Running Doubles

Post by Anna Boom

You have 11 miles on your training schedule but due to life, your time has quickly dwindled down to 45 minutes. You have three choices: give up your run that day, run the fastest 11 miles of your life (ha!), or split your run into doubles.

Many mornings, just as this morning, I scrambled to get the kids prepped for school, get the mail together that had to be posted, charge the smart phone, throw the laundry in the wash and thought there is no way I have enough time to get my run in.

Instead of saying forget it, I split my run into two. This got me out the door for a relaxing 5 miles, which was endorphin inducing enough to put my mood back to friendly and lessened the mental pressure of “I’m missing my run!”.

Later in the day, I ran my double, 6 miles at a faster pace. Does this count as 11 miles, then? Absolutely! There are even benefits to running doubles, as mentioned in RW:,7120,s6-238-267–13199-0,00.html

In this article, Ed Eyestone recommends twice a days to get faster, sooner. It gives you the benefit of running on tired legs on the second run and lets you get more miles in, which is the only way to become a better runner.

Even if this is not your goal, just getting out and doing something will help you mentally and physically. As we all know, getting out the door sometimes is the hardest part.

The only downside, double the laundry, adding to those wonderful chores. The upside, you will quickly get in great shape, both in body and spirit.

Learning To Celebrate The Small Wins

A couple of situations arose last week which inspired me to write this post. The first one was the unfortunate high temperature last Monday, which forced hundreds of Boston marathon runners to exit the race prematurely. The second had to do with yesterday’s Kourijima half marathon here in Okinawa, which due to humid and rainy weather conditions, also turned out to be a tough race for those who attempted to run it.

Perhaps because I had a personal interest in these races (my coaching partner and good friend Anna Boom was a participant in the Boston marathon, and one of my running clients was a participant in the Kourijima half marathon), their experiences touched me in a way that made me want to convey a message that race results are not the “be all and end all!”

Setting PB’s (personal bests) and achieving age-place wins should not directly equate to success or failure. On the contrary, race results should be treated as part of the overall prize package – with the prize package comprising of all the intrinsic rewards that are earned throughout the entire training process. There is much to be celebrated along the way. Greater endurance and speed for example, or perhaps a better body composition or  greater confidence and self-discipline; these are all smaller “wins” that are worth reflecting upon and using as measures of overall performance.

My client, who recently ran the Kourijma Half Marathon, spent the past two months training incredibly hard. Her commitment to consistently following a progressively structured training plan without taking any short cuts has led to faster run times and significantly improved endurance. Furthermore, she has gone from being a relatively inexperienced runner with uncertain expectations, to being a stronger, more informed runner with a whole new level of confidence that is spilling over into all other areas of her life.

Would it make sense then to box up all of these positive outcomes and shelve them as obsolete because her race day goals were not met? I suspect that under better race day conditions, and on an easier course, my client would have done exceedingly well. I also have no doubt that my good friend Anna, who instead of reaching the Boston Marathon finish line almost collapsed in a first aid tent, would also have experienced a great race if not for the severe weather conditions. Understandably both ladies were disappointed, despite the obvious challenges they each faced.

My point is however, that while it’s normal to feel defeated and discouraged, we should permit ourselves to be entitled to those feelings for a brief time only. You’ll be a far better person and athlete if you can quickly move on and reflect upon the entire race experience as a whole. In doing that you’ll be reminded of all the progress made since day one of training, and hopefully be inspired to see future races as opportunities to continue enjoying and celebrating the smaller gains and wins. And if race day goals are also achieved, then BAM! – that’s the icing on the cake.

Kourijima Half Marathon – rain and wind didn’t steal this couple’s joy; they finished and that’s worth celebrating!

Identify Your Injury Threshold

Post by Jannine Myers

Is it possible that each runner has a definite “injury threshold” – in other words, a maximum number of miles that they can run each week before they run the risk of injuring themselves? Anna and I have discussed this on some of our runs together and we agree that this is probably the case for most runners.

