Tag Archives: Training

A Good, Quick VO2Max Workout for a One Mile Loop

man running beside street

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Pexels.com

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

men running on road

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

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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Running coaches should coach diet and rest too

abundance agriculture bananas batch

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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It never has to be exactly 400 meters

photo of road near tall trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Training for a 10 Mile Race

A while back I discussed the racing strategy for a 10 Mile (or 15K) race. Here, I’m going to discuss an effective training plan for a 10 Miler.

The only resource I currently know of that offers a specific 10Mi/15K training plan is Hal Higdon. His plans are simple and sound, and if you followed one of his plans to the letter you’d probably be okay. But there are additional opportunities to progress towards peak fitness that the following plan should include.

The following 10 week training plan builds your 10 Mile pace and gets you ready to run your best 10 Miler:

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Run with a group but don’t let the group run you

three female runners having group picture

Running with a group can be rewarding. But make sure the situation is right for you. (Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com)

I never really needed an extra push to run regularly, to train for races. From day one I directed myself and had no trouble getting outside for runs. I wanted to run, I knew what I could do, what I wanted to do, how I needed to do it. I had no problem running alone, did nearly all my training on my own, and missed few workouts.

I ran weekly fun runs in Chicago largely to meet other runners, compare notes on how others approached running, and get to do some runs with the protection of numbers. I joined a running group in Chicago with the same mindset, as well as having a consistent time every week to do a quality workout.

Once joining them weekly began to get on my nerves and feel like an obligation, and especially once the workouts/runs began to interfere with my own training plans… I stopped doing them. I’m not one to hold regrets, but I do feel I waited too long and let it get on my nerves before cutting the cord. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back I should have had a more casual relationship with the weekly runs from the get-go. I let it interfere with my plans for too long before breaking them off.

Vegas has a lower-key running community, and there’s one weekly run I participate in near home. Right now, still in a personal offseason of sorts, it’s no big deal for me to do it every week since I have no training plan that conflicts. Once that changes, then I can be more judicious about when to go or not.


All this is to say that running with a group can be valuable, but you want to make sure you know what you want out of it. Here are a few tips from experience banging my head against the wall and projecting expectations onto a group instead of being smart about running with groups:

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Comparing training and race paces from different methods, coaches and materials

Various training approaches will give you comparisons of the times you can run at different race distances based on a recent finishing time in another race. For example, each method may take your 5K time and, from that, estimate how fast you would run a marathon.

They also provide estimates of your pace in easy runs as well as during recovery intervals between speedwork reps.

Of course, these approaches don’t estimate times the same way. Out of curiosity I decide to compare these different time estimates on a spreadsheet. I didn’t have any sort of scientific hypothesis or goal behind this, other than mere curiosity.

I compared:

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Run Better’s 42.2km Marathon Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunBetterAlong with running the Vancouver Marathon, one of my favorite takeaways from my Vancouver trip this May was buying a copy of Canadian author Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. Published in Canada and mostly unknown outside of the Maple North, the book focuses on helping runners improve their form and prevent or heal injuries with a ground-up approach to running mechanics.

I’m not going to review the book but will admit bias and say I love it, it’s simply and well written, and I recommend finding a copy if you struggle with your day to day running in any way.

Though it’s mostly a book of fundamentals, the book does have training schedules for races from the 5K to the Marathon. Each plan has two schedules arbitrary split between faster and slower times (with of course the faster plan asking for more speedwork, though the volume is mostly the same).

I want to go ahead and review the plan, if for no other reason than I am actually planning to follow it while training to run a marathon this fall.

The Plan:

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The less you run during marathon training, the more important strength training becomes

As a runner, your body can only handle so much mileage. Some runners can pile over 100 miles a week. Some runners can’t run more than 3-4 days a week.

A better more emcompassing way to put it is that you can only handle so much time on your feet. Sure, some runners are faster than others and that’s why they can rack up 100+ miles at an easy pace, whereas if most of us ran the same amount of time we’d probably max out at around 60-65.

