Pros and Cons of Running Doubles

Fit your run inMy marathon training plan has me running pretty high mileage during the week. I usually have at least one 7-mile run midweek and in the coming weeks I’ll be logging upwards of 20 miles between my runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. While my training plan is a little more aggressive than a typical first-time marathoner training schedule, many marathon training plans, no matter the experience level of the runner, have at least one high mileage day during the week. If you’re like me and have a pretty busy work schedule, it’s hard to log the mileage in one run so I opt to split it up during the day and run what’s referred to as a double, or running twice in one day, a.k.a. two-a-days.

At first, I was weary about doing this because I thought I might not be getting the full benefit of a 7 or 8-mile run on a Wednesday, but after asking around and a little research, I learned running doubles actually has more pros than cons. If done correctly, running a double can boost fitness and build mileage (without feeling like you’ve been running forever).

When I have a double day on my schedule, like I did on Wednesday, I like to make one run a “workout” and the other an easy, recovery run. Since I’m training for Big Sur, my workout focus was on hills. I had to run a total of 7 miles for the day but instead went out for a 6 mile run at lunch that included two intense hills with an elevation grade that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 2.47.30 PM

Since I already got 6-miles of my daily mileage total done, after work I only had to run a mile so I opted for a slow, recovery run at the gym followed by tons of stretching and some strength exercises.

This was a more intense double day than I usually do. Usually I’ll split up a 7-mile run into a 4-mile tempo run at lunch followed by a 3-mile recovery run after work. I prefer to do my second run at the gym because then I’m able to get some strength training in after but you can do it outside too.

One tip I have for running doubles is to make sure you do some dynamic stretching before your second run. You’re muscles are going to be a little tight from your first run, especially if it was a workout, so you want to make sure you warm up before going right into the run. Then, as always, be sure to stretch out after your second run and hydrate- running twice in one day takes more out of you than you think!

Still not convinced about the benefits of two-a-days? Don’t you fret, of course I asked Twitter for its opinion on the pros and cons of running doubles. Here’s what people had to say:

There are also some cons though, although the majority seem to revolve around having to shower twice in one day.

So if you can get past showering twice in one day, endless hunger and not to mention some extra laundry, two-a-days really aren’t that bad. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself: how bad do you want it and how much are you willing to work for your goal?

{Infographic} 30-Minute, Bodyweight Workout

As many of you might know, I’m a Greatist ambassador. Greatist is a really awesome, fun, quirky and intelligent health and fitness website with endless resources on everything you need to know about wellness, but in language you can actually understand. One of the reasons I love Greatist so much is because of their simple but really informative infographics. They just came out with a new one featuring a 30-minute no gym, bodyweight workout which will be perfect for strength training while I get ready for Big Sur. For runners, bodyweight exercises can help strengthen and build muscle but you probably won’t be as sore the next day as you would if you were lifting weights. So, if you’re interested, test out this workout, I know I will!

Find more bodyweight exercises at Greatist.com

Week 7: Sub-50 10-K (and Half-Marathon) Training

Training went really well this week! I’m feeling really strong (knock on wood) and I keep on surprising myself with how awesome my paces are. I haven’t seen a pace in the upper 9’s or 10’s in weeks and what’s even better is I’m feeling more comfortable at paces in the upper 8’s (which means I can really go even faster!). Here’s a rundown of my runs this week:

Monday- I had to cover a story after work so instead of going to bootcamp I did 35 minutes of Detox Flow Yoga from Lululemon’s YouTube channel. I also did some planks and ab exercises after because I’ve been slacking in that department.

Tuesday- 5.2 miles, 46 minutes, 8:50/mile pace

Wednesday- 5.5 miles, 44 minutes, 8:00/mile pace (I ran with some of my faster co-workers and this was definitely a workout but it was great!)

Thursday- 2.94 miles, 24:58 minutes, 8:27/mile pace

Friday- Rest day and travel back to Massachusetts for Christmas!

Saturday- 4.5 miles, 40 minutes, 8:50/mile pace

Sunday- 10 miles! 1 hour 33 minutes, 9:18/mile pace

My long run this week (10 miles) was my longest run since my half-marathon in September and I felt extremely good! It was a really cold and very windy run but I still had a pretty good pace with the entire 10. I didn’t stop to walk at all and ran up the hills without any problems. I’m feeling good about the half coming up in January! Happy running!

Testing out the “speed demon” interval run

I may be one of the few people who actually enjoys doing speed interval runs- in fact, I think they can be fun. I think they are challenging and I feel like they teach me to push my limits. Also, of course I can see the benefits during my long runs as my times get faster and faster.

However, while I was training for the Hampton Rockfest Half Marathon, I was doing the exact same interval workout and it was getting dull. I was following a training plan and since it was my first half marathon, I made sure not to stray too far from the plan. Now that I’m done with the half, I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out some new interval workouts to mix into my weekly runs.

