The Importance of Having Secondary Goals

img_0699Last night I was participating in a Twitter chat hosted by HealthYourWayOnline an online health and fitness magazine. It is held every Monday at 8pm ET. If you have never been a part of a Twitter chat the host will ask questions, in this case health related, and you respond via Tweet. 

The first question of the night was “How do you define a “great” workout?” I always have multiple goals for each workout whether strength training or running. It might be a certain pace or a certain distance if I am running. If it is a strength workout I aim for a certain weight lifted, reps, sets, etc.

But what do you do when your legs don’t quite have that zippiness on those repeats? Or try as you might you just cannot hold a desired pace on a run.  Or even have to cut short your planned distance? When strength training there are certainly days when 200 pound front squats feel more like 400lbs. You cannot just pack it in that just breeds complacency.

That is why it important to have secondary goals for those not quite perfect days. Case in point was my training today. I went to the local track to do a speed work session of 400 meter repeats. Right off the bat the first repeat was far slower than my previous 400’s workout pace (based on my 3000 meter pace).  There were a few factors (maintenance work being done on the track, 15 mph headwind, it was cold and I was wearing many more layers) I wanted to just throw in the towel.

Just quitting will not get you to where you want or need to be. Believe me it would have been far easier to quit yesterday when things were not going right.  So I went to a secondary goal. Since I will not run 3000 meters again until May I decided to use my 5k pace for today’s target pace. That was still difficult but I managed to hit all my splits except one at just under 5k pace. Rather than feeling upset I did not hit my original goal I still was able to leave the track feeling positive about my training session especially considering the conditions.

That mindset of having secondary goals also applies to my strength training. There are some days like I mentioned above where the weights just feel heavier. Again I have a plan of beating my reps or weight used from week to week. Here is what I have done when a strength training session starts to go wrong.

Say for example I was scheduled to do a workout of 5×4 front squats with 190 pounds. Well for whatever reason I was struggling to get more than 3 reps. I will stop after the three reps. My total volume for the squats was to have been 25, 5 sets of 4 reps+20 reps. I will then increase my sets until the volume of training equals what would have been otherwise my target goal.

Once again training this way I still net a training effect and can leave the gym knowing I did the same amount of work. It is important to take away something positive from all of your workouts. It doesn’t need to mean you ignore the fact that it did not go as planned. Track your training and see if it was a blip on the radar or a trend. More than likely if you have secondary goals to reach for it will be just a blip or a small bump in the road.

Friday October 21st Training

41b481b2-6417-42cf-bfb6-eaad2ec6a7faI finally had a little time today to sit and blog. So after yesterday I was inspired to share my last two workouts, after responding to one of my Twitter followers Nicerunnerguy26.2 or @abrego_jacob .

His question was “How do you guys use Twitter to assist with your running lifestyle.”  I personally use it to interact with you my fellow runners. I love to see what you all are doing for workouts. What works, what does not? I enjoy seeing your pictures of where you run.  I try to learn from you all whether you run middle distance like I do or run long distance or even super long Ultra distances. I especially pay attention to some of the workouts you all share. Sometime I need to shake things up in my own training or just need to be inspired by your posts and shares. Believe me many of you inspire my training.

I love when clients of mine or even a friend messages me behind the scenes and thanks me for sharing some of my workouts because it inspires them. So as I mentioned above here are my two quality workouts of the three planned for this week that I have done already.

Quality Workout #1

One mile warmup moderate pace.

12×200 with a 200 meter jog recovery at faster than race pace but definitely not a sprint. Rest 1-2 minutes.

One mile cooldown easy pace.

Two twenty second striders.

Notes: I really like this workout for its shorter work distance. It allows you to really let fly and run hard because you know the recovery jog is right up ahead. The faster speed really challenges your fast twitch muscle fibers, while the jog and shorter rest periods will help keep you closer to your aerobic training zones and still allow you to get your endurance work in simultaneously.

Quality Workout #2

 This is a new one I made up on the fly. I do not usually run without a plan or purpose for a run but for this one I did. I had an idea for it that it needed to incorporate a hill that was about it. I loved this session so much I am already looking forward to getting to do it again in two weeks.

Warmup 3.5 miles. This basically takes me out and then back to the base of the hill I use for the repeats.

.25 mile run up hill.

.25 mile downhill (overspeed training and work on landing softly)

.25 mile up hill again.

Rest 60 seconds.

1x 100 meter sprint on the crest of the hill.

Easy .75 mile jog around the block and back to the base of the hill. At this point I will repeat all of the above except this final time I do not do the .75 recovery jog.

I follow this up with some form drills.

I hope you try these workouts out if they fit into your current training. You can also modify them to fit your needs. Each workout is designed to give you at least five total miles so it should easily fit into most current training programs. The same things do not always work for everyone. If you do try them out drop me an email, or message and let me know what you think.

Happy running!

What Should Come First, Strength Training or Aerobic Training Revisited?

img_0676As a trainer I focus on putting clients into the best position to benefit from their training. I do not have one cookie cutter, one size fits all program for everyone. Many factors are taken into account such as how many days per week they train, what times they can train, do they have injuries, what goals do they have…I could go on forever.

I also factor in other physical activities (running/biking) and have to also balance their goals and schedule, along with the importance of keeping up their strength training. One of my first posts I wrote for my blog discussed the importance of breaking up your strength training and aerobic training.

