Tag: Jeff Gaudette

Long Run: Too Much Emphasis?

Are you Putting Too Much Emphasis on the Long Run as Part of Your Marathon Training?

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

marathon long run overratedThe marathon long run is overrated.

In my experience, too many beginner runners (those training to run slower than 3:45) focus on trying to get in multiple 20 or 22 milers in their training segment at the expense of improving more critical physiological systems. More importantly, scientific research has shown that runs of over 3 hours offer little aerobic benefit compared to runs of 2 hours while significantly increasing injury risk.

As such, rather than cramming your marathon training schedule with multiple 20-22 milers that increase your injury risk and recovery time without decisive aerobic advantages, you should focus on improving your aerobic threshold, teaching your body to use fat as a fuel source, and building your overall tolerance for running on tired legs through accumulated fatigue.

Since the long run is such an ingrained element of marathon training, and suggesting they are overrated sounds blasphemous to many veterans, I am going to provide you with scientific research, relevant examples, and suggestions on how to better structure your training to help you run your next marathon faster.

The science of the long run

Most beginner runners training for the marathon are averaging anywhere from 9 minutes to 12 minutes per mile on their long runs (3:45 to 5-hour finishing time). At a pace of 10 minutes per mile, a runner will take roughly 3-hours and 40-minutes to finish a 21-mile run. While there is no doubt that a 21-mile run (or longer) can be a great confidence booster, from a training and physiological standpoint, they don’t make too much sense. Here’s why:

Research has shown that your body doesn’t see a significant increase in aerobic development, specifically mitochondrial development, when running over 90 minutes. The majority of physiological stimulus of long runs occurs between the 60 and 90 minute mark. This means that after running for 3 hours, aerobic benefits (capillary building, mitochondrial development) aren’t markedly better than when you run for only 2 hours. Therefore, a long run of over 3 hours builds about as much aerobic fitness as one lasting 2 hours.

Furthermore, running for longer than 3 hours significantly increases your chance of injury. Your form begins to break down, your major muscles become weak and susceptible to injury, and overuse injuries begin to take their toll. This risk is more prevalent for beginner runners whose aerobic capabilities (because of cross training and other activities), exceed their musculoskeletal readiness. Basically, their bodies aren’t ready to handle what their lungs can.

Not only are aerobic benefits diminished while injury risk rises, recovery time is significantly lengthened. The total amount of time on your feet during a 3-hour plus run adds considerable fatigue to the legs, which leads to a significant delay in recovery time. In the long-term, this means you can’t complete more marathon specific workouts throughout the following week, which I believe, and research has shown, are a more important component to marathon success.

Why is the 20-mile long run so popular

Given the overwhelming scientific evidence against long runs of over 3 hours, why are they so prevalent in marathon training?

  • First, many people have a mental hurdle when it comes to the 20 mile distance. The marathon is the only race that you can’t easily run in training before your goal race.Therefore, like the 4 minute mile and the 100 mile week, the 20 mile long run becomes a mental barrier that feels like an obtainable focus point. Once you can get that 2 in front of your total for the day, you should have no problem running the last 10k, or so your mind believes. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true from a physiological standpoint.
  • Second, the foundation for marathon training still comes from the 1970′s and 1980′s at the beginning of the running boom. Marathoning hadn’t quite hit the numbers it has today (you could sign up for most marathons, including Boston, the day before the race) and the average finishing time at most races was closer to 3 hours (today that number is near 4 hours). As such, the basis for how to train for a marathon came from runners who averaged close to 6 minutes per mile for the entire race. Therefore, 20 and 22 milers were common for these athletes as a run of this distance would only take them about 2.5 hours to finish at an easy pace.
  • Moreover, the 20-mile distance is synonymous with “hitting the wall” or “bonking”. Hitting the wall frequently occurred at 20 miles because your body can store, on average, two hours of glycogen when running at marathon pace. Two hours for a 6-minute per mile marathoner occurs almost exactly at 20 miles.

In short, the basis for a lot of our understanding of marathon training is passed down from generation to generation without regard for the current paces of today’s marathoners. Therefore, we also need to reassess where the long run fits into the training cycle and how we can get the most benefit from training week in and week out.

How to train smarter

I suggest that you downplay the role of the long run if you’re training to run 3:45 or slower and focus instead on improving your aerobic threshold (the fastest pace you can run aerobically and burn fat efficiently) and utilize the theory of accumulated fatigue to get your legs prepared to handle the full 26 miles, without needing to run the full distance.

For example, you should focus on stringing out your workouts and mileage over the course of the week, rather than having 40 to 50 percent of your weekly mileage come from the long run, which increases the total amount of quality running you can do and decreases the potential for injury.

The question still remains, however, about how do you get your legs prepared to run for 26 miles?

The answer lies in the theory of accumulated fatigue.

  • By shortening your long run to the 16 to 18-mile range and buttressing it against a shorter, but steady paced run the day before, you’re able to simulate the fatigue you’ll experience at the end of the race.
  • In addition, when you have shorter long runs, you’re able to increase the total quality and quantity of tempo and aerobic threshold workouts throughout your training week. Instead of needing four to five days to fully recover from a 3-hour plus run, with a shorter long run, you can recover in one or two days and get in more total work at marathon pace or faster. Developing your aerobic threshold is the most important training adaptation to get faster at the marathon distance because it lowers the effort level required to run goal pace and teaches your body how to conserve fuel while running at marathon pace. The more work you can do to improve aerobic threshold and your ability to burn fat as a fuel source, the faster you can run the marathon.
  • Finally, with a focus on shorter, more frequent long runs, you can implement faster training elements, such as fast finish long runs or surges, which allow you to increase the overall quality of your long runs. Running your long runs more intensely teaches your body how to run marathon pace while tired, and also increase your body’s ability to store energy for the end of the race and use fat as a fuel source more efficiently.

When you balance out the gains you can get from finishing a long run fast and upbeat with the potential drawbacks from an extended, 3-hour plus long run, you can see why a shorter, faster long run is the better training option for almost all marathoners aiming to finish over 3:45.

