I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I’m a runner today due to my good friend, Dayna. She’s one of those friends who knows what I need – usually more than I know myself. (We all need at least one of those friends, don’t we?) She emailed me and said, “I’m joining this running group – and I think you should do it too!” I’m so glad I said yes!

Last June, Dayna and I joined a Marathon/Half-Marathon Training Group through USA FIT. USA FIT is six-month program that teaches participants how to walk and run with the end goal of running either a marathon or a half-marathon. There are at over 50 USA Fit groups throughout the nation.

Getting into running can be intimidating. When we arrived at our first meeting (held at 6 am on Saturday, by the way), we were surprised to see over 60 people there. We both ran into friends and colleagues we knew from work or from other parts of our lives. Everyone we met was enthusiastic, encouraging and very positive. They’ve continued to be just as enthusiastic throughout the five months that we’ve been training together.

Through my experience with USAFitBCS (our local USAFit chapter), I’ve learned that there are tremendous benefits to running with a group. Here are my Top 10:

10. Motivation
You feel a sense of obligation to the group. You won’t want to miss the group’s workouts. And while you’re running, they’re going to keep you motivated to keep going. Our group cheers for each other when we see each other on the running course. High-fives with other runners are my favorite!

9. Accountability
They’re going to call you if you are not there! And, you’ll finish your runs because you know that your group expects it of you!

8. Coaching Advice
You’ll benefit tremendously from being around more experienced runners. They can help you diagnose simple problems and help you improve your technique.

7. Improved Performance
You are motivated to keep up with the group, and you’ll likely run faster.

6. Safety
There is safety in numbers. I know that I feel a lot better about running with my group through the dark at 6:00 am than I do when I’m on my own. If you fall behind, someone will come looking for you.

5. Learn About Your Local Running Scene
You’ll learn about local running events and new running routes from other runners. Plus, it makes running so much easier when someone else has mapped out your route, and (in our case), put out the water stations for you in advance!

4. Running Partners
You’ll meet new friends who run at a similar pace as you, and schedule more runs (for which you’ll be more motivated than if you were doing it on your own). Through my group, I’ve met my good friend, Karen, who often runs with me late on Wednesday nights, and my other friend, Kim, who I meet at 5:30 am to run our beloved hill repeats.

3. Post-run Socializing
After a run, it’s great to sit around with other runners and talk about running (how many more times can I use the word “run” in a sentence!?). On a recent run, we had discussion of the wildlife we saw, injuries that popped up and recommended solutions, and best locations for tailgating (this is a critical information exchange in our college town!).

2. Time Passes More Quickly
If you are on a long run, you’ll find that the conversation in a group keeps your run interesting and the time passes more quickly.

1. Dressing Like A Team
It’s incredibly fun to go to a race dressed in the same attire as your running group – whether this means the same shirts, or something more elaborate (I have a great fondness for running theme costumes).

Our training program ends after our Half-Marathon on December 9, 2012. I can honestly say that I’m going to miss waking up at 4:30 am every Saturday morning to meet up with these folks. We will definitely need to arrange some running groups to keep running together.

The good news is that the Spring Training program will start up in early February! Hey, USAFitBCS – consider me already signed up!

If you’re interested in learning more about joining the running program with USAFit, take a look at this promotional video they made. Once you watch this, you’ll want to be a runner. It’s inspirational and motivating. It’s everything I love about being a runner!


Did Someone Say Coach?


No, not that kind of Coach! This kind of coach!

Yes! Over the weekend, I spent 16 hours in Houston with a dynamic group of 36 other runners who have a passion for the sport. We were all there to become RRCA Certified Running Coaches. Wow – it was wonderful! My mind is swimming with new ideas for training programs and running drills.

The certification not complete yet, as I still need to pass the exam and complete first aid and CPR certifications in order to become fully certified. I anticipate I’ll complete the process in the next month.

RRCA – Road Runners Club of America


The oldest and largest organization in the US dedicated to distance running, the RRCA has over 1,000 member clubs representing over 200,000 runners. Their RRCA Coaching Certification program aims to create a national community of knowledgeable and ethical coaches. Limited to 35 students per course, the RRCA certification classes fill quickly. RRCA is working to expand their offerings, though, and we met two new instructors who will be working along with Randy Accetta at RRCA (see more about Randy below) to offer more courses at more locations throughout the country.

Our Instructor – Dr. Randy Accetta

Randy Accette, Director of Coaching Education, led the course. A former 2:19 marathoner who competed in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Randy has a long history of coaching runners. In addition to his work with the RRCA, Randy is the Communications Mentor for the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona. His running-based articles have been published in Running Times, Runners World and the New York Times. So, he’s a knowledgeable competitor and leader in the field of running. I found Randy to be an engaging and entertaining instructor. He shared his plans to expand the course offerings through the RRCA Certification Program to include population-specific and other continuing education courses that coaches will take in order to maintain their certifications.

