It’s a wrap folks!!! Last weekend was the last marathon of 2018 for Run With Gina (Rwg) runners AND it ended with a bang! Not everyone can always have their best race or achieve their goals, but that is the very reason endurance racing makes you come back for more. I hope the stories of my runners inspire you to reach out to me and share the Run With Gina website with your family and friends.
We had 8 runners at the California International Marathon on December 2nd, with four qualifying for the Boston Marathon and five running a personal record (PR). Two of the personal record races were by 25 and 28 minutes. Both of these humongous PRs were from experienced marathon runners and they both had a PR at their last marathon on a Rwg plan.
Their plan this year was not the same as their last marathon, as they rarely are. Just as everything in the world, we are dynamic, always changing. This is something that is a priority with Rwg plans. I do not have a group training program. I am a 1:1 “online” coach. I know each one of my runners mostly through virtual platform’s, texting/email. It is my job to know their work/family schedule, goals, strengths, weaknesses, fears, and anxieties and build their program with all that in mind.
Speaking of schedule’s, my 25-minute PR and first time Boston Qualifier actually had an 11-day taper! Why you ask? Because it was the only place we could get her last long run in, which by the way was only 18-miles. Because I knew how strong she is, I knew she could handle it. Not everyone would. Rwg is normally the home of the two-week taper. My runners choose 18 or 20 as their longest run. The majority of my people choose 18, because I push for 18. Guess what? It works. Why? Because science says it will work. The Rwg logo is a pseudo element from the periodic table of elements...science.
Our results are not by chance! My plans are backed by evidence-based research to decrease injury potential and increase performance potential.
I am so incredibly proud of every one of my runners. I don’t care if they didn’t run their best time, if they walked, if they cried. I am proud of the commitment they make to their training and if they can say, I gave all that I could give today, they are a winner!
Do you ever look at runners’ Strava or Garmin Connect data and wonder if they are training too much or not enough? That is exactly what most runners do, too much or not enough. If you have followed my blogs since the inception, then you know I always say too much is not better than just enough. There is a point of diminishing returns. No more bang for your buck. Writing checks your body can’t cash. It happens folks, I see it all the time. It is hard to know when to say when because that is different for each person.
My programs are like other programs as they have endurance work, hills, speed, and tempo. Everything other than aerobic work is considered “quality sessions”. However, my programs are customized to my runners needs. Often, even they don’t know what they need, but when I see their run data, I get a good idea of what they need. When I get to know their true desires, motivation, support system, and personalities, I know even more. My main concern as a coach is that my runners get around injury and improve performance and/or health. I don’t want to throw everything including the kitchen sink at a runner that is new to me. But that isn’t set in stone. They may be able to handle it. Same with my experienced people, I may find it is best to pull them back. There is always a time and place to progress and regress my runner’s program.
This brings me to the story of Chris. She recently trained for her third marathon with me. I first met Chris more than two years ago when I went to give a seminar to a running group she belongs to, the South Bay Sole Sisters. At that time, she approached me to ask about a pain she was having while training for a marathon that was a couple month away. She ran her race and a few months later she sent me an email with the title, “I need a coach”. We started working virtually together and she ran a 20-minute personal best at her race! Within days, she was talking to me about running another marathon. I said, “Why do you want to run another one”? Her reply, “Well, I think I can do better”. After a couple of months, training for her second marathon with me started. She ran another personal best, this time by four minutes.
As you can imagine, it was not long before the words, “another marathon” came whispering out her lips. After another couple of months, training for her third marathon with me began, which she just ran last weekend. About three months ago, she had a setback, an on the job injury that affected her running. She sought therapy with a chiropractor and I gave her exercises. Long story short, I had her take a week off running and took away all quality sessions when she returned to running. From that point on it would be all aerobic work. I told her that she could still have an awesome race with just easy, aerobic training. But why take away all those workouts that can benefit her on race day? She believed she had a work injury and I believed that we could not ignore that maybe her body is tired. Maybe she needed more rest between marathons. I knew what she did in the previous two training seasons and I believed her training needed to be regressed, not progressed. I knew she still had good chances of having an awesome race with easy running because I know all the quality work she did to prepare for the last two races. She trusted me because I had already earned her trust by guiding her to improvement in the past and putting her safety above everything else.
