5 Tips for Summer Training

We’re in the dog days of Summer. While these days are perfect for sitting on a beach, favorite beer in hand, they make Summer training challenging. With so many marathon-bound runners this time of year, today’s blog is offering 5 tips for Summer Training.

  1. Be vigilant about hydration all day – not just when running. It takes some time for our bodies to process the things we drink, so only drinking right before you head out the door for a run is setting yourself up for failure. I recommend keeping a Nalgene bottle at your desk, and forcing yourself to drink and refill that bottle at least TWICE within a day. It may sound like a lot, but this is really only 64 oz. of water – the MINIMUM recommended for daily intake – not even factoring in your demands as a runner.

  2. If you can train at cooler times of the day, that can be hugely beneficial. Get up and out before the sun, or wait to start your training until 7-8pm – when the sun and temperatures begin to dip. If you must train in full sun, stick to routes with some shade.

  3. Gage your runs by effort instead of pace. Your body will begin to work in overdrive to keep core temperatures at a happy 98.6 degrees. The longer you are outside and running, or the harder you are running, the harder your body is working to regulate the heat. Therefore, don’t get caught up so much in the numbers. If you do, you may find yourself frustrated, burnt out, and perhaps pushing to the point where you will feel ill. Do the work now and when temperatures cool in a few months, your paces will drop. Be kind to your body and remember that heat and Summer training presents challenges we cannot beat.

  4. Refuel with cool post-run nutrition. Cold chocolate milk, Gatorade, yogurt, ice water, juice – this will help bring down core temperature while giving you some of the nutrients your body needs quickly. Avoid hot foods and beverages immediately after an intense Summer run.

  5. Know the signs for heat illness and heat stroke, and check in with yourself during your run to make sure you are okay. Sometimes these things can spring up quickly. I know I’ve gone from feeling awesome to suddenly feeling clammy, light-headed, or nauseous. If you begin to feel ill, bail on your run, find somewhere cool to sit or lay down, and hydrate.

Summer training can make you incredibly strong for a race in Autumn. Just be aware of how to help your body and brain make the most of the conditions. Safety first. Always.

Marathon Training Tips

Marathon training season is in full swing. Goals for Autumn races are becoming clear, and if you have a marathon on your calendar between the months of September to November, you are probably carefully calculating your training carefully. Whether this is your first marathon or your tenth, there are a few tips that can help your training go well, setting you up for an excellent race day.

  • Build base mileage before gunning it for speed. Skipping base mileage will increase your risk of injury – like shin splints. While building base mileage, all kinds of physical and psychological developments happen. Skipping this step can hurt your overall training.
  • After base mileage, add speed carefully – once or twice per week – no more.
  • Keep your long runs at a pace SLOWER than marathon goal pace. It’s a common rookie error to take your long runs at goal race pace.
  • Rest days are just as important as your training days. Don’t feel guilty about them, and please use them. Rest doesn’t equal cross training or strength training. Rest means REST.
  • Be sure you take some recovery weeks. You are not a robot, you are a human. You need recovery weeks in order to push harder in the future.
  • Training will have its highs and lows. Don’t let a bad workout or week define your training. Don’t let an amazing week get to your head. Instead, note the consistent swing of training. If week after week keeps going amazingly, you may be ready to increase your training or race goals. If things consistently go poorly, perhaps you need to reevaluate your goals or the way you want to get there.
  • A lot can happen in the weeks between now and your race. Keep your expectations for race day, goals, and strategy fluid. Nothing should be set in stone 20-16 weeks out from the big day.
  • Summer training can present some training challenges, especially with the long run. Have confidence that weather will cooperate on race day (the odds are it won’t be summer conditions!) and that the hard work you put in, tough though it may feel, will pay off.
  • Practice fueling as you would on race day in your long runs. Leave nothing up to chance.
  • Remember that training for a marathon is hard. There’s a reason why most folks never lace up for 26.2 miles. The training is a journey, and race day is the celebration of your hard work. Enjoy the journey. It will change you.

Accessing you mental toughness

635204708462443579It’s interesting to see and hear what my clients succeed and struggle with, and how that relates to my own struggles as an athlete. One thing a few athletes voiced struggling with in 2014 was mental toughness, which is a topic many of us know all too well. I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with it, and think I may have some ideas, tips and experiences that may help you and your running goals – especially in the marathon.

