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August 30, 2011. Random Musings. Leave a comment.

Excuse Me While I Fartlek

WAHHH??? did she just say what  I thought she said? yes…if you ever run by someone and they’re like “oh I’m just out fartleking today!” that doesn’t mean that you need to stay up wind of them the whole time…well maybe, but fartlek isn’t what you think it is…”fartlek” oh that’s a funny word now huh? Fartlek is a swedish word for speed play. Many great athletes (Olympians through even us normal runners) do them as speed training and you can incorporate some in your repertoire to jazz up a “boring” track night or spruce up a neighborhood run. By incorporating these quick bursts of speed you can help increase your leg turn over & build speed. Even doing it once a week can help and you don’t have to do it just at the track!

Here are 2 different ways you can incorporate this funny little word into your weekly runs: 1) in your neighborhood: run slow for about 5-10 steps then gradually increase your pace for about 20-50 steps then slow back down. As you get more comfortable bump up the amount of faster steps you take to maybe even doing a block at that speed. Make sure to walk or jog slower between each fast session, this allows your body to recover. 2) another for neighborhood or even track. pick a landmark to run towards. you see that cute guy up ahead, run a little faster towards him, smile then slow down as you get to him, or you can run to a telephone pole then slow down. (personally i like the cute guy idea) make sure to vary the length of the landmark you choose to jazz up the fartlek. You can continue this for 5-10 minutes and then just finish easy. Oh and remember your form 🙂 -that is a whole other post…

Once you build up your stamina and base mileage you can start incorporating fartleks in longer runs, many call these workouts “tempo” runs.  Instead of running for a short distance you extend the faster segment to a few miles. So say we wanted to do a 5 mile run: we’d start with a warm up mile, about 20-30 seconds slower than your long run pace, then do 3 miles 15-20 seconds faster than your long run pace and finish with an easy mile.

When i say “speed up” I literally mean it but not at a pace that you’re all out sprinting for your life,( unless you are sprinting for your life from an angry dog or something) you want about 70-80% of your fastest effort. And yes, you will notice it may slow down the rest of your pace for the evening but this is fine. Speed work helps you use your fast twitch muscle that can help with a “kick” come race day. Those fast twitch muscles are what help you get a quicker leg turn over.

A good way to increase your pace for these ins & outs is either of 2 ways: 1) lengthen your stride, basically widening or over-exaggerating your leg movement as if you’re jumping over a hole or ditch, dog or cat that got in your way. 2) shorten your steps, I know this sounds counter intuitive but it is probably the more readily used variation, I use this b/c my hipflexors are tight & I can’t open up my stride as much. Shortening your steps allows you to have a quicker rate in which you move your feet, aka quicker turn over.

Typically I would add these fartlek runs or tempo days only for 1 workout during your week, for true beginners I’d do this once every 2wks with the opposite week being speed work.  If you are an extreme beginner like just starting to go from walking or walk/running to running I’d suggest just sticking to fartlek runs or ins & outs.  What is an in/out?  Let’s make this easy, say it’s a “speed/tempo” day: if you are a true beginner and you want to try a bit of speed work, on a track night, you’re running for 10minutes.  I’d run a very easy pace for 5 minutes in which you can easily sing or have a conversation with someone after that I’d do 1 lap of a track as “speed” if you can quicken your pace (70-80% effort where you feel like you are pushing yourself but not to your maximum capacity) on the straight part of the track and slow down on the curved parts, do this until you’ve done 1 full lap. If you can’t make the full straight away then just aim for half and then another half on the other side of the track. Don’t feel defeated if you can’t do a whole straight away, we all have to start somewhere.  When I started back to running I couldn’t even make it more than a half mile from my apartment, with time comes endurance with endurance comes speed. You only work on one thing at a time. If you try to do both you are only hurting yourself in the end and you’ll be back at the beginning because you most likely injured your knee or foot. 

Speaking of: common injuries/pains for first time runners as you are beginning to increase your mileage- feet/ankles (this may also be due to improper footwear-that’ll be another post), knees-your knees aren’t used to the pounding on the ground they’ll get used to it over time & actually runners usually have stronger knees than those that don’t run: Runner’s World did a brief editorial on it  *I’ll find the real article and put it in here at some point* , you may have hip/back pain.   Most of these pains are just from your body not being used that way in a while and it’s kind of like the growing pains you get as a kid, you eventually grow out of them as you increase your stamina..but if they continue it could be an injury-listen to your body and as a beginner it’s good to keep a running journal so you can document everything you’re doing.

