Running When the Weather Sucks (RUN Time Episode 9)

running-advice-bugGetting 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.

Getting in Your Runs When the Weather Sucks (RUN Time Episode 9) from Joe English on Vimeo.

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

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Running Through Holiday Travel

running-advice-bugBetween social engagements, shopping and cooking – in addition to year-round daily activities – runners and other athletes have to work hard during the holidays to keep exercise from falling off the calendar. Add holiday travel to the list and many runners miss their workouts. As a life-long runner who has visited dozens of foreign destinations, I’ve learned how to keep running on the go. Here are my five tips to help you do the same:

1. Use long layovers wisely.

DSC_0398Any time I have more than three hours between long flights, I try to plan a workout during the layover. You can do this by researching fitness centers near the airport with day use drop-in fees. Before you hit the road, do a quick Internet search for “gyms near” the airport and call or email them to see if you can pay a fee to exercise at their facility. While few airports have gyms on-site, many airport hotels do. For example, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare offers a drop-in fee at its gym, which is a short covered walk from most of the terminals. Just make sure you pack a workout outfit, shoes, a lock and a towel in your carry-on bag. In addition to making the layover feel shorter, working out will energize you more than lazing around during extra in-transit hours.

2. Bring an apparel variety pack.

It sure is a hassle when you have a specific workout planned only to find out that the gym at your hotel doesn’t have the piece of equipment you need, the pool is closed for repairs or wild animals prevent you from running outside. The latter happened to me in Thailand, where a tiger had been spotted roaming the jungle near my hotel. The staff suggested I forgo my run. (Advice accepted!) The key to staying active is to be flexible and bring what you need for different types of workouts. You might want to pack a swimsuit and goggles, for example, in case your only option is a pool. I try to bring cycle shorts when I travel in case all of the treadmills are busy and I need to hop on a bike instead.
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Five Tips to Improve Your Travel Workout Experience #fitness #running #workouts

running-advice-bugLet’s face it, when you travel your workouts often suffer. Travel screws with your daily routine, impacting things like your schedule, access to your favorite running routes or the gym equipment that you have at home. Having just come back from a quick trip to Asia, I have five more tips fresh in my mind that will help keep your workouts on track and make the whole experience better for you.

Five TipsTip 1 — Develop a backup exercise routine that you can do literally anywhere — Whether you find yourself in an airport, on an island with no gym or just holed up in a hotel room, sometimes you will have no access to any equipment, the outdoors or a safe place to get out for a run. In these cases, I always have a set of exercises that I can do without any equipment to get myself active anywhere. Here’s an example of full-body workout that you can do anywhere. Do three-to-four sets of the following exercises doing as many as you think is wise for your fitness. You may want to start at 10 each:
– Push-ups
– Sit-ups
– Burpees — this is a combination exercise that includes a squat, push-up, thrust and jump. Certain to raise your heart-rate immediately.
– Squats
– Side-lunges

You’ll be surprised how much of a workout you can get doing simple exercises like this, especially when varying the number and the pacing. You can also add weight by grabbing something in your possession when doing some of these; I have used my back-pack for instance when doing squats or side-lunges. Heck put your laptop or a heavy book on your chest to add weight to your sit-ups.

Some other good exercises that you could do here include box jumps (to a bench or even onto a hotel bed if you’re careful about not falling over backward) and pull-ups if you can find a bar of some kind. (NOTE from Joe: shower-curtain rods do not generally support body weight.)
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Training — Seven Ways to Tackle Tough Workouts #running

running-advice-bugSometimes you just have to do it. That tough workout that’s looming on paper in front of you. You need to get out and do it, but something is blocking you. Whether it be fear, anxiety, or just general fatigue, there are days when you just “don’t want to do it.” It’s times like those when you need to take choice out of the equation.

7 ways to tackle tough #workouts

7 ways to tackle tough #workouts

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point. As you may know from reading this blog, I have had my own struggles with doing tough workouts lately. But last Friday my friend came over for a run. I needed to do intervals and I was going to bring her along for the ride. We walked out the door and I said to her, “we’re doing intervals today.” She grimaced and said, “oh, man.” But off we went and we both did them. The workout was tough, but it went fine and we were both happy afterward for completing it.

What I had done is taken the choice out of the equation for her on that day. Rather than asking, “do you want to do intervals with me?” I told her that we were doing them. Had I asked, she would have most likely said no.

