How to improve your running on low mileage

To succeed as a long distance runner developing endurance will give you the greatest gains. The easiest way to develop endurance is to increase your aerobic mileage, in simple terms the more you run the better you’ll become as a runner.

What do you do if you can’t increase your mileage? We all have challenges that compete with us for time to be out the door running. Whether that be your career, family, other interests or sleep. So what do you do if you can only commit to low mileage and want to improve as a runner.

As Hal Higdon’s recent tweet suggests, ‘endurance is a skill that responds to intelligent training.’ Certainly increasing the volume you are running is the most proven way to increase endurance there are other ways.

A low mileage running focus requires that each and every run has a purpose. If time is your enemy to higher mileage then making the most of all of your time is vital. Each run must compliment the other runs and also assist you in achieving your goals.

In these pages we normally recommend a training strategy that encompasses training that builds strength, speed and endurance. On a low mileage philosophy endurance takes a higher priority. Whilst strength and speed is important, it is endurance which is going to get you to the finish line.

When using a low mileage training plan utilise time instead of counting miles or kilometres. The time you spend running is valuable, counting kilometres can often lead to runners overtraining on specific runs and trying to push runs faster to increase kilometres. Incidental increases in mileage aren’t nearly as important as running each run with a purpose.

Spend your time building endurance. In the very least this means running a regular aerobic long run. This does not have to be super long but needs to be sufficiently longer in time then your other runs. Again there isn’t any additional benefit to running these runs harder in the attempt to cover more distance. The benefit will come from regularly training the aerobic system.

Hills are the best running session to build strength. However they can also be beneficial in building endurance in addition to strength. By running your long runs and other aerobic runs over undulating terrain you will build both the aerobic system and build strength. When you are utilising a low mileage training plan making the most of each run is vital.

With limited time you may have to prioritise when you aim to build strength and speed. While you may not use regular shorter hill repeat sessions as often, they should still be in your plan. This is also true for interval sessions designed to build speed. You may run these on alternative weeks.

Planning your weeks is important if time is against you. Make sure you can schedule your time you can run and plan your runs in advance around when you are able to run. Having a plan of when you can commit your time helps with motivation and keeps you accountable to your training plan. If you can only run four days a week plan out which run fits best into the four days. When you have the most time plan your long run, when you have your least time plan your harder hill repeat or intervals so you can get the most out of the time you have.

Another aspect of training that shouldn’t be ignored is recovery. Even with low mileage recovery is important. Easy runs should still form part of your training plan as they allow the body to recover quicker from your harder training. Easy runs also ensure your hard sessions don’t follow each other and you have adequate time to recovery from hard sessions and long runs

For recreational runners that still want to get the best out of themselves there is still a way to succeed on low mileage. You will need to be patient and consistent with your efforts. However, if you are motivated to succeed, plan your training and commit to the process running on low mileage can be a successful strategy.

Skinners Sockshoes – Review

Skinners are a revolutionary minimal sockshoe. They are described by Skinners as a ‘The ultimate pocket footwear designed for all your adventures, travel and sports. Minimal. High-tech. Anti-Odour. Durable. Awesome.” Backing up this claim Skinners won a Red Dot design award in 2017 and their crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter raised over US $650 000 with an initial goal of just US $10 000. It was an impressive beginning for this fledgling brand.

Skinners list the uses as fitness, yoga, camping, hiking, running, office, roller blading or simply anywhere. They are designed as a minimal all-purpose footwear alternative. This review is aimed at Skinners purely from a running perspective.

Since they became popular in the minimal scene I have been very interested to use and try Skinners. They are an intriguing product and can’t be described as a shoe and offer more protection than simply a sock. 

Prior to trying this product I had reservations on a couple of points. 

  1. Longevity – How could these ‘socks’ withstand constant running on hard surfaces and the ‘sole’ remain intact?
  2. Structure – As a sock becomes worn they stretch, would Skinners stretch and lose structure and comfort?

I wanted to make sure I gave them a good test, running over many different surfaces and test them out as a pure running footwear alternative.

To look at Skinners are simply a sock with a rubbery granular coating over the sole of the sock. The sole is thicker than I had expected. On first wearing they are exactly like a sock and the sole coating offers no rigid structure at all. For this reason the running experience in Skinners is quite different.

Without any rigid structure under the foot the foot can feel everything under foot. The running experience with Skinners is very similar to completely barefoot running, however the protection offered, however minimal does provide enough protection. Running in Skinners is very successfully over almost all terrain.

I tested Skinners over road, trails both hard packed dirt and rocky single trail and also on the beach and both soft and hard sand. Over all surfaces the Skinners were acceptable, over rocky trails they didn’t quite give enough protection for the runner who isn’t already running regularly completely barefoot on rough terrain.

One of my favourite quotes regarding barefoot running is from ‘Born to Run’ author Chris McDougall who says ‘The more minimal you are the more aware you are.” Skinners certainly fit into this category and give you the awareness of everything under foot. Most of the time this is a good thing as it gives you feel of the ground and a very natural barefoot running feel.

