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Patience in the Process

Patrick Thomas Gildea, Director/Head Coach for the Knoxville Distance Project

One of the more beloved anthems in the Grateful Dead arsenal is “Shakedown Street” and it can be a metaphor for increasing mileage and building endurance from the beginner to the advanced runner. Bear with me here… In a similar fashion to way the original jam kings took their time, improvising and delicately maneuvering their way through each song until the final note was played, you can find a like-minded approach to your own running. A verse in the song states, “Maybe you had too much too fast,” and if you take that into consideration and place in the context of your own running when making a jump training it makes total sense. You can’t simply add more miles all at once. You’re headed down a slippery slope or facing uphill battle – whichever way you look at it. If you read in between the notes of the song, really, it speaks about patience.

I think, as runners, the most important lesson we can take away from training is always practicing patience. Success doesn’t occur overnight. Sure, we’d all love to feel great each day, have our best workout or set a PR in every race we run. It’s not practical though. Taking a long-term approach to training, making adjustments with your coach, if you have one, along the way can prove to be very valuable if you want to reach and exceed your goals. Understanding where you are and where you want to go is important.

“Sure don’t know what I’m going for, but I’m gonna go for it for sure.”

Whether you’re starting out on Barren Ground or you have more than a few races under your belt, there’s no good advice in being Runaway Jim and Throwing Stones to the wind when increasing your training load. If you train appropriately and manage each day accordingly, you too, can Run Like An Antelope. Taking a cautious approach and being mindful that your body can handle an amount which is appropriate for where you are is a safe approach. Some things to consider when increasing mileage and building your endurance:

  • Recovery – Make sure that you are adequately rested before you head out on your next run. In order to run more and build that base, it is imperative that you stay healthy, minimize injury and recovery is the major component. Foam roll, stretch, strength and conditioning – all keys to recovery and injury management.
  • Consistency – A simple way to increase mileage and build endurance is to get out and run. Add to the frequency at which you run while making sure that you’re taking each run easy and not pressing. Your body responds to stress. It’ll learn to manage it. A soft, easy, short run has benefit. Get out and go!
  • Pace/Effort – Take your time. There’s no point in rushing your way to success. Working your way through training “on feel” can be a good way to progress from one step to another. Simple checks along the way; using a sliding scale of effort can be beneficial.
  • Focus – On the details. Feel things like rhythm, cadence, breathing, form. Get to know them well. Having a joyful approach to your training as opposed to having to hit a desired amount of mileage. Mileage is just a number. Time well spent can be seen as much more valuable.
  • Mileage/Minutes – Whether you go by one or the other, take it slowly. It’s not practical to go from a 5 mile run to a 15 mile run. When increasing, be mindful on the physicality of the run. For someone just starting out, allow your body to adapt for about a month before making an increase in mileage.

We all wish we had the exact answer, that Estimated Prophet appearing and telling us everything will be okay. The reality is that when you’re putting together a training program you want a philosophy Built to Last. There’s more than one bridge that leads Across the River. Take your time, there’s Pastures of Plenty and if you set out in believing that – you will find success.

Patrick is a Tennessee graduate where he was a standout distance runner for the Vols. He competed professionally and qualified for two IAAF World Championships in cross country and half-marathon. He’s run PR’s of 14:01 for 5k, 28:38 for 10k and 63:43 for the half-marathon. He’s coached runners of all ages and ability. Patrick is the Director/Head Coach at Knoxville Distance Project where he values training with balance, structure and flexibility. You can contact him at knoxdistanceproject@gmail.com.

Postpartum Running: Make Breastfeeding and Running Coexist

Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN

Whitney Heins, Founder of @themotherrunners

Know what breastfeeding babies don’t seem to mind? Sweaty boobs! Know what they do mind? A mama who isn’t around to feed them whenever they want because she’s out running.

I got into good routine with my kids while breastfeeding—nurse, run, and nurse immediately afterwards again. But there were plenty of runs cut short or full or worry as I left my mama-loving babies at home.

Indeed, breastfeeding can pose a big challenge for Mother Runners. First, there’s the gargantuan-sized chest that can make a light jog pretty uncomfortable. Then, there’s the baby who wants to cluster feed and goes ballistic when mom’s chest isn’t nearby. Honestly, I never needed a run more than while nursing my children which also happened to be the toughest time to have that escape..

