Category Archives: training tips

How to Qualify for The Boston Marathon

Many runners dream of one day crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I know this because I was one of those runners. When I was fifteen, I saw the Boston Marathon on TV. Ever since then, I dreamed of running it. Then, finally, in April 2015, ten years after I first saw the race on TV, I lived my dream. 

To say that crossing the finish line was a life-changing experience is an understatement. Despite being about 50 minutes too slow to qualify for the Olympics in the Marathon (Canadian Standard is sub 2:30), completing the Boston Marathon made me feel like an Olympian. There were so many people watching the race and cheering for all of us. Although we were nowhere near the elites, we all still got a lot of accolades and high fives.

It also took a lot for me to get there. When I toed the start line of my first marathon, I never thought I’d qualify. Then, I actually did. If you have been chasing a BQ for the past few years, please don’t despair.

Below are tips to help you qualify for The Boston Marathon:

  1. Review the qualifying standards carefully. Once you’ve reviewed the qualifying standards, understand that to guarantee your spot in the race you must run at least 5 minutes faster than the qualifying standard for your age and gender. There are so many people applying to run the race. Therefore, running a 3:34 when your standard is 3:35 will not get you in.
  2. Figure out what pace per mile (or KM) you need to run to be able to achieve that goal time. For example, if you need to run a sub 5 min km for all 42.2km, it’s very good to know that.
  3. Pick a fast course to attempt to qualify. An ideal course would be relatively flat with minimum sharp turns. It would preferably be done as close to sea level as possible and in temperatures that are not too hot and not too cold. I ran my personal best (3:18) at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, which I think is a great course. I’ve also qualified for Boston at the BMO Vancouver Marathon twice. Another good example of a PB-friendly race is the California International Marathon/.
  4. Give yourself enough time to train before your goal race. An ideal length of time to train consistently for a marathon is 6 months.
  5. Don’t skip your long run. The long run will help you improve your aerobic fitness and boost your confidence that you can actually go the distance. You should do at least 3 or 4 runs that are longer than 32km before your marathon.
  6. Hills are your best friends. Learn to love hill workouts. Hill training helps increase leg strength and power as a result of the resistance that hills give you. It will also help prepare you for the faster and more demanding workouts that are ahead of you.
  7. Train at goal race pace. You should strive to train at your goal race pace once a week, especially after you are done the base-building phase. Your race pace training run doesn’t have to be super long. However, it will give you the confidence that you can keep it up.
  8. Don’t be too stressed about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. There will be plenty of other chances if it doesn’t happen at your next marathon.
  9. Enjoy the journey. Listen to your body. Make your workouts fun. Cross-training will help you decrease your risk of injuries.

If you found these tips helpful, please share with anyone who hopes to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon.

5 Ways to Find Joy From Running Again

No matter where we are in our journey, sometimes we go through phases where we don’t enjoy running as much. All of a sudden, the activity that we loved so much became a chore.

We started to dread going out there. Instead, we opted to watch the latest episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or American Idol (kidding!). I’d rather watch Homicide Hunter: Joe Kenda or Storage Wars. Well, anyways, you get my point.

If you are a runner and you see yourself opting to watch TV instead of running or are trying to find reasons not to run, then you may need to re-kindle your motivation to run. You need to get back to enjoying your runs as opposed to dreading them.

Maybe you got injured and are having trouble getting back into it. Maybe, you allowed some personal challenges in life get in the way of your running. Whatever it is, I hope that this post will help you.

So, how do you re-kindle your love affair with running and get back out there?

  1. Remember why you started running in the first place. Chances are, there is a reason why you started running. Ask yourself, “why did I start”? Why did running make me happy before? If you can honestly answer those questions, then you will be able to get motivated to run again and enjoy it.
  2. Change how you train. Maybe you are overtraining and burning out. On the other hand, maybe you are not training enough to see results. Whatever the issue is, take a look at what you’ve been doing over the past few months and see where you fall on the “overtraining to not training enough” spectrum. This will definitely help you figure out what you need to do to start enjoying your runs again. Here are 5 Things that Changed the Way I Train.
  3. Run with your friends. Running with friends will allow you to spend quality time socializing. At the same time, you will get your training run in. You definitely can’t lose when you run with a buddy. Your buddy will keep you accountable. It’s always harder to stay at home in front of the TV when you have your friend waiting for you to go for a run.

