Run Long Run Strong Endurance Coaching, LLC

Matt B.

07 Sep

Run Long ~ Run Strong: How old are you?
Matt B: 43

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
MB: Married to fellow RLRS athlete – Barbara Balossi. We have three boys ages 22,15,12. We live in SoCal and I am the Assistant Head of School for Sage Hill School – a private, independent high school in Newport Beach.

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
MB: I played soccer in high school and college but used to hate running until my soccer days started to wind down and I found it the best way to stay in shape. When I was younger, I ran a bunch, mostly on the road. Several Half Marathons, two full marathons. A couple 20k trail races. I never “raced”, just used them as training goals. I took a long break from running though due to a series of back and knee injuries and am now psyched to be back and feeling good!

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
MB: I love training on trails – being outside, in nature, on a trail – the more remote the better. Clears my head and soul. I love to push myself physically, too. My work is very interpersonal and often ‘heady’. On the trail I rejuvenate and recharge mentally and emotionally. 

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
MB: I enjoy hanging with family, cooking, mountain biking, camping, backpacking, fishing. I also love to watch a good sporting competition (Avid Liverpool and StL Cardinals fan. Will enjoy watching playoff/finals of just about any sport too.)

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
MB: I don’t have a favorite, yet.

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
MB: Hmm, would like to pull off 50 and 100 milers.

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
MB: I’ve got nothing on this one, so far. 

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
MB: Probably my first full marathon.

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running?
MB: I wish I knew how much more fun it was to run trails then on the road. 

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
MB: Just relax and enjoy it! 

Matt R.

07 Sep

Run Long~Run Strong: How old are you?
Matt R: 48 

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
MR: I have a 26yo son who just returned from Australia backpacking due to the virus. I work for Allstate Insurance as a Claims Manager, I have been in Insurance for aprox 20 years. 

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
MR: I started running the first time in my early 30’s for fun anyways, I ran while in the Army but that was more because I was told too lol. I struggled with some injuries so I took some time off in my late 30’s-early 40’s. Now I’m back at it, I run because I enjoy it, (like food) and I like to see how far I can push myself. 

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
MR: Have I mentioned food yet? No it’s really more about keeping the focus on my long term goals and plans. 

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
MR: Biking and swimming? No I enjoy the theater, movies and I play computer games (yes a dork).

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
MR: This one is easy, Chuck Norris 5K for very obvious reason (hello Chuck Norris). First I have been involved in martial arts since I was 6, I grew up watching Chuck and all of his movies. So when I had the chance to do a run sponsored by him and where you get a high five (thats right a high five) from the man the myth the legend Chuck Norris I just couldn’t pass it up. It was a total blast with 5000+ runners dressed up like Chuck.

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
MR: A full Ironman, any desert stage race, but mostly Marathon des Sables and the Race the Planet 4 Desert Ultra Series.

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
MR: My first marathon I was running along and there was a guy probably 30+ years older than me running along side/passing me. There was a medic on a bike and he asked the guy how he was doing and if everything was ok (keep in mind he had a knee brace on). I was like why are asking him he just passed me so from where I’m at it looks like he is fine (we all got a good laugh at it) and him and I ran the rest of the run together. 

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
MR: This is a hard one, I don’t take any of my runs for granted, but I would have to say my firsts (first full marathon, Ultra and 1/2 Ironman. 

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running?
MR: Nipguards for long runs

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
MR: Enjoy it and don’t stress about always being quick, it’s about the fun and camaraderie. And if it’s a guy, Nipguards for the long runs. 

Running on Gratitude

04 Apr

Today was an incredibly special day.  I didn’t run in some beautiful place, nor did I set a PR or complete a bucket list event.  I ran in my own neighborhood on roads I’ve run a hundred times.  It was the same unseasonable weather we had been having for weeks.  It was your standard, run of the mill, everyday run. Yet nothing seemed the same.

