Getting Back In Shape

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Here’s a hard truth: getting back into shape isn’t easy, or glamorous, or fun, or sexy. It isn’t quick, it isn’t painless, and it isn’t pretty.

This is what it is: it’s staying in on a Saturday night so you can hydrate and get enough sleep before a long run that is exactly a quarter of the distance you used to run on long run days. It’s convincing yourself that that run even matters, short as it is. It’s convincing yourself to take that run seriously, short as it is.

It’s wearing compression socks under your jeans to work, hoping your over-worked legs will miraculously feel better by the time your run rolls around. It’s using every mental trick you know – just get to that lamppost, just get to that fire hydrant, just get to your street – to keep yourself running when they don’t.

It’s rolling out a mat and doing core work at the foot of your bed after you run, even though you’d rather be in that bed, preferably watching Netflix with a glass of wine. It’s doing yoga videos alone in your basement. It’s bringing your foam roller with you wherever you go, and trying to laugh it off when your friends make fun of you, again, for taking it so seriously.

It’s schlepping it to the gas station during a snowstorm so you can buy two bags of ice. It’s shivering while you carry them inside your house. It’s shivering even harder when you lower yourself into a homemade ice bath and force yourself to sit there for 20 minutes. It’s hoping that it works.

It’s two plates at dinner, trying to make sure you’re eating enough. It’s forcing yourself to drive to the store on a weeknight when you run out of frozen vegetables. It’s praying that that thing you heard about bananas speeding up recovery is true because everything hurts and you have a run on the schedule and you can’t skip a day because you’ll lose momentum.

It’s learning that momentum is a precious thing – the most precious thing. It’s realizing that it doesn’t matter how bright the fire burns, as long as it’s still alive. It’s dedicating your entire existence to stoking it, in the big ways and the small ways, doing whatever you can to make sure that when you wake up in the morning, you’ve still got a spark to work with.

It’s not easy. It’s not glamorous. It’s not fun, or sexy, or quick, or painless. It really, truly is not pretty.

But I have to believe it will be worth it.


Sorry I’ve been MIA. Been keeping quiet, putting in work, trying to earn the right to toe the line again (or even just to be able to work out again). Coming back to this space as often as I can!

Hope everyone’s running is going well 🙂

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2016

I started this post with the intention of proving (to myself? to you?) that though the second half of 2016 was really difficult for me, I still achieved a lot of my goals and did some impressive things this year.

I’m not sure why I felt like I needed to write that post. I think it was a subconscious response to my own vulnerability earlier this month – it’s hard to admit you’re not perfect, and maybe that confession wounded my ego more than I thought.

But whatever the reason, I don’t want to write that post. I’m proud of the small accomplishments I had in 2016, but bragging about them isn’t going to make them matter more. It’s not going to make me hurt less. It would only serve to falsely convince people on the internet that my life is easier than it really is.

Which is not what I’m about.

So instead of presenting you with a list of goals I achieved in 2016, here’s a list of experiences I had that I hope I never forget:

Visiting Horseshoe Bay and walking into water so clear I could look down and see the pink polish I’d applied to my toes the night before.

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Sitting in the sand on the banks of the Delaware River with my sister and watching rainbows of light explode right above our heads.

Running one mile of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon next to a veteran who was carrying an American flag and feeling so moved by the crowd’s response that I cried genuine real tears of gratitude to live in this country.

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Finishing a 12 mile run at paces I hadn’t touched since graduating college with two of my oldest and best friends. 

Standing next to my sister on a cool fall evening while she married the love of her life.

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Exploring a trail in my hometown that I’d never known was there with two of my favorite people in the world.

Watching the sun set over the Schuylkill River Trail with a complete stranger because we were both so bowled over by its beauty that we had to share it with another human.

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Truthfully, 2016 was one of the hardest years of my life, but it was also the most beautiful. Not just because I saw and felt things that changed me forever, but also because I learned that I can do hard things. The hardest things.

And I am not going to waste my breath hoping that 2017 is easier. I know it won’t be.

