Hot vs. Cold

It seems like we have all been there. It’s a beautiful day; you get up early, get dressed for success in your favorite pair of running shoes, and head out the door for a quick run. You’re feeling great. What a way to start the day! Then it happens – it may be quick, or it may be gradual, but it happens. A nagging pain starts in your shin, you feel something pop in your ankle, or your knee gives out with little warning. Perhaps you finish your run feeling the freedom of the runner’s high, but you get back home and your hips start to ache or your calf muscles tighten up. Uh-oh. Now what? Do you apply an ice pack? Maybe a hot pack? Which one might work better? Which do you choose? Does it even matter?

Yes! It does matter whether you apply ice or heat when treating an injury. Below are some quick and easy-to-remember tips to help you decide what course of action to take when an injury catches you off guard.


ICE, ICE Baby!

  • Ice packs are generally used for NEW injuries that have a rapid onset and are fairly short-lived. For example, a sprained ankle, a recent bruise, a sore wrist or elbow after playing a sport, or at the first signs of aching joins for arthritis or tendonitis. If you see swelling, find some ice!
  • COLD reduces swelling and eases inflammation and pain by numbing the nerves. If you are suddenly injured (i.e. stepping off a curb and twisting an ankle), applying an ice pack can help to provide immediate relief. Ice is a vaso-constrictor (it causes the blood vessels to narrow) and it limits internal bleeding at the injury site.
  • Need an ice pack right away? Grab a frozen bag of peas (or any vegetable, I usually use broccoli) right out of your freezer as a fast, inexpensive way to treat the pain.
  • Apply ice for 20 MINUTES at a time. DO NOT wrap ice pack in a towel/cloth. You must apply the ice directly to the skin to get the full benefits of icing. A towel or cloth creates a barrier, thus preventing the cold from reaching the injury. Remove for at least 20 minutes before reapplying. You can ice an acute injury several times a day for up to three days.
  • Cold therapy is also helpful in treating some overuse injuries or chronic pain in athletes. An athlete who has chronic knee pain (like me) that increases after running may want to ice the injured area after each run to reduce or prevent inflammation. It’s not helpful to ice a chronic injury before exercise.

Crank up the HEAT!

  • A hot pack is used tor CHRONIC (ongoing) pain or muscle soreness/stiffness/tightness that develops slowly and is persistent or can even be substituted if the area being treated is especially sensitive to cold. For example, heat may be applied to a strained neck muscle or area of the body that is suffering from overuse.
  • Athletes with chronic pain or injuries may use heat therapy before exercise to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and to stimulate blood flow. Heat can also help relax tight muscles or muscle spasms. Don’t apply heat after exercise. After a workout, ice is the better choice on a chronic injury.
  • Heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature, so you should not apply heat to acute injuries or injuries that show signs of inflammation.
  • Apply heat to an injury using a moist, wet towel or cloth 15 or 20 MINUTES minutes at a time and use enough layers between your skin and the heating source to prevent burns.

As you know, injuries can be serious, so if they do not improve, are still causing you pain or even get worse within 48 hours of the onset, please contact your doctor.

Until the next mile marker,

Feeling Injured?

It’s no secret that runner’s get injured. Time and time again we get injured. We dread it, actually. We might have to take a break, after all. We fear losing fitness or gaining weight. We have to wait to get our next “fix,” our endorphins start running on empty. We start going stir-crazy. Out for a day, a week or two, months. Physical therapy, medical bills, grueling recovery and sometimes persistent pain. You’re healed, then you’re not, then you have to start all over again.

We come and go with injuries. Other runners understand, support us when we are down and welcome us back when we are feeling better. Some get injured more than others – the first year I started running, it seemed like people were dropping like flies all around me with aches and pains. Then, one day, I had shin splints – much to my amazement since I had no pain for months – and I vividly remember when I “got my first running injury.” Patellofemoral Syndrome. That made me a real runner, right? Yeah, right. I also remembered the days when I ran injury-free. Those were the days. But, injury makes you stronger, makes you appreciate the good times when they do come.

