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Man Runners vs Lady Runners

11 Apr

Running Terms for Newbie Runners – Types of Runs

28 Mar

It’s that time again! Time for Round 2 of Running Terms for Newbie Runners! (Click here for Running Terms for Newbie Runners, I). As I have mentioned before, when I was a newbie runner, I tried to soak up as much as I could about the running world. There is so much information out there and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. I hope this helps break it down a little bit for you.

Every good running program should be comprised of at least 3 runs per week. This includes fartleks (Swedish for “speed play”), a tempo run, and a long run.

A tempo run (also called a lactate-threshold run) is run at a pace that is considered “steady effort” but not as fast as a 10k race pace. Tempo runs help develop your anaerobic (lactate) threshold, which is necessary for increasing your speed. Tempo runs teach your body to clear out the lactate build-up in your muscles more quickly and efficiently, thus preventing muscle fatigue. To do a tempo run, you will want to do 5 to 10 minutes of slower, warm-up running. Next, continue running for 15 to 20 minutes at about 10 seconds slower than your 10k pace. Finish this run workout with 5 to 10 minutes of cool down. A general guideline for pacing yourself (if you do not want to go by time) is to go by your breathing. For tempo runs, you should be making two footfalls while on the inhale and one footfall on the exhale. If you are breathing faster than that, slow down a little.

That looks like a LONG run!

If you are training for a half marathon or full marathon, long runs will need to become your friend. A long run is your once-a-week chance to push yourself for distance. Typically, long runs are done on a weekend, and usually on the same day of the week that your race falls on. The distance covered by your weekly long run will be dictated by your training plan. Your long runs should be run over 1 minutes per mile slower than your goal race pace for three-quarters the total long run distance. In the last one-quarter of your run, increase your effort/pace to match that of your goal race pace.

In addition to these 3 critical runs per week, there are other types of runs you can incorporate…

An “easy run” is exactly what it sounds like…an easy run. An easy run is intended to be run at a pace which can be maintained for a substantial amount of time, without much effort. A good “litmus test” for the right pace for you would be the ability to hold a conversation while running. If you are huffing and puffing on your route, you are moving too fast on your easy run. A general guideline for pace would be to add 20 to 30 seconds to your goal race pace.

YASSO 800s
Yasso 800 workouts can help you predict your marathon time by running distances of 800 meters. Yasso 800 workouts follow a simple formula…run 800m, recover (slow jog or walk) the same amount of time it took you to run the 800m, repeat. On the average track available to the public, 800m is two laps around the track. This is, by far, one of the easiest workouts to remember. My friend, BJ, wrote a great post on Yasso 800s just the other day. He covers them more in depth, so be sure to check it out!

Sounds like a lot of stuff to remember, right? Not to worry. Here is an example.

Let’s say you want to run your first half marathon with a goal of finishing in 2:30:00.

Your race day pace is: 11:26 min/mi (5.24 mph)
Your easy run pace is: 12:57 min/mi (4.63 mph)
Your tempo run pace is: 10:54 min/mi (5.50 mph)
Your fartlek/speed training pace is: 9:09 min/mi (6.67 mph)
Your long run pace is: 12:57 – 14:29 min/mi (4.63 – 4.14 mph)
Your Yasso 800s pace is: 5:03 min/800m (5.90 mph)

To help you figure out your personal training speeds, check out this page of running calculators here.

I hope this helps you understand different types of running workouts a little better. Don’t be afraid to try them!

What is YOUR favorite run of the week? How many times a week and what workouts do you incorporate?

Plyometric Drills for Runners

14 Mar

“Jump around! Jump around! Jump up! Jump up and get down!” ~ House of Pain

If you want to increase speed as a runner, a good place to start is by incorporating plyometric drills into your weekly run workouts. A lot of new runners look at adding drills to your workouts as something that only “serious runners” do, but runners of all levels can reap benefits from jumping, leaping, and skipping! (And don’t worry, it is totally okay if doing these drills makes you feel like a kid again!) I started doing plyometric workouts about a year and half ago when I was going through the running study at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and I have seen serious improvement. While I fell off the wagon with doing these exercises while I was pregnant (not a good idea for pregnant ladies to go jumping around), it is time for them to reappear on my training schedule!

“[Plyometrics] teaches the proprioceptors of your muscles and joints to push off the ground with greater force.” ~ Donald Chu, Ph.D., Jumping Into Kinetics

The many benefits of including plyometrics in your training include increasing your speed, increasing your flexibility and agility, improving your running coordination, and decreasing your likelihood of injury. In addition to these benefits, one major advantage to adding plyometrics to your routine is that it does not add much time to your training. Many plyometric drills can be incorporated into your schedule by only adding a few minutes to each workout.

