Tag: halfmarathon

Planning and preparing for race day

 

Now that you are just a few weeks away from your goal race, it’s time to taper and allow your body the rest it needs to repair and rebuild muscle and tissue, replenish muscle glycogen stores, restore optimal hydration levels and reduce stress hormone levels. This ensures your body is in the best possible condition for race day.

There are many approaches to tapering and everyone responds differently. It may take some experimentation to find the best approach for you, especially if you’re new to race tapering. Consider the following aspects to a successful taper, which address all areas of your life:

1. Sleep: Small changes make race day easier.

  • Shift your sleep schedule to race-day wake-up time requirements over the final week before the race. That way when you wake up on race morning, your wake-up time will feel natural.

  • Try to get adequate sleep during the weeks leading up to the race. For most people this is 7-8 hours per night.

  • Don’t worry about insomnia the night before the race. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep two nights before the race and you’ll be fine.

2. Other exercise: Don’t begin a new exercise program within 4-6 weeks prior to the race. Specifically, avoid starting any of the following:

  • New sports

  • New cross-training mode

  • Major, physical house project

  • Weight training (Note: if you already weight train, maintain current weights, repetitions and sets for the 4-6 weeks prior to the race. Don’t increase weights, etc. Stop weight training 5-7 days before your race.)

3. Stress: Try to limit significant life stresses during the month prior to the race. If possible, avoid job changes, household moves, significant travel and other disruptions to your normal lifestyle.

4. Running mileage: 

  • Follow a two-week taper for the half marathon. During the taper, even though you are decreasing mileage, maintain the intensity (speed) of your runs. The runs will just be shorter. Here’s what your two-week taper should look like:

    • Week 1: 30% mileage reduction
    • Week 2: 60% mileage reduction

  • Run little or no mileage 2-3 days prior to the race. If you feel you must run to loosen up the day before the race, don’t run more than a mile.

  • For the 5K, you can do a one-week taper, reducing your mileage for the week before the race by approximately 40-50%, again keeping your speed the same as prior to the taper. 

5. Fueling and hydration: Prior to the race, either follow your normal diet (during which your mileage reduction will allow you to store glycogen) or a ‘carbohydrate-loading’ approach (where you slowly ramp up carbohydrate consumption and decrease protein and fat consumption during the final week before the race). The carbohydrate-loading approach is probably unnecessary for the half marathon or 5K unless you ran into problems maintaining your energy level during your long runs. Regardless of which approach you take, follow these guidelines 2-3 days before your race:

  • Stay well hydrated throughout the week.

  • Drink water freely and often during the 24-48 hours before the event.

  • 2-3 days before the race: eat low-fiber, low-glycemic index foods.

  • 1-2 days before the race: consider avoiding fried foods, red meat, dairy, nuts, roughage to avoid gastric distress during the race.

6. How you will feel during the taper: The reduction in physical workload during the taper will take an unexpected toll on you. Your body is used to exercise and your body will react to its absence. You will likely experience symptoms such as:

  • Feeling “antsy”/hyperactive/anxious

  • Feeling bloated, fat and sluggish

  • Irritability

  • Muscle twinges, aches and tightness

If you feel any and all of this, good job. Your taper is going according to plan and you’re on track to be able to do your very best on race day. More important than anything, stay relaxed. Do a bit of stretching to loosen any tight muscles. Consider scheduling a sports massage a few days before the race, but only if you have previously had this treatment earlier in your training program. If you have followed a well-designed training plan and have prepared well, you are ready to have a successful goal race.

7. For the race day itself, put together a checklist in advance so that you can stay relaxed and not forget something important. Include all of the things you want to wear and bring for your race: clothing, shoes, mask, smart watch, nutrition and hydration, bib and timing chip, course map, etc. Go through your checklist and lay out what you plan to wear and pack what you plan to bring the night before the race. Get to the race start early so that you have time to find parking and warm up. Finish your pre-race hydration and then relax and enjoy the race!

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
www.EEHealth.org/fitness

Virtual racing: Making it real

 

Due to the pandemic (or perhaps due to convenience), you may be considering the virtual option for the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon or 5K (or another fall race with a virtual option). You may feel choosing the virtual race means you aren’t doing a “real” race. Here are some ways to make it more “real.”