Anna and I swapping thoughts and ideas on one of our runs

I became even more convinced of this after I trialed a couple of different training strategies last year. During my training for the 2011 Okinawa marathon, I suffered a number of injury setbacks due to the high volume of miles I was logging each week. In an attempt to avoid the same thing happening again, I decided to heavily reduce my training workload in preparation for the Portland marathon last October. I not only remained injury-free during my Portland training cycle, but I also managed to finish the marathon just two minutes slower than my Okinawa marathon time.

To further convince myself that running beyond a certain number of miles per week would most certainly predispose me to greater odds of injury, I decided to test our theory once more. In preparation for this year’s Okinawa marathon, I followed an intense six-day-a-week training plan that had me averaging between fifty and sixty miles per week (with the Portland training plan, I followed a three-day-a-week training plan that peaked at around forty miles per week).

As I began to ramp up the mileage for this year’s Okinawa marathon, I welcomed the endurance and speed gains that quickly resulted from the higher volume of training, but it wasn’t long before the first signs of injury appeared. I began to have issues with my right calf muscle, my right hamstring, my right achilles tendon, and my right IT band. Fortunately each of these problem areas were not affected simultaneously, but as they each went through phases of stress and tearing, my training was obviously hindered.

When race day finally arrived, it really wasn’t surprising when I hit the wall at around mile twenty one and was forced to run the remaining five miles with terrible cramping down the side of my right leg. Fortunately, my first twenty or so miles had been run at a fairly decent pace, so even though the pain I felt caused a significant reduction in pace, I still managed to finish the marathon just four minutes slower than last year.

In summary, I trained for three marathons, two of which entailed five and six day training weeks with an average weekly volume of 50 to 60 miles, and one of which entailed just three days of training a week with a weekly average of 30 to 35 miles. My times for each of the marathons were within a range of no more than a four minute difference, with my second best time resulting from the heavily reduced Portland training schedule.

I realize this is hardly enough conclusive evidence to support mine and Anna’s theory, but many running experts do believe that most runners have an injury threshold. If this is true, then one of the keys to injury prevention would obviously be to stay below your injury threshold. Physical therapist and biomechanist Irene Davis, Ph.D., from the University of Delaware’s Running Injury Clinic, says, “Your threshold could be at 10 miles a week, or 100, but once you exceed it, you get injured.”

I believe that my injury threshold is probably at 40 to 45 miles per week. I also believe that my body handles the stresses of training much more efficiently when I run every other day and allow a day of recovery between runs. More trial and error will help me to know if my beliefs are valid, but for now, I’m opting to follow a “less is best” approach.

As for the rest of you ladies, until you learn what your injury threshold might be, follow the golden rule with training and build your weekly training mileage by no more than ten percent per week!

Common Running Injuries and How to Treat Them

Our calendars have been marked with numerous races over the past few months, and many of you have enjoyed participating in some of those races. But along with the increase in WOOT and WOOP members training for and running in these events, there has also been a marked increase in injuries. Fortunately, we have on our team several women who are qualified to offer advice on a variety of running-related topics, and who are willing to do so. WOOT and WOOP member Crystal Brooks recently obtained her degree in Sports Medicine, and was happy to provide some treatment tips on some of the more common running injuries. Thank you Crystal!

Post by Crystal Brooks

Before I get into the nitty gritty, here is my disclosure: I AM NOT A SPORTS DOCTOR. I did however, recently graduate from college with a degree in Sports Medicine, and my intent is to pursue a career in physical therapy upon my return to the States. Please do not take everything I say as gold, for I do not know it all, but I do hope to provide you all with some useful information relating to running injuries. Running injuries are not uncommon; in fact they are far too common. As runners, we often try to ignore the symptoms of an encroaching injury and attempt to train through them in the hopes that the injury will disappear, when in fact the symptoms are likely to get worse. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and ITB are four of the most common overuse running injuries.

Shin splints are an overuse injury that affects many runners. Often times it is the way in which the athlete is running as well as the shoes they wear which can result in shin splints. Even though there is no definite cause as to why shin splints happen, it has been linked to inflammation along the tibia which activates the pain. In most cases the pain arises during activity. Some athlete’s have found that if they change their foot strike, they often develop pain around the shin. In general, it is good practice to focus on foot strike to help alleviate pain in your lower legs. When you are running, your heel should be the first to strike the deck, then the middle of the foot, followed by the ball of your foot. Shin splints can also lead to stress fractures on the tibia, which can set a runner back for a minimum of four weeks of no running. Common indicators for shin splints are mild swelling as well as tenderness located on the inside of the tibia (or shin bone).

