08-31-2016

Pique Tea Review (It’s Awesome!)

Today, we’re going to talk about tea. Specifically, crystallized tea. How cool does that sound??

I’m a big fan of crystallized things (like Nektar Honey Crystals), and this tea is no exception. Pique Tea is tea, re-imagined. They make natural whole leaf tea, brewed and crystallized. Pique Tea is the easiest way to enjoy exceptional tea every time. Oh and they are certified Organic!

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How is tea made into crystal form? Good question. Pique’s leaf-to-crystal process slow brews the tea leaves for maximum flavor and nutrients and are then crystallized.

The number 1 thing I love about it is that I can easily make iced tea!! I never make iced tea at home because, honestly, I’m too lazy. I don’t feel like brewing tea, letting it cool, etc. etc. With Pique Tea, just put it in your water + ice, and you’re set. This is also perfect for me to have at my desk in order to stay hydrated. We all get sick of plain water, and just being able to drop these little tea crystals into my water makes me life so much easier :)

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Pique Tea has a bunch of different flavors, which include Sencha Green Tea, Jasmine Tea, Mint Sencha Green Tea, Earl Grey, and English Breakfast. Each box comes with 14 sachets. Simply tear it open and pour into your cup.

I took these with me to Rio to try them out and it was perfect. Small enough to have in my carry on bag and just overall very convenient and quick. Hot cup of Jasmine tea on the beach in Copacabana? Why not :)

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You all know I love my coffee, but being able to make iced tea has been key in the summertime. After a hot day at XC practice, I want an ice cold drink. Check out my video below for 2 quick & easy recipes I concocted!

Want to try Pique Tea? There are a few ways you can:

  • Get a free trial pack here.
  • Buy a variety pack here.
  • Subscribe to their monthly tea plan here.

I highly recommend getting your free trial pack – I promise you’ll love it!

What are your favorite tea flavors? Do you prefer iced tea or hot tea?

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08-29-2016

Week 9 – NYC Marathon Training

Last week was a solid week of training. I can only hope this week goes as well! Ever have weeks where you just feel crappy on EVERY run and want to give up? Then weeks where you feel amazing and want to keep running? Oh the highs and lows of marathon training ;)

Here’s how the week went down:

Monday: Easy run – 4.5 miles. Just our usual loop in town.

Tuesday:

Wednesday: Tempo run – 6.5 miles total. We decided to do part of the workout during a 5K race (The NJ Trail Series which we love). We did a 1.5 mile warm-up, then 1 mile at tempo pace on our own before the 5K, then 5K at tempo pace, then 1 mile cooldown. Felt good!

 

A photo posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

Thursday: Off. Shouldn’t have taken off but was tired from the previous workout and we had to do our long run Friday, so figured rest couldn’t hurt.

Friday: 13 miles. Of course it was the hottest day of the week, but this was the only day I could get it done. I was going down the shore for the weekend, plus I prefer doing my long runs during the week as opposed to weekend mornings. We took it really slow because of the heat, and left water on the course, so we were drinking water every 2-3 miles. Those water stops did add an extra 15 minutes to our total time…but it was needed. I’ve seen people online talk about how you shouldn’t stop that much during runs because it will affect your training but I’d rather stop for a minute or 2 to get water and hydrate. What do you all think?

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Off

TOTAL MILES: 29. Total time: 5:40…up 20 minutes from last week and with one day less of running! Hoping to hit high 30s if not 40 this week.

Shins have been feeling good, and physical therapy is really helping. So gotta keep trucking along until November!

I’m running 5th Avenue Mile this weekend, who else is?? See ya there!

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08-22-2016

Week 8 – NYC Marathon Training

We are back from Rio! We got back last week from our South America trip (Paraguay to visit family then Rio for the Olympics). Overall, it was an amazing trip. Will post a full recap of it later this week.

Today, I wanted to talk about how marathon training is going so far. Last week was week 8 (wow) and I’d say training is mediocre. We were away fro 2 weeks so the training didn’t go as planned. It’s tough because in Paraguay, every day was packed with visiting family. Our entire family is in Paraguay, so when we go, we try to see as many people as possible.

