This is important. Your success and understanding of this program relies heavily upon this sub 10 minute read. These are things I am looking from you to be fully ready day 1.
Step 1. Create a Strava Account- Strava puts your running data in one place. Strava will be used to determine YOUR individual pace. You will be coached upon this pace. . If you don’t desire to be coached, this isn’t the program for you and there is no reason to keep reading. The data in Strava is also used for goal setting while training. If goal setting and improving are not your thing....why not? What are you doing? Segments are a part of Strava that can be quite useful for challenging yourself. You may sometimes run a segment accidentally and other times prescribed to attack a segment. It matters. Create an account and follow me, Vince DiLetto. I will follow you in return giving me access to your running data. I accidentally have multiple accounts, follow the one with a cheetah as an icon. Yes, I know that is the cockiest icon possible but hey, easy to find and remember.
Step 2- Get a GPS device- Ideally you have a wrist-based GPS device that you can easily see to make sure you are training at correct pace/intensity. Garmin has some great models for good prices. A device that monitors heart rate is a good idea as this is another tool I can use to coach you to your optimal level. After some trail run data has accumulated, we can start to look at your paces. For instance, maybe a 9:32 pace for 5 minutes puts your heart rate at 175 and a 10:48 pace puts your HR at only 146. This tells us a lot. We can make sure you run at appropriate paces to maximize training. iPhones technically work but only in a pinch. Apple watches seem to work ok but are definitely less accurate. Look at it this way, an apple watch does 18 million things and most of them, pretty well. A Garmin is designed for 1 thing that it does REALLY well, track running with gps. I’m new to the GPS device game myself but I am learning which models do what. I will try to guide you to the best of my ability. Disable the phone part for 1 hour. You don't want or need the distractions. There is more about this later. No one wants to hear your phone ring or hear you talk on it. If the idea of being away from your phone for 1 hour sounds insane, you NEED this badly. I have your prescription ready.
Step 3- Bring plenty of water- You will probably want to bring more water than you normally would, your refill options are not easy and efficient. 16 oz may not be enough. I would bring at least 32 oz. Electrolyte tablets are not a bad idea either. I like NUUN but there are many non sucralose brands out there. This is vital in the heat of summer.
Step 4. You may want to bring a towel- you will probably want a small towel to wipe your hands/face/whatever as they will get dirty. A large towel may be needed as well because some days it will rain and some days we will even utilize the lake. Days we use the lake, I will remind you. There will be a heads up every morning on the blog. You will sweat a lot as we live in Alabama. Sweat will happen. If you are concerned about how cute you will look right after your workout, you will be what many might consider "a hot mess". The truth is that you will look AWESOME because you ARE awesome. You will embrace the dirt and sweat and feel like a damn human again. Congrats, your microbiome just got happier. You are welcome.
Step 5- Keep a change of clothes in car- There will be days when you will be soaked in either sweat and/or rain. You may want to bring a change of clothing to get back in your car, the restroom is available to change if needed. Some days will include canoes, kayaks, etc. You will probably get wet. You will probably have fun. I would go ahead and just keep an outfit in the car in a plastic bag. Trust me. I have had to drive home after being in the rain and you may not want you car to be that wet.
Step 6- Pick Shoes wisely- You want a shoe with some tread on it but not a ton of cushion. First off- you will be lifting weights. The ideal weightlifting shoe does not have a squishy base so that your body can react off a solid surface. Proprioception is important. Feeling your feet and the surface beneath it are crucial to lifting. Large amounts of cushion do not provide great feedback and cause problems with lifting. The same is true for trail running. Trail running is real running. Many people are used to fake running on treadmills or flat hardened man-made surfaces. You need a shoe that will not get slick on the bottom easily and is not stiff. Trail running creates a very heightened sense of awareness and focus. You need to constantly be scanning and altering steps. Your cadence should not be smooth and rhythmic all the time. There should never be any “zoning out” Every rock, root, turn, ditch requires a different approach to navigate. The more minimalist, the better. A cushioned and “supported” shoe does not provide feedback, often locks a foot into place and creates a higher risk of ankle injuries. Think of your foot and ankle as a chain, a chain of joints. Let’s say there are 10 links in this chain. 8 of those links are in the foot. I land on a rock I didn’t see and my foot rolls to the outside. My foot is going to rotate… lets say 30 degrees to the side. If I were barefoot (no, I don't run fully barefoot on trails- too much glass), my proprioception would be better and as soon as I touched that rock, I would probably pull the foot off super-fast but mostly important is that the 30 degrees would be spread over 10 links at lets say 3 degrees per link. No big deal. I’m good. If I have a super snazzy American running shoe and 8 of those links are locked into place because the 17 year old at the shoe store told me this is what I needed….Well, we still have 30 degrees but only 2 links in this chain are going to move. 15 degrees each. Yikes, they may have a 12-degree max. Something bad will happen. This is a gross general analogy, but I hope you get the idea. Big stiff American running shoes are bad all the time, extra bad in reality/trails and lifting. If this is all you have, fear not. You can start with whatever your current shoe is and I will guide your footwear over a long course of greatness. I like people to make shoe adjustments every 6 months, sometimes it make take years to get to the right footwear, thats ok. I will assist you.
