All About the IT Band — Regular Upkeep to Avoid Troubles

It’s IT. The Illiotibial Band runs along the outside of your thigh, from the top of your hip (the iliac crest, that bony ridge) and down to your knee. With runners the IT Band is a common malady and I’ll go out on a limb and say that yours is probably tight unless you’ve been working on it.

girl kicking

Kick IT Band issues to the curb with regular maintenance! ;)


What does ‘working on it’ mean? Diligent stretching (we all know how good I am at that!) and breaking up the knots. One of the best ways to focus on the latter is to use the foam roller; I’m going to warn you that if you haven’t done this before it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable and maybe even make you want to curl up and cry…so bring a tissue. ;)

To use the foam roller on the IT Band, lie on your side, prop yourself up with your elbow and position the roller just under your hip. Now, move your body forward so that the roller works itself down on the outside of your thigh and stop when you come to your knee.

Roll in a gradual, slow motion, and then when you come to your knee reverse directions back up to your hip. You will adjust the amount of tension by applying more or less of your body weight onto the roller. If you’re new at this your IT Band will probably be tender and you might not even need to apply that much weight before you feel it.

When you come to a particularly sore spot, pause and hold it on the roller. This is called applying direct pressure and as you hold it gradually start adding more of your weight onto the spot, this will help break up the knot. Only hold it there for about a minute and then do short rolls back and forth over the area to further help release the knot.

You may come across quite a few knots and you won’t be able to break all of them up in a single self-massage session either. This is something that you should think of as maintenance, like you do for your car; you only want to target a particular muscle or tendon for up to 15 minutes at a time. The best way to go about it is to sneak in short sessions after your run or while you’re watching TV, but on a continual basis instead of ignoring it and then going crazy on the roller for an hour once a month.

After a few days/weeks of consistent rolling (and only go to the point of uncomfort, yes it will be tender and sore but you don’t want to go to unbearable pain levels because then you’ll just end up doing more damage than good.) you’ll see results and foam rolling across that IT Band will start to be less and less of a torturous thought.

cupid

Try to love the foam roller...really, it's not a torture contraption. :)


The other way to keep your IT Band in check is with stretching. Two of the best IT Band stretches:

  • Sit on the floor with your palms flat on the floor a few inches behind your bum; bend your knees up and place the soles of your feet flat on the floor in front your bum. Take your left foot and lie your left ankle across your right knee; you’ll then let your knee drop towards the floor, you’ll be rotating at the hip and be in a sort of half-butterfly position. Hold the stretch for at least 25 seconds and gradually try to get your knee closer to the ground. Repeat with the other leg.
  • This time, take your left leg, bent at the knee and lay it in front of you. Take your right leg, straighten it as best you can and let if trail behind you. You’ll be sort of in a splits position, except your front leg is bent. And if you’re me there is no way you could actually do the splits, so you might need to just drop your knee, bend your torso forward, and use your arms for support. Regardless, you want to feel the stretch in the outside of your hip area, so lean forward and slightly to the left as you hold this stretch. Repeat with the right leg in front.

The IT Band, once irritated can be a chronic and annoying bugger to deal with so if it’s not causing you problems yet, remember that the best way to avoid an injury as to be proactive!

If you are currently suffering from IT Band issues, stretching and gentle foam rolling is my advice. The only difference is that I caution you NOT to over-do it. You don’t want to be massaging it too much (ie: more than 15 minutes once a day) and you don’t want to be going past the point of uncomfort; do this and you’ll only cause more inflammation to the tissues. Stretching, follow the same rules, go to just the point of slight uncomfort and the best way to stretch is to hold it for a minute or two and just go a little deeper over time as the muscle relaxes. Then, once you’re done ice is your friend! Finally, be smart and it’s better to take a shorter break sooner rather than be forced into a longer one later; if you shouldn’t be running because of an IT Band injury don’t underestimate the power of cross-training.

