Down the Slippery Slope

dangerIt happens to everyone at some point or another. Sometimes family, work and life conspire to derail us from our workout goals. Workout goals? It’s enough if you can feed yourself somewhat healthily, get the bills paid on time, continue to be effective in your career and have the occasional conversation with a loved one.

I know everyone can relate to this. What do you do when you’ve signed up for a big event and still want to race as well as you can?

As you may have noticed, this blog has been on a hiatus for a few months. That’s right. Life conspired and this blog had to be dropped. I’ve realized that over the years, life, work, training all take mental energy. I find that at my busiest, it is hard for me to invest some creative energy towards any extras. It’s galling to realize that no, I can’t do it all. I have to pick and choose and make sure I’m investing my time effectively when there is so much pressure in our time sucking world.

It’s a slippery slope however. Sure you may still be able to get in your workouts with extra strength training and maybe a fun (sanity-inducing) exercise class. Maybe you’ve had to cut back on strength training or not. Stress and lack of sleep however can conspire to hamper recovery from these workouts. Sometimes, it may be best to go into a maintenance mode as not allowing for recovery can lead to burnout and injury.

There are a couple ways to handle this once you have recognized the following warning signs:
Not sleeping well over consecutive days or weeks
Dreading going out for your workout and not feeling better once you have warmed up especially if this happens over consecutive days
Extra aches or pains
Unable to hit training paces or the usual training paces feel extra hard

Take a break! Give yourself permission to take a few days of complete rest and focus on trying to eat and sleep well. Hopefully the extra time in your schedule plus a more focused mindset can help you catch up in life and/or work. If working out is part of what makes you feel sane, then it’s fine to go out for a workout but take it down a notch. Skip a scheduled workout and run or bike easily with no pace goals. Keep it short and lower the intensity to give yourself a chance to recovery. No, you are not being lazy! And no, beating yourself up because you do need a break is also not productive.

It can happen to anyone and at anytime. After crazy hours at work and a fun but hard race, I found that I was just not able to run at a typical pace for me. Each run was slower and slower. Instead of forcing it, I took three days completely off and tried to sleep in AND take a short nap. I got caught up as much as possible with work and home responsibilities. I also ate well even though i was not burning all those extra calories. My body needed the extra fuel. I started sleeping better and overall was more focused and effective when I needed to be. I started back to workouts cautiously and was pleased I felt much better.

It is a slippery slope and you can choose to step away from the edge!

 

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Hill Running Tips

Lucky Seattlites! Wherever you run, there is likely to be a hill. However, we know quite a few athletes who tend to limit their running routes to avoid hills. Proper hill running (both up and down) has some great benefits including building strength and teaching pacing. And we hate to break it to you but the secret to hill running is no secret. To be a better hill runner, you need to run hills. Then when you come to a hill in a race and everyone around you groans in horror, you will be ready!

When running up a hill, you are working harder to overcome gravity. Your body is forced to recruit more muscles in your legs to carry you up the slope. That slope also alters your foot strike and biomechanics. It forces you to transition to a mid-foot strike, stretches your calves as your heel goes below your mid-foot and increases the forces in your calves and ankles. That additional force in your calves and ankles can add extra power and elasticity that can lead to an increased ability to use the force to power you uphill. If you have issues in these areas, you should be careful and very mindful of the increased load.

Form Tips for Uphill Running

Many runners tend to lean into the hill when they start running up a hill. Some forward lean is necessary but many people lean far too much and hunch over. Leaning too far forward limits the ability to bring your knee up, limits the ability to push off with your foot and keeps those glute muscles we’ve worked so hard to develop from properly working. You should think of standing tall as you glide up the hill and remind yourself to keep your gaze up.

Stay relaxed and use your arms. As you swing your arms, your legs will follow. Your cadence should be slightly quicker. Mentally, instead of cursing and grumbling about that dang hill, stay focused on quickly and efficiently getting past the top of the hill.

Once you are hitting the crest of the hill, continue the momentum as you coast and start to recover. Many athletes lose focus once to the top of the hill. Instead continue to drive past the crest and let gravity assist you as you start to go back down the hill.

