Sunday, September 15, 2013

1 Coach Corey's Corner: 10 Tips to Set the Stage for a Great 5K Race


This post was inspired by my friend, Ken, who'd asked for some 5K race day tips yesterday. So, here's some free coaching advice for those racing the 5K distance, whether it's their first 5K or their 50th:

1. If possible, do a dry run of the race course to familiarize yourself with the "lay of the land," so to speak. Being well-informed and well-prepared helps to instill confidence on race day. It's a psychological thing: Typically, the more "knowns" (versus "unknowns") you create, the more at ease you will feel; it's a good technique to help "settle" the mind on race day as well.

2. Pace yourself. That might sounds obvious but a 5K is all about the pacing. It's a fast race -- a 5K is typically over before you know it! -- but nonetheless, pacing yourself properly can actually be trickier than it might seem. So, hold back a bit in the beginning, so you have enough steam left for the last mile. It can be very tempting to take off like a shot at the starting line due to the surge of adrenaline and competitive urges that kick in when you're surrounded by fellow racers, standing in line waiting for the race to begin. However, when it comes right down to it, everyone runs their own race. The trick is to take control of those competitive feelings and adrenaline and use them to your advantage; this way, you'll be able to keep them under wraps a bit at the starting line and then release them around the last mile to help push you to the finish line and "take it home" for a nice strong finish.

3. Arrive there on the early side and keep your legs warmed up and limber by running around a bit before the race starts. Nothing fast, just a light jog. You can even do this in the parking lot or if there's on a nearby road or sidewalk.

4. Get up early to give yourself enough time to digest your breakfast, preferably finishing your last bite 2 hours beforehand. This will help to settle your stomach (especially if you're experiencing any pre-race "nerves") as well as give your body enough time to "process" the food you eat.

5. Don't wait too long to hydrate before the race. Your body will be pumped with adrenaline, so it's not uncommon to have to make multiple pit stops before a race. So, try to reduce this by hydrating at least 2 hours beforehand to allow your body enough "processing time." :)

6. The week of the race, be sure you've been hydrating and fueling properly all week-long. Good sports nutrition is vital to help you prepare for a strong performance on race day, and that doesn't just start the day before, or the day of, your race. Your body will thank you for it on race day. :)

7. Set the stage for a good race by telling yourself you're going to crush it! Placing yourself in a confident and uplifting headspace will help you to visualize yourself being successful. Say to yourself, "I am going to go out there and give it my best effort and will have a great race." Or, "I am going to go out there and kick some major tail!"

8. Focus on landmarks in the near distance to help keep you going. The next tree, the next house/building, the next sign pole -- whatever helps keep you going. This keeps your mind focused squarely in the present, and also keeps you from thinking about how far you have to go. Some people like to focus on the back of the runner's head in front of them, to try to catch up to them and then pass them. :)

9. Remember to breathe regularly and focus on your stride. The first suggestion might seems like an obvious thing, but thinking about both of these activities during your race will also help keep your mind in the present, not to mention that they'll help you pace yourself and also keep tabs on how your body is doing. Use a running mantra to help you even out your stride and pace. One of my favorites is "long, strong, stretch, stride," which helps establish a regular rhythm to your stride (essential for pacing yourself) as well as creating a nice strong, elongated stride. It also helps to calm the mind and relieve any race day anxiety. Plus, it bolsters your confidence and creates mental prowess by instilling good thoughts and feelings about your running as well. :)

10. Keep your mind in the present and keep it focused on uplifting and encouraging thoughts. Here are some techniques to help you to accomplish this: Enjoy the scenery around you, smile at the runners to your left and right, use techniques #8 and #9 above, and last but certainly not least, remember to enjoy the racing experience itself. Even during a race, running is like a moving meditation. It creates awareness of everything around you, which can heighten the experience and hopefully, your enjoyment of it. By keeping your mind in the present and remaining conscious of your environs, your body, and your thoughts, you will also develop the necessary mental strength to push yourself and keep your body going strong, right across the finish line. After all, when you run and race, it's essentially mind over miles, even for a 5K. :)

Good luck! Now go forth and conquer that 5K race!

