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Training

Body Weight Workout

Before I begin a training cycle, I make a new one of these, by including new exercises and back-burnering previous ones based on strengths and weaknesses. This is my current, at-home routine that I do twice a week.

Planks with arm rows for 1 minute
locust pose – hold for 1 minute
moving locust – scissor your arms and legs – 1 minute
Modified pushup hold – 1 minute
regular pushups – as many as I can
leg lifts – slow lower – 1 minute
oblique v-up hold – 1 minute on each side
jump squats – 1 minute
we have lift off
donkey kick hold – 1 minute on each side
single bent leg vertical squat – 1 minute on each side
It looks weird, but its HARD.
side planks – 1 minute on each side
single leg band exercises – triple threat – 30 on each leg
45 degree angle
straight back
single leg quad flex hold – 1 minute on each side
hamstring curls with a ball – 1 minute
side crunches on exercise ball – brace yourself – 30 on each side

ONE MORE TIME! I repeat the sequence. 

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Training

Warm Up and Cool Down

A warm up is important for quality training runs, even if it’s not that long (mine isn’t). I’ll do a few resistance band exercises for my hips and glutes, jog half a mile, then do 4 or 5 dynamic stretches. It’s not a precise routine, but the habit is important.

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For my cool down, I’ll jog another half mile, and then start on recovery fuel and do some crunches. Then I’ll do a stretch routine that takes about 15 minutes. Each pose I hold for 30 seconds.

Post-run stretching is important for me. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, I notice a difference if I make it a habit after every run. Despite what some people say, I think it helps keep you injury free and running strong.

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Training

Pool Purgatory (Cross-Training)

Laps are mind-numbingly boring and I hate doing them. It’s part of the reason why I call pool workouts “pool purgatory.” The other part is due to my lack of gills. However, pool workouts are undeniably great for cross training, recovery, range of motion, flexibility, and your breathing. Sure, a lot of people wait to incorporate swimming until they are injured, but I think it’s highly beneficial to get in the pool (or lake or ocean) BEFORE you are chronically injured or sentenced there by a Physical Therapist.

From a runner’s standpoint, swimming is great for strengthening hip flexors, promoting ankle flexibility, strengthening the back muscles to help with running posture, and increasing lower abdominal strength. If my legs are too sore and inflamed to go on a recovery run, then I jump in the pool and swim some laps to get the recovery benefits from the circulation.

Lengthy swims are particularly good for endurance athletes. Everyone has their limits to how much they can train before any more is damaging to their muscle endurance. But because swimming is zero impact, it enables athletes to push past those limits and build a stronger, more efficient cardiovascular system.

Swimming is a full body workout and it is tiring. It feels odd for me to be physically tired without feeling skeletal muscle fatigue. But besides getting the running benefits from pool workouts, it’s also a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise – as long as I can remind myself of all the benefits on the days when I really dread the pool.

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Training

Rest and Recovery

Rest is training, too. Everyone needs rest and recovery, both physically and mentally. For me and my training, I take recovery pretty seriously. Physiologically speaking, growth only happens through rest and repair. Most of the time it’s like a set of stairs, in that you don’t always let yourself fully recover before working out again until it’s time to taper.

I have at least one day a week that is completely workout-free and usually work-free. I don’t use run streaks as part of my training because I’m not physiologically on board with them, though I understand there’s a mental factor in the reasoning behind it.

There are a few basic recovery principles I use besides rest. After all, rest is only a small part of recovery.

  1. After a long and/or hard effort, I’ll usually do a recovery run the next day. It helps keep the blood flowing through those tired, achy muscles desperate for nutrients.
  2. Speaking of nutrients, fueling is crucial. Know what you’re going to have after your workout before you start. There’s two different windows I try to hit. The first is within 20 minutes post workout – the sooner the better. I opt for a carb/fluid/electrolyte focus (VegaSport Recovery Accelerator). The second window is between 60-90 minutes after my workout, with a protein shake (VegaSport Protein).
  3. I’m not a fan of ice – unless you have an acute injury. I like to soak in a hot bath with Epsom salt after a hard or long effort. See http://www.struckbystride.com/the-fire-in-the-flame/
  4. If I have a muscle or tendon that’s starting to nag or I’m just really sore, I’ll apply a comfrey ointment or other herbal lotions.
  5. I try to set aside time set aside for foam rolling and use of other self-care tools for at least 20 minutes every night (with the exception of my rest day). I use foam rollers, tennis balls, a thumper, cupping therapy, a lacrosse ball, Roll Recovery R8, and various others that I’ve accumulated over the years.
  6. I do get at least two professional massages per month, partly due to my job, but I think it’s important for athletes, too. You can do a lot yourself, but nothing beats someone else doing it for you.

