#amysrunningtruths : BIG MILES, Baby. Get your head on straight.
Sunday, September 10th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Marathon training. It ain’t for sissies. It’s time for a reality check. Time to stop and think about life, right?
This is usually when, on those long runs, you start questioning yourself.
Why am I doing this?
This is ridiculous….
I must be crazy.
What’s the point?
I’ve been there. When I was training for my first marathon, I imagined all of the things I COULD have done during the time it took me to do my long run. I could have: gone to the grocery store, cleaned the entire house, done SO many loads of laundry, stayed asleep…the list went on and on.
Was I shirking responsibility? Was I just making an excuse for some time to myself? What was I searching for?
It’s normal, I think, to have these thoughts during long runs. Some people also have these thoughts during the race itself; particularly when there are hardships to be had. Picture race day: nothing is going as you planned, it’s raining, it’s windy, it’s hot, it’s too humid, you’re having stomach problems…there are many possibilities. And in the midst of it, you start to question your motivation. Especially around mile 20 or so.
Why, exactly, am I doing this? What do I think I’m accomplishing? Am I trying to prove something?
When I sign up for a race, I know why I’m doing it. I want a challenge. With marathon training/racing, we all know going into it that it is going to be hard. Isn’t that why we do it? If it was easy, wouldn’t everyone be able to do it? It’s about committing, and following through, no matter what.
So, don’t be surprised when it IS just that: a challenge. And, if that’s what you’re after, embrace it.
I remember a particularly grueling trail race that I did not too long ago. The trail was a mess. It was muddy, full of debris, very technical. I started getting really frustrated about half way through the race. I was muttering under my breath, and my husband heard me.
He looked over at me and said, “You know, you don’t HAVE to finish. You could just quit. It’s not life or death….”
I hate when he’s right. I had signed up for it. I knew it would be a challenge. Why was I complaining? (Still, I do hate when he’s right.)
So, I sucked it up, took the skirt off, and soldiered on.
And that’s what we have to keep in mind right now, as the mileage is peaking. Suck it up, Ginger. Get your head on straight. Remember why you signed up for this challenge. Remember what it is that you hope to accomplish. Get up, dust yourself off, and get to work. Rise to that challenge, and you will succeed.
Run Happy. Run Long.
#amysrunningtruths : Recovery Week.
Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Ahhhhh…..recovery week. This is the week where you get some (relative) rest. You take a look at your calendar and realize, you get to step back your mileage this week, finally. It’s been a little tough bringing up your mileage into the double digits, so now it’s time to let your body rest and heal; a little.
What are the do’s and don’ts for this week?
Do: follow your plan. Take the luxury of sleeping in a little later and letting your pace be a little more comfortable. Feed your body with the nutrients that it needs to rebuild and repair. Drink plenty of water, spend some time on the foam roller, get in some good dynamic stretching, and just basically be nice to yourself. You might be pretty banged up at this point, so do your body some good.
Don’t: keep increasing your mileage. Don’t push your pace. Let your body tell you what it needs, and make sure that you are listening. Don’t eat like your putting in huge miles and you can down a whole extra large pizza by yourself. Don’t skimp yourself on sleep and don’t fill up your extra time with sports or activities that you feel like you should do since your mileage is down.
Recovery weeks can make or break any training plan. This is where injuries can happen. If you have been pushing yourself the past 3 weeks, you need to give your body time to catch up. If you don’t, you can almost guarantee yourself some type of overuse injury.
Likewise, if you’ve had some nagging injury or soreness that has been plaguing you for the last 3 weeks, now is the time to really let it heal. Continue to ice during this time, even if you think you don’t need it. Be good to yourself.
Your mileage will still be higher than it would be during your “off season”, so you won’t go crazy (crazy happens during the taper, don’t worry). So just focus on what you need to do, stick to your plan, and relax.
Remember, if you miss a run or two during your marathon training, it’s not going to make or break you. You could take several days off, and you won’t lose the training base that you have already built up. Relax, and enjoy the ride. In the next few weeks, you’ll be hitting that 20 miler, so ease off for now.
Run Happy. Run Long.
#amysrunningtruths : It’s just miles.
Sunday, August 27th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
This has become my new mantra lately. You see, not long ago, I decided to take on crazy head first, no holds barred. My husband put me up to it, I swear.
Take a little trip with me down memory lane, if you would, and see if you can relate.
Running has always been a favorite hobby of mine. Along with swimming, it’s what I’ve done since I can remember. I started swimming when I was 6, and I started running shortly after that.
Running to me was just for fun (well, it still is, but it was different then). I ran because it felt good, because it was good conditioning, and it was different from swimming. Swimming was a bit stressful for me, honestly. It was year round and it felt like work sometimes.
Still, when I ran, it was a couple of miles at most. As I got older, 5k’s were my thing. I thought running for more than 30 minutes was just plain crazy; I mean, who does that? Oh, if only I’d known…
When I was 14, my dad talked me into running the Peachtree 10k in Atlanta. WHOA. What? That’s like, more than 3 miles! I was pretty stubborn with training, and I only attempted 6 miles one time before the race. Still, I finished it, I survived, and that was that.
