The Low Mileage Runner: How to maximize your performance off of low volume

A headline caught my eye recently: “Be a better runner without running.” *About face* Now I respect the news outlet that ran the article but the snark in me can’t resist thinking, “This kind of thing belongs in Runner’s World next to the column ‘How to get faster in your sleep!’”

track dreams

Track dreams…but you still need to actually run on the track too. ;)

In seriousness though, yes there are ways to improve your running and get faster that aren’t running. HOWEVER, these are thought of like ‘extras’…you still have to run.

Everybody and every BODY handles a different amount of volume and quality. Not everyone can log 110 miles per week, with a hard speed session, endurance session, and long run in a 7 day cycle. Some people can run 170 miles per week just fine, others get hurt going over 50…waaah-waahh it’s not fair but that’s how it is.

Know your body. Know your limits and maximize them. Just because you can’t RUN more than 50 miles per week does not necessarily mean you can’t beat the runner doing twice your volume. Enter QUALITY.

Here are a few quick tips on maximizing your training if you’re a runner who is a little more ‘fragile’: (ie: improving your running with running less and doing other stuff)

* Extend Your ‘Week’: By this I’m talking about viewing your training cycle as 9-10 days rather than the standard 7. Meb Keflezighi has talked about doing this as he’s aged, and many masters runners work off of a longer training week. This allows for more recovery between hard workouts.

* Rule of 10 and Baby Steps: If you’re injury-prone already you know you need to BABY your body a bit. Only increase your miles by 10% each week. Then be honest with what your mileage ‘max’ is. If you start getting extra creaking when you kiss 50, stick there and supplement with extra cross training instead of miles.
stress fractures suck
* Swap Your Easy Runs: Plan your miles for the week and ‘save’ them for your hard workouts and long runs. Those are the days that will give you the most bang for your mileage buck. Cross train on the easy days; to be honest the benefit of easy days are mostly just getting the steady cardio in…you can do that running or cross training. The former is just a lot easier on your body.

* Seek Soft Surfaces: The pavement is harder on your body than the trails, track, and treadmill. Seek these softer surfaces. Also know that lots of downhill running exponentially increases the impact on your joints, so steer clear of huge, sharp downhills.

* Get More Efficient: Most injuries are a result of a weakness and muscle imbalance. Fix those and you’ll be running more efficient and most likely be able to handle running more. All the more reason to fix your form, get a stronger core, and solve why you might be stuck in a vicious cycle of injuries.

* Fitter With Cross Training: Ideally you want to be doing your hard workouts as running because this will translate the best for racing but you’d be amazed by how fit you can stay with cross training workouts. So if you have to do some of your ‘running’ workouts on the cross trainer don’t freak out and remember it all comes back to effort. Go hard, get your heart rate up, feel the burn in your legs and lungs, and you’re getting work done.

Not EVERYTHING that will get you faster comes from running more miles. Think outside the box, learn your body, and maximize your potential.

Though the snark in me still has to end with this: “but, duh, you still have to do some running.” ;)

More articles on cross training and workout ideas!

More articles on injuries, recovering, and how to prevent them!

My Running ‘True’ Is Off, Better ‘Toe In’

Yesterday I was reminded why I’m a runner and have no desire to branch out into cycling. I watched as one of my roommates did this and that to his bike; adjusting things, replacing the brakes, all that good stuff. I learned some fun new terms, which are probably the non-runner’s equivalent to fartleks and pronation.
runner face
There was something about ‘truing’ a tire, I probably have this wrong some 18 hours later due to memory lapse, but I’m pretty sure it’s just making sure the wheel is straight and aligned. The brakes have to be ‘toed in’; I liked that one because it makes me think of runner toes, but here it’s just that the brake thingy’s have to be at a certain angle.

See, I don’t bike for a good number of reasons but one of the paramount ones is that there’s just too much ‘stuff’ and too many ‘variables’ that could potentially impede your workout. The OCD runner-brain line of thought I have is this worst case scenario: “I’ve got to get my workout it, I’m mid-way through some intervals and BAM my tire goes flat, my brakes go wonky, or something else screwy happens and I can’t do my workout.” Yes, the end-all to all end-alls, I can’t get my workout in, I know, how tragic. ;)

With running you need shoes and that’s about it. Of course the KIND of shoes are of paramount importance, don’t let me under-emphasize that. But if you can tie a lace you’re pretty much good to go; if you’re still struggling with that there are little lace locks to really get you doing nil work.

