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Five Signs of Runner Overtraining

February 19th, 2013

Overtraining can lead to injury, burnout and impaired performance, so avoiding it is especially crucial for competitive runners with serious goals.  Here are five signs of overtraining:

1. Your body hurts.

Every athlete gets sore from time to time, especially if you’re just starting a new training routine. What we’re talking about are those nagging aches and pains that started a week (or more) ago, and just won’t go away. This is your body’s way of letting you know it’s time for some rest. Without rest, it’s easy for those minor aches and pains to develop into more serious injuries that could sideline you from your training.

2. You’re unmotivated to workout.

We’ve all had a tough time stepping that first foot out the door some days, but if you feel unmotivated before every workout, it’s time to ease up. Mental burnout is a good sign that physical burnout is on the horizon. Being able to push through a workout when you’re less than motivated is part of being a competitor, but know your limits. If you find you’re dragging yourself through every workout, think twice before you lace up your trainers today.

Read more…

Alice Run Training , , , ,

Running Resolutions in Limbo?

February 6th, 2013

Stumbling more than you're running? Brooks' blog has suggestions to get back on track.

If you’re having trouble sticking with your running resolutions, check out this blog from Brooks on How to Reboot Your Running Resolutions. They offer up some fixes and suggestions for common training hurdles like sickness, exhaustion, and not being able to find enough time to get in all your mileage.

We’ve found a couple types of products are particularly helpful for people who are working on a training or race goal in 2013. The most obvious one is a GPS watch or heart rate monitor. After all, you can’t improve if you don’t measure how you’re doing. We’re also big proponents of massage and running injury prevention products, especially for more entry level runners who are working hard toward a goal.

For those of you who made running resolutions, how are they going? What other stumbling blocks have gotten in your way? Let us know and we’ll try to offer some creative solutions.

Matt Run Training, Running Accessories , , ,

Maintaining Muscle Endurance during Time Off from Running

February 4th, 2013

Look at Those Mitochondria Go!

If you’re a sprinter and you take a handful of weeks off, you’ll likely experience less of a performance hit than a distance runner. This is because your speed and strength will stick around longer than your muscle endurance when you take a long break from training. Why is that? Well, muscle endurance has everything to do with having a lasting energy source, and the energy generators in the cells, mitochondria, can decline in number quickly with inactivity.

Here’s a little more background and some useful tips for distance runners to keep their endurance up if and when they need to take some time away.

Two Weeks Too Many

If you just take off a few extra days from your training, you’re probably fine. Of course, “fine” is a relative term – you might be a mini basketcase or a bit of a grump, but the break shouldn’t have any noticeable physiological effects at least.

Performance typically starts to take a hit after about 7-10 days of inactivity. By the time you hit a two-week hiatus, you’ll almost certainly start to feel the effects of detraining on your endurance. Your mitochondrial density (more on this in a sec) will decrease and enzyme activity in your mitochondria will slow down, causing your endurance to plummet. You’ll probably also start to see an increase in body fat, especially if you’re eating the same way you were when your training was in full tilt.

Mitochondria: The Little Engines That Can

Stretch your memory all the way back to freshman year bio. You might vaguely recall your teacher saying something about the mitochondria being the “powerhouse” of a cell. How do these little blobs in your cells work their magic? With the help of oxygen, they break down carbs, fat and protein to release the energy stored inside.

The trick here is that your body can actually increase the number of mitochondria in each cell. And that’s just what it’ll do in response to increased energy needs. Increased mitochondrial density in your muscles helps to improve endurance by giving your muscles an adequate source of energy when running at a faster pace. But just as your body can increase mitochondrial density, in a classic case of ‘use it or lose it,’ the body will also decrease that density quickly in response to inactivity.

Loss Prevention

If you’re unable to train the way you normally do because of an injury, illness, or hectic schedule, try to create a modified training plan. The focus of this plan is simply to maintain the benefits of your prior training during your hiatus. Clear your training modifications with your physician before you try them, to make sure you won’t be prolonging or aggravating your injury with activity.

Whenever possible, reduce how much you train, rather than just burying your running shoes in the closet. This could mean cutting mileage, or stepping down from six workouts per week to three or four. If you have a joint injury, try working out on an elliptical to eliminate impact. For something like a stress fracture you might try cross-training in the pool. Engaging in an endurance activity other than running (like swimming) will keep your mitochondria density up, and can help you maintain your endurance when you’re ready to lace up again.

