4 Things Every Runner & Marathoner Should Know 

o   Stay Consistent

Many of us miss a workout or two due to illness or travel or just life.  Consistency is the number one ingredient to success.  Take it one day at a time and try to get something in most days.  Even if you have move runs around, running in the evening or doing a double workout and taking the next day as rest, that is better than missing a runIt’s all about just getting most of the runs in most of the time.  If you don’t have much time, or desire to run, try to go out for just 30 minutes.  Thirty minutes of running allows many physiological and psychological adaptations to occur, and running twice as long is not necessarily twice the benefit.

 

o    Run hills to improve running economy and build sports specific strength

If you have a history of injury, try running uphill fast to get the same training adaptation as reps on the track at 5k race pace or just faster.  You simply can’t run uphill as fast as you can on the flat terrain, so you have less chance of getting injured.  Uphill running also builds sport specific strength and works on proper running form, but watch running downhill.  There is a lot of force, many times your body weight, when you run downhill as each step triggers muscle-damaging eccentric contractions in the quadriceps and lower legs.   Consider walking downhill or pick gentle surfaces like grass to run on when you do your hill work.    

 

o    Limit the duration of the “long run” 

Runners come in all shapes, sizes and ability.  A faster runner can run 20 miles or longer in 2:30, a slower runner may only log 14 miles.  Coaching legend Jack Daniels draws the line at 2:30 hours for any one bout of running.  I attended a conference with Jack and he told a story of how he once asked a fellow running coach what was so magical about the number 20 (miles).  The coach said, it has a “2” in it to which Coach Jack replied, “so does 12”.

Diminishing returns and the risk of injury creep up on runs lasting longer than 2:30 hours.  If you have a slower runner, try back-to-backs to get a similar benefit as one long run.  Run 10 miles in the evening and the next morning, run another 10 miles.  You will not be recovered from the previous evening’s run so you will be challenging your body to run “tired” with less risk of injury.

 

 

o   Stay in the moment and Focus on the Task at Hand

Coach Jack Daniels told another story at our conference of an elite runner he once coached who was racing on the track and after a short time he was lagging behind the lead pack and, as he went by his coach, he asked if he could quit.  Jack told him, he could quit when he caught the leaders.  Now that the athletes had a task at hand and by accomplishing it, he could reach his goal of stopping, he raced hard to catch the lead pack.  By the time he caught up, he had less than 1/4 mile left, so he figured he might as well stay in the race and he went on to win.  Try to set several mini goals throughout an event, so that you don’t become overwhelmed.  In a marathon, I like to focus on getting to the next aid station instead of the entire race.  I also like to count down the miles.  When I get into the single digits, I know I am closing in on the race. 

 

Happy Running and good luck!

It's time to start thinking about your fall race schedule  

Prepare For Race Day

Have a plan or hire someone who will build one for you.  Periodizing your training will be something your coach will do for you. A good coach will make sure there is a gradual buildup in milage followed by an adaptation week or recovery week. They will include training blocks with the appropriate training goals based on where you are in the build up to your event. As the race gets closer, your running will be very specific to your race. For example, in the marathon, a workout 6 weeks out from race day might include 12 miles @ planned marathon pace, or maybe it is broken up with 6 miles at marathon pace followed by a short jogging rest, then 6 more miles @ MP before a cool down.

Include Some Quality Runs

If you always run a 9 minute mile then it may be hard to run a race at a 7 minute mile. So, segments of faster running must to be sprinkled into your training plan. How much and what kind depends on your age, injury history, running history and the event for which you are training. That said, I think roughly 80% of your running should be easy. Adding hill work builds leg strength and helps you with your running form. The other benefit of hill work is that it is hard to run so fast uphill that you cause injury - you are more likely to run too fast on a flat surface like a track. So masters runners, or those that are injury prone, may be smart in moving their speed work to the hills as the outcome will be improved power, speed and running form.