These days COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind and in every conversation.  Races are cancelled, schools are closed, and grocery store shelves are empty.  People are scared.  There is uncertainty, anger and negativity all around us.  Will we stay socially isolated for weeks or even months?  How many of us will lose jobs or miss out on once in a lifetime events like graduations or weddings?  Our collective head whirls with the unknown.

It would be so easy to slip into the “why bother?” mindset and just sit on the sofa and devour bag after bag of Cadbury mini eggs.    If races are going to be cancelled anyway, what’s the point of training?  I can feel the questions bubbling up in my athletes.  I can hear the unhappiness in their voices and see the flagging of their motivation.  I will admit, I’ve had my “fuck it” moments over the past couple of weeks.

So today when I set out on my run, I decided to make a change.  A change in my attitude.  A change in my perception.  A change in how I viewed the world and the experiences that came my way.  I decided, at least for today, to stop being angry about things I couldn’t control.

The skies were blue, and the sun was shining, and for that I felt truly blessed.  How many other little traces of gratitude were waiting for me to discover them?

Instead of focusing on my footsteps, I paid attention to my breath.  How amazing it was to feel the air moving in and out of my lungs.  Lungs that until today, I had taken for granted.  I took in huge breaths of fresh air and was grateful that I have never known what it was like to struggle to breathe, and I prayed that I never would.

Here in New England, robins are a sign of Spring.  About a half mile into my run I spotted a flock of robins off to my right.  My first thought was “it’s Spring, big deal.  Going to be stuck in social isolation for who knows how long, so who cares?”  Yikes!!!  I quickly spun that around by smiling at the robins and watched them watching me, as I tried to quietly run past them so as not to disturb their search for food.

Usually when I run these roads, I’m so engrossed in my own mission that I don’t pay much attention to cars going by or people in their yard.  Today, I made it a point to wave at each person I saw.  Didn’t matter that I didn’t know them.  I pictured each of them smiling a little to themselves as this crazy runner waved to them from at least 6 feet away, and hoped their day was just a little bit brighter.

The most profound experience happened about a half mile from home.  The smell of smoke, presumably from someone’s chimney, caught the breeze and filled my nose.  Normally this smell hits my PTSD response, as I have been the victim of not one but two housefires.  This time, however, something magical happened.  When I whiffed the smoke, I was immediately transported back 45 years to when my dad had built campfires in the backyard for evening get-togethers with my best friend.  I lost my dad several years ago, so these memories are precious.  I took a moment to have a private chat with daddy, thanking him for those campfires and wishing he were still here.  I shed a few tears, took a deep breath, and finished my run.  I have no doubt that from now on, the smell of smoke will no longer evoke feelings of panic and fear, but of love and comfort.

We all feel defeated, stressed, and negative at times.  Training doesn’t always go as planned, and we might feel inadequate when we have a bad run.  Or a rogue virus may cancel our dream race and we get angry and want to scream at the circumstances.  All of this is normal and its ok!!  But dwelling on those emotions causes us to miss the beauty in life and in our sport.  I challenge you all to make your next run a run of gratitude.  Notice as much as you can about the world around you.  Smile at everyone you see.  Breathe deep.  Be thankful.  And remember that this too shall pass.

(The day after this run, I took a hard fall on a familiar trail and fractured my humerus.  Oh, the sweet irony of life.)

Betsy S.

17 Mar

Run Long ~ Run Strong: How old are you?
Betsy S: 45

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
BS: I’m married celebrating 20 years in September. No kids but 2 dogs. Hawkeye is a 12 year old black lab and Henry is a 7 month old Viszla. Hopefully he will be my new running partner! I work full time as an LIS Coordinator at a hospital. I basically sit at a computer all day building and maintaining the laboratory computer system.

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
BS: I started running in 2015 as a way to lose weight. I used the C25k program and mostly ran on the treadmill. Then in 2016 a coworker and I decided we wanted to run some 5k’s. To make sure we were committed we signed up for a series called the Thirsty 3. Been hooked ever since!

