Author Archives: Brandon Wood

  • From the Expert: Ian Adamson Talks Stability

    Having good stability is a critical requirement for all runners. Each time your body moves over your foot (called mid-stance in the gait cycle) you are loading two to three times your body weight on your foot and a little less at each successive body part up the bio-mechnical chain - ankle, shin, knee, thigh, hip, etc.

    Ian Adamson talks Stability in RunningIn mid-stance, all this force is on one leg, so you need to have good stability in order to do it safely and efficiently. If you are unable to balance on one leg with all this load, you can't run. Put simply you will fall over. Runners with poor balance tend to rock side to side since they place their feet in a wide stance.

    Stability is not just about balance, since muscular strength is required. Try this exercise to demonstrate:

    1. Stand on one leg in front of a full length mirror

    2. Keeping your foot flat to the ground, do a shallow squat by flexing your knee hip and ankle as far as possible

    3. Make sure your body stays upright (don't bend forward at the waist)

    4. Slowly return to an upright position and keep repeating for as long as you can on two second cycles (one second down, one second up)

    This is essential what you are doing (in the vertical axis) while running, but with about one body weight. Imagine doing this with two and a half. Most likely your leg will get tired and you will have to stop due to muscular fatigue.

    Now do a few more repetitions and look a little more closely at your alignment (and consequently your stability.) Is your knee tracking straight and true? If not, this is almost certainly happening when you run. As a result, the misalignment at your knee will cause excess stress, which with repetition and load (that would be running) can cause pain and ultimately injury. Typical inures from knee misalignment include medial or lateral knee pain, ITB syndrome and medial shin splints (extrinsic muscles controlling the foot trying to compensate), plus a host more.

    The solution is not obvious for most runners.

    1. Choose a shoe that is not thick and soft so the surface under your foot is stable. Any shoe that relies on midsole foam for cushioning and is more than about 6 mm thick is probably not good. Soft foams are also unstable, the thicker and softer the worse it gets. Newton shoes do not rely on midsole foam and are essentially hard runner once you load them in a running gait.

    2. Stabilize your leg to control the motion at the knee. The knee is a stable joint (like a hinge) and is controlled at either end. The primary muscle controlling the femur (thigh) in the stance phase of gait is the Gluteus Medius, the big muscle on your butt to the outside. This muscle stops your hip dropping and keeps your knee aligned side to side.

    A good strength exercise for leg stability is the single leg shallow squat described above. This can be done while brushing your teeth (you do this anyway right?), with a goal of doing 30 repetitions each leg (two seconds per rep.) You have to do these exercises with precision, otherwise your are practicing poor form and will get good at doing these badly! For some people, this may only be two or three repetitions the first time until failure. Failure is when you loose control of your leg, for example knee doesn't track straight, your hip drops, rises or you loos balance. Don't worry, progress can be quite fast so after a few weeks you should be able to do this easily.

  • I am Newton: Brandon Wood

    Here on The Running Front we're going to be telling you guys about one of the team here at Newton Running. Since I (Brandon) am the one who handles the blog, I figured it would be the logical place to break the ice would be with myself! I tend to be a bit wordy so buckle up!

    Brandon WoodSo, this is me! I grew up in Hampton, Virginia and was a very active kid. I got involved in all sports but the thing that really stuck was swimming. I began by swimming on a summer league team (shout out to the Wythe Wahoos!) and at about the age of eleven, that turned into me joining a USA Swimming club team. That meant that I was swimming year-round and once I hit about 14 years old, that also meant I was doing some form of two-a-days a lot of the time.

    I should also mention at this point that, by trade and education, I am a musician. From the time I was very young (my first solo was on Christmas Eve just after I'd turned three years old) I was involved in church choir and the like. Ultimately, because the school (Virginia Commonwealth University) I chose to go no longer had a swim team, after graduation from high school I stopped swimming. Combined with the fact that I was pretty mentally burnt out from years of swimming so much, I simply let my young-ish metabolism handle my fitness and called it a day.

    As many of us know, however, metabolism and youth can only take you so far. I was soonBrandon Wood pretty out of shape and though I could still hold my own in the water just based on technique and strength, that too was slipping away. (Side note: My dad likes to joke that several of my buddies and I, who could show off 6-packs when we ascended the starting blocks prior to leaving for college, now had kegs instead.) I would go through phases of trying to get in shape with a lot of lifting and some elliptical and the like, but NEVER running.

