Not Enough Energy to Meet your Training Objectives?

Jannine Myers

Last week I talked about overtraining syndrome and it’s various causes, symptoms and remedies. This week, I want to add to that topic by suggesting that we can try to avoid entering into a state of overtraining, by recognizing when our bodies are not physically capable of meeting the objectives of a training run, and then having the ability to quickly set new objectives.

Too often I think many of us tend to fall into a rigid preoccupation with checking off every training run with a smug sense of achievement, especially when we know we have exactly fulfilled the objectives of each of those runs. But is the achievement worth it, if in the process, we have over-stressed our joints and muscles on days when it was clear that a reduced level of training was needed?

Getting back to one of the points I highlighted last week, where I mentioned that I might occasionally head out for a run, but due to excessive heat or humidity for example, or the onset of illness, or the presence of some type of personal crisis, my body fights all efforts to cooperate. Under such circumstances, it’s not always best to fight the resistance and push through on each workout, but it’s also no reason to throw the towel in and give up altogether. Some quick modifications to my scheduled workout goals can help satisfy the need to train, but more importantly, also reduce the risk of injury or illness.

Here are some ways to modify your training goals:

1. Easy pace, short runs on a flat route – break up the distance into quarters; fast walk the first quarter, run at your usual easy pace for the second two quarters, and slow jog the final quarter.

2. Easy pace, short runs on a hilly course – run at regular easy pace on flat and downhill sections of the course, and walk the uphill sections.

3. Tempo runs – reduce tempo pace and/or tempo distance, according to how you feel. It’s also a good idea to leave the garmins and other timing devices at home; that way you’re not tempted to try and meet a set pace.

4. Speed workouts (fartlek/interval/track repeats) – reduce intensity (goal time for each repeat) and/or the number of repeats. You can also increase the recovery time between repeats.

5. Long runs – in lieu of a long run, it’s sometimes best to settle for a nice easy run that’s half the distance of your long run distance. If you’re determined to do your long run however, then at least add 20 to 30 seconds to your regular long run pace, and opt for a route that takes you on a double loop so that you have the option to stop after the first loop if it becomes obvious that you won’t be able to complete the full distance.

A final few words of wisdom I’ve read in other blog posts or books:

“Never be afraid to reevaluate and adjust your goals. It is far more important to be honest with yourself about where you are at than to set unrealistic goals that lead to self-defeat.”
Teri Larsen Jones – US National Waterskiing Champion

“…pro-runners are comfortable with adjusting their expectations…… they have the ability to turn a lemon workout into lemonade”
Greg McMillan – World Class Running Coach

And finally, my favorite:

“…..some (workout) sessions are stars and some sessions are stones, but in the end they are all rocks and we build upon them.”
Brett Sutton – World Class Triathlete Coach 

Overtraining Syndrome

By Jannine Myers

While out running the other morning, I knew as soon as I rounded the first corner from my house that I was probably not going to meet my training objectives. Why? Because I simply wasn’t feeling good. I didn’t feel ill, but I didn’t feel great either – I felt “off,” if that makes any sense. So what to do? The stubborn and sometimes irrational side of me was quick to jump in and start harrassing me with words like, “You only think you feel bad, you’re fine!” Or, “Stop being a baby, you can do it!” Words such as these would be perfectly fine if I was just being lazy, but when I’m genuinely not feeling good, they can actually be to my detriment and push me into a state of overtraining.

Overtraining, by the way, is not just some word I made up to emphasize a state of over-exerting myself. It’s a very real condition that is experienced among athletes in all realms of sports and fitness. On the website exercise.about.com, overtraining is defined as:

Exercising to the extreme in intensity, frequency and/or duration. Overtraining can cause a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, elevated resting heart rate and lowered performance.

However, since we are all at different levels of fitness, there is no way to define how much exercise is too much – the key is to learn how to recognize the symptoms of overtraining and make appropriate training adjustments. Sounds easy enough, but in many cases, runners have entered into a state of overtraining because they have become addicted to running (yes, running can be just as addictive as drugs, alcohol, or gambling); and it’s addicted runners who will most likely resist the idea of slowing down or cutting back on mileage.

