There seems to be tremendous interest right now in the health effects of sugar in our diets. Many people say that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is leading people to be overweight. Documentaries like "Fed Up" talk about both the addictive nature of sugar and how the idea of "eating better and exercising more" makes little sense when the environment makes it practically impossible to eliminate sugar additives from your diet in the first place. No matter how hard you try, the deck is simply stacked against you, so the thinking goes. So 21 days ago I set ...
Summer vacations can be tough for runners. On the one hand, when we’re off work, we may assume we’ll have plenty of time to run. But on the other hand, the demands of family activities, travel and even jet lag can leave us with little energy or time to exercise. But with some smart planning, you can sneak in a bit of exercise to keep from falling too far behind in your training. Start with these four tips:
1. Develop an exercise routine you can literally do anywhere.
Whether you find yourself in an airport, on a tropical island with no roads or in a hotel room with a sleeping child, sometimes you just can’t run outside and need to improvise. In cases like these, turn to a set of exercises that can be done anywhere and without any equipment. It’s surprising how much exercise you can get with simple movements like pushups, situps, burpees and lunges. Start with 10 of each and try to do three or four sets, or as many as time allows. Change the intensity by varying how many you do and how fast you do them. You can also add weight to exercises such as squats or side lunges by simply wearing a loaded backpack or holding something else traveling with you.
2. Get creative.
Runners are creatures of habit and love to work from a plan. But when you’re traveling, try to avoid getting hung up the specifics of a workout. Remember: Something is better than nothing. I recall being on a small island in Thailand where the longest road was only a quarter mile – a serious, well, roadblock, to my plan to run 20 miles as a part of marathon training. So I swam in the ocean for a few hours instead. And guess what? I still met my race goals. The key is to stay flexible and creative and to emphasize making something happen.
All runners – and, heck, even many non-runners – know of “The Wall,” that infamous barrier that looms 20-plus miles down the road in a marathon. Legend has it that “The Wall,” as its name implies, is an obstacle of such proportion that it can reduce even the swiftest among us to a dead stop. But here’s the catch: This wall doesn’t really exist.
There are, however, a number of things that runners do, or fail to do, that lead to them to run out of gas late in a marathon. Here are four of them – and how to avoid them:
1. They go out too fast.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood principles among runners is that the speed (or pace) they can sustain declines by about 15 to 20 percent as the race distance doubles. Put another way, if a runner can run a 5K race at a particular pace, his or her 10K pace will be 15 to 20 percent slower. The same runner will slow down a similar amount going from a 10K to a half-marathon, and then again from a half-marathon to a marathon, and so on. Without understanding this rule of thumb, most runners don’t know how much they should slow down in a marathon as compared to shorter races. As a result, they inevitably go out too fast in the first half of the race.
Coach Joe’s Tip: An easy way to understand your true marathon pace is to run a 5K race and then use a race result prediction tool to calculate what your goal pace should be for the marathon. After figuring out that pace, practice it during training and then run it from start to finish on race day.
2. They haven’t trained enough at the right pace.
Understanding your target marathon pace early on is important because it gives you time to practice running that pace. Doing so forms the muscle memory needed to repeat that action over and over again. On race day, you want your goal pace to feel natural, rather than foreign. Keep in mind that varying your running pace by just 15 to 20 seconds a mile requires big changes to your step rate (or cadence), stride length and gait – patterns you don’t want your body to default to during the race.
Coach Joe’s Tip: Spend time practicing your target marathon pace in training. Each week, aim to complete one progressively longer run (increasing the distance by 2 miles every other week until you get to 18 miles) and one shorter run (4 to 6 miles) at your marathon goal pace. Try to also run 18 consecutive miles at that pace at least twice while training for the race.
The Boston Marathon is special to many people – runners and non-runners alike. Marathon runners from all over the world aspire to earn their ticket to Boston, and running Boston is often the highlight of their running careers. But if someone asks why Boston is such a big deal, not everyone has the answer on the tip of their tongues. I’m an exception. Here are five reasons why I think Boston has earned its status at the top of the marathon running heap:
1. You have to qualify to run Boston.
The first reason Boston is so unique is that it’s a qualified race. In other words, in order to register for the race, you must have already run a marathon at a particular (relatively fast) pace. The Boston qualifying standard drives many people throughout their careers as a mark of achievement. But while the Boston Athletic Association wants the race to be challenging to get in, it doesn’t want to exclude non-elite runners.
