A Good, Quick VO2Max Workout for a One Mile Loop

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Got a one mile loop near home that you can run uninterrupted? Training for a 10K or longer? Want to work on speed but do more than just 200-400 meter speed reps?

Run or jog to your loop and make sure you get about 10-15 minutes of easy warmup running in. Stop at a spot on the loop with a clear landmark and some space to move around.

If the loop provides a landmark about 3/4 of the way around, great. But if there’s no clear way to tell where 3/4 mile is, that’s okay.

Do some dynamic stretching, relax a bit, then run 4-5 strides… little 10-15 second fast runs to get the feel for running fast.

From your landmark spot, begin to run fast… about one tick below how hard you’d run a mile time trial. Focus more on moving your feet and arms quickly and steady, than on trying to go hard.

  • If you know where the 3/4 mile mark is on this loop, you’ll run this fast until you reach the 3/4 mile mark, and then slow to an easy recovery jog.
  • If you don’t know where the 3/4 mile is, but you know how fast you can run your fastest mile… subtract one minute from that fastest mile time, and round down. That is how long you will run fast before you slow to an easy recovery jog.
  • If you have no idea about either of those items, run fast for 5 minutes before you slow to an easy recovery jog.

No matter which way you choose to do it, jog easy until you get back to your starting point. Then, repeat the fast run as you did before.

Do this fast-slow run process three whole times, and you’re good. If you did this right, you’ll definitely want the workout to be done after the 3rd time.

Jog home. Eat something with protein.

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Work out with purpose when endurance training

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Matt Fitzgerald recently wrote on an interesting topic, asking: At what minimum volume does 80/20 training cease to be useful? I had some useful, common sense thoughts on the topic… that turned into the much longer piece below on endurance training, and how it must evolve past the basic runs consistent in most runners’ training plans.

First, to address Matt’s question… I think it’s important to consider the length of your goal event. Short of the marathon, I think it’s important during easier runs to practice running the duration or distance you plan to run your goal race, to accustom your body to the volume of running required.

For shorter events, this is easier. A 5K (3.11 miles) takes most runners 20-40 minutes, so it stands to reason you should be running at least 20-40 minutes or about 3 miles in easy runs. Doing 1 mile or 5 minute runs aren’t going to help you much at all. Hal Higdon has the right idea for beginners: Just work on running easy as long as you can uninterrupted until you can run 3 uninterrupted miles. That task in itself will suitably occupy most if not all of your training for such a race.

Something longer like a 10K (6.21 miles) might take more like 40-60 minutes. Even if you don’t run 6 miles regularly, running 40-60 minutes regularly in easy runs is probably a better idea than just brief 2-3 mile runs. Even your easier runs should have some specific application to the distance or time you plan to race.

It becomes more complicated running a half marathon, marathon or more. A 13.1 mile Half requires around 90-150 minutes of racing for most. Obviously, it’s not reasonable for most people to run 2 hours or 13 miles everyday. And of course the marathon requires a limit-busting 26.2 miles, and can take several hours. No one in their right mind will ask you to run that much.

The 60 minute race threshold is where a trainee should cease trying to run the distance in easy workouts, and focus instead on aerobically beneficial workouts:

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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.

 

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It’s Really Easy to Write A Book. It’s really hard to write a book.

I’ve worked on and off on material for a book on running. I’m generally not a fan of writing a book to write a book. I decided to write one knowing I have and follow a unique approach to running that others don’t teach, and that can serve runners in ways that other approaches do not or cannot. So I know I can write a book of value.

Before life changed and got crazy this year, I intended to finish at least the raw manuscript this year. Alas, I ran into pressing work and life needs that became more important than pounding out pages. Work on the book frequently got pushed aside during the past few months. Only in this past month did I seriously resume work on the project. I still plan to finish a manuscript, but probably more like early next year than before the end of this year.

Nowadays, technically, it’s actually very easy to publish a book. Gone are the days you had to submit a product to a publisher and hope they gave you a chance. Now, literally everyone with internet access can publish a book direct. Once you complete a manuscript and design a cover, you can e-publish the book on Amazon or other channels right now. You could even host a PDF of the book directly on a website of your own, and charge whatever you want for it using a paywall. Nowadays, the hard part of writing a book is the writer’s own lack of a work ethic.

… or, as I’ve discovered, finding the time. Writing a book is a deep work task. You can’t multitask, or fit it in while washing the dishes or running other errands. To work on it at any time requires a dedicated focus.

That, more than anything, kept me from working on the book. I know my subject matter. Even given the vast scope of the topic, I can at least write on everything (leaving editing and revision to sort it out later). The only writer’s block I had was other pressing matters: Moving out of Chicago, sorting out a change in career, the logistics of all of the above, not to mention any training I’ve needed to do and maintain.

Only now, with more time on my hands in Las Vegas, do I see the importance of available time and bandwidth in writing a book. As long as you have consistent writing habits, the actual process of writing the book should be the easy part.

So, you’re probably asking… what IS the book that I’m writing?

Well, let me actually write it first!

Forty One.

white and blue floral table lamp

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Today for me is birthday number forty one. Spending 41 at home with family, not worried about having to go to work today, is certainly not bad. (We might head out for dinner later!)

Taking stock: If I slowed down at all in the last year, it’s largely been due to a relative lack of training, and attention to other matters in my personal life. Also, while certainly not terrible, my diet certainly could have been better. Thankfully I haven’t experienced any noticeable age related decline. I could probably knock out the same 1:45-1:55 400-meter repeats, or 7 minute miles, if I resumed training to do so.

The important constant in my life is to keep moving and keep things mostly clean: Diet, lifestyle, work, habits. Las Vegas is far more sedentary than I’m used to but I make sure to get out and get moving every day.

I had considered not running any marathons next year, but Vancouver came calling and I realized I had to answer, so I definitely will run that. I’m starting to think this is an annual pilgrimage and I’ll achieve legacy status within the next decade.

I’m thinking about the possibility of a 2nd marathon late in 2020. Seattle at the end of November is a clear and obvious candidate. But some peers have mentioned Victoria BC in October, and visiting there again would be pretty cool. However, the training schedule (as Chicago was in 2018) would be cramped so soon after Vancouver. Seattle meanwhile offers more time.

I do have the option to still run Chicago next year (cancelling 2019’s bid came with the benefit of buying an auto-slot in 2020 if I wanted it), but never minding huge crowds, the hefty entry fee, a typically difficult trip into and out of Chicago, having to secure lodging since I no longer live there… it’s the same weekend as Victoria, and thus offers the same cramped training schedule problem. So maybe not.

Being back home with family in Vegas does make long runs and some other training more challenging. But it’s great to be near them again, and not have to air travel for family events.

I’m keeping my options open for work going forward. Barring a good offer for permanent employment, I’ll likely operate as more of a freelancer. I have some workable options that would at least allow me to pay debt and maintain bills through next year.

The key with work is having the flexibility to travel for Vancouver, and not interfering with my family events this next year. Some permanent roles could prevent that, so along with being obviously up-front about my plans during discussions I need to be selective.

A flexible schedule also makes training easier. Up until now I’ve had to plan my runs completely around a work schedule, like most. But if I can dictate when I do or don’t work, then I can do it the other way around, planning around training! A big benefit of this is being able to do longer workouts any morning of the week instead of just on the weekends.

Now, if someone offers me the right permanent role, forget about it (as long as they allow my travel next May!). I’ll go ahead and plan my workouts around work as before. There’s obvious benefits to a permanent job that would make it worthwhile. The benefits have to outweigh the drawbacks, and can’t come with any dealbreakers.

