Three tips to keep your easy running easy

A common mistake runners make, myself included, is running easy days too hard. Easy days are designed for you to recover and absorb the harder training that you have done and develop your aerobic fitness. When you run your easy runs to hard it hinders this process and your body doesn’t recover for the next harder session.

Here are three tips to keep your easy running easy.

1. Relax your technology game.

Easiest way to keep your running easy is to stop looking at pace during your run and focus on keeping the run relaxed. When you divorce concentrating on pace you will run on feel, this will help you recognise when running feels harder then it should be. The alternative is concentrating on pace and trying to stay at a set pace which may or may not be easy enough for you to recover. Perceived effort is a more helpful measure then pace.

Another reason is not every run needs to look impressive on social media sites like Strava. The pressure to post a run on social media that impresses friends and follows is an empty goal, when easy runs are easy running will improve and race day will look better on Strava.

2. Enjoy the easy runs

Easy runs should be the most enjoyable runs of the week. When you push a hard interval or hill session they are satisfying, but most would agree during the run they are hard. Easy runs shouldn’t feel like this, they should be easy, relaxed and enjoyable.

Take these runs to run socially, chatting with friends during a run is a sure way to forget pace and enjoy the run. If you prefer to run alone then put the headphones in and listen to music or a podcast. Enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the run.

3. Use heart rate as a guide

Measuring heart rate is a way to measure your effort. By concentrating on keeping your easy runs at a low heart rate you will get all the benefits of easy runs and aerobic training. The easiest measurement is the MAF method (Maximum aerobic function) of 180 minus your age. By keeping your heart rate at or below your MAF heart rate you will keep your easy runs easy and develop your aerobic function.

Keeping your easy runs easy is vital way to ensure you recover from the harder training runs and develop your aerobic fitness. Keep it easy and enjoy your running.

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Four discoveries from a 30 day run streak

This morning I completed my 30 day run streak and during this time I made some discoveries about my running. Here they are…..

  1. Aerobic training is beneficial

At the start of the run streak I decided that all my running in these 30 days would be aerobic and I would forget about pace. On the whole I was able to manage this only running twice outside my aerobic capacity. This was a parkrun effort and last weeks goal race pace half marathon run.

Running purely aerobically for the majority of the 30 days has seen me develop my aerobic capacity. Running aerobically often is easy on the body and recovery is simple, when you run within your limits there is no soreness the next day and you are able to run more. Following this when I did increase the intensity and complete a tougher workout, my half marathon felt very comfortable. Building the aerobic engine is very beneficial for running performance.

The take away from this discovery is that during my next focussed training block I will have more aerobic training to compliment the focussed harder workouts.

   2. Technology is unnecessary (almost)

Another goal of this run streak was to divorce pace and use perceived effort to measure my run rather achieve a pace for the run. This has been a successful discovery where I am now unconcerned by the pace my watch is saying and rather the feeling my body gives me from the effort I output.

During each of the runs I have only looked at the time for the run on the watch and not pace. This has taught me to focus on my feeling and breathing to stay aerobic and run consistent pace through effort. During the harder half marathon effort the same applied and I was impressed by the consistent pace I was able to achieve.

The future of my running will feature less reliance on technology, I am committed to continuing to monitor my running by feel and use the data to analyse post run.

3. Running everyday is good for you

While I am normally an advocate for rest days, life balance and letting the body recover from runs I found the task of running everyday good for me. All my runs are completed in the early mornings and the simple task of committing to getting up each morning and going through the process to get out the door and run was mostly pretty easy.

During the 30 day streak I had wet weather on 5-6 of my runs, only one of these days did I consider not running through the rain, however this doubt lasted about 15 minutes before I decided to get the job done.

I enjoyed the day to day commitment of getting out the door to complete my run. Committing to a run streak is a way to challenge you to overcome a small challenge everyday and start the day ready to tackle something bigger if it arises.

4. Minimal footwear is better

This may have not been a discovery but more a reinforcement. Every run I did with the exception of one run were completed in zero drop footwear. these specifically were Gladsoles sandals both the trail 8mm and new 6mm and Carson Footwear Iguana Racers.

