Prepping for Marathon Training

By Jessica Green

As a primer to our impending fall marathon training seasons, Meghan and I signed up for the Helvetia Half Marathon last Saturday - an amazing race that we recommend to all.  Meghan, who's running the Portland Marathon in October, starts her training on Monday, but I don't start my training for the NYC Marathon until mid-July.  With over a month until official training starts, I decided to to run last weekend's half hard to see where I was at since it was my first half back since my pregnancy.

Miraculously, I woke up Sunday feeling better than I felt before the race. Then I went for a hike in hilly Forest Park and was quickly reminded how much my legs need to recover from the race. Marathon training is about to begin and it's VERY important for me to take the right steps in my preparation to ensure a healthy, happy body going into training. So, I'm taking the week completely off from running and hard leg work and focusing on stretching, strength for my upper body and a little R&R.

We get asked a lot, "What should I do?" during the weeks leading up to the beginning of a marathon training plan. The answer isn't that simple and definitely isn't cookie cutter. For example, look at me. I'm taking an entire week off from running one month out from the start of my official marathon plan. Others should use this time to work towards building up to 20 miles a week or adding an additional run day over the next month.  No matter what type of runner you are or what you do in the next monthor days, the truth of the situation is that you are already in "marathon training." Albeit, it's not part of your 16-week plan, but it's still impacting how successful your training is going to be. 

The best thing to do right now is to listen to your body, identify and address any aches and pains and continue to work on becoming a stronger runner through regular strength and stretching. You've heard us say this countless times, but there's no time like right now to let it soak in.  Once your official plan kicks in and the miles start to climb (faster than you think) it gets harder and harder to find time for strength work and R&R. Use the last few days or weeks wisely whether it's a few more longer runs, adding more strength to your workouts or giving yourself a few much needed days off.  Continue to adhere to the 10% rule of increasing your mileage and your long run distance. Lastly, I recommend enjoying the final week before your official training starts with a low mileage week because you start to build as soon as you hit Week 1! 

Need more detailed advice on what you should do to prep for marathon training based on your level of fitness and training? Ask us! We are here to help and would love to guide you in the right direction!

In the meantime, I'll be doing these two stretches all week long to help my legs recover from last week:


Fitness Friday - Triangle Pose


I love yoga. It centers me, calms me and stretches out parts of my body that I didn't even know I had. Yoga is a great way to stretch post run. I like doing a short yoga sequence after runs or workouts because it doesn't feel like stretching to me. I breath deeper in a yoga pose and actually spend a bit more time in each pose versus just stretching time. 

A few of my favorite poses are Downward Facing Dog, Forward Bend (hello hamstrings!), Triangle pose (pictured), Side Angle Pose and Legs Up the Wall pose.

Recently, Triangle pose has been my go-to stretch after a run or spin class. I love it because it stretches the inside of my legs (adductors), hips, sidebody and my shoulders. If you are unfamiliar with yoga, take a few beginner classes so you can hear how to get into the poses and have the instructor adjust you - it hards to feel where your body truly is in space! Next, get a book (Rodney Yee's instruction is a personal favorite) or print out some easy yoga sequences. The Sun Salutations are a great and fairly easy to learn sequence that will stretch you out and calm you after a workout.


Stretch It Out


As you've probably read from our newsletter and other posts this month, we are focusing on recovery. It's vital for your muscles and your brain!

One of my favorite ways to recover is with a slow, easy yoga class. It's not always easy to get to a class because of work, life, running and socializing! So, in order to stretch out, quiet my mind and let my muscles streth and relax, I do a series of my favorite yoga moves. It's not a flow so it's easy (or easier) for everyone. 

When I'm in the midst of high mileage or really busy weeks, I keep my yoga mat out and that minds me to get on the mat and stretch. 

Here are 3 of my favorite moves:

Downward facing dog: This pose stretches everything - from your calves to your hamstrings to your back. It's a great one to do first thing in the morning and after a run.

How to do it: start on your hands and knees. Exhale and lift your knees up, sending your butt up and back towards the wall behind you. Don't extend your legs totally straight. Keep them slightly bent (your hamstrings will thank you). Press your thighs back - you want most of the weight to be in your legs. Pedal out your legs by extending one leg while keeping the other bent and then switch. Hold for 30 seconds at least.

Runner's lunge: This pose stretches your hip flexors, shoulders and hips. You can also do this pose with your back knee on the ground.

How to do it: Start on your hands and knees and step your right foot up between your hands. Extend your left leg straight and slowly raise up. Lift your arms over your head if comfortable. Keep your knee over your ankle and keep lifting up through your torso. I almost feel like I'm trying to lift my torso off my hips. Hold for 10-30 seconds. To switch, bring your hands back down to the mat and then switch your legs.



Triangle pose: Stetches inner thighs, torso and back.

