AUGUST 2017

Need for Speed Track Workout

Hello there. Thanks for joining us for the latest edition of Workout Wednesday, when each week I share a new running or runner-specific strength training workout. This weekend hubby and I hit the local school track so I thought I would share my 'need for speed' track workout. 

Long intervals are great for distance runners looking to increase their running pace. The track makes it easy to measure distance without any fancy GPS. 

STANDARD 400 METER TRACK

A 400 meter track equals 1/4 of a mile. The straights are 100 meters each and the bends are 100 meters each.

Track workout

Track workout

This workout is based on the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) chart. You can learn more about RPE in this blog post. The beauty of the RPE is that I don't need to assign specific paces for your speed and recovery intervals. That would be impossible for a blog post that reaches millions (ha. OK. hundreds) of runners of different abilities and experience levels. The workout paces are based on how you feel and the talk test. 

THE TALK TEST | RPE CHART

Your RPE can be determined by the talk test.

RPE:1 No effort. You are probably sitting.
RPE:2-3 Light effort. Breathing is extremely easy. You may be walking at a leisurely pace.
RPE: 4-6 Moderate effort. You are working a little harder, maybe a jog, but you can carry on a full conversation at this pace without gasping for air between words or sentences. 
RPE: 7-8 Hard effort. You can speak a sentence or two at a time before having to taking a gasp of breath.
RPE: 9 Extremely hard effort. You can get out a word or two but breathing is labored and talking is challenging.
RPE: 10 Maximum effort. You are completely out of breath and unable to talk. You would only be able to hold this pace for a very short time.

THE WORKOUT

Download a printable PDF of this 'Need for Speed' track workout

Download a printable PDF of this 'Need for Speed' track workout

  • Warm up and run one easy paced lap around the track = 400 meters.
  • RPE 7-8 (see above) Run one lap around the track at a hard effort = 400 meters
  • RPE 4-6 Recover by jogging or walking one lap = 400 meters 
  • RPE 7-8 Run two laps (1/2 mile) around the track at a hard effort = 800 meters. It is important to pace yourself here. Don't go out so hard that you can't make it around the track two times at a sustained pace
  • RPE 4-6 Recover by jogging or walking for one lap
  • RPE 7-8 Run two laps around the track at a hard effort = 800 meters
  • RPE 4-6 Recover by jogging or walking for one lap
  • RPE 9 This is your final push. Run hard for one lap = 400 meters
  • RPE 2-3 Walk your final lap

RECOVERY

A speed interval workout like this one can put additional stress on your body. It is extremely important to take rest and recovery days in between hard workouts. Never try to do hard interval-style workouts back-to-back without rest. Remember it is during rest that you get stronger and faster, not during the workout. Without the rest, you will not see improvements at the same rate.

A workout like this is effective performed just once or twice a week. Well-conditioned athletes may be able to handle three times. Pushing past your abilities only will cause injury and can side-line you from advancing at all. Be patient. Increase intensity slowly over time. Be safe, friends. 

Let's do it! I'm here to help.

Let's do it! I'm here to help.

Any questions? I'd love to help.

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52 HEALTHY HABITS: STAND UP STRAIGHT!

Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits, where each week we tackle a new healthy habit in order to improve our lives. Healthy habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. When we work on improving our habits one at a time, a healthy lifestyle emerges. It takes time, but it's worth it when willpower and motivation are no longer needed. I invite you to follow along with my habits each week, dig into the archives to work on a past habit or make one up of your own. Pick something you want to work on and get started. 

Some weeks in the 52 healthy habits series I give you ideas of healthy habits you can work on. Some weeks I tell you about the things I am working on. This is one of those weeks. 

Speaking of healthy habits, I got a massage last weekend and I had an interesting conversation with the massage therapist.

"Your shoulders are rounded forward. This happens from sitting at a computer all day, looking down at your phone, even driving."

"I do all those things at least 10 hours a day, probably more."

