Author Archives: Bluefin Software

Race day countdown: how to prepare

“Gearing up” for race day can mean a lot of different things.  Maybe you’re talking about the ten-week training program you’re using to get ready for the big day or just your morning routine on the day of the event.  Regardless of where you are in your training or when your next race begins, we’ve got some advice to help you be as prepared as you can be.

One month out.  Depending on the kind of shape you’re in and the type of race you’re planning to run, one month can be all the time in the world.  Our Ease into 5K program gets you from the couch to a 5k in just 8 weeks, so it isn’t insane to be just reaching the half way point a month before your race.  Our shorter programs like Bridge to 10K can also do wonders to prepare you for the big day.  Regardless of where you stand, there are some pretty universal thoughts to keep in mind if you’re 4 — 5 weeks away from the starting line.

  • Have a plan.  We rattled off a few Bluefin training plans above and there are certainly more.  But even if you aren’t in the midst of a formal training program, it’s important to have a plan as you close in on your race.  At the very least, sketch out the next four or five weeks and make some decisions about how hard you want to run and what kind of distance you want to put in.  Laying it out in writing can help keep you on track and avoid either overtraining or preparing too little.
  • Hone your form.  Lousy running form will suck the life out of you on race day, making you work harder for every step and fatigue more quickly as a result.  If you’ve developed any bad habits — weak posture, short strides, tight shoulders — they aren’t going to disappear overnight.  Make some changes while you still have a few weeks to tinker with your running from.  We’ve written a couple of detailed posts about it…check them out here and here.
  • Eat like a champion.  Just like you aren’t going to repair slouchy posture overnight, you can’t fuel up your body by gulping down an energy bar an hour before your race.  If you’ve managed to dedicate yourself successfully to the healthy lifestyle of running, hopefully you’re up to eating well, too.  There are obviously tons of resources out there on the topic, but our old post on optimal nutrition for runners isn’t a bad place to start.

One week out.  Okay, so it isn’t quite race day, but you’re definitely getting close.  A lot of us don’t realize just how important those last 5 — 7 days really are.  Phoning in those final workouts or pushing yourself too hard just before an event are both common mistakes that are paid for with a slower time and a more frustrating race.  Here’s how to prepare with one week to go.

  • Find your race pace.  One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself before you hit the race course is to develop a good, solid feel for what your race pace feels like.  With the excitement and adrenaline of the big day coursing through your system, it will be very easy to forget your usual race speed and feel very out of sorts as the starting pack begins to spread out.  Using a pace calculator like this one from Run the Planet can help you decide on a goal time and training with that in mind can help your body learn what race pace feels like.
  • Taper appropriately.  Two temptations are coming to mind right now: running obsessively to prepare for your race and stopping altogether in order to rest up.  Both are mistakes.  Elite athletes know that a HUGE part of performing well on race day is managing the taper — adjusting your workout intensity as a race approaches in order to be at your best when it matters most.  Check out this post from Runner’s World for a nice overview of what your workouts might look like on each of the seven days before a race.
  • Get your ducks in a row.  The week before your race is also a good time to make sure all your paperwork is in order and that all the little logistical issues are worked out in advance.  Check your registration, figure out how parking works, and get your race day bag packed.  The last thing you need is unnecessary stress or confusion when you’re trying to focus on your race.  The more you can do in advance to get ready, the fewer distractions you’ll have.

One day out.  The day before a race isn’t really a time to get faster or make any dramatic changes to your running philosophy.  You’ve already put in the work and all that’s left is getting out there and doing your best at the fun part.  Still, there are some things to keep in mind in those last 24 hours that can help set the stage for a successful race.

  • Eat smart.  As we said above, there isn’t anything you’re going to eat right before a race that’s going to dramatically improve your performance.  We’ve covered the basics before, but the best pre-race diet advice we can give you is to avoid surprises.  Stay away from unfamiliar foods and those that have a history of disagreeing with you.  You don’t want to be feeling last night’s dinner as you work your way to the starting line.
  • Hydrate.  Again, hopefully this one is a habit, but it’s important to keep in mind the day before a race.  Keep that water bottle handy so that you go to bed at night well-hydrated.  If you’re feeling thirsty or experiencing symptoms like chapped lips, you’ve already waited too long to drink.  Grab some water ASAP!
  • Get excited!  Whether you’re a world-class marathoner or a weekend 5k warrior, race days should be the highlight of your training season.  There’s excitement, competition, and tons of camaraderie among runners, so be sure to milk the experience for all that it’s worth.  You’ve earned it!

