Off Season Training – How to Train In-Between Training Cycles

Enter the “off season” — For most of us the 2017 race season is coming to an end, most of you have recently completed your “A” race and will be taking some well deserved time to recover. Many are taking advantage of the popular free “Post Marathon Recovery Guide” I put together a few months ago which is great!  So, today I want to talk a little about off season training – that awkward time between training cycles.

It’s that strange space between being at your peak performance shape and also having to force yourself to dial things back to allow your body to recover. We have all had those moments and they are confusing at best.

So, let’s change that. This transitional phase between training cycles shouldn’t be as awkward it might have been in the past. First you simply need to rest/recover and then set unstructured training which will allow you to keep the fitness you have worked so hard to obtain. The worst thing you can do is not have a plan and have to rebuild yourself back up in a few months.

Let’s dive a little into the details of what “non-structured training” looks like. First of all it should be fun, not based on hitting splits or paces. This is the time to leave the GPS at home and enjoy training on feel. It’s also a good time to add something new to the mix. With that said you should have two key elements in your week. First being a semi-long run and the other strength work. The long run will ensure that you are maintaining your fitness and endurance while the strength work will keep you injury free. As for the strength work – an important point of clarification… make sure the strength training is sports specific strength training. So, for runners – core, flexibility, stabilization, mobility work. For triathletes – upper body work, shoulders, back and chest will be important to emphasize. A great all around routine can be seen in these videos.

And that’s it! The rest of your week should be filled with activities you enjoy and which will keep you active. Go kite surfing or SUP’ing… or whatever else you like. Enjoy this time, when you are ready to get back to some structured training you will not only be physically rested but also mentally ready to take on the next training cycle.

If you are a nutcase A-type like me… then use this time to plan your next season. Do your homework on finding a coach who will help you reach your goals. Sign-up for some events, pick up a book on the newest technologies in our sport (I recommend this book on running with power) and find your motivation.

Finally… make sure you keep an eye on those calories, remember balance the calories you are burning with what you are putting in. If you remain aware you will not gain unwanted weight.

How much Recovery Time Should you Take Between Races?

With SO many races to choose from it is easy to overcommit and fill your year with event after event. Depending on your goals, doing so may not be ideal to your longevity as a high performing athlete. To some what I’m about so say might sound a bit counter intuitive. Others will agree 100% on the importance of taking time off between races or better yet being strategic with the events you program each season.

With that said, I wanted to take the opportunity to chat about post race recovery and the importance of taking some time off. One of the most common mistakes I see in the athletes I talk to is that they don’t take enough time to recovery between races.

I know it’s tempting to think that you can capitalize on your current fitness to compete in another event and think you will do better. Sadly, this is rarely the case for us non-pros. On the contrary… what often happens is an onset of fatigue, which can cause you to lose your form and result in injury. Not to say that you would not be able to finish another marathon a few weeks after your first, but it will not be to your potential and the risk of injury is just not worth another medal.

Take some time off, I’m sure your family has been missing you. Get some sleep, go enjoy the little things you sacrificed during your training cycle. By taking 3 to 4 weeks of “recovery” time you will come back stronger. They key however, is to have a recovery plan, which will maintain your fitness and gently roll you back into your normal training volume. These plans typically include a mixture of swimming, yoga, stretching, running specific strength training and light running. Leaving you energized, rested and ready to start working on quicker paces and focusing on your next PR.

Seeing how important proper recovery is, I put together a basic 4 week recovery guide. Click this link to download it – POST MARATHON RECOVERY GUIDE.  Trust me on this, if you want to race to your potential in the next race.

How to Stay Fit while Traveling

Summer is upon us, kids about to be on vacation and for a lot of folks summer vacation is finally here. As most of you know my wife and I love to travel and have been doing a fair share of traveling in the last few months. If you want to check out some pictures please follow our Instagram feed.. Yea they are mostly running pictures, but you will get to see some sweet backdrops. Anyway, back on topic… so I get a few questions from athletes asking me to adjust training and for advice on – How to stay fit while on vacation.

Keeping up with your training is particularly important if you are in a key phase of your training cycle. Regardless if you are traveling for business or pleasure the entire process seems to throw your normal routine out of sync. Most often when traveling you are limited by the equipment in your hotel or if you are renting a house out then the safest routes in a neighborhood. Not to mention that when most people travel, the itinerary is full of things to do, leaving little or no time for a workout, let alone a long quality session to be done. Then you have all the “non-approved” food one must try… for some reason your choices for healthy meals tend to be nonexistent. And let’s face it, if you are on vacation it’s time to indulge and let loose, right? True.. However, with a little planning and balance one can have a blast, enjoy the local foods and still make time for your workout… even if it’s a modified one.

