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Kim Doerksen

Benefits of Cross-Training

By | Training Tips | No Comments

Cross-training isn’t usually a runner’s favourite pastime.  If you’re one of the few who actually enjoys doing activities other than running, you’re in luck. Cross-training is an excellent tool to add into your weekly training schedule.

So why does cross-training have such a bad reputation?  Typically, it’s because these activities are associated with injury.  When a runner is taken out of the game and forced to rest, or do another form of exercise other than running, they’re usually not very happy about it.  Thus, they aren’t excited to be on the bike, in the pool, or in the gym.  This mindset needs to change.

Cross-training provides so many benefits: increased muscle strength & flexibility, reduced risk of injury, recovery promotion, and can potentially prolong your running career.  Here are the top reasons to add any form of cross-training into the mix:

  1. Injury Prevention:
    Running is a very repetitive sport that puts stress on the same muscles and joints every step you take.  Pounding the pavement is not easy on your body, and after too many miles, your body will remind you of that by breaking down in some way.  Overuse injuries occur from a variety of factors including muscle imbalances, muscle weakness, inadequate recovery, and irregular biomechanics.  Cross-training helps by: reducing the amount of impact subjected on your body; strengthening non-running muscles; and increasing overall cardiovascular fitness through different means.
  2. Active recovery:
    Running can wreak havoc on your body, especially if you’re doing a lot of mileage.  The continuous pounding of the pavement is required to some extent to prepare your body for longer road races, but can definitely leave you feeling pretty beat up after long days on the road.  While full rest days are essential throughout training, a lot can be gained from taking a day off of running to do an easy cardio day somewhere else.  Switching out an easy run for a bike ride, a swim, or pool run can help to flush out your muscles, promote blood flow to working muscles and actually aid your recovery.
  3. Enhances performance:
    Participating in activities that utilize muscles other than the ones you use while running, will benefit your running performance.  Things like yoga, pilates, swimming, and gym work can help to strengthen your upper body and core which is essential to maintain good running posture.  We’ve all seen people at the end of a race when they’re fatigued and they’re hunched over, have limited knee drive, and their neck jutting forward/backwards.  This can happen due to poor pelvic stability, weak core/upper body muscles, and any other instabilities.  If these areas are strong, you’ll expend less energy trying to stay upright, and instead use that to translate into finishing kick leg power.
  4. Keeps the motivation up:
    Taking a day off from running isn’t going to make your fitness disappear.  Instead, it could increase your motivation for your next run.  Human tendency is to stray from anything that is too monotonous.  No matter how much you adore something, if it’s the only thing you do every single day, there are times when it starts to wear on you.  Throw in a spin class, or a swim, or even a day on the mountains (weather dependent of course), and give your body a break from the daily grind.  You’ll come back to your next run workout feeling fresh and ready to get back into what you love doing.
  5. Greater running fitness:
    Trying new race distances keeps things fun, but when you return to a race you’ve done before it’s in our nature to want to be better, and ultimately faster than we were before.  Cross training can help achieve this.  Your running can be enhanced through other activities as they will help your efficiency, power, and ability to consistently train without excessive cumulative fatigue or injury.  Not only will cross training will work on your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength without the same impact as running, it will speed up recovery so that you’re able to push harder and get more bang for your buck in each running workout.
  6. Rehabilitation:
    Whether it’s a full-blown injury, or just a little niggle, cross training can help you get back into the game.  Sometimes when a more serious injury occurs, in order to stay in shape you have to modify your schedule to accommodate cross training variations of your running workouts.  Activities such as water running, elliptical training, and cycling are the best for mimicking the muscles used in running.  They are leg dominant alternatives that compliment your running and keep your cardio levels up.  Even if you don’t gain fitness while rehabilitating, you can certainly maintain a solid base that will make your return to running much smoother.

#ScotiaHalf 2017 Charity Profiles – Family Places

By | Charity, Scotiabank Vancouver Half | No Comments

Throughout the Lower Mainland, there are many Family Places that offer support, resources, and programs for families with young children who are under 6 years old.  Family Places provide help to young families to ensure their children are raised in a healthy and happy environment.  Not only do these places assist parents and caretakers with the necessary resources and activities to promote the child’s development, they  have drop-in and learning programs for the children too.

Four of the local Family Places are participating in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge in 2017.  If you want to learn more about their programs, or wish to donate, click on their link below for more information.