I asked other Mother Runners how they survived breastfeeding and running. Here are their best tips.

Get the right support. Chances are, your prepartum sports bra isn’t going to fit your postpartum chest. You need more support and room. Our Mother Runners loved this Motherhood Maternity racerback nursing bra. In fact, they wore it running, under outfits and to sleep. They also liked Lululemon’s Enlite bra for its support and comfort..

Nurse or pump first. Empty those bad boys before you go. In a perfect world, you can feed your baby and have a nice three-hour window to run. Maybe even have time to stretch, shower and drink a smoothie afterwards (!). But sometimes babies don’t play by our rule book. They don’t want to wake up for a good feeding or you don’t want to wake them up because you just got them to sleep. For those times, pump and have fresh milk ready for your partner to give to your baby should they get hungry when you’re out.

Stay close to home. But then there are those babies who won’t take the bottle. (My daughter was one no matter every trick in the book we—and professionals—tried). For those babies, stay near so you can run back if needed. Surely, this isn’t ideal. By the time you get home and do a feeding, your window to run is likely gone. When frustration mounts, remind yourself this won’t be the situation forever. Running will be there for you after you’re there for your baby.

Recruit your husband to your team. One Mother Runner’s husband would kill me if he knew I was sharing this story—When confronted with a screaming baby, he put on his wife’s pink fuzzy robe that she wore while nursing—and lo and behold, the baby settled! Another Mother Runner’s husband would take their baby boy to the track and jog with him while the mama did speedwork. That way she was close by if needed. Her husband preferred this option to being home with a hysterical baby. In fact, the baby’s attachment to mama became a good excuse for the husband and wife team to exercise together.

Take cover. I would often run with my baby in the BOB stroller where I stored a nursing cover and blanket. During those cluster feeding stages, I’d stop and nurse my kids under a tree or on a bench, and then keep running. It wasn’t the best workout—but I’d make up for it during those times she wanted OUT of the stroller and I would have to book it home (spontaneous speedwork!).

Pack your equipment. One Mother Runner would pack a hand pump with her in case she needed to express milk while running (like if a baby only fed on one side during a run). (Check out this Mother Runner who set a world record in an ultra-marathon and pumped milk for her baby along the way. Incredible.) Another Mother Runner got an adaptor for her breast pump so she could pump in the car on the way to her starting point.

Feed, run, repeat. For those of you ready to race while still nursing—you’re a badass—and be prepared to sandwich that race in between feeding sessions: breastfeed, warm-up, race, breastfeed, cooldown.

Then take a nap. A loooong nap.

Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners

How to Start Running After Having a Baby

Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN

**article originally published at SHEKnows.com

Jogging Stroller with mom’s hand secured in the safety strap

You know what every new mom has in common? A desire to lose the baby weight fast!

There are few quicker ways to shed those extra pounds than running. But because of the changes in our bodies, we have to be careful when we start running after having a baby. Jump in too quickly and we could get seriously hurt—not ideal when you’re trying to care for a tiny human.

Here’s your how-to guide to start running after having a baby:

Train smart.

Pace yourself. Running coach and founder of Knoxville Endurance Bobby Holcombe says every recovery is different but generally advises to start slow—walking the first 3-4 weeks, increasing your distance each week. After 4-6 weeks, if you feel comfortable with walking, you can jog a couple days a week, gradually increasing mileage, pace, and the number of days you run. Holcombe notes women who remain active during their pregnancies, jogging and/or walking 3-5 days a week, generally have a faster recovery.

Listen to your body. If something feels really uncomfortable, don’t force it. Back off for a couple days and try to ease back in again. If something’s really hurting, talk to your doctor. Running could be shedding light on an injury.

Listen to your heart. Don’t pay attention to paces. Instead, pay attention to your heart rate zones. In the beginning, aim to keep your heart rate at 60-71% percent of your max, or a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (To calculate your heart rate zones, check out this calculator.) Once you’re gaining in fitness, you can begin having a couple up-tempo runs a week where your heart rate reaches 78-81% of your max.

Fuel right.

