Tag Archives: marathon

5 quick ways to avoid burnout

Last week I found myself feeling rather lethargic and under the weather with no sign of a cold or flu in sight (thankfully). I’m usually very good at keeping to a decent sleep schedule and am pretty conscious of my diet, but had noticed both had some blips in them over the previous couple of weeks. I found myself unable to shake this tired feeling.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=recovery&iid=5136462″ src=”b/e/c/6/Low_angle_view_7853.jpg?adImageId=10733738&imageId=5136462″ width=”380″ height=”392″ /]By the time I got to my morning run last Friday, I stopped the run three kilometres early because my body was just loathing every step with a nauseous tenacity. I decided to take the rest of Friday and all of Saturday off from running and allowed my body to rest and recover. I took it easy for my long distance on Sunday, and Monday is a recovery day anyways. My Tuesday morning run was cautious, but felt better, and Wednesday’s tempo run was fantastic.

What I think was happening, was I was starting to dance with the beginnings of burnout. From what I’ve read on the subject, burnout (also known as overtraining) happens when the balance between exercise and recovery is upset, and there is a lack of adequate recovery time for the body to restore homeostasis (internal equilibrium). From what I understand, it was once thought that this would generally be limited to elite level runners who train full time. That thinking seems to have changed, with burnout affecting recreational runners who are balancing the demands of training with those of family, work and other responsibilities. The following seem to be the most common indications that a runner is experiencing burnout:

  • A decrease in performance (find the same workout harder)
  • Sore muscles (beyond typical post-workout soreness)
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Elevated resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Frequent illness
  • Upset GI track
  • Mood fluctuations (depression, anger, anxiety, etc.)

Now for the good news! Here are five quick ways to turn the train to burnout town around:

  1. Progress your training at a safe rate, allowing for lower mileage recovery weeks throughout.
  2. Introduce or maintain variety in your training, utilizing cross-training and other types of workout that will benefit your training goals. Spinning, for example, works similar muscles to running with very little impact on joints while still taxing the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Plus they usually play fun music.
  3. Sleep. I often mourn the ability of my teenage self to sleep 12 hours in a single bound. With the demands we each face in our day-to-day lives, a lack of sleep is one of the things we suffer from the most — and yet, it’s one of the most important things we can do to prevent burnout. The body recovers and repairs itself while sleeping, so it’s important to think of it as a vital part of training.
  4. Putting away the Garmin and other measuring devices once in a while, and just going out for a “fun” run can remind us of the carefree wonder that drew us to run in the first place.
  5. If you don’t already have one, starting a training log provides you a window to look back on and analyze your training efforts. There are many online choices (such as dailymile) that offer a lot of options. Even if you already have a log, some of the things you might want to consider including in your training log are notes about how you’re feeling on a particular day, your resting heart rate, weight, workout times, frequencies and durations, what you ate, your performance as well as your sleep patterns. These factors can each help indicate where problems may be arising while also showing what is working for you.

That’s my five. What do you do to avoid burning out and keep yourself healthy?


Shaving 22 minutes in 10 lbs…

(Wherein Matt approaches his food as a form of training to help improve his running.)

The inspiration:

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=elite+runner&iid=6319374″ src=”9/1/8/5/AgeAFL_Fun_Run_c455.jpg?adImageId=10387254&imageId=6319374″ width=”380″ height=”229″ /]Apparently, it’s common knowledge in the running community that loosing one pound can increase a runner’s speed by about two seconds a mile (in Canadianese, that would work out to be roughly 3.2 seconds per kilometer). That can be huge for elite runners who need to shave (or shed) precious seconds off their race times. This is generally referred to as their “race weight”.

Generally, I aim to do the best I can (as hokey as that may sound) — so why not finish my race with a better time? It may not smash any world records, but I could aim to smash my PB (or set a challenging one in the case of the marathon).

This got me thinking, why not us non-elites? I want a race weight damn it!

A little background:

In May 2008 I was 85lbs heavier then I currently am. Over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to loose a considerable amount of weight that was done in a healthy, sustainable manner that didn’t include anything gimmicky or invasive. It’s become incredibly cliché, but it truly was a lifestyle change that also included taking up running and adopting a plant-based diet. I’ve developed a strong fascination with all thing nutrition, and  love learning about how different foods affect the body. I have no academic credential in nutrition, but day dream of getting some.

The starting point:

This is me last Friday:

I’m currently at what I (and my physician) consider a healthy and manageable every day weight of 185 lbs at 5’11”.

