Hitting Reset

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B,A,B, A. That was the ultimate video game code from one of my all-time favorite games, Contra, for the old Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. It provided you with 100 lives. Those extra lives were more than enough to get to the end and reach your goal. If only running were that easy. You could simply start right off where you died. At worst you could hit reset and start over.

Ok well thankfully and much less dramatically I did not die, so that is a plus! However my April training has in a sense died in its forward progress. I have had to overcome so many obstacles this year in my training that I have decided to not run in this year’s Connecticut Master’s Games. The last two years I had competed at the Games. This always the main race in my schedule and is usually one of my first which is only adding to my disappointment.

My April started off great! I was hitting some really great numbers in regards to weekly mileage, number of quality runs, and pace. That is until the week before Easter and we had  to help my wife get to Florida for work.  Kids on vacation, many of my clients away, new tires, an oil change and we were underway on our impromptu ‘family’ vacation.

I had many mixed feeling of this. Recently I had been complaining to my wife that we had not had a real ‘vacation’ in forever. Well now we were and not only that we were going to the Star Wars Celebration too! This was going to be an incredible experience I could share with my daughters. From lunch with two sets of aunts and uncles to an airboat tour this was going to be a busy trip.  However with the crazy hours my wife has to work there was literally no time to get any training in. I literally did run one mile.

This should have been my last big push before the Master’s Games. I really needed to get some quality speedwork sessions in on the track since that is where the competition is held. With the late Winter snows, local high schedule, and my daughter’s schedules, track workouts, my bread and butter have not been consistent

I got home from Orlando the Monday after Easter around 1:30am. As tired I was I dragged myself out of bed. I trained a client then went for an easy run. The goal was five miles but ended up being 4.30. I threw in a couple striders then headed home. I started to feel really tight in my right quad. I thought to myself, you did not run all last week why run faster than your easy pace? Well the next morning my quad bothered me even more. Fast forward to the weekend and between weather, local high school sports, and my quad once again there is no speedwork to be done.  This weekend brought more of the same as my daughter had a soccer tournament both days.

Factoring all these things in I have decided to not run in the Master’s Games. I am actually ok with it. I was leaning toward that decision on Sunday anyway. While at my daughter’s soccer game on Sunday there was a baseball game going on behind us on an adjacent field. I used to play on a softball team and even got to go play in the U.K. and Scotland one year. After that, I also began playing vintage base ball (yes two words in 1864 the year of the rules we followed). I stopped playing both once my daughter started playing travel soccer, I never wanted to miss any of her games. I thought I would miss it, but I never did. That is how I knew it was right for me to stop playing.

Oddly enough I feel the same now. I’m disappointed at losing the opportunity to compete but am totally ok with my decision.  I refuse to look back on the great trip I had with my girls to Orlando and the Star Wars Celebration with anything other than the joy and happiness I felt there. It was truly an experience I will never forget. That fact that I shared it with my daughters is even better. I was getting so focused on my training I was losing sight of the bigger picture, which was one of the things I blogged about in my “Everything I Know About Running I Learned From Start Wars” blog post, specifically #38.

What I will do though is hit reset on my training. Like those old school video games you could hit restart or revert back to your saved game. While I cannot back and start right where I left off I also do not need to throw out all my training and start over. I will be smart and ease back into it.

I have now set new goals. I have a Father’s Day race coming up in June, and will that as a tune up and springboard into some summer Cross Country races, and maybe I will still compete on the track this summer.  I have now had three weeks, one where I had no running at all, and two others with very reduced mileage and inconsistency.

My focus has been not on myself but helping my oldest daughter and her soccer team by filling in a bit in the coaching area. My other focus is on my youngest daughter who has been dealing with some challenges. We have been trying to work through them and rather than focus on my own running and victories I want to celebrate hers. 

I am now feeling mentally ready to take on my first real training in almost a month. I feel renewed mentally and physically. Today I find myself ready and looking forward to the miles! I believe I should have backed off my training earlier in the winter but that is neither here nor there. I am where I should be based on circumstances, with my feet pointed straight, my laces double knotted, and my Garmin trying to connect.

