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I have been meaning to write about running during pregnancy for a very long time, yet here I am – finally posting this at nearly 38 weeks pregnant!

Clearly a lot has happened since I ran the Big Sur Marathon last year. That was always the plan – run one last big race, and then attempt another far more challenging endurance event…PREGNANCY! We were fortunate enough to conceive right away, so I cruised from post-marathon recovery right into training for motherhood. We found out the good news shortly after an incredible trip to Hawaii, where we ran almost daily on the beach and had an epic trail running adventure down and around the Haleakala crater. I didn’t realize that I was 3 weeks pregnant at the time (if that even counts) and thoroughly enjoyed our 12 miles of running at altitude, hurling ourselves down the crater and across some of the most stunning and dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. It was my last blissfully ignorant running hurrah – before any of the now familiar pregnant running thoughts and concerns entered my mind. E captured the day quite well in his blog and I highly recommend hiking or running there if you find yourself in Maui – check it out!

Once I processed the initial shock and joy of discovering I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was, “Wait – what about my running?!?!” I was averaging 30-40 miles per week pre-pregnancy, not training for anything in particular but trying to maintain my fitness after Big Sur for myself, and in case I wanted to squeeze in one last marathon or ultra over the summer. I couldn’t imagine not running. It is such an integral of my life – my “me time,” my release, a way I bond with my husband, and a large part of how I stay fit and healthy. I wanted to keep running as long as I could!

As a running coach, I knew the basics surrounding exercise during pregnancy, including:

  • Don’t start any new physical activities – unless it is something relatively gentle (i.e. if you weren’t active before, starting a walking routine is fine)
  • Limit or avoid sports that have a higher risk of injury/falling
  • Listen to your body and err on the side of caution if something doesn’t feel right – it’s just not worth the risk
  • Ensure adequate hydration/nutrition before, during and after exercise to maximize energy levels and recovery
  • Avoid exercising in heat or other potentially dangerous weather conditions (e.g. ice)
  • Most importantly, follow the advice that your doctor provides you that is specific to YOUR unique pregnancy!

Exercise, generally speaking, is without a doubt beneficial to mom and baby, assuming a healthy pregnancy. There is a great deal of research to support this, leading doctors to encourage most women to perform some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. But I was already very active – 30 min of walking doesn’t exactly cut it for me – and I couldn’t help but feel nervous, especially during the first trimester, so I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I knew that many women ran during pregnancy – some even finished marathons in their second and third trimesters – but there seemed to be conflicting information and opinions out there regarding distance and/or high intensity exercise. Could I continue with my previous mileage? What about long runs? What was safe for me and my baby? There wasn’t a whole lot of concrete information available on the topic.

I found myself doing a lot of googling and and blog reading about other women’s experiences. This of course did not substitute my need for individualized medical advice, and it’s important to note that every pregnancy is different, but it was reassuring and motivating to know that other runners were able to have healthy, successful pregnancies and stay in great shape without sacrificing their love of the sport. Did their running change and was it challenging at times to keep running? Of course! Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Did their successs mean that I would be able to run throughout my entire pregnancy? Definitely not. But I hoped I could and I am grateful my little one allowed me to run as long as I did, up until 36.5 weeks!

It also helped that I have a great OB who has been supportive of my running from day 1. With the thumbs up from her, I kept doing what I was doing, with some key adjustments that I have outlined below. My running obviously shifted as pregnancy progressed, but I pretty much followed these guidelines throughout, based on my experience as a coach and long-time runner, my own research on pregnant running, and my doctor’s advice specific to my exercise and medical history:

  • I approached training for childbirth as I would any important race. Preparing for birth (especially if you are planning for a natural one, as I am), is in many ways similar to training for a race. You have an overarching plan that includes all the physical and mental prep work to cross the finish line successfully, but have to take things day by day and adjust that plan as needed to get to that start line healthy.
  • I tried to stay flexible. If I felt particularly tired, queasy, or something didn’t feel right, I shortened my run, slowed down, took walk breaks, cross-trained, or took a rest day. As a side note, I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor  – keeping heart rate below a certain level for healthy pregnancies is old school advice – but simply paid attention to how I was feeling and adjusted my efforts accordingly.
  • Speed was no longer a priority – especially since pregnancy WILL slow you down eventually (for me, this happened later in my 2nd trimester). I cared more about CONSISTENT running. I still did some high intensity exercise to relieve stress and break up the monotony of easier efforts, but only when I felt strong and up until my third trimester, after which I kept things very low key.
  • I paid closer attention to the weather. I’m the type of runner who usually doesn’t get discouraged by a blizzard, downpour, or a hot summer day. That had to change! On extra hot days or if conditions were slippery, I adjusted the time of day that I went running, hit the treadmill, or did some indoor cross-training.
  • I was extremely careful about my running nutrition & hydration. I carried water if running for more than 4 miles, especially in warmer weather, and carried electrolytes/calories if running longer than 8 miles. I also made sure to have pre and post run snacks (always on my radar though, as a dietitian!).
  • I dedicated more time to strength training and lower impact cross-training, especially once my belly got bigger. Running became less comfortable for me around 34 weeks, at which point I started to run/walk and incorporate more spin classes and what I like to call, “Netflix & Elliptical.”
  • I bought a Road ID to wear in case something happened to me while I was running, especially for when I was alone. I also carried a credit card and if straying far from home, my phone (which I usually never carry), in case of emergencies.
  • I invested in a few key items of maternity exercise wear to stay comfortable as I got bigger. I was lucky in that I could keep wearing a lot of my normal gear until mid/late second trimester, as I already had some flowy and stretchy long tops, large running jackets, and some looser/stretchy shorts and pants. I did find a few things useful to buy, including a couple maternity tanks, a maternity long sleeve zip top, and a pair of maternity tights – all on sale from Old Navy and Gap. I splurged on my For Two Fitness “Running for Two” tank and long sleeve top, as they were too cute to resist!
  • I always ran within my comfort zone – and appreciate that this is different for everyone. For example, a half marathon during my second trimester seemed reasonable to me (I did the Staten Island Half at a slower but strong pace), as did running 12-15 miles with my husband on long slow run days during my 1st and 2nd trimesters, but I did not feel that longer distances were worth the risk. During my late second and early third trimesters, I was quite happy running 8-10M and 6-7M, respectively, as my “long” runs. Additionally, I felt solid running on technical trails up until my third trimester, as long as I ran with E and slowed down or walked particularly tricky sections. Our trail running adventures in Asheville, NC (check out E’s post here) at the start of my second trimester were particularly awesome!
  • I tried not to compare myself to other pregnant runners – what my body looked like, how much I was running, or anything else. Every pregnancy is different and the only important thing was to respect my own!
  • I always kept the “big picture” in mind – heathy mom and baby! Sure, I still had fitness goals – run/exercise consistently and as long as possible – but the ultimate goal always was to keep my baby safe. I’ll be honest, it was a bummer to miss a workout or cut things short because I wasn’t feeling well or my doctor wanted me to be extra cautious at times, but in pregnancy, it’s just not worth the risk.

I never sought to run a specific number of miles while pregnant, but when I realized that 1,000 was within my reach, it become the perfect goal to keep me motivated, especially whenever my running started to feel aimless. The last 50 miles were especially challenging, as I began to feel my increased weight and changes in my gait – a good chunk of those miles were walking – but I’m proud of myself for getting it done. As my doctor told me, my dedication to exercise helped maintain great blood flow to my baby and will likely lead to an easier labor! It also means that my return to running post-partum will not be *quite* so painful (although I know that it will still be pretty tough…).

My path to full-term pregnancy has not exactly been easy – without going into details, we have had many bumps in the road, and the process has been scary/overwhelming at times – but I am extremely grateful to have felt good for the most part and to have been able to stay so active. For the past week, I have only been walking because that is what feels best, but I walk every day for at least 30 minutes and at a good pace. I’m thinking of it as “tapering” for “race day” – I don’t get that same post-run high, but I still feel great afterwards. The finish line is within sight now and I cannot wait to meet my baby girl!

