The World Cup Reminds Me…the time I proved I had no coordination skills

The 2014 World Cup has begun!! Now here’s a fun fact, soccer was my first sport. Gosh how I loved it, I played for seven years and looked forward to every Saturday’s game (confession: the after-game snack a LOT too!) like nobody’s business. Why did I stop after seven years?? Enter exhibit A:
running sports cartoon
I sucked. Like I REALLY sucked. I can vividly remember scoring my first goal…mostly because it was my first and last. I don’t even have an excuse for one goal in seven years, like I played goalie or defense…nope, I was a forward and mid-fielder. Right where one with any iota of coordination would be set RIGHT up to score a goal.

Hey, at least I can own my suckiness. I know I can handle turning left and running in a straight line. So I stopped soccer when, totally honest here, the only team I could still make was the rec team. The qualifications for making the rec team is having your mom or dad write the $35 check to the community rec league. I was in junior high at the time, meaning my rec team would be all the 4th and 5th graders still too young for the Comp and Select teams.

That’s when my mommy-o suggested I try cross country. I thought it was a traveling team, “Cool!! I get to go touring around…I’ll bet I’ll find lots of fun new foods to try!” I though. Yea, even at that age it all comes back to foods and treats, right? I was in for a shock. No traveling done unless you run there. I got tripped pretty bad my first practice and later had to pick gravel out of scars I still have today.

i run. i'm hungry. cartoon

i run…do the math.

My first race I spent hovering over a bush for about 15 minutes certain I’d barf. I didn’t, but my dad still has a picture of me hovering over the bush. The thing is though, I kinda liked it. I sucked at anything with ‘real’ coordination skills but I kinda liked that I could grimace in pain and pass some girl up a hill. I would like to also mention I sucked at running too. That girl I passed up the hill, maybe was the only girl I passed. Like I was slow, but in my mind I didn’t fully grasp 1) how slow I was 2) how HORRENDOUS my form was!! Gosh, even my mom in later years admitted, “Yea, I’ll never forget trying not to laugh the first time your little club coach saw you run and remarked that you looked crazy.”

I owned my crazy then and I own it now though! ;) But hey, I stuck with this whole running thing. I do promise I kinda really hated it the first couple weeks, but I swear there was like this insane shift after you get past the ‘hump’ I call the hazing weeks. Basically once you become consistent enough to where your body and muscles don’t go into the shock of thinking, “Wait, she’s running…that must mean there’s a bear chasing her!!” resulting in unwalkable sorenesses the next day. Get past that and you’re golden. ;)

Look at running, turning into about my favorite thing to do. Shall we just be thankful that I actually DID have a little too much pride to out-age my rec teammates by four years? Best $35 my mommy-o didn’t have to spend. ;)
My latest on RunBlogRun: Phoebe Wright Can’t Be Stopped! <--- this is actually one h*ll of an inspiring story and she's HILARIOUS!! Read the story then check her blog and twitter feed!!

Also on Want to Run in College? This is what it takes: Hakon DeVries of the University of Kentucky

1) Are you a big soccer fan? Will you be unreachable and completely ignore any and all of your surroundings until the World Cup is over?

2) Were you good at other sports besides running?

3) Have you ever barfed after a race?
Hey, I hovered over that bush but nothing came up. Never have thrown up after a race or workout, that one time over the bush was the closest I’ve come.

Rule Your Running Terrain: Because races aren’t done on a treadmill

Unless you’re racing on a track, there’s SOME kind of terrain you’ll need to be prepared for come gun-time. Even during track season athletes have much to gain from varying the terrain on their workouts.

  • Power and Speed: Hills build strength and when taken to flats that translates to speed. That same kind of logic applies to doing repeats on grass, the times may be ‘slower’ but you’re working harder and building strength.
  • Injury Prevention: Running on softer, more forgiving surfaces helps reduce impact and thus lowers your chances for injuries in the long-term.
  • Diversity: Running is a very repetitive action and mostly only working in a single, horizontal plane. At least by varying things slightly you’re able to give your body a bit of diversity; if you fail to do this, smaller muscles get weak and imbalances become injuries in waiting.