Sorry to say it again, but I will….check out the December issue of Running Times because I’ve written an article that is all about self-massage and there is more where this came from in it. ☺

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This post was inspired by one awesome Jen @ Run For Anna, who you should go check out because she is training for her first marathon and running for one INSPIRING cause!! You have to read up on her story, she is truly doing something wonderful with each mile she puts it!
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1) Have you ever used the foam roller?
Yup…and it’s made me feel like a weenie at times…but the time on it are for a good cause I tell myself!
2) Have you ever had IT Band issues?
Yes again, hence the foam rolling.
3) Who raced this weekend?!

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I’m Ice Cold, Baby — All About Injuries and Preventing Them

*Cue Vanilla Ice here* Side-tangent for a moment, does anyone remember watching him in that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie…oh, good times.

Now back on topic: ice. I’ve said many a time that injuries in our sport are a necessary evil that always sort of lurk in the back of our minds. At least for me, anytime I feel a new niggle, twang, soreness, whatever, there is a little knot in my stomach. Inner dialogue: “Oh, it’s nothing….what if it’s not…I’m sure it’s nothing and just forget it…but what if it turns into something…don’t think about it and it won’t exist…what if I can’t run tomorrow…you will, shut up…”

injured runner

I get a little depressed when I'm injured.


The thing is, as ridiculous as it sounds, the doom of being forced out of running due to an injury has built up to monstrous proportions in my mind. Forget Halloween, it’s the injury boogeyman we need to be worried about. Cross-training of course is readily available, but we know how I feel and I’d rather be running…of course something is better than nothing, but you know what I mean.

So in the end, we know that the injury boogeyman could be lurking around the corner, BUT we do all we can to outsmart him. Here’s a few things to stay ahead of the game:

*Ice it, Baby. I’m not going to lie, ice has little magical powers in my mind. The best thing to do is if you have anything that’s sore or bothering you, get ice on it as soon after your run as possible. Ice for up to 15 minutes at a time on one spot (any longer you could risk some nerve damage); you can ice multiple times a day, just keep an eye on the clock. Though, don’t ice right before you are about to workout, that would not be smart and you would most likely end up pulling something! Oh, and by the way, what works well for tricky spots is to fill dixie cups with water and freeze them; then just peel down the paper and rub that ice on there.

*Diligent Stretching. Wow, this is a case of ‘do as i say, not as i do’ because I know I’m a bad girl for not stretching more; I do a little every day but not as much as I need to. The more flexible are, the more resistant to an injury you’ll be. That said, DO NOT go stretching crazy on a muscle that is newly sore or you think you pulled/strained. In fact, for instances like that, you want to give the trauma area at least a day of not stretching it (ice it instead) and then the next day you can gently start stretching…but only to the point of no pain. Just hold the stretch longer and work into it.

*Self-massage. Spoiler alert, check out the December Issue of Running Times because I wrote a whole article on this. But self-massage works like stretching, you want to do little bits of it on a consistant bases to ward off an injury. Again, don’t start massaging a new injury with the intention of ‘treating it away’ because the tissues are already inflamed and you’ll irritate them more.

*Ibuprofen. These are my magic pills.

*Be smart. In the end, be honest with yourself and know when to cede. I’m the queen of pushing it, but think about the consequences. If it’s a big race, ya maybe you can risk it, but if there is no reason to push it then err on the side of cautious. Here is the rule I play by: if the pain hurts when you start running but then as you get going it goes away/gets better then you’re probobaly fine. But, if it works in the opposite way, and the pain get worse the further you go then you should ease up and cross-train.

*Make frieds with cross-training. As much as it may sting, that cross-training can still keep you in great shape and like I said, it’s so much better than doing nothing. Supplement with it, and I’ve found that even so much as just a few days of the lower impact exercise can work wonders on a spot giving you a beef.

On that note…as our oh so smart friend said, “Ice, Ice, Baby.”

1) Do you get mini-anxiety attacks when you are faced with a potential injury?
I have nightmares of the injury boogeyman chasing me.

2) What are some of your tips for assesing or warding off an injury?

3) Anyone racing this weekend?

