Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Tacey Atkinson, the winner of the 1 free pair of CEP Compression Socks! I'd also like to thank all the other blog readers who participated in the contest. Because this contest was such a huge success, RunnerDude is excited to announce that a new drawing will begin later this week and will be sponsored by The Stick! Congrats to Tacey and thanks again for all awesome participation. Stay tuned for details about the upcoming "The Stick Contest!"

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Has Running Changed Your Life? Share Your Stories With RunnerDude!

The "How Running Changed My Life" posts that have been featured each week have been a great success! I want to thank all those who have contributed their amazing stories! The readers have spoken and they want to hear more of your amazing stories!

So...tell me how running has helped you overcome a life obstacle. Email your story along with an attached photo (jpeg format) and/or a YouTube video link of yourself (suitable for posting on the blog) to runnerdudeblog@yahoo.com with the subject line "My Story" by midnight Saturday, October 17. Each email that's received will be placed in a drawing for a $25 RoadRunner Sports Gift Card! Each email will be assigned a different number based on the order that the emails are received. The winning number will be selected by The True Random Number Generator at Random.org on Sunday, October 18.
This is simply a drawing for the participants. The stories will not be judged in any way. The winner of the drawing will have his/her story posted first and then a different story will be posted each week thereafter in the order that the stories were received. Submitters will receive an email from RunnerDude announcing when the stories are posted so they can tell all their friends and family to check it out.

I look forward to reading, celebrating, and sharing your stories with all of the RunnerDude's Blog readers and seeing the powerful impact they'll undoubtedly continue to have.

How Running Changed My Life: Mel's Story

Mel has been a loyal reader of the blog for several months and I always enjoy her comments. Mel has an amazing 2nd-chance story of of how she regained her life from mysterious seizures. Here's Mel's story in her own words.

Running. It was always an ugly word for me as a child. For me, there was nothing positive or fun about running. What could be so fun about breathing heavily, working up such a sweat, and travelling a distance that should be done by a vehicle. I remember my dad running when I was a child and have very faint memories of him running a marathon in 1982 at the age of 32. His athletic genetics certainly weren't passed down to me; my mom and gym teacher would probably agree.

As an infant, I had two febrile seizures induced with high fever. I was on medication until I was 5 and had no other seizures. So, by all accounts, I was fine, and I came off the medication. No other issues, or complications, I was no different than anyone else.

My son was born in 1998, when I was 20. He's my little miracle, as he was conceived while I was on birth-control, but I believe he had a reason for being here, and am so thankful everyday that he's in my life. When he was a year old, I was just going back to work from maternity leave, and going through difficulty in my relationship, and ended up being a new first-time-single-working mother, at 21. All of this combined was enough to make my seizures come back with a vengeance. At first, I didn't understand what was happening, as my two previous seizures occurred as an infant. I went to my doctor, described what was going on, and he immediately contacted the Ministry of Transportation and had my drivers' license taken away. Don't feel sorry for me, all of these experiences have made me the person I am today—better than before, taking nothing for granted, strong, positive and determined.

Seizures quickly became as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth in the morning, sometimes reaching 30 or more per day. Over the next 2 years, five medications later, including an allergy to one of them, three doctors, a battery of tests, disability from work, and having to take a bath with someone in the bathroom for fear of drowning, I was given a glimmer of hope that life would return to normal. I was told that the cause of my seizures was likely stress-induced, and that I was a good candidate for surgery. My right temporal lobe had turned into a 3 inch long mass of scar tissue, and with removing this, I'd have an 80% chance of being seizure-free! The other statistic was a scary one—20% chance that I may not wake up, or remember my friends, or worse, my family. I didn't even contemplate the decision, Sept 12, 2001 was my surgery date. I wrote a letter to my son, who was almost 3 at the time, to let him know how special he was to me in the event that I wouldn't be able to express it to him post-surgery.

It was like the doctor went in and flipped a switch. I used to count in days being seizure-free, but am now counting years! This September, will be 8 years since my last seizure! I've experienced some memory loss during those years (sadly, I have to rely on pictures for a lot of my son's first.... like his steps, etc.), but a small sacrifice to have my life, freedom and independence back, and being able to take a bath by myself! :)

I had also been a smoker (a very bad habit I had), but something clicked in late August, 2005. I had my "awakening moment" when Peter Jennings passed away of lung cancer, and less than a week later, Dana Reeves was diagnosed with lung cancer, and didn't even smoke! What the heck was I doing! I've had life changing brain surgery, and I'm smoking? I picked my quit date, Sept 6th, and stuck to it. Since I was mentally prepared for the challenge ahead, and had amazing reasons to quit, I did.

Like many have experienced, I started gaining a bit of weight. Although I exercised sporadically, it wasn't enough. Working with computers, being a stats-oriented person, a gadget-girl, driven by visual results, and technical, I spotted the Nike+ iPod kit on May 5, 2007, and have been running since! I never thought that running would become an addiction,! After the first few runs, I called my mom to let her know, and she was in shock. In fact, last summer, when I went out to visit her, I went for a run. I'm still convinced that she drove along the previously discussed route to see if I was "actually" running. After a few months of running, when I was really starting to get more into it, I picked up a Garmin, showed my dad all my running gadgets, and he was shocked at how much times have changed since his running days.

In just over 2 years, I've done some 5k's and 10k's, a 15k, a Half-Marathon, and a 30k. I'm happy knowing that I left everything out there during my marathon attempt this past Mother's Day, even though it just wasn't my day. Now I'm training for a triathlon!! Running for me is a way to keep stress levels under control and my head clear, as well as do and see things I never thought I'd ever achieve! I remain committed to never letting stress ruin or control my life again. —Mel in Canada

Mel, you truly inspire me. I can't wait to see what other running and life goals you conquer! Be sure to check out Mel's blog Second Chances.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

RunnerDude's Tips for Running Safely

Keep running a safe and healthy activity. Read over the safety tips below and then pass them along to a new runner. A great way to help them avoid learning the rules of the road the hard way.

Reflective clothing is a must for early morning and evening runs.

Up your weekly mileage by no more than 10% to prevent injury and allow your body to gradually adapt to more miles.

Never run without telling a friend or family member your running route, your start time and your expected return time. Better yet, post your weekly running schedule with routes and times on the fridge so your family will know where you are.

Never run without properly hydrating before, during, and after the run. On longer runs, drink 16oz 2hrs before, drink 6-12% every 15-20mins during, and after the run drink 16oz for every pound lost.

