Self Belief & Running

You have put in the training. Woke up at 6am. Ran in the brutal heat. The pouring rain. Up hill both ways. You are fit and ready to roll!! Nothing can stop you now!! Except……You? 

Self belief is one of the most important aspects to successful training. You have to believe in yourself! So many times we are our own harshest critics. From missing a split on a workout to missing an easy run, we usually beat ourselves up more than anyone else. We have the most invested in the game and sometimes we don’t match up to our expectations which can cause us to be even more critical of ourselves and have a negative outlook.

So what can you do?

When training for a race with big goals it is common to hit a rough patch in training at SOME POINT! Anything can set the dominos in motion into this negative/self criticizing loop. Even if you are training great- we can sometimes blow up the littlest thing. Human nature is to focus on the negative and dismiss the positive. Face it we are not the most happy go lucky species. Dogs they are the ones you should emulate! Dogs love a run.

So lets look at the positives:

1) Everyone has bad days. Don’t let it get you down. Lots of things can contribute to a bad day. Life stress, diet, hydration, weather, …. the list continues. Do not let one bad day or bad week send you down a spiral. One day or one week does not define you or your training.

2) New stress during a time of training can cause a chain reaction. As you increase mileage it will take awhile for you body to adjust. This is natural. You may feel sluggish for a short amount of time. Your body will rebound. If it lingers for longer than a few weeks you may need an adjustment.

3) Life happens. You might have to miss a run here or there. As long as it isn’t a habit, don’t sweat it. You have to remember that you have a job and responsibilities first. You are a person that has a life and happen to be a runner. Not the other way around.

4) Running is fun!! It should be. No one started running to make money or to impress their office with PRs. You start running for fun! Or to accomplish something amazing! Or because you are crazy! But either way it should always be fun. It isn’t your job. Life will stress you out enough. Make sure to keep in mind that running should be stress relief not pile more weight on you.

So what can you do once you have already fallen into the negative spiral?…..

How do you get back on track?

1) Have fun!! It is fun!! Try not to take yourself so seriously. It is just running. It is a recreational hobby. You already have a lot of stress in your work/life. Try to use running as a time to blow off that extra stress! Enjoy the pushing of your body. Focus on effort instead of paces. Focus on clearing your mind instead of your goal race.

2) Take care of your body! Get some rest. If you are struggling you may not be getting enough sleep for your body to recharge. Diet is important too. Make sure you are not just eating but fueling your body for performance.

3) Take a step back. Look at the work you have done with your running so far. Have you put in a good effort? Gotten out to run recently? Are your goals realistic in relation to the work you have put in? Many times we get to focused on the goals and lose sight of the process. The best part of the trip is the journey. Enjoy the runs. Each run has a purpose and they should all be enjoyable. Even that super long run at 6am.

4) Find success everyday. In everything you do you can find success. The easy run you can push yourself to go the full distance. In your workout you can make your last rep the best. In a long run you can finish strong or push yourself to run the entire time with no stopping breaks. On your rest day you can roll and stretch for 10 minutes. You have the chance for success everyday.

If you are in a running funk or even a life funk you can get out! Don’t lose hope. Remain positive and find success.


“Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!” -Someone Wise

Running after an Injury

Do you typically think of running as a non-contact sport? The entire weight of your body is constantly making contact with the ground. On a 10 mile run your foot contacts the ground over 15,000 times. This exerts repetitive force on bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. That is a lot of pounding. Unfortunately, injuries happen in the sport of running. The most common injuries for runners involve the lower leg and hips such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and the dreaded stress fracture. Even with a well designed training plan experienced runners can get injured.

A common question after an injury is how to return to running after taking time off dealing with an injury?

After a long lay off you must be careful when coming back. You may feel like you want to jump right in and get back to your training in attempts to catch up for missed time, but this is not wise. A common mistake is coming back too fast (or too soon) and causing injury to other potentially vulnerable tissue. Compensation injuries make up a large percentage of running injuries. For example, if you have a sore hip, which hurts less then you run a certain way, you may be setting yourself up to have a sore hip and a sore knee. In this case you may be able to prevent the knee pain and rid yourself of the hip pain if you take a few days off to rest.