The how:

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=vegetarian&iid=5079696″ src=”7/6/a/3/Cardboard_box_of_ad2c.jpg?adImageId=10387700&imageId=5079696″ width=”337″ height=”506″ /]A pound of fat is comprised of 3,500 calories. I’m aiming to loose a total of ten pounds of fat before I run the Ottawa Marathon. That’s a total 35,000 calories that are gonna go!

The basis of weight loss in no secret (despite what infomercials would have us believe). Calories in must be less than calories out in order for the body to shed weight. The challenging part of this will be to do this while also maintaining an adequate nutritional basis from which to train for my marathon.

I’m going to do this by focusing on three specific areas that will become future installments in this series of me acquiring my race weight:

  • Food: nutritionally rich, dense, filling and whole foods
  • Training smart: building strong, lean and efficient muscle
  • Mental: treating food as a source of fuel with purpose

The goal:

My race weight goal is 175 lbs, which according to those studies should shave an additional 22 minutes and 35 seconds off whatever my marathon time would otherwise have been. Not too shabby for 10 lbs lost!

So that’s the plan I’m looking at — acquiring a race weight so I can run faster! I’ll keep you all updated in coming posts within this series, and welcome any crazy souls who want to join me in acquiring their own race weight.

10 reasons to run a half before a marathon…

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=marathon&iid=119854″ src=”0116/aa661eb6-0a36-47cd-acb7-2f8aee4375ce.jpg?adImageId=10294109&imageId=119854″ width=”234″ height=”154″ /]1. Learning through experience

The learning curve between my first and second half marathons was steep. Nothing can quite prepare the first timer stepping up to the start line of a longer road race, and there are a lot of pit falls that they are prone to. For this reason alone, it can be incredibly beneficial to get as much experience at shorter races so that you can step up to the start line of your first marathon with a better understanding of pacing, water stations and pre-race nerves.

2. Balancing life and training

Before running my first half marathon, a friend said, “you can still have a social life while training for a half marathon, but it becomes much harder once you’re training for a full marathon.” So far I’ve found this to be true. Often times a runner can get away with three or four runs a week in preparation for a half marathon, while many marathon training programs call for five or six. Learning to balance the demands of family, work and training with the half marathon can go a long way to getting a runner ready to do that with the demands of a full marathon.

3. Fast(er) recovery

Many marathons (such as those in this video) find it preferable to take the day after their marathon off from work to recover. Half marathoners are generally in pretty good shape after their event and generally don’t require much more than some stretching and maybe a nap. This can be a very appealing aspect of the half marathon.

4. Lots of selection

Each year, there seem to be more and more half marathons popping up all over the place, including many stand alone events. A quick survey of the Running Room website showed that in Ontario there are 19 half marathons and six marathons for 2010. Of course not all races are represented on that website, but it’s an interesting sampling to show the many opportunities, locations and types of half marathons that are available in our own back yard.

5. Blending quality and quantity

The half marathon is certainly a respectable distance, and with so much selection available to runners and quick recovery times, you can have your race cake and eat it too! Several half marathons a season isn’t unheard of or even unusual, and the distance is such that it can easily be tagged onto a trip.

6. Same expo and race add ons

Whether you’re running a half marathon or marathon, you have the same access to the other parts of the race, including the expo. Expos are lots of fun with many things to see, do and try. A good number of races also have options for pasta dinners, massages, and other add ons that are available to all participants.

7. Getting friends involved

The only thing better than running a road race, is running a road race with friends. Recruiting friends to run a race with you can be made a much easier task with a half marathon, especially if you drop the “marathon” part and just call it a 13-miler! The distance is challenging, but not undoable, and many are willing to try it out as a group.

8. Cost

If you’re a runner who enjoys the fun and thrills of a race, the costs can definitely add up. The half marathon is often much cheaper, and while not half the price (wouldn’t that be nice!), you can save yourself a pile of dough by opting for the half.

9. Bling

Chances are good that if you’re entering an event with medals, the half marathon will also have them! These medallions can be wonderful mementos of your racing accomplishments, and are usually only four letters different then their full counterparts.

10. A great sense of achievement

Most importantly, there is a huge sense of achievement in setting a goal and achieving it. The half marathon is not really half of anything, it’s an event unto itself with its own challenges and rewards like any other distance. Whether using the half as an incremental step or as a goal unto itself, you’ll be the better for it!

