Canadian Olympians Lanni Marchant and Reid Coolsaet reveal 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon finisher medals

By | Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon | No Comments

The 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K finisher medals were unveiled last Thursday night as more than 120 local runners led by the RunTOBeer crew and Canadian Olympians Reid Coolsaet and Lanni Marchant covered a mystery “reveal run” from Rorschach Brewery to the Leuty Lifeguard Station.

Built in 1920, the lifeguard station is an icon in The Beach neighbourhood and for Toronto’s waterfront. The medals – gold for the marathon; silver for the half; bronze for the 5K – were designed by Canada Running Series’ Inge Johnson. The design was based on a photograph by Beach artist and runner, Erwin Buck, taken one sunrise last September. “We’re thrilled to feature the Leuty Lifeguard Station on this year’s medal, and with the way the design has worked out,” said Race Director Alan Brookes. “Just like The Beach neighbourhood, its residents and businesses, the ‘Leuty’ is very special to us.”

Toronto is globally acclaimed as a waterfront city, a “city of neighbourhoods”, and The Beach is one of its finest. The Beach also comes at a critical point in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, between 30k and 35k, when runners can hit that legendary “wall”, only to have the great crowds in neighbourhood lift them and carry them to the finish.

This year’s medals are the 10th anniversary of the “Landmark Collectors’ Series”, all designed by Johnson, that has featured other famed Toronto icons such as Honest Ed’s, The Princes’ Gates at the Canadian Exhibition, and the Gooderham Flatiron Building.

The unveiling was done by Marchant and Coolsaet, who have been important parts of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon event. In 2013, Lanni ran 2:28:00 at the IAAF Gold Label race, to take out a 28-year old Women’s National Marathon Record. In 2011, Reid almost re-wrote Jerome Drayton’s 1975 Men’s Record, as he surged to take on the East Africans in The Beach section, before fading a little in the last 5k to come home 3rd (2:10:55) in a world-class field and book his ticket to the London Olympics.

The Olympians were joined in the ceremony by the artists/designer; Dr. Johanna Carlo and Jessica Wright, Director of the Beach Village Business Improvement Association and Paula Murphy of Pegasus, the neighbourhood charity for the race, who invited the world to run The Beach on October 22nd. On that day, some 26,000 runners of all abilities, from 70 countries are expected to earn one of these fabulous souvenir medals of the city and its marathon, and take them home around the globe.

For more information and entry: STWM.ca

Olympians Gillis and DuChene To Defend Toronto Waterfront 10K Titles

By | Elite Athletes, Toronto Waterfront 10K | No Comments

By Paul Gains

“I remember not knowing where the finish was,” says three-time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis, laughing as he recalls his victory at the 2016 Toronto Waterfront 10K race.

“Any race I run it’s the kilometre markers I look at more than anything. I think I relied on that just a little too much last year. I knew where the start was, though!”

Gillis won the race in 29:23 and then spent time meeting and greeting fellow runners. The race provided both him and women’s winner Krista DuChene (33:50) with an opportunity to break up their Rio Olympic marathon training and be given a proper send off from the running community.

The pair return to the June 17 race, along with a brand new title sponsor lululemon, with the intention of defending their hard-won titles.

The 36-year-old Gillis, of course, finished an incredible 10th in the Rio Olympic Marathon, the best performance by a Canadian since Jerome Drayton’s 6th place in the 1976 Montreal Games. DuChene, meanwhile, was 35th in the women’s race in Rio. Knowing the Waterfront course a little more intimately this time should be an asset when they line up on University Avenue for the start.

Gillis says he enjoyed last years’ experience on the waterfront.

“I enjoyed the course,” Gillis continues. “It’s a little bit downhill at the start; the waterfront and the finish is great. It has a nice big open feel to it before and after the finish. I stuck around and shook a lot of hands. That was special, last year. A good vibe afterwards and having the kind of Rio sendoff for Reid (Coolsaet), Krista and I, was cool.”

Until a swelling of his achilles tendon interfered with his preparation, Gillis had intended to run the Boston Marathon last month but instead decided to give it a proper rest. Now his attention has turned to the IAAF World Championships in London in August, giving the Toronto Waterfront 10K much more importance as a proper fitness test.