"That's the issue. But it's no problem. We can work to correct it, but you need to work on your posture throughout the day. Push your shoulders back and down and hold your neck neutral whenever you think about it during the day, set a reminder on your phone if you need to. You can't correct it in a day, a week or even a month, but if you make an effort to improve, make this small posture change repeatedly on a daily basis, over time your body will respond." 

It struck me that he was talking about building a habit of good posture. It's exactly what I teach here week after week. Make an effort at the small things that seem insignificant and big results will follow.

It's funny he mentioned it because it was something I noticed myself just a week earlier. I am working on body composition improvements so I asked hubby to take some "before" pictures so I could note visual changes as the weeks progress. (I know better than to rely solely on the scale when working to increase muscle because the scale is a damn liar.) I was shocked when I looked at the first side view picture. My shoulders were hunched over visually but I was standing normally. 

Left: anterior rotation of the shoulder. Right: shoulders back and down, neck neutral. Note to self: comb your hair next time. Hah.

Left: anterior rotation of the shoulder. Right: shoulders back and down, neck neutral. Note to self: comb your hair next time. Hah.

Now I have something new to work on. Just like any other healthy habits we talk about here, it's the small incremental changes that lead to big results over time. You don't notice the difference in one day, one week or even in a month. When you eat slowly, drink more water, sleep more hours, eat more vegetables, eat more protein, you won't notice the changes right away but changes are happening.

Just like my rotated shoulders. It didn't happen overnight, but the cumulation of my bad habits (slouching over a computer, looking down at my phone scrolling Instagram, not paying attention to posture while driving) added up over time. It works both ways. We don't notice the small things, but it's the small things that make a big difference. 

Standing up straight or working on posture seems like a small insignificant thing. The small things are easy but they are also easy to overlook or skip. Do the small things to make big progress. 

AWARENESS

Awareness is always the first step. Now that I am aware of my shoulder rotation, I can work to correct it. How many years did I walk around slouched over, blissfully unaware? Now I know better and can work to improve. That's the first step. This applies to anything you want to change. Understanding that you need to make a change and a willingness to work on it is the first step in the right direction

ACTION

Even the smallest action will move you forward. I'm not going to fix my shoulders overnight, but the actions I take today will pay dividends in the future.

SHOULDERS BACK AND DOWN

Shoulders back and down when walking. Every time I stand up to walk or when I walk my dog (Hi, Ollie!) I would make a conscious effort to keep my shoulders back and down. 

FOAM ROLL & STRETCH

The massage therapist told me to lie on my back parallel to the foam roller with my head hanging off the end. He said not to roll, but to press my back into the foam roller, then lift my shoulders up, then press them back down for scapula retraction. Do 12-20 reps. This felt amazing. I am adding it into my daily workout. 

He also showed me some stretches to release my tight pectoralis muscles which is part of the reason my shoulders are rounded forward.

foam roller and skull leggings for the win!

foam roller and skull leggings for the win!

In our current environment, rounded shoulders is a common problem. We are looking down at our phones, spending hours in the car and in front of computer screens. Working to correct posture is a healthy habit that can be cultivated and built into our daily routines. 

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Why I Don't Eat Clean

I don't eat clean. That may sound like an unusual statement from a nutrition coach so allow me to explain. I strive to prioritize whole foods from nature for about 80-85% of my intake, but I don't call it eating clean. Why not? 

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WHAT DOES "EAT CLEAN" EVEN MEAN?

The issue I have with using the term "eating clean" is that it means different things to different people. Some people define eating clean as consuming whole foods from nature. Others say it must be organic to be considered clean. While some claim it can't include grains, dairy or sugar if it is to be considered clean. Vegetarians eat clean by eliminating animal products. There is no one clear definition.

Of course we are all free to define it anyway that we would like, and eat (or don't eat) whatever works best for our lifestyles and preferences, I prefer not to label the way I eat at all. It's not a diet. I strive to eat food that makes me look, feel and perform my best, while also satisfying my hunger and cravings, whether I eat alone or enjoy meals with friends and family. Food is for fuel and for enjoyment, bonding and celebration. 

