Category Archives: Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program

More Thoughts on Back to School

Keeping with the spirit of the back-to-school season, we’re blogging about student fitness this week, beginning with Monday’s post about running on campus.

Why the focus?  Because it really, really matters.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data points out that in about one generation, the percentage of overweight kids (ages 6 to 19) in the U.S. just about tripled.  That’s a scary thought.

Think of it this way.

From time to time, we get e-mails of thanks from once unhealthy folks now happily back on the right track after working through the 5K program.  These wonderful, impressive people are typically middle-aged, and generally have been in poor health — overweight and out of shape — for quite a while.  Starting, quite literally, on the couch and building up to a full 5K is nothing short of heroic for them and can be the start of a life-changing (and even life-saving) shift in their lifestyle.

Reading those e-mails are the absolute high point of what we do.  But you know what?  As much as we love a good comeback story, we’d much rather see people avoid falling off the wagon in the first place.

School is a time when good habits are cultivated and bad ones begin to dig in their heels.  Staying active and healthy throughout grade school, high school, and college is the best way to set up for success and good health for the years and decades that follow.

Only about a quarter of high-school-aged kids are currently getting their recommended daily dose of physical activity.  So I guess the point is that if you’re young, do everything you can to keep feeling young.  If you’re not so young, but know someone who is, remember that anything you can do to encourage healthy lifestyle choices now is going to pay dividends down the road.

If Ease into 5K or another Bluefin program helps make that happen, we couldn’t be happier.  But even if you’re just out there setting a good example or maybe extending the offer of a friendly jog around that new campus, your attention might make all the difference in the long-term health of someone you care about.

How to run marathons without really thinking about it

Okay, okay.  You will have to think about it.  And work your tail off. But that’s not the point.

The point is that no matter what your fitness level or running experience is right now, inside you is a marathoner waiting to be set free. You might think that sounds crazy, but one of these days you’ll know what I mean.

Maybe it’ll be during the cool-down of the final workout of Ease into 5K or in the afterglow of a big race.

One day it’ll just hit you. You want to run further. That’s how it starts.

Ease into 5K is a great program for getting off the couch and into regimented training.  Completing it will leave you feeling stronger, faster, and more confident…exactly the qualities necessary to become an utterly addicted distance runner.

We have a whole suite of Bluefin apps that  make it easy to keep upping your game as you aspire to longer distances and bigger challenges.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of them.  For details on each, click here.

  • Ease into 5K will prepare even a non-runner for a full 5k in just nine weeks.
  • Bridge to 10K is a six-week program designed for Ease into 5K graduates who want to double their distance.
  • Ease into 10K is a ten-week 10k program intended more for moderate to advanced runners.
  • Hal Higdon’s Novice Half-Marathon is a 12-week program that will get you running 13.1 miles.
  • Hal Higdon’s Marathon is an advanced program designed to ready you for a full-length marathon.
  • Bootcamp a circuit training app that will help strengthen your core muscle groups and help make you a better runner

While a marathon might seem far off from where you stand right now, there’s definitely a path from here to there when you look at the various regimens listed above.  Tackling these programs one at a time will have you gunning for a full 26.2 before you know it.

Even if you haven’t completed your first 5k just yet, taking a look at the other programs available can help keep you excited about the possibilities ahead when it comes to running and fitness.

Have you had success with the support of multiple Bluefin apps?  Please tell just about it in the comments.  We might feature you in an upcoming blog post.

Travel tips for working out on the go

For a lot of us, sticking to a training program is all about routine.  You make your workouts a part of day-to-day life and the next thing you know, they’re second nature.

But what happens when life throws you a curveball?  Weddings, birthdays, family vacations…these things happen.

Here are a few thoughts on keeping your fitness program on track even when life takes you on the road.

Bring your gear.  You know what stinks?  When you’re motivated to work out, have some time to spare, and don’t have what you need to get out there and run.  Bring your sneakers, some clothes, and an extra bag to protect the rest of your stuff from your smelly gear.

Embrace the facilities.  Lots of hotels have gyms and hitting one when you’re on the road can be a great change of pace.  They’re typically well-maintained and often full of motivated folks giving off good, positive energy.  The hotel pool can also be a great fitness tool, especially if you don’t have access to one at home.

Head out and back.  It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of going for a run when you’re away from your usual route.  Put your mind at ease by planning a simple “out and back” run.  Simply head out in one direction and turn back once you reach the halfway point.  With a little help from your audio alerts you can focus on your run and let your headphones tell you when it’s time to turn back.  Just make sure to do a little homework and make sure the route will be generally safe and secure.