My Key Takeaways From RRCA Coaching Certification Class

  • Developing personalized training programs according to the needs of the runner (and we practiced writing those)
  • Sports psychology and motivating athletes
  • Dealing effectively with heat while running
  • Working with beginning runners
  • Understanding the physiology of running and incorporating this into training considerations
  • Different muscle types and how to train them effectively for running
  • Understanding and managing the 7 key running injuries
  • How to make money as a coach, and important insurance considerations

Key Quotes From The RRCA Coaching Certification Class

“Remember – If you are not a trained medical professional, you are not a trained medical professional. ”

“Typical recreational runners are the “healthy, wealthy and educated” demographic.”

‘Sixty-five percent of the people who come to see you as a coach are unhappy with something about themselves. They are asking you to help them change their lives.”

“Coaches should always ask questions and dig deeper before giving a response to a question.”

“Running coaches should develop a resource of professionals: nutritionist, chiropractor, orthopedic doctor, sports medicine professionals, etc.”

“Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.”

“Every workout has a purpose.”

“When running hills, don’t try to win the race up the hill, unless that’s where the finish line is located.”

Other Running Bloggers At The Course

Another great part of the course is that I met a number of other running bloggers! Bonus! I sat beside Simon from Foot Care Facts, and neither of realized we were bloggers until the end of the course! Whoops! He’s a very cool vegan runner and podiatrist, as well as a father of three kids like me. I definitely encourage you to check out his blog.

And here I am with Laura from Mommy Run Fast (far right), and Tricia from TriciaMinnick.om (far left), and Steph from Steph Runs For Wine. Laura lives in Houston, and Tricia and Steph came in from Austin for the course. Super fun runners – and future coaches!

Just The Beginning
I learned a lot at the RRCA Coaching Certification Course – but I also learned that there is much more to know. So, this is the beginning of a journey of self-education for me. I plan to throw myself into the study of running and coaching so that I can offer effective running training programs for those who seek my help. I can’t wait to get started!

Eleven? Eleven!

Wow. I ran eleven miles on Sunday as part of my training plan for the upcoming half-marathon. First time running in cooler weather (temp was 42 degrees F at the start) and ran with one of my pals from my running group. Here we are, all bundled up and happy at 5:30 am – before running.


The last mile was a real struggle. My chronic problem with plantar fasciitis in my left foot flared up big time. I worried constantly about seriously injuring my foot just weeks before the Half-Marathon. I walked more than I wanted to in the last mile, but I finished. I’ve never been so happy to see my car in the parking lot!

Recently, I attended a seminar for women runners. The two speakers were women physicians who were also runners. In their discussion, they strongly recommended the benefits of stretching AFTER your run. I took this advice to heart and spent 15 minutes stretching my hamstrings and legs when I got back to my car. I also took an ice bath when I got home.

Now that I’ve tried stretching after the run, I have to say that I am a fan! When I ran 10 miles last week, I was incredibly sore for two days following. Today, I’m not sore at all – and I don’t want to take a rest day. I’m forcing myself to do that, though. Tomorrow morning, the hill awaits my attack!

Lessons Learned From This Run:

  • Remember – charge your Garmin before you go on a long run. Mine died after 5 miles. Very distracted by not having good data!
  • Spend significant time stretching AFTER a long run to avoid soreness later.
  • On cold mornings (for us in Texas, I’m talking 40 degrees F) spend extra time stretching before the run because you are more prone to injury when the temps are cooler.
  • My plantar fascia will require lots of regular stretching to keep it in good shape for the upcoming Half-Marathon. Only 43 days left now!

Developing Fast Twitch Muscles

When I attended a Coaching Class in Houston last month, our instructors spent a good part of the class discussing the physiology of the human body and how we can impact running through this knowledge. It was fascinating.


It was here that I learned about Slow-Twitch and Fast Twitch muscle fibers. Put in the simplest of terms, slow twitch muscle fibers are responsible for endurance and fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for speed and explosiveness. While genetics certainly plans a role in the makeup of your muscle fibers, up to 40% of your muscles can be influenced through training.

Jumping rope can be an effective way to stimulate production of fast-twitch muscle fibers and therefore, increase your speed and agility. Jumping rope works multiple muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, ankles and feet, shoulders, forearms, and wrist and hand muscles.

Putting It To Work

I came across a very effective jump-rope routine today on Greatist.com/Fitness.

