Ultra Update

The weeks and months leading up to a big race are sometimes the most exciting months you can experience. It’s like waiting for potential college acceptance letters to arrive in the mail, or the anticipation of a birthday party or Christmas for a child. However, unlike those exciting events, the weeks leading up to a goal race include lots of training, hard work, and focus. There is no sitting back and waiting for the big day. Instead, you are actively pursuing your goals.

Two years ago, when I was training for the Back on My Feet 20 in 24, fear of the unknown drove me to train. Having never attempted a 24-hour race before, the unknown can light a fire of fear under one’s ass. You expect race day to hurt, to be hard, and to be something you are hopefully prepared for – thanks to your training. This time around, I know my weaknesses in this kind of race. Perhaps I should be even more scared this time around because now I know how badly I can fall apart, but I am strangely confident in what needs to be done between now and July 19th. I know I need to put in a lot of work, and instead of fearing the pain and fatigue, I welcome it. I welcome the challenge of staying focused and of playing with hydration and fueling. Instead of being driven by fear, and I am driven by redemption.

Two years ago I was training like a reckless runner. Slamming my legs on the track once per week, powering through tempo runs once per week, clocking 50-mile weekends, and peaking at 80+ mile weeks. My body was stressed too hard too frequently. Aches and pains became an issue, especially in my left ankle. I would ice it or rest it for a day, and then take it for a spin on the track. For my body, it was simply too much. This time around, I am not on the track and am not running many tempo runs. My fastest miles have been on par with my slowest at the Philly Marathon. I have realized and learned from my own experiences that if I want my mileage to comfortably hit 80-100 mile weeks, I simply cannot be running any of those miles hard. The lesson here is that if we learn from our mistakes, those mistakes are worth making.

While I still have eight weeks before the big day to make progress, there’s obviously the chance that between now and then some aches and pains could creep back in. However, as of the day this blog goes up, I feel pretty darn good. No ankle pain, no heel pain, and the IT band that sometimes acts up seems to loosen and relax a few miles into my runs. It has taken me a long time, but I am finally looking at the challenge of an Ultra like an Ultra runner – not a mid-distance or marathon runner. I am hoping that mental shift and change in training is what will make the difference.

I encourage you to try new race distances and new challenges, but to also realize that every distance and challenge presents its own unique problems, requirements, and adaptions in your physical and mental training. This can be exciting, fun and fresh. It also requires some caution, trial and error.

Running California

On a run in Novato, CA.

On a run in Novato, CA.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about being a runner is the opportunity to see places on my feet when I travel. I have always found it interesting to be able to see new places on my feet, often experiencing places I wouldn’t if it weren’t for my running shoes.

I was recently in California for 10 days, and my legs and running shoes took me all over the Golden State. San Diego Mission Bay, Downtown San Diego, Venice beach, LA, Oakland, Golden Gate Park and Novato – sunrise, mid-day heat, and sunset. Beach-front, trails, cities, and suburbs – my legs took me all over. Just under 80 miles of running during my California trip, and never a dull moment.

The trails in Golden Gate Park and the path along the Pacific in Santa Monica/Venice Beach was probably my favorite – though its hard to choose. The trails in Golden Gate Park offer a nice soft surface, breathtaking views with every few steps, and the challenge of steep inclines and declines – though they never lasted too long. If I thought I had any real business as a trail runner, San Francisco would be at the top of my list for places to live and train. In Santa Monica and Venice, the smell of the Pacific, the sunshine kissing my shoulder blades, and the wind in my face on a mostly flat beach run brought back memories, as I trained for my first Ultra along that same beach a few years ago. In some way, it felt like home. 

On a run at the San Diego Marina.

On a run at the San Diego Marina.

Perhaps the most meaningful runs were the ones I had some company during. In San Diego Mission Bay, I ran with my cousin and her boyfriend, and they took me around beautiful paths along the water. Chatting while we ran, the miles clicked by on their last pre-marathon long run. In LA, I took my sister on a run where I ran almost daily (when not beach running), and the smell of flowers flooded our runs with such amazing smells. For some reason my sense of smell seems to be heightened when I run, especially on the west coast.