Distance runners are most likely to benefit from plyometric workouts. As distance runners, our running economy is directly proportional to our muscle’s ability to use oxygen efficiently. Plyometric workouts utilize different types of muscles (fast-twitch) than are used in distance running. The quick, powerful bursts of movement increase the speed of your muscle contractions and boost your speed performance. When both types of muscles (slow-twitch and fast-twitch) are strengthened, you will find that you will reach the point of fatigue much later than a runner who only works on distance runs. Thus, your running economy improves. Plyometric training will helps distance runners use their muscles most efficiently.

To reap maximum benefits from plyometric training, you only have to add drills to your workouts 1 or 2 times per week! There are lots of plyometric exercises out there, but here are a few of my favorites:




(Please keep in mind that you do NOT have to start out jumping as high as is seen in this video. You can start much lower, on a step or curb, for example, and increase height as you get stronger.)

Here is an example workout schedule that would build up your plyometric abilities over 5 weeks. Starting out slow might help you build your strength and coordination. Try and incorporate each weeks’s workout twice per week! As you progress in your training, you can always add other plyometric exercises. You can view and print a list of additional exercises here, or click here to download a .pdf.

Keep in mind that it is best to do plyometric drills on dirt, grass, soft tracks, or cushioned floors…you know, just in case you do lose your footing.

Do YOU incorporate plyometric training into your workouts? If so, how have you seen improvement? What other plyometric exercises do YOU do?

“I can’t lose weight.”

25 Jan


Mayday! Mayday! Its a plateau! (SHRIEK!)

The first key is to figure out what made the scale stop. Are you actually watching what you are eating? Are you exercising like you are supposed to? Are you doing your cardio in your target heart rate’s fat burning zone?

If you have been pretty sedentary, you will find it relatively easy to drop a few pounds by only adding light cardio and watching what you eat when you first get started. Eventually though, your body gets used to it and the scale gets…well, stuck. I completely understand how frustrating it can be to continue doing all the “right” things and still…nothing. I am currently at that point right now. It is disheartening…and discouraging…and it can even cause the weak-willed to give up on their weight loss goals completely.

Here is the bad news: You have to stick with it.

Here is the worse news: You might just have to try something new. GASP!

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Provided you really have been exercising and eating right (and, no, that late-night Twinkie you ate because you were STARVING does not count as “eating right”), you may have to break out of your comfort zone and try something different. When I first started on my journey to a fitter lifestyle, if you had told me all the things I would try on my path to improvement, I would have given you the stink eye. At the time, telling me that I would eventually try things like diet cleanses, drinking my greens, and rock climbing all seemed like “hippie” stuff and I probably would not have wanted any part of them. But when you want to reach your goal badly enough, you are willing to at least TRY new things.

Over the years, I have tried what feels like almost EVERYTHING to get my body to a point where I can look in the mirror and say, “I have worked hard and I am proud of this.” Lots of things did not work, but along the way, I found a handful of things that work really well for me. It is high time that I share them with you.

If you find yourself hitting a plateau with your weight loss, at least consider trying some of these things. You never know, you might find something that works for you!

You think you are eating well, but are you SURE? If you are not already, try keeping a food/exercise log. Write down every single thing that you put in your mouth and try and estimate your caloric intake. You might find out you are snacking a little more than you think. Also, reviewing your food choices might help you find alternatives for cutting a few more calories or incorporating a more well-rounded diet. If you do not want to do this old-school style with a notebook, there are plenty of free online tools that are available. My personal favorite is MyFitnessPal. If you sign up, look for my username (katiemkey) and add me as a friend! We can hold each other accountable and encourage each other! I have been slacking for the past…oh, several months…but I am back on the wagon as TODAY!

Don't hate. You know the wallpaper in my office is AWESOME.

I am a steak and potatoes kind of girl. Growing up in South Louisiana, our staple dinners revolved around things served with or on white rice or with or on white French bread. Refined sugars, much? I knew I needed to balance out my diet but the thought of downing broccoli made my stomach turn. One day, while complaining about eating carrots, a friend of mine (who happens to be the founder of LiveLong Nutrition) suggested I start drinking my greens. At first I was a little skeptical, but I knew I needed the balance. I ordered some and I have now grown to love drinking my greens! I am not going to lie, it takes some getting used to. When I first tried them, I had mix them with blueberry juice and water (the blueberry juice was strong enough to “hide” the taste of the greens), but now I just mix them with water, shake, drink, and go on down the road! You get used to the taste, I promise. I find that when I drink them I have more energy and increased mental clarity. I also feel like they keep my system flushed of junky stuff.