Bluefin Blog: Shark Week Edition

Well, everybody…it’s Shark Week.  And while we probably could have let it come and go without recognizing the wildly popular event (we are a running blog, after all), we figured it’d be more fun to take a day to look at all the shark-related information and entertainment swirling around out there and point out some ways that — as runners — we could all stand to be a little shark-like in our training.

Here are four ways runners can think like a shark.

1.  Keep moving.  You may have heard that sharks can’t stop moving, requiring constant motion to get water through their gills to keep them alive.  That’s not entirely true, as there are a number of sharks who barely move at all.  None-the-less, there are some species of shark that pretty much have to move all the time.  We could stand to be more like that.  Running is obviously a big part of our fitness routine, but what about the little opportunities through the day to take more steps and be more active?  We’re talking about things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, moving around the living room instead of passively watching television, and parking farther away from your destination to squeeze in some extra steps.  Don’t just sit there — keep moving!  Here’s a nice post from Suite101 that can help you take more steps every day.

2.  Make things happen.  A baby shark doesn’t just sit around waiting for someone to come along and let it out of it’s little shark egg.  In some cases, these things will actually figure out that it’s time to start making life happen and bust themselves out with no help from either parent (who are occasionally willing to eat the little guy given the opportunity).  A successful runner is the same way.  You can’t just wait around for a perfect opportunity for a run…chances are it may never come.  We’re all busy and need to make time to get out there and do our workouts throughout the week.  Check out our “Time Slots” series for straightforward advice on successfully carving out time to run at various points throughout the day and week.  

3.  Be flexible.  Sharks don’t have bones.  The stuff that looks like bones is actually cartilage, which makes them flexible and able to maneuver around in tight circles (watch out for that!).  Just like a shark’s flexibility helps make it perform best as a shark, your flexibility is going to help you perform better as a runner.  You probably don’t need to swing your head around and bite anyone on a moment’s notice, but flexible muscles are stronger, recover faster, and are more resistant to injury.  Even though conventional wisdom has for a long time been that it is important to stretch out before a workout, it’s actually just as critical to stretch afterwards — maybe even more so.  Check out our post “Three reasons to stretch after your next workout” for more insight.

4.  Find your theme song.  Da-dum.  You know what that means.  The iconic theme from Jaws is enough to make the bravest swimmer a little uneasy, delivering more of a reaction in two quick notes than some films can pull off with a two-hour script.  Da-dum.  That’s pretty intense.  Well obviously sharks didn’t pick their own theme song and probably wouldn’t care one way or the other if they heard it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the idea.  If Spielberg managed to train an entire generation to swim for shore when they hear such a simple tune, imagine how you could condition yourself to respond to music during your training.  Choose a warmup song and play it every time you get your workout started.  Over time, it’ll become your body’s trigger to get down to business.  Spend a few dollars on yourself and see if you can’t find your new running theme.

RunHelper Preview: Share your workout details

RunHelper is coming soon!  As we prepare to go live, we’ll be using the blog to share some of the exciting features of the new service and give everyone an idea of what’s to come.  Today we’re talking about sharing workout details…another way for you to share you progress and stay accountable.

We’ve talked before about how much good can come from sharing your training progress online.  For a lot of us, Facebook and Twitter have become big parts of our day-to-day routine, documenting everything from good food to bad  TV.

With RunHelper, you’ll be able to easily post your workout detail screens for your digital friends, giving your immediate network a chance to see what you’re up to.  Sometimes putting yourself out there a little bit is just what it takes to stay accountable to your friends and family…and ultimately yourself.  After all, once you’re established as someone who doesn’t blow off a workout, you might think twice about skipping that run after a tough day.

And if you want to share your info more privately?  You can e-mail workout details, too.  It’s all part of our mission to help you manage your training and bring your fitness to the next level.

Have you signed up yet?

If you haven’t already, sign up to be notified when RunHelper launches and get regular updates with more details on all the great features in the works.  You’ll also get a special link that you can use to share with your friends for a chance to win one of 50 subscriptions we’re giving away to celebrate the launch.

