Running

Running Form – Let’s Talk about Heel Striking!

Running form is one of those infamous things in running that is so important, yet so hard to get right! Running form can be a major make or break for a new runner. Having good form leads to gradual progress with a lower chance for injury. Having poor form leads to aches and pains, having to over-exert yourself, and sooner or later, injuries.

I have been running for over 6 years and getting my form right has been a journey. When I first started running, I can definitely say my form was inefficient and all over the place! At the time, I didn’t really have a clue and just went out and did what I loved in a way that felt natural. Now I have learned how important it is to teach yourself to improve your stride for your own health and safety!

When I first started running, I was a classic heel-striker. Heel striking means that when you spring forward and land during a run, all of your weight lands on your heel. This can lead to shin splints and other issues. Heel striking is a common issue for a lot of new runners because when you think about how we walk, most people put their weight on their heels as they step forward. That’s why it’s a process to teach ourselves that running isn’t just a faster version of walking, it’s a different process altogether. It took me a long time to work through the heel-striking and eventually give it up for good. Now, I focus on landing on my mid-foot. NOT on my heel. I have noticed that this has made my natural pace much faster and more comfortable (after I adjusted to it).

Heel striking vs. landing on your mid-foot

During my RRCA Run Coach Certification Training, our instructor had us practice an exercise which I thought was really helpful to prevent heel-striking. He said “I want you to stand tall and jump up and down in place and land on your heels” We all did this and it felt awkward, stiff, and a little painful. Then he said “Now I want you to stand tall and jump up and down in place and land on the ball of your feet” We all did this and it felt light, easier, and took much less effort to get much more “bounce”. This was an exercise to show that the way you land your weight during a run matters, and landing on the ball of your foot is much more efficient to spring you forward than landing on your heel. Running is like jumping forward. You wouldn’t land on your heel when you jump because it would hurt. So why land on your heel when you run?

If you think you are a heel striker, I challenge you to try to pay attention to landing on the balls of your feet instead, and see if it makes a difference! Also, be sure to change your stride gradually. Your body will need time to adjust to using new muscles in new ways, just like when you first started running.

Are you a heel striker? Have you overcome a running obstacle or changed your stride for the better? Share it with us in the comments below!

Want to work with us? Reach out to us at info.runningforwellness@gmail.com.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog by dropping your email address in the subscribe box below!

Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

Mental Health Mindfulness

Mindfulness

As someone who has dealt with my fair share of anxiety and stress, I have gotten to know mindfulness pretty well over the last few years.  I first heard of meditation when I was a kid but always thought it was a woo woo practice that only Buddhist monks did.

In 2015, I read about mindfulness/meditation online and learned about the positive affects it could have on your overall body, mind, and soul.  I was going through a particularly stressful time and figured it was worth a try.  So I began trying guided meditations and instantly felt more relaxed and like my stress was melting away.

The gist of mindfulness meditation is to focus on the present moment and let go of any thoughts that come into your head.  It’s an opportunity to be completely present in the “now” and let go of all the worry thoughts in your head.  It can be really hard at first because many of us are so used to constantly being distracted by the constant stream of thoughts in our head (at least I am!).  That’s why it was a welcome relief when I first tried meditation and was able to let go of my thoughts for a little while.

I started a meditation practice in 2015 and have been on and off with my consistency since then, but I definitely have noticed that during the times when I am sticking to it on a normal schedule that it helps me with relieving stress and feeling more balanced.

Something that has helped me to stay consistent with mindfulness lately is subscribing to the Headspace app.  My goal is to do a 10 minute mindfulness meditation each day.  The series I am doing now focuses on managing anxiety.  It mostly teaches you how to become aware of your thoughts and train yourself to let them pass by.  I have found that actually subscribing to an app helps me to stay accountable.  And 10 minutes seems to be the perfect amount of time for me; It’s enough to feel really relaxed without taking too much time out of my busy schedule.  I highly recommend giving Headspace a try!

What are your thoughts on mindfulness meditation?  Have you tried it?  Do you have a favorite app or program that you use?

Be well!  Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog by dropping your email in the subscribe box below!