This is a somewhat controversial, and frightening, topic for most runners, so I welcome you comments, thoughts and questions.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

Diet of Kenyan Runners

A Scientific Look at the Diet of the World’s Fastest Runners

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

diet of kenyan runnersStudying the diets of elite runners can not only be a fun comparison to your own nutritional intake, it can also be a great way to better appreciate and confirm many of the scientifically proven nutritional concepts experts believe help improve performance and health.

And, if we’re going to learn from elites, it makes sense to learn from the best – Kenyan runners.

If you’re not familiar, Kenyan runners of the Kalenjin tribe won approximately 40 percent of all major international middle and long-distance races from 1987 to 1997. Studying the dietary habits of Kenyan runners, who are clearly some of the fastest runners in the world, is a fascinating endeavor.

However, there have traditionally been two problems with studying the dietary habits of Kenyan athletes. First, Kenya is a third world country and thus gathering information from individual runners about their diet isn’t easy. Many elite (and not so elite) runners in the US gladly share their diets through blogs and social media. Unfortunately, you won’t find many Kenyans blogging about their training.

Second, even if when we can find a sample diet from an elite Kenyan runner, that doesn’t answer the question about the dietary principles of a nation as a whole. To really understand how the Kenyan diet works, we need a sampling of many different runners.

Luckily, some recent (at least in terms of scientific literature) studies have tackled this subject and provided some fascinating data about the Kenyan diet as a whole. Even better for the RunnersConect audience, I’ve had the privilege to briefly train and live with some Kenyan runners and have seen their diets in practice.

In this article, we’ll examine the scientific data on the diet of Kenyan runners, break down what it means, and then compare their nutritional intake to that recommended by nutrition experts.

Research on the diet of Kenyan runners

The bulk of our data comes from two studies, the first in 2002 and the second in 2004, which analyzed the diets of a group of Kenyan runners and compared their nutritional intake to traditional endurance athlete recommendations.

In the 2002 study, the researchers simply asked a large group of Kenyan runners to recall their diet for the past 24 hours. The second study in 2004 was a little more thorough and followed a group of ten runners and recorded their food intake for seven days. As such, the data we’ll focus on for this article will come primarily from this second study and we’ll use the 2002 study to compare and verify accuracy.

What time of day did the Kenyans eat and train

The Kenyan runners were given access to as much food as they wanted and allowed to eat whenever they felt hungry. Generally, the elite runners fell into the pattern of eating five times a day. Typically, their meals broke down as such:

8am – Breakfast
10am – Mid-morning snack
1pm – Lunch
4pm – Afternoon snack
7pm – Supper

For reference, the Kenyan’s trained two times a day. The morning session began at 6 am. This was their longer, more intense session. On non-workout days, they ran nine to fifteen miles starting easy and progressively getting faster as they warmed-up. Hard workout days were your typical VO2max or tempo run sessions.

In the afternoon, they ran an easy four to five miles. All the athletes were training for the Kenyan Cross Country Championship, which is 12km. Therefore, they were not marathon training.

Daily macronutrient intake of Kenyan runners

Not surprisingly, a majority of the calories in the Kenyan diet came from carbohydrates. In the ten runners studied, 76.5 percent of daily calories were consumed as carbohydrates.

Given their body statistics, this meant each runner was consuming about 10.4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.

Moreover, given how they spread out their eating times and training sessions, each athlete was consuming about 600 grams of carbohydrate per day, with almost 120 grams of carbohydrate at every meal.

Protein intake amounted to 10.1 percent of calorie intake. That equals roughly 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

About 13.4 percent of daily calories came from fat

How does a Kenyan diet compare to recommendations for endurance athletes

Despite not knowing much about the science of sports nutrition, the diet of these Kenyan runners was surprisingly close to that recommended by sports nutritionist.


Most sports-nutrition experts recommend that runners who are training at high mileage consume about nine or ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass per day. While an average of 10.4 grams is just a little over the recommended consumption, it’s clear the Kenyans were following scientific protocol without realizing it.

This number may seem like a lot (and it is for sedentary people), especially given the latest trends towards Paleo and less carbohydrate-rich diets. However, as athletes trying to compete at the highest level of their sport, replenishing glycogen stores and fueling their body for recovery is essential to the high-intensity training they were conducting.


In regards to protein, the Kenyans’ diet was once again closely in line with the recommendation of top sports-nutritionists, who suggest consuming 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Since these runners were training for a 12km distance, not a marathon, the 1.2 grams they were consuming is appropriate for their muscle recovery and rebuilding needs.

What types of foods did they eat

This particular study didn’t break down an exact daily diet, but the researchers did provide data for the amount of calories from many of the most commonly consumed foods. Plus, having trained with some Kenyans myself, I have a pretty good understanding of what these foods were. The data may surprise you.

  • Sugar – plain sugar – accounted for 20 percent of daily calories. The Kenyans love their tea (in fact, tea consumption was greater than water consumption – 1.243 liters per day on average) and they love putting lots of milk and sugar in their tea. Having trained with some Kenyans myself, I can attest to just how much tea they drink and how much milk and sugar they use. It’s incredible.However, a large amount of this sugar also comes from fruits. Immediately after most runs, Kenyans consume some type of fruit, typically watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. The simple sugar and water from the fruit speeds glycogen to their muscles post workout.
  • Ugali supplied the greatest number of total calories, making up 23 percent of the daily diet. Ugali is simply a dish of maize flour (cornmeal) cooked with water. Kenyan runners eat this for dinner almost every night. Generally, it’s mixed with a chicken or beef stew and vegetables.When made correctly it actually taste better than it sounds. My college teammate Jordan and I once tried living off Ugali for an entire summer. Unfortunately, our cooking skills sucked and it tasted terrible. But, we were broke so we ate it anyway.
  • While so far, the diet of a Kenyan runner looks rather unhealthy due to our “sugar is bad” culture, Kenyans do eat rather healthy. About 86 percent of daily calories came from vegetable sources, with 14 percent from animal foods. Moreover, they didn’t have access to junk food (at least in the training camp) that most Americans do.

