Setting New Goals for a New Year, Successfully!

corky-2816As one calendar year is about to come to a close and we look to the New Year, fitness and health frequently take center stage. This is often a time of reflection on the previous year – races, health, nutrition, happiness, and a time of anticipation and dreams for the future – getting health or weight on track, attempting your first race, working to set new personal race records, trying a new sport, dropping a dress size, sweating on a daily basis, gaining muscle, eating a balanced diet – the dreams and possibilities are endless!

While sorting through your goals, I recommend you do a few things in order to better your odds of succeeding:

  • Be honest about your level of dedication/commitment to change – and what kind of change. It may be a million times easier to achieve a 30 minute walk per day for you, than to consume over 10 servings of fruits/veggies per day – for example.
  • Be patient, and take your goals one day at a time. You are a human being, so expecting a perfect track record is dooming yourself off the bat. While focusing on each day, do have a clear goal for a few weeks, months or years from now. Each day of success will take you a step closer towards that goal or milestone.
  • Ask for help. Very few humans can hold themselves 100% accountable for real change. Rely on a friend, hire a coach/trainer, or use social media or a journal to help your accountability. Meetup groups can also be helpful.
  • Change takes time. Don’t expect to see or feel a huge difference within a day or week. However, you’ll be surprised the difference you’ll notice in a month or two!
  • Trying something new may not be right for you. Or perhaps what you try won’t be the right fit. Perhaps kickboxing is a better fit than ballroom dancing, for example. We are all different, so don’t feel bad if what you initially try isn’t the right thing! Move on and be fearless in what you try.
  • When creating a race goal, be sure to give yourself enough time to be successful! Also be sure any additional races you add to your schedule are supportive of that big goal and not destructive. A big PR in a marathon you flop on your schedule for 12 weeks from now is not wise. Understand your goals the time and work they’ll require.
  • Laugh, have fun and get creative with your goals. Not every day will be easy or fun, but I’m a firm believer that we stick to something we like, and that brings positive change to our lives. Life is too short to be unhappy or dissatisfied. See the humor and fun in everything you can!
  • Toss out the negative. Recognize triggers, and kick them to a curb. Perhaps it’s your daily mid-morning baked good from the office kitchen, or that friend who guilts you into ditching your run for happy hour each week. Everything is a choice, but you can make those choices easier by breaking bad habits, relationships and influences.

If or when you fall off your goals (remember – you are human!), simply pick yourself back up and try again. Just be sure to not do the same thing and expect a different result. You don’t need a New Year to spring into your goals. Tomorrow is just as good as January 1st.

Las Vegas Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon

With my cousin, Kristen, after the race.

With my cousin, Kristen, after the race.

The only bad runs and races are the ones we don’t learn from. That’s what I told myself around mile 9 of my goal race for the Autumn 2015 season. The race had not gone according to plan one bit, but I did the best I could to put one foot in front of the other as winds howled up and down the Las Vegas Strip. I don’t doubt there are many lessons from Sunday night’s race – both for myself and for you when your race doesn’t go well.

I went into race week nervous (that’s normal for me), but also fairly confident in my ability to achieve my goal: run between 1:25-1:26 at the Las Vegas Half Marathon. I was going into race week totally healthy – no aches, pains or injuries. And while everyone around me seemed to be fighting off colds or stomach bugs, my actions to obsessively avoid getting sick paid off. Weather looked to be excellent for race day – until it didn’t. As I got closer to race day, I began to pay closer attention to the weather, and reality was slowly sinking in: conditions for the race were going to be windy. And not just “oh hey, there’s a breeze” windy, but 20-40MPH winds, windy. The positive about the Vegas course is that it’s extremely flat, and is an out-and-back, so ideally head wind would at some point be tail wind. The negative thing about the course is very wide, open and empty between those huge casinos, leaving you very exposed.

I told myself to take the advice I’d give my runners: find the 1:25 pacer, tuck in behind the group and let them break the wind. If I could even the odds with the weather, I still had a shot at beating the clock. To keep my confidence up, I looked back over training – tempo runs in humid conditions where I’d knocked out 6:20-6:35 minute miles over rolling hills, telling myself I had to trust the work I’d put into this race. As I walked to the starting line from MGM Grand, I refused to let the heavy gusts of wind shake my confidence. I found some space to warmup my legs and settle my mind.