Don’t Overdo It

Your coach or training program should include purposeful workouts. There should be a training effect desired on every workout. A “recovery” run is designed to set you up for the next “hard” bout of training. Easy runs strengthen muscles and build a greater aerobic base. Marathon pace runs help you practice you marathon pace and tempo runs help your body clear blood lactate and also help race pace feel easier. Short bouts of very fast running help improve running economy, which is the amount of oxygen you require. Easy run days need to be kept “really” easy so that the hard days can be hard.

Don’t Neglect Strength Work

Be sure to incorporate sufficient core work into your training regime. It will help you maintain good running form and prevent injury over the long term. Start with things like plank, side plank, basic lunges and exercises that strength your hips and glutes like clams, side leg raises, single leg bridge and body weight squats. All of these exercises can be found on Runners World’s website. Be sure to go over proper form with a certified personal trainer or running coach before entering any strength training program. 

Trust Your Training and Stay Relaxed

Once you are at the starting line, the race is “in the bag”. By now, you should have talked to your coach about your race plan and practiced it in the weeks leading up to the event. Remember, the race is simply another training day; but now you are rested and have support on the course from spectators, friends, family and volunteers. Remind yourself the hard work is done. Now, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. 

Review the course map. Having a solid plan is great, but you also should know where all the aid stations are, where the climbs are (if any) and what sort of nutrition is offered on the course. All these things should be sorted out well before race day so that you can adapt your training to the specific demands of the course. You also may choose to use the same gels and drink mix that will be provided at the aid stations. A dress rehearsal gives you confidence that you can tackle whatever comes your way on race day!

Don’t Let The Heat Get You Down!

Summertime is here and all of us are struggling out there, even the fastest runners are slowing down, here’s why:

For every 10-degree increase in air temperature above 55 degrees, there’s a 1.5 percent to 3 percent increase in average finishing time for a marathon.  We are slowing down because heat impacts runners at a physiological level through increased dehydration and heart rate and reduced blood flow (and subsequently oxygen) to the working muscles used for running.

Some ways to minimize the negative effects that summer heat has on your run performance are:

1)  Continue to train in hot conditions because this will result in higher blood plasma volume, increased sweat rate, decreased salt in sweat, reduced heart rate at a given pace and temperature, and a quicker onset of sweating.  All of these adaptations will make it easier to run well in the heat, and adaptations will take place after only a week or two of heat exposure.  

2)  Adjust your expectations on particularly hot days.  Modify your workout to reflect the way you are feeling using perceived effort as a guide.  This will mean moving away from a time goal to the equivalent effort.  This is an important lesson for any athlete and one that can be used when conditions are adverse – not just for running in hot weather but also on very hilly terrain or windy days.

3)  Take measures to lesson the effect heat has in your preparation for a race in warm weather by consuming more electrolytes in the days leading up to and during the race.  Be careful not warm up too long especially before shorter events, and stay as cool as you can prior to the race with cooling towels for your neck or sipping on an icy drink.

Before you head out on your next run, check the dew point,  The dew point indicates the amount moisture in the air. The higher the dew point, the higher the moisture content of the air at a given temperature. Therefore, the dew point is more significant to runners than temperature and humidity as it provides a strong indicator of how they will feel while running.  

DEW POINT (°F)

RUNNER’S PERCEPTION

HOW TO HANDLE

50–54

Very comfortable

PR conditions

55–59

Comfortable

Hard efforts likely not affected

60–64

Uncomfortable for some people

Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions

65–69

Uncomfortable for most people

Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts

70–74

Very humid and uncomfortable

Expect pace to suffer greatly

75 or greater

Extremely oppressive

Skip it or dramatically alter goal

{Chart Source: www.runnersworld.com}

The Marathon – Tips to help you taper that last week and pitfalls to avoid

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As I and one of my athletes prepare to run the Boston Marathon in less than two weeks, we are thinking about all those good things we should be doing during the next, crucial 7-10 days.  As an athlete and a coach, I have experienced almost every mistake in tapering for the marathon and so now know what NOT to do.  We all have heard that good marathon-training should include a taper during those final 21 days.  Some of us still feel that they will lose crucial fitness during that time period but it’s the rest that helps your body recover from those hard training weeks you put in during get build up!  Studies have shown that your aerobic capacity doesn’t change during the taper period  As a matter of fact, a review of 50 studies on tapering published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones which were all depleted by high mileage  return to optimal ranges during a taper.  Muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired and immune function and muscle strength improve which reduces the odds you’ll catch a cold or get injured.