If you notice discomfort in your lower legs after running, ice the area immediately. The ice will help minimize swelling and hopefully reduce the severity of the injury. It is also suggested that you do not run or do any impact fitness for about two weeks, or until the injury has healed. NSAID’s (Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) will also help minimize the pain and swelling. Motrin may also be used, if necessary.

Once you decide to return to running, you need to ease back into it. Doing too much too soon will likely aggravate the previously injured area. There is a good stretching exercise which you can do prior to running, to help reduce pain in your shins. You can stand or sit (depending on how well your balance is), take your toes and flex them towards your body (or up if you are standing). Hold this flexion for about 10 seconds. I personally do this exercise two or three times depending on the length of my run.

Another very common injury for runners is plantar fasciitis. I have personally experienced this injury and know that the severity of it can get downright painful. The plantar fascia tendon originates at the heel and disperses among the toes. The tendon becomes strained through repetitive training and inflammation evetually occurs. Initial pain may start at the heel where the tendon originates. Generally a burning sensation or irritation will generate around the heel and progress up towards the arch of the foot. The pain in the foot also tends to be greater when you first wake up, and then it slowly disappears after moving the foot.

Runners tend to experience this injury a lot, due to the constant pounding on the pavement or trail. Uphill running may also aggravate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. This is another injury that runners tend to IGNORE…which is not a good idea. If the injury is not treated, or given time to heal, it can eventually become difficult to not only run, but also just to walk. 

If you think you may have plantar fasciitis, then I highly recommend that you stop running and seek medical advice. Plantar fasciitis is an injury that may always continue to plague you. Of course NSAID’s are always recommended to help with inflammation and pain, but if you prefer non-medicinal options, here are a few home treatments which you can do to help alleviate some of the pain.

First, stretch as if you are doing a hamstring stretch. Lean your hands against a wall, and put one leg straight while the other leg is slightly bent. The farther back the leg is, the deeper the stretch will be. This stretch will also help your achilles tendon as well as the plantar fascia tendon. Another effective treatment is to take a water bottle, fill it with water and freeze it. Then take the frozen water bottle and roll it on the floor with the troubled foot. The cold will sting the foot, but it will soothe the area of injury as well. Lastly, when you wake up in the morning, before you put your feet on the floor, take two minutes and massage the foot. Massaging the tendon will help relieve the tightness which develops in your feet while you are sleeping. There are also feet straps available, which can be used to stretch the tendon while sleeping. Getting fitted for proper shoes, and possibly wearing heel pads, may also help to eliminate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Once you have been either cleared by your doctor to start running or feel that you are well enough to start running, ease back into it. Like I stated before, you do not want to lose months of training due to the fact that your ignorance got the best of you.

Relating to plantar fasciitis is achilles tendonitis. While studying sports medicine, I found it interesting that achilles tendonitis accounts for 15% of all overuse injuries related to running! That truly is a large number. While you are running, your achilles withstands your body weight up to eight times the load!! Your achilles takes a lot of pounding while you are training for a race, no matter how fast, slow or how far you are running. Achilles tendonitis begins with inflammation in the tendon sheath. If the stress on the tendon continues, it causes the tendon sheath to become severely inflamed which in turn develops tendonitis.

Common reasons for this injury are essentially due to poor decision making and training errors. Proper training should provide adequate time for your muscles to recover in order to help absorb the shock from the constant impact. If you do not allow adequate time to heal, you put your legs at greater risk for injury. SHOES are also another factor contributing to this injury. If you pronate, whether it is over or under, chances are you probably should not be wearing stability shoes. Yes, your shoes should be comfortable for your feet as well as your body, because after all, eight times the weight is applied to your lower legs; HOWEVER, they need to be right for your body. With as many shoe clinics that are made available to us on the island, take the time find out what type of shoe is correct for you and begin training PROPERLY! Stretching properly during your warm-ups is very important as well.

