Hanson’s Community Questions: Episode 1 VO2max pace work

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HCS Community Page:
4/28/16

From our closed Facebook Community:

Sasha: I would like to know if/how Hansons training addresses different pace work such as VO2Max, etc. The 5k-10k Pace work isn’t fast enough for VO2Max, and I’ve found great adaptions to occur at 3k Pace. Is that something that could be added, and is it added in custom training and/or amongst Hanson’s elite?

This is a question we get a fair amount. It’s also a source of misconception with our naysayers. With that, there’s a number of components that we should look at when answering the main question here.

VO2max pace work

What population are you working with?

With the majority of people we are working with they are going to get the vast majority of aerobic fitness by the peripheral benefits of easy to moderate running. Even marathon pace is a highly aerobic event. Plus, the majority of people who are using the program are taking their training to a new level and the addition of very fast running will only create an additional stress that they may or may not be able to recover from. As a coach with a program meant for large groups, it’s not a good addition to expect everyone to tolerate. To me, this is something that a coach working with an individual would add.

What is the goal of our training cycle?

The goal of our marathon program isn’t to improve your VO2max. It’s been shown time and time again that VO2max is not a good predictor of race performance, especially the marathon. So, in our case, VO2max will improve as a byproduct of the training, not because we emphasized it. You also have to look at where you fit that type of training. You won’t put it early in the segment as that can cause acidosis. It also doesn’t make sense because the body might not to be able to withstand that intensity, even in short bouts. I’m also not going to put it at the end, when I am trying to be as race specific as possible.

The 3-2 rule revisited

Even after what I just wrote in the last two sections, I do think there is a place for everything. If you have read the book and my posts, you know I don’t like people just racing marathon after marathon. We have what we call the 3-2 rule, which is simply three marathons to every two years. Now that is probably really painful for people to hear, and depending on the person, you may be able to sneak it up to 2 marathons per year. However, this is one of the main reasons why. If we are always in a marathon training mode, we either have to force training that might not be good timing (or force us to miss on the stuff we really need), or we take a dedicated segment every now and then and use it to challenge ourselves in a new way. This could be building our mileage, improving our top end speed, adding strength training. Personally, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not the same training over and over.

So with that said, would I add? Not in a general setting where I am already making a ton of assumptions about you. However, working on an individual level, we would work all facets of training into your big picture of training when we can put it in the appropriate place!

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Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

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Mileage is always a big topic of discussion with runners, almost a badge of honor for some runners. For newer runners, the questions usually revolve around increasing mileage safely but quickly (sometimes just quickly) while with more advanced runners, the questions might be centered more around how much mileage is enough. What I’d like to do is offer up some thoughts on common “rules” and give you some ideas to think about when you start looking at your own training volume.

The most popular method of increasing mileage, by far, is the 10% rule

General Theory

The most popular method of increasing mileage, by far, is the 10% rule. A quick Google search on “increasing running mileage” will show you numerous articles. This has come under some criticism- just read those above mentioned articles. It certainly is a pretty conservative approach, especially with newbies and general low mileage runners. For instance, if you run 10 miles your first week of running, then this rule says that the most you can add is 1 mile. The practicality of that isn’t necessarily high. You might have a variance of 2-3 miles without even trying.

Another theory comes from the ever famous Daniels Running Formula which Dr Daniels writes about adding no more than one mile per run per week. For instance, if you run 4 times per week, then add no more than 4 miles the next week. This proposal is seemingly scalable, as many competitive runners will run 10 plus runs in a week and that would probably be about a 10% increase in mileage. So, for lower mirage runners, the amount you can increase may be more like 15-20%. This makes sense because adding even a small amount of total weekly mileage in low volume runners will tend to be higher than the very conservative 10% rule.

What’s best way to approach? Well, for lower mileage runners the 10% rule is probably to conservative. To be honest, at that rate of increase, you’ll spend all summer just trying to get to a decent weekly volume. For higher mileage runners, there’s probably not going to be much difference between the two philosophies. And, for these folks, your concerns probably lie in other areas- which we will discuss later. The following are things that I would consider when deciding on your approach.  

Things to consider when discussing volume/mileage

  1. Maximize your current level before making a jump. It takes 4-6 weeks for the body to adjust to a new training stress, so don’t jump to another training stress until you’ve gained what you can out of the current training stress. If you can still adapt at a lower training level, then why not? Otherwise, you have the risk of jumping up too much too quickly and getting injured.

One of the most common issues I see with beginning runners or runners trying to make a big jump in training is that they were feeling great and then, BOOM! They got a tendonitis or a stress fracture. What we tend to neglect is that our cardiorespiratory fitness can increase quite rapidly, within a couple weeks. However, things like bone and tendon take much longer to catch up. So, if we jump up too much, despite the increase in fitness, we end up sidelined. That is why I say to not really jump up a little bit every week, rather increase a moderate amount every 4ish weeks and then stay there. It won’t be as slow of a buildup as the 10% rule, but not so fast that the body can’t adjust. Running more mileage is only good if you can do it consistently!

Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

2.  Focus on endurance before intensity: In general fitness we look at the acronym FITT which represents frequency of exercise, intensity of exercise, amount of time exercising, and type of exercise.  When we begin increasing mileage, we are potentially adjusting all four of these variables. If we add a day to our routine, we automatically are adding more time that we are engaging in a certain type of exercise. As you can see, the odd man out here is intensity. If you try to increase or change all the variables at once, something is going to have to give.

There are times where you will be increasing mileage and doing workouts at the same time. The key here is that you aren’t making major jumps in training when trying to do both. Ultimately this comes back to thoughts on our philosophy where you train at a moderate level of mileage most of the time, which minimizes big swings in training stress for extended periods of time. I believe it also goes back appropriate paces. If we start cheating paces down because we feel good, we ultimately run ourselves down and become, at the least, overtrained, but at the most, sick and injured. Lastly, it makes it crucial to not get caught up in cycle after cycle of training for the same distance. While the traditional base period may be falling out of favor, it’s a perfect time to give yourself a block of 6-8 weeks to focus solely on building to new mileage. By making some type of compromise I believe the road to your eventual goal will ultimately shorten.

  1. Use cross training as a transition, not a replacement. Many people look at the training plans in Hansons Marathon Method and Hansons Half Marathon Method and view us as anti cross training. This is simply not the case, rather I truly feel that in the case of increasing mileage, cross training should be supplementary and not a replacement for running.

For example, let’s say you are following a program that has you running three days per week, what are you doing the other four days? Your first step should be to make sure you are cross training at least a few of the other days. From there, you start replacing a cross training day with a running day (we’ll talk about days over adding to current runs later).

Personally, if you are using our training philosophy, I’d like to see you build to at least five running days per week. If you are more of a 5k to 10k runner, you can probably do alright with 3-5 days, but once you start getting to that half marathon distance and up, you really should try to build up to more than 5 days of running per week. I have gotten plenty of backlash over that, which is fine, but this isn’t the place for an argument. I would just encourage you to look at our posts on philosophy and training components to see where our theory comes from. I will just say, that if you are low mileage, allow yourself even more time to prepare for a race so that you can still get all the work you’ll need to in order to be ready.

  1. Do I add to my current runs or add days to my week? This is a question we will get a lot. My basic thought is that a run should be at least 30 minutes in length. So for most people we work with, that’s a 3-5 mile run. Adding about 5 miles per week is pretty common under the systems we have talked about, but the duration of that 5 miles is what will be the differential. So, if you are running about 10 minute pace, you might be better off adding a 3 mile run and then 1-2 miles onto another run or across two runs. Or, maybe you aren’t currently at 30 minute runs? Spread the mileage across the week to get those runs up to that 30 minute mark. Also, when I am adding mileage, I am talking about adding easy mileage before adding mileage to workouts and long runs. Using this, I’d follow the process until getting to the desired days per week you want to run. After that, you can start adjusting other variables within your harder efforts.
  1. Give yourself enough time at a training level. We touched on this a little bit, but allowing yourself adequate time to fully adjust to a new training level. Now, if you are following the 10% rule, then you can go a few weeks in a row of increasing your mileage, but on that third week, you may want to consider staying put for a couple weeks before making another jump.

With really small jumps it’s probably OK to make continual jumps- to a point. What I personally don’t like is that you now have to guess when a you’ve made a big enough jump. That’s why I like to keep it clean and clear cut- make a moderate jump, then stay put. This allows your body to completely adjust to the mileage. As we mentioned, your cardiovascular system will adapt pretty quick and you’ll have the urge to make another jump, but I urge you to fight that urge if you are venturing into new mileage territory. Give your bones, tendons, and musculature plenty of time to adapt to the increased stress.

Non-beginner situations: so far, we  have really just discussed ideas for runners who are trying to get their mileage up to a point where the need to be, in order to compete at the level they want. There are other scenarios where we discuss building back to a previous level and most of that is when we are coming back from being sick or injured. We have discussed that in pretty decent detail in our Dealing with Injury and Illness video, so I won’t go back into it now. For me there are two scenarios where we can discuss mileage in a setting where the goal isn’t to establsh a higher training baseline.

Coming back from planned downtime. This is pretty common- especially if you use our training. For the marathon, we prescribe pretty lengthy downtimes, usually 10 days to 2 weeks. For shorter races, generally, you can expect less down time depending on the runners situation. Here’s how I would handle building back:

For 5-7 days of planned downtime (still healthy)

  • First week: 50-60% of peak mileage, spread over several days, but giving yourself 1-2 off days during the week. All easy mileage.
  • Second week: 70-80% of peak mileage, but keeping it easy, with 1 (maybe 2) off days and a longer run.
  • 3rd week: 80-90% of peak goal mileage with a long run and one light workout- usually a progression run (or cutdown run, depending on your terminology)
  • 4th week: 90% of peak goal mileage and a light track workout (8-12×400’s for example) and a long run.
  • 5th week: resume normal training.

For 10-14 days of planned downtime (still healthy)

  • First week: Every other day of 30-45 minutes easy running
  • 2nd week: Five days of 45-60 minutes easy running
  • 3rd week: 5-7 days of running, making sure at 60-70% of average mileage, including a longer run
  • 4th week: 5-7 days of easy running, totaling 80% of usual volume including a longer run and either light 400’s on the track or a cutdown, followed by a weekend longer run
  • 5th week: Same as the 4th week, just alternating what workout I did the previous week. Volume may be 80-90% of goal volume
  • 6th week: Begin training for next event.

How much is enough mileage? This isn’t something I see discussed a ton, but it is an important topic. A couple of recent examples on our Facebook group and local runners that got me thinking more about this.

First, let’s preface this with a case studies of a runner who has followed a common path that started with simply following the Advanced Marathon Plan in the book. Our first athlete, Dave, came to me when he was in his early 40’s. He ran in high school but hadn’t run in decades. He followed the basic plan and ran his first marathon. If I recall correctly, he was right around 3 hours, a little north of three. From there, we’ve been gradually increasing his mileage and tweaking his training. Now, a few years later, David averages about 75 miles per week when training for a marathon and run 2:45 in the marathon. In a perfect world, David would run more, but he’s a crazy busy business man, husband, and father of teenagers. Every time we try to do more, David breaks down or gets sick. His schedule just doesn’t allow it. Instead, we try to focus more on details like strides, stretching, some strength, and diet. We’ve maxed out the mileage and turned towards the other facets of training.

Now, there’s another runner who is a local guy. I don’t coach him, but have watched him train for a number of years through our local group runs and workouts. He’s a couple years older and trains a lot more than David. I know this runner will hit 100 mile weeks on a regular basis during the marathon training blocks. I watch this runner and it almost hurts me. He is hunched over with a very weak core and his stride is very short and quick with no hip extension. I’m not trying to pick on this runner, but this is what got me thinking. In his particular case, the 100 mile weeks aren’t improving his ability anymore. Personally, what I would do is back off the mileage, take a block of time and focus on strengthening his core and improve his form through fixing muscle imbalances.

What’s the point of this comparison?

It’s really to show you that early on, we will improve just by running more mileage. However, eventually we will get to a point where more mileage isn’t going to yield results (the idea of diminishing returns). Now, don’t take this as contraindication to running moderate to high mileage, rather your body, your work and your family schedule will reach a breaking point. You probably can’t do much about the last two, but you can work on body weaknesses.

With that said, there is no perfect answer for mileage. In the books we lay out some guidelines for runners to gauge their ability to what their level of expertise is.

Beginner Competitive Elite
5k 20-30 40-50 90+
Marathon 40-50 60-70 110+

There’s a couple ways to  look at this. The first being that if you want to run to compete in age groups, win local races, etc, then you’ll probably have to run more than 30 miles per week. You can use it as a guide to build to. On the other hand if you are cranking out a ton of mileage and aren’t performing at the level you’d like to, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Obviously this is an extremely simplified way to look at things, but at least can be a starting point for you. It also goes back to what we discussed earlier- maximize where you are at first before making a big jump. This can include those supplemental components, as well.

So there you have it, some general thoughts on increasing your mileage safely, but not taking forever to get to a desired weekly volume. Hopefully, this will guide you as you think about where you are and where you want to take your running.