A quick note on training for natural birth – my husband and I enrolled in a birthing class that teaches the Bradley Method. It has been a huge time commitment (8 x 3hr sessions) but SO worthwhile. We knew very little about the birthing process pre-pregnancy and we feel so empowered and prepared now (as much as you can be, that is). E and I have always worked well as a team, often training side by side, exploring trails together, and pacing each other in marathons and ultras, so I knew that I wanted him to coach me through birth. The parallels between running a long race and birthing a baby naturally are actually quite astounding. I have been practicing various physical and mental exercises (e.g. kegels, squats, pelvic tilts, active labor positions, relaxation and visualization, breathing etc.) to help cope with labor pain, and also practicing E’s coaching techniques to make sure that they resonate with me. Kind of like strength training, structured running targeted at your race distance, mantras, and learning the art of pacing, right? Childbirth is not the same as running an ultra obviously, but having run for 12 hours and navigated the physical and mental highs and lows of that experience certainly gives me confidence that I can get through the many hours of labor and delivery!

If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience of running while pregnant, in addition to my coaching and nutrition advice for pregnant athletes, check out this podcast that I did with Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running! We had such a great conversation on pregnancy exercise and I would love your feedback.

I’ll close out with a photo diary of my running and other exercise adventures while pregnant – check out the captions to see how far along I was. It’s amazing how much my body has changed, even if I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought I would (and believe me, I have been trying hard to gain more, especially in recent weeks). Then again, I have always been a small person and can’t imagine my belly being much bigger! It will be a long road to get my body and my fitness back post-birth, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

First trimester:

Second trimester:

Third trimester:

After two days of diligently working on my RRCA coaching certification exam, I finally bit the bullet and submitted my answers for the 100 multiple choice question test. You get one chance to pass it, and must receive an 80% or higher. If you don’t, you have to take the course all over again! Thankfully, you are allowed to use all the materials and work with other students who took the course, the latter of which was INCREDIBLY helpful. We got some really great discussions going – it was a tricky test, and I really learned a lot through our team work!

I was quite confident I would get above 80% after reviewing so many answers with the others, but I was only the second person in the class to take the exam, so my heart was pounding as I completed the questions and clicked “Grade and submit.” A split second later, this is what flashed on the screen (and was simultaneously sent to the course instructors and the RRCA coaching committee):

I of course let out a big scream of joy when I saw that – 97%?! YEAH! I had worked hard on the test so I really wanted to get as close to 100% as possible – and a 97% is close enough for me!

I have already completed my First Aid/CPR course, which is the last step to becoming a certified coach for many of the other students. I’m quite pleased I got this out of the way earlier on, particularly since I’m in crunch time for my grad school applications (or more specifically, just my NYU MS/DPD application). This means that all I have to do is pay my RRCA membership fee (which will put me on the roster of certified coaches on their site) and get myself some insurance, and then I’ll be ready to accept clients! Extremely exciting. I think I should be able to sleep very well tonight, having gotten this off my plate!

Stay tuned for a brand new, separate coaching website – I hope to have this up and running in the next month or so. And if anyone is looking for a coach in the meantime, email me at thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com!

Today I attended an all-day CPR/First Aid/AED course at the Santa Cruz chapter of American Red Cross. This is one of the components of RRCA’s coaching program, and I’m happy to say that I am now one step closer to becoming an official running coach. Three wallet-friendly certificates now live in my purse – hopefully I won’t need to use my new skills, but should I encounter someone in need, I am ready!

I’m also ready to run Portland – mostly because taper-induced nerves have suddenly started to kick in and I want to get it over with! I’m really excited to race, but now that Boston is out of the picture, I can’t help but put a bit more time pressure on myself, which wasn’t the original plan given my hip injury. The original plan was to see how I felt and just try to run a respectable race but not attempt anything insane. As a good friend pointed out, however, I am insane! Who am I kidding, thinking I’m going to go into a race and not try my best to beat my previous time?! I thrive on self-competition – I love to prove to myself that I can do better! And after a somewhat tough running year so far, I could really use a “win” in this area.

