Tag Archives: Coaching

Run Inspired Coaching

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I am SO excited to announce something that has been a very long time coming. Run Inspired Coaching, LLC is now officially open for business! I can’t explain how good it feels to be able to use something that I’m so passionate about to help others.

Invest in Yourself

Back when I started this blog in 2011, it was just a way for me to document my running journey in a fun way. Over the years, the blog has made me fall even more in love with running and helped me take this hobby of mine more seriously. Eventually I pursued my dream of becoming certified as a running coach through the RRCA, and now everything is in place for me to officially start coaching. I currently have two clients, and it is so exciting!!!

This blog will always be what I intended it to be – a place to share my training, thoughts, and life as a runner and a mother. It will not turn into a place where I am constantly advertising my business – although it’s now a big part of my life so I’m sure I’ll talk about it from time to time. For anyone who is interested, I have created separate websites and social media accounts for Run Inspired Coaching, and I’ll link them below in case you’d like to follow me there or get more information about the services I’m offering.

As always, thank you for reading this little blog of mine, and thank you for your support!

Website: http://www.runinspiredcoaching.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/runinspiredcoaching

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RunInspiredKate

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/runinspiredcoaching/

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Spotlight on Hills

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Hills. Love them or hate them, they’re so good for us runners in many ways! I personally have a love/hate relationship with hills, but I run them for two reasons: 1) It’s pretty impossible to avoid them where I live, and 2) the benefits are amazing! However, many of us aren’t getting the most out of our hill running. We run up and down them with inefficient form, we choose hills that are too big or steep and don’t give ourselves enough time to recover. We let them defeat us. I’m here to help you learn how to love and embrace hills rather than fight them- and how to use them to become a stronger, better runner.

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I am part of a local Moms Run This Town group, and was invited to talk to the ladies in a hill clinic this afternoon. We met near a local running path, discussed why running hills is great for you, how to have proper uphill and downhill running form, different types of hill workouts, and more. Then we did a warmup and some hill repeats. I did a few then I watched the ladies and gave them feedback on their form. Finally, we celebrated our hard work with snacks and cupcakes 🙂 I wanted to write a post about the information I shared with these fabulous ladies, because I think it can benefit all of us! Below are the tips I gave to the women in a handout I made, and then we used these tips to practice form on both a long, steady hill (1:30-2:00 minutes to get up) and a shorter, steeper hill (20-30 seconds up). 

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WHY RUN HILLS?

  • Hill running improves both strength and speed.
  • Running up hills forces the knees to lift higher, which is great for runners because this helps develop optimal stride speed and length.
  • It also develops your slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, which increases overall strength and power.

RUNNING UPHILL

  • Take smaller steps up hills. Shorter, quicker strides keep your power and center of gravity underneath your body which makes you run up the hill more efficiently.
  • Keep your torso tall, head and neck up. Try not to slouch.
  • Look to the crest of the hill rather than straight down.
  • Drive your elbows back rather than across your body.
  • Keep your hands relaxed rather than in fists. Loose hands help the whole body stay relaxed.

RUNNING DOWNHILL

  • Running downhill causes stress/eccentric contractions on the quadriceps and lower legs. This can lead to ankle, hip, and knee injuries if not done correctly, and is why there are a lot more tips on form for running downhill compared to uphill!
  • Let gravity do some of the work while still maintaining control.
  • Don’t look straight down at your feet, look 10-15 feet in front of you like you are holding a piece of fruit under your chin.
  • Maintain an upright posture, lean forward slightly from ankles, engage your core. Align your upper body over your lower body or slightly ahead of it, which battles your natural tendency to lean backwards and slow down.
  • Shorten your stride and quicken your cadence. Lighter steps will help you land more on your mid-foot and not cause you to use your heel as a brake.
  • Keep a slight bend in the leg that is landing so that your knee doesn’t absorb all the impact.
  • Keep your arm swing under control. A shortened arm swing will help you keep your stride short.