Below are 15 tips that we are following on our journey up to Boston and I hope they help some of you before your big day:

  1. Be lazy the 2 weeks leading up to the race – when you can sit, don’t stand, when you can lay down, don’t sit!
  2. Absolutely do not add any extra miles ~ follow your coaches schedule or if you are self coached, stick to your program even though you feel sluggish. Do not “slip in” extra workouts.  Also, eliminate or greatly reduce any strength work that you maintained during your marathon build up.
  3. Continue fueling and hydrating well right up to race day.  Eat extra carbs in the 3-4 days prior to race day to get more reserves stored for use on the big day.
  4. Review the course map – I wrote an article for Runners World on this very subject.  Check out where the water stops are so you can plan where to take your nutrition in case you don’t run with a fuel belt.  Scout out where the hills are so you can remember to run by effort, not pace and you know when the downhill is coming!  A few years ago, I studied the Boston Marathon course so well that I knew at what mile the hills were, and how long they were so I know when I would get relief!
  5. Check the weather and bring extra clothes including clothes that you can discard at the starting line. Staying warm and comfortable is very important – you don’t want to lose precious energy by shivering!  Also, consider a large plastic trash bag that you can wear to protect yourself from rain or wind.
  6. Do not eat or wear anything new!  This is not the time to try out new racing flats!
  7. Remember to “chill out” on the first half of the marathon.  You cannot bank time in the marathon.  Everyone feels great when they are tapered and rested in the first 10 miles.  Treat the marathon like 2 ten mile races followed by a 10K.  Run the first 10 miles @ or slightly below goal pace.  Then assess how you are feeling at the 10 mile mark and again at the 10k mark.  With about 6 miles left to go, you can tighten the screws a little bit if you have anything left in the tank.
  8. If conditions are hot, freezing, or blustery adjust your race plan.   Less-than-ideal conditions mean you have to adjust your time goals. Headwinds can slow your finish time by several minutes, and heat or cold by even more. A survey of marathon finish times suggests that 55 degrees is the ideal temperature, a temperature of 35 or 75 degrees adds 7 percent to your time, and an 85-degree day adds 10 percent.
  9. If you can, try to run the last 2-3 miles of the course the day before the race.  This will help you recognize certain landmarks and help you push through to the finish line knowing how close you are.
  10. Set multiple goals such as an A, B and C goal.  That way, you will feel a stronger sense of accomplishment if, for example, you miss qualifying for Boston or don’t hit that PR you were chasing.  Just finishing a marathon is a major accomplishment.
  11. Check the race Web site for suggestions on how to get to the race (car or public transportation), where the port potties are located, and where you will take your morning clothes bags.  Many larger races will take your things to the finish line for you on a point to point course.
  12. Make sure you arrive at the start early – I recommend at least an hour before you start so you have plenty of time to use the port potty and go through your warmup routine.
  13. Should you get a cramp or a side stitch, remember they usually go away if you slow down and apply pressure to the area where you feel the cramp.
  14. When you arrive at the aid stations on the course, get water or sports drink from the end of the line as it is usually less crowded.
  15. Relax and enjoy your race!  Running is just putting one foot in from of the other and following your well-rehersed race plan.  Smile at the volunteers and high five the children.  It will make the race much easier.

Runners World asks Coach Karen how to nail your next race

Runners World interviewed our very own Coach Karen this summer about how to run smarter, finish faster and have more fun at your next race.

Her first tip: Winding Roads

“If you’re gunning for a PR identify areas where roads twist and turn, and plan to run the shortest route – the tangents – for our fastest possible finish time, said coach Karen Meadows. When a course is measured, it’s done so using a straight line from the beginning to the end of a curve. Deviating from that tangent line increases the ground you cover.

