Tag Archives: Running

The Race Eve pasta dinner: Is pre-race carb loading a good idea?

I may or may not have touched on the folly of carb loading, that your diet and glycogen stores are a body of work, and not something you can fix in the 48 hours before your race (though your glycogen stores and physical condition are certainly something you can break in the preceding 48 hours).

Still, the Race Eve Pasta Gorge is a favorite runner ritual, and while you may not substantially improve your glycogen reserves, you at least won’t go to bed hungry.

This leads me to two questions.

  1. Can there be a situation where a Race Eve carb-load can be beneficial?
  2. Is the Race Eve carb-load beenficial for races shorter than the marathon? If so, when so, and when not so?

When is a Race Eve Carb Load beneficial?

I think there is a set of situations where a carb load might be a good idea. Whether they all funnel into one common situation or they all exist on their own, I’m not certain.

They of course depend on what your diet has been throughout the training cycle.

And of course, you are best off eating minimally processed foods. Pasta and its sauce are probably as processed as you should get. Pizza and fried food should remain out of the question until your race is over.

The key question: Have you been restricting your diet recently, whether you’ve done so throughout the training cycle or just recently?

A runner who has been cutting weight, a runner who has eaten lower-carb, or a runner who has intermittent fasted… may have a sufficient glycogen deficit that a carb load right before the race could benefit them.

Cutting Weight: Obviously, a runner cutting weight has been operating at a long term calorie deficit. Presuming training has proceeded without injury or other issues, the muscles may have spent considerable time somewhat depleted of glycogen. A big carb meal following some body-priming rudimentary activity (like a shake-out run, cross-training session, or a walk) could help maximize the available stores on race day.

Low-Carb Dieting: Few runners follow a low-carb protocol due to fast running’s extended usage of glycogen. Keto-style dieting is typically practiced by weightlifters, whose intense physical activity is typically limited to a weightlifting session maxing out around 60 minutes.

The runners who do practice low-carb diets tend to be recreational runners who either don’t run far when they do, run at a very easy pace when they do run long distance, or ultra runners who run those races at a lower, fat-burning-friendly intensity, and only eat carbs during those races, when they’re needed.

Still, provided their bodies can comfortably handle the re-introduction of carbs, low-carb dieters can also top off their glycogen stores by eating a carb-rich meal the day before.

Intermittent Fasting: Runners who practice intermittent fasting do tend to eat a lot during their limited feeding window. Depending on when they eat, it’s possible they may have sufficient glycogen stores. If they consume most carbs before or after their workouts, they’re more likely to have substantial glycogen stores. Otherwise, it may benefit them to top off their glycogen stores with a carb-rich meal the day before.

That Aside…: Barring any restricting dieting, it’s more likely that a carb-load isn’t going to provide much benefit over any other healthy meal. If you’ve been getting enough to eat throughout your training, especially following most of your workouts, you probably have enough glycogen stored whether or not you pound rotini until nauseous 15 hours before your race. The marginal utility of a carb-rich meal is minimal at best.

One notable exception: If you have been rather active in the day prior to Race Eve:

  1. First of all, you should have been resting up and minimizing activity ahead of your race. Any muscle wear/damage sustained will not fully recover before the race. Take it easy to cut your losses on any damage.
  2. A carb-rich meal eaten shortly after any activity will result in greater protein and glycogen processing and storage. Basically, what you eat will be put to greater use than if you hadn’t been active.
  3. Any muscle wear/damage from the last day will mostly remain, unfortunately. Any protein consumed (combined with sleep) will heal a bit of it, but you’ve now depleted yourself a bit ahead of the race. However, any glycogen lost will probably be restored, and possibly more.

Is a Race Eve Carb Load beneficial for races shorter than a marathon?

As long as the meal doesn’t cause a bunch of water retention, isn’t so heavy it adds weight to your body, and of course doesn’t make you feel ill… it can be beneficial to eat a carb-rich meal the night before any race between the 5K and the marathon.

Going back to the dieters… a glycogen top-off could help some runners on race day. Some extra protein could help with healing if the runner gets good sleep the night before. A Carb-Load meal would mostly help runners who have been eating low-carb or have been substantially restrictive with their diets leading up to the race.

But generally the window where this may be beneficial for sub-marathon races is even smaller than with marathoners and ultra runners. You’re not going to completely deplete your glycogen stores in anything shorter than a 20 mile race. In most race distances you won’t even come close.

This is a case where your body of work with your diet becomes paramount. If you practice a sound diet, that should be more than enough for your glycogen stores.

Rest and recovery in the days before a sub-marathon race are much more important to your performance than what nutrition you manage to successfully take in the day before. You can do more to hurt yourself from a Race Eve buffet than help.

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Chops: A personal statistic for tracking training volume

Chops

A snapshot of my Google Docs training log, which outlines mileage, time spent in “hard running”, time spent doing hard exercise or similar labor, estimated walking distance, lifetime training miles since 2016, and my personal stat “Chops”, described below.

I keep a Google Doc spreadsheet of all my training sessions, which includes mileage, any speedwork mileage, time spent in strength training and other active, intentional physical effort, and estimated distance walking. I also track known lifetime training mileage, and a self-created stat called Chops.

Chops is named after the musician term chops, which describes a performer’s current musical skill. Similarly, my Chops number provides for me an estimate of how many miles I can comfortably run at full strength over the following week.

Continue reading

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Quick thoughts on how to find comfortable, fast, efficient running form

Think quick. Think low. Think short, swift movements.

If you’re trying to run fast, I’ve talked about how most fall into the trap of longer, lunging strides… instead of shortening up enough to where they can turn their feet over more quickly. The latter will cover more ground in the long run, and is a much more comfortable way to run faster than usual.

When starting your run, begin with a trot, and gradually accelerate the turnover of steps in that trot.

Many also fall into the trap of swinging their arms far too much, extraneous movement that wastes energy and not only tires you out more quickly but slows you down.

The only directions your arms should drive is back. Your arms should naturally repel back forward, allowing you to drive them back once again. In fact, and this is admittedly from various running form texts, your arms should ideally not swing in front of you at all. The farthest forward your elbows should come is right beside your obliques.

And your arms ought to be low, and stay low. Yes, I’ve seen (and know) plenty of runners who run comfortably with their arms high in front of them. Like a baseball pitcher with a high leg kick, it’s a quirk that works well for some and their style. For most, the most efficient form for your arms is low and driving back while not propeling far forward.

A good way to think about running is to run with the feel a hovercraft… or like a plane taxi-ing along the runway. The latter glides along the pavement, occasionally firing the engines just a little bit, enough to move itself forward.

If you’re not sprinting, look to find a rhythm that feels like you’re briskly gliding low along the pavement. Your legs aren’t lifting too high with each step. Your arms are low to the ground. Your steps are smooth, swift, so short and imperceptible that if you didn’t know any better you’d swear you had no legs and were in fact gliding like a hovercraft.

This smooth rhythm also making slowing down or stopping for obstacles easy and seamless, as well as gliding back into your desired pace once you’re running again.

