Articles

Proper Running Form

Form Tips

Running form mistakes can aggravate injuries. The most efficient and gentle running form is a “shuffle.” The feet stay next to the ground, touching lightly with a relatively short stride. When running at the most relaxed range of shuffling motion, the ankle mechanism does a great deal of the work, and little effort is required from the calf muscle. When the bounce off the ground increases, the foot pushes harder and the stride gets longer, there are more aches, pains and injuries.

Time goal runners need to run faster, and this means some increase in stride length, greater bounce and foot pushing. By gradually increasing the intensity of speed training (with sufficient rest intervals and rest days between), feet and legs can adapt, but there is risk of injury. Be sensitive to your weak links and don’t keep running if there is the chance that you may be starting an injury.

Posture is an individual issue. Most of the runners Jeff Galloway has worked with find that an upright posture (like a “puppet on a string”) is best in all ways. When runners use a forward lean there is a tendency to develop lower back pain and neck pain. A small minority of runners naturally run with a forward lean with no problems. In this case, one should run the way that is most natural.

Suggestions for running smoother, reducing irritation to weak links

  • Feet—low to the ground, using a light touch of the foot. Try not to bounce more than an inch off the ground. Let your feet move the way that is natural for them. If you tend to land on your heel and roll forward, do so. But if you have motion control issues, a foot device can provide minor correction to bring you into alignment and avoid irritating a weak link.
  • Posture—In general, good upright posture is good running posture: head over shoulders, over hips as the feet come underneath. Be a good “puppet on a string”.
  • Legs—stay low to the ground, maintaining a gentle stride that allows your leg muscles to stay relaxed. It’s better to have a shorter stride and focus on quicker turnover if you want to speed up.

Common Form-Related Injury Culprits:

Lower back — forward lean, overstride, too few walk breaks
Neck pain — forward lean
Hamstring pain — striding too long, stretching
Shin pain on front — stride length too long, especially on downhills
Shin pain on inside — over pronation
Achilles — stretching, speedwork
Calf pain — stretching, speedwork
Knee pain — too few walk breaks, overpronation

Tips For Your Race

Even for seasoned racers, the days before a race can be stressful.  With all the hope and hard work that you’ve invested in your goal event, you want to arrive at the starting line feeling calm, healthy, and ready to race your best.  Here are a few reminders to keep you on track in the critical days and hours before the starting gun fires, and to help you recover after you cross the finish line.

THE WEEK BEFORE THE RACE

  • Stop stressing.  5Ks and 15Ks are hugely positive community events.  You get to spend a morning with strangers cheering you on, feeding you and offering water, and celebrating doing something healthy for yourself.  Everyone fears that they’ll be last, but don’t worry.  In all likelihood, you won’t be.  People with a very wide range of abilities and levels of fitness do 5Ks and 15Ks, and many people just go to walk them from start to finish.
  • Cover the route beforehand.  If you can, work out on the route where the race will take place so you can get familiar with where you’ll need to push and where you can cruise.  Finding the race start beforehand will prevent you from getting lost on race morning!
  • Eat what works for you.  Your best bet is to eat whatever has worked best for you—that’s given you a boost without upsetting your stomach—during your regular weekday runs.  Don’t eat anything heavy within two hours of the race.  A smoothie containing fruit and yogurt is always a good choice because it gives you a good balance of carbs and protein but not too much fiber (which could cause GI distress).
  • Get ready the night before.  Lay out your gear and get as much sleep as possible – aim for eight hours.

THE DAYS BEFORE THE RACE 

  • Don’t do anything new.  Race week isn’t the time to try new shoes, new food or drinks, new gear, or anything else you haven’t used on several workouts.  Stick with the routine that works for you.
  • Get off your feet.  In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Relax, and leave the lawn mowing or shopping or sightseeing for after the race.
  • Graze, don’t chow down.  Rather than devouring a gigantic bowl of pasta the night before the race, which could upset your stomach, try eating carbs in small increments throughout the day before the race.
  • Put your hands on your bib.  The night before the race, lay out your clothes, and if you have your bib, fasten it on.  That’s the one thing you need at the starting line.  Don’t show up without it!