West Side Family Place SocietyWest Side Family Place

West Side Family Place makes a difference in the lives of families.

We know that raising children can be lonely, frustrating and sometimes bewildering. West Side Family Place provides a safe space for mothers, fathers, and caregivers with young children from all backgrounds to gather and play, free from judgement or the long-term commitment of registered programs.

Please join us in support of this amazing organization and help us continue to provide a welcoming space and practical programs that support the healthy development of children in the community.

For information about how to get involved, please contact Diane at 604-738-2819.

 

South Vancouver Family Place SocietySouth Vancouver Family Place

Our mandate is to support families (with children newborn to 5 years), in building healthy relationships and community networks by providing our services in welcoming, nurturing and respectful environments. In addition, we operate a licensed preschool serving 70 local families.

 

Please help South Vancouver Family Place to continue offering diverse and relevant programming for vulnerable families in South/East Vancouver. Join our team as a fundraiser, get your friends to also join our team as fundraisers, or to sponsor you. Every single penny sponsored to you is donated directly to South Vancouver Family Place.

 

Mount Pleasant Family Centre SocietyMount Pleasant Family Place

We are gathering a team of passionate supporters to run/walk 5K on Sunday, June 25 to help us raise awareness to the support we give to families with young children. For forty years the Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society has been providing a safe space where families with young children can make new friends, learn new skills, and receive support.

When you join our team, you get access to fundraising tools, training, team/race day photos, team spirit and the heartfelt gratitude of families that you’re literally stepping up for. All you need is a passion for healthy families.

For more information, please visit www.mpfamilycentre.ca.

Eastside Family Place SocietyEastside Family Place

You can help young children and families! Eastside Family Place is again participating in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and we invite you to join our team or to make a donation today.

Parents often describe Eastside Family Place as a “home away from home,” a “lifesaver,” and a “microcosm of what we want the world to be.” We ARE the proverbial village raising the child!

Please help by joining & walking with us to raise funds. If that’s not possible, you can still support young children and families in East Vancouver by DONATING NOW through this page. Thank you!

10k to Half Training Program

By | Scotiabank Vancouver Half, Training Tips | No Comments

As the spring racing season begins, it’s always worth looking forward to your next goal. The months of training that have prepared you for a spring 10km can set you up for many subsequent races. It’s a perfect launching point for a new distance: the Half-Marathon. Running 21.1km may seem daunting at first, but it’s likely that when starting to prepare for your 10km race that seemed scary too! With a gradual build in mileage, this 10km to Half-Marathon program will prepare you to toe the start line at your next Half-Marathon with confidence!

If your spring goal was a Half-Marathon, keep the momentum going with our Half-to-Half program below! We also have a beginner 5km program and simple Half training schedule as well.

10k to Half-Marathon Program
WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Apr 24–30 Rest 4km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 7km
May 1–7 Rest 5km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 10km
May 8–14 Rest 6km Cross-train 5km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
May 15–21 Rest 6km Cross-train 6km Rest Cross-train 14km
May 22–28 Rest 7km Cross-train 6km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 16km
May 29–June 4 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km Rest Cross-train 18km
June 5–11 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 20km
June 12–18 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
June 19–25 Rest 5km Rest 4km Rest Rest 21.1km — Event Day

 

Half-to-Half Training Program
WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
May 8–14 Rest 5km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 10km
May 15–21 Rest 7km Cross-train 6km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 13km
May 22-28 Rest 7km Cross-train 7km Rest Cross-train 15km
May 29- June 4 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 17km
June 5–11 Rest 9km Cross-train 8km Rest Cross-train 19km
June 12–18 Rest 8km Cross-train 8km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
June 19–25 Rest 5km Rest 4km Rest Rest 21.1km — Event Day!

Cross-train with swimming, hiking, cycling, yoga, or strength training. Make sure not to over do it on these days as they are part of your recovery process. Recovering properly is essential to bridge between your two races, so actually rest on those Rest Days! When adding in hills, try to incorporate a few steady climbs into your route, anywhere from 200m to 500m long.

The Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon & 5k offers the perfect summer race weekend. The Half takes participants along a beautiful route from UBC to Stanley Park. The 5k route features Lost Lagoon and the English Bay seawall. Bask in the summer sun and sign-up for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon or 5k today!