Everything I Know About Running I Learned From Star Wars

I am back from a long week of vacation down to Orlando Florida. My wife had a business trip planned at the same time my daughters were on spring break from school.  She had an issue with her flight and had to find a way to get to FL.  So, since most of my clients were also going to be away for the week we loaded our two daughters and drove straight through the night.

I have been a fan of Star Wars ever since I first saw it on the big screen when I was just four. I have been obsessed with it since. My daughters have also become huge fans. So getting to go to the Star Wars Celebration was an amazing experience I got to share with them. The celebration was especially amazing since it was the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars. I cannot put into words how incredible and surreal it was. From the people I met, the things I saw, and best of the fact that I spent I did with my two daughters is priceless. The people dressed up really at times made you feel as though you were in that galaxy far, far away.

I saw a really cool image from the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars that had 30 life lessons from Star Wars. I thought that was a great idea and decided I would create and share with you my own list of things I learned from Star Wars and how that applies to my other love, which is running but with a 40th Anniversary spin. Besides my faith and family, which of course come first Star Wars and running are a huge part of my life. When you are passionate about something it is not just something you do, but something that becomes a part of you. Here is where I warn you of the many pictures and Star Wars puns, pictures and references that are coming. After the first lesson they are not in any particular order of importance. I find #39 particularly insightful.

Everything I Learned About Running I Learned From Star Wars 40th Anniversary

1)      “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” –Jedi Master Yoda Put simply if something is important to you will focus your efforts toward that pursuit. Saying you will try implies you are not putting you full heart into it.

 

2)      There are always two. A Master and an Apprentice. Never stop learning. There are always ways we can make ourselves better runners.

3)      Embrace being a Master (runner). I embrace the fact that I am getting older. However running and taking myself keeps me younger. The alternative is not being able to run.

4)      Anger, fear, aggression lead to the dark side.  Don’t chase the easy oath. Do not cheat, cut courses, compete using banned substances, bandit races, etc. You do not just hurt other but yourself in the long run.

5)      “Size matters not. Judge me by size do you?” –Jedi Master Yoda.  Do not judge others. We are all runners now matter our size or shape.

6)      “Don’t underestimate the power of the Force”- Darth Vader Believe in yourself. You can accomplish so much more with confidence then you can with negative thoughts.

7)      “Great kid! Don’t get cocky”- Han Solo Remember there is always someone faster or that can run farther than you. Do not put others down, instead build them up. We are all in this galaxy together.

8)      Faith in your family and friends is an asset not a weakness. Our families and friends are truly so much a part of our success.

9)      Running has been the best way for me personally to keep myself from looking like the guy behind us. Find modes of exercise that fit your needs.

10)   “I have a bad feeling about this.” (Who hasn’t said this line in Star Wars?) Let’s face it. There are times when we are training when even before we start we are not quite feeling it. We cannot give up in those moments. If we gave up everything we aren’t 100% or into it, we would hardly ever train.

11)   Find new ways to motivate yourself and others. Along this line Star Wars songs from the soundtrack can really help motivate and make a run feel epic.

12)   “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.”- Obi Wan Kenobi Do not attribute your successes or failures to luck. A lot of preparation and work goes in training. Do not minimize your effort and do not make excuses for a lack of it.

13)   “It’s a trap!” Admiral Ackbar You cannot out train out run a poor diet. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you can eat anything. Most people do not have that kind of metabolism.

14)   “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve par secs.” –Han Solo Speed work is a huge part of getting faster. It cannot be ignored.

15)   “Stop taking my hand! – Rey in The Force Awakens. When I first run with my daughters they have always wanted to hold my hand. I have since let go and though we still run together I have let go and let them run on their own but stay close to support them.

16)   “Is that possible?” -Rey to Han Solo. “I never ask that question until after we’ve done it.” –Han Solo in response. Never sell yourself short and do not be afraid to try new things.

17)   “If you want to be successful in a particular field, perseverance is one of the key qualities.”-George Lucas

18)   “Always pass on what you have learned.”-Yoda to Luke That is why I love training clients and helping people to run faster. I love to share my knowledge and help others achieve their goals. That is another great aspect of the running community. There are so many in the running community who are willing to share things they have learned.

