Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cross Country Meets

There's something exciting about watching a sporting event live. It's funny because it is so much easier to watch the same thing on TV. Multiple camera angles, commentary, stats, and instant reply all make the game easier to watch and easier to understand. Still, thousands of people go to games they can just as easily watch in their own homes or at a sports bar for the fraction of the price.

I enjoy going to baseball, basketball, and football games, but something that's really fun is watching cross country meets. Watching running events, specifically middle and long distance events, is fun for me because I understand the strategies involved and the type of training athletes undergo to become good at their sport. Again, watching on TV is easier (though there's much less opportunity for this when it comes to running), but there something more fun about being there.

Watching running events varies in how easy it is to see what's going on in person. The most difficult event to watch in person is the marathon. Although you can drive or bike around to watch in multiple locations, it's difficult to get a good idea of what sort of pace the runners are running and how the lead has changes over the course of the race.

Track is the easiest to watch in person. The athletes run around an oval, so it's easy to see the lead changes and watch the split times to know the athletes' paces.

Cross country falls in the middle. Last week I watched a sectional cross country meet, and besides watching the runners, watching the spectators can be entertaining as well. Spectators start near the starting area, and then make a mad dash to the next location to watch the runners. It's pretty cool seeing a whole mass of people make their way from one location to another to watch the runners at the various locations on the course.

If you ever get the chance, I'd highly recommend watching a cross country meet. Not only do you get to see hundreds of runners doing their best to run as fast as they can over the grass covered course, you also get a little exercise as you run from one location to the next.

Run well.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Compulsive Exercise

The following is some information on exercise addiction: "Exercise Addiction: When Healthy Becomes Hazardous."

I found this extremely interesting because at times I definitely struggle with compulsive exercise. For me, I tend to write a training plan and then become compelled to follow it to a T regardless of how I'm feeling. In the past, this has meant I train through injuries when I should be cutting back, skip out or cut short family and social events to get in a workout, and over-train.

The article points out the potential of addiction when it comes to exercise. Vigorous exercise over an extended period of time releases chemicals like dopamine which create a sense of well-being. It's easy to become "addicted" to that feeling and constantly work at chasing that high.

As long as you're mindful of this fact and realize that you're not going to have those euphoric feelings every time you exercise, you can avoid exercise addiction. If, however, you're constantly working to obtain that high, you may become dependent on those feelings and end up in a pattern of addictive behavior.

As the article points out, mindfulness is key. Realize when your life is being negatively affected by exercise, and work to restore balance.

Run well.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Getting out of a Rut

 For the last few weeks, I've been in a rut. I haven't been running much, projects at home have been neglected, and my writing has moved close to a standstill.

We've all been there. Different things can set off a rut: illness, injury, stress. It doesn't matter what the cause is--the effects of a rut are similar. Reduced energy levels, feelings of lethargy, and decreased motivation.

Being in a rut in regards to working out can be especially difficult. The current rut I've found myself in stems from a change in schedule and season that often leads me to become more tired--especially after work--and a nagging injury that led me to greatly reduce my running.

Unfortunately, my rut also led me to spending more time sitting around and snacking, which means not only I am working out less, I'm also eating more--not a good combination for fitness.

After spending these few weeks in this rut, I decided it was time to stop being annoyed at myself for it and start doing something about it. I spent some time this weekend reading about ruts and what to do about them, and here are some things I came up with:
  1. Acknowledge and identify the problem. It's one thing to say I'm in a rut. It's another thing to identify the components. The components of my rut: lack of motivation, decrease in exercise, increase in unhealthy eating habits.
  2. Set priorities and goals. This is where I've been lacking. Most of my "goals" the last couple weeks have been negative as is, don't snack so much. This coming week I'm going to aim for one snack during the day and one after dinner, and to run or bike six days next week.
  3. Ask yourself, where do you want to be in a year? Answer the question with a positive statement. Focus on, what do you want for yourself, not, what do you want to stop doing? In a year from now, I want to be within five pounds of my best racing weight, and be working out consistently at least five days a week.
  4. Start now. It's so easy to tell ourselves: I'll start a healthy routine tomorrow, or next week, or when I'm feeling better. The problem is the future is never now. If you're always thinking of improving in the future, you never get down to the actual business of improving.
There are more ways to get out of a rut, but these seemed the most applicable. If you're stuck in a rut, don't wait. Get out of that thing now!

Run well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Side Stitches

Have you ever had a near unbearable pain in your side while running? What do you call it? Side pain? Side stitch?
Image Credit: howtogetrid.org

No matter what you call it, side stitches hurt--I'm not talking about getting sewn up after a kidney transplant. A side stitch is an acute pain, which until recently has been mostly unexplained.

I, like many others, used to think it was caused by a spasm in the diaphragm muscles. It turns out that's not the case. Instead, it's believed to be caused by a tightening in the parietal peritoneum--a membrane that wraps around the body like a corset, connecting back muscles to the abdomen. Read more about it in, "Solving the Mystery of Side Stitches in Runners" from competitor.com.