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HCS and Periodization: How we structure training

I’ve read a lot of books about training and everyone talks about “periodization.” For those that don’t know the term, it’s essentially a roadmap to your goal race. It is usually blocked off in chunks of training labeled base, precompetitive, and then competitive. The basic premise is that you build mileage and then insert intensity. As you begin to approach the race, or racing season, the volume decreases and the intensity decreases.

The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete…

The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete who typically has 2 or 3 set seasons. Summer is cross country prep, with fall being cross country season. Then winter serves as a base building segment and track prep, with spring and early summer being track seasons. These are typically great and for a long time would even work for athletes training for marathons. However, now there are races all the time, so does a traditional periodization method work? And does it work those running races like the marathon and half marathon?

The Linear Periodization model is typically what we see in athletes. This ok for those racing shorter distances because their races are intense, so the work that they are doing is race specific. For those racing longer distances, we don’t necessarily want more intense work when our race may not even be approaching our lactate threshold. What do we do then?

Above is the idea of a funnel periodization and I like the idea of this much better for all race distances because we are removing the idea of simply doing more intense work and replacing it with race specific speed and endurance. In this chart, the dashed line is the volume and that’s what the High and Low is referring to on the right, not high General Speed and low General Endurance. It took me a second, too! Essentially, the top line for speed starts out as general and works towards specific, while endurance starts at general endurance and works towards specific. When you look at our training plans, you’ll see that this is the general model that we follow.

Traditionally, training segments were designed for 2 or 3 major races (or racing blocks for shorter races). For instance it might be regionals and state final in cross country, and then state finals for indoor and/or outdoor track. Where many adults run into problems is they want to race at a high level several times per year. I think for many of us we should address several issues with periodization and racing in a practical sense

  1. How long do racing segments really need to be?
  2. What do I need each training block to consist of?
  3. What happens when I race the same distance continuously?
  4. Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?
  5. Racing during times of non-peak fitness- should I?

Length of race segments

There’s a lot to deciding on a race segment, regardless of race distance. If you have read any of our work on philosophy then you know that we talk a lot about moderate mileage and balance in training. This is for more than just punishing my athletes! Rather, if we are in relatively good shape the majority of the time, the we drastically reduce the time we need to prepare specifically for any race distance. Now, on the other hand, when we are habitually low mileage and/or focus on one aspect of training for too long, then you’ll need a much longer time to shift gears to sufficiently prepare for a race. Now, there’s nothing wrong if that’s your style, but it simply affects how you can prepare for a different race. I will say this, though, that if you train for marathons then your time needed to come down for a 5k will be much shorter than if it’s the other way around.

5k/10k Training low mileage/single focused moderate/balanced
beginner 12-14 weeks 12 weeks
recreational 10-12 weeks 10-12 weeks
competitive 10-12 weeks 8-10 weeks

 

Half Marathon Training Low mileage/single focused Moderate/balanced
Beginner 18+ Weeks 14-18 weeks
Recreational 16-18 Weeks 12-14 weeks
Competitive 12-14 Weeks 10-12 Weeks

 

Marathon Training Low Mileage/Single Focused Moderate/Balanced
Beginner 18-24 weeks 18 Weeks
Recreational 16-18 Weeks 14-18 Weeks
Competitive 14-16 Weeks 12-14 Weeks

 

What should my training block consist of?

With our marathoners, we’ve discussed in depth the pillars of our training: balance, consistency, moderate to high mileage, appropriate paces, and active recovery. Without one of these the whole philosophy begins to crumble. These pillars are not just for the marathoners but are applicable to all racing events.

The point is that no matter the race distance, balance is key- meaning that speed, strength, tempo, long runs and easy days are all important. Now, these may be tweaked in terms of placement and race specific intensities, but no single component should be neglected during training. I feel this is especially true for anyone not in a specialization setting (high school or college track team for example).

What happens when I race the same distance continuously?

For starters, refer above to what we just discussed. What happens when a person races the same distance over and over is that they will often become stagnant and plateau. The reasoning is because many times they simply lose balance in training and certain components become ignored for months on end. For example, if all you do is 5k races, chances are you’ll avoid doing any work at marathon pace or anything really between an easy pace and lactate threshold. The problem is that you really aren’t providing any stress at a “high aerobic” level and limit the growth of your aerobic foundation. Instead, you may be trying to pull your fitness up by only trying to improve your VO2max and top end speed. As you will hear me preach, both of those (the peak of your fitness house) will ultimately be limited by the aerobic foundation of your fitness house. The opposite can be said for folks who only run marathons. If you find yourself doing this it may be time to consider what you are lacking and break your typical training with a segment that works on those weaknesses. Then, in the future, make sure you incorporate that balance and avoid having to fall into that situation again.

Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?

In short, no. I mean that in the nicest way, too. What I will see is athletes put way too much pressure on themselves to be at peak form at all times. That’s just a tough spot to put yourself in when trying to commit to being the best runner possible. If you are segmenting your training right you just won’t be in a position to run Personal bests all the time.

So then you’ll need to ask yourself the question, “why am I running this race?” Then you’ll need to follow that with “Am I ok if the results aren’t what I’m accustomed to?” If your big picture goal is, let’s say, qualify for Boston, then is running this race going to help or hinder that? If the answer is hinder, then I’d probably pass on it. As for the question about results, I am all for doing a test run, but if I am training for a marathon then I shouldn’t expect to run a great 5k when I’m knee deep in marathon pace training. Just like our training, our races should have purpose- at least when a bigger goal is in mind.

Should I race during my non-peak fitness?

There are sometimes when racing is just not a good idea and others when it can be beneficial. When coming back from a big goal race you want to make sure you are recovered (time off) and have given yourself several weeks to return to not only running, but also workouts.

When looking at the funnel style of periodization, that leaves the middle to the later portions of the training to race. Your weekly volume and the race that you are training for will determine what races should be appropriate.

For instance, let’s say you are brand new to running and want to run a marathon. I wouldn’t recommend just training for the marathon without any race experience. So, while building your general fitness it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run progressively longer races spread out over several months of your goal marathon buildup. In this situation our goal isn’t to necessarily run fast but rather have checkpoints along the way. This way your first race experience won’t be a 26.2 mile crash course in racing.

As for shorter races, there’s a number of things to consider. For those racing the 5k and 10k distances, a race can fit in nicely as a tune up or even a workout. During general fitness building, let’s say 6-8 weeks out from your peak race, a 10k might be good race because it will allow for a tempo (Lactate Threshold) workout and will also give you a chance to see where your fitness is currently at.

From there, if you are planning on going after a 10k peak race, I would consider a 5k race 2-3 weeks before your first big attempt. When you go after that peak 10k effort, you will probably really have about two good chances in the 3-4 weeks of tapering. Some people might be able to sneak that out to six weeks, but after that you really run the risk of getting burnt out, stale, and seeing decreases in performances. As for the 5k, it’s a little tougher but a 1 mile or 2 mile effort would be great about 2-3 weeks before your peak effort. Then you can follow similar guidelines as we just discussed for the 10k, just replace 10k races with 5k races.

For races like the half marathon, a 10k effort 3-4 weeks out will serve as a good test. Running at faster than goal half marathon pace should make your goal half marathon pace feel a little more comfortable. Leading up to the half marathon, you’ll probably be doing plenty of threshold runs, so races that will take you 15-30 minutes of hard running can be inserted into training during the buildup to replace the redundancy of workouts.

There’s a couple points to consider when planning all this out:

The first is that only do the races if you are ok with not being in peak form. Understand what the goal is for each race you are doing. These should aid in building confidence, not deflating it. The second is that you really have to be careful with racing too much during the segment. For me, the main reason is that if you start replacing all your workouts with 5k races on the weekend then you start the practice of surviving the week to get the race. At that point you stop building fitness and end up just holding on until the end of the segment- if you make it that long without getting injured.

Hopefully, this has shed a little light on our training systems throughout the racing distances and what makes the wheels upstairs turn a little bit!

Ibuprofen and acute recovery

How many times have we put ourselves, or even worse- has our coach, through a tough workout that left our poor muscles just shredded? If you’re like I used to be, then you may have been reaching for a couple of the over-the-counter anti inflammatory capsules. Was that the best thing for us?

Researchers from Norway, New Zealand, and Australia teamed up to look at blood markers of inflammation and muscle damage post exercise. They also looked at the effects of white blood cell infiltration after taking traditional oral ibuprofen. In the following 24 hours after exercise there was no effect on any of these measures, including the subjects own perception of soreness.

The take-away: We’ve talked before about the body needing to be put under stress in order to adapt to that stress. It appears that ibuprofen may not do much in terms of the acute damage, but you also want to avoid just taking even over the counter pills. Save the medications for when you really need them.

What you can do instead: While taking a couple pills is easy, there’s still some pretty simple things you can do to encourage proper recovery without wasting an opportunity to promote precious fitness adaptations.

  • Refuel: Have snacks prepared for post workouts. Carbohydrate will replenish depleted stores and protein will halt current muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth and repair over the long term.
  • Rehydrate: Begin rehydrating almost immediately and continue drinking regularly throughout the day. This can be water with electrolytes, or even small amounts of sports drinks for right after your workout. I don’t recommend sports drinks all day, but right after a workout is a perfect time.
  • Rest: This one is tough for most people. If you can’t sneak a nap in, wear compression garments for a few hours post workout. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, though.

Article Abstract

Sprint Training: Hurt or help aerobic development

One of the criticisms I have seen against the Hansons Marathon Method is that the speed work is in beginning of the training segment because speedwork causes what is known as acidosis. I addressed the question a little bit in the second edition of Hansons Marathon Method. In that discussion, I argued that the speedwork that we are talking about is speed, relative to the marathon. What I mean is that us doing speedwork at 10k pace is fast, when compared to marathon pace. If we were training for a 5k, then no, that same speedwork would actually resemble threshold work. I also argued that doing it early allows us to put the primary focus on marathon pace as the last several weeks approach, a time where the effort needs to be as race specific as possible. In short, I don’t think that the speed work that we are performing creates acidosis at all.

Benefits of Sprinting!
Benefits of Sprinting!

So why bring this up again? I hadn’t planned on it until I came across some articles as I was researching another topic for an athlete. And, since I think it’s always good to have a complete argument, I figured it’s a good time to add to this discussion- even if it’s just me talking to the wind!

Ok, acidosis has been traditionally thought to hurt aerobic development because of things like lowering the blood pH, which would hinder aerobic adaptations. In this case we are talking about peripheral adaptations- enzyme activity, mitochondrial development, etc. However, what we know is that acidosis is only truly a threat if a) you are running above 100% [email protected] and b) spending a lot of time during a session/week at paces of VO2max. This is the basis of my argument. However, what if we did spend time above VO2max? Would it hurt our aerobic development? This is where the articles I re-discovered come into play.

First, let’s discuss what we are essentially talking about: sprinting, simple as that. Some people will call it High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, which is… sprinting. More specifically, I am referring to repeated bouts of 30 seconds of sprinting in bouts of 4-6 efforts with near full recovery between each and done 2-3 times per week. This is important, because if you are training for a 5k, you might see workouts like 8×600 meters or 8×800 meters at mile pace (or faster) and these are very fast and for 60-90 seconds for fast runners, longer for slower runners. Those are workouts and the 4-6 reps of 30 seconds is a supplement to a run. Extended strides, per say. I think that is key to the whole argument.

So, where’s the proof? I linked a couple of good reads at the bottom of this and you should check them out. These both include references to several studies of interest. The end result is this- In a pretty short amount of time (6-10 weeks) runners of varying abilities performed 4-6 reps of 30 second strides over 2-3 times per week. They found significant improvements in VO2max via peripheral components (with no significant change in central adaptations like heart rate). These are the very same adaptations that we thought would be the victim of acidosis if we engaged in sprinting activities! If we control the length of time and the number of times per week, we not only will avoid hurting our aerobic development, we can:

  • improve neuromuscular connectivity
  • improve strength
  • improve general endurance
  • improve VO2max
  • improve overall speed

As I mentioned, the 30 seconds is key. The 2-3 times per week is key here too. You won’t see the Hansons Marathon Method convert to a HIIT model anytime soon, but there are some serious practical applications for this.

The marathon/half marathon:

  • If you already do strides, try bumping the duration up to 30 seconds from 10-15 currently.
  • Try only once per week to start. This in combination of other SOS workouts is a significant amount of work.
  • If you don’t do strides, start with short 10 second strides and build to 30 seconds over several weeks.
  • I view this as a long term and continual process, so at first it might take longer to see results, but give them time.

The 5k/10k:

  • Here, you might actually do more sprints in the beginning and trail off as you progress in your season
  • With these races, you will actually start training at slower paces and build your actual workouts to a slightly less volume, but greater intensity as you close in on the goal race. This would reduce the need for doing longer sprints more often as workouts, so no need to go beyond 1-2x per week.

Time Crunch:

  • Lower mileage athletes may benefit greatly from being able to incorporate sprints into their week.
  • Another scenario is having a shortened training segment. Let’s say you had something where you took enough time off to lose a little fitness. You are healthy now, but the calendar isn’t cooperating. If you have been doing sprints, you can begin again, and maybe shorten that window needed to regain most of your fitness. I only think this is a safe option if it’s something you’ve done. I don’t condone starting your sprints fresh off a running injury…

Dosages:

  • Start with 1-2x per week and build to 2-3x per week when you aren’t in full training mode.
  • As your workload increases, I would recommend backing down to once per week of 4-6 30 second reps with full recovery. Otherwise, I think a good thing can be overdone.
  • Personally, I would do on a second easy day. So, if you do SOS on Tuesday and Thursday, then I’d do on Saturday before the Sunday long run. Expect to be sore when you first start as you may be finding muscles that have been MIA for awhile.

Good Reads:

Sprint interval training effects on aerobic capacity_ a systematic review and meta-analysis

The Surprsing Aerobic Benefit of Sprinting _ Training Science

Treadmill Running: What’s grade got to do with it?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about treadmill running lately. A lot of it has been regarding speed and grade. “If I run at x speed and y pace, then my effort equals what? It’s a fair question as there is no doubt that we work harder when running up a hill. However, how do we put that into the context of an equal effort over a sustained amount of time? For easy runs, it’s not a big deal, but for things like Something of Substance days, it can be a real challenge! I can attest to this as I have a big fear of eating treadmill console as the speed gets down towards marathon pace! Luckily, there’s a few people who’ve thought this through for us already.

In researching treadmill running, I have come across three items where there has been an attempt at quantifying what an effort is, based on the treadmill speed and grade. The first was a simple- for every 1% increase in grade, your effort was equal to 0.2 mph higher on the speed. So, for instance, if you were running at 8 mph and 1% grade, it would be equal to running at 8.2 mph and 0% grade. Pretty simple, and if I knew how this conclusion was reached, the more likely I would be to believe it.

The second is a very popular chart from the website HillRunner.com. I had actually referred a number of my athletes to this chart. However, the more I looked into it, the more I pondered how accurate it was, especially at faster speeds. After trying it out for a workout of my own, the more I thought that there was no way that I needed to put the grade that high to hit these paces.  Again, I wish there was an explanation behind the theory that would help me understand a bit better.

Treadmill Conversion Calculator!

Treadmill Conversion Calculator!

Finally, there’s always Jack Daniels. The solution to any situation that calls for data or a strong drink. (Yes, corny. Very bad joke. How many times do you think he’s heard that in his 80 some years of life?) Anyway, I actually opened up a book and took a look at his charts. Now, immediately what I noticed is 1) how much faster the equivalencies were compared to the Hill Runner charts and 2) that he incorporated VO2 into the charts. (For your reference this is table 4.5 and 4.6 of his latest edition of Daniels’ Running Formula).

Why is this important? Because with any given speed and grade, we can calculate the VO2cost, or how much oxygen is required to run at that speed and/or grade. So, after calculating the VO2cost of a certain pace with no grade, you can then correlate adjust the variables (speed and grade) to find what equal work is for whatever variables you plug in. Here’s what I mean.

The following is a formula from the American College of sports Medicine:

Running

VO2 (mL . kg-1 . min-1) = (0.2 . S) + (0.9 . S . G) + 3.5 mL. kg-1.min-1

S= speed in meters per minute

G = grade, expressed as a fraction

Without getting too technical. To start you could calculate what the VO2 cost is for any flat run by taking the mph and converting it to meters per minute (1 mph = 26.82240 m/min) and tossing that in for S. Then just replace G with a zero and run the numbers. You could then find the VO2cost for the pace you’d like to hit by then either figuring out the actual speed you want to run (solving for G) or solve for S by putting in the max grade you want to run. The result is a good indicator of what kind of effort you are putting in on the treadmill, given your pace and incline. Is this exact? Probably not. The only way it would truly be completely accurate is hooking yourself up to a metabolic cart for every run, and that’s no fun. However, if you are just trying to get the work in, this is a great way to be pretty darn close to where you need to be for the workout.

I have to admit, I coming back to this after a little more research, but it was worth the while. First, going back to Daniel’s, I found a message board thread, in which he contributed. He stated that he looked at Boston Marathon splits and also did another study in which he found the ratio to be 12-15 seconds slower per 1% grade incline. One caveat here- it wasn’t made crystal clear, but it appeared that he was talking about some pretty quick runners, because he referenced overground running of 5:00-6:00 minute pace. I also found another reference from Tim Noakes, Lore of Running, that gave a number of 2.6 ml/kg/min (amount of oxygen) increase per 1% increase in grade. This then translated into a reduction in speed of around 0.65 kilometers per hour. So, comparing the numbers across the Daniels and Noakes numbers matched pretty well.

Treadmill Training!

Treadmill Training!

So, from here, the natural turning point of this discussion turns to the question, “Do I need to run at an incline to compensate for the lack of a self created headwind?” I have gone back and forth on this. If you look at the chart from HillRunner, it’s pretty clear that a 1% incline should be used, but again- I don’t know where those calculations are coming from. With the Daniels chart, it’s based on VO2, so it isn’t particularly necessary. However, he did write in the later pages that essentially that a 2% grade makes up for the fact that you aren’t creating a headwind. So, you might think that adding an incline is absolutely necessary, but I don’t know if that’s the case. The reason is, that because if you aren’t creating a headwind on the hamster wheel, your ability to cool yourself off is then limited. The result is a slightly higher work rate, represented by a higher exercising heart rate. Now, if you cool yourself off with a fan, then you’ll probably need to adjust the grade to compensate for the increased cooling you have. Otherwise, I don’t know if a 2% grade increase is necessary. I have a feeling that it all ends up kind of being a wash! The other caveat to this was that Daniels whole conversation was around faster paced running. Noakes also made comments about 18km per hour  (5:24 mile pace) being sort of a threshold where the headwind was a major factor. Mainly, the point of all this, was that the faster you are the more likely you will be to have to add an incline to match what your overground efforts.

Key Take-aways:

  1. You can replicate much faster workloads by adjusting your grade and keep the pace manageable.
  2. For easy runs across the pace spectrum, adding a grade will offset the lack of a self created headwind. A complete generalization would be 0.5% for 8:00 pace and slower, 1.0% for 6:30-7:30 pace, 1.5-2% for paces faster than 6:00 pace. HOWEVER, most people will not be approaching those paces for easy runs.
  3. For workouts, just use the speed/grade combo that you are looking for and just don’t worry about the wind effect- your head might explode.
  4. Experiment with what combo works better for you. Some people will thrive better with higher grades and lower speeds, while others will do better with the opposite settings. Personally, I like a fairly moderate speed with a moderate grade. I would try to keep the grade under 7% as then your form can start to change due to the incline.

In Closing:

To close this out, there’s options out there. Whether you are trying to simulate a hilly race course, or just trying to find a way to get your faster Hansons Marathon Method work in, you can do it. The big component for me is that you can adjust these variables and still feel confident that you are getting the right effort in on the right days. If you liked the way I laid out how I would calculate effort based on speed and grade combos, you’re in luck! We’ve made a handy calculator based on the Noakes and Daniels references to help you dial in that work effort. Enter email below to claim your free calculator (it is an excel file, so heads up!)

Is an online coach for you?

As a coach/owner of an online run coaching company, you might expect my answer to be an automatic enthusiastic,
“Yes! Absolutely!”

I’ll admit, when I first started Hanson’s Coaching Services, I probably would be a lot more likely to say yes, because as any business owner understands, it’s scary to think of turning away business! However, then you really have to start thinking about what we are all about as a coaching business. Are we here just to make internet money, or are we really only concerned with educating runners and helping them perform their best? As a young man, it was hard to differentiate the two, but 10 years later, it’s pretty clear cut that the latter is the most important and takes care of the first. The point of all this is, that online coaching is seemingly a pretty lucrative gig. There’s pages of them on any internet word search. A few I know personally, and they are great people with great philosophies. Others, I have no idea, but assume it’s like anything- there’s a whole spectrum. Since Hanson’s Coaching Services was started in 2006, we’ve learned a lot and still have making the athlete’s experience as good as it can be. However, what we’ve also learned is that not every person wants what we offer. Some want more, and some want less. Still others feel that just paying the money is going to make them a better runner. What I really want to discuss with this post is a few ideas that will help you decide if an online coach is right for you, and if not, what options are right for you?

Accountability

Will you take advantage of the services provided? Indirectly, I am clearing the elephant from the room, right away. I understand that coaching is expensive, but ultimately what you are paying for is services and availability. What do I mean? Well, for coaching, we typically write your schedules in 1-4 week blocks, look over training logs, answer emails, and communicate with athletes on a regular basis. That is essentially what the monthly fees are for, along with covering our actual expenses. Now, the schedule writing is a given and I think we are all on the same page for that. However, here’s where things can murky for some athletes. This is really where the athlete has to ask themselves things like,

“Will I fill out my training log?” “Will I ask questions?” “Will I talk to coach about why I am doing certain things or provide my input?”

If you find yourself thinking that you might not, then maybe paying specifically for an individual coach is a poor investment for you. Others will take advantage of what’s available to them and hiring a coach can be a great running investment.

Mistakes

The biggest mistake that an athlete can make is not communicating with the coach (and the coach with the athlete).

Both parties can fall into this and could be easy to do since there is little face to face communication. If you hire a coach, don’t think you are bugging them if you have an issue that you need addressed. I always tell people, I’m not mad unless I find out about it after the fact. For example, I’ve had athletes in the past not doing very well with the workouts, but they think they just are going through an adjustment or something and nothing is said. I just assume everything is peachy keen (which is my fault) and then, boom! I’m sucker punched with the phrase

“I’m hurt and need a break.”

That’s when we both get frustrated. Now, I know a lot of people will just not respond well to a coach. They are fine in solidarity or, more likely, just want to know what to do and go do it. I totally get it. In these cases, an online running coach will probably not help you much at all. If you are this person, you would probably benefit more from something like a custom schedule or one of our downloadable schedules along with access to all the information we provide in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. Just point you in the right direction and you are good to go. There is certainly nothing bad about that if it fits the person!

Closing

At the end of the day, when you are contemplating getting an online running coach (or even a real live one!), evaluate what your wants and needs are before signing that dotted line. Figuring that out first could mean the difference between a rock solid investment and a money pit. If you can’t find a coach that will discuss those things with you, it might be time to go another route. I hope you all find the success you are looking for. We’ll see you down the road, hopefully with a tailwind.

 

Luke

Heat Acclimatization

There is a 2016 update to this article !


Beat the heat!

Beat the heat!

As usual, it’s my athletes emails or questions posted to my Facebook coaching page that spur blog posts. As I right this, I’m getting a lot of “Should I be adjusting for the heat?” type of questions. And the simple answer is “Yes.” Thanks for reading, have a wonderful day… No, no no, of course there is more to the story than that! Yes, we should probably adjust, but how much? Will we adapt? Is heat a natural performance enhancing drug? There is certainly a fair number of issues we should look at.

First, what happens to us when we first start exercising in the heat? Unfortunately, I had a heck of time finding a definition of when we are actually talking about running in the heat. I mean, is it heat index or a temperature? If so, at what point is it considered hot? Anyway,

  1. We have to use blood to carry away heat. The result is less blood flow to the muscles (inability to deliver as much oxygen), high loss of sweat and electrolytes. The more humid it is, the more this becomes a problem. Why? Because sweating cools the body. The more humid it is, the less evaporation can occur between your sweaty arms and the air surrounding. The body tries to compensate by simply sweating more. It’s not a good cycle.
  2. The heart and vessels become under more duress at the same intensity. With blood volume decreasing because of #1, the blood becomes more viscous (think old motor oil). The result is the heart is pumping harder to keep up with a slower pace and the arteries/veins are under more duress.
  3. Since our heart rate is increasing even just to keep us at a slow pace, the intensity to do so is greatly increased. What this means is that we burn through carbohydrates. If you’ve watched any of our physiology videos, then you’ll recognize that higher carbohydrate usage the higher the pyruvate production. The higher the pyruvate production, the higher the lactate formation and the earlier fatigue sets in. So even a 60 minute easy run can diminish glycogen stores and induce muscle damage.
  4. Because of everything we just mentioned, your VO2max diminishes. You simply just can’t exercise at as a high of intensity.  Training and racing performance simply decrease due to the demands that heat and humidity places on your body.

 

Can I adapt to heat and humidity?

Adapt to Hot WeatherThe good news is that you most certainly can. Over time, if you acclimate to the heat and humidity, the following adaptations will occur:

  • Better sweating. By that, I mean that you’ll sweat more and you’ll begin to sweat faster. Beyond that, your sweat glands will fatigue less. Your sweat will also include less sodium, which leads to greater water retention.
  • You’ll also have improved cardiovascular function through
    • a decreased heart rate
    • an increased plasma volume (which makes the first bullet point seem less like an oxy moron)
    • increased blood flow
    • more blood for heat dissipation, as well as, for exercising muscles

The end result is an increase in performance in heat/humidity (and maybe cool weather too!)

How long does it take to adapt?

If you can accumulate 90-100 minutes of exercise daily in a hot environment, then you’ll see the vast majority of adaptations in 10 to 14 days! The key is the time you must spend daily at an intensity of greater than 50% VO2max. The intensity isn’t going to be an issue, as you could reach that with a light jog. However, if you aren’t getting 90-100 minutes in, then I suspect that the time frame will be extended out beyond the the 14 days.

  • decreased HR (3-6 days)
  • plasma volume increase (3-6 days)
  • rectal temp decrease (5-8 days)
  • perceived exertion decrease (3-6 days)
  • sweat sodium concentration decrease (5-10 days)
  • Sweat rate increase (7-14 days)
  • renal sodium concentration decrease (3-8 days)

Quick Tips to use while adapting:

  • Exercise with a partner during the initial days and on really hot days
  • If you can, run easier days during the hot weather. Pace is still important for training, so try to do hard workouts in the morning or late evening, when the temps are cooler.
  • If training for a hot race and it’s cool where you are at, or you are forced inside, then you can still gain adaptions. You can overdress to help simulate a warmer environment. You can also crank the heat if you have control over the thermostat.

How much does heat/humidity effect performance?

How to beat the heatI’ve seen a number of different charts and calculators that show a variance of how much to adjust. The biggest problem with all of these is that there is often a lot of generality in the recommendations. For instance, should an elite marathoner adjust as much as a 4 hour marathoner? Your ability level, acclimation level, and fitness level are all ultimately going to be a determining factor.

One study I found showed that in a warm and humid environment, an elite runner would lose about 2-3 minutes of time (~2%), while a 3 hour marathoner would lose roughly 18 minutes (10%) in the same conditions. It would be safe to assume that a 4 hour marathoner would lose an even bigger percentage of time. So, as you can see, the faster you are, the less impact it will have on your race.

The warmer it is, the more you’ll have to adjust, as well. Here’s some general recommendations that I have seen:

  • 55-60 degrees = +5 secs/mile
  • 60-65 degrees= +15 secs/mile
  • 65-70 degrees = +30 secs/mile
  • 70-75 degrees = +40 secs/mile
  • 75-80 degrees = +1:10/mile
  • 80-85 degrees = +2:00/mile
  • 85+ degrees = DON’T DO IT

These are very general guidelines and I would use these as a baseline. It’s easier to be able to pick the pace up later than it is to recover from heat stroke! The other thing to remember, is that as you become more fit and become acclimated, these numbers will probably change. So, when training, it’s a good recommendation to use these as a guide, but also to use effort secondary measurement. For me, the key is not to get hung up on slow splits or average paces. Getting the effort in is what is key. Think about the folks at altitude and how they have to adjust their pacing. Does it mean that they are going to perform less than their ability? No, it means they are putting the right effort in for their environment.


2016 Update

Once again, questions arise about training and heat. The easiest way to look at is based on performance. I recently came across some research (PDF Here) that will shed a little more light on the matter. Over 10 years these researchers collected data on all the finishers of 6 major marathons (Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, NYC, and the Paris marathons) which resulted in roughly 1.8 million finishers. That’s not a bad subject pool! They looked at environmental considerations like temperature, humidity, due point, and air pollution. As we could probably predict, people slowed down as it got warmer. Here’s a great look at the sum of the research:

Table 1: Effect of running speed on male marathon finishers.
P1MedianQ1IQR
Peak + 5˚ C (59˚F).36%1.0%.8%1.15%
Peak + 10˚C (68˚F)1.44%3.9%3.38%4.61%
Peak + 15˚ (77˚ F) 3.3%9.26%7.93%11%
Peak + 20˚ (86˚ F) 6%17.75%15%21.5%

Key 1: P1= Elite (top 1%), Q1: First quartet of finishers, Median: median finish time, IQR: the statistical dispersion or an equal difference between the 2nd and 3rd quartiles.

Table 1: Effect of running speed on female marathon finishers.
P1MedianQ1IQR
Peak + 5˚ C (59˚F).75%.7%.63%.77%
Peak + 10˚C (68˚F)3%2.85%2.58%3.14%
Peak + 15˚ (77˚ F) 7%6.63%6%7.35%
Peak + 20˚ (86˚ F) 13.5%12.43%11%13.85%

Key 1: P1= Elite (top 1%), Q1: First quartet of finishers, Median: median finish time, IQR: the statistical dispersion or an equal difference between the 2nd and 3rd quartiles.

The nice component to this research is that it’s broken down by gender and expected finish. The data itself probably isn’t revolutionary, but it does show what effect you personally may have. Our problem still remains what effect this will have on our training paces. That data is still unclear. The easy thing to do would be to take the data above and simply plug in our paces given the percent category we fall into. However, I don’t know if it’s that easy. Coach Mark Hadley has a nice blog about the concept (HERE). And while the data certainly seems feasible, I just don’t know if it’s a number he made up or what the reasoning is behind it. He essentially says that for every degree of 60, you should add about 0.1% to 0.15% to whatever training pace you are attempting. Like I said, that certainly sounds reasonable, I just don’t know where that data is coming from. Personally, I feel like easy runs will be less effected by heat, especially runs under 60 minutes. Long runs and tempo runs will be the most effected. Speed work will probably be less effected while strength workouts will probably be the most difficult to predict what will happen.

My advice for training would be what we suggested in the original article, but then go by effort. This is where wearing a GPS or a heart rate monitor truly becomes your training tool and not the dictator of your training. Learn what efforts feel like. Ideally, as you acclimate, the closer pace matches effort. If your end goal is months away, then don’t get discouraged. Many of you see the slow times and get too worried about something that isn’t truly indicative of what your fitness level is, or going to be. If your race is coming up and going to be in hot weather, then take it as a great tool for learning how your body is going to react in the conditions. A PR might be not be in the cards, but you can still have a great race and beat all the ill prepared runners. Not to mention, be safer! That’s it for now. In another post we can discuss the strategies for racing in adverse conditions.

 

2015 Summer High School Training

Final Surge!

It seems like every year we get emails regarding high school running. As coaches, we’ve always been hesitant with High Schoolers, not because we don’t like you, but rather because their situation is unique. We’ve never wanted to step on the toes of their coaches and we don’t want them hearing different things from different people. That just creates confusion and frustration. All that leads to is a kid who doesn’t really want to run anymore. Our problem was simply,

“How can we help kids (maybe coaches, too) be better runners, have fun, and learn how to become their absolute best?”

Well, we’ve found it!

Thanks to the help of our partners at Final Surge we have a way to do all that. Even your coaches can join the fun! Here’s a look at everything that’s going on.

Some Features

  • Training plans based on summer mileage goals
  • Leaderboards for mileage, grade, days being consistent, and MORE
  • Closed Facebook group for the athletes AND coaches
  • T-Shirt swag upon schedule completion

 

To learn more and to register check out the 2015 HCS summer high school challenge

 

Antioxidents: Blunt our training adaptations?