If you’re looking to eat like a Kenyan runner

While the Kenyan runner diet runs contrary to general recommendations for non-runners and our societies shifting perspective on sugar and carbohydrates, the Kenyan diet is actually a good framework to follow if you’re running a lot of miles and training hard.

Their diet is in close step with that recommended by leading sports-nutritionist and it’s also made up of mostly natural, whole foods. With a high carbohydrate intake, adequate protein ingestion, and perfect timing of meals, the top Kenyan runners are eating optimally — doing the things at the dinner table which are necessary for them to perform at the world’s highest level.

If you’re just getting started or trying to lose weight, the diet is probably a little too high in carbohydrates and simple sugars for your needs. However, you can still take a page from the Kenyan runner and time your meals, eat whole foods, and fuel your muscles for recovery.

Bonus material

Here are some great videos that discuss or demonstrate some of the dietary habits of Kenyan runners.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

What Can the Ancient Greeks Teach You About Proper Training Progression

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 12.38.40 AMGreek tragedies and myths are fantastic pieces of literature. They possess a poetic literary style, are captivating stories, and tell tales of heroes we can revere. More importantly, Greek tragedies are written as covert life-lessons we can learn from if we look close enough.

The story of Olympian Milo of Croton is a prime example.

Milo was a famous wrestler in the ancient Olympic games. Milo won six gold medals in six years – a feat never before accomplished. As a small child, Milo knew he wanted to become the strongest and most prolific athlete in Greece. So, he took to the task of progressively and methodically making himself stronger every day. To achieve his dream, Milo found a bull calf and began carrying it around on his shoulders. Each day, he hoisted the same bull onto his shoulders and carried it around. As the bull grew in size and weight, so did Milo’s strength as it adapted to the ever-growing bull. As an adult, Milo was the strongest of all the Greeks and was able to lift a full grown bull with ease.

Of course, the tale of Milo’s childhood is likely a myth, but the story does illustrate the basic principles of progressive training. More importantly, Milo’s story highlights important lessons runners can learn from when it comes to how the plan and think about their training. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into Milo’s story and show how you can learn from this ancient myth.

Don’t be intimidated by future training

When I write training schedules, I rarely write more than three or four weeks at a time. Primarily, this is because training almost never goes as planned and it doesn’t make sense to plan for what will certainly change. However, on the occasion that I do need to write a schedule more than a few weeks in advance, I inevitably run into the same problem – athletes get intimidated.

When runners examine a training schedule, their eyes immediately go to the last six to eight weeks of training. They see the impressive workouts, mileage, and tough long runs and quickly get intimidated. Not surprisingly, I quickly get an email that sounds something like: “Coach, you’re crazy! I can’t run x miles at y pace – I can barely do that for 3 miles now. Maybe you sent me the wrong schedule”

I understand the fear these runners face. But, let’s look at the story of Milo for advice. As a child, or even a teenager, if you had asked Milo to pick up a full grown bull, he couldn’t have done it. If Milo had only considered the end result – picking up a full grown bull – he might have been too intimidated to start.

Your takeaway lesson

Don’t worry about the workouts, mileage, and long runs in your training schedule that aren’t in the immediate future. Focus on one workout and one week at a time. Each week, you’ll get a little stronger and a little faster and when those intimidating workouts arrive, you’ll be ready to tackle them head on.

Don’t get discouraged when you don’t see results every day

Once beginner runners get over the initial idea that running sucks because it always hurts, training becomes a consistent flurry of personal bests. You’re running your farthest distance and most total miles on a weekly basis. Almost every time you run the same route you set a new record for pace. Running is fantastic because it’s easy to see that you’re getting better almost everyday.

Then, hitting these new personal bests starts to get a little harder. Eventually, if you continue to run long enough, setting a new personal best in training (and racing for that matter) is almost impossible. You sometimes feel that you’re working hard, but not seeing any results.

I am sure Milo felt the same way and had a similar experience as he carried that bull around. He must have felt like a f****ing bad ass walking around with that bull the first few weeks (I know I would). Then, the novelty wore off and he realized picking up the bull never got any easier. However, when Milo looked back on his former self as an adult, I am sure it was easy to see his progress.

Your takeaway lesson

Don’t measure your progress in daily, weekly, or even monthly blocks. Training adaptations don’t happen that quickly once you’re already fit. Instead, reflect on how far you’ve come in the past year or the past six to eight months. Compare your pace, long runs, and how you handle training now to a year ago and I am sure you’ll see the signs of progress.

You have to start somewhere and there’s no skipping steps

In today’s culture, we’ve been conditioned to want and expect things to come instantly. In training, we all want to run more miles, qualify for Boston, or run our first marathon…and we want to do it now. However, that mentality, and the type of training it fosters, inevitably leads to injury and overtraining.

Milo had to start at the beginning. He didn’t try lifting a full-grown bull on his first try and he didn’t switch out his regular bull for the heavier or more fully-grown bull mid-way through his endeavor. If he had, he would have likely become injured. Each day, Milo took a small step forward and he never tried to skip steps.

Your takeaway

Sometimes you have to start from the beginning, even if the beginning seems so far away from your ultimate goal. For example, if you’re constantly injured, take a step back and don’t continually drop from race to race. Start from the beginning. Build your aerobic base slowly and let your muscles, tendons and ligaments adapt to the mileage. Likewise, don’t try to skip steps or take shortcuts. If you have a race coming up and you’re not ready, don’t force training you’re not ready to handle. Always take the next logical step in your training. If you do so, you’re guaranteed to reach you goal.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure tocheck out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

Treadmill vs. Running Outside

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Is running on a treadmill the same as running outside? It’s a common question and despite conflicting opinions, scientific research has shown that running on the treadmill is roughly the same as running outside if you make a few simple adjustments.  In fact, there are some types of workouts you can do better on a treadmill than you can outside. However, running on a treadmill does have it’s disadvantages, and for some runners, a mile on the “hamster wheel” feels like ten miles outdoors.

So, in this article, I’m going to show you the potential benefits and negatives of treadmill running, how to adjust your workouts to make treadmill running equivalent to logging miles outdoors, and give you some tips to make treadmill running more “enjoyable” when it’s necessary.

