ASK the Running Coach! 

We'll try to answer your running related questions and provide some nuggets of wisdom.  Keep in mind that diagnosis is the responsibility of your physician.  Comments posted here should not be misconstrued as medical advice!

View the Ask The Coach Archives HERE

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to improve 3 mile run time - Michael

I'm currently training for a 3 mile run for the USMC. Right now I run a 22:30 3 mile and I want to get down to a 21. I run 4 times a week. 2x3 mile runs at 8 min mile and interval training of 8x400m and a long run of 6-7 miles. All with a day in between for rest. What and how can I change my schedule in order to be a better runner?

Reply - Coach Janet

If your previous 22:30 3 mile time was a "best effort" time then the pace you're running in your training runs (8 min pace) might be a bit fast for the purpose of developing the best aerobic condition to run a 3 mile race faster.  It isn't that you never run hard in training... it's that you run hard in measured doses in training... not all the time!  Your current (22:30) race pace is a 7:30 pace and training at 94% of that effort (an 8 min pace) means you're training at paces that are too fast.  You might consider easing the training pace back a bit for your long run and for your mid week runs that are not scheduled to be interval training.  Then for your interval work - you might mix it up a bit and do both 400 meter repeats at your target race pace as well as some 800m repeats and even build up to the point where you're doing 1600 meter repeats.  Your target pace would mean you do the 400's in 1:41, the 800's in 3:22 and the 1600's in 6:44.  As you get stronger you can shorten your recovery intervals. For example if you're doing 400 m recovery between each 400 m at race pace, you could shorten that to 200 m to increase the difficulty of the workout.  Keep in mind that the speedwork you're doing is the icing on the cake. The REAL work of building an aerobic infrastructure to support your goal is the easy effort pace you run on the majority of your runs -- and building that long run.  I would recommend you consider easing the pace from the 8 min you're doing to something a bit easier -- perhaps something in the 8:30-8:40 range. Build your weekly distance up at the easy effort, and focus the "hard work" on your interval run day.  Good luck and let me know if I can be of assistance, and thank you for your sevice to our country! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Thursday April 9, 2015

Run performance question - Tripp

I was running really well in September to december and then at christmas i just really went down hill, i had a bit of calf trouble which i think was from a quick transistion from long distance (4km cross country) to speed work (800 and 1500m indoors) my indoor season was not good and in training i just feel i can do the first half easy and then i just suddenly drop off half way through and i strughle the last bit. My legs feel heavy and flat and my breathing is not too good. I dont know if i am over training because i havnt changed anything, i know for the training im doing i should be preforming better. I was diagnosed with asthma at christmas and i was put on an inhaler, could this be affecting me? I do 1 hour run a week, 2 x30 mins, 1x 45min, hills, and an intervel session in a week and my 1500m pb is 4:45 . Do you have any idea why i am after getting slower? Or why i cant maintain a good standard throught a session? Do you think i need more speed endirence training???

Reply - Coach Janet

Tripp, its not clear from your question what event you're tryign to train for right now but I'm assuming you are trying to train for the 800 and 1500 meter events? If this is the case, those events are very different in their physiological demands from the cross country distances you were doing.  Perhaps it would be good to look at your strengths and weaknesses.  You've identified that you fade in the second half of your event distance -- so yes, working on all aspects of training but especially some focus on speed endurance would be a good start.  With the asthma issue - perhaps a follow up with your physician to insure that the inhaler and the dosage are still appropriate would be a good idea.   Make sure that the paces you're working in each of your runs is appropriate to the purpose of the run -- long runs usually at easy effort - interval workouts and hills will be based on the distance you're training for.  Talk to your coach about specific paces and see if there's some fine-tuning you can do.  Best of luck! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-Certified coach

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Is one 20-mile run enough for a marathon? - Leyla

I am training for my second London Marathon. I did 20 miles comfortably with five weeks to go (having worked my way up, following a plan). Almost a week after the 20 mile run, the night before I was due to do 20 miles again I started to experience knee pain which I believe to be ITBS. Consequently I missed the second 20 mile run in order to rest. I am now due to do 22 miles as my final long run this weekend (with three weeks to go) but don?t feel that my knee is quite right. Obviously after this weekend I am due to start tapering. My question is?should I do the long run this weekend or not? Is one 20 mile run enough when marathon training? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Leyla, This isn’t your first marathon – so you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Obviously multiple runs of 20 or more are ideal for marathon training but you can easily get by with just one – you just have to adjust your goals based on your state of training (one 20 miler), your injury status (recently injured) and any other things like weather that you can’t control. 

I’m personally not a fan of racing injured or racing when an athlete has just recovered from an injury.  It’s usually not going to be a great performance and there’s a risk that they hurt themselves in the process of doing the race.  With that said though – if you’re smart about it  you may be able to complete the marathon and not set yourself back. 

The most important thing is to deal with the underlying cause for the recent flare up of knee pain – look into issues related to flexibility, strength, footwear, and training errors to see if you can identify what’s behind the recent symptoms.  I’ll be happy to help but at this point your time is sort of limited. Let me know if I can be of assistance! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday March 26,2015

High heart rate when running faster than usual - Nicole

I run about 40-60 miles a week for the last 8 years and run in the woods on soft trails. Why can't I run faster than a 12 minute mile? My heart rate gets up to 180 beats per minute if I try to run a 10 min mile which I CAN do, but only for a mile at most. I am a 43 year old female

Reply - Coach Janet

There could be any number of things going on.  Certainly I'd anticipate that 8 years of running 40-60 miles per week on trails has developed your aerobic fitness base, but perhaps you would benefit from some intermittent bouts of higher intensity training to build your speed.  Do you know what your resting heart rate is? Do you know what your maximum heart rate is?  The oft-cited estimation formula of 220-age is not accurate for all -- it has a standard deviation of +/- 10-12 beats per minute. So at 43 - the formula says your max HR should be 177... but in reality you may have (likely have) a faster maximum than predicted.  What's your HR when you run your typical 12-minute mile pace? Another aspect to consider is your body weight - are you at/near your ideal range?   Do you have any history of heart issues (heart murmur, etc)?  It might be worth looking in to some of these things - you can get an estimate of your max heart rate either from a maximum treadmill test (your doc would be the one to do that) or perhaps running a 5k race and looking at what number you see most often on your HR monitor.  Once you know your true max, you can orchestrate your training more knowlegably.  Also keep in mind that fast running usually takes some specific training to develop. Often runners will do "speedwork" once a week to work on the aspects of running fitness that don't get worked with the routine training runs.  I'd be happy to help with this -- if you're interested drop me an email at "janet@ runningstrong dot com".   

Sunday March 22, 2015

Running a half marathon with back pain - Buzz

coach janet / running since november of '09 / run numerous 5 mile and 5K's. also have run the broad street 10 miler three times / ran my first 1/2 on 23nov14 in respectable time to me 1:56:45 for a 52 year old. pulled back muscle playing ping pong approximately sat. (21 feb 15). went to family doctor and said i will be okay for 2nd 1/2 (29 mar 15). concerned, i went to chiropractor yesterday (friday) and have next appt. monday (23 mar 15). pain really sprung up after running 11 miles with friend about two weeks ago! sorry, things out of sequence (TBI in 1984) bottom line i have just been running twice a week last four but about 80 minutes a pop! i truly desire to run 2nd 1/2 but am anxious to talk to chiropractor monday. race imminent, have the broad street 10 miler (3 may 15). what is your suggestion doc? thanks for your response!

Reply - Coach Janet

I am pretty sure you don't want to hear this - but... I'm never a fan of racing injured.  The best outcome you can hope for is to get through the event, likely in a sub-par time, and not be any worse at the finish. That is often not the outcome though - it's more common to get through the event in a sub-par time and then have to take time off because your injury is worse.  With that said - if your chiropractor can get your symptoms totally resolved and you can do your remaining training runs painfree (you're headed into taper anyway) then you might be OK.  I'd say - pick the race that means the most to you (the half, or the Broad Street 10 miler) and let that weigh into your decision.   I'd say that you're going into this half with a very low mileage base (running twice a week) and if an 11 mile run two weeks ago set off your back pain - you'd be wise to step back and focus on getting your back issues resolved, then training properly for the next event on your calendar.  Best of luck to you - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Wednesday March 11, 2015

Calf pain in new runner - Jenny

My friend is training with me for her first (my second) half marathon. In December, we ran a 10K together, and then started training for the half in January. Her ability, despite consistent training, getting the correct shoes, altering form, consistent diet, hydration, etc. has greatly diminished. This Saturday we run a 10K and the half is on April 11th. I don't want her to injure herself, but she can barely make it to the mile mark without her calves hurting so badly so she has to stop running. What other things could be affecting her running that we're not considering? There has to be something that has changed her body's ability to run long distance in the short couple of months since our last 10K

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Jenny, there could be several things going on here.  1) Are you doing your training runs at an appropriate pace?  Are you warming up a bit before you get into your training pace? 2) You mention "altering form" -- perhaps whatever alteration she did is not appropriate for her unique biomechanics?  Despite all the hype about this or that "correct" form -- there is no one universal correct form for all runners at all speeds.  3) Have you ramped up mileage quickly since January?  Is there a chance she has a tibial stress fracture?  If your target half marathon is in 4 weeks, the fact that she can't make it a mile means she probably needs to re-evaluate this race and possibly take a step back in training to address the underlying issues.  Without knowing a lot more about her and her recent training it is hard to speculate.   Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Saturday March 7th, 2015

Trouble with slow cadence and tight hip flexors - Sabrina

Hi - I read a quote of yours about how strength training can increase power and stride length and flight between steps. I am having trouble with slow cadence and also have very tight hip flexors. people have had me do lots of core stuff but it has made no difference. I have tight hip flexors and I think my hamstrings and glutes dont do much - run mostly off my quads. I'd really appreciate any help -Thanks!!

