Archive for December, 2012

Happy New Year!

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s always nice to start the New Year with a clean slate…a new beginning. The New Year provides hope, promise and a chance to make necessary changes to improve our lives.

It’s also an opportunity to assess our fitness goals and identify the greatest opportunity for improvement. As a marathon running coach for nearly 18 years, I see trends in runners of all abilities. Nutrtition, flexibility and core strength are the areas most neglected.

Nutrition is often neglected because it can be very confusing and people just surrender to doing the best they can. Proper nutrition requires planning and discipline, which can be extremely challenging with our fast-paced lives. Consuming a well-balanced and healthy breakfast is the best way to start each day. Skipping breakfast produces low-blood sugar and causes temptations to consume foods high in sugar and fat. Eating smaller meals composed of nutrient rich foods throughout the day helps to regulate blood sugar and minimize the tempation to eat unhealthy foods. Minimizing large meals late in the day is also helpful in avoiding excess weight. Running at the ideal weight for your body structure will help reduce impact and injury.

Flexibility diminishes as we age. Not stretching after a run can exacerbate tightness and create imbalance in running specific muscles-leading to inefficent running and injury. Every run can seem so challenging and it feels so good to just do nothing afterwards. Develop a plan to change into comfortable clothes upon finishing a run, eat and hydrate immediately and transition into your stretching program and you will immediately enjoy the rewards. Spending 15 minutes thoroughly and properly stretching will improve your running economy and minimize injuries.

Having a strong core improves general posture and provides a strong center of gravity. This allows for easier breathing and maintaing proper form throughout a run. A weak core manifests itself in inefficient running economy, requiring major running muscles to work harder than necessary and increasing the risk of injury.

Developing a sound plan for these 3 key areas will yield a significant return on your investment of time. Successful running involves so much more than running. Piecing this puzzle together to fit your lifestyle and running goals should be a top priority in 2013.

I hope that your New Year is filled with great health, hope and inspiration!

Benefits Of Rotating Running Shoes

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Rotating multiple pairs of running shoes provides two primary benefits:

  • Extended mileage
  • Reduced injury risk

Your running shoes need rest just as you do.  The midsoles of most running shoes is made up of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) which is an air blown rubber composed of thousands of tiny air bubbles.  The primary purpose of the midsole is to absorb shock and provide cushioning or stability.  The density or durometer of the midsole determines its characteristics or feel.  You place 3-4 times your body weight of force on your lower extremities with every foot strike.  Consider that your feet strike the ground over a thousand times per mile, multiplied by the mileage of each run and that’s a considerable about of force.

This force compresses and weakens these microscopic air bubbles.  It can take up to 48 hours after a run for the midsoles to expand back to their full resiliency and regain their shock absorbing capabilities.  If you run consistently, wearing only one pair of running shoes can prematurely exhaust the midsole.  Rotating just two pairs of running shoes will outlast the life of 3 pairs worn separately.  While purchasing multiple pairs of running shoes can be expensive, it’s far more economical in the long run!

Training in multiple shoes can also help to decrease the risk of injury.  Injuries can occur when training in only one pair of shoes because your lower extremities become accustomed to the gait cycle.  Going from a completely exhausted pair of running shoes (approximately 400+ miles) to a brand new pair can be too much of a radical change and places unnecessary stress on your lower extremities-often resulting in injury.  Rotating multiple pairs of shoes prevents your legs from being accustomed to just one range of motion, even if you’re running in multiple pairs of the same model.

If you are a neutral runner you can run in any genre or running shoe (i.e. motion control, stability, minimalist, lightweight trainer, etc.).  If you need stability or motion control, it isn’t advisable to also run in any of the aforementioned categories.  Many runners prefer a softer or more cushioned shoes for runs beyond 10 miles and firmer, lighter weight shoes for shorter distances.

I recommend noting in your running journal the shoes you wear for each run.  This allows you to track the mileage and reduce or avoid injury by proactively replacing shoes at the end of their lifecycle.

Make the investment and rotate at least two pairs of shoes and you will be rewarded with extended life (mileage) in your shoes and reduce the risk of injury…two priorities of every runner!

Monitoring The Small Details

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Running in the moment and focusing exclusively on your running form will serve you well.  This is  as we tend to focus more on how many miles are remaining in our run and what we have planned for the balance of the day.  It’s so easy to allow our mind to wander as a mild form of escapism from the rigors of running.

Focusing on your form and allowing your mind to wander aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.  You simply have to check in with your body periodically to make sure it hasn’t strayed too far off course.  Much like a pilot of your own body, you have a pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight checklist that will guide you through a successful run.