-Coach Lauren

Faith

Faith Series: Philippians 4:6

Today I was able to go back to in-person church service for the first time in months. My church put new restrictions in place to ensure that the occupancy remained below 250 people (I go to a huge church where the weekly attendance was around 4,000 per week before Covid-19). We had to register in advance and were seating by ushers so that we were distanced from other attendees. We even had to park distanced from the other cars! Overall I felt very comfortable and loved how they were able to implement a “no touch” experience! It was amazing to be worshipping with the crowd, and listening to the sermon in person, especially after being away for so long. My heart has been longing for this!

Today the sermon was about something near and dear to my heart and that is dealing with worry and anxiety. Our pastor talked about how God teaches us to deal with anxiety through scripture. And he touched on one of my very favorite verses, and that is Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I love this verse because it reminds me that God did not intend for me to feel anxious. I can pray to Him and give my worries over to Him and He will take care of them for me. I am reminded that God has my back and He will help me through anything! Keeping my focus on that during difficult times (i.e. a global pandemic) is so hard but also so helpful!

My pastor also shared a clear action plan of how to deal with worry based on Phil 4:4-11: Pray, Think, Act. First take your prayers and petitions to God. Pray about your concerns. (Phil 4:6) Next, think of what is true, noble, right, pure, and just. Think about the things that are excellent and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8) Finally, take action and put what you learn into practice. Focus on serving others rather than serving yourself. (Phil 4:9)

Do you have a spiritual practice or verse that helps you through difficult times? Leave it below in the comments!

And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog by dropping your email in the subscribe box below!

Running

Tips for New Runners

You’ve probably heard the saying “When it comes to trying something new, the hardest step is just getting started”. I’d say in the case of running, that is definitely true! For a lot of people, the hardest step to becoming a runner is just getting started. Running can be intimidating for someone who has never done it before. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be!

Today I’m sharing our top 3 tips for getting started as a new runner!

1. Invest in a pair of high quality running shoes

In a previous blog post, I shared a story about the running shoe mistake I made when I first started running 9 years ago. Don’t make the same mistake I made! I can’t highlight this enough because it is just so important! Getting fitted for high quality running shoes that are right for you will ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and reducing your risk of injury. Check out my Running Shoe FAQ’s blog post for more information!

2. Start out slow and don’t take on too much too fast

Here is another running mistake I made a long time ago that you can learn from! One time in college, when I had absolutely no running experience, I decided I was going to go for a run. So I put on my running clothes and ran around campus as fast as I could. I full-on sprinted around campus and by the time I got back to my dorm, I basically collapsed because I had completely over-taxed myself. That was the only run I ever went on that year. When you are first starting, don’t take on too much too fast. If you want running to be sustainable for you, you need to start out slow. If it feels too fast, slow down!

3. Don’t give up! It will get easier the more you do it

My final tip is to not give up! As you can see from my first two examples, I made this mistake in my early running days too! I gave up easily and didn’t stick with it long enough to see any progress. When you first start running, it will inevitably be uncomfortable because you’re trying something new! Give it some time. Your body will adjust and it will become easier. Before you know it, you will be feeling the runner’s high and so happy that you had the determination to stick with it long enough to see results!

Want to work with us? Reach out to us at info.runningforwellness@gmail.com. Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

Faith

Faith Series: 1 Peter 5:7

This week as part of the Faith Series, I’m sharing one of my favorite bible verses. I have previously shared that I struggle with anxiety. Leaning into my faith has been so crucial for me to overcome my struggles and find peace.

1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”

Naturally, I gravitate toward bible verses that have to do with overcoming anxiety, fear, and worry. This verse really stood out to me because it showed me that I can take my fear and give it to God who deeply cares for me. He will carry our worries for us. This is a great reminder for me when I start worrying and having anxious thoughts. It helps me to release them and stay present, knowing that God will handle it and everything will be alright.

This is still a hard thing for me to do sometimes, but I try to remind myself of it often. I think this is an example of learning to trust God and what He has planned for me. I was never really in control anyway, and this brings me solace!

Mental Health

Tips to Cope with Stress during COVID-19

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a great time to spread awareness about mental health, especially as we collectively live through a global pandemic. A lot of people are dealing with stress and anxiety in a way that they never have before. There are fears about health, safety, jobs, finances, the list goes on and on. The CDC recently released a Public Service Announcement called “Be Kind to your Mind”, and it includes 5 tips to cope with stress during COVID-19. Today I’ll be sharing those tips with you.