Since I plan on addressing running addiction in a later post, I’ll get back to the issue of overtraining and how runners can learn to recognize it’s symptoms and quickly reverse them.

Symptoms of overtraining can result from sudden increases in training intensity or frequency, or from running too many races, or from increasing mileage too quickly (new runners are particularly prone to the latter scenario). Over time, training starts to exceed the necessary amount of time it takes for the body to recover and the outcome is a decline in performance, or worse, the onset of injury or illness.

I suffered from a number of minor injuries and setbacks last year due to back-to-back training cycles and endless races, as well as a foolish disregard for what is essentially a crucial element of any successful training plan; recovery! Not allowing my body the necessary time to fully recover between workouts and races, finally took a toll and I wound up sitting in the office of Dr. Cardinale, the sports doctor over at Lester Family Practice. Do you want to know what his advice was, besides recommending certain strengthening and stretching exercises specific to my injury sites? He suggested I find a running coach on island! Needless to say I didn’t whip out my WOOTCoaching business card and leave it with him – I hardly think he’d be enthusiastic about recommending me to any of his patients!

Okinawa Marathon 2012; my last big race before I finally decided to take some time off
 – signs of hamstring and IT band stress started to become more and more apparent

But seriously, even those of us who already know what the signs of overtraining are, and how best to avoid them, are not exempt from making training mistakes, especially when they are derived from a competitive drive to keep pushing out better and better results. I’m a work in progress, just as my clients are, and just as most other runners are. But as in all things, as I spend more and more time learning about my sport, and putting into practise everything I learn, the training errors will hopefully become fewer and further between.

Here are some common symptoms of overtraining, followed by a few overtraining recovery strategies:

Physiological Symptoms:

  • Muscle and joint tenderness and/or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased performance
  • Increased rate of overuse injuries (this was my red flag!)
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss/decreased appetite
  • Training fatigue/lethargy
  • Head colds/persistent upper respiratory tract infections
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Allergic reactions
  • Decreased coordination
  • Changes in menstrual pattern

Mental/Hormonal Symptoms

  • Irritability/moodiness
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation to train
  • Anxiousness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Palpitations
  • Elevated basal metabolic rate

These can all be exacerbated by other external stressors, such as relationship conflicts, lack of sleep, jetlag, work or college deadlines, or general fatigue from day-to-day home, work, or voluntary obligations. If overtraining symptoms present themselves, it’s important to also limit additional stress from other sources.

Overtraining Recovery Strategies

  • Step One – take a day or two of complete rest if symptoms are minor, or three to five days of complete rest if symptoms have been present for some time.
  • Step Two – take up to two weeks off from running if symptoms manifested weeks ago ( several weeks of rest may be required if you’re in a state of chronic overtraining)
  • Step Three – ease back into training by reducing both intensity and distance, as much as 50% if necessary.
  • Step Four – gradually increase the workload only when you are fully recovered.

Humidity Alert – Running in the Heat

By Jannine Myers

This is an old post brought out of the archives, but it’s content is worth revisiting, especially as many of you are continuing to train during the summer months – please read on.

Question: What happens when it rains and drivers don’t slow down to adapt to the slippery road conditions?
Answer: They often lose control of their vehicles and CRASH!

The same thing can happen to runners too! Those of you who have been running outdoors lately will have noticed the increasingly humid conditions and how quickly your clothes are turning into water-soaked rags. It’s important to adapt to the humidity by slowing down and taking walk breaks if needed; if you try to maintain your regular run pace chances are you are going to crash and end your run a lot sooner than you would have liked.