  • Longevity

After running in Skinners regularly over the past 6 weeks the longevity is certainly adequate. I have run so far just over 100km in them and given them a thorough test. As I expected in a short period of time the rubbery granular sole started to come off the sole directly on the foot impact points. This doesn’t pose any problem as it is natural wear of the sole and happens to all running footwear. The rubber sole of a shoe takes longer to wear, however is much more rigid. The sole coming away doesn’t deteriorate further with more running and for the 100km I’ve run has maintained similar wear to even after 2-3 runs.

Only very recently has the sole started to crack in one position directly under the ball of my foot, but only on one of the Skinners. From my experience I believe the Skinners will continue to wear with more miles run in them but overall the longevity expected is similar to most traditional running shoes.

However, if you are buying Skinners as your primary running footwear and want 1000km+ from them you may be disappointed. Overall I believe Skinners will offer fairly good longevity and value for money.

Skinners wearing after approx 100km of running
  • Structure

My other reservation was whether Skinners would lose structure and stretch like socks tend to do after a longer period of time. I was very impressed that they have not altered in structure at all in the time of run with them.

One of the few negatives I have found is after a few runs they can become smelly and require washing. They can easily be machine washed, which I have done 3-4 times following the care instructions. This has also not contributed to them losing any structure and this reservation was completely unfounded.

Skinners are quite a thick sock which may be another reason why they hold their structure so well. However, running in Skinners late in the Australian summer the feet quickly become quite hot. They are much better suited to mild or cool weather, which certainly make sense as a barefoot running alternative. Stay barefoot in summer and wear the sock shoes in winter perhaps.

Who should use Skinners?

From a pure running point of view Skinners are not for every runner. If you have not transitioned to run in minimal shoes or barefoot they are probably not for you. Yet.

If you have run for a period of time without injuries barefoot or in minimal shoes these are for you. They are perfect for the runner who believes in running barefoot but wants the protection from the elements of having something between you and the ground. They give a very natural barefoot experience and are excellent for this type of runner.

If you have run in minimal shoes and transitioned to zero drop running then these could be a great footwear to add to your arsenal. They may not be your go to primary running footwear but they are a great asset to have to add variety to your footwear options.

If you run in traditional shoes and haven’t transitioned to any barefoot or minimal style footwear Skinners could be your ticket to initiate change. They will give you a perfect introduction to barefoot running and may kick start your barefoot running journey.

Overall

Skinners are a pure barefoot running footwear option that gives the runner enough protection from harsh surfaces without inhibiting the feet’s movement. They are a very good minimal running option for most surfaces. Skinners are a product very much suited to a colder climate and for a barefoot runners winter footwear, they are however quite hot in a warm climate.

I’m satisfied that Skinners will give longevity equal to most traditional running shoes that have a much larger price tag.  After regular use and repeated machines washes Skinners keep their structure and don’t stretch out of shape.

Skinners are a viable running option for anyone experienced or considering barefoot running. Whilst they won’t be my primary running footwear for training or racing they will certainly find a place in my footwear rotation for the foreseeable future.

Port Macquarie Half Marathon 2019 – Race Report

Upon entering the Port Macquarie Half Marathon in January this year I knew that training for this race was going to be limited. With some changes to my family dynamic over the last few months training at my preferred early mornings has been problematic. I planned to do as much training as I could and give my best on race day.

Port Macquarie Half Marathon is in my hometown and this was my fourth attempt at the race. It has grown in popularity and professionalism over the past few years and is now a must do destination race on the NSW Mid North Coast.

With my training limited through the start of this year I hadn’t been able to do a real half marathon preparation with a longest training run of 13km for the year. The time I had to train I concentrated on building aerobic fitness and strength by regularly running over hilly terrain near my home.

Last year one this course I ran a personal best half marathon of 79:40. This year I tempered my expectations and decided to aim for around an 85 minute half marathon or 4:02 min/km average pace. With a three lap course my plan was to start somewhat conservatively and try and roll through the field over the back half of the race.

After some wild thunderstorms on Saturday evening, Sunday race day arrived to an overcast but humid morning. Arriving at the start I felt good about my chances of running to my goal time. I positioned myself close to the front of the start line and when under way was conscious of my pacing early. I had planned to start the race with a pace between 4:05-4:10 for the first few kilometres and went through the first km in 3:54. I immediately slowed down and run to my plan, the next few kilometres were 4:09 and 4:06 and felt easy and I was happy to speed up slightly and went through the first of three 7km laps averaging 4:05 min/km. Feeling good and happy with how this lap had progressed.

Lap 2 was much of the same, I concentrated closely on keeping my pace even and not racing. During this lap I started to overtake a number of people that had gone out quite hard and felt good pushing myself through the field. This motivated me to keep my pace consistent and try and run through more of the field but mindful not to over pace my race at this stage, still a long way to go. By the end of the second lap I had started to fatigue but was still happy with my ability to run the 4:05 min/km average pace I was running.