Identification on your person is crucial if you’re ever in an accident. Make your own or purchase a Road ID.

Never ignore pain. If pain doesn’t subside after RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), make it RICED by adding the “D”—diagnosis—and see your doctor.

Group Runs are one of the safest ways to run in the early morning or during the evening. Plus they're fun!

Stretching before and after a run is a good thing. Dynamic stretches like buttkicks, skipping, and walking lunges are best before the run and static stretches like calf stretches or toe touches are best for after the run.

Against-traffic-running is a must if you have to run on the road so you can see what’s coming.

First Aid and CPR training is a great idea, especially if you run in a group or with a buddy. If something happens, you can provide help immediately while waiting for EMS to arrive.

Eat to fuel your runs and for refueling after your runs. A high carb snack (~300cals) before the run and a post-run snack with a 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio (i.e., lowfat chocolate milk).

Listen to your body. Over-training is one of the main causes of injury. Allow time for rest and recovery.

Yield to traffic. In most cases runners have the right-of-way, but better safe than sorry. Even if you have the right-of-way, never assume a driver is aware of your presence.

Two Amazing Ladies On A Mission, An Ironman Mission!

Heather Hauser and Diane Beck are two women who have overcome great odds and are on a mission to cross the finish line of Ironman Arizona 2010 and to document that experience.

This past June 2009, Heather became a 5 year breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in June of 2004. Heather is positive for the BRCA-1 gene which made her susceptible to developing cancer at a young age! Not only has Heather recovered, she's come back physically stronger than before being diagnosed with cancer. She's competed in marathons and just last year she did her first sprint distance triathlon. Just over a month ago she competed in her first ½ Ironman triathlon. And next year, she is competing in her first full Ironman distance triathlon.

Diane has competed in 7 Ironman distance triathlons, but last summer she suddenly became severely ill. She had over 20 symptoms and barely had the strength to walk to the mailbox, or even take a shower. She was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fybromyalgia and was told she was incurable. It turned out she actually had mercury poisoning, had the mercury removed from her blood and no longer shows any signs of those symptoms. Now Diane is ready for a comeback!

Diane and Heather's mission is to inspire others with a documentary—"Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure"—showing that the underdog can overcome and reach their dreams. They're are hoping their stories will inspire people to follow their own dreams and achieve what they might not think is possible or might have been told is not possible. The documentary will showcase the physical, mental and emotional challenges and triumphs of a couple of gals achieving something amazing.

Their fundraising goal is to raise a minimum of $2,200 to cover expenses such as entering and traveling to the race, filming and editing their promotional videos, and filming and documenting their Ironman adventure in Arizona. They'll be raising additional funds for the filming during their training and through to the race finish and post production costs for the documentary.

Diane and Heather have raised about 70% of their needed goal. This project will only be funded if at least $2,200 is pledged by Oct 28, 2009. If you'd like to help them reach their goal and help ensure that their documentary will be produced to inspire others, click on the pledge box below. Heather and Diane want to include their supporters in their documentary as much as possible. Listed below are the various ways you'll be included in the production depending on your contribution.
$5 — You get exclusive project updates on our Blog & Vlog (video blog). Thanks!
$10 — A "Thank You" on our website: your name and/or link. AND a customized "Thank You" card personally signed by us. (plus what's above).
$20 — A "Thank You" credit in the "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure" film. Check for your name in the credits. (plus everything above)
$50 — Exclusive access to behind-the-scenes footage of the "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure" film. (plus everything above)
$75 — Early and exclusive access online of the "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure" film a week before it's released. (plus everything above)
$150 — You will be able to vote on the movie making decisions and receive a "Creative Consultant" credit on the "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure" film. (plus everything above)
$200 — A copy of the "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure" DVD, signed by us. (plus everything above)
$250 — Product placement - your sporting food, beverage or equipment shown in "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure". (plus all rewards up to the $75 pledge & a signed DVD)
$300 — Your company shirt worn during the bike & shown in "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure". (plus all rewards up to the $75 pledge & a signed DVD) (2 of 2 remaining)
$400 — Your company shirt worn during the run, across the finish line & shown in "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure". (plus all rewards up to the $75 pledge & a signed DVD) (2 of 2 remaining)
$500 — 15 seconds of fame! Be in our movie. (plus all rewards up to the $75 pledge & a signed DVD)
$750 — Thank you for your generosity! In movie land, generous supporters get an Executive Producer credit. You get the Executive Producer credit in "Heather & Diane's Amazing Adventure." (Plus all rewards up to the $200 pledge)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Often Overlooked but Key to Marathon Success: The Base

"Base." Doesn't sound glamorous, does it? Isn't snazzy sounding. Isn't flashy. But, man is it important. One of the biggest mistakes new marathoners make is overlooking the base mileage needed before beginning any kind of marathon training.

It is a little misleading. If you google "marathon training plans," you'll find a hundred different links to a hundred different training plans. One thing that most of these plans will have in common is the duration. Most will be within a 16 to 20 week range. Here lies the problem. Most training plans start with the assumption that the runner has a solid running base. Some plans (especially ones that are 20+ weeks) may include a little base building (2-4 weeks), but for the most part, training plans have the runner start off pretty quickly building that long run, increasing the weekly mileage, and eventually adding in speedwork and tempo runs. And...there's nothing wrong with that. The plans are solid. It's the runner's understanding of the importance of the base building before the plans kick-in that's often lacking.

Think about it. Without months of conditioning and practice, would you just go out and climb Mt. Everest? Probably not. The importance of building a solid base cannot be expressed enough. It's during this time that you're conditioning your body to being on the road. Just because you can run a 10-miler at race pace once doesn't mean that your body has adapted to running at that pace. It takes about 6 weeks of running that 10-miler at that pace for your body to adapt. Giving your body this time to adapt as you build your mileage means you're allowing your body to gradually get use the added stress which will help prevent injury. This doesn't mean that you have to run that same 10-miler for 6 weeks straight. What it means is that six weeks down the road, when you may be running a 18-miler, your body has actually adapted to the 10 miles and now it's in the process of adapting to the higher miles.

Too much too soon is often the cause of many running-related injuries. A good rule of thumb for increasing weekly mileage is to increase it by no more than 10% per week (adding the extra mileage to the longest run first and shortest run last).

RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) recommends that the base-building phase be about 18-25 weeks. Remember that the bulk of this phase begins before you start that traditional 16 or 18 week marathon training plan. If you're a seasoned runner and marathoner, you probably already have the recommended base and so you can go right into your 16-week plan. But for the novice marathoners, they need to be prepared to put in some miles of base-building before the focused training begins.

Listed below are RRCA's base-building recommendations for the following groups of marathoners:

Beginning Marathoner: Six months of running experience and a base of 20 miles per week
Recreational Marathoner: Experienced runner, may have run one or more marathons; has a base of 25-30 miles per week
Intermediate Marathoner: Experienced runner, may have run one or more marathons; has a base of 30-40 miles per week
Advanced Marathoner: Experienced road racer with previous marathon experience; has a base of 50 miles per week

The main thing to keep in mind is that the more solid your base the better prepared you're going be (physically and mentally) when you go into your more focused marathon training. If you're thinking about a spring '10 marathon, now's the time to be building that base!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carb-Loading Made Easy

Information about the carb-loading phase of marathon training can often be conflicting and confusing. Make a copy of the Carb-Loading Made Easy info below and post it on your fridge. Refer to it as you get closer to your race date and then make sure you're following the tips beginning three days prior to race day. For more detailed information on carb-loading [click here].


Carb-Loading Made Easy!

• Complex Carbs (100% whole grain breads and pasta) should be ingested the 1st day, then transition to simple carbs during the 2nd day of carb-loading.)
• Avoid complex carbs on the 3rd day of carb-loading; stick mainly with simple carbs (but don't try anything new you haven't tried during your training).
• Raise the total percentage of daily carbs from 60-70% to 70-80% during the three carb-loading days. (Remember that your overall total calorie intake should remain about the same, so to increase the % of carbs, cut back a little on the protein % and fat %.)
• Bananas and salty pretzels eaten during your carb-load will ensure that you haven't depleted your sodium and potassium levels from the additional hydration during carb-loading.

• Last big meal should be 12-15hrs prior to the race start.
• Over hydration can be just as bad (if not worse) than dehydration because it can deplete vital electrolytes. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the carb-loading phase, but no need to drink excessive amounts.
• A light high-carb breakfast 2-3 hours before the race is wise and should consist of about 300 calories. (A little protein in fine, but stay away from the fat. Both take longer to digest and can make you feel sluggish during your run.)
• Don't be alarmed if you gain a few pounds. It's mostly water retention from the extra carbs. You'll sweat out the extra pounds during the race.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Amazing Running Experiences: Will's Story

I've been running with my friend Will now for close to 7 years. He's one of the "originals" of my running group—The BlueLiners. Even though I've run with him most Saturday's over the past 7 years, I didn't know some of the cool things that Will shares in his story below. Here's Will's amazing running experience in his own words:

I have run in twenty-one U.S. states and logged over 24,000 miles, but my most exotic running location was in the country of Panama. Roughly 20 years ago, my company at the time, AT&T, was hired to install systems on some of the U.S. military bases near Panama City. My first trip down there was in 1990, only a few months after the U.S. invaded Panama to capture Manuel Noriega. There were still vivid reminders of the brief but intense conflict all over the city, from bullet-riddled or shelled-out buildings, to the stories told by some of my co-workers who hunkered down in their apartments in the city during the fight.

My first run in Panama originated from the apartment I shared with two of those co-workers during my first trip. They lived on top of a big hill in the city, and as I wound my way down the hill, past fenced-in houses with armed security guards, my co-worker stood on the balcony, watching me and shaking his head. I remember passing some young boys playing as soldiers in one yard, saying “You be the American, and I’m the Panamanian.” When we ate in restaurants, it was often under the cold gaze of a guard with an automatic rifle.

Over the next year and a half, I made a total of eleven trips to Panama. I had a running buddy, Mike, who was an Army major working with us as an intern. We did most of our runs after work on one of the U.S. bases, largely because the traffic in the city was a nightmare, plus we didn’t feel totally safe in venturing out too far from our hotel. The heat and humidity were astonishing, and we would finish every run drenched in sweat. But my most memorable experience happened one night when I wasn’t even running.

One of our project managers, Bill Keane, was an avid ultra-marathoner. He managed to arrange some meetings in Panama to coincide with a 50-mile race that was run across the Isthmus, parallel to the Panama Canal, from the Caribbean Sea back to the Pacific Ocean in Panama City. Another lady and I comprised Bill’s support crew. The race started at sunset in Col√≥n, which looked to me like a Barbary Coast pirate town, then followed a narrow road that wound through a rain forest most of the way. We drove our little rental car alongside Bill, handing him snacks and de-fizzed Coke, and talked and laughed all night in the pitch-dark countryside, all the while hearing strange and sometimes frightening jungle noises. At one point, maybe 30 miles into the race, a dog ran out in front of Bill, startling him and causing him to step off the road into a deep puddle. Bill’s shoes and socks got soaked, and since he didn’t have a spare pair, he soon developed huge blisters on his soles and eventually had to quit before the finish.

I have some fond memories and one really cool race t-shirt from my experiences in Panama.—Will Petty, NC


Will is one of the reasons I've gotten faster over the years. He's a great guy and puts on a darn good Great Pumpkin Run 5K too! Thanks for sharing your story Will!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Resistance Training For Runners to Prevent Injury, Run Faster and Further

Over the past three months during my schooling at NPTI, I've learned a great deal about the difference between strength and functional strength. Functional strength is the strength you use in your everyday life or in the sports or physical activity you participate in on a daily basis. Many people (myself included), find themselves at the gym not knowing quite what to do, so they do like I did and read the illustrations on the machines, sit down and start working out—one muscle at a time. Working joints/muscles in isolation will help you look fitter, but in the long run it doesn't help you become stronger in the ways that you use those joints/muscles in your daily activities. Functional training focuses on working groups of joints/muscles replicating natural movements as well as movements used in your various sports and recreational activities.

Recently I was asked to be a member of the guest panel in a podcast hosted by The Runners Roundtable. The topic was resistance training for runners and the featured expert was Amelia Burton, a health and fitness coach from Sydney, Australia. Amelia shared a wealth of ideas for how to use resistance training in a more functional manner to benefit a runner's performance as well as to prevent injury. Through this podcast, which included panel members from the US, England, and Australia, I learned even more about the importance of functional resistance training for runners.