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
BS: I just feel better emotionally and physically when I’m running. Plus I’ve met some great friends in my local running community.

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
BS: I try to knit and read when I have free time.

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
BS: Too many! At the moment I would have to say anything at Mohican. I’m new to trail running and it is just beautiful and challenging to run there.

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
BS: Mo50. After that maybe a trail Ragnar.

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
BS: Nothing comes to mind yet!

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
BS: Not a race moment just something I’m proud of. At the end of 2016 I fractured the sesamoid bone in my foot. I was off of running for almost 6 months. I eased back into running the summer of 2017 and ran my first half marathon that fall. Coming back from the injury was hard and often discouraging. I’m so glad I never gave up on myself!

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running
BS: I’m not sure how to answer this one. I guess when I started running it was just some 5k’s. Then I said I wanted to run a half marathon and a marathon and that I would stop running long distances. I really didn’t enjoy running the halfs but when I ran my first full marathon something just clicked. It might take me a long time to run but running that distance just seemed so much more rewarding. I guess my take away from this would be maybe you don’t have to be fast like with a 5k but you can be a steady paced runner and conquer distances that some other runner can’t.

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
BS: Don’t compare yourself to other runners. Pace isn’t everything just get out there and keep moving.

New Year, New Journey: How to Enjoy Running Again

02 Jan

Starting a new year is always a good time for reflections on past achievements and goal setting for new ones.  Starting a new decade makes it, well, ten times better!!

I was out on my first run of 2020 and it occurred to me that a lot of athletes might be doing the same thing, at the same time, and having the same thoughts.  “Why am I so slow?  I only took a little time off and it feels like everything is SO HARD!!  Lots of my other running friends took time off and it doesn’t seem like it slowed them down at all.  Their workouts on Strava look so fast!!  What’s wrong with me?”

Nothing is wrong with you.

The problem stems from comparisons.  Comparing your workouts to your spouse’s or your friend’s workouts.  Comparing yourself to your last year’s self.  Comparing yourself to the version of yourself that you hope to be.

Capitalizing on the ten times better reference, let’s talk about ten ways that you can be a better athlete without that pesky comparison problem getting in the way.

  • Be realistic.  You are never going to be the same as you were last year, 5 years ago, ten years ago.  And you don’t know if or when you will get any better in the future.  The only thing that you CAN do is to be the best that you can be RIGHT NOW.
  • Be honest.  Do you really know how much time everyone else took off?  Do you know what other things they might have been doing in terms of cross-training, nutrition, recovery?  No two people train or recover the same way, so you shouldn’t expect to come out of the gate the same way, either.
  • Be present.  When you tackle a workout, be an active participant in each moment of it.  Don’t zone out to your tunes or worry about that 20-mile run you have planned for next weekend.  Pay attention to your breathing, your foot strike, your posture.  Take in the nutrition and hydration that you need.  Make each workout count.
  • Be in the know.  Why are you doing a workout?  Is it a recovery run?  Is it a threshold run?  Is it a VO2max workout?  Knowing WHY you are doing a workout can be as important as the workout itself.  If you don’t know why you are doing a certain workout, ask your coach.
  • Be patient.  Every run is not going to be a PR, nor should it be.  Eighty percent of your workouts should be easy, well below your threshold effort.  If you get annoyed because you aren’t getting faster each time you run, refer to #4.
  • Be happy.  Yes, smile while you run!!  If you don’t believe that smiling can make your runs more enjoyable and more effective, ask Eliud Kipchoge.
  • Be observant.  Feeling particularly fatigued after your long run?  Check back over what you did over the past few days.  Did you get enough sleep?  Did you hydrate well?  Did you fuel properly?  Or did you binge watch Criminal Minds all night while scarfing ice cream and knocking back Red Bulls?  Often the reasons we feel sluggish after (or during) a run have nothing to do with running at all.
  • Be encouraging.  Instead of getting frustrated at your friend’s pace and thinking snarky thoughts, drop them an encouraging message.  Cheerleading for someone else has a sneaky way of making YOU feel better.  Spread some joy and watch it come back to you – and it might just make your feet lighter on your next run, too!! 
  • Be a participant.  Seek out your local running club and offer to be a sweeper on their next group run.  Not only will you get your miles in, but you’ll most likely be a big help to someone else who is struggling.
  • Be kind – TO YOURSELF!!  We are our own biggest critics, no secret about that.  Make your relationship with yourself a priority and think about the things you say and think about yourself.  Would you say those things to your best friend?  