Part of the struggle is that Portland feels like a total wild card. Maybe I’ll have a great race – or maybe I’ll crash and burn – or perhaps I’ll just get a decent time but nothing spectacular. I have no idea! You never can truly predict what will happen on race day, but you can make some educated guesses based on your performance in various training races and the overall success of your training cycle. I don’t have any longer races to look back on – just a couple 10ks which were more about building back miles after my injury rather than testing my marathon pace and planning my race strategy. If you compare Portland to NYC, the course is relatively flat and I’m a couple pounds lighter, which obviously both act in my favor. However, I didn’t put in as many quality sessions or miles and thus my confidence is slightly shaky in terms of how long I can maintain an ambitious race pace, if I decide to go for it – either at the sub-3:35 or 3:39 level.

Furthermore, I can’t discount the possibility that I will feel mentally drained from my intensive Friday and Saturday 8am – 5pm RRCA course. It might be a bit overwhelming and confusing to receive so much information, some of which may contradict what I currently practice in my own running, right before running a big race. Or will I feel jazzed up and even more excited to get out there, armed with knowledge and a new certification under my belt? Will I be able to control my diet as strictly as I did in NYC last year, without having access to a kitchen (or microwave or fridge) during the day? My greatest paranoia, from my Paris experience, is having GI issues again. Will not having my parents’ incredible support throughout the race (they saw me five times in Paris and three times in NYC) or other friends cheering me on along the course make a difference? These and so many other factors (weather, sleep etc) beyond my training may affect my performance in Portland, which makes it even more necessary to play things by ear.

The good news is that I have seven days left to mull over my race strategy and decide what feels right on marathon eve. In many ways, I really believe that despite some huge gaps in my training, I can pull off a PB and run a sub-3:39. I would be happy with that – any improvement on my time would be awesome. And then I have my occasional crazy moment and think I should just go for sub-3:35 and see what happens – although I realize that’s a huge gamble. My strategy never is to start out faster than I’ve trained to do, but rather slightly under goal pace and bump it up gradually, cranking it out in the last few miles. In this case, I did practice running 8:11 min/mile a few times just to see what running the new BQ time felt like, and it felt pretty comfortable yesterday in my six miler. However, I can’t confidently say to myself (right now, at least) that I could continue that pace for 20 additional miles….

Then again, when you’re really determined to do something and you convince yourself that you CAN do it, it’s amazing what you’re able to accomplish. Mental strength is key – it’s the only way I was able to finish NYC as strongly as I did, with the last few miles paced in the 7:50’s. My legs said NO WAY but my mind said YES YOU WILL, because I knew if I didn’t crank it up a notch, I wouldn’t reach my goal and I had worked too hard to let it slip away.

So whatever I ultimately decide to set as my goal, I just need to have faith that I can achieve it. There’s nothing else I can do at this stage, other than rest sufficiently and eat wisely. And when my nerves and negative thoughts inevitably start piping up about having only run 18 miles in training, I will just repeat my mantra:

I will do this. I can do this. Because I have done this.

After nearly four years in London, I have quit my job and will be moving back to the US on August 30th to spend time with my family and pursue a new career!!

Wow. That felt good to announce!

If you’ve already read my updated About Claire page, or have noticed my suddenly US-centric travel and race plans, then my news probably hasn’t come as a surprise.

I’ve wanted to change careers (or, from my perspective, finally start my career) for several years, but was never quite sure what I wanted to do. As a result, my priorities up until now have focused predominantly on life experience (travel, relationships, where I am living more than what I am doing) rather than pursuing a career that is more in line with my interests.

Just to give some background – after college, I fell into a corporate job in New York City, which I eventually quit to travel in South America, which inspired me to move to London (and travel as much as possible), where I ended up in another corporate job in the same industry, since that was my best shot at receiving a sponsored visa. Although not the right fit for me in the long term, my current BD & Marketing job has been a positive experience, and has provided me with skills that will prove useful down the line. I have also grown to love London, very much in fact. I look at my one-way ticket back to California and am happy to go HOME, but also extremely sad to leave what now feels like home.

