I get many questions about breathing in running. In response to one of those, I led some clients through the sequence below. Using the breath is one of the most accessible and effective skills in a runner's toolbox. Before continuing, I highly recommend taking a look at my earlier article on the art of the breath.
On Sunday*, I ran the Berkeley Half Marathon. I'm excited to report and break down how the race went, because I think there is a great deal to be learned both for myself and for any runner who plans on racing now or in the future.
So to start, I won't keep you in suspense. As far as I'm concerned, the race went pretty well. The time was the slowest I've ever run a half marathon in (1:19:03), but I accomplished what I set out to. I can't emphasize this enough: we are the ones who define our own success. And that success is defined by proper goal setting. I set out my initial goals three months ago and adjusted them based on my training over the last few weeks as the race got closer.
This Sunday* I will be running the Berkeley Half Marathon. With the race only several days away, its time to take a look back on my training and plan ahead for the race. Today I'll talk about key things to consider in the final week before the race. I also recommend you check out my articles on mental preparation and nutrition.
Having decided on a training plan and other things for a half marathon, my next focus was what the cross training will be. My two big focuses in cross training will be developing a strong core and gaining some explosiveness.
A strong, stabilized core is crucial to proper running technique. Explosive workouts are helpful because they are a way to gain some speed and strength without having to run additional miles. Such workouts are also helpful to reduce risk of injury
Let's get one thing out of the way, right now. Yes, I am doing an abs focused workout once a week. But no, it won't help my running in any meaningful way. It will, however, help feed my vanity- which is all of my reason to do it. Embarking on a training program activates a greater sense of discipline, which I am also using to assuage my vanity on the side.
How a Coach Manages an Injury
This week I faced the runner's depressingly familiar nightmare: an injury. It wasn't that bad, but I'd like to take you through how it happened and what I did to resolve it. I'll do my best to point out what you can do when things like this happen to you.
Two weeks ago I was running on a trail down a creek canyon. As I started getting lost in thought evaluating how my running didn't feel quite as good as I wanted it to, I found myself twisting down towards the trail at my feet.
How to Talk Yourself through a Run
This week I want to share some of my tricks when it comes to peak performance in a harder workout. Last week I did my first tempo run in several years, so it was something my body and mind had not experienced in quite some time. As such, I knew it would present its own challenges. However, I'm proud to say that while I nearly lost it, the workout ended up going quite well.
Having decided to run the Berkeley Half Marathon in late November last week,* there were a series of considerations to get started that had to be made. I thought it would be quite helpful to any runner to have a coach's perspective on what the first steps are when deciding to run a race. This is a quick look at my thought process and how I'd quickly make a custom training plan for myself.
Goals and Motivations
As you may know, I am training for the Berkeley Half Marathon in November.* This article is the second in a series following my process as a coach and runner in training. This week's focus is clarifying one's goals and motivations when training for a race. There should be multiple goals and they should not be limited to a specific time. There are the goals around times and the process of training and racing, and there are the deeper motivations and values that push us in a particular direction.
I'm a runner, and a running coach. I used to race in high school, college, and for two years as a sponsored marathoner. Every time I thought I was done running, it would find a way back into my life. In high school, I left school records (since broken). In college, I wanted to leave school records (the danger of inflated expectations).
After college, under the auspices of a small running store called Topspeed Running in Southern California, I tried again. I wanted to qualify to the US Olympic Trials for the Men's Marathon. To do so, I enlisted the services of a very unusual person.
Michael Boyle, the creator of functional training, is a genius. Sadly, he hates running, but I think we can all find compassion for him despite that. As the developer of functional training, he has pioneered the concept of training geared to a purpose- applying functional anatomy to training. In doing so, he has given us another major tool to help with injuries. Or as he calls it, injury reduction.
The joint-by-joint approach is a fabulous concept developed by Michael Boyle and Gray Cook, both highly regarded physical therapists. The core premise is very simple- each of the seven major joints have a primary need- mobility or stability. Even better, this need alternates from joint to joint as one goes up or down the body, making it pretty easy to remember. It also provides a simple and clear way to understand what is happening for runners when things are not going quite right.
Some readers may have seen this idea in practice before in my discussion of runner's knee and IT Band Pain Syndrome. Both issues often impact the knee while really originating from the hip. In addressing the hip in specific ways, those injuries can often be improved. This understanding helps show that pain or issues at one joint usually come from a neighboring joint's lack of mobility or stability.
As my regular readers may know, visualization is a favorite topic of mine. In addition to general mental preparation for running and races, visualization has its own strong purpose. I've explored ways to meditate while running, including heart-based visualizing, a mental playground, and learning how to run from what lights you up.
Today I'm offering a sample visualization which is designed for the Golden State Half coming up in November. This can be redesigned to fit any race and is well worth doing and repeating in the week or two leading up to the race. The general principles followed in it are explained here.
We hear it all too often: examine your beliefs and then choose a better one! If you believe it you can achieve it! When your belief is behind your actions, anything is possible!
So just change them!
Well, have you changed them yet?
…no? Oh, but you just have to change them, it’s so simple.
It's not that simple. Changing and upgrading what we believe in and what we can have faith is not an instant thing. But it is possible, and I'd like to share one way it can happen.
Shin splints and tibial bone strains are the bane of many runners. As such, this injury has the distinction of being one of the five most common running injuries alongside plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, IT Band Pain Syndrome, and runner's knee(PFPS). These and other common running injuries help make running a high risk injury sport,
So what is it and what can we do about it?
