Mizuno Fit Friday: Running Drills Part 1

Today on Fit Friday I want to share with the runners out there some important running drills. I’m starting with A and B for now. These two exercises are essential to do before any workouts and your race.

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Running A drill

These drills are essentially to prepare you body for the motion of running. The series of drills are basically slowed down, exaggerated running movements broken up to narrow in on each phase of the running form. Start with the Running A’s, you bring your knee up toward your chest and allows the arms to follow naturally as they would if you were running. Rather than bounce through the move, you need to make sure to have contact with the ground at all times. The movement is coming only from the hip, pulling the knee in an upward movement. The A drill will start to increase blood flow and range of movement in the hip and pelvis area. This drill is more about warming up the muscle.

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B running Drill. End position.

Moving to the B drill, this movement is very similar to the A drill. The difference is you will slowly bringing the knee up towards the chest, but on the downward movement, you will snap the leg down twice as fast as you lifted it up. This drill is meant to activate the glutes, and hamstrings and promote good running form. This drill is a must do, to prevent injuries like tears and strains, which are common in the hamstring area.

The drills seem silly and waste of time and are often underused by runners. These drills work though. Rather than static stretching, which often times will turn a muscle off, drills activate the muscles, and making sure they are all firing together. Drills only need to be done before a run, workout or race, where static stretching should be done post activity.

If you have any exercises you are curious about please let me know and I will definitely feature them on Fit Friday!

Stay tuned for more fit tips and running drills in the coming weeks.
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Cross-country vs Trail running

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Cross-country season is just weeks away from starting. While some runners are moving into taper mode and prepping for there half or full marathon, there is another group of us who are just starting a new season. For the last two years, I’ve spent a good part of the time inside the trails and racing distances from 5km’s to 50miles. I love trail running but trail running and cross-country are not at all the same thing.

I remember last year at many cross-country races being asked why I’m not a fan of the sport when I spend so much time trail running. My response was always the same, “they are not even the same sport!.” Cross-country runners seem baffled by this statement. Recently at a trail race, someone said how she feels they would be good at cross-country because they are so similar. Again my response was “they are not the same sport.”

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Here are some major differences between these two sports that seem to take place on similar terrain.

  1. DISTANCE: Cross-country racing is usually 5km to 10km distances, some as short as 4km even. Trail running is generally longer in nature 7km to 100miles.
  2. TERRAIN: Cross-country has very similar terrain. In my experience, the terrain is more groomed trails, grass and not nearly as technical as a trail course. Trail running can be just as hilly as cross-country, but the climbs can be both technical and in some cases have to be hiked up. Trail runners often talk in distance and elevation. Cross-country runners will rattle on about pace and the only elevation they are concerned about is their how high their heart rate will go.
  3. SPEED: This is where things can get very different. Track-and-field athletes often attend cross-country races. This group of runners only knows one pace, FAST. Trail runners can be extremely competitive as well but often times the paces are much slower, due to the a more technical terrain and longer distance.
  4. SHOES: What these two types of runners where on their feet are very different. Cross-country runners will be sporting the typical cross-country spike. What you find in this runners bag is a container full of replacement spikes in various sizes. In cross-country you will encounter dry, wet and muddy and even snow covered trails. For each of these conditions, a particular spike will be necessary. Trail running shoes are a specialty shoe all onto themselves. Some have big lugs for better traction, carbon rock plates, extra big cushioning or even a very minimalist profile. I pick my trail running shoes depending on the technical nature of the trail.
  5. CLOTHING: cross-country runners are simple, since the races are fast and over quite quickly, it will not differ much from what these runners wear on a track. Trail runners on the other hand often have to bring their own hydration and food to get from aid station to aid station. Compression socks have become popular in this sport. Hydration packs are almost always and essential must-have. In some cases trail runners will need a crew and point where they need to change their pack, clothes and shoes.

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Trails shoes vs Cross-country Spikes

This is of course, what I’ve come to notice about the similarities and differences of these two sports. Both are fun but each has their own language, look and race day quirks. To prep and train for my cross-country season I’ll spend most of the training days on a softer surface, like grass and groomed trails. Doing race specific speeds on anything more technical is risking some major sidelining injuries.

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Trail running season never ends!

I can say I love trail running for the laid back and friendly vibe that fills a field on race day. Trail running also doesn’t seem to have a beginning or end to the season. It’s a sport that just keeps going all year round. Cross-country unfortunately has a very defined and short season, making you feel like you’re cramming for an exam.