Date: June 25, 2017
Start time: 7:30am (Half) | 9:30am (5k)
Start location: East Mall, UBC (Half) | Stanley Park (5k)
Finish location: Stanley Park

Tips to Improve your Running Form

By | Training Tips | No Comments

There are many ways to improve as a runner.  If you’re a beginner, getting out the door and having consistent training will make you a better runner by just going through the motions.  As you become more involved in the sport, you begin to make changes to training like incorporating speed work into your schedule, and maybe even seeking out a running coach to help you achieve your goals.  As time goes on, you begin to nitpick the details.  These details are typically part of one’s running form.  Don’t try and fix every issue at once; focus on one change at a time to create better running habits.  From head to toe, here are some things to consider:

Posture – Run with a slight lean forward that comes from the ankles, not the waist.  Bending from the waist, hunching your shoulders, or a slumped position of any part of the body can restrict circulation and reduce the oxygen supply your muscles crave.  You want to maintain a straight line from head to toe; try to maintain a forward lean of about 10 degrees.  To practice, lean forward until you feel like you’re going to fall, then go up onto your toes.  This posture will help gravity drive you forward while you’re running.

Head – Let your gaze guide you. Keep your head looking straight ahead at the horizon, and try not to lean your head back or jutted forward as this can put excess tension/stress on your neck.  Your head position is the starting point of your entire body’s positioning.

Shoulders – Keep your shoulders low and loose.  A lot of runners have a tendency to let their shoulders creep up towards their ears, especially as they get tired.  If your neck gets sore and you feel there’s tension in your shoulders/neck, it’s probably due to keeping your shoulders in a shrugged position.  Shake your arms outs when this happens to remind your upper body to relax.  Tension anywhere in the body will make you less efficient.

Arms – Running is a lower body dominant activity, but your arms move in conjunction with your legs and are a critical part of proper running form.  Keep your arms and hands relaxed, and don’t clench your fists.  Pretend you’re running with a raw egg in each hand that you don’t want to crush.  Keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle and swing your arms forward and back between your waist and lower chest.  Avoid too much cross-body movement.

Torso – As mentioned, it’s important to keep your back straight, without any exaggerated curvature in your spine.  Keeping your shoulders relaxed and your head looking straight ahead will help maintain an upright position.  Think of it as “running tall”; stretch yourself up to keep your whole body in alignment.  It’ll also help keep your lung capacity at it’s maximum.

Hips – Your hips are your centre of gravity.  While in a slight forward lean, it’s important to remember not to lean forward by bending from your hips.  Doing so will restrict your leg movement/knee drive.  Hunching over, or leaning too far forward will throw your body out of alignment and can put additional pressure on your lower back.  If you finish long runs with a sore lower back, this is a key posture component to work on first.

Legs/stride – Following the rest of your body, your legs are your driving force.  Keeping a slight forward lean will allow for optimal knee drive, and consequently more leg power. Over-striding occurs when you run too upright, reach your legs out ahead of your body, or land with a straight leg rather than a slightly bent knee. Instead, aim to keep your feet under you, not in front of you; and land with your knee slightly bent to absorb the impact of hitting the ground.  Overstriding can put your hamstrings and knees at risk of injury, or cause shin splits.  Try to increase your cadence in order to shorten your stride enough to have your feet underneath you.

Ankles/feet – While running, try to step quietly without slapping your feet onto the ground.  Aim to land in the area between your heel and mid-foot, then roll forward to toe off and into your next step.  You’ll be able to feel your calf muscles working at each push-off.  The ankle will be slightly flexed to provide more force to each toe-off.  Two words to describe good running form are springy and quiet.

There are many video resources on the internet that have great drills for improving your running form.

Preparing for your First Race

By | Race Roster Spring Run-Off, Racing Strategy, Training Tips | No Comments

With race day approaching fast, it can be daunting if it’s your first one.  There are so many tips and to-do lists all over the internet, but which ones are actually useful?  Sometimes the lists are so long, the race prep becomes scarier than the race itself!  Here are a few of our key preparation tips:

The week before the race:

Stop stressing. Races are meant to be fun. They’re great community events with an incredibly positive atmosphere for both runners and spectators.  Locals line the course and cheer you on; volunteers take time to ensure your race experience is top-notch; and you get to celebrate accomplishing your own goals amongst other like-minded people. Race day is an exciting time!  Even if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you had planned, soak in the experience and take what you’ve learned into the next race.

Cover the route beforehand. Course tours are a great way of familiarizing yourself with what to expect on race day.  Knowing what hills or tight turns there may be, will better prepare you and alleviate any unnecessary stress.  If nothing else, it’ll prevent you from getting lost!