Another tip: Dead Zones

“Look for stretches without entertainment or easy spectator access – and be ready to tackle them with mental games,” said coach. “Plan to think about reeling in the person ahead of you or repeat a mantra to yourself.”

Check out more of Runners World for these and other tips from Coach Karen.

Happy Trails!

The Assault on Mt. Mitchell

The Assault on Mt. Mitchell is considered one of the hardest century bike rides in America. This unique point-to-point race takes you from Spartanburg, S.C., to the top of Mt. Mitchell (just north of Ashville, N.C.) climbing nearly 11,000 feet over the course of 104 miles. Of course, the real killer is the fact that the road rises exponentially as you go… meaning the first 75 miles took us 4.5 hours and the last 30 miles took us another 3.5 hours due to the unending elevation gain.

As it happened, neither Karen nor I ever really considered doing this ride until three months ago when a friend mentioned it. Given that both of us had just finished racing two marathons in the space of two months (hitting our Boston times in both), our legs were already pretty strong. We started cycling like crazy to bump up our endurance as we were warned this race would take all day.

It is surprising how quickly your legs can transition from the run to the bike. We both went from riding around 50-100 miles a week to reaching 250-300 miles a week in the space of two months. Granted, our running volume went down and our swimming became non-existent (you do only have 24 hours in a day), but the rides were fantastic. We explored all over north Florida from the beach to the Alabama state line – and climbed every hill we could find, repeatedly.

Race day dawned perfect. Not too cool, hardly any wind, sunshine… the first 75 miles were a cyclists dream. We passed beautiful towns, mountain vistas, lakes and waterfalls. It was gorgeous.

The last 30 miles were tough to say the least. At mile 80 of the ride we hit a 5 mile section of switchbacks up a mountain with an average grade of 8-11% with no relief. It was grueling. Beyond that, the ride continued skyward with average grades of 7-9% until the end. We both geared down until we ran out of gears (which took about two seconds) and then slowed our cadence to help control our power output and heart rate.

We had trained watching our power on climbs and into headwinds, noting that when we hit power outputs close to 80% or more of our FTP, we really drained ourselves. Our goal, therefore, was to keep our power closer to 75% on the climbs. It was a good strategy. Although both of us were pretty tired by the end, we never ended up walking and we stayed strong until we crossed the finish line.

The result: we finished together in the top half of all the riders (of which 80% is male) and in the top 20% of all women. We were happy, tired and ready to celebrate. 

We both loved the ride and strongly recommend it to anyone – even if you live in pancake flat Florida. It just goes to show you that the right training plan – thanks to Coach Karen – and a will to get to the top will take you anywhere.

Happy Riding!

Can’t sleep before the big race?

Should you be worried if you toss and turn all night before your A race?

Worried a bad night’s sleep will ruin your A race?  Worry no more!  All of us know the feeling.  You toss and turn the night before an important race you have been keying on for several months.   Whether it is the lack of white noise in an hotel room, your spouses snoring, other guests making noise in the hallway or just plain apprehension about race day, many of us have that awful feeling haunting us all night that our lack of sleep will negatively impact our performance.

Studies on the impact of sleep and performance have shown that strength, resistance to fatigue and oxygen demand while operating at a variety of speeds on a treadmill were not affected adversely by one night of poor sleep.  Furthermore, even though mental sharpness was shown to have declined somewhat, the markers of endurance performance remained relatively stable with even more than one night of poor sleep.

Even though an athlete is not phyiscally affected by a bad night’s sleep, they still feel like they are negatively affected so what can we do about it?  Our brain is telling us that we are sleep deprived and so naturally even though our legs are ready to go, we still believe that we will be slower and more skuggish on race morning.  So a little mental workout is necessary here!  Even though we may wake up thinking that we will not perform up to our potential come race morning, we can be assured that we will perform AS IF we had a good night’s sleep.  Replacing our negative thinking with positive thoughts and staying ‘mentally strong’ by realizing that our lack of sleep the night or two before the race or the fact that we have to rise at 0 dark thirty will not adversely affect our A race is something we can and should control.

