Coping with Summer Heat

by Wish

Temps for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon this October will probably  in the 60s to 70s. Not bad for running.  But training for the Haile Marathon will take several long runs and plenty of shorter easier runs—and most of them will be in the heat of late spring and summer.

If marathoning is new to you, it may come as a surprise that running in the heat of summer is much more difficult than in cooler weather.  There’s no question that the summer dynamic duo of extreme heat and high humidity can also bring on overheating on any run of any length which can lead to heat stroke or exhaustion.

Overheating is really quite simple.  When the body can’t cool itself adequately, it overheats.  The reason we overheat is because our bodies can’t keep up with the evaporation demands of water (sweat) from our skin surface.

During a run, our body’s internal furnace heats up and we sweat.  That’s good.  As we sweat, the body sends more blood to the skin where it is then cooled by coming into contact with the relatively cooler skin.  But while running, our working muscles are also demanding oxygen which means less blood will flow to the skin. When that happens, the cooling process is inhibited which is when overheating occurs.  This is very dangerous.

You may not realize it, but there’s almost a tug-of-war battle being waged if you want to maintain a certain running pace.  The blood and oxygen goes to your working muscles to keep up with the demands of your running pace, but you begin to overheat because less blood is going to the skin for cooling.  Or, the blood is diverted to the skin for cooling, but that means less blood is going to working muscles which forces you to slow down dramatically.

Any way you slice it, running in summer heat is tough stuff.  Making it worse is if you live where there is high humidity which short circuits the cooling and evaporative process.  Even though the blood works its way to the skin and we sweat (again, a good thing), high humidity doesn’t allow the sweat to evaporate very well and thus, cool us down.  Running in hot, dry weather might be hard, but it isn’t as hard as running in hot, humid weather.

Dehydration is also more pronounced in hot, humid weather.  When you dehydrate, you are actually losing fluid from the body.  As you sweat, you lose water and other electrolytes.  If you can’t sweat adequately, you’re in big trouble.

Drinking water doesn’t actually cool you down, but staying properly hydrated allows you to sweat better, which does cool you.

Here are some hints for surviving summer’s heat and humidity:

  1. Run early or run late (before sunrise or after sunset).  The humidity is higher in the morning, but temps are obviously lower.  The air quality is also better in the morning as the traffic is lighter.
  2. If you must run at lunchtime and temperatures are extremely hot, run inside on a treadmill.  Or go for a very short run.  Better yet, go for a swim.
  3. Slow down.  The heat slows everyone down.  Don’t try to ignore the heat by thinking you can run your normal long-run distance or pace.  You can’t.  At least not for very long.
  4. The less you wear, the better.  The more exposed skin surface, the better the evaporating process works.
  5. Wear light colored, lightweight shorts and shirts.  Don’t wear cotton shirts or heavy socks.  Never wear sweat pants.
  6. Drink at every opportunity.  Staying hydrated won’t keep you cool, but becoming dehydrated results in an elevated heart rate.  After your run, continue drinking water, sports drinks or juice until you can urinate freely and the urine is clear.  (Dark urine is a sure sign of dehydration.)
  7. Try to run in areas near the water and/or where there is shade.
  8. If you need to do a speed workout, consider running at least part of it on a grass field.  You’ll be running slower on grass, but will be cooler.
  9. Start slower.  Your body heats up gradually.  By starting a run with an aggressive pace, you’ll simply heat up quicker and eventually pay the price.
  10.  Recognize signs of overheating.  Such warning signs as profuse sweating, lightheadness, nausea, vomiting, fainting are all indications of heat exhaustion. If symptoms occur, stop running.  Immediate treatment should be cool drinks, ice application or jump in a pool, lake or ocean.  If a body of water isn’t available, get into a cool place (such as a store, home, building or business) to prevent heat stroke.
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Avoiding the Over-Training Trap

by Wish

As a group, we runners are a dedicated bunch.  Maybe too dedicated. Although many of us training for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon in October are following (or will follow) carefully drawn up schedules, many of us still can’t resist the temptation to run too many days per week, too many miles overall or too many miles way too fast.