At the very least, it feels a lot better than grunting and pushing out hard steps to try and run fast. You may find smooth is faster anyway.

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Practicing fueling during marathon training

A lot of people struggle with fueling during a marathon because they aren’t used to running with food or drink (beyond water or maybe Gatorade) in their stomach.

I have a fairly strong running stomach. I’ve even gone as far as to eat pizza before heading out on a speedwork workout, and done well (in no small part thanks to having a bunch of fat and carbohydrates at the ready thanks to the pizza). I obviously wouldn’t recommend going that far, but I have on many occasions eaten a full meal and then gone out on a run without trouble.


Yesterday I segmented 11 miles into three separate runs, as I ran to the Loyola women’s hoops game, then back towards home.

After the game, before my 2nd run to Montrose Beach, I stopped at Raising Canes and treated myself to a Box Combo with some lemonade, because why not.

But instead of waiting a bit for the meal to digest, I immediately crossed the street onto the LUC campus and took off for Lincoln Park.

I bring this up because, while I didn’t feel sick running with such a disgusting meal in my stomach… the inevitable gas you’d expect from your stomach led to a realization.


My hiccups from the Chicago Marathon? They were certainly a product of the volume of nutrition I had put down during the race. Because I had put it down faster than my stomach could digest it, most of it sat there and bubbled for several miles. My wind/stomach pipe assembly, battling between taking in air at a moderate running pace and holding stomach contents back from randomly upchucking during said run… finally began to give, and suddenly there are hiccups.

I didn’t have hiccups during yesterday’s running, since the pace was a lot easier. I also didn’t have hiccups during long Chicago Marathon training runs where I practiced taking in nutrition, because the pace of those runs were a lot easier.

It was only on race day, when the effort was more intense yet I took in a high volume of in-race nutrition, that hiccups reared their head.

Clearly, my key to avoiding race hiccups is to either practice taking in less of my desired nutrition (probably not the best idea for a marathon), or to practice taking in my desired nutrition on more intense tempo runs (to get my body trained to do so at that intensity over distance).


Most tend to either put no practice into in-race fueling during their training, or they fuel casually throughout too many runs, which may not fully prepare their body to handle a long distance endurance event.

Many, like I did, will make the mistake of practicing fueling on long runs, but only on those long runs. Therefore, you get used to doing so at an easy pace, but on race day you run faster than that, and your body’s not prepared to fuel on the run at that pace.

The marathon fuel training sweet spot:

After you have stretched out your tempo runs, or after you have added some marathon tempo to your long runs, practice fueling with your desired fuel every few miles on your marathon pace runs.

This gets the body used to handling fuel during a race effort. The run itself may not be a peak training effort, but it’s not necessarily the run itself you’re working on. You are working on handling fuel at a faster pace over a longer high-intensity effort.

Much like how training your running muscles and strength training other parts of your body often are best done with specific, separate focus… training your internal organs to handle fuel at a race effort is a skill and set of muscles that need to be gradually trained.

If your marathon fueling plan is more serious than ‘take some Gatorade or whatever the race makes available every few miles’, then it’s just as vital to train in taking that fuel in as it is to build up your specific running endurance or your speed.

Just maybe don’t practice with chicken fingers and lemonade from Raising Canes. Perhaps consume something healthier.

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Quick thoughts on considering training volume by time rather than by mileage

I finished October with only 87.8 miles, thanks largely to the two weeks I took off following the Chicago Marathon. I’m already back up to about 25 miles per week as I ease back to a larger mileage load… the difference mostly being that I’m taking days off, rather than running shorter distances. I’ve already knocked out a few 8-9 milers since getting back on the road.

We look at elites and their crazy mileage loads, but it may make more sense to look at their weekly training in terms of time spent running each week.

Matt Fitzgerald actually lists runs in the training plans in his book 80/20 Running by time spent running, rather than by mileage. He’ll list regular runs at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, etc, reserving mileage recommendations exclusively for long runs.

Though like most I track my runs primarily by mileage, I do keep an eye on my overall time spent running. In fact, if you use the Electric Blues Daniels Tables, you’ll find yourself gauging workout intensities by time spent more often than by mileage.

Back to elites. Some may aspire to run the 100+ mile weeks that elites run, but many may make the mistake of blindly aiming for that mileage, even though they lack the speed of those elites. The result is they spend far too much time each week running, if they don’t burn out or get injured first.

Consider that an elite who can average a 5 minute pace running a marathon probably does his/her easy runs at something like a 6 minute mile, which is far faster than the vast majority of runners. Thus, if this runner were to run 100 miles, they could knock all of them out in fewer than 10 hours of weekly training. A typical runner might be able to log 65 miles in the same time frame.

An elite runner doing a 12 mile run for their typical run can probably knock it out in around 75 minutes. You or I trying to run 12 miles might take a couple hours.

So, one thing to bear in mind when setting the elites as a benchmark is that their high mileage is a function of their superior pace. If they ran closer to a 9 minute mile, there’s no way they’d log 100+ mile weeks.

As you go to establish training mileage goals, it might make sense to take stock of your own pace, and whether that pace makes the needed training time realistic.


I’m scratching the surface on this idea as it’s late, and it probably will get a more substantial treatment down the road. But it’s worth considering.

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Heart Rate: Should It Be Tied To Pace?

Many running guides, metrics, coaches, etc, will talk about your pace in relation to your heart rate, namely your maximum heart rate and what percentage of your maximum heart rate corresponds to a given effort or pace.

What to do in accordance with your heart rate depends on who is giving the advice, from Daniels and other coaches recommending a given heart rate for every pace, even suggesting your fastest runs be done at 100% of your max… to the Phil Maffetones of the world recommending you never run above 75-80% of your maximum heart rate… to coaches like the Hanson Brothers who won’t really discuss heart rate at all, focusing solely on your pace.

And this never minds that few can seem to agree on how to determine your max heart rate. Presuming you don’t shell out for an abusive VO2max or heart rate test, you’re often left to estimate using methods no one can agree on. The conventional ‘subtract your age from 220’ formula has long since been proven inaccurate. Runner’s World floated the result of a 2001 study as proof that the formula is close to (207 – (your age * 0.7)).

Scientists in Norway have found that an accurate formula is (211 – (your age * 0.64)). That’s the formula I use. The max it gives me (currently 185) seems more attainable than other results.

But anyway…. Personally, because I’m a fan of not dropping dead, I tend to avoid trying to hit my max heart rate even when running hard.

The closest I have gotten according to my Fitbit tracker is 184. My Blaze once said my heart rate had hit 187, but that could have been a blip. In neither case did I feel anywhere close to death: They were random occurrences during otherwise typically tough runs or workouts.

In most of my speed workouts and races, my heart rate may reach the 160’s, occasionally the 170’s. In my fastest 5K’s my HR has tapped the low 170’s for a short spell, but otherwise I never get above the high 160’s… even if technically I should be able to hit 185.

I do begin to wonder if along with my aerobic endurance my lower body muscles have sort of a ‘solid state hard drive’ strength to them, where my heart doesn’t need to pump at a maximal rate to keep everything going, where the muscles have the strength and energy systems to keep going with a more high-normal rate of circulation.

Even when running at closer to threshold effort or pace, I find I don’t always get to what Daniels would consider a threshold heart rate. It’s often closer to a marathon effort heart rate, maybe a half marathon rate. Even when I PR’d last year’s Lakefront 10, my heart rate never hit the 160’s until the final couple miles, when I was kicking for a strong finish.

Sometimes during my regular runs I hit the 140’s, but often my heart rate is in the 130’s. On my long runs during the last training cycle, I even hung in the recovery-territory 120’s for much of those runs.

I don’t know if I’m doing things differently, or if my body is wired differently, or what. But I certainly don’t mind seeing results even if my heart’s not having to pump at the rate that experts say it should be for me to get those results.

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12 things I want to do more in my next marathon training program

No intros. Let’s get to it.

1. More hill running. Brad Hudson swears by hill runs as an easy form of strength training, as well as a recovery aid after long runs. Jonathan Savage also swears by downhill running as a way to develop quad strength and endurance.

I want to try and do both during training… regular uphill running after long runs, and downhill runs as a harder workout early in the training cycle.

2. Sunday long runs instead of Saturday long runs. Previously I did my long run Saturday to give myself Sunday to recover before the workweek.

But this was during my previous career, which required a lot more walk commuting and where I used a standing desk. While that had many benefits, my new conventional sit-down career and its quicker, easier commute allows me much more physical downtime. Plus, I’ve improved my ability to get sleep after long runs, another factor in why I previously ran long on Saturday.

The hurdles to running Sunday have been eliminated, and since my next marathon will likely fall on a Sunday, it’s best to do the long runs on those days.

3. Greater emphasis on maintaining pace through consistent quick cadence. I’ve already been working on this as I’ve resumed running. But, in prioritizing volume during my last training cycle, I think I ran a low slower than I needed to.

This is hindsight being 20/20, but I realize I have better speed than my 11 minute mile long runs indicate. Plus, as I saw in tapering and the marathon, I have no trouble maintaining a faster cadence (and pace) on long runs.

I need to take a page from the Hanson Brothers and do all my distance running at as quick of a cadence as I can reaosnably maintain.

4. Mini-sharpening period for tune up races. My speedwork was either a bit scattered or a bit flat in how I applied it during the last cycle. I’m planning to stage it out a bit more this time around, not focusing hard on marathon level effort until the final few weeks.

As most recommend, I plan to focus more on maximizing speed during the early training stage, and this will allow me to focus better on tune-up races. If I train for specific endurance in the 3-4 weeks leading up to those races, to maximize performance in those races, it could have substantial long term benefits as I move on to more marathon endurance training post race.

5. Tune up races! I didn’t really do many tune-up races in my previous cycle, and to be honest I do miss shorter races. I almost decided to take a year off from marathons not because of how tough training is, but so I could do more shorter races instead.

I don’t think I’ll need to go that far, though. It’s entirely reasonable to do as many as 4-5 races during an 18 week training cycle, as tune-up races. And it’s reasonable to give them a serious effort, as doing so provides secondary training benefits.

6. More multi-pace workouts, especially during long runs. I’ve always mixed in fast-finish moderate runs, and dabbled with Daniels-style multi-pace long runs last year, during an extended test run of a marathon training cycle (I didn’t actually plan to run a marathon that fall, but did want to practice stretching out).

The latter are tough, and it may have been a little early in my development to do them. But now, having improved my ability to manage moderate pace in longer runs, I think it may benefit me to incorporate multi-pace long runs.

I don’t think I want to go full Daniels 2Q and devote two days a week to killer 12-16 mile runs with extended threshold and marathon pace segments right off the bat. I think to avoid burnout it’s best to do those closer to the race, around the peak cycle. I may not need to do a 20 miler next time around, but I can definitely benefit from a 16 miler where, say, 10+ of the miles are at marathon pace.

7. Varying the pace and intensity of regular distance runs. Over the last year I’ve done nearly all of my regular runs at around the same pace. That pace was somewhat faster during the Vancouver cycle than it was during the recent Chicago cycle. Lately as I’ve resumed running all of my runs have been substantially quicker than either.

But I think as I ramp up to training mileage it would be a good idea to take a standard hard/easy approach to those regular runs. Perhaps one day I can go moderate, and try to sustain an 8:30-9:15 pace… and the next I give myself total permission to take it easy and go as slow as I’d like. This can allow me to add maximum mileage while still giving myself permission to push myself some, while scaling back enough to allow those regular opportunities.

8. Run every single day, even if just a little bit. This worked very well for me during my last couple months of training. It happened basically by accident: I discovered I had run for over 10 straight days, and decided to try and keep the streak going because I still felt good despite no days off. I ran for 70 straight days right up to the Chicago Marathon, and felt great at the end.

My body seems to respond better to quick, easy runs as recovery instead of full rest. Many good runners run every day. I think it might work out (barring an actual injury) to just run 7 days a week, and when feeling particularly tired to just run a couple miles that day instead of outright resting.

9. Train to optimize high-moderate pace, for optimal aerobic support. Like many, I would previously opt to slow down my longer runs to preserve stamina. While this did allow me to run 20’s and other long runs, it didn’t help translate my speed to longer runs. My speed at shorter distances indicates I can run faster at longer distances.

Again, I want to take a page from the Hansons and seek to do my long runs at more of a moderate pace, rather than the easy pace most recommend. I’m obviously not going to race these long runs or do them at marathon pace just yet. But I want to go out at a solid cadence and try to hold that fast cadence for as long as reaosnably possible.

I’m no longer concerned about whether or not I can run long, since I clearly can. Now it’s about translating my speed to the longer distances by working on the specific endurance of running faster over longer distances.

10. Don’t emphasize marathon-pace until the final six weeks before the next marathon. While it’s important to do a bit of marathon pace training periodically throughout the training cycle, I also don’t want to peak too early. And it’s not as important to do marathon pace running until the final few weeks before the race.

As I did before Chicago, I will taper by heavily reducing my volume while doing virtually all of the my running during that time at marathon pace. It feels ingrained once you get to the start line, but if I were to do that for six weeks I would either begin to burn out or would lose my stamina from not being able to do longer runs.

Prior to the final few weeks, I’ll make sure not to do marathon pace for more than 25% of any speedwork in a week. A few miles once a week might be fine in the early going, but isn’t necessary.

11. Use accordant tune up races as goal pace benchmarks. Pace prediction calculators will use results from your other races as estimators of how you will do in other races, including the marathon.

If I have a goal pace in mind, a key will be to look at the equivalent pace in a tune up race, like a 5K or 10K, and see if I can run that pace. Or, if I don’t, to use the pace I run as a gauge of what I can do, and adjust my workout pacing going forward.

12. Peak early… with training volume. While I don’t want to peak early overall, I do have a lot of things I want to work on: Speed over longer runs, mixed workouts, other race distances.

