Training – The Tempo Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series Blog Fri, 16 Feb 2018 18:14:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Train for a Marathon PR on a Tiny Island Fri, 16 Feb 2018 18:09:23 +0000 Jessica Lukasik understands teamwork. As a Junior Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, a former member of the U.S. Coast...

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Jessica Lukasik understands teamwork. As a Junior Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Triathlon Team, and now an athlete on the U.S. Military Endurance Sports (USMES) elite team, the 25-year-old thrives on the camaraderie and commitment to team and country that it takes—whether on duty or on the race course—to get her job done. She exhibits that determination daily through her service in the Coast Guard. “She proved it decisively at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in June 2017, where she ran 3:08:56, knocking more than 30 minutes off her marathon PR to top the podium in the 25-29 age group. And she showed her mettle at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii last October, winning the 2017 military division title in a time of 11:21:01.”

But for two and a half years—just as she got really good at the IRONMAN distance (the longest distance in triathlon)—Lukasik faced a different type of challenge: going it alone. That’s because she was on orders on Mauritius, a tiny island off the east coast of Africa, “smack dab in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” as she puts it.

Interested in trying your first triathlon? Learn more at

Lukasik went to Mauritius on a Fulbright scholarship, to work on an economic and environmental sustainability plan for the country while pursuing her Master’s degree in economics. She was fresh out of the Coast Guard Academy, where she had happily joined her first triathlon team. A swimmer since childhood, she raced her first sprint distance triathlon at the age of 17, tagging along after her mom registered. She loved the experience, and in her sophomore year at the Academy, when she discovered the Coast Guard Triathlon Team, she was all in.

“In my first year on the team I got to go to collegiate nationals, which was really fun,” Lukasik explains. “At the end of that season, the team captain said that we had the opportunity to send some of our members to an IRONMAN. He asked who wanted to do it, and he thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to go. I had only done an Olympic distance up to that point,” she adds.

“I do IRONMAN for the adventure, so if there’s no challenge, that’s kind of defeating the whole purpose.”


But, determination prevailed. Lukasik immediately registered for her first marathon to make sure she was ready; she raced the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2011, and then IRONMAN Florida in 2012. “It was one of those things where you start out terrified, thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ It was four times longer than any race I’d ever done. But you just have to roll with the adventure and find a way though,” she says. “I crossed the finish line and immediately thought, ‘That was so hard. I’m never doing that again!’ And then two days later I was looking for my next race.”

Along with the new title of IRONMAN finisher, Lukasik earned credibility among her teammates: The following year she was chosen as a team captain, helping manage and mentor her fellow athletes, a role she cherished. When she graduated she began doing triathlon alone, which she said “really did change the game quite a bit.” She then moved to Mauritius, which she says changed things up even more.

Sure, triathlon and marathon running are individual sports. But what helps most endurance junkies thrive? According to Lukasik, it’s swims, rides, and runs with training buddies. Take that away, and the motivation to train and compete can take a frustrating hit.

Lukasik certainly wasn’t the only triathlete on the island, but they were few and far between—tough for this natural-born team player. Mauritius does have a triathlon federation and even some grassroots triathlon clubs, but getting involved with either (which she eventually did) required a great deal of networking. Even then, access to competitions was extremely limited. She raced local Olympic distance events with the federation (although, as an American, she was ineligible for any rankings), and sprint races put on by the local tri club. “It wasn’t particularly high-level competition,” Lukasik says. “And for IRONMAN, I had to look outwards.”

The closest venue was IRONMAN South Africa, which Lukasik raced in April 2015. “Training for that was interesting!” she says. Mauritius is about the size of Rhode Island, with far fewer roads and far fewer good roads. The swim was the one thing that Lukasik could train for quite easily, as the entire island is surrounded by a shallow, sheltered lagoon. Cycling and running, however, is unsupported. Lukasik says there are local bike shops, but very few, and with limited supplies. “I remember trying to buy spare tubes, and they had run out. It’s the most basic thing a bike shop could stock, and they just had to wait for more,” she recalls.

Although Amazon has yet to reach Mauritius, an eclectic mix of gear is available, brought to the island from all around the globe. “You have things coming in from all different places,” Lukasik says, referring to the island’s multicultural resident mix and the visitors it draws. “You can find stuff, but […] you have to know who to talk to and you have to network for stuff. Your sporting career really becomes an extension of your social life and social network; the more embedded you are, the better you’re going to fare. This is very different than in the US, where you can, if you need to, go at it alone.”

Lukasik adds that despite these challenges, she couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to train. “As limited as some of the resources are, the environment is unbelievable,” she says. Her favorite bike route in Mauritius features a winding, 16-percent grade mountain climb. “There are definitely portions of the road that are incredibly hazardous to bike on, even when drivers are respectful, which is hit or miss,” she says. And while the weather is ideal during the Mauritian winter, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, summertime sees high heat and humidity. “You typically have a few periods where you’re limited by cyclones, which can range from insane and destructive to just really, really, really rainy,” she says.

While working on her master’s degree through the University of Mauritius, Lukasik spent three months at a training facility in a remote lodge in Arusha, Tanzania. This was the summer of 2015—after she raced IRONMAN South Africa and qualified for the pinnacle race in Hawaii. “There were no Americans out there whatsoever, so I was a cultural oddity at that point, and in terms of athletic facilities and support, there was really nothing. The lodge had one broken treadmill, and they did not recommend that we ran off of the lodge facility by ourselves. I managed to bring my bicycle with me, but after a few rides by myself I realized I was probably risking my life,” says Lukasik. However, through Facebook she managed to track down a British expat cyclist living about 50 miles away, who graciously drove the slow, treacherous roads to lend Lukasik a trainer.

Stationed in Seattle since mid-2016, Lukasik’s second crack at the IRONMAN World Championship came in 2017. This time the training was understandably different. Her experience of the race also changed dramatically. “In 2015 I got very worked up over the competition and the caliber of people that were there. Probably in large part because of the contrast to Mauritius—coming from that isolation to race against the best in the world.” That year was also tough on her in terms of the heat.

Going into the 2017 race, Lukasik embraced a different mindset. “It wasn’t about me and the competition, it was about me and the island. What can I do to not let myself get defeated by the heat and the wind?” She says that attitude made the race more enjoyable, not having to worry about everyone that passed her, but enjoying the rugged majesty of the area instead.

This “by feel” approach paid off in the 2017 Kona race, where Lukasik scored the win in the military division. Now 25 years old, her near future goals include a steady rise in both sports, including making the podium at both an IRONMAN and a marathon event, and even turning pro one day. She says this year she’d also like to start branching out into new climates and terrain. “I haven’t tried a race at altitude yet, or somewhere that’s really cold, so I’d like to start testing myself in different environments. I do IRONMAN for the adventure, so if there’s no challenge, that’s kind of defeating the whole purpose.”

Meanwhile, the USMES team provides Lukasik what she missed most after leaving the Coast Guard Academy. She says that it’s more than just a network of teammates—that USMES gives her a purpose for her sports again. “Even when I was off on my own in Mauritius, I would still race in my Coast Guard jersey from the Academy,” says. “Nobody knew what it meant or stood for, what it signified to me or to my country, or anything. But to me, it was important.”

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Runching 101 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 19:54:35 +0000 It happens to the best of us. Your training plan says you need to run X miles for the day,...

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It happens to the best of us. Your training plan says you need to run X miles for the day, but you have COMMITMENTS: an early morning meeting at work and dinner plans with friends in the evening. Your only option is to set your alarm for the cringeworthy hour of 4am — or is it? I’m telling y’all — runching is the solution!

For those of you unfamiliar with runch, it’s a run that takes place during the lunch hour. It’s a great way to squeeze a few miles into an otherwise jam-packed day.

I know most of you are thinking this is all well and good as long as you have a place to shower after the run. But no sweat — there are a few tricks of the trade that allow you to get your workout in even without a post-run shower.

So without further ado…

Runching 101!

  • Run in lightweight, sweat-wicking clothing – This is super important to help stay cool and minimize sweat.

  • Find a shady route – Running during the noon hour is running when the sun is at its most intense. Do your skin a favor and find a shady route.
  • Do a 5-10 minute cooldown walk – Finish up your run a few blocks away from your end destination. By the time you get back to work, you’ll feel human again.
  • Use lots of wipes – As you’re changing after your run, give yourself a good wipe down. I’m a fan of good old-fashioned unscented baby wipes. But if you’re fancier, there are also athletic wipes that are a bit larger in size and great for wiping away any post-run grossness.
  • Swipe on a good deodorant – You definitely don’t want to be the smelly kid in the office. So do everyone a favor and swipe on a clinical strength deodorant. In fact, do it before you run, too.
  • Consider headbands and hairpins as your friend – This one is for the ladies. I know many of you claim you can’t runch because of your hair. With the right headband and a few hairpins, this is a non-issue. Simply slick your hair back in a ponytail, braid or bun, pull on a headband and pin any loose strands. Voila — an office-appropriate, post-run hairstyle!

runching headband

  • Refresh with a cool bevvie – Drinking ice water or another iced beverage will help you cool down from the inside out. Another option is to rest your feet on an ice pack or place one on the back of your neck for a few minutes. It’s another way to cool down fast.
  • Enjoy a cold lunch – This one almost goes without saying. After running outside in the heat, humidity, whatever else summer throws your way, do you really want to eat something hot? Exactly. Cold lunch it is!

So there you have it — a few simple tips to get your runch on. Do you runch? What are your best tips for working out in the middle of the day?

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How to Train for a Remix Challenge Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:48:53 +0000 Race challenges have quickly become an integral part of the running community. Runners can push themselves beyond the constraints of...

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Race challenges have quickly become an integral part of the running community. Runners can push themselves beyond the constraints of a typical race event, testing their limits over miles, days or even hours.

In the Rock ‘n’ Roll race world, the Remix Challenge is where it’s at. Almost every Tour Stop offers several distances over the duration of the weekend. Athletes can choose one race or combine two or even three events for the Remix! It’s not for the faint of heart, but the promise of more miles, more bling and more rock ‘n’ roll can be too much to resist.

Training for a Remix Challenge requires a bit of extra preparation and consideration to help build endurance and keep injuries at bay. So here are some tips to get you through it!

Prioritize Your Goals

While it’s always awesome to crush PRs and PBs on race day, when you have two races in two days or less, it’s not a bad idea to set more conservative goals. Do you want to beat your fastest half marathon time? Go for it on Sunday, but use Saturday’s 5K as an easy warmup or training run. Have you been training for a blistering 10K record? It’s yours for the taking, but use that second part of your challenge as a recovery run.

train remix challenge virginia beach

Double Up Your Training Runs

Training for a challenge means that you will be logging plenty of extra miles. While some people run seven days a week, many run every other day, giving their legs a chance to rest. With a back-to-back race challenge looming, at least two runs per week should be on consecutive days. Simulate the challenge experience by running a shorter distance on the first day and a proportionally longer distance within 24 hours (or vice versa, depending on how the challenge is structured). Keep that up throughout your training cycle. Your legs will thank you on race day!

Don’t Forget to Cross Train

While you are lacing up and hitting the pavement, remember not to neglect the rest of your body. Mix in some cross-training activities to keep your other muscle groups strong and limber. Yoga and swimming are two fantastic, low-impact options to complement your rigorous running schedule.

Honor the Recovery

When you’re going the extra distance, recovery is just as important as productive miles. Listen to your body and take the time you need to recover. Stretching, foam rolling and icing are all ways to give your tired legs, feet and hips the break they need to keep you strong and healthy.

train remix challenge recovery

Reap the Rewards

The payoff? Bragging rights, extra miles banked, and, in the case of Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series events — lots of extra bling for the medal rack.

train remix challenge bling

You’ve done the work, and now it’s time to bask in the glory! Trust your training, run your races, cross those finish lines and collect that bling!

train remix challenge

(And in Savannah, running three races will earn you pie!)

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7 Race Day Tips Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:09:31 +0000 You’ve worked hard training for your race. You’ve followed your plan and completed all of your tempo, race pace, and long...

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You’ve worked hard training for your race. You’ve followed your plan and completed all of your tempo, race pace, and long runs. You’ve tapered appropriately, and you’re feeling good. You’re ready. This will be the day you accomplish your goals, whether it’s to finish feeling great, set a new PR, or qualify for Boston.

After putting in all of that hard work, you will want to make sure that race day goes as expected. Here are seven race day tips that will help you rock your race day!

1. Eat before the race

Eating a light breakfast before your race will top off your nutrition tanks and help you stay fueled for the long mileage ahead. Keep your meal simple and light. Ideally, you should consume your breakfast about three to four hours before your race. Foods like oatmeal, a bagel or toast with a little peanut butter, yogurt, or dried fruit are great choices. These should be foods that you have tried successfully during training so that you know that they won’t upset your stomach or cause other issues.

race day tips breakfast


2. Nothing new on race day

As with your food choices, stay with the tried and true on race day. As cute as that outfit you purchased at the expo is, save it for another day. The same goes for shoes, race nutrition, and hydration.

3. Start slowly

Starting too quickly may well be the number one mistake that almost all runners make, no matter how many marathons they’ve run. The excitement of the moment, the other runners (many doing the same thing!), even a downhill start, can all encourage you to sprint at the sound of the gun. Instead, stick with your plan and your goal pace.

4. Race day nutrition

Eating during your race is important to maintain your carbohydrate stores. Studies suggest that about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is ideal, depending on your own pace and body size. That is about 120-240 calories and can be consumed via gels, energy drinks, bars, or other food. Again, these should be things that you have practiced with during your training.

5. Race day hydration

The morning of the race, make sure to have a water bottle with you so that you can keep hydrated before the start. To maintain hydration during the race, a runner should consume an amount of fluids about equal to their sweat rate. This is generally about 24-28 ounces per hour, depending upon racing temperatures and other factors. You can measure this yourself during training by weighing before and after a run (don’t consume anything during the run). Using a sports drink can also help replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. If you don’t want to carry your own, make sure to find out what the race will be using and try it out during your training. Or stop by a water station along the course.

6. Have a plan

A plan is essential for a successful race day. Your plan will not only include most of the above (nutrition, hydration, and pace), but it will also take into account what you will do if things go awry. What if you feel nauseous? Get a blister? Feel like you can’t run another step? Planning for these eventualities ahead of time will prepare you mentally if something goes wrong.

7. Have fun

Yes, we want to challenge ourselves, earn new PRs, and achieve our goals. But in the end, shouldn’t it be fun? Enjoy the music, the other runners, and the entire experience. Make memories that will last forever — that you can tell your children and grandchildren. That is my definition of rocking your race day!

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Your Race, Your Pace Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:35:08 +0000 Your race, your pace, right? Right. Everyone (and for every race) has different race goals, from the ever popular PRs...

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Your race, your pace, right? Right. Everyone (and for every race) has different race goals, from the ever popular PRs to the just finishing and running healthy. Although we are all looking to do something different on our race day, the one thing we have in common is that we all want to rock the race and have a great time! I’ve never met anyone who was hoping for a miserable race day, just people with a wide array of hopes and dreams.

Race Gear

Before we get to race day, let’s start with the basics of rocking your race gear. The day before, lay out everything you’ll need for the race. This means all clothes, socks, shoes, watch, hat, inhaler, etc. Whatever you use and need for the day, just simply have it out and ready to go. There is no reason for you to be scrambling in the wee hours of the morning looking for a sock! It will cause unnecessary stress — and who wants to be stressed on race day? NO ONE!

Bonus: If you really want to rock it, have fun with your race outfit. Match with a friend or group of friends. Wear funky colors or crazy socks — neon, anyone?

Race Day

Now on to rocking the actual race. First, remember to enjoy the course. The hard part is over — you signed up, you trained and you made it to the starting line. You put in the work, and your race is the reward. Running with thousands of others who also trained and waited for this day is exciting! So it’s important to keep your cool and stick to your pace.

Your Race, Your Pace

I know firsthand how easy it is to get caught up in race excitement and go out way too fast. You’ll probably fizzle and struggle towards the middle or end of the race. You’ll be miserable — trust me! I’ve done it, I’ve made the mistake and gone out too hard and barely made it to the finish line. As tough as it may be, stick to your pace.

I like to follow the 1, 2, 3 plan…

  1. For the first third of the race, I go easy and take in the course and the sights.
  2. For the second third, I pick up the pace a little. Here, I am running not too easy, but also not too hard.
  3. For the final third, I go crazy! I let the music take over, I let the crowd pump me up, I let the excitement take over and I go all out. The last part of the race is your time to give it your all. It’s the time to push yourself and to fly across the finish line like a rock star.

This is part of why it is important to save a little energy and not go all out from the start. You want to go all out at the end. You want to rock it when you are getting close to the finish line — and the crowd is cheering, the band is playing and the announcer (if your race has one) is calling out finisher’s names or numbers. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing strong.

One more tip for rocking race day: DO NOT try anything new on race day. For real, NOTHING! No new clothes, shoes, socks, food, bars, bites, shorts, chews, fluids, bracelets, hats, nothing!

Not all races go according to plan. We can’t always control everything, but what we can do is control our reactions and attitude. If things start going sideways, throw your goal aside and just enjoy the run.

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5 Running Motivation Posters Wed, 26 Jul 2017 18:24:26 +0000 Do you need some extra running motivation to get out the door (or just out of bed) for those training...

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Do you need some extra running motivation to get out the door (or just out of bed) for those training runs? Look no further! Here are five, totally free, running motivation posters for you to download, print, or both!

Put them on your fridge, over your desk, on your mirror, or on your nightstand. Wherever you need to see that daily reminder that you are awesome!


Running Motivation Posters

Download or print one of these posters as a daily reminder to keep on rockin’! Tip: click on the image to bring up a full resolution version.

running motivation

I am tougher than life’s challenges

running motivation

Make time for yourself, every day.

running motivation

No matter your pace, enjoy the race.

running motivation

Own the moment. This is your journey.

running motivation

You got this.

BONUS – there are smaller versions below to use as your mobile phone wallpaper!

running motivation running motivation running motivation running motivation running motivation

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6 Marathon Tips for Success Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:50:59 +0000 There’s no way to cheat on race day, but here are marathon and half marathon tips for success that will help increase...

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There’s no way to cheat on race day, but here are marathon and half marathon tips for success that will help increase the likelihood of you rocking on race day!

A marathon or half marathon is a challenging feat for many runners to complete. There’s no real way to sugarcoat the fact that it takes a lot out of the human body to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. But, there’s no reason why the training aspect of running needs to remain a mystery to so many! The following are marathon tips that can help demystify and organize some of the most important training tips for marathon and half marathon runners.

  1. Once you are in marathon training mode, don’t swap gear.
    You should have already figured out which shoes, clothing, and accessories work best for you during shorter practice runs. Take the time to get comfortable and begin longer training runs with the gear that you’ve broken in and know.
  2. Run on soft surfaces if possible during training.
    The more you favor grass, dirt, or gravel, the better off you’ll feel over the long run. Running can be quite taxing on the body, and there’s no reason to place additional stress on your frame before you enter a race. Yes – you’ll be running on asphalt during your marathon, but the hundreds of miles of training runs before then don’t have to add up to muscle and skeletal fatigue.
  3. Figure out your diet and hydration plan during shorter runs.
    The time before serious long-distance training is to begin is a golden timeframe in which to establish your dietary and hydration plan. Find what you can live with, see what fuels you appropriately, and stick to it! The worst idea is to start a new fad running diet or mess with your plan during the weeks leading up to a race.
  4. Run with someone!
    The benefits of running with a partner or a committed group are undeniable. Get ready for some serious accountability and a dose of fun when you include others. Obviously, it would be great for the group that you’re running with to be the same individuals that you’re competing with in the upcoming marathon, but it’s not a necessity.
  5. Ensure the correct running form.
    You’ll want to land as lightly as possible, keep your feet directly under you when they strike the ground, and push off the moment your feet touch down. Try to feel as light as possible.
  6. Keep your arms in motion – the proper motion.
    Fast moving arms can become tiresome, but legs will follow the cadence set forth by the arms. Up the pace ever so slightly by modifying your arm speed. To keep from gripping too tightly, pretend that you’re holding onto a potato chip between your fingers and you don’t want to break it.

These quick tips and marathon “cheats” will undoubtedly help you more adequately prepare for your next big half or full marathon. Always keep preparedness and safety in mind, gear up appropriately, and find a group to run with. The collective knowledge and wisdom of a group of seasoned runners can often provide the best information to help you prepare for a marathon or half marathon.

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5 Race-Week Tips Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:00:49 +0000 Whether you’re a first-time runner or seasoned marathon runner, when it comes to race week, you want to be prepared...

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Whether you’re a first-time runner or seasoned marathon runner, when it comes to race week, you want to be prepared either way. The following five race-week tips are simple reminders of things to be aware of to ensure you have the best marathon or half marathon experience.

1. Calm pre-race nerves.

Relax! Pre-race nervousness will get you nowhere. You need as much mental energy as physical energy to propel yourself to the finish line of a marathon or half marathon, so don’t waste any time worrying about and questioning your training. Be confident that you are ready to roll, and take your mind off the upcoming race with a book, movie or other non-running-related activity. Take a walk, meditate or get together with friends as a way to offset pre-race energy anxiety.

2. Hydrate throughout race week.

Drink water regularly. Chugging a gallon of water on race morning isn’t going to help matters much if you haven’t been hydrating properly in the days prior to the event. Keep a bottle of water or sports drink within arm’s reach during the days before the race, and sip from it several times an hour. If you’re peeing regularly, you’re doing hydration right. It can take the better part of a week to hydrate properly, so make sure to fill your tank well ahead of time.

3. Rise and shine!

Practice waking up early. If you’re not an early bird already, learn to be one before experiencing a rude awakening on race morning. Since you’ll probably be running around 7 a.m. or much earlier for marathon runners on race day (but earlier for everybody if you want to beat the traffic and porta-potty lines), you’ll want to experience what it’s like to be out of bed well before the break of dawn. The last thing you want on race day is to be rushing around with seconds to spare or to be shut out of your assigned corral, so give yourself plenty of time to wake up, dress, eat and get to the starting line.

4. Check off your race-day gear list.

Make a list. Check it twice. Make a list of race-day essentials (shoes, shorts, singlet, socks, hydration belt, gels, race bib), and keep these items on or close to you at all times. If traveling to the race from out of town, pack the important stuff in your carry-on luggage in the event that your checked bag gets lost. You’ll be fine if you lose your favorite slippers or misplace your shaving kit, but you’re nothing without your running shoes.

5. Enjoy the expo — but not too much.

The race expo is a great experience, but spending too much time on your feet the day before your big race isn’t the soundest strategy for success. If your marathon or half marathon is on Sunday, try to get into town on Friday and enjoy the full expo experience. If Saturday is your only option before a Sunday race, grab your race packet, scope out the expo scene for a short time, and then get off your feet and relax for the rest of the day.

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How to Set Realistic Goals Wed, 31 May 2017 17:41:15 +0000 To be successful (and happy) in running, it is important to set realistic goals, take one day at a time...

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To be successful (and happy) in running, it is important to set realistic goals, take one day at a time and enjoy the process. Check out these tips to help you get your goals off to the right start.

How should you approach your goals?

Runners who train solely to achieve a specific goal tend to push harder and increase training volume without regard to the feedback their body is providing, resulting is inconsistent training and stagnant results. So, how should you approach your training and goal-setting?

Don’t focus on the end goal — instead, focus on the process.

But what does that phrase really mean? The idea of focusing on the process means concentrating on the steps you need to take to improve each day, as opposed to focusing on the end goal itself. While the difference between the two is subtle, it has important consequences. Let’s illustrate this in the following scenario of two runners, each of whom is about 35 minutes away from qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Runner 1: Focusing on the process

At the start of the training phase, runner 1 assesses her fitness and determines she’s currently at a fitness level 35 minutes slower than her goal time. She sets up her training schedule so that her mileage, long runs and workouts are consistent with the volume and speed she’s been training at. After four weeks of hard yet controlled workouts, she does a tune-up 10K. She runs well, and her “estimated” marathon time is now 30 minutes closer to her goal. Each week thereafter, she cautiously increases her training paces when her workouts and tune-up races indicate she’s ready to do so. She follows this plan, always keeping her training within her current fitness level. When race day approaches, she’s fit, healthy and runs a great race, recording a personal best by 20 minutes, but still shy of her Boston qualifying goal. She takes the proper recovery time after the race and then starts the cycle over again in another attempt to get closer to her goal of qualifying for Boston. This time, her starting fitness is higher than it was before and when race day approaches, she nails her goal time and achieves her Boston qualifying goal.

Runner 2: Focusing on the goal

Our second athlete is more aggressive and decides she’s going to do whatever it takes to qualify for Boston. She starts her segment and begins to push her easy and long run paces to get closer to the times she’ll need to run in the marathon. On workout days, she pushes the envelope when she feels good and finishes each workout exhausted. The first few weeks of this plan go OK, and after a 10K tune-up race, she realizes she’s only 25 minutes from her goal time. So, she starts doing her long runs with the faster group in her running club, which goes well until her IT band starts giving her trouble. After a few days of limping through runs she goes to a physical therapist and is told to take a week off from running. Reluctantly, she takes the needed rest. When she returns to training, she feels good but realizes she’s now a week behind in her training schedule and it’s crunch time if she’s going to hit her goal. So, she jumps right back into the hard workouts and long runs, and two weeks later, she starts to feel her Achilles tug. Once again, a visit to the therapist confirms she needs to take a week off from running. This process repeats itself until race day, when she valiantly attempts to run the race, but due to lack of consistent training she runs 40 minutes slower than her goal time. Once she recovers from the race, she repeats the same goal-oriented cycle and unfortunately never runs much faster than her current personal best.

Do either of these cases sound familiar to you?

Take the next step!

The second component of focusing on the process is related to training at your current fitness level, but is more focused on how you build your mileage, long runs and workout volumes.

This best example of this is when coming back from an injury. Many runners who have to take a week or two off to heal from an injury immediately return to hard training in an attempt to hit their goal time. They’ll take the risk of getting injured again if it means they can regain their fitness faster. The problem with this approach is that it often leads to further injury. Not only do these runners not hit their goal time, but now they’re injured again.

A better approach in this situation is to put your race goals on the backburner and focus on taking the next logical step in your training each week. Increase your volume only as much as your body is ready to handle and train to your current fitness level, not where you were or where you want to be on race day. Sure, this logical progression might not progress you fast enough to hit your goal on race day, but you’ll have months of consistent training behind you and, most importantly, you’ll be healthy and ready to keep training hard for the next race. And yes, there will always be other races.

Focus on the process, train consistently, stay healthy, and keep moving forward one day, week and month at a time.
Read more about how to set realistic goals at

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Keys to Running with Mental Toughness Wed, 17 May 2017 19:53:33 +0000 As a runner, how mentally tough are you? Mental toughness is something most of us would not even consider as...

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As a runner, how mentally tough are you? Mental toughness is something most of us would not even consider as part of our marathon training. There are seven key traits that define the champion’s mentality. These traits are resilience, focus, strength, preparation, vision, openness and trust.

The good news is that you do not have to be born with mental toughness. You can learn to be mentally tough through your running workouts every day. The characteristics that make a mentally tough runner can be developed by anyone who wants to excel.

When you attain these qualities and practice these skills regularly, you have the best chance of achieving your goals in your running. Each of us begins at a different starting point physically and mentally. We all have strengths that we can build upon.

Five Tips: How to build mental toughness into your running

Now that you have an idea of the collection of traits that mentally tough runners possess, how do you turn these qualities into useful behaviors that will make a difference in the way you train and race? Below are some suggestions that I have used and have helped many of my own clients tremendously toward running faster and feeling better.

1. Create your performing edge toughness mindset

The mind and body are so well connected that to achieve a good outcome, you need to have the proper toughness mindset. The right internal state must be created first. Once you feel right inside, a quality performance can occur naturally and effortlessly. The appropriate internal state can bridge the gap between what you think you can accomplish and what you actually achieve. It can make the difference between just having the ability and realizing your true potential.

2. Build a mentally tough outlook

Direct your focus to what is possible, to what can happen, toward success. Instead of complaining about the weather or criticizing the competition, if you want to be a mentally tough runner, only attend to things you can control: Your thoughts, emotions, training form, and how you perceive each situation. You have a choice in what you believe about yourself. Positive energy makes peak performances possible.

3. Visualize mental toughness every day

Take 10 or 15 minutes each day to mentally rehearse your goals. Put yourself in a relaxed state through deep abdominal breathing. Then, as vividly as possible, create an image in your mind of what you want to achieve in your running. You can produce a replay of one of your top mentally tough performances in the past. Then carry all those positive feelings of self-confidence, energy and strength into your mental practice of an upcoming running event. See yourself doing it right. Finally, use your imagery all the way through the event itself.

4. Create a relaxed focus

To be more mentally tough, work toward maintaining your concentration for longer periods of time. You can tune into what is critical to your performance and tune out what is not. You can easily let go of distractions and take control of your attention. As you focus more on the direct task in front of you (your stride form, how you are feeling, etc.), there will be less room for the negative thoughts to enter your mind during your running training. You’ll be mentally strong under any conditions.

5. Use power words for mental toughness

Try repeating these phrases to be mentally tough before your next event:

I stay positive and mentally tough no matter what happens

I project confidence and energy

Going fast feels effortless

I am in my element; I am fully engaged in my running

Focus on the moment, not the distance

I fully enjoy every part of my workout

I am physically relaxed and mentally focused

I am a strong, mentally tough runner

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