Get off your feet. In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Doing additional training in the week before a race won’t make you more fit, in fact it can just make you more tired.  Relax, enjoy the taper knowing that the hard work is done!

Don’t carb load in one sitting.  The key to the carb-loading phenomenon is to gradually increase your carbohydrate intake in the few days before the race.  Lower training volumes and higher carb consumption allows the muscles to store more fuel to be utilized on race day.  Eating one massive bowl of pasta the night before a race won’t help your energy stores and can leave you feeling heavy and bloated.

Eat what works for you. If you have a particular meal that you eat the night before long runs, or big workouts, that’s the meal you should have the night before the race.  Trying anything new can put you at risk for GI distress during the race.

Pickup your bib the day before.  Your bib is one of your essentials for race day.  Head to the race expo/package pickup as soon as you can to make sure you have everything you need.  Pin it on whatever top you’ve decided on to be ready for race day morning.

Get ready the night before & stick to what you know. Lay out your gear and know where your necessities are.  Plan on wearing an outfit that you know doesn’t cause any irritation; prepare a race-day breakfast that you’ve had success with before; and don’t try out new shoes or race fuel on race day.  Stick to what you know!

Catch those zzz’s.  Pre-race nerves can leave people feeling anxious and can interrupt their sleep.  Rest east knowing that it’s actually the sleep you have two nights before a race that is the important one!

Race day:

Limit your fluid consumption. The days leading up to the race are when you should be hydrating, but race morning isn’t the time to be chugging back fluids.  Sip at water or electrolytes in the morning, but don’t go overboard.

Arrive early. Having picked up your race bib the day of two before the race means that all you have left to do is warmup, use the washroom, and gear check anything you need to.  There can be lines of people at the port-o-potties or gear check tents, so arrive with enough time to factor that in.  You don’t need to start your race with a sprint to the start line.

Carry the essentials.  Don’t forget to carry a piece of ID, write your information on the back of your bib, and bring your credit card or cash in case something goes wrong.  There are always plenty of volunteers and spectators along the race that will be able to help you, but you want to be overly prepared.  Just in case.

Bring a garbage bag. If it’s going to be a rainy day, garbage bags make for excellent throw away rain jackets.  They’ll keep your running attire dry and warm, and can be thrown to the side once the race begins.  Just make sure to go to the side of the road to toss your bag so you don’t hit anyone running behind/beside you.

Set a few goals.  Not every race is going to be spectacular, and it’s good to be prepared for that.  After the months of training, it’s great to set a few goals: an A goal that could be achieved on a perfect day; a B goal that is reasonable is the conditions or your body is feeling sub-par; and a C goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time.  That way, no matter what the day brings, there will be something positive to take away from it.

Start slow, and stay even. It’s easy to go off the start line like a bat out of hell, but it’s important to keep your adrenaline in check and start conservatively.  The first part of the race usually feels easy as your muscles are fresh and ready to go.  If you start too fast, the time you’ve “banked” can come back to bite you in the butt later in the race when the fatigue sets in.  Try and maintain an even pace, and if you’re feeling good, expend that remaining energy in the final stretch to the finish line.

Tell-tale signs that you need a day off

By | Training Tips | No Comments

It’s often believed that “more is more” when it comes to training.  Runners get stuck in a mindset that the more they do, the better they become.  This is true to a certain extent, but oftentimes the value of a rest day gets forgotten.  If you have put your body through the wringer with workouts, long runs, and cross training without a day off, chances are you aren’t going to recover enough to reap the benefits of your efforts.  Instead, a cumulative fatigue can set in and leave you overtrained or burnt out.

Here are some tell-tale signs you might be due for a day off:

Altered heart rate:
This is noticeable particularly with individuals who train with a heart rate monitor.  Many of us have an idea of what our resting heart rate is, and if you don’t it’s worth figuring out.  When your resting heart rate is altered, it’s a sign that your metabolic rate is elevated to meet the demands of training.  A lower-than-normal heart rate can also be an indication that you’re overtraining.  When you’re feeling off, take a heart rate check and see if it’s trying to tell you to rest!