Years later, in my late 20’s, my roommate and I decided to run home from work one day. Just for “fun”. We took a bus to work, and ran home that evening. My first 10 mile run.
I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t. Looking back, it was all mental. I had never even attempted a double digit run; what was I thinking? It was pure craziness in my book. Still, it happened, and that was that.
Needless to say, I didn’t do a 10 miler again for a good long while. I didn’t want to.
Then, I met my husband. At the time, when we started dating, I was more into triathlon than anything else. He, on the other hand, was not. He would run occasionally, but he was into other things like martial arts.
We found a common ground with running, and began to do that together on a regular basis. Sidenote: I did, however, manage to bring him over to the “dark side” and got him to do triathlons with me…but that’s another story.
After we got married, he started getting a little more serious about running. He traded in the occasional 5k or 4 miler for ½ marathons. He talked me into it, eventually, and I jumped on the bandwagon.
I started training for my first ½ marathon. Wait….I looked at the training plan and there it was….a 10 mile run. Hmmmm. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I had a few weeks before I needed to cross that bridge. I quickly put it on the back burner, and started plugging away with my mileage.
I got through the training, and the ½ marathon, in one piece. Before I knew it, I was signing up for another 13.1. Then another, and you get the picture.
Next thing you know, my husband was starting to do 26.2. I knew what was coming in my future….and it did eventually happen. As crazy as I thought he was for doing marathons, he talked me into doing one. My first thought? “What will my parents say?” My second thought? “How far are the long runs?”
I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. But, I soon realized that those days of quick little 20-30 minute runs were gone. And something else happened; I began thinking that my body NEEDED those long runs. Something changed. But, I’ll be honest, part of me was still thinking “one and done” with marathon. (How many of you just nodded in agreement; I think we’ve all been there).
When training was over, I felt robbed. I would go out and run 3-4 miles, and it wasn’t enough. If I didn’t get in more than 8 miles or so on the weekend, I felt unfulfilled.
Next thing I knew, I was searching for more marathons to do. And then, I signed up for a ½ Ironman. Then it got really crazy.
Our conversations would go like this:
Dan: “What are planning for this weekend?”
Me: “Well, I need to bike 40-45 miles and I need a long run. Maybe 12-15, I’m not sure how I’ll feel.”
Dan: “You think you’re up for that?”
Me: “Well, it’s just miles.”
And that’s exactly how it feels. They’re all just miles. I don’t mean it in a trivial way, though. I mean, maybe I can’t quite grasp the fact that going for a run after a 50+ mile bike ride is not only acceptable, but it’s also normal. Maybe I have to think of it that way so I don’t go crazy. I’m not sure.
But, it’s easier to get out the door when I remember that it’s just miles. And I love every single one of those miles. It helps to keep it all in perspective.
They are miles. They are stepping stones toward your goal. They add up to create the best version of “you”. They help you reach your potential. Every single one of them.
It’s impossible to be afraid of failure, when “they’re just miles.”
Run Happy. Run Long.
#amysrunningtruths : Miles are going up; how do you deal with stubborn pain?
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Party time is over, and the mileage is going up. We’re getting into the thick of
marathon training, and it isn’t for sissies. This is the point during training where
those stubborn little aches and pains that have been on the back burner are now
starting to cause you to stop and think; should I still be running with this?
As a runner and a therapist, I know that the minute someone tells you that you can’t
run, that is the ONLY thing you want to do. I’ve been on both sides of that, and
neither side is a good one to be on.
So, how do you know what to do? First and foremost, don’t ignore any pain. Your
body is trying to tell you something, so make sure you’re listening. If you are having
pain, there is a reason for it, and you need to find out what that reason is.
Secondly, the quicker you can start problem solving and treating your pain, the
better off you will be. If you start addressing your pain the first day or two that you
notice it, you can be back to your old self fairly quickly and maybe only miss a day or
two of running. When you look at the big picture, a day or two is not going to
If, on the other hand, you try to continue to train, you may wind up missing weeks,
or even months, of training. The longer you run on an injury, the worse it gets. By
the time you start taking the pain seriously, you may have done some real damage
that could take much longer to heal. All you will be is disappointed.
When do you NEED to stop running? When you are limping. That is when your
body mechanics are changing and you are compensating because of pain. If it’s
serious enough to make you limp, you shouldn’t run.
That being said, what can you do for your pain? Here’s what I tell patients: find out
exactly where the pain is, then rest, elevate, and ice the area. When in doubt, ice it
out. Take a day or two off from running, and either rest completely, or do some
other activity like biking or swimming that doesn’t increase your pain. My favorite
If it hurts, don’t do it. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re fine.
Self massage goes a long way, too.
Some aches and pains, if you ice and rest right away, will resolve. All it takes is a
little TLC, and you’re back at it in a couple of days. Other, more serious issues may
not resolve. If you rest and ice but the pain does not change, or if the pain is
increasing in intensity and you have bruising, discoloration, and swelling, you need
to get checked out. Don’t worry about going in to see the doctor if your injury winds
up being something minor; it’s always better to be conservative with your pain.
Having the peace of mind is worth it, and you will feel better about running with a
minor injury when you have been assured you’re not damaging anything.