Those are all general reasons why mixing up your running terrain is a good idea, but if you know your actual race course will have key elements you’ll need to be prepared for, it’s even more important to introduce those same obstacles in training.
turn left on the track
Hilly Courses

  • Uphill Repeats: It take power to get up those hills; including uphill repeats into your routine may seem like an obvious but not all runners actually DO hill work, or they don’t mix-up the kind of work that they do. Think of hills in a three-pronged approach, similar to your regular running workouts. 1) Do 100-200 meter hill bursts, allow for full recovery between each repeat; this is your speed session for the week. 2) Longer, 600-1600 meter hill repeats for your endurance-focused interval sessions. You could also do tempo runs uphill (on a treadmill set on a grade if you don’t have an actual course). 3) Including rolling hills into your easy days ‘sneaks’ hill work in.
  • Downhill Repeats: Many can overlook just how taxing a lot of downhill on your race course can be. If your race has a significant amount of downhills (Hello, Boston Marathon!), be sure to get used to running on the decline; your quads will be working even if you don’t ‘feel it’ right away. You can include some downhill repeats in your training; just be careful in terms of injury because downhill running does increase the forceful pounding of running.
  • Form: Running hills makes it even more important to have good form; when running uphill maintain the same effort that you would but decrease your stride length. When running downhill, make sure that you’re not tensing up and causing yourself to ‘brake;’ rather, relax and let the momentum of the decline help do some of the work for you.

trail runner
Trail running

  • Ankles and lower legs: Trail running is about as diverse as running can get, twists, turns, awkward foot-plants aplenty. Here is where you need to be sure your ankles and feet are used to landing in various positions. The way to do that is, well, running trails, taking turns, and including mobility work outside of running.
  • Core and Mobility: To reduce your risk for injury when running, you want to have a strong core, be flexible, and have as much range of motion as possible. Schedule time for strength training, dynamic stretching, and drills; not only will it help safeguard you against injuries it will improve your running performance.

Tracks, Roads and the Elements

  • Tangents: Some math logic here, but running longer adds more time to your race results. Road races are measured off of the shortest possible marked distance, so look for those tangents and don’t run wider around turns than you have to. On the track, unless you’re going to be boxed in, do your best to not needlessly wander into outer lanes.
  • Drafting: Even on the calmest of days drafting makes a difference, mentally it’s much ‘easier’ to sit behind someone else and let them do the work. If it’s especially windy, find a body and tuck in behind them!
  • Weather Conditions: The conditions of race day can make a HUGE difference in your performance; not only should you take these into consideration for your race-day pacing goals but train in the same kind of conditions. For cold races be extra certain you do a full warm-up to make sure your muscles are properly warm and ready to hit those faster paces.

Until the day that all races are held on treadmills, runners should be mixing up the terrain of their workouts and runs. By tailoring your training to your specific race course you’ll be setting yourself up for even better results. And hey, who doesn’t want to run that much faster and have a bit of an edge over their competition? ;)

1) How do you train for your course? If it’s for the track, how do you add diversity to your workouts?

2) Do you prefer road races, track races, cross-country, or trail races?

3) How do you plan, adapt, or prepare for various weather conditions?

best running shirts

Hot Runner Deals!! Score at the Track and on the Cross-Country Course…but Beware of the Spit Zone

Have you checked out these signs lately, it sure looks like runners all over are getting offered some pretty sweet deals?!
track sign
Watch out who you line up against at the track…nevermind, I’m sure you’ll be the one offering up the free butt kickings rather than the other way around.
cross country running sign
Mud at the cross-country course is a given, but you decide whether the splattering will end up on your frontside or your backside. Same goes for all those trail runners.

But look-out for these hazard signs..don’t want to wind up in the Spit Zone when a rogue loogie flies your way.
runner spitting
man runner spitting
Stay safe and fast my runner peeps! :)

1) Which do you prefer more, track or cross-country? Or are you more in favor of trail racing, road racing?

2) Spitting zone, which shoulder do you typically send them loogies over?

3) If you had a sign posted after your last run, what would it read?

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Approaching a Race: Depending on your goal going in how you run could be markedly different

Who are you up against on race day, the clock or the runner next to you? Everyone goes into a race with a different goal, be it just to finish, to be a scoring member of their team, set a PR, or go for the win. The funny thing with racing is that, contrary to what some may think, it’s NOT always a test of who is the fasted on the given day. There is a strategy behind all this running in circles. (okay, or running on the roads or cross country courses…hehe.)
girl on track
There’s a good read up on Running Times: “Chasing Vs. Racing” that highlights just this fact. Depending on what your GOAL is for the race the way you approach it is going to be very different.