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What I pack for a long distance trail race.

The one thing both sports have in common is, they have a very small number of participants than most road races get. This makes both sports very appealing to newcomers. It’s not intimidating to jump into a race, and both communities will welcome you with open arms.

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It’s fast and fun – give Cross-country a try!

Motivation Monday: Post-Race Blues

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I’ve talk about the post-race blues before. This is a real ailment amongst athletes. You train so hard for one big goal and then it’s just another memory. This particular bout of the blues is slightly different. I was excited to come home from my trip and spend the next two weeks cycling while I gave my running legs a break. Unfortunately the small injury I got while racing overseas was the one injury that is not bike friendly.

If I had to put it into perspective, I’m sure the absolute rest period is better for me anyway. The training cycle I’ve just completed is probably once of the most intense cycle’s I’ve done in a very long time. Mentally and physically I was 100% committed. This process takes its toll on you however. Even if you feel totally healthy, you still require a moment to rest. Without the rest you run the risk of physical and mental burnout. Having been through both of these states at one point in my life, it’s not something I can imagine having to go through again. I will take the post-race blues any day over burnout.

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Find a way to rest up!

The best way to get through a post-race state of depression requires just a few simple things.

  1. Stay active. This doesn’t mean go out and run when you shouldn’t, but walks, easy cardio at the gym or start adding core training. This is a good time to start a strength training program that will stick for your next season
  2. Don’t be ashamed of how you feel and spend time with friends and family. Social interaction is the best medicine even when you really don’t feel like being around anyone.
  3. Do something nice for yourself. Pamper yourself and take a moment to enjoy the things you never had time for while you deep in your training.
  4. Start thinking and planning for your next season. This is a good time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work last season. More important than looking at your strengths, assess your weaknesses. If you have coach, together make a plan. If you don’t have one, consider adding one to achieve your next goal.
  5. If your funk last more than a week, consider seeing your doctor. Although you may think it’s just the blues, it could be more serious. Examples could be iron or B vitamin deficiencies, which are very common with athletes.
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Try new activities

With one major goal down, I have my next goal set in stone. Since I’ve committed the next two years of my life to going back to the basics, the next stage for me is cross-country season. I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with this sport. I’ve been looking forward to this season and will be planning to attend the Canadian Championships in Kingston.

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Mizuno Fit Friday – The Inch Worm

Whether you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete, you need to have a strong core. The muscle groups that make up your core are the Abdominal muscles (Internal and External Obliques, Transverse Abdominus and the Rectus Abdominus), the Glutes and the small muslces in your back call the Erector Spinae.

Especially for runners, the main muscle groups you think you use are quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. By the time you are at the end of your marathon, all these muscles have stopped firing and it’s the core muscles that are being used to get you across the finish line. Naturally you want to ensure you target these muscles often throughout your training program.

Between work, family, friends and then training the gym seems like a dainting task. I try to keep things simple in this department. Easy 10-15 minute exercises I can do at the gym or in my house.My favourite one and the most simple full core workout is the inchworm, or as some call it the caterpillar.

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It’s simple to do and after three or four sets you will feel the burn. To start get yourself into a plank position where your wrists are under your shoulders and your hips are in a neutral position. You should not feel any pressure in your low back to start.

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From the plank position you slowly walk your feet to your hands until you come into a downward dog position. Keep your hands planted under your shoulders and even separate your shoulder blades as you move your feet forward.

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Plank with a pushup

Hold downward dog for a breath and then slowly walk your hands back out to your neutral plank position, keeping your feet planted. Once you are back at the start position continue the movement until you get to fatigue. What I like to do is set a goal ahead of me around 20M away and not quit until I reach the goal.

This exercise can be done everyday after your workout or every other day. To make it a bit more challenging once you get the hang of it, you can add a pushup in the plank position.

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My Adventures in Lyon: Part Trois

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With an unexpected 1500M finals in my legs, I only had two days to recover for the half marathon. My friend Sebastien is also a runner so he understood my need to take it easy. So we spent the day seeing an amazing graffiti museum where many of my favourite artists have left their mark. If I hadn’t befriended Seb, I would not have known such a fantastic place existed.

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That evening, as I packed and prepped for my race, I had resolved myself to the idea that no matter what this was going to be a very uncomfortable half marathon. I had also realized, that I’ve never done a marathon with an injury and I’d be going against every principle I usually follow. The morning started at 5am, and as I made my way to the metro station, Lyon was still awake and enjoying the weekend.