Increased irritability:
Overtraining can not only affect your physical state, but your emotional state too.  When you’re starting to burn out, moodiness, depression, and general irritability are common.  While we all know exercise is supposed to make us happier due to the blissful endorphin rush, these stress-fighting chemicals are released alongside cortisol which is a stress hormone.  If cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period of time, it can negatively affect one’s mental health.  It can get to the point that running/exercising is no longer enjoyable, and anyone/anything can send you spiraling into a bad mood, especially if they ask about how training is going!  If that’s the case, take a day or two to reset and allow your body to relax.  Pop into a low key yoga class to really let your mind settle – just make sure it’s easy.

Extended muscle soreness:
When you’re training hard, it’s common to have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for one or two days after a workout.  The issue is when that muscle soreness is prolonged, or just doesn’t go away.   If you’re still sore after 72 hours, it’s worth scheduling a day off.  Working out on sore muscle can hinder any muscle building efforts.  Instead of trying to hammer out another workout session, or even pounding the pavement on an easy run, take that time to roll, stretch, refuel, and hydrate to allow your muscles to rebuild without being broken down again.

Insomnia:
When we’re tired from intense training, it’s usually easy to fall asleep.  However, when we’re extremely fatigued, insomnia can set in.  This is due to an overload on the body’s nervous system and hormonal system.  It’s crucial to sleep during the 10pm to 2am period as your body builds and grows during rest, not during training.  The stress of overtraining can lead to anxiety, impair our judgements, decrease cognitive function, and lower our immunity.  Anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows that it’s a negative cycle: the less you sleep, the more you worry about not sleeping, and the harder it is to sleep.  Taking a few days off and focusing on allowing the body to properly shut down at night could be the winning solution to one’s insomnia.

Unquenchable thirst:
Dehydration can play a huge role in overtraining.  Our body sweats during exercise, and the more you exercise, the more you sweat.  A good indicator of your hydration level is to look at the colour of your urine.  The darker the colour, the more your body is struggling to retain fluids because there isn’t enough circulating the body to properly hydrate you.  The dark urine indicates that the body is retaining as much water as it can while still excreting waste.  Therefore, the more hydrated we are, the more water we have in our urine making it more diluted.  Dehydration can also cause headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and irritability.  If these symptoms are present, be sure to add in some electrolytes into your water too.

Running & Beer

By | Elite Athletes, General | No Comments

Beer and running seem to be a match made in heaven.  From infiltrating local running clubs, races, the Beer Mile, and as a reward for any hard workout or race, beer has added yet another social element to the running scene.

Chemically speaking, brewing beer occurs from the fermentation of starch by yeast.  The sugars in the grain are metabolized which creates the alcohol and CO2.  Although beer is 90% water, and typically four to six percent alcohol, it is still considered a diuretic. Beer does contain sugary carbs, nutrients from the hops, starch, and some electrolytes, but the alcohol content puts a damper on these benefits.  So if you plan on having some post-run brews, grab a glass of water and a snack to have before the beer.

Even with the alcohol content, beer has health benefits when consumed in moderation. Moderate consumption means one 12-ounce beer per day for women, and two for men (but don’t think that the days you don’t have a beer can be added to another day and still be considered “moderate consumption”).  In moderation, beer has been seen to lower risks of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages; contains multiple B vitamins and chromium; helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol; contains hops that are rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols; and can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

While it seems quite normal to have a beer after a run, having beer during the run may seem a little extreme, but that’s exactly what the Beer Mile is. We caught up with some of Canada’s top beer milers to share their running & beer stories:


Jim Finlayson

I was one of the rare ones who didn’t really drink beer. Had my first one 2nd year university, 1992, and didn’t care for it. Felt way too bloated, too, and I couldn’t understand how my roommates could drink more than one. And so their surprise when I ran my 5:09 beer mile world record in 2007.

My first beer mile was in 2005. It was a fundraiser for melanoma, in honour of a local triathlete who had passed away. We had a huge crowd. 75 participants and over 100 spectators. The Times Colonist newspaper was on hand. I only did it to support the cause. At the time the world record was 5:42 and I figured if things went really smoothly I could be 6:20-30. Certainly wasn’t thinking anything faster than that, and so I chose Guinness, which isn’t beer mile legal (only 4.4%, and it needs to be a 5% beer). It was late December, just before Christmas, and we ran it in the rain and dark. I had no idea what my splits were. I just ran as hard as I could. Someone told me after the race I’d run 5:12, which seemed impossible to me, but it was corroborated by the official timers. The mark didn’t count as a record since I drank Guinness, but I knew then I would return the next year with a legal beer, which I did, and ran 5:20 drinking Keepers Stout from a can. The year after that I ran 5:09 with Granville Island Winter ale, which stood as the world record for 6 years.