Also, it’s not safe to run on the roads in Paraguay, which makes it even harder to run because we have to drive 30-40 minutes to the park. So unfortunately, we didn’t get any long runs in during that time, and probably only ran 2-3 times each week.

So last week was our first week back, and although the plan said to shoot for 14-15 miles, we have only ran up to 10, so I said let’s stick to 10 miles to get back into the flow of things. We still have 10 weeks left so I’m hoping we still have time to build up to those long runs and be fine. Here’s how last week looked:

MONDAY - Off. This was the day we got back from Rio. That 9.5 hour overnight flight is killer.

TUESDAY - 3 miles. Went on a 2 mile out and back, but then walked the last mile with my mom. It was super hot and humid, and being our first run back, I felt super out of shape haha. So we took it easy.

WEDNESDAY – AM 2 miles with  my XC team. PM 5 miles on the track. We did a 1.5 mile warmup, then 5×1000 meter repeats, then a short cooldown. Felt pretty good actually. 

THURSDAY - 4.5 miles, out and back, easy pace.

FRIDAY - 10 mile long run. UGH this run. From the beginning I knew it was going to be an off day. Isn’t that the worst when you’re at mile 1 or 2 of a long run and already feel like crap?

I tried GENUCAN before the run, and then had a DOUBLE side cramp for the whole 10 miles. I had to stop and walk a bunch. It was awful and the slowest run. But I’m glad I finished because I thought about qutiting at 3 miles, 5 miles, and 7 miles lol. But I figured I had nothing to do that night anyway so I could go slow, plus we had a wedding the next day so it was the only day I could get it done.

Has anyone tried GENUCAN and have tips? I’m going to try it one more time during this week’s long run. Hoping it goes better. I feel like I just never feel good on long runs. I absolutely dread long runs, and they make me question why I signed up for a marathon haha.

SATURDAY - 4 miles, recovery run.

TOTAL MILES: 28.5 miles

How do you all usually fuel for long runs? I have tried gels but feel like I still don’t have sufficient energy towards the end. GenUCAN gives me good energy but the cramp issue is annoying. Hmm…

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07-30-2016

I’m Heading To Rio!

Things might be a big quiet here for the next 2 weeks – my family and I are heading to Paraguay to visit my family, and then spending 4 days in Rio during the Olympics! I’m so pumped minus all the Zika talk, dangers etc. But we were there for the World Cup amidst similar conditions and had a great time. We’ve been to South America every 2-3 years since I was young…it’s all about being smart and aware of your surroundings.

Anyway, hopefully we have a great and safe trip. I will be spending my birthday watching track and field in the Olympic stadium! Best birthday ever ;)

I can’t wait to see the sights again:

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I’d love to go back to Christ the Redeemer to see the sunset, but so far we don’t have a set itinerary other than the track meet and some beach volleyball.

I will be posting on instagram and snapchat, so if you want to follow along, feel free to follow me! I’m @pattyrivas13 on both :)

Hopefully I am able to still get my runs in during this time…but we’ll have to see what the situation is in terms of where to run along with where it’s safe to run.

Stay tuned!

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07-27-2016

NYC Marathon Long Training Run Recap

Last weekend, my mom and I did the NYRR NYC Marathon Long Training Run in Central Park. I really did not want to wake up at 4:30 AM to get into the city by 6:30AM, but really had no choice since the temps were going to be HOT that day. Whether I ran there or alone, I’d have to be up early, so I figured might as well go run with everyone else training for NYCM. Plus, NYRR sets up water stations every mile, along with Gatorade and gels. They also had sprinklers every mile which were a lifesaver!

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Up early enough to see the sunrise over NYC.

We got there around 6:30 and parked, though funny story…I bought a pre-paid pass for a parking deck using the app SpotHero. Since my brain was clearly not awake yet, I ended up parking in the wrong deck (same street), so had to pay twice basically. SIGH.