It’s hard to work on all those things and increase your mileage during training. So, my plan is to focus during off-season and base training on building up higher mileage and to try and peak mileage before I get to foundational training.

By the 4th-6th week of training, I want to have experienced my max mileage, so that as I scale back training mileage I can easily slide into the other kinds of training and racing I want to do.


Thanks for humoring my lengthy list of personal training ideas.

More to come shortly on my upcoming personal marathon training goals.

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Can the 5K help predict a marathon time in lieu of Yasso 800’s?

Recently I floated the value of using an 8K as a marathon time predictor shortly before your marathon, in lieu of the popular Yasso 800’s workout.

While the 8K/10 can cut out a middleman and give you the same result as the Yasso’s, possibly more accurate since the breaks are removed… as I mentioned, it can be difficult to find an 8K to race.


I’ve done some more research based on Daniels’ pace recommendations, and I realize that a 5K may provide a similar prediction. This may work better for most people, because 5K races are a lot more common and easier to find, register for and complete.

Of course, the following assumes:

  • You’re trained to run the marathon distance, and can comfortably run at least 2.5 uninterrupted hours.
  • Your workouts haven’t been a substantial struggle to complete (aside from finding the time to do them, and making the proper effort to recover from those workouts)
  • It also helps if you know your goal pace, though this is not necessary.

Basically, you simply run a 5K at your best sustainable effort for the 5K distance. Do not taper for this 5K, and do not plan for rest days afterward. This is not going to be a max effort 5K.

If you know your marathon goal time, a starting guideline is to aim to run the 5K about one minute per mile faster than your marathon goal pace. It doesn’t have to be exactly this, but if unsure how fast to run the 5K this is a fine starting point. And if that seems too fast for you… your marathon goal time might be too ambitious for a full 26.2, even if you’ve been able to hit it during marathon-pace workouts.

Either way, the best effort guideline for this race: Run the 5K as if you have to also do a regular workout tomorrow. You don’t want to take it too easy, but you don’t want to exhaust the tank to try and PR.

Running the 5K by feel honestly will produce the most accurate result. Run at a steady pace you can hold for 3 straight miles, and avoid the instinct to finish hard and kick at the end.

If at any point in the 5K you feel you can go faster, you may increase your pace just a little bit. But don’t exhaust yourself before the finish.

The harder the 5K is to run, the less likely you can hold for 26.2 the marathon pace it will predict. Your aerobic fitness is part of what’s being estimated, so it’s important this 5K be a challenging but otherwise aerobically comfortable effort.


Run the 5K. Once you have your 5K finish time, it’s time for some math.

Step One: Take your total time in raw minutes: Take the seconds, divide them by 60, and add that decimal to the whole number minutes.

For example, let’s say an aspiring marathoner who run 50 miles a week and has knocked out his/her 20 miler… subsequently ran the 5K in 24:24.

24 seconds is equal to 0.4 minutes, which added to 24 whole minutes makes 24.4.

24:24

24 seconds / 60 = 0.4 minutes

24 minutes + 0.4 minutes = 24.4 minutes.


Step Two: Now, multiply that number by 0.16.

24.4 x 0.16 = 3.90

This number is the number of estimated hours it should take you to finish the marathon.

Step Three: You can take the decimal in this hours estimate, and multiply that by 60 to display the number of minutes.

0.90 hours / 60 = 54 minutes

3.90 hours —-> 3 hours, 54 minutes

5K Marathon Prediction: 3 hours, 54 minutes


According to the 5K prediction, a trained marathoner who can knock out a 5K in 24:24 can likely run their marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes.

If the above hypothetical marathoner were to run the Yasso 800’s, they likely could complete their 800 reps in an average of 3 minutes 54 seconds.

If they ran the 8K/10, it would take them roughly 39 minutes on the dot.

But the 5K can give them the same estimate, in a fraction of the time and effort. The only extra effort is in doing the math.

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Nailing the 2 Mile Run on the US Army’s Field Test

Aspiring US Army trainees are currently preparing for the Army’s fitness Field Test, which demands a required volume of push ups and sit ups, as well as a 2 mile run.

Male entrants age 17-22 are expected to run 2 miles at a pace around 8:00-8:15 per mile while female entrants age 17-22 are asked for closer to 8:15-8:30 per mile. Older enlistees are given more leeway on pace times, but those are the baseline benchmarks.

There is a new version of the test slated for an October 2020 rollout, with more requirements that will thus scale back the expectations on the run. But the run will still remain a daunting task for many aspiring enlistees, especially following the strength portion of the test.

For runners, this part of the Field Test is not a big deal (though of course the other strength requirements might be!). But most aspiring enlistees are not runners by trade, and for most non-runners (even those who excel at strength training) the act of running just a mile seems like a somewhat heroic feat. Running 2 miles seems doubly tough. Add in the exercise tests you have to pass before the run, and now the 2 mile run seems like a herculean feat for many.

Someone who runs regularly to begin with would have little to no trouble nailing the Army’s time requirements, even if they struggled with the other exercises. Even with no speedwork, running an 8 minute mile over 2 miles becomes a lot easier for most young adults once you’ve been running a lot.


Of course, it’s a little late for me to give training advice if your Field Test is right around the corner. Ideally you should have already been running at least 6 miles a week, if not a lot more, along with your other strength training. And running at your goal pace, even if difficult, should not be uncharted territory.

The more time you have to prepare, the less you need to train at the desired goal pace. Your main objective in training is to develop aerobic fitness, and once you have that fitness your pace generally improves as the habit of running also develops your neuromuscular fitness. Running faster over longer periods becomes more comfortable as you improve aerobic and neuromuscular fitness.

First of all, you need to figure out your goal pace as well as your current running pace. The goal pace is simply the desired 2 Mile time divided in half. For example, a 17:00 goal time requires an 8:30 mile pace (17 / 2 = 8.5).

Your ideal goal mile-pace should not be the bare minimum required to pass with a 50. You should pick a goal pace that’s about 10 seconds faster than your required minimum, to give yourself some leeway on Test Day in case the Test proves more challenging than expected. (Plus, giving yourself a buffer is a habit that will help you in other ways once enlisted.)

If you’re not sure how fast you can currently run, do one of the following:

  • Find a full-sized Olympic style track, and run four times around it
  • Find a one mile stretch of road or path, and run it
  • Get on a treadmill, set it to goal pace, and see how long you can run at that pace before you have to slow it down. Run here for 1.0 mile no matter what.

Whatever time it takes you to do this is your current running mile-pace.

If this time more than 60 seconds slower than your needed goal pace, you may want to try the Field Test another time.

Even if you must postpone your attempt, you will want to run regularly from now until you get another chance to take it. You will see improvement! And you can come back to this article if you feel you’re in striking distance of the goal time the next time around.

But, if you have a sense of your current comfortable running pace, and know your goal pace is within reach… what you need to do now depends on how much time you have before the Field Test.

Two caveats that apply to everyone:

  1. You absolutely should do strength training on the same days as your runs, especially before the runs if you can.
  2. Eat clean, eat a lot of protein, and get as much sleep as you can every night.