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING CAN BE TOO MUCH

Eating clean sounds like a good thing and of course, consuming whole foods from nature is always a great choice. But sometimes too much of a good thing is...well, too much. What starts out as good intentions to improve our health can actually make us less healthy. How can eating healthy be bad? When you obsess over only eating healthy foods or your choices start to interfere with everyday life or social situations (i.e. you stay home from a party because you don't know if they will have clean food) there might be a potential problem. Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder that is defined as an obsession with healthy eating. 

I'd rather separate myself from the hard-core clean eating crowd because for me personally, it almost has a negative connotation. It can be a potential red flag for an unhealthy obsession when our identity is tied to the way we eat.

ALL-OR-NOTHING

Been there done that and it sucks. I've struggled with overcoming an all-or-nothing mindset for better part of a decade. I was either on my diet or off. I was either training for a marathon or watching one (or three) on NetFlix. For me, for a long time, there was no middle ground and my weight reflected the inconsistency. It was only something that I was able to get a handle on when I learned to practice moderation, not just in theory, but apply it in real life.

It wasn't all-or-nothing, it was a little bit of everything that worked for me. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have....moderation (or the facts of life, whatever Tootie). Once I learned to make choices on a continuum, everything changed for me. I learned to ask myself, How can I make this a little bit better? What's the best choice I can make in this situation? What's the best I can do with I have right now? Striving for perfection never worked for me. The black or white, good or bad, clean or dirty thinking is what got me in trouble in the first place. Of course, everyone is different, but for me, labeling foods led me down the wrong path. 

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

I try to stay away from labels. I strive for a balanced approach. I aim to do the best I can with what I have in front of me. Sometimes that means a salad and sometimes it means a cheeseburger with a whole wheat bun and just one (or three) of hubby's fries. I try to make healthy choices most of the time, while enjoying indulgence foods as my brain and soul need them. I have to work on balance because it is something that does not come easily to me. 

I am probably overly-sensitive to the term clean eating because I know there can be a dark side to it (insert your own Star Wars joke here). I know a lot of level-headed people may ask, Who cares what you call it as long as you eat healthy? And I agree. Call it what you want. Define it the way you want. Have labels. Don't have labels. Do what works best for you. I am not here to try to convince you of anything other than a balanced approach. It doesn't matter what I think or what some health food guru thinks. If you evaluate your diet and can honestly say that the food you eat helps you look, feel and perform at your best, then you are doing the best you can and that is all anyone can do. No matter what you call it. 

I personally don't eat clean. I just eat. 

Do you like my approach? Need help with a balanced nutrition strategy? I can help. Check out my online habits-driven nutrition coaching program to improve your habits in a sane, sustainable way. Forget boring meal plans, macro calculations and calorie counting. Start from the ground-up building the healthy habits from scratch that give you long-term results. 

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4 STRENGTH EXERCISES 4 WORKOUTS FOR RUNNERS

Welcome to the latest edition of workout Wednesday! If you've been hanging around here at the strength and running blog, you know that I am a huge proponent of strength training for runners. As a long-time runner myself I understand that runners sometimes have a bit of resistance (pun-intended) to strength training. It's not that they don't know that it's important or understand that it helps make them faster, stronger and less prone to injury, it's just that they don't enjoy the time in the gym like they do on streets, trails or track. I get it. They don't want to spend a bunch of time in a gym taking away from the their time on the road. After all, there are only so many hours in the day and it's hard enough to find the time to get out and run, how are they supposed to find additional time to strength train? 

I have good news for you. You don't need to spend hours in the gym pumping iron. You can spend 12-25 minutes three to four days a week, either immediately before an easy run, at a different time of the day or on an off day from running. 

The exercises in these circuits are compound exercises which means we are working multiple joints and muscles at once for the most effective and efficient workout. This full body workout can be structured a few different ways using some basic strength exercises that are great for runners. 

This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on a link in this post and make a purchase I make a small percentage of the sale with no additional cost to you. No one is getting rich here, it just helps with the running (pun-intended) of this blog. Thanks, as always, for your support.

