Category Archives for Training Advice

How long should the long run be?

How long should the long run be?!?

This is a super hot topic that many feel very passionate about.

For more advanced runners I’ll often have them top out in the 20-22 or 3-hour range. The reason for this is any longer and it’s simply a lot of time on their feet that is likely going beyond the point of diminishing returns. Long runs that are too long take too much out of you and require extra recovery time.

For the average (4:30 marathon) or slower runners, it gets tricky because if they want to run 20 miles for the long run, a very important mileage threshold, it’s getting into the 4-hour run range. Mentally it will likely be worth it to at least his 20+ once during training, but going over 3-hours too often, even for 4-5 hour marathoners, is not necessary in my opinion.

Should Your Legs Feel Like Jello?

I was asked on Twitter if it was normal for legs to feel like jello after a run.

My response was "yes", but there's a different between normal and good! It's normal for legs to feel like jello (very fatigued) after a long or hard run. However even in those cases it's often best to end the run before the legs get to this point of fatigue.

For long runs I think it's normal/ok for the legs to be quite tired at the end, but for most other runs they should never be so long or hard to make the legs feel like this. Reaching this level of fatigue too often will increase the amount of rest/recovery you need between hard workouts. If you go 95% instead of 99% during your tempo/track runs, you'll require less easy/recovery days between hard workouts and you'll feel better!

Downhill Workouts > Uphill Workouts

Uphill hill workouts get all the glory, but are they overrated? – Click to Tweet

While running hard uphill is something you should do, I think performing downhill hill workouts can be more beneficial.

Chances are you’ve done an event with a great deal of downhill running, and felt it for a few days afterward. Running downhill, especially fast, puts a lot of eccentric loading on your muscles. This means they are lengthening and tightening at the same time, which cause a great deal of muscle damage. While running hard uphill may FEEL very difficult, running hard downhill is doing the most damage. This is why you should do downhill workouts in training, to prepare for the hard downhills in races.

“But my race isn’t a net downhill” you may think. Yes, that’s true. But even a looped course is half downhill!

Uphill workouts don’t let you run as fast as you’re likely going to be doing in a race setting and they are not quite as hard on the muscles since you’re not hitting the ground as hard, lengthening your stride as much, etc. Hard hill workouts can be too intense as well, which works the anaerobic system (not necessary for most runners).

So, uphill workouts may not be as important as you think because:

1) They are too slow (not close enough to race pace)
2) They may be too intense and not focus on the correct energy pathway

On the other hand, doing workouts on a slight decline serve to:

1) Work on your leg turnover rate
2) Help you run at a faster pace
3) Prepare your body for hard downhills during events
4) Stimulate the leg muscles to strengthen.

Remember: Because downhill workouts and running is so damaging, it’s incredibly important to be very very progressive with them and ease into them. I’ll often start my athletes with doing simple thirty-second downhill strides during regular easy runs. That can progress into a once monthly (or so) downhill workout of increasing length.

How to do them:

This is simple. You may really take any track type workout and do that on a downhill. I will do my warm up with an easy two or three mile climb and then start the downhill reps at the top. Run hard downhill for 800m and then do a 400m easy uphill recovery.

You don’t need something very steep, preferably it’s only a slight downhill grade. Too much of a downhill will not let you run faster.

The other side of the 10% mileage guideline for running.

The 10% rule dictates that you should never increase your weekly running volume more than 10% week by week. This is a good guideline for runners who are upping their volume but it’s only half of the mileage equation.

The 10% rule of increasing mileage is only half of the story – Click to Tweet

It is crucial to take unloading weeks as well! Increasing and increasing volume (stress) does not make you stronger, the periods of unloading and rest are when this occurs. Not only are rest/easy days necessary but if you’re running towards the upper end of your abilities than rest/easy weeks are also key to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.

With my own athletes and myself what I’ll often do is leave the long runs the same but reduce or cut out the midweek volume and workouts. In essence, you’re only taking an unloading work-week, but for busy working adults this is a nice relief physically, mentally, and with their work/life schedule.

How to: Do a Track Workout (simple example)

Performing a track workout, such as 4 x (400m hard + 400m easy) may seem like common sense for most runners, but we all started from scratch at some point without any knowledge on what the heck 4x400m/400m actually is!

Runners: How to train HARD in the winter.

For those of us that live in the parts of the world which receive snow and ice during the winter, performing effective training sessions outdoors can be difficult.

An example would be the classic workout of Yasso 800’s.

During the summer I would simply run to the track and perform 10 x 800m roughly at 5k race pace with 200-400m jogging recovery.

However, during the winter went the outdoor track is completely covered in snow this workout becomes impossible to exactly replicate.

So what do I do?

What I would instead recommend for this workout would be to simply perform the run on as cleanly paved of a path as possible.

In my neck of the woods Rapid City typically does a great job keeping the bike path clean. I’ll do 90% of my quality workouts on the bike path when there is snow on the ground. I’ve also noticed that the steepest roads in town are the best plowed. This

With the 800m repetition workout, you have a couple options. You can either use your GPS to track 800m or .5mile and use it as you would a track to do a distance repetition. Another option (and my preferred) is to simply determine how long the repetitions would normally take you and run at a hard perceived exertion for that duration. Recently instead of doing 15x1k hard + 1:00 jog I did 15 x 4:00 hard + 1:00 jog, for example.

I’ve also noticed that the steepest roads in town are the best plowed. This makes doing hill workouts in the winter quite easy, actually!

Running by Heart Rate, Perceived Effort, or Pace. What’s best?

What are they?

Heart Rate: You can use a strap that goes around your chest or a watch with a built-in heart rate monitor to get real-time heart rate data.

Perceived Effort: Rating of Perceived Effort (RPE) is often a tool used in studies with a numerical rating scale based on how hard you think you’re working.

Pace: Simply put, a pace range that you should be running in.

How to determine optimal ranges?

Heart Rate: You can figure out your Max Heart Rate by performing a MHR test. Then you can break this down into zones. And then different runs may be prescribed a HR range. For example a recovery run may be zone 1 and 2.

Perceived Effort: This is harder to put a number on if you don’t have the chart in front of you. With my athletes, I typically recommend they do the vast majority of their training at “an easy conversational pace” where they could read poetry or converse with a friend in a decently normal way.

Pace: Typically this is like Heart Rate and you use a personal record (such as a 5k time) to create suggested pace ranges. For example, and easy pace may be 1.2-1.4 X your 5k race pace. Or you may do tempo runs at 95% half marathon pace.

Why select one over the other?

Various reasons. Heart Rate and Pace ranges are nice suggestions when you need a broad range to stay in, such as for easy runs.

Paces are helpful when you need to hit goal splits for a key workout.

Effort is nice during easy runs since it requires no electronics. Effort is also helpful when it is more difficult to maintain a prescribed pace or heart rate, like on the trail, hilly terrain, or over snow.

Returning to Running After Being Injured


I was just talking today to an athlete of mine who had taken an extended break from running due to a non-running related injury and operation.

The subject of this conversation was about getting back into running after a long period with little or no ability to do any impact related sports.

We were talking about the best method of easing back onto the road. This is where the benefits of a coach came up. I’ve said before that a coach is not there to tell you what to do, but what not to do. As a coach, I don’t care that my athlete only ran 5 minutes today, or that they really really want to run more. I have no problem with being overly cautious.

Years back when I was just returning to running after a short break, I started with 10 minutes of jogging. Very slowly and gradually I extended the duration. The longer a volume buildup takes, the more successful and safe it is bound to be.

In a recent Running Times article about sub-15 minute 5k athlete Sally Kipyego and her return to running after an injury induced break, Sally shared that her first run was 10 minutes where she alternated 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of jogging. Talk about self control!

Only after 2-3 months of training was she up to 30 minutes of running at one time, and it took many more months for her to run a 60 mile week.

Patience is a word that should be at the forefront of one’s mind when something new is being introduced into training, even if that’s training itself. Be it anything from new shoes to new terrain. Even intensity should be brought in slowly. Brad Hudson gives people following his training plans their first taste of a hill sprint with a single 8 second max effort!

Social Media has even been blamed at times, for the lack of patience people can experience. Seeing all of your friends logging miles or joining a run streak can place pressure on an athlete to run more.

But remember the important of gradual adaptation! Nothing good comes quickly in running.

When is the best time to run?

The answer is more simple than you think!

When I run or recommend running depends on the type of run and the time of the year.

For easy runs:

During the warmer months, doing easy runs in the heat of the day (considering your safety, of course) may stimulate some heat adaptation which could be beneficial. Learn more about heat adaptation here. The pace of these runs is unimportant as long as it’s easy.

For hard / long runs:

During the warmer months I’ll often do these asap in the morning to avoid the heat. During the colder months here in South Dakota I’ll often do harder / longer runs when the temperature is warmer in the afternoon. Running hard in the morning also gives me plenty of time to do an easy afternoon/evening double run.

How to Preserve Your Running Form over Long Distances

I recently had someone on Instagram ask me about holding on to their running form over long distance races.

This person suggested they were competitive over shorter distance races but once it comes to going beyond the half marathon he struggles to continue his form.

Let’s first discuss why form breaks down

Fatigue sets in and your form primarily changes because your brain is attempting to give relief to expired muscle fibers by using more fresh ones.

Thus during a long distance hard run runners very commonly start with a more forward landing footstrike and progress (digress?) to a more rearward landing heel strike. Different foot strikes use and load the legs differently, so your body is doing this to bring in fresh muscles and reduce the load to other areas of the body.

You may also notice your cadence (step rate) decrease and/or your stride length increase.

What can you do to preserve your form over long distances?

There are a number of “simple” methods.

  1. Proper training.
    1. Specific Endurance is the name of the game, this is the ability to tolerate goal pace for the goal distance. Gradually extending your ability to run goal pace is one of the primary ideas behind my coaching methodology.
    2. Aside from actual running, doing strength work for 5-10 minutes daily will also improve how long your muscles will function well.
    3. Drills. This is when you’re basically practicing exagerated good running form. The classic high knees or butt kick drill, for example. You would never run with knees that high or tapping your butt with your leg, but doing so in practice with purpose helps your body “learn” how to do it naturally.
  2. Proper pacing
    1. Do not ever forget the 5P’s: Proper pacing prevents poor performance. Of course if you do the first 10k of your half marathon race too quickly you’re going to “hit the wall” and your form will completely fall apart. Running conservatively for the first third/half of a race will help reduce your fatigue so you can run better during the final stretch.
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