Consider alternative workouts.  Sometimes, despite the best intentions, doing workouts as planned just isn’t in the cards.  If time or logistics are becoming a problem, be willing to do something else for the sake of staying active.  You might not have half an hour available for a good run, but you can probably squeeze in a few minutes to do some simple stretching or circuit exercices instead.  Staying active, even if it isn’t your ideal workout, will help keep you on track and make it a little easier to get back in the swing of things once you’re home.

Relax.  It’s easy to adopt a mindset that missing a workout (Or two. Or ten.) means you’ve failed your training program.  That simply isn’t true and can turn a small setback into throwing in the towel for good.  Don’t let a break in your routine be the end of you.  Even if you do miss a few workouts, don’t let it be a big deal.  Take a deep breath, move on, and pick up where you left off once you get back home.

Hopefully some of these tips will help keep you on track during your travels.  Has anybody out there been having success getting workouts done despite travel or other breaks to your routine?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Four ways to run faster today

A huge part of fitness is patience.  You put in the work and are rewarded with results.  This formula is reliable, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

So for a nice change of pace, let’s look at four things you can do that will pay you dividends right away, even with your very next run.

1.  Hydrate. Try ramping up your water intake before your next run.  And don’t start an hour before; start right now.  Drinking water throughout the day is going to help your body perform at its best.  During your run you’ll be operating more efficiently, enjoying everything from improved blood flow to reduced muscle fatigue.

 2.  Fuel up.  Obviously your body needs good, wholesome food to be at its best.  Just as it’s important to eat the right stuff, it’s also important to eat the right amount.  Think ahead.  Your pre-run food intake should be such that during your workout you don’t feel hungry and you don’t feel full.  Keeping granola bars or other light snacks on hand can help keep you in that sweet spot as workout time nears.

3.  Get (very) warm.  A solid warmup routine is really intended to get your body up to operating temperature.  So if you just go through the motions during your five-minute warmup walk, you probably aren’t working hard enough to really be ready for your run.  Ideally, you’ll get your heart rate up and actually break a sweat during your warmup.  If you can’t do this by walking alone, consider throwing in a few circuit exercises to help get the pre-run blood flowing.

4.  Find your race pace.  Remember, interval training is designed to help you hit a strong pace when you’re on and recover when you’re off.  If you’re really trying to build speed, focus on one interval at a time and worry less about the workout as a whole.  The built-in walk periods are designed to help you catch your breath and recover before the next run interval begins.  If you’ve reached the workouts that don’t include a rest period, then hey, guess what?  That means you’re ready for that kind of intensity.  Go for it and don’t hold back!

These tips aren’t hard to act on, but putting any one of them into practice can help you run faster beginning with the very next time you hit the road.  Be sure to tell us how it goes and to share any tips you might have for kicking it up a notch in the short term.

Don’t stop because *we* say so (New Feature: Continue Workout)

It’s one of the most puzzling feelings in running.

There you are, pushing your way to the end of a workout, counting down the minutes and thinking you’ll never make it to the end.  Then, the next thing you know, that voice in your headphones tells you that the workout is complete and you feel like you could have gone another mile or two without missing a beat.

Or maybe you’re just having one of those superhero, everything-falling-into-place days when you just know that whatever distance you set out to run just isn’t going to be enough.

Perfect for those Forrest Gump moments

With our latest update comes “Continue Workout,” a new feature that lets your run continue even after the planned workout is complete.  Your time, distance (if GPS is enabled) and other stats will continue rolling until you manually stop the workout.

To access the feature, open up settings, tap “Workout,” and toggle on “Continue Workout.”

The structure of a formal training program like Ease into 5k or any of our other programs is a great way to build rigor and accountability into your training.  But at the same time, it’s important to remember that the point of the whole thing is to RUN…and that listening to your body and enjoying how you feel as you get stronger and faster is what it’s all about.

Those miles that you log just for the heck of it often turn out to be the ones that help you really fall in love with running.  Don’t let “Workout Complete” keep you from one of those great training moments.

3 things that will slow you down for no good reason

You work hard to get fit and build speed.

Yet still, there are plenty of little things that can creep their way into a tired runner’s workout, stealing speed, wasting energy, and generally fouling up a run.  Here are three things that will slow you down for no good reason (and what you can do about each of them).

