Week in Review 2.16.15 to 2.22.15

Monday: Warmup then 5 miles at steady state pace and cooldown for a total of 9 miles. Legs after, including walking lunges which crippled me for the next few days.

Tuesday: Easy ski through the woods.

Wednesday: 5.4 mile recovery run plus a few K of skiing at Kingdom Cup.

Thursday: 6.4 mile run in a snowstorm, in Icebugs. This winter thing is getting old.

Friday: Legs totally tired but went for a workout anyway. Warmed up then 5 at tempo, 5 by (2 interval, 1 cruise), 5 at tempo and cooled down for a total of 7. Lifted arms after. Had some guy tell me I was too muscular. Great night.

Saturday: 4 mile recovery run plus 25 minutes on the elliptical for some standing studying.

Sunday: Sat in a chair and studied for 12 hours. Core before bed.

Total Miles: 31.8

1 arm, 1 leg

Moved enough to stay sane this week and that’s about it. With the State Meet on Thursday and the final approach to Step 1, I don’t expect a lot out of this week besides runs as I can grab them and lots of skiing with the team.

Have a great last week of February!!

Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts

Let’s face it, the treadmill can be a little boring. Necessary evil in the middle of winter or heat of summer, but almost no one’s favorite place to run. That being said, the treadmill offers some great training opportunities that can also reduce “treadmill dread.” Because it’s a controlled environment, it can be a great place to practice a marathon pace or attempt a workout that you aren’t sure you’re totally ready for; after all, you can always tone down the pace if you find that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Here are my favorite treadmill workouts that don’t even require a towel thrown over the display:

1. The Progression Run. The ultimate boredom buster, this gives you a little workout stimulus and keeps you entertained. Warmup at your regular run pace then add .1 to your speed every minute for 15 minutes. Assuming you don’t do your regular runs incredibly slowly or your tempo runs fast (too fast, I might add), this should end you right around your tempo speed. Return to your regular run pace for 2 minutes and repeat 1 to 2 more times.

  • You can also do this as a pyramid; build for 15 and step back down by .1 for 15. This is a much harder version because you’re spending a lot more time at higher speeds but another great way to shove your fitness forward.

2. The Wave Run. Warmup at your regular run pace then begin sets of 1 minute at interval pace, 1 minute at cruise pace. Your cruise pace should be harder than your regular run pace but easier than marathon pace. I usually set my cruise pace about 30 seconds faster than my regular run. Repeat 1 hard, 1 cruise for 30 minutes. Although you get a “break” between hard segments, it’s much faster than you usually go and works on running fast on tired legs.

  • If you want to focus on endurance, you can swap to 2 minutes at interval, 1 minute at cruise. If you want to focus on speed, do 1 minute at R-pace (faster than interval) and 2 minutes at cruise.

3. Mount Von Gym. Warmup at your regular run pace then add 1.0 of incline every minute up to 10%. By the end, you should be working hard. If not, consider that your regular pace may be too slow! Recover for 4 minutes on flat then climb up to 10% again. Repeat up to two more times for a total of 40 minutes of climbing.

A note on treadmill effort: there are various schools of thought about what adjustments are needed for the treadmill to be “equivalent” to outdoors. I’m in the camp that finds treadmill running much harder than outdoors; the stagnate air really bothers my lungs and I feel that my effort is way above my pace most days. For other people, the treadmill is easier than outside. One commonly accepted strategy to compensate for the lack of wind resistance is to adjust your incline to 1.0. Another adjustment calculator is here if you need it. I don’t tend to use 1.0 when I’m doing more speed oriented stuff but I do for warmup/cooldown and for tempo oriented runs.

What treadmill workouts are your go-tos? How do you fight treadmill boredom?

Week in Review 2.9.15 to 2.15.15

Warning! Gross picture below for the particularly squeamish.

Highs of this week? Got two surprisingly good workouts in and a lot of solid skiing. Lows? Fricken freezing here (wayyyy below zero twice) and an allergic reaction that derailed an otherwise decent week.

Monday midday: Warmed up to the gym in another storm then did 25 minutes at T pace on the treadmill that just felt effortless. 8 miles total.

Monday afternoon: Hour of skate skiing with the team in epic conditions.

Tuesday: 4.5 mile recovery run nice and easy. Skied a little with the kids (maybe 3K) before coaching.

Wednesday midday: Another surprisingly good workout. Took advantage of sunshine and decent temps to head down to my waterfront “track” for 8 by 400 at I pace. Footing wasn’t perfect but I made do. 8 miles total. Felt really, really good. Encouraging.

Wednesday afternoon: 45 minutes of skate skiing. Conditions changed; lots of balance work!

Thursday: 6.4 mile recovery run at Mom and Dad’s over my old hills. Roads a mess but beautiful, sunny day.