So, this brings me to share a few things I use to help me balance my training and still enjoy all the delicious local fare each country has to offer.

Training on Vacation

The Workout

A little planning goes a long way; a quick internet search will yield information on local run/tri clubs. Reach-out and join them on a workout, this is one of the best ways to meet locals (when in the Riviera Maya join our group — Another option is to find a park or path to get your millage in. I like to use Google Maps or Map my Run to find routes and modify them on the go. Personally I find that running around a new city is one of the best ways to see a city. If you get lost just ask someone, people are always happy to help. Most important thing is to be safe, go out early morning, take a cell phone (maybe even take some pics of the scenery along the way, more on this below) and some extra cash. If you get too far out find a coffee shop, get a treat and call an Uber.

Strength Training

This is one of the easiest thing to do, you can even do it in the comfort of your room. But who wants to do that? If you can, get outside, find a park, or even hard surfaces around town will serve perfectly for you to do some box jumps, sit-ups, pull-ups and a multitude of high intensity exercises. Get creative and find your “gym without walls”. The key is to maintain active while traveling, in particular for your metabolic system, this will protect against packing on those vacation pounds from all the delicious food you will be eating. I recommend short, but intense workouts while traveling. Spend no more than 30 minutes, after all you’re on vacation. You’ve got better things to do. If really short on time, just do the strength and conditioning videos I have put out… they will take you less than 10 min and we all have 10 min to spare.

Eating While on Vacation

I have to be honest this is not an easy thing to do. But not impossible. I have found that awareness is really all that is needed. I typically share a plate of food with my wife, I also control my consumption by just having a bite and careful not to overindulge. If you can control yourself with just a bite you will be OK.  Yes this takes a lot of self control… but using this method will allow you to enjoy your vacation and not set yourself back in your training.

At the end of the day it’s important to maintain focus on what your goals are. A little planning goes a long way.  Talk to your coach to help modify training during your vacations and modify workouts to fit your constraints. Remember it’s not the end of the world to miss a few workouts what is important is for your to come back from your trip recharged and focused on the task at hand. If you have an upcoming trip and need some help, please reach out.

Also, please follow our Instagram account @pranaendurance if you have not done so already (I’ve been posting fun running pics from our travels) and tag your pictures using the hashtag #pranaendurace. As always, if you like this blog, please share with your friends, using the icons below.

Training, marathon, run, off season, strength

Staying Fit in the Off-Season

January, middle of the off-season for most of us and now that the holidays are over, it’s the point where you get the urge to jump back into structured training. Before you do, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves about the importance of the off-season and how we can use the remaining time to our advantage.

As subscribers to this newsletter you all know how much I value recovery.  So, I will focus this article on how to use the remainder of the off-season to kick-start the upcoming training year. I will also provide some guidance on a training routine to make the most of your downtime. Those athletes who have worked with me in the past can attest to the benefits of my off-season training and have the race results to prove it. They understand that their training does not stop at their goal race. In order to keep growing as an athlete, following an off-season program is instrumental to real growth. Off-season training is one of those things you must do if you want to continue to see progress year after year.

Yes, the off-season is a time to rest, to allow the body and mind to recharge after a demanding training cycle. However, it does not mean you will not be doing any training. Rather it’s ideal to have a less structure plan for a few months. This plan is developed by considering several factors such as, recent race performance, injuries and future goals. In order to maintain fitness without compromising the recovery period, athlete training volume will be reduced and cross-training/sport specific strength training needs to be incorporated. This not only fortifies any imbalance an athlete may have, but also mitigate any potential injuries.

I firmly believe that for most athletes the off-season is where the greatest improvements in fitness and technique can be gained; but only if the correct approach is taken. What you do and don’t do during this phase of your training will be the catalyst to an amazing year of racing. Keeping in mind that each athlete’s plan should be individually tailored and focused on improving any weaknesses an individual may have. The ideal off-season plan is composed of two phases. First, a three to four week “Progressive Recovery Phase”. This phase will be focused on post race recovery and maintenance. This is the most important phase of your cycle as without proper recovery the potential for gains in performance are minimal and the potential for injuries increase.  The second phase of your off-season is the “Foundational Building Phase”, lasting four to six weeks. In this phase we will start to focus on cross training, fat burning, and high-intensity interval work. It is during this phase that you will start working with your coach on testing your current state of fitness, baselining and setting attainable goals for the season.