If you are fully transitioned to barefoot running then minimal footwear is better for your running. After 4-5 days of the run streak I had a slight pain in my right calf that was evident for a few runs, this went away by itself and I was able to run without pain for the  all the other runs. Minimal footwear keeps you aware, your feet stronger and running with better technique. To run injury free for long periods of time these are important. Without trying to jinx myself to an injury I believe the benefits of transitioning to minimal shoes will help me run longer into my life.

Don’t be scared to make a change to your footwear if you are on a path of consistent injuries. It will take time but it will be worth it.

Overall the run streak has been an enjoyable experience and most likely will continue beyond 30 days. My routine of running every morning is a habit I would like to continue.

Photos from a 30 day run streak

 

Things to do when transitioning to barefoot running

 

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In a recent post I listed the reasons why you should be barefoot running, however how do you transition? The main barefoot running transition question people as is how long will is take? This is different for everyone and may take as little as a couple of months or much longer. In order to give yourself the best chance of transitioning successfully and without injury the following tips may help.

If you take the time to transition correctly and build the strength and mobility needed to barefoot run long term you will reap the benefits down the track.

Be Patient

If you are an accomplished runner and have decided to transition to a flatter more minimal shoe or to barefoot running then it is difficult to stomach that you may only be able to run for very short periods for the first weeks or months. Patience is essential to avoid injury. For the first few weeks you should be combining walking and running either barefoot or in minimal shoes and running for no longer then 10 minutes working up to 30 minutes at a timely the end of the first month.  This will require patience and humility if you are used to running for much further.

Be ‘barefoot’ in everyday life

Increasing the time you walk barefoot will assist in building strength in your lower limbs and feet that are essential for barefoot running. Look to purchase some minimal shoes for work or casual life and try and be barefoot when at home. This will increase your mobility of the muscles that need to be retrained in order for injury free barefoot running.

Concentrate on your form

While you are transitioning to barefoot running concentrate on your form. Concentrate on landing on the balls of your feet, stay upright, don’t over stride and stay light on your feet. This will make sure you use the muscles associated with barefoot running and give them the best chance to gain mobility and strength.

You may choose to continue to run some mileage in your ‘old’ cushioned running shoes, especially if you are a seasoned runner. This is perfectly fine however make sure you concentrate on your form even in your cushioned shoes and retrain the body to run on your forefeet.

Listen to your feet

When you start running barefoot or in minimal shoes it is essential you look for the signs that you are overdoing it. It is normal to experience a small amount of pain in the calves, achilles and feet however too much and you may need to reduce the mileage and take longer to transition. This is a key sign of taking the time necessary to transition successfully and avoiding injury. Be prepared to have a long term view if the pain is experienced.

 

Use these simple tips and ask for advice if things don’t go to plan. Every runners barefoot transition is different and will therefore the process for each runner may be different.

If you have successfully transitioned to barefoot running  how did you do it?

What obstacles did you need to overcome, and how did you do it?

 

 

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The road is a long one, be patient

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Yes, you can go running without technology

Its taken me two runs to confirm what I already knew. You can run without technology dictating your running and you will most likely enjoy your running more. With the decision made to let go of the reins on technology and run only with feel I set my watch with one data field set on time during my runs over the last two days.  I am wearing the watch simply to track how long I run for and afterwards to track my distance run over my 30 day run streak period.  While the jury is still out on whether it is better to divorce from technology completely, there are certainly signs to suggest it could be beneficial.

Whilst not focussed on pace, you’ll automatically focus your run on feel and effort. Focussing on feel and effort allows you to not be a slave to the watch and the pace you are trying to stick to. If you feel good you will likely run faster, if you feel a bit off it’s likely you’ll slow down. However you’ll understand how you feel from the effort you put into each step of the run.

If you are not tracking pace, you’ll look at your watch a whole lot less. This is allows you to focus on running and being outside. Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and the reasons why you enjoy running in the first place. I’m guessing you didn’t start running so you could look at your watch, be easier to do this at the pub with a cold beer.

Looking at pace may in fact slow your progress towards your goals. You may be capable of running much faster then what you think and sticking to your goal pace may be limiting you. Run with feel and put in your best effort and who knows how fast you can go.

Take a break from technology, you don’t have to completely stop looking at pace but choose some runs to simply enjoy running and teach yourself to run with feel.

