Top 5 Training Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

No matter how many years we’ve been running or how many races we’ve done, there are still some mistakes we may be prone to.

1 – Avoiding the Magic Mile

Jeff Galloway has given us a great tool to determine how fast to run our long runs, race rehearsal runs, and speed workouts. It’s called the Magic Mile (MM), and when we know our MM time, we can run with a plan. When we don’t have a recent (or any) MM, we are just running by feel, which sometimes can get us into trouble.

Solution: Run a Magic Mile every 4 to 6 weeks and check the MM calculator at Jeffgalloway.com to see your recommended paces and run/walk ratios.

2 – Running the long ones too fast

Whether we let our friends set the pace or we “just feel good” when starting out on our long runs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of running these too fast. The long run should be at least 2 minutes per mile slower than race pace. You can’t be hurt by running the long ones too slow but running them too fast means you won’t be as recovered as necessary for the rest of your training.

Solution: Know your long run pace based on your Magic Mile prediction and don’t let anything pull you faster.

3 – Cutting the long run too short 

A marathon or half-marathon is a long way to run. Those who are best prepared for the distance will have the most fun during the race, but many runners balk at doing 14 miles in training for a half-marathon or 26 in training for a marathon. Whether they have difficulty carving out enough time for the long ones or they want to “save the real distance for race day,” they will be more likely to “hit the wall” because their bodies are not ready for the demands of the distance.

Solution: Put the long runs on your schedule months in advance and protect those days like you would an important appointment so there’s less chance you’ll be tempted to skimp on the distance.

4 – Not listening to your body when it needs to rest

Small aches and pains come with the territory, not the territory of running, but the territory of living. Not everything calls for time off from running, but when something is affecting your gait (the way you run) or is causing you to feel lethargic, you need some extra time off. Whether the condition was caused by running or some other stress like work, continuing to push yourself when your body needs rest can lead to injury.

Solution: Turn a run day into a walk day. Get out and enjoy the fresh air without any worry about how fast you are going. Even if you have to miss a long run, walking that same distance will give you the endurance you need. If you don’t feel better in a couple of days, see your family doctor.

5 – Ignoring nutrition

On race day you will have your socks picked out, your shoes well tested, and the rest of your outfit just right. You will have done the long runs and honed your pace if you have a time goal, but what will you have done for nutrition? If you haven’t practiced what you will have for dinner the night before, breakfast race morning, and during the race, you are ignoring an important factor that will impact your race day experience.

Solution: Use your long run weekends to practice race weekend nutrition, right down to the flavor of sports drink you intend to use. If something isn’t going to work for you, better to find out a month before race day than when it’s all out there on public display.

By Chris Twiggs, Galloway Training Director

All About That Pace

There is a common misunderstanding about Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method that a particular ratio will result in a specific pace on race day.  The truth is that it’s the other way around: the pace you decide to run should determine the ratio you decide to use.  Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, so let’s look at an example.

First, start with a Magic Mile (MM).  If your MM is around 8:20, your predicted pace per mile for a half-marathon is 10:00 (notwithstanding weather conditions, hilly courses, illness, nutrition issues, etc.).  If your MM is significantly slower than that, no run/walk strategy is going to make you faster overnight.  You need to put in the long runs, tempo runs, speed work, and drill runs to get in faster shape.  Test yourself with a new MM every month or 6 weeks until you see a time that puts your prediction close to your goal.

Now that you know your goal pace for the race, you can set your workout paces and choose your ratios.  That 10:00/mi pace will be used for Tempo Runs; Jeff calls them Race Rehearsals.  After a gentle warm-up, run for a few minutes at race pace using a run/walk ratio that allows you to recover during the walks and avoid huffing and puffing during the runs.  The chart on the MM page referenced below suggests 90 sec run/30 sec walk, 60 sec run/30 sec walk, and a few other options.  The 90/30 option is neither better nor more advanced than the 60/30 option just because there is more running between walk breaks.  Choosing 90/30 just means you will be running a bit slower between walk breaks but taking them less often.  Choosing 60/30 means you will be running a bit faster between walk breaks but taking them more often.  One choice will feel better to some people while the other choice will feel better to others.  It’s important to try out both options, as well as any others that you think might work for you.  Each week throughout training, try out a new option until you find the one you think works for that pace.  Then use that tried and true run/walk strategy in the race itself.

“Okay, but what if I want to get faster in the race?  Can’t I just change up the ratio to go faster?”  I hear you ask.  Nope, changing the ratio on race day won’t instantly change the kind of shape you’re in, and that – your overall shape and fitness based on the training you’ve done – is what determines how fast you’ll be able to go on race day.

The other paces and ratios you should consider in your training are your long run pace (2 minutes per mile slower than predicted race pace) and speed work pace (30 seconds per mile faster than predicted race pace).  Each of these paces has its own recommended run/walk strategies (see that MM chart again), and each one should be tried out to see what feels best for that pace.

The last two things to keep in mind are the length of the walk break and adjusting for heat.

Jeff Galloway’s research and experience coaching and advising almost half a million runners over his career led him to revise his run/walk strategy recommendations in 2015, standardizing the walk breaks for most runners at 30 seconds.  Except in the case of those doing more walking than running, walk breaks longer than 30 seconds actually appeared to slow runners down toward the end of long runs, not as much as running without walk breaks would have, but enough that limiting the walk to 30 seconds and finding the right run segment that feels comfortable are the current recommendations.  As for adjusting for heat, all run times, be they long runs or tempo runs, should be adjusted 30 seconds slower for every 5 degrees F above 60F.  Ignoring this “Hot Weather Slowdown” advice poses serious health risks.

The bottom line is that it’s all about that pace.  Pick a pace that your Magic Mile and the weather conditions tell you is right for you, and then choose a run/walk ratio that feels good with that pace.  Oh, and remember to smile.  If you aren’t smiling when you run, at least on the inside, you’re doing it wrong.

-Chris Twiggs, Chief Training Officer, Galloway Training

Recommended Run/Walk Strategies:

Pace/mi Run Walk

7:00 = 6 min 30 sec (or run a mile/walk 40 seconds)

7:30 = 5 min 30 sec

8:00 = 4 min 30 sec (or 2/15)

8:30 = 3 min 30 sec (or 2/20)

9:00 = 2 min 30 sec or 80/20

9:30-10:45 = 90/30 or 60/20 or 45/15 or 60/30 or 40/20

10:45-12:15 = 60/30 or 40/20 or 30/15 or 30/30 or 20/20

12:15-14:30 = 30/30 or 20/20 or 15/15

14:30-15:45 = 15/30

15:45-17:00 = 10/30

17:00-18:30 = 8/30 or 5/25 or 10/30

18:30-20:00 = 5/30 or 5/25 or 4/30