Alice Run Training, Running Sport , , , ,

Hydration and Cold Weather Running

January 24th, 2013

Ever wonder how the dry, cold days this time of year impact your hydration levels? After all, breathing in the dry air causes us to lose more water through our lungs, and it’s really easy for many runners not to drink enough when temperatures drop.

Several of us here at RW were just talking by the watercooler the other day (as we diligently hydrated) about how it’s tough to get excited about drinking even room temp beverages this time of year. Hot water with a bit of lemon seemed to be a crowd favorite.

Hydration in cold weather doesn’t get nearly as much discussion as the importance of hydrating when the mercury rises, but Skratch Labs, makers of Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Drink Mix, has a fantastic recent blog article on how the human body compensates for cold temps. They also provide some strategies for staying warm and properly hydrated when you’re running in a winter wonderland.

Exercising in the Cold of Winter by Allen Lim

Matt Run Training, Running Accessories , ,

Marathon Recovery Tips

January 21st, 2013

You just did 26.2 – congrats on making it to the finish line. Whether it was your first or your 51st, make sure you know what to do to take care of the body that just carried you all those miles.

Immediately Following Your Race

  • Walk it off: Even though you might not want to run another step, make sure you cool down slowly. Coming to a dead stop after running a long distance can make recovery even more painful. Jog for a few minutes, and then transition to a walk.
  • Stretch: Gently stretch your muscles while you finish cooling down. This can help to ease muscle tightness and prevent injury.
  • Change: As soon as you’re done with your race, change into some warm, dry clothes to prevent getting clammy and chilled. This will also help keep your muscles from cooling down too quickly.
  • Start sipping: After a long race, it’s important to replenish what your body has lost. If it’s hard to think of food at this point, opt for a recovery drink that has carbs, protein and electrolytes. Gauge your level of hydration based on the color of your urine. Urine should be a very light yellow (think lemonade). If it’s darker than that, you need more fluids. If it’s lighter, ease up on the fluid intake to avoid overhydrating.

Two Hours After Your Race

  • Massage: Treat yourself to a massage from a pro, or try some self-massage to help your muscles recover. Check out the benefits of self-massage here.
  • Nibble: Although you likely won’t feel hungry enough for a real meal yet, try snacking on something small to help refuel your system. Our peanut butter energy bites can provide some quick calories post-race.

Six to Twelve Hours After Your Race

  • Chow down: You’re probably going to be pretty ravenous at this point, and you definitely earned that hunger. Avoid fast food and give your body something with high nutritional quality, like lean meat and steamed veggies with wild rice.
  • Move around: To avoid stiffness, make sure you get up and walk around for about ten minutes every hour or two for the day following your race.
  • Sleep: Get plenty of rest so that your body can put the food you ate to good use. Make sure you have a dark, quiet place to sleep, even if you’re away from home.

Seven to Ten Days After Your Race

  • Recover actively: For the first week to week-and-a-half following your race, try no-impact cross training activities to actively recover. Swimming and cycling are both great options. Just make sure to listen to your body, and if it feels like you’re pushing too hard, ease up. You’ll have plenty of time to train hard again soon, and recovering from your race effort should be priority number one. 

Alice Run Training , ,

Upper Body Strength for Runners

January 16th, 2013

When you think ‘elite runner,’ the words ‘super buff upper bod’ probably aren’t the first that come to mind. But adding upper body strength training can be a key step to improve your efficiency as a runner.

If you train the right way, you’ll build strength without adding unnecessary bulk. If you’re looking to shave a little time off your current PR, or to give yourself the edge necessary to achieve your next race goal, then spending some time building upper body strength could be just the ticket.

Why does upper body training help?

For most runners, strength training is focused on leg exercises. Without a doubt, lower body strength training can produce performance benefits for runners. But you’re missing out on some extra performance points if you’re skipping upper body work entirely.

When you employ resistance training (read: weights, bodyweight resistance or resistance band exercises), your muscle fibers increase in size, which in turn increases the strength of your muscles. Resistance training also improves your nervous system’s ability to coordinate muscle contractions.

But you’re not running on your hands, so what difference does upper body strength make? Strength training in your upper body can help boost respiratory efficiency, increase the stability of your core, and eliminate unnecessary movement while you run. Although these benefits likely won’t affect your running performance as drastically as increasing your aerobic training, they can help give you that slight edge to beat out the competition when it really counts. Having a well-toned upper body can also improve your form, helping to prevent injury.