While it didn’t make me a real runner, somehow I had entered a new chapter of running. Things were different for me. I had to think about things, slow down [even more], pay more attention to my body than I ever had, and say ‘No’ even when I wanted to run with all of my heart.

Speaking from experience, I think a lot of new runners start to worry about their own health when they see or hear about the people the run with getting hurt. I know I did. “Do I have that?” “Wait, how would I even know if I had that?” “What is that?

Below is a list of common running injuries, some common symptoms and what you can do to help prevent a reoccurring problem. Running injuries can affect anyone for a variety of reasons, but I have included some information about who these problems tend to affect most commonly. These are simply guidelines to give you an idea of what injuries exist, particularity to runners, and what causes them. I felt much better about my own injury once I was more informed. Runner’s World and also provide additional and easily accessed information about injury prevention, treatment and symptoms. Most importantly, you should also contact your physician or sports doctor as a first-line of defense for injury prevention and appropriate treatment.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (a.k.a Runner’s Knee):

What: Pain, stiffness and sometimes grinding around the kneecap. For many, pain is particularly noticeable going up and down stairs, sitting and standing, and/or getting in and out of a vehicle.

Who: Women who run a 10-minute-per-mile pace or slower.
Ideally, your kneecap glides smoothly in the groove at the end of your femur or thighbone (the femoral groove). However, because women have more flexible joints and a more extreme angle from hip to knee (Q angle) than men, their kneecaps are more likely to fall out of alignment. Pain intensifies at slower speeds because the knee goes through less range of motion, putting more demand on a smaller area of the joint. Prevention: Strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes with squats and lunges to stabilize your kneecaps and help keep the pelvis level while you run. Rest is one of the first treatment steps to reduce the pain and severity of patellofemoral pain and runner’s knee. Reduce your mileage or turn to non-impact exercise, such as swimming, to keep your fitness level while allowing your knees to heal. The latest information about patellofemoral pain syndrome points the focus on strengthening the hips to get the kneecap to track correctly.

Others at Risk: Runners who over pronate, have flat feet or high arches.


Iliotibial-Band (IT Band) Syndrome:

What: Inflammation in the band of fibers that runs along the outside of the knee to the top of the shin.

Who: Women with a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) who do a weekly long run of two hours or more and run hills often.

Why: Extra body weight puts a heavier load on the hips and more pressure on the IT band. Long runs fatigue the muscles that help stabilize women’s hips. The hips sag more than normal on each step, straining the band. During a hill workout, the knee stays bent longer, which also increases tension to the IT Band.

Prevention: Strengthen the muscles around the IT band with leg walking (loop a resistance band around both ankles and walk sideways in one direction, then the other). You can also use a foam roller to loosen the band.

Others at Risk: People who run on slanted surfaces; runners with leg-length discrepancies.

Plantar Fasciitis:

What: Inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot that’s usually worst first thing in the morning.
Who: Men over 40 who have a family history of the injury.
Why: The make-up of the tissue in the plantar fascia is stiffer in men and gets less flexible with age. Some experts believe Plantar Fasciitis could be a genetic condition, although it can affect anyone, even on-athletes.
Prevention: The fascia tightens overnight, so stretch your calves before getting out of bed (straighten your legs; flex your toes). Strengthen your calves with toe raises eccentric heel drops.
Others at Risk: People who wear shoes that lack good arch support (flip-flops, ballet shoes) and pregnant women.

Achilles Tendinitis

What: Tenderness in your lower calf near your heel that usually strikes when you push off with your toes.
Who: Men with higher BMI who run a 9 minute-per-mile pace or faster.
Why: The Achilles absorbs several times your body weight with each stride. A faster pace and additional body weight put even more stress on this tendon.
Prevention: Strengthen your calf muscles (with your toes on a step, lower and raise your heels). Stretch your calves (keep your heel on the ground, lift your toes back toward your shin).
Others at Risk: People who regularly run hills (the Achilles has to stretch more on inclines) and who have increased their mileage more than 10 percent per week (sudden increases in mileage strain the tendon).


Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (a.k.a Shin Splints)

What: Pain and soreness along the inside front of the lower leg.
Who: Runners whose feet roll inward excessively (overpronate).
Why: The posterior tibial tendon, the connective tissue that gets sore with shin splints, runs into the arch of the foot. If your feet roll inward, this tendon has to work extra hard to counteract that motion.
Prevention: Get fitted for and wear motion-control shoes. Strengthen your calves (hold dumbbells while doing toe raises). If you’ve had daily shin pain for longer than a month, see a doctor for a bone scan to rule out a stress fracture.
Others at Risk: Beginning runners; people who train on slanted surfaces; women who wear high heels.

Patellar Tendinitis:

What: Pain in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone.
Who:Men with a higher BMI or who have a history of playing basketball and have suddenly increased their weekly mileage.
Why:The patellar tendon helps your leg extend during running or jumping, but that repeated motion can create small tears in the tendon. After years of activity and then a sudden increase in mileage, your body may struggle to repair those tears. Extra body weight may contribute to the injury.
Prevention:You can do squats to strengthen the patellar tendon and stretch your quads and hamstrings. Avoid increasing mileage by more than 10 percent per week. Stick to your training plan! It is there to help you stay injury free.
Others At Risk: Runners with a history or tendon problems and overpronators.

In the quest for the ultimate performance, there is a tendency to overdo things and cross the fine line between peak fitness and injury. As runners, we do get injured and as human beings, we often think we can self-diagnose ourselves or figure out what the problem is based on the experience of others.  

While many athletes can manage their own pain and rehab program (especially with prior experience!), ideally you need to contact a physician or physical therapist not only to get a proper diagnosis, but to learn the latest treatment options and learn how to perform the exercises correctly. Depending upon your diagnosis, there may be additional strengthening and stretching exercises you will need to add to your routine.

Even though it may seem like it, an injury is not the end of the world – or your training. Stick to your plan, become informed, take care of your body with proper nutrition and hydration and take time to rest too. Rest is an important component to any training plan to allow your muscles and tendons to repair and keep you running injury-free.

Until the next mile marker,

No $$, No Problem – Be Safe for FREE!!

It is safe to say I have always been a little paranoid – especially when it comes to my health and being safe. I used to be unable to learn about unheard of diseases because that meant I would surely contract them. I’ve gotten over that – a little bit.
Even to this day, though, I do take my health and safety seriously. Since I started getting healthy, working out and running, I have become more in-tune to my body than I ever was before. However, I always think about how my awareness would not help me if I was running alone and something bad happened. Whether I am in an accident or passed out, how would someone know how to help me once they found me? How would they know who to call if I couldn’t speak?
I have looked at Road ID’s time and time again, but have not purchased one because (a) I don’t have a lot of spare cash and also because (b) I do not want to wear another thing on my person. I already wear my Garmin and sometimes that alone irritates me when I have been running for a while.
Still, since my mother’s passing, I can’t help but wonder what would happen to me if I were found down and unconscious during a run. My mother, fortunately, was very near to her car (with her car keys) and the first responders we able to find her cell phone which had In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts in it. That is how the police were able to get in touch with me before she was even taken to the hospital. I am confident that everything was done that day to save her life, yet I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she had been 3 or more miles away from her car. I may not feel the same way about her receiving help “in time.” And then there’s me – there is no way to identify me.
So, one day I came across an internet ad for FinishSafe – a free service that allows medical personnel to access your medical information and contacts information from anywhere if you are involved in a medical emergency or accident. In addition, the FinishTags were also on special – free! I signed right up. It was simple to fill out my medical profile – it took about five minutes and FinishSafe and I was issued a LifePin number to keep my information safe and secure from any non-medial-emergency-personnel eyes. I can even update my profile online at any time without having to order new tags – big bonus for me! They came in the mail yesterday:     

They were all connected to one card and had instructions for how to secure them as well.