Happy Running!
Coach Gwynne

“Every day gives you an opportunity to improve. With every run, you try to be better. Not just a better runner, but a better person.”-John ‘the penguin’ Bingham, The Courage to Start

August 30, 2011. Training Tips. Leave a comment.

It was just 2 years ago that I did my first marathon in Harrisburg, PA with my family driving around the course cheering me on with “run for the cupcakes” signs, my dad was swapping me water bottles with fresh cold electrolyte, my ex boyfriend ran with me for the rough 3 miles from 17-20…and when i finished I got a big hug from all of them, my ex bf, my best friend, a few other friends and my nephew gave me a giant cupcake that I couldn’t even look at and it ended up going bad before I could even eat the dang thing 😦 

A year later I ran the Marine Corps marathon (fall 2010), I realized half way through that I hadn’t left enough mileage on my shoes and that’s when my knee started to feel like it was going to give out on me…I was so upset because I had been running really well up until that point. I held back in the beginning running with a slower paced friend until mile 1, I passed a wanna be Waldo by mile 5, I passed a few wonder women.  I passed a girl a went to high school with going up the hill towards Georgetown. 

Lululemon had hilarious signs “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”, and a few others i can’t remember but I do remember laughing out loud…this year i’ll take pictures.  I do remember Georgetown having the best crowd support and wished they would’ve been at the bridge.

Ok, back to the pain in my leg…this happened with 10miles left to go. I stopped at the medical tent to get tylenol and basically had to yell at the lady because she wasn’t paying attention, usually i’m well-mannered but she was hitting my angry button & i was hurting so bad but didn’t want to give up b/c i’d just trained 5 months for this thing. After this I took mental note to be my own travelling apothecary on the next marathon.  At this point I ran into some spectator friends and they talked me through my cursing.  A few miles later I ran into my friend Mayra, she had a new powerade for me and some pretzels, this pacified the beast for a bit & she ran with me for a good mile listening to me complain about my knee. 

The worst part was around the national mall because seriously going up to the capital building and back around is the longest 4 miles of my life and it’s sunny & hot at that point. I ran into a guy i was seeing with a “run for cupcakes” sign…are you seeing a trend here? (i love cupcakes!! they’re my inspiration for everything-sadly  they ceased to inspire me during this run, no amount of imagining dancing cupcakes could get me out of my painful funk).  I continued onto the bridge, saw a guy holding a sign that said “the bridge is your bitch”- and i remember thinking, actually talking out loud ‘no, i’m the bridge’s bitch…but not next year’  it was at this point my one friend was supposed to meet up with me but she had injured herself the week before so I was on my own. I saw our club’s photographer smiled for him and as soon as I passed him I started to walk.

At this point running hurt, then walking would hurt so I varied my running and walking depending on which hurt less at the time.  I kept thinking “once I get to crystal city i’ll have another pacer and some support, if i can just get there i’ll be ok”.  I got to crystal city, my pacer was nowhere to be found, I started cursing him under my breath…then I realized my cheer squad also didn’t show up…so much for THOSE people…i was livid..that’s when I tried to dig down deep, it was just me-I needed to inspire myself but how the heck was I going to do that….I changed my name every time I heard someone scream for Ann or Lisa or Ben…though occassionally i got a ” you’re looking good Gwynne” from a random stranger…thank you sharpie for allowing me to write my name on my arms so people knew who I was…even if they pronounced it wrong I didn’t correct them I just said thank you and continued on my own. 

At mile 25 I came upon a pace coach from my marathon training program, he ran with me for a few minutes to get up a small hill then went back to cheer on others b/c i was “looking strong still”  I continued up to the bridge, started walking…commisserated with a fellow walker who was crying. I looked at her and said “Honey, you’re on the last mile no matter what don’t give up there are still tons of people behind you!” she looked at me, smiled and was like ‘we can finish together!’  to that I responded “I actually need to start running again b/c walking is hurting my knee, but good luck, you only have less than a half mile left good luck!” then I took off…not fast just took off.

that last 200m was the worst of my life…my knee was killing me, and i had to go up a craptastic “baby” hill, but at that point if felt like scaling the Himalayas! I passed a few people on my ‘kick’ and then just started crying as I crossed the finish line.  I hugged the marine that gave me my medal and onward to food I went.