Tension.  A locked jaw, clenched fists, and tight shoulders can all tire you out without giving you anything in return.  Don’t waste precious energy grinding your molars or keeping a death-grip on your phone.  Relax and focus on the job at hand.  Tension inhibits speed.  Loosen up and go faster.

Hyperventilation.  Hyperventilation really just refers to whenever you are breathing so quickly that your body can’t process the air properly.  It doesn’t have to mean you’re going to pass out and collapse into a heap,   just that you aren’t quite firing on all cylinders.  Shallow, labored breathing can sneak up on you during a workout.  If you feel like you’re huffing and puffing but not getting enough air, slow down your breathing and take in long, deep breaths as you run.  You should feel a difference right away.

Dehydration.  Your body can’t perform at anywhere close to full capacity if you’re dehydrated.  Drinking water is easy enough, but one thing to keep in mind — whether it’s the middle of the workday or the middle of a workout — feeling thirsty means you’ve already waited too long.  Thirst is a sign that you are dehydrated…not “getting dehydrated” or “almost dehydrated,” but already there.   Make sure you are drinking enough throughout the day that you don’t get a chance to actually feel thirsty.  Slugging a drink when you have a dry mouth just doesn’t do the trick.

There are a million energy-bandits out there, some large and some small.  These are just three examples of things that are easy habits to get into, but will slow you down and rob you of some of the benefits of the hard work you’re putting in.  Push back on them and you’ll get more bang for your buck when it comes to your training.

Free your mind with Screen Lock

I don’t know about you, but in the heat of a workout, my brain and my fingers aren’t always to be trusted.

Especially with most of our mental and physical resources devoted to a high-intensity run, it can be easy to mis-tap the phone screen and cause some serious grief.  If you’ve ever tried to check on how many seconds are left on the clock and inadvertently hit the “DONE” button or tried to skip a music track only to accidentally fast-forward through an interval, you know what I mean.

Did you know you can lock the workout buttons to keep this from happening?  If you’ve ever been betrayed by your fingertips, pop into Settings to find the cure.  Simply switch “Lock Buttons” to “ON” and the next time you start a workout, you’ll notice little red padlocks appearing over each of the vital workout buttons.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them, just that you’ll need to double-tap to activate the locked buttons.

You’ll still be able to advance your music and adjust volume as always.  Screen lock will simply protect you from accidentally tapping any of the workout buttons.

Of course you can also protect against accidental button presses by using the “lock screen” button on your phone, but using the lock feature within the app allows you to still check the display and adjust your music as needed.

Give it a try if you’re looking for a little insurance against an ill-timed interruption to your workout.

Playing hurt: don’t let an injury derail your training program

Bad things happen to good runners.

There’s not much as frustrating as when you’re doing everything right — sticking to your training plan, taking care of your body, eating the right stuff — but still find yourself facing an injury that threatens your ability to stick with your training program.

Just remember that even if you don’t have control over your situation, you do have control over how you respond to it.

The worst thing you can do is run hurt, aggravate your injury, and put yourself on the sidelines for even longer.  The second worst thing you can do is to let the injury get the best of you — causing you to fall off the fitness wagon and lose the strength and speed you’ve worked for all along.

Here are a few tips for staying active and not getting derailed by an injury.

Listen to your primary care provider or physical therapist.  That’s what they’re there for.  If you’ve been given physical therapy to do, do it.  Don’t blow it off.  Even if it seems trivial compared to the serious training you were doing pre-injury, treat it just as seriously.  Channel the intensity that you were putting into running into getting well.  If you’re supposed to stretch or do some exercises every day, treat that with the same priority that you would your other workouts.

Keep your routine alive.  Injuries don’t usually derail training programs by making you unable to run for months at a time.  Much more often is the case where what should be a brief interruption turns into a serious hiatus not because the injury is devastating, but because it throws the runner off his or her routine.

We are creatures of habit. Even if you are unable to run, keep your good habits alive by staying active while you heal up.  Find some physical activity that you can do without risk of further damage and use that activity to fill out your workout schedule.  Walking, doing some light yoga, even throwing a frisbee around or splashing around in a pool — there’s usually something you can do to keep moving when running isn’t an option.

Don’t stop using your app.  Let’s say you’ve got a minor injury and can walk, but can’t run.  Get out there and walk.  Choose a workout and go through the motions, power-walking the run intervals if your condition allows.  You won’t break any records, but again, you will be out there keeping your routine alive and staying in the groove.