Running outside vs. on a treadmill

The first thing we need to examine is whether running on a treadmill is the same as running outside.

On one hand, with a treadmill, the belt is moving under you and there is no wind resistance for your body to counter, so it should be easier to run. Theoretically, you could jump up and down on a treadmill and it would record that you’re running at whatever speed the belt is moving. Outside, your legs have to propel your motion forward while pushing through the resulting wind resistance (however minor it may be).

Luckily, scientific research has proven that setting the treadmill to a 1% grade accurately reflects the energy costs and simulates outdoor running. Therefore, by setting the treadmill to a 1% grade, you can offset the lack of wind resistance and the belt moving under you to make treadmill running the same effort as running outdoors.

Corroborating research has shown that VO2 max is the same when running on a treadmill compared to outside, clearly demonstrating that running on a treadmill is as effective as running outside. Furthermore, research reveals that bio-mechanical patterns did not change when test subjects ran on a treadmill versus when they ran outside.

Therefore, we can decisively conclude that running on a treadmill has the same effect as running outside when running at a 1% grade.

Benefit of treadmill running versus outdoor running

Because we now know that running outside and running on the treadmill are basically the same at a 1% grade, we can identify the specific workouts or instances when running on a treadmill might actually be better than running outside.

When the weather and footing are bad

This is the most obvious benefit of treadmill running, but it’s important to include because elements effect every runner differently. Personally, I have a very difficult time when it’s hot or there is bad footing; however, put me on a clear road on a cold or rainy day and I’m a machine. You may be the opposite, so don’t be afraid to hit the treadmill on the days you need to. Getting in a good workout on the treadmill is better than suffering through a bad run or getting hurt.

Simulating race courses while indoors

One of the unique benefits of a treadmill is the ability to simulate your goal race course. Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you create your own unique course profile, which you can use to simulate the exact course you’re training for. Just program the machine, or if you don’t have that option, manually adjust the incline levels based on the course map, and you can train on the course any day of the week.

For runners training for the Boston marathon, you can even put lifts under the back end of the treadmill to simulate downhill running. This trick is something I learned while running as part of the Hansons Olympic Development project. You can now simulate the pounding of the downhills on your quads and be better prepared for the opening miles on race day.

Fluid and carbohydrate intake

As I’ve discussed many times, it’s critical that you practice taking in fluids and carbohydrates on your runs to teach yourself how to eat and drink without stopping. Obviously, this can be a logistical nightmare if you don’t plan on carrying your water or gels with you. Running a tempo run or long run on the treadmill will allow you to practice eating and drinking without slowing down. While the treadmill won’t make the actual act of eating or drinking any easier, it can make it logistically possible.

Disadvantages of treadmill running versus outdoor running

While running on the treadmill can have some unique advantages, it can also be detrimental to your long-term development if the only time you run outside is to race. Here are some specific areas you need to watch out for if you’re a habitual treadmill runner:

You don’t learn how to pace on a treadmill

When running on a treadmill, it’s easy to “set it and forget it” and just lock into a target pace. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t teach you how to properly find and maintain pace on your own. As a consequence, you stunt the development of your internal effort and pacing instincts. On race day, when executing race splits is critical, you won’t have developed that fine sense of pacing that is crucial to running a negative split and finishing strong.

The treadmill is boring

For the majority of runners, running on the treadmill is boring. Without scenery passing you by and something to take your mind off the blinking lights in front of you, it’s too easy to look at the clock every 30 seconds and get discouraged that more time hasn’t passed since your last glance. Likewise, when you’re running a tough workout outside, you can “feel” the finish line getting closer and you have a more natural sense of the distance remaining. On a treadmill, your mind can’t visualize the finish line, so it becomes harder to concentrate when the pace gets hard and you need to push yourself.

In my opinion, you should approach running on a treadmill like you should with everything in life – in moderation. The treadmill can be a great training tool and essential for those of us who live in harsh weather environments (both hot and cold). However, don’t neglect the specific skills you need to develop by running outside on occasion.

Do you have any good tips for killing the boredom on a treadmill or unique ways you’ve implemented treadmill training? Let us know in the comments section, we would love to hear your story.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

Hard Days Hard, Easy Days Easy

A Simple Principle for Incorporating Strength Training into a Running Routine

Guest blog by Jeff Guadette (RunnersConnect)

Whether the desired outcome is general fitness, increased explosiveness and stride efficiency, or injury prevention, most runners understand the importance of adding strength training to their running schedule.

However, despite clearly understanding the potential benefits of strength training, few runners actually incorporate it into their training schedules on a consistent basis.

When asked why not, the most of these runners concede that they don’t know how to properly integrate it into their schedule for maximum results.

Specifically, the big question most have is if they should do their strength work after their hard workouts or on their easy days.

This decision quandary can paralyze runners because they end up feeling uncertain whether the extra time they spending on strength training is worth it, and thus they skip it all together.

Luckily, there is a simple rule you can follow that answers this burning question: Keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy.

In this article, we’ll delve into what exactly this statement means and how it impacts your approach to strength training.

The philosophy behind performing your strength workouts on hard workout days

The philosophy behind keeping your hard days hard and your easy days easy is simple: You want to incorporate your hardest strength-training workouts on your hardest workout days so that your easy days remain as easy as possible for maximum recovery.

If you were to perform harder strength workouts, especially anything that involves the lower body, on your easy running day the added stress and shortened total recovery time between workouts would detract from your body’s recovery ability. This is the single most important reason to include strength training on your hard workout days.

In addition to allowing you to properly recover between workouts, performing your hard strength training days on your intensive workout days also provides a few additional benefits:

  • Prevents you from going too hard during strength training
  • Since running is the most important part the training plan, it should comprise the most of your available energy and focus.

While this process would leave you more tired for your strength workout, and consequently unable to be as strong or explosive as you would like, it’s actually a benefit. Being tired will prevent you from going too hard or lifting too heavy, which happens too frequently when runners are fresh when they hit the weights.

