Working Class Running Coach

VDOT Badge

I am a VDOT O2 Certfied Distance Running Coach.

Daniels Running Formula was one of the first running books I seriously read and referenced during my serious distance running practice. No resource taught me more about the relationship between race performances, different forms of training, or the different workouts that go into every week/cycle of training.

Growing into my running ability, VDOT O2 was instrumental in showing me not just the best paces to run key workouts, but the ideal volumes. It indicated when a particular workout might be too much, and helped prevent me from overtraining.

It also showed me when I could push myself a bit more. I’m certain I would not have made the progress I have as a runner if not for VDOT O2 showing me that I was capable of doing more.

Sure, I don’t consider it a perfect metric. The one bit of feedback I get across the board about VDOT O2 is that is vastly overestimates most people’s marathon ability. It does assume elite or high level ability in runners when projecting a finish time for new marathoners, and of course most people don’t have that ability. The marathon workout plans in the book also are rather demanding for what most people can do. Once you achieve a certain level of fitness at the marathon distance or longer, its predictions for your marathon times become more reliable.

But for everything from the Half Marathon on down, I’ve found the methodology sound. Yes, the metric’s flattish projection calculus has you pushing yourself quite hard from the 10K to the Half distance. But again, I believe that was a key reason I improved so much at shorter races.

Even as I’ve worked with, experimented with, other approaches, my fundamental practice always came back to the principles of VDOT O2.

I’m proud to be a VDOT O2 Certfied Distance Running Coach, and look forward to continuing to help working class runners in Las Vegas and across the world improve their fitness and achieve their running goals… from the mile to the marathon.

 

Tagged , , , ,

Everything Is Cancelled and I Feel Good

To the surpirse of few, the 2020 Victoria Marathon was cancelled earlier this week. I now have no race plans.

With every large public gathering of any kind suspended for the beyond-foreseeable future, I don’t foresee organized races happening again anytime soon… certainly not in 2020, and possibly not anytime early in 2021. Even seeing a race held in the spring or early summer of 2021 would be a bit of a surprise.

If you’re of the mindset that you’re looking forward to races resuming this fall or next spring, you probably need to change your mindset, and (if your life revolves around group workouts and/or training for races) probably need to re-evaluate your life and goals going forward. Life has irreparably changed, at least in the foreseeable future and relative beyond.

If the old reality is going to come back and stay, it likely won’t be back to stay for at least another year. Even if everything re-opens, chances of a 2nd spike in coronavirus cases forcing another lockdown by the fall or winter are very high.

And no, I don’t believe it matters how much or how little we are locked down in the present. A 2nd wave is probably going to happen even if we had handled everything perfectly. So don’t hand-wring about people going back outside or to other public places now. If anything, getting some exercise and sunlight is better for their health and immunity than staying inside.


Now, all of that said, this worlwide lockdown hasn’t really bothered me much at all. I’ve briefly mentioned adjustments I’ve made, and that the closure of almost everything has calmed down and simplified my life a great deal.

There’s no fear of missing out, because nobody’s able to do anything right now. Everyone and I are in the same situation, regardless of economic or cultural status.

I had already shut down all training for a few weeks in April, and had just began ramping my running back up when I found out Victoria was cancelled. Now that there’s no need to train for a race, I can now finally focus on training in some way other than running.

After my CPT training, I knew I wanted to spend some quality time strength training. Strength training is a lot harder to do when you’re running a lot, so I wanted to work on it when I had a long break from run training. And now, with no need to seriously run this year, I now have plenty of time to focus on it.

My work schedule also shifted to more of an afternoon/evening swing shift, and my days off are now during the weekdays. It’s a slight bummer on the running front, only because this would have made a running schedule so much easier, but now there’s no races to train for.

However, the schedule is still great for strength training as well as being a much more relaxing schedule. I can sleep in as needed every day (though I still get up early; habits die hard after 20+ years of early rising).


