What would it look like if you went into a road race with endless amounts of usable energy? There are multiple reasons why some pre-planning and due diligence can save you multiple minutes during your next long distance race.
Is your running dragging you down into the dumps? Are you stuck in a serious plateau? If so (and you want to do something about it), you’ll want to change up how you think about training. Regardless of what race you might be training for, variation in what you do, how you do it, and even when you do it can be the difference between an average race and an awesome race! The more your training varies, the more your body has to adapt and the more your body adapts, the stronger and faster you will be. Continue reading
Determining Marathon Goal Time
Marathon season is fast approaching. Spring races will be upon us before you know it. You’ve done a bit of easy running to stay in shape over the winter. And now you’ve signed up for a 26.2-mile race… What happens next?
If you’ve run a marathon before, you have some prior knowledge about what it takes to successfully complete the full distance. But if this is your first one, you might have little clue about what to expect. Continue reading
The long run is considered one of the most important aspects of distance running training. A long run has a similar intensity to an easy or moderate day of running with the main difference being time spent on your feet. Long runs fit neatly into our training schedule and have numerous physiological, physical, and mental benefits that make this type of run one of the most important runs we do on a weekly basis.
Reasons for Doing Long Runs
The most important reason for a long run is to condition the muscles to delay the onset of fatigue. By doing this, the body must learn to physiologically tap into and utilize energy reserves from fat storage sites after the glycogen (fuel stores in the muscles, converted over from carbohydrate food sources) have been depleted. Through long run training, the capacity to store more glycogen within the muscles increases. An increase in glycogen stores translates into the ability to maintain one’s pace during the marathon and delay the onset of fatigue.
Besides delaying the onset of fatigue, long runs also work on strengthening the heart (increasing stroke volume) and open the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles. We can also see benefits physiologically in the increased number and size of mitochondria and increased myoglobin concentration in muscle fibers.
Finally, a distance runner should realize that not all long runs will be easy to complete. Bad patches will arise, and when they do, the better one can persevere through these stretches will develop the necessary mental toughness needed for racing.
Benefits of Long Runs
As a distance runner, there are numerous benefits that we can gain from doing our long runs. Most of these benefits are physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular adaptation, increased size and quantity of mitochondria, and increased use of fat as a fuel source. While others, like mental toughness, experience, and added mileage are both mental and physical benefits. Let’s go through each and see how they benefit us.
• Cardiovascular adaptation: By running more miles, we strengthen our heart and improve its ability to get oxygen-rich blood to our working muscles. While this happens during all running, it especially happens during the long run.
• Adaption of fast-twitch fibers: After roughly 90 minutes of continuous running, the slow twitch fibers that become depleted and our bodies switch to using fast twitch fibers. So in essence, long runs over 90 minutes also become a form of speed work.
• Increased size and quantity of mitochondria: Mitochondria are the powerhouse of cellular respiration – the ability to turn food into energy. Therefore, the bigger and more mitochondria we have, the better our engine will run.
• Increased number of capillaries and capillary density: Bigger capillaries mean we can carry more oxygen to our working muscles. More capillaries equal more oxygen, which means you can run faster and longer in an aerobic state.
• Increased glycogen storage: Muscle glycogen is the body’s primary source of fuel during exercise. Long runs teach your muscles to store more glycogen.
• Increased use of fat as a fuel source: Although fat is a less efficient source of fuel, the more your muscles can use it early in a race, the less likely they are to become depleted of muscle glycogen.
• Experience with long runs and glycogen depletion: You can gain a lot of experience from running for an extended period of time. The more you run log and to depletion, the more confident you’ll be that you can handle the discomfort in a race.
Ways to make a long run feel “easier”
• Hydrate before, during and after races.
• Eat a meal high in carbohydrates within an hour of finishing running.
• Do a dynamic warm-up of stretches and drills before your runs and a static stretching routine after your run.
• Massage or “put your legs up” after a race or long run.
• Wear compression gear to alleviate swelling.
• Consider running for time rather than distance. Going for time will enable you to be flexible and open-minded about your route.
When you design your next training plan (or get a coach like Marc at TrainWithMarc to do that for you), remember the importance of the long run and be sure that you’re scheduling one every week to 10 days during your training cycle.
For details on how you can train, run, and race with TrainWithMarc, find us on the web:
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As a virtual or online running coach, you won’t find me with a stopwatch in hand overseeing my runners during their workouts. It’s not possible, even if I wanted it to be. I have runners in all corners of the country, and so, as you can imagine, a lot has to be said and then implied when we do interact. An online coach is there in spirit and, if I’m doing my job correctly, the athletes I coach become, in effect, my assistant coaches. They ultimately make the call on whether they do that last repetition, or how fast they run their recovery runs…
Within the coach/athlete relationship, a lot of communication happens. Some of it is explicit within the daily training (run this pace, with this much recovery) and some of it is general advice (hydrate, stretch, be flexible and be open minded). Regardless of what type of information I’m passing on, my goal is to make the runners I coach smarter runners who race faster.
