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Craig Lloyd

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Spring races are hard to get ready for when Winter lingers and impacts your training. And there is only so much treadmill time we can take, right? Even in the worst of external conditions there is a way to continue training and be ready to PR early in the season. Some of these will be no-brainers for you, while others may seem really out there. Trust me though when I say they have all been tried and tested and found to be critical to successful Winter training.

1. Layer Up – We’ve all heard about layering, nothing new here. Except try this, next time layer based on what you intend to potentially remove once you get too warm. I often run with my long sleeve shirt OVER my jacket. That’s right, over, so when I get too hot I just take the shirt off and I still have wind protection. It also means I don’t have to remove layers just to put others back on.

2. Keep it Flowing – A major challenge is keeping water from freezing. Try wearing your hydration vest or belt under your outer layer. The head from your body that also gets reflected back will keep your bottles and/or hose from freezing up, even in the coldest of temps.

3. Mmm, Real Food – Trying to eat a gel packet in sub-freezing temps is equivalent to eating 3 year old glue, tasty, but not overly palatable. Winter is a great time to teach your body to eat real food while running (yes, it is possible). Carry along foods that aren’t overly dry and can be processed quickly. I prefer dehydrated mangos and rolled up tortillas with Nutella inside. But the options are endless and all yummy.

4. Traction – Slipping, especially around traffic, can persuade anyone to head for the treadmill. Purchase some traction devices, it will not only keep you on your feet but give you the confidence to run at your normal pace. Some great companies include; Hillsound, Yaktrax, Kahtoola, and StabilIcers.  Purchase the brand and model that best fits your style of running and you’ll be grateful you have them.

5. Toasty Toes – Contrary to popular belief you can run in the Winter without your feet freezing. Most people think this has something to do with shoes and Gortex, but the truth is that it has mostly to do with socks. Forget cotton and actual purchase something that keeps the wetness away from your feet. Great brands include DryMax, Icebreakers, and Injinji.

6. Blood Flow – Outside of socks the number one reason for cold feet is a lack of blood flow. When your feet are jammed into your shoes and your toes aren’t allowed to move the blood is constricted and can’t circulate through your digits. Luckily, you are already on the right website to find the perfect pair of shoes for Winter running. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which model you try, Altra Zero Drop shoes will allow your toes to move and stay warm.

7. Turtelneck – It’s common knowledge that the number one place for heat loss is your head, followed closely by your hands. But what many people don’t realize is the importance of keeping your neck warm. And I mean all of it. Wearing a hood or getting a neck gaiter will keep an immense amount of heat in. Neck gaiters also all you to pull it up over your chin and cover up that gap between your beanie and jacket also.

8. Sign Up – One of the hardest parts of Winter running is staying motivated. Actually signing up for an event and shelling out money really helps motivate us to get out the door on the cold wintery mornings. But don’t just sign up, hang some kind of reminder of the race around the house to keep it fresh on your mind. If you can’t forget it you can more easily stay focused on the goal.

9. The Fallback – Unexpected weather changes, friends bailing, alarm clocks mysteriously not going off all contribute to the all-too-often lack of training we incur during the Winter. Having backup workouts, even if they involve cross-training can keep you on track to meet your running goals. Bike trainers, power yoga, pilates, and swimming are all great ways to stay in shape when you can’t head outside and need a break from the hamster wheel.

10. The “T” Word – If all else fails, do it, run on the . . . . oh, it’s so hard to say . . . the . . . . Treadmill. You know what, some people love it, and that’s great. For others it’s as horrible a thought as having your fingernails removed with a couple of spoons. But as long as your end goal, that one thing that keeps you motivated to train, stays fresh on your mind you will do whatever it takes to get there. Even if that means running on the treadmill. There are tactics to doing it without wanting to punch yourself in the face, but those would be an article all by themselves. Just knowing it’s a good backup and being willing to do it is important enough.