Friday: Fricken frigid. -18 when I woke up, -8 when I skied. Did an hour on the VAST trail on waxless.

Saturday: Woke up with an allergic reaction, slammed some Benedryl and carried on. Previewed the race course with the team (5K) then swapped skate skis for backcountry and skied around to coach (and try to stay warm).

Sunday: Woke up looking like this:

I didn't need to see today, right?

In case you thought I was a sugarcoating blogger, I present my face this morning.

Spent 4 hours at Urgent Care and decided a 90 minute steady state run wasn’t a great idea. It never got above zero here today and wind chills were -35. Got some Prednisone and feeling much better, so I’ll aim to get that run in first thing tomorrow.

Total Miles: 27

Total Skiing: 4+ hours

Lots of mini-weight workouts on study breaks.

Although I’m frustrated with how the week ended up, I am encouraged that despite low miles and a schedule that stinks right now, I’m hanging onto my fitness. 2 more weeks of insanity then I can get back to normal running life! Maybe by then it will come above zero. What a winter! I was on the fence about Amherst but since I missed this weekend of running (and studying), I can’t afford a full day of travel next weekend. I’ve also missed long runs the last few weeks and feel like a 10 mile hard effort here is just as valuable as one in Amherst. Bummed to miss out but ultimately think it’s the right way to go. There are always more races…

This past week also marked a year to go until the Trials. Yikes! Once I get through the Boards, my big focus will be figuring out how to approach going after that standard. The big questions to answer are:

  • When to go for it (Considerations: summer weather, clinical schedule, backup plan if something goes wrong)
  • Where to go for it (Big competitive field? Low key race?)
  • Half Marathon or Full (Half is a lot faster (1:15 versus 2:43) but everything doesn’t have to go perfectly for a half marathon to go well and if it doesn’t go well, recovery and trying again is a little more feasible than after 26.2)

For the week ahead, I’ll aim for three workouts again and whatever other running and skiing falls in there:

  • 90 minute run with 45 minutes at steady state pace (10 to 15 seconds slower than tempo)
  • 5 by 5 minutes at tempo pace
  • Structured Fartlek

 

 

Week in Review 2.2.15 to 2.8.15

This was a week of accepting that the Boards are coming, whether I acknowledge it or not. Just over three weeks to go!

Monday: 5.2 miles in the middle of the storm, dressed like the kid in the Christmas Story. Just couldn’t fathom one more day inside.

Tuesday: 6 miles in day-after conditions.

Wednesday: 6 mile progression run on the treadmill. Legs after. Foot a little aggravated from sliding around in the snow.

Thursday: 5.75 mile bike path run with Will. Absolutely freezing. Rocking brand new Kinvaras and I am IN LOVE with the 5. It’s like the Mirage and Kinvara had a baby.

All of the new things! Also flavor testing almost every Nuun flavor for a full-service product review.

All of the new things! Also flavor testing almost every Nuun flavor for a full-service product review.

Friday: Previewed Saturday course with kids at Sleepy. Lots and lots of climbing, some of the best skiing of the season.

Saturday: 7.5 mile run with Amy, in the snow and slush again. Arms after.

Lots of powder up in these woods. This was before our most recent storm!

Lots of powder up in these woods. This was before our most recent storm!

Sunday: Nothing (well, full practice test but no running). Core routine.

Total Miles: 30.5

1 arm, 1 leg and lots of core between practice blocks.

Since the Groundhog saw his shadow so we only have a little over 5 weeks to go with winter!!! Unfortunately, I’m not convinced Phil has ever been to Vermont where winters can drag on well into April. My big hope is that when studying ends, these big snowstorms will also be behind us so running isn’t quite the slip and slide experience that it’s been.

For this coming week, my pipe dream is to get in at least a 90 minute run and one tempo workout to try to stay in my holding pattern.

How’s the snow where you are? Anyone reading from Boston or Mass with great snowbank photos to share?!

What We Can All Learn from Super Bowl XLIX

I love sports. And I REALLY love football. My first choice is college but I’m a Boston sports fan and have been rooting for the Patriots since I was old enough to toddle around my grandparent’s yard in South Boston. Needless to say, I’m thrilled (stunned?) with the outcome from Sunday. We had a ton of people over and it was a blast to watch the Patriots win again. As I’ve been reflecting on the game, two major themes emerged for me.