EQUIPMENT USED IN THIS WORKOUT

Medicine ball
Resistance bands
Interval timer

download a free printable PDF of this four exercises for runners workout

download a free printable PDF of this four exercises for runners workout

THE STRENGTH EXERCISES FOR RUNNERS

SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT 

Standing on one leg, keep your knee soft (slightly bent) and perform a deadlift by bending at your hip while keeping your back straight and neck neutral. Extend your free leg behind you in line with your body. Lower until your back is parallel to the floor. With your back straight return to the upright position.

SQUAT WITH SHOULDER PRESS

With your feet hip width apart push your hips back, brace your core and lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor (like you are sitting back in a chair) or as low as your flexibility allows. While holding a medicine ball, touch your elbows to your knees in the low position. Push up to standing while pressing the medicine ball above your head into a shoulder press.

CURTSY SQUAT WITH CHEST PRESS 

Holding a medicine ball or weight to your chest, stand with your feet hip apart. Cross your right leg behind the body and to the left. Bend left knee 90 degrees, or as low your flexibility will allow, toes pointing forward. In the low position straighten your arms to press the ball out from your chest. Bring the weight back to your check and return to starting position. Alternate sides.

BACK LUNGE WITH RESISTANCE BAND ROW 

With your feet hip width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead, take a large step backward with your right leg, so your right knee almost touches the floor and your left leg lunges at a 90 degree angle. While static in the low position, use a resistance band to row your right arm back keeping your shoulders down and elbow close to your side. Push back up to starting position. Always row on the same side as the leg that steps back.

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4 WAYS TO STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUT

13 MINUTES: TABATA-STYLE

Using a Tabata timer app or an interval timer, perform the below exercises as indicated:

TABATA ONE:
SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT RIGHT SIDE- 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT LEFT SIDE - 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
REPEAT FOR FOUR MINUTES
REST 30 SECONDS BEFORE MOVING ON TO NEXT CIRCUIT

TABATA TWO:
SQUAT WITH SHOULDER PRESS - 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
ALTERNATING CURTSY SQUAT WITH CHEST PRESS - 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
REPEAT FOR FOUR MINUTES
REST 30 SECONDS BEFORE MOVING ON TO THE NEXT CIRCUIT

TABATA THREE:
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW RIGHT SIDE - 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW LEFT SIDE - 20 SECONDS
REST 10 SECONDS
REPEAT FOR FOUR MINUTES

12 MINUTES: 30 SECONDS EACH EXERCISE

Set the timer for 30 seconds x 6 and complete the circuit below.

SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT RIGHT SIDE - 30 SECONDS
SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT LEFT SIDE - 30 SECONDS
SQUAT WITH SHOULDER PRESS - 30 SECONDS
ALTERNATING CURTSY SQUAT WITH CHEST PRESS - 30 SECONDS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW RIGHT SIDE - 30 SECONDS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW LEFT SIDE - 30 SECONDS
REST ONE MINUTE
PERFORM THREE TIMES

20 MINUTES: AS MANY ROUNDS AS POSSIBLE

Set the timer for 20 minutes and perform the below circuit as many times as you can in the time frame. Move through the exercises quickly but with controlled movement. No sloppy reps!

SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT RIGHT SIDE - 8 REPS
SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT LEFT SIDE - 8 REPS
SQUAT WITH SHOULDER PRESS - 12 REPS
CURTSY SQUAT RIGHT SIDE WITH CHEST PRESS - 8 REPS
CURTSY SQUAT LEFT SIDE WITH CHEST PRESS - 8 REPS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW RIGHT SIDE - 8 REPS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW LEFT SIDE - 8 REPS
 

THE REP PYRAMID

The first time through the circuit perform each exercise for 6 reps.
Rest for one minute
Repeat the circuit but this time perform 8 reps for each exercise
Rest for one minute
The third time through perform 12 reps for each exercise
Rest for one minute
8 reps for each exercise
Rest for one minute
6 reps for each exercise
 

SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT RIGHT SIDE
SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT LEFT SIDE
SQUAT WITH SHOULDER PRESS
CURTSY SQUAT RIGHT SIDE WITH CHEST PRESS
CURTSY SQUAT LEFT SIDE WITH CHEST PRESS
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW RIGHT SIDE
BACK LUNGE WITH ROW LEFT SIDE

Do you find the time for strength training? 