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Sabrina, one of my favorite ways to deal with cadence issues is to make very gradual adjustments with the help of either a metronome or perhaps music if you run with tunes.  First thing is to figure out what your "usual" cadence is.  This is easier if you have someone to help you -- just go to a track and run your usual easy training pace and have a partner watch and count your cadence for a full minute.  (It's easier if they just track one leg). Keep in mind there's no "ideal" cadence for everyone and studies show that changes in cadence (either up or down) from your naturally adopted one can result in increases in percieved effort and decreases in running economy -- so proceed with any changes gradually.  For example - if your typical cadence is 160 (80 footfalls on each side per minute) then you'd want to play with increasing that by no more than 5% -- so an initial target might be 168.  As for the tight hip flexors - I would look into adding some gentle back exercises to your routine as I often find tight hip flexors in conjunction with weak lower back muscles.  Hope this is food for thought.  My article about cadence changes can be read HERE if you're interested.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday Feb 26th, 2015

Returning to running after a hamstring injury - Allyson

I've been a distance runner for several years now, running anywhere from 42 - 64 miles per week. In June 2014, I was in terrible pain and went to see ortho. I was diagnosed , by MRI, as having a tibial stress fracture. I was out for six weeks due to the fracture in my left leg. When I returned to running, everything was okay. I was back up to seven miles per day within a few weeksonly to suffer some kind of hamstring injury that profusely bruised the entire back thigh of my right leg. During this time, I ran/ walked with a friend in order to heal the hamstring......about 8 weeks. Now, I am having more difficukty running than I did when I first began years ago. I am landing hard on the ball of my right foot and appear to be shuffling that foot. I also can only run a half mile, stop for 1 minute, repeat. My legs feel so very heavy and my attitude is growing skeptical of ever running again. This used to be so easy but now I can't get my pace or gait back. I work out religiously at very hard cardio at gym. Daily.... 40 mins stair machine at 102 steps per minute, 1 hour of elliptical average 10 miles when finished. Cardio never bothers me until I run. I have noted that. Even when walking breaks are added, I am still averaging nine minute miles......meaning I am speeding up very fast, then needing to walk. Any suggestions? I am totally exasperated and do not usually quit.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Allyson - that must have been a pretty bad injury to your hamstring to show up as "profuse bruising"... did you fall?  Did you see your orthopedist for that injury?  Your question is eerily timely... I just posted an article today on the rather uncommon injury of a traumatic hamstring rupture. You can read it HERE.  Bottom line - from your description it sounds like you may have injured the hamstring more severely than you first realized.  Your comment about having trouble getting your gait back and feeling weak and not balanced would make me suspicious.  If you didn't get some form of diagnostic imaging (MRI or Ultrasound) to rule out a partial or full hamstring tear - I think you'd be wise to discuss that option with your orthopedist.  Trust me - you can still have some level of function even if one of your tendons is pulled off the bone.  Read my post linked above and you'll see what I mean by that.   If you find out that all is well and everything is intact - then perhaps the issue is that you're trying to run your typical training pace (the 9 min miles you refer to) and perhaps you just need to take this a little more slowly.  Not all injuries heal at the same rate -- you managed to come back quickly after that 6-week layoff for the stress fracture but this recent injury is muscular and may take a bit longer to rehabilitate.  At the very least - some visits with a good Physical Therapist to give you some specific rehab guidance would be a good thing to consider.  Good luck - hope you're back to your old self soon!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Monday Feb 23rd, 2015

Running a marathon with back pain - Laurene

I have been running for a couple years and ever and 2 half marathons this past year. This year I decided I wanted to do a full marathon next month. I have been training for the last 5 weeks, my last run last week was 15 miles. A few days later I have been I have been down with lower back pain, I havent ran in the week.my back is starting to feel better. My question to you is, is it possible to still try to run a marathon and three and a half weeks?

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to tell from your question if this is your first marathon or not but either way - it's important to respect the distance. In my humble opinion it's never a good idea to run a race injured or just coming back from one - and it seems that you've certainly got something going in your lower back.  It would be my recommendation to take this race off the books and instead focus on getting well, and getting to the root of the underlying cause for your back pain.  If you've only 3 weeks to go - you should be starting your taper phase and with a long run of only 15 miles that's inadequate mileage in my opinion.  The question shouldn't be can I run a marathon in a little over three weeks.... but rather should I risk running a marathon in a little over three weeks?  Think about the risk-reward on this one.  The best case scenario is that you survive the marathon and you're no worse off when you finish than when you started.  That's not likely to be the outcome, especially if this is your first.... the outcome could be far worse, with a worsening of your symptoms and a miserable experience on race day.  It just makes more sense to me as a coach to have you step back, get the issue fully resolved, deal with the underlying causes, and then train properly for the next marathon attempt.   I hope I have interpreted your question properly - good luck with whatever you decide to do!  Best regards, Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday Feb 5th, 2015

Pain in right hip - Dawn

I have been running for about 10 years. I usually run about 20 miles a week, mainly on tracks. Recently I have been suffering from pain in my right hip which is deep and feels like i should be able to stretch it out but can't seem to. My left foot has also recently become slightly misshapen at the the big toe joint, like a bunion. At the weekend I was running on a treadmill and noticed that I am landing much heavier on my left foot. I then tested my legs and my right leg seems to be slightly shorter than my left. I am just wondering what you think?

Reply - Coach Janet

Perhaps you'd consider transitioning off the track and doing some/most of your running on more varied terrain?  Always running in circles tends to lead to overuse issues and asymmetries and it sounds like you're describing just that! Leg length discrepancies come in two general forms: structural - the bones of one leg are physically shorter than the same bones on the other leg, and functional - one leg "appears" shorter but it's due to asymmetry in the spine or in muscle strength/flexibility.  The way you describe your hip pain and your history of running 20 miles a week in circles on a track for 10 years makes me think that perhaps you've become imbalanced in your back or imbalanced in your muscle strength/flexibility.  Perhaps a visit with a practitioner who can fully evaluate your spine and biomechanics would shed some light.  At the very least, you'd probably be wise to seek out a place to train other than on a track.  Hope ths helps - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 23rd, 2015

How to break through a training plateau - Ian

As you might remember I've been on here before. Since my last question I've done some research on my running. Unfortunately I've come to the conclusion that I've met a plateau. Over the past two months I've been in this plateau and haven't just stop progressing, but have gotten worse. I was at a point were I could run a 5k in 22:00 minutes. Now I'm lucky if I can run more two miles at a 8 min Mille pace. How can I break this plateau? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Training plateaus are not uncommon but the fact that you feel you've actually lost some progress may point to something worse - overtraining syndrome perhaps?  Improving your performance as a runner entails a balance of overload (to stimulate physiological change) and recovery (to allow the body to accomplish the change you've asked for).  If you've been hammering hard on the overload part (adding miles, working hard on speed, doing hills, etc) but haven't allowed your body adequate recovery time then you're simply breaking yourself down.  Look back at the training you've done in the recent 3-4 months and make sure you're giving your body the right balance.  If you're running all your runs at/near target race pace - that's a common error and easily fixed with a bit of discipline.  Since you've only been running since March (according to your previous post) perhaps you're still trying to run hard on every run?  Remember training is a balance!  Perhaps some guided coaching would help you reach the next level? Hope this is food for thought.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 16th, 2015

Legs fatigue on obstacle races - Marie

Hi, I've done a few long distance endurance obstacle courses. I set out strong and capable then about half way through I start to get severe pain in my knees and legs they then start to seize and I am unable to run downhill even running at all leaves me in severe pain. Someone mentioned glucose levels or something? What do you think? Kind regards