Lap 3 I was still running through the field but less so than the second lap. Still I was happy whenever I overtook a runner. At this time in the half marathon fatigue is starting to build and to maintain my pace I had to give my best effort. There were times between 16-18km where I felt my pace was slowing as I felt fatigued but was happy to see my pace hadn’t slowed and when I dug deep I was able to keep this pace. This was apparent until the last 2km where my pace slowed to around 4:20 min/km, by this time I was satisfied with my race and wasn’t in a position to lose or gain a place on course. I felt pleased to come across the line in 1:25:40 for 14th place overall. Just outside my pre-race goal but happy with how the race unfolded for me.

Out of the four times I’ve run this event this is my slowest time, in fact I was six minutes slower than the same day a year ago. Yet I felt a lot of satisfaction from this race. Most runners know that for the most part you get the results you train for, when you put in the work the results come. Knowing that I hadn’t put in the work and adjusting my expectations accordingly gave this race a different perspective in my mind. I believe I gave my best effort and ran this race to the best my fitness would allow.

Another aspect I am happy with is my ability to run to my plan. Had I started and attempted to run an 80 min half marathon the third and possibly second lap would have been quite different. I’m pleased I was able to pace my race as planned and not react to having many runners in front of me early in the race. I walk away from this race feeling good about the races I have planned for later in the year when I can commit to a better training block.

For now it’s back to putting in more training hours and getting my fitness back to a place that allows me to run my best times. As always that’s a journey and not a destination and my fitness will build over the next few months.

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Eliud Kipchoge in London. Whats next?

 

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How do you follow up a 2:01:39 marathon? What should we expect from Eliud Kipchoge in his first race since the astonishing world record run in Berlin in September 2018 when he lines up in the London Marathon on April 28th 2019. In Berlin Kipchoge climbed the marathoners Mt Everest and then some, it’ll be interesting to see what his next race shows.

There are a few possibilities in how the race unfolds for him, we will presume he has trained well and in similar shape to that at Berlin. Its a safe presumption as Kipchoge has been in brilliant marathon form over the past 4-5 years. Undefeated and rarely challenged for victory his efforts have been so supreme.

Kipchoge has won in London three times in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Missing the race in 2017 to take part in the Nike Breaking 2 project. In the 2016 race he set the current course record of 2:03:05 which on that day fell agonisingly 8 seconds short of the then world record held by Dennis Kimetto. Victory this year would make Kipchoge the races first four time winner, something that seems inevitable even with a deep world class field entered. Media will likely centre around a duel with Britain’s Mo Farah or former world record holder Wilson Kipsang but neither appear to be a match. Farah’s personal best of 2:05:11 is far from competitive with Kipchoge and Kipsang was 5 minutes behind in Berlin and hasn’t been able to reproduce his best running since breaking the world record in 2016.

If Kipchoge is to be challenged in London it’ll likely be the clock and his search for further marathon immortality which poses the greatest challenge. How close then the great man come to the 2 hour mark, and can this be done in London. Comparing his Berlin world record with his 2016 London course record indicates it’s possible.

In London’s 2016 course record 2:03:05 Kipchoge broke the 30km world record in 1:27:13 or 2:54 min/km. In Berlin’s 2:01:39 he bettered this mark to 1:26:45 going through 28 sec faster. In Berlin he was able to run the remaining 12.2km astonishingly 58 sec faster than London 2016. These last 12.2km were run completely solo, he didn’t have a pacemaker that could stay with him to this point. If Kipchoge is to better his own world record he will almost certainly have to run from 25-30km to the finish solo again. He will need to lower his 30km world record again to go faster and quite simply there isn’t a human on the planet that can that far with him.

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If Kipchoge is improve on his world record he has a blueprint from Berlin. The consistency and accuracy of his pacing was metronomic and simply a masterclass, if he can reproduce pacing of this quality he will give himself a chance at bettering his 2:01:39. Losing another 100 sec to go under 2 hours though may be a bridge too far even for a man this great.

Kipchoge joked after Berlin that he hadn’t yet run a 2:02 marathon and this may be his next goal. If he achieved this in London it’d still be an amazing run. To date only Dennis Kimetto has ever run a 2:02 marathon.

While money is an obvious and a deserving reward for a runner of this quality I get the feeling Kipchoge wants more than the financial riches that go with being the greatest marathoner in history. At 34 years old Kipchoge realistically has 3-4 years at the very top of his sport and although his place in history is assured he may just want more. What ever the result in London, Kipchoge’s first appearance since Berlin promises to be intriguing and the must watch marathon of the year.

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Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 3

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If you’ve gotten this far into your barefoot running transition then you have begun the process of building barefoot running mileage. Building this amount of running slowly allows your body to adapt to the different muscles used in barefoot running and build strength in the feet and ankles.

In this the third article in the series we look at the running specifics to focus on when the transition. One of the most common mistakes runners make is to focus on ensuring a forefoot landing when running. This is a common mistake that often increases the chances of injury as the muscles are pushed to far as they develop the strength needed to run successfully barefoot. The mechanics of running barefoot running will naturally promote a forefoot landing and without over compensation of landing on the toes.

So what should you focus on when you begin running barefoot.