  4. Sign up for a destination race. Think of it like a vacation during which you get to run through a new beautiful place. Destination races are fun and exciting. Take photos and keep your finisher’s medal. Ideally, try to do one at least once every couple of years. This will motivate you to keep training. The vacation is your reward for staying motivated to run.
  5. Set a new goal you know you can achieve. Achieving a goal will help you regain confidence in yourself and your training. We all know that achieving goals brings us joy.

 

I hope that you found this helpful. Please share if you enjoyed reading this article.

 

 

Exercise Improves Academic Performance

A few months ago, I was asked to contribute to the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business’ blog. Having graduated from there 4 years ago, I’m grateful that I was asked to write about the impact that keeping fit and healthy has on your academic career. It was definitely an honour for me to be contacted by this high profile educational institution to contribute content.

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business is a top-ranked business school in the world.

In my article, I discussed some of the challenges I faced during my academic years, particularly when it comes to health and fitness. If there is one thing that I wish I did more of in my first and second year of university, exercise would be it. For the first two years of university, I didn’t exercise as much as I should have and did not make much time for myself.

Although focusing on assignments, term papers and tests is a good thing to be doing during your university years, it’s very important to focus on yourself and your health. Being active in university and making about half hour a day to exerice will pay off big. The healthier you feel, the better you will be able to handle the day-to-day stresses of being a student. This, in turn, will improve your academic performance significantly.

I also shared ways in which students can incorporate exercise into their day without spending too much time or money. At a minimum, all you really need is half hour to an hour a day for exercise, roughly three times a week. There are 168 hours in a week and all you need to do is dedicate 1.5-3 of those hours to exercise (less than 2% of your week).

Many studies have shown that physical activity improves cognitive function and memory. Being physically active also stimulates the growth of new neurons. Therefore, the better your brain functions, the better your academic performace will be. This, in turn, will also help you do better in the workforce after you graduate.

If you would like to read the article, CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

How to Build a Run Training Plan

When it comes to building a run training plan, one size does not fit all.

What works for one of my clients may not work for another.

This is why I always like to take care of all the minor details because, to me, details are very important and they are what sets my plans apart from the generic training plans.

Although a more generic training plan is designed when I do small group training, I still give people the option to make minor adjustments to it in order to best accommodate individuals’ needs.

When designing a training plan, below are the things that are important to take into consideration:

1. Current Fitness Level: this determines the difficulty of the plan. It has to be both challenging and manageable at the same time. Therefore, I can’t tell a beginner (who hasn’t completed their first 10k) to start out with doing 30km long runs.

2. Schedule: how many times a week you can realistically commit to running given your current obligations such as: work, family, social life, etc.

3. Time before your target race: Ideally, the more time you have before a race, the more elaborate your training plan will be. You will also be able to spend more time on each of the following: aerobic base development, strength training/hill training, and speedwork while still incorporating recovery weeks into your schedule. The more time you have to train, the more likely you are to reach your goal and do so uninjured because you are allowing for a more gradual build-up to race day.

4. Injuries (current and past): If you have dealt with injuries, you must proceed with caution which often means setting a different type of a goal (such as finish the race without re-injuring yourself) and implement other training into your program (to stay strong and to defend your body from injuries). If you are clear to run, give yourself plenty of time before you begin training for your target race so that you don’t run the risk of re-injury. See my previous post on how to prevent running injuries  before you proceed with a training plan.

5. Other training you do. This will affect the amount of days in any given week you can dedicate to running. Although other training is encouraged, it’s very important that it’s complementary to running. As I found out in 2013, it’s not very fun to train for a fitness competition and a marathon at the same time because they both require different types of training (although I still managed to survive). However, If you strength train (specifically for running, rather than for bulking up) or bike or cross country ski, for example, then your running will be complemented by that training.

6. Goal: your running plan will be tailored specifically to your goal and it’s very important that you set a realistic goal based on your schedule, time before your target race and current fitness level.

Once you have established where you stand with the above, it will be a lot easier to design a plan that works for you and your life (which is why I refuse to just copy and paste training plans and send them out to clients).

Every training plan has the basic elements or phases. Every good coach will be able to answer the main question, which is “why” we do what we do when we do it. Every workout has a purpose and that purpose must be known.