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know for sure what's the issue but here are some things to consider:  How's your overall endurance base?  Do you regularly run long runs that are longer than the race distance?  Do you do specific strength work for your legs, hips and core? Do you train on terrain that's similar to what you expect on race day? Certainly fueling properly may be part of it - do you practice your fueling and hydration strategies during training?  Hope this is some food for thought - let me know if I can be of help.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 16th, 2015

Training for first half marathon - Sara

I have been running about 12 miles a week for the past 5 years and just recently decided to start training for my first half marathon. I'm use to running 4 to 6 miles during a normal run so my first long run I started with 6 and I am currently at 10. Over the past couple weeks I started experiencing soreness throughout my legs (pretty much evenly distributed over the length of each of my legs). Prior to that I had run a 10 mile run three weeks in a row and have been averaging 20 miles per week. The soreness and pain in my legs is now present after my shorter runs during the week and is more consistent. When I took a couple day break the pain came back after a five mile run. Is this something I need to consult a doctor about or will the issue be solved by cutting back miles and increasing more gradually with more stretching and cross-training thrown in? Thanks

Reply - Coach Janet

Building mileage for a distance like the half marathon will take time, so perhaps you ramped up a tad too quickly?  The fact that you had been running for several years before taking on this challenge is a good thing - but you still have to ramp up gradually.  The thing that stands out to me in your description is that a 10 mile long run is 50% of your total weekly mileage of 15 miles a week. That's a very high percentage.  You might look over your training plan and evaluate how you can bring your mid week mileage up a bit to support that long run.  Also have you been consistently doing strength training?  Are you running your training runs at the proper pace (hint - not at/near race pace).  Are you being consistent with flexibility exercises?  There are a lot of things to address to insure a successful outcome - let me know if I can help.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Sunday Jan 4th, 2015

Tired legs on shorter runs - Ian

Hello. I've been running since March of this year. I've gotten much better, being able to go from not being able to run a mile, to running 6.7 miles! But my problem is with shorter faster runs. Like a 5k. Most days when I run (I run every other day) I can only run 1.5 to 2.2 miles, when I want to run 3. I have run three before but it seems I can only do this every now and then. Especially at a 7-30 to 8 min mile pace. It's always my legs that get tired and make me stop. What do you think my problem is?

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know exactly what the problem is, but my first suspicion is that you're trying to run your shorter runs at/near your race pace rather than at an appropriate training pace.  If you've run a 5k race - you have a known data point you can estimate from to determine what your proper training paces should be.  If you can run over 6 miles at a time but struggle on the shorter runs, perhaps it's because you're running them too fast?  Hope this helps.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday, Jan 2nd 2015

Multiple running injuries - Jas

I'm a bit frustrated at this point, and hope you can possibly shed some light on what I may be doing wrong. Over the past 3 years, I've had a stream of minor running issues - can't even really call them injuries. Hip pain, knee pain, piriformis syndrome...I've been to a PT, identified some weaknesses, and according to the PT, have corrected them and continue my maintenance exercises. I've had a detailed gait analysis, where nothing concerning was identified. I run in the appropriate shoes, don't make drastic increases in training intensity or volume, and train mostly by feel to really listen to my body. I've been running for almost 20 years, so I'm not a new runner. It seems like I'm doing everything right, yet I can't seem to shake these recurring pains. In your opinion, am I missing something? 

Reply - Coach Janet

It sounds like you're covering your bases pretty well but the missing piece that I'm not sure of is your training -- pacing, terrain, intensity, etc.  It may also be that some of the exercises you're doing for maintenance are too easy for you now and perhaps you're ready for a progression?  I'd be happy to help you work through this -- if you're interested, drop me an email to janet at runningstrong dot com.  

Friday, Dec 19th 2014

Resuming training after an ankle fracture - Jean

How would you approach training for a track & field event in August 2015 after a fractured ankle? Injured early October 2014, currently in physical therapy 2 x week to strengthen and regain mobility. Elite level masters runner.

Reply - Coach Janet

First step is to get the mobility and strength back - not only in the ankle but in the entire foot/ankle complex.  Often after an ankle fracture, the immobilization that's needed to heal the broken bone tends to result in lost mobility in other joints of the foot and this can affect biomechanics of running -- especially sprinting or jumping! Work closely with your PT and make sure that your mobility and strength are maximized.  It's also important to work on regaining balance and proprioception as these neuromotor functions are critical to insuring ideal biomechanics.  If your strength/mobility/proprioception are not balanced between your two legs it sets the stage for a compensatory injury above (think knee, hip, low back).  When you're cleared to resume some running - work at easy paces first and rebuild your tissue stamina, then when you've established your base you can ease back into the higher intensity stuff.  All of this is relative -- to the event you're training for and to the type of fracture you had!   Hopefully you'll be back on track (literally) soon! Good luck.  It's a process and you can't skip stages -- be patient and diligent with the exercises and get your body back to balance -- you'll save yourself a lot of future grief if you do that.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Tuesday, Dec 2 2014

10k performance not improving as expected - Mary

Dear Coach,
I would like to have an advice or opinion on the following "problem" - I have been running for several years and last year I decided to find out how quick I could get in 10K distance. Training on my own, I managed to improve my 10K time from 50min down to 42:40 just in 3 months! After that, I was invited to a local running club and started to train by schedule created by a running coach. Now, after 1 year of training, I have improved my 10K time just by 7 seconds... I don't know am I just being impatient or am I doing something wrong. After reading lots of information about running and training plans, the plan created by my coach seems quite correct - I am doing easy runs, long runs, interval training each week and a tempo run every other week. I am running 150-200 km each month, 30-70km each week (depending on race schedule). Adittionally 1-2 times per week I am doing strength training. My times for shorter distances have improved during this 1 year (1000m from 3:38 to 3:28, 3000m from 11:46 to 11:03, 5000m from 20:57 to 19:01 (on track)), but the 10K results are not improving. My aim was to run 10K in ~40 minutes this year, but it looks like it will not happen. What could be the reason why I have stopped progressing? I have had no injuries whatsoever, I have a healthy diet and lifestyle and following the coache's plan very accurately.
Is it normal that last year I managed to drop my 10K time from 50min to 42:40 in 3 month, but now it's been a whole year of training and no improvement? Thanks very much in advance.

Reply - Coach Janet

Your 15% improvement in 10k time from 50 min to 42:40 in just 3 short months is quite remarkable.  Improvements in performance are rarely linear though, and subsequent improvements are much harder to come by as you've found out.  When I look at the data you provided, your 3k and 5k times line up nicely and both predict a faster 10k - something in the 39:42 range is possible.  Since your 3k and 5k times line up pretty well, but your 10k seems to be falling off, this usually makes me look into issues related to endurance and stamina. In other words you don't appear to have the endurance base to sustain a comparable effort in the 10k. Usually the best way to address this is to work on long run and total weekly  mileage for a bit, then return to the intensity stuff and fill in the missing pieces there.  Your total weekly distance of 30-70km per week might be a little conservative on the lower end - perhaps keeping it in the 55 to 70km range would help?  At the upper end of that, you'd be doing long runs of about 21-23 km.  Some athletes tolerate high mileage better than others, so it's hard to say what's right for you without knowing more about you - but that's some food for thought.  Also important is making sure that you respect the purpose of each workout and run the paces that are appropriate for the workout.  I think you have a faster 10k in you -- no doubt there -- just need to address your missing links!  Once your mileage is well established at higher levels (55-70km or more), you should be able to tolerate more aggressive intensity workouts like progression runs, longer pace runs, and sustained segments at/above threshold.   If you ever decide to try a different coach - get in touch with me, I think you definitely have unrealized potential!  Best of luck to you.  Hope this has given you some food for thought.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Monday, Nov 10 2014

Avoiding injury with treadmill training - Janet

Hi Coach,
Do you have any suggestions for minimizing the risk of injuries from treadmill running during the winter? I live in a part of the country where running outside, regardless of the quality of my apparel, isn't safe for weeks at a time during the winter months. I don't want to go for weeks at a time without running, but I also don't want to experience the usual injuries I seem to get from a lot of winter treadmill time.

