Season Planning and the Pro Runner Experience with Kate Grace & Endeavorun

The pro runner experience captured my imagination during my college years. Can you just imagine running for your job?!

Kate Grace Race

Kate Grace rockin’ Old Glory

Perhaps the college track experience gives an athlete a brief taste of what being a pro runner might be like.

After all, I didn’t just go to practice after class. I had…

  • a physical therapist available to me at any time for treatment and advice
  • several coaches looking out for my well-being
  • a team of other runners to support and encourage my progress
  • excellent facilities with cross-training equipment, an Olympic-size pool, and a gym for weightlifting
  • a free uniform, travel to races, and special treatment to occasionally miss classes

Man, life was good!

But after graduating and starting to work, I realized that “real life” knocks running down the priority list.

Planning a coherent season – never mind a full “pro runner experience” – became much more difficult.

Even though better planning leads to faster racing, the planning part was easy to dismiss. And that was to my detriment: my seasons became less periodized, I had fewer support systems, and I didn’t have the accountability of a team and a coach.

Now, one of my goals as a virtual coach is to give adult runners the structure of a well-planned season.

And to help me do that, I’ve invited two special guests on the Strength Running Podcast.

Kate Grace & Endeavorun: The Pro Runner Experience

Kate Grace Strength

“Fast Kate” Grace is one of the United States’ most decorated and accomplished middle-distance runners. She’s an Olympian, Olympic Trials champion, and a runner-up at outdoor nationals in the 1500m.

She was also our guest on Episode 97 of the podcast.

Kate is a Nike-sponsored athlete, a member of the Bowerman Track Club, and a 4:22 miler.

She joins us on the podcast to discuss how an elite runner like herself plans an entire season from start to finish. We’re discussing:

  • Overall length of the season, tune-up race scheduling and strategy, and planning
  • Her support team of coaches, experts, and clinicians that makes it all possible
  • Linear vs. nonlinear periodization and the progress of her workouts

But she’s not the only guest on the podcast today! You’ll also be hearing from my old friend and former teammate, Jake Tuber.

Jake is the mastermind behind Endeavorun, a new coaching program that gives regular runners like us the “pro athlete experience” with:

  • A kickoff retreat in Tracktown USA at the University of Oregon
  • Coaching and custom training for every registrant
  • A team of PT’s, dietitians, and elite runners (like Kate Grace) to keep your running on track
  • VIP race experience and ongoing support – just like the pros

It’s a coach, running camp, strength programming, fan experience with pro runners, training program, and nutritionist rolled into one program.

The running community has not seen a program this comprehensive; it virtually defies definition and I’m excited to be a part of it next year.

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or Google Play.

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A big thanks to both Kate and Jake for joining us on the podcast!

Endeavorun

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Max King on Athleticism, Strength Training, and How to Thrive in Any Race

Max King is a Renaissance Man of running: whether he’s steepling on the track, mountain running, or racing trail ultras, he thrives at any distance on any terrain.

Max King Running

I first became aware of Max King in 2014 when he won the World Warrior Dash Championship. I realized – after winning my own Warrior Dash in 2012 – that runners are often the best OCR competitors.

Before I first interviewed Max, I studied his career and was absolutely amazed by his accomplishments in virtually every discipline there is in the sport of running:

  • Trail races
  • Ultramarathons
  • Cross country
  • 3,000m steeplechase on the track
  • Road marathons
  • Obstacle course races
  • Mountain running

If it involves mostly running, Max King is a dominant athlete.

And he’s not just a finisher – or even a medalist. He’s often the ultimate victor, having won world Warrior Dash and mountain running championships and trail and ultramarathon national championships. He’s even dabbled in triathlon and adventure races.

That’s a major reason I asked Max to contribute to our Little Black Book of Recovery & Prevention (9 pro runners shared their favorite injury prevention advice). I wanted to know how such a versatile athlete stayed healthy and prevented injuries.

But today, we’re discussing something different: how Max King trains.

Max King on Training for Any Kind of Race

Whether he’s scrambling up boulders or flying down a gnarly mountain descent, Max seems to be able to transition seamlessly between any and all types of running.

It doesn’t matter if the race is on the roads, track, trails, mountains, or obstacle course, he’s ready to excel.

So I’m very excited to explore the training that Max does to keep him in shape for all off these adventures for the Strength Running Podcast.

In this conversation, we discuss a lot:

  • His experience at the 2019 US Trail Running Conference
  • Why runners should be advocates for our public lands
  • How he thinks about mobility training
  • His background with running as a kid that drove him to fall in love with the sport
  • The elements of training that are always present + the specifics he adds depending on the event
  • How Max structures his strength training and what he focuses on

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or Google Play.

Show Links & Resources:

Our sponsor for this episode is Rockay Socks. I’ve been wearing Rockay Socks for awhile now and have put them through all kinds of tortuous testing in a big snow storm that we had here in Denver recently. And they are performing great!

They have seamless toes to prevent blisters and I love that their Ecowhite collection is 100% recycled, including getting a lot of their raw materials from ocean waste. At a time when we’re dumping more than 12 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year, Rockay is reclaiming some of that to help runners with their training. Talk about a win-win.

Each pair has anti-odor technology, a lifetime guarantee, and we even have a discount code. Use code SGTEN to save 10% on their socks on their website.

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How Anna Mae Flynn Trains for Trail Ultramarathons

Ultramarathons are quickly becoming this generation’s marathon: everyone seems to be doing an ultra-distance race!

Anna Mae Flynn Ultra Marathon

Anna Mae Flynn running in the Grand Canyon. PC Joshua Stevens

The sport of ultra running is exploding right now. Consider that the number of ultramarathons grew by about 1,000% over the last decade. In 2006, about 160 races were listed around the world. Last year, that number grew to an incredible 1,800.

In 2003, nearly 18,000 people finished an ultra in North America. That figure grew to 105,000 in 2017.

But while more and more runners are making the leap to the ultra distance (technically anything longer than the length of a 26.2-mile marathon), we haven’t yet figured out the ideal way to train for one.

This was made quite apparent last month when I moderated a discussion among ultra trail runners in Boulder, CO. Even elite runners are a singular experiment of one – and their training reflects a wide-ranging approach to the ultra distances.