If you are traveling in the near future and interested in running while away, do some research on where to best run. Figure out safety, water and fueling, routes and mileage, and go have fun. I brought a camera with me on some of my runs. Make sure you pack your running gear. Even if you usually run with music, I suggest you leave your music at home. Go experience a new place with all of your senses. Also, unfamiliar routes may mean navigating traffic and crowds, which isn’t safe when you can’t hear. 

IMG_3263I should note that while in Oakland, I mapped a route and headed out from my hotel for a potential 10-15 miler. It became obvious within the first mile that the neighborhood was not nice. In fact, I was very much on edge the entire run. I’m sure not knowing my surroundings contributed to feeling uneasy, but it was also simply not a nice place. I cut the run short at 5 miles, and clocked an additional 5 miles later that day in Novato, CA. Safety should always be your first priority when out for a run – especially if you are alone and in a new place.

California is an amazing place to run. The varying options for where to train was extremely refreshing. While I love Central Park, and enjoy the Westside Highway, clocking those same routes day after day can make a high-mileage runner feel a little uninspired. I absolutely want to go back and run more in California. I am also very much intrigued to get out of my comfort zone and out of NYC to run. There are parks and trails outside of Manhattan, and I am excited to go on a few adventures and get in my Ultra training miles all over the NYC-area. I suppose the lesson I learned while out west was this: running is and can be what we make of it. It can make a trip to a new place and experience you never expected. You get to see things not on  your tourist list, or where your friends or family would necessarily take you. And that is very cool.

How to transition from injured to racing again

Harrisburg Marathon 2012. En route to a PR until I injured a few miles later. After this race I was forced to stop running for 8 weeks.

Harrisburg Marathon 2012. En route to a PR until I injured a few miles later. After this race I was forced to stop running for 8 weeks.

I was recently requested to write a blog about coming back to training for a goal race after some time off due to injury. I am happy to oblige Miss. Gallagher (girl, you are going to come back stronger than ever!), and think this topic is one that’s all too familiar for runners but also something we often struggle with.

Taking time off from running is rarely a choice runners want to make, but often forced to make at some point in their running careers. A troublesome IT band, tendonitis, stress fractures, torn ligaments – these are the unhappy and always frustrating part of this sport we love. Sadly, there is no magic pill or shoe or weird food we can eat to fix the problem. At the end of the day, the doctor may tell you what none of us want to hear: “REST.” The worst is when we are told “Rest for ________ months.” That’s like a knife to the gut. Being forced to rest many a runner insane. Personally, I become a monster to deal with. I am unhappy, restless, convince myself everyday that I am going to lose all fitness, and will never be as fast or strong as I once was, that my life is over, so on and so forth. The pity party can last for a few days or a few months, depending on the person and how many races or beautiful running days pass them by.

Then, like a child on Christmas morning, you will finally be given the green light – you are clear to run again! YESSSSSS!!!!!!! This is perhaps the best mood you’ll be in since your injury, and rightly so! You can finally take the first steps towards being a runner again. Best. Day. Ever. That is until you are told you need to build your mileage slowly and safely. No jumping into a fast 10K run around Central Park. Nope. Instead you may be told you can start with 10-15 mile WEEKS. Physically, 10-15 mile weeks may shockingly feel tough. Mentally, you’ll be happy to be out running, but feel ridiculous running so little if you were perviously a mileage junky. The struggle most of us have is being patient and smart after we are given the green light. Mentally, we see ourselves at our peak performance and don’t understand or easily accept that no, you are not there right now – though with time and smart training you can be again.

Last year, I was in this very boat and it sucked. I went from 60-80 mile weeks down to 10-15 mile weeks after an 8-week hiatus. Coming back was awful. Mentally, I was frustrated on almost every post-hiatus run. I would go on team runs, and struggle and turn blue at a pace that months earlier was my conversational pace, while everyone else flew by with ease. They were incredibly encouraging, but in my own head I was really hard on myself. Still, those 10-mile weeks turned into 50-mile weeks over time. I reminded myself over and over that I was not going to be injured that year, and that was the ultimate goal. After all, running poorly was far better than not being allowed to run at all. So yes, if you are coming back from an injury, I can totally relate. I can sympathize, and I can be the voice of reason for how and while coming back slowly is the only shot you’ll have of a healthy season.