Below is a sample week of each phase for a seasoned runner who is looking to improve their running efficiency:

Progressive Recovery Phase

This phase is about four weeks – Focus on: Recovery, strength training, hip mobility and flexibility.

Example Week 2:

  • Mon: Easy jog – transition to easy runs – 30 min.
  • Tue: Cross-train, cycling, pool jogging, yoga, rowing – core strength work – 45 min.
  • Wed: Easy run + Pick-ups – 45 min.
  • Thu: Cross-train, cycling, pool jogging, yoga, rowing – core strength work – 60 min.
  • Fri: Rest day / Brisk walking – 30 min.
  • Sat: Easy run – 60 – 90 min.
  • Sun: Easy trail run – 45 min.

Foundational Building Phase

This phase is about six weeks – Focus on: Cross training, fat burning, high-intensity intervals, endurance runs, and baseline testing to transition into a customized training plan.

Example Week 3:

  • Mon: Easy Run + Strides + Post workout strength conditioning
  • Tue: Speed/Track work, Form drills + Post run dynamic sequence
  • Wed: Cross-train, cycling, pool jogging, yoga, + Core strength work
  • Thu: Speed-play, Endurance run, drills + Post run strength/flexibility training
  • Fri: Rest day / Brisk walking – 30 min. + Strength conditioning rope stretching
  • Sat: Moderate progressive endurance run – Pacing on feel
  • Sun: Trail run – 45 min.

Remember to keep the off-season training focused on building a stronger more efficient you.  This is the time to start a new strength routine, improving your range of motion, and work on any potential performance limiters.

2017 – Just Three Words

A new year is here, how exciting! An opportunity for a fresh start, a time to set new goals or refocus on prior ones. As some of you might recall last year I posted “Just Three Words”, a post focused on simplifying what you wish to accomplish in the following year. It is a simple way to help keep those goals attainable. With that said, let’s recap on last year…For 2016 my three words were Life, Health and Focus.

Life: My goal was to be present and recognize my wife for what she brings to our relationship. As some of you know this year we made a drastic change in our life, not only did we move to Mexico, but we left our careers to focus on the passions which fuels our life. 2016 has been a year of change and challenges… which have all tested and strengthened our marriage and friendship. The key element has been respect, trust and support which I believe will continue to get stronger as we take on future adventures.

Health: In 2016 I adjusted my training, incorporated more running specific strength training and flexibility work, using myself as a test subject. The results; an injury free year with even more volume than ever before. This year I’m incorporating what I have learned into my coaching. I will be creating videos showcasing the fundamental strength work which I feel we as runners need to become faster athletes.

Focus: All the changes really took an impact on my routine which quickly created a bit of chaos. Now that the dust has settled it’s comforting to see that we never lost sight of our main focus. The results speak for themselves as the athletes I coached in 2016 who were diligent with their training have reached new Personal Best and push themselves like never before. I can’t even begin to explain how gratifying this is.

As we enter 2017 I will use the same process to shape the year. So… for 2017 my three words are Community, Strength, and Tranquility.

I find it critical to my life to build a strong community of positive, driven and accepting people. This is not only important in my day to day life, but also in the athletes I coach. I have found that the athletes who are able to embrace the difference styles of training we do are the ones who benefit the most. Seeing how much strength has allowed me to progress in my running as I have committed myself to share what has worked for me and my athletes, stay tune for more on this. Finally tranquility, life gets hectic even for us living on the beach… so I’m committing myself to remove the external noise from my life and focus on the important things, be present.

So what are your three words for 2017?

A word of advice, when setting your goals, think about setting goals which will yield tangible and attainable outcomes. For example, perhaps your goal should not be all about qualifying for Boston (don’t get me wrong, that would be great). However, try focusing your intentions more on becoming a stronger more efficient athlete. By taking the pressure off a time oriented goal you will be able to focus more on the engine which will create a Boston Qualifier.

IRONMAN – What to Expect

Lately I have been getting a lot of questions from runners regarding training for an Ironman. Most runners that I coach are intrigued with the cross-training aspects of an Ironman training season, not to mention the allure of completing a 140.6 mile event.  As an Ironman athlete myself whose roots were set firmly in the sport of running, I totally understand the curiosity of an Ironman event to a runner. Today’s post is a high level view of what you should expect if you choose to take on an Ironman event. As with all things worthwhile, it will not be easy; nor should it be. So expect and prepare yourself for the difficulties which are bound to come up. It will be an emotional and physical roller coaster with it’s own peaks and valleys. Chances are you will doubt yourself along the way. When this happens, take a deep breath, trust in yourself and keep your sights on the bigger picture… you will be an “IRONMAN”… Just be warned it will change your life forever!