    Upon finishing school, I was hired as an apprentice at Virginia Opera. Basically, the job of an apprentice artist is to tour around the state, educating kids about opera daily, singing recitals a couple times a week, covering (understudying) main stage roles and performing other roles. It's an oddly busy existence with a lot of time spent in the car and in rehearsals, basically getting increasingly out of shape.

    One day, I'm not sure exactly when but sometime in the middle of 2003, I decided I needed to do something about my fitness (or lack thereof). I decided to start running a bit. I have no idea what shoe I was in, I just know that I couldn't run more than 3 miles without my knees feeling like they were going to explode. I combined my running with light lifting to make sure I got a workout longer than twenty minutes. I managed to drop a few pounds and get into some semblance of shape. Then I moved to New York City. Once I moved, the stress of the city and going to auditions and just the general draining that happens all took its toll on any motivation to work out I had.

    In April of 2004, I got engaged and decided that I should once again, get into reasonable shape for my wedding (which was 13 months away). I did, but as the chaos of planning a wedding in Virgina (from NYC) grew, so did my waistline. I married my wife, Danielle (also a singer), in May of 2005 and we immediately drove to New Mexico to begin working at Santa Fe Opera. As soon as I arrived, myself and a lot of the guys working there decided that we were going get in shape (much to the chagrin of the costume designers since our costumes had to be taken in about once a week). I did this on the eliptical and a tiny bit while running, but still not more than that big ol' three miles. By the end of that summer I had lost twenty-five pounds and was on the brink of something.

    I'll skip ahead a bit because you're probably already half asleep and I don't want you to pass out and hit your face on the keyboard. In November of 2007, my best friend, Bobby Cockrill and I decided after watching the NYC Marathon that we were going to run that race. Never mind the fact that there was a lottery and it wasn't until 2011 that I actually got to run it.Once the reality of entering that race set in, we chose alternate races and started training. Around the same time, my brother-in-law sold me his mountain bike. Now, there aren't too many trails appropriate for a mountain bike in NYC so I began riding the Manhattan West Side Greenway which runs the length of Manhattan on this though it were a road bike. Eventually I got a road bike and the thought occurred to me, "I have a bike. Thanks to technique I can still throw down in the water. I just need to figure out this running thing!" And so I entered my first triathlon, the Redondo Beach Sprint Triathlon in California.

    Brandon WoodWhile breaking the rules by doing a tiny bit of drafting, riding a borrowed bike and slogging through the 2-mile run in 15:37, I was hooked. In about August of 2008, when I was working at an opera company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I began to actually think about why I couldn't run very far (my farthest run to that point was probably about 8 miles). I did some digging and came upon an article by this guy named Micah True (maybe you've heard of him) in the New York Times. He was talking about this new, yet old, way of running. Light and fast feet and landing more on the front part of your foot. After some more digging, I came across this kind of obscure running shoe company called Newton Running.

    I should back up a little bit and tell you that in February of 2008 I started a blog about me wanting to run a marathon. That blog turned into a podcast and that all turned into something pretty large with a good deal of traffic. I got my first pair of Newtons in December of 2008 and went headlong into running WAY up on my toes and overstriding (good times). This resulted in some pretty serious ITBS during my first marathon, but rather than being dicouraged I was energized to figure it out.

    Later in 2009 I went on to complete my first Ironman (Wisconsin) and while I had a tough day thanks to some massive nutrition goofs, I was fine enough to run a reasonable half marathon only 6 days later. Basically, I had begun to figure out this running thing. At the same time, I was eyeballs deep in the Newton culture, figuring out how to better my technique and telling anyone who would listen how this shoe company and the technique that they taught had changed my life.

    In 2011, after arriving back from a gig with my wife and our 1 year old daughter, I had one of those Earth moving moments. I realized that I was done living the life of a nomadic musician and struggling to live in the big city. The next day, I went on Newton's Facebook wall and wrote the following:

    Brandon Wood, Newton Running Social Media

    About 6 weeks after talking to the right people and having some pretty amazing folks here believe in me, I joined the Newton family and on June 20th of 2011, moved to Colorado. This company started by changing my life by being a huge part of my impetus to get fit and continues to change it every day by giving me the opportunity to connect to the infinite world of the Newton social media channels. So, if you're on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, this blog or any other Newton Running channels, you're talking to me so say "hi!" and join me in spreading the love!

