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1354465380_horoscope-2013Whether you have just begun training with us for a goal race some time in the future, or have been a long-time runner who needs a bit of motivation or a new goal, the beginning of a new year is a great time not only to set new goals, but to do so in a way that will stick. 

 

Ensure accountability

If you have a big goal you hope to accomplish, chances are you will be more likely to follow through if you have a mechanism to ensure that any doubt or lapses will be noted and you don’t get off track.  Many times, the term “accountability” takes on a negative connotation, but in reality, a positive motivational tool tied to an accomplished goal can be a decisive element that puts you over the top.

 

Accountability can take the form of a reward you commit to enjoying upon accomplishing your goal. While that may offer a simple and straightforward way to motivate yourself, consider your rewards in the context of the lifestyle change you are most likely trying to embark upon by setting the goal.  So, if your goal is weight loss as a part of your effort to run your first half marathon,  having a huge blowout meal at the best restaurant in town serve as your motivator to get through your next long run might not be the best reward.  Instead, pick a reward that reinforces the positive changes you hope to make.    Of course we don’t want you to become mercenary so a few guilty pleasures from time to time are perfectly acceptable.

 

Enlist a friend or family member who knows you well enough to nudge or budge you when you are veering off course.  All of us have times when motivation is lacking in some way or another, and by asking another person to remind you of your goals and keep you on track, you have already ensured that your will power and motivation need not be 100% all the time.  Arranging at least periodic running opportunities with another runner or group will also motivate you to show up and complete your task if for no other reason than the reluctance to stand someone up!

 

You might not need a big reward to look forward to or need to have others with which you feel comfortable sharing your goals.   Many of you enjoy our online training log for that very reason.  Many of our longtime members indicate they love nothing more than to see a string of blue days in a row!   Another written log or an X on each day of the calendar can be effective tools.  Print out your goal race entry confirmation and post it to your bathroom mirror or write yourself a note that pops up on your smartphone calendar on the days of your tough workouts.  Most importantly, take some time to consider how you typically respond to challenges -  what paves the way for the times your are successful and what stands in your way.  Figure out the simple ways you can keep yourself accountable and hopefully next year you’ll be resolving to achieve some new goals.

 

Have Fun

Oftentimes, the resolutions we make are as a result of leaving difficult tasks undone.  Things that have been left unfinished for some time as a result of inertia or procrastination are going to be difficult to all accomplish suddenly because of a simple change of heart.    If your goal appears to be an uphill trudge the entire way, look hard for ways to find some fun along the road.    Again, if this is a prescription you are giving yourself to jumpstart a larger shift in behavior or lifestyle, you want to make sure the change is something you can live with and enjoy for some time. 

If you have a choice of races, pick one with a great course, an established fun vibe, or another trait that will make the experience about more than just the run.  If running in the dark gets you down, make sure to set aside time on the weekends to run during the day to give yourself a break from what has been difficult.   Take some time to explore new routes and scenic territory around your neighborhood or city.  Pick a hilly run and stop at the top to take in the view.  Take some time to consider what it is that you really enjoy about running (even if you only enjoy it a little bit), and scratch that itch as much as possible.

 

Note Incremental Progress

The biggest goals often take a while to accomplish and progress may not always be linear.  If your new year’s resolution is a long distance goal race, it might help (we typically recommend this regardless) to run a few intermediate distance efforts to note fitness progress and encourage you that your are slowly crossing the canyon toward your big day.  In running, as in many other things in life, your result may be subject to forces beyond your control.  Your training could go completely smoothly up until three days before the race, when you catch a cold or turn an ankle.  Creating a field of multiple data points will allow you to evaluate the process rather than only having the one race to either make or break your perspective on your efforts.

 

Above all else, we encourage you to set goals!  Reach high, assume you will be successful.  Take a step in the right direction today. Making the choice to set a goal to begin with is not an insignificant part of the process.  Once you have, we look forward to helping you get there!



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RaceRecoveryThis month in Personal Best, we’d like to examine the one time of year most difficult to plan for:  Recovery.

 

Most of us fall into one of two categories.  Either we can’t wait to get right back out there on the roads and are tempted to rush our recovery period, or we let a month turn into two, into three, before pretty soon we are starting again from scratch in our next build-up.  Regardless of which tendency most closely resembles your default habits, we’d like to encourage you to take your next recovery period seriously.  We believe it is one of the most under appreciated, yet important parts of the training year.