Anyway, we got there with plenty of time to use the bathrooms, pick up our bibs and hang out for a bit. Usually we get there right on time and are rushing everywhere.

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The run was split up into pace groups. We decided to stick with the 12:00/mile pace group to start, because of the heat, and see how things went from there.

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My watch, my mom’s watch and her friend’s watch all said we were running at 10:30 pace in that first mile which was odd but we felt good so I went with it. We were ahead of the 12:00/mile pacer in the first mile, and then eventually my pace evened out to about 11:25 per mile. I just went slow and made sure I was feeling comfortable. I put in my music to just zone out.

I walked through every water stop each mile, then continued on, which didn’t affect my average pace at all. Does anyone do this in marathons? Stop and walk at water stops? Or do you drink while running?

After the first 6 mile loop it was starting to get hot but I still felt good. I did something I have never tried before – I dumped water down my neck and back…and it felt great! I’ve never tried that because I’ve been afraid of chafing. I know many suggest it to cool down but I already sweat enough as it is so throwing water on myself and making my clothes literally soaking wet seems uncomfortable. But it did the trick. I felt fine, heat wise, until about 9 miles (2 miles to go).

That is when it felt like it just got HOT. With one mile to go I was taking a few walk breaks and my mom was like come on, only one mile left. With a half mile to go, this woman running with her stroller passed me and I tried to stay with her (which I did for like 2 minutes LOL). When my watch hit 9.8, I sped up with what I could…plus I just wanted to get to that water table which also had Gatorade and cold, wet sponges.

We finished the 11 miles in 2:05 according to my watch. Goal was 12-13 miles but the course actually shut down right when we crossed due to the heat. But I’ll take it!

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The funny thing is, I was pretty nervous about this run. The night before I could NOT SLEEP AT ALL which is SO FRUSTRATING. I legit wanted to scream. I went to bed at 10:30 and didn’t actually fall asleep until around 2 AM. Awesome. 

I woke up at 4:30 and was thinking, “How am I going to run 11 miles on 2 hours of sleep?” But did some googling on my drive to the run and made myself feel better by reading about how one night of bad sleep won’t affect you TOO much.

Well, I’d say it didn’t really affect me thankfully. I felt good and kept a steady pace throughout. I actually ran 10 miles yesterday and ran it much slower…finished in the same time, but 1 mile less. So you really never know when you’ll have a good day or a bad day, but it’s all part of the training process!

Next week I plan on recapping my marathon training based on the week…this week is week 6 already!

How do you cool off when it’s super hot out and you NEED to get your long run in?

Has anyone ever changed shirts in the middle of a marathon because I am seriously considering that lol – my shirts are soaked within the first hour…blegh.

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07-21-2016

Back To The Real World + Marathon Training Update

Hi all! I’ve been MIA because of a few different projects and because I was in Myrtle Beach for the past 10 days. Now I’m back in NJ and feeling that post-vacation sadness :-(

I seriously love Myrtle Beach, and Dan and I have been going every summer for the past few years (minus one summer I believe). He is convinced of moving there but we’ll see if that ever actually happens haha.

I did run while on vacation and stuck to my marathon training plan, so that’s a definite win! The downside is some days I was S-L-O-W because of the heat and humidity (we’re talking like 13-14 miles per minute) but what can you do. Thankfully those were my  “easy” days so I didn’t care much. Plus, it was just as hot if not hotter (and more humid) here in NJ, so no matter what, I wouldn’t have escaped it.

 

A photo posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

This picture was from my first day of running and I was absolutely drenched. Was not acclimated to the heat at all yet. I ran inside in their fitness center before going outside which was a good idea because I don’t think I would have been able to do 6 miles total outside.

I loved my little running route from the resort, and one day I stumbled upon these beautiful, oceanfront mansions. A plot of land was listed for sale for 2 million so I don’t even want to know what a house costs ;) I would do my usual shady route and then end with stretching by the beach:

 

A photo posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

Before I get more into my marathon training can we talk about jet-skiing for a second?