  • Newton Running Social Round-up: 1.11.13

    Welcome to our weekly wrap up of Newton Running mentions from around the interwebs! This will include social media as well as random articles and posts we find (about us, of course). Want to see yourself mentioned and maybe even get a link? Keep spreading the love online and who knows? Maybe you'll find yourself on this post next week!

    First up are a few posts from our Facebook page.

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    Next up are a few select tweets from super fans, running bloggers and new runners alike!

    Mile Long Legs gets into the mix!

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    Newton also got some love from other places around the web. This includes iBitz using our shoes for their display as part of the booth at this year's CES in Las Vegas! iBitz is a fitness tracking app for kids that combines with a smartphone to give them a virtual pet that encourages exercise!

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    if you see something that you think we should have included, let us know. Have a great weekened and keep spreading the love!!

  • Fan of the Week: Jason Dodge

    jjdposter resized 600I confess that I am drawn to expensive and shiny things—like the Newton shoe, which I first saw at the 2010 Chicago Marathon Expo. I told myself I had to get serious about this running business before I paid that kind of money; my $50 Asics would serve me just fine and not set me back too much if they became lawn mowing shoes the following spring if I gave up on running the way most people do after they buy a treadmill. The next day Sammy Wanjiru defended his title to run 2:06 in hot conditions that dropped my one of my best friends at mile 25 with life-threatening heatstroke.

    And yet it wasn’t until November when that same friend went on to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, as I hobbled to strategic sighting points with his wife to see him run, that I thought about Newtons through my clenched teeth and sharp knee pain. I had only been running for 8 weeks, and I already had an injury that hurt to walk. Classic knee pain caused by poor running form and high ramp angled shoes. It wasn’t too long before I was trying embarrassingly to run midfoot (in reality stabbing/toeing the ground improperly) in my $50 Asics that seriously started to research the Newton shoe.

    I bought my first pair of Newtons less than a month later on November 26, 2010, and after156563 10100673276565219 1765554077 n resized 600 815+ miles still have them in my rotation of about a dozen pairs. My Asics did end up making great lawn mowing shoes, and I now consider myself serious about running. I can’t say that I have been injury free, but I can say I have been highly injury resistant even after doubling my mileage from last year to just under 2500 miles this year. The Newton shoe, along with Running Form Friday videos, form drills, and strength training have helped to make me a better, more injury resistant, runner.

    I pride myself on a pretty decent stride, but good running form is not something we achieve but rather something we struggle—to a greater or lesser extent—to maintain, from step to step, run to run, and from training cycle to training cycle.


  • Running in Tech: DC Rainmaker

    Welcome to a new series on The Running Front (TRF), Running in Tech (RIT)! This series will highlight...well...running in the world of technology. We realize that this is a really broad topic and we like it that way. We see examples of running mechanics and run training as well as the things they affect and the things affected by them all the time. Whether it's video of a robot running, a smartphone app, a training website or anything in between! Sometimes it may be about things that are more general to fitness and sometimes you may think that we're reaching to tie a topic into running, but that's ok. If you know of something that we should include, please let us know! Just let us know on our Facebook or Twitter.

    DC RainmakerFor our first installment of RIT we decided that instead of highlighting one particular gadget, we'd give you a brief rundown of one of our favorite fitness/tech bloggers. To many of you his name and website will be very familiar to you but to those of you who are hearing about him for the first time, it's time to become familiar with him! 

    DC Rainmaker is the website of über-blogger and Ray Maker. Ray began his journey to blogging by way of entering his first half-Iron distance race (The Big Kahuna). Along the way, Ray managed to drop 60 pounds and take his background in tech and turn it into some of the best and most comprehensive product reviews available.

    His reviews range from training computers and watches to power meters to scales to bike trainers to heart rate monitors to a bunch of stuff you probably never even knew existed! The reviews on DC Rainmaker are all the result of well thought out and methodical testing by Ray and each step is documented with incredible diligence. From firsthand experience I (Brandon) can tell you that on many occasions I've found myself on Ray's site rather than a given manufaturer's site to find the proper answers to my questions.DC Rainmaker

    Since there is FAR too much amazing content on DC Rainmaker to point out one single item, we're just going to point you to the site itself (below). Ray is currently living in Paris (for work) with his wife, testing cupcakes from his wife's bakery right alongside powermeters and calorie counters. He writes a weekly column for Slowtwitch and can also be found in the pages of Bicycling Magazine.


