Category Archives: Tips

Blog Tips Training

5 Ways You Can Increase Your Mileage Safely

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It’s rare to find a runner who doesn’t want to run a bit longer and farther — at least at some point during their life, year or training cycle.

We all want to push a little farther, be a little faster, experience a new distance for the first time. But how do you add on miles without burning out or getting injured?

Here are a few tips:

Slowly tack on the miles you’re running each week: That means adding just 1-2 miles onto your weekly long run and no more than 10-20% more mileage overall each week. This allows your body to adapt to pounding the pavement or trail for longer periods of time.

12804856_10110259654686654_6968306645442257508_nConsider giving a training plan a try: Every training plan I’ve ever looked at makes sure to slowly increase mileage and give you enough time to prepare for whatever event you’re eyeing. They’re meant to help you take your running to the next level.

Make sure you’re taking adequate rest days: Some folks will disagree, but in my book everyone needs at least one day of total rest each week. That means no running, no strength training, no cross training. Nothing other than your normal daily activities or a walk around the block. And one day may not be enough — you may need two or more depending on your fitness, lifestyle, abilities and goals.

Add some cross training to your workout routine: While you do need rest, you should definitely be cross training, too. That could be anything from yoga to cycle to swim. All are great ways to complement your running. These sort of low-impact activities help you build muscle and recover. Yoga is especially helpful, and something I wish I’d hopped on sooner. It really helps me stretch out my body in between all my running — not to mention the way it makes me destress.

Don’t let strength training go by the wayside: If yoga is important, strength training is just as important if not more so. I’ve occasionally let this fall by the wayside, but I’ve been better this training cycle at hitting the weights once a week. It helped when I switched from post-work sessions to pre-work sessions. I was less hungry and rushed to get my session over with. Strength training builds the muscles you need while you’re on the run and greatly reduces injury.

Add in drop-back, or decreased mileage, weeks: Resting at least one day a week is important, but so is scheduling intermittent weeks — every 3-4 weeks or so — in your training cycle where you back off a bit. These are called drop-back weeks. They provide a little added recovery so you can jump up to the next level in your workouts. It doesn’t mean you don’t run at all — but you scale back significantly on your long run and weekly mileage. You can add in a couple of light or medium cross training sessions if you still feel the need to workout. In addition to drop-back weeks, you should also explore off seasons, where you essentially do drop-back weeks a number of times in a row.


Half Marathon Tips

Why Spring is the Best Time to Complete Your First Half Marathon

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Exactly two years ago I completed my first half marathon.

While it wasn’t technically spring yet — at least according to the calendar — the season usually arrives a bit early to D.C. Either way it quickly taught me one thing: regardless of whether you run your race in actual spring or a week before, the season is perfect for finishing your first 13.1 miles.

Here are some reasons why:

No heat during training or race day: If you’re one of those runners who actually enjoys the heat and doesn’t run slower in it, then stop reading now. For the rest of us, the lack of heat brings great runs at our fastest paces of the year — both in training and come race day. It’s easier to hit the pace you want no matter whether its humid or sunny or cloudy. In fact, I find I can’t wait to get outside for a run on a sunny winter day — whereas in the summer, I’m constantly searching for the route with the most shade.

Near-perfect race day temperatures: Early spring can be a fickle creature, but it’s much more likely to bring amazing race day temps than winter or summer. Many runners, myself included, find they run best somewhere in temperatures around the 50-55 degree mark. Those temperatures are more common throughout the country in the spring than any other time of year other than fall (when you’d have to train during the hot summer).

Snow run!

Snow run!

Gradually more daylight for training: Winter training isn’t always fun, but it does get better the closer you get to race day as the sun gradually rises earlier and sets later. The fresh sunlight motivates you to get out the door and promises that spring is indeed coming! Plus, many of us find a gentle snow run fun every now and then. And the sun’s angle shifts in January to help with any snow melting that may need to be done on your trails.

Less likely to bump up against vacation time: Most folks vacation in the late spring and summer, when the beach beckons and everyone takes off time from work, school and the like. The whole family can get together! That’s great, but it can make running a race difficult if it bumps up against family time or even makes training a hassle if you need to get up at zero dark thirty on a family vacation to get in 12 miles before everyone else wakes up.