1. Faster cadence
Running with a faster cadence will naturally keep you lighter on your feet and allow you to more naturally move your foot landing from the heel to your forefoot naturally and without focus and effort.
Most articles use 180 strides per minute as a basis of this technique but it can be faster or slightly slower depending on the runner. Using a metronome to keep this cadence is an easy way to measure your cadence, download a free metronome app to your smart phone. Once you develop this cadence turn the metronome on and off periodically and you will learn this rhythm and adapt your running to it.

2. Short natural stride
If you increase your cadence you will likely run with a shorter stride length. At first this stride may seem shorter than you’d think effective however this will help the foot land under the body’s centre of mass and promote a compact, efficient running technique.
A shorter natural stride is the best way to ensure you don’t over stride. Over striding will ensure you land on your heel, this won’t be a successful transition to barefoot running. Over striding will however be more difficult if you are running with a faster cadence.

3. Pulling the foot off the ground
For many runners this is initially a difficult concept too understand but while running you should be concentrating on pulling the trailing leg off the ground. Rather than pushing your foot into the ground.
This assists with keeping your body in a slight forward lean and the foot landing under the body’s centre of mass. In simple terms, a human doesn’t need to focus on the forward leg landing, gravity will ensure this happens.
If you focus on pulling the foot off the ground you will reduce the time the foot is on the ground and improve your cadence. This will help you become a more efficient runner and use your energy the best way to propel you forward. There may be a shift in mid set required that will take some time and concerted practise in order to adjust.

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In summary, the best way to develop your barefoot running technique is to run with a fast cadence, a short natural stride and while running concentrate just on pulling your foot off the ground. Putting these three simple pieces together will help you develop a running technique that allows you to best run barefoot or in minimal footwear.

You should practise this over short concentrated efforts. To begin try some 100 metre strides, using a metronome and focus on the foot hitting the ground in unison with the metronome and concentrate on pulling the foot off the ground. In your general aerobic runs practise these techniques for periods of the run and then let the body do it naturally for a period of time. It will take some time for this to be your natural running technique before it becomes second nature.

As always if you have any questions regarding attempting a transition to barefoot or minimal footwear running please reach out at therunninger@gmail.com. Happy running

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How to start your running season when you haven’t trained enough

For most of us running is a secondary pastime in our lives and although important is usually below family and working in the pecking order that time and energy is devoted to. At times these factors or potentially other interests take up time that you’d like to devote to improving your running performance.

This can be especially magnified when you have chosen to prepare for a marathon or other goal races through the season. As most seasoned runners know preparing for the seasons races motivated and having a planned outline of your training runs is beneficial and usually vital to prepare in the best way.

But what do you do if you can’t complete the runs as planned and often miss runs due to life getting in the way. Usually the best way to improve your running is to run more, but if you can’t run there are still ways to get to the start line ready to race.

1.  Focus on the key workouts

Your key workouts each week are those runs that build strength, endurance and speed. When you have limitations on your time first complete the runs that build aerobic endurance, being your medium to long aerobic runs. Secondly strength is important to get your through the later stages of a marathon, run hill repeats or make sure your aerobic runs are over a undulating terrain. Intervals build speed, focus on these as the third piece of the puzzle.

Focussing your training time around your key workouts will give you the best chance at success on race day if training time becomes the enemy.

If time is limited then focus on building endurance, strength and speed in that order. Make sure you give your time for recovery by not running hard sessions on consecutive days.

2.  Adjust your expectations

There is more to running marathons then setting personal best times. Sometimes the best runs are those that you reach your potential at this current time.

Most marathoners know that in order to get the best result you need to put in the work and race well on the day. If you haven’t put in the work for whatever reason, adjusting your expectations and giving your best effort for the current fitness shape you are in will certainly make the race more enjoyable. Marathons are hard enough when you are well prepared, when you aren’t well prepared the last 10-15km of the marathon can be a very lonely and painful place.

Maybe this next race isn’t the time to aim for your personal best and you can learn more about race pacing when you get through a race running well not in peak fitness. Next time you choose to run a race you may be better positioned to complete the training and run a personal best.

3. Stay motivated

It is easy to let a poor training block affect your motivation. This can magnify the problem if you miss more runs through not wanting to get out the door. Stay motivated by looking at the big picture, the season is long and when you get the opportunity to train make the most of it.

Focus on the runs you enjoy and why you want to go running in the first place. Adjusting your racing expectations can also be transferred to training expectations as well. Adjust the sessions that you plan, you may not be able to hit the splits in training that you are used to but it doesn’t really matter.

When you lack motivation try and stay committed and focussed and the running will take care of itself. No runner have ever regretted going for a run, so get out and go running and it’ll likely spark your motivation.

 

Running is a simple sport and like life itself the more you put into it the more you get out of it. However there are still ways to gain a lot out of it when things don’t go to plan in training.

 

 

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Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 2

 

In the second article in this series we delve into the specific actions and tasks to help make the transition to barefoot running simple and safe. Be clear this will require patience and commitment, but will be worth the effort.

Once you’ve accepted a mindset that will allow you to commit to changing to barefoot running the transition can be started with a number of simple steps. If you’ve spent most of your life in over-protective shoes you will have weakened the feet and they need to be strengthened before barefoot running is simple and easy. You have also likely had your feet changed from their natural state by being crushed over time by the shoes.

