How to Run

If you are anything like me you aren’t a fan of stretching. Ive grown to enjoy it more over time but still, not what I love spending my time doing. After all, runners want to run! The “sit and reach” exercise was always the crusher of my Presidential Physical Fitness Award dreams, throughout elementary school, despite easily achieving many of the other standards. I’m also certain that most of the injuries I’ve sustained over my career could be traced back to this error of laziness.

Part 2 (How to Start Running, continued)

In my previous post I talked about setting yourself up for success and getting out there. Now, lets get a little more specific, and dive into the logistics a bit.

Warm up

Warming up is extremely important! Especially as we age, the hopes of staying injury free, becomes a goal in itself. I’m a mess when I cant run due to injury. Exercise is definitely my therapy at times, so all sorts of issues arise when I can no longer crush myself out on the pavement.

Stretch!

If you are anything like me you aren’t a fan of stretching. Ive grown to enjoy it more over time but still, not what I love spending my time doing. After all, runners want to run! The “sit and reach” exercise was always the crusher of my Presidential Physical Fitness Award dreams, throughout elementary school, despite easily achieving many of the other standards. I’m also certain that most of the injuries I’ve sustained over my career could be traced back to this error of laziness. The Appalachian State Cross Country Camp, I attending over the summers of my high school days, was my first experience with dynamic stretching. It seemed bizarre at the time, but is now just considered, the way.

Dynamics

A fluid stretching routine after an easy jog or brisk walk is the way to go. Dynamic stretching, unlike static stretching, is a safer and better option. Static stretching, the old school way we were always taught growing up, should be reserved until afterwards. Many of the moves performed during this routine are very similar to their static counterparts but separated by bouts of skipping or one to three steps. Each stretching motion is only a second or two, but repeated a handful of times, while covering a distance of 10-40 meters. Shown below are a few dynamic moves commonly used by runners and other athletes.

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 Run/Walk method

Even if you have already progressed to a place where you are able to run for the desired distance, without a walk break, you can still squeeze in the “Run/Walk method”  from time to time. This is a great way to keep your easy days EASY and your hard days HARD. I often struggle with running easy enough, on my recovery days, between workouts and long runs. Seven minute per mile pace has long been engrained into my body, as what an easy run should be. However, there is a major difference in fitness level when comparing my current state against my high school and college self. Seven minute pace back then might have been too easy of a pace for my off days but is likely, too fast for me now. Forcing yourself to run for 3-5 mins and then walking for a minute at a brisk pace will help regulate this issue. I’ll often run with my watch only showing heart rate or power output (connected to Stryd Power Meter), so that I don’t worry about pace. This allows me to better see and feel the feedback my body is giving me and how I’m adapting to the training.

Every other day or every 3rd day

Don’t overdo it, especially at the beginning! The biggest mistake most new runners/ fitness enthusiasts make, is going too hard and for too long. The early motivation and desire to improve, causes this to compound. Experiencing an overwhelming desire to improve can cause us to dive in as if we had been training consistently for years. A great way to manage this excitement is to hold yourself to a strict, every other day or every third day, run/walk for the first 2-4 weeks. If you must do something on the non running days, it would be more beneficial to get in strength, mobility and core work. Strengthening the major muscle groups and core along with getting your body working in a more efficient manner, are just as important, if not more important, to keeping you fit and healthy longer.

Work your core

Running alone is not enough. Even at the recreational level, runners should mix in a few core strengthening routines, each week. This can include moves such as: planks (prone, lateral and supine), glute or hip bridge, clams, hip circles, leg raises and v-ups to name a few. Stability exercises are also a big part of fending off injury and keeping your core and legs solid. The more you can mix athletic movements into your fitness routine, the better off you will be. See a few examples below and click here for a Free pdf of a post-run, core routine that I use.

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Next up, the third and final piece to this extremely long blog post, ill get into some options for cross training and into the “tech” available to us for training and tracking. Also, I’ve already finished the final piece of this so you wont be left on the edge of your seat, holding your breath for months, like you had to for this one! 🙂

I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and offer personalized coaching services to fit the needs of runners and athletes of all kinds and at all levels, both local and at-a-distance. Follow me on social media @adamsruns or visit adamsrunning.com.

How to Start Running

I get asked this question all the time by people who are interested in beginning a running program. Some  of them are seeking a good way to shed a few pounds, some were athletes during their younger days and running was only a part of game day or a form of punishment. Others haven’t run more than a few steps since grade school. But what most of the folks who ask me how to start running all have in common is that they seem to be searching for “something”. That “something” is what the majority of runners have already discovered: a healthy way to disconnect and find balance.

