I’m Burning Bridges: They took a piece of my identity…

Warning: There may be some use of “language” that you may not associate with my writing. Sorry but I’m a little pissed off.

I really couldn’t decide on a title for this post, which is reflected I guess, in the weirdness of what I chose. Well, once you read on, you’ll understand why I’m burning bridges.

Just short of a year since I lost my job, I heard those words again. You’re fired. Well, he didn’t actually say that (because he doesn’t have the cajones to do that). No, it was much more cowardly than that.

First of all, don’t worry. I still have my personal training job (even though my clients have all left for the summer). No, I lost a job that paid a whole lot less, but was an important part of who I am.

On Monday I was at home, working on a blog post. When my phone rang I saw that it was the Athletic Director at the high school where I’ve coached cross country for the last 13 years. So, of course, I answered.

Burning Bridges: They took a piece of my identity

I thought he was going to ask for the schedule for our upcoming season, which I’d been working on pending the agreement of the boys’ coach. Within a couple sentences, it became clear that was not what this call was about.

He told me they’d (meaning the principal, who didn’t have the balls to call me himself, and instead made the mealy-mouthed AD take over the job) decided that they wanted to weed out “walk-on” coaches like me, and give the coaching jobs to full-time teaching staff.

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Which, I’ve decided, is a load of bullshit. Last year they “weeded out” Alan, brought in another coach for the boys, let her learn for a season what was going on, then fired me. I’m about 99% sure this was planned since last year.

For 13 years I’ve been coaching cross country. We’ve been to CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) semi-finals a half dozen times, including the last three years in a row.

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I have poured my heart and soul into cross country. It is a huge commitment: five days a week, from July through October. All my Saturdays in September and October have been spent on a school bus traveling to various invitationals in Southern California for the last 13 years. I have spent my own money to travel to some of the meets, given up vacations, my own running plans, and even skipped a lot of weekend getaways (that are such a relief during the desert summer). Speaking of summer, I have been at those practices at 5:30 every morning, been at the school to catch a bus as early as 4:00 am, traveled in those hot, uncomfortable buses from San Diego to Valencia. And I loved every minute of it.

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I’ve kept in touch with many of my former athletes. They tell me how important we (Alan and I) were to them. How the lessons they learned from cross country, and from their coaches, have helped them become successful adults.

I was a cross country coach. And that was really important to me. It was a part of my identity. Until a principal on a power trip and a wimpy athletic director took it all away. I was going to say they took a part of my soul, but that gives them too much importance. I won’t let those losers touch my soul.

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I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m pissed off, I’m aching for some kind of revenge. Actually, revenge is too strong a word. (Quick thesaurus check: I want (pick one) vengeance, payback, retribution, reprisal.) As the saying goes, don’t get mad, get even. I’m simply working on how to do it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to knock anybody off. I’m thinking more along the lines of a summer coaching camp for high school athletes who will not get proper coaching from the hired staff.

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That’s another thing. It’s not like they’re getting rid of me and putting in someone more qualified, or even somewhat qualified. They will hire a teacher, who probably runs, and therefore thinks they know how to coach. That works really well. Just ask the boys cross country team from last year. Or the entire track team from this year, where not a single athlete went on to post-season play. They would complain that their coaches didn’t have a plan, didn’t push them enough, didn’t really know what they were doing.

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I, on the other hand, am certified by USA Track & Field and the Road Runners Club of America as a running coach. I’m also a personal trainer with more than 15 years experience. Not one of their potential replacement coaches have that kind of background. I’m sure they’re good at what they teach. They don’t teach running. The proof is in the pudding.

image_1I’m a crazily optimistic glass half full type of person, so I prefer to look for the positives in situations like this. Actually, there are many. My time is my own. I’m free to travel without regard to the practice schedule. I don’t have to be up at an ungodly hour for practice (unless I choose to for my own run). Nor more dealing with weak school administrators. Or parents. Or other incompetent coaches.

In fact, the only real downside is the loss that that lovely stipend right before Christmas. And that piece of my identity.

I’m linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud and Kathleen for the Blog Booster Party! Hop on over to their sites to read all the awesomeness!