If pain persists while running, STOP! Or if you experience pain while performing any type of jumping exercise, or if your muscles are overly tight when you wake up, take the time to go have your legs examined. If you delay in seeking medical advice you may eventually rupture your tendon. A friend of mine tore her achilles tendon and was unable to resume training for a full year. ONE YEAR of lost training is not worth ignoring an overuse injury such as this one.

Lastly, an injury which many current WOOT/WOOPers experience every day…ITB! Many of you are long distance runners, which means you are at a greater risk of injuring the iliotibial band (ITB). The reason is due to the constant flexion and extension of the knee in relation to the lateral femoral condyle. Yes, I know, what on earth is a lateral femoral condyle? Well…here is a great diagram to show you just exactly where your ITB is as well as the lateral femoral condyle.

I bet you didn’t realize you were going to get an anatomy lesson today! An inflamed bursa is what puts pressure on the ITB, causing exterior pain in the legs. This pain begins to become more noticeable after a certain mileage point but does not occur while a person is walking. Uphill and downhill walking or running may also aggravate the bursa and produce ITB symptoms. Surprisingly however, running through ITB pain will not set you back a great deal unless the pain becomes intolerable.

If it has been determined that you have ITB syndrome, it is highly recommended to cut back your training miles. It probably also wouldn’t hurt to change your shoes out more often than you usually do, to provide adequate support for your legs. Ice and NSAID’s are good ways to help minimize the pain. Of course, stretching the upper legs is also very important to help alleviate pain in your ITB. Below are several different exercises to help stretch your ITB, as well as ways to use a foam roller.

I will conclude by saying that the common factor in all of these injuries is improper stretching, poor training, and lack of attention to foot care. Pay attention to all of these and you will drastically reduce the odds of injuring yourself. Remember to also seek medical advice sooner rather than later; in doing so you may prevent longer setbacks in your training cycle.
Barry, N., Dillingham, M. F., & McGuire, J. L. (2002).
NonSurgical Sports Medicine. Baltimore , Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Why Do We Keep Running When It Hurts?

Yesterday, I stood amongst the crowd of supporters who turned out to cheer on all the runners who participated in the Ayahashi road race. I much prefer being amongst the group of adrenaline-loaded runners, but still, it gave me great pleasure to see a lot of my friends, and even strangers, challenge themselves by either running their first race, or by attempting to beat personal best times.

As a spectator I got to see in the faces of various runners what I experience in every single race I run – the searing pain that hits your muscles and lungs when you’ve reached your maximum exertion level. I could also see in their faces that all-too-familiar look of self-condemnation, brought about by a deep dislike of their current situation and a consequent search in their minds as to why on earth they decided to “run this damn race!” But moving down towards the finish line and seeing the runners approaching, their faces now told a different story – their expressions indicated a sense of joy and relief, and for many, a huge sense of pride.

I read a great blog post recently, by running coach Jason Paganelli – Jason asks the question, “Why do I put myself through this?” I can tell you that I, and many of my close running friends, have asked ourselves this very question during many of our races or during an intense or long training run. Jason addresses, and answers this question, in a way that makes me feel good (and a little more sane), about why I continue to go back for more pain and suffering.

Start of the 10K – everyone’s in control, for now……

This lady is at all the local races – she’s amazing! She gives it her all, and keeps going back for more.

Jannine Myers

Blog Post by Jason Paganelli
Ok, so I realize this is a bit of a cliché topic, but this is my first blog entry, and I think it’s fitting.
As a coach, and as a runner that regularly tackles long distances, it’s the question I most often get asked. Now that I sit here and think about it, it’s the question that I most often ask myself. Any runner can relate to this…. there are just certain moments in almost every run that make you ask yourself “Why do I put myself through this?”

