Category Archives: Run

8 HIIT Running Workouts for Speed

Running!  Some people love it some call it a necessary evil.  Whichever it is for you really doesn’t matter because in the sport of triathlon you have to do it.  As a side note, if you’re looking for some running gear deals, check out our deals section. People are always asking me how to improve on their run times in a triathlon.  Well, I’m not a running coach by any means but three things stick out.

Number one you have got to have quality speed work (note not quantity), an overdistance day, and the rest should be easy recovery runs.  Number two you have to be able to run after a hard bike.  And number three you gotta have fun.  I read an article by Matthew Brick once that said too many amateur athletes do too much moderate tempo work and never go hard often enough or easy often enough.  

First let me make it clear that I am not knocking Hazen’s low heart rate training.  I believe in it, it has gotten me back into shape after injury, but I also think after you achieve that “base” you need to push yourself at or near race pace occasionally.

Many of these workouts I am going to share with you left Hazen and I gasping for air in the muggy Charleston streets.  That said, please use caution when attempting to add speed work to your routine.  Especially if you’ve never attempted it before or if you lack adequate base mileage.  Try to use a heart rate monitor to gauge your effort and workout with a buddy whenever possible. This is not a set “schedule” just try some of these as your weekly need for speed session. Remember, these are supposed to be FUN

*note: consider your aerobic zone as follows upper limit=180-age, lower limit= upper limit-10.

1. THE TEMPO

Warm up for 10 minutes (at or just under lower limit), run 20 minutes at or near upper limit +5-10 bpm; cool down 10 minutes (at or below lower limit).

2. THE BUILD

Warm up 10 minutes, run 5 minutes in aerobic zone, run 5 minutes at upper limit, run 5 minutes at upper limit +5bpm, run 5 minutes at upper limit +10bpm, cool down 10 minutes.

3. THE LADDER

Warm up 10 minutes, run 5 minute at upper limit +5-10bpm/recover 5 minutes at 5-10 bpm less than lower limit, run 4 minutes/recover 4 minutes (as above), run 3 minutes/recover 3 minutes, run 2 minutes/recover 2 minutes, run 1 minute/recover 1 minute, warm down 10 minutes at recovery pace.

4. THE PACER

Warm up 10 minutes, run 4×400 meters at upper limit +5-10(recover 200 jog at or below lower limit between each 400), easy 400 jog after 4 repeats. Repeat 2-3 times. Cool down 10 minutes.

5. ALTERNATE 600s  

(ONE OF MY FAVORITES)

Warm up 10 minutes, run 6-9 600 repeats as follows: odd 200 hard, 200 easy, 200 hard; even 200 easy, 200 hard, 200 easy; Run 200 easy recovery between each 600, cool down 10 minutes easy.    Hard should be 5- 10 bpm over upper limit, recovery 5-10 bpm less than lower limit, cool down 10 minutes.

6. THE MILER

Warm up 10 minutes, do 3-4 repeats of 1 mile at 5-10 bpm above upper limit, rest period should be roughly half the time it takes you to complete your mile, cool down 10 minutes. Can be done on road or track.

7. THE PYRAMID

Warm up 10 minutes, do the following repeats (work interval at 5-10 bpm above upper limit, recover at 5-10bpm below lower limit): 200 with 100 recovery, 400 with 200 recovery, 600 with 300 recovery, 800 with 400 recovery, 600 with 300 recovery, 400 with 200 recovery, 200 with 100 recovery. Cool down 10 minutes.

8. THE SPEED BRICK

(my very favorite workout of all time!)

Grab your running shoes, stick them in a packback and warm up to your favorite track. Run a mile at your lower limit. Now get ready to rock and roll. Ride at race pace for 3 miles (on the road or right on the track if an asphalt surface), dismount and transition to running gear, run 1 mile at 5-10 bpm above upper limit.

Rest for 3-4 minutes. Repeat above 3-4 times. Beginners to brick work may want to start with 1.5 mile bike/half mile run repeats. This is a great workout and also helps give you numerous times to practice your transition from bike to run. One hint: drink a lot of fluid, I would even take my water bottle out of the cage and slurp some down during the first 200 of the mile (talk about race like conditions!).  For those in the city or who find it hard to haul everything down to the track, these can be done at home on the trainer and with a run up and down the block (you’ll get the same effect but not near the intensity)

Well that’s about all I have for now. Hope that keeps you busy. You didn’t think I would give away all my training secrets did you? Have fun and stay healthy!