Below are some basic rules that should be considered when building a run training plan:

1. You can’t build a pyramid without a base. A pyramid without a base will fall over. Aerobic conditioning is the foundation that allows you to handle the hills and the speedwork that will come later in your plan. Without it, your plan is just an upside-down pyramid. We have to teach our bodies how to use oxygen efficiently in order to achieve peak performance.

LydiardPeakPerformancePyramid

Above: This is what the ideal Lydiard Peak performance pyramid looks like. I even got it from the material that was given to me when I took the Lydiard coaching certification course. Note that it calls for 24 weeks to peak performance. Given that we don’t have 24 weeks all the time, the aerobic conditioning phase can last between 4-16 weeks. The Hill Training phase lasts between 2-8 weeks and the anaerobic development stage (aka interval training) lasts between 2-6 weeks. Then, you are at the coordination/integration stage where you are well-developed aerobically and anaerobically so you can combine the previous phases. Finally, you taper leading up to race day (taper lasts between 1-3 weeks), in order to feel recovered before your race.

2. It’s response-regulated. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you feel and how your body is responding to the training. If you are suffering physically and mentally as a result of the plan, then the plan is not right for you and changes must be made. On the other hand, if you are finding the plan is too easy and you’re not being challenged by it at all, then your plan also needs some adjustments.

3. Don’t do 2 hard workouts in a row. Never schedule back-to-back hard interval and hill sessions. Those types of sessions take about 48 hours to recover from and you should not overdo them. Doing more interval sessions throughout the week will not necessarily make you faster and could lead to disaster (if you burn yourself out).

4. Increase your weekly mileage gradually. Going from 30km a week to 100km a week is like asking for injuries. Your weekly mileage increase should not exceed much more than 10% compared to the previous week.

5. Sequential development. The training plan must be followed in the correct order. First, you start with increasing volume at low intensity to develop aerobic fitness and then you do higher intensity but lower volume when you get into hill and interval training. The order is as follows: aerobic conditioning, then hill training, then speed training and then taper.

 6. Understanding what your body is telling you. You must learn to distinguish between good sore vs. injury pain. You must also learn to recognise the difference between tired from training vs. overtired from overtraining.

7. The majority of the long runs in your aerobic phase should be easy. Don’t try to hammer out a long run at your desired race pace. You should be able to maintain a conversation during your easy run.

8. Don’t spend more than 20% of your training time in the Red Zone in any given week. After all, 80% of all your weekly volume should be done in the Green Zone (aka aerobic) or slower. This means that you should be able to pass the “talk test” for about 80% of your training week.

9. Pay attention to the total distance of the fast portion of your interval workouts. If you are training for a marathon, the sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 7km. If you are training for 5 or 10k, then the total sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 5k.

10. The run training schedule is a guideline. At the end of the day, nothing is ever set in stone and “it depends” is the answer to almost everything. The most important thing is understanding the principles rather than just blindly filling in some numbers and hoping it will work.

11. Don’t overdo it on the workouts in the 2 weeks leading up to race day. This is where you gradually decrease the workload, also known as taper. It will allow you to feel recovered going into race day rather than burnt out.

Please note that there is so much more that goes into building a running plan than what I’m able to cover in this post. If you have something to add or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

11 Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

Running injury prevention is one of the most important things that I like to cover early on whenever I coach running clinics or take on new clients. Chances are, if you run, you have been injured before. If you have been injured before, you know injuries are not fun.

Injuries take all the joy out of running. So what are some things you can do to prevent them?

1.Understand your injury threshold, which is different for everyone.

You have to avoid the “terrible toos”, which are: too much, too soon, too fast. Some people can get hurt running 15 miles per week, while others can run 150 miles a week before they experience any issues.

I have worked with people of all levels of injury threshold and have successfully helped them reach their goals through progressive approach to increasing their weekly mileage.

If you’re in doubt, then I recommend doing less because sometimes “less is more”. The safest way to build up your training volume is to not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.

2. Build your base first.

There is a reason why I don’t shove hills and intervals down people’s throats when they first start training with me. Your body needs some time to adjust to your new training schedule and that’s why I tell people to spend the first 4-8 weeks (depending on the total length of your training plan) to do easy runs.

Building your base will prepare your muscles and joints for the hills, drills and speedwork thrills in your future. Think of your training plan like a pyramid. With a strong and wide base, it’s less likely to fall apart.

