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 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. 

Sunday - June 19, 2016

Knee pain when training for a 5k - James

I'm a 37-year-old recreational runner - my usual run is a 5k around my neighborhood. I ran a 5k race last summer and I had a great time. I ran a PR and surprised myself in being able to compete with a lot of other more experienced runners. I decided to run the same race again this summer, and I found a training program to follow after about a month of not running much. For the first time, I'm experiencing some real knee pain. The race is in 4 weeks, and I'm reluctant to stop training, but I don't want to hurt myself in a way that will keep me from running for good. Advice on the internet ranges from getting braces to doing strengthening exercises to having a doctor look at it (I run because I can't afford a gym membership, so I'd rather not pay for a doctor!). I just want to know if I should stop training or pull out of the race.

Reply - Coach Janet

I'm not a fan of running through pain -- it usually doesn't work out well in the long-term.  Here are a few things that are commonly related to the onset of knee pain

1.  Increasing mileage too fast -- since you used a "canned" program from the internet it may not have been an appropriate progression for YOU.  If you started a bit too aggressively (i.e. ramped up training after an extended training break) then that could be playing into it. 

2.  Running at inappropriate paces - usually this means you're doing too many runs at/near target race pace.  Training is training, racing is racing... don't race your training runs.  The pace you run the majority of your training runs at should be very relaxed and conversational. It's not that you never do faster paces, but you do them in measured doses and only when your body is ready for it. 

3.  Inadequate strength - for knees, the common culprit is usually weak hips and in particular weak glutes and lateral gluteal muscles.  Another area of weakness can be the quads.  Simple body weight exercises are very effective and can be done anytime/anywhere without a gym membership (YAY!).   

4.  Inadequate flexibility - usually it's calves and hamstrings that are the culprit here but it could also be hip flexors and/or quads .  Stretching gently on a daily basis is usually a good way to alleviate this but it will take time.  Don't stretch to the point of pain. 

5.  Inappropriate footwear - perhaps the shoes are old, or just not the right match for your particular gait pattern.  If you've gone the route of the "minimalist" shoes that are ultra-lightweight and have zero drop, perhaps transitioning to something a little more supportive/sturdy would be worth trying  

6.  Overstriding - rather than focusing on how you run and trying to make a conscious change, you may find that it's easier and more efficient to simply use a metronome app or tunes to help you pick up your cadence a little. Don't strive to run faster... just work toward a slightly faster beat frequency.  This will insure that you keep your feet more under your center of gravity and less outstretched in front.  

Really the causes of knee pain are numerous and as varied as the runners that have it.   I'd be happy to help you iron out what's specifically going on in your case but perhaps some of the things I've mentioned above will strike a chord with you!  Let me know if you'd like more specific assistance. You can read about my coaching services on the services page of this website.    Let me know if you have questions.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach.

Saturday May 21, 2016

How to become a better runner - Stacy

I have never been a good runner. I started CrossFit in February and we do a lot of running however I am not improving at all. Anything longer than a 200m run and my legs hate me. I average about 3:15/400m. I tried the couch to 5k program 2 years ago and trained for 6 months off of it. I ran 5 5k's and my best time was around 35 minutes. It never got any easier even then. I'm frustrated. I skip CrossFit when we run any further than 400m because I wind up so far behind. How can I train to be better?

Reply - Coach Janet

There's this thing called specificity of training that might be coming into play here.  CrossFit is high intensity, very short duration bursts of activity.  Often the running done in those classes is high intensity sprints.  Doing hard sprints in between hard bursts of high intensity power activities would make anyone's legs fatigued!  Think about your overall goal here -- why do you run? Why do you do CrossFit? What is your overall goal?  If your goal is to have a faster 5k time, then the path to success is to build your aerobic ability (lower intensity running that can be maintained for 30-60 minutes in duration would help here).  CrossFit will build your strength and power, and this works to your advantage for sprints (100-400 meter).  But if you want to run faster for the longer distances (>400), you'd be wise to back the intensity down a notch on the runs and perhaps adjust your training to focus on stamina more than speed.   Please check your email for a more involved response from me -- but I hope this helps clarify things a little.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified coach. 

Friday April 29, 2016

How to improve my 2-mile time - Jung

Hello Coach, I really need your help at this point, and I'll do everything you say to this question.