Below is a recent post from Amelia's website AmeliaBurton.com that provides excellent information on resistance training for runners. Check it out and then head over to Amelia's website and check out even more of the great ideas and information she provides.

What’s your training program like? Do you focus on increasing your miles each week, maybe a bit of speed work here and there, and of course a token stretch at the end of each session? Well hats off to you because unlike 85% of the population at least you are doing something! But whether you are an amateur runner or a competitive athlete, adding a resistance session each week might just be the thing you need to take your further, faster and with fewer injuries. This article looks at the reasoning behind resistance training for runners and identifies the top resistance training exercises all runners should do.

What is Resistance training for distance running?
Conventionally we think of resistance training as weights machines, dumbbells, slow movements and heavy weights (with lots of grunting). Resistance training for runners is quite different. It’s about loading the muscles in a manner that replicates running to improve their strength power, endurance and most importantly coordination. It’s about identifying the weaker muscles in the body and developing them to prevent injury. It is NOT about building unnecessary bulk or damaging already fatigued tissue and I must stress that incorrect resistance training can tighten you up and slow you down.


What purpose does it serve?
There are four key areas that resistance training will help you with: Speed, muscular endurance, efficiency of running technique, and injury prevention.


• Increase strength of your prime movers for speed and distance: The stronger your quads, glutes and hamstrings are the faster your will go and the longer you will be able to maintain your pace. Obviously nothing beats running to strengthen these, but resistance work involving sprints, uphill and downhill running improve their strength much faster.
• Prevents injury by Increase strength of your stabilisers: Your prime movers can only work as hard as your stabilisers will allow. It doesn’t matter how strong/fit you are, if you have poor hip knee and ankle stability, you will never reach your full potential in both speed and endurance.
• Increase coordination: Similar to stability, the faster you fatigue the sooner your coordination goes. Look at a distance athlete and how smooth their running style is. That is good coordination. All muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint actions are working in smooth unison to create effortless strides. The more fatigued you get the worse these actions interrelate create a less economical stride which slows you down and increases your chance of injury.
• Increase stride length: As you fatigue, your stride naturally shortens, your muscles tighten and you slow down. By increasing your stride length (within reason) you can maintain a faster pace and waste less energy through excessive foot strikes.


Two Training Programs for Runners
Click here for a printable program you can take to the park/oval for your resistance session. Ideally you will need a stop watch and a skipping rope, but exercises can be performed without them.

Click here for a printable program for Core Stability and VMO/Glute Activation. You will need a swiss ball and leg extension machine for these.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Carol's Story

Once suffering from depression and anxiety, Carol used running to improve her mental and physical health. Here's Carol's story in her own words.

My official 2 year "running anniversary" was on April 19th. I celebrated, of course, by running my second full marathon. I have now run a total of four marathons and am training for an ultra. The week I decided to become a runner, I also stopped taking anti-depressants. I truly believe that had it not been for running, I would still be suffering from depression and anxiety and never able to live without medication. Now, when things get tough, I grab my shoes and go for a run. Nothing feels better to me. I have also experienced many health benefits such as a 35 pound weight loss and a healthy heart. Running has shown me that I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to and that I don't ever have to feel alone. I have made so many life-long friends who share my passion. Running has truly changed my life for the better. —Carol King (a.k.a. TrailGurl on Twitter) St. Louis, MO

What a great life-change Carol has made for herself! And all those marathons! You go girl! Keep it up!
Jesslyn Cummings from About.com says... "Aside from just the stress relief, jogging has also been proven to improve attitude. Running, especially outside and on trails, creates a release of endorphins that can cause euphoria (runner's high) or just a general sense of happiness. Running has been used for years to treat clinical depression and addictions of all kinds. Less tension, less depression, less fatigue, and less confusion are just a few of the changes that patients have seen after beginning a regular running program. Running gives something for them to focus on, allowing them to see something besides their depressed state or addiction.

Along that line, running can help train the mind as much as it trains the body. By making yourself overcome the obstacles that running brings, you learn focus and determination. The will and strength that gets your body through long runs or those runs you'd much rather skip is what in turn strengthens your mind and gives you focus and determination in other areas of your life." To read Jesslyn's Cummings' full article [click here].
Thanks for sharing your story, Carol!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Exercises for Better Running

I recently discovered a great blog—The One Mile Runner Blog—hosted by David O'Meara. The site inspires older athletes (30+ years old) to learn how to avoid injury, recover quicker and develop functional strength. David says these attributes are essential to achieving peak performance in any competitive sport and I couldn't agree more. David uses his personal experience as a coach, trainer, and masters runner to evaluate exercises, techniques and products to help you exceed your performance goals.

Looking through the site I discovered some great functional exercises perfect for making you a stronger and more agile runner. The first is something David calls The Toe Touch Matrix. David says this exercise really works the proprioceptors in your feet. (Proprioception means "sense of self". Proprioceptors are sensors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and tension, which is integrated to give information about the position of the limb in space.) The Toe Touch Matrix mobilizes your hips, knees, and ankles. Instead of touching with your hands in a balance reach, The Toe Touch Matrix has you touch 10 matrix spots with your toes. David says to pay close attention to the back corners of the matrix as those spots really hit difficult areas of your body. Again, this is a multi-directional, multi-joint, and multi-muscle exercise.



At the end of 2008, David met with a foot doctor who wanted to immobilize him in a "walking boot" for one month due to his injured Achilles tendon. Not liking that scenario, David searched for a second opinion and that is how he met Juan Ruiz Tagle. Juan, who is now the training consultant at The One Mile Runner, changed David's training program and his running to a "stiffer" and more powerful running style. Take a look at this video showing a few of David's running exercises.



For more great video clips of functional running exercises and stretches, be sure to check out David's site The One Mile Runner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What to Look For In A Sports Drink

Water is great for shorter runs, but if you perspire heavily or if you're going to be running over 60 minutes, a sports drink will be a better choice. Sports Drinks serve two purposes—rehydration and muscle fuel. On longer runs you'll use up your glycogen (energy) stores as well as sweat out vital electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.

Carbohydrates along with fat are the two main fuel sources for your muscles. Your body can store about 2000 calories in the form of glycogen which will last about 2hrs for the average runner. So, during a long run of 2+ hours, these carb stores will be depleted. If they're not replaced during the run, then the runner will more than likely "bonk" or "hit the wall." Sports drinks and/or sports gels are a great way to restock the glycogen (energy) stores while on the run. But don't wait until you feel fatigued to begin resupplying or it will be too late.