Burns more calories and aids in recovery

Scientists from Brigham Young University found that post-exercise metabolism increased most when people did intense cardio first and lifted weights afterward. This means that you’ll burn more calories, and burn them for longer, if you do your strength training after your more intense running sessions.

Likewise, researchers from the College of New Jersey found that following weight training, heart rate and blood lactic acid returned to resting levels faster, which means you could potentially recover from hard running faster if you perform strength training that day.

The downsides to strength training on workout days

While the “hard days hard, easy days easy” philosophy is the best approach to incorporating strength training, it does have a few drawbacks.

First, you have to be extra careful to perform exercises correctly. As noted above, you will be tired when performing your strength sessions after hard workouts. As a consequence, you need to be extra cautious and ensure that you perform the exercises with proper form. The more tired you get, the easier it is to cheat or put your body in positions that could lead to injury.

To overcome this potential issue, focus intently on your form by performing each exercise slowly and use lighter weights to start. It’s much more effective, and safe, to perform exercises with a light weight and slow movements as opposed to rushing through a workout and trying to lift as much as you can.

Hard workout days are already your longest days

For most runners, hard workout days already consume quite a bit of time. Add together the warm-up, stretching, rest intervals and cool down and 5 x 1 mile takes much longer than running 5 miles straight. Therefore, it may be impossible to fit in a 15-30 minute strength-training session after what has already been a long workout.

One potential solution is to split up the running workout and strength routine into a morning and afternoon/evening session. Generally, strength training sessions don’t take too long, so it can be squeezed into your routine when you get home from work or before bed.

Putting it together

The final piece of the puzzle is how to incorporate the “hard days hard, easy days easy” principle when you have multiple strength training sessions or only one workout per week. In this case you should schedule:

  • your hardest, most running-specific strength routines after your hardest workouts
  • your medium effort routines (like basic core or hip routines) on your regular running days
  • any preventive routines on your off or recovery days

Below is a sample week that incorporates 7 days per week of strength training that you can modify to fit your needs (you don’t have to strength train 7 days a week, but this outline should help you see where each type of routine would fit):

Monday Easy Run + core routine (moderate)

Tuesday Speed Workout + Leg training (difficult)

Wednesday Off or Recovery run + preventive exercises (easy)

Thursday Easy Run + core routine (moderate)

Friday Tempo Workout + plyometrics (difficult)

Saturday Run + general strength – gym or bodyweight (moderate)

Sunday Long run + speed and form drills (easy to moderate)

If you’ve been struggling with how to incorporate strength routines into your training plan, try using the “hard days hard, easy days easy approach.”You’ll ensure that you recover before your next hard workout while still getting maximum benefit from your time spent strength training. If you want an exact prescription for how to add strength training to your schedule for any race distance, check out our strength training for runners program.

A version of this article originally appeared on competitor.com and is a part of the strength training for runners program

Why Runners Get Hurt

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (courtesy of RunnersConnect)

Recent research has shown that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once during the year.

Stop. Think about that number for a moment.

Nearly 8 out of every 10 runners you see at your next race have been or will be injured sometime that year.

Recently, a lot of the attention in regards to running injuries has been focused on the bio-mechanical aspects; specifically, footwear and the minimalist movement. And while I believe 100% that finding the optimal foot strike and running gait for each individual person is critical, it’s not the first place runners should start looking when it comes to the predominance of running injuries.

In my coaching experience, there’s often a much easier solution to the running injury problem – training. And that’s what we’ll cover in this article.

The two primary reasons runners get hurt

I believe that runners primarily get injured for two reasons:

  • Structural imbalances, such as having one leg shorter than another, bio-mechanical issues,  or experiencing a severe weakness in a certain muscle group.
  • Progressing their training volume and running speeds at a pace that their body is not ready to handle. Or, as coach Jay Johnson would technically define it, “metabolic fitness precedes structural readiness”.

As a running coach, I deal in both of these injury realities and have confronted both in my own running career. As I mentioned before, there is no doubt bio-mechanical and structural deficiencies are an important part of the equation. However, this post will focus on the importance of proper training progression since structural imbalances are something that need to be addressed outside the training cycle, is a slow process, and often requires the help of a good physical therapist, podiatrist, or chiropractor.

Structural vs. metabolic changes

Don’t be intimidated by the “science” sounding title of this article. Structural versus metabolic changes simply means that a runner’s aerobic and anaerobic fitness develops at a faster rate than their tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones. For example, you may be able to head out the door and hammer out a long run or a tempo run at 8 minutes per mile (or whatever your tempo pace is), but your hips might not be strong enough yet to handle the stress of the pace or the length of the run and, as a result, your IT band becomes inflamed.

This experience is very common for runners who get recurring shin splints when they first start running. Their aerobic fitness is allowing them to continue to increase the distance of their runs because they no longer feel “winded” at the end of each run; however their shin muscles haven’t adapted to the increased pounding caused by the increase in distance and they quickly become injured.

In my opinion, a runner has two ways to combat these types of injuries: (1) continually address the structural system during training; and (2) progress the volume and speed work at a level the body is capable of adapting to.

Addressing the structural system

To address the structural system, I think runners should start with a running-specific strength routine that includes lots of core work so they can identify any weak areas. Research has also shown that hip strength , or lack thereof, strongly correlates with running knee injuries. Therefore, a hip strengthening program may also be beneficial.

By strengthening the core and running specific muscles, you can “speed up” the progress of the structural system and begin adding in longer and faster workouts earlier in the training cycle.

Furthermore, for beginner runners, or those who are unable to run the volume they desire, you can perform running specific strength exercises that improve your strength and flexibility while still providing an aerobic component. To accomplish this, I often have runners perform what I call the “machine” workout.

While addressing the structural aspect is important, I think the most critical component to staying injury-free is ensuring that your training plan follows a patient and planned progression while gradually introducing running at your desired goal race distance and race pace.

Jumping into speed work too quickly

When I analyze generic schedules, I often see a quick progression from easy running to full-blown speed workouts. I think the transition from mainly easy aerobic runs to any form of speed work needs to be buffered with introductory speed dynamics, such as strides, hill sprints, steady runs, and short fartleks. This concept is especially true for beginner runners.

Furthermore, most long-time runners have heard of the training concept known as the “base building” period. Base building refers to a portion of the training cycle where the runner focuses on increasing mileage and forgoes harder workouts. However, I believe the traditional base building cycle may actually contribute to most running injuries.

While slowly increasing training volume is a good thing, most runners exit the base building cycle and introduce speed work too quickly. While they’ve upped their mileage and training volumes and feel confident in their new strength and endurance, they’ve gone numerous weeks, or even months, without doing any type of speed work and expect to jump back into race pace without any consequence. When you neglect doing faster pace work for an extended length of time, you lose the muscular readiness to run fast without increasing injury risk.

To combat this, runners need to include strides, hill sprints and even short fartleks into their training at all times. This doesn’t mean runners have to be laser focused year-round, but simply adding in a few strides and hill sprints a few times per week will go a long way towards warding off injuries.

In addition, as has been much discussed in previous articles, you have to make sure that you take your easy runs slow and give your body a chance to recover from the stress you’re inducing.

Race specific running

Finally, as I’ve discussed previously on this blog, you need to train to the specific demands of the race. So, if you want to run 10k in 40 minutes, you need to train your body to do two things: (1) handle 6:25 per mile pace without breaking down; and (2) handle 6:25 mile pace for 6.2 miles without breaking down.

So, in-line with what I’ve been discussing, you first need to get your body adjusted to running 6:25 per mile. For example, your first workout might look like: 12 x 400 @ 1:35 w/90 sec rest. Later in the training segment, as your body adjusts to the workload, your workout might become: 8 x 800 @ 3:12 w/90 sec rest. Now, you’re doing 5 miles of volume at race pace instead of 3, but because you’ve slowly introduced work at race pace to your body, your structure is able to handle the stress. You final workout 10 days before the race might look like: 10 x 1000 @ 4:00 w/60 sec rest, hammer # 5 and 8.

By being patient and gradually introducing both race pace work and specific volume at race pace, you can hit all your time goals while staying injury free.

I am interested to hear if you like the more “theoretical” nature of this post or if you prefer the specific “how to” articles better. As always, I enjoy comments and feedback, so please don’t hesitate to comment below or share via facebook and twitter.

*I want to acknowledge that a lot of my thoughts on this subject were inspired from Jay Johnson, who also wrote a piece on this topic in his blog and Mike Smith, the head Cross Country Coach at Kansas State University.

Find this and more great information on the RunnersConnect website.

You can race well off cross training – even if you’re injured

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

In my last two posts, I shared a marathon specific block of training as well as a two-week training cycle of training that didn’t go well because I failed to listen to my body and give it the rest it needed.

Continuing along those lines, I want to share a three week stint of training that demonstrates how being dedicated to cross training while injured will allow you to maintain fitness and still race well.

Likewise, I hope this example will make it evident that having to miss 7-10 days of running isn’t going to ruin your whole training plan if you work hard and stay positive.

Some Background

This three week sample is from my sophomore year at Brown University (yup, I am going far back for this one). I was coming off a solid three to four week block of training where I had decent mileage and some good workouts.

I was preparing for the Ivy League Championships (affectionately called Heps) and my team had a good shot at winning if I could pull off some big points in the 10k, which was held on the first day of competition. My 10k PR was 30:45 at the time, but if I could finish high and run well, it would set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Obviously, I was motivated to take my training to the next level for the team. But, as I did too often in my college years, I pushed the envelope too hard and injured my achilles tendon. This is a log of my cross training, mental state, and how the race unfolded after not being able to train for 10 days.

The Training

Wednesday 4/16/13
PM: 3 mile warm up, 4×mile w/400 jog (3:00) [4:32] [4:34] [4:36] [4:37] 3 mile cool
Total= 11 miles

I am not very pleased with the workout. The first two weren’t that bad and I was actually feeling pretty strong, however, huge temp/wind change before 3th and I just started screwing it up. Kept going through slower and slower and hurting more and more. I am really pissed that I could not even hit 4:34’s on the last two. Dizzy again on cool down, very hungry, tired and stomach upset. Shitty day.

Thursday: 4/17/03
AM: 4 mile run (26:28)
Massage before run seems like knee is a spasm in upper calf. Very sore during run, the worst is it was been very on a run, legs in general felt tired by end.

PM: 12 mile run (1:15:37)
Knee is very tight, ended up running by myself the whole way because pace was so slow. Didn’t feel all that bad, knee was off and on, mostly annoying, was a bit tired towards end, achilles (right) pretty sore most the night.

Fri: 4/18/03
10 mile run (1:07:00)
Achilles really bothering me when I woke up still and I debated not running but I gave it a try and it actually felt ok during run and even after. Ran nice and easy, knee still sore but more concerned about the achilles as it continued to hurt all night.

Sat: 4/19/03
Injury day off
Was supposed to race at UCONN today but I am trying to play it smart w/this achilles. I have done a lot of stupid things lately to it and now I have to start being smart. It probably flared up due to spasm in upper calf caused by being stupid over weekend, what the hell was I thinking, I am not superman. I also have been getting lax with icing it everyday. Two days off may do me some good.

Sunday: 4/20/03
Injury day off
Feeling much better the morning, I think the heat/cold therapy really worked well. Ionto and massage tomorrow, no creaking, feels a bit weak.

Mon: 4/21/03
12 mile run (1:17:13)
Saw massage guy this morning and achilles feeling pretty good. The run was weird as 2 days off left me fresh but not used to running. The achilles was ok, didn’t really hurt too much, some pain, mostly in my ankle though. Quads sore. Achilles was sore for the rest of the night with some creaking but walking around ok, just hard to get up on toes decelerated calf lifts.

Tues: 4/22/03
AM: pool run ( Berg to 80 sec) [24:00]
I hate the pool but workout was ok, tired legs, achilles 75% if I had to guess

PM: Pool run (1:06:00)
Pool run very boring but just have to keep doing it. I was going to run but decided to just try and kick this thing now. Heat/ ice therapy at night.

Wed: 4/23/03
AM: Pool run total [1:10:00]
Workout was hard, but did a good job getting the HR up, hip flexors sore, achilles about the same.

PM: 4 mile run(27:30)
Legs were very sore, probably from pool especially quads and groin. My ankle was sore today, I really don’t know what is wrong as plenty of ice/rest and it is still messed up – grrr.

Thur: 4/24/03
AM: Pool run (50:00)
Tried to calm down, practice patience, and figure things out last night to reagain my focus. Lots of sleep.

PM: 10 mile run (37:45)
Ran at very fast clip, especially on way back. The achilles was sore the first two miles but after it felt fine. Going up Lloyd my ankle/achilles had shooting pains but went away. Creaking after but a promising day I think.

AM: Pool run (45:00)
Nice and easy w/Jordan

PM: 8 mile run (53:30)
Run did not go well, shouldn’t have pushed it after yesterday – dumb move, have to be smarter. Hurting most of the time and had some pains yesterday for about 10 steps. Legs very sore From Lifting and achilles sore afterwards and at night.

Sat: 4/25/03
AM: Pool run (1:00:00)
Ran for an hour, did a little work but really unmotivated today – gotta stay focused on what I can control

Sun: 4/27/03
Pool run (1:00:00)
Did a light workout that kept the HR up, nothing special, just putting in work.

Mon: 4/28/03
AM: Pool run (1:00:00)
The pool sucks, blah! Very boring

PM: Pool run (1:00:00)
Nothing insightful to add to the log, just more miles in the pool.

Tue: 4/29/03
AM: Pool run (1:06:00)
Achilles feeling pretty good this morning hope=wish it continues. If I want to race this weekend, I have to try a workout tomorrow and run tonight – fingers crossed.

PM: 10 mile run  (1:00:45)
Ran w/Jordan, was a beautiful day. Achilles was a bit achy but we were moving well through the second half of the run and I felt ok, the legs a little tired but I think Heps will be ok, still gonna try and run through this.

Wed: 4/30/03
3 mile warm up, 8×400 w/200 [70-80 sec] jog [66] [67] [67] [68] [66] [66] [67]
Workout was hard to judge. I felt good on warm up, achilles the best it has felt in some time – wish I could have not done this workout as I think it was a good day. Anyway, the workout was ok, running fairly fast easily. The 1 st  ½ of the workout in trainers and felt  good. I was a bit slow and achilles/ankle got sore towards the end.

Thur: 5/1/03
6 mile run (40:15)
Achilles killing me today, especially last 2 miles, quads and hamstrings tight, not a good day.

Fri: 5/2/03
4 mile run (27:00) Yale University
Just a shake out for tomorrow, legs body feeling good. Achilles feels tender.

Sat: 5/3/03
3 mile warm up, 10k race (30:04) 1st place – 10 points for the team!

Race went tactically very well today. Got out in about third place and just relaxed there for the first few miles. Covered all the little moves well and waited the 4th mile, which was slow (5:00) and I could feel everyone stating to get tired. Started to push to drop the main part of the field and keep the race among the real contenders – had to put the dagger in the hopes of the stragglers.  With 5 laps to go I made a strong move and really started to hammer. Caught many by surprise and I dropped everyone but Danbrowski.  After the hard move to the front, I let him take the lead and do the work while I just cruised along. I knew I had it and was just licking my chips for the right time. Made a move at 400 and he stayed on my back until 300 to go when he made big move. I smiled, relaxed and  blasted the last 200 meters to pull away for the victory.  Really fun race. I ran the last 400 in 61 and the last 200 in 28 – booyah.

My thoughts 9 years later

As you can see, I PR’d in the 10k by about 45 seconds immediately following a two week stint of mostly pool running and only one actual workout. Certainly, this isn’t how I would have chosen to approach this race and perhaps I could have run faster had my build-up been perfect, but it does illustrate the power of accumulated training and cross training.

Focus on what you can control

When you’re inured, it’s easy to become emotional and focus only on what you can’t do – run. Not only is this frustrating, but it’s unproductive. Instead of dwelling on my injury and worrying about whether I could run each day or not, I turned my focus to cross training, core work, and executing my rehab plan.

In doing so, I was able to take some of the pressure off mentally and keep the motivation high so I could keep pushing hard in the pool without getting discouraged. Of course, I had my up days and down days, but by focusing on the elements I could control (therapy and cross training) I kept my training consistent.

If you want to see some of the cross training workouts I did in the pool, you can download my free cross training guide for runners.

Don’t freak out if you need to take a short break from training

I’ve posted the research about this before, but taking 10-12 days off from running isn’t going to degrade your fitness as much as you think. I believe this short training block and race is a great example of that research being applied to a real runner.

Sure, I may have been able to run faster had I had the perfect build-up to the race, but it certainly was not a disaster and I was still able to capitalize on my previous months of hard work. I could have freaked out about the injury and tried to rush things back or test myself with a difficult workout, but I remained patient and calm, which resulted in me being able to make the best of my situation.

Don’t test your injury all the time

The one mistake I made in this training block was constantly trying to test and assess my healing every day. In reality, all this does is create more micro-tears to the injured area, which results in minor setbacks – both physically and mentally.

As I have since learned, it’s more productive to err on the side of caution and give yourself that one extra day after you feel 100% or set yourself up with a definitive timeline and not test progress every day.

Don’t sacrifice short-term success for long-term gains

One thing that isn’t included in the above training is what happened after the race and the subsequent weeks. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the injury cycle for the rest of that outdoor track season as I was constantly recovering from and then trying to come back from various compensation injuries.

Racing in a college environment, because of the team aspect, is a little different than being able to choose your own races for your own personal gain. However, racing injured set me back for 5-6 weeks total and I sacrificed long-term gains that season to compete well at this one race.

As an athlete, you have to make the decision about what is best for your long-term progression and your personal goals. Don’t let short-sightedness limit your ability to train consistently for long periods of time – you’ll thank yourself down the road.

Your takeaway and lessons learned

The next time you get injured in the weeks before your big race, or when you’re dealing with an injury in general, remember this lesson. The fitness will come back faster than you think if you’re patient and you stay focused and motivated when it comes to the cross training and therapy.

Let me know in the comments section if you’ve ever had a learning moment like this or had a situation where you went into a race with less than perfect training and still accomplished your goal. We would love to hear your story.

Special thanks to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing their incredible library with us.

How Should You Train When Running is not an Option? The Elliptical as a Cross Training Alternative

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette, courtesy of RunnersConnect

A few weeks ago, we examined the benefits of aqua jogging for injured runners and provided some sample workouts to help keep you as fit as possible during time off.

Unfortunately, not all runners are able to take advantage of aqua jogging when they are injured because it requires a pool deep enough to run in.

So, what is the next best cross-training solution for runners?

The closest equivalent to running: The elliptical

After aqua jogging, the elliptical machine is a runner’s best choice for cross training equipment. The movement of the elliptical closely mimics running form, but without the impact, and you can easily monitor and change the intensities.

More importantly, elliptical machines are widely available in most gyms, making them an easy cross training solution.

In this article, I am going to share some of the research regarding the potential benefits of elliptical training for runners as well as a few workouts to keep your heart pounding and your fitness sustained.

The benefits of elliptical training

Obviously, there is no exact substitute for running, but elliptical training can provide some fitness benefits for injured runners or those that need to cross train to supplement mileage.

While direct comparisons between elliptical training and running are limited in scientific research, I did uncover some data about how elliptical training and running compare.

In one study, researchers compared oxygen consumption, energy expenditure, and heart rate on a treadmill versus an elliptical when exercising at the same effort (perceived level of exertion). The results indicated that while heart rate was slightly higher on the elliptical, oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were similar on both machines.

As such, the researchers concluded that “during a cross training or noncompetition-specific training phase, an elliptical device is an acceptable alternative to a treadmill.”

A 2004 study reviewed the apparent differences in heart rate on the treadmill compared to the elliptical machine. While the researchers did not find the same elevated heart rate levels seen in the previously mentioned study, they did find that the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was the same in the chest and actually more intense for the legs on the elliptical compared to the treadmill (presumably from the incline). As such, the researchers concluded that using RPE as a measurement of effort can produce fitness results similar to running.

Finally, another study compared metabolic and cardio-respiratory improvements following a 12-week training program using and elliptical trainer versus a treadmill. The researchers found that when training volumes and intensities were equivalent on the treadmill and elliptical, physiological adaptations remained relatively the same.

The results of these limited studies suggests that while the elliptical is not a perfect substitution for running, it will allow you to maintain fitness during time off from training.

The only potential drawback to the elliptical machine for injured runners is that it can still aggravate some injuries, despite the lack of impact. Such injuries include stress fractures, achilles injuries, and the IT band. So, be careful and listen to your body when on the elliptical.

Sample elliptical workouts

Easy elliptical training and RPMs

 Easy elliptical workouts should be performed between 65-75 percent of maximum heart rate.

During a typical easy run, you would have a stride rate that is equivalent to a cadence that is 90 rpm (rotations per minute) on an elliptical. So, for easy elliptical sessions and breaks between intervals, lower the resistance and incline on the elliptical so you can maintain a rhythm of 90 rpm.

As a note, some elliptical machines measure stride rate, which measures both legs, so the stride rate would 180.

Easy elliptical sessions should be used for recovery between hard workouts (just like you need in running) or general maintenance if you’re not injured and using the elliptical to supplement mileage.

In general, you should replicate your time running on an average easy day with time on the elliptical.

So, if your normal easy run is 45-50 minutes, then you would use an elliptical for 45-50 minutes.

I prefer a lower incline since it more closely mimics the running motion.

Medium effort elliptical workouts

Medium elliptical workout should be 87-92 percent of the maximum heart rate. This is what you would consider a hard tempo run effort or comfortably hard.

Maintain 90 rpm, but increase the resistance or the incline to elevate your heart rate and effort to appropriate levels.

Medium elliptical sessions are great for runners who are injury prone and want to perform more intense workouts, but can’t add the volume to their training without getting injured. They are also good as “maintenance” days for injured runners.

The workouts will help keep your heart rate up, but aren’t so killer that you can’t perform them daily.

To make the workouts longer or shorter, simply adjust the number of repetitions.

1. 10 minutes easy w/u
6 x 5 mins hard
3 mins easy
5 mins easy c/d

2. 10 minutes easy w/u
1,2.3,4.5,6,5,4,3,2,1 minutes hard w/2min easy btwn all
5 min easy c/d

3. 10 minutes easy w/u
1 min medium, 1 min hard, 1 min medium, 1 min hard
1 min easy (x6)
5 min easy c/d

4. 10 minutes easy w/u
1:00 hard, 30 sec easy, 30 sec hard:, 30 sec easy, 2:00 hard
:30 easy (continue building up until 5:00, and then come back down by :30 second intervals)
10 min easy c/d

Hard effort elliptical workouts

 Hard elliptical workouts should be performed at 95-100 percent of the maximum heart rate. This would be considered a VO2max or speed workout type effort.

Again, maintain 90 rpm and increase the resistance to achieve the desired effort level.

Hard efforts are great for the inured runner who needs to maintain fitness and train to get back in shape fast. You should do no more than two or three of these hard workouts per week. You still need recovery even though the impact is lessened.

1. 10 min easy w/20 min medium pace
3 x 3 mins hard w/90 sec easy
5 min c/d

2. 10 min easy w/u
start at level 1 and increase resistance every 4 minutes for 35-40 minutes
5 min c/d (this is a simulated hill workout)

3. 10 min easy w/u
5 min medium, 2 min hard, 5 min medium, 2min hard, 2 min easy, (x 3)
5 min easy c/d

Final thoughts

Cross training can be tough, especially when you’re injured or want to be increasing your volume faster.

By providing a variety of workouts and implementing some elliptical training, you’ll emerge from your injury with minimal fitness loss and challenge your aerobic system without the pounding.

Thanks to Jeff Gaudette for sharing this with Level Renner. You can see the original blog post here. Find this and so much more in the RunnersConnect blog.

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