 

After you cross the finish line…

When you cross the line of the big race, resist the urge to sit immediately, and keep moving for 10-20 minutes after you cross the line.  Most large races force this process to a certain extent, requiring you to move through lengthy feed, medal, race photo, and other stations as you head toward your baggage claim area.   Begin to hydrate with carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement fluids, sipping and drinking as much as your stomach can accommodate.  In the immediate hours to come, try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, aggressive massage, and hot tubs / baths in favor of cold tubs, and ice, easily digestible foods, and nutritious beverages.    In the day or two following, gentle massage, light stretching, and continued icing / cold tubs may assist in recovery.

 

Sometimes, athletes have certain foods they know will work well with their post-race digestive state.  If this is you, plan ahead and pack them in your gear bag so you know you’ll be able to start your nutrition replenishment with confidence.

 

Recovery is a mental, emotional, AND, a physical process.

Oftentimes, we have put a great deal into our goal races – other leisure habits on hold, dietary choices made and adhered to with great will power, families patiently waiting for you to come home from yet another long run.  Perhaps you have run your goal race in honor of a loved one or an important cause, and most likely you have given more of yourself physically than you have ever given before or typically do on a regular basis.  Your body may feel recovered, but you may not be ready to embark on the emotional journey yet again.  Or, you may feel as though your race left you with unfinished business that you want to re-try at the earliest opportunity, even as your body isn’t quite ready to cooperate.

 

We encourage most athletes to take approximately a month to recover from one of your bulwark goal races.  1-2 weeks of complete rest, followed by at least a couple weeks of recreational exercise, including cross training, and more rest than usual as needed throughout the week.

 

One great approach is to choose another goal race of a shorter distance at least 10-12 weeks from the date of the current goal race for which you are preparing.   You might even want to do this before you compete in the big race.    It is not uncommon to feel emotionally listless after a big effort, and having a new goal can help keep you connected to your over-arching health and fitness goals even as you take some time off.  Choosing a race shorter than the one you just finished will ensure you don’t pressure yourself to find the same level of motivation and commitment right off the bat, can provide a fun fitness test to keep your pace chart moving, and can serve as a good midway point if you do choose to do a longer race in 4-6 months.

 

If you come back from recovery too early, you may feel fine initially, but when the real training sets in, the aches and pains will then begin to crop up – take the time NOW!

 

As we read in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, Brooke Wells says she has traditionally been too aggressive in coming back from her recovery periods.  By jumping immediately back into a heavy training load, she often found herself requiring another mini-break a few weeks in. This is a common occurrence for many runners, both novices and elite athletes.   Now that she has run her best time and is creeping in to the rarified air of internationally competitive performances, she knows she can’t afford to take the same type of liberty this time around.     That second bunch of training weeks after the initial restart is when we as coaches see many problems occur, but we recognize, sometimes it is tough to take that time if you have plenty of motivation left in reserve.  However…..

 

Resist the urge to lace up your shoes the first day you aren’t sore climbing stairs, and after you take that first run, resist the urge to jump in the Sunday 12 miler a few days later with your friends at the park.   The time you spend ramping up slowly back to a normal level of training activity is recovery time as well.  If that is excruciating to you – you can’t stand staying in one more day, encourage yourself that many of the world’s top athletes take 3-6 weeks completely away from running after a goal marathon – you’re trying to work harder than the pros!

 

 

Make sure you use your recovery time to “exhale”, enjoy something you might not have been able to during your build up.

 

For you, it might be a different sport –Brooke mentioned trying rock climbing, something she’d never do in the midst of heavy training.  Maybe it is enjoying a later bedtime, a favorite dessert, an activity with family, a night out, or a weekend away.  Or, just force yourself to sit on the couch and do nothing for once.   While we are here to help you with the plan you need to train for your goals, we also want to make sure that when you are within the crucial weeks before your goal race, you are motivated and not burned out.  Recharge yourself with moderate doses of life’s simple pleasures when a racing deadline is not bearing down and you’ll be able to focus when the time requires that single-mindedness.

 

 

Celebrate and appreciate your accomplishment before heading off to the next mountaintop.

 

It is also important that you celebrate your accomplishment.  Acknowledge to yourself a job well done.  And if things didn’t go as planned, acknowledge an effort earnestly made, a willingness to go for it.  Even if you hope to yet run faster or have bigger fish to fry down the road, consider everything that went right, including the accomplishment of a season of training you might not have considered possible before you began.  Consider all that you hope to recreate in your next build-up as well as those things you hope to change for the better.  After all, while recovery is the final stage of your last race, it is also the first stage of your next!



