Tag: Jeff Gaudette

Why the Hips, Hamstrings and Glutes are the Keys to Running Faster

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

In last week’s article on building a better runner, we talked about the importance of the core (hips, transverse abdominis, lower back) in preventing running injuries.

Hopefully, you started incorporating some of the suggested exercises in your schedule since staying healthy and thus being able to train consistently is an important component of long-term development.

In this month’s installment, we’re going to change gears from injury-prevention and focus on performance improvement.

Specifically, we’re going to look at the role of the hamstrings, hips and glutes during the running stride and how they generate the power to propel you forward.

The role of the hamstrings and glutes during the running stride

One very common mistake, or perhaps misconception, about how to run is exactly where the “power” in your stride comes from.

Most people picture power being generated in the running stride when the foot pushes off the ground, which is correct. But in the mental image that most people carry with them, that “push” comes from the quads, much like a leg press, or the calves.

While it’s true that some of the power in the running stride comes from your quads and calves, the reality is that the quads and calves play only a minor role in your ability to generate a powerful stride compared to the hips, hamstrings and glutes.

The power these three muscle groups generate and the biomechanical process is called hip extension.

Therefore, understanding exactly how hip extension works, being able to visualize the process, and then identifying ways to improve is essential.

What is hip extension?

Hip extension is the act of driving your entire upper thigh (and leg for that matter) backwards after your foot contacts the ground. The power for this movement is generated primarily from the hip extensor muscles, glutes and hamstring and it is perhaps the single most important factor in your ability to run faster.

Hip extension begins as your foot contacts the ground (ideally directly under your center of mass) and continues as you pull the leg beneath you and ends right before you push off with your ankle.

When we discuss or try to improve hip extension, we generally focus on two areas:

1. The degree to which you apply force as the leg contacts the ground and you drive it behind the body, often called the drive phase of hip extension.

2. How far behind you the leg travels – the amount or angle of extension.

The drive phase is a combination of how powerfully you contract and engage your hip extensors, glutes and hamstring to pull the leg under and behind you as you touch the ground. The more powerful your hip extension, the faster you will go.

The drive phase of hip extension is brief and shouldn’t be confused with forcing the leg backwards

Once you’ve initiated hip drive and generated power through the hip, you should relax and let the leg travel behind you naturally. The distance or degree to which your leg travels behind you will be in direct correlation to how much force you generate during the drive phase.

Therefore, there is no reason to force the leg backwards – it will happen naturally.

Recovery phase

After you’ve driven your leg back, the stretch-reflex of the hip flexors kicks in and begins to propel your leg forward. A common misconception about the role of the hamstrings during this phase of the running gait is that they should contract to bring the heel closer to the butt (which occurs to shorten the lever as the leg swings forward).

However, bringing the heel towards the butt actually requires very little activation of the hamstring. Electrographic research suggests it is as little as 7%.

The movement of the heel towards the butt is aided by the stretch-reflex generated during hip extension. This is why the faster you run, the closer your heel will get to your butt without trying to.

Wasting energy actively bringing the heel towards the butt by contracting the hamstring is inefficient.

How to strengthen your hip extensors, glutes and hamstrings specifically for running

Now that we understand how the biomechanics of hip drive work, we can better target our stretching, drills and strength work to improve exactly how these muscles function during the running stride. Here are some stretches, drills and exercises to get you started:

1. Theraband drive back x 20-25 with each leg

drive back 1   drive back2

With your foot or heel attached to a cable machine, stand facing the structure that the cable is attached to. Balance on one foot (it’s ok to hold onto another object for balance) and bring your leg slightly in front of you. Drive backwards with your foot in the band. Focus on generating the movement from your glutes and hamstrings. Slowly bring the leg back up and repeat.

2. Single leg glute bridge (use stability ball for added difficulty) x 15-20 with each leg

glute bridge2   glute bridge 1

Lie flat on your back with one leg bent, foot flat on a stability ball, and the other leg flat on the ground. Slowly lift your pelvis off the ground by contracting your glutes and core while keeping your shoulder blades flat on the ground.

3. Donkey kicks with theraband x 15-20 with each leg

Donkey kick2   Donkey kick1

Start on all fours. Insert a theraband so one end is wrapped around your knee and the other the bottom of your foot. Extend your leg back and up, focusing on contracting with your glutes.

4. Straight leg bounds x 100 meters


Run forward by keeping your legs straight and driving through the ground with your hips and glutes. Begin by running 50 meters. Progress until you’re running 100 meters.

5. Two-Joint Hip Flexor Stretch – Repeat 8 to 10 times

stretch2   stretch1

Lie flat on your back on a table or elevated surface (a bed works) with your legs just off the edge. Bring both your knees to your chest. Scoop both hands under one leg and then let the other leg drop down below the edge of the table or surface. Let you leg drop as far as you can while holding the other leg to your chest with your hands.

These 5 exercises will help get you started on improving your hip extension and developing flexibility to generate more power from your stride.

If you’re interested in additional exercises and learning more about how to improve your own running form, check out our personalized video form analysis and 6-week online course. The course includes an individual, slow-motion video analysis of your form and specific and progressive set of stretches, strength routines and drills to help improve your mechanics.

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.

Training Doesn’t Occur in a Vacuum

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

As a runner, one of the most difficult concepts to understand is the idea that individual workouts do not occur in isolation of one another.

The reality is that every workout is influenced by a myriad of factors and, more importantly, a singular workout can impact your upcoming runs for as many as ten days after it’s finished.

Understanding the concept that training or an individual workout doesn’t occur in a vacuum or in isolation is essential to staying healthy long-term, avoiding overtraining, and performing optimally.

In this article, we’ll explore 3 common situations where runners typically forget this principle and how it can impact your training progress.

How running too hard leads to injury

Perhaps it’s easiest to start with an example situation you’ve no doubt experienced.

You have a VO2max or speed session scheduled for today and you’re feeling great. You hit the track and crush the workout – running each repeat much faster than your prescribed pace and you still felt strong. Great news, right?

Not so fast (pun intended).

While you no doubt accomplished the objective of the workout and running fast didn’t change the primary energy system you wanted to target, like running too fast on a tempo run would, it’s possible you’re placing more strain and fatigue on your body than anticipated, which could result in injury.