Sodium is needed to help the body properly absorb the fluids you're taking in. Ever have that sloshing-in-your-stomach feeling during a race? The sloshing is probably not due to drinking too much too fast. More than likely the water is remaining in your belly because you've decreased your sodium levels so much that your body can no longer absorb the fluids, so they're just "stuck" with nowhere to go. Ever have calf or quad cramps? This too is often a sign of dehydration and depleted potassium levels.

There are so many different brands of sports drinks on the market all claiming they're the best for you. So what exactly should be in a sports drink? There are some basics you should look for. As for the "extras" in many sports drinks? For the most part, that's exactly what they are—extra. You'll have to decide whether you need the extras or not.

Staples Of A Sports Drink:
Sodium:
Most experts agree that the sodium levels of sports drinks should be in the range of 110 - 220 mg per 8 fl. oz. A newer brand, just recently available—The Right Stuff— contains no carbs, but it contains much higher levels of sodium and other electrolytes. To read a review of The Right Stuff [click here].
Carbohydrates:
The carbohydrate concentration in a sports drink should be 6-8% or
6 - 8 grams per 100 ml
14.2 - 18.9 grams per 8 oz.
21.3 - 28.4 grams per 12 oz.
Sports drinks containing more than these quantities of carbs should be used for refueling after a workout, but not during.

Sports Drink Extras:
Caffeine:
Energy drinks and sports drinks are often confused. In general, sports drinks don't contain caffeine. The smaller canned (and some bottled) energy drinks (i.e., Red Bull) often contain very large amounts of caffeine as well as sugar or other sweeteners. Research has shown that some caffeine ingested before a race can boost performance (click here for more info), but drinking large amounts of caffiene throughout a race can have adverse effects and cause stomach issues for many runners.
Protein:
Some brands of sports drinks have added protein to their formula. Some claim the protein/carb mixture enhances performance. There is mixed results/opinions on whether performance is actually enhanced. The added protein, however, has been shown to speed muscle recovery. Accelerade, Amino Vital, Endurox R-4, and PowerBar Recovery Performance all contain added protein.
Vitamins:
Some brands contain a wide array of added vitamins. While this may be good for your general health, there's no research to show that they will help with your performance or benefit rehydration.

There are actually three different types of sports drinks available—Isotonic, Hypotonic, and Hypertonic. Some are designed for use during a run, while others are designed for after activity hydration. Listed below is more info about each type of sports drinks.

Isotonic Sports Drinks—Contain electrolytes and 6-8% carbs. Isotonic sports drinks usually contain about 120-170 calories per 500 ml of fluid. Probably the most common type of sports drink, isotonic sports drinks are good for normal replacement of fluids lost through normal sweating incurred during middle and long distance runs. (Examples: Accelerade, Gatorade [original], Gatorade Endurance Formula, Powerade [original], PowerBar Endurance Sport [powder])

Hypotonic Sports Drinks—Contain electrolytes and a small amount of carbs. This type of drink replaces fluids quickly but doesn't provide much of an energy boost. If a runner uses hypotonic sports drinks on a long run, he/she will need to supplement with sports gels to get the needed carbs. (Examples: Gatorade G2, Powerade Zero, Amino Vital)

Hypertonic Sports Drinks—Contain about 10-15% carbs and usually about 240-320 calories per 500 ml of fluid. These drinks are designed to replenish carb levels after exercise or to top off the glycogen stores before an endurance run. Hypertonic drinks are good for marathons or ultraruns. Due to the high levels of carbs, if hypertonic drinks are used during exercise, it's very important that a runner also take in some isotonic or hypotonic drinks too to help replace fluids. (Examples: Endurox R-4, Gatorade Performance Series, PowerBar Performance Recovery, Isopure Endurance)

Funny thing. Scientists have spent a lot of time developing the "perfect" sports drink. Come to find out, nature had made one long ago—coconut water. To find out more about coconut water [click here].

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Runners Roundtable: Podcast on Resistance Training with Amelia Burton

Check out the podcast below recorded live on 9/16/09 with runners from all around the world—England, Australia, and the US! Runnerdude was greatly honored to be invited to be one of the participants in the discussion. The pod cast is about 50 minutes and well worth the listen. Ameila Burton, the featured expert, provides a wealth of information on how resistance training can benefit distance running. To Listen to the podcast, just click on the green circle below.



New Contest! Free CEP Compression Running Socks!

Several months ago in the post "Not Just for Grandma Anymore!", I reviewed CEP Compression Running Socks as a means for quicker recovery. CEP running socks are the first scientifically proven compression running socks to maximize power, boost energy, and speed recovery time. CEP Running O2 Sportsocks maximize muscle oxygenation and boost energy with CEP's compression technology for all-day benefits. CEP socks will help you run with less effort, increase your speed, decrease recovery time, reduce fatigue and optimize performance. I tested the socks for recovery purposes and was extremely pleased. To read that review [click here].

Derek, the president of CEP Socks is providing one free pair of their awesome compression socks as a prize right here on RunnerDude's Blog! All you have to do is send an email to runnerdudeblog@yahoo.com and put "CEP Socks Contest" in the subject line of the email. Be sure to put your name in the body copy of the email. That's it! Entries will be accepted through midnight (EST) on September 29th. The winner will be announced on September 30th. So, tell all your running buddies about the contest and send in those emails!

Also, If you're interested in getting an extra pair of the socks, CEP Socks is offering the readers of RunnerDude's Blog a special 10% discount. If you'd like to take advantage of the discount, just click on the special RunnerDude CEP Sock button on the right-hand side under the "Runners Market." Be sure to use the special discount code shown on the button when you place your order.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Homemade Granola: The Perfert Pre- and Post-Workout Snack!

Leigh-Ann Webster of HealthWise Women sent me this great pre-workout breakfast or after workout snack that she made and ate frequently during her training for the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon. It looked great, so I made a batch and now I'm hooked! It's perfect for providing you with the fuel you'll need during your workout as well as help restock those used-up carbs after your workout. Give it a try! I guarantee you'll say "YUM!"