The finish line was a total zoo, sweaty tired runners looked like zombies just milling around. I found some training buddies that had finished right before me, one didn’t look so hot.  I made sure he ate his bagel right away and I navigated him through the crowd and to the club’s hospitality suite where I made sure he got some more food, some ice and lots of water.  He recovered in about 30mins and was fine.  I sat on the floor of the hospitality suite just crying…putting on my icy hot and then went to the bathroom to change out of my gross clothes take a quick wipe down with soap and put on some sweats…

My only thoughts were “my knee is killing me, how am I going to get in sufficient training for Disney in 2 months!!”

And THAT was my 2nd marathon experience…i’ll share another race story later.

So as for training for my 4th marathon, we’ve been training since May. Our first 20mile run was this past sunday and I felt amazing! This year I feel so strong and I know that i’m going to come back to MCM and crush my time from last year. From each marathon, or each race I do I learn something new about myself. I pick up something different to do or how to approach a situation in a different way, how to prep for anything, what to make sure I carry with me & what I can live without…what I can con a friend (spectator) into bringing for me.  It’s good to have friends, that way you have less to carry while running, you can do a hand off of sorts.

well back to work.

Happy Running!

Coach Gwynne

August 25, 2011. Random Musings. Leave a comment.

Beginning Women’s Program 2012

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, impending apocalypse? None of those scare me…though darkness does…but nothing stops me from formulating next year’s program! I’m hoping to implement some exciting changes to make it a more fun experience! (if it wasn’t already..)

Some little previews:

1) 2 extra weeks of training to let the real beginners feel more confident

2) varying our scenery 🙂

3) maybe some tasty dishes?

That’s all I can say for now…hoping to bring more smiling faces into the mix for next year and make it a more interactive program.

maybe we’ll teach you how to out run a tornado or hurricane…or aliens…just saying 🙂

Happy Wet Running!

Coach Gwynne

"Courage to start: through the anxiety, the pain, garner the determination &'s just you and the road and the road doesn't care if you're having a bad day, if you feel'll keep your secrets safe, become good friends with the road"- Coach Gwynne

August 25, 2011. Random Musings. Leave a comment.

Seriously an Earthquake in DC?

So if you haven’t heard because you live under a rock, we had a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Richmond, VA…and felt it in the DC area…I wondered why it felt weird while driving. This was nowhere near as crazy as the one a few months ago that happened at 5am right near my apartment. It woke me up from a sound sleep, I thought it was a crazy thunderstorm that really shook the ground…then i didn’t hear the rain so i thought “great a plane flew into something near by” i listened for the sirens but didn’t hear it…that’s when i thought the worst possible scenario: we were being attack by ALIENS!!! …hey i was half awake but it’s totally possible….good thing I have Will Smith on speed dial, he knows how to handle aliens & zombies, you know just incase those people near the landing zone of the aliens got mutated and became zombies.

My job gave us leave yet I’m still in my lab doing my experiments because I’m a dedicated scientist…hopefully the earthquake didn’t mess it up and I have to start all over because it takes 3days to do this experiment from start to finish.

Good exercises to practice during earthquakes:

  1.  balance exercises on a bosu 
  2.  yoga balance poses
  3. diving
  4. running ahead of the tremor! (now that would be a fun experiment)
  5. doing a handstand
  6.  swimming in a pool, would turn into something like swimming in open water
  7.  jumping on a pogostick
  8. jump roping
  9. archery
  10. an intense game of jenga

Check back tomorrow for a real article on something running related.

Happy Running in Earthquakes,

Coach Gwynne

August 23, 2011. Random Musings. Leave a comment.