The tricky thing with running is that injuries don’t occur instantaneously.

Training would be much simpler if injuries and overtraining appeared as a direct result or immediately after a specific workout. Unfortunately, injuries and overtraining typically occur as the result of many seemingly minor factors.

It’s the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” idiom applied to training.

In this specific case, metabolically speaking, running faster was within your ability. However, we know that the structural system (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) often lag behind your fitness. As a result, running faster might have stressed muscles in your hips or feet that weren’t strong enough yet to support such intense paces.

Consequently, you’re going to need more recovery.

That might mean shortening your next easy run, scheduling an extra day off, or pushing back your next workout. However, if you’re like most runners I know, this won’t happen.

While you might get away with ignoring the long-term stress of one workout occasionally, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up with you.

Shuffling workouts

Similarly, you need to be cautious when moving scheduled workouts around to accommodate work, travel or family. While these situations are often unavoidable, it’s important to consider how moving a workout impacts recovery and how you’ll feel during subsequent runs or workouts.

  • The body operates in a purely physiological environment and it doesn’t recover faster simply because we need to run our long run a day earlier.
  • Likewise, as much as we wish it did, the body doesn’t adhere to our concept of a week. Just because your training week ends on a Sunday, it doesn’t mean you start fresh on Monday. The miles and workouts are still in your legs.

While it’s difficult to provide general advice about the best way to shuffle workouts, there is one piece of advice that will always apply regardless of your situation. It’s better to be cautious and skip a hard workout in favor of rest or an easy day than to cram intense sessions too close together.

Training is like making popcorn, it’s better to be slightly undercooked than a little overcooked (click to Tweet).

Weather, stress and other outside factors

Finally, it’s important to remember that your training is affected by your entire environment and not just the workouts on your schedule.

Performing yard work after your weekend long run is going to delay your recovery compared to spending the day with your feet kicked up watching track on television.

It’s important to keep these outside stressors in mind when planning your recovery or trying to deduce why you feel more tired than expected.

Stressors like yard work or an insane day at the office are easy to identify. However, one factor most runners ignore is the impact of the heat on recovery. As summer approaches, it’s crucial to understand how your recovery is affected by hot weather.

How your recovery is affected by hot weather

As anyone who has trained in warm weather knows, a hard workout on a hot day means you’re going to have to slow down.

Okay, most runners can begrudgingly accept that. Yet, the negative impact of the heat doesn’t exist in the vacuum of that one workout. It affects your recovery for all subsequent runs.

The body recovers by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles through the circulatory system – via blood.

In hot weather, the body cools itself by sending blood to the skin to be cooled by the air. As a result, there is less blood available to repair the muscles.

This process also uses energy that would otherwise be available for recovery. So, even when you’re not running, the body is spending energy to keep you cool as opposed to promoting recovery.

Therefore, running a workout in hot weather doesn’t just impact that one run. The delayed recovery impacts your subsequent workouts.

This is one of the primary reasons you always feel terrible when training in the summer.

Final thoughts

Remember that training doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Your performance during a specific workout is affected by your schedule, the weather, and your previous workouts and runs that week.

Furthermore, the fatigue you generate carries over into your subsequent runs.

By keeping this bit of training advice in mind, you’ll be more consistent with your workouts and avoid injury and overtraining.

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.

Benefits of Compression Clothing for Runners

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

compression-socks-for-runnersAthletes, especially runners, are always on the lookout for that extra one or two percent improvement in their training. Lately, running circles have been enamored with compression gear – socks, pants, tights, you name it. But, does compression gear really work? Like any other supposed training aid, I think it’s critical to turn to peer-reviewed scientific research (i.e., not the sales “research” a company will pitch you) for the best answers.

For those less scientifically inclined, the short answer, after critically reviewing the scientific literature, is that compression gear does indeed benefit runners – but only slightly. Here’s the data:

Compression Gear and Running Performance

One of the proposed benefits of compression gear is a direct benefit to performance by enhancing aerobic threshold, increasing VO2max, and clearing lactate from the muscles more efficiently.

Indeed, one study conducted on a group of six runners reported that those runners who wore compression socks experienced a reduction of nearly 26 percent in their VO2max slow component (a fairly complicated training term that is basically a measure of your oxygen uptake after you have reached your lactate threshold).

Likewise, a separate study of 21 runners measured the difference in aerobic threshold and anaerobic threshold when wearing compression socks or not. The data confirmed a 2.1 to 6.2% improvement in an individual’s aerobic and anaerobic threshold.

However, a study on the ability of compression gear to improve lactic acid clearance or to prevent lactic acid accumulation demonstrated that compression actually raises blood lactate accumulation. The researchers hypothesized that this unexpected rise in blood lactate was likely from a greater overall contribution of anaerobic respiration. So, while compression gear won’t directly improve your lactate clearance, it will allow you to run harder longer – and that’s what training and racing is really all about!


The evidence clearly suggests that wearing compression clothing can slightly improve your performance, most notably by enhancing your aerobic threshold and VO2max.

While not significant, even a 1% improvement in your marathon time could result in that last 1-2 minutes you need for a Boston qualifier.

Compression Gear for Recovery

Compression socks were first touted as a recovery tool for athletes after demonstrating increased blood flow for patients with circulation issues. The prevailing thought was that the graduated compression in the calves helped facilitate blood flow to deliver nutrients to the muscles and prevent swelling.

Despite the many claims by the makers of compression gear, most rigorous research has shown that compression gear does not improve recovery for athletes – at least from a physiological standpoint. One study confirmed that there were no significant difference in post exercise lactate clearance, heart rate or blood flow for athletes that wore compression gear and those that did not.

However, while the physiological advantages of compression socks for recovery have been disproven, when researchers measured an athlete’s perceived level of post exercise soreness, they found that runners who wore compression socks experienced less soreness and a felt more recovered than those who did not. A second study confirmed that compression socks did not elicit any physiological benefits to recovery, but the runners who wore compression gear reported being more comfortable after training and for subsequent sessions.

However, one major flaw of all of these studies is that they did not adequately control for the placebo effect. There was no way to tell if the prospect of a high-tech knee-high sock, which was obviously different than a run-of-the-mill ankle-height running sock, was independently affecting the measurements.

And since the observed effects for compression socks are comparatively small, the placebo effect could be having a significant impact on the study’s results.


The scientific research demonstrates that compression gear does not directly improve recovery time.

The researchers found no direct improvement to lactate clearance, blood flow, or oxygen consumption in the runners who wore compression tights. However, almost all the athletes who wore compression gear reported feeling less soreness after running hard and felt more recovered 24 and 48 hours post run, but this wasn’t tightly controlled.

Will Compression Gear Help You.

The short answer is yes, wearing compression gear during and after running will slightly improve your performance. However, compression socks are no magic pill or secret recipe for success.

You can expect a slight increase in your aerobic or anaerobic threshold and your VO2 at racing speeds. However, while compression gear will not directly help you recover faster, they may reduce post exercise soreness and perceived exhaustion.

With compression gear being relatively expensive, it’s really up to you and your budget on whether they are worth the investment. Personally, I wouldn’t rush out to buy them, but if you have a chance to pick up a pair of compression socks or compression tights for cheap, by all means, it certainly won’t hurt you.

One final note when it comes to shopping for compression socks: All of these studies used medical grade “compression stockings,” which are different from the knee-high Nike socks you might find at your local sporting gear store marketed as “compression wear.”

Medical grade compression socks are rated in millimeters of mercury or mmHg (an arcane unit, to be sure) at the ankle and calf. So a sock labeled 15-20 mmHg is 20 mmHg at the ankle and 15 at the calf.

If you’re shopping for compression socks, I recommend something around 15-20 mmHg. If these numbers are a bit confusing, just remember that true compression stockings need to be sized by calf and ankle circumference, not simply by shoe size. Otherwise you won’t get the proper compression levels.

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.

Strength Training Myths

5 Common Myths About Strength Training for Distance Runners

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Despite the advancements in our understanding of the role strength training plays in our development as long distance runners, there are still some pervasive myths in the running community about the best way to approach improving running-specific strength.

Like most long-standing myths, the misunderstandings about strength training come from outdated information that has been passed down throughout the years. Unfortunately, in today’s world where anyone can become a running coach by attending a weekend seminar and forums and message boards contribute to the spread of misinformation, many runners simply repeat the information they’ve “learned” without regard for recent findings, research and developments in the sport.

Luckily, in this article I am going to dispel some of these myths and hopefully start reshaping how all runners view and incorporate strength training into their running schedules.

Myth #1: You need to maintain short rest between sets

When most runners hit the gym, they feel like they need to replicate the feeling and the work they do on the roads. Typically, that means keeping the heart rate elevated. As a runner myself, I know it can feel foreign to consider a workout effective if I’m not breathing hard.

That means most runners try to take as little rest as possible between sets. It’s not uncommon to find runners resting only 30-60 seconds between exercises.

Unfortunately, these brief rest periods are detrimental to strength development because of the primary energy system used and the rate of recovery.

Unlike in running, which relies on the aerobic system for energy, the major source of energy when trying to build strength is what we call adenosine triphosphate phospho-creatine (ATP-PC).  ATP-PC is responsible for providing the energy to produce short, powerful movements – like we need for strength training. As you can see for this chart below, ATP-PC requires at least two to three minutes to approach full recovery.


While it will feel completely foreign to you as a distance runner, it’s important that you take the necessary recovery time between each set to fully replenish your ATP system.

By not fully recovering between sets when strength training, you’re not able to maximize the recruitment of your muscle fibers and the quality and effectiveness of your session plummets.

If your goal is to build strength, you need to be taking at least a 2 minute recovery between each set.

Myth #2: Training with high reps builds endurance

It’s often claimed (since distance running is endurance oriented) that the use of high reps with low weight is the best way to build endurance to running-specific muscles. The thought process is that high repetitions, just like higher mileage, will improve muscular endurance. That’s why you often see runners lifting the 5-10lb dumbbells for shoulder raises or even in the running-man motion (don’t worry if this is you, I used to do lots of this myself).

Unfortunately, high reps and low weights don’t build muscular endurance

  • First, recent research has shown that performing repetitions in the 12-20 range does not increase muscular endurance any more than the 6-8 repetition range.
  • Second, you’re already working on your muscular endurance when out on the road and when doing track workouts. The purpose of strength work is to build strength so performing routines and rep ranges that target this goal is ideal.

Therefore, rather than using light weight and high repetition, you should lift the maximum weight you can safely handle for 6-10 repetitions. The 6-10 rep range allows for maximum muscle overload and will recruit the greatest number of muscle fibers, thus leading to increased strength.

The next time you head to the gym for your strength training session, consider reducing your repetitions and adding more weight to your exercise. You’ll maximize your strength gains much faster this way.

Myth #3: Heavy weights will bulk you up and light weights will make you look “tone”

When I first suggest to runners that they will be better served by lifting heavy weights, their initial reaction is, “I want to look like Mo Farah, not Arnold Schwarzenegger”. But, this fear comes from a misunderstanding of how “bulking up” actually occurs.

Muscle bulk is not determined by lifting heavy weights alone. In fact, lifting heavy weights is the least important part of the equation. Nutrition, specifically excess calories, is what contributes to bulking up when lifting heavy weights. (As a side note, it’s same for using running as a means to lose weight. The mileage itself is not the most important factor, but rather the negative calorie balance.)

Moreover, because the amount of time you will spend running will vastly outnumber the amount of time you spend lifting heavy weights, it will be virtually impossible for you to gain unwanted or detrimental mass (unless of course you’re seriously overeating, which is not a training problem).

Don’t be afraid of looking like a body builder if you’re including heavy lifting in your running routine. It just won’t happen.

Likewise, lifting lighter weights with more repetitions won’t make your muscles look more “tone”.  The common belief is that high reps magically get rid of fat. While high reps with light weight to fatigue can create a muscular response, it does not necessarily remove fat better than low reps with heavy weight. The mythical “tone” is a result of not losing muscle mass in conjunction with losing weight.

As an example, one study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham showed that dieters who lifted heavy weights lost the same amount of weight as dieters who did just cardio, but all the weight lost by the weight lifters was fat while the cardio subjects lost a lot of muscle along with some fat.

Myth #4: You should perform strength training on your rest or recovery days

Runner’s typically think of strength training as an add-on to their running training, rather than an integrated piece of the training puzzle. When you do your strength workouts is just as important as what strength workouts you perform.

The mistake many runners make is performing their strength workouts on their easy, recovery or off days.

The thinking behind this idea makes sense – you’re the most tired after hard workouts, so why push yourself even more by adding strength work on these days?

But, we’re forgetting about the recovery aspect and the training plan as a whole.

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.

Moreover, if you perform your harder strength training the day before your workouts, you’ll likely be too tired or sore to perform optimally in the most important session – the run the next day.

This is why your hardest strength training days should be on your running workout days.

But, since there are more than one type and intensity of strength routines, here’s how your week should look:

  • 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

Myth #5: Machines are a good substitute for bodyweight, free weights, and therabands

The next time you’re in your gym, take a look around and count the number of strength training machines you see. I’m willing to bet it’s an extraordinarily high number.

Because the machines are so pervasive, it’s easy to think that they are just as good, if not better, than free weight and bodyweight exercises. However, in most cases they are far less effective – and in some cases useless.

The problem with machines is that they have a limited range of motion, isolate the wrong muscle groups, and don’t trigger the same “supporting” muscle groups response that make some exercises most useful.

As an example, we know that hip strength, or lack thereof, is one of the main contributors to running injuries.  The prescription is obviously to strengthen the muscles in the hip, which include the abductors. Seemingly, the abductor machine at the gym make this very easy to do. Just sit down, push out and you’re on your way to injury-free running.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Research has shown that to improve running-specific hip strength, an exercise should maximize the recruitment of the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, while minimizing the recruitment of the TFL (tensor fasciae latae – a muscle located on the upper lateral portion of your thigh).

The abductor machine actually targets the TFL and therefore has limited effectiveness. Furthermore, a tense TFL, because it connects directly to the knee’s lateral side via the iliotibial band, may increase knee strain that could develop into IT band syndrome.

In this case the adductor machine is not only useless, it could be harmful.

For an in-depth look at 2 other most blatant examples of this, you can check out my guest post on the healthynomics blog on this topic.

By sticking to the right bodyweight, free weight and theraband exercises you can maximize the time you spend in the gym and avoid many of the common pitfalls.

Now…go crush your personal bests with these myth busters in mind

Consider how these 5 common myths play into your current perception and approach to strength training.

Hopefully, you’ve been reading enough of the current literature, much of which we’ve posted before, to have already made positive changes to your strength training routine.

Regardless, use the information we’ve presented to dispel these myths to make the most of your time spent in the gym.

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.

**If you need help developing and implementing a full strength training routine to decrease injury and improve performance, check out the Strength Training for Runners Program. It’s a step-by-step guide for exactly when and how to add strength training to your running routine. Click Here to Get Yours Now!

Necessary Evil: Managing Fatigue

Why Fatigue is a Necessary Part of Training and How to Manage It

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Training is like trying to walk a tight rope. You need to balance putting in grueling workouts and mileage with the ability to let your body recover. Favor one aspect too heavily and you’ll either have a poor performance from lack of training or get injured and overtrained from doing too much.

That’s why learning how to manage fatigue, and understanding the role it plays in endurance training, is critical to improving as a runner. In this article, we’re going to outline why a certain amount of fatigue is necessary to improve as a runner, how to strategically implement it, and how to find the right balance.

Why fatigue is necessary

The basis for all training theory is the what we call the workout and recovery process. Running first breaks down your muscle fibers. The harder you run, the more muscle fibers you damage. Your body then works to rebuild these damaged muscle fibers and if the recovery process goes well, these muscle fibers are repaired stronger than before. That’s how you become faster and stronger through training.

But, as you may realize, it’s nearly impossible to fully recover from a workout in 24 hours. It might be possible following a very easy day of running, but any type of speed, tempo or long run is going to require anywhere from 2 to 14 days to fully absorb and recover (here’s a breakdown of what research says about how long it takes to recover from different workout types).

That means, unless you want to only run two or three times per week, training while fatigued is a necessary part of training; especially since we know slow, easy mileage is the best way to build aerobic endurance and is the foundation for running performance. The trick is finding that balance between running enough miles to build you aerobic capacity without overdoing the fatigue.

Herein lies the “art” of training.

However, there is also a way that we can utilize this fatigue to make your training more effective.

How to utilize fatigue to run faster

In training vernacular, coaches use a term called “accumulated fatigue”. Basically, this theory posits that fatigue from one workout accumulates and transfers to the next run so that you’re always starting a workout or a long run a little tired from your previous training.

This is important for longer distance races like the marathon because it’s nearly impossible to run the full distance of the race in daily training. Furthermore, if you were to start every workout fully recovered and fresh, it would be difficult to simulate how your body feels late into a race.

As such, we can strategically implement the theory of accumulated fatigue to better target the specific demands of your race.

For example, during marathon training, one of my favorite methods for introducing accumulated fatigue is to buttress the long run against a shorter, but steady paced run the day before. As an illustration, you would run six miles at marathon pace on the Saturday before your Sunday long run. Because of the harder running on Saturday, you start Sunday’s long run not at zero miles, but rather at six or eight miles, since that is the level of fatigue and glycogen depletion your body is carrying over from the previous run.

You can even apply this theory to 5k training. Using what we know about muscle fibers and the recruitment and fatigue ladder, I often have athletes run a short, explosive hill workout (something like 9 x 60 second hills at 5k pace) two days before a 5k specific workout (12 x 400 at 5k pace with 60 second quick jog rest). The hill session fatigues and depletes the fast twitch muscle fibers so that during the 5k specific work, your intermediary Type IIa muscle fibers (the ones primarily responsible for running at 5k pace) have to handle more work and thus are more specifically targeted.

How to find the right balance

Training would be much easier – and runners much happier – if you could just train hard and fatigued all the time. But, you can’t simply continue to accumulate fatigue and run these types of workouts all the time (although some runners certainly do try). There needs to be a balance.

  • First, try to keep the specific accumulated fatigue workouts to once every two weeks and only schedule them during the race-specific portion of your training schedule. This ensures that you don’t overdo it and that you don’t get burnt out long-term.
  • Be sure to keep your easy runs slow. One of the most common mistakes runners make is running their easy day mileage too fast. This hinders your ability to recover and doesn’t provide any additional aerobic benefit. Research has shown that the most optimal aerobic pace for an easy run is about 65 percent of 5k pace. For a 20-minute 5k runner (6:25 pace for 5k – 7:20 pace marathoner), this would mean about 8:40 per mile on easy days.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to take a down or rest week every five to six weeks where you reduce mileage by 65 to 75 percent and reduce the intensity of your workouts. These down weeks help you fully recover from and absorb previous weeks and months of training so that fatigue doesn’t build-up too much.

Hopefully, this lesson on fatigue and how you manage it will help you train more intelligently for your upcoming races.

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.

How to Run High Mileage

The Secret to 140 Mile Weeks

Once a Runner quote
Guest blog by Jeff Guadette (RunnersConnect)

As a former semi-elite runner, I get asked all the time about my training, my diet, what my workouts were. Inevitably, I reveal that I regularly logged 140 mile weeks as part of my marathon preparation. Of course, this immediately elicits a reaction and usually the response of: “Wow, I don’t even drive that far.”

The next question is always “how did you run that much?” It’s a fair question and while I admit that 140 mile weeks were (a) not what I ran every week for the entire year and (b) admittedly a bit excessive, the answer isn’t as glamorous as it may seem. I am no super human, there was no super secret workout, type of shoe, or special diet.

The answer: patience and time.

It’s a long story

When I first started running, I averaged 20 to 30 miles per week. I ran 3 to 5 miles a few times per week. A workout here and there, a race once in a while, and to be truthful, I didn’t really enjoy it. I started like most beginners do, slow and as means to an end – getting in shape.

The difference between myself and the typical runner? I was 14 years old.

I was a Freshman in high school and I ran track during the winter because I was cut from the basketball team – not because I liked it. Luckily, I had a great coach who made practice fun and convinced me to stick with it for the rest of the year.

I went out for cross country that next fall and with the experience of my Freshmen year behind me, I upped my mileage to 25 to 35 miles per week. A moderate ten percent increase, probably less than many of you reading this upped your mileage from your first year to second year running.

By the end of my Sophomore year, I was starting to get pretty fast and that motivated me to train even harder for the next year. So, I upped my mileage and averaged 40 to 45 miles per week. Again, only a 10 percent increase – not a huge difference – but I was getting stronger physically and aerobically.

This modest, yet gradual increase in training mileage continued. Senior year I ran 50 to 55 miles per week. In my first year of college I ran 60 to 70 miles per week. Each year I added 10 to 15 percent to my average weekly miles. Looking back, it wasn’t explicitly planned this way. It just seemed like the next logical step. Luckily, I had good coaching.

This continued for five more years. I ran throughout college and by the time I had graduated, I was running 100 to 110 miles per week. Each year, I saw a modest 10 percent or roughly 10 miles per week increase in average volume.

After college, I continued training and continued adding miles until 110 to 120 became the normal and throwing in a brief stint at 140 was only an extra 10 to 20 percent for a few weeks – common during marathon training segments.

All told, it took me eight to nine years to reach a level where 120 miles per week and occasional stints at 140 felt doable.

Do you think you could add just 5 or 10 miles to your average weekly mileage next year? I am willing to bet most runners reading this article could. An average of five miles per week over the course of 52 weeks is not a lot. It equates to adding one mile per week every two months.

The secret, and the most difficult part of it, is being patient enough to do this for the next eight to 10 years.

What’s the lesson?

Of course, getting your mileage to 120 to 140 miles per week is not necessary and maybe not even advised. Moreover, I did have my fair share of injuries and I am biologically talented. I’m not suggesting you should mimic my training. That should not be the takeaway from this article.

Instead, the lesson should be about patience in your training.

Every once in a while, step away from the immediate goal or the next marathon and take a look at the bigger picture. Temper the need to want everything instantly. This is what leads to overtraining, injuries, and stagnant results. Your next race won’t likely be your last, so there’s no need to treat it as such.

Be patient enough to understand how much just a tiny increase, even one as small as 1 mile per week every two months, could have on your training over the course of eight to ten years. Once you learn and fully appreciate this secret, the sky is the limit.

End note

A lot of people ask me what a 140 mile week might look like. Here is a sample from my marathon training segment before the 2007 Twin Cities Marathon.

Also, I get a lot of questions about what I ate to fuel that many miles. Here is a look at my typical marathon segment diet.

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.

Running Form on Hills

4 Simple Form Tweaks That Make Running Hills Easier

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Whether you encounter hills in training or on the race course, fighting gravity can quickly become an epic struggle both mentally and physically. However, running hills doesn’t have to ruin your workout or race. By maintaining proper form and executing a smart strategy as you run up and over them, you can actually turn hill running into a strength you can capitalize on.

In this article, I am going to teach you some simple form tweaks that can save you energy and help you breeze up and over hills with greater ease. Likewise, I’ll share the secret to attacking hills during a race so you can maintain pace and stay on track to reach your goal time.

Running Form on Hills

Running uphill and downhill require some slight tweaks to your form to maximize your power and efficiency as well as provide you much needed oxygen. Many magazines and training partners will give you pointers on proper form, but it’s important you are able to properly visualize the tips, or you could end up doing more harm than good. Here are my form suggestions and a visual for how to implement them.

Running uphill

how to run uphill

(1) The most critical element is that you keep your chest up and open. The most common advice you might have received is to “lean into the hill”. Unfortunately, this causes many runners to hunch at the waist to lean forward. This constricts your airway and makes it harder to breathe deeply. You do need to lean forward, but make sure you lean at the hips, not the waist.

(2) Keep your head and eyes up, looking about 30 meters in front of you. Dropping your head restricts how much oxygen you can take in and will cause you to slouch. Likewise, drive your arms straight forward and back and use them as pistons. Your arms should form a 90-degree angle at the elbow, and swing straight back and forth, not across your body.

(3) Focus on driving your knee off the hill, not into the hill like you might do if you maintained your normal knee drive. Work on landing on the ball of your foot to spring up the hill.

(4) Plantar flex your foot at the ankle – plantar flexion is when you point your toes towards the ground. Think of yourself exploding off your ankle and using that last bit of power to propel you up the hill with minimal energy expenditure. Focusing on plantar flexion can save you a lot of energy and really help you get up the hill faster and with less energy.

Downhill runningdownhill running technique

(1) Just like when running uphill, you want to have a slight lean forward at the hips to take advantage of the downhill. Don’t overdo the lean, you just need a slight tilt to benefit from gravity.

Keep your arms relaxed and only slightly moving forward and back. Don’t flail them to the sides, this will waste energy. Likewise, keep your head up and your eyes looking forward.

(2) You want to land with your foot either right beneath your torso or just slightly in front of your pelvis, depending on the grade of the downhill (the steeper the grade, the more likely your foot is to land out in front). Extending your leg too much will cause you to land on your heel, which will act like a breaking motion. Focus on landing towards your midfoot to maintain speed while staying in control.

(3) Your stride length should naturally be extended when running downhill. However, you shouldn’t need to consciously increase your stride length. The pace and the grade of the hill will do this naturally for you.

Pacing During Hilly Races

Tackling hills during races or even important workouts can be daunting. It’s easy to ruin your race by wasting too much energy grinding up a hill or lose big chunks of time by slowing the pace too much.

To handle hills effectively in races, learn to run up and down them by effort, not pace.

When you approach the base of a hill, you should already have a good feel for the effort you’re maintaining to keep the pace you need. Meaning, if you’re running goal race pace already, you should already know what that pace “feels” like. So, when you begin to ascend up the hill, focus on maintaining the same effort. Obviously, your actual pace will slow, even though you’re running the same effort (don’t worry, you’ll make it up on the downhill). The exact time you’ll “lose” on the uphill will be a function of the steepness and length of the hill.

Now, when you crest the hill and begin the descent, simply maintain the same effort that it took to run your goal pace before you began up the hill. Contrary to running uphill, this effort will now make your actual pace faster than goal pace. For the most part, this will largely negate most of the time you lost going uphill and you’ll reach the bottom still on target (For the exact science of how much running uphill loses time versus time gained going downhill, check out the research).

The secret behind this strategy is that by maintaining a consistent effort, you won’t lose crucial energy pushing either up or down the hill. Therefore, instead of becoming an energy sapping obstacle, the hill will be just another bump in the road and you’ll be able to maintain your pace and stay strong over the remainder of the course.

By improving your form and implementing this simple strategy, you’ll be able to conquer hills of all lengths and inclines. If you have any hill running secrets you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section, we would love to hear from you.

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.

Marathon Recovery

How to Recover from a Marathon

Guest Blog by Jeff Gaudette of RunnersConnect

Recovering from a marathon is a critical component to a perfect training plan that runners often neglect. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your marathon, you’ll increase you injury risk and limit your long-term potential – making it harder to break your PR and stay healthy.

marathon recoveryAs a running coach, I’ve heard all the arguments from athletes wanting to jump back into training or racing immediately after their race. More often than not, runners who do not follow a proper post marathon recovery plan find their subsequent performances stagnating or they suffer from overtraining symptoms.

To help guide you to the proper marathon recovery plan, this article will outline the science behind post marathon fatigue, so you can feel comfortable knowing you’re preparing your body for optimal performance down the road. Then, I am going to provide you with the optimal post marathon recovery plan to help get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Marathon Recovery – The Science

Marathons are tough on the body – there’s no way to sugar coat this fact. Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a marathon race. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Boston qualifier or it’s your first marathon, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles and your body has undergone tremendous physical duress. Here is a list of some of the scientifically measured physiological systems that are most effected after a marathon and how long each takes to fully repair.

Skeletal Muscle

Muscles soreness and fatigue are the most obvious case of damage caused by running the marathon distance. One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up the 14 days post marathon. Accordingly, it will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.

Cellular damage

Cellular damage post marathon, which includes oxidative damage, increased production of creatinine kinase (CK) – a marker that indicates damage to skeletal and myocardial tissue, and increased myoglobin levels in the blood stream (which often results in blood being present in urine).

One study concluded that CK damage persisted more than 7 days post marathon whileanother study confirmed the presence of myoglobin in the bloodstream post marathon for 3-4 days post race. Both of these studies clearly indicate that the body needs at least 7-10 days of rest post marathon to fully recover from the cellular damage caused during the race. These markers, along with a suppressed immune system, which is discussed below, is the primary reason that the optimal marathon recovery schedule avoids cross training the first 2-3 days.

Immune system

Post marathon, the immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu. Furthermore, a suppressed immune system is one of the major causes of overtraining. A recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome. Therefore, it is critical that you rest as much as possible in the three days following a marathon and focus on eating healthy and nutrient rich foods.

The research clearly indicates that the marathon induces significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage for 3-14 days post race. Therefore, it is essential that all marathon runners have a 2-3 week marathon recovery protocol that focuses on rest and rejuvenation of these physiological systems.

Marathon Recovery – The plan of action

We’re going to outline a nutrition, rehab, cross training, and running plan for the 3 weeks after a marathon. This rehab plan is guaranteed to help you recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.

Immediately post race

The immediate post race recovery protocol can be a little difficult to plan ahead of time, so I wouldn’t stress about it pre-race. Focus your energy on pre-race nutrition and race strategy. These notes are simply to give you some guidance after the race.

After you cross the finish line, try to get something warm and get to your clothes. You’ll probably get cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.

Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options. Many marathoners can’t eat soon after finishing, so grab a handful of items and make your way to friends and family.

When you get back to the hotel room, you should consider an ice bath. Fill the tub with ice and cold water and submerge your lower body for 15 minutes. You don’t need the water too cold, 55 degrees is optimal, but anything colder than 65 degrees will do. After your ice bath, you can take a nap or walk around to try and loosen the legs. At this point, you’ve done about all you can do for the day. Relax and relish in your accomplishment.

Days 1-3

Running: None

Cross Training: none

Recovery Tips and tricks:

  • Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
  • Each lots of fruits, carbohydrates, and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
  • Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.

Days 4-7

Running: One day, 2-4 miles very easy

Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.

Recovery Tips and Tricks:

  • Continue eating a healthy diet
  • Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
  • Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
  • Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.

Days 7-14

Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.

Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.

Days 14-21

Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.

Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.

Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period. First, it’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle. If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters. Likewise, you won’t lose much fitness at all. In my experience, it takes about 2-3 weeks of training to get back into good shape and ready to start attacking workouts and planning races.

Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon. I know you may want to avenge a disappointing performance or you’ll be coming off a running high and you’ll want to run every race under the sun. However, your results won’t be as good as they might be if you just wait a few weeks and let your body recover and train a little first. Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.

Our RunnersConnect memberships and our Personal Coaching plans will take care of all the guesswork in training and walk you through the  entire marathon training process. Sign up now to get a jump on your Spring marathon.


About the author: Coach Jeff Gaudette is a 2:22 marathoner and has been a running coach for the past 7 years. “I love coaching and I have a passion for translating highly technical training theory to the schedules of the runners I coach. I don’t believe in ‘secret’ formulas or ‘patented’ coaching systems, just intelligent, adaptive and experienced coaching”. Join the 2,500+ other runners who rely on RunnersConnect for the latest running research and training information.

Get more great training advice and tips at the place where this article originally appeared RunnersConnect.com.

Benefitting From a Workout

How long before you benefit from a running workout

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

It’s the question all runners want to know – “how long will it be before I see the benefits from my workout?” Unfortunately, like most aspects of running and training, there isn’t a quick and easy answer.

Most experienced runners have heard that it takes 10 days to realize the benefits of a workout. While I agree that this is a good rule of thumb to follow, especially during the taper phase of a training plan, it’s not a very accurate measurement of how your body responds and adapts to a myriad of different training factors. For example, the exact rate your body absorbs and responds to a workout is going to be influenced by the type of workout, the intensity, your recovery protocol, and your body’s own rate of adaptation.

However, while there is no universal and simple answer to this question, if we take the time to breakdown all the factors that affect workout absorption, you can extrapolate a fairly accurate estimation of how long it will take to benefit from each type of workout on your training schedule.

Setting the stage

Like any analysis that involves a myriad of influencing factors, the first thing we need to do is establish our assumptions and control some of the influencing variables.

First, for the purpose of this in-depth breakdown, we’re going to assume that you’re implementing a thorough recovery plan after each workout. While ideal workout recovery is an article in itself, we’ll simply presume that you’re at least doing three things after each workout: (1) fueling properly; (2) getting plenty of sleep; and (3) stretching or massaging to reduce soreness. Certainly, you can be doing more to speed your recovery, but this is the baseline we’ll use for general workout adaptations.

Second, we need to make an assumption about your general rate of recovery. It’s unfortunate, but some runners have the ability to recover faster than their peers. We all have that running pal who seems to bounce back from track workouts like she didn’t even run the day before (if you don’t know someone like this, then you’re the envy of all your running friends because you’re “that guy”). Likewise,  runners generally recover slower as they get older. Typically, a 65-year old is going to take longer to recover from a hard workout than a spry runner in their mid-20′s. For the sake of keeping things simple, we’re going to assume your rate of recovery is about average for a 35 to 40-year old runner. If you’re older or have found that you recover much faster than your running peers, you’ll be closer to the outer numbers of the ranges presented below.

How long it will take to benefit from each type of workout

As mentioned previously, the type of workout you perform and the intensity at which you run it will determine how quickly you see benefits. Why? Because your cardio-respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems all respond to training at a different rate. Since each type of workout is designed to stress a particular physiological system, the rate of adaptation will vary.

To make it simple, here is how quickly you’ll reap the benefits from each type of workout on your training schedule:

Speed development

Speed development workouts target the nervous system and are designed to develop the communication between your brain and your muscles. More importantly, improvements to the nervous system allow your brain to activate a greater percentage of muscle fibers and fire them more forcefully.

Speed development workouts aren’t the type of speed work most runners think about. Instead of lung busting intervals, you’re doing short, full speed repetitions on full recovery. Examples of speed development workouts include explosive hill sprints, in-and-out 150′s, or 200m repeats with full recovery – the type of stuff you see sprinters do on the track.

Luckily, you can reap the benefits from a speed workout very quickly – within a day or two. The nervous system responds quickly to new stimuli because the growth and recovery cycle is very short – according to this study, it’s the same principle behind and extensive warm-up that involves dynamic stretching and strides. The nervous system responds very quickly to new stimuli and changes.

VO2max and hill work

VO2max and hill workouts are designed to develop your anaerobic capacity, or your ability to withstand a large amount of oxygen debt, and your muscular system.

Unfortunately, muscle strength and anaerobic capacity take longer to develop because of the intense demand on the body and the amount of time it takes for the muscle fibers to recover after intense sessions. Therefore, it takes anywhere from 10-14 days to realize the full benefit from an anaerobic capacity workout.

You should also note that because of the demanding nature of these workouts, you may actually feel like you’ve “lost fitness” for 7-8 days after these workouts. We all know running the day after an intense session of 400′s can be difficult, but the performance loss will carry through for a few extra days, so be wary.

Threshold runs

Threshold runs, tempo runs, and marathon pace runs are designed to train your body to increase its ability to reconvert lactate back into energy. In general, these types of workouts are taxing, but they aren’t slug fests like a VO2 max workout might be. Therefore, the recovery cycle after a tempo run is faster, which enables you to reap the benefits from the workout within 7-10 days.

Long runs

Finally, the goal of a long run is to build-up your aerobic system. Primarily, this is accomplished by increasing the number and size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers, increasing the number of capillaries, and increasing the myoglobin content of your muscle fibers.

While these improvements to the aerobic system are great for long-term development, you don’t often “feel” the benefit from them right away. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to notice changes in your aerobic ability and for the actual training effect being felt. Likewise, the more experienced you are, the less you will “feel” the benefits from a long run since you aerobic system is already quite developed.