Some cross-train while others don’t. Others come from a speed background and still incorporate faster workouts – others haven’t run fast in months.

While many ultra runners focus exclusively on super long trail distances, others still race short events and venture onto the roads or track.

In other words, we don’t yet know the optimal way to train a human being for these incredible performances.

But today I want to give you one approach that’s been working very well for one runner: Anna Mae Flynn.

Anna Mae Flynn on Conquering Ultras

Anna Mae is actually a recent entry into the world of ultramarathons. She debuted at the 2015 Way Too Cool 50k – only to have her finish time qualify as a top-10 all-time performance.

Today, her sponsors include:

She’s the current course record holder (and 2019 winner) of the Speedgoat 50 Miler. You can usually find her exploring trails and mountains near her home in Marble, Colorado.

Anna Mae joins me on the Strength Running Podcast to discuss her training. Specifically, we talk about:

  • The (big) role cross-training plays in her ultramarathon preparation
  • How she mitigates and takes advantage of altitude
  • What a typical, heavy training day looks like for her
  • Her average weekly mileage and vertical gain
  • How she recovers after a 100 miler vs. a 50k ultra
  • Injury prevention strategies for ultra runners (and the rest of us!)

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or Google Play.

Resources & Links:

Please join me in thanking Anna Mae for talking to us while she was traveling through the mountains! Give her a shout on Insta – I know she’ll appreciate it.

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Train Your Mind: How to Get Mentally Fit with Dr. Marc Bubbs

Mental fitness and psychological resiliency are the final frontiers in performance. The potential for your running is stunning…

Happy Mindset

When most of us think about peak performance (for runners, the ability to run a Personal Best), we usually think about training.

After all, that’s what prepares our bodies for a big race. The training includes:

  • The total mileage of your entire training cycle
  • Every workout and set of strides
  • The strength training that’s helped keep you healthy
  • Each tune-up race en route to your goal race

You can’t race well without getting the training right. That’s for sure.

But as Agent Smith asked Neo in The Matrix, “Still using all the muscles except the one that matters?

The muscle that matters the most is our brain. It’s the “central governor” that controls how we think, feel, and respond to adversity.

Your mind is what helps you leap out of bed in the morning, excited for a long run (or makes you hit the snooze button too many times and miss your workout…).

Improve your mental skill set and you’ll improve your relationship to running, giving you:

  • More motivation to train (and to stay motivated)
  • Resiliency in the face of setbacks
  • The ability to set challenging but appropriate goals
  • Confidence to believe in your capabilities

There are countless other benefits of being more mentally fit (reduced anxiety before big races, mental toughness, more focus, etc.).

But today, I want to explore practical ways of boosting your psychological skills.

And to help, I’ve brought on Dr. Marc Bubbs who’s written the new book Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That is Revolutionizing Sports.

How to Attain Your Peak Mindset

Dr. Bubbs’ new book covers ground in many areas, including:Peak Mindset Book

  • The microbiome and how to resolve gut problems
  • Sleep hygiene and circadian rhythms
  • Endurance nutrition and refueling
  • Emotions and mindset

We’re going to focus on that last topic: the mindset solutions to common psychological problems that runners experience.

As he notes in the book, the brain is your “ultimate performance resource.” Let’s make sure we’re getting everything we can out of our best resource for improvement!

Dr. Marc Bubbs, ND, CISSN, CSCS is a former strength coach and the current Performance Nutrition Lead for Canada Basketball.

He regularly presents at health and medical conferences around the world and has consulted with the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL professional sports leagues in the United States.

On the Strength Running Podcast, we’re discussing a host of issues related to mastering your mindset:

  • How to use mindfulness to improve your running
  • Mindfulness tips & tricks (not so easy in today’s social media culture)
  • Strategies for addressing negative self-talk
  • How mental and emotional health drives performance
  • Easy ways to get started with sports psychology concepts

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, iHeartRadio, or Google Play.

Show Links & Resources:

A big thank you to Dr. Bubbs and our sponsor for making this episode possible!

Thanks TAGALONG

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Today’s podcast sponsor is TAGALONG. They’re bridging the gap between professionals and the rest of us. This is a fascinating company that brings you to elite athletes – letting you train right next to them as they give you feedback right then and there in real-time.

TAGALONG is essentially in-person coaching with a professional or Olympic-level athlete – an experience many of us would treasure for years.

And they have more than 50 pro athletes in 6 different sports from running, cycling, triathlon, and more. Their athletes include hurdler Jarret Eaton, Olympic 800m runner Nick Symmonds, and Olympic steeplechaser Aisha Praught-Leer.

If you’re looking for an edge and want to learn from the best, our sponsor can help get you there. Find, hire, and train with a professional athlete with TAGALONG. You can also download the TAGALONG app on the Apple app store.

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Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Our feet are marvels of biological engineering. And we put them through hell every time we go running.

Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners

The human foot has more than 20 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of tendons and ligaments. If you happen to have problems with foot pain or injuries, foot strengthening exercises may be the difference between healthy and painful running.

That’s because our feet need to be strong to withstand the trauma of running.

Every time our foot touches down on the ground, we absorb anywhere from 2-4 times our bodyweight. That means a 150-pound runner, depending on his running pace, might exert upwards of 600 pounds of force on his feet with every foot strike.

However, other sources have put this figure at upwards of 7 or even 12 times your bodyweight.

Regardless of the exact number, we can recognize that our feet bear the burden of a tremendous amount of impact force.

Next, consider that four of the most common running injuries are:

These injuries all involve the foot. Any injury prevention approach that’s used in your training should focus on foot strengthening exercises and foot health to prevent these common problems.

But, foot strengthening exercises for runners aren’t needed by everyone. If you don’t have a history of chronic foot injuries, scroll down to the ‘Developing Foot Strength While Running’ section below.

Who Needs Foot Strengthening?

Runners in most need of foot strengthening are those who experience a lot of foot injuries.

If you find yourself getting arch strains, plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, peroneal tendon pain, or posterior tibial tendinitis then you should start incorporating some foot strengthening exercises into your weekly training.

Even if you don’t get injured in your feet regularly, many runners often feel pain or excessive soreness in their feet after long runs or hard workouts. If you feel like your feet are your “weak link” then it’s a smart idea to work on this weakness.