Learn To Breathe Properly During Your Run

Breathing is a very natural activity–and so is getting out of breath when you run. Modified from  Hal Higdon Published 08/28/2001 Runner’s World

It’s only natural that when you run, you’ll get out of breath. Your body needs oxygen, just as your car needs gas to fire the pistons in the engine. When you start to exercise–whether running, walking or any other physical activity–your muscles use more oxygen than at a rested state. This need is met by supplying oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, more is pumped through your system the harder the system works. The lungs will work harder to absorb this oxygen out of the air…thus you get out of breath…the contrary to this is that you have asthma of some sort which complicates things a bit, but I’ll get into that later.Without giving it much conscious thought, most runners breathe in a 2/2 rhythmic ratio: which breaks down to inhaling a breath during two steps and exhaling during two more subsequent steps. Though this may be true, some slower runners may often tend to breathe in a 3/3 ratio, while faster runners might breathe 2/1, or 1/1, however 2/2 is much more common.For those that are curious to test this out if you count breaths in and out only to discover you are breathing with a different rhythm, don’t worry about it.  Most likely adjusting your breathing pattern will not make you a better runner, unless going up a hill which controlled breathing can help you “manage” or work through the strain your body is going through.The same with whether you breathe through your nose or your mouth, the majority of people naturally breathe through both. Famed New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard, when asked how runners should breathe, once replied: “Breathe through your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Suck the air in through your ears, if you can.” Regardless of how you breathe and how much you breathe, your jaw should be relaxed with your mouth slightly open. This should allow oxygen to come through your nose and mouth to your lungs, to your blood and to your muscles without you needing to yield a conscious effort. Breathing is a very natural activity–and so is getting out of breath when you run.
Now back to the tricky part: dealing with breathing when you have asthma or exercised induced asthma…many people think they can’t do sports because of this, but on the contrary, it can be very good for asthmatic individuals. I know this from personal experience; I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma my sophomore year of high school while running track, actually a lot of weird things happened that year of my life…but I digress…  Throughout the years it’s been a struggle in the humidity, in the cold and just in general some times.
what is asthma? Asthma affects people of all ages, often it starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 22 million people are known to have asthma, with nearly 6 million of these people being children.  When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. It is mainly the narrowing of the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways may make more mucus than normal. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow your airways…thus making it challenging to breathe.
Most asthma can be controlled by using an inhaler that dilates the bronchial tract. I typically use an albuterol inhaler before each run. Other inhalers use some type of steroid to increase it’s potency.
I’ve found that over the past few years as I’ve increased my base mileage my asthma has become more controlled and I can go longer distances at a faster pace without using my inhaler, but I still carry it on me just in case.  However there are some days that even my inhaler can’t save me and that’s when I call it a day or slow myself down a good minute/mile slower or more if I am going to run or I simply run another day, most of these days are typically when it’s really humid or cold- the humidity and cold put a lot of stress on your lungs to begin with. You need to listen to your body and not push it too much because an asthma attack is nothing to really joke about, I’ve had a few mini ones this past winter when I was alone in CA for a half marathon in Disneyland- it was really scary waking up in the middle of the night feeling your lungs tighten and feel like you are drowning, gasping for air.  I’ve also been there when my mom has had a full blown attack and had to go to the Emergency Room.
 I recently found myself forgetting to take my inhaler before a 12mile run into DC and then not having one in my water pack, I was so scared…I just moved up to a pace group 1 min/mi faster than I was in the previous year but I actually ended up being fine. I attribute this to the past year of training at a lot of mileage over 12 miles that built up my lung capacity.
I have yet to not take an inhaler before a race…whoops recently did that for an 8k and still made a PR! (personal record/personal best) and I didn’t race hard…man makes me wonder how I would’ve done had I actually raced it…I chose not to race that 1) because I had forgotten my inhaler 2) I had a 15mile run the next day and really wasn’t “supposed” to  do that race anyway..regardless I listened to my body & new when to slow down.
There are a great deal of elite athletes with asthma:
  • Jerome Bettis – professional football player
  • Bruce Davidson – Olympic equestrian
  • Tom Dolan, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Chris Draft – professional football player
  • Kurt Grote, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Nancy Hogshead, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Jim “Catfish” Hunter – professional baseball player
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medalist – track
  • Bill Koch, Olympic medalist – cross-country skiing
  • Greg Louganis, Olympic medalist – diving
  • Tom Malchow, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Debbie Meyer, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Art Monk – professional football player
  • George Murray – wheelchair athlete & Boston Marathon winner
  • Robert Muzzio – decathlete
  • Dennis Rodman – professional basketball player
  • Jim Ryun, Olympic medalist – track
  • Alberto Salazar – marathon runner
  • Isaiah Thomas – professional basketball player
  • Amy VanDyken, Olympic medalist – swimming
  • Dominique Wilkins – professional basketball player

More information about exercise induced asthma:

Happy Running,

Coach Gwynne

August 19, 2011. Training Tips. Leave a comment.