That being said, here are some of the key pieces of information I’ve shared with them throughout the summer as we’ve built, tinkered, and fine-tuned our approaches to their peak races. (These are in no particular order).
Taking Care of Yourself
- Don’t neglect foam rolling, massage, icing, and stretching. All of these will make marathon training possible.
- Let’s not be running at the hottest part of the day…
- Be careful of the heat. Hydrate often and run when the sun is not as strong – early in the morning or late at night.
Training (and Racing) Philosophy
- “Comfortably hard” is a range of effort that is roughly 10k to half marathon pace. Roughly a 6 out of 10 in terms of effort.
- Run days – or days that you run the day after a workout should feel hard only because of fatigue. Don’t make them harder by running them too fast.
- Cross training can be done as swimming, biking, or on the elliptical. Anything that gets your heart rate up, but doesn’t bother your injured area are all GREAT forms of XT.
- Most runs should start slower than they finish. When you finish a run, you should feel “fast” and not slogging through the run. And, the pace on an easy run should be comfortable and finishing like you could go out and run for another 2 miles if asked.
- Remember that “easy” pace varies based on weather, course/loop, current fatigue, etc
- Always adjust your pace to reflect the conditions (heat, sun, lack of sleep, hills, etc).
Having an online running coach is great for runners who don’t need their hand holding and can get their training done because they want to get it done. The coach/athlete relationship works well when both communicate, ask questions, and are flexible. If runners, whether coached or not, take the 9 tips above and put them to good use, they will ultimately be a better runner and athlete.
Contact Marc to get coached.
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The move from being a runner who might dabble in cross training to a multi-sport athlete (swim, bike, run) can be a fun challenge that enhances your running potential. For many runners, jumping into a pool can be a big scare, but don’t worry: lots of practice will help you overcome any fears about being in the water that you might have. The same can be said about biking; long hours in the saddle and cars whizzing by can be nerve-wracking.
Regardless of how you move from runner to triathlete, make sure you practice and get help from athletes who’ve done it before you. Unless you have prior swim experience, chances are this is the discipline that will take the hardest to master. Join a swim group who will motivate you, give you tips, and push you to become a better swimmer.
While biking costs the most to pick up, you’ll find that the fast pace and the wind in your face will alleviate your desires to be running. Link up with a bike group who can teach you the ins and outs of being safe on the open road, help push you to new distances and prepare you for the longest discipline in the triathlon.
New to swimming?
Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
- Swim suit – preferably one that is made for racing in the water, instead of lounging on the beach chair. Speedo makes a great (and affordable) line for new swimmers that are flattering and modest for the newbie triathlete.
- Goggles – try a few pairs on and see what fits to your head and face. Upgrade by getting a pair that protects your eyes from UV rays.
- Swim cap – optional, but a good idea if you’ll be doing a lot of swims and you worry about what the chlorine is doing to your hair.
Practice your breathing (something you don’t have to worry about on land), your stroke through the water (efficiency is key!) and how your body moves through the water (the less your body resists water, the faster you’ll move).
Swimming usually is calculated in yards (rather than meters), so aim for swimming by laps or by time. As a runner, it’s more manageable to focus on laps rather than yards or meters. Swim 8 laps the first week and increase by 2 laps every time you get in the pool. By the time it is race day, you’ll be strong enough to handle the race distance.
Getting into biking?
Here’s what you’ll need to have a safe and enjoyable ride.
Gus Andersen, a recent 2x Ironman finisher says, “You don’t need to buy new as there are lots of used bikes out there and can be of GREAT value. Find a biking friend to help you out…With new bikes, you get what you pay for and lots of people get discouraged on the bike because they buy CHEAP and then its painful (literally). A bike fit or at least working with a local shop is the best option. Good bike shops will not push you into a purchase and will let you test ride a bike for hours. A simple lap around the block is not sufficient. Bike shops don’t make their money on the bike sale really, they make it on the accessories and follow up services.”
- Helmet – a must if you want to protect your brain. There are entry level helmets and super advanced ones (for time trials), but an mid-level helmet will be perfect for you.
- Bike shorts – Most new bikers skip this crucial part of the bike portion of a triathlon. Long rides in the saddle almost require having some padded protection for your butt.
- Bike – this is the no-brainer item to be a biker and have a good bike split. Bikes range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Do your research, find a bike you are comfortable being on and will use often and then save for it. For the most part, the more expensive the bike, the faster (and easier) your bike portion of a triathlon will be.
