Extra Credit (Start Running Part 3)

If I were to pinpoint a single barrier, between most runners and their goals, it would be the way in which they go about their “EASY” effort runs. Runners of all experience levels, myself included, on average push too hard during the runs that aren’t intended on being “HARD.”

Consistency, like with most things in life, is the key.

You will continue to improve and limit the injuries you may encounter with consistency, in the activity itself and the things that support it. Most folks that are trying to get back into shape and lose weight, give up, just before they are able to have that big breakthrough. This is especially common with runners, because lets face it, the majority of humans don’t particularly enjoy running. Running is not always fun, even when you are in great shape, but once you get a rhythm, every run is not miserable. Believe me, that desperate, “I literally might die one second from now feeling” – not every run. I would not be running anymore and most certainly wouldn’t be spending time writing about running and trying to convince you to start, if that were the case. 🙂

If I were to pinpoint a single barrier, between most runners and their goals, it would be the way in which they go about their “EASY” effort runs. Runners of all experience levels, myself included, on average push too hard during the runs that aren’t intended on being “HARD.” The majority of your runs, 80% or more depending on your goals, should be run at a pace in which you can comfortably have a conversation. This can be particularly difficult for slower runners because there is a much smaller gap between a fast walk, and a pace too hard for speech, compared to that of faster runners. This takes us back to the run/ walk method, from the previous entry, as a way to limit intensity while simply getting the overall volume of running up. Increasing your weekly milage and time spent running will equal more fitness, as well as, increasing your “running skill” (more on that in a future entry). Cross training, is a great way to increase volume while limiting stress on your body in the process.

Mix running with cross training

Early on, running twice per week with a cross training day as your third workout, is a great idea. Swimming, cycling, ellipticals, fast walk, incline treadmill walk and rowers are great for supplementing. Cycling is a lot of fun for many reasons, as a break from running, but be conscious of how much time you have available. Personally I do not get on my bike much anymore because my schedule simply doesn’t allow it. A general rule for comparing time on the bike to time running is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4:1 ratio. Meaning, ever 4 miles on the bike is roughly equivalent to 1 mile of running (or 4 mins to 1 min, etc). Obviously this can vary because of intensity but you get the point. However, for your one cross training day per week, why not? An ElliptiGo- @elliptigo_usa (outdoor elliptical/ bike) is another option. This is kind of a best of both worlds cross training tool for runners. You get the running specific movement without the pounding like an elliptical machine, but you are able to do it outdoors with changing scenery.

https://www.elliptigo.com

elliptigo


Brisk walking – You will be surprised what a steady paced walk will do for you between runs or the day after a particularly hard run. This is a great way to loosen up, boost cognitive response and reduce soreness. Many of the most intelligent people in history contribute their best work and ideas to movement such as walking. During activities like walking when the effort is easy enough for you to go on autopilot, you are able to unlock the subconscious in ways that are almost impossible when we are locked into purposeful thought. For now I’m going to remove myself from this topic and revisit it again sometime because I could go on and on.

Rest! Take days off

Even the seasoned runner takes complete days off, mixes cross training and strength work in. An experienced runner in the middle of a solid training block may even have a day off and a cross training only day each week. Some runners require more time off or cross training days in order to stay healthy. It is important to safely experiment with what works for you and your body. Everyone is different but it is of the utmost importance to avoid injuries by listening to the feedback your body is giving you. There is no “perfect” formula, that works perfectly for all of us. If you know someone who runs high milage and/or takes no days off, and remains injury free for long periods of time, they likely built up to this over a long period of time.

Mix it up – keep it fun

Cardio classes at a gym, CrossFit, OrangeTheory, Red Effect, spin class and bootcamp style classes are all excellent ways to supplement your running and healthy lifestyle. If you are struggling to create a concrete fitness routine and/or pushing yourself during a workout, run or race, try a class that provides high intensity efforts in a group setting! There is no denying the effects of group work and music for boosting performance, so why not give these a try?

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www.convictiontraining.com

Yoga

Most guys might be too intimidated or self conscious showing up at a yoga studio, myself included. However, I realize I no longer have a valid excuse since, I do have a living room and you know, YouTube. Thats what I do at least. I’m sure the experience at a studio would be much more beneficial but if you must, give it a try at home first. I have found a few 10-20 minute, runner specific routines that are exactly what I am looking for. Nothing too crazy and short enough for my attention… look squirrel!

Track your progress

I have always enjoyed the ever improving tech side of running, well, everything tech. This is such an exciting time to be alive and have so many tools at our fingertips. Being born in the early 80s has allowed me to grow up as all of these gadgets have come about. We are now able to track, consolidate and monitor data about our fitness over long periods of time in ways that would put Ivan Drago’s (villain in Rocky IV) Soviet Fitness Center to shame! All of which can be viewed on our phones with a few small devices. I understand this may not interest everyone as much as it does me but there are easy ways to track many data points quickly and almost hassle free, allowing you to analyze every so often. If you ever find yourself using a coach or personal trainer, this feedback would be an invaluable tool for them to use in preparing your training.

Get wild and go deep

All day heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), steps per day, Intensity Minutes, Stress Level, Sleep Tracking, Weight, V02 Max, Lactate Threshold, Training Effect and Training Status. Most of these features are offered with a Garmin wearable, all of which would be included on a high end model. I am not as familiar with the Apple Watch and Suunto models but I would expect them to offer comparable metrics. Using Apple Health and other applications can bring all of these together under one roof with a few clicks, and once it’s set up, most of the tracking requires no additional effort on your part. A good habit, post run, is to write a short entry about how the run went and how you felt. Sometimes this can be the most telling metric of all, your perceived effort.

For HRV tracking I use, @hrv4training. You can take your daily reading with your smartphone camera or a chest strap.

hrv4training-Fidias

When I started running again 7-8 years ago after almost 10 years off, I got to experience first hand, and for the first time, what it is like to Start Running. It was awful. Of course I chose to start running again when my wife Meghan, was pregnant with our first child. It was May of 2012 and it was already scorching hot. The only thing that kept me going long enough to get over that “hump,” that seems to come in the second month of consistency, was the rain. It rained a lot that spring and summer, something I’ve always enjoyed running in. After enough consistency it just seemed to click. 

From the start, implement as many of these tools as you can, and they will really pay off over time. Start the habit now, the “small things,” are the first to get skipped when you run out of time. Create the environment that best leads to successful choices, fosters consistency, and ultimately works WITH you to reach your goals. These strategies and tricks of the trade will go a long way in keeping you healthy and add to your overall enjoyment of running, and life. 

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 and visit my website for more info: www.adamsrunning.com. 

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!