Goals Set the Direction, But Habits Are Best For Becoming The Runner You Want to Become

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at this rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before.” – Jacob Riis (social reformer)

Happy New Year Runners!

Each year approximately 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, by the time February arrives most have quit, and will probably make the same resolution next January. Why weren’t they successful? Most likely they didn’t develop the proper behaviors and habits necessary to be successful. Yes, goals are important and provide direction, however it’s the systems and habits that we develop, that are most important to our success.

I recently finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I highly recommend. He shares some valuable insight on how to develop good habits, and eliminate bad ones. In this article, I will touch upon a few insights that might help you get started in developing the habits you need to become a better runner and achieve your running goals.

Goals are helpful in that they provide us direction. Such as if we were flying from Los Angeles to Maui, it is helpful to know which direction we need to go. However, if we set a course starting from Los Angeles to land in Maui we would not arrive, if we did not make adjustments along the way. Similar with our running goals. We may have a goal of completing our first marathon, or breaking four hours, or qualifying for Boston, however if we don’t develop the proper plan, get in the runs and support work (dynamic warmup, cool down, strengthening exercises, and cross-training) and develop other important habits, we’ll not optimize our training. Instead, we may develop an injury and we won’t develop the endurance and/or speed necessary to achieve our goal.

Take Small Steps with a System-Focused Approach, Instead of Goal-Focused

One important principle from Atomic Habits is developing systems that set you up to become the person necessary to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Thus, to become a better runner such things as: proper training and nutrition plans, running form, support work, sleep, and hydration are important. If these are implemented on a consistent basis, incremental progress will be made leading to improved running performance, which then lead to better race results.

One of my favorite coaches of all time is the late Coach John Wooden, who had his players focus on making some small improvement each day that would help improve their game. These small improvements compound over time, like when you invest in mutual funds. Wooden put the emphasis on improvement and not on winning basketball games and national championships. As a result, some of Wooden’s players became some of the best basketball players in history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton), and his teams won ten national championships, including seven in a row.

It is interesting to note that Wooden did not win his first national championship until he had been coaching at UCLA for 16 years! So, it took him a while to develop and successfully implement a system that would maximize his players’ performance, as well as his own coaching abilities. Similarly, if you are growing bamboo. It takes a significant amount of time for a bamboo plant to lay down an extensive root system. Then, all of sudden, a whole bunch of bamboo appears!

A systems-first mentality also allows you to fall in love with the process rather than the product/goal and you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. This is important because we are hardwired for immediate gratification. The goal-first mentality forces us to delay gratification until the next milestone is reached. The goal-first mentality also creates an “either-or” conflict in which you are either successful or a failure. Also, a goal-oriented mindset can create a “yo-yo” effect, which once the goal is achieved, you revert back to old habits. This is common with those trying to achieve weight loss.

So, it can be more beneficial to focus on what you want to become, instead of what you want to achieve, and develop the habits or systems to do so. If instead of waiting until we achieve our goal, we can achieve satisfaction in performing the steps along the way, we will be much happier and are more likely to make good habits automatic. Early on we may want to set up a rewards system for when we are completing the habits that we need to become the runner we need to become. Therefore, if we complete our run and the important support work, then we reward ourselves appropriately. For example, I reward myself with ten minutes of additional guitar-playing time. Over time you may not need the reward system because you automatically include support work on your run days.

So, again even though your goals will direct you, what’s most importance is the system you implement to become the runner necessary to achieve those goals. If you develop the habits and put in the work, the results will follow, just as they did for Coach Wooden.

 Identity Focus

Another important aspect of Atomic Habits is to become identity-focused, instead of goal-focused. Your habits are consistent with the identity you have for yourself. So, in order to change your habits, you have to change your identity. For example, if someone is trying to lose weight, they could change their identity to that of a healthy person, instead of focusing on losing a certain number of pounds. They can then focus on making decisions consistent with what a healthy person does, and could ask themselves, “What would a healthy person do in this situation?”

Similarly, if you have a time goal and/or want to be a Boston qualifier, your identity could be I’m a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or a “Boston qualifier” and put your focus on the habits necessary or consistent with being a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or “Boston qualifier”. You can then ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that would get these results?” Therefore, you would begin developing the sleep habits (such as 7-9 hours of sleep per night, because while you are sleeping the important adaptations to your training are occurring), nutrition habits (proper nutrients to fuel you and support adaptations), and support work habits necessary. You may also determine that it is necessary to work with a coach, so that you optimize your running form for performance and have an optimal training plan.  You may also need to develop the mind-set of focusing on improving as a runner from year-to-year, and appreciate that it may take a couple of years to break 3:45 in a marathon, or qualify for Boston.