The important thing is to not compare yourself and your current fitness to the people around you. Hopefully they are not also coming back from injury, so why compare yourself to a healthy runner? In fact, why compare yourself at all? Instead, look back over your past training history, because the evidence for what went wrong and lead you to being injured may be there. Mistakes are welcomed lessons to runners as long as we learn from them. Figure out what perhaps you did wrong. The hard part is being objective. What may be right for your training buddy could be wrong for you. Did you take rest days? Were they really rest days, or were you “not running” but still training in some way? Did you get much sleep? Did you never stretch? Did you wear awful shoes when not running? Did you take on too much mileage or intensity too soon? Did you race every weekend? Do you have physical limitations you pushed too hard? I promise you that your training past has some clues for what went wrong.

Its easy to be mentally restless when coming back to training, especially if you have a goal race looming in the future. I get it, you want to play catchup. Don’t. Instead, come up with a sensible plan. Lay it out in front of you, so you can visualize your time and how to wisely use it. This will reduce any anxiety over a race goal and give you time to focus on base mileage and building back to where you need to be before pushing pace and distance.

Last year, I was given the green light for my first 10-15 mile week on January 8th. I had the Boston Marathon on my calendar for April 15th. Three months to train for a marathon isn’t a lot of time if you are starting with great base mileage. I was starting at zero. Literally. I made it to the Boston Marathon, but I was forced to make adjustments. My race goal had to be to finish, and to run it easy. I was not allowed to run hard. My doctor also didn’t let me run anything fast until mid-March. I ran one 20-miler in my training, while I usually run 3-5 long runs of 20+ miles leading up to a marathon. It was a hard pill to swallow, especially because my original plan was to race Boston and go for a big PR. However, I felt incredibly lucky on April 15th to feel strong and to cover 26.2 miles a few short months after being side-lined. It may happen to you, that your goals get crushed. It’s hard, but remind yourself that once you get healthy and back to racing, there are always future marathons or races. Maybe this won’t be “your year,” but there is always next year – as long as you take care of yourself. As for me, my big PR happened six months after Boston, at the Philly Marathon. Again, you can always adjust and when the timing is right it will happen for you. Be kind to yourself.

When coming back to racing, use support from runners around you. The odds are that many of them have experience with injuries. Lean on them for support. Just be careful to not let them tempt you with running too far or fast too soon. Join them for mileage, but hop in or out of the run as you need to. This will make you part of your running community without doing too much. Communicate with your running pals about your limited mileage or speed. They will be supportive. Again, they have probably been there before.

Lastly, remind yourself that these struggles will make you are stronger and smarter runner in the big picture. Force yourself to learn from your mistakes and your running career can last decades. And if you think the speedy lady in the park who can clock 80+ mile weeks year after year won’t get injured at some point, guess again. Odds are she will. Its part of our sport. At some point we are all that runner starting at zero. The trick is the lessen the odds of being that runner time and time again.

Supplementation Slap-Down

0120bwebRecently the topic of supplementation came up on a running forum, and it sparked the desire to discuss the topic here on Coach Corky Runs. Supplementation refers to vitamins and minerals, and meal replacements  – like protein shakes. These fitness tools have been popular in the health and fitness world, from body builders to people with iron or calcium deficiency.

While some people may benefit from supplementation, be it for athletic performance or daily health, its important to talk to a doctor and/or nutritionist before buying everything on the shelf at GNC.

A few things to consider if you are interested in supplementation: If you eat a balanced diet, you most-likely won’t need any supplements. The exception, of course, is if tests show you are deficient in specific nutrient.

If you are new to a fitness routine, supplementation is not a magic way to become fitter, faster or stronger. Yes, protein supplements can help folks looking to gain weight, but that’s because protein post-workout is a necessary part of the weight-training and muscle building process. Eating chicken, greek yogurt, eggs – anything high in protein will do the job. If supplementation makes getting your protein in post-workout easier than reaching for real food, it is certainly far better than nothing at all. However, look at the ingredients on the package and take note of how many ingredients you don’t know about – let alone can pronounce.

Supplementation without the guidance of a doctor or nutrition expert can be dangerous. Our bodies are all different, and we all need different things. If you don’t know exactly how much of one mineral, for example, you need, you could easily overdose and hurt your body. While many people are anemic, overdosing in iron can be dangerous. Making assumptions without medical reason can get you in trouble.

There are many theories floating around out there that certain supplements can help you train harder, run faster, lift heavier, etc. But these are only theories, have spun into a pretty web by companies looking to promote their supplementation or folks on tv looking to share a miracle vitamin, mineral, or food.