I get asked this question all the time by people who are interested in beginning a running program. Some  of them are seeking a good way to shed a few pounds, some were athletes during their younger days and running was only a part of game day or a form of punishment. Others haven’t run more than a few steps since grade school. But what most of the folks who ask me how to start running all have in common is that they seem to be searching for “something”. That “something” is what the majority of runners have already discovered: a healthy way to disconnect and find balance.

There’s no question that running allows you the most bang for your buck when talking about balancing time spent and health benefits. This knowledge can create problems for the beginner, as their excitement and motivation to get fit and into a new hobby might cause them to overdo it.

Most of us have been there in some way- I know I have! You hit the road on day one, fresh off of a decade-long fitness un-cleanse, and proceed to run too far, too fast. You get out there and run further and/or faster than your body is ready for. You feel great for the rest of the day, eating healthy and feeling good about yourself. You make big plans that night, setting your running gear out and setting your alarm early. You’re going to sip some black coffee, stretch and hit the road before anyone else is even awake the next morning!

When the alarm goes off, you pop up, still riding the wave of motivation and- BAM! The soreness is everywhere. You’re aching from head to toe, in places you didn’t think could get sore. Back down into your bed you go, telling yourself, “I’ll run this evening after Ioosen up throughout the day”. The evening comes and goes and you’re so tired and still very sore. Then you repeat the same nighttime routine, clothes out and alarm set, hopes high.

Day two wake up is even worse! How can this be? 

The soreness you feel is the result of tiny tears in your muscles from intense training. When allowed to recover and repair, your muscles will rebuild and grow stronger. While there’s likely no way to avoid some soreness if you’ve been inactive for a long time, you can surely mitigate these symptoms by easing back into being regularly active. Ride the wave, the hype, the motivation… but do it wisely and with purpose and care. Over the next few entries I’ll share the best ways to make your journey as seamless, and least painful, as possible.

Set up for success – Plan and get pumped! You’re choosing to make a huge change in your life and are inspired to do so. Stay with it and set yourself up for success.

Buy new shoes – this always seems to help, at least in the short term. This purchase can provide some good early motivation, but more importantly, you probably need them. Most running shoes should be retired after running in them for somewhere between 250 and 500 miles, depending on the model, quality and your body specifics. You’ll want to retire a minimal shoe (minimal cushioning and often Zero Drop or very close) after closer to the 250 mile end of the spectrum; a more cushioned shoe, closer to the 500 mile end of the spectrum. This will vary by runner. A heavier runner should gravitate towards more cushioned shoes and also expect less miles out of them. Your body will thank you for sure. 

Drink a glass of water immediately upon waking. 6-8 hours (or possibly longer) has likely passed since you had anything to drink. You’ll feel better when you hydrate first thing in the morning. 

Set out your running gear the night before. This is especially helpful when you’re waking up early to run. Minimizing steps, distractions and obstacles is the best way to make quality changes in your life. Take the decision-making out of it and turn it into a routine. 

I would recommend experimenting with an empty stomach if you’re running first thing in the morning, if at all possible. However, if you must eat something before exercising, set it out or prepare it the night before to ensure the process is speedy and again, an autopilot routine, in the morning. A banana is something light that works for me personally. A more filling pre-run snack is dry bread or plain oatmeal. The heavier the pre-run snack, the more time you’ll want to give your body to digest it before you run. For example, you can run almost immediately after eating a banana, but you’ll want to wait at least an hour (preferably two) after eating a bowl of oatmeal.

Set multiple alarms – phone alarm, watch alarm, old school alarm clock. Set an alarm you have to get out of bed to turn off. Get creative if you have to by setting a timer on the oven if you can hear it from your bedroom. I personally set an alarm on my watch and phone, both on vibrate. The phone lays on the edge of the bed next to me. I also set my coffee maker to brew about 10 mins before my alarm is set. If you’re like me and prone to hitting snooze at times, I suggest trying to hold yourself to a strict “no snooze” rule from the start.

Get an accountability running partner or group! Meeting a friend or small group to run with is a great accountability option- when someone else is getting up to meet us somewhere, we are less likely to blow the morning activity off because they’re counting on us too!