How to do it: Step your legs about 3 feet apart, sideways. Turn your right foot out and keep your left foot slightly turned inwards. Your right heel should line up with your left arch or left heel. Extend your arms out on an inhale. On the exhale, tip your torso over your right leg and bring your torso down. Hold for a few breaths and then switch to the other side.





Recovery tip - foam roll

Stretching and foam rolling are important post run activities that will help keep you running and prevent injuries.

Here's how to foam roll your quads, IT band and hamstrings:

Start in a forearm plank position and position the foam roller towards the top of your quad underneath your hip. You want to let the quad sink into the foam roller and then roll down one inch. Stop and rock left to right, then roll down one more inch and again rock left to right. Repeat this pattern all the way down to just above your kneecap.

Next, roll out your IT band. Again, start up by the hip, roll down an inch and then rock left to right. Repeat that action all the way down the outside of your leg until you are just above the kneecap.

Next, move onto your hamstrings, the muscles on the back of your leg. You want to sit so that the foam roller is directly underneath your gluteal muscles and then move the foam roller down an inch and rock left to right. Do this all the way to just above the knee crease.

Keep your legs fresh and happy as you ramp up the miles this spring. Watch the video on how to do this type of foam rolling technique:

Strength Move of the Week: Dynamic Warm Up

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Dynamic Warm Up
Why we love this? Before diving into a strength workout or a run, you need to warm up the body. Specifically, you want to perform a set of exercises that increases blood flow to your muscles, increases your heart rate and awakens the nervous system to improve neuro-muscular control during your workout. The benefit? A significant decrease in the likelihood of overuse injuries and muscles prepared to maximize the impending workout. 

Below is a video demonstrating our recommendation for a simple, yet effective, dynamic warm up to do before any run. Before beginning this routine, walk briskly, jog slowly or do some jumping jacks for a few minutes.  Also, remember to ease into each activity progressively.  For example, start with high knee marches and then transition into high knee runs. Lastly, as you do these exercises, actively control your movemens by contracting your muscles. This prevents forcing your joints to extend beyond their natural range of motion.  

Friday FunDay Workout - Strength & Stretch

This week's workout is focused on strengthening and stretching your body. By adding strength exercises to your running training plan, you are helping prevent injury. Stretching ensures that your muscles are being lengthened. Runners need strong, powerful muscles to perform and run faster however, if your muscles are too tight, they will lose power. This workout can be done as a separate workout (just repeat 2-3x) or after an easy run. 

Run happy and strong!

Tip of the Week - the Park is the New Gym

Today's tip is a reminder to get out, explore and use what's around you to strengthen, lengthen and workout! Explore a new park and use the benches as your gym. You can do tricep dips, pushups, stretches and core work on a bench. Use the jungle gym for pullups and agility moves. Or, just get down on the grass for pushups, core work and stretching.

And a bench is a great tool for people who are new to strength exercises or if you are pregnant - less strain and more ability to find alignment.


Stretching for the Busy Runner

There are two types of stretches - dynamic and static. We recommend you perform both on a regular basis and in addition to your running and fitness program. Dynamic stretching is best performed at the beginning of a workout because it preps your muscles for power, which you need for a run or any type of fitness class. Static stretching is best for post workout because it allows your muscles to lengthen and rest.


Run about 1 mile and then perform the following dynamic stretching exercises (do each over ~20 meters):

  • Forward/Back Leg Swings
  • Side to Side Leg Swings
  • High Knees Running (or High Knee March)
  • Butt Kicks
  • Lateral lunges

Post Run

We know you are busy and that stretching sometimes takes a back seat to showering, eating and relaxing post run. With that in mind, and knowing how we use to train, we created a guide to stretching for the busy runner. We recommend stretching the key muscles by performing the below stretches for 10-30 seconds immediately after your run. Do these BEFORE you go inside (unless it's really cold or rainy) so there's no option to forget.

  • Chest:  Interlace your fingers behind your back and move both hands down and away from you to stretch the front of the body.
  • Hamstrings:  Stand with feet together, bend your knees and slowly bend forward. Relax your neck. Slowly bend one leg and then the other to stretch each hamstring.
  • Hips:  Hold onto a railing for balance and cross the left ankle over the right knee. Sit back like you were sitting in a chair to stretch the whole hip area. Repeat on the other side.
  • Hip Flexor:  Step your right foot back and bend your left leg so your knee is directly over your ankle. Push back through your left heel to stretch your left hip flexor.
  • Quadriceps:  Hold onto a railing for balance. Bend your left leg so your heel moves towards your glutes. Grab the outside of the left foot with your left hand. Bring your knees into alignment, keeping the knee pointed straight down and back straight. Push your hip forward and bring your foot away from your body for a deeper quad stretch. 

A Yoga Mat for Runners

 All yoga mats are not equal . . .

