Tag Archives: Training

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?


Thrive pizza…

February is drawing to a close and with it, many of us are approaching or entering the next phase of our training for our spring races. My marathon is at the end of May and I’m finishing up week five of 18 of my training schedule. After next Wednesday, I’ll be moving from the base phase into the strength phase, with the addition of hills training. I love me some hills! (This will likely kick off the Toronto Hills series I mentioned in this post)

As training progresses, I’m becoming more and more focused on one particular element of my training: nutrition. For me, this is one of the most important aspects of training, because if one’s nutrition sucks, their body will not be able to adequately recover, and as a result their running will suffer.

In addition, with my personal 22 minutes in 10lbs challenge, I’m trying to choose more wisely where my calories are coming from in order to maximize the nutritional content without too many empty or excess calories.

I’m a huge fan of Brendan Brazier’s books Thrive and Thrive Fitness, and have found a ton of useful nutrition ideas from reading these books. Brendan is a Canadian 50k ultramarathon champion, professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author and creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called VEGA. Brendan also offers a free video and e-mail program at thrivein30.com that I highly recommend — and in case you missed the word before video, it’s FREE ;-). Here is a quick video about the program:

In keeping with the idea of “high net gain foods” I made a “pizza” tonight from Brendan’s book Thrive. I put “pizza” in quotes here because this dish resembles a pizza only in that it has a base or “crust” on which there is sauce and then toppings. The recipe for this pizza can be found at Canadian Running Magazine’s website, but there was a difference between the online version and the printed version, which added 1 1/2 cups of buckwheat groats. For my pizza, I added the groats, mostly out of curiosity (I hadn’t had them before), and found that they added a really nice crunch to the crust. So thumbs up to the groats.

This pizza is made completely from plant materials and cooked at a very low temperature. To start, I took all of the ingredients for the crust and put them in a food processor:

Then I formed the crust (mmm, groaty goodness!):

While this was happening, I roasted the red peppers in the oven, and then placed them and the rest of the ingredients for the sweet pepper hemp pesto (the “sauce”) into the food processor:

…and coated the “crust,” sliced up some veggies, toped the “pizza”, put it in the oven, and…. Voila!

I had quite a bit of the pesto left over, which will be perfect as a veggie dip for the next day or so.

The Dreadmill…

Also known as the hamster wheel, this contraption has single-handedly garnered an equal number of dirty and thankful looks from runners. Leaning more on the running purist side, I found this definition of a treadmill on Mark Remy’s RW blog to be pretty amusing:

“treadmill (n.) – A primitive torture device first imagined by medieval jailers and perfected in the late 20th century, designed to destroy one’s mind through sensory deprivation and monotony.”

All joking aside, I do prefer being outside, taking in the scenery and what passes for fresh air in downtown Toronto. There is a sense of freedom and fluidity of movement that happens when I pound the pavement or set out on trails. On the flip side, there is also the reality of snot from a runny nose freezing to your face and your eyelashes freezing to your eyebrows on a blustery winter run.

Cue some pros for treadmill running!

While I’ve committed to suck it up and push through the challenges and travails of Mother Nature this year (pending further examination of the weather forecast), I can certainly appreciate the allure of a climate controlled atmosphere, with self-regulated pacing, safe foot traction, and the possibility of a TV blaring the Food Network near by.

Treadmill running can be a great way to casually keep fit over the winter, especially if you’re not planning on running any races in the spring. According to Alex Hutchinson’s Jockology column on treadmill running vs. outdoor running, running on a treadmill is often softer on the joints than sidewalks or roads, but also means that it won’t build the muscle endurance needed for running outside. An easy solution is to not rely too heavily on the treadmill if running outside is something you want to keep your endurance for. The article also suggests adding a one-per-cent incline when running on a treadmill to account for the lack of wind resistance.

The truth of the matters, like many things in life, seems to be that it is not an all or nothing prospect. Many elite runners and coaches alike use treadmills as part of their training regime. The March edition of Runner’s World has blurb from Kristin Price (winner of the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon) who uses the treadmill to simulate the challenge of running negative splits in a race for a strong finish.

While nothing can really replace the endurance slog of a long slow run, for everything else, the treadmill seems like a reasonable alternative for when the weather is bad. Mixing up your tempo runs, intervals and even hill repeats are all within the self-controlled scope of the modern treadmill.

I recently read of a fun way to approach tempo runs on the treadmill that involved putting on a half hour TV show. You run at your tempo pace while the show is on, and slow down slightly on commercials, putting in a warm up and cool-down before and after. See? Now you can watch some Judge Judy and train for a race at the same time!