Though in getting back to those cycling terms that I’ll pretend I can now toss around in everyday conversation. Runners have to be ‘true-ed up’ too I guess; here it’s our form that can get set off. You see those runners with their arms flailing around like they are doing the macarena, runners with a shuffle-stride and you just want to yell, “Do you NOT know how to lift up your knee?!”

runner on track

Nope, definitely not thinking about cycling! ;)

I’d call the central ‘true’ point of a runner (any cyclists are probably cringing at how badly I’m misusing their words here, it’s like if I were to say my shoe had a bad fartlek) the torso. The core of a runner; where if this is off you’re probably setting yourself up for an injury at some point. The hip region especially can get tight and lead to overcompensation issues like none other!

Thankfully us runners have built-in brakes; namely you just stop. Yea, we have the klutzes like me who have issues there, but for the most part us runners have the opposite problem with stopping and slowing down. We don’t ‘want’ to but our brain is perpetually trying to talk us into stopping, or at least slowing down.

So for us, maybe ‘toe-ing in’ our brakes is really just babysitting our brain and telling it to SHUT UP, SUCK IT UP and keep running even though, yes, it hurts.

Yes, I’m a runner, I have no desire to venture into cycling. Yes, it’s an awes-tastic form of cross-training and yes, my very best friend is a really competitive, hard-core cyclist, but even he knows by now not to try and talk me into it. The truth there though, is he probably knows with my coordination I’d wind up road-chow.
TODAY is the last day to enter my Injinji toe-socks give-away. :)

BIG shirt news coming up here soon, I’ve got my latest design about to drop…so stay tuned!

1) Do you do much cycling? Are you into triathlons or biathlons?

2) What is your favorite form of cross-training?
elliptical baby!

3) If you had to say your ‘true’ was off, where would it be?
My dumb, annoying left adductor…right where it inserts into my glute…oh how I wish I could auction it off for parts and get a replacement for it. Do you think ebay is my best shot? ;)

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Runners Using the Rowing Machine? How cross-training can be used to give your running a BOOST by ‘sneaking’ in high intensity work

When I was a senior in high school, this young runner met the bane of her existence. She even put up her own money and paid to be tortured by this beastly contraption. The rowing machine.

track sign

Paradise found perhaps?? ;)

Little did she know what exactly she was getting herself involved with, but when her coach told her that, “Back when I was in college something that REALLY made a marked improvement in my running was the rowing machine. I know it sounds crazy, but the other guys and I would go into the gym, get on the rowers, competitiveness would take over and we’d kill each other on those things. But I’ll tell you what, I never ran faster.”

Never ran faster? I was sold. And the rowing machine was bought.

If you’ve never tried the rowing machine, let me tell you that you are 1) surely making some wrong assumptions and 2) surely missing out on a good time. *sarcastic font* The assumptions you are mistakingly making are…

* Rowing is an upper-body only workout. False. Actually, the rowing machine ranks as one of the top cardio machines at engaging nearly ALL of your muscle groups: the quads for push-off, the core the entire time, and the arms on the stroke. Fun fact, as for caloric burn per minute, out of the gym machines it comes in third, only behind the treadmills and ellipticals…it’s sort of tied with the stair-climber.

* Runners have no business rowing. I’m going to say this is a fallacy in my forthcoming explanation.

I implemented my rowing in addition to my regular running training. It was viewed as additional cross-training to be done as a second workout of the day on one of my easy days. The routine was pretty simple…5000 meters of rowing HARD. When I say hard, I probably took it a bit overboard because every time I did it, I’d try and go for a PR at the distance. From the first stroke I’d go full on mad runnerchick on that rower’s butt, out of curiosity I took my pulse after one of my sessions and it was at least 200. But that was the old-school method of just counting your pulse from your neck off the clock, before everyone used an App, heart rate monitor and all those gadgets, so who knows…hehe.

tired runner

Note, you don't have to be KILLING yourself on these hard sessions...advance with sanity people.