Race time: Schedule your virtual race in advance for a specific day and time. If possible, choose the same day and time as the live version of your race (if there is one). Treat this day and time as you would an actual race start time and make sure you plan for and begin your race at that time. Put the race on your calendar and target your training and tapering toward that race start time. Tell your friends and family about your race start time. All of this will create some of the pressure, anticipation and excitement of an actual race.

Map a course: Figure out what race course you are going to run in advance. Make sure the distance is correct. You can do this by driving or running the course in advance with a GPS or smart watch. Try to choose a course that minimizes delays (traffic crossings, railroad tracks, etc.) On race day, try not to deviate from your “official” race course.

Start and finish lines: Mark your start and finish lines in some way on the morning of the race. Use flags, cones or some other temporary markers.  Having these spots marked will make your race feel more official.

On your mark, get set, go! Make sure you have a real countdown to the race start. Having a friend or family member start and time you for your race will make it feel more official. Make sure you time yourself with your own watch as well.

Cheering squad: Try to get some friends and family to come to your race and cheer for you. That will add some interest and excitement and might even entice some of them to take up running in the future. If you already have running friends and family, see if some of them will join in and run the race with you.

Race kit:  Wear your official race bib during your race. When you finish, put on your medal and shirt (if you bought one) , relax and celebrate.

Social media:  Post photos (in your bib, medal and shirt) and your race results on social media. That will allow others to know about and congratulate you on your accomplishment. 

Taking some or all of these steps will allow you to feel like you have really been racing when your virtual race day arrives.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
www.EEHealth.org/fitness

Smart pre-race training: The last month

 

By now, your long runs are getting longer. Depending on your training plan, your longest training run may be 12-14 miles for the half marathon or 3-6 miles for the 5K. It’s time to start practicing for your race. Use the rest of your long runs (or at least two of them) as rehearsals for race day. Here’s how:

Meals. Dinner the night before your long run and your morning pre-run food should be exactly what you plan to eat before your race to make sure it will not upset your stomach and/or cause unplanned bathroom visits. You also want to make sure the meals fuel your muscles sufficiently for the long run effort with a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Use the last few long runs to experiment with quantity, type and timing of food to determine what works best for you.

Hydration. Similarly, your fluid intake the day before and morning of your long run should mimic your race day hydration. As a rule for race day (and long run practice days), two hours before the run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About 10 minutes before you head out to run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces.

Fueling and hydration during the long run. During the long run, drink approximately 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes, adjust this as necessary based on your own “sweat rate.” For half marathon long runs, consider replacing half of the water with an equal amount of electrolyte drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) You can mix the water and electrolyte drink for convenience and digestibility. Here again, mimic the quantities and frequencies of fueling and hydration that you will use on race day. Pay attention to the location of the water stops in your goal race and the type and location of nutrition (sports drinks, gels, etc.) that will be provided during your race. This information should be on the race website and on the course map. Practice with the specific brands of nutrition prior to the race to make sure they agree with your stomach. The Naperville Half Marathon serves water and Gatorade Endurance Formula and will have six hydration stations at approximately every two miles (they are marked on the course map.) The Naperville 5K will also serve water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at one water stop near mile 2.

Attire. For long runs, you should wear the outfit you plan to wear during the race: shorts/tights, tops/jog bra, socks and shoes. Also practice with hat/headband, sunglasses, smart watch, face mask and/or hydration belt/pack if you are planning on using any of these in the race. I recommend using a fairly new (but broken in) pair of shoes for the half marathon or 5K race. A common strategy is to wear a new pair of shoes for one or two of your shorter mid-week runs, then use them for one or two of your longest runs and then wear them for the race. This will give you shoes that are broken in but still with plenty of cushion and life. Make sure you wash any new clothing and practice with all of the race day clothing to ensure you know how to combat chafing and blisters with your chosen outfit. Bodyglide is a great product to combat chafing, but you will need to practice with the race day clothing to determine where and in what quantity to apply the Bodyglide.

Terrain. Mimic terrain/running surface, elevation changes, climate/temperature and especially the time of day of the race for your long runs. If you are currently running in the afternoons, now is the time to switch your long runs to a race time start (7 a.m. for the Naperville Half Marathon and 7:15 a.m. for the Naperville 5K). If possible, run part or all of your long run on the actual race course (traffic permitting of course) or run them on similar surfaces (primarily asphalt for the Naperville races).

