5 Minute Core Workout for Runners

If you can find five minutes to squeeze in a core workout, I’ve got a quick and effective one for you to try.

Instructions:
#1: Choose an intensity level for your core workout

Level 1: perform each exercise for 30 seconds, and then rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
Level 2: perform each exercise for 45 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds before moving onto the next exercise.
Level 3: perform each exercise for 60 seconds, and then move directly onto the next exercise as quickly as possible.

#2: Set a timer for your desired intervals. Looking up at a clock can compromise your form.

#3: Perform each of the exercises below in order for the amount of time indicated in step 1.

Note: No matter what intensity level you choose, do not rush through the exercises. They are to be performed with control and precision. This isn’t a workout where you’re trying to see how many reps you can do in a given amount of time.

Exercise #1: High plank with arm reaches
Note: Try to keep your hips squared up to the ground when reaching your arm out.

plank with arm reach

Exercise #2: Rotating plank (forearm plank to side plank, rotating from side to side)
Note: When rotating into the side plank, try to keep your hips lifted.

rotational plank

Exercise #3: Back Extension with a Lat Squeeze
Note: Keep your abdominals engaged while lifting your arms and legs off the ground. Contract your lats by pulling your elbows down by your ribcage, as if you’re doing an invisible lat pulldown.

Back Extension with Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Exercise #4: Bird/ Dog Crunch
Notes: Try to keep your hips as stable as possible. When you pull your knee and elbow towards one another, imagine doing an upside down crunch.

Bird Dog Crunch

Exercise #5: Slow Motion Mountain Climbers
Notes: Try not to move your hips up and down like you do when performing a regular mountain climber instead use your abdominal muscles to stabilize the torso.

Slow Motion Mountain Climbers
This post originally appeared on Women’s Running where I blog weekly.

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Are you signed up for a fall marathon, but not sure what to do between now and when marathon training officially starts? It can be challenging to figure out exactly what to do in order to prepare for following an intensive training plan.

To start marathon training feeling your best, you’ll need to find a balance between being laid back about your workouts but also making sure you’re doing the work you need to do in order start marathon training off on the right foot.

If you’re too strict about following a plan now, you risk burning out before you’ve made it halfway through your training plan. If you aren’t strict enough about doing your base building workouts, you risk getting injured during training or not being able to reach your goal.

What to do before you start following a marathon training plan

Here are 7 things you need to do in the weeks before you start following your marathon training plan.

#1) Pick a training plan or hire a coach. If you’re not sure how long your training plan should be, read this.

Review your past training logs. Make notes of what kind of weekly mileage you want to complete. Write out your goals for the race. Then start looking for the training plan that’s going to work best for you. If you only want to run four days a week, don’t choose a plan that asks you to run six days a week.

Running isn’t your only goal in life, so find a training plan that works well with your lifestyle.

#2) Work on your weaknesses. If you know you need to work on glute strength commit to strength training three days per week now so that once marathon training starts, you’ll be strong enough to handle all the miles. If you know you need to work on your mental game, start working on it by reading books, listening to podcasts, etc.

Even if you don’t have weak glutes or know of any muscle imbalances, you should still focus on doing strength training a minimum of two times per week.

#3) Be a little less structured with your workouts, but give each workout a purpose. Marathon training can feel as though it goes on forever and ever. Now is the time to be a little less structured with your workouts. Give yourself the freedom to workout later in the day on the weekends. Don’t be afraid to miss a workout to see friends, or just cut yourself some slack when you need it. Make sure you’re doing the work you need to (base building + strength training), but don’t go crazy. Once marathon training officially starts, you’ll need to be on your ‘A Game’ and giving yourself some time to breathe now will set you up for success.

#4) Build your running base. Before you begin training, you’ll need to have completed 4-6 weeks of consistent running. The amount of miles you’ll need to run per week to build your base depends on your goal for the marathon, your running history and what kind of mileage you’ll be doing during the first month of your training plan.

Prepare to train for 26.2

#5) Have fun with your workouts. This is a time when you can try out all the fun fitness classes in your neighborhood without having to worry about how they will interfere with marathon training. Once marathon training starts, there won’t be much time for exploring new workouts.

