Tag: 5K

Mixing it up – training beyond your running 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 many great reasons to add other types of 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 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. If you tend to get tight and are prone to muscle strains, regular flexibility work would be helpful. 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. 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 control 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.

Now let’s dive in with a bit more detail into the various types of cross training:

Cardiovascular training: Including non-running cross-training in your schedule helps combat boredom, balance aerobic capacity and increase work capacity without overloading your body with too much running. Consider a variety of aerobic activities and try to mix it up a bit. Since rowing works the upper body, it is a great complement to running. Other low-impact options such as cycling, elliptical and hiking allow you to further build your aerobic base without additional pounding from more running. In-line skating is a great no-impact option that works the lateral hips due to the side-to-side component of skating. Just be careful and wear the proper protective gear. 

Strength training: One of the best ways to make your body more resilient against injuries, as well as improve your running strength and performance, is to strength train. It is important to focus on the key areas in the right ways in order to maximize the benefits of your strength training for your running.

Feet and ankles: Your feet and ankles absorb a great deal of the force of running and in order to withstand that force and avoid injury, they must be strong and have adequate range of motion. Exercises that encourage foot and ankle health include calf raises/lowers, heel walks and toe raises. Other exercises may be useful depending on your injury history. For example, towel drags are useful for runners with a history of plantar fasciitis.

Quads, hips and glutes: These muscles are the powerhouse of running. The focus here should be on stability, symmetry (each side of your body close to equal strength) and general strength. Try to include single-leg exercises (such as lunges) to help create symmetry between the two sides of your body. Other exercises to include for quad, hip and glute strength are squats and glute bridges. Difficulty can be increased by adding weight or by increasing the stability challenge. For example, try single-leg glute bridges. Other exercises, such as clams and lateral straight leg raises, are useful for runners with a history of IT band injury.

Core (abdominals): The core is key to keeping your pelvis stable as you run. Here you should focus on stability and endurance. Exercises such as planks, side planks, leg lowers and isometric side holds (Pallof holds) are useful in training these muscle groups. Planks and side planks can be advanced by adding instability (such as a ball or BOSU), but be careful with these progressions as the risk of falling or injury is greater.

Focus on these areas and you will reap the benefits by becoming stronger and more resilient to injury.

If you are interested in a small group strength training class focusing on all the above body parts, join us at RunSMART.

Flexibility: Running tends to tighten certain muscles in your body, especially the calves, hips and hamstrings. Flexibility training helps counteract that tightness. Pilates and yoga are great muscle lengthening activities. Stretching of the lower body and lower back are great for maintaining mobility. It is best to limit stretching activities before you run; do your stretches, especially static stretches, after running. 

As you can see, mixing up your training provides many benefits, making you stronger and more fit and enhancing your running success.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness

Self-care for runners

Running is hard on the body, especially if you are new to running or are training hard for a race. The longer the distance of the goal race, the harder the training demands on your body. In order to stay healthy and prevent overtraining, incorporating self-care is just as important as following your running plan. Here are some key areas on which to focus:

Sleep: Sleep is one of the key ways your body recovers from the demands placed on it by your running program. Everyone is different, but generally you need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to properly recover from your workouts. Going to sleep at the same time every night, staying away from screens (tv, phone, computer) for a few hours before bed and eating dinner several hours before bedtime are all helpful in assuring a restful, restorative sleep.

Eating and nutrition: Eating enough calories and the right nutrients provide the building blocks your body needs to recover from injury. It is important to pay attention to total calories, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to ensure that you are getting enough of each. There are several phone apps (My Fitness Pal, My Plate) that can help you keep track of your food intake and make sure you are getting adequate nutrition. Alternatively, you can consult a registered dietitian for a meal plan tailored to your specific needs.

Hydration: Adequate fluid intake goes hand-in-hand with proper nutrition in giving your body the tools it needs for training recovery. Make sure you hydrate properly before every run: two hours before the run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About 10 minutes before you run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces. In addition, try to stay hydrated throughout the day. Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, so the easiest and best thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

Stress management: Running stresses the body, so it is important to minimize other sources of stress in your life during times of intense training in your running program. It is difficult to avoid stresses in life, but if possible, avoid things like moving, job changes and other disruptions when you are in the most difficult portions of your training and in the weeks leading up to a key race. Since life disruptions are difficult to prevent, try some stress management techniques like meditation or relaxation. There are lots of stress management phone apps available (such as Calm) that can help you learn to relax and meditate. These practices can help improve your recovery from training.

Body work (massage, physical therapy, etc.):  One way to increase your work capacity for running is to seek out active recovery services from a sports physical therapist or massage therapist. Modalities such as compression boots (such as Normatec or Rapid Reboot), vibration massage (Legiral or Hypervolt), manual therapy (from a physical therapist or sports chiropractor) and massage therapy (from a licensed massage therapist) are great ways to accelerate your recovery from hard workouts.

Time management: Running takes time out of an already-busy schedule. A big part of self-care is managing your time so that your life isn’t overbooked and you have time for everything important in your life. Keeping a calendar (readily available on your computer and phone) is a great way to manage and evaluate your priorities and activities. Make sure you schedule runs on your calendar and include free time in your schedule. Your calendar will give you a structure from which to turn down activities that overburden you and/or are not high priority.

Cross-training: Running works your muscles in a very specific way. Cross-training helps to balance the muscles of your body. I will cover this topic in depth in my next blog post.

Good self-care will allow you to train harder without breaking down with illness or injury. Try to make time for these areas to ensure training success.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness

5 Steps to Running Injury Prevention

Injuries are a concern when running, especially as runners increase their mileage or train for a race. The risk is even higher for new runners and runners training for their first race. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of getting hurt.

