Running Camp – Can Adults go Too?

Every summer the popular thing to do if you have children is to find camps to send them to. Camps exist for every taste – from cheer, to leadership, to knitting, to soccer to running.

But, what about a break for adults? Don’t adults deserve a little time away? My answer is an emphatic yes! My solution for the adult runners out there (parents or not) is to send yourself to running camp! Arizona Running Camp is the perfect long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) getaway. There is still time to register. But do it now! Registrations for this camp are capped to assure a personalized experience.

For those in the desert southwest it’s an escape from the heat. For those from the low-lands it’s time to train at 7000 feet!

For more novice runners it’s a time to focus on you and YOUR running: how to stay healthy, go longer, go faster or just get more variety and enjoyment from your running.

For more advanced runners it’s a time to regroup either from the past season of racing or for the upcoming Fall racing season. It’s time to assess what you are doing and if your approach needs updating, reinforcement or just an intense focus.

Arizona Running Camps differ from all other camps in that integrated into the entire camp are the mental game aspects (AKA sports psychology, mental toughness, mindset, motivation). You get a comprehensive assessment on your personal mental game and then you have the opportunity not only for in-depth discussions on the topics but 1:1 meetings with a nationally certified mental game coach (BTW that’s me). No other camp offers this. There is still time to register. But do it now!

Sometimes someone else summarizes points better than I ever could. I’m providing a link to one camper’s review of the recent running camp held in Flagstaff, AZ at Northern Arizona University. Here’s Rob’s take on camp lessons and applications. Enjoy reading about what you may have missed in past years but can look forward to this July!

Have a specific question about camp? Drop me a line here.

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The Secret to Running Faster

Almost every runner who has come to me has as a goal to run faster. If a 50-year-old can break 5:00 in the mile; if a 60-year-old can break 6:00 in the mile; if the person who has only run a 10:00 mile and swears they are just a slow runner can a sub-8:00 mile; then so can you.

The real bonus for many of you is that when you can get these “middle distance” times (mile to 5k) faster; your distance (10k, half-marathon and beyond) times will drop as well.

As a coach – and as most coaches – I recommend various drills to improve form and power as they relate to running faster. Skipping drills, lower leg drills, upper leg drills, push-off drills, arm drills, dynamic stretching and full range of motion drills – you name it you can find all of them on some youtube video. Each one is designed to strengthen and reinforce proper neuromuscular reactions in muscle groups to propel runners forward in the most effective and efficient manner possible. And none of them directly get you faster.

Even those individuals who can replicate all these drills in text book fashion aren’t going to be running faster without something else. That something else is fast running. Fast running begets fast running… not drills. Let me be clear that these drills have a purpose. They can support your efforts to run faster. They may reduce incidence of injury (but even that is not well documented). They may lead to improved running form – which may or may not help you run faster. But there is no proof that there is a single optimal running form to run fast. (If there was, every fast runner would look the same. And they don’t.)

You can run mile after mile but if all those miles are slow, you will be a slow runner (albeit – quite fit, with great endurance). Do not confuse fitness with the ability to run fast. There is an overlap but they are not the same. There are many fit and quite slow runners out there. If you do not have time to do all the drills, all the range of motion exercises and running form drills – then don’t do them. Instead make the most of your time by infusing fast running into your running. Become fast and fit.

The message is clear from the research end to the practical application end – if you want to run fast then get out and run fast.

Posted in High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Marathon, Pacing & Running, Running | 2 Comments

And for the Weather Report

It really doesn’t matter where you are from. We all have to deal with weather. Unless you go into hibernation all winter up north or all summer in the south you’ll have to deal with the weather. Of course a treadmill is one option for your training if it is available to you… but what if it’s race day?

Next to insufficient time, weather is arguably the most common excuse not to get a workout in. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too windy. It’s too humid. It’s too dry. It’s too sunny. It’s too dark. You get the idea. It really doesn’t matter what the weather is – someone will use it as an excuse not to perform or not to get that workout done.

Did the weather single you out? Are you the only one being treated to heat, cold or wind today?

Here’s the reality of weather. It does not discriminate. Everyone in your vicinity is being treated equally. So if you don’t have a treadmill to retreat to for your workout or if it is race day you have a choice. You can face it or give in to it.

Weather is an equal opportunity adversity. Or is it?

Objectively we know that in very cold, very hot or very windy conditions performances suffer. That’s just a fact. The effects of cold, heat and wind are well documented. You will not be able to run as fast in extreme conditions as in moderate ones. [And if by some happenstance you run a PR on an extreme weather day - you can be guaranteed that you would have run even faster in moderate conditions. So you'll still have something to look forward to.]