You’ll be most successful transitioning to barefoot running if you also transition to a barefoot lifestyle. Now that you’ve changed your mindset this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Before you begin your transition take a photo of your bare feet, through your barefoot transition feet will change their appearance and this photo will give you a reminder of where you’ve been and are now going.

It’s now time to release your reliance on shoes, in particular heavy, over-protective shoes that hinder the foot from moving in its natural state. Spend time barefoot, when you are at home take off your shoes and walk around both inside and more importantly outside without shoes. By walking around outside you will start to awaken the proprioceptive sensors within the body.

The time taken to transition to barefoot running will vary between individuals. If you have run for a long time in a heavy trainer or used orthotics it will take more time. If you’ve run without injury for long periods in a lighter racing style shoe than the transition will be shorter. In the infancy of the transition these types of runners should be equally careful and patient.

From the start of your transition you can include some simple strength exercises. Start with a 5-10 minutes of simple exercises designed to strengthen the calves and Achilles tendons. Both double and single leg calf raises are great exercises to start doing regularly at the beginning of your transition. These can be done multiple times every day, as they will help strengthen the areas you are about to stress more when you begin running.

The next step is to start running either barefoot or in minimal footwear.

If you choose to run completely barefoot be mindful that your skin will need some time to begin to toughen. It is advisable to choose a soft surface such as a grass sporting field.

By minimal footwear we mean a shoe or sandal with a zero heel to toe differential, wide toe box area and minimal cushioning. Almost all running footwear that fits these requirements will be flexible and give the foot the ability to move naturally.

As each individual is different, so will be the transition to running barefoot. To begin with start with a few minutes of running at a time and be mindful of any pain in the feet, calves and achilles. While a little pain is to be expected if you are still experiencing pain the following day you’ve run too far too soon.

The two most common strategies to incorporate barefoot running into your training are;

  1. Run in conventional shoes and take off the shoes near the end of the run.

Eg. 30 minute run with last 5 minutes barefoot

 

  1. Go barefoot and walk/run

Eg. 30 minute exercise with both walk and run periods. Start with 5 minute increments of 4 min walk, 1 min run.

As you progress slowly increase the time you are spending running in either strategy until running barefoot becomes the major part of the exercise. Be prepared for this to take a number of months before you are conditioned to running barefoot for a 30 min period comfortably.

When running barefoot focus on having a quick leg turnover and being light on your feet. This will most likely result in you adopting a forefoot landing. Foot strike is a result of running with a barefoot process. We will focus more on the specifics of barefoot running technique in the third and final article in this series.

If you have any questions regarding your transition to barefoot running in the past or want further advise for your future transition reach out to us at therunninger@gmail.com

 

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Reviewing and planning your new running year

As a new year dawns upon us it’s an opportune time to review the year that was and look ahead to new running goals for the new year.

When reviewing a running year it can be as brief or involved as you like but should focus on a few simple measurements;

  • Did you achieve the goals you set yourself?

If so, what worked well in training and racing that you should continue to do?

If not, what stopped you from achieving your goals?

  • Did you lower your personal bests for any distances you ran?
  • What aspects of your running did you enjoy and not enjoy?

The answers to these questions will give you the framework for your running plans for the New Year.

When setting running goals it is advantageous to look further than just race goals. Races will come and go and milestone performances can be achieved along the way. However, hopefully your running journey has no start or end point. Avoid simply setting goals around races, use each race as a yardstick for your overall running journey and a measurement of your improvement.

After you’ve reviewed your running you will certainly find things that worked well. These may include;

  • Set new personal bests in a number of distances
  • Stayed injury free for the entire year
  • Was able to reach a mileage goal for x amount of months or the entire year

Each of your milestones achieved will point to processes along the way that you committed to that worked well and these you should continue to commit to.

On the flip side you may have not achieved some running goals. If you didn’t improve any of your running results and feel you committed and were disciplined in your training then it may be a time to pivot and adjust your training. First ask yourself if you really committed to the training and were disciplined in your processes, you’ll know if you weren’t. The New Year goal could be simply committing to your training further and being disciplined to achieve.

If you had trouble committing to your training is there other aspects in life that made this difficult. If this is the case an adjustment in your expectations may be necessary. Potentially it’s time to reach out to a coach that can give you a structured approach that can fit the best possible training into the schedule you have available.

When looking at running goals for the new year they should fall into a few categories;

  • Race Goals

You don’t have to have the whole year mapped out but think at least quarter year at a time of races you want to run and goals for these.

Races give you a reason to train and test yourself. Races should challenge you with a time conscious goal of preparing yourself for the race. Your race result is the measurement of success over a period of training.

  • Training Goals

These can be varied and again it may be valuable for a coach to help structure these with you.

Mileage is important and having regular mileage goals are beneficial to keep you on track. It is not necessarily a matter of always increasing mileage but hitting achievable mileage goals and being able to maintain these with some consistency is very valuable.

Varied training that works different muscles and energy systems is also important. Goal could be to commit to weekly hill, interval and long run that builds strength, speed and endurance. These are the most valuable training runs in a runner’s toolbox.

