Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

Beni-Gifford-NBC-Spartan-Ultimate-Team-Challenge

If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

Beni-Gifford-Terrain-Racing-Finish-in-Flagstaff

Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

Beni-Gifford-Running

PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

Beni-Gifford-Savage-Rig-Dallas

PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Because of Kraker and Diaz, Caldwell Runs

Sometimes the world of OCR can touch the lives of those who are not part of that world.  This is the continuing story of my son Aaron and his journey towards a better world for himself and others.  You may recall that Aaron is autistic.  He has a dream to be a part of something big.  Just like us.  That’s what I love about OCR.  Everyone is welcome.  Everyone gets a shot.

Last year I started training Aaron in OCR.  I invited him up on the mountain at Palmerton where he saw it all with his own eyes and heart.  This year he is halfway to OCR.  He runs cross country on his high school team.  His progress is nothing short of phenomenal given the obstacles of autism he has to overcome.

He learned a lot from me on how to endure, overcome pain, and work hard.  He can still do all his pullups and pushups.  Now he is learning to run.  Thanks to Natural Running coach Richard Diaz, I take everything I learn from him and apply it not only to myself, but especially to my son.  Since he is a new runner without bad habits, I get to see him grasp and quickly apply critical running techniques like posture, lean, and foot strike.  I watch him, correct him, video tape him, and critique him.  He’s a sponge.  Thank you Richard.  One day Aaron will attend your clinic and I know you will not only be pleased, you’ll also help him shave another minute off his time.  Aaron might not know it, but because of you, he is a runner.  He has a big dream to compete in the 2020 Olympics.

Yesterday I met up with Brakken Kraker.  He just tore up the Citizen’s Bank Park Spartan Stadium Sprint with a blistering pace just over 24 minutes.  After talking for a few minutes, it became easily apparent why he didn’t even break a sweat.

Besides being a super nice guy and super fast, we have a few things in common.  I was curious why he ran CBP instead of Wintergreen.  He told me he was an 800m runner in college, so he loves the speed.  He said he would take a sprint like this over a mountain any time.  I told him my son Aaron also runs the 800 in winter and spring track and currently runs cross country at high school.  Then I mentioned that Aaron is autistic.  That really made Brakken’s eyes light up.  Turns out he is a special ed teacher.  So he kindly offered to help Aaron in any way he could.  That just made my day.

Aaron - 2nd from Left

Aaron – 2nd from Left

What I also did not know is that while I was having this conversation, my buddy behind me snapped a photo of me and Brakken.  He IM’d it to me and I immediately forwarded it to my son.  That was a real treat.

Brakken Kraker meets the OCRMudmaster

Brakken Kraker meets the OCRMudmaster

Perhaps one day Aaron will join me on the course.  Right now he is not allowed.  Coach’s rule.  But he is getting plenty of run time on the open course, single track, hills, and flats.  He’s learning his technique from the best OCR running coach Richard Diaz.  He’s learning his body weight training skills from the OCRMudmaster.  And soon, he’ll put it all together from the top elite OCR athlete, Brakken Kraker.  This grateful dad thanks you all.

Spartan Race: Beauty and the (Montana) Beast – 2016

As I sit here pondering what to write for my review of the Spartan Race Montana Beast, what repeatedly pops into my head is this…

TANGO 521-5409, over and over and OVER again!  Forever etched in my memory and likely the only thing that kept me from full on delirium, at least for a few miles while trudging, cursing, and sweating up those brutally relentless hills.  Plus, who wants to do more burpees if they can avoid it so the memory challenge was one that no one wanted to fail!

