The Importance of Rest Days for a Runner

The Importance of Rest Days for a Runner

As a runner and with most things in life when I do something I go all in and have a routine that I don’t like to change. I think that most runners feel the same way and that taking an unscheduled rest day can feel like a punishment. I didn’t do that a lot in my younger days but have learned to accept it as a good decision. I’ve learned that a key to successful long-term training is learning how to read your body, understanding what your body needs to train at its highest potential, and then trusting your knowledge of your body.  Here are a few tips to help you include more rest in your program.

The Value of Rest Days

We all have days we take off because of work, family, or other obligations.  I rest on Friday to feel strong for a hard training weekend. I always felt a little beat up come Sunday if I did not take a rest day that week. Over the years I have learned the value in taking a rest day. It allows my body a full day of rest from hard work, something I really needed when training hard for an event, especially as more birthdays came to pass.
Taking a rest day also allows your body to absorb the training you have been doing and you may actually see a fitness boost following a day of rest. This is the same logic that applies with lifting weights. You make your gains when you take a rest day and allow the body to absorb the work you have been doing. Running follows the progressive overload principle (the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training) and as we adapt to that stress on our body we get strong enough to handle back-to-back runs. We don’t do back-to-back speed workouts though because it’s the rest between them is where we improve. Active recovery is a day or two where you are specifically recovering from the stress you placed on your body during the speed session but still are training lightly.
Some runners can handle not taking a day off during a training segment but there are other runners, like myself, that need an extra rest day here and there. Think about rest days as an important part of your training and one that will only help you to improve your training quality and racing times.

Scheduling Rest Days as Part of your Program

As routine people and lovers of the sport we crave our run every day. So how do we replace that feeling? For me, it is learning that a rest day is just as important as a training day.  We get stronger on our rest day which is our goal, and it lets us train harder the next day.
Try scheduling rest days into your program whether it is once or twice a week, twice a month or once a month or somewhere in between. Tell your coach if you need to take a rest day on a specific day that you prefer and how often you need it. If it is on your schedule you are more likely to take it and as runners, we tend to follow our schedules! Sometimes an unplanned rest day will be important after a long work day or other unplanned life event.   Embrace the day off as an integral part of your development and improvement as a runner. Welcome your rest days and learn to enjoy that time too.

Learn to Listen to Your Body

. Runners tend to get so caught up in a routine that we will do anything to get our run in, even if it means stressing ourselves out to do it. If you know your body and you truly don’t need or want a day off during a training segment just keep these tips in mind and be flexible if you find that you are feeling a little bit run down or stressed about getting your run in. One rest day can give you a few more days running, especially if you are feeling run down or injury prone.
What about days off for injuries? So many times I felt like I should have taken another day off after an injury or dealing with a small annoyance, but I just kept running and it only made it worse. This means that even if you feel you are ready to resume training, give yourself one extra day. This strategy won’t hurt you and by taking another day of rest you can ensure you’ll stay healthy in the long run. This same principle applies with any nagging ache or pain you may be feeling or something random that pops up after a run. If you have to question the run, just take a rest day to give yourself time off running and then try tomorrow. It will probably be a hard decision if you are anything like me but you will never regret one day off if it means that you can keep running healthy and injury-free. Remember the golden tip to train smarter, not harder.

Body Weight Exercises for Runners to Build Strength

Body Weight Exercises for Runners to Build Strength

Have you ever struggled during a run and thought to yourself (or maybe even said out loud), “I wish this was easier!”? Well, you can run more comfortably and efficiently by doing some simple strengthening moves a few times a week. These exercises will make you stronger and improve your running ability and resistance to fatigue. Try adding these exercises for runners to your routine. 

Front Plank

Here’s how to do a front plank:

1. Rest on your forearms and make sure that your shoulders are aligned directly over your elbows. Your hands can be palm down or thumbs up, whichever position is more comfortable.
2. Extend your legs straight behind you and rest on your toes, as if you’re about to do a pushup.
3. Make sure you’re holding your body in a neutral position and keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. Your goal should be to attain a straight line between your shoulders and toes. Don’t allow your hips or butt to rise up.
4. Hold plank position for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!  Breathe in and out slowly and steadily as you’re holding the plank.

Beginner:  If the above exercise is too difficult, try lowering your knees to the ground, so your lower body is supported by your knees rather than your toes.
As you become stronger, you can add 15 more seconds to your plank time. You can also lift up your foot for a few seconds at a time, and keep alternating which foot you pick up.

Body Weight Squats

Squats are a great overall strengthening move for runners because they’ll help strengthen your hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and even your core.

Here’s how to do a squat:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Extend your arms out straight, with your palms facing down
3. Bend your knees and push your butt and hips out and down behind you, as if you’re about to sit on a chair.
4. Keep your weight on your heels and make sure your knees don’t go past your toes. Your heels should remain on the floor for the entire move.
5. Lower your butt down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure you keep your torso upright while squatting down.
6. Straighten your legs and squeeze your butt as you come back up to a standing position. Bring your arms to your side on the way up, keeping your shoulders back.
7. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Forward Lunge

The forward lunge is a great exercise for strengthening your quads (front thighs) and glutes. Both muscles work very hard while running and, if they’re weak, your other muscles (such as your hip flexors) will have to work harder than necessary.

Here’s how to do a foward lunge:

1. Start by standing with your feet hip to shoulder width apart, and your arms at your sides.
2. Take a big step forward, keeping your upper body as upright and straight as possible.
3. Lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is close to the floor.
4. Both knees should be bent at approximately 90 degrees. Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes.
5. Look straight ahead, not down.
6. Return back to the standing position, alternate legs and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
Advanced:  You can make lunges more challenging by adding light dumbbells.

Superman Exercise

The Superman exercise (named so because you’ll look like Superman flying through the air) strengthens your entire core (abdominals, obliques, lower back) by isolating them as you lift your shoulders and legs off the floor.
Strengthening your core muscles is essential for runners because a strong core helps you stay upright and maintain good running form You’ll be less likely to hunch over as you get fatigued during long runs.

How to do the Superman exercise:

1. Lie face down on a mat and extend your arms forward, palms down, and your legs backward. Keep your neck in a neutral position and keep your abdominals contracted.
2.  Lift your arms, head, chest and legs as high as you can get them off the mat. The motion is complete once you can’t raise your arms and legs any farther.
3. Keep your arms and legs straight.
4. Contract your abdominals. 
5. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
6. Slowly lower your arms and legs back to the starting position
7. Repeat exercise 5-10 times.

There are many more exercises that will help to strengthen your body for running.  Talk with your coach about your specific problems that he can help you with.

Four Treadmill Workouts for Runners

Four Treadmill Workouts for Runners

In honor of the blistering cold, piles of snow, blistering heat, or pandemic restrictions that become the bane of runners, here are four treadmill workouts to help you continue to improve.
Since I hate running on the treadmill, I run outside whenever possible now – through heat, cold, rain, and more rain. I need to run outside whenever possible. But common sense prevents me from running outside in certain conditions, especially winter conditions or extreme summer weather.
What kept treadmill running from becoming mind-numbingly monotonous were fun treadmill workouts such as these: runs that constantly changed the pace and incline on the treadmill, so that I used different muscles and was mentally engaged in the run.  These 4 treadmill workouts for runners will provide you with a wide variety of fun and challenging workouts, so you don’t have to dread the treadmill when nature forces you to stay inside this winter.
My treadmill workouts lasts about an hour, so you will cover anywhere from 4-7 miles, depending on your pace.  Always warm up and cool down first as they workouts are intended to stress your fitness and make you a better runner.

Treadmill Fartlek Run

Fartlek is a Swedish word and roughly translated means ‘speed play’. Fartlek training involves varying the intensity or speed of your run to improve your fitness and endurance.  This can be done on a track, the road, or in this case on the treadmill.

  • Set incline to 1%
  • Warm Up,  10 minutes easy running
  • Main Workout
    • Repeat 2 times – (2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy)
    • Repeat 5 times – (4 minutes hard, 2 minute easy)
    • Repeat 2 times – (2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy)
  • Cool Down, 8 minutes easy running

This gives you a total of 60 minutes running time on the treadmill.  If you have more time, simply increase the number of repeats in one or more of the main workout.