10 Ways to Cause a Running Injury

Most running injuries don’t just happen. Yes, runners will occasional get an acute injury like a pulled muscle or torn ligament, but as a general rule, most running injuries are chronic, achieved, if you’d like to call it that, by doing certain avoidable things. And since most of us would rather not have a running injury, the following are examples of things you probably don’t want to do.

If you want to stay healthy as a runner, here are 10 things NOT to do. Injury prevention tips that will keep you running.

Don’t Take Time to Rest and Recover

Face it. We are not machines. Our bodies need to have appropriate rest in order to accomplish everything that we have planned for them. Remember, that it is not your actual training bouts in which you become stronger. It is during your period of rest and recovery that the small muscle tears you cause through your hard training repair themselves and adapt to a higher load. That is why more isn’t always better.

Solution: Avoid doing two hard workouts in a row. Give yourself an easier day in between. After a race, let your body recover before training hard again. Depending on the race distance, this can be from several days to several weeks.

Run in the wrong (or too old) shoe

We are all biomechanically different. What works for one runner may not work for the next. If you’re wearing a shoe that doesn’t feel good or leaves you with aches and pains, chances are it’s not the right one for you.

Solution: Get an assessment from a running shoe professional. They should take a look at your old shoes, ask you questions about your running, and give you a chance to run a little in a few shoes. Remember, though, they are not foolproof. It may take a little experimenting, but finding a shoe that fits right and feels comfortable can help reduce your chance of injury. And remember, shoes don’t last forever. After about 300-500 miles, or if you start to feel a little achy in the knees or feet, it’s time to replace them. Another good shoe idea is to have at least two pairs and alternate, using different shoes for different types of runs. A sturdier, cushioned shoe for longer runs, a lighter shoe for speedwork or racing, are examples of what to think about when purchasing new shoes.

Assume that small injuries will just get better

This may be the number one cause of an injury that will force you to stop running altogether for a while. Don’t ignore small pains, especially in your hips, back, or knees. If you choose to run through that little twinge, you may just develop a full-blown chronic injury that will takes weeks if not months from which to recover.

Solution: Take an extra day or two off if you are feeling pain or even discomfort when you run. If a week goes by and you don’t see improvement, it may be time to see a sports medicine doctor.

Don’t strength train

Strength training corrects the muscle imbalances caused by running and strengthens your core to improve your posture. Think of it as pre-hab.

Solution: At least twice a week complete a strength training program that will work the muscles in your entire body. You can use weights, do yoga, Pilates, or some other type of program, but it should strengthen all your major muscle groups and include core and flexibility training.

Don’t get enough sleep

It cannot be emphasized enough how important getting enough sleep is. Sleep is when our muscles regenerate and repair all the damage that is done, coming back stronger than before. Not to mention the other benefits of sleep, including curbing inflammation, keeping your brain clear and creative, sharpening your attention and memory, lowering stress, and improving mood. And yes, naps count as sleep, though most of us need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to allow us to get into our phases of deep and REM sleep that are so important.

Solution: It’s easy to say just go to bed earlier, but that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Start the relaxation process earlier in the evening, eat early enough to digest most your food before bedtime, and head to bed ready to sleep.

Skip the stretching

Running tightens up your muscles and joints, particularly through your hips, hamstrings, and calves. Not addressing these issues can potentially lead to injury.

Solution: Static stretching is best done after your workout. Focus on your hips, hamstrings, calves, and back. Stretching should never hurt. Investigate other solutions that can increase mobility, including massage, foam rolling, and fascial stretch therapy.

Run with bad form

While correcting running form can be a controversial subject, there are certain things that most experts agree will help streamline your run and put less stress on your back, knees, and hips. If you hunch up or lean forward while your run, scuff your feet, or overstride, you may be more likely to suffer a running injury.

Solution:  While too complex to go into properly in this space, there are a few things that can help your running form. Run with good posture, with no arch in your back and your head directly over your shoulders. Use your arms efficiently. They should swing forward and back and preferably not cross in front. This causes rotation in the shoulders and torso and can compromise core stability. Consciously try to land more lightly, with your feet parallel, and push off from the balls of your feet. Avoid overstriding. There are drills that can help you accomplish these things. Check with a running coach for other ways to improve your form.

Do too much too soon

New runners frequently get injured because they start running too many miles too quickly. It’s natural to want quick results, so if a little is good, more must be better, right?

Solution:  Build mileage slowly. If you’re just starting to run, begin with a run/walk program, and gradually increase the run portion.

