. Strength training (see above) will help you avoid injuries and may allow you to run a bit more, but it is likely you will reach a plateau with your weight-loss results. If you want to add more activity to keep your body challenged, cross-training is your best bet. Just be careful about falling into a trap where you think that more exercise equals more weight loss. Diet /food choices and portion control are the biggest keys to weight loss and body composition success.
Recovery: The body gets stronger after exercise when the muscles are given time to rebuild. Mixing up your routine will give different muscle groups time to repair and rebuild to allow your body to become stronger and more resilient.
As you can see, there are many reasons to add cross-training to your exercise program. What will you add in this week?
Getting Started with a Training Program
If you’re just beginning a new running program, you likely have a lot of questions about training, aches and pains, and other running experiences. From all kinds of discomfort during training runs to dealing with woodsy critters, our first installment of New Runner Questions is sure to provide answers to make your training program as fun and effective as it can be.
Q: I have recently started running after eating breakfast, but I’m getting nauseous. I don’t really want to go without eating. What should I do?
A: It is a good idea to eat something before you run, especially as a beginner. Beginners have a higher dependence on their food for supplying muscle glycogen for their runs. Try eating 2-3 hours before running rather than right before. You can also experiment with lighter amounts of food. Your best bet is a light meal/snack of simple carbohydrates that are relatively low in fiber (think half bagel, toast, etc.). At the same time (2-3 hours before), take in about 17-20 oz. of water. Right before you head out, drink 10-12 oz. of water (sip some of that before you run and bring the rest with you for the early part of the run, if you can tolerate it). Then eat the rest of your typical breakfast (or other meal) after your run. Don’t forget to rehydrate after the run.
Q: I have been increasing my mileage and I am getting painful chafing from my clothing. I otherwise like my outfit but the chafing is getting worse.
A: For chafing you already have, try a healing ointment such as Aquaphor. To prevent chafing going forward, try an anti-chafe balm such as Body Glide. Apply this to any areas where your clothing rubs against your body (or you have body parts against body parts). Common areas include: inner thighs, inside of upper arms, bra lines/seams for women, nipple area for men, etc. Apply before every run but especially for your longer runs. It washes off very well in the shower afterward.
Q: I have started following a beginner training program that I found online (Hal Higdon). I have started getting blisters and hot spots on my feet. What should I do?
A: Since you are following a good training program, your ramp-up of work is probably pretty reasonable. First, make sure you have a good pair of properly fitting running shoes. If you are uncertain, go to one of the local running stores (Dick Pond, Road Runner Sports, Naperville Running Company) and make sure you have quality, well-fitting shoes. Next, take a look at your socks. I personally prefer double layer socks (Wrightsock is the brand I wear) as they are virtually blister proof. Body Glide or a similar anti-chafing product applied to the toes and other hot spots can help prevent blisters as well. For blisters you already have, if they aren’t serious (no broken skin), Compeed or similar blister cushions provide great relief. If you have developed more serious blisters with broken skin and/or infection, seek medical attention.
Q: I have been working on increasing my mileage and I am getting out of breath. What should I do?
A: First of all, make sure you warm up thoroughly before your runs as going out too fast too soon can often cause you to feel out of breath. As you increase your mileage, chances are you will need to slow your pace in order to avoid getting out of breath. Check your speed/pacing and make sure you are not trying to go too fast. If it is hot and humid, you will need to slow your pace even more. When you feel out of breath, try focusing on your exhalations rather than trying to inhale. Your body will inhale naturally if you focus on blowing out the old, stale air. If you try all of these things and still feel out of breath, or if you feel as though you can’t catch your breath, check with your doctor for medical advice.
Q: I want to run outside on the trails but I am afraid of ticks. What can I do?
A: The CDC offers great advice on avoiding ticks. In addition, here are my own tick tips for runners:
Injuries are a concern when running, especially as runners increase their mileage or train for a race, especially for the first time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize your chances of getting hurt.
1. Build a solid foundation. Follow a professionally created program that increases your mileage slowly and methodically from your current fitness level to a level that supports your goal race distance. There are websites that have running programs that you can tailor to your needs. Alternatively, you can work with a certified running coach to have a customized program created just for you. They key is to follow a program that:
– Starts from your current fitness level.
– Ramps your workload gradually – no more than 10 percent mileage increase per week or per session.
– Includes a slow, methodical increase of your long runs to a longer run consistent with your goal race. For example, marathoners should ramp to a long run of 20 miles, half marathoners should ramp to a long run of 12-14 miles and 5K runners should ramp to a long run of 3-5 miles.
– Includes a slow ramp up of your speed training based on your current fitness level. If you are a beginner, your initial running program should contain no speed work.
– Includes runs of different length, speed, running surface/terrain and hilliness – variety is important to prevent injury.
Also, be realistic. If you are a new runner, build your running base and run regularly for at least six months before attempting your first half marathon, and for a year before attempting your first marathon.
2. Be consistent. Now that you have your training plan, follow it closely. Consistency is one of the keys to preventing injury. This doesn’t mean you can’t miss a workout occasionally, but if you find yourself missing a week of runs, this can be a recipe for injury. Try to stay consistent by keeping the number of runs and miles per week close to your plan. If you miss a week, ease back into the plan (possibly by repeating the previous week in the plan and proceeding from there) or work with your running coach to get back on track safely.
3. Develop good running form. It is difficult to “force” yourself into perfect running form and it can be dangerous, especially if your muscles aren’t prepared for that method of running. However, in order to prevent undue force on the body, landing with each foot underneath your body – instead of in front of your body – is usually associated with lower ground forces on the body resulting in lower injury rate. The easiest way to achieve this is to shorten and quicken your stride. If you find you are an overstrider, practice the shorter, quicker strides with feet landing underneath you on a regular basis.