* The clock. If you’re jut going out there and chasing a PR, you may not necessarily be concentrating on who else is in the field, you’re thinking more about yourself. Sure you can use the other harriers to your advantage and let them pull you along; there is no better way to zone out than to latch on and let others do the pacing work for you.

runner at beach

Zone out and daydream about the beach...don't think about the burning in your legs. :)

* The competition. Vying for the win could mean that time really doesn’t matter; prize money and titles on the line could mean you’re crawling at the beginning, each runner sizing the others up, playing a game of chicken, and waiting to see who makes a move. Here is the strategy we talked about. In the article Diego Estrada running for Northern Arizona said it nicely, “The stress and anxiety kick in during championship season, and you’re second-guessing yourself because you know it’s going to be tactical.”

What are those tactics? Sure there’s waiting until the last lap and finding out who has the best kick, but there are also surging techniques, and in a Prefontaine type style there are the lone soldiers who refuse to sit behind a dawdling pace and press it from the gun. The question is then if they will pay the price at the end and be out-kicked by a runner who was more conservative or sat behind them and let them do all the pacing work. There is something to be said for having patience and being confident enough to not go out guns blazing from the start…we do know negative splits work well for the body.

Sure, you may not be up front and in the position for a win but there could be plenty of other stakes on the line; you’re on a team and want to be a scoring member this time, it’s your first attempt at a new distance and you’re not exactly certain how you’ll be feeling or how you should best approach the race. That’s why going into a race with a couple strategies is important; find out what each race means to you, what your own personal goal (or multi-goals) are, and then plan for what could happen based on the variables:

* The conditions
* The competitors and the moves they may make
* How your legs are feeling on that day

track racers
There are no sure things in running, racing, and life. Be prepared for what ‘could be’ and then be ready to roll with the punches.

1) What are some of the main reasons you race or goals you have going in? (ie: time, place, etc.)

2) How do you approach the race given your goal, do you come up with a strategy beforehand or do you just ‘run’?

3) Readjusting your goal or plan during a race can be difficult but necessary at times; was there a time you had to do that and how did you make the call?
Those days that you take off and the legs feel like lead, you know it’s not going to be pleasant; in those times it’s easiest to find a person and hold on…try not to lose contact and take your mind elsewhere…just don’t let a gap between you and them occur. You may not get the PR you set out for but you can still salvage the race.

4) What kinds of races do you prefer, the tactical ones or the ones where you are going after fast times?
I hate tactical races, but mostly because any time I race I’m the person with NO kick. ;)

5) Even if you just race to run and have fun it’s nice to have some goals too! If this is you, why are you excited to be there at the starting line and then finish?

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What Kind of Runner Are You? Trails, Tracks, Treadmills and Roads…Oh, My! (Part I)

When it comes to your choice of terrain, what kind of runner are you? Do you crave the speed of the track, the solitude of a long trail run, dodging car splash on the roads, or zoing out on the treadmill?
trail runner
I was sucked in forced to watch one of the episodes of The Bachelor (that Ben guy, am I the only one who finds him a bit of a scruffy version of Dax Shepard?) where they were in Park City, UT and he was saying how he’s an ‘outdoorsy’ guy. He likes to be out in the woods chopping trees, riding horseback, fishing, and such. All I could think was, “Dang, I would be sucking wind out there on any runs.” Then some flashbacks to some particularly gnarly runs in Park City followed that.

Trails can be really beautiful and fun to run on (not at altitude for me, thank you very much, unless you’re acclimated to it and used to living there) and they have a way of making the miles pass faster than you think…until you look down at your watch and realize that thanks to that climb the miles were technically pretty slow! :P

I’ve never really lived in a place where there were ample trails that were safe to run on year round. The thing with trails is you need to be really careful because if you’re not you’ll wind up hurt…or worse. I loved the quote World Class trail runner, Michael Wardian, gave me awhile back, “I remind myself not to zone out while outside and especially on the trails where a bad footfall can mean stitches and a new tooth.”