When you go over the edge by doing too much in preparing for the marathon, it’s called over training and it’s just as serious a problem for marathoners as training too little.  Maybe even more so.  Especially for newbies who think more is always better.

Over training is easy to define: a runner has trained too hard for his/her level of fitness for too long.  Doing so leaves the runner in a hole.  Trying to climb out of that hole leaves the marathoner chronically fatigued, injury prone and running sluggishly and slower than normal—just the opposite of what elevated training is supposed to accomplish.  Making it even worse, once you’ve gone over the edge and trained too much, getting back to normal may take weeks before your body has fully recovered.

Exactly how many miles or how much speed work or races constitutes over training is different for every runner.  A world-class marathoner like Haile Gebrselassie may easily handle 130 miles a week or more, while a recreational marathoner may be over trained by doing a fraction of that.

Determining how much training stress your body can handle is key to avoiding over training, but finding that level of just the right amount of training to get maximum results without going overboard takes recognizing the warning signs of over training.  This is where the role of thoughtful, enlightened coaches is critical.  A good coach will get maximum results with a sound training plan that doesn’t push the runner over the edge.

Certainly the more miles you run (and the greater number of long runs) is key in achieving optimum fitness for the marathon.  But high mileage weeks with a tough long run tacked onto the end makes you more susceptible to over training.  That’s why all training programs have rest (or easy) days built in and limit long runs to once a week if not one every two weeks.  And that’s why all training programs recommend a gradual buildup of miles to allow your body to adapt to the higher stress loads.

Here are some tips to avoiding over training before it nails you:

  1. Add an extra day of rest to your weekly schedule.  If the training program you are following leaves you tired and sluggish, it may be too much.  Scale back.  Consult with your coach.
  2. Keep careful track of your mileage and hard workouts.  Write your weekly and monthly mileage in a training log.  If it increases too quickly and leaves you exhausted, you’ll have a written record and can reduce the total.  Don’t do more than three hard workouts a week.  If three is too much, only do two.
  3. Pay attention to how well you sleep at night.  If you aren’t sleeping well and are restless, your heart rate may be elevated which is a sure sign of over training.  Cut back.
  4.  Monitor how you feel when you wake up in the morning.  If you’re sore and in a rotten mood for running, don’t bother with a run.  Rest instead.
  5. Never force yourself to run.  If you just don’t have the energy (mental or physical) for it, your body is telling you to back off.
  6. Take one easy week a month.  You should take at least one or two easy days a week.  You should also take a recovery week every month when you cut back your weekly mileage by 30 to 50 percent.  During this week, also cut back on speed work and if you are scheduled to do a long run, reduce the length of it.
  7. Lower overall miles, but up the quality.  Run fewer miles when you feel yourself getting stale or tired, but run them faster.
  8. Rest on a rest day.  If you are exhausted and badly need the rest, don’t run.  Also don’t cross-train.  Just chill out with a good book.  Get off your feet as much as possible.
  9. Stay hydrated. Since you’re training for the Haile Marathon and running more miles than normal, you must emphasize hydration as much as possible—even in the cooler weather.  If you are continually dehydrated, it can lead to the same lethargic symptoms of over training.
  10. Run fewer races.  Racing is high stress.  If you’re already tired and listless from increased training, a difficult race is the last thing you want to do.
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The Key to Keeping Your Mojo

by Wish

You have most likely begun training for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon and are excited about the adventure of running a race in a new country.  But eventually, that wave of initial excitement can wear off and all of a sudden, you feel tired and maybe even a little bored with running.  Every time you even think about going for a run, you come up with plenty of reasons not to go.

The alarm goes off and instead of hopping out of bed, you roll over.  Or you come home from a long day at work and instead of a regenerating run, you grab a beer and head for the TV for Seinfeld reruns.

