The Obvious Technique for Getting Faster That Most Runners Are Too Lazy to Complete

tracking 1024x536

A few years ago I wrote post a while back about the power of tracking (anything!). Simple awareness of your behavior, even without a deliberate attempt to change, is often all you need in order to improve. Mind-blowing, really, and super-inspiring, especially at this time of year.

Today’s post from Doug Hay (whom you probably know as co-host of No Meat Athlete Radio and blogger at Rock Creek Runner), expands on this incredibly powerful concept in the context of running.

You say you’re serious about improving in 2015? Here’s where to start.

Runners are lazy.

That might seem like an odd thing to say about a group of people who run for pleasure (and not just because they’re being chased), but for the most part, it’s true. We’re lazy.

Runners are notorious for avoiding training routines, like foam rolling or core work, even though we know it will help prevent injuries and make us faster.

But I get it.

Foam rolling, strength routines, speed work, and other similar training techniques are painful and typically known to be the opposite of fun. Besides, after kicking ass for a 5-mile run, who wants to do more?

So even though those routines are important for proper training, I’m going to ignore the painful stuff for now. What I want to discuss today is one of the easiest techniques we runners can add to our routines that will help us get stronger, train smarter, and avoid season ending injuries. A technique that it isn’t painful, and doesn’t take much time. And believe it or not, it can even be fun.

But for some reason, almost nobody does it.

What I want to talk about today is tracking our workouts. Not just turning on the GPS, never to look at the data again (more on that later), but really tracking what we did and how we felt.

Why Tracking Matters

When my good high school friend, Jeff, got his first car, his father required that he take notes on everything about that Ford.

When he’d fill up the tank, Jeff would open up the glove compartment, pull out a notebook, and jot down everything from where he was buying gas to the car’s current mileage. Once a month, I’d catch him checking the tires’ air pressure and how the oil was holding up.

He knew all the stats on that car’s performance. He knew if it was running well or struggling through the winter.

At the time, I thought it was obsessive. But that’s because I didn’t fully understand his dad’s reasoning.

What I now understand is that with that information, Jeff knew exactly what helped the car run at peak performance, and saw warning signs if something was going wrong. When the car did have trouble, he could look back on when things started to turn sour, and report all that to the mechanic.

Now, I don’t track the stats on my car, and likely never will, but when it comes to running, Jeff’s father’s philosophy works perfectly.

The benefit of tracking running data is massive. By keeping a proper running log, we can see what is working and what isn’t, in real time. If something goes wrong and we get injured, it’s easy to look back and figure out what behaviors might have caused the issue, and how to avoid repeating that mistake.

If it’s a big race goal you’re training for, looking back on all the progress can be motivating and a powerful tool for when things get tough.

And when things go right on race day, it means you already have the entire playbook mapped out for next one.

Why Your iPhone or GPS Won’t Cut It

Over and over again, I see runners who no longer bother keeping any sort of actual records, because they think their GPS watches or phone apps do it for them. We turn them on before the run and off when we get home.

And voilà, our run is uploaded and tracked.

Unfortunately there are two marathon-sized problems with this:

  1. It’s only tracking what the watch can record (distance, pace, routes, etc.) and not how it actually felt.
  2. Because uploads happen at the magic of a button, we’re more likely not to look back on them ever again. That is, of course, until the end of the year, when we want to tweet out our total yearly mileage. #runningbrag anyone?

When all it takes is plugging in your watch to the computer, we don’t end up studying the information like we would if we were writing it out ourselves. And the information becomes useless.

9 Key Metrics to Log

In an upcoming section, I’m going to tell you to stop being a lazy runner and start keeping a training log. I’m even going to provide you with an easy tool to do it. But first it’s important to understand what to track and why it can be useful information.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s more than what your GPS tracks for you.

1) Type of workout: A 4-mile easy run is a lot different from a 4-mile run doing speed work on the track. To help differentiate the two on your tracking chart, note the type of workout first. Keep this simple to easily categorize. A few examples of types of workout include:

  • Easy Run
  • Long Run
  • Speed/Track Work
  • Hill Workout
  • Race

2) Daily Mileage: Your total daily mileage. This one’s a no-brainer.

