November 17, 2018

Is Obstacle Course Racing for you? By Jennifer Austin

Should you consider an Obstacle Course Race?

Pick up just about any race calendar or fitness magazine and you’re sure to read about the latest craze of obstacle course racing. And for good reason, they are challenging, inspiring, and so much fun!

Here’s why you should consider adding an obstacle course race to your fitness schedule:

Total body workout. The multi-dimensional format for races consists of running from obstacle to obstacle. Shorter course races of three to five miles usually include 10+ obstacles which challenge upper body strength, lower body strength, muscle endurance, balance, flexibility and agility. Your approach heading into a race should be, be prepared for anything!

Prep requires cross-training. Instead of focusing on only one activity like training for a marathon, obstacle courses force training in many disciples and athletics. Crossing ladders, swinging across rings, climbing walls, pulling ropes, carrying sandbags all require unique training. Limited only by your imagination.

Super charged motivation. You’ll be racing with 500+ of your new best friends…or new rivals! Many mid-pack racers find they are encouraged by fellow competitors and push harder than they would (or thought they could) otherwise. For many races, the tone is supportive and motivating. Many racers are competing for the first time and accomplishing tasks they never dreamed possible.

Builds life confidence. Whether racing for the podium or for the finish line. During a race you will undoubtedly be faced with a task you never thought you could accomplish. You’ll have to control your mental focus, negotiate your approach, practice positive self-talk, push through physical discomfort, battle fatigue…and you WILL! Through mastering this discipline, you’ll build confidence in your ability to conquer fears, master anxiety and uncertainty. The feeling you’re left with, empowerment! This empowerment will transfer into all areas of your life because you’ll know you’re able to accomplish whatever you set your mind to accomplish.

The element of PLAY! Running, jumping, hopping, crawling, swinging, balancing, throwing are all included in the obstacles you’ll encounter. You’ll feel like a kid again on the playground at school! Not all exercise has to be structured to count toward fitness. Not all reps have to be counted and quantified. You’ll have one approach, GO!

Find your Athlete by Nicole Bryan

Find the Athlete in YOU

When watching athletic events on television, ever wonder how the competitors deal with the stress, pressure and energy of it all? Athletes work day in and day out, not only on physical strengths, but just as important to their performance is their mental strengths. There is a certain mindset and perspective that leads athletes to greatness. Some people adopt a fearful or anxious reactive perspective. For example, what if something bad happens? What if it rains on the day of my marathon? Successful athletes adopt a perspective that focuses forward. For example, what do I need to keep moving forward; water, calories, etc.

Successful athletes are very efficient about getting their needs met. Instead of focusing on how bad muscles are feeling or tired they are at for example, mile 20 of a marathon, successful athletes focus on what they need to get through the next time, match or game. Focusing forward also empowers the successful athlete to keep at it. What’s your perspective?

Keep moving forward. Don’t over think, over analyze, dwell on what was or could have been. Simply keep it moving forward. One step, mile, lap at a time.

Talk nice. Positive self talk goes a long way when things get tough. Have a mantra in place which you repeat over and over again during training or workouts to use as your go to during an event. For example “I am strong and steady.”

Find your zen. Relaxing into your sport or event will allow your mind, and in turn your body to ease tension to simply take the next step forward. Take in the scenery or try to empty your mind and focus only on the athlete in front of you.

Don’t fight the uncomfortable-ness. The purpose of having a goal is to force us to stretch. There will be uncomfortable times, there will be doubt, and there will be challenging times. Accept it and move on.

Train hard, and visualize harder. No doubt that if we don’t put in the time to log miles or hours on our hobby or sport that we physically will be unable to achieve our goal. However, setting aside specific time to sit in silence and visualize completing our goal will provide direction for our mind. Picture every detail of your goal and do it daily.

