Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Running Quick Hits for 2010

With the new year upon us, I'm sure many runners have running-related resolutions. These resolutions may include conquering a distance you've never tackled, getting into a regular running routine, or running faster than ever. Regardless of what your running related resolutions are for 2010, below are a few 'quick hits', a few simple things you can do that likely will help you perform better, reduce the chances of aggravations/injuries, and/or make the act of running more pleasurable.

Foam Rolling! Pretty much all of my runners have heard me espouse the virtues of this simple tool. You can pick one up at Fleet Feet, Sports Basement, or just about any running specialty store. In short, it looks almost like a large 'rolling pin' without handles. They come in every shape, size, and density imaginable. Get into the habit of using the roller for a little self-massage on ALL your major muscle groups after every run you do and you will reap the rewards in the long haul. I was virtually injury-free in 2009 and I attribute a reasonable amount of this to my religious foam rolling.

Run Farther. Whether it's extending your long runs a few miles every now and then or adding a mile or two to casual, easy runs you do during the week, a few miles here and there can ADD UP! If you tack on an extra five miles per week (versus last year), this comes to 500 extra calories burned per week (on average). Assuming you maintained an average of five extra miles EVERY week (versus last year) during the course of the year (52 weeks), you're looking at an extra 26,000 calories burned! This is almost 7.5 pounds you're burning! (3,500 calories=1 pound) Independent of burning extra calories, this extra mileage will increase your running endurance and stamina.

Run Faster. There are a million different ways to do this. You can throw in some speedplay/fartlek periodically. During your normally 'easy' run, you can run hard for 2 minutes, run easy for 1 minute, run hard for 2 minutes, etc. You can do some more 'sustained' tempo running (5-20 minutes at 10K/half marathon pace). You can incorporate some short windsprints towards the latter stages of your run. Whatever approach you employ, running faster will encourage a broader range of motion, improve running economy/efficiency, and EXTEND your post-run elevated metabolism.

Run at 'target pace'. I work with TONS of runners who say they want to run a certain 'pace' for a given distance, but during the course of their training don't run many miles 'at target pace'. If you don't log a reasonable number of miles at your target pace, how will you ever know if this pace is sustainable for the particular distance you're training for? Furthermore, how will your body ever 'adapt' to running at this particular pace if you never 'ask' it to? You can start out small with a few 'target pace' miles here and there and gradually include a significant number of miles at target pace for your long runs (assuming we're talking about target pace for the half-marathon and/or marathon distance).

Switch off the Ipod, Garmin, heart rate monitor, etc. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting everyone should become a Luddite and start churning their own butter. BUT, all of the latest running technology out there is a curse and a blessing. We have access to ALL KINDS of data which can be great! BUT, look at the Kenyans. Many if not all Kenyan runners do not have access to ANY of the aforementioned technology, yet they somehow manage to dominate virtually every race they enter. How is this possible? Well, there are MANY factors contributing to their excellence, BUT Kenyans are arguably more tuned into their bodies than just about all the other runners on the planet. Rather than 'listening' to their ipod, Garmin, or heart rate monitor, they listen to their BODY! So, try 'switching' off and listening to what your body is telling you. Chances are, your body knows what's best for it. The fastest marathon of my life came at the end of a training cycle in which I didn't listen to my ipod for a SINGLE run!

Try Something Different! WAY too many runners fall into a running routine and just keep doing the same thing over, and over, and over again. Not too surprisingly, some of these folks get bored, disenchanted, burned out, or under perform. It's important to mix things up periodically to minimize injury risk, reduce the chances of burn out, and to perform at a high level. The best runners in the world don't get up every day and run the same distance at the same pace every day. They run hills, they do track workouts, they run on trails, they do speedplay/fartlek, and cover just about every distance and pace in between! While including 'variety' in your routine won't necessarily make you a world champion, it will likely make you a happier and better runner in the long run.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Reasons NOT To Run

If you read Runners World, Running Times, or just about any running related publication out there, you are CONSTANTLY reminded of the innumerable reasons why one SHOULD run. Virtually all of them are very good reasons. But, what about all of the reasons NOT to run? I'm being half-serious here. I work with a reasonable number of runners and am frequently amused at the reasons why one 'can't' run. Listed below in no particular order are a few of my FAVORITES reasons why one 'can't' run and how I often respond to said reasons when they are presented.