While race organizers tightened the standards to qualify in 2012, they still aim to allow approximately the top 5 to 10 percent of runners into the race. Think about that in contrast to the marathon at the Olympics, where only the top two runners from the United States participate. That’s a much stricter standard, and it’s also an example of how high the bar can be for elite competitors.
2. Even you can run the Boston Marathon.
Despite Boston being a race that requires a qualifying time, it’s achievable for non-elite runners. That makes Boston unlike almost any other “elite” event because many of us have a shot of competing alongside the absolute best runners in the world. When you spot someone wearing a Boston T-shirt or jacket, you know they met a high standard to get there.
Over the past few years, the number of marathons around the world has exploded. Whether you’re interested in running on the Las Vegas Strip at night or meandering quietly through a forest, there’s a marathon for you. But picking out just the perfect race these days can take a little thought. Here are five things to consider when choosing your next great adventure:
Marathons can range from just a few runners to tens of thousands, and the size of the race has a direct impact on your race experience. Conventional wisdom might lead you to think that small races don’t have the same amenities as the largest races, but some small race organizers take surprisingly good care of their limited numbers of entrants. In fact, in some cases, small races might offer more food, drinks and personal attention than their big-city counterparts, simply because feeding 100 people is a lot easier than feeding 40,000. On the flip side, small races might offer nothing at all other than an organized route and a timing system. Aside from services, the size of the race also dictates the number of spectators who’ll be cheering you on (or not) and whether you’ll be sharing the road with cars. Think carefully about what you want the race environment to feel like, whether that be small and quiet or crazy and loud. And make sure to ask some questions, such as what services will be offered on the course or what the environment will be like on race day.
Coach Joe’s Pick: The Fargo Marathon has a reputation of being one of the best in the country, with amazing spectators, as many as 50 bands on the course and an indoor start and finish at the Fargodome.
I once saw a small group of bib-wearing runners doing laps around my local park. After talking to some of them, I realized they were doing a 50-mile race by running 50 laps around the park’s 1-mile loop. This sounded terrible to me. Race courses can take on all dimensions and sizes, so it’s best to check out what you’re getting into before signing up. Marathons can be held on a variety of surfaces, from trails to highways to running tracks, and can traverse anything from industrial parks to the wildest of mountains. Before signing up for any race, read through a description of the course to get a feel for what it’s all about and make sure to check out the “elevation profile” to see how much climbing and descending you’ll have in store.
Coach Joe’s pick: To get out of the city, check out the Big Sur International Marathon near Monterey, California, for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, crashing surfs and coastal cliffs.
With a surge in popularity, a number of marathons have adopted somewhat unique and unusual registration schemes to prioritize entrants. Even many small races now use lotteries or have short registration windows because they quickly sell out. The Boston Marathon is perhaps the most famous race to require a qualification time to enter, but you might be surprised to find that other races ask for qualifying times in order to prioritize registration or to determine your start order at the race. The bottom line? Plan early and check out the registration process and deadlines so you have the best shot at getting into your dream race.
Watching America’s best long-distance racers can teach the rest of us a lot.
Last weekend in Los Angeles, 370 of the best American marathon runners competed for a few key slots on the U.S. Olympic team. (Only 256 finished the race.) As a runner who watched the event, I could have simply taken in the spectacle and enjoyed the excitement. But, I learned from the experience as well. Here’s what these phenomenal runners taught me – and what you can learn from them too:
1. Fatigue happens.
Most marathon runners worry that they’ll run out of gas somewhere in the late miles. This fear is warranted, as it happens to most of us at some point. After all, the marathon is a long race in many ways: physically, mentally and geographically. But many runners don’t realize that even the sport’s best participants face this challenge.
Sure, top runners make it look easy in some respects, but they also put in a massive amount of training to prepare. On top of that, many of them are supported by trainers, coaches, nutritionists and therapists. And they’re built – physically speaking – with bodies made for running. Still, as I saw last weekend, even top runners fade dramatically late in the race.
What can you learn from this? Don’t beat yourself up when the pressure and fatigue piles on late in the race. That’s just the way it feels – even for the very best.
2. Have a plan – and run with it.
One of the fundamental elements of marathon training is having a plan and executing it. For most of us, that means setting a realistic goal pace, practicing that pace over and over, and running that pace on race day.