Be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most times a single event will have many emotions tied to it. And most likely we’ll experience a wide array of all of them. Have a plan how to break the mental pattern of negativity and doubt. For example, singing your favorite song in your head, remembering a special someone or simply blanking your mind and focusing on an object around you. Choose anything that will break the mental self-sabotaging pattern.

Performing or reaching a goal like an athlete means thinking and acting like an athlete. Don’t settle for less.

5 Tips to Better Racing by Kristie Cranford, CPT

Knowing how to race is just as important as logging all your training. There are specific actions to take, and just as important, specific actions to avoid before you toe the line. Here are your 5 expert tips to better racing:

Do train within your ability

If you truly want to exceed in racing, do train within your ability.  Find the race distance and estimated time that fits within your current or achievable ability.  Training for a pace you cannot realistically achieve can lead to burnout and injury.  Training for a distance your life schedule does not allow time for can lead to burnout and unnecessary stress.  You want to enjoy the training process, not stress about it.  Set yourself up for success, not failure.

Don’t do anything new race day

Experiment with food, drink, clothing, shoes, and everything well before race day.  Have it all down to a science.  You want to be a practiced well-oiled machine race day and not risk digestive, energy or clothing issues.

Don’t start out too fast

Don’t burst out of the gate with all you have, once that energy is expelled you will never get it back.  On the back end of the race you’ll come up short with the extra energy burned during an over exuberant start.

Do pick the right race for you

If you have a specific goal in mind, find a race that will help you to reach your goal.  Find one with an optimal course and entrant size to assist you.  A race that is too crowded or has a lot of elevation challenges may be a fun race, but may put too many odds against you.

Do allow for rest between races

Allow your body recovery time between races.  Your body gets stronger and repairs at rest and recovery.  Too much racing will lead to declining performance, burnout and injury.

This article is written by Kristie Cranford, CPT. A wife, mother, multiple cancer survivor and competitive athlete, Kristie is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer as well as a Certified Running/Triathlon Coach for PRS FIT. Living in Las Vegas, she is 2012 Coolibar sponsored athlete, 2013 Training Peaks Ambassador and Raw Elements Sunscreen Ambassador. Contact information: Email: CoachKristieLV@yahoo.com, http://www.coachkristie.com, www.prsfit.com.

Friendly Competition? By Mollie Millington

Participation in organized races, from 5Ks to half-marathons, has increased tremendously in the last few years.  People now have triathlons on their bucket lists and run marathon to raise much needed funds for charities. 

Why should you get involved?

Increases motivation- If you have trouble finding a reason to get up and run in the morning (or after work), a race will give you purpose.  It provides a deadline which will motivate you to train within the time frame allotted.  If you register for a charity team, that is another powerful motivator to complete the race as your donors expect you to do so.

Structures training- When you have a specific distance and/or discipline to work on, your training will need to be tailored.  Working with a coach or personal trainer, they can provide you with a schedule that will take the guesswork out of your preparation.  It makes it easier when you can just hop on a bike or lace up your sneakers without worrying about what you need to do. You will have a time or distance to complete and just need to get it done.

Provides you with a new community- Not all of your friends will understand why you are leaving the party early to get up and run on a Saturday morning. When you befriend other runners in the park or on the track, you will meet like-minded people who know exactly what you are going through. These people enjoy the same thing you do- exercise and competition. They might also be good motivators and mentors in the end.

Improves your fitness- This is a no brainer.  If you start running, swimming, or cycling regularly, you will feel healthier.  This will improve your mood, increase strength, decrease stress, and lower blood pressure.

Sense of pride and achievement- When you have your first medal around your neck, it will be an amazing feeling.  You will think back to when you started and how much you have overcome to cross the finish line.  A smile will be on your face for days.  You will feel unstoppable and ready to register for your next event, and maybe even bold enough to increase the distance.

Registering for a race can be scary but it can also be unbelievable motivation to exercise regularly.  It will help focus your exercise sessions, introduce you to new people, make you fitter, and give you a sense of accomplishment the second you cross the finish line.  If you haven’t done so yet, find a race near you and register today.  Look for a realistic distance and be sure to give yourself enough time to train properly.