We are all incredibly strong. Sure, we have varying degrees of the tough stuff, but very few people are truly weak. However many people perceive themselves that way. The good news is that we can always change how we handle those hard moments and our perception. In running, clocking long miles like a marathon tend to really test our mental toughness. Mentally, I think anyone can get through a 5K. I can talk myself into doing anything painful or taxing for 15-25 minutes. Mentally, I’ve got that. That doesn’t mean I won’t hurt, fight towards the finish line and feel mentally spent at the end – because all of those things will definitely happen. But mentally I can always get myself around a 5K. A marathon is a whole different game. And here’s where we get personal:

I am going to assume that every poor soul taking the time to read my blog as experienced some form of hardship in their lives – maybe many. I’m talking the dark, ugly, painful shit. Divorce, loss of a loved one, being bullied, fighting substance abuse, physical setbacks, being mentally or physically abused, experiencing a horrific trauma and suffering from PTSD, rising above prejudices, or simply being told your entire life that you were weak. If you haven’t experienced any of that, you are extremely lucky and should probably start buying lottery tickets. For the rest of us, we have all had to cope with that crap at some point or another, most likely multiple times. Hopefully you have all processed these things in a healthy way. If you haven’t, talk to someone. Anyway, I’m not a therapist, but I do know the power of rising above bad experiences. If you are planning to run or race a marathon, or a distance that is new and/or terrifying to you, use those bad experiences. Why? Because you have forged your way through them and are here today and ready to run. That takes guts. And a hell of a strong brain. That strength is your ace in the marathon.

Personally, I’ll freely admit my triggers. For my first marathon, I used the determination to prove to myself and every girl who bullied me in high school that I was a strong fighter, and a Boston Qualifier. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to prove to myself I could survive an ugly divorce, a sexual assault, and a suicide attempt. I wanted to prove to the world that I was no longer weak, unstable, unhappy, or capable of crumbling when shit got hard. And so I trained hard. I trained with fire in my heart and blinders on my eyes. I trained through plantar pain, long work hours, and rain storms. When I’d reach mile 16-20 of my long runs, I’d fight through to mile 22-23. No, I was not training to be a pro or win awards, but I knew my goal was there if I worked hard for it. When I crossed that first marathon finish line, I wanted to shout up to the clouds all kinds of happy profanities. Not because I had surpassed my time goal, but because I had proved to myself that the weak, uncomfortable, insecure me was gone. Gone forever.

Now I realize that I had a list of really shitty things to propel that first marathon (blessing in disguise?), but use what you have. Dig deep, and find that strength. If you dealt with a messy breakup, had to balls to walk out of a bad relationship, use the strength that action took. If you were ill and needed surgery and pushed through the recovery and rehab, use that. Whatever you have surpassed, overcome, walked away from, fought head on – access that. Don’t be scared of it. Use your demons, and suddenly a marathon doesn’t seem so daunting. I mean yes, you still have to do the work and it’s a LONG ways, but I think you get it.

So if you experienced a long distance race that fizzled thanks to your mental state, go back to the drawing board on those long runs. Truthfully, even the most conditioned athlete can fall apart in the marathon if they lose their head. I’ve seen ladies who finish 7 hour marathons, putting one foot in front of the other slow and steady, refusing to quit. I’ve also seen ladies who aim to run a 2:45 marathon, lose their heads and throw in the towel. What we have going on in our brains has nothing to do with our physical strength, though we are at our best when our brains and bodies are both trained for race day – whatever that means for you.

You are stronger than you realize. All you have to do is accept that and dig deep to that place of strength. It takes practice to access it, so hop to it.

It’s the final countdown (to race weekend!)

img_6550-editUnless you are a stranger to my blog, you probably have heard that my goal-race for 2014 is a few days away. If you are tired of hearing about it, I apologize. It will be over soon. I decided to take a second go at a 24-hour race this year for a few different reasons: to prove to myself that though I failed at this goal two years ago, I am capable of achieving 100 miles within 24 hours. To push myself really hard. To learn from my mistakes two years ago and to train wiser. But perhaps the most important reason: To motivate and inspire my athletes, readers, and folks out there somewhere questioning what they are capable of. After all, I am not an elite athlete, and I am not someone with a long resume of Ultra Marathon experiences. I am an Average Jane, and if I can possibly accomplish this, perhaps it will make you question your own strength and capabilities. That, or it will just confirm your initial thoughts that I am crazy.