With all those impact forces traumatizing your feet with every foot strike, it’s important to go on offense and start soon.

This will help strengthen the muscles, toughen the connective tissues, and begin the process of building more durable feet.

Poor Foot Strength = Injuries

Barefoot Foot Strength

Clearly, weak feet will become injured feet sooner or later. During my running career, I had a long relationship with various foot injuries:

  • An arch strain in 2002 (serious) and 2006 (minor)
  • Achilles tendinopathy in 2003 (serious), 2005 (minor), and 2014 (moderate)
  • Plantar fasciitis in 2004

All these feet injuries led me to the college’s Athletic Trainer, several massage therapists, and a half dozen physical therapists. They were all adamant that I include some foot strengthening exercises for runners.

But the solution wasn’t just strength work.

I also had to revise my training. The way in which I was structuring my running led me to get plenty of injuries. My training errors were:

  • Not utilizing a dynamic warm-up before I started running
  • Starting each run too fast instead of ramping up the intensity more gradually
  • Skipping my strength training
  • Too little barefoot running
  • Not wearing racing shoes for workouts often enough

Over time, I gradually worked on all these mistakes. And over time, I got injured less and less.

The suggestions in this article for reducing your risk of an injury, foot strengthening exercises for runners, and training strategies for healthier feet are the result of my experience and training.

You’ll see strategies I learned from my coaches, physical therapists, and trainers. I hope they help you, too.

Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners

If you’re ready to start a series of strength exercises for your feet, let’s start with easier options. All of these exercises have been prescribed to me by physical therapists that I’ve visited over the years.

Moving Marbles Foot Strengthening Exercise

Foot Strength Exercise 2

The first exercise promotes strength but also dexterity, coordination, and mobility. And it’s both easy and fun!

First, lay out about 20 small objects on the ground. Things like marbles, Legos, or stones work really well.

Next, put a plastic cup (probably best not to choose a glass cup!) next to your pile of small objects.

The objective is to pick up the items with your toes and place them in the cup. Once you get all of them in the cup, dump it out and repeat this “game” once or twice.

Many runners lack the toe dexterity and strength to perform this activity. If you find yourself struggling, you know it’s something to work on.

Pulling a Weighted Towel Exercise

Foot Strength Exercise 1

This exercise is slightly more difficult as you’ll be relying more on the strength of your arch and the musculature on the underside of your foot.

First, lay a small hand towel on the floor in front of a chair. Then put a 1-2 pound weight (a thick hardcover book works, too) on top of the towel on one end.

Your objective is to put your foot on the end of the towel without the weight and drag the book toward you. Curl your toes and scrunch up the towel to gradually pull the book toward you.

Once the weighted towel has been entirely scrunched up toward you, reset things and start again. You can do 2-5 repetitions based on your strength.

Barefoot Walking Variations

Now we’ll start putting weight on our feet. There are two variations of this exercise – both of which work great to build strength and proprioception in the feet.

The first has you walk in a straight line on the balls of your feet (on your tippy-toes) without any socks or shoes. Take 10-20 steps per foot, focusing on staying on the balls of your feet and moving straight ahead.

A common mistake is to rotate outward, putting most of your body weight on the outside edge of the ball of your foot. Stay in the center!

The second variation is the opposite: instead of walking on the balls of your feet, you’ll stay on your heels. Take 10-20 steps per foot, making sure to keep the balls of your feet elevated so they don’t touch the ground.

These exercises also strengthen the ankles, shins, and Achilles tendons.

A more formal version of these exercises, with more variations, is included in Injury Prevention for Runners as the Sand Routine.

Developing Foot Strength While Running

While specific foot strengthening exercises for runners can be helpful, I firmly believe foot strength starts with the running that you’re already doing.

It can be structured to promote strong feet – or it can promote atrophy of your foot musculature. Choose wisely…

Rotate Several Pairs of Shoes

My children are appalled at all of my running shoes

If you run in multiple pairs of shoes, you’re in luck. Science has confirmed that rotating shoes reduces your injury risk.

Each pair of shoes has a unique profile:

  • Stack height (its height off the ground)
  • Heel-toe drop (the differential in height between the heel and forefoot of the shoe)
  • Arch support
  • Midsole material / medial post (or lack thereof)
  • Width of the toe box

And to limit repetitive stress injuries, it’s critical to reduce repetition. Rotating different models of shoes helps vary the stress that your feet and lower legs experience – thus reducing your risk of injury.

You can also wear race-specific shoes for races and workouts. Since they have very little cushioning, racing flats or spikes are viable options to help strengthen your feet.

Just introduce them gradually and cautiously! They put a lot of stress on your lower legs.

And be sure to check out SR’s running shoe review page for more details on minimalism, barefoot running, and selecting shoes.

Run More Trails

Trails are a wonderful opportunity to ask more of your feet – and strengthen them in the process.

Because of the varied terrain (rocks, roots, branches, divots, elevation changes, more frequent turns, changing surface material, etc.), trails usually require your feet to work harder to stabilize your body.

I know that if I haven’t been doing much trail running, my first trail run of the season is usually more difficult. My feet get more sore, too!

Uneven surfaces can initially cause more soreness, so introduce them gradually if you’ve solely been a road runner.

Run Barefoot (cautiously)

Perhaps the most specific foot strengthening exercise for runners is barefoot running. Adding just a small amount of barefoot work to your training can make a big difference in how your feet feel.

Plus, it has the benefit of reinforcing proper running form!

This is a progression of how to add barefoot running to your training:

  • Start with just 1-2 minutes of very easy barefoot running at the end of a run
  • After 3-4 weeks, increase that to 3-5 minutes (keep the effort very easy)
  • Run 2-4 barefoot strides once per week
  • After 3-4 weeks, increase the number of barefoot strides to 4 and do them twice per week
  • Perform your form drills barefoot before workouts

Please remember that you do not have to do ALL of this barefoot work! Even if you did 4 barefoot strides once per week, that’d be a great way to strengthen your feet.

If you’re ready for a more advanced challenge, you can run a barefoot strides circuit:

I consider a small amount of barefoot running, coupled with rotating your shoes, and wearing flats or spikes to be the “gold standard” for developing healthy, pain-free running feet.