Habit Stacking and Designing Your Environment

Techniques such as habit stacking and designing your environment (make it obvious) may help you facilitate the habits consistent with your identity of being a “sub-3:45 marathoner”, for example. After my runs I grab a glass of water to begin hydrating and focus on “relaxing my legs” by doing gentle leg swings, gradually increasing the range of motion. I perform these close to our designated workout room, which has my yoga mat, resistance band, dumbbells, foam roller, and lacrosse ball all laid out in full view (designing my environment). This cues me to perform the rest of my support work, including my strengthening exercises and cool down (habit stacking). Also, I usually play music I enjoy while performing these, which makes it easier to perform. I’ve performed this routine so many times that it has become automatic, and I recommend setting up a similar situation for yourself.

I will touch upon other important principles from Atomic Habits and other behavior change strategies in future blogs, to help you become the runner you want to become and help you achieve your goals along the way.

Summary of Key Points

  • Success is the product of daily habits
  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results
  • Identity the person you want to become and develop the habits consistent with that identity
  • Consistency of habits is important. Start small and implement a proper reward system for immediate gratification once you’ve completed these habits. These habits should soon become automatic.
  • Focus on improvement over time, such as year-to-year, as a runner, not just a one-time goal

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help.

I don’t want to leave you with the idea that goals aren’t important. They have their place, as far as providing direction. Also, there are other steps you should take before beginning your training. Click here for a post from last year on goal setting and here to learn of other steps you should take before you begin training.

Also, it’s not too late to get started on training, if you are planning to run a spring half- or full-marathon. I began my formal training for the Colfax marathon last week.

Finally, I plan to lead a half- and full-marathon training group this year for fall half- and full-marathons. The group will meet once per week in Louisville (CO) for a run, and participants will be provided with a 16-week training plan. If you are interested, or would like to learn more, please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

James Clear. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.  Avery: New York, 2018.

Have Fun with a 5k Early in Your Marathon Training

Hello Runners,

I encourage you to consider running a 5k in your first two months of half- or full-marathon training. I found an organization called Park Run (https://www.parkrun.us/) that does local free 5ks throughout the year.

First, running a 5k can be a nice change from the normal routine of weekend long runs, which your body and mind will greatly appreciate! If you do most, or all of your training alone, a 5k will be a great opportunity to be around and connect with other runners. In addition, being in a race environment can be motivating and inspiring and help you enjoy and appreciate your training more.

Also, a 5k early on in your training can be a great way to determine your baseline fitness. Your performance from your 5k race can be used to predict your performance in a future half- or full-marathon, depending on your training for the next 12-16 weeks. This training will need to include long runs and other workouts that appropriately stress your aerobic system, such as progression and threshold runs.

Your pace for a 5k can be used to determine paces for your training runs by using prediction calculators. I use races and prediction calculators with almost all of the runners I coach, to tailor their workouts, so they are getting the most benefit, while training at paces that are most appropriate for them.

There are several online calculators that can be used including:

www.macmillanrunning.com

However, you need to use these intelligently in predicting your future half- or full-marathon pace. This includes taking 5-10 seconds off your 5k time and then plugging into the predictor calculator. Keep in mind this is a projected pace for these events, and certainly not a pace you would run these events at now. After all, you won’t have done long runs much more than 8-12 miles at this point.

You should aim for a negative split in your 5k. That is to run the last half of the 5k faster than the first half. The easiest way to accomplish this is to keep a consistent pace for the first three miles and then speed up for the last 200 meters or tenth of a mile. Also, Coach Jay Johnson, in his book Simple Marathon Training, recommends running the first mile very conservatively, including running the first half mile at a pace that is challenging, but comfortable. He says don’t worry about those people who pass you because most of them will be running a positive split (slower second half of the 5k). He suggests a negative split race is a better predictor of your aerobic fitness than a positive split race.

Make sure you recovery well from your 5k. You should perform a cooldown after the 5k, including walking and then stretching/foam rolling. Also, I recommend a brisk walk or other low to moderate cross-training the next day for approximately 30 minutes. You may want to take the following day off from running completely before resuming your running.