#6) Improve your running form. Now is the time to focus on stride rate, stride length, foot strike, arm swing, etc. Small changes made over time can make you a more efficient runner.

#7) If you had any nagging injuries you haven’t taken care of, see a Doctor or Physical Therapist. Don’t wait for a small twinge to become a real injury. Get it taken care of ASAP!

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I’ll never forget the excitement, intimidation and obsession I had with running a marathon before completing my first marathon. I thought there was no way I’d ever be able to run more than six miles. I thought, I’d never look like a runner (whatever that means). I thought that if I crossed the finish line of one marathon, I’d be satisfied.

Seventeen years later, marathons still hold a certain power over me that is similar to how I felt the first summer I committed myself to marathon training. In college, I set the goal of running a marathon the year after I graduated. I had no other running goals. I hadn’t yet decided I wanted to qualify for Boston or run the New York City Marathon. All I wanted to do was try to accomplish something that seemed so impossible.

Like most newbies, I knew nothing about running marathons, but what I was most wrong about was thinking it was a one-and-done bucket list item. I couldn’t comprehend how someone would want to put themselves through that kind of torture more than once, but now I’m one of those people who keep going back for more.

During training I had become accustomed to weekly group runs. I had a running partner who was a much better runner than I was. I made new friends. I created new routines. After completing my first marathon I didn’t want to give all those things up. I wanted to hold onto all of the good things marathon training had brought into my life. I know I could have kept up with these things without training for another marathon, but for me it meant running another marathon.

Over the years I’ve continued to run marathons because I didn’t have a reason not to. I ran them because I needed something that only running seemed to give me. I ran them because I wanted to raise money for organizations that are important to me. I ran them because I wanted to see what could happen if I trained hard. I ran them to celebrate my accomplishments. I ran them to celebrate life.

If there’s anything I could tell you about running your first marathon, it’s that it probably won’t be your only marathon. That bucket list item might just be the gateway to a lifelong obsession.

This post first appeared on Women’s Running where I blog weekly.

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Never underestimate the importance of what you do following a goal race. Your training plan doesn’t necessarily end once you’ve ran your race. In fact, I’d recommend extending your training plan to include the two weeks after your goal race.

 

Half marathon recovery

The more strategic you are with your recovery plan, the better you’ll be prepared to go after your next goal. Here are my 6 rules for optimal recovery after a half marathon.

#1. Recovery begins the minute you cross the finish line. Rehydrate and refuel with healthful foods before grabbing your celebratory beer or pizza (my personal favorite).

#2. Fight the urge to just sit. Take walks, foam roll, and do your dynamic stretches.

#3. Write out  a 14 day recovery plan. This plan can include yoga, a sports massage, sleeping in, etc. It’s important that you take it easy, but this doesn’t mean you should just binge watch Gilmore Girls for two weeks.

#4. Examine your training log, then write out what went well during training and what did not.

#5. Write out a list of what went well on race day and what didn’t go well on race day.

#6. Celebrate your training season and race even if things did not go as planned, then let it go for a few days before signing up for your next race or nailing down your next goal.

Have a question you’d like for me to answer? Tweet me with your running related questions @RacePaceJess.

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How to run a negative split

When I first started racing, I went out too fast. Because I didn’t know how to pace myself, I blew up and had to take walk breaks during 5Ks. I was trained for the distance, but I went out at a pace I couldn’t sustain for the race.

As I got into longer distance racing, I still had no idea how to pace myself and often ended up running the last half of the race much slower than I ran the first half of the race.

Running a positive split race is rarely ever fun. Suffering from going out too fast makes the last half of the race feel like punishment.

 The good thing about running the first half of a race too fast is that you know exactly what you did wrong during the race. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to fix, but with practice, patience and implementing specific pace workouts during training you can avoid the dreaded positive split race and finish strong.
  • Train: Add progression runs and fast finish workouts to your training schedule. If you are not executing a negative split run during your training, it’s very difficult to do so on race day.
  • Practice: Due to excitement and race day adrenaline, it’s difficult to run with control during a race. Schedule a tune-up race to practice executing a negative split in a race setting.
  • Plan: Write out a race-day strategy plan. Many runners show up to the start line without a plan. Map out a pace plan for each section of the race and stick to it.
  • Be Patient: In the early stages of the race, you’ll want to run faster than you should. Hold back your pace and stick to your race plan. Patience will pay off.