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For the Days it’s Not all Rainbows and Gumdrops – Getting the Run in Regardless

As much as we all love something, even running, there are going to be ‘those’ days. We all have them and anyone who tells you they’ve never had a single flickering moment of not wanting to shoot out the door for a run is straight up lying.

lollypop fairy

Art: Cait Chock Designs

Professional athletes have them and all levels between; but you know what the difference is? The pro’s, well they have no choice because it’s their job, but the people who are dedicated runners regardless: suck it up and lace ‘em up.

Sometimes you just have to force yourself into the action, and thankfully once you’ve been at it long enough, if you start going on auto-pilot the body takes over. The even better part is that 9 times out of 10 once you get past the first mile or so the endorphins take over and what can start out as a dread-fest turns into a great run.

If not great at least you get ‘er done. The trick is just getting going. Sometimes it’s a trick of tricking yourself:

• When I’m tired or I know the upcoming run will be admittedly painful (as in I did a harder run or longer run the day before) I remind myself that this run is just a sick and twisted ‘reward’ of a good job yesterday. I also remind myself that the goal is just to recover and chuck pace out the window; just get the miles in.

• If I’m just tired, I make a deal with myself, “Cait, okay, if you don’t want to run the full distance, just do 4 miles.” That’s kind of my ‘bare minimum’ I’d be happy with distance, anyone can gut out a half hour. Then, when I make it to 4, “That wasn’t so bad, just make it to 6 miles.” At 6, I do the same thing and by the end I get the full run done. Just lie to yourself, it’s for a good cause.

• During the run it can be tempting to cut out, I usually work in 2 mile increments bargaining with myself, but when even that seems too much to bite off I tell myself to just go 5 minutes more…etc.

• Still stuck needing a kick in the tush to start? I remember that the first mile usually doesn’t feel like walking on clouds, but after that things pick up a lot.

• I remember why I run; how it makes me feel, and that I’m very lucky to even be able to do so.

• I like to eat…at lot. ‘Nuf said.

I know that while I have days where I may not exactly want to start a run, I can’t think of one single time where I’ve finished a run and regretted it.

• I have this beast called Guilt that lives in my head. If I skip out it honestly is not worth putting up with his nagging.

I may not be gearing up for any race, but a lot of people work well off of having something to keep them accountable. This can be an actual race, in which case you know that if you want to do your best you need to stick to your training.

This can also be a team. If you have people you are going to meet up with or are checking in with, you don’t want to let them down. Finally, having a preplanned training program also works wonders; that way you know what you need to do.

Anyway you take it, know that we all have those ‘meh’ days but remember that what separates the wanters from the wishers is the doing. So, if you’re reading this and stalling, working through the inner dialogue of ‘to run or not to run,’ take this as your friendly push to get going…just do a mile and see how you feel from there. ☺

1) When you’re having a ‘meh’ day, how do you get yourself going?

2) How long does it take you to ‘get into’ a run?

It usually takes at least a mile for me to not feel like a geriatric.
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What Has Running Taught You?

What running has taught me:

  • It’s okay to be a royal, sweaty mess if it’s for a good cause.
  • If it’s worth doing, it’s worth putting in the effort. If it’s not, move on to something that is.
  • Even when you think you’ve given everything you can and there isn’t anything more you could possibly leech from yourself, if you dig down deep there is a little more.
  • Sometimes things just plain suck…but that doesn’t mean they break you. It means you can acknowledge they suck, but then deal with it. As a great man once said, “If you’ve got an issue, here’s a tissue.”
  • That last one sounded a little harsh, but we need to be a little harsh with ourselves sometimes…that’s what keeps us motivated.
  • BUT…after that we have to be positive. If you can’t find the smile, fake one. After a while it will start to feel a little less fake.

girl on track

  • Running and training are two separate entities. Training hurts like a beast, it will make you feel like you want to die come that last interval…but in the end it is that much more rewarding.
  • When all else may be going to H-E-double hockey stick, if I’ve gotten in a good run for the day, I feel like I accomplished something. I love this quote from Dathan Ritzenhein: “And I realized that I like training, I like to be fit. I like the everyday satisfaction of having done something that most people can’t do. It was something I missed a whole lot. So I really do enjoy the training. I don’t particularly like it when I’m out there doing quarters (400s) and it’s super hard, but I like the satisfaction of having done it every day. That’s what sometimes separates people who always run and always train and people who maybe move on in life and do something else. I think I’m a lot more likely to be someone like Joan Benoit (Samuelson), who keeps going forever, just because I actually really like it, as opposed to someone who stops and never runs again.”
  • It’s fun to down unholy amounts of Pop-Tarts in one sitting and make people jealous. They can have all the high fructose junk they want too if they run for it first. ;)
  • Running keeps me sane.
girl eating pop tarts

