Trail Running 101 – Don’t Be Afraid To Give It A Go

Amanda Morgan

If you’re reading this, then there is a good chance that you’ve been thinking about trying trail running. It looks like a lot of fun, but for some reason you don’t think you can do it. It is human nature to fear the unknown but playing it safe is only going to get you so far. It’s time to bust through your comfort zone, take the first step outside of it, and leave it lying in your dust! And here’s why:

  • Trail runners know what it means to run outside of their comfort zones, and it has nothing to do with speed; instead it is the intense feeling of freedom that is experienced while running fearlessly and mindlessly over non-paved and challenging terrain. It’s for experiences such as these that we encourage you to say yes to new adventures on the trails.

 

  • Trail runners are often mistakenly perceived as being tough and abrasive, when in reality you would be hard pressed to find a more welcoming group of people. People who wake up at zero-dark-thirty to go run through mud and puddles can’t help but smile, and you may discover that they are just your flavor of crazy.

 

  • It’s human nature to feel fear, but when it comes to trail running you won’t regret giving it a go. If it’s speed that concerns you, rest assured that all paces are appropriate for the trails. Roots, hills, and mud will make you slow down naturally; even an experienced trail runner will have to slow down over certain sections of trail. Walking is okay too, and is actually a great way to introduce yourself to the trails; ultra-marathoners even use walking uphill as a strategy to prevent burnout during a race. And for ultimate peace of mind, the trail running community has an unwritten rule: “no runner left behind.” There will always be members of your group watching out for you and they will not let you get lost.

 

  • Don’t worry about the distance. You’ll be having too much fun talking and laughing with your new trail running friends to focus on the mileage. Or, maybe you’re feeling a little self-conscious of your body; we don’t think your size or shape determines if you are a trail runner. Things we do care about are a positive attitude, willingness to get out there and put your best foot forward. We want you to succeed.

So now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to come out and run trails with us, let’s cover a few gear requirements. Don’t think that you need to spend lots of money on trail-specific shoes; regular running shoes will work too. Long socks or pants are always a good idea on trails with tall grass or heavy vegetation, and some runners find gloves useful on trails that may require a little climbing and gripping. A hydration pack isn’t necessary over shorter distances, but as you progress in mileage you may want to consider investing in one.

Amanda's first trail run with WOOT - May 2015

Amanda’s first trail run with WOOT – May 2015

Get ready to fall in love with trail running. You’ll run through places you never expected. Use the varied terrain that trail running offers as an opportunity to explore the history, culture, and foliage of where you are in the world (imagine epic selfies). Running on trails also disconnects you from the stressors of everyday life. Shut-down, unplug and leave the headphones at home. There is no WIFI on the trails, but it promises a better connection. There’s no better feeling than the dirt under your feet, a smile on your face and sweat on your brow. The trail will connect you with your own strengths, incredible friendships (maybe you’ll meet your best running friend), and the power of nature. It frees you from your comfort zone and connects you with the amazingly strong woman that you are.

Now, imagine your life a year from now. Do you see a beautiful mountain top? Do you see yourself looking out on the horizon with a buff around your neck, a hydration vest on your back and mud-caked trail shoes on your feet? One action can change your life; so what are you waiting for? Take a leap into the unknown and be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. You are your biggest critic, so get out of your head and stop thinking “I can’t.” Clear some space in your closet for several pairs of running shoes (the addiction is real) and start saving your pennies for a runcation (like a race on The Great Wall of China). Starting something is the first step to being good at something and you only fail when you stop trying. See you on the trails; it’s time to get dirty!

One year after her first trail run with WOOT  and Amanda is seen here at mile 3 of the Great Wall of China half marathon!!!

One year after her first trail run with WOOT and Amanda is seen here at mile 3 of the Great Wall of China half marathon!!!

