Archive for January, 2011

Developing Good Habits

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Developing good habits  provides many benefits to your running.  Starting each week on a positive note is critical to a productive week.  Sunday’s are typically a rest and family day for most runners following their long Saturday run.  But you can’t completely disengage from the training mindset.

You still need to prepare for your upcoming training week so you can’t abandon discipline and focus altogether.  Eating well, staying hydrated and receiving adequate rest should be omnipresent every day of the week.  Sure, you can indulge in some of the things you deprive yourself of during the week; but moderation should reign supreme.

Setting your running things out on Sunday is a good starting point.  Planning your pre-run meal establishes a training mindset that doesn’t have to be jump started if you completely abandon your focus upon the completion of your training run on Saturday. 

Getting a good nutritional start each day with a well-balanced breakfast minimizes the chances of low-blood sugar and major indulgences in foods with high sugar or fat content later in the day.  Eating every two hours will also sustain your blood-sugar and minimize these indulgences.  Another good habit is not to eat too late in the day.  I try to limit my carbohydrate intake after 7:00 p.m.  

I recently mentioned the importance of a post-run routine (e.g., changing into warm comfortable clothes, using the stick, foam roller and stretching, eating within 30-60 minutes, taking an ice bath etc.) that will also pay huge dividends in all aspects of your running.  Years of running can make you muscles tighten and contract, which places more stress on your tendons and ligaments.  Increasing flexibility in and around the areas that runners typically experience tightening, particularly hamstrings and calves, reduces the likelihood of an injury.

Just as beginning each day with a well-balanced breakfast is a good habit, so is beginning each week with a well planned and strategic run.  I have always accepted the reality that the first mile of every run is going to be the most difficult so I decrease my pace by nearly 2 minutes than I expect to average for the remaining miles.  This gradual decrease in pace allows my heart to gradually pump blood/oxygen to my major muscles.  I also focus on my running efficiency and breathing so that I develop a rhythm to each run. 

I also focus on the mental aspect of every run.  I expect the demons of doubt to join during the first mile of every run.  So I focus on why completing every run is important.  If you’re training for Boston, you simply need to think about April 18, 2011 and the importance of arriving at the starting line in the best possible physical shape and mental state.  And if you’re a charity runner you need no greater reminder than the funds that you are raising, which are so closely connected to your running, are making a considerable difference in the lives of others!

Running can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  Developing good habits will allow you to keep it simple, reduce injuries and maximize the enjoyment of your running!

Time To Reflect

Posted: January 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now that many of you are running our scheduled distances for the first time, it’s time to reflect how far you’ve come.   Look back to the moment that you first considered running the marathon.  It must seem so long ago since you’ve accomplished so much in just the past two months.  It has literally been less than two months since our first training run.

We’re not quite at the halfway point of our marathon preparation.  If you feel you’re behind schedule there’s plenty of time to make adjustments to get back on track.  Your primary objective should be to get to our 20 miler in relative good shape with minimal aches and pains.  All the small things that you should focus on collectively comprise your insurance policy for achieving this goal.

Many of you have mentioned you’ve already incorporated ice baths into your post run routine…I think this is an excellent idea.  This small investment of time and discomfort pays huge dividends with respect to recovery as well as preparing you for your next run.  It requires determination to endure one of the most counter-intuitive aspects of running (i.e., sitting in an ice bath for 10 minutes when you want to stand in a hot shower for an hour).  It’s always better to start with moderate water temperatures and gradually add ice.

I am convinced all of you are much more in tune with your bodies and are beginning to understand the signs you’re receiving.  The discussions that we have before and after our long runs have shown me that you’re becoming far more aware of what adjustments you need to make in order to manage the ever-changing way your body responds to the rigors of marathon training.  I have been through this process thousands of times with all the runners that I have coached.  And I can say unequivocally that you are the most sophisticated TEAM of runners that I have ever coached.  The questions and comments that we continuously discuss reflect your level of commitment that you have to this effort.

I also encourage you to reflect on ‘why’ you’ve decided to run the Boston Marathon for Access, Boston Debate League, Bottom Line, Jumpstart, Mass Mentoring Partnership, Museum of Science or Summer Search.  I’ve gone to each organizations TEAM website to read your profiles and your reasons for running Boston and I’m so encouraged and inspired by your commitment to raising funds to provide educational opportunities to the community each organization serves.