Definitive Running Shoe Guide by Gait Type

Whether training for your first sprint or going for a new Ironman PR, you owe it to yourself to find the correct type of running shoe with the perfect fit. Your days of browsing through malls and department stores and choosing based on looks and fashion are over! 

Running shoe fit is just as important as bike and goggle fit. They add tremendously to the satisfaction, comfort and progress of your training.  Proper shoe fit is also a very individual thing.  Poor fit or incorrect type can lead to early fatigue, aches and pains, and even injury.  Although running shoes can be expensive, there are occasionally running shoe sales and deals.

Save yourself some agony and your friends some drama by spending 30 minutes to find the right running shoe.

We will cover the three gait types and the types of running shoes made to accommodate those gait types. 

Neutral Shoe for Under-Pronator and Supinator 

Neutral: Notice the medial mid-sole single density EVA – no stability.

neutral gait (under pronator) is used to describe a foot strike that begins at the outer heel, which is where we all begin. Then transitions through to the toe push-off with no crashing or motion in the arch area. 

Very few athletes are in this category of gait type, probably 10% or less.  You may notice at your next race that smaller framed athletes are more likely to have a neutral gait than larger framed athletes.  All major running shoe manufacturers make several models to accommodate this gait type. 

Your running shop will refer to this shoe as a neutral or cushioned shoe (although all running shoes are cushioned).  If you have a very stiff or motionless gait, you will likely find a neutral running to be the most comfortable and natural feeling.  The neutral shoe type is also the most appropriate for those who supinate or roll to the outside.  Very few individuals actually supinate. So please have an experienced running specialty store staff member analyze your gait before you assume that you belong in this category.

Stability Shoe for Normal Pronator

Stability:  Notice the medial mid-sole dual density providing moderate stability.

Next is the most common gait type; the mild to moderate pronator

This gait type is characterized by a slight to moderate, but natural, flexing of the arch and ankle area.  This is your body’s way of absorbing shock and is typically a genetic trait passed down from generations of hunters and gatherers to you, the swimmer, cyclist and runner. 

Close to 75 – 80% of runners and triathletes are in this category.  All major running shoe companies are constantly perfecting this category of shoe.  You’ll likely hear them referred to as stability shoes which are identified by the posting or higher density substance at the medial or inside part of the shoe. 

Motion Control Shoe for Over-Pronator

Motion control:  Notice the medial mid-sole triple density providing maximum stability.

The over-pronator is the last gait type we’ll talk about here.  These athletes have a lot of motion in their arch/ankle area during each foot strike or stride. 

Watching a over-pronator walk or run bare-footed, you will notice a severe collapsing of the arch immediately after heel strike.  Again, this the body’s natural means of absorbing shock.  Shoe manufacturers really beef up the stability to meet the needs of this population. The end result is commonly called a motion control shoe. 

This is a shoe that literally steers the foot from the heel strike to the toe push-off . This ensures that the rate and degree of pronation are kept in check.  When worn by under-pronators or even mild pronators, motion control shoes would feel stiff and would seem like too much shoe.

Other Considerations for Running Shoes

Once you find the proper category of shoe (neutral, stability, motion control) based on your foot type, with or without the help of a running shop, you will next need to consider other characteristics such as the shape of the upper, the placement and prominence of the arch and even the location of the panel stitches within the shoe. 

As stated above, every manufacturer makes each of the three categories of trainers.  What you have to do next is give each one a try and understand the differences to find the perfect fit for you. 

Ask questions and don’t be worried about trying several pairs.  You’ll find that most specialty running shops staff eager, helpful, and experienced runners to sell their specialty products.  You’ll find several models within each brand name that may work for you; hopefully one will feel perfect! 

Also, any self-respecting running shop will suggest that you try the shoes once or twice on a treadmill and allow for an exchange if the shoes do not work for you during that trial.

Run like an antelope!

Spinning is the Best Cross Training for Runners

One of the wonderful features of triathlon and triathlon training is the natural exchange of physical benefits between all three components: swim, bike and run.

If you were to pick up any athletic magazine off the rack, such as those specifically focusing on running, cycling or swimming, you will find that many of the tips, strategies and suggestions appearing in the “Cross Training” section of these periodicals are typically performed by triathletes on a daily basis.

While thumbing through my file of articles clipped from my collection of sports magazines, I came across on little nugget that I thought may be of some interest to those of you involved in the sport of triathlon. The article, taken from Runners World Magazine (Rick Niles, June 1992) discusses “spinning” on a bicycle and the effects of this training method on one’s running pace.

