Solo or Group Running – which is better?

Which do most runners prefer –  solo or group running?

In posing this question to my friends, the answer proved to be a resounding “yes”!

“I need to run alone to listen to listen to the sounds in my head and to be free to listen to my body when it tells me either to push or to back off.” – Jim

“I like to train on my own- slap on my headphones and head out at my own pace, whether I’m pushing myself or not.” – Amber

At first, I figured running was a lone sport for the beginner. And honestly, as a newbie, I preferred it that way. It was all too new to me. I didn’t know how my body was going to react, and I sure didn’t want to hold anyone back. So I ran alone, earbuds in, music as loud as safely possible – because I didn’t want to run to the soundtrack of my own heavy breathing.

Fast forward to these days, when more often than not, I’m running with friends. Often we are all training for something, but we do use the time to socialize.

“I love to run with others. I get to share time, hear how life is for them and be inspired along the way. Social connection/ relationships are paramount to personal happiness and well-being.” – Meg

“I usually run/walk alone because I am slower than most.” – Deborah

It was at least a year before I started running and training with others. I still felt self-conscious about my own running. However, our running populace is quite diverse in age and experience, and I learned that running with groups can truly be helpful. We can share helpful advice, cheer one another along and tell each other how awesome we are!

For the first few years, I was really uptight about conversation during running. I really didn’t have the confidence in myself yet to try to do both.

I think I’ve finally learned to relax and just enjoy being out there running/jogging/walking with my friends and sharing the time together. We certainly don’t take it personally if one of us decides to run at his or her own pace for a bit.

“I enjoy being with my friends and doing something we love together. Also, with friends I usually have a tendency to push myself a little harder. As a woman I feel safer when I’m with others.” – Clara

I was anxious about this while training for a recent half marathon. My friend Jeff promised to run the race with me, and he meant the entire 13.1 miles.  I knew he liked to make conversation while running. I was afraid I would slow us both down trying not to be antisocial. As it turned out, we pushed each other along. I ended up with a personal best and had an extremely enjoyable 13.1 miles with my friend.

“I really like starting a run with my friends and talking with them, but towards the middle of the run I like the focus of being alone. Running with friends also pushes me to run harder, because I’m trying to keep up!” – Sarah

“I’d prefer to run in a group, because I am loathe to be the slowest in a formation and it motivates me to move faster.” – Alex

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Donner’s Downfall (photo courtesy of Race 178)

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of both  experiences. I met up with a group to preview Leg 4 of the Reno Tahoe Odyssey. Nicknamed “Donner’s Downfall”, it’s one of the toughest legs of the 178-mile relay; 8 miles uphill, gaining an elevation of 1,500 feet. Our objective was to run for an hour, so that meant running as far as possible for 30 minutes, then turning around and heading back.

None of my regular running friends was able to make this run with me. So although there were a lot of people there, once we started running, I considered it a solo run. I made it about 2.5 miles up the mountain before turning around, and it was tough. The landscape was stunning. But I was really focused on getting as far as I could in the first 30 minutes.

When I turned around to run back down, I decided to remove my earbuds and enjoy feeling connected to my surroundings. And I did. The valley below me, other snow-capped peaks of the Sierras in the distance; the birds busily chatting amongst themselves, and the rush of the creek alongside the trail –  it was a beautiful experience and so indicative of the solo running experience. It gave me the opportunity to clear my head, enjoy nature in all its glory, and thank God for the beauty of it all and the ability to enjoy it in this way.

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Enjoying the beauty and solitude of Donner’s Downfall

“I run solo to clear my head, work through real or imagined issues; I run with a buddy/buddies to be inspired or inspire.” – Jeff

That run was especially mellow after having run in a trail race the day before, Race days are so much fun, and obviously include many other people. I loved catching up with friends and meeting new people. It was great fun to start out the race together, spread out, and then cheer one another along as we passed.

And I can’t say enough about other runners. I had slowed to a walk to catch a few breaths before pushing the last quarter mile to the finish line. Another woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said,”I’ve been pacing you this entire race. We’re almost done!” And we ran across the finish line together. THAT is the spirit of the running community, and part of why I absolutely love being a part of it.