Stay tuned!

Four Olympic running performances to inspire your next workout

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to appreciate the Olympics (though it probably doesn’t hurt).  And while we’re sure you could turn on the TV or hop online and find inspiration from all sorts of sports at any given time of day as long as the Games are on, we figured we’d take a few minutes to share with you some of the most inspirational Olympic moments from modern sports history.  Because it doesn’t matter if you’re training for a gold medal, a personal best, or to cross that 5k finish line for the first time, we can all take something powerful away from the great runners who have come before us.

Here are four powerful stories that just might inspire your next workout.

Michael Johnson causes lightning to strike (twice).  Every once in a while, an athlete will come along who completely redefines what is possible in a sport.  Michael Johnson did just that in 1996 when he took gold in both the 400 and the 200, making him the first man to every accomplish that feat.  Check out Johnson and tons of other inspirational (non-running) stories at greatist.com.

Moral of the story? Take the most you could ever imagine accomplishing with your training.  Then double it.  You can do it.

Derek Redmond finishes the race (with his dad).  Redmond had dedicated his life to training for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  His dreams of gold were shattered mid-race when a pulled hamstring yanked him from contention in a heartbeat.  With victory off the table, Redmond pushed through the pain to finish the race, crossing the line finally with the help of his dad.  Here’s the video, which is well worth a watch.

Moral of the story? Winning really isn’t everything, but sometimes finishing is.

Jesse Owens stares down Hitler himself.  It was 1936 and the Olympics were in Berlin.  African American Jesse Owens faced the toughest crowd of his career when he made history in the face of the Führer himself.  He was given a once-in-a-lifetime shot and performed at his best.  Read the whole story over at Olympics30.com.

Moral of the story?  Don’t let anyone intimidate you on race day.  Win or lose, you’ve earned your place in the competition.  

Wilma Rudolph beats the odds, every single day.  It was the 1960 Olympics in Rome and to make a long story short, Rudolph dominated like no other. She set records and won gold medals.  But the truly remarkable story is the one that starts the day she was born — premature, small, and weak.  Her childhood was plagued with illness and injury, sometimes making walking — never mind competitive running — nearly impossible.  If you ever feel like the deck is stacked against you when it comes to getting fit, Rudolph’s story might be just the motivation you need.  You can read the whole story now on ESPN.com.

Moral of the story?  Life may not be fair, but no matter what challenges your body throws at you, you can find a way to succeed.

Hope you guys are enjoying the Olympics as much as we are.  Get inspired!

RunHelper Preview: Workout Reminders

RunHelper is coming soon!  As we prepare to go live, we’ll be using the blog to share some of the exciting features of the new service and give everyone an idea of what’s to come.  Today we’re talking about workout reminders…our way of integrating your training schedule into your everyday life the same way you keep track of everything else (with your phone).

Life can get crazy these days, with more commitments, appointments, reminders, and to-do lists swirling around in our heads than ever before.  For a lot of us, a smartphone is at the center of the storm, keeping everything straight and our lives on track.  Why not tackle your training schedule the same way?

With RunHelper, you’ll get a mobile reminder if you haven’t been keeping up with your workouts, giving you that little nudge you need to get back in the swing of things before you get seriously off track.  Whether it’s picking up the milk or sneaking in a run, sometimes we just need a reminder to keep things on our radar.  RunHelper is coming to do just that.

Have you signed up yet?

If you haven’t already, sign up to be notified when RunHelper launches and get regular updates with more details on all the great features in the works.  You’ll also get a special link that you can use to share with your friends for a chance to win one of 50 subscriptions we’re giving away to celebrate the launch.

Stay tuned!

RunHelper Preview: Weekly E-mails

RunHelper is coming soon!  As we prepare to go live, we’ll be using the blog to share some of the exciting features of the new service and give everyone an idea of what’s to come.  Today we’re talking about weekly e-mail wrap-ups…an at-a-glance overview of the work you put in over the previous week.

Let’s face it.  A lot of what we do revolves around e-mail.  Your RunHelper weekly e-mails will drop your training stats and progress right into your inbox, putting your most current training data front and center (right between the note from your boss and all those forwards from your parents).  You’ll have weekly motivation to keep up with your training and an ongoing record of where you stand (complemented by the wealth of data available via the RunHelper site itself of course).  It’s one more way to keep you connected, week after week.

