Podcast 019 – My second Q&A

In this Q and A I discuss:

  • How fast you should run your long runs
  • What you should focus on to improve your form
  • The key concepts of my upcoming book, Simple Marathon Training

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Here are some excerpts from the last few newsletters.

04.17.14 newsletter – “When life gets in the way, be smart about the next step in training.”

Sometimes life gets in the way of doing the training that you want to do.  Your job is demanding and you have to work late.  You have a significant other whose job is demanding, and they need to vent about it.  You have children.  Maybe you have all three of these.  Obviously there are countless other examples, but you get the point.

Here’s the deal: when life gets hard, you need to be honest about the fact that you have a finite amount of energy and you might not be able to train at the level you want to.  I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.  Finite, not infinite.

When I see clients try to grind through their training schedule when life takes away sleep and energy and a general sense of normalcy, I do my best to talk them into a day off, or at least couple of easy days with strides.  I understand that they need to get in a run to stay sane, but I’m asking that they don’t do a workout to advance their fitness. Easy running, or no running.  That’s it.  They can run, but no workouts and no long runs.

Be honest about where your energy level is.  If it’s much below normal, then be kind to yourself and go easy.

Related is this quick story…

04.24.14 newsletter – “Recovery for marathoners and peaking for high schoolers.”

This is a two-part newsletter.  The first part covers my thoughts on recovering from a marathon, while the second part covers my thoughts on preparing high school athletes for the final weeks of the season.  First, the marathon recovery plan.

Marathon Recovery Plan

The goal of this marathon recovery plan is simple: to get you from the final step of your marathon to the first step of your training for the next race.  I want to help you safely get through this period.  This is a great time to not only recover from the stress that 26.2 miles puts on the body, but it’s a great time to set up your training for the best training phase of your life.  If you execute this recovery plan your body will be better prepared to handle the training that will take you to the next level of fitness.

So what’s in the plan?

The first thing we should acknowledge is that idea that you take one day of rest and recovery for every mile you run.  So that would be 26 days.  I share that not because I think 26 is a magic number, but rather to show that three or four weeks of down time has been used for decades by marathoners.  So that’s the first thing – be honest that a proper recovery phase takes more than a week (or two).

The second thing that we want to acknowledge is that you need to get back in touch with your body and see if there are any little “niggles” – places that are tight, painful, or inappropriately sore – and deal with them now during the recovery phase.  So you do need to go out for a couple of short runs and take an inventory of how you feel.  If your quads are tight, your hamstrings are sore or your gluteal muscles are sore and tight, no need to worry.  But if you have something that hurts in a specific place, that is where you need to focus your therapy.  You need to find a soft tissue therapist – could be a massage therapist or a PT or a Chiropractor – who can help you work through this issue.  If, unfortunately, it’s a bone issue, then you will need a plan that includes some non-weight bearing activities.  That level of injury is outside of the scope of what I want to cover here, but it is important to do the short recovery runs as a detector  of a potential bone injury.

The third thing you should consider is that your mobility and range of motion (ROM) are a) not what they should be post marathon and perhaps more importantly b) your mobility and ROM weren’t what they should be going into the marathon.  This is great news!  Now is a great time to take some of the time you would devote to running training and do non-running work to make yourself a better athlete, and thus a better runner…


Preparing High School Athletes for the Final Weeks of the Season

One of the big thing that high school coaches need to understand when preparing high school athletes for the championship meets is to keep in mind the stresses student-athletes have outside of track practice and track meets.  There are so many end of the year functions for clubs and organizations that the students must attend.  Combine this with the academic challenges of finals and you have student-athletes that come to practice having had to deal with more stress than they did two months ago at the start of practice.

Now, I’m not saying you have to back off the training for every athlete, but I would find the time to ask each athlete how stressful their life is outside of track practice and consider watering down their assignment.  My college coach, Mark Wetmore, would often say, “You can’t run better than your fitness, but you can run worse than your fitness.”  A fit runner who is tired and stressed out from school isn’t going to run up to their fitness level.  Hammering a long run, grinding out a threshold run, or killing themselves on 400s may have worked well a month ago, but might not be the recipe for good running this week.  Again, I’m not saying you have to change your entire training plan for the entire team.  But the class president who is your your anchor leg on the 4x800m might have had two AP practice tests before they come to practice for a killer 800m workout.  This is a special person and they might run the workout well…but they’re also human and might bomb the workout.  Ask them how they feel, and perhaps take off a rep or two.  If they are a guy, you can take out a bit of the GS at the end of practice, but keep the intensity of the exercises high; if they are a girl then I would leave all of the GS in as the hormonal stimulus is important to maintain throughout the year.
The other thing I would like to reiterate, though I know you know this, is that you need to keep your bread and butter aerobic running in the training recipe in the final weeks.  The duration of your long run and threshold run (or whatever they call the aerobic repeats these days) can be less than it was two months ago, but don’t take that work out of the practice completely.  One cool way to get in some race specific work and get some aerobic work is to do a workout that I heard about from Terrence Mahon on the Canadian Coaching Centre podcast (which is an amazing reference for you to check out when the season is over)…

[Read more…]

I love…

I love fartleks because they develop the aerobic metabolism and they teach athletes to run by feel, which is much better than learning to run by a watch or GPS.

I love long runs because long runs develop the aerobic metabolism, long runs strengthen the mind and long runs improve the athlete’s ability to concentrate while uncomfortable.

I love progression runs for their simplicity.  Start a run and speed up as the run progresses.  That’s it – just keep speeding up as the run processes.  After a successful progression run the athletes has greater confidence in their ability to speed up at the end of a race, to run faster when they’re extremely uncomfortable.

I love the 2k section of Marshall Road in south Boulder. [Read more…]

Running Hard, but Running Controlled: Long Runs

Let me preface my comments by saying that for many runners – runners of all ages – there needs to be a build up of the long run to a level that they will maintain for months.  This post pertains to that long run, not the preceding long runs where the athlete is building their volume.

I firmly believe that to fully develop the aerobic system you have to run a weekly long run.  And that run should not be slow.  Doesn’t have to be a “race from the gun” type long run (though I’ve done my fair share of those) but at the least it should be a progression of running that takes the athlete through faster paces as the run progresses.  Or, say you’re running 17 miles.  You run the first six really easy, then the next four still talking, then you run five at a pace where you could talk but you probably aren’t talking, and then you squeeze it down just a bit more for those final two miles.

That said, when you do a hard long run, you should be able to say, “I could have run one, two or even three miles longer at that pace.  Those extra miles would have been really hard – maybe even felt like a race – but I could have done it.” [Read more…]