  • Running satisfaction goals

Is your training, racing and running goals keeping you happy, motivated and enjoying your running. If you aren’t motivated to get out the door and run then something isn’t working. Remember it’s supposed to be fun, make sure you get exactly what you need personally from your running.

Whatever you hope to achieve running in the new year best of luck achieving these goals. Above all else enjoy your running.

Barefoot Running: Foot Strike is just the beginning – Part 1

If you’ve read much from the mainstream media on barefoot running you’d be excused for thinking that it just relates to changing your foot strike. Most media on barefoot running centres around taking off your shoes and changing from heel striking to forefoot striking when running. In doing so you’ll eliminate injuries and run off into the sunset leaving your shoes behind.

Whilst changing foot strike is one aspect to barefoot running there are a number of components. Changing from running in heavy cushioned shoes to minimal shoes or barefoot takes patience, commitment and most likely a change in mindset.

It’s quite reasonable to understand that humans lived for thousands of years without cushioned footwear and running injuries didn’t occur. While most runners also most likely know a runner that is currently injured or recently injured. It’s also quite reasonable to believe that the human foot was designed through evolution to walk or run without the aid of shoes. Then why is it so difficult to understand the benefits of barefoot running?

Mindset Change

To make a successful transition to barefoot or minimal shoe running the mindset may be the biggest change required. If you’ve got to adulthood and have worn over protective shoes all your life you have many years of mindset to change.

In barefoot running terms a fundamental change in the belief system is required. The runner must change their belief that the cushioning and support of traditional running shoes is helping to a mindset that says the human foot is fine without the cushioning and support.  The mindset shift to believing the modern running shoe does more harm than good by not allowing the foot to move in it’s natural form and weakening the muscles associated. Once this mindset shift occurs there is a transition period that will take time.

Foot Strength

If you have worn over-protective shoes fall your life then you will have weakened feet, ankles and muscles associated with barefoot running. It takes time and patience to build these muscles, however as these muscles strengthen you will become more resistant to injury.

Making this transition patiently is important, starting with becoming barefoot more often in everyday life and regularly walking barefoot will reawaken these muscles and build strength. From here it is simply a matter of beginning with small amounts of barefoot running and increasing this amount over time.

While you are transitioning utilise simple barefoot strength and conditioning tasks such as squats and jumping. As you gain strength in your feet and ankles you will develop better balance which helps when you stay stronger when running long distances.

A good drill to test this is to try and balance on one foot for a period of 30-60 sec. Once you can do this close your eyes and continue. As your strength increases this should become easier. Try the other leg and measure whether there is a difference between left and right. Another reason for increased balance is a heightened proprioception.

Proprioception

Proprioception is sometimes referred to as the humans ‘sixth sense’ and is the bodies ability to subconsciously perform movements and balance. Proprioception uses receptors in our skin, muscles and joints to give information to the brain as we subconsciously interact with it. Many of these receptors are in our feet.

By wearing over-protective, thick shoes we close these receptors over time which means less information is sent to the brain. By transitioning to barefoot movement and running we reawaken these sensors which gives almost immediate improvements in balance and basic subconscious movements.

Barefoot running is far more than taking off your shoes and changing to a forefoot landing foot strike. There are multiple parts in the transition and multiple benefits by making this change.

In part 2 of this series we will focus on specific tasks and techniques that will help you easily and safely transition to barefoot running and not lose mileage or fitness in the process. In the meantime start by spending time barefoot at home and begin to feel the difference.

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Running Motivation: Tips for Runners at Every Level

Running Motivation: Tips for Runners at Every Level

You can’t buy motivation. Most runners probably wish they could.

We hit walls. Life can seem to get in the way of running–so having a playbook of motivational techniques is important for runners at every level who are fighting the same battle to log miles.

Running motivation can come in different forms when the finish line isn’t in sight–new running shoes, a new training plan, or even joining a running club. But at its purest, motivation is the human desire to do something; unlocking that desire may be even more difficult than the task itself.

Joshua Sommers finds it within himself–the hedge fund VP is also a triathlete who has competed in over 100 races. When asked what motivates him, he keeps it simple.

“The pursuit of excellence and self-improvement.”Joshua Sommers

We aren’t all like Joshua, but we can learn from him. In this piece, we’ll explore what types of motivational tools different runners can use, and how they can impact your training–and your life outside of running.

Motivation for Beginner Runners

As a new runner, it can be daunting to look at the miles ahead and know the only way to get there is with your own two feet. 

A runner looking over the edge of a cliff

Set a Goal

Begin at the end. Setting a goal provides something a runner can work toward. It can be a number of different things: maybe it’s weight loss, or picking a 5k race, or a certain number of miles a week, or even a half marathon. Whatever that goal is, keep it in mind each time you lace up those sneakers for a jog.

This will also help track progress. Write the goal down and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day, keeping markers of the steps taken to achieve it. After a few weeks, look back at the work accomplished and you’ll be able to see it actualized. See yourself achieving those goals and surpassing them.

Get Social While Holding Yourself Accountable

Incorporating a training partner into your new life as a runner has layered benefits. Finding a running partner will provide an immediate desire to run, even if simply knowing that person is counting on you.