Easier to run at different times of day: Gone are the days where every minute you sleep in or waste getting ready to head out the door only means it’s getting hotter — and therefore worse outside. Instead, you can sleep in and still get a great run in at 10 a.m. or later — so hit that snooze button a couple times. You’ve earned it.

10489798_10108313968662044_1940943776764589235_nLots of race options across the country: The bulk of races occur during two seasons: spring and fall. It’s no wonder since those are the most likely times of year to bring great race day weather and temperatures — i.e. not a blizzard or heat wave. Having a lot of options gives you time to pick through the various races and courses to choose one that best suits your needs. They’re also likely to be a little later in the morning instead of the sometimes 6 and 6:30 a.m. starts you see in the summer months to beat the heat.

Less concern about flight cancellations for travel races: If you want to enjoy a new city and run a half marathon, you’re likely going to run into fewer problems than you would in the winter (snow) and summer (storms + more crowded airports). That alleviates at least one of the many anxious what-ifs that will run through your mind in the days ahead of race day.

Technically, spring doesn’t change to summer until late June, but I’d recommend getting in your spring half between mid-March and mid-May for the best chance of ideal racing weather.


How To Mentally Get Through Your Next Long Run

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Don’t let anyone tell you differently — long runs are not easy — and I’m not just talking about the physical aspect of it.

That’s especially true when you’re running farther than you’ve ever run before. But even if you’re finishing a distance you’ve done a million times, it can be a challenge setting out knowing you have so far to go.

So how do you get through it mentally — whether you’re running outside or on the treadmill?

Simple. Break it up.

If you start out for 10 or 12 or 18 or 20 miles thinking about how far you have to go, you’re likely to get discouraged and feel like that distance is impossible.

But if you look at your long run as separate segments — whether that be two, three, four or more — you’re much more likely to succeed.

I’ve found that breaking up my long runs by doing a combination of basically two out and backs makes the distance a lot more manageable than a single out and back — I focus on getting to the first turnaround point, then back to where the trail splits then to the final turnaround point, then back home.

If I have succumbed to the treadmill because of weather conditions, I typically think of my run in 2 mile segments and make a slight adjustment every 2 miles by increasing or decreasing my speed.

So how can you mentally prepare for your next long run? Here are my tips in a nutshell:

Break it up. Think only of the mile or set of miles you’re in at the moment. If you’re breaking up your long run into multiple 3-mile segments, just think about those 3 miles you’re in. Nothing else matters. What distance you pick for your segments depends on you. What is a normal run that seems short for you? Maybe its 3 miles, maybe its 2, maybe its 5. If you have regular water stops along your trail, you can also use those to cut up the distance — just focus on getting to the next fountain.

Tune into music. I don’t run with music very often, but it definitely helps on long runs, especially those days I find myself dragging my feet to get out. Music helps both with focus and distraction. Those may sound like opposites, but if you find your mind wandering too far away, music can help get you back in tune with your run. If you’re not looking forward to a certain distance or you’re running in, say, hotter weather, it can also serve to distract you from whatever is bothering you that day.

You don’t want to end up relying on earbuds to get you through any run so I wouldn’t recommend using them every time you go out. You also don’t want to miss some of the great nature sounds that often come with running. No. 1 rule with earbuds: Keep the volume low. I want to be able to hear a passing biker saying “on your left” or a car coming down the road while I’m at a stop sign.

Recall past successes. If you find yourself struggling, remember your past runs where you’ve felt great. Or that feeling of crossing the finish line. Do whatever you can do remind yourself that you’ve got this! You can even look back to how hard running used to be — you know, when you couldn’t even run a mile without stopping, let alone 3. Reminding yourself how far you’ve come can re-energize and motivate you to keep going.



Half Marathon Tips

How to Get Over a Bad Race Day

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We’ve all had bad runs.

Your pace is off. Your legs feel like lead. You feel sick.

But given that many runners hit the road at least 3 times a week, it’s easy to quickly leave those “bad” runs in the dust.

Long-distance races are another matter.

Many half marathon training plans are 8-12 weeks long, and it can take up to 6 months to train for a full marathon.

When your race day doesn’t live up to the hours upon hours logged on the trail each week, you’re going to feel disappointed, maybe even mad at yourself — and left wondering what the hell went wrong.