Reply - Coach Janet - Really the best thing is to think about what you do with your normal running outdoors and try to mimic that as well as possible during the runs on the treadmill.  If you usually run a fairly flat course most days and do hills once a week, then that is a good place to start with the treadmill.  I generally do NOT like to encourage people to put the treadmill on an incline and leave it there to "make it more like outdoor running" - because it really doesn't make it more like outdoor running and it places additional loads on your legs and back that may not be well tolerated.  It's fine to put the incline up -- but don't leave it there.  You wouldn't walk out the door and look for the longest uphill you could find and say "I'll go that way!" -- you'd look for a course that had some inclines and some flat stuff.   Similarly, pacing on the treadmill should be similar to what you do over land.  You may be able to tweak the pace up very slightly since you're not having to cut a path through the air (you're running in place, remember?) but don't go overboard with it.  If you use a HR monitor you may be able to get a sense of pacing/effort by trying to run at a similar HR to what you usually have with your outdoor running.  Hope this helps - feel free to reach out via email if this didn't answer your question!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meniscal Regneration - James

Hi Janet, I am wondering if you knew much about regenerative medicine being used to treat meniscus tears. I tore mine six months ago and haven't run since but I can bike. I was unaware of the seriousness of the injury and though it was a mcl tear. Anyhow I am having surgery to remove a portion of my medial meniscus. I'm worried that this is the end my running career or at least it will compromise the level of intensity at which I can run and hasten the onset of osteoarthritis? Do you think that this type of injury will be 100 fixable with the advent of stemcell technologies? Example growing a new meniscus inside the knee? Thanks James

Reply - Coach Janet - I know there are a lot of researchers working on this but I don't know the status of the procedure at this point.  There are many runners who are able to return to running after menisectomy - it sort of depends on how much had to be removed. The best thing you can do is be diligent with your rehabilitation, get your hips and core as strong as you can since that helps alleviate some loads on the knee.  As you return to activity post-op, work your way through a walking program before you transition carefully back into running and make sure the paces you're runnig are appropriate.  Listen to your body - make your progressions very gradual.  Talk to your surgeon about getting a referral for some post-op Physical Therapy to make sure you get started off on the right foot.  Hopefully the amount of meniscus removed is small, your strength and flexibility are optimum and you're back running before too long.  

Thursday June 8, 2017

When is it safe to resume speed training after a grade 2 calf strain? - Cristabel

Hi there. I have grade 2 calf strain and I took 5 weeks off from running. I eased back to running slowly and on the 7th week, I added a bit of speed but then my pain came back. I was thinking of not resting this time, but continue all my running in LSD speed. It doesn't hurt if I run slowly. I was wondering when would I know if I can run fast again? I read some said it took 6-12 months for full recovery. I've started using compression calf sleeve as well for protection and recovery.

Reply - Coach Janet

A grade 2 calf strain is not a small thing and taking several weeks off running was the smart choice.  Tissue repair takes time!  If I understand your timeline right, you were 7 weeks post injury and only 2 weeks into your return to running when you resumed speed training?  I would encourage you to step back and really take your time and rebuild your base before you venture into higher intensity stuff like speed intervals or hills.  Compression sleeves are fine, but the most important thing is that you rehabilitate the muscle and tendon and that may take some focused eccentric training to really stimulate the needed collagen regeneration.  Hopefully you’ve seen a PT who has taught you some exercise?  If not, you may want to schedule a couple of visits and get some guidance.  As for when will you know you’re ready…. I would say that when your total weekly mileage is back up to where it was before your injury, and you’ve been successfully painfree at that distance for a couple of weeks, you can introduce some low-key fartlek style workouts once a week.  For these you simply warm up a bit (1-2 miles) then shift into a routine of running perhaps 10k to half marathon pace for 1 minute and then back to easy effort for 3-4 minutes.  Alternate like that for some distance (1-2 miles?) and then complete the workout with easy effort.  When you’ve been successful with that workout on several occasions you can be much more confident in gradually transitioning to more structured intervals at higher intensity (track work at 5k pace?).  Good luck, let me know if I can be of assistance to you.   Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA certified.

Monday June 5, 2017

Marathon Performance doesn't match 10k and half marathon prediction - Grant

The pace for my best 10km (4:12 min/km) and half marathon (4:24 min/km) are expectedly close but my best marathon time (5:36 min/km) is significantly slower. I am training up to 100km per week and 80% of that is at about a 5:15 to 5:30 min/km pace. I am targeting a time of 3:30 which given my 10km/1/2 Marathon times should be easily achievable. What am I doing wrong with my training? should I do more of my distance at or faster than marathon pace? Some background info: I am 53 years old and have been training for the last 5 years... the first 3 I focused more on trail ultramarathons.

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a lot of things that go into a race performance; endurance, terrain, weather, running economy… you’ve done a good job of building endurance over the years with your previous ultramarathon training, and your race performances for 10k and half marathon line up pretty well to support that you have the endurance to race those distances well. Doing a 3:30 marathon should be within your capability but perhaps the missing link in your case is to build your “speed endurance”?  In other words,  in addition to doing your usual training at the proper pace (BTW your 5:15 to 5:30/km is correct easy training pace in my opinion) you might benefit from substituting in a couple of “intensity” workouts each week.  Perhaps one could be focused on some short/fast interval work (track workout) and the other could be focused on sustaining marathon race pace on the road for gradually increasing distances.  The amount of speedwork you can tolerate is directly proportional to the total weekly distance you’re running.  I usually like to keep the high intensity speedwork (5k to 8k pace) to no more than about 7% of total weekly distance and the moderate intensity stuff (10k to HM pace) to perhaps no more than 15%.  You can get away with a little more volume if the intensity is MP rather than 10k to HMP.  It’s also important to make a transition into this type of intensity training gradually and monitor your body to make sure you’re not pushing too hard.   I don’t like to add in speed work until weekly distance is up above 40-45 km/week.  Ultimately to achieve your marathon potential you will likely want to get your weekly distance up to at least 70-90 km/week.  Most of that obviously will be at your usual easy pace but with the addition of some intensity work you should see your speed endurance (ability to hold a race pace) improve.  I’d be happy to help with specifics – feel free to email if you have questions.  My coaching services can be seen here.  Best regards and good luck with training! Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified.

Sunday May 28, 2017 

10k times don't match predicted performance - Kay

When I enter my 5k times into race calculators, they show that I should be able to run longer distance races, i.e. 10k, half marathon, quite a bit faster than what I usually can. Is there something I should focus on in my training to help me close the gap?

Reply - Coach Janet

In my experience the biggest issue is usually lack of adequate endurance base (weekly miles) to support the longer race distance.  You can complete a 10k on as little as 15-18 miles a week but you won't race to your potential.  If you get your weekly mileage up to 30 miles a week with a long run of 10 you'll likely see a dramatic improvement in your race performance. Pace calculators are based on the assumption that you have the required endurance base to RACE the distance at an "all-out" relative pace compared to the race data you put in for the other distance.  If your mileage base is low, you may not have the needed endurance.  Hope this helps - if you have more questions, don't hesitate to reach out.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified.

Monday May 15, 2017

Training on Hills - Csaba

I have a question about HR while doing long slow runs (60-70% maxHR) and/or training in the aerobic zone (70-80% maxHR) on hills. I'm a trail runner and have lots of smaller hills where I live, having 2-5%, or even 10% elevation. My hometown hardly has 1-2kms of flat, 0 elevation roads. Could you please tell me, whether I should change the HR zones or not? Are the 60-70-80% values still correct during up- and downhill runs? many thanks!

ps.: I'm new to running, having a 45min 10k PR on a flat surface.

Reply - Coach Janet

Training on hills and hilly trails is a terrific way to build strength as a runner and as a new runner it’s a great way to build in some intensity into your workout without doing too much.  Training by HR is a fine way to insure that you keep to reasonable paces and optimize your training without undue injury risk.  Even without the HR monitor you can benefit from tuning in to your perceived effort on the hills.  Here’s how I like to have athletes run hills:  First we start with what I’ll call the “even effort” strategy.  For this one, your goal is to run up the hill at the same perceived effort as what you were doing on level ground.  If you monitor HR – your goal would be to keep your HR pretty much the same as you go up the hill.  In order to accomplish this you’ll simply allow your speed to slow slightly as you run up the hill.  Then at the top, carry your same effort up and over and then down the other side – in order to do that… you’ll have to speed up just a little to keep the same effort.   For this even effort strategy the goal is to keep the HR consistent with what you had on level ground and the pace will vary. 

When that gets easy and you’ve got that strategy learned, then you can switch to an “even pace” strategy. For this one you try to maintain the same speed as you go up the hill, and you’ll notice that your HR climbs as a result of that extra effort.  If the hill is not too steep, this strategy can be used later in a race.   You might find this article on hill training helpful.   The trick on hill training is that the downhill is just as important as the uphill portion.  Don’t ride the brakes on the downhill… get in the habit of a light/quick cadence and trying to land light on your feet. Good luck, let me know if I can be of assistance - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified coach                          

Tuesday May 9th, 2017

Getting back to speed after a hamstring strain - Jeremy

Pulled my Hamstring running a 200 in the meat of our track season. have been resting for the past 3 weeks. Wanting to be back to my top speed in 2 weeks for sectionals for another chance at state. how can i work back up to my top speed and endurance after missing such a huge chunk of key workouts?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hamstring pulls can be minor or they can be a real pain the butt to resolve.  The issue is how badly was it strained,  and have you addressed the underlying cause for that strain (typically related to weak glutes but also sometimes tight hip flexors and calves can play into the mix).  Missing a chunk of training for 3 weeks has certainly resulted in some loss of fitness but if you’re able to train now with no symptoms you can probably resume some more focused speedwork to tune you up. The deal is – you can’t just bludgeon your body and expect to be successful.  If you still have symptoms, you have to accept the fact that the strain was more significant than you realized and just shut it down.  You’ll never be successful by ignoring the signs/symptoms from your body.   If you can run easy pace symptom free, try a few pickups to race pace and you’ll know if you’re ready for more focused speedwork. 