Executing a negative split race is a huge confidence booster. Running the second half of a race faster than you ran the first will help your ability to run a smart race and set you up for success.

The added bonus of running a negative split – you’ll pass a lot of runners in the second half of the race.

This post first appeared on Women’s Running where I blog weekly.

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Scheduling a tune-up race 6-8 weeks before your goal race is the best way to rehearse everything you’re going to do on the big day. It is also useful to pinpoint what areas that are your strong points and what areas you still need to work on during the remainder of the training period. Here’s how to make the most of your tune-up race:

Before the Race

  • Eat what you plan on eating eat the night before your race.
  • Start to make sure you’re hydrating adequately in the days leading up to the race.
  • Eat the same breakfast you plan on eating race day. Take into account the time your goal race starts verses the time you’re doing your tune-up race.
  • Write out your race day strategy. Practice following a race day plan even if you aren’t running any miles at goal race pace.

During the race:

  • Practice navigating the water stops. You’ll want to skip the first few tables to avoid congestion. Give yourself time to grab two cups in case you don’t manage to get water in your mouth with the first one. I know it sounds silly, but it can be difficult to grab and go.
  • Carry the fuel you plan to use on race day and use it at similar increments during the race.
  • Practice running the tangents. If you don’t know what that means here’s a good tutorial.

After the race: 

  • Do a cool-down to enhance recovery.
  • Refuel within an hour of the race. You want something that has a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio to aid in the recovery process.
  • At some point later in the day you should foam roll.
  • Make notes about what went well and what you need to work on to be ready for race day.

This post originally appeared on Women’s Running where I blog weekly.

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Ladies, are you as excited as I am about warm-weather running but struggle to find the perfect outfit bottom to wear for your runs? Let’s be honest, it’s super challenging to find the perfect pair of shorts to wear!

The wrong pair of shorts can ruin an otherwise perfectly good run.

Running tights make things so much easier and tend to fit so much better than shorts do, but it just gets too hot to wear tights and they feel uncomfortable once the temps start to rise.

There’s no reason to dread shedding your run tights this year when putting on a pair of shorts because I reached out to several Race Pace Runners to find out what bottoms they love the most for warm weather running and why. I’m here to help you discover the best warm weather running bottom for you!

Find Your Perfect Fit

There is something for every runner on this list – short shorts, long shorts, fitted shorts, loose shorts, a run skirt and a pair of capris!

Tip: One of the keys to finding shorts that fit you best is identifying what inseam length works best for your body type. Once you’ve figured that out, you can move on to the other features that matter most to you.

The shorts are listed in order from shortest to longest. The list includes only the shorts we love the most. All received an overall rating of either a 4 or 5 out of a possible 5. To find more info about each product listed, click the image box.

Oiselle Mac Roga Shorts

Lululemon Split Second Short

Nike Tempo Shorts

Lululemon Speed Short

oiselle distance shorts

saucony bullet tight short

saucony bullet tight short

Oiselle Roga Shorts

Lululemon Speed Track Shorts

Sparkle Skirts Swingstyle

Athleta Relay Capri

A special thank you to the Race Pace Runners who contributed to this post!

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Bad runs happen way more often than we would like for them to. It’s a frustrating part of a runner’s life. We learn to take the good with the bad. While we vow to move onward and upward every time we have a bad run, we still sometimes beat ourselves up over it. Thoughts such as, “I’m just not cut out to be a runner”, “I’m not a ‘real’ runner” or “Maybe I should take up knitting instead” can irrationally start to flood our mind. When you find this happening to you, take out a piece of paper and dissect the run to identify what went wrong.

Aside from obvious reasons, like an upset stomach or bad weather, it’s not always easy to initially identify what might have caused the run to go south. If you look a little bit deeper into what’s going on, you might be able to pinpoint what happened.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to help identify why your run was bad:

1. How many hours of sleep did I get last night?

2. How much sleep have I gotten all week?

3. Am I stressed about work more so than normal?

4. Am I dealing with unusual amount of family stress?

5. Did I workout too many days in a row?

 6. When was my last rest day?

7. Did I hydrate well and eat my normal healthy diet this week?

8. Were my expectations for my run reasonable?

9. Did I do a proper warm-up before jumping into my workout?

10. Am I just being too hard on myself?

This post was originally published on WomensRunning.com where I blog weekly.