I have a pretty big race coming up the end of March. To be ready I’ve had to be focused with my training and committed to getting out there in some of the worst conditions and at crazy times of day or night. But I feel ready and with only a couple weeks left of training before my taper I know I have done what it takes to allow me to reach my goal. And I have used every one of these 10 items to keep me in top physical shape and ready to run far. Hopefully they will work for you too.

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There are literally hundreds of ideas I could share on getting and staying motivated to get out and go run. Unfortunately, I don’t have the finger strength and doubt any of you have the interest in reading all of those. So I’ll focus on five main ideas that can help you get up, get dressed and get out the front door.

1. Value-based goal setting: I’m not one for creating and targeting random goals. My philosophy is ‘if you don’t believe in it, you won’t try for it’. I believe this applies to all aspects of our life, not just running. Goals should reflect our deepest desires and values. Basing your goals around those will guaranteed success. For example if running to lose weight is your goal, your goals should not be on miles or race results, but rather weekly weigh-ins, healthy eating, running duration (walking & running) and effort. On the other hand, if you want to achieve a new personal record in your next 5k or 10k, then your goals should reflect the effort it is going to take to shave off those minutes and seconds. These goals will help you focus and be a great motivator to get out and start training.

Josh on Mt Timpanogos

2. Sign up: Often times just signing up for an event is enough to motivate you to get out the door when the back of your eyelids are telling you to stay in bed. Once you’ve put out the money, you are committed. That commitment will carry over to getting you psyched to get to work. I have a close friend whose entire running career was based around that first time he signed up for a sprint triathlon and wanted to finish well. Twelve weeks and 50lbs later he was a machine and ready to race. He is now a successful ultra and mountain runner.

3. Make it public: Tell the world. Scream it from the hilltops. Tweet, Facebook, email, or even hang a sign in the window. Holding yourself accountable will guarantee you won’t give up. Not only will you feel the pressure to live up to your commitments, but when everyone knows, they will get on board and help you achieve your goals. I’ve seen this work for people in all aspects of running; from those who just want to lose 5 lbs. to those who have committed to running their first 100-mile ultra-marathon. It’s amazing what holding yourself accountable to others can do.

4. Find a partner: Like making your goals public, having a personal running buddy automatically makes you accountable. It makes it easier to get up out of bed, when you know you have to be up and out of bed to meet your training partner at 5am. Having a training partner is also helpful when trying to go farther and faster. They can motivate you to go the extra distance when you’d rather stop for a donut, or push faster on that interval when you’d rather slack off. Having someone who shares the same goals and values towards running is just icing on the cake!

5. Seek out inspiration: This is an interesting source of motivation and extremely diverse. I often get motivated by watching YouTube videos. As a mountain runner, I watch videos about ultra-marathon races or adventure runs. But it doesn’t have to be just about that. I’m often motivated by videos of people who have shown a lifestyle change resulting from their dedication to running. Another option is to find a hero – someone who you can put on a pedestal and look up to. Whether you know the person or not, they can be a great source of motivation. Maybe they aren’t even a runner, just someone that helps you find the better you when you need it most.

Like I said, there are dozens, if not hundreds of additional ways to get motivated. I hope that in some small way these five tips will hit home and help you achieve your goals. For me, my motivation is simple; it is the dirt on the trails, the leaves on the trees and the summit of mountains that get me out there, rain or shine. I love the outdoors and especially the mountains. They are my driving force. Find yours.

What do you to to keep motivated?
How has a lack of motivation affected your training?

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I’m sure everyone has their own secret to success. These little gems are usually personal and came about as a result of some deep introspection or from having ‘the perfect day’. Some might be actual practices, while others might be odd superstitions. In either case, they work and are thereafter unchanging. After speaking with many people about their secrets or reading about them in articles and blogs, one thing is clear… they are as wide-ranging and random as the stars.