TYPES OF WORKOUTS

  • 3 main ways to do hill training:
    1. Long hill runs for endurance (sprinkling hills throughout your short and long runs)
    2. Long hill reps for strength (1-5 minutes to get up the hill)
    3. Short hill reps for speed (30-60 seconds to get up the hill)
  • No matter which type of hill workout you choose, always warm up first with at least 10-15 minutes of easy running. Allow yourself to fully recover after hill efforts by slowing down your pace, walking or even stopping to rest entirely if needed to bring your heart rate back down again. Finally, make sure to cool down with slower running or walking once you are finished.
  • When beginning to incorporate hills into your routine, start small and build gradually. It’s best to sprinkle these different types of hill workouts into your training 1-2x a week.
  • Start with 3-4 hill reps and then add on when you feel you can. Aim for 15-20 minutes of solid hill work if you are newer to hills, and 20-30 minutes if you are more experienced.
  • Preview course elevation maps and try to match your training to what the course demands. For example, if you’re training for a race that has a large hill toward the end, throw one into the end of your long runs. This will help you teach your body (and your mind!) to get up hills on tired legs. Or if you have a race coming up that has rolling hills through the entire course, try to do some long runs on routes that are similar.

PACING/EFFORT

  • General rule: Easier on the way up, faster on the way down.
  • Work with the flow of the terrain and the hill rather than against it.
  • Two approaches:
    1. By effort – Aim to keep a steady, consistent effort during all of your hill repeats. This teaches your body to run efficiently even when it’s tired. Depending on your goals, the length of the hill or the grade, the effort level you aim for may vary. I like to use the 1-10 scale: Long hill reps would be about a 6-7, and short hill reps would be about 8-9.
    2. By pace – You can also try to complete each hill repetition within a certain time or at a certain pace, depending on your goals.
  • NOTE: No matter which approach to pacing/effort you choose- be careful when trying to run hills fast. Sometimes focusing too much on speed can cause us to lose control of form.
  • A simple rule of thumb is to finish every hill repeat workout with just enough left in the tank to run one more repeat if you had to.

MIND GAMES & STRATEGIES

  • Counting steps as you run up to take your mind off it. You can also compare the number of steps you take for each repeat. Ideally if you’re maintaining the same level of effort you should be taking around the same amount of steps.
  • Mantras (“Up and over,” “Embrace the hill,” “Just a couple minutes of my life,” “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”)
  • Visualization: springing up the hill, running mountains, etc. Whatever motivates you to get you up the hill… DO IT!

I hope this post will help as you tackle those hills! Remember, don’t be afraid to do the hard work. It will only make you stronger inside and out!

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What are your favorite hill running tips? Do you have any mind games, mantras, or favorite hill workouts to share?

My other “Running Tips” posts:

Marine Corps Historic Half

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Last Sunday I ran with my friend Amanda in the Historic Half Marathon and had an AMAZING time. The Historic Half is part of the Marine Corps Marathon series. I’ve done many of the races in this series in the past and they have all been super fun, well-organized, with Marines all over the course- all great things! One thing about these races are that they have a reputation to be tough. Most of them are hilly, and in true Marines fashion, they almost all have a hill (or two) at the end. The Historic Half is no exception. In fact, they planned the route to include not one, but two massive hills, from about mile 10 – 12.

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Needless to say this course is VERY hard to PR on, but Amanda was determined to make it happen. She worked so hard and pushed herself like she had never done before in training. We ran the course together before the race and practiced the hills, and she was 100% ready. I was so excited to run with her and hopefully help her accomplish her goal!

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The other cool thing about this race is that it’s practically in my backyard! Fredericksburg is only about 20 minutes from where I live, but in true northern VA fashion it took almost an hour to get there because of traffic (at 6 a.m.!). Amanda lives in Fredericksburg, so it didn’t take her quite as long. But by the time I met up with her and we ran to the start (almost a mile away from where we parked), we only had about 5 minutes until the 7 a.m. start time. The other thing that you can always count on at Marine Corps races is that they will start exactly on time! We chose to get in our corral rather than wait in the long port-a-potty line, and hoped our urge to pee would go away. Luckily, it did 🙂 The temperature at this time was around 55 degrees. We were chilly at first in our shorts and tank tops but after our warm up we agreed that what we had decided to wear was perfect. There was a nice breeze and we felt comfortable and ready to get started.