Stop looking at your watch and you may see some beautiful scenery out there.

The top 4 reasons you should be barefoot running

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While barefoot running has faded somewhat from the mass media attention it was receiving a few years ago there are still some very valid reasons why you should be running barefoot.

By barefoot running we mean running without shoes or in minimal footwear. By minimal footwear we mean shoes with the following attributes. Low heel to toe differential or heel drop, wide toe box and less cushioning and flexible materials. There are many different minimal footwear options available today.

Transitioning to barefoot running takes time. If you try to rush the process, you may suffer injuries in the calves or achilles. Be sure not to rush the process, it may take months or even years. Once your transition is complete your running will benefit.

The four top reasons you should be barefoot running are;

  1. Reduced injuries

Once you have transitioned to barefoot running you will likely run lighter, with a forefoot landing over a bent knee. This will ensure that you suffer less lower limb related injuries related to running. While barefoot running is not a panacea to injury free running it will go a long way to helping you run consistently more without injuries. Cushioned shoes won’t stop you getting injured, most likely they are the cause.

     2. Stronger feet

Running in an inflexible, cushioned shoe will inhibit the natural movement of your foot. The shoe does the work which the foot is designed to do, this will weaken your feet over time. Running barefoot or in flatter, more flexible footwear will build strength in your feet and lower limbs.  With strong feet comes a strong platform to run successfully and run injury free.

    3 Better awareness

” The more minimal you are the more aware you are” Chris McDougall

With more awareness comes better ground feel. While running you will become more aware of your posture,  foot landing, surroundings and effort. More awareness of your foot landing means you will be aware of every step and how and what you land on. This is a key reason why accomplished barefoot runners can run injury free as their awareness for where their foot lands is greater. Simply put running barefoot allows for more sensory feedback which increases awareness.

    4. Get faster

Forefoot running is faster than heel striking, pretty simple. Landing on your heel with a straight leg gives a braking effect, landing on your forefoot with a bent leg is faster and a more efficient way to run. If you want to get faster barefoot running can help you achieve this.

Transitioning to barefoot running is important, be patient and don’t rush the process however slow it may be. Once you successfully transition you will be free of heavy, inflexible running shoes and your running will become transformed.

If you wear traditional cushioned running shoes and have suffered injuries, it’s time to rethink your running footwear. Taking them off or replacing them with minimal shoes could be the answer.

 

 

 

 

My divorce with pace – Day 4

Earlier this week I committed to a month of running where I divorced myself from pace. Or at least committed to not monitoring pace during my runs. My watch has been set to a single data only of time to measure to monitor the length of my runs only.

Being overly reliant on technology is an easy trap to make for the modern runner and a trap that I have fallen into at times. My goal for this month of running is to enjoy my running and divorce myself from needing technology to measure my pace on any runs.

When I started running there weren’t GPS watches, I measured my runs simply on feel and perceived effort. I was still able to train and race as well as I do today without technology. My goal is to get back to this level of feel before I start training for another race so that I am ready to train without the burden of technology. Technology will be used to analyse my effort post run.

I guess you could call this the next step in my minimalist running transition. The transition to minimal footwear has enlightened my running and I believe a minimalist approach to technology will do the same.

During these four days of running all my runs have been easy aerobic runs. I have resisted looking at pace or any other metrics during these runs. I have also resisted pushing the pace on these runs and ensured the pace was easy.

What have I noticed in four runs?

  1. I’ve looked at my watch a whole lot less

2.  There is scenery around me everywhere

3. The mind works better with less distractions

So far the divorce from pace has been a positive experience. Looking beyond the next month where the pace will remain aerobic, I aim to continue this approach to when I resume with my three keys weekly runs being the long run, intervals and hill repeats during my next race preparations.

Just some of the scenery I was able to take in during my last four runs.

 

This is now a run streak

When I woke up this morning and went for my morning run I hadn’t planned it being the beginning of anything. I’m in Sydney for a few days and i just woke up and went for a run. Later in the day it came to me to start a run streak, there were two good reasons;

  1. I’ve never tried one before
  2. Why not?

I’ve given myself a short term goal of 30 days – 17th October to 17th November and a long term goal of 100 days 17th October to January 25th. We will start with plan A of 30 days and see how it goes till November 17th.