Last year, I had a series of long-distance races where I walked. It didn’t initially bother me. The first time, at a 10-miler, it was simply hot for that time of year. I probably went out too fast and overheated because my body wasn’t used to those temperatures. And I had run a 4-minute PR at a 10-miler the week before. Fine.

The second time, my calves were killing me — and I usually don’t feel soreness there, either. It didn’t help that Hains Point was at the end of that race. But I didn’t fret too much because I had also done a lot of long-distances races in my first season and figured it was a bit much.

The third time, I simply gave up. I was extremely stressed about the race all week. I didn’t sleep well the night before — and many nights before that. During the race, I was feeling a little tightness in my hips and I was at the beginning of Hains Point, which I hate. But there wasn’t a good reason to give in and walk for the sake of walking.

Combined, the three races left me feeling defeated. Boiled down: They killed my confidence. To make matters worse, I got injured a couple of weeks after that last race and couldn’t run or train at my normal level for months.

When I got going again earlier this year, I decided my singular goal for all my races (and all my training runs) for the year would be to not take a walk break, with the exception of water stops.

I’ve spent the rest of the year building back my confidence slowly and surely by tackling a number of 10-milers and half marathons — including one in late May, one in July and one in September during the hotter months.

Even though I was running the halfs at a much slower pace than the prior year, I saw the improvements. I had made sure to not take any walk breaks during my training. After the races, I wasn’t as sore the next day. In fact, I felt I could have gone for another run. I ran a 5K on a Saturday and a half marathon on a Sunday in Chicago, and saw a ton of the city by walking when I wasn’t racing.

Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

I didn’t start thinking about my pace during races until October. And even then, I was surprised by how strong I felt and how fast I ran at the Army Ten-Miler. It all came together on Oct. 31, at the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, my last half of the year — and my best, just a minute and a half shy of my PR.

At one point, I had planned to complete a full marathon this year. Instead, I decided to focus on getting my running mojo back. I’ve learned quite a bit from this year.

Here are my tips if you’ve been struggling with a poor race-day experience:

Set smaller, incremental and multiple goals: If you’re always gunning for a PR, it’s easy to get discouraged. You have to pick and choose what races you go all out, what races you run at a medium pace and what races you just run for fun, at a training pace. With all the variables of race day — from weather to how you feel to how much sleep you got that week — you also have to be flexible with your goals.

First, try setting an overarching goal for the entire year. What is the one thing you want to achieve. Then set multiple, incremental goals around that. My one goal for this year was to regain my confidence. To do that I knew my first task would be to not take any walk breaks at my races.

From there, I set incremental goals such as running a 5K one day and a half the next. Or tackling one of the races that killed my confidence last year and just having fun at it.

Train for how you want to run the race (just at a slower pace): If you don’t take walk breaks during a race, you shouldn’t be taking them during training either (unless you’re just getting started!). Same goes for if you use the walk-run method — pattern your easy and long runs off how you’ll run your race. Just remember you need to dial back the pace — no need to do a race-day pace every time you run. That being said, you should spend at least a little time running at race pace — through speed workouts as well as say a 5K a few weeks or more out from your long-distance race.

Think positive on race day and let go for the pressure: When it comes down to it, there are a lot of things out of your control on race day — beyond the weather, there’s how packed the field is, or if your transportation to get to the start line gets delayed. Think positive — remember all your awesome training runs and hard work you put into this race, then let it all go. If you don’t get a PR today, you will some other day. Just enjoy the race day atmosphere and have a good run with 15,000 of your new friends.



Blog Tips Weight Loss

5 Epiphanies from Losing the Weight

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More than 2 1/2 years ago, I closed my weight loss book, having dropped 70 pounds. I learned a lot in the two years it took me to lose the weight and a lot in the 30 months since dropping it.

Here are just five of my insights:

1. The scale isn’t the best weight-loss tool or indicator of health: As I’ve written about recently, the scale is not where it was at when I reached my goal weight of 125 pounds 2.5 years ago. Some of that — probably about 5 pounds, according to my doctor — is from gaining muscle. I didn’t exercise at all before I lost the weight — now I’m regularly logging at least one strength training workout, 4-5 runs and a yoga class each week.