Though the weather conditions are the same for everyone how each person handles that weather is not. And there lies the difference that is the difference: your mental game and how you handle adverse weather conditions. The more negative your self-talk, the more you dwell on external uncontrollable elements – the less confident you will be; the more doubts about your ability will dominate your mind; the less race focused you will be. It commonly results in a reduced physical effort/intensity, anxiousness about results or how things will go during the race, and increased stress – all of which increase muscle tension and decrease optimal physical performance.

Think about two competitors of equal ability about to race on a cold blustery day.

Runner 1 tells herself: I hate the cold. I never run good in the cold. I can’t wait for this to be over. Maybe I’ll just do this race as a training run. My hands are freezing. Will this wind ever stop.

Runner 2 tells herself: I’m strong and confident that I can handle anything thrown my way. Head down and all ahead full. Think “strong”. I’ll take each mile as it comes and execute my race plan. I’ll pace right behind the pack and let them break the wind until I launch my kick.

I put my money on Runner 2. She may not set a PR today but she is figuratively and literally heads above the other runner on this day.

If you want to wait for a perfect day to run – you may be waiting awhile. If you use weather as an excuse for your performance you’ll always be a step behind those who don’t. The time to get mentally strong is in training. If you avoid workouts every bad weather day – you are avoiding an opportunity to hone your mental toughness. And that will serve you on race day… regardless of the weather.

Posted in Excuses not to run, focus, Heat Training, Mental Game, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Running, Sports Psychology, Training Effectiveness | Tagged | 1 Comment

Strength Workout Before or After Runs?

A common problem with runners integrating weight/strength training and cross-training into their schedules is how to do it without adversely effecting their running program. If running or becoming a better runner is your primary pursuit then here is the answer.

For this post I’ll use the term “strength training” for all training other than running workouts since we usually do these things to strengthen muscle groups not stressed in running; or we do them to remediate and strengthen weak or previously injured areas. So whether you swim, bike, lift weights, do Pilates or core work the answer is the same.

Since your focus is to improve running, that is go faster, longer or longer-faster; Rule #1 is your running comes first. You do not become a faster runner by cross training (the effects are negligent). Rule #2 is that you have to train specifically for the activity you want (training specificity). You will get good at what you train.

[**Before someone comments about how Pilates or yoga or... made them a better runner let me be clear. Those activities did NOT make you a better runner. They may have remediated a problem you have. Then you were able to get back to running; perhaps both faster and longer. Then you became a better runner - because of the faster-longer running. This does not diminish the role of your other activities but they did not "make" you a better runner.]

Since running is what you want to improve you must put your running workouts first. This is especially true for your key training workouts: tempo runs, quality track workouts, race pace goal paced workouts, hill repeats, long runs, time trials and race simulations. It may be less important for easy recovery runs.

This means you have to know the effects of specific workouts on your body. How long are you sore or tight or tired from that strength workout? It may take a day or two to recover. In any case you have two options:

  1. Schedule your key workouts before your strength workout. That could be earlier the same day or the day before your strength workout. That way your strength workout falls on a recovery day or an easy run day.
  2. Schedule your key workouts a day or two after you have recovered from the strength workout.

How do you know when to do those key workouts? It’s actually very easy to know. When you cannot perform your key workouts as prescribed you need to do some rescheduling. That means if a strength workout decreases – intensity (paces), duration (distances) or frequency (how many/how often, such as in repeats) –  of any key workout then you are watering down your running.

Note that this does not have to do with “fitness”. It means you aren’t training to be a better runner. You can be very fit and still not run faster or longer.

Exceptions

There are exceptions. If you are looking to improve your mental game – your mental toughness, then occasionally hitting a key workout while already fatigued after a strength workout can be just the ticket! This is something I have done myself and have integrated with some of my runners. You don’t get mentally tough by having everything “easy”. You get mentally tough by learning how to push through fatigue. You have to practice it to be able to replicate that toughness in a race.

One other exception actually relates back to specificity of training. If you are training for something like the Warrior Dash Series then running fatigued might be the perfect training for that event!

So, cross-train-away… but know what outcome you are seeking and then plan accordingly!