Sound familiar?  It should.  The motivation to run is something that comes…and goes. It could be seasonal (it’s especially tough on cold, wet mornings) or you’re just plain tuckered out.  Or, you feel stressed by the job, school or keeping up with the kids at home.  Some days even a short run feels unbearable.  Or maybe you’re just bored silly staring straight ahead day after day on the treadmill.

Whatever it is (or isn’t) staying motivated to run 12 months a year can be difficult. Maybe even impossible.  At some point, beginners and experienced runners all lose their mojo.

The key is recapturing it so you can keep going and improve.  And the key to recapturing that motivation  is to make changes in your running.  It doesn’t matter what you change as much as simply making a change or two.

Switch your goals and make new ones.  Instead of training simply for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon, set your sights on getting faster in a mile or 5-K.  Add more speed days.  Reduce the length of your long runs.  Or substitute a strength training workout in the gym for a hill day.

Maybe you need to add an extra rest day to your schedule.  Start taking a yoga or Pilates class.  Maybe add a spinning class or try pool running.  Or find new running routes around town.  Possibly, you need to hook up with a different training group and meet new training partners.  Run at a different time of day.

There are all sorts of solutions to break the ho-hum routine of running. You may not need to make major changes, but some change is good to shake up the routine.

Here are some tips that will help you stir the mix and get you fired up again about running:

Develop new training routes.  Too many of us stick with the same roads.  Seek out a new course in a different part of town—even if it means driving.  A change of scenery can make all the difference.  Or if you can’t part with your favorite long run loop, the next time run it in a different direction.

Make new running friends.  Join a different training group to do long runs or speed work.  Or do different workouts with your regular training partners.  If you only do long runs together, try doing shorter, easier runs with your group.  Or meet at the track once a week.  Or do some running drills together.

Run earlier or later.  If you’re a morning runner, switch to the evening, or vice versa.  If you can’t make such a radical switch, run a half hour earlier or later.  Or go for a noon run, rather than eating lunch.

Replay great movies in your head.  What’s your favorite?  Caddie Shack or To Kill A Mockingbird?  It doesn’t matter.  While running, entertain yourself by replaying the classic scenes in your head.  Or replay your life.  Pick a year and rehash everything (no matter how minor) that went on, but stick with that year.

Buy new shoes or new running clothes.  A simple investment in new running gear might be just what you need to get excited about running again.

Sign up for a new class.  Learn how to do yoga, Pilates or kick boxing.  If Tai Chi looks interesting, give a try.  Have you tried Body Pump?  Try it.  Ever tried deep-water running?  Go for it.  Can’t swim?  It’s about time you learned.

Leave your watch or GPS at home.  Don’t time your run.  Just run in any direction your feet take you and for any length of time which feels reasonable.  Be spontaneous.

Take five.  If you’re still having a difficult time finding the motivation to get out the door, tell yourself you’ll only run for 10 minutes.  Usually after just a few minutes of running, you’ll forget all about it and keep going.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a new ‘tude about running.  Change your routine, make new goals, take a class and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.

If not, it might be time to take a break from running.  It’s fine to take a week or two off. That’s usually all it takes to find your inner mojo again.

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CHOICE Women First 5K Celebrates 10 Years of Running in Ethiopia

by Richard Nerurkar

Derartu Tulu’s victory in the women’s 10,000m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics had implications beyond her own sport, not least regarding the place of women in Ethiopian society. Ask any Ethiopian female and they’ll immediately tell you the Amharic equivalent to the saying: “the woman’s role is in the home.” In becoming the first African female to win a distance-running Olympic gold medal, Tulu was defying that long-held belief and opening the door to countless other young African female athletes to achieve what their male counterparts had been doing for the previous thirty years: make a career out of their sport and become international stars in their own right.

Four years on from Tulu’s victory in Barcelona, her compatriot Fatuma Roba became the first African female to win an Olympic marathon title. And four years on from this win, Tulu won her second Olympic 10,000m title. By the time of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, a new generation of Ethiopian athletes led by Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba were adding to the list of Ethiopian Olympic medal winners.

