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.

8 Tips

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.

Honolulu-Marathon

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)!

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?

Running Wednesday: My Favorite Pure Speed Workout

So, you want to get faster?

The thing is, now matter what your fitness level, your age, your abilities, the process is the same. If you want to get faster you have to, well, run faster. Science may come up with new ways to track your training, coaches may design new killer workouts, you can add strength training, plyometrics, stretching, foam rolling, whatever. The truth is the same.

You must run faster.

My Favorite Pure Speed Workout

Favorite is a funny word. Running faster is hard. When I do speed workouts, I hate them. They make me push to my limits. But, when I’m done, I feel amazing. And when they work (and they do!), I love them.

I have several go-to workouts that I use regularly for my runners (and myself). They may change slightly depending on the goal, but over the next few weeks I’ll share my three favorites. This week is my favorite pure speed workout.

My Favorite Interval (VO2 Max) Workout: These type of workouts are generally short to moderate distance (think 400-1600 meters), frequently run on a track, designed to improve how your body uses oxygen. Interval workouts also improve stamina, threshold, strength, and mental discipline. And yes, they make you faster.

My favorite workout of this type is the Ladder Workout. After warming up for a mile, do these intervals in order, at about 95-100% of your effort level (this can be measured by heart rate or perceived exertion): 200m, 400m, 800m, 1000m, 1600m, 1000m, 800m, 400m, 200m. Take a 30-45 second break between each interval.

Ladder WorkoutWhy I love it: First of all, I like that each interval is different. While I appreciate knocking out 16 400m repeats (and they do have great value), I like the variety of the Ladder Workout. Plus, on the way back down, there is something wonderful about knowing that your next interval is going to be shorter. Any light toward the end of the tunnel.

If you can, switch directions halfway through the workout to avoid the repetitive motion that can potentially cause injury. Following your intervals, take the time to cool down for about a mile. If you incorporate this workout once a week I promise you will get faster.

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.

Femme Fitale Fit Club

Do you have a favorite speed workout?

Training Recap (6 days until SLO Marathon!)

The important stuff first. I’m happy to announce that the winner of Dinner for Two and a bottle of wine at Mitch’s on El Paseo is Denise L! Congratulations! I know you’ll enjoy it.

Also good luck to all of the runners at the Boston Marathon today! I have many blogging friends doing the race and I’ll be trying to sneak an occasional peak at the live feed this morning at work. The forecast is for rain, but as I told Angela, the gods frequently smile on the Boston Marathon and send a sunny day along. If not, it will still be the experience of a lifetime.

Well, six day left until the SLO Marathon and everything is, well, not perfect. I’m still getting my workouts in (hurray for the taper!), but suddenly my knee is bothering me a little, and the asthma/dizzy issue I spoke about last week is still a concern. I’ve not had another incident like I had during my long run last week, but I frequently feel right on the verge, like if I push or go too far I might go right over the edge. Worrisome.

Training Recap

Last Wednesday was my last speed workout. Christina and I ran five miles a little faster than my marathon pace. All went well.

Long Run 3

After my tempo run. Needed to get the frog in the picture :-)

Saturday I ran eight miles with Alan and Christina. It should have felt easy and short after all my long runs, but as I mentioned, I’ve been feeling on the edge. I got it done though.

Long Run 2On Sunday I headed out alone for five miles on the trails. I love having a running partner, but sometimes I need to get out by myself. I took it easy, stopped for pictures, and felt good throughout. Now the final countdown to the race, and maybe some big decisions.

Trail Run 3

It’s not easy to take a picture of your shadow running.

Trail Run

Trail Run 2

Coachella boys

This one was pretty weird. As I was running I heard the sound of voices. Now this was about 7:30 on a Sunday morning and the voices sounded, well, they sounded drunk. I saw these guys down below the trail, singing and yelling. I kind of assumed they were refugees from Coachella, which is just a few miles away. I guess the camping is cheaper up in the La Quinta cove. I took a little detour, not wanting to deal with drunken revelers at that point in time.

And the Other Stuff

Kind of a boring week, at least in terms of writing something you’d want to read about. There was this, in case you missed it:

Its a girlYes, we’re going to have a granddaughter! After two sons, two stepsons, and three grandsons, we’re ready for a little pink in the family! On that note, I happened to wander into Target over the weekend.

DecisionsAnd I went for…

Baby Girl 2I was also curiously drawn to these:

Baby Girl 3But resisted the urge. They are, after all, toddler sizes.

Baby Girl 4

#Cutie. Let’s get her started on social media early.

Cactus FlowersSpring in the desert means the cactus is blooming.

And just a couple #dogpics:

Penny

My 14 year old Dalmatian can still get silly.

Johnny 2

And Johnny always finds ever cuter ways to sleep.

And some vegan food.

Mandarin SaladMandarin orange “chicken” salad. Easy and delicious. Here’s the recipe.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Any races, competitions, or other awesome experiences you’d like to share? Will you (are you, did you) watch the Boston Marathon? Go Meb!