Treadmill Hill Workout

This workout will simulate hill training on an increasingly steep hill.  Finding the right terrain for this can be difficult so executing it on a treadmill is ideal.  Be careful when adjusting the incline while running, as this can be a challenge to balance while looking at the treadmill controls.

  • Set incline to 1%
  • Warm Up, 10 minutes easy running
  • Main Workout
    • 2 minutes at 2% incline
    • 2 minutes at 4% incline
    • 2 minutes at 6% incline
    • 2 minutes at 8% incline
    • 2 minutes at 10% incline
    • 2 minutes at 12% incline
    • 2 minutes at 10% incline
    • 2 minutes at 8% incline
    • 2 minutes at 6% incline
    • 2 minutes at 4% incline
    • 2 minutes at 2% incline
  • Cool Down, 10 minutes easy running at 0% incline

This gives you a total of 42 minutes running time on the treadmill.  This is shorter than some of the other workouts but it is tough and will help you to build strength.

Treadmill Interval Workout

This workout will simulate interval training that would typically be done on a track but without the breaks normally included.  Instead of stopping and starting the treadmill you will run slowly during the intervals.
Paces in this workout are based on a current 5K time. An estimate of the correct interval pace would be to take your average pace per mile in the race and subtract 33 seconds.  For your recovery pace, add 45 seconds to your average.  To be sure you are attempting the correct pace for your current fitness, consult with your coach.
For example, if your most recent 5K was a time of 25 minutes, your interval pace would be 7:31 or 8 miles per hour.  Your recovery pace would be 8:48 or 6.8 miles per hour

  • Set incline to 1%
  • Warm Up, 10 minutes easy running
  • Main Workout
    • 0.25 miles at your interval pace
    • 0.25 miles at your recovery pace
    • 0.5 miles at your interval pace
    • 0.5 miles at your recovery pace
    • 0.75 miles at your interval pace
    • 0.75 miles at your recovery pace
    • 0.25 miles at your interval pace
    • 0.25 miles at your recovery pace
  • Cool Down, 10 minutes easy running

This gives you a total of around 45 minutes running time on the treadmill depending on your current paces.  Until you become accustomed to speedwork, only do this workout once per week

Treadmill Hill Repeat Workout

This workout will combine a hill workout with interval training.  Typically hill repeats consist of running hard up a hill and then walking or running easy back down.  We will accomplish that by changing the incline of the treadmill.

  • Set incline to 1%
  • Warm Up, 10 minutes easy running
  • Main Workout
    • Repeat 3 times (0.25 miles at 6% incline, 0.25 miles at 0% incline)
    • Repeat 3 times (0.25 miles at 8% incline, 0.25 miles at 0% incline)
    • Repeat 3 times (0.25 miles at 10% incline, 0.25 miles at 0% incline)
  • Cool Down, 10 minutes easy running

As you become more experienced at this workout, you can increase your pace on the uphill portion to continue building your running strength

Summary

These four workouts will add some variety to your often boring time on the treadmill when you cannot run outdoors.  As these require adjustments to the treadmill, make sure that you are familiar with the controls before you start and always pay attention when making adjustments.  For more information on treadmill workout be sure to consult with your coach.

Exercises to Build Strong Hips


Everyone, especially runners, can benefit from hip conditioning, even if you don’t currently have any hip concerns. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in this area helps build stability and flexibility so you can move with ease and avoid injury. Weak hip muscles are common and made worse by the sitting that so many of us do at work. On the other end of the spectrum, athletes who overuse their hips can also experience pain and injury. Here are some of my favorite hip exercises that can help everyone, especially runners, to build strong hips.

Exercises to Build Strong Hips

Lateral Leg Raises: lie on your right side. Lift your left leg to about 45 degrees in a controlled manner, then lower. I do 30 reps per side. An advanced version of this exercise uses an exercise band around your ankles to increase the resistance.

Clam Shells: lie on your right side with your knees together and a theraband around your thighs. Your thighs should be about 45 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Open your legs like a clam shell but don’t move your pelvis – the motion should not rock your torso or pelvic girdle. Keep it slow and controlled working up to 30 reps per side.

Elevated Clam Shell: A more advanced version of the clamshell is to thighs should be about 90 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Then lift your feet about 1 foot above the floor and then open your legs like a clamshell. Try this without a band around your thighs progressing to using a band. Again keep it slow and build up the reps as you progress.

Hip Bridge: Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

One-Legged Hip Bridge: This is an advanced version of the hip bridge described above. This involves lifting one leg off the floor to about a 45-degree angle and lifting your hips off the floor with the other leg.

  • Side-Steps: with a theraband around your ankles and knees slightly bent, take ten steps laterally. The band should be tight enough so it provides constant resistance during all steps. Still facing the same direction, take another 10 steps in the opposite direction.

One-legged Squats: The key to a successful squat is to not lean forward, keep the motion slow and controlled, and make sure your knee does not collapse inward. To practice the correct form, try performing a two-legged squats standing a few inches from a wall so that your knees cannot move forward.

Hip Hikes: Stand on your right foot. With your pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side so it is several inches below the right side of your pelvic bone. Activate your right hip muscle and lift your left side back to its neutral position doing 20 reps per side. It is important to hold both knees straight and drop the leg from the hip. Think of this as tilting your waistline.

There are many more options for these exercises to explore as you progress. Work with your coach to find ones that will make you a stronger runner through stronger hips.

The Truth About Running and Weight Loss

Running is great for your overall fitness. However, you’ll probably be disappointed if you’re trying to lose weight exclusively by running.  Most beginning runners shed pounds in their first few weeks before hitting a plateau, unless they make additional lifestyle changes. That’s because your body adapts when you repeat any activity for long. In fact, some studies show that your metabolism becomes more efficient in just one week.
Before you hang up your sneakers, keep in mind that running can still be a valuable part of your workout program.

The Truth About Running and Weight Loss

Running for Weight Loss

It may take you a long time to lose weight if you’re jogging at low speeds for the same distance each day.  These strategies will burn more calories and fat while you’re on the run:

  1. Use high intensity interval training (HIIT). This method is popular because it works. With high intensity interval training, you alternate between brief sessions of very strenuous activity and less intense recovery periods. For example, you could sprint for 2 minutes and then walk for 3 minutes for 3 rounds.
  2. Train for strength. It’s also important to build up your muscles, so you’ll burn more calories even at rest. Lift weights or take a boxing class.
  3. Avoid overeating. Many runners overestimate how many calories they’re really burning. You may wind up gaining weight if you have extra helpings of junk food, thinking that the running will counteract it.
  4. Pace yourself. On the other hand, set your own goals. Depending on your size and other factors, you burn about 100 calories per mile regardless of speed. If you like jogging slowly, it will take you longer to lose weight, but you’re more likely to stick with a program that you enjoy.

Other Weight Loss Strategies

Physical activity is essential for your overall wellbeing, but diet plays a bigger role in managing your weight. Try these proven tips for slimming down:

  1. Limit processed foods. Prepared foods like frozen dinners and cookies are a major source of excess sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Choose whole foods whenever possible.
  2. Focus on fiber. Increasing your fiber intake will help you to feel full while eating less. Delicious options include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  3. Eat more protein. Protein also leaves you feeling satisfied and takes more energy for your body to digest. Include plant-based protein or dairy products, meat, and fish in your meals and snacks.
  4. Control portions. Diets that are too restrictive can make you want to binge. Enjoy your favorite treats in moderation. Prepare most of your meals at home, so you can keep an eye on the ingredients and serving sizes.
  5. Drink water. It’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst. Drink a glass of water first to see if your food cravings go away.
  6. Manage stress. Chronic tension can affect your hormones and make you store more fat. Find safe ways to relax, such as daily meditation or playing a musical instrument.
  7. Sleep well. High quality sleep is also essential for your overall health, including digestion and hormone levels. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Allow yourself 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
  8. Seek support. Put together a team who will help you to reach your weight loss goals. Join a support group online. Let your family and friends know how they can assist you.

Running will enhance your heart health and boost your spirits. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s also important to eat a healthy diet and stick to a balanced workout program.