Personally, I like to approach treadmills like junk food. I know it’s not the ideal, but sometimes, it’s a viable option that hits the spot. But maybe that’s not really fair either. Perhaps it’s better to look at treadmills for what they are: a tool that runners have the option of utilizing as part of their training.

I’m curious to know what you’re doing this winter? It’s been pretty mild here. Are you still running outside? Have you caved and used a treadmill because of the weather? What are your favourite treadmill workouts?

22 min. in 10lbs update:

Two days in and feeling good! The scale has begun to dip (rather dramatically actually) and I’m sitting at 182. This is likely water weight, and will balance out as I continue. In terms of food, I’ve been enjoying an awesome batch of chili and scoping out a few new recipes to try. I’ll have the recipe for one of my favourite winter dishes coming up in a post next week, so stay tuned!

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!

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.

Time of day…

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Toronto&iid=105548″ src=”0101/53bb9118-85b8-4e45-9e0b-394c9380c79b.jpg?adImageId=9516298&imageId=105548″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]Happy hump day! We’re just about out of the darkest months of the year, and spring is less than eight weeks away! The daydreams of the returning light (and heat!) reminded me of an interesting article in the New York Times from December. It looked at the effects that the time of day you workout at have on your performance. Having recently moved several of my weekly runs to the morning (I’m hell bent on having a life while training for this marathon), I had noticed that those a.m. runs were feeling a bit tougher then my evening or day-time runs (frigid head winds aside).

According to the article, the body is “in a different biological state” later in the day, accounting for a higher heart rate for the same workout performed in the morning. It also stated that the perception of how hard we exercise is higher in the morning, and that personal bests and world records are typically set in the late afternoon or evening.

To sum up, according to this article, it’s harder (mentally and physically) to exercise in the morning. Initially, my thinking process goes something like, “perfect… I’ll just sleep in and run in the evening, which I enjoy more anyways.” But there appears to be several reasons why taking advantage of the time differences can be of huge benefit to runners. The article quotes American marathoner Deena Kastor, who says that her former coach and mentor, Joe Vigil, had her running in the morning because there was more fluid between the vertebrae of the spine. According to Kastor, this makes the body much more forgiving of the exertion required for training and that she has been mostly injury free over the last 13 years.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=deena+kastor&iid=345890″ src=”0342/b74e970f-78ad-4457-a869-8fa79eb0a8c9.jpg?adImageId=9516338&imageId=345890″ width=”380″ height=”277″ /]This information is also interesting to consider, as the majority of marathons (and other road races) begin before 9 a.m. This would make it seem like a good idea to get the body used to early morning endurance and allow the mind to develop strategies for contending with the additional perceptions of exertion require at the time of day.

Each of us has a different reality of scheduling and time demands to work our training around, but myself, I’m planning on keeping two of my weekly runs in the morning for a while and see how if I begin to notice any differences overall. I’m pretty lucky that my employer has showers available, so other than having to bring a change of clothing the day before, this should work out really well.

Additional, most of the longer distances in the training program are scheduled early in the morning on the weekend. I wonder if this is intentional (or, again, maybe it’s so we can then enjoy the rest of our day afterwards).

How about you? Do you notice a difference in your running in the morning vs. the evening? Do you take the time of day of your runs into consideration when planning out your training schedule?

Survived the long Thanksgiving weekend!

This year was the first year that I have been this active through the holiday season. Over the weekend, with all the amazing food and drinks, I managed to keep to my training schedule, putting in another 18 km on Sunday, 10 km on Monday and 6 km today in addition to two weight training sessions.

The 18 km on Sunday was very VERY cold. My running buddy and I met at Mel Lastman Square – the starting location for next weekend’s Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon – and ran most of the half marathon route in preparation. We took our time and finished in 1 hour and 45 minutes (5:50/km pace). I’ve heard a lot about the dreaded “Hogs Hollow” – a particularly long and steep hill in the route – and wanted to size it up before race day. I’m glad I did and now have the visuals to pace myself en route.

Holiday Monday was a leisurely day around the house, getting things ready for the colder weather. I got out for my 10 km around 5-ish and ran the Tailor Creek Park trails. This one was at race pace and I finished it in 47 minutes (4:45/km pace).

I just came back from a 6 km lunch run that took me from Avenue road and Bloor Street, down University Ave to Front Street and back up – recreating the final couple of km to the finish line for Sunday. I believe this was my fastest 6 km so far, finishing in 25 minutes and 49 seconds (4:19/km pace).

Only five days left till race day!