Don’t eat properly

Food is fuel. If you’re not getting enough, or if you are fueling your body with junk, you will not be able to perform at your optimal level.

Solution: Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh, whole food, including healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from fast and processed food as much as possible.

Ignore your body’s signals

Your body will tell you if it needs extra rest. You just need to pay attention.  If you find that you are consistently tired, have come to a plateau in your training, or exhibit other signs of overtraining, you may need to take a little extra rest time.

Solution: An extra day off here or there is not going to hurt your training. In fact, it just may bring it to the next level.

What do you do (or avoid doing) to stay injury free?

I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!

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I’m also joining the Blog Booster Party!!!

Friday Blog Booster Party

8 Tips for Running Downhill. Plus it’s National Running Day!

Whenever a runner has a hilly race to run, the focus is on the uphill. After all, that’s the hard part, right? Running uphill makes your heart pound, your lungs burn, and your legs scream. So you prepare for such a challenging event by uphill training, getting stronger and more adept at running up those hills. And the result is a more successful race.

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Quite often though, after finishing that hilly race, after killing those hills, you’ll find that your body aches, and may even have some slight injury, not due to the uphills, but because of all the downhill running.

Running downhill is a lot more difficult that it might seem at first glance. It’s easy right, after the physical and cardiovascular challenge of running uphill? It should be a breeze! But running downhill causes muscles to lengthen or make eccentric contractions, which can cause microscopic tears and generate more force than when running uphill or on flat surfaces. And running at top speed, which is easier on the downhills, causes your feet to hit the ground harder, which in turn causes the muscles, bones, and joints to endure more pounding.

What can a runner do to prevent or minimize these negative effects? Simple. Just add some downhill running to your training plan.

4 Benefits of Running Downhill

  1. Running downhill will train your body to…run downhill.
  2. Running downhill can improve leg turnover.
  3. Running downhill can improve speed.
  4. Running downhill will cause the microtears mentioned above in training, which will repair themselves stronger than before and prepare your body to handle the downhills during race situations.

While running downhill can be incorporated into your training at all times, it is especially important if you are planning a hilly race, or one which has extended downhill sections.

Tips for Running Downhill

  1. When you first get started, run on softer surfaces such as grass or trails. You can move to the road after a few training sessions.
  2. Don’t practice on too steep of a hill. Look for a hill that has no more than an 8% drop (and start out even less than that, about 3-4%). Anything steeper can cause excessive impact and increase the risk of injury.
  3. Focus on your form. Don’t overstride. Instead, shorten your stride and increase your cadence, focusing on your turnover.
  4. Land mid-foot. Resist the urge to either lean back or slow down. You will have a slight forward lean from the ankles, but keep your core engaged and your posture aligned.
  5. Once or twice a week is fine, but make sure to recover fully between each downhill session.
  6. You can incorporate your downhill training with your uphill running or do it as a separate workout. Make sure that you can maintain proper form for both types of training.
  7. Downhill running can be formatted as a hilly tempo run or broken into repeats. Here are three hill workouts that you can use if you choose to combine the two types of workouts (the first two would be perfect to incorporate downhill running).
  8. Reduce or eliminate your downhill training the last two to three weeks before your goal race. As with any type of intense training your body needs time to rest and recover.

I’m linking up with Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday!

Wild Workout WednesdayToday is National Running Day!

Makes me happy

I’m also linking up with Kristen at Jonesin’ for a Run for this National Running Day interview!

Interview

1. Why do you run?

Oddly enough, I wrote a whole post answering just this question. In a nutshell though, I run because it makes me a happier and therefore, better person.

For joy

2. How do you plan to celebrate National Running Day?

By running, of course! And by writing about running. I’ll be heading out about 5:30 in the morning and running six to eight miles.

3. How many miles have you run so far this year?

As of Tuesday I’ve run 428.7 miles in 2015.

So I can think

4. What big events do you have on the race calendar so far this year?

My goal race for the second half of the year is the Honolulu Marathon in December. This will be the seventh time I’ve run it, though it’s been 13 years since the last time. It was my first marathon back in 1996.

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We were babies!

I’m also thinking about America’s Finest City Half Marathon, the Malibu Half Marathon, and Ragnar Trail Vail Lake.