Art: Cait Chock Designs

In all honesty, running has given me so much in all areas of my life. People have said it’s a selfish sport, and I suppose it may be at times, but it has made me a better person and I do my best to help others when I can. So maybe in the end us runnerchicks and runnerdudes aren’t selfish…as for being a little crazy, well, that’s another issue.

1)   What has running taught you?

2)   Has running affected the outcome of another area of your life?

Definitely. There have been a few times I would have just melted into a puddle of goo and given up had running not made me a tougher person.
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Let’s All Have Cake and Bring Your iPod Too

Today it’s all about Cake. To be more precise, it’s about music, sorry chocolate cake you also deserve a few special days to call your own but today’s not it.

My all time favorite running song is Cake’s ‘The Distance.’ Cut to me looking like a total idiot belting out…”[S]he’s going the distance…[s]he’s going for speeeeeeed…” I almost can’t help myself every time I hear it. It’s got a power over me.

man singing in the gym

Though I do contain myself if others are around...I do have some shame.

I actually don’t listen to music while I’m outside running, I never have, and I don’t plan on starting. But that’s mostly because I’d rather be able to hear what’s going on around me and lingering accident-issues there.

BUT, if I’m on any kind of stationary machine I’ve got to have a distraction. TV or music help the time pass. So now, can listening to loud, uptempo music make those sweat sessions more productive (along with a lot less boring)? Though, if I can say so myself, I’m going to go with a resounding, duh?!

I’m sure anyone who’s compared doing: a gym cardio session with nothing vs. a gym cardio session when the gym is playing the best of Michael Bolton vs. a loud, invigorating, pump-up song can tell you all you need to know.

But because we like to back stuff up, let’s get all sciency, and put on our lab coats. I was a little surprised that it seems there are mixed results/opinions out there. I found a really great article that sums it all up by Dr. Len Kravitz, PhD. But I’ll paraphrase:

  • There is probably a gap between lab studies and then actual application. Further, the people they are testing on present a lot of variables: how in shape are they, how ‘hard’ to they perceive hard, etc.
  • Out of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, in 1991 Copeland, B.L., & Franks, B.D. found conclusive that people on a treadmill were able to go longer with faster, loud music than the slower easy listening variety.
  • Again from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, in 1990 a study published showed that a pulsing beat upped cardio performance; they cited the reasons might be simply because of mental perspective. Obliviously if you’re able to listen up and let the music ‘make you sweat til you bleed’ you might be moved to up the ante.
  • Finally, further studies indicate that listening to louder, fast music while lifting weights can actually allow you to lift more and improve strength.

So, if you’re still with me: if you’re stuck inside bring along some fast music. I will also say, having a stocked iPod works wonders in terms of motivation to get to the gym in the first place, if you’re having a ‘meh’ day.

1)   I now throw it to you, what’s your favorite pump-up song?

2)   Do  you listen to music when you run outside?

3)   Did you race at all this weekend?
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The Super-Secret Miracle to Getting Better…

You want to know what it is? I can sum it up in a single word. Eleven little letters…should I continue to taunt you?
woman runner silhouette
Consistency.

Wow, what a shocking and crazy, insane secret, huh? After all that build-up it may sound anti-climactic, but it’s true. If you want to get better at anything the secret is practice; but you can’t just practice ONLY when you want to or feel like it.

There will be days when it will feel like a grind, when your body is sore from past efforts, when it’s too hot, when it’s too cold, when there are gale winds blowing in all directions. When there is a slight breeze blowing slightly north by northwest and there is a hangnail on your right pinkie toe.