Executing on a training program together, with a shared goal, can increase the level of accountability. Joining a running club or finding a running partner removes the element of choice, the ability to reason with yourself and find ways not to run. Excuses are ever-present, and a good running partner won’t take “no” for an answer.

Even though running is an individual pursuit, clubs and teams are everywhere. Besides the motivational aspect, things like networking and safety and developing a sense of community are all extended benefits of making running social.

A female runner jugging up colorful stairs

Make it Routine

A morning run can ripple positively into the rest of your day. Acute aerobic exercise activates the prefrontal and occipital cortices in the brain, increasing “executive control.” This can help improve cognitive ability and can help control emotion.1 Morning runs can have effects that last into the night, like improving sleep quality.2 And it doesn’t stop there; studies suggest running can have overall health and cognitive benefits, especially later in life.3

Besides the mental and physical benefits, there are less social obligations in the morning. You won’t get stuck at work or be tempted by a happy hour at 6am. Even if you’re not a morning person, you can likely train to become one. Pack all your running gear the night before. Set an alarm and place it across the room, forcing you to skip the snooze button.

Developing a morning running routine provides a nice reset of the body’s clock; it can feel like adding hours to the day. Another benefit? A solid training schedule can positively impact your regular schedule.

Ted Bross is a newly-graduated medical student starting his residency. He has participated in almost 30 ultra marathons, and developing a running habit helped him with medical school.

“Part of what helps me get through several of the mental stressors of medical school is pushing my body physically and relieving that stress. It makes me more of a disciplined athlete and is something that has given me a lot in my life.”Ted Bross

Develop a Training Plan

Checking boxes on a training plan can feel really good. It also answers some of the mental questions runners ask themselves before setting out: Where should I go? How long should I run? What pace am I aiming for? Just look at the running program, where it’s all outlined. Remember to develop your training plan in alignment with those goals you’ve set. And try to incorporate one long run per week.

A comprehensive training plan should incorporate all aspects of your routine. Account for extra pre-run warm-ups and post-run stretches. Add in weekly or monthly goals. Budget some days off. Your training plan doesn’t have to be a bible, but should be a document frequently returned to, and one around which other aspects of life can be considered.

“I train on average for about ten sessions a week, for a total of ten hours a week,” Sommers said. “I’m spending all this time on it, so I want to get the most out of my workouts.”

Use the mind to drive the body forward.

Motivation for Experienced Runners

There’s a fine line between getting into a groove and finding yourself in a rut.

Buy Some New Gear

Sometimes you need to pick low-hanging fruit. Purchasing some new running clothes, like a new pair of running shoes or running shorts, can provide motivation to run and test all that new gear. Depending on what you buy, it may also improve your training (like a fitness tracker).

New gear can also serve as a reward; small goals can be treated as important steps to accomplishing larger goals.

There’s also the “gear guilt.” Shiny new toys should be used instead of sitting in the back of a closet. Some may think using money as a type of running motivation is shallow, but there are few drivers in life like cold hard cash.

Introduce Supplements

So much of success when running comes before (and after) feet hit the pavement. Nutrition should be looked at holistically, because supplements can provide a boost during the run and also help with recovery.

“Especially in the longer races, figuring out nutrition is something most people don’t spend enough time on.”Ted Bross

Pre-run supplements include caffeine for energy, calcium for bone health and even creatine to reduce muscle inflammation. Post-run, focus on protein for muscle recovery and fish oil to reduce muscle soreness.

HVMN Ketone, a ketone ester drink, can be used both as a pre-run supplement and a recovery mechanism. By elevating ketone levels in the blood, HVMN Ketone unlocks a fuel source the body produces naturally, one fundamentally different from carbohydrates or fats. Post-workout, taking HVMN Ketone can expedite the resynthesis of glycogen (by 60%) and protein (by 2x), which enable faster recovery.4,5

Cross Train

Varying training can provide easy motivation to try a new sport–one you know can improve your running–and it’ll also keep you active on days you’re not running. It can also supplement during rehabilitation periods from physical injury, and improve overall physical performance.6

Specifically, cross training can improve VO2 Max capacity (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense exercise).6 Swimming and cycling are great choices, but things like yoga can also increase flexibility and balance.7

By introducing strength workouts or cross training into your regimen, motivation can be found in presenting new challenges and accomplishing new goals.

A woman jogging on the beach

Switch Up Locations

Don’t become a running rodent. Running on a treadmill can feel like a hamster on a wheel, just like running the same path multiple times a week can feel Groundhog Day-esque. The essence of running harkens back to being outside, and in a more spiritual sense, connecting with the space in which you’re traversing.

It’s easy to feel invigorated by discovering a new place or hitting a new distance, so trail running or cross country running are always good motivators for the simple fact that they place you out of your element. The simple feeling of dirt under the feet and soaking up the essence of the trail provides an immediate lift and motivation.

We’ve also heard from runners that there’s something special about running in the rain (even if it’s the last thing you want to do). It presents a new challenge, and almost a primal sense of motivation; you’re miles away from home, and the only way to return is to run back. Your heart is pounding, you smell the rain, each wet step is experienced in a totally new way–it’s an hour that can feel different than all the other hours in the day.