During my training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in 2010, I began to suffer from side stitches on nearly every run. Nothing I tried seemed to helped, but "Solving the Mystery of Side Stitches in Runners" gives some practical advice for avoided and dealing with side stitches. The following information definitely would have helped me out in 2010:
  • Eating and drinking a large amount within two hours of running correlates to side pain
  • Deep breathing when a side stitch hits has shown some success
  • Stretching the affected side or grabbing the affected side helps some runners
What will help for you? I have no idea. Now when I run, I occasionally stop to stretch my chest and back--mostly because of neck and back pain. I also haven't had a side stitch in about a year. Is the stretching and lack of side stitches related? Again, I have no idea.

If you suffer from side stitches and one of the above tips work for you, awesome. If not, keep trying. You are an experiment of one.

Run well.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Trail Running


View from a trail in Eagan, Minnesota
Running on trails is special. It's tranquil, peaceful, and good for the soul.

Research has shown that spending time in natural settings--green spaces--can reduce stress, boost levels of oxytocin, and increase your quality of life.

Read, "Forget Your Stress While You Run" from Runner's World if you want to know more about using running to reduce your stress. Here's an excerpt:
John Douillard, D.C., author of Body, Mind, and Sport, suggests running in an especially scenic place--a view of a beautiful vista will keep your mind from drifting off to stressful thoughts.
Spring along the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail
Test it out yourself. Go for a hike, bike ride, or run in a green space.  It could be a city park with lots of horticultural offerings, or a paved or unpaved trail through trees, grassland, or along a body of water. See if you feel more at peace afterward.

I can't think of a time I've run a trail and not felt fantastic afterward. Many times run on one of my normal paved routes through the suburbs and been tempted to cut a run short for no reason other than boredom.

Trails, however, have a way of luring me in. I think less about pace. I think less in general. Instead, I soak things in. Running water. Wildlife. A spring.

Even when I run with a friend as I did the other day, conversation often stops during shared experiences: tiptoeing around a section of trail thick with mud and water; a bird of prey perching on a stump next to the Minnesota River; and the natural sounds of birdsong, breeze through the cottonwoods, and running water.

These are things to be experienced.

Run well, and run a trail.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shoe Lace Tying: You're doing it wrong!

Do your shoes come untied? Do they fit well? Do they feel great everywhere except the ankles? Are they tight somewhere they shouldn't be?

Before you give up on a shiny pair of running shoes, try some alternative lacing techniques.

Working at The Running Room, I've seen several people who've liked a pair of shoes except for one small aspect, usually that the shoes are too loose around the ankles. I've got some skinny ankles, and just recently I learned a lacing technique that's allowed me to use a couple different pairs of shoes I haven't used in the past.

If your shoes come untied, you might be tying them wrong. Watch to following video to make sure those shoe laces stay tied:


 If your shoes don't seem to fit quite right, watch the following tutorial to try out some alternative lacing techniques:


Run well this weekend!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My BFF Brit

I asked Brittany her permission to write this post, but I didn't tell her the title (or get permission to use the sweet pictures below). For the record, I call lots of people BFF whether I think we're going to be friends forever or not, but Brit and her husband Jared are definitely my BFFs.

Having pizza with Brit and Jared before watching the Chicago Marathon

Brittany was gracious enough to give me my first try at "coaching." She was hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and since I'd done it in 2011 and had read about two dozen running books between 2009 and 2011, I offered to help her by writing a training plan.

I used a lot of the workouts from "Run Faster from the 5k to the Half Marathon" and structured her training with the hope of keeping her healthy while maximizing her talent and work ethic.

I've coached a few athletes like Brit. They're different animals than a lot of Americans. They're motivated. They work hard. They are willing to take advice, give input into their training, and make changes based on feedback from others.

Thanksgiving, 2013 - working hard on cranberry sauce
I spend time with other athletes trying to motivate them. Running can be a drag, and if you don't like it or think it hurts, it's really going to be a drag. Fortunately, some of the athletes I started with trying to motivate become athletes like Brittany. When you get good at something, you tend to like it more and try harder.

In 2012, Brittany was following her training plan to a T. She was doing strength and core exercises. She was completing challenging workouts. Then, she blew it.

She got pregnant. Fortunately, her husband is a really cool guy, and I like kids, so I wasn't too upset about it.

Fast forward a little over three years. Brit's a mother of two twins, a pharmacist, and a runner. She just set a PR in the half marathon at the Women Rock Half Marathon. 

She's only been training on a structured plan for 6 weeks--she's stayed in shape through running, chasing around kids, and doing things like the Insanity Workout (I'm thinking of doing this one to get a beach body--wiry runner is so 1954) for three years. A few weeks from now, she'll almost certainly run a PR in the 10 mile.

So, thanks Brittany, for being my guinea pig for "coaching" my first athlete. Oh, and stay healthy and un-pregnant if you want to qualify for Boston in 2016.

Run well.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Symmetrical Stride


Running form is a much debated topic. Studies suggest that runners select the most economical stride for them as they train. Studies also suggest that increasing stride rate or shortening stride length can reduce the likelihood of injury and alleviate knee pain.

So what's right for you? Work on improving your stride, or sticking with the one you were blessed with?

As the great Dr. George Sheehan was fond of saying, "We are each an experiment of one."