19)   “Your focus determines your reality.”-Qui-Gon Jinn  

20)   “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”-Darth Vader If you don’t believe in yourself who will?

21)   “Be brave and don’t look back. Don’t look back.”-Shmi Skywalker When  you are running focus and run the mile you are in. Do not stress and use energy on the miles already behind you or that lay ahead.

22)   “Never tell me the odds.”-Han Solo Don’t worry about odds. Most runners might never win a race but if they focus on that it takes away from what they can accomplish. You don’t know what you can truly do until you try it.

23)   “Sometimes we must let go of our pride.” -Padme

24)   “You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plough straight ahead.”-George Lucas

25)   Don’t end your training until it is finished. Do not choose the quick and easy path.

26)   “Patience you must have my young padawan.”- Yoda Keep your eye on the big picture but see the many steps it takes to get there.

27)   Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment. I feel this is so important and goes perfectly with #26 so I put them together.

28)   “There’s always a bigger fish.”- Qui-Gon Jinn There are always more accomplished runners. Do not adopt an elitist attitude.

29)   “You taught me well. I can handle anything.” Ahsoka Tano At a certain point there comes a time where we must let those we love succeed or fail on their own.

30)   Acting quickly does not always yield positive results. Pace yourself and good thigs can come to you at the end.

31)   “Would it help if I got out and pushed?”- The late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia to Han Solo Sometimes we all need that person helping to push us on those tough days.

32)   “Stay on target,”- Gold Five Stay focused on your goals.

33)   “This is a new day, a new beginning.”- Ahsoka Tano Had a bad race or run? Tomorrow is a new day. Move on and let it go.

34)   “Let them pass in peace.”-Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One When on the track please move to the outer lanes if there is a faster runner or you are walking.

35)   “Nothing will stand in our way.”-Kylo Ren Refuse to be held back. Do all you can to reach your goals.

36)   Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself at times. Don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. Laugh at your failures, learn from them, but it is ok to laugh.

37)   “It’s a chance for you to make a fresh start.”-Mon Mothma in Rogue One. Each race is a chance for a new PR or to get a positive training effect.

38)   “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations”-Darth Vader in Rogue One Do not get tunnel vision where all you do is run, and train, at the expense of family and your loved ones.

39)   “Arrgg grrrrr arrrg”-Chewbacca ( That is deep Chewy)

40)   The Force will be with you…always.

May the Force Be With You. Happy training.

Take Your Speedwork Off The Traditional Track For a Change Of Pace

It’s  time to get speedwork in on the track! I am not sure about where you live Spring has definitely sprung here. We are still having some chilly wet days, but for the most part the weather has been seasonable. Even better yet, the snow is gone except for some stubborn piles pushed into mounds that are doing their best to resist the inevitable.

With the return of Spring comes the ability to get more speedwork in in the local track.The thought of that makes me estatic!  In bad weather, hills and the beach provide the best locations for speedwork. During the week the local high school track is off limits to the public. This is when I bring my speed sessions to the track at the local city hall. It is a mixture or dirt, clay, and crushed gravel. It is by far not the best to use when trying to maintain a certain pace or hit certain splits. If you throw out the pace and other numbers there are a few reasons I love taking speedwork off the road, beach and even the high school track which is made up of polyurethane or rubber.

1)      Running on the dirt/clay/crushed gravel is  less impact on the legs than running on the high school track. It is an ideal way to still get in speed work without the wear and tear and pounding on your lower body.

2)      The track outlines the baseball field. I will sometimes run on the inside edge of the grass. This slows me down quite a bit but I like to use it the instability of the grass to help strengthen the small muscles of the feet, ankle and lower leg.

3)      Running on the grass further allows part me to reduce ground reaction forces even further for parts of my run.

4)      Running on these types of surfaces are like strength training while running. If you can run hard on less than optimal surfaces that can translate to faster speeds when on surfaces that allow for increased speed.