RACE DAY 

  • Limit your sipping.  Yes, you need to stay hydrated, but no major drinking 30 minutes before the gun; sip if your mouth is dry or it’s particularly hot out.  Some athletes will take a mouthful and use it as a rinse and spit.  Your best bet is to stay hydrated throughout the day.  Aim for half your body weight in ounces.  So for instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces of calorie-free fluids like water each day.  If you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces per day.
  • Arrive early.  Get to the race at least one hour before the start so you’ll have time to find a parking space, pick up your number (if you don’t already have it), use the porta potty, and warm up.  You don’t want to be running to the starting line.
  • Bring a trash bag.  A heavy-duty trash bag can provide a nice seat so you don’t have to plop down on wet grass.  If it’s raining at the start, you can use the trash bag as a raincoat.
  • Bring extra tissue.  The only thing worse than waiting in a long porta potty line is getting to the front and realizing that there’s nothing to wipe with.
  • Don’t overdress.  It will probably be cool at the start, but don’t wear more clothing than you need.  Dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is outside.  To stay warm at the start, you may want to bring (expendable) clothes that you can throw off after you warm up.
  • Set at least two goals.  Set one goal for a perfect race and another as a backup in case it’s hot, it’s windy, or it’s just not your day.  If something makes your first goal impossible halfway through the race, you’ll need another goal to motivate you to finish strong.  And it’s best to set a third goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time.  This performance goal could be something like finishing, powering up the hills rather than walking them, or eating the right foods at the right time and successfully avoiding GI distress!
  • Fix it sooner, not later.  If your shoelace is getting untied, or you start to chafe early in the race, take care of it before it becomes a real problem later in the race.
  • Line up early.  You don’t want to be rushing to the starting line, so don’t wait for the last call to get there.
  • Start slow, and stay even.  Run the first 10 percent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong.  Don’t try to “bank” time by going out faster than your goal pace.  If you do that, you risk burning out early.  Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final stretch to the finish.

AFTER THE RACE 

  • Keep moving.  Get your medal and keep walking for at least 10 minutes to fend off stiffness and gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting state.
  • Refuel.  There are usually snacks at the finish line, but what the race provides may not sit well with you.  To recover quickly, bring a snack with a combination of protein to rebuild muscles and healthy carbs to restock your energy stores.  Consume it within 30 minutes of finishing the race.  You might try a sports recovery drink, energy bar, or other packaged food that won’t spoil, spill, or get ruined in transit.
  • Get warm.  Change out of the clothes you raced in, and get into dry clothes as soon as possible.  After you cross the finish line, your core temperature will start to drop fast, and keeping sweaty clothes on will make you cold.
  • The next day, get going.  As sore as you might feel the day after the race, it’s important to do some sort of non-impact activity like swimming, cycling, or working out on the elliptical trainer.  The movement will increase circulation to your sore muscles and help you bounce back sooner.  Just keep the effort level easy.

Winter Running Benefits

It’s hard to run in darkness, foul weather, and cold temperatures.  But, as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Winter running is the time to develop your mental toughness and up your game.  Finishing a run under miserable weather conditions is an incredible confidence booster, and it will help get you out there next time.

Sure, it’s freezing outside.  But before you retreat to the treadmill for your run, consider this:

  • Chilly temperatures may change unwanted fat into a different kind of fat that actually burns calories.  The fat in your body isn’t equal.  There’s white, brown, and shades in between.  White fat is what we commonly think of when we think of unwanted body fat.  Brown fat is metabolic tissue that actually burns calories.  There’s a growing body of scientific literature that suggests exposing our bodies to cold temperatures turns our white fat to brown.  That means heading outside for a winter run could not only help you burn calories, it could change your body composition.
  • Cold is actually the ideal weather for running.  You aren’t likely to overheat.  Because of this, winter running is actually somewhat easier.
  • Running is a great tool for preventing winter weight gain.  We tend to move less and eat more in the colder months.  Running burns significant calories and is therefore a powerful tool in maintaining and even losing weight during winter.
  • Running will keep your metabolism going strong.  Our bodies are programmed to preserve our fat stores in the winter, slowing down our metabolisms in direct response to our decreased exercise levels.  Running in the cold serves to ‘trick’ the body, preventing this seasonal slowdown of metabolism and helping to maintain a healthy weight.
  • You’ll burn more calories.  When it’s cold, you start shivering because muscle movement helps heat up the body.  When you’re running in the cold, your body works harder and burns more calories to keep you alive.  Ergo, when you run outside in subzero temperatures, you’re dieting without realizing it.
  • You’ll strengthen your heart.  Cold weather also makes the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body.
  • You’ll feel happier and more energized.  Cold-weather exercise also has the ability to boost one’s mood, thanks to the lack of humidity (which creates that heavy air feeling in the summer months) and the stimulating aspect of the chill.  As the body works harder to stay warm, the amount of endorphins produced also increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following a workout in the cold.

Running in the winter is pretty hard core and pretty awesome.  When you layer up with your running friends, there’s something special and bonding about bundling up, and braving the harsh winter air, and living to talk about it the next day.

Nutrition/Hydration/Sleep

Following are some common truths that apply to pre- and post-workout nutrition, as well as hydration and sleep.  All of which are important while training and racing.

Don’t Skip the Carbs

Carbohydrates are fuel for your “engine” (i.e., your muscles).  And, the harder your engine is working, the more carbs you need to keep going.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because while your muscles are trying to do their “thing,” your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach.  These competing demands are a challenge for optimal performance.  And, even more of a factor, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train.

Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, depending on how your body tolerates food.  Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body.  This is something you need to explore during your training days and not during race day.

Suggestions for pre-workout fuel:

  • A peanut butter and banana, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
  • Apple and peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins, one part nuts)
  • Cereal with low fat milk

Notice that each of these suggestions include some protein as well as carbs.  Carbs are the fuel.  Protein is what rebuilds and repairs, but also “primes the pump” to make the right amino acids available for your muscles.  Getting protein and carbs into your system is even more vital post workout.

Mid-Run Nutrition

In general, runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour they’re running longer than 75 minutes.  But you’ll need to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run; by that time, your tank will be empty, and once you hit empty it’s very hard to recover.  Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement.  Start slow; you need to train your gut (and your palate) to handle fuel on the run.  If you’re new to fueling on the run, take in a little bit of fuel every 15 minutes.  Be sure to follow your fuel with water.  Your stomach can only tolerate a certain percentage of carbohydrate so you need to dilute your fuel in order for it to go into circulation (rather than sit like a stone in your gut).

Post-Workout Nutrition

Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout or race, but after that workout, you need to replenish the nutrients lost.

As soon as possible post-workout, get carbs and protein immediately into your body.  This gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost through training and helps your tired muscles rebuild and repair with the available protein and amino acids.  Try to eat within 20 minutes of completing an intense workout.

Post-workout meals include:

  • Post-workout recovery smoothie (or post-workout smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
  • Yogurt with berries

The above offer mainly carbs, some protein, and are convenient — with the first two liquid options also helping to rehydrate the body.

Hydration

It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise.  Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints.  It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy.  If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level.  You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.

A simple way to make sure you’re staying properly hydrated is to check your urine.  If your urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, you’re most likely staying well hydrated.  Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign of dehydration.

There are no exact rules for how much water to drink while exercising because everyone is different.  You need to consider factors including your sweat rate, the heat and humidity in your environment, and how long and hard you are exercising.

The American Council on Exercise suggests the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:

  • Drink 17-20 ounces of water two to three hours before you start exercising
  • Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
  • Drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

Sleep

In terms of sleep, aim for at least eight hours of quality sleep a night. The majority of recovery happens when we sleep.  If you want to recover well, sleep well.  It’s that simple.

To Recap

  1. Your body needs carbs to fuel your working muscles.
  2. Protein is there to help build and repair.
  3. Get a combination of protein and carbs in your body 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, and within approximately 20 minutes post-workout.
  4. You need to train your gut to handle fuel on the run.
  5. Stay hydrated all day, every day.
  6. Recovery happens when we sleep.

Mantras

Running is a mental sport, more than anything else.  You’re only as good as your training, and your training is only as good as your thinking.

Lauren Oliver

Running is both physically and mentally challenging.  To achieve your goals, powerful legs and big lungs aren’t enough—you also need a strong head.  Your mental toughness is just as important as your fitness level on race day.  Our group runs will prepare you physically.  But I want to address the mental aspect – the negative thoughts and conversations we have in our heads, and how to overcome them.

Let’s talk about MANTRAS.

Words are powerful.  They can rally crowds, inspire greatness, and get you out of a terrible funk halfway through your training or race.

Athletes have long been taught to replace negative thoughts with positive ones to improve their performance.  Countless research studies in sports psychology have proven the power of positive thinking and self-talk.  Athletes who go into a workout or race with positive thoughts perform significantly better and more consistently than those who approach workouts and races with a negative attitude.  So how do we tap into that and put it into practice?  Many athletes use motivational quotes or short phrases known as “mantras” to help get them through workouts.  The Sanskrit word “mantra” literally means “instrument for thinking.”  As such, these short words or phrases have long been used to focus the mind in meditation.  Mantras have been around for at least 3,000 years, but they are having a mainstream moment.  We meditate on them.  We find them in pop songs that encourage us to “Let It Go” and get “Happy.”  We tape them to our fridges and computers, pin them to our Pinterest boards, InstaQuote them on Instagram.

Think of a mantra as a useful mental tool you can use to get through the toughest, and most challenging part of a workout by spinning negative thoughts into positive ones, which can help control your inner state and stay in the moment.

The mantras that work the best are personal, positive, short, and action-oriented.  An effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you’re trying to overcome.  In fact, when discomfort strikes, the worst thing you can do is embrace the pain.  When you start thinking, “Oh, this hurts,” “Oh, I have a side stitch,” “Oh, my legs are tired”— those negative thoughts pile on.  A good mantra diverts your mind from thoughts that reinforce the pain to thoughts that help you transcend it.

Strength Mantras will connect into your hidden resources that keep you going when tired.  The specific words you choose will help to make subconscious and intuitive connections with muscles and your inner resolve.  As you learn to tap into the right brain, you’ll coin phrases that continue drawing on mental or spiritual resources.  The best ones will be your own mantras that relate to your experiences with words that work.  Action phrases not only keep you going but also help you perform as you find ways to dig deeper into your resources.  The following have been used when under physical and mental stress, but use these only as a primer.  

  • Feet-stay light and quick, keep moving
  • My legs are strong
  • My heart is pumping better
  • More blood in the muscles
  • Lactic acid, go away
  • More oxygen, lungs
  • The strength is in there, I’m feeling it
  • Talk crazy to me, right brain
  • I’m feeling creative–I’m making adjustments
  • I feel comfortable–I’m in control
  • I feel good–I feel strong
  • I’m floating
  • Come to me–endorphins
  • I’m having fun
  • How bad do you want it?
  • It takes strength to do what you love

Funny Mantras get you to laugh, which is a right brain activity.

  • I feel like a clown, ballerina, football player, stooge
  • Float like an anchor, sting like a sponge
  • Where’s the bounce, glide
  • I’m all about that pace … no trippin’ (spinoff of the song by Meghan Trainor)

Creative Mantras

  • I’m building a house, railroad, community, bookcase, etc.
  • What type of novel could that person ahead of me have written?
  • What type of profession could that person on the sidewalk have?
  • What type of movie could be staged here?

Distraction Mantras start by preoccupying your left brain so that it won’t send you so many negative messages.  After saying these over many times you may be able to shift into the right brain.

  • Look at that store, car building, sign, etc.
  • Look at that person, hair, outfit, hat, T-shirt design, etc.
  • One more step, one more step
  • One more block, telephone pole, stop light, etc.
  • Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps
  • I can do anything for [##] minutes/seconds

Vision Mantras help you feel that you’re getting where you want to be.