In the first corral, I easily found the 1:25 pacer. As we stood for final instructions and the National Anthem, I locked eyes with the 1:25 on his back, and told myself to never lose focus from that number. Match that pacer stride for stride, and crush that PR. My focus felt strong, and I was ready. The first mile was a beautiful 6:29. Perfect. I positioned myself well, and told myself to relax, stay strong and tall, and settle into my cadence. At around 1.5 miles in, I glanced at my watch because I felt like I was working a little too hard. My watch read 6:12 pace for that mile. To my confusion, the pacer wasn’t settling in and relaxing, but was continuing to push. Refusing to panic, (though I definitely felt a moment or so of it sweep over me), I knew I had two choices: stick with the pacer and allow the crowds to protect me from the wind, or settle back into my honest pace of 6:30s. I decided to run my own race, and the pace group slowly pulled further and further out of reach. I never saw the pacer again. So I had to abandon my plan, and my only real shot of a PR. I continued to push and fight for that PR, but the work I was doing to maintain those paces began to really concern me.

There were blocks where you felt like you were doing all you could to not move backwards, some blocks where a cross wind would push you around, and then tail winds that would suddenly propel you forward. The few dead blocks were heaven, and the rare chance to really breathe and get back to good and efficient form again. When I ran over the 10K mat, I knew I was on pace for a PR. I also knew that unless the winds stopped or were going to be at my back, at some point I was going to tank. I could feel it. I couldn’t get oxygen into my body efficiently with the winds and at some point, I was going to pay the price. Still, I told myself to hang on and keep pushing. Perhaps the winds returning wouldn’t be too bad. Wrong. I rarely curse while racing, but as we made a few quick turns up at the top of the course near Fremont Street and around mile 9-10, I remember vocalizing my exhaustion as the wind knocked me around. It was about that time where I felt my effort sustaining, but the number on the watch going up. I was working so hard, but my cooked legs weren’t full of pep and strong form, and my arms didn’t feel like the strong and powerful support I’d worked so hard to develop and carry me when I fatigue, but rather like limp noodles.

Around 10 miles into the race I crossed the mat in 1 hour and 8 minutes. A quick reality check between the head winds I had the entire final 5K, and how tired I was from battling for 10 miles – I knew then that a PR wasn’t happening. There was no way I could run a 5K in 19 minutes or less in those conditions. I’ll admit I wanted to cry and shout because I was so tired and so pissed off about the weather. I had put so much into this race. But I also told myself to take a quick step back and keep my perspective. If you stay healthy, you get another shot at your goals. One race isn’t the end of the world. Today was not going to be my day. It was also around this time that it began to rain. Cold, windy, and now rain. It was almost comical. It rains in Las Vegas about 21 days PER YEAR. And here I was, 5K from the finish wondering how today had gone the way it had.

Now it’s not like I was the only runner out there suffering. Everyone I passed or passed me was working so incredibly hard. There were no smiles, laughter, or jokes. It was all hard work. I thought about what possible goals the runners around me had set for this race, and how close they were to achieving them. So without really thinking, I switched over to coach mode. If I wasn’t going to PR, my finish time didn’t matter to me. I did my best to be positive and supportive. I figured there was so little positively out there, I’d do my best to add a little.

Upon crossing the finish line, I spotted a runner who had been with the 1:25 pacer with me at the beginning of the race and who had at the time of his surge in pace stepped with him. She finished within a minute or so of me. I walked over to her to say something positive to her for racing in tough conditions. It turns out the 1:25 pacer dropped a 5:55 mile for the second mile of the race – a pace faster than this runner’s 5K race pace. She was pissed. And rightly so. As a pacer it’s your job to run that designated pace. Of course a pacer is human and can make mistakes, but going from a 6:29 to a 5:55 is pretty ridiculous. The quick miles early on had cost her the race. Ironically we both pretty much had the same race time – we just got there differently.

