Category Archives for Training Advice

Three Rules for my Athletes

I was thinking to myself recently, “If there were 3 things I hoped all of my athletes would mind, what would they be?”, and here’s what I came up with!

First, is to never run through a niggle! I’ve often said that the best runners may be the best at resting when they feel a potential issue. Doing this instead of running on it and risking injury leads to more consistent training!

Second is to not cram training. I’ll often frontload my week with an important run (typically the long one) so if I do need to move it back a day, that’s no big deal. But be mindful of putting too much volume within too short of a period of time. 

Third is to be diligent with ancillary work like plyometrics, bodyweight routines, and strength training!

Shoe Variation & Injury

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.

Shoe Durability​

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

The Last Minute Race Training Plan for the Untrained

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

  • During this week you must never become sore.
  • Run at an easy conversational pace. No hard running.
  • End every run before you feel like you need to end it due to fatigue or soreness.
  • The point of your training right before a race that you're not trained for is to simply get your legs as used to being on their feet and as used to that running motion as possible without developing any cumulative fatigue.

Race Week Plan

  • Monday - Jog 1 minute, walk 1 minute, repeat for 10-30 minutes based on your comfort level.
  • Wednesday  - 2 minute jog + 1 minute walk for 15-45 minutes. Remember, easy & end the run before you need to.
  • Thursday - Walk 30-60 minutes
  • Friday - 2 minute jog + 1 minute walk for 15-45 minutes. Remember, easy & end the run before you need to.
  • Saturday - Walk 30-60 minutes
  • Sunday - 26.2 miles of run / walk.

The Day Before the Race

  • Stay active, but don't do anything too out of the ordinary. Try not to spend 2 hours walking around a race expo.
  • Don't eat too much the day before, and especially the evening prior. I try to keep my dinner size down to a minimum to reduce the amount of food I may have in my GI system on race morning and potentially during the race.

Race Day Pacing

  • Keep it EASY. If you've never been in a race before, you'll find out really quick how the race day environment makes a super fast pace feel super easy. This causes people to start the event too fast and is the #1 reason why people hit the wall. 
  • You may not feel like you need to run/walk early on, but practicing a regular run/walk routine before you need to run/walk will drastically improve your performance in the final half of the distance. 

Race Nutrition

  • I would suggest to bring a bottle with you and drink to thirst. I like this handheld. You can refill it at aid stations along the route.
  • I also suggest taking in 100-200 calories during each hour of the race. If the event you are doing has regular aid stations every 3-6 miles or so, you can simply grab a few things at each of these, that way you won't have to actually carry them with you along the way.

Running Gear

  • Lube is going to be very important so you do not chafe. It's likely you have vaseline, that will work just fine. Race morning, rub it inside your thigh and around your man bits if you have them.
  • As for the actual gear, you have two options. Go with what you have or get new gear. Honestly, what you already have will likely be pretty good for your purposes. And if running is not something you think you're going to often do, it may not be worth it to buy new running specific apparel. Even compression briefs, basket ball shorts, your athletic socks and shoes, and a cotton t-shirt will work. They may not be 100% ideal, but they're going to be fairly close. 

5 Things to Change Your Running

I've read thousands of articles related to running, nutrition, entrepreneurship, etc.

One that has always stayed in my mind was on the subject of the aggregation of small marginal gains.

Specifically, this article talked about a pro cycling team who hired someone whose job was to improve little things, a little bit. Imagine if you upgraded five things by just 1%, that is a small change but can lead to big growth over time!

Now imagine if you improved everything related to your running, or just one thing even, 1%? That's not hard to do, but 1% over a year, 3 years, a decade? That's going to have a huge impact!

Imagine if you upgraded five #running related things by just 1% - Click to Tweet!

Below are five small things you can do to drastically improve your running They're little things that will make a difference!

  1. Improve your long run nutrition - Many people feel that since they can get through an easy 2-3 hour run without taking in any calories, they should. But there are two good reasons to avoid this. First is that taking in 100-200 calories hourly may simply improve how well you run during those few hours. Second is that if your goal is a race that will require intra-run nutrition, you should absolutely practice this nutrition during long runs.
  2. Strength & Mobility - One of the biggest changes I implement in the training of new clients is the addition of consistent strength work. Most of the athlete applicants I get do not perform frequent strength work. Even if it's just a 3 minute lunge matrix to warm up, that's going to make you stronger! I have a bunch of great routines here. Doing the lunge matrix pre-run and doing a 10-20 minute routine on your rest days is a great start!
  3. Do a Double Day - I believe one of the best training tools a person can use is a second run after a hard morning workout. I call them tired leg runs and they are best done at a super easy effort with no watch. Just go out for a few miles 3-6 hours after a morning track or tempo workout. Running on fatigued legs will improve our fuel utilization, mental strength, muscle fiber cycling, and most importantly is simply a second stimulation for adaptation.
  4. Pre-Bed Protein - The evenings of hard or long runs I always try to get in 20 or so grams of slow release protein like casein right before going to bed. You can either purchase some casein powder or in my case, drink some milk (80% casein). Consuming a slow release protein means you'll have this metabolized in your body during your overnight fast. 
  5. Run More - It may not be as easy as it sounds, but consider this: If you run 20 miles weekly over 4 runs and were to simply add an extra half mile into each run you'd run 22 miles, a 10% increase by simply running for an extra few minutes each day. It's super low risk since it's such a small increase spread over 4 runs but over time will make a positive impact on your fitness!

Which one are you going to work on this week?

How to go sub20 in the 5k.

I’ve talked about this in the past, but an arbitrary time goal does not matter.

If you’re a 18:55 5ker trying to break 18, a 26:00 5ker trying to break 24, or a 17:45 5k’er trying to go 16:59, you still:

Run as much as you can.

But not too much.

Eat plenty of protein.

Do daily strength & mobility.

Take unloading weeks.

Run easy days most of the time.

Run hard once in a while.

Follow some sort of training schedule.

Be patient.

No matter if you’re trying to do a sub20 5k or a sub 4 marathon, you still need to do thisClick to Tweet!

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.

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