  • I can see the next mile marker
  • I can feel the pull of the finish line
  • I can feel being pulled along by the runners ahead
  • I can feel myself getting stronger
  • I’m pushing through the wall
  • I’m moving at the right pace to finish with strength

Mantras can help you get through the tough moments in a race when negative thoughts and doubt are so overwhelming, and you need a boost.  Because you never know when a short phrase could be the difference of you crossing the finish line and not.  They even work during fast workouts or long runs – any time that you’re feeling compelled to quit or slow down.  Think about your training during your next race.  If you’ve done the work, trust your workouts.  The race is just an extension of your training.

Don’t defeat yourself mentally before you’ve even started.  Think strong words.  Repeat inspiring phrases.  Run even better. 

You are strong, ready and capable of the challenge ahead.  Repeat to yourself – “I CAN do this!” 

Eating for Endurance

What’s the best way to fuel for the Boston Marathon?

Should I eat a high fat diet to train my body to burn more fat and less glucose?

What percent of calories should come from carbohydrate? protein? fat?

When it comes to eating for endurance, today’s athletes are confronted with two opposing views:

  • Eat a traditional carbohydrate-based sports diet, or
  • Eat a fat-based diet that severely limits carbohydrate intake.

What should an eager marathoner, Ironman triathlete, or other endurance athlete eat to perform better? Here’s what you want to know about eating for endurance, based on the Joint Position Statement on Nutrition for Athletic Performance from the American College of Sports Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietietics, and Dietitians of Canada.

  1. Eat enough calories.

Most athletes need ~21 calories per pound (45 cal/kg) of lean body mass (LBM). That means, if you weigh 150 pounds and have 10% body fat, your LBM is 135 pounds and you require about 2,800 calories a day. That said, energy needs vary from person to person, depending on how fidgety you are, how much you sit in front of a computer, how much muscle you have, etc. Hence, your body is actually your best calorie counter—more accurate than any formula or app!

If you eat intuitively—that is, you eat when you feel hunger and stop when feel content, you are likely eating enough. If you find yourself stopping eating just because you think you should, if you are feeling hungry all the time and are losing weight, you want to eat larger portions. Under-fueling is a needless way to hurt your performance.

If you can’t tell when enough food is enough, wait 10 to 20 minutes after eating and then, mindfully ask yourself “Does my body need more fuel?” Athletes who routinely stop eating just because they have finished their packet of oatmeal (or other pre-portioned allotment) can easily be under-fueled. Even dieting athletes want to surround their workouts with fuel. Their plan should be to eat enough during the day to fuel-up and refuel from workouts, and then eat just a little bit less at the end of the day, to lose weight when they are sleeping.

  1. Eat enough carbohydrates.

According to the Position Statement on Nutrition for Athletic Performance, the optimal amount of carbohydrate on a day with one hour of training is 5 to 7 grams carb/kg. On high volume days, you need about 6 to 12 g carb/kg body weight. For a 150-pound (68 kg) athlete, this comes to about 350 to 800 grams carb a day—the equivalent of about one to two (1-lb) boxes of uncooked pasta (1,400 to 3,200 calories). That’s more than many of today’s (carb-phobic) athletes consume. You want to make grains the foundation of each meal: choose more oatmeal for breakfast; more sandwiches at lunch; and more rice at dinner to get three times more calories from carbs than from protein. Otherwise, you set the stage for needless fatigue.

  1. Eat adequate­—but not excess—protein.

Protein needs for athletes range from 1.4 g/kg (for mature athletes) to 2.0 g protein/kg (for athletes building muscle or dieting to lose fat). For a 150-pound (68 kg) athlete, protein needs come to about 95 to 135 grams protein per day, or 25 to 35 grams protein four times a day. That means 3 eggs at breakfast (with the bowl of oatmeal), a hearty sandwich at lunch, portion of lean meat/fish/chicken at dinner, and cottage cheese (with fruit) for an afternoon or bedtime snack.