What you get from FinishSafe:

Seven FinishTags in all!
  • Wallet card
  • Bike Tag
  • Key Tag
  • 2 Shoe Tags
  • 2 Pack/Luggage Tags (different styles)
What you save:
  • Money – Because you’re all my friends, they’re free for you through June 30! After you order your FinishTags, check out using the code FAMILY17 and FinishTag will waive all of the charges. That’s an $11.99 value. Who doesn’t like to be safe and save a little cash while doing it?
  • Worry – Hopefully, FinishTags can give you peace of mind if you ever have an accident or emergency, especially if you are running alone or even with others who do not know your personal medical information. The tags also provide complete instructions for accessing your medical information anytime, day or night.
  • Time – In an emergency, we all know time is crucial. The FinishTag automatically links your medical information to the medics who need it through a unique LifePin number. You’ll be prompted to enter such information as your current medications, any allergies you have, the medical conditions you’re being treated for, and other helpful information that will allow medics to diagnose and treat you quickly and accurately. If you are ever involved in an accident or medical emergency, responders will be able to instantly access your critical information four different ways depending on what is most convenient for the medic: by telephone, smartphone app, online, or using an automatic text-back system.

What I am most excited about:

The Wallet Card:
  • It fits perfectly in my wallet – not that my wallet is super-small or anything. It has complete instructions for accessing my LifePin info, a picture ID to aid in identification and contact info for FinishSafe so maybe if I lose my wallet, someone can return it to me! If medics ever need to look in your wallet, they’ll be sure to see this bold red and white card. It includes a (optional) photo of you to aid in identification. Mine had a picture of me from the Finish Line in Pittsburgh.

The Key Card:

  • I already turn my keys in every Saturday for my MIT workout. If my keys are left at the end of the workout, my MIT card will identify them as mine and the other coaches can find me and see that I am okay. If I am not, I now have the FinishTag with my medical information too! I take my keys a lot of places that I don’t take my wallet so the Key Tag will be with me frequently. Also, it does not have a picture ID and says Mrs. and my last name for privacy purposes.

The Shoe Tag:
  • The tag is extremely light weight and laces easily into any pair of shoes. I like it because it will be with me no matter what running outfit I am wearing – I always wear my shoes. Plus, I do not have to wear another thing on my person because it attaches to my shoes. There are two shoe tags if you rotate your shoes.

I hope if you don’t already have a RoadID or LifePin that you think about signing up for FinishSafe. It could really help you out someday in an emergency – even though I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone. Go to FinishSafe and order yours today! You’ve really got nothing to lose! 🙂

Until the next mile marker,


Top 5 Reasons to Run a 5k: Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect, right? I would have to agree – generally the more times I do something, the easier the task becomes. Take for example, my first half marathon compared to subsequent races. It gets easier every time. In the Emerald City Half – my best race to date with a finish time of 2 hours and 54 minutes – I clicked off the miles smoothly. I was strong, confident and in good running shape. I wasn’t nervous – as I was before my first half a year earlier – and I had fun the whole time! I wasn’t worried about finishing – I knew I would. I usually get a little bit of pre-race jitters, but nothing like how I felt before the first half. It’s much easier to relax now and enjoy the scenery!  

How exactly do you practice racing if you are training to run your first half marathon?

Sign up to run a 5K or two!

Most runners I know find it beneficial to not have their first race be their goal race (i.e. their first half marathon or full marathon). Racing is fun, exciting and can be daunting if you have never done it before. Signing up for a 5K before your “big” race allows you to experience the racing atmosphere on a much smaller scale and provides you with an additional opportunity to work out any kinks you may encounter on race day. From packet pick-up to finish line party, you will feel much better knowing what to expect as well as be prepared for any mishaps.

I find that racing, even on a smaller scale, keeps me motivated to run and set new goals. This weekend, I participated in the Race for Ellie 5K, a local race to raise funds in partnership with The Ohio State University for research toward a cure for Mitochondrial Disease.

It was a tough race for me; I finished in 42:12, my slowest 5K time. Not only was it tough because I don’t think I am yet fully recovered from Pittsburgh, but because I made some mistakes that really affected my ability to run. “You know better,” crossed my mind many times during that 3.1 miles. Looking back, though, I am glad I ran Ellie to remind me of these mistakes so I don’t repeat them at a later date. What can I say?

So, what did I learn from running the Race for Ellie that can also help you before your big race?