If we only ran when it felt like we were walking on clouds we might get in a run or two a month. Scratch that because if you go that long without training those random runs will feel like a slap to the face and feel like junk. That slap to the face is where most people get in trouble; they plan to ‘start running’ and those first few weeks leave them sore and then they just stop. You have to get over the hump. But I digress.

I just finished an article in the July/August Running Times, they profiled a few different coaches/athletes and at the end they asked them all for a piece of advice. Most of them were just reiterations of one thing: consistency is key. I’ll toast to that.

If you’re the kind of person that has to have an actual race you’re shooting for, you can’t only train for a few weeks/months right before a race and then stop cold, only to up that ante when another ‘must do’ event crosses your path. Or you can, but if you want to improve that will be a difficult road to take.

The body works on tearing itself down and building it back up. Muscles get stressed, recover, and then allow you to do more. Get faster, go longer, all that good stuff. Cardiovascularly you want a strong aerobic base, and that is something that only consistency will grant you. The speed and that may come back quicker, but that aerobic capacity isn’t something you can fake.

So put in that pracitce, put in those miles, put in the training. That’s what also makes you strong, separates the wanters from the do-ers. You don’t have to make all of those days running either; in fact you shouldn’t if you’re new or injury prone. That’s where our friend cross-training comes in. But if you want to steal that super-secret, miracle to getting better…it’s getting sweating and getting it done….consistently.

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A Century-load of Motivation

If you’re feeling tired in a race and cave to sneaking a peek behind you, if you see this man behind you it should act as a swift burst of motivation!
100 year old marathoner
(Image Source)

Fauja Singh, at 100 years old, recently set the World Record for being the oldest person to complete a full marathon. This was done last week in Canada’s Toronto Marathon. (Actually, what’s really cool is you can read a first person account of Singh’s journey because the rocking Christina ran alongside him for a part of it, so go check her story out!)

You see, that’s where I want to be when I’m 100. Actually, let me correct myself; I’ve said many a time in regards to the ever-increasing life-expectancy: “I only want to live as long as I can still be ‘me.’” Read that as: I can still run and relish in snarky, sarcastic humor.

So, IF I make it to 100, I better still be kicking and living in sweating running clothes…just saying. So, to those who feel they can’t do something and set limits on themselves, take a look at Singh. What I find even more incredible about his story is that his FIRST marathon wasn’t run until the spry age of 89. You see, it’s never too late to turn to the ‘running side’ and become one of us crazy masses. It also proves you should keep challenging yourself and setting new goals, step out of your comfort zone.

runner

His time for this century-aged marathon was 8:11:05; interesting to note that in completely the Toronto Marathon he also established the records for 100-agers in the 100 meter, 5000 meter, and five other distances along with the 26.2 miles. His sights are ever looking forward and up next is of course the grand-daddy of them all: The Olympics.

Juuuuuust hold it…he wants to be a member of the torch relay for the London games. :)

1) How old do you hope to be?

2) Do you plan on running/being active up until that last sleep?
You bet, if I can’t I may just go senile.

3) Most inspirational thing/person/quote/etc. that you’ve seen or heard of lately?

4) Do you have a current goal you’re working towards right now?

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Cross-training — Longer Intervals and Endurance Based Workout

Cross-training. I have a love/hate relationship with it. The thing is, I know all of the benefits: cardio without the impact, a safe way to supplement ‘miles’, staying in shape during an injury…ahhh, that last one. See, that is where the hate part comes in.

chained animals

I just feel a little chained down when cross-training...but that's not fair to hate on the machine...haha!


To be fair, it is really just mischanneled anger that gets sloughed off on cross-training…sorry, x-training. Usually whenever I’m on the elliptical, the bike, the crazy scary gauntlet-style stair climber, aqua-jogging, etc., it’s because I’m forced into it. My body is on the machine but my mind keeps drifting to where I want to be…RUNNING!

But there are plenty of other reasons to be on that machine and many of them have nothing to do with injuries. You can be logging miles but still getting a workout done on the elliptical, they can go hand and hand; it’s just that even when I’m not injured I’d still rather be running. Hehe, oh me and my little running affliction.