So, go out and enjoy a 5k!

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

  • Simple Marathon Training, Jay Johnson.

Marathon Training 2019 Days 19 and 20: Fitness Training Program

February 3 2019 long run“There Are No Limits To What You Can Accomplish, Except The Limits You Place On Your Own Thinking” – Brian Tracy

Over the past two days I did easy pace runs of ~38 minutes and ~7 miles. After today’s ~7 mile run I performed the following exercises:

 

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~30 seconds)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward-and-back (10 steps in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~15 minutes.

Recommendation and Tip of the Day: These are both the same for today. If you have not already done so, I recommend opting-in on the Welcome page to receive a Fitness Training Program. This provides a training plan with running, cross-training, stability, mobility, and strengthening exercises for 2-3 months, depending on your running history and the amount of time you have taken off from running. This program will help you achieve the aerobic and neuromuscular fitness you need to transition into more specific half- and full-marathon training. Once you have completed this program please feel free to contact me to talk more about a customized training program for you that is specific to your running goals, fitness, running history, and time available for training.

Live your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 16: Consistency: One of the Keys To Achieving Your Running Goals

January 30 2019 cold morning run consistency“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.” – Marie Forleo

This morning my dog, Zadar, needed me to take him for a walk first thing after I woke up. So, I took him for about twenty minutes. It was another bitter cold morning and after we got done and got inside, I really did not want to go back out in the cold for today’s run! However, I remembered my goal, got my running clothes on, performed my dynamic warmup and headed out for ~32 minute run. As I was running, I was reminded of the importance of consistency with training for maximizing running performance and achieving running goals. So, today’s Tip of the Day addresses consistency. After my run, I performed the following mobility and strengthening exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendation:

  • Beginners:
    • I recommend doing an easy walk for 25-30 minutes.
    • Also, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (8-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 8-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (25-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5-8 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (8-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (8-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5-10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5-10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, I recommend foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 5-10 minutes
  • Intermediate/Advanced:
    • Dynamic warm-up.
    • Then, I recommend a 35-50 minute run at an easy pace, ideally in a primarily flat area.
    • After your run, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Pushups (10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (~30-40 seconds)
      • Side planks (~20-25 seconds)
      • Supine planks (~15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (15-20 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (8-10 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, you should perform a cool-down that incorporates foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 10 minutes

Tip of the Day: Consistency is one of the keys to maximizing your running potential and achieving your running goals.  Make sure that you have your goals written out, so that you can see them every day to remind you of the importance of performing your scheduled run or cross-training, mobility and strengthening exercises, and cool-downs every day. All of these aspects are important. If you don’t have time to perform the mobility and strengthening exercises and/or cool-downs after your runs, make sure to schedule a time later in the day when you can perform them. If you don’t, you will miss out on some of the adaptations that help you maximize your running performance and you may increase your risk of injury. There are exceptions, such as if you develop an injury or are feeling pain and/or soreness, especially in a joint (in this case you may need to take a day or more off or cross-train), if you are sick, or fatigued. If you are injured, have pain or soreness, sick, or fatigued you may need to take one or more days off, so that you can recover and get back to your training sooner. If your schedule calls for a long run or interval or otherwise higher intensity run, and you are fatigued, you might still be able to perform a shorter, easy run. So, yes, there are circumstances which may cause you to miss one or more of your scheduled workouts, however, as best as possible, you will want to minimize these occurrences. Certainly, if sustain an injury, you will want to have this addressed as soon as possible, and meet with a qualified healthcare professional who can properly diagnose the injury and develop a treatment and recovery plan for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 15: The Effect of Gratitude On Your Training

Key Summit Routeburn Track medium version“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” — Brian Tracy

During this morning’s face-and-finger-numbing bitter cold run, I thought about what I am grateful for, which includes my family and friends, living in beautiful Colorado, still being able to run after nearly 35 years, having the opportunity to help other runners achieve their goals, and the opportunity to explore and have memorable experiences. See Tip of the Day for more on living with gratitude. My run was for ~40 minutes in a primarily flat area, at an easy pace. After my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~35 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I foam rolled for ~10 minutes.