Form tips for Downhill Running

What goes up must go down. Downhill running can be stressful to your body. It’s important to minimize the impact. The tendency is to lean back which acts to slow your speed. Leaning back also forces a heel strike which can put excessive stress on your legs, hips and back.

Lean forward slightly and keep your cadence quick. Running downhill, your stride will cover more ground but still focus on quick, light feet making sure your hips stay over your feet.

Pacing

Running hills well during training and during races can be challenging. Hill running is a great way to develop a better sense of pacing. The biggest mistake we see in running hills is people charging up the hill. Instead of charging up a hill trying to hit a particular time, work to understand what a pace feels like when running on a flat course. Maintain that same effort as you go uphill. You will slow. You’ll make up some of that time (but not all) as you go downhill.

If a hill is particularly steep or for longer ultra distances, it may even be better to walk on the uphill. Reframe walking and realize that you are power hiking! If you find that you are starting to work too hard for pace, you risk blowing up and jeopardizing the rest of your race. Everyone is different with regard to what feels right with effort. If you walk, remember to maintain the same focus and drive and mentally stay focused on moving forward.

Some final notes

Instead of using the same muscles at the same pace, hill running forces you to use different muscles. Use this to stretch and give yourself a form check. As you get tired even when the course is flat, the clues to stand tall, use your arms, relax, pick your cadence up are all valuable form reminders. We also like to pretend that we’ve hooked onto a tow cable going up a ski mountain and visualize the boost.

Uphill Cues IMG_5303.jpgDo this! Coach Lesley has her gaze up, she is standing tall.

IMG_5304Do This! Here you can see Coach Lesley’s arms moving to assist propelling up the hill. She also has good right leg extension which engages the glutes.

IMG_5305Don’t do this! Here Coach Lesley demonstrates a common flaw when running uphill. She is leaning far forward from the hips and has her gaze down.

Downhill Cues

IMG_5308Do This! Coach Lesley has a slight forward lean that brings her hips over her knees and feet.IMG_5306Don’t do this! Coach Lesley demonstrates a common error with hill running. To slow her speed, she leans back. This puts much more stress on the knees, hips and back. And if the ground is very slippery, your leading foot can slip out from under you!

Post Recovery – the perfect refueling

 Honestly, this is a trick! There is no perfect refueling except that we want you thinking of refueling immediately after completing a long workout or a workout with intensity. End of Story.

We hear a lot of athletes who complete their workout and before you know it, they’ve gotten caught up in their life.  They chat with friends at the car before driving home, they pull a few weeds on the way into the house, they take the dog for a walk or they run a few errands. Three hours goes by and they are famished. Nope, that’s not the way to recover and get ready for your next workout. Not properly fueling after a longer or harder workout can lead to low energy overall in your day to day activities and impact the quality of your next few workouts.

At a deeper level, when you work out, you stress your system. This controlled, good stress leads to muscle breakdown and repair and gets you ready for your next bout of work. Over time, you become stronger. Fueling properly immediately after a workout starts this process along.

Sure you can go a little crazy looking for the perfect recovery fuel but you don’t have to. There are many simple real food options that work well, are very easy and portable.

First what sort of refueling should you be aiming for? You should be aiming for a mix of carbohydrates and protein with a bit of added fat plus liquids to replace that which you’ve sweated out. The standard recommendation is for a ratio of 4:1 carbs to fat.  Ugh. Who wants to figure that? And really, the recommendations have relaxed a bit so there is a range.

Low fat chocolate milk is one of the easiest options. It is a popular recovery drink among world class endurance athletes and one we also recommend.

Why? The carbs are important to your body to start the process of repair and restoring glycogen levels. The protein provides building blocks for that repair. A flavored milk (with the added real sugar) will go down easy for most even if you are not particularly hungry after a workout.  Fat provides added calories, may help decrease inflammation and provides valuable cell restoration.

Not everyone can tolerate dairy. Flavored soy milk is also a good alternative. Other non-dairy milks often do not provide either enough protein or carbohydrates to match cow or soy milk.  If you can tolerate food, nothing is as easy or portable as a PBJ sandwich on whole wheat with jam.

Other options which can work?