As I walked through the long exit chute, my disappointment began to really creep in. As I wrapped myself in a Mylar blanket, two women came over to me. They had just finished the 10K, and wanted to tell me I looked strong as I finished, and was an inspiration in physique and speed. They were so positive and still smiling – even after running a 10K in the wind for almost 2 hours, that I had no choice but to smile and engage in conversation. Every time I wanted to turn inward and accept my disappointment, something or someone pulled me out. By the time I saw Chris and Kristen waiting for me, my mood was alarmingly happy – they had both expected me to show up looking defeated and in tears, and instead I was smiling.

My expression here sums up my feeling on the race.

My expression here sums up my feeling on the race.

So if and when your target race goes poorly, remember two things: it’s okay to be upset and disappointed. If there was a mistake you made, learn from it. If the lesson is to simply roll with the punches with the things you cannot change – that’s a tough but valuable lesson to learn. The second is to hold your head high and walk away from the finish line as happy and proud as you can. Stay healthy, and there will be future races. And for every bad race, there will surely be some great ones.

It’s been a few days since the Half Marathon, and I am floored by how sore I was after that race. Not just my legs, but my arms and abs, too. The number at the finish line may be a far cry from my goal, but there is no doubt about how hard I worked out there. It’s a little humbling how beat up I was for a few days!

Practice Makes Perfect

I am asked all the time if it is a challenge to coach others and still train for my own goals. Yes, it is. It’s very hard, and every decision I make affects my own training. Some weeks I am 100% selfless, and cancel my own training to run beside my athletes. Other times I try my best to find a balance, but even then it’s pretty tough. Would I change my job in order to protect my own aspirations? Nope. Not a chance. Being a coach is truly the best. And let’s face it, it’s not like I am sacrificing the potential to make it to the Olympic Trials.

However, I have recently had to luxury and good fortune to hop into a few races. Again, it’s rare that my weekend mileage isn’t determined by coaching or pacing. It has been a really nice treat to be back at the starting line. The two races I recently ran were used as practice as I work towards my own goal race, the RnR Vegas Half Marathon on November 15th. Going through the motion of race morning is fantastic practice.

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Post-race with some of my City Harvest Charity Team runners.

The first race of Autumn was the NYCRuns Squirrel Stampede 10K on September 26th. I am terrible at 10K races, and usually avoid them like the plague. But I had organized for some of my charity runners to run the race as practice for NYC Marathon, and figured I should run the race too. Turns out I won the race, breaking the tape for the first time in my life. Ever. I’ve won races before, but they never put the tape back out for 1st Female. That was really fun! I also won $100.00 – not enough to go pro! Ha! And I ran 6:36 minute miles, which was pretty much my goal for that day – lock in my hopeful goal race for RnR Half. The cherry on top of that day was cheering in and high-fiving friends, private clients and my charity runners as they finished. I was more excited for them than what I’d achieved. Turns out I ran a 10K PR that day, which is easy to do when you rarely run 10Ks! I’ve still run a 10K faster – in the middle of a 10 Miler. Funny how that works.

The second race was the Brooklyn Greenway Half Marathon on October 18th, My goals for this race were a little different and I had two goals: 1) run 6:50-7:00 minute miles – no faster! and 2) don’t abandon goal #1, especially if and when the lead females take off. I am happy to say I ran an average of 6:49s (so close to 6:50s!), and even when I was dropped from 2nd female to 4th female, I held back and never once pulled ahead or tried to break those runners. While the competitor in me was a little bummed to finish 4th female and 1st in my AG, I was also thrilled that I stuck to my plan. My weakness has often been going out too fast, and the last few years I have really tried to break that habit and when I’ve succeeded, it’s usually a great race.

Both races were pretty small, and I was alone on the course and barely able to see the runner ahead of me at times. Mentally, I find that tough. I also find it tough to run without music while folks fly by with their ear buds in, breathing heavily. But I tell myself in those situations that the mental focus it requires to stay calm and grind away at the course will be helpful, and hopefully in a large race I won’t need to mentally work quite so hard. However, in a large race there are other challenges. Racing is fun, and I want to find a way to get back to using races for some quality runs and fitness tests more frequently in the next year.