In short, remember to do your research – medical journals, not what’s floating around on Buzzfeed. And talk to a doctor. After all, unless you specialize in this field, you could be playing Russian Roulette with your health and athletic performance.

New Website and New Offerings

img_6984-editGreetings runners and fitness enthusiasts! As you can see, “Coach Corky Runs” got something of a face-lift over the weekend. I hope you like the new website. A few more things will be added and changed in the next week or so. Feel free to bop around it and give me some feedback. Something you want me to add? Something that’s hard to find? Something you love? I welcome your comments!

I’m planning to add more to my “resources” tab, with links to sports doctors, massage therapists, local running stores, etc. So if YOU offer a service geared toward athletes, send me an email and we can talk about adding your link to my “resources” page!

A tab with links to all of my publications will be added.

I’ll be adding more “news” about my own upcoming goals and training, fitness modeling work, and my clients’ recent achievements!

As Spring is finally starting to slowly show her face here in NYC, Coach Corky is offering group classes! For more info, see the tab at the bottom of the page. I don’t know about you, but I am REALLY excited about that one!

You can also anticipate a few guest blog entries from one of my runners, as she’s preparing for her first marathon! I know she has a lot to share, and unlike many of my athletes, she lives 1500 miles away! She also happens to be my little sister. I think her perspective on running, things she’s learned and tips she can share will be especially beneficial for newbies and folks thinking about their first marathon! I am incredibly proud of how far she’s come in the last year of running, and she hasn’t even hit the marathon starting line yet.

I am *hoping* to start working on a book – but don’t hold me to it. I’m so busy running around that it might not be finished for a few years. I am also thinking about working on a podcast or weekly/biweekly vlogs. I’d love to share more info with all of you, and have on some amazing guest speakers!

Happy running!

Coach Corky

Winter Woes and Ultra Training

Back on February 14th, I signed up for the Back on My Feet Ultra Marathon. It was my intention to post weekly vlogs, updating on progress, covering tips for training, thoughts, failures and successes. Sadly, I have yet to take out the video camera. While I am hoping to share some video documentation along the way, I figured I should at least sit down and update you on what has been going on thus far. it is my intention to sit down with the camera soon, I promise.

Boy do I wish I were running here right now! St. Thomas, and I ran on this beach back in August.

Boy do I wish I were running here right now! St. Thomas, and I ran on this beach back in August.

The last month has been insane. Weather has been anything but kind this Winter. While I have been out there day after day with my athletes, running beside them, I have had little motivation to go out on days I am not coaching and clock additional miles. Some of my decisions were safety-related, as the amount of snow, slush and ice on the streets and sidewalks of NYC has been awful many times, and black ice is a nasty beast. I will also confess that I have felt slightly “down” and uninspired to work hard on my own goals.

Another difficulty has been my pacing load. I love my runners, and I am happy to be out there running next to them – even when it’s 5 degrees. I am so proud of my warriors who have hit the streets, day after day in this awful weather. The struggle for me has been that all of the miles tend to bundle within 4 days per week – which obviously is tiring, but also potentially dangerous. I need to make sure I avoid injury, and cramming 50-60 miles within 4 days is a lot for me right now. Therefore, I tend to take the remaining days of the week to rest, because I feel beat up. I need to be more assertive, and move around my coaching to protect myself.

Lastly, my health has been an issue. The last two weeks I have been fighting a terrible chest cold that just won’t quit. It has made it difficult to pace, as my chest often feels tight and I begin to feel light-headed and my legs feel heavy. I am currently finishing a round of antibiotics, and was prescribed an inhaler and nasal spray to help me get over this bug. Not only have I barely run the last two weeks, but I didn’t want to put myself on camera for a vlog while congested, coughing, and blowing my nose. Blah.

I am not worried about my training, because I know I have lots of time between now and July. Right now my focus is on my runners and their goals, and getting healthy. I am excited about daylight savings time, as that should now help a bit with motivation.

I suppose a lesson I have learned and can share with the class is this: the terrible Winter has been grinding at my gears too. You are not alone if you feel unmotivated, frustrated, and simply annoyed with this weather. I feel it too. I am pissed that every single track in NYC has been snow-covered for MONTHS, and that the bridle path in Central Park has also been a slick, snow-covered mess for so much of the Winter season. But I tell myself that this too shall pass, and to relax and just do the best I can until Spring arrives – whenever that will happen.