Normally one would advise against strength training before a training run. But since the Army Field Test requires you do your strength tests before the run, the best way to train for the Test run is to do strength training and THEN go run. Train with the same pattern you’re going to need to follow on Test Day. This will also get you used to the physical fatigue your upper body and core will feel on your Test run.

And no matter what, your recovery and nutrition are vital to how well your body responds to any training. The cleaner and better your nutrition and rest habits are during training, the better your body will bounce back, and the better you’re going to ultimately do in workouts… not to mention on Field Test Day.

If you have less than two weeks and you’ve been struggling to hit your goal pace:

I would highly recommend getting on a treadmill and setting it as close to goal pace as you can manage. To figure out the treadmill speed, divide 60 by the mile pace to get the miles per hour setting for the treadmill. An 8:00 mile would be 7.5 mph (60/8), for example, while an 8:15 mile (8.25 minutes) would be 7.3 mph (60/8.25) (Many modern gym treadmills helpfully display your speed’s mile pace, so if yours does this will save you some trouble).

Run the treadmill at this pace for no less than 15 minutes. If you can do 20 minutes, do it. If at any point you’re going to pass out, vomit or something similarly dire… just slow the treadmill down or stop it until you get your bearings back. If possible, get back on, restore the pace and keep going for the remaining needed minutes.

No matter what… after that workout, you may take a day off from running, then do the treadmill workout again. Repeat the treadmill pace run no less than every other day.

If you can manage running every single day with your other strength training without getting sore or overtly exhausted, then absolutely run every day (and if you do get real tired or sore later, take a day off before working out again). At this point, you want to run at goal pace as much as you can possibly muster. Just make sure to rest from running the last 2 days before the Field Test, so your lower body can recover.

Similar to how I approached my last marathon taper, you will want to run at or near goal pace on a treadmill for short periods as many days as you can. If nothing else, this helps you ingrain the pace at which you need to run on Field Test Day.

If by the week prior to the Test you’re not able to hold even the minimum required pace for more than 1.5 miles… you may want to drop out of Test consideration for now and try again some other time.

But what will often happen is that running at this pace will get subtlely easier over the next few days as you develop a bit of neuromuscular fitness. Aerobic fitness is not as likely less than two weeks out, but you will improve that a little bit.

If you can get to Test Day feeling at all comfortable running goal pace for 15 minutes, you have a great chance of nailing the 2 Mile test.

If you have more than two weeks before the Field Test:

I would recommend running at least a couple miles, more if you can comfortably handle it, 3+ times per week.

The more time you have to train and the more miles you can run per week, the less important it becomes for you to run at goal pace during all of these workouts.

Still, every week, start with a 2+ mile run as close to goal pace as you can muster. If you generally struggle to stay on pace, use a treadmill. It’s important that this first run of the week be at or very near goal pace. If you can comfortably do more than 2 miles for this run, then absolutely do more miles, up to a maximum of 4 miles. This workout is about mastering the needed pace, and while you don’t want to overkill you do want to practice what you need to do on Test Day.

After that, any of your other running during the week can be slower than goal pace, and the treadmill isn’t necessary for these runs. Running about a minute per mile slower than goal pace is perfectly fine.

For example, if you’re trying to nail an 8:00 mile, then you can do the rest of your runs at 9:00 per mile or slower. If 8:00 per mile feels totally comfortable, not only is that a very good sign, but of course you should just do that for all your runs. Still, give yourself permission on the remaining runs that week to go slower.

Once you’re within two weeks of the test, then:

  1. You need to scale back how much you run
  2. Every run should be at goal pace.

Run no less than 2 miles and no more than 3 miles on any day within two weeks of the Field Test. Unless you’re super comfortable with running every day, you will also want to take a day off from running between every workout if you’re not already.

You want to give your lower body space to recover from training and load up on glycogen for the Field Test.


No matter what, the key to nailing the Army Field Test’s run is to do as much running as you can with at least some of that running at goal pace… and as the test gets closer you want to do as much running at goal pace as you can.

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An 8-week McMillan-Style 8K training plan that will get you ready

The following is admittedly a variation of a plan Greg McMillan has recommended for 10K training. The plan below is a bit more specific about mileage and off-week workouts, but does allow flexibility.

  • This plan lasts a minimum of 8 weeks and presumes you already run at least 15 miles a week, at least 3-4 days a week, and at least two of your runs are 5 miles or more.
  • If not, spend 2-4 weeks running at least that much, at an easy pace, before beginning this plan. The less running you currently do, the longer this plan needs to be.
  • Don’t even begin the workouts below until you’ve been running 15+ miles 3+ days each week, without trouble, for at least a couple weeks. Week 1 of the below plan only begins the week after you’re able to do so.
  • Pick a goal 8K pace that is attainable, whether you’ve attained it before or it’s within 15-20 seconds per mile (9-12 seconds per kilometer) of a pace you’ve run at this distance or longer. Don’t pick a pace that you can’t hold for at least a couple miles uninterrupted.

Starting in week 1, do the below workout once during each designated week. Ideally, do the workout in the middle of the week, but you can pick any day of the week that works best for you:

Wk 1 – 5 x 1 mile (1600m), at goal pace.

Wk 2 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 3 – 4 x 1.25 mile (2000m), at goal pace.

Wk 4 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 5 – 3 x 1.67 mile (2700m), at goal pace.

Wk 6 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 7 – 2 x 2.5 mile (4000m), at goal pace.

Wk 8 – No speed workout! All easy running.

If you can nail goal pace in the Week 7 workout, you absolutely will nail your goal time.


  • It’s okay for the mile+ interval distance to be a little long or a little short. If you can run them on a track, measuring is very easy (one reason I mention the metric distances!). Obviously, trying to do these intervals on a road or trail doesn’t make measuring the right distance easy. The goal is to sustain your pace for each one, so just pick a stretch of path that’s close to the needed distance.
  • If you find yourself falling more than 10 seconds per mile (6 seconds per kilometer) short of your goal pace during the workouts in weeks 1 and 3, you need to dial back your pace expectations.
  • Don’t do the 5×400 reps at max effort, but definitely give a stride-fast effort. Go fast enough that finishing is tough, but hold back enough that you could keep going another 400 meters after the finish if you had to. Let feel be your guide on these reps. And yes, 5×400 may not be a lot for many of you. This should be a quick and easy speed workout.
  • Aside from the key workouts, you want to do some easy running at least a couple other days per week, probably more like 3-5 other days per week. The fewer days you run, the longer those easy runs need to be. If nothing else, do an easy run 2 days before the speed workout and 2 days after the speed workout. Otherwise, do whatever easy running you want.
  • Don’t skip workouts unless you’re rather sick, or you’re injured. If you’re not going to do a workout, at least run a couple miles that day.

As always: Eat well, sleep well, every day during this training plan. You are the sum of your habits. Take care of yourself.