By Mollie Millington. For more information, go to www.ptmollie.com or via Twitter @PTMollie.

To Race or Not To Race? By Charlene Ragsdale

Many of us start running to race. Some start running for fitness and health, and then decide to run a race.  Regardless, careful planning must take place in order to determine if racing and what race is best for you and your goals.

How do you choose the best race?

Before you hop on the bandwagon of “I want to run a marathon this year, but I can’t run a mile, yet!”

Consider this:

1.  Your current level of fitness.  You don’t need to be an athlete. However, if you are extremely overweight and are unable to  run/walk a mile without being out of breath and want to run 26.2 miles within the next 6 months, I would recommend you start with a Half Marathon.

2.  Look in your local area for the races.  See what appeals to you. It might be the date, the theme or even the medal. Find the race that attracts you. That is your focus for the at least the next 6 months.

3.  If you are determined to travel for your first race – you have a multitude of options. When traveling, you need to consider hotel, food, spending monies – in addition to the race registration fees. Calculate that before you register for the race. Races do not offer registration refunds.  Make sure you can afford to travel, before you register.

4.  Develop a good training plan. You can find a host of training plans online or hire a coach. Again, keep your eye on the prize – your focus race (at least 6 months out from your training start date.)

5.  After training for 3 months, if you want to participate in the race experience, sign up for a 5k or 10k.  This isn’t required, but it might help you mentally prepare for the big day

6.  Be realistic on your first race, especially if it is a Half or Full Marathon.  Your one and only goal should be to finish upright and healthy. Time goals shouldn’t matter. You only get on First Half or Full. Relish in it and do the best you can do that day.

Charlene Ragsdale is a RRCA Certified Running Coach, IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist and member of the USATF Master’s All-American Team. She can often be seen at on the podium as a frequent Age Division & Overall Winner in several distances. She lives with her Chef husband, two sons and two dogs in Las Vegas, NV. You can follow her at her blog: www.RunningWithCharlene.com

Triathlon Race-Day Tips

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Triathlon Race-Day Tips by Nicole Clancy

Miles are logged. Techniques perfected. Form practiced. Food and hydration dialed in. But what about planning the logistics of your race-day prep? There are lots of race-day details that can lead to either a chaotic day or a smooth stress-free day. Here are a few athlete tricks and tips to insure your race-day goes smoothly.

Race-day prep begins well before the gun goes off at your actual starting line:

Plan for an early evening. A few weeks before heading to your race location, Google restaurants in the area. Look up the menu online to make sure the meal selections meet your needs. Then go one step further and make reservations. Eat early to allow for proper digestion. You may be too nervous go to sleep early, but you can rest and relax. Watch a movie, chat with friends. Lounge guilt-free!

Gear-details. Writing your name in your wetsuit is a great trick. Let’s face it, transitions are hectic and for shorter distances your transition belongings may be accidentally shoved to another area or placed with another athlete’s belongings. Packing a few zip-ties may also prove helpful. These simple plastic-fasteners, found at every hardware store, may come in handy if your zipper breaks on your wetsuit, if your numbers need to be refastened to your bike or if your goggle-strap snaps, for example.

Be aware of the weather forecast. Know the temperature and wind conditions as both of these specifically can alter your bike, swim and run efforts. Do you need to pack arm or leg-warmers for the bike leg? Layers you’re able to peel away with one hand and easily store in your jersey while riding, is your best bet. There’s nothing worse than shivering your way through a race or overheating due to lack of planning.

Read (don’t skim) the athlete-instructions information. You’ll decrease stress by answering such questions as, location of athlete and spectator parking? What time does transition area close? Have there been course changes? Where is body marking located? Where is family reunion area located? Are they providing shuttle busses to the start? Leave these instructions with your spectators, so they have all the information in-hand to better assist you.

