Thursday, December 30, 2010

Runner Profile: Robyn

Robyn running strong at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler

Robyn, a busy and active mom of four, first joined us for our JCC 10K Program in February 2010. She continued on to complete our Fall Half Marathon training program over the summer, successfully finishing the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November.

Age: 44

When I started running: Age 37

Why I run: Running….it is about boosting my mood and finding inspiration. Also I feel like it is a great influence for my girls to show them how to stick to a plan and succeed. It is easy to bring my sport with me and do any day, any time & anywhere. When you want it to be it is a social sport, running with friends and in groups. And other times it can be just my time.

Favorite local race: Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

How I stay motivated: Having a race to look forward to and my wonderful running groups.

Most memorable running moment: Crossing the finish line at the Philly Half Marathon and having my family travel to the race with me. Also, running with my daughters. I just ran the Jolly Fat Man race with one of my girls and loved every moment of that run with her.

Future goals/race plans: Starting another half marathon training program in January. Planning to run my favorite race again, the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

Advice for new runners: Stick to it. It is hard to get started but once you do, it is hard to stop. Ok, I saw that quote somewhere, but it is so true!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Runner Profile: Jill

Jill, third from right, participated in our Fall Half Marathon Training program, successfully completing the Parks Half Marathon in September 2010.

Age: 49 - it's only a number!

When I started running: Early 20's prior to marriage and kids.

Why I run: it's my therapy; clears my head, keeps the weight off, keeps me healthy and in good shape.

Favorite local race: YMCA/BCC Turkey Chase- love seeing all the families together and having my kids participate with me.

How I stay motivated: Keeping to a running routine.

Most memorable running moment: Completing my first Marathon in 2000.

Future goals/race plans: Possibly another half in a different city; but looking forward to running in Australia & New Zealand on vacation.

Advice for new runners: Find a group or partner to run with; preferably someone who is better at it so they can push you and you know they will always be on time and show up for your run; a friend you can chat with so the time and distance go by fast.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fit It In!

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ~Life's Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

While fitting fitness into a busy life certainly doesn’t equate to the accomplishments famous historical figures managed to fit into their days, making time for exercise is possible, even under demanding schedules. As coaches in a community in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, we often work with runners who delicately balance the obligations of their families, careers, and commutes, while still finding some time to exercise. How do they do this? They prioritize and commit to a fitness routine.

Use your calendar to plan your exercise schedule each week, and make an appointment with yourself to commit to your health and fitness. Motivate yourself to commit to that appointment by running or training with a friend or running group. Running clubs like the Montgomery County Road Runners Club offer numerous running groups for all levels that meet on different days and at different times to fit your schedule. Trust us, getting out of bed at 5:30 am for a run is much easier if you know someone is waiting for you.

If you prefer to work out on your own but can't seem to find time in your schedule to exercise, get creative-- set up your bike on an indoor trainer and ride when your kids are napping; swap babysitting with another family and take that time to get to the gym; store running clothes at work and get out for a quick run during lunch or before you head home for the day; make sure your hotel has a decent gym before your next business trip. And while it's important to plan out your exercise schedule, be flexible-- don't just ditch your plans to exercise because something unexpected comes up and gets in the way of your good intentions. Improvise and move to Plan B if there is a last minute change that interrupts your planned exercise.

For further motivation to stick to a commitment to keep up a running program, sign up for a race. Once you have invested money and put a concrete goal on your calendar, it is much easier to stay focused and motivated and much more difficult to justify not following through. Work backwards from the date of the race and plan out your training schedule, then write it out on your calendar or a log used just for exercise. Let friends and family know you have signed up; or better yet, recruit some of them to join you. You can find a complete list of local running events on the Washington Running Report's Race Calendar.

It's now easier than ever to log and maintain data on your workouts, which helps measure improvement over time and allows you to see if your schedule is working for you. If you are a gadget person, GPS watches, such as the Garmin, and heart rate monitors allow you to upload data in an instant. Or, just keep a log of your workouts, including time of day, duration, average heart rate (if you are wearing a heart rate monitor), mileage or distance covered, how you felt, weather (if exercising outside), and any other relevant information. You can keep this in a traditional calendar, a computer spreadsheet, on one of the many free web-based exercise/workout logs, such as TrainingPeaks or even an online blog.