Many people that come to us running coaches perform in the same mind-set. We hand them a daily plan and they just do it. If they were left to their own devices, they wouldn’t attempt the same kinds of workouts. They’d probably run a lot more junk miles and maybe even take more days off. But in the context of working through out plan, a “coach says so” attitude takes over and they just do the workouts that have been assigned. What they are doing here is removing their choice from the equation — or to put it differently, putting the choice in someone else’s hands.

If you need a boost in getting over some hurdle, let me give you a few ideas that might help. These ideas shift the personal choice decisions going on in your mind and make it harder to say “no” or take easier choices. In spirit of getting in the best workouts, try some of these:

Work out with a partner — there is nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to get you to perform. Rather than going to the track alone, go with someone. You don’t have to run the same speed, but just the sheer act of going with someone will likely get you there and get you going.
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Training — Five Ways to Spice Up Your Runs

running-advice-bugWe’re a couple of weeks into the new year and I’m already hearing from people that a bit of malaise has set in. The runs are happening, but the eager enthusiasm of the first two weeks has passed. A look outside at a cold rain-shower has them saying, “I guess I could take a day off.” This is the time to spice up those workouts to keep yourself motivated. So today I presented five tips to spice up your runs!

Spicy Tip 1 — Sprint between the traffic lights — So let’s say that your live in an urban center with lots of traffic lights and short blocks. This can be a drag, because you end up running from light to light and then waiting. Well, here’s a fun way to spice up these urban runs: turn your urban run into an interval workout by running hard between the lights and using the light as a recovery period. My friend Coach Dean once told me he was in the best shape of his life when he lived in urban areas and did this type of workout. Start out by warming up and then when you’re ready push yourself hard up to a traffic light, stop at the light and wait, then go again when the light changes to green. Here’s a tip: you do need recovery between the hard intervals, so if you happen to catch the lights at a green light, wait a cycle to give yourself a breather.

Spicy Tip 2 — Turn your workout into a game — You may or may not have heard the funny term “fartlek”, which is a term for a type of mixed speed running workout. Whatever you call it, turning a workout into a game of tag or follow-the-leader can be a lot of fun. Here’s how it works. Find yourself a couple of people and take turns leading. The leader sets the pace and/or tries to outrun the other people in the group. When someone is caught, take a breather of 30 seconds to one minute and then the person that caught that last person gets a chance to take off. Here’s a tip: you need to be somewhat closely matched to play this game or someone will just take-off and no one will be able to catch them. You can overcome this by setting a limit — if they haven’t been caught in 30 seconds then they need to come back and give someone else a turn.
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Training — Five Tips for Running Through Fatigue

running-advice-bugI was pacing one of my coaching clients yesterday and about six miles into our run, when the pace was starting to get to him, I rattled off the latest mile split. We were still on pace and he exclaimed, “wow, I thought I was dying.” After the run, I was explaining to him some things about fatigue that I thought I would share with the wider world out there.

Fatigue is one of the most important sensations that runners need to become aware of and train to handle. Think for a moment about what’s happening when you start feeling fatigue. Your body starts to get tired, your muscles start giving you the signal that they are unhappy and then your brain gets involved and thinks, “I’m dying here.” This is perhaps the most critical point for long-distance runners. In that moment, you will do one of two things: keep running at the same pace or slow down. Most runners will slow down as a response to this sensation. But what’s important here is that in that moment you are being given a signal from your body and you have a choice in how you deal with it. Your reaction to the stimuli is what’s essential here.

The tricky thing here is that most of the time, you don’t actually need to slow down, but it will feel a lot better if you do. If you have been training at your target pace and you’re in the ballpark, these sensations of fatigue in the late miles of a run are totally normal. But most of the time the body has the capacity to keep going, it just doesn’t feel the same. Similar to doing a whole bunch of push-ups, as your arms gets tired, each push-up gets increasingly more painful. This is the same type of sensation that you’re feeling when running.

As fatigue gets more intense, you will be challenged more and more to respond by slowing down. But the fact is that through proper training, you can run through this fatigue, keep on pace, and essentially “choose” to deal with this stimuli by treating it an indicator of what’s going on in your body, rather than a signal that means you have to slow down.

