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.

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