    DC Rainmaker 

    Ray's Product Reviews 

    Ray's Tips and Tricks 

    Ray's How-to Guides 

    Are you a fan of DC Rainmaker? What's your favorite review from Ray? Leave us comments below!







  • Testimonial: Logan's Heroes

    We just got this fantastic testimonial from Newton fan, Logan. Every time we get one of these it really makes our day and we've got to share it!

    I started wearing Newtons back in May 2012. I worked for a speciality running store in Savannah, GA and I have always been curious about the Newton shoes. I have been in avid runner for 15 years, ran in college and after school started running marathons. For those 15 years of running I have been a Mizuno person. If you tired to switch me into another brand I would tell you NO! In November 2011 I ran a marathon and felt fine during the race but the next morning had this terrible left knee pain I have never felt before. I took some time off and thought my knee would get better, boy was I wrong! I battled through this pain for 5 miserable months, trying anything and everything. We started carrying Newton shoe's in May and after Stephen Pifer had come and spoke to our staff about the shoes I thought might as well try a pair. This was the best decision I have made in my running career! WOW! I started with the Newton Motion and instantly loved the shoe on my first run. It took no time to transition into the shoe. From the first step it felt as if I have been missing out on running for all these years. Every time I would go for a run it was better each time. From 5 months previous I was dreading getting out the door. I started to wear the Distance S which works really well for me. I was letting you know that your shoes are amazing and have put me back into training like my college days. Your reps are very wise when it comes to the shoe! Still no knee pain! Keep doing what you do!

    Thanks, Logan

  • Newton's Steve Johnson on Ironman Arizona Only Five Weeks After Kona

    12runSince the middle of June when I qualified for Kona at Eagleman 70.3, I knew I had a challenge ahead of me in that I was going to be competing in two Ironman races over the span of five weeks.

    My two biggest concerns were 1) recovery from Kona and 2) putting together the right dose of training so that I didn't overdo it heading into Arizona.

    For the purpose of simplicity, I'm going to focus on the theme of recovery for this post and how the length of recovery can be linked to your form and efficiency of running. For any of you that have run a marathon, you know how trashed your body and legs can be for the several days following the race. Try swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles prior to running that marathon and the fatigue and muscle damage is compounded even more.

    Having tweaked a couple of things with my form and switched to running exclusively with Newton shoes over the past couple of years, the fatigue and recovery time from my hard and long efforts has been greatly reduced in addition to being free from injury.

    What's the secret, you ask? Simply enough, it all comes down to cadence. I will say that there isn't going to be a singular magic number for everyone out there due to a variety of factors primarily relating to physical make-up, but if you're in the neighborhood of 170-190 steps/minute, you're going to be in good shape. Of the many reasons I wear Newtons, their lightweight nature, low ramp angle and active forefoot technology allow me to achieve a 180 cadence much more easily than any other shoe.

    So what's so great about this cadence range? Several things:

    *You avoid excessive heel's hard to heel strike with a high cadence and heel strike = braking.

    *Less elapsed ground contact and're running lightly.

    *Better foot placement in relation to your center of mass (ie: less overstriding).

    *Improved elastic recoil of the Achilles tendon.

    *Less vertical oscillation.

    All of these things lead to better running economy, which equals less energy to go the same speed, which equals less fatigue which means you can go out there and get after it more quickly than before. I think we can agree that these are all good things.

    You can check out Steve's blog HERE.

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  • Andrea's Final Countdown

    Time flies much faster than I can run, and now my half marathon is, as I write this, a mere 6 days away! This is the first time I've really put a lot of effort into preparing for a race. I've always trained (and by training, I mean running a few times a week with no prescribed schedule) and each time I've managed to pull off a respectable, middle of the pack finishing time. But it was always a huge struggle to finish each race, and I always ran the last quarter feeling depleted and too exhausted to enjoy the finish. But this race is different. I want this race to be BETTER! As I've mentioned before, I'm really not expecting a PR in this race, but I am expecting to run a BETTER race. I expect to run mindfully, maintaining good form. I expect to run a negative split, paying attention to my pace and how my body feels.  Although a half marathon is difficult, I expect to finish without a struggle, and with enough energy to enjoy the race, and savor my finish (not to mention my post-race brunch!)