When to Dodge the Trails:

* Really rocky.One of the benefits of trail running is that it can be a much more forgiving surface than concrete IF it’s actually soft terrain. I’ve been to some trails where I was basically running on rocks and gravel which is not going to give your legs anything in the way of cushioning. On top of that the loose gravel stuff could set you up for a nasty fall or ankle twist.

* Slip and sliding…slick trails. In Oregon there were some beautiful trails but, hello, it’s Oregon and it rains a ton which means that the trails were really slick and slippery the vast majority of the time. On top of that if there is a lot of foliage…have you tried running on a bunch of wet leaves…it is your own slip and slide.

* Drastic uphill and downhill running.
Lots of uphill running will make you sore (which can be a good thing if you’re intending some harder work to build strength) BUT so will tons of downhill running. The additional pounding and force of each footfall thanks to gravity when running downhill is tremendous, it’s really hard on your quads, knees, and joints. So be careful if your route has a lot of downhill.

* Roots, twists, cougars, darkness, and the other stuff.Since we’re discussing safety it’s important to bring up the obvious factors here…you need to practice running safety regardless of where you’re going but if you’re going solo for a trail run be sure to tell people where you’re going and how long you plan to be out. No one wants to go out for a run and end up having a search party bring them home…and that could be the happy ending of that story.

road runner

Another benefit of trails is that they usually make for easy insta-pop-and-squat spots! ;)

That said, there are a myriad of benefits to trail running…and if I had more access to some trails I’d get out there more.

* Strength. Like I said, running hills will build your strength tremendously. That extra strength will translate to speed when you then run flats.

* Happier joints and injury prevention. Like I said if you get on a softer surface you can do much in the way of reducing the pounding on your legs. This is one reason lots of elite athletes will go to place where there are miles of soft trails…soft trail miles are ‘easier’ on the body and with the amount they are putting in that adds up to a world of difference.

* More supple joints. Having to navigate twists, turns, and uneven surfaces will strengthen the smaller muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the ankles and feet. This, if done gradually and smartly, (don’t go from no trail running to all trail running all at once or your feet won’t have time to gradually get stronger, they will just get hurt!) will make your ankles and feet stronger and less prone to a sudden pull or sprain down the road if you do step in a pothole.

* The mental factor. A change of scenery is always nice and like I said, if you get going on a good trail that long run can ‘feel’ shorter.

So, what kind of runner are you…if you’re a trail-a-holic now’s your chance to voice why they’ve stolen your heart! ;) This post got really long so I’m going to break it up into a series and spread the love of the track, roads, and treadmill in the next installments…mmmmk.

1) Do you like running trails, do you get a chance to run on them a lot?

2) If you had more access to trails would you take advantage of them? If not, why?

3) What are some things you need to be careful about when running trails?

4) What are some of the benefits of hitting up the trails?

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‘Twas the Night Before Some High School Cross Meets

Cross-country champs comes but once a year. :) Okay, I won’t go too crazy on that sentiment because technically there are LOTS of things that come but once a year…for instance 9:36 on 11/25/11 only comes but once a year too, right? Haha.

But because there are plenty of seasons wrapping up here I wanted to do a post. Yes, for all the NCAA fans those cross champs happened on Monday. Congrats to all the great college showings there! Living in California, during high school I really associated Thanksgiving weekend with the State Championships; California likes to be all special and be the VERY last state to hold their champs and it is tomorrow.
boy cross country runner
Along with that, the National High School meets are starting the rounds; there will be Nike Team Cross Champs (NXN) as well as the first few Footlocker Regional Meets. Now, even though I’m FAR graduated and becoming a geriatric, I still get a little excited buzz when I think about all these meets.

Especially in high school, the first time you go to any of these events they seem, in a word: Epic. We’ll just say Nike does know how to do it right and you start to feel a bit like a rock star…and being a sport where you’re not exactly thought of as holding that status, it feels weird. Oh, and did I mention the schwag? Ya, that’s not a bad deal either. ;)

So, to all those athletes and teams prepping for these big races: Good Luck. I’ll just say a few things, some words, and some fond memories:

* CA State Champs: I don’t know what the weather forecast is in Fresno, but my Soph year it was a mud slide, some real cross country. What’s great about cross is times really can get chucked out the window (varying courses and conditions do that) and it’s really competition…vying for the win, getting one more spot higher to help your team’s score. Get gutsy.