Getting a good sleep regularly has been a struggle for me since…well, since I graduated high-school and started to adult. Part of it is my personality. I tend to stress and be more anxious than I have to be. But sleep is the body’s time to repair, and it’s crucial to a high-intensity active lifestyle.

Recovery is a lot of work – that’s why I consider it 50% of training. There’s a lot of different and conflicting methods of recovery out there, but everyone has something. Find what works for you and make recovering just as important as the rest of your training.

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Training

I’ve got the runs

Tempo – maybe my favorite, maybe. Done at a comfortably hard pace, they’re key to making my marathon faster. I try to push the pace, but also keep the splits even. If I’m coming off of a rest day the pace might be faster than one done in the middle of the run-week, but the goal (effort) of the workout remains constant no matter how tired my legs are. Depending on where I’m at in the training cycle, these runs are anywhere from 3-10 miles and once or twice a week.

Easy/Recovery – for active recovery and getting in the mileage. The body needs time to recover from hard workouts, more than just that half mile jog at the end of a session. These miles make up the bulk of my marathon training.

Intervals – The distance and number of reps will vary depending on what I’m training for and where I’m at in the cycle, but the shortest I’ll do is 400s and the longest, 3 miles.

Long – My long runs for marathon training vary a bit, but with purpose. They could be anywhere from 12-28 miles and either at a steady effort or easy pace – sometimes a mix.

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Training

SLCTC

After experiencing what it’s like to be part of a track club in San Diego, you better believe I joined the one in Salt Lake City.

Tuesdays are speed workouts and yes, they do them all-year around. In the winter it’s in a park, and when the snow is gone we go to the track. I can’t always do the same workout everyone else is doing because of race-specific training, but it’s still nice to suffer in circles together.

Thursdays are trail runs that I try to make most of the time, but sometimes races and/or my work schedule gets in the way. It’s nice to run them with a group, especially when I am notorious for getting lost.

Saturdays are also group runs with members doing varying distances. I usually try to hit this one up as a recovery run.

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Training

Hill Repeats

Besides getting stronger and more powerful leg and gluteal muscles, running up hills strengthens your heart and lungs, encourages better form, reduces the physical stress of impact, and helps you achieve a faster cadence. It is also mentally strengthening which is especially important in an endurance athlete. There’s plenty of reasons to incorporate hills in your running route(s), but if you want a bigger boost of the benefits, then having a hill-specific workout in your training cycle is a great idea.

Where I live, there’s plenty of great hills (a.k.a. mountains) to add a hill-repeat workout to my training cycle. After my usual warm up, I do five to eight repeats. I prefer walking down to increase my heart’s ability to recover, aid in fat burn, and save the extra quad stress of running downhill for later.

If you don’t consider yourself a “climber” there are a few tips you can try. Pretend the hill is a set of stairs – shorten your stride and pick up your knees. Instead of trying to pull yourself up the hill with lunging strides, push off the ground with your ankles. Focus on your level of effort rather than your pace. This is especially important if you have more miles ahead of you and need to conserve energy.

Another reason why I walk down is to reduce injury risk. I know that if I had perfect form it wouldn’t matter, but I don’t. When I’m doing repeats, I’m focusing on the benefits I’m getting from uphill running. I get practice running downhill in my trail runs.

When I’m racing and there’s downhill portions, I do my best to float with no extra effort pushing or slowing down. It should be a little faster than my usual pace, but again, I’m focusing on no extra effort. When I get to level ground, then I settle back into goal pace.

Duration: about 1.5 hours total (including cool down)

Frequency: once every other week

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Training

Strength Training with Weights

Having a separate, weight-bearing workout routine is one of the things that I believe helps with injury prevention and prepares me for those finish line sprints. I don’t do a lot. My routine is about 20 minutes long and includes just three exercises – squats, goodmornings, and tricep pulls.

Ironically, getting injured from weight training is one of the things that scare runners away. But the benefits are too great to not include it in training. It helps build stability, power, and yes, even endurance. You do need to use caution with how much weight you use, how quickly you add weight, and your form for each exercise. Be aware of what the dangers are, and listen to your body.