Speaking of that elevation, THAT ELEVATION!  Anyone that was at the Spartan Race Montana Beast knows exactly what I’m talking about and the starring role it played.  For those that chose not to lose a piece of their soul that weekend, let me paint you a picture of the cruel mistress known as Bigfork!  A battle royale between you and your mind is the best way to describe it.  Saturday’s Beast entertained us with a cool 13.05-ish miles (21-ish kilometres) and over 4,000 feet of climbing!  (Stats provided by Canadian Elite racer Stefan Wieclawek…follow him and his bro at @yycbrosocr on Instagram to check out their OCR journey)  For a gal from The Pas, Manitoba where we have zero, I mean ZERO elevation change (search it on the internet and you’ll know what I mean), this was a test of not only my physical grit but mental as well (and undoubtedly why I thought at several points that breaking my own ankle to get off course was a viable option)!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0712.

montana beast 2016

(Photo Credit: Gene Quisisem)

Mile 2 was likely the one that crushed everyone’s soul.  The sandbag carry to end all sandbag carries!  And see where the picture was taken?  That wasn’t the full length of it.  We were about halfway up at this point!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0715.

One of two of the barbwire crawls…but look at that view?  How could you not stop and take in the scenery?  I talk plenty about the suckage that occurred that day but really, in hindsight, would have been utterly disappointed if Spartan race had lightened up to appease the masses.  Isn’t this what we all sign up for anyway?  The view was breathtaking (although that may very well have just been the lack of oxygen).

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0722.

Along with the usual obstacles (more to come on those) and wicked elevation (I know, I sound redundant but for real, THAT ELEVATION!), we had to contend with THIS for most of the race!  Bushwhacking at its finest!  The buzz through the festival the next day was that the elites blazed most of the non-existent trail for the rest of us that went in the later heats, so thank you for that!  With that being said, there were still plenty of nature’s obstacles to avoid while clipping along downhill.  One wrong step and one would have ended up with quite the tale to tell (and probably losing a good chunk of your tail from landing on your butt)!

map

Nothing too out of the ordinary for obstacles.  The course map stated there were 40 of them and the newest of the bunch, the Tyrolean ladder traverse was included in that.  It wasn’t difficult per se, but it took till the Sprint the next day for me to figure out a flow for it.  I think the biggest hurdle for this was the backlog of people waiting for it on the second day.  This seems to be an ongoing issue for races so hopefully it’s something addressed in the future because it definitely kills your vibe when you’re stuck in line for 15 minutes.  Chastise me for my opinion but I am not of the belief to skip obstacles simply because of a line up.  Other honourable mentions in the obstacle line up were the second barbwire crawl that was I believe was approximately 500’ long.  And yes, the dust was insane, but I have to say it was one of my absolute favourite ones.  I also wasn’t as unfortunate as my friend, Glenn (check out his review of the Sprint here and check him out on Instagram at @thespartanupguy) that almost lost an eye the second day.  The dunk wall washed off whatever dust remained into a nicely smelling mix of mud and manure.  A quick little trek up and down a small hill brought us to what everyone was likely dreading from before they were even corralled into the starting line…the BUCKET BRIGADE!  It was long, it was steep, and I legitimately saw people pulled to the side in tears.  For those of you not in the know of this obstacle, the gist of it is to grab a five gallon bucket (red for women and black for men) that have holes strategically drilled in it near the top.  Fill the bucket up from the gravel pile to cover the holes and get on with the ascending climb, holding on for dear life so you don’t lose any of those rocks that were more precious than all the gems in the world at that point of the race.  If they didn’t cover the holes upon return (and yes, they were checking EVERYONE when I went through), you had to repeat the obstacle.  A friend of mine saw a girl trip right at the bottom and literally just lie there, sobbing uncontrollably on the ground.  As the popular term goes, embrace the suck.  We signed up for this!

DCIM100GOPROG0030784.

(I have never been so happy to see this wall in my life!)  It also marked that the end was near, but not before the a-frame cargo net and multi-rig that included an ascending bar and rings mixed with more rings and ropes.

42

The Hercules Hoist that was perched atop the action was an amazing view as well and of course, didn’t disappoint.  It wasn’t so heavy that it made me take flight but it was definitely enough to make me earn completing it!

Other noteworthy bonuses from the course that day were the water stations.  Most had a hydration pack on for the race but if you didn’t, rest assured you would have stayed hydrated adequately and one of them even provided Shotbloks.  It definitely made for a no-brainer decision to toss the pack for the Sprint the next day.

Overall, my first attendance at the Montana venue was a memorable one and I think everyone that attended can attest to the anticipation already building for next year.  For the ones that didn’t, it’s safe to say that we will all be recruiting newbies to get dragged into the awesome suckfest of this particular course!  Till next time Montana!  It’s been a slice.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0716.