Recommendations:

Beginners:

  • I recommend 25-35 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
  • Perform the strengthening exercises above
  • Then, perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down

Intermediate/advanced:

  • I recommend 35-45 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
  • Perform the strengthening exercises above
  • Then, perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down

Tip of the Day: Live with an attitude of gratitude. Almost every morning I spend at least 5 minutes thinking about what I am grateful for in my life. Sometimes I write these down, and sometimes I incorporate them in a picture, although I admit I’m lacking in artistic qualities. I encourage you to incorporate this daily practice in your life, especially first thing in the morning. It’s amazing how this can impact the rest of your day! This can really be beneficial when you have training runs that don’t go as well as you had hoped, and that would otherwise leave you feeling demoralized.

For today, and for however long you choose, live with an attitude of gratitude. It will not only help your running, but other aspects of your life as well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 14: Simple Things You Can Do At Work To Make Yourself a Better Runner

November 13 2018 Birthday hike pic 3 medium version“Your true success in life begins only when you make the commitment to become excellent at what you do” – Brian Tracy

Today was a non-running day for me.  Instead, I went for a nice, snowy walk with my dog Zadar. After my walk I performed the following exercises:

 

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Prone planks (~35 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

During the day I also performed leg swings and single-leg balance. I try to do this throughout the day, but certainly get up and walk and get water every hour. These simple acts can help improve your running performance. See more below in the Tip of the Day.

Recommendation: Today, I recommend a brisk walk or hike of 20-30 minutes. Immediately after your walk or hike I recommend performing the exercises listed above. If you sit for long periods throughout the day, I recommend getting up every hour and at least walking and getting water. I also recommend performing exercises like leg swings and single-leg stands and balance throughout the day.

Tip of the Day:  It can be extremely beneficial to perform certain activities while at work to support your running.  Most of us spend a significant amount of the day seated at a desk.  It is important to get up periodically (I recommend at least every hour) and move around, get some water and incorporate exercises such as leg swings and single leg balance and/or stands.  These can help you stay well-hydrated, reduce tightness in the hip flexors, and improve balance and stability on one leg (we spend a significant time on one foot when running). Here is a video that demonstrates these and other tips that you can do at work to help support your running:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/five-things-you-can-do-at-work-to-make-yourself-a-better-runner/

I recommend accumulating 5-10 minutes total of single-leg stands/balance throughout the day. However, do not do this all at one time.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 13: Importance of Adding Variety to Your Running

June 16 pic 4 variety medium version“Variety is what I would recommend: As variety is the spice of life in food, so it is in exercise. Change it up. But most of all, don’t overdo it.” = Martina Navratilova

Today’s run was a “long run” of ~52 minutes in a primarily flat area, which included both roads and trails. I recommend you incorporate variety in where you run to help keep you motivated and it can be helpful for the rest of your body. I discuss more on this in the Tip of the Day. After my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~35 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After this I did foam rolling for quads/hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For today’s run, I recommend performing a dynamic warm-up and then running at an easy pace in a flat area for 30-55 minutes, depending on your running experience, goals, and time off from running. You might add some variety to today’s run, such as running on hard-packed trails, if you usually run on roads. I also recommend performing the exercises above immediately after your run and then performing a cool-down of your choice.

Tip of the Day: Incorporate variety in your runs, including where you run and the surface that you run on.  I really enjoy exploring new trails!  I highly recommend not doing all of your runs on the road, and instead, do some on hard-packed trails. This can be significantly less impactful on your joints and may require you to be more focused, so that you don’t trip on any rocks or roots in the trail.  There have been times when I’m on trials when I’ve nearly stepped on a snake, so fortunately I was focused on the trail in front of me! You might also want to incorporate some hills. However, for the first 8-12 weeks do your runs in flat areas, as much as possible. The primary benefits of variety in your runs include preventing boredom, reducing the risk of injury because you spread the stress throughout more of your body, and varying the forces you engage with, so that you train on a deeper level, instead of being on autopilot during your runs. Finally, variety challenges your brain forcing it to change the way it communicates with your muscles, which will allow you to run more efficiently and powerfully from then on.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Embrace variety in your life!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 12: Importance of Nasal and Rhythmic Breathing

January 27 2019 long run medium version“Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation.” – Dan Brule

After a dynamic warm-up, I ran for ~34 minutes in a primarily flat area. It was a little chilly during the run and this reminded me of the importance of trying to breathe in through the nose to warm and filter the area before it hits your lungs. I will discuss more on breathing in the Tip of the Day below.  Immediately after my run, I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~35 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I did foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: If you have an easy day scheduled, as I would recommend for intermediate and advanced runners (running at least 4-5 days per week), keep the pace easy today. Again, depending on your running experience and time taken off you may choose to run 30-45 minutes today.  If you are a beginner running three days a week, you may want to do a 25-30 minute walk. For all runners, I recommend performing the exercises above. Then you should do at least a 10 minute cool-down.

