With spring weather comes the urge to get outdoors. Longer days, warmer temperatures. The call of the sun and blue sky can’t be ignored. And with marathon season just gearing up — Boston and London are just around the corner — many of us have running on our minds. Now is the time to skip from the monotony of the treadmill to the streets, to finally feel the earth’s cool breeze running through our hair and pavement or a rocky path beneath our pounding feet. After spending the chilly winter season focusing on shorter distances indoors, now the trail stretches before us, beckoning us to go just a little farther, explore just a little bit more.
But going the distance isn’t quite as simple as setting your mind on more miles. It takes practice, perseverance, and preparation; to get the scoop on what it takes to log more miles (or just intensify your running routine in general), we turned to an FP Me expert for some answers. Meet long-distance runner and FP Me babe, Audrey Roloff. A former downhill skier and ballet dancer, Audrey shifted her focus to cross country running in high school, eventually going on to run competitively in college. She adds, “Upon graduating college, getting married, moving to Los Angeles, and accepting a full time job, it’s been much harder to find time and space to run and train. In fact it’s been nearly impossible, because I also broke my foot in two places the day that my husband and I moved to LA… crazy right?! I had to hang up my shoes for a solid three months after that. I decided to just give this injury maximum recovery time (unlike when I used to push right through injuries in college) and take a break from running for a while. It only made my passion to come back even stronger. A couple months ago I started running again, with the hopes to enter a 5k/10k road race this summer. Over the years I’ve gravitated towards the longer distance races. As I begin to find a new routine, and gain fitness, my hope is to train for half marathons/marathons in the future. Always more, right?”
If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will. Her passion for running is palpable throughout her gorgeous FP Me profile and we couldn’t think of a better person to give us some guidance for hitting the road (or trail). Below Audrey shares tips for new runners and offers expert advice for getting back on your feet after an injury and gearing up for a longer race. Read on and you might just be inspired to sign up for that next 10k yourself!
Five tips for the new runner (because everyone has to start somewhere):
1. Anyone can be a runner. Running doesn’t take skill it just takes a whole lot of perseverance.
2. Consistency is crucial. Commit to running for just 30 minutes, five days a week, for three weeks straight. After that, you will begin making fitness gains, and before you know it 30 minute runs will seem effortlessly short, and 8-minute miles will seem like 10-minute miles. The progression after three solid weeks is exponential.
3. Listen to your body. My college coach developed something called the 72-hour rule. If anyone on our team was ever feeling sick or experiencing a nagging ache or pain, he would prescribe 72 hours of rest before returning to training. 72 hours might seem like a lot when you are desperate to make fitness gains, but it’s nothing once you experience an injury that puts you out for a year.
4. Take a warm bath or use a microwavable rice bag to heat up your legs before going out on a run. This improves performance, prevents injury, and allows you to begin your run in a “warmed-up” state. After harder or longer runs, take an ice bath for no less then 8 minutes, and no more than 12. The momentary pain flushes blood to your legs, allows you to recover quicker, and keeps you healthy.
5. Make a plan and adapt. Write a training plan that begins at least three months before your race. Websites like Runners World Magazine, can offer specific running plans based on the distance of your race and your running level of experience. Print multiple copies of your training plan and put it in places that allow you to see it often. Keep a running journal that reflects the distance, time, location, weather, and feel of each run (there are many aps for this as well). Parallel your running journal with your training plan, track your progress, and adjust when needed.
Ready to add some distance? Read on for more!
Training for more: Training for a long distance race requires a balance of aerobic training, anaerobic training, strength training and agility training. In addition, it requires a combination of routine, resilience, and rest. Training for a race demands much more than putting in work on the track or the trails. Training is a lifestyle. It involves how you sleep, eat, think, and dream. It involves how you live when you’re not running.
During my years as a collegiate runner at Oregon State University, I learned the importance of training harder and smarter, instead of harder and longer. Training smarter means listening to your body. Distance runners have a hard time listening to their bodies because they are wired to ignore pain, and push through to the finish. That is the essence of an endurance athlete. “Pain pushers.” Unfortunately, I could write a book about all the running injures that I have suffered from being a “pain pusher.” Training gains only take place when your body is healthy and firing on all cylinders. If you’re exhausted, emotionally distressed, or suffering an injury, training will be ineffective, and often times infective. When we listen to our bodies, so often they are telling us to rest and recover, so that we can keep making gains, instead of accumulating losses. Cross-training is another beneficial way to combat fatigue or injury. Spinning, elliptical work and aqua jogging can all attribute to fitness gains, even when an injury is not present. I set my personal record in the 5k after a month of solely cross-train workouts. A typical training week for me as a division one athlete in college consisted of 1 cross-training day, 2 workout days, 3 easy run days (with short morning cross-train), 1 long run day, and one day OFF.