Just yesterday I came across yet another study that aimed to see what is best to perform, strength training or aerobic training. This study was published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research I find this latest research very important not just for clients but for myself. With a busy schedule I find that on Mondays I have to do a strength training session and then later in the day an aerobic session of intervals or something similar or I just cannot fit enough quality miles into my week. The same goes for clients. Some of them are forced to run and strength train on the same days due to the how busy their schedules can be especially as the week goes on and any possible weekend plans.

So what is the best way to maximize the benefits of both strength and endurance training? According to the study it suggests that you might benefit more by performing your strength training followed by aerobic training later as the earlier aerobic negatively impacts your strength training gains. The study also mentions that it may be that lower body exercises could be more adversely affected than upper body exercises, but you could still benefit from the break in training of the two different exercise methodologies.

This latest exercise science research confirms to me that I should and will continue to train the way I have been. I will also continue training my endurance clients similarly.  With strength training taking place prior to any endurance training, and as with the first study I linked to my blog post from March, preferably with as much as six hours between strength training sessions and endurance training if possible to allow for the most recovery. However the order of your training should be dictated by what your goal is. So if strength and power is your goal then as concluded in the study it should be done first. If endurance training is your goal then train in that mode first.

Happy running!

Be a Healthier Runner – From the Ground UP

Since last April it seems my family is being cursed with ankle and foot injuries. First it was my wife and her broken ankle and then this summer my foot/ankle was injured and finally the last couple weeks my oldest daughter had been fighting off an ankle injury from soccer. Fortunately for my family and I we do not believe in curses. The next step then is to treat the ankle from the ground up.

One of the strength coaches, whom I follow, said and I paraphrase, “When there is an injury do not just look at the area injured. Look above and below the injury when trying to discern the cause of the injury.”

So when treating or pre-habbing (hopefully we avoid rehab) I look to the bottom of the foot first. We start at the bottom of the foot because that is where the back fascial line begins. First let us take a quick look at what is fascia. I do not want to get too scientific but a quick introduction to fascia will help as you read the rest of the article and see how you can benefit from the exercises.

 The fascia is basically a connective tissue made up from bundled up collagen fibers.  The fascia envelops a muscle and can affect how our muscles are functioning and thus can affect our posture. If there is tension in one area such as in our example the base of the foot and the start of the back fascial line begins, then it could have implications further up the line. There have even been links to headaches being caused by lower extremity issues all the way down into the foot.

The back fascial line travels up from the plantar fascia (the bottom of the foot), then up the calves through the Achilles tendon and gastrocnemius, where it then passes through the biceps femoris (hamstrings), then the sacrotuberous ligament on your “sit bones”, through the lumbar spine, and then finally ends its trip at the base of the skull then stopping at the top of the head to your eyebrows.

It is no wonder with how many areas of your body the back line fascia travels that it can cause a multitude of injuries. From plantar fasciitis, to Achilles tendonitis, tight or injured hamstrings, low back pain, neck pain, and even vison and breathing issues, among some others, how important it is to take care of the fascia in your feet.

Now that we have gone over what fascia is and how any injury or issue with it can cause injuries or problems let us now look at a couple simple things you can do at home to treat yourself. We are still thinking prehab before rehab. Believe me the latter will be longer and much more frustrating.

As a runner I know my feet can take a pounding even when I focus on landing softly and not heel striking. While I wimg_0548as dealing with my own ankle injury I would spend between 10-20 minutes per day post run doing an ice bath. I would suggest watching TV, reading a book, or having your phone close as a distraction. The first five minutes can be pretty tough but I felt it really made a difference and once I started using the ice bath I feel my recovery increased.  

Another form of self-treatment and care is self-myofascial release or SMFR. I am sure many of you have used or at least seen someone using a foam roll. I like to perform SMFR on my feet prior to running as a way to wake the feet up and get them ready to run. The foot has a few large nerves, but as with the palms it has many more small nerves that are very sensitive, performing SMFR can help to wake them up.

img_5434I start off performing foot SMFR first using a tennis ball because at first it can be uncomfortable especially if you have never done it before. Then eventually we will move on to using a lacrosse ball which is much denser. After that we graduate to using a golf ball. The golf ball is much denser and being of a smaller diameter you can really pinpoint certain spots on your feet a lot more precisely. You can spend between 1-2 minutes per foot preferably before your other leg stretches.

img_5439There is also a great stretch you can do that would benefit anyone but runners can really get a lot from this. Sit carefully back on your glutes and tuck your toes under and you slowly and I repeat slowly, lean back and add some of your upper body weight back and more centered over your feet. You will try to hold this static stretch for at least 10 seconds. Eventually you can build up your time to 30 seconds and even up to 60 seconds. Some studies show no increased benefit from holding stretches over 30 seconds, so the length of your hold can be to your personal preference but should never hurt. I would also be careful doing this stretch if you have knee issues as the increased torque from having them bent under you can be painful.

img_5441Now that your feet are stretched out and ready to go yet another way you can help out those feet that are such hard workers and may be bearing the brunt of over 2x your bodyweight is to wear compressions socks. They can increase muscle firing and help reduce ground reaction forces that are so tough on everyone and not just runners.  

I hope I gave you some tools in your arsenal to help keep not just your feet healthy but possible other body parts further up your back fascial line. As always happy and healthy running!