I am reminded that practice really does make perfect. By following the mileage and guidelines of a good training plan, you are already practicing for the race. Stick to the schedule and you will be able to run the miles. Once you are comfortable running four or 5 miles, I would suggest signing up for a local 5K to gain racing experience. Training is good because it allows you to figure out your weak spots and practice different techniques. For example, do you like GU or Chomps when you are running long distances? Do you prefer to stretch before or after running or both? If you find the second half of any run is increasingly difficult compared to the first half, you can begin to focus your energy on the second half while maintaining or eventually increasing your pace. By staying true to your training plan, you have a greater chance of avoiding injury and burnout. Running Ellie yesterday reminded me that I need to slow down a little bit, take it easy on myself and let the miles add up gradually. I should not feel like I have to force myself back into higher miles – I can run them when I am ready. Just like at the beginning of any training plan, the more I practice, the more the miles will start to come easy again.     

I need to make sure I get adequate rest! Sleep and relaxation are important. I stayed up a little too late on Saturday night, instead of trying to get to sleep earlier. I was tired on Sunday morning for the race and that affected me mentally as well as physically. It is not very fun feeling like you are exhausted even before you get to the starting line. The night before a race, go to bed a little earlier and don’t over-think the next day’s events or you might still be up all night. See above. You’ve trained for this; you’re prepared to make the miles!

Hydration is paramount. Before you even begin racing, make sure you are well hydrated, as with all training runs too. Usually, I start “channeling my inner camel” at least the day before the race, if not two or three days before. This makes a huge difference! Basically, I thought before the race this weekend, “It’s just a 5K, I’ll be fine.” WRONG. I should have stuck to my regular hydration plan – drink water until your pee comes out pale yellow or clear! Drink. Drink. Drink. And then drink some more. Store it up like a camel preparing to trek across the Sahara. A mile into Ellie I was thirsty and once you are thirsty, it is really really hard to rehydrate and feel normal again. By the time I reached the water station at mile 1.5 or so, it was too late to quench my thirst. Drinking an excess of water would have just created cramps and an unsettled stomach. I drank a normal amount of water and continued on, but I had to stop for a few walking breaks on the way in to the Finish Line. I was tired, sluggish and had a headache for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Not fun at all.

My next biggest mistake? Not pacing myself when the race began. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and speed of the other runners and take off out of the gate at too fast of a pace. This will only cause you to lose momentum in the end (or in the middle, like I did, when I suddenly looked down and noticed I had been running at an 11:47 pace – yikes!). When the race begins, pace yourself. If you start off your first half mile pacing yourself, your finish will be much stronger. I knew I was starting too fast, but I did it anyway. I thought I might make it at that pace the whole way until 0.73 miles into the race when I was spent. Combined with inadequate hydration, the rest of the race was miserable.

If you pace yourself in the beginning, you can give it all you’ve got at the Finish. Save your strength for the finish! When you approach the halfway mark you should be picking up the pace to finish strong. Give it all you’ve got anywhere from your last quarter mile to the last few hundred yards and sprint it in if you can. I did this, for the first time in a long time, during the Race for Ellie thanks to Heather, who coached me through to the finish, and it was extremely satisfying. I felt like in spite of a tough race, I was a superstar crossing that finish line. I didn’t have much left, but I left it all on the track. In this race, we started and finished on the track, which was cool because I felt like I was fast for about 39.4 seconds!

All in all, Race for Ellie was a great race – well organized and supports a cause that we can all believe in. The post-race festivities we also pretty cool – we had pizza, wings (for some reason they tasted so good!), Italian Ice (should be served after every summer race from now on), water, bananas, rolls, and coffee. The shirt is light pink in color and is a womens technical shirt. I wore it after the race and it is just roomy enough to be comfortable without feeling like it is too big on me. This race had a water stop halfway, a kid’s race (complete with finisher ribbons), a mile long family fun walk, and awards for the top 3 male and female finishers. The volunteers were really helpful and clearly wanted to do all they can to support Ellie and her family. A great race for first-time racers, a fun, casual event for more experienced runners and a truly family-oriented event.   