Tip of the Day: Maintaining steady, rhythmic breathing while you run is vital to your running performance. It is also important to breathe in through your nose, while exhaling through the mouth, especially during the winter months.

Ben Greenfield, exercise physiologist and triathlon coach, in his book “Beyond Training” discusses the importance of deep nasal breathing. That is breathing air through the nose and into the belly, instead of shallow breathing in the mouth and into the chest. This can help relax the body and warms and filters the air coming into your body. This also better helps oxygenate your exercising muscles while you run. Greenfield says that if you simply can’t get in enough oxygen through the nose, then slow down until you get to the point where you can do nasal breathing, then gradually speed up again to higher intensity.

In addition to nasal breathing, your breathing should be rhythmic. In his book, “Daniels’ Running Formula”, exercise physiologist and running coach Jack Daniels discuss optimal breathing rhythms while running. What he recommends is using a 3-3 breathing rhythm for easy runs. That is taking three steps (right, left, right) while breathing in, and three steps (left, right, left) while breathing out. As we get into longer runs, and higher intense runs, this breathing pattern should shift to 2-2. Your breathing rhythms can be used to help monitor pace/intensity. If you are doing a 3-3 rhythm and feel like you are not getting enough air during an easy run, you are going too fast. Slow down until 3-3 is comfortable.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Good luck with your training!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References:

  • Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc. 2014.
  • Daniels’ Running Formula Second Edition. Jack Daniels. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2005.

Marathon Training 2019 Day 5: Importance of Easy Runs

August 25 2018 Sunset in Longmont pic 2 medium versison“Doing the little things can make a big difference” – Yogi Berra

Today I did an easy run of ~35 minutes after a dynamic warm-up. During this run I focused on keeping the effort easy and enjoy the run! Immediately after my run I performed the following exercises:

 

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Immediately after these exercises I performed foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: If you have an easy day scheduled, as I would recommend for intermediate and advanced runners (running at least 4-5 days per week), as you most likely should during your first week of training, keep the pace easy today. Again, depending on your running experience and time taken off you may choose to run 30-45 minutes today.  If you are a beginner running three days a week, you may want to do a 20-30 minute walk. For all runners, I recommend doing any of the exercises above that you know how to properly perform. Then you should do at least a 10 minute cool-down.

Tip of the Day: You should have easy days in your training program on the days these are scheduled you should keep those runs easy. There is a reason why these runs are supposed to be easy. If you don’t keep them easy and push the pace, you won’t be getting the benefit of this run and this could negatively impact recovery, future training, and ultimately your running performance for your goal race. Easy runs are usually meant for recovery and building your aerobic fitness, especially early in a training program. So, don’t miss out on these when you are scheduled to do an easy run. Go along with this, each workout in your training program should have a purpose. Don’t go into your training blindly and just try to “wing it”. This won’t help you realize your maximum potential come race day.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Have a great day today!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Steps To Achieving Your Running Goals for 2019!

June 9 2018 pic 1 distant goal

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  – Lao Tzu

Hello Runners,

Happy New Year! I hope that 2018 was a great year for you. If so, and even if not, I hope you a looking forward to an amazing 2019. I know that I certainly am! This year is my 35th year of running and I will be training to improve upon my marathon PR, with the ultimate goal to break 3 hours. My plan is to run a late summer or early fall marathon and will begin training next week. I plan to use the first couple of months of training for fitness training, before I transition into marathon-specific training, since I took about three weeks off from running while recently visiting New Zealand, which was awesome!

This fitness training will allow me to build my aerobic base and focus more on my running form (running economy) to make myself an efficient runner. The emphasis for my marathon-specific training will be to continue improving my running economy and aerobic fitness and then to build speed.

Depending on your goals and current fitness level, you may not need to train as long, however, if you have taken some significant time off from running, or if you are a beginner who is planning to complete your first marathon, you might consider taking at least 1-3 months to progressively build your aerobic fitness before engaging in marathon-specific training. I also strongly recommend performing strengthening exercises that will help you improve your form and minimize the risk of injury.

