For over 15 years, Menachem Brodie has been coaching endurance athletes to new personal bests. Today, we’re getting lost in the weeds with strength training for runners.
Menachem Brodie is an exercise scientist, USA Cycling Expert level coach and USA Triathlon certified coach, and a graduate of an American College of Sports Medicine Accredited program with a bachelors in Exercise Physiology.
He also has experience working in physical therapy, Emergency Medicine, and even with sports like basketball and CrossFit.
By now, you’ve noticed that I love speaking with guests on the podcast with a wide diversity of experiences. And Menachem clearly fits the mold.
The value of having a strength and conditioning certification (but why experience also matters)
Strength work for rehabilitation vs. performance
The lifting differences between endurance runners and cyclists
How to think about strength training periodization
Thoughts on fitness classes like Orange Theory, boot camp, Body Pump, etc.
As the author of two strength training courses offered on the Training Peaks site, Menachem is uniquely positioned to offer us new perspectives on weightlifting for runners.
Menachem Brodie on Lifting as Endurance Runners
Having a thorough background in exercise science, coaching, physical therapy, and even Emergency Medicine gives Menachem a commanding outlook on how endurance athletes can improve and prevent injury.
And while he focuses on cycling and triathlon, the relationship to running is clear. In this conversation, we focus exclusively on runners and how they can position themselves to benefit most from weightlifting.
On Monday, April 29th of this year I received an email from a runner named David that might change how you think about training. It sure did for me!
You see, David was 72 years old at the time. He’s now 73. And in the past nine months, he’s run two marathons and qualified for Boston.
But the fascinating part of David’s story is how all of this has happened after he tore his hamstring off the bone in 2013. Then, he broke a metatarsal during a marathon in 2014.
Despite making a comeback and running another marathon in 2016, David said:
I thought my running days were coming to a close. However, I was able to continue running and in fact ran another marathon in 2016 but it always seemed like there was constantly something wrong with me.
At that point I decided to do more body weight exercises. They helped but I still felt like there was more that I should be doing.
Rarely do you see runners making epic comebacks and qualifying for Boston late in life after a major injury…
How Did David Turn His Running Around?
David is different. Even at 72, he knew he needed to take “the next step” with his training to keep improving and finally escape his cycle of injuries. Despite quite a few reservations, he started lifting weights.
Strength training for seniors can often be controversial so I asked David if he’d be willing to be a case study to showcase his progress. It’s always helpful to know that even older runners can keep improving and prevent more injuries. Luckily for us, he said yes!
David used to be a typical, average runner. He wrote:
I am about as opposite from a weight lifter as anyone can be. The classic 98 pound weakling.
My biggest problem was that I felt intimidated by the gym and disliked working out in front of others. I could do the body weight exercises in the comfort of my own home which allowed me to work out whenever I felt like it.
However, it was not really enough. I needed the benefit of the weights.
He is a runner (all runners ought to be doing some weightlifting)
His age (strength training for seniors is even more important than when you’re younger)
He has a history of significant injuries
Like me, he’s naturally thin and needs strength work to stay strong
Of course, most seniors over 70 aren’t starting new strength training programs… So how did this work out for David? What were his struggles?
And most importantly, was he successful?
The Importance of ‘The Next Step’
Strength training for seniors is critical for injury prevention
To continue improving, runners must always be taking the next step:
Gradually increasing weekly mileage over time
Being more and more consistent with strength training and injury prevention efforts
Workouts become longer, faster, and more complex
Long runs get longer, more consistent, and/or more complex
David knew he needed to start some type of strength training program but he was lost. He told me:
I had always felt that lifting was the next step that I should take but I really didn’t know where to start. I read several books on the subject but I always found them to be confusing. None specifically spelled out what I needed to do as a runner.
I felt that it was the next thing that I needed to do to improve and to hopefully lessen my injuries.
So, David got started. He invested in a strength training program from Strength Running knowing that a lifting program must be specific to runners, adaptable, and focus on strength and power (rather than on endurance or building muscle).
After David got over his fear of working out in front of others, the results turned him into a believer.
David’s Next Marathon
David ran the Columbus Marathon in 2018 in 4:20:07 – a frustrating finish time since he missed his Boston Qualifier by 7 seconds!
But, he did finish 2nd in the 69-74 age category and got through all of his marathon training with no injuries. He emailed me to say:
Thanks to you, my training went exceptionally well with no injuries! I also felt that weightlifting was really the icing on the cake which helped it all come together.
I finished 2nd in the 69-74 age category at the Columbus Marathon and really felt strong the entire distance.
After years of ongoing injuries, a healthy season and marathon race are surely things to celebrate!
But the real celebration came just a few months ago when David ran the Illinois Marathon. In his own words, here’s how it went:
I am writing to thank you for the lifting program. I placed second in my age group at the Columbus Marathon. Well, I did it again at the Illinois Marathon last Saturday, only this time I came in first! I was 15 minutes faster than second place at 4:15:27. This is also a BQ by 4 minutes and 33 seconds which was a goal of mine.
As I said in my last letter, the lifting program was truly the icing on the cake. I was able to complete twenty weeks of training with zero injuries.
Before using your training and lifting programs, I seemed to be constantly injured. Now I am able to run 5 days a week without any problem. I thank you so much.
Incredible! How would you feel if you finally got over your string of serious injuries, qualified for Boston, and did it all healthy and pain-free?
Strength Training for Seniors: What Happened?
I asked David how he felt about his progress. What was most important to him? What did he experience during this transformation?
He told me:
I’m a much stronger runner. I’m not that much faster but I feel like my stride has improved. I feel much more comfortable when I run.
It has helped to improve my running posture. I always use to get shoulder pain when I did a long run. That has now pretty much disappeared. In fact, I had no pain at all when I ran the Illinois Marathon. That alone has made the lifting worthwhile.
It has improved my consistency. I seemed to always lose it in the last part of my long runs and marathons. Consequently, my times would suffer. However, since I have been lifting, I have felt almost as strong at the end as I did in the beginning.
My fourth and most important result: NO serious injuries. Let’s face it, I still have aches and pains, but that goes with the territory. The injuries that I suffered before have all but disappeared. I’m not saying that it won’t happen at some point but I feel like the chances are much less than they were.
I have been able to run 40 to 50 mile weeks without breakdowns. Plus I can now run everyday instead of every other day. It has really been encouraging and has helped me fall in love with running all over again. Without a doubt, I recommend your lifting programs to anyone.
In about six months, David stayed healthy while improving his marathon by 4:40 and qualifying for Boston.
His transformation is so profound that I was curious what he learned from his experience with strength training as a senior.
David wrote (emphasis mine):
Be consistent with your lifting. The program builds upon itself so it is very important that you follow the program. It’s amazing how it all comes together at the end. I could never accomplish that when I tried to do it on my own.
You have to do more than just run if you are to stay heathy. I didn’t start running until I was 35 and had no idea what I was doing. I read Runner’s World and numerous books but never really had a plan other than to just run. Strength Running’s lifting program has helped to put it altogether. I now feel very confident in my training.
Don’t be afraid of the gym. Even if you’re a skinny guy like me. I use to think that I needed to press 200 lbs if I were to get any benefits. I now know how wrong I was.
I’ll never be an elite runner but I don’t know many 73 year old guys that can run 26 miles without breaking down. That in itself makes it all worthwhile.
I was going to wrap up this incredible case study with lessons we can learn from David’s progress. But he’s done that far better than I ever could have.
So if you’re new to lifting weights – or if strength training for seniors sounds intimidating – you’ll love our strength programs.
We’ve built a collection of resources over the years to help you start properly, improve your rate of progress, stay motivated, and learn proper form in the weight room.
Get started here and I’ll send you a video presentation about how to lift for speed.
But you’ll also get a series of coaching lessons designed to make strength training for seniors simple:
The changes that you should expect both in your body and with your running
Common pitfalls and training errors that can derail your progress (and spike injury risk)
Case studies and examples from other runners just like you
Example exercises, form tips, and a lot more
Our goals are to help you train well, reduce your risk of injury, and get as much as possible out of this incredible sport – no matter how old you are.
Sign up here and let’s see if we can get you to a healthy, pain-free Boston Qualifier just like David!
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In running, there are rarely black or white, binary, or simple issues. Caveats and nuance impact every coach’s decisions.
You’ve probably heard a coach chuckle after saying “it depends” to one of your running questions. It’s the classic coaches answer because exercise science and training theory are complex. Definitive answers to complex issues are rare.
Regular podcast listeners will know that our guest coaches are always answering, “Well, it depends”…
But some runners display classic linear thinking about the sport. It’s endemic not just to running, but every area of life.
Linear thinking, in the way that we’re using it today, means that your thinking is like a line. It is sequential and step-by-step.
In government, there are many examples of being a linear thinker:
Lower taxes are good, higher taxes are bad
Less corporate regulation is good, more regulation is bad
Less immigration is good, more immigration is bad
As you read through those examples, a small voice inside your head might be thinking, “Aren’t these positions over-simplified? Where’s the middle ground?”
And your intuition would be right! Clearly, there’s more nuance at work in complex areas like the tax system. After all, if the government collects either 0% or 100% of your income as tax revenue, there are going to be problems!
The problem with this style of thinking is that most issues exist along a spectrum where both ends of that spectrum are ill-advised (just like either 0% or 100% tax rates). The ideal scenario exists somewhere in the middle.
Let’s see how this applies to running.
Linear Thinking and Running
In running, linear thinking continues:
More minimalism is best – to the point of exclusively running barefoot
More mileage is better, less mileage is worse (or the CrossFit version: all easy running is pointless, replace it with intensity!)
I want a BQ, so I must focus on exclusively racing marathons
Here’s a linear graph representing the “more mileage is better” argument:
Less is less and more is more!
But at what point do the benefits of higher mileage outweigh the rewards? If more is truly more, why don’t elite athletes run 200, 300, or even 400 miles per week?
The answer, of course, is that we can’t think linearly about mileage. This graph is more accurate:
Here, we understand that there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. There’s such a thing as too little mileage but also too many miles.
More nuanced thinkers are nonlinear thinkers. They understand the world is more complex than “more is good, less is worse.”
We want to avoid the extreme of running exclusively in motion control shoes but also the extreme of only running barefoot. While you’ll find runners occupying both ends of this spectrum, they’re not high performing runners most of us should emulate.
This idea can be applied to virtually any area of running like workouts, minimalism, strength training, mileage, and even long runs.
Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines, quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum.
In English: “There is a proper measure in things. There are, finally, certain boundaries short of and beyond which what is right cannot exist.”
This article is a caution against extremism and a recognition that balance, moderation, and restraint are often more productive.
You can apply this concept to your training in many ways:
Ask yourself if a new idea is extreme or balanced
Avoid binary thinking of “yes/no”, “black/white”, “good/bad”, or “more is more, less is less” (the truth is usually somewhere in the middle)
Exercise science is complex; easy answers are probably too good to be true
If you want help building a training program that takes balance into consideration, Strength Running offers a variety of courses, programs, and coaching services to bring your running to the next level.
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Faster recovery is intoxicating to runners because it means we can then train harder (and get faster!). But how can we boost our recovery abilities?
Last year, I became fascinated (though not entirely surprised by) a study that claimed children recover like elite endurance athletes.
Their muscles resist fatigue from high-intensity exercise and their post-exercise rate of recovery is through the roof. Their heart rate recovers faster than trained adults and they’re better at removing lactate from the blood.
I’ve long said that knowledge is a competitive advantage. Wiser runners make fewer training errors – and reap the benefits.
Education is paramount to success in any endeavor. Running is no different.
I started my own running education by being curious. I was constantly asking my coaches questions when I first started getting interested in training theory, exercise science, and the mechanics behind running:
Why are we doing this workout?
Why this week and not next week?
What is the purpose of a tempo run?
Is this the only way we can taper?
What is the reason for structuring this track session the way you did?
Needless to say, my coaches were sometimes annoyed by my endless questioning.
Soon, I got somewhat obsessed with reading everything I could about running. You’ve probably noticed the shelves and shelves of books in the background of my office in some of our YouTube videos.
Layer in my USATF coaching certification and experience working with thousands of runners for nearly a decade, and that’s my education on running.
Learning from the best coaches and exercise journalists in the business is extraordinarily valuable. And I still do it through theStrength Running Podcast!
Today I’m excited to introduce you to another coach who values education and learning: Chris McClung.
Chris McClung from Rogue Running on Coaching
Coach Chris McClung from the Rogue Running group in Austin
Today’s podcast episode features one of the lead coaches for Rogue Running, a massive running group in Austin, Texas.
After discovering the Running Rogue podcast and learning more about the group, I instantly recognized Chris as a thoughtful coach who truly “gets” training (he’s not going to tell you to run less, run faster…).
In this conversation, we focus on three key areas:
How he learned to be a great coach
The training theory and principles that influence his coaching
The role of community and how that impacts your performance
This episode is an excerpt from Team Strength Running, our group coaching program that connects you to me as your coach, a team of your peers, and a new monthly expert interview.
If you enjoyed this episode and have benefitted from the Strength Running Podcast, please consider leaving an honest review on Apple Music. It would mean a lot to me.
Thank You Inside Tracker
This episode of the podcast is made possible byInside Tracker– and they’ve generously offered 10% off any test with discount code strengthrunning (not case sensitive).
Inside Tracker is a health analytics company that tests for over 40 major blood biomarkers and based on your physiology, offer custom solutions to help you optimize any areas that are outside of the normal zones.
So if you’re training for a difficult race, want to ramp up your recovery, or are just a passionate running geek like me who’s always searching for more ways to improve, this is a great option for seeing (and fixing) any areas of deficiency.
We’ve all heard that “running is just putting one foot in front of the other.” But is running technique really that simple?
The complicated answer is that running technique is both simple and complex.
It’s simple because every human is indeed born to run. All of us have the physical and physiological tools to be good runners (as opposed to, say, swimming where we lack fins and a streamlined body).
It’s complex because we are very far away from our “natural” state. We wear shoes, sit in chairs, and have access to unlimited calories. So our bodies can be very far from the physical ideal for running.
And we also think more about our running technique, something animals never do. They control their movements mostly through instinct while we can actively make changes to our running form based on our desires.
That means our potential to screw things up by overthinking things is much higher!
We have so many things that we track and try to “optimize” when it comes to our technique:
How are runners supposed to know what aspect of form is important to focus on vs. what isn’t?
To make things simpler, this is a fun “Do This, Not That” article that breaks down the fundamentals (rather than minute intricacies) of proper running technique so you know exactly what to focus on.
But let me say right now: you should not think too much about your form. If you don’t have a history of injuries and you’re training well, then don’t mess with your form. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
While the movement itself might be complex, its execution ought to be simple.
After all, we’re born for this, remember?
Running Technique Fundamentals
There are quite a few elements of good form – but they’re probably not what you might guess.
When it comes to “proper” technique, we’re not going to worry about:
Foot strike (heel, midfoot, or forefoot)
These aspects of form are byproducts of your unique anatomy, skill, mobility, and strength. They’ll improve with work but not by actively attempting to change them.
Instead, we’ll focus on three fundamentals:
Overall body posture
Where your foot lands relative to the rest of your body
Step rate (the number of steps you take per minute)
If you can get these principles of sound running technique right, they will improve other problems with form (like arm carriage, forward lean, and foot strike).
And it’s important to note that strength and mobility are absolutely necessary to run economically and powerfully.
Without strength, your stride will lack power and will be less fluid or smooth. You’ll also be at a higher risk of injury.
Without mobility, you won’t be able to powerfully move through runnings proper range of motion.
That’s why the cues below are only a starting point. Build on them with a high quality strength program and your form will improve substantially without overthinking how to run.
Get started with our free Form Cues Cheat Sheet to help you practice 3 of the most effective running technique cues.
Don’t Lean Forward
Most runners have heard that a forward lean is advantageous. By using “free energy” from gravity, it helps us run faster.
While I’m not convinced that gravity is helping us run faster (gravity pulls us down, not forward), the idea that a forward lean is part of proper running technique still holds true.
But the problem surfaces when we try to have a forward lean. Almost always, runners end up leaning from the waist which adds strain to our joints and is a big injury risk.
There should be a straight line running from our feet, up along our legs, over our butt and back, to our head. At no point are we leaning from the waist, but rather from the ankles. The video below shows a demonstration of how this looks.
While this is an aspect of great form, it takes a lot of strength an experience to run in this more engaged, athletic posture. Strength training and occasional sprinting can reinforce a proper lean and give you the tools to sustain it.
But without doing the training that allows you to lean from the ankles, you should not attempt to lean forward.
But Do “Run Tall”
Instead, it’s far more effective to run with an erect posture (after all, there ought to be a straight line from your ankles to your head).
A helpful cue to make this easier is to tell yourself to “run tall.” Every joint in the body, from the ankles to the knees to the hips, should be striving upward to give you the tallest posture possible.
Reach for the sky with your head and you’ll get it right.
Another cue that facilitates great running posture is to imagine that you’re a puppet with strings attached to the top of your head. An imaginary puppeteer is pulling upward on those strings, lengthening your body and helping you run as tall as possible.
These cues reinforce more athletic posture and help prevent form problems like:
Anterior pelvic tilt
Unengaged glute muscles
It does take strength to “run tall” so be sure not to neglect strength training! Not only will it give you the armor needed to prevent more injuries, but weightlifting improves posture and running economy.
What’s not to love?!
Don’t Focus on Footstrike
Footstrike has gotten a lot of attention over the years. Ever since Christopher McDougall’s bestseller Born to Run swept the world by storm in 2009, we’ve been borderline obsessed with landing on our midfoot and banishing the heel strike altogether.
But is heel striking actually all that bad?
In fact, it’s not! It really depends on what type of heel strike you have. If you over-stride, reach out with your feet, and land in front of your body, you likely have a very aggressive, “heel-smashing” type of heel strike.
That’s the problematic type of foot strike that spikes your injury risk and slows you down during workouts or races.
But there’s a better way – a proprioceptive heel strike.
Some runners, like legend Meb Keflezighi (and yours truly), do land on their heels. But their heel only kisses the ground before the majority of their bodyweight comes down when the foot is in a fully planted, neutral position.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much if you have a mild heel strike. How your foot hits the ground is not nearly as important as where your foot lands in relation to the rest of your body.
Which leads us to our next principle of effective running technique…
But Do Land Underneath Your Hips
I mentioned earlier that “reaching out” with your feet and landing in front of your body often results in an aggressive heel strike. That’s what we want to avoid.
To do that, all that we need to focus on is landing underneath our hips. If our foot lands under our center of gravity, we greatly reduce that heel-smashing variety of foot strike.
The result is a more economical stride, lower risk of injury, and a more fluid stride. You’ll run in a more compact way without over-striding. Even if your heel does hit the ground first, doing so underneath your hips will probably give you a proprioceptive heel strike.
To make this easier, imagine that you’re riding a scooter and each stride is you pushing off the ground. It’s a “down and back” motion rather than an “out and forward” motion.
In other words, your foot drives down toward the ground rather than out in front of you.
But What About Cadence?
Cadence has been a hot topic since coach Jack Daniels (of Daniel’s Running Formula fame) popularized the notion that runners should have a cadence of 180 steps per minute. Now, everyone seems to want to run with a step rate of 180.
But this isn’t a magic number. 179 steps per minute is not worse and 181 is not better.
First, cadence is partly a reflection of speed. The faster you run, the higher your cadence.
Second, whenever we discuss cadence it’s always measured during an easy effort. We simply don’t care how many steps you take per minute at tempo, 5k, or any other pace.
That means your easy running pace greatly impacts what your cadence ought to be. A simple rule is to establish a baseline cadence number based on your easy pace:
If an easy effort for you is 10:00 minutes per mile or slower, your goal should be to run at least 160 steps per minute.
But if your easy pace is faster than 10:00 minutes per mile, your goal should be to run with at least 170 steps per minute
A good example is my own cadence. Study the details of an easy 4 miler I ran recently with several 15sec pick-ups near the end and you’ll notice a few things.
First, my cadence is quite consistent in the mid-170’s at an easy effort of about 7:30 – 8:00 mile pace. I feel very comfortable here and if I were to force myself to hit 180, my form would get less efficient (not more).
Near the end, you’ll see spikes in both pace and cadence (they’re related, of course!), hitting a peak of over 200 steps per minute when I’m running under 5:00 mile pace.
The lesson? 180 is a fine benchmark, but it’s not a number anybody “must” reach. In fact, as long as you’re over either 160 or 170 steps per minute based on your easy pace, you can rest easy that your cadence is on target.
I put together a video highlighting these lessons – with some demonstrations – for our YouTube channel:
Note how training will help you develop optimal running technique – not actively thinking about your running form.
High mileage, sprinting, and strength training are the top ways to improve form from a training perspective.
But “cues” go a long way toward building economical form habits.
Running Technique ‘Cues’
I’ve put together a free cheat sheet for you – outlining the three most effective form cues that will improve your running technique.
Instructions for how to execute each cue
When (and for how long) to execute each cue
Tips to make each cue easier (hint: strength matters!)
Pictures of me in short shorts racing with sunglasses (I spoil you)
Get it here and hang it near your running shoes – you’ll have ideas to work on during every easy run!
Powerful running technique is built through training and conscious decisions to run more efficiently. This is the first step – and I can’t wait to see how you feel in a few months.
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Kate Grace is one of the most dominant middle distance runners in the country. Her nickname – Fast Kate – tells you what type of runner she is!
Photo by David Bracetty
Kate was born into a family that prioritized fitness. Her mother, Kathy Smith, was a famous 80’s aerobics instructor and her weekends were filled with hikes and adventures.
That proved advantageous as she started running cross country and track in high school. Soon, Kate started amassing multiple accomplishments:
Multiple-time league champion
3x California southern division 800m champion
3rd – state meet 800m (PR of 2:10)
1st – CA state division 4 cross country championship
Fast Kate went on to Yale, setting four school records, winning six Ivy League championships, and qualifying for All-America honors four times in cross country.
After signing with Oiselle as a sponsor in 2012, she signed a contract with Nike in 2017. Her professional career is littered with various titles, podium finishes, and awards:
Winner, 2016 US Olympic Trials 800m
American & North American record holder – 4x1500m (16:55.33)
2nd – 2017 US Outdoor Track and Field Champions 1500m
800m PR: 1:58.28
1500m PR: 4:03.59
Mile PR: 4:22.93
But Kate Grace isn’t just a fast runner with a wealth of championships and accolades to her name. She’s a runner just like you and me, facing the same pre-race anxiety and performance fears.
She joins us on the Strength Running Podcast today to talk about her running career, upbringing, training, and the mindset shifts that have made it all possible.
Kate Grace: Courage Over Comfort
Borrowing an idea from our mutual friend Nicole Antoinette, Kate has decided to choose courage over comfort when it comes to showing up and racing.
When it comes to getting the most from our bodies, all of us have some trepidation about the discomfort of racing. It can be unpleasant and downright painful. But deciding to “go all in” and embrace that fear is the only way we can reach our potential.
It’s not an easy choice. Comfort is far easier: the comfort of sleeping in, not signing up for that big race, or not pushing hard during the final mile.
But comfort can be the invisibility cloak that masks failure. After all, if we’re only operating at 85%, are we really thriving?
Today’s conversation with Kate Grace covers many areas of training and mastering your inner psychology:
How she handles workout anxiety and pre-race jitters
What she does to stay in control of her thoughts during demanding speed workouts
How she talks to herself in fearful situations (like standing on the starting line of a major championship)
Kate is currently gearing up for a big outdoor track season. Follow her on Instagram and give her a shout – she’d appreciate it!
Thanks Inside Tracker
This episode would not have been possible withoutInside 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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The first 11 years of my running career had me constantly battling foot injuries, Achilles tendinopathy, IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, muscle strains, and a chronic SI joint problem.
No wonder I’m biased toward injury prevention!
After years of feeling like my body was betraying me, I was ready to quit running.
I was 26 years old and had spent six months injured with ITBS, in pain, and debating whether or not I would ever run again. I had already run in college and posted some impressive (for me) times, so why not quit?
After all, most of my friends from the track and cross country teams weren’t training that much anymore. If they could stop, so could I.
But something just didn’t feel right. I really liked running – maybe more so than some of my other running friends. And for some reason, I loved the feeling of strength you get from putting in 10 miles a day, day after day.
So I took the road less travelled, sucked up my ego, and saw a lot of physical therapists. I researched injuries in runners. And I read so many running books that my wife started wondering if we were saving for retirement.
The end result was that since 2009, I’ve only had one semi-serious injury. And I’ve become obsessed with preventing injuries because the results are dramatic:
You’ll be able to run more mileage, consistently (more is better!)
Your mindset won’t be savaged from needing to take time off
Small injuries don’t become major injuries
Major injuries don’t become chronic injuries, affecting your longevity as a runner and overall health
Naturally, I sought the best guidance in the world. I loved hearing how elite athletes prevent injuries because they’re putting in the most training hours, at the highest intensities, and have the most pressure to perform.
If they have insights, I needed to hear them!
And so a few years ago, I reached out to 9 professional athletes to hear their best injury prevention strategies. They’re trail runners, ultramarathoners, triathletes, Olympians, and obstacle course runners.
Today, I want to highlight two contributions from triathlon rock star Kelly O’Mara and World’s Toughest Mudder champion Amelia Boone.
Kelly O’Mara on Life Stress:
When I made the conscious decision to commit myself to triathlon and improve my training, I did something very deliberately: I made sure I created time in my life to sleep and rest. And then I slept and rested. A lot.
It’s (relatively) easy to train hard. It’s also easy to know that you should sleep and recover. But it’s just as easy to let everything you know you should be doing fall by the wayside because you have to get up early to get the workout in, because you need to finish this one thing late at night, because you’re busy, busy, busy.
Stop being busy.
I know it’s not possible for everyone to have as flexible a schedule as they’d like to have. But it is possible to cut out the distractions, to create extra time in your life to done nothing. My husband likes to call himself my “elite athlete consultant,” and his main duty in that role is to tell me when I shouldn’t take on extra jobs or extra commitments.
Give yourself time to lay on the couch on weekend afternoons and nap or watch bad TV. If you want to sleep eight hours, then you need more than eight hours from when you get in bed to when you have to be out of bed. And if you want to sleep more than eight hours, then do that.
I like to have at least one day each week when I don’t need to set an alarm at all, so I can sleep as much I possibly need. Sometimes that means I don’t get out of bed until 10 a.m. People may make fun of it and you might feel like you’re being a bum, but they’ll stop making fun when you get faster.
My training partners know I won’t work out on weekends before 9 a.m. (especially in the winter, when it’s cold). They know I’m lazy. But they also know I’ve gotten a lot faster while being lazier than ever.
Kelly O’Mara is a reporter, primarily covering endurance sports, the Olympics, and triathlon for publications like Outside, espnW, Bicycling Magazine, Competitor Magazine, Yahoo! Travel, VICE Sports, and many others.
She was an elite triathlete after college, took a few years off, and will be racing as a professional triathlete again in 2017. She also has multiple years of cross country and track experience as well as being an open water swimming coach.
To prevent injury, I find there are two key parts: mobility and stability. Often athletes focus too much on one, and not enough on the other. A few things I do to address both parts:
Dedicate 10 minutes each night before you go to bed to mobilize a particular body part. It doesn’t need to be the same one (and shouldn’t always be the same!), but focus on moving your tissues and loosening up before you go to bed.
For runners, single leg strength is everything – I work on single leg stability at least twice a week in the form of lunges, single leg squats, balance work with slant boards, Bosu balls, and other unstable surfaces.
If you’ve injured a particular body part (i.e., muscle strain), focus on loosening the tissues around it – not the injured tissue itself. For example, if you’ve pulled a hamstring, foam roll the calves, quads, glutes, etc. Those are the tissues that will compensate for the injury and lead to compensatory patterns. And often, the place of pain isn’t the source of the problem.
If you are desk bound like I am, do what you can to stay moving as much as possible. Take a lap around the office at least twice an hour. On conference calls, I like to sit in the bottom of a squat or hold a plank. Keep a golf ball at your desk and roll out the bottom of your feet during the day. The little movements add up.
Go barefoot as much as possible in everyday life – builds foot strength, lets your toes breathe!
Take complete rest days – “active recovery” is all the rage right now, but I’m a firm believer in just letting the body be completely static once in a while. We can tend to take our “active recovery” too far!
Amelia Boone is a force of nature. She’s not only a full-time attorney for Apple, but the most dominant female obstacle course athlete in history.
But she’s not just the best (if not THE best) female OCR athlete – she usually beats 99% of men in every race she enters.
A small taste of her racing performances include:
30+ victories (and 50+ podium finishes)
2013 Spartan Race World Champion
2012 Spartan Race World Championship 2nd place overall (only 8 minutes behind the male winner)
2012, 2014, and 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder Champion
26.2 miles is an enchanting distance; it’s approachable but long enough to humble even the best runners. What is it about the marathon that has captured the imaginations of so many of us?
Perhaps the marathon is so captivating because conquering it is so elusive.
For every great race, you might have several failed attempts. 26.2 miles is just so challenging that even with “perfect” fitness, a poor race is still a likely possibility.
I’m fond of saying that after mile 20, the marathon is the Wild West. It’s unpredictable and you don’t know what might happen.
Even the best training cycles can effectively be wasted with poor weather on the day (anybody who ran the 2018 Boston Marathon understands this unfortunate reality!), a single fast mile too early in the race, or unpredictable GI distress.
And that’s what makes running so special. No matter what kind of race we have, there’s a little voice inside our heads that encourages us to think bigger, act bolder, and race with more guts.
I think I could have gone a little faster at the end…
But if it were cooler, I’d have gotten at least 3 more minutes!
Well if I didn’t get sick a month ago I’d have felt stronger.
Next time, my training is going to be so much better!
Then, we’re back on the starting line in a few short months, ready to take our shot at the elusive 26.2 mile distance yet again.
I want to fully capture the hope, fear, joy, sacrifice, and transformation that’s possible with the marathon. And I couldn’t think of a better person to introduce you to than Peter Bromka.
Peter Bromka on the Marathon: “I doubted it was even possible”
I ran competitively against Peter while we were both in college. He was at Tufts University while I ran for Connecticut College.
Bromka was faster. In college, he was consistently a Varsity runner for their competitive Division III cross country team. But while he was a very good college runner, I wouldn’t say he was a standout athlete.
Things started to change post-collegiately when Peter started running marathons. His first was 2:56 – a relatively pedestrian time by a former collegiate runner (one who was capable of running 25:xx for a 5-mile cross country course).
Soon, he dropped his time to 2:47. And then 2:41. His progression of improvement over 26.2 miles is eye-popping. After that 2:41, he ran:
This progression gives Peter Bromka one of the most fascinating stories in marathon running today. It’s rare. It’s unique. And we just don’t see DIII runners flirting with Olympic Trials Qualifying times very often!
I brought Peter on the podcast to talk about this progression and the mental and physical adjustments he’s had to make to continue improving.
In this episode, we talk about:
How did Peter’s mindset about training and racing change as he got faster?
What role does fear play in how you think about breaking certain time barriers?
Did he ever think he had reached his physiological limit? What then?
What is it about the Boston Marathon that makes it so special (and difficult!)?
Peter Bromka is like a philosopher of running. You’ll love hearing him wax poetic about the marathon distance and what it means to run it well.
In this conversation, we spend time focusing on the nuances of passion, obsession, and building interest in things that we like.
His book is a defense of passion. It’s a more nuanced, effective perspective on passion that acknowledges that it’s hard to find, that it must be cultivated, and that too much of it can indeed be a bad thing.
Show Resources & Links:
If you’re interested in this conversation, you’ll love Brad’s last two books. Be sure to follow him on Twitter; his feed is truly inspirational and actionable!