Category: Training

Should You Crosstrain?

By Peter Pfitzinger |

As I rode the exercise bike in the lab this morning, it occurred to me that there are 3 good reasons to cross train: 1) you are injured and can’t run, so you need to do something to keep your sanity; 2) you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness without getting injured; or 3) you want to improve your running by doing other activities (such as weight lifting or yoga) that do not target your cardiovascular system.

The first 2 reasons to cross train involve maintaining or improving your cardiovascular fitness. Cycling, rowing, in-line skating, swimming, stair climbing, and deep water running fall in this category. The third reason covers all of the other activities you can do to enhance your running performance. Weight lifting, yoga, and stability ball sessions fall into this category. In this month’s column we will focus on cross-training to improve aerobic fitness, and next month we will look at other forms of cross training.

Studies have shown that predictable training errors such as increasing mileage or adding speedwork too quickly lead to the majority of running injuries. Just as the risk of coronary artery disease can be reduced through regular exercise, so can the risk of running injuries be reduced through modifying risk factors. One way to do this is to reduce pounding on the legs and back by substituting other forms of exercise for a portion of your running.

But, won’t your racing performances suffer if you replace some of your running with cross training? The Principle of Specificity of Training says that your body adapts very specifically to the type of training that you do. That is why you wouldn’t have much success as a runner by doing all your training on the bike or in the pool. But, what if the majority of your training is running, can you enhance your cardiovascular fitness by doing other types of aerobic workouts? Let’s see what the research says.

In a 1995 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Carl Foster, Ph.D. and colleagues investigated the effects of increasing training volume via additional running versus as equal increment of cross training. Thirty reasonably well-trained runners were divided into 2 groups. One group (run + run) increased their running mileage by 10% while the other group (run + swim) added an equivalent amount of swimming to their training. After 8 weeks of increased training, the run + swim group improved their 2 mile race performance by 13 seconds whereas the run + run group improved their 2 mile time by 26 seconds. In addition, the 4 mmol lactate threshold improved in the run + run group but not in the run + swim group. The results of this study suggest that even reasonably well-trained runners can improve their running performance through cross-training, but that the improvement is likely to be less than through increased running.

Read more…

I Talk The Talk While Running The Run!

An introspective viewpoint based on the conversations between Jay Stephenson and Christopher Rodriguez

By Christopher Rodriguez and Coach Jay Stephenson

John L. Parker once wrote that runners “gab like magpies”. When I first started running I thought I would be like that, but found out that I didn’t have any breath to talk or even to notice what was going on around me. Over the years however, I have grown strong and mean. What does this have to do with gabbing you ask? I now do hours of running alone, with a few people or just one other running buddy. I have noticed that my ability to talk has slowly turned from one-word answers to full on sentences and conversations!

I never realized how much I enjoyed gabbing like a magpie until I got in the habit of talking while running. Talks for me have been about everything from racing to colorful debates on political issues like Feminism and Fair Tax. To make it worse, running has started to make positive things happen thanks to my big mouth!

First, I usually form a deep bond with people that I share the “mile of trials” with.  Over the years I think this bond has been made even deeper and stronger still by all those talks I have had.

Secondly, and most importantly, is that the issues of life often get solved on the run as I bounce ideas off a buddy’s head while we run. Then again, that is probably just the so called a runner’s high.
So if you are high enough to loosen up your jaw for a complete stranger, what are you going to say? Usually the first thing that people talk about on the run is how long they have been running, where they are from and how fast they are.

Funny that in a social setting, say a dinner party, this is not the usual thing people talk about when they first meet each other? For example: “Hi my name is Christopher and I like to run and I live outside of Atlanta and do Real Estate” should be on a card for me to handout when I go to a social event because that is the first thing people usually ask about. At this so called “typical get-together” people are not stuck side by side for an hour over hill and dale.

The sharing of hardships on a run makes it so that the typical run starts with a conversation and results in an improved relationship.  The strength of relationships built on a run is similar to that of members of active military groups or disaster survivors. The best part is the typical rules to conversation and friendships are usually invalid. For example, if a snot rocket is launched out of your nose in an unexpected fashion a similar unexpected factoid might loosed from your running partner.
While on a run conversations can begin unexpectedly. Some say this freedom and ease of conversation is due to the chemicals that are released while running or the large doses of oxygen going in your brain on the way to your legs and lungs. Running with someone is a unique place to share your thoughts.  Maybe it is the fact that you don’t have to look at each other that clears the air to talk while you run.

That being said, conversations that make you passionate have a positive affect on your run! Talk about dating, jobs or an upcoming race and you might start running faster because you get excited! Talk about a funny story and you might slow down with laughter.
Communication is a natural and important part of human behavior and as luck would have it, so is physical activity. If you can’t tell, I love running and I enjoy sharing this joy with others. John L. Parker wrote something that describes this well “the time on a grandfather clock doesn’t accurately reflect the time it takes to run ten miles”. This was simply stating that talking while on a run makes the run go by faster. A lot of people talk about a lot of different things for different reasons but in the end, people need to exercise and they need to talk, so why not kill two birds with one stone? After all if mental training is therapy, and physical training is running then running and talking must be really great!

-Christopher Rodriguez is a Real Estate novelist, meaning that he enjoys the novelty of his Real Estate salesman profession and he resides outside of Atlanta Georgia. Christopher runs over 3000 miles a year with as many people as he can find and take pleasure in writing about himself in the 3rd person.

Running with Earphones: Super Friend or Evil Villain?

Most people I know have an iPod or some other small musical listening device. Most runners I know have also gone for a run while listening to their favorite jams. In fact I had a friend in college who ran with her iPod on a regular basis along the roads and down the trails of our campus.

She often ran in the morning so as to beat the heat. One time she was very startled by another runner on the trail that she had not seen until he was passing her. She told me the story and we had a good laugh, but this also raises the question “is running while listening to music your super friend or a super villain to your safety?” Let’s look at several safety tips for the solo runner and see how the ipod fits in.

General Safety Tips for Solo Runners:
•    Let someone know where you are running and for how long
•    Make sure you are properly hydrated and fueled before you begin
•    Perhaps run with mace if you are running in an unfamiliar area or one with known stray animals
•    Be aware of your surroundings, including the ground (for footing), possible cars and cyclists, animals and other people
•    If running on the road, run against the flow of traffic

If Running While it is Dark:
•    Wear clothing and shoes with reflective strips
•    Invest in a vest with reflective strips on it

How Does the iPod Fit In:
•    It doesn’t fit into your safety
•    It is very dangerous not to be able to hear an oncoming car, dog or someone behind you
•    Cyclyist are also very dangerous to your safety
•    If you have to listen to your ipod then do so at a level that you can hear your own footsteps.  This might not be as loud as you want to jam to your music but this guideline could save your life

What do you think? What are your experiences running with an iPod?

Going Out Too Fast

There are many lessons learned on the track or pavement during a race. Many of us have experienced going out to fast. Here is an entry from a running log that will give you insight how to prevent this from occurring and how to optimally pace yourself according to your current level of fitness.

Journal Entry
After a disappointing race last season I wrote this journal entry. I was so keyed up before the race to make a big break through that I ditched my race plan because I “felt good” running 2:10 for the first 800m and then I payed for it by going too deep anaerobically too quickly. I was never able to get it the race under control and a poor performance was the result.

The lesson learned was that regardless of what everyone else does there is a limit to how fast I am willing to run the first laps of a race. I think that everyone should employ some type of limit to how fast they are willing to go out in for the first couple of laps. I based mine on previous PR’s.

Race Distance Current PR Current PR Pace 400m Race Distance First Lap Range Second Lap Range
 800m 1:55.0 400m (57.5) 800m (55-56.5)  
1500m 3:54.4 400m (62.4) 1500m (60-61)  
3000m 8:27.1 400m (67.6) 3000m (65-67)  
3000m SC 8:55.7 400m (71.4) 3000m SC (67-70)  
5000m 14:21 400m (68.9) 5000m (67-69) 67-68
10000m 30:44 400m (73.76) 10000m (72-74) 72-73

Now going into a race I assess my current level of fitness and determine how fast I want to go, rather than letting the adrenaline of the race dictate my pace. I hope this lesson helps someone in their race preparation.  Check out our pacing chart to learn more about your pacing.

Have you ever gone out too fast? What was your experience?

Dealing With Pressure

Q: How to Deal with Crippling Pressure?

Hi Lauren,

In a month I will be starting cross country at a division 1 college, I’m nervous, so nervous that I can’t even imagine finishing a race. and the thing is, its a real possibility. Over the course of the two seasons in high school I ran, I dropped out of four races, maybe more. I just feel like I can’t get passed this worry to get to my true potential. It makes me dog the race because its obviously better to finish slow than not at all. If I felt the pressure in high school, how do I deal with it in college?


A: oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh…

Dear Ally,

I’ve dealt with that too, and it sucks.  Three years ago I crumbled under pressure on America’s biggest stage: the USA Championships.  With 600 meters to go, I stopped and walked, and eventually talked myself into finishing (though well behind my potential.)

Your racing is most likely carrying too much of your identity, so if you fail, in your mind it has consequences for who you are as a person. If you read about adolescent development (which lasts until you are in your mid-20′s by the way) the defining area of growth during that age is finding your identity.  In order to do this, you start to see yourself as you fit in with larger groups and systems….no longer an oblivious girl with dirty knees and a big smile just running for fun, you are hyper-aware of your competitors, of the expectations of others, of what’s at stake.  In my opinion, its the biggest growing pain for athletes.  Until you learn to master this, it will own you.

The way this translates into your running is as follows:  your races become little tests and challenges for you to find out more about yourself as a competitor and as a person. You start seeing people around you doing things like dropping out, and they get labeled and talked about by other people.  You see that and you think, “Oh man, I don’t want to be like that.”  You see their actions and draw conclusions about their identity.

Dropping out of a race does not determine who you are.  It is simply something you have done.  It is a behavior.

You are not a drop out.  You dropped out.

Once you disconnect those actions from your identity as a person, you have the power to change your racing.  Once you realize that your racing doesn’t define you, there is way less pressure.  Fear is gradually replaced by excitement and a simple desire to see what you can do on the day.  You need to get back to the basics, girl.

So I recommend you do the following:

Read more…

7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Long Runs

By Coach Jenny Hadfield |

The long run is truly the bread and butter of an endurance running program. It teaches your body how to spend time on its feet, how to utilize fat as a primary fuel source and is a dress rehearsal for the big dance.  The secret in perfecting your long runs is to keep it simple and avoid making these common training mistakes.

1. Running too far too Quickly

Soon after you commit to a half or full marathon, it’s time to train. Excitement from the target can encourage runners to tackle longer runs than their bodies are ready for at that point, which can quickly lead to aches, pains, burn out and poor performance down the road. The greatest way to assure your success on race day is to follow a plan that starts from where your current fitness level and mileage is.

For example, if your longest run is 4 miles, you’ll want to find a plan or create one of your own that starts no higher than 5 miles for the first long run. This may not look all that exciting. However, the goal isn’t about how many miles you tackle each week; it’s about getting to the start line healthy, fresh and ready to rumble. Start from where you are and you’ll perform well, recover better, and have fun along the way.

2. Running too Fast

The difference between running for fitness and training for a long-distance running race is one stays consistent week to week (fitness) and the latter builds and progresses throughout the season. Because of this progression, it is important to vary your effort level as you train. In other words, run at a pace that is easy and conversational. If you can talk while you’re running the long run, you’re at the right effort. If you can’t, you’re running too fast. Avoid trying to run the long runs by a pace or target time. This sets you up for the race pace training disaster where you feel great for about four to six weeks, then things start to crumble when your energy levels decline, your body aches, and performance begins to suffer.

3. Fueling With too Much Sugar

Sports drinks and other on-the-run fueling products such as gels, beans and Clif Shot Bloks were originally invented to supplement your energy intake. Your body can only take in so much energy in the form of sugar, and when you exceed that level, it causes nauseau and stomach upset. The idea is not to replace the energy lost while running but to only replenish some of what is lost. This, I believe has been lost in marketing translation.

Everyone will have their own unique menu for fueling on the go. Some go with sports drinks only as it contains both sugar, electrolytes and fluid and is easily digested. Others go with sports drinks plus a gel along the way. Still others go with the simplicity of water, use electrolyte tabs such as Nuun and Succeed or gels as their main source of energy.  Confused yet? You should be. Endurance fueling has become as intimidating as selecting a cereal at the grocery store. Keep it simple and target to get in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour for runs longer than 60 minutes.

If you are on the lighter side, lean toward the lower end of the range and vice versa. Practice this in training to identify which products agree with your system. Avoid mixing a sports drink with a gel or beans, as all of these products are designed at about a 6 to 7 percent sugar concentration to allow for quick absorption rates. If you mix sports drinks with a gel, this increases that concentration level and you’ll develop sugar belly. You can also develop this condition if you take in too much sugar during the run. Keep track along the way, and you’ll develop a recipe that works for you. Look at the carbohydrate content on the label. Aim for an hourly rate on the low end of the range, and tweak it from there. You’ll avoid a lot of issues along the way and take in only what you need to replenish.

Read more…

What Happens When You Run a Marathon Without Proper Training?

By Jeff Gaudette |

It seems like everyone is training for a marathon these days, and the pressure to run one can seem daunting. However, is it possible that training for and racing a marathon might not be in your best interest?

In this article, we’ll look at the potential pitfalls of training for and racing a marathon when you’re not prepared, and how this might be a detriment to your short-term and long-term development.

Let me preface this article by stating that I am not implying that running a marathon can’t be done if you don’t have the training background. I am merely making the argument that it might not be the best goal for you if you have long-term aspirations with your running.

Do you have the training background and time available to prepare yourself?

The marathon is an arduous event and requires a dedicated training block of at least four months for beginning runners (classified as someone running consistently for less than a year, or averaging less than 20 to 25 miles per week). More importantly, training for a marathon when you don’t have the requisite running background is a sure fire way to get injured or find yourself disenchanted with running if you’re new to the sport.

Suggested Running Level to Start Marathon Training

In my experience, beginners need to be able to average at least 30 to 35 miles per week for 5 to 6 weeks to increase the chance that they will have a good race experience. This means that you need to be able to run 25 to 30 miles per week comfortably before you begin training for a marathon.

If you’re not at this number, it doesn’t mean you can never train for a marathon. Rather, you should focus on slowly building your training tolerance and mileage. Otherwise, you’re probably going to struggle to increase the weekly mileage and long runs enough to be prepared on race day.

Read more.

Start Slow – Finish Fast: How Three Types of Progression Runs Boost Your Fitness

Greg McMillan, M.S. |

In a progression run, you begin running at a slow, easy pace but finish at a fast pace. Not only will you find progression runs to be fun, but they are a great way to boost your fitness without any lasting fatigue. And, the benefits are the same no matter if you’re a 2:15 or a 4:15 marathoner.

Three Types of Progression Runs

While the idea of the progression run is simple – start slower, finish faster, I recommend that you begin with structured progression runs until you learn how to properly gauge your effort throughout the run. Below are the three structured progression runs that I have used successfully.

1) Thirds

The first type of progression run is called Thirds. As the name implies, you break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace. For many competitive runners this effort corresponds to somewhere around marathon race pace to as fast as half-marathon race pace and a heart rate between 80 and 90% of maximum. This strong running significantly improves your Stamina which raises the pace you can run before you begin to rapidly accumulate lactic acid.

For your first thirds progression run, choose a 45-minute easy run. Run the first 15 minutes slowly, the second 15 minutes at your normal pace and finish the last 15 minutes at a strong pace. While I break the run into thirds, your pace doesn’t radically change after each third. Instead, it is a gradual but steady increase across the run. After getting your feet wet with this first thirds run, you can adapt the concept to any duration/distance.

It’s important to note that the pace of the final third is NOT all-out running. An appropriate pace for the last third is approximately your marathon race pace.* Could you run faster at the end? Of course! But that’s not the goal of this particular progression run. In fact, if you run too hard in the last third, the workout becomes more like a Tempo Run which causes too much fatigue for the purposes of a progression run.

It’s likely that on some of your runs, you already do a thirds progression run without even trying. When you are fully recovered from previous workouts, the body seems to just naturally progress to a faster pace as the run goes along. And please note that I suggest you do this on an ‘easy run’ day not a ‘recovery run’ day.** For all but a select few elite athletes, progression runs should not be used on days when you are recovering from a previous workout or race.

Lastly, I find a thirds progression run to be an especially beneficial workout for experienced marathon runners – runners who can handle an additional up tempo day in addition to their other key workouts and long run. The most important caveat, however, is that you must not push too hard in the last third. Strive for a medium-hard pace (around your marathon race pace) not a Tempo Run.

Read about two more types of progression runs.