Trying to think of some goals for your next big race?  Check out Tom's advice in Race Training Tips: Good Targets at Runner's World.


Your pasta dinner has been consumed; your D-chip is safely looped around your shoelace.  Your final cup of water is in your hand and you’re just waiting for the gun to go off.  What now?

 

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, taking a few key tips to the starting line can help you dig down and find your potential on race day.  Here are a good ones to consider:

 

1. Practice as many race day details beforehand as possible.

As Brett mentioned in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, it is important to stick with the tried and true details that have brought you successfully to this point.  Can you survive if an unexpected change of plans is required?  Sure.  However, knowing that there are several things you will do on race day that have been proven to work for you in the past can provide great peace of mind.

 

If you have a pre race or pre long run breakfast that has worked well, make plans to have the same on the big day, even if that means bringing along your own peanut butter, your favorite bar, your favorite drink.  Yes, the hotel buffet might look tempting, but if you haven’t eaten bacon before heading out the door for a hard run, today is not the day to try.

 

Resist the urge to wear that cute new thing you bought at the expo the day before.  Wear it later to impress your friends around the neighborhood instead, and go with the shorts and shirt that have worked for you on your long runs.  Consider the temperature ranges of your race day and have options for unseasonably cold or wet conditions already planned and packed for.

 

2.         Commit to running your race at your pace

Everyone has heard stories of those who start too fast and struggle at the end as a result, or seen races where the whole crowd appears to be sprinting from the start line of a long race.  Do the math on the time you want to run, and stay in the ballpark of those mile splits (and perhaps even a bit slower for the first few miles) during the explorative stages of the race.

 

It is extremely tough not to be caught up in the adrenaline of the crowd, the announcer trying to fire everyone up, the extra energy you have from being tapered and rested, and the older, less fit appearing person who seems to be running so fast and easily right by you.

 

However, resist you must.

 

You’ve come too far to let short-term emotional bursts drag you away from your long-term goal.  As they always say about everything else requiring patience that is not actually a marathon:  this is a marathon, not a sprint.  And the reason why they say it is because it is actually true when you are indeed engaged in a marathon and you need to be steady and independently motivated.  Nerves of steel.  You can do it.

 

3. Plan for a rough patch

There will be a time, if not in this race, but next, where you will go through a tough patch, get a cramp or a side stitch, or have an unexpected period where your ultimate completion may feel like it is in doubt.  Rest assured that is completely normal, and plan in advance to give yourself time to let it ease and sort itself out.  Think of it as an expected challenge you plan to meet, so when it occurs you can almost greet it with joy. Oh, only a side stitch, Ha!  I’ve got this.  I’m going to take some deep inhales until my muscles relax.  Man, I feel out of juice.  Perfect!  That’s what I was carrying this extra gel packet for.  Even if you haven’t brought the antidote, many times the race is long enough and your body resilient enough that what seems like a deal breaker has resolved over the next 3-5 miles.  Plan in advance to give yourself at least that long to let it ease.  Certainly anything that indicates serious injury or illness should be taken extremely seriously and acted upon with every caution. But if you recognize that crampy calf or that mid-long run “blah” feeling, be excited about how you are going to persevere past it and do.

 

4. Celebrate intermediate steps

Is it mile 10 and you are still on pace for your goal? Have you successfully made the first half of the race without feeling like quitting once?  Have you taken fluids and nutrition as planned through the first several miles?  Were you able to give a thumbs up to your spouse and kids along the course when they were waiting for you to pass late in the race?  Consider some of the ingredients to a successful race day and enjoy a moment of appreciation along the route when you execute these plans. A “good day” is comprised of a bunch of different things that have gone well.  You may not always be able to get through the race with a perfect score, but if you have several evaluative check boxes, you’ll have a more complete appreciation of how and why things ended up well in the end.

 

5. Visualize the finish

Before you start, imagine the weight of the finisher’s medal on your chest, the balloon arc or banner over your head, even the joy of triumphantly retrieving your baggage from the trucks and reuniting with your family.  These images, seared into your brain beforehand, can be powerful motivators when things get tough on the racecourse.  What will be most enjoyable to you about finishing?  Picture yourself doing that, and continue to keep picturing it until you cross the line and can enjoy it for real.