  • Banana with trail mix or peanut butter and water
  • A fancy latte with sugar and milk with some nuts or a snack bar
  • Cheese and crackers
  • graham crackers and peanut butter
  • eggs and toast/egg sandwich
  • cold cereal and milk
  • fruit smoothie with protein

Eat or drink your recovery fuel ideally within 30 minutes after finishing and then eat again in about 2 hours to speed recovery.

Most important, don’t get so caught up in the what or exact fuel and concentrate simply getting something in.

 

 

 

 

 

Danger ahead!

 It’s that time. That time when the garden is calling. Or scrubbing the deck is on the agenda. Or cleaning out the basement takes top priority.

Danger!

Sure you can run for 10 miles or bike for 20 miles, but can you garden for 3 hours? Your body may tell you no and in no uncertain terms.

When spring chores are taking precedent, remember some basics. You aren’t ready for hours and hours of heavy gardening or moving a load of mulch. Just like you ease into longer distances with training, you should ease into yard work and other more intense household chores. Make sure to take breaks and, if you can, spread the work out over some days. If you know you’ll be hitting the chores hard, it’s a great time to take a cut back week with training.

You can do it all but pacing yourself well (just like in a race) pays off!

 

Your own worst enemy

Happy Spring!

Spring is here and we are feeling the excitment in the air!  It’s great to have more light, better temperatures (sometimes!) and those goal events coming up.

As hard as it is to remember, this is the time to focus on the long term goals instead of the short term satisfaction.

  • Are you pushing too hard in a workout with a possible injury when you have a goal race in the next weeks or months?
  • Are you choosing to get a workout in when your body may need some extra recovery?

Part of being the best athlete you can be is learning when to push and when to back off. This goes back to making those hard days hard and understanding when taking a few days or even a week of recovery can make a huge difference in a training cycle.

If you are getting signs that an injury niggle is developing into something serious (does it bother you more often when not working out) or when real life stress is taking a toll, plan to take some days off or keep workouts short and easier. Focus on recovery. This means you should be eating well, aiming for more sleep and doing the self care which works for you. After a few days of planned active recovery, ease back into training and you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you can feel.

 

 

 

Your Easy Pace

 Whatever level you are as an athlete, your easy pace does not define you as an athlete. Too often athletes at all levels from very beginners to very experienced get too wrapped up in their pace on their easy days.  Often they convince themselves that because they are feeling good or are in a hurry that it’s ok if they speed up their pace. Or they are so vested in maintaining their supposed easy pace even though their body is telling them to slow down after a hard workout, after a race, after a day spent on their feet working, that they ignore those signals which demand an even easier pace.

Your easy pace is where you can reap the most benefits from your training and constitutes the bulk (up to 85% of your miles) of your training. You are building fitness, building your endurance engine and not stressing your system. Your easy pace should be almost painfully slow. It’s a great pace to run with friends and chat. It’s a great pace to relax and value your me time, catch up with podcasts or listen to the sounds of silence. If you do not have time to run x amount of miles at a true easy pace, you are better off running a bit shorter distance and keeping your pace at a true easy effort.

This way you are primed for your workouts which are run at a hard effort. And it’s important that your hard efforts are actually hard.

What can happen when you run your easy days to hard day after day? Your body will not recover fully and thus will not make the training adaptations that your workouts are designed to effect. Your subsequent hard efforts can be compromised as well. You may not hit your important workouts or if you hit them, they may take longer to recover from since you are not letting your body recover. Those little tweaks in your foot, your knee, your back can worsen as your body does not recovery. Finally, tune up races and goal races can suffer.

Keep your eye on the goal race and know what your training effort should be for any given workout. Those athletes who are honest with themselves every day can reap the most rewards. Keep the easy easy and the hard hard!

 

 

We are excited!

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A Sunny New Year Start to 2016!

It’s a brand new year and we’ve already had some fun events! We started with a Run, Dip and toast to the New Year at Green Lake January 1st and just this past weekend we had a run and then team party at CL headquarters to celebrate 2015 and hear all the exciting goals for 2016. We are getting this year off to a great start. Thanks to all who have come out so far!

Where will we see you next?

These goals include:

  • 12 half marathons
  • Sub 15 IM
  • Redemption!
  • <insert your goal here>

 

What has you excited for 2016?