“There is nothing like getting out there on a closed race course and getting in a race. Last year worked well and I believe it will this year,” Gillis adds. “Once I have begun a buildup for the marathon they are all pretty similar in terms of the commitment and the interest and the work that I put in for each marathon. So the Toronto Waterfront 10K will be pretty similar to last year in the way I approach it.”

Following the Olympic Games, Krista DuChene made some significant changes. First there was an amicable parting with long time coach, Rick Mannen, and her subsequent move to Speed River Track and Field Club, where she joins Gillis and six other Canadian Olympians under the guidance of Dave Scott-Thomas. Then, as a 40th birthday present, she spent a month training at a high-altitude camp in Kenya, something she has never done previously.

“I just felt that I needed the next level, kind of the next step. I didn’t want any regrets looking back on my career and I didn’t want to say ‘why didn’t I step out of my comfort zone?’” DuChene says of the changes. “I didn’t want to settle at a level because I was used to it. Knowing I probably have a couple of years of good marathoning left before I plateau, it was definitely the right time to do it.

“I think it’s safe to say my birthday gift was the trip to Kenya. I am thankful that my husband basically gave me his blessing to leave for a month – leaving him at home with the kids. It was a big commitment for him in order to support me, in order for me to be gone for a month. They gave me some earrings and I had some chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Pretty good for a 40th birthday present, if you ask me.”

The altitude training went well and she was in good shape to race at the London Marathon in April. But for the first time in her career, the Brantford, Ont. native experienced gastrointestinal issues while racing. A fall marathon is in the plans now. Nevertheless, she looks forward to racing the Toronto Waterfront 10K.

“I just love running races with the Canada Running Series,” she admits. “Toronto is close to home. I am somewhat familiar with the course and it will be good for me to do a race at a shorter distance off of three marathons since August.

“There are so many reasons I love CRS and choosing those events, so it just made sense to do that one. The timing was also appropriate. It will be almost two months since I ran in London.”

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For more information and to join Olympians Eric Gillis and Krista DuChene at the Toronto Waterfront 10K, with title sponsor lululemon, go to toronto10k.com

The Ins and Outs of Mid-Run Fueling

By | Scotiabank Vancouver Half | No Comments

As the distances increase in both training and racing, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of fueling on the run.  The advancements in sports nutrition have helped create the number of products available to help fuel our working muscles mid-run.  Every runner handles fuel differently, from the amount they can consume, to the type of product, to the flavour that sits best in their gut.  It’s all about trial and error, mixed with the science of what one’s “optimal” fueling strategy is.

There is a myriad of choices for running fuel.  With every flavour imaginable, runners can choose from a variety of energy gels, chews, drinks, and everyday foods to help them on the run.  By ingesting some form of carbohydrate, the primary fuel source for working muscles, it helps to replenish depleted glycogen/calories while on the move.  There is a limited amount of stored carbohydrates in our muscles, even after carb-loading effectively.  Companies that specialize in fueling such as PowerBar, have invested an inordinate amount of time and research into developing products that can equip an athlete with the resources that they need in training and races.  Creating products such as endurance fuel like PowerGels and Gel Blast chews, to pre-workout energy bars, and post-workout protein bars, there’s a product that can help to refuel your working muscles at any point of your training.

Due to the lag in absorption time, it’s not as simple as taking a gel and having it instantly fuel and replenish fatiguing muscles.  It takes a bit of time to be digested, absorbed into the blood stream, then delivered to your muscles, so the timing of fuel intake is crucial.  Our brains are fueled by glucose in the blood, so when we ingest a gel, we give our brain an “instant” boost to clear any haziness that occurs when our stores are low.

The frequency at which we can take gels is very individual and depends primarily on our stomach’s reaction to the ingested sugars.  When racing, the body is working hard to sustain your exertion, so it diverts blood away from the digestive system as your working muscles need it more.  By taking gels early in the race before you really need them, you will allow the stomach to digest and transport the glucose to your muscles before it rebels completely.  Most products suggest taking a gel every 45-60 mins during exercise.  Avoid taking more than one gel at a time as it can spike your blood glucose and leave you feeling sick from too much sugar.