Winning the Squirrel Stampede 10K

Winning the Squirrel Stampede 10K

On deck, I am clocking 26.2 miles at the NYC Marathon with one of my clients. Then two weeks later, it’s RnR Vegas Half. That’s the big goal race. I know in order to achieve my goal time, I will need to be aggressive but smart. There will be some risk, and it may backfire. However, I am willing to gamble. I am willing to go out hard (not sprinting) and see what I can do. Worst case is I don’t achieve my goal time but learn something from my mistakes. Best case – I walk away with a cool new PR and a satisfying sense of achievement. No matter what, I will show up to do my best, leave it all out on the course, and try to walk away from the finish line with a smile on my face. This sport can really hurt and humble you, but I refuse to lose sight of my love for it.

Unplug Your Potential!

Corky_Fitness-2642finalwsharpeningflatwebMany of us runners train and race with technology. Be it a GPS watch, an app on a phone, music, many of us are hitting buttons of some kind out there on the run. I am going to encourage you to leave technology at home every once in a while – or to have a running buddy or coach keep an eye on pace.

Most of us assume we know our potential, and have some idea of what number we should see on a watch for that specific workout. However, I have found time and again that when I am with a runner who doesn’t know their time but is running 100% based on effort, they are capable of pushing the pace faster than they thought. Obviously if someone is blowing their paces out of the water, especially early into a run, I am going to tell them to relax and settle a bit. But towards the end of a run, when I usually want my runners working hardest, it’s amazing what can happen when that athlete is unplugged. Being unplugged, especially from music, means you can really listen to your body and the signals it may give you.

It can take some time to get comfortable running unplugged. Try it, and see what you can gain. I challenge you to try. I’ll admit that I rarely run unplugged. My GPS watch feels like it’s part of me on every run. The handful of times I’ve had to race without my watch (I HATE waiting for the gun to go off with my naked left wrist!), I have almost always set a new personal record. Even on a hot summer morning for a Half Marathon, I set a PR. I promise you that if I’d had my watch, I would have been listening to my watch for pacing in such extreme conditions, than to let it go and go 100% by feel.

So mix up your routine, leave your devices at home or hand the pacing over to a running buddy – and see what you’ve got!

 

Learn Lessons from Bad Races

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With being “unattached” for this race, it was the perfect opportunity to wear Danielle Sepulveres’ “Don’t Be A Bridesmaid” sports bra.

Today’s blog is all about mistakes, and learning from them. I happen to believe and preach to my athletes that there is no such thing as a bad run or race, as long as we learn from it. Yes, we all will experience runs and races we’d define as terrible. Chin up, they happen. But if you learn something – be it pacing, mental focus, what to wear, eat, whatever – those lessons prepare you for better runs and races in the future. Sadly, those lessons are rarely fun and usually are often the clearest on bad runs and races. Funny how the good races don’t teach us half the lessons as the bad ones.

This weekend, Corky had a bad race. Yes, I could get pissed, embarrassed, and admit to myself how bummed I am. Cause I am bummed. I knew on a good day, that fast mile down Fifth Avenue was mine to screw up – I am stronger and mentally more focused now than I have been in a long time – but  we are also sometimes our own demise. Perhaps being a coach has forced me to really grow up and take every experience in stride, maybe I’m simply older and wiser and have learned to not sweat the small stuff. Either way, I am choosing to take this disappointing race as an example of what you should not do, and what you should do.

On Friday evening, I felt a little tickle in my throat. You know that feeling, the “Oh no, here comes a cold” feeling. I was en route to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway (hello, Taye Diggs!), and so I powered through the night. I crashed out as soon as I got home, hopeful that catching up on sleep would help. Unfortunately, Saturday I awoke feeling worse. Even 11 hours of sleep couldn’t knock this bug out. I didn’t feel terrible, just a little ill. I coached, worked on training plans, and did my best to power through the day. By 7 pm, I felt pretty terrible. At that time I made a bad decision. I ordered Chinese food (hot and sour soup sounded like a good idea), made some tea, and took NyQuil – thinking I’d be fine with a race over 13 hours away. Wrong.

Lesson learned: DO NOT take NyQuil the night before a race – ever. Yes, I slept like a baby. I also felt almost drunk when my alarm went off at 7:30am. I ate a banana and drank some water, hoping that would help. No luck. When we left our apartment for the race at 8:15am, I told myself to relax – I had almost another whole hour to feel normal before my heat in the Fifth Ave Mile. No better. I jogged the mile up to the starting line, pausing to chat with a few familiar faces. You know how sometimes you are feeling a bit tipsy at a party and you do your best to cover it up? Yeah, that’s how I felt. My head was in a fog and my body felt completely disconnected from my head.