As you can see in the attached photo, she did in fact have an awesome race with another 16-minute personal best and achieved her Boston qualifying time off the NEW Boston qualifying standards. These results are not by chance my friends. They are from experienced, one on one coaching with personal relationships as the pillar to success. No, I don’t do group training, I do individual virtual training and it is in fact a labor of love.
Congratulations Chris! Her story is awesome. I hope you feel inspired to share with your friends on Facebook.
This week the recreational running community was floored by the change in the Boston Marathon qualifying standards for the 2020 race. The previous time standard change occurred for acceptance into the 2013 Boston Marathon. Changing of the standard over time is nothing new, however runners that were on the verge of “aging up” into a new (slower) time standard, remain working towards the same time goal that may be just beyond their reach, or at least it seems that way.
If your chosen marathon course and race day weather is favorable to achieving your best, you have trained appropriately and are conditioned to achieve your goal, the difference between you meeting your goal or missing it by seconds to a couple of minutes comes down to race day tactics. Notice I mentioned favorable weather to achieve your best. Who remembers the headlines from the 2018 Boston Marathon? Rain, wind, more rain, and more wind, which made for miserable conditions. Even with race day conditions that saw many of the elite runners drop out before the race started and the race winners running 12 and 20 minutes slower than the male and female course records, respectively, a record number of qualified runners applied for the 2019 Boston Marathon, yet were turned away, because faster runners in their age group capped off the accepted field.
The weather during the Boston Marathon is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; “you never know what you’re gonna get” until race day comes. This may be one of the many reasons that makes the Boston Marathon so special and runners return year after year if it is possible for them. Knowing how to handle adverse race conditions can help make it more enjoyable or less miserable, depending on if your glass is half full or empty. The 2018 Chicago Marathon is on the horizon and as of now, the forecast calls for rain. Rain? Will there be wind? It can’t possibly be as cold in Chicago in October as it can be in Boston in April, can it? I wouldn’t know, I live in San Diego.
Luckily, this blog post isn’t about what I don’t know, but about what I do know. Let me give you some information about the body and how it works and for crying out loud, do not run with a rain poncho when running a marathon or long distances!
I think everyone knows normal body temperature is 97.7–99.5 °F and when exercising, our body temperature rises, so we need to thermoregulate. This is a balance between heat production and heat loss to maintain core temperature. Heat loss works through conduction, convection, and evaporation during exercise. Moisture wicking materials allow for heat loss by convection and evaporation. Let’s get hypothetical for a moment. If you are running 26.2 miles in the rain in a rain poncho and it is only 65 °F as the Chicago forecast predicts for the coming up marathon, that poncho is going to act like an oven. It will not allow for convection, the transfer of heat from the skin to the air to occur or for evaporation to occur, which is how we lose 80% of generated heat to maintain body temperature. Rain poncho in the rain makes sense when standing around spectating, but racing 26.2 miles, no it does not make sense and puts you at risk for hyperthermia.
Don’t get me wrong, the above was not the scenario at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Due to cooler temps with the rain and wind, those runners were faced with hypothermia, which is low body temperature and it occurs when body heat loss exceeds physiological heat production. This is a hard one to visualize. You lose more heat than your body produces. This is about staying warm while exercising in the cold, but it is hard to visualize because how does one stay warm yet not too warm while exercising? This is why you have always read to layer your clothes in colder, rainier conditions. The layers matter though. You need to have moisture wicking materials as the base layer and you also need the outside layer to wick moisture as well. Some rain resistant materials do not allow for wicking. Just as those materials keep moisture out, they keep moisture on your skin and make you colder. The colder you are, the more your body will shiver as a response. Interestingly, in 2006 the American College of Sports Medicine noted that shivering increases your metabolic response by 5-6 times, which means your body requires more fuel to maintain the response. Who would have known that running in colder weather would require more fuel? It does anyway if you are shivering. I suggest that runners that wish to start with layers, start with a short sleeve shirt on the bottom and a long-sleeved shirt on the outside. The long sleeves can be tossed at some point. If you choose to have the long sleeves as the base layer, you are committed to the long sleeves for the remainder of the race. If you feel inclined to wear a light jacket because of rain, make sure it is wicking material and a quarter zipper pull over is a great option, so you can at least unzip a bit if needed or keep it zipped if needed.