Throughout your training, try to practice a fueling strategy as often as possible.  The stomach/digestive tract, just like any other muscle in your body, can be trained.  The more often you use gels and force your stomach to handle the digestion and distribution of sugar while on the run, the less likely it’ll be that you have GI distress come race day.

Other important notes:

  • Always have water with your gels/chews/etc.  It will help dilute the sugar enough to make it easier for the gut to digest and absorb into your system.
  • Prone to stomach problems? Instead of taking a full gel every 45-60 mins, try taking a 1/4 of a gel every 20 mins instead.
  • Using natural food works too.  Use homemade staples like dried fruit, baby food pouches, gummy candies, or honey.
  • Can’t eat and run?  Opt for a sports drink: something like Gatorade is great, just be sure to have the proper ratio of glucose/fructose and some electrolytes to keep everything balanced.

Win a PowerBar prize pack!

If you’re running the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon on June 25, there will be stations with water and Gatorade located every 2-3km along the course, as well as a PowerGel station at approximately 13km.

Want to win some PowerBar product this week? Tag one of your friends in our Facebook or Instagram posts and you’ll be entered to win a race entry for each of you into the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon and a PowerBar prize package! The draw will take place on May 19th.

Advice From Your Local Running Store

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We’re fortunately to have some great independent running retailers in town, so we’ve decided to get some tips from them. Covering everything from shoe fitting to what clothing to wear, check back as we add a new feature each week!


The Right Shoe

Article courtesy of The Right Shoe

A Runner’s Closet

If you were to open your closet at this moment, what would you see? Would you see a line of methodically organized sweaters? Would you see your clothing hung carelessly, stuffed and sprawled across the bottom? Would see an old varsity jacket that smells, among other things, of pride? Would you see a dress that you bought but never wore? Would you see a row of quirky ties that your kids got you, and keep giving you, every year on the same holiday?

Or, would you see a runner’s closet?

A runner’s closet, looks like any other closet, with a few exceptions. While every wardrobe on the block is filled with cotton-shirts and balls of lint, a runner’s closet has technicality. The shirts, pants, and socks, to begin, are never cotton but instead a polyester technical fabric. Why not cotton? Picture this, when you get out of the shower, dripping wet in all your glory, you reach for your favorite cotton towel, right? That reliable towel that does a fantastic job sucking up all that moisture off your body—stays wet. You need to toss the cotton when running for the same reason, because once cotton gets wet, it stays wet, which can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and dangerous in cold weather. Your skin is also more likely to chafe if you’re wearing cotton, spend some time at a finish line of a marathon and you will see the evidence of someone who thought their favorite cotton shirt would carry them through the race. It’s not pretty. Depending on the season, a runner’s closet will alter slightly, a short sleeve will become long and shorts might turn into tights, but no matter the season a runner understands the necessity of proper, technical clothing for their sport.

In the spring to summer months, a runner is most concerned with the weight of their clothing. In the hot weather, you want to feel like you’re wearing absolutely nothing—without terrifying your neighbors. So, instead of becoming a nudist, a runner’s closet is most likely to filled with technical tee-shirts, a specific polyester spun blend to wick away the sweat and ensure that they stay cool while their body warms from the exercise. As an everyday running tee, a runner is looking for a tee that has a soft, lightweight woven fabric with a host of premium design features and contains sun protection, such as UPF. Depending on temperature and preference, you’ll want to pair the tee with either shorts, with lightweight, quick-dry woven fabric and a liner, or a capri tight. Again, no sweatpants, no cotton, just a technical fabric.

For the fall to winter months, the most common trend among runners and their wardrobe is the layer. Depending on the distance you’ll be running and the temperature outside, a runner may carry through their summer wardrobe with a technical tee-shirt and capri. If you’re running at a slower pace, running a longer distance, or just get cold, adding a lightweight long sleeve or even half-zip to your wardrobe is always a good idea. However, it is significant to remember not to overdress, no matter the temperature outside. If you are going to be running in the dark, it is vital to be as visible as possible with technical material that also offers reflectivity. For our Vancouver climate, it is always a good idea to invest in a breathable waterproof or water-resistant jacket, that offers some rain protection, but can also easily wrap around your waist.

