Posts Tagged by running tips

My {not-so-secret} Key to Morning Runs

Remember last summer when I talked about hating morning running and then made a big public commitment to actually try it out? Well, that didn’t exactly last long.

I half-heartedly slogged through a couple of weeks of AM runs, but never actually stuck with it. Because honestly, even though the feeling after the run was awesome, the way I felt during it was pretty miserable. I hated feeling like I was sleep-running, hated the stiffness in my legs, and I hated how slow I felt. But most of all – I just wasn’t into it. Even though it was unbearably hot in the afternoons, I still found that I’d rather run after work than get up and run first thing in the morning. Despite my declaration that I was going to give morning running its fair shot, my motivation was lacking. 

At the time I was convinced that anyone who told me they actually liked running before work was on drugs must suffer from an acute case of Post-Exercise Amnesia. This condition, brought on by the extreme runner’s high one gets after completing said morning run, causes the exerciser to forget all about the pain and discomfort of the run itself.

I couldn’t deny that the feeling I got after running in the morning was great. I was so happy to have my run out of the way early, and that was almost enough to make me forget about how much I actually hated running at that time of day. Almost. But not quite.

So after a few weeks of sporadic morning runs, I joined a gym and decided I’d rather escape the heat on a treadmill than in the early hours of the morning. I figured I was just meant to be an afternoon runner, and was content to go on my merry evening-running way.

But then two things happened:

1.) I lost my afternoon-run motivation.

I don’t know how or why, but somewhere between Christmas 2011 and the start of 2012, my motivation to run in the evening all but disappeared. And over the last couple of weeks, it has been a struggle to get myself out the door after work. Even the fact that it is slowly getting lighter in the evenings hasn’t been enough to get my evening-run spark back.

2.) EC gave me an automatic coffee-maker.

An automatic programmable coffee-maker. Which means a nice, fresh pot of coffee waiting for me the instant I wake up.

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I love my French press, but the coffee wasn’t exactly making itself.

It was time for an intervention. I needed to bring morning runs into my life once again. The only difference was – this time I didn’t feel forced into running in the mornings as the only way to escape the weather. I actually wanted to become a morning runner. Or at least try.

So last night, I programmed the coffee-maker and set the alarm. When it went off this morning, I got out of bed right away, drank my coffee, ate a little snack and got myself out the door.

The beginning of the run was tough. My legs were stiff and tired, and I still didn’t feel completely awake. But as the miles went on, a weird thing happened. I was actually starting to enjoy myself.

It may have been the caffeine coursing through my veins.

Or the fact that I had been sick and hadn’t run in two days.

Or it could have even been the awesome running-related news I received last night that will shape my entire running season (more on that later!).

But whatever the reason, this morning’s run was not only the best morning run I’ve ever had, it was best run I’ve had in weeks! I was on top of the world and felt like I could run forever. For the first time in my life, I was that annoying, “I know it’s early but I’m high on life!!” type of runner that you scowl at as you pass.

I know it’s way too early to say that I’ve become a morning-run-believer and will be sticking to pre-work runs from here on out. And I can’t say that I’ll never run in the afternoon again. But I can say that I’ve finally discovered the {not-so-secret} key to sucessful morning runs: the right motivation, and a little bit of caffeine.

And the best part? I was home early enough to actually make a real dinner. Which was a nice break from my usual weekday gourmet feasts.

weekday dinnerVeggie sausages + Vermont PB. Though not together. And this is why I’m not a food blogger…

I can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow.

10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin

Up until a couple of years ago, I rarely ran with a watch if I could help it. And when I did wear one, it was usually because I was running for time instead of distance. Which meant that unless I went and mapped out the route later, there wasn’t any way to tell what pace I was running. The year I qualified for Boston, I timed myself on treadmill runs (you can’t really avoid that) and long runs, not because I wanted to keep a specific pace, but because I wanted to have a general idea of how long it took me to run 20 miles. Those long run times were the only running “data” that I had going into the marathon. That year, I managed to take 19.5 minutes off my marathon time – my biggest marathon PR to date.

But then I got a fancy Garmin as a gift, and this girl who once loved running free and un-timed suddenly became a slave to numbers. I thought I would hate all that feedback, and would hate always seeing my pace in front of me or exactly how far I had gone. But the truth is – it was love at first run. I loved not only having data on the run, but also being able to upload it and see what my runs looked like over time. I loved that I could run in any direction, without any sort of plan, and still know how far and fast I had gone that day. In short, I was hooked.