Not going to lie though, I had extra incentive to get faster times, see my mom would also row and never fail she’d whoop on my times. Blast those weaker arms of mine. ;) The point I’m trying to make is that for three extra workouts of the week I was getting high intensity cardiovascular training that was non-impact and in addition to my regular running workouts.

I did go on and run PR’s in my running events as well; so maybe there is something to be said for runners doing the whole rowing thing. My coach told me it was helping, do I continued my love/hate relationship with that rower. No joke I’d sometimes get about as ‘nervous’ anticipating my row session later in the day as I would my hard running workouts. ;)

When I graduated high school, I had the privilege to talk about this whole rowing business with some of the top minds in our sport. I hold Alberto Salazar as one of the genius coaches in all things running so pretty much his word was/is the bottom line in my mind. He explained that, yes, the rowing probably did attribute to my drop in running times. But was it the actual rowing machine that worked as the ‘magic machine’? Probably not.

The magic wasn’t so much in the rower, but rather, the three extra high intensity cardio sessions per week in addition to my regular running training. They were non-impact so there wasn’t the added risk for injury, they were sort of like ‘sneaking’ in more hard workouts without interfering or tiring me out as much as another hard running workout would do.

Alberto Salazar acknowledged that could be done on other machines, and with of course more resources than my high school self had access to, cross-training on the underwater treadmills or anti-gravity treadmills would be preferable. They don’t have nearly as much impact as regular running and they are obviously more attuned for running training purposes.

For us current day mere mortal runners who don’t have these machines, high intensity ‘extra’ work can be done on the bike, the elliptical, and yes, the rower. Though, once I heard that the rower wasn’t the end-all machine but a good option I sold that baby and never looked back. Sorry, I’ll take the elliptical over the butt-burn of the rower ANY day! ;)

Quick Tips on ‘Sneaking’ Hard Sessions
* Aim High: High heart rate that is, which can be done in the ‘tempo’ style that I did where you just go hard for time/distance or do intervals, though keep them short like 1 minute on and off.
* Keep it Shorter. 5000 meters on the rower, I’m not sure exactly what my best time worked out to be, but I’d say you could shoot for 20-25 minutes. If this is a second workout you don’t need to be hitting 30 minutes of hard stuff.
* Be Smart. Don’t add in a ton of extra work at once and build up to even doing ‘more’ at all; if you’ve been training for at least a few years consistently then start with one session a week and see how you feel before adding more. The goal is to improve your strength and endurance WITHOUT sacrificing your running. Your running workouts are FIRST priority, if they start to suffer cut out the extra stuff.

1) Have you ever tried the rowing machine? If so, what are your thoughts?

2) Do you do any cross-training in addition to your running routine? Do you use those sessions as easy, recovery type work or do any of those days include high intensity work?

3) Of all the cross-training or non-running related activities, which ranks supreme on your ‘dread list’ or the ones you can’t stand doing the most?

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Back to Running After a Long Hiatus and Tackling GI Distress For Runners

Here’s what you relearn every time you get back to running after a long hiatus:

female runner

When you hit that slap of back to running reality it's a combo of pain and ecstasy to be back. :)

* Cross-training is just that.
Nothing is the same as running, mentally and physically, and while you’re a world better off doing that tedious cross-training, it’s still a cold slap of reality when you get back to the real deal. Hello, muscles, almost forgot about you until you were sore again.

* Thank you muscle memory. That slap of reality stinks but it’s kind of crazy how the hazing period isn’t that long…thankfully the longer you’ve been a runner the more your muscles remember how to slip back into runner mode. Push past those initial harder than they really should be runs and you start getting back to your self.

* Nothing clears you out like running. Forget Activia or colonics, sorry if I err on the side of TMI, but it’s true, running keeps you regular.
road runner
This segues into my topic for today…the guts, the intestines, and GI issues on the run. I know some of us runners are ‘blessed’ with more than our fair share of these troubles and I’m one of them. Sometimes it’s totally unpredictable and you just do a slight prayer to the running Gods before each hard workout, race, or long run that you won’t have a GI disaster.