Picking the Perfect Race:

As you commence your Ironman journey you are immediately faced with a few critical decisions. What race to choose, what plan to follow, what training group to join, etc. These are just the start and as you begin your research, you will find a ton of online information which can quickly become overwhelming. So, here’s a little advice: Think of the bigger picture, upcoming life events; vacations, kids, school, weather. Then be honest with how much time you can dedicate to training, carefully considering your family obligations. The most successful athletes have the full support of their family. So, make sure they understand that for the next few months you will need their support to focus on training.  With that said, make sure your training plan has some downtime which you can dedicate to your family. Think about the weather where you will be training and weather at the race location, when selecting an event.  Work backwards to find a race which will set you up for success during your training season. It’s less than pleasant to have to do a 4 hour ride in the heat of the summer, or run 3 hours in sub-freezing temperatures.

Race Budget:

Be prepared to drop some cash.  Race entry fees are about $600, flights + hotel + transportation + gear shipping let’s say $2,000; so budget about $3,000, depending on the location. Make sure you select a hotel close to the start/finish line. You’ll likely have to pay a premium but it is worth it on race day.  These “host hotels” typically have a discount for race participants, dinners and are ready for athletes on race morning with breakfast and transportation if necessary. Consider renting a car since you want to be off your feet as much as comfortable and minimize the stress of public transportation. Just remember to make sure the car is big enough to fit your bike and gear. Some races have partnered up with companies who take care of bike and gear transport and it is definitely worth spending the money on this service. Once you arrive at the race, your bike and gear will be waiting for you and at the end of the event they will pick up your bike and gear and ship it back home… strongly recommend this service.

Gear Budget:

Triathlon is not a cheap sport so plan accordingly. Training gear, bike, nutrition, accessories, training races, wet suit and shoes are all things to budget for. My advice would be to get quality gear as it will pay dividends in the future.  Unfortunately some things you might have to buy a few times till you get the hang of what works best for you.  Wetsuits come in all price ranges, generally speaking the less expensive models lack flexibility and don’t feel as natural as the premium models.  Bikes, consider getting a used bike but make sure you have an expert inspect it to ensure it is safe to ride and it is the right fit for you. You will be spending a lot of time on the bike so it needs to be very comfortable and fit you well.  A poor fitting bike may even impact your running mechanics and eventually cause injuries. Save some cash by not investing in gadgets, in your first year of Ironman training you should be getting a feel for all three disciplines, it is easy to distract yourself with power meters, fancy heart rate monitors and sweet aero wheels. Keep it simple, you will have plenty of time to get all the toys next season.

Race Goals:

Race days goals should be simple for a first timer, “just finish and enjoy the race”. That’s it.  You will learn SO much while participating in your first event that the best thing to do is just take mental notes for the next Ironman event you do. Ironman is a totally different animal and even if you are a seasoned runner, set yourself up for success and limit the expectations that you put on yourself. You always want to leave your first event of any distance happy and energized to improve and continue with the distance. Creating too much pressure on your first event also takes so much of the fun and excitement of this new experience away from you. After your first event your coach can work with you to set strategic goals based on your training and outcome of the first to set realistic but stretch goals for the next one.

The Event:

So you have put in the months of training, you have your nutrition dialed in, you’re well rested at the starting line waiting for the cannon to go off. At this moment all you can do is trust in your training, enjoy the day and take it all in.  If things don’t go as planned, don’t panic. Adjust and adapt to the situation. I ask my athletes to visualize the race ahead of time and plan for issues that might arise. This will help ease the mind a little in case your goggles break mid-way during your swim, or you get a flat and run out of air. You will have already planned for that situation and can handle it and move on without an issue.

Swim: If you have a chance to warm-up, take it. It is the perfect opportunity to do final adjustments to your gear and ensure your body is warm and ready for the swim. Once the race starts allow the masses to pass and settle into a comfortable pace. Be careful with swimmers around you that might inadvertently hit you. A few minutes after the start you will be able to get into a groove and follow the bubbles. Find a swimmer you can draft from and stick with them to conserve energy. As they get tired take this opportunity to ensure you are going straight and find the next swimmer to draft behind. Always make sure you are breathing and relaxed.