Instead, I hope that this year has made me tough enough to handle the inevitable hardships that are coming next.

I hope that the storm I fought through in 2016 left me weather-worn but wise, with a new knowledge of my own indomitable strength.

I know that the hell I lived in last year taught me what it means to be a survivor instead of a victim, for the first time in a long time.

And I know that more fresh hell is coming, but I also know that I’m equipped to handle it this time.

Happy New Year, friends. I wish you all the best.

On Grief

(Edit 12/13: it took me almost a week to write this post, and another five days to decide if I wanted to share it with anyone. My main concern is that people who know part of what happened in August will read this purely to satisfy their curiosity. If that was your goal, I’m sorry. I won’t be publishing or answering questions about specifics, and I will delete any comments that I feel are too invasive, including any that mention names.

The social media age is odd; I feel that I need to address that this happened to me rather than sweeping it under the rug and continuing to post happy little pieces about running. That approach just doesn’t feel right or genuine to me as a human. However, I also feel that I need to respect the privacy of the other people involved in what happened, so I trust you will too. Thank you.)

This is a post I have been trying to write for a long time.

Months, actually.

But every time I sit down to write it, something holds me back.

I guess that something is probably fear: fear of rejection, fear of retaliation, fear of appearing weak, fear that the people who personally know me will read this and think less of me.

Yes. I’m scared.

But here’s the thing: I’m also tired of being scared. I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of deleting my social media accounts because I don’t want people to know what’s going on with me. I’m tired of staying home on the weekends because I’m afraid I’ll see someone I know. I’m tired of making excuses to explain why I didn’t answer a text or a message. I’m tired of holding this fear inside of me, and letting it slowly sap all my energy and strength.

I’m tired of this fear, and I think it’s time to let it go.


Last year, something bad happened to me. It does not matter what it was. That bad thing left me broken. Battered. Alone. Feeling unable to trust many of the people I’d considered to be my closest friends.

I worked through it, somewhat. I made changes. I got a new job, I moved somewhere I felt safe, I started dating a great, supportive guy. I ran a half marathon. I pushed myself to recover, harder and harder, until I felt like I could breathe again. Until I felt like I’d found some version of peace.

A few weeks before my 25th birthday, that fragile peace was shattered. The original “something bad” turned into something unimaginable. Unthinkable. Unreal.


If you have never experienced grief, I cannot explain to you what the last few months have been like. If you have never grieved for someone who hurt you profoundly, you will understand even less. It’s a tricky situation; it resists explanation. But I will try, for the sake of telling the truth.

It sounds cliché, but the day that it happened, my life splintered. Just like that. There was “before” and “after”. Before I sat at work stressing about a marketing meeting I had to run that afternoon. After I couldn’t believe how much I cared about something that now seemed so trivial.

It felt like something shifted in my very foundation that day: not enough to knock the house down, not enough to notice with the naked eye, but enough that it sways in a hard wind. Enough that it’s no longer safe to inhabit.

My mood began to swing bizarrely. Some days I was manic, accomplishing my whole to-do list before 10am, dancing in my room, cooking myself a three course meal. Other days  I didn’t leave my bed, unless it was to go to work, where I was unproductive, listlessly staring at my computer screen.

Sometimes I am still intensely, acutely afraid to be alone, and I cry like a little kid when my long-distance boyfriend has to leave me. Other times I want nothing more than to lie alone in the dark with a lit screen.

I’ve lost interest in many of the things that used to drive my day to day. I rarely run. I don’t really care about politics. I haven’t seen most of my friends in months.

I feel like I’m living a double life. I paint on my face in the morning; put on my makeup, force myself to smile, answer that I’m “doing fine, thanks!” even when I am sad, tired, depressed, feeling the crushing weight of the guilt that is present during every one of my waking hours and many of my sleeping ones. It’s a relief to be alone, to remove the mask.

Because you know what? It’s exhausting to wear that mask. It’s SO exhausting. And for someone who has always striven to live authentically, it’s also deeply uncomfortable. For someone who values truth above almost all else, it’s downright debilitating.