Body cleanses are not for the faint of heart. Different diet cleanses effect your body in different ways and you have stomach that churns easily, you will need to choose wisely. There are all kinds of cleanses ranging from 7 days to 2 months. I have tried many of them and I have finally found one that works great for me. I absolutely LOVE the 2-Part Cleanse and Flush Detoxify and Eliminate from Smoothie King. It is a 21-day cleanse and I can absolutely notice a difference in my body when I start this program…even within the first couple of days. In fact, when I quit breastfeeding, I could not wait to get out and pick up this cleanse to help flush my system. I have tried the cleanses that are in the 7-14 day range and they are just too harsh for me. I would go into more detail here, but suffice it to say, they are ROUGH on the system. I find that this cleanse, in particular, is effective and mild on my stomach. I have done it at least a handful of times now and I am currently on it now. I highly recommend it and for less than $25, it might be worth trying.

So, obviously I like to run, right? But did you know that I also love cycling, rock climbing, hiking, and Zumba? I did not know how much I would love these things until I forced myself to try them. In fact, after switching out one run per week with a workout on the bike, I have never trimmed inches and gotten faster with my running so quickly. Plus, the added advantage was that I was training myself for a duathlon without even realizing it! If you are in a running rut, consider adding a new type of cardio that challenges your body in a new way. Here are some things you might like:
• Cycling I swear it will help your speed!
• Zumba So long, muffin top!
• SUP (stand-up paddling) or YOLO boards This can be so relaxing and works out the core and shoulders big time!
• Boxing If you are leery, lots of boxing gyms offer at least one free class so you can try it out!
• Hiking Check out to find a place near you!

Looks fun, right?

If seeing the scale stuck on a number is getting you down…find something or someone that inspires you. There are stories all over the internet of people who have worked hard and lost 10, 20, 100, or even 200 pounds! Want to complain that you are too tired to push it in your work out today? Read a story about Serena Burla, a runner who defeated cancer and went on to the Olympic trials earlier this month. Or just check out the millions of YouTube clips of people competing in marathons and Ironman competitons with prosthetics. If they can overcome, so can YOU!

Okay, okay, so this one is obvious. You think you are already drinking enough? Drink a little more. I cannot reiterate this enough. Water helps replenish all those fluids you lose during exercise and helps you keep your energy up. And if you do decide to do a diet cleanse, drinking water will help you see even better results. I promise.

When all else fails, seek professional help. If you really have tried everything under the sun and you feel that absolutely nothing is helping, there might be some underlying issue that needs to be addressed. A registered dietician or other healthcare professional might be able to see something that you are not and might be able to get you over the hump and moving on to a fitter YOU!

As they say on Celebrity Fit Club, the scale doesn’t lie. Calories in have to be less than calories out. That is just the way it is. However, keep in mind that the scale is not everything. In the past, I have been 140 pounds and wearing size 8 jeans and I have been 140 pounds wearing size 4 jeans. Yes, muscle is denser than fat and therefore weighs more but do not use that as an excuse. Be conscious of the scale and be conscious of how you feel.

When you feel “stuck” or that you can’t push through, how do you get over the hump? What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck? What tips, products, or techniques work for you?

Racing Strategy: Running Tangents

12 Oct

Last weekend’s Gulf Coast Half Marathon really was a ton a fun and I had a great time volunteering! Watching all of my friends finish and being able to cheer them on was pretty special and it was fun to be on the “other side” for once. Many race participants seemed to really love the course and have a blast but there were a few participants who seemed to be upset by the readings on their GPS running watches. I heard a few complaints of runners swearing they ran more than the 13.1 miles and saying how their time would have been better (possibly even set a PR) had they not run the extra little bit of mileage.

I know this course was certified, so the first thing I thought of is…they are not running the tangents…which means they actually DID run more than 13.1 miles. Too bad those 13.1 stickers don’t have a little + sign after them, right? In a race, if you are not running the tangents, you are not racing as efficiently as possible.

The easiest way to explain “running the tangents” is this…running the tangents allows a racer to run the shortest legal distance in a race. This is the fastest and most efficient way to get from the start line to the finish line, and the easiest way to set a PR.