Qualifying for Boston

We took a big group of Coach Karen’s athletes over to Louisiana to run the marathon and half marathon. Three of us were trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon – I had qualified (and ran) the Boston marathon back in my 30s but got it in my head three years ago that I wanted to shoot for going under the BQ qualifying standard by more than 15 minutes.

As a grandmaster (51) I needed a sub 4 hour. I came close three times while trying to achieve this target – once at the Eugene Marathon – but a hamstring injury and foolishly going out a little fast (I know better) resulted in a 3:47. A year later in Boston, I ran a 3:50, not bad for Boston, but the warmish weather prevented me from running any faster. So finally I decided to key on the Louisiana Marathon. I had run the half the previous year as a training race in preparation for Boston that spring but also to support one of my athletes, Amy Stoyles who was trying to qualify for Boston for the first time – she did – with a 3:34.

The morning was cool, but a bit humid. I had my usual cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and a banana and coffee. I was relaxed and excited. I had been working really hard on the mental aspects of racing and I had studied the race course – deciding where to take my gels and salt tabs. I had run the last 3 miles of the course so I had a clear picture of where I was and what I had left to run when I was really tired in those final miles of the marathon. Lindsey, one of my athletes, and the Lululemon showroom manager in Destin Florida, was downstairs and looked a little nervous, so I told her we would jog up to the start as our warmup, check out the starting line and then jog back and do our final preparation before heading out to line up.

Once outside, we started jogging slowly warming up in the darkness following the road that ran along the river carefully watching for pot holes on the road…once we saw the actual start line, we felt better – we got excited, but we both relaxed a little more and jogged back to the hotel. The others were there, including Ron Brahnam who was going to run the marathon as well. At the start, I felt good, relaxed and excited. I took a half a pack of my Power Gel chews with some water and lined up with the pacer. My pacer was pretty good. It turned out he was subbing for the original pacer of the 3:45 group who was sick. He didn’t seem all that excited, but he was a good pacer and gave good cues, to relax our shoulders, run the tangents and pay attention to fueling and drinking water as it was a warmish day for a marathon.

I had my usual low point around mile 14-15 when I thought I was feeling worse that I ought to at this point. I remember thinking I have about another 12 miles to go and wondered whether I could hold this pace – legs were a little tired…I remembered how in the marathon you go in and out of feeling bad – a particular bad spot may not last very long – I took my Power gel with 50 mg of caffeine…after about 10 minutes I felt a bit better and we were turning into the neighborhoods. I ran okay until about 18 when I decided to finally listen to a little music…as soon as I out my headphones in, I noticed there was some discussion from our group about our pacer – I looked around and couldn’t see him. I asked another runner what happened, he said that the pacer felt sick and was out. So I looked at another runner, a marine, and told him (he was carrying the pace sign) that if he kept total time and compared it to the mile markers (GPS watches are almost always off), I would stick with him.

We ran through mile 23 and my legs had never felt so good at his point in the marathon. I attributed this to the high volume plan I had followed – getting up to 55 miles per week at times – which is high volume for me. Even with this high volume, my longest run was only 19 miles.

I told him we were going to get it and with about 2 miles left I started to increase my pace to 8:10-8:15. I felt light as a feather. I saw my friends on the side of the road cheering me in. Lindsey ran a personal record 3:28 and easily qualified for Boston. Ron had a good race and went on to qualify for Boston at the Albany Marathon six weeks later with a sub 3:30.

The four things I attribute to my success in this marathon are: 1) the high base I was able to achieve, 2) I ran my easy days easy, 3) I performed my functional strength work 2-3 per week focusing on the hips and hamstrings (my two week areas) and, 4) the kind of quality tempo running I did that made marathon pace feel manageable and plenty of long marathon pace runs…

Next Up Albany! So right after the Louisiana marathon I went on an easy 8 mile run with one of my athletes, Gina Spease.