Homemade Granola topped with Fresh Berries and Milk or Soy
Ingredients:
4 Cups Multi Grain Oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill or Country Choice Organic Oats)
1 Cup Slivered Almonds (Trader Joes)
2 Cups Raw Pecans (Trader Joes)
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Organic Brown Sugar (Trader Joes)
2 Tablespoons Organic Honey (Trader Joes)
1/4 Cup Omega 3 Cranberry Pieces (Trader Joes)
1/2 Cup Organic Raisins (Trader Joes)

Directions:
Mix oatmeal and nuts together. Mix canola oil, brown sugar, honey, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon in a microwave safe dish. Warm for 30 seconds and pour over the oatmeal mixture. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss in cranberry pieces and raisins. Bake for an additional 5 minutes and remove promptly. Eat plain or top with fresh berries and milk/soy milk. Granola will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Each 1/2 cup serving is 230 calories and 6 grams of fiber. Or, each 1/3 cup serving is 153 calorie sand 4 grams of fiber.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Jessica's Story

Have you ever started a fitness or running program that lasted only a few days before giving up on it? Many Americans do that time and time again. Jessica, however came back to a running program she gave up on back in college. This time, however, she stuck with it and is feeling Great! Here's Jessica's story in her own words:

Running gave me a new outlook on the world and a greater understanding of what I was capable of! In college I tried the Couch to 5k program. After the third workout I gave up on it. I wasn't a runner in my mind—it wasn't for me. If someone asked, my motto was, "I only run if someone is chasing me." I would jog occasionally or walk fast on a treadmill, but I never really ran. I didn't think I could and I never pushed myself to try something outside of my comfort zone. I was content walking and felt that I didn't want to stress my knees or participate in any high-impact exercise. This time around though, I wanted more. I wanted to accomplish for the first time in my life something that wasn't the typical me—I wanted to be an athlete.

I decided to give the Couch to 5K program another try. The first few weeks weren't bad. I realized I enjoyed the five minute running intervals more than the three minute walking intervals. My legs felt better when I ran and I felt like it was more enjoyable than walking. I arrived at that mentally challenging 20-minute interval and did it twice before moving on and feeling like I had actually conquered the run. To be honest I was completely intimidated about the 20-minute run and had just about talked myself out of doing it when I stepped back, took a deep breath, and just went for it.

When I ran those intervals with my husband and was able to just keep going, it made me feel like I had really accomplished something. It truly is a simple program and you're able to run after just nine short weeks. Now when I go for a run, I go for a brisk warm-up walk and then just start running. I have a whole world that has opened up to me because I was willing to try something outside of my comfort zone.

Running has given me more than I could ever expect, the knowledge and strength to push myself further than before, and that's a true accomplishment!
—Jessica Harbison Weaver

Jessica's story is a testament to the human will and the power of determination. Jessica also recently accomplished another awesome goal—her first double-digit run! Check it out on her blog.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Scarecrow Was On To Something!

Watching the funny enhanced video clip of the Wizard of Oz below reminded me of something very serious—the importance of good bone health. While I don't advocate flinging yourself around like the good ole Scarecrow (man he's flexible), I do want to share that running and jumping are two great ways to improve and even increase bone density.

The July/August issue of Sports Health features an article that says weight bearing exercises can improve bone health and prevent diseases and injury later in life such as osteoporosis and fractures. While this isn't earth-shattering news (we've known this for a while), the article goes further to say that activities that put a larger strain on the body (weightlifting), have a higher strain rate (jumping rope), and have a higher strain frequency (running) also help to increase bone density. It seems that including short periods of rest in between the continuous movement also seems to help improve bone density levels. As little as 20 mins of weight-bearing activity a day can help improve bone density.

Your bone density levels usually peak around 30 years of age. So if you're still a young-en, get out there and run, jump, lift weights and get your bone density levels as high as possible. It will be like banking good health for your later years in life. If you're over 30, don't think you're off the hook! You need to get out there and run, jump, and lift weights to maintain your bone density levels.

If you're new to exercise, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. Also, if you've been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, do not start any resistance training until you've consulted your doctor. You'll probably be able to add some resistance training and/or weight-bearing exercise with modifications, but check with your physician first.

Friday, September 11, 2009

RunnerDude's ABCs of Running and Fitness

Print out RunnerDude's ABC's of Running and Fitness below and post it on your fridge. Whether you're just about to start a running or fitness program or you're already an avid runner or fitness buff, sometimes a little reminder of why all this exercise is beneficial is helpful. So, when in doubt, look over this list. Highlight or star the letters that mean the most to you!