So how can you make a runner’s closet your own?

Technical materials don’t stop at tops and bottoms, there are many varieties of polyester spun fabrics that can be found at your favorite running store. As a runner, it is important to feel the difference it makes in everything from socks on your feet to the hat that you put on your head – and everything in between. That’s how a runner does it, and that’s how you do it!


Check back next week when we talk to Rackets & Runners about finding the right sports bra for you, or head over here to see how FitFirst Footwear helps you choose the correct pair of runners.

The Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon & 5k is proud to be partnered with these fine local retailers!

The Right Shoe

Hydrating for the Heat

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As the weather improves, hydration becomes increasingly important.  During the winter months runners forget that even though it’s cold outside, they’re still sweating and losing water/electrolytes on their runs.  When spring and summer hits, our sweat loss is more apparent and makes people more aware of their rehydration tactics.

It’s hard to know how much to drink, when to drink what, and how to rehydrate appropriately.  Here are some tips to keep you on track:

  1. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.  It’s important to continually sip water or another low-calorie drink options throughout the day to keep your hydration levels up.  Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go so you’re constantly getting fluids in.  Not only will it help on your run, it will keep you alert during the day and can help to avoid the mid-afternoon headache that can occur if you aren’t well hydrated.  Plus it helps your digestion, it keeps you moving when getting up to use the bathroom, and does wonders for your skin.
  2. Use your urine as your hydration indicator.  Keeping tabs on the colour of your urine sounds bizarre but it’s the easiest way to determine how hydrated/dehydrated you are.  The goal is to have a light yellow colour, kind of like the colour of lemonade.  It shows that you’re hydrated but still have electrolytes moving through the body (they cause the yellow colour).  If your urine is totally clear, you’re probably drinking too much.  If it’s a dark yellow, you’re probably in need of some extra fluids.  If it’s taking on the colour of iced tea, you definitely need some water as that’s a warning sign for dehydration.
  3. Drink before your run.  That doesn’t mean you need to slam a liter of water right before you step out the door, but use the 1-2 hours before a run to get in some fluids.  If you’re running as soon as you wake up, drink at least a glass of water before you run.  Your body will have been deprived of water while you’re sleeping, so it’s important to get something down to help the body function.  You’ll eventually figure our how much you can handle, but if your stomach sounds like a fishbowl with water sloshing around, you’ve probably had too much.
  4. During your run the amount you consume depends on how long you’re going for. If it’s a short run, you probably don’t need anything.  If you’re worried you might need something, choose a route with water fountains along the way.  If you’re out for a long run, you’ll need to have something along the way.  If the idea of carrying a bottle for the entire run isn’t appealing, choose a route with fountains, or convenience stores along the way to make a pit stop.  Water will help wash down any gels/chews you have to eat too.  If you’re not taking in any fuel, use a sports drink to make sure you’re replenishing both the sugars and electrolytes that are lost through your sweat.
  5. After your run is when you can focus on replacing what you lost on the run.  A good way of determining your water loss is by weighing yourself without clothes on before and after your run.  Drinking a litre of fluids for every kilogram that’s lost is a general rule of thumb.  You’ll likely drink more than the minimum required, but you’ll just pee out whatever your body doesn’t need. Be sure to add in some electrolytes to your water as it will help the body retain the fluid you’ve consumed.  Chocolate milk is a great post-run drink as it not only has sugars and nutrients that rehydrate you, but it also has protein in it that will help rebuild your tired muscles.

With these things in mind, still be cautious on long runs in the heat.  Try to get your run done in the morning to avoid the intense mid-day sun.  If you’re feeling sick, seeing spots, or feel like you’re going to bonk, just stop.  It’s not worth putting yourself at more risk than necessary.  Carry money or a credit card and a piece of ID with you in case of emergency so people can help you accordingly.