Pacing. If you are going for a specific goal time for the half marathon or 5K, practice your race pace for at least the final few miles of some or all of your long runs. Also, practice even or negative splits (running the second half of the long run faster than the first half.) This type of pacing will help you to maximize your performance and not burn your glycogen reserves too early in the run. If this is your first half marathon or 5K, you should not have a goal time and instead focus on finishing with an even pace.

Practicing these elements of your race during your final long runs will help you to find the best strategies for you and reduce your race-day anxiety by ensuring you are as prepared as possible.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
www.EEHealth.org/fitness

Training tips for summer weather

 

Many of you are probably training for the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon or 5K (or another fall race) and by October, the weather will likely be much more favorable for running a successful race. Unfortunately, your training plan calls for long runs in the summer, during the heat, humidity (and possibly rain and thunderstorms) of August and September. Here are some tips to successfully make it through those late-summer long runs:

Watch the weather. First and foremost, watch the weather forecast. If you learn in advance that your long run will fall on a day with less favorable conditions, adjust your plan accordingly. Keep in mind that your running performance drops below optimal levels when temperatures are above 55 degrees and will fall off 10% or more when temperatures exceed 80. Also keep in mind that no place outdoors is safe for running during a thunderstorm.

Have a plan B. If it looks like your long run is planned for a hot, humid day or a day with forecasted thunderstorms, consider these options:

Switch the day. Consider moving your long run 1-2 days earlier (or later) if your schedule allows. Your long run is your most important run each week, so moving or adjusting a couple of your shorter runs won’t hurt your training. The goal for the week is to have a successful long run.

Start early/switch the time. Starting at 5 a.m. can make a big difference in the amount of heat and humidity you face during your long run. Getting most of your long run in before the sun rises can improve your chances for success. Similarly, switching the time of your run to avoid thunderstorms will keep you safe. The weather app on your phone can be configured to detect lightning in your area; seek shelter immediately if lightning strikes in your area during a run.

Find the shade. A shady course can make as much as a 10-degree difference in ambient temperature and will help you to avoid the heat. Remember, shade is not an option to avoid thunderstorms.

Go indoors. Consider doing your long run on a treadmill or indoor track. It might be more tedious, but the conditions will be much more favorable. This will allow you to achieve your goal training pace more successfully than running outside in 90+ degree heat or during bad storms. To avoid boredom, listen to music or a podcast, or run with a training partner.

Acclimate to the heat. You can adjust to the heat of summer, but it will take 5-10 sessions of running in the heat at a much slower pace (and possibly for a shorter distance) than you normally run. Make sure you are well hydrated before and during these runs:

  • 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.
  • During the run, drink approximately 7-10 oz every 10-20 minutes. Adjust this as necessary based on your own ‘sweat rate’. If your run will last longer than 60 minutes, consider replacing half of the water with an equal amount of electrolyte drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.). You can mix the water and Gatorade for convenience and digestibility.

If all else fails, you have no other option and you must run in the heat and humidity (and you are not acclimated to the heat), hydrate (as discussed above) and slow your pace. One of the main purposes of the long run is to teach your body to handle exertion and energy expenditure over a long period of time. In the heat, exertion levels and energy expenditure will be much higher for a given running pace.

Hydrate properly before your run and go as slowly as necessary to complete your long run, taking frequent hydration breaks (including both water and electrolytes) and walking breaks. If you have extra water (don’t use electrolyte drink), pour some on your head and neck to keep cool. Don’t worry about your pace or time; the training effect is occurring and in your next long run, weather permitting, you will do and feel much better. If you do run outside in the heat, watch for signs of heat illness (nausea, fatigue/weakness, dizziness, cramping, confusion). If any of these occur, stop immediately and cool your body (go indoors, hydrate, put cool water on your head, neck and body). If symptoms persist, seek medical attention. 

A quick note on long-run terrain: make sure your long runs are on similar terrain (surface, elevation, etc.) as your target race. This will enhance your preparation for your race. More tips on practicing for race day will be covered in an upcoming article.

Stay patient and confident through these late-summer long runs and when the weather cools, you will reap the benefits of difficult training in summer weather.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
www.EEHealth.org/fitness

Finding motivation to keep running

 

By now you have probably been running regularly for a few months and may be having trouble staying motivated to keep consistent with your running plan. I’m sharing my best tips to help you stay on track. Hopefully, a few (or a lot) of these ideas will work for you.