Friday, May 3, 2013

2 Coach Corey's Corner: 15 Tips for a Long and Healthy Running Life


I know I still have to finish part 2 of that last article. It's currently sitting in draft form, and I'm sure I'll get to it at some point, but right now, I'd like to move on to another topic. I'm training a new client today who's relatively new to the sport and have given him a list of tips that I'd drawn up for this express purpose. (This is standard practice for new clients.) I thought I'd share that list here to help benefit others runners. Although the advice is geared towards newbies, experienced runners can benefit from it too. We all sometimes need reminders to refocus on the basics to help keep our running balanced and safe. :)

15 Tips from Coach Corey for a Long and Healthy Running Life:

1. Wear running sneakers, not tennis, crosstraining, walking, or basketball shoes, etc. Running sneakers are sports-specific for a good reason (i.e., to support/aid proper running motion, etc.). You can easily avoid a lot of injuries by wearing sports-specific shoes, and by running in the right running shoes for your feet and running gait. If you need guidance in this regard, check out the many articles I've written on this blog on how to determine your running gait and select the proper running shoes.

2. Replace your running shoes every 300-400 miles. Whenever possible, alternate running shoes to extend their life and help them retain their shock-absorbing capacity.

3. If you're going to run barefoot, take it slow when building up mileage. If you've never run barefoot before, your feet aren't going to be used to the differing running mechanics and the "wear and tear." Your feet need time to adapt, particularly since you are strengthening new areas of your feet that you haven't really used before, that is, until now.

4. Wear wicking, non-cotton socks and apparel (made of wool or synthetic fibers) to keep moisture away from your skin, which can help prevent chafing (mostly caused from perspiration and rubbing), blisters, and Athlete's Foot.

5. Protect yourself and your extremities in the heat and the cold. If exercising outdoors, dress properly for the weather (keep in mind your body warms up by approximately 20 degrees during running) and don't forget to wear UV skin protection. It's important to wear it all year round. The sun can still be strong in overcast weather.

6. Wear a head-lamp when running at night. Not being able to see your path can result in accidental injuries (from stumbling, tripping, falling, etc.). It's also a good practice as a general safety measure too. On that note, be sure to wear reflective gear as well.

7.  Gently and slowly warm up before running and carefully do a warm stretch after the warm-up and also again, when you've finished. This will help to prevent post-exercise stiffness and injury.

8. Avoid getting gung-ho about your workouts: Resist the temptation to overdo it -- too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard, too little rest, etc.

9. Don't change things that are working, i.e., your training plan, running shoes, etc.

10. Increase mileage slowly and use the 10% rule as the maximum increase for mileage per week. If you're finding the increase particularly challenging or it's creating physical problems for you, drop your mileage by 5% every third week before resuming your mileage amount from the previous week to aid in recovery.

11. Take care of yourself: Get the proper sleep/rest, etc. Eat healthy foods in the correct portion amounts, and be sure to properly fuel and hydrate your body for exercise.

12. Inject some variety into your workout plan: Crosstrain for diversity, which helps you avoid burnout and overtraining, and for its physical fitness benefits, i.e., strengthening and also resting your non-running muscles.

13. Do full-body strength training 2-3 days per week, alternating with a recovery day in between any two strength training workouts. Or, if you work different areas of the body on different days, be sure not to work the same muscle groups on consecutive days. This is an area that's often neglected by runners, but if you strength train on a regular and consistent basis, it'll make you a better runner and will help prevent injury. Be sure to ramp up slowly and don't overdo it.

14. Don't neglect sports nutrition, particularly recovery nutrition: Consume a 4:1 carb to protein drink &/or meal within 15 minutes of finishing a workout, especially a long or hard one. Be sure to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise.

15. And last but not least, pay attention to your body. Don't ignore pain or foolishly try to push through it. Pain isn't the same thing as soreness; it's a signal that something is wrong. Rest when appropriate and go to a doctor if the pain persists.

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