So, here are the things to look out for: increased swelling, the injury feels warm/hot,
bruising or discoloration, sharp pain when you bear weight, or pain even when
you’re at rest.
#amysrunningtruths : Product review – Oofos: The Recovery Sandal From Heaven
Sunday, August 13th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Oofos. What the heck are these? That’s what I asked myself the first time I had an
advertisement and coupon in my race packet. They looked interesting, but why pay
so much for a sandal? There must be more to it….
I had heard something about a “recovery” sandal in the running group I’m in, and I
remembered hearing some good things. I’ve had my share of foot pain, joint
problems, arch issues….you name it. So, I wondered if it was worth checking out.
Out of curiosity, I went online to check out what the buzz was all about. These
sandals are touted as good, supportive foot wear that help you recover faster from
long runs and from being on your feet for long periods of time. They looked
comfortable, but then I saw the price tag. Ouch! That makes my feet hurt just
looking at it. No thanks, said I, and I forgot about it for a while.
I continued to just wear some slip on shoes around the house after long runs, like I
always had, thinking that was just a good.
Enter marathon training. Now, it wasn’t my first marathon, mind you. And
marathon training stinks, in general. However, I had just suffered through some
severe issues with my Achilles, which had drastically changed my race calendar the
previous year. Plus, it was my first spring marathon. Spring marathon training is
different….very different. There wasn’t as much outdoor running, due to the
weather not cooperating…or the kids…but that’s another story.
Treadmill training was killing my feet. I also think I needed new shoes at the time,
but I was waiting for my old tried and true brand to go on sale. Unfortunately, they
didn’t, and I kept waiting. Result? More foot pain.
So, maybe I’ll give these Oofos a try, I thought. To my surprise, the planets aligned
and they had a sale going on! A sale! Yippee! Sign me up!
I ordered an older version (the original, according to the description) and it wasn’t
the color I would’ve chosen (lime green), but, hey, I was getting a really good deal. I
even splurged and got my hubby a pair.
I was so excited to see if these were the miracle I had been waiting for. Every day, I
waited for the UPS van to head down our street. I felt like a little kid waiting for the
music from the ice cream truck to alert me that he was heading down my street.
As luck would have it, I had just competed in a very tough race under very tough
conditions….and what magically appeared on my doorstep? You guessed it. Angels
were singing in my head as I carefully, reverently, brought the box inside.
Yes. There they were. Would they live up to their reputation? I hoped I wouldn’t be
disappointed, especially since I had worked my feet up into a serious tizzy that felt
like I was walking on hot coals. Literally.
I crossed my fingers, and slipped them on my tired, sore dogs. AAAAHHHHH. I had
to look down to see if I was still touching the ground. Yep. My feet were firmly
planted in the Oofos which were still in contact with the ground. WOW.
Arch support: check. Heel support: check (not too much, but not too little). Relief:
check. I walked a few tentative steps. No pain. Even my Achilles felt better.
Worth every penny.
My legs felt fresher for the rest of the day, and I didn’t have my usual arch and
Achilles pain, which was a huge relief. I continued to wear them around the house
the rest of the day and even had less soreness the next morning, much to my
surprise. I’m not much for fancy-smancy stuff, but these Oofos lived up to the hype
in my book.
One side note: if you DO take them off….hide them. I found my kids wearing them!
#amysrunningtruths : Dog Days : Hello August!
Sunday, August 6th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
You’ve made it this far. You’ve been putting in those miles, and checking runs off of
your training calendar. Enter August (cue sinister music).
Here comes the heat and humidity. Again, we are in Ohio. This summer, we’ve had
some cool weather, and we’ve had some humid weather. Some days have been
drier than the desert, and some days you could make a raft and float down your
neighborhood street. You never really know what’s going to happen in August, but
it’s best to be prepared for anything. In Ohio, we can easily start in the 60’s, and
wind up in the 80’s and 90’s by afternoon. Then, there’s the humidity….
If you want to keep logging your miles, stop and consider how you will deal with the
heat. For some of you seasoned runners out there, these tips might be a review for
you. However, it’s good to be reminded of mistakes NOT to make, so consider this is
refresher (no pun intended).
Solution number one? Well, if you want to avoid the heat all together, get up before
sunrise and get your run done. At the very least, you will avoid the sun; but not
always the humidity. Unfortunately for some of us, first thing in the morning just
Maybe you have little people that need you first thing in the morning. Or, maybe
you have to drop said little people off at certain times in certain places. Maybe your
spouse works really early in the morning, so you can’t get out first thing.
Sometimes, it’s your work schedule that will only permit a lunch time run, or an
So, the best thing to do is prepare (I feel like I say that every week….). Take a look at
the forecast the day before, and see what you are going to be dealing with. If you
can adjust your schedule at all, try to plan a run that will be as pleasant as possible,
with weather that will allow you to get all (or most) of your miles in.
If you have to head out in the heat, try to pick a route where you’ll have some shade.
You may have a bit of a trade off. For example, if I really want shade, I may have to
go to Highbanks, which means there will be hills. In my mind, I can handle the hills
more than the sun, so that’s fine with me.