Within a few minutes we were off and running. The first mile was very crowded as expected, and Amanda and I tried to make our way through the masses. I knew that she had come up with a gold, silver, and bronze goal for this race. Her bronze goal was just to finish the race. Her silver was the beat her PR, which was 2:09, and her gold goal was under 2:02. To achieve silver or gold I knew we had to keep her pace between 9:18 – 9:52/mile. I didn’t want to go out too fast, but I also knew that she was capable of running at the lower end of that range. Despite the crowds, we ran a pretty perfect first mile, and once it cleared out some and we were heading downhill our second mile was a tad on the fast side. I reined it in a little bit in the third mile, but we naturally fell into a faster pace again that. Amanda told me she was feeling good, so I went with it. She had decided not to wear a watch and did not want to  know what her pace or splits were, so I kept it to myself. I also made sure we started eating our Honey Stingers every 3 miles.

  • Mile 1 – 9:34
  • Mile 2 – 9:07
  • Mile 3 – 9:24
  • Mile 4 – 9:07

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After mile 4 we headed into a part of a course that wound through some of the neighborhood streets near downtown Fredericksburg. Amanda and I have run here many times, and I could tell she felt really comfortable running on such familiar ground. I kept telling her, this is HER town and HER race and she’s owning it! During the next few miles we kept our pace toward the lower end of her goal range and enjoyed the sights and sounds around us. There were tons of enthusiastic marines and spectators on the sidelines, a house with a sprinkler (it was starting to warm up so this felt great), and even a table with tequila shots set out on it. We didn’t take any- although I do love tequila 🙂

  • Mile 5 – 9:19
  • Mile 6 – 9:24
  • Mile 7 – 9:28

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I noticed that we passed the halfway point in just under 1:02, which was an awesome pace. However, I knew that we would most likely positive split since the hills were coming up. Shortly after mile 7 we headed into Amanda’s favorite part of the course- historic downtown Fredericksburg. I decided to use this exciting, spectator packed, slightly downhill part of the course and the adrenaline that came with it to boost Amanda’s pace a bit, and give her a little more of a cushion before the hills came- without killing her legs.

  • Mile 8 – 9:18
  • Mile 9 – 9:31

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After we left downtown and hit mile 9 I could tell Amanda was starting to get nervous. I asked her how she felt and she said she was starting to feel a little tired and knew some of that was mental. She had run Hospital Hill and the Cowan Boulevard hill many times and knew exactly what was to come, but I needed her to keep a positive attitude. She had no idea how fast of a pace she had kept so far and although I wanted so badly to tell her, I didn’t want to before the hills because I was afraid she’d stress and worry about maintaining it for the rest of the race. So I held back, and as we hit mile 10 and saw Hospital Hill ahead of us I told her that this was where it was going to start to feel uncomfortable, but that it was okay and she was 110% prepared for that. This is where she was going to show what she is made of!

  • Mile 10 – 9:31

Meanwhile, while we were running, Kevin and little Kevin were hanging out at the finish line, cheering on the other runners! Kevin’s getting really good at his, “Go, go, go!” and loves calling all the runners, “Mommy” :).

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As we started climbing Hospital Hill I asked Amanda if she wanted me to run beside her or slightly in front of her. She told me to run slightly ahead of her to help pull her up and keep her focused. This hill is a long, slow, incline, and just when you think you’re at the top, the course veers off to the right and makes you do an extra semi-circle before hitting the top. Amanda looked so strong and confident on this hill, and I told her quietly to look around her at all the people she was passing. I knew a little friendly competition was motivating to her, and it worked and made her smile too.

  • Mile 11 – 10:14

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She kept an awesome pace despite the hill, and although we did slow down it wasn’t by much. I knew we had a brief period of more flat ground before the second hill so I told her to focus on breathing and getting back into a comfortable rhythm before pushing it hard again. The second hill is shorter and steeper, but I think it hurts more than Hospital Hill because you’re already tired from it. Once she had her breathing and heart rate back under control, I started to go into tough coach mode. I told her she had this, and reminded her that she didn’t walk up these hills when she ran this race as her first half marathon 2 years ago, and she wasn’t going to walk now. I also reminded her about how she ran all the way up that monster bridge at mile 23 of the Outer Banks Marathon without walking. She’s done harder things and she was going to do this today.