For those of you who have not been to geometry class in a while, a tangent is a straight line that is perpendicular to a curve. When a race course is measured and certified, it is done so from tangent to tangent and by running from point-to-point, you run the measured (and certified) distance. Any variation from running the “tangent route” will add mileage to your race route. Sometimes this variation adds only fractional mileage, but if you are running every curve, you may add up to a quarter of a mile or more to your race! Seriously! Before learning about running tangents, this happened to me and I would get so frustrated.

Here is how running the tangents works…

In races, most runners end up following the solid blue through curves in the race course. However, the dashed line represents the most efficient way to navigate the course. While it may not look like much of a difference, over a full or half marathon race course, this mileage can add up.

Obviously, running the tangent is the smartest and most efficient way to race a course. But, as you can see, it does involve crossing the street from side to side. If you are a middle of the pack racer or you race close to others, be sure to be aware of runners near you when changing directions. You certainly would not want to take out another runner in your attempt to set a PR.

In addition, running tangents means looking ahead. Once you hit a curve in the course, keep your eyes focused in front of you, looking for the next one. This will allow you adjust your running route and stay prepared for what is ahead of you. When heading into a large curve where you are not able to see the next curve or turn, the best rule of thumb to follow is to run as close to the inside edge as possible.

The only time not running to the immediate inside of a curve is when you are running a course with a hair-pin turn. In this situation, making a slightly wider turn by sweeping the turn can be faster. (See image below.) Keep in mind that in this situation, making a wider turn may add a very VERY minute amount of mileage, but in the end, it will help you maintain efficiency. And in a race, efficiency is the KEY.

Overall, by making fewer large curves and running the tangents, you essentially make the race course a straight as possible. By taking the most direct route from start to finish, you are more likely to maintain your pace and momentum. There is no perfect way to run the tangents. The goal is to find out what works best for you in getting through the race course’s fastest route, as quickly as possible.

Have you ever heard of running tangents before? Do YOU run the tangents?

To wash or not to wash…THAT is the question!

6 Oct

I have found that runners are either VERY pro-washing or VERY anti-washing when it comes to the concept of cleaning their running shoes. Some of those in the anti-washing camp think excessive shoe washing can degrade materials and make your shoes look to squeaky clean and “newbie” like. While I have never really worried about looking like a newbie (since I am not terribly concerned what more seasoned runners think of me), degrading the materials of a $100 (or, often times, more expensive) pair of running shoes is a legitimate concern of mine. I spend a lot of time deciding on my running shoes, so by the time that I get them, I typically really love them and want to take care of them as best that I can.

Here is how I decide when and if to wash my shoes. First, it depends on which level of my Tier System into which they fall. Yes, I have a totally neurotic Tier System for my running shoes. If the shoes fall into Tier 1 or Tier 2, that means I actively use them to run in or work out in. These are the two tiers that I care the most about. In general, I really try hard not to wash my “good” running shoes. I am lucky in that I do not ever have a lot of sweaty shoe funk or odor, but there is the rare occasion that I will get caught in the rain/mud or run through something nasty and I just have to get the funk off of my shoes.

To clean my “good” running shoes, I use the following items:
• Big fat toothbrush (purchased from Whole Foods)
• Woolite
• 1 old medium sized towel
• 2 old washcloths

I start by running about 2-3 inches of warm water into my kitchen sink. I add about half a capful of Woolite and swoosh it around in the water.

Then I remove the insoles and laces from both shoes. The only part I clean is the shoe itself…not the insoles or laces.

Next, I VERY lightly dampen the outside of the shoe. I DO NOT at any point dunk the whole shoe in the water or allow it to get completely saturated. I use my big fat toothbrush to scrub the especially nasty parts of the shoe, namely the outsole and upper areas.

I use one of the washcloths to dab the moisture off the outside of the shoe. I DO NOT run the shoe under water to rinse out the Woolite. I figure it is mild enough not to need too much rinsing. Then, I roll up the washcloth and stuff it inside the shoe to help the shoe retain its shape. I repeat this process with the second shoe.

Then I place both shoes on my covered back porch to air dry with some fresh, outside air.

To clean the laces, I usually just toss them in with the next load of laundry that I run in the washing machine. I do not really “clean” the insoles. If I do anything to them at all, I might just set them outside overnight while the shoes dry on my back porch just to let them air out. I try not to get them wet or scrub them.

Before --> DIRTY!

After --> CLEAN!