It’s Taper Time! The Week of Training and other good stuff

It’s Taper Time!

We’re almost there! With less than two weeks to go until the SLO Marathon I can honestly say that I’ve done the best training that I could for this race. I know I’ve complained a bit, and I’ve had challenges to my training schedule, but all in all, I’m happy and feel ready for this race.

Want to learn more about the Art (and some Science) of the Marathon Taper?

I say that in spite of having a really bad run on Saturday, what should have been my last longish run before the marathon. How bad? Well, I’ll tell you.

My plan for Saturday was to run 16 miles. I changed that to 15 after heading out with Christina, my new runner/neighbor, who wanted to run 14. I’d put in my first mile while waiting for her to finish getting ready, so I figured with 15 we could run the whole thing together. That sounded great after last week, when I had to run half of my 22 miler on my own.

Christina

From another week, but this is Christina.

 

We got started about 6:45, a little late, but with a shorter distance I wasn’t too worried about it getting hot before we finished. The first half of the run was fine. An easy pace, lots of chatting, my favorite horse paths to run on. At about mile nine, I had a little hint of what I consider the precursor to my exercise induced asthma: just a little lightheaded feeling that I shrugged off. I put my focus on breathing and it seemed to pass without having to stop.

Silverrock

The best rest stop ever! Clean bathrooms and they provide cold filtered water for ME!

 

At about mile 10.5, we walked for just a moment because it felt good we reached a turnaround point. As soon as I stopped, I could feel it coming back. Tunnel vision, lightheaded, dizziness, a combination of all three. I took a couple puffs on my inhaler, we walked a little more, then it seemed to pass and we started to run again.

For about a half mile. Then it came back. It continued like that for the next mile and a half. Run a little, walk a little, completely stop and hold onto something because otherwise I might just fall. I was struggling, and Christina, bless her heart, stayed with me even though I told her that I’d been through this before and I didn’t want to spoil her run. Finally, at about 12.5 miles my guardian angel Alan came riding up on his bike, returning from his 30 mile ride.

As we spoke to him I got so dizzy I had to sit down. He asked if I wanted him to come back with the car. I hesitated, but said yes, please. I’m tough, but not so tough (or dumb) to think I can overcome something like this.

When he rode on, Christina and I tried to run a little more but I just couldn’t. We ended up walking about a mile until Alan finally got back with the car. Christina continued on to run home, I thankfully got in the car.

It took me several hours to recover. I still felt lightheaded even after we got home. I ate a little, drank a little, then slept a lot. I felt better after my nap, but not normal yet.

I’m not sure why my exercise induced asthma, if that’s what it was, was so bad for this run. I’ve had a couple issues during my training, especially during my 22 mile run last week, but nothing this dramatic. Lately I have not used my inhaler before my run because I haven’t needed to. I did sleep badly the night before, but that alone doesn’t seem enough to cause such a bad reaction. I took Sunday off, but I’ll see how I feel on my next run before I get overly concerned. Remember, I’ve been dealing with this for a long, long time. Thirty six marathons worth.

So anyway. I did have a much better hill workout earlier in the week. I dragged took Christina with me for her first ever hill repeats. We managed 10 altogether, and I was proud of her for pushing through. Like the week before, we used the mile home for some downhill training. No breathing troubles at all during this workout even though it was pretty intense.

Hill WorkOther Good Stuff

First of all, Grandsons!

Our twin grandsons, along with their parents, were in town for spring break this week. I had to work much of the time, but Alan had a great time swimming, hiking, playing baseball, and skating (he was a spectator for that endeavor) with them all week.

Cash Collage

Dane CollageThey are both good athletes. We usually get to take a run with them when the visit, but we didn’t get a chance this visit. Alan took them on an eight mile hike on Thursday! Quite an accomplishment for two 10 year olds.

Dane CashVegan Food

For the basketball finals last Monday, I made my “famous” basketball food. At various times it is also called football or baseball food too. It is basically vegan junk food, but sometimes it’s fun to eat a little junk while you’re watching a game.

basketball food

From another game, but you get the idea.

I also made vegan Caprese. I use tofu instead of the buffalo mozzarella and it absorbs the flavors nicely. Caprese was always one of my favorite salads, so I am happy that I have a plant based version to enjoy. (The recipe is here, though I made it without the baguette.)

Caprese

Sunday morning I felt I needed a little protein boost after a day full of carbs, so I cooked up some Eggy tofu and seitan bacon. (The recipe for the tofu is here, on Cadry’s Kitchen). So good!

Eggy Tofu

From Last Week

In case you missed it, I guest posted on Run to the Finish last week.

Run until 90

Don’t forget about ASICS Gear for a Year Sweepstakes. They’re giving away $3,000 in ASICS gear ($300 per month for 10 months). You can enter once a day through April. Enter here.

Asics gearAnd Finally

Okay, I post a lot of pictures of Johnny. And he is usually on this chair, in this pose. But what was cute this time is that he made himself a little nest by pulling down the sweatshirts that I had piled on the back of the chair. Of course, now that he’s done it a few more times it’s not as cute (um, maybe I should just put those things away?).

