Monthly Archives: March 2016
Studies tell us that when we are intrinsically motivated – that is – we have a personal reason why we want to do something – we are much more likely to do it – and to stick with it.
When it comes to training for an event like the Cap City Half, Quarter or 5k, we know the road can be long, and training can be tough. Rainy days can be hard to get your training in, and even one or two days that get you off track can change your entire mindset.
So, it is important to know what motivates you from the inside out.
- Is it to be a good role model for your kids?
- Is it to do something you’ve never done before?
- Is it to take care of your body?
- Is it to improve a time or performance?
- Insert your own reason here!
When you know why you want to do something, you are much likely to stick with it, especially when it gets tough, or you feel like you’ve fallen off, or you have one too many ‘rainy days’. And sharing your motivation can inspire someone else too!
I thought I’d start by sharing my motivation – because it is what has kept me focused, year after year. My #capcitymotivation is my desire to overcome my previous medical challenges and live into a strong, healthy, long life. Born with a heart problem so severe, I was pronounced dead at birth. The doctors said I wouldn’t live long. When I showed signs of thriving, they wrote ‘Miracle’ across my charts. They told my mom I shouldn’t expect to live to be a teenager and would never be an athlete. In the 5th grade, I started to run because of the advice of my 5th grade gym teacher, Mr. Larry Larson. And – incredibly, the doctors marveled at how my heart started to heal itself. The more I ran, the stronger and healthy my heart and body felt. Today at 40, I attribute a consistent focus on fitness, surrounding myself with positive people and the desire the become better each day – as the key reasons why my heart continues to heal and get stronger! That’s my motivation. It’s truly about living a powerful life each day!
Now, I want to hear about yours! Post your motivation for why you are training for Cap City – either just through words or with a photo of yourself and tag #capcitymotivation on our FB page or on instagram. I’ll highlight a few of your posts next week!
When you are motivated, you know how to keep going on those tough days. And, it also makes those good days even more rewarding! So get out there – for the reasons that are important to you – and rock out your run/walk today – with your motivation!
I’ve been blessed to have some absolutely amazing coaches in my life. One of the common themes from the best of the best is to find a way to get into the zone on race day. Olympic swimming great Gary Hall Sr., who’s swim program The Race Club I was privileged to train with last month, calls it “anchoring.” I call it centering. It’s the arm swinging of Michael Phelps immediately before he gets on the starting block. It’s in the words that Serena Williams says aloud on court after a tough point and the scuffing of the ice by Columbus Blue Jackets “Goalie Bob” Sergei Bobrovsky before each period. The last thing we do to turn the switch to go time, THAT is our anchor and center.
These things do not happen by accident. This season I’ve written a lot about practice, I realize, but the longer I’m in the sport the more I understand that our bodies and minds crave routine. Have you ever noticed that when you go on vacation that, as lovely as the free time may be, your body feels a bit off? It comes right back around when we get home and back into the daily grind. Why? Routine and rhythm. The same is true for sports. Endurance sports are often said to be “races of attrition.” That is, who sticks it out and and can deal with all of the unexpected challenges during an event that come up and are out of our control. Although there is some truth in this, I argue that much more is under our control that we first believe. Weather, other runners, road conditions are all out of our control. But what about the long lines at the porta johns or the stressed out feeling while trying to find a parking spot? If we are honest with ourselves much of that stress is on us because we waited too long to arrive or didn’t plan well.
You play like you practice is a favorite quote of high school coaches. It may be cliche but is true all the same. They typically mean if you practice hard you play hard, but for us it’s more subtle. How much sleep we get the night before, our breakfast choices, how and with what we hydrate during our workouts are all part of our game. Even the surface on which you run and the time of day make a difference. I’m an evening runner, always have been because it helps me reset from the day. I look forward to it. However, the number of races I’ve run at night can be counted on one hand. So, when I truly care about the outcome of a race I become a morning runner at least once a week in training to simulate the conditions, the weather, my bathroom routine, and coaxing my body awake.
Playing like you practice is true for a warmup or a centering time as well. Ideally, you want to develop this for yourself over time. For some, it can be alone time right before the race to think through each stage of the event. Others need music blasting through their iPods to put them in race mode. My own warmup has evolved, but for the last 4 years thanks to my wonderful coach Jon Hastings, I do the same exact thing for every race. (Ok little white lie, I skip it for marathons and full Ironmans but everything else …). It does not matter if it is a 5k, a sprint triathlon, a half marathon, or half Ironman the warmup is the same. 12-20 mins of easy light jogging, 6-10 accelerations, light jogging to the porta potty, and change into my race gear. If it’s a tri, I get in the water for a few 50 meter pulls. That’s it. No thinking, no worrying, just doing and only for races. Coach says, and nothing could be more true, that it reminds the body that it’s time to race. It works. No matter how nervous or concerned I am going into a race, after that warmup I’m ready. Every time. All the systems are awake and ready and the body knows what to do.
Find your own center. Develop the warmup that works for you. If it is your first half marathon, there’s no need to go run two miles beforehand. But how about a 5 min walk to clear your head and get yourself into race mode? By planning for your warmup, whatever it may be you have the added benefit of getting to the venue a bit earlier which relieves most of race morning stress! Oh and that anchor, I’m not telling. But once I do it it’s time to race!
As you prepare for the big day by increasing your mileage each week, there are some other ‘secret weapons’ to your training program that can help you to go the extra mile. Studies tell us that when we are looking to increase our ability to perform a sport, it is best to train for specificity – that is – primarily focus your training program on recruiting the muscles that you need to perform that activity – in the way you need to recruit them. So, if you plan to run Cap City, most of your training should be running. However, studies also tell us that if we only training muscles to perform certain activities, we run the risk of injury when we get tired and don’t take advantage of the benefits the body receives when you cross-train.
