Use Proper Stress and Rest To Achieve Your Maximum Potential


“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle”

I will add to this quote proper recovery.

Recently, I have been reading Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and (running coach) Steve Magness. It’s a book I highly recommend. As an 18-year old Steve Magness competed against several Olympians in the mile in an event called the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. This was quite remarkable considering that Magness was competing against such high caliber runners at such a young age. He did not win that day, but he still ran the mile in 4:01. Unfortunately for Magness, his running career plateaued that day and he was never able to run a faster mile. Magness attributes this to an improperly designed training regimen that did not incorporate proper stress and recovery; especially recovery. For his training, Magness would run 9 miles in the morning, go to school, lift weights, and then run 9 miles again in the evening, and he would do this every day. Magness shared that he experienced burned out and his running career ended soon after.

However, we get to benefit from Magness’ experience. Yes, I realize that we are not elite runners like Magness, however if we don’t train and recover properly we will plateau, as well, and not achieve our maximum performance.

Proper training includes providing the proper stress to our body, based on our health, fitness, running history, age, goals, and injury history. We need to include some runs that are challenging, but still doable. Our training program should progressively build our endurance and speed, and then include race-pace specific training for our event. We also need to recover properly during our training. This might include a run at snail’s pace. Or, this could be a day off from running, in which we incorporate supportive low- to moderate-intensity cross-training. Massage/stretching, diet, and sleep are also important components of recovery.

As far as the importance of recovery, Deena Kastor, U.S. women’s record holder in the marathon, as well as one of the stars of Spirit of the Marathon, says, “During a workout you’re breaking down soft tissue and really stressing your body. How you treat yourself in between workouts is where you make gains and acquire the strength to attack the next one.” Kastor realized early on in her running career that simply working hard wouldn’t do. Deena follows up intense training runs with significantly easier recovery runs. She also sleeps 10-12 hours per night, has a meticulous approach to diet, and has weekly massage and daily stretching sessions.

The best marathoners in the world, the Kenyans, also appreciate the benefits of recovery and will alternate between very hard training days and very easy (snail pace) days. Research studies have shown this approach to be effective in other sports as well, including Nordic skiing, in which Olympic Norwegian skiers will walk uphill at a snail’s pace on easy training or recovery days.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was using a popular training program to prepare for his first marathon. The program instructed him to run a “practice marathon” during training about a month before his actual marathon. My friend followed the program and actually had a decent time during his “practice marathon”. However, his actual marathon was over 30 minutes slower. Basically, it took my friend a significant amount of time to recover from his “practice marathon” and so he lost fitness before his actual marathon. Plus, it takes a significant amount of time to recover psychologically from the demands of a marathon, typically much longer than it takes to physically recover. My friend wasn’t properly recovered for his actual marathon and his performance suffered as a result.

You need to give your body the time and space to adapt to the training stress. Rest supports growth and adaptation, which can help make you a stronger and faster runner, and can be as productive and sometimes more productive than an additional workout. Rest, although typically viewed as passive, is an active process which allows for physical and psychological growth. I know for myself that I feel much stronger and fresher after a day or two of rest, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

Also, consider that if you are constantly stressing your body with long runs and other intense workouts, not only do you not provide the time and space for physical and psychological growth, you also put yourself at risk for overtraining and breaking your body down, while significantly increasing your risk of injury. For example, a neighbor of mine used to run a marathon almost every month. Unfortunately, this took a significant toll on her body and I would see her barely shuffling along during her training runs. Her training and recovery were not optimized, and as a result she was not able to achieve her peak performance. Instead, she was in a constantly overtrained state and was constantly injured.

So, make supportive recovery an important component of your training to help you reach your maximum potential.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We would love to hear from you!

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Your friend and coach,



Peak Performance. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Rodale, Inc. New York, 2017.

What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010 Sep;5(3):276-91. Seiler S.

Marathon Training 2019 Day 69: Train Like An Athlete, Not Just a Runner, or Risk Not Achieving Your Running Goals in 2019

March 29 2019 Snowshoeing in RMNP on KJs bday






Today I ran ~10 miles at a comfortable pace and included 4 x 8-second hill sprints towards the end of this run with full recovery in between hill sprints.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~60 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Bounced on stability ball with smaller ball in between knees (3 minutes)

After these exercises I did active isolate stretching for the calf muscles and ball rolling for the calf muscles and plantar fascia.