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Mentally I felt amazing. Based on my previous half marathon times, I could possibly be in contention for a medal. I warmed up and my legs still felt heavy, but I kept telling myself, after a few kilometres things could change. As I headed for the start line, my heart was smiling. As much as I love the track, the half marathon is absolutely my favourite long distance race. I felt like I was amongst my own people. I understood these folks and knew how to relate.

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From the word go, the race sucked (at least for me). It hurt in ways I haven’t experienced. The night before my coach said “you have experienced the burn of the 800M and the fatigue of the Ultra distance, you can get through this race.” As I raced, I had to keep telling myself this, because I was actually feeling both the burn and the fatigue at the same time. By 5km it was clear this race wasn’t going to be a medal race or even a personal best. It was going to be a test to see how much I can endure. I’d committed to finishing and pushing the limits of my mind and my body. As coach Timo so wisely tells me often, “a good sailor knows how to sail without a wind.”

As I crossed the finish line, I took a deep breath, and was thankful it was all over. After a moment to think, my heart felt heavy. It was a feeling I can only describe as a broken heart. As much as I love the half marathon, I felt it was time we see other people and take a break. I understood so clearly the need for specificity. I have many strengths and many weaknesses, but my strongest assest is my running range. I love to run no matter what the distance. In order to accomplish some of the short term goals I have in mind, the longer races will have to take a back seat. This made me sad. I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to say goodbye, but some part of me wants to for now. I’m not quitting; I want to give myself the chance to become even stronger.

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The WMAC games were so many things for all of us. Amazing, hard, intense, fun, inspiring, painful, grinding, but it was a dream come true. It was my first games but I know it won’t be my last.

My Adventures in Lyon: Part Deux

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My adventures in Lyon, France started off to a rocky start. (Click to read) However, after many amazing words from my mom, coach and all my friends, I had decided to make the most of what was left.

Technically I still had two to three more races to compete in, yet still unable to walk without pain. I was more than thankful to have a good friend in Lyon who is a chiropractor and we arranged for me to get treated every other day leading up to my meets. Two days before my 1500M qualifying race, I was able to get through a short run, so there was hope.

The night before my race, I was still unsure if things would hold out. My mom sent me a message that made me want to cry. Then of course came the coaches’ words. “When you get to the line, forget about the leg, the pain and just run knowing you will have time to heal.” Normally we wouldn’t encourage running through pain, but in this case, I wasn’t doing irreparable damage and would get away with it. This consoled me and I think it worked. As runners we fuss over every little ache and pain wondering is it real, imagined or deny it’s there at all. I went for my warm up, it hurt, but I could lift my leg. This is important for running! Then to the call room, where things got official quickly. Phones had to be off, watches had to be off, you had to take your place in a lineup and be walked to the track by a race official. The track was hot, and I just wanted to get this over with.

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The very real call room

With my sights set on one of the girls in my heat, the minute the gun went off, I stuck to her shoulder. I raced inside the pack of women for pretty much the whole race, falling off the main pack in the last lap. I crossed the finish absolutely ecstatic. I did it and I did it with some amazing runners. Once I caught my breath and congratulated the other women, I ran so fast to my friends and I was literally jumping for joy. I didn’t know my time, I didn’t know anything and I didn’t care. After a few more minutes, I went to check the results. I was doubtful I made the finals, but I did! I was so happy. I had just squeaked in but I would be able to do the 1500M race (my favourite track race) one more time in France.

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1500M qualifying race

The days between races were even more amazing. I had met a local and we had a blast! I got to see Lyon early in the morning on runs through the city and on walks through the evening. I got to day trip through wine country with Lynn from longboat. I even made a new friend who I’ve known of, but she lives in British Columbia. There was always someone to see or have coffee with and at moments I would forget I wasn’t home and was in fact on another continent.

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Celebration dinner with more runners!

The finals came and my leg was still not perfect, especially after racing in the qualifying heat. It was tender and sore to run, but if I did it once I would do it again. I put on my best game face and toed the line with my strategy set. I wasn’t nervous, but I was concerned about how my strategy might play out. This was my first time in a long time having to implement such a plan in a finite amount of time.

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My new bestie!

