Category Archives: Training

Working Class Running Coach

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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.

 

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Primal Endurance: An approach to making low carb endurance running work

Image result for primal blueprintBack in 2011, famous Primal Blueprint guru Mark Sisson wrote a post about how he’d train for a marathon. Mark’s no novice when it comes to distance running: He is in fact a former marathoner! His conversion to the lower-carb, paleo-style Primal approach to eating and lifestyle is in no small part a byproduct of his experience training to race the longest run.

Sisson of course generally discourages any sort of endurance training, prefering a more biologically natural sprint-and-saunter approach to outdoor activity akin to our prehistorical ancestors. Like many paleo-minded humans he’s more into occasional high intensity low duration activity surrounded by lots of regular but very low intensity activity.

This level of activity is of course a better fit for a lower carb Primal style diet, as endurance training traditionally requires a very high carb intake… intake that Sisson’s experience and research taught him can be damaging to your long term health.

However, a lack of carbohydrates can compromise the quality of your endurance workouts, let alone your race performances, since your body typically utilizes glycogen for extended endurance activity.

Sisson historically has preferred to avoid endurance training entirely and focus instead on what he’s found to be a more long-term sustainable lifestyle. His 2011 piece was more of a hypothetical, ‘If I had to train as a Primal disciple to run a marathon this is how I would approach it.’ Sisson’s piece definitely hinted that he had far more intel behind it, and that there was probably a book in him on the subject.

Image result for primal enduranceWell, eventually he did write that book. Primal Endurance by he and Brad Kearns spelled out the ideal combination of the Primal diet and lifestyle with the ideal training approach to maximize your performance in a marathon without the usage of carbohydrates and their glycogen.

I’ve given the book a gradual read over time, and while a lot of it reads like sales-letter filler for the Primal Blueprint (which seems superfluous since you probably aren’t reading the book unless you already own, have read and believe in the Primal Blueprint), what remains after filtering through it is a compelling and well-written approach to training as a Primal endurance athlete.

Sisson of course is hardly the only believer that endurance athletes can succeed with a lower-carb approach. Many ultra-runners have sworn by training low-carb to train their bodies to maximize fat usage in their excessively long races. Other non-ultra runners have sworn by training low-carb as well (I even know a few!).

I’ve long since argued (as many do) that accepting this lifestyle and swearing off most carbohydrates does to some degree limit your capability as a distance runner. In principle, I still find that to be true.

But there’s no denying that long term the endurance diet and lifestyle does take a toll on your hormones and to an accordant degree your health. I recall half marathon champ Ryan Hall being forced to retire in his early 30’s due to wanting to start a family and his training lifestyle compromising his body’s ability to do so. Sure enough, once he stopped running, his health rebounded.

I do think there’s a middle ground, mostly that you train in cycles and that you take breaks from training and the diet it demands. However, Sisson and Kearns argue that their recommended lifestyle can be practiced year round, in and out of training, without damaging your race performance.

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Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Training Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunningOnAirWhile traveling last month I found a book by Budd Coates called Running On Air. The book details a new approach to rhythmic breathing during runs, the idea being that you learn the breathing technique in basic workouts, then train for races using it.

Again, I don’t do book reviews. But if you find yourself breathing hard on runs or otherwise struggling with your stamina, then this book is absolutely worth a look. It’s a somewhat easy read, easy to follow, and even if you don’t ultimately follow Coates’ approach to the letter your improved attention to your breathing patterns will in some way help your running. Consistent breathing helps your oxygen delivery, which allows you to run faster at easier intensities. Plus the book indicates that some natural breathing patterns can cause imbalances that lead to pain and injury; an improved breathing rhythm can help eliminate those imbalances.

However, that’s not why I’m writing this. The book of course has subsequent training plans from the 5K to the Marathon. And breathing principles aside, the book’s Marathon plan has some unique wrinkles that might make it worth a look.

The Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Plan:

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It never has to be exactly 400 meters

photo of road near tall trees

This trail might not be exactly 800 meters, and that shouldn’t be a problem for your 800 meter repeats. Photo by Matthew T Rader on Pexels.com

Most writers refer to speedwork repetitions in meters because they’re often run on a competition track, and such tracks can measure out 100 meter increments. On a track, you can run exactly 200, 300, 400, 1200, 2800, etc, meters.

Of course, many don’t have access to a track, and many American runners don’t use the metric system given our nation refers to distance in imperial miles.

The easy answer for conversions is that 400 meters is about 1/4 mile, 1600 meters is about a full mile, and so on.

But another complication of not running on a track is that measuring out exactly a quarter mile for a rep, let alone 400 meters, on a public right of way is unclear and difficult. Our parks paths, landmarks, etc, aren’t ever spaced out exactly right. A space between two light posts, benches, ends of a stretch of path, city block, can be 530 meters, 0.3 mile, 677 meters, etc.

Plus, relying on your GPS watch for distance doesn’t solve the problem, because your GPS readings aren’t totally accurate. A mapped run often shows you running through landmarks as the GPS signal guesstimates your actual route. It certainly won’t measure out your exact distance or velocity. Map the actual route run on an Open Maps interface, and you’ll find a difference of several tenths of a mile.

So how do you run those 800 meter repeats, or quarter mile repeats?

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A tip for an easy, productive Double Workout Day

adventure athlete athletic daylight

If you do double workout days, a short jog isn’t your only option. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Higher volume runners practice doubles, where they add a 2nd shorter run later in a day after a prior regular morning run.

It’s a key to building those 120+ mile weeks that elites run. Otherwise, such a runner’s typical workout tops 10 miles and with few exceptions that’s not sustainable long term.

However, miles on your legs are still miles on your legs, and a runner wanting to avoid burnout and injury probably should avoid two runs on easy days.

Still, there’s value in endurance training with doing double workouts, and there’s an easy way to do two workouts in a day without taxing your legs through an extended run more than once.

Just cross train for the second workout. It seems so obvious, and yet so many don’t think to do it. Cross training is low impact aerobic exercise, and there’s a reason IronFit refers to the practice as “Free Miles”. Even if you’re not actually running, you’re working and developing aerobic fitness that will help you down the line.

On top of that, you’re resting bones, joints and muscles that have to do work on a regular run, and avoiding wear and tear that exacerbates the amount of recovery you need.

For example, you run 6-10 miles in the morning. You go through your workday. After work, instead of a 3-4 mile recovery run, you hit the spin bike for 45 minutes at an easy aerobic heart rate. Or you use the rowing machine for half an hour. Or the ARC Trainer, or the elliptical. You get the idea.

You could also do strength training for that 2nd workout instead, provided your body is up to doing so. The extra anabolic boost could jump start your overall recovery, especially when paired with a good healthy dinner and a lot of sleep.

Basically, there’s no law stating that to do a double workout day your 2nd workout has to be another run. Provided that morning workout was a full aerobic run, you could do just about any other form of cross or strength training for that 2nd workout and still receive dividends.

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Is it ever okay to do two quality workouts on back to back days?

woman in gray crew neck shirt running on brown soil during daytime

Cross country runners often train long the day after a race. It’s possible for others to do back to back hard, quality workouts. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First, to clarify: A quality workout for runners is any run with more than 5 minutes of a challenging volume of running:

  • Fast or otherwise hard running
  • A very long period of running
  • A run with intermittent fast running (such as speed reps)

Secondly, in brief… yes, back to back quality workouts are not only okay but beneficial in some circumstances.

In fact, one demographic of runner actually practices this regularly: Interscholastic cross country runners.

Many cross country runners will run a race or a speed workout on Saturday (a quality workout), followed by their long run on Sunday (also a quality workout). They have an easy day Monday and then follow a more balanced schedule through the school week.

Now, is that healthy? Running guru Jack T Daniels will actually recommend in some of his Daniels Running Formula training plans that, during the peak phase, you do two quality workouts back to back. This is the only period in his plan that you do so. In other phases of such plans he spaces out the quality workouts as others do. In most plans you do the long run later in the week (while he is one coach whose cross country plans have you do a race or quality workout right before a long run).

So while many running minds recommend you avoid running quality workouts back to back, here is Daniels not only scheduling back to backs but in many cases putting them in the important peak phase. Are those other running minds wrong?

Well, no. Most plans might schedule more demanding regular and quality workouts, and perhaps their quality workouts require more recovery. Putting their workouts back to back may be a terrible idea. In Daniels’ case, the back to back quality workouts he schedules are not as daunting: A 3 mile cross country race and a long easy run. The 2nd workout in particular is done at a lower intensity, just for a longer than normal period.

Another training plan where back to backs are possible is IronFit. Because the rest days can be slid elsewhere in the week as needed, and because the workouts need to be done in order, it’s entirely possible that speedwork and a tempo run might be back to back.

Of course, most plans won’t dare schedule a back to back for the reasons stated. That said, they are not taboo. If schedule adjustments force the possibility, or you’re crafting your own training plan where you may need to book back to backs, there is a smart way to do it.

So here is how you should approach the possibility of scheduling a back to back:

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Speedwork tip: Using the track to maintain pace

people doing marathon

The track’s periodic markings can help you manage your pace during reps. Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

If you’re doing speedwork on a track, and trying to maintain a certain pace on speedwork reps… with some basic math, you can use each 100-200 meter sections on the track to monitor how fast you’re going.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to run 400 meters in 2 minutes (2:00). Your GPS watch will probably give inaccurate pace readings. This is not only because of the GPS margin for error, but because going in circles in the same location can lead your watch to believe you’re not moving much at all.

However, you can use the time reading and the markings on a track to keep pace.

To run a 2:00 rep for 400 meters, you need to travel 100 meters in 30 seconds (100 meters x 4 = 400 meters. 30 seconds x 4 = 2:00).

On most modern tracks, the 100 meter mark, 200 meter mark, and 300 meter mark will be indicated, along with of course the finish line at 400 meters.

At every one of those marks, you can look at your running time and see if more or less than 30 seconds has passed since your last measuring point. More than 30 seconds, and you need to pick up the pace. Less than 30 seconds, and you’re exceeding your projected pace (whether or not you need to slow down depends on your goals for the rep).

If you struggle with doing math on the fly, you can use your watch’s lap function to get your time between time-points.

This approach is similar to occasionally reviewing your speedometer while driving to make sure you’re not speeding. You can check your watch and make sure you’re on track for your desired pace.

So, if you wanted to run 400’s in 1:45, then you check to make sure you’re running every 100 in about 26 seconds (1:44 total).

If you’re running 800 meter repeats and trying to do them in 3:50, you can check every 200 meters to make sure you’re crossing at 56-57 seconds… or every 100 meters at 28-29 seconds.

And of course, if you’re not on a track but out and about on the roads or trails, you can do some math using measurements from Gmap-Pedometer to assess your time at certain timepoints. It’s not as even as the track, but will still help you in the same way.

Of course you don’t need to check your pace every 100-200 meters. Maybe you only check occasionally, or for the first couple and last couple segments, to make sure you’re on pace. But this approach will help you monitor your pace on reps and guide you towards speeding up or slowing down as needed.

 

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