All that said; if you are going to use that cross-training to its full potential (as in it’s supposed to be a hard workout day, not just getting in some steady cardio) you can do it a few ways. A big one is with intervals.

Intervals can kick your butt on the track/roads and they can do the same anywhere else…don’t believe me check back midway though a session and see if you change your answer. Intervals also help beat the boredom that can come with a stationary machine; though I will warn you that those recovery minutes seem to miraculously fly by much faster than the hard one…funny how that works!

roller blader girl

Heck, you could even go rollerblading for your cross-training!


I’ve done a few cross-training interval workouts on the Workouts Tab, and here is another. This one is more strength/endurance based; you can do it on any machine, even aqua-jogging, just put in the effort. (My choice would be the elliptical but that’s just me!)

* 10-15 minute warm-up
* 5 minutes hard
— you want to be working the whole time, those middle minutes the mind can drift; to refocus and keep yourself honest I usually peek at the RPM’s of the machine and see how I’m doing, if it starts lagging I try and pick it back up. Get competitive with yourself and see how high you can get them and sustain it there.
* 2 minutes recovery – just keep moving, allow yourself to recover
* 5 mintues hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
— last long, hard one, so push through!
* 2 minutes recovery
* 2 minutes hard
— this one is shorter so try and get moving a little faster; though it’s at the end and you’re tired…but just remember you’re ALMOST done!
* cool-down

***** if you are training for a long event you can make this one a little more endurance-based with this: instead of the standard 15 minute warm-up you will make yours 45 minutes but break it up into 3×15 minute chunks. The first 15 minutes will just be your easy warm-up, the next 15 minutes pick it up each 5 minutes until you’re going harder than ‘easy’ and just below a ‘moderate’ level, for the last 15 minutes keep picking it up each 5 minutes until the last bit of time you are going at about a threshold pace. From here, take 3-5 minutes to regroup and then go into the interval workout.

That’s it for now, folks! I hope your week is going along well and remember that cross-training is your friend. Even though it may drudge up ghosts of injuries past, it’s not fair that we dump all that hate on it…that said, it’s still okay to begrudge it just a little…I mean running is still the best. :)

1) Do you prefer cross-training to music or watching TV?
I’d say for just steady cardio probably TV, but music if I’m doing a harder workout.

2) What’s your cross-training of choice?

3) How do you supplement or use cross-training in your workout line-up?

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Battling the Race Day Nerves — Use the Nerves to Your Advantage

Sunday again already, eh? Well, we are approaching the ‘GO TIME’ for races here; whether it’s the high schoolers gearing up and going through all the sectional/regional races, the college athletes doing the same, the road racers continually make the circuit, and of course the marathons. We have NYC Marathon fast approaching, other ones going on all around the world, and then come January the US Olympic Trials…exciting stuff!

Though, whether you are racing in a huge meet or a low-key fun run, there is something special about putting on that race bib. Even if you are going into a race using it more as a workout or a tune-up, you still get that little buzz right before that gun goes off.
cross country girl runner
Races wake up that competitive beast just a little more…if tough workouts are just poking it with a stick than having a gun go off is like kicking him in the mouth. I’ve talked about how people have different perspectives on races: for some they just want to survive, others don’t care a lick about time and are all about the fun, and then there are those who are out for time and want to push themselves to their absolute limits.

Any and all of those goals are valid and great; but if you do fall into that last category and each of these races are upping the ante: read as you need to hit a certain qualifying mark, place as high as possible to make it to the next round, and there is a lot on the line, you CAN’T let the nerves get the better of you.

You want that buzz of adrenaline, the prick of your hairs as you crouch at the line, because that’s all a part of racing. But you don’t want to take it to the extreme and sabotage yourself. Don’t ‘think’ yourself out of a race.