As a run coach and avid runner, I only recently got into yoga as a way to recover and stretch. I don't go to the vinyasa classes; I prefer the basics and yoga for runners classes.  As a way to improve my declining mobility and flexibilty resulting from limited cross training, I decided to dedicate my New Year's resolution to creating a habit of doing yoga once a week by the end of 2012. Although I haven't excatly kept up with this resolution every single week this year, I did learn quite quickly that certain yoga mats can make or break the class (I was in the market for a new mat to kick off the resolution). 

First there's the issue of borrowing one from the studio that has an odor that lingers the entire class (and it's not yours).  There's the mat that's too short.  The one your friend said she would bring, but forgot.  I picked up a cheap one from a local athletic store and the mat was so slippery and smelled like plastic that I threw it out.  Next, I tried a very thin, light, easy to roll and transport matt which I realized is so thin I might as well be directly on the hard floor. Then I discovered the Northern Lights Yoga Mat by Aurorae Yoga

For the last few weeks, I've used the Northern Lights Yoga Mat for my basics yoga classes and for my post run stretches (I used to throw down a towel on the floor everytime I stretched after a run which required an extra load of laundry every week just for post run towels.).

Unlike other mats I've tried, this one is padded to a degree that provides enough support for my knees and ankles while stretching, doing strength work at home or working on my flexbility in yoga.  It's LONG, so tall people like myself aren't constantly adjusting to get our body back on the mat.  Despite the extra length and padding, the mat is still as light as the other mats I tried and easy to transport from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY to a yoga studio in Manhattan.  Plus, it's odorless!  Even new mats have a tendancy to smell like rubber or plastic when you begin to use them.  Not this one.  Check it out for yourself, runners.  The best part? It's 33% off right now.

by Jessica Green of Hot Bird Running.


Yoga for Runners

We asked one of our favorite teachers, Stephanie Creaturo, to help us with some post run yoga. Her take on yoga, the body and runners always blows us away. Need to slow down, relax, stretch or feel good after a run? Head to Mala Yoga. Every single teacher knows their stuff and cares.

As a yoga teacher and a runner, I get asked a lot what are the best stretches to do after a run. There’s a good chance my fellow runner will also say “I don’t have a lot of time to stretch.” I get it! There are a million stretches out there and even more yoga poses.  And training for a race takes a lot of time. What’s a runner to do?

I totally believe that running and yoga can peacefully co-exist!  I hope you can check out an appropriate-level class for you at your local yoga studio – many studios (like mine) offer classes just for athletes or runners. Even if you go once a week, the teacher will lead you through a variety of poses, some of which you may be familiar with, some of which you may not.  Either way, you’ll certainly stretch out those muscles used in running, but you can also be inspired to get out of your stretching rut!  Yoga mixes up how it challenges the muscles in the body, which is great conditioning for the body and the mind.

Here’s one of my favorite poses to teach runners and to do after a long run. (Note, I don’t use the words “stretch” and “pose” interchangeably; I can think of a million different things when I’m stretching. When I’m engaged in a yoga pose, my attention is squarely placed on my breath and how my breath is guiding my physical alignment. But no matter what you do post-run, yoga or stretching, your body will thank you by staying healthy!)

It is called Parsvottonasana, or intense side stretch. Many yoga teachers call it “pyramid pose” because of the shape your body takes once its in the final pose. I find it to be a wonderful post-run balm for the backs of my legs, my low back, and my spine.

I love to do this pose with my hands on a wall or a park bench. By pressing my hands into a wall or the edge of a bench, I can integrate my arms to my shoulder sockets and let my shoulders & hips be aligned while I lengthen the muscles at the back of my legs.

Let’s get into the pose on the right side first!

1.     Place your hands on a wall or the edge of a bench.  Keep your ears in line with your upper arms as you walk your hips & feet back in space, bringing the spine parallel to the ground beneath you.

2.     Step the right foot towards the wall or the bench. The right toes point straight forward. Keep the right knee straight and the right heel in line with the right sitting bone. The right hip draws straight back in space as you firmly press the four points of the right foot into the ground beneath you.

3.     Squiggle the left leg back a bit, angling the left foot at a 70 degree angle. Zipper the outer edge of your left foot to the ground as you firmly press the four points of that foot down. The left heel is in line with the left sitting bone.  Your legs are now asymmetrical to each other.


4.     The hips are level in space – imagine that you’ve placed your open bottle smack in the center of the pelvis and you don’t want it to slip to the floor, spilling all your water.

5.     Push your hands into the wall or the bench, which will help take your hips and thighbones back in space. Keep firming the bottoms of the feet to the ground as you tack your sitting bones to your heels.

6.     Make sure you’re not locking your knees! Of course, if the hamstrings are singing an opera to you, then bend that right knee. Otherwise, engage the quadriceps to the thighbones and make sure you’re not rolling to your outer right foot.

