running 101: getting that form down.

Counting down the minutes until this weekend!  So excited because I get to hang out with some of my favorite girls and get our sweat on.  Which is also exactly how I spent last weekend, but I’m not complaining.

I had the privilege of joining two of my friends at City Fitness in Philly for a Thrive Training Class as part of the #MyCityMoves campaign.


The Thrive Training session focused on training to prevent injury while also building functional strength.  We started with 10 minutes of foam rolling and stretching which really helped to activate our muscles and get the synovial fluid going in our joints.  Then we split up into groups and moved on to a series of circuits.  These circuits ranged from box jumps to speed ladder work to push-ups with shoulder taps.  We completed each of these circuits 3 times before moving on to another set of circuits that revolved around goblet squats, overhead presses, and bear crawl taps.

Then came the piece de la resistance: 6 minutes of kettlebell swings where we focused on perfecting our form and making sure we were actually doing the exercise correctly which was a huge help since I had always wondered if I was doing them anything close to what they were actually supposed to look like.  Turns out I wasn’t far off, but good lord was I feeling it the next day.

The coolest part about the workout and the #MyCityMoves campaign in general is that they gave us a MyZone heartrate monitor that tracks your effort level in real time compared to those you are working out with.


Your heart rate is calculated based on your age, height, weight, and effort exerted and it was so motivating to watch your percentage change on the big monitor.  Biggest takeaway for me is that I have a really low resting heartrate.  Like slightly concerning, but I’m not worried about it quite yet.

All in all, it was an awesome workout and I have been wearing my MyZone belt religiously since Saturday.  The best part is that it takes your effort levels and gives you MEPS (MyZone Effort Points) based on how long you are in a particular zone and compares it with your friends.  So, it levels the playing field which is awesome.

I’ve been using my MyZone belt for my runs as well and it’s been super nice to be able to see my HR percentage right there on my phone.  On my Polar and on my Garmin, it will tell me my HR, but won’t tell me what Zone I’m in so I have to calculate it myself.


But you’re probably not here to listen to me blab on about my MyZone belt.  Let’s get down to Running 101 business.  Let’s talk about proper form.

Running is a full body workout.  You’re going to be using more than just your legs and the sooner you realize that, the better.  Your upper body and core play just a big of a role as your legs in running successfully, so let’s break it down:

  • Look straight ahead: You want your gaze to be ahead of you and your neck and shoulders to be relaxed and not tense.  This will keep you more at ease and will make your run more enjoyable.  This also helps your breathing because it creates a good, open airway.
  • Engage your core: Your core is the part of your body that keeps you upright and keeps your body balanced.  It is getting one heck of a workout when you’re running especially if you are running on less stable surfaces like trails.  Make sure you are standing upright with a slight forward lean while maintaining good posture when you’re running.  (Helpful hint: throw in some planks as part of your training, you’ll thank me later)
  • Keep your arms bent and close to your body with relaxed fists. Your arms are really helping you when you’re running even though you may think they’re just along for the ride.  Try and keep your hands loose so that your body isn’t spending energy on making your muscles contract.
  • Try to keep your stride on the shorter side.  No need to prance like a gazelle when you’re running.  Longer strides use up more energy and are less efficient.  Aim for a cadence of 180 (count your right foot strikes for 20 sec. and then multiply by 6).  This will help make sure your stride is the appropriate length.
  • Aim for a midfoot strike. There are many conflicting ideas about how you should land when running, but most experts agree that you should aim for a midfoot strike or landing just below the ball of your foot. I personally tend to land more forward towards my toes and that works for me, but each person is different.  In general, it is good to avoid heel striking or running too forward on your toes as these are both less efficient than the midfoot strike.

Here’s a helpful diagram to give you an idea of what to focus on when you get out there.

  • form


Running form is KEY to getting the most out of your workouts.  Once you figure out the proper way to position yourself, your runs will get much easier and you will avoid injury.


running 101: different types of runs and a training calculator

Why is it so cold?!  Motivation to do anything goes down even further with every drop of a degree.  But, I haven’t missed a workout yet including my decision to run outside when it was a tropical 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  I decided on Wednesday that I had to get outside to get my run done especially if I was going to do this whole half marathon.  Why it can’t be inside on a warm and comfortable treadmill will continue to baffle me.  So, after talking myself in and out of running maybe 30 times.  I donned my two pairs of pants, gloves filled with hot-hands, and a pair of heavy duty ear warmers and set off.