I didn’t run a single beer mile after that until Flotrack hosted the World Championships in the fall of 2014. By then I was a master, with suspect speed and no chugging practice. I thought I would get dusted by these University kids. Figured I would come last. Nick Symmonds was in the race, Lewis Kent, Corey Gallagher. These boys were big and fast and young. They were brash and controversial. In the media guide all of our fastest chug times were listed and mine was the slowest at 8 seconds. Our mile bests were listed, too, and I was nearly the slowest there, with my personal best from 16 years prior. But for whatever reason my body takes to the beer mile. I ran 5:20 and finished 3rd. A year later I took another serious crack at it on the track, just because my curiosity was intense, and ran 5:01 which still stands as my beer mile best.

This nascent beer mile frenzy… I feel like it’s a bit of a supernova. After that first World Championships and before the first World Classic the beer mile burned pretty brightly, and so when I went to the pub with my mates I would order a beer in whatever bottles they had, Sleeman or Heineken or (preferably) anything from Phillips, and I’d get my friends to time me. They’d pull out their iPhones and set them on the table, and as soon as the waitress put the beer down and turned away, I’d go. The truth is I don’t love beer. I can enjoy it, sure, but I’d rather train than sip at it. I’d rather see if I can get under 4 seconds than nurse one. So the waitress would leave and my boys would be ready, and I’d train there in the pub, getting down to 3.37 seconds once, confirmed by the backup timer. We’d only be there for an hour or 90 mins and I’d drink two beers in that time, and they’d be in my hand for less than 10 seconds. It helped having the stage. I wanted pressure on me. I wanted to have the possibility of being ridiculed if I screwed up and spat it out my nose, and so the pub was ideal. I was preparing for the big races. Never had the urge to run after, though. Not on those nights at the pub.

I don’t really fall on either side of the pro/con argument. Clearly I’m not contra beer and, more generally, drinking, but I don’t drink much. I like the environment mostly for the socials. I know alcohol can interfere with recovery and sleep, but I also know keeping the governor on too tight can have the same detrimental effect.


Corey Gallagher

I’ve always thought of myself being a beer connoisseur. I love trying new beers everywhere I go. One of my favourite winter celebrations is our Winter Beer Mile (we also hold a summer one) here in Manitoba. My first one was in 2006, during my first year of university. Every year after CIS championships the team would host an underground beer mile. This time conveniently fell around by birthday, which is on St. Patty’s Day, so it was a fun way to celebrate with everyone.

The only draw back being, its March in Winnipeg, which means there was also a fair amount of snow to shovel.   We would gather the team on a Friday night, hang out and shovel the track for hours. We would then wake up the next morning a bit rough around the edges, and dreading what we were about to do. My first beer mile were terrible, I ran around 14 minutes and was definitely penalized for not holding down my contents.

I’m happy to say things have greatly improved since then, and I look forward to our Winter Beer Mile every year.  Since my first year of university, our Beer Miles have grown beyond just the team. We get all types of people coming out (family members, friends of friends etc) as it’s a great fun and active way to bring people together over beers.

I always look forward to enjoying a casual beer once Beer Mile training is done. Nothing beats a nice cold beer after a hard workout or long run. However, during training I don’t allow myself any casual sipping beers, I practice chugging with everything.

Safety Tips for Runners

By | Training Tips | No Comments

Running safety is of the utmost importance, but sometimes it gets pushed out of people’s minds as thinking about the consequences isn’t appealing. Run-ins with bicycles, cars, dogs, or other people are all things that could have a potential risk associated with them. The best way to eliminate any fear or reluctance while out on a run is to be properly prepared. Follow these simple guidelines for best practices in run safety:

  • Know your route.  Make sure you’ve planned ahead according to what time of day you’re running at.  If there’s a route that’s well-lit and more populated, choose that if you’re heading out in the dark.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.  Not only is planning your route good practice for your own benefits, but it makes it easier to share with someone else.  If you’re planning on heading out on a solo run, inform a friend, significant other, or family member of where you’re going and how long you’ll be.  That way, should anything happen they’ll know where to go.
  • Be aware.  It’s easy to zone out while on a run, especially when we get into a good rhythm.  However, it’s important to keep tuned in to your surroundings throughout the entire run and not just when you deem it necessary.
  • Avoid headphones.  While it’s nice to have the company of some good music or an interesting podcast, running with headphones can eliminate the sounds of the things around you.  It can be difficult to hear an approaching bike, car, person, or even a foul ball from a recreational baseball game if you’re plugged in. If you must have your headphones, leave one ear out.
  • Be visible.  Don’t assume because you’re wearing a light coloured jacket that people will see you.  Instead, make the assumption that no one can see you and dress appropriately.  Wear high-vis gear such as reflective vests, headlamps, and other clip on lights so people know exactly where you are.
  • Bring your phone.  It’s always nice to leave your phone at home and take a break from the incessant buzzing of e-mails, texts and other notifications, but sometimes it’s smarter to bring it with you.  You can set it to ‘Do Not Disturb’ so your pocket isn’t constantly making noise, but at least you’ll have it in case of emergencies.
  • Carry ID.  Heaven forbid something does happen during a run, having a piece of identification can help if you’re injured or in a situation where you need someone else’s help.
  • Run with a group.  It can be a local running group, a friend, or your dog. When you run with someone it decreases the chance of being targeted as a victim, and provides a helping hand if you get hurt.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you feel uneasy.  If heading into the trails as the sun is setting doesn’t make you feel confident, stick to a well-lit path.  If there’s a person that doesn’t look trust-worthy, veer away from them or change direction accordingly.
  • Follow the rules.  Face oncoming traffic; look both ways before crossing the road; obey traffic signals; and check around you to avoid bumping into an oncoming or passing runner.
  • Vary your route.  Not only does it keep things fresh for you, mixing up your route can stop recognizable patterns.  Be sure to stay in familiar areas and keep in mind where the nearest open stores/businesses are.
  • Know basic self-defense.  Take some time to learn some basic self-defense moves to properly prepare you for any situation that may occur.

How Important is Sleep for Runners?

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Sleep is probably the most under appreciated tool in a runner’s toolbox as it helps to prevent injury and rebuild muscle.  But in a world where working into the wee hours of the night is considered a badge of honour, it could be negatively impacting your training.  Lack of sleep can affect us in many different ways and these are some of the most crucial effects to be aware of:

  • Brain function: anyone who hasn’t had enough sleep and has to go to work/school can attest to what a struggle it is to be productive.  The foggy-brained feeling can lead to a decrease in creativity, and increases the chance of giving up on a complex problem.
    Not only that, emotions and anxiety run high when we’re sleep deprived.  A lot of problem solving, decisions, and judgements are made while we sleep; if we don’t allow the natural processing of information, it can cause increased stress and lower cognitive functioning.
  • Tired eyes.  Nodding off during a boring lecture, meeting or while working on an assignment is a big indicator that you haven’t had enough sleep.  Having 6 hours or less of sleep triples your risk of being in a motor vehicle accident.
    When we nod off, it’s because we are actually having a “microsleep” where we actually fall asleep for a few seconds at a time.  This occurs especially during monotonous tasks like driving and can be incredibly dangerous.  Not only that, our hand-eye coordination is impaired, which is why a lot of note taking looks rather messy when you’re tired!
  • Altered diets.  When we lack sleep, our body tends to crave food as a of boosting our energy levels.  These cravings are usually for high-carb, calorically dense foods such as dessert, chips, pasta and bread.
    There are two important hormones that are released throughout the day that signal hunger and satiation: leptin signals to our body that we’re full; whereas ghrelin sends signals out that we’re hungry.  Leptin levels increase as the day progresses, and peak at nighttime.

    If you’re staying awake late at night, there is an increased ghrelin release to convince the body that it’s hungry, even when it doesn’t need more food.  This malfunctioning hormone signals put people at risk for weight gain if they’re continually sleep deprived.

  • Heart risks.  Chronic sleep deprivation can put increased stress on your heart and put you at risk of developing hypertension and increased blood pressure.  Sleep is when the most cell regeneration occurs, and as your blood vessels constantly regenerate, they are highly sensitive to any changes in that process.
    If the blood vessels aren’t properly repaired while resting, it can lead to stiffness in the arteries, and reduce your healing efficiency.  Neither of which are good things when you’re placing demands on your heart and vessels during hard interval sessions!
  • Impaired immune system.  Lack of sleep can boost the inflammation in your body.  Not only does that affect your chances of gaining weight, developing diabetes and increased heart risks, it can make you more vulnerable to getting sick.  Getting at least 7 hours of sleep can help ward off the seasonal cold.