Dan and I did a 3 hour jet-ski tour that took us out to the ocean to see dolphins (pretty cool). It was my first time driving a jet ski alone and I was terrified. The tour group would be waaaaaay ahead of me and would have to wait for me…one couple asked Dan if my jet ski had engine troubles LOL. So embarrassing.

But no joke, I was so scared. I couldn’t get the hang of going over the wakes of other boats on the waterway, and then once we got into the ocean it was even scarier. The guide had to come back and be like “You need to go at least 20 and you’ll have more control.” Again, LOL.

I was SO tense throughout, gripping that thing for dear life with my arms and legs, that the next day I could barely move because my muscles and lower back were so sore. I think next time I’d prefer to rent a jet ski on my own so I can go my own pace rather than trying to stay with a group :-P

Marathon Training So Far

We are already in week 5!! Can’t believe it. My mom and I are doing the NYRR Long Training Run in Central Park this Saturday (anyone else?) and running 12-13 miles. She leaves for Paraguay this Sunday so next week I need to run 14 miles alone…anyone need a long run buddy??!

We’ve been following Dr. Jason Karp’s plan from his Running a Marathon For Dummies book (which is very informative btw). I love…well, love and hate, the tempo runs. Tempo runs are my weakness, and we’ve been doing a lot of tempo paced runs and mile repeats at tempo pace, which is exactly what I need to get better at. I can do track workouts and 400 repeats no problem, but running a set pace that is challenging for a continous amount of miles is so hard for me.

While in Myrtle Beach, I did 2.5 miles (with 2 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down), and my goal for next week is to get 3 miles. Jason and I also talked about how time based vs. mile based training might work better for me, but I’ll write more about that next week.

I’m feeling strong so far, and despite not having a CRAZY base, having at least a base of 15-20 miles per week has really helped me.  I want this NYC Marathon to be a great experience, and to hopefully PR. I don’t want it to be like Chicago, where I was majorly struggling due to heat and held my mom back.

Starting next week I will do weekly recaps again of my training so I can connect with more runners – I love reading everyone’s weekly recaps and feeling like we’re all in this together :-)

Who else has started their marathon training?

I never do long runs alone so I’m kinda scared for next week…what are your long run tips to not get bored or get through it?

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07-06-2016

6 Marathon Training Tips For All Levels

This week is week 3 of marathon tranining and I can’t believe we just ran 10 miles yesterday. It’s amazing how fast your body can get back in shape. Just a month ago I was struggling to run 5-6 miles. Shooting to run anywhere from 3-6 miles today depending on how I feel. I want it to be a longer recovery day but I can only run at 2pm so it will be HOT. 95 degrees and 50% humidity. And I just do not want to run on the treadmill, so we’ll see…

Anyway, today I’ve got some great training info for you from the author of Running a Marathon For Dummies (and many other running related books), Dr. Jason Karp. I am following his intermediate plan in the aforementioned book. 

I sent him a few questions related to training that I thought might benefit other runners as well. Let’s get into it!

Training for a marathon? Check out these tips and insight from Dr. Jason Karp! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

1) What are your suggestions for adjusting pace in tempo runs or track workouts when it’s hot/humid?
Adjusting pace is okay as long as you are still running at the correct pace given the conditions. For example, if you’re doing a VO2 max interval workout on the track and it’s hot and humid, you still want to run at your VO2max pace whatever that pace may be on that day. It’s hard to know exactly by how much the weather will affect someone. Your VO2max pace may be a few seconds per mile slower on a hot/humid day, so adjust the time for your reps. If someone has a heart rate monitor, the pace can be adjusted by heart rate. For example, if on a cool day, you’re running at 7:00 mile pace at 100% max heart rate, but on a hot/humid day, you reach 100% max heart rate at 7:10 pace, then run at 7:10 pace that day.