A couple of self administered rules;

  1. Minimum run is 5km
  2. All runs are outside ( no treadmills)

One other thing I’m going to concentrate on for at least the first 30 days is to keep all the runs aerobic. 30 days without hard training, all my runs will be easy aerobic efforts designed to be relaxed running and enjoy what it is about running that I love. The aim is to reconnect with running and enjoy my running, nature and the outdoors. It’s not that I need a jolt of motivation, just that I want to try something slightly different.

I would like to have less reliance on technology during this time. I am not currently training for a race, there is no need to monitor my pace and complete any specific training aimed to peak for a race. Therefore there is no need to look at my pace for any of the runs and just enjoy 30 days of relaxed running. For these 30 days I will wear my watch, however set it to not show me pace or distance through the runs. The only data to measure is time and later distance as I log my miles for the streak period. I have a belief that most runners including myself are over reliant on technology and this has taken away some of the simple joys of running.

The reason i’ve chosen to avoid treadmills during this time is to harden my resolve in times of poor weather. It’s time to get tougher, no hiding from the weather.

I’m looking forward to noticing what I learn from a 30 day run streak and whether i can continue further than this. Something often gets in the way to stop us running even when the best intentions are there. I’m also looking forward to how I react to a different, more relaxed form of training during this time.

Have you ever attempted a run streak?

If so, how did you go?

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My week in running

My running week was mostly casual and relaxed with five runs completed for 41km overall all completed in my hometown. Started the week on Tuesday with a solid interval session, decided to break my intervals into two sets of 6 x 2 min with 1 min recovery, this gave me five minutes of easy running between the first and the second set which worked out fine and allowed me to push through to the end of the second set harder.

Most of the week saw me complete aerobic runs over a variety of runs with an undulating terrain. Didn’t have a specific hill session so added some hills to my aerobic runs for some variety. On Saturday morning I abandoned my aerobic run after 4km after being in a wild lightning storm, probably wasn’t in too much danger but for a short aerobic run I didn’t feel the risk was worth the reward.

I’m not normally a big fan of tempo runs during race training blocks as I feel I get more value from other training. However I decided to run a tempo on Sunday and went through a 2km warm up, 3km at 4:10min/km, 2km easy and 4km at 4:10 min/km. This run felt good and I enjoyed the tempo run for some variety. It might be something I revisit during my next marathon training block on semi regular occasions.

Mixed my footwear up for all these runs with Gladsoles trail sandals, Carson footwear Iguana racers and Salming Race 3 all being used during the week. Really enjoy the difference nuances of running with different footwear throughout the week.

There were a couple of performances on the international stage which really caught my eye over the weekend too. Both inspiring performances, one to win the world championship and another a rising star of Australian running.

Patrick Lange at the Ironman World championships in Hawaii, to run 2:39:59 for the marathon and run from 11th off the bike to not only win the world championship but break the course record was an outstanding achievement. Most of us don’t know what running a 2:40 marathon which is averaging 3:47 min/km or 6:06 min/mi feels like, it’s quick by any standards but at the end of an ironman is even more impressive.

Celia Sullohern won the Melbourne marathon in Australia on Sunday and ran 2:29. this is impressive running for a 24 year old. Into the top 10 all time Australian womens marathon times and putting her hand up for a Commonwealth Games birth on the Gold Coast early next year.

Hope you had a happy week of running.

 

Here are some places I ran this week.

Carson Footwear Iguana Racers – Review

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Earlier this year I purchased the Iguana Racers from Carson Footwear and right from the start the experience with this company was a happy one. I found out about Carson Footwear from stumbling across them one day on the internet and was intrigued by the brand. I decided to investigate the brand further and liked what I saw, so I needed to try some of these out.

Each pair of Carson shoes are made by hand in Oregon, USA. They have some of the most fun and cool colours and designs you’ll see on a running shoe. The hardest part is picking the design you want. I decided to go with the Iguana racer, which was the first design to go to market for Carsons. My experience started with me ordering the wrong size, Carson use a last sizing which is different from the current shoe sizing standards and despite using the sizing chart I got it wrong, the size I ordered was too small, not ideal when the shoes have already travelled from the US to Australia. The service from Carson Footwear was great, they promptly sent me a new pair and I returned the incorrect sized pair.