Try to set multiple goals, both short- and long-term, so that you recognize and reward your progress and not just the end goal. The long-term goal is often so far in the future that it can be hard to stay motivated during the days, weeks and months necessary to get to that goal. By setting shorter term goals and rewarding yourself when you reach these goals, you can keep yourself motivated while working towards the larger goal. For example, if your ultimate goal is to run a 5K, set and reward shorter term goals like completing 3 workouts of run/walk intervals of a certain duration or running continuously for 15 minutes several workouts in a row.

The Road Runners Club of America offers a complete list of certified running coaches around the country, many of whom train runners virtually. As a certified running coaches, we obviously believe in the value of having a coach or trainer to help you reach your fitness goals. Having someone other than yourself to be accountable to is a great source of motivation. A good coach will help you identify short- and long-term goals, design an appropriate training program, monitor your progress to make sure that you are progressing steadily and without injury, provide important information relevant to your goals, and offer encouragement and support. An investment in professional guidance can start you on your way to making fitness a regular part of your life, and eventually you should be in a position to keep it up on your own.

Finding creative ways to stay motivated can help you make exercise a priority, and when you make it a priority it is amazing how easy it becomes to find the time in a busy schedule to work out. After several weeks of working out on a regular basis, it will become habit and, hopefully, a necessary and automatic part of your weekly schedule. More importantly, you’ll be setting an excellent example of fitness, health and dedication for your friends and family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Runner Profile: Meredith

This is the first in a series of profiles of runners who have Run Farther and Faster through one or more of our programs- we think they are inspirational and hope others will find motivation and encouragement from their experiences.

Runner Profile: Meredith

Meredith participated in the Spring 2010 JCC 10K program and progressed to our Fall Half Marathon Training program, successfully completing the Parks Half Marathon in September 2010. She also was a participant in the Fall 2010 JCC 10K program, supplementing the 10K training schedule with additional mileage and speed work in order to successfully complete the Richmond Half Marathon in November with a new PR (Personal Record).

Age: 35

When I started running: Back in law school in 1997 but never more than 4-5 miles and I never raced either. Stopped in 2005 after my first daughter was born & didn’t start back up until Spring of 2009.

Why I run:
Running is my serenity & makes me feel good in so many ways. First, going for a run always helps me clear my head. As a full time working mom, running is my “me time.” Whether I’m with a friend to catch up or just by myself, there is always a sense of accomplishment felt when the run is over. Second, there is such a feeling of satisfaction & personal accomplishment when you finish a race, even if it was not the time you wanted. You have still crossed that finish line!! And last, well it definitely helps to keep me in shape!

Favorite local race: MCM 10k - the race was packed with so many people, but what an amazing feeling seeing all those marines out there helping to hand out water & cheer you on!

How I stay motivated: My kids are one of my best motivators. I love coming home after a long run on the weekend & my little ones, saying “mommy you went running again, yeah mommy!” And then seeing them and my husband at the finish line, knowing all that they’ve sacrificed for me to train for that race. Lastly, I love posting my runs on Facebook. And even though some of my friends have made fun of me for posting so much about running, they have also said that my running & talking about it has inspired them as well to get moving. So that alone is a runner’s high & motivates me to stick with it & keep moving!

Most memorable running moment: My last race I ran the Richmond Half Marathon. Around mile 11 I realized that I could finish in under 2 hours. Those last 2 miles I really pushed myself & finished with a time of 1:59:16, which was almost 12 minutes faster than my first half marathon that I had run only 9 weeks earlier. I always focus on running against myself & not others. I love to run no matter what the pace, but after this race, I truly understood what it means to get a runner’s high. There is an amazing feeling, knowing with hard work & focus, you can accomplish new personal bests & push yourself to the limits!

Future goals/race plans: Suntrust National Marathon in DC on March 26, 2011 (my first marathon). Then I’m hoping to run several other races in the area & work on my speed in 2011.

Advice for new runners: Stick with it!! But be smart about your running. Having suffered a few injuries along the way, I learned a few lessons the hard way. Resting your body is just as important, if not more, than your runs. Find friends who like to run as well. There is nothing like getting up at 5 AM in the dark & cold weather, where you could easily just go back to sleep, but you know that a friend is there waiting to run with you & is just as crazy getting up at the crack of dawn!! And last, just enjoy being outdoors and take in all the sights are you run. Find new places & routes to run & just enjoy getting your heart pumping!