Set out your Sun Block and Anti-Chafing product. Placing these items on the bathroom counter to apply in the morning, before even leaving for the race venue is a great time-saver. Once these two important tasks are completed, there are two less actions to remember to do in the transition area.

Finally, race day is here! Here’s how to arrive to the starting line with less stress:

Stick with your tried-and-true breakfast. Following the principle of ‘nothing new on race day,’ eat exactly what you did during training. Call ahead to your lodging and ask what arrangements are available, keeping in mind the early morning race start time. A good rule is to always bring food with you from home, and don’t forget utensils!

Pack simply. Don’t overload your transition bag. Stick with your essential gear, and keep items easy to see and grab quickly. Keep in mind also, that your hands may be cold coming out of the swim and therefore dexterity to pick up some items may be compromised. Another trick is placing a colorful towel right below your bike to make your transition space visible as you may be disoriented from the swim. The towel also allows you to step immediately onto the towel to wipe dry the bottom of your feet without adding even an extra second to your transition. Keep transitions simple, simple, simple!

Bring an extra swim cap. Although race-wave colored caps are required, if the water is cold consider wearing your own cap beneath the race cap to increase core temperature.

Rack your bike in an easy gear. Racking your bike in an easy gear allows your legs a few critical minutes to spin easily when first out of the water. Doing so, increases blood flow to your leg muscles as you settle into your bike leg. Placing your helmet (with the strap unfastened) cradled in your aerobars or handlebars is a great tip and allows easy access to secure your helmet as your first action in the swim to bike transition. Hydration/fuel should already be mounted on your bike or in your gear bags.

Warm-up in the water, if possible. At a minimum splash water over your head and face to acclimate to the water temperature and conditions. A proper warm-up will allow you to relax into your swim faster, and hold your swim line easier for a more efficient swim and a faster time!

Thank a volunteer! They are there to help you enjoy a better race experience.

It’s time to toe the starting line. You are ready.

Get Your Mind in the Game by Charlene Ragsdale

There is a well-known phrase among athletes, “racing is all mental!” While funny, there is truth to it. Running, or any athletic sport involves a mental component. Doubts, confusion, anxiety and brain exhaustion face all athletes at every  level of performance, even elite athletes and professional athletes. 

When I first started competitive racing , I noticed between the start and mile 2, my mind started playing head games. It was as if a monster in my head was screaming at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  I don’t like this!” Then around Mile 2.5 or 3 the endorphins kicked in and my brain said, “Okay, I like this!” There are times however, no matter how much you physically train that the mental aspect of racing seems to take most of your energy. You arrive at the start line, start your race and you find you’re spending more energy on fighting your brain to focus and controlling self-talk, than actually running your race. The solution is in your training. Not just your physical training however, but in your mental training.

If you’re battling self-doubt, consider adopting a personal mantra. Practice your mantra, with the same intensity and dedication as you practice the physical skills required for your sport, until it becomes second-nature. Here’s how it works:

Train your brain to respond with positivity when it hears a particular word or phrase. Choose a word or phrase that triggers feelings of empowerment, energy, speed, power to keep going. For example, during your next run, and every single run thereafter, practice your mantra or key word or phrase. Consider words such as, Push, Dig, You Got This, Focus, Fighter. Most importantly, your mantra must speak to you and have specific meaning to you. From the moment you step across the start line, repeat your mantra. If you’re struggling to maintain mental focus, stop the negative self-talk cycle immediately and re-set your mental focus by repeating your mantra once again. Running and racing challenges our mental focus. Adopt a mantra as a personal mission statement and experience the difference it makes in your performance.

Charlene Ragsdale is a RRCA Certified Running Coach, IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist and member of the USATF Master’s All-American Team. She can often be seen at on the podium as a frequent Age Division & Overall Winner in several distances. She lives with her Chef husband, two sons and two dogs in Las Vegas, NV. You can follow her at her blog:  www.RunningWithCharlene.com