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(My crew and I looking naively optimistic and excited in the corral before the send off…9.5 weeks cannot come SOON enough for the next one!)

Microsoft Band 2 Review

Microsoft Band 2
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I came across the Microsoft Band 2 after news that my Nike+ Fuel Band SE was no longer being supported, and I said the same thing most people probably do when they hear about it; “Microsoft has a fitness device?!” I had tried the first iteration of the Microsoft Band, which was met with disappointing results. This was only shortly before I heard of the next iteration, which seemed to solve all previous concerns. I was eager to try it. I went out and bought it on November 7th, the day of release.

Also, you may not have heard that Microsoft released it’s first fitness wearable in October of 2014. More than likely you probably had no idea they released an updated version, just a few weeks ago, either. In the ever-expanding world of fitness wearables and smart watches, Microsoft isn’t exactly a name at the top of the list, but they’re changing minds with their newest entry into the market, the Microsoft Band 2.

The fitness wearable market has exploded in the last 18 to 24 months, but the common theme I have found is that a lot of devices are great at doing one thing well, but there is no device that does everything to my satisfaction. Each device I have tried, required me to compromise in one way or another. Garmin does GPS great, but lacks quality integration with your mobile device. The Apple Watch integrates perfectly with your iPhone, but can’t do GPS without being tethered to your phone. Pebble, FitBit, JawBone.. the list goes on and on, and as such, so does my hunt for the “perfect” fitness wearable.

Microsoft Band 2 Features

The Microsoft Band 2 is the most feature rich wearable I have come across however, taking advantage of all those feature, especially at one time, say during a 10K or Stadium Series Spartan Race, battery life can suffer mightily.

Battery Life – I got a little over 2 hours while tracking my Spartan Race time, distance, and GPS, but while wearing in a day to day scenario, I get two days of usage before charging is necessary. The charge time from 0%  to full comes in at only about 90 minutes, which makes it easy to fill up while I get ready for work in the morning.

Gorilla Glass – Now with the display of the Band intended to be worn on the inside of the wrist, my main concern was scratching the display. After a month of usage, with no real specific care to avoid banging it around while at the office, the display is still gleaming.

Heart Rate Monitor – The heart rate monitor tracks, in real time, your heart rate whether you’re in the middle of a run, or workout session, but it also tracks resting heart rate during the day as well. To add to that it even keeps track while you sleep, noting what your highs and lows were during each activity.

App Home Screen – Microsoft’s Health App is quite simple to use and navigate. So simple it almost seems like it should have more features built into it, but when you dive into each individual tile (all of which are able to be re-organized by the end user), you find great statistics and details just a touch or two away. For those who want even further detail, their web portal offers even more detail, including comparison amongst other users, friends or demographic based.

Microsoft Health iOS App Main Screen

Microsoft Health iOS App Main Screen

Sensors – For me, this is where the Microsoft Band 2 really excels. Again, there’s a bunch of fitness devices that focus on doing one or two of these really well, but I’ve been very impressed by the level of tech packed into this tiny shell. You’ve got a gyrometer, accelerometer, and barometer, to track movement. Galvanic skin response sensors, and UV sensors to measure perspiration and how quickly my pasty white self will need to reapply sun screen. Also, for the 1.7% of people out there that have a Microsoft Phone, there’s a James Bond style microphone built in, to sync with Cortana. I would love it if they extended this outside the Windows 10 type integration.

Extra Features – Unrelated to the world of OCR, I love that this device has integration with TaylorMade’s home grown golf GPS database. Simply choose the course you’re playing at, and the Band will automatically start tracking your shots as you navigate the course, giving you real time updates on distance to the pin, elevation, etc. The open source nature of the software as well allows people to develop their own apps and tiles for the Band. We’re starting to see some of these come out with each update. Notification for your specific sports teams, Tech news from Engadget, and more have all been released in just the last month.

