Friday, October 21, 2011

Core Confessions

So, I am pretty sure the last time I did a core workout was before I was pregnant with my second son. That would be about, oh, two years ago? I made a resolution this fall to work more on my core muscles to help make me a stronger and faster runner. A couple of days ago, I was walking through Target in the fitness area and found Shape's Pink Power: Flat Abs 5 Ways. After having two children, flat abs sounds very good to me--I was ready to purchase. I decided to give the DVD a try this afternoon--end result, the core is definitely in need of some TLC. It probably didn't help that my 3 year old son was coaching me and said "Mommy, you're not doing it like the video." Yes, I recognize that, I just had to make a few "modifications" to get through the workout! This DVD had five 10-minute workouts, which I actually think will work great for me. I can never seem to make it to a Pilates class or core class at the YMCA, so my plan is do one of these workouts every other day and see where that gets me Maybe here? (I wish!)

In all seriousness, focusing on core strengthening can help your running A LOT--which is exactly why I am revisiting this area of my body. A strong core stabilizes your body when running When the core is not strong, running form is compromised which can lead to imbalances/injuries in other parts of the body. Strengthening your core can make you a more efficient runner, which in turn will make you faster. For a couple of simple core exercises, click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cool Running

The fall is my favorite season of the year, hands down. I realized this after living in San Diego for 4 1/2 years in my early twenties. Though I loved the hospitable climate of San Diego, if you are from the Northeast, the San Diego weather does get a little monotonous. Seriously, how many times can you listen to a forecast that says that today will be sunny and in the seventies? Believe it or not, we used to love the rainy days in SoCal, at least it was a change from the norm. Growing up in the Northeast, I couldn't shake the sentimental four season feeling. Fall is my favorite season for a number of reasons. I personally think it is the most beautiful time of year in my hometown of Falmouth, Massacusetts (Cape Cod). The temperatures are cool overnight for sleeping, yet pleasantly warm during the day. The humidity is low and all of the tourists have headed back to school and work. I love running in the mornings, and they are nice and cool and crisp--especially  nice for the weekend long runs!

One of my favorite places to run in Falmouth (in the fall and pretty much any other time of the year) is the Shining Sea Bikepath. You can run on the bike path all the way from North Falmouth to Woods Hole, with gorgeous scenery the whole time. I also enjoy running up to Falmouth Heights, over the finish line of the famous Falmouth Road Race. For those that love the Falmouth Road Race, the course is just as beautiful in the fall. In fact, Falmouth in the Fall is a race over the exact same course, that is held in the beginning of November.

Running in the fall also allows me to feel less guilty about indulging in the Halloween candy and the great food that accompanies the holiday season. Completing a nice long run on a Sunday morning makes the Reese's Peanut Butter cups taste that much better!

Lastly, fall means racing season! I find the fall racing season to be preferable to the spring season, at least in terms of weather. I have wrapped up most of my season by now. I did consider doing the Monster Mini Dash in downtown Providence, but the race just didn't seem to work into my current training plan. I am going to enter my 3 1/2 year old into the mini dash. He has been asking me to run a race forever. I think that kids' race will be perfect, and as a bonus he gets to go trick or treating in the convention center after the race! What's your favorite running season and why?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Right Tempo for Your Tempo Run

Still sore from yesterday's tempo run, but I will confess that I am a true believer in how important these runs are. Since I have been focusing on 5ks for much of the fall, I have been doing more intervals than tempo runs, but that will change as I start to focus on the half and some longer races. Yesterday's tempo was a five miler with a one mile warm up and a one mile cool down. I don't know if it was Monday's six miler or just the day (usually Monday's are a rest day for me), but the workout turned into somewhat of a mental battle. All I have to say is thank God for the stick:

I found out about this tool from my coach, and I love it! The ability to give your legs a nice massage after a speed workout, long run, race (or tempo run in this case) is heavenly.Anyhow, about one and a half miles into my tempo run, I knew I would be counting down the tenths of a mile on this one! I finished it out though and felt much better afterwards.

Tempo runs are a great tool for racing distances above the 5k. Famous running coach Jack Daniels helped to popularize tempo runs and defines them as "A tempo run is nothing more than 20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace." Tempo runs are sometimes referred to as "lactate-threshold runs" because they are conducted at a speed just below which your body would be unable to clear lactic acid effectively. In other words, tempo runs help to train your body to maintain a set speed over a given distance. It is often said that tempo runs should be "comfortably" hard. You should feel like you are putting in a good effort, but that you could maintain that effort for about an hour if necessary. there are numerous running calculators that can also help you determine your tempo pace, I like to refer to the MacMillan running calculator. Tempo runs should be conducted no more than once per week. Try adding them to your training regimen to help lower your racing times. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Choosing the Right Race

So I am in the process of choosing a spring half marathon....Luckily, since this distance continues to increase in popularity, there is no shortage of choices. I am looking for a race that has a scenic course, adequate aid stations, and a festive race atmosphere--I am even willing to travel in order to meet aforementioned requirements. Being a resident of Providence, I have checked out the Cox Rhode Races Half marathon and have heard mixed reviews. The time of year is right, but not totally sold on the course.

I love the idea of a Rock n' Roll marathon, but the idea of doing the Providence Rock n' Roll half marathon in the beginning of August is not very appealing. I am still not quite sure why they picked August for a half marathon in Providence--the heat and humidity are making me sweat already! A friend came across the Big Lake Half Marathon in Alton, NH, so I checked out their race information. What's not to love (except maybe the hills)?
Water stations competing for prizes based on creativity--you could really have fun at this one! Having lived in San Diego for awhile, I also checked out the Rock n' Roll half there. The course looks beautiful, but the sheer size of the race is a little overwhelming--I think last year they had about 30,000 runners. I will continue in search of the perfect spring half marathon, any suggestions are much appreciated...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Run Like A Mother

Run Like a Mother is one of the funniest books I have read in quite a while. I purchased the book for my Kindle on a whim after reading about it somewhere. The books is a collection of information from a large group of mother runners and humorous advice from the two authors: Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. Whether you are a newbie mother runner or a wily veteran, this book will leave you in stitches. I promise you will be able to relate to many of the scenarios discussed in the book, in hysterical detail. The book has become so popular among mother runners, that the authors are actually working on a sequel to the book "Train Like a Mother" which will be out in the spring of 2012. If you read/have read the book, I encourage you to listen to their podcasts as well. I download them for long runs and was laughing out loud during my last 13 miler. Hey, you need some laughter to get you through the miles!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Racing Recap

What a beautiful weekend for racing! This past Saturday, I ran the Free to Breathe 5k in Roger Williams Park. While the foliage is beautiful this time of year, the hills on the course were most certainly not. I had run a race in Roger Williams Park in May (slightly different than this course) and did not remember that there were so many hills. Maybe I just blocked it out? Fortunately, like most 5ks, it was over before I knew it! I finished in 22:28, which was not a PR, but I was first in my age division (30-39) and the 4th female overall. I was excited to win my first age group award, and a cool little prize will be arriving in the mail. Since this was the last 5k of the fall, my training will start shifting away from speed work and more towards building strength and mileage. I am looking at a half-marathon this spring, so bring on the miles! Happy running!