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What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 17 March 2014. Posted in Running

What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

Recently I read an article about stretching from the professional sports realm.  Although it’s from a year or so ago, it has some striking points: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324734904578243930799732200.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

It basically talks about how the 49ers have found so much success on the field and have equated it to the stretching regime that they are required to do.  

Reading through the article, and knowing a decent amount about our wonderful machine, the human body, I say to myself, "Well duh!"  The team officials refuse to discuss the stretching regime, but according to Stats LLC, the 49ers have only missed 159 games due to injury.  That means that at least one player on the team has missed a game due to injury.  This number sounded relatively high to me, but then I continued reading and saw that the Baltimore Ravens have had 94% more games missed and the New England Patriots had missed 440 games, 176% more games.  Holy cats!

One of the 49ers players, Donte Whitner, states that most players simply lift weights and go through drills that rarely mimic what happens on the football field.   The article makes mention of the squat.  "One example is a deep squat, wherein a player bearing as many 45-pound plates as possible squats low enough to lightly touch the seat of a chair, then rises and repeats the exercise as many times as possible.  While building muscle, that exercise also increases flexibility and range of motion throughout a player's core, increasing agility and speed".  So stretching in that form increases agility and speed, huh?  

Stretching has gotten a lot of flack over the years.  Studies go back and forth, and even big name fitness organizations, like the ACSM, have stated that static stretching has actually shown to decrease performance for certain sports and exercises.  So does it really benefit you?  There are a lot of conflicting studies out there, and I personally feel that having good flexibility all around can help you in ordinary life and in athletic situations.  I think it goes hand in hand with properly warming up your muscles and getting blood pumping through the extremities.  You wouldn't stretch a cold rubber band would you?  

The studies I have read and researched state that static stretching (holding a single position for 30 seconds or longer) hinder performance for things like sprinting, jumping, and other explosive moves.  In my non-expert/scientific mind, I can see where this might make sense.  I feel as if holding stretches for that lengthy amount of time can hinder performance by the mere action of fatiguing the muscle.  Think about it like this, when you're holding a wall squat, it starts to get tougher the longer you sat in that single position because your muscles are fatiguing.  They've been working hard to hold that position and the chemical reactions within the muscle fibers are running out of resources to complete the chain reaction.  Same thing as holding a muscle stretch.

So what about active or dynamic stretching? Where does that fit in? The type of stretching mentioned in the quote from the article is a form of active, or dynamic stretching.  It requires you to move and build your own strength to move through the stretch.  They are good at producing heat, which makes muscles more pliable.  This type of stretching is more beneficial for daily living activities and sports.  Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) combines the idea of dynamic stretching and passive stretching by relaxing the muscle you are intending to stretch and contracting the opposing muscle.  It's considered low risk because you are not using your body weight, leverage, or gravity to achieve the stretch.  You are also controlling the stretch force with your own strength.  

Active Isolated Stretching is relatively a newer concept in comparison to static and has not had a lot of attention until now.  It's gaining recognition and a reputation of being effective in improving performance among athletes, as seen in the article mentioned above.  Many Olympic athletes have begun to add this type of stretching into their regimes as well.  While I'm no Olympic athlete, I do know it has done wonders for my life and for my sports performance.  Even just doing it once a week.  It's exciting to see the progression of the AIS and to see such an article written about the success of a professional sports team.

Importance of Proper Training

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 03 March 2014. Posted in Running

Importance of Proper Training

Importance of Proper Training

As with any sport, you should take the necessary precautions to your health and pay very close attention to how your body is responding to it's surroundings, integrated systems, and the race day "stressors" that come about.  