Up your iron. What’s the biggest mistake new moms make? They cut back calories while simultaneously upping mileage—that’s a recipe for injury, says local nutritionist Betsy Johnson. In order to be healthy and energized, new moms need to focus on eating the right foods, like those containing iron. In fact, one in five women is iron deficient. Focus on eating iron-rich foods like meats, fish, leafy greens, and chocolate.

Drink that milk. Be sure to get enough calcium—especially those of you who’re breastfeeding which requires extra calcium intake. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women who breastfeeding consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Ask your doctor if it’s a good idea to take a calcium supplement.

Shake up that protein. Breastfeeding moms also need to make sure they’re getting enough protein. After growing a baby for 9 months and then supplying it with protein-rich breast milk, it’s necessary to replenish your own. Aim for five to seven servings of quality protein every day.

Stay hydrated. Also, if you’re nursing, make sure you drink plenty of fluids—at least ten glasses of water a day.

Get strong.

Strengthen that midsection. Having a strong core can ward off injuries. It’s tough to find time to exercise but you can do planks, side planksbridges, and bicycles when playing with the baby on the floor. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld, a chiropractic sports physician at Apple Health and Wellness, recommends aiming for one to two minutes of each exercise three to four times a week.

Don’t forget your pelvic floor. One of the biggest risks to new moms starting to run after having a baby is pelvic organ prolapse. Guard against this by doing Kegels exercises. Jen Le Coguic, pelvic floor specialist, recommends aiming to do between 30-50 Kegels per day, doing a combination of short contractions (2 seconds) and long (10 seconds). This can also keep you from those unpleasant moments of wetting yourself while running or jumping.

Get the right gear.

Make sure the shoe fits. Ensure your running shoes fit your post-partum feet which may have enlarged post-pregnancy. If your shoes still fit, ensure your shoes don’t have too many miles on them and provide plenty of support. If the soles are worn around the sides and on the treads, it’s time to get new ones.

Get the right bra. Chances are your prepartum sports bra isn’t going to fit your postpartum chest. You need more support and room. Popular running bras with “mother runners” are the Motherhood Maternity racerback nursing bra and the Lululemon’s Enlite bra for their support and comfort.

If you’re nursing, be sure to nurse or pump before you head out the door to be more comfortable and bide more time being away from your baby. Also, make sure you get as much sleep as you can. You’re working overtime and your baby can’t drink from an empty cup. Take care of yourself!

Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners

Your Ultimate Guide for Running While Pregnant—from Mother Runners Who Did It!

Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN

When I was in my first trimester with my first child, my husband ran the Leadville 100 ultra-marathon. While he was lost in the woods (literally speaking), I passed the time on a trail run—at probably an altitude of 11,000 feet. I mentioned this to Jake and he went kind of nuts—“Was the baby even getting oxygen? That was not safe!” he said.

Fair point.

To ward off future heated discussions of this ilk, we talked with my doctor who set parameters so that Jake and I both felt like running was good for me and the baby. Those parameters were—if you’re a runner, it’s totally cool—no, it’s actually awesome—to keep running while pregnant. But, do it smart.

My doctor capped my weekly mileage in the second trimester to 70 percent, 50 percent in the beginning of the third trimester, to no more than 25 percent of my pre-pregnancy weekly mileage towards the end of my pregnancy. And, he told me to always run at a conversational pace—or invest in a heart rate monitor to make sure I didn’t go above 140 beats per minute. These bounds helped us remain healthy throughout and are good guidelines for most running mamas-to-be.

Here are some other tips to help you keep moving while pregnant.

Talk to your doctor. Every pregnancy is different. You may have complications or feel different than other Mother Runners. Whatever you do, make sure you tell your doctor that you’re continuing to run so that they can monitor how that’s going for you and the baby. Also ask them to set guidelines like mine did—sharing your running history so they know what your body is used to doing.

Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel good or feels strange. Stop doing it. And, then share with your doctor what’s going on. Mother Runners advise not to push yourself hard. This is not a time to do speedwork and long runs. (Plus there is an increased risk of injury because of the relaxin hormone that’s pumping through your body getting it ready for birth—link). The comfort zone is the place to be when growing a human. Keep it easy. You’ll get it back.

