If you’re running a 5k on up to a half marathon, hydration matters, but it’s not terribly tricky. The focus should be on making sure you consume enough fluids to prevent dehydration,but if you’re out there for several hours – or a lot more – you need to be even more concerned about avoiding over hydration, also known as hyponatremia. Hence the Goldilocks Principle. [Read more…]
Of all the great pleasures of running, time spent with other runners is one of the greatest. You can’t have too many running friends, and running with them makes every mile a whole new and different experience. You’ll make friends for life, and during all those miles, you’ll discuss every comceivable topic, solve the world’s probems and each others. You’ll run more because you want to hang out with your friends, and a bad run will always become a much better run when you have friends by your side.
While belonging to a running group is helpful to eperienced runners, it’ exponentially more beneficial to new runners, beginner runners who need motivation and support, but beginner runners often feel intimidated, worrying that they won’t be welcome, won’t be able to keep up, or won’t be able to run far enough, all valid concerns.
In this podcast, I address questions submitted by the beginner runners in my Mojo for Running Coaching Program regarding those exact concerns and many more. I hope that after giving this podcast a listen, you’ll feel like you’re ready to find a club and become involved.Subscribe with Stitcher Radio
This is the fourth in a series of podcasts about cross-training. If you haven’t already done so, please check out MFR 108, Cross-Training Basics, MFR 109, Swimming as Cross-Training for Runners and MFR 110, Cycling as Cross-Training for Running.
You may count your steps every day if you have a fitness tracker, but have you ever counted how many times you stepped up? You get extra credit from me for every ascending and descending step because it does your body good, a lot of good.
This, the fourth and final podcast in the cross-training series focuses on stair-climbing. You probably think there’s not much to this topic, but you’ll be surprised. Stair-climbing is excellent cross-training for runners. Whether you do it to replace a running workout or as a supplemental one, you’ll soon be running faster and stronger. Your muscles will be stronger, you’ll have a higher lactate threshhold, and a better VO2 max, but that is just the start.
Stair-climbing offers many benefits, and I explain them all. Now, listen to this episode and then go climb some stairs.
Watch your step, but if you do fall, do so, fabulously.
Every journey begins with a single step.
Life is too short to climb stairs one at a time.
Never look backwards or you’ll fall down the stairs.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
You can’t climb to the top if you don’t start at the bottom.
There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.
Which step have you reached today? I won’t do it. I can’t do it. I want to do it. How do I do it? I’ll try to do it. I can do it. I will do it. Yes, I did it!
Hard work is like stairs and luck is like a lift; sometimes the lift may fail
but stairs will always take you to the top – Titu Ghatourey
“Why Stair-Climbing is Good for Runners” by Matthew Solan, 1/22/14
“Benefits of Taking the Stairs,” Duke Human ResourcesSubscribe with Stitcher Radio
Everybody knows it’s important to warmup before any exercise, right? But the question is: “Do you? Do you warmup before your races?” I have a whole podcast that goes into the details; it’s Mojo for Running Podcast Episode #94, Warming Up Before Your Race. You really need to warmup before any run unless you plan to just do the first couple of miles at warmup pace, which is okay when you’re headed out for an easy run, but if you want to race, I mean really race, seriously, like I mean for a PR, then you must do a thorough warmup ahead of time. Below, I’ve llisted the five main benefits of warming up appropriately on race day.
Reasons Runners Should Warmup
- You’ll feel more comfortable during the first miles of the race.
- Warming up is the ideal opportunity for mental preparation for the race.
- You can start out faster because you won’t need to warmup during the race.
- A good warmup will go a long way toward avoiding injury.
- You’ll be much less likely to get a side stitch. (cramp in your diaphragm area)
Make this part of your pre-race ritual. It’s that important. Heck, it may just be the most important thing you do on race morning besides pinning on that bib. They say it takes 21 successive times performing the same act to make it a habit. So, starting with your next race, do a great warmup, and then do it for the next 20 races. By then, I guarantee, you’ll not only have created a habit, but you’ll also have realized the value because you will have notched quite a few more PR’s along the way.