When you've trained for a long period of time and have become conditioned for certain activities, whether it be running, cycling, swimming, or others, you sometimes take for granted the importance of properly warming up.  The physiological process that takes place with such things mentioned above may seem to "just happen", but with not truly understanding what happens when you are performing such feats  That's where injury, complications, and even the extreme of death occurs.  I'm not saying that each time you don't take an extra couple of minutes to warm up before a 5k is going to kill you, but it does up the chances of having some type of complication to present itself.  I'm very guilty of not doing a proper warm up before 5k races.  For me, it's simply the mindset that I've ran a million 5k races, I can run for days, no big deal.  I've been much better about warming up, not only before races, but with even playing the many sports I enjoy, simply because of gained more knowledge of how my body functions over the years.


Every system in the human body is involved in exercise in one way or another.  Cardiovascular, skeletal, organs, tissues, etc.   It takes time for your body to adapt to the stress you put it through to perform.  I'll explain a smidge on this starting with the cardiovascular and respiratory systems:


Exercise and training improves the ability of the cardio-respiratory system to take oxygen from air inhaled into the lungs, and then load and transport it more efficiently. This gain in efficiency in the movement of blood through the cardiovascular system allows greater amounts of oxygen to be transferred from the respiratory system.  Your heart strengthens over time with training, which helps it to pump blood through the body more adequately per the demand.


This increase in the cardiovascular system helps the skin and other organs to adapt to certain environmental conditions.  Thermoregulation, which is the body's ability to maintain optimal body temperature for all it's "parts", becomes easier to manage due to the proficiency of the cardiovascular system.  The increase in blood amount, decreased heart rate, increase in blood flow through the capillaries (allowing blood to circulate to the cooler surfaces), and preservation of sodium to promote better management of hydration all enhance the body's ability to heat and cool itself and maintain proper body temperature.


The skeletal system gains bone density through high impact activities and weight training.  These resistance movements created big force on the skeletal system, which causes it to adapt and become stronger.  Many studies have shown that this type of exercise can help to prevent the osteoporosis.  

Think of it all as preheating the oven.  In order to properly cook your meal in the oven and accomplish the final goal, you first need to "warm up" the oven to the optimal cooking temperature.  If you don't do this, you may not get the best results possible.  You could also run into detrimental issues along the way.  So make sure you take those 5 extra minutes to "preheat" your body!

Can the Psoas Be Saved?

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 24 February 2014. Posted in Running

Can the Psoas Be Saved?

Can the Psoas Be Saved?

So as I was doing some studying online, I stumbled across this article about the Psoas muscle (pronounced “so-as”).  If you’re interested, you may check out the article here: Http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-mighty-psoas-what-it-does-why-it-matters

With so many of us having jobs where sitting for hours on end is quite common, it makes sense that certain muscles in our bodies would become aggravated with us.  One muscle in particular is the above mentioned Psoas.  It is pictured above

The Psoas muscle attaches to the Lumbar Spine...20 times actually, and only once to each thigh.  With that mini anatomy lesson, we’ll go into the importance of the Psoas and why it matters.

One of the functions of the Psoas is hip flexion.  It also acts as a stabilizer in the vertebrae; keeping it from rotating into the frontal plane.  As stated in the article above, “The many attachments make it extremely important that the psoas can lengthen enough to allow the spine, pelvis, and hips to articulate and move naturally for a pain-free and injury-free body”.  So what does that mean, and why should you care?  Since the psoas plays a pretty important role in back stability, it can become problematic in a constant shortened state and tighten the articulation. The muscles aren’t able to move the way they were designed to.  If you have or have ever had a desk job you may have had your share of back pain.  One thing you may not have considered as a potential cause is the psoas muscle.  Let’s be honest here; you probably had no clue what a psoas muscle was until now.  When the psoas is extended to it’s full length, we are able to “...stand in alignment and allow for hip extension”.  If we can’t fully extend or allow the psoas to lengthen from it’s shortened state, we can’t have proper posture, which then puts more pressure on the lower back and hips.

So now that you understand the basics of the psoas, how do we fix it?  One way to start is to limit “sitting” positions.  Think about how often you are sitting throughout the day.  We sit at desks, in the car, on the couch, in a chair, or even when we exercise doing leg extensions or lat pull downs.  Refraining from constant sitting will help to keep the muscle elongated.  Stretching the psoas muscle on a regular basis will also help.  Exercises like swimming, skiing, or skating also help to get fitness in your life but allow the psoas to have a slight break.  Walking is also a good alternative.

As I spoke about the CORE of running in my previous blog post, (found here: http://fittallahassee.com/index.php/running-blog/item/down-to-the-core?category_id=48) Stability of the spine helps to improve running.  It helps to transfer the forces generated between the upper and lower body.  The psoas plays a role in that stabilization, which might be something worth looking into as a runner.  Posted below are a couple of pictures on how to effectively stretch the psoas.

Make sure you place something soft underneath your knee and squeeze the buttcheck of the leg on the ground as you move forward.  Hold for 2 seconds and return to start.  Repeat 8-10 times. You want to make sure your pelvis is aligned and you are NOT arching your back as in the picture below. 


Down to the Core (of Running)

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 17 February 2014. Posted in Running

Down to the Core (of Running)

Down to the Core (of Running)

This week’s segment takes on the “core” of running.  That’s right, I’m talking about that midsection, you know, where that six pack usually goes.  Not all of have a six pack to show off, but that doesn’t mean the muscles don’t exist.  There’s more to having a six pack than having an aesthetically pleasing body.  Your core has a big responsibility in supporting your body and keeping you over rotating the spine and pelvis.  In fact, the three main tasks your core is responsible for while you’re running are:

- Support of the pelvis and the spine and make sure that it is properly aligned

- Keep spinal rotation in check

- Regulate the transfer of energy between the upper and lower halves of your body

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, what happens when your core is weak and is not effective at doing it’s job?  Compensation and injury happen.  Poor core stability means that you will typically experience poor joint stability.  It all starts with the center of the body and flows out to the hips, knees, and ankles.  If you remember me talking about the amount of force running places on your joints, you’ll better understand that this is a big factor of remaining injury free.  when your pelvis, knees, and ankles are competing against one another to stay in line, things start to shift out of place.  This puts extra work on tendons, ligaments, and smaller stabilizing muscles. One way to combat this and work to strengthen your core is to work the deep muscles of the transverse abdominals. These muscles wrap the body in a corset-like manner, creating a strong base of support.  One of the best ways to work the TA is by planking.  There are other exercises that also mimic this movement, but planks can be done anywhere.  Make sure your wrists or elbows are directly underneath your shoulder, and your hips and ankles (or knees) are in one line.  You should be able to hypothetically put a stick on the back of your body while doing a plank and have each part touch the above mentioned parts.  Squeeze your glutes and inner thighs and resist forcefully locking out your knee joints.  That doesn’t mean to purposefully bend them, but more to keep them straight and relaxed.  You should be trying to pull your belly button toward your spine.

Your spine and your pelvis are attached but that doesn’t mean they need to move together.  In fact, you need some rotation with running in order for your back leg to propel you in a linear and forward motion, however, your spine should not rotate along with your pelvis during this motion.  Spinal rotation will deplete energy stores.  An effective core exercise to work rotation in this manner is Russian Twists.  Sitting on your buttux with feet on the floor and knees bent, lean back and push your belly button toward your spine.  This will create a “c” position.  Keeping this “c” position, clasp your hands together with outreached hands.  Keeping your feet planted on the floor, rotate your hands to your left side, rotating the upper half of your body. Rotate across your body to your right side.  Repeat to either side.  To make this exercise more difficult, add a medicine ball or free weight instead of clasping your hands.  Make sure you create a closed circuit with either your hands or weight to create a more effective move.