5 Running Workouts to Do With a Partner

By Patrick McCrann |

As solo an endeavor as running can be, there’s no doubt that having a companion to share your miles can help breathe the life back into your training. From sharing a few laughs to pushing your limits, the right running partner will help you grow as a runner.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are five great running workouts that you can do with your running partner of choice. Run them as fast or as slowly as you want; you’ve already won simply by having someone to share the experience with

But before we begin…

Quick Running Partner Advice

Running with someone else is just that; a run. Don’t feel pressure to do anything but run. It’s helpful to set some expectations around average pace and distance for that specific workout. Otherwise

don’t place too many constraints around the session as it can really take the fun out of the workout. And don’t forget that you can have as many different running friends as you like; you could have speedy partner, one for recovery days, and even one for your longer runs. The sky is the limit.

Top Partner Run Workouts

#1 — Triple Fast Slow
A variation on a fartlek (aka speed play) run, in this session runners take turns implementing three speed surges at the pace and duration of their choice, recovering as much as needed. After these three repeats, the other runner has the chance to take the lead.

Tip: Start with one set each and build up to three as your fitness improves.

#2 — Adventure Run
A personal favorite, this run involves one runner plotting out a brand new route and then acting as the tour guide leading the other(s). Use an online mapping tool and a GPS device to avoid getting utterly lost; but note that even diverting just a few blocks off your normal route can be sufficiently different.

Tip: This is a perfect substitute for a regularly scheduled long run, especially when your training is becoming monotonous.

Read about more partner workouts.

Breakfast with Champions

Most masters runners have race buddies — those friends we see a few hours several times a year, whom we only know in running shorts or sweats, whose jobs we can’t describe and whose homes we’ve never visited.

Last spring, following a 3,000m race at Cerritos College in Southern California, I had breakfast at Peris Restaurant with four race buddies, all age-group American record-holders: Ken Ernst, Brian Pilcher, Nolan Shaheed and Rich Burns.

“You know what I hate?” I say, as we study the menus. “I hate when I eat a light lunch at work, and everybody says, ‘But you’re so thin, you can eat anything!’ No, I can’t. I’m thin because I diet and because I run 90 miles a week!”

“I eat like 2,000, 2,500 calories a day,” says Brian. “My wife says I’m like a high school girl because I’m always watching what I eat.”

“I definitely have a sweet tooth,” says Ken. “I’ll eat M&Ms, ice cream.”

“My wife bought us each a half gallon of vanilla ice cream,” says Rich. “Hers will last three or four days. Mine was gone in two meals.”

“I eat chicken or fish, any white meat,” says Nolan, who eats once daily and has tea for breakfast. “I eat vegetables, fruit and grains. And beans and oatmeal. I love oatmeal!”

While the rest of us order, Nolan asks Ken–who recently set the M50–54 5,000m record–what he ran in high school. Ken says 9:02 for 2 miles, which is the fastest high school PR at the table. Turns out, Nolan never ran the distance.

“Back then, there weren’t too many black guys running the 2-mile,” says Nolan. “Coaches didn’t think black guys could do anything past a quarter, maybe an 880 now and then.”

“Who’d like to see Jeremy Wariner move up to the 800?” says Ken.

“He was the top 400 meter runner in the world!” I say. “Why should he move up? Nobody asks that about other 400 runners.”

“Because he’s white,” says Nolan, suggesting it’s racial profiling.

I tell the story of doing mile repeats with James Sanford, then the world’s top sprinter, when we ran for USC in 1980. Sanford thought sprinters’ workouts were too easy, so he joined us distance guys for the day. Sanford told us the fastest guy he’d ever seen was a tall, red-haired, white kid who quit running in high school. Nolan says he remembers the kid, but it’s soon obvious we’re talking about different people. Anyway, Sanford ran 5 minutes for the first rep, then collapsed to the Exposition Park grass, exhausted.

“I do all my running on the track,” says Nolan, while the rest of us stuff our faces. “When I was injured, I couldn’t run faster than 7-minute pace. And then I raced, and I ran just as well. I found out I don’t have to run faster than 7-minute pace.”

“On morning runs, I go about 9-minute pace,” I say. “Afternoons, about 7:30 pace. When I go fast, I go fast. But I don’t go fast on distance runs.”

“On a good day, I run 8:30 pace,” says Rich. “Otherwise, maybe 8:45 to 9:00 pace.”

Read the rest of the story.