I'm 27, height 5'11" and 145 lb.  Currently, I run 2 miles between 15'00'' and 15'30".  Monday, I do Intervals: 0.5 miles at 9.1 mph (x4) / 0.25 miles at 10 mph (x4) / 0.15 miles at 12 at (x4). Tuesday, Rest. Wednesday, I run 4 miles (average 8'50" per mile).Thursday, Rest. Friday, 2 mile timed. Sat, Sun Rest. My goal is to run 2 miles in 13 minutes within 1 one months.

If you can give me a weekly plan, or any specific training plan that would be appreciated.  Thank you for your consideration

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Jung,

Your goal of having an improvement in your performance from a 15-15:30 2 mile time to a sub-13 mile time is an extremely lofty one.  That represents more than 14% improvement.  Unless you’re completely new to running, making that kind of improvement in that short a period of time is not realistic.   It’s not just about training hard – it’s about the physiological adaptations you’re trying to make on a cellular level inside your body…. Those things take time!  You can’t just push your body harder and force it to happen faster.  Physiology is what it is… and your body will try to adapt as quickly as it can.  

It appears from your question that you might be doing your training on a treadmill?  That would be something to wean yourself off of.  Treadmill running is MUCH easier than “real” running and ultimately any 2-mile race or event you run will likely be run on “real” terrain with “real” environmental conditions to deal with.  Transition your running outside as soon as possible. 

It also appears that you’re not actually running very much mileage – only a minimal 9.5 miles per week!  There is no way the low mileage you’re currently running will enable your body to realize its highest potential.  

In short – any plan I would develop for you would be much more focused on building your foundation of strength and stamina first, then transitioning to a phase of building your speed once that foundation has been established.  I could easily see that process taking 4-6 months to achieve a meaningful improvement in your 2 mile time.   You can’t force physiology.  You have to finesse your way to fitness.  

If you’re interested in a training plan – please check out the coaching page for more information on how to get started. Let me know if you have any more questions.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Wednesday April 27, 2016

Young track athlete with sudden onset side pain - Debbie

My 14 year old son was running in track and felt a sharp pain on his left side and since then two weeks now has not been able to run fast with out it hurting. Is this something common or that will fix itself Thank You

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Debbie, I'm a little unclear about exactly where on the left side of his body your son experienced pain.  Was it his left leg? Lower back? ribs? hip?   Generally speaking things that are not severe resolve quickly but if he's still experiencing the pain (wherever it is) two weeks later would be of some concern.  If he's on a track team at school, perhaps you could discuss your concerns with his track coach?  If it were a leg pain, I'd want to rule out a stress fracture.  If it were in his torso, I'd want to evaluate his back.  At 14, he's probably going through some pretty big growth spurts -- so perhaps things are shifting a bit?  If you want to discuss further, feel free to email me at janet (at) runningstrong (dot) com.   Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified

Tuesday April 26, 2016

Quad and calf cramping/burning during a marathon - Jon

I've been running long distance for 10 years, qualified for Boston and recently ran my 10th marathon on a flat course. When I trained, I focused on my core muscles, lifted weights and did plyometrics on top of my running. I felt prepared however when I ran my quads began to burn by mile 6 and the pain steadily increased over the race. In addition my calves eventually cramped and I had to stop and walk a 100 yards at mile 19 before running again. Why did this happen and I how can I prevent it from occurring again?

Reply - Coach Janet

If you’ve been running a long time, and you’ve qualified to run Boston – you’re no novice!  You did the right things in training in terms of focusing on core and adding some plyometrics to your strength routine.  Some things to think about when you’re trying to determine the factors contributing to the quad burning you experienced:

1.        Was your weekly mileage up where it needed to be prior to the race?

2.       Did you do adequate amounts of training at target race pace during training?

3.       Did you taper properly? (2-3 weeks of gradually reducing mileage is typical)

4.       Did you fuel and hydrate the same way you have for previous marathons where you didn’t have the quad symptoms?

5.       Were there any changes to your footwear?

6.       Did you sleep well in the week prior to the race?

7.       Had you been ill in the past 6-8 weeks?

8.       Was the temperature on race day what you were accustomed to?

9.       Were you adequately prepared for the hills

10.       Did you run at the proper pace for your goal or did you get pulled out too fast?