Below is a list of tips (copied from About.com), that tell you how to be smart when running in hot and humid weather:

Stay Hydrated – The easiest way to avoid heat disorders is to keep your body hydrated. This means drinking fluids before, during and after exercise. The body’s fluid needs vary with exertion, climate, humidity, terrain, and other factors. The new fluid recommendations for runners say that they should “obey your thirst” and drink when their mouth is dry and they feel the need to drink. In training, drink before workouts and make sure you have access to fluids if exercising longer than 30 minutes. During longer workouts, some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost salt and other minerals (electrolytes).


Choose Clothing Carefully – Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing will help your body breathe and cool itself down naturally. Tight clothing restricts that process and dark colors absorb the sun’s light and heat. Wear synthetic fabrics (not cotton) because they will wick moisture away from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur.

Run Early or Late – Try to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest. If you must train during those hours, try to stick to shady roads or trails.

Wear Sunscreen – Protect your skin with a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 and offers broad spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Stick formulations are good for runners’ faces because the sunscreen won’t run into your eyes.

Don’t Push It – On a race day (or during any intense workout), take weather conditions into account. Brutal heat and humidity mean you should scale back your performance goals. Don’t try to beat the heat.

Make a Splash – Use water to cool yourself during runs. If you are overheating, splashing water on your head and body will cool you down quickly and have a lasting effect as the water evaporates from your skin.

Be Educated – You should be very familiar with the signs of heat problems so you recognize them in yourself or in a running partner. If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, have stopped sweating, or your skin is cool and clammy, slow down or stop running. If symptoms continue, sit or lie down in the shade and seek help.
One last tip – Jeff Galloway suggests that for every 5 degree temperature increase above 60F, you should slow down by 30 seconds per mile.

The “OK” Plateau

By Anna Boom
How to be better than you are:
So you’ve been training for awhile now. You’ve run some races, conquered some tough training schedules and feel like a decent runner. It seems like no matter what you do, you aren’t improving. That you have reached your running potential. But have you ever wondered, can I get better?
This was a topic I have been thinking a lot about recently after my DNF at Boston. What if this was as good as I would ever run? That could be the case but there is another theory that is out there too (yahoo, a gleam of hope!).
The theory goes that maybe I am just as good as I allow myself to be, also known as the OK plateau. I have been listening to Moonwalkiwng with Einstein by Joshua Foer and he introduces this idea. Quick synopsis on the book, he is a journalist who is tasked to cover the World Memory Championships and becomes so interested that he starts training for it. At one time in his journey, he gets stuck at a certain time for memorizing a deck of cards. No matter how much he trains, he never beats that time. He does a little digging and talks to other memory champs and they bring up the OK plateau theory. It’s a pretty interesting concept for us to consider in our running too so let me describe it.
The OK plateau is the point you reach, where it seems you cannot get any better. Think of something like typing on the keyboard. How often do you do this? Think of how much time you spend typing everyday. Shouldnt we all be amazing typists by now, emails and blogposts finished in moments flat? And yet we are not amazing typists, most of us are just average. Why is this? The theory is that after we first learn to type better than finger pecking, we get to a place where we are just good enough and we stop getting any better. We have become OK and there is no reason to spend more brain power on getting any better. We reached the OK plateau.

Mr Foer brings up an example that made me think of myself as a runner—expert ice skaters. The amateurs go out on the ice and practice the jumps they can land successfully. The experts go out and practice the jumps they cannot land, and they do it over and over, until they can. It is the failing part that teaches our human brains how to improve. The fail makes us see where we are going wrong so our brains can then learn how to get over that barrier.

How can we improve then? How do we get off the OK plateau? A few ways that experts do it:

    1. Avoid autonomous runs. How often do you go out and run the same run, same pace because it feels comfortable? One way to change this is to try running trail. There isn’t anyway you can zone out and fall into your easy run while you are out on trail. You will be too busy watching your footing, changing your pace as you run up or down hill, and must stay present in the moment.
    2. Stay engaged in your activity. Again WOOT! Out on trail, you are challenging every part of your run from mind to toes.
    3. Do the thing you dislike to do. For me, sprints. I have written speed work into every run I do now. There are no simple running days. Every workout has a goal, not just for miles or time.
    4. Try hiring a coach to take you out of your comfort zone. For coaching information, check out the services we offer here: http://wootcoaching.com/

581408_10151728975605742_149248249_n

If you are finding yourself on the OK plateau like I was, try the above tips. You may find yourself running at the next level, beyond what you ever believed you could do before.