Let’s assume you regularly do the 5-Point Running Form Check explained in that blog post. That’s great, but if you discover that your form isn’t perfect – and whose form is perfect – then you may be wondering if there is a way to target different elements of your form to improve because, of course, the goal is to run with good form all the time, even when you’re not concentrating on it.
Well, that’s the whole idea of running drills. As a rule, they exaggerate some movement. I encourage you to check out Mojo for Running Podcast Episode #90: Running Drills.
Benefits of Running Form Drills
- It strengthens the necessary muscles to make that movement easier and more natural.
- It trains the body in that motion/movement.
- It gives you a chance to mentally focus on that movement pattern.
A quick YouTube search will reveal, easily, 30 different running drills. So, any time you want to add to your repertoire, that’s a good place to go. Sometimes different coaches will have different names for the same drill, but you’ll get the idea. I have my favorites, and I’ve made up a few of my own that have really been successful with my runners over the years.
Running Form Drills
- Streetlight form check drill: Find a street with street lights, and use them to determine running segments. For the first mile of your run, stop at every street light and do a head to toe form check. Then run in place for ten steps, focusing on perfect form, before resuming running.
- Airborne drill: We’ve all played with helium-filled balloons. Run as if your body is a small helium balloon, and you want to keep your weight to ever come to rest on a foot when it’s on the ground. You only touch the ground briefly, just to keep your bodyweight in the air. Concentrate on avoiding sinking into your steps. This visualization will help you to be light on your feet.
- Beauty and the beast drill: Run five steps, heavily, loudly. Then run ten steps soundlessly. Repeat several times.
- Isolated arm drill: Without moving your legs, pump your arms as if running. Do this to a 180 beat per minute cadence. Pull your arms back from the elbow. So, you’re only pumping them back and letting each arm swing naturally, forward, as the opposite arm pumps back. Your legs will do what your arms do when you run, but it’s difficult to focus on your arms and legs at the same time. This drill allows you to focus on your arms.
Give those a try and when you get tired of those, just go to YouTube and you’ll find an endless supply to always keep your running form training fresh and fun.
How often do you think about your form when you’re running? How often do you do a running form check?
Well, I understand that. Running becomes so comfortable, that we just do it. It becomes as natural as walking, and how often to we think about our running form? Running form has major consequences, though; so, we should do our best to focus on it for at least a few moments every time we run and maybe even to devote a whole workout to it every week or so. It’s a particularly good focus for a recovery run.
Here is a handy checklist. It breaks down form into just five points, making it quick to do a self check.
5-Point Head to Toe Running Form Checklist:
- Hold your head high as if there was a string attached to the top, keep chin back, and look ahead.
- Relax your shoulders, keeping them low and back, opening up your chest, with arms swinging freely.
- Hold arms in a 90-degree angle, pulling back from the elbow, then allowing them to swing forward, making sure arms swing only backwards and forwards, not sideways, never letting them cross the midline of chest.
- Hands should be in loose, relaxed fits with thumb on top.
- Lean forward very slightly from the ankles but not bending at the waist.
That’s it! Simple and quick, but oh so important! Check out Mojo for Running Podcast Episode #26, Running Form.
Cycling is ideal cross-training for running. Like swimming, it fits into the category of cardio cross-training, but what is unique to biking is that it trains you to move your legs in the perfect pattern for running. [Read more…]
I hope that whether you’ve listened to Podcast #109 Swimming as Cross-Training for Running, or read my blog posts about swimming as cross-training, you’re convinced that you need to swim, that swimming would be a tremendous complement to your swimming, but what if you don’t know how to swim? I realize that is the very thing that holds back many runners from cross-training in the pool.
I know many people never had the opportunity to learn how to swim growing up. That certainly does put you at a disadvantage, but you can learn how, and in this post, I’ll explain the way to get the instruction you need.
