Digging Out of a Running Slump

There’s not better feeling than a runner’s high; runs feel easy, exhilarating, while riding an endorphin high.  But it’s not just a runner’s high, but an endurance fitness high, one that leaves you feeling happy and confident.

Equally power, yet detrimental to physical and mental well-being is the running slump.  Stagnation, boredom, loss of motivation, and dread are commonly experienced during a slump.  Digging yourself out of a slump can feel like an impossible task. 

And when running is no longer joyful, it’s time for change.

What is a running slump?

Dips in motivation are common and normal for new and experienced runners alike.  Not all training days will feel great, and bad days come to an end.  However, if negative feelings persist, it’s time to shake things up. 

A number of factors can trigger a running slump, such less-than-ideal weather, stressful personal situations, and stagnation with a regular fitness routine. 

①  Take a Break

There are few things worse during training than when running feels forced, requiring large amounts of mental energy to do what was once pleasurable.  It’s a downward spiral with few good outcomes. 

ACTION:  Time away from the rigors of training can do wonders for the soul.  A few days off can provide the necessary rest and recovery to break out a running funk.  Eat, sleep, and find joy in life. 

②  Introduce Variety

When you feel bored by your usual routes, pace, or training style, try something new.  Stagnation is the enemy of progress.  Variety presents opportunities to adapt and experience new things. 

ACTION: Join a local running club.  Sign up for a different style race – Ragnar, Spartan, trail.  Explore new routes.  Experiment with a different training system. 

③  Mental Reset

No matter what, remember that running slumps are part of the journey of every runner.  There’s no need to feel down on yourself if you need to take a few days off or simply reset mentally.  Focus on progress, not perfection or total adherence to a training plan.  A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. 

ACTION: Maintain a fitness routine, but replace running with walking, hiking, or other low-impact activities.  Increase sleep, napping if possible.

The Importance of Posture

Posture.

Bring mindfulness to your posture throughout the day.

  • Are your feet pointed straight forward and parallel to each other, shoulder-width apart, and directly under your hips? 
  • Is your spine and lumbo-pelvic-hip complex neutral?
  • Are your shoulders level and scapulae parallel to each other?
  • Is your head in neutral position?

If not, strive to adopt this position at all times.  In a neutral position, the body is at its most stable.

Proper posture maximizes your highest level of functional strength, keeping muscles at their proper length, allowing them to work together correctly, ensuring proper joint motion, maximizing force production, and reducing the risk of injury.

Without proper posture, the body degenerates and experiences altered movement patterns and muscle imbalances.  These deficiencies can lead to common injuries, such as shin splints, IT band syndrome, lower back pain, and plantar fasciitis. 

HOW POSTURE DECLINES

An Occupation or Hobby That Requires Extended Periods of Sitting

When people sit for prolonged periods of time throughout the day, the hip flexors (rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, and iliopsoas).  The problem is further compounded, especially when seated in front of a computer or hand-held device.  There is a tendency for the shoulders to round forward and the head to protrude forward. 

High Heels

Shoes with a high heel puts the ankle and foot in a plantarflexed (toe pointed) position for extended periods of time, leading to tightness of the calf (gastrocnemius), soleus, and Achilles tendon.  Decreased dorsiflexion (toes pulled up) and overpronation result from this postural imbalance, resulting in flattening of the arch of the feet. 

Flip Flops

Walking in flip flops requires the big toe to clench to keep them from slipping off.  When this occurs, the plantar fascia and tissues in the arch get shortened, altering the proper function of the foot.  The heel cord is shortened, the Achilles tendon is affected, the arches are stressed, resulting in pain. 

Sitting with Legs Crossed

Aside from temporarily raising blood pressure, sitting with legs crossed introduces muscle imbalances that result in poor posture.  Prolonged sitting in this position leads to a rounding of the back.  When the back is rounded, shoulders roll forward, the chin juts forward, and the lumbar lordosis (i.e. small of the back) is minimized.  This posture stresses the spine and increases the pressure on the gluteus maximus.

A study performed by the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam replicated different sitting positions by embalming pelvises. They found that the piriformis muscle in the buttock was tighter by 11% in the group that crossed their legs at the knee compared to the group that kept their legs uncrossed.  Piriformis syndrome is when the piriformis is tight and spasming, causing low back pain.