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Strategic approaches to racing the 10 Miler

While not as popular elsewhere, the 10 Mile race distance is somewhat popular in the Midwest, especially in Chicagoland. Chicago alone has two major 10 Mile races, the Lakefront 10 in April (my favorite race) and the Soldier Field 10 in May. Several others (Quarryman Challenge and Fort2Base) are annually held in the suburbs with high turnout. There’s also the 15K (9.32 miles), the close metric cousin of the 10 Miler, and the Hot Chocolate 15K is another popular Chicago race held in November.

Because the distance is not popular like the 5K, 10K, half and full marathon distances, there’s not a lot of strategic material on how to race the distance. The next shortest popular distance is the 10K, which is over 6K shorter. Most runners approach it similar to a half marathon, even though the distance is about 5K shorter and experienced runners are probably leaving a bit in the tank.

I have run 10 Milers mostly as a long distance run (as the half-marathon runners do), and I ran my last 10 Miler as a marathon-pace tune up. However, having given it some research and thought, I have settled on two strategies for running the 10 Miler

Strategy One: The Hadfield Method

Jenny Hadfield crafted a smart approach for marathoners and half marathoners running their first race, and I think it translates well to the 10 Mile distance for most people. Along with new runners to the 10 Miler, Strategy One probably best for experienced runners who put in less than 65 miles a week.

The Hadfield Strategy, in short:

  • You run the first 60% or so of the race at an easy pace to comfortably maintain.
  • You run the next 30% or so at more of a comfortably hard tempo
  • The final 10% is closer to a max effort for whatever you have left.
  • It’s a great strategy in that it doesn’t necessarily have to be built around pace, but around your perceived effort.

If you’re not too fixed on finding goal paces, you are welcome to stop there. Just run the first 6 miles easy, the next 2-3 miles comfortably hard (if you’re running a 15K, it’s 2 miles), then go for it in the final mile.

However, for more experienced runners, I’m more than willing to recommend something closer to actual paces for Hadfielding the 10 Miler:

  1. Start at half marathon pace, and hold this pace until Mile 6.
  2. At Mile 6, pick it up to a 10K effort. If you can’t hit your 10K pace, then 10K level effort is enough. You basically want to treat this section like the last half of a 10K, except don’t kick or accelerate as you would in mile 5. Just pick it up as if you were trying to run an even 10K with a slight negative split.
  3. At mile 9 (or if this is a 15K, mile 8), kick it up to at least 5K pace or effort. If you have it in you to treat the final mile like a mile time trial or 3000 meter race, then go. But 5K effort is completely acceptable. Get to the pace that you can carry in that final mile to the finish line. (Side note for Lakefront 10 runners: I’d maybe keep it exclusively at 5K effort, because you still have to climb and descend Cricket Hill at the end of the race.)
  4. Once you see the finish line and know you can get there, kick.

Strategy Two: 10 Mile pace, defined.

The other approach is of course to run the entire race at a chosen, suitable pace as you would any other race.

But what would be an ideal 10 Mile pace? Much like an ideal half marathon pace, it’s an intensity reserved for only the most well-trained, durable runners. This is why, as previously implied, it should only be attempted by experienced runners who consistently log more than 65 miles per week.

Top half marathoners race at about their lactate threshold intensity, which most schools of thought refer to as Tempo, Cruise or Threshold pace.

It’s around 85% of your max, and the reason most recommend a slower half marathon pace for most is because most can’t sustain that kind of effort for the time it takes them to cover 13.1 miles. An elite runner can clear 13.1 in a bit over an hour, so it’s not as taxing for them.

An optimal 10 Mile pace is around the high end of Threshold tempo, right before drifting into 10K territory. Most runners can’t sustain that effort for 75-100 minutes, but a fast runner that can clear 10 miles in under an hour can do so easily.

The key gauge is the longest period you can manageably sustain an uninterrupted threshold effort run. If you can’t go at least 6.5 miles straight at that intensity, asking you to do it for 10 is probably too much. Hence the previous Hadfieldian strategy recommending you go by feel, start easy and basically assure yourself an excellent negative split.

A cracky common-sense method for estimating your optimum 10 Miler pace:

Add your half marathon pace and your 10K pace together, then divide by two.

The challenge, similar to a half or full marathon, is holding that pace for 10 miles. A half marathon effort is comfortably hard but somewhat easily sustainable. This pace at its hardest is more like a tempo run you’d only hold for 60 minutes max.

If you have 9-12 weeks training time before the race, you can gauge your actual 10 Miler pace through trial and error testing (and of course make sure you don’t have any speedwork or long runs within 2 days of doing the below):

  1. Pick a comfortably hard pace you think you can maintain for an hour, and run an uninterrupted tempo run at that pace for as long as you can. Aim for an hour minimum. IMPORTANT: If your heart rate reaches 90% of your max or your known 10K effort, stop the workout immediately and note your distance traveled.
  2. If you find you can’t run at least 6.5 miles at that pace, wait a week and try again at a pace 5 seconds per mile slower (3 seconds per kilometer). Again, run for at least an hour and aim for 6.5 miles without distress or other trouble. And again, if you miss the mark, repeat a week later with a pace 5 seconds per mile (3/km) slower.
  3. If after 3 tries you haven’t been able to finish 6.5 miles… just use your half marathon pace as your 10 Mile pace.

That is for all intents and purposes your 10 Mile pace. Train accordingly with that pace until race day.


… now how do you train for a 10 Miler, you may ask?

I’ll get to that at some point, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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Sasha Pachev does this and I think for some it might be worth doing as well.

Every few hours, take a break, go outside, and run a mile. It doesn’t have to be fast, though it can be. Get back inside, and go back to whatever you were doing before.

Pachev calls it his Always On The Run Routine. He does more typical training each day, but aside from that he sneaks in a mile here, a mile there, throughout every day. It’s a sneaky way to get 20-25 extra miles on top of your training.

A great time to do this is right before or right after eating breakfast or lunch. A run will prime the body for optimal nutrient absorption, and this will allow more of any protein or carbs consumed to be utilized effectively within that optimal half hour window of exercise.

Now, some of you have to dress impeccably for your jobs and doing a little run during the day is not practical. Some of you work on the umpteenth floor of a Downtown tower and can’t practically get to the ground floor, run a mile and come back in 15 minutes. Of course it’s not going to be practical for some during the workday.

But for many, especially though who can dress a bit more casually, or don’t mind running in their work clothes, it may be a useful way to sneak in some extra bits of training.

Quick tip: Little mile runs during the day

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Back to running… with an 800 meter time trial

Most recommend easy running after returning from a running hiatus. Meanwhile, after 2 weeks off, I come back to running with an impromptu quick mod-effort run to coffee carrying a 10 pound backpack, then run to the track this afternoon and run an 800 meter time trial at full effort.

Let’s just say I was chomping at the bit to get back to running. The coughing fit that preceded my cooldown run back home wasn’t the product of anything other than dusty air, but it did at least get me to slow down and relax on a run for once today.

Of course, during the two weeks off, I still did some running. It was just in brief, incidental bursts. Running across a street, chasing after a bus, etc. I even ran a little bit on my birthday while going to the store to get ice cream.