5)      It allows you to focus on things others than your watch. I am sure you are like me and at times catch yourself glancing at your watch too often. Believe me I understand there are plenty of times where hitting certain splits is important. On different surfaces I can ignore paces and splits and just focus on other things, foot turnover, running mechanics, and perceived exertion.

6)      The particular track I use during the week is not your typical oval. This can be a good option for you the runner since unless you need to know exact splits you can do striders on the straightaways and jog for recovery the curves. With the less than oval shape of the shape of the track there are actually three curves and straightaways. If you can find one similar this gives you different options and can provide your running a different stimulus.

With the five reasons I gave above for why I love not always using a traditional track for speedwork I hope it challenges you to try it out. If you are not already using a track for speedwork now might be the time. You might save yourself some wear and tear and start running faster.

Happy training!

Falling Starts Drill: Using a Sprint Drill For Better Running Form

We are finally in the last week of March and finally closer to more spring like temperatures. But, it sure doesn’t feel that way here in Connecticut. It’s been cold and there were still some last vestiges of winter on the local high school track this weekend.  However, I decided one way or another I was going to get some quality sprint work in.

Since my driveway was clear of snow and ice I decided to use the Falling Start drill. I really like using falling starts a lot. You see them mostly used in sprint training. If you saw my blog post from a couple weeks ago adding some direct sprint training can be helpful to distance runners. I would suggest going to back and reading it.

A runner being able to maintain proper posture when running is very important to run efficiently and can help reduce the ground impact forces. Without a good forward lean you can have a harder time propelling yourself forward. This can result in loss of running efficiency, slower speeds, and more impact on the joints. So, whether running for distance, sprinting, or doing intervals posture plays a big role.

Falling Starts are typically used in sprint training. There are a  variety of reasons I have used this drill with clients, Speed Agility and Quickness classes I have taught, coaching soccer, and within my own training. Below are some reasons why I like this drill.

  • Falling Starts make it easier to land with your feet under your body and on your forefoot. This makes it easier to avoid certain negatives aspects of running such as heel striking.
  • It allows your strides to stay shorter especially at the start. No matter the type of running you do this will help you. You cannot accelerate while your feet are in the air. The more ground contact you have the more acceleration you have.
  • As with the above I like this for distance running since it helps to remind me to keep my feet moving resulting in a higher cadence or steps per minute.
  • By having a forward leaning posture you maintain a more optimal shin angle. The angle of the shin helps to determine the force application. A slightly different example of a positive force angle is a lateral lunge. If you step out far enough your knee stays inside of your ankles and allows your body to push yourself back to the starting position optimally. Distance runners will not likely have as steep an angle as a sprinter.
  • Many distance runners, and those doing intervals do not usually make sprints a part of their training. I like the falling starts since there is a little momentum ahead of the actual sprint. Sprinting is a ballistic movement and if the body is not prepared for it there can be pulled muscle or worse even a tear. Falling starts can help to reduce the intensity of the start phase or drive phase of the sprint.
  • This drill can help with triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip.
  • Falling Starts may be a good way to transition an athlete whose recovering from injury to higher intensity running.

Here are some quick coaching cues before you get started.

  • Be sure you allow yourself plenty of time to be sure you are thoroughly warmed up.
  • Aim to land with your feet directly under your center of mass or hips, possibly even slightly behind.
  • The body can be out in front at a 45 degree angle slightly less so if distance running.
  • Engage and brace your core. This means keeping it tight but not sucked in.
  • Drive those arms! Do not let them drop below waist height.
  • Keep driving those arms. Think cheek to cheek. As one arm drives back your hand goes back and toward your glutes. At the same time your other hand should come up toward your facial cheek. The arms are roughly kept at 90 degrees.
  • Aim to complete 6-12 total Falling Starts. Allow yourself up to 60-90 seconds recovery in between each repetition. Even if you do not feel you need it your body needs the recovery time to allow the chemical processes that make up contractions to replenish themselves. Slowly build your way up to the 12 reps.
  • Finish running your falling start up to 30 yards.

It is important to remember that sprints, falling starts included, are not the same as striders that many runners add at the end of easier runs. These are very hard intense runs at close if not maximum speeds. These can be a nice addition to your training.