If you are unsure about how to begin a running and weight loss journey, a professional running coach can guide you on the path to better fitness.

Make Running Successful for You

Make Running Successful for You

Running can make you happier, healthier, and more productive, even if you stop way short of running a marathon. Try these tips for building up your stamina safely and effectively.

Benefits of Running

  1. Boost your energy. If you feel too tired to exercise, remember this. Physical activity will reduce fatigue, especially when you’re doing activities that enhance your aerobic capacity.
  2. Speed up your metabolism. Running increases your metabolic rate even when you’re at rest. That means you can eat more calories without gaining weight, as long you don’t go overboard.
  3. Make new friends. You’re bound to meet someone interesting when you become a regular at your community pool or running track. Greet your neighbors and strike up a conversation. You may connect with a potential training partner.
  4. Cultivate peace of mind. There’s a scientific basis for the runner’s high. Due to endorphins and other chemicals, long-distance rhythmic movements tend to produce euphoria.

Nutrition Tips for Running

  1. Read labels. Sports nutrition is big business, so you have a lot of energy products to choose from. Check the ingredients and avoid bars and drinks that are loaded with sugar.
  2. Count calories. Endurance exercise can consume more than 600 calories an hour, but you don’t have to eat that much. Your body can’t absorb food that quickly so it makes up the deficit by burning stored fat. You may want to consume some carbohydrates if your sessions last 2 hours, and add in protein if you train for 3 hours or more.
  3. Fuel up. Stop eating at least 3 hours before a race or other intense activities so your blood sugar can stabilize. Complex carbohydrates are ideal for pre-race eating. It’s okay to be a little hungry before competing.
  4. Replenish your resources. Once your race or workout has ended, it’s time to recover and replace the nutrients you’ve used up. Try to eat a balanced meal with protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Safety Tips for Running

  1. Stay hydrated. Drinking water is essential before, during, and after exercise. How much you need will depend on your body, heat and humidity, and the intensity of your activity.
  2. Practice moderation. Develop a workout plan with a gradual and balanced approach. Increase your time and distance slowly. Engage in a variety of activities, including strength training and stretching. Take days off to rest.  Your coach can work with you to find the optimal mix of running, cross-training, and rest.
  3. Turn down the heat. More athletes experience heat stroke or dehydration than heart attacks. Hydrate before your run or find an indoor track or treadmill if it’s too hot outside.
  4. See your doctor. Talk with your physician if you have any chronic health problems or risks. Seek help immediately if you experience chest pain or suddenly feel short of breath.

Other Tips for Running

  1. Consider supplements. While it’s good to rely on whole foods for most of your diet, supplements may also help when you’re placing extra demands on your body. Some studies support the benefits of taking whey protein, certain vitamins, and even caffeine in moderate amounts.  However, getting nutrients from real food is always best.
  2. Warm up and cool down. Gentler movements before and after training may be especially important for endurance athletes. Cool downs can reduce the risk of losing consciousness caused by stopping abruptly.
  3. Listen to your body. Your individual condition and goals determine the regimen that will work best for you. Your coach can help you find a winning formula that keeps you safe and fit.

For a longer, healthier, and more active life, try running. Whether you’re gearing up for a Spartan run, local 5K, or just trying to improve your stamina, running strengthens your body and mind.

Why Running Can Make You Strong

Why Running Can Make You Strong

People who already participate in other forms of exercise often ask “What can running do for me?

Running is one of the most natural and pure systems for developing balance in your body. There are also a host of other benefits that running can bring to your body and mind, including physical fitness, mood enhancing, stress relief, and an overall feeling of wellbeing.

Humans have been running for a very long time. Our physiology has evolved to be highly specific and highly functional runners. There are numerous reasons why running can make you strong.

Consider these reasons why you should start running:

1. Running strengthens your feet. There might not be a better exercise for developing strong and coordinated foot patterns. Your feet are built like springs, but without proper training, they lose their elasticity.
For example, in some cases, this means you could actually lose some of your strength and power when you are pushing through your feet on squats and deadlifts.. A strong base is a strong lift. Running can help to provide you with a strong base of support and elastic-like tensegrity in the feet.

2. Running is great for alignment. Assuming you have half-decent running form, your jogging is going to be great for alignment. The average person sits for about 6 hours a day. Without standing and running, your body may become accustomed to slouching and back pain. Slowly moving into more running can be one of the most effective ways to improve your posture and train your muscles to fire properly.

3. Running is euphoric. Think back to when you were a kid: running around and playing outside was likely the most fun you’ve ever had. This same experience can come back as long runs provide a literal high that leads to a euphoric state. On top of having an amazing experience, you are conditioning the body to better utilize oxygen and improving your body composition.

4. Running is easy to moderate and improve. Cardio training like running is one of the easiest styles of training to make progressions in.
Simplistically thinking there are only two basic premises – intensity and duration. How you mix those up and use them to improve is far more complex and can be explained by your coach.

5. Running takes you back to your roots. Our ancestors viewed running as a form of transportation. Modern conveniences have changed our viewpoint but we can change our bodies back to their past strengths with time and focus.

What if You Are Strength Training?

In the world of strength training, many people are afraid to go running. They fear that, by running, they will lose muscle mass and may forfeit some of their strength. Does this idea have any validity? In other words, could running really put a damper on your strength returns?

Yes and no.

Running is a type of training that requires the same form of energy that your weight training uses, especially if you’re running at a high intensity or for a very long duration. So, if you are a strength athlete, you might want to avoid very long distances, as it will put stress on the joints (in excess of your weight training) and it would dissolve some nutrients you need for weight training. Running for short and medium distances, however, can still provide you with some great benefits.

Looking Forward

So, whether you go to the gym, don’t go to the gym, or you’re strength-training, running can benefit you in many ways. Give those running shoes a workout! Start running today and reap the rewards.

How Fast Should Your Easy Runs Be?

How Fast Should Your Easy Runs Be?

A common question asked by runners is “How Fast Should Your Easy Runs Be?” One of the more difficult concepts of training to comprehend is, “how do easy runs help me race faster”.  If you want to run a marathon at 9 minutes-per-mile, how does any running at 10:30 pace help you?  Wouldn’t running all your miles as close to goal-pace as possible make more sense? You would think, but no. 
Logically, it would make sense that pushing your easy run pace as close to race pace as possible would help you get fitter quicker and ultimately run faster. You might think that the harder you work the better you get, right? Yet, most good coaches will tell you to run slow on your easy days and your easy running cadence should be the same as your other runs.
It is generally thought that more than 50% of your miles should be easy, especially your long run. The aerobic system, and thus aerobic development, is the one true secret to training and it’s the key to unlocking your potential.

Why Do I Need to Run Easy?

The first step to understanding just how important the aerobic system is to distance running is to identify the percentage of energy contribution the aerobic system provides for races 5k and longer.  Even for a “short” event like the mile, over 80% of the energy required to run the race is produced via aerobic metabolism.

What is the aerobic system and how does developing it help you run faster (if you’re always running so slow all the time)?

What is the Aerobic System?

The aerobic system can use carbohydrates, fats, or proteins to produce energy.  Energy production is slower, but more efficient than the other two systems.  As you can tell by the name, the aerobic system requires that there be adequate oxygen available to the working muscles.  Therefore this system is used more heavily during low-intensity activity, but actually, even a 5k mostly uses the aerobic system. 

One key highlight of aerobic metabolism is the ability to burn fat as fuel.  Our bodies have a seemingly unlimited capacity for storing fat and fat provides over twice as much energy per gram than protein or carbohydrate, making it a very attractive choice for energy production.  In prolonged activities where intensity is low, the body will use fat as a main energy source and spare the use of muscle glycogen and blood glucose so that it is available for use if exercise intensity increases and oxygen availability is decreased.  Keep in mind that aerobic metabolism doesn’t use one substrate exclusively.  Although you may be burning mostly fat, a steady supply of carbohydrate is still necessary for the breakdown of fat into an energy source.  Improving your capacity to transport and efficiently utilize available oxygen to produce energy will enable you to race faster.