GLTR – Girls Love To Run

Jannine Myers

WOOT wrapped up another successful run-club program a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the generous time and coaching contributions of WOOT member Alli Kimberley, some of our young aspiring runners were able to spend twelve weeks getting a taste of what it’s like to get up early on Saturday mornings and run on various types of terrain at different locations. Here’s what Alli and some of the participants and their mothers had to say about the program:

What made you decide to start GLTR (Girls Love To Run), and what was the main objective in offering this program?

Alli: I started GLTR (pronounced Glitter), because I wanted to pass on all the gifts that running has given to me; running has given me confidence in my own strength and abilities. I wanted the girls to realize they were strong and capable, and I wanted to give them something that would stay with them wherever they found themselves.

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Alli in back center

How was the program structured?

Alli: GLTR ran on all different terrain: pavement, trail, and track. We started at 1 mile the first week and over the next eight weeks we increased our distance with the aim of eventually running a 5k. The last four runs were 2-3 mile runs on our favorite roads, purely for enjoyment. The last four weeks were definitely my favorite; the girls were comfortable running and they were starting to realize the joys of running without worrying about distance or speed.

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What were the ages of the girls?

Alli: The youngest was 4 and the oldest was 12; most of the girls were between 7 and 9.

Did you encounter any problems?

Alli: The main problem was that myself and some of the moms sometimes had trouble making it on time to the GLTR runs, after finishing earlier-morning WOOT runs. And I may have been a bit ambitious in thinking the girls would remain motivated for 12 weeks, although they seemed to enjoy it all the way through so I guess it wasn’t really a problem.

How do you think the girls handled the weekly runs?

Alli: The girls did incredible. We had a few that seemed like they were going to struggle and hate every minute after the first run, but they all finished the 5k with smiles on their faces. I emphasized running “at your own pace.” Almost all of the moms ran with us, and were able to let their daughters run at their own pace. I tried to ensure that the runs were on trails or paths that they could not get lost, so that no one had to feel pressured to keep up.

What would you do different next time? 

Alli: Next time I might push the runs back from 9am to 9:30am, and maybe only do eight weeks. Additionally, I’d like to try and mark the courses in some way.

And a few comments from the moms and girls:

What did your daughters most enjoy most about the program, and would they do it again?

Abby (7 yrs old): It was awesome but hard. I like running against the water. I would do it again.

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Abby’s Mom: I liked it being bonding time with me and my girl. She could get a taste of why I love to run.

Lauren (12 yrs old): I loved the beach run. I like that I became a better runner. I dropped three minutes off my mile time in P.E.! Yes, I would do it again.

Lauren’s Mom: I enjoyed getting out and moving with my daughter. I’ve not been the most active person, but this group motivated me to make some changes. The different locations were wonderful too!

Morgan (9 yrs old): I liked running with friends; I’d definitely do it again.

Gigi: I liked running with my mom, and with my friends, and I liked making new friends.

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Gigi’s Mom: Gigi liked cheering friends on at the finish line, and she enjoyed going home and telling her dad about how far she ran. This gave her confidence and really made her feel good.

Was there anything your daughters did not like about the program?

AbbyRunning –  and it smelled like cow poop! (her mom says, “That’s a direct quote” 😂😂)😂  )

Lauren: I didn’t like that I didn’t get to sleep in on Saturdays!

Morgan: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t enjoy about the program.

Thank you so much Alli Kimberley, for sharing your love of running and instilling so many great values in the hearts and minds of all the girls who participated in GLTR; WOOT appreciates you!

How to Take the Perfect Trail Selfie

Amanda Morgan

So you want to take a trail selfie. There are many things to consider when taking a trail selfie and we will discuss them here.

What is a trail selfie you ask? Well, a trail selfie is only the best kind of selfie you can take! Imagine yourself pounding dirt with your WOOT friends and you come across a perfect section of trail; the sunlight is shining through the trees and the colors seem extra vibrant in the Okinawa heat. You think to yourself, “This calls for a selfie!”

Things to consider while capturing the optimal trail selfie:

  • With any type of selfie you want to have good lighting. On the trails it’s pretty easy to get good lighting with the sun. Just make sure that you are facing the sun! It’s as easy as that. If the sun is behind you, your selfie will be dark.
  • Angles: Trail selfies with angles from above or at head level are best. Shooting from a low angle is unflattering – that is the opposite of what we want!
  • Selfie-sticks: These glorious contraptions are amazing for trail selfies. It acts as an extension of your arm, so you are able to get more background into your selfie. This is a great tool to use with landscapes and sunrise/sunset selfies. The selfie-stick is also great for group selfies. If you don’t have a selfie-stick, that’s ok. You’ll just need to appoint the WOOT-er in your group with the longest arms to be the one to hold your camera.
  • Foot placement: Where you put your feet isn’t necessarily what you think of when taking a selfie. Although, you should be thinking about where you are standing; you want to make sure you are not in the way of other WOOTers. Step to the side of the trail or wait until everyone in your group has passed you to snap that selfie.

Things not to do when taking a trail selfie:

  • Use filters. While filters on Instagram are great for food or pictures of your dog, they are unnecessary for trail selfies. Trails are beautiful on their own and all that picture needs is your smiling face to make it perfect. If you take the tips on lighting and angles into consideration, filters will be irrelevant.
  • Pick your nose. Just don’t do it. It’s not lady like. Or hey, do it, whatever, I’m not the boss of you.
  • Photograph restricted areas. We live on a gorgeous island and the majority of where you’re running is absolutely ok to take trail selfies on. There are some areas though, that are on the restricted list for those who are SOFA-Status. It is best to steer clear of these areas, but if you accidently find yourself in the thick of a restricted area, refrain from taking photos – selfies or otherwise.

So there you have it, the WOOT’s guide to taking trail selfies. Take these tips and run with them. The options are endless! The more you selfie, the better you will get and then Kim Kardashian will have competition. See you on the trails!

amanda

Why Form Drills Are Beneficial For Endurance Runners

Jannine Myers

Every year, around January through March, I get to see some amazing young athletes training in my neighborhood. They come down from mainland Japan to compete in regional-level tournaments, and fortunately for me, they take up residence in a sports hotel right around the corner from my house.

One thing these athletes all have in common, regardless of the sport they play, is the daily habit of getting out for an early morning run. I love to see them run; they all seem so light and limber on their feet. This year I enjoyed watching one team in particular, a group of young high-school girls. Either before or after their morning runs, they would spend about 10 minutes working on form drills. Watching them do their drills really fascinated me, not because I’ve never seen athletes do drills before, but because this was a group of girls who looked exceptionally agile and fit.

As an endurance runner, I don’t spend a great deal of time doing form drills, and I suspect the same is probably true for most endurance runners. I think we tend to underestimate the benefit of practicing drills, which is why I want to share the following opinions of three top endurance athletes who never train without incorporating form drills into their workouts.

Meb Keflezighi, for example, explains how form drills – which are essentially exaggerated and varied versions of your normal running gait – can improve stride length and/or stride rate. He does a short set of drills almost every day, believing that they help him to maintain good posture during longer runs, as well as deter cramping and tightness. Check out one of his form videos for a demonstration of the types of drills he does:

Dathan Ritzenheim is another great runner who encourages the regular practice of form drills. In his video below he explains that from drills are old-school sprinting drills, and the reason endurance runners should do them is to develop the same excellent and efficient running mechanics as sprinters.

And here’s what Jason Fitzgerald has to say about form drills:

They can:

  • Improve the communication between your brain and legs – helping you become more efficient
  • Strengthen not only the muscles, but the specific joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful, fast running
  • Improve coordination, agility, balance, and proprioception – helping you become a better athlete
  • Serve as a great warm-up before challenging workouts or races

Check out his entire post on the benefits of form drills, as well as a video demonstration here.

If you don’t think you have time to do form drills, try taking Meb’s advice; he says you’d be better off to run one mile less than what you have planned for the day, and spend the extra time doing drills. According to him, and Dathan and Jason (and probably many other elites), the pay-off is worth it!

 

WOOT Member – Stephanie Hettinger – Celebrates a Different Kind of Victory

Today’s post has been submitted by WOOT member Stephanie Hettinger. I’m honored to share her story because it’s one that I believe some of us can relate to in some way, yet have never had the courage to share. It’s a story of pain and suffering, with a few brief moments of triumph, and then thankfully a turning point that leads to new and hopeful beginnings. And if you haven’t guessed already, WOOT played a pivotal role in leading Stephanie to that crucial turning point. 

My name is Stephanie Hettinger; this is where I will share my journey on fitness, health & healing.

I am happily married to my husband Don; we’ve been married for 15 years. We were young when we started our family; we were 22 when our son Dylan was born. Less than two years later, our daughter Brooklyn was born. Sadly, I wasn’t able to enjoy her birth due to Post Partum Depression. In 2005 we had our third child Evelyn, and again, I struggled with Post Partum Depression. In 2007 we welcomed our fourth child Joslyn into our family, and not only was Post Partum Depression an issue, but so was my anxiety. I struggled with the fear of how I was going to care for our four babies who were under the age of 5.

In 2009 our family moved, and I found myself pregnant again. It wasn’t long after the birth of our fifth child, Kaitlyn, that I was struggling to walk up the flight of stairs. Once at the top of the stairs I felt my breathing was heavy, and I was sweating. I knew then that something needed to change. At my six week Post Partum check-up I was declared healthy enough to resume my normal activities, except I didn’t remember what those were. I spoke with my doctor about my struggles, my feelings, and my outlook on life. Together, we created an outline to help me find myself and heal from the depression that was consuming my life.

In 2010 I read about a Well Water 5K run hosted by a Girl Scout Troop. The story behind this 5K was that a particular Girl Scout Troop adopted a village in Africa where the girls would walk approximately a mile and a half to gather water to bring back to their village. The Girl Scout Troop decided to raise funds to help this village build a water well. I knew this cause was something I could support, and so without thinking I signed up for a 5K – it was “only 3.1 miles” I thought. The day of the race, it was obvious I couldn’t run very long or far without being out of breath and needing to stop, but I ran, walked and finished the race.

In 2011, my husband and I discovered our fourth child, Joslyn, has a chromosome defect known as Turner Syndrome, an incurable, life long condition. My life was consumed with doctor appointments, procedures, and finding the best care for our daughter, while continuing to care for our four other children. I blamed myself for Joslyn’s condition. My anxiety kicked in; fear was always present. How would our daughter live, enjoy life, be normal? What would her quality of life be like? How would we care for her, and how would we pay for her doctor visits; we had so many questions and concerns, yet few answers.

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Joslyn, at the beginning of her diagnosis of Turner Syndrome

2012 was the year our family moved to Okinawa, Japan. It was also the worst year of my life. We moved to a foreign country, my support system was half a world away, my father was very ill, and my husband was gone all the time due to work. My depression and anxiety was at an all time high; I didn’t turn to my husband for support, nor did I reach out to my support system, but instead I turned to food for comfort. I eventually went to see a doctor and after recounting my history of depression, I started a new course of medication.

My medication and dosage changed however, and my depression and anxiety continued to get worse rather than better. Soon thereafter I found myself withdrawn and avoiding people all together; I was a prisoner in my own hell. My doctor eventually moved, and I was assigned a new doctor. In 2013 I tried to refill my medication and found my doctor wouldn’t authorize my prescription refill without seeing me. I didn’t want to go and see this new doctor, and have to bring up my history once again and listen to what she thought of me, but it had to be done.

Medication and dosages were again changed, and blood tests were ran. Eventually we discovered that I was living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre diabetes, and my weight was at an all time high. My doctor looked at me, and asked me how long I wanted to live. She continued by saying that if I continued down this path of destruction I wouldn’t be around to see my children grow up, and that they would go on to do things without me. I knew I loved my children and husband, and I wanted to see them grow and live life. My doctor and I wrote down a timeline with goals, and steps to get there.

The first step was to work on becoming healthy. I started seeing a nutritionist for guidance on how to eat better, and when to eat. I learned that I needed food to fuel my body, instead of food for comfort. I also started counseling for my anxiety, depression, and healing. I felt like a failure as a wife and mother, to those who mattered most to me. I felt as though I had embarrassed my parents; I had been self-destructing for such a long time, these feelings were normal for me. Counseling helped me to love myself again.

At the end of 2013 I was still healing and well on my way to incorporating fitness into my life. I joined WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails) and a couple of other Facebook groups. I didn’t consider myself an athlete by any means, but felt like I could join these ladies on the trails of Okinawa; even if I walked, I was somehow bettering myself with exercise. With the help and support of countless people in the Facebook groups, my husband and kids and I signed up for races ranging from 5K to 10K distances. My dosage of medication slowly, over time went down, my weight continued to go down, anxiety and depression weren’t consuming my life, and I finally felt peace in my life. I made small changes in all areas of my life. This ranged from when and what I ate, when I went to sleep, and when I would wake up, and when and how often to exercise as well.

Ayahashi Road Race 2014

Ayahashi Road Race 2014

I now exercise 6 days a week, and exercise is a family affair. My girls all joined Girls Like To Run, a running club within WOOT. I am aware of the food I feed myself, and my family. I make sure that everyone in our family, to include myself, has enough sleep at night. I am finding new ways to deal with the stresses of everyday life, and I’ve found that outlet to be exercise. My journey to complete healing isn’t over yet; it has taken time, and will continue to take time. With the support of the ladies in WOOT, as well as fellow athletes, my support system, friends, family, and GOD, I have been able to openly speak about my depression, and anxiety, and begin to heal.

Out on Spider Trail 2015

Out on Spider Trail 2015

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Back out on Spider Trail again in 2016, and looking fit and fabulous!

Don’t Play It Safe On Race Day

Jannine Myers

I used to turn up to races with conservative expectations, never daring to challenge myself because I figured that it would be better to be surprised than disappointed. I don’t do that anymore, because I’ve since realized that playing it safe sets limitations that hinder my ability to become a better and stronger runner. Now I turn up to races with a clear goal in mind, knowing that my goal will push me to drive a little harder than I otherwise would.

Last weekend for example, I participated in a small 10k race on Kadena AirBase. I set my sights high – first place female – since the number of runners was likely going to be fewer than fifty or sixty. At a larger, off-base event with local nationals also competing, I’d probably shoot for an age-group versus gender win, but in this instance I told myself that I would aim for first place female.

When I arrived at the event however, I recognized a girl who I had competed against last year at the Kadena Beat the Heat Half Marathon. I took second place to her, and by quite a distance; she beat me by at least 7 or 8 minutes. I knew as soon as I saw her that my goal of achieving first place female was no longer realistic. No problem; I readjusted and settled on at least top three.

The 10k turned out to be a tough race; one that winded me a couple of times with the wind, rain, and hills, but I accomplished my goal nevertheless. I earned the medal for second place female, and even won third place overall. Racing with a specific goal in mind enabled me to mentally cross the pain threshold that my body alone would have resisted.

Even if you’re not a competitive runner, you can still set specific race goals that will push you outside your comfort zone and help you to achieve faster times. But you have to set realistic goals; goals that you truly believe you’re capable of achieving if you take the time to follow a consistent and progressive training plan. And if sharing your race goals publicly will motivate you even more, then do that also.

Just don’t do what I used to do, and turn up to the starting line with “safe” expectations; you might save yourself some disappointment but goal-setting is much more fun and definitely more rewarding when you accomplish what you set out to do.

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After race blues… What to do?

Just in time for a lot of our WOOT’rs completing races all over the world, this week’s blog is by Corinne Williams. Thank you, Corinne!

“Your race is simply a victory lap celebrating the completion of your training.”

By the time I toe-the-line, I have put in several hours, days, months, and even years of preparation for that moment. Whether reading about running, strength training for running, recovering in preparation for running, drinking less alcohol so I don’t feel crappy while running, eating healthy to fuel my running, or even spending fewer hours with friends and family to get to bed early for early morning running, the months leading up to race day hold one main focus… running. Maybe not the most healthy approach to life, but it pays off come race day.

Race day comes…Races are a celebration to the human spirit and strength. Most races are even promoted as parties on the go! With bands blasting music, spectators banging cowbells, kids giving high-fives, and volunteers passing out treats. It’s hard not to lose yourself in the excitement of race day. Plus, you’ve worked so hard to get there. You’ve earned that celebration! No matter how tough some parts of that race may get, you’re relentless, forward, progress gets you to that finish line. Now is the time to revel in your triumph.

…and goes.

So now sometime has gone by and everyone you know, plus a few random strangers you’ve cornered at the supermarket, have heard your “fascinating” tale of triumph on the race course. Plus, your husband and kid are worn thin by the constant reminders of your greatness (haha…okay…that just might be my family that is now sick of hearing about my awesomeness!). Now what? That after race glow is starting to fade and turn dark…no plan, no goal, no focus. Race day is over and done with. It’s easy to get stuck in a funk, but we must move on.

What to do? Depending on your circumstances and needs, here are a few options to cure those post race blues.

Fun with WOOT friends. Post-race recovery.

Fun with WOOT friends. Post-race recovery.

Recover: Take at least a week to recover from your race! That means no running! Okay, I know most runners, including myself, will ignore that advice. So, if you choose to run, take it easy. Go out with friends, or run with your family. Just take it slow. Let those toenails grow back and those chronic aches fade. This is your time to allow your body to heal and refresh.

Catch up: Take the extra time to catch up with other things you’ve missed while training. Have a looming project deadline at work? Put in those extra hours into finishing it. I take this after race period to get in some spring cleaning. Sometimes the deep cleaning is put on hold while in the midst of peak mileage and the home gets be be a bit chaotic. Put your work and home life in order! If you don’t have to worry about work, sit back, guilt-free, and catch up on binge watching that favorite show of yours on Netflix.

Socialize: No early morning Saturday runs! Take advantage of your break and get out to socialize. Contact all those non-runner friends (if you have any left) that you have not had the time for and go out! Build those friendships up, so when you slip into training mode again, your friends will understand and forgive.

Develop: Developing your hobbies may save your sanity if, God-forbid, you’re ever out for an injury. This may be a good time to get out all those old race shirts and make them into a quilt. Volunteer for a local race or kids athletic program. Or, bake a pie, and eat it! After all, you need to replenish all those lost calories!

Plan: Sometimes after races, I feel invincible and want to immediately jump into the next race. But I find that I go into the next race stronger and better prepared if I take some time to pause, reflect, and build a plan based on lessons learned from my previous training. Instead of flowing directly into the next “A” race, maybe plan on running a few races that work on your weaknesses. If you love the long slow trudge of endurance races, try a shorter race to work on speed. Or, if you love the fast pounding of the pavement, try out the challenge of trails. Examine your old race plan. Figure out what worked for you and build upon that with your new training plan.

Celebrating with amazing training partners and friends.

Celebrating with amazing training partners and friends.

Celebrate: Yes, the big race celebration is over and done with, but that does not mean you should be over it! Continue celebrating you and all you’ve accomplished. Even if it wasn’t your greatest race, you still took on that challenge and that should be celebrated! Find a special place to display your medals or rearrange your trophies. Frame your favorite race photo and put it on display. Once all your non-runner friends are over your race day memories, go out to lunch to replay the race memories with your running partners. Celebrate your running partners for their part in getting you fit and excited to race! Don’t stop celebrating your awesome accomplishments and prepare for many more celebrations to come!

Looking forward to your next race day...After the all the planing, preparation, and final culmination of race day, you’ve earned some rest. Embrace it! Don’t let the down time after race day bring you down. Use this rest time to recover, catch up, socialize, develop, plan, and celebrate! This lull in hyper vigilant training will help give your life balance and prepare you for the next big race.

 Great ideas for recovery and those pesky post race blues. Congratulations on your amazing finish at the 2016 HK100, Corinne!!

Use Your Race Mistakes To Hone Your Next Training Plan

Jannine Myers

Some of you may remember a post I wrote last summer; it was about my second place “loss” at the annual Futenma Magic 10-Miler. I had held the lead for almost the entire race, but ended up being passed during the last quarter mile. As the stadium and finish line came into sight, the female competitor immediately behind me dug deep and powered past me; I simply didn’t have the stamina to hold the lead. As disappointing as that was, I decided to learn from that experience and focus specifically on strength and speed workouts for my next race (the Courtney Tengan 10k a few months later).

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Winner of the Magic 10-Miler

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Second place

Determined to redeem myself, I strategically planned my training runs for the next twelve weeks; I delegated Tuesday to speed runs and Thursdays to hill runs. Furthermore, I never strayed from my plan. One of the key factors I believe – maybe even the key – of a successful training plan, is simply being consistent; there’s wisdom in  the saying, “practice makes perfect.” I didn’t run a lot during that training period, but I did keep up with my two hard runs a week, as well as a semi-long run on weekends. Here is an example of the types of speed and strength workouts I did:

Hill Workouts for Strength

  • 6 x 1 minute uphill (on a moderate incline) at a pace that forced me to reach fatigue by the end of each repeat. I slow-jogged back down and started the next repeat either right away, or after a few more seconds to allow for a proper recovery. I challenged myself each week by either increasing either the intensity, number of repeats, or length of time (for example, 8 x 1 minute, 5 x 90 seconds, 4 to 6 x 2 mins).

Various Intervals for Speed

  • I did a variety of interval workouts, ranging from 8 x 400m with 200m recoveries, to 4 x 1000m with 400m recoveries, and always with an easy warm-up and cool-down mile (or two) at the start and end.
  • I also did a variety of tempo workouts where I would run, for example, a total of 60 minutes and break it up as follows: 15 mins easy, 3 x 10 mins fast with 5 min recovery pace between each set. Or, a 70 min run with descending intervals: 10 min warm-up, 20 mins/15 mins/10 mins with 5 min recovery pace between each.
  • On long run days, I sometimes did progression runs where I broke up the total mileage into thirds and progressively ran each third a little faster. Or, I sometimes picked up the pace significantly over the last half mile/mile; I don’t have a strong finishing kick, so a better strategy for me was to try and improve my speed and stamina over a slightly longer distance, versus trying to sprint the last few hundred meters.

Doing one hill workout and one speed workout once a week, consistently and without slacking on effort and intensity, I was able to do what I set out to do (athletes in Southern Japan should keep in mind that contending with extreme heat and humidity is something that should be factored in to their personal training plans!!!).  I not only won the Courtney Tengan 10k race (which has a “killer” hill at the end of the first and second loops) and finished several minutes ahead of the second-place female, but guess who that second-place female was? My rival from the Magic 10 miler 🙂

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[For more tips on how to train for increased speed and stamina, read my Futenma Magic 10-Miler post]

Dietitians Are Not The Only Authority On Nutrition

Jannine Myers

dietitian

Some weeks ago, after advertising on social media an offer of Nutrition Counseling services, I was contacted by an R.D. (Registered Dietitian) who asked me to remove my ads. He explained that nutrition credentials of any kind – with the exception of an RD certification – do not provide a legal license to give out nutrition advice. He also added that if I were truly interested in giving out the best possible nutrition advice, then I should become a Registered Dietitian.

As it turns out, he is partially correct – the laws vary from state to state. In some states it is actually illegal to practice as a nutritionist without an RD certification, while in other states a person can practice either with a license from a Board of Nutrition, or with no certification at all. But legalities aside, I’d like to suggest that the best nutrition advice doesn’t always come from a Registered Dietitian.

Here’s an article for example, about a man with Type II diabetes, who was skeptical of a dietitian’s advice to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. He followed up with some research of his own and chose instead to eat a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. As a result, he lost a significant amount of weight and was eventually able to stop taking insulin.

[Read his story here – and take note of who some of the major corporate sponsors are of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Notice also how this man received a warning (much like mine), to remove or make changes to his nutrition posts published on his blog diabetes-warrior.net.]

A personal story of my own involves a visit with my 12-year old daughter to see a hospital dietitian. My daughter is a physically active girl with a very picky appetite and an aversion to “her mother’s” advice, so I thought that some guidance from a dietitian might be better heeded. I was disappointed however, when the dietitian told her that because her height and weight fall within the “normal” range, that she can afford to eat whatever she wants; he reasoned that the source of her calories really shouldn’t be a concern while she is still so young and active.

Later, when I brought this up with the dietitian privately, he agreed that while it would be ideal for her to find a balance in regards to healthy eating and appropriate meal composition, he felt that discouraging her from eating certain foods would likely result in negative food associations and ultimately, in poor dietary choices. His argument makes sense, although I’m not sure why he didn’t focus instead on the flip-side of the equation and encourage a wider choice of foods.

Another issue I had, was the dietitian’s recommendation that I continue letting my daughter eat a particular brand of yogurt that she enjoys; I stopped buying it once I realized that they contained Red #40 and other ingredients most likely derived from GMOs. The dietitian argued that I should resume buying these particular yogurts, even though they contain known carcinogenic ingredients, because they would add such minerals as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous, to my daughter’s diet. I simply don’t agree with that line of thinking because there are so many other safer food options that also provide those minerals.

My point is this: don’t be afraid to seek advice from any nutrition advisor – dietitian or not – but, make it your goal to base your selection criteria on compatibility with your health and lifestyle needs. For example, if you want a weight loss plan from someone who will also motivate you, then a personal trainer or fitness coach who also offers nutritional consultations might be exactly who you need. Or, if you’d prefer someone who will be empathetic and supportive of your commitment to eat mostly organic and non-GMO foods, then seek a like-minded nutritionist.

A Registered Dietitian doesn’t always have to be your authority on nutrition; just be smart about it and make appropriate decisions. Obviously, if it’s a special diet you need help with (you need to reduce high blood pressure or cholesterol for example), or if you’ve been referred to a dietitian by your family practitioner, then such cases warrant a consultation with, specifically, a certified RD. The main thing to always keep in mind however, is that any time you receive advice from any health professional, and it doesn’t sit right with you, don’t blindly accept it; go and do your own research and/or seek further opinions!

If You Want To Get Faster, Run Faster!

Jannine Myers

I received an email in my inbox this week; it was a running tip and reminder to not always try and break a record on every training run. A lot of runners actually find it difficult to run at an “easy” pace, mostly because they are afraid that they won’t gain any training benefits if the workout doesn’t feel hard enough. But easy-paced runs are written into training plans for a reason, the main ones being to develop the aerobic system and to prevent injury. I appreciated the reminder because I’m one of those runners who tends to go faster on my easy days, however the email made me also think of those runners who never go fast.

There is another group of runners who stay in their comfort zone and who never run faster; they always run at the same pace. They may increase their weekly mileage, or consistently run several times a week, but their pace never changes. If you’re in this group of runners and wondering why you’re not getting any faster, then read this simple but effective advice from running coach Jason Fitzgerald:

No pace variety. If you don’t ever run fast, you won’t ever run fast.

Without varying your speed, you’ll inevitably fall into a rut and have only one gear (most likely, SLOW!). There’s three great ways to introduce more speeds into your running:

  • Do a faster workout 1-2 times per week, like a simple fartlek workout
  • Run your easy runs SLOW and your distance and long runs moderate (but still comfortable)
  • Run strides a few times per week

By fixing this one pacing mistake you’ll feel a lot better on your runs and get a helluva lot faster.

[For more detailed advice, click the highlighted links above]

Make it your goal this year to get outside your comfort zone and try some faster-paced runs! Just as one of our WOOT stickers says: “Run WOOT, Run Hard, Run Harder!”

run harder