  1. PAUSE. Breathe. Notice how you feel : We’re all caught up on the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We’re taking care of our families, working while homeschooling kids, caring for loved ones, or just trying to make it though the day. Make sure you are taking time to pause, breathe, and notice how you are feeling. Becoming aware on a regular basis of how you feel is a great first step in helping you improve your overall mental wellbeing.
  2. TAKE BREAKS from COVID-19 content : This one is so important. I had trouble with this at the beginning of the pandemic. I was so dumbfounded by what was going on that I was glued to the TV watching the news at all times. After a few weeks of this, I noticed that it was starting to pull my mood down. It’s ok to stay informed but turning off the news and focusing on activities you enjoy is crucial.
  3. MAKE TIME to sleep and exercise : Lately our routines have all been thrown into a tizzy. No matter what your daily life used to look like, there is a good chance that it looks a lot different right now. Make sure you are taking care of the basics – getting enough sleep and exercise. Taking care of your body is the foundation of having a healthy mind. Also, exercise releases endorphins which promotes stress relief!
  4. REACH OUT to stay connected : Social distancing is very difficult because we are wired to be social beings. The quarantines, lock downs, and social restrictions can have us all feeling very isolated and disconnected. Now is a great time to set up zoom calls with friends, call family members you haven’t talked to in a while, and make sure you’re connecting with people on a regular basis, even if it looks different than it used to.
  5. SEEK HELP if overwhelmed or unsafe : These really are unprecedented times, and it’s perfectly normal if you are feeling overwhelmed by all of it. If it starts to become too much to handle, seek help. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member, a therapist, or a doctor. The CDC website also has hotlines that are available if it’s serious.

For more information on managing stress during COVID-19, you can visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

Be well!

-Coach Lauren

Running

Running Shoe FAQ’s

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get from new runners is what type of running shoes they should wear. Our advice is to get a professional running shoe fitting and investing in a high quality pair of running shoes.

First, let’s talk about why this is important. Running shoes are incredibly important because they support your body as you run. You need to have a well-fitted, supportive pair of running shoes that is right for your personal biomechanics in order to prevent running related injuries.

I’ll start by sharing a personal story so that you can learn from my mistake. When I first tried running about 9 years ago, I went to a store at the mall and simply bought a cheap pair of trainers that “looked cool” without getting a fitting or really having any idea what was important in a running shoe. This was a huge mistake. I immediately got shin splints and struggled with foot and ankle pain the entire time I ran in the shoes. I eventually stopped because running in those shoes were too painful. I quickly gave up and thought running wasn’t for me. I didn’t even give running a fair shot because I didn’t get the first step right. I should have started by and getting a professional shoe fitting and investing in the right running shoes for me.

A lot of people resist investing in high quality running shoes because they tend to be pricey, but if there is one thing you take away from this blog, let it be this: The shoes may seem expensive, but they are very affordable compared to how much it will cost you if you get injured and have to pay for physical therapy, surgery, or worse in the future because you wanted to save money on the shoes. Investing in good shoes is an investment in your health.

Just like tires, running shoes don’t last forever and need to be replaced after a certain amount of use. With time and lots of use, the tread wears away and the support only lasts for so long. So how long does a pair of running shoes last? We generally advise that a pair of high quality running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles. You can also usually tell when they start to get worn because they will begin to feel flat compared to when you first started wearing them and you will see the tread on the bottom of the shoe flattening out.

Many running stores provide complimentary running shoe fittings. They will discuss your goals with you so that they can identify a shoe that best meets your specific needs. Many running stores like Fleet Feet have really cool 3D Technology that scans your feet and takes precise measurements. They will diagnose your step, stride, and stance to find a shoe that is best for you!

Right now a lot of physical retail stores are closed due to Covid-19, so Fleet Feet is offering virtual shoe fittings which are a great alternative option in the meantime: https://www.fleetfeet.com/catalogs/virtual-shoe-fitting

Good luck & Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

Faith

Faith Series: Psalm 16:8

Something I’m really excited about with this blog is starting a Faith Series. Over the last few years, my faith has grown significantly and is now one of the cornerstones of my life, and I want to share that with you. My faith is what keeps me grounded, gives me hope, and helps me to get through hard times. I would like to use this series as a method to share some of my favorite bible verses and talk a bit about what they mean to me and how I apply them to my life. I hope you enjoy this series and let me know if you find it helpful!