Step 7- Check ego at the door- Trail running is real; it is a constantly varied surface that will slow you down. It is not uncommon to see someone who runs on a flat road at 8 min mile paces run at 12 min mile paces on a trail. Do not let this hurt your feelings. Many people run the trail early on “riding the brakes”. This is normal at first as you learn how to be nimble and agile through the woods with constant obstacles. You learn to flow, your brain takes on new levels of processing speeds as you run. Just because you run at 10 mph on a treadmill for 10 minutes does not mean you will do that in the real world. Eventually you will learn to “play” while you run. The key to the trail is a sense of childlike playfulness. Hopping, bounding, skipping, zigging, zagging, climbing. How would you attack the trail as a child? Not in a monotonous and consistent cadence. Ego checking is also key for good resistance training. You will be required to lift with perfect quality and range of motion first and foremost. This may require lighter weights or tweaking a movement so that you can be successful in accomplishing the task. The task is always to load a movement pattern to make it a challenge so that you improve in moving. The movement itself needs to be quality before it is loaded. Loading a movement poorly is a train wreck waiting to happen. Load is earned.
7b. Attitude- You will be asked to do things that will make you uncomfortable. Part of this training program is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. You are a human being capable of great adaptations. Yes, it will get hot. Be prepared to sweat a lot. It will happen. If you have time, jump in the creek when you finish, it is quite lovely. Yes, you will be in cold weather. Cold is extremely good for you. You can thrive in cold. Most Americans are weenies who run away from cold. You however will learn to embrace and enjoy the cold. At no point will it ever be cold enough to be dangerous. You will need more warming up to keep muscles safer sure, but the good news is that your body does that naturally and quite easily. You will get soaked from the rain. As a child, it made you happy to play in the rain, what happened to you? Unless you are the wicked witch of the west, you will not melt. In fact, the rain is the IDEAL running weather. It creates an extra euphoric stimulus to the ears as it cascades through the leaves but more importantly teaches you how to run correctly with a lighter and shorter stride. You will become more appreciative of 60 degrees and sunny and breezy. You will learn to embrace the weather and enjoy the challenge it brings when this is not the case. Bad weather will no longer be a thing in your day. There will just be “weather”. You will learn that moping and complaining does not change it so there is no point. The weather is beyond your control. You cannot control it, why do you let it control your thoughts? It is never good, it is never bad, it just is what it is. Do not tie negative emotion to it. Some days it just provides new challenges.
Step 8- You will NOT need headphones. You typically are used to wearing headphones to keep you from boredom. They are a distraction. To give you something to focus on because what you are doing is not stimulating enough. Headphones are useful on long jogs of monotony. Headphones are useful to drown out conversations the other idiots at the gym are having so you can pay attention to what you are doing when lifting or maybe you are about to pick up 500 lbs and need that extra angry song (The theme music from Last of the Mohicans has been known to bring out frightening animalistic noises from me when a very heavy barbell is involved). They have quite a few negatives as well. They do not belong on the trails. They take away focus and awareness. First off, if you are a woman running alone in the woods and cannot hear someone behind you, you are trying to become the 5'o clock horrific news story. This is a real threat. There are sickos out there looking for females running alone with headphones on. Easy target to do unspeakable things to. Second, mountain bikers want to punch you in the face. These trails are THEIR trails that we are borrowing. If they are coming up behind you, they will warn you vocally. You need to be able to hear them and get out of the way. Be courteous. Most importantly, you need your 100% focus and awareness on your running technique and the 1000s of obstacles you will encounter. All it takes is one “I didn’t see that rock” and you will learn the hard way. A zoned-out trail runner is a terrible and soon to be injured trail runner. Connect with the earth and be part of the trail fully, this is the music you need. Why can’t you just tell yourself to run hard without the right tunes? If it is boring, run faster. We are doing something very wrong if this is the case. Music is also rhythmic. We tend to try to run to this rhythm. This does not work on a trail; it is important you do not try to run a trail like you would a treadmill. The trail has plenty of stimulus or you are doing it COMPLETELY wrong. Music is to get into a zone, you have enough zones to worry about. Zone 1- running technique. Zone 2- watching my GPS so I am going the correct time. Zone 3- Running at prescribed intensity. Zone 4- look out for those rocks, turns, roots, snakes, etc. You don’t like distracted drivers on the road because they are awful drivers. Don’t be a distracted runner because you will be a terrible runner. Ever wonder what Nascar drivers listen to? NOTHING! I want you to Google image search “Kenyan Marathon Runner” for me. Let me know how many pictures of Kenyans you must scroll through before you find one with earbuds in. They are going to run for 2+ hours. I’m sure there is a picture somewhere of one with music, I just haven’t seen it yet. On top of this, you are missing the music of the forest. “Forest Bathing” is a real thing. Your body and brain like it a lot. The sounds of trees, birds and all that jazz do things to you that you WANT to happen. I'll be happy to send your absurd amounts of data.
Now that you have made it this far. You are ready for your first Iron Blaze Strength & Conditioning adventure. Steps that need to happen include
Create a profile.
Purchase 2 free sessions for locals.
Schedule those two sessions.
See ya in the woods.