Sounds interest…but what is spinning?

Great question. “Spinning” refers to pedaling the bicycle at a high cadence, using higher gears, with little resistance.

Hmmmm…ok, then what the heck is cadence?

Again, a great question. “Cadence refers to the number of revolutions a pedal makes when the bicycle is in motion and is measured on a per minute scale. For example, if you are traveling on your bicycle at a cadence of 110, your pedals are turning at a pace of 110 revolutions per minute. And a high cadence is synonymous with “spinning” on the bicycle.

How does spinning benefit your running?

Well according to Rick Niles, spinning can actually make you a faster runner! This relationship between spinning and running lies on the hip rotation, specifically the relationship between cadence and the velocity of your hip rotation in degrees per second. For example, an individual pedaling at a cadence of 90 or 90 rpm’s, is rotation his/her hips at a velocity of 220 degrees per second. This is equivalent to a 6:45 per mile running pace. For those of us in the “average” running department, a cadence of 70 is equivalent to about an 8:00 minute per mile pace.

Cycling will also benefit muscle development in the legs. According to Niles, a pedal stroke requires more muscle power than a running stride. Thus, if you ride regularly, you will increase the size of your leg muscles. For an elite runner, this may have a negative affect on running speed.

However, for an average runner, the added strength may increase knee stability without compromising running speed. The bottom line: replacing easy running days with cycling can increase your running intensity on your hard running days (such as your speedwork days). Therefore, you will improve your running speed on less mileage. Pretty cool huh?

This may also act as a replacement for running if recovering from a running related injury. Below is a cadence/running equivalency chart. Because everyone’s stride is different, the equivalencies will vary, but the chart is fairly accurate. If you are interested in measuring cadence, you will need to purchase a bike computer that offers this feature.

CadenceMinute/mile Pace
60 rpm8:30 pace
70 rpm8:00 pace
80 rpm7:45 pace
90 rpm6:45 pace
100 rpm5:45 pace
120 rpm5:00 pace

4 Top Indoor Alternatives to Outdoor Running

I love running outside. But winter weather can sometimes make outdoor running nearly impossible. Like when a 20-mile-per-hour wind combines with a cold rain or when an ice storm had left most of the roads un-walkable, and most certainly, un-runable.

Still, I never call it quits. Instead, I take my exercise indoors.

Since bad weather usually strikes around this time of year, I’ve given some thought to four favorite indoor workouts. Some seem admittedly, well, goofy. Still, if it gets you heart rate up, it’s better than sitting on the couch. Here they are, in order of importance.

1. Water Running

One of the best forms of indoor cross-training, running in the pool simulates running on land, which keeps your leg muscles and cardiovascular system in shape. The water resistance also eliminates inefficient motions of your feet and legs, which will improve your future runs out of the pool.

Use an area of the pool that is at least 5 feet deep so you legs can move freely without hitting the bottom. To keep yourself afloat, a flotation belt or vest works best.

Then run in place. Make sure you kick each leg out in front of you as it comes forward, just as you do when running on land. Try speeding up and slowing down your stride like an interval workout. Sprint for 20 or 30 seconds, then slow down to rest and so on.

2. Cross-country Skiing or Elliptical

During the winter, some lucky runners use ski trails in the woods. The rest of us can benefit from indoor cross-country ski machines. Second only to aqua jogging (in my opinion), cross-country skiing, whether indoors or out, can keep you in shape and provide a cardiovascular workout.

Different Brands of indoor machines offer different features. Some machines allow you to adjust the incline and the resistance for more variations. Before buying one, do a test run at the store or ask for a 30-day trial period.

3. Mall or Gym Running

Large convention centers, schools, malls, and other buildings often contain the next-best think to an outdoor road. Long hallways, rooms with enough space to run in large circles, or even indoor tracks. Check with the public buildings near your work or home to see if they allow you to walk or run inside. Some malls also allow walking or running during the early morning hours. This gives you a chance to window shop as you run.

4. Moving to Music

Even if you don’t own a piece of exercise equipment and the roads are closed (so you can’t get to the pool, gym or mall), you can still get in a good workout. Put on an energizing CD, tape, or music video and simply move around the room.

Walk at first to get your muscles warmed up. Then run in place and jump a little. Dance around. Move here and there. Throw in some moves from aerobic class. Walk up and down stairs. Skip rope. Hurdle pillows. Mix in some weight training (with dumbbells), sit-ups and pushups. If you have a piece of exercise equipment, such as a treadmill, use it in 5-to-10 minute segments and alternate it with your other exercises. If you make it run, 20 or 30 minutes will pass quickly.

7 Best Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

I haven’t been injured in 10 years. Not once. And I’m proud of it.

I wasn’t always this healthy. Twenty years ago, I was injured a lot. But since I depend on running to boost my mind, give me energy and melt away stress, I worked hard over the years to become injury free.

These days, I’m living proof that you don’t have to accept aches and pains as you age. You too can be injury-free after 40 years of running. Here’s what has worked for me

1. Watch Your Mileage

Most runners keep their weekly mileage within a safe range most of the time. Two or three times a year, however, many of us get too fired up and increase the total too quickly. This happens when we come back after a layoff.

Any sudden mileage increase exceeding 10 percent per week will increase your injury risk.  To avoid injuries as you add on the miles, take an extra day off from running each week. Then add those extra miles to a long-run day. By making each run longer and resting more, you receive a better training effect, as well as quicker healing.

2. Rest Every Three Weeks

Even if you safely stick to no more than a 10 percent weekly mileage buildup, your body could use a break every three weeks. You have to stop running. But for one week, cut back your mileage by 30 to 50 percent to reduce buildup of your fatigue and damage.

3. Always Warm Up

Always. After a 5 minute walk, walk and jog for 5 more minutes, then jog slowly for 5 more minutes more, so you’re basically warming up for the first very slow mile of your run. Transition into a faster pace with four to eight short accelerations, walking or jogging for 1 to 2 minutes after each one. As your legs warm up, you can increase the pace slightly on each acceleration. By the last one, you should be running your goal speed for the day.

4. Do Hills Before Speed.

If you haven’t been doing speed drills, don’t suddenly run 10 hard laps around the high school track.  In fact, don’t even run one lap. Instead, find a 100 to 200 meter hill and run up it three to four times once a week for three to four weeks. During this period, start mixing four to eight one-block accelerations into your regular runs. Both techniques will build the strength needed to safely complete speed sessions.

5. Consistently Run Fast

When you’re ready to start track work, commit yourself to it. If you only do sporadic speed sessions, your body will never adapt to faster running. On the other hand, doing too much speed can also leave you prone to injuries. Here’s the magic formula: one speed session per week.

When you do a speed session, warm up thoroughly first. Never run all out. Be sure to slow down or stop the session at the first sign of extreme pain. Begin with three to five 400 meter surges. Run no more than 5 to 7 seconds faster per quarter mile than your 5K race pace, and walk half the distance of your speed session to recover.

6. Stretch at Night

Many runners make the mistake of vigorously trying to stretch out the tightness brought on by exertion and fatigue. Problem is, stretching a tired muscle too much can tear muscle fibers and increase recovery time. So its best to avoid extreme stretching immediately before and immediately after running (one exception: gently stretching your iliotibial band on the outside of each leg can help prevent knee problems).If you do stretch after running, do so very gently, and do the majority of your stretching before you go to bed.

7. Keep Your Stride Steady

Avoid the temptation to increase stride length at the end of long runs, races or speed sessions. This puts more pressure on already tired muscles and doesn’t accomplish your goals. Quicker turnover of feet and legs is the key to faster running.

Ultimate Marathon Training Guide for Beginners

For many of you, it isn’t running a marathon that’s so daunting; it’s training for it that puts you off. Who has the time to train every day, to log hundreds of miles over several months, to dedicate so much of one’s life to this goal?

Fortunately, marathon training doesn’t have to be a grind. By running for about 30 minutes, two times a week, and by gradually increasing the length of a third weekly run, you can work up to a successful marathon in just a few months.

This is the program we use in my marathon training classes around the country. In truth, I’ve learned much more from working with novice runners than from my own experience at the Olympic level. During my first two youthful decades of running, I basically tried to cram in as many miles as possible in hopes of running a good marathon.

During my last two decades of coaching, I’ve helped thousands of runners run good marathons by going in the opposite direction-toward less mileage. Sure, many run 4 to 5 hours on race day, but they’re thrilled to achieve something they never thought possible. Here’s how they did it.

Extending Yourself

The way to build marathon endurance is to gradually extend the length of a weekly long run. (You might need to walk periodically on these long runs, which is fine. I recommend that you increase the length of your long run by 1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles, then by 2 miles every other week until you reach 18 miles, then by 3 miles every third week until you reach the marathon distance (or slightly over). Leave three weeks between your last long run and marathon.

The distance of your first long run should be 1 mile more than your longest run in the preceding two weeks. On weekends, when you don’t have a long run scheduled, do either a race (10K or less) or an easy run of about half the length of your current long run.

I did it his way

A little personal history: In the early years of my marathon-ing, I used to think I hit the wall at the 20 mile mark because I didn’t run enough miles. So I kept increasing my weekly total. Over two years in particular (I remember them well), my mileage went from 100 to 120 to 140 miles a week. Even with all that training, I still hit the wall at around 20 miles. (Even at 140 miles week, 20 miles was the longest run I would do in training.) After finishing 11th in the 1971 Pan-American Marathon Trials, I was talking about my 140-mile weeks at a post race party.

That evening, I overheard Kenny Moore (who had finished second) saying he’d never run a 100-mile week in his life. The key to his program: a slow 30-miler every two to three weeks leading up to the marathon.

In my training for the Munich Olympic Trials the following year, I tried Kenny’s plan of running less overall mileage but with a 30-miler every two to three weeks. Result: I tied for third at the U.S. Trials in much tougher competition than the year before. And I’m proud to day, that in the 60 marathons I’ve run since, I never hit the wall again (except in a couple of marathons when I went out way to fast.)

Which is why I am a believer you should work up to a long run equal to the marathon race distance or even a little farther. This gives you the endurance and confidence necessary to finish the marathon. Keep in mind that you should do these long training runs at least 2 minutes per miles slower than you could run that distance on that day. In general, the slower you run, the faster you’ll recover. Yet, it is my belief that you receive the same endurance benefit as when you go fast.

Erasing Fatigue

Whey you run at the same pace using the same muscles mile after mile, you fatigue more quickly than if you take an occasional break.  Inserting a 1- to 2-minute walk every mile or so can literally erase the fatigue accumulated over that mile. These breaks take the workload off the main running muscles, allowing them to recover. This way, you have more left in your legs at the end of the run.

Walking breaks give you a better chance to take in fluids, too, which is critical in a marathon. The pace of your walking break is up to you, but you need to do it consistently and from the beginning of the run for maximum benefit. Remember that you only lose 15 to 20 seconds when you walk for a minute, because you’re till moving forward.

Thoughts for midweek

With this low- mileage training plan, the two 30-minute midweek runs help you maintain the endurance gained from the long run. Do these with or without walking breaks (your choice). If you already run more than twice during the week, you can certainly continue to do so. Just be sure you’re recovering adequately, especially after the long run. I believe even sub 3-hour marathoners can benefit from at least two days off a week. On your non running days, consider doing some cross-training. This will give your conditioning an extra boost. Especially during the latter stages of your marathon buildup, stick with activities that won’t pound your legs.  Swimming, inline skating, cycling and water running are good choices. Go extra easy on the day before and the day after your long run. If you cannot make time for cross-training at all, don’t worry about it.

As always, find some company

If you don’t have a ready group of runners to go with, try to hook up with some. Running with others has helped countless runners stick with their training. At a slow, easy pace, you’ll be able to joke, tell stories and enjoy the company. This will make the “journey” of training perhaps as memorable as the marathon itself. And maybe you’ll get to run with some of these training friends on race day. Such is the low-mileage marathon plan. It doesn’t require any speed sessions (unless you want to do them), it doesn’t require you to put in high mileage, and it doesn’t require you to run every day. Most importantly, it’s doable. Even a casual fitness runner can look at this program and say, “ I can do it.” And that runner would be right.

How to: Three Day Per Week Marathon Training

I admit it. I believe in the three-day-a-week workout plan. Run three days, take the other four off. Call it lazy, wimpy, absurd. Call it whatever you want. But the three-day workout week works for me and many people I coach. It’s pure gain without pain.

You only need to run three times a week to maintain or boost your current fitness level. ON this schedule, you can improve race performances, train for and complete marathons, recover from injuries more quickly and have more days free for your family, work, social life and other athletic pursuits.

Why Does It Work

Here’s why it works so well. Every time you run long or hard, small micro-tears may occur in your leg muscles and tendons. Even if you shorten the distance of the workout and run slowly the following day, you might prevent those tears from healing quickly.

So if you’ve been struggling to find the time or motivation to run six days a week, relax. You have another option: my three-day plan. To do it, cut out slow recovery runs instead. For instance, let’s say you’re currently doing a weekly long run of 8 miles and four shorter runs of 4 miles. Just switch to three 8 mile runs.

