For More Strength, Use Progression in the Weight Room

Fast runners have one thing in common: they produce a lot of force, meaning they’re capable of strong muscular contractions.

Strong Runner

Those strong muscle contractions translate into speed.

Just think: if you want a bouncy ball to to bounce higher, you throw it down to the ground with more force.

Your legs are just like a bouncy ball (or a Pogo stick). More forceful contractions give you higher levels of force, which gives you a longer stride and a faster running pace.

Now the opportunistic runners reading this are all nodding their heads and thinking, ‘How do I get more forceful muscle contractions?!’

The most efficient way is with heavy weight lifting.

But not everyone is ready to head to the gym for a round of heavy squats and dead lifts. That might be too advanced.

Instead, runners should begin strength training with a proper progression.

How Runners Can Use Progression with Strength Training

Most runners know that to get faster, their workouts have to gradually get more difficult over the course of a training cycle.

This concept is called progression and helps runners achieve new levels of fitness as their bodies adapt to higher workloads.

But many runners don’t follow the principle of progression for their strength workouts. They do the same core session year after year, or always stick to a similar series of exercises in the gym.

Running the same workouts at the same pace isn’t the best long-term strategy to improve and get faster, so why do many runners never implement progression in their strength workouts?

After coaching hundreds of runners, my experience is that most runners simply don’t care that much. We want to run, not lift weights!

But overlooking this crucial aspect of your training is only going to cause problems:

  • You’ll leave extra speed on the table, never able to generate as much force as a stronger runner
  • Your risk of overuse injuries will increase
  • Running economy, or efficiency, will suffer and be lower than those who lift weights

Instead of letting your strength stagnate, let’s discuss the goals of strength work and how to properly implement progression in the gym.

The Goal of Strength Work for Runners

Many runners misunderstand why they should be lifting weights. The most common mistake is lifting for endurance by doing high reps with short recovery intervals.

Instead, runners should lift for strength—or the ability to lift more weight (rather than lifting for endurance or hypertrophy). By getting stronger, runners will improve their efficiency, muscle fiber recruitment and power.

These adaptations have distinct benefits for distance runners, allowing them to impart more force into the ground and run faster. The hormonal response of lifting heavy, including increased testosterone and human growth hormone production, can improve recovery and ultimately the ability to tolerate higher workloads.

Ultimately, it’s best to lift heavy weights at the gym (rather than bodyweight exercises) to prioritize strength.

You can do so by following these rules:

  • Each exercise should be limited to 4-8 reps per set
  • Lift so that the final set is challenging, but don’t lift to failure
  • Complete 2-3 sets for each exercise
  • Take 2-3 minutes in between exercises to ensure ATP (the main energy source for the cells in your muscles) is replenished
  • Use free weights (not machines) and focus on basic lifts that maximize muscle fiber recruitment like squats, dead lifts, bench press, cleans, lunges, and pull ups.

Following these practices will ensure you’re maximizing strength gains from each workout.

Start General, Then Get Specific

If you’re new to strength training, it’s not a smart idea to jump into a series of heavy dead lifts on day one. Instead, follow the first rule of progression: start general.

General strength forms the foundation that allows runners to progress to more advanced lifts in the gym. Start with relatively simple core exercises like planks, oblique twists and side planks. Exercises performed on the ground in a prone or supine position are more general than those performed standing up, since running is a standing activity.

After 3-5 weeks of consistent core workouts, you’re ready to progress to more advanced exercises. A valuable way to bridge the transition from bodyweight core exercises to difficult gym workouts is by starting with a medicine ball workout.

Medicine balls are a helpful strength tool that can be used as the next logical step after bodyweight exercises become too easy. The same exercises you’ll soon be doing in the gym—like squats, dead lifts, and lunges—can be done with a medicine ball.

After another 3-5 weeks of combining general strength and medicine ball workouts, you can progress to more advanced lifts in the gym.

Strength Training Tips to Remember

Now that we know to start general with bodyweight exercises, move to medicine ball workouts and finally transition to weight lifting in the gym, we can fine-tune our approach to strength training with these 3 rules:

  1. Lifting is secondary to running. Strength work should enable and support your running, not detract from it. If running workouts are compromised by gym sessions, reduce the intensity so you can maintain the appropriate volume and intensity on workout days.
  2. Skip the bicep curls – and any other body-builder-centric exercises like tricep extensions or calf raises. Focus on movements, not muscles, by doing the exercises discussed earlier in this article. By maximizing muscle fiber recruitment, you’ll get a bigger hormonal response that will aid recovery and strength gains.
  3. Lift on hard days. Too many runners schedule hard strength workouts on rest days or after an easy run. Instead, lift after your long run or faster workout to stimulate additional fitness adaptations.