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I know many of you feel the same way about these little wrist computers. They’re a great tool to have when you are actively training for something. But they’re also incredibly easy to become addicted to. And even though I just spent the first part of this post talking about how much I love my Garmin, sometimes I think the dependence becomes too much. Like so many others I read about, I became a little obsessed with seeing the numbers on every run. If I got ready to run and found out that my Garmin wasn’t charged, it threw everything off. “But how will I run without knowing how fast I’m going every single step of the way??” It’s a little ridiculous, really.

Now that I’m not actively in training, I’ve decided to ditch the Garmin – for most runs. And instead of feeling panic at the loss of so much “valuable” data, I can tell you that it’s been wonderful. So wonderful, that I think it’s something you should do too.

10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin (for now)

It’s true – runners love their numbers. Average pace, fastest race times, miles per week, miles that need to be run at X pace in order to hit X time – our life revolves around them. I know breaking the cycle by ditching the Garmin has been discussed before, but here are 10 reasons why I think it can be great to run without the feedback. I promise it won’t kill you.

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1.) Break the addiction

Pure and simple – you won’t break your dependence on the watch if you never let yourself run without it. I know this seems obvious, but you need to give yourself more than one day. Running watch-less multiple days a week will help you break free of your dependence. I promise it may feel weird at first, but that’ll soon pass. After a few days, seeing an uncharged Garmin before you head out the door on your run won’t even phase you.

2.) Stop worrying about mileage

I am one of those runners who, when I get to the end of what was supposed to be a 5 mile loop and see 4.83 miles on my watch instead, will run up and down the street until I get to exactly 5 miles. Why? I could tell you that it’s because those last .17 miles are just so important, but really it’s because I just like seeing the even number on my watch. Plus, who wants to go out and run 4.83 miles? That’s not as good as 5, right? Five full miles will make me a better runner – 4.83 ? Not worth it.

The beauty of it all is – once you ditch the watch you won’t know whether you went exactly 5 miles or not. And you’ll find that you don’t even care, leaving you free to actually finish the run right in front of your house, instead of 3 blocks down the street.

3.) Stop worrying about pace

Even on days when I’m not trying to run for pace, it’s hard to not keep checking the watch to see how I’m doing. If it tells me that I’m running slower than I want to be, there’s a huge part of me that wants to pick up the pace until it’s back where I like it. Even if I manage to not look at the watch during the run, I still know that the time is being recorded, ready for me to pick apart and analyze later. Running without a watch is the only way that I really, truly don’t care how fast or slow I’m going. I just run.

4.) Embrace the freedom

It’s amazing how freeing it can feel to just shed one little piece of running equipment. There are no paces to hit, no exact mileage to run. Just you and the road.

5.) Run simpler

That freedom you get from ditching the watch takes you back to the simplest form of running. How fast or far you run doesn’t matter. Instead, the run is just about being out there, about experiencing the miles, and getting back to the reasons you fell in love with running in the first place.

6.) Zone out on the run

Besides the fact that you never actually get anywhere, one reason people hate running on a treadmill so much is because of the constant feedback. You can’t escape the monitor that tells you how far you’re running, how fast you’re going, how many calories you’ve burned, and (if you just grab onto the handrails) your heart rate. The watch does the exact same thing – it just lets you know all that stuff without being chained to a treadmill. Having so much feedback all the time makes it really hard to zone out. The watch beeps, you have an urge to glance down at the numbers, you check to see how much further you have to go. None of that helps you “get in the zone.” Ditching the watch gives you less to think about, making it easier to spend the run getting lost in your own thoughts.

7.) Your arm stays warmer

Okay so this may not be at the top of your priority list, but if you ditch the watch your forearm is likely to stay much warmer this winter. It’s amazing how great NOT having a huge chunk of metal against your skin or having to lift a layer or two to see the numbers on the watch feels.

garmin layers

8.) Easy runs become easy again

I’m one of those runners who has certain paces in my head that I feel like I should be hitting, and paces I don’t really like to go above even on easy days. But running is weird. We all know that some days a certain pace will feel so effortless while other days we’re struggling to hang on. So when I go out for what is supposed to be an easy run and see that my pace is a lot slower than it feels like I’m running, instead of telling myself that I obviously need the extra rest today so should slow it down, I push through, often trying to speed up a little in the final miles. At the end of the run, I may have hit the arbitrary pace that I feel is acceptable, but I haven’t exactly had a nice, easy, recovery day either.