The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at the growth of races targeting women's participation and the men who run them.  Certainly an interesting off shoot of the phenomenal growth of distance race participation and that of women specifically.

 

Read the article by clicking here.



Personal Best:  Mental Strategies for Hard Workouts

 

 

It has been sitting on the schedule since you first looked a week or two ago.  Your first 10 or 20 miler, or the first time you are doing a tough track session more challenging than anything you have attempted to this point.  Or, maybe it is a workout or a run you have done before, but it didn’t go so well.  If one of the primary reasons we run is to enjoy ourselves, how do we find enjoyment in these seemingly daunting tasks?  Below are a few strategies for taking these challenges head on, not so you merely make it, but so you conquer and thrive.

 

US 5k champion Lauren Fleshman talks about some of these and others in our September Pro’s Perspective as well.  Read it here.

1. Remember that although this may be a first time for you, others have gone before you and have been successful.

Whether you are beginning your first training cycle with Focus-N-Fly or have been with us for 10 years, you can rest assured that every workout you’re given is based on what has worked for other runners.  It is exactly through these successful experiences of novice and experienced runners that we have built the system that is helping you now.  Know that your path has been trod before, that it is possible, and that it can be done.

 

2. Take one step at a time

One almost universally shared tip is to take a tough workout and break it down into manageable pieces.  Notice how both our beginning runner, Terri Wojtalewicz, and our experienced professional athlete, Lauren Fleshman, both talk specifically in their profiles about taking a long race one mile at a time or a hard workout one interval at a time.  You may not know if you can run 20 miles, but if it is on your schedule, you can be confident you can run a large percentage of it because it wouldn’t have been on your schedule otherwise.  So, say you know you can run 15 miles.  Beyond that, promise yourself you will run at least one more mile.  Focus on a task that will take several minutes vs. one that might take hours.   Conquer the one mile and celebrate it to yourself as you finish it.  Consider if you can focus again for one mile. Buoyed by the sense of accomplishment from the 16th mile, you might just be able to.  Before you know it, you’ll be at your goal distance and you will have built up a reservoir of confidence and positive self-talk that will be helpful for the next challenge.

 

3. Take as many variables out of the equation as possible.

No, you can’t control everything.  However, if you can set yourself up for a tough workout with food you know will work for you, and your “go to” shorts/ shirt/ socks, it may take one element of worry from your minds.  Find a routine by experimenting with fueling and clothing approaches on easy days, you so are confident in your choices on hard days, leaving your mental energy for the task itself.

 

4. Prepare in advance with the positive self-talk you are going to give yourself when you are in the thick of a tough day.

There will come a time when the run or the workout will require bigger than average effort.  What are the keys you will remind yourself of when that time comes?  Do your shoulders hunch and get tight when you are tired?  Plan in advance that you will try to relax your shoulders for 30 seconds at a time when that occurs.  Does your breathing get too shallow?  Tell yourself in advance that when it starts to go that direction, you will commit to several long and deep inhales to help get you back on track.  What are the types of encouragement from others that really have helped you succeed in running or in life generally?  Tough barking orders, or soothing positive words?  Prepare with these phrases already on tap to remind your body that you and your mind are in control and not the other way around.

 

5.  Decide if knowing the workout well in advance is helpful to you or not.

If you find that you get too stressed out thinking about a big one in the week leading up, but know that every week on a certain day that type of workout will occur, resist the urge to look ahead or forgo the weekly email for a time and instead look at it a day or two ahead just for logistical planning purposes.  You will know what type of effort is required (tempo run, track workout, long run), but you won’t have the time to build additional pressure on yourself.

 

6.  Create accountability and a reward. Enlist others.

 For many of you, just knowing you will return to the computer to log your workout is motivation enough to complete each day.  For some, you are able to train with others who can keep you buoyed even when the running isn’t coming as easily as you had hoped that day.  Others are training for a big goal with an emotional motivation, such as to honor a friend or family member, or to note one of life’s milestones.  If so, one strategy would be to create a visual reminder around the house to keep track of the steps or miles you are logging on the way to that goal, and use it as a positive motivation to keep you going as well as a reminder to those in your household to help keep you on track with encouragement, even if they know nothing about running.   Think of your training as a tower.  You want a tower that is a tall and as strong as possible, but one sub par day doesn’t mean the whole thing falls over, it just means you need to put that next block on there the next time out.