Posted in Confidence, Excuses not to run, High Intensity Interval Training, Mental Game, Mental Toughness, Pacing & Running, Running, Training Effectiveness | Leave a comment

Skipped Workouts – Substitute Workout Rubric

As a coach, over the years I have often been asked things like:
Can I double up on workouts if I skip a day?
What happens when I’m going to be traveling a whole week with limited workouts?
If I can only get a couple workouts in this week – what should I do?

I created a substitute workout guideline just to answer those inquiries. Though it isn’t perfect it does offer sound science-based rationale for getting the workouts in that will give you the biggest bang for the buck. There are many other aspects of training and training programs that are not considered in this guide. This rubric is valid for most distance runners who race 5K and beyond but especially for those 10K and beyond. Middle distance runners (800m-3k) would need further clarifications and adaptations.

Hopefully some of you will find this helpful next time you get caught short on time and need to figure out the best run to get in given your time available.

Substitute Workout Rubric

If you have very short times for workouts – faster is better. Physiologically two one-mile races (time trials) have a better effect on you than racing a 10k. A 1-mile race is better tan 30:00 of steady state running for improving vVO2max and lactate threshold.

Race pace (Goal Pace) and faster-than-GP workouts are the optimal training workout paces. Remember: Average training pace is a better predictor of race performance than total miles.

Fartlek (Speedplay) workouts are quality workouts that can be done on any surface or terrain over a wide variety of times or distances. So these are the most flexible types of workouts.

If work, school and other obligations interfere with workout days rearrange the schedule so that your key workouts are completed. Do not double-up on workouts or combine them! It’s a fast route to injuries!

  • If you miss an easy run – then run it on your scheduled “rest” day.
  • If you miss a tempo run – run a higher quality run instead.
  • Replace tempo runs with quality runs (5k pace intervals of almost any kind for total of 3-6 miles; shorter rests and longer running intervals)
  • If you miss a quality workout – run it in place of an easy day.
  • If you cannot get a long run in – run shorter and faster such as a Tempo run (about 25sec./mile slower than 5k race pace).
  • If you cannot get to a track for a scheduled “track” workout – run a Fartlek workout.
  • If you cannot get your scheduled total miles done in a week – increase the paces of other workouts.
  • If you cannot run and must cross-train – aqua-running is #1, hard interval-like cycling is #2
  • If you know in advance that you will have a number of days off, plan the week prior to be a “hard” week. Increase miles and intensities. You will treat the “down” week as recovery.

Other training points:

  • A single “quality” workout should equal 2-5 miles of quality (mile to 10k race pace) paced running (20-30% of weekly miles). (More for advanced runners). Improves lactate threshold, vVO2max and race-specific neuromuscular response and running-specific power.
  • A “long” run is approximately >50% longer than an average run. These develop aerobic capacity and strengthens muscles and connective tissue.
  • A “speed” workout contains elements faster than race pace (mile race pace and faster) up to and including all out shorter-than-goal-race-distance time trials (400m to 5k). Long rests are required. (3-5% of total weekly miles during typically but not always in race season).
Posted in Excuses not to run, High Intensity Interval Training, Marathon, Running, Training Effectiveness, Youth Athletes, Youth Running | Leave a comment

Snowboarding Mental Toughness – Goes for All

A USA Today article once again underscored not just the importance of  your mental game but that it is a difference maker. Talking about a young phenom snowboarder (Ayumu Hirano), “If you want to look at him and other great riders at a similar age, he’s far ahead of them,” said Ben Boyd, one of Hirano’s coaches at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. “He’s just far ahead of them. And it’s not just riding. It’s his mental approach to snowboarding. It’s not getting flustered, just having the ability to perform under pressure.

Indeed the ability to maintain emotional control is a key characteristic of mental toughness. Getting upset at judges, referees and officials is a waste of time. They aren’t going to change their mind based on the fact that you are upset and disagree with their call or score. Emotional control when an opponent scores; you make an error; or aren’t playing up to par; or you lose are also pitfalls that the mentally tough athlete do not succumb to.

So, what exactly are you trying to accomplish by reacting? 

Let’s be clear that these scenarios can be upsetting. But your ability to maintain emotional control, focusing on the task at hand – your current performance in the current play – is a hallmark of mentally tough and resilient athletes. After all – that is all you control.

The article also highlights another mental game aspect: “Unlike American riders who have endured years of losing to (Shaun) White, Hirano is unafraid to say he’d like to surpass the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist.” Feeling fear or intimidation from your competition is the antithesis of confidence. Fear inhibits performance.