Meredith with her daughters after the 2010 Richmond Half Marathon

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Motivation

As the days grow shorter and the temperatures plummet, it’s often hard to find the motivation to keep up with a running program. With fewer races on the calendar over the winter months, runners often find themselves without the structure or drive provided by the training programs that led up to fall target races. However, with the right planning, schedule and mindset, winter can actually be the a great opportunity to reinforce progress made over previous months of diligent training, or even to start a running program with the goal of building up to a spring race.

The first and most obvious challenge presented by winter months are colder, inclement weather (hence less desire to get out of a warm and cozy bed in the dark early hours of the morning!) and shorter days (hence less hours of daylight for early morning or late evening runs). Running in the cold weather can be a welcome change from the hot, muggy days of summer, though. Remember complaining about the oppressive humidity at 6:00 in the morning? Not a problem during the winter months! The key to successful- and enjoyable- winter running is being prepared with the proper gear. Special attention should be paid to safety. Reflective gear is a must- options range from lightweight vests to armbands with flashing LED lights. It is also advisable to run with a head lamp when the roads are dimly lit and it is difficult to see obstacles underfoot. And it should go without saying, but when running in the dark of the early morning or evening, be aware of your surroundings and avoid using headphones or, if you must run with music, try keeping one earphone in and the other out so you can still hear. Better yet, there’s safety in numbers so find a friend or more to run with you- they’ll double as excellent motivation to get out the door even in the cold and dark.

Warm clothing can also make all of the difference between an enjoyable winter running experience and a miserable one. Layering is ideal, incorporating a base layer with wicking material and an outer shell that can break the wind, along with running tights or pants. Keep extremities warm with a good running hat or ear wrap and thermal running gloves. For an added level of warmth, put a pair of air-activated coal hand warmers into your gloves that can be removed once you get warmed up.

A second challenge following the conclusion of the fall racing season is a lack of specific goal. There are far fewer races on the local running calendar which for many means lack of focus and motivation to stick to running a certain number of miles or days of running per week. There are winter races, though, many of which are a fun change from the larger, longer distance, more competitive races during warmer months. Check the calendar at Washington Running Report for local races over the winter months. Consider signing up for a Jingle Bell jog (complete with bells on shoes for all runners!) or a New Year Resolution run to keep an edge and maintain some of the motivation of the prime racing season. These races tend to start later in the morning due to the colder temperatures- a welcome change from the early morning race preparation of summer and fall. Another fun and different option is an indoor triathlon- many gyms offer these “super-sprint” distance competitions over the winter months, which typically involve a short swim in a heated pool, ride on a stationary bike and run on the treadmill in the protected comfort of the indoors. These indoor triathlons provide a nice change of scenery to traditional road races.

Speaking of a change of scenery, many runners find themselves just plain bored or burned out after a long season of running and racing. Add this feeling of burnout to cold, dark days and few races on the calendar and you could have a recipe for undoing all of the hard work put into building endurance earlier in the season. Treat these factors not as obstacles but as opportunities to enhance hard-earned fitness with cross-training. Try out a new class at the gym, swim at an indoor (heated!) pool, hit the weights, or find another way to surprise your body and round out your fitness routine. Cross-training has numerous documented benefits, including reduced risk of injury and balanced muscle strength. Plus, cross-training is an excellent way to maintain and build your cardiovascular fitness. Some of our favorites include swimming, Spinning, Pilates, Crossfit and group strength training classes like Body Pump. Remember, though, to take on new classes at your own comfort level and ease into them to avoid injury.

In most places, winter brings colder weather, wind, snow and ice and shorter days. Instead of using these changes as excuses to let fitness hibernate, take the opportunity to enjoy different experiences- a run in the brisk pre-dawn hours under a clear, starry sky; a local Jingle Bell jog to the sound of hundreds of bells on running shoes or a new fitness class. Come springtime you’ll be refreshed and ready to begin training again…which brings us to our upcoming spring programs: sign up now to join us for our 10K training program through the JCC of Greater Washington or our Run Farther Faster beginner program through the City of Rockville. Getting or staying in shape for one of these programs can give some additional motivation to stay fit over the winter!