For vegetarians, generous servings of beans, hummus, nuts and tofu at every meal can do the job; a light sprinkling of beans on a lunchtime salad will not. By consuming protein every 3 to 5 hours, you will optimize muscle building and deter muscle breakdown.

  1. Fill in the calorie-gap with fat.

Include in each meal and snack some health-promoting, anti-inflammatory fat: nuts, salmon, peanut butter, avocado, olive oil, etc. Fat adds flavor, offers satiety, and is a source of fuel for endurance exercise. Training your muscles to burn more fat for fuel happens when you do long, steady “fat burning” exercise. By burning more fat, you burn less of the limited carbohydrate (muscle glycogen, blood glucose) stores. You will have greater endurance and avoid or delay hitting the wall.

A (tougher) way to train your body to burn more fat is to severely limit your carbohydrate intake and push your fat intake to 70% of your calories. That could be 1,800 calories (185 g) of fat per day. This very high fat diet produces ketones and forces the body to burn ketones for fuel. Keto-athletes endure a tough, 3- to 4-week adaptation period as their bodies transition to burning fat, not glucose, for fuel. While some keto-athletes rave about how great they feel when in ketosis, the sports nutrition literature, to date, reports little or no performance benefits from a ketogenic sports diet. It might nix sugar binges, but it’s unlikely to make you a better athlete.

  1. Drink enough fluids.

A simple way to determine if you are drinking enough fluid is to monitor your urine. You should be voiding dilute, light colored urine every 2 to 4 hours. (Exception: athletes who take vitamin supplements tend to have dark colored urine.) You want to learn your sweat rate, so you can strategize how to prevent dehydration. Weigh yourself nude before and after one hour of race-pace exercise, during which you drink nothing. A one-pound drop pre- to post-exercise equates to 16 ounces of sweat loss. Losing two pounds of sweat in an hour equates to 32 ounces (1 quart). To prevent that loss, you should target drinking 8 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 minutes. Athletes who pre-plan their fluid intake tend to hydrate better than those who “wing it.”

  1. Consume enough calories during extended exercise.

If you will be exercising for longer than 60 to 90 minutes, you want to target 40 to 80 calories (10 to 20 g) of carbohydrate every 20 minutes (120 to 240 calories per hour), starting after the first hour (which gets fueled by your pre-exercise food). If you are an Ironman triathlete, long distance cyclist or ultra-athlete who exercises for more than three hours, you want to target up to 360 calories per hour. The key is to practice event-day fueling during the months that lead up to the event. By training your gut to tolerate the fuel, you’ll be able to enjoy the event without fretting about running out of energy.

The bottom line:

If you are going to train, you might as well get the most out of your workouts. Performance improves with a good fueling plan. Eat wisely and enjoy your high energy!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for marathoners, cyclists and soccer players offer additional information. They are available at www.NancyClarkRD.com. For her popular online workshop, see www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.

Reference:

Thomas, T at el. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016; 116 (3):501-28

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

Key Workouts

Welcome to Week #4.  Yeah, we “get to” workout!  It certainly is a privilege.

If at all possible, please do not miss the Saturday long runs.  Long runs are run at least 2 minutes per mile slower than your goal pace to reduce wear and tear on your body.  Reducing the impact on the body means you can recover quicker from training runs and can continue progressing with your training.  There are many physiological adaptations the body makes in order to meet the physical demands of distance running, and this is why slowing down is recommended.

If you’re new to distance training, many of your training runs are going to take you into new mileage territory.  When running a new distance, it should be considered a “long” run, regardless of the actual mileage.

Below is an explanation of the types of training we will be doing this session.  The goal is to improve the pace of your run through practice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcDqd28h2Ds

Cadence Drills (Wednesdays/Thursdays)

It’s an easy drill that improves the efficiency of running, making running easier.  This drill excels in how it helps to pull all of the elements of good running form together at the same time.  Studies have clearly shown that as runners become faster, their stride length decreases.  Therefore, the way to get faster is to increase the turnover of your feet and legs.  Even those who lack a fast bone in their bodies will benefit from cadence drills because they teach the body to find a more efficient motion.  Over the weeks and months, if you do this drill once every week, you’ll find that your normal cadence slowly increases naturally.

Acceleration-Glider Drills (Wednesdays/Thursdays)

This drill is a form of speed play, or fartlek.  By doing it regularly, you develop a range of speeds with the muscle conditioning to move smoothly from one to the next.  The greatest benefit comes as you learn how to “glide” or coast off your momentum.  The main object of the drill is to keep moving at a fairly fast pace without using much energy.

Hill Repeats (Mondays/Tuesdays)

Running uphill makes you stronger.  It’s actually the most efficient form of strength training for runners since it uses all the muscles you activate when running on flat surfaces but builds greater strength due to the increased resistance.  Your legs are not used to being pushed to run uphill and downhill regularly.  Therefore, they may be a little sore at first as you get used to hill training.  They will adjust, though, and start to gain tone and definition.  Running uphill and downhill will also help get your entire body into better shape.  Unlike regular running, your heart rate will go up when you run hills because your body will need to work harder to do it.  This will get oxygen flowing through your body more quickly and help you build up more stamina.

Long Run (Saturday)

The long run is truly the bread and butter of an endurance training program.  It teaches your body how to spend time on its feet, how to utilize fat as a primary fuel source, and is a dress rehearsal for your goal race.

Stretching

Question from a new runner who came from another training program and is loving the Galloway method.

Q.  Three months running without post-run stretch and the only thing that hurts is my brain trying to figure out how the post-run stretch myth began.  Apprehensive at first, because it was drilled into us for years, but it does make sense to allow the body to do its job of recovery/rebuilding without interference.  Either of you know where the myth began and why it seems to have spread through the running community?  I did notice, with the other program, the slower groups stretched the most, usually together as a group.  As you got into the faster pace groups, it was mainly left up to the individual to stretch as much and how they wanted, this was minimal stretching, followed by some planks and core strengthening workouts.

A.  I believe that pre- and post-run stretching came from coaches who were used to dealing with athletes in explosive sports like football and basketball.  They ended up coaching track and cross-country runners by default, or for an extra stipend, and they used the same pre- and post-workout activities that they used for their other athletes without considering whether they were actually necessary for distance runners.

Jeff Galloway believes stretching causes many injuries.  It may surprise you to learn this, but he’s not a big advocate of stretching.  After having worked with tens of thousands of runners, and conducting surveys, he’s discovered that those who stretch regularly have more injuries – often as direct result of stretching.  While there are some specific stretches that help some individuals, he believes that most people who run and walk don’t need to stretch at all.

In many other sports, like tennis, basketball, soccer, golf, etc., stretching warms the muscles up for activities that the body was not designed to do.  Running is significantly different than those other activities.  We were designed to run and walk long distances – our ancient ancestors covered thousands of miles a year!  Stretching pushes the tendons and muscles beyond what they are currently ready to do, often into injury.

Before running?

Most runners think they should stretch just before running.  You see them everywhere, legs on benches, leaning against buildings—getting ready to run.  Jeff Galloway doesn’t recommend this.  Just before running, the muscles are tight and may pull or strain easily.  You are particularly at risk early in the morning when you’re cold and blood flow is minimal.  Pushing a cold muscle, tendon, or joint often leads to injury.

After running?

Stretching right after running is also a risky proposition.  The muscles don’t simply stop all activity when you stop running.  They are still “revved up” and ready to respond for about 30 minutes; stretching may cause them to spasm.  When they are working hard like this, a stretch often activates the stretch reflex – leaving you tighter than before.

When, then?

The best time to stretch is after the body is warmed up, relaxed, and when the blood is moving.  Since many runners stretch incorrectly, it’s best to wait and stretch after warming up.  Don’t stretch to warm the muscles up; it won’t work.  Stretch in the evening, for example, or throughout the day as you have time.  Many people use stretching as a nice way to prepare for sleep.