Make Some of Your Long Runs More Challenging Than Your Marathon To Make Your Marathon Easier

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Hello Runners,

Over the past few weeks I’ve been incorporating hills and trails on some of my long runs. These runs have been really challenging and my paces have been about a minute less than my goal pace. However, I’m getting some great benefits from these runs that are going to help me on marathon day! I used this strategy for the last marathon I ran a few years ago, and while I watched many runners struggle in the last five miles, I was still strong. In fact, several spectators made comments of that nature.

If you are running a flat marathon, such as the Chicago Marathon, you will most likely be pleasantly surprised at how strong you feel by incorporating some tougher long runs in your training. If you are running a marathon with hills, especially at the end, such as the NYC Marathon, then you will be stronger on these hills.

Fortunately, I’m able to run from my house to areas with hills, trails, and both. Here are some benefits to running in such areas:

Benefits of Running Hills

  • Great leg strengthener, especially for quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and muscles connected to the ankles providing great support for our knees and ankles to help minimize risk of injury and increase running pace
  • Our muscles are made up of different muscle fiber types. You may have heard of these. Basically, we have Type 1, or slow-twitch fibers, which we predominately use when we run a 5k, half- or full-marathon. However, for longer events, such as marathons, these fibers need a break from continually contracting. This is when we use our other muscle fiber types, especially the intermediate, Type 2a fibers, to give our Type 1 fibers time to recover before using them again. Basically, cycling between different fiber types during marathons, allows us to keep running. While the Type 1 fibers are great for endurance, the Type 2a are great for endurance and speed. Training on hills helps strengthen these fibers and helps improve their endurance performance, so they can help us out more during our marathon. This can result in a faster running pace, minimization of fatigue towards the end of a marathon, and allows us to be stronger on any hills we encounter during our event.

Benefits of Trails, Especially with Rocks

  • This is great for running form because it forces us to pick up our knees more, which improves running cadence (number of steps you take per minute). Unfortunately, I was not as focused on getting over some of the rocks on the trail I was running on a couple of weeks ago. I tripped and did a face plant resulting in some nice cuts and scrapes on my hands, elbows, knees, stomach. Fortunately, it wasn’t worse than that! So stay focused when running, especially in rocky areas!
  • Running on trails can provide some nice variety to our training, and often will require the use of some different muscles to help stabilize us more, especially muscles connected to the ankle joint. This can help with running form as well, in that it can improve our stability when you have one foot during your marathon or other event.

So, I recommend incorporating some tougher long runs early on in your training. I would focus more on flatter long runs on roads, or hard packed trails with minimal rocks, during your last 2-3 months of training. This will allow you to run closer to your goal event pace.

Also, you will need to appropriately balance these tougher long runs with your runs during the week, so that you can allow for recovery and still complete these runs. This is certainly something I keep in mind when developing training plans for the runners I coach, and for my own training plan.

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

Also, 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.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

What To Do When A Race or Training Run Doesn’t Go Well

“Successful People Don’t Fear Failure, But Understand That It’s Necessary to Learn and Grow From.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Hello Runners,

I hope your running is going well.

As I mentioned in the last post, I did a 5k during Memorial Day weekend. It was a nice, low-key 5k. There were about 20-30 runners. Certainly no frills, but it was a free 5k and you got your time at the end. Plus, it offered the opportunity to run in a competitive environment (or non-competitive environment, if you wanted) with other runners. I mainly used it for some variety in my training and as a measure of my aerobic fitness early in my marathon training.

I certainly enjoyed the event, and it’s nice to have this option only 5 miles from my house every Saturday.

I had a couple of goals for this race, which I did not achieve. This certainly will happen at some point during our races or training runs. When this happens with runners I coach, we discuss what happened and how to move forward.

So, instead of beating ourselves up for less than expected results, I recommend that you learn from your performances that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. However, before we focus on this, I recommend considering the positives from the race or training run, and asking yourself, “what did go well?” I’m sure you will be able to find some silver lining.

After you have identified the positives, I recommend taking some time to reflect upon what didn’t go well and why that might have been. If you could do the race or training run all over again, what would you do differently? Was it not being properly hydrated or fueled? Did you make a bad food choice the morning off or night before? Maybe you realize that you need to improve your fitness and/or speed and can focus on this more.