The aerobic system makes up 85-99% of the energy needed to race.  Running easy is aerobic development thus there is no better way to train the aerobic system.  Next we examine the specific physiological adaptions that occur when you develop the aerobic system.

Capillary development

Capillaries are the smallest of the body’s blood vessels and they help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissues while shuttling waste products out. The greater the number of capillaries you have surrounding each muscle fiber, the faster you can transport oxygen and carbohydrate into your muscles. Aerobic training (easy running) increases the number of capillaries per muscle fiber.

How does this help you run faster?  This improves how efficiently you can deliver oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and how quickly they can clear waste products.

Increase myoglobin content of muscle fibers

Myoglobin is a special protein in your muscles that binds the oxygen that enters the muscle fiber.  When oxygen becomes limited during exercise, myoglobin releases the oxygen to the mitochondria to produce more energy.

How does this help me race faster?  The more myoglobin you have in your muscle fibers, the more oxygen you can sequester to the muscle under aerobic duress – like during a race. Aerobic training increases the myoglobin content of your muscle fibers.

Mitochondria development

Mitochondria are microscopic organelle found in your muscles cells that contribute to the production of ATP (energy).  In the presence of oxygen, mitochondria breakdown carbohydrate, fat, and protein into usable energy. The more mitochondria you have, and the greater their density, the more energy you can generate during exercise, which will enable you to run faster and longer.  Aerobic training increases both the number and the size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers.  There are a few other physiological benefits to aerobic training, but that discussion gets a little too scientific and likely only interesting to biology majors.

How does this help me race faster?  Aerobic development is the single most important factor to long-term development.  Sure strength development, VO2max sessions, and tempo runs will increase your fitness and are still important to racing faster.  Before you can apply those to your training, you must have the endurance to complete the workouts. 

Why Doesn’t Running Faster on Easy Days Make Me Get Faster in Races?

Running faster on some of your workouts will make you faster, but only in the right proportions and paces.  Running faster too much or at the wrong paces will result in diminished aerobic development, but it increases the chances of injury and overtraining.  This is the single biggest mistake runners of all experience levels make in their training.

Let’s look at why:

What is the best easy run pace for me?

How the aerobic system responds and adapts to certain training paces has been determined scientifically.  Physiologically, we know:

  • Capillary development appears to peak at between 60 and 75 percent of 5k pace.
  • Research has shown that maximum stimulation of myoglobin in Type I muscle fiber occurs at about 63-77 % of VO2max.  63-77 % of VO2max is about 55-75 % of 5k pace.

Two researchers, Holloszy (1967) and Dudley (1982) published some of the defining research on optimal distance and pace for mitochondrial development.  Holloszy found that maximum mitochondrial development when running at 50-75 % of V02max.  Likewise, Dudley found that the best strategy for slow-twitch, mitochondria enhancement was running for 90 minutes per outing at 70 to 75 % V02 max.  To summarize

In summary, your optimal easy run pace for aerobic development is between 55 and 75 % of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 %.  Running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run doesn’t provide a lot of additional physiological benefit.  And, you will be less fatigued.  That might allow you to complete your next hard workout better and perhaps to run more miles.

Even though50-55 % of 5k pace will seem too easy, the research clearly demonstrates that it still provides near optimal physiological aerobic adaptation.

Why can I not run faster on my easy days if I feel good?

The faster you run on your easy days, the more stress you place on the muscles, tendons, ligaments in bones.  For example, you may be able to head out the door and hammer out an easy day and feel fine with your breathing, but your hips might not be strong enough yet to handle the pace or the consecutive days of faster running and, as a result, your IT band becomes inflamed.

In addition to aerobic development, easy days can function as active recovery from your hard workouts – but not if you run them too fast.  After a hard workout, your muscles will have micro-tears from the forceful contractions which happen at fast speeds.  These micro-tears cause muscle soreness, and make training the day after a hard workout difficult.  The body heals these small micro-tears through the circulatory system, which delivers the oxygen and nutrients to the muscles that need repair.  Easy running delivers oxygen and nutrients directly to the muscles used during running.  When running easy enough, the stress and micro tears that result from running are virtually non-existent, so the recovery outweighs the slight muscle damage.

There is time to run faster and a time to run slow.  Work with your coach to learn when you should take it easy and when you should work harder.  The goal of training is to build overall strength and speed, not to have one fast workout and then struggle with an injury.

Base Training Fundamentals

Base training (also called the introductory or foundational training period) is the first phase of a training cycle. It’s what prepares runners for the more intense, race-specific workouts that come later.

Base Training Fundamentals

There are many goals for the base training phase of a training plan:

  1. Increase endurance – or a runner’s aerobic capacity
  2. Begin training the central nervous system
  3. Improve muscular strength to prevent injuries and prepare for the transition to workouts that build the desired speed and endurance

Priority number one is to gradually but steadily increase your running mileage.  Other priorities of the introductory period include establishing a foundation of neuromuscular fitness with very small doses of maximal-intensity running and beginning the long process of developing efficiency and fatigue-resistance at race pace with small doses of running in the race-pace range.

There are three basic phases to a training cycle: base, strength, and speed. The problem that most athletes have is that they think theyare mutually exclusive. I think that the phase of training is defined by what you are focusing on during that phase.

But you always do a little of all of those things. There’s never a time of year when you’re just running mileage or you’re just doing speed. You’re always doing all of it, it’s just a matter of to what degree.

Before we get into the three main components of a well planned base phase of training, what do we notice?

  • First, “endurance” is the main goal. This is prioritized by a focus on high mileage, building the long run, and mostly aerobic workouts.
  • Second, base training is not just slow running! Workouts are always included – even quite fast sessions – but “fast” does not necessarily mean “hard.”
  • Third, strength. You can get strong in a lot of ways:

Base Training Goal #1: Endurance

There are three fundamental ways to gain endurance:

  • Run a lot (high mileage)
  • Run long (the weekly long run)
  • Run aerobic workouts (like a tempo workout)

Base training should include every one of these strategies. Mileage, or the total volume of a runner’s workload, is one of the best metrics for success. Simply put, the more you’re able to run, the faster you’re likely to race.  But, most importantly, to safely build a strong aerobic engine, gradually increase mileage during the base phase of training.
Focus on three ways to increase total volume of running:

  1. Increasing the long run by about one mile every 1-2 weeks
  2. Adding 1-2 more runs per week over 2-3 months
  3. Adding 1-3 miles to weekday runs every 1-3 weeks

The end result should be a gradual, progressive increase in mileage that will help build endurance, injury resistance, and economy.

Run Long to Build the Aerobic Metabolism

The long run has become nearly synonymous with endurance. To increase stamina, increase the distance of the long run. A run where you are running easy and longer than 90 minutes has the following benefits:

  • Denser mitochondria (the “energy factories” of your cells)
  • Denser capillary networks to deliver oxygenated blood
  • More mental toughness and resolve
  • Improved muscular strength
  • Enhanced running economy (efficiency)
  • More energy efficient

No base phase is complete without long runs. No matter if you’re a miler or ultramarathoner, a veteran or a total beginner, the long run is an absolutely critical component to successful training.  It is important to keep the long easy, conversational pace. 

Aerobic Workouts

It’s a common misconception that base training doesn’t include any faster running. Aerobic workouts have you run at or slower than your lactate threshold (which is your tempo pace). Here are some good aerobic workouts:

  • Progression runs where you gradually speed up to about tempo pace at the end of the run is a valuable early-season workout.
  • Tempo runs improve your body’s tolerance to and ability to buffer lactate (the byproduct of anaerobic cellular respiration). In other words, you can hold a faster pace for longer.
  • Fartlek workouts include pickups or surges of a few minutes with 1-3 minutes recovery. These are usually faster than the other two workouts mentioned, so use them only every 2-3 weeks during base training.

While aerobic workouts should make up the vast majority of your faster running, there should still be some speed sessions as well.

Base Training Goal #2: Neuromuscular Fitness

While they’re not the focus, neuromuscular workouts help maintain leg speed and neuromuscular fitness.  There are three great ways to do this during base training:

  • Run strides 2-3x per week
  • Run hill sprints 1-2x per week or make one of your easy runs a hilly course
  • Run fartlek workout every 2-3 weeks.
  • Lift weights

Strides and hill sprints are best considered “drills” rather than “workouts.” They’re done in addition to your running  Also, you don’t need to run more than two sessions of strides and hill sprints per week unless you are an advanced runners with a history of being able to stay healthy with a high level of intense training.