Wet down your hat, shirt, or both before you go out with cold water. Then,
whenever you pass a water fountain, do it again. It’s amazing how good this will
make you feel. There are also cooling towels you can take with you, or maybe a cold
washcloth. You get the idea; be creative. At Ironman Ohio, they had sponges
soaking in ice water. These were pure HEAVEN during the run (especially when we
all thought our shoes were literally melting into the pavement).
Above all, safety first! Remember that your heart rate WILL be affected by the heat;
it will get higher sooner, and may remain elevated throughout your run. Keep track
of your heart rate throughout the run to make sure you’re staying in your normal
range. If you don’t wear a monitor, stop and take your pulse every now and again to
see where you’re at. You can also use “perceived exertion” or the talk test. If you
can’t carry on a conversation because you are so winded, your exertion might be too
high and you may need to slow it down a little. Your pace will be slower in the heat,
and it should be.
Take fluids and salty snacks with you; you will need them. Water might not be
enough if you’re going to be out there for a while (over 45-60+ minutes). There are
lots of options for salt when you’re running: nuun, salt tablets, Gu with extra
electrolytes, salty pretzels….the list goes on. Find something you can tolerate.
(Looks like you could cut through the air with a knife…..)
If you’re out there for a while, it’s best to take fluids and fuel more frequently but in
smaller doses. Sometimes, on a hot and long run, it can take me a mile or two to get
a whole Gu in. I’m fine with that, because I know it’s more likely to stay put if I take
it in slowly. If I try to do too much too fast, the party is over and so is the run.
Also, remember that you need to focus on fluids so that your stomach can handle
other fuels. If you are dehydrated, your stomach will begin to reject anything you
try to eat.
Recap: prepare, plan, and pace yourself. Remember to put safety first. Adjust your
mileage and pace as needed, and you will have a much better run!
#amysrunningtruths : Distance Running Necessities
Sunday, July 30, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
So, you’ve decided you are committing to becoming a distance runner. (YAY!) Now
what? For some, it’s a hobby. For others, it’s a way of life. Running carries over into
life in so many different ways.
Running gives you perspective. It takes you away from the world for a little while;
just long enough to let you breathe. For many runners, getting in a good run can
help them solve problems and work through life’s stresses. All of those big
problems seem little after a good, long run.
For me, running keeps me sane. With four little people at home, a career, and a
husband that works crazy hours, running keeps me grounded. It reminds me of who
I am. When I run, I feel most like “me”. Stripped down to bare essentials.
A good, long run aligns my planets.
So, what do you need for your journey, besides time and commitment? Well, I am
going to offer some basic suggestions. My goal is always to run comfortably and
injury free, so that’s where I’m coming from. I’m also a bit of a penny pincher, so
keep that in mind.
Necessity number one: Shoes. A good pair of shoes is so important;
I can’t stress itenough. Get your feet looked at and find a shoe that you can afford.
Most running stores are happy to help you out with this, and it’s worth it. Find your new
recreational vehicles so you can hit the road with a smile on your face.
Necessity number two: Clothes. Running shorts, sports bras, socks, and
wicking shirts are easy to find on clearance, if you know where to look. I hate to pay full
price for anything, so I tend to watch for sales and shop around online, too. If your
shorts are causing you pain and torture (chaffing), either use body glide or get a
different brand. I tend to find a pair I like and then buy several back up pairs so I
have them handy.
A note on wicking shirts: they smell after a while. You can try getting the sport wash
liquid at your local running store, you can soak your running gear before washing it,
you can cast magical spells over your clothes, but they will still smell. Just
remember that all clothes have a life span. Accept it, and move on. At some point,
you will have to toss those old shirts out because smelling like road kill is not
Necessity number three: Skin care. The most obvious thing here is an anti-chafe
stick. Body glide of some sort will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to re-apply this
during a long run or race, if you feel you need to. It’s worth it; trust me on this. I
have let out screams that can be heard for miles after races when the first spray of
shower water hits me in all of the wrong places; save yourself the anguish!
Don’t forget to take care of your feet as well. Get a good moisturizer; you’re
probably going to need it. Examine the skin on your heels, the balls of your feet, and
between your toes. Feet get sweaty, so watch for athlete’s foot and have some
antifungal cream handy if you need it. Watch for blisters and make sure you have
well-fitting shoes. Keep your toenails trimmed, and make sure you have enough
room in your toe box to avoid losing your nails or causing other problems.
Necessity number four: Fuel. Find something you like and that your gut likes, too.
Some people like to use Gu, shot blocks, gummy bears and the like. Others like to go
with “real” food and opt for pretzels, fruit, or homemade goodies. For ultra runners,
some prefer sandwiches, pancakes, or burritos. You have to go with what you can
digest and what will give you the fuel you need. Unfortunately, this takes a little
experimenting/trial and error; there will be experiences along the way that you will
NOT want to share with anyone….nuff said.
Key point: train with what you will eat during a race. Once you find that magical
fuel, don’t change it if it’s working for you. Bring your own food with you on race
day if you need to. The motto is “nothing new on race day.”
Necessity number five: Water/fuel containers. Hand held water bottles
are great, asare fuel belts. It really depends on what annoys you the least. Figure out what
you prefer, and go with it. Both will have a little zippered pocket so that you can put
keys or Gu’s inside (or a phone, if you must).