The plan for now, and I’ve been gradually working towards it these last few weeks, is to resume a normal moderate training volume. The cross training options I’ve developed for myself have helped a lot with bridging the gap and smoothing the resumption of regular moderate-distance runs. The goal is for the average daily run to be around 6 miles (which I was doing a couple years back), and from there I can ramp up into marathon training.

This is a good year to direct energy towards multiple projects, and along with continuing to provide content here I’m looking forward to expanding upon the material I’ve introduced here as well as lessons I’ve learned from my running training and research. I was working on and off on a larger project this past year, and now I can really focus on getting it off the ground. More on that later.

The key will be to remain focused and mindful of the big picture goals, to not get too self-indulgent and let that detract from the work ethic I’ve built over the years.

I’m looking forward to forty one.

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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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Running coaches should coach diet and rest too

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Every running coach will give you a training schedule of workouts, when to do them, how to do them, and how to adjust those from day to day.

Very few running coaches will give you more than trivial, general feedback on how to eat between workouts, or on your resting and sleeping habits. This despite your diet and recovery being even more important than what you’re doing in workouts.

Without the nutrients of a sound diet, you will not recover properly between workouts. And without a proper amount of sleep, you will not recover properly between workouts.


So, there’s obvious complications to coaching a person’s diet and sleep along with their running.

What makes diet and sleep hard to coach is that, unlike what a runner does in their workouts, these are everyday-living factors beyond a coach’s control. A coach may or may not be able to stand watch over your workouts (many athletes are coached remotely), but there’s no way they can stand and watch your every move, let alone every meal, in your personal life. And they certainly can’t monitor when or how you go to sleep. Even if they told you what to do, chances are good you’d flake on a good portion of their instructions. And, of course, who wants to have their lives micromanaged? The advice probably wouldn’t be welcome for many.

Plus, there are countless different approaches to diet even within a given culture, let alone between cultures. Those who have tried to bean-count the caloric intake of athletes have produced more problems for those athletes than they solved in doing so. Never mind the substantial differences in a vegan or carnivore or Atkins diet. Even the macronutrient needs can vary from person to person, never minding their age/size/shape/health in general.

Most of all, coaching diet is considered the field of a dietitician, a field outside of the specialty of a coach better versed in crafting and moderating workouts.

Now, all of that said (and no, I’m not providing any scientific citations), I can posit that a large number of injury and burnout problems are in no small part a product of deficiencies in each said athlete’s diet and sleep. The vast majority of humanity, in all fitness levels, is deficient in one or more key nutrients, whether it’s as simple as protein or as micro-specific as a vitamin like magnesium or iron.


Still, you don’t need to be an RD to know that:

  • The first half hour following a workout is the best time to ingest protein and carbs
  • Clean unprocessed food is better fuel between workouts than processed food
  • On average you ideally consume as many calories as you burn in a given day
  • You need more protein than most would recommend if you’re going to train hard
  • The more intense aerobic effort you put in, the more carbohydrates you need to consume between workouts
  • The harder you work on a given day, the more sleep you need that night to recover most effectively

The only resource that I’ve seen address post-workout nutrition with any specificity is Matt Fitzgerald’s New Rules Of Marathon And Half Marathon Nutrition. The book’s recommended workouts are bookended by a recommendation of carbohydrate/protein volume to consume in the minutes following a workout. The book is written around learning to effectively fuel a workout, and the information in general is a bit dated (the book was published in 2013), so its use is a bit limited. But it’s still more feedback on training nutrition than most authors provide.

The subject of what to eat between workouts is a broad and sensitive one, granted. It’s one I’m not going to get into now.

But I do think it’s a subject that running coaches need to give more than mere typical consideration. It’d be helpful to at least get a baseline idea of how many calories a runner consumes, estimate how many they burn per mile and during other exercise, get a good grasp on what the runner prefers to eat, and come up with some sort of concrete plan of what they should eat between workouts.

(And if you do actually want to become certified, there is a path to that. It’s not free, and it does take time, study and effort, but you can do it.)

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