The article goes on to relate someone suggesting to another pro rider that he could compete at the same level as the superstar of the sport Shaun White but only if he’d been built a private half-pipe as White’s sponsors have done with him twice. This pro rider however admitted that he doesn’t have the same focus White does but that Hirano did.

That response shows the real difference for athletes. It’s not about better training facilities, more equipment, more technical coaches, mindless hours of practice, and sponsorships. It is about a laser-like focus that keeps you always working towards your goals. It’s the laser-like focus that gets you through workouts you may not enjoy or want to do but need to do to perfect your performance. It’s the laser-like focus that keeps an athlete focused on controlling the controllables – that’s you and your performance.

It appears that Hirano gets it. The good news is that anyone can learn how to eliminate fears, control emotions and have proper focus. Drop me a line if you want to learn how or sign up for one of my mental toughness seminars.

Posted in Excuses not to run, Goal Setting, Mental Game, Mental Game Boot Camp, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Sports Psychology, Training Effectiveness | Leave a comment

Top 4 Mental Game Barriers for Endurance Athletes – Part II

This is a continuation on the Top 4 Mental barriers for Endurance Athletes – (part I here).

Barrier #2 – “I’ll practice mental toughness on my good days or when I’m ready.”

Mental toughness is rarely shown when everything is going your way. It is demonstrated when things go awry. It is demonstrated when every adversity you can think of confronts you. It is the day you show up and forget your racing shoes; there are gale force winds; you have a cramp you never experienced before; you have blisters on your feet after only 5 miles; mile markers are mismarked, your clothing is rubbing you raw in special places; your stomach is upset and the course is rerouted to throw a bigger incline in than you’ve seen in your life.

Almost any athlete can push when they feel good. That is one form of mental toughness. But the real barriers happen on those bad days. And that is when you need to have an entire toolbox of coping strategies.

Solution:

You best prepare yourself for bad race days by taking advantage of your bad training days. What specifically did you do to complete your run? What specifically did you think about? What got you through the next mile, the next corner or the next step. How did you cope with whatever barriers you met? And if you gave up or gave in – what were you thinking or telling yourself? This is important to learn because that is exactly what to avoid on race day!

The bonus is this. If you can indeed be mentally tough on a bad day, you will absolutely thrive when things are going your way and you are pushing your way to a new personal record!

Barrier #3 – “I have a race this weekend I want to be mentally tough this time.”

A key barrier to breakthrough running is not practicing like you will race. There is no pill to take or any overnight cure. It took years of thought habits for you to think the way you do. Too many runners believe that if they just “think about” being more mentally tough on race day that they will in fact be more mentally tough on race day. This doesn’t happen. Mental toughness comes from the development of new mindsets that are refined through habitual practice. Workouts must be designed to test you physically and integrate mental game. Merely because you did a bunch of training or a certain number of long runs does not mean you will be mentally tough on race day.

Solutions:

  • Run a time trial or race at shorter distances (learn how you deal with discomfort and how you push through it; chance to experiment with various mental games).
  • Run at your goal pace for specific distances to learn how you will feel at that pace (tune in to what keeps you on pace; how to get back on pace when you fall off pace).
  • Run faster than goal race pace in shorter distances (aside from a good workout it changes your perceptions of race pace).
  • Run workouts with your fastest repeats or miles at the end of the workout (learn how to keep going and in fact push while fatigued).
  • Run workouts “the best you can with what you’ve got”. Learn how you do and don’t get things done on those “bad run” days (see Barrier #2).

*And in every case tune into where your mind goes during these workouts and learn from them!

Barrier #4 – “I read your article and book – now I’m ready.”

You can read all you want. You can study, learn hundreds of techniques and thousands of applications and even become certified as a mental game coach. None of this means you are mentally tough. This view is a barrier to mental toughness development. Many of the principles are clear and simple. They are grounded in sound psychological, learning and physical sciences. Their simplicity is misleading however and in fact a common downfall for athletes “trying to get mentally tough”. If you do not practice mental toughness on a regular basis you will not magically become mentally tough because you read about it.

Solution:

Practice mental toughness and all mental game techniques daily and in as many aspects of your life as possible. It is a way of thinking. You either adopt mentally tough mindsets or you do not. You either decide to take control of your mind or you do not. Hire a professional mental game coach. The reason most athletes come to me is that they realize they need help learning to apply and reinforce how to become mentally tough. Like they say, if everyone could do it – they would.

Posted in Confidence, focus, Goal Setting, Marathon, Mental Game Boot Camp, Mental Toughness, Sports Psychology, Ultra-Marathon | Leave a comment