Happy training!

Feel Good Friday: Soleus Calf Raises

Well it is another Friday and time for another Feel Good Friday blog post. This week we will return our focus to the ankle complex. If you recall from a blog post a couple weeks back the ankle plays a large role in running. Even more of a role for runners as they get older. Today we will look at and target the soleus muscle which plays a role in ankle movement.

The soleus muscle is one of two large muscles in the calf. The gastrocnemius is the muscle that you typically see especially as you watch someone perform standing calf raises. The soleus sits underneath the gastrocnemius and aids in deceleration of the tibia. This is the lower leg, and during running it comes forward as the ankle dorsiflexes and the tibia angles forward. Dorisflexion is the foot bending backward toward the shin.

The soleus is not worked enough through the standard standing calf raises. Today I will share an exercise that you can do to target it. The soleus muscle makes up the Achillies tendon. As such strengthening it can help prevent and reduce Achilles tendon stress.  The soleus calf raise can help build strength endurance since the soleus helps to push. Building strength endurance will allow you to apply your strength repeatedly over a long extended period of time. Running is a great example, but also activities where a lot of stress takes place around the ankle complex.

Some progressions of the exercise you can do can would be to add weight in the form of dumbbells, or a weight vest. Another progression could also be to begin doing the exercise unilaterally, one leg at a time. You can also progress the unilateral version of this exercise by increasing weights the weight used as well.

Happy Training!                                 

Beware the Slides of March

It is going to be a tough week to find time to blog. My daughters were home after school canceled yesterday. Now they have a two hour delay. In between getting them ready for school I thought I would try to post something. We have received a last (hopefully) blast of winter here in the Northeast. Thankfully the snow turned to sleet which kept the snow totals down. However it did leave everything a complete sheet of ice. Beware the slides of March.

My driveway and the roads are just not safe today. Here in Connecticut many roads do not have shoulders to run on. That forces the plows to push all the snow onto the sidewalks. With these factors it makes sense to move training indoors. It can make for dangerous running as everyone slides around. That goes for both runners and drivers.

I know for many it is a badge of honor to run in all conditions. I take pride in this was well. However today I will swap my outdoor training for a strength training session. I’ll take tomorrow as it comes. I do not subscribe to the “No Pain No Gain” mentality when I train clients, and I follow that rule of thumb for my own training. I believe in avoiding injury so it is possible to train.

Be smart. I know we all try to run outside during all conditions. In this case beware the slides of March! Injuries can derail the best laid plans.

Happy and smart training!

Sprint Training For Distance Runners

Saturday was a killer training day. I had two workouts planned, so I hit the track early for sprints in the morning despite the 24 degree temperatures and the 20+mph wind. You may find this workout is not what you would expect from someone who primarily runs middle distance.  But I hope that it may challenge the way you think about and approach your training.

Workout One: Dedicated Speed Session on the track

It is important to note that this workout took advantage of the high winds. While not the best conditions for distance training, for purposes of this workout the high winds on Saturday worked right into my plan. I did a reverse wave load. I started with heavy resisted sprint starts. Gradually, I worked my way down to lower resistance bands. Finally, I ran into the direction the winds were blowing. This was finished off with a couple final runs wind aided or wind at my back.

Workout Breakdown:

  • One easy mile warmup followed by dynamic warmup drills.
  • Band Resisted Sprints. 2×6 sprint starts with different resistance bands.
  • 30 meters sprints (0.0186 miles, 32.8 yards) x 4. Two into wind followed by two wind aided.
  • 40 meters sprints (0.0249 miles, 43.7 yards) x4 Two into the wind followed by two wind aided.
  • 60 meters sprints (0.0373, 65.6 yards) x4 Two into the wind followed by two wind aided.
  • One easy mile cool down.

 

 

 

The distance runners reading this are probably wondering why I spent so much time doing a dedicated sprint session. I realize I am getting older and as we get older we can slow down. It happens to all of us at some point, sooner for others while later for others. I am always reading about exercise, exercise science, etc. So when I see studies that discuss the very topic of getting older and losing speed I want to know why. I want to know what my enemy is so I can do all I can to attack it.