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5 SMALL HABITS FOR BIG CHANGES IN FAT LOSS

Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits, where each week we tackle a new healthy habit in order to improve our lives. When we make the decision to live a healthier lifestyle, we often make the mistake of trying to change everything at once. We decide to eat "clean," workout six days a week, give up wine (gasp!) and then inevitably get overwhelmed and go back to our old ways. A more sane and sustainable approach is to tackle one habit and build on it slowly over time. It's not a quick fix but it is an effective long-term solution to a healthy lifestyle. When healthy behaviors become habits, then no willpower or iron-clad motivation is needed. 

But where do you start? There a million things you could do and as we discussed, doing too much at once is usually not an effective solution. We want to tackle the things that will make the biggest impact when working to achieve our goals. Here are the first five habits I recommend when prioritizing fat loss. These five small habits will yield big results over time. Take one at a time, cultivate it until mastered, then build on the next one. 

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PRIORITIZE PROTEIN/VEGGIES AT EACH MEAL

Fat loss starts in the kitchen. Make sure every meal has a serving of protein and veggies. Protein helps you maintain muscle, which is very important to ensure that you are losing fat and not muscle when you lose weight. Protein and the fiber from veggies help you feel full. 

When you want a snack, look for a high protein snack, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, protein shake or a tuna packet. Focus on what you can add to your meals to make them healthier, rather than what you have to take away.  Learn more about adding protein and veggies in these blog posts.

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When I'm in an environment where I am not in control of the food being served: at a restaurant, at a dinner party or a work function, I always fill my plate with the protein and veggies first. It's a smart strategy to make the best decisions possible in any circumstance. We can never be perfect, but we can always strive to make the best choices possible. 

EAT SLOW

When you gobble down your food in five minutes flat you don't give your stomach enough time to send the signal to your brain that it's full. I am as guilty of this as anyone. A great fat loss strategy is to eat your meals slowly. Set a timer for 20 minutes and stretch it out. Chew your food slowly (20-30 times!), put your fork down between bites, take a drink of water between bites, talk with your family. Slow it down. Pay attention to fullness signals and stop eating when full. You'll digest your food better and likely eat less, which is ideal for fat loss. You can learn more about mindful eating in this blog post.

WALK FAST

A great habit to cultivate for fat loss is a power walking routine. No, I didn't say you have to join CrossFit or sign up to run a marathon. Those things can be great (if they align with your goals and preferences), but if you are just starting out take 15-20 minutes every day and walk a mile as fast as you can. Walk with purpose, like you're late for the start of Game of Thrones. Take your dog. Don't have a dog? Borrow a dog. They'll love you for it. Do it twice a day if you can. Little changes can make a big difference. Here is more on how to make exercise a daily habit.

SLEEP

Sleep is so important for fat loss that I would say if you could only do one thing on this list that you choose to prioritize sleep. It's the most overlooked activity in our modern environment but the most important. Create a sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Yes, it matters for fat loss. Before you think about taking supplements or trying the next "fat loss secret" make sure you have the basics covered. I go into more depth on creating a sleep ritual in this blog post. 

REPLACE ALL DRINKS WITH WATER

If you replace all soda, juice, energy drinks and sugar-filled drinks with water (or seltzer water) you'll cut hundreds of empty calories a day. In order to lose fat you need to create a calorie-deficit, which means you consume less calories than you burn in a day. An easy way to do this without depriving yourself is to cut out those empty calories from sugar-filled drinks. Water can help you feel fuller and more energized. Dehydration causes all kinds of problems like fatigue, lack of energy and headaches. This is easy to fix with regular intake of H20. I cover some strategies to increase water intake here.

Need help with your healthy habits? Join my online nutrition habits program!

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