Looking to set a new PR in your next race? Make core strengthening a priority.  A strong core means you will be more efficient at transferring the forces between the upper and lower body.  Yes, powerful legs make for a powerful runner, but your upper body also contributes to that force.  I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty tricky to run with your arms down by your side.  When your core is strong, it can transfer the force generated by your upper body, seamlessly and without losing a lot of that energy, to your lower body.  This makes for a far more powerful stride, therefore creating a faster cadence and alas, new PR!  So the next exercise that can help to strengthen your midsection is woodchoppers.  You can use a medicine ball, free weight, or d-handle cable pulley system to complete this exercise.  Make sure that you have a slight bend in the knees, and good posture.  If using a medicine ball or free weight, start with arms shoulder height and out straight in front of you.  Come across your body with your arms and down toward your opposite ankle.  Reverse back to starting position and repeat.  This is forcing your body to rotate and causes your obliques to try to resist the rotation.  

Try incorporating these exercises into your strength training and see if your running form and time improves.  Make sure you give yourself about 6 weeks or so to see full improvement.  Not only will you see a difference in your running, but I bet you’ll see a difference in your overall strength.  

Future Marathon Training Step 4: Making Sure You’re Trained All-Around

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Wednesday, 05 February 2014. Posted in Running

Future Marathon Training Step 4: Making Sure You’re Trained All-Around

Future Marathon Training Step 4: Making Sure You’re Trained All-Around

Training for a marathon is not only logging in long runs and long training blocks.  It includes things like speed work, nutrition, proper hydration, and recovery sessions.  Without all of these things working together, your marathon will be lacking some vital components and may even make or break your marathon actually happening.  It also can set you up for injury.

Many training regimes will list things like cross training, speed work, recovery day, and long runs.  You can always mix and match these things to fit into your life’s schedule, but it is not advised to skip them.  While missing a speed session or cross training day aren’t going to hurt you too badly if it’s once in a blue moon, it can definitely have an effect if it’s a habitually missed session. I have gone through and discussed these aspects in previous blog entries, but wanted to reiterate their definition and value.  

We’ll start off with cross-training.  Cross-training is an activity you do that is completely different than running.  It could be biking, swimming, pogo bouncing, gymnastics, etc.  It gives your body a chance to recover from running and incorporate different muscle groups.  It also allows for your body to strengthen stabilizing muscles and create a more whole musculature. You typically do this once or twice per week within your marathon training.  I would suggest an activity that is lower impact on your lower joints, like swimming.

The next aspect is speed work.  Speed work is what you do to increase your endurance and as you might think, speed.  So you think that running a marathon at a 10 minute/mile pace is completely ok, and it is, but what you may not consider is that you may not be able to consistently keep that pace throughout the entire race.  Working on speed drills helps to increase your range of motion in your joints, be able to push harder for longer, makes you fitter, and will make you more comfortable at various speeds.  The important thing to remember with speed work is to ease into it.  If you push too much too soon, you’ll be setting yourself up for injury instead of success. Warm up and cool down.  Find a partner.  Always remember that it is quality over quantity.

Proper nutrition and hydration seem like no brainers.  A lot of folks seem to think that if you’re logging in high mileage, you can eat whatever you want.  While yes, you are burning major calories, it’s not advised to consume crap food.  I like to use the dream car analogy when I talk with my clients.  Think of the car of your dreams.  It can be any car you want.  Now imagine how you would take care of the car.  Would you put bad fuel in it; bad oil? Of course not.  Your car wouldn’t last.  Think of that in terms of your body.  Putting bad food and liquids into your system creates a bad system.  A system that won’t last and give you the output you desire.  I’ll also throw out a nifty little fact out for you: For every day that you don’t consume enough water for your body, your muscles have to work 20% harder the next day.  That means that you won’t operate at your optimal level simply by not getting enough water.  The same could be said about not eating enough to fuel your body.  Training for a marathon is not exactly a great time to try to lose weight or to bulk up.  You really need to listen to how your body is responding, and carbs are definitely your friend!

Lastly we come to recovery.  Recovery is vital for marathon training.  Foam rolling, stretching, massage, adjustments, etc.  All of these things have a place and a purpose.  Yes it can be an expensive investment, but it is more than worth the cost.  When your muscles are tired or aren’t activating the way they should, other muscles start to take over.  These muscles aren’t use to taking on this task and therefore are overworked and susceptible to injury.  Sore muscles have the same effect.  It can disrupt your entire kinetic chain of motion.  Taking days off doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart.  Listening to your body and knowing when to stop is necessary.  Recovery can also be active.  Yoga, swimming, and active stretching are great tools to give you some fitness without being too taxing on your body.

Putting all of these tools together will guarantee you have a strong performance for your marathon.  Think of it as a puzzle.  All of the pieces make it whole.  Be smart.  Plan ahead, and always remember to listen to what your body is saying.  Learn, grow, and enjoy the experience.  Lean on someone who has been successful through a marathon, and make sure your body and your mind are on the same page!


Future Marathon Training Week 3: Step 3

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 20 January 2014. Posted in Running

Future Marathon Training Week 3: Step 3

Future Marathon Training Week 3: Step 3

This week’s installment of future marathon training covers the running atmosphere of the actual race.  Running a marathon is already an emotional event, but when you add in the details of the day it can become overwhelming very quickly.  Picking the right venue and size of your race will affect you more than you may think.  There are pros and cons for both.  It’s mainly figuring out which is best for you.

During your training it’s important to enter some racing events to get yourself accustomed to race days.  The time, prep work, nutrition, etc. that goes into a race are important and are especially important to get right when you run your marathon.  Races are usually in the early morning hours, so if you aren’t used to running in the mornings, you may need to start adjusting your sleep schedule, or at the very least, get enough sleep the few days prior.  It’s advised that you don’t eat or drink anything you don’t normally eat or drink, including the energy gels and pouches they tend to hand out.  Your body may react poorly to digesting something that it isn’t use to digesting.  Along with the smaller details like nutrition, sleep, prep, and hydration, you also have people you’re dealing with.  

If crowds aren’t really your thing, signing up for a smaller and more local marathon would be a good option.  Local marathons have the added benefit of not having to travel to the event.  Traveling can wreak havoc on your body.  Your legs are cramped in tight quarters, muscles get tight, and sleeping in a foreign bed can all add up to a rough time.  When there are less participants in a race, it is much easier to get through the crowd at the start and allows you to get a more accurate time.  Chances are, you will also know some other fellow runners in a local event.  This gives you some camaraderie and some fun competition.  

If crowds don’t really bother you, or if you’re like me and it helps to fill your competitive spirit, some of the bigger events might be a good way to go.  The Disney marathon here in our great state of Florida is a pretty popular event.  It can be pricey, but from what I’ve been told by friends that have participated, the sights are great and so are the medals.  Crowds bring all types of runners from the super elite to the very beginners.  It can be exciting to see so many people pumped up about the sport of running.  It does, however, make it tough to get through the other racers in order to get a more accurate time.  Traveling can be a great way to discover a town or city.  You notice a lot more running around than driving around.  Not to mention, you have 26.2 miles to get through.  Just make sure you give yourself an extra day prior to the race to rest up and get your body prepared if you do have to travel a good distance.

Some other factors to consider are the overall atmosphere of the events.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll series offer races all over the country, and in other parts of the world as well.  They schedule local and big name bands to come play during the races and place a band at each mile marker to keep you going.  Disney, as mentioned before, takes you around the Disney parks.  The Nike’s Women’s Marathon offers a Tiffany necklace to all finishers.  There is a random drawing to have the opportunity to race in the Nike race though.  Bottom line is to figure out which atmosphere and how big of an event fits you best.  Which is going to help you to stay calm and actually enjoy the experience?  After all, it’s about the overall picture of completing and enjoying the experience.