When there isn’t any feedback to tell me otherwise, I run as slow as my body wants to go. It may seem silly that I can’t do this normally, but it’s all a part of the “Garmin Effect.”

Which brings me to…

9.) Relieve the pressure and run stress-free

Wearing that watch can put an unnecessary amount of pressure on you. Just like I described above, when you know something is always recording how fast you’re moving, it creates pressure to hit certain paces. I know this isn’t completely logical. No one (literally no one) cares how fast I complete that 7 mile run except for me. But when I’m being timed, it’s as though the stakes are higher. That run will be recorded forever. Everyone will know I ran slow today. And I will be annoyed with myself that I couldn’t hold the pace I wanted to.

Getting rid of the watch means removing that pressure – the pressure to hit a certain pace, the stress of getting caught behind a group of walkers or a slower runner who might mess up your average pace for that mile, the stress of getting stuck at a stoplight or stop sign (should I pause my watch? Try to sprint across? My pace is ruined! My watch will say I’m slow when I’m really not!)…all of that will be gone.

10.) Become more in tune with your body

Finally, and most importantly, running watch free means that you can’t rely on a piece of technology to tell you how fast you are running, or should be running. Instead you just run by feel. When you don’t have the numbers to tell you if you’re hitting a recovery pace or a tempo pace, you are forced to look inward. A few weeks of running watch-less can help you become more in tune with your own body. You’ll know an easy pace because you know what it feels like to run it – the rate of your breathing, the length of your stride – these will help you determine how fast you’re running, not the watch.

 

When marathon training starts up again in January, I’m sure my Garmin and I will be reunited. Like I said, the watch can be an incredibly useful tool. But that doesn’t mean you need to run with it all the time. If you find yourself tied to your Garmin, I encourage you to give it a break even if just for a few weeks. After awhile, you might find that you don’t even really miss it…

Any other great reasons to ditch the watch that I missed?

How to Take Great Race Photos

We all know that when we sign up for a race, we’re also basically signing up for a professional photography session. And as a blogger or reader of blogs, I’m sure you’ve read guides filled with tips and tricks on how to improve your race photos – wear makeup, smile, pose next to landmarks, etc etc etc. You may have even implemented some of these tricks at your races. Because like I always say, a shiny new PR is only as good as the race photos you have to remember it by.

Okay, so I never say that. But I also can’t pretend that I’ve never stood up straighter as I passed a race photographer, or flashed him or her a smile as I ran by. And yes, I will admit that I like finding pictures where I look as strong as I actually feel inside.

But most of the time that doesn’t happen. Because most of the time, my focus is on something else altogether. A posed race photo might look good aesthetically. But do you know what makes race photos great? Actually running.

So without further ado, I present to you the very official {ontherun} Guide to Great Race Photos. Complete with examples of some of my very best race photos of all time (you’re welcome).

The {ontherun} Guide to GREAT Race Photos

Step 1: Sign up for the race of your choosing.

Step 1b: Spend some time training for that race. Chances are, it’s really gonna suck if you don’t.

Step 2: Pick out the outfit that you look cutest in is most comfortable and helps you run your fastest.

Step 3: When the gun goes off, start running. Worry about one thing and one thing only – the clock.

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Seriously. Don’t stop – not even to take pictures of mile signs and scenery. Don’t pose for spectators or fellow runners to take your photograph. In fact, why do you even have your camera on you? This is a race.

Look at this face. And that form! Every photographer’s dream.

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Step 4: When the finish line comes into view, dig down deep with everything you’ve got and sprint, crawl, or shuffle your way across that thing as fast as you possibly can.

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Step 4b: Don’t forget – there will be a money shot of you actually crossing the line. And contrary to what you may have been told, you only get one chance to run across that finish. So make it count.

Bonus points if you lose your breakfast as you cross.

Lizzy_mini10kPhoto of the beautiful Lizzy of Food to Run For

Now go out there and put these steps to good use!

Have any particularly GREAT race photographs that you want to share? Let’s see ‘em!

When Motivation is Missing

Lately, my motivation to run has seemed to drop with every degree that the temperature rises. I find myself using the heat and humidity as an excuse to cut things short, or not run at all. Add to that a schedule that’s been getting busier and busier over the past few weeks and well…I’m sure you can imagine where this is going.