One way to do this is to practice “quick feet” running drills which increase your cadence (the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute) and minimize the amount of time each of your feet spends on the ground. Some people call this the “hot coals” drill since running on hot coals would certainly quicken your stride and shorten your foot strike time! Try practicing this drill a few times per week by doing 30 second intervals of “quick feet” followed by 30 seconds of “normal” running and repeat five times for a total of five minutes.
4. Strength train. Running is a very repetitive sport. As a result, it creates a high probability of overuse injuries. In order to prevent these injuries, strengthening and mobilizing key areas of the body are important preventive measures. Focus on these areas:
– Core: Strengthen the lateral and anterior core with exercises such as plank and side plank variations.
– Hips/glutes: Strengthen the legs, glutes and stabilizers with exercises such as lunge variations, deadlift and glute bridge variations and with resistance band hip abduction work (such as clams). Also, keep the hips and hamstrings mobile with key stretches for those areas.
– Ankles/calves: Strengthen the ankles and calves with exercises such as calf raises, jumping/plyometrics and banded ankle work. Also, keep the calves mobile with calf stretching. Try doing some of this foot and ankle work barefoot for added benefit.
A strength training program for runners, such as RunSMART, can help you work on all of these areas.
5. Pace. To avoid overtraining and injury, most of your running should be at a slow, conversational pace. Many people overtrain on their easy days and carry fatigue into their hard runs. Make sure you keep your easy days easy, even if you are a veteran runner. Following the pacing of your running program, as well as the distances, helps keep injury at bay.
These suggestions will help you avoid injury and have a great race. Good luck!
By now, you are well on your way to completing training for the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon & 5K. Hopefully, you’re following the appropriate Half Marathon or 5K training program that we previously posted on this blog. If not, it’s never too late to start! Just begin at the week that is the closest match to what you are already doing. The basic training programs are focused on finishing the race, but what if you want to try for something more – like a personal record or a certain time? That is where speedwork comes into play. Here is how to incorporate speedwork into your routine:
Frequency. In general, if you are a relatively new runner, aim for one speedwork session per week. If you are more experienced, start with one speedwork session per week, but later add a 2nd session, preferably using different speedwork methods.
Speedwork methods. The most popular speedwork methods are discussed below in increasing order of intensity, difficulty and risk:
Regardless of which method you choose, progress slowly and carefully, and be aware of any unusual aches and pains that develop. When in doubt about whether an injury is brewing, repeat a week before progressing and/or take time off. By carefully using these speedwork methods, you should see improvements in your race times this fall.
* Week 4 – Run 45 minutes per session, 3-4 times per week
Beyond Week 4 – Continue as above, adding 5 minutes to each run every week until you are running for long enough to complete 3.1 miles of running during each session.
lot of soreness, aches and pains, repeat the current week before proceeding to the next one in the plan.
Once you are running 3.1 miles in training, you are ready to run in a 5K (3.1 mile) race! For your first one, set a goal to finish in lieu of a specific time goal. Since you’re already running 3.1 miles in training, you should have no problem completing that distance in a race. However if you are interesting in improving your speed before race day, incorporate a ‘speed day’ into your training program. Shorten one of your weekly runs by 10-15 minutes and gradually increase to a pace that is 15-20 seconds per mile faster than usual. (Measure your easy/conversation pace to use as a baseline and use a measured track, course, GPS watch or phone app to do this accurately.) You can achieve a faster speed by increasing the speed of your leg turnover (your cadence).
So, you’ve followed the plan and you’re just about ready. Incorporate these night-before tips to ensure a great race:
* Try to relax!
On race day, try to run a fairly even pace for your 5K. This pace should be just slightly faster than the conversation pace you ran in training. If you did a speed day each week, aim for that faster pace. Enjoy your first race experience and finish strong!
Now that you’ve decided on the half marathon, how do you train for it? There are lots of programs available online for half marathon training. Here are a few considerations for choosing a plan and training for the half marathon:
Starting point: Make sure the first week of the training plan is consistent with your current mileage base. Most programs assume a “beginner” runs 8-10 miles per week. Don’t choose an intermediate program if you are really a beginner. On the other hand, if you have raced the half marathon before, choose a more advanced program that will give you the challenge of speed work and hill training so you can race more aggressively and better your previous time.
Calendar time: Look at your calendar and make sure you have enough time to complete the training before your goal race. You definitely don’t want to try to shorten the program to fit it in with the date of your race. If you don’t have enough time, choose a different goal race.
Weekly running program: Choose a program that includes one longer run per week and at least two shorter runs per week. The long run should ramp up to a maximum of around 12 miles or two hours of running. Your last long run should be approximately two weeks before your race. After you complete that last long run, your program should include a taper, a reduction in weekly mileage while maintaining the speed/intensity of the runs.
Race conditions: Train on surfaces and terrain that are similar to your goal race terrain. Find out if your race is hilly or flat, asphalt or crushed gravel, hot or cold temperatures, morning or evening, and train under conditions as similar as possible to your goal race. If you can’t do all of your training under race conditions, at least do your long runs that way.
Fueling and hydration: For the half marathon, you will definitely need to come up with a hydration strategy that works for you. Determine how frequently you will consume fluids and how much fluid you will consume. It is usually best to drink at the frequency at which water stops will be available on your goal race course. This information should be available on the race website. You may also find you perform better by ingesting some carbohydrates during your long runs – experiment with sports drinks, gels, blocks, etc. to see what works for you. Practice and refine your hydration and fueling strategies during your long runs.
Whether your end goal is to complete a half marathon or to use it as a stepping stone to the marathon, enjoy the race and be proud of the great accomplishment of completing a half marathon!
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RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers