Tina Muir Cohosts the Podcast to Answer Your Running Questions

If you’re like most runners, every so often you’ll have a big question pop up. It might be about an injury, upcoming race, or how to tackle your training. But who do you ask?

mountain runnning

Not everyone starts running on a team with multiple coaches. But modern life has given rise to new technology that allows any runner to connect with a coach virtually.

You don’t need to live nearby or have the flexibility to meet for a run on your coach’s terms. And you certainly don’t need to mortgage your house or have a professional shoe contract to get that coach!

It’s an incredible time to be a runner – particularly because you can now get your running questions quickly answered.

Over the years, I’ve made the effort to always be available to answer your questions:

  • Strength Running’s YouTube channel has 120+ videos with a lot of Q&A
  • Members of Team SR submit their own questions to our monthly guest expert interview
  • My 1-on-1 coaching clients have unlimited access to me (how can you limit coaching communication?!)

Engaging with runners in Q&A is one of the most effective ways of giving back to the running community, spreading knowledge about our wonderful sport, and helping as many runners as possible with their training.

Today is no different! I’m tackling about a dozen questions on the latest episode of the Strength Running Podcast.

But I’m not alone – I’m joined by a cohost to help give you a more nuanced perspective on each question.

Running Q&A with Tina Muir

Please welcome pro runner, coach, and podcast host Tina Muir! She’s helping me answer the running questions, brain teasers, and riddles that runners submitted over the past month.

You might recognize Tina from Episode 31 of the podcast. She’s an 11-time All-American athlete and elite athlete for Great Britain who’s run in two British Olympic Trials.

Tina recently overcame amenorrhea by taking a break from training, had a daughter, and is now returning to competitive running.

But we’re not here to talk about Tina. We’re here to talk about YOUR questions, problems, and struggles.

In this conversation, we’re discussing:

  • If you can only run a few times per week, should those runs all be “hard?”
  • Do compression socks actually work?
  • How do you advance beyond walking to run all of your miles?
  • What are the most important things to remember when training for a Ragnar Relay?
  • How do you pace a long run?
  • And a lot more!

Subscribe to the SR Podcast on iTunes. Or if you’re not using an iPhone, use the Stitcher platform.

Show Resources & Links:

Please also join me in thanking our sponsor for this episode: Route Pepper! They’re a new route planning app for iOS-devices that allows you to create a running route and get directions from your headphones.

If you travel a lot, you know how difficult it can be to find a good place to run and then not get lost when you go out running. Route Pepper helps you plan road or off-road runs from the app itself or your computer.

Just upload the route and you’re all set – it will work anywhere in the world (no mobile data required), the app integrates with any smartwatch that supports notifications, and it’s absolutely free to download.

Check them out here and start running without stopping for directions!

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How to Combat the Effects of Aging as an Older Runner

It’s no surprise that running gets harder as you get older. Recovery is slower, VO² max is lower, and injury risks are more numerous. How can the older runner keep running strong – and healthy?

Older Runner

Running is something I intend to do for the rest of my life. But very soon I’ll need to address the limitations of my aging body.

I’m not 22 anymore. I can’t run a 1:13 half marathon off 6 hours of sleep, recover with 5 dirty Martinis, and still rock an 18 miler the next day for a long run.

The indiscretions of youth were fun… but they won’t work when I’m 52!

Running is also becoming a much more popular sport for older athletes. In fact, a study of the New York City Marathon from 1980 – 2009 found that:

“The percent of finishers younger than 40 years significantly decreased, while the percent of masters runners significantly increased for both males and females.”

As more and more people find running, it’s increasingly clear that many of them are older athletes.

My goal is to run as successfully as possible for as long as possible. This means quite a few things:

  • Stay healthy (this should be a top goal for any 40+ runner)
  • Maintain competence at skills (full range of motion, coordination, measures of strength, etc.)
  • Feel good on most runs (free of pain, aches, niggles, etc.)
  • Maintain a healthy body composition and preserve muscle mass (I want to look good. There, I said it!)

In effect, my running goals will transform into longevity goals as I get older (for more on longevity, I highly recommend Blue Zones for showing you the keys to living a longer, healthier life).

But running gets a lot harder for older athletes. How can we mitigate the effects of aging so we can keep running well into our golden years?

It starts with understanding why Master’s athletes start slowing down.

Why is running harder for Master’s runners?

older runners

Well, what isn’t hard about running when you get older? Most aspects of physical performance decline with age – it’s simply the reality of the aging process.

Specifically, you can expect:

  • Decreased maximal heart rate
  • Fewer blood capillaries
  • Smaller and fewer muscle mitochondria
  • Decreased VO² Max
  • Lower levels of testosterone
  • Decreased growth hormone production
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Increased body fat
  • Decreased muscular strength

These factors result in slower recovery and race times. The hormonal effects of aging are particularly pronounced; with lower levels of anabolic hormones like  human growth hormone, testosterone, and IGF-1.

The hormones that supercharged your teenage and young adult years are greatly diminished, leading to lower muscle mass, reduced sexual drive, and poor recovery from workouts.

Combined with other age-related physical declines, runners can expect an annual performance decrease of about .7% – with more notable plunges around age 40 and 60.

By age 70, the average person will have lost 30-40% of their muscle mass by age 70.

Interestingly, a 2014 review article on aging and exercise published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons concluded that:

Decades of research support the fact that much age-related deterioration is the result of the effects of sedentary lifestyles and the development of medical conditions rather than of aging itself.

This is fantastic news because it means that when it comes to the aging process, we are not passive bystanders.

We can mitigate the decline of being an older runner to prolong our running careers, our health, and even our lives.

How to Train Older Runners to Feel Young Again

There is a simple training strategy that will inject more youth into anybody’s running: strength training.

Just consider its myriad benefits and how they impact the older runner:

  • Lifting weights triggers higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone (anabolic hormones that build muscle – and “big lifts” are better at producing more testosterone)
  • Successful running for seniors depends on maintaining muscle strength and proper range of motion
  • Lifting creates denser mitochondria, the “energy factories” of the cells, which decline as you get older

The hormonal component to this story is worth some further explanation.

See, running is catabolic – it breaks down muscle. This normally isn’t a problem because the recovery process rebuilds that muscle very effectively.

But that recovery process slows down as you get older. There are fewer hormones to get it done efficiently (and running doesn’t produce as large a surge of anabolic hormones as other types of exercise like strength training).

Not only does the hormone testosterone reduce the impact of catabolic hormones, it makes other hormones (like IGF-1) more anabolic as well.

After a hard weightlifting session, your body is swimming in muscle-building hormones. That simply doesn’t happen after a hard run! Coach Jay Johnson agrees, noting:

When you do strength work you get a hormonal stimulus that is different than you get running. Specifically, you up-regulate testosterone and human growth hormone, both anabolic hormones.

Anabolic simply means “building up.” Running is a catabolic, “breaking down,” activity.

When you view running the through the anabolic/catabolic lens, it makes sense that you would want to do some strength training to complement your running.

The lesson? If we want to run well into old age – injury-free and with some semblance of ease – we’ve got to lift weights.

Lifting Helps Non-Runners Too!

In addition to how lifting will benefit running, it’s also critical for older runners aged 65+ to promote healthy, long lives. Stronger seniors who have maintained more muscle strength are at a lower risk of falling – a significant cause of age-related trauma.

Doctors are noticing as well. Timothy Quinn, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Hampshire notes:

Older runners should try very hard to get to the gym to lift weights a few times a week.

This focus on strength training throughout the aging process will help runners (and non-runners alike) maintain their strength, flexibility, fitness, and resilience to injury.

How to Start Weightlifting (even if you’re a Master’s Runner)

I want to keep experiencing runs like this into old age!

Most forms of strength training are beneficial – no matter if you’re a master’s runner, senior, or a 14 year old just getting started!

But certain types of strength work have more benefits than others.

If you’re not yet comfortable with strength exercises, start with bodyweight strength training. It will improve your general strength, range of motion, coordination, and begin to counter the effects of muscle loss due to aging.

But if you’ve been doing bodyweight strength routines – like the Gauntlet or Tomahawk Workouts – regularly, it’s time to take the next step.

Because without progression, there’s no progress.

Now, it’s time to start weightlifting! Putting up heavier weight in the gym in a more structured “weight lifting” environment is how to get the powerful, full benefits of lifting:

  • Neuromuscular coordination and enhanced running economy
  • Power and the ability to recruit a higher number of muscle fibers
  • Improved mitochondria development and testosterone production
  • Stronger hypertrophy stimulus – preserving precious muscle mass

These are significant adaptations to lifting weights that won’t happen with bodyweight exercises. The stimulus simply isn’t strong enough.

Sign up here and you’ll get Strength Running’s free strength course. We’re going to cover a lot:

  • The many reasons (even more than you realize) for starting a weight lifting routine
  • Why bodybuilding and endurance workouts are a waste of time
  • The type of exercises that build power, explosivity, and fast-twitch responsiveness
  • The exact progression of exercises, sets, and reps that’s ideal for runners
  • A video presentation that’s never before been public

Get it all here – your first lesson will be in your inbox within 5 minutes.

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Is Bodyweight Strength Training Enough for Runners?

There’s nothing sadder than the face of a runner sitting on the sidelines watching the world of runners go by. Yet high percentages of runners—from 37 percent to 56 percent—deal with injury on an annual basis.

Strength Training

Many factors can cause running injuries:

  • excessive mileage
  • ignoring niggles and allowing them to become full-blown problems
  • muscle imbalances

But one simple act can play an important role in improved running economy and thus fewer injuries: strength training.

When you’re injured, it’s likely that your health practitioner, often a physical therapist who understands movement, is going to prescribe that you follow a strength routine. If you’re serious about staying injury free, this rehab routine can become your “prehab” routine as a foundation for running strength.

But bodyweight strength training for runners should go beyond a 10-minute prehab routine, as important as it is. And while most runners hate investing free time in the gym, it’s time well spent.

In fact, most coaches and physical therapists will go so far as to say that even if it means giving up a few precious miles on the road each week in order to find the time, strength training will pay off in spades.

Healthier, stronger, faster running can begin in the gym, whether a home-based, basement gym or one where you pay membership.

Bodyweight Strength Training for Runners: Clear Benefits

If you’d rather stay out of the gym, there’s plenty you can do at home, and beginning with a few simple bodyweight strength exercises, you can be well on your way.

But know that a progression in added weight, difficulty or resistance is necessary in the future.

Doctor of physical therapy and strength and conditioning coach Ryan Smith of Maryland-based health hub Recharge, says there are benefits to both types of strength training—bodyweight and with added resistance—but knowing how and when to progress is key:

When you work out with body weight only, you get to learn what your body can do in space. Plus it’s a good barometer of whether or not your body should even take on running.

What does Smith mean by that? It’s a simple numbers game:

  • If your body cannot manage 20 reps of a single-leg calf raise, is it really ready for the impact of running?
  • If you can’t balance on one leg and do single-leg dead lifts, what happens when you run?

Smith points out:

If the muscles that support your running aren’t able to function properly when running, what is taking over for them? Working with bodyweight exercises can be very illuminating in this regard.

Think about it: A weak or inefficient glute muscle might mean your IT band has to take over and compensate. It’s not designed for that kind of load and so what happens? It breaks down and you get IT Band Syndrome.

Or say your hip strength isn’t where it should be. Something must make up for that deficit. Maybe your peroneal tendon or your proximal hamstring? An injury probably isn’t far off on the horizon.

The benefits of bodyweight strength training for runners extends beyond only strength, however. Smith points to gymnasts who have exemplary control of their bodies to help you understand:

If you watch how they control their bodies in space, you can see this in action. They have phenomenal balance and awareness.

When you consider the fact that running is a series of one-legged stances, it makes sense to hone this skill and awareness.

Start with Bodyweight Strength Training

Plank Strength Exercise

As a good starting point, then, let’s take a look at bodyweight strength exercises that do a runner good.

Smith says that a few key movements are particularly important:

Single-leg Squats

This is a fairly advanced movement, and one that many runners may need to work up to achieving. Smith notes:

You can work up to pistol squats or Bulgarian split squats. Both are difficult and provide real benefits to runners.

Your depth and range of motion may be limited to begin with, but with consistent practice, it can improve.

Single-leg squats are a valuable exercise included in the ITB Rehab Routine.

Single-leg Deadlifts

These moves work on glute strength, hamstring strength, balance, and spatial awareness. They aren’t easy, either, and might be helped by placing a mirror in front of you.

Start with one set of 8-10 reps and work up to two or three sets.

A variation of this valuable bodyweight strength training exercise is found in the Standard Warm-up Routine.

Lunges

There are almost endless ways to perform lunges and they provide important strength for the quads, hamstrings, glutes and overall lower limb function.

Consider front lunges, side lunges, reverse lunges and walking lunges as a good starting point. Shake things up from one workout to the next, too, to keep your body “learning” how to move properly.

Lunges are included in the Mattock Warm-up since they’re so critical for proper stride mechanics.

Plyometrics

By definition, plyometrics are fast, explosive movements. For runners, they can have a beneficial impact not only for building strength, but for improving running economy and speed.

Simple bodyweight plyometrics include a matrix of hopping. Ryan Smith adds:

Think about doing ‘skaters,’ skipping, standing long jumps (bounding), and lunges or squats with a jump. Try to land lightly but exploding off the ground.

Because they are a rather advanced move, you should build a foundation of strength first before attempting them.

Bodyweight Training Must Progress to Weightlifting

While bodyweight exercises serve a valuable purpose in a runner’s routine, if you don’t progress beyond them at some point, you risk stalling your gains.

Smith adds:

When you think about the fact that running produces loads of 1.2 to 1.5 times your bodyweight, you understand why it’s important to push your strength game. The body takes more demand during running than most runners realize.

So where do you go after mastering bodyweight movements? Smith suggests several options:

Single-leg squat variations: Once you have this movement pattern under control, consider making it tougher by adding dumbbells or kettlebells.

Getting easy? Keep on adding weight, reps and sets.

Single-leg dead lifts: Like its single-leg counterpart, the key to upping the ante here is grabbing kettlebells or dumbbells.

Challenge yourself even more by holding the weight in the opposing hand from the one on which you are standing. You’ll pull in more balance work with this approach, thus increasing the value of the move.

Lunges: Again, grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and get moving. As one weight gets easy, move up to the next. Or if you begin with dumbbells, move over to kettlebells, which are harder to manage.

Also try a kettlebell in each hand, holding them away from your body for a “farmer’s carry.” You’ll gain fantastic full-body strength.

Plyometrics: Ready to make these tougher? “You can take plyometrics to the next level by adding in height,” says Smith. “So try box jumps, or drop jumps from a higher position. There are lots of ways to increase the challenge here.”

Remember, however, to keep the variety in the picture, no matter what you can accomplish with the increased weights and challenges.

Smith says:

Our bodies adapt quickly. When you change things up, you’re increasing your capacity to run more.

You can learn more about Strength Running’s free strength series here (we’ll show you how runners need to lift).

Take the Next Step with Strength Training

Smith says that you will find weighted and bodyweight strength training mentally engaging (physically, too!):

Most of us get bored with the same routines, so variety keeps it fun. There are thousands of different ways you can shake it up but a basic foundation will make it easy for you.

Two to three times a week is all you need, but you have to stick with it to see the pay off.

If you haven’t yet tried consistent bodyweight strength training exercises, start there first. You’ll still get a tremendous amount of benefits without adding any extra weight to your lifts.

But if you’re comfortable doing bodyweight strength exercises, it’s time to take the next step and get into the weight room.

Weightlifting has several distinct advantages over bodyweight strength training:

  • It results in higher levels of running economy (more efficiency)
  • You’ll get more power, giving you a stronger finishing kick
  • The injury prevention stimulus is stronger than bodyweight exercises
  • You’ll also get stronger overall, resulting in better body composition

Register here for Strength Running’s best lifting guidance (and an example of a “power” lift).

Runners Need to Lift

You’ll learn more details about why you should lift, plus all the common mistakes that are typical in the weight room.

And the best part? Since most runners don’t lift appropriately, you’ll be WAY ahead of the pack after following a periodized, progressive, runner-specific strength program.

So sign up here, start lifting, and that next Personal Best will be right around the corner!

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How Geoff Broke His Chronic Injury Cycle After Nearly Quitting Running

Running can be a tough sport – with an annual injury rate hovering around 50-70%, staying healthy can be daunting. But this is a happy story! Meet Geoff:

Geoff Running 1

Geoff came to running later in life but his love for the sport quickly grew. Like many runners, he started with the 5k distance and gradually worked his way up to a 10k, half-marathon, and marathon.

Throughout his first years of running, Geoff only suffered one major injury: a tibial stress fracture while training for his first marathon. Once that injury healed, he was able to return to training for several races each year, which usually included at least one half marathon and marathon.

But soon, a string of injuries nearly made him quit the sport altogether.

The Beginning of the Injury Cycle

Soon Geoff began to struggle with a series of injuries. First, he struggled with plantar fasciitis. He cut back his running and thought he had recovered.

But when he raced his goal marathon in 2016, he finished with another injury – this time in his hamstring.

With this setback, a few weeks off weren’t enough. The hamstring pain came back with a vengeance as soon as he tried to run again – this time, sidelining him for six months.

Unfortunately, many runners experience a similar merry-go-round of disfunction. Though your injuries may be different, the pattern is often the same:

  • Step 1: Get injured
  • Step 2: Take time off from training
  • Step 3: Build back up only to get injured again in 2-3 months
  • Step 4: Repeat!

At best, it keeps us from achieving our running goals and can be frustrating. At worst, it can be demoralizing enough to make us think we’re just not suited for the sport of running.

Geoff describes it this way:

I decided to take another break, and had a feeling in the back of my head that I was in fact hanging up my shoes forever. At the same time, work and family were keeping me busier than ever, so justification for doing nothing about my situation was a bit too easy to come up with.

But quitting the sport of running is never a good option – especially when there’s a solution.

A Resolution to Change

Tired, frustrated, and struggling with weight gain from living a more sedentary life, Geoff made the decision to turn things around.

It wasn’t easy, though. He told me:

Although I’ve been a Strength Running follower for years, for some foolish reason I believed that all your advice was for other runners. 

Right about that time I received an email from SR which told me what I already knew: If I wanted to run, and run forever, I needed to commit to getting stronger. So I made the leap.

In Geoff’s case, his leap involved resolving to fix his injury cycle.

He knew rest alone hadn’t fixed his injuries (after all, rest is not treatment!) and that his previous training hadn’t been sustainable. To become a healthy, lifelong runner, he had to break out of the training habits that had created his ongoing injury cycle.

Geoff admits he was reluctant to change his ways; the decision to do thing differently didn’t come easily at first. For many years, his training had worked even though he admits to being “consistently inconsistent.”

He ran and trained aggressively when races were on the schedule, but his off-season running varied wildly from week to week. At first his aggressive race schedule and training led to big improvements – but eventually, injuries caught up with him.

Geoff admits that his reluctance to follow someone else’s training program stemmed from the worry that it would restrict his freedom and lessen the joy he got from running.

He explained to me how he felt:

I avoided following a program for so long because I thought it would box me in. Like most runners, I love the freedom of running. I love being out there at 4:30 a.m., when no one else is around, pushing myself for my own sake…

I’ve always thought of training plans and prescribed training formulas as a virtual nag – a guilt-dishing, screeching voice in my ear, serving no other purpose than to sap all the joy out of running.

I’m sure you might be able to relate: when running is your escape and your happy place, it can be challenging to impose a different structure on it than you’re used to.

But Geoff made a critical realization: that structure made running even more enjoyable.

As with many things in life, changing your mindset is often more than half the battle. This was especially true for Geoff. Once he made the decision to embrace change and follow a new program, he found that the actual transition was relatively easy.

Slowing Down and Building Athleticism

Geoff Running 2

Geoff was already a motivated runner who loved to push himself and was driven to improve. He followed the lessons from our injury series and was soon doing things differently:

  • Base and recovery runs were done at the appropriate paces
  • More variety was introduced in his training
  • Athleticism and strength were prioritized (not just running)

Running too hard, too often, is a sure route to injury. So is a lack of variety, strength, and overall athleticism. But with Geoff invested in the program, he soon learned the importance of becoming a well-rounded athlete in order to sustain his running.

As I often say, running by itself is not enough to prevent injuries. Geoff explains it perfectly:

Stop thinking of running in isolation. As I’ve heard you say before Jason, I need to think of myself as an athlete who happens to run.

Although Geoff does not have any immediate racing plans, he’s grateful to be running again injury free and is building his base miles with steady consistency. He values the many positive changes from his new plan, but especially:

1) It’s practical and gimmick-free, so it’s easy to implement.

2) The effects (for me) were noticeable very quickly. It requires consistency, of course, but if you can maintain that consistency, I think the results would be apparent to most runners in situations similar to mine in fairly short order.

He admits that had he followed his own advice and made some changes sooner, he probably could have avoided losing nearly a year of running.

Now that he is healthy again, Geoff’s focus is to make running a part of his life for the long haul:

Slow and steady, in the metaphorical sense, wins the race. While I will continue to set new race goals, those will not come at the expense of the bigger goal, which is a lifetime of healthy running.

With Geoff’s new mindset, healthy running and new PR’s will both be waiting for him in the years ahead!

How You Can Train Like Geoff

Geoff might seem like an outlier – one of those mythical running “unicorns” who somehow abandons all injuries and runs pain-free after years of struggle.

But we’ve seen this story before. Over and over again, we see runners overcome seemingly permanent disabilities to run faster than ever before.

It’s not a pipe dream and it can happen to you.

If you struggle with injuries or are currently injured, first consider these mindset shifts:

  • Recognize that what you got here won’t get you there (something needs to change)
  • Following a plan is not giving up your freedom (that structure enables more running!)
  • You are an athlete that specializes in running, not “just” a runner

Once you’re comfortable doing things differently and getting some help (after all, you should not be a Lone Wolf), you’re ready to take the leap like Geoff.

Sign up here and get the same injury lessons that he received.

But I’ll also give you a free book to download: The Little Black Book of Recovery & Prevention featuring injury prevention advice from 9 pro runners.

Prevention and Recovery

We’ll challenge how you think about injuries and give you lessons on the mistakes to avoid and the routines that enable strength and athleticism.

More importantly, you’ll see the structure that allows injury-prone runners to become strong, healthy runners!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below or email me. My goal is to help you realize your potential so I’m always available to help you with your running.

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How Do Elite Trail Runners Stay Healthy?

Trail running can be more technical and challenging than running on the roads. With the added difficulty, how do you prevent injuries on the trails?

Trail Running

Just think of all the obstacles you’ll encounter while trail running:

  • More dramatic elevation changes, turns, and switchbacks
  • Uneven footing on more varied terrain
  • Mud, water, and bugs
  • Rocks, roots, fallen trees, holes, and cliff faces (watch at 1:15 here…)

There’s more going on during a typical trail run than a similar run on the roads in a suburb or city.

Interestingly enough, many of these challenges are protective from injuries!

That’s right – trail running can help you prevent injuries (just don’t run into a tree). The hills and varied terrain build athleticism and strength while slowing you down.

More strength and athleticism with a slower pace means that the injury risk of running will be lower.

So if you can get on the trails for some of your weekly mileage, do it! You’ll be a much better runner after spending a few months practicing your trail running skills.

Still, trails can be intimidating. So I thought you’d like to hear from two of the best trail runners in the world  on how they like to prevent injuries.

Today you’ll be hearing from Devon Yanko (besides being a winner of the Leadville Trail 100, she’s run the 3rd fastest trail 100 miler ever for a North American running 14:52 at the 2015 Javelina 100) and Andy Wacker (1st place, 2015 USATF Trail 50k National Championships).

This is an excerpt from The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery which features 7 other elite athletes – it’s free, so download it now!

Devon Yanko: “Take days off!”

Devon Yanko Leadville Trail 100

Devon has run more than 30 Marathon and 30 Ultras since 2006, with most being a win or course record. Other highlights:

  • 3 time member of the USATF 100k National Team including 2009 Gold Medal winning team in Belgium
  • 2007 RRCA Marathon National Champion
  • 2010 50 mile road National Champion
  • 2012 Olympic Trials marathoner (PR of 2:38:55)
  • 2011 100k National Champion
  • Set Fastest Known Time on the Grand Canyon R2R2R trail with Krissy Moehl in April 2011
  • 3rd place at the Two Oceans Marathon (56k) and 5th in Comrades Marathon (89k, as well as first novice and first American)
  • Ran the 3rd fastest trail 100 miler ever for a North American running 14:52 at the 2015 Javelina 100.

Let’s hear from Devon:

I have been running for just over 13 years and during that time, I have suffered from only 2 major injuries that took me out for a few weeks (4 weeks & 10 weeks respectively). Yes, I have durable genes, that can sustain a high level of work on a wonky imperfect (down right weird) stride, but I also do focus my training on recovery as much on training.

My favorite tactic throughout my career for staying healthy has been taking days off. Many runners cringe at the notion of days off but honestly, when I took every Monday off religiously, I never got injured except when I tripped on the trail and ended up in the ER.

If you take a day off a week, you are allowing your body to absorb the work, get in a mini reset and you are actually better able to gauge where your body is with its adaptation and recovery.

During peak training, I sometimes will move it to 1 day off per 14 days, but I find that that is on the outside edge of what my body wants to do. I do active recovery on Mondays, sometimes cross train or strength train and get a massage. I try to set myself up for a week of training and get ready to have no missed runs or workouts. The day off doesn’t affect my ability to do the volume I need (over 100 miles/week) or the quality.

The secret to preventing injuries is doing things well in advance of even the threat of injury. Taking a day off a week or two will help prevent your body from injury and help you take you training to the next level.

Connect with Devon: Follow her on Instagram. Visit her website.

Andy Wacker: Know What Works For You

Andy Wacker Mountain Running

Andy is an Adidas-sponsored athlete, University of Colorado at Boulder graduate, and one of the best trail and mountain runners in the world. A few of his noteworthy accomplishments:

  • 2nd place, 2015 World Mountain Running Long Distance Championships
  • Olympic Marathon Trails qualifier (multiple times)
  • 1st place, 2015 USATF Trail 50k National Championships
  • 1st place, 2014 and 2015 Mt. Evans Ascent
  • 1st place, 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon
  • 1st place, 2014 USATF Colorado 10k Championships
  • 1st place, 2013 USATF Colorado 5-mile Championships

Here’s Andy:

I’m pretty minimal when it comes to “the extra stuff” we all need to do in addition to running. The one exercise I believe in is a simple active stretch for the hamstrings. I usually do two variations.

One, laying on my back I’ll lift my legs, one at a time, to ninety degrees, with strait knees.

Two, I’ll lay on my back with one leg flat on the ground and the other at a ninety-degree angle to the ground.

The difference from the first stretch is that I bend my leg at the knee for each rep. Both exercises, I will do ten reps each leg.

A seated variation, using something like the ROLL Recovery R3 can help dig in better. These pictures will help you visualize the exercise:

Andy Wacker Hamstring Exercise

These are similar to Phil Wharton’s active isolated flexibility. After a long battle with IT band issues, and a hamstring tear, these helped me remain healthy.

Connect with Andy: Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Learn From the Best

Last year, I worked with nearly a dozen professional runners to hear their favorite recovery and injury prevention strategies.

The result is The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery and besides Devon and Andy, it features:

  • Dathan Ritzenhein – 3x Olympian, 3x National Cross Country Champion
  • Amelia Boone – 3x World’s Toughest Mudder Champion
  • David Roche – 2x National Trail Running Champion
  • Kelly O’Mara – professional triathlete
  • Ian Sharman – 3x winner of the Leadville Trail 100
  • Joseph Gray – Mount Washington American Record holder and World Mountain Running Champion
  • Max King – US National Ultra Running Champion and 2x winner World Warrior Dash Champion

Each of these world-class athletes shared their favorite recovery or injury prevention strategy – and the responses are incredibly varied.

You’ll hear about post-race recovery, why you should eat a LOT, how to return to running after an injury (and what mistakes to avoid), and the virtues of eliminating busyness from your life.

Pick and choose the ideas that most resonate with you. Implement them and you’ll be a better, stronger, healthier, and faster runner.

Click on the button below to download the free book. Enjoy!

Elite Runners on Injury Prevention

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The Annual Running Plan: Maximize Your Speed By Planning Long Term

Would you like an advantage typically reserved for the best runners in the world? How much faster could you be if you used this advantage to its full potential?

Annual Running Plan

That advantage is the foresight to create an annual running plan in advance. Have you ever planned an entire year of running? Not just a season (that’s fairly straightforward), but a full 12 months of training?

It’s not as easy as you might imagine. There are a lot of questions to consider:

  • How many distinct seasons are in one year?
  • How long should each season be (and can they vary)?
  • How many races are within each season?
  • How many days or weeks come between seasons?
  • What type of races should be included in each season?

This is perhaps the most strategic approach to training: figuring out what you want years ahead of time to make the best possible plan over a long time period.

And it’s comforting to know that elite runners plan their running exactly the same way!

According to Forbes:

Many Olympic athletes plan out their training schedules annually and up to four years in advance to make sure they reach specific performance goals.

But we don’t need credible news outlets to tell us this Olympic-level strategy. Past guests on the Strength Running Podcast – like Shalane Flanagan and Nick Symmonds – agree that in an Olympic or World Championship year, everything is geared toward that one race.

Because with better planning comes better results.

And I want you to have better results with your running. So let’s start planning like the world’s best!

Why Should I Plan a Year of Running?

Planning an entire year of training has many benefits. But quite simply, planning a year has the same benefits as planning a season:

  • You’ll know where you’re going – so you can better plan how to get there
  • Everything about your running is geared toward one singular goal (making success far more likely)
  • Workouts, mileage, and long runs progress during a season to get you in better shape

When this approach is applied annually, the results can be transformative.

First, you can use an entire season of training as a “tune-up” for your main season that includes your goal race. Just like you might run a half marathon before your marathon (even though the half is not your goal race), you might spend a season training for a 5k before a season dedicated to the marathon.

This allows you to work on different physical skills than your ultimate, annual goal.

If we’re using the example above, a marathoner rarely works on speed and power. But spending a season training for a 5k allows that marathoner to work on complementary skills that will transfer very well to racing 26.2 miles.

Because after all, running is running and fitness is fitness. Get fast in the 5k and you’re getting faster at the marathon, too.

As I like to say, PR’s lead to more PR’s!

How Many Seasons Per Year?

Depending on your goals, most years should have about four distinct “seasons” so that you’re cycling through the phases of training on a consistent basis.

This could be structured this way:

  • Three seasons spanning 12-14 weeks geared toward a goal race
  • One 7-13 week season focused exclusively on base training
  • 2-4 weeks off from running, spread roughly evenly throughout the year after goal races are completed

A major benefit of this structure is that you don’t need to have so many long seasons of 20+ weeks. If you’re training consistently year-round, you won’t need to anyway – the fitness is always there!

There’s a lot of flexibility here but this approach to the annual running plan will ensure you’re focusing on varied goals throughout the year.

An important point about the nature of this approach is that it requires cycles – you’ll cycle through an entire season, recovery period, and another season seamlessly.

It’s a never ending merry-go-round of progression: multiple times during the year you’re attempting to take the “next logical step” with your training, allowing you to run more, train harder, and race faster as the year progresses.

Just remember: keep it cyclical. If you’re taking 2 months off every winter, you’re abandoning this principle and your progress will be slower.

What is the Purpose of Each Season?

When you’re planning out the year, start by determining the top goal. Do you want to…

Whatever your goal might be, work backwards from that goal. If you’re using the structure I talked about above, that means one season is dedicated to base training, one is dedicated to your goal race, and there are two seasons left.

What should you focus on during those seasons?

Follow these two rules and you’ll always know:

  1. Run no more than two seasons per year focused on the same race distance.
  2. Run at least one season that is geared to a “complementary” race distance

For example, if your goal race is a marathon or ultra, your complementary season can focus on a short race like a 10k (or even shorter).

If your goal race is a mile, a complementary season should focus on the 10k or longer.

Here’s more guidance on how to plan an entire season:

If you want more guidance on season planning, download our free worksheet here!

While each season is focused on different race distances, your goal is always the same: race faster! Improvements in any race are going to help your performances in any other race distances.

Again: PR’s lead to more PR’s!

An Example Annual Running Plan

When I think about planning a year of running, it’s instructive to look back at a typical collegiate schedule:

  • Winter is focused on indoor track (typically the season where you race the shortest events)
  • Spring is focused on outdoor track (typically the season where you race longer track events)
  • Summer is focused on base training (preparing you for cross country and more generally, the year as a whole)
  • Fall is focused on cross country (typically a longer race distance that has a strength component because it’s run off-road on trails)

And in this schedule, we have four distinct seasons that focus on slightly different goals.

In my personal experience, this is what I focused on:

  • Winter: 1500m and 3,000m (but included 800m and 400m races as well)
  • Spring: 1500m and 5,000m (but also ran 3k steeplechase and the 800m)
  • Summer: mileage!
  • Fall: 8,000m cross country

For eight years (including high school) this was how my running was structured – a comprehensive, annual program centered on one specific goal: to get faster at all distances.

Your schedule is obviously going to be different, but here is another example for a marathoner:

  • Winter: base training
  • Spring: 10k – half marathon goal distances (or, another marathon cycle)
  • Summer: 5k – 10k goal distances
  • Fall: marathon

While there are many ways of designing a year of running, this is a tried and proven method for maximizing performance.

If you want to follow a Strength Running season of training, most of our coaching programs include training plans.

Now, over to you: do you plan out a year of running differently? How does it look? What goals do you work toward?

Leave your comments below and if you have any questions, I’m happy to respond!

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5 Types of Squats for Runners: More Variation, More Strength

If there’s one exercise that’s perfect for runners, it’s the squat. But should we squat only one way? Can we use different types of squats to get even stronger?

types of squats

In high school, our track team rarely went to the gym and lifted weights. But once in awhile, a big group of us would get in the weight room and goof off (we had no idea what we were doing).

We used machines, isolated muscles, and often lifted for endurance (these are all strength training mistakes). It was haphazard and inconsistent.

Occasionally, we’d have a competition to see who could lift the most on the leg press machine (this is basically a type of squat using a machine). And I noticed something peculiar…

There were always two groups of runners that were able to press the most weight: sprinters and the faster distance runners.

What does this tell us?

  • Running fast requires a high level of strength and power
  • The faster you are, the stronger you likely are
  • Speed, therefore, can be demonstrated in the weight room by lifting heavy weights

Like Randy Hauer once told me:

There are no weak, fast runners.

But this principle works in reverse, too: get stronger in the gym and you’ll run faster on the race course.

Stronger runners can utilize more muscle fibers for raw speed and power. The ability to recruit more fibers also helps late in a long run, race, or workout when you’re fatigued.

You’ll be able to push back the onset of fatigue, run more economically, and have the power to sprint at the end of a race.

The end result: faster finishing times and more Personal Bests!

To help you get even stronger, we have a free strength course that you’re going to love (if you’re new to strength exercises, start there).

And I also want to help you vary one of the most important exercises for runners: the squat.

The Case for Squats for Runners

The squat is a full body, compound, multi-joint exercise that strengthens nearly every muscle in your body. But it focuses on:

  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • hips
  • glutes

These are the biggest and most important muscles for runners: they power your stride. When these muscles are strong and functional, you’re far less likely to get injured (and more likely to run fast).

Strength coach Tony Gentilcore knows how valuable they are for not just strength, but injury prevention:

Squats require a great amount of strength and stability in the hips and core, as well as requisite “access” to hip flexion, knee extension, and ankle dorsiflexion. Possessing the ability to perform squats is important to keep your joints healthy.

They’re also a fantastic exercise to strengthen the entire body and make it more resilient and less prone to injury.

Last I checked runners tend to be prone to nagging hip and knee injuries. Squats can help reduce the instances of these injuries from happening in the first place.

A prior podcast guest, Tony writes about all things strength and conditioning for a global audience at his website here.

From an injury prevention perspective, squats are highly beneficial because they strengthen more than just your muscles. They also strengthen the bones, ligaments, and insertion of the tendons in your legs.

Moreover, the movement of a squat is highly specific to running: after all, running simply a series of highly coordinated one-legged squats.

Stronger squatters will become faster (and less injury-prone) runners.

Are different kinds of squats beneficial?

Spoiler: yes, of course!

Even though different types of squats primarily work the same muscles, the emphasis of each exercise is slightly different. That means muscle development will be different as well.

For example, a sumo squat has different foot positions than a traditional bodyweight squat, leading it to emphasize different muscles. While both exercises work the same muscles, the sumo squat places more stress on the inner thigh adductors and glutes.

With different mechanics, you get different stresses and levels of mobility and range of motion.

The end result? A stronger, more mobile, faster runner.

This shouldn’t be too surprising as we know this intuitively from running: faster running recruits more muscle fibers overall, better engages the glutes, and requires a larger range of motion.

Strength training exercises are exactly the same – different kinds of squats are going to offer slightly different results.

But make no mistake: all squats are beneficial!

5 Types of Squats

Incorporating more variety in the types of squats you perform is going to give you better results.

And I want you to have better results!

I filmed a video in sunny Denver, Colorado showing you five of my favorite kinds of squats:

You don’t need to watch me squat all day to figure out the movement. Below are descriptions of each exercise:

Bodyweight Squat: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and toes facing straight ahead or at a slight angle. This is the starting position. Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips. Continue until your thigh is about parallel to the ground and then reverse the motion until you are back to the starting position. Push your knees out and keep your head and chest up during the entire movement.

Prisoner Squat: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, toes facing straight ahead or at a slight angle, and your hands behind your head. This is the starting position. Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips. Continue until your thigh is about parallel to the ground and then reverse the motion until you are back to the starting position. Push your knees out and keep your head and chest up during the entire movement.

Sumo Squat: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out. This is the starting position. Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips. Continue until your thigh is about parallel to the ground and then reverse the motion until you are back to the starting position. Push your knees out and keep your head and chest up during the entire movement.

Narrow Squat: Stand with your feet together and your toes pointing straight ahead. This is the starting position. Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips. Continue until your thigh is about parallel to the ground and then reverse the motion until you are back to the starting position. Push your knees out and keep your head and chest up during the entire movement.

ATG Squat: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and toes facing straight ahead or at a slight angle. This is the starting position. Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips. Continue until you can’t squat any lower – your butt should be as close to the ground as possible. Reverse the motion until you are back to the starting position. Push your knees out and keep your head and chest up during the entire movement.

Now, you have a toolbox of many types of squats to use in your strength training!

When to Use Squat Variations

These types of squats can be used anytime that you have bodyweight squats on your strength training schedule.

Mix and match the exercises so you become comfortable and proficient at each of the types of squats included in this article. When you start to feel like they’re easy, you know you’ve dramatically improved!

Each type of squat will subtly train your mobility, strength, and athleticism in nuanced and different ways.

As I mentioned in the video above, bodyweight squats are very good at building strength in a runner-specific way – but they’re not ideal.

In a perfect world, your squats will be weighted. Weight training for runners helps you build more strength and most importantly, helps you run faster.

Tony Gentilcore recognizes that this is the real goal of lifting for performance:

Moreover, runners can always benefit from more force. Squats help make people stronger, which in turn helps to generate more force. As a runner, if you’re able to put more force into the ground to propel yourself forward, the likelihood you’ll see faster race times is pretty high.

Please don’t tell me squats will make you slower. They won’t.

To get stronger for performance (in other words, if you want to lift for speed), you’ll need to get in the gym. Heavier weight is a stronger stimulus for adaptation, giving you more results in both the short- and long-term.

Strength Training Exercises for Runners

If you’re not sure exactly where to start, we’ve got you covered.

Sign up here and you’ll get our best strength training advice:

  • 3 types of sub-par lifting that will waste your time and not give you the best results
  • The scientifically proven benefits of lifting heavy weights
  • An example of a perfect power movement for runners
  • Case studies, lessons learned, and a lot more

It’s helpful to know that the fastest runners in the world spend time in the weight room getting stronger. Elites aren’t just doing bodyweight squats…

They know that speed = power so they’re always improving their ability to generate force.

You can do the same. Let me show you!

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Alex Hutchinson on the Limits of Human Endurance

Throughout history, humans have doubted their own abilities. For some reason, we love self-imposed limitations…

Mount Everest

Everest: the top of the world

In the 1940’s, running a mile under four minutes was considered by many scientists to be impossible.

Today, more than 1,400 men have run a mile faster than 4:00

Before 1978, summiting Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen was considered impossible.

Today, about 200 people have summited Everest without supplement oxygen…

As of today, a sub-2:00 marathon is a pipe dream.

But in the future? Who knows…

The pattern here is clear: we’re not very good at predicting the future limits of human endurance.

While the pace of new world records has certainly slowed over the decades, nobody really knows what the human species is truly capable of in the endurance arena.

And to me, that’s incredibly exciting.

It means the future is untold, unwritten, and unencumbered. And that as long as people have the desire to compete, we will continue to strive toward greatness.

And as we strive toward ever increasing levels of greatness, what are the factors that limit us? How might we overcome them?

That brings us to today’s podcast guest: award-winning science journalist Alex Hutchinson.

How to “override the brain’s protective circuitry”

Alex Hutchinson holds a PhD in Physics from Cambridge, a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia, and is a former national-class runner in Canada. He’s written for Runner’s World, Outside Magazine, The Globe & Mail, Popular Mechanics, and many other major media.

I’ve been pestering Alex to write another book after Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? became one of my favorite exercise science myth-busters (if you haven’t picked it up yet, I highly recommend it).

And he finally delivered! His new book, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance has quickly become my favorite running book from the last few years.

With a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell, you can’t go wrong:

Alex Hutchinson

Our conversation centers on the psychological limits of endurance:

  • intrinsic motivation
  • peer pressure
  • joy and running for “the right reasons”
  • how to access hidden reserves of energy
  • overriding the “central governor”

Alex’s book showed me the many factors that limit endurance – and practical methods for overcoming those limitations.

Often, it’s not your training that predicts your race performances, but what’s between your ears.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or on the Stitcher platform.

Show Links & Resources:

A big thank you to Alex for coming on the show. This was a very interesting discussion for me and I hope you enjoy it, too.

If you enjoy the SR Podcast, your honest review on iTunes is much appreciated!

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Fartlek Training 101: The Ultimate Guide to Fartlek Workouts

Fartlek training is a versatile, powerful, and silly-sounding way to run fast workouts. And fartleks can be done by anybody – virtually anywhere.

Fartlek Training

An accurate depiction of fartlek training

In high school, I thought I was a “tough” runner. Racing fast requires one to endure suffering and I told myself that I was good at withstanding the strong discomfort of running fast.

That is, until one specific fartlek workout during cross country left me wondering if knitting was a more appropriate hobby.

My coach devised a devilish workout:

  • We ran hard on the track, about 5k race pace, when he blew his whistle
  • We slowed to a recovery jog when he blew the whistle again
  • Rinse and repeat until coach decided that we had had enough

This is a variation of a fartlek workout. And what makes it so challenging is that we didn’t know when the repetition would end – that was up to the whims of our maniacal coach.

With no mental model of how long we were running at race pace, our perceived effort was higher. The workout just felt so hard despite it not being that long or fast. It was more mental training rather than physical training – and made me rethink how tough I thought I was…

And there lies the beauty of fartlek training: it’s so incredibly versatile.

No matter the goal, fartleks deliver:

  • Use fartlek training in place of more traditional, formal track workouts
  • Vary the duration and pace to introduce randomness to develop higher levels of mental fitness
  • Use fartleks as a “bridge” between easy running and more structured, challenging workouts
  • Run a fartlek workout to have fun with no extra pressure!

In other words, they’re effective at accomplishing nearly any workout goal you might have! No wonder fartleks are so popular…

What exactly is Fartlek Training?

Fartlek Workouts

What the fartlek?!

Mention the word fartlek and non-runners will arch an eyebrow and ask slowly, “I’m sorry… say that one more time?”

Fartlek is a Swedish word that translates to “speed play” and can be simplified to mean alternating fast running with slower running.

That’s it! Now you understand what a fartlek workout entails: faster repetitions with slower recoveries.

According to Michael Sandrock’s Running Tough, fartlek training was popularized by two Swedish milers named Gunder Hägg and Arne Anderson. Two of the top milers in the world, they “knocked loudly on the door of the 4-minute mile in the 1940’s.”

Sandrock goes on to describe the visceral nature of fartlek training:

Fartleks can take us back beyond our childhoods, back to the primal origins of running, as I discovered on a trip to Kenya. When I was in the Rift Valley training with the young runners, we would sometimes run across pathless fields, the sun hanging low above the Rift Valley escarpment in the distance.

I remember thinking, This is how our ancestors must have run when they first stood up on two legs not so far from here.

Coach Brad Hudson describes the fartlek as a training tool in his book Coach Hudson’s Little Black Book:

A fartlek can be used to accomplish just about anything that you would want to get done on the track. There are a lot of ways to raise fitness and get in great workouts, and they don’t all have to happen under the structure of an oval.

Many times a fartlek can be used as a general workout, a light workout, or a “do-as-you-feel” workout. You can also turn it into a harder, more specific workout to be used at any point in training.

Because fartlek training is so versatile, you can structure workouts in nearly endless combinations:

  • Fixed distance for the repetition
  • Fixed time for the repetition
  • Varying distance/time for the reps
  • Varying pace for both the rep and the recovery interval

Usually, fartlek workouts are done on the road or trail. They’re not as structured as track workouts so they can literally be done anywhere that you can run. But you can also run them on the track, too.

2 Types of Fartlek Training Workouts

Fartlek

For more hilarity, see Jason on Twitter

Fartleks can be easy, general, specific, hard, or race-specific. With the inherent variety in fartlek training, there are virtually unlimited workouts that you can structure.

But there are two types of fartleks that are most common: time-based and random fartlek workouts.

A time-based fartlek is probably the most popular because it’s most true to the spirit of the fartlek. Each repetition is based on time, rather than distance.