RunnerDude's ABC's of Running and Fitness
Aerobic TrainingAerobic activity is one of the best ways to help fight off cardiovascular disease as well as a host of other health problems. Recent research has even shown that aerobic activity is even better at holding off dementia in older individuals than mental exercises.
BalanceCreate a balance in your life of family, work, fitness. Easier said than done, but it's all too easy to put off fitness goals because of other areas of your life. View fitness as a part of each day. Involve your family in your fitness activities. If you can't get in that hour-long run, maybe you can get in a 20-minute walk or do 25 pushups while watching your favorite television program. Being flexible about how you squeeze-in your daily exercise can help keep you fit and motivated.
Caloric IntakeMake sure you're eating enough calories! The average male needs about 1500 calories and women 1200 calories just to sustain their normal body systems! That doesn't included calories needed for extra activity, not to mention intense training.
DietEat a well balanced diet consisting of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats. 45-65% of your calories should come from carbs (complex carbs are best), 10-35% of your calories should come from protein, and 20-35% of your calories should come from fats (mainly poly- and mono-unsaturated). If you're in training for a marathon you may be at the upper end of the carb calories, you may even exceed the 65% during the carb-loading phase a few days prior to the race.
Eccentric PhaseMost resistance training involves a concentric phase (shortening of the muscle) and an eccentric phase (lengthening of the muscle). For example in a chin-up, the concentric phase is pulling yourself up to the bar and the eccentric phase is lowering yourself back down. Often more focus is put on the concentric phase and then we quickly zip through the eccentric phase. If you count to four slowly as you go through the eccentric phase it's like getting an extra workout.
Functional TrainingDon't limit your gym workouts to machines that only work one joint or muscle group. Incorporate more functional exercises that support your sport of choice. If you're a runner, exercises like squats and lunges (with or without weights) are much more functional than the leg extension machine.
Group RunsFinding a group to run with can be very beneficial. Long runs are much more enjoyable with a group. Early morning running or evening running is much safer in a group. The motivational and support aspects of running with a group can be very beneficial during hard intense training.
HydrationOn race day, be sure to drink 16 oz. of water 2 hrs before the start. This gives it time to go through your system and be voided. During the race drink 6-12 oz every 15-20 minutes. Water is fine if the race is no more than 60 minutes. If the race is over an hour, sports drink should be used to help replenish the body's glycogen stores and electrolytes.
IntervalsIntervals are one of the best ways to burn calories as well as increase your speed and build endurance for short-, mid-, and long-distance runners. Intervals are not the only form of speedwork, however. Hillwork and fartleks are also great ways to burn calories, increase speed, and build endurance.
Jump RopeHate the treadmill? Try jumping rope. Jumping rope provides one of the best cardio workouts while at the same time giving the entire body (lower, core, and upper) a good workout. [Click here] for more information on jumping rope.
Keep at it—Have a bad run? Not meeting your goals? Don't give up. Take a day or two to re-evaluate your goals and the strategies you're using to reach them. Are you overtrained? Are you undertrained and expecting too much too soon? Consult with a fellow runner or fitness professional to get some guidance on next steps. Don't quit.
LogLogging your miles/workouts/nutrition is a great way to keep track of all that you've accomplished. It will also help you track down the source of a training injury. You can keep a written log or check out many of the online training logs such as Athlinks, DailyMile, and RunningAhead.
MuscleDon't be afraid to add a little muscle. Women, especially, tend shy away from adding some muscle because they don't want added bulk. Runners (men or women) tend to do the same thing. But one of the best ways to lose weight is to add muscle, because it increases the metabolism thus burning more calories. Runners, remember that a stronger upper body can help decrease the chance of fatigue later in a distance run. Once your form starts to go, then everything else starts to fall apart in a distance run. Runners can focus on endurance resistance training by using lighter weights and up the reps.
NutritionProper nutrition is vital to a healthy runner. If you're not providing your body with the quality energy it needs, it will not be able to perform at optimal levels. Want to know the amount of each food group you need daily, [click here]? Another great site for nutrition information is EatRight.org.
Open MindBe open to new fitness ideas and new training methods. Be careful not to get caught up in a fitness fad, but allow yourself to try different things like yoga or functional resistance training to enhance your overall fitness.
ProteinProtein is a vital macronutrient and is important in the repair of muscle tissue, but you only need a certain amount. In the case of protein, more is not better. The average person only needs .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes require 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Resistance training athletes require 2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Research has shown that the body will not use more than 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day and in fact extra protein can end up being stored as fat as well as harm the liver.
Quality WorkoutsRunning the same distance at the same intensity level day after day is not going to help you improve. Be sure to throw in some focused quality workouts, such as speedwork (intervals, hillwork, fartleks), tempo runs (running a 4- to 8-mile run at a pace slightly slower than race pace), and long runs (a longer-distance that's run about a minute slower than race pace).
RestBe sure to include rest days in your training. A rest day doesn't have to mean no activity. A rest day could be a short slow run the day after a long hard run. But, sometimes your body doees needs a "real" day off. You'll be surprised how much better you'll run the day after a rest day.
Stretching—Dynamic stretches are best before a workout. Dynamic stretches are more sports specific and require more range-of-motion involving more joints and muscle groups. Squats, lunges, buttkicks, and high-knee skips are great dynamic stretches for runners. For a video clip showing more examples of dynamic stretches [click here]. The more traditional static stretches (stretch-and-hold) are best after the run or workout.
ThirstDon't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Often if you're dehydrated, your thirst mechanism will not work.
UnloadUse your runs and workouts to unload all that stress you've accumulated throughout the week.
VarietyJust because you're a runner doesn't mean you can't do resistance training or throw in some cross-training. Adding a little variety to your training routine can help build a more balanced, stronger body as well as help to keep your training fresh and fun.
WinnerEven if you never place in your age group at a race, the fact that you're out there running or in the gym working out or both, makes you a winner in the life race. Your quality of life is going to be that of a winner both physically and mentally.
X-Training (Cross-Training)—Break up your weekly runs with some cross-training such as cycling, walking, the elliptical machine, and/or swimming. These lower-impact forms of training will still give you a great cardio workout while giving your joints a rest. These cross-training exercises will also work different muscle groups that may not be used (or not used as much) in running.
YogaOne of the things runners (and most athletes in general) need is more flexibility and better balance. Yoga is a great way for runners to gain this flexibility and balance.
ZenUsing running as a time of meditation or reflective thinking can do wonders for relieving stress.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Childhood Obesity On the Rise

In 2004, the National Center for Health Statistics showed that 66% of US adults between the ages of 20 and 74 were overweight or obese. According to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, most adults in the US will be overweight or obese by 2030.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), since the 1980's obesity has been on the rise in the United States. Colorado was the only state in 2008 that had an obesity rate less than 20%. Thirty-two states had an obesity rate equal to or greater than 25%. Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia had obesity rates equal to or greater than 30%.

The bigger shocker is the increase in the percentage of obese children. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES ) taken from 1976-1980 showed that 5% of children ages 2-5 were obese, 6.5% of children ages 6-11 were obese, and 5% of children 12-19 were obese. Compare that to similar NHANES surveys taken from 2003-2006 which showed 12.4% of children ages 2-5 were obese, 17% of children ages 6-11 were obese, and 17.6% of children 12-19 were obese.

Because of these dramatic increases, more and more children are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. Just like obese adults, obese children have a greater chance of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. Also, obese children have a greater chance of becoming obese adults. According to the CDC, one study showed that 80% of children who were overweight at ages 10–15 were obese adults at age 25. Another study showed that children who are overweight before the age of 8 are more likely to be more severely obese.

There are a lot of possible culprits to blame for this epidemic of obesity in the United States. The dawn of video games (remember Pong in the 70s?! Man I'm old!), personal computers, the remote control, and 24/7 television programming have all contributed to more sedentary livestyles for children. The increased focus on testing has decreased or eliminated recess and even PE in many elementary schools across the country. Refined grains and the onslaught of packaged cakes, cookies, crackers, and other snacks have flooded the supermarkets. And...portion sizes are grossly out of proportion.

When I was a wee lad, a meal at McDonald's (the one in our town was a drive-up, it had no inside seating) consisted of a hamburger, fries and a soda. The portion size of that meal was comparable to the size of a regular-sized Happy Meal today! So even though it was a fried burger, fried potatoes, and a regular Coke (they didn't have Diet Coke back then), the number of calories was a fraction of a calories in an adult-sized value meal at McDonald's (or any fast food restaurant) today.