I have struggled to figure out how to navigate this. My first instinct was to retreat; to stop posting, updating, sharing, cease all communication with almost everyone I care about.

But unfortunately, that wasn’t and isn’t sustainable. I can’t hide forever and I’ve found that I don’t want to. I also don’t want to have to follow some completely arbitrary rules anymore about what I’m “allowed” to feel and do. I’m allowed to be happy, and I’m allowed to be sad. I’m allowed to be angry and frustrated, and I’m also allowed to be hopeful. I’m allowed to feel all of these feelings, sometimes all at once, and I am not obligated to hide them or apologize for them.

I’m also not obligated to pretend that I’m doing fine.

Here’s the truth: I’m not doing fine. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but…I’m actually not.

Because this guilt that I have, the pain, the grief that I feel…you may think these things make me weak, but in reality, they make me human. Sitting with them, refusing to dilute them with alcohol or pharmaceuticals, makes me brave. Choosing to believe that there is a distant day where I am ok – where I have found peace, despite my lingering sadness – makes me resilient.

Writing this post, telling my story, makes me free.

And while I don’t know if sharing this will make me feel better, I do know it will make me feel more honest. I know it will make me feel more brave. I know it will make me feel more human. And if that can help even one other person do the same, then it’s as good a place as any to start.

The Best Running Books For Serious Runners

Step 1: read these books. Step 2: get pumped up. Step 3: smash your personal bests.

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I have always been disappointed by the lack of books for competitive runners. There are plenty of how-to books for beginner runners, but while there’s nothing wrong with those books, they just don’t apply to the lives of high school or college athletes or anyone who pursues the sport of track and field or cross country seriously.

The following list is one that I’ve been cultivating since I was 16 and began to realize this was a problem. There are books on this list about track, books about cross country, books for the running history buff, and books for the spiritual runner. They are motivating and inspiring, and will help you get pumped to put in a great season of training, whether it’s for a 5k or a marathon. And though I included a special category for the competitive athlete, the truth is that all of these books are relevant to the competitive athlete.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a a good place to start if you’re a serious runner looking for a book you can relate to.

  1. For Anyone and Everyone: Once A Runner, by John L. Parker Jr.

    Parker’s cult classic follows young protagonist Quenton Cassidy in his quest to run the mile faster than anybody else on earth. It’s been named by both Runner’s World and Competitor magazines as the best running book ever written, and for good reason: Parker’s narrative is beautifully written (and exceptionally quotable), and his depiction of an elite athlete’s day to day life is surprisingly easy to relate to. Warning: this book will make you want to go crush a run when you finish. Further warning: you may also want to marry Quenton Cassidy when you finish.

  2. For The History Buff: The Perfect Mile, by Neal Bascomb

    Bascomb takes his readers back to the year 1952, when three men on three separate continents – Englishman Roger Bannister, Australian John Landy and American Wes Santee – set out to defy the odds and run a mile faster than 4 minutes. At the time, the sub-4 minute mile was believed to be a myth; scientists theorized that it wasn’t humanly possible to run that fast for that long. Bascomb’s story of the men who set out to prove otherwise will make you believe in miracles – and if you love learning the backstories of a huge historical event, this will satisfy your history-loving heart.

  3. For The Fierce Females: First Ladies of Running, by Amby Burfoot

    This is a recent discovery of mine that hooked me from the moment I cracked it open and read the forward by Shalane Flanagan. It’s easy to forget just how far the sport of women’s running has come in recent years (especially for those of us that were born after the passage of Title IX), but Burfoot makes sure you’ll remember the heroic stories of the pioneers who paved the way. He chronicles the story of 22 women – some you’ve likely heard of, many you haven’t – who fought bravely for the right to compete, and does so in a way that will make you proud to be a woman.

  4. For The Cross Country Crazies: Running with the Buffaloes, by Chris Lear

    This is such a great book in so many ways. Lear spends a season with the 1998 men’s cross country team at the University of Colorado – guided by now legendary coach Mark Wetmore – as they pursue a national championship, and as Adam Goucher (yes, THAT Adam Goucher) pursues individual gold. The story is at once compelling, exciting, motivating, and touching; it is both triumphant and tragic. If nothing else, you will put down this book with a renewed appreciation for your team.