This is what I've noticed in my running, especially as I get older: years of right handedness, running on the left side of cambered roads, and running around tracks counterclockwise for most of high school and college have left me with an asymmetrical stride.

I'm injury prone. Besides dealing with the typical training error of too much, too fast, too soon, my muscle imbalance has led to other injuries. Tendinitis in the knees, groin, and Achilles line up almost perfectly with an imbalanced stride.

So, what to do about it? My physical therapist gave me several drills. In a previous post, I mentioned increasing stride rate. The other drill he gave me was imagining a line between my legs and keeping that line in between my feet as I ran.

The most important thing, however, is keeping a strength routine as part of regular training. Focusing on muscle balance, especially in the hips, glutes, and core, will help improve stride symmetry and lead to fewer injuries.

Run well.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rest and Recovery


Rest days are an under-utilized element of a good training plan. While different training plans call for different types of rest days, it's best to find what works for you.

As I've reached my thirties, daily runs are not always an option. When training for a goal race, I tend to overdo it. Since 2012, I've run some solid times, but have yet to enjoy consistent racing and long stretches of injury-free running.

Recovery and injury prevention exercises have been vital in my ability to run consistently. I handle rest days in a variety of ways; bike rides, runs, swimming, and hiking have all made appearances in my training. To make those cross training activities rest days means doing them at a very light intensity.

The simplest way to have a true rest day is by doing nothing. Reading, playing a board game with my lovely wife, and perhaps watching a TV show or movie, give my legs and cardiovascular system a chance to recharge.

Training adaptations are made when the body has time to repair itself. Don't forget to incorporate some rest into your plan.

Run and rest well.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stride Rate

When I returned to consistent running in 2009, I read a book called "Chi Running" by Danny Dreyer. While I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all stride, Danny Dreyer did make same good points. I could go into detail about what was and wasn't accurate in "Chi Running," but I leave that to more qualified individuals.

Several things about "Chi Running" stuck out to me, as did some of the running form advice in "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald.

In my next few posts, I'll write about some things that have worked for me. Probably the best advice given in "Chi Running" is to increase stride rate. Stride rate can be calculated by number of steps per minute. The easiest way to determine stride rate is by counting the number of times one foot hits the ground in a minute and multiplying by two.

Numerous studies have suggested that runners self-select a stride rate most economical for them. If you've been running injury free for a long time, there's no reason to change your stride rate. If, however, you have an injury or history of injuries, stride rate is one thing you could look into.

While there is no magic number for selecting a stride rate, most will recommend running between 170 and 190 strides per minute.

In 2012, I suffered an impaction fracture of my femur and tibia. My rehab went well, but since that time I've yet to put together a solid year of consistent running. My personal records in both the half and full marathons are still from 2012.

In 2013 I found myself suffering acute knee pain. A few trips to my favorite physical therapist, Sam Olson, had me put back together in decent enough shape to run a sub-three hour marathon in St. Louis.

Sam took a look at my stride through slow motion video, and pointed out a few things I could fix. One easy fix was increasing my stride rate.

My wife, Laura, has also dealt with a couple of running injuries including plantar fascitis and knee bursitis. She was also advised to increase her stride rate.

Increasing stride rate can be done a few ways, but the easiest way is to listen to a metronome as you run. I'd aim for slowly increasing stride rate for a week or so until you're closer to 180 steps per minute. Aim for an increase of 3-5 steps per minute every run. Research has shown that this can alleviate knee pain and other running ailments.

The following video does a nice job describing how to safely increase your stride rate:



Run well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Life Balance

Image credit: on being.org
 Distance runners can do some amazing things--it takes discipline, focus, and self-control to be an athlete. It takes even more of those things to be an athlete and an empathetic, loving, citizen of earth.

Runs, bike rides, walks, and other exercises are nice times to think about such things: to enjoy the world we live in; to think about the advantages we've been blessed with; to think about those without those advantages.


So, on your next run, bike ride, or walk, take some time to think about such things. Where can you show kindness? Forgiveness? How might you be able to help others?

If, after thinking, you'd like to share some of your joy and advantages, consider how you could do that. I had an amazing time fundraising for Team World Vision back in 2014--I felt like I was putting my time spent running to good use.

If you'd like to use your time spent exercising to bring hope to others, here's some causes to consider:
In my life, running sometimes takes precedence over the more important aspects of my life: faith, family, friends, and my job as a teacher. I'm not a perfectionist, but what I do I like to do well. Part of keeping things in balance means taking care of my time.

Time spent running is generally time well spent--unless it's taking time from something more important.

How do you spend your time?

Run well.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Progression Run

Progression runs are a staple of many training programs. The idea of a progression run is to start easy, then finish at a faster pace.

The great thing about progression runs is the ability to tailor them to your training needs and abilities. Many training plans use them to improve endurance for longer races like half marathons and marathons. Others use them to hit a variety of paces during the same run.

Whether you're using a training plan or not, a progression run can be a nice addition to your workout routine. Start a run at an easy pace, then slowly speed up to a harder pace. Depending on your goals and comfort level, you can make the harder portions longer or faster.

