Leveling Up as a Runner

“It never gets easier, you just go faster” – Greg Lemond

The above quote was made by a cyclist, but it definitely applies to running as well.  Is it true?

I do believe there is truth to this statement, increased speed is a byproduct of hard work and training.  Where running is concerned I believe this statement is a little limited.  Obviously speed is not the only factor to consider, there’s strength, endurance, experience, mental toughness, etc.

You can even draw some parallels to the video game concept of leveling up.

LevelUp4

 

In some cases the “Leveling Up” is very literal.  Nike+ has a system that assigns a specific color as your total miles increase.  The color system is definitely a great way to encourage motivate runners.  Some runners take it further and participate in challenges as well.

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Then you have the  ‘Level Up’ training system developed by Adam and Kara Goucher and provided by Run The Edge.  The program structures the runner’s training as an actual game in which you accumulate points by completing a mix of different workout options, all assigned a certain number of points.  Accumulating a specific number of points will allow you to Level Up and move on to the next level!

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For those who grew up playing video games, all of this Leveling Up can appeal to our gamer sensibilities and to a degree, our competitive nature.  One common theme I’ve noticed is that after a certain level is achieved, there are more requirements to achieve the next level.

For me, the concept of Leveling Up in running relates to fitness, and other gains that I mentioned early in this post, (speed, endurance, strength, experience and mental toughness).  Initially these gains can make running feel easier.  The key is recognizing when we achieve these gains and stepping up our running and training accordingly.

Post LA Marathon I discovered that I had leveled up, in different areas of my running.  My tempo run pace felt much easier to maintain, previously challenging hills were no longer kicking my butt, etc.  I couldn’t help but test my new fitness during some workouts, resulting in some personal bests.  Since, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to my running and my goals.  I signed up for a 5k ready to run a new PR.

Here are 4 points if you have recently “Leveled Up”

  1. Challenge yourself – If workouts that were once considered challenging are much easier it may be time to step it up.  Feeling stronger?  It may be time to add more hills or more challenging workouts to your training.  Increased endurance? It may be time to start training for a longer race!  Faster?  You may benefit from a new pace group or training with some of your faster friends.
  2. Increase your mileage – To continue to see fitness gains it’s often necessary to increase weekly mileage as well.  Think about going from a Novice level training program to Intermediate.  Though there are different mileage options on training plans to accommodate those with busier schedules, generally more advanced training programs will include increased mileage.
  3. Recover – While stepping up your training efforts as a result of fitness gains its also important to consider recovery.  Being able to perform more quality workouts also means that it will take a toll on your body.  And while increased fitness may lead to taking less rest days during the week, recovery should not be neglected.  Whether its in the form of a complete rest day, an easy run, or cross training, its important to give your body a chance to recover to avoid over usage injuries, especially while you’re pushing yourself to new limits!
  4. Adjust your goals – I’ve touched on goals in a previous post and they will be different for everyone.  For many runners this means attempting to run a PR in a race.  For others it may mean racing a new distance be it a 5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, or Ultra.

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If you are struggling with leveling up and achieving fitness gains there may be different things to consider.

  1. Nutrition – Fueling your body is just as important as your training.  If your nutrition is suffering your performance will also suffer, at the very least, you will not be performing to your full potential.  For those struggling in this area it can be as simple as making healthier choices, for others it may not be so simple and I’d recommend consulting with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist that’s familiar with the needs of endurance athletes.  I, personally saw great improvements after I incorporated using my NutriBullet and made other changes to my diet.
  2. Mix up your training – If the majority of your runs are the same distance, pace, terrain, etc. mixing it up is a great way to see improvement.  Longer runs should be slower, while shorter runs, faster.  Incorporating hills, trail running, and intervals can activate different muscle groups and lead to improvements.  Running on different surfaces is also a good idea.  A good running coach can identify areas on improvement and recommend different types of training, workouts, runs, to help get you to the next level.
  3. Rest / Recovery – Once again I must harp on rest and recovery.  If you are not seeing fitness gains one possibility is that you are not giving your body enough time to recover from hard workouts.  In addition to rest days, post run recovery is key.  Getting proper nutrients, proteins and carbs following a tough workout can help speed up recovery and maximize your fitness gains.