While I am trying to lose a few pounds, it’s clear that the number on the scale isn’t the best indicator of health — or even weight loss. There were times during my weight loss journey where I was surprised by how much my measurements had decreased when compared with my weight.

So if I give you one piece of advice if you’re starting — or in the middle of — losing weight, it is to have multiple measurements of success. They can include your scale, your measurements (such as waist and hips) and whether your clothes fit better, but they should also include how you feel inside — whether you feel healthier, more confident, sexier. Those latter three adjectives are things that cannot be quantified but are just as — if not more — valuable.

2. Food is fuel (but also more than that): There’s a saying that’s been floating around runner and fitness blogs that food is fuel. But if we only think of food as fuel, we lose the ability to see it is much much more than that. Afterall, if it was just fuel, we wouldn’t indulge in the occasional treats or enjoy how certain spices just taste better or that meal that just makes us go “aaaaahhhhh” and want to go back for seconds. If food were just fuel, life would be simpler but also a lot less fun.

Food was meant to be savored and enjoyed. That certainly doesn’t mean we should eat cake with every meal or overindulge like every day was Thanksgiving, but there is definitely room to enjoy food and fuel our bodies as well.

3. Exercise is a huge stress reliever … and fun: Before I lost weight, I really didn’t exercise. I had a few false starts — where I tried to workout a bit more, whether that was for a a walk or to hit the cross-trainer while at Penn State. But I never stuck with it.

What finally made it stick was scheduling. I started out by having an appointment for an hour each week with a personal trainer. That was one hour that was dedicated each week to working out.

That led me to want to exercise more all the other days — at first just two more times a week and then beyond that. Running certainly helped — especially once I got over the 3 mile/30-minute hump where I could run for that distance/amount of time outside without stopping.

The rest is history, as they say. I wanted more distance, more time, more workouts. I loved how accomplished I felt after every run, even if it was 3 miles — I had worked up a sweat, I had burned calories, I felt good about the rest of the day ahead.

4. Lifting weights is a huge benefit, and you won’t bulk up: When I started strength training with my personal trainer, I quickly learned about the rumors that adding weight as a woman would make you bulk up to Hulk size. I also just as quickly learned that those rumors were completely false. As women, we lack the testosterone needed to make those changes happen (unless you’re supplementing and spending 3 hours a day lifting), and we should work toward lifting more weight for fewer reps — say 10 reps x 2 instead of 15 x 2, for example.

The increased reps help us build muscles and will not add bulk. Trust me, you will not look like the Hulk. In fact, you will end up feeling better and your clothes will fit better, even if the scale isn’t dipping lower.

5. Try lots of new things: More than anything, losing weight taught me to try new things. I had never tried Zumba or kickboxing or pilates or strength training or yoga or swimming or rock climbing or spin before I lost 70 pounds. Those things just seemed out of reach or potentially embarrassing.

Today, I revel in all my body is able to do and routinely try a new class (i.e. Crossfit, SolidCore, OrangeTheory … basically the entire month of August) to get a better idea on what I enjoy and what helps move my fitness to the next level.

Blog Tips Weight Loss

6 Hurdles You’ll Experience During Weight Loss

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Dropping massive poundage is hard. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be a million fitness and diet companies making billions of dollars a year off the fact that some – perhaps many — of us will want to drop weight at some point in our lives.

Whether you’re trying to drop 10 pounds or 100, there are several phases you’ll experience during your weight loss journey. But guess what, they’re all ones you can overcome! Take it from someone who was overweight for years and finally dropped 70 pounds.

Here are a few hurdles to prepare yourself for:

OMG I’m starving phase: Your body will feel it the first couple weeks that you’re cutting back on food or exercising more without eating all those calories back. You will be hungry. Sometimes a lot. Be strong. Once your body gets used to the reduced overall calories, you won’t feel as hungry. Plus, eating healthy, low-calorie foods can really help – think fruits and veggies, plus fiber-filled foods that’ll keep you feeling fuller longer.

Not feeling like exercising: I have a magazine cut-out on my fridge that says, “I regret that workout – said NO ONE EVER.” It’s become my mantra on the days I wake up to run before work and feel like hitting the snooze button. There will be days sticking to your new exercise routine will seem impossible, so focus on just getting out the door and running for 10 minutes. Chances are you’ll get in a groove and want to keep going.