I’m slightly nervous about starting a new career at this stage of my life, but I certainly don’t regret anything I’ve done. Every single thing that has happened since graduation has led me to where I am now – including my love of running. I’m not sure if I would have become such a keen distance runner had I not moved to London, met my running buddy (who encouraged me to enter my first half marathon), discovered my coach etc! And had I not entered my first marathon and become completely running obsessed, I probably wouldn’t have met E, either. Everything happens for a reason – I truly do believe that and am grateful for all of my past experiences, good and bad, which have each carried me to this moment.

In fact, my renewed passion for running (and healthy living, generally) ultimately helped inspire my career choice. I have decided to become a Registered Dietitian (RD), and a running coach on the side. I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and other issues relating to health, fitness and food (and as a side note, I also happen to be the only non-doctor in my family), so I am very excited to begin my new career path. I think it will suit me well.

As you know, I’ve already registered for RRCA’s coaching certification course (along with the Portland marathon) in early October, so those wheels are already in motion. I should be fully certified by the end of October and ready to take on coaching clients!

In terms of RD programs, this is where my plans are still fuzzy. Ideally, I would have applied to schools and resigned after having been accepted somewhere, but it’s not quite happening that way. I decided I was going to take the plunge after the fall/winter deadlines had already passed for September 2011 start dates, and I didn’t want to stay in my job past August. I’ve long outgrown my role and desperately need to get out and regroup before moving forward. Also, my older sister is having a baby, and it’s important to me that I spend an extended amount of time with my niece and the rest of my family after six years of living/traveling abroad. So, I decided it was time to go, even without a clear plan in place.

I’m very much into plans, so handing in my letter of resignation yesterday was both exhilarating and terrifying! Since I did my Bachelors in Humanities and my Masters in Music, I have very little science background, which means I have lots of catching up to do before I can enroll in many nutrition programs. And then depending on which school I choose (I’m considering schools in NY and CA), I won’t actually start my program until January or, more likely, September 2012! Applications for 2012 are due in October/November and I haven’t started them yet…

I have so much to do in the coming months (moving countries, school applications, marathon training, and so on), it’s making my head spin! But I’m taking things one step at a time so that I don’t get too overwhelmed, while also making sure that I savor my last moments in London as well as my first moments as an aunt. Everything will fall into place eventually – I know I’m making the right move and am confident in my decision, even if it feels somewhat bittersweet.

I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a certified running coach ever since I started marathon training with my own coach, Sam Murphy, in 2009, and in particular, since I created this blog in December 2010. Usually, I’m not the type of person who signs up for personal training or coaching, primarily because it’s quite expensive and I can’t justify the cost. I love to run/exercise, I work hard and I devour running/general fitness articles, so it’s not like I need the motivation!

However, training for my first marathon was daunting, and although I’m sure I would have performed well had I simply trained and researched on my own, I wanted to make sure that I pushed myself as hard as possible without injuring myself. As many of you know, that’s a fine line!

Sam gave me the specific knowledge, structured training and support that really helped me reach my goals. Having someone there for me throughout the ups and downs of my training, armed with incredibly useful, tailored advice, was crucial to my success and in my opinion, worth every penny. So I guess it’s not that surprising that I would want to learn more and help other runners, after having had such a positive coaching experience of my own!

As some of my running buddies can tell you, I already act as an informal coach of sorts – dispensing various information when relevant, and often taking the lead as motivator in a more structured run. It would be wonderful to deepen my running knowledge not only to benefit my own training, but also to allow me to formally coach other runners safely and with greater confidence. Additionally, a coaching certification program would, of course, fit in VERY nicely with my current nutrition course!

Over the last week, I finally started to research how I could become a full-fledged running coach – both in the UK and the US, as it’s best to explore both options!