Lifting is as much about benefiting from neuromuscular adaptations as muscular adaptations. By lifting in a pre-fatigued state, the body learns to work hard when it’s low on glycogen and still clearing byproducts from the running workout.

This principle fits with the philosophy to make your “easy days easier and hard days harder.”

The best runners are often the strongest runners. By implementing a sound strength program within your training cycle, you’ll realize all of its benefits:

  • enhanced recovery
  • a faster finishing kick
  • increased strength
  • reduced risk of injury
  • improved running economy

Plus, you might enjoy how much better you look!

A version of this article initially appeared on Competitor.

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Orthopedic Surgeon David Geier on Injury Prevention for Kids

Some of you might know that I have two little kids. When they’re not throwing food on the floor, they’re practicing their drills:

As a parent and coach, I have a few “rules” I like to follow when it comes to exercise and kids:

  • It’s not exercise. It’s play.
  • Be a generalist (sport specificity is too advanced – and risky)
  • It has to be fun

So on a typical weekend, you’ll find us at the playground, beach, or just running around the backyard like crazy people.

And over time, my wife and I have gradually built more physical play into the backyard:

  • A trapeze for upper body strength
  • A sandbox for fine motor skills and hand strength
  • A bunch of tires for crawling, lifting, and hiding (and for Dad to throw around, too!)
  • And a stick fort for hiding, crawling, lifting big sticks, and hiding beer when they’re teenagers

Now of course, my kids are 4 and 2 right now. They’re not ready for “sports” yet – but it seems like that time comes earlier and earlier.

So I want to be prepared.

When they’re hurling their first lacrosse ball, what’s the best way to not only ensure they stay healthy but thrive as athletes?

Are there things we can do now to help them become the best athletes they can be (if they choose to be athletes)?

I’m admittedly not an expert in this area. I can’t tell you what’s developmentally appropriate for a 3 year old vs. a 7 year old. Or even how to coach little ones.

I just want to make sure my kids stay healthy when they start playing competitive sports.

So I asked an orthopedic surgeon to come on the podcast to chat about kids and injuries.

Dr. David Geier on Maximizing Youth Performance and Limiting Injuries

David is here to share numerous ways that young athletes can improve their performance without sacrificing their careers in the long run (these puns are my lifeblood).

We’re coming at this topic as a surgeon, coach, and two dads with different aged kids.

You might know David from where he simplifies the complex area of sports medicine.

He covers a lot of areas that I love to geek out on:

David’s most notably an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

He was Director of MUSC Sports Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina for eights years and is currently the Communications Council Chair for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Board of Directors.

Major media have featured his advice in interviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, The Atlantic, Forbes, and many others.

Check out David’s new book, That’s Gotta Hurt! The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever.

As you can see, I was quite excited to chat with him about the best injury prevention practices for younger athletes.

Listen to our conversation on iTunes or if you use the Android OS, Stitcher.

Show Resources & Links:

Preventing injuries is one of the running topics that I’m most passionate about because it enables you to run more consistently.

With more consistent running, you’ll be able to run more and train harder.

The result?

You’ll be a stronger, more capable athlete who’s crossing the finish line sooner than ever before.

And THAT is what gets me excited.

Don’t miss our injury prevention resources – they’ve helped tens of thousands of runners just like you.

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Joel Runyon on Overcoming Insane Challenges

Runners have a clear super-power: we persevere when the tough gets tougher. We revel in adversity.

Runners Cross Country

Maybe you’re a totally new runner… but you sign up for that 5k anyway.

Or you’re a multi-year veteran of the sport… but you’re gearing up for an audacious marathon attempt.

You might also be like one of my clients who struggled to run a disappointing, hot, technical trail marathon (she literally said “the hardest race of my life”)… only to dust herself off and keep training for her ultra this fall.

There’s an interesting “glitch” in our psychology that tells us to defy the odds, believe in ourselves, and never give up.

Perhaps running causes that mindset.

Or maybe running attracts folks who have a predisposition for grit.

Either way, running makes me feel like I’m in a private club of super heroes.

And sometimes, we go for broke:

As many of you know, I love goals like this.