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More Shape Half Marathon

If you live and run in NYC you know how daunting running loops in Central Park can be. If you have ever trained for a marathon or 8 while living in NYC, you’ve most likely ran more Central Park loops than you ever thought was humanly possible. Therefore, running said loop for the one millionth time can make it feel as boring as running on a treadmill.

For those of you who don’t live in NYC, it probably sounds ridiculous to hear someone complain about running in Central Park. And you are correct, it is kinda ridiculous, but it is what it is. I like to complain about it, but I do love it deep down.

The main six-mile loop in Central Park is made up of rolling hills. When running counterclockwise, the loop has 5 main hills. There’s Cat Hill, Harlem Hill and the Three Sisters. When a half marathon takes place in Central Park and runs counterclockwise this means running 10 hills. This does not include all the little roller hills.

For half marathons in the park, it also means running the lower loop of the park three times! Like any race (or really any task in life), how we frame what we are about to do can determine the outcome.

I was eager to put my best brain training into action for this race. It was the muscle most trained for this 13.1 mile endeavor. My legs and lungs are a little bit behind at this point as I was only week five of Brooklyn Half training.

More Shape Half Marathon 2016

My action plan was to make a mental check-list of how many hills I had to run, focus on getting up one at a time then enjoy the sections in-between the main hills. I spent a few minutes the week before the race visualizing running up each hill relaxed and with a positive attitude. I also visualized recovering between hills and not feeling frustrated by the monotony of running what might have been my one-billionth Central Park loop.

And it worked.

I ran each hill as it came and checked it off my mental to-do list. I enjoyed the other sections of the race and had a great time. I don’t look at my watch much while racing, so I was surprised when I saw the ten mile marker so soon.

Of all the times I’ve ran this race, this was by far my favorite experience.

Race Splits:

  • Mile 1: 8:24
  • Mile 2: 7:41 <— I don’t know what happened here!
  • Mile 3: 8:28
  • Mile 4: 8:33
  • Mile 5: 8:29
  • Mile 6: 8:25
  • Mile 7: 8:21
  • Mile 8: 8:35
  • Mile 9: 8:27
  • Mile 10: 8:25
  • Mile 11: 8:00
  • Mile 12: 7:54
  • Mile 13: 7:51
  • Last .4: 7:10 <— Really gotta work on running the tangents!
  • Total time: 1:50:28 Average Pace: 8:26

It’s interesting to see where I took water breaks. Those miles are about 10 seconds slower than the others. I plan on drinking and running at the Brooklyn Half instead of stopping completely.

I managed to execute a perfect negative split and pretty consistent splits despite the rolling hills. I am excited to keep working towards running a smart race in Brooklyn next month. Between now and then I need to work on running the tangents in addition to increasing my endurance.

I may not be in PR shape in four more weeks, but I should be able to run a faster pace in Brooklyn than I did last year.

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Short Running Workouts

More, more, more! It’s cliché to say we live in a world where more is perceived as better. Run more miles to get faster! Foam roll more often to prevent injures! Strength train more frequently to get stronger! Eat more green veggies!

What do you do when you don’t have more time to run? Here are solutions to fitting in three different key training workouts when time is limited.

Problem: You only have 30 minutes to run and you can’t make it to the track for speed work.
Solution: Speed Bursts
Run for 15 minutes at an easy pace. Then alternate running 15 seconds fast with 45 seconds slow. Do this five times. End the workout by running for 10 minutes at an easy pace.

Problem: You don’t have enough time to increase the distance of your weekly long run due to family or work obligations.
Solution: Fast Finish
Run the same distance you ran last week, but run the last mile or ½ mile at tempo effort or what feels like 10k race pace.

Problem: You don’t have enough time to wait for your GPS to catch a satellite before your tempo run.
Solution: Out and Back
Run in one direction for a set amount of time. When your time is up, turn around and run the same route in the opposite direction but try to make it back to your starting point in a shorter amount of time.

This article first appeared on Women’s Running. Check out my weekly blog posts here.

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