How to Choose Running Shoes

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Advice from FitFirst Footwear

These days, with thousands of different models of shoes on the market, it’s virtually impossible for consumers to keep up and select on their own the most appropriate brand and model for their individual foot type and function.

Inappropriate, ill-fitting, or worn out shoes can increase the chance of injury. As well, over time, shoes lose their stability and capacity to absorb shock, which can dramatically increase stress to your feet and legs. These added stresses could lead to blisters and calluses as well as contribute to lower limb overuse injuries causing heel, arch and shin pain. Foot shape is only one factor which determines the type of athletic shoes this is best for you.

FitFirst Footwear strives stay on top of the latest trends and technologies and are there to assist with fit and recommend the most appropriate running and walking shoe for your foot type. Whether you are training for a certain event, getting ready for summer activities, or working your way back from an injury, our store’s staff is here to help!

Shoes Matter:

  • Many studies show that our quality of life is directly related to remaining active, with a long list of benefits from preventing heart disease to improving mental health. Proper fitting and functioning footwear is crucial to maintaining an active lifestyle and preventing exercise related injury.

Fit Matters:

  • Poor fitting footwear is a primary contributor to foot and ankle injury and can exacerbate many common health conditions. Foot size, forefoot width and arch type are essential measurements in a proper footwear fitting. But there is more to know about ensuring an ideal fit.
  • Black toenails and foot cramping are often signs that your shoes are too small or too narrow. When running, the more distance you cover during individual runs or walks the longer you shoe needs to be.
  • When cross training and moving laterally, look for a sturdy shoe with a snug fit that makes the foot feel as though it is taped within the shoe.

Your Health Matters:

  • At FitFirst Footwear, we know an annual foot measurement, and attention to your changing health needs, make a significant difference in choosing footwear to keep you active and injury free. Whether you wear orthotics, have arthritis, diabetes, or experience changes in your feet during pregnancy, our team will provide you with the knowledge you need and a level of service and customer care that stands above the rest.

Beginner’s Guidebook to Race Etiquette

By | Racing Strategy | No Comments

If you’re preparing to run your first race or your hundredth race, here’s some important race etiquette to keep in mind.  In order to make a race the most enjoyable experience possible for everyone participating, follow these simple rules:

PRE-RACE

  • Read the website, entry form or other race information before contacting the race. All of the race details you need to know are probably there.
  • Respect entry restrictions. Check if the race permits wheelchairs or baby joggers, imposes a minimum age, or has time restrictions.
  • Pay attention to packet pickup hours. Do not show up at other times and expect to receive your race packet/number.
  • Carefully check your information at packet pickup. The time to correct any errors such as age, gender, or misspelling of your name is BEFORE the race.

RACE DAY:

  • Pin your number on the FRONT of your shirt or outermost clothing and keep it visible. Announcers, photographers, timers and medics use it to help identify you.
  • Start in the correct corral. There is a reason why races ask for your predicted finishing time.  Slower runners and walkers should move into to the later corrals as their race bib indicates to avoid any congestion for faster runners trying to pass by. Arriving early doesn’t mean you can start at the front of the race. If you want to switch corrals, there are usually spots at package pickup to request that change.
  • No more than two abreast.  It is incredibly frustrating to try and pass a large group of slower individuals who take up the width of the street during a race.  If you’re in a large group, respect other races, and stay two abreast.  If you’re walking, please remain behind the runners to avoid obstruction.
  • Pass on the left, stay to the right. If you’re speeding along, pass runners on their left. If you need to slow down, move to the right to allow others to easily pass. The first mile or so of a race can be crowded and sometimes you need to weave to pass people.  Just be aware of those around you.
  • If you need to stop for any reason move to the side.  Whether it’s an untied shoelace, your walk/run program, or an urgent phone call, don’t stop dead in your tracks. Look around, move to the side and slide back into the race when you’re ready.
  • Be careful taking mid-race photos. Many runners love documenting their journey, especially since selfies have become all the rage.  These are great mementos, but please step to the side when taking them. The last thing you want is another runner plowing through you and your phone shattering on the ground.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Portable headphone devices for iPods, MP3 players, phones etc are discouraged for your safety and the safety of others.  Blasting music in your ears can block out any verbal warnings/directions or sounds of vehicles/participants along the course.
  • Be conscientious of other runners at water stops. If you’re skipping the water, run straight through the station and don’t crowd where the water is located.  If you need to wet your whistle, minimize congestion by grabbing quickly and move to the side once you’ve passed the water station volunteers before slowing down.
  • If you drop out, tell someone.  Sometimes race day doesn’t go as planned.  If you need to drop-out, be sure to tell a race volunteer so no one is looking for you afterwards.
  • Run through the finish line. Hundreds of runners are coming through behind you, so move towards the medals and snacks to avoid congestion in the finishing chute.