Future Marathon Training Week 2: Step 2

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 13 January 2014. Posted in Running

Future Marathon Training Week 2: Step 2

Future Marathon Training Week 2: Step 2

Step number 2 in our future marathon training guide is to have a proper base mileage to build off of in order to assure you will be in good standing for training.  Running 26.2 miles in one long stretch is extremely taxing on the body.  It is even more taxing on an unprepared body.  Granted, it has been accomplished, but it is highly recommended that you have a base for running prior to attempting this feat.  Your endurance tends to build faster than your biomechanics do, and so you may feel like you can push harder and further than your body can handle.  This is what typically causes overuse injuries.  How much of a base do you really need in order to be successful?

The average acceptable answer for this very question is between 30-35 miles a week.  That doesn’t mean you just go out and attempt to run that and say, “Man, I guess I can complete that marathon now”.  It means being able to steadily run that amount in a given week, week after week.  You can equate that to whichever denomination of miles a day you would like, but regardless, it is a good amount of miles.  More mileage than your average recreational runner.  Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable.  It just means that you have to plan accordingly.

If you don’t start out with this level of a base and you try to build that base while increasing your runs, you will be setting yourself up for overuse injuries. It’s best to get out as often as you can and really listen to your body.  Start at a pace and mileage that works for your level of fitness and gradual build up.  Once you’ve racked up the miles and can comfortably run those 25, 30, to 35 mile weeks, it would be an appropriate time to consider training for a marathon.  

I would also suggest training for a half marathon or other shorter distance races before jumping into a marathon as your first event, but that’s all up to you.  Also realize that even if you have that base, it’s smart to give yourself enough time to properly train and increase mileage by no less more than 10% per week, or every other week. It is also important to pick the right training plan.  If it suggests an increase larger than 10%, I would look elsewhere.  10% may seem like a small amount, but it’s a safe range to prevent injury.  Your main focus should always be quality or quantity.  Good quality runs will always be better than running any distance when you feel like you’re about to keel over.  

Running is a great sport, and a very mentally tough sport, which is why it can become very complex.  Once you find your groove, it truly is a wonderful journey.

Future Marathon Training: Week 1, Step 1

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 06 January 2014. Posted in Running

Future Marathon Training: Week 1, Step 1

Future Marathon Training: Week 1, Step 1
Hey FitTallahassee!  So as you can tell by the title, I painstakingly decided in my last blog entry, I’m postponing my marathon.  It actually is a wiser and smarter decision than I thought.  I just found out I was accepted by the state to apprentice for the Licensed Massage Therapy program.  This means I have to go back to hitting the books and logging plenty of hours of self study and hands on training.  The program takes typically 2 years to complete, but it’s really whenever you can complete the necessary requirements within a 2 year window. It also gives me time to work on healing those pesky injuries, but I digress.

I mentioned toward the end of the last entry about some marathon guidelines.  I want to expand a little about those.  The first one stated to dig deep and find out exactly why you want to run a marathon.  Some do it for the pure love of running.  Some do it because they like setting goals need a big challenge in their life.  Whichever your reason is, you have to really dig into that and make it more than just a surface or face value goal.  With any big challenge in your life, you’re going to have obstacles.  You’ll go through moments where it’s tough and you don’t think you can do it.  Your “why” is what will keep you pushing through to the end, especially at that dreaded 16-20 mile marker.  

There are a lot of tips, tricks, quotes, and ideas that can help you to stay focused through your training and through the actual run.  Try every one that you come across to see what works best for you.  Here are a few of my favorites and a few that I have come across recently.