Cross-train.  Depending on what your primary care provider or physical therapist says, there might be activities every bit as intense as running that can allow you to train seriously while your injury heals.  Swimming, biking, using the elliptical machine — there are a number of great cross-training opportunities that can sometimes keep you training on an injury that would be aggravated by running.  Who knows?  You might even find yourself hooked on one of them.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that when you’re dealing with an injury, you have to play it safe to avoid making things worse.  But that said, there is almost always room to be active and keep moving in a responsible way that will be good for your body and good for your mental health.

For a runner, there are few things as unhealthy as spending weeks moping on the couch.  Even if you’re just getting out for a lap around the block a few times a week, you’ll be glad you did.

Set Goals within the app (and reach them!)

If you’re a typical runner, you thrive on setting goals and working towards them.

It’s why the program works.  You get to look at a plan laid out in its entirety and mark each step complete as you go.  Each week’s workouts are in front of you with those satisfying little green circles marking how far you’ve come.

Top Left: Little Chart Icon

For all of the graph and numbers junkies out there, we’ve also added some other tools to help you measure your progress in a couple of different ways.  If you open up your journal, you’ll see a little chart icon at the top left of the screen.

Give it a tap and you’ll have access to a few interesting cuts of data: distance, walk pace, run pace, weight, and calories burned.  (The first graph will be distance. Swipe to the right for the others.)

By activating the GPS option in the app, the first four can be automatically populated for you with each workout.

As for the weight, you’ll obviously have to enter that one manually.  You do this by tapping the weight field on the journal screen.

(A quick note: if you want your weight chart to look smooth and consistent, you need to be sure to weigh in each day you work out.  Otherwise you’ll end up with gaps in the data that don’t make for a pretty chart.)

Set goals here: can be adjusted at any time

So these graphs will tell you how you’re doing over time, but wasn’t this supposed to be about setting goals?  By opening up Settings and tapping Goals, you can set up which targets you want to reach for each metric.  A red line on each of your graphs will remind you what you’re working towards.

There’s certainly a school of thought that says these programs are designed to get you running the distance you want — whether that’s a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon or a full marathon — and that the rest is just details.  That is absolutely true.  If you prefer to keep your eye on the prize and not worry too much about these other metrics, by all means do that.

But for those of you looking to track your progress in a couple of different ways and perhaps come up with a few additional milestones to celebrate, consider tracking towards an extra goal or two as you work through the program.

Three reasons to stretch after your next workout

If there’s one thing in the exercise world that’s more tempting than not running, it’s not stretching afterwards.

Most of us are pretty good about warming up and getting limber before a workout, but once the hard work is done and the fitness endorphins are flowing, it’s very easy to call it a day and hit the showers feeling accomplished.

If you are serious about getting fitter and faster, however, those few minutes following your cool-down walk are an unbeatable opportunity to treat your body right.

Here’s what’s in it for you.

1.  Prevent injury.  Just like stretching before a workout can help prevent a debilitating mid-run cramp or ward off the kind of sudden muscle tightness that leads to getting hurt, stretching after a workout can make you a more durable runner over the long haul.

A flexible, well-stretched body is simply more resistant to injury — whether that’s a training injury that occurs during a run or a more mundane injury like the ones you get taking a funny step off of a curb at the grocery store or tweaking yourself moving a bookcase.

2.  Recover faster.  That pain you feel the day after a run is usually some combination of good, healthy muscle soreness and lousy overall body stiffness.  Soreness is typically positive and recuperative.  Stiffness generally is not.

You’ll be amazed at how stretching after a workout can help you feel better the following day.  After all, you should be able to revel in that post-workout ache without feeling like you can’t lift your leg without wincing in pain because your body is tight.

3  Get stronger.  This one’s the trump card.  Especially as you get more and more experienced as a runner and an athlete, it can be tempting to forget the basics and feel like you can get by without something as simple (and, let’s face it, mundane) as stretching after a workout.  Don’t do it.

Here’s the bottom line: a well-stretched, flexible muscle is stronger than a tight, inflexible one.

Period.

If you’re serious about building strength and speed, getting limber is absolutely crucial.  There’s a brief window of time after a workout when your muscles are flexible and hot where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.  Take advantage of it every chance you get.

If stretching has a negative, no-fun connotation in your mind (like perhaps running used to), remember that you have lots of options — from the traditional stuff you probably used to do in gym class to more mentally challenging activities like yoga.  You should certainly be doing whatever works for you.

So that said, you tell us!  What works for you?  How long do you spend stretching after a workout?  Any favorite stretches to share?