Sometimes we get repeated injuries when we do not treat the source of the injury during the lay off. In this case imagine a runner has a weak glute, and may compensate by pushing more with the calf. This can overload the Achilles tendon and can cause damage. If your calf starts hurting, you should consider taking time off. However, if Achilles pain is reoccurring despite rest and icing the Achilles then consider seeing a medical provider such as a physical therapist or ART specialist to determine the cause of the issue.

If you do have an injury that will cause you to miss significant time in training. Cross training (if doctor approved) can be a good way to maintain your fitness and mental drive. Everyone has a different preference. Pool running and rowing are very good alternatives to running. You should always consult a doctor on what type of cross training would be appropriate with your circumstances and current physical fitness. But keep in mind: There is no real substitute for running. Just because you have crossed trained during your injury does not mean that you will be able to bounce back into your old running routine and paces.

When coming back to running there are several approaches. You should always listen to your body and make sure that you come back slow and smart. Run/walk can be a great method to ensure you don’t return to running too quickly and have an additional set back.

If you have been off for an extended period of time, coming back with a run for a set amount of time and walk for a set amount of time can be very effective.

For example:
Run 2 minutes/walk 1 minute . Each week you can increase the run period by 1-2 minutes. After 4 weeks of this, if you are feeling good, you can continue to progress.

Week 1
3 runs of 2 minute run 1 minute walk – short duration 10-15 minutes for each

Week 2
4 runs of 3 minutes run 1 minute walk – short duration 10-20 minute for each

Week 3
4 runs of 4-5 minute run 1 minute walk – 15-25 minute each

Week 4
5 runs of 5-7 minute run 1 minute walk – 15-30 minutes each

Week 5
Straight runs. 3-5 runs of short duration. Distance should not exceed distance from previous weeks runs.


Continue to progress safely as you feel good, while also listening to your body for any complaints about nagging aches or pains. Everyone is different some people may not need as many weeks and others may need more. It will still take time to get back to your typical mileage. When it comes to returning to running you should always air on the side of caution. We are all eager to get back out there and run. Even though you may feel behind in training, just enjoy the experience and be thankful to be running again.

Bathroom problems while running? Let’s talk about it.

At one time or another everyone struggles with the bathroom. So lets just get that out in the open! We have all been there. Middle of a run feeling fine and then “bamm. I have to go now!!” Praying, making deals with God and finally ditching into the bushes or the closest porto-potty (if you are so luck). So what can you do to avoid this?

There are several causes for GI issues on the run. They can range from hydration status, food consumption, time of day and intensity of the run & many other causes.


When you drink:

Hydration plays a huge role. What you drink and when you drink it is key. The key to hydration is to drink before you become thirsty. If you wait until you feel you need a drink it is too late. Best advice would be to drink every 20-45 minutes. The body absorbs water in small amounts such as sipping throughout the day rather than guzzling 20 oz at once. Don’t overdue it with your water intake so that you have to stop on the road. But make sure you are getting enough fluids to maintain your body at an appropriate level. Planning ahead with fluids before you run.

What you drink:

What you drink can also play a large role. Sports drinks that are high in carbohydrates can also delay the natural processes of your body and can lead to GI discomfort. You should be careful to monitor your electrolyte intake and make sure that you are replenishing what you lose but not taking in too much. The best way to find what works for you is to experiment on the long run. Try a few different products and see what sits best on your stomach and what your body seems to best absorb for fuel. Gen UCAN is a product I like and use often that has a slow burning starch and seems to sit very well on the stomach. It also is low in sugar. You don’t want to try something new on race day.

Alcohol or other sugary drinks can stay in your system and cause GI distress the next day. You know your body! Sometimes keeping a food/liquid diary will help you find things in your diet that cause the GI distress.