In the UK, United Kingdom Athletics offer a wide variety of coaching qualifications, including a Leadership in Running Fitness Award, which would qualify me as a UK Athletics level 1 coach. This course serves as a prerequisite for the level 2 Coach in Running Fitness Award, which is the qualification my coach holds and that I would like to achieve. Unfortunately, the timing isn’t ideal – the next LiRF course is in June, but there’s a possibility it may be cancelled due to a lack of interest and there isn’t another one that I can attend for awhile. Even if it isn’t cancelled, I must wait three months after completing it until I can enroll in the CiRF course, but there isn’t one currently scheduled anywhere close to London later in the year. I was told, however, that additional courses may be added, so I will keep checking the website.

Also, although the CiRF course is technically only three days, there is a period of several months in between the second and third day so that you can apply what you’ve learned before taking the final exam. This makes perfect sense, but that takes me to early 2012 if I’m lucky, and who knows where I’ll be then! Slightly more complicated than I had originally hoped, and I am kicking myself for not having looked into this sooner, but I obviously can’t let this discourage me.

Lastly, I need to consider the consequences, if any, of becoming qualified in the UK and ultimately coaching in the US. I suppose it would make more sense to study in the US if that is where I will eventually settle, but I’m not sure if it really matters with something like this. What do you think?

The Road Runners Club of America seems to be the UK Athletics equivalent in the US, and the best resource for a running coach qualification. Unfortunately, there aren’t many courses currently scheduled that have availability, and the only one that does is in Minnesota! No thanks. Apparently I can host a course in my area (I’ll be in CA in September, so that would be ideal), so I might look into that. I am a master organizer, after all! Anyone in the San Francisco or Los Angeles area interested in becoming a RRCA qualified running coach?! Otherwise, I’ve signed up to receive further information for additional courses that open up…fingers crossed!

So, I guess for the time being it seems that I cannot begin my coaching training as soon as I had hoped, but at least I have started the research process. I could perhaps just take the LiRF to jump start my training and leave me with the basics of coaching groups and in particular, beginner runners, and see where that leads me. I think I’ll sleep on it…

If anyone has any advice on this topic or anything else to add, please let me know!

A few days ago, I was running in Regents Park when a guy walking in the opposite direction chuckled and said to his companion, “New Year’s runners” just as I passed by. Had I not been mid-hill interval and thus physically incapable of speaking, I would’ve been tempted to respond. Yeah? And what do you call the two marathons I ran last year? It was a snippet out of context, but the way he said it was obnoxious, implying that running was only something I was doing because it just so happened to be January 2nd.

But then as I was walking home from work last night, I noticed that there WERE tons of runners out and about, way more than usual. I wasn’t exactly surprised, especially given running’s recent surge in popularity, but it was as if half the City had resolved to start running home – Tower Bridge was packed! Nevertheless, it was great to see so many new runners hitting the pavement with the regulars – I particularly enjoyed observing the many different running styles and types of gear that passed me by.

By the time I got home, I had revised my opinion of that guy’s comment – Yeah! We’re New Year’s runners – what’s it to you? Okay, so running isn’t new to me, but if a New Year’s resolution is the motivation you need to get you started with or back into running, who cares? The fact that you’re doing something healthy for yourself, physically and mentally, and that you stick with it is what’s important!

If you’re thinking about running but haven’t yet started, if you’ve started and are wondering how you can stick with it, or if you’re a regular runner and are looking for some tried and tested running tips, then read ahead!

Pick a goal…or several

Your goal(s) will of course depend on  your fitness level and whether or not you have run before:

  • If you do not exercise regularly and have never run before, a good goal might be to run 30 minutes without stopping by a certain date. Play around with what feels right for you, but make sure the build-up is gradual.
  • If you are physically fit but new to running, you probably can already run for at least 10 minutes without stopping. Why don’t you aim to run a certain number of times per week, and then gradually build up your weekly mileage (a 10% increase per week is generally the recommended amount), perhaps with the eventual aim of running a 5K race?
  • If you have taken a break from running and would like to make it a regular part of your exercise regime again, think about entering a race in the near future. Using a training program might help motivate you to get back into your training.

