The Importance of Cross Training for Runners

It is easy to get caught up in your training plan and forget that you can do an activity outside of running. Tempo run on Tuesday, Hills on Wednesday, Long Run on Sunday, and on the list goes.

But what happens when you start feeling those niggling pains and muscle tightness? If you are anything like me, you continue running through them and assume that it is just a case of muscle development or slight soreness and not anything serious. The problem with running and running alone for your workouts is that you will have a higher likelihood of injury and burnout.

Enter cross training: by adding the right kind of cross training into your running program, you actually will become a stronger runner.

One of my favourite types of cross training is swimming as it is a non-weight bearing exercise, giving your joints a break and helping to develop core and upper body strength. Upper body musculature is something that is often neglected in runners, so…win for us!

Another option in the pool is deep water running. It is exactly what the name suggests, suspending yourself in the deep end of the pool and mimicking the motion of running without the joint impact. Coming from someone who did it while injured, it is a fabulous way to cross train if you are an injured runner, but possibly the most boring thing you can possibly imagine.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics are high intensity, explosive exercises such as jumping, bounding and hopping drills. These exercises help develop a runners strength, stamina, speed and range of motion. Because of the high impact landings, they are not suitable for runners with injuries but are fabulous for runners who want to develop overall conditioning.

Here is an example plyometric workout:

Cycling -

Whether you are spinning away indoors or ripping up a trail or highway outdoors, a bike is a wonderful, low impact exercise that provides a high cardio, low impact workout. Biking helps to develop quadriceps and strengthens the connective tissues of the knees, hips and ankles. Because it is a highly strenuous exercise, it is not ideal to combine a running workout with a cycling workout, but because you are a runner and will break these rules, do a run in a morning and a ride at night. (It works for me!)

What is your favourite cross training exercise? 

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Pre Race Preparation for a Half Marathon

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A half marathon is one of the most popular distances in the running community. 21.1 km is long enough to get into a running groove and feel a proper distance, but also short enough to be a good foray into the world of distance running and know that within a couple hours or less, it will all be over.

This week, I am going to take a look at the best ways to prepare for, run and recover from a half marathon.

Preparation is something that is vital to the success of a half marathon, and everyone has their own routine for prepping themselves mentally and physically. A few things that I have found to be helpful are:

Following a varied training program: Just getting out the door and running is only a piece of it. Playing with intervals, tempo, fartlek training and long, distance runs are important to your comfort level and success on race day. One thing that sometimes gets neglected but is vital, depending on the course, is hill training!

Train Smart: Think quality over quantity. Aim for strong and varied runs. Cross train and add plyometrics, yoga, swimming, cycling and any other sport that either strengthens or stretches muscles used for running.

Research the race: It is always helpful to have an understanding of the race atmosphere and a mental image of the race course. Arriving at a race and expecting a small, intimate, flat course and finding it to be a commercial, large, hilly course is bound to throw you off track.

Rest: This applies throughout your training program, especially the week before the race as you start to taper. If you are feeling the onset of an injury, shin splints or you are slogging through your runs, consider taking a couple extra days off. Signs of overtraining are lack of appetite despite an intense training schedule, insomnia and an increased resting heart rate (to name a few). Be aware of your energy levels and remember that time off is just as important to your running performance as pavement pounding.

A week or so before the race, begin tapering or decreasing your training intensity and try to stay off of your feet as much as possible the day before the race. Don’t wander too much around the expo, despite the temptation, and wear running shoes. If you are feeling anxious, go on an easy 5-8 km run to loosen up and keep your legs fresh.

Prepare your gear: The night before your run, lay out all the gear, GUs, watches, iPods, shoes, etc so that in the morning, all you need to do it wake up, hydrate and GO!

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Prep for Run for the Toad 50 KM a couple of years ago. I would NOT recommend this many gels and bars for a half marathon. P.s. GU Roctane is literally rocket fuel….

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Nutrition: Eat plenty of healthy carbs the day before such as rice and whole wheat pasta and try to avoid eating anything new. The goal is to have a happy digestive system the day of the race, so stick to the basics. The night before my half marathon this weekend, I had a dinner with a lean protein, plenty of vegetables and a couple slices of sprouted ezekial bread…it was just the morning of that I missed the memo and got it all wrong! (More on Wednesday…)

Trim your toe nails. Self explanatory and it will save you from losing toenails. If all else fails, Essie makes a fabulous black nail polish that I keep in my gym bag…just in case.