Food Consumption

What you eat:

Ever heard, “You are what you eat!!”? It is important to figure out what your body runs best on. Everyone is different! What should you eat the night before a long run? During the day before a hard workout session? What you put in your body really matters. So if you have chicken wings, cheese curds, friees and a few beer the night before a long run … I would wager that it might end poorly for most (maybe some can get away with it.. but not most LOL). You should avoid foods that you know don’t sit well on your stomach and experiment with different things to find out what is best for you. Typically lean proteins, vegetables and just a little bit of grains would be a good option for the night before a long run. During the day of a hard workout you might want to eat light in the hours leading up to the big workout. A sandwich and some fruit for lunch 6-3 hours before and light snacks after. Everyone is different. Some people can eat and run an hour later, while some can’t even think about food hours before a hard run. KNOW YOUR BODY!

Food Sensitivities

Everyone has different sensitivities. Gluten is a hot topic item right now. Certain foods can cause inflammation in the body. So it would be a good idea to monitor what you eat, how your body responds, and see if there is a pattern. This is when keeping a food log can be a great way to monitor what is best for you. Write down your meals and then how you felt on the following run. I have been know to eat the same exact meal before races on the superstition that it worked once! I have also been know to avoid sugars and snacks three days before a big race. Could I get away with changing things? I am not sure, but why change a good thing? Mentally it puts me more in the zone & it is one less thing to worry about. Whether eating specific meals leading up to a race is provides more of a mental or physical edge; if it works it works.

When you eat:

Another consideration when eating is time. What time do you normally eat? If you find that you eat at 9pm on a Friday night and have a terrible early morning long run you would want to consider eating earlier. Every body processes food at a different rate. If you can always run at a specific time your body will adapt and adjust to getting the bathroom time done earlier. The body is amazing at adapting to survive.

Other Factors

Intensity and environment can play a role in GI discomfort as well. Running at a faster pace will require greater blood flow to the legs and therefore pull more blood from muscles in the stomach and intestines. This can contribute to that I HAVE TO GO RIGHT NOW feeling. Temperature can also effect this. As your body temperature rises, your body will have a higher heart rate and your fluid levels will go down (i.e. dehydration).

what can you do to help prevent it:

1) Planning ahead – if you are running in the morning, wake up a few minutes early to allow yourself time to use the bathroom prior to rushing out the door to start your run
2) Try to go before. Just mentally prepare that you need to go before you head out. Your body can be trained. Moving around and getting the body warmed up for the run. Try to relax and get a routine down.
3) Avoid extra caffeine right before a run– If your body is used to a cup or 2 of coffee before a run, that is great! However, it’s best to not try something new like a new energy drink or a new coffee drink before a run. All about what your body is used to!
4) Experiment with foods to find out what works best – Food Log (I can’t say that enough)
5) Have a plan – If you are not able to go right before (time crunch, just don’t have to yet..) you always need to have a backup plan. Run around the block a few times and stop back home to go. Find a favorite porto-potty 1-4 miles from your house! Carry TP. Make a plan for the ‘what if’. Chances are if you did not go much before your run, you will have to go during.
6) It happens to everyone. If you have to stop, do your business and get back to it. Don’t let it ruin your whole run. This happens to every athlete. Even the most seasoned runners. Don’t sweat it. Try to find the humor in it after your run & find the solution. Even if you follow the steps- sometimes you just have ‘those days’!

Everyone is different. Work on some of these things and see if you make progress. If is continues or is debilitating see your doctor. Running does cause chances in the body so it is never a bad idea to have a check up. A large percentage of runners have GI issues on a monthly basis. If it happens everyday or several times a week you should be cautious and seek assistance. It does seem to be more common in women especially postpartum. Your doctor may be able to provide insight or exercises that can help to strengthen the pelvic floor. A lot happens when you run. Taking careful planning and learning your body can help to keep you on the trail and out of the bushes.