An easy to use chart

Here’s a quick and easy chart that breaks down the general timeframe it takes to realize the benefits from each particular workout:


Workout type Intensity/difficulty When you’ll see benefits
Speed development Hard 1-3 days
Medium 1-3 days
VO2 max/Hills Hard 12-15 days
Medium 9-11 days
Threshold Hard 10-12 days
Medium 7-10 days
Long Run Hard or Medium 4-6 weeks


This chart makes it easy to see why a general 10-day rule is applied, but isn’t always an accurate assessment of when you’ll realize the benefits from a session.

Long-term benefits of training

It’s important to note that realizing the benefits from one workout and fully developing each energy system are two completely different training topics. In this article, I’ve merely outlined the time it takes for your body to repair the muscle damage and experience some amount of growth in a specific physiological system.  Fully developing any of these energy systems takes time – and lots of it (years). However, long-term development is a topic that deserves its own article entirely – so stay tuned.

As a note, the understanding of this principle is how your coaches are able to accurately assign you workouts and when we know that it’s time to up the intensity. By knowing your current fitness, recovery rate, and running history, we can precisely predict when you’ll adapt to the training load and be ready for the next challenge.

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.

Running Harder & Getting Faster

Why Running Harder Won’t Help You Get Faster

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

how-to-run-fasterIn the vocabulary of a runner, patience is a dirty word. Runners always want to run faster, run more miles, and crush their personal bests and they want it now. To be more accurate, they wanted it yesterday.

I know I felt this way before I donned my coaching cap. I wasn’t satisfied with a workout unless I needed to be carried off the track and was forced to spend the rest of the day passed out on the couch. That was dedication. Surely, this is what it took to be the best runner I could be.

Unfortunately, this mindset couldn’t be more wrong.

Not only did this way of thinking impact my short-term goals, thanks to all-to-frequent injuries and bouts of overtraining, but as you’ll learn in this article, it likely affected my long-term progress as well.

As I’ve matured as a runner and changed my perspective on training as a coach, I’ve come to fully appreciate and value the art of patience. This shift in mindset wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. Hopefully, with the help of some hard, scientific data and a sprinkling of anecdotal evidence, this article can accelerate your maturation as a runner and help you achieve your goals.

Finish a workout feeling like you could have done more

This is a phrase you’ll hear from any running coach worth his or her salt. As elite coach Jay Johnson espouses to his athletes, “you should be able to say after every one of your workouts that you could have done one more repeat, one more segment or one more mile.”

Coach Jay doesn’t just pay this rule lip service. He’s known for cutting workouts short when an athlete looks like they’re over that edge. It’s one of the reasons his athletes continue to perform and improve consistently, year after year.

Now, thanks to recent research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, we have the scientific data to prove what good coaches have known for so many years. Patience pays off. (side note – thank you to Alex Hutchinson for first alerting me to this study through his blog)

In this study, one group of athletes performed a series of workouts at near maximum intensity for twelve weeks. The researchers then had another group perform the same type of workouts (same repeat distance and same amount of rest) yet at a much more moderate intensity.

The results. The high intensity group improved rapidly, recording an increase in VO2 max 30 percent higher than the moderate group after three weeks.

Well, that doesn’t seem to support our theory that patience pays off, does it?

Luckily, the researchers went a step further and recorded changes to VO2 max for six, nine and twelve weeks under the same training methodology. This is where the results get truly interesting.

hi_vs_mod_intervals_1After nine weeks, the high intensity group’s improvements in VO2 max were only 10 percent greater than the moderate group. More importantly, after 9 weeks, the high intensity group stopped improving and after 12 weeks showed the same level of improvement to VO2 max as the moderate group.

Clearly, this research shows that while you’ll see rapid improvements from running workouts as hard as you can in the first few weeks, this improvement curve will level off and running at moderate intensity levels will produce equal, if not better, long-term results.

Of course, like all studies, this research has it’s flaws. Mainly, both groups performed the same workouts for twelve weeks, which means the same stimulus was being applied with each session. However, I’d also point out that when training for 5k or marathon for 12 weeks, the workouts won’t vary much. Sure, the workouts will look different, 12 x 400 meters at 3k pace versus 6 x 800 meters at 5k pace, but you’re still training the same energy system.

Regardless, the data supports what good coaches have known for years.

Consistent, moderate workouts will trump a few weeks of hard, gut-busting workouts every time.

But I want to improve faster

Of course, looking at that data, most runners would still choose the high intensity approach. If the end result after 12 weeks is the same, why not make the fitness gains faster the first three to six week?

Not covered in this particular research study was the impact of injuries and overtraining on potential improvement curve and long-term progress.

It’s not surprising, and it’s been supported by numerous research studies and anecdotal examples, that increased intensity is correlated with higher injury risk. Meaning, the harder (faster) you train, the more likely it is you’ll get injured.

The problem I encounter with many runners who try to workout too hard is the injury cycle, which inhibits long-term progress because for every two steps forward, you take one step back.

Using a similar graph to the one provided in the research study, let’s examine the long-term consequences of always pushing your workouts as hard as you can versus running moderate and always feeling like you could have done more.

Please include attribution to RunnersConnect with this graphic.


While the actual improvement data in the image is fictional, it is based off the data from the actual study representing improvement curve. The difference is that I’ve extended the training period to ten months and factored in injuries and potential overtraining. This graph accurately represents my experience with trying to run every workout as hard as I could and the vast data I’ve collected working as a coach for the past eight years.

As you can see, the high intensity runner speeds out of the gait and is far ahead of the moderate intensity runner after a few weeks. However, it doesn’t take long before the high intensity runner suffers his or her first injury and is setback a week or two. No worries, with just a few weeks of high intensity training, they are back ahead of the slow plodding moderate intensity runner. However, this cycle continues to repeat itself until the high intensity runners is far behind the consentient, steady performer.

More importantly, after 42 weeks, the high intensity runner is at a point that they can no longer make up the difference in fitness simply by training hard for a few weeks.

They will continue to struggle to reach their potential until they finally learn to run their workouts at a moderate level and train to their current level of fitness.

Don’t be the high intensity runner. Learn from the mistakes of countless runners before you, the research and scientific data, and the wisdom of coaches who know their stuff.

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.


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