3. Don’t do two hard workouts in a row.

Your body needs about 48 hours to recover after a hard interval or hill workout. If you do a hard workout, then you should do an easy workout for the next two days (or even take a rest day if it was very hard).

If you do too many hard workouts in a row, you will not recover as fast and are more likely to get injured. The body needs time to adapt to the stresses of a hard workout and to recover.

4. Avoid Over-striding.

Over-striding can increase your chances of injury because it often causes you to land heavily on your heel and puts a lot of pressure on your joints. If you are over-striding and landing on your forefoot, that causes a lot of pressure on your calves and Achilles tendon. Therefore, regardless of which part of the foot you are landing on, over-striding is not good for you.

In addition to putting pressure on your joints, it also reduces your running efficiency by causing a breaking action with every step. This prevents you from smoothly moving forward.

With that in mind, work on shortening your stride and increasing your cadence. Aim for a cadence of about 160-180 strides per minute. Land with your foot directly underneath or slightly behind your hips, rather than in front of you. This will help you run with less effort and less impact on your joints because you will be able to land softer.

YanaRunCobbleHill2016

Above: Running Cobble Hill 10k 2016 and I’m noticing that my foot is touching right under my hip (possibly even slightly behind it). I’m also leaning slightly forward. When I looked at the cadence I also noticed that my average cadence was 176 strides per minute. I was happy with that.

5. Strength train to balance your body.

Runners who just run all the time end up getting injured because of the repetitive nature of running. It’s important to keep your core, glutes and back strong if you want to continue improving as a runner and avoid potential setbacks. It’s also important to balance out your quads and hamstrings.

You are far less likely to get injured when you have balance around your hip, knee and ankle joints. In running, some muscles are overused and some are not used enough, which is why strength training is an important part of every running program. By “strength training” I don’t mean that you need to lift as heavy as you can or do curls for the girls all the time. What I mean is functional movement that increases core stability, glute strength, back strength, and balance.

Contrary to popular belief, strength training will not make you too bulky to run fast. In fact, it will make you lean, toned and serve as a defence against injuries. In order to get “bulky” from strength training, you’d have to do something completely different from what I have the runners doing. As far as I know, no one accidentally developed a body-building physique.

BosuCore

Above: Core exercise using the bosu ball.

6. Listen to your body.

If something hurts in a bad way, take 3 days off. Then, try an easy jog to see if you still feel the bad pain. If you don’t feel any bad pain, then you may resume your training program. If the pain is still there, take another 3 days off. If you don’t feel it after that, you may continue training. If it still hurts after 6 days off, then you should see a physiotherapist.

7. Run on an even surface.

If you are consistently running on a slanted road or sidewalk the same way, then you will develop leg length discrepancy because one foot will hit lower on the slope than the other. This can cause hip and knee injuries because your pelvis is no longer stable combined with the impact of running. If one hip is higher than the other, your likelihood of injury increases.

You should also avoid constantly going the same way on the track when doing intervals. Continuously going around the curve of the track causes a similar effect.

8. Don’t forget to stretch.

There is a correlation between tight calves and Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis. Additionally, there is a link between hamstring and hip flexor tightness and hip and knee injuries.

If you sit at a desk all day, it’s very important that you pay attention to hip flexor tightness. Because of where the hip flexors attach (the vertebrae of the lower back), tight hip flexors can correlate with lower back pain.

Also, you should take care of your IT band to make sure it’s not too tight, or else you will experience pain on the outer side of the knee.

9. Cross train.

There are several ways to cross train to maintain your fitness, including: swimming, stationary bike, outdoor cycling, Nordic Track, elliptical trainer, and the rowing machine.

10. Get proper shoes.

If there is one thing I know, it’s the importance of proper running shoes. Although shoes can’t cure injuries, proper shoes can help prevent them. Every foot is different so it’s very important to get fitted for shoes by an expert. If a shoe salesperson tells you that “Shoe X” is perfect for you, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They have to be able to tell you why they believe that it’s the best shoe for you.

If you’re a pronator that wears shoes designed for someone who is a supinator, can you see where the problem is? It’s amplifying the problem you already have making you even more susceptible to injuries.

11. Foam rolling and massages.

They both help decrease muscle tightness. When muscles have their full range of motion, they are much happier and healthier. Don’t forget to foam roll your IT band (it really hurts the first time you try it).

I hope that you found this information helpful. Please share with all your running friends so we can help each other prevent running injuries.

 

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