Best of luck to everyone, whatever your goals are, no matter what level you are at.  I believe that running should always be enjoyed, but its always nice to see progress!

Happy Running

– Eddie D

 

 

 

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Strategic Focus or Taper Madness?

The LA Marathon weekend is 2 Weeks away and if reality has not kicked in for runners, it will very soon!  For me, this LA Marathon is about taking the next step!  I have, during the past few months, stepped up my efforts in training and nutrition in an attempt to finally get over the hurdle and qualify for The Boston Marathon.

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A Boston Qualifier has been a target of mine since I finished my first Marathon in 2009, although back then it didn’t quite seem possible!  In 2010 it was something I was striving for, and when I completed The Philadelphia Marathon only 2 minutes shy of this goal it was a full on obsession!  I came way shy in my BQ attempt when I ran The Pasadena Marathon in 2011.  To be honest, although I was telling myself I wanted to qualify for Boston I was not training like a runner who really wanted to qualify for Boston.

Boston Marathon 2014 Qualifying Times

My training schedule was a mess, with holes all over and no consistency whatsoever.  I thought I’d make it because I had some speed, but I didn’t respect what it really takes to reach that goal! There were other factors as well including a Vitamin D deficiency that I didn’t know about until before the 2012 Malibu Half Marathon.

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Fast forward to 2013, I ran my first marathon in 2 years at The Ventura Marathon.  At the time I needed to run a 3:05, a tall order for sure, but I was up for the task.  I didn’t have a Garmin during my training only a stop watch, which was both good and bad.  Good: I learned how run by feel!  Bad: Running by feel concept didn’t work during the race when I got swept up with Half Marathoners and went out too fast.  Despite my horrible execution on race strategy, I still managed to run a 3:16 which gave me a lot of confidence for not having run a marathon in 2 years!

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There are a lot of factors in play that, I hope will lead to me reaching my goal at the 2014 LA Marathon.  I’ve posted about my experience with Team NutriBullet, and while I won’t get into all of those details again, I will say it is this training experience and change of mindset that has put me in the position to reach my goals.  Training, proper running form, proper nutrition, in addition to a smart / balanced training strategy has all paid off in a big way!

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The final part of the puzzle is race strategy, and this is where I have been obsessing a bit!  (Okay, maybe a lot!)  Since I attribute my “blow up” at the Ventura Marathon to poor race strategy, I refused to let that be the case once again!  I have a Garmin now, so that should help me from going out “Too fast”, but what about after?  Do I just wing it from there?  No, I refuse to leave it to chance for my big race!  I just had to break down the miles, not to mention I’m also taking a college math class so I’ve been manipulating numbers for weeks!

The rough plan: Run the 1st 3 miles at 7:30 pace; the next 3 miles at 7:15 pace; the bulk of my miles at 7:00 pace, and the final 4+ miles at 6:45 pace if I’m feeling good!  I broke it down and it puts me under 3:05 (about 3:04:36), and if I cant run 6:45 for the final 4+?  I’d still come in about 3:07, still sub 3:10.

So then the question is, can I actually execute this plan?  According to my training its feasible!  I’ve been able to hold a 6:30 pace pretty well on my tempo runs so the 7 min/mile pace should be very manageable.  7:30 for the early miles is slower, but not that slow, it averages out pretty nicely after running all of them 7 minute miles.  (Does it sound like I’m obsessing?)