Add cross-training. As I discussed in my previous blog, cross-training not only improves overall fitness, but it can also keep your running from feeling stale and monotonous. Mixing up your workouts and including cardio other than running can really help you stick to your overall running plan and avoid boredom.

Focus on self-care. In my mid-July blog, I talked about how self-care can help reduce mental and physical stress. This  can help you stay motivated and committed to your running plan.

Get yourself out the door. Sometimes, just taking the first step is the most powerful one you can take. In order to make sure you complete each run in your running plan, consider the following:

  • Schedule it. Put each run on your calendar – on a specific day and at a specific time. Include the duration (including driving, changing and showering time, as necessary) and location. Your runs need to carry the same importance in your life as your other meetings and obligations. By committing to a specific time, you can avoid scheduling conflicting activities and stay on track for your runs. If an unavoidable conflict arises, don’t just cancel your run. Reschedule it to a different time or non-running day later in the week.
  • Prepare. Make it as easy as possible to go on your run. If possible, lay out your clothing, shoes and accessories the night before or some time in advance of your run. Charge your smart watch and/or phone in advance so that you are ready to go. Set aside your pre-run hydration in the refrigerator so that you can easily grab it and hydrate before your run. Have your sunscreen and bug repellent handy for when you leave the house (I keep mine on a table in the garage so that I can apply it on my way out the door).

Have a goal (race). Training for a specific event will always increase your commitment and motivation to stick to your running plan. Choose a goal race that is a distance and calendar date that is reasonable for your fitness level. Tell friends and family about the goal race, put the race on your calendar, post your plans on social media; do anything you can to make it more real and tangible. If you are concerned about public events due to the pandemic, lots of races this year (including the Healthy Driven Naperville Half-Marathon and 5K) have a virtual option.

Keep variety in the mix. Make sure you include runs on different paths and trails as well as different distances and paces, so you don’t get bored with your running plan. Mixing up the terrain, running surface and pace will provide variety for you mentally, as well as giving your muscles a more varied workout which will make you physically stronger.

Find a community. Having a group (or a buddy) to run with can really help you stay focused and accountable and stick to your running plan. If large groups aren’t for you, try to find one person to run with consistently. Someone with similar goals and capabilities is ideal. Also, keep in mind that your running buddy can be your dog! If you are a more social person, there’s no denying the benefits of a running group or community. Here are my favorite reasons for lacing up with a friend or friends instead of hitting the road solo:

  • Commitment. The most important aspect of your training is consistency. You’re more likely to get out for your run if you feel you’ve committed to others who expect you to be there. Even if you run in a group, be accountable to one or two specific individuals for each run. The thought of letting someone else down will make it hard to sleep in or skip your run.
  • Camaraderie. Sometimes, when we run alone, time can just drag, and our runs seem to take forever. The camaraderie and distraction of being with others can really help you stay with your running plan. As your runs become longer, the “we’re in this together” feeling becomes even more important.
  • Safety. We’ve all heard that there’s safety in numbers, and it’s true for runners, too. If someone gets hurt, others are there to get help. Larger groups ward off wildlife visitors or humans up to no good. Groups of runners are more likely to spot trail hazards – like obstacles or holes in the road – and warn others. Lastly, your group is less likely to get lost while together, but if you do, you have each other to develop a plan to get back home. 
  • Creative stimulation. A running community is helpful outside of actual runs, too. It’s helpful to have others to discuss ideas with or work through a creative solution to a training issue. 
  • Motivation. Running with others makes it hard to quit mid-run. You’re more likely to finish and reach your goals in a group. Being with others also makes you feel that if they can do it, so can you. 
  • Performance. A little friendly rivalry or competition can be a good thing and improve your running performance. Just make sure you don’t make every run a competition. Remember to keep your easy days easy.
  • Networking. You never know who you’ll meet in your running group; they just might end up being contacts and confidants that will help you with other personal, career or philanthropic goals. 
  • Social/Friendships. Some of my best friends over the years have been my running friends. Long runs are a great opportunity to really open up with someone and get to know them on a deeper level. I have running friends who retired from running years ago, but I’m still in close contact with them. Running friends are friends for life.

As you can see, there are lots of techniques you can use to stay on track with your running plan. Try a few or all of these tips to build your consistency and achieve your goals.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness
www.EEHealth.org/fitness

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
www.EEHealth.org/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
www.EEHealth.org/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
www.EEHealth.org/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
www.EEHealth.org/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
www.EEHealth.org/fitness