* State Champs again: the night before my Junior year my coach said some rather inspiring words that I still remember today — “The first mile is just about keeping the nerves in check…be smart and don’t go out too fast, but get out fast enough that you’re not stuck behind so many people that you then have to weed your way to the front. The second mile is tactical…stay smooth and strong, start thinking about moving up and putting yourself where you want to be. The last mile is heart…how bad do you want this?”

* Footlocker West: my Frosh year this thing blew me away. I was in runner-dorkette awe, I lined up and remember looking to my right and left and seeing harriers that were idols to me. Looking back I’ll just say this to anyone: on the starting line we’re all equals. Sure, there are people that may be faster or in better shape, but on any given day you don’t know what the future holds. Remember you belong on the starting line and race for yourself, race your best.

* Footlocker Nationals: I only got to go once, but think about regionals on steroids. (please people, know I’m joking, there are no actual drugs involved here…haha) Live it up while you’re there, relish those freebies and meeting the pro runners that rock…soak up the experience. Be focused on the race, yes, but don’t be so intense that you ignore how lucky it is you get to be there…so have fun. That is what cross is about too. Have fun (actually I always liked the distractions before because they help limit getting overly nervous), and then when the start gun cracks, go for it. You can be both: a person and a racer…and in that racer role you can be fierce and ‘out for blood’ but after you cross the line you can be the nicest person in the world. The athletes I respect the most are like that…they can kick your @$$, turn around and congratulate you, and cool-down with you all in the span of an hour.
girl cross country runner
Good luck racers, and even if you too are a ‘geriatric’ far removed from high school or college cross country don’t worry you can still be excited for these guys. PLUS…the USATF rounds are still to come and the road racer warriors are never to be ignored. :)

1) What is one of your fond memories from high school or college? If you race for a team it can be about that but it doesn’t have to be.

2) Any words of advice you have for anyone going out for a race?

3) Are you racing this weekend?
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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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An Ode to Cross-country

Cross-country. When I first started running it was after not being able to make any other sports team and my mom suggested I go out for the cross-country team. I thought it was some kind of traveling group.

When I found out it was running I wasn’t impressed. More like I was left in a pant but being that my parents were both runners I was also determined to do well; this was all on my own, my parents never put any pressure on me, all self-imposed.
cross country shoes

But regardless, I wanted to do my best to keep up with the other runners if for no other reason than to avoid feeling embarrassed about being outed as the girl who couldn’t keep up. Cross-country was my first introduction to this whole ‘running thing’ and so it will have a special little place in my heart. *Cue warm fuzzy music and Hallmark card.*

I also thought it was a lot more exciting than track because of the change of terrain, I wasn’t all too jazzed about running in a million circles like a gerbil. (Cut to today, I’ve done 10 mile tempos on the track and actually preferred it because I can be OCD anal about my splits, not to mention countless thrilling miles on the treadmill…haha.) I liked the challenge of hills too…the first time I went to the Mount Sac course, that sick little part in my brain all us runners have thought, “Awesome, this course is going to HURT!”

Hills are tough but there is a method to tackling them. Keep your eyes locked on the crest, know the end is going to eventually be there and what goes up must come down. Don’t hunch over, don’t overstride; keep your feet moving forward, if anything shorten your stride and dig into the ground with your forefoot, claw your way to the top.

Use your arms to your advantage, keep them swinging, did you know your feet will always keep pace with your arms; swing your arms faster and your legs will follow suit. Run THROUGH the top of the hill, don’t stop right before you get to the crest; make it over the hump and use that momentum to your advantage to flllllly down the backside.

There is an art to running downhill too; don’t fight it, let the hill carry you down. Focus on staying controlled and keeping your form. Don’t fight it.

Cross-country will get you muddy, get you dirty, make you tough. It will make you strong mentally and physically. The challenges each course sets before you is different, unique, but in the end it comes down to this: Will it be you or the course that wins?

1) Did you ever run cross-country?

2) Do you prefer cross-country or track?

3) What do you have going on this weekend?
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Setting a Warm-up Routine – You’ll Run Better and Feel Better Doing it

I don’t want to waste energy. I’m really late and the gun is JUST about to go off. I don’t really need to. I’m just plain lazy.