Gina in 1 1/2 years went from never doing a marathon, to a 4:50 marathon to a 4:20. She decided after her last marathon that she could have run faster – had she not been sick. We talked and decided she should go for another marathon – and we quickly decided that the Albany marathon would be a good one as it gave her enough time to recover off her previous marathon and re-build and taper for Albany. I decided to try something a little different and gave her a bigger base with lots of easy running, but also include longish tempo runs around 8:15-8:25 pace so 9 pace would feel manageable. I also gave her long runs that were close to marathon pace – the fastest ones around 30 seconds slower than MP.

Gina – responded really well to the training – she missed a few long runs that worried me. At one point in her training she wanted to race a 15k. I dropped all her speed/tempo runs for the week and she ran the 15k as a huge PR. Her 15K race pace was practically the pace she ran her first 5k field test with me 1 1/2 years ago! The 15k predicted a 3:50 marathon which cheered me – because race calculators typically overestimate marathon finish times.

Gina did awesome and nailed a 4 hour marathon no problem… with me running by her side only six weeks after Louisiana. Now, I think it’s time for some much deserved rest. J

When it all comes together

Since I’ve taken over coach’s blog, I guess it’s only fair that I get to post a brief post-race report.

As a marathoner/triathlete for four years now, I’ve had my share of good and not-so-good races. This time, I managed to finally get it right. I went into the Albany Marathon a little short on training (having done only 3 long runs of 18 or more in the three months leading up to it) and I had a bit of a cold the week before the race, but otherwise, I was feeling good. The shorter training block probably helped me from feeling too fatigued actually and the cold helped me taper – as I usually have a really hard time sitting still the week before a big race.

The training plan coach wrote for me was AWESOME! Honestly, I had my doubts when she first described it. I had enjoyed my last plan so much and had a good result that I didn’t want to change. But she was her usual persuasive self and wrote it out for me anyway. It was a tough one. Man, did I look forward to the easy days because the hard days were killers.

In the end, it sure paid off. I lined up in Albany feeling fresher than I have ever felt at the start of a marathon. I felt like the miles flew by the entire race. And at mile 23, when I’m usually starting to pray for the finish line and figuring out how much I can slow down and still make my goal time, I actually held strong. I even picked it up the last mile 15 seconds faster than the steady 7:57 pace I had held the rest of the race.

Not only did I finish strong, pick up a 3rd place AG award and re-qualify for Boston, but I felt better than I’ve ever felt after a marathon. I was walking around and talking to everyone as opposed to laying on the grass and then limping back to my hotel room after.

All of this is to basically say that coach is a genius. 

Happy trails!

High Mileage

Doing the least amount to get the maximum result is a good plan when it comes to running and racing. HOWEVER, the popular phrase: practice makes perfect also applies to running.
This past year, I’ve started to experiment with running more. In the past, this has led to injury and burnout – which led me to believe that I needed to keep the mileage low. Better to do less and stay injury free than run too much and end up sitting on the sideline come race day.
Coach convinced me otherwise this year… she said the difference is in how I run those extra miles.
I used to think all miles were the same. This was before I met my coach, but I still didn’t really get it until this past year. Suddenly, running on soft surface trails and running a SLOW pace – and by that, I mean really. really slow, have made a huge difference.

 

The soft surface was an instance relief. Coach has been a fan for years, but I’ve been slow to adopt it. After months of her urging me to give it a shot, I realized you can tell the minute you hit the trails that you legs feel better. Plus, you get an extra core workout at the same time trying to get traction against the sand. It’s a lot harder than running on pavement, that’s for sure. It’s been great since a local neighborhood just unveiled a huge new system of dirt trails this past fall. I’m also lucky enough to live out in the boonies with some great dirt roads that are not far from my home.
But the biggest difference I’ve seen, and the one that has come as the biggest surprise, is the slower paced runs. Running an entire minute slower than my marathon pace feels like a crawl. I used to run everything at only 30 seconds slower. It’s still all too easy for me to fall back into that pace – old habits are hard to break and I think my body is used to it as the default setting after so many years.
However, if you can slow yourself down a full minute, it makes an enormous difference in how you feel for the next day’s workout. It’s worth giving it a try for a week or two.