So there are most definitely things to appreciate about both the solo and the group run. I equally enjoy both scenarios and am most of all grateful to have the opportunity and the ability to do either, and both.

“Running with friends is very motivating. Running solo is good for the soul!” – Denise

How To Keep Running Healthy with Stretching and Core Workouts

 

So you’re getting out there and running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, are you? Good for you! Have you added stretching and core work to your exercise routine?

Hold up a minute, you exclaim. I’m running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, isn’t that enough?

Well, no.

One thing we runners are notorious for neglecting is our stretching. It’s easy to forget…and I’m not sure why…maybe we’re anxious to get out there to run; or ready to hit the shower when we finish. New runners as well as seasoned ones are guilty of forgetting to stretch. However, abnormal tightness in muscles and tendons can be the cause of various running injuries.

And core work? Well, your core what keeps your torso upright when you run. Strengthening your abs, back and chest also improves balance and helps your lower body work with your upper body.

“Flexibility and core strength are two of the biggest factors to keep any runner healthy and running strong,” Coach Lauren Evans explains*. Coach Lauren encourages her athletes to implement stretching and core exercises into their training one to three times weekly.

Here are some stretches from Coach Lauren for both before and after your run.

Before the run

Stretching is best when muscle fibers are warm. Stretching cold muscle can result in small tears of muscle fibers and fascia, which can lead to pain and stiffness.

The best stretching for cold muscles is dynamic stretching. An example of dynamic stretching, says Coach Lauren, is the Leg Swing.

Leg Swing

Flexion/Extension
Stand next to a wall, with your weight on your left leg and your right hand on the wall for balance. Swing your right leg forward as high up as you can, and then backward as far as you can. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.

Cross Body Flexion/Abduction
Facing the wall, lean slightly forward with both hands on the wall and your weight on your left leg. Swing your right leg to the left in front of your body, pointing your toes upward as your foot reaches its farthest point of motion. Then swing your leg back to the right as far as comfortable, again pointing your toes up as your foot reaches its final point of movement. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.

During or after the run

Static stretches after your run help your muscles to heal and restore them to resting length. Within the first 15 minutes or so after your run is best.

Deep lunge

This deep lunge is actually more of a range of motion stretch, and not a strength activity. Stand tall with both feet together (starting position). Keeping your back straight, lunge forward with the right foot approximately 1 to 1 1/2 yards. Your right thigh should be parallel with the ground, and your right lower leg vertical to the ground. Hold this position. Raise your left arm toward the sky, and perform a sideways lean toward your right leg, keeping your body upright. Hold this position. Do this for 5-10 repetitions, then repeat with your left leg.

Hamstring Stretch:

Lie on your back with your right foot extended in the air. Loop a towel or rope around the bottom of your foot and hold both ends. Pull gently and hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.

Traditional Calf Stretch:

Stand facing the wall. With one leg straight behind you and the front leg bent, push slightly against the wall and hold for 15 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.

Lauren’s “Continuous Core”

Even more than stretching, one of a runner’s least favorite things to do is core exercise. But again, core strength is essential for running healthy.

Continuous Core is performing a core workout for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then going right into the next core exercise with no rest in between.

“Your core is constantly activated when you are running, without rest,” Coach Lauren points out, “so why would you get to rest during a core-specific workout?”

Start with a goal of 2 minutes of continuous core, then progress to 3, minute by minute all the way to a maximum of 12 minutes. “I like to keep a target of 6 to 8 minutes of continuous core three times per week with my athletes,” Coach Lauren added.

Here are some examples of core exercises that you can use in a “continuous core” workout:

  • Crunch
  • Crunch with legs straight up, reaching for toes
  • Bicycle
  • Reverse crunch
  • Side crunch
  • Front Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Supine Plank (tummy toward the sky)
  • Hold push-up position
  • Donkey kicks
  • Fire hydrants

Regular stretching and core work will help keep you running healthy and strong! If you are interested in a personalized plan or have any questions, please contact Coach Lauren. Her email is: lauren@fizioreno.com .

*Lauren Evans has been working in the fitness industry since 2009. She has coached 100+ athletes of all ability levels and helped them achieve their goals. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer and is currently obtaining her Level 3 certification with USA Track & Field, preparing her to coach national/Olympic level athletes. Lauren and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of Fizio, a locally owned fitness center and athlete recovery lounge located at 400 Mill Street, Reno, NV. For more information about Fizio, please visit FizioReno.com or stop by for a free trial day.