Here are five things that you can do to prepare for fatigue, allowing you to recognize the signals and deal with it:

1. Find yourself a pacer — Perhaps the first thing that can be done to practice running through fatigue is to have someone else pay attention to — and keep — the pace. As you’re getting more and more tired, if you only have to hang on to the shoulder of your pacer, you can just keep grinding it out, gritting your teeth, and sticking to the pace. The pace is going to feel progressively harder, but if you’ve got a good pacer, they will do the work of keeping an eye on the clock and you just have to keep up. I use this method extensively with my clients, pacing them precisely through their workouts and telling them to “just stay on my shoulder” and “I’ll worry about the pace.” The important thing is then to debrief and think about how the pacing felt and to start to overcome the mental barriers and resist the urge that the body is giving you to slow down.
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Workouts: High-intensity Intervals on a Stationary Bike

running-advice-bugWe’re constantly telling people here on the blog to do “quality” workouts — meaning high-intensity workouts that improve running efficiency. We also tell our runners that cross-training is a good idea and is especially useful when injured. A reader named Mark wrote in to us asking the following question:


“I’ve been struggling with a nagging foot problem that won’t seem to go away, so my doctor told me that I should take time off running. I hate just sitting on the stationary bike pedaling aimlessly. Can you suggest a good workout to do on the stationary bike?”

First Mark, you’re correct to be seeking out something other than just aimless pedaling. Just the other day, I was in the gym watching someone spin the pedals so slowly, while reading a newspaper, that I thought he might just walk up and down the stairs once or twice and probably get the same workout. One of the dangers of the stationary bike, especially when equipped with a TV, is that you can just sit there pedaling slowly watching your favorite shows and forget that what you want to do be doing is: increasing your heart-rate, working on pedaling technique and building strength.

Let me give you an easy way to structure a workout that will produce a high-quality, high-intensity result, and should leave you breathless to get off the bike at the end. The focus on this workout is going to be on sprint intervals with a couple of longer, slower, hard intervals. But you can adjust the mix of the intervals as you like once you’ve got the hang of it. This workout will take about 45-55 minutes, depending on how you adjust the intervals.
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Workouts — What does “Going on the top” mean?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A reader names Jenny writes in with a question this week that I think a lot of people might not know the answer to. Here’s Jenny’s question:

“I’m training for my first triathlon so I went to a local swimming club workout. It was my first time out and the coach told me that the workout was to swim 50 meter intervals and “go on the top”. I didn’t know what he meant, so I just followed the crowd. What the heck did he mean?”

First, Jenny, I’m glad that you asked the question of someone, but don’t be afraid to ask your coaches. We often get into a lingo and forget that people don’t all know what we mean. I’m certainly one to use colorful language at times. For the most part, coaches will be happy to explain. Who knows if you’re dealing with someone who wouldn’t, so let me tell you what “going on the top means” and how it applies to both swimming and running.

“Going on the top” — or other variations of the term like “going on the bottom” or “leaving on the 10s” — are a way to use the clock to derive the rest interval of your workouts for group of people.
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Workouts — a strength-building workout for recovery days

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

I’m picking back up on our weekly workout series, which has been on hiatus since the end of the fall marathon season. Every week, I write about a workout that might be useful to you in your training. Today’s topic: a good strength-building workout that you can do on a recovery day when you might be feeling fatigued or just need a break from your mileage. This workout will give you a lot of bang for your buck on a day when you don’t feel mentally ready to hit it too hard.

Workout: Strength-building Drills

Workout Summary: It happens to runners. They do a hard workout and then the next day they feel totally flat, fatigued and not ready to go again. So what do they do? They hit the road for a few easy miles. The impact of these miles? Not much really. Those short mileage, slow jog days, don’t add much to your fitness. In fact, if you’re too baked to run, then those easy miles are probably just dealing your recovery. But if the fatigue is mostly mental and you are up for a workout, one suggestion would be a running drill workout that you’ll do at your local track or football field. Running drills, also called plyometrics, isolate individual aspects of your running stride to build muscular strength in specific areas. These are the equivalent of doing sit-ups or push-ups for your running muscles.

Today’s workout starts with an easy warm-up jog and then goes into a series of drills that are all kept to short distances. Why are the distances short? So that you can concentrate on your form over these short distances and keep from getting sloppy. You will want to do these drills on a soft surface, such as grass, rather than on the road.
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