IF you have any doubts about whether this method works, remember the story of the late Dr. George Sheehan. He experienced a slowdown in his marathon times during his late 50’s. So he switched from running 5 miles a day, six days a week to two 10 mile runs and a weekend race. At age 60, he ran a lifetime marathon best of 3:01.

The Weekly Plan

Run 1. Do a long run

Running long distances once a week can significantly boost your fitness. Increase your long run by 1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles. If your training for a marathon, keep adding 1 to 2 miles every other week until you reach 18 miles. At that point, you can increase the distance by 2 to 3 miles every third week. The pace of your long runs should be about 2 minutes per mile slower than your marathon race pace. On the weekends, when you don’t add miles, your long run can equal about half the distance of your effort. For instance, if your longest run equals 20 miles, you can run 10. Or substitute a race for your long run.

Run 2. Do a fast run

To boost performance, devote one day each week to speed play. If you don’t want to run with a stopwatch, simply accelerate for at least 100 meters, slow down, speed up, slow down. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Make sure to include a warm-up and cool-down.

Run 3. Do a fun run

Explore. Find a scenic trail. Run with fun, talkative people. Let your kids chase you around the yard for 45 minutes. Do something new. Be adding novel, entertaining components to one workout each week, your running won’t become stagnant. And you’ll subconsciously carry the fun into your other runs, which will keep you motivated.

To keep cross-training interesting, pick a few different exercises you can do for 5 to 15 minutes at a time. For instance, try riding an exercise bike for 10 minutes, throwing some weights around for 15 minutes, then hitting the pool for 5 minutes of aqua jogging.

Make up for your losses. On your days off, you’ll miss the stress release allowing you to go farther and faster. I guarantee you’ll get faster.

10 Best Trail Running Benefits and Tips

Well, it’s nearly fall in the Carolinas. No more ninety degree temps, and cooler nights. This time of year has me thinking of two things- College football and trail running.  I love trail running, unfortunately the biting flies are so bad here over the summer that it is virtually impossible to run on the trails without a bug net and a can of OFF!  I live about three miles from a forest and 9 months out of the year I do most of my running there except my track workouts. If you’re sick of the blacktop and want to know of the many pleasures and benefits of trail running than read on!

I moved to this area almost 3 years ago, but was nursing chronic injuries and not very active. Once my injuries healed and I was able to start running again I started looking for various roads to run on. Low and behold I lived 3 miles from an experimental forest run by the university. Miles and miles of trails to mountain bike and run on.  Quickly I was hooked! 

First of all, there was the sheer beauty of the forest. Some trails rapped around mountain spring filled lakes, others up high enough to see to the other side of the county and others twisted and looped around to make you feel like you were on a ride at Disney World.  

Second, was the wildlife.  Deer, chipmunks, ducks, or an occasional skunk or snake L  would cross my path. Most notably, though, was the lack of cars and people. With no one to yell at you or make the occasional “get off the road” remark, running took on a new found pleasure!

5 Benefits of Trail Running

“OK, Steve, we get the picture; nice place to run but, what are the physical benefits?” Well, the physical benefits of running on trails are numerous.

1. Injury Prevention

Trails are much softer than blacktop and afford your feet and legs less pounding.  So, trails are great for coming back after an injury or for logging mega miles on.  

2. Improves Strength

Trails can be hilly. Usually these hills are steeper than the kind found on the road, and can really build up your quads and calves. Trails are great for improving ankle strength.

3. Increases Stability

Since, most trails have an uneven surface they force the tendons around your leg to “stabilize” during foot fall. This increases ankle strength which can be of great benefit in cycling and at the end of an Ironman.  

4. Whole Body Workout

On roads you don’t have to hop over logs or under tree limbs- or sometimes crawl. On some trails, the whole body can get workout and not just the legs.  

5. Helps with Boredom

Trails can add variety to your weekly workouts and stave off boredom. The absence of cars means less pollution into your lungs. The absence of people can really give you strength of mind to know you can finish  when it gets tough, this can be extremely helpful at the end of a long race.

6 More Tips on How to get Started Trail Running

6. Familiarize Yourself with the Area

“Scout” the area and make sure it’s safe to run. The local bike shop might have a map of local trails to help you.

7. Get a Good Pair of Trail Shoes

I would get a good pair of trail shoes or on/off road shoes. Many companies sell them, and I would recommend New Balance or Asics.

8. Focus on Hydration

Buy a hydration system, such as the Ultimate torso pack or the Camelback go-be, to keep the liquids in you. Although many streams appear safe, the truth is many animals bathe and urinate in them. YUK!  

Another good idea is to carry a filtered bottle if you are planning on going long.

9. Bring Insect Repellent

Some type of insect repellent to rub on your legs and ankles is a good idea as well since Lyme disease is carried by small ticks that can cause chronic fatigue syndrome in humans. Also a good idea to check yourself for ticks in the shower when you get home.  

10. Run with a Buddy

I run by myself much of the time I spend in the forest. But, it is an area I am now familiar with and feel safe in. I would recommend that you run with a buddy until you feel safe and even then, in some areas it’s probably better to run with others. It is just my personal preference to “get away from it all” and spend my long runs alone in the solitude of nature – did that sound philosophical or what?

Well, anyways, I think you get the picture. Trail running is both enjoyable and beneficial. If you live close to some trails give it a try , who knows you may enjoy it as much as I do! HAPPY TRAIL-sorry, I had to go for that one! 

Ultimate Deep Water Running Guide

Athletic activities like running create a lot of stress on lower body joints.  Many acute (ankle sprains) and overuse (tendinitis, stress fractures) injuries require complete rest in order for adequate recovery.  Most athletes are faced with the problem of losing conditioning when recovering from an injury and often begin training too early which can aggravate the injury and extend the recovery. 

Why do Deep Water Running?

De-training is a valid concern as loss of conditioning can begin as early as 2-4 weeks after cessation of training(1).  Injuries such as tendinitis and stress fractures often require an athlete to rest the area up to 8 weeks.  And to “add insult to injury” – OK that was a bad pun – injuries tend to crop up at the most inconvenient times – they don’t always conveniently occur during the recovery period or off-season.  This is where deep water running can be very beneficial.  It is a great rehabilitative tool as it allows an athlete to participate in an activity very similar to running, in an environment that will allow the injury to heal.

Water Running Equipment

A benefit of deep water running is that it requires very little equipment – a deep pool and a flotation belt.  These belts are made from soft, flexible foam and have an adjustable buckle.  The belt should be worn around the waist/torso to keep the person’s head above water, and their body in a vertical position(2).  Many recreation centers with aqua aerobics programs have flotation belts called “Aquajoggers” available to members.  They can also be purchased in swim shops and online. 

Deep Water Running Technique

The density of water will initially make deep water running feel awkward, however, with practice there really isn’t much difference in land vs. deep water running technique.  As long as the runner focuses on keeping a natural hip flexion (knee drive) the leg turnover will be similar.  The biggest challenge is to prevent over-exaggeration of arm work by keeping the hands closed or palm-inwards (not cupping the water)(1). 

Training Guidelines

Research using endurance athletes, reports that deep water running is very successful in maintaining aerobic fitness(1).  Setting the appropriate intensity during this type of activity is important.  Due to the properties of water, Heart Rate responses for the same level of land running intensity are approximately 10-12 bpm lower in the pool(1)(2).  Therefore, an athlete can adjust their Heart Rate training zones by lowering the training ranges by 10-12bpm when deep water running.  The repetitive and monotonous nature of pool running can be minimized by simulating intervals (greater than 3 minutes each for endurance sessions). 

To increase intensity an elastic cord can be used to tether the athlete (attached to the back of flotation belt) to the edge of the pool(1).  This method is also effective if pool space is minimal.  Otherwise, the water runner may “run” the length of the pool (as long as their feet do not contact the bottom of the pool).

Other Important Considerations

·  Deep water running is appropriate only when an injury is internal or closed (and physician approved).  Do not participate in water sports with an open wound.  Please consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of injuries.

·  Elastic cords can be purchased for $10-$15 at the same merchants that sell flotation belts(1).

Deep water running is a successful method for maintaining fitness when recovering from lower-extremity injury.  When performed with the correct technique it can simulate land based running and allow time for an injury to recover.

References:

  1. Jerry J Mayo, PhD, CSCS. 2000: Practical Guidelines for the Use of Deep-Water Running, NSCA Strength & Conditioning Journal: Vol 22, No 1, pp 26-29.
  2. Thomas J Michaud, Jorge Rodriguez-Zayas, Frederick F. Andres, Michael G. Flynn & Charles P. Lambert. 1995: Comparative Exercise Responses of Deep-Water and Treadmill RunningJournal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Vol 9, No 2, pp 104-109.