How to Prevent More Foot Injuries

Like most running injuries, foot issues are almost always caused by the “3 Too’s:”

  • Too much running…
  • At too fast a pace…
  • Too soon before you’re ready

That means the prevention of foot injuries is more about sound, well-structured training and good habits than specific foot strengthening exercises.

But that’s actually great news! We can reduce our risk of most injuries simply by planning smarter training.

To help, I reached out to nine elite athletes to find out their favorite injury prevention strategies.

The result is The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery. It features:

  • Dathan Ritzenhein – 3x Olympian, 3x National Cross Country Champion
  • Devon Yanko – 100k National Champion and 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier
  • David Roche – 2x National Trail Running Champion
  • Amelia Boone – 3x World’s Toughest Mudder Champion
  • Andy Wacker – Trail Half Marathon National Champion
  • Ian Sharman – 3x winner of the Leadville Trail 100
  • Joseph Gray – Mount Washington American Record holder and World Mountain Running Champion
  • Kelly O’Mara – Professional triathlete
  • Max King – US National Ultra Running Champion and 2x winner World Warrior Dash Champion

Each of these athletes share their most effective recovery or injury prevention strategy – and you’ll see a lot of options for staying healthy.

Strategies include post-race recovery, why eating is critical for prevention, how to come back to running after you get hurt (and what mistakes to avoid), and the power of eliminating busyness from your life.

Pick and choose the tactics that most resonate with you. Start using them and you’ll start feeling a lot more resilient.

Click the image below to download the free book. Enjoy!

Elite Runners on Injury Prevention

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Mobility Training for Runners: Get Mobile and Thrive

Mobility might be one of the most important aspects of fitness for runners outside of endurance and strength. If you’re mobile, you’re one hell of an athlete.

Hurdle Mobility Training

Hurdling is fantastic mobility training for runners

First, a quick story.

2006 was a banner year for my running and in hindsight, a lot of that success was because I I focused on mobility training (being 22 years old certainly helped with being mobile!).

In this calendar year, I accomplished some of my best finish times:

  • Mile PR of 4:33
  • 800m PR of 2:05.0
  • Steeplechase PR of 9:57 (and 9th place finish in New England)
  • 3,000m PR of 9:04 (about 9:45 for 2-miles)
  • 5,000m PR of 16:02
  • 10k XC PR of 33:41
  • My triathlon debut!

It was probably the best year of running in my entire life. And it all started with mobility training.

You see, in January we started indoor track. But even so, the outdoor track steeplechasers got started early on their drills. So from the very beginning of the year, I was working on hurdle mobility.

And the benefits poured into every ounce of my training. I got faster, I ran higher mileage, my workouts blew my mind.

Here’s an example:

Track Training

Look at how much mobility work I was doing!

  • 2 days of steeplechase (“SC”) drills
  • 2 days of form drills
  • 10 minutes of easy running over hurdles
  • 3 days of strides
  • A faster workout
  • A race

All of these elements add up to a hefty dose of mobility training sprinkled throughout the week. And my race results are a testament to the power of being coordinated, athletic, and powerful.

Today I want to help you build this kind of mobility into your running so you can reap the rewards, too!

What is Mobility?

Mobility is simply the ability to move well. As runners, we need this skill to move through the range of motion required for running, sprinting, and changing directions.

Runners with good mobility can move powerfully through the mechanics of running, including:

  • strong upward knee drive
  • adequate hip extension (requiring flexibility in the hip flexors)
  • proper activation of the glute muscles

It’s very different from flexibility (this is achieved with static stretching), which is the ability to achieve large ranges of motion in the joints. An example is if you were to lay on the ground and, using your hands, guide your leg into a perpendicular position to the rest of the body.

You’re engaging in a great hamstring stretch! But you’re doing it with help – your hands. And flexibility is not actually the goal!

Alternatively, mobility is if you were able to lift your leg smoothly into this position without any guidance from your hands. That requires more control, strength, and coordination.

And unlike flexibility, mobility has components of strength and coordination. So it makes it a performance multiplier that helps you achieve several goals at once with relatively no injury risk.

Why is Mobility Training for Runners Important?

jason running

Mobility is critical for both performance and staying healthy. If you can’t move through the normal ranges of motion required by running, you’re clearly not going to run as fast. And your injury risk will skyrocket.

That’s because mobility affects how you run. And if you have poor mechanics, that negatively impacts everything you do as a runner.

Mobility comes in many forms for runners but it most affects these areas:

  • Feet and ankles
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Spine

Adequate mobility in these major joints (not to mention strength), is the answer to most injury problems. Orthotics, electric stim, shoe inserts, ultrasounds, cryotherapy, or knee straps are not going to prevent as many injuries as sound mobility.

But mobility doesn’t come fast. It requires work.

If you’ve spent the last 15 years sitting at a desk for 8 hours per day, only running an easy pace, and not engaging in much strength training, it may take several years to regain that lost mobility.

The good news? It’s doable and FUN. Let’s get started.

Who is Mobility Training for?

Mobility Training for Runners

This is a trick question! Mobility training is for every runner – even if you’re a sprightly 22-year old posting PR after PR like I was back in 2006.

But, there are certain types of runners that ought to focus more on mobility:

  • Desk jockeys who spend their day sitting
  • Master’s (and older) runners
  • Injury-prone runners who seem to get hurt frequently

Let’s see why mobility training is so important for these types of athletes.

The Desk Jockey

Anybody who spends their professional life sitting down must counteract the damaging effects of sitting. When you remain in a seated position for long periods of time, your body starts noticing:

  • Tighter psoas, quads, and hip flexors
  • Inactive glutes and hip muscles
  • Reduced mobility from inactivity

These runners are confining their bodies to a very limited position for long periods of time. In fact, the average American now spends 6.5 hours per day sitting (an increase of about an hour from 2007).

That’s why I have an adjustable standing desk to vary my movements:

The more time you spend sitting, the more focus you need on mobility training.

Older Runners

Mobility declines with age so it’s a no-brainer to make it a stronger focus as you get older.

As we age, our tissues become stiffer and less flexible, partly due to cartilage becoming thinner.

But a big reason is our overall strength: after age 40, we can lose about 1% of our muscle mass (and therefore, strength) per year.

A reduction in flexibility and strength is the death-knell for our mobility. Over time we lose the ability to move through a proper range of motion – making training virtually impossible.

Strength training for seniors, particularly, becomes even more critical to slow the aging process.

Injury-prone Runners

If you find yourself getting hurt frequently, improving aspects of mobility might be the answer to escape from this chronic injury cycle.

That’s because mobility is not flexibility – it requires strength and coordination, two physical skills that play an important role in your ability to run without injuries.

Runners with sound mobility are stronger, more coordinated, have better running technique and proprioception, and can make more training mistakes without succumbing to injury.

In short, they’re more capable athletes.

And more capable athletes don’t get injured nearly as frequently.

Mobility Training for Runners

Mobility training includes cross-training! More fun at instagram.com/JasonFitz!

Now it’s time for the GREAT news: mobility training is fairly easy to accomplish because it includes most elements of proper training.

However, running at an easy effort 3-5 days per week will not boost your mobility. We have to include other aspects of training like:

  • Hill workouts (working against gravity at high speeds takes a lot of power)
  • Trail running (you need more mobility to run technical terrain)
  • Sprinting (running really fast requires bigger ranges of motion)
  • Dynamic warm-ups (this is literally mobility training)
  • Using a foam roller (enhanced blood flow and relaxation promote mobility)
  • Cross-training (moving differently enhances movement fluency)
  • Form drills (i.e., exaggerated running form movements)
  • Strength training (moving differently than running is very important)

These activities require you to move differently than if you were running slowly on a treadmill. Those bigger and different ranges of motion all maintain your mobility.

Plus, you gain strength from many of these activities, helping you stay coordinated, athletic, and powerful.

When these are all included in a sound training program, mobility is worked on daily without ever thinking too much about it.

So if anybody ever asks you what mobility training for runners actually is, you can tell them it’s simply proper training!

How to Start Mobility Training

Mobility training begins with a well-rounded, holistic training program that includes more than just running.

No matter what kind of plan you’re following, it ought to include elements of training from the previous section (especially sprinting, strength training, trail running, and dynamic warm-ups).

Some of the easier changes to make to your running to gradually improve its focus on mobility include:

  • Running off-road several times per week on surfaces like grass, dirt paths, or technical trails that include hills
  • Add several running form drills before faster workouts
  • Add strides several times per week
  • Sandwich your runs between a dynamic warm-up and a runner-specific core and strength routine

These represent simple changes to your training that have massive payoffs. After a few weeks adjusting to new terrain, speeds, and exercises you’ll feel like a much more athletic (and mobile!) runner.

Of course, there are also training strategies that require more commitment and time – but nevertheless have dramatic benefits.

The most powerful is likely weightlifting because of its ability to:

  • Increase range of motion (if you’ve ever tried an Overhead Squat, you know!)
  • Boost strength, stability, and power
  • Improve general athleticism and ability to move well

After all, weightlifting is nothing more than “coordination training under resistance.” And coordination is a great synonym for mobility!

Well-planned strength training will change how you feel for the better:

“I don’t just feel better; I feel transformed – like a brand new runner. I’ve never run like this – with strength and without aches and pains.” – Rebecca

“I can feel myself getting stronger. My wife is actually a Doctor of Physical Therapy and she is in agreement that the routine has been correctly structured and the strength exercises are optimal for my current level of post injury fitness.” – Drew

“I can tell a huge difference already in having power during my runs and faster recovery time. My legs don’t get as sore as they used to. My legs are getting stronger and it feels great.” –Kaydee 

For more mobility, feelings of well-being, and power, it’s a no-brainer to start lifting weights.

Get our best strength training advice here (I’ll also share what exercises are IDEAL).

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Strength Training Periodization: Everything You Need to Know

Strength training periodization is the simple idea that your strength work should evolve over time. Sounds easy, right?

Strength Training Periodization

Recently when we discussed periodization training for runners, we learned the definition of this exercise science term:

Periodization is defined as the process of planning training in oder to produce high levels of performance at designated times.

This definition is from USA Track and Field, the governing body for the sport of Track & Field and road racing.

And it works for strength training periodization, too.

Just like our running, our strength training must evolve and progress over time to help us reach a peak performance (typically during our goal race at the end of a season).

But many runners only think about periodization when it comes to running. That means their training usually…

  • Gets more complex from the beginning to the end of the season
  • Workouts get progressively more difficult
  • Mileage builds over time

Periodization training makes sense when it comes to running. Most of us intuitively understand that a training plan progresses over time by changing the mileage, intensity of workouts, and recovery.

But what about for our weightlifting? How should our days in the gym change from the beginning of the season to the end?

In this post, I’m going to highlight how strength training periodization should work over the course of a season.

And it all starts by thinking long-term.

Strength Training Periodization: Long Term

New runners should not head to the track on their first day of running to perform a blistering set of 400-meter repetitions.

And this rule applies to weightlifting, too: if you’ve never done much strength work, let’s not start by practicing the clean and jerk…

If you’re new to strength training, periodization is a critical concept to apply to your lifting workouts. I’ve found that it’s ideal to begin your journey to the weight room by becoming proficient at bodyweight strength exercises first.

You might start with the Gauntlet Plank Workout:

Soon, you can add routines that incorporate exercise bands or medicine balls. The ITB Rehab Routine is a good example:

I consider the ITB Rehab Routine to be a fundamental series of exercises that every runner should perform regularly.

If you want more difficulty, a medicine ball workout is a good next step:

Once you’re comfortable with bodyweight exercises and light resistance, you’re ready to get in the gym for more substantial weightlifting.

The rest of this article will discuss short-term strength training periodization in the weight room – from the beginning of a season to the end of a season.

Pre-Season / Base Phase

The first phase of any periodized strength training program for runners must focus on three important skills:

  • General strength
  • Injury resilience
  • Habit formation / consistency

General strength is a basic ability to lift weights. It’s a fundamental proficiency with strength training movements without focusing on very heavy weight, explosivity, overall difficulty, or complex exercises (a power clean is an example of a complex movement that shouldn’t be present in the base phase of training).

Injury resilience places importance on one of lifting’s biggest benefits to runners: injury prevention. Weightlifting increases the toughness of your connective tissues, ligaments, tendons, bones, muscles, and joints. Now is the time to build that capacity.

Habit formation helps you build the consistent habit of going to the gym regularly. Runners don’t need to be gym rats, but we certainly need to get comfortable lifting weights several times per week.

Inconsistent strength training can increase your risk of injury so we want to avoid that!

Much like base training in your running program, the pre-season phase of a periodized strength program accomplishes many of the same goals like building a foundation for the harder work that will come later in the season.

Competition Phase (Middle of Season)

After a focus on general strength and injury prevention in the base phase, strength training periodization demands that you transition to more race-specific weightlifting. The goals evolve to focus more on

  • speed
  • overall athleticism
  • fast-twitch responsiveness (i.e., neuromuscular coordination)

This phase of strength training prioritizes explosivity and teaches your nervous system how to create force quickly. We accomplish this by lifting more quickly, adding weight, and introducing explosive lifts.

Soon you’ll be better able to access those deep neurons and fast twitch fibers needed for mid-race surges and a blazing fast finishing kick.

Explosive lifting has a side benefit of also improving the coordination of both your slow and fast twitch fibers while you’re running.

You’re now becoming more economical, improving your running form and making the use of form cues more effective.

The end result? You run more efficiently with an increased capacity for top end speed (i.e., you can sprint faster!).

Peaking / Taper Phase

Strength training periodization builds to this point: the phase of training that prepares you to perform.

The final phase of training at the end of your season prioritizes:

  • Power and force production
  • Running economy / efficiency
  • Strategic rest so you’re ready to race

Strength training will now include more Olympic lifts and plyometrics to help you utilize the stored elastic energy and reactive forces of your muscles and tendons.

Your total workload in the gym will peak (and decrease) so you’re strong and rested for your upcoming race. The peaking phase of training will also keep your Central Nervous System tuned up, primed for speed, and ready to deliver a new Personal Best.

Strength training periodization ends with this phase and the goal race. After a period of time to focus on rest and recovery, the process repeats itself.

Strength Training Periodization Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re planning your own strength training program, these periodization principles will help you design a very effective plan for the season.

The most common three mistakes that you should absolutely not make yourself include:

  1. Never changing the exercises or weight over time. Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity!
  2. Lifting too much weight with not enough recovery too early in the season (keep things easy during base training!)
  3. Lifting for endurance rather than strength and power

That last point is so important that I recorded a short presentation to explore it in more detail:

More generally, here are some other rules to keep in mind when lifting weights:

  1. Lifting is supposed to help your running. Strength traininng should support your running, not detract from it. If your running workouts are compromised by weightlifting, reduce the intensity so you can maintain your running (after all, you’re a runner, not a weightlifter)
  2. Skip the bicep curls – and most other body-builder-oriented exercises like tricep extensions or calf raises. Focus on movements, not muscles.
  3. Lift on hard running days. Many runners schedule hard strength workouts on rest days or after an easy run, which turn easy days into moderate or hard days. Instead, lift after your long run or faster workout to stimulate additional adaptations.

For more mistakes and principles to follow, get our free strength course.

How You’ll Feel with Periodized Strength Training

Runners aren’t always comfortable getting in the gym to lift weights. We’re afraid of “bulking up” or showing off our weird shorts (if I can wear board shorts to the gym, so can you).

But if you commit, the results will speak for themselves.

I’ve asked a group of runners from the Strength Running community to share how they feel after incorporating a periodized weightlifting program. This is what they told me:

“I don’t just feel better; I feel transformed – like a brand new runner. I’ve never run like this – with strength and without aches and pains. I’m excited to run and discover what improvements I can make.” – Rebecca

“6-minute PR in today’s half marathon. Strength training is the secret sauce!” – Michele

“Wanted to say thanks. I can feel myself getting stronger as I progress. My wife is actually a Doctor of Physical Therapy and she is in agreement that the routine has been correctly structured and the strength exercises are optimal for my current level of post injury fitness.” – Drew

“Jason, I’m checking in about my experience with strength training. I just completed 6 weeks of it and I PR’d by 9 seconds (20:03) in my 5k yesterday. I’ve noticed minimal aches and pains and I definitely seem to recover faster. I’m thrilled with what I am seeing so far. It’s really helping me become both a better athlete and runner. Thanks so much for this awesome program!” – Allison

Runners who focus on periodized strength training that supports their running, prioritizes power and strength, and is specific to the needs of runners will reap the rewards.

They’ll have great injury resilience, improved running economy, and a faster finishing kick. They’ll feel better, run more powerfully, and (this is the most fun) post faster finish times.

If you’d like to see how strength training can help your running, start today.

You’ll get our best advice on:

  • Strength training periodization
  • Example exercises to do yourself
  • More mistakes to avoid so you stay on track
  • Case studies and examples of other runners
  • What you can expect by lifting weights

I’ll also send you a private presentation about lifting for speed. Get it here!

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Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training: How to Join the Elite Sub 3 Club

So, you want to run a fast marathon? But not any fast time… a sub 3 hour marathon! Here’s how to make it a reality.

Jason sub 3 hour marathon

Jason winning the 2013 Potomac River Run Marathon

There’s something magical about running a fast marathon. Because of its length, the race is notoriously difficult.

That’s because at marathon-intensity, beyond 20 miles is like the Wild West. You just never know what might happen out there on the race course. The options for disaster seem limitless:

Most races are too short for these problems to make a meaningful impact on your performance. But over 26.2 miles, problems can compound.

And the faster you run, the worse these problems can become.

That’s why putting together a fast marathon – especially a sub 3 hour marathon finish – is particularly exciting. That fast finish time underscores successful preparation, fueling, and execution for the marathon.

Let’s not also forget that marathoners often put all their eggs in one basket: their singular marathon race. If it goes well, great! But if not, they have to recover, wait, and start the training process all over again.

In other words, there are rarely any “do overs” in marathoning.

For those of you with bold and ambitious marathon goals, this article will help you discover what is actually important when it comes to running a fast marathon.

And if you’d like to set your sights on joining the “2:XX Marathon Club,” this is your 3-step process for becoming a sub 3 hour marathon-caliber runner.

Sub 3 Ingredient #1: Competitive Mileage Levels

Jason Boston

The 2014 Boston Marathon. Ouch.

If you have a bold and ambitious race goal – like a sub 3 hour marathon – you’ll need bold and ambitious training.

While most runners are typically training between 20 – 35 miles per week, you’ll need to step up your game.

Not only will higher mileage levels be necessary during your marathon training, but also during the rest of the year. High mileage running is a lifestyle, not something you do occasionally!

And when it comes to your aerobic base, bigger is better.

To make your sub 3 marathon a reality, first make higher mileage running a priority. When you’re comfortable running 40-50 miles per week regularly, you’ll be far more prepared for the rigors of marathon training.

Tempo runs become easier. And long runs – the keystone of marathon preparation – become more manageable as you build endurance and aerobic strength.

Over time, runners who build the capability to run 50+ miles per week (at the minimum) have a better chance of running a sub 3 hour marathon time.

In fact, Strava published data a few years ago demonstrating that those who qualify for the Boston Marathon run more miles. And while a sub-3 is more competitive than a BQ, it shows that higher mileage is even more important for this bolder goal!

Sub 3 Ingredient #2: Consistent Long Runs

Philadelphia Marathon

Running my PR of 2:39:32 at the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon

To get faster at racing long distances, long distances must be made easy. And that’s done through repetition.

See here to discover what long runs do to the body (you’ll want to do them way more regularly!).

While most marathoners spend their training time gradually building their long run to about 20 miles, more competitive marathoners can’t waste that time building their long run distance. They must spend time practicing it and making those runs more challenging (by incorporating marathon-specific pace work).

The final 6 weeks of marathon training for many runners might include these long run distances:

  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 14
  • 19
  • 20

This progression is fairly aggressive; besides one cutback week, the long run distance increases every week. That could very well cause an injury.

Besides being risky, this long run progression doesn’t include any marathon-specific work and is only 104 miles.

A runner gearing up for a sub 3 hour marathon needs a more ambitious series of long runs:

  • 19
  • 18: last 4mi @ Goal Marathon Pace
  • 20
  • 20
  • 21
  • 20: last 5mi @ Goal Marathon Pace

Over 6 runs, this progression includes 14 more miles and two runs that include goal pace work.

For the runner shooting for a 2:59 marathon, a more substantial progression of long runs is needed to reach their goal. And that’s only possible for runners who have built their capacity for long distances over years.

Sub 3 Ingredient #3: Equivalent Race Performances

NYC Marathon

My debut at the 2008 NYC Marathon (not so pretty)

A sub 3 hour marathon is quite competitive. If you want to have a shot at achieving this milestone, your other race times must also be quite competitive.

That’s because running is running. Fitness is fitness. And fast runners are fast runners (no matter the distance).

You’ll never run a standout marathon if your other Personal Bests don’t… stand out, too.

This is where the idea of equivalent performances is critical.

To have any shot at breaking 3 in the marathon, you’ll need to run race times in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon that are similar to how competitive a 2:59 marathon is.

Here’s my approximation of the equivalent performances of a sub 3 hour marathon:

TABLE

It’s ideal to set PR’s in the shorter distances and get as close to these equivalent times as possible before you start running a lot of marathons.

Why? Well, because marathons are hard and shorter races are less so!

  • You can run more short races (since the recovery is easier), giving you more opportunities to improve
  • The training is more beginner-friendly than high-volume marathon training
  • Speed is a skill and should be developed first

Everywhere around the world, beginner runners are introduced to the sport of running through cross country and track and field – not the marathon.

That’s very instructive: it shows us that we should develop the skills of power, coordination, speed, agility, and overall athleticism before focusing exclusively on high-level endurance.

Case Study: How I Broke 3 in My Debut Marathon

Looking back, I debuted at the marathon distance with a 2:44:38 finish. But I had already been running for over a decade with experience running 90 miles per week, regular long runs of 15-18 miles, and a slew of personal bests more competitive than a 2:44 marathon:

  • 4:33 in the mile
  • 54:50 for 10 miles
  • 1:13:39 for the half marathon

In hindsight, of course I was ready to run a sub 3 hour marathon! Anybody who has run these times has the ability to run a sub-3. It just takes a bit more training.

And that’s exactly where you want to get yourself: to a position where it’s virtually guaranteed to run a marathon that fast. Get the training on track first and then focus on getting faster in the 5k, 10k, HM, and other distances.

This is more effective than only running marathons, which is riskier (the injury potential is much higher) and less effective (you’ll never get equivalent performances and why limit yourself only to marathon training?).

A Sub 3 Hour Marathon Requires Caution

Breaking the 3 hour mark in the marathon is an audacious, highly competitive goal for any runner. If successful, you’ll join an elite club with many perks:

  • Automatic entry to the first corral at any major marathon
  • Confetti, a live band, and a champagne toast at the finish line
  • High-fives from every other sub 3 marathoner at the race

Actually, none of that is true. Nobody will really notice except your die-hard friends and family – but that doesn’t mean it’s a goal not worthy of pursuing!

It just takes a long-term approach, patience, and a focus on the process of training. These lofty marathon goals aren’t achieved in a few months but rather years and years. Don’t rush your development!

In our new sub 3 marathon video, I summarize many of the key points in this article:

To help you achieve your heroic marathon goals – whether that’s a sub 3 hour attempt or any other time goal – we have a lot of resources available.

If you have a history of injuries, getting healthy is the first step. Start here!

If you’re healthy, running well, and ready to take a big step forward, start here!

Or if you’re not sure where to start, start here. I’m happy to help.

The results from the Strength Running community are powerful:

“Since following your methods, I am now running injury free with volume of around 50 miles/week with long runs in the 16 mile range. My pace is now slowly increasing. I know that as long as I stay patient and take the time to work on strength, I will be able to progress toward my goal of running my first marathon at age 60 (with a goal of a sub 4 hour time). Thanks again.” – Charles

““Hi Jason, only 2 months ago I could not run 2k. Bad episode of acute ITBS that has been with me for as long as I can remember. This weekend I ran 18k in a balmy 0 degrees without any issues. Your program made it possible. Thanks to you I’m back on track for my Boston Marathon 2018!” – Remko

“I was at the end of my rope after suffering from ongoing ITBS, runner’s knee, hip pain, ankle pain… I love running but I couldn’t do more with risking more injury.