Bummer about the injury but sometimes this stuff happens and sometimes it means that you don’t get to run the races you were hoping for. Best of luck with your comeback. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified. 

Monday - May 1st, 2017

What to do about a hamstring injury with 3-weeks to go for a marathon - Stephen

While completing speed work during a track workout last week I felt a slight pain in my hamstring. I took 2 days off with ice then ran a half marathon at a very easy pace. 12.5 miles were fine then a sharp pain developed suddenly the last half mile. The onsite sports chiropractor suggested it was a slight sprain in my lower hamstring. I have been training 5 months to set a new marathon PR in 3 weeks. What should I do over the next 3 weeks to maintain fitness while allowing my hamstring to heal so that I can actually complete the marathon in a decent time? Should I take 3 weeks with no exercise at all, or just 1 week followed by easy running with stretching and rolling? Thanks for any advice you can give! Stephen

Reply - Coach Janet

Hamstring strains can be tricky.  Sometimes it’s not a hamstring issue at all, but instead a referred symptom from your lower back or sacro-iliac joint.  It would be good to get this evaluated by a PT, hopefully one that specializes in lower back dysfunction.  With only 3 weeks go to, the timing is a little tricky.  You don’t want to just rest completely for that time span because you’ll lose a bit of fitness but you also don’t want to try to force training and make things worse.  My thought would be to take 4-5 days off running,  then test the leg with a short/easy run and if that works well, you can step back into the taper phase and move forward from there.  The majority of your training is behind you at this point so the key element of taper is to get rested and recovered from the hard training, and still maintain a moderate volume of training at race-pace so that you don’t lose your sharpness. Be gentle with your stretching and rolling – you can’t beat this into submission… You may be able to maintain a little aerobic conditioning with some pool work – swimming and deep water running may allow you to fire that hamstring without being in a weight bearing position – you’ll just have to see how you tolerate it. Good luck!  Hopefully you can get in to a PT to see if there’s something going on in your lower back that brought this on.  Hopefully a few days rest and you’ll be back to normal! If I can be of assistance in helping you find a PT in your area that has the needed skill set let me know – feel free to reach out via email.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified

Monday April 24th, 2017

Getting back to previous 5k performance - Maria

I'm a 47 year old runner who used to run fast. Nine years ago, I could run around a 7:30 pace for a 5k, however, today I can barely break 10 minutes per mile. I had a few breaks from running in my early 40s, but in the last few years, I've increased my endurance as I ran a half marathon for the first time and subsequently completed two more half marathons. My pace was terrible, though. I've never had any injuries or major medical problems. What can I do to get back to a pace I consider respectable? I'd love to be running sub 8-minute miles again. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

It’s hard to say exactly what your potential might be without knowing a lot more about you. The best performances in any given race distance are usually seen when you have a broad base of mileage that you can then use to build speed through specific forms of higher intensity training (hills, intervals, etc).  It sounds like you built your endurance base for the half marathon distance and perhaps now it’s time to shift gears and work on legspeed a little?  It is important to respect that training load though and not just go out on every run with a “harder/faster” mindset.  Easy paces still form the bulk of training and the higher intensity stuff should be introduced gradually and systematically to insure you don’t get injured in the process. Start with short intervals (100-400m) and work first on intermediate intensity stuff (10k pace) then gradually work into higher intensity (5k pace) and start tweaking the work to recovery ratios.  Eventually you could potentially work up to two speedwork sessions a week but that would depend on your mileage base.  I’d be happy to help with this – it sounds like we’d be starting from a good strong base!  Touch base via email if I can be of assistance.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified. 

Sunday April 23rd, 2017

Struggling to achieve 5k time - Lynda

I'm a 57 year old woman who enjoys running 5k's. I've been running them for several years. My best time is around 27 min. My goal pace is to run a consistent 8:30 pace. My workouts are one long run per week ( considered 8 miles) one track workout per week....lately I've been doing 1000 meter repeats with a walking rest in between, a 3 mile hilly workout, and the other workout is usually a conversational 5-6 mile. I usually do 2 strength workouts per week on non running days, and a rest day. My problem is my times are not improving....they're getting worse! For example, I ran a race yesterday that one year ago I ran a 28.00 and yesterday same course/same race I ran a 29:27. Ugh! Am I overtraining and just trying to do too much for my age.....or is my training plan lacking. Thanks for your help!

Reply - Coach Janet

PR’s get harder to come by with every passing year.  Not just because of the natural aging process but because with the ongoing training you’re closer and closer to your genetic “ceiling”.  That’s not to say that you can’t still achieve your goal – just that it may take a bit more finesse to do it.  It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right – but it’s hard to know without digging in to a lot of details that I can’t get from your post. Things like training paces on easy runs, training paces on long runs, what your hill work consists of, what type of interval workouts you’ve done recently – each of these specific workouts requires a specific focus in terms of pace.  Another thing to consider when you compare performances between races – were the environmental conditions similar?  Temperature affects performance so if the weather was a little warmer or more humid or perhaps windier than the previous year that may have played into things. Also look into things like sleep patterns and “life stress” – sometimes that stuff can mess up a race performance.   I’d be happy to help you work toward your goal with some specific guidance – if you’re interested, just reach out via email! 

One thing I can say for certain – at 57, you can still train hard and turn in strong performances, we just need to figure out what’s holding you back. Hope this is food for thought. Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified

Sunday April 23rd, 2017

Cadence vs. Pace - Joshua

I am training for my first half marathon. I had a knee injury that I recovered from after 5 months of PT last year. My therapist recommended a faster cadence 175-180 to eliminate my running inefficiencies. I have eliminated the knee pain, but now my trouble is how to balance aerobic training to build my base. When I try and keep that cadence I reach my max heart on long runs. Any advise?

Reply - Coach Janet

Cadence vs pace – a good question!  Here’s the thing to keep in mind:  your speed over ground is the product of your cadence and your stride length.  Your stride length is determined by: how hard did you push off? The amount of ground you cover in flight phase from pushoff to landing is the result of how much effort you put into that launch.  So… a nice quick cadence is good – it keeps your legs “under you” so that loading patterns are better.  BUT, if you’re combining the “quickness” of your cadence with an increase in effort in pushoff – you’ll quickly reach your max HR.  So – relax… keep that quick cadence but consciously tell yourself to push off with a little less force.  One fun drill to try is to get on a treadmill and set it for the easy pace you’re supposed to maintain and get that cadence dialed in using a metronome or some other audible feedback like music of the correct beat frequency.  Then after you’re warmed up… speed up the TM to 5k pace and keep that cadence…. Notice how you managed to do that?  You just pushed off a little harder and bingo, you speed up but your cadence didn’t change.  Now go back to the easy pace and keep the cadence… notice how you managed to do that… you just relaxed your effort on push off and bingo, you eased the pace.  Hope this helps?  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Best regards and GOOD LUCK on that first half marathon!   Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach

Saturday April 22nd, 2017

Overcoming medial shin splints - Jessica

I'm a 31yo woman, overweight, new to running. Well, I ran cross-country and track in HS, but that was a long time ago! I've been trying to start slowly, doing intervals of jogging/walking (2 min each) for about 45 minutes, twice a week. I walk to warm up, stretch, and stretch again after. I am on a combination of asphalt paths and the dirt/grass shoulder of paths. Nevertheless, I get medial shinsplints starting after the 2nd or 3rd time out. I'll wait days or weeks until they resolve, try to start jogging again, and they come right back. I don't know what to do! I take ibuprofen after a jog, use ice daily, stretch even on days I don't jog. How can I ever get past this to running regularly? Any advice is appreciated.