The tricky thing with these types of things is that they are different for everyone and really tough to nail down a remedy for. Experts suggest:

* Eating bland foods that sit easy in the stomach. You could call these ‘low residue’ foods, they don’t have much bulk (read as fiber). Examples would be plain, white rice; Dathan Ritzenhein goes to this before his big races because he knows that is what works for him. Other athletes find that drinking their last meal of caloric intake keeps them safe; just make sure it’s a drink that is more than just electrolytes and actually has carbohydrates and sustenance.

* Don’t over-eat. I have a very temperamental stomach and to be quite frank like to run first thing in the morning before breakfast. If I were training and had a hard workout I’d get up earlier and have some oatmeal, but it would have to be a few hours before. Planning your meals helps, and you can revisit my article about ‘Timing Your Fuel’ in Running Times.

poop book

Real book, I made it, you want one? :)

* Eating on the run. If you’re training for a marathon or doing a really long workout things get even more complicated. During exercise the blood is being sent to your muscles doing the work and all the energy being spent is geared towards getting you to perform; this means that there isn’t the extra blood supply to then go to your stomach and start doing a ton of digesting. For this reason that’s why sometimes people can get into trouble eating just too much during their event; estimates are that you should consume roughly 200 calories per hour of exercise if you’re running more than one hour but everyone is different. Again, liquids are your friend.

* The night before. I know going into a morning run the possibilities that there will be a pit-stop in order are much higher if I’ve eaten a certain kind of food the night before and had a bit more than my fair share. I’ll call it the “Well, I know I’ll pay for it later but it’s worth it right now” effect. Today’s run was brought to the OD of Entenmann’s cheese filled coffee cake last night…but it was worth it. ;)

* Other remedies. I’ve talked to people who swear by this or that supplement, I’ve known people who have had their GI problems solved by acupuncture, there were periods where I’d have to pop an Imodium before every hard workout or long run and it seemed to help. If you’ve suffered with this issue enough you’re willing to try or do anything.

Even with all of this there is never a sure bet. Every GI sufferer sympathized with poor Paula Radcliffe during her marathon pit-stop and it proves that 1) don’t be ashamed to talk about these things because nearly every runner has experienced it 2) don’t make fun of people pulling the bush dive, Karma is a bi*** 3) we’ve been there and if nothing else, try to laugh at yourself, it’s the only way to keep on going.

Still, even after all of these slaps of back to running reality (seriously, the last pain free running this runnerchick got in was somewhere around Halloween!) it is SO worth it, gurgly guts, sore muscles, and all! :)

1) What’s the longest you’ve gone without running? Did you cross-traing during that time?

2) What’s one ‘slap of back to running reality’ you have?

3) Do you have stomach or GI issues? What have you tried and what works for you?

4) Is there a certain ‘trigger food’ that you know will set off your stomach? Are there times when you throw caution to the wind and dig in anyways??
Pretty sure we all do it, I’ve got a friend who is nearly Lactose intolerant but orders up the biggest sized Blizzards if she’s sure an easy day is on tap for the next day.

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Mental Games for Getting Through Tedious Cross-Training Workouts: The Chocolate Edition

Tuesday morning and I, admittedly a bit begrudgingly, took to the elliptical machine. (I swear I AM a runner, even if the last time I had an awesome, pain-free run seems like a far-off, distant memory…haha) Let’s be honest, when you’re wrought with an injury the mental part of getting in the cross-training can be as much of a challenge as the physical.
workout girl
All about the mind games. Distraction is key for me, so today I loaded up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Depp edition, in the hopes that waterfalls of chocolate, gum-drops the size of my head, and Oompa Loompas would help make the time with my cross-training ‘pal’ pass a little quicker.

Mission complete, thank you Johnny D; even as a whacked-out chocolate peddler you are still a hottie in my eyes. ;) When the beast of cross-training feels almost unbearable and you’d rather torch the machine than get on it and sweat, here’s some mental games you can play, Chocolate Edition:

girl eating ice cream

Come dive into some sweet treats with me, mmmk! :)

* Break it down. I was going for 70 minutes, but I told myself I’m really only going to do 7×10 minute segments. Even further, I break the 10 minutes up into four chunks of 2.5 minutes; I sort of imagine that each quarter is just like doing a lap around the track…easy peasy. For this one though, maybe it’d be four laps around the perimeter of the Chocolate Factory…each time you pass the front gates you get a nice whiff of chocolatey goodness…the catch if you have to do all your laps before you are allowed inside! ;)

* Chocolate endorphins. Mr. Wonka himself clearly states, “Eating chocolate releases endorphins that make you feel happy!” Hmm…not unlike exercise itself! Ironically even if you’re in the worst possible mood and dreading starting the workout…once you get started those endorphins have a weird way of lightening the mood! Then you can certainly bathe yourself in chocolate afterwards…just don’t get the whole chocolate river sweaty and spoil it for the rest of us!