Another reason why some runners avoid this is because “they don’t want to bulk up.” If you’re a male, then maybe. MAYBE. But male or female, it’s ridiculously hard to bulk up while also being a distance runner. If you’re female, unless you’re taking supplements of some sort, forget it – bulking up isn’t a valid concern.

Squats on the squat bar – There are a few different proper ways. Flat shoes are best (or go barefoot). Keep your feet planted and your back flat. Some people say chest out, booty out, but you still have to keep your back un-arched. Experiment with how far out you want to spread your legs, and slowly lower yourself into the squat, coming up just as slowly. Make sure you’re using your butt!

Goodmornings – I like using a bar, but you can use dumbbells if you prefer. Start with the bar on the floor and lift with your hamstrings. Your feet should be planted, and back straight and flat. If you’re not familiar with this exercise, it might be helpful to try it without any weight first, focusing on lifting your upper body with your hamstrings. You don’t want to be lifting with your arms and/or back.

Tricep pulls – I’ll be honest, I chose this exercise only because it’s an area that gets used less than others in my life. But I wanted an exercise that wasn’t lower body to give my legs about a minute rest. Using both arms, raise the bottom end of the dumbbell from the middle of your back to almost the top of your head. Along with your triceps, this works your upper back, which helps with running posture.

Some people decide to start a weight workout circuit using machines instead. That’s fine, but I generally stay away from machines unless I need to isolate a specific muscle or muscle group. That would be useful if one side is greatly imbalanced or I’m recovering from and injury and doing physical therapy assigned exercises. When you work with free weights, you get the benefit of using and working your stabilizing muscles.

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Training

Elevation

I grew up and started running pretty low, around 1,100 feet above sea level. After college I moved to San Diego, which is right at sea level. I spent five years training and racing there before moving to Salt Lake City which sits at 4,200 feet (but you don’t have to go far to get even higher than that). Now having a bit of experience with running low and high, this is what I’ve learned:

  1. It takes WAY longer than two weeks to adjust to a higher elevation. That time frame was given to me by a “they say,” so I tested it and it failed. For me, it took about eight weeks before I felt adjusted.
  2. Some people don’t feel any difference training high and then racing low. Bummer! But in every case of this I’ve found so far, it’s whether or not the athlete grew up high. It seems like if you were born and raised at a high elevation, you don’t notice any benefit when you race low.
  3. Because it’s harder to get enough oxygen to keep up with your fast twitch muscle fiber demands, your turnover will decrease a bit. This makes being consistent with interval training important when you’re high. Some say this is why they don’t feel a benefit from going high to low in racing. Personally I’ve experienced a benefit from making the switch, but I do regular speed work, so I can’t really agree/disagree with that theory.
  4. The most important realization I’ve experienced is that oxygen decreases exponentially as you get higher. That means if you go from 2,000 feet to 4,000 feet, it’s harder than going from 0 (sea level) to 2,000 feet, even though they are both 2,000 feet apart. I’ve noticed this in running here in Utah where I can vary how high I train by several thousand feet.

Most professional runners doing elevation training stints seem to go for weeks at a time. That, combined with my own experiences make me think that you won’t get much of a benefit from doing just a few high runs during a training cycle. Running high isn’t just a performance benefit for me though (okay mostly). The mountains here are incredible and the views you can get by just doing a little climbing are breathtaking – see what I did there.

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Training

Trails

“No thanks,” used to be my normal response when asked if I ran trails. I’m a roadie through and through. I was told I would start trail running when people learned we were moving to Salt Lake City, but I didn’t believe them. I’m still focused on learning what fast feels like so the road is where I wanted my training. It still took me several months to try them out, but I’ve incorporated a short, weekly trail run with the track club into my training schedule.

Trail running is a great way to get some hill training in and work on foot and ankle flexibility – even though the injury risks for sprains and bloody knees are high. As long as your cautious and not trying to run a new personal best, I’ve learned that trails in training are pretty beneficial. It’s a refreshing workout with friends.

Racing trails is a whole different story. I’m not quite there. The road marathon is my main gig, and I don’t really care to go farther. I like the competition aspect of racing and when you go that kind of distance on trails and get into ultra running it seems to become pretty lonely. Because I know that I like competing, I WILL want to run faster during a trail race, throwing caution to the wind. And to me, an ankle sprain on a trail race isn’t worth missing my goal road marathon for the year.

I’m not saying I’m never going to race trails. I already have some ideas for next season. But I don’t think I will make the switch like some people thought I would. I love the road too much. Trail racing will be just another training tool, once I trust myself not to go all out against the competition.