Adapting to the elements on race day makes a big difference on how you enjoy the race or even achieve your best. If you didn’t read my blog post, “The sub-2, you, and the BQ” from 7-2-18 on runwithgina.com, please do.
Good luck to all those that are running the coming up Chicago Marathon. Race smart, including dressing smart!
Holy cow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had composed a blog. With 26 runners following a plan I am laying out for each of them, I haven’t made time to do what I equally enjoy, sharing info for all of you to learn.
A lot of my runners come to me because they have hit a plateau or injury that is stopping them from becoming the aerobic monster he/she can become. Before a runner can live up to their ability, we need to make sure everything is in good working order. A good example is the runner in the photo for this blog. Are those some nice-looking legs or what?
The more important question would be, is everything in good working order? This man is a workout monster. He runs half and full marathons, is a Half Ironman finisher, and resistance trains consistently. Historically, his training hits a big speed bump when his left knee starts to become painful and sidelines his efforts.
Knee pain!?! What? How can that be? Despite popular belief, we are made to take the pounding of running. Our bodies are engineered to take the force of the ground. But not this guy, at least not on the left leg. Look closely at the picture and remember his left leg is on the right side as you look at the picture. His left tibia has genu varum or bowing of the lower leg bone.
More than likely, he will always have some repetitive issues with that leg, but how do we get around this structural issue? He’s training for a marathon, so we still need to keep building his engine, so we do that with other cardiovascular activities and minimize the number of consecutive days he runs while still getting his heart rate up. You can’t tell in the picture, but this guy is a taller guy, which means his limbs are longer, which also means he may end up over striding just because his levers are longer. A longer lever that is over striding means the ground reaction force will not be equally absorbed by the joint segments; ankle, knee, and hip. The poor knee being stuck in the middle, frequently takes most of that shock. This fella’s bowed tibia does not help the situation. When his knee became symptomatic during his training, we realized that his average steps per minute were always under 170. He shortened his stride and is now normally around 180 steps per minute and has been dealing with less knee pain. How does this happen? By shortening his stride, he is landing so that his foot is closer to under his center of mass and the joint segments are better lined up to receive the load all together.
I am very excited to see how he will do in his marathon. I cross my fingers and say a little prayer every day what we have going will get him through training and to a monster personal best in his marathon in October. This is all part of my virtual, custom training. I could easily apply a one size fits all plan to all my runners as the path of least resistance on my part. If I did that, their needs would not be met. People don’t pay for training, they pay for the coach. How well does your coach know your body and your engine?
How about those happy looking people in the photo!?! Meet Doreen and Henry, 70 and 71 years young, respectively. They both ran the Jack and Jill Downhill Marathon yesterday in Washington state and as you can see, they had favorable results. They have a few other things in common. They came to me a week apart, referred by people that read my blog posts. They both started with me later than I like in relation to when the marathon is. They both have run with various running groups in town and coincidently with the same group but unbeknownst to them, came to me basically at the same time. They both have been running consistent the last two years, including running marathons, but ran into some problems in their last training season and race. Doreen had GI issues at her last race that sabotaged her BQ efforts and Henry came to me with an irritated hamstring that sabotaged him getting back to Boston.
As part of my runner interview, I helped Doreen figure out how to get around her GI issue and I did a movement assessment on Henry and prescribed exercises to rehab his hamstring injury, while he continued to run train. I looked at what both had been doing previously in training before coming to me. I determined one was running too much and the other, not enough and regressed and progressed them from that point and now both will have their opportunity to go back to the Boston Marathon. I have had people in the past refer to my runners as my students. That always sounds silly to me because I know I am the student. I study the runner and must learn their body, what they can handle if they can handle more, and what is too much and if they have had too much, how to bring them back on track for just enough. There is a fine line between too much, not enough, and just enough and it is my job to figure that out.