    I've already talked about how I've been training for this race with a combination of speed work and distance runs. I am confident that my endurance has increased dramatically since I began incorporating speed work into my regime. If I'm able to pace myself well during the first half of the race, I will be able to draw on this power of endurance to run the last half strong, and pour on the speed in the last few kilometers.

    Now that the race is less than a week away, my entire regime has changed dramatically. All the training guides and forums I've read agree on one thing: what you do the week before a race will have almost as significant an impact as what you do in the weeks and months of training. With this idea in mind, I put a lot of thought into how to spend my last week in order to make this race better than any that came before.

    THE TAPER:  I started tapering last week. My longest distance run, 18 km, was last Monday. It felt good, and I wanted to do another one this weekend, but I resisted the temptation and spent a day with my much neglected road bike instead. I ran my speed workout in a lower pace group. It was still challenging, but it didn't reduce me to my usual quivering, sweat soaked state of collapse. Yesterday's work out was an intense (VERY intense) session of hill repeats that left me feeling limp, but confident. That was my last hard session, and I went full out, but kept it short. I plan to fit in a relatively short tempo session on Wednesday or Thursday, mainly to maintain a good sense of pace, and to keep myself sharp.  Friday will be a rest day, with, at most, a brisk walk at lunch to keep the blood moving, and Saturday evening will include a 2-3 km easy run to keep my muscles warm, loosen everything up, and calm my nerves. Many training programs advise a longer period of tapering, especially when training for a full marathon. Unfortunately, because my training season was cut short, I simply didn't have time for a longer taper. My main concern and objective is simply to be warm and limber, but also well rested and ready to run hard.

    Andrea's Hill

    EATING (and eating and eating):  I've read a LOT of conflicting information on carbo loading leading up to a race or long run, and everyone seems to have a differing opinion. Some advise not to bother carbo loading at all. Some say you should eat as per usual for the last week, and only carbo load the day before the race. Others recommend increasing carb intake by a significant amount for the entire week leading up to the race. Not being an athletic trainer or a nutritionist, I'm really not qualified to venture an opinion this subject.  As with most aspects of my training, I've done what feels best for me. For the most part, I tend to follow a relatively low calorie, balanced diet. Most of my meals are pretty light, and I tend to eat frequently. This week, I've continued to eat frequently, but increased the amount I intake during each meal. I'm still taking in plenty of protein and veg, but I'm eating a lot more carbs than is normal for me. I'm not eating more than I feel is healthy, or more than is comfortable. My aim is to feel full and satisfied, and give myself enough energy to fall back on during my run. I'll also admit that I love to eat, and carbo loading is a great excuse to do so with relative abandon. Favorite meals include whole grain bagels with cream cheese, yogurt with berries, honey and oats, kamut pasta with tomato sauce, and open face beef fajitas with low fat refried beans. I'm going to enjoy it all while I can!

    Sleep: As much as possible. That's all I have to say about that.

    The Mental Side: For me, running is at least 50% mental. I like to prepare myself mentally for a long run at least a day ahead. I decide ahead of time that I'm going to run a certain distance, visualize the route, how I'm going to feel at certain stages, and how i will overcome any challenges such as fatigue, boredom or bad weather. If I have any doubts in my mind when I start out, they seem to magnify as I go along, and can actually derail my run. It's crucial for my performance that I BELIEVE my run is going to go well, and I really have to focus on maintaining this belief leading up to the run. I've spent this week focusing on building and maintaining confidence in my endurance, and an optimistic and positive outlook, which can be challenging when you're tired, sore, crabby and anxious. I visualize the excitement of lining up in the corral with hundreds of other runners, that amazing moment when I find my pace, slip into my stride, and become one with the pavement. Most of all, I visualize that magic moment when I cross the finish line, beat up and exhausted, but in possession of a personal triumph that no one can ever take away from me. Oh, and of course I visualize the delicious, ridiculously oversized brunch that I insist will be waiting for me after my triumphant finish!

    When my energy really starts to flag during a long distance, I find it extremely helpful to have a mantra to repeat over and over. Just a few positive words that I need to remind myself of, and that I can focus on to the exclusion of everything else. For this race, I'm going to go with "I'm ready, I'm strong, I can, I will". Cheesy? Perhaps. Effective? For me, most definitely.

