Tag Archives: quick thoughts

Pace goals and getting the most out of your easy runs

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Let’s say you want to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and know your goal marathon pace is 9:00 per mile.

Many training plans advise your long runs be done at a pace about 60-90 seconds per mile slower, i.e. do your long runs at a 10:00-10:30 pace.

While this is not a bad idea, it’s rather difficult to do if you’re also not paying any mind to the general pace of your regular midweek easy runs. While you want those runs to be low-pressure, it may not be a bad idea to also have the same “pace goal” in mind for your regular midweek runs.

If the pace is practiced everyday in 3-8 mile chunks, then trying to do it for 2-3 hours becomes less daunting.

I understand the idea of these runs being “recovery runs” where you don’t want to put yourself under any pressure other than to run.

If you don’t struggle with focus and don’t struggle to maintain pace in a marathon, then sure, don’t worry about it. Just run.

If you don’t have a pace or time goal, then of course don’t worry about it. Just cover the distance or time required. Relax.

However, there are two camps that could benefit greatly from focusing on an “easy pace” in regular runs. I just brought up the first group: People looking to nail a time goal who also have a pace in mind for easy long runs.

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An update on new endeavors for 2020

Recently I started a new job, and after a couple of nebulous months it actually feels great to lock back into a workweek routine.

Even with work to do, I find the workdays strangely relaxing. It certainly helps with recovery that I once again need to sit at a desk for hours each weekday. And, of course, it feels good to have a predictable income once again.

During this coming year I plan to study and train quite a bit outside of running. After years of developing my nutrition knowledge through self study, trial and error, and a legion of research… I decided to make my knowledge “official” and study for Precision Nutrition’s L1 Nutrition Certification. This fills in a lot of gaps, and codify (with sources!) a lot of the knowledge I’ve carried over the years. Plus, as nutrition certifications go, Precision Nutrition is considered among most the best of the best.

I’ve also decided to elevate my running knowledge by becoming certified as a personal trainer. Starting next month I will study with Life Time Fitness at their Academy to earn my NASM CPT certification.

Does this mean I will scale back my running work? Absolutely not! If anything, a key goal in these two projects is to make my running work more robust. Coaching from the certified knowledge of a nutritionist and personal trainer will make my work more complete.

Many runners and coaches only operate from a thin, general idea of nutrition and other physical training. Again, I want to fill in the gaps and be as complete a runner and coach as I can. I want to go beyond generalities when discussing nutrition. I want to go into depth on quality strength training, knowing how much a runner can and should handle, and (runners or not runners) get specific with work that will fully develop an individual’s health and performance.

And, of course, I’m still training for marathons. All of this is part of a larger study in utilizing nutrition and outside strength/conditioning work to maximize my health and development for Vancouver 2020 as well as Victoria 2020.

So, there will be more to come on that front. I will also write more going forward on concepts and lessons I study from the two training programs, with thoughts on their impact on not just my training but how it impacts training of others.

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Thoughts on the benefits of building your own training schedule

Most people pick someone else’s training plan and just follow that to the letter. That’s probably alright for most, though having a life or other complications can make following most plans a problem.

For example, a Hal Higdon marathon plan follows a fairly set schedule. The intermediate plan has cross training Monday, three easily doable runs in a row on Tuesday through Thursday, Friday off, a moderate run Saturday and then the long run Sunday.

What if you run in the evenings after work but have a commitment on Thursday night that interferes with that run? Or what if you run in the mornings before work, but the 7-8 mile Wednesday runs later in the program are too long to do before work?

Or what happens if you’re exhausted and getting sick at the end of a week? Do you risk compounding that problem by getting your workouts in? Do you risk compromising your training by skipping the Saturday run (or heaven forbid, the very important long run)?

Never mind scheduling concerns: What if the weather is blazing hot and doing a 15 mile long run, even early in the morning when it’s cooler, simply is not do-able without risking serious health problems? What if doing the whole run on a treadmill or otherwise indoors just isn’t practical?

Conversely, what if it’s the dead of winter and windchills have dropped to a deadly low, or your locale just got hit with two feet of snow?

A lot of novice runners would just skip every workout that runs into such interference. And most will get to the start line of their goal race woefully undertrained.