I LOVE THIS ONE! We live in San Francisco which was named the best running city IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY by Runner's World in 2005! The weather here is virtually perfect for running year round. I grew up in Kansas where winters were bitterly cold, bleak, and depressing for MONTHS on end. The worst winter day in San Francisco is a feeble facsimile of a REAL winter day just about anywhere else in the country. This is not to say it doesn't get cold (relatively speaking) every once in awhile in San Francisco, but when was the last time we had a day in San Francisco where the mercury dropped below 30? That's what I thought. If you think it's cold here, you should check out the Antarctica Marathon where the average windchill temperature is -20....and a few hardy souls STILL RUN! Rest assured, there are few circumstances in which it is 'too cold' to run...provided you're dressed appropriately.

It is TOO HOT!

I'll be honest, I actually found myself thinking this periodically in 2008 as San Francisco experienced an unseasonably WARM fall. It seemed that virtually every day in September and October that year had a high somewhere in the 80's if not 90's. Given that I was training for a marathon and my schedule pretty much only allowed me to run in the middle of the day, it was hard to hide from the heat.

But, every time I found myself whining about the heat I reminded myself again of the BRUTAL heat/humidity I used to deal with in the land of Oz. Summers were often in the 90s with stifling humidity. I foolishly went for a run in the middle of the day when I was in high school and almost gave myself heatstroke. Heat/humidity can be rough no doubt about it, but look at the Badwater Ultramarathon. These lunatics run in temperatures so hot their shoes melt! We're talking temperatures as high as 130! Yes, 80-90 degrees is no walk in the park, but if these clowns are knocking out ridiculous mileage in 130 degree weather, 80-90 is chilly in comparison.


Continuing with the weather related reasons to NOT run, we've got 'it's too rainy'! I'm not a fan of deluges myself, but it's not often we see monsoon-like conditions in San Francisco. Granted, we do see wet/blustery conditions periodically during the winter and the occasional random day in the middle of the year, but typically it's never 'too rainy' to run. A rain resistant slicker, a waterproof hat, and a water-resistant pair of running pants will get you through just about any rainy weather in San Francisco. If we lived in Seattle, I'd have a bit more sympathy for this excuse.


I am definitely not one to throw caution to the wind and I will say if you're a woman running alone in the dark wearing an ipod, you're not being as smart as you could be. Bringing a running partner with you and unplugging the ipod would be a better way to approach a dark evening out on the road. But, if you wear light colored clothing, a reflective vest and/or lights, and some kind of headlight illuminating the path in front of you, running at night can be quite frankly one of the most exhilarating running experiences you've ever had.

I always find I run faster at night and there are studies that have indicated most people do run faster in the evening for the sole reason that they are fully warmed up. In theory, you've been up and out/about for several hours prior to your run. Your muscles should be loose, limber, and warm. This raises the question in my mind why we don't see more races taking place in the evening!


I'm tired, you're tired, everyone I know is TIRED! All of us are overextended, over asked, and overwhelmed! I will be honest in saying I've copped out of a few runs in my lifetime because I am 'too tired'. Admittedly, sometimes a glass of wine and some pizza is just too seductive to walk (or run) away from. BUT, I will say that every time I've managed to fight off the urge to knock back a glass or two of vino and get my ass out on the road, I've INVARIABLY felt better once I got rolling. Wine and pizza ultimately PALES in comparison to the natural endorphins, adrenaline, and fresh air of a quality run. You can always have the wine and pizza AFTER the run and feel relatively guilt-free about it!


Admittedly, I work with a crowd that likes to be social..perhaps a bit too much...not that I encourage it or anything ;) Remarkably enough, I've found myself rolling out of the bed and hitting the road when everything seemed a bit fuzzy.

Going for a run may be the LAST thing in the world you feel like doing and I'm not going to tell you it's going to be nirvana every step of the way, BUT....I PROMISE you will start to feel more human after a couple miles. Truly, running is pretty much the best hangover cure I've experienced. I don't know if it's the sweating out of toxins, getting the blood flowing, or getting the heart pumping...all I know is it works WELL!

My last run SUCKED!

Newsflash! Not EVERY run is going to feel COSMIC and TRANSCENDENT! In fact, most runs don't! The runner's high is elusive, my friends. It comes on days you least expect it and fails to appear on the days when you need it most. Most runs fall somewhere between miserable and blissful. If you're lucky you get more runs that tend towards the 'blissful' side and less on the 'miserable' side.

But, just as you must accept that pain and disappointment is a part of life, such is the case with running as well. The best you can do is put a crappy run behind you and keep moving forward. Not surprisingly, the same can be said of life. Let the bad stuff go and just keep moving forward. There really is no other option at the end of the day.