Back to the main point: While it’d be ideal to have you log 50+ miles while training for a marathon, many can’t quite hit that number within their reasonable best efforts, or their plan doesn’t ask that much. Even if your plan does, maybe you struggle for understandable reasons to do it: Hal Higdon might ask for 20 milers and 7-10 mile midweek runs, and maybe you don’t have the time to put them in… or your body simply gives out after 15 miles. Maybe the Hansons want you to run 6-8 miles six times a week, but there’s no way you can run six times a week.

However, as Jonathan Savage says, everyone running a marathon has to run the same 26.22 mile distance. Whether your longest run was 15 miles or 18 miles or 22 miles, everyone’s got to run 26.22 on race day. It doesn’t matter if you can’t handle the distance, the pounding that volume requires, in training. You’ll have to handle it eventually just like everyone else.

This doesn’t mean you need to do 20-26 milers in training to be ready. Some runners certainly can do that, sure, and they’ll usually be ready on race day. But while I do think it’s important to develop the aerobic endurance to go no less than 2.5-3.0 hours without stopping… what you do on the other days of the week can be far more flexible.

With one key caveat.

Your body not only has to be aerobically prepared to run long, but it physically must be prepared to take the pounding of that much continuous running. No matter how much you run or how you run, you must develop the physical strength to handle the 3-6 hour pounding. And that simply will not happen on a lighter running schedule by itself.

I also don’t think speed and tempo work is anywhere close to enough by itself. You’ll develop solid ability to run a 10K or something, but that won’t fully prepare you to handle hours of pounding and aerobic demand.

The successful marathoners I know and see all tend to have one other common denominator aside from just running a lot, running regularly and eating/sleeping/recovering well.

They strength train.

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The Park Bench Run: An easy speed workout

trees in park

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A couple weeks ago, I planned to do some tempo work along a park loop as part of my run commute home. But once I left work and got to the starting point I knew I did not have enough gas in the tank to do the planned 800 meter reps AND take a full cooldown run home. I also didn’t want to take the bus, nor did I want to bag the workout completely and just jog home.

I took one 800 meter rep that went okay, but I knew doing several more was out of the question. What wasn’t out of the question was doing them as part of the run home, a hedge that allowed me to still get the speedwork in while curbing the amount of overall miles and reducing the overall stress of the run.

I didn’t want to do a full out uninterrupted tempo run home, but several reps of a few minutes each was totally fine. So here’s what I did:

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Finally Getting Back In The Gym

I finally got a membership at the nearby Planet Fitness. Despite having a gym within a block from home that only costs $10 a month and is open nearly all the time, I balked at getting a membership for a variety of practical reasons that now finally are no longer the case.

The gym itself has pretty much everything I’d need out of a gym. They have a ton of treadmills, several ARC Trainers and ellipticals, several spin and recumbent exercise bikes, and of course a wide variety of free weights and exercise machines. And because of the no-judgment motif of the Planet Fitness brand, everyone working out seems cool and goes about their business without any passive aggression or peacocking you see at other gyms.

I’m digressing a bit. As I ramp into official fall marathon training, the gym provides me with a ton of benefits it turns out I really need this time around. I’ve been admittedly struggling with several aspects of training over the last few months, and the gym’s going to help with several of them.

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Your goal pace has an easy run pace

Most runners train for a race with a goal pace in mind. Many will train for that goal pace by running it in varying distances and durations during their training.

Various authors, most recently and notably Matt Fitzgerald in 80/20 Running, advocate building a solid base of mostly easy running from which you can do a bit of tempo-specific running each week. This makes sense since your ability to run fast won’t matter much without the aerobic development to sustain a desired pace over your desired race distance.

Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect takes this a step farther. He actually posits that most runners already have the desired speed to run a goal pace, that what they lack and need to develop is the aerobic and neuromusucular fitness to sustain that pace for their desired race distance.