Goals that might seem “impossible,” but with the right approach (and a healthy dose of some old-fashioned tenacity), are ultimately achievable.

That’s why I don’t promote get-fast-quick-schemes or “run less, run faster!” empty promises.

Just actionable coaching guidance that’s proven to work with no fluff (ok ok, this article was definitely fluff – but I think we can all agree it’s hilarious).

And I love highlighting those runners who are accomplishing epic, “impossible” goals.

Recently I introduced you to Joel Runyon who recently ran an ultramarathon on every continent – and raised a staggering $190,000 in the process.

Today, we’re diving deeper into the obstacles he faced, lessons learned, and what he’d change if he were to do it all over again.

“26 miles into a 39 mile race I completely wrecked my ankle”

In part two of our conversation, Joel opens up about the obstacles he faced while attempting to finish the 777 Project.

They included injuries, unrelated lawsuits, brutal trail races in the mountains of Thailand, and the normal logistical nightmares of running races all over the world.

Of course, Joel didn’t quit.

It didn’t matter that he had to take 6 months off to rehabilitate a peroneal tendon injury.

He didn’t care that every race – and the travel that went along with it – was self-funded.

Nor was it even an option to quit during a race (how’s that for commitment?).

More important than the mindset that allowed Joel to leapfrog these obstacles is the impact and lessons learned from the 777 Project.

We cover all that and more in today’s episode of the Strength Running Podcast:

Show Links & Resources:

If you enjoyed this episode of the Strength Running Podcast, an honest iTunes review is most appreciated!

This episode is sponsored by Health IQ, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special life insurance rates. Head on over to to see how your running can help you save on insurance.

They’ve pulled the latest data on runners’ health risks to convince insurance companies to offer cheaper rates. Just consider:

  • Runners have a 41% lower risk of heart disease
  • Runners also have up to a 35% lower risk of premature death

And they’ve been successful: over the last three years, they’ve helped health-conscious athletes secure billions of dollars in coverage.

Want to see if you qualify for cheaper life insurance? Check out this tool to get your free quote.

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Madga Boulet on How to Overcome the Daunting 100-Mile Ultramarathon

Can we all agree that running is hard? Whether you’re training for a 5k or running up a staircase built into a mountain (see below), running has its unique challenges.

But what if your goal is nearly four times longer than a marathon? What if your goal is to run 100 miles – competitively?

This distance usually takes about 15 – 30 hours depending on the athlete’s ability and the course itself.

And there’s one particular ultra that stands above the others: The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. It’s the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race and one of the most formidable tests of endurance on the planet.

If you’re crazy brave enough to tackle Western States, you’ll need to overcome more than 18,000 feet of climbing and 23,000 feet of descending reaching altitudes approaching 9,000 feet.

The heat is yet another cruel obstacle, sometimes surpassing blistering high temperatures of 110° Farhenheit.

Western States is the crown jewel of ultra running and often considered one of the most difficult races in the world.

Succeeding at Western States requires a combination of skills:

  • A monster aerobic engine to power you through 24+ hours of running
  • The resilience and strength to overcome tens of thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss
  • Logistical prowess with coordinating fueling, pacers, and support

But in fact, running 100 miles is not as different from running a marathon as you think.

To help you shatter your perception of what’s possible, discover the training necessary to run 100 miles, and inspire you to chase your next stretch goal, I’ve invited Magdalena Boulet onto the podcast to talk about her performance at this year’s Western States Endurance Run.

Magda Boulet on Western States

Magdalena Boulet Ultra Marathon

One of the biggest names in the world of ultramarathons, Magda Boulet has an impressive list of credentials:

  • 1st – 2002 and 2003 Pittsburgh Marathon
  • 1st – 2002 San Francisco Marathon
  • 1st – 2006 Orange County Marathon
  • 2nd – 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon
  • 1st – 2015 Western States Endurance Run
  • 5th – 2016 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
  • 2nd – 2017 Western States Endurance Run

She prepares methodically for challenging races, leaving no stone unturned as she strives to compete with the fastest endurance runners on the planet.

This unique “testing mindset” helped her identify potential injury warnings before this year’s Western States, vaulting her onto the podium.

Using a blood analytics service called Inside Tracker, she identified biomarkers outside of her optimal zones – and then went to work fixing them through diet and lifestyle changes.

She’s on the podcast today to talk more about:

  • What it takes to train for 100 milers
  • Are they so different from marathons…?
  • Her personal fueling approach for ultra marathons
  • Pre- and post-race blood testing goals
  • How her blood test results impacted her recovery

Listen to the latest episode on iTunes or on Stitcher.

Show Resources & Links:

This episode of the podcast is made possible by Inside Tracker – they’ve generously offered to give 10% off any test with discount code strengthrunning (not case sensitive).

Inside Tracker is a health analytics company that tests for over 50 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) your areas of deficiency.

Get 10% off any test at with code strengthrunning at checkout.

Join Me in Testing!

I recently got my own Ultimate Package from Inside Tracker to see my own shortcomings.

Will my testosterone be low from running at altitude?

Will my Vitamin D be deficient even though I usually expose as much thigh as possible (even my sister calls me out on this…)?

Short Shorts

Will my blood glucose be too high from treating myself to more Bacon Habanero chips than is reasonable? (see podcast #29)

The results will be in soon and I plan to post an update on the results.

If you’d like to join me on this adventure, get your own test (don’t forget the discount code ‘strengthrunning’ to save 10%). This should be fun!

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Inside My Diet: 3 Plant-Based Diet Strategies for Better Performance

I’m a proud omnivore. I firmly believe that eating a balanced, “whole-foods” diet is the key to both long-term health and improved running performance.

But the issue isn’t which diet is best, but the results that a certain diet can give to you.

Over the past decade, I’ve been borderline obsessed with discovering the optimal diet for running performance.

I’ve read many of the best diet books:

I’ve interviewed Registered Dietitians, pro athletes, and best-selling diet authors:

I’ve also heard first hand from elite runners, USA Track & Field instructors, and world-class coaches about the best approaches to eating for endurance runners.

And they all include meat.

But… not one person (anywhere) thinks we should eat a meat-based diet. The notion of a meat-based diet is ridiculous… am I taking crazy pills?!

Whether you’re vegan or an omnivore like myself, we should all eat a plant-based diet mainly consisting of:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

That’s the foundation – the base upon which we add smaller portions of other foods. As Michael Pollan noted in his (highly recommended) book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto:

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

But I know how hard it is to eat more plants. Some days, I realize I haven’t had a single plant until dinner!

One of the easiest ways to transform your diet is to simply find more ways to eat plants and always remember that any diet should be plant-based.

This is what works for me.

Plant-Based Diet Tip #1: Join a CSA

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” and it’s a way for you to support a local farm.

My family and I have been subscribing to a local CSA since about 2010, first in Maryland and now in Denver through Berry Patch Farms.

CSA’s vary depending on where you live. In Maryland, we chose our own vegetables at a local farm stand and had more options.

Here in Denver, they choose our weekly share for us. Either way, we’re forced to eat a lot more (local and fresh!) fruit and vegetables than we normally would.

CSA’s aren’t right for everyone so if you’re on the fence, here are a few of the things I love about being a member:

  • Exposure to new fruit and vegetables that you’re not too familiar with already
  • A weekly share forces you to eat a lot of plant-based foods
  • Fresher, local food – this simply can’t be beat
  • You support a local farm and small business
  • As the seasons change, so does your diet

A CSA share is not all organic peaches and cream, though. They can be expensive and you’re not guaranteed a certain amount of food.

Since you’re essentially buying a share of a farm (like a stock with edible dividends!), if the farm doesn’t produce then you don’t eat.

Even with the drawbacks, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The CSA is a forcing function that automatically injects more plants into my diet.

Going to the pick-up spot with my two daughters is a special experience that all of us love. They get to hear about the farm and where our food comes from.

Curious about joining your own? Find a local CSA here.

Plant Based Diet Tip #2: Plant a Garden

This year, I planted my first garden. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m thrilled that I haven’t killed any of my plants yet.

(Disclaimer: I’ve planted everything far too close together, nearly killed my cherry tomato plant, and broke two main branches off of a pepper plant…)

But I’ve discovered that I love it!

After about 10 hours of back-breaking labor, we now have a variety of plants:

  • 11 swiss chard
  • 4 curly kale
  • 2 tomato
  • 2 green bell pepper
  • 2 green squash
  • 2 lunchbox orange snacking pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 banana pepper
  • 1 cherry tomato
  • 1 cubanelle pepper
  • 1 blackberry bush (not doing too well…)

I’m so psyched about my garden that I bought a tractor.

Twice every week, I can expect to get a few individual vegetables and bunches of greens. The garden is yet another forcing function that forces me to eat a more plant-based diet than I normally would.

And that’s a good thing. As we discuss in Strength Running’s free nutrition series, a whole and “real” food diet is optimal for running performance and recovery.

Plus, there are a host of other longevity benefits that planting a garden bestows on the gardener.

Earlier this year, I read Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner. This book was the inspiration for my garden and opened my eyes to the power of gardening for longevity.

Planting a garden gives your longevity a boost by:

  • Forcing you to eat more plants (always a good thing)
  • Increasing the amount of low-stress daily activity in your life
  • Reducing stress
  • Exposure to more sunshine

So a garden improves your diet, running performance and recovery, and overall longevity?

Sign me up!

Plant-Based Diet Tip #3: Make Smoothies

A good problem that results from planting a garden and subscribing to a CSA share is that you’ll be drowning in produce.

Almost every day of the week, there’s a salad before dinner.

Sautéed swiss chard and curly kale is on the menu 2-3 times per week.

There are soups, crock-pot recipes, and grilled veggies on the weekends.

And we STILL have an over-abundance of plants spilling all over our kitchen table, counter, and in the refrigerator.

Our solution is to make smoothies a few times per week with the extras.

I haven’t regretted investing in a BlendTec blender since I bought it over two years ago. It has the engine of a lawnmower and can puree an avocado pit.

Much like Matt Frazier outlined in our healthy lifestyle podcast, I follow a rough “formula” for all my smoothies:

  • 2 cups of whole fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups of frozen greens
  • 1-2 cups fruit
  • 1 cup or equivalent of vegetables

This is used for 80% of my smoothie recipes and it always results in one that’s great-tasting with a nice texture.

Washing and cutting fruit and vegetables and the necessary clean-up can be time-consuming but I’ve found a few strategies that help:

  • Blend the frozen greens and coconut milk first (blending in stages makes it easier and less clumpy)
  • When in doubt, use more fluid so the smoothie isn’t too thick
  • If you don’t like crunchy smoothies, avoid fruit with seeds (like raspberries or kiwi)
  • Use a good blender – it will cut your time in half (I prefer BlendTec)

This process usually produces about 30-40 ounces of smoothie depending on the fruits and vegetables that you choose.

We use a collection of mason jars (from our wedding in 2011 so before the hipster trend!) that have screw-on lids so you can easily save extra green juice goodness for the next day.

Why Eat Plant-Based?

The sport of running and clean eating go hand-in-hand. Without fueling properly, you can’t optimize your overall health, recovery, training, and race performances.

With a focus on nutrition principles for runners, you’ll be able to run those challenging workouts, recover quickly, and get a lot faster.

A plant-based diet (with some meat) is the surest path to covering all of your nutrition bases while promoting longevity and performance.

We have a lot more resources for those runners who are ready to dial in their nutrition:

  • A “Registered Dietitian-approved” shopping list
  • The answers to the most common (and sometimes confusing) nutrition questions
  • Case studies on how other runners feel after eating properly
  • What not to do, so you don’t waste time chasing diet promises that never materialize
  • Tips and tricks to make all of this simpler, easier, and more impactful

Ready to learn more?

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What does it take to run 7 ultramarathons (on 7 continents)?

People who accomplish “impossible” goals will always get my respect. Those who push the frontiers of our limits show the rest of us what we’re capable of achieving.

Running MountainSome runners show us that beating chronic injuries is not just possible, but relatively simple with the right approach.

Others demonstrate that running opens doors and makes us into a modern Indiana Jones.

And – perhaps my favorite – running teaches us more about ourselves and redefines how we see our successes.

These athletes are the embodiment of what our sport can do for us:

  • Build our physical and mental strength
  • Increase our happiness and sense of self-worth
  • Improves our self-confidence

There’s truly no limits to what running can do for you and how it can improve so many aspects of your life.

But while running can give so much, so can we.

Instead of using our passion for running to enrich ourselves, can we use running to enrich others?

Yes, yes we can.

Meet Joel Runyon.

Life is Either a Daring Adventure, or Nothing

Joel smashes through goals normally considered impossible. I even have his Impossible t-shirt.

Recently, he completed an ambitious project to run 7 ultramarathons on 7 continents for charity to build 7 schools in developing countries.

He succeeded – raising over $190,000. The 777 Project brought him to:

  • Thailand
  • Antarctica
  • Australia
  • Patagonia
  • South Africa
  • Finland
  • and Chicago!

Joel’s philanthropic quest brought him around the world to extreme locations and terrain that nearly broke him.

But his persistence led to the constructions of seven schools through Pencils of Promise, a charity where 100% of donations go toward its mission of school construction, scholarships, and teacher training.

Joel is on the podcast to talk about what it takes to run a series of ultramarathons in rapid succession, in varying climates, on very different terrain, all over the world.

What are the travel logistics like for such an audacious project?

How do you train for so many different races?

What kind of gear is necessary to race in Antarctica?

We cover that – and a lot more – on today’s show.

Download the latest episode in iTunes or on the Android platform Stitcher.

Resources & Links From the Show:

This episode is sponsored by Health IQ, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special life insurance rates. Head on over to to see how your running can help you save on insurance.

They’ve pulled the latest data on runners’ health risks to convince insurance companies to offer cheaper rates. Just consider:

  • Runners have a 41% lower risk of heart disease
  • Runners also have up to a 35% lower risk of premature death

And they’ve been successful: over the last three years, they’ve helped health-conscious athletes secure billions of dollars in coverage.

Want to see if you qualify for cheaper life insurance? Check out this tool to get your free quote.

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How to Plan Your Weekly Mileage

How should 30 miles per week be broken down into daily runs? What if you’re running 100 miles per week?!

No matter how much you’re running per week, there’s a smart (and not so smart…) way of structuring that mileage.

Since 2011, I’ve written over 1,200 training plans. Part of that process is reading through each athletes’ prior training – and sometimes, it’s not pretty.

I’ve seen it all. Runners who…

  • jump from 20 miles to 50 in a single week
  • run all of their mileage in just two runs – on back to back days
  • complete the same distance every time they go running

These runners are doing it the hard way, sacrificing progress and skyrocketing their risk of a running injury.

And I refuse to let that happen to MY runners.

A few weeks ago, Team Strength Running member Richard asked the group:

How should weekly miles be broken down? So for instance, if someone is running 30, 70, 100 miles a week, how should it best be broken down into days?

The answer to this question is in our new mileage video below – don’t miss it.

More important than the mileage templates are the principles behind them. After watching, you’ll know:

  • How to schedule rest days in your week
  • How to break up a big mileage number (“40”) into daily totals
  • Why you should run a decent amount the day after a long run
  • If you’re ready to add double sessions (two runs in one day)
  • What a 100-mile week looks like!

Even if you’re someone who likes to follow a plan written by someone else, it’s always a smart idea to know why a plan looks the way it does.

Behold the wonder of freeze-frames

If you found this video helpful, share this post with your running friends!

Don’t miss these resources about planning your mileage:

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How to Find Your Best Stride with Coach Jonathan Beverly

Whenever I’m asked about running form, I nearly have a panic attack. What should I say when I’m so conflicted?!

Jason Running

Working on my split-leg game since 1998

You see, I don’t like to steer runners in the wrong direction. My goal is to point out the advice that doesn’t work and focus on fundamentals that never change.

But I also want runners to run faster. And that means reconciling two conflicting truths:

  1. Having “proper” form is incredibly important – we should try to improve our form
  2. There is NO ideal way to run and actively changing your form can result in injuries or losing efficiency (or both)

How do we improve our running form… without trying to change our form?

It may seem paradoxical – but it’s possible!

And in fact, optimizing your stride isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. You don’t need to proactively “fix” any biomechanical errors you might have.

The solution is three-fold:

  1. Develop the strength necessary for an optimized stride
  2. Counteract the harmful effects of our modern, sedentary lives
  3. Improve mobility and movement patterns to make economical running far easier

Thankfully, Strength Running readers are already ahead of the pack (as usual). If you’ve been part of our community for long enough, you know that I emphasize key aspects of training that will improve your form automatically.

These things are:

But there’s always more that we can do. And if you’re a runner that’s passionate about improvement, you won’t want to miss the latest episode of the Strength Running podcast.

“Run the Way You Were Born to Run”

Jonathan Beverly Your Best Stride

Jonathan Beverly was the editor-in-chief of Running Times for 15 years. He’s run nearly 30 marathons and hundreds of road and trail races around the world.

He’s also coached with the New York Road Runners Club, taught several college running classes, and has coached junior and high school track and cross country since 2003.

Jonathan’s new book quickly became one of my favorites. Your Best Stride: How to Optimize Your Natural Running Form to Run Easier, Farther, and Faster – with Fewer Injuries is a holistic look at how to run with better form.

He does not promote a certain brand of form (like Chi or POSE).

He won’t make you run on your forefoot (that’s a big no-no).

And he isn’t even gung-ho about “cues” that make you run slightly differently.

Instead, the goal is to bring you back to when you were 10 years old. Remember back then? If not, just know that you ran with a lot better form back then.

Jonathan is on the podcast today to discuss how to reclaim your youthful, smooth, powerful stride.

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Negative Splits: How to Finish Strong in Every Race

How fast should I run for the first mile of a 5k? What about a hilly half marathon?

Pacing yourself during a race isn’t always so straightforward. Elevation changes, terrain variability, and different distances all impact how quickly (or slow) you’re able to run.

But in almost every racing scenario, negative splits are the ideal pacing strategy.

But first, let’s define our terms: a negative split is when the second half of a race is faster than the first half. For example, if you race a 10k with 5k splits of 25:30 and 24:30 for a 50:00 10k finish time, you’ve just ran a negative split.

It may seem more difficult to run negative splits on race day, but in fact it’s usually easier. It often takes 1-2 miles to properly warm up during a race (especially for longer races like the half marathon or marathon). But then:

  • Joints are fully lubricated
  • Adrenaline and other performance-boosting hormones are peaking
  • Muscles are primed to work at their most efficient capacity

In short, you’re not ready to run at your best until the middle of the race – making a negative split easier to attain than most think.

When the opposite happens (running the first half faster than the second), you’re not allowing the body to properly warm up nor are you taking advantage of the hormones that make racing fast a bit easier.

I’m sure you’ve had experience of starting a race fast only to flounder and pull up short in the later miles… We want to avoid that!

So, can we find examples of this strategy benefiting runners at the highest levels?

How can we put these lessons into practice on race day?

Let’s find out.

Negative Splits and World Records

At the elite level, most world records above 800m have been set with negative splits. If you look at the recent history of marathon world records, you’ll see this strategy used effectively to consistently lower the world record performance.

When Dennis Kimetto set the marathon world record to 2:02:57 at the 2014 Berlin Marthon, he ran the first half in 61:45 and the second half in 61:12.

Haile Gebrselassie ran a similar strategy in 2007 when he ran the WR of 2:04:26 with a spread of 62:29 and 61:57. The next year, when he broke 2:04, he had half marathon splits of 62:05 and 61:54.

This strategy extends beyond the marathon, however. When Kenenisa Bekele ran the 10,000m world record of 26:17:53 his 5k splits were 13:09:19 and 13:08:34.

Galen Rupp had a fantastic negative split performance when he set the American record in the indoor 5k of 13:01.26:

Watch Galen Rupp Negative Split the American Indoor 5,000m Record

His mile splits were 4:13.94, 4:12.64, and 4:04.32 with a final 200m split of 30.36!

Top coaches like Jay Johnson (coach to three national champions) also believe negative splits are ideal for both elite and recreational runners.

How to Negative Split Your Next Race

While it’s easy to say “finish faster than you started,” it’s much more difficult to put into practice! That’s why it’s critical to practice negative splits during training to ensure you’re used to the feeling and execution of this strategy on race day.

Training tip #1: Negative split easy runs

Easy runs should be negative splits all the time, anyway. Start slow to help you transition to running and allow your body to warm up properly. After a few miles, you can settle into your “normal” pace.

If you’re a more advanced runner or are just feeling great, then you can run the last 1-2 miles of easy runs at a moderate effort. This will surely guarantee a negative split run, helping your body and mind remember what it’s like to finish a run faster than when you started.

Training tip #2: Negative split workouts

The absolute best way to practice negative splits is to run them during a structured workout. They work best in single-speed workouts where you run the same speed for the entirety of the repetitions (i.e., all of the intervals are at 5k pace).

This strategy forces you to run harder when you’re fatigued – exactly what’s needed during a race to finish with negative splits. Just be sure not to turn the workout into a race and still run within your means.

Racing tip #1: Predict an accurate finish time

A negative split is virtually impossible if you don’t have an accurate finish time prediction. After all, if you think you can run faster than you’re able to and start too fast, you’ll fizzle out rather than speeding up.

For example, if you’d like to negative split a 10k and you’re confident you can run 50:00, then run the first 5k in about 25:10 – 25:30. That should be comfortable enough that you can turn on the afterburners in the last 2 miles to finish in 50 flat.

Racing tip #2: Be confident

Negative splits are challenging – there’s no way around it. But when top coaches recommend them and world records are set using this race pacing strategy, then you know it’s the real deal.

But it can only be achieved if you’re confident in your abilities. Running fast when you’re tired hurts.

You’re in “the pain cave” taking a bath in lactate.

Your brain is screaming at you to slow down.

Your muscles and lungs are burning as you squeeze every ounce of speed into that final stretch.

Simple isn’t always easy. But if you believe in your fitness, then you’ll finish strong.

That confidence (and a good dose of mental toughness!) will help you cross the finish line with negative splits – and hopefully, a shiny new PR!

For more on pacing, race strategy, and negative splits don’t miss our free ebook 13 Lucking Racing Tips for Your Next Personal Best.

13 Lucky Racing Tips

You’ll hear the preferred racing strategies from top coaches and runners like:

  • Jay Johnson, coach to 3 national champions
  • Jeff Gaudette, Olympic Trials qualifier
  • Mario Fraioli, coach to the 2012 Costa Rican Men’s Olympic Marathon Team

And many other journalists, Boston Marathon qualifiers, and ultra marathoners. Download it here!

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How OCR Phenom Amelia Boone and Trail Rockstar David Roche Prevent Injuries

Earlier this year, I worked with nearly a dozen professional runners to discover their injury prevention secrets.

elite runners

Runners like Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein and 100k National Champion Devon Yanko.

Runners like World Mountain Running champion Joseph Gray and two-time winner of the World Warrior Dash Championships, Max King.

I put all of their suggestions, workouts, routines, and exercises into a book that you can download for free:

The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery

Learning from runners at the top of the sport has always been fascinating.

After all, why not learn from the best?

Today I’m highlighting the contributions from two elite athletes: a nationally ranked trail runner and one of the best Obstacle Course Racers in history.

If you can tease out just one lesson, you’ll benefit from it forever.

Use it to become a healthier, stronger, and more resilient runner. One who can handle more mileage, faster workouts, and speedier races.

Amelia Boone: “Mobility and Stability”

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!

About Amelia

Amelia BooneAmelia 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
  • 3x finisher of the Death Race

Connect with Amelia: Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or visit Amelia’s Website.

David Roche: “Adaptations are earned at the dinner table”

To have a long-term running career sustaining lots of miles, you need to be a champion eater.

I didn’t learn that tip in a book, but at a dinner table. In 2015, my wife and I were on the US Long Distance Mountain Running Team. The race went up to the saddle of the Matterhorn – in other words, it involved almost all uphill. I assumed that meant it was best to be skinny and light – after all, cyclist climbers usually have the body measurements of a praying mantis.

Then, I saw what happened at the dinner table. Some of the best mountain runners in the world ate and ate as if the big event was the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, rather than an uphill race. One woman in particular packed olive oil in her carry-on just so she could have ready access. She got a plate of pasta, and glugged it out until what seemed like half the bottle was on the spaghetti.

Since then, I have done informal studies with the professional runners I coach. Without fail, the healthiest ones – the runners that win national championships year after year – eat plenty, always.

The mechanism at work is energy availability. Running burns lots of calories, and life burns lots too. Runners need to make sure they are never at a deficit when accounting for all of those demands on energy. A deficit for even one day during heavy training can increase injury risk. A longer-term deficit can have even more disastrous consequences on hormones.

Moreover, erring on the side of a surplus energy availability is helpful in spurring adaptations to heavy training, and it allows a runner to sustain harder work over time. Of course, runners can have success going the other way for a brief period. But the stories of talents lost to negative energy availability are too many to count.

So my main stay-healthy tip is to always eat enough. For a runner concerned about energy availability during hard training, no food is bad food. Scale your calorie intake to training levels (if you are running 15 miles per week, don’t eat like you are running 150), but never forget that your body needs fuel to stay healthy.

Training stimuli happen on the trails, roads or track; training adaptations are earned at the dinner table.

About DavidDavid Roche

David is the 2016 Way Too Cool 50k winner, the 2012 and 2014 USA Trail 10k National Champion, and the 2014 US Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year.

He’s also a member of the 2014 US Mountain Running Team and 2015 US Long Distance Mountain Team.

He is also a columnist for Trail Running magazine and a public interest attorney focusing on environmental issues. A HOKA HOKA sponsored athlete, David is also a running coach.

Connect with David: Follow him on Twitter or check out his coaching site.

7 More Elites Share Their Top Recovery Strategies

The full book includes 7 more pro athletes:

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

Their approaches to prevention, recovery, and resiliency are varied – and that’s why I love it!

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!

Pro Runners on Injury Prevention

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