I knew I wanted to do some speed work today so last night I searched on the Runner’s World website for some new interval plans. I came across an old article about different treadmill workouts and of course the one called “speed demon” caught my eye. This run was based on time instead of distances on the track which was good because the local high school track is closed during the day.

The run basically called for six 3-minute repeats at 20 seconds faster than your latest 5K pace. I would strongly urge anyone who wants to try this to use your most recent 5K pace, not the pace you ran during a PR. I say this because you may have run a fantastic race a year ago and PR’d and you may want to use that pace. But, it’s important to keep in mind the shape you might have been in when you ran that race may not be the same shape you’re in now. You could be in better shape, but you may not be so it’s important to base your speed intervals on your last 5K pace.

That being said, here are the rules of the “speed demon” interval workout.

I thought this was a really great workout and it was nice to switch things up and try a new run. I thought it was challenging but not too hard that I was on the verge of dying. I think when I run it next week, I’ll go a little faster (progression is key!).

Do you have a favorite interval or speed workout? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please share your favorite speed work run in the comments section below!

Anywhere yoga {Infographic}

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you may realize my go-to fitness site is the Greatist. As a journalist I can really appreciate the amount of time, research, interviewing and fact-checking that goes into each and every article they write. As a multimedia journalist working in the ever-evolving and technologically advancing field of journalism, I can appreciate their efforts to make outstanding graphics that are easy to read, follow and share.

A few days ago they posted a great graphic about various yoga poses you can do literally anywhere, including the bathroom on an airplane. In training for my upcoming half-marathon and marathon I’ve incorporated a lot of yoga into my training plan for cross-training and stretching. This graphic is so helpful especially when you may be tired after sitting for a long time, say while working at your desk or taking a long flight. I tested out some of these positions in the bathroom at my office today and they are totally doable. I will admit I didn’t try any of the ones that involved touching the floor but I wouldn’t hesitate to try it at home. Let me know what you think!

Get health and fitness tips at Greatist.com

#PlankADay challenge is still on

3 minutes and 4 seconds! #plankaday

A few weeks ago I told you all I’d be taking on the challenge of doing a plank every day. So far, I’ve maintained the challenge and done up to five variations of planks EVERY DAY! I’ve definitely noticed results and I have some clear definition on my abs now which is pretty exciting.

Planks are such an easy and beneficial exercise. They really get at your inner abs as opposed to crunches which really just work your surface muscles. Also, having a stronger core helps with running in terms of alignment and balance.

I have a few variations of planks that I do regularly.

  • Standard planks- this is a typical plank where you get on your elbows and hold. I usually hold for at least one minute but lately I’ve been trying to see how long I can last. The longest one so far was just over three minutes!
  • Side planks- for a side plank you want to lay on your side, stack your legs and lift up using your obliques and elbow for support. Which ever arm is free you can either put your hand on your hip and hold it behind your head. I usually hold these for 30 secs on each side.
  • Alternating leg planks- for this variation, get into a standard plank pose, hold for 10 secs then lift your right foot about a foot off the ground, hold here for 10 secs, place your foot back down and lift your left foot off the ground and hold for 10 secs. Then, place your left foot back on the ground and hold the plank for 30 more second. Feel the burn!
  • Knee to elbow- for this plank, you want to get in standard plank position and bring your right knee to your right elbow and then place your foot back on the ground. Then bring your left knee to your left elbow and put your foot back on the ground. It feels silly but can really work your obliques. Naturally your butt is going to pop up a bit while doing this but do your best to keep it down.
  • Elbow to floor side planks- this is a toughy but SO great! First get into standard side plank position and place your free hand behind your head, like you would for a crunch. Make sure you are stabilized and then try to reach the elbow of your free arm to the floor. You don’t have to touch the floor with your elbow but if you can, that’s even better!

After each plank I like to stretch out my core by doing a simple yoga child’s pose stretch. As always, with planks you want to stay stiff as a board and don’t let your bum pop up! Are you doing the #plankaday challenge or do you have any other plank variations? If so, let me know in the comment section or tweet to me @FitHappyGirl.

Pick Up Runs: Increase speed over long distances

Throughout my training for the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon in September, I’ve been doing various interval workouts and tempo runs to increase my the speed of my mile times. I’ve written about tempo runs in previous posts and explained some of my interval training but the one speedwork run I didn’t mention was the pick up run.

Admittedly, my training has been calling for me to work in pick-up runs throughout the last seven weeks but instead of doing them I did longer runs or other kinds of speedwork. I didn’t do them because I wasn’t really sure what they were and I was already doing two kinds of speedwork training so I thought, why add another? Turns out, they are the best way to increase speed over longer distances. Last night however I did my first pick-up run on the treadmill and it was pretty hard but it felt great after!

Similar to an interval run, a pick up run helps to increase your body’s tolerance to lactic acid buildup without cooling down completely in between intervals. Through this practice, your body will become better able to run at higher speeds without getting tired. The difference between a pick up run and a regular interval run is the total distance of the run and the amount of time spent at the interval speed.