Plan to wake up early. There is NOTHING worse arriving to a race and feeling rushed. Take your time. I like to get up early, make a pot of coffee and sit and have devotions with a steaming cup and have a leisurely breakfast before heading out the door. Everyone has a different pre-race routine, but give yourself plenty of time to get through yours.

What am I missing? 

What half marathon have you run or are you running this year?

See you on Wednesday for a race recap and explanation of what to do race day.

 

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How to Exercise in the Morning (And Like It)

Every so often, it will be 4:30 am on a Friday morning and I will be sitting in my car in the driveway debating on whether or not my spin class will miss me if I don’t show up.

Actually, it is most Friday mornings.

Because I fit training and fitness instruction around a full time job, I am often given the times that no other sane human would decide to be up, in exercise clothing and sans coffee. Somehow, life has thrown a schedule to me where sleeping in is 5:45 am on a week day and 6:30 am on a weekend. [My mother likes to cheerfully remind me that I will adapt perfectly to having an infant someday.]

kanye-smh-noI haven’t always loved mornings. And some days I still don’t. But I have found some clever little tricks to fool my body into thinking it is thrilled to be up in morning darkness until I get a surge of endorphins to carry me through the rest of the day.

1. Try to get to bed at a decent hour.

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2. When that inevitably fails, make sure everything is 100% ready to go for the next morning before you go to bed. I have been known to sleep in my sports bra and padded shorts so I can literally roll out of bed, grab my clip ons and drive to the gym. If I am running a trail or two, I have the shoes by my bed and my garmin laid out so I can hit the road 5 minutes after waking if I want.

3. Invest in a coffee maker with a timer so you can wake up to the smell of fresh coffee. Coffee is one of the best legal ways to dope in sports and I take full advantage.

4. Have someone or something that holds you accountable.What keeps me going when I just want to stay at home and conveniently “forget” that I was supposed to be teaching a 6 am class is something that happened this winter:

It was weather like this:

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Except add snow and ice, so not really like this but just as wretched

Roads and schools were closed. I had been in a car accident 2 weeks earlier and totalled my car. I inched to the gym, passing vehicles going 30 km an hour and arrived half way through the time my class should have started. I taught what I could and afterwards, a woman in the back came up to me and said, “I was awake listening to the storm last night and was wondering if I should come this morning or not. But then I remembered it was you teaching and I KNEW you would be there.”

So now I am plagued with the paranoia that they think a lot higher of me than they should considering I think about bailing on them almost every Friday.

But having a friend meet you (if you can find one as crazy as you are) or having a group waiting to be instructed is a safety net to make sure it HAPPENS.

5. Bribe yourself. Before you write me off, it is a sad reality that I can be convinced to get out of bed before a rooster just because there is Starbucks waiting for me at the end of my workout. Some call that a problem, I call it success.

But seriously. The real question is WHY should you exercise that early in the morning? Well, if you aren’t a morning person and have tons of time – don’t.

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I am speaking to the many people who are here who I know are busy and if you are following a training plan for a marathon or have some goals you want to tackle head on, sometimes a morning workout is the best time of day as there is rarely a soul to bother you and it is amazingly quiet. (I sound quite introverted for an extrovert). But it is the one time of the day I claim as MINE. I don’t need to worry about answering my phone or email because everyone else is asleep.

Another benefit is you are up, moving, full of endorphins and then your workout is over for the day. Life can happen. You are more likely to be consistent with it if you have a routine going where no one can bother you.

A final word: Big breakfasts. Because you can.

If none of this has made any difference, watch this and feel epic about morning workouts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SuPLxQD4akQ

Have a fabulous weekend. May it be full of endorphins.

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Interview with Kathryn Bertine

We literally are all the way back to Friday again.

I could not be happier. This week has been utter and complete madness for me. I will not lament but rather focus on awesomer things.

kbell-setSo a while back, I gave away a book. Yes, I am STILL on about Kathryn Bertine. The woman is a legend.