I can only hope that you have even a small appreciation and understanding of how much admiration that I have for you.  I understand how challenging it is to train for a marathon, particularly the Boston Marathon.  The weather has undoubtedly added a far greater degree of challenge also.  I know that if you reflect on how far you’ve come in just a few months, you will be inspired to maintain your commitment to your training and fundraising to ensure this is one of the most meaningful and empowering journeys of your life!

Time To Focus

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is the time during training where many runners struggle.  The New England weather continues to be a major challenge and the marathon seems so far away.  It’s important to sustain your focus through the middle of the training season so you don’t panic as the marathon approaches.

I recommend you analyze what you’ve done well and what areas of your training may need improving.  Achieving balance in all areas of your training (e.g., running consistency, cross-training, nutrition, hydration, sufficient rest, proper shoe selection, mental preparation, etc.) will improve your chances of success in the marathon.

One of the areas that most runners should focus on is the 30-60 minutes after each run.  Runner’s typically begin thinking about the completion of their run long before it actually ends.  Focusing on ‘running in the moment’ and concentrating on form and breathing is far more beneficial than being consumed by getting the run over.  I would encourage you maintain your focus on each training run for at least 30-60 minutes beyond the completion of the run.

Here are the things you should be focusing on:

1. Gradually allow your heart rate to return to its normal range

2. Getting into dry and comfortable clothing

3. Rehydrating and eating as quickly as possible

4. Using the stick and foam roller

5. Completing a thorough stretching routine

6. Elevate your legs and ice any areas where pain is present

7. Evaluating what you did well during the run as well as identifying areas of improvement

8. Utilize this assessment to adjust your training methods and plan for your next run

8. I also recommend that you take a nap afterwards

What you do away from training influences your marathon preparation as much as the act of running.  Don’t adopt a mindset that simply completing a run is your ultimate goal.  Sufficiently preparing for each run with proper nutrition, hydration, rest and proper clothing as well as the aforementioned post-run routine will ensure you’re maximizing your training effort.

Being thorough and developing a strategic plan fosters a feeling of confidence that pays huge dividends physically and mentally.  There’s no time like the present to discuss your training challenges with me so that I can get you back on track.

Staying focused on all aspects of your training is much easier than it appears.  It simply requires constant attention, assessment and adjustment.  And communicating with your coach is at the top of the list!

Challenge Of An Injury

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

I have been barely able to walk since Monday and resorted to utilizing crutches yesterday.  After running the Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon on January 16th I took 3 complete days off from any form of exercise.  By Thursday I had absolutely no pain and felt great.  I ran 6 miles on the treadmill and was amazed how I felt; my form was smooth and efficient and the run felt effortless.  Friday morning was my last opportunity to run in 78 degree weather before returning to much colder temperatures in New England so I ran 10 miles along the water in San Diego.  Again, I felt great and there was absolutely no indication of any residual effects from my marathon effort.

I arrived home early Saturday morning and was only able to get a couple of hours of sleep before driving to Boston to meet with the Marathon Coalition runners.  I felt extremely tired and cut my pace way back.  At the turnaround at the Fire Station I decided I would ease up the hills and cut my run short at 8 miles rather than the scheduled 13.  It’s very unusual for me to not complete the scheduled distance but I knew it was the best decision.  I stretched afterwards, drank several glasses of chocolate milk, and greeted everyone as they returned.  I took a nap for several hours and was in an extremely deep sleep as witnessed by the picture my lovely wife took of me with several props that her co-conspirator (4-year-old Macie Jo) placed strategically around me.  That evening we had dinner with friends and attended a Worcester Sharks hockey game…again no problems or issues.

On Monday I noticed a very slight pain in my left gastrocnemius and Tuesday morning I could barely walk.  I felt like I was listening closely to by body during the recovery process.  The lesson here is that you not only have to listen to all the signs your body is providing, you also need to be rational and employ caution as your body fully recovers from the effort of a long run or marathon.  While I felt great after my 3:27:47 effort, I should have cross-trained and incorporated a day of rest between my runs.