For injury prevention: Aches and pains will arise from time to time. A good foam
roller is worth its weight in gold. If you’re not one for the roller, you can use “the
stick” or another massage tool. Roll out those IT bands, quads, hammies, and glutes
to help keep things limber and to help you sit and sleep more comfortably. I have a
love/hate relationship with my roller: I hate being on it and I love how I feel when I
get off of it.
Compression socks are AWESOME to have handy. After a long run, a shower, and
some foam rolling, I slap these babies on, elevate my legs, and let my legs float away
to la-la land. Heaven on earth, my friends. Try it, and you’ll see.
Everything else it just gravy. If you’re a techie, you can find GPS watches that are
older models or refurbished (that’s the only way I will buy a watch). If you want to
use your phone, you can download an app that will track your miles for you. Some
good ones are Runkeeper, Strava, Map my run….you get the picture.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a bike path (I am), you don’t have to take
anything with you. You can find a route that has water fountains and restrooms and
you can loop around to your car, or house, to grab a Gu or snack, and then head back
out. Personally, I like to keep it simple.
Bottom line: don’t invest in too much “stuff” right off the bat; or at the very least, try
to find it cheap. Running is best when done simply. Shoes: check. Shorts and shirt:
check. Water/fuel: check. Now, get to work!
Run Happy. Run Long.
If you have questions or have a blog idea/topic for Amy, please feel free to post in
the comments on Facebook!
#amysrunningtruths : Don't Be a (Weather) Wimp!
Sunday, July 23, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
News flash, folks: we live in Ohio.
We have crummy weather that you can’t count on. The weather man doesn’t even know what’s up half of the time, it changes so fast around here.
We don’t live in San Diego; we don’t have 80 degree weather with a slight breeze every day.
So, how do you train? I used to be a weather wimp (ask my husband). It took me a
long time to get over it and come to grips with our weather around here. (Well, I am
actually still working on this.) I’ve lived in Ohio for almost 3 decades; it’s time to
give up the ghost.
It used to be that my runs were quick little 2-3 milers. I would look outside the
window, and if I didn’t like what I saw, I’d just wait it out. Enter longer, more
intense races and training programs.
Suddenly, I didn’t have TIME to wait for the weather to change. If the run was going
to happen, it had to happen now. My husband would tease me about not wanting to
run when it was raining. “Aren’t you a swimmer?” he’d say. Yes, but sometimes you
don’t want to be wet…..I can’t explain it.
Or how about when you crawl out of bed in the dead of winter, it’s pitch dark
outside, and the temperature is 0. Literally. ZERO. Well, as I have come to learn,
you have to suck it up, buttercup.
Now, I’ve been told by quite a few people that running in the rain, snow, sleet, or
extreme temperatures is just plain crazy. Sometimes it is, don’t get me wrong. BUT,
when you have to race in Ohio, you had better learn to deal with Mother Nature.
Case and point: when you show up for your races, is it always perfect? Nope. So,
you’d better prepare yourself. You can’t train inside with perfect temps and
humidity and then head out in to extreme temps and expect to have a good race.
Let’s get real here, people. Think back to your last COLD run. Pretty vivid memory?
Mine is. Zero degrees and dark for the first half of my long run. What was a must for
that run? Well, I knew I needed fluids, something to protect my face and hands, fuel,
and not too much/not too little clothing. And how did I do? Well, not too bad.
However, my water froze. That was crummy. Plus, what I used on my face was
trapping too much moisture, which really backfired and made me colder and more
Lesson learned, and now I have a better plan. This will carry over to my winter
races, now that I’ve been there, done that.
Ok, now think about a time when you started your long run, and the weather began
to change. Soon, the temp was skyrocketing up and you weren’t prepared. This
happened to a lot of folks last year at the Columbus Marathon. I was at the finish
line watching people collapse on their way in. Pretty bad stuff, if you ask me.
How would you deal with the heat if you had never experienced it? Do you think
you would make the best decision(s)? Maybe, maybe not. Wouldn’t you rather
experience the heat during training instead of race day for the first time? Wouldn’t
you rather be prepared?
For heat, humidity, and cold extremes, think, plan, and train smart. Be prepared
when it comes to fuel, clothing, and your goals for your run. Remember, if the
temperature is extreme, your pace needs to change or you won’t be able to get it
done. Be safe, no matter what.
You have to TRAIN in the weather to RACE in the weather. So, don’t be a weather
wimp. Get out there in the thick of it, and learn.
#amysrunningtruths : Running Natural
Monday, July 17, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
I am borrowing this title from Treadmill TV regarding a post of one of their new
videos. I thought it spoke volumes, at least to me.
So, what does “running natural” mean (to me)? Lots of things, really. For starters, I
think of nutrition. What am I putting into my gas tank?
In my younger years, when I ran 5k’s sporadically and was doing sprint triathlons, I
wasn’t really concerned with nutrition, to be honest. I would drink the Gatorade
they provided on race day and eat pasta the night before, and that was that.