Race for Ellie 5K Shirt

My Top Five Reasons to Run A 5K:

(in no particular order)

  • For the racing experience! If at all possible, don’t let your goal race be your first race! Run a 5K to get some experience and to have some racing fun too!
  • To support a charity or a specific cause. You can choose to support almost anything you want to from breast cancer research, to homeless animals, to civic associations, to diabetes, to pancreatic cancer. Support the cause you believe in and sign up to make a difference today!
  • To achieve a PR. You can focus increasing your speed by running smaller races, like the 5K. This helps to build confidence in your ability to break your own records. Plus, it is really exciting to feel the accomplishment of running faster than you did the last time.
  • Because crossing the Finish Line is motivating! You will be more inspired to run your goal race once you have crossed a finish line or two. Imagine crossing the finish line of a local 5K or 10K x a hundred million! You will never forget the experience of the ‘Runner’s High.’
  • To run for fun, with friends, and without the pressure of a big race. Once you have been running for a little while, especially during half marathon or marathon training, your body will become accustomed to the 5K distance and you can decide to run a 5K or meet up with a group of running buddies with short notice. It does not take nearly as much time to train and get “in shape” for a 5K as it does a half marathon! 

Helpful Tools:
Search nearby race companies and running stores, such as Fleet Feet to get a list of upcoming 5K’s in your area. If you’re local, check out Premier Races for a list of 5K’s coming your way!

Think about a 5K you would like to run. Look for one around July or August – there are many races on the 4th of July and generally people also have the day off. I love to race on holidays! Check with some of your running buddies to rally some company out on the race course.

Inspirational Quote:

“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephan Grellet

Until the next mile marker, 


What’s it all about, anyway?

I’m a firm believer that, assuming no major problems or injuries, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race. Take me, for example, I went from the extreme bare minimum (I could only run about a mile and a half at the time) to training for and completing my first half marathon in just about 21 weeks or 5 months.  

My goal for my first race was to cross the Finish Line – a perfectly respectable goal for any first-timer. And just think – the next race you’ll have a Personal Record (PR) for sure! It wasn’t until I started running subsequent halfs and then a full that I really started paying attention to pacing. I wish I knew more about how to pace and what pace to follow much earlier on in my training.

I get a lot of questions about pacing and how fast (or slow) to run and believe me, while it is not a specific science, there are a few key elements that can help you train to your full potential without getting injured or burned out. Below you will find some information that has helped me, and I hope you can find it beneficial too!

Most importantly, don’t worry about how fast you run your regular workouts. Run at a comfortable pace. If you’re training with a friend or running with the group, you should be able to hold a conversation. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. The Long Slow Run (or LSD, as we like to call it), usually on Saturday or Sunday, forms the basis of all of your training.

Here is an example of one week of the MIT training schedule for beginning half marathoners:

While it may seem overwhelming at first, the beginner schedule is fairly simplistic compared to an intermediate or advanced schedule that incorporates speed drills and hill workouts. As a beginning runner, you should be focused on “time on your feet” and not how fast you can run. As with most things, speed will come with time and practice.

On this schedule, the LSD is coded in yellow as the Endurance/Long Run/Walk and should be 60 – 90 seconds slower than your race pace. This training is done in a moderate-intensity zone and is used to improve overall conditioning and endurance. Our long Saturday runs form the basis of everything we do. Keep in mind, you are not running at your goal race pace! You should be running at least 1 minute slower than race pace. For example, many people who train in our 13-minute per mile pace group actually run a 12:45 or 12:30 in a race scenario. Still others, me included from time to time, run a 13:30 or 13:45 during training and stay closer to an even 13 minutes on race day. For these reasons, it is not only fun, but beneficial to run a 5K or two or even a 10K before your goal race to stimulate race conditions and learn how your pace is affected in a competitive setting. You will be able to use your times to predict your finishing time in the half marathon, and what pace to run that race. Plus, it helps to eliminate a lot of pre-race jitters.

The key to getting ready to finish a Half Marathon is the LSD, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Your runs will range from 2 to 12 miles. And inspiration will carry you to the finish line, for the last 1.1 miles! You should not feel rushed or pressured to finish your long run in a certain amount of time, what matters is the time you spend on your feet covering the miles.