At the starting line, I had enough sense to get up towards the front. I tried to tell myself to focus, put on those race blinders, and run really hard for one mile. One mile – that’s all I needed to will my body to do! It sounded so simple. When the gun went off, I knew I was in trouble. Those first few steps felt like I was running through cement. My legs almost hurt, they felt so heavy – and not in the track workout legs-on-fire hurt – this is was odd and foreign. My mouth felt like cotton from the first breath, even though I had just sipped water prior to the start. Looking back, I hardly remember that mile. I do remember feeling absolutely no control over my body, no mental will to push, and total separation between body and foggy brain. My drive to run hard – couldn’t find it. Though I know I worked out there, I don’t recall my lungs working hard or my legs burning from speed. When I crossed the finish line in my slowest mile ever (5:47), I didn’t even feel disappointment. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel.

If you are sick for a race, that’s a tough place to be in. My advice is to be VERY cautious when thinking about medicating. Our bodies can be extremely sensitive. When sick, you also need to change your race day goals, which is really hard. Did I know a PR was out of the cards this morning – yes, I felt it. But did I secretly hold onto hope I could magically pull through? Yes, I sure did. This isn’t because I am delusional or an optimist with blinders – but it’s because I know in order to achieve your goals, you need to believe you can. Plus with strength training this past 6 months my lower body, I knew I was stepping up to the line with some additional power. But I should have changed my goals the minute I woke up this morning. And I should never have taken NyQuil.

So if you are sick the weekend of a race, there are a few things you can do:

  • Get sleep
  • Stay hydrated
  • Modify race goals
  • Be honest with your expectations and potential on race day
  • Remind yourself that just getting out there when sick can be a victory

And there are some things you should not do:

  • Expect a PR or refuse to modify goals
  • Take medication without being sure how it will affect you and your performance
  • Consume alcohol or anything that could dehydrate you
  • Beat yourself up if your goals are not attainable

And remember, if you stay healthy you will have many more races in the future. A bad race here or there does not define you as a person or an athlete, so learn from your mistakes and move on. As for me, I’ll never take medication the night before a race ever again.

Answering NYC’s Questions

With teaching group classes, I always welcome questions during and after class. I thought it may be helpful to highlight some questions that have popped up frequently, and answer them as I have in person. After all, if folks I have coached in person have brought up the following questions numerous times, the odds are some of you may also have the same questions. Let’s get cracking!

What are the best kind of running shoes?

Despite what shoe manufacturers will tell you, there is no one shoe that is the perfect shoe for all runners. If a sales person tells you that their brand or style is perfect for you, run for the hills. Your feet, body weight, stride, weekly miles, terrain, experience, injury history – all are factors when finding the right shoe for you and your running career. I would, however, recommend you keep the following brands in mind when shopping: Mizuno, Brooks, and Asics. These brands are popular with mid-long distance runners, and are the brands of choice at most races. That doesn’t mean those brands are right for you. A shoe should feel like an extension of your foot. If it doesn’t, it’s not right. If you are in the right shoe, insoles and orthotics shouldn’t be necessary.

Are there workouts I can do to trim and tone my thighs?

You cannot target one body area for weight loss and body fat. If you want more definition, you need to lose body fat percentage in general. Zoning in, targeting, etc – that’s not how our bodies work. You can tone up by weight training and losing body fat – that combination will give you visual results. However, based on your genetics, you may never have thin or toned thighs – for example. Your thighs may be the last place you’ll lose body fat, and the dedication to lose that final bit may be extremely challenging. Instead, I would highly recommend folks looking to tone up focus of safely losing some body fat, and instead focus on weight training, and a healthy amount of cardio.

I have pain in my shins. What do I do?

Shin splints often occur when an athletes takes on too much too soon – going from little or zero mileage to running every day, running intense workouts too frequently, or running in old shoes. To help ease shin pain, stretch and foam roll your calf muscles, ice, and perhaps take some anti-inflammatory. Cutting back on mileage and intensity and focusing on some rest days will also help. If the pain continues, see a sports doctor or physical therapist. I am not a doctor, FYI.