A few examples:

Four mile progression run:
  • 1 - 1.5 miles very easy pace
  • 1.5 - 2 miles moderate pace 
  • 1 mile hard

Six mile progression run:
  • 1 - 2 miles very easy 
  • 2 - 3 miles moderate
  • 1 - 2 miles moderate/hard
  • 1 mile hard

Long progression run:
  • This workout can be done numerous ways. One third to one half of the run can be completed at easy pace. Then, accelerate slowly to a moderate pace. 
  • How fast you progress to will depend on what type of race you're training for:
    • Half marathoners will want to progress down to about 10k pace, and marathoners to about half marathon pace. 
    • Runners training for shorter distances like 5k or 10k will want to run only a small portion of the end of this run at race pace.
I haven't given any specific paces for progression runs. Many training plans will specific paces such as: 3 miles at easy pace, 2 miles at marathon pace, and 2 miles at half marathon pace.

Doing a progression run with preset paces is fine, but I prefer to run more by feel. Learning to run by feel takes practice, and in a future post I'll give some ideas on how it can be done.

Back at It

This week marked my return to my regular job as a middle school language arts teacher. Posts will be less frequent for the foreseeable future as I'll be teaching a new grade level with a busier schedule than last year.

 Winners!

I did have some winners on the give away, so read the comments on Give Away to see the tough weekend workouts of some readers of this blog.



Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Long Run

The long "run" is a strange and mysterious creature. "Long" is already a relative term, and though run means, "to ambulate with both feet off the ground simultaneously for a period of time," very few long runs involve running the whole time.

Most people stop to drink or use the bathroom. Many break up their runs with walk breaks. Theories of long runs, specifically in marathon training, abound: Jeff Galloway has popularized the run/walk method. His beginner plan for completing a marathon includes a 26 mile run/walk.

The Hanson program has an advanced plan with the longest run topping out at 16 miles. Hal Hidgon's beginner plan has its longest run at 20 miles.

So what works? I somewhat followed the Hal Higdon plan for my first marathon. When my competitive nature took over, I started adding workouts from other training plans. Those workouts may have gotten me faster, but they also got me injured.

I followed a Brad Hudson training plan.for my next marathon. That plan had me top out around 22 miles. I dropped almost fourteen minutes off my marathon time from October, 2009 to May, 2010. However, I would not attribute that success to more long runs or longer long runs.

Anyone training for a marathon needs to find what works for them. Consider factors like running experience, time constraints, and what you enjoy. There's nothing magic about long runs. They're an important part of the training schedule, but how you respond to training will be different than how someone else responds.

Chasing a magic number of miles or pace can be a recipe for injury. I can appreciate the OCD of distance runners. We run around the block to "finish" our 20 milers (I've done it many times). But whether you're running 19, 20, 22, or 16 miles, the number isn't nearly as important as the overall training plan.

My issue has always been injury. I don't mind doing strength exercises, but I tend to slack off--especially as my running ramps up. I'm not unique in this among runners.

Others dread longer runs. They may start out to run 14 miles, but after six miles or so, they decide that 10 will be enough.

Don't fall into either of these traps. Skipping or skimping long runs when marathon training generally leads to a long, painful marathon. It can also lead to injury because the body is not ready to go 26.2 miles--it's never been on its feet for that long.

Endless pursuit of hitting a distance or time--for a long run or weekly mileage--can also seriously hinder life balance. Do you have enough time and energy for injury prevention workouts, proper sleep, work, healthy eating, and quality time with friends and family? If you're disciplined and can hold it in balance, great.

If you're like me and running tends to creep into other areas of your life, you might want to re-prioritize.

If you have any thoughts about long runs, please comment here, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Run well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Group Exercise

During the summer months, I often lack motivation to go for a run--especially a longer run.

I'll sometimes set out to run seven or eight miles, only to become bored and end up running only four or five miles. Workout distance is relative, so whatever distance or time you're running can become a drag in solitude.

The solution for many people is to become involved in a group. Group runs abound, and they be a great way to meet new people.

Research shows that people who exercise with a group have a better chance of maintaining a workout routine.

Many running clubs offer trial periods or no fees at all. Here are some resources for group runs in the Twin Cities area:
  • MDRA
    • Free group runs and marathon training classes for a fee
  • Mill City Running
    • Group runs on Tuesdays for beginners and for all runners on Wednesdays
For those who don't enjoy running or prefer group exercise in another setting, group exercise classes, group bike rides, and team sports offer social time and support in fitness goals.

From time to time I've enjoyed being a semi-regular attendee at spin classes, yoga, and a boot camp-type class at the YMCA.

Whom do you like to train with? Leave a comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway by leaving on comment on this blog post:


Friday, July 24, 2015

Give Away!

It's raining this morning in Eagan, MN. Light thundershowers, some humidity, and a temperature of around 66 Fahrenheit. The rain is supposed to cleat by later this morning, so I'm looking forward to a mid-morning run or ride depending on how the legs are feeling today.

What about you? What's your plan for fitness this weekend? A run? Bike ride? Maybe you're headed for a hike, a walk, or working your arm muscles gardening or casting for muskie.

If you don't have a plan for the weekend, get one! Try one of my workouts of the week or another short routine.