Pelvic Imbalances

The pelvis is the body’s center.  When in the neutral position – the middle position – not tilted forward or backward (lateral view) or uneven (anterior view), the spine assumes a natural curve.  When the pelvis is tilted or uneven, the center of gravity changes, creating muscle imbalance.  When one part of the body doesn’t work correctly, other parts have to compensate for the weak point. Weakness of supporting muscles causes superficial muscles to be overworked, which may result in pain, excess muscle tension, and spasms.

Carrying small children on the hip, weak core muscles, and standing with weight distributed on one leg are all sources of pelvic imbalances. 

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS

Identifying improper patterns of both static and dynamic posture in an athlete is the starting point for improving posture. The question of how imbalances originate is one that requires examination of form compensations listed above. As athletes increase their understanding of proper alignment, their postural awareness begins to improve greatly. The more proficient athletes get in thinking about their body positions and mindful movements, the easier it becomes for them to identify good and bad alignment and make corrections.

BENEFITS OF A POSTURE ASSESSMENT

 Completion of a postural assessment identifies muscle imbalances that lead to faulty movement patterns and decreases functional strength.  Identifying overactive and underactive muscles associated with poor posture allows a Certified Personal Trainer, chiropractor, physical therapist, and other professionals to create a program that strengthens underactive muscles while lengthening and stretching overactive muscles. 

Practicing mindfulness to your posture throughout the other hours of the day you’re not training – running, strength, etc. – will make you a better overall athlete.  The more you practice proper posture throughout the day, the more likely you are to maintain it during activity.

The result?  Smarter, stronger, and faster runners.

If you’d like to complete a postural assessment, please contact Coach Stephanie Harboe @ coach@ssfrunning.com for more information.

Train Smarter: Program workouts into your GPS watch

Runners love their GPS watches.

As a runner who grew up before the Internet and cell phones were ubiquitous, a Timex Ironman watch  was my high-tech gear .  As a result, I developed a strong awareness of perceived effort and self-awareness during my runs.

Technology can be wonderful guide for more effective training.  Programming workouts into your GPS watch allows you to focus quality training at appropriate intensity (speed, pace, duration, or by perceived effort) by taking over tracking distance, pace, duration.  No need to constantly check your watch, distracting you from engaging with what is important – pace control, breathing rate, perceived effort, and mental focus.

Benefit from programmed workouts.

  • pace control, staying at appropriate intensity every type of training effort
  • tempo and stamina training that includes multiple repetitions of different distance/time
  • progression runs, exhibiting pace control early making the faster finish more likely to occur (mimics a smart half and full marathon race strategy)
  • internalize pace, specifically race pace
  • focus on how running form changes with increasing speed/intensity
  • accountability for completing challenging training when motivation is low

Understanding how to program a workout to your Garmin (or other GPS model) device is a valuable skill to possess.  It is relatively simple, once you are familiar with the process.

Step 1:  Open Garmin Connect.  Log in to your account.

Garmin Connect sign in

Step 2:  Hover over the ‘C’ in the upper left corner to display the menu.  Select Training, then Workouts.   Choose Run under the activity type drop-down menu, then press the blue Create a Workout button.

Garmin Connect - create a workout

Step 3:  Create your workout, using the buttons in the upper right corner and within segments displayed.

Garmin Connect create a workout

A stamina cut down run workout I run involved multiple distances and pace ranges.  Programming the workout in Garmin Connect allows me to create a custom workout, including specific pace ranges – among other variables.  Here is what the workout looks like in Garmin Connect.

Garmin Connect stamina cut down run

Step 4:  Save the workout by pressing the blue Save Workout button.

Press Send to Device, then select your device.

Garmin Connect send to device

Garmin Connect will then try to open Garmin Express (the installation program), if it is not already open.  Press cancel, ensure the screen displays Workout Saved, then Log Out of Garmin Connect.

Step 5:  Open the Garmin Connect app on your mobile device.  Click More > Workouts > Run Workout.  Press the mobile device icon located right of the Run Workout title.  That will sync Garmin Connect to your watch, transfering the workout.