Now that the race is over, Henry gets to rest his angry gluteus medius and Doreen, well, Doreen is probably already wondering how much she may be able to improve. Has she reached her inherent ability? Has anyone reached their inherent ability? Run too many miles, you won’t reach it. Don’t run enough miles, you won’t reach it. Run just enough, you will reach it.
Please do me a favor and take the time to hit the share button for Doreen and Henry’s story! Soon I will be composing a blog about exercise and the aging human being!
Never skip leg day! Are you one of those people in the gym taking a selfie on the leg press or next to the squat rack? I have a few Facebook friends like that, which isn’t a problem. However, I am always left to wonder…are you not missing leg day because you want muscular or toned legs and glutes or is it because you want more strength? I guess I am a nerd to think that way, but from my point of view, regardless of the purpose, I would look for modalities where the reward is greater than the risk (injury) and gives you the biggest bang for your training buck and will translate to running performance best.
In my day job as a dental hygienist, I have people from the general population ask me all the time “If I am worried running will ruin my knees?”. A few months ago, a patient came in and said to me, “I can’t believe you are still running, you are going to ruin your knees”. He proceeds to tell me that he hasn’t been going to the gym because he jacked his shoulder and he has too much pain in his knees from doing too much on the seated leg press (I’m not a fan of that machine, by the way). He told me he was leg pressing 900lbs. What is the point of leg pressing 900lbs? Was he training to squat down and lift a car off a trapped body underneath it? It doesn’t make sense; the risk was greater than the reward because now he hasn’t been working out at all in part because he has pain in his knees. One of my issues with the leg press machine is that it does allow you to move a heavier load you may not be able to squat otherwise, which is dangerous.
The back squat is a far safer choice than the leg press machine. But is the squat the best choice for you? Again, for my blog, I am looking for exercises that minimize injury risk and increase strength. In a 2015 issue of Journal of Applied Biomechanics, researches compared the traditional back weighted barbell squat to the barbell hip thrust in healthy, resistance trained adults. The results of the study concluded that there was greater electromyographic (EMG) activity in the gluteus maximus, biceps femoris (hamstring), and vastus lateralis during the barbell hip thrust compared to the squat. The latter is one of the quadricep muscles and a knee stabilizer. The barbell thrust is not only better at training the muscles of hip extension, gluteus maximus and biceps femoris, it is kinder and safer to your knees. The squat is good, don’t get me wrong, the hip thrust is just a better option. Do you remember reading my blog post on kettlebells? That was another superior exercise for hip extension. Without hip extension, you cannot get out of the chair you are sitting in and you will lack power and strength during push-off when running. Interestingly, in a 2017 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers discovered in 84 runners with chronic lower-back pain, hip extension exercises every other day reduced running induced back pain after 8-weeks. Get those hip extensors strong, knees stabilized, and back pain diminished, running friends!
My personal favorite leg exercise is the Bulgarian split squat. This is a unilateral exercise, which means you bare the majority of the weight on one foot. Therefore, this challenges your balance, which engages your core muscles more. Additionally, because this is an exercise that is done with one foot on the ground, it better mimics running, where a portion of the stride is spent in single leg stance and you need to go into triple extension at the ankle, knee, and hip for push-off. In a double leg squat, the legs share the load equally, whereas in the Bulgarian split squat, 85% of the load is assumed by the stance leg, creating a more challenging workout. Also, as you squat down, you get a really good stretch on the hip flexors of the rear leg. Try it out folks!
Check out this great link with hip thrust examples:
Bulgarian Split Squat:
As a virtual (online) trainer, I work with runners of different abilities living and training in various locations. I have noticed some trends amongst my runners. They typically fall into three categories: they belong to training groups but are in need of more one on one coaching/mentoring or they are within a few minutes of their Boston Qualifying (BQ) time, or have run their BQ but didn’t qualify with a large enough cushion of time to solidify their acceptance into the race. One of the many questions I ask runners when they approach me about training to achieve their BQ is, “Will you be happy with running your BQ time and not actually getting into the Boston Marathon or do you want to run the Boston Marathon”? Nowadays with the qualifying standards and the masses applying for the race, the latter is more difficult to achieve.