Before each run you need to be rested, well hydrated and properly fueled.  As you begin your run you should focus on starting slowly (i.e., your first two miles should be run at a pace that’s two minutes per mile slower than you expect to average for the remaining miles…it will seem rather pedestrian) and easing into a rhythm.  This is the perfect time to ‘practice’ proper and efficient running technique.

During your run it’s imperative to monitor your breathing and arm carriage.  So many runners waste energy by swinging their arms needlessly.  Your feet should be landing directly beneath you and at a stride rate of 180 SPM (steps per minute).  If your feet are slapping the road or your making a lot of noise you are undoubtedly running very inefficiently.  Run tall and keep your shoulders back.  Your hands should be relaxed as though you’re carrying a butterfly in each one.  Maintaining your form throughout your run will allow you to expend less energy and avoid injury.  Runners tend to lose their form as their run progresses which causes them to go through a greater range of motion and placing additional stress on their lower extremities…increasing the likelihood of an injury.

As each run concludes it’s important to allow your heart rate to gradually return to normal levels by walking for 4-5 minutes afterwards.  Using the Roll Recovery R8 ( and stretching are investments that pay significant long-term benefits.  Eating and rehydrating within the first 30 minutes of concluding a run will help with the recovery process and prepare your body for the next workout.

Pay close attention to all the small details of every aspect of your runs and you’ll get into better shape with less effort.  You will receive a greater return on your investment, avoid injury and enhance your enjoyment of running considerably!

Setting Realistic Goals

Posted: December 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Setting realistic goals for the New Year will allow you to avoid disappointment.  It’s far more effective to prioritize your goals and focus on the Top 3.  Some of the more common resolutions for runners are:

  • Be more consistent with training
  • Improve nutrition by eating a well-balanced diet and avoid processed foods high in preservatives and sugar
  • Improve flexibility
  • Focus on running more efficiently
  • Remain injury-free

Ironically, these are going to be my goals for 2013.  I’m looking forward to my best year of running.  I am not running as fast as I once did, but I can certainly garner as much enjoyment from running as I ever have.  It’s also important to be a great role model for the runners I coach so that’s added incentive to focus on these areas.

Keeping a journal has always been an effective method of assessing my running and making the requisite adjustments.  My daily journal entry includes:

  • Total Miles Run
  • Course Description and Location
  • Average Pace
  • Average and Maximum Heart Rate.
  • Weight
  • Hours Slept
  • Temperature
  • Shoes worn
  • Rank Each Run On A Scale Of 1-10 (10 being the best)
  • General Comments About Each Run And My Attitude

It’s important to accept the reality that you’ll have setbacks and disappointments.  How you respond to them will determine how effective you are in achieving your goals for 2013.

The recipe for success is establishing realistic goals, developing a strategy steeped in reason and having dogged determination in your pursuit of achieving them.

I hope your New Year exceeds your expectations and is filled with promise and great health!

In Memory Of Bob Taylor

Posted: December 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

The temperature was 27 degrees when I began my run this morning @ 8:00 a.m.  I ran  hard during yesterday’s run with the Marathon Coalition so I was planning to take it easy and cruise through a 10 mile run.  A friend of mine lost her father 8 years ago today so I dedicated today’s run to his memory…this one was for you Bob Taylor!

I glanced at my Garmin after the first mile and was surprised at the 7:03 pace.  Dedicated a run to someone seems to have a magical way of putting everything in perspective…thinking about others and feeling a greater degree of appreciation always yields positive results.

I normally try to run the first two miles of every run approximately 2 minutes slower than I plan to average for the remaining miles.  Rather than allowing negative thoughts to dominate these first two miles, I focus on practicing proper and efficient running form.  I decided to run by feel and not worry about time.  I just felt so strong and relaxed so I went with it.  I attribute this to a much improved diet and more consistent training.  I’ve also been investing more time in stretching and yoga after each run.

Once I entered the hilly part of this 10 mile run I throttled back my pace slightly.  I have battled chronic issues with my calves and I was also running in Zero Drop shoes to strengthen my feet and calves-pushing the pace would have been too risky.  I focused on having perfect form through this challenging section of the course.

As I neared the last 2 miles I wanted to continue my run.  But I chose to just ease in and save some energy for the next run.

Upon returning home I stretched in front of the pellet stove and visited with Rider and Macie Jo-both of whom are over the moon with excitement for Christmas.  I spent about 20 minutes with the Roll Recovery R8.  I attribute the R8 with allowing me to return to running sooner than I expected.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful time of year with those that you love.  Take time to think of those loved ones no longer with us and attempt to honor their memory by living life in a way that would make them proud…this was for you Bob Taylor!