Johnny

How was your weekend? Any races, events, great training moments? Any bad ones? I’d love to hear about both!

A Few WTF Moments and My Training Recap

I’m not sure if WTF moments is the right term, but a few things this week have given me pause.

First though, if you’re a local or visitor to the Palm Springs area, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $150 gift certificate and a bottle of wine at Mitch’s on El Paseo! It’s really a great prize. Enter here.

Mitch'sInstagram

WTF Moments

Here’s the weirdest: I got a notification a few days ago that the woman who is responsible for me losing my job wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn. Talk about a WTF moment. Seriously, this woman, who was not my boss, and theoretically had no rights as far as hiring and firing, wants to connect. I really want to ask her, “what the hell are you thinking?” So far I’ve just ignored the request.

Alan, my husband and Cat Rescuer (as well as Dog and Calf), feeds the feral cats in the neighborhood, as you may know. Recently he has been working with a charitable organization to get all of the cats spayed or neutered and so far has done about 25 cats. There are always a few that seem to be uncatchable though, and one of those just had kittens the other night. She was very young and didn’t know how to care for them, so after dropping them in the street, she basically abandoned them. Alan tried to feed them, but they were just too young. Sadly, all three died.

Okay, hold on for the WTF moment. The cat gave birth on April 1. The third cat died by early on April 3. On Sunday, April 5, she gave birth to two more kittens. At last look, she was tending to them as a new mother should.

kitten

Another kitten from a few years ago (he survived).

It’s only three weeks until the SLO Marathon and I’m beginning to feel like my training is one big WTF moment. Or at least a what the hell am I doing moment. Details of my long run in my training recap below, but I felt the run was so hard, so painful (figuratively, not literally), and just so long, that I’m doubting my commitment to the race. I’ll probably follow my own advice and suck it up, but right now, well, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

Training Recap

My training plan took another hit this week when we lost a front desk receptionist as work. She just didn’t show up one day. My approach to work is that you do what you need to do to get the job done, so I offered to help out as necessary to get through the end of the season. I won’t lose any personal training time, but I’ll work some extra front desk time as needed. That turns out to mean that I’ll be opening two days a week, throwing my training schedule off yet again. I’m not thrilled about working at 5:30 twice a week, but what can you do? It cuts out my Monday workout, which I’m going to try to squeeze in on Tuesday.

I’m so glad we’re three weeks and counting down until the race.

On Wednesday I headed out alone to do a hill workout. My new training partner, my neighbor Christina, wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own. It was still dark when I left the house, but I ran a loop around the neighborhood to give it time to get light enough to get out to the trails where I do my hill workout. Because of that I only had time for 10 repeats, but if you add on the 1.5 mile run up to the hill that works pretty nicely. I also used the 1.5 mile downhill home to practice a little downhill running. So I was pretty happy with the total workout.

Hills

On Saturday I was scheduled to run 22 miles. I wasn’t looking forward to it. The weather is heating up in the desert, and I knew I’d be running at least half of the run on my own. Christina’s a great running partner, but she’s a new runner, and has no need to run that far.

We planned for 5:30, but it was closer to 6:00 when we headed out. It was chilly, which was good. We took a loop of our neighborhood, then headed east toward the nice horse paths that are so great to run on. Our first stop was at about mile seven to use the bathroom and fill up our bottles. Then I headed part way back with Christina, with the thought that when I turned back around for my solo run, I’d have less mileage left to complete. Good idea, but it still left over 11 miles on my own.

Long Run

Clockwise from top left: My favorite watering station (they have an ice machine!), fueling with a Sun Warrior smoothie after the run, waiting for Alan to pick me up, just noticing how filthy my feet get after such a long run, and a look down one of the trails.

 

Running that far alone is really a mental game. Your body is tired and achy, and really just wants to stop and walk. It’s the mind that has to overcome that and keep on pushing through. Yes, I gave in and walked a few times, especially in the last few miles when I was exhausted, it was getting warm, and my exercise induced asthma started to give me problems. But I always managed to get going again, even if it was slow. I though about calling Alan, especially after I passed 20 miles. What’s another mile or two? But I didn’t. I stuck with it and completed my 22 miles. I am happy for that, but I’m still going through the mental conflicts I mentioned above.

Sunday was recovery/doggy run day. Just a few miles with lots of pee stops (for the dogs, not me I’m still dehydrated). My feet are a little sore. To be expected, but I’m spending some time with ice and my roller ball.

Other Stuff

We had a kids’ camp at work this week, and we provide pizza for their lunch. The manager buys enough for all the staff too, but of course, I have my special needs. I was inspired to head to Whole Foods to pick up a slice of vegan pizza. They outdid themselves! This one is huge, has BBQ Beyond Meat chicken, plus a ton of veggies and Daiya cheese. I needed to use two hands to pick it up. Nice job, Whole Foods!

PizzaHow was your week? Any races, training, or other special moments to share? Any WTF moments?