The Perks of Running Without Music

When most people learn that I do most of my running without music, their response is something to the effect of WHAT?! But…WHY?? 

Well, here’s why…in a nice, bulleted list format, of course.

-Heightened attention to your body’s needs. Music is a great distraction, yes, but being distracted while running isn’t necessarily the safest route. It’s important to tune in to your body as you run and notice those little nuances- Is your stride getting funky? Your ankle bothering you? An old injury creeping up? Pay attention to your footfalls and let your body move with its natural rhythm, not the ever-changing rhythm of your fave Pandora station.

-Preserve music as a motivation strategy in desperate times. Because I generally don’t run with music, having a backup playlist on hand can serve as a great motivator during particularly long (read: 26.2 mile) runs or on those days when the last thing you want is to be left alone with your own thoughts. During my marathon last fall, I ran music-less until mile 17, at which point I switched on my badass “Awesome Jackie’s Marathon!” Spotify playlist (curated specifically for me by my college besties- I have the best best friends 🙂 ). This was the perfect energy boost to get me pumped up for the final 9 miles, when my internal drive just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

-Erase a context for timing. If you’re really looking to relax on your run and avoid counting miles/feet/inches as they crawl by, music may be keeping you from doing just that. You may be subconsciously (or consciously) counting songs and using them to calculate minutes run and minutes remaining. Stop! Enjoy the scenery! Which brings me to… Continue reading

Kick Off Your Training Season Right

It’s here, it’s here! The time we’ve been waiting for for months! No, I don’t mean Christmas or summertime or even daylight savings. I mean the challenging, exhilarating, sometimes anxiety-provoking days of race training.

If you’ve got a race or two (or five- cough cough race addiction) lined up for the fall, it’s about that time to buckle down and get your ish in gear. Here are a few tips to kick off your training months with the energy and drive you’ll need to succeed.

  1. Choose your plan (read about the best ones here) & have all pace deets lined up from the get-go. Jot down your different pace goals for each type of run (easy runs vs. long runs vs. race pace runs) so you can quickly glance each time you head out the door- it’s easy to get these numbers and times all jumbled up in your head. Keep these pace goals flexible, however; you’ll likely need to adjust later on.
  2. If possible, start your training plan a few weeks early. I’m just about to start an 18-week plan for a marathon that’s 21 weeks away, leaving me a nice 3 -week buffer. This comes in handy when you A) feel less-than-satisfied with how a week of training went and want a second go at it,  B) need a week of R&R to avoid turning a minor injury into a major injury, C) have a summer vacay and really, really feel that training will cramp your beaching & brunching style, or D) all of the above. No shame. I choose D. Every time.
  3. Find a way to stay motivated- any system that works for you. I like to print my training plan in a one-page table and highlight each day that I complete. The girly girl in me loves seeing all of the boxes turn hot pink, and the OCD in me hates seeing that one lonely, white box that marks a missed run. So simple, yet so motivating.  Or consider setting up a reward system, treating yourself to a massage, new running gear, or those cute new Ray-Bans you’ve been eyeing after every X successful training weeks. Just be careful not to let your prizes keep you from taking a break when your body’s about to crumble.
  4. Modify your training on a weekly basis. If you try to figure it out on the go, you’re more likely to miss some crucial runs and end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, sit down every Sunday and think about the week ahead. Swap days around, if necessary, taking into account your work schedule and other commitments that may make training on some days harder than others. Be realistic; you probably won’t feel up to that mid-week 8-miler on the same day that you have back-to-back-to-back meetings and a hair appointment. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
  5. Book some run-dates. Get the scoop on which of your runner friends are training for races too, and compare training plans. Set up dates to run together whenever you can- the more regular, the better! Have friends training for a longer or shorter distance than you? Work your schedule so you can run your easy runs on the day of their long runs, or vice versa. I run twice a week with two different friends, and this is by far the most fool-proof way to stay motivated and entertained ’til the end.

Most importantly, listen to your body and enjoy the ride! Celebrate every success, no matter how small, and take the time to truly appreciate the good you are doing for your body and mind. Happy training! See you at the start. 🙂

Training Epiphany: Making a Mental Shift

In all the training programs I’ve ever researched, they say that your long runs should be done at an easy pace. You’re building up distance, so what’s important is that you cover the mileage, not that you do so in a certain amount of time.

Of course this makes sense for your first race of any distance, and that’s exactly what I did when I trained for my first half and my first marathon. Long runs took as long as they needed to take, with walk and water breaks whenever my heart (or feet) desired.

Epiphany: training programs should note in the fine print that long runs are to be done at your easy pace when you’re training for a new, longer distance for the first time.