All of which has led me to hit a weekly mileage total of close of 50 miles this week. I’ve been holding myself back to 30-40 for so long this seems crazy, but here I am and (fingers crossed) my legs are still holding strong. It’s only the second week of a higher volume, but I’m hoping this holds out and I can keep up the slow pace.
Happy Running!

Running after a break

Whether you’ve been celebrating a bit too much over the holiday season or your nephews gave you a tummy bug along with a new sweater for Christmas, it’s tough to get back out there after taking a break.

My athletes always seem to fall into two groups: they either want to jump back in full steam and make up for lost workouts OR they write off the season and take it easy having realized how nice it is to stay warm in bed.

While it certainly depends on your goals and the reasons for your break, the best bet is to cut yourself some slack, but still lace up those shoes. I had several athletes take breaks – some voluntary and others sick in bed – this week. I gave most of them the same advice: keep the first days back easy. Keep the miles between 4-6 and the pace conversational. Pay extra attention to stretching and form. It’s easy for muscles to tighten up after just a week off.

Getting everyone back running is easy, the hard part is re-tailoring their workouts. For my athletes with races weeks away, I didn’t have much to worry about. Missing a few workouts isn’t going to make much difference, even if they were key workouts. But if the race is less than a month, I always sit down or call my athletes to see how they really feel.

Thankfully, everyone still feels up to the challenge of the next round of races – only two weeks away for several of them! It’s going to be an eventful start to 2015.

Want to get faster? Try taking it easier

It sounds counterintuitive, but this year I’ve had not one but three athletes make HUGE gains in their personal best times simply by going easy on their easy days and resting on those all important rest days.

Although exercise science has been trumpeting this news for a while, it’s a difficult concept to get your head around. When you feel good, why not push harder and faster? You want to get better, right? And it stands to reason that running more and running faster (or cycling or swimming for that matter) would lead to being a better, faster athlete. But this year, I’ve seen several athletes achieve some amazing running goals — and they all shared one major trait: they ran easy on their easy days and took one day completely off each week. This trait was shared by all three even though they all came from different running backgrounds, had different time and distance goals and were different ages and genders.

I used to allow that maybe this theory I like to call “make the easy days easy and the hard days hard” is true for most but not all athletes. I figured that some of my athletes possibly could push the envelop a bit and do well. But just as I saw three of my athletes do well this year, I saw a few fall short. And the ones that fell short were all equally diverse and all shared one common trait as well – they pushed the envelop of this “easy/hard” rule.

Now the biggest question that athletes ask me as soon as give them this talk, is “what is easy?” It’s a good question. I prescribe an easy pace/intensity level to each athlete tailored to their current exercise goals and weekly workout duration. A good rule of thumb is the “talk test.” If you can have a nice conversation with a friend while exercising, you are probably at your easy pace. Your breathing should also recover almost immediately if you stop to stretch during the run. If it takes you a minute or more, you are pushing the pace.

 

Don’t be afraid to slow it down even more! My strongest athletes took the easy pace I gave them and dropped it by ten seconds a mile on average. For all you Type A athletes out there, that means they made the easy days even easier than suggested!

30A Personal Trainer / Triathlon Coach Karen Meadows

Coach Karen Meadows is dedicated to working individually with athletes to improve their performance and reach their personal goals.
With a lifetime of experience racing marathons, two Ironman competitions, and numerous triathlons,
Coach Karen knows what it takes mentally and physically to succeed.

Creating a custom plan for each athlete, Karen helps her athletes build their fitness, set an objective, and realize they too can achieve their highest dreams.

Located on 30A with the beautiful beaches of South Walton in Rosemary Beach, please contact her at: kmeadows@embarqmail.com