Remember, running is supposed to be fun.  You may want to get a PR, or a podium spot, or finish that 100 miler, and that’s great!!  However, running is about the journey and not the destination, and each of our journeys is different.  Stop worrying and enjoy the process.  Happy running!

Do you have a Casper the (not so friendly) Ghost?

12 Dec

You have an athlete you’ve been working with for a while now.  They’ve not always been the most consistent, but they usually get most of their workouts done.  Each week, you email or text to check in and you get a response 70% of the time.

Fast forward a few weeks, and now the athlete is barely doing workouts and your emails and texts go unanswered.  Then, soon after, even the workouts stop getting done.  You wonder what’s going on when the answer hits you.  You’ve been ghosted.

You look back over your communications with the athlete, searching for signs of what went wrong.  You scour workout histories and race results.  In the end you are still left scratching your head and wondering if you could have done something different, and not only have you lost an athlete, but your self-confidence probably took a hit, too.

The truth is, chances are that you did nothing wrong and neither did your athlete – at least from a coaching standpoint.  Oftentimes the problem begins before you even sign the athlete on.  There are a few things you can do to hopefully avoid circumstances that allow for ghosting to happen.

It starts with the initial contact.  Whatever method you use to fill your athlete pipeline, you can have multiple points at which you can use effective interviewing questions to gather information and create an athlete profile.

Have a few key intake questions attached to your contact form or scheduler that the athlete has to fill out before confirming an initial consult.  Ask things that are absolute deal-breakers for you. Questions that clearly reveal a discrepancy in philosophy or show that this may not be a good athlete/coach relationship could save you trouble down the road.  Based on the athlete’s answers, you can either do some follow-up questioning to dig a little deeper or send a respectful reply in which you explain that your roster is currently full, and you are not taking new athletes at this time.  Be sure to have a network of coaches that you can refer them to so you can end the communication on a positive note.

If an athlete answers the initial questions and you determine that the relationship might be a good fit, go ahead and book that consultation.  It is during this consult call that you will have another opportunity to ask questions.  It is important for you to understand that you are interviewing the athlete, not the other way around!  It is YOUR business, and you determine who you work with.

When interviewing an athlete be sure to ask them how much they value communication and what their preferred method of contact is.  Also ask what he or she thinks a coach does, what they expect from a coach, and what he or she thinks you will expect from them as an athlete.  Questioning like this will help you establish a good foundation with an athlete and will also point out some red flag behavior.

Finally, have a clause in your athlete/coach contract that clearly states what you consider ghosting to be in terms of communication and getting workouts done and what the consequences of those actions (or inactions) are.  Be sure to stress to the athlete to read the entire contract before signing it.  You can also add spots for the athlete to initial (next to the points of the contract that might get “skimmed”) so you can later point out to them that he or she agreed to these points if the need arises.

Ok, so you’ve done all your questioning and the athlete has signed the contract, and you determine you are going to start working together.  A few months down the road you begin to see early signs of ghosting behavior.  What can you do to mitigate the situation before you have to enforce the contract clause?

If the athlete is still communicating with you at all, you can use some motivational interviewing to see if you can figure out what is causing the ghosting behavior.  Does he or she have family issues going on that is preventing workout compliance?  Could he or she be sick, injured, or burned out?  Have the goals changed?  Does the athlete just not want to run anymore?