Now that you know the basics, if you’re looking for your first race to run the Scotiabank Vancouver 5k in June is a great beginner-friendly option. Make sure to sign up soon though, as this event has sold out the last three years running!

5 Tips for Setting Race Goals

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As a goal race approaches, it’s always a good idea to have a clear race objectives in mind.  But, how do you determine what’s a “good” goal to set?  It’s great to have lofty aspirations that might be slightly out of reach at the moment, but could be attainable if you’re patient.  But, it’s important to understand that a goal that’s too challenging has the potential to cause you to over train, push your body harder than it’s ready for, and leave you feeling defeated and dissatisfied.

Therefore, it’s key to set SMART goals: ones that are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and timely.  Additionally, your goals should have a personal aspect to them to make them meaningful.

  1. Be specific. Having a generic goal like I want to run faster, or I want to run more is fine, but it doesn’t spark the fire.  Set some precise goals to help keep you on track.  If you want to run faster in a distance you’ve run before, set a goal that’s a few minutes faster and adjust your training to try and hit that goal.  If you’ve been training by solely doing easy runs, maybe set a goal that every Tuesday you’re going to do hill repeats, a fartlek, or intervals. Use a definitive target to guide you to reaching those aspirations.
  2. Be realistic. You know where your current fitness level is, and where it can be after months of training. If you’re sensible while establishing your goals, they will be more attainable. Jumping from a 2:30 half-marathon to a 1:30 half marathon probably won’t happen in a single build, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. Chip away at your goals and re-evaluate after each new benchmark. Work on getting form a 2:30 half marathon, to a 2:25 and so on. Those smaller victories need to be celebrated as they’ll fuel the fire to keep training and hit the next target.
  3. Have a time element. Setting long term goals like wanting to qualify for the Boston Marathon by 2020 are great, but are so far away it’s hard to remain motivated for that long. On the other hand, setting out to beat your personal best in a race three weeks from now that you haven’t adequately prepared for isn’t a good idea either. Set goals that you can work towards and accomplish within 3-6 months. This allows enough time to build, focus, and keep the goal within reach.  Remember to set mini goals within that time frame too. At the end of each week, or every couple weeks look back over your training and see if you’re still on track to reach your main goal. Re-evaluate if necessary by either making the goal harder or easier depending on where your training indicates you should be.
  4. Keep yourself accountable and motivated. It’s your personal effort and dedication that is going to be the determiner of if you do/don’t achieve your goals.  If your work life is busy, set a goal to get your training done in the morning so if you’re kept at work late, you don’t miss a training session. Find people with similar goals and use them as support. Meeting up with a friend or group will hold you accountable too. Furthermore, tell your close friends and family your goals. By voicing what you want to accomplish, you will solidify your goal as people will become interested and will ask how your progress is going. They’re your support team, so use them. If anyone else asks what you’re working on and you’re reluctant to tell them, don’t be afraid to under-promise and then over-deliver.
  5. Make your goals personal. These goals are for you and you alone. At the end of the day, no one else is bothered if you missed a run; well they might be if you’re irritable as a result. No one else can set your goals for you either. Coaches will provide advice on what they think you can achieve and what it’ll take to get there, but you have to be the one buying in. Determine what you want to accomplish the most, and make the necessary lifestyle changes to make that dream a reality.

Five Cross-Training Activities from Allison Tai

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Article by Allison Tai

Cross Training. It’s Time.
I know you know. You should be cross-training. Just like you should be getting eight hours of sleep every night, drinking at least 8 glasses of water and eating clean. It’s definitely hard to get it all in – and still run.