Non-runners are so perplexed by this topic. Has anyone ever said this to you?
“You know, every time I see a runner on the road they look miserable! Why do you put yourself through it?”
Whether or not you’ve heard that one before, people have asked me that very question countless times. Maybe I’ve been asked it more than some because I have not been a runner all of my life. People were probably naturally curious as to why my life took a different health-conscious path all of a sudden. Regardless, I usually respond by listing some of the benefits of running. We all know these benefits… Our waists are smaller and our doctors marvel at our resting heart rates. We can eat carbohydrates like it’s a part time job and we get an excuse to reach for the extra beer because science proves it’s good for recovery. But are these REALLY the reasons that we run?
If I were truly honest with the person, and myself, I’d answer the question like this…
“Of course we look miserable… we are running!”
This would absolutely make people’s brains explode. But what I don’t think non-runners get is the fact that this state of agony we are all so familiar with is an integral part of running. In my opinion, and where I’m eventually going with this, is that it is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. The suffering is what makes our sport what it is.
Having now run 12 ultra-marathons, there’s no doubt I’ve experienced suffering while running. In fact, there’s nothing else in my life that I voluntarily do that causes suffering. Running is in its own category like that. I’m not trying to play the world’s tiniest violin here. I am just saying that every benefit of running comes with a price. It’s something I am immensely passionate about. However, I have a love-hate relationship with running that sometimes just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I wonder if the love part of my relationship with running is over, as if it’s a relationship that has come to its natural end. I wonder if I should be investing my time in something that will offer me more… a hobby that hurts a little less, takes a little less time and affords me all of my toenails.

However, suffering makes running the adventure that it is! Without suffering, we would always know that we’d get to the finish line. We wouldn’t anxiously toe the starting line questioning our own ability to cover that day’s distance. Without suffering, the finish line beer wouldn’t taste so good. Without suffering, the simple pleasures immediately following a run wouldn’t feel so amazing! (Ever notice how good a hot shower feels after a long run? Or even how enjoyable the simple act of sitting and resting can be!?) Without suffering, the sense of finish line pride wouldn’t be so strong, and the stories and memories of our runs wouldn’t be so fun to tell. Without suffering, we wouldn’t form such strong bonds with our running friends, having never shared such challenging moments with each other. We wouldn’t be compelled to grow, be stronger, push further, dig deeper or try harder. Without suffering, running would not be running.

Runners CHOOSE to suffer. They get good at it actually, and eventually find joy in the suffering. They learn that in the suffering comes so much positive that they no longer see it as a hurdle to overcome, but as a constructive force. We all know this… it’s the very reason you sign up for a 10k after finishing a 5k, or a marathon after finishing a half marathon. We realize that with more suffering comes more reward.

Realizing that suffering is WHY I run has become a powerful little tidbit of knowledge. When I was new to the sport, I used to run in the hope that I could somehow find the “runner’s high” and avoid the suffering all together. Then, when the eventual slump of a run would set in, I would get frustrated and wonder what I was doing wrong. I would wonder how long I’d have to train to get rid of the suffering, to make the sport easier and enjoyable 100% of the time. Or, I’d wonder if I didn’t take a GU at the right time, or if I ran too hard on that first mile. But as I’ve grown, both as a runner and as an individual, I’ve learned that the inevitable suffering within our sport is exactly why I continue to lace up. Although the suffering itself is never enjoyable in the present moment, I’ve learned to remind myself that the very suffering I’m experiencing is exactly what I came for. Without that difficult moment, and many more moments like it, the passion I have for the sport wouldn’t exist.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found an easy way to get through those actual moments yet. Suffering is suffering. No matter how much self-talk you practice, it’s hard to consciously persuade yourself out of those moments. Sometimes, terrible parts of your runs are just those… terrible parts of your runs. However, I do think that having an understanding of your passion for the sport helps in these moments, because you learn to appreciate them rather than dread them. You take them for what they are… challenging moments in a run that tell you that you are doing something right. Suffering means you are working hard, running fast, running far, running up hills or running into exhaustion. Suffering is a simple byproduct of effort, and therefore something to strive for as you grow in the sport.

So next time someone asks you why it is that you run, despite your miserable grimaced expression when they pass you on the streets, smile and say that it’s because it’s good for you. Go right ahead. I excuse you for lying. Quite frankly, if you said something like “I run because I choose to suffer” you’ll probably perpetuate a reputation of runners being a bunch of wannabe martyrs (a reputation I think we sometimes have anyway.) However, the next time a tough moment of a run sets in, take pride in the fact that that very moment is exactly why you laced up and hit the road or trail in the first place.
Happy Running,

Coach Jason Paganelli can be reached at