Leave a brief description of your weekend workout to win some sweet prizes, including:
  • Training plan recommendation
  • Training plan
  • Coach recommendation
  • A gear bag from a race I've paced (several styles available)
  • A tech shirt from a race I've run or paced that doesn't fit me or I won't wear (several sizes available)

To be entered, leave a comment describing your workout. Keep it to fewer than 200 words. Add a link for an extra entry. Subscribe by e-mail for an extra entry.

Depending on the amount of entries, two winners will be chosen. You will be able to select two items from the above list. Prizes will be made available for pick up at a running store in the Twin Cities. For a really good entry, I'll consider mailing.

Bags and Medium shirts. Some smalls and large shirts available and a couple other bags
Leave your comment below (not on Facebook), and subscribe by e-mail. Enter by midnight CST, July 31. Winners will be selected arbitrarily.

Run well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Maintenance Routine

As I get older, I've found mileage to be less important than staying healthy. I can run some reasonably high mileage for several weeks, but if I don't keep up with nutrition, sleep, and a strength routine, I end up injured.

Then, it doesn't matter how many miles per week I've run or how fast I've run any particular workout. If I'm too injured to run, I can't race well, or, even worse, run at all.

In the following video, Ms. McGregor takes Carrie and Michelle through a maintenance routine for building strength and preventing injury (link to C Tolle Run).


Katie gives some great advice on maintenance a routine. Personally, I aim for an injury prevention workout 2-4 times a week, depending on where I'm at in my training cycle.

In the past few years, I had the pleasure of running with all three of these elite athletes at various times. I ran with Carrie Tollefson after her first marathon, the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon. She's a great personality, and I really enjoyed interviewing her for a RunMinnesota story.

At the 2012 MDRA 7 mile, I got to cool down with Michelle Frey and Katie McGregor, two elite athletes who won and placed in various state and national events including the Olympic Marathon Trials.

As Carrie is fond of saying, "Get after it!"

Run well.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Training in the Heat

River City Ramble 1/2 Marathon, 2011
Since moving back to the Midwest from the island paradise of Hawaii, I've had a weird relationship with weather. Running in the cold has become much easier for me. Other than traction issues, dressing appropriately makes most winter weather running manageable.

Heat, however, is a different story. There are only so many layers one can shed before law enforcement gets involved.

That said, running in the heat, when done intelligently, is phenomenal for training adaptations. Research has shown heat training leads to similar gains than training at altitude.

Read this nice article from Runner's World, "Heat Stress, Plasma Volume, and the Benefits of Dehydration" for a detailed look at how to train in the heat.

Run well.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Evan Jager: A New American Record

Evan Jager has set a new American World Record in the Steeplechase. As a former college steeplechaser, watching this race gave me goosebumps.

Jager's been one of my favorite track athletes for years. Though I don't cheer for U.S. Athletes exclusively, it is fun to see a countryman break an American record.

Here's a link to the story on lets run: "In A Brave, Brave Run, Evan Jager Nearly Crushes The World’s Best In Men’s Steeple, Settles For 8:00.43 American Record."

Watch the entire race here:


If you didn't watch the above race, I'll give you a synopsis. Jager, an Olympic steeplechaser, was on pace to not only set an American record, but to win the race against the world's best. He fell.

Still, he got back up, set the record, and finished second. I don't know what went through his head, but I can imagine. In a post-race interview, Jager said, "My lead toe just barely clipped the barrier and I could not do anything to stop myself from falling… I can’t believe I did that… I tried to get myself up as fast as I could…. to dip under 8 [minutes] still, and I just missed it, and I’m incredibly pissed right now.”

On a rainy day at the University of Doane, I slipped on the water jump barrier and fell--twice. After the first time, a crowd had gathered to "cheer" at the barrier. When I fell the second time--even less gracefully than the first--the crowd grew even larger.

I finished that race in last place in my slowest time of the season and of my "career." At the conference meet a month or so later, I ran a personal best--over a minute faster than the rainy Doane meet. My time, 10:21, was nowhere near elite, but I felt proud--proud because I'd run a clean race, clearing every barrier without so much as a stumble.

Jager should be proud, but he is certainly entitled to feel "pissed off." He could have won the race. He could have broken eight minutes. He didn't.

Another meet, another time, he might. I think he will. But the next time, Jager will think of his fall, and when he clears the final barrier without falling, I think he'll be smiling.

Run well. 

The Seven Minute Workout

Check out this workout on the New York Times Well Blog by Gretchen Reynolds:

The Scientific Seven Minute Workout

Image Credit: Ben Wisemen, NY Times

Seven minutes isn't much time, so I'll be incorporating this workout into my strength training routine once my legs and hips are recovered from the Afton 50k.

If you're a regular runner and you hate strength training, the seven minute length should reduce your hesitation. Each exercise should be done for 30 seconds with a ten second rest in between.

The recommended intensity is an 8 out of 10. Reynolds writes, "Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant." Although it'll be a tough workout, seven minutes is only a couple songs on your workout mix--not too bad for a full body workout.

