Category: Training

First Marathon leads Rome’s Matt Davis down a positive road

ROME, Ga. – The look on his face and a pronounced fist pump spoke volumes when Matt Davis crossed the finish line in May.
And for good reasons.

After all, it was the first time in the 38-year-old’s life that he had run 26.2 miles – a marathon – when the local radio executive and personality competed in the 2017 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Even more, however, the accomplishment realized a life-changing goal Davis had set for himself.

“I was looking to do something positive,” said Davis. “I decided I wanted to be the best version of myself and I did enjoy running.
“My goal was to run a marathon by the time I was 40 so I decided to go for it.”

Lacing up a pair of shoes was nothing new to Davis, who had casually run on his own before and even took part in some 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) races several years ago. But when he set his marathon goal more than a year ago, when he was admitted at the hospital, Davis understood that a firmer commitment was needed.

“I did some on-line research about how to begin training and I knew that one of the first things I needed to do was to find the proper shoes,” Davis said, adding that he read an article on ShoeHero which was about the best comfortable shoes and with this he made his way to GoGo at The Shoe Box to begin the process. “They took a lot of time with me. They want to make sure you get the right fit.”

That visit led to a meeting with co-owner and running coach Jay Stephenson.

“Jay helped fit me for my first pair of running shoes,” said Davis. “From that first meeting, I started talking with him about running. I did a few 5Ks, began to run three to four times a week and eventually I started increasing the distance.

“I went from having no physical activity and a sedimentary lifestyle to an active healthy lifestyle,” he added, noting that he had dropped 20 pounds since starting. “When I run I listen to music, podcasts as even listen to people talking about running. But a lot of times I don’t listen to anything. I enjoy the tranquility.”

Davis eventually ran his first half-marathon in the spring of 2016, a race that led him to entering the marathon in Cincinnati and focus on training for the demands it takes.

“Jay really helped me with the nutrition side of it and how important that is,” said Davis. “He helped me develop a plan to train for the race and for the weeks leading up to it.

“Running is so mental. To be able to talk with somebody who knows about it and has the knowledge – Jay helped me so much through his support.”

“I helped Matt learn what to take and when to take it,” Stephenson said, “and he sent me updates of what he was doing regularly.”

The Flying Pig course – it started in downtown Cincinnati, went across the Ohio River and into Kentucky, into the city’s suburbs and eventually finished back downtown at the Great American Ball Park – proved to be a difficult one at the start. At the three-and-a-half mile mark, the runners immediately face a taxing 300-foot climb in a five-mile stretch.

“The first part of the race was really, really hard because it was uphill,” Davis said. “But after that it flattened out a little.”

“Running a marathon is hard,” said Stephenson. “But I thought he did an amazing job. There’s a lot more ahead of him.”

All told, Davis – he has already set his sights on his second marathon and will run in the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Ala., in December – covered the Flying Pig distance in a little over five hours, a respectable time for marathoner newbies. Yet anyone who has run the race will agree; finishing it is an accomplishment in itself.

“I can’t begin to describe what it felt like to finish,” Davis said.

Running Form Revisit

It is time for me to revisit my running form.  I try to do this during almost every run and sometimes I spend the whole run focusing on my for and doing mental checks of how I am feeling and moving.  If we played another sport like baseball or basketball we would constantly be working on our throwing form or shooting form, but in running we likely do a clinic once or twice without revisiting it often enough.

I read the below article on the week and it brought back a part of running form that I had let slip away among the talk of foot strike and cadence.  The arm position is the most influential and controllable component of running form.  The arms lead the legs, balance the body, and change the center of mass.

The change I am working on making is raising my arms a little and trying to run with my elbows.  This is a little difficult to explain in words.  I think what I am doing physically can be explained with these mental cues.

Try to run with you elbows moving as if you have trekking poles attached to them and you are pushing off the ground with them while you run.  This should move your arms forward and a little higher and in front of you body.  I don’t know if this will help you but it certainly has helped me focus on keeping my arms up a little and raising my center of gravity.


2015 Boston Marathon Running Form Analysis

What I saw in the 2015 Boston Marathon this week is what I learn over and over again in my practice and my own running: the farther up from the ground a part of your body is, the greater its effect on your running. So mostly this blog post will be about arms, chests and upper backs, shoulders, necks, and heads, because in a field of comparable runners this is a key area where races are won and lost.  Read more.

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…

Find Your Race Weight

Wondering how to find your perfect race weight?

There is a great book called “Race Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald that talks about trying to run faster by finding your best race weight.  The book’s premise is that trying to reach your optimum weight should not involve starving yourself to see how many pounds you can lose before race day.  Instead it is more important to pay attention to your weight when you are running PR’s and feeling your best.  Then write down this weight and try to hit it during your competitive season.

In “Racing Weight” Fitzgerald points out that extra weight can make you run slower.  The other end of the spectrum is when you lose too much weight and lose the ability to produce enough power to maintain your best racing paces.

When you’re ready to slim down for your peak race remember that what you eat after an easy run, workout, or race plays a major role in numbers on the scale. Two easy ways to head towards a healthy goal race weight are to eat the right kinds of foods after a race or workout and to eat the right amounts of food. Of course there is a time and place for “splurging”, but if you have a weight goal it is best to avoid the “I just went on a run, I can eat whatever I want!” mentality.

Here is an idea of what you should consume after easy runs, workouts, and races to help you recover and not put on extra post run weight due to your eating habits:

Post Easy Run Snack:

  • Water- amount depends on weather, distance covered and thirst
  • 1 granola bar or piece of fruit
  • Vitamins and mineral supplement

Post Workout or Race Snack:

  • Water- amount depends on weather, distance covered, and thirst
  • Carb/Protein drink- 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein (Muscle milk, chocolate milk, Endurox, Accelerade, etc)
  • 1 granola bar or piece of fruit
  • Vitamins and mineral supplement


Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are words or phrases which are repeated over and over again to reinforce a single thought. For example, a negative affirmation might begin with the words “I can’t do ____” or “I’m not _____”. A positive affirmation might begin with the words “I can _______” or “I am _________”.

Why is this important for a runner? Most people have heard the saying that running is largely a mental sport. Well, it’s true! One of the reasons distance running is difficult is that we have so much time to think and it’s not always easy to keep our thoughts positive. Of course if all our thoughts are about quitting or failing we’ll never achieve our full potential. The good news is that the opposite holds true as well: if we focus all our energy on positive thoughts we are likely to reach our goals. When practiced repeatedly, our beliefs become our reality. Affirmations are the foundations of not only our fears but our confidence. And in running, confidence is the key to success.

Thoughts Can Predict Our Outcome
It’s easy to see that our thoughts predict our outcomes. What’s not so easy is to correct our negative thought patterns and turn them into positive affirmations. It is a constant battle that requires us to step out of our comfort zone and accept the challenge of freedom from our doubt and fears.

The first step is to realize that we are the source of our own problems. Every time we allow a negative thought to settle in our minds, we give power to the thought and we let it control us. This can be anything from “It’s too hot” to “I’m going to get last place”. Of course we should acknowledge our fears and not be afraid to feel them. But we should also be prepared to combat them with positive affirmations and make the best of any situation in practice, race or our daily lives.
The second step is to come up with a few go-to positive affirmations. An easy place to start is to look at the areas of your training or racing that make you feel most insecure. Then find a few phrases to help you make it through those moments of insecurity.

Try starting your affirmation with the words “I am ______”.  Personally, I like the phrase “I am powerful”. It’s short, simple and it is critical to my success as an athlete. It’s also something I doubt on occasion during a hard race or practice. You may choose another phrase, such as “I am ready”, “I am strong”, “I am determined” or anything that makes you feel confident.

Affirmations are usually 3-5 word phrases and the best affirmation is one you choose for yourself. It’s ok to reach a little bit here. As you repeat the phrase your brain will learn to believe it and your body will respond.

The last step is to practice.  Once you’ve picked your affirmation, memorize it. Write it down, say it out loud and fill your brain with positive affirmations throughout the day. Most importantly, start bringing your affirmations to practice. Repeat them before, during and after your workouts. Every time a negative thought crosses your mind, block it out with 3 positive affirmations. I have found this to get a little bit easier over the years but I don’t think that being positive is second nature.  It is very hard to master your mind, but if you can your body will follow.

What is your Affirmation Statement?

Solidify Your Run with Recovery

This is a term that I have been using to remind myself that each run needs to be solidified by a recovery element. This is my new mantra that I hope is going to help me balance the need for recovery after hard workouts or long miles.

You can solidify your run or workout by massage, naps, hydration, eating right, ice baths, etc. Why is there a need to solidify your workouts?

One of the problems with training hard or training at all is that our bodies don’t get faster or better when we run fast or long. We actually get weaker and more broken down by the training that we do. I can prove this by asking you to run a race as fast as you can and then asking you to repeat the same effort 2 hours later. You will not be able to do it because your body is not recovered yet. We get faster when we are sitting on the couch.

So how can we return to a recovered state faster after a hard workout?

  1.     Place equal value on recovery and hard work.
  2.     Be honest with yourself…are you actually recovered? Did you do the right thing to solidify your run.
  3.     Force yourself to take a 1-day off at least every 14 days. Most people will need 1-day off every 3-7 days.
  4.     Remember that good performances come not from any individual session but from consistency.
  5.    A good mood is good sign of recovery…
  6.    Solidifying your run can make your quality of life better…

How can you solidify your run?

  1. I have recently been solidifying my runs by 30mins naps.  In addition to the fact that the body does most of its healing during sleep I have been feeling a great deal less stressed by adding my 30min naps 3Xper week.  It just feels good to lay down and get some rest. Watch the Importance of Sleep video if you need more convincing.
  2. Drink some chocolate milk within 20mins to 1hr after your hard workouts.  Check the refueling with chocolate milk video.
  3. Do some dynamic drills before you do a workout or race.
  4. Stretch after your run is over.
  5. Take an ice bath for 12minutes in 52-55 degree water.
  6. Get a massage.
  7. Take a leisurely walk to unwind.
  8. Do some Yoga.

If you are a highly motivated athlete you may have a hard time solidifying your run because you thrive on the instant gratification of hard workouts. My suggestion is to change the way you think about getting faster. Instead of focusing on times and splits and ignoring the recovery process, try to balance your running with at least one activity that will solidify your run every day. By focusing on both hard work and the recovery process you can solidify every run and make sure that they count.

P.S. One of my favorite quotes is from Deena Kastor.  She says “…there is no such thing as OVER TRAINING, only UNDER RESTING.”

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”  with it actually 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. So, it might be a better idea that you attend the Opry at the Ryman rather than making it blare out of your earphones and God forbid, get hit on the road.
•    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?

Running with Passion

German poet Christian Hebbel once said “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”

Take a look at these two championship photos you’ll notice one thing in common: these runners competed with heart. They found an event that they could put their whole mind body and spirit into, and they gave it their best effort.

Obviously we can’t all compete at the world class level like the athletes in these photos. But we certainly can learn from them how to get the most out of our running experience. The answer is passion. One of my favorite characteristics of track is that there is an event for everyone. Every person on the planet has an event best suited for their talents and their goals. Our job is to find it and own it. Our job is to fight off all the excuses and fears and become the runner and person we were meant to be.  Some of us will end up as marathoners, while others (perhaps the more sane crowd) will stick with the mile or 5k and be happy. The point is simply that each of us is capable of the passion displayed in these pictures. There is no greater joy in running than to know you have given your best effort – so it is our job as students of the sport to examine our hearts and be faithful to follow them to the finish.