    Everything else: Logistically, there are a thousand tiny details that go into preparing for a run in another city. What to pack, what to wear on race day, transportation, picking up the race package, what to eat before the race, where to meet friends and family after the finish line, and NOT forgetting your running shoes (as I managed to do for my first half marathon). My philosophy regarding logistics is simple. Prepare as much as you can as far ahead as possible. Then stop worrying, because the rest will fall into place eventually. And so far, it always has!

    In the end, only time will tell if all of this preparation will prove to be beneficial. My methods are far from scientific. Some of it may help, some may have little to no impact. However, despite the fact that I anticipate a slower finishing time than my last half marathon, I know deep down that this race will be better, because I've done what I need to do to achieve the goal I set for this race; to run a strong half marathon, and enjoy every second of the experience.

  • The Romance of Running

    Continuing our series for 60 Days of Better, Robbie tries to get to the bottom of his recently found love of running.


    There is something beautiful about running.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe…

    …it’s knowing that I am doing something that very few people can.  I don’t know a lot of people that can run 10 miles (like I did this past weekend).  When I was done I felt like Rocky at the top of the stairs in Philly, I had the Eye of the Tiger, I couldn’t be beat!  This attitude spills into other areas of my life.  Running makes me want to tackle my dreams.  Running makes me feel alive.  Running is empowering.

    …it’s knowing that people are driving by me while I am running and I am making them think about their own life.  I wonder, are they thinking, “Hey, there’s a fat guy who is just running!  Maybe I can run and my life could be better”.  Running is inspiring.

    …it’s the minutes or hours that I get to spend by myself while on a run, just me and my thoughts.  I can think about who I am and who I want to be.  I can make decisions and set goals.   I can think about difficult conversations that I need to have with people.  And thinking about important things in life while your body is producing those good endorphins during running helps you make really positive decisions.  Running brings clarity.

    …it’s crossing paths with other runners also in the middle of their run.  There’s a moment of camaraderie when two people run past each other and there is that second of eye contact when both of us acknowledge to each other, “Yeah, we are getting it done!”  Or, when the obviously more seasoned runner gives the fat guy runner a high five and an immense amount of confidence (which happened to me during one of my first road runs), running brings people together.

    …it’s giving me something to work for.  I signed up for a 5k race earlier this year.  I had never run that far before, but I paid my money and I was going to do it if it killed me (when you’ve never run before, you think running 3.1 miles will kill you! lol).  I ran it.  After I got over my injury, I knew what I wanted to do, so I paid for the 2013 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach.  No, I hadn’t run a half marathon yet, but a half was not my goal.  I will obviously run a half while I am training for the full marathon, but I will run the Shamrock next year.  I am already on pace to run a half marathon race this November.  Who knows what I will do after those races, maybe Ironman?!  Running gives me something to work for.

    …it’s the fact that running hurts so good!  After a long training run, usually a PR, I head straight for an ice bath which is not an easy thing to endure (but totally worth it!).  I know that for the rest of the day my legs are going to be stiff and sore.  After a night’s rest, the next day soreness wears off and I will feel good, ready to tackle the road again, and after a few runs, an even longer distance or speed.  Running makes me stronger.

    …it’s that fact that running is a great outlet.  I can recall a few times where I went running just to get away.  Maybe I was frustrated about something or maybe I was really struggling with food cravings.  Running is a great place to just vent and release your stress and frustration that living in this crazy world can bring.  Running makes me calm.

    …it’s the fact that running can be hard.  It’s difficult to start running.  I was way out of shape and had no idea how to run which led to injuries and frustration.  Sticking with it and figuring it out has led me to great personal victories.  There’s something about failing at something, but sticking with it long enough to finally beat it.  Running builds character.

    Maybe…what makes running beautiful is a collection of all these things.  I hear a lot of people refer to running as a chore and I just don’t get it.  Running has become so much more than a means to an end for me.  Running tells me who I am and that there is a lot of life left to live.  So, for me, running is a beautiful thing.

    As of October 1st, my Newton's have 99 beautiful miles on them.

  • Andrea's Need For Speed

    I will fully and happily admit that I've never been a technical runner. I've never owned a Garmin, never run intervals or tempos, never had a training plan, and never really cared about pace and time. I'll also admit that in some ways, I'm a bit of a lazy runner. I've never really been one to push myself, other than when it comes to increasing my distance. To me, it always seemed a reasonable assumption that if I kept upping my distance, and putting in the miles with consistency, I would eventually become a better and faster runner. To a certain extent, this assumption is not completely off base. As a running neophyte, you need to focus on creating a foundation of endurance to build upon. However, when you find your self lingering in a comfort zone for too long, at a certain point you have to either start pushing yourself, or face that fact that your performance is simply not going to improve.