The trick to setting your first running goal, especially if you are a beginner, is to start small. Set realistic goals for yourself – and why not set sub-goals too, for each week – so that you can feel the satisfaction of achieving them! Slowly build up to more challenging goals as your confidence grows, along with your abilities.

I obviously didn’t jump right into regular racing and distance running – over a period of roughly one and a half years, I slowly progressed from an easy run once a week to racing my first half-marathon in 1:37! And six months later, I ran my first marathon. The beauty of these early days is that you just keep improving – it’s hard NOT to feel motivated when you set new PRs in every race!

Maybe you won’t become a marathon runner, but if you stick with it, I guarantee that you’ll look back on your early days and laugh about how tough those first runs were for you!

Achieving your goal(s)

Here are some ideas to keep you motivated, based on what has worked well for me in the past:

1. Find a friend to support your efforts:

You often hear that having a running buddy will help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. I 100% agree with that statement. As you may have already read in my running story, a friend introduced me to running 15 years ago, and another friend encouraged me to start running again two and a half years ago. It really does make a difference knowing that someone is waiting for you in the cold at 7:30am, when you hear the alarm go off bright and early and debate whether or not to hit the snooze button! Once you’re out there, having someone to chat with makes the miles fly by, or if you’re doing a tough session, having a buddy might push you to train harder than you would on your own. I’m a very self-motivated person, but even I need support to get through certain runs!

2. Enter a race to give your training more purpose:

My running buddy also encouraged me to enter my first 10K and half marathon. I was terrified, but knowing that I would have support throughout training and before/after the race gave me the courage to get on with it. Now that races no longer freak me out quite so much, I race regularly to give my training structure, as well as a greater purpose (ie improving my best times and keeping fit). It helps me stay as motivated as I am.

Even if you don’t care about times and structured training as I do, having a race scheduled will still help you keep your momentum well into 2011. Tell your friends, family and colleagues about your race and your training so far. If I did that, I couldn’t bear the thought of quitting – I would be so embarrassed if I had to tell everyone that I backed out, not because of injury, but because I simply stopped trying.

Not sure which race to run? There are so many races of all distances going on each week; I guarantee that you can easily find one in your area. For instance, Running in the USA is a great race search site.

3. Consider working with a running coach:

If your goal is particularly daunting or you just want some one-on-one guidance, you should consider working with a coach. There are tons of great coaches out there, who can provide a wide range of services to runners of all levels, varying from one-to-one coaching to online advice such as training schedules. Personal sessions can be pricey (comparable to personal training), but online coaching is quite affordable.

For my first marathon, I had two personal sessions and four months of online coaching, and it was worth every penny. So much so, that I did the same for my second marathon! I have no doubt that coaching helped me prevent injury and perform well in each race. More importantly, I acquired a vast amount of knowledge and experience that left me equipped to not only train better on my own, but also share this knowledge with other runners.

4. Join a running club:

I don’t currently belong to a club, but I know many people who do and love it. It’s not only an opportunity to get some free coaching and to run with others at your level, but most clubs are quite social and will lead you to new friends who share your enthusiasm to get fit through running. Clubs also often host races, which are fabulous for training and low-key enough that you don’t have to sign up too far in advance.

5. Use a training schedule, log and/or other tools:

Being a planner, I’m a huge fan of using training schedules and tracking my runs in various training logs. Read my post on using training logs and other tools here.

6. Focus more on what you eat and drink:

If you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t have to change your diet too much in terms of consuming more calories, but you will need to start paying more attention to the quality and timing of what you eat, if you wish to maximize the results of your efforts.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

~If you’re doing an easy run of under an hour early in the morning, you probably don’t need to eat beforehand, especially if you ate well the night before.  I always just have a big glass of water, but you may prefer otherwise.

~If you are running later in the day, have a small snack an hour or two before you run. Something like a banana, or a piece of toast with nut butter, for example.

~Within 30 minutes of finishing your run, try to eat something with carbs and protein to aid your recovery.