Also, my weight finally began to consistently slim down. Of course, I cut my calorie consumption quite a bit once we went into lockdown, since obviously there’s little opportunity to move around. I’ve intermittent fasted almost every day. Without having to balance the calorie needs of run training, I’ve been easily able to consistently maintain a calorie deficit. And my weight, having plateaued around 178-180 with about 20-21% bodyfat, is finally down to about 170-171 at 18-19% bodyfat after a consistent downward trend.

I want to diet down to at least 15% bodyfat (it’s actually best to diet down to a good target weight with basic daily activity, before beginning a serious exercise plan) before beginning a 12-16 week bodyweight or weight training program.

I don’t want to “cheat up” through a “body-recomposition”, aka seriously adding muscle while trying to burn fat and lose the weight. I find it can actually dissuade some stubborn fat from burning off (note my prior training stagnating fat loss), and the dietary balance you need to strike to avoid muscle catabolization or excess fat retention/gain is too delicate to be worth the trouble right now.

I also want to get my weight as reasonably light as possible because it’ll be easier on my organs long-term to build muscle mass from a fundamentally lighter body weight… and currently without the continuous hormonal stress of running a boatload of miles every week.

My projected goal is to get to around 165 lbs before trying to seriously add any muscle, if I even want to. I’ll have started on a stabilization -centered fitness plan before this point, so any mass-building strength training will be a function of naturally progressing from stabilization training anyway.


This 4/6/2020 post seems quaint. “It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity,” is particularly cute. “Weeks, possibly months.”


Obviously, with gyms closed and scalpers having bought up all the free weights on the open market, I’m probably not doing any serious weight lifting unless gyms happen to re-open. Even then, if a 2nd wave requires a lockdown, I would lose that gym access again. Depending on how robust of a bodyweight/home program I can develop, I might even give up my gym membership entirely if things break right.

The plan is to devise and develop a suitable, progressive bodyweight workout routine that will sufficiently challenge my muscles and produce growth and/or athletic improvement.

It’s probably best for the long term either way that my long term goal be to develop a gym-free routine, since my long term focus is on being an endurance runner and coaching endurance runners (… should road races resume being a thing in our future society). Plus, many people don’t ever have access to a gym for various fundamental reasons, and a safe sustainable no-equipment-required exercise program would be helpful to countless people.


Meanwhile, I’m working out some adjustments to my current living situation that, once final, will free me up immensely and allow me to start work on some of these ideas. Until then, I’m waiting along with everyone else.

Reflecting on our COVID Hibernation

two green cactus plants at daytime

Photo by Yigithan Bal on Pexels.com

I have not had a whole lot to say in the past month, because there hasn’t been much to add to what others have told you.

After the COVID-19 outbreak problem took off across the world, and two NBA basketball players were found to be ill with the virus, shutdowns and lockdowns quickly followed. Within a couple of weeks, almost everyone in the Western world was ordered to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, while most businesses were ordered to shut down. Events, including races, were cancelled.

It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity. Currently, Nevada and most states are being told that the earliest anything may re-open is May 1, 2020, and even that could be postponed if needed.

Meanwhile, I personally was fortunate enough to keep my job remotely with no change to my compensation. So the biggest change to my life is that I have nowhere I need to go. Yes, Vancouver 2020 was cancelled, as were basically every road race before the summer.

With no need to train before Victoria 2020 marathon training this summer, I decided to shut down non-essential training myself after Vancouver 2020 was cancelled. At first, I ran as little as twice a week, and maybe went on a walk or two. I ran if I felt like it, but that’s it.

Now I’m running a bit more regularly, albeit not terribly far, and certainly not all that hard. I’m following Budd Coates’ basic 14 day training cycles as outlined in Running On Air, which has me currently running 2-3 miles, maybe one longer run, about 4-5 times per week.

While Vegas temperatures are currently still reasonable, I’m going out for 20-30 minute runs (and possibly some extra walking) during the late afternoon following the workday. I take longer walks or runs on neighborhood trails at least once during the weekend. Once the desert heat kicks in for summer, I’ll need to switch to early morning runs.

I’m of course eating lighter and as clean as reasonably possible. Not having a convenient option to go to a restaurant or grab something quick at a store, plus having all day at a home that thankfully is well stocked with cooking supplies, makes cooking and eating at home the most suitable option almost every time.

The flip side is, by staying at home all day, I get far less natural physical activity, meaning fewer calories burned… even if I get myself to exercise or go out for a run. I burn maybe 2300-2400 calories in a day even if I did work out, or made some maniacal effort to stay active like get up and do squats or push ups every hour.

Generally I work around this by:

  • Intermittent fasting, aka skipping breakfast.
  • Eating a lighter lunch
  • Eating only two official meals a day, the lunch and dinner before bed
  • Avoiding snacks

In the past few weeks I have lost about 6 pounds of fat, whereas in previous, busier months I had struggled to lose any fat at all. I had a goal for Vancouver 2020 to get down to 160-165 pounds before May (I weighed as much as 185 this winter). Previously I had stalled around 178-180 lbs at my best, but have since gotten to around 174-175 lbs (and hopefully falling). The irony is that, now that I’m not marathon training, I might actually get to 165 before May.

While most people in the US are getting comfy and eating a lot of junk food during lockdown, I decided to really clean up my diet and eat right as much as possible. Even with a minimum of exercise, it has paid off, plus generally I feel better.

Part of feeling better also is that, as others’ anxiety has gone up… my stress has gone substantially down. As mentioned, I still (remotely) have my day job, meaning I’m not worried about income and paying bills. I realize compared to others that this is currently a luxury.

That said, I have to work weekdays, and my job has pivoted to where I do quite a bit of day to day work and regular web conferencing, plus larger ongoing projects. So there’s a lot to do. However, being at home, not having to commute… it’s had a calming effect on my life.

Plus, (though I still need to eventually sit for the NASM exam) I had just finished a very stressful CPT training program (right before COVID really blew up), and truth be told it was very hard for me to handle plus work plus marathon training plus home and family concerns over the final month. I actually reached my breaking point towards the final two weeks, and though the end of the program was a relief… the lockdown in itself was almost an added level of relief by eliminating work and commute related stress. Today is a total contrast to what my life was like in February. I went from everything hitting me at once to now being practically forced to do as little as possible.

With my basic needs met (my family has done a good job securing needed food and supplies), I actually feel pretty comfortable with life right now. My biggest concern aside from work needs is to make sure I eat healthy and get enough exercise to maintain some fitness and not gain needless weight.

I’m not going to join the train on any public service announcements regarding social distancing or lockdown etiquette. We all know where we’re at and I’m not going to add any new information. We know it’s going to be a while before live races are a possibility.

I for one am not interested in virtual races. That’s fine if it keeps you motivated, but I also feel like this forced hibernation is an opportunity in its own right to relax, regenerate and reflect. I want to use the time accordingly rather than fish for more ways to keep me occupied. We’ll have the chance to run races eventually.

Eventually I may offer some feedback on effective training ideas for runners while in lockdown. But for now, I’m going to make the most of our collective hibernation.

Tagged , , ,

Vancouver 2020 will not happen

The Vancouver Marathon was officially cancelled Friday night.

I don’t have issues with cancelling the race. Restrictions or not, if people are not comfortable with running it, then it’s best not to do it.

I guess it’s a bummer to train only for no race to happen, but I have other training goals I’d be more than happy to continue with. I was only halfway through my training plan, and while I was progressing I wasn’t quite making the progress I wanted.

My hotel is only lock-rate reserved and can be cancelled with no penalty. I imagine WestJet, who is already relaxing cancellation policies to accommodate travelers during this whole thing, will extend the courtesy to May flights if in fact the Marathon is cancelled and I want a refund. Right now they’re only offering to transfer or cancel March flights, so I have to play the waiting game with them. Worst case scenario, I can pay to defer the airfare and use it for Victoria in October.

VIMS basically had to pocket the 2020 entry fees, only allowing a slight discount on 2021 entries (they’re trying to negotiate something higher than 20%), or allowing you to use your paid entry towards a fall race (none of which are a marathon) if they happen. They’re also doing a ‘virtual race’, which isn’t any real consolation for those traveling.

I guess that’s a bummer, but I’ve thrown away paid entries for other reasons (I DNS’d a half marathon earlier this year, for example) and this would not be a huge deal for me.

So in some ways it works out. I can now work on some fundamental training and then start training for Victoria within a couple months.

 

Tagged , ,

A quick review of the Las Vegas and Henderson Planet Fitness locations I have visited

PFGraphicSince returning to Vegas I have worked out at four Planet Fitness locations on my side of town (I have a Black Card membership which allows me to visit any location).

I’m not exactly checking off a bucket list of PF locations, but I realize I’ve visited enough of them to provide a useful contrast and comparison of those locations (plus they’re on a nicer side of town and thus may get more outside visitors). As time goes on and I visit more locations in town, I’ll add to this. But here’s a rundown of the locations I have visited and worked out at:

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

A Training Plan Need Not Be So Structured

man sitting on bench

Photo by Tomu00e9 Louro on Pexels.com

Ideally when deciding to run a goal race, you find or write a training plan (with or without a coach), and then you follow it.

But maybe no training plan out there is an ideal fit and you don’t have a coach. Maybe you had a plan and found out much too late that the plan is not working for you (and because none of us can rewind time, you can’t start over!).

Of course, it is entirely possible for a runner to train for a race without following a hard-set defined training plan. It might not adequately prepare you for the race, and therein lies the risk.

But then again there’s always a non-zero chance that following a given training plan doesn’t quite prepare you for a goal race either. Any approach to training comes with its set of risks. What would be the fun and accomplishment in training for a race if any recipe or approach made doing it foolproof or easy?

Still, if you want to run a race and you have at least a couple months to generally train, you could prepare for that race without a specified written training plan. It’s as simple as a consistent habit of multiple workouts per week, with as many of them as reasonably possible being specific endurance workouts: Workouts that specifically work on things you need to do in the actual race.

It helps if you’re already running regularly and in some degree of condition to race, but even if not you could adequately train with a general, consistent schedule provided you have enough time before the race.

Again, training for a race involves executing with these acute factors:

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Quick Anti-Illness Tips When Training

Along the lines of my avoiding illness post, I want to offer some additional tips for runners who are seriously training for a goal race during an illness epidemic (such as the current novel coronavirus situation):

Avoid doing endurance workouts in a gym or other crowded place

Going back to previous points about how crowded indoor spaces are full of airborne bacteria and viruses, the gym is full of other people, and the one thing you want to generally avoid is being around other people.

One key component of aerobic endurance workouts is the increased volume of your breathing, meaning you are taking in more of the air around you. Do so in an indoor environment during an epidemic, and you’re increasing your exposure to the illness of the day.

So, as uncomfortably cold or otherwise less than ideal it may be, you should do all of your workouts outdoors if possible. However, if you have a treadmill or other cross training equipment indoors at home or in a space that’s infrequently occupied, like a friend or family member’s house or at a fitness room that no one ever uses… you can also use that.

The key criterion here is the presence and proximity of other people. Avoid enclosed spaces where you have to share oxygen with other people during an epidemic.

Don’t go inside right after an outdoor workout

Following a workout, you’re in a compromised state where you’re taking in a larger volume of oxygen than normal. If you live with other people, this as above increases your potential exposure to airborne illnesses.

Instead of going right inside, go through an extended cool-down outdoors. Take an extended walk around the block or elsewhere. Perhaps bring your recovery fuel with you and ingest it outside. Spend some time getting to a state where you’re closer to normal before you go back inside.

It’s helpful if you drive to a separate outdoor location for workouts alone and can drive alone for some time before you return home or to your otherwise crowded destination. This gives you valuable cool-down time to normalize.

A sound outdoor cool-down typically takes at least 5-10 minutes, but take however long you need to in order to return to a more relaxed normal state.

If you don’t work out in daylight, try to get some sunlight

As Alexander J.A. Cortes has said time and again, bacteria and viruses are photo sensitive and heat sensitive. Sunlight basically (for lack of the scientifically accurate terminology) neutralizes and kills both.