Kathryn BertineIf I can have half of the drive or resilience this woman has in her baby finger, I will be a super star.

Regardless, I have been sporadically sharing this link, which is a environmentally bent interview with her that I did a while back. What I didn’t share is that I have a more “Laces And Lattesque” version of the interview. I may do this forever: go into interesting interviews with about 10 more questions than necessary and hound innocent people about their favourite post workout meals, deodorants, [anything really] as long as I think I can throw it up on this space. (Which sadly, is almost anything…)

Anyways. Here are the bonus interview questions:

JK: You talk about your early morning training schedule in your book. Any tips for those of us who find it hard to get out of bed at 5 AM to hit the road?

KB: Well, I am currently in the biking offseason, but I find that if you have a specific goal in sight, then it all comes together. If you are lacking the motivation to train, you need to ask yourself why? It can often be burnout for an endurance athlete because it is always go-go-go. A suggestion to find motivation in training is to throw in a mid-season race so you have something to work towards. Another big motivator is to train with a friend; it is hard to skip a workout when you know someone is waiting for you.

JK: Since you are in your off-season right now, what are your favourite cross training exercises?

KB: I go back to my triathlon roots! Normally I ride twice a week, I swim twice a week and I am going to have to use the word “jog” twice a week.

JK: I’ve seen your times, it is definitely running.

KB: Ha! No really, I just do short stuff, like 25 minute jogs, an hour swim and not counting laps and bikram yoga once a week. I do something 6 days a week because there is a difference between resting and getting completely out of shape. Oh! And I love hiking!

JK: What about strength training?

I lift twice a week and I have a trainer in Tuscan helps me with strength training specific to cycling. He targets muscles that are neglected on a bike. Your back muscles are strong, but your chest and shoulders don’t necessarily counterbalance so you can get some pretty funky posture going on and imbalances. It is really fun for me!

Side note: Add her to twitter: @KathrynBertine because her trainer’s name is Jesus so she has tweets like this:

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JK: With all the training you do, how do you keep a balance between your personal life and training life.

KB: This is an important one. When you are balanced, you do your best! This has been a journey for me. I feel most balanced when my writing and cycling career are in sync but in freelance, that can be tough. I have been married for a few years to my husband, an amateur cyclist and he has been very supportive in the moral aspect of the sport because he realizes I won’t be able to do this forever. If you have someone in your life who provides you with emotional support and truly mean it, that is a huge factor in going out and facing your training head on.

What music to do workout to?

KB: I actually don’t train outdoors with music because I like to day dream and I need to keep my wits about me otherwise two or three of my senses are missing! Also, as a writer, I use my riding time to think in that capacity. However, if I am on an indoor trainer (which doesn’t happen all that often), I need music! I love The Killers, LMFAO, anything that has a good rhythm. O! And the new Rolling Stones album!

So. If you want to learn even more about Kathryn, head on over to my work blog to read more of the interview and enter to win her book. Because the giveaway ends today.

AGAGCOVERjpeg1That’s all I have for today. I am headed off to enjoy the Guelph Organic Conference and celebrate my baby sister’s baptism this weekend. I will see you all on Monday!

Who is your favourite athlete?

kbell-set

Fitness Friday: the only place you can look normal with neon padded shorts

Hey everyone. It’s the almost WEEKEND!

Fridays are always very full for me. I get up at 4 am and teach two classes before heading into the office. I don’t mind the early wake up, because my first class of the day is spin, which leads me to the blog theme today…

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Teaching spin is my absolute favourite class. I think it is a natural progression because I love running and spinning and probably the closest to it that I teach. It also is the only class I teach that is a co-ed group, which is fun because it brings a different dynamic to the group. Men, by and large, are not afraid of belting out the chorus to the “Eye of the Tiger” while doing a hill climb, which helps any new class members to relax into the rhythm on the song and stop glancing nervously around the room.

I love that I can wear a microphone. Most of my other classes, I am left yelling to the back of the room.

I have the most fun with the music of this class. Rhythm is so important when cycling and I spend a few hours every weekend plotting out my next playlist. What rhythm works best for a sprint vs a hill climb? I also run each playlist by Jesse – not to see if he likes it, but to talk through the class before I do it. Any given Sunday, you will see me blasting a tinny version of “I Get Knocked Down” and announcing when each jump is while Jesse looks on, mildly interested. Each week is a different theme, I have done 90′s playlists, hill climb playlists, songs that get stuck in your head playlists (they hate me after that one..) etc.