A few examples could include:

  • 10 x 30 seconds hard, 1 minute recovery
  • 1, 2, 4, 5, 4, 2, 1 minute pyramid fartlek at varying efforts
  • (5 x 2 minutes) + (4 x 1 minute) at 5k / mile effort

The options available to you within this narrow type of fartlek workout are nearly endless.

A random fartlek is when the repetitions or the recovery is varied based on the terrain, your passing whims, or the song playing in your earbuds. In other words, the reps can be quite random!

A few examples could include:

  • Run uphills hard, downhills easy on rolling terrain (great for building strength)
  • Run hard until you feel like slowing down. Run easy until you feel like speeding up. Repeat.
  • Alternate a playlist with short and long songs and use those to influence your workout
  • Like my example from high school above, enlist a partner to determine the repetition length for you!
  • Run hard to certain landmarks (signs, trees, mailboxes) and recover until the next landmark

These random fartleks are best used during base training when specific fitness isn’t the goal. They can be made easier than traditional workouts so they help transition the athlete between easy running and hard running.

If you want more specific fartlek workout examples, I recorded a quick video with my three favorites:

Fartlek training can be easy or hard (or somewhere in the middle) and these three workouts deliver!

Want more workout ideas? Check out my book, 52 Weeks, 52 Workouts, One Faster Runner.

Fartlek Training Q&A

It’s not every day that you need to recover from a giggle fit and then learn Swedish to figure out a running workout.

And I’m sure other questions have come up about fartlek training so let’s do some Q&A!

When is it ideal to run fartlek workouts?

Fartlek training sessions can be run anytime – since they can be used for virtually any training purpose.

Often, they’re used as a bridge between base training and specific training. This has less to do with the physical demands of the workout and more with the mental challenges.

Hudson explains in his Little Black Book:

There are times early in a training phase when an athlete may be phsyically prepared for a hard workout, but may not be mentally ready to take on a set of standard intervals and distances.

There can be a big difference, mentally, between doing 10 x 1,000m and 10 x 3 minutes.

Sometimes it is just as beneficial to do a hard workout by placing the emphasis on feel and effort rather than being tied to pace and distance.

There’s less pressure on the runner when they’re running for time and effort, rather than distance and pace.

Are fartleks better used for some races and not others?

I think so! Since fartlek workouts are rarely run on the track, they’re typically done on roads or when you’re out trail running.

Because these sessions are executed on these surfaces, they lend themselves to road or trail races. I also think fartleks are great for:

  • Cross country (which are very similar to trail races)
  • Ultramarathons (these are usually held on trails)
  • Obstacle course races (like Warrior Dash)

Whenever you’re training for a race that can be hilly, off-road, or has a lot of stopping and starting, then fartlek workouts are an effective workout to build race-specific fitness.

What type of runner benefits from fartleks?

Any runner! Since fartleks are so incredibly versatile, they can be used by a brand new runner or the professional preparing for the Olympic Games.

But fartlek workouts can be particularly beneficial for new runners because there’s less pressure to perform. You don’t need to hit an exact pace during a fartlek – effort is more important.

And that’s exactly what new runners should be trying to learn: the ability to “feel” a given pace, making it intuitive and second-nature. If you can control your pace by relying on your perception of effort, you’ll be a more skilled runner.

Combine more traditional interval sessions on the track with fartlek workouts and runners will have a more nuanced, complete understanding of what various paces feel like.

And that makes racing a lot more productive!

What pace are fartlek workouts?

Fartlek training is much like children chasing each other in a big field: there’s no set pace or recovery. It’s all up to you.

You can run with the landscape, opening up on downhills and slowing down on the uphills (or vice versa). You can sprint through a field, run hard on the straight sections of a trail, and recover whenever you’d like.

Sprint, run easy, go hard or steady, and then run gently. It’s entirely up to you.

You can make fartleks more structured or less structured. Fartlek sessions that are more “formal” will have specific paces and recoveries – but not all of them.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Fartleks have an element of joy embedded within them that you simply don’t get from track workouts so enjoy some trail running and make sure you have fun!

If you’d like me to help you plan your workouts, consider one of our training programs. I’ll take the guesswork out of your training!

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How Sam Plans to Escape His Cycle of Injuries

Learning from the best is important – because “the best” are, by definition, the individuals at the top of the game.

never stop learning

This paradigm is noticeable everywhere:

  • Entrepreneurs read biographies (I’m reading Buffet right now) and join mastermind groups
  • Aspiring academics learn from PhD’s
  • New runners join a team and get a coach

Experts understand the nuance of their field – and the most helpful are usually those who combine technical expertise with the ability to teach it to everyone else.

But sometimes, you don’t necessarily want to learn from the industry’s most sought-after expert.

Sometimes, we want to hear stories about people just like us.

And that’s what we’re doing today on the Strength Running podcast – helping Sam escape his cycle of chronic injuries.

Sam is a member of Team Strength Running and is able to talk over these issues with me on our live coaching calls.

If you’d like that opportunity, sign up here to see when the team is accepting new members.

Sam’s journey might sound like yours: formerly overweight, he started running and soon fell in love with the sport. He started running more, seeing some success, and actually won some races.

But then the wheels fell off and the injuries started coming fast and furious: plantar fasciitis and IT band syndrome seemed to plague him every few months.

If any of this story sounds familiar, you won’t want to miss this episode of the podcast.

“When I got injured, I was only running”

Sam Team Strength Running

Sam started running in 2002 to lose the weight he put on in college. But his training really picked up years later when he started racing more in 2015.

He told me:

I set a goal to run another marathon in December, 2016 with a goal of a BQ. I dumped weight lifting  and boot camps, to focus on running. I jacked up my miles going from running 10-15 miles and week quickly to running 30-40 miles a week.

Leading up to the marathon I developed plantar fasciitis but was able to train through it. A week before the race I developed ITBS and ran the marathon anyways. It was a horrible race that left me sitting on the side of the road at one point.

But I finished (actually setting a PR in 3:30) and could barely walk afterward. After 2 months, I started training again and decided I wanted to try triathlons.

I jacked up my miles and completed a Half Ironman. But I didn’t take time to recover and developed ITBS. And I’ve been battling with issues ever since.

Listen in as we strategize how to get control over this injury cycle so Sam can focus on racing faster.

Subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher.

Show Resources & Links

A big thank you to Sam for joining us on the podcast, opening up about his running history, and allowing us a small glimpse into his life.

If you’re interested in getting coaching assistance, learn more about Team Strength Running:

  • A full library of training plans for every type and ability of runner
  • Ongoing running education every month (remember: knowledge is a competitive advantage)
  • Teammates for endless inspiration, running motivation, and camaraderie
  • A coach! I’m there for you – helping you succeed every step of the way
  • Team discounts and bonus resources (the team has its perks!)

Check it out here. I think you’ll love being on the team.

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