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Step 6:  Locate the workout on your Garmin watch.  Press the Run button (upper right) > Menu > Training > My Workouts > then select the specific workout created.  You have the option to view the workout before you begin, pressing Do Workout to start.

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Tips

  • Turn auto lap settings off.  Otherwise the watch will vibrate and display auto lap (usually 1 mile) information.
  • Pressing start will begin the workout.  The watch will vibrate and display directions on the screen at every transition.  For example, when the warm up time is complete and next segment begins or when a recovery segments begins.
  • If you add pace, speed, or heart rate information to the workout when programming the watch (see Step 3), the watch will vibrate and display information if you are too fast, too slow, or within set ranges.  Fastest Pace is displayed when under pace.  Slowest Pace is displayed when over pace. In Desired Range is displayed when running within the programed pace range.  If you are not ready for multiple vibration alerts to occur during the run, do not include specific pace, speed, or heart rate ranges to the program.
  • Once the cool down time or duration is complete, the screen will display the red square, denoting the workout is done.  However, after a small delay, resume will be displayed on the screen.  Pressing the run button will continue the run.  I typically extend the cool down period, as I rarely finish exactly at my finish location.
  • Multiple workouts can be created and sent to the Garmin, where they will be stored.

Lessons of the Marathon: Course Selection

Running the marathon is the easy part.

Planning, preparing, and performing quality training for 14-18 weeks is the tough part.

Selecting a course – one that closely aligns with your race goal – can make or break the race experience.   Personal preferences – temperature, number of marathon participants, and time of year, among many factors – are important to consider when selecting your next marathon.  Add adequate training time (12-18 weeks for a marathon, dependant on individual) to the list.  And “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” applies too.

Here are the steps I take when selecting a course for a marathon.

marathon Continue reading

YOU are an Experiment of ONE

As the end of 2018 rapidly approaches, the desire to introduce change – commonly known as New Year’s Resolutions – is overwhelming.  You may feel compelled to transform into the ultimate runner.

Rather than place unrealistic expectations upon yourself, I challenge you to re-frame this desire for transformation.

Williamsburg running

Continue reading

Achieve Peak Performance with a Proper Warmup

An appropriate warm up primes your body and mind for upcoming training or competition.

Priming is an important component to training, especially harder effort runs.  Priming prepares the physiological and psychological systems for use or action.  A short 10-15 minute warmup routine primes the body for the demands of harder effort training, such as interval, lactate threshold, or VO2 max training or competition. Continue reading

Common Courtesy Builds a Happy, Healthy Community

I am very fortunate to live in a vibrant, active town.  Copious sidewalks, wide bike trails, walking and running trails throughout town, large parks and plentiful green space, and numerous garbage receptacles with free dog poop bags are a few of the reasons people choose to live in here.  It is rare to drive and not see individuals, groups, and families outside walking, biking, running, playing at the park, or participating in sports.

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New Army Physical Fitness Training (APFT) option released

SSF Running is pleased to offer a self-directed 6-week training plan specifically designed for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).

Athletes will receive a detailed 6-week training plan via Final Surge, the guide How to Apply Pace Guidance to 6-week APFT Plan, links to training articles, and a soon-to-be-released guide Race Strategies for the APFT.

 

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INDEPENDENT 6-week APFT TRaining Plan

 


DISCLAIMER:  Training results will be influenced by factors such as
family demands, TDY, FTX and unit-PT obligations. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the is a guide,not a guarantee. That being said, the APFT training plan is a realistic projection for which the athlete should strive to obtain through practicing patience, discipline and consistency over the 6-week training period.

Smarter, Stronger Runs:  Pick Ups

As a coach, I love using pick ups to introduce speed work to athletes.  Whether I am working with a new runner to build endurance and strength or an experienced runner preparing to start a longer training cycle, pick ups are great for all runners.

When I mention speed work, most runners assume track workouts.  That is hardly the case.  Track work can be intimidating for newer runners, boring for experienced runners.  There are a few outliers who love the track – hooray for them – and by all means can complete pick up workouts there.

Personally, I love the track for interval workouts, but find my happy place for all other workouts on roads and trails.  Plus, my races do not occur on a track.  I try to train on the surfaces that closely mimic race conditions (surface and elevation).  Continue reading