Out-thinking it can happen even days or weeks before you start your warm-up. For whatever reason I think I was pretty good at not psyching myself out to the point where it ruined my race before it even started; I think it was because of a few things, and I’ll just share a few tips or pointers that might work for you:

* It’s just a ‘workout-plus’: the thing is, I get nervous before hard workouts too. I can’t really put into words why exactly, part of it is because I want to do well of course, part of it is that I know it will hurt but I want to test my mental toughness and see how far I can push that. I am a big believer in that being a mentally gritty and tough runner is one of the best attributes to have; I respect that probably the most in other people. How to use this for the race then: just think of this race as you would a tough workout; yes, there is more ‘on the line’ but just like in hard track sessions, go out there and give it the best you’ve got. The ‘plus’ part comes from the extra boost the excitement, adrenaline, and competition will give you; usually that will happen on it’s own and will help push you a little harder.

* Go in with multiple goals: the races I’ve been the most nervous for were the ones where I wasn’t exactly sure where my fitness was. Maybe I was coming off on an injury, perhaps I hadn’t raced for awhile; whatever the case if you haven’t built up enough workouts to gauge your level of fitness that can be daunting. In this instance, I’d suggest looking at what workouts you HAVE done, (here is where a coach helps a LOT as they can help you predict and set a goal for the race) and set a few goals. Set one for what you would consider ‘acceptable’, another a little bit higher, and then have a third that you might think is a reach but you still have to put it out there. Now, the three goals things still works even if you are in good shape; you always want to have a third goal where you really put your neck on the line and set it; even if you don’t tell anyone but yourself.

* Carry the confidence: now if you DO know you are ready to rock that race, then I’d suggest thinking back on your key workouts. The ones where everything clicked, you did well, and they are proof you are in good shape; so then when there is the point in the race where it hurts like a beast you can tell yourself, “Okay, I did such-and-such workout and that hurt way more, I CAN do this.

* Power-down, Power-up: leading up to the ‘big race’ just try to push it out of your mind with about two days to go. If you stress out too much about it, what happens is you will physically just wear yourself out. Your body will produce this hormone called, cortisol, which will, come race day, leave you wiped out. Not only that, your mind will have been stewing and could just work against you. So set your goals in advance, then tune out the days leading up…flip the brain back on when you are starting your warm-up because then it’s GO time.

* Relax: ummm, thanks for the obvious advice? Haha…no but seriously, I know we all handle nerves differently; for me I used to sort of turn into this weirdo-yabber mouth. I was the one on the line saying good luck to people or making some dorky joke; for whatever reason that helped me let off some steam by keeping it light. There is a limit of course, you don’t want to be outright rude because some racers are the opposite and like to be completely stoic, so give them their quite. I respect that everyone works in their own way; for the relaxing though, it helps to sometimes just shake out your arms because your shoulders can be up to your ears without you knowing it.

cross country boy runner

We're equal opportunity here, here's one for the guys. :)


I hope a few of these things help. Lastly, if you’re running with a team, use the camaraderie to your advantage, not your undoing. Yes, let it propell you to pick off that last person down the stretch, to really reach…but don’t let the opposite happen where you just absorb all that pressure to perform. The funny thing about it, the more you focus on ‘wanting to do well’ that is usually when you are working against yourself the most. Often times the races or times I’ve felt my best is when I wasn’t thinking about ‘wanting to do well’ but instead just letting it happen.

I’ll share a quote my mom used to always tell me when I would be nervous: “If you weren’t nervous, then I’d be worried; that means you don’t care.”

1) Best way you’ve found to channel nerves to your advantage?

2) Do you get nervous before key workouts?

3) Did you race this weekend? If so…share!

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A Hack-Hack Here a Cough-Cough There — Let’s NOT Wind up Sick!

Ack…ack…ack. Cough…sneeze…achoo. You hear it and if you’re like me there is a tiny little part of your braining saying, “Alert…someone’s sick on the premises.” Is that really lame of me?

If so, I don’t care. It’s funny because when I was little I would actually *hope* I’d get sick so I could stay home from school (though I usually was regretting it when I was slumped over the porcelain god and hacking up phlegm) but today I look to illnesses like the plague. Anything that hampers my ability to do my ‘full’ workout is no friend of mine!

sad girl

I hope my fellow fitness-a-holics can relate and not judge me too harshly over the next few sentences. When you’re living with a person who is ‘infected’ what do you do? Personally, I discreetly do what I can to keep my distance. If it’s family it’s easy because they would understand and they are like me and respectful to do what they can to hunker down and not get others sick.