Some recommendations for The Seven Minute Workout:
  • On a running day, do this workout after your run. 
    • Fatiguing your running muscles can lead to poor form and can increase the risk of injury.
    • Don't do this workout on a true rest day. If you're cross training or don't need to recover from a hard workout, go ahead and try it.
    • Pay attention to how you feel the day after this workout. If you're starting to feel sore on a run, ease up. It's OK to walk or cut a run short to prevent injury.
  • It's more important to do these exercises correctly than quickly.
    • Don't try to do this workout in seven minutes at full intensity the first time (or even the second).
    • Watch the video provided with the 7-Minute Workout App, or watch a video on You Tube.
    • If you are already injured or have a history of injuries, do this workout with a physical therapist or an excellent personal trainer to ensure proper form.

The NY Times blog post includes a link for the 7-Minute Workout App, and a link to an advanced seven minute workout.


If you'd like to make a recommendation for a quick strength routine, do so in the comments below.

Run well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cross Training: Strength Training

Recovering athletes everywhere still do a lot of strength training. I see them at the gym, squatting incredibly large barbells laden with forty five pound metal plates.

When I was first married, I still cared about being "buff." I played softball, so having strong abdominal, leg, back, chest, and arm muscles was beneficial for hitting and running.

In retrospect, the hours in the gym maybe led to six home runs and a fairly questionable status of being "buff." Those hours may have been better spent taking a nap after my 5:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m. shift at a Mayo Clinic lab.

To those who enjoy lifting weights, more power to you. As a runner, I can appreciate the goal setting involved--reaching a new maximum lift on the bench press; squatting twice your body weight for the first time; setting up a program to build a strength base on which to increase your maximum power--all of these are very similar to a running program.

For runners who weight train, the biggest piece of advice I can give is this: you are an experiment of one. If you like lifting heavy weights and enjoy the muscle tone you see in the mirror, keep lifting how you're lifting.

If you like being a little bulkier to achieve that Men's Health cover model look, go right ahead with your heavy weights and moderate repetitions.

If, however, you want to lift to prevent injury and/or become a faster runner, you may want to consider changing your lifting routine. More mass = more weight to carry over any given distance. If that mass is lean muscle of the slow twitch or intermediate fast twitch variety, you may see performance improvements (read about muscle fibers here).

Again, you are an experiment of one, and there are many factors that aid or hinder performance other than weight or body composition. In the end, more mass equals more weight to carry and more load on your joints. Look at the body types of elite runners, and on the whole you'll see lean women and men with very little mass in their shoulders, arms, or pectoral muscles.

If you want to know what the ideal body type looks like for marathon runners, watch this video:

I'm bias toward body weight exercises: running specific yoga and core training, calf raises on my stairs, and glute exercises to reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, finding running-related workouts is easier than ever. Runner's World has a "Yoga Center" where you can watch yoga routines specifically for runners.

While these videos are helpful, finding an in-person yoga instructor who can help with your own body peculiarities can be even more beneficial. My long rib cage is great for lung capacity, but on certain yoga poses it presses against my long, narrow hips, making some twisting poses uncomfortable.

A couple of years ago, I was doing yoga with an excellent instructor at the YMCA. She knew that runners do not want a lot of static flexibility in the hamstrings, and she consistently offered alternative poses or rolled-up blankets to make poses more comfortable.

After a few sessions with her, I'm now more comfortable doing yoga on my own. Unfortunately, the instructor moved to California, though I can't say that I blame her. At the last session I attended she was several minutes late because her car wouldn't start--the air temperature that morning was negative five degrees F.

The biggest difficulty I have with strength training is sticking to a routine. If I have an extra hour, I want to run. What's been most helpful for me is doing short routines of ten to twenty minutes. There's no need to set aside an hour when less time will suffice to prevent injury.

Look for future posts on cross training for runners. Strength training can be fun, but I much prefer cycling or hiking to hanging out in a gym.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Smile

I run and cycle a lot--most weeks I spend at least six hours traveling by foot or bicycle. Too often, I encounter runners looking completely miserable. The other day I passed a woman running the other direction. Her head was down, her ear buds were in, and her face was contorted into a painful grimace.

If you're going to exercise, why not enjoy yourself? It baffles me to see people outside, in beautiful weather, looking like they're getting a root canal.

Running should be fun. If you're not having fun, why do it? While I'm out for a run, seeing another runner smiling, nodding their head in my direction, and saying, "hi," always makes my run more enjoyable. Positive energy is contagious.

Sharing that joy of motion while running is just one benefit of smiling while you run.

Researchers have found that people who smile more often are happier. Does this mean that happy people smile, or that smiling itself makes you happy? Scientists have found that it goes both ways. They've also found that people experience less pain when they're smiling (read this article from Scientific American).

So when you're on your next run, bike ride, or walk through the park, smile. If you don't make someone else's travels more enjoyable, you just might enjoy what you're doing more.

Run well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Traffic Etiquette

There's nothing more effective at spiking my heart rate on a run or a bike ride than a driver's angry honk or yell. Yesterday, as I biked north on Galaxy Ave from Apple Valley to Eagan, I waited at a stop light at the intersection of Cliff Rd and Galaxy Ave. When the light turned green, I climbed onto my bike and began pedaling across the intersection.