Create an accountability system! I’m talking about your friends, family and co-workers you can share your fitness goals with, especially those who won’t shy away from checking in with you (or giving you a hard time if you slack off!). One or more of the people in your accountability system may even turn into running partners! Post on social media about it- join running and fitness related groups, especially if you’re afraid of oversharing on your personal platforms. These can be great daily tools to keep you on track. Use tech to connect with friends or meet new ones who share your interests (my personal recommendations include Strava, Garmin Connect, Myfitnesspal, Zwift, Runkeeper, Trackster). 

Download a “Couch-to-5k” style app! This brand of app is amazing. You listen to music while the app tells you when to start and stop running and walking. It gradually, over about 12 weeks time, increases your running time from 30 seconds with walking intervals, to at the end of the 12 week training period, running for over 30 minutes with no walking intervals. It’s hard to compete with this convenience and structure for early training. I suggest using one of these programs to people with zero running experience who reach out to me for coaching unless they want me to actually run with them.

Graduate from app to coach after consistently running. I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and offer personalized coaching services to fit the needs of runners and athletes of all kinds and at all levels, both local and at-a-distance. You can visit my website here for more info: www.adamsrunning.com. 

In my next post I’ll get a little more specific and dive into other related topics. I’ll relay what works for me personally and some things that don’t!

Drink the Kool Aid

For more than 70 consecutive days it has been over 90 degrees in the low country of South Carolina. For anyone out there who thinks that 90 degrees feels like 90 degrees in this part of the country, you are wrong. Just walking outside resembles a health club sauna, minus the naked members of course. I am so ready for winter, even if its only 1 month long like the last. All of this focus on sticking to my training plan, dodging the heat as much as possible and strength training more has caused me to miss one of the most important parts of training. The ability to stay healthy by doing necessary maintenance exercises. I talk a big game to my clients about a specific warmup before runs and a core and hip strengthening routine for after. All the while I know how important it is but it is so easy to feel bomb proof while the going is good. 

For more than 70 consecutive days it has been over 90 degrees in the low country of South Carolina. For anyone out there who thinks that 90 degrees feels like 90 degrees in this part of the country, you are wrong. Just walking outside resembles a health club sauna, minus the naked members of course. I am so ready for winter, even if its only 1 month long like the last. All of this focus on sticking to my training plan, dodging the heat as much as possible and strength training more has caused me to miss one of the most important parts of training. The ability to stay healthy by doing necessary maintenance exercises. I talk a big game to my clients about a specific warmup before runs and a core and hip strengthening routine for after. All the while I know how important it is but it is so easy to feel bomb proof while the going is good.

It’s so easy when time is tight due to responsibilities like work and family to use the whole one-hour workout time chunk on my run. In my head I’m thinking, “1 hour, ok.. 7 min miles.. should be able to get 8 in.” I should be content with running 7 miles instead and using the remaining 10 minutes or so to do auxiliary exercises, core and stretch. This change in thought would only take away about 5-6 miles from my weekly total. In the past, with a less hectic schedule, I would just lallygag around after my run and get the necessary stuff in. With time being scarce and more precious as I moved deeper into the life of an “adult,” the extra stuff needs a front row seat.

As I am typing away there is an icepack strapped to the back of my left leg and under it is kinesis-tape stabilizing my achilles tendon. In a few minutes I will graduate to a boot that I wear in my downtime and through the night. I cannot isolate it for every hour of the day the way I should because of work and life, but completely resting would speed up the process.

Alright, I’m making it sound worse than it is on purpose. All of the above are true but after about 2 weeks of no running and supplementing with cycling I have been able to complete a few short runs with little to no pain. I am not in the clear yet and I have had a history of achilles issues dating back to college. I have been able to string together almost 3 consecutive years injury free which is the longest stretch in my running career. I have been doing all of the little things that contribute, especially for all of you that are over 30, to consistent healthy running. Despite knowing how important these little things are, it was the first to go by the wayside when my available time per day started to shrink. This is something you cannot afford to do!

We are all human and these things happen. They are something we all must go through time and time again in order to hunker down and make the necessary changes. My primary concern at the moment is to be healthy for the two Tunnel to Towers races that I compete in with other members from the Bluffton Fire District. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in honor of Stephen Siller. They raise money and honor first responders and military that are in need. Our team has won the last 3 Savannah races and the first and only Columbia race (in full gear). I need to be injury free, even if it means in less shape than I was two weeks ago. After that, it’s up in the air whether I will go back to building a big aerobic base for a winter race or try to salvage the fall season.