2) I’ve seen you mention that exercising 250 min. per week and watching your nutrition will easily help you lose weight. Do those 250 minutes include easy runs? Or just hard workouts? What other tips do you have for getting to your race weight WHILE marathon training?
The number 250 is based on the 2009 position statement from the American College of Sports Medicine. It includes aerobic exercise. My next book is all about running for weight loss. Even though the subject tends to be made complicated, it’s really easy€” — to lose weight, you must expend more calories and consume fewer. So, when marathon training, don’t replenish all of the calories after long workouts. Only replace the calories you need to fuel your running and recover from workouts.

3) What do you think of cross training? Your plan has 1-2 days of rest. Do you think adding a day of cross training like cycling or swimming is beneficial? What about cycling in the AM and running in the PM, to get more cardio in but less impact on the legs?
I promote cross training for runners who aren’t running a lot of miles. In that case, cross training can definitely help with cardiovascular improvement. However, if you want to be a better runner, you must run. Swimming won’t make you a better runner.

4) Can you explain the running science behind the tempo runs and track workouts, and how they can help one achieve their marathon goal pace?
This can take a long time to answer. I’ve written entire books on this subject! Briefly, tempo runs help your endurance by training you to hold a faster aerobic pace by raising your lactate threshold, which is your fastest sustainable aerobic pace. Track workouts can help a variety of things, depending on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with the workout. For example, VO2max intervals can help improve your heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen because you’re running at the maximum capability for your heart to do its job. Anaerobic workouts can recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, improve your speed and the ability of your muscles to generate energy anaerobicall, without oxygen.

5) If you had to pick the ONE thing that I MUST do in training, what would it be? (i.e., long runs, tempo runs, sleep 8 hours per night, nap, etc.)
Train consistently and progressively from week to week and month to month and year to  year.

6) I know many people in the same boat as me, trying to BQ and feeling it is impossible. They are also in the same boat as me in terms of time goals. Dropping from a 4:30ish marathon to a BQ marathon time of 3:30ish. Do you think that is realistic?
It depends on the person’s genetic ability and the commitment he/she makes to train. With adequate training, most runners can run much faster than they are. Can someone go from 4:30 to 3:30? That depends on how much training went into that 4:30. If the person ran 20 miles per week without any other types of workouts, then I’d say probably. But if that person ran 60 miles per week and did tempo runs and interval workouts, and is still running 4:30, then a 3:30 is probably out of reach.

So there you have it folks! Some great info from Dr. Jason Karp. I’ve been stuck around 4:30-5, but I know I still have a lot I can do. Like running more, running more consistently throughout the year, doing more tempo runs, strength training, etc. So we’ll see what happens for NYC Marathon!

Who else is running a fall marathon?

What is your biggest running related question?

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06-27-2016

Glute Strengthening Exercises Pt. 2

Now that marathon training has started, I really need to make sure to work on my glutes, especially my glute medius. I wrote a previous post (that somehow blew up on Pinterest) on strengthening your glute medius (and why it’s important).

Today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite glute exercises. I haven’t been strength training much, mainly because I have been balancing running, cycling and yoga. But I need to get back into the gym this week.

Your glutes are your powerhouse. When you’re running, you need strong glutes to push off the ground and give you, well, power. It’s not uncommon at all for runners, and most people in general, to have weak glutes from sitting all day and not really activating them. So here are a few exercises you can start incorporating into your routine. Plus, you can do them anywhere, either bodyweight or with dumbbells. So add a few reps and sets in after your runs and you’ll be on your way to buns of steel.

Here are my top 5 exercises to strengthen and grow your glutes! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Step-Ups

These are so easy to do anywhere! If you’re out for a run, you can find a park bench or table to use. If you’re at home, you can use a chair or your stairs. You want to make sure your form is right with these, and that you’re not using your back leg to bounce you up onto the step. Your back leg should stay completely straight, and you should focus on using your front let (the one on the box) to push you up. Here’s an example of someone using that back leg to power them up (which means your front leg and glute are working less):

It might take a little practice, which is why it’s good to start off with your bodyweight only, and then progress to adding dumbells. Here’s an excellent tutorial video:

Walking Lunges

Another one that can be done anywhere, with or without weights. If you have knee issues or knee pain, you may want to stay away from walking lunges. You can do do split squats (stationary lunge) or reverse lunges instead. You can also switch those up by elevating your front foot. Lots of options here.