To give you a bit of a spiritual background about me, I was raised Catholic and had a lot of faith in God growing up. During my 20’s, I lost my faith and became very lost spiritually and was not sure what I believed. Through a series of life events, I was drawn back to God in a really powerful way and now my faith is stronger than ever. I will probably write a more in-depth testimony in a future blog post.

Psalm 16:8 – “With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”

I chose Psalm 16:8 this week because this verse is so important and relevant for me. We all go through difficult things in our lives. We’re all human. The thing that helps me to cope through the inevitable hard times in life is knowing that with God at my right hand, I will not be shaken. He has a plan that is greater than my own. He has a greater purpose that I cannot understand. God is always there as my rock and solid foundation during uncertain times.

We will all face adversity, run into challenges, and have difficulties in our lives that will be more than we can bear on our own. The good news: we aren’t meant to! My life changed drastically when I embraced this idea and I made the choice to stop trying to control the outcomes of situations. I gave up control to God and decided to trust His plan for me, and everything changed. Because with God at my right hand, I cannot be shaken.

Races Running

Virtual Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday, I completed my 5th half marathon! This half was a lot different from my previous 4. This was my very first virtual race, and also my first postpartum half marathon!

I decided to run this race on a local running trail where I also did most of my training. The trail is pretty flat, which is hard to find in the Pittsburgh area. I learned a few things during this virtual race that I want to share for anyone else that is thinking about signing up for a virtual race:

  1. Race support looks different – one of my favorite things about running races is the support from the crowds. The cheering, the clapping, the cowbells…the general excitement and energy that the crowd produces is contagious. It’s one of the things that gives me the race “buzz” – that feeling where you get goosebumps or when you suddenly get emotional during a race. That happens to me every time. During a virtual race, that crowd does not exist, which makes it a lot harder. The way I adjusted for this was by creating a “virtual” race support group. I sent text updates to my family throughout the race and they responded with supportive texts to cheer me on. They also watched for me to approach the finish line to cheer me on. This wasn’t the same experience as an in-person race, but the virtual support meant a lot to me.
  2. You’re responsible for your own nutrition/hydration – During previous races that I’ve participated in, it’s pretty standard to have frequent water stations where they will hand out cups of water and some sort of electrolyte drink. Also, a lot of races I’ve done have handed out gels and gu’s during the higher miles. During a virtual race, there aren’t water stations so you need to make sure you are prepared to handle your own hydration/nutrition on your own. I thankfully have a Nathan hydration belt that I use for all of my long runs. This belt contains two water bottles and a little zipper pack that can hold gu’s, a Clif bar, or my car keys. The hydration belt was definitely needed during this virtual race!
  3. Figure out the bathroom situation in advance – This one’s self-explanatory. During regular, in-person races, there will typically be porto-potties set up every few miles for runners. When you are running a virtual race, you need to figure out the bathroom situation for yourself. The trail I run on usually has porto-potties, but due to Covid-19, all the porto-potties had locks on them and were closed. Definitely something to be aware of as you scope out your virtual race route.

Overall, I was very happy with this race, and I am excited to receive the race medal!

Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

Running

Get to know Coach Jeff

Hey all! I’m coach Jeff and I want to introduce myself to you. 

I have always tried to engage in some sort of physical activity, whether it was weight lifting, running, or triathlon (swim/bike/run). But I seem to always come back to running. Running is versatile, you can do it on a trail, on a road, or on a treadmill (bleh!). 

Running has been reliable. Anytime I needed to de-stress, or cope with tough life circumstances, it has always been there for me. Running has helped me through tough times. It helps me feel a sense of purpose. 

I am not the most talented athlete, but I like working hard. I love that in running, you get out what you put in. I have run many different distances from 5K to 50K and I have a 100 miler on my bucket list. All of these races, and the training that I put in to complete them have offered me a different challenge and a sense of accomplishment. 

I want to help others reap the benefits of running. Not just the benefits for the body, but the benefits for the mind: like feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and building up resilience to face challenges. 

That is why I became an RRCA certified run coach and that is why I love to help people reach their running goals! 

-Coach Jeff