I was fine to run a few days after the marathon. I just made sure not to get in any formal running over a mile during the two weeks because that was my plan from the start. So there’s not much of a need to ease back into running, other than to take it easy on the volume for a couple weeks until I’m back to what I’m used to.


Still, why run an 800 meter time trial? Why not a mile time trial instead?

Trick question on that last one. I am going to run a mile time trial later this week. I’m running both. AND I’m running a 400 meter time trial this next weekend.

I decided to get a more comprehensive idea of my overall speed. Most only do the mile time trial. The 800 and 400 require more sprinter-type speed, and obviously would be run at a quicker pace than a mile. Both still require a modicum of aerobic capacity, and all three together can be matched to form a solid idea of your top speed, VO2max, VDOT, whatever you call it.

I’d like to do a 5K or two before the end of the year, and I want to get an idea of what pace I’m capable of training for. I can adjust the average of the trials down to a 5K, 10K, whateverK pace, and train intervals at that pace while stretching back out.

In Daniels Running Formula, Daniels points to 400, 800 and mile times as a barometer of whether your strength lies in speed or in endurance. Depending on which time is best, it’s possible I have strength in one vs the other, but we’ll see. I’m more interested in seeing overall how much I have improved.

Already, off the 800 time alone, I may be capable of smashing my 5K PR by a lot. But, of course, we’ll see.

Mostly right now, I’m just thrilled to be running once again.

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The best Way to Run the Year 2019

One project some hardcore runners are into is Running the Year, aka running during the course of a year a number of miles at least equal to that particular year.

Once you get into the math of what that takes, you realize it’s not an easy feat. For the forthcoming year, 2019, you have to run about 5.53 miles per day… every single day, or 38.8 miles a week… every week.

A hardcore marathoner or ultra runner putting in 80-120 miles a week probably hits that without trying too hard (… or at least harder than they usually do while training). Many of them probably get to 2019 miles before the end of May, whether or not they’re training for a goal race.

For most others, this is very difficult. I myself peaked last year in 2017 at about 1495 miles, and despite training for two marathons I’m actually behind last year’s pace by about 50 miles.

Granted, this year I took extended breaks, whereas I didn’t really in 2017, and at this time last year I was peaking for the 2017 Las Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon whereas today I’m taking two weeks off following a marathon.

Still, if a seemingly compulsive runner like me can struggle to get to just 1500 miles, you can see that logging 2019 miles next year probably won’t be a slam dunk if it’s uncharted territory for you. Plus, let’s be real: You’re probably not going to run every single day, or every single week. Life happens. So just banking on running 5.53 miles a day or 38.8 miles per week isn’t going to cut it.

If you want to run the year 2019, you’re going to need a more robust training plan.

It’s not enough to, say, just train for a marathon or two. Oddly, training for a marathon or an ultra can hinder your ability to pile up the needed miles.

  • You need to cut substantial miles for a taper in the weeks leading up to the race.
  • You probably need to take time off from running after the race.
  • That’s a month or more where your running is absent or heavily curtailed… which offsets the chunk of mileage you get running 26.2 (or more) miles on race day.

In fact, racing in general can limit your ability to pile up the needed miles. Even in shorter races you’ll need to taper in the few days beforehand, and then you’ll need to take it easy for some days afterward.

Plus, most of the races themselves are a lesser mileage than you may need to keep pace with 2019: 3.11 miles for a 5K, 6.21 for a 10K. You’re often not getting a ton of mileage bang for your buck on race day, plus you’re paying for it by needing to taper or rest surrounding the race.


Now, this doesn’t mean you need to abandon all fun and stick to just long, easy distance running every day for a year to hit the benchmark.

It can be possible, and possibly healthy while maximizing your chances at success, to run the year 2019 while peaking for races, and then taking extended time off during the year.

The key to running the year 2019 is you need to run enough volume while you are actively training to bank miles that will allow you to take time off without losing pace.

What is that volume? I’m gonna go out on a limb and set the benchmark at 45 miles per week. You need to be comfortable logging 45 miles per week in whatever way allows you to safely, reliably do so.

  • This can be one speedwork session, one long run, and then nothing but a bunch of longer easy paced runs the rest of the way, each week you run.
  • It can be three 90+ minute runs with a longer long run on the weekend each week, taking a day off between most of the runs.
  • It can be a daily run in the morning, then a run in the evening, every day if you wanted to.

However you do it, you want to make sure you can comfortably bank 45 miles per week pretty much every week you run.

The reason for this is because you will anticipate taking weeks off at a time throughout the year, plus anticipate that you will need to take incidental or unplanned days off throughout the year. If you run 45 miles a week, you can hit 2019 miles in 2019 while taking a bit over 7 total weeks off from running. It creates a substantial margin for error, while allowing you to build breaks into your training plans.

The human body can only handle a maximum of about 24 weeks of uninterrupted training before the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you start to lose more value and fitness from continuing than you gain. If your training doesn’t feature a regular break from training, you’ll want to train in 12-18 week cycles that are bookended by a week or more off from running.

This is no problem if you plan to run a marathon in 2019. But even if you’re not, it will do you good to take a break every few months, if not after any other races you do. Most runners need no coaxing to do this, but hardcore runners sometimes need the reminder. As runaholic as I can be, I realize I should take days off and extended breaks every so often.

This also better allows you to book some races in 2019 if you desire, without doing the aforementioned damage to your Run the Year 2019 goal. By logging more mileage than you technically need, you bank enough time to taper, take breaks, recover, etc, with peace of mind that you’re still ahead of the game.

So, if you’re gonna run the year 2019 this coming year, start by getting comfortable with about 45 miles a week. From there, hitting the benchmark will still take a lot of work, but will be within reach.

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The conflict between running and testosterone

Men face a potential problem if they train as dedicated runners: The risk of diminished testosterone levels.

The sustained stress of endurance running is enough to have grown a movement cutting down distance running and other aerobic exercise (typically lumped together under the term “cardio”) as detrimental to adults’ health, especially to men’s health. Many recommend that men restrict their running and other “cardio” to more brief, high-intensity, interval training.

It’s not just the Manosphere who has taken issue with running. Former US-marathon record holder Ryan Hall retired at 33, and cited low testosterone levels as a prime motivator for his retirement.

Personally, I haven’t worried about it as much: I had practiced a less than stellar diet and lifestyle in previous adult years, and that would probably hurt my T levels more than running 30-50 miles a week as a healthier adult has today.

And of course my health, strength, vitality(, and yes, libido) have honestly gotten better as I’ve continued my training. Whenever I have felt… let’s say, diminished in a fashion typical with low T levels… it’s often a combination of particular heavy training, and some other stressor like my work situation, a lack of sleep, bad diet, or a number of other things that themselves would be T problems whether or not I was running.


There are a lot of reasons distance running contributes to lower testosterone, and I believe a lot of them are preventable.

First of all, many people do most of their running harder than they should. This is slightly counter-intuitive, as manhood is often associated with doing things strong, hard, fast. It makes sense that they would gravitate to sprints and other Tabata workouts over longer runs.

The conventional Man Approach to exercise (hard/fast/strong) works just fine with the most conventional form of male exercise: Weightlifting. All your work is done in very brief, high intensity bursts. Literally no aerobic capacity is required to successfully push weight, whether or not you choose to incorporate extra aerobic or anaerobic effort.

However, when you bring that modus operandi to running where hard, fast, high-exertion running is all you ever do when running, it doesn’t work as well.

While higher intensity running can be successfully done one to three times per week, most of your running should be easier, dialed back to where every step is strong, yet comfortable. A lot of men, however, run too hard on their regular, easy runs.

Often, form is a key reason men run too hard too often. If you’re straining to reach your legs forward, you are pushing too hard. And pushing too hard too often leads to a sustained overdose of cortisol, the stress hormone that is the bane of testosterone. That, not the running in itself, is what’s reducing T levels in men who run a lot.

Slow down on your regular runs. Jog at a pace where you feel in full control of every inch you move, where you know you have the strength and control to stop on a dime if necessary, where you know you can run like that for another hour, tall and strong, not hunched forward squeezing out extra effort. Save that effort for your speed intervals… though to be honest you should be tall and strong and in control for those too.

Running can and should be a strength exercise, whether you do it for 45 seconds in a rep or 60 minutes in a 6-7 mile run. The power of your glutes and core muscles should be carrying your every step, without undue strain to your tendons, bones and ligaments.

Secondly, the classically slight body of a typical runner is in some part a function of actively minimizing weight to maximize pace. I certainly am not slight at 5’10”, 162 pounds, and while I always look to shed a bit of fat here and there, I also value maintaining my muscle… especially having reached 40 years of age.

But a lot of it is also the conventional diet habits of a runner. Many don’t take in anywhere close to enough protein to maintain their muscle. Despite their emphasis on carbs, many don’t eat enough carbs before or after most workouts, underestimating how much glycogen they burn.

The end result is muscle gets broken down over time. While that helps get them leaner, it also can compromise not just overall strength and health… but for men, their T levels. The hormones respond in kind to the incredible shrinking distance runner’s body, and decrease overall production of various hormones including testosterone.

It can be counter-intuitive for a runner to try and preserve mass. But muscle does aid in performance, not to mention represent a key component of overall health. A greater emphasis on protein intake and muscle preservation can help counteract other elements of training that can compromise T levels. There are other ways to burn extra fat without sacrificing valuable muscle.

I’m not going to go as far as to say running’s negative relationship to testosterone is a myth. There are true factors that can contribute to diminished T level over time.

But distance running should not be considered a death sentence for manhood. By changing a few paradigms of how men approach training and lifestyle, men can easily maintain healthy T levels and enjoy the better health and rewards that running can bring.

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Thoughts on ultramarathons

I have no visions of trying ultramarathoning anytime in the foreseeable future. But I realize that at some point, once I’ve done enough marathons, I will at least consider running a 50K (31.07 miles), possibly up to 100K (62.14 miles).

I have running friends who have dabbled in ultra running. In fact, friend and former Fleet Feet Racing Team coach Kyle Larson is (as of this post date) the current reigning back to back champ of the Frozen Gnome 50K.

From what I have learned, ultra running is clearly different in that you really can’t “race” an ultra the way you can race any distance up to the marathon. In theory, any stretched out runner can run 26.2 miles with minimal trouble if they pace themselves slowly enough. It’s racing the distance that poses the ultimate challenge.

However, once you get into ultra distances, you’re really just running at your best easy to moderate pace. And it’s about survival, or finishing the distance within a time window like 12 hours.

Most runners who get into ultra running tend to be sturdier framed, more compact runners who aren’t as speedy in their running but can durably run long distances day after day. These races are often run on trails, so ultra runners tend to train a lot more on rugged terrain.

Ultra runners also tend to wear different footwear than conventional competitive runners, since they log such massive training volume. Shoes like Topo Athletic and Skora, known for their trail-friendly durability, are popular with ultra runners. The more conventional footwear often takes a backseat.

I often play around with Electric Blues‘ complex Daniels Tables to get an idea of goal and benchmark paces for training ahead of more conventional, much shorter races. I also use it to judge the intensity of various workouts as well as the intensity of my training.

I’ll probably go into more detail on how I use this data in a future post (as it’s 9:20pm CDT now, and to get into it now would keep me up until midnight on a work night, as it’s somewhat complex). But I have played around with this to get an idea of the intensity at which a runner can reasonably run an ultra.

A 50K (31.07 miles) is still within the realm of being race-able, though obviously you’re not going to give it the same effort as a marathon. You probably should run it more like a sustained moderate run. In fact (though he didn’t intend his written marathon programs for this), Jeff Galloway’s run/walk training methods are also a great approach to training for a 50K.

It’s once you get into the 50+ mile range that race pace is merely a function of how fast you can comfortably go while running at an easy intensity. A 100K would probably be run at the pace of a gentle recovery run, whereas the real challenge is maintaining that gentle run for 12-16 consecutive hours (while of course working in breaks to use the restroom and to eat, since at that length of time you will need to eat meals of some kind to continue functioning).

Once you’re in the 100 mile range (like the world famous Diagonale de Fous route of the Reunion Grand Raid), you are basically running for survival as much as competition, and you focus on doing what you have to do to stay upright through the finish.

The key aspect to the slower pacing in an ultra is not just the lengthier race in itself, but that you must conserve glycogen and rely much more on burning fat. You simply could not digest enough carbohydrates to fuel a normal race-pace effort at these distances even if you wanted to. Therefore you must master sustained running at a lower intensity.

Thus the fuel for these ultra races tends to be a lot more robust than your typical gels and Gatorade. Runners often swear by bars and other chewy snacks and other whole food. Some will prepare a special bottle as elite runners do for marathons, but these concoctions more resemble protein shakes than eletrolyte solutions in their consistency.

Also, you often have to pack your own food and carry it as you run. These courses are often in remote regions, and you won’t see the robust on-course support that you see at marathons. If there’s an aid station, it’s probably every several miles or so. On a loop course, there might only be one. And what nutrition they might be carrying is fairly limited, more of an emergency supply than something you can rely on. And ideally you want to dictate your fuel intake anyway, so you’re just better off bringing your own gear. Carrying this gear furthers the need to run at a slower pace.


Standard disclaimer: A lot of this can vary from race to race, and many experienced ultra runners have had differing experiences than what’s described above.

Because it’s largely uncharted territory, most experienced ultra runners follow their own approach to doing things that works for them. It remains a vast field of potential in terms of the possibilities for training and for race strategy, even as the popularity of ultra racing has improved in recent years.

I didn’t mean for this by any means to be a complete treatment on ultra racing. I’m hardly scratching the surface, and I’ll probably have more to say on it as I do more research. Plus, again, it’ll probably be a long while before I entertain doing one.

But it’ll be interesting to see if strategies and coaches emerge in the field of ultra running. The possibilities, while not endless, are vast.

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