It is the only place you can look normal walking in with neon padded shorts on. I have nothing more to expand on that one. Other than the fact that I have a few that are just so bad…in a good way.

For those of you who are non-gym goers, spinning is a stationary bike, group full of expectant people, and a fierce instructor. You go through a series of hills, sprints and jumps. You can alter your position whether you are standing or seated and the intensity with the resistance dial. It is easy to pick up, fun to do and brings a feeling of camaraderie to the group. Reasons why it is good for you is it allows you to breathe deeply, stretch your shoulders that are hunched all day long, sweat out toxins and develop muscular and cardiovascular strength. Don’t like your first one? Don’t despair – find another instructor, buy some padded shorts and bring a towel.

A Class with me

Old advert...I don't teach Thursday nights anymore.

Old advert…I don’t teach Thursday nights anymore.

To give you an idea of what a normal class looks for me, this was my playlist for the past week:

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And yes, the theme of the week is Jock Rock. To celebrate the Leaf’s semi-triumphant return even though I never watch hockey and don’t really care…

Here is what we are doing:

1. Warm up
2. Stretches and warm up
3. Increase rhythm and work alternating legs
4. Climb
5. Sprint
6. Active Recovery
7. Run (standing up on the bike)
8. Tabata Sprints (20 s on, 10 s off)
9. Run/Hover at chorus
10. Active recovery
11. Jumps. I split them into teams and make them compete.
12. seated verse, standing chorus
13. Rolling Hills Climb (2 steps forward, one step back)
14. Active Recovery
15. Pyramid Climb
16. Fast, light spinning and stretches
17. Stretches off bike.

And that’s a wrap. :)

Want to go to a spin class? Here is something to read before you go: 9 ways to maximize your ride. 

Have a wonderful weekend! I am doing lots of prep for my sister’s wedding. We have her bridal shower this evening, a bridal show tomorrow and a dinner party on Sunday. See you all on Monday!

Spin Class. Love or hate?

agag-cover

A Giveaway: Pave It Forward

Not too long ago, Pavement Runner decided that he had too many books. He bought a new one that was so great that he needed to share it and thus, the Pave It Forward Giveaway was formed. The premise is simple: win the book, read the book, review the book, and give it away to another blogger.

And what a book.

I was so excited to get my hands on As Good as Gold by Kathryn Bertine that I won from the giveaway on Angela’s blog. I knew that it would be an incredible story because of Kathryn’s interview with Angela, but honestly, I had no idea how much grit this woman was made of.

Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

Meet Kathryn Bertine, elite triathlete, former professional figure skater, and starving artist. Just as her personal and professional dreams begin to crumble in the summer of 2006, ESPN stakes her to a dream:  Take two years to make the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. As Good As Gold is the heroic, hilarious account of Bertine’s serial exertions in the realms of triathlon, modern pentathlon, team handball, track cycling, road cycling, rowing, open water swimming, racewalking, and—fasten your seatbelts—luge.
 
On her journey, the obstacles range from jet lag to jellyfish, flat tires to floundering relationships, repeated rejection to road rash. But, as time is running out, Bertine doesn’t sweat the small stuff, only the large—like scouring the globe for a tiny nation to adopt her, and pushing her body and mind as far as it will go. Maybe all the way to China.
 
Between harrowing, often laugh-out-loud episodes of triumph and humiliation, Bertine takes short “Water Breaks” to contemplate the ins-and-outs of fan mail, failure, rehydration, nasal reconstruction, and how best to punish steroid users. 
 
Kathryn Bertine swims, runs, and rides—and writes—like a champion. In As Good as Gold, Bertine proves she has something more valuable than an Olympic medal. She’s got Olympic mettle. When it comes to the human heart, she takes the gold.

Trust me, this is a book you want to read. Kathryn’s spirit and drive leaves you with the feeling of “well if she can do THAT, I can do something great too!”

Something great, like win this book!

All you need to do is answer this question in the comments:

If you could go to the Olympics for any sport, what would it be?

Contest winner will be announced next Friday.