Conquer Hill Training with these Four Workouts

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Hill training is one of the pillars of any runner’s workout program.  Through the course of a season, the type of hill training can vary from short, explosive hills, to longer hill repeats, to runs on a hilly course depending on the purpose of the workout.

There are many benefits of including hill training into your running program, with the most obvious being added strength and power.  Running uphill requires increased muscle recruitment from our main movers which improves their muscle endurance and neuromuscular responsiveness.  Not only do hills benefit runners from a physiological standpoint, but they can help to improve form, posture, cadence and efficiency.  It’s difficult to run with poor form on hills as the uphill propulsion requires a runner to be on their toes, with a slight forward lean from the ankles, and a higher cadence to drive you up the hill.  The less time you spend on the ground, the quicker your feet move, and the faster you get up the hill!  Hills provide similar speed and strength benefits as track workouts without too much impact on the body.  This is essentially why a lot of programs have hills as an integral part of any off-season and start-of-season training.  It helps get the body into shape, increases speed and power, without the risk of injury.

So what types of workouts are there and what’s the best way to execute them?

1. Short, explosive sprints:

As these workouts are short and powerful, they are not a primary fitness-building workout, but are a great tool for working on form and efficiency.  There are two main purposes to these workouts.  They work on activating and improving neuromuscular system function which is the main communication between the brain and the muscles. By improving this system, the speed of signaling from the brain to the muscles increase and you’re able to recruit more muscle fibers to create more powerful movements.  Second, these hills enhance the heart’s maximal stroke volume, which is the amount of blood pumped out with every heartbeat.  The more blood pumped out in a single beat will decrease one’s heart rate, resulting in a more efficient heart.

During a workouts, the hills are a maximum of 30 seconds long, with a gradient of 5-15%. Using one’s anaerobic system, the athlete can focus on an efficient running technique with vigorous arm movements, high knee lift, with the hips kept high and forward to utilize our big muscles groups like the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

How to do it: Start with four or five reps of 50–100m (10–30 seconds) up a steep hill, then build up over a few sessions to eight to 12 reps. For recovery, walk back down the hill and wait until 2–3 minutes have passed.

2. Medium hills

Starting to get into hill repeats, medium hills take between 30-90 secs to run up.  They combine the benefits of the short, explosive hills as listed above, as well as stressing one’s muscular endurance and tolerance of lactic acid. Combining the anaerobic system of the short, steep hills, and the aerobic component of a longer duration interval will build up your blood lactate as you go up the hill; aka your legs start to burn and you have to keep going.

How to do it: Choose a grade of hill that still allows you to run near race pace, about 6-10%.  Similar to the short hills, form is key: a good knee drive; hips pushed forward; and the back is upright. Aim to increase the number of reps about 1-2 every time a medium hill workout is on the training schedule.  Using a slow jog to get to the bottom of the hill again is a big part of your recovery between intervals.  When you’re just starting out do about 8-10 repeats, and increase gradually each time you do the workout.

3. Long hills

The longest hill intervals are between 90 sec to 3 minutes long.  These sessions are best for people wanting to improve their hill running skills and improve their aerobic fitness and muscle strength.  Compared to strength training in the gym, hills are a functional way to increase the muscles capacity to withstand intensity while working the muscles necessary for running fast: muscles surround the hips, glutes and quads.  Most of your energy comes from aerobic sources, but there will still be a bit of lactic acid buildup in the legs, but it’ll feel more like muscle fatigue compared to the burning muscles the shorter intervals provide!

How to do it: Due to the broad spectrum of duration for these longer intervals, note that the further you’re going, the less intensity you can apply.  When starting out aim for 6-8 hill repeats lasting over 1 minute each, and build in a few more reps every time you repeat this workout.  It’s a great simulation of longer track intervals without the pounding.

4. Rolling hills

While hill intervals won’t necessarily make you a better runner on a hilly course, incorporating a hilly route for long runs/tempos will be useful.  Knowing what kind of course your goal race is going to be on will help you determine just how hilly your runs needs to be.  Doing longer efforts on a rolling course will allow you to maintain your pace while going up and down hills, as well as on a flat surface.  If you attack a hill too hard early into the race, you could tax your legs and suffer during the race before you expected.

How to do it: Try to maintain the same effort going up and down hills; you’ll naturally go faster on the downhill without increasing your effort. Not only that, but running downhill at a decent effort is great practice too. Hilly routes will work your muscles in both concentric and eccentric contractions and will prepare the body for the pounding of running downhill.