~Carbohydrates are necessary for runners – but aim to eat complex ones, ie wholegrain breads and pastas, and no need to go crazy on portions. Be sure to get enough fresh produce, leafy greens, lean protein, and healthy fats (fish, nuts, olive oil, avocado etc).

~Hydrate! Keep a big bottle of water on your desk at work or in your bag – if you sip little and often it won’t seem like a chore.  No need to carry water with you during a run unless you are running for over an hour, unless you prefer otherwise.

7. Get the appropriate gear:

Having good quality running gear that fits you well and protects you from the elements is CRUCIAL, especially if you are training in winter. Many people ask how I get myself to run in extreme weather conditions – it’s all in the gear! Okay, the desire to run has to be present as well, but who doesn’t want to go running when fully kitted out in awesome clothing and accessories? In the right kit, you become unstoppable!

Firstly, you need to ensure you are wearing the right shoes. Get an assessment at your local running shop – it only takes a few minutes!

For very cold weather, it’s all about layering – I always wear a good sports bra and/or running tank, fitted long sleeve top and then a light but wind/water-resistant jacket, as well as long running tights, gloves, and hat or headband. This is usually enough even in the coldest conditions.

For racing/long runs, I wear long compression tights, which may or may not actually make you run faster, but they certainly aid in recovery. I love 2XU tights – they served me well in both the Paris and NYC marathons!

For sunny days and most races, I can’t run without my sunglasses – they help me stay focused and make me feel hardcore, which is exactly what I need to really push myself.  I am obsessed with Sunwise‘s Breakout Black sunglasses – not only are they cheap, but they’re light as a feather and super durable. I can’t even feel them on my face – didn’t budge an inch during two marathons.

And lastly, if you’re running to/from work, make sure you’re using a proper running backpack so that it doesn’t mess with your form. I’ve seen too many runners recently with massive backpacks bouncing up and down – best to get something made for running, with waist and chest straps. I’m currently using the OMM Ultra 15Lt running backpack and find it very comfortable.

So if you’ve been thinking about running in the New Year, what’s stopping you now?!

Any questions? Leave a comment or email me at thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com.

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

My latest photos

Let the baby food making begin! Gotta say, I'm really excited. Got the @beaba_usa food maker and it is SO easy to use - as in you push a button to steam, then turn the button to puree - kind of feel like I'm cheating 😂 Started with puréed butternut squash (using mostly organic produce for her but this one wasn't), froze most of it in 2oz containers, and left a few out for A to try! I expected her to spit it out but she liked it! And because it's literally just puréed veg, I eat whatever she doesn't. 😜 Now that Arielle is nearly 6 months old (this week!), we finally took our new @thule running stroller out for a spin on @summerstreets. Running with this thing is not easy - esp pushing uphill (E and I took turns pushing) - but it was so fun to be active together as a family. Bonus - A slept almost the whole time! 👍🏻 How are you making exercise fun this weekend? Friday night pizza night! Can't remember the last time we made pizza - so much fun and so tasty! Got the whole wheat dough from TJs, cut it in half (otherwise dough is too thick), and made one large pizza to share and two personal pizzas to enjoy tomorrow (okay, we split one of them as seconds because it was so yummy). Topped with shredded cheese, portabello mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato, olives and ricotta. 👌🏻 Pictured - the small pizzas before popping in the oven! Thanks for the samples, @barillaus! Excited to try these products, especially as I start to train for my first post baby races (a trail half marathon and possibly a marathon later in the year). #eatforendurance Tried out another bean based pasta tonight - @traderjoeslist black bean rotini with pesto sauce, tomatoes, artichokes and parmesan. I prefer normal wheat based pasta, but it was pretty tasty, super filling, and packed with protein and fiber! Good morning!! I love to bake healthy (and not so healthy) treats and realized I hadn't done any baking since the week before the baby was born (nearly 6 months ago!), so I whipped up a batch of my fav Superhero muffins from the #runfasteatslow cookbook to enjoy throughout the week. Made a few modifications this time (added flaxseeds and coconut flakes, as well as some chopped pecans instead of walnuts) and they are soooo delicious! Have a fantastic Monday!

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