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 several reputable websites that have running programs (some are free and some involve ongoing coaching and charge a fee) that you can tailor to your needs. Alternatively, work with a certified running coach to have a customized program created just for you. The key is to follow a program that:

Starts from your current fitness level.

Increases 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 run length consistent with your goal race. For example, marathoners should ramp up to a long run of 20 miles, half marathoners should ramp up to a long run of 12-14 miles and 5K runners should ramp up 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.

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.

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 stress 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 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 spend 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.

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 hip 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.

Make pace a priority.

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 five key steps will help you avoid injury and have a great race season. Good luck!

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness

Common running questions answered

It’s normal to have questions as you begin a training program. Here are my answers to some of the most common running-related questions I am receiving this year.

Q: I’ve been running for a few months and now that it’s getting warmer, sweat is getting in my eyes. What should I do?

A: Sweating is important in running – it’s how your body keeps cool. You don’t want to prevent or discourage sweating. To keep sweat out of your eyes, try a headband or an absorbent hat. There are baseball-style running hats on the market that do a good job of absorbing sweat and shielding your head from the sun.

Q: I have been running for a few months and yesterday I got a cramp in my calf while running. I had to stop. What should I do to prevent that?

A: When you get a cramp or sudden pain while you are running, you need to slow down or stop until the pain subsides. If necessary, stop or walk back to your starting point. Gentle movement (flexing of the foot in the case of calf cramp) will help it subside. The next step is to figure out what caused the cramping to prevent it from happening again. Check out the most common causes and suggested remedies:

Heat and/or dehydration. Is it warmer than it has been in recent days? Did you drink less fluid than normal? If either of these is the case, then it is likely that you are dehydrated. Next time you run, make sure you pay attention to your hydration. Make sure you drink 17-20 oz. of water 2-3 hours before you run. In the 30 minutes before you head out, slowly drink 10-12 oz. of water.

Inadequate warm-up. If it’s not warm, you’re well hydrated and you were running at a moderate pace, it is likely that you’re cramping came from an inadequate warm-up. Make sure you walk for 5 to 10 minutes and do some movement exercises before you begin your runs.

Overdoing it. If your cramping occurred doing speed work, it is possible that you were going too fast for your current conditioning or you ran too fast too suddenly. Next time, try going a little slower and/or do a more thorough warm-up before attempting the speed work.

If the cramping persists into the next day or recurs the next time you run, consult your doctor or running coach.

Q: What is the best time of day to run?

A: The best time of day to run is the time that will allow you to consistently follow your running program. Consistency is the most important key to success in running. Having said that, as your goal race gets closer, you should try to do some running at the same time of day as your race, especially when it comes to your weekend longer runs. For the rest of your runs, doing them in the evening is okay, especially if that’s the time that works best with your schedule. Generally, use your weekend longer runs to mimic the race-day experience, including the terrain, hydration schedule and time of day.

Q: I have recently started running in the morning and I am getting nauseous from my breakfast. 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 since 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. Experiment with lighter amounts of food; your best bet is a light meal/snack of simple carbohydrates that are relatively low in fiber (think ½ 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 (you can 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 breakfast (or other meal) after your run. Don’t forget to rehydrate after the run as well.

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. Help!

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. You will need to 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. Anti-chafing products wash off very well in the shower after your runs.

Q: I have started following a beginner training program (Hal Higdon) that I found online. 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 reasonable. The first step would be to 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). Next step, 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 already 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, 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 and pacing and make sure you are not trying to go too fast. If it is hot and humid, 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 these things and still feel out of breath, or if you feel as though you can’t catch your breath, seek medical advice.

Q: I want to run outside on the trails, but I am afraid of ticks. What can I do?

A: The CDC has warned of an abundance of ticks this season. Fortunately, they have great advice on avoiding them:  https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html

In addition, here are my own tips:

Wear light clothing (so you can spot ticks) but not white clothing (ticks are attracted to white clothing).

Wear bug repellent. The CDC site offers some natural options if you are not interested in wearing chemical sprays while running.

Run on paved trails or crushed gravel rather than on 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.

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 recommendations to check your clothing and your body (check all the areas on the CDC site and check your feet/between your toes) and shower right away. Finally, shake out your running shoes and keep them outside between runs.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness

Starting (or Restarting) a Running Program

You may be intrigued by the thought of participating in the Healthy Driven Naperville 5K or even the Half Marathon. So, what’s stopping you? It might be that you aren’t a runner – yet. Maybe you were a runner in the past, but the last year, life, the pandemic and/or winter derailed your running routine. That’s okay, we can help. Here are some steps to get your training started (or restarted) so you can start achieving your running-related goals.

Get medical clearance. Check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to work up to and take part in a running program. This is especially important if you are older, have cardiovascular risk factors, bone or joint issues, are taking medication or have other health concerns. If you had COVID-19, it is important to work with your doctor to get the appropriate testing and health screening to ensure your safe return to exercise. In general, 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 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

If you already walk regularly for 30 or more minutes several times a week, start your program with Week 5 below.

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. Continue 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: First 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). Second workout: 3 min. run/1 min. walk x 7. Third and fourth 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.

When following the plan above, don’t overdo it. If a week seems too difficult or causes too much muscle soreness, don’t be afraid to repeat the previous week and proceed from there. It may take more than 12 weeks to complete the program if you need to repeat a week here or there, but that’s perfectly fine. It is better to proceed slowly than get frustrated and quit.

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 fall 5K (like the Healthy Driven Naperville 5K) would make a great first event. Look through our blog archives and future postings for tips on effective training, injury prevention and preparing yourself for race day.

In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck with starting your running program.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness