Do you feel you’re not built to be a runner?
You may think this is absurd, but I feel the same way!
My legs are fairly large and muscular for my size in general. Many people look upon them in admiration and runners often comment about how they wish they would have legs like mine. The ironic thing is that I’d love it if my legs were less musclar! I’d much rather sacrifice having great looking legs to weighing 5+ less pounds and running faster.
When you look at elites, they typically have quite slender calves and thigh muscles. Muscular strength has much less to do with muscular size than most people think, it’s about muscle fiber recruitment! Kenyans and the skinny mountain climbers in the Tour de France have tiny legs but are able to generate great amounts of power. They’re also carrying less weight up climbs with smaller legs!
But anyway, I’m going off on a tangent.
Check out the video below on why I think some people both feel running is hard and why some people believe they’re not meant to be runners!
To make this review simple, I’ve broken it down into pros and cons of the Van Cortlandt shorts. If you scroll down you’ll see a video review as well!
Until recently I had my athletes doing a hill workout biweekly or at least every third week, in most cases.
However, this is something that I’ve backed off on in 2017 and now prescribe hill workouts even more sparingly.
For example, something I would have had a runner do in the past is 4 x 3:00 hard uphill with jogback recovery + squat jumps at the top. Before that they would have done something like 5 x 2:00 and after they would do 4 x 4:00. But now, that’s rare.
The reason is because this is not specific enough to almost all race goals!
Yes, steep hill reps are challenging, no one is doubting that. However consider that during a race you should ease up when climbing a hill of significant slope. When you do something like two or four minutes hard uphill you are generating a great amount of power, but also a great amount of lactate.
Now I ask the question, are these best for most people who are training for big A-Goal events like the half or full marathon? I say, no.
Your ability to buffer lactate is not a large consideration for distance events since they are done well below lactate threshold. I argue instead to do such workouts on a flat surface where you can more closely mimic your form and pace during the goal event.
Running a fartlek with segments of HARD two or four minutes will have you running slightly faster than goal half/full pace, so you’ll be doing a workout far more specific to what you’ll require of your body during the event. And as we all know, doing well in the event is about developing your ability to tolerate goal pace for goal distance.
So I have now started leaving out the hill workouts for more focused and race-specific track, fartlek, or tempo workouts. These do not induce as much fatigue so require less recovery than a hill workout and are more specific to the race.
If you do want to incorporate hill workouts into your training, I suggest doing them during the first third or 2/3rd of your race preparatory period and only every other week at the most. Start with something like 4 x 2:00 hard uphill, then do 4 x 3:00, then possibly 5 x 3:00 hard uphill.
Note: This is discussing steep inclines that very very noticeably change your speed and form. I’m a big fan of doing tempo type runs on long and slight uphills and downhills. For example, I’ll often go out for the first half of a MOD/HARD run on a slight incline and come back on a slight downhill.
Here is a plyometric routine I give to my own athletes and perform myself.
I was hesitant to have my athletes do these because some suggest they can be too difficult/intense for standard athletes, but the research cannot be denied. Thus, there is a shorter plyometric routine as a sort of compromise.
For scheduling any difficult strength work, I typically recommend performing them on the same day as a hard run. That ensures that the easy days are easy and the hard days are hard. Don't be afraid to do easier routines that are not fatiguing on the rest days, but don't do terribly difficult routines on easy days!
Plyometrics are a jumping exercise that mimic and exaggerate running form and requirements.
Why they work: You may not know this, but better runners stiffen their leg muscles immediately prior to ground contact more than less advanced runners do. This is called elastic recoil, and like a spring, the stiffer spring has more recoil than a soft spring. Plyometrics improve your running ability because they improve how much your legs tense prior to landing.
These routines also are very dynamic movements, I mentioned that they mimic & exaggerate running. Because of this, they recruit more muscle fibers at once than running alone, thus help to stimulate improved neuromuscular function.
Study: One found that runners who replaced running with plyometrics improved their running time. Now, of course, take this too far or for too long and you'll stagnate. But the change in their running routine was enough to stimulate adaptation.
Performing the Workout: Warm up with the Lunge Matrix, found here, then hit play below and follow along!
My legs were in pretty rough shape when I filled this since I was just post half marathon, so forgive the bad form but I wanted to get the video filmed!
Two Legged Hops x 20
Scissor Jump x 20
One Legged Jump x 20
One-Legged Side to Side Hopping x 20 each leg
One-Legged Forward/Back Hopping x 20 each leg
I was lucky enough to win this cap and I'm so glad I did!
I own a number of trucker, baseball, running caps, and running visors that I wear on a regular basis - and this one is the most comfortable one I own!
5-panel Trucker styling
Eventure woven shell
Eventure terry sweatband wrapped in Eventure knit
Eventure stretch sandwich mesh back
Snap back closure with ponytail opening
Front panel perfect for custom logo application
One size fits most (and it fits my huge head better than most!)
Friday, June 2nd.
This was the start of my summer travels!
On Friday I drove to Deadwood from Rapid City and stayed at The Lodge at Deadwood. If you're reading this because you're planning on running Deadwood and need a place to stay, The Lodge's location cannot be beaten. It's where the expo is, slightly out of town so it's lacking traffic noise, has a fantastic restaurant (good pancakes!), they do not put a checkout time on your reservation so you can go back to your room to clean up, and I recommend the fourth floor facing the sunrise!
I worked the info desk at the packet pickup. The primary questions were in regards to the buses, and it's pretty easy to manage! Another reason to stay at The Lodge is because you can simply walk out the front doors and get onto a bus for the start line. Other hotels or people coming from out of town that are not being dropped at the start must walk to, park at, or get dropped off at the rodeo grounds in Deadwood. Staying at the lodge is nice because I could sleep in few extra minutes because all I needed to do was walk out the front doors and onto the buses.
Nice view from the Lodge
Saturday, June 3rd. - Fast 5k
Going in to the 5k I was going to watch my splits at mile one and two. If I was not on pace to PR with a sub 18:20, I would jog it in to save my legs for Sunday's half marathon. Well, I was hitting great splits and had a few people to chase, so dug deep within my suitcase of courage and got my first sub 18 5k!
This race is HOT. It starts at 1:30 or 2pm and was 75-80 degrees. It's a net downhill but on gravel, warm, and this day had a headwind - so I consider it a fair time. I ran 18:30 a couple months prior untapered, solo, and in similar temps.
Signup and day of registration is at the finish of all three events. They bus the runners to the start, 5k up the Mickelson. The event staff were not super clear on when the start actually was. Myself and possibly a few others were still warming up on the road along the trail when the gun went off. I ran past the start and was about to loop around when I heard the gun. I saw a few people run by and I jumped up onto the trail and joined them. My chip time was 18:07 but I'll take my watch time 😉 I should have been paying more attention.
If you're doing the half or full, I really suggest you take this opportunity and jog the 5k to become familiar with the final 5k of the half/full.
In the later afternoon / evening there is a runner social in Deadwood with free beer and munchies. It's free and nice to sit and chat with people, you should definitely take advantage of this.
Registration area & PR run!
Ice Bath & runner social after the 5k!
Sunday, June 4th - The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Half Marathon - sub 1:23:10 goal
Like I said above, since I was at The Lodge at Deadwood I was able to simply walk out the front hotel doors and get on the bus to the start. Our bus driver was great and told people a bit about the area.
For nutrition pre-race, I had a GoMacro bar upon waking, a Honey Singer Waffle when we got to the start, and a SIS gel right before the start.
The course for this half is a net downhill with the climbing during the first mile and near the middle of the distance. Other than a super steep downhill midway, this old railroad path is super super gradual and slight elevation change. While it's a net downhill, the gravel certainly slows you and I consider this a fair course. If this was paved, like the half marathon in the nearby Spearfish Canyon, it would likely be one of the fastest half marathons in the country since it's such a perfectly slight downhill.
I was really, really, sore during the warmup. I hoped it would work itself out but it never did, this was a tough run. From mile 3-6 my left hammy was not cramping, but really tight. Just not firing like it should, I could not get much power from it. I suspect the change in form from the change in elevation with the uphill and then super steep downhill helped the hammy since that changed how my leg muscles were activating.
I ran a moderate effort for the first half, nothing straining (except for how my hamstring felt). I took the middle uphill fairly easy and then pushed it for the 5 to 3 miles. You can see half marathon splits below along with some play by play. The course looks really downhill but for most of it you can barely tell you're going down an incline, it's so slight that I tell people if they were blindfolded it would be difficult to tell.
Post Race Runner Social
And a few race photos
-----For the 5k-----
Soleus Chicked watch
Injinji Toe Socks
SKORA Tempo running shoes
Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Shorts & Singlet
-----For the half marathon-----
Soleus Chicked watch
Injinji Toe Socks
SKORA Tempo running shoes
Immediately Pre-Race - Science in Sport Gel
45-Minutes Pre-Race: Honey Stinger Waffle
Breakfast - GoMacro Macrobar
02 - 6:11
03 - 6:05
04 - 6:26
05 - 6:19 (6:17 avg so far)
06 - 6:43 (uphill)
07 - 6:46 (uphill)
08 - 5:54
09 - 6:20
10 - 6:08
11 - 6:18 (6:19 avg thus far)
12 - 6:17 (I know this marker was off, so this mile was probably slower)
13 - 7:21 (and this mile was probably faster than 7:21)
Finished at 1:24:07. 11th place out of 1714 total finishers (10th male).