5. Before I leave for a run I must have…

A banana. Plus sunglasses, my phone, headphones, water if it’s a long and/or hot run, extra fuel for a long run. But mostly a banana.

Faster than walking

6. Do you have one favorite running app to track your runs?

I don’t use an app while I’m running (I use my Garmin instead). I do track my mileage though, with Log My Run Pro (for Android).

7. Who is your favorite running partner?

My husband Alan. We’ve been training together for almost 20 years! In second place is my Dalmatian Penny, though at 14 she’s not doing much running anymore.

Because I Can

8. What races have you run so far this year?

Sadly, my race plans have kind of gone up in smoke so far this year. My goal race last April was the SLO Marathon, but I injured my back the week before and I chose to skip it.

9. If you had to give someone one piece of advice about running what would it be?

Ha! I give a whole lot of advice around here! You can pick your favorite! But, if it was a new runner I was advising, I’d say start slow. Don’t expect to run three miles straight your first time out. You’ll end up getting hurt, stop running, then when someone asks you’ll say, “I hate running!”

Instead, start by running a little combined with walking a little. Gradually increase the running, decrease the walking. Before you know it, you’ll be able to skip the walking altogether!

Because I am a runner

10. Describe your relationship with running in one word.

Complicated.

Jeez, I can’t describe anything with just one word! It’s complicated because, as I get older, deal with my old knee injury, running is not always the pure joy that it was when I was younger. I used to be fast, now I’m slow. I used to be light on my feet, now I feel like I plod along. I still love it. I still define myself as a runner. But, it’s complicated.

Are you celebrating National Running Day? How would you fill in the blank?

National Running Day

Click below and join in the fun (plus you can check out some other fab runners and their answers)!

Running Wednesday: My Favorite Tempo Workout

A couple weeks ago I shared my favorite pure speed workout. Intervals are great for increasing VO2 Max, improving form, and working on specific speed related issues, like your finishing kick and leg turnover. Today, we’re talking about lactate threshold runs. They are also called tempo runs.

Tempo Workout

Your lactate threshold is the point at which your body cannot keep up with processing the lactic acid it produces during hard exercise and responds by needing to slow down. This type of workout usually involves slightly longer intervals than the VO2 Max workouts, run at a slightly slower pace, your lactate threshold pace. This is a little slower than your 10k pace, or about 85-90% of your effort level. You’ll find a more detailed description in this post.

Steady Pace Tempo Workout

My favorite workout of this type is a Steady Pace Tempo run. After warming up by running moderately for about a mile, pick it up to your Lactate Threshold pace. Sustain it for two-six miles. Finish with a moderate to slow mile.

Tempo Workout 2

Why I love it: I sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? No fancy pick ups, run this at one pace that at another. Which is exactly why this is my favorite tempo run. To me it simulates race conditions. You don’t stop (hopefully) in a race, you try to keep a fairly steady pace throughout the distance of the run.

Tempo Run Variations

Depending on the distance for which you are training, you may want to change up the tempo run a little bit. For example, if you are training for a marathon, complete this workout at about your half marathon pace and effort, and sustain it for five to eight miles. Likewise, if you’re training for a half marathon, run at your 15k pace, for three to six miles.

Another variation for marathon or half marathon training is a race pace run. In this type of run, you will run the middle portion of a longer run at your goal race pace. For a marathon, this could be the middle 12-15 miles of a 20 miler. For the half, run six to eight miles at race pace in your 10-12 mile run. This will really help with pacing during your race.

Tempo runs can help you run faster, and help you sustain that speed for a longer period of time. Which is what we want when we’re racing, right?

I’m linking up with Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday!

Wild Workout Wednesday

Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Coach and Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Coach or Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Do you do tempo runs? Do you have a favorite workout?

A Plant Based Memorial Day and Remembering a Friend

I’m afraid I don’t have a new recipe to share today, but check below for a few links to last minute grill-worthy dishes. Sadly I was sidetracked by the death of a friend and co-worker that has shocked and saddened me. It seems appropriate on this Memorial Day, dedicated to remembrance of those lost in the service of our country, to take a few moments to remember a woman who was dedicated to teaching and coaching the youth of our country. Convoluted sentence, but that’s pretty much how my brain is working today.