At the trials, Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg did just that. The two women competitors ran together at the front of the race, step for step, leaving behind their rivals early on. They had practiced their pace and committed to running it, even if the rest of the field didn’t go with them. That can be an uncomfortable feeling, but Flanagan and Cragg had faith in their race plan and stuck to it. With Cragg finishing in first place and Flanagan taking third, both women made the Olympic team.
Oh what to do when we come home with our running shoes all wet?! Should we leave them outside or throw them in the dryer? No. Here are my quick tips for taking good care of those expensive running shoes when they get wet and dirty.
This is Episode 11 in our RUN Time series from @coachjoeenglish. Many more to come!
I post even more frequently on Facebook. Check it out here: www.facebook.com/runningadvice
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time
Getting out for a run when the weather sucks is tough! Today I give you my advice on making those workouts happen when you’d really rather not.
This is episode number 9 of RUN Time and the first in our 2016 running video series. We’ve got loads more on tap that should be coming out almost every week!
I post even more frequently on Facebook. Check it out here: www.facebook.com/runningadvice
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time
With many of the big fall marathons behind us, a lot of you runners may be feeling a mixture of elation at accomplishing your goal and a sort of sadness that comes with completing such a large “project.” Some of us coaches call this heavy feeling the “post-marathon blues.”
But wallow not. The feeling is normal – and can pass. The key to shaking it is to get moving again with new goals and plans. Here are four ways to dust yourself off and get your head in the (new) game:
1. Line up next season’s schedule.
First, move your thinking from the past to the future. The best way to do that is to get out the calendar and pick some races that catch your eye. Perhaps you’ve noticed other runners posting about races on their social media accounts. If one sounds appealing, jot it down on the calendar before you forget. A bonus of planning now? Many races have early bird registration prices, not to mention they may eventually sell out. While the calendar doesn’t have to be set in stone yet, working out a high-level plan is a good first step to getting excited about the next phase of your training.
2. Set new goals.
Too often I hear about runners moving forward by simply registering for the same race they just finished. “I’ll try again next year,” they tell me if the race didn’t work out the way they thought it might. Instead, set some goals based on what you learned from your last performance and aim to make positive improvements. For example, a concrete goal might be something like, “I will improve my nutrition and hydration practices in the next race so I don’t run out of energy during the late miles.” Write down these goals and make working toward them a priority.
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the New York City Marathon that ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners from around the world are about to converge on New York City for the TCS New York City Marathon, and they will all have something in common: They want to have the best experience possible. The marathon is huge, loud, packed with deep crowds and lined by some of the city’s most iconic sights. For the uninitiated, it is an inspiring – if a little bit overwhelming – experience. If you’re one of them, take heed of these tips and get the inside track:
1. Bundle up.
While the forecast looks good for this year’s race, the weather in New York City can be unpredictable. Some of my most intense memories of the New York City Marathon are of nearly freezing before the start in the staging area at Fort Wadsworth. Plan to spend hours out in the weather prior to the start with little to no shelter. There are a few tents, but for the most part, runners are out in the open and exposed to the wind and potentially cold temperatures. You may want to wear some old clothing, such as heavy cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and then discard them at the start. In the past, race organizers have collected abandoned clothing and donated it to shelters. That way, you’re keeping yourself warm doing something good for the community at the same time.
2. Don’t be late.
Race organizers have devised an effective plan to get the thousands of runners out to the start, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re on the correct ferry or bus. If you miss your ride, you may have a really difficult time getting to the start. I have heard stories of people thinking that they could “grab a later ferry,” only to find themselves out of luck. Every seat will be full, so stick to your assigned slot.
3. Bring only what you need.
Security will be tight this year at the New York City Marathon, as it has been at most major marathons over the past few years. If you’re thinking about bringing anything other than your running gear and energy supplies, you should check the prohibited items list on the marathon’s website. Keep in mind that sleeping bags and tents – which seem like appealing ways to stay warm at the start – aren’t allowed.
4. Understand the first few miles.
The start of the New York City Marathon is a massive undertaking that uses multiple waves and multiple corrals in each start. The course is actually split into three separate routes for the first few miles, with all of the courses eventually converging. What this means is that if you are trying to see or meet someone on the course, you need to understand that you might not be talking about the same “mile 5.” Also, keep in mind that there are separate color-coded mile markers on the course until mile 8, after which they all finally converge.
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.
As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:
1. Arrive early.
Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.
2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.
Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.
3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.
Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.
4. Keep your pace steady during turns.
The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.