One of my friends wears his favorite green shorts in a race. Another eats only gels, while another won’t eat gels at all. My mom has to have a Pepsi Throwback during a long run or race. My brother wears those weird balance bracelets, something the makers have even admitted don’t really work. But for my brother they do, so he wears his. Others swear by bacon, something I tend to agree with. Some won’t run without salt pills, while others need wet wipes. It doesn’t matter what these secrets are as long as they work for you.

My secret would seem a little less personal, but ultimately maybe even more necessary. The secret to my success is my friends. I’m not a superstitious person, I don’t need special socks or  hat. My nutrition can vary, and while I tend to drink just water on my runs, I do appreciate a good soda later in a race. My secret to being so successful? The company I keep.

I don’t need my friends with me on every run or in every race. I actually enjoy the solitude of running alone. I generally don’t use pacers in a race less than 100 miles long, but if the opportunity is there to give one of them a chance to join in I will usually invite them along because it’s more fun. This little secret of mine wouldn’t really work if my friends sucked; not in the sense of being poor runners, but poor people. Luckily, like Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, “I’ve chosen wisely”. The main reason I love running in such remote places is the love for the people there with me. I couldn’t ask for a better family or group of friends. We don’t all run and compete at the same level. We often get out on long runs and spread out over miles without seeing or talking to each other for up to a couple of hours, but it doesn’t matter. Ultimately, we love being there for the sake of our surroundings. We visit and laugh during the trip to wherever we are going and generally stay together for the first bunch of miles, even if it doesn’t last for the entire run. I love my running crew and I wouldn’t change it. I want to have fun and run far.

Other great tips from elite runners can be found here from Runner’s World. These include: Get Loose, Pace the Workout, Adjust the Plan, Make Comparisons, Recover and Keep Moving.

Hopefully you have all found a simple little secret that works for you. What are your secrets to success? What keeps you going? How do you stay motivated on those cold early morning runs?

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A lot of people are scared to take up trail running because they fear the rocks and potential to fall and get hurt. That is an understandable fear because it will eventually happen to every trail runner no matter how many precautions they take. There are a few simple tips to help you be successful and reduce the risk of injury, however. One of those is something I call ‘trail vision’ – knowing where to look at the trail depending on the speed and incline in which you are traveling.

The tip is simple… The faster you’re moving, the farther ahead you should be looking. The general belief is that you should always be looking at your feet and where they land, but this isn’t actually true. You mind knows where to put your feet, even if you aren’t looking down at them. Consider the way a horse moves over technical terrain. They never look down, but instead keep their eyes positioned on the trail in front of them, knowing that their hooves will land in the place that is usually rock-free. Running on trails is no different.

If you are traveling over rocky terrain at a good power hike, you have the time to look down at your feet and make the appropriate placement. The same goes for running slowly uphill. However, when you’re moving over flat or downhill terrain you need to keep your vision up, about 10 to 15 feet ahead of you so that you know what’s coming. If you are running fast and looking down at your feet, you will likely not see that rock or root up ahead and be unable to react quick enough to miss it. Keeping your eyes positioned ahead on the trail gives your mind enough time to send the message to your legs where to land. Your feet will instinctively land in the correct position.

Add to that a complete focus of where you are and you have a combination for success. Again, if you are running slowly you might be able to get away with a chatty pace, enjoying a good conversation with your running partner. As soon as you start speeding up, it is imperative to keep your mind focused on the trail. When I am running fast down technical trails, I use a simple mantra that I repeat over and over in my mind, “JUST FLOAT”. This mantra keeps my mind focused on the trail instead of wandering off to the tasty treats I have waiting for me back at the car. Experience has shown me, and is expressly evident in my scars, that as soon as I lose that focus I’m bound to catch a toe and send myself into the rocks and bushes.

Remember keep your eyes up and your mind focused on the trail. These two tips together will increase your ability to have a successful trail run. Now get out there!

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Do You Run Trails?
How has running on trails helped your training?
Do you have an experience with not having great trail vision?

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Rhythm… That repetitive action that causes us to bob our heads or tap our toes. It is the instinctual nature to continue moving forward that resonates into our life of running.