So now you maybe want to know exactly what makes us run slower as we age? If you look at Master’s sprinters they have less of a falloff in performance than do their Master’s distance counterparts. I have read numerous books and articles by one of favorite strength and condition coaches Mike Boyle. He states and to paraphrase, we do not lose strength as we age so much as we lose power. That is especially true of distance runners.

We can begin to lose fast twitch muscle fibers due to aging. This can start while we are still in our 20’s. These are our quick response fibers that are involved in sprinting, jumping, or doing other explosive movements. You might now be thinking why would losing fast twitch muscle fibers affect endurance runners so much?

I read a quote from author Tim Nokes,MD in his book the Lore of Running He goes on to state “I suspect that the best runners at any longer distance are those who are fastest over distances from 100-800 meters and whose brains and muscles are also highly fatigue resistant.”

I have suspected this might be the case and unknowingly applied this to my own training over the last couple years. In 2015 I ran in the CT Master’s Games. I had no idea what I expect so I signed up for the 50, 100, 200 and 400 meters. I would eventually take a DNS for the 400 meter. I think discretion was the better part of valor since I still had to run the 3000 meters. Yikes! What I was thinking?!

Well I did ok in the 50 and in the 100 actually earning a silver and bronze. I eve ran a fast enough 100 to get listed on Mastersrankings.com at 98th in the US in my age group (cough* 40-44). The 200 I was also not awful placing 88th in the U.S. in my age group (*cough 40-44) but I could see the writing on the wall. I was not a sprinter at this point as much of my training had moved away from the type training that would enhance sprinting. The races were over.  I would be back in 2016 for just the 100 meter dash as my single sprint event as my true focus would be to run a faster 3000 meters even though I would be a full calendar year older.

Over the rest of 2015 and into my 2016 training for the CT Master’s Games, I began to add more sprinting into my training. Sometimes on the beach, other times at the local high school track. If that as being used I would take my sprinting to the steepest hill in my neighborhood. Oh Sasqua how I hate thee!

Fast forward to May 2016. I was ready to take on the 100 again. I really wanted to beat my previous time and go under 14 sec. Sad to say I did not succeed in that regard. However! I did lower my time from 14.50 to now 14:16 that is good for 88th at the time of this writing. That is a jump of ten spots!

The 100 was behind me. Now up was my 3000 meter race. I am sure you are thinking this was a strange double. This was what I truly trained for. As the race began I knew I would start off fast then settle into a different pace. As I would hit the final straightway of each lap I would see the clock on the infield. I was running way ahead of where I thought I might be. I would go on to finish with a much faster time than last year. In 2015 I ran the 3000 in 12:33:15, in 2016 I ran it in 12:01:82! That puts me at 9th this year in the US in my age group at this time.  I do not put those times in to toot my own horn. I do however want to use the Master’sRankings.com results to further make my point.

I fully suspect my 100 meter time could have been higher. I had false started after the sprinter to my left false started and did not want to get disqualified so I stayed in my sprinters crouch just a tad longer to be safe. That is not really relevant. What is relevant though is the fact that my results seem to be a real life summary of the Time Nokes quote above. The extra sprint training paid off.

It sure feels as though the sprinting helped. The results from my races seem to bear that out. I continue to use various sprint type workouts in my own training. I do believe it has helped.  It will never replace tempo runs, threshold runs, long runs, etc. It does though have it’s place in my arsenal. Whether you are a runner or not I think based on what I wrote above and what is contained in the studies linked I hope you see the need to incorporate sprinting, plyometrics, and other explosive type training into your training. I will keep training like a sprinter for the long roads ahead.