Another big culpret is our busy, non-stop lifestyles providing much less time for meal planing and preparing meals at home where you have better control over content and portion size.

So what can we do about this epidemic? Research shows that parents and family dynamics play a big part in the establishment of a child's eating habits—good or bad. Exposing kids to a variety of fresh foods and eating them with your kids will help. Kids watch what you do. If they see you eating healthy foods, they're more apt to eat healthy foods. Even better if they can help you prepare the healthier foods. If they see you exercising, they're more likely to be more physically active. It's recommended that adults be physically active at least 60 minutes most days. That's hard to do, but try. Break it up if you have to. Park at the far end of the parking lot at work. If it's close by, walk to the grocery store. Take the stairs not the elevator.

If you do these simple things, your kids will take notice and it will become ingrained into their daily habits. Take a walk with your kids each afternoon before dinner (even if it's only 15 or 20 minutes). This also provides you time to talk to your kids about their day. Plan one day a week where the entire family participates in a physical activity like flag football, tag, badminton, volleyball, or kickball. Let the kids pick the activity/sport so they feel like they have a say.

Go for a family run. Pick a local 5K as a family goal. Not everyone has to run. Many 5Ks have a walk or a kids fun run as a part of the race festivities. In a recent post "How Running changed My Life: Noah's Story," Noah shares about his healthy transformation. He also talks about his upcoming marathon which is going to be a family affair. His wife is running the 10K and his young son is running the 1-mile kids run. Just a little more than 2 years ago, Noah would have never pictured his family running, much less running a full marathon, a 10K and a kids 1-miler. Noah's son has great role-models and has a great chance of never having to deal with childhood obesity.

So, give it a try. Make healthier choices for meals and get your family active! Below are some websites to help you get started.
BAM! Body and Mind—wealth of ideas on nutrition and fitness for kids
MealsMatter—How to plan healthy meals
Family.go.com—20 Lighter Family Favorites
EatingWell.com—recipes & menus, nutrition & health
MayoClinic.com—20 Lighter Family Favorites
EatingWell.com—Fitness for kids: Getting your children off the couch
Kidnetic.com—Getting Kids Active–10 Minutes at a Time!
About.com—All Kinds of Active Play Ideas
KeepKidsHealthy.com—Fitness and Exercise Guide

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Training Seasonally for Running

This article by Matt Fitzgerald was originally posted by my friends at the TrainingPeaks.com blog , where you can check out more articles for runners and triathletes.

Every day I (Matt Fitzgerald*) receive emails from runners (and triathletes, but I wish to focus on runners in this article) who are following or have followed training plans that I created for one of my books, or for a magazine article, or for TrainingPeaks. Many of these questions are versions of one question, which is essentially this: What do I do if I want to peak for more than one race within a span of time that is shorter than the duration of your training plans?

This question cuts to the heart of the greatest limitation of the prefabricated training plans that I have created in such abundance. Whereas my training plans treat individual peak races in isolation, in the real world most competitive runners take a seasonal approach to the sport, giving more or less equal importance to several races taking place between spring and fall.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it is the racing approach that most elite runners (except marathon specialists) practice too. The question is, how does one practice a seasonal approach to racing most effectively? Simple: Heed the following three simple guidelines.
1. Maintain a high level of general running fitness at all times
Prefabricated training plans are more or less obligated to assume that the runners using them are beginning at a relatively low fitness level relative to their own individual peak levels. Essentially, these plans assume you’re coming off a nice off-season break and are just beginning the process of establishing a fresh fitness base. This assumption makes the plans more inclusive than they might otherwise be. A plan that assumed you already had a solid foundation of general running fitness would not work for you if you lacked that foundation, even if the peak training load prescribed in the final pre-taper weeks was appropriate for you given adequate time, because you’d be in over your head from the very start.

Every runner needs a nice off-season break, and every runner needs to take time to build a fresh fitness base after that off-season break. But if you want to successfully execute a seasonal approach to racing that allows you to race at peak level several times between spring and fall, you need to maintain a fairly high fitness level at all other times. Doing so will enable you to return to peak form fairly quickly after each important race.

It’s important that you avoid training too hard for too long, however. If you try to sustain truly peak training loads throughout the racing season you will get injured or burn out. Except during the short periods when you are actively working to stimulate a fitness peak for an important race, your training should be “manageably hard”. In other words, the volume and intensity of training should be close to—but one solid step below—the maximum that you could sustain indefinitely without getting injured or burning out.

Give yourself a full week to relax and recuperate after major races, of course, but after that, get back after it. The exception, again, is marathons. After each marathon you need to treat yourself to a true off-season.

2. Always move in a definite direction in your training
Described another way, the first step in successful seasonal training is to train for high-level fitness maintenance at all times expect when you are taking a short break after a race, taking an off-season break, or peaking for an upcoming race. This does not mean you should do exactly the same workouts week after week and intentionally go nowhere with your fitness during maintenance periods, however. Your training should always have some kind of direction, even when you are not actively pursuing an immediate fitness peak.

So what sort of direction should your training have during maintenance periods? Focus on addressing a weakness or working on one or more foundational aspects of your running fitness that will necessarily take a back seat during peak training. Specific things to work on include running technique, raw endurance, sprint speed, and muscle strength, power and balance. The idea is to develop one or two of these qualities during maintenance periods without pushing against the overall limits of the training load your body can handle. With this approach your body will be truly ready for peak training when its time comes.

3. Peak for races with short periods of heavy training
If you are successful in maintaining a high level of general running fitness at all times, you can peak for any race in a short period of time by increasing your training load to your maximum limit and prioritizing challenging, race-specific workouts. This gives you the flexibility to race well on the schedule that suits you (provided you avoid making fundamental mistakes such as over-racing). You can peak for a 5K with as few as four weeks of maximal specific training and for a marathon with as few as 12 weeks of such training.

As always, you will need to experiment a bit to find the maintenance training regimen and the peak training format that work best for you, but even in the trial-and-error stage you will probably find that this seasonal approach works better than using separate, whole training plans for every race.

*If Matt Fitzgerald's name sounds familiar, you may have read his recent book, Brain Training for Runners. He also coauthored Triathlete Magazine's Complete Triathlon Book. Matt's also a journalist writing on topics of health, nutrition, endurance sports, and fitness for popular publications such as Runner's World, Triathlete, Her Sports, and Running Times.