-        Run shorter races throughout your training.  Whether it’s a community fun run, 5k, 10k, etc.  The competition will spark you up and the atmosphere of others sharing a passion for running will definitely get you back into that runner high.
-        Joining running clubs also helps aid in accountability.  Making friends in the running community builds support.  Chances are there is a wide range of running levels and also experienced runners that can help to weigh in on their running journeys.  I always had the running guidance from my uncles, which made me feel like I had my own personal support crew.
-        If getting up in the mornings is tough, wear your running clothes to bed so you don’t have to take time to search for an outfit to wear.  You can lace up and get out there.  It will help to stop you from talking yourself out of doing it.  This one I’ve done more times than I can count, haha.
-        Motivational quotes in strategic places around the house usually do the trick for me. Sometimes you just need a profound statement to jolt you back in.
-        Going along with the quotes idea, I heard about a girl that ran a marathon a while back and she had her friends and family each write a quote, joke, or inspirational message on a little piece of paper.  She had 26 of them.  Each mile she would take one out of her little pouch/belt and read it.  I personally love that idea.
“The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match  and being slowly roasted over hot coals” – Hal Higdon, Running writer and coach.

Marathon Training Week 11: Holiday Blues

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 30 December 2013. Posted in Running

Marathon Training Week 11: Holiday Blues

Marathon Training Week 11: Holiday Blues
We are quickly approaching 2014, and my scheduled marathon is also quickly approaching.  I have honestly gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not I’m going to actually finish out the training and do the marathon or if I’m going to hang up the running sneakers to take time off to fully heal up and make a more valiant attempt at it.  I’ll admit I started too fast out of the gate, and let’s really be honest; I HATE COLD WEATHER.  I can’t stand running when it’s freezing out.  I’m a wimp; I recognize it.  I think the injuries I’ve battled coupled with the cold weather has really gotten me to dislike long distance running.  I know I’ll be fine once I’m out there and about five minutes in, but it’s the actual work of getting out there and freezing for a few minutes before. It’s ridiculous and childish. I should be thankful I get the opportunity to run at all, even if it is in cold weather.  I had a great time running the 10k last weekend, and it really reminded me of why I like running in the first place.  It was also 65 degrees, not 30-40. 

To add another “excuse” to the list, having a job where you are up walking around, moving people, moving weights, and using more energy takes a bigger toll on your tissues/body than I had previously thought.  When I started running, I was still in college and then got a desk job.  Although I was always active, having a more sedentary job has an effect on your training.  So with all of this, I’m really having inner turmoil about whether or not to throw the towel in…at least for a little while.  It’s also a matter of having enough time to fit all the training into the weeks.  I have 8 weeks left to train.  I doubt that gives me enough time, especially with the plantar fasciitis.

So yes, it sounds like I’ve managed to talk myself out of it.  It makes me feel awful and it’s why it’s been a tough decision.  I feel as if I’ve let myself down and let my readers down.  I have to be honest with myself, and have to realize this isn’t something I can just go out and “wing”.  I have to take into consideration that what is best for me is to tend to my body and make sure that I’m in the condition needed to really do it right.  This doesn’t mean a marathon will never happen.  I definitely want to do one.  It just means I’ll push this experience off for a little while.  I’ll come back to it and assess my schedule, both with work and home life, and make sure I give myself a fair try.  Also, more research would be a good idea.  Marathons are a tough commitment.  It takes a commitment from you and also those in your life.  My fiancé has to take on more responsibility for our household to help ensure that I have time for some of the longer training days.  Thankfully he’s a very understanding and supporting man, but it’s something that has an impact on more than just you.

I will continue to run, when I’m healed up.  I will also continue to provide helpful information on the sport of running, and I will support each and every one of you through your running endeavors.  I’ll start with at the very beginning with a few guidelines to think about if you are seriously considering running a marathon.  Trust me. These aren’t just “suggestions”. =)

1.     Determine why you want to do a marathon in the first place.  Really think of what will keep you motivated through the nasty weather, sore legs, and time commitment.
2.     Make sure you have a solid base for training.   A lot of experts state you should be able to solidly run 30-35 miles per week before considering the act of training for a marathon.  This doesn’t mean you can’t ever train for one if you aren’t up to that mileage, but you should work to build a solid foundation first.
3.     Choose the best atmosphere for your first marathon.  Running with a huge crowd of people can be slightly overwhelming, or maybe that’s something that really gets you going.  Either way
4.     You should try to figure out which would be most conducive for your experience.  Make it fun and not a headache.  
5.     Speed work, long and short run training, rest and recovery, and proper hydration are vital components to running a marathon.  If you aren’t training the correct way, hydrating, and taking the necessary rest and recovery steps, you will not make it.  Marathons are extremely taxing on the body and require a lot of attention to these details.