So now I have to manage all that being injured entails.  I have total confidence that I will manage this aspect of my training as well as if I were not injured.  Managing an injury can be challenging, particularly if you’re training for your first marathon, but I know I need to sustain a positive attitude throughout the transition back to pain-free running.  I will also continue to eat well, stay hydrated, get sufficient rest, and ease back into running by focusing on non and low-impact cross training for the foreseeable future.

While the pain of this injury is significant and makes even walking difficult, I don’t see this preventing me from running Boston in April.  I do see it as helping me to be a more enlightened and appreciative runner and coach.  I look forward to seeing all of you on Saturday.  Go TEAM!

Post Marathon Blues

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Many runners struggle physically and emotionally in the days and weeks following the marathon.   Taking a physical break and allowing your body to recover is far easier than dealing with the sense of loss or lack of focus in the aftermath of the marathon.

Marathon training can been so consuming, it significantly alters your lifestyle for months; it’s the focal point of every facet of your life.  Months of training, discipline, hard work and anticipation culminate in the excitement of completing the marathon.  The wave of excitement and sense of accomplishment for having achieved the marathon goal lingers for quite some time,  but, inevitably, many runners begin to feel a major void in their lives. How do you fill that void?  One solution is to begin planning your next marathon.  But what do you do if you’ve decided that you’re not interested in running another marathon?  I recommend that you channel a similar effort into another challenge.  Your options are limitless; you can choose another physical challenge,  decide to pursue higher education, a better employment opportunity or to improve some aspect of your life that’s been placed on hold for far too long.

It’s never too early to consider what life will be like once the marathon is over.  Not having to get to bed early on Friday night or leave home when it’s still dark on Saturday morning to attend the weekly long run with the TEAM is typically a welcomed change.  But, I recommend that you plan to have something to fill that HUGE void if you already know there’s not another marathon on the horizon.  I have never experienced  what I’ve described thus far since running  has been an integral part of my life for nearly 35 years and I usually just continue on to my next venture.  But I have witnessed this dynamic from many of the thousands of runners that I’ve coached in the last 15 years, and being prepared for the “let down” is helpful. 

As your coach, my hope and dream is that you will feel the marathon was such a powerful and meaningful experience that you begin to look at the world differently and, most importantly, that you begin to look at yourself differently.  My goal is not simply to get you to the finish line in Boston in relative comfort,  my goal is to show you that you’re far more capable of accomplishing things that you never imagined.  Life is far too precious and brief not to chase your dreams.  I want to convince you to embrace the possibility of failure and continue to challenge yourself for the balance of your life so that you will always take considerable pride in the pursuit of your dreams! 

I hope that the last step you take as you cross the finish line in Boston, is your first step in believing in yourself and knowing that you can make a difference in the world–  because you have!

The Power Of Giving

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Training for a marathon can be all-consuming and cause us to neglect other extremely important aspects of our lives.  I have given considerable thought recently to how my running has evolved since I began running marathons in 1978.  The evolution has taken me from focusing exclusively on myself and running fast times to coaching charity runners and thinking of others.

The Seminole moment for me was the last conversation I had with my mother in the Mayo Clinic before she passed from leukemia.  During that conversation I promised her that I would do something significant with my life; something that would make her proud.  I didn’t have much of an idea of what that effort would involve because I was consumed by the grief of losing her.  After offering the eulogy at her funeral, I returned to New England and decided to run the Ocean State Marathon in her memory.  It was an opportunity to reflect on my life with her and to also deal with all the emotions that were circulating throughout my body.  Serendipitously I noticed Leukemia Society of America signs throughout the course.

I spent 12 incredible years with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America.  I cultivated friendships there that will last my lifetime.  It is there that I learned the power of giving from the example of all the charity runners that Lori and I coached.  After deciding to leave the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society three years ago, I created a new coaching initiative with Mike Wasserman from Bottom Line that we refer to as The Marathon Coalition.  Our current TEAM is composed of 7 education-based charities:  Access, Boston Debate League, Bottom Line, Jumpstart, Mass Mentoring Partnership, Museum of Science and Summer Search.  I continue to learn and appreciate the power of giving from the efforts of The Marathon Coalition Runners.

Whether it’s the gift of life for someone suffering from a blood cancer or the gift of learning from someone being provided an opportunity to further their education, nothing is more powerful that empowering others through giving.  Charity runners rule the Kingdom of Giving!