While I was performing my ten mile run, I was thinking about the importance of training like an athlete, not just a runner. Running is a repetitive exercise performed primarily in one plane of motion, the sagittal, or front-to-back, plane. However, it is important to be able to stabilize motion in the other two planes of motion, the frontal, or side-to-side, plane, and the transverse, or rotational, plane. In fact, lack of stability, mobility, and strength in these planes leads to many of the common injuries experienced by runners, including IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and issues of the knee and ankles. Therefore, runners need to train like athletes and improve stability, mobility, and stregnth in all three planes of motion. Thus, I have included exercises in the fitness training program for this. If you have not received the fitness training program, you can access this by opting in on the Welcome Page, under “Subscribe to My Newsletter.” Such exercises would include monster walks from side-to-side (frontal plane exercise) and forwards and backwards (transverse plane exercise).

You can also improve stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal and transverse planes of motion through certan modes of cross-training. One of my neighbors is a very fast runner and I see him running with his young daughter from time-to-time. Last week I saw her rollerblading, which is going to help her build stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal plane. She’s going to be a great athlete and runner!  Cross-country skiing is another great cross-training activity that will similarly be beneficial in the frontal plane. For this, and other reasons, I like to include cross-country skiing for some of my cross-training workouts. Other forms of cross-training can also be beneficial for improving stability, mobility, and stregnth, so I recommend including some variety in the modes of cross-training that you perform. My wife’s birthday was this past Friday, and we sprent a couple of days snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Snowshoeing is another great mode of cross-training. I have continued to feel the effects of those workouts in my glutes, which is also going to help me have more power in my running stride, and thus be a better athlete and runner.

So, embrace being an athlete and not just a runner, to improve your chances of achieving your running goals for 2019.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,


Marathon Training 2019 Day 3: The Importance of Cross-Training

June 11 pic 3 easy run around Chautauqua medium version

“Strive for progress not perfection”

Today, I did an easy run/hike for ~60 minutes with my friend Sam in Chautauqua Park area in Boulder. I would consider this more of a cross-training than run day and so it helped with recovery. We chatted a lot during this workout, so the intensity was low. Also, there was a significant amount of snow and ice, which also required keeping a slow pace or walking.

The lighting wasn’t great for photos, so I am sharing one from Chautauqua that I took on a run last year. After the run/hike I did the following mobility and strengthening exercises:


  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~20 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~15 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Later in the evening, I will do foam rolling and eccentric muscle lengthening exercises for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For today, I recommend aerobic cross-training at a low to moderate intensity for 20-45 minutes.  Choose a form of aerobic cross-training that you enjoy.  After cross-training, I recommend including any of the following that you know and can perform properly:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
  • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~20-30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~15-20 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~10-15 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (5-10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~15-30 seconds for each leg)

Then perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down.

Tip for Today: There are significant benefits to aerobic cross-training including maintaining aerobic fitness level while give your muscles a break from running.  Also, cross-training can help speed the recovery process between run workouts.  Therefore, I strongly recommend finding an aerobic cross-training activity that you will enjoy such as swimming, biking, walking/hiking, etc.  This might be a great activity to do with family and/or friends!  I would keep the intensity low to moderate when you cross-train. Remember your goal is to improve your running performance, not necessarily your cross-training performance (such as being a better/faster biker or swimmer).

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of any help.

Live today with passion!

Your friend and coach,









Recovery Between Workouts, What To Do and Why It’s Important

Earlier this week, I was thinking about which topic I wanted to discuss for this week’s post.  Originally, I had planned to talk about warmup, which I will talk about next week in a short video.  However, I remembered a presentation I recently heard by Dr. Carwyn Sharp, which got me thinking and writing.  So, I decided to go with recovery as the topic for this week.
Dr. Sharp is the director of education at the National Stregnth and Conditioning Association in Colorado Springs, CO.  He has worked with a number of elite endurance athletes, including runners.  In his presentation, Dr. Sharp posed the question, “Are we overtraining or under recovering?”  Then he discussed several of the important physiological and psychological benefits of recovery, as well as different modalities for recovery.

Recovery is an important component of your training program to achieve your goals for 2017.  In last week’s article I talked about potential causes of injury and not including proper recovery can increase your risk of injury.  Recovery is also important for becoming a faster runner because the adaptations that occur in our body in response to training, like high intensity workouts and long runs, occur during recovery.  So, we need proper recovery to facilitate these adaptations.  Also, if you are fully recovered from our previous workout, then we will be stronger going into our next high intensity workout or long run.  This will allow us to train at or near an optimal level during that workout, which can facilitate greater adaptations, and thus improvement.  If we notice we are improving, this can help us to maintain our level of motivation and better help us achieve to our goals!