Toronto Runner: Dave Emilio

After a very active childhood, Dave Emilio found that his activities had taken on a more social nature. “By my late 30s’ I realized that I was not healthy and not feeling well all the time,” he said. “I set out a plan to run as part of a weight management and overall health improvement strategy.”
Now running five to seven days a week, Dave is usually putting somewhere between 65 and 110 kilometres in a week depending on the time of year and what race he is training for. “I follow a combination of several plans,” says Dave. “It’s not far removed from any one plan and involves the pyramid structure of base, strength and then speed.
“I believe a lot of potential is built up between programs with steady, high mileage easy running. Most people drop off their mileage after a race and then start from scratch with each new race and wonder why they don’t improve their race times.”
Since May 2007, Dave has run 14 marathons and one 50k ultra marathon. “My favourite should be Mississauga, as that’s where I first qualified for Boston,” says Dave, “but I will always think fondly of my first marathon in Ottawa. Nothing beats crossing that marathon finish line for the first time.”
Last May, Dave achieved one of his running goals when he qualified for the Boston Marathon with one minute and 49 seconds to spare. “Now my short-term goal is to run a personal best of a sub 3:19 marathon this April in Boston,” he says. “After a three-week layoff with a broken toe in December I have my work cut out for me, but I’m working hard.”
When asked what advice he had for those of us who hope to one day qualify, Dave said, “If you want to qualify for Boston, be patient. Run lots. Lots of easy miles, warm up and cool down and you will stay healthy. Then, work hard and don’t be afraid of the dark mornings. Fast marathons are run with proper training, not just positivity. Massage, cross training, good food, good sleep and time management are all necessary, whether or not your goal is to qualify for Boston.”
In addition to Boston, Dave will also be running the Around the Bay 30k Road Race in March (he hopes to get a silver medal, which are award for completing the course in under two hours and 15 minutes) as well as a second attempt at the 50k distance. Mississauga and Ottawa marathons will round out the spring racing season and he is the four-hour pace bunny at Ottawa, his fourth time as a Marathon Pacer. On top of these plans, Dave will run four to five more marathons this fall and hopes to finish one of them in three hours and nine minutes or better — his ultimate goal is to complete a sub three hour marathon.
“Running was a way to get healthy, but now it is a way to remain healthy,” says Dave. “I feel better than I ever have. Yes, sometimes I’m sore from workouts, but overall, running has made me feel good all the time. Racing keeps me well rounded, eating and sleeping better than I normally would. I will race as long as I can!”
In addition to his own personal running goals, Dave has also looked for ways to engage with the running community in Toronto. In 2006 he launched a running blog that would eventually become Running with Scissors. “It’s a place to share running thoughts, notes, data, and basically keep track of my own running,” says Dave. “It is also partially to compliment the Running Room clinics with a place to hold info like training schedules and documents.”
This past January, Dave announced a new project he’s piloting — The Beaches Runner’s Club. “The Beaches is a great place to run and the people who run around here are great,” says Dave. “Why not bring them together.” His hope is that the club will allow the many little groups within the running club to come together and to see that people always have someone their pace to train with. “I’m also looking to see about getting younger runners out there,” said Dave. “I think there are a lot of young people who do not know the value and enjoyment of running — let’s see if we can help them see the light.”

Marathon training begins…

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=marathon&iid=5111893″ src=”3/0/1/c/Marathon_runners_on_66a2.jpg?adImageId=9600427&imageId=5111893″ width=”380″ height=”251″ /]I feel like I’ve been talking about this ad nauseam in real life, but realized I haven’t really written anything about it on here. The marathon clinic I signed up for started last week (woohoo, yippee… errr, yay!).

The clinic is being run/lead/coached by Duff McLaren, a local Toronto running veteran with more than 20 years of running experience and more than 35 marathons under his belt, including the Boston, New York, and Chicago marathons. There are also two “group leaders” who are helping with the clinic —Dave Emilio (of Running with Scissors) and Nir Meltzer. Both Dave and Nir are currently training for the 2010 Boston Marathon, and so I hope some of their BQ “juju” rubs off over the next 18 weeks.

So far the clinic has 30-some-odd people in it, and we’re in that awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase, but it looks like a good group of runners and that we’ll have a blast together as we each move closer to our goal race.

The format of the clinic is fairly straight forward — a long slow distance (or “LSD”… no I’ve not acquired a drug habit) on Sunday morning, hills/speed work Wednesday evening (this doesn’t start till week seven, so for now, it’s steady runs), and a talk and run on Thursday evening. It’s also expected that each of us will get out for up to three additional runs over the course of the week.

I know there are several schools of thought on marathon training and this one caps our LSD runs around the 32k mark, and our weekly mileage maxes out at 82k-per-week. Being my first marathon, I’ll see how this works out and judge its efficacy afterwards. I’ve taken a few other clinics before and had great success with them, so I don’t see why this one would be different, but also understand that there are merits to other approaches.