Bike: Be smart on the bike. Conserve your energy, eat, hydrate and don’t overextend yourself.  In every race we see athletes who are strong on the bike push themselves so hard that they have no choice but to walk the marathon. This makes for a very long and agonizing day. So even if you are feeling amazing on the bike, take a step back and realize that you have a marathon coming up soon. Again, trust your training. By race day you should have the appropriate miles under your belt, your nutrition plan should be dialed in and you should be mentally ready for anything that might come up unexpectedly.

Run: Be smart and pace yourself. You will be tempted to leave transition at a higher pace than you should. It is normal with all of the excitement and given that the legs have been used to the high cadence of the bike. This is the moment when it is critical to pace yourself.  Take the first few minutes to fuel and get your legs under you, as they might feel “noodly”.  After that, settle into a comfortable pace but be ready for your body to start to feel uncomfortable. At this point it has been a long day. Refocus on the task at hand, stay hydrated, don’t lose motivation and lean on your fellow athletes and supporters to energize you to the finish.

Finish line:

The finish line of an Ironman event is indescribable. The energy and feeling of emotions will flood your body like nothing you’ve ever felt in your life. Enjoy this moment, this is what you have been preparing yourself for all of these months. On your first finish line, I suggest not sprinting towards the end, but just jogging through, giving high fives to the crowd of spectators and setting yourself up for the best finish line picture you can get. This is your moment, take it all in; YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Post Race:

So you are a newly minted Ironman, now what? Well, first thing’s first – time to recover, reward yourself and spend time with those special to you. You will find yourself hungry for more and you might have to fight back the temptation to immediately sign up for another event. The best way to avoid those crazy decisions made during a post-race high is to make them ahead of time. Or, at least have an idea of what might be next for you. Spend some time with your coach during your taper to begin considering what’s next. That way once the race is over and you know if you want to take a little break from training or set a new time goal and sign up for the next race right away, you’ll have a plan and be making smart decisions.

3 Ways To Enhance the Off Season

3 Ways To Make The Most Of The Off-Season

As we enter the winter months, most of us take a break from structured training to rest, spend time with family and tend to those honey-do’s we have been putting off. After all, the past few month of training have not only been physically demanding but also mentally draining. Unfortunately, with a fear of losing fitness, many athletes refuse to take the proper time off even though the body needs to rejuvenate. Having been guilty of this myself I have now learned that the off-season should be looked at as an equally important phase of your Annual Training Plan (ATP).

It is a delicate balance to get that important rest but still maintain fitness you have gained from a season of hard work. Even the “off-season”, if managed correctly, can yield tremendous benefits without the stress or rigidity which comes with tough training. I have seen it time and time again with athletes who come back mentally stronger, more injury resilient and able to take on more after the off-season.

Use this time to think back on the last season, jot down what worked and what needs improvement in the new year. This will be the beginning to a road-map where you can set realistic and manageable goals for the coming season.  

In the meantime, here are three simple ways you can make the most of the off-season:

Do Something Different:

Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Check out one of those cardio classes they offer at the gym or better yet, try a high intensity cross-training group class. As runners we tend to focus solely on running and rarely take advantage of the benefits cross training can offer. I would however caution “Cross-Fit” type classes as the competitive nature and improper form may lead to injury. As with all new activities – makes sure you start slow and get the guidance of a trainer to ensure your form does not suffer.

Stretch It Out:

Yoga and pilates don’t just provide great physical benefits. They also help with mental relaxation which we could all use more of.  Some yoga poses can serve to stretch the body and stimulate the blood flow within the muscle which aid in the recovery process. Some studios offer heated classes which provide the additional benefits of detoxification. Make sure to hydrate well before, during and after a hot yoga class.  Ask around and you might even find a yoga or pilates class which are specifically for runners and cyclists.  In these classes the instructor structures the poses to key-in on elements of the body which tend to get overused when running or cycling.

Take A Dip:

The pool can be an intimidating place for some, but the sooner you can get over that, the better. Swimming is not only a great addition to your off-season training but also an essential element to incorporate into your on-season recovery routine. Swimming provides cardiovascular fitness in a low/non-impact environment. Even if swimming is not your thing, grabbing a kick-board will work on strengthening the hip and core muscles as well. In addition, the benefits of the hydrostatic pressure on the body when deep water jogging have been said to be equal to, if not greater than those of compression socks/pants.

Enjoy the off-season, relax and take advantage of this time to try new things.  Spring will be here before you know it, so between the yoga classes and pool time make sure you think about your goals for 2017.  Find a race with speaks to you and you are passionate about. Consider chatting with a coach, joining a local running group or look into training platforms such as the ones offered by TrainingPeaks to help organize and make the most of the new year. Giving your body and mind a little break is all about setting the stage for a great 2017.