Below, I am listing out a few workouts you can do, while training for the Cap City Half marathon, that can help you to run a little stronger, a littler faster and/or stay safer in your training program. After I’ve listed the exercises, I’ve broken down why these particular exercises will help you in your performance on race day.
1.) Yoga – many believe yoga is just stretching. And, it can be. But what yoga can do is stimulate your muscles to stabilize your body, balance better, become stronger through body weight movements, and improve flexibility. As runners, we tend to get tight in certain areas, such as hamstrings and hip flexors. Yoga can help keep these more limber to provide greater range of motion, possible improvement of stride, less likelihood of injury and overall, allow your body to feel better, and recover quicker after a long run. I recommend yoga 1-2 days a week – to help repair, restore and recover your muscle breakdown from your runs. Want to see some examples of Yoga for Runners? Check out my 15 minute youtube video focused on hips and the lower back – created just for runners/walkers!.
2.) Pilates or core workout – (Pilates is a specific form of core/back exercises). My recommendation is to focus on some form of abdominal, hip and back strengthening throughout your training program. This is one of the areas that I truly believe is a secret tool that anyone can use to improve their endurance, time and/or performance in any sport. I train several professional athletes and this is the number one area we focus on to help them improve their game. For the NBA players I’ve worked with – they are more agile on the court because their core is stronger and can hold them upright better so the rest of their body can do the complicated work. For the PGA Golfers, their swing is better by how they carry their posture and hold their body. For runners – when the core is strong, the legs don’t have to worry so much about balance, and can focus on moving faster. When the core is weak, not only does posture suffer and create more work for the body to carry itself throughout the race, but the legs have to jump in and focus on balance more- thus slowing them down from simply executing on rapid muscle fiber firing. And, since running is a forward-motion exercise, it can pull into the lower back, especially when the core fatigues. Our back must be strong in order to help support the upright position our body carries itself in throughout our run. I recommend core/back and hip work several times a week – it can even be added at the end or beginning of a run. Want a core workout? Check out my 30 minute core workout on youtube.
3.) Something that you have never tried before – When you try a workout you have never done before, you stimulate muscles in a different way. It keeps the body and the brain active to think about communicating and firing new signals to stimulate movement. Trying a new activity keeps your mind fresh, allows you to stay out of the rut of just doing the same thing all the time and allows your body to activate muscles in different ways. This is commonly called, Muscle Confusion, but in general, to me, it simply means we are trying to keep a fully functional and injury proof body ready and active for daily living. If we only do what we’ve always done, we run the risk of atrophying or losing muscle strength in areas that aren’t stimulated by our workout program. This results in an unbalanced body. Try something different once a week or every few weeks just to mix it up – but just remember – it is new, and you don’t want to overdo it and hurt your running program – so keep it light and interesting as you embark on a new format. Make it fun.
Your primary focus during this time is going to be running/walking, however, by adding these simple additional exercises/workouts into your program, you may see an improvement in your time, endurance, performance, and/or how you feel and recover at the end of a run. Make sure, too, to give yourself a day or two of rest each week to allow the body to truly recover.
Do you have a question you want me to answer, either through this blog or a personal response? Simply email me at email@example.com!
Make it a great week everyone! Here’s to the pep in your step as you get closer to game day! Here’s to a great journey ahead!
(All photos are from Seven Studios)
Training. We are training our bodies by stressing them a little bit more each week, then resting to let the body adapt to that work. Then repeat. We train our minds to handle the rigors of more miles and to get out of bed to get in our last snowy run of the season, because we need to be strong minded to reach our goal. We’ve also trained our spouses, children, and coworkers to get used to seeing us head out the door in running clothes or show up to a meeting with a recovery drink instead of coffee. All of this work IS training, but we are also practicing. Basketball teams practice inbound plays, soccer teams “set plays,” track relays handoffs over and over again until the simple action becomes part of their muscle memory, almost as unconscious as breathing (almost).
We don’t often call it practice, but that’s what it is. Running events can be overwhelming. Not only do we have to cover a long distance by our own power, but we have nutrition, hydration, clothing choices, parking, figuring out how to drink while running and not wear orange Gatorade down your shirt to think about. Runners worry about EVERYTHING. There’s even a name for checking the weather on race day, weather stalking, and it starts 10 days out from race day! It’s easy to say don’t worry about it, but nearly impossible to take that advice. So, let’s take control of that which we can: pre-run routine, hydration, nutrition (both before and during), proper drinking while running and let go of what we cannot. PRACTICE all of it before race day. Start now.
I’ve covered what to eat and what to wear many times. You can read those here. The bottom line is that the old running coach mantra on race day is true, you should do nothing new on race day. The only way for it to feel normal is to practice it. Set out your clothes the night before a long run, eat the same breakfast, and yes even try the same pre-run dinner the night before. We have 7 weeks left, so if you make a mistake and your tummy dislikes broccoli and chicken with whole wheat pasta, you can try something else next week. Do it until it becomes a habit, just part of your run.
This weekend will be a terrific opportunity to pull out the shorts and singlet to practice your race outfit. With weather in the 60s and 70s, this is our first opportunity to run in conditions close to that on race day. Eat your planned pre-race dinner on Friday, get in your chosen breakfast on Saturday, carry (and use) your gels or blocks or favorite fuel, and enjoy every mile. Look around and smile! While you are at it, practice your finish line pose. If you see a bunch of runners with their arms in the air or flexing at the end of the run, you’ll know you are among fellow Cap City athletes!