So the short of the long is that all of this is leading up to running my first marathon this May in Ottawa. I don’t have any special sentimental reason for choosing Ottawa other than it’s a nice city and I have family that live an hour or so away from it. Other then the Around the Bay 30k road race in Hamilton in March, Ottawa will be one of my first out-of-town events.

Catching some zzz's after a long run

I’m still a bit torn on what goal I’m actually aiming to achieve in Ottawa. One voice (possible my conscience) says, let’s just try to finish this race standing up independently, while another voice (possibly the speed devil on the other shoulder) says, “wouldn’t it be great if we BQ’d?!?”. Standing somewhere in the realistic centre of these two characters, is the reality of me hoping to finish in under 3:20 (I’d need 3:10 to BQ). Even if I get under 3:30 and train through the summer, I could try for a BQ at the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon in September.

But beyond the numbers, nerves, hopes, goals, and tight IT bands, I keep thinking back to what Kathrine Switzer (the first woman to run the Boston Marathon) wrote in my copy of 262. Marathon Stories: “The marathon is a nice prize, but the real victory is embracing the process. Love it and go for it.”

The past week of coming back into a structured training program has reminded me of just how much I do love this process.


[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=knee+injury&iid=5283548″ src=”d/b/8/e/man_using_an_841b.jpg?adImageId=8851111&imageId=5283548″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]This week has had me thinking a lot about balance. Wednesday night, I headed out for a 15 km run along the Danforth. At the eight-kilometer mark, I started getting a sharp pain in my knee and had to stop my run and take the subway back home.

I’m pretty sure it’s just a tight IT band, and that RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) with a trip to my Chiropractor and/or RMT will fix the issue. But I also know that when my body speaks this language to me, it’s not something to ignore — that all the RICE and massages in the world aren’t going to fix the cause of the problem. I’m also not looking to start my marathon training at the end of the month injured.

This all comes as I reach the first anniversary of taking up running. A year ago last night, I attended my first learn to run clinic. I remember being nervous and excited, unsure about what I was getting myself into. Why had I signed up to start learning to run in January again?

That's me running my first race — the Achilles 5k last March. This was the goal race of the learn to run clinic I took.

The last year has been an amazing adventure with lots of new friends, fantastic accomplishments and me finding myself in the best health of my life. It’s humbling to look back and realize that I’ve come from a run one-minute, walk two ratio, to being able to run 30 km non stop.

Since finishing a couple of half marathons last fall, I haven’t really taken much of a break. In fact, I’ve done quite the opposite. I’ve continued to increase my distance and intensity (the marathon clinic I’m taking doesn’t get to a 30 km LSD until week nine of 18). I’ve increased my distance at a safe rate, but haven’t given my body a break longer than a couple of days. In addition I’ve added three to four gym workouts a week, spinning and yoga to the mix. All of these things (workouts, spinning and yoga) are great for cross training and strengthening, but they, along with running, need to be balanced out.

My marathon training starts on January 21, and my “new” goal is to have my knee good to go for it. To achieve that goal, I need to balance my workouts with the need to give my body some down time, both to recover and to rest. I skipped my run last night, and will see how things feel before working out on Saturday or putting in a long, slow distance on Sunday.

Either way, I’m planning on cutting my mileage down significantly over the next couple of weeks and I shall dub this time as “tapering” for my training.

In an ironic twist, my new shoes arrived today. ;-)

Wishing you all injury free trails for 2010!

Seasonal musings…

It officially appears to be that time of year again – that time when I will begrudgingly put away my running shorts (or at least relegate them to my gym bag), along with my tank tops and thin running socks, to don full-length pants, a fleece sweater, wind breaker, and double-layer socks.

Aside from the additional clothing requirements, there is something about running in the colder months that I find appealing; a quiet serenity that is lacking in the deliciously hot days of summer. And while it’s still fairly temperate, it won’t be long before each contraction of my lungs will yield visible puffs of moist air, and the sweat being wicked away from my body will freeze on the outer layers of my garments.

But during that time of year, the air is crisp and clean (or as clean as it can be in the largest city in the country) and it is as close to solitude as a Torontonian can get while being outdoors. Icy sidewalks are largely abandoned for underground routes. Typically busy trails and paths lack their usual mosaic of cyclists, roller bladders, and pedestrians. All that is left are the runners who push through the obstacles of their environment to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves — whether that’s maintaining a base for next season or training for one of the early spring marathons.

I began my first running clinic in the dead of winter, and this year, I look forward to beginning the clinic for my first marathon in the same.

The past week’s runs:

Date Distance (km) Pace (/km) Time
November 10 13 4:50 1:02
November 14 8 4:47 38:09
November 15 18 5:07 1:31
November 17 10 5:00 49:51