I am often asked how I was able to push through the tough times of running, back when it wasn’t ‘fun’. For so many people, the monotony and boredom is so overwhelming that they can’t stick with it. I often find myself telling people the key to running enjoyment and improved performance is Consistency.

Like a metronome, tick-tocking back and forth, improving our running isn’t about the repetitive one foot in front of the other, but more about one day after another; building consistency until it becomes a habit and second nature. There are three helpful concepts that you can use to help build consistency:

  • 1. Training plans – you can find these just about anywhere, from thousands of websites to just about any of the published magazines. They all have plans that can be, or already are tailored to help you reach your goals. It doesn’t matter if you want to run your first 5k or shoot for a new marathon personal record, there is a plan for you. Sticking to that plan allows you to know exactly what you need to do to build consistent workouts and form habits. While you may not always need a detailed training plan, they are amazing tools for developing runners and aspiring athletes targeting new goals.
  • 2. Motivation – we all need it, but often don’t know where to find it. A few tools that I have found helpful are running-related magazines, interesting websites, running location, and running partners. Motivation is a topic of its own and will be addressed in detail in a later post. The only thing I’ll add is that personally, my motivation comes from being able to run trails. I love being on dirt in the hills and mountains. It’s all I need to motivate me to get out there each day.
  • 3. Accountability – another topic that will be addressed in detail in its own post. Accountability is a brilliant principle that can motivate you to consistently train. A friend of mine who was attempting to lose weight and also train for a sprint triathlon, started posting his weight on the outside of his cubicle at work. Each week he would weigh himself and post his new weight in big block letters on the outside wall of his cubicle. Over 12 weeks the trend of papers grew, and dropped. This accountability forced him to maintain a high level of consistency and in that 12 weeks he lost over 50 lbs and was more than ready for his race. While this exact method doesn’t apply to everyone, being accountable by waking up early for a group run or tracking your workouts on a social-running related website can be invaluable to help you build consistency in your training.

Whether you implement one or all three of these principles, building consistency can help improve not only your ability to train, but your enjoyment of it. The satisfaction that comes from knowing you are meeting or exceeding your goals is the best motivator you have for success. So if you sitting there reading this and it’s been a few days since your last workout, get out there and go do it! You’ll be happier for it.

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For nearly all of us, running is a recreational activity we do to keep ourselves healthy, happy and sane. However, it requires us to set aside time out of our busy schedule. While schedules vary from person to person, there is one constant for everyone. There are 24-hours in a day. How you choose to spend those hours and fit in running will depend on two things; how important running is to you and what kind of running goals you set for yourself.

I’m a believer that regardless of schedules and how full your date book is, anyone can train for a 5k or 10k. Neither distance requires the participant to put in any significant amount of time that would encroach on life’s other necessities. However, once you set the goal to run farther and train harder, you may have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life.

Let me try and put it into perspective by providing an example from my own life. I’m married and have four children (7 months, 3, 4, and 14). My wife is a full-time nurse and works every Monday, Friday, and every other Saturday/Sunday. My 14 year old is with us every Tuesday and Thursday evening and every other weekend (the weekend my wife works), so we tend to try and do family things when he is with us. I also work an 8 – 5 job Monday through Friday, with an occasional Saturday thrown in. We own a home with a large yard which requires constant attention. Needless to say, finding time to train for ultra-marathons is a challenge.

Let me share one more story. I have a good friend who is recently divorced. She has two children and a full-time job, along with managing her own home and related schedules. She recently told me she wakes up at 4:30am every morning so that she can train. One day a week, usually Friday, she has a family member who is willing to watch her children while she does a long run. This amazing woman runs 2 – 3 marathons a year and continues to get faster. Her example is incredible because she truly sacrifices what, for most of us, is the most precious commodity in our lives, sleep.