Additional Reading, References, Note and Links to Studies:

*I suggest starting off with the shorter distances on the sprints. Especially if you are unaccustomed to sprinting. Sprinting is not the same as the striders many distance runners add to the end of workouts. This may reduce the risk of injury when training like this.

http://now.tufts.edu/articles/losing-muscle-power-we-age

http://www.bodybyboyle.com/articles?show=9

http://www.on-your-marc.com/plyometrics-increase-running-efficiency-building-power-depth-jumps/

http://www.on-your-marc.com/leap-into-plyometrics/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23838975

 

 

Things Can Go Wrong Without SMART Goals

A man names Joe goes to see his parish priest. “Father, you have to pray for me. “ The priest responds, “Of course Joe. What seems to be the problem?” “Father, I lost my job and my bills are adding up. I need you to pray for me to get a job, “Joe replies. “The priest thinks about it a moment and asks Joe, “What type of job shall I pray for you to get?” “Oh I don’t care anything. I just need a job.”

The priest kneels down facing the altar,” Lord, please help your son Joseph to find a job shoveling horse manure at a parade. I ask this in Jesus name…”

“Wait!” Wait yells Joe. “Not that kind of job!”

The take home message here for is be careful what you truly want. Even more than that though be sure you have clearly defined goals of what you want for yourself.

I see it quite often with clients. Those who have clearly defined goals usually have an easier time staying focused. It is easier to stay on the path than to struggle trying to find the path.

I am currently in the second phase of my training for the 2017 CT Master’s Games. Last year I ran my best ever running the 3000 meter. I did that by following a well thought out plan that I laid out for myself. It incorporated strength training, many tough speed work days, and also factored in recovery. Without that well devised plan I have no doubt I would not have run nearly as well.

Injury would later derail me from late summer into the Fall after playing soccer. That was pretty frustrating since I am not really a soccer player. I am now working to get back to where I was preinjury. I have a clearly laid out plan that builds off of what worked last year. Whether or not I get back to where I was is yet to be determined.

There are two types of pain. There is the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.  By having clearly defined goals I know I will avoid the latter.

Now get out there and chase your goals.

Random Running Musings From My Long Run Yesterday

When I do my long run it provides the quietest time of my day. With two busy daughters, clients, and just life my weekly long run is an opportune time to think. I can focus on myself as a person, dad, husband, as well as certain aspects of my running. Here are some random running musings I had while doing my long (for me) run yesterday morning.

1)      I am just not a cold weather runner. We had temperatures here in Connecticut in the upper 50s on Saturday. I had my best training session. My times are always slower in colder temperatures. When the weather cooled off again in Sunday my times went up. Yesterday was in the lower 50’s and once again I ran faster. I need to trust the process more.

2)      My long run is the perfect time to focus on a couple key points of my running form. While running I periodically “check in with myself” to make sure I am leaning slightly forward, not over striding  and despite it being an easy paced run I made sure to focus on my cadence. These are some tips I picked up after reading Chi Running a couple years ago.

The increased focused paid off. My cadence was much lower the previous week. Also after comparing my previous week’s long run to this one I able to see I also shortened my stride length running 6.6 mph to now running 6.8mph. You might not think this would matter that much. That would be wrong as this allowed me to run the same course 10 seconds per mile faster, while still being sure to stay within my easy pace range. I just ended up staying on the faster side of that pace. This resulted also in me running over a longer distance while running the same amount of time. I was running more efficiently.

3)      I love running for time as opposed to a prescribed distance for long runs. When I used to train for half marathons and even now sometimes before what constitutes my longs run now, I can get psyched out by the distance. If I focus instead on running for a certain amount time I find the run goes better. There is much less pre-run anxiety, and less pressure overall to run a certain distance. In fact I find running for time I usually end up running longer than I would have if going for distance. For example during training for one of my half-marathons my goal was to run for two hours. I ended up running over 14 miles. This was a huge confidence builder ahead of my half.

4)      I can focus on myself.  Long runs are always a great time for me to personally check in with myself like I do with my form mentioned above. I try to analyze how I handled myself that morning or previous night as a husband, dad, etc. It helps to put things in perspective. Like we all experience with good runs and runs that do not go so well, there are things to be learned from both. How can I be a better husband, and dad? If I did a good job how I can continue to do that? What are some ways like running and strength training can I build off of my success?

5)      People here in Fairfield County Connecticut are just not friendly. I always wave and say good morning or good afternoon to walkers, runners, and bikers. More often than not they do not even respond with a simple wave. I vow to keep greeting them because you never know how much that one person may need that simple wave. So whether or not I get any responses I will keep greeting everyone.