All reasons, ahem excuses, that people give for not wanting to do a warm-up. The energy wasting one is something that I’m sure even the most seasoned vet is guilty of when they first started out, I knew I fell for that one in my first few meets. Or I guess back then I was probably also just lazy too. Though this is one of the biggest fallacies even though common sense might lead you to plead a case for it.

runners on hill

One of these doesn't belong, can you guess which one? :)

Physiologically your body CAN’T perform at its best going from 0 to 60 the second the gun goes off. Sadly we are not a high performance sports car that all the macho guys drive, peel out, and feel like ‘the man.’ Rather, our muscles burn glucose (energy) most efficiently if you gradually work into that faster pace. Not only will you be running faster if you’ve warmed up but it will actually feel easier too. [the same rules apply for the actual race, and that's why it's smarter to run negative splits; go out at one pace and pick up the pace as the race progresses, make that closing mile/lap your fastest]

What constitutes a good warm-up? Well, that is different for everyone and it’s a matter of finding one that fits with you. Still, there are some general ingredients to add to this recipe; I’ll just put out what worked for me when I was racing. Another couple of things; the other major benefit of having a warm-up routine set out is once you find the perfect recipe for YOU, stick to it. Keeping the same routine helps eliminate variables for the race but it also helps mentally.

serious runner

Art Credit: Cait Chock Designs

The routine helps keep some of those nerves at bay. For me, the day before and of a race I’d try to limit thinking about the race too much to avoid getting overly nervous. But once I started my warm-up that’s when I started to really focus again. During my warm-up I’d mentally run through my race plan, think about staying relaxed, calm, and remembering what I wanted to accomplish for the race.

The routine, my body knew it and could go through it on auto-pilot, it was known, familiar, and that was reassuring. It also allowed my mind to focus on the race at hand. Another reason why I was able to run through it all on auto-pilot is I did basically the same thing before hard workouts. Just as with other aspects of training, come race day you want to limit any variables. So practice what you’ll be doing come the actual day.

Finally, with timing, I usually liked to start 50-45 minutes before I had to get to the line. I’m also really anal, and would rather err on the side of being early to the line rather than feeling rushed or heaven forbid not make it!

Here is a little sample or rough guideline to get you started:

* 2 miles easy: Keep this easy and you want to actually be overly warm if anything; that’s why even in hot conditions you’ll see people layered up in sweats. You want those muscles as warm as possible before you strip down to that singlet. People vary how long they run, but you want it to be at least 10 minutes.

* Drills and stretching: After the running I’d do some static stretches then move into a set routine of drills (think quick feet, A skips, butt kickers) to get my feet moving fast and work on turnover. I’d then do dynamic stretches, mostly leg swings. Keep the sweat on and I liked to keep moving around.

* Strides: After drills I’d then do 4-6 strides, 60-100 meters long. The last few I’d do faster than race pace, staying controlled and keeping good form.

* Stripping down and spiking up: Time to take off the sweats, I’d usually be so hot by this point I couldn’t wait to get rid of all the sweats. Then change into the shoes I’d be racing in.

* Head to the line and last strides: Then time to get to the line, I’d usually do one or two last short strides and then time to go!


Art credit: Cait Chock Designs - Inspiration: Mamma Nappy's amazing cookies! :)

I know that cross country season is well underway, so good luck to all those racing! I also know there are tons of people signing up and training for road races; for some it are their first races and I thought about posting this because I had been hearing from some that they didn’t even know what a warm-up was, so I hope this can help them out and do their best come the big day. :)

1) Do you do a warm-up routine before your races or hard workouts? If so, what?

2) Name one reason people may not want to warm-up?
The first time I went to a junior high meet (mind you I didn’t train at all before, that was an ugly 400…haha) my mom suggested it but I thought she was insane. I also didn’t want to look like a weirdo being the only kid running around before the actual race. Gotta love self-consciousness and peer pressure.

3) Happy Wednesday, what was your workout?
11 mile run outside and core, I’m slowly feeling better going sans tready…yay. :)

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Coming Back After a Running Hiatus…Aint it a Kick in the Tush!!