Learn, grow, and evolve from the entire experience.  Listen to your body.  Make sure your mind and your body are on the same page.  Surround yourself with a good support system.  

Marathon Training Week 10: Pain free!

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 23 December 2013. Posted in Running

Marathon Training Week 10: Pain free!

Marathon Training Week 10: Pain free!
I am very happy to report that even though I only ran twice this past week, I was able to run pain free BOTH times!  I did a shorter and slower run with my dogs earlier in the week, about 3 miles and felt pretty good.  The rest of the week I tried to just rest up and stretch because I was heading down to Tampa to do a 10k race with my uncle.  I was pretty nervous about this race because I had not been running much and didn’t want to reinjure myself trying to push through it.  As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to have a bad habit of pushing through things even if my better judgment call would be to stop or not do it at all.  I’m pretty sure that’s what’s gotten me in this mess in the first place, haha. 
So I got up an hour before we needed to leave to get to the race.  I wanted to give myself time to mentally prepare and to really get a good stretch session in.  I went through my complete stretch protocol, making sure to really focus on my calves and hips since my lingering injuries have been with regards to those muscles.  I felt good.  I felt ready.  The weather helped also.  It was about 65 degrees, which is my ideal running temperature.  So the entire ride to the event I’m talking to my uncle and a couple that we also did the race with that I’m going to take it nice and slow and run about a 9:30-10:00/mile pace.  I wanted to really focus on making my pace slower and make sure my form was solid.  I also mentioned that I’d walk the moment I had an inclination that my IT Band was getting irritated.

Well, I started the race slower than I normally do.  I ran the first mile at an 8:56/mile pace.  I felt some tightness in my left hip and said to myself, “Really?  I stretched so well!” It ended up loosening up and I had no further issues with it for the race.  I was really focused on my form and how my feet were striking the pavement each time.  I had little to no bounce in my stride, which means I was using a lot of my glute (butt) muscles.  I tried to make my steps quick and not spend a lot of time on the pavement.  This seemed to help a lot.  I had a good amount of hip extension as well. As the race went on, I felt great.  It felt effortless and I wasn’t having any pain.  Naturally, I picked up my pace and went into competitive Jenn mode.  I started picking out runners that I wanted to pass and picked them off one at a time.  There was a guy running with a stroller that had a really good pace, so I followed his lead.  I was definitely impressed.  We had some big inclines, including the Clearwater Bridge.  The end of the race is a nice downhill slope.  I gazelle-legged it across the finish line.  I was so happy to be finished!  I ended my race day will a nice hot shower and a long stretch session.  I also used a foam roller.  I have a little tightness in my muscles, but overall I feel great.

Doing this race got me fired up about running again.  I think that it is something I needed.  I also know I need to take a few rest days and then do a few shorter runs this week.  I think it’s really important when training for races, especially ones over 5k to do some weekend races within your training.  It lights a fire inside you and it’s good to see all kinds of people out running.  Makes you think, if they can do it and are out here giving it their all, you can too.  It can be very inspiring.  It can also be a very good learning tool.  I took notice of everyone’s running form.  Some of the people that were passing me that had less than favorable running form ended up having to stop toward the middle or end of the race.  I also saw some 80+ year old ladies and gentleman out there.  That was a really cool site. Oh and not to mention, but I ended up with 5th in my age group.  Had I started out at my normal pace, I probably could have won it.  Alas, next time =).  Have a wonderful week and Happy Holidays!!