As I moved past the intersection, a driver behind me shouted, "Get off the road!" My heart rate spiked and my adrenal glands spewed testosterone into my bloodstream. I turned to look over my right shoulder to see the cretin voicing his ignorance of Minnesota traffic laws (read here, and here).

I don't raise the finger indicating extreme displeasure with someone's driving behavior, but seeing the driver of a black sedan leaning out the window, cigarette hanging from his mouth, staring at me from behind his sunglasses with the kind of vitriol normally reserved for seal clubbers, certainly put the thought of extending the magic finger into my head.

In the 0.37 seconds I had to consider extending my finger, I remembered that I wasn't, "that sort of person." By the time I remembered to give the less offensive "thumbs down" gesture, the moment had passed.

My thoughts turned to righteous indignation as I contemplated the general ignorance of traffic laws, specifically in relation to runners and cyclists. I could write an entire post listing the 100+ times I've been yelled at by drivers while biking or running, but I'll save that for another post.

Really, road rage is brought on by the stress of moving faster than one is used to. Most humans can't travel faster than 8 MPH for an extended time, so as soon as they begin moving faster than that, they enter a state of stress.

This stress is manageable for humans who've practiced--think of the first time you road a bicycle: Scary, right? How about when you learned to drive? Were you nervous? If you weren't, I know your parents were.

So, drivers who fail to anticipate the road ahead or who think they have the right to get to wherever they're going faster than anyone else, tend to experience higher stress. This can lead to anxiety-induced poor driving or road rage.

What this means for bikers, runners, and anyone who gets honked at, yelled at, or flipped off, is to refrain from engaging in a confrontation. People who deal with chronic road rage can become violent. Don't make an angry driver more angry by flipping them off or engaging in a shouting match.

A couple of years ago, I was running down the same stretch of road as yesterday's bike ride. My training called for a tempo run, so I was running a fair amount faster than my normal pace (read: I was in a state of stress). When a silver SUV rolled through a stop sign, I politely let the driver know to watch for pedestrians by smacking the side of his vehicle as I rounded its rear end.

Continuing down the sidewalk, I heard the squeal of brakes and the shouts of an angry driver, "Come back here M@TF%&! I'll kick your ass!" were among the many hateful words spewing from the young man's word hole.

Not wanting to know if the young man was packing heat or ready to take out a tire iron, I politely waved and continued on my run.

Running, biking, and driving can be fun. Take some deep breaths today--enjoy those activities. Don't let stress get the best of you.

Feel free to share a story about road rage--I'll plead the fifth on all the times I've lost it while driving.

Run well.


Icing Injuries

Back when I was in college, ice "baths" and ice massages were a regular part of running-related injury treatment. Now, however, research indicates that icing may not be an effective treatment for overuse injuries common in running.

Icing may be beneficial for acute injures like an ankle sprain, but compression may be just as effective.

Ice baths, whether in an athletic facility's whirlpool or in your own tub, may actually decrease your performance gains. Inflammation is the body's response for "healing" muscles after vigorous exercise like running, cycling, or weightlifting, and icing reduces inflammation. While this may be helpful for sprains and other acute injuries, its benefit for recovery from a hard workout or overuse injuries is questionable.

Keep in mind that we are all an experiment of one, so if you feel icing is beneficial, do it. I take ice baths after racing marathons, but the frigid water is not something I desire on a regular basis. If, however, you are dealing with an overuse injury that hasn't healed for a week or more, stop icing. Instead, consider compression, changing footwear, and reducing the volume or intensity of your training.

Run well.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Salazar - Running Villain or Innovative Coach

Salazar's Rise to the Top

The 1982 Boston Marathon has been frozen in time as one of the great moments of US running History. In "Duel in the Sun," John Brandt describes the lives of Alberto Salazar, a hard-working Catholic boy and son of Cuban immigrants, and Dick Beardsley, a Minnesota farm-boy who would later develop an addiction to various pain medications.

While both athletes had their faults, I've always identified with Beardsley's vulnerability and honesty when describing his battles with addiction.

Both Bearsdley and Salazar found little success in the marathon following their 1982 duel,  but Salazar went on to make a name for himself winning the Comrades Marathon and coaching elite athletes for Nike's Oregon Project.

 Oregon Project's athletes speak out

Recently, Salazar has been accused of providing his athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Some of his athletes, including Kara Goucher, have denounced Salazar's training practices.

The alleged practices include providing runners with testosterone supplements and medications designed for thyroid disorders and asthma. Several runners have claimed that Salazar was doing so without their knowledge.

Propublica has an interesting article laying out the allegations in more detail.

After reading Salazar's book, "14 minutes ," I came away with the impression of Salazar as a very driven human being, but also arrogant and entitled--like his success was something he deserved (review here).

Though I like to assume positive intentions for all people, I can't help rooting against Salazar, which is unfortunate because I'm a big fan of some of his athletes. One of my favorite moments in sports was watching two of his athletes, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, finish first and second in the 2012 Olympics.

Salazar makes a nice villain for running, but it's hard to know how to cheer "against" him. I want his athletes to do well, but I want him out of the sport. What is an appropriate punishment for cheating in for running coaches? Fines? Bans? A demand for transparency?

I say all of the above, but the IOC and the USATF will be responsible for those decisions.