* Don’t peek! Mr. Wonka didn’t want anyone spying on the super secrets going down in his factory…I play this game with myself where I test how long I can go without peeking down at the little screen with the timer. That way I can be ‘surprised’ when I look down and “Gee-golly, look, it’s already been 10 minutes!” Stupid, maybe, but it works.

* Touch my dials, will you?! Charlie gets in a bit of trouble touching things he shouldn’t in the factory, but when it comes to workout machines, messing around with the variables can help pass the time. Adjust the tension level or incline every couple of minutes…actually if you do an interval session it’s crazy how time can fly during those! However those recovery minutes seem to pass by much faster than the harder bouts, am I right?! ;)

* Drool and daydream.Don’t underestimate the power of baiting yourself…promise yourself some kind of pick-me-up or reward for putting in the time. If it takes daydreaming about chocolate bars to keep you on the machine and finishing your workout…by all means. Mr. Wonka would be proud to know he is fueling your sweat session!

girls eating gumdrops

Art: Cait Chock Designs

* Stay the course. Eventually you WILL get back to running (unless you get sucked up that giant tube because you got caught swimming in the chocolate river!) and remind yourself that the time spent cross-training will make getting back into running form so much easier…trust me, you’ll be thankful you did it! Also, every injury and time off from running makes me all the more grateful upon returning to it…you don’t take those miles for granted!

Thank you, Mr. Wonka for your tour through your Oompa Loompa riddled factory…you helped take the sting of cross-training down a notch!

Who doesn’t like just plain silliness? Umm, anyone who doesn’t is not my friend! ;) If you haven’t caught two of the funniest and also Nation’s top harriers take part in a Eugene snow-ball fight, then you’re missing out. Check out Andrew Wheating and Russell Brown…I guess that’s how you spend your free time when you’re not training for the Olympics.

AND…if you haven’t yet, go enter yourself in my Road ID giveaway…running safety is Oompa Loompa important!

1) What was your last workout? If you got to run, I’m warning you I’m going to have a bit of runner envy! ;)

2) How do you play mental games to get through a ‘meh’ feeling when it comes to your workout or cross-training in particular?

3) Favorite type of candy? If you were in Mr. Wonka’s factory would you take a dive in the chocolate river?
Yes on the river…I’m a chocolate sweets kind of person, the hard candies and chews don’t do anything for me. Junior Mints are ranked mighty high on my list! :)

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I’m Not Injured, I’m Just a Klutz: ‘Life Injuries’ and Injuries While Cross-Training

I’m a klutz. I’m one of those people who will wake up with a bruise and not know what it’s from. If I’m opening a package with any kind of hard plastic I’m sure to wind up with a cut trying to pry the thing open. I have no coordination and so I’m a runner…even then I have enough trouble staying erect.

french girl

You'll also never catch me in a shoe with heels over 1mm...FACEPLANT!! :P

Injuries stink and they come with being a runner, but the injuries or pulls, strains, niggling pains that come from a NON-running related event burn a million times more. Mostly because we have no one to blame but ourselves. (well, usually…getting hit by a car really sucks and in those cases there are others to blame…lol…well, kinda lol.)

The falls, the trips, the blood, the cracked bones, these can and do happen in life and as a runner when a ‘life injury’ keeps us from our favorite past-time it burns something fierce. I knew a runner who was taking the garbage can to the curb one dark night, slipped on some ice and ended up landing right on her tailbone. She had the Olympic Marathon Trials coming up mere weeks away and she thought she had broken it. Her tail bone ended up having a really bad bone bruise that healed up but she still couldn’t run for a few days.

injured runner

Sorry, yes to post this one again...but gotta get my mileage out of this because it's true! Haha.