First, consider these other reasons for learning how to swim:
- You might want to entertain the idea of doing a triathlon one day. You may laugh at that, now, because you’re not a swimmer, but if you were one, would you think about it? Maybe you would.
- It’s sort of life a social skill. Haven’t you been in situations before when you were embarrassed that you couldn’t swim, situations when being able to swim would have made you more comfortable? Whether a pool party at a friend’s house or when you were invited on a friend’s sailboat or a time when you were at the beach, there are plenty of reasons why it’s good to know how to swim.
- You might get a running injury one day. Okay, let’s be real. You will get a running injury, and swimming will be a great way to stay in shape while you’re healing.
- If you’re a parent, it’s a safety issue because you want to teach your kids to swim, and you want to be in a position to rescue them if they get into trouble, even if that’s in a backyard pool.
Swimming is one of the few forms of sport that you really cannot teach yourself. Really. You can learn to do some form of dog paddle, but you need to be taught how to swim. I think it’s the coordination of breathing in freestyle that requires a coach. So, then the question becomes how is the best way to find someone to teach you?
I’ve known many people who took swimming lessons in order to add it to their training regimen or because they wanted to do a triathlon. Heck, I’ve known people who couldn’t swim who registered for a triathlon and THEN signed up for swimming lessons. I know that seems crazy, but it’s one way to do it, and as long as you learn before the triathlon, that’s just fine.
If you want to swim, and you don’t know how, you must find a coach or instructor.
How to find a swim coach:
- Ask around; ask friends who swim regularly or who do triathlons. They might be willing to teach you or they may know someone.
- Check out the local YMCA’s; they almost always have someone who can provide private lessons.
- Check with any competitive pool. If they have a swim team, then they have coaches. If they don’t teach lessons, they’ll certaily be able to provide the name of someone who does.
- Contact triathlon clubs or teams; they will either have a coach or know one, for sure.
- Search for a masters swim team in your area.
How to practice/learn:
(I really don’t think you should try to learn on your own because it’s not really safe, unlike other sports, with swimming, you actually can drown.)
But once you know how to swim well enough to be safe in the water, here are some things to consider:
The more time you spend in the water, the more relaxed you’ll become. And the more relaxed you become, the better, smoother your stroke will become, largely because your breathing will improve when you feel relaxed in the water. So, try to swim every other day when you are new to swimming.
Tailor your strength-training to emphasize strengthening the muscles that you’ll need for swimming.
Learn to do flip turns. Most people wouldn’t consider this critical, but if you plan to swim laps, you’ll really need to learn flip turns. And, honestly, they’re not that hard to do.
Watch YouTube videos. This really will help.
Get a friend to shoot video of you swimming. Like with many other things, self awareness is seldom accurate. In other words, what you think you’re doing is not often accurate. Taking lessons and then seeing yourself, actually seeing what you’re doing, is the best way to accelerate learning.
Practice won’t make perfect, but it will make you much better in a short time. So practice, practice, practice. Like with running or any other sport. Once you’re learned how to swim, just doing it more is the #1 way to improve. Just put in the time, swim the laps, and you’ll be rewarded.
Do you cross-train? If you don’t, you’re missing out. Check out Podcast 108: Cross-Training Basics for more on this topic.
I’ve got eight great reasons why every runner should cross-train:
- More fun. Seriously, cross training adds variety. Consider that any exercise beside running could be considered cross training. How about roller-blading, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, cycling, soccer, elliptical? Yes! You get the idea. Running is great. It’s our favorite sport, but variety is the spice of life, and spending some time doing other forms of exercise is a nice change even for me.
- Other forms of exercise strengthen different muscles while giving running muscles more rest. Exercises such as running and biking, because they’re not load bearing, provide an opportunity for more aerobic conditioning with much less risk of injury. In this way they allow you to increase your training and improve your running fitness.