3) Time/Pace: Track your overall time running, and break it out into pace.

4) Route: Always track where you ran. It allows you to review how hilly the course was, how frequently you’re running a particular route, and if certain characteristics of your regular routes might be contributing to an injury or improvements. Tracking your route also comes in handy when designing course specific training.

5) Terrain: Running on rocky trails or a paved bike path? Crowded city sidewalks or a gravel road? All these factors affect your pace and the benefit of that particular run. Take note of the terrain for reference in the future.

6) How you felt: I like to have a quick reference to how I felt during the run, and do it as simply as possible with just three options: bad, normal, great. That way you can quickly see if you’ve had several bad or great runs in a row, and make adjustments accordingly. It also serves as reference guide to how certain distances, paces, or routes affect your feeling about the run.

A helpful trick if you’re tracking on the computer is to use a color coded system for this, which makes deciphering how you felt even easier.

7) Effort: For this I recommend using a scale of 1 to 5. 1 being the a completely easy run and 5 being an all out effort.

8) Notes: A blank space for you to fill in any notes you have about the run. Important things to keep in mind are what you ate before, during, and immediately after, what shoes you were wearing, notes on weather, if you were running with anyone else or solo, your heart rate if you measured it, and anything else that has a major effect on the run itself.

9) Extras: I recommend you also track a few extras on a semi-regular basis, such as weight, diet, and what you’re training for at the moment. There’s no need to track these every single day, but they’re good to have as a reference in the future.

What to Do With All This Data

So you’ve taken my advice and started tracking your runs. Now what?

Just like my friend Jeff could do for this car, you too can now use the data you’ve tracked and put it to use in real time. At the end of each week, or at the very least each month, look back at your training log and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where has my training been lacking? It’s easy to skip a workout here or a long run there without realizing that you’re doing it multiple times per week or repeatedly over several weeks.
  • Have I covered all the basic pillars of proper training?
    • Easy run
    • Speed work/tempo run
    • Long run
    • Strength/core training
    • Rest days
  • In what areas of my training am I seeing improvements? Look for patterns over the week or multiple weeks that indicate improvement in speed, endurance, or strength, and note which workouts are working for your training to use in future weeks.
  • In what areas of my training am I seeing weaknesses? If after 6 weeks, you aren’t improving on speed, for example, something isn’t working. Adjust your training to address that particular weakness.
  • Where am I now, and how should I move forward? Training plans are a constant work in progress. As you look back on the data, reassess where you are and how to properly move forward. It’s this lack of assessment that often leads to over-training and injury.

A (Totally Free) Training Log Tool

The web and your smart phones are full of fantastic tools for tracking runs. A couple of my favorites are Strava and Daily Mile.

While those tools are powerful, I find that the act of logging in to a site and posting a run publicly is often enough to hold me back from doing it in the first place.

So after speaking with Matt, I’ve decided to share with the No Meat Athlete family the training template that the runners I coach use to track their training plans. It’s simple, interactive, and tracks everything you need and nothing more.

Download that tool and receive more information on smart training here. (Just a heads up, the sign-up is hosted on my blog, so it will direct you away from No Meat Athlete.)

Quit Being a Lazy Runner!

Taking notes on 9 different things might feel like a lot of work, but when you actually sit down and do it, you’ll see that tracking each run only takes 2-3 minutes. Even the laziest of runners can justify two to three minutes of work if it means getting faster and preventing injuries.

And the best part? By creating a habit of tracking your runs, that same process will spill over into more than just workouts. Budgets, diet, meditation … just about anything you’re looking to improve can benefit from keeping a log or journal.

Start with running. This obvious technique is too easy and beneficial to keep avoiding.

About the Author: Doug Hay will teach you how to run further, faster, and more efficiently than you ever have before. Take the first step towards achieving your running goals with the Trail Runner’s Cheat Sheet, or download the free tracking tool mentioned above here.

3 Comments

 

8 Stress-Free Ways to Start Healthier Habits Now

December is upon us, and while for most of us that means holidays and parties and more stress than is healthy, it’s also one of my favorite times of the year for thinking about change.