So often I have run with Amanda and she’s finished amazing races and runs with regrets about what she should have done differently. I didn’t want her to feel that way today, so I told her it was time to leave it all on the course. I wanted her to know that she truly gave it all she had. As we started going up the second hill I looked at my watch and realized that with a little more than a mile to go, she was definitely going to PR. I decided to tell her this for a little extra motivation. I said to her, “I just want you to know, that you’re definitely going to PR- but it’s up to you to decide by how much. Now is the time to push it.” Told you I was in tough coach mode! She said she was going to do it and pushed ahead- I was so proud of her!

  • Mile 12 – 10:11

The ground started to level out after we hit mile 12 and we were about to turn right to run the final mile back to the finish line. A week before we had run the same part of this course at the end of our 8 miler, and I had her practice finishing strong once we turned the corner. I told her we were going to do the same thing today. After turning onto the straightway she picked up her pace as much as she could, and I told her we had just hit the 2 hour mark with a little more than a half mile to go. She was in shock when I told her that and she said she never thought she would be able to run that fast on this course. I told her she was doing it, and I got all emotional as I saw how happy she looked and how proud she was. The last half mile was the most exciting part. The roads were lined with people cheering and the music was playing loud. I saw Kevin on the sidelines cheering with little Kevin, and then I let her go ahead in front of me so I could take a picture of her finishing and PRing!!!

  • Mile 13 – 9:26
  • The last .1(8) – 9:01 pace

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  • Finish Time – 2:05:12 (9:33 average pace)

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I was SO proud of Amanda. Not only did she PR by almost 5 minutes, she set a course PR of 15 minutes! Last year when she ran this race, she finished in 2:20. It is a TOUGH course and she killed it!

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2:05!

I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding as a coach than to see someone you’re coaching accomplish a goal they’ve worked so hard to achieve.  It brought tears to my eyes watching her push herself at the end, and seeing the smile and shock on her face when she saw the clock. She left it all out on the course and I am so proud of her. I also had a few other friends who ran- including one who PRed by 11 minutes (!!), and one who finished her first half marathon- redemption after she was hit by a truck a year ago, only a few days before she was supposed to run the Historic Half. It was such a great day all around.

The Historic Half is one of the best half marathons ever- fun, well organized, full of awesome spectators and Marines… it’s just awesome! Every runner should come to Fredericksburg, Virginia to do this race! I know I’ll be back every year.

RRCA Coaching Certification Course Reflections

Wow. I just got home from a weekend full of talking and learning about running at the RRCA Coaching Certification Course. My brain feels like it might explode from information overload and I am still processing it all, but it was an amazing experience. To be surrounded by like-minded people discussing and becoming more knowledgable about a topic we are all passionate about- it really doesn’t get much better than that!

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The course was in Richmond, Virginia, which is only about an hour south of where we live. We decided to get a hotel and stay overnight though, because I would be in class from 8 – 5:00ish both days and my husband wanted to do some brewery touring and sightseeing while he was on baby duty. We headed down early Saturday morning and I could not wait to get started!

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The course covers a wide variety of running related topics and prepares us to work with beginner to advanced runners who are training for all distances and/or to meet personal goals. We learned about the history of coaching, types of runners and their training needs, exercise physiology, types of running and how to build periodized programs, running form, nutrition, the ‘business’ side of coaching, sports psychology, how to deal with injuries, heat, and altitude, and created and individualized program for a case study runner. Whew! Talk about information overload.

A lot of what we learned reinforced things that I already knew, but I did learn a ton of new things as well. I also learned some things that I have been doing that could be keeping me from reaching my full potential. I am not fully certified yet (I still need to take the online test and get CPR/First Aid certified), but I wanted to share some of the interesting tidbits that stuck out in my mind from the weekend.