Coaches Corner: “Getting Started with Running”

The article below was written for follow this link for the full article and great information on the site.

WARNING – what you are about to read may lead to a new addiction. If you want to start running, or have been thinking about lacing your shoes back up after a hiatus, this post is for you.

Getting back into running or getting started can be equally as exciting as it can be overwhelming. However, once you overcome that sensation you will not only enjoy getting in better shape and feeling energized but also, perhaps more so, building lifelong friendships which transcend cultures, socioeconomic levels and the stresses of life. The running community is full of people who are welcoming no matter how fast or slow you are. We all share a common bond as we make sacrifices to train and push ourselves to the limit time after time.  Even though it may feel like a daunting task to get started; once you begin you will find a whole new community to support you through the challenges and share in your victories.

Below are a few common questions I get from folks testing out the running waters:

How should I get started and how far should I run as I get started?

First thing to remember is that you need to be patient and honor your body. As a new runner you are more than likely limited by your endurance. For this reason be patient with the first few weeks as they serve to build your aerobic capacity. This is simply done by running more consistently at a conversational/easy pace. Begin with a 15 to 30 minute run and asses from there. Be kind do to yourself and take as many walk breaks as you need to maintain that conversational pace. You can focus on speed later. With consistency, after a few short weeks you will notice improvements in your endurance.

Once you have a solid foundation you can then start to slowly increasing your run duration and adding a little variety into your training. Just be careful not to increase speed or distance too quickly as this can lead to injuries. Simply put, in the beginning, less is more. For more detail information and assistance on ramping up your milage feel free to contact us at Prana Endurance, we would be happy to provide guidance for your particular situation.

Now what? I want to get faster!

As you start to build consistency in your running you will become more efficient as a runner and start increasing the pace. By this time most runners have set their eyes on an upcoming race to participate in and keep motivated. A good way to keep increasing your fitness is to include some variety to your training. Doing so will not only increase your speed, but also work on your strength and aerobic capacity. A safe way to start is by adding strides and hill work into your workout routine. These simple drills will help develop the foundation for your speed work which comes in the form of intervals, fartlek and tempo later in your training.

Should I race for time or just to finish?

Having a loose goal in mind can be a good thing even for beginner runners. It helps keep you motivated on those early morning runs and as you grow as an athlete. As you begin to consider a goal, it is important to ensure that the goal you choose is a realistic one. For example, if you are training for a half marathon, do some 10k’s and 5k’s as part of your training. This will mentally prepare you for the race day logistics and completing the event will help you see tangible progress in your training. It will also help gauge your fitness and what a realistic goal might be. When training for longer endurance distances such as a marathon the goal should be to go into the race the most prepared and confident as possible and have fun finishing the event. The time to set Personal Records (PR’s) will happen as you become a more seasoned athlete.

How can I avoid running injuries?

Improper training can lead to injuries and avoiding your body’s warning signs can lead to serious chronic issues. For this reason injury prevention should be the top priority for a beginner runner. One major component to injury prevention is having a personalized plan tailored to showcase your strengths and improve your weaknesses. The plan should slowly ramp up your run volume, include strength work and take into account any previous injuries or natural body imbalances. At a minimum a beginner’s plan should include a proper warm-up routine composed of light lunges and dynamic stretching such as leg swings. Taking five minutes to warm-up prior to your run will pay dividends in the end. Just as important as the warm-up is the cool-down… especially as you start to increase mileage and speed. Get into a routine early in your running career and it will be a long and memorable one.

Running does not need to be hard, and with the proper mindset and plan you can accomplish things you never thought possible. With that said, there’s no need to spin your wheels, there are plenty of resources to help you get started. If you are looking for guidance or a personalized plan we at Prana Endurance Training would be happy to assist.

Happy Running.

How To Properly Fuel For Your Morning Workout

The topic of morning nutrition has come up a few times in recent runs with our local group Tulum Running.  As most of us know this is a topic which can vary greatly from athlete to athlete. Some of us are able to process a great deal of food, whereas others do best on the lighter side or even on an empty stomach. So, in this post I will touch on the importance of fueling your body during your training season.

Simply stated, proper fueling starts with having a purpose for what you are fueling for, so if you are going to be asking a lot of your body during a training session you need to fuel correctly before and after to maximize performance.  This will of course change during your endurance days or your recovery days and when you are fueling your body for a different purpose altogether.