Use the answers as a guide to change the plan going forward, or to gently end the working relationship if that is what the athlete needs.  Try not to take anything personally – life is organic and dynamic and sometimes things happen that require the athlete to redirect his or her attention and focus less on running.

If all communication from the athlete has ceased yet they are still doing their prescribed workouts, you will have to decide whether or not to keep them on your roster.  While your job as a coach is to provide your athletes with workouts tailored to get them fit and ready for their goal races, it can be very difficult to assess progress and recovery without their input.

If communication has ceased AND the athlete is not compliant in his or her workouts, then it might be time to enforce the contract.  If you need to take this action, be sure to outline in your final email any attempts by you to contact them, note the prescribed versus missed workouts, and state your intention to terminate the contract (include the exact date and remind them of the contract clause regarding ghosting).

Every coach hopes to avoid encountering a ghost athlete, but the reality is that we will all most likely have at least one during our coaching careers.  Use these tips to refine your athlete on-boarding and remember that each athlete, from the 100% compliant to the ones that disappear, will teach us something about ourselves and our methods.  Find the positive in each relationship, and you will become a better coach and a better person.

Happy coaching!!

Ben N.

19 Nov

Run Long ~ Run Strong: How old are you?
Ben N: 46

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
BN: Daughter and 2 grandkids. Married to Laura.  She understands my mental state quite well!  I am a physician assistant and have been so for 24 years.

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
BN: I started running consistently 10 years ago after several of my patients convinced me to train for a half marathon. I have been addicted since.  

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
BN: Signing up for the next race!  Running with my dog. She is a pound rescue and she helps keep me motivated to get out there even when it is -10.

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
BN: Hunting and anything to do with the grandchildren

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
BN: Teton Ragnar Ultra relay.  That was an amazing trail race with the most awe inspiring views! I would never change up my team of 4. Second would be Glendo WY trail 30K I ran with my dog. She was the true winner of the event. She set the K-9 course record even though it was the inaugural year. Third would be Lean Horse 50K in Custer SD.

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
BN: American Heroes Ultra.  I signed up for the 100 miler for Sept 11, 2020.  I would like to do a destination marathon like the Great Wall event.

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
BN: Being chased by a cow moose was not funny at the time!

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
BN: Winning my age for the Lean Horse 50K.  Introducing my love of running to me eldest brother, he is addicted to the run. 

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running?
BN: Proper nutrition and hydration during ultra events. 

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
BN: Sometimes it is important to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the views.  Slow days are very important. Pay attention to nutrition and hydration.

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just NEVER GIVE UP” – Dean Karnazes

Lesa D.

19 Nov

Run Long ~ Run Strong: How old are you?
Lesa D: Old enough that I should know better than to get peer pressured into running races! LOL 

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
LD: I am twice married now to my soul mate. Or at least I like to think so. We have no children but a rescued Carolina Dog. Of course we guess that’s what she is because ‘someone said so.’ Her name is Mebbie after Meb!!!

I am a social worker at a VA hospital in NC and currently work with service members (mostly combat) that are transitioning off active duty into the VA Health Care system. I’m originally from W. PA just North of Pittsburgh.

Believe it or not, I totally use to hate running, I mean, LOATHE it!! But, I found that I can have fun and now that I found ultras – Mind Blown!! I can walk if I want to. 

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
LD: I started trying to run in the summer/fall of 2012 and failed miserably. I didn’t know what the crap I was doing and ended up getting horrible hip pain all ITB crap. I saw a group doing run/walk intervals one day and I thought for sure I could do the same. The winter of 2013 my husband signed me up for an all Ladies beginners running group and I learned to use run/walk. I actually was a group leader for the same group for 6 years. 

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
LD: In the times of this pandemic, have something to work towards and an actual training plan has been keeping me motivated. Coach Faith offered several of us the opportunity to do a Dopey-like challenge which was held the last week in June. It was a 5k, 10k, 13.1 and 26.2 four days in a row. She coached us through it all with training plans and sheer crazy wit! 