The vast majority of people during a winter flu season spend all their time indoors, offering zero opportunity for the sun to kill the very bacteria and viruses they’re trying to get rid of.

However, if you are (as mentioned above) working out in the outdoors, and you’re not doing so at night or at the crack of dawn, you are exposing yourself to sunlight and helping yourself already.

Barring that, make a point to get outside before, during or after work/school and at least walk in the sunlight for a little while, at least 20-30 minutes if not more. Of course, you don’t want to stay out so much you risk sunburn. But even sun on your exterior winter clothes can contribute to eliminating the presence of an illness.

If you home has humidity, get a de-humidifier

Germs thrive in the presence of humidity. Bacteria and viruses incidentally struggle to spread in desert environments due to not just (the aforementioned) abundant sunlight but also the very dry air.

However, many environments have some degree of humidity. Those in midwestern America and near ocean environments probably have a lot of humidity in their indoor and outdoor air.

Such people should consider investing in a dehumidifier, commonly used in summer to make sleep conditions more bearable in hotter months. Used during a winter epidemic, the elimination of indoor humidity can interfere with airborne illnesses’ ability to stay airborne and spread.

Couple with the use of an indoor electric air filter, and you do yourself a lot of good during an epidemic.

Spend an hour outside before or after work

Those who live in a big city and do a lot of their commute on foot may already do this, if it requires enough commute-walking.

However, especially if most of your commute is on a bus or train, you still want to bank some extra time walking or sitting outside before or after work.

This goes back to the benefits of open air and sunlight during an epidemic. You help clear your lungs while also help reduce the presence of airborne illness on and around you.

If you need to do strength workouts at the gym, do your floor work elsewhere

Some workouts need to be done in a public gym. For many, these workouts include standard strength training.

Thankfully, these workouts don’t require as much oxygen as your endurance workouts. Just make sure to still do your endurance workouts outside or in a secluded indoor location. And of course as always (and this is especially important during epidemics), wipe down your equipment before and after use.

However, save your floor work like self myofascial release (SMR, foam rolling), stretching and other calisthenic exercises (push ups, etc) for elsewhere. The floor is full of germs, and there’s not really any way to wipe that area down. If at all possible try to do some of those exercises on a bench, but I know many of these exercises must be done prone or supine on the floor.

Do these in a separate session before/afterward at home or in a secluded indoor area. It sucks to have to break a workout into separate parts like that, but getting sick sucks a lot more.

Do home workouts in a room alone with the window open

When I say secluded indoor area, the vast majority of the time I think this should be in your own enclosed room with no other traffic, where the only germs on the floor are your own. Obviously, make sure you have the needed floor space to do a workout (and having been there, I know many rooms don’t offer a lot of space).

If you live with others, you will want to open the window no matter how cold it might be. This will help circulate some of that diluted (cleaner) outdoor air into your room, and help circulate any possible contaminated indoor air out of the building.

Living alone of course makes this a lot easier. Opening the window is probably more optional if you live alone, depending on whether anyone has visited or how often you get visitors. And you probably have more space, likely enough to do a workout.

After unavoidable situations around other people, do a flush and clean as soon as possible

Whenever you do have to spend time around other people, you should try to do any of the following once you leave that environment and are alone or home:

  • Wash your hands with soap. If the winter conditions are chapping your hands, apply whatever lotion or solution you have that helps with that afterward. But do wash your hands.
  • Take rubbing alcohol, antibacterial cleaner/wipes or any other sort of suitable cleaner and wipe down any surfaces and equipment that was exposed to other people, including any surfaces on which you sat anything exposed to other people.
  • If home, remove/change your external clothes before sitting or laying on anything. Pretend you just fell on poison oak or landed on someone with bad ringworm or something. Anything exposed, get it in the hamper ASAP and get some clean clothes on.
  • If you’re home for the day or evening, consider taking a shower or bath right then and there. No need to take 3-5 showers in a day, obviously, but a 2nd shower or bath might be a good idea.
  • If it’s with you, use your neti pot with distilled water and a nasal-acceptable saline solution. If you don’t have these things, get them, learn to use them and start using them.
  • Drink at least 8oz of some hot liquid, whether it’s herbal liquid, some soup, or just boiled hot water with lemon or something similar in it. Consider bringing an electric kettle to work, some filtered water and whatever tea etc to allow for doing this away from home.