Then I purchased the program and OMG – the injuries have stopped. Even though it’s been almost 4 months now, I’m almost afraid to say it out loud. I simply expect to have knee pain all of time. But I don’t.

Get this! I’m am now running 30-35 miles per week and training for a marathon. And I’m not only running more miles and longer distances, I’m actually running faster. I ran 16 miles on Sunday in 2:16:21 – or 8:31/mi pace. Just five months ago I was running 5 miles at a 9:30/mi pace. Unbelievable. Thanks so much. I look forward to doing more with you in the coming year.” – Tim

No matter what time you run in the marathon, you deserve to train appropriately and achieve your best. Prepare intelligently, stay patient, and always prioritize the process.

See what we can do for you here.

Sooner or later, you might just surprise yourself at what you’re capable of over 26.2 miles.

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Build Confidence, Intrinsic Motivation, and Drive with Matt Pendola

After over 20 years of training and coaching, the hardest thing about running isn’t the running itself. It’s how you think about running.

inner psychology

Do you think that you have to do a workout? Or do you think that you get to do a workout?

Are you frustrated when your alarm goes off to run? Or are you excited about another opportunity to get closer to your goals?

Do you dread your upcoming long run? Or do you feel privileged to be able to test your limits?

These questions might make you uncomfortable because you may find yourself answering yes to the wrong question! I know I’m not always excited to run and I know that I’m not alone…

Our mental relationship with running defines our experiences. By focusing more on mental training, we can:

  • Boost our confidence before our key races so we believe in our abilities
  • Reduce anxiety and pre-race jitters so we can focus on the right things
  • Build intrinsic motivation so we’re running for the right reasons

These mental skills are harder to develop than endurance, running economy, or a high VO² Max. They take years and diligent practice to fully master.

That means there’s no better time to start building your toolbox of psychological skills than today.

To help us think more clearly about our mental skillset, I’d like to introduce you to Matt Pendola.

Matt Pendola: How to Create Lasting Motivation to Run

Matt Pendola

Matt Pendola is a polymath and exactly the type of person I love bringing on the podcast. His diverse background includes success in not just coaching, but his education and his athletic career.

Athletically, he’s posted quite a few major accomplishments:

  • He Won the Elite Spartan World Championships Masters Division (2015)
  • Age group runner up Duathlon Nationals (2015)
  • Qualified for Duathlon World Championships 3x
  • 4th Overall at the Northface Trail Championships and 3rd in his division (2014)

He’s also a Road Runner Club of America certified running coach, massage therapist, creator of Pendola Training, and has a host of continuing education certifications in strength training, performance, and even Jack Daniels’ coaching program.

In this interview, Matt and I are discussing the mental factors that contribute to our success in running. Because after you get your training right, the next big avenue for improvement is mastering your mindset and improving your confidence, drive to train, willingness to suffer, and finding the intrinsic motivation to always run consistently.

BTW, I haven’t explored this topic on Strength Running at length. We have programs for injury prevention, strength training, dialing in your nutrition and fueling, coaching, and for beginner runners. But not for fine-tuning our mental fitness.

So if you have any questions, or suggestions, or ideas that you’d love for me to cover, find me on Instagram and send me a message (my direct messages are always open and I want to hear from you).

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or Google Play.

Show Links & Resources:

Thank you SteadyMD for sponsoring this episode of the podcast! Learn more about their medical services for runners and how you can benefit from a physician who understands runners.

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Tina Muir Takes Your Strength Training Questions

Strength training is like broccoli: we know it’s good for us, we understand it has to get done, but we don’t always want to do it.

strength training questions

Are jazz hands effective strength training for runners?

And because it’s a necessary evil (I’m showing my bias here – I don’t love strength training but it can be fun), runners don’t always get very good at it.

I understand. After all, we’re runners right?!

So when it comes to the finer details of weightlifting, endurance runners are often in the dark when it comes to:

  • lifting heavy vs. lifting light
  • long vs. short workouts
  • lifting for endurance, strength, hypertrophy, or power
  • Full rest vs. partial rest
  • Upper body vs. lower body strength training

And I used to be one of those runners!

Early in my running career, I didn’t think runners needed to start lifting weights. We got enough strength from running, right?

No. Bad Jason! This is a very simple, incorrect, and limiting belief.

I probably would have been a much better runner if I didn’t mistakenly believe that strength training would not help runners.

In fact, strength training exercises have so many benefits for runners like faster finish times, better injury resilience, improved body composition (yeah, you’ll look better naked), and enhanced running economy.

Here’s some of the research:

  • Strength training helps cure IT Band Syndrome (source)
  • Women with runner’s knee have weaker hips than healthy runners (source – confirmed here)
  • Resistance training improves trained runner’s economy by up to 8% (source)
  • Explosive strength training makes your 5k faster by improved economy and muscle power (source)
  • Weight lifting improves performance (speed), running economy, and muscle power (source)

So to help clear up any lingering confusion and get your specific questions answered, I’ve invited Tina Muir onto the podcast.

Tina Muir on Your Strength Training Questions

Tina Muir

Tina and I teamed up to collect your burning strength training questions about:

  • How often to get in the weight room
  • What to do about excessive soreness from lifting
  • Circuit workouts for strength training
  • Upper body lifting
  • Progressive overload vs. injury prevention

Tina is a former professional runner and the host of the Running for Real podcast (which recently surpassed 2 million downloads)! She’s also the author of Overcoming Amenorrehea. Get Your Period Back. Get Your Life Back.

Subscribe to the Strength Running Podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or Google Play.

Resources & Links:

Thank You Inside Tracker!

This episode would not have been possible without Inside Tracker, who is offering a 10% discount on any of their tests with code strengthrunning.

They test over 40 biomarkers, like various stress hormones, to determine if you’re training too hard, too little, or have any physiological weaknesses that can be remedied by either diet, exercise, or lifestyle changes.

In other words, you learn about problems that have actionable solutions.

After getting your results, they communicate what you can do to lift or lower your results into the optimal range. For any runner who wants every advantage, to see what they’re truly capable of achieving, I highly recommend Inside Tracker. I’ve personally used their ‘Ultimate Package’ tier and loved the process and results.

Don’t forget to use code strengthrunning to save 10% on any test (including their affordable DIY and Essentials)!

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