8 Hill Workouts to Improve Your Run

A healthy dose of hill running should be included in your workouts each week. Hill work is some of the most productive training you can perform. There is no doubt that runners who regularly hit the hills get faster. However, you should vary your hill routines, throughout the season just as you should vary your training. Because hill work is more stressful, progression is important.

Outdoors vs. Treadmill

I am often asked if running outdoors is more productive than running on the treadmill. The answer is that they both have their place in a good running plan. The advantage of the treadmill is that you can set your work-out parameters. If you are trying to keep your heart rate down during base training, you simply select a pace that keeps your heart rate in zone (check out the Top Heart Rate Monitors for 2020). With hill work you can vary the pace and incline to create just the right amount of stress for your workout.

It may be hard to find a long hill with a steady incline so the treadmill can create just that. You do not want to start off your hill work with too steep of an incline. With the treadmill you can increase the incline slightly each week and the resistance is constant. That being said, many athletes find it difficult to stay focused indoors on a treadmill. It is important to include runs on varied terrain and downhill. The treadmill does not provide this. As you get closer to your goal race, I recommend trying to duplicate the race course and spend less time on the treadmill.

Hill Progression

The most important aspect of base training is staying aerobic and keeping your heart rate down. Hills will obviously drive your heart rate up but that does not mean you should eliminate them in base training. In fact, this is the best time to build a strength basis for the season. As the season progresses, intensity should as well. The following workouts are in order of progression throughout the season. It is important to follow this progression or overtraining and / or injury could result.

1. Hill Climbing 

Walk to run faster? Correct; I start even my fastest and most seasoned athletes out with hill walking. Walking on a steep incline can get your heart rate up just as much or more than a slow run and there is less impact and eccentric load. It is a great way to strengthen the gluteals, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Hill walking is performed during transition phase and early base training. I also recommend trail hiking.

2. Base / Endurance Hill Intervals

This workout is a bit more structured. I start the athlete out at a low base aerobic level and bump it up to a higher aerobic level towards the end of base and into general preparation periods. I prescribe intervals of 5-20 minutes with 5-10 minutes of recovery between efforts, up to two times per week. Pace and incline must be adjusted to keep heart rate in zone. This may mean running very slow, but you will feel resistance on your legs. A good work out for the treadmill but it can definitely be performed outdoors with a little planning.

3. Steady Hill Intervals

We take the top of your aerobic zone and hold a narrow heart rate range. Because this workout is more precise, it is easier to perform on the treadmill. Again, I prescribe intervals of 5-20 minutes with 5-10 minutes of recovery between efforts, up to two times per week.

4. Fartlek Hills

This is one of my favorite workouts. On a hilly course, you will push hard on the uphill sections and run a relaxed pace on the down hill. This is not a very structured workout and is best performed outdoors. Fartlek hills build strength, power, and aerobic capacity.

5. Tempo Hill Intervals

These hill intervals are performed at a much faster pace. Your heart rate will be slightly below threshold or your 5k race pace. I prescribe intervals of 5-15 minutes long with at least 10 minutes of recovery between intervals. Perform this workout no more than 1 time per week.

6. Hill Bounds

Bounds are a springing motion with plenty of vertical power. Picture leaping from point to point with a long stride as you climb a hill. You want to work on producing a quick, explosive power. I prescribe hill bounds of 50-75 meters. Recovery is a slow walk back down the hill. Usually 4-8 of these will be enough. Perform this workout no more than 1x per week.

7. Hill Sprints

Now we’re talking?.This is hill speed work with no heart rate prescribed. On a hill of approximately 100 meters, start off at a moderate pace and build to a sprint. In the last 10 seconds sprint as hard as you can to the top of the hill. I prescribe this work out no more than 2 times per month in race preparation period. I may prescribe several sets of 3-4 hill sprints. Recovery between sets is 10-15 minutes of easy running. Recovery between efforts is a slow walk back down the hill.

8. Hill Strides

These are a technique drill. A lot of runners slow their stride rate and lengthen their stride as they attempt to power up a hill. The exact opposite should take place. Count your strides going uphill. Your stride rate should be around 30 right foot strides in 20 seconds. Work on a short, fast, efficient uphill stride. You should perform these in all periods throughout the season.

Don’t forget that hill work is more stressful than running the flats. It is important to increase incline gradually and to let your body adapt. If you experience any calf or Achilles area pain, stop immediately and take a few days off. Do not resume training until you are pain-free. Hill work will help prevent injury and strengthen your tendons, joints, and ligaments, but only if the stress load is not too high. Fitness cannot be rushed and hill work is no exception.