Microsoft Band 2 Durability

Where the Band falls short, especially for this audience, is it’s sensitivity to water, mud, dirt and dust. It’s listed as “water-resistant”, but not for extended periods of submersion. The casing also is subject to scuffing and scratching. The Fenway Spartan Sprint left a few battle scars on my device only a few days into the usage. The folks at the Microsoft Store shared stories with me of customers returning their old bands that “looked like that had been through a cement mixer” because of the soft shell exterior and Gorilla Glass display.

Microsoft Band 2 Usage

A little background, my fitness lifestyle consists primarily of obstacle course races (Spartan, BattleFrog, Bone Frog, etc) along with events like Ragnar, road racing, and regular trips to the gym. This should give you a little bit of my desired features: Heart rate tracking, real-time GPS, workout tracking, etc.

The Microsoft Band 2 will seem bulky to some. It’s large clasp will see odd at first. It’s one of the only fitness bands that makes more sense to have the display on the inside of your wrist, but that’s the only way that seems right, to me. What it may lack in aesthetics, it makes up for in over 10 different sensors packed into a small shell. Those include: an Optical Heart-Rate Sensor, Galvanic skin response sensor, UV sensor, standalone GPS, Barometer, and more.

Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band 2, unclasped

The Microsoft Band 2 integrates with some of the most popular fitness platforms out there, including Strava, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Strava, and even a TaylorMade golf GPS app as well as support for payment at your local Starbucks. Microsoft also has it’s own proprietary health database, Microsoft HealthVault, which can help you keep track of everything the Band can do: Tracking your sleep quality, weight lifting programs, yoga, running, and more. Being able to integrate into all of these databases ensures that you see the data in the manner in which you want to see it, instead of having to use a proprietary app, a huge plus in my book.

 

 

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On screen activity history & recaps

Microsoft Band 2 Pros And Cons

Pros:

  • Simple to use interface & AMOLED Display
  • 11 sensors, including heart-rate, accelerometer, and a standalone GPS
  • Email and text notifications, including quick-reply options
  • Microsoft Health database integration

Cons:

  • Slightly clunky design, subject to scuffing/scratching
  • Battery life can struggle while using common features
  • Water “resistant” but not water/dirt/mud-proof

Microsoft Band 2 Competition

Microsoft Band 2Microsoft BandGarmin 225TomTom Cardio
Battery Life2 days without GPS, 2-3 Hours with GPS2 days without GPS usage4 weeks as watch, 10 hours with GPS8 Hours
GPSYesYesYesYes
Heart Rate MonitorOpticalOpticalOpticalOptical
Waterproof Water-resistant IPX7, Up to 1 MeterSplash Resistant5 ATM (50 Meters)5 ATM (50 Meters)
Weight2.1 oz.2.12 oz1.91 oz2.22 oz
Phone CompatibilityAndroid, iOS, WindowsAndroid, iOS, WindowsAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Price249.99$199.99 - $249.99$239.99$99.99
ORM ReviewYesNoYesYes
BuyAmazonAmazon Amazon Amazon

 

Microsoft Band 2 Verdict

Overall, the pros of the Microsoft Band 2 far outweigh the cons for everyday usage. Don’t let the stigma of the Microsoft name, prevent your from taking a long hard look at what should be a very strong competitor in the fitness wearable market during this holiday season. It’s got a great feature set, and more sensors that any other fitness device on the market, making it a feature rich juggernaut. The lack of true water/dust/mud-proofing is what really will make it difficult to commit to for the true OCR enthusiast, especially with a price tag of $249. Buy this for everyday working out and tech integration but if you need a watch for OCR usage, look to the guys at Garmin or Suunto.

 

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Adam Gori

A former NCAA sprinter, Adam didn't get into distance running until his first Spartan race. He also hosts several podcasts on the Next Level Podcast Network, including BeachPod: Health & Fitness.
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SISU 24-hr Adventure Run 2015