1. Coaches are human and by and large, believe in their athletes far more than the athlete does. In the last seconds of the game, Pete Carroll made the very questionable call (or his OC did) to throw the ball instead of run it a yard to the end zone. I’m not an NFL coach but that is a call I would never have made, just given the potential for a pick. I’m also not Pete Carroll and while I was watching an interview with him, it became very evident to me that to Coach Carroll, throwing it made all the sense in the world. Why? He trusted his players to get it done. When it didn’t work out, he took full responsibility for the error and accepted the immense criticism from “experts” all over the world. I had a similar situation at the State Meet this year, where I was forced to make a difficult call about who should run, what was fair and what our goals were for the season. Even before the meet, I took enormous flak for my decision. After the meet, however, was the worst I’ve ever felt as a coach, not because my call didn’t turn out as we’d expected, but because some athletes and parents were downright awful. I cried for a solid 24 hours when I finally got home and it took weeks for the sting of that to wear off, but from where I stand now, I’m happy I made the call that I did. As much as we like to try, coaching is not all science. There are general principles, of course, but you can never discount heart, soul, chance and rookies like Malcolm Butler.

2. It ain’t over til it’s over. I tell my athletes this ALL THE TIME but until it happens to them (either the Seahawks or Patriots direction), they never believe me. It’s this logic that led to the common coach refrain of “Don’t look back!!” and “all the way through the finish.” At a recent race, my top JV boy was in second coming into the final feet of a hill climb. He was solidly in second, but didn’t have a chance of catching first with the real estate left. At the bottom of a small downhill, however, 20 feet from the finish, the lead skier crashed and my skier sailed by to win the race. Last week, I watched another one of my skiers finish her drive 3 seconds too soon and barely get her binding across in time, a mistake that would have taken her from 3rd to 6th in less than the front of a ski binding. We could all use a remind, however, be it in the middle of a workout or the dark miles of the marathon, that nothing is over til we cross the finish line and by and large, competition is nothing if not unpredictable.

Bonus theme: Why were the commercials so darn sad? I teared up multiple times throughout the night and almost missed the outrageous GoDaddy commercials. I adored the #likeagirl commercial, however, and the explosion of women posting their #likeagirl photos across social media. Good stuff.

What struck you about the Super Bowl?

Week in Review: 1.26.15 to 2.1.15

January is over?! Does that mean the frigid cold is over too? Looking ahead to another winter storm advisory (and another 6 to 8 inches of snow), it seems that winter is nowhere near wrapped up. I love the snow but I’d also love to get out of the single digits and back to running outside.

Monday: 80 minutes of classic skiing at the Range including a whole lap all by myself! Most of the team went back country so I took a small group to do focused technique. Just awesome.

Tuesday: Blizzard workout creativity. Warmed (ish) up to the gym then 30 minutes of 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy and a cooldown for 8.6 miles. Legs afterward.

Wednesday: 3.25 mile recovery run and an hour of skiing (mostly games) with the team. Legs wiped but might be more from soft snow than anything.

Thursday: Skied up the back of Mansfield and then since it was beautiful out, got a 5.25 mile run done when I got home. Legs tired but knew the cold snap was coming. 4 striders at the end.

Friday: Snuck 7.1 in before the mock boards.

Saturday: 8.5 mile threshold run on the treadmill. Legs and abs after.

Sunday: Mentally defeated by being indoors!! Was hoping for 90 minutes but literally couldn’t make myself do any more than 60. Arms after.

Weekly Total: 40.0 (on the dot) plus 4 ish hours of skiing.

2 legs, 1 arms.

Total for January: 185 miles.

Did my best to get a little running in every day this week. The temperatures are killing me (I really can’t keep my hands warm below 5) so I’m hoping we warm up a tad soon. Our Board Prep class has wrapped and now I only have coaching on the calendar, so I should have a little more flexibility to run. My general plan is to get my run done early so I have a nice chunk of the day to study before heading to practice.

20 Minute Leg Workout for Runners

This is my 20 minute, no BS leg workout that can be done at home or at the gym and hits the key muscle groups for building a strong drive train. Start with 8 to 10 reps of each exercise and 2 full sets. As you get stronger, add more reps in with an eventual goal of 20 reps per exercise. This is a little different from “traditional” weight training, where you usually top out around 12 before increasing weight. Endurance sports required a slightly different approach to lifting; because we primarily want muscle strength that helps us out when our bodies are exhausted, lifting for endurance tends to focus more on higher reps and lower weight. There are certainly times for lifting heavier weights (base building season, for example), but for in season strength training, stick to more reps and less weight.

One of the reasons I put videos** here (and WAY less than perfect videos) is to inject some reality into how hard it is to build real, functional strength. I’m not perfect at these exercises, they aren’t easy for me and it’s okay if they aren’t easy for you! #keepingitreal #nophonyrunningblogs

1. Single Leg Squat. It’s okay to hold onto something for balance here (I still do!) but your real focus is controlling your motion down and up and teaching your knee to track in the midline. Only go down as far as you can stay controlled.