That is why I find it completely annoying when I read an article in the Boston Globe or New England Runner accusing charity runners of depriving qualified runners the opportunity to run Boston.  The Boston Globe article ran in the aftermath of entries closing within 9 hours for the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Their position was that too many numbers were being allocated for charity runners and the implication was that charity runners are somehow less of a runner because they have not officially qualified to run the race.  I would argue that the critics should speak to the friends, families, or to the recipients benefitting from the millions of dollars raised by charity runners.  I’ve also had the honor of coaching qualified runners that step up, despite earning their way into the marathon on their running performance, and continue to raise money for charities.  They are Paul McCarron, Emily Schwartz, Maureen Fillipine, Mark Stavesky, Stephen Silveri, to name a few.

I would trade every marathon that I’ve run for the knowledge that I have made just a small difference in the life of someone.  This is the ideal that charity runners can stand proud on.  I have been at both ends of the spectrum…I have run Boston in 2:38 and have qualified for Boston in every marathon that I’ve run spanning five decades and I have coached charity runners for the past 15 years.  I don’t think any of the critics can say I feel I am eminently qualified to cast my vote in this argument…there is no argument…Charity Runners Rule because they understand the power of giving as well as anyone!

Managing Setbacks

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Many runners, particularly first-time marathoners, find considerable comfort in precisely following the training schedule.  But I’ve always felt that being flexible, closely following how you feel and adjusting your training accordingly, is always a more effective approach to successful marathon training.  Unfortunately, unexpected obstacles and challenges are part of life and ultimately affect training.  It’s important to accept the reality of this and make necessary adjustments to provide the most positive results.

The weather has been a major challenge during this training season.  Training on ice and snow-covered roads can be problematic from a safety standpoint, forcing runners inside to run on a treadmill or pursue other forms of cross-training.  Those choosing to remain outside can easily encounter various forms of running related injuries which can be extremely unsettling.  When you’re required to alter or modify your natural running form you place additional stress on parts of your body that may result in injury. 

I have spoken with several runners in this situation and I can appreciate how unsettling this is.  The tendency is to return to running as quickly as possible and make up for lost mileage.  The best advice is to remain calm and patient as a quick return to training can exacerbate the injury.  It’s far better to err on being conservative and incorporate cross-training until you’re able to run pain-free.  It’s also important to identify the cause of the pain/injury and develop a strategy, hopefully with my help, in an effort to return to the training schedule as quickly as possible.

Runners have a tendency to over stretch an area that’s troubling them which can also postpone recovery.  One of the more common injuries is iliotibial band syndrome and most PT’s recommend stretching as part of their protocol.  I can appreciate this recommendation but I’ve seen this injury linger because of the stretching.  I think stretching an already inflamed tendon, ligament or muscle isn’t advisable.  RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is the basic foundation for recovery along with low or non-impact cross training.

In summary, it’s far more beneficial to take a deep breath and not panic when you experience pain significant enough to prevent you from running.  Contact me immediately and offer your insight into the location and cause of the pain.  Rest assured that I can get you back on track with your training in a timely manner and minimize the loss of training benefits to this point in your training. 

Managing setbacks effectively is an important part of marathon training success.  Communicate with me and I’ll do everything necessary to assist you in handling the challenges and obstacles of your training!

You’ve had a challenging workout and it’s time for a recovery day.  Does that mean you have a free pass to lie on the couch all day?  Possibly.  But you could also recover with a workout, which would likely be more effective.  An active recovery should involve some form of cross training other than running- walking biking, swimming, yoga, weights, etc.- as long as you keep the intensity low, and your heart rate at no more than 50-60 percent.  On a scale of 1-10, your workout should be at an effort level of about  a 4, and you should be able to talk without being out of breath.  Being active on your recovery day allows your muscles to recover, yet it helps flush the lactic acid and still gives the benefit of calorie burn.  

 On the other hand, a passive recovery might be just what you need.  If you feel particularly tired (from, say, traveling, racing, or any other reason) or if your immune system is feeling compromised, a snooze on the couch might just be your best choice.  Taking a complete day off does have merit when your body calls for it.  Listen to your body. 