6)      Do not measure your pace against someone else’s.  Many of us follow other runners via social media. I do not know if yo do it, but I know I sometimes catch myself comparing my runs to others. You cannot have a real idea how flat or hilly someone’s course is, or what weather factors affected positively or negatively their run. Run the mile you are in based on your own personal conditions.

7)       Medical paper tape is the perfect thing to help deal with blisters you may have. I have started to do a lot more track work now that the snow and ice have retreated here in Connecticut. The first couple times out in track shoes I build up a bit of friction which results in blisters. I read a study that determined that paper tape can be very helpful in preventing blisters in ultra-marathoners and started using it with good results last year. While many of us will not run an ultra we can surely benefit the same from using the tap. It does make a difference as I was not bothered by my blisters on my long run yesterday. In fact they actually are almost healed.  You might give it a try. 8)      It is like the name of the concert film by Led-Zeppelin. The Song Remains the Same. So do my feelings about the long run, I still feel the same. This was one of my more popular blog posts from last year the week before the CT Master’s Games. It sums up some of my feelings of the long run.

9) Running helps makes me the best version of myself I can be. I know I have said it before but I really do believe that.

Happy Training!

Feel Good Friday: Stronger Ankles=Stronger Running and Stronger You

When I thought of strengthening exercises I used to think think of exercises like the bench press, squat, chin-ups, etc. Sometimes though it is the little muscles and joints that need to be shown some love in regards to strengthening . That is why people seem to ask about bench press, and squats numbers. I have never had anyone ever ask me how many calf raises I can do. I doubt anyone ever will.

However, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Runners tend to not be very much into lifting for the most part. One of my earlier blog posts discussed the need to be healthier and stronger from the ground up. Now more research seems to continue to bear that out. A recent study was published by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. My grandfather on my Finnish side would have been proud I am referencing a Finnish study. But I digress. The study examined the muscles that are used to straighten the knee and ankles during walking and running activities. It was determined during the study that the knee and ankle had forces about 8-9 times bodyweight.  That is a lot of force which can be detrimental. The ankles though had a lower maximum force. This means if your ankles are weak they can be a limiting factor in your performance. 

The latest findings help to support an earlier study done by Kulmala (one of the researchers) that showed that while power output was similar from the hips and knees in runners ages 26, 61, and 78 respectively, there was a marked decrease in ankle power that increased with age.

So, you may ask how can we change that?   I like to incorporate a few exercises that are great for strengthening the ankle.  I believe it makes sense to begin strength training while you are younger and be proactive in preserving your strength and power. This can also help you run more efficiently.  Even if you are not a runner it is still important to maintain a strong base of support.

You do not need to create an entire workout based just around strengthening your ankles. However incorporating a few exercises into an already balanced training program or before a workout as a warmup will be beneficial. Anything that challenges the ankle joint will have a carryover.

  1. Single Leg Balance on Trampoline or Dynadisc- Stand on one leg with your knee slightly flexed. Balance on the one leg for 30 seconds and then move on to the other leg. Perform the exercise two times on each side. I prefer to do these exercises barefoot to allow the small muscles in the ankle and foot to have an increased challenge.

If you do not have a trampoline available you can use a dynadisc as well.

2. Standing Calf Raises & Single Leg Calf Raises Versions

Calf raises are done by simply rising up onto the balls of your foot. Go up as high as you can. Then lower yourself until you feel a stretch at the calves at the bottom of the movement. Notice I do l not let me feet touch the floor. That would take some tension off the calves.

 

 

In the single leg calf raises you would perform the exercise the same as the above. Except you will work one leg at time, unilaterally. This can not increase the challenge but also allows each leg to work fully and help avoid having one more dominant leg and any muscle imbalances. Perform all the repetitions on one side and then repeat for the same amount of reps on the other leg.

 

 3. Lunge Matrix

I like to use the Lunge Matrix at times as a warmup, and also as warm up. I personally like it because it allows you to work on strengthening the legs but also then ankle joint in various planes of movement, frontal, saggital, transverse.

4. Single Leg Squat Touchdowns