There are different aspects of recovery that I want to mention.  I won’t be able to discuss all of them in this article, but I will discuss a couple and then discuss several of the others in future posts and videos.  Certainly some important aspects of recovery are nutrition and hydration, foam rolling/massage and stretching, which I will discuss in later posts and videos.  Others include use of heat/cold contrast.  In this article I want to briefly discuss some other aspects of recovery, including sleep and either passive or active recovery.

Sleep As Recovery
In his presentation, Dr. Sharp stressed that one of the most important aspects of recovery and the most basic is sleep.  Sleep is important because it stimulates the release of growth hormone, which can speed recovery, rebuild muscles, and break down body fat.  You should get enough sleep so that you are well-rested each morning.  Ideally, you don’t set an alarm and wake up when your body feels ready.  I started doing this myself in the past couple of months, and realized that I needed more sleep than I had been getting when I set an alarm.  Ideally, you should be getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Active and Passive Recovery
Active recovery would entail cross-training, while passive recovery would entail taking a day off from training.  Both can be beneficial forms of recovery and I actually recommend doing both.  Typically, with the runners I coach individually I incorporate 1-2 active recovery days and 1-2 passive recovery days per week.  Usually, I will incorporate an active recovery day after a high intensity workout and long run and I may incorporate a rest day two days after the high intensity day, depending on the fitness level of the runner, his/her running history, and goals.

Both active and passive recovery help with the psychological aspect of recovery.  Incorporating a fun cross-training activity into your training program can help improve the consistency of your training, thus allowing you to train harder and get greater improvements.

What is cross-training?
Cross-training is basically any aerobic-type activity, that is not running.  This would include the following: swimming, biking, spin classes, walking, hiking, elliptical machine, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, aerobic exercise or dance classes, rowing, skating, etc.  Basically, an activity that will elevate your heart rate above resting level and increase the circulation of blood in your body.  Choose cross-training modes that you enjoy!

Cross-training is not downhill skiing, although this certainly can be a lot of fun!  Strength training, or performing strengthening exercises is also not considered cross-training, although it is another important component that should be a part of your training program.  I will be discussing this further in upcoming videos.

If you are using cross-training for recovery, you want to keep the intensity at a low or moderate level.  It should not be another high intensity day.  Typically, I recommend cross-training workouts last 20-60 minutes.

What are the benefits of cross-training?
As I mentioned, cross-training will help facilitate the recovery process and can work better than just rest because of several physiological and psychological benefits.  First, cross-training elevates the heart rate to help maintain your aerobic fitness level.  Second, it helps increase bloodflow to muscles, which can provide nutrients to those muscles your used during your high intensity workout and long runs, to repair these muscles and help speed up the recovery process.  It also can be fun and provide psychological benefits liked I mentioned above.

Please leave your questions or comments in the “Comment” box below.  I would love to hear from you!
Dr. Carwyn Sharp “Recovery”
Joe Friel The Cyclist’s Training Bible

General Guidelines for an Off-Season Program to Help Transition into the 2014 Season

I have addressed some of the components of an off-season maintenance program in two previous articles, specifically cross-training and strength training. In this article I will tie together all of the important components of an off-season training program and provide guidelines for each. Although cross-training is one important way for us to maintain aerobic fitness during the off-season, we don’t want to neglect running, if possible, depending on the weather or access to a treadmill.

Guidelines for running during the off-season:

• Run 2-3 days per week

• Most runs should be at a comfortable, conversational pace

• Include a longer run once every 2-3 weeks, distance depends on goal events, fitness level, running history, any current injuries

• May progress to short intervals, such as strides, hill sprints, Fartlek (speedplay) runs

• Include proper warm-up (maybe include some basics for warm-ups)

Strength training guidelines:

• Should be done after any cross-training or running workout

• Focus on exercises to improve activation of abdominal, hip abductor, hip flexors and extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) lower back, and scapular stabilizers

• Performed 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days

• Use body weight resistance or low resistance

• Typically involve a progression, which can include adding an instability component, such as performing exercises on a pillow, or increasing the range of motion of the exercise

• Exercises are typically performed to fatigue and not a specific number of repetitions

• Rest period can be 30-60 seconds between exercises, or you can perform the exercises in a circuit, and just move from one exercise to the next with little or no rest

Cross-training guidelines:

• Performed 2-3 days per week

• I would recommend using a variety of cross-training modes to incorporate a variety of muscles

• Ideally, choose at least some cross-training modes, which incorporate motion in different planes than running, such as side-to-side or transverse plane motion, as opposed to forwards and backwards motion

• Intensity should be light to moderate, with incorporation of short intervals every 2-3 weeks with full recovery

Additional components:

• Foam rolling:

• Roll on tight, overused muscles until a tender/sore spot is found

• Apply pressure to tender/sore spots  and hold for 30 seconds

• Perform 5-7 days per week

• Stretching:

• Should include calf, hamstring, glutes, hip flexors, IT band, lower back, chest

• Hold stretches for 30-60 seconds

• Perform 1-4 repetitions for each stretch

• Perform after foam rolling, as the last component of a workout

If you don’t own or have access to a  foam roller I highly recommend getting access to a foam roller. Foam rolling can be beneficial in improving flexibility and reducing soreness in tight, overused muscles. An example of tight, overused muscles common to runners and triathletes are the hip flexor (thigh) muscles. To improve flexibility and lengthen these muscles roll on the hip flexors until you find the most tender/sore areas and apply pressure with the foam roller for 30 seconds (see picture below). If performed on a regular basis, this can result in increased range of motion when bringing the back foot up towards the glutes. This will increase the power with each stride, increasing speed.

Final note: A maintenance program should be designed to accomplish a few goals, which will help transition us into successfully building aerobic fitness for the next running season. The goals of a maintenance program are to maintain and start rebuilding endurance, and to address muscle imbalances and flexibility issues to improve running form (biomechanics), so that we are more efficient runners with less chance of developing running-related injuries, and possibly start incorporating some short intervals to improve running economy (similar to efficiency) and biomechanics.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I would love to hear from you!

See you on the road or trail.


Cross-training for Runners for Maintenance During the Off-Season

Cross-training is an important part of any runners training program, during preparation for races and during the off-season. Cross-training can be used to maintain fitness during rehabilitation from an injury and during the off-season. This article focuses on how to effectively use cross-training during the off-season to maintain fitness.

What is cross-training?

• Performing exercises which elevate heart rate and maintain cardiovascular and skeletal muscle fitness

• Includes:

– Swimming/deep pool running

– Outdoor cycling, exercise bikes, spin classes

– Elliptical machine

– Rowing machine

– Cross-country skiing

– Snowshoeing

– Aerobic-type classes

– Team sports including basketball and indoor soccer

– My recommendation: Choose the mode(s) that are most enjoyable for you

Cross-training does not include strength training, although strengthening exercises should be part on a maintenance program as well. The importance of strength training during maintenance and guidelines will be discussed in an upcoming article.

Why is cross-training important?

• Helps maintain or even improves fitness

• Helps prevent over-use injuries

• Helps reduce muscle imbalances

• Helps maintain or even improve body composition

• Provides a psychological boost when you return to running by providing variety

It can be beneficial to take a couple of weeks off from running at the end of the season. However, research has shown if we stop exercising for only a couple of weeks significant aerobic fitness adaptations can be lost. Therefore, cross-training during this time is important.

Guidelines for cross-training:

• Frequency: Minimum of two-three days/week, no more than five days/week

• Duration: 20-60 minutes

• Intensity: Low to moderate

– Once every 2-3 weeks perform 4-6 high intensity intervals for 30 seconds each with full recovery between intervals

Cross-training activities that occur in different planes of motion than running can be particularly beneficial. These would include skating and cross-country skiing using the skate technique. These modes of exercise use muscles primarily in the frontal plane (side-to-side motion), as opposed to running which primarily in the sagittal plane (forward and back motion). Team sports such as basketball and indoor soccer can also include motion in different planes (frontal and transverse). Many of the injuries common to runners result from lack of development of muscles responsible for frontal and transverse plane motion (for example, outer hips or hip abductors).

Other considerations

• Swimming:

– Strengthening rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury due to muscle imbalance

– Rotator cuff exercises (external and internal rotation):



• Cycling:

– Make sure properly fitted on your bike to avoid IT Band syndrome

– Cadence should be at least 85 revolutions per minute

– Stretch hip flexors after cycling workout:


• Rowing:

– Pull with the muscle groups in descending order of power using the legs first, then the back and then the arms (legs, back, arms)

– To return to the starting position use the reverse order extend the arms, lean forward, and finally pull forward with the legs (arms, back, legs)

– Keep the back straight by pivoting from the hips rather than bending from the waist

• Spin classes:

– Adjust to proper fit (slight bend in knee at bottom of pedal stroke, slight bend in elbows)

– Don’t do drills which you wouldn’t do on a road bike, such as very high resistance which causes your cadence to be very low or moving into odd saddle positions

Final Note: Although this article has stressed the importance of cross-training in the off-season, especially the winter in which it can be difficult to train outdoors, you should not discontinue running for a significant period of time. You may take a 1-2 weeks off from running, but otherwise you should run at least two days per week in the off-season. In future articles, I will provide more information on what to do in the off-season for maintenance to help you transition into the 2014 running season.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I appreciate your questions and comments.

See you on the road or trail,