Most of the athletes I coach are busy adults who sacrifice sleep to get their training in before heading to work and getting on with the day.  This results in most workouts being done on an empty stomach, dehydrated and when glycogen stores are at their lowest levels. These are not the best conditions to go out and demand a strenuous workout from the body. For these reasons it is important to work with your coach to structure training accordingly.

For example – on speed, tempo and long run days I ask my athletes to wake up a bit earlier to hydrate and fuel for the taxing workout ahead of them. This is particularly important on glycogen depletion workouts which are done with much care and with the purpose of training the body to become most efficient at utilizing its own fat as fuel. On recovery days, when we are not asking the body to perform at optimal levels sleep takes precedence and fueling takes a back seat.

Breakfast options during your quality workouts can come in the form of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and some coffee, or a smoothie, which can be made the night before. That is a quick way for your body to absorb fuel and aid in hydration. Given that all our systems are a bit different I recommend athletes use the first few weeks of training to find what works for them in regards to food types and timing. With that said, I do provide general guidelines of about 60% calories from carbs, 20% protein and 20% fat. I have found that this is a good balance which will sustain you during a demanding workout.

Post workout nutrition is equally important if not more, as it is the optimal time for your body to absorb nutrients to help you recover and get on with your day. My personal favorite is a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal with some brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and granola accompanied by a whole milk latte and of course some water.

What is your go-to post workout nutrition?

The Benefits of a Running Coach

Submitted by My Top Fitness for Prana Endurance Training

You are never too fast or too slow to have a running coach. Even the greatest runners acknowledge that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and are looking for any competitive advantages to succeed. Beginner runners can easily get lost in all the complexity and information swirling around distance running, when what they need is a solid distance running plan and coaching to gain a clear path before running it with absolute confidence and support.

Coaches provide a wide spectrum of assistance to not only establish and hone your running plan, but offer the inspiration and guidance necessary for getting through the “tough days” and reaching new milestones. This is achieved via a combination of knowledge and style, and does not require the coach to live near you. In fact, there are so many virtual tools and technologies that it’s easy to get the coaching you need from a far.

What matters is that you have someone there, pushing you to maximize your capabilities while nurturing the mental and emotional aspects of running. As many runners of all levels will attest, it is not the “loneliness of the long distance runner” that they strive for, but rather becoming the runner locked away inside their body and mind… and a good coach may have the keys to open that potential.

Tailored and Adapting Training Plans

Every beginner runner needs a place to start and seasoned veterans need to know where to go next. While many running plans provide an effective base, it is critical to tailor running plans to meet your goals and adapt as goals are surpassed or setbacks occur. This is where a good coach is invaluable. They understand the peaks and valleys of running, but more importantly, they understand that everyone is different and will work with you to establish, monitor, and adapt your training plan to maximize running effectiveness. This does not necessarily mean adding more miles, but varying the type and intensity of workouts to increase running quality.

Someone Who Has Been There, or Knows Where There Is

Especially critical for new runners or runners hitting plateaus is having someone with experience to guide them in their running journey. While many coaches are former or even active runners, you don’t need a former Olympian as a coach… in fact, you may not necessarily need a coach who was a runner (although it’s preferred that your coach has running experience in order to relate to the unique aspects of running). With a coach in your corner, they can point the direction they followed to success or what to avoid, but more importantly follow best practices and proven techniques to move you forward. They may even have their own techniques or be on the cutting edge of new workout approaches that others haven’t fathomed. This goes beyond just running workouts and into the critical supporting activities of cross training, resistance training, proper stretching, nutrition and more.

Providing Inspiration, Motivation, or Tough Love

Coaches are not robots and they understand that the runners they coach aren’t either. In this regard, one of the most important gifts a coach can give is to properly inspire, motivate, or give tough love when it’s needed. Simply having a coach that sugar coats all that you do will not help you. You need someone who is willing to get to know you and what motivates you.

You might be the type of runner who responds to running quotes that inspire and motivate or someone that needs a tough talk/tough love to help you overcome self-doubts and increase willpower. Inspiration comes in all forms, and you may discover that your coach is a source of inspiration by their own running journey. In the end, the mark of a great coach is one that is quietly in the background letting you build the confidence you need as they remind you “that everyone has greatness, don’t wait to run great tomorrow run… great today, or don’t let you beat you!”