Have you signed up yet?

If you haven’t already, sign up to be notified when RunHelper launches and get regular updates with more details on all the great features in the works.  You’ll also get a special link that you can use to share with your friends for a chance to win one of 50 subscriptions we’re giving away to celebrate the launch.

Stay tuned!

Three incredibly important warm up tips (you may not have considered)

We all know that warming up is important. It’s the key to avoiding injury and performing at your best. Still…we runners tend to be creatures of habit and there are definitely some finer points of warm-up philosophy that you may not have considered. Here are three thoughts that are well worth keeping in mind as you prepare for your next workout.

Warm-ups are critical when you cross-train. As a regular runner, you probably know just what you need to do to get loose and ready before your run. Your body knows the deal and is probably well-prepared for the physical demands of your typical workout. But what about non-typical workouts? Maybe you’re going to mix things up and go for a trail run or do some hills. Or maybe you’re jumping into a pick-up game of basketball, hitting the pool, or trying a new Pilates class. This is where you need to be careful. Cross-training puts demands on your body that are often outside of what it’s used to. Warming up thoroughly is the best way to reduce the likelihood of injury as you engage muscles in ways outside of your usual training routine. While you’re at it, it’s important to realize that since you’re using your body differently, you should be warming it up differently, too. Check out this series of posts from LiveStrong.com which give you specific warm-up routines for different activities, from swimming to basketball to dancing. Don’t let that softball game at the company picnic turn into an injury you’re going to regret.

When the weather is hot, warm up smart. We’ve talked before about how important it is to adjust your warm-up in the face of cold weather. It’s just as important to have a weather-appropriate approach to warming up when it’s hot outside, too — and the answer is definitely not to skip the warm-up altogether. While hot weather does mean it should be easier to get your body up to operating temperature, it doesn’t mean you can let the sun do the work for you. The heat outside will only warm you up from the outside in. To be ready to perform and avoid injury, you need to heat yourself up from the inside out. Runningtimes.com has some great tips for getting warm quickly without wearing yourself out, pointing out that you can get loose and ready without wearing yourself out before the workout even begins. Especially if you have a race day in your future, it’s well worth the read.

Workouts vary. Your warm-up should, too. Whether it’s focused and vigorous or quick and casual, a lot of us go through pretty much the same warm-up routine regardless of the workout to follow. That might not seem like a big deal (warm is warm, right?) but if you think about it, it’s pretty intuitive that different workouts should be supported by different warm-ups. There’s a great, detailed post over at runnersworld.com that lays out specific routines appropriate for various scenarios. An everyday run, for example, might warrant a simple build-up in intensity over a half mile or so. Speed work on the other hand — like high-intensity sprints — is better preceded by more vigorous activities like quick sprints and focused circuit work. They’ve also got some good advice for treadmill workouts and even race day.

RunHelper Preview: Take your data with you

As you know, RunHelper is coming soon — a new Bluefin service that will help you consolidate all of your training data in one easy-to-manage location.  As we prepare to go live, we’ll be using the blog to share some of the exciting features of the new service and give everyone an idea of what’s to come.  Today we’re talking about exporting data…letting you take your training beyond your mobile device.

From the new RunHelper site, you’ll be able to review and analyze all the workout data currently stored within your apps.  But that doesn’t mean all that valuable info needs to be trapped on your computer, either.

With RunHelper, you’ll be able to print out your workout history whether you want to hang it on the wall or share it with your doctor.  You can also export your info in CSV (comma-separated value) format that you can load into Excel, Numbers, or whatever other software you like.  From there you’ll be able to do pretty much anything you can imagine with your data, including keeping a super-detailed training log on your PC.

And are you ready to really get the lay of the land?  Export a GPX file of your workout to interact with your route directly in Google Earth.

Have you signed up yet?

If you haven’t already, sign up to be notified when RunHelper launches and get regular updates with more details on all the great features in the works.  You’ll also get a special link that you can use to share with your friends for a chance to win one of 50 subscriptions we’re giving away to celebrate the launch.

Stay tuned!

Mastering your recovery

You train hard.  But when it comes to getting stronger and faster, it turns out that  how you go about recovering after workouts can be just as important as the work you invest in the first place.  Recovering smart can help you get the most out of your training, squeezing more strength and speed out of every mile you log.