The dreaded plateau: The pounds will be coming off nice and steady, until BAM. Suddenly it seems that no matter what you do, the number on the scale won’t budge. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including reaching your body’s ideal weight even if it’s not the number you’d like to see. If you still have plenty of weight to lose, try changing up your eating and exercise routine.

But my friends are having a party: One of the hardest lessons for me to learn – and something that can still be difficult for me today – is to know that no one meal or night out is going to undo all the progress you’ve made. The key is your habits overtime. Still, it’s best to not completely overindulge – you’ll only feel horrible the next day – so focus on keeping alcohol and food in moderation when you do go out.

I miss cheese and sweets: What do you mean – you haven’t been eating these all along? While ridding the house of tempting foods is a great way to kick off healthier eating, that doesn’t mean you should eliminate them completely from your diet. Figure out ways to have your favorite foods in small quantities so you don’t feel deprived.

Losing weight takes time: There is no quick fix. There is no silver bullet. Dropping pounds doesn’t happen overnight or in a week or in a month and – if you have a lot to lose, not even in a year. It took me two years to lose 70 pounds. I did it slowly so I didn’t go insane. The steady loss helped me be able to keep the weight off too because I had time to adjust to my new eating and exercising habits.


Five Cross-Training Workouts to Try Before Summer Ends

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It’s almost fall and I am so so so ready for it. I’m tired of running in the heat and humidity. Of ending a run with sweat absolutely pouring off my face in droves. Of having to wake up early just to get a run in before it gets way too hot.

That being said, there are a number of fun cross-training exercises that are only doable in the summer. I’ve failed at trying out most of them this year, but that doesn’t mean you should!

Here are five workouts to try:

Rock climbing: I took a one-day course in Great Falls Park a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. It’s an intense, all-body workout once you get the hang of it and I remember being surprised by how much it worked my legs. The introductory course I took was offered through Earth Treks, which also has a few indoor locations for climbing in Maryland, but I totally recommend getting out into the forest for at least one foray on the ropes.

Rappelling in Moab, Utah, in 2013.

Rappelling in Moab, Utah, in 2013.

Kayaking or stand-up paddleboard: I have been totally remiss to kayak around Teddy Roosevelt Island this year. Last year, I did that a couple of times. I’ve also tried out stand-up paddleboarding, which is very different from kayaking. I found it worked my leg muscles much more than I thought it would because you’re constantly balancing on the board. It’s also a bit slower-moving than kayaking, so keep in mind you’ll feel like you’re making less progress, especially if you’re going against the current.

Hiking: This isn’t necessarily a summer-centric activity, but it certainly is more enjoyable when the temperatures range from 70-80 degrees outside. Find some trails near you that you haven’t tried before or hit up old favorites for a nice way to bid summer adieu.

Horseback Riding: this is another activity that can be had no matter the season, but there’s nothing better than setting out on horseback in jeans and a T-shirt. Considering many trails take you through the forest, now is the perfect time to get that horseback riding excursion in before it cools down too much and you have to layer up before heading out.

Cycling: I am a newly minted road bike owner and I could not be happier. But it’s already clear to me that you need to get your key bike rides in before the temperature dips much below 70 degrees. That’s because while your body feels like it’s 10-15 degrees warmer outside when you run, it feels 10 degrees cooler when you’re on the bike with the wind blowing in your face.

What’s your favorite summertime activity that you’re sorry to see go?


10 Takeaways from My First Out-Of-Town Race Weekend

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My Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K and Half Marathon this past weekend wasn’t just the first time I’d run two races in two days — it was also the first time I’d run a race away from the comforts of home or a friend’s home.

As such I learned some valuable lessons and ideas for the next time I have an out-of-town race. Here are my 10 takeaways:

1. Walgreens is your best friend: OK, not just Walgreens, but any grocery store or pharmacy-type store that stocks food items. I would have saved $10-$20 if I had just gone to the Walgreens I found later Friday only a few blocks from my hotel. Everything I needed was there and a lot cheaper than the hotel lobby’s little stop-and-shop. At Walgreens I got some Gatorade, bagels, chocolate milk and even my little Cheerios single cups I’ve grown accustomed to on any morning that I run. They also had six-bottle water packs that would have been way cheaper than what I got at the hotel.