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
LD: Drinking craft beer, trying to get back into reading.  

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
LD: I’ve run a ton of races, but I think the most memorable one is Flying Pig in Cincinnati – all of the aid stations had some pig- themed food or dressed up so funky. The volunteers were fabulous, and it was a party within the race!  

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
LD: I’m unsure but I’d love to run somewhere out west or somewhere where there is vert.

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
LD: Meeting up with a friend, who I was supposed to train MCM with and didn’t. Out of 30K runners we bumped into each other at the porta-potties and we ran 23 miles together. 

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
LD: Completing my first 50miler! (coach’s note: Lesa completed this ON HER OWN with no official race). Of course once again, COVID-19 struck when my race was scheduled and I was hell bent on not giving up on all the training I’d done. I took matters into my own hands and created my own race with an out/back 5mile segments, made my own food. My husband was my Aid Station Guru and I had 5 friends either run or bike with me for 40 miles. My finishing medal was a cymbal that was hanging in our basement left from the previous house owners. My husband painted it #safesix50 with a runner girl on it. Get this, the cymbal was made in Wuhan China!  

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running
LD: Don’t get the pretty shoes. Get the shoes that are supposed to fit your feet best

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
LD: Don’t compare yourself to other runners because if you do you will take the fun out of running for yourself. Bad runs happen and they are bound too, but you keep going. Forward, relentless, motion.  And stretch, stretch and stretch!

Heart Rate Variability: A Valuable New Metric for Athletes

20 Sep

Have you ever wondered why you feel so exhausted the day after a stressful day at work or school?  Did you know that this stress can affect your workouts as well as your health?  What can you do to ensure that you can hit that hard workout tomorrow, despite having a tough day at work today?  Heart rate variability (HRV) could be the missing link to help you unlock your potential and have a healthier future.

What is HRV?

HRV is the measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is divided into two components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the rest-and-digest response, respectively.

The ANS works regardless of our desires (hence the name autonomic) and regulates a variety of metabolics, including heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion.  A higher HRV means more variability between heart beats and indicates a healthy and rested system.  Conversely a lower HRV means less variability, meaning the body is overly stressed or may indicate a brewing illness.

Why is HRV important?

The clinical importance of HRV was first recognized in 1965 when doctors noted that fetal distress was preceded by changes in heartbeat intervals before any change occurred in heart rate itself. During the 1970s, researchers devised a number of simple bedside tests used to detect autonomic nerve damage in diabetic patients and this furthered our understanding of the connection between HRV and overall health.

The association of higher risk of death after a heart attack with reduced HRV was first shown by researchers in 1977, and in the late 1980s it was confirmed that HRV was a strong predictor of death after a myocardial infarction event.

So, what does this mean for us as athletes and how can we relate HRV to training and performance?  It’s actually quite straightforward.  If we are stressed, our HRV goes down and we are less able to perform a strong workout. If we are recovered and relaxed, our HRV goes up and our bodies are primed to hit the hard intervals or the weights.

How do we measure HRV?

There are several devices on the market (WHOOP, which I personally use, and Oura, for example) that measure and track HRV.  You can also measure HRV using a standard chest strap heart rate monitor and any number of apps available on your smart phone.

If using the chest strap and app method, the measurement needs to be taken upon waking, before eating or drinking anything. Measurements should be done 4-5 times a week in order to get a proper baseline and trend.

If using one of the devices available, your job is even simpler.  The device automatically reads your HRV during your sleep phase and records it to the device’s platform.

What controls HRV?

HRV responds to changes in the autonomic nervous system activity associated with stress. Studies show that HRV changes in response to stress induced by various methods.  Some contributing factors to changes in HRV are the amount and quality of sleep, healthy eating habits (or lack thereof), a stressful day at work or a relaxing day at the beach.