So last week, I had a mission. I wanted to ramp up my mileage by running consistently through the week and doing a long run over the weekend. The scary fact is that marathon training is starting up again, and I’m feeling less than prepared. Every time I train for a marathon, I vow to keep that level of fitness up so I won’t have to start building up my base from the beginning again. And every time I find that taking a break from intense running and long runs seems so much more appealing than being in awesome long-distance shape year-round. But I digress…

In order to get through my week of running, I had to pull out the big guns. Here are some of the strategies I use when I’d rather hang out on the couch in my sweats than sweat outside on the run.

Fighting Inertia (i.e. How to Get Your Butt Out The Door)

Pack a bag and drive straight to the gym. If I set my car on a straight path to the gym instead of going home, I eliminate a lot of the excuses that crop up when I get home first. Excuses that often appear in the form of a wide-eyed furry face who is tired of being alone.

DSC_0002_2.JPGSee – he’s practically begging me not to run with those eyes…

Make a new playlist. Yes, you all know how much I love running with music. But what you might not know is I’m that person who makes one long running playlist, and then listens to it over and over (and over!). My current playlist has been cycling into my ears since the National Marathon (and even that one was almost the same as the I had made for the Hyannis Half in February). While it was a playlist powerful enough to push me to run my fastest marathon to date, after so many miles, it was getting a little tired. I hate to admit it, but even Mumford & Sons has stopped moving me as well as they once did (sorry boys).

So before I set out on my long run yesterday, I downloaded some new motivation-enhancing tunes. Nothing makes me more excited to run than a fresh set of songs to dance to run to. On the list: The Show Goes On (Lupe Fiasco), Hello (Martin Solveig), Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO), and Give Me Everything (Pitbull), along with some new Adele. I can’t have a running playlist without songs that speak to my emotions, can I?

dancersubway.jpgObviously this is exactly what I look like when I’m dance-running

via Jordan Matter

Go exploring. While my new neighborhood has more delicious food options than I’ve ever had before, the running options are less than stellar. Because of this, sometimes going out for a run seems so unappealing. On days when I’m really struggling to find the motivation, I try to change my perspective first. Instead of going for a run, I head out for a little adventure by foot. Running is my favorite way to explore, after all. So I strap on the watch, pick a direction and just run. Making up a new route as I go never fails to help the run go by faster.

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Join a running group, or find a running buddy. Okay, so in the spirit of full disclosure, this is something I haven’t actually done yet. I have my eye on two local running groups to join, but have been a little nervous to take the plunge. I will join though (I’m writing it on the blog, so it now it has to happen!). Not only will running with faster people help me get faster, but it will also give me extra motivation to do speed work – something I never feel like doing when I’m not actually in training (and sometimes even when I am). I like running for the sake of running – speed work is just a necessary evil I need if I want to run fast. And in the summer, when things start heating up, my motivation to run fast drops even lower. So I’m determined to do something about it.

Sheer force. Yes, I know this sounds awful. But sometimes my lazy mind is way louder than my will to exercise….even when I know it is best for me.  And the only way to get it to stop over-analyzing or complaining is just to take back control and force myself out the door. I bargain with myself, tell myself I only have to do a mile or two, or give myself permission to walk if I’m really feeling awful. Usually I find that once I start running, I’m okay. It’s just getting out the door that’s the tough part.

And when all else fails, don’t run – try another form of exercise instead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there’s nothing wrong with taking an occasional break from running. I’ve been running seriously for 13 years now, and the only thing that has kept me going strong all these years is having times when I’m not stressed about my weekly mileage, or my mile splits, or getting in that long run. When I went to visit my family over Memorial Day, I didn’t run once. On a walk with my Mom, she asked me if I missed running when I took these mini breaks from it. I surprised even myself with my answer: NO. I love training. I love the structure, I love the progression, and I love watching my times get faster and my endurance get stronger. But sometimes I just need a break. Not feeling guilty for NOT running is what helps me attack my next training cycle with a renewed vengeance.

That being said, I’m ready. I’m ready to start following a schedule and increasing the intensity of my runs. It’s been a fun couple months filled with races and running for enjoyment but I’m starting to feel the itch to train again. Hopefully that will keep me motivated through the heat and humidity of the next few months.

That Pain in My Butt

Blog note: I spent a good chunk of time this weekend re-designing this little blog of mine, so if you’re reading this through a reader, click through to check it out! It’s still a work in progress and I was originally planning to wait to unveil a new design next month when HOTR turns one, but…I’m not always the most patient person. Once I got things looking good enough to publish, I realized I was too excited to wait!