With walking lunges, take a step forward and really focus on keeping your chest up and shoulders back. Lower your knee as low as it can go, and then switch. Do not force yourself to go lower than what is comfortable. You also want to make sure that your heel on the foot that is stepping forward is planted on the ground. If you step forward and your heel is up or you’re on the balls of your feet, it means you’re not taking big enough steps.

Hip Raises

Hip raises are probably my favorite exercise, mainly because I can lie down while doing it :-P

Did you know hip raises are more effective at growing your glutes than squats are? Start off with just body weight hip raises. Lay on your back with bent knees. Plant your feet and lift your hips up as high as you can. Squeeze your glutes as you lift and really focus on utilizing those muscles. You may feel this in your hamstrings and calves too. Hold at the top for about 2-3 seconds, lower and repeat. In order to see if you’re using your glutes and not your hip flexors, try doing a single leg hip raise with one knee bent. What I mean is, take one knee to your chest and hold it there with your arms. THEN, do a hip raise. You should really feel that in your glute. Once you get the hang of it, you can add a weighted plate or barbell on top of your hips in order to make the move more challenging. 

Bulgarian Split Squats

This is a more advanced exercise, and a variation on lunges. You can work up to this by doing reverse lunges with your back foot elevated on a small box or step. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it with your back foot on a bench. Here’s what it looks like (including good cues and common mistakes):

Remember to always keep your chest up and shoulders back. You don’t need to lower yourself all the way down if you can’t. Go until you can, and then come back up. Work your way lower and lower over time.

Back extensions

You will need a back extension machine for this one, or you can get creative and use the end of your couch or bed. I’ll show an example after I explain.

Doing back extensions on an incline back extension machine will target your hamstrings and glutes, maybe your calves too if they’re a little weak. If your lower back is weak, you’ll feel it in those muscles as well. Lower down all the way, then squeeze your glutes to lift yourself up. Be careful not to hyper-extend. See how he is in a straight line?

Photo source

If you want to add weight, hold a weighted plate to your chest to make it more challenging.

Start incorporating these exercises into your routine and not only will you have stronger glutes, you’ll be helping your body stay injury free. Writing this just motivated me to get my butt to the gym this week. Another thing I need to work on ASAP is my core strength. Please leave me your favorite core workouts below because core is my least favorite thing to do haha.

What is your favorite glute exercise? How often do you train your legs/glutes?

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06-23-2016

My Marathon Training Plan

So it’s finally here…time to train for the NYC Marathon. This week is week 1. I was going to do a 16 or 18 week plan, but then read about the benefits of a 20 week plan. Like having more time to gradually build up and also more flexbility if you miss some runs due to unforseen circumstances. So I decided to do the 20 week intermediate plan from Running a Marathon For Dummies by Jason Karp.

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(Bought these books together and highly recommend Champion’s Mind too.)

I have chatted with Jason a few times previously and that’s how I learned of his book. I was debating between this plan and Hansons. I have used Hansons before (2011 NYC Marathon) which lead to a PR, but I wanted to try something new AND believe this plan might better suit my weaknesses.

For instance, tempo runs and long runs are very challenging for me. I dread them. Track workouts are no big deal. I love them and while they can be hard, I never doubt that I will be able to do it (unlike tempos and long runs).

This plan has a heavy emphasis on tempo runs and intervals, and then in the later weeks starts adding VO2 Max intervals as well. The intermediate plan peaks aaround 50 MPW I believe. The book also offers a beginner and advanced plan. Here’s a shot of one of the training plan pages (this is the advanced plan)

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This is the first time I’m going into a plan with somewhat of a base. While I was only running 15-20 miles per week, I’ve been consistent with that and my cycling classes since January, so I am WAY fitter than any other time I have started a plan (aka at 0 miles per week lol).