6:25 avg. I can't believe I lost so much time over the final couple miles. I didn't feel like I slowed at all. It was also VERY demoralizing to go click the lap button at mile 12 and think I was on target to PR and then realize that it was so far off that mile 13 clocked in at a minute longer. But it's highly unlikely I could have made up that time had it been accurate, even.
I was 6 / 70 for the 5k and 11/1714 in the half. I'm always very pleased with a top 1% 🙂
My ending thought for the half was that I'm happy with this time. I was sore for the entire 13.1 miles from the 5k PR the day before and still ran my fastest time on this course out of three attempts 🙂 I think this is my fourth fastest half marathon thus far. I don't think I've been so sore immediately after or had DOMS for so long (still sore a week later) after a non-ultra marathon race. Running 5k at best effort and then 13.1 miles at best effort in two consecutive days was a traumatic event for my muscles!
I do regret not running another half, such as the Brookings Half Marathon, a few weeks before Deadwood. I think this fall I will target the Sept 10 Sioux Falls Half, recover, run the Oct 8 Crazy Horse Half Marathon, recovery, and run the Oct 29th Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, NE.
How your legs move also changes based on speed, terrain, shoes, fatigue, how far you are into a run, etc etc. A study of barefoot Kenyans noted that their at habitual easy pace 3/4th of them were rearfoot strikers. But when they sped up their footstrike shifted forward! In the Leiberman study noted in Born to Run that helped start the "everyone should midfoot strike" craze, the Kenyans who ran barefoot with a forefoot landing where running at a sub 5:00-mile pace! Of course they were tending to forefoot land!
There was recently a question on the Runner’s World forums about a calf strain and if it could be due to the runner only wearing one pair of shoes. I thought it interesting, so wanted to share the question and my answer below.
“I’ve been dealing with an overuse calf injury for 6 months now. I don’t want to blame the problem on my shoes, but could switching shoe models help alleviate an overuse problem?”
Certainly. Different shoes, different terrains, different paces, they all spread out the mechanical stress and force locations to different parts of the body in different ways. This allows all those areas of the body to experience less overall stress and to easily recover.
Think of a runner that does the same exact speed at the same exact incline for the same exact difference on a treadmill every day in the same shoes. They’re placing the exact same stresses in the exact same locations every day, not giving those areas time to recover. It would be like doing the bench presses every time, other muscle groups would never get any stimulation to strengthen and the pecs would never get any off time to strengthen, thus weakening and likely becoming injured. New shoes could change your running form slightly, which could place the stress at a new location of the calf and give that injured area a rest. Compression sleeves could potentially do the same.
That all being said, there’s still no reason to blame the shoes, it’s not their fault. You just may have made a slight error in not giving your body enough variability.
Potentially it could not have to do with a lack of variation at all. I recently dealt with a calf issue due due to tight hamstrings as a result of a weekend of lots of climbing and descending after living in the plains for two years. I spent a few weeks with reduced volume and no intensity, and now I’m A-OK . Of course, you could look at that as a lack of variation issue as well, because I was lacking variation in the plains which meant the mountains were too big of a stimulus (classic too much too soon). But I look at it as me being unmindful and overzealous on the vertical for a weekend.
I also feel that such variation can help a runner put more distance in individual shoes before they are required to retire a pair. As I said in Men's Journal, I typically run through my shoes for 800-1500 miles until they fall apart or I wear through the bottom. I believe different shoes, speeds, terrain, etc all change up how the feel and legs are loaded so you do not overload a certain area of the body. It works for preventing running injuries and I believe it works for shoe durability.
Imagine if you only ran in a single pair of shoes. Throughout the miles the sole under the big toe will compress and wear away, so every run you may be pronating a tiny bit more each time. Over the miles that pronation may become exaggerated. Now, pronation is natural and necessary, but over-pronation beyond what is healthy for you can be an issue. Performing an exaggerated degree of pronation for weeks/months due to shoe wear may be harmful, but wearing those shoes two or three times weekly along with another pair or two increases variability and can potentially be a healthy practice!
Can the parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk? | “the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor “
Check out this quick review of the only socks I'll spend money and run farther than 30 minutes in!
I feel Injinji toe socks are better for running than a traditionally shaped sock because:
My one piece of advice is to not buy the thinnest liner pairs. They were originally the ones I preferred, however they simply wear out much much quicker than the slightly thicker models.
Because people ask...
After seeing some form of this question three times today on Twitter and/or Reddit, I thought I would make a quick post on what the heck you should do if you have a marathon coming up very quickly and you've not trained for it.
This post is assuming you are reasonably fit and able to go out and jog an easy mile fairly comfortable.
Keep in mind
Race Week Plan
The Day Before the Race
Race Day Pacing