Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Running

A few weeks ago I started coaching workouts at Athleta on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It’s been so much fun, and has become one of the things I look forward to the most each week. Last night, while talking to one of the runners in the group, I realized that although I’m generally a quiet person, when it comes to running I have a lot to say. In fact, I probably have a bit too much to say. I just want people to love running, and to me, part of loving it is understanding it. So in an effort to get more people to love running as much as I do (and to shut up for a little bit and stop talking people’s ears off), I thought I’d start a series with tips, workout ideas, answers to common running questions, and all sorts of other things that falls into the category of stuff-I-want-to-share-with-you-without-overwhelming-you-with-too-much-information-all-at-once. Ladies and gentlemen (or, honestly, probably just ladies and ladies…or maybe just a lady or two), I give you Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Running.

Part I: Breathing

breatheBreathing while running is hands down the thing I get questions about most often, so what better place to start? In our day-to-day lives, breathing isn’t something that we think about all that much. Air comes in, air goes out, and as long as the process continues, we get on with our lives quiet happily. That, I think, is one of the reasons why breathing is such an issue for new runners. All of a sudden, breathing isn’t this comfortable, obvious, involuntary thing. Instead, it’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It requires thought and concentration. When you start out running, breathing basically sucks (no pun intended). But it doesn’t have to. And once you get comfortable with your breathing, it can become an incredibly powerful tool.

I’m going to break breathing down into three steps.

  1. Think about it. The first step in all of this is to make your breathing a conscious act. Spend time getting a sense of how you breathe–through your mouth? your nose? Deeply? Shallowly? Quickly? Slowly? From the lungs, or from the diaphragm, or even from your belly? These are things you want to know about your breathing, and possibly things you’ve not thought much about. How long is each one of your breaths? And are your inhale and exhale of equal length, or is one longer than the other? All these things are different for every runner, so you have to figure out what works for you. Once you get an idea of how your body naturally breathes, you’re in a better position to work with your breath while running. Find a rhythm that works for you. You can keep track of it by counting your breaths, making up a little song or mantra that helps you to keep your breathing even, or time your breath to your stride. I’m a fan of the latter, and fall very quickly and comfortably into a pattern of inhaling for two steps, and exhaling for two. Finding your own rhythm and concentrating on it until it becomes second nature may feel silly, but it will make your running life so much easier.
  2. Keep it openYou need room to breathe comfortably, and you get that room by maintaining good posture throughout your run. The shoulders should be relaxed, down, and back. The chest should be open. The spine should be straight. No slouching! At the same time, though, you don’t want to focus so hard on keeping your upper body straight that you get stiff. As my meditation teachers frequently say, you should be upright, but not uptight. If you feel yourself tensing up, take a few deep breaths. You can stay loose by breathing correctly, and you can breathe correctly by staying loose. It’s synergy.
  3. Choose the right breath for now. This one comes from Sage Rountree, who is one of my favorite yoga instructors. She uses the concept of finding the right breath all the time in her yoga teaching, and I think it fits running really well, too. Don’t force your breathing; be aware of it, but let it be determined by what’s going on in the moment. There are a ton of factors that can affect your breathing–you might be tired, wired, congested, who knows?–and paying attention to what feels best and then working with that instead of trying to force things in a direction they don’t want to go makes a huge difference in your running.

Like I said before, learning to breathe and work with your breath can be really powerful. Finding the pattern that feels right and being able to adjust it to meet whatever needs you have on any given run can change how far, how fast, and how often you’re able to run. But that’s a whole post unto itself. For now, just focus on finding your rhythm.



Fruits of my Labor: Half-Marathon Training Bonanza

This weekend has been pretty busy. It snowed most of the day yesterday, and it’s been freezing. Definitely a departure from the mild winter we’d previously been having. Because of the temperatures, I ended up spending a lot of time inside working on putting together training plans for Team Challenge Brooklyn since I recently found out that I’ll be working as the Run Coach! Getting the plans coordinated has been a lot of work, but I’ve loved every minute of it. It feels so good to be doing something I enjoy so much, and to be doing it as a job is an added bonus. I am really excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait for us to get the season started on February 18.

Team Challenge Brooklyn participants will have a choice of three different half-marathons: Virginia Wine Country, Kona, and Napa to Sonoma, all of which are going to be amazing races! We’ll have about 16 weeks from the beginning of the season until the Viginia Wine Country half–plenty of time to get ready to run. I made sure to put in options for runners of all levels, including those who might want to opt for a run/walk program instead of a training program consisting solely of running.

