Tag Archives: Training

Five Reasons For Runners To Cross Train

If I’ve learned one thing from this past year of training, it’s that cross training can be more useful than most runners think.

It’s not just an easy form of activity to do on recovery days, nor is it just a cheap substitute for normal running when injured.

Cross training, especially in the forthcoming years, especially for those getting older, is an important form of aerobic training. And there’s several key reasons I discovered for why it may become more valuable for those training to run marathons and other endurance races….

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Are you sure you want to run a marathon? Let’s talk about the Beginner and the Marathon.

female and male runners on a marathon

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A lot of new and novice runners get hooked with the desire to run a marathon. While admirable, a marathon is not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, and unlike those races this is probably biting off a lot more than one really wants to chew.

As an experienced runner, I didn’t dare attempt a marathon until I had been running seriously for a few years, and had already completed many races ranging in distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon.

For me, the marathon was far and away a much bigger physical challenge than even the half marathon. This is no surprise to most experienced runners, and even knowing that going in… the shock to my system was substantial and new.

To detail why the marathon is so much harder, let me go into some of the basic science behind how the body generates energy for running, how it impacts marathon training, and why it may present a beginner too steep a challenge training for a marathon:

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Thoughts on the benefits of building your own training schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tips For Effective Runner Hydration

blue labeled plastic bottle

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I usually don’t drink much water before or during a workout. During races, however, I hit the fluids at almost every aid station in almost every race.

Over time, I figured out the right balance of consuming water/fluid against your training. For most, getting it 80% right or better is really as simple as carrying a small water bottle with you, or running near ready access to water.

I think most runners over-think and over-do hydration. I think spending more than a sentence discussing hyponatremia is overkill (if you drink the electrolyte fluid available, you aren’t drinking a gallon of water per hour, and you eat a salty diet before the race, you’re fine). And I think a lot of the discussion online and in running groups is simply about upselling ‘hydration’ products you mostly don’t need.

And a lot of hydration related distress is beyond the control of your hydration: You either went too hard, it’s too hot outside, or both. No amount of hydration can prevent that scenario, and the best that effective hydration can do is partially mitigate the problem. What many think is a hydration problem is really a climate adjustment problem.


Still, I’ve figured out some effective principles that can keep you hydrated without sending you on needless trips to the restroom.

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Valuable Training Recovery Habits

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

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I don’t get a lot of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) during training. Incidentally, I had some a couple days ago after an interval workout, though I also hadn’t been training that much and I’m ramping back up to a normal training volume.

I’ve been able to train 7-10 hours per week over the years despite a full time job in Chicago and other commitments. A lot of that is creatively integrating training into my commute by running to train stations or all the way home from work, sure.

But those daily 4-7 mile runs, especially with some true speedwork sessions during the week and long runs during the weekend, not to mention all the work and walking and errands I did when I wasn’t running… could have burned me out quickly had I not developed effective recovery habits to follow between work and all those runs.

Even if you aren’t running 6 miles in your work clothes right after getting off work, many of the habits that have helped me can help you as well. In fact, the busier you are and the more you train, the more important it becomes that you adopt as many of these habits as you can:

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A Good, Quick VO2Max Workout for a One Mile Loop

man running beside street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jog home. Eat something with protein.

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Work out with purpose when endurance training

men running on road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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