But cross-training goes a long way. Not just in terms of lowering the number on that finish line clock, but also making sure you can get to it in one piece.
These are my five favourite cross-training activities for runners and my solutions for making them happen.

  1. Yoga
    When I was in my  twenties, I thought yoga was a punishment for over-doing it on the miles. Run too much, break yourself, downward dog. Being of a more mature age, I realize the reason my coach sent me to yoga when I was hurt. Yoga is restorative and has amazing potential to heal and realign the body. You can do it before huge injuries crop up when they’re little and manageable, or after, when they’ve swallowed up your ability to even walk pain-free.
    Solution: Unlike when I was in my twenties, yoga is easily accessible. You can find a reputable studio on nearly every street, or stream a quick video right to your computer screen. If you are a social person, commit to a class that fits your schedule once weekly to start. If you’re the homebody type who’s pressed for time, upload a short video and commit to doing it after your easy runs for the next month. (Related article – five easy yoga poses for runners)
  2. MyoFascial Release
    In case you haven’t heard this term, it’s the fancy pants way of saying “roll around on stuff where your body hurts.” It’s my belief that people should be able to address problems in their own bodies, and see them coming for a long time out. I find out very quickly whether my ankle is tight or my hip is full of trigger points when I dig around with a ball.
    Solution: Buy a lacrosse ball and a roller and commit to spending at least 15 minutes per day, every day, all month, to helping your body heal. If you miss a day, that’s fine. But aim for every day. Just make sure to roll gently, never roll over bones and never go to the point of pain. If you cannot relax while you’re rolling, you’re not doing any good. Again, there are a plethora of video guides on the internet. Find what works for you.
  3. Cycling
    We are lucky to live in one of the best cities in the nation for cycling. Cycling not only builds your legs and lungs without the impact, it does so while maintaining a very similar cadence or turnover rate as running. When I was coaching triathletes, I would constantly see runners who had reached a plateau transition to triathlon out of frustration and see huge gains. Just be clear on what you want out of the ride, if you are going for a nice easy spin on an active recovery day, go easy… and if you are substituting a hard workout, put in the same effort.
    Solution: Bike to commute. Start by riding once or twice a week on easy days. Just make sure you plan your route on bike paths, prepare for all sorts of surprise BC weather, and bring a bike lock.
  4. Hiking
    Vancouverites are spoiled by easily accessible world-class hikes throughout the lower mainland. In my opinion, there is no better way to build single leg strength or hip drive than climbing a mountain. Many runners struggle from “lazy glute syndrome” because it’s relatively easy to leave your bum out of the firing pattern when you’re doing most of your mileage on relatively flat terrain. It’s a lot more difficult to get to the top of a mountain without your hips working hard to fight gravity. That increased hip strength and facilitation will likely carry over into your running and into your stride.
    Solution: Organize a weekly hiking excursion with friends. The Grouse Grind is a quick, easy and relatively safe way to get in a lot of elevation. Just make sure you wait until it opens.
  5. Calesthentics
    It’s a big word for a simple methodology: body-weight training. From air squats, to push-ups and pull-ups, to plyometrics… any time you are using your own body weight, you are doing calesthentics. As a runner, your go to should be things like planks, upper body focused exercises, hip strengthening and single leg work. It’s been shown time and time again that upwards of 90% of injuries are correlated with weak hips and/or a weak core. Even 15 minutes dedicated to your core, hips and your under-utilized upper body will make a big impact on your performance – and longevity – as a runner.
    Solution: Make some non-running goals like being able to do a pull-up or 10 push-ups with good form. I have several doorway pull-up bars positioned through out my house so I can do chin-ups and hanging leg raised while making dinner or watching my kids take a bath. It’s easy to build calsthenthics into your routine: stand on one leg while brushing your teeth or work toward your pull-up goals between emails. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be consistent.

Allison is a coach at Vancity OCR and a competitive OCR athlete, placing second at the World’s Toughest Mudder 2014.

Benefits of Cross-Training

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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.