But with roommates, or even just people you are working in tight quarters with, you have to be a little more respectful. I guess offering them a face-mask wouldn’t be too nice…even if I made it one of those nifty, tricked out, decorated SARS-esque ones? No, guess not.

This happened recently, when one of my housemates and REALLY good friends was sick. So I thought it worthwhile to highlight a little on ways to avoid getting sick; germies are even more ‘dangerous’ to those with an actual race or event they are gearing towards. The worst thing that could happen would be putting in ALL that work and then wind up with the flu the week of the race!

* Close-talker say what? Some people are generally close talkers, but even if they aren’t, I’ve been known to do the ‘slow step-back shuffle’ where during the course of the conversation you gradually increase the space between you.

* Wipe and wash. By nature I am pretty OCD about washing my hands if I’m going to be putting something into my mouth; but not everyone is and it’s easy to mindlessly grab a treat from a candy bowl and pop it in. Not only do you need to remember where your own hands have been, but where others’ have too. PS-did you know that touching your eye with dirty hands is just about as germy-hazardous? Not that we all go fishing on our eyeballs, but people with contacts should take note.

* Sleeps and Snores. We can’t control what others are going to do, we can hope and appreciate when they sort of stay in their rooms while they recoup depending on how bad the sickness (mine thankfully did!) but we can get proactive on our parts. Sleep is one of the biggest components that is so overlooked in training and by anyone; skimping on the zzzz’s will not only hamper your recovery but this is also the time when your body is restoring all aspects. Skating by with not enough sleep while working out will weaken the immune system.
fresh carrot
* Noshes and habits. By already being worker-outers we cut our chances of getting sick in general (20% fewer colds says The University of South Carolina) but apply this healthy habit to your eating too. While I always say that thanks to all the running we do we get the luxury of having more indulgences, (which we DO…thank u pint of B+J’s Half Baked last night!) but that should be on top of an already healthy diet. Fruits and veggies are jam-packed with plenty of disease-fighting antioxidants. (That fun little 20% factoid comes to you from the latest issue of Runner’s World where there is a full-article worth a read as it helped remind me of some very key points!! So check that out. :) )

* Stress and cortisol. Cortisol is an evil little hormone…no, I know it has it’s place but it gets eleveated when we are stressed AND after hard races and workouts. (Actually, this guy is one reason why you don’t want to have to ‘talk yourself up’ for big races too many times; it takes it out of you every time you do that; do that too much and you will be flat by the end of the season.) What it also does is put your immune system in a weakened state; so if you’ve already done a hard workout or race be extra diligent in your recovery. As for stress…that’s hard to avoid but what I’ve tried to do is if something is actually out of my control, I try to just accept that; do whatever I can to hopefully sway the outcome but from there push it out of my mind.

* Take it outside. Not fun fact…gyms are one of THE most germ riddled places around, no joke. And think about how many things you touch there and lie on top of. This is a time when maybe bypassing the gym and running outside would be a good idea; but c’mon almost all of us go to gyms so be SURE to wash your hands and take a shower right after you do.

Finally if you DO wind up sick, know how to smartly adjust. If it’s just strictly head-cold, (disclaimer, I’m not an actual doctor, this is personal opinion here!) I would say it’s okay to run/workout if you feel up to it. Somtimes that actually helps break the junk up; but also go in knowing that your energy may not be up to par. So if you’ve got a hard workout planned maybe push it off or go in knowing it may need to be adapted.

If it’s a cold that’s more severe and you feel it in your whole body you need to weigh the negatives vs. the positives. I call this the rule of: neck-and-above = okay to go, below the neck = maybe not a go…wow, I’m so medical here. Totally tapping yourself out when you are really sick will only prolong things and in the end you’ll miss more training. That said, if you’re full on prone on the bathroom floor the decision may have been already made for you. ;)

Here’s to not getting sick runner friends!!

1) What do you do to avoid getting sick?

2) Is it the same for you that whenever you think you may be getting sick the first thing that you think about is how it will effect your running or working out?

3) It’s Friday!! What are you up to this weekend??

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