Reply - Coach Janet

First off - congratulations on getting yourself back into running! You may think you're starting slowly with a 2 min run / 2 min walk routine but in reality that might be a bit aggressive to start.  I generally start people on the walk to run transition with a much more forgiving ratio - perhaps 1 minute running and 3-4 minutes walking.  On the days they're not doing the run/walk thing, they walk.  The issue with medial shin splints is often due to tight calves and weak hips, along with shoes that aren't supporting your foot the way it needs.  So -- make sure you're wearing running shoes (go to a running shoe store and have them help you choose a pair that supports your particular gait pattern).  Stretch your calves 2-4 times a day (gently!) even on days you don't run.  Try to avoid the anti-inflammatory drugs as some studies have shown that they interfere with the process of adaptation in the tissues... in other words you send a signal to your tissues to "get stronger" when you push your limits a little (walk or run a bit more than you're used to) and the drugs interfere with some of the processes your tissues need to go through to actually get stronger and respond to that signal.  I'd be happy to help you through this process and get you back to running again -- if you're interested, check out the services page of this website or just drop me an email - janet at runningstrong.com.   Hope this helps - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach

Thursday April 13th, 2017

Learning to pace properly in the marathon - Vincent

Last year I ran my first Marathon, the hilly Pittsburgh Marathon. I accomplished it using the Hal Higdon Novice-1 training plan. Before that, my longest race was a 10 miler, and my longest training run was 4 miles. I completed the Marathon in about 4:11 which was slower than my goal, but I did complete! :D A big problem was that I lost the 3:50 pacer around the 13th mile and looking at my chart in Run Keeper, my pace is all over the place once that happened. 
I would love to get to a BQ someday, but this year my work schedule prevented a lot of winter running that I really needed. I am playing catch up still. I hope this May to break 4 hours, but currently struggling with even my 20 mile runs.
My question is - Assuming I loose the pacer again this year, how do I learn to keep pace myself? 10+ years of running shorter races has not helped me to get there. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

Congrats on completing your first marathon! First marathons are usually a “learning” process --  you learn what it takes to train for that kind of a distance and what it takes on race day to execute your plan. Each time you train up for, and then complete, a marathon you’re building on a foundation of fitness that keeps getting bigger and broader and better able to support your race goal. With your goal of a “sub-4 hour” marathon I’d advise you to NOT try to run with the 3:50 pacer but instead, run with a 4:00 pacer and then as the race unfolds and you get to the final 10k – if all is feeling good you can gently loosen your reins and let yourself slide on out in front of the pacer. This way you won’t be going out too fast (3:50 pace) in the beginning and then fall apart in the last 10k. Now – as for how to learn to lock into a pace – that happens during specific training runs that are called “PACE” runs. On these runs you practice running the EXACT pace you plan to maintain in training. The goal is to learn exactly what that “feels like” so that you can lock in that effort +/- 5-10 seconds on any given mile. Obviously this depends on the course profile. You mention you’re “playing catch up” because of low mileage over the past months. I’ll remind you that a marathon is not a test you can “cram” for . If you want to do well, you have to put in the work and build your base so that on race day you have the endurance needed to RACE the distance (not just complete it).  I’ll be happy to help with this – feel free to reach out to me via email (janet at runningstrong.com) if you want some guidance. Best regards and good luck in the upcoming marathon!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach

Wednesday April 5th, 2017

Racing the 3000m more than once a week - Job

I run the 800 and 3000 for my high school track and field team. I am one of the top 2 long distance runners in my school (I also run 5k in xc). I use the 800 as a warm up for the 3000, I don't run it at 100% and don't really care about my time. I save myself for the 3000, which is my favorite. My track coach will not let me compete in the 3000 twice in a week if we have 2 track meets in a week. I don't understand why and they don't explain why. Some of the other kids run 400, 800, 1500, and 4x400 in the same meet, which is the same distance as 3000 and they are allowed to run all those more than once a week. I told the coach I would stop running the 800 but she said that wouldn't matter, she just doesn't want me to run 3000 twice in a week. I'm frustrated and just want to run the 3000. I'm not even tired after the race. I could run it everyday, which I almost do working out. I have PE in school and sometimes run 2miles while everyone else runs one. I just don't understand and would like some advise on how to approach my coach with my frustrations. Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Job, it's hard to know exactly what your coach's reasoning is but I would encourage you to assume that she has YOUR best interests in mind as she makes these decisions.  Running a 3k is a different load/demand than running sprints like the 400 or even 800.  She might be deciding this based on things like your age/skeletal maturity level, or perhaps a previous injury history, or even deciding it based on having bigger goals in mind for you.  I think it's worthwhile to sit down and have a frank and open discussion with her to ask her respectfully to help you understand.  Elite athletes choose their races carefully and train with a long-range mindset, you'd be wise to adopt that same attitude since you're clearly gifted. You probably have many years of running success in front of you and the best way to achieve that is to train and race with a focus on the longer term horizon... what will develop me the most for my future goals?  Ask to schedule a time to talk when neither of you is in a hurry - then go into that meeting with an open mind.  Present your concerns just as you have here, and then really LISTEN to her response.  My guess is she's thought this out and has your best interests at heart.  Best of luck in your future!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Saturday March 25th, 2017

Running a firt 5k - Justin

I'm a 39 year old male, thinking about trying some 5k races. I've been running since I was little, but have never tried any races. I like 3 mile runs, and can accomplish it in 28 minutes and 11 seconds. I would like to know how I would do if I was actually competing. I don't want to try if I would be at the back of the pack, if you know what I mean.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Justin - rest assured that if you're regularly running 3 miles in that time you wont be dead last in your 5k! Go, have fun with it and find out how fun it is to run in a crowd. If you want to do a little "preparation" - build your stamina a little by making one of your weekly runs a little longer than the target race distance - but do it at a very easy conversational pace.  On another run, you can incorporate some faster paced running.  You would start with short intervals of faster pace (perhaps quarter mile repeats) separated by recovery intervals.  This will give you the feel for slightly faster running.  On a third run you might start to do a few gentle hills to work on leg strength.  Mostly I'll just tell you to go and have some fun and see what you've got.  Sounds like you could easily go do this based on your current fitness.  If you find you like it and want to get better... hire a coach to help you with specific training guidance so you can achieve your best.  Good luck - let me know if I can be of assistance.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach. 

Tuesday March 14th, 2017

Can you excel at the 5k while training for a half marathon - Jan

I've registered for several half marathons in the coming months, as this is my favorite race distance. However, I really want to work on bringing my 5k time down over the summer. My long runs are usually in the 10 mile range, sometimes longer, so I know I'll be able to cover the distance comfortably in the halves. If my 1-2 weekly workouts are 5k based, is it reasonable to think I can run well for both distances?

Reply - Coach Janet

Nothing builds success like a nice big foundation of fitness!  With consistent long runs in the 10+ range you've built a nice foundation of stamina that also allows you to tolerate a higher dose of high-intensity speedwork.  However... your statement that you only run 1-2 times per week in addition to that long run means that your total weekly mileage is probably still pretty low.  You can probably tolerate up to 7% of your total weekly  mileage at "high intensity pace" (5k to 3k race pace) so if your total weekly mileage is 35-45 miles per week (a good starting point for a successful half marathon) then you could schedule up to 2.5 to 3.25 miles of intervals at 5k pace or faster and be pretty safe in knowing your injury risk from that higher intensity workout was relatively low.  If your total weekly  mileage is lower than 35 miles a week, I think your first order of business to improve your success at both race distances is to build your mid week runs -- perhaps trying to work your way up to running 4 times a week.  I'll be happy to help you with this, I've had athletes achieve PR's in both distances in the course of training for a half marathon or series of half marathons.   If you want to race your half marathons well - pick them carefully and allow yourself time to sharpen, taper, race and recover.  Racing too frequently doesn't allow for that and your performance won't be as good as it could be.  If your target is really the 5k and the half marthons are more for "fun" then the taper and recovery periods for that distance is much shorter and you can get away with racing more frequently.    Hope this helps -- good luck!  Done correctly, you can absolutely run well at both distances!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday March 7th, 2017

Questions about Marathon training plan - Pranav

I have a marathon training plan from Nike and I am confused by the arrangement of the long runs every week. After a 14 mi comfortable long run in week 5, they want me to do a 16 mi long run in week 6 where I push to maintain my pace, followed by a 14 mi run in week 7 at an easy pace. I don't get this. If the 16 mi run is the longest ever run undertaken till week 6, why do I need to push? Also, if I am reducing back to 14 mi in week 7, what is the point of running the week 7 long run of 14 mi easily as I would have already pushed through 16 mi in the week before?

Reply - Coach Janet

This is one of the reasons that I don't like "canned" training plans.  They can't take into account your unique variables: your fitness when you started, your experience with the race distance, your injury history, etc.  It is not out of the question to do alternating up-and-back long runs with one week being a progression and the next being a step back for recovery.  It is not out of the question to do a race pace specific segment in the midst of a long run... HOWEVER - that is a more advanced form of training and should NOT be done by an individual doing the distance for the first time!  If you've done dozens of marathons and you're consistently logging 50-70 miles a week, then you're likely easily able to perform a RP segment in the midst of a 16 mile run.  If on the other hand you're new to distances like this and 16 is the longest you've ever run -- you have no business whatsoever doing any of it at a pace other than "easy/conversational".  Build the infrastructure first, then polish the speed.  If this is your first marathon, perhaps using a coach to design a specific plan that takes into account your unique strengths and weaknesses would be a better approach.  If you want more information feel free to email me directly at "janet at runningstrong.com" .   Hope this helps.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified

Thursday Feb 9th, 2017

Training pace and marathon performance - Tony

Hi Coach, I have run for many years and would consider myself to be a good to above average runner. For example I can comfortably run under 25min for a 5 km, 45min for a 10km and 1hr45min for a 21km. Recently I have decided to take the step up and try my hand at marathon running, as per normal I have taken advice from club members and relaxed my pace completely in the fear of blowing out (to above 6min per km). I have tried my hand at 2 marathons and although I have finished them, I have failed miserably in the execution. So much so that I start suffering (knee and ankle pain and cramping) even before I hit the halfway mark, a distance I would normally easily cover at race time or when doing my long slow distance running sessions. My question is this. Can I actually be running to slowly? Does this then affect my natural running form and overall endurance ability?