I also figured I’d make a variation of the Virginia Wine Country training plan available to anyone who wants it. It’s designed to be pretty flexible, and you can run 4 or 5 days a week depending on what’s best for you–if you prefer a 4-day-a-week schedule, I recommend using Sunday as either an additional rest day, or an opportunity for some cross-training.

Half-marathon Training Program

You can download the training plan here: Half Marathon Training (at least I think you can, if I’ve made the right assumptions about how technology works…which is not something I’d suggest taking for granted). If you do decide to try it out and you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Hopefully, this will be the first of many plans I post here.

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It’s Official: Introducing ICTR Coaching!

56/365 morning run

Image by kharied via Flickr

Yahoo! As of yesterday, I am officially a running coach, certified by the Road Runners’ Club of America.

Running has a been a big (and very important) part of my life for several years now, and once I really got into it, it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to someday be a coach. I’ve been asked by several people what made me decide to get certified, and although I have several reasons, chief among them is a desire to help other people develop the sort of appreciation for running that I have. I’ve already helped my older sister, mother, and one of my best friends get into running, and doing so has been a really rewarding experience–why wouldn’t I want to continue doing it, and for more people?

I’m excited to start working on my coaching portfolio and getting more experience under my belt, both in individual and group coaching. So! If you’re looking to start a running program, train for a race (whether you want to improve your performance or you just want to finish), or just maintain your current running fitness, I would be happy to help you achieve your goal. Additionally, if you have any running-related questions or problems that have got you stumped, send them my way.

I’m also looking forward to sharing information and insights–I learned so much in the time I spent training for my certification, and it’s really changed and improved my understanding of running as well as my relationship with it.

Happy running!

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If I had a million dollars

Obverse of the Series 2006 $20 bill

Image via Wikipedia

According to Nat, whose wisdom is infinite, there’s a study wherein it is determined that thinking about how you would spend the money won in the lottery is just as enjoyable as actually spending it.  Well, okay, sure.  Why not?  I wouldn’t be able to say one way or another because a) I’ve never had much money and b) I tend to not think about what I would do with a boatload of money (see point a, above).  But MegaMillions is up to something crazy like $350 million, so tonight Nat bought a ticket, which kind of got me thinking a little bit about what I would do with all that money.  The net winnings would be like $120 million, so there’s plenty of room to play around.

So!  The first thing I would do is use some of the money to set up some sort of scholarship that would enable students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to go to college to actually go and not worry about whether they would be able to afford books, housing, or anything else.  Maybe it would be for girls in particular, and I would have to have some kind of selection criteria, but I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

After that I would help my immediate family members pay off any debt or mortgages or anything like that.  I’d also establish accounts for all of them so that they’d have money in the bank, and I’d create college funds for my niece and my nephew.  My goal would be to set everyone up so that they’d be able to live comfortably and no longer have to worry about money.

Once I’d taken care of all the practical things, like paying off my student loans, and Nat’s student loans, I would get to the fun stuff.  In no particular order, here are the things I would do:

  • Buy either a condo or a house.  I’m sick of renting.  I want to own some property.  It doesn’t have to be huge or lofty but it has to be mine and it needs to be in a place where there are beautiful running routes for me to choose from.
  • Go back to school to get my MS in health education.
  • Get certified to teach yoga and coach running.
  • Open my own yoga studio and wellness center that would be accessible to a diverse group of people.  Not just people whose incomes allow them to practice yoga regularly, but also disadvantaged populations who need educational resources about health, wellness, nutrition, and exercise.  It would be the sort of place where the emphasis would be put on the individual and the community, and not the potential for profit.
  • Register for whatever races I wanted to run without thinking twice about the registration fees, travel expenses, and cost of gear.
  • For Nat, a fully stocked kitchen with an eight-burner stove, two ovens, and a huge refrigerator.  Personally I could care less about the kitchen, but it’s good that one of us is interested in food preparation because even though I don’t always want to eat, I do know that I have to eat.  In fact, if Nat didn’t enjoy cooking, I would consider putting money toward a personal chef.

I’m sure there are many, many other things I would do with that much money, but for now I think this list is just fine.  Do you ever think about what you’d do if you won the lottery?  How would you spend your money?

As an aside, thanks to everyone for your well wishes.  I’m feeling a bit better today but I’m definitely ready for this cold to see its way out of my body.  I’d like to get back to doing yoga and running, thanks.