The ANS responds to all of these inputs by sending signals to either the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest), and HRV will reflect the most active system.

Myocardial infarctions (heart attack), diabetes mellitus and heart transplants are just a few health issues that can cause long-term changes to normal HRV.  Some drugs and supplements can cause short-term changes to normal HRV and should be taken into consideration when tracking HRV.

High HRV equates to proper recovery and effective management of stress. 

We can counteract the effects of life and training stress by getting plenty of sleep, eating a variety of high-quality foods and hydrating properly.  Avoiding alcohol and caffeine also seem to contribute better recovery and subsequently, higher HRV.

Long-term stress contributes to a persistent low HRV because the body is in constant fight-or-flight mode, and may indicate overtraining syndrome or simply a need to reduce overall lifestyle stress.

How can we use HRV to train effectively?

Tracking HRV is a great tool to motivate change. It may encourage a runner to get more sleep or drop that extra tempo workout if his or her HRV is unusually low.  Conversely, it may motivate a runner to work a little harder at those intervals or push a bit to get those last few miles of a long run if his or her HRV is high and the body is primed to take on extra strain.

While monitoring and training using HRV obviously can’t help us avoid stress, it could help us understand how to respond to stress in a healthier way by adding meditation or by aiming to get a little more rest.

The body doesn’t know miles, or hours at work, or a fight with our spouse.  It knows stress.  By tracking the body’s response to stress, we can create a training program that works to progress the runner without overdoing it.

Since HRV is a marker of all life’s little stressors, altering the training plan according to a higher or lower HRV is more appropriate than rigidly sticking to a plan that might ultimately be the runner’s undoing.  In this way we can potentially avoid overtraining syndrome, illnesses or injuries that often accompanies hard training without getting enough recovery.

Further Reading:

Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being

Heart Rate Variability Standards of Measurement, Physiological Interpretation, and Clinical Use

Stress and Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis and Review of the Literature

Susan G.

05 Jul

Run Long ~ Run Strong: How old are you?
Susan Gilstrap: 44

RLRS: Tell us a little about yourself (kids, married, job)?
SG: Married 12 years to a wonderful, supportive husband, Ken. I have two fur babies, 1) 5yr old purebred American Bulldog who is a meathead and loveable and 2) Winnie a 10 year old Corgi mix who just wants to lick you to death! We live in Dallas, TX. I work in advertising in downtown Dallas as a Sr. Art Director. 

RLRS: When and why did you start running?
SG: I started many years ago, around 2006ish and just wanted to get into shape.

RLRS: What keeps you motivated to train?
SG: Honestly, I’ve lost motivation throughout the years especially after my marathon in 2015. I’ve started again and it’s the feeling I get after waking up in the morning (and I’m NOT a morning person) and knowing throughout the day that I got my workout done! Plus, I love seeing the green after I’ve completed a workout in TrainingPeaks!! hahaha

RLRS: What are your hobbies outside of running?
SG: I love horses and use that passion to create handmade cards/art.

RLRS: What is your favorite race?
SG: Not sure I have a favorite. Depends on where I’m at with my training. A good 5k is always great for motivation because the distance doesn’t kill you and you get a medal!

RLRS: What is your bucket list event?
SG: Ooh, maybe the Honolulu Marathon and a 50 miler. (although the 50M seems almost impossible!!)

RLRS: What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a race?
SG: During my marathon in 2015, we did it in Eugene, OR where my husband is from. About mile 15, both my sisters-in-law and their kids were driving up and down the street in their grandma’s old Caddy screaming out the window! Then, some of them jumped on course with me!! Mile 15 was when things were still funny! (not at mile 19 though!)

RLRS: What is your proudest race moment?
SG: Crossing that marathon finish line!!!

RLRS: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started running?
SG: Don’t stop believing in yourself!!

RLRS: What is your best piece of advice for new runners?
SG: Take it workout by workout. Try not to get overwhelmed by your goal race. “My race, my pace.” To try and not compare to others paces.