SISU 24 competitors

If only it were a straight forward race that I could let it all burn for 7 to 10 miles & pour on the speed…alas the SISU 24 is not that type of race. This is a knock down, drag out contest of grit & stamina. How far do you run? So far a man on foot can not fathom it. Over stream, trail, hill, mountain to summit & back again. Run until you can’t run anymore then continue hiking… Cramp up, stretch, recover & get back out there again. All routes involved long stretches uphill, any given leg of the race might be considered a full days workout for many people… In our adventure we fetched & returned an egg, stood under a waterfall so cold it took my breath away, solved a math equation that required clues spread miles apart, helped the Park Rangers haul some logs, reached a summit to retrieve a page from a book & memorize the first passage,and ran in the dark w/ dimly lit headlamps with a keen look out for bears. It’s an event that’ll push your mind & body beyond conventional limits. – Louis “Thunder Badger” Rudziewicz

The day before the race, we received a devastating message; the event I’d been looking forward to since this time last year, which I missed because of family commitments, had an issue with the LAFD and could no longer use the chosen venue.  Most events facing this would have no choice but to cancel, or at best postpone to a later date.  A couple of stress-filled hours followed, as many of us started making plans to salvage the weekend, then we received another message; SISU staff had moved the venue to nearby Camp Trask, home of the SISU Iron, and the event was back on. Staff and volunteers spent the afternoon, evening and some of the next morning re-plotting the race and marking the course on a completely different set of trails than originally planned.  That they were able to pull the race off at all with such a dramatic last minute scramble is impressive; that many repeat competitors found it even better than last year’s is a testament to the staff and to Race Director Dave Lokey.

SISU is a Finnish word with no direct translation but loosely corresponds to “ultimate fortitude and persistence, carried to an unfathomable level”. Team SISU, based in SoCal, exemplifies this term, and founders Daren de Heras & Matt Trinca & staff Dave Lokey, Louis Lopez, and Steffen Cook have an impressive resume of both competing and directing racing and endurance events.

SISU 24 briefing

The SISU 24h Adventure Run is one of a handful of events, along with the FORGE and the Iron, put on by team SISU each year. Each of these events is designed to test athletes and push them to their limits, but in very different ways. The SISU 24 is a choose-your-own adventure that started at 9:30 Saturday morning and finished at the same time Sunday. Staff marked out 5 trails of varying lengths totaling over 32 miles, and athletes were encouraged to do as many laps as possible in 24h.

SISU 24 Trail

Each trail was awarded one point per mile, and runners could compete individually or as part of a three-person team. Additionally, bonus points were available for specific tasks. The first 12 people to return from the Overlook trail with an intact egg received three extra points. Memorizing a passage from a book at the end of the 10 mile Tower of Power trail earned two points. Dunking your head in the chilly water at the end of the Waterfall trail earned an extra 4 points, which could be gambled for double or nothing based on the draw of a card back at home base. Finally, three of the trails had variables x, y, and z marked at the end, and these could then be used to solve a mathematical equation that was unique to each participant.

SISU 24 waterfall

The venue at Monrovia Canyon Park is spectacularly beautiful and characterized by steep hills in all directions. The weather on Saturday morning was crisp and cold; it would warm up during the day, then drop drastically again once the sun started going down. With heavy rains on Friday and again late Sunday afternoon, competitors dodged a bullet that would have completely changed the race.

SISU 24 night

With tents set up for camping at the starting point, runners could rest, hang out or sleep at any time. Many took advantage of this, catching a few hours of sleep during the night; others continued to rack up the miles nonstop.

SISU 24 Nick Rai

When the dust settled and all the points were tallied, Marion Schuler-Powell won by a single point over her hiking partner Tera Spencer for the women with 63, Nick Rai literally ran away with the men’s race with a remarkable 97.5 points, and the Trail Bandits team of Louis Lopez, Robert Herrera, and Paulo Aguilar together ground out 207.5 points for the team victory. For the rest of us, we either met or fell a little short of our personal mileage goals as the hills took their toll on feet, hips, and knees.

Like all of Team SISU’s events, this was a quality race with a family atmosphere and inspiring competitors. I can’t wait to do this one again next year, but first I get to take on their signature event again, the SISU Iron: APRIL 29-MAY 1, 2016.

‘MAF’in It’

I’ve been running for about 10 years. With zero athletic background prior to that, the beginning of my running was pretty sad. Mostly, I was just walking as I graduated to baby jogging and then a walk/jog combo, over several years, before actually running. I have only identified myself as a ‘runner’ for the last five years.