I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekends if you’re living in the States! It’s that time of the year again, even though World Track Champs is bleeding over into the start of it, for most teams out there it’s cross-country season. Now, cross-country season comes at another funky time if said person is still is in school; it’s right after summer break and classes are also starting up.

Now, for lots of high school kids, and I’m sure yes even some college level athletes, summer vacation may or may not include sticking to that training schedule. Now, I’m anal and was always getting in my runs and whatever I was supposed to do regardless (you’re talking to the girl who got into a fight with her mom because of the timing of that looooong, drawn out high school graduation ceremony conflicting with a track meet…I mean, I knew I graduated, did I need to sit for four plus hours sweating bullets in that robe?!) but others not so much.

senior portrait

Ack..hs senior portraits...Mom wasn't too stoked on obvious watch and running shirt tan lines. :P

You can tell off the bat who did their summer running and who didn’t. In fact, I think it was Alberto Salazar that was quoted with something along the lines of, “I like to be in the best possible shape at the onset of the season so I can put the people who didn’t train through the worst possible torture that I can.”

Whether it’s due to actual quasi-malicious intent by your teammates or not, I would suspect that slacking in the off-season bring its own swift justice come practice time. I was joking with a high school coach as they were off to their first team practice, and he was mentioning how it should be interesting to see who did what they were supposed to over the summer.

There are those people that do snap into shape relatively fast, and thanks to good old muscle memory if you’ve been at this thing long enough, after a few horrible few weeks it is surprising how fast you’ll improve and be back to your ‘old self.’ Still, it’s never fun, or pretty, coming back to running after a break.

This goes whether it’s just a slacking-induced break or one that is planned (you DO need to take breaks periodically and especially after tough seasons) or even ones that come from an injury. During said injury you can be a master at the cross-training but it’s always a cold slap of reality when you return to actual running no matter what you did.

kick in the face

Those first few runs back...a kick to the face! When a 'short' four miler never felt sooooooo long!

That last one, coming back from an injury and starting to run again, can be rather defeating if you start to compare yourself to the ‘old you’ times and where you are now. Running is so mental that if you slip into that comparison trap too far you can take yourself out of the game, or the season, altogether. Heck, sometimes even the sport. So it’s not pretty…don’t go down that road.

Better to focus on the here and now and the workout set immediately before you. Put in the effort, in fact that’s paramount regardless of times, so many other factors can affect actual paces and times, but even if the pace is ‘off,’ if you are putting in the same amount of effort you are getting a benefit. (Side tangent here- so remember that sometimes when a workout is just going to pieces timewise, sometimes it’s just better to chuck the watch and put in the same amount of effort…your body is still working hard and cardio-wise you’re still reaping those benefits.)

Staying present in the season or where you are fitness-wise is best if you’re coming off a running hiatus. Start with a semi-blank slate and track your progress post-injury when it comes to workouts…then take the improvements you see there are big steps forward. Trust me, it will feel like he** sometimes getting back, but eventually if you keep at it and do everything right you’ll get back to the ‘old you’ and then some.

runner throws up after race

Racing into shape is never pretty. Don't bother a racer if they dash past the chute and head straight for the bushes!

So to all those starting cross-season, you might have had a race this weekend…where you one of the people inflicting torture on the other people who maybe skipped out on those morning runs, or were you one of the people paying the price?

1) If you competed in sports, did you always put in the work during the off-season?

See, this is one thing where my OCD can work to my favor if kept in check…if a coach tells me to do something you can bet I’ll do it, I get in trouble if I then do too much. Though, I think for ‘normal’ people it’s more of a progression, the more serious you get about a sport the more likely you are to want to train even when you’re not under supervision. You get to the point where you’re self-motivated to achieve certain goals you set for yourself.

2) If it’s an injury that kept you from running, isn’t it a bi*** coming back?! No, but really, I think it’s about a two week period of extra pain until you start to come back. What was the last major injury that kept you out and did you do any cross-training during that time? If so, what did you do?

I’m a big fan of the elliptical!

3) How are you living it up this weekend?

PS-this is another side tangent that NEEDS to be addressed…I have noticed that recently as things have been switching around techie-wise, I’ve gotten a TON of spam comments!! To the actual readers I’m very sorry and does anyone have any tips on how to block this?! I seriously spent over an hour just today deleting this junk…ugh! :(

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