 

On a lighter note, it is ok to concede to the occasional treat as motivator, whether it is the espresso and pastry Lauren writes about, a meal at your favorite restaurant, or perhaps a pedicure for your marathon worn toes.  It need not cost anything, but if it is something you enjoy doing every once and a while, it might serve as a fun carrot for you as you travel toward the conclusion of your miles that day.

 

Remember, doing every single difficult workout to perfection doesn’t guarantee a perfect race, nor does missing one/ falling short a time or two necessarily mean you will not succeed.  What we are looking for is a field of data points, from which you can reasonably conclude you are prepared for the race. Every challenging day you complete allows you to strengthen the argument you are going to make for yourself on race day when the going gets tough, and oftentimes, those days although difficult, can also end up being the most memorable.

 

 

 



Two weeks ago one of our runners wrote me about taking the "Albert Haynesworth Fitness Test". 

For reference, Haynesworth is a star defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins.  He made headlines at the start of training camp when the 'skins now coach, Mike Shanahan, refused to let him practice until he passed a "standard fitness" test.  According to Shanahan this test was basic and had been completed by every other player.  The fact that one of his most important players couldn't complete the test irked the new coach and gave cannon fodder to the media around the beltway for two weeks. 

Here's the test:

  • Run a 300 yard shuttle run in under 70 seconds
    • Do this by running goal line to the 25 yd-line and back 6X
  • Take 3 minutes and 30 secsonds recovery
  • Repeat the 300 yeard shuttle run in under 73 seconds

Upon first glance this looks like a run of 300 yards (~275 metres) in 1 minutes and 10 seconds, a big recovery, and then the same thing in 1 minute and 13 seconds.

Oh, it isn't.  Foot in mouth

The exercise is an accute assessment of explosiveness, quickness and balance.  There are no less than twelve separate accelerations required along with ten 180 degree directional changes.

Our runner who ran the test told me "I felt like I was doing a strength test" and to an endurance runner this makes sense as we have developed our slow twitch, arobically funded systems in preparation for 3, 6, 13 and 26 Mile races.  Even though Haynesworth (listed at 6' 6" & 350 lbs) could never hang with any of us in a 5K, his ability and fitness is undeniable for his trade.  In fact my guess is that if we took a random sampling of Focus-N-Fly runners and had them race Albert Haynesworth this is the percentage of people who would beat him by distance:

  • 5K = 100%
  • 1K = 80%
  • 100m = 50%
  • 50m = 25%
  • 25m = 15%
  • 10m = 5%

In other words none of us big, slow distance runners would have any chance against a professional football palyer like Haynesworth in a short burst effort that falls right in his wheel house.

Hopefully this is thought provoking but I still haven't given you any practical advice so here it is.

We use running drills to help develop fast twitch muscles, anaerobic metabolism, and neurological response.  These drills makeup less than 1% of total weekly mileage and less than 5% of total time spent training. We also use fast interval training (<1500m pace) as an extension of this development for 5-10% of weekly mileage.   Both these exercises have specific objectives and can be beneficial.  In fact if you weren't doing these then you would have no chance against Albert Haynesworth in any race of 100m or less.  The bottom line is that we weigh this part of the regimen according to perceived value (it is valuable but not as valuable as all the aerobic work we do).

So you will continue to see the majority of your assignments focused on maintenance/easy and threshold/comfortably hard paces.  We know for certain the benefits of extended aerobic stress and they are well documented for endurance races but could they help a high-performance, short burst athlete in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL? 

My guess is they probably could and I often wonder why more professional ball players don't utilize distance running in the off season.  It has been documented that the aerobic contribution is dominant in all races from 400m up so there is a contribution at shorter distances as well.

As distance runners we need to focus on the aerobic stresses that will help us improve the most.  Just don't forget about those drills and faster intervals when they're assigned.

Oh and the next time you're watching football on the weekend and you see those big guys gasping for air - just think of the Albert Haynesworth fitness test and the fact that all those guys have passed the test. 

Pretty incredible!

 

**BTW I am posting my Albert Haynesworth fitness test results on the forum in hopes that we might get a few others to take the test and post accordingly.

 



Here's another reason to keep exercising!

Effects of aerobic exercise training on cognitive function and cortical vascularity in monkeys

This study examined whether regular exercise training, at a level that would be recommended for middle-aged people interested in improving fitness could lead to improved cognitive performance and increased blood flow to the brain in another primate species.



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