Melanie Blenis Article MAF

As a runner, the last several years have been challenging. I badly sprained one ankle and just as it was in full service again, I sprained the other. Those literally affected my run for two years! Sigh. Many runners can relate to being sidelined by an injury. Admittedly, I did not take the time off that I should have. In the midst of that, I did the Spartan Vermont Beast – twice! I also had two crazy ‘flus’ that took me out for several months. But, the biggest thing that has affected my running has been Crossfit.

Initially, I began Crossfit as a way to get stronger and be a better runner. Pulling back on the running, due to the sprains and sickness, meant that I was self limiting, without really thinking about it, my daily activity load. For the past 6 months, I have been perfectly well and injury free. So, I have been going full throttle, doing two a days and loving it until this summer – meaning, running 6-10 miles most every day and doing CrossFit WODs. I began to break.

I began to notice that my running times were stagnating and that my weigh lifting was going nowhere. I was battling frustration. I was considering quitting CrossFit. And, I was pushing hard running, with most runs at 80%. In hind site, it is all so clear. But, of course! Here’s the deal: I love doing all of it. I want to do all of it. It is fun!

barbell orm

But the reality is…I cannot do it all, at least not every day and certainly not well. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I was just living in the moment.

To make a correction, I now have a running coach. In just a short time, about two months, I can see a difference. I have actually set three PR’s with a strong dose of tough love and through pulling back on everything some. This means looking a the CrossFit WOD ahead of time and skipping METCON days in favor of running programming. It means letting go of the need to focus on things at CrossFit that are not necessary for my goals, like double-unders. It means that strength training takes priority over extra cardio. Also, it means that as a runner first, I may not be able to kill it at CrossFit and that’s okay. I also must understand that, as an endurance athlete, the norms of weightlifting may not necessarily apply to me. Standard one rep max charts may not work for me. I may have muscular imbalances that need addressed. One day off per week is now mandatory.

Most importantly, coaching has brought more variety and specificity to my run training. This means not just going through the motions of a daily, moderate-intensity run. Sometimes, I run as fast as I can, but I’ve also been coached to do a lot more easy runs – both recovery runs and “MAF” runs.  Essentially, MAF runs are heart rate based runs designed to develop the aerobic system. The formula is 180 minus your age and then plus or minus 5-10 beats based on certain personal variables. You can figure out your heart rate zone here. This is slow running!

heartrate orm

MAF may be boring at times, but I credit MAF runs with my ability to set new PR’s at forty-seven. I had no idea what MAF running was a few months ago… and, boy did I detest it. After my first MAF run, I was nearly in tears as I slammed the car door after I had finished. Running slow enough to reap the benefits of easy running requires a big ego check. It took a month of diligently attempting MAF until I actually settled into it – just another mental exercise in discipline. Now, I understand that MAF running is like making deposits that allow the ‘fast’ days to happen.

Thanks to these MAF “deposits”, I’ve gotten to experience the thrill of running faster than ever before (for me)! I have spent years running at 80%. Running faster is crazy addictive, but I would never have experienced it if not for MAF. The daily grind of running at 80% eventually leads to chronic fatigue and performance plateaus, but a balance of easy days and faster days leads to continuous progression. MAF is a forced easy day. For me, MAF means watching my heart rate monitor and not letting it over 140.  It takes practice and patience to begin running faster within your heart rate zone. MAF training incurs many benefits, but at the end of the day, you have to run fast to run fast. This is why tempo work and high-intensity workouts are still extremely important! I was simply going too hard too often.

slow1

Lastly, as a way to counter over training, I understand that a day off, at least one per week, is essential. This is, perhaps, the hardest aspect of being coachable, for me. Just knowing that on my off days, I am ‘allowed’ to take a walk makes it palatable. couch1While I am no elite athlete, I still face similar challenges just on a different scale. Accepting that and slowing down, just a tad, is making a huge difference in my life and in my performance.

And…my lessons in running and taking on more than I should apply to life because who we are in one area reflects who we are. There is nothing wrong with working hard, every day, and pushing personal limits – those are great qualities. It is, however, important to be mindful that we don’t have super powers – unfortunately!