Which exercises should you do?

It’s important for runners to train their muscles in ways that mimic the body movements of running. A runner’s arms move independently of each other when running, so it’s important to train them independently. A runner should focus on unilateral exercises (work one side of the body at a time), as opposed to bilateral exercises (use both sides of the body in tandem). It’s fine to include a few bilateral exercises in your training mix, just don’t make them the bulk of your workout.

Here are a few exercises to try:

  • Chin-ups (3 sets x 12 reps)
  • Dumbbell chest press (3 x 12 – each arm)
  • One arm bent-over row (3 x 12 – each arm)
  • Standing shoulder press (3 x 12 – each arm)
  • Standing deltoid raise (2 x 15 – each arm)

How often should you do them?

For strength benefits that won’t get in the way of the mileage you’re logging, add in an upper body workout twice a week for about 20-30 minutes. Make sure to do at least 10-12 reps per set for each exercise. Start with lighter weight and gradually increase to heavier weight. Keeping your reps high and your weight low to moderate will help you achieve endurance strength gains without adding bulk.

Alice Run Training , , ,

Cross Training to Stay Fit Through Injury

January 10th, 2013

The 'Beer Gut Balance' is not a recommended exercise to help you stay fit.

Picture this: you’ve just heard these dreaded words from your doctor: ‘You need to take time off from running.’ Blerg! Maybe it’s shin splints, a stress fracture, runner’s knee or some other ugly injury. Take heart that there are things that you can do as you heal to protect the training gains you’ve made thus far. As always, make sure you check with your physician before starting any new training plan, especially if you are injured.

If you just sit on your kiester for 6-8 weeks while you recover from an injury, you’ll experience the effects of training reversibility. The key to maintaining your level of fitness while recovering from an injury is cross training.

There are a variety of activities that runners can do to cross-train. You should be able to find one that won’t aggravate your injury. A few of our favorite cross-training activities are swimming, cycling, hitting the elliptical, and water running. Certain injuries will keep you from doing some of these activities, but you can water run, or “aqua jog,” through most injuries.

Stay Consistent

It can be easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to recover from a running injury – especially about 3 weeks in, when you’re really starting to itch for a run and you’ve got over a month of recovery ahead of you. Even when it’s hard, do your best to stay consistent with your cross-training workouts, because they’ll help you hold onto your fitness while your body heals. Write your current running goal out and post it somewhere you’ll see it often, to remind yourself why you’re dealing with the monotony of cross training while you can’t run.

Enjoy the Challenge

You typically wouldn’t deviate from your running routine, so try to look at the recovery process as a chance to try something new. Mix up your workouts to keep yourself interested, and to mirror the running workouts you would be doing if you weren’t injured. If you typically run hard interval repeats on Mondays, and log long easy mileage on Wednesdays, then cross-train with a hard interval workout on Mondays and a long easy session on Wednesdays. Make sure you’re working above 70% of your VO2 max at least a few times each week, to help you maintain your aerobic fitness.

Make a Slow Comeback

Fast forward several weeks: you’ve patiently worked through hours of cross training sessions to keep your fitness on (kudos!). When your doctor clears you to run, you’ll probably want to lace up your trainers and head out for endless miles of road or trail. Hold it right there. Jumping back in too quickly following an injury can cause you to aggravate the condition you’ve worked so hard to fix.

Ease back into running slowly by starting out with very short easy runs (we’re talking ten minutes, max) on soft surfaces. If you’re having trouble limiting your mileage during the first week or two after you’re cleared to run, just think of all those pruny-toed hours spent aqua jogging in the pool. Remember: running is a privilege, not a right – respect your body accordingly.

Alice Run Training , , ,

Too Much Rest: Training Reversibility

December 26th, 2012

Train, race, rest, repeat. You know the drill, and as a runner you know what a huge impact rest can have on your performance. The tricky part is finding the balance between not enough rest and too much. Not enough rest will leave you mentally and physically fatigued, which can result in injury or burnout. Too much rest will leave you weak. Take a look at what happens to your body when you rest too long, and devise a plan for getting the rest you need without sacrificing performance.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness

You know the feeling of getting back into ‘running shape’ after a long break from training. Your lungs burn, and you feel like you’re going half as fast for twice the effort. What you’re feeling is the result of a decreased VO2 max brought on by a lack of training.