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Forty One.

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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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Running coaches should coach diet and rest too

abundance agriculture bananas batch

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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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Quick update: Moved on, returned home

I’m going to drift off topic for a bit and discuss my work situation, which I abruptly ended last week.

I took a traveling position in August, and traveled to Michigan for my first assignment. As challenging as it made running and working out, I was reportedly doing good work, and I felt okay about the situation… until everything came to a head during last week. By last Wednesday night I was convinced that I could not continue. After a few conversations, I resigned at the end of the week and returned home to Vegas. It was purely my decision. It’s for the best.

So I’m home. More below the jump:

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Bulking up in Vegas

After a somewhat surprising three weeks in Vegas (my employer and I expected to deploy me sooner, but fate intervened)… I fly out tomorrow on assignment to Michigan for a few weeks.

Much of the last three weeks were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I didn’t really settle into a desired routine, knowing it would be completely disrupted once I was deployed.

Instead, I ended up inadvertently settling into a “routine” of eating a lot of good home cooked food, and sitting around when not at the gym cross training or outside at 6am for a hot desert, brief-out-of-necessity run.

I gained a somewhat astonishing 10 pounds. Granted, the stress of my move led to losing a few pounds right before I left Chicago, so I had some weight to gain back. But I rocketed past my previous 167-168 pound baseline within days, and spent much of my Vegas time in the 173-174 pound range. This despite a couple hours in the gym doing various moderate aerobic cross training and strength exercises most days of the week.

I imagine some of this is water weight from the new food, plus restocked muscle and glycogen lost during the Chicago move. But calorie wise it hasn’t been all that different from living in Chicago. But consider the dramatic (expected) shift in my lifestyle once I arrived in Vegas:

In Chicago (according to my Fitbit data) I averaged anywhere from 650-900 minutes per week of tracked physical activity (anything from 10+ minutes of walking on up), plus about 3000-3500 calories burned per day. Rarely did I finish a day having burned fewer than 3000 calories. Often I burned in excess of 3400-3500.

In Vegas I’ve averaged 500-550 minutes of trackable exercise activity per week, and maybe 2600-2700 calories burned per day. I’ve had perhaps 3 days total where I burned more than 3000 calories since arriving on August 26. That’s a substantial drop in burned calories.

The difference as expected was the amount of walking. Chicago required no less than several minutes of walking to get basically anywhere. In Vegas, you need to drive doorstep to doorstep since very little of the city is walkable in general, not just from sprawl but the extreme summer heat.

I’ve technically exercised more here in Vegas than I did in Chicago. The big difference that produced my weight gain has been the vastly diminished everyday activity.


I’m not terribly worried about losing the weight back. Once I’m on the ground in Michigan, have to walk facility floors for work everyday, and get more chances to run (the Michigan suburbs have decent sidewalks, plus the warm humidity, is far better for daytime running than the extremely hot Vegas desert)… my excess fat and water weight should peel right off. Plus, without home cooking, I’ll regain full control of my diet and be eating cleaner.

Was it okay to bulk up like that? Of course. Especially considering that the summer basically became my offseason. I’ve decided I prefer winter and spring running, and my primary goal race for 2020 is at the end of spring anyway. It wasn’t imperative that I begin training before January. I’ve remained however active I could.

The key is that I restored some lost glycogen and muscle mass. The latter is very important as you age, and having trained as a runner regularly for the last few years I haven’t really given my muscles a chance to regain much lost mass. This was probably the first serious chance I’ve had to do so. Plus I’ve gotten to do more strength training than I could in Chicago: Along with more available time, the gyms in Vegas are bigger and strength machines aren’t busy all the time as they were in Chicago.

Even though I haven’t run as much, I’ve maintained much of my aerobic conditioning with several hours of easy to moderate cross training each week, using not just the ARC Trainer but the new gym’s rowing machines, plus Joe LoGalbo’s Anabolic aerobic approach on the spin bike to get more bang for the buck out of the typically too-easy stationary bike. Occasionally, I’ve used the treadmill, though since the recent hamstring injury I’ve been careful about doing that too much.

So, I’m looking forward to not just the new job assignment but a chance to run regularly in a new place. More to come on that.

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