The message here is to stay focused on your goals. Whether the goal is to walk, run or scale the Empire State Building… keep doing the little things. Most fairly motivated people will do the obvious things. Runners will run, painters will paint, but neither will be successful without the behind-the-scenes extras that keep you moving forward.

Tunnel to Towers Foundation:

tunnel2towers.org

It’s Hot

There are studies out there have compared the benefits of heat training to that of altitude training. While altitude training has been found to increase the body’s red blood cell count, training in extreme heat while slightly dehydrated can stimulate the body to produce more plasma. 

I think it’s a little unreasonable to have to wring your shorts off after and easy paced run. This has become an everyday thing lately as it’s been 90+ degrees with 612% humidity. I try my best to get my run in before 8 am, but because of other obligations it’s not always possible. I struggled through 6 miles (8 scheduled) the other day. I did, after all, run at 1 pm out of necessity but I was unaware that it might have been the hottest hour of the summer thus far. My weather app read a “real feel” of 119•F.

There are studies out there have compared the benefits of heat training to that of altitude training. While altitude training has been found to increase the body’s red blood cell count, training in extreme heat while slightly dehydrated can stimulate the body to produce more plasma.

I truly hope that all of us are gaining a little more plasma and not just a layer of mental toughness. Either way, if you are out at anytime in the South Carolina summer I applaud your effort, because at a minimum that is very impressive.

I have yet to do many structured workouts as the summer is typically base-ville for everyone’s fall racing; a little speed here and  there just to keep the legs active. But I am personally going to extend my base until September in hopes of staying motivated through November.  I’m keeping my hopes of a fast 5k alive for at least one more fall season, and there will be plenty of updates along the way!

One Month, One Mile

So as I am patiently waiting for the start of my race I look down and notice that the soles of my shoes are melting off. The same happened with the backup pair! Granted it is in the upper 90s in South Carolina which usually means that it feels closer to 200 degrees and I have been standing on the track for over an hour. I traveled 4 hours from Bluffton to Greenville to race in the South Carolina Open and Masters Track Classic. I was already working with a handicap after that drive but a one hour delay didn’t help either. Needless to say I did not finish this race season the way I would have liked but it did however start with some promise.

So as I am patiently waiting for the start of my race I look down and notice that the soles of my shoes are melting off. The same happened with the backup pair! Granted it is in the upper 90s in South Carolina which usually means that it feels closer to 200 degrees and I have been standing on the track for over an hour. I traveled 4 hours from Bluffton to Greenville to race in the South Carolina Open and Masters Track Classic. I was already working with a handicap after that drive but a one hour delay didn’t help either. Needless to say I did not finish this race season the way I would have liked but it did however start with some promise.

In early May I travelled to Columbia to compete in the Governors Cup Main Street Mile. I figured this would be a good opportunity to have some solid competition which would help push me to a good time. A Kenyan runner and a few post collegiate Americans were in the race who I had no business hanging with and therefor I did not try. My finishing time was 4 mins and 30 seconds. I was more than pleased considering there was a U-Turn around a cone at 800 meters and a slightly uphill finish. Mentally I gave myself credit for at least 5 seconds faster.

A little over a week later I traveled to Atlanta with my family so my wife could take part in a conference for her new business venture. I won my heat in 4 minutes and 31 seconds but was extremely satisfied because of the way the race unfolded. I sat back in the pack for the first two laps and then negative split the last 800 (2:20/ 2:10). I enjoyed a more tactical race for a change. Again this performance pointed towards promising fitness levels.

Just four days later I put on all of my firefighter bunker gear and air pack and raced past Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah in the Hero’s Heat of the 11th Savannah Mile. The race was made almost entirely of Army Rangers. I was the only firefighter that was treating it as a race. I came in 2nd to an Army Ranger. We went one and two last year as well but we both dropped our times significantly. I finished in 5 mins and 30 seconds. Every second of the race felt like I was carrying a car and it was terrible and I hated it and as usual I will run it again next year!

Overall I am happy with this short season of faster races. I truly didn’t know what to expect of myself and still feel I’m better than or more capable than the stopwatch read but I’m trying to remember that it’s all a process. One day or one full training cycle is building for the next. My journey in running has evolved and is no longer just about being the best. Im learning to enjoy the process and focus on becoming the best that I’m capable of being given all the obstacles and accumulation of life. Don’t get me wrong I still want to win… But I’m finally in a place with myself that I understand it’s not the only thing that matters.