The gun went off and the scramble to the inside lane was calmer than I expected. I had to run the first lap in 1:21 to ensure a Personal best, and the pace of the pack seemed comfortable. Imagine you are driving behind a car going 140 km/hour and you just followed it, you wouldn’t know if you were going that fast or not unless you checked yourself. Without the aid of my watch, I had to rely on the pack, and what felt like a smooth start was in fact the fastest race I have participated in this year. I rounded the first lap in 1:15, and I had that “oh shit” moment. This is going to hurt like hell. By lap two the pack started to separate and elbows were flying as the girls jockeyed themselves into the preferred position. Lap three and four were just brutal. The only reason I even finished it at all was because of my friend Lylah. She said just before I took to the track, “ at 600M to go, no matter how much it hurts, just run as hard as you can.” So I did. I gave it everything I had which at this point wasn’t much. I crossed the finish line and it was at this point I understood what I call “track carnage”. This is when the athletes sprawl across the finish line, trying to catch their breaths. My legs folded, all I could taste was blood and I both hated and loved every moment of it.

I picked myself up and got some pictures, grabbed my bag and slowly headed back to my friends. My body was destroyed, and as badly as my race went, I wasn’t disappointed. The last 30 minutes seemed a blur, a dream that I’ve imagining for a long time. Being in the finals of a world championship is a huge deal, and despite my setbacks, I still managed to accomplish this goal on my first try. There were close to 15 other girls who didn’t qualify.

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The pain cave!

There was a lot I learned from both 1550m experiences. The best of all was just being part of the action and seeing how competitive my age group really is. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m committed to seeing what my potential can be.

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The girl I was always chasing in the 1500m race.

Adventures in Lyon 2015

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There is no good reason to make a post but to update you all about my adventures in Lyon, France. So far I’ve been both an athlete and a tourist depending on the day. After recovering from a very long flight hangover (it took me 48 hours to become human again), I had my first of several races. The 800M is my scariest race. I love it, I hate it and I want so badly to be better at it.

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With my training going perfectly well for the last 6 months, what was about to happen in the next 600M was absolutely soul crushing. First lap, was good, actually it was perfect. I felt comfortable and knew I was going to have a very good second lap. As we rounded the track for lap 2, the pace picked up and I had lots of energy. Then something started to feel wrong and as I dropped into my next gear at the 600M mark, my hip froze. I felt a tug, an excruciating pain down my leg and then I couldn’t lift my right leg properly anymore. I was determined to keep going, but unsure if I had a tear or something really bad. I crossed the finished line in 2:32, 1 second off the Longboat club record and was not very happy.

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Still not sure if I was injured badly, I watched the rest of the girls run and some went on the to finals. Despite my shitty race day, I was so excited and happy for Rita, Annie and Nancy. These girls were amazing.

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I ended up having to scratch my 5000M run and then the rest of the trip was up in the air. I saw a specialist, had some adjustments and found out, my pelvis was just stuck and I should be fine.

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So when the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I decided to see the city of Lyon and watch as many as my friend’s race as possible. Also I was excited to practice my really bad French.

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Lyon is amazing. I’ve been to a few places in France and Paris quite often. There is something very special about Lyon. Perhaps, I have not been properly taken around Paris, but I’ve had some good tour guides here and have seen Lyon through a locals eyes. If you love running and cycling you definitely want to check out Lyon.

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There are city trails, amazing parks and stairs for miles. If I could train here, I would definitely be a much fitter and stronger runner. The terrain is always changing and the sites never get boring.

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The people in Lyon are very kind and friendly and although it will be hard to find people that will talk English with you, take it as opportunity to learn something new.

With two somewhat successful training runs in my pocket, I have 1 1500M race scheduled for tomorrow. I can only hope for the best, and run what I can. I can’t promise it will go well, or I will even be able to finish the race, but I’m going to wake up tomorrow and hope that things will hold out for the almost 4 laps I have to run.

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My first thoughts were why? My second thoughts were why? With my mom and my coach, I was able to step out of my head and come to understand that I did all the right things, I could not have expected this to happen and to learn as much as you can from an experience that’s less than ideal. I’m reminded as always, things could be worse and to be thankful that I’ve been dealt only a minor setback. I have run and will run again. It’s not forever and with patience you heal.

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As for my canfitpro contests the last two weeks, I have some announcements! The winners have been contact by email and get yourself registered as soon as possible. If you did not win, you should still go to the event. It’s such a good time with so many classes to choose from.

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