In that same year 2004 Great Ethiopian Run, both to recognise the achievements of Ethiopia’s great female athletes and to support the broader changes regarding the role of women in Ethiopia’s economic and social life, initiated a new women’s-only running event called WOMEN FIRST. Derartu Tulu featured in the first promotional film made by Aida Ashenafi which was aired on ETV to publicise the race.

Now in 2013 the Great Ethiopian Run race organisers are preparing to stage the 10th edition of the event on Sunday 10th March. In the preceding 9 years since the race’s first edition in May 2004, a total of more than 60,000 girls and women aged from 5 to 75 have taken part in these races.

Many of the race winners have gone on to higher things. Here are just two examples: 2006 race winner Aselefech Mergia last year earned $250,000 for winning the 2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. And the runner-up in last year’s race Tiki Gelana five months later became the Olympic marathon champion in London.

More than the achievement of the elite athletes, the run has become a celebration of the overall contribution of women in Ethiopia’s development. ‘Kudmiya lesetotch’ (the Amharic translation of WOMEN FIRST) may not be a reality in every part of our culture just yet; but this event gives opportunity – at least once every year – to show how far Ethiopia has come since those days when women truly did just stay at home.

This article first appeared in the 2013 Women First race magazine.

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Rest for Success

By Wish

If you are deep into your training for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon or even just beginning it, one of the most difficult concepts you will have to incorporate is also the very simplest: rest. That’s right, total rest.  Not active rest or cross-training, but complete rest. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, weight lifter or bowler (okay, maybe not a bowler), but your most important training day should have a big goose egg next to it.  A zero.  Zilch.  Nyet.  Nada.  Nothing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  How am I going to get any better by doing nothing?  It’s simple.  The human body requires rest if it’s going to work optimally.  The body will need even more rest as your training load increases and builds.  When you rest, when you take a complete day off from running, is when your body repairs itself from the load you have been placing on it.  Then and only then will you see the greatest gains in muscular and cardiovascular strength.

Training tears you down; recovery builds you up.  The problem is this concept of rest is counter intuitive to what we’re trying to do—get stronger.  So if five workouts a week is good, then six must be better.  And seven days must be better than six.  The more we train, the fitter we will become, right?

To a point, it’s true.  Quite obviously, training is necessary because the stress of it flips a number of hormonal and genetic switches in your body which allow each part of the body to adapt in a way that strengthens it in time for the next workout.  But these adaptations can unfold only when your body is resting or in recovery mode.

Since the majority of important fitness adaptations occur during the recovery or rest phase, the goal of any training program should be to maximize recovery.  So the conventional thinking should be switched around.  Instead of recovering to train harder, you should train to recover.

There’s an important distinction.  When you recover to train harder the next day, the focus is entirely on the workouts, and rest or recovery is simply a necessary evil.  The assumption is that merely finishing a hard workout delivers far-reaching benefits, but that isn’t necessarily true.

By switching your thinking around–training to recover–you look at the hard workouts against the backdrop of the recovery days.  The benefit of this thinking is it allows you to adopt better ways of balancing your workouts and recovery periods so you experience greater fitness gains from the same amount of training.

If you buy into the importance of rest and recovery, the all important question is:  How can I improve as an athlete and still take more rest?

The answer is planning.  Any good marathon training schedule has at least one rest day per week slotted in.  That’s good.  But two may be better for you than one.  One or two may be easy workout days with one day reserved for complete rest.

Here are six specific ways you can train for recovery:

  1. Create a need for recovery.  Effective recovery works when it follows a training stress.  The stronger the training stimulus that precedes a period of rest (up to a point), the more pronounced the recovery-adaptation response will be.  Most training programs will have two to four key workouts a week.  Following each hard workout, you must have a recovery day to fully reap the benefits of the hard training.
  2. Rest before; recover afterward.  Because your 2-4 key workouts are the most challenging training you’ll do on a weekly basis, they need to be preceded by adequate recovery to give you the capacity to properly absorb the hard stuff.
  3. Do easy workouts.  Light, easy workouts are relatively short and don’t challenge your body enough to create a need for additional recovery.  If the easy workouts are too hard, they’ll interfere with your recovery from the most recent key workout.
  4. Train hard when you’re ready.  Train hard and do your key workouts when you’re actually ready for them, not necessarily when they are on the schedule.  For example, after warming up for or beginning a key workout, if you decide you don’t feel right, bail on the workout and just do a light, stress free one instead.
  5. Monitor your recovery status. Learn to listen to your body.  If you’re tired, your body is telling you it isn’t getting adequate recovery. If this pattern repeats itself, rework your training schedule by adding more recovery or light workouts.
  6. Incorporate recovery weeks into your training.  After a three or four-week training cycle, plan a week of reduced-volume training for full recovery.  Planning a recovery week into your training, ensures that you don’t accumulate fatigue during a long-term training program. It also allows you to train harder during your hard weeks than you’d be able to do if you didn’t take planned recovery weeks.
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Training for a Race at Altitude

by Wish

The best way to prepare for the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon or half marathon at an altitude of 5500 feet (similar to Denver in the U.S. and Davos in Switzerland) is to take occasional forays up to a similar altitude. Going for occasional training runs a mile or so above sea level will help accustom you to the atmospheric conditions and you will quickly learn you have to slow down from your normal sea level pace. There is simply less oxygen at 5500 feet than sea level, but such an altitude is not an extreme one.

If you can’t go up to altitude for training and/or don’t live at altitude, the best advice once you get to your race destination is to plan to cut back on your normal marathon or half marathon pace by at least 30 seconds a mile. Although the altitude will effect every runner differently, it will have an effect on every runner from a sea-level country. The other easy-to-follow tip is when you get to Ethiopia, begin hydrating immediately. Higher altitude increases evaporation–that’s why it’s dryer–so you’ll lose more water than normal. Staying fully hydrated in Hawassa before, during and after the race is very important.

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Starting Strong

By Wish

With the Haile Gebreselassie Marathon eight months away, it’s time to start thinking about getting in shape to run it.  Running or even walking it is a great goal that will make a difference in your life.

Keep in mind the changes that regular aerobic exercise will make in your life take time.  There’s no instant gratification or immediate result.  Certainly the changes will happen, but it takes a consistent exercise regimen, patience, and the commitment to make a change in your life that will culminate with the completion of the HG Marathon or Half Marathon.

Here are 10 great tips that will help you stay on track to not only making a lifestyle change but maintaining it:

  1. Change your attitude.  If you view an hour of exercise as painful, boring and time consuming, you’ll never succeed.  Instead, think of a good run or walk as a great way to start the day or a chance to unwind from a stressful day.  Consider the health benefits and how good you’ll feel when the workout is completed.
  2. Create a realistic plan.  This plan should call for a walk or run for a minimum of 30 minutes at least four or five times a week.
  3. Schedule your runs or walks.  Pencil them into your daily calendar just like would do for any appointments and commit to them.  Schedule the walk or run for a convenient time that fits your busy schedule but give yourself adequate time so you aren’t stressed or rushed.
  4. Get the right stuff.  To walk or run, you don’t need expensive equipment or gym memberships.  Just buy a proper pair of running shoes from a reliable store.
  5. Enlist an exercise buddy.  This friend should be at the same level as you are and also make a commitment to exercise.
  6. Track your progress.  Set several small, attainable goals over the next several months that will help you reach your ultimate goal of completing the HG Marathon or half.
  7. Reward yourself after attaining your goals.  Do something you enjoy to celebrate your success.  Get a massage after you’ve lost your first five pounds, buy new shoes after working up to a 30-minute run or go out to brunch after your first 5-K.
  8. Plan and prepare healthy meals in advance.  Learn healthy eating habits and decide to eat more vegetables instead of focusing on cutting out foods. Pack your lunch to avoid the fast food drive through.
  9. Be prepared to run or walk whenever you have time.  Keep your running clothes and shoes handy.
  10. Be patient.  Results won’t happen overnight, but they will happen if you remain committed, passionate and learn to enjoy the process.
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