The final days leading up to this race are a mixed bag of anxiety and the calm before the storm. I am still coaching and pacing this week, though I have cut back on mileage and intensity, and am doing my best to protect my body while still doing my job as a coach. Thankfully, my athletes have been extremely understanding and supportive.

I have two goals for race weekend: Stay out of the medical tent and finish 100 miles within 24 hours. Neither goal is going to be easy for me. Thankfully, I have a team of supportive friends  and family who will be there at times to pace me, and a boyfriend who is going to be the brains of the operation. I am trusting my support, and applying what I have learned from this race in 2012, and from my scientific approach to training this time around. While weather looks like it will be a challenge, I have accepted that all I can do is adjust to conditions and do my best. After all, I’m the nut who signed up for a 24-hour race in July, in city that’s notorious for it’s hot and humid summers.

When my nerves kick in, I remind myself that as soon as the gun goes off and my legs start moving I will be fine. I know my nerves will settle, and all I can do is put one foot in front of the other. I also know that running and challenging myself makes me happy. I already have a list of “happy thoughts” and people to think of who inspire me or are meaningful to me to help through those tough patches.

As far as training goes, here’s what my mileage has looked like these last few weeks:

May 19-25 – 70 miles

May 26 – June 1 – 80 miles

June 2-8 – 60 miles

June 9-15 – 90 miles

June 16-22 – 100 miles

June 23-29 – 60 miles

June 30 – July 6 – 75 miles

July 7-13 – 60 miles

July 14-20 – 20 miles + RACE

All of the miles have been run at an easy, conversational pace. I haven’t set foot on a track or even done a tempo run in months. Yes, I am sure I am slow as a snail right now, but my methods have seemed to pay off. Very few aches and pains, and no injuries waiting in the wings. Now all I can do is rest, relax and wait for Saturday morning.


Mental Meltdown

img_7084-editYou don’t have to be training for a marathon to have one of those days: you have some sort of fitness goal, perhaps even start it – and then everything falls apart. For me, it’s often a run (cause that’s what I do every day). There is something extremely defeating about this mental meltdown, and you can quickly go from feeling okay with calling the workout quits to questioning your entire training plan, goals, and potential. Are there ways to avoid this moment, or at least to cope with it?

Sometimes, we need to push through the rest of the junk from the day and give ourselves that time to sweat out stress. Getting out to run or to lift weights can completely fix a rotten day. Other times, it’s just best to let the run go and to treat yourself to a day off – as long as you don’t beat yourself up over taking said time off!

Have you also been partly through a workout, and to suddenly feel like everything is going to shit? The worst feeling ever. It can be hydration, fatigue, mental focus, a wonky muscle. Whatever the reason, it seriously sucks. Learning to cope with these terrible moments helps prepare you for marathon day. If you aren’t training for a marathon, the benefit to pushing through is simply to give you the satisfaction that you can push through when the going gets tough. Is it worth it? Sometimes.

If you have a day where you cannot push through, learn from it. What were the contributing factors? When I tackle my own marathon training, I hope that all of my long runs go great. That isn’t to say that they always feel awesome or that I am laughing and smiling at mile 22, but that I succeed in my pace goal, not feeling injured, and feeling accomplished. However, experience has taught me to expect a few long training runs to go poorly. Why? Cause I am human. Yes, I have cut 20-milers short in the past. Yes, I have dropped my speed down so much that I question how in the world I can possibly hold my goal pace come race day. And you know what? I have also PRed in seasons where I have had those bonked long runs. I’m sure you have too.

So, if you just are not feeling it out there remember this: you are human, not a machine. There are things you can and should push through. There are other times where calling it quits is the right call. Learn how to determine the difference. Come race day, you will be prepared. Even if your training isn’t perfect. Sometimes a terrible dress rehearsal makes for a fantastic performance.