The first track/tempo interval workout this week was:

  • 2 mile warm-up
  • 3×1 mile at threshold pace (for me, 10 min./mile but I ended up doing 9:30ish pace because I had read the wrong pace chart lol)
  • 1 mile cool-down

I actually did 1 mile warm-up + 1 lap cooldown because of time constraints. 

But I actually felt really good. It was a big challenging but doable. I honestly doubted myself going into the run – I figured I’d do 1 rep of the mile then have to drop down to 400s or something. Because 1) it was super hot and 2) I haven’t done mile repeats in years probably. No joke. And this is in week ONE! 

I am feeling good though – I know it’s only week 1 of 20, and I know it’s only one track workout, but I think it bodes well that I was able to finish mile repeats strong and on pace. I actually progressively ran faster too. So here’s to hoping it continues and I can FINALLY get a marathon PR, since Chicago was such a disaster.

I will be interviewing Dr. Jason Karp, the author of this plan, soon, so stay tuned for more info from him. And if you have any specific questions about running and marathon training, leave them below so I can send them to him!

SIDENOTE: If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably already seen this, but my mom and I finally started a running group! We met this other guy through a friend, who is connected with Asuncion Runners in Paraguay (my native country). So we decided to do a New Jersey chapter of that group. It’s not only Paraguays, but also from other countries. I’ve talked with my mom forever about starting a running group for the Latinos in the area. Many are new to running and just need some guidance and support from others – which is exactly what our group aims to offer. We are running our first 5K together this Saturday! 

I know many have said it, but running with a group really does make runs go by faster and it’s nice to have that camaraderie. I’ve been named the official Coach of the group ;)

Do you have a running group? How did you meet them/join them?

What training plan are you following at the moment?

Leave your running questions below so I can share with Dr. Jason Karp!

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06-20-2016

How To Improve Your Running Form

I cannot believe marathon training starts in 2 weeks for NYC Marathon…and for some of you doing a 20 week plan, it starts this week. I’m going to follow the first 2 weeks of a 20 week plan loosely, but not OFFICIALLY starting until 18 weeks out. Getting nervous!! Because running will really ramp up.

I’m not 100% sure yet what training plan I will be using, but I will post more about that once I choose (along with the 2 I’m considering and their pros and cons).

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about running form. We have all read about running form in one way or another, I’m sure…especially about foot strike. 

Running form can affect your injury patterns (or whether you get an injury), your efficiency and how much energy you use to run, your strength up hills or in that final sprint, and more. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful throughout my running journey and can maybe help you improve your running form as well:

4 ways to improve your running form today! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Arm Swing

Arm swing is something that really helps propel you forward, especially when you’re getting tired. When you watch race videos (or am I the only one watching elites race on FloTrack lol), you notice how they really use their arms and pump them hard in order to run faster.

This is why doing upper body exercises are essential as well, especially in your off season. The stronger your arms, the faster you will go once your body is tired (like at the finish line, or up hills). 

When you’re running up hills, think of your arms as pulling on a rope to get you up (at least that is how I imagine it). Pump them like pistons. Same thing when you’re tired. During track workouts, I will also imagine “whipping” my hand back with power in order to help me excel forward.

You also want to makes sure your arms aren’t crossing over your chest/mid-line. Your elbows should be swinging straight back, and your hands straight (or almost straight) forward. “Hip to nip” is what I’ve read in many places.

Lastly, make sure your hands are relaxed. It’s easy to get tense and make fists when you’re going all out, but you want to stay relaxed. Pretend you’re holding an egg in each hand – if you squeeze too hard, you’ll break the egg. 

So to review:

  • Use your arms as pistons when you need more power.
  • Hip to nip. Don’t cross the midline.
  • Relax your hands, don’t make fists.

Stand Tall

Good posture is key. And something I also have to work on. I’ve noticed after marathons/long runs, my neck hurts, and my lower back. During Chicago Marathon, about half way through, I had to stop to get ibuprofen from a medical tent because I had such a bad headache from my neck tension. As I mentioned above, you want to make sure you’re relaxed and loose.