Reply - Coach Janet

Based on your half marathon of 1:45 -- I'd predict your marathon performance at around a 3:42-3:50  (5:15-5:25/km)  if all the conditions were right and the course was conducive to a PR.  Most people don't achieve their full potential in their first marathon though.  Using your half marathon as a data point,  I'd predict your easy runs mid week to be in the 5:50-6:00 per km  pace and the long training run (depending on the length) somewhat slower at perhaps 6:30-6:40 for the really long runs.  Marathon success is best built on a strong foundation of lots of training distance -- for a marathon I like to see runners comfortable with weekly distances >40 miles (>65km) per week with at least 3-4 long runs in the 18-20 mile (29-32km) range.  In my experience, those who get pain and cramping during a marathon often lack in strength - and when they crank up the intensity to race pace, they are unable to sustain it for the full distance.  Other things to consider - fluid/electrolyte balance, pre-race meal, did you taper properly?, what was the weather? did you go out too fast in the beginning? Training at an aerobic effort (training paces I mentioned above) usually builds adequate foundation, then adding on some volume of training at race pace or some elements of speedwork and hill work will usually stimulate adaptations in strength and running economy.   Without knowing more about the specifics of what went into your previous marathons it's hard to guess but generally I find that most runners are not guilty of training "too slowly".  Speed over ground is one thing, cadence is another.  If you keep your cadence, your form won't generally be adversely affected by easing your pace. If you'd like some specific help with this, feel free to drop me an email or check out the services page of this website.  Hope this is some food for thought.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach

Monday Jan 17th, 2017

Sore feet in marathon - Robin

Coach, my friend holds you in high regard. She told me to ask you my question. I have ran over76 marathons, I just finished Houston. I ran my worst time then when I started 30 years ago. What happened was I went out to fast. However, I felt great but about 12-13 the balls of my feet started hurting. I started to try and change my gait but by mile 18-19 my feet were killing me. It happened last marathon but not this bad. I thought maybe it was because I didn't train a lot on cement. So this time a did all my long runs on cement. Thank you so much for you time.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Robin, with 76 marathons behind you, you're clearly a veteran of the distance.  Houston had some pretty challenging conditions this year so you shouldn't really beat yourself up about your finish time.  To put it into perspective you might want to read my article on Temperature and Marathon Perfomance. 

Now to your feet...  there are several things you might want to investigate:  shoes - perhaps they were higher mileage than you realized? Activities prior to race day - were you on your feet more than usual or perhaps you've been wearing "dress" shoes more than usual?  We don't think about it much but the footwear we use day to day can make a difference.   Flexibility - sometimes when we train lots of miles per week we start to lose calf muscle flexibility and this can contribute to increased loads on the ball of the foot -- have you been pretty consistent with doing your stretching as you trained up for this marathon? One more thought - perhaps as your pace slowed due to the tough conditions yesterday, you made subtle alterations to your gait pattern and this resulted in increased stress to your feet?   Since it happened on a previous marathon it may not be related to pace but it's worth considering.  Also - have you evaluated whether the shoes you're using are appropriate for the type of gait pattern and training you're doing?   Just some food for thought -- I'll be happy to troubleshoot a little more if you want to reach out to me by email.  Congrats on surviving the steam bath yesterday!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified.   

Tuesday December 13, 2016

How to make the cross country team - Kris

Question for the coach: Currently, my fastest mile time is 5:59, and I run a 10k in about 44 minutes. I'm trying to work towards running in xc in college when I transfer (im in jc right now). I'm a male, so I have to get my time down by about ten minutes in roughly a year. I've been training and it's been going down, but is this do-able? I really want this. Also, trying to get into UC Santa Cruz D3 school. What will it take?

Reply - Coach Janet

Your mile time predicts a 10k in the range of 39:45 to 40:30.  Without knowing what sort of training you’re doing it is hard to know if you can get your 10k down from 44 to 34 – that’s an improvement of 28% which is clearly a high hurdle to clear.  Just improving from your current potential (a 40:00 10k to 34 min would be a net improvement of 17%) is still a huge target. 

Step one is to build your stamina with large volumes of easy paced running.  Mileage in the 60+ miles per week would not be considered over the top for a 10k runner.  Once you have your stamina and endurance built with easy paced running it’s time to work on speed and learning race strategies.  Speedwork is the icing on the cake though – if you focus on that and don’t build your stamina first you’re just asking for an injury. 

As for your question about what will it take to make the team – that’s a question best answered by the cross country coach at the school you want to attend. I’m sure he/she will be happy to talk to you on the phone! 

Good luck.  Build the infrastructure first, then polish the performance. Hope this helps - feel free to contact me if you want coaching help.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified

Monday August 29, 2016

Running a 5k after a fracture - Jimmy

I had a minor fracture in the growth plate in my left ankle in early July. I returned to running this cross country season on August 17, and just did light training. My first 5k is September 10, and even though I have been released to race by my doctor, physical therapist, and my schools trainer, my coach still wants me to wait till 2 weeks after that to race. He even said earlier that I would be in this first race but as I recovered faster and faster he kept pushing it back. What should I do?

Reply - Coach Janet

I am inclined to agree with your coach -- if you just returned to running 12 days ago after a layoff of several weeks, you'd be smart to give your body a little time to get back in the groove of training.  Wouldn't it be better to be a little more prepared before you toe the line? That extra couple of weeks will give you additional time to do some crucial tune up in the form of hills and speedwork as well as working on getting your stamina back.  Wouldn't you rather be more prepared than less prepared?  You'll be more likely to give the type of performance you want.  Pushing yourself too hard too soon will only increase your risk of future stress fractures.  The doc and PT and trainer all say it's OK to race but if your coach feels your performance will be better if he holds you out of this first race - I'd say that's pretty smart.  If you're not sure -- sit down with the coach and be honest about what you're feeling and how you don't understand his/her decision.  Ask them to give you an honest assessment of how you're doing and what they have in mind.  You'll both feel better for clearing the air!  Good luck - whichever race you do.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA certified.  

Saturday August 20, 2016

Battling to get speed back - Judy

I started running in 2008. I've never been a great runner, but got to where I could do a 5K in 31:00. Now, I can barely do it in 44:00! Since 2011, whenever I run, within 30-60 seconds my legs feel like lead, my stride shortens to ridiculously short, and I can barely lift my legs. I still see a neurologist, who has been no help. I've been to many doctors. No answers. I've even started acupuncture. Help!

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know exactly what's going on because I don't have key bits of information. Your age, whether you continued to train consistently since 2008 or had training breaks, what sort of training you've been doing, whether you've gained or lost weight, what paces you use in training, whether you've had injuries, what medications you take, etc.  The fact that doctors have ruled out various conditions and illnesses is good news.  Now we just need to get to the root of the issue.  First things first -- your training should be done at aerobic effort... not race-effort.  I'd love to help but I need a lot more information than you've provided here.  Perhaps you'd be willing to send me a bit more info by email?  If so - send it to janet@runningstrong.com    Hopefully I can be of some assistance once I know more about you.  

Saturday August 20, 2016

Alter-G Treadmill - Brock

Previous question answered, thanks, next question , I have trained this week [Pain free} on the AlterG treadmill, I think this will be a great training tool , what is your thoughts on training 1 or 2 times a week with this anti gravity treadmill once I am back running

Reply Coach Janet

I think that's a great option!  It's another tool in your rehab and training toolbox and if you have access to it that's a real useful option.  I think that any work you do on this should likely be considered "recovery workouts" rather than trying to substitute it in for some of your higher intensity work.  Good news that you were able to get in a pain free workout!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Returning to running after time off - Brock

I had currently been training for cross country season, I have been off for a couple of weeks due to a stress edema, I will probably need another 2 weeks off before training agin, my question is this. .... how many weeks will I need to get back to where I was,17;15 5k

Reply - Coach Janet

How quickly you can resume running is dependant on several factors: how long you were off, how robust was your mileage base at the time you were sidelined, and what was the reason for the time off - these are the primary factors to consider.  With only a few weeks (2-4) off running, if you had a substantial mileage base prior to your injury you should be able to come back fairly easily.  Staying strong and fit with cross training that doesn't irritate your bone injury will help.  Ask your physician which forms of cross training are "OK" for you -- different bone injuries come with different restrictions!  Maintain any/all strength training that you can do, and keep your aerobic fitness with cross training forms that have been OK'd by your doc.  When it's time to come back to running, take it really conservative the first week -- make sure your injury is resolved.  Build your distance the first few weeks, then when you're back up to your previous mileage base, you can start to resume some higher intensity speedwork.  The length of time this takes is hard to predict based on the information you've provided.  Good luck and stay in touch with your cross country coach to insure that you're doing all you can do to recover quickly and get back on your game!  Best of luck with your cross country season -- Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-Certified.

Friday August 12, 2016

Does medication affect running in the heat? - Robin

Thank you for your feedback on the Texas heat. A follow up question. Do you think Levothryroxine and/or Tamoxifen would contribute to any fatigue or dehydration?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Robin, I'm no pharmacologist so keep that in mind. Your best source of info here is your pharmacist and physician.  To my knowledge the condition that Levothyroxine is prescribed for (low thyroid hormone) might contribute to fatigue, but I wouldn't expect the medication to contribute to that.  The info I have lists as possible side effects - increased sweating and sensitivity to heat -- so perhaps there is an issue with it contributing to dehydration?  Is this a new medication for you?  If so - certainly would be worth it to discuss your concerns with your physician.  Listed as rare side effects are things like anxiety, irritability, low energy and sleep disruption -- and if you're experiencing those then perhaps they'd contribute to fatigue.  Tamoxifen -- again the question is -- are the symptoms related to the reason for taking the drug or the drug itself?  If you're taking Tamoxifen I'm assuming you're taking at treatment for breast cancer.  "Feeling weak" is listed as a common side effect of tamoxifen - so perhaps there's a contribution from that drug?  Again -- your physician and pharmacist would be the best sources of information here.   I think talking over the issues with your physician is a vital first step. They should be made aware of exactly what you mean by "running" (they may be thinking you mean running short distances daily for fitness). Tell them about your weekly mileage, the conditions you're running in, the event you're training for... make sure they understand.   If you have time, send me a quick email to let me know what the professionals said -- I'm always interested in learning more!  Best regards - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified

Thursday August 4th, 2016

Losing ground when I take days off - Claire

Hi, I'm 17 and run on a team. I'm having trouble with losing a lot of endurance in short amounts of time. Usually I run 5-6 times a week, at about 3-5 miles each time, with 8:40-9:10 mile splits. But skipping sets me back way more than it does anybody else: if I skip one day, it's not too bad, just a little sluggish. If I skip 2, I really struggle to do an average run. However, if I skip 3 days in a row, it's nearly impossible for me to even reach 2 miles without walking - I'll feel out of breath, even often a little nauseous. Four days? It's terrible. And it takes me at LEAST a week to two weeks to recover. But other runners don't seem to be as affected by skipping days - in fact, in between seasons the coach will even RECOMMEND that we take one week off - but 7 days would take me MONTHS to work back up to normal runs! Why does I lose it so quickly, and is there something I can do to prevent that? Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a couple of thoughts that come to my mind -- first off: how long have you been running and what has your weekly mileage been averaging for the past year or so?  If you're relatively new to running (less than a year) then you're still in the foundation building stage and perhaps others on your team have a longer history of running?  Another thought - are the paces (8:40-9:10) appropriate for you right now?  They should be easy conversational paces if you're in the base building phase.  If you're running too fast you may be short-changing some of the aerobic endurance adaptation you're trying to accomplish.  Also, on the days you don't run - are you doing other forms of aerobic exercise?  If not, perhaps on some (but not all) of your off days you can do something other than run -- bike or swim?  These exercises help stimulate your aerobic system but stress your muscles and skeleton in a different way than running.   Finally - make sure you're eating well and staying hydrated every day and that you get good restorative sleep on a regular basis -- 8 hours a night is a good target.   Talk to your coach about these things and see if their first-hand knowledge of you can help identify any other areas to investigate.  Good luck with your team!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified

Monday August 1, 2016

How to hydrate for a summer marathon - Robin

Quick question Coach about how to properly hydrate during the summer in Texas. I recently had an 18-miler planned and went out for my scheduled run, but at mile 11, I was forced to walk and tonight, I am exhausted. I have a marathon in late August and am concerned as to what to do. Any advice to hydrate and prepare for my marathon this month is very appreciated.

Reply - Coach Janet

Wow - first off... hats off to you for training for a marathon in the summer Texas heat!  You're truly devoted and make no mistake about it, the heat training is vital for your success if you plan to run a marathon later this month.  Hydration, fueling and electrolyte balance all play into your ultimate success.  Staying hydrated between training runs is part of that.  If your urine is pale yellow, you're probably adequately hydrated but if it's dark you're likely dehydrated and you do NOT want to start a run dehydrated!  So - stay well hydrated on a regular basis.  Second - if you've never used electrolyte replacement beverages or tablets you might want to experiment with those for the next couple of weeks to see if they help with your ability to keep fluid/electrolytes in balance on your longer runs.  There are plenty of options available commercially.   Third - running in very warm temperatures tends to burn your glycogen at a faster rate, so you may want to adjust your fueling schedule.  If you fuel every hour on a long run you might experiment with backing that up a little and fueling perhaps every 45-50 minutes.  Finally -- you can't outwit mother nature... you would be wise to adjust pace relative to the heat/humidity!  There's an article HERE on how marathon performance is affected by heat and you can reasonably extrapolate from that data that training paces are also affected by heat!  Slow down a little.    You're doing all you can to prepare for a hot summer marathon -- getting heat acclimated is the best thing you can do! I typically advise athletes I coach to take fluid with them on any run that's expected to last longer than 45 minutes, and to use electrolyte replacment (beverage or tablets) on any run that's expected to last longer than 90 minutes.  If that means carrying your bottle with you or stashing it, or even adjusting your routes to allow for frequent fluid breaks... do what you need to do.  Dehydration saps performance and electrolyte imbalances can be even worse (fatal in the worst case scenario).  Respect the distance AND the heat....  

Good luck in your August marathon!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified

Sunday June 19, 2016 

Trouble improving 5k time - Cate

I'm 16. Nobody in my family, especially me, has ever been good at anything athletic. But a little over a year ago, I started running - first on track, and then cross country starting in the summer. For whatever frustrating reason, I just improve way too slowly. I went from about a 29 minute 5K, to 24:25, but that was over both summer and fall training. I then trained over the winter - 5 to 6 day running weeks, whereas other girls on the team were running four days a week and still doing so much better. I was able to get up to about 4, 4.5 mile runs with 8:10-ish pace, and dropped only a little bit through track. Then, my lack of improvement really hit me hard in a different way: for me, taking only three, two, even one day off affects me horribly. With finals, then a week-long vacation with running every other day, I now struggle to do 2.5 miles at sub 8:45 pace. And I seem to be getting worse. Everywhere I read, it says you can take up to a week off and still be fine . . . but when I took 3 off in a row for finals, I dropped and haven't recovered. Why do I lose my distance and pace like this? Am I the only one? What can I do to get back up to my usual pace/distance before cross country starts, if it took my almost 3 seasons to reach it last year?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Cate - first off I want to congratulate you on the improvemen you have made! I'm no math whiz but that improvement from 29 to 24:25 is about a 17% improvement which is VERY respectable!   Let's look at what you were doing -- you had worked up to doing four 4.5 mile runs at an 8:10 pace.  Why were you running your training runs at 5 mile race pace?  Training and racing are not the same thing.  Training develops the infrastructure that helps you race but if you're hammering out hard workouts 4 times a week you're beating your body up and it can't possible improve.  Overload stimulates the physiological changes you're striving for but it's only during the recovery bouts that your body has the chance to do the hard work of actually making those changes on a cellular level. It'snot that you never run fast in training... you just don't do it every time you go out the door.  To build the aerobic endurance to run fast - you have to build in an aerobic fashion... training in an aerobic zone.  In other words, ease up on most of your training runs, and include one or maybe two runs a week where you focus on some speedwork.  You're burning yourself out in my humble opinion.  Take a deep breath... take a week and do nothing but super-easy, conversational paced running with no "agenda".  See if you can get your body recovered enough so that you can reintroduce some intervals at race pace once a week.  Remember, doing the same distance day after day (and at high intensity like you were doing) never gives you a chance to recover.   Build endurance first (all at easy effort) then introduce the higher intensity stuff in doses that are relative to your weekly mileage.  Too much speedwork too soon and too often will not get you the results you're looking for.  Hope this helps.  You can't win by beating your body up.   Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach. 

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