How does stopping mid-run impact your training?

Start… Stop… Start… Stop. Something that I discuss with runners often is making runs continuous for the physiological & mental benefits. When reviewing running logs, we often see runners have breaks in longer runs lasting several minutes. Obviously traffic lights and the occasional bathroom break cannot always be avoided. However, when there are multiple stops prolonged stops during a run, it can cause a decrease benefit.

From a coaches perspective, taking breaks during a run is a part of the mental component of training. If you allow yourself to stop every time you are uncomfortable, then you are training your body to stop. Allowing the body to adapt both physically and mentally is an important part of a training plan. This is not something that is always easy to learn. Many runners don’t always talk about this openly! Just like learning anything new- We must teach the body to continue through & stop less.

This is especially important during long runs and workouts. Remember- the clock does not stop on race day. If you allow yourself to stop in a workout when it is tough, then you are making a mental pattern. In the future you are likely to repeat this pattern in times of distress. Our bodies learn patterns and have incredible muscle memory.

Even from a physiological stand point your body is missing key stress adaptations that are necessary during training for long races. A better alternative to prolonged breaks and stops during a long run or workout is to add walking segments as needed. There is an entire training program based on the run/walk method. It has been highly successful for many people and helped them to reach their goals. Jeff Galloway is a main proponent of this method. It can allow runners to run at a faster pace during the running segment and take walk breaks to bring the HR back down.

When training, the idea is to get your heart rate elevated to a sustained level for a select duration of time. This causes adaptations in the body including but not limited to:

1) increased heart size (the heart is a muscle)
2) increased blood volume (more plasma)
3) greater force of contraction (heart is more efficient)
4) more efficient oxygen transportation

Therefore, if you are not getting your HR into the optimal zone for an extended period of time during training, then you are missing the physiological benefits of training.

A great alternative to stopping is to set a goal time or distance that you will run and even if you slow down with your running pace, continue running until you reach that target, then take a short walking break. With this method you challenge your mental toughness, are able to get a very short break that will not lower your HR back down to resting, yet your body is still able to physiologically and mentally adapt for improved performance.

The key is to keep moving and give yourself opportunities to face mental challenges that you work through to build your mental toughness. Walking during a designated segment it will bring your HR down, but not as as rapidly as a standing rest break, and will lead to greater physiological benefits.. Walk for 30-60 seconds after hitting your target running segment. Then being to run again.

With all this being said, when running you have to make sure to take care of your health. If you feel woozy or lightheaded you should take a break. If you are running through an injury to finish the run, be sure to evaluate the cost and benefits of finishing verses stopping early to prevent additional injury.

If running were easy, everyone would do it…. right? Remember that taking rest breaks may hinder the physiological benefits of the run and may impact your performance on race day. Be smart about breaks during your run. It’s okay if you have to slow down, your body is still adapting and you are sharpening your mental toughness. There is a purpose with every run.

Preparing for Success- Distance Running

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

This quote is certainly relevant when it comes to running. A key to success in a long run or big workout is mental and physical preparation. You should approach each workout and long run for what is is; an important step toward your ultimate goal. Would you eat a chili cheese dog the day of a race or stay up to 2am drinking and expect success? I don’t think so. So why would your 20 mile long run be any less important. Or your marathon pace tempo run?

Each element of training is designed to help you toward your goal and to be come a stronger more confident runner. You have to approach each day with success in mind. That means remembering the importance and preparing. These should be guidelines for your entire training cycle.

Steps to physical preparation:

1) Sleeping – make sure to get a good nights sleep. Get into a regular sleeping pattern. Everyone is different but if you need 8 hours try to get into a regular pattern of going to bed at 10pm and waking at 6am.

2) Eating – Get to know your body. Fuel for success. The body is a machine. It runs better on vegetables and fruits than Twinkies and deep fried food. Find what works best for you. What do you need before a morning run? What should you eat at lunch for a evening workout? What sits best for long runs and race days? Are there things that you can avoid that cause GI issues?