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What to eat before you run long-distance:
Fueling your body the night before a race is the most important. It’s best to eat a lean protein, vegetable, carbohydrate meal combination. “Carbo – loading” is actually a major misconception, and will only make you feel slower and improperly fueled. Your biggest meal should actually be consumed two nights before your race, which is also the most important night of sleep. The night of a race I would usually eat a half portion of chicken pad Thai. The sauce is never too much dairy for me to handle, the protein is not too spicy to digest, it comes with steamed veggies, and the rice noodles are gluten-free. Three hours before my race day warm-up, I eat a bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds and ground flax, a banana with a little peanut butter, half a Think-Thin protein bar, and a large cup of coffee. Then an hour before my warm-up I would eat a few more bites of the protein bar, and drink half of a Gatorade. Your pre-race breakfast should typically contain 100 to 200 grams of carbohydrates and be low in fat with a moderate level of protein. However, the most important thing is that you eat foods and drink beverages that you are accustomed to consuming before training runs. Race day is not the time to try anything new!
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Race day: There are five imperative things that I do before every race that I run. First, every morning on race day, I write a note to myself that I read while stretching before the race. The note contains reminders, truths, quotes, and goals. This always puts me in a focused and inspired state, and relinquishes any fears or doubts. Second, I do my hair and make-up. Seem silly? Maybe, but I fully believe that if you feel like you look good, that confidence will translate to your race. I straighten my hair, braid it into a tight inside-out headband braid, and pull it into a ponytail. The braid keeps my hair completely out of my face when I run, and my straight pony-tail just feels more aerodynamic ;) I step to the starting line every time with my bright red lipstick, a bold tenacity, and no shame.
Third, I set a reasonable and specific goal. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t “dream big” and set high goals, it just means that along with those deep-rooted, ambitious goals should be an attainable goal that you are willing to tell someone with assurance. Sometimes during a race it’s easy to turn your goal into an expectation — don’t — all this does is invite doubt. The second your expectation seems too far out of reach, is the second you rob yourself from the race you are capable of running. Remember that your goal does not define your race, so during your race don’t let it. There is ALWAYS so much MORE going on in a race than you are aware of, there is ALWAYS so much MORE that you might be accomplishing with each stride without knowing it until after you’ve crossed that finish line. Don’t be concerned with what is happening in the race around you, just run your race. Use everything you’ve got, so that you’ll be able to step across the finish line with confident satisfaction.
This brings me to my fourth imperative, “tattoo” a reminder. My sophomore year in high school I began writing these words; “ALWAYS MORE,” on my hand in black sharpie coated with sparkly nail polish. To this day, I write them on my hand each time I braid my hair and put on my buns to race. Overtime these words have powerfully shaped my life in other ways, but they have had an especially prevailing impact on my races. Each time I catch a glimpse of the sparkling words, I am reminded that I ALWAYS have MORE left than my body leads me to believe, that I ALWAYS have MORE strength and energy to draw from, and MORE passionate perseverance to offer. These words remind me that no matter how tired I am, who’s ahead of me, who’s behind me, how successful my workouts have been, how slow I feel, or how much I want to slow down, that no matter what, I ALWAYS have MORE in the tank. Instead of assessing your energy levels and wondering what will happen later in the race, refuse to waste energy worrying, and you will have strength to spare! You ALWAYS have MORE in you than you think, you just have to believe it. Have the courage to put potential to the test, and you will never finish a race unsatisfied. Choose a powerful truth that you need to be reminded of during your race, and temporarily tattoo it on your hand. When you catch a glimpse of it during your race, a renewing sense of energy will burst forth and you’ll feel freedom to run farther and faster.
And fifth, pray big.
What to eat after a distance run:
The most important thing is that you eat within 30-60 minutes after your run, or as soon as your stomach can handle it. I like to eat the rest of my protein bar and some chocolate milk. Two-to-three hours after the race you should eat something more substantial. It’s important to still eat a healthy meal of complex carbohydrates and lean protein. Be sure to drink aggressive amounts of Gatorade and water after, and for the reminder of the day.
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+ Are you training for a longer run this season? Share your tips in the comments!