What is a runner to do when they are so close (within a minute or two), yet so far away from achieving their goal of being accepted into the Boston Marathon? Start training earlier to have a longer training season? Train faster? Train with higher mileage? Is running 60-75 miles a week better than running 35-50 miles a week? I’m going to say for most runners the answer is no to all of the above if the runner’s ability is that close to their BQ for their sex/age qualifying standard. Same story with a runner that has run the same time over and over and can’t quite conquer their PR.
A paper was published in the 2011 Journal of Applied Physiology titled, “The two-hour marathon: who and when?” The paper discussed what would be required for an elite male marathon runner to run a 2-hour marathon. Interestingly, after the paper was published, there were 38 unique counter commentaries from physiologists, professors, and researchers around the globe. At the time, the world record in the marathon was 2:03:38, so what would it take for the world’s best runner to improve his time by three minutes and thirty-eight seconds? What would it take for you to improve your time by three minutes and thirty-eight seconds, because that may be the cushion of time you need to be granted acceptance into the Boston Marathon? Guess what? Both you and an elite runner are human beings so if you are running your inherent ability, then the answer will be the same - well, kind of anyway. More on that later. I am using the example of a three-minute difference because you will see below how many runners were not accepted into the Boston Marathon over the years because the cushion of time from their BQ was not large enough to be accepted into the race.
YEAR/ FIELD SIZE / CUT-OFF TIME*/ AMOUNT OF QUALIFIERS NOT ACCEPTED
2012: 27,000 1:14 3,228
2014: 36,000 1:38 2,976
2015: 30,000 1:02 1,947
2016: 30,000 2:28 4,562
2017: 30,000 2:09 2,957
The difference between you and an elite when both are running at their inherent ability is that an elite is just that, an elite. They don’t make mistakes in training (normally a coach makes training decisions for them) or race day strategy execution. Whereas in my observations, recreational runners make small mistakes that have massive consequences. An elite will take 1-3 minutes off their personal best when the weather is favorable to long distance running such as a tailwind and cool weather or a race route that has minimal turns that typically disrupt pace and race “flow” momentarily. The world witnessed this last year in Nike’s Sub 2-Hour Marathon attempt. Scientists identified the most favorable weather day on a Formula One race track. Additionally, the runners in the Nike attempt wore a shoe that had a carbon-fiber plate embedded in the sole of the shoe that would require 4% less energy to run at the same pace. The shoe is banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations and is only one of the reasons Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 marathon did not count as a world record at the Nike Breaking-2 attempt. This was a two minute and forty second personal best for Kipchoge. Wait, what!? That may be what you need to secure your acceptance into the Boston Marathon or maybe improve your personal best. But the chances of you running a marathon on the most perfect weather day is slim, as well as you buying the Nike VaporFly Elite shoe for $1,000.
One of the things the elites in the sub-2hr attempt did was consume nutrition at very specific times in the race that was handed to them by scientists riding alongside them on bikes. That’s it folks, that is one of the mistakes many make that miss their BQ time or PR. They just don’t fuel their race properly, nor their training runs or their recovery nutrition from training runs is lacking. Like I said earlier, most runners make small mistakes that have massive consequences and nutrition is typically one of those mistakes
So, here is where my services come in. One of the things I do with my runners is problem solve their mistakes in previous training seasons and races. This is the benefit to having a one on one coach, even online. What I do with my runners that are willing to follow the plan (it’s a process), will normally lead to superior results than they had in the past, assuming they are well on race day and that their goals are within their inherent ability.
Thanks for reading my blog posts and I hope to hear from more runners in cyberspace so I can help you achieve your goals. Even if you just choose to shoot me an email or an IM on the Facebook page. If you are on Facebook, please like/follow the Run With Gina page and invite your friends to like it too!
This is an exciting time of year for me. Marathon training season! Does that sound odd? I don’t know if people think as marathon training as a time of year, but for me as a coach, I get an influx of runners beginning their training for the larger U.S. marathons, as well as smaller marathons that occur in the Fall. My runners training for the Chicago, Marine Corp, and New York City Marathons have already begun training and my runners in smaller marathons will begin their training over the next three months. Hip, hip, hooray! Planning training for these runners has inspired this blog about the do’s and don’ts of training.