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I first heard the news about Becky Baker, the cross country and track and field coach at Indio High School for 23 years, early last week. Technically she was our competition, but that never mattered to Becky. What was important to her was the kids. All of them, her team, our team, her non-running students. I was told that she’d had a stroke last Saturday (later determined to be a brain aneurysm). I was shocked. Becky was close to my age, fit, active, and always full of energy! I could hardly believe it.

She ran a Facebook page for the high school cross country and track team, so I headed over there to see what was happening. Sure enough, the page was filled with her current and former athletes and students sending their prayers and wishes for a quick recovery. Sadly, they weren’t enough. She passed away early Saturday morning.

Becky

After Alan told me, I headed back to Facebook. It was almost overwhelmingly sad and touching to see the comments. Hundred of students, not just posting a quick note, but eloquently describing the difference that Coach Baker had made in their lives. Many past students stated that they would never have graduated without her help. Many of her team said that they considered themselves runners because of her dedication and belief in them. So many pictures and memories that brought me to tears because of their heartfelt sincerity.

Becky Quote

I will always remember Becky, in red, white, and blue, the school colors, running around the cross country course, always with a camera in hand, coaching her girls, taking pictures, and cheering on all of the runners. She was the one who kept our league organized, kept up with rule changes, and got the coaches together each year so that we could be on the same page with our league business. She was the one I’d call if I had a question about anything related to cross country.

They are holding a Celebration of Life at the high school gym next week. I have a feeling it will be standing room only. Becky was only 60 years old. She will be missed.

Memorial Day

If you’re planning a barbecue or picnic for the holiday, here are a few last minute ideas.

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Tempeh Burgers

BBQ Kidney Bean and Quinoa Burgers

Southwest Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, and Quinoa

Potato Salad

I’m linking up with Tina and Deborah for Meatless Monday. Let’s make it a plant based and cruelty free Memorial Day! Stop by and check out their posts!

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Have a wonderful Memorial Day. Comments are closed today. Get out and enjoy the holiday.

It’s All About the Bass: The Workout

It’s Fitness Friday and I’m excited to bring you a fun and challenging workout for your butt rear aspect. Actually, it will strengthen your entire lower body, improve your balance, and protect you against injury.

It’s All About the Bass: The Workout

The only equipment you need are dumbbells or kettlebells, and a stability ball, plus a slider disk or paper plate. Be sure to use a weight that challenges you and use good form for each exercise (they are explained below). Warm up for about 10 minutes before you begin.

All About the Bass

Squat: Holding two dumbbells at your side, begin by standing with your feet about hip width apart. Sit back, bending at the knees and hips, keeping your back neutral, your knees aligned and your chest up. Pause then return to your starting position.

Combo: Rear Lunge/One Leg Deadlift/Rear Leg Lift: Start by standing straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Shift your weight to your left leg then step back into a rear lunge, lowering until your back knee almost touches the ground, and your front knee is bent to about a 90 degree angle. Straighten up, then start to bend forward at the hip, keeping your right leg straight and your spine neutral. Extend your left leg behind you with the knee straight. It should stay in alignment with your body throughout the movement. Lower until you’re about parallel with the ground (see the photo below). Slowly return to your starting position, then keeping your right leg behind you and your spine neutral, squeeze your glutes and lift your leg behind you. Lower your leg. That is one repetition. Complete the reps with the right leg, then do the other side.

One Leg Deadlift

Wide Leg Squats: Stand with your legs wide apart and your toes pointed slightly out. Holding one dumbbell or a kettlebell in both hands, squat down, making sure that you keep your knees tracking over your toes and your spine neutral. Pause then return to your starting position.

Lateral Slide Lunges: Stand with your legs together and your right foot on a slider disk or paper plate (you can even use a towel). With your weight on your left leg, start to bend your knee and sit back while sliding the right leg to the right, keeping the knee straight. Press your right foot into the plate to contract your adductors and slide your foot back to your starting position. Complete the reps with the right leg, then do the other side.

Combo: Hip Lift/Ball Roll/Squeeze: Lie on your back with your feet on a stability ball. Lift your hips, then roll the ball in, keeping your hips elevated. Squeeze your glutes 5 times, then roll the ball out and lower your hips. That is one repetition.

There you go. Enjoy!

I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!

FitnessFridayRev3

Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

No treble here!

Do you have a favorite butt lower body exercise?