As my training and racing distances changed, my thinking changed. I became more
concerned about what I was putting into my body (ie sugar, additives, etc) and
started to look for other alternatives. I wanted to feel good while I was training and
racing, and I also wanted to feel better afterwards.
Enter coconut water, beet juice, homemade power balls, and the like. I also began to
shed regular pasta from my menu in favor of quinoa, brown rice, chia seeds, steal
cut oatmeal, and pasta made from legumes.
All natural and all YUMMY
I did feel better with better fuel, and I have stuck with it.
What else does “natural” mean? Well, another thought that struck me when I read
the title was trail running vs. road running. Yes, I was a road runner for a long, long
time. Don’t get me wrong, I would hit the bike path or trail every now and again
when my schedule permitted, but mostly I was on blacktop somewhere pounding
But, something happens when you substitute rocks and dirt for pavement.
Something, well, magical. I can’t really put my finger on it, even though I have tried
to label it for years now. I just feel ALIVE when running on trails. And the feeling
My closest description to that feeling? An open heart.
Another phenomenon that comes to mind is much more powerful, I think. Losing
the watch. Yup, I said it. In today’s digital age, we are constantly connected,
constantly analyzing and measuring. It’s too much noise for me sometimes. I leave
the watch behind, and I run for the shear joy of it; for freedom. It’s quite liberating,
really. Does it really matter what my pace is, how far I go, or what my pulse is if I’m
not enjoying myself?
I’d rather be connected to the dirt than to my watch.
Take away from this? Well, try “running natural”, in whatever definition you take
that to be. Free yourself, lose yourself, and enjoy yourself. Give your body and mind
what it needs, and you will be rewarded.
#amysrunningtruths : Laying Down a Base. Why do we need cross training? (Hint: Injury prevention MUST start NOW)
Monday, July 9, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Cross training? Say what? Why do training plans, especially the ½ marathon and
full marathon, have “cross training” in them? And what exactly does it mean?
Cross training, by definition, is any activity that is different from what you typically
do (running) that helps you increase your fitness while hopefully helping you to
avoid injury and overtraining. There are many flavors. For example: walking,
biking, rowing, swimming, resistance training, running in the water, and the list goes
I always consider my cross training and overall fitness before I plan my training
calendar. What were the injuries or issues I had last season? Did I fully recover?
Are symptoms still lingering?
Prevention is key. So, look at your last few months of training and ask yourself,
honestly, if there is something that you need to work on. Are your ankles weak? Do
you need to work on your core? Do you have nagging hip or knee pain? Maybe some
resistance training right at the start of your season, or even before you begin
training, will help you prepare to run injury-free this year.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym, either. With a good, focused
strengthening program, you can workout for just 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a week
and reap HUGE benefits with your running. Trust me, it works.
Cross training can help you increase your fitness, true. But, cross training can also
help you recover better. Perfect example; you do your long run on Saturday or
Sunday, say 16-18 miles. If you’re like most runners, the next day you feel stiff and
sore, and find that you feel even worse if you lay around all day. Enter cross
Yes, most of us hobble around like we’re 80 years old with a bad case of arthritis
after doing a nice “little” 18 mile jaunt. Sometimes, that’s just how it is. But, if we
set up camp on the couch afterward, it only makes things worse. Our joints lock up,
the stiffness sets in, and we look like the Tinman.
However, if we can keep things moving, albeit
slowly, we fare much better. Hop on the bike!
Then, there’s the next morning. That moment when
you wake up and wonder what will happen when
you swing your legs over the side of the bed and
get ready to take your first steps. On the way to
the bathroom, you start assessing the “damage”.
How bad do you feel? Are the stairs going to feel
like Mt. Everest today?
This is the perfect time to consider walking,
swimming, or biking nice and easy. It really does
improve your recovery time. The key word, though,
is EASY. Low intensity.
Another thing to consider when looking into cross training is what you enjoy. Pick
something you actually LIKE to do. If you hate riding a bike, then don’t put it on
your schedule. I know, common sense, right? You’re already hurting, and it would
be nice to have something you enjoy to look forward to.
Go for a swim!
So, let’s say your marathon program has you running 4 days a week, and your knees
are not particularly enjoying it. You could consider swapping out one of your short
runs with something else. This will save your joints a little pain and suffering, while
increasing your overall fitness level.
Many runners can successfully run 3 days a week while training for a marathon.
When you throw in a day of cross training, you increase your longevity in the sport
of running. It helps you avoid injury and burnout.
Real world example, your running week looks like this:
Monday cross train 45 minutes
Tuesday 5 mile run
Wednesday 10 mile run
Thursday 5 mile run
Saturday 20 mile run
You look at this week, and you already have a nagging injury that you don’t want to
make worse. You need to keep your 10 and 20 milers in there, so maybe you choose
to swap out one of the 5 mile runs for a bike ride or swim instead. Perfect! Still
active, still increasing your fitness, yet avoiding overuse!
Another good example is when you are in the thick of your training schedule for a
long event, ie: a marathon. Just knowing that you have yet another run to complete
the next morning can give you cause to think about skipping your training day all
together. OR, you could swap out something else you enjoy, still get in a good
workout, and feel refreshed because you did something different. It’s like finding a
new running route; NEW is GOOD.