Many people have found what “works” for them, but maybe they have hit a plateau in their races, but not the ceiling for their potential. Tough to know the difference, but you don’t know until you break away from what you have been doing repeatedly that has given you the same result, or worse - undesirable results. One example would be the runner that trains a lot and trains fast but ends up running their race slower than many of their training runs. If you aren’t wearing a bib, why are you running fast? There are metabolic adaptions that occur when you run a lot of miles at easier paces, but when there is too much intensity in too many of your running days throughout the week, you are at the point of diminishing returns. Aren’t we all looking for more bang for our buck? This is true in every aspect of life, right? One should reap the rewards of their labor on race day. That said, do not write checks your body cannot cash. Be good to your body during training and it will be good to you. This includes having rest days throughout the week, not doing challenging workouts/paces on consecutive days, fuel your body with premium fuel only, prioritize sleep, and understand to become a better runner, one must run…run easy, not fast, except during certain quality run sessions, carefully placed in relation to your race day.
All the above sounds simple, doesn’t it? Okay, maybe the prioritizing sleep can be a challenge with work, school, family, and training. But as far as I’m concerned many of the others listed above are choices you make. How you fuel your body is your choice. Figuring out when you can fit your training runs into your life and getting them done is your choice. Running easy on easy days when your friends may be hammering the pace is your choice to do what is best for you, despite what others may be doing. These are all commitments you make to yourself to stay on track. This is the difference between discipline and motivation. Whenever I am asked about how to stay motivated, people don’t like my answer. Why, you ask? I give them a textbook answer based on what exercise psychology research has to say about motivation, most specifically from behavioral change research, diet and exercise. The bottom line is that motivation comes from within. The most powerful motivation is internal motivation, not external. Motivation doesn’t come from me, the coach, it comes from you, the runner. I can give you a run/workout that I know will build your self-confidence once you have done it, which will then help foster your internal motivation, but if you aren’t disciplined to do the run/workout, then it isn’t that I didn’t motivate you, it is that you are not disciplined towards your goals and commitment to self. Bottom line.
Don’t run too little. Don’t run too much. Don’t run too fast. AND be disciplined and take ownership of YOUR goals. Those are my training tips folks! I want to emphasize that I can give a runner runs/workouts that will build self-confidence which can foster motivation. I have done it for a lot of runners and I can do it for you and virtually too, no matter where you live in the world! Check out the services page on runwithgina.com for the cheapest prices in town…at least for now anyway, so act fast! If you are reading my blog posts from the website, please like/follow the Run With Gina Facebook page for even more valuable information. Thanks for reading and happy training!
I find it interesting when I hear of runners that do not supplement their running with other types of exercises. I suppose it may make sense to them, as running is a full body workout. But as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, most of our bodies have strength deficits/muscle imbalances not just from running, but more so from activities of daily living. Revisiting these blog posts in the runwithgina.com archives; Got Tight Hamstrings, Gym Junkies Beware, Jump Your Way to a Personal Record, and Cross Training Can Improve Run Performance, I have highlighted other ways to supplement your run training, as well as what may hamper your run training.
In the current blog post I want to highlight an awesome supplementary workout to running and why your running can benefit from kettlebells. Kettlebells have been around for centuries, but only more recently have specialized kettlebell gyms popped up, as well as the big box chain gyms having them accessible to gym members. Do you frequent the gym but haven’t seen the kettlebells? They are typically in a corner somewhere with dust accumulating on them. Hopefully after reading this blog post you will understand the benefit of them to supplement your run training and those puppies will be flying off the rack in the gym.
In a 2014 issue of the Strength and Conditioning Journal, researchers did a review of all published evidence-based literature on kettlebells and determined that the muscles targeted in hip-dominant and squat-dominant swings provided muscle activity to muscles that I have seen as frequently weak in the movement screenings of my runners. Here are the highlights of the published information:
I know many runners only run because they only have time to run. Adding other workouts can be a compromise to work/family life balance. But keep in mind, you can get an awesome full-body workout that can compliment your run training in a very time efficient manner. Kettlebells are portable, fairly inexpensive, and a 10-minute routine can do your running wonders.