Next week, I will begin daily posts of what I did for my training, as well as recommendations and tips. You can access these posts at denverrunningcoach.com under Blog Posts. For those who opted in through my website to receive emails with tips and recommendations, I will send weekly summaries, so that you are not being constantly bombarded with emails! However, you can also access the daily posts, as I just mentioned. The tips and recommendations can help guide you to improve your running performance, although you may consider a more customized training program to meet your specific needs.

I believe the beginning of each year is a great time to assess your health, fitness, and running form. This is a great time to meet with your physician, if you haven’t recently, to assess for cardiovascular disease risk factors, hormone and various vitamin and mineral levels.  Assessing these can help you identify any areas that may need addressing, so that you can maximize your running performance and your health.

I strongly recommend the following post for guidelines on what assessments to do before you begin your training for this year:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/what-are-your-vitamin-d-levels-and-other-important-testing-for-runners-and-triathletes/

I want to talk a little bit more about iron and vitamin D, which I mentioned in the articles above, since these are commonly low in runners, and so vital for performance and health.

Iron:

  • Why it’s important
    • Iron is a primary component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your exercising muscles for energy production to allow you to run
    • Thus, iron levels can affect running performance
  • What test(s) are best to assess iron levels?
    • Serum ferritin test
    • Tissue-mineral analysis, very accurate, but very expensive!
  • What do I do if my iron levels are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician, and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician
  • What should you consider as far as selecting a supplement
    • Most important factors are safety, absorption, and effectiveness
    • Choose natural forms: ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulfate, NOT the ferric forms of these
  • What type of supplements are best?
    • I recommend a whole food as opposed to a synthetic supplement
    • Whole food supplements will display: “100% Whole Food”, “From Whole Food Source”, “Naturally Occurring Food Sources”, “Food-Based” or something similar
    • Beware! “Natural” does not mean whole food based and is often primarily synthetic
  • Why are whole food supplements better?
    • Generally, more effective and safer than synthetic supplements
    • You get a better balance of nutrients and synergistic effects, which are better for your health and performance
  • Are there health issues with high iron levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking any iron supplements
    • High levels of iron are toxic and can lead to heart disease
  • Who doesn’t need an iron supplement?
    • Generally, men and postmenopausal women because body’s stores are high enough

Vitamin D:

  • Why it’s important
    • Affects all aspects of health including: bone health, maintains nervous system, heart function, normal blood clotting, fights colds and flus, plays an important role in cancer prevention
  • What test is best to assess Vitamin D levels?
    • 25 hydroxycholecalciferol (yes this is a mouthful and not super easy to say!) test
  • Best source
    • Production in the skin when contacted by the sun’s UVB rays
    • This is a problem though in most areas of the U.S. during the winter months because it’s impossible to get enough UVB exposure then, therefore you will most likely need to supplement during winter months
  • What do I do if my Vitamin D are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician, especially for the winter months
  • Should I supplement all year around?
    • Probably not, because your body can most likely produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure, except for the winter months. Again, you should discuss this with your physician
    • For the non-winter months you should get enough vitamin D as long as you are getting about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at noon or early afternoon at least twice per week on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen
  • What are the best supplements for Vitamin D?
    • Food-based which specifically say vitamin D, mixed form of vitamin D, or primarily vitamin D3 (active form of vitamin D)
    • Probably the best is high quality cod liver oil (although not super yummy), although be weary of mercury toxicity
    • Another option is a vitamin D-only supplement, I usually take the one by Thorne Research (vitamin D3/K2). You can check ConsumerLab.com, which is a great source for quality of supplements (they do charge $35 per year)
    • You should take any vitamin D supplement with food, especially fat to help with absorption
  • Are there health issues with high vitamin D levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking a vitamin D supplement
    • High levels of vitamin D have been associated with certain cancers

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.  Next, we’ll talk about running shoes and attire, as well as running in the cold and wind.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References:

–              Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc. 2014.

–              Super Nutrition Academy, Yuri Elkaim (Registered Holistic Nutritionist)

Disclaimers:

All the information presented in this blog post is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program or taking any supplementation.  Use of the advice and information contained in this blog post is at sole choice and risk of the reader.

Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Thorne Research and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Thorne Research or their products in this blog post.