I don’t have the consistent morning dedication she does. When my wife works she has to be gone by 6:15am. When she is home she likes to get up early and workout herself. I’m allowed one morning run each week which often starts around 4:30am. I also do one night workout each week, which generally begins at 9pm and ends sometime after midnight. As a trail ultra-marathon runner I make an effort to run in the mountains as often as possible, so I have to take into account travel time. Luckily, I live in a location that facilitates limited travel and maximum trail time. Also to my advantage is that I have a boss and a job that allows me to take longer lunches and run for a longer period of time than most. Yet, it also means I eat lunch in front of a computer and during conference calls each day. I sacrifice the luxury of going out to lunch with friends and family so that I can train.

Regardless of what your personal goals are, if you want to run and train you are going to have to make certain sacrifices. For some of you, it might mean sacrificing some sleep. For others, it could mean eating lunch at your desk while you work so you can get out for a 30 minute run during lunch. It might also mean juggling some things in your personal life so that you can have additional time to get out. These sacrifices might include decreased TV time (while I do watch a fair bit of TV, I don’t have a single show I follow each week because I refuse to dedicate the time to it), gaming, internet or even some house cleaning.

What it really boils down to is, if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way to make it happen! Time is valuable to all of us, but there are always solutions to finding the time to add running into our lives. What are you willing to sacrifice to enjoy this? Please share below, or what you already do sacrifice to make time for running. We’d love to hear it!

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Fueling has and always will be a tricky subject as it is something that is usually quite personal. Every person’s body reacts differently to fueling while running and therefore what works for one person may not work for another. In this article I won’t attempt to try and tell anyone ‘what to eat’, but instead focus on two simple and generally all-encompassing principles: Learn to Fuel and When to Fuel.

Learn to Fuel
I’ve heard every excuse under the sun regarding people’s inability to take in calories prior to and during a run/race. They have ranged from “I can’t eat within six hours of running a marathon” to “my stomach just can’t handle anything while I’m running”. While people may actually believe this is true about them, it is actually completely false.

Think about how long it took you to train and get to the point you are now. There was planning, practice, and patience. You learned how to run farther through trial and error, good days and bad days, and sheer determination when you felt like you just couldn’t go any farther. But the end result is that you’ve trained your body to travel whatever distance you have wanted to achieve. Learning to fuel is no different. You have to train your stomach to handle and process not just calories, but the forms in which you take them in. Here’s the kicker, it doesn’t really matter what you eat as long as you are putting calories in your body. It does take practice however. And because all of our bodies differ you can only learn so much from reading. You will inevitably have to go through a period of trial and error before you find just what kinds of foods and fluids work for you.

The only thing I will say about the kinds of fuel you should take in is this – if you like eating gels it is important to remember that they were never designed to be taken in combination with electrolyte drinks. In most cases the end result will be an upset stomach or worse. If you like electrolyte drinks teach your body to consume real foods during a run. If you like gels, then you should probably only drink water with them. Crank Sports, the producers of E-Gels and E-Fuel wrote an interesting article about it. It is interesting because they are willing to throw their own product under the bus to prove how important it is. http://www.cranksports.com/products/egel/hydration.asp

When to Fuel
I’ve seen this in literally every race I’ve ever run in that was a half marathon or farther. People wait and wait and then wait some more before they take a gel. The problem with that is by the time they finally take one their body is already behind on calories. They then spend the rest of the race playing catch-up on energy. The rule of ‘when to fuel’ is easy: eat early and eat often. Through years of practice I’ve learned the following about myself – I have to eat real, solid food within the first 30 min of a marathon or ultra-marathon if I want to stay ahead of my calories. I then take at least one gel an hour mixed with real food (I prefer fruit as my ‘real food’) throughout the course of a race. Since learning this about myself I have not truly bonked in a race in two years.

While my personal practices may not work the same for you, the principle of eating early and often applies to everyone. And as stated previously, it takes training and practice. You have to teach your body to eat and enjoy taking in fuel while you run. Once you learn to do this you will find that you can run farther, faster, without feeling depleted. Good luck and Run Healthy.

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