I have been training really hard. How come I am not seeing an improvement in my speed?

Improvements in fitness sometimes take time, and very rarely can you expect to see or feel huge improvements in a few days or a week. In fact, you should expect to put in hard work for a few weeks or months before improvements appear by leaps and bounds. Remember that rest and recovery is just as important as the hard work, so if you are someone who rarely takes a day off or skimps on sleep, you may be getting in the way of your own success. Adding some additional rest and active recovery days may help your paces improve.

Is there a way to run on the treadmill that targets my butt?

If you are trying to target a muscle group like your glutes, hills can help. However, you also need to make sure you are activating your glutes and hamstrings. Many runners are quad runners, meaning we overuse our quads and don’t take advantage of the power our glutes and hamstrings offer us. If you are trying to gain strength, shape or size, you need to weight train that area. Running alone will not offer glute definition.

How do I know what my goal race paces or efforts should be?

This is sometimes hard to navigate. When setting your goals for the coming year, I encourage you to be ambitious but also realistic. For example, if your current Half Marathon best is 2:00, aiming for a 1:25 in your next Half Marathon is probably too ambitious. However, aiming for a 1:50 or 1:40 may be ambitious but also reasonable with hard work. If you achieve that goal, then work down to the 1:25. If you have taken a lot of time off from training, or are tackling a new distance, go by effort. This is especially true when training in heat or humidity. As you improve, your paces should hopefully drop towards your goal paces – though you may need to curve your expectations as you go further into training.

When trying to improve, should I focus on more miles or quality miles?

If you are just beginning your running journey, focus on slowly increasing your miles and keep the paces easy. Don’t go out and run hard, but instead focus on comfortable, conversational miles. Once you build the quantity up to a good number, you can then focus on quality – speed, hills, long runs, etc. If you are a runner who is already clocking consistent miles, focus on quality instead of quantity while training for a goal. Do the least amount of running necessary to achieve your goals – this may still mean 60 mile weeks while marathon training for your ambitious goal – but you also may be tempted to push to 70 mile weeks because you have heard more miles are better – but more miles means injury risk and chances for burnout increase.

Do you have questions for me? They can be anything running, nutrition, health or fitness related. If so, shoot me a comment, a message on twitter or FB, or in class next time.

The Runner and the Gym

img_6834-editIf you are avid runner, there’s a good chance that all you do is run – little or no time is spent stretching, weight training, or cross training. And let’s face it – when you are short on time, it’s common to only get done what feels necessary – for many of us that means those miles towards race training. The old school thought was that runners simply needed to run in order to improve. Some coaches and runners still practice that method, but many of us are fans of runners doing other things too. In this blog I am going to give you the rundown on why I as a coach and athlete am a fan in runners weight training, stretching and cross training. I am going to ask you to be open-minded and to remember that no two bodies are the same.

  • In order to improve as a runner, you must run. There is no real substitute for running, and so you will spend most of your training time pounding the pavement.
  • Runners often develop extremely strong bodies, but rarely balanced. This imbalance is often what leads to injury.
  • Running tends to tighten the human body’s hips, muscles, and sometimes compromises range of motion. Even if you don’t notice your range of motion changing, a tight hip may slightly change your stride, causing potential pain or problems anywhere in the body from your hip to your toes. We are rarely designed to be 100% even on both sides, and very few of us are ambidextrous. We usually favor one side of our bodies. When doing something extremely repetitive like running, those imperfections often come out.
  • Our arms counter our legs as we run, and can be a huge source of power and strength on the race course. Totally ignoring your upper body means your arms won’t be as strong as they could be, or in balance with our heavy, strong legs. Weight training and strengthening your body from the waist and up will give you the strength and power you’ll need for PRs.
  • Our arms and legs swing from our core. Ignoring your core (front and back) means you won’t have a strong anchor. With a strong core, your entire body will feel like a harmonious running machine. You’ll be less likely to sink into your hips, collapse your shoulders, and fall apart on the race course.
  • Weight training should work in harmony with your training. Lift heavy, 2-3 times per week, ideally on your hard run days, a few hours after your hard run. Be sure to refuel with a protein-dense snack after your workout.
  • Weight training your legs will give you power, and ideally balance your body. That forward motion with running doesn’t tax or legs evenly. Becoming strong all the way around will prevent injuries due to imbalance in strength.
  • Cross training is a great way to get in some active recovery. Swap in some time cross training (swim, bike, row, stair climb, elliptical) for an easy run day. Some time away from the pavement, while flushing out your legs is a great way to prevent minor aches and pains from getting worse.
  • Every runner is different. Some runners can simply go out and run, and never experience pain, injuries or weakness. Many of us, however, benefit from not only running, but instead focusing on total body strength and wellness.