In the meantime, I'll continue to be a fan of the sport, while  routing for justice to be done. Bring on the bans, fines, and demand for information. Salazar needs to know he's not above the rules, and he doesn't have the right to the time and talents of Nike-sponsored athletes.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Coaching Options

Welcome to Twin Cities Runner Coaching! My name is Nate Leckband, and I offer consultations and training plans for new or experienced runners. Depending on your needs, I am able to do the following:
  • Steer you to well-established training plans and methods
  • Answer questions about one or more training plans you're interested in
  • Create a custom training schedule suitable to your running preferences and goals
I'm happy to provide help for whatever your running goals may be. I've worked with brand-new runners, somewhat experienced runners, and semi-competitive runners. As a Running Room Clinic Instructor and a personal coach, I've helped runners run their first 5k, 10 mile, half marathon, and marathon. I've also helped several runners run new best times at distances ranging from 5k to the marathon.

I keep up-to-date on the latest research and trends in running, and believe that running is not only good for the body, but can help improve many aspects of life. Runners I've worked find a variety of reasons to run, such as:
  • Getting back in shape, or in better shape
  • Running a race for the first time
  • Becoming more competitive or set a new best time
  • Getting motivated and energized in life
  • Feeling better emotionally and physically
Read about some of the athletes I've coached on the Testimonials page.
Feel free to contact me with any questions at: leckbann@gmail.com
 
Afton 50k, 2011

Check out my past runnings and ramblings at: Twin Cities Runner

Sunday, May 31, 2015

How it Began - Twin Cities Coaching

In 2010 I paced my first half marathon, the Minneapolis Half Marathon. I'd been working for the Minnesota Reading Corps--my first "real job" out of college. My $1100 monthly stipend came to about $9.16 per hour. I was making less per hour than I'd earned working at a group home, but I was excited to be putting my teaching degree to work.

During my breaks, I was checking Runner's World Message Boards, mostly lurking, reading about training plans, philosophies, and runners' experiences.

Believe it or not, at times I can be a little bit shy. I finally got brave enough to ask a question in the Hudson Forum, a discussion post about Brad Hudson's training plans as recorded in "Run Faster from the 5k to the Half Marathon."

On the main forum page was forum called, "Minnesota Running Wild." I didn't know what it was all about, but after reading through it, I found a group of runners who met around the Twin Cities, and even had some racing singlets and tech shirts.

Awesome. I worked up the nerve to go on a group run on the Luce Line Trail in Hopkins, Minnesota. Following the run, I met with Don, the pace team coordinator for the Minneapolis Marathon and Half Marathon. I told Don I'd qualified for Boston and was now looking to help some other runners meet their goals. He asked me to pace the 1:45 half marathon group. The pacing gig included a meeting with a free drink and a pair of Mizuno running shoes.

The perks were great, but I was still nervous about pacing. I practiced that 8:01 pace for several runs, including a practice half marathon the weekend before the race. It was hot, but I finished the course along River Road in Minneapolis at almost exactly 1:45.

At the time, 1:45 was the time needed to get into the "A" corral at the Twin Cities Marathon. In the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon, I'd weaved my way in and out of the crowd for the first seven miles, so I knew how important it could be to get into the first corral.

At the expo I watched experienced pacers answer questions, and by the end of the day I had a powder blue Minneapolis Marathon hat and a Mizuno Team Ortho Pacer singlet.

The morning of the race, I chatted with a group of a little over a dozen runners. Some were running their first half marathon, and about six were aiming for that sub-1:45 time--either for a personal best time or a ticket to the first corral of the Twin Cities Marathon.

During the race I learned how exciting it can be to watch a runner sprint past me to the finish. To have a runner come up to me after the race to thank me. To watch a runner stay just ahead of the pace group, surging to the finish in a new best time.

After the race, a short-statured pacer, Junal, and another casual running acquaintance, Steve, walked with me back toward the runners. We cheered under a bridge as the last of the half marathoners ran down a hill about a quarter of a mile from the finish.

"Turn on those wheels!" was my new favorite cheer. As the half marathoners were finishing, the first of the marathoners were now coming down the hill. I'm still amazed at the dedication, guts, and speed of those sub-three hour marathoners as they finish at a pace faster than seven minutes a mile--almost as impressive as those runners out in the sun, heat, or rain--running four hours or more with nothing to prove except their own dedication and hard work.

After the race, Don bought another runner and me a beer. We talked running, pacing, and life. I was hooked.

I've now paced over twenty half marathons in the past five years, and it's been an amazing ride. Since then, I've led and been a guest speaker for Running Room clinics. I've written training plans for runners, including:
  • Brittany: Who was about to qualify for Boston before becoming pregnant with twins
  • Autumn: Who training for and ran her first 7k on a cold and icy March day in Minneapolis
  • Lois: My mother, who last year won her age group at the Laugh-and-a-half 5k
  • Paul: My father, who ran his first 5k in over ten years at the age of 61
  • Jon: Who ran a personal best of almost 12 minutes at the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon at 3:05, then came back with a 3:03 six weeks later at Grandma's marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon

Thanks to all the athletes that have inspired me thus far. Read about their stories here:

Testimonials

Run well,

Nate

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