Hello world!

Guten Abend! (that’s good evening in German!-i try to practice my languages from time to time)

Willkommen to my little page: If you read my little bio you’ll know this already, or maybe you already know me.  I’m an avid marathon runner and have been pace coaching a beginning women’s running program for my local running program since 2010, starting in 2012 I’ll be directing the same program.  I was coerced? I had mentioned to me that I should maybe start a blog with all my little running tips I’ve provided my beginning runners over the years, and maybe provide some insight/ guidance to the crazy world of running to those just starting out or even a new perspective for those that are sage runners. 

So for those of you that are new to running:

It’s hard to believe but I was in your shoes about 4 years ago, I had just moved to the DC metro area from PA to finish my masters degree with an internship at the DoD. I didn’t know anyone other than the Penn State students in my lab that were undergrads and they went back to PA after we were done. I had some people in my lab talk about me running the army 10 miler with them and I told them there was no way I’d ever run 10 miles in my life.  Needless to say, a few months later I started running as a way to relieve stress from my new job & as an incentive I signed up for the Baltimore half marathon (actually I kinda got conned into it by a coworker!), regardless of how “fast” I ran it I was just going to finish that thing even if it killed me (which it didn’t, I think..).  I ran by myself through my neighborhood in Germantown, I chained myself to run 10 miles on a treadmill at work because it got dark before I left for home (the dreadmill sucks :-p especially when they only go 1 speed!!-but can be very useful when it’s too treacherous outside to run). My first race back was a race called Run for Roses, a race put on by my running club, I did ok but my mom made fun of me for WEEKS that a 76-year-old lady beat me-to this day I believe it’s because she was retired and had time to run while I worked so much…

5mile race

Anyway, I worked my way up through different distance races through the summer/fall, then race day came in October, I was so nervous I could’ve thrown up-was I really ready?  Within the first mile I was going up bigger hills than I trained on all summer and I ended up walking. I seriously ran/walked almost the whole half marathon and when I finished about 2hrs 45mins later i swore I’d never run that distance again. 

Baltimore half marathon


I joined a Speed Development Program that winter to meet people and have someone to run with because honestly running by myself was getting boring & I had some weird stalker guy drive past me a lot so it wasn’t safe, plus I really hated that dang treadmill!  I was put in the most beginner, slowest pace group they had but I stuck with it. Their goal race came in April and I walked over half of it because the pollen was so heavy & it was 80 outside, my parents came to cheer me on which was great.  I decided that summer I’d sign up for the half marathon program when all my new friends said they were doing it and I was like “here i go again, this is going to be awful!” but I stuck with it, asked my coaches TONS of questions and then came back to Baltimore year later and took 30minutes off my time!! 

Baltimore #2

 I didn’t do my first marathon until November 2009, which again was an awful experience that I swore I’d never do again…yet here I am getting ready to train for my 4th marathon, and having run the Goofy Challenge at Disney World in January (~40miles in about 24hrs-but fun times!).
It really bit me that dang running bug, I just love going out there with nature and my friends. It gives me something else to focus my energy on than my work, which is stressful at times, my bad break ups, anything that is negative I use running as my release, to become more in tune with myself. When you can just be “one” with your run you really zone in and it’s like everything disappears around you…you may have experienced this or you will some day & you’ll know what I mean. 
So this is abbreviated, but still this is what I’ve been through, I’ve had HORRIBLE running experiences, I’ve been through months of PT for being put in the wrong shoes while training, I’ve run too fast too soon…seriously I’ve made all those mistakes but I’ve learned from them, you evolve as a runner everyday & you learn something new about yourself in the process.
Through this blog I hope to not only give you tips but take you on a journey through my life & my trainings. I’ll probably revisit some of these pivotal races with other posts in this blog at another date.
Happy Running!
Coach Gwynne

August 18, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.