Goals Set the Direction, But Habits Are Best For Becoming The Runner You Want to Become

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at this rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before.” – Jacob Riis (social reformer)

Happy New Year Runners!

Each year approximately 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, by the time February arrives most have quit, and will probably make the same resolution next January. Why weren’t they successful? Most likely they didn’t develop the proper behaviors and habits necessary to be successful. Yes, goals are important and provide direction, however it’s the systems and habits that we develop, that are most important to our success.

I recently finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I highly recommend. He shares some valuable insight on how to develop good habits, and eliminate bad ones. In this article, I will touch upon a few insights that might help you get started in developing the habits you need to become a better runner and achieve your running goals.

Goals are helpful in that they provide us direction. Such as if we were flying from Los Angeles to Maui, it is helpful to know which direction we need to go. However, if we set a course starting from Los Angeles to land in Maui we would not arrive, if we did not make adjustments along the way. Similar with our running goals. We may have a goal of completing our first marathon, or breaking four hours, or qualifying for Boston, however if we don’t develop the proper plan, get in the runs and support work (dynamic warmup, cool down, strengthening exercises, and cross-training) and develop other important habits, we’ll not optimize our training. Instead, we may develop an injury and we won’t develop the endurance and/or speed necessary to achieve our goal.

Take Small Steps with a System-Focused Approach, Instead of Goal-Focused

One important principle from Atomic Habits is developing systems that set you up to become the person necessary to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Thus, to become a better runner such things as: proper training and nutrition plans, running form, support work, sleep, and hydration are important. If these are implemented on a consistent basis, incremental progress will be made leading to improved running performance, which then lead to better race results.

One of my favorite coaches of all time is the late Coach John Wooden, who had his players focus on making some small improvement each day that would help improve their game. These small improvements compound over time, like when you invest in mutual funds. Wooden put the emphasis on improvement and not on winning basketball games and national championships. As a result, some of Wooden’s players became some of the best basketball players in history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton), and his teams won ten national championships, including seven in a row.

It is interesting to note that Wooden did not win his first national championship until he had been coaching at UCLA for 16 years! So, it took him a while to develop and successfully implement a system that would maximize his players’ performance, as well as his own coaching abilities. Similarly, if you are growing bamboo. It takes a significant amount of time for a bamboo plant to lay down an extensive root system. Then, all of sudden, a whole bunch of bamboo appears!

A systems-first mentality also allows you to fall in love with the process rather than the product/goal and you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. This is important because we are hardwired for immediate gratification. The goal-first mentality forces us to delay gratification until the next milestone is reached. The goal-first mentality also creates an “either-or” conflict in which you are either successful or a failure. Also, a goal-oriented mindset can create a “yo-yo” effect, which once the goal is achieved, you revert back to old habits. This is common with those trying to achieve weight loss.

So, it can be more beneficial to focus on what you want to become, instead of what you want to achieve, and develop the habits or systems to do so. If instead of waiting until we achieve our goal, we can achieve satisfaction in performing the steps along the way, we will be much happier and are more likely to make good habits automatic. Early on we may want to set up a rewards system for when we are completing the habits that we need to become the runner we need to become. Therefore, if we complete our run and the important support work, then we reward ourselves appropriately. For example, I reward myself with ten minutes of additional guitar-playing time. Over time you may not need the reward system because you automatically include support work on your run days.

So, again even though your goals will direct you, what’s most importance is the system you implement to become the runner necessary to achieve those goals. If you develop the habits and put in the work, the results will follow, just as they did for Coach Wooden.

 Identity Focus

Another important aspect of Atomic Habits is to become identity-focused, instead of goal-focused. Your habits are consistent with the identity you have for yourself. So, in order to change your habits, you have to change your identity. For example, if someone is trying to lose weight, they could change their identity to that of a healthy person, instead of focusing on losing a certain number of pounds. They can then focus on making decisions consistent with what a healthy person does, and could ask themselves, “What would a healthy person do in this situation?”

Similarly, if you have a time goal and/or want to be a Boston qualifier, your identity could be I’m a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or a “Boston qualifier” and put your focus on the habits necessary or consistent with being a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or “Boston qualifier”. You can then ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that would get these results?” Therefore, you would begin developing the sleep habits (such as 7-9 hours of sleep per night, because while you are sleeping the important adaptations to your training are occurring), nutrition habits (proper nutrients to fuel you and support adaptations), and support work habits necessary. You may also determine that it is necessary to work with a coach, so that you optimize your running form for performance and have an optimal training plan.  You may also need to develop the mind-set of focusing on improving as a runner from year-to-year, and appreciate that it may take a couple of years to break 3:45 in a marathon, or qualify for Boston.