Having read this advice time and time again, for my first through fifth half marathons, I had this mental block that always told me I was allowed to go as slowly as I wanted during my long runs. Who doesn’t love that? A nice, leisurely 10 miles instead of the huffing-and-puffing kind. And there I was, wondering why in the world my finish times were only getting better by small increments. DUH. 

Just realizing that so many months of “newbie” training had my brain stuck on long runs = slow was enough to kick my training into high gear. I had to retrain my brain to see that long runs, now that I know my body can go the distance, shouldn’t be relaxing and comfortable and “get there when you can.” I should be breathing heavily and getting tired and pushing myself to the end. That’s how I’ll get better. Faster. Stronger (at least according to Daft Punk). And hopefully you will too. 🙂

5 Exercises You Should Add to Your Running Routine

Newsflash! My super-knowledgeable and talented brother, Daniel, happens to be a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with a background in exercise science and experience in strength training & rehab. Daniel’s been my go-to fitness guru whenever I’ve experienced mild running injuries, had questions about strength exercises, or been utterly confused by a gym machine that must be a torture device. Fortunately for you & me, Daniel has agreed to write content for Always Running Latte, keeping us in the know about these topics and more! Read his first post below, and don’t forget to check him out at Breakout Strength!

daniel


Thank you to Jackie for allowing me to write an article for Always Running Latte. I hope to do these more in the future.

 

Marathon and other long distance runners compete in races for one main reason: they love to run. When an athlete circles the date on the calendar for their next race, the planning begins. There are lots of running programs and apps available to help an athlete plan their training to peak perfectly for the next race. There is absolutely no denying that the best method of training for a race is, in fact, running. But what if there was another training modality that could be added to a runner’s program to help develop them into a better runner?

Strength training is a huge part of training for most Olympic sports. Any adult, whether a competitive athlete or not, can see huge health benefits from strength training. Strength training will certainly add an extra dimension to a runner’s training that may help better prepare them for their sport. I have compiled a list of 5 excellent strength training exercises for runners that can be done with little or no gym equipment. Keep in mind that these are in no particular order and this list is far from being exhaustive. Continue reading

How I Shaved 9 Minutes Off My PR

Exactly two weeks ago, I was carbing up (#1 reason I run, btw), double-fisting water and cherry juice like crazy, and packing my bag with all my race day necessities for Saturday morning’s Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon. Although my typical race-day-eve butterflies were up and at ’em, I was confident knowing I was going to PR. And not PR like I had in my past 3 half marathons, cutting 37 seconds here, 1 minute 2 seconds there. PR like I meant it. Shave off real, solid, meaningful minutes.

And I did. From 2:11:23 to 2:02:48. Almost 9 whole minutes! Wanna know how I did it? Without super-intensive speed training or questionable food supplements or wheelie sneakers? Read on, my friends. It’s simple. Pinky promise. Continue reading

Best Running Fuel for Sensitive Stomachs 

Do you feel nauseous simply at the thought of lemon-lime Gatorade and GU gel mid-run? For whatever reason, these are the fuel stations of choice at nearly every race. However, I know I’m not alone when I say that these two particular products do not sit well with me when my runner’s stomach is all jumbled up and my body is focusing its energy elsewhere (AKA not on digestion).

In fact, anything but water sends my stomach into knots for the remaining miles. Oranges, bananas, raisins, pretzels, Dunkin Donuts munchkins (served at a stop during the Marine Corps Marathon- I was desperate, don’t judge me): you name it, I’ve tried it…and it’s been unsuccessful.

Of course, you need to practice your fueling strategy on long runs to make sure everything sits well with you prior to race day. But who wants to ruin their long runs on the reg, trying to continually force down GU or other suggested fueling strategies until your body learns to accept them? Not me! Fortunately, after lots of trial and error and long runs cut short, I’ve discovered the only 3 products that work with my super-sensitive runner’s stomach: Nuun, Clif Shot Bloks, and Jelly Belly Sport Beans. Continue reading

Find Your Perfect Race Training Plan

So you’ve decided to train for a race. You’ve done all the volleying back and forth (do I have enough time? can my body handle it? do I really want to give up my weekend mornings for the next 8-16 weeks?) and settled on YES (which, fortunately, is the best answer 🙂 ). You’ve picked out the perfect race based on your calendar, travel plans, and of course, a preview of the finisher’s medal (that’s why we all run races anyway, isn’t it?). Now, it’s time to pick a training plan.

Here’s where I save you hours of grueling internet research and temporary cross-eye from scanning a million tiny charts of numbers, squinting to determine what sets them all apart. Who has the best running training plans? Hal Higdon.

Hal Higdon is a trainer and former Runner’s World contributor who’s created a fantastic selection of training plans for anything from 5Ks to marathons. Finding one that works for you is like finding something you like on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu: with so many options, there’s got to be something perfect. Continue reading