I *promise* there is a difference. 😀

A lot of shoe stores will also try and sell you “sneaker wash” or “sneaker cleaner” but all that stuff just reminds me of when my mom used to make me shine my shoes for church when I was little. It is the last stuff I want to “paint” my running shoes with! I never throw my “good” running shoes into the washing machine. The foam rubber of the sole actually causes the shoe to float in the water so they do not really get as clean as you would think. Plus, you also risk the agitator of the machine tearing the fabric upper of your running shoes.

However, I do allow shoes that fall into Tier 3 or below to get tossed in the washing machine (without insoles or laces) and then I set them out to dry on the floor of my utility room. I never ever put any of my running shoes (no matter what tier) in the dryer.

Do you wash your running shoes? If so, how?

Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

4 Oct

When most runners purchase their running shoes from a specialty running store (You are not still shopping at those big box sporting goods stores, are you?) they are already cross-laced and ready to go. Or are they? Did you know there are different ways that you can lace your shoes to make them more comfortable or to help customize your shoes for your feet? Here are some of the more common shoe lacing patterns that help combat some common shoe issues. I tried to find the brightest shoe laces on the brightest pair of shoes I own so that you could see easier.

First, let’s cover the LOOP LACING LOCK. This technique can be used in a number of different lacing patterns to insure a tight and snug fit anywhere along the eye row of your shoe, depending on where your laces seem to be slipping.

In this example, I have put the loop lacing lock at the top of the shoe. The shoe was cross-laced as usual to the top of the shoe. To accomplish the loop lacing lock, put each lace end back into the same hole it just exited, leaving a small loop on each side.

Then thread each loose end through the loop on the opposite side of the shoe.

Pull tight to make loops smaller. Then tie shoe as usual.

PROBLEM: High Instep
Near the toe of the shoe, start lacing with the cross-lacing technique. Once you get to the middle of the shoe, thread the laces up the sides of the eye row, leaving room. Continue cross-lacing at the top of the shoe and tie at the top as usual. This will give your foot room in the midfoot area and help keep the shoe from feeling to tight across the arch of the foot.

PROBLEM: Wide Forefoot
From the bottom of the eye row, lace up the sides of the shoe. Once you get to the middle of the shoe (midfoot), start the cross-lacing technique and continue on to the top of the shoe. Tie shoe at the top, as usual. This will give your foot plenty of room to spread or allow your toes to splay while running.

PROBLEM: Narrow Foot
To help a shoe fit more snugly on a narrow foot, you might want to try adding a loop lacing lock in the middle of the eye row. To accomplish this, cross-lace the shoe as normal up to the midfoot, add a loop lacing lock, and then continue cross-lacing the shoe to the top. Tie the shoe at the top, as usual. Doing this will double the amount of laces across your midfoot, ensuring a snug fit.

PROBLEM: Heel Slipping
There are two good ways of keeping a shoe from slipping on the heel. The first way is to put a loop lacing lock at the top of the shoe (shown in the beginning of the post) and tie shoe as usual. Another way is to use a modified loop lacing lock, called a “runner’s tie.” To accomplish the runner’s tie, cross-lace the shoe until the second to last top hole and then lace up each side of the eye row. Take each loose lace end and thread it back under the side lace of the opposite side. Tie the shoe at the top, as usual.

PROBLEM: Shoe Feels Too Tight
To give your shoe an overall roomier feel, try the parallel lacing technique. To start, lace the first tow eyelets near the toe of the shoe. On one side, pull the lace up through the first eyelet and then straight across the shoe and into the eyelet directly across from it. On the other side, skip the first eyelet and pull the lace up through the second eyelet and then lace it into the eyelet straight across from it. Repeat this skipping an eyelet and lacing across pattern until the shoe is laced to the top. This lacing technique is a little tricky, so here is a link to a video that might help.

PROBLEM: Black Toenails
To accomplish this threading technique, start by threading one end of the shoe lace through the eyelet at the top of the shoe on the opposite side of your big toe. Leave enough lace length to tie the shoe. Lace the rest of the shoe lace through the eyelet closest to your big toe, creating a diagonal lace down the length of the shoe. Lace this long length of shoe lace straight across toward the outside of the shoe and then diagonally up toward the inside of the shoe. Repeat this lacing pattern until the shoe is laced to the top. Tie the shoe, as usual. Lacing the shoe this way allows the material above your big toe to be pulled up and off of the nail when the outside lace is tugged and tied tightly.

These are just a few alternative lacing techniques that may help solve some common runner’s shoe fit issues. I hope this has been helpful for you!

Have you ever tried any alternative running shoe lacing patterns? What issues with your shoe were you trying to resolve?