This sounds like overkill, but consider that the average person gets sick one or more times every winter. Doing the average effort is probably just going to get you sick. You’re trying not to get sick because you’re training. You should put in an above-average effort to safeguard yourself.

This isn’t a totally extreme approach (like wearing a HAZMAT suit and fumigating in an airlock). But it’s the least that’s substantially effective.

If you don’t feel well on a key workout day, do the distance without the intensity

I think it’s important to continue training at your normal frequency and volume however much you can during an epidemic. The circulation from your training is a prime weapon in warding off and filtering out illness.

However, some intense workouts may not be helpful if your body’s defenses have been partially compromised and you feel yourself battling an oncoming illness. While you should not totally give into it and take a break from training, you also may be doing more damage than good if you push through hard reps with a compromised immune system.

Instead, as you would if your muscles were sore or you were battling a minor injury, you should keep the scheduled distance while omitting the high intensity. If you know, for example, that a 12x400m workout with 400m recovery would require 8 miles of running (1 mile warmup, the 3 miles of reps plus the 3 miles of cool-down intervals, and a 1 mile cool-down run)… you could just run 8 easy miles that day instead. It’s not nearly as hard on your body but you still get the aerobic benefit of running the 8 miles, most of the neuro-muscular benefit from running the 8 miles (just without the intensity of the reps), and all of the respiratory circulation from doing the workout.

I found from experience that when I felt an illness coming on and just skipped workouts, I got sick as expected and stayed sick for a bit. Whenever I felt an illness coming on and made sure to keep training regularly, it either went away without making me totally sick, or I got sick but minimally so and then quickly recovered.

Tagged , , , , ,

Avoid the Novel Coronavirus (and other illnesses)

Coronaviruses are in general quite common. You may actually get one once every year or two. However, we’re experiencing mass panic over the current novel coronavirus strain, which has killed a few thousand people in China among the many thousands infected, and sent entire nations into a panic.

There are a handful of truths regarding this novel coronavirus:

  • Most of the people who contract the worst form of the novel coronavirus will make a full recovery without any required medical intervention, just like most people who get a common cold or the flu.
  • The death rate of the novel coronavirus is actually quite low. About 1-2% of people who have reportedly tested positive for it have died from it, and almost all of the deaths have been in China and Italy, where tens of thousands (again, nearly all known cases) have been diagnosed. Virtually all of the people who have died from the novel coronavirus either have seriously compromised immune systems or live in abjectly unsanitary conditions (and that’s assuming all stats are accurate, which is highly questionable). Sure, I’d be worried about the health of either population, but the vast majority of those reading this are in a much better situation.
  • Regardless of anything anyone does, there’s little people can do to prevent its overall spread, quarantines or not. It’s an airborne virus, and a common type of virus at that. It’s like trying to eradicate or quarantine the flu or common cold. Good luck.
  • The current quarantines are more a product of systemic panic than necessity.
  • Other governments are semi-thoughtlessly following in kind with their own over-reaching quarantines, not realizing they’re parroting a needless overreaction from a totalitarian government. This never minds major events that have elected to cancel said events in response to the hysteria. In most cases, they’re making a panic-driven mistake.

All of this said, this novel coronavirus strain is worth concern, the same way any major flu strain or flu season is worth concern.

As always, there are things you can and should do to safeguard yourself from illness and give your body the best chance to flush and resist that illness should it find its way into your system.

However, I have useful advice beyond the standard “wash your hands, take your vitamin C, avoid crowds, etc”. Here are some tips for you to help your body and immune system withstand any potential exposure to any illness, not to mention the novel coronavirus.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,