  5. For The Track Junkie: Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, by Kenny Moore

    Moore’s epic telling of Bill Bowerman’s story is not for the casual fan – at 480 pages, it is not a short read. But true track nerds and stat lovers will rejoice over the level of attention and detail Moore pays to Bowerman’s life and 24-year career at the University of Oregon. Nike fans will like this one, as the story of Bowerman’s waffle-iron shoes and the humble beginnings of the swoosh also make the cut.

  6. For The Galen Rupp Superfan: Duel in the Sun, by John Brant

    As Galen Rupp fans anxiously await his debut in the Olympic Marathon  -Rupp competed in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, bringing home a silver medal in the 10,000 meters in the latter, but has never competed in the marathon before – they can occupy themselves with Brant’s account of the 1982 Boston Marathon, a down-to-the-wire slugfest between Dick Beardsley and Rupp’s coach, Alberto Salazar. The race is the star of the story, but the insight into Salazar is what makes it invaluable.

  7. For The Spiritual Runner: Running & Being, by Dr. George Sheehan

    Dr. Sheehan helped spark the  American running boom in the 1970’s with his fervent belief that exercise should be joyful, and that running should be as enjoyable as playing. This one is for your runner friend with tattoos of trees and mountains on their backs; the one who likes to commune with nature during their runs. They probably love Alexi Pappas, and they love to post artsy Instagram pictures of themselves running.* They will love Sheehan’s book, a 270-page celebration of running, the earth, and life.

  8. For The Competitive Athlete: How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald

    Though it was published just last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fitzgerald’s study of the “psychobiological” model of endurance performance eventually takes its place among the classics. The book is something of a hybrid; in some ways it’s a how-to manual for improved athletic performance, but it’s also a collection of stories featuring brilliant endurance athletes. It changed me as an athlete and inspired me. (Bonus: in most books, authors use “he” as a generic pronoun. Fitzgerald consistently, purposefully, uses “she” instead, and it made my little feminist heart very happy.)* I’m 100% this person, so please don’t think I’m making fun of you if this is you. I actually probably love you, and we should hang out and be friends.

Like I said, this list is by no means exhaustive – if you have favorites of your own, let me know in the comments section! Let’s create a resource so that we can all build our running book libraries together (and subsequently get PUMPED UP TO CRUSH OUR PRs!). In the meantime,

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5 Tips For Balancing Running With A Full Time Job

Get the most out of your training while still rocking your career.

 

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My first job out of college was not your typical 9-5. I did marketing (mainly social media) for a running specialty store, where I also worked on the sales floor. Running specialty is retail, but it’s like regular retail on steroids; you’re expected to not only stand for 8 hours while simultaneously organizing product, working with a customer, answering phones and covering the cash register, but you’re also expected to maintain an active lifestyle outside of the store so that you have the knowledge to supplement your sales skills. In that environment – where running everyday was literally in my job description – I was able to get in pretty consistent training when I was healthy.

Transitioning from a job environment that prioritized training and distance running to a desk job where frankly, no one cares whether I run or not, was a big adjustment for me. It turns out that it’s really hard to motivate yourself to take those first steps out the door after you’ve sat in meetings for 10 hours and you’re hungry and you’re sore from sitting (who even knew you could get sore from sitting!?). And turns out it’s even harder when you train by yourself, for yourself, with no coach or team to encourage you – which is how the majority of people train when they work full time.

After learning these lessons the hard way (the hard way for me was putting on almost 15 pounds in 3 months because I stopped doing any physical activity at all – oops), I eventually figured out some useful tips and tricks to get around them, and am happy to report that since learning how to balance my running with my full time job, I’ve been able to run a half marathon, lose most of the weight, and am back to putting in consistent 30-35 mile weeks.