But, one piece of advice before curling up for your nap… consider choosing a private location for optimal rest- otherwise, you could be the main source of family entertainment on an otherwise boring winter afternoon.:-)  

Rick napping with a panda pillow pet. Yes, that is a Rapunzel hair clip on his hat, and a Rapunzel book on his chest.

 So, active vs. passive recovery- it’s your choice- there are benefits to both.:-)

Transformational Running

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Running has been instrumental in my transformation into someone eager to test my limits.  I have never wanted to be just another face in the crowd.  Far too many people are comfortable with being average and mediocre.  Most runners are drawn to this lifestyle because they’re motivated to explore their limits and capabilities.

Many runners that I’ve coached the past 15 years are primarily interested in testing their physical limits at the marathon distance.  But in the process of preparing for this monumental distance, they begin discovering far more about themselves than they ever expected.  Marathon training can be extremely humbling…it reveals your limitations and weaknesses relatively early.  If you’re comfortable accepting the reality of your limitations and develop a plan to improve them, you will learn far more about your capabilities than you ever imagined.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of coaching is observing the transformation of runners from the initial kick-off to the completion of the marathon.  Frankly I have no interest in just getting runners to the finish line in relative comfort.  I’m compelled to continue coaching because I find amazing inspiration from seeing runners realize that, if they can complete a marathon (particularly Boston), they can accomplish practically anything they commit themselves to.

My greatest hope for my Marathon Coalition runners is that they are transformed from someone who simply wants to complete a marathon to believing in the importance of serving others and being inspired to spend their lives testing their physical, emotional, and spiritual limits!

Return To Running

Posted: January 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

It has been four days since Sunday’s Rock n’ Roll Marathon and I have absolutely no soreness remaining in my legs…that’s very encouraging.  What has concerned me is the pain I’ve had in my left Achilles since June when I returned from my 5,000 mile motorcycle journey.  Keeping up foot in the same position while riding 8-12 hours each day wreaked havoc on my Achilles and I likely developed some tendonitis.  I’ve struggled with it for 6 months.  It was excruciating the morning after the marathon when I could barely walk the first half of the day.  People would have understood had I been wearing my finisher’s medal.  Instead, I look like a hobbling middle-aged man.  As an aside, I had given my finishers medal to my sister just after crossing the finish line.  One of the most emotional moments that I’ve ever shared with her…I will always cherish that moment!

I have iced it regularly since the marathon and I’m going to test it this morning.  I’m currently in San Diego and it’s only 5:30 a.m. so I will utilize the fitness center in the hotel.  It has to be the best fitness center I’ve ever seen in a hotel.  There are 20 incredible treadmills overlooking the Harbor.  I will have a glass of organic carrot juice, a banana, and a CLIF bar and begin the journey back from the marathon.

I cannot recall recovering so quickly from a marathon.  The 3:28:47 (7:57 pace) didn’t place too much stress on my body.  In a recent Facebook post I was very critical of the Rock n’ Roll series for being so well marketed but clearly over-hyped.  I must have also seemed a little discouraged because I ran my slowest time despite qualifying for Boston.  A friend responded and was quick to remind me that I should give the RNR series another chance and to be grateful for the qualifying time.  As he put it, “That’s quite an accomplishment for someone your age!”  I know Dave meant that in the most positive way and I really needed to hear his message.

So I’m grateful for his wisdom and insight.  And I’m equally grateful that I’ve now qualified for Boston in every marathon that I’ve run since 1979.  I am proud that I have qualified for Boston in 5 separate decades!  The days following a marathon can be the most introspective days I experience.  Running marathons just helps me appreciate all the small things in life.   I’m certainly grateful for my family, my health, my job and all the abundance that I’ve been blessed with.  I’m also grateful to be a marathon running coach for the Boston Marathon.

The Marathon Coalition runners inspire me to continue to try to make a difference in the world.  I am convinced the best legacy to have is one of serving others and each one of them embodies that spirit.  I am so excited to be returning to New England tomorrow night at midnight after being away for 11 days and attending training on Saturday.

My hope is that my run goes well this morning and I’ll be running with the TEAM on Saturday!

UPDATE:  I just completed a 6 mile run on the treadmill and had absolutely no problems with my Achilles.  In fact, I felt stronger today than I did during the marathon…extremely encouraging!