2. My stomach is pretty durable: Normally the first few days before a race I’m really watching what I eat. Not for calories, but to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary that might mess up my system come race day. Considering I can — and always do — eat a full breakfast before I run or race any distance, I should have known my stomach was pretty durable, but this weekend proved it. I ate at several different eateries and had a pretty huge pre-race dinner without any issues.

At mile 3 of the half marathon on Sunday.

At mile 3 of the half marathon on Sunday.

3. My body is capable of a lot: I had never run a few miles the day before a long run, so running a 5K the day before a half as new territory. I didn’t know how my body would hold up to that, plus I was doing a lot of walking around town to see the sights, too. I learned my body is capable of much more than I ever thought. I felt strong throughout both races despite all the steps and miles my legs had traveled over the course of a few days.

4. Slow pace races make all the difference: Part of the reason I felt great is likely because I took both races at a very conservative pace. I even ended up running my 5K at a slightly faster pace than I intended because I felt so great — 10:25 per my watch versus the 11-minute pace I was going to aim for. Last year, I basically raced all my races and didn’t really understand there was another way to look at it. Even when I started to realize you didn’t have to race all your races, I still had a hard time slowing my pace down. Perhaps it’s because of the heat, but slowing my pace this weekend as well as during the Annapolis half was very easy, and something I will continue to do in the future when I don’t care to set a PR.

5. Summer races mean no chill factor after finish: Don’t get me wrong — running in the hot summer heat and humidity is no treat. I will take running in the fall any day, but it was really nice to cross the finish line and cool off without getting totally chilled. We were able to slowly wander over to the beer tent, enjoy a couple beers while sitting in the grass, then walk back to the hotel without getting the shivers. In nearly all my other halfs, that would not have been possible.

11694971_10109090651009394_1710337550429768978_n6. Ice is amazing during a hot race: Around mile 8, the water stop included ice given out in cups. That was amazing not only to fill up and drink ice cold water, but also to put some down the back of my bra and hold in my hands until it melted.

7. Running with a friend makes halfs fly by: I learned this with Annapolis, but this race reiterated that running with a buddy the whole way makes the race go by so much faster and makes it so much more fun. You have someone there to chat with and keep you motivated.

8. Different time zone can give you a slight advantage: Chicago is one hour behind D.C. so I had a slight advantage both race days in that I hadn’t adjusted to the new time. So even though I was getting up at 5 a.m., it didn’t feel quite as early as it would have at home. That being said, I was still totally and utterly exhausted when I returned home and needed several days of extra sleep to get back to normal.

9. Don’t give up sight-seeing for a race with no time goals: I was getting worried about how much time I was spending on my feet both Friday and Saturday, but ultimately decided I wanted to see as much of the city as I wanted to see without worrying much about how many steps I was taking. Still, I did take a couple extra Ubers that I likely wouldn’t have taken had it not been a race weekend.

10. A positive attitude can make a huge difference: I went into these races determined to have fun. I knew it was going to be hot and humid, and there was nothing I could do about that. But this was on of my favorite cities and one I had promised I would run in after I visited last fall. I had survived a hot and steamy Annapolis race, and had no qualms about the 5K in Chicago since it was so short. That gave me enough to know I would easily survive the half marathon Sunday. Still, I was hoping for that lake breeze to develop!



Blog Tips Training

Why you should insert drop-back weeks into your training schedule

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After my injury last fall, I promised myself I would insert drop-back weeks every 3-4 weeks into my training schedule where at a minimum I would cut back my weekly long run to 6-7 miles and consider snipping my mileage completely in half for the week.

Lingering issues with my foot and bad weather in the winter, plus a few long-distance races (which meant taper weeks) and a nearly two-week trip abroad in the spring put off my full return to solid, double-digit long runs until just this month.

Despite that promise I hemmed and hawed over my drop-back week last week. I had done a half marathon, followed by two straights weeks of 10-mile long runs. I knew I needed to sleep in that Sunday — Father’s Day and my typical long run day — so I didn’t set out until sometime between 8:30 and 9. It was insanely hot and humid.