Think of the big picture – not just this season. In a prefect world, you want to stay injury-free for decades of running.

Train with Purpose

If you have a race goal, it’s important to train with purpose. It’s common for many runners new to racing or the marathon to train for their event by simply running miles. They run at whatever speed they feel like, without any structure, direction or purpose other than “miles.” This was the way I trained for my first marathon, and it’s a very common course of action. Many runners don’t have the knowledge or understanding of why you should run easy most days, and target specific speeds and challenges on a few carefully chosen days per week. Without a purpose, athletic goals and the ability to achieve those goals will often prove unsuccessful.

Every run you do within your 16-20 weeks leading up to your marathon has a purpose. If you don’t understand the purpose, you need to ask what it is. There’s a reason for every run. If there isn’t a reason, don’t do it. Smart runners make successful runners. Ask, do research, or question your training plan. Sometimes I search for cookie-cutter marathon plans floating around out there on the internet, out of curiosity. I often find plans that cover the bases, but don’t offer any explanation as to why the workouts, weeks, rest days, quality days, etc. are structured the way they are. If I were a new marathoner looking for a plan, I’d be blindly following what I’d find – which is what I did my first time around. I remember I ran every run at more or less the same pace. The plan outlined mileage, but other than that, it was a blank canvas. So I ran the same pace, whether is was a 5-miler or a 22-miler. If you’d asked me the purpose of that day’s run, my answer would probably have been “mileage.” That answer really isn’t good enough.

This is where resources become a huge help. Books, blogs, articles, and coaches can help you understand why today’s workout is structured a specific way (an easy 5-miler to act as active recovery between two days of speed workouts, for example), and educate you as to how that workout will build you towards your race-day goal. Running miles for the sake of miles is rarely the right purpose – perhaps Ultra marathon runners are the exception, or when building base mileage. However, even when building base mileage, there is a specific way to build and reasons behind it.

Be aware that training without purpose will often lead to injury. Running at the same pace every day, taking on too much too soon, excluding rest days, running speed days back-to-back – the risk for injury increases, which none of us want.

Indoor Coaching in NYC

elizabethOne of the main excuses I get from runners this time of the year is the weather. While some folks find ways to power through, embrace the weather, and simply refuse to let bad weather compromise their training or goals, others look for alternatives. For those of you fair weather runners in NYC, I have some good news! Mile High Run Club is a new running study, 100% dedicated to runners. And beginning in 2015, Coach Corky is joining their roster of coaches!

Unlike many treadmill classes, MHRC is all about improving as a runner. This isn’t a place dedicated to vanity training. It’s a studio that welcomes runners of all abilities, and pushes each person to improve their form, focus, breath, strength and running potential. The two different class structures are designed to challenge every runner, and are interval-driven.

Personally, I cannot stand running on your average treadmill. I hate it. Hate. I’d prefer to fight high winds and freezing rain pelting my face for a 17-miler than strap my legs up to a moving belt for 2 hours. So it must say something if I am on board with treadmill running classes!

Anyway, come check out a class! Every coach comes from a different running background, and brings their individuality to their classes – and they music selections. Don’t let the dark, cold Winter get in your way. Make 2015 awesome.

Tackling Track Etiquette, Rules, and Benefits

Coach086-460x306Running coaches and experienced runners have a few weapons of choice for improving running. Luckily, some of these tools benefit all runners, veteran and novice alike. One of my favorite weapons of choice: track work.