Robert Marland Taylor

Track Workout

Posted: December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

I completed a track workout just before I lost the last glimmer of light.  I was running on the new Grafton High School track and was the only runner using this multi-million dollar facility…I didn’t seem worthy.  Fog began rolling in as I was completing my last mile repeat and provided a calmness to another great workout.  I love running on the track.  Having fewer distractions allows me to focus on practicing proper and efficient technique.

I completed a 50 mile and 62 mile run on the previous track which was in desperate need of replacement.  I am determined to complete a 100 mile run on this new track but I have a full racing schedule to complete beforehand.

I will begin the year with a 5K in Whitinsville with Lori and Rider.  I will then focus on the New Bedford half-marathon.  I last ran this race in 1997 and ran 1:20:50 (6:10 min. pace).  I would like to run 1:25  (6:30 min. pace) in March.  This will be a tune-up for the Providence Marathon in May.  I’m committed to keeping my running streak alive of qualifying for Boston in 31 consecutive marathons over 5 decades.  My qualifying time for Boston is now 3:30 (8:00 min. pace) and will go to 3:40 (8:25 min. pace).

My first 24 marathons were all sub 3:00 hour efforts and would love to approach that milestone again.  It will take a herculean effort to complete another marathon under 7:00 minute pace but I have set that as my primary goal in 2013.  I plan to run the Marine Corps Marathon later in 2013 after the busiest racing season in years.

I have invested a significant amount of time and effort into coaching marathoners the past 17 years but I’m now eager to test myself on this grand scale again.  While my marathon PR of 2:33:13 (5:50 min. pace) is decades behind me, I still have the drive and determination to race some amazing times for a soon to be 55 year old.

Small Details Matter

Posted: December 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Most runners focus entirely on running itself and not nearly enough on the details that significantly impact their runs.  For instance, preparation for the next run begins at the conclusion of the previous run.

Stretching, hydration, and eating well upon concluding a run helps in the recovery and fuels muscles for the next run.  Another often overlooked aspect of training is monitoring RHR (resting heart rate) each morning to determine how well your body is responding to your current level of training and what adjustments are necessary to upcoming workouts.  Many runners base their workouts on a training program they’re now following, the weather or how much time they have.  While these things are certainly important factors, it’s far more beneficial to base the distance and intensity of each run on how you’re feeling.

Actually practicing your form is the perfect beginning to each run.  I recommend running the first 2 miles 90-120 seconds slower than the pace you expect to run the remaining miles.  This allows your body to acclimate to the rigors of running and to also practice efficient and proper running form.  Establishing this routine at the beginning of each run will help battle negative thoughts and the demons of doubt that appear in the early stages of a run.

Incorporating regular and brief walk breaks during a run also help to sustain energy levels that result in more efficient running.  As fatigue develops, form diminishes and the risk of injury increases.

Surprisingly, running shoes require rest.  It takes approximately 24-48 hours for the midsole of running shoes to fully recovery.  This part of the shoe is composed of thousands of air bubbles that act as shock absorbers for the 3-4 times your body weight of force that’s placed on your lower extremities with each foot strike.  Rotating more than one pair of running shoes provides extended life to your shoes and helps to prevent injury…your lower extremities don’t become accustomed to one pair of shoes and one gait cycle.  Surprisingly, runners that train in only one pair of shoes can actually be at higher risk of injury when going to a new pair of shoes.  This results from such a radical change in the gait cycle of changing from shoes with a lot of miles to a brand new pair.

Runners that focus on all facets of running (i.e.. stretching, proper warm-up,  incorporating regular walk breaks, rotating shoes, wearing proper clothing, adjusting training according to feel, and eating well) experience greater progress and more enjoyable running.

Paying closer attention to the smaller details results in a far greater return on your investment of time and energy into your running.

The Importance Of Quiet Time

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

It can be extremely difficult to find quiet time.  But it is one of the greatest gifts you can provide yourself…particularly at the beginning of each day.  Waking up to an alarm clock can be the beginning of an extremely anxiety filled and disruptive day.  If you rely on an alarm clock each morning, go to sleep 15 minutes earlier and set your alarm 15 minute earlier and spend those 15 minutes on yourself.

You can plan your day out and prioritize the things you want to accomplish.  You can assess how you spent the day before and identify areas you would like to improve.  Spending this brief time performing a few yoga exercises will certainly begin your day on a positive note.  Simply taking a few minutes to meditate and focusing all the positive aspects of your life is the perfect beginning to a new day.