I figured I’d just do 6-7 miles to successfully complete my drop back. Instead, despite carrying water with me, I topped out at 3 miles outside. I walked a half mile back to my apartment and cooled off a bit, and decided to hit the treadmill to try to finish at least another 3. I hadn’t run on the treadmill since winter and must have already been overheated. I made it through one mile and called it quits — my body just didn’t feel right.

That’s when I decided to make it a full drop-back week, where just 3 runs and half my mileage was the goal. The prior week I had done a lot of workouts — I picked up road biking and got back to strength training and yoga.

During my drop-back week, I also took it easier on crosstraining — I did a mostly arms strength training session, a single yoga class (that actually tightened my hamstrings too much — I could feel it for DAYS) and didn’t get on the bike.

New running shorts. Totally in love with Under Armour's Perfect Pace shorts.

New running shorts. Totally in love with Under Armour’s Perfect Pace shorts.

When the weather cooled off mid-week I’ll admit it was a bit hard to not run a couple extra miles, but those tight hamstrings and my desire to stick with the drop-back plan kept me in check.

Sunday is what I consider the start of a new week (because it’s my first day off), so it was back to a long run yesterday. I ended up doing 12 miles and felt good. The temperature was lower, the dew point was down, I experienced Rock Creek for the first time (sad, I know) and I ran with a friend, all of which helped.

I thought my buddy would have to drag me through the last two miles, but we turned around in Rock Creek Park around mile 9.5 and suddenly it was mostly downhill. The last couple miles flew by and it wasn’t until the last half mile that I was really ready to be done and glancing at my watch every few seconds (which seemed like minutes).

Hours later — after a nap — I felt I could have go longer.

I haven’t done a 12-mile long run since last summer — before my injury occurred mysteriously at the end of September, so this run is noteworthy just for that. It was also three weeks from the Chicago Rock n Roll Marathon, where I plan to also do the Saturday 5K so long as the weather isn’t horrid.

From my lovely run Wednesday morning after the rain moved out.

From my lovely run Wednesday morning after the rain moved out.

Despite yesterday’s long run, I got up this morning and went out for 3 miles of running, 6 miles of biking and a good 20-30-minute horseback riding session. This is how I do leg day.

I am still waiting for one of the several friends to yell at me after I sent a horseback riding video Snapchat to several of them — probably not the safest thing I’ve done. Horses are unpredictable!

Anyway, here are some reasons to insert a drop-back week into your regularly scheduled training.

Rejuvenates body: Runners know the value of rest days, so it shouldn’t be totally surprising that reducing overall mileage for an entire week is going to reap benefits in terms of how your body feels. After a drop-back week, you’ll hit the road feeling more energized and ready to take on whatever workouts you’ve set out for the week.

Reduces burnout: You know the feeling. It’s long-run day and you have zero enthusiasm for hitting the road for even a few miles. To be fair, weather can play a big role in that feeling, but you shouldn’t completely dread our long run if you’ve looked forward to it at other times in the past. It’s a sign you’re at or nearing burnout and pulling back for a week is likely to get your antsy to get back on the road.

Decreases injury risk: Many injuries are the result of upping mileage too fast, not getting enough rest, or just continually pounding your body in the same way week after week. A drop-back week gives your body the rest it needs before you move forward in your training.



How spring allergies affect runners and what you can do about it

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It’s finally spring and you’re so happy to be running outside until — bam! — spring allergies hit. Being a runner as pollen ticks up can be a challenge because of the way allergies affect us — trust me, I know it!

Still, it’s the most wonderful time of the year to run, so you’re not going to miss out, but what can you do to combat the scratchy throat, runny nose and watery eyes?

Besides going to your doctor for various medical remedies (I use Zyrtec + Flonase + Singulair), there are some things to try.

Check pollen levels: Know what triggers you the most — whether that’s tree, grass or weed pollen or all of the above. Then go to sites like to see what you would be facing on the road.

Run later in the day: Pollen peaks in the morning, so plan to run later in the day. The pollen count again peaks at dusk so avoid that time as well.

Avoid windy days: Wind moves pollen around, a lot. So if it’s super windy outside it might be best to wait until it’s died down.

Take a shower after your run: Wash that pollen off you ASAP by hopping in the shower and getting into fresh, clean clothes.

Run in the rain: Rain reduces pollen, so embrace it! If you don’t want to run in the rain, try running right after a shower passes.