2. Plie Squat.

3. Step-ups. Keep these to 10 reps and add an additional set once you feel fluid.

4. Plie Squat Jump. I don’t use weights for this because I like to use my arms to help get an explosive upward movement. Focus on landing lightly; if you are slamming into the ground, you’re missing a key part of the movement.

5. Donkey Kick.

6. Fire Hydrant.

7. Pendulum Squat.

8. Deadlift. You can do this with a straight bar or dumbbells. I usually use a straight bar at the gym, but don’t have one at home so use dumbbells at home. Focus on keeping your back flat (but not artificially straightened) and on driving hip bones up as you stand up.

9. Weighted Squat. If I’m at the gym, I use the Smith rack but at home, I rest the dumbbells on my shoulders for these. If you have a shoulder or rotator cuff injury, I’d recommend just using body weight instead. As with any squat, focus on keeping your knees midline and behind your big toe.

What other at-home exercises do you do? Hardest one of these for you?

**PS sorry the first two are sideways. It is just not my week for technology!

Week in Review 1/19/15 to 1/25/15

We’ll try this again. Pro-tip for anyone who thinks the migration from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is easy: it is not. I’m still not totally sure where in cyberspace this blog is and almost paralyzed at the thought of clicking any more buttons for fear that I’ll lose half my content again, which is how I spent most of yesterday afternoon. Regardless…

Monday: Tempo with 5 by 5 minutes at T pace on the treadmill and 8 miles total. Legs after.

Tuesday: Recovery ski, 1 hour.

Wednesday: 9.2 run/skate in running shoes with LT.

Thursday: Workout! 5 by 3 minutes hard, up and down Riverside. Down sections felt great, up sections were humbling. Legs after.

Friday: 3.5 mile recovery run.

Saturday: 5.5 mile run with 4 striders and arms afterward.

Sunday: 11 mile hilly long run on Spear. Chilled to the bone by the end.

Total: 45.2 miles

2 leg lifts, 1 arm lift.

Upside? Got two workouts and two longish runs in. Downside? Mileage still pretty paltry. Working on accepting that as my fate until the Boards are done.

 

The Heart of the Athlete

Sudden cardiac death in athletes is a personal and professional interest of mine. In the past few years, running, triathlon and nordic skiing have all had major events where an athlete died of sudden cardiac death (death within an hour of cardiac arrest). In general, these deaths are not attributable to what we consider “traditional” risk factors for cardiac arrest. Many of these athletes had an underlying condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a generally asymptomatic enlarging of the heart. Until it isn’t. One of the biggest questions that I hope to answer across my career is whether or not this hypertrophy is part of why these athletes end up excelling at endurance sports in the first place; that is, if we’re going to screen, does focusing on endurance sports make sense?

This article frames the conversation about screening nicely. As Dr. Maron points out, the more people you screen with a test that isn’t perfectly specific, the more false positives you have which can trigger a battery of invasive, unnecessary tests. As a coach, this is an issue that sits at the back of my head. Last year at the Craftsbury Marathon, an event where Olympians, high schoolers and weekend warriors can all race together, a skier from Dartmouth died on the course. Some of my skiers were right around him and it was a difficult conversation to have with them about the likelihood of them having a similar experience.

At this point, the Class I recommendation is to use a 14 point screening test and then refer to ECG and further testing if an athlete says yes to any of the items. It’s not a perfect tool but may be a start towards earlier identification of cardiac issues in a population we often consider our most healthy.

Not All At Once

Last week, I was on the phone with the mom of an alumna with whom I remain close and we were talking about balance and the tendency of some women to take on too much. She remarked that she once heard Madeline Kunin (former Governor of Vermont and generally incredible woman) say that “Of course women can have it all. Just not at once.” That quote has hung with me since our conversation.

I am rarely overwhelmed by my schedule. In the past week, however, I’ve felt a bit overbooked and increasingly like I’m doing a sh*tty job at all my commitments. As I struggled out the door for my workout on Monday, feeling like I should remain tied to my desk instead of running, I finally admitted that something had to give, at least for the next few weeks.

Right now, my priorities are the Boards and MMU Nordic. The former is self-evident from a career perspective. The latter reflects a core priority in my life: give back to the community that raised me. Every season of coaching is special but when a State Championship is likely and you have three and four year skiers who have given their all to get here, they deserve your all right back.

By the end of my workout, I’d come up with a temporary solution (which I suppose made the whole run worth it). Until the end of ski season, I’ll use ski practice as my recovery days. I have two days a week slotted in as recovery runs and since the purpose of a recovery run is to just move, skiing will do just fine. This saves me a double workout twice a week and takes some pressure off. Is it the most specific workout for running? No. But it will have to do. Yesterday was an incredible day of skiing and it was made even better by being able to enjoy it for what it was, not worrying about when I was going to get my run in.

What compromises have you made to better fit running into your life?