  • The specificity of training. In the words of our instructor, “The system you stress is the system that improves. Specific stress leads to a specific results. To run fast you need to run fast. To run far you need to run far.” Sounds simple and it is, but this clicked for me. The job of a coach is to put this specificity and purpose into your client’s programs to help them become proficient at whatever it is they are working to achieve. The examples he gave us were, just like shooting free throws in basketball won’t help your golf swing, running at an 8:20 mile pace will get you proficient at running an 8:20 pace, not 8:00 or 9:00, and running 200 meter repeats will not help you get proficient at running a marathon. This specificity in terms of the types of running and training paces they should be doing is important to keep in mind as we build plans based on our client’s goals.
  • Cross training is called “cross training” for a reason. It is training at a slant to your primary activity and should provide equivalent stress to the body. Activities that mimic running form and improve cardiovascular ability (elliptical, bike, stair stepper, pool running, etc.) are the ones that will truly help you progress as a runner. Things like yoga, pilates, weight training, kickboxing, Cross-Fit, etc., are great for flexibility, strength and overall fitness but are not necessarily running-specific cross training. They can be categorized as ‘fitness activities.’ This was eye-opening to me because I admit, lately I go to Body Pump or do yoga on my cross training days and call it a day. While they are definitely not ‘bad’ for me, I know that I would benefit from adding a little running-specific cross training to my routine.
  • Strides. Do them. Incorporate strides into your workouts 2-3 times a week to activate and exercise your fast twitch muscle fibers. More about this later!
  • Exercise physiology. Super scientific stuff but I found it fascinating.  The human body is an amazing machine. For example, I learned that you build up more mitochondria (your body’s “energy factories”) faster and create better oxygen and blood flow while running at a conversational pace, which shows the importance of taking recovery/easy running days. This challenged the way I am currently training with the Run Less, Run Faster training program- only 3 high-intensity runs a week- which means these benefits are still happening inside my body but at a much slower rate. As a result of learning this I’m going to incorporate some easy running between my key runs.
  • “We’re all running from something…” Interesting concept to think about and I do believe it’s true.
  • Sports psychology. I really enjoyed this portion of the course about the mental aspect of running and training. This is the area that took so long for me to develop personally. We learned that there are 5 areas to focus on relaxing and keeping positive while running or racing: breathing, face, body, words, and images/visualization. It’s important to be aware of these 5 areas so you can support your runners and help them relieve their tension points- whether they need to be reminded to breathe in the clean air and breathe out the toxins and stress, relax their jaw or hands, or they need to hear a positive mantra at a difficult time.
  • Running in heat. I want to do a full post on running in warm temperatures as we get closer to summer, but one fact that stood out to me is that ideal marathon performance occurs at 55 degrees. You can expect your performance and speed to degrade 7% if the temperature on race day dips down to 35 degrees or goes up to 75 degrees. At 85 degrees you can expect a 10% degradation. Just a reminder to adjust your goals based on certain conditions in order to stay safe.
  • Running is a sport of failure. This one really hit home for me, especially given my recent marathon DNF. Runners fail at achieving their goals more often than most other sports. But failure does not define us- what does is the way we react to it, adapt, and overcome it. I have learned this through my journey as a runner and it has crossed over into the rest of my life as well. It is such an important lesson to learn.

I only wish that we had more time to dig deeper into the material and learn from the expertise of our instructor, Randy Accetta– a 2:19 marathoner who competed in the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials and has a lot of experience coaching runners at all levels. Additionally, our course was filled with 40 different people with varying experiences: newer runners, ultra marathoners, running shoe store owners, race directors, bloggers and mother runners like me, a Masters runner who trained with some of the most famous coaches in the world, a woman who won a marathon and went on to compete in the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, and more amazing people that I know I am forgetting. While there were interactive portions of the course I wish we had more time to talk with and learn from each other- many of whom were already coaching people in some way. Of course, you can only learn about such a broad topic in only 2 days and I totally understand that- but I left wanting more!

Source- Randy Accetta's Facebook page

Source: Randy Accetta’s Facebook page

My next step is completing my certification by taking the test and getting CPR and First Aid certified. Then I will be able to officially get started helping people achieve their goals! I am so excited for what’s to come, and I know it’s going to be an amazing journey. My learning is far from over!