From my first run in the Iguana racers I immediately noticed they were different to every other pair of running shoes I’ve worn. Initially I thought they felt heavier than advertised but once I ran in them my opinion changed. The biggest difference is the polyurethane midsole/outsole that is zero drop with a 10 mm stack height. The polyurethane midsole/outsole is where most of the weight is in the shoe which makes the shoe have a lower centre of gravity which makes the shoe feel very light once running in them. Also the polyurethane reacts differently to a traditional EVA midsole as it absorbs the impact over a larger surface area giving greater ground feel. The advantage of this is it allows for more cushioning with less material under the foot, which is what we want in a minimal shoe. The polyurethane is remarkably flexible, 10mm under foot is not very much, but it is more than enough to give a smooth ride over all surfaces and a comfortable running experience. Like every good minimal shoe there is a wide and roomy toe box. With a flexible, light and responsive midsole and outsole the foot makes the decisions for the shoe rather than the opposite.

The upper material is extremely comfortable, made from a synthetic mesh, and very breathable in hot conditions. As said previously the upper are available in numerous fun designs. You will be asked about your shoes when you wear them.

The Iguana racers are head and shoulders the most comfortable shoes I have worn. I have now run over 400km in these shoes, they have been tested on all surfaces, technical trails of both dirt and rocks, as well as road and beach. They are responsive on the technical trails and although the tread is not extreme gives more than enough grip when needed. The feel is very smooth and comfortable for a shoe with only 10mm stack height, in my opinion this is the advantage of the polyurethane. Comfort on the road is fine, however I think they are best suited to the trails. Each time I run in these I feel like heading to a trail.

After 400km in the Iguana racers they are now firmly into my running footwear rotation. Whilst some shoes with traditional EVA midsole won’t last much longer than 400km, the Iguanas are just coming into their own. There is some visible wear to the sole but there are many more runs ahead in these shoes. So if you don’t like buying shoes every few months than these are for you.

Overall the Iguana racer is perfect for anyone comfortable running in a minimal shoe. If you haven’t transitioned to this style of footwear it will take some time. The comfort, ground feel and cool designs make sure the Iguana racers are a happy experience every time I run in them.

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Running without racing.

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Last Sunday’s marathon was the culmination of training towards a goal race and despite the challenges that unfolded during the race I am happy with my overall effort. This race was the culmination of 14 weeks training which is my normal plan for a marathon or longer race.

Last Sunday’s marathon was also likely the culmination of my racing year, with not many races left before the end of the year and certainly very few close to home. This means it’s time to switch gears with my training and enjoy my running with less focussed training towards trying to peak for a race. At times not having a race to train for has been a time when my running has suffered. I have struggled with the lack of focus and specificity and too much ice cream and skipped runs.

These days I have running without racing plans which keep me running regularly and enjoying my running without the pressure and challenge of a race in the not too distance future. This plan starts with continuing to run a similar amount of times per week and using variety in my running to keep focussed.

During October I plan to continue with my three key workouts each week, these are hill repeats, intervals and the long run however each will have far less focus. Hills will likely be similar, intervals shorter with more recovery and the long run shorter and not building time each week. Continuing to focus on these runs will keep my fitness ready for when my next race preparation starts. In addition to these will see some varying terrain and locations to keep my running interesting. to add variety I like using a weighted vest for some short runs, or efforts during runs. Skipping an aerobic run for a weighted vest hike is another option for easy days.

Adding variety can also be done by changing up footwear. As the weather gets warmer I like to use my favourite running location, the beach for some barefoot intervals and aerobic runs. GladSoles Sandals will still be my go to footwear for most of my runs though. And I will use my Carson footwear trail shoes for when I want some variety. These are the best shoes I’ve run in without socks, which is great for the beach and when the weather is hot.

The main focus while I’m running without racing is enjoy my running, add variety that isn’t achieved when training for a race and relax without the pressure of training hard.

Summer in Australia it’s certainly the best time to be outdoors enjoying the place we live. It’s a great time for relaxed running and enjoying the surrounds. I’m looking forward to running without the need for racing for the next few months, and enjoying my running.