How do you tackle a pick up run you may ask? Well, to begin, start with an easy warm-up running at a comfortable jog. Once you’re warmed up, pick up your speed to a “controlled sprint.” This is another difference between an interval or tempo run and a pick up run. With a tempo run you want to run the intervals at a “comfortably hard” pace, not a sprint. With a pick up run you want to run at a “controlled sprint” during the intervals. What’s a controlled sprint, you’re now asking? A controlled sprint means you’re running at a very hard pace, an “8” or “9” intensity level, but not dying basically.

After you run the interval for the designated amount of time you want to slow your pace down to a comfortable jog, but do not stop running. With an interval run you can get away with walking in between intervals but with a pick up run you want to keep running. Another great thing about pick up runs is you can take as much time as you need in between intervals. This is important because during each interval you have to stay at the “controlled sprint” pace, so resting in between is crucial.

Here’s are some examples of pick up runs to test out:

  • A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60s, 120s, 120s, 60s, 45s, 30s, 15s sprints. (Translation: A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60 second sprints, then slow to a jog to rest for however long you need, then 1 set of 120 second sprints, then slow to a jog, etc.)
  • 10 sets of 60s sprints with 90s jog in between sets, 2-mile cool down run
  • 1-mile warm-up with 6 sets of 90s sprints and 120s of jogging in between sets, 1-mile cool down

As always, stretch after! If you have any questions or comments, write them in the comment section below!

Fit Girl takes on #PlankADay challenge

I have always loved ab workouts but it’s hard to get deep into the abdominal muscles by doing just crunches. So I am taking on the FitFluential #plankaday challenge. The challenge is simple- complete one plank every day and slowly increase the amount of time the plank lasts each day- the results, fantastic!

According to Live Strong, plank exercises are part of isometric training. In laymen’s terms this means “contracting your muscles against stationary resistance.” Planks and other isometric training can help you get past strengthening plateaus, according to the article, and build mental endurance. As opposed to crunches, planks get at the inner abdominal muscles which is really where the strength comes from.

There are many variations on planks but I’ll show you those in posts later on this week. If you think you’re up for the #plankaday challenge then start off by doing a 30-secon plank each day. After doing a plank you want to be sure to stretch out your back and abs. I like going into the yoga position, child’s pose, for a nice long stretch. Also, let me know how you’re doing and tweet your progress to me @FitHappyGirl and @FitFluential with the hashtag #plankaday.

Strength training for runners

If you’re as obsessed with running as I am, you actually dread the “rest” days. And if you love running as much as I do, I’m sure you don’t actually “rest” on those “rest” days. I use the ironic quotations because I know many of you are thinking, true, I cheat on some of my rest days and just run a shorter distance than normal because that counts as rest, right? Wrong. It is extremely important to actually rest from running on your rest days. Your body needs time to rejuvenate and reinvigorate your muscles.

However, there is a slight loophole to these so-called rest days: strength training. As important as it is to up your mileage and continue with tempo runs and interval training, it’s extremely important to strengthen your muscles. If you don’t strengthen you are at extreme risk for injury, which will surely make all of your days rest days.

As written in an article on Active.com by Tom Holland of Windy City Sports Magazine:

I contend that running doesn’t cause injuries, but rather illuminates our weak links and allows us to see what we need to improve upon. There’s no greater way of determining how to improve our bodies than by listening to and accessing how we respond to running.

So, you ask, I’m a distance runner, I don’t want to bulk up, what could I possible do to build muscle mass? It’s easy. Create a consistent schedule for yourself, maybe twice or three times a week, determine how much weight you should be lifting, and most importantly, do the exercises correctly.

Starting off, I’d suggest doing squats to build muscle in your quads (thighs) and gluteus maximus (your bum). These are the two muscles that are probably the most important to runners. I’d also suggest core strengthening exercises, particularly plank exercises.

Here are four key exercises you can try to start off:

  • Bodyweight squats- stand with your feet square, hip length apart. Squat down as if sitting in a chair. Be sure your knees do not go beyond your toes. Come back up to a standing position and do 12 repetitions, three times.
  • Push-ups- runners use there arms to pump along during their run so it’s important to build arm muscle. One of the simplest exercises are push-ups.
  • Planks- You want to be sure to increase your core muscles because having a strong core means having strong balance. Planks are one of the best exercises for increasing core strength because unlike sit-ups, they target the inner muscles of your core, helping you to deepen your strengthening.
  • Cross-fit- adding in another form of cardio to your routine will help your muscles develop in different ways and help you to avoid muscle memory (and getting bored). I like to do circuit training with jumping jacks, mountain climber, burpees and grasshoppers. Some people also enjoy bicycling, swimming or taking a group fitness class. Whatever your preference, make sure to add it in once a week.