Gaudette has a good point. Whenever you are able, go outside and run as fast as you reasonably can (i.e. don’t hurt yourself). I imagine if your pace was measured you’d easily exceed your desired goal pace.

I also imagine you won’t be able to hold that fast-as-you-can pace for very long. Running at max speed, you’ll be winded and your muscles will be neurally screaming in seconds. I’ve done max speed reps for giggles a few times, and I find the longest I can reasonably go at that intensity is about 30-45 seconds.

When we do speedwork, we’re not really training ourselves to run faster. Most of us already can run pretty fast. What we’re training is the ability to hold a given speed over a desired distance, whether that distance is 400 meters, 5K, or a marathon. (Ultra distance runners by and large have other aerobic and endurance concerns during training aside from speed)

This is why many coaches say the goal of speedwork should be economy, i.e. refining your form and taking every step as efficiently as possible, so that when you run your races you’ve honed and improved the efficiency of every step.

I realize I’m digressing a bit. I mentioned easy pace for a reason. We focus a lot on speedwork, on our goal pace, while forgetting that every goal pace has a corresponding pace at other distances… as well as a corresponding regular and recovery run pace.

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One key to easy lunges

LungeThroughout my adult life I always struggled with lunges, the leg exercise where you lunge forward and stand on a bent front leg, then step back to a standing position. I’ve always had to work on leg and glute strength, and I’m sure that’s been a factor in my struggles.

My problem was that I’d wobble and struggle with balance stepping forward, and it was a fight to stably land and maintain balance. Stepping back always required a forceful push from the front leg.

I don’t remember the exact moment I realized the key to successful lunges, possibly while reading Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. But once it occurred to me, and I focused on this element while lunging, they immediately became easy to do. And now it’s about focusing on control and building strength in habit.

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Would I drop out of the 2019 Chicago Marathon?

Despite growing up in the hot Las Vegas desert, I actually don’t like hot weather. To this day I still struggle a lot in warm temperatures. This might have something to do with why I acclimate so well to cooler wet climates like Seattle and the extremely cold winters of Chicago.

I work hard year round to acclimate to rising or falling temperatures. Spring and summer not only are no exception but in my case it’s crucial to handling runs in summer heat. My forehead for some reason won’t sweat for some time when it warms up (it eventually will by mid/late summer) and that exacerbates how hot conditions feel for me.

Also, with a bigger frame than other runners, I absorb and retain heat a lot better than others. That’s great in winter, and not so great in summer.

I have a hard time with basic runs when it gets hotter than before. 65-70 degrees will probably feel okay in September, but right now it’s like a sauna of death for me to run in. I have a hard time going more than a couple miles without stopping, and in suitably hot conditions I may even have to stop for good after a couple miles.

If regular runs are hard, you can imagine what speedwork and races feel like. Speedwork at least usually allows you to stop and rest every few minutes. A race, however, demands a non-stop effort until you reach the finish line. Even a 5K may be too much if it’s warm enough.

Now consider the challenge of running a full marathon. By itself in ideal conditions it’s a monumentally difficult feat. Add in any warmth above 60 degrees and you’ve exponentially increased the difficulty. Once temperatures reach an otherwise mild 70 degrees you actually begin to put runners’ health in danger.

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Walking as a habit for sneaky aerobic exercise and weight loss

Starting shortly after my Vancouver Marathon trip, I began leaving for work earlier in the mornings to walk 5K to work instead of taking the bus.

I already run-commute in part to save money on bus fare (it’s long since been cheaper to pay per use than to get a monthly pass since I don’t ride as much), not to mention get my training in during the week.

Admittedly, part of my motivation for walking to work in the morning was to further save on the cost of bus fare. If using the bus once per work day was cheaper, then not using it at all is even cheaper.

And of course living 5K from work makes walking to work feasible. If I lived farther away (my last job was 9 miles from home), running that commute would be more difficult, and walking that commute would be unworkable. I would have a need to take transit.

All that said, there’s a variety of health benefits to taking long walks to work that I’m trying to take advantage of.

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