Below is an infogram from @YLMSportScience. We’ve talked about this before with ice baths for recovery. Part of the training adaptations are triggered by the damage that we do to the muscles and the stress we place on our cardiovascular system. If we limit that, then is it possible we limit the triggers for adaptation? It’s looking like we at least blunt these responses. So, be careful with the mega doses of things like vitamin C. You might feel better the next day, but you might end up having to work even harder in the long term…

 

 

 

 

Warm Ups: A little science and a little art

This post originated from my athletes asking questions and then realizing that I didn’t really know some of the answers. At first, this might not seem like a good situation to be in, but I disagree. I love being able to help, love becoming a more knowledgable coach, and love having new things to look into. It Kees you on your toes! So, I sat down and thought about what we should know. Here’s the questions I want answered:

  • What is the purpose of a warm up?
  • What does a warmup actually do?
  • When should I warm up? Does it need to be the same routine for every type of run?
  • What do I need to do for a proper warm up?

 The purpose of the warmup?

Luckily, this one is pretty straight forward. The purpose of the warmup is to prepare the body for harder running. If we are talking about easy running, then the purpose is simply to get the body ready to run. The warmup is really bridging the gap from doing nothing to being expected to perform at some intensity harder than sitting. This is all fairly vague, I know, so what it’s telling us is that that level of expected intensity is going to dictate what our warmup needs to consist of.

What does a warmup actually do?

  1. It elevates our muscle temperature. This allows faster neural impulses and increases muscular force-velocity relationships.
  2. It raises our baseline VO2. There appears to be a sweet spot of 65-70% VO2max where following performances are best. This is a light to moderate run for most people. The key is to warm up but not get fatigued before the race.
  3. It improves our active range of motion. Dynamic stretching can improve your active range of motion which can improve stride mechanics. This could make you more economical, earlier in the race.
  4. Increased motor neuron firing. The more fibers you have firing at the start means less time you have to wait once the race has started.

 When should I warm up?

Truth be told, I think there’s room for some sort of warmup for most days. I’m not saying you need 45 minutes to get ready for your morning easy run, but give me a few minutes. You might thank me later!

Easy days:

As I mentioned, I just need a few minutes. We don’t really need to worry about really finding that sweet spot with the VO2 since our easy runs are going to be in that range anyway. Also, we aren’t really looking to have all neurons firing. Really, if you are over the age of 30, you just don’t want to feel like complete garbage for the first 10 minutes of the run. My suggestion is to take 3-5 minutes and do a quick and dirty dynamic stretching routine. Here’s ours If you want some other variations, I encourage you to visit www.coachjayjohnson.com He’s got some great stuff too. The fringe benefits of doing this will include being able to settle into your desired pace sooner and feeling smoother earlier. Also, if you do this on a regular basis, then you can help preserve hip mobility and strength. If you are really tight in your hips, then you will probably actually improve it. Why does this matter? Hip mobility and strength is crucial in allowing those big levers that we call legs, to do their job- making you faster, more economical, and fight the breakdown of form that occurs in endurance running.

SOS Days/Race Days

(5k, 10k, maybe ½ marathon)

Here is where you’ll need the most time, since we are making the most drastic transition from being at rest to high intensity efforts. The nice thing here though, is that we can get some double benefit here. One, it’s going to help our weekly mileage. Two, it’s going to be an easy way to get strides in during the week (I’ll have to write another post on strides). Since we are running fast we need to make sure that we are incorporating all the aspects of the warm up- muscle temp, VO2, range of motion, and neuron firing.

A sample warm up:

Start with dynamic stretching to loosen hips up

  1. 15-20 minutes of easy running. I typically want 20 minutes, but I know many of you are time crunched.
  2. *Optional* Form Drills. If you are really crunched for time, I understand, but these will take really about 5 minutes to do. Form Drills
  3. Strides: Do 4×10 seconds, or so. This should be fast about 95-98% of your max effort. The key is to keep them short. Recover fully before doing the next one.

~Note: Last stride should be done about 10 minutes before the start of the race. Do whatever you plan on doing for a race before your workouts. Be consistent. For half marathoners, if you are looking to run over 2:00:00 for the race, I recommend doing the marathon warm up below.

Read more

An athlete’s question: Hill repeats or hilly run?

I really like these and maybe we should make it a regular part of blogging! I got another great question from Jill, an athlete we wrote a custom schedule for. She emailed me a very simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer: “What is better hill repeats or a hilly run at marathon pace?” Great question! The answer is… Both! Thanks for reading, have a great day!

Just kidding! The answer is both, but for other reasons. Let’s first look at hill repeats. Let’s ask ourselves what the main purpose is of hill repeats is? What is the benefit? Well, we know they’ll make us stronger, so let’s knock that one out of the way. One big aspect of hills is that it is a great form of speed work, or working at close to VO2max effort (not pace). With shorter, but faster hill repeats we are working very close to our VO2max if we are hammering hard up a 1-4 minute hill a few times in a row. You can tell just by how hard that you are breathing that you are working hard, right? With that, we are working on some neuromuscular components as well. With the intense effort, we begin recruiting all of our muscle fiber types to help out. This eventually “opens” up channels to some fast and intermediate twitch muscle fibers that you didn’t even know you had. At the end of the day, think of hill repeats as helping more with overall strength and top end components- lactate buffering, VO2 max, and things like that.

A final note about short hill repeats is that I will use them as gateways towards other workouts. With Boston Marathon people, what I will do is start out with UP hill repeats and a slow recovery back down the hill. Eccentric contractions are crucial for hill running, but they beat you up pretty good in the process. Over time, we’ll adjust and hard UP hill repeats, recover, and then DOWN hill repeats to prepare their legs for the thrashing they’ll get over 26 miles.

What about a tempo run on a hilly course? You’ll get a lot of benefit from theses, both physiologically and structurally. You’ll build your strength obviously, but it’s more like lifting 2 sets of 20 reps of medium weight, compared to like lifting 2 sets of 8 reps as hard as you can with hill repeats. You’ll still get muscle fiber recruitment too, simply because you’ll fatigue your muscles with a fairly intense effort over 30-70 or 80 minutes. For marathoners, that’s great because it’s very race like. These are all great benefits, but to me, one thing we can’t overlook is their eventual impact on our ability to judge effort and pace. For instance, right now, many people have awoken from treadmill hibernation, where they’ve simply set the pace on the hamster wheel and zoned out to their latest podcast of Dateline, or whatever you listen too. Now, they go outside and after letting their eyes recover from the new found sun, realize that there are hills and turns and beautiful scenery. I’m partly kidding, but you know what I mean- we forget and have forgot if we haven’t run in situations where we need to say, “man my pace is slow, but it certainly feels like a hard effort.” I reference back to folks training for Boston. There’s only small section of that course where it’s really flat. It seems like that you are either going up or down most of the time. This means splits will be fast and splits will be slow. It may be hard to find a rhythm. If you’ve practiced pace and effort on hills, then you’ll have more confidence and trust yourself that the effort is there and in the end, the pace will average out.

So there you have it, they are both important but for different reasons. Both have a place in training and can be utilized to your benefit.

– Luke