Here’s what worked for me:

Workout Whenever The Heck You Want

There are morning exercisers, and there are evening exercisers. It’s totally up to you which one you are. I mean it! Instagram might make you feel like you’re only a true runner if you wake up at 5am to get your workout in, but that’s just not true. A runner is a runner no matter what time they run.

Some people actually function better when they can save their run for 6pm and run the stress of the day off. Other people function better if they knock it out first thing in the morning. There is no such thing as the right way to do it; there is only what is right for you. The real key there is to be honest with yourself about what that actually looks like and try not to force it either way, because you’ll only end up miserable by trying to force a big change.

Take Control Of Your Energy Levels

When I first started working a 9-5, I subsisted mostly on coffee, donuts, and takeout. I was working long hours, and I was exhausted by the time I got home at night. I ended up locked in a vicious cycle of eating refined, processed food because I was too tired to cook, and then feeling even more lethargic and sluggish from the steady diet of refined, processed food.

I think I knew that my nutrition at the time was a problem, but I didn’t understood how big of a difference it made until I fixed it. When I finally started cooking real food for myself, my energy levels literally soared. You don’t have to eat super clean to reap the benefits, either; just aim for protein, a vegetable or fruit, and a grain at every meal. Boom. Nutrition.

Use Caffeine

One of my friends is an elite runner for Asics GTC-Elite (Hi Kate!) and she turned me on to the 3 p.m. coffee. I always find myself lagging after lunch, and that little boost of caffeine a couple hours before I’m due to workout (I typically run at 6pm everyday) can be the difference between slogging home and falling asleep on the couch or getting myself out the door.

Similarly, when I know that I have to wake up and run at 5:30am, I’ll get up at 4:45 and drink a small cup of coffee. The caffeine not only makes me more focused and alert, my body has learned over time that the ritual of drinking my pre-run cup is a cue for it to start transitioning into run mode.

Take Care Of Your Feet

Dress shoes are the devil. High heels are the devil. Ballet flats are the devil. Any shoe without arch support is the devil and will leave your arch sore and fatigued by the end of an 8 hour workday. You should avoid wearing these for any period of time longer than 30 minutes, particularly if you’re standing or walking a lot.

“But Carolyn,” you say. “My office has a dress code!”

Well, then you need to get crafty. Here’s how:

Personally, I hide Oofos OOcloogs (which may be butt ugly but are actually the most comfortable shoes on the entire earth I swear to you) under my desk and wear them when I work at my computer. I have a second pair that I keep in my car and wear on my lunch break. The only time I wear dress shoes is on my way from the parking lot to my desk, or my desk to the bathroom.

An even sneakier option is Superfeet DELUX Dress Insoles, which are smaller support inserts made specifically for men’s and women’s dress shoes. I have a pair of these and it works in any narrow shoes – from boots to flats to Keds to Toms.

Once I started taking care of my feet during the day, my runs at night got much, much easier. You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes in your overall health, too.

Keep a Journal

After not keeping any sort of record about my running for YEARS (outside of my brain, which was not always entirely accurate) I received a Believe Training Journal for Christmas one year, and have been hooked ever since. There’s something about writing down what I did (or didn’t do) every week that satisfies both my inner-Type-A and  ultra-competitive nature.

If you aren’t a journal person, there are also countless digital ways to accomplish the same thing, ranging from low tech (the notes app on your phone or a free website like RunningAhead.com) to high tech (programs like Training Peaks that cost money to join).


While I feel like I’ve established a pretty good routine for myself at this point, I’m always looking for ideas to improve my process! If you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you as you balance training with a full time job, comment below and let’s start a discussion! Until then,

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Take Me To Church

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Picture Credit: Sam Wolde

It’s the spring of 2014, and I’m packed into a van with 9 other girls. I’ve just run 8 miles, 4 of them at tempo effort, and I’m sweating so profusely that it’s hard to sit upright in the leather seats; they are slick with my sweat, and my legs struggle to find purchase as the van bounces up and down on the dirt road. The weather is unseasonably warm for this time of year, and we have all paid the price for our lack of heat acclimation.