- Builds different functional movement patterns; some, such as cycling (or spinning), will have a great impact on improving your running form. For this reason, I recommend biking to all runners.
- Enables you to work around less than optimal weather conditions. Swimming and biking, for example, are more bearable in summer’s hottest months. And training on an elliptical or working out at the gym is possible even in the worst weather.
- Creates opportunities for family involvement. Cross training can include the whole family. Vigorous hikes can be a family adventure. Snorkeling, especially with fins, is an excellent leg workout. Those fins help improve flexibility in your ankles. If you have kids, then they probably have jump ropes. Get in the habit of jumping rope with them every day. We used to have competitions to see who could jump the most times without missing. And how about hoola hoops? Do you remember those? Did you know there are adult hula hoops, now? Yep. They’re bigger around. You can actually make them out of tubing that you buy at the home improvement store. I used to have a dozen of them, and I’d have my runners hula hoop for one minute between running repetitions. If you have kids of elementary age, they will love the hoops or jumping rope. Biking, too, can be a family activity. Look at cross training as a way to sneak in more exercise time while also being with the family.
- Some forms of exercise will greatly improve your power, and greater power means less ground time with each running step. I’m talking about plyometric exercises. These are jumping exercises. Depending on your current fitness level, you may need to start with just hopping across a room before moving to hopping up on a box. Then move up to box jumps. Start with a small, low box, and build up to a higher box later. This is intense and inappropriate for anyone who is not already fit, but it will have a great impact on your running if you are up to it. Take it slow and easy and don’t overdo, though. Most gyms will have different sizes of boxes for this purpose.
- Buy yourself an agility ladder agility ladder. These look like a rope ladder, except instead of ropes they’re made of heavy duty nylon straps. You can buy these online for around $20. You don’t climb them. You stretch them out on the ground and run through them stepping in and out of each section in different patterns. This is harder than it sounds and will really get your heart rate up. These have been used by running coaches as part of running workouts for years. Greater agility will certainly improve your running form, help to prevent injuries, and reduce ground contact time when you run, resulting in faster running. Every agility ladder will come with suggestions of different agility exercises, plus you can find plenty of You Tube videos with examples, but you don’t even have to buy an agility ladder. It’s easy to actually draw an agility ladder on the driveway with chalk. This is another activity that the kids will love doing right alongside of you. Be prepared, though. They may be much better at it.
- Reduces injuries by strengthening muscles in ways they’re not strengthened by running, creating better balance of strength. Muscle imbalances are a major contributor to injuries. So, a wide variety of other exercises will be a hedge against this problem by not only strengthening other muscles, but also using them through a greater range of motion.
Now, if you’re still not convinced to get out there and cross-train, here is one more reason that’s bigger than any of those above:
If you’ve been running long, then you’ve probably already done most of the things people do to get faster – which is what most people want to do. Why not do a little less running and a little more cross-training? You might be surprised with a shiny new PR in your next race.
(Listen to Podcast #67: Hydration for Runners)
If you always dread running in the heat, keep this in mind. They did a study comparing the benefits of training at altitude versus training in hot weather with high humidity. After several weeks, the groups were compared. The runners who trained in high temps with high humidity outperformed the ones who trained at altitude.
Here are several tips for making your training safer and more effective when it’s hot outside:
- Always lower the intensity of your runs. Your body is putting a lot of energy into just surviving running in the heat. Accept that all your times will be and should be much slower in the heat.
- When you come to a shady spot, stop and pace back and forth in the shade for a few minutes until you feel yourself cooling off a bit.
- Train early or late, either before sunup or after sunset, but be careful to run with friends and lights for safety.
- Stay hydrated all the time. That way you’ll be safely hydrated any time you start a run. Then make sure to drink on the run. If you’re running more than 90 minutes, be sure you consume electrolytes.
- Run indoors on a treadmill. When it’s 90 degrees outside, that treadmill, in the air conditioning, starts to look more inviting. A treadmill is a good option for speed work during the hottest months.