Providing Boundaries and When to Break Through Them

Just as important to knowing your limits is understanding when to push them. This is a challenge as our internal running voice only sees and knows what we have done and how it feels. This is where a coach following careful analysis of your progress and observed behaviors during workouts (such as breaking your form during hill repeats) can assist with establishing your boundaries.

Too many runners push through boundaries when they need to properly recover from workouts and avoid injury. On the other end of the spectrum is knowing when the time is ripe to push the limits and discover new capabilities. With the external force of a coach, you are able to relay critical data to determine as a team if it’s time to push or stay the course.

Alternative and Creative Training Techniques

Running is not as simple as left foot, right foot, and repeat. Once you have a strong running base established, you need differing types of workouts to increase your speed and endurance. Having the right type of workout is the competitive edge you have over your current limitations and other runners if you like to compete. Finding alternative and creative training can be a challenge, and dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.

Many coaches bring their own techniques to the table, but these are founded in understanding your training goals and what may or may not work for you. They may even work with you to create a new technique or training approach. This goes far beyond different running workouts such as beach running, running backwards, and challenging track intervals and into supporting aspects such as form drills, parachute running, race time diet, trail running, cross training, and more.  

Mental and Emotional Preparation

Runners are not robots…. it requires training the mental and emotional aspects just as much as the physical to enjoy and be successful as a runner. From a mental aspect, this includes gaining the mental fortitude for the toughest part of a run/race or fighting boredom on a long run. Emotions such as self-doubt or fear (of both success and failure) can debilitate a runner. In both of these aspects, you can train your mind and learn how to manage your emotions, but this something difficult to do alone as we are often our own worst counselors. Coaches offer a strong external voice to fight the inner voice that may be holding back your running capabilities. Whether it’s increasing your willpower for the tough parts of a race or fighting the feeling of “I can’t do this”… there are techniques such as visualization, self-reassurance, and sometimes just having someone else remind you of how far you’ve come/are able to go, that will strengthen these critical aspects of the overall runner you are meant to be.

Dealing with Injuries and Setbacks

Even the best coached and training runner can suffer an injury. Recovering from a running injury requires the proper treatment and caution when working back into a training schedule. This is where many runners tend to injure themselves further or get re-injured. A coach can add a lot of value as they can assist with ensuring you get and follow the correct treatment plan from your doctor while creating a training approach to get you back on the roads. As recovering from an injury is not only physical, but also mental, coaches can accelerate the mental/emotional healing process by rebuilding lost confidence or helping you fight fear.

However, not all running setbacks are injuries. Sometimes it can be underperforming in a race or workout, despite sticking to your training plan. This is when you need to learn how to adjust your training, possibly take a break, or re-evaluate your performance goals. This is a daunting task and one that self-coached runners struggle with immensely. It is natural to have plateaus, peaks, and valleys over the course of your running career. Learning how to navigate these, and life events such as aging or running after having a baby, often require external assistance in order to get and keep running momentum.

Celebrating Your Victories and Milestones

Once your race is complete or you hit a training milestone, an empty feeling can set in, even if your loved ones cheer on your victory. This is because runners need another runner or someone who understands the journey they are on to help fill the post victory void while preparing for the next challenge.

There will always be some truth to the “loneliness of the long distance runner”, but there is also a danger in walking away from the sport of distance running because of uncertainty of where to go next. It may be time to reevaluate your goals around how fast, how far, or where you will run next (i.e. obstacle course racing). It is at the end of the celebration, where you coach picks you up, analyzes what you can do better, and starts the watch for the next training session.

Where to Find a Coach

Finding the right coach is an effort unto itself. Beyond coaching techniques you will want to ensure that you mesh with the personality of your coach. At the minimum, you will want a certified coach, preferably by the RRCA. A range of coaches can be found by searching the RRCA directory. Coaches can also be found via running websites or your local running club.

In your search, do not get hung up on needing to have your coach located near you, as the technology to remotely coach meets or exceeds the needs of many runners at any level of capability. In fact, Prana Endurance Training has detailed coaching programs backed by an RRCA Certified Coach and proven distance runner that can be done remotely with great success.

Sources/Further Reading on the Value of a Running Coach

Should You Hire a Running Coach?

5 Reasons To Hire A Running Coach

Benefits of a running coach

RRCA – Find a Coach

Author Bio:

1_primary_logo_on_transparent_203x75Kelly Rusk is a former collegiate and sponsored distance runner who shares his passion for running and fitness as the “Team Captain” of My Top Fitness. You can also Like My Top Fitness on Facebook or Follow My Top Fitness on Twitter to get the latest running articles, inspiration, and fitness news to maximize your potential.