Finally, weight training makes the body stronger by stressing the central nervous system with resistance (weight), you can recruit a lot of muscle fibers in a safe way. Unlike maximal intensity sprinting, the injury risk is a lot lower.  The effect becomes more efficient communication.  Additionally, weight training builds strength in the small supporting muscles and connective tissue that help the body to move.

Base Training Goal #3: Muscular Strength

There are no fast, weak runners.  Both lifting and running fast recruit a lot of muscle fibers – they “use more of the muscle,” which is more effective at building strength.  Clearly, fast running and weight lifting should be included in base training – no matter if you’re preparing for a marathon or a mile.  If you’re new to strength training, here’s a simple way to get started:

  • Begin with bodyweight strength exercises
  • Add resistance bands and medicine ball workouts after 1-2 months
  • Finally, you’re ready to lift like the elites with a proper weight training program

Create the Perfect Base Phase

Just like a recipe, you now have all of the ingredients to plan an effective base training season:

  • Gradually build your mileage and long run
  • Run strides or hill sprints regularly
  • Complete an aerobic workout every 7-14 days
  • Run a faster fartlek workout every 10-14 days
  • Include strength training to prevent injuries and tune the nervous system

When you combine higher mileage, increasing long runs, and smart workout progressions you’ll build a monster aerobic base that will propel you to new personal bests. You coach can design a proper plan comprised of these elements combine into a plan that will get you safely to your goals or higher!   No time like now to get started…

What You Should Expect From A Professional Running Coach

What You Should Expect From A Professional Running Coach

When considering hiring a running coach, there are a few things you should expect of that coach, and a few things your coach will expect from you. To help you on your running journey, I am outlining six things you should expect from your coach. Every coach is different, but I think for your running season to be a success, it’s a good idea to understand what you are getting into and what you should expect from your coach.

A clear training plan

This plan should be built for you and your schedule, goals, time, etc. The plan should be easy to understand and follow. If there are terms and paces you do not understand, your coach should be educating you along the way. There should be a purpose for every run, and you should know what that purpose is – time on your feet, active recovery, threshold pace, etc.

Support

Your coach is there to support you and hold you accountable. Your coach should be pushing you towards your goals, with workouts and recovery that fit your needs. Your coach should be someone you can confide in, be honest with, and trust. The kind of support you are looking for and will receive is important. Some runners want a very authoritative figure, while others want to be coddled a little, and want a coach they can view as a “pal.” Be honest about what you need and want, and who can fill that role as a coach.

Credentials

You should expect your coach to know their profession. Basic credentials are a given – including certifications, personal experiences in racing, and a resume of work.  Professional certifications are important.  Look out for credentials from a reputable organization like USA Track & Field or the Road Runners Club of America. 

Your coach should always be striving to learn more, maintain their credentials, and in an ideal world, be adding news ones to their list. If your coach doesn’t know anything about tapering, strength training, or perhaps hydration – you need to look elsewhere. After all, you are trusting this professional with your body, time and money.

Motivation

Your coach should be someone who can pick you up when you are feeling down. After a bad workout, a nagging ache or pain, a lack of motivation – your coach should be your cheerleader, voice of reason, and positive resource. There will be times a coach needs to have “the talk” about race day goals that aren’t in the cards (injury issues, sub-par training), and those conversations truly suck. But your coach will also be the person who will push you to reach for a higher goal, remind you of all the hard work you’ve put in, and be the voice of reason when we doubt ourselves. It’s fascinating how one or two bad workouts will lead a runner on a downward spiral, questioning everything, while months of fantastic training leaves many runners feeling okay, but never really celebrating their milestones. Your coach will always be on your team

Success

Success can come in different shapes and sizes, and perhaps your big goal when sitting down with your coach on Day 1 won’t happen that first year. Or perhaps your goal will change – which is totally fine! Success may be: running pain-free, accomplishing a new race distance, lowering your previous personal record, qualifying for a race like Boston Marathon, learning to love to run, fixing running form or nutrition habits, losing weight, enjoying a new hobby – these are all different goals. Time goals are the hardest to achieve, because in order for that goal to happen, the athlete will need to feel 100% on race day, and run a smart and strategic race. The role of the coach will be to keep the athlete as injury-free, well-balanced, and fresh for race day. The coach will also be expected to discuss race day strategies, pacing, fueling, and how to adjust if things don’t go according to plan. The minute that gun goes off, the race is entirely in the hands of the athlete, not the coach. If a goal falls short, the coach and athlete should figure out why, learn from it, and figure out the next step.

Will a personal running coach make you successful?

Will a personal running coach make you successful?

Runners come in all levels and abilities.  You may be just starting and want to know how to be able to run your first 5K or be an experienced athlete who wants to set a new personal best in a marathon.  Will a personal running coach make you successful? Yes, all can benefit from a running coach but their needs are quite different. 
We know that we need to dig deep within ourselves to be successful. It is us ourselves that put in the hard work to later see the rewards—whether it’s weight loss, increase of fitness, or crushing new running goals. But having someone else on our team, a running coach, can take our performance to a whole new level.
Many might think that personalized running plans are reserved for the professionals. Behind every Olympian or professional runner is a private coach that helped train them properly to reach their specific goals. But everyday runners don’t need to hire a big-name in order to have their very own coach. There are countless certified running coaches that are knowledgeable in the sport to help runners reach their potential.  The benefits of a coach are many but the ones that most people agree on follow.

They help you define—and meet—your goals

Coaches are trained and experienced in helping runners figure out exactly how to meet their fitness objectives.  They’ll also help you set other goals by telling you what’s realistic, what it will take [to meet your goals], and showing you the path to get there. This adheres to research which finds that the more measurable and intentional goals are, the easier they are to achieve.
A running coach helps to keep a runner accountable. There is a better chance a person would get out there and run if they knew they had to report back. Regardless of their goals, the runner is more likely to complete all their workouts and complete them correctly since someone will be following up with them.

They keep you consistent (and motivated)

Consistency is a “secret sauce” to good training, and your coach can help you be more consistent than ever and help you to get faster than you ever thought possible. Running is a long-term sport, so runners need to remind themselves that results don’t happen in weeks or even a few months.  Staying consistent means staying motivated—and coaching may play a key role in keeping spirits high. One study suggests that one-on-one personal training is effective in not only changing attitudes towards physical activity, but also increasing the amount of time participants spent being physically active.

They will help reduce injuries with disciplined workouts and remind you of the little things

Different coaches’ program designs may vary, but any structured plan will include structured training runs, warm-up drills, cool-down and recovery activities, fueling guidance, strength training, and race-day prep.  Besides having a personalized plan, a coach provides the right type of training. This includes teaching proper form, which then can reduce the risk of injury. It also includes learning how to manage the mileage without overuse and learning the importance of recovery and nutrition.

They can provide a training plan specifically for you

Structured training plans focused on you will reduce the risk of injury and maximize improvements.  Reducing injury risk takes proper planning for running workouts and total mileage run per week as well as careful selection of day-to-day activities to balance the workload and recovery.  A correctly balanced plan will stress the body when appropriate and then allow it to recover and become stronger.

They have great tips for nutrition and fueling

Nutritional guidance can be a part of the coaching experience. And, as most athletes know, nutrition is key when it comes to enhancing physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery

Improved performance; athletes in all sports improve with coaching

Very simple, studies have shown that hiring a coach will lead to improved performance at a much faster rate than by training on your own.  This applies to all things, golf, tennis, swimming, and to running.  As is true with most things in life, you will not live long enough to learn everything, so we must learn from others.  This is especially true with a sport like running where there are many complicated factors.  Whether you are interested in running your first race, from a 5k to an marathon, becoming faster at a given distance, or have plateaued and want to become fitter to break through that plateau, a coach can help you. 

Running continues to be a popular activity and is often the starting point for those who realize their need to improve their fitness or lose weight.  It does not have to be a standalone activity but can be combined with other fitness activities as in a triathlon or obstacle course event.  As the popularity of running grows, so, too, does the stream of resources available online that help people get started and get better. From training guides, running apps, and assorted other tips and tricks, it’s perhaps never been easier or, more overwhelming to get started with running or take your training to the next level.  It is equally easy to latch onto the latest fad workout that may not be right for you.  Running magazines print their monthly “greatest” workout but fail to help you integrate that into a training plan that will guide you to your goal.  It might be time to follow the lead of the more than six million people who work out with personal trainers. Yep, there is such a thing as a personal trainer who just focuses on helping you run better, a running coach.

The Most Important Requirement of Training

The Most Important Requirement of Training

The most important requirement of training to optimize your performance is:

Training = Stress + Rest

This formula is simple for both the runner and coach, but hardest to accept by most runners. Athletes do not like to accept that their improvements come during the body’s recovery, not during the workout.  Every training stress must be followed by an appropriate rest period in order for the body and mind to optimally increase its fitness.  This might mean only resting certain muscles while applying stress to others, but for runner’s, it typically a recovery time for the entire body.

I do not know who first put forth this theory but it has been repeated and refined through many experienced coaches and physiologists.  The stress part of the equation is far better understood than the quantity and quality of the rest.

As coaches and athletes, we focus only on the “stress” part of the equation – the workouts, the mileage, and the races and often ignore the “rest” component – days off, easy running, cross-training, sleep, nutrition, relaxation.  But, in order to advance your fitness, you must balance both. The greater the quantity or quality of stress, then the more rest you will require.

Too many runners under value rest after hard training and racing and thus miss the benefits of the workout and may place themselves at risk for injury.  We focus on training too much, too hard, or both and can take a step backwards in fitness.

The stress/rest cycle is a moving target that challenges both the coach and the runner as there are so many factors that can affect either part of the equation.  Even with the best planning, a bad night’s rest, hard day at work, or even a missed meal can throw off the delicate balance. 

Good and bad days are often not predictable, but must be dealt with as a part of training, primarily the stress/rest balance.  Factors that are part of the stress factor are: Intensity of run/workout

  • Duration of workout
  • Intensity of workout
  • Preparedness for the run/workout
    • Fueling
    • Hydration
    • Aches, pains, injuries
  • Non-running factors
    • Heat / Humidity
    • Terrain
    • Life/Work stress
    • Health status

Each can contribute to making the stress portion higher, but can also subtract from the recovery after the workout.  For example, a higher stress level at work makes the workout harder and may hinder sleep and thus recovery.  It’s an ongoing evaluation to determine the level of stress you want from the day and the level for stress you got from the day and how that affects the recovery part of the equation.  As we all know, sometimes the tough workouts are a great reliever of life stress, but I believe they still add to the recovery that an athlete needs.  While we feel better after the workout, we still had to push harder to overcome the life stress and complete the workout.

While we have a good recovery plan, family and work responsibilities may get in the way.  You may have 48 hours between your track workout and the next tempo run planned.  However, if a family emergency occurs, you may not get the planned rest and need to make workout changes.  Even for a teenage athlete, school can throw challenges into a training plan with an unanticipated assignment.  That is when workouts can be changed carefully to ensure the balance is maintained.

Keeping this balance is the secret to success. You should feel able to adjust your training on the fly and must be honest with your coach so he can help you make the right changes to keep your training on track.  We are always told to “listen to your body”, but that means learning the difference between workout soreness and an injury, and being willing to sit out a workout for your own good.

Training plan requirements for optimal results:

  • You need a training plan that has time for adjustments.  This means having enough time to train to the level you want to reach with time to skip a few workouts for whatever reason.
  • You need to feel able to make reasonable adjustments.  It is acceptable to re-arrange workouts and even skip one from time to time.  However, if this happens every week, perhaps you need to replan.
  • You need an easy way to make adjustments.  The automated coaching software available today makes it easy to drag-and-drop workouts as you need to make changes.  However, it is important to work with your coach to be sure you are keeping the required recovery in your plan.
  • Balancing the stress/rest cycle doesn’t mean you never train hard. Many people think it means you never train hard. This is a balancing act, you must train hard and recover hard!

Glossary of Common Running Terms

Running is like most other sports or professions and has developed its own language.  In this article, I have compiled many common terms to help the reader understand more of the lexicon and provide a common language for us.  The terms are first presented in alphabetical order.

Glossary of Common Running Terms

Term – Definition / explanation

10% rule  – A general guideline which discourages increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week

10k  – 6.2 miles; 10,000 meters

10-K pace – 10-K pace, when used in a workout to describe how fast to run, is simply the pace of a runner’s last 10-K race. 10-K pace is therefore different for every runner; for a 62-minute 10-K runner, 10-K pace is 10 minutes per mile; for 31:00, it’s 5 minutes per mile

1200 meter   – 3/4 mile, three laps around a standard track

1500 meter   – .93 mile, metric mile, 3 3/4 laps around track

15k  – 9.3 miles; 15,000 meters

200 meters  – 1/2 lap around a standard track

400 meters  – 1/4 mile, one lap around a standard track

5k  – 3.1 miles; 5,000 meters

50k  – 31.1 miles

5-K pace – 5-K pace, when used in a workout to describe how fast to run, is simply the pace of a runner’s last 5-K race. 5-K pace is therefore different for every runner; for a 31-minute 5-K runner, 5-K pace is 10 minutes per mile; for 16:00, it’s 5 minutes per mile

800 meters   – 1/2 mile, two laps around a standard track

Aerobic – Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that’s sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn’t appreciably build up in your muscles. Generally, you can sustain a slow aerobic pace for long periods of time, provided you have the endurance to go long distances.

Aid Station  – An official section containing things like water, sports drink, and fuels during a race; often spaced evenly throughout a race course

AIMS – Association of International Marathons and Road Races. More information can be found at www.aims-association.org.

Altitude training  – Specific training at over 1,500 meters/5,000 ft for several weeks to trigger increased red blood cell production which can boost endurance

Anaerobic  – Without oxygen, usually used to describe very high intensity exercise (going anaerobic)

Anaerobic threshold (AT) – The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running. Good training will increase AT by teaching the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently, so that less lactic acid is produced. Also known as lactate threshold.

ASOIF – Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. More information can be found at www.asoif.com.

Base training / running base  – Running that builds a solid foundation of aerobic fitness and muscle strength over a period of weeks or months before starting a focused training plan

Bib  – The race number that you attach to your clothing before the race

Black toenails  – Bruising to the nail bed caused by excess pressure or pounding during running (often during downhills); the toenail will be sore post-race and you may end up eventually losing the nail

Bling / hardware / medal  – The finisher’s prize given out which usually takes the form of a medal, belt buckle, mug, hunk of wood, etc. Some runners are known to look this up in advance before signing up for a race

Bloody nipples  – Chaffing to men’s nipples that causes bloody patches on their shirt—usually the man is wearing white

Body Glide  – A brand of roll on anti-chaffing lubricant to prevent chaffing; there are many brands of anti-chaffing products but are sometimes just called body glide

Bonk – See hitting the wall.

BQ – One of the most coveted standards in running, BQ refers to a Boston-qualifying marathon result in any marathon with a certified course. In recent years, it’s been harder and harder to gain entry to the Boston Marathon, both because the qualifying standards have gotten slightly faster and because more people have tried to qualify in some of the more popular age groups. Still, earning a BQ is a true badge of honor, even if you don’t get in or choose not to race it that particularly year.

Brick workout – Brick workouts are a favorite of triathletes in training. It means doing two different workouts back-to-back; think a bike ride and a run or a swim and a ride. While seemingly masochistic, especially when you are in the midst of it, the intent of the workout is to get your body and brain used to switching disciplines and training under simulated race fatigue.

Cadence – This is your number of footfalls per minute. And, of course, faster is usually better. The ideal number for running—meaning most efficient with a reduced likelihood for injuries–is about 180 steps per minute. To help with the math, that’s 90 footfalls per foot per minute. 

Certified course  – Most marathons and half-marathons are certified by USA Track & Field which makes sure that the distance of the race is accurately measured. For any running performance to be accepted as a record or for national ranking it has to be run on a USATF-certified course

Chaffing  – An irritation or rubbing of the skin caused by skin to skin or skin to fabric contact made worse by the presence of moisture and heat

Chip time – A technology for sensing and recording the finishing times of all the runners in a race. It’s much more accurate and can easily deal with the old problem of many runners finishing nearly at once in a big, crowded race. The chip is a tiny electronic chip that’s programmed with your specific runner identification. You attach the chip to your shoe laces. It sends a signal to an electronic reading device–often hidden under a strip of carpet– when you cross the start line and again when you cross the finish line. No human observation is necessary. Your exact time is recorded automatically. Usually you are asked to turn the chip back in to the race organizers.

Climb  – Often refers to a hill or stretch of elevation gain during trail running

Clock time  – The time recorded from when the race first begins

Clydesdale / Athena  – A category to describe a heavier runner—typically over 150lb for a woman and 200lb for a man

Compression socks/gear  – A garment that provides graduated pressure to help improve blood circulation and provide support to body parts

Cool down  – Slowing your pace significantly for a couple minutes at the end of your run, then walking to further cool down and slowly lower your heart rate to avoid letting blood pooling in your extremities

Core / core training  – Specific strengthening exercises targeting the core muscles which include the muscles in the abdominals, back and pelvis

Corral  – A designated area for runners of a certain pace or who hope to run a certain race time at the start line of a race, this can be strictly or informally controlled

Cushioned  – A shoe designed with extra softness sometimes preferred for those with a more rigid foot

Cutdown intervals  – Decreasing intervals; 800m- 600m- 400m- 200m Pyramid combining intervals; 200-400-600-800-600-400-200

DNF – Did not finish.

DNS – Did not start.

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)  – Discomfort, stiffness, or soreness in a muscle related to microscopic tears of a muscle doing more work than it’s used to, typically noticed primarily 24-72 hours post-workout

Double track  – Trail running term referring to a trail wide enough to allow for two people abreast

Doubles  – Doing two runs in one day

Drop  – Also known as heel to toe drop or heel-toe offset, heel-toe differential, or heel-toe lift in a shoe; it is the difference between the heel height and the forefoot height in a shoe; expressed in millimeters

Drop bag  – A collection of items that you think you’ll need during an ultra race that is transported by the race to a specific location for you. This can be handy if you don’t have a crew

Dynamic Drills – Dynamic drills are what you do to get warmed up and activate muscles before your run. When done right, you’ll definitely get your heart pumping and the sweat flowing without static stretching of cold, rigid muscles. Examples are: high knees, butt kicks, skipping, walking lunges, toy soldiers and fast footwork like grapevines.

Dynamic stretching  – Stretching involving movement which is most beneficial for runners

Easy run/recovery run  – An easy, steady pace for recovery or enjoyment; improves aerobic conditioning; intensity should permit conversation and be no more than 60-70% maximum heart rate

Elevation gain  – The amount of feet or meters that the course goes up during a run or race

Elliptical  – An exercise machine that mimics the running motion in a low impact manner

Endorphins  – Brain chemicals which cause feelings of euphoria and the runners high

Endurance  – The ability to run for long periods of time

Even split  – Running the first and second half of a race at a consistent pace

Fartlek – This is a Swedish word for speed play—Swedes know how to have fun! No, it has nothing to do with breaking wind. The playful aspect of these is that you get to determine distance, speed and how many you do, but the goal is to keep them relatively short and speedy. Once you’re warmed up, step up your pace between trees, light posts, the red car parked on the corner, whatever works for you. Do a set of five to 10, return to your regular pace and repeat, if desired. These are good mid-run, pick-me-ups if you feel like your pace is lagging or your mind has wandered.

FKT  – Fastest known time

Flat/low arch  – Foot often overpronates inward for shock absorption which can lead to ankle and knee problems- entire arch region filled in with paper bag test

Foam roller / rolling  – Self myofascial release using a cylindrically shaped firm foam roller

Foot strike  – How and where your foot hits the ground as you run: heel strikers- heel hits the ground first, midfoot striker- mid to ball of foot hit the ground first, forefoot striker- ball of foot to toes hit the ground first

Forefoot Striker – A runner who primarily lands on the forefoot when running at any speed. Most runners are not forefoot strikers all the time. In fact, studies have shown that less than 2 percent of runners actually run that way.

Fuel  – Term that refers to any food or calories taken in before or during running to keep your energy up, can be anything from traditional exercise fuels to real food options

Fuel belt  – A belt that allows you to carry one or more bottles for liquid around your waist area

Gait  – Describes how we run or walk and consists of two phases: stance where part of the foot touches the ground and swing during which the same foot doesn’t touch the ground

Gaiters  – Gear that attaches to your shoes and goes up your ankle or leg to keep out dirt, rocks and other debris

Garmin  – A company that makes a number of GPS watches; also slang for whatever running watch you have (I forgot to stop my Garmin at the end of the race)

Gear and Shoes – Gear and Shoes

Gear Check  – A bag of items that you’d like available at the end of the race. Usually placed in a designated bag and transported from the starting area to the finish by race officials

Glycogen  – The storage form of glucose (sugar) found primarily in the liver and muscles

GPS  – Global positioning system; to track location, velocity and time anywhere in the world

Gu / gel / chomps / blocks  – Various types of fuels for running; a gu/gel usually has a thicker gel-like consistency; chomps/blocks/gummies are usually more solid and need to be chewed

Half Marathon  – 13.1 miles; 21.1k

Hand-held  – Refers to a bottle that you can carry in your hand as you run

Heart rate (HR)  – The contraction of the heart, usually measured as beats per minute (bpm)

Heart rate monitor (HRM)  – A device that measures the electrical activity of the heart; this may be through a wrist based monitor, chest strap, or in ear monitor

Heat Index  – The combined effects of the temperature and humidity in the air

High arch  – Foot does not roll much with ground contact which doesn’t absorb as much shock; will just see ball of foot and heel on paper bag test

Hill repeats  – Run up hill then down, repeat for determined number of times or distance

Hills  – Important to build leg strength and endurance; run in a hilly area or set the treadmill at an incline

Hitting the wall / Bonk  – A state of exhaustion where your glycogen stores are depleted and blood sugar levels are low; this sometimes hits from mile 18 on in a marathon without proper fueling

Hydration pack  – A lightweight breathable backpack that contains a bladder and hose to carry water or other fluids that you can drink on the go, usually also contains other pockets for storing fuels and other necessities

IAAF  – International Association of Athletics Federations; the worldwide organization that governs running

Ice bath  – Submersing in cool to cold water for 10+ minutes after a hard workout to reduce inflammation; also see torture

Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)  – Inflammation of IT band which runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to just below the knee; most often occurs where the band crosses over the outside of the knee and also at hip

Intervals – Training in which short, fast repeats or repetitions often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow intervals of jogging for recovery; usually based on a rigid format such as six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 400-meter recovery jogs [the intervals], interval training builds speed and endurance.

IOC – International Olympic Committee. More information can be found at www.olympic.org.

Kick  – A fast finishing sprint at the end of a run or race

Lactate threshold – See anaerobic threshold.

Lactic acid – A substance which forms in the muscles as a result of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Lactic acid is associated with muscle fatigue and sore muscles.

Ladder intervals  – A workout where increasing intervals are run with recovery jogs in between; 200m-400m-600m-800m

Long run  – The weekly mileage buildup, the most important run of the week consisting of 25-30% of your weekly mileage, depending your on goal race and experience level it could be from 4-26 miles

Loop  – Starting your run or race at one point and then running in a big circle to end at the same location

LSD  – Long slow distance

Marathon  – 26.2 miles; 42.2k

Marathon pace  – The pace you plan to hold during your goal marathon; many training plans will call for some marathon pace runs

Master  – An athlete 40 years of age or older

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)  – The highest number of contractions your heart can make in one minute; a common way to estimate this is to take 220- your age

Midsole – The area of the shoe between the upper and outsole that’s primarily responsible for the shoe’s cushioning. Most midsoles are made of foams: either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or polyurethane. EVA is lighter and more flexible than polyurethane, but it also breaks down more quickly. Many midsoles also have additional cushioning elements such as air, gel and various embedded plastic units.

Mile – 1609 meters, 5280 feet, or 1760 yards. Note: 1600m is not a mile.

Minimalist Running Shoes – Minimalist shoes are low-to-the-ground shoes that have little material (rubber, foam, etc.) Between a runner’s foot and the ground.

Motion control – The ability of a shoe to limit overpronation.

MPM  – Minutes per mile

MPW  – Miles per week

Negative split  – Running the second half of a race faster than the first half; ideal way to pace most races

Normal/medium arch  – Refers to an arch that ideally supports your body weight and pronates normally under load- half of arch region filled in with paper bag test; most common foot type

Orthotics  – Shoe inserts to correct biomechanical problems

Out and back  – A course where you run out a certain distance and then turn around and run back the same way

Outsole – The material, usually made of hard carbon rubber, on the bottom of most running shoes; the layer of the shoe that contacts the ground.

Overpronation – The excessive inward roll of the foot before toe-off. Overpronation is believed to be the cause of many running injuries.

Overtraining  – Doing too much in training which can lead to fatigue, injury, or burn out

Pace  – A measurement of speed of running, usually measured as how many minutes it takes you to run a mile or kilometer

Pacer  – This is someone who runs with you to help keep you on pace, this can range from a running partner to a sanctioned pacer during a race. Using unofficial pacers (an unregistered runner) during a race is not allowed

Peak  – Scheduling your training so that your best performance is timed for a race

Pick-ups – Accelerations done during a run, normally done in shorter durations than fartleks. Pick-ups are simply another way to spice up what would otherwise be an easy-run day.

Piriformis Syndrome (PS)  – Irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by compression of the nerve within the buttock by the piriformis muscle

Plantar fascitis (PF)  – Involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes

Plyometrics – Bounding exercises; any jumping exercise in which landing followed by a jump occurs.

Point to point  – A course that begins and ends at widely separated locations

Positive split  – Running the second half of the race slower than the first half

Post (or medial post) – Firmer density of midsole material added to the inner side of the shoe. A post is designed to reduce overpronation.

PR/PB  – Personal Record or personal best; the fastest time you’ve done for a given distance

Pronation  – Refers to the inward roll of your foot during part of your running stride

Pylometrics  – A type of exercise designed to produce fast, powerful movements; the muscle is loaded and contracted in rapid sequence

Quad buster  – Long downhill stretches of running

Rest day  – No running or intense physical activity, an important day to rest your body and mind

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)  – Your heart rate when you first wake up in the morning and before getting out of bed

RICE  – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation; used to treat certain injuries

Ride  – The feel of a shoe during the foot strike, should be a smooth feeling but this is subjective

Road runner  – A runner who does most of their training and races on the roads

RRCA  – Road Runner’s Club of America

Run/walk/run or Galloway Method  – A system of planned running and walking intervals during a run or race, can be anywhere from a certain distance to time ratio, distance/distance ratio, or time/time ratio

Runner’s High  – A happy and relaxed feeling that can happen during or after a run from the release of endorphins

Runner’s Knee or (Patello-Femoral Syndrome)  – The kneecap (patella) rubbing on the front of the thigh bone (femur) causing pain under or around the kneecap

Runners trots  – Gastrointestinal (GI) problems on the run resulting in diarrhea

Running economy – Refers to how much oxygen you use when you run. When you improve your economy, you are able to run at a smaller percentage of max VO2 (your maximum rate of oxygen utilization).

Second wind  – Feeling more energy and using less effort after running for at least 15-20 minutes

Shell  – Lightweight jacket worn over other clothing which is useful for mildly cool temps; can be compressed to fit in a pack

Single track  – A trail running term referring to a course that is only wide enough to allow for one runner at a time

Singlet  – A technical tank top worn while running, often used for races

Speedwork  – Increasing the pace of your run according to a schedule to improve leg power, strength, and confidence; training yourself to go faster

Splits  – A race or run’s total time divided into parts (usually km or miles)

Static stretching  – A stretch held in a challenging but comfortable position typically for 10-60 seconds

Stitch  – Side cramp

Stress fracture (SFX)  – A hairline crack in the bone

Stretching  – Movements to increase muscle, ligament, and joint flexibility; best done after exercise when the muscles are warm

strides – Short, fast, but controlled runs of 50 to 150 meters. Strides, which are used both in training and to warm up before a race, build speed and efficiency.

Supination  – Foot does not have a sufficient inward roll or even may roll to the outside during the running stride

Swag  – The goodies or items given either before or after a race- this can include coupons, samples, food items, apparel, cups/mugs, etc

Taper  – Decreasing mileage and intensity for several days to three weeks before a race to ensure peak performance

target heart rate – A range of heart rate reached during aerobic training, which enables an athlete to gain maximum benefit.

Technical  – A trail running term referring to how challenging or difficult the trail is- a highly technical trail would include things like natural obstacles (water crossings, rock climbs, steep up and down hills, ungroomed trails, etc)

Technical / tech shirt or gear  – A running shirt made of wicking fabric

Tempo Run (aka Lactate Threshold or Threshold Run) – Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. Another way to gauge the pace of tempo runs: a pace about midway between short-interval training speed and your easy running pace.

Tendonitis  – Inflammation of a tendon

Tights  – Form fitting running pants

Timing chip  – A device you tie to your shoe or that is attached to the back of your race bib that measures your time when you cross a timing mat in a race

Timing mat  – An electronic device placed across the course that records your personal time when you cross it, usually found at the start line, halfway point and finish line (but there may be more)

Toebox – The front portion of a shoe’s upper. A wide toebox allows plenty of room for the toes to spread.

Training Log  – A training record to increase your motivation, monitor progress, and spot trends in your running, this can be an online log, spreadsheet, or paper

Tri/triathlon  – A race which involves swimming, cycling and running, the most common triathlon distances include the sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5k run), Olympic or standard (1.5k/40km/10k), ½ Ironman (1.2 miles/56 miles/13.1 miles), Ironman (2.4 miles/112 miles/26.2miles)

Ultra marathon  – Any distance greater than 26.2 miles but typically referring to a 50k race or beyond

Underpronator – Underpronation is less common than overpronation. The shoes of underpronators show outsole wear on the lateral (outer) side not just at the heel but all the way up to the forefoot. Typically, underpronators tend to break down the heel counters of their shoes on the lateral side.

Unofficial aid station  – A private individual(s) who have a spot to hand out food or liquids during a race—be careful because accepting unofficial aid from anywhere except official aid stations can result in disqualification for awards

Upper – The leather or mesh material that encloses the foot.

USATF – USA Track and Field. More information can be found at www.usatf.org.

USOC – United States Olympic Committee. More information can be found at www.usoc.org.

VO2Max (maximal oxygen consumption) – The maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere and then transport and use in the body’s tissues.

Volunteer  – A person donating their time to help out during a race

Warm up  – Walk for at least 2-5 minutes before starting a slow jog to warm up and loosen the muscles prior to workout

Water/aqua jogging  – A cross training exercise in which the running motion is done in a pool or body of water usually using a buoyancy belt so that your feet don’t touch the bottom and the workout is low impact

Wave start  – Each corral starts the race staggered anywhere from a few seconds to minutes apart to help with course congestion

Weight training/Strength training  – These are sometimes used interchangeably and refer to exercises focused on developing the strength and size of muscles; weight training would involves weights while strength training could use just body weight exercises

Wicking  – The ability of a fiber to move moisture from the skin to surface of fabric so it can evaporate and keep you dry

Wind Chill  – Refers to the lower temperature caused by a combination of the ambient temp and the wind

WR  – World record

XC  – Cross country

XT/cross-train  – A low-impact activity to perform on the days you don’t run that will increase your conditioning, help prevent injury, and add variety to your workout schedule. Examples: swimming, cycling, elliptical, rowing, walking, weight-training, yoga, pilates, exercise videos, etc)

Zero drop  – Equal height between the heel and forefoot in a shoe, this does not necessarily mean it is a minimalist shoe. If you’re transitioning to a zero drop shoe for the first time you should be careful and do this very gradually