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!

Go, Go, Garmin Gadget!

81J8WsZmJoL._SL1500_When I first started marathon training, I bought myself a Garmin 405. With a time-specific goal, I wanted a tool that would keep me honest, accountable, and aware of my progress. At the time, a $300 “investment” in my training seemed a bit steep. I was a full time actor in NYC, and when you don’t know when your next paycheck will arrive, or if you’ll even love running marathons, $300 was quite the expense for my running quest.

Since that purchase in July 2010, my trusty Garmin has gone through a lot. Humid summers, rain showers, snow and ice storms. Training in NYC, Philly and LA. Races all over the country. Thousands of training miles, dozens of marathons, half marathons, and countless other races. Moments of pure bliss and triumph – big PRS, overcoming what I thought was possible, and some wins. Moments of complete agony – injuries on race courses, DNFs, the trauma of the Boston Marathon in 2013 – My Garmin was there on my left wrist for all of it.

All of those miles have turned my once perfect and shiny Garmin into an old, weathered-looking device. The band has been held together with black tape for months, and there have been times where the device has completely malfunctioned, or rebooted mid-race. But like a trusty friend, these errors were forgiven.

Sure, newer models have come and gone within the last few years. Friends have tempted me to upgrade, but why? My Garmin worked just fine. Call me old fashioned, but why replace something when what you have does quite a good job? But over the last few months, it became clear that our daily journeys were going to have to come to an end.

With mixed emotions, I recently purchased a new Garmin – to 220. Part of me was excited. A new running toy, oh boy! It’s pretty and purple, and has new technology my old 405 couldn’t dream of! This new Garmin can literally be a tracking device – which is awesome for safety reasons but also means that I’ll always have a back-up tracker at races – which is pretty darn sweet! The new model does a done of other new things, that I have yet to fully explore.

While my old 405 will be “retired” as far as daily responsibility, I’ll be holding on to the old guy for as long as he decides. He’ll be my backup buddy for my Ultra in July, and will be swapped in when the new Garmin needs to be charged. I’m sure he and I will still go on other journeys too. I know my watch is an inanimate object, and so to be attached to the old ticker is silly. But the person and athlete I have morphed into during my journey with that piece of technology is unbelievable.

Which made me think – do you have a training device or tool that you have stuck to for years? Any part of your running ensemble that you feel incomplete without? If you have never run with a watch, I recommend it. Sure, you can drag your phone along with you and use a running app, but I love that I don’t have to carry a heavy device, my hands are free, and I have some time to myself that isn’t interrupted with emails, phone calls, updates, etc. from my phone. I encourage you to look at all your options. There are dozens of brands out there, and devices that cater to different kinds of athletes.

I should probably mention here that I have no incredible loyalty to the Garmin brand. I am not sponsored by them, and am only writing about my watch because it was meaningful to me. Personally, I go to different brands for different things. I have never found one brand that fulfills my every need as a runner. my watch is a Garmin, my shoes are Mizuno, my sports bras are Nike, most of my apparel is a mix of different brands – chosen based on how they fit me and feel, not on the logo. But hey, if the folks at Garmin want to sponsor me, I wouldn’t object!

Looking back, I’d say that Garmin 405 was the best $300 I’ve spent in a long time. I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth!

Staying Motivated

img_8482aweb-320x444Its the time of year where many people find themselves in a rut. Perhaps Winter has been grinding on you with arctic blasts, or you’ve lost the momentum you charged into 2014 with back on New Years Eve. Fear not, I have a few suggestions and tips that can get you out of your rut and having fun!

Consider signing up last-minute for a local race. Hopping into an event with no expectations but to have fun and see what happens mixes up our routines. You may surprise yourself with your fitness level, and cross the line with a PR! You may also find the company of a couple hundred fellow runners reignites your reasons for running. With weather being unpredictable, signing up last-minute also means you can pick and choose your race with the forecast in mind. If nothing else, a short race is a great speed workout.