Why? Because you don’t want to be another victim of the New Year’s syndrome, where on December 31 you realize you’re in roughly the same place you were a year ago. Then you resolve to change, and while it feels real in the moment, it’s forgotten by February.

Instead, start now – in early December. So that you can reflect, get inspired, and make intelligent choices about the results you want to create. So that you can lay the groundwork, and take the first few steps to creating the new habits you’ll need.

And so that when New Year’s comes, you’ll be ready.

But there’s just one problem.

Although the month leading up to the day when everybody else likes to announce their changes can be mega-inspiring, it’s also mega-stressful. The sweets, the alcohol, the presents, the in-laws … not exactly a conducive environment for change.

The trick, then, is to start small. Make only the simplest, most stress-free of changes now, to lay a solid foundation for the year ahead.

If the changes you’d like to make relate to your health — or even if they don’t, but you could use some more energy and enthusiasm for whatever other crazy goals you have in mind — here are eight easy, nearly stress-free ways to lay the groundwork before January 1.

Read more »

357 Comments

 

The No Meat Athlete Holiday Gift Guide to Stuff You Actually Need (and None of the Crap You Don’t)

gift guide

Oh, it’s that special time of year. I know it’s not exactly fashionable to embrace the fact that Christmas comes earlier every year, but I’ll happily admit that I love it.

I’m a nut for this season. I like getting and giving, drinking a few extra Christmas ales, listening to crappy holiday albums (Taylor Swift’s Christmas is E.P. is downright sick) and, of course, watching made-for-ABC-Family holiday movies — my favorite is Holiday in Handcuffs, with Desperately Seeking a Santa a recently discovered close runner-up. (Pro tip: you can identify a holiday movie buff when they refer to Home Alone as “Home Alone 1,” which tells you that the sequels haven’t dropped off their radar.)

In the spirit of the holidays and rampant consumerism (come on, it’s fun!), Doug and I put together a special podcast-and-blog-post version of the NMA Holiday Gift Guide.

For the full experience, where we go into all the “whys” of our gift guide, listen to this 47-minute Black Friday edition of the NMA podcast at the end of this post. But if you’re in a hurry and don’t like listening to two idiots blabber on about why all this stuff is great, well, we’ve got you covered there, too — just check out the categorized list below to see our picks for the 2014 holiday season.

And for yourself …

bundle page image1Gift guides are great when it comes to shopping for others, but let’s be honest — they’re really for you, right?

So if you’re looking for something to reward yourself (in a way that’s a pretty darn good investment for your health and happiness), don’t miss the incredible No Meat Athlete Plant-Based Fitness Bundle. It’s one-time-only collection of 23 plant-based fitness, cooking, meal planning, and productivity guides, including:

  • All the NMA Roadmaps (5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Triathlon) and Wake Up, my 31-day goal-setting and personal development program
  • Rich Roll’s Jai Lifestyle meditation guide and Jai Seed cookbook
  • 3 months of meal plans from Yum Universe author Heather Crosby
  • The all-new Run Your BQ Essentials program
  • NMA Radio co-host Doug Hay’s guide to your first ultramarathon
  • More guides from vegan superstars Christy Morgan, Nicole Antoinette, Jeff Sanders, and many more!

All of these guides together would normally cost you $539.35, but now through Wednesday morning, you can save over 82% on this bundle of plant-based goodness — so check out all the details here. (Oh and PS — 5 percent of every bundle sale goes directly to Farm Sanctuary, our favorite animal-friendly charity.)

Listen to the audio version of NMA Gift Guide

Click the button below to start listening right now:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or:

If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Running

Altra Running Shoes

Gear

Kitchen/Food Essentials

Health & Wellness

Mental

Trips (for you and that someone you really like)

A little something for you

Check out the No Meat Athlete Plant-Based Fitness Bundle (available only until 10am Eastern time on Wednesday, December 3rd)!

4 Comments

 

Winning Thanksgiving Recipes from Our No Meat Athlete Reader Contest

thanksgiving menu
For new vegetarians and vegans, Thanksgiving can be terrifying.

One of the most common questions you’ll hear — right up there with one about the big P — is “But what do you do for Thanksgiving?” I asked it, and I bet you did too.