Okay, so you may be assuming that only track athletes belong on the track. You know who they are. They are strong, powerful and confident. They make many of us look and feel like tortoises. You might think if you aren’t a sprinter that there is no reason to ever set foot on a track. You may not even know how to use a track, or wonder about track etiquette. Never fear, I have some basic track rules, tips, reasons why you should use the track, and more!

Regardless of running experience, reasons you run, or race goals (if any), running fast once per week benefits all runners. Running hard calls to action fast-twitch muscles, spikes metabolism, increases cardiovascular strength, and often improves running form. Running fast is also FUN. Yes, its hard, but feeling like you are flying, even if the track athlete next to you whizzes by with ease, will make you feel accomplished, strong, and badass at the end of your workout. Plus, over time you will see incredible improvement in running performance in every road distance from the mile to the marathon.

Hopefully I have peaked your curiosity, and you now want to know any rules for using the track. Great. Here are some basic tips:

  • Run counter-clockwise. Everyone on the track should be going in the same direction.
  • Share the space.
  • Most outdoor tracks are 400 meters once around, if run in Lane 1. Many indoor tracks are 200 meters.
  • Lane 1 (the inner lane), is often the speed lane. If you are running hard, feel free to hop in lane 1. If you are taking a recovery lap, warming up, or cooling down, be courteous and move into the outer-most lane. Just be sure to check over your shoulder before changing lanes.
  • If you are in Lane 1 and need to pass a runner who is also in Lane 1, you can choose to go around them by cutting into Lane 2, or you can try to stay in Lane 1 and yell “Lane 1″ or “Track!.” If the runner you are gaining on hears you and knows track etiquette, they will move out of your way and into Lane 2 so that you don’t have to work hard to pass them.
  • If you are in Lane 1 and hear someone shout “Track!” or “Lane 1″ behind you, glance over your shoulder and move out of their way into lane 2 so they can pass you. Then move back into Lane 1.
  • Do not walk or take recovery jogs in Lane 1, as you’ll probably be in the way of someone doing speedy repeats.
  • Do feel free to tell other runners that they look strong.
  • If your track doesn’t have a water fountain, bringing a water bottle and dropping it somewhere along the track is a good solution.
  • Many tracks have restroom facilities. Some may also have lockers.
  • If you prefer to be on the track when it’s least crowded, avoid “after school hours,” when many school teams will be using the track for practice.
  • Most tracks are open to the public. If you use a track on a school campus, look into if there are any hours the track is not open to the public.
  • Do go to the track with a workout plan. Going to the track and winging it will leave you without much focus.

Runners new to track workouts don’t know what they should be doing on the track. I suggest only going to the track once per week, for your speed session. If you go to the track for all of your training, you will feel like a mindless hamster. You will also fall into a rut. Keep the track for those hard workouts, where you leave all distractions behind and simply focus on the track.

As a coach, I tailor my track workouts to my runners and their race goals. However, you can certainly make up your own workouts! Some popular track workouts: 8X400, 8X800, 4X1200, 3X1600 – you can mix and match and combine all kinds of variations. A general guideline: if your goal is speed and shorter distances (for example, a 5K race), 400s are a great distance for repeats. If you are gearing up for a Half Marathon or Marathon, 800s-1600s will benefit your training.

What the above examples mean in non-track terms: 8X400 @ 5K race pace = run 400 meter repeats 8 times at your goal 5K race pace, with a recovery between each repeat. The recovery times are up to you, but it’s usually beneficial to recover for half the distance of the repeat (in this case, 200 meters), at a SUPER easy jog.

Or say you decide to run 2X400, 2X1200, 2X400 @10K race pace in a workout – that would mean you’d recover with 200s between the 400 repeats, and 600s between the 1200 repeats. Once again, you can mix and match as you choose, depending on your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.

It’s always important to warmup and cool down when hitting the track. While running hard is fun and great for your training, you need to be careful and make sure to not go from 0-60 without waking up your legs. Take your warmup and cool down at super easy paces, in the outside lane.

If you are still intimidated to try out the track, bring a running buddy. Not only will your nerves calm, but you will both probably work harder if you are running together and pushing each other. So find a buddy, bite the bullet, and head to your local track. You’ll realize after your first workout that it really isn’t so scary, and its a training weapon that just might lead to some big person bests this season!