Lastly, it’s good to have a backup plan if you do get sidelined with an injury. When
your doctor tells you “no running for the next 2 weeks”, cross training will keep you
from going bonkers sitting on the couch and staring at your calendar.
Cross training is all good. Mix it up, buttercup.
Run Happy, Run Long.
#amysrunningtruths : What Would You Do if You Knew You Would Not Fail?
Monday, July 5, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
What would you do if you knew you would not fail? A marathon? YES YOU CAN!
When I joined a running group, I entered a whole new dimension in running. I had
run on my own for so long, I think I forgot what it was like to run with like-minded
Starting out as a kid, I ran with my dad. Just the two of us. It was our special time
together, and we would talk about everything. Fast forward to high school and
college, when my schedule got busy, and I found myself running alone. I guess I got
used to it.
Fast forward again, this time a couple of decades. After I became a mom, my world
contracted into itself and I lost contact with many of my friends. We had kids, we
had jobs, we got busy. Running alone was often the only option I had, since it was
usually on the spur of the moment. Time was spent worrying about everyone else
instead of me. Sound familiar? Motherhood; we often forget to take of ourselves
and we put our hopes and dreams from young adulthood on the back burner.
As the kids got a little older and started preschool and grade school, my world began
to expand again, and I met other mom-runners. I got invited to run with MRTT and
experienced my first group run. WOW. Total game-changer for me. I got
introduced to so many moms that had so many dreams! It was, and still is, fantastic.
For those of who are reading this and wondering with MRTT is, it stands for Moms
Run This Town. There is also SRTT (same idea, but She Runs This Town, for all of
our female running buddies that don’t have kids). Basically, it’s a group of moms
that support each other and our love for running. You may have seen the magnets
around town on various minivans and SUV’s.
As I got to know more moms, I realized how much we all had in common. We would
meet and instantly have a connection with one another.
There were veteran runners, for sure, but there were also new runners that were
just beginning their journey. A lot of the newer runners really awakened my
perspectives on running and being part of a community. A hot topic with a lot of
these moms is what they want to try next.
Hence, the topic of this blog. I was getting motivated by these women and by the
discussions that were happening in the group. I started to ask myself, “ What do I
want to try next”? What would I do if I knew I wouldn’t fail? I hadn’t had this
mindset for so many years, it took a while to sink in and take root.
Have YOU ever sat down and asked yourself this question? I mean REALLY thought
about it? Not just from a running perspective, but with life itself? Warning: it
causes a major transformation!
Some of the moms I’ve met are just beginning and have their eyes on running their
first 5k. Some moms are looking for a little motivation to try a longer race, or maybe
their first marathon. Others are just out there running for the companionship and
don’t necessarily want to race. Someone just whispering in their ear “you can do it”
is all it takes. Some moms want to try trail running for the first time, which usually
starts a new love affair with getting lost on the trails.
I have heard some moms talking about branching out into duathlon, triathlon,
ultramarathons, and mud runs. It’s fantastic what you can attempt when you take
the perspective that failure just is NOT an option. Failure simply doesn’t exist.
Period. And then to have a whole cheerleading squad in your corner telling you
“Yes, you can!“
So, stop what you’re doing and sit down with a pencil and paper. Write it down.
What WOULD you do if you knew you could not fail? It doesn’t have to be right
now, what about in the next 6 months or year? It might sound a little outlandish, a
little crazy, but so what!
What’s holding you back? Is it something you can change? Or is it just an excuse?
Think of all of the possibilities out there for you! Open up your mind and dream big.
SO…..What is your goal? What did you come up with?
Then get out there and do it!!!!
#amysrunningtruths : I've Never Run a Single Mile... Could I Do a Maratahon, or am I Just Plain Crazy?
Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 by Amy San Fillippo
Crazy? Well, yeah, maybe. But you’re in good company, because most runners are a little bit crazy. We like it that way. Adds a little spice to your life. And, trust me, plenty of friends and family members will be happy to tell you that you ARE crazy when you spill the beans and tell them with a straight face that you are training for a marathon. So, just get used to it; embrace it, even. Repeat after me: “Crazy is good.”
So, how does one go about this major transition/transformation? In one word: PLANNING. Planning is the key. Remember the old saying “Failure to plan is like planning to fail?” There’s a lot of truth behind it.
Step one: get your head in the right place. Ask yourself if you are ready to commit anywhere from 16-20 weeks of your free time toward this awesome goal. If you are, then move on to the next step. Yes, it will be time consuming, but it will also be very worth it.
If you’re going to train for a marathon, it’s best to come to terms with the fact that there will be pain involved. There will be days where you are sore, cranky, tight, tired, and doubting your decision. Just know that those days will happen, accept it, and move on.
There will also be days where you feel invincible, unstoppable, and just plain bada$$. Those days rock. There will be days where your runs are like floating on air, and days where you feel like you’re running with brick shoes. Here in crazy-land, that’s what we call “normal.”
A coach once told me that on your hardest days of training, you will make your biggest gains; so don’t give up and don’t give in. I have remembered that saying and it bubbles up to the surface on the days I can’t seem to get myself to take the first step of my run. Take the goods and the bads with a grain of salt, remain humble, and remember to stay focused on your long term goal: to finish 26.2 miles.