As readers of this blog now understand, the five most common running injuries are plantar fasciitis, runner's knee (PFPS), IT Band pain syndrome, Achilles tendinosis, and tibial strains (felt as shin splints). Today's focus is on Achilles tendinosis.
Achilles tendinosis is usually first observed as pain at the beginning or end of runs. As the injury worsens, the pain does as well and can expand to include the entire run. Fast running and uphill running can become particularly painful, as well as stairs or standing on your toes.
We'll go into what to do momentarily, but let's take a look at what is happening in greater detail first.
Most runners, including me, have a bad tendency to overuse some muscles while underusing others. The most common version of this, also including me, is a tendency to overuse to quads and to ignore the glutes and hamstrings.
Thankfully, I have quite exciting news about this unfortunate dilemma: its pretty easy to fix!
I'll go into some exercises momentarily to resolve this specific issue, but first let's take a quick look at what running technique should look like when it comes to muscle use and activation. For the sake of brevity, I will do an article purely on muscle activation and running phases in the future, although I highly recommend checking out Brian William's book Running Technique (on Kindle).
Plantar fasciitis is one of the five most common running injuries alongside PFPS (Runner's Knee), IT Band Pain Syndrome (ITBS), Achilles tendinosis and tibial bone strains (a class of injuries that includes shin splints among its symptoms). Because running is classified as a sport with high risk injury with some estimates saying up to 60% of runners get injured, chances are you or a runner you know has had at least one of these issues.
Today our focus is on plantar fasciitis, which like the other four are not a death sentence. All five are essentially overuse injuries that can be prevented with smart training, proper technique, and other good habits.
For runners and everyone else who engages in any kind of physical activity, our bodies are often at the forefront of our awareness. And yet it remains one of the more mysterious aspects of our experience. Today I'd like to open a window into that part of our experience so we can better understand how to work with living in our bodies as runners and people. Since we already know how to inhabit our bodies, we'll learn what the various types of discomfort are in our bodies, what they can mean, and how to work with them.
A system called the structural differential, designed by Alfred Korzybski in the 1920s, is quite possibly the most powerful tool out there for those who wish to function effectively in our world. It provides a map of how we see the the world the way we do, and the errors we tend to make as we do so. It is relevant to running and can be used as a powerful peak performance tool, however, to do so only would be a gross underuse of its potential.
It's far too complex to adequately discuss in a short article, so all I can do here is give a quick sense that will nonetheless suffice as at least the beginning of a tool up to the task.
So without further ado, here is a quick look at Korzybski's model:
You may not know it, but stretching is a really big deal for runners. What's worse is that advice on stretching can get pretty confusing. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there regarding the timing, purpose, and value of stretching (not to mention stretching versus dynamic warmups/warmdowns). Today is all about how pregnant women should approach stretching, but if you'd like the general version check it out here (link).
Here's my take on stretching: if you are going for a run at an easy (conversational) and reasonably consistent pace you absolutely must stretch after a run. If you are pregnant, the stretches need to be modified (and some removed entirely), but it's still crucial to stretch.
Hip Strengthening for Runners
For runners, one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries is to strengthen the muscles used in running. In this strength training sequence taken both from one of Jeff Gaudette's strengthening routines and the fabulous Anatomy of Movement series, we develop both deep hip strength and decompression alongside general hip strength.
As you may know from my articles on runner's knee and IT band syndrome, muscle weakness and imbalance is a major cause of knee and hip issues in runners. While good nutrition, a safe training program, well planned hill sprints, adapting your training to what is actually happening, good sleep and other factors are all crucial for training effectively, strengthening programs cannot be forgotten about.
The Art of Breath
The art of breath is as crucial and as personal as it gets. While there is no "perfect" breath, it is crucial to understand the basic of breathing for any effective yoga, meditation, or peak performance practice.
In yoga, as with all classical yogic practice, one major purpose is to uncover and resolve blockages to improve function. It starts with focusing on the exhalation rather than the inhalation. As one master once said, yoga is really mostly waste removal. This starts with getting rid of the unwanted to make space for what is needed.
Running injuries are the plague of many runners. The sad truth for the sport of running is that it is classified as a high risk sport when it comes to injuries. The reality is that this is totally unnecessary — developing fitness, coordination, and technique together and correctly are very good at preventing major issues for most people. The five most common running injuries are runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, tibial bone strains, and Achilles tendinosis.
Today we shall focus on the second most common running injury: iliotibial band syndrome. The symptoms usually show up as pain on the outside of the knee and sometimes in the hip. It can include swelling near the knee and pain or tightness anywhere along the IT band. Much like PFPS (runner's knee), the issue isn't a knee injury- its something stressing the knee from elsewhere. Injuries to the knee itself are actually pretty rare for runners.
In the past two months I've talked about the four big lies around weight and health, the sad truth that diets overwhelmingly fail us in a myriad of ways and other articles about nutrition.
But now what? If diets don't really work what are we to do? We know that health and weight aren't particularly connected, but for most of us health and some level of fitness are definite values we'd like to honor.
Runner's knee, or Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), is one of the five most common running injuries. The other four are: iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, tibial bone strains, and Achilles tendinosis. According to some data, it is in fact the most common running injury. As such, it is one of the fastest routes for any and all interest or enthusiasm around running to come to an emphatic end.
This type of injury is pain under and around the knee cap. It is usually mild pain experienced during running only. If it continues it can become painful to walk and eventually become as serious as any other running injury. As always, I recommend that you stop running and go see a doctor if the condition becomes more painful.
But perhaps contrary to what many seem to think, this is usually a very manageable and preventable injury. So with that in mind, let's take a closer look at what runner's knee is and what we can do about it.
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