What’s Running Through Your Mind?

human brain with arms and legs running, 3d illustration

By Dr. Kate F. Hays, Ph.D., C.Psych., CC-AASP

Jane, a woman in her late 30s and an experienced runner, wants to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. In order to do that, she needs to complete an upcoming marathon three minutes faster than she’s ever done. Her coach may offer some physical training tips, but as a sport psychologist, what would you suggest?

This question was posed during a recent sport psychology tele-consultation group meeting, and we all chimed in with some ideas. Jane, as I’m calling her, has been thinking about the mental elements of her race. She knows that her physical training has been thorough. According to her training program and the charts, she should be able to manage her goal time.

The #1 Best Workout for Distance Runners?

RunningonTrackSmallAre intervals more beneficial to distance runners than other workouts, such as steady state runs or tempos?

(Intervals consist of short bursts of high intensity runs separated by a recovery period of slow jogs.  Tempos are run at a “comfortably hard” pace, about 85% of max heart rate or an 8 out of 10 on the perceived exertion scale. Steady state runs are run slightly slower than tempo runs).

An article written by Alex Hutchinson in the March/April 2011 issue of Canadian Running reported on a Danish study that attempted to answer this question.

The study consisted of two groups that ran three times weekly.  The interval group ran 5 x 2 minute sprints (5 repeats of 2 minute sprints) at 95% max heart rate. The second group completed hour long steady state runs at 80% max. After 12 weeks, the group running intervals had increased aerobic fitness by 14%, whereas the steady state group increased theirs by 7%.

The Keys to Running Injury-Free

ButtPainPreventing injury is critical to consistently running your best; maximizing the physical, psychological and social benefits you derive from running.

Yet, studies show that on average, 63% of women runners get injured every year. That’s almost two-thirds that are forced to miss training due to injury!

What does science-based research conclude you must do to join the injury-free minority?

What to Eat Before Your Run

EatingBeforeRun“What should I eat before running?” is a question that I’m frequently asked.

While looking through the “email bag”, I came across a query from a reader:

“I usually run 7-10 km (4-6 miles) early in the morning.  Do you have a recommendation on what to eat before I run?” Heather.

Thank you for writing in, Heather.

For runs up to an hour in duration: Assuming you do not have diabetes, a blood sugar problem or any other related medical condition, try running without eating beforehand.  Many runners find that they can comfortably complete early morning runs of this distance without taking in prior food.

How to Stay Energized for Running

stay energized for runningFinding time to stay energized for running can be very challenging for busy women.

Jane has a very hectic work schedule and often finds herself training when her energy level is at a low point.

Jane: Like many women, I have a crazy, busy job.  I commute at 6:30 AM every day and get home around 5:30 or 6:00.  I have two challenges:

  1. Fuelling for evening workouts – I don’t have time when I get home to eat before I workout/train.  I have lunch around noon which is normally a salad with salmon and an apple.  It is a challenge some days to eat a snack given the meetings I attend.  I often am doing my workouts hungry.  Any suggestions?
  2. Energy – at almost 48 years old and with a busy life – any suggestions on keeping up the energy levels?

Dehydration Myths for Runners

WaterBottlesmConventional wisdom among runners is that dehydration is to be avoided at all costs.   After all, doesn’t dehydration cause overheating? Doesn’t dehydration often result in heat distress? Doesn’t dehydration severely impair performance? Aren’t runners who collapse near or at the end of a race severely dehydrated and should be treated with rapid hydration?

Most of the running community will answer these questions with a resounding “yes”.  This all seems very logical and commonsense……….but it is not true!

Over 40 and Stealing the Show

WomanRacingsmMasters runners (runners over the age of 40) are fastest growing demographic in running. An article written by Gretchen Reynolds (that appeared in December 21st, 2011 New York Times Well Blog) quotes French research that studied New York City Marathon finishers.  Dr. Romuald Lepers, one of the authors: “The percent of finishers younger than 40 years significantly decreased, while the percent of master runners significantly increased for both males and females.”

Even more impressive – the French study also found that in recent years, the average finishing time of the fastest men runners age 60+ decreased by 7%; older women’s times dropped a  whopping 16%!!

On a related note, research has great news for older runners who aim to improve their running and racing!

Should You Run Through Discomfort or Pain?

PainsmThis is a question Bennett frequently hears from coaching clients.  Discomfort, aches and pains during training can be expected.  When to run through and when to stop running? When is the ache or pain a red stop light?

Guidelines

During a workout, it’s OK to run through an occasional muscular twinge.  If the twinge persists, worsens or forces you to alter your gait, your body telling you “this way more stress and strain than I can handle”.  Cut your workout short and head home.  Ice the affected area several times daily for the first 48 hours.  See Icing – No Muss No Fuss for tips on icing.

Why Women over 40 Need More Rest Than Younger Women Runners or Male Runners

Take time to recharge your battery. You won’t get the Golden Egg without first taking care of the Goose.

Frank McKinney

Daphne was a 64 year old nurse who had started running at age 56. Bitten by the running bug, she began to enter local races, working her way up to the marathon. She was now running 5 days per week.  In addition, she hit the gym for two strengthening sessions and a spin class every week.  She did yoga too.  Her dream was to qualify for Boston.  Daphne needed to reduce her marathon time by 23 minutes to qualify.

She asked me: “What is the best way to improve so that I can qualify for Boston without killing myself?”

We redesigned her training program to include more rest and recovery.  We reduced her running from 5 days per week to 3 weekly runs; two faster paced runs and either a long run, race pace run or shorter recovery run.  She kept the spin, yoga and modified the strengthening classes.  She was running 40% less frequently!

She implemented her new program. The increased rest and recovery paid off big time!  She slashed a whopping 33 minutes off her marathon, qualifying for Boston with 10 minutes to spare – just 6 weeks shy of her 65th birthday! (from 5:08 to 4:35:39 at the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon).

 

Why Are Rest and Recovery Critically Important for Women Runners Over 40?

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