Our days are so filled with tasks and responsibilities that we never feel there’s enough time in the day, particularly for ourselves.  But spending just a few quiet minutes in the morning to focus our thoughts, prioritize our day and to physically stretch our bodies is the perfect beginning to every day!

Practice Makes Perfect

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Runners tend not to practice!  I have strongly encouraged the runners that I coach to spend at least a portion of each run practicing their form.  This investment of time will provide a significant return in the form of injury-free running and more efficient and enjoyable running.  It is counterintuitive to think you can run faster and longer with less energy…but that’s exactly what occurs when your form is dialed in and perfected.

The ideal time to focus on form is at the beginning of each run.  The first two miles of every run should be at a pace that’s 2 minutes slower than you expect to average for the remaining miles; excluding your cool down.  It’s important to begin each run with a structure or methodology.  For instance, I begin in the same position (i.e., feet shoulder width apart, chin straight ahead, lean forward from the ankles and begin with a brisk walk which transitions smoothly into a run in a matter of 10 steps).

I think go through a mental checklist that focuses on:

1. Landing with my feet directly beneath my body

2. Landing softly on my mid-foot

3. Leaning slightly forward from my ankles

4. Maintaining a slight bend in each knee to help in shock absorption

5. Maintaining a stride rate of 180 SPM (steps per minute)

6. Keeping my hands and shoulders relaxed

7. Breathing should also be relaxed

This process takes time to develop so patience is a virtue.  Form typically diminishes as one becomes tired so I strongly recommend taking regular walk breaks (i.e., 1 minute of brisk walking for every 9 minutes of running).  This provides a mental and physical break as well as allows your heart to pump large volumes of blood/oxygen to your major muscles.  You will be more likely to maintain proper and efficient running form throughout your runs.

Take the time to incorporate practice into every run and you will be richly rewarded!

The Training Season Is Underway

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Training has begun in earnest today for the 2013 Boston Marathon!  The start of a new training season promises to be filled with challenge, empowerment and inspiration.  It’s always exciting to begin training a new group of runners and share my 35 years of experience and love of running.  It continues to astonish me that many of the runners will be running the 2013 Boston Marathon as their first marathon.

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 1979 after running 2:59:55 and qualifying by just 5 seconds, which is only 1-2 steps after running 26.2 miles.  I didn’t even know what the Boston Marathon was when I approached the starting line of the Richmond Newspapers Marathon that morning in Richmond, Virginia so I certainly didn’t know I needed to break 3 hours.  I knew so little about marathoning before running my first marathon.  I had never run more than 7 miles beforehand and I consumed a large stack of pancakes just before the race.  I then ran 4 marathons within 6 months, all Sub-3 hour efforts.  My running accomplishments pale in comparison to what we accomplish as a TEAM.

We had our kick-off for the Marathon Coalition last week at the Museum of Science.  It was heartwarming to hear representatives from  the 13 charities present their respective mission.  I felt so proud as I  and observed the night unfold.  The Marathon Coalition didn’t exist 5 years ago and was spawned from my desire to continue coaching after being the head coach at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ‘s Team In Training program for 12 years and the vision of Mike Wasserman of Bottom Line.

The Marathon Coalition consists of the following charities:

  • uAspire
  • Boston Partners in Education
  • Bottom Line
  • Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester
  • Boys & Girls Club of Newton
  • Camp Shriver
  • College Bound Dorchester
  • Dream-Big!
  • Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Jumpstart
  • Mass Mentoring Partnership
  • Museum of Science
  • Summer Search

So many students will benefit from the fundraising efforts of each Marathon Coalition runner.  The gift of hope, particularly for a better education, can be life altering!  Each Marathon Coalition runner should find considerable comfort in knowing they will make a significant difference in the lives of so many from their effort during the next 5 months.  The money raised is an annuity that will sustain itself for generations.

I cherish my role as a coach, it ranks right beside being a husband and a father.  I enter each training season with the knowledge that it’s going to be extremely challenging to prepare nearly 200 runners to run Boston.  But I also know it’s going to be an incredibly rewarding 5 months that will be completely worth the effort.  Having Coach Greg will considerable change the coaching dynamic.  We are so fortunate to have his expertise, passion and commitment.

Our goal is always to prepare each runner to complete Boston in relative comfort.   Greg and I are mindful of the importance of being the best role models possible in an effort to inspire them to accomplish more than they ever imagined in life…well beyond the finish line of the Boston Marathon!