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!


A Dynamic Warm-up

It’s race season! And if you aren’t racing, you are probably also aiming to get in key workouts.

A proper warm-up is key to a good workout or event. It prepares the muscles and joints in a more sport specific manner. A good warm-up enhances coordination and motor ability as well as revving up the nervous system. Finally, and possibly most importantly, it prepares the mind for the work ahead. Proper mental preparation for any sport is vital and the dynamic warm-up forces athletes to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.

Your starting point should be an easy general cardiovascular warm-up lasting 10 – 15 minutes (or until you have broken a light sweat). This raises the body’s core temperature enough to enhance the elasticity of muscles, tendons, ligaments and overall joint structures and prepare you for the workout ahead. It is a time to focus and concentrate, leaving all outside distractions and stressors behind. It is time to put the phone down!

Dynamic Warm-up

Pendulum: Warms up and stretches the hip flexors, hip extensors, hip adductors, and hip abductors.

Holding onto a stable object, swing leg forward and back. Then swing the leg from side to side.

Hurdles: Warms up and stretches the hip flexors, hip extensors, hip adductors, and hip abductors.

Lift leg as if going over a high object, forward and then backwards.

Hacky sack touches: Warms up and and enhances mobility of all the muscles of hips and adductors.

Lift right leg, sticking the knee out while you bring foot up to touch the left hand. Switch legs. Next, bring right leg up, sticking knee towards the center of your body and touch your right foot with your right hand.

Step back and forward lunge: This exercise demands core stability, hip extension and glute recruitment.

Step back with one leg so you are in a lunge position. Make sure your forward knee is properly aligned over the foot and your hips are squared. Step back your leg (do not push off with back foot, use your glutes to complete this motion) and then step forward for a lunge again. Again, make sure your knee is properly aligned over your foot and your hips are square. Only lunge as far as is comfortable for you. It does not need to be a deep lunge.

Lateral Lunge: Activates the glutes and adductor muscles.

Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Step to the right, then shift your weight toward the right foot, bending your right knee and pushing your hips back. Your left leg should be as straight as possible. Reach for your right foot with your left hand. Push off with your right foot to return to starting position.

Zombie walk: Enhances hamstring mobility.

Swing your straight leg up to waist height while reaching for your toes with your opposite arm.

Grapevine: This drill loosens hip flexors and glutes and increases hip and leg and gluteal mobility while also using lateral strength required to run with good form.

As you move sideways, cross one leg over the other in front and then behind. Hold your arms out to the side to begin; as you start to get the hang of the drill, use your arms as you would while running.

These are just some of the many warm-up exercises you can do. As Coach has often said, don’t leave your workout in the warm-up! Warm your body up easily and prepare for what is ahead.

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.


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.




Do you have a shoe problem?

 How often should you replace running shoes?

a. What? Why would i replace them?

b. When my dog has chewed them up.

c. When they stink too much to stay in the house.

e. None of the above.

The general wisdom says to replace running shoes after 300-500 miles. What happens when you don’t run that much or don’t track mileage that closely?

Shoe cushioning and the materials that make up a running shoe deteriorate over time. Coach likes to write a date under the sock liner so that she’ll have an easy way to tell how old a pair is.  If you tend to run 20 miles per week, after 6 months you will have 500 miles on your shoes. Time to switch them out.  If you run more and/or have a heavier build, especially if you are training heavily for a goal event, you will generally need to switch your shoes more often.

Often you can tell that shoes are wearing out by noticing little aches and pains in your feet, legs and hips. They may not fit as well as the materials change with degradation. Before panicking about injury, think back to when you last replaced your shoes. A pair of shoes is cheap compared to a running injury!

Certainly if you wear though the outer sole of your shoe, you should replace them. The outer sole is made of a tougher material and exposing the softer under sole can easily change the mechanics of the shoe which could lead to injury.

You may have heard that switching between multiple pairs of shoes will extend the life of a pair. There is no evidence to support this but it never hurts to have a spare pair of shoes to switch to if your current shoes get wet, if you need a pair to keep somewhere else or just because you like shoes!

Also you may try different types of shoes depending on your training day. For instance, for those easy recovery runs, you may want your most supportive shoe. If you have speed work or a race, contemplate a lighter shoe with less support. it can be fun to have “fast shoes” as long as you have no injury issues that would contraindicate this. Many athletes find they prefer one shoe and there is nothing wrong with that.

And don’t forget that what you wear on your feet all the other waking hours when you aren’t running can wear out too. If you use custom or over the counter orthotics, those also can show wear and deteriorate over time.




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!



Raspberry Picking as Cross Training?


You are ready to bike X miles, run X miles and swim X yards but can you  pick raspberries?

Coach learned a good lesson recently about being a smart athlete and respecting her body’s limits.  Yes, it’s amazing you can bike, swim or run however many miles because you have trained to do so. Do you train to pick raspberries or work in the yard or <insert other repetitive activity here>?

Probably not! Coach learned the hard way that an hour of picking raspberries is probably not the best idea with a goal race on the horizon.  Her low back complained! She’s back out there picking raspberries but next time she’ll remember to change position often, set reasonable time limits with an activity she is not used to and take breaks.

Really this applies to any activity you do. Mowing, weeding, fun hiking with friends all place demands on your body that are different. Do you sit with your legs crossed? Try switching your legs the other way.  Do you always carry a backpack over your right shoulder and wonder why your right hip complains? Try wearing that back pack over your left shoulder or balancing the load over both and see what happens.

Train for those goal races but train for busy, active life too. You will feel better overall.