Motivation for Advanced Runners

Advanced runners can have the most difficult time finding motivation because running is such a part of their life that it becomes an unquestioned obligation. 

Remember (and Embrace) the Pain and Vulnerability 

Stop and ask yourself: Why do I run? If running has become numbly intrinsic, this question can serve as a reinvigorating reminder to look within and remember why you fell in love with running in the first place.

Because running is hard; it hurts; it requires time; it takes mental fortitude. Some might think this is admitting defeat–but reminding yourself that you’re accomplishing something difficult can inspire you to keep going.

In a physical sense, powerful running comes from your core. So, in essence, you’re running from the gut. There’s something vulnerable about exposing yourself in that way, and showcasing the ability to be broken down (and thus built back up).

It can all come to a head at the end of a race. Ted Bross has been there.

“You share some really special moments. You’re pretty raw emotionally, when you get broken down physically there’s less barrier to connect with people.”Ted Bross

Ditch the Tech (This Includes Music)

Technological tools have forever changed running, giving anyone the opportunity to track pace and miles and calories burned. These also changed training by providing actionable targets to hit and measure performance.

Select one day to run untethered by technology. It can serve as a great way to reconnect with the simple joy of running, ditching the gadgets to escape the metrics. Sometimes you have to operate on feel, and it can be motivating to find that energy within yourself instead of hitting a number on your wrist. Some of your best runs aren’t necessarily your fastest.

Many of us train with music, but that can act as a barrier between you and the world in which you’re running. If you’re participating in a race that doesn’t allow music, it’s especially beneficial to train without tunes and run to the beat of your own pace.

A plate of avocados, hardboiled eggs and strawberries.

Improve Your Diet

Seeing results provides motivation to continue working. The results garnered from eating healthy show themselves in training. While carb-loading has been a staple of many runners’ race day routines, growing evidence suggests that a periodized approach to nutrition is optimal, especially for long distance races. For example, a marathon runner might undertake periods of training with a low-carb, high-fat diet, to boost fat burning followed by maximizing carb fueling for a race.

Exercise after an overnight fast can also increase fat oxidation,8 which can help with weight loss and, when the body gets better at burning fat, it can also help increase endurance.

Taking HVMN Ketone can provide some of the benefits of ketosis without the necessary dieting or extreme fasting.

“My diet isn’t as good as I would like it to be,” admitted Sommers. “But that’s more a function of time and other stress factors, like if I’m traveling or if I don’t have time to cook what I want.”

Even the most elite triathletes struggle to incorporate diet into life.

Trying a new diet can have results both in training and recovery, and noticing the difference provides a motivation to continue pushing your personal best with newfound fuel. But that happens on an even smaller level. Incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your diet.

Haven’t had Brussel sprouts since your grandma served them boiled? Give them another try (and maybe try roasting them) and fold in more vegetables over the course of your training.

Even for those unwilling to make extreme dietary changes, there are incremental benefits to be had by cutting back on refined sugars, avoiding seed oils and getting plenty of omega 3s.

Enjoy the Small Wins

Advanced runners arrive at a point where they can only improve so much. It’s a point of fear for many–that they’ll plateau, and eventually decline.

So the small wins are important to celebrate. Seconds off your mile pace, or increased weight while strength training or even a feeling of energy after a run–individually these are small, but together they can make a big impact. The world’s elite athletes understand the power in recognizing small successes.

Testing of HVMN Ketone illustrated that athletes go ~2% further in a 30 minute time trial.9That can mean the difference between placing on race day and looking up at the podium, a desire shared by the crop of marathoners and cyclists and NFL teams and world champions in boxing and MMA who are all using HVMN Ketone.

Accomplishing small wins while training provides a motivation to keep achieving them, and the confidence they’ll translate to race day.

Motivation is an Endless Cycle

Remember: motivation comes and goes. But recognizing when you’ve lost motivation is almost as important as getting it back.

The struggle challenges all different levels–from beginner to expert runners. On the running journey, goals will be accomplished, routines will become stale, good habits will wane. This is all part of the process.

Finding the ability to motivate yourself won’t just improve your running. It’ll improve your life overall, and some of these strategies should translate to life off the running road.

Go forth. Run. And maybe find a bit of yourself in the process. \

Give your motivation a boost

Adding supplements or specific training techniques can help power the body through those final miles.

Scientific Citations

1. Lin Li, Wei-Wei Men, Yu-Kai Chang, Ming-Xia Fan, Liu Ji, Gao-Xia Wei. Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Cortical Activity during Working Memory: A Functional MRI Study in Female College Students. 2014; 9(6): e99222. 10.1371/journal.pone.0099222
2. Kimberly Fairbrother, Ben Cartner, Jessica R Alley, Chelsea D Curry, David L Dickinson, David M Morris, and Scott R Collier. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2014; 10: 691–698. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S73688
3. Carl W.Cotman, Nicole C.Berchtold. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends in Neurosciences Volume 25, Issue 6, 1 June 2002, Pages 295-301. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0166-2236(02)02143-4
4. Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
Authored by Nate Martins •
October 6, 2018