3) Supplemental – Do the little things. They take time. But if you just do 10 minutes a day it can save you a lot of discomfort. Get a stretch, roll out, ice if you need to. Take care of your body!

Steps to mental preparation:

1) . Get yourself ready!! If you have a hard Tuesday workout talk yourself into it. Walk through the steps of preparation. Tell yourself why you are doing the things you do on Monday because of the workout on Tuesday. What are you trying to accomplish? Why is the workout important?

2) Hold yourself accountable. You are the one who is out doing the work. If you fail to prepare be honest and assess yourself. There may be outside factors such as the weather that influence a bad workout. But focus on what you can control. What can you do better?

3) Give yourself a break. One bad day isn’t indicative of your training. Don’t throw in the towel. Sometimes bad days happen. You have to get back out there. Those bad days lucky make the victory sweeter. Go through your check list.

4) Enjoy the process!! Have fun. This is huge. That is why you got into it. Not many people start running because they think they can be in the Olympics!! Never forget the many reasons why you run.

5) Believe in yourself! This is huge. As runners we are our own harshest critics. The natural thing to say is, “I suck”. “I can’t do this”. But you can’t get in your own head.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” -Henry Ford

So get out there and run!!

Finding your Running Mileage ‘Sweet Spot’

When starting a training plan it is important to determine the correct workload and intensity. Every athlete is different and develops at a different rate. It is important to take into account two things: age vs. training age.

Age is your biological age and developmental status. Everyone develops differently, but it can be assumes that someone who is 12 should not be doing the same workload as someone that is 25. Just like the workload you can handle at 25 will be different from what your body can handle at 65.

The second factor is training age. “Training age” refers to the amount of time you have been running. If you have been running 10 years, then your plan will be different than someone that is just starting or even someone that has been running for 1-2 years.

When creating a training plan, it is important to assess a runner’s training age. Some of the key questions to ask: How long have they been running?  How many days per week? How many miles a week?  Have they taken any prolonged breaks in training?

It is important to your mileage volume at no more than 10% than what you have done in the prior 2-4 weeks. In training, the rule of thumb for increasing weekly mileage is no more than a 10% increase per week. We can’t always increase- cutback weeks are very important in any training block. Cutback or “deloading” should be assigned every 3-6 weeks with a 25-30% reduction in mileage. These weeks help the legs recover from the mileage build.

Mileage Sweet Spot

Everyone has a mileage sweet spot. It is important to find your individual sweet spot. This is your optimal training area. Where you excel without breaking. I like to think of it as walking a tight rope. If you a lean one way you will not be training hard enough and the other way you are overtraining. Either way you are not getting your optimal training for success. It sometimes takes runners 5-7 years to find that sweet spot. If you can run well and see improvements at 30-40 miles a week that is great. Some athletes will need more mileage as they progress in their running career. Elite distance runners run up to 140 miles a week!

Law of diminishing returns: This is the level that work invested is greater than the gains. If you are pushing your body too hard and your muscles never recover fully, your runs will suffer. This can turn into a downward spiral. Signs to watch for: similar pace runs every day, unable to hit workout paces for weeks at a time, nagging fatigue, insomnia, etc.  When athletes get trapped in this cycle of, they are not reaching their full potential.

Many times people have the misconception that more is better. More miles is not always better. Mileage is so individual to each athlete. I have had college runners that could run a 15:00 5k on 30 miles a week with speed session. While others needed to run 90 miles a week to run the same time. The human body is full of variability.

It is important to remember not to measure yourself against anyone else. Just because someone on Instagram can run 80 miles a week does not mean that if YOU do, you will run just like they do. They have a different body, different genetics, different training age. They have put in tons of work.

No one starts out running 50 miles a week and just immediately starts running fast races. It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in something. Running is a life long sport. Be patient and slowly build that mileage and find a sweet spot.