Coded in blue are the Rest Days when you should refrain from running. Yes I said it and I will say it again – DO NOT RUN. Even if you feel fine, don’t run. If you feel better than ever, please don’t run. Rest is as important a part of your training as running. You will be able to run the long runs on the weekend better–and limit your risk of injury–if you rest before, and rest after. While training for my first few halfs, I did not even worry about cross training on my days “off.” I focused on hydrating, eating right, and not running. Was it hard? Absolutely! Especially when my mileage was low, but I took the time to let my body recuperate and did not struggle with injuries, illness or burnout as a result. Rest days are the key to staying healthy.

Finally, you will see a red code on the schedule. These are Over-Distance of Recovery Runs and should be 90-120 seconds slower than your race pace. This is a low-intensity zone used to establish a strong cardiovascular base. It promotes increased oxygen absorption, fat-burning capacity, capillary and mitochondrial density. This zone is also used for active recovery after intense or extended durations of training. Typically, your recovery run comes after your LSD/Long Run with a day of rest in-between. Again, what matters is time on your feet – gets you out there and gets your body moving, work the stiffness out from your previous long run.

As you transition from a beginning runner to more experienced, you will also add in a Progressive Long Run/Walk. For this, you should begin 60-90 seconds slower than race pace and progressive to  15-20 seconds faster than race pace by then end of your run. This should incorporate your over-distance/active recovery pace, endurance training pace and tempo/race-pace training. Start slightly slower than average run pace, progressively increase pace to end your run at a faster than average (race) pace. This zone increases tolerance to lactic acid and increases aerobic threshold. Typically, you will see this type of run on an advanced schedule. You will also begin to add in Lactic Acid/Tempo Runs as you progress, but you should not engage in tempo runs if you in your first year or so of running. There is plenty of time to take up this type of training later on! This is a high-intensity zone used to improve aerobic conditioning while introducing and aerobic component. Lactic acid is produced, but not in sufficient quantities to immediately degrade performance. This zone increases tolerance to lactic acid and increases aerobic threshold. You will not see any Progressive or temp runs on your first-time half marathon or marathon schedule, which is how it should be.

Some other important factors in a reliable training schedule?

Flexibility: Don’t be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. If you have a commitment to work or your family on Monday nights, do that workout on Tuesday instead. If your family is going to be on vacation one week when you will have more or less time to train, adjust the schedule accordingly. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter. Get your overall weekly miles in, even if you have to rearrange the miles run on what day from time to time. For example, there were several times during our last training season that a number of people who had commitments on a particular Saturday met on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon to get a long run in. You can be flexible in your training and still not have to run alone!

Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. Feel free to walk during your running workouts if you feel overly tired or need to shift gears. For example, while training with MIT, we typically stop to hydrate at the water stations. This practice translates to a race and we make sure to walk through the hydration stations, helping to ensure adequate hydration and nutrition. What matters is that you will finish your race, even if you take a few walking breaks to get there. In fact, there are specific training plans also devoted to run-walk an entire race. Don’t be embarrassed by listening to your body and giving it what it needs!

Cross-Training: While running is probably sufficient while training for your first half marathon, cross-training can be an effective way to try something new or beat burnout if you are feeling frustrated with your running schedule. For example, you could swim, bike, spin or take an aerobics class if you choose to take a break from running every once in awhile. Sometimes it is nice to try something different and you will find your renewed interest and passion in returning to running. What cross-training you select depends on your personal preference. Most importantly, do not cross train too vigorously. Cross-training days should be considered easier days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week. Cross-training can also factor in nicely with flexibility, for example, if you are going to be spending the afternoon with your children at the pool, you can get in a swimming workout if you know you will not have the opportunity to run later in the day. As you become stronger and more accustomed to running, you may also choose to gradually incorporate strength training into your weekly workout schedule.

Goal of the Week:

Experiment with your pace. Begin to learn what is too fast, or too slow, and what is comfortable for you. Try to focus on the schedule, including resting when appropriate, and vary your pace according to the color codes.

Inspirational Quote of the Week:

“If running marathons were easy, everyone would be doing it – but they’re not. You’ve got to be committed to your training. If you’re not focused on being a success, you won’t be successful. You’ll never succeed if you’re not willing to prepare.” – Bill Wenmark

Until the next mile marker,