    2012-09-24 18.13.281Injuries aside, I've been running in the comfort zone for an embarrassingly long time. I've developed a pace that is comfortable for me, feels great, and allows me to complete my long distance runs without exerting undue amounts of energy. But over the summer, I became increasingly aware that I'd come as far as I could without finding a way to push myself. With two half marathons on the horizon, I also realized I needed the structure of a training plan. Not being exceptionally good at planning, organizing and implementing any kind of a scheduled routine, or motivating myself to try anything outside of my routine, I decided my best course of action would be to enroll in a training clinic. I spent a good amount of time researching and considering my options. Some clinics I found were simply too technical for my level of interest, throwing around jargon like "threshold" and "zone". Some were simply an increasingly long run once a week, and I balked at the idea of paying money to do what I was already doing on my own. When I stumbled upon the Forerunner's summer clinic, I knew I'd found exactly what I was looking for, and I knew it was going to hurt. In a good way.

    The Forerunner's clinic offered a full training plan; every week included a group speed session, a group long run, and one or two guided "homework" runs to be completed on your own time. I decided to forgo the weekly distance group runs, as I prefer to complete my long runs solo, and don't feel like I require either guidance or additional motivation to do so. The weekly speed session was what I most needed to incorporate into my training, and something I didn't feel I could accomplish on my own. I can say, without reservation, that the Forerunner's clinic is the best thing that has happened to my running since I discovered Newtons!

    The first session was horrific, commencing with a 2 kilometer run uphill. We did some running drills, then proceeded on to 800 meter repeats at 25% more than 10k pace. I ran in the 60-65 minute 10k pace group, which also happened to be the slowest group, and I was certainly nowhere near the front of the pack. I struggled to keep up with my group members, and by the end of the last 800 meters, I was more exhausted than I had been after my last half marathon. I was defeated and discouraged, and pretty sure I wasn't going to repeat that exercise in humiliation the next week. I dragged myself home, and after a soak in an ice bath, found myself recounting the excruciating details of this torture session to my roommate. "Wow," she said, "it sounds like you really pushed yourself hard!" And with those words came clarity. Yes, I HAD pushed myself hard to complete the session (although admittedly out of a perverse refusal to be the slowest in the group). It had been unpleasant, difficult, and strenuous, and that's everything a speed workout is supposed to be! It's not supposed to be comfortable like a distance pace, and it's certainly not supposed to feel easy. The point of a speed workout is to go hard for a short amount of time, and push yourself to the outer limits of your endurance. You should feel utter exhaustion when you finish, because you should give everything you have. If it feels easy or comfortable, then you're doing it wrong.

    So i went back the next week,and the week after, and after a few sessions I was hooked. Every session was different. Hill repeats, 200 meter progressions, pyramids, mile time trials. Each workout presented me with a unique set of challenges, forcing me to adapt and push myself in different ways. Each workout left me feeling wrung out and decimated and, paradoxically, energized and elated. There's really no feeling on earth like pushing yourself up to and beyond your limits, then enjoying the well-earned exhaustion that follows such an effort. Most satisfying of all were the improvements I began to see in my running. My endurance increased rapidly and my recovery time decreased. Having become more aware of how my body feels at different speeds, I learned how to pace my runs in order to finish in a certain time or run a negative split. And yes, my speed began to increase, slowly but steadily.

    Fortunately for me, Forerunner's also offers a fall clinic which conveniently leads up to my second half marathon, the Fall Classic. By the end of the summer clinic, I had moved up a pace group.Three weeks into the fall clinic, I feel ready to move up another pace group, and the speed workouts are starting to come more naturally to me. Due to the injuries I'm still working to recover from, I haven't been able to train for this half as long or as hard as I would have liked. My longest distance run this season was just shy of 18 km, and I had to begin tapering this week. I'm certainly not expecting to produce a PR this time around. However, due to how hard I've been able to push myself in my speed workouts, I feel more prepared for this race than for any event I've run to date. I have confidence in my endurance, my ability to pace myself for a faster second half, and my capacity to dig deep when my energy begins to flag in order to push past my limits and finish strong.

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