LAM Course Map

So then there’s the part about negative splits.  According to my plan I’ll run the first half at about 1:33:15 and my second half at about 1:31:21 (Obviously numbers are never exact)  a 2 minute negative split is not a huge stretch right?  After all I have run a lot of progressive paced runs during my training to prepare for just that!  As I continue to crunch these numbers it may be easy to second guess myself, or try to alter the strategy.  I mean even as I type this I was thinking of ways to modify the plan.  With 2 weeks left is this just another form of Taper Madness, or is it the type of Strategic Focus that I’ve been missing for my previous races.

To be honest my training has been very solid and focused, my mileage has been the highest, and most consistent that it has been since, ever? And once again the x-factor is my nutrition!  All of my previous marathon successes have come despite my training shortcomings, now its time to see what I can do when I’m doing things the right way!  Who knows maybe writing all this in my blog will get it all out my system.  Yep, then I can move onto obsessing about other things, like the the race day weather! 😉

LAM Weather Forecast!

Happy Running!

How can I achieve success in running?

Success means different things to different people, and its a motivating factor many areas of our lives.  Before one can strive for success, the individual must first define what that “success” looks like.

Since this is a running blog, we’re focusing on success in running.  There are many tips and training programs out there that promise to elevate your performance to new levels, but what’s right for you?  That depends on what you want to accomplish!  Every runner has different goals, for example:

  • I want to lose weight; get fit; etc.
  • I want to run at least once a day #runstreak
  • I want to train for my first… (5k; 10k; half marathon; marathon; ultra; etc.)
  • I want to achieve a time goal… (PR or PB; qualify for Boston; etc.)
  • I want to run faster; longer; more often
  • I want to run to promote my charity
  • I want to race more frequently (12 races in 12 months, 1 race every weekend, 2 races in a single weekend, etc.)

As you can see (and probably noticed if you’ve been in the running community for some time), many runners run for different reasons.  But what is success and how do you achieve it?

First lets look at what success is.  Success can be defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  In running there is not just 1 singular aim or purpose, every individual has to define what it is they want to accomplish.  For many, success is measured by achieving specific goals.  But depending on the goal it’s recommended that runners have an A goal, B goal and sometimes a C goal.

Lets be honest, every Olympic athlete has a goal of winning a Gold medal, but does that mean they wouldn’t be happy with a Silver or Bronze?  For example if you have a goal of qualifying for Boston, you may come up short of that goal, but set a PR in the process.

Once you set your goal(s), its time to determine how you will work to achieve them.  A specific training/nutrition program? Calendar reminders?  Joining a running group/community?  Hiring a trainer?

One of the best ways to learn how to achieve a goal is to learn from someone who has already achieved that goal.  Better yet from someone who has an established track record of success in that area.

For many runners success is not about achieving a single goal, rather several goals over a period of time.  Resist the urge to tackle too many things at once.  Focus on 1 goal at a time, and/or make sure your multiple goals make sense together.  It may be easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing but the runners who are successful focus on what is necessary to ensure their own success.

Personally, I don’t sign up for very many races throughout the year because my focus is to train for a fast marathon to qualify for Boston, but  someone who has a goal of running 12+ marathons in a year may decide not to race every one in order to ensure they will successfully make it through them all.

Finally, sometimes to achieve success it’s necessary to take a step back.  If you are an often injured runner for example, or always coming up short of your goal in races, it may be a wise decision to step back and analyze your strategy.  Do you need to adjust your running form, add or subtract from your weekly mileage, add cross training, modify your race strategy? It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, don’t let stubbornness hold you back!

I’ve seen many runners achieve amazing things!  Make sure your goals are realistic and you are willing to what it takes to reach them and you can achieve amazing things as well!

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Questions: Holiday Gifts For Runners?

Now that the Holidays are quickly approaching everyone should be thinking about gifts!  Whether you choose to shop online, in the stores, or you are currently camping out for one of the many Black Friday door busters, everyone has their own “Thing”.  As a runner I know that there are certain things I will get from others who know that I run.  For example, I have received a Garmin watch, a pair of running socks, and other types of running gear as previous gifts.