Master the art of peeing outside (or find bathrooms). I cannot tell you how many times I would have to pee (or at least felt like I had to pee) on a 4-mile run. I got really good at pretending like I was tying my shoe but instead was…well, you get the picture. Humility goes out the door in the name of comfort. If this isn’t something you want to do, plan to run near public bathrooms.

Get a maternity support belt. When the extra weight in my tummy got uncomfortable, I invested in the Gabriella Maternity Light Support Belt.It worked wonders taking the pressure off so I could still log slow miles throughout my pregnancies. Also, this is common sense—but make sure you have good supportive shoes.

Manage morning sickness. If you’re dealing with morning sickness and still trying to run—take heart. Our Mother Runners said sipping Gatorade on their runs helped calm their queasy stomachs. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld of Apple Healthcare recommends dropping your mileage by 10 percent to see if your symptoms ease.

Take naps. Your body is working overtime growing a human and chances are your sleep is interrupted by discomfort and having to pee several times a night. Heed those heavy eyes and try to lay down whenever you have the opportunity to rest.

Raid your partner’s closet. This is kind of genius—if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on maternity running clothes, consider raiding your partner’s closet for workout shirts you can wear while your tummy is housing a human.

Have grace. Your body is freaking amazing. It’s built to run and it’s built to have babies. It’s going to be changing and doing what it needs to bring a human into the world. Don’t stress about gaining weight or missing runs. It’s adapting to this major change and it will adapt again after you have your precious baby.

Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners

Your First Ultra: Race Prep

Community Contributor: Sho Gray, Pro Ultra Runner, Knoxville, TN

Sho Gray, Pro Ultra Runner

My first ultra was a 50 miler in Atlanta.  I had 2 months to train for it, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I came into the race expecting to run with a handheld and had a crew member waiting for me at the turn-around point.  It was simple. I would run from aid station to aid station and make sure to drink and eat whatever til I got half way, and then I would do the same thing back.  

What actually happened was I ran out of liquids between each aid station because I needed more than my handheld could give me, by the time I got to the halfway point, I was ravenously hungry and exhausted and definitely dehydrated.  On the way back, at mile 35, my legs both screamed at me as I found out I was unable to run another step and was forced to do the death march for the last 15 miles with a few attempts at getting back into running form.

So here are a few things I learned from my races when I first started running ultras.

  1. Embrace the walk.  It’s a long race, and it’s okay to walk… in fact, PLEASE walk every chance you get!  Except for the professional athletes (and they would walk when it gets too tough), walking is an important part of ultra racing.  The goal is to finish as fast as possible, NOT burn out with 15 miles left to go. Every uphill is an opportunity to recover so take it.  Once you’re at the end of the race, then it’s perfectly acceptable to begin running more often IF you still have the energy to do so. What I like to do is schedule my walking time for a flat race, or for a hilly course, identify what angle of steepness I would begin hiking instead of running.
  2. Hydrate and Consume Energy.  Make sure you are constantly hydrating with water/electrolytes and constantly take in energy.  One reason I was unable to continue past 35 miles was because I ran out of all three at one point (or all at the same time).  Your body can only digest a limited amount during the race so it’s important that you plan out your meals. What I like to do is take a swig of SWORD every 10 minutes and every 20 minutes, I would eat two peanut butter crackers.  At every aid station, I would drink coca-cola and if I’m still hungry (or if it’s a meal time) I would eat whatever I wanted to eat as our bodies ‘know’ what we want to eat.
  3. Enjoy the journey.  It’s going to be a tough day.  You’re going to put your body through so much stress… so why not enjoy as much as you can?  Having fun is what it’s all about and focusing on the mile you’re running is what you need to be doing.  It’s pointless to carry 50 miles worth of stress on the first mile and then 49 miles worth of stress on the 2nd mile and so on… you’re carrying way too much!  Instead, focus on the mile you’re on and enjoy it as much as you can. What I enjoy doing is encouraging other people and enjoy the mile I’m on with those around me.  It definitely makes the race easier for me AND the people around me.

Obviously, there are many things that make up a successful race, but I hope these three things will help you finish your first ultramarathon!  Stay strong and keep putting one foot in front of the other. As long as you do that, you’ll get to the finish line. 

Sho Gray is a local ultra runner in Knoxville, TN. He is the current state record holder for 100 mi with a time of 15:24:56! Follow him on Instagram: @shogray for running inspiration.


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