7.     Breathe in Parsvottonasana for at least five breaths, working up to 10 deep breaths. To exit the pose, lift your gaze, step your left foot forward to meet your right foot, then repeat on the second side.

Now that you’re in the shape of a pyramid, you may wonder why it’s called intense side stretch. Good question! Most of us would call it calf or hamstring stretching pose.  But the name is a great reminder to keep the sides of the waist long and the abdominal area engaged as we stretch our legs.

Remember, yoga poses can take a zillion different shapes and your body is as unique as your fingerprints! When doing a post-run pose, make sure you’re stretching the belly of the muscle and not at the junction your muscles connect to the bone. Also, use resistance – it is a great tool to keep the muscles, bones & connective tissue speaking the same language post-run.

Lastly, make sure to budget a few extra minutes into the end of your run to stretch or strike a pose - it’s a better than striking out due to injury or exhaustion, especially if you’re training for a race.


Injury Prevention: Dynamic Warm Up Video

Risk of injury increases anytime you try new training techniques, ramp up the intensity of your training, or take on familiar, yet hard workouts on a weekly basis.  To reduce the risk of injury and give your body a chance to perform its best, make sure to include more than just a slow warm up jog before you pick up the pace.   By more, we mean include some dynamic warm up exercises to get the glutes, abdominals quads, hips flexors and hamstrings warmed up and ready for action in workouts such as hill training, track workout, strength exercises or even tempo runs.

A few of our favorite dynamic warmup exercises include high knees, butt kicks, side to side, karaoke and single leg swings.  Watch our video for demonstrations of each or read our descriptions below.  Either way, make sure to incorporate some sort of dynamic warm up before your high intensity workouts!

High Knees: Stand with your arms by your sides. Raise one knee up and forward, swing opposite arm.  Bring this foot down and raise the other.  Repeat movement coming forward. Continue for 30 seconds.

Butt Kicks: As you run, kick your heels to your butt. Goal is to kick your butt as many times as possible in 30 seconds. Keep back straight.

Side to Side:  Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and up on your toes.  Swing your arms up over your head opening up your abdominals and spine as you hop off one foot taking a wide step.   Let your arms swing down and back up again as you continue to slide side to side for 30 seconds up to one minute.  Repeat facing the opposite direction.

Karaoke:  Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and cross your right foot in front of your left foot keeping your hips and upper body straight and facing out. Continue to cross the opposite foot in front of the other.  Continue for 30 seconds and then repeat facing the opposite direction for 30 seconds.

Straight Leg Swing:  Stand with feet hip-width apart.  Swing one leg straight in front of you and then swing back behind you keeping back straight and pelvic square.   Repeat for 30 seconds to one minute on each side.  Modified:  Find something on the same side as the leg you are swing to hold on to for balance.

Tip of the Week: Tools to Aid Recovery

Recovery is a major aspect of any training plan (from a 10k race to a marathon). It's just as important as the long run or the weekly tempo run. Recovery can be an overlooked and often forgotten part of your training.  Here are a few recovery products that travel with us and can be used just about anywhere - we highly recommend all of them!

What our Run Recovery video to see our favorite products.

The Stick: we use the "Sprinter Stick" because it's firm and short. You control the pressure, either getting a light or deep massage. Great to use on the legs and easy to pack!

The Grid, from Trigger Point Therapy. This is a light weight, versatile foam roller. We like it because it's a 1/4 of the size of a foam roller, firmer and hollow (great for packing!)

Airex Balance Pad.  This balance pad, which we bought at the suggestion of our Physical Therapy, is a training tool that combines exercise and balance skill to improve strength and coordination. We love it for strengthening our ankles and knees.

Dyanmic vs Static Stretching

I haven't conducted a scientific research study on the benefits of static vs dynamic stretching; instead, my findings come from personal experience. Based on my last year of training, I prefer and recommend dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching is stretching while moving parts of your body while gradually increasing reach, speed of movement or both (think butt kicks or knee raises while running). These movements do not exceed one's range of motion. Dynamic stretching is controlled arm and/or leg swings while ballistic stretching involves forcing body parts beyond their range of motion.
Great video from Runners World

Arms circles, exaggerating a kicking action and walking lunges (without weights) are examples of dynamic stretches. A walking lunge dynamically stretches the hip flexors by emphasizing hip extension and can reduce muscle tightness around the hip joint necessary for competition.

Dynamic stretching is useful before competition and has been shown to reduce muscle tightness post workouts. Static stretching and foam rolling are great post workout activities. Make sure you don't overstretch. For example, if your legs are tight, bend your knees as you perform a standing forward bend. Let your muscles ease into the stretch.

Check out how dynamic stretching works for you or email us for more information on the stretches we use the most!