I’ve fallen plenty of times running, to the point where I’ve been a bloody mess and gravel in my palms but I got up, finished the tempo run, then had the delight of washing the caked, bloody mess with disinfectant. Fun. Thankfully I guess my body’s just used to self-abuse due to idiotism and for the most part I’ve been lucky that most of these falls and other life injuries haven’t curtailed my running on too many occasions. Again, outside of the car debacle.

I recently just did an article for Competitor about getting injured while you’re injured: ‘Cross-Training 101: Avoiding Over-Training When Injured’. It’s possible to injure yourself in a new way, or re-injure yourself, when you’re already hurt and cross-training. Trust me, those sting too because you think, “What the heck, now I can’t even run for longer because of my cross-training routine?!”

It’s happened to plenty of us, my hip flexors like to scream at me when I’m delegated to the elliptical for long periods of time. There isn’t any activity that simulates running exactly, running is running. So while there are plenty of other options that can mimic it and give you a workout that will maintain that strength and endurance, they are all using slightly different muscles to do that.

The article also covers over-training while cross-trainng…oh, the over-zealous injured runner taking out all their fury out on the machines. They then end up over doing it and digging themselves into a hole of fatigue. Again, been there, done that, not fun.

We don’t live in a bubble…sometimes life and other activities can wind up leaving us injured and unable to get in those precious miles. (one of the main reasons, outside of fear, that I’ll never get on a skateboard…that’s got disaster for me written all over that!)
scooter boy
Accepting those running related injuries is manageable, but the other ones, they can unleash a runner’s fury like nothing else! Beware fellow klutzes, be safe out there. ;)

1) What was the last non-running related injury that you had? Or, what was the last ‘life injury’ that somehow left you mangled and forced to curtail your usual workout routine?

2) Are you a klutz and tend to wind up abusing the heck out of yourself by sheer accident?

3) When cross-training, what’s your usual go-to and have you ever injured yourself while cross-training?
I usually go the elliptical route and that wakes up my hip flexors; aqua-jogging also does that to them. But I know this so I give those hip flexors some extra TLC while I’m injured.

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ElliptiGO With Me Cross-Training

Ellipti-what? Okay, I’ll admit I actually heard about the ElliptiGO awhile back when a friend of mine got to test out one of the prototypes. Basically it’s an elliptical that moves…pretty cool, though I’ve heard you probably shouldn’t be trying to hop any curbs on it. ;)

Lauren fleshman

Lauren Fleshman on the ElliptiGO

Image Source

The machine is getting a lot ore press as of late because Lauren Fleshman has come out to be one of their biggest supporters as she uses it regularly in her training. We don’t have to go into ALL of the reasons why cross-training is great, just a quickie recap:
* extra cardio without the pounding/high-impact of running = less chance for injuries
* easy way to ‘sneak’ in extra miles without upping your injury risk
* perfect for times when you ARE injured to stay in shape so the reality-slap back to running isn’t so painful :)

The standard elliptical is my choice of cross-training (of cousre you could bike, aqua-jog, etc.) and so I think building a mobile one would then bust one of the biggest downfalls of cross-training in general: the boredom factor. Ummmm, slogging out hours on the elliptical is at time more of a mental workout than anything!

“I knew my body couldn’t tolerate running more than 80 miles per week, so I filled in gaps with the ElliptiGO,” states Lauren. “Instead of going out and putting the additional volume on my legs and joints, I rode it for the equivalent amount of time that I would be running, replacing some of my key training and recovery workouts.”

Easy days, double workouts…these are prime times to cross-training when you aren’t injured. You can easily do hard workouts on the elliptical too, and just take your running workouts and do intervals based off of time. What any hard workout ultimately comes down to is effort.

So, do you ElliptiGO? Couldn’t resist putting that in there, but I think it would be a really cool machine to test out if I had access to one; until then I guess it’s just strapping on the Ipod or using the TV to distract me on the stationary. :)

1) What is your top pick for cross-training and how much of a role does it play in your routine?

2) Could you master some mad tricks on that ElliptiGO? Just kidding, but what do you think about it?

3) For hard workouts, what’s one of your favorite ones to do while cross-training?
I like longer intervals, last one I did I did repeat 10 minutes hard.

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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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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

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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