I clutch the row of seats in front of me, trying to avoid touching the sweaty bodies that flank me on either side. Hozier is playing in the background: take me to church, he sings, and in my half-drunk rest-starved post-workout state, it occurs to me just how appropriate that is. How the long, hot run I’d just coaxed out of my now-slack body had been a sacrifice of sorts; my daily devotional, laid down at the altar of pain.

At the time, I was a 22-year-old senior preparing myself for the last of my four track seasons at Kutztown University. In a mile race, this season would be my bell lap, and in the most ideal of scenarios, I’d be in the best shape of my life, readying myself to unleash a blistering kick.

Instead, my worst nightmare had happened. I’d fallen down the stairs in November of that year in a freak accident and sprained my ankle so badly that I was unable to walk without assistance for three weeks. A second of clumsiness had take me off the roads and relegated me to the indoor pool, where I “ran” in the deep end with a flotation belt strapped around my waist.

It was a new kind of pain; both mental and physical. I’d been injured before, but I had not been planning on it in this, my last chance at a successful track season and a podium finish in the steeplechase. Before I got injured, I’d come off of an unexpectedly encouraging cross country campaign. I’d run some massive PRs, and was expecting track to be more of the same. Now, I floated in the pool helplessly and tried to imagine coming back from this injury triumphant. I couldn’t.

Luckily, I had a great athletic trainer, an excellent coach, and the wisest of best friends and training partners. The day that I was cleared to run, I was barely able to limp through 10 minutes. It was agonizing, and when I finished, she held me while I cried. “It hurts,” I told her. “It hurts so bad.” She paused for a second before answering.

“Let it hurt,” she said. “Let it hurt every single day so for one day in the spring it doesn’t.”

I had been alone in the pool for two months, and when I rejoined my teammates I was put back in the distance group. At the time, that group was only four strong. Three of those girls were in the shape of their lives – one would go on to qualify for the national meet in cross country the following fall, and the other two set huge PRs that winter and spring in the 5k – and the fourth girl was me.

I was not in the shape of my life.

Easy runs were fine. I could run my own pace, or fall in with one of the mid-distance girls. But during workouts, there was no such easy out. We shared a track with the sprinters and the jumpers, the throwers and the hurdlers – the people who would be counting on us for points at the conference meet. There was no place to hide, and no way to take it easy.

It was, quite simply, awful.

It was the same story every time. I would start with the other three girls, then watch as they effortlessly sprinted away from me, even when I was running at maximum effort. On the rare occasion that I could stay with them, I was working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, just to hang off the back of the pack.

There were days where we’d finish and they’d launch casually into their cool down laps while I stood over a trash can, vomiting from the effort of trying to keep pace with them. There were workouts where I’d run all out just to finish more than 10 seconds behind, where I’d stand stock still with my hands on my hips, head back while I gasped for air and prayed to god to get me through the day. There were tempo runs where I asked my coach not to tell me my time, because it hurt too much to know exactly how far behind I was.

Most days, I’d go home and cry. And my friend would tell me: “Let it hurt today so that the one day that it counts, it won’t.”

I won’t lie to you. My story doesn’t have the happiest of endings. I did not end up finishing atop the podium that year. I missed placing at conferences by two places, five seconds.

But what I did instead was set a collegiate best in every single distance – from the 800 to the steeplechase – in the space of a month. I made myself a factor in a race that I wasn’t even sure I’d be healthy enough to start three months before. I had what was arguably the best performance of my career at the indoor conference meet, when I came from behind in the first leg of the DMR with a huge kick to hand off in third, in front of girls who went on to notch All-American finishes at the national meet.

And I was so, so proud of myself.

I read an interview with Kate Grace recently, in which she says that the biggest lesson she’s learned over the last year is that “improvement comes when it hurts”. I have to agree, because the year that I truly learned what it means to embrace pain was my miracle year: the year that I came from behind to do what no one – including me – thought was possible. The year that I learned the price of success is a daily sacrifice to that altar of pain; whether that means forcing yourself through yet another impossible workout, forcing yourself to get out and put the miles in when you’d rather do anything else in the world, or even just forcing yourself to start what seems, at first, to be an impossible task.