Here are a few things that I learned from my 5k that might help you:

Pacing

One of the biggest challenges with races is getting caught up in the race environment and what other runners are doing. I’m certainly guilty of this, and it happened to me for this particular 5k. I started at the front and within the first minute I was in third and wanted to win the race. I went out too fast in the first mile and got distracted from my goals, which included a negative split (running second have faster than the first have). As a result of going out too fast in the first mile, I had to slow my pace in the second mile. I was able to use self-talk to push myself through and actually ran the third mile faster than the second, but I didn’t achieve my goal of a negative split. Now, in a 5k, this wasn’t a significant issue because the race is short enough that I only had to struggle for a short time. This same approach would not work well on marathon day! So, this is something I need to be careful of. A friend of mine actually did go out too fast in a recent marathon, and unfortunately for him, the last 11 miles were a struggle, and the result was disappointing.

Know the Course As Best As You Can

Beware that there may not be race volunteers at every turn and some turns may not be well marked. This was the case during my 5k. Although most of the course was straightforward, there was some confusion that I and another runner had shortly after the first mile. Although it didn’t cost a lot of time, it did cost some time, and certainly at that point my chance of winning the race was gone. You should also be familiar with the race profile and know when and approximately how long and steep the hills are, if there are any.

Improve Fitness

Certainly this race was a good assessment of my fitness, and made me more aware of the difficulty in breaking three hours is a marathon. Yes, I was able to run a slightly faster than goal marathon pace for this 5k, but it’s a 5k, not a marathon! Therefore, I will need to be consistent with all of my remaining training, including all of my runs and other aspects of my training that support my running, including strengthening exercises and cooldowns, so that I can get the most out of my runs.

Adjustments to Running Form

Something else I’ve thought about are any adjustments to my running form that might help me improve my efficiency and speed. One thing I have been working on for a while, is incorporating more forward lean. After my 5k, I decided to incorporate a drill in my dynamic warm-up to make this adjustment more natural. For those of you who are intermediate or advanced runners and consistently incorporate core strengthening into your training, I recommend incorporating a slight forward lean, from the ankles, into your running form. You can practice this during your dynamic warm-up for 30-60 seconds, until it becomes natural:

  • Stand perpendicular to a full-length mirror, so that you can view your body position from the side
  • Engage the core muscles to stand erect
  • Slowly lean forward from the ankles, until the point in which you fall forward
  • While doing so, make sure that your body is in one plane, and that you are not leaning from the waist or head and neck
  • While you are leaning forward, imagine yourself being pulled up and forward by the top of your shirt. This cue will help you keep the core muscles engaged.
  • Once you start to fall forward, catch yourself and return to the starting position
  • Repeat

When you are running, you should lean from the ankles just to the point where you start to fall forward. Now you have gravity helping to pull you forward, thus you don’t have to work as hard. This is a key component to chi running and is one reason why chi running is effective. However, make sure the lean is coming from the ankles and not waist, neck, etc.

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

Also, if you feel anyone can benefit from this post, please share it.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 29, Strides: Simple To Do and Great for Running Performance

“The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”

This morning I ran for ~33 minutes. During this run I incorporated 4 20-second (4 x 20-second) strides after ~20 minutes of easy-paced running. I recovered with a slow jog of ~90 seconds between strides. I will discuss strides more in the Tip of the Day. After performing strides, I finished with an easy run. 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 these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For intermediate and advanced runners, you might want to begin incorporating strides in your training after 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running, depending on the amount of time you have taken off from running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including strides.

Again, if you have not done so, you can receive a complementary fitness training program, which includes strides, by opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach.

Tip of the Day: Strides are great to help you begin transitioning into speedwork. By performing strides you are training your body to run at faster paces, and performing strides can help you improve your running form, as you have to become more efficient to run at faster paces. To perform strides, it is best to run at least 15-20 minutes at an easy pace to warm up. Then, for each stride, gradually accelerate over the duration of the stride, until you are running at ~75-85% of your maximum speed. Then, decelerate to an easy jog to recover for 60-90 seconds. I recommend starting with 90 seconds of recovery and then over time decrease your recovery. I also recommend starting with four strides of 10-25 seconds depending on your running history and fitness level. Beginners should start with 10-15 seconds, while more advanced runners can start with 20-25 seconds. Strides should be performed in a flat area.

In a future post, I will discuss what you can focus on during strides to help you make the most out of strides.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing strides, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Strides should not cause pain.

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

Have fun with strides!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 24: To Lean or Not To Lean, Goldilocks Got It Right

February 7 2019 too cold for a run! small version“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

Brrr! With temperatures in the single digits this morning, Sam and I decided not to do our weekly run/hike. Instead, I walked my dog for about 30 minutes. Then I did the following stability, 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)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • 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)

After performing these exercises, I rolled my plantar fascia with a softball and did self-massage for the plantar fascia and calves.

Recommendation: Afterwards, I was thinking about the subject of today’s post and decided to give another tip related to running form. For some of your runs, I recommend focusing on leaning slightly forward from the ankles. As with the other tips I have given, I recommend focusing on this for about 20-30 seconds each mile.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes workouts similar to what I have been doing. This program also includes exercises to strengthen the core to help you maintain proper alignment with a slight forward lean.

Tip of the Day: There is benefit to having a slight forward lean when you run. One important benefit is that you take advantage of gravity to help pull you forward, thus conserving energy. A slight forward lean is an important aspect of Chi running. The lean needs to be from the ankles, not from the waist, hips, or somewhere else. With this slight forward lean your feet, hips, shoulders, and head should all be in alignment. If you are leaning from the hips and/or waist you will most likely be leaning too much and feel this in your lower back. You may also feel strain in the front of your knee. On the other hand, too little lean or leaning back can result in straining the shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Therefore, in between is the best case, so you don’t feel strain and take advantage of gravity.

A drill that you can use to practice finding the proper amount of lean is rocking back and forth on your feet, and leaning just to the point of falling forward. Keep in mind that the lean will be slight.

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

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 9: Arm Swing (“Hip-to-Nip”) To Help Improve Running Performance

June 20 2018 pic 6 beautiful morning walk with Z small version“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing” – Barry Finlay

This morning’s run was another cold and dark run with wind, instead of ice. I ran for ~41 minutes, although there were times when I wanted to turn around sooner to get out of the wind! Yesterday, I mentioned “running tall” as an important cue for running form. Another one is “hip-to-nip”, which I focused on today. Basically, this means using arm swing when you run. Arm swing is beneficial for increasing cadence because as you swing one arm forward, the opposite leg will come forward to keep you running in a straight line. This can improve your pace and thus running performance.

After my chilly 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 (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (7 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendation:

  • Beginners (such as those wishing to complete their first marathon):
    • I recommend doing an easy walk for 20-30 minutes.
    • Also, perform any of the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (5-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (20-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (10-15 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (5-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions 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)
    • In addition, I recommend foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 5-10 minutes
  • Intermediate/Advanced (those runners who have completed at least a couple of marathons and have not taken a significant amount of time off from running):
    • Dynamic warm-up.
    • Then, I recommend a 35-45 minute run at an easy pace, ideally in a primarily flat area.
    • After your run, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (8-12 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (30-40 seconds)
      • Side planks (20-25 seconds)
      • Supine planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5-8 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (8-12 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5-7 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5-7 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5-7 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, you should perform a cool-down that incorporates foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 10 minutes

Tip of the day: Today, just before you start your run, stand with your arms hanging down.  Relax your shoulders.  Now bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle or slightly less angle between your upper and forearms.  Place your thumb on your index finger and hold it there like you were holding a potato chip, but don’t crush it!  Your fingers and thumb should form an “O”.  Position your hands so that they are inside your elbows or more towards the midline of your body.  Now practice swinging your arms so the hands brush the top of your hips and then come up to the same level as your nipples or slightly above (“hip-to-nip”).  This is the range of motion that you want for your arm swing.  When you are running focus on the backswing, instead of focusing on swinging forward.  Your opposite leg will come forward as you swing one arm back.  The faster you swing your arms the faster the opposite leg will come forward.  However, you don’t have to get crazy with the arm swing!  Remember that a cadence of 160-180 steps per minute would be a great place to start.  In future posts I will talk more about cadence and running form.  One of the runners I worked with a couple of years ago began incorporating arm swing into his running and he said it helped him improve his running speed.  In fact, he went on to break three hours in the London Marathon.

You may want to have your running form evaluated, to determine if there are any adjustments to your running form, that would help you improve your running performance and minimize the risk of injury.

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

Have a great day!

Your friend and coach,

Brian