Habit Stacking and Designing Your Environment

Techniques such as habit stacking and designing your environment (make it obvious) may help you facilitate the habits consistent with your identity of being a “sub-3:45 marathoner”, for example. After my runs I grab a glass of water to begin hydrating and focus on “relaxing my legs” by doing gentle leg swings, gradually increasing the range of motion. I perform these close to our designated workout room, which has my yoga mat, resistance band, dumbbells, foam roller, and lacrosse ball all laid out in full view (designing my environment). This cues me to perform the rest of my support work, including my strengthening exercises and cool down (habit stacking). Also, I usually play music I enjoy while performing these, which makes it easier to perform. I’ve performed this routine so many times that it has become automatic, and I recommend setting up a similar situation for yourself.

I will touch upon other important principles from Atomic Habits and other behavior change strategies in future blogs, to help you become the runner you want to become and help you achieve your goals along the way.

Summary of Key Points

  • Success is the product of daily habits
  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results
  • Identity the person you want to become and develop the habits consistent with that identity
  • Consistency of habits is important. Start small and implement a proper reward system for immediate gratification once you’ve completed these habits. These habits should soon become automatic.
  • Focus on improvement over time, such as year-to-year, as a runner, not just a one-time goal

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

I don’t want to leave you with the idea that goals aren’t important. They have their place, as far as providing direction. Also, there are other steps you should take before beginning your training. Click here for a post from last year on goal setting and here to learn of other steps you should take before you begin training.

Also, it’s not too late to get started on training, if you are planning to run a spring half- or full-marathon. I began my formal training for the Colfax marathon last week.

Finally, I plan to lead a half- and full-marathon training group this year for fall half- and full-marathons. The group will meet once per week in Louisville (CO) for a run, and participants will be provided with a 16-week training plan. If you are interested, or would like to learn more, please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com

Your friend and coach,



James Clear. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.  Avery: New York, 2018.

What Should You Do If You Didn’t Achieve Your Running Goal(s) This Year?


“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Hello Runners,

If you have run your event(s) for the year, or will do so soon, I recommend that you take some time off from running after your event(s) are done. In fact, I recommend taking at least two weeks and as many as five weeks off. I would not recommend taking more than five weeks because you will lose a significant amount of fitness that you trained so hard to gain this year!

However, physically and mentally, your body can benefit from some time off from running. This might be a great time to reconnect with family and friends, or do some other activities you wanted to do, but didn’t have time for while training. Recently, I chatted with my brother, who lives in California, for about three hours. I chat with him every other week, however it’s often after my long runs and is usually for no more than an hour. I’ve also made more time to play guitar, which has been a lot of fun!

I hope that your season was successful and that you achieved your running goals for this year. However, if you didn’t achieve them, don’t get discouraged. Recently, I’ve been reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, which discusses the power of passion and perseverance and thus, seems relevant to this post.

This year I did not achieve my goal of breaking three hours in the marathon, but I’m not going to give up! Instead, I will reflect upon what worked and what didn’t work and learn from this, as I prepare for my next attempt. I think back to how it took me a few marathons to break 3:15, and how many days I looked at that goal on my refrigerator door. However, I persevered and not only broke 3:15, but once I did, I said to myself, I can train better and break three hours.

So, if you didn’t achieve your running goals for this year, don’t get discouraged for long. Instead, take a few minutes to reflect about the following…

What worked this year for you? What were your successes?

Were you more consistent with your training, speed work, warmups, strengthening exercises, stretching and foam rolling?

Did you explore some new areas with your runs, meet some new people that you ran with?

Were you better with your hydration and fueling during long runs and/or your event?

Were you making food choices that helped you better optimize your running performance?

I was happy with my training consistency and most of my speed workouts this year, although I could have done more speed work. I explored some new areas with my long runs, which made them more enjoyable! For most of this past year I was consistent with my training and noticed significant improvements in my core strength. I got to run with a friend on a consistent basis, which also made training more enjoyable.

What didn’t work and could be improved upon? If you could go back and change anything in your training, what you did during race week, the morning before your event, during the event itself, what would you change?

Were you set back by any injuries?

Was your training plan not appropriate for your goals, fitness level, and time you had available for training?

Did you not make hydration and nutrition a priority and this held you back?

Did life get in the way of your training at any point? 

As my training progressed, I was not as consistent with my strengthening exercises and foam/lacrosse ball rolling and stretching. This most likely contributed to some plantar fasciitis that developed. Fortunately, I addressed this quickly, and as a result, I only had to take minimal time off from running. However, this was a reminder that I needed to be more consistent with my strengthening exercises and foam/lacrosse ball rolling and stretching. I will prioritize these more next year, and either wake up earlier or perform these during the day.

I also had to cut a few speed workouts short because I ran out of time and will need to plan better for them next year.

Finally, I had an unexpected family matter that I need to go back to New York for, which occurred when my marathon was, so I missed it. At that point, I felt my body and mind needed a break from training and decided not to jump into another marathon shortly afterwards. However, I got in a solid year of training, took a couple of weeks off from running, and have resumed training again for an early spring marathon.  