Take me to church, indeed.

Athletes, Avoid These All-Too-Common Summer Training Mistakes

Alternate title: I made all these mistakes so that you don’t have to! 

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It’s June. You took your requisite two weeks to a month off after track season ended, and now you’re not only looking forward to summer training, you’re itching to get started. You have big goals this year – you imagine taking a minute off of your personal best, winning that state championship, crushing that fall marathon, setting the home course record, qualifying for the national race, every time you close your eyes. You want to put in the best summer of training you’ve ever had in your entire life, and you have no shortage of motivation to do it.

I get it. I’ve been there. Over and over, I’ve been there. But here’s what I learned: when you’re that motivated, it’s easy to adopt a dangerous all-or-nothing attitude that blinds you to the mistakes you’re making on a daily basis, that will eventually prevent you from achieving any of your goals at all. That might even sideline you for the season, taking you out of the equation entirely.

Luckily for you, I already made all those mistakes. I learned the hard way what happens when you ignore them. And I wrote them all down here, for you, so that you don’t have to suffer the way that I did.

I want you to run happy and healthy and love the sport, and I also want it to love you back. So without further ado, here are six (and a half) tips for getting the most of your summer training:


1.  Your runs don’t have to be blazing fast to be effective. Your body can’t recover as quickly from a hard session as it can from an easy or moderate one, so odds are if you go all out on Monday and Tuesday, by Wednesday you’ll be tired and sore and more likely to need a day off. In the sport of running, consistency is key. It’s more effective to string together a bunch of average, medium-paced runs in a row than to go all out for three days only to have to take off on the fourth.

1a. There’s a misconception that if you’re not running fast, you’re not working hard. That’s wrong. It takes hard work and discipline to run slow when you want to run fast. It takes a lot of self-awareness to slow down when  someone you think you can beat is ahead of you, especially on an easy day. People tend to think the hard part of competitive running is pushing yourself. It’s not. It’s NOT pushing yourself. The sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.

2. If you’re able to choose between sleep and running, do your run later and get more sleep. It’s not hardcore to skip sleep, it’s unproductive. Your body needs at least 8 hours to absorb the training and recover effectively.

The one caveat to this is if you live in a very hot and/or humid climate and need to run in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. That’s a whole different monster. Waking up early is smart in that case, but try to compensate for the lost sleep with a post-run nap or an earlier bedtime.

3. Don’t do AB workouts, do CORE workouts. What’s the difference? An ab workout addresses the abdominal muscles only. A whole core workout addresses not just the abdominals but also the obliques, glutes, pelvis, lower back, and more. The purpose of working out just your abs is vanity; gettin’ that six pack, lookin’ good on the beach. The purpose of working out your entire core is getting functionally strong so that you can better handle the physiological stress of training, recover more quickly, and eventually run faster as a result.

4. Do some of your runs on grass and trails for the relief of training on soft surfaces (and because in the winter you’ll miss the color green, believe me), but don’t worry about your pace. The terrain will naturally slow you down, but it will also force you to use different muscles than you usually do, which will make you a stronger and more resilient runner.

5. Don’t just hydrate with water. Well, definitely DO hydrate with water, but combine it with an electrolyte-replacing sports drink. Cheap examples: Gatorade or Powerade (if they’re too sweet for you try diluting a cup with a little water, it’ll taste better but serve the same function). Pricier Examples which are probably worth the investment if you are running a lot of miles/sweat a lot: Nuun, Skratch, SOS Rehydrate.

6. Most most most importantly…ENJOY YOURSELF. Setting only outcome-based goals (“win state”; “break 19”; “take a minute off my PR”) drains the joy out of the sport that you love very quickly. Remember that. Set another, more important goal: to enjoy the process. To love the sport more in July than you did in June, and to love it still more in August. Actively cultivate your passion, and let the rest take care of itself.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Let me know if you have any burning questions or tips to add, and I’ll do a follow up post. But for now…

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