Your VO2 max will decrease by about 6% after a month without training, almost 20% after nine weeks without training, and up to 25% after 11 weeks without running. What this means is that if you just miss a couple of weeks, it’s fairly easy to regain your prior fitness level. If you’ve been idle for a longer period of time, it can take five or six months of training to get back in the swing.

Muscle Strength and Metabolism

Resting on your laurels for too long can result in, well, flabby laurels. Or at least decreased muscle tone and impaired metabolic function. Skipping out on training for longer than two weeks can cause muscles to atrophy, resulting in decreased strength to push you through long mileage. Although many people think that your metabolism simply slows down when you take an extended break from exercising, it actually changes as well, in ways that can be very detrimental to your training goals.

Your body specifically loses its ability to effectively metabolize fat, which means increased fat storage. The body stores fat in adipose cells, which are able to expand to store more adipose tissue (or fat). Once adipose cells have expanded, it’s easier for them to hold fat in the future, making it harder for you to trim down again when you get back on a training plan. When you detrain, your adrenaline levels also drop significantly, which inhibits your body’s readiness to head out for a workout.

Just the Right Rest

If you’re mentally burned out from your training or if you’re starting to feel the little aches and pains that can come before a bigger injury, a slightly longer rest phase might be a good idea. To make sure the rest will help and not harm your training, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Choose how many days you will rest beforehand. Don’t take more than a week off, but choose at the beginning of your rest period when it will end, and mark your first workout post-rest on your calendar. This way you won’t agonize over when your next workout should be, which can sap you of the mental renewal that a few solid rest days can give you. Having your workout marked on your calendar will also keep you from pushing your workout back ‘just one more day,’ which can lead to training losses.
  2. Give yourself a break. On your days off, give yourself a mental break from thinking about training. Read a book, try a new recipe or catch a movie with a friend. Taking a mental break from training will help you feel refreshed and ready to start training again when your break is over.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Not having workouts for a handful of days will free up some time in your schedule. While it’s easy to fill up your time with other activities, it’s important to make sure you get plenty of shuteye so that your muscles can fully recover from your training.

Alice Run Training, Running Sport , , ,

Being Smart about Adding Miles

December 22nd, 2012

When it comes to weekly mileage increases as you train for your next marathon, you can follow the general rule of adding one mile per week for each base run you complete. So if you get in four runs focused on aerobic conditioning, you should be able to increase weekly mileage by four miles. You’ll then need to hold steady at the new mileage for two to three weeks, with a focus on increasing your intensity during the second and third weeks.

Building miles and endurance is an essential part of training, but keep in mind that endlessly adding mileage is not a good aerobic training strategy. Many marathoners follow a “two up, one down” or “three up, one down” approach to adding mileage, dialing back every third or fourth week before adding mileage again. This strategy helps to push your aerobic conditioning while minimizing the risk of fatigue and giving your body a chance to rebuild.

As usual, it’s also a good idea to listen to your body as you decide when to increase mileage and by how much. If you bumped up your miles a few weeks ago, and you’re still feeling a bit sore and tired or having trouble meeting your pace goals, you may want to hold steady for a week or two longer than you originally planned. Also keep an eye on your running form and if it’s starting to break down as your mileage increases, that’s a clear sign that you need to hold steady or even take a step back temporarily. There’s no positive benefit that comes from compromising your technique just to get a few more miles on your odometer.

To help guard against adding mileage too aggressively, some runners add in a cross training regimen focused on building strength and flexibility. Consider adding strength training sessions, which will naturally help your body handle longer distances, and workouts such as yoga or Pilates to stay loose and limber.

Matt Run Training, Running Sport , , , ,

Cross Country Training for the 2009 Season Starts Now

August 25th, 2009

The San Luis Obispo chapter of the Asics Aggies RC starts training for the upcoming season this week with the first organized workout scheduled tomorrow.  The group will meet at the Fairbanks Cross Country Course at 6:30 AM and head out for their warmup.  I’ll follow a short time later with the girls and plan on meeting them for the first interval at 7:15.  Tomorrow’s workout is a light one, just working the bugs out and getting back into the groove.  8-12 x 200 w/ an easy 100 jog on the grass field at Cuesta College.

I thought I’d post the general outline we’ll be following this year and provide updates as the year progresses with workout and race results.  Should be fun.

Read more…

Joe Run Training