Perhaps you don’t want to participate in an event as an athlete but still want to be involved. Volunteering always feels good, and you’ll be greeted and thanked by the warriors on the course. As a volunteer, you’ll see every runner go by – from the speedy leaders to the back of the packers and everyone in between. If seeing folks of all shapes and sizes out there pushing themselves to the best of their abilities doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

I love grocery shopping. I find that if my nutrition habits start slipping, heading to the store and stocking up on healthy options makes me excited to cook and eat yummy things! Looking for new recipes and trying them out is always fun.

Arrange a social event with athletic and fit friends. The social event doesn’t have to be athletic at all. Being around positive, supportive and active people can motivate you to get back to your routine. If fitness and/or training comes up in conversation, reach out and ask for support. Having a running buddy or fellow gym-goer makes the commitment one thousand times easier! I promise that your friends have all gone through training ruts at some point themselves. They won’t view you as weak, but simply as human.

If you have a goal race or fitness goal on your calendar but feel unmotivated to train, force yourself to figure out why. Denial is common, but doesn’t fix anything. Get real. Perhaps this isn’t the time to be committing to a race and you should bag the idea until a later date. Perhaps your diet goals were simply too ambitious but can be tweaked to guarantee success in the big picture. Maybe you need to reconfigure your schedule to make time for training. Sometimes watching a running movie or going to a race website is enough to get your training mojo back. Whatever you do, take an active approach to figuring out why you are in a slump.

We all fall off the wagon now and then. As long as we get back up, we are back in the game.

Winter Warrior

img_6789-editUnless you live in Southern California, you are probably aware of how cold this winter has been. Inspired by the “Polar Vortex,” here are some tips for how to train outside as safely and comfortably as possible.

Training for a spring race (especially a marathon!), fitness goal, resolution set back on New Years Eve – often requires getting out of the gym and into the fresh air. If conditions are dangerous – icy, deep snow, high winds – sometimes heading to the gym or taking a rest day is the smart decision. However, if you can stomach the temperature, here are a few tips that can make your miles as safe and comfortable as possible under the given conditions:

  • Hats and gloves are a must. You lose heat from your head, which is good in summer but bad in Winter. Keep your head covered, and you’ll hold onto your heat. Hands and feet will quickly lose heat, as your body will work hard to regulate your core temperature, pulling blood away from your hands and feet and directing it towards your core. Gloves and compression socks can help you feel better and reduce the risk of frost bite.

  • Adjust your pace for extreme temperatures. Just as I’ve mentioned in the past that extreme heat has an impact on athletic performance, the same is true with extreme cold. Because your body is working hard to regulate your temperature and work hard to meet your demands, your body and brain won’t function as well as they would at 50-60 degrees. It’s best to run by feel and effort instead of focusing on your pace.

  • Breathing hard in cold climates can be hard. Again, you are sucking in very cold air into a body that is comfortable at 98.6 degrees. Warming up and cooling down is always important, but in Winter it’s even more crucial as it will give your body a chance to ease into your workout.

  • Do not wear cotton. Running in cotton can be unpleasant, but is also dangerous in Winter. When you sweat in cotton, it dries very slowly and pulls your body heat out of you. If you must run in cotton, get out of it as soon as you are finished your workout. Hypothermia and other dangerous things can happen if you are in cold, wet cotton.

  • Wear compression/sweat-wicking gear. Yes, Winter running gear can be expensive. I feel your pain. But if you plan to train through days that don’t go above 20 degrees, you need to invest in proper gear. It will make a world of difference.

  • Wearing layers can be great. As a general rule, dress for the current temperature +20 degrees. When running, your body heats up and “feels” like its about 20 degrees warmer outside than what the thermometer says.

  • In extreme conditions, like when it’s 5 degrees and you are out running before the sun comes up, hand warmers can be useful. I sometimes stuff them in my gloves, or in my compression shirt on my back if I am coaching and not running the whole time.

  • Upon finishing your run, drink or eat something hot – like soup or hot cocoa. Personally, I like to make chocolate milk and heat it on the stove. Warming yourself up from the inside feels pretty awesome. Pair that with a hot shower, and you’ll feel great.

  • If you can plan to run at the warmest time of the day, that can certainly help. While not everyone can plan their work and life schedule around the weather and training, if you do have the ability to duck out of work for a long lunch break, that can make Winter training a bit more bearable.

  • Watch for icy patches on the road or sidewalk. Wiping out could lead to injury, which is never good. Keep your eye on the path in front of you, and take short, quick steps – making it easy to navigate icy patches.