So, how do you overcome the mental challenge itself? What do you do on those days where you just can’t seem to talk yourself into your scheduled run?
Well, it’s been said that running a marathon is more mental than physical, and I believe there is some truth to that. On those tough days, what has worked for me (and a few of my running buddies) in the past has been to play “Let’s Make a Deal “ with yourself. I commit to 1 mile. That’s it, 1 mile. I will run one, and if I still feel like my head’s not in it, I can stop.
Funny thing is, after all of these years, I cannot remember one time that I have stopped. Ever. Bottom line; just get out there and get started. Once you start, your body will remember how much it loves to move, and everything else will take care of itself.
Ok, mental stuff aside, let’s talk about the physical part of it. Once again, planning is key.
Step 2: Schedule. I am a firm believer in planning out as much of your program as you can. What race do you have your eye on? What is the date? Do you have enough time to properly prepare? What days of the week will do your training runs? What day will be your long run?
There are lots of options. Some people like to run almost every day. Others prefer to run every other day or 3 times a week. You have to do what you, and only you, are comfortable with. If your body is telling you that running 2 days back to back hurts, there’s a reason. Don’t do it. There will be some trial and error here, especially if you’ve never trained for anything before. Find your happy place, and stay there as much as you can.
Actually scheduling your runs on your calendar really helps, too. Treat it like a dentist appointment. Set a reminder and stick to it. If you’re a morning person, do it first thing if you can. Then you won’t spend all day asking yourself “will I, or won’t I”. Just get it done. If you like to unwind after work with a run, do it then and shed all of the stress and pressures of the day so you can sleep with an open heart and relaxed mind. On your busiest days, maybe it’s best not to schedule a run….frustration avoided.
You should also consider what time of day the race will be. If it’s first thing in the morning (most are), train your body to like to run in the morning. If it’s at night….well, you get my point. Also consider environmental conditions. We will talk more about this as the weeks go on, but if you’re running somewhere where it may be extremely hot or cold, you will need to try to recreate those conditions as well.
Side note: if you’re a mom, have a Plan B and Plan C for your schedule. Trust me on this.
Step 3: Now, the meat of it all; finding a training plan. Oh, they are out there. All over the place. You can google it and come up with many options. Some are free, others aren’t. I suggest asking a friend what plan they used and if they liked it. Word of mouth is a good place to start. You do not have to stick with a plan 100%, you can miss a couple of runs here and there. But what you’re really looking for is a plan that will take your mileage up gradually, while also working in recovery weeks. Typically, you go up in mileage for 2 or 3 weeks, then you have a nice little recovery week with lower mileage before you ramp up again.
Side note: DO NOT skip over the recovery week. This is a terrible mistake. The tendency of some runners is to keep increasing their mileage; the thinking being that more is better. As a physical therapist, I will tell you that is NOT true. Work and rest are not opposites; they are synergists. One plays off of the other. You build up your miles, then you give your body time to adapt during recovery. If you never take the time to let your body catch up, it will not recover and grow stronger. Instead, you just waste all of that good training and wind up with a nagging injury that might take you out of the game for weeks.
Here are a couple of suggestions to start you on your quest for a plan (these are frequently used and many runners attest to their reliability for getting you to the finish line) : Hal Higdon or Jeff Galloway. The nice thing is, they also offer a little variety in their plans. You can pick novice, intermediate, or personal best plans.
Step 4: Ok, you’ve picked a goal race. You’ve picked a plan that works for you. You have your calendar laid out. Great. Now, what if you’ve never raced before?
I don’t recommend just showing up on race day for the marathon without doing at least one race prior. I think it’s a good idea to get a couple of races under your belt first. I like to suggest “graduating” races where you start with a 2 miler or 5K, and work yourself up to a 10K. It’s good to have actual race experience, because race day is so different from training. You’re not running alone on the trails or roads, you will be elbow to elbow with a lot of strangers. We will cover race conditions as we get closer to the race, but it’s good to plan a couple of smaller races while you have your calendar out in front of you.
Running a few races ahead of time also helps you with other issues that you might not consider: fueling, what to wear, what to eat the day before and that morning, and how sore you are after a race effort.
NOTE: It’s not necessary to run a ½ marathon before you run a full, however you will need to get in some good, long runs to prepare. It’s also not necessary or recommended to run 26 miles during training. Your body won’t have time to recover before your actual race. Most programs will take you to 20 miles and leave it at that. Twenty is fine; you’re going to have to trust me on this one. Your 20 miles will happen a few weeks before the actual race; then, your body will have time to recover and rebuild from it. So, trust the plan and don’t try to move that 20 miler around on your calendar.
Like I stated above, most plans will take you up in mileage for 2-3 weeks, and then you will have a recovery week. Believe me, this works. Recovery is the MOST important thing during marathon training. If you have to miss a run, knock one of the shorter ones off of your schedule. Keep the middle and long distance runs on, since these are key.
As we go through the next 16 weeks preparing for long distance racing, we will continue to cover topics that will help you along the way. Stick with me; let’s get this done together. Run happy.