Questions:

  1. What is the BEST running/fitness related gift that you have ever received?
  2. What is the 1 running/fitness related item that you want most for THIS Christmas?  (If you have multiple, limit to 3)
  3. Is there any running/fitness related item you would NOT want to receive as a gift, or would prefer to purchase on your own?
  4. If you had to buy a gift for another runner, what would it be?

For those of you who are a bit suspicious, YES I do intend to steal your gift ideas!! 😉 (Just kidding)

How can I enjoy running?

One of the questions I get the most from friends, family and new/beginner runners is: “How can I actually enjoy running?”. Many people recognize the health and fitness benefits of running, but I’ve also noticed many of those same people automatically think of the bad.  “Oh this is gonna suck”, “Running is boring”, “I can’t wait for it to be over”.

When people read one of my running posts, see me coming back from a run, or hear me talking about running I often get asked, “do you actually enjoy running?  Is it fun for you?” and the comment “I would run more if I actually enjoyed it”.

Here are 7 tips to start enjoying running!

  1. Go at your own pace – Really, its just that simple.  You can decide how far, how fast, or how slow you want to run.  Alternate running, walking, and jogging if running the full distance at once is too intimidating!  The great thing about this approach is that you can set your own personal goals without letting someone dictate them for you.  Even if your walk break is shorter than your previous run, its a victory!
  2. Run with groups and friends – Running on your own can get dull, get a friend involved and tackle it together!  This can give you a training partner you can trust and creates another common interest for conversation.  Maybe your friends are flakes, fortunately there are many running groups out there that train at a conversational pace.  Visit a local specialty running store, chances are they have a weekly group run!  Even if they don’t, they can point you in the right direction!  Running with others can be a great motivational boost and make those miles fly by!
  3. Find a fun / scenic place to run – Maybe running laps around your block is not appealing to you, find a more interesting location! Does your local area have a scenic trail, a beach w/ a bike path, maybe a high school or college track is more appealing?  Websites like http://www.mapmyrun.com can help you find the most popular running routes in your area to keep things fresh and fun!
  4. Switch it up – Now that you have found new routes, try switching up the type of runs!  Short quick runs, longer slow runs, hills, interval runs, track workouts, etc.  The idea may sound intimidating at first, but just remember there are no rules!  If you want to try a different type of run just do it!  Be like a kid, let your imagination run wild!  Literally, if you like to run down hills, start off doing that!  Why not?
  5. Join an online community – Online running/fitness communities such as http://www.dailymile.com, http://www.strava.com, http://www.nikeplus.com and many more, are increasing in popularity.  These communities can give you some extra motivation by allowing you to meet runners from all over the world who share the same goals!  You can comment on others’ workouts and have them comment on yours, and you can join and participate in challenges to give your training that extra push!
  6. Rock the run – Music can be a great boost for a new runner.  Uptempo music can rev you up and motivate you to run longer, further, and even faster.  It can also get you through a tough part of a run when your getting tired!  I have 2 tips for running w/ music… Be safe and Use it accordingly.  You don’t want the volume of the music so high that it is distracting you from your surroundings and you cannot hear traffic around you.  Keep the music at a reasonable volume, where you’re still able to hear ambient noise.  If running with a friend or a group, it can be considered bad etiquette to listen to music when others want to engage you in conversation.
  7. Sign up for a race – Some people simply need to be challenged, and feel that running is boring, or not as exciting without a goal.  The easiest way to set a goal is to sign up for a race!  Start off with a 5k and go from there!  Find a training program that fits your schedule and lifestyle, (there is no shortage of variety in this area).  Most importantly, remember to keep things fun!  In addition to traditional road races there have been a flurry of new “event” runs like mud runs, color runs, electric runs, and even zombie runs!  The point is to make these events fun, party atmospheres.  Find the event that suits you and go for it!

So these are my 7 tips for how to make running enjoyable.  Remember these are just tips and not rules!  The main rule is that there ARE no rules;  experiment and explore!  Find what works for you and just have fun!