Get em!!
P.S. Mr Foer went on to win the US Memory Championships that year.

Gu Rediscovered

I came across the following article recently by Rae Ann Darling Reed, a certified running coach and author of the blog posts on http://runnergirl.com/blog/. One of her recent articles about GU energy gels caught my attention, because I am frequently asked by my own clients to recommend good sources of endurance fuels. Now, I have to admit, I was skeptical about reading Rae Ann’s post, since I have never been much of a gel fan, but as it turns out, neither was Rae Ann – until recently. I am intrigued by her new outlook on GU, and almost tempted even, to give them another try. Read Rae Ann’s post if you’re interested in learning more about GU, and how they might be able to help you on those long runs

Gu Performance Energy Sampler

Post by Runnergirl

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a big fuel problem at the Space Coast Marathon. During the two weeks after the marathon I was a bit bummed and did not care to talk about it much. When people saw me around town at cross country meets, group runs, and at the running store I cringed when they looked so excited and asked how it went. I think they were excited because they also knew how well prepared I was.

But I gave my standard short version recap of how it was pretty good through 20 miles then I just fell apart and struggled to finish. It almost felt like a script after explaining it to so many people. After Phil and I finished timing and scoring the county championship middle school cross country meet on December 10, we were headed out the gate to the parking lot and got stopped by a good friend who has completed many marathons, half marathons, and has done even more crazy stuff like Ironman and several half Ironman races.

Anyway, when I gave her the scripted recap of the race she then asked, (paraphrasing here) “you didn’t take any Gu?” When I answered “no” and continued to explain my intake of water and Gatorade, her jaw dropped and she looked shocked and amazed. I so wish I had a photo of her face at that moment! We laughed so hard at her reaction. It was the perfect mix of surprise and disbelief. As funny as that moment was, it really stuck with me and got me thinking…

I tried Gu way back in the mid to late 1990s when I was running lots of marathons and I thought it was so disgusting. The consistency was gross and the flavor about made me gag. But as with so many things…they can and do improve over time. I asked around about the flavors that my fellow endurance athlete friends preferred. I even tried eating Sharkies during a long run before I gave in to try Gu again. Although I love Sharkies – taste, consistency, healthy – everything about them! It was too much for my stomach to deal with during a run. I know people who can eat bananas and Clif Bars during training runs and long races; I am just not blessed with that type of iron stomach. ;)

So, here we are on Sunday, December 18 at our group long run. I ran a 10K (about 8 miles total with warm up and cool down) the day before so I only planned to run 12 miles. I took half a packet of Gu with water at six miles. The run was supposed to be easy and I averaged 9:23 for the 12 miles but my last three miles were 8:47, 8:43, 8:24 and I felt pretty good. No stomach issues from the Gu and the Vanilla Bean flavor was not bad. Still not crazy about the consistency but there’s the incentive to get it down quickly! Tuesday and Thursday that week were pretty hard runs followed by acupuncture and massage for my knee and Achilles on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s 20 miler.

The Christmas Eve 20 miler ended up being an awesome group run at the preserve. I think we had over 20 people join in. The 20 miles took 2:54 for an average pace of about 8:44. I took a full Gu packet at mile 8 and mile 14 with water stops about every 3 miles. I felt great and knew I could run more if I had to. I ended the 20 miler with the last 3 miles in 8:34, 8:19, and 8:08. That never happens!

2011 Christmas Eve 20 Miler

So, yes, I have given Gu a second chance and discovered its many benefits. I am a fan! And no longer wondering when my next marathon will be. Gu has worked so well for me in these two training runs that I signed up for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012. I will keep using it in training so I know exactly how much to use on race day. Fueling issues are now under control.