Here are four ways to recover (smarter).

Eat right.  Especially when a big motivator for a lot of runners is losing weight, it can be tempting to look at nutrition mainly in terms of calories taken in and calories burned off.  But how much you eat is only part of the equation.  What you eat is really the name of the game.  Making solid nutrition a priority can be the difference between being a weekend warrior and a serious high-performing athlete.  “Fueling Up: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Run” is a post we published last year that lays out some very specific foods you can eat  throughout your day to give your body what it needs to (A) perform well during your run and (B) rebuild properly afterwards.  The short version? Carbs before, protein after.

Ease in.  Motivational quotes and inspirational sayings aside, your body really doesn’t care to “hit the ground running.”  Warming up slowly and following a steady build-up in intensity will reduce shock on your body, allowing your muscles to focus on getting productively stronger rather than simply recovering from the unexpectedly intense paces you just put them through.  “Post-Run Recovery Tips” on runningtimes.com gives some good strategies for easing in, including building up to your workout pace over 4 to 5 minutes and mixing up workouts between (for example) hilly and flat runs to avoid over-stressing the same muscles again and again.

Cool down.  You just worked your tail off, blew the doors off of your last run, and generally nailed your workout — surely you’ve earned a flop down onto the couch to catch your breath, right? No matter how much you may have earned it, resist the urge.  Just like your body doesn’t like going from 0 to 60 at a moment’s notice, it doesn’t like slamming on the brakes like that, either.  There’s a reason your Bluefin programs include a cooldown at the end of each workout.  “5 Ways to Cool Down After a Workout” from MensFitness.com stresses the importance of gradually tapering off your workout and stretching out afterwards, pointing out that screeching to a halt after intense training can lead to muscle cramps and big fluctuations in blood pressure.  A few minutes of walking and a good solid stretch can make all the difference.

Sleep well.  One of the most counterproductive things you can do is try to train while depriving yourself of sleep.  Those solid hours of shuteye are not only when your body reenergizes to prepare for the day ahead, but it’s also when it does a lot of the basic recovery work needed to rebuild tired muscles after a hard workout.  As much as it might up your street-cred at the office, charging along on no sleep with a big mug full of coffee isn’t hero stuff — it’s hurting your training.  How Running Affects Sleep (and Vice Versa) from Running Research News  has some very detailed information about the science behind sleep for runners that more than makes the case for getting a good night’s rest.  The good news is that getting enough exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep quality, so running hard and sleeping well are absolutely compatible and even complementary.

Managing your recovery is critical to anyone who wants to take their running performance to the next level.  What do you do to bounce back between runs?

RunHelper Preview: Your workout, in detail

Last week we were excited to announce the upcoming launch of RunHelper, a new Bluefin service that will help you consolidate all of your training data in one easy-to-manage place.  As we prepare to go live, we’ll be using the blog to share some of the exciting features of the new service and give everyone an idea of what’s to come.

So today we’re talking about…

Workout List — Your workouts…in-depth

When you first sign into RunHelper, one of the first things you’ll notice is the Workout List.  This is a list of your completed workouts, pulled automatically from the running data in your app and displayed in detail right on the screen.

Crank out a personal best this morning?  It’s already in there for you to admire.  Have an off day?  Check your pace and start getting to the bottom of the problem.

At a glance you’ll be able to review…

  • Distance
  • Calories
  • Duration
  • Average Pace
  • Run Pace
  • Walk Pace
You’ll also be able to review your journal entries, check out your pace and elevation, and even look at a map of the run (your RunHelper subscription automatically upgrades you to GPS at no extra cost).  

All in all, it’s going to help you get more out of your training by letting you dive into the numbers and notes like never before.

Interested?

If you like the idea of RunHelper, be the first to know as we get closer to going live and help spread the word!  We’re giving away 50 subscriptions as part of the big launch:

  1. Sign up to be notified when RunHelper launches.
  2. Use the special link you will receive to share the news with your friends.
  3. Every person who signs-up to be notified with your link will be counted as an extra giveaway entry for you.

On the day of the RunHelper launch, we will randomly select 50 winners and notify you via the email.  We hope you are as excited as we are.  Stay tuned for more great features and other details as we get closer to the big day!