I was getting pretty bored with my usual route, so I made a note of paying more attention to areas with long stretch of trail and/or sidewalk in my neighborhood so I could try something out.  I was driving out to one of those areas, scouring for a place to park, when I took a left turn on to a tiny, secluded side street that took me to the cutest, most beautiful park I’d seen in awhile.


There was no one around at all and it was so peaceful and enjoyable, even though I was freezing my butt off.  I set off on my run and had planning on taking it pretty easy, but I just wanted to get it over with, so I picked up the pace averaging 7:37 for 4 miles.  Not terrible, but not necessarily what I was going for.

You see, there’s a difference in runs.  Some people think that when you go for a run you go at your max speed for your max time and that’s it.  In fact, this is exactly what I thought when I first started running.  Every run in my mind had to be better than my last or else I clearly wasn’t progressing.

Boy, was I wrong.  If you keep running consistently at the same pace for the same distance a) you’re never going to get faster or further b) you’re probably going to injure yourself and no body wants that.

A smart running plan is a plan that varies.  Here are a couple of different runs you should add into your arsenal to keep your training productive and enjoyable.

If you want to know how to pace yourself for all of these different types of runs, check out this calculator.  Go to the training intensity calculator and put in your highest pace for a mile, 5k, 10k, or half marathon and it will give you the speeds you should be training with.

Different Types of Runs:

  • Easy Runs:  Whenever I tell someone I did a 5 mile easy run, they scoff at me and say “Yeah right, 5 miles will never be easy”.  Not true at all.  Easy runs should make up 70% of your weekly training runs and should be run 1-2 minutes slower than your goal pace runs.  These should be comfortable, conversational runs that keep your heart rate at about 60-70% of your max.  Consider these types of runs your “reward” for all of your harder work.
  • Long Runs: Long runs are runs when you’re focusing on endurance.  If your focusing on distance, it’s not always necessary to focus on speed.  Try slowing it down and making one of your easy runs one of your long runs.  When adding on distance to your long run, try not to add more than 10% of your mileage per week.  So if you’re running 10 miles a week the first week, progress to 11 miles the next week, 12 the next and so on.  This will help keep away injury and help build on miles safely.
  • Speed Work: This is where the real work happens.  Speed work is usually done in an interval format at a pace that is quicker than your normal pace.  Workouts that work for speedwork include different distance repeats, time repeats etc.  HIIT work counts as speed work so yes, your 30:30 intervals are helping you get quicker.  Ever wonder how track distances match up on the treadmill?  Take one of the distances below and repeat 4, 6, 8 or 10 times depending on desired intensity.  The farther the distance, the less repeats you will want to complete.  Between each repeat, dial down the speed and move for half the distance or less until the next repeat.
  • Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 9.36.37 AM
  • Fartleks:  Not just an awesome word, but an awesome way to run.  Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “Speed Play”.  The goal for this type of run is to switch up your paces.  Start easy and then go faster for a minute or two and then back down again and continue to keep switching around as often as you want.  I find these runs to be the best when I listen to music.  Every time the chorus comes, I pick up the speed until it’s over, then it’s back to a more comfortable pace.  This is a great run to do outside too.  Switch it up and see how it goes.
  • Progressions: Progressions are awesome for working on negative splits (running a race with the second half faster than the first).  Progressions have each mile run a little bit faster than the last.  If you run your first mile at a 9 mile pace, run the next in 8:55, and the next in 8:50 and so on.
  • Hill Repeats: I’m not kidding when I say this is speedwork in disguise.  You will never feel faster than when you’re finished running hills, I guarantee it.  I prefer to do my hill repeats on a treadmill since I live in a pretty flat area.  I set the treadmill to a 3, 4, or 5% incline and choose one of the distances listed above and repeat the same way I do my speedwork, but at a much slower pace.  I usually am running 9:30 miles or slower during my speedwork because my heart is PUMPING.  Don’t be scared of taking it slower than your used to, you will feel the benefits, I promise.
  • Tempo: These runs are best when you’re training for a race.  The goal is to stay consistent and to pace yourself.  In a tempo run, you pick a pace that you’re aiming for and you run as close to that pace as possible.  Say you want to run 4 miles in 32 minutes.  Each one of those miles will be run in at an 8 minute per mile pace or as close to that pace as possible.


When you’re starting out, keep yourself motivated and interested by trying out different types of runs.  Not only will this make you a better, stronger runner, but it will challenge your mind as well and make you actually look forward to something different every time you get out there.

Workout:  Play around with some speedwork.  Start with a warm-up of a half a mile and then choose a distance from the table above and repeat it 4 times as fast as you can.