So, take some time off from running to enjoy other aspects of life and take some time to reflect on your running for this past year. Again, if things didn’t go as well as you had hoped, think about what did go well, and continue doing that, and also think about what didn’t go well and how you might change it.

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

Your friend and coach,


P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

Avoid Stress on Race Day, What You Should Do The Night Before and On Race Day


Hello Runners,

In the last two posts, I discussed what to consume the night before and morning of your event.

In this post, I will talk more about your preparation the night before and morning of your marathon, as well as what to pack if you are traveling for a marathon.

Packing list for travel to marathon, don’t forget these items if your marathon is not local:

  • Running shoes
  • Race outfit (shirt[s], shorts/pants, socks, sports bra)
  • Throwaway shirt (if it’ll be cold when the race starts, but you don’t expect to need extra layers the whole time)
  • Disposable poncho
  • A jacket, sweatpants, and anything else to keep warm before the start that you can hand off to someone (a garbage bag works and has the added advantage of being a portable privacy stall if you need to pee and the line is too long, which it will be)
  • Hat or headband
  • Gloves
  • Any compression gear, braces, or straps that you wear
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Band-Aids if you use them
  • Plastic baggies to store different foods, tablets, etc.
  • Anti-chafing lubricant
  • Anti-blister powder
  • Fuel belt or other bottles/pouches
  • Race packet (unless you’ll pick it up at the expo)
  • Whatever food you plan to eat before, during, or after that you might not be able to find at the expo or a grocery store (specific types of gels, sports drink, electrolyte tablets, for example)
  • Extra running clothes (if you plan to do any light running in the days before the race)
  • Headlamp (probably not needed for most road races)
  • Tissues or toilet paper, for emergencies
  • Maps, race information, and anything else that needs to be printed if you won’t have access to a printer
  • Marker or tape (if you want to write your name on your body or clothes so spectators can yell it)
  • GPS device if your spectators will need it (many roads may be closed, so it can come in handy)
  • Camera

The day and night before your marathon

  • Attend to race details in advance to limit unnecessary stress on race day
  • Have a plan A, B, and C in place before the race
  • Study the course so you know where the hills, etc. are. If it’s a local race run sections of the route periodically during training. Check website and videos of the course
  • If you will have family and/or friends as spectators, put someone else in charge of where they will be on the course, so you can focus on the race. Ideally, if someone can meet you at mile 17 with a fresh shirt you can feel fresh for the last third of the race


  • You should arrive at least one day before the race, if the race is out of town
  • Even if race is local, you might consider getting a hotel room near the start line
  • If you stay at home, consider having someone dropping you off, so you don’t need to worry about traffic and parking

Race Expo

  • Avoid spending any length of time on your feet at the expo. Get your race packet and get out!
  • If you can go to the expo 2 days before on lunch break do so
  • If can’t make it to the expo until the day before the event, go as early as possible to avoid crowds and get out so you can rest

Before Bed

  • Make sure your bag is packed and ready to go
  • Make sure timing chip is fastened to shoe laces or pinned to your shirt or belt
  • Have your clothes laid out
  • Have your water bottles full

The morning of your event

  • Ideally, wake up at least three hours before your race and consume your pre-race meal
  • As a general rule, you want to arrive at your race about an hour before it starts so that you can do whatever you need to do (eating, warming up, standing in line for the Porta Pot). Take into account whether there’s a long walk from the parking lot to the start line, which there sometimes is, road closures, and whether there might be a lot of traffic driving into the race. As a rule, public transportation is a far less stressful option than driving, if your race is in an area that offers it.
  • In the hour before the race you may want to consume an energy gel (if have practiced with it during training) and sip fluids
  • Check the weather before and during the event and consider the layers you may need before the start that you might shed. For layers you will shed, wear something that you are willing to throw away
  • Be calm before the start and approach the race with “cautious confidence”. Remember you trained well for this day!

What To Bring To the Race

  • You’ll want to dedicate a bag or two for things that you’ll bring with you to the race. Some you’ll carry with you while you run; others you’ll leave with your spectators or put in the bag drop that most every race has. (If you’re going to do the bag-drop option, make sure you bring whatever sticker or identifying tag you need from your race packet.)
  • Here’s a list of things to pack in your race bag (or wear):
    • Race number and safety pins (I’d recommend pinning it on before you get to the race. Don’t forget to write your emergency contact information on it.)
    • Timing chip
    • Extra clothing to keep warm before the race
    • A garbage bag (for warmth, rain protection, and an emergency bathroom stall if the lines are long)
    • Gloves and hat or headband
    • Compression gear and any straps or braces you wear
    • Something warm to wear after the race (could be the same as what you wore before the race)
    • A throwaway shirt to wear if it’s cold for the first few miles of the race
    • Food or drinks you need before the race
    • Any food you plan on eating during the race that won’t be provided by aid stations. This includes:
      • Gels or gummies (most races provide them at at least one aid station)
      • Sports drink (with bottles) if you don’t like what the race offers
      • Electrolytes
    • A few dollars for buying food/beer/soda/whatever after the race (a lot of times you need cash)
    • A sandwich or something else substantial to eat after the race (it might be hard to buy what you need afterward)
    • Anti-blister powder
    • Anti-chafe lubricant
    • Race packet (just in case there’s something in there that you didn’t realized you’d need)
    • Course map (for your spectators)
    • Camera (you probably won’t want to carry it, so give it to your spectators)
    • Cell phone (I wouldn’t recommend carrying it unless it really doesn’t bother you)
    • Watch
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Chapstick
    • Band-Aids, if you use them
    • Headlamp
    • Tissues or toilet paper 

So, avoid unnecessary stress on race day and plan accordingly.

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

Your friend and coach,


P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.



Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What Should You Eat and What Should You Avoid In the Hours Leading Up To Your Event


Hello Runners,

In the last post, I discussed the importance of a hydration and nutrition strategy for your event, and offered some tips. I also discussed what to eat the week of your event, including the day before. In this post I will discuss what to eat the morning of your event, including foods to avoid.

The principles to follow during the hours before the start of the race

  • In the two to four hours before your race, eat a meal with some protein and simple carbohydrates, and drink lots of water or sports drink. The more time until the race, the larger this meal should be. Minimize fiber and fats, since they can cause digestion issues. So, if you’re going to eat something like a bagel or toast, this is one time when you should go with white over wheat. Most importantly, don’t try anything new on race day!
  • Some good pre-race foods: gluten-free bread and/or cereal, fruit, smoothie, almond butter (not too much though). The more liquid and easier-to-digest these foods are, the better.-
  • In the hour before the race, don’t eat very much. Most experts recommend only water, sports drink, or energy gels at this point. I personally don’t drink much at this stage, to avoid having to use the bathroom during the race. Standing in the start corral already having to pee is no good, as this causes unnecessary stress and Porta Pots at the early aid stations will be jammed.

What to avoid before and during your event

  • Sports drinks or solids that include fructose or malodextrin, these can cause gas, bloating, and GI distress. Also avoid wheat, dairy, and fermentable fruits, including apples and pears before your event.
  • Artificial sweeteners and other chemicals including sugar alcohols, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Large amounts of fiber

What to eat before your event

  • Blended and juiced foods
  • Small amounts of caffeine – in research studies caffeine shown to improve endurance performance
  • Easy-to-digest carbohydrates including white potato, sweet potato, yam, white rice
  • Easy-to-digest fats including MCT oil and coconut oil
  • Easy-to-digest proteins such as vegan protein (pea, rice, or hemp containing digestive enzymes), essential amino acids, or hydrolyzed collagen protein

In a future post, I will introduce future considerations as far as nutrition for your next event. These can help you better utilize fats more and spare the limited amount of carbohydrates you have available. Thus, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance.

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

Your friend and coach,


P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.


Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What’s Your Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Your Big Race?


“Plans Are Nothing: Planning is Everything” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello Runners,

So, you’ve put in some great training, and you have a goal, and maybe even a purpose higher than yourself, which can get your through some of the toughest portions of your marathon. The weather on your race day is ideal. You’re able to run without any injuries. But, you could still fail to achieve your goal on race day due to dehydration or fatigue caused by burning up all your available carbohydrates.

Therefore, you need a plan before and during your event to make sure you stay as hydrated as possible, and don’t run out of available carbohydrates. Basically, we don’t have enough available carbohydrates in our body to complete a marathon. We need to take on additional carbohydrates during our event.

Where so many runners fail on race day is not having a game plan for how they are going to hydrate and fuel themselves during their event, or they have a game plan ahead of time, but don’t follow through. Also, many runners rely on what’s handed out at the event without practicing with it ahead of time (sports drinks, gels, etc.), and sometimes found out the hard way that what’s handed out is not best for them.

So, what’s your hydration and nutrition strategy for your event? How often will you drink? Will you use a sports drink? If not, what will you eat, so that you have enough energy to finish your marathon? Hopefully, you have been practicing your strategy during your training and have a plan you will use during your big race.

Practice Hydration and Nutrition (Fuel) Strategy During Your Long Runs

Your long training runs are a great time to practice hydration (how often and how much you will drink) and figure out what you will use for fuel during your event, as well as when you will consume this. There are lots of options available as far as fuel, including sports drinks, gels, beans, chews, real food, etc. You may want to practice what will be handed out at your event, that way if it works for you, then you don’t have to carry your own fuel.

Most likely your event won’t have these, but here are some fuel options you might try: SuperStarch by UCAN, Infinit-E by Millenium, and Vitargo. Some other options which are lower in calories, but provide electrolytes include Osmo Nutrition and Skratch Labs. Ideally, practice under similar conditions that you will experience during your event.

The Week Before Your Event

Before I talk more about your hydration and fueling strategy during your event, I will mention what you should do both the week of and the day before your event. After all, you want to start out with a full tank, otherwise, you will be trying to play catch up during your event, and that won’t work and will negatively impact your performance.

So, be sure to hydrate well throughout the week before, and especially the day before your event. Limit alcohol consumption during that week, as well, especially the day before your event. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.

During the week of the event, this is the time to load up on carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits (such as blueberries). You should also be consuming proteins including nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, fish, other meats, if you normally eat them. Fats are the nutrient you need least during the week of your event.

It is popular for events to have pasta dinners the night before an event. This is more traditional than beneficial. This pasta will really not help you during your event. In fact, you may want to have a salad with some nuts or a small bowl of pasta or white rice for dinner, and eat a larger meal for lunch or in the early afternoon. This larger meal should consist primarily of easily-digestible carbohydrates (such as white rice and white pasta), with some protein, and little fat. Avoid spicy foods and any new foods. Beware of eating a lot of fiber the day before an event and FODMAP foods (beans, onions, garlic, dried fruit, apples, pears, etc.), which can cause gas and bloating.

During Your Event

Don’t consume anything on race day that you haven’t practiced with during your training. Several years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I made an annual habit of running the Baltimore half-marathon. I really enjoyed that event and the crowd support throughout much of the event was great! Within the last few miles of the event there were people who traditionally would hand out gummy bears. Boy, was it tempting! Many people indulged. I passed and recommend you do the same. If you want gummy bears, have them after the race.

General guidelines for hydration

Water loss through sweat of as little as 2% can negatively affect performance, if fluids aren’t replaced because of:

  • Decreased blood volume resulting in the heart having to work harder
  • Increased usage of carbohydrates which can lead to fatigue happening sooner
  • Ability to dissipate heat is reduced
  • Imbalance of electrolytes which can cause cramping and weakness
  • Possible cognitive impairment

Keep in mind this will depend on your sweat rate and the conditions of your event. If you sweat profusely you will likely need to include electrolytes as well. In general you should consume 250 to 500 mg of electrolytes per hour. See previous post. During your event drink 3-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (a gulp is ~ one ounce), basically drink to thirst.

General guidelines for nutrition

The main cause of fatigue in those participating in endurance events is running out of available carbohydrates in the body. You will need to determine if you will use fluids or solids for your carbohydrate fuel, and which you will use. If using solids, you may want to wash these down with water, don’t use a sports drink to wash them down. During your event, make sure you using something that doesn’t bother your stomach, contains little or no fiber and that you consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (~120-160 calories) every hour. For events lasting 4 hours or longer you may want to consume ~60 grams/hour.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that you may need to carry your own fuel, whether it’s a sports drink or solid, during your event. This has been pretty much the case for me in every marathon I’ve run. I don’t do well with the sports drinks typically handed out at events.

Even if you have a strategy, you may need to develop a plan B and possibly plan C. What if you encounter heat and humidity during your event? What if they run out of sports drink or water at an aid station? (This happened at the Chicago marathon several years ago).

You should be well-hydrated before the start of your event. You should have eaten a well-balanced diet on the day before your event to ensure that carbohydrate stores in the body are maximized. Also, you should start calorie and fluid replacement early in your event.

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

Your friend and coach,


P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.


Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

Importance of Running For A Higher Purpose To Help You Through Challenges During Your Training and Event


“The deepest of all human needs in the need for meaning and purpose in life and work.” – Brian Tracy

Hello Runners,

Every once in a while we hear stories of people performing amazing feats of strength to pick up a car to rescue someone trapped underneath. How are people able to do so, and can you use this to help you overcome significant challenges in your training and event?

In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis set out to break the record for hiking the Appalachian Trail (2185 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia) in less than 50 days. At that time, the overall record was 47 ½ days held by several competitive male athletes who specialized in ultra-endurance events. However, 12 days in, and with 1650 miles to go, Pharr Davis was broken-down, depleted, and ready to give up. Shin splints and diarrhea had been wreaking havoc with her body for the past 4 days. Negative thoughts and fear were poisoning her mind. She was off the pace she needed and was ready to give up. She approached a juncture on New Hampshire roads where she was meeting her husband, Brew. She told him she was quitting. However, Brew reminded her that he had given up so much of himself to support her on this hike, and that achieving the record was a team effort.

At that point, she realized that the hike was more than about her and the record. Instead, she focused on the love of her husband, being in nature, and the love of her god. Her psychological stress removed, Pharr Davis pushed through her physical discomfort and broke the record by 26 hours. She had harnessed the power of purpose to overcome her fears and doubts. She had focused on something beyond herself and reflected on her core values, allowing her to courageously confront challenges and improve her performance.

We have the ability to do the same. Research by Dr. Victor Stretcher has shown that when people focus on a self-transcending purpose, or a purpose greater than themselves, they become capable of more than they ever thought was possible. Stretcher believes that this is due to ego minimization, which is important because the ego’s job is to protect our “self” and to shut down and flee when faced with threats. When we transcend our “self” and minimize our ego, we can override the fears, anxieties, and physiological protective mechanisms that often hold us back from achieving major breakthroughs.

Also, Dr. Tim Noakes noticed that runners were able to speed up during the final stretch of a race when the end was in sight and questioned why so many runners, seemingly overwhelmed by fatigue, were able to do so. Through his research, Noakes showed that physical fatigue occurs not in the body, but in the brain. It’s not the muscles that wear out, rather, it’s the brain that shuts them down even though they have more to give. This shut down is an innately programmed way of protecting ourselves. Basically, our brain intervenes and creates a perception of failure before we actually harm ourselves. Noakes suggests the brain is our “central governor” of fatigue and that our “ego” shuts us down when confronted by fear or threat. In other words, we are hardwired to retreat when the going gets tough. However, Noakes says it is possible to override the central governor with transcending purpose, such as someone saving another person trapped under a car by lifting the car, or Jennifer Pharr Davis’ performance in breaking the Appalachian Trail record.

Every year people with little or no running experience join organizations like Team in Training to complete their first marathon in support of those with cancer and other diseases. Many of these people have run no more than a 5k in their life, if even that. Another challenge these runners experience is that the training programs used by these organizations often include minimal mileage during the week, thus making the weekend long runs much more difficult. However, many of these runners still push through because they are running for something bigger than themselves. In the case of Team in Training it’s for those with leukemia and lymphoma.  Others run for loved ones who have been stricken with other life-ending diseases, including other forms of cancer.

So, what’s the higher purpose that you are running for?

The idea of transcending yourself can be applied to other areas of your life as well, such as your work.

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

Your friend and coach,


P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this post with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.


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

Tim Noakes. “Time to Move Beyond a Brainless Exercise Physiology: The Evidence for Complete Regulation of Human Exercise Performance.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 36, no. 1 (February 2011): 23-35

Tim Noakes. “J. B. Wolffe Memorial Lecture. Challenging beliefs: ex. Africa semper aliquid novi,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 29 no. 5 (May 1997): S71-S90.

Marathon Training 2019 Day 36: To Run or Not To Run, What Do You Do When You Feel Sick

“If your body’s not right, the rest of your day will go all wrong. Take care of yourself.” ― V.L. Allineare

I decided not to do my scheduled run for this morning and get more sleep because I could feel a cold coming on. Instead, I waited until the evening to do my run. By that time I was feeling much better and felt about 90% well. I did a easy-paced run for ~33 minutes with 4 x 20-second strides with ~90-second slow jog recovery intervals. This brings me to the topic of today’s Tip of the Day, which addresses whether or not you should run if you are sick. Immediately after my run I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~45 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • 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 balances (~30 seconds)

After performing these exercises I foam rolled for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: If you are feeling well perform the recommended workout from the Fitness Training Program. If you are not feeling well, see the Tip of the Day.

Tip of the Day: Whether or not you should run if you are sick depends on the extent of your illness and the type of illness. This time of year the common cold and to a less extent, the flu, can occur. If you have the flu I recommend not running and getting your rest and fluids, so that you can recover faster and be on your feet running again sooner. If you have the common cold, whether or not you run has a lot to do with how you are feeling and if the cold is in your chest or head. If it is in your chest you should not run. Get your rest and fluids and let the cold take its course. If the cold is a head cold, you could still run, however you might be better served by cutting back on the intensity and duration of your run.

So, assess how you feel. I you feel you are at least 85-90% well, then you can run. If not, you should not run. If you have to take some time off running, when you return, you should perform at least 2-3 days of easy running for 30 minutes before resuming your training. After you do your first run back, take inventory the next day.  Use the 85-90% rule to decide if you should go for a run or not. For long runs and runs with speed or hill work, you should feel 100% well. If not, run 30-45 minutes easy with strides (as long as you feel at least 85% well). When getting back to running after being sick, you should simply move your training back a week.

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

Be well, and be your best self today!

Your friend and coach,



  • Simple Marathon Training, Jay Johnson, PFB Publishing: Denver, CO, 2016.

What Should You Wear As You Train in the Cold Weather?

November 18 2018 Family hike pic 2 medium version

“There is a Beauty About Winter, That No Other Season Can Touch”

Hello Runners,

The beginning of the year is a great time to get new running shoes.  Here is a blog that I previously posted that can help you in selecting your next pair of running shoes:


As I mentioned in this post, I would consider selecting running shoes that have a wide toe box, that have minimal heel drop, and have minimal cushioning. I recently began running in a pair of Altra Torins, which has a wide toe box (these shoes look like clown shoes!) and zero drop from the heel to front of the shoe. They do have more cushioning than I would like. However, I have been very happy with them so far. There are other shoes made by other manufacturers that will meet the criteria I mentioned. So, I am by no means specifically promoting Altra.

In addition to shoes, you will need running attire. I discussed this in a previous post:


Basically, avoid cotton and use synthetic or technical fibers, keep head, hands, neck covered, and you may consider Yak Trax Ice Grippers for traction when running on snow and ice.

When running in the cold and wind, first try to avoid wind the best that you can. If you can’t avoid the wind, do your harder and faster running against the wind and your slower running with the wind. This way the cooling effect is kept short and is related to harder work, whereas recovery (slower running) can take advantage of the warmer tailwind. For out-and-back steady pace runs, start out against the wind, so that your trip home will be warmer.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,



-              Daniels’ Running Formula Second Edition. Jack Daniels. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2005.


Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Altra or Yak Trax and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Altra or Yak Trax or their products in this blog post.








Five Things You Can Do At Work To Make Yourself a Better Runner

Believe it or not, there are things that you can do throughout the day when you are at work (some of them very simple) to help make you a better runner.  The key is to consistently incorporate these each day at work.  I recommend scheduling or setting a timer, so that you can take a few minutes every 45-60 minutes to incorporate at least some of these recommendations.  In this article with the accompanying video, I will give you five recommendations for things you can do at work to make yourself a better runner.

1.Get Up, Walk, and Hydrate

Many of us have desk jobs and spend many hours day after day sitting at our desk.  Research has shown this can be detrimental to our health.  It can also be detrimental to your running.  One of the reasons is that while we are seated are hip flexors (muscles in the front of our upper leg attached to our hips) are constantly being contracted and as a result oftentimes become shortened.   How does this affect your running?  Because the hip flexors can become shortened this can limit our hip extension when we run.  So, get up and walk and hydrate multiple times during the day.

Why is limited hip extension a problem?

Limited hip extension can cause the runner to have to arch his/her back, which can lead to low back pain.  The runner may also rely heavily on the calves, thus increasing the potential for injury to the Achilles tendon.  Limited hip extension limits stride length and results in an inefficient release of energy to propel the body forward when running.  Thus, limiting the runner’s speed.

Also, while we are seated our glutes are basically on vacation and are getting weaker because of disuse.  This is important because the glutes stabilize the pelvis and hips.  Without a stable pelvis and hips we will be unstable when we run, wasting energy and being less efficient each time we have one foot on the ground when we run.  This instability also sets us up for an increased risk of injury.  The glutes, particularly the gluteus maximus is an important muscle for extending the hip.  In fact, if properly engaged the gluteus maximus is the strongest muscle used when running.

So, let’s give those hip flexors a break and engage the hip extensors, including the glutes, instead and get up and walk for a few minutes.  This walking will not only get the glutes engaged, but help circulate the blood that may be pooling in our lower extremities while we are sitting.  You will probably feel a bit more invigorated as a result.

In addition, while you’re taking a two to five minute walk grab some water to keep yourself hydrated.  Most people aren’t hydrating enough.  At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day.  For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming at least 75 ounces of water every day.  As a runner you will need to consume more depending on how much you are running and how much you sweat.

What if you have a job where you are standing and already walking during the day? 

Lucky you!  This will certainly help you minimize the loss of flexibility and mobility in your hip flexors and hip extensors.  However, be sure to stay well-hydrated and I strongly recommend you incorporate the other exercises below.


  1. Engage the Transverse Abdominus

The transverse abdominus (TVA) is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and is an important postural muscle.  The TVA is located between the lower ribs and the top of the pelvis and encircles the body like a corset on a women’s dress.  Engaging the TVA is like tightening a corset in that it prevents movement and keeps your upper body stable on the lower body.  This also helps keep the spine in its neutral position.  So, if you engage the TVA, which most people don’t do, you will have better posture and will better stabilize the spine, pelvis, and hips, which is key when you are running.  The TVA is not an easy muscle to engage and so it can take some practice before you feel it engaged.  I recommend focusing on engaging the TVA for 10 seconds while breathing normally, multiple times throughout the day.  Below I have described two different techniques you can use to engage these muscles.  I recommended practicing one of these techniques until you feel you can engage the TVA at any time, especially when your run.

How to engage the TVA

Technique 1 (You may want to try this at home first to get used to being able to engage the TVA):

  • Lie on the floor, rest your hands on your stomach with fingertips in the middle and do an abdominal crunch so you can feel what it is like to engage the rectus abdominus (different from TVA), you should feel the fingertips rise
  • Now lie flat on your stomach with your hands next to your shoulders with toes on the floor like you are in a standing position
  • Imagine an ice cube under your belly button and without moving anything else, pull your belly button away from the ice cube, as you do so your TVA will contract
  • Try this a couple of times, until you feel comfortable with engaging the TVA
  • Now lie on your back again
  • Find your TVA by placing your fingers on your hip bone and then slide your fingers one inch towards the middle of your body and then one inch down
  • Rest your thumbs on your belly button
  • Again, pretend like you are pulling away from an ice cube
  • Perform an abdominal crunch and you should feel your thumbs go down and fingers rise up as the belly flattens out
  • Practice engaging the TVA for 10 seconds while breathing normally
  • Watch this video to see how to properly perform this technique for engaging the TVA:


Technique 2 (this is one you can do at work):

  • Place your fingers on your hips and then slide then towards the midline of your body one inch and then slide them down one inch to locate the TVA
  • As your exhale, make a “Ssssss” sound, this will help you feel what it is like when the TVA is engaged, your belly button should be gently drawn back
  • As you inhale relax this muscle
  • Repeat until you can engage the TVA without make the “Ssssss” sound
  • In addition, you want to engage the other muscles that stabilize the pelvis by gently drawing these muscles upwards
  • To do this imagine sucking a smoothie with your vagina as the straw, if you are a woman, and if you are a man, Imagine yourself urinating, then imagine stopping yourself mid-flow, also, imagine trying to draw your testicles up, yes this sounds really weird, but it works!
  • While you are doing this make sure your shoulders are relaxed, that you are breathing normally, that you are not “sucking in your stomach”, that you are not arching or rounding your back, that your ribs stay back and your chest isn’t pushed out


  1. Leg Swings

Because the hip flexors are commonly tight in most runners, especially those who spend a significant portion of the day seated, I recommend leg swings to help minimize the loss of flexibility and mobility in the hip flexors and extensors.  Perform leg swings multiple times during the day.

How to do forward-to-back leg swings

  • Use a stable chair or other immoveable object to perform leg swings
  • Stand to the side of the chair or other immoveable object with the hand closest holding on to this object for support
  • Place the other hand on the hip to help stabilize the hip and pelvis, engage the TVA
  • With the leg that is closest to the immoveable object bend at the knee and swing this leg forward and then swing this leg back gradually increasing the range of motion that you swing back, so that you extend back as far as you can without moving the pelvis and not arching the lower back
  • Perform 15-20 repetitions for each leg

Bonus: Side-to-side leg swings

If you have time, I recommend performing side-to-side leg swings as well to help engage the other glute muscles (medius and minimus), which are also commonly weak in runners

  • Stand so that you are facing an immoveable object and hold with one or both hands for support
  • Lift one foot off the ground and gently swing that leg in front of your body from side-to-side, gradually increasing the range of motion, engage the TVA
  • Make sure that the rest of your body stays stable and that the motion is only coming from the outer and inner hip muscles
  • Perform 15-20 repetitions for each leg
  1. Single-Leg Balance

Single leg balance is a great exercise to help you establish balance with one foot one the ground, which occurs often while running.  Through single-leg balance your body will better be able to develop the ability to microcorrect its position at various joints to stabilize your body.  This is tied in with proprioception, which I mentioned in a previous article.  For now I recommend the basic single-leg balance, however there are several variations that you can incorporate to further develop your body’s ability to microcorrect, such as performing single-leg balance with eyes closed.  I will go into more variations in a future video.

How to perform single-leg balance:

  • While standing with hands on hips and with good posture, weight evenly distributed over the entire foot, and the TVA engaged, lift one foot off the ground and bend the knee so that this foot is in back of your body with approximately a 90 degree angle formed between the upper and lower leg
  • Spread your toes out to maximize your base of support and try to push you big toe down, while keeping it straight and not curled
  • Imagine a triangle formed between the inside ball of the foot, the end of the big toe, and the outside of the foot kept in solid contact with the ground
  • Try to stand with minimal movement for 30 seconds
  • Switch legs and repeat
  • Perform this exercise multiple times during the day to try to accumulate at least 5-10 minutes for each leg during the day, instead of one 10-minute block
  • I recommend performing this exercise with shoes off to get the most benefit


  1. Glute Squats, aka Chair of Death

Glute squats, also known as chair of death, is a great exercise not only to strengthen the glutes, but it forces you to utilize the glutes, instead of the quadriceps, which most people primarily use when they do squats.  This will help you better engage the glutes when you run.

How to perform glute squats:

  • Place a chair with its back against the wall or desk so that the chair is stable and won’t move
  • Hold a yardstick, broom handle, pipe or wooden dowel (you can get one at Home Depot for about five bucks) so that it touches and will remain in contact with your tailbone, upper back, and middle of your head
  • Stand facing the chair so that the front of your knees are touching the chair
  • Squat down moving your butt backwards just like you are hovering over a toilet.  The yardstick, broom handle, pipe, or wooden dowel should not come off the back of your body as you hinge from the hips, it’s okay to lean the trunk forward as you get used to this exercise
  • Perform 10 repetitions at least two to three times throughout the day
  • Over time you should be able to squat to parallel (thighs parallel with the ground) and you should be able to keep your torso more upright





Bobby McGee Run Transformation

Jay Dicharry Anatomy for Runners