- Clip in pedals – “Clip ins” are for the more advanced rider as they take a lot of getting used to. Clip in pedals help disperse the amount of work your legs must do to pedal. While you’re clipped in, you can push down and pull up on the pedals.
- Sunglasses – Protect your eyes from bugs, leaves, grit, and wind. You don’t want to be going 20 miles an hour and get something in your eye. Trust me.
Practice changing gears on the downhills and uphills. Find an efficient yet comfortable position on the bike and make sure you abide by the rules of the road. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on your bike, try taking in nutrition – there are a lot of products on the market, so try them before race day.
Biking is measured in miles (unless you’re from out of the USA), in which case to get a good workout on the bike, you’ll need to ride for well over an hour. Don’t get discouraged if your pace isn’t there at first, it takes time to get efficient on a bike.
Already into running?
Here’s what you probably already own.
- Running shoes – go to a specialty running store and have them watch you walk and/or run. The right pair of shoes will make the difference between having good runs and bad runs.
- Racing shoes – get racing shoes (also known as racing flats) only if you feel comfortable being in a less-supportive shoe. Most high-end runners will find that racing flats are the way to go for road races.
- Shorts – being a runner means owning running shorts. If you’ve never been in running shorts, you haven’t lived yet!
- Running/racing tops – Moisture wicking shirts will change your life. Racing tops (racing singlets) will not only keep you drier, but also promote your favorite company or brand.
- Watch – a GPS watch isn’t necessary, but definitely comes in handy if used wisely. If you don’t have one, don’t sweat it. Not all runs require a GPS, so if you don’t have one, it’s not a big deal.
The three sport discipline of triathlon can be rewarding in so many ways. Since you’re already experienced with running, you’ll find that the cardio aspect of swimming and biking to be quite fulfilling. On top of that, you’ll be able to work harder (in the pool and on the bike) without feeling the fatigue of the pounding from running. Training for a tri breaks up the monotony of just running and will strengthen your non-running muscles making you a stronger athlete.
So give it a try. Take 2 months of taking out some of your normal running and add in biking and swimming. You’ll have the same strength aerobically, but you’ll be so much more well-rounded as an athlete.
Tell us how you feel once you’ve added in the other disciplines!
Ever do a triathlon? What tips can you leave for Marc so he can rock his first tri?
Introducing speed work into your running routine can make the difference in how you feel on all your runs – even your slowest ones.
As Brooks Johnson, former Stanford Cardinal track coach once said, “It’s true that speed kills in distance running. It kills anyone who doesn’t have it.” This is an amazing quote because no matter what race distance you’re training for, speed work will help you become a faster runner. Duh! If you run fast, you will be faster.
As someone who has included speed work in his training for the last 17 years, I know a thing or two about why it’s so good for all distance runners to do. Whether you want your 5k pace to feel easier, or your long run to feel smoother, you need speed work. When you want to fly past your competition in the last 200 meters of your race, add speed workouts. Or, if you just want to feel fast again, speed work is for you.
“Speed work” can mean a lot to many different people, so let’s break it down and discuss what it is, why you should do it, when you should do it, and sample workouts that all runners can and should be doing starting today.
What is Speed Work?
Technically, it’s anything that’s faster than an easy run. More specifically though, elite runners consider speed work to be mile race pace or faster. For elite women, this is 4:20-4:30 mile pace (65 second 400s). When you do repeats at this faster pace, it’s easier to think how 75 second 400s (elite women’s 5k pace) will feel.
Why Do Speed?
Speed workouts are the best way to get faster and feel faster. Whether you’re doing striders at the end of your run or sprints before your race, speed will help you get accustomed to running fast.
When to Incorporate Speed
The best time to add speed work into your running routine is when you feel ready for it. Simply adding striders to the end of 2-3 of your runs per week could be enough speed work for you. Striders are simple, yet effective ways to get small doses of speed work into your training plan.
If you’re looking for more than just during striders, try a sample workout and modify it to fit your running needs. When in doubt, less is more as too much of speed is definitely not a good thing.
Speed Workouts in Moderation
Be careful with speed workouts as they can leave you very sore & tired. Because the pace is fast, you are more susceptible to injury, so be aware of how your form is and that you get in a proper warmup and cooldown on speed workout day.
Sample Speed Workouts
All of these workouts should be done after a good warmup run, drills, and striders. After the workout, you should do a cool down run.
- 8 laps around the track where you sprint the straightaways and jog the curves.
- 2 sets of 5 x 100 w/ 100 jog (300 jog after the set)
- 8 x 200 w/ 200 jog.
- 6 x 400 with full recovery (as much time as you need to run the next interval faster)
For more sample workouts, or your own training plan, contact Marc.