Knowing when to train through the pain, and when to back off…

During my career as a runner, I’ve been around the block with running injuries. Shin splints, tendonitis, muscle pulls, pinched nerves — you name it, I’ve probably had it. In high school and college, I spent many frustrated days nursing and recovering from my over-use injuries. So I think it’s safe to say that by this point in my running career, I have a pretty good sense of what type of pain is okay to keep training through, and when I need to take a rest.

As runners, it can be really hard to admit when we need to cut back and give our bodies time to heal. For most people, when a certain exercise causes pain, it’s common sense to just stop doing it. But things get a little more complicated when there’s a race on the horizon. After all, it feels better to run than to sit on the sidelines.

But some injuries can be serious business, and running through them can leave you out of commission for a long time. So whenever I feel pain, I go through a quick mental checklist to help me decide whether I should run or whether I need a rest.

Should I train through the pain? Systems Check

  1. Does it hurt when I walk? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance it’s serious.
  2. Where is the pain? Nerve or bone pain should not be messed with.
  3. What kind of pain is it? Sharp, piercing pain is usually a warning sign that it’s something serious; dull, achey pain is a little trickier.
  4. Does running make it worse? Sometimes running can loosen things up and help the pain go away. But if the opposite happens – that the pain gets worse with each step – the smartest thing to do is stop running immediately.
  5. Does it hurt worse after I stop? Even if it feels okay during the run, you need to be careful that running isn’t going to make things worse once you stop.
  6. Where am I in my training cycle? I tend to take it easier and nurse my injuries a lot more at the beginning of a training cycle (for fear of making things worse) than I do near the end, when I just need to get to the race.
  7. Will running ultimately cause more harm than good? I’m a pretty stubborn person in general, and when it comes to running, I can sometimes be downright bull-headed. But no one run is worth my career as a runner.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s basic common sense. Doing a quick “systems check” can help you realize whether you’re dealing with a little soreness, or something that actually needs medical attention.

But all my confidence and knowledge goes out the window when the cause of the injury is my own clumsiness. As I briefly mentioned, last week I fell hard on a patch of ice while walking. The fall was so hard that it left me dazed, and I really had no idea what sort of damage I had caused. But I was pretty sure I hadn’t hurt my tailbone, and that was all that mattered, right?

I took an extra day of rest, and went to the gym the next day ready to run. Two minutes on the treadmill and I realized a run was not in the cards for me. Every step hurt, and I started to fear that I had hurt myself worse than I realized. After checking in with the smart doctor husbands of a couple of friends to make sure that I did not, in fact, break my butt (because it sure felt like it!), I came to the realization that I was just going to have to take it easy for the rest of the week. So I waited (a bit frustrated), and I rested, and I iced, keeping my fingers crossed that I would be well enough to run on Saturday with a group of three awesome bloggers.

icing running injury

Fortunately, by the time the weekend rolled around, my butt was feeling better. Still sore, but running was only mildly uncomfortable and it did not make things worse. 12-ish glorious miles along the Charles River with friends, and I thought I was in the clear.

But…and there’s always a butt

I probably would have been, had I not decided to push it today. But I never claimed that easing back in after an injury was my strong suit. And after a week of traveling plus my injury last week, I felt like it had been forever since I had lifted. Problem is, my lifting routine includes a lot of squats, which means it works my butt. This is normally a good thing, but today it proved to be too much. I didn’t even make it through one set before warning bells started going off in my head — the exercise was clearly making it worse, and as soon as I stopped, the pain worsened into an intense throbbing.

So I modified my lifting workout and then got on the treadmill to run. Even though things still hurt, I decided to stick it out. My reasoning? My main goal now is to be ready for the marathon, so running is priority number one. The run didn’t hurt as much as lifting did, and it didn’t get worse as I went, so I told myself to keep the run short and the pace easy. But to be perfectly honest — I’m at a loss. I know that I need to take care of this injury before it gets worse. But it’s not an injury caused by running, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t done any damage to a bone — it’s just a deep muscle bruise. To make things more complicated, I’m heading into the three toughest weeks of my training cycle. Not only will I be hitting my peak mileage, but in the next three weeks, I’ll be completing a 20-mile training run followed by a half-marathon, and then a 20-mile race. I don’t have time not to run. But I also can’t afford to do more damage, or take this injury with me to the start of the marathon.

At this point, I’ll admit that I’m running a bit blind. My plan right now is to ice, cross train, and run easy. I just hope it’s enough to get me through the next three weeks.

How do you cope with running injuries? And what helps you decide when to train through the pain, and when to give it a rest?

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