It’s not nearly as maddening as “Where do you get your protein?”, but having eaten this way for a few years now, the Thanksgiving question misses the point, for me.

Warning: “We used to walk to school 5 miles in the snow barefoot, uphill both ways” old-man rant ahead.

Read more »

7 Comments

 

Leo Babauta on Habits, Simplicity, Running & Diet (Plus the New Zen Habits Book!)

leo

Today I’ve got new interview with author Leo Babauta, so the appropriate thing to do is to start by telling you all about his blog, Zen Habits.

But that would be dumb, because you already know about Zen Habits.

I’d like to think that’s because I’ve linked to it more often than to any other blog, and that I somehow manage to mention Leo in just about every podcast episode we make. But that’d be giving myself too much credit.

In truth, the real reason is that so many No Meat Athlete readers have come from Zen Habits — a massively popular blog that’s twice been named by Time Magazine as one of the best in the world. It was Leo who gave me my first big guest post opportunity, A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running back in 2010, and whose support of NMA since then has been helpful beyond measure.

But Leo’s impact on me goes far beyond this.

Read more »

73 Comments

 

Can’t Keep Up? 7 Small Steps for Simplifying Your Life

water drop

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about personal development, but our most recent podcast episode about daily rituals reminded me that I left out a critical part.

That part? Simplicity. While the rest of the post was really about growing and becoming more, simplicity for me is about making room for this growth, by being happy with less.

You don’t need to be a minimalist to enjoy simplicity. All you need to do, really, is do it. Like everything else, start small and try to take daily action … then one day, you’ll look up and realize you’ve changed.

I’d love to call myself a minimalist. But if I’m honest, I can’t — one look at my office, with books, journals, NMA shirts, product samples, and to-do lists scattered about confirms this.

But even without going to the extreme, I’ve eliminated some gigantic distractions from my life over the past three or four years, and gained an appreciation for the simple over the complex. And it’s been transformative.

Not quite minimalist

Just a few of the things I purposely live without now: a smartphone, a microwave, cable TV, paper towels, a running watch, a coffee machine, and clothes in excess of 33 items per season. Oh yeah, and you might be aware that I don’t eat animal products, another minimalist choice, even though simplicity was never the aim of that one.

Read more »

12 Comments

 

A Photo-Update on our Amazing NMA Running Groups

It’s been two months since our running groups started, and still this project brings me more joy than anything else we’ve done at No Meat Athlete.

Though I had planned on starting small with the running groups — say, 5 or 6 of them across the U.S., in big, vegetarian-friendly cities — I realized pretty soon that a plan like that required actual patience. And since I clearly don’t have that, we went ahead and started 75 of them, any place where we had three or more people interested and someone who would lead. Not just across the U.S., but around the world.

Since then we’ve added a few more, even in places like Tokyo and Moscow: anyone who wants can start one.

Not all the 80+ groups are actually meeting and running yet, but I’d estimate that about half of them are. Some get double-digit turnouts, some get just two or three dedicated runners each week. But the NMA groups are happening, and as long as they keep happening, I believe that they’ll grow.

I’m writing this post to share some pictures from a few of our incredible groups who have posted them to their Facebook pages, so that you can share in the joy I get every time I see a bunch of people in carrot shirts, connecting over what makes us all alike. We’re pretty darn weird, and I’m so glad that people are having so much fun celebrating that.

Here goes nothin':

Read more »

11 Comments

 

The Moment When the Fear Dissolves

A few months ago I started a personal blog, inspired by the week I spent with author (and one of my heroes) Seth Godin. I was hoping to publish a new post for each of 30 straight days, but I failed at that, quite miserably.

But one post there was about fear, something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s something I’ve let control me at times in the past, but recently — really, right after the events that inspired this post — things have been different: I’m beginning to understand what people like Seth and Steven Pressfield mean when they talk about “dancing” with fear.

So today I want to share that post, from early August.

The most valuable part of my five days with Seth Godin last week wasn’t the chance to ask him specific questions and get his input on what I should do next.

It also wasn’t the vegan lunches he made each day or the magic tricks he performed or the stories he told (all of which were marvelous).

Instead, for me, it was his admonition that I and the other 14 people there stop living in fear.

Read more »

10 Comments