Here’s the entire jump rope workout (10 minutes):

0:00-0:20 — Move #1: Two feet together
0:20-0:30 — Rest
0:30-0:50 — Move #2: Front Straddle
0:50-1:00 — Rest
1:00-1:20 — Move #3: High-knees in place
1:20-1:30 — Rest
1:30-1:50 — Move #4: Side straddle
1:50-2:00 — Rest
2:00-2:20 — Move #5: Heel to toe
2:20-2:30 — Rest
2:30-2:50 — Move #6: Five hops to the left, five hops to the right
2:50-3:00 — Rest
3:00-3:20 — Move #7: Alternate feet
3:20-3:30 — Rest
3:30-3:50 — Move #8: Double hop
3:50-4:00 — Rest
4:00-5:00 — Easy skip for recovery


5:00-5:20 — Move #1: Two feet together
5:20-5:30 — Rest
5:30-5:50 — Move #2: Front Straddle
5:50-6:00 — Rest
6:00-6:20 — Move #3: High-knees in place
6:20-6:30 — Rest
6:30-6:50 — Move #4: Side straddle
6:50-7:00 — Rest
7:00-7:20 — Move #5: Heel to toe
7:20-7:30 — Rest
7:30-7:50 — Move #6: Five hops to the left, five hops to the right
7:50-8:00 — Rest
8:00-8:20 — Move #7: Alternate feet
8:20-8:30 — Rest
8:30-8:50 — Move #8: Double hop
8:50-9:00 — Rest
9:00-10:00 — Cool down

And here’s a great video that demonstrates the different techniques very clearly.

For just $10 (to purchase a jump rope) and 10 minutes, you can have a very effective workout that will compliment your running!

How to Run Hill Repeats:

In my last blog post, we established that either Maria Von Trapp is some kind of super human woman (because she can run up hill, seven children in tow, carrying a guitar, AND singing) or this scene is a figment of Hollywood’s imagination.

More importantly, though, I did my best to convince you to incorporate hill repeats into your running training program.

Today, I’ll provide details on the how-to of hill repeats.

How to Run Hill Repeats:

1. No matter how effectively I convinced you to run hill repeats, you can’t start running them immediately without developing a base of running training. You’ll risk an injury if you jump on the hills immediately as a beginning runner. And we all know that injuries are the arch-enemy of all runners, right?

2. It’s important to warm up your muscles before you start running the hill repeats. Stretch as you would before any run (you do stretch, right?). Run or jog for 10 minutes before you arrive at the bottom of the hill. You’ll want to cool down, too, after the hill repeats. So, it’s a good idea to park your car in a position that gives you a 10-minute run to and from the base of the hill.

3. When I am about to run up a hill, I square myself off at the bottom of the hill. Really, this is just a mental game I play with myself. I look at the the hill, and I say, “

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die I’m coming for you, hill!”

4. Begin up the hill, running slowly at first. Get the feel of the hill. Your first time or two up the hill should be slow enough for you to get the feel of the incline of the hill, and establish your running form.

5. Speaking of form, keep these tips in mind:

• As you are running up the hill, look at the top of the hill – not at your feet.
• Your back should be straight. Lean slightly from your ankles towards the hill so that you are working with gravity – not against it.
• Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Keep your arms close to your body and pump them as you run to help you gain momentum up the hill.
• Start with a short stride, and push off of your toes to power up the hill. Take smaller, quicker steps up the hill.

6. As you reach the top of the hill, your legs should feel tired and you should be breathing heavy. Turn around and go down the hill by either walking down or by jogging slowly. (I admit it, this is my favorite part of hill repeats!)

7. Start out with 2-3 hill repeats. Add one repeat per week up to a total of 10-12 hill repeats.

8. Hill repeats should be considered a “hard” workout, so don’t do them more than once per week. And, don’t sequence your weekly workouts in such a way that long runs or other “hard” workouts occur sequentially with the hill repeats.

9. Try running hill repeats on different hills to gain experience and to change up workout intensity on varying inclines.

10. After you’ve completed your hill repeats, be sure to cool down with a 10-minute jog or easy run.

11. In the days following your first hill repeats, you may feel sore in your glutes and your quads. That’s normal and should be expected when you are giving those muscles a new and different kind of workout.

And there you have it. I can’t guarantee that running hill repeats will turn you into Julie Andrews (or Carrie Underwood – see yesterday’s post). However, hill repeats will increase your confidence, mental toughness, and speed as a runner.

This post is dedicated to my hill running buddy, Kim. Here we are in the dark, cold hours of the early morning doing our last set of hill repeats before our half-marathon on Sunday. We are decidedly not looking like Maria Von Trapp or Julie Andrews. And no, we did not sing.