On runs, I regularly check in to see how my posture is. More often than not, I have to re-adjust. A good cue (and one I’ve mentioned here in the past) is “chest up, shoulders back.” Once you roll your shoulders back, it will help align everything else. Your neck won’t be forward, your lower back won’t be too arched, etc.

Your gaze should be ahead of you not staring down at the ground (unless you’re on a trail run, in which case, look at the ground so you don’t sprain an ankle). And your core should be engaged. I will talk about that in the next point.

Quick review:

  • Chest up, shoulders back.
  • Look ahead.
  • Relax your face. It’s easy to get all tense when you’re working hard, keep your face muscles relaxed.
  • Head and neck straight up and down (don’t lean your head back or forward/down when you get tired)

Pelvic Tilt

Have you ever heard of “sitting in the bucket?” It’s a common term that describes many runners. If you have had lower back pain after a run, this might be why (and definitely why I do as well).

Sitting in the bucket is when, “the pelvis tilts forward and the hips push back. “This posture reduces the power of the hip extensors, stresses the lower back, and shortens your stride. This posture is responsible for a lot of runners’ back and hip problems,” from Human Kinectics.

According to Runner’s World, “when the lumbar area is contracted and weak, the pelvic girdle will begin to rotate backward, causing the back musculature to overwork. This causes pain and keeps you from activating the proper muscles to propel you forward, making you compensate with other muscles.”

If you were to lay on your back and press your lower back into the floor, that is the posture you should have while running. Obviously this is easier said than done, and requires good core strength, which is why doing core exercises is so important.

A good exercise to do (and one suggested in that Runner’s World article) is reverse crunches. Here’s my how-to video:

You can hold on to a heavy object or bench if you need to, and work your way up to just using your own body strength. I also like to do leg drops where I keep my lower back pressed firmly against the ground. I can only lower my legs a few inches, but the key is to not go to low where your back starts coming up off the floor. Eventually you’ll work your way up (or down I guess) to lowering your legs fully.

While you’re running, check in and see if you’re engaging your core. Sometimes on a run, I will place my hand on my abs or hips and push on them to remind myself to engage my core and move my pelvis back.

Foot Strike

This one has been controversial. Initially, people were all about forefoot strike, but then people started saying foot strike wasn’t the be all end all of running form…who knows exactly? My thoughts are that you have your own running gait/pattern. Your body moves in a way that is most efficient to you. Many elites have a heel strike, and many have a mid-foot or forefoot strike. I think the key point is that you don’t ever want to be OVER striding.

A lot of new runners I’ve spoken with have been like “so and so is so fast because she has really big strides, I need to do that too!” And I’m like please don’t! 1) You should be shooting for 180 foot strikes per minute and 2) big elongating your stride past its natural point, you will then be forcing a heel strike, which means more braking forces on your legs, which could lead to injuries.

Next time you’re on a run, count how many steps you take per minute. Surprisingly, I’m exactly at around 180 per min. This might vary depending on how you run, your leg length, etc. 

Going along with the stride length, I think another key point to remember is to try to land beneath your body (and not in front of it). You can achieve this by having a slight forward lean while running, as opposed to leaning back, which many do once they’re getting tired or working hard at the end of a race.

Quick review:

  • Don’t overstride. It will lead to injuries
  • Shoot for 180 steps per minute.
  • Have a slight forward lean…do not lean backwards!

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If all of this confuses you, I highly recommend getting a gait analysis done, or just filming yourself running. I’ve learned a lot about my running form by doing a slow-mo video from behind of me running on a treadmill. 

I wouldn’t recommend getting a gait analysis done at a running store because often times it’s just younger kids working there or they are trying to push a certain shoe…I don’t know, there are a lot of factors. 

I would say go to a physical therapist or athletic trainer to get a running analysis done…or even a running coach like my old coach Marc! He has a special software to watch your running videos and analyze all your specific angles (like foot strike, leg stride, arm angles, etc.) You can find his running gait analysis services here.

Have you ever had a gait analysis or had a PT tell you something that needed to be changed?

Have you ever felt lower back pain after long runs? The worst!

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