How To Keep Running Healthy with Stretching and Core Workouts

The First 3 Steps: Committing To Your First 5K

So you’ve decided you want to try running. Your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, and the only thing left to do is commit to the effort.

What? Commit? Other than thinking maybe I should BE committed, what are you talking about?

It’s one thing to promise yourself you’re going to do something new. Here are three steps you can take to solidify your goal and help you follow through:

1. Sign up.

The 5K race (3.1 miles) is the most popular and achievable distance for newbie runners. And there are usually quite a few of them to choose from. Is there one that comes to mind immediately? Do a search online for 5K races in your area.

I had heard for years about a local race called Moms on the Run. It looked like a fun community event and it supported a great cause. So before I could talk myself out of it, I went online, registered and paid for my first 5k. There. I was committed, and now I had three months to get in shape enough to run 3.1 miles.

2. Say it out loud

There are psychological studies showing that if you hear or repeat the same message three times, you will start to believe it. I had made the commitment to myself and to Moms on the Run. But so far, it was still a secret known only to me and the race organizer. I needed to say it out loud. And while that is a scary thought at first, it is a necessary step to help you get out of your own way.

I decided to test it first at the water cooler. My coworkers’ reactions could not have been better. with no sign of judgment or doubt, and in fact a glimmer of respect! So I definitely chose the right people to “reveal” my plans to!

Telling my husband was a tad more difficult – but only because he likes to analyze and is known to point out flaws in an idea, which had been discouraging to me in the past. To his credit, he didn’t do that with this bit of news. I’m not sure he was convinced that I was serious, but he never found any flaws with this goal. Now he is one of my biggest cheerleaders.

When I told my mother, she was surprised. She was familiar with my adolescent lament that P.E. class should be optional, not required; and that forcing students to run around the track was cruel and unusual punishment. So her initial shock was warranted. But, I’m fortunate to have a mom who believed and taught me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. As a matter of fact, she did HER first 5K a couple of years later, and now we sign up for races together whenever we can.

3. Start a plan.

Breathe a sigh of relief here; most 5K training plans don’t expect that you’ll start out running. In fact, most encourage walking in the beginning. It’s good to have a training plan that eases you into your distance so you don’t injure yourself. Find a race plan that fits you, your desired pace, and your schedule. Here’s a sample seven-week 5K training plan for beginners. I started out with a Zero to 5k training app on my iPhone; there are plenty of apps out there.

See? This commitment thing really isn’t so bad. Once you’ve taken these three steps, you’ll feel more attuned to your goal and you’ll be well on pace toward your first 5K!

Beginner 5K – 7-Week Training Plan

Congratulations on taking your first step to running a 5k! You can do it!  To get you started, here is a 7-week training plan written by Coach Lauren Evans.* +

BEGINNER 5k TRAINING PLAN LAUREN EVANS

The goals of this training plan are to:

  • get you fitter
  • reduce your chance of injury
  • keep it fun!

The main elements of this training plan are:

  • walking (W),
  • jogging (J), and
  • cross-training (XC), including activities such as bicycling, swimming, yoga or strength training, just to name a few.

W = Fast Walk (3.5 + MPH)
J = Jog.

With this plan, do not worry about your pace, just get used to jogging faster than walking pace.  Although it may look complicated at first, you will catch onto the variations in pace. You may also be happy to note that you are not expected to run right away.
*Lauren Evans has been working in the fitness industry since 2009. She has coached 100+ athletes of all ability levels and helped them achieve their goals. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer and is currently obtaining her Level 3 certification with USA Track & Field, preparing her to coach national/Olympic level athletes.

Lauren and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of Fizio, a locally owned fitness center and athlete recovery lounge located at 400 Mill Street, Reno, NV. For more information about Fizio, please visit FizioReno.com or stop by for a free trial day. If you are interested in a personalized plan or have any questions, please contact Lauren. Her email is: lauren@fizioreno.com
+Please consult with your physician prior to beginning any training plan.

Never Tell Yourself You Can’t

 

One of the first things women around my age say about my running is some version of “Oh, I could never do that!.” Unless there is a glaring reason why not, my response is, “of course you can, if you want to!”

If you want to do something, never tell yourself you can’t.

I didn’t start running until I was 45. I had quit smoking the year before, after more than 25 years of the habit. When I was a smoker and would see women jogging in my neighborhood, I longed to feel well enough to do that. For all I knew, that kind of physical activity was unreachable. I just didn’t have the energy.

Now as a nonsmoker I did have the energy, and I gradually began to learn that I had the ability to do more than I ever would have imagined.

And I am not the only one to make this kind of discovery.

I have a friend who was critically overweight and had serious health issues well into her mid 50’s. She started exercising, lost over 170 pounds (“a whole person”, she used to joke!) and ran her first 5K race in her early 60’s. A few years after that, I saw her run her first half marathon.

Never tell yourself you can’t.

Author Molly Sheridan was 48 years old when she decided to try running. She was already healthy and active, and the first race she trained for was a full marathon! A few weeks into her training, she suffered a compression fracture of her foot. The doctor told her she was too old to run and essentially ordered her to stop. Not one to give up, she kept training as best she could until her foot healed. She finished that marathon and mailed a copy of her finish line photo to that doctor. Today she is an ultra runner and has run over 45 ultramarathons.

Never tell yourself you can’t. And don’t let anyone else tell you.

Parathletes are competing at Olympic levels in so many sports. It all began with wheelchair races. Now, medical knowledge and technology are ever advancing to allow athletes to participate and compete in ways unheard of decades ago.

These athletes are clearly not telling themselves they can’t do it. They are overcoming greater challenges.

I see more and more stories on social media and in the news, of senior citizens in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s running marathons and half marathons. I joke that if I’m still running when I’m 90, that’s when I’ll do a full marathon! Clearly, these seniors aren’t telling themselves they can’t do it. They’re just doing it!

Never tell yourself you can’t.

There have been so any times I’ve doubted myself even as I was running. “What are you doing?, I ask. “Why are you even trying to do this? Aren’t you a little old…?”

The trick is not to allow those thoughts any voice. The proof is in the action. In spite of the nagging in my head, I finish races. I’m a runner. Clearly I CAN do it, because I AM doing it!

Get out of your own way. Find these stories. Look around you at the people who are doing it. Let them inspire you.

Never tell yourself you can’t.

Safety Tips for Running

Fizio Reno recently hosted a clinic for runners concerning safety on the roads and on the trails.

Sparks Police officer Eric Marconato and Fizio owner Ryan Evans demonstrate self-defense tactics for runners

In 10 years as a Sparks police officer, Eric Marconato has served on SWAT, worked undercover, and also serves on the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force. While he acknowledged the information he shared with us was common sense and not “all that groundbreaking”, his experience provided valuable insight for Reno/Sparks runners.

Staying safe

Run in numbers. “Numbers totally change the picture”, Marconato said. Most attackers are looking for an “easy pick”, and are less likely to pick you if you are with a group. One member of the audience relayed an incident where a group of friends was running along the river, and one of the woman was running several feet ahead of the group. An attacker attempted to go after the woman, but was scared off as the rest of the group approached.

Run during daylight hours. “It’s definitely safer… you can see more of what is going on around you, and there are more people out during daylight hours.” However, if you must run after dark, don’t skimp on lights and reflective gear. Run against traffic, and stay out of the street.

Stick to the planned route and avoid secluded areas. Alleys are probably not the best places to run.

Know your route and know your neighborhood. Marconato cited a popular Reno running path with tall willows on each side of it, an area familiar to most of the runners in the audience. To our surprise, he then described a community of men who frequent the area beyond the willows and solicit sexual favors. Marconato assured us that they likely are not violent predators, but they are out there. The anecdote illustrates that runners should always remain on alert.

Be vigilant. Run without earbuds, or with just one, so you can hear what’s going on around you. “If you hear a rustle in the bushes, don’t ignore it. Look back at it. It might be a raccoon, it might be the wind, or it might be somebody after you, and if you have that little of a jump on them, it’s going to help you.”

Look up. “Some people run with their head down, not looking where they’re going.” Scan the horizon, just as we were taught when we were learning to drive; ”don’t just look at the car in front of you, look ahead so you see a bigger picture. That will give you a reaction time.”

How about weapons?

Weapons are an option, Marconato said, but they can be cumbersome, and they require a level of responsibility and a commitment to use. There is always the chance a weapon will be taken away from you by an assailant in which case, Marconato said, you are not necessarily worse off than you would have been.

If you are attacked:

Scream loud, and “be obnoxious about it. You want to make a big deal so you get attention.” Marconato suggested yelling “help” or “stop” and repeating it loudly to ensure you will draw attention to yourself.

Defend yourself. As Marconato memorably stated, “go for eyeballs and balls”. Cause damage:  pull hair, scratch, claw, and leave marks. Remember: if they assault you, they probably have assaulted or will assault others. Scratching leaves noticeable marks, and also leaves DNA under your fingernails.

Report it. Don’t be embarrassed. Get the facts out there. Remember it’s not just you. Don’t wash or change clothes, as that would wash away any evidence. “Call the police, then go straight to them.”

Self Defense

In addition to his law enforcement experience, Marconato teaches defensive tactics and hands-on combat, and demonstrated some basic tactics to the group of runners. He is an instructor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and recommends the martial art for those who seek instruction in self-defense.

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Have you had any uncomfortable encounters while running? Please share your experience.

Virtually Running

by Shelley English

I’m betraying my age here – but when I first heard the term ‘virtual racing”, I immediately thought of the introduction of the concept of virtual reality in 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. However, virtual racing has nothing to do with “virtual reality”…you really are doing the running, but you are doing it at your own chosen time and place.

The Resolution Run 5k Virtual Race – a New Year’s tradition

Virtual racing is becoming quite a trend. There are a growing number of companies who offer virtual races; such as Will Run for Bling, Gone For a Run, Virtual Strides, and Virtual Run Events, just to name a few. Most of them offer really fun themes and cool medals, which of course is part of the attraction! But there are many reasons to do virtual running, other than the hardware!

The next best thing to being there

My first experience with virtual racing happened a few years ago when I had registered for a local race series. The final race in the series was postponed due to fire in the area. They rescheduled for a date on which I had a prior commitment, but offered the virtual option for those in the same predicament. I just had to run the distance and submit proof of the run via “Map My Run”. A friend and I ran the virtual  race the same day as the live one, but at a different location. I emailed the proof to the race coordinator. By the end of the week, my series medal and shirt arrived in the mail.

It seems more of the larger races are offering a virtual option.  I’m very excited that the Giant Race series is offering the virtual option this year. The series includes four races in different locations between March and September, culminating with the race in San Francisco and offering “sweep” medals for running two, three or all of them. Doing all four of the races in person is not an option for me this year, but doing a couple of them virtually certainly is!

Hold Myself Accountable (and get bling for my effort!)

It’s not always easy to get out there and do the miles; let’s face it, sometimes the medal is a carrot! I’m currently participating in a couple of Virtual Race challenges; one is the 200 Mile Winter Challenge which runs from mid-December to mid-March; and the other is a team challenge with 3 friends, to run a combined 2,017 miles this year. Both challenges are keeping me accountable and getting me out there to at least meet a minimum mileage goal per week.

I’m currently training for a half marathon (a “live” one!) that’s about a month away. These challenges are helping me to get my miles in not only to train for the half but also to meet these concurrent goals. The truth is, the organizations hosting the virtual races are not going to know whether I did the miles or not…but I will know; and in the case of the 2,017 miles, so will my team.

Challenging Others

It’s a great way to challenge friends and family in different locations. My mom – who lives in the Bay area – and I are both doing many of the Giant Race series separately, gearing up for the big one later in the year where we will meet up and both collect our “sweep” medals at the end.

No crowds

Although to me, the crowds add to the race day excitement, some people don’t enjoy being in the midst of a large group. So Virtual Racing is an option for introverted runners.

Support great causes

Most of the virtual races donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. It’s a good way to support lots of different causes doing something you’d be doing anyway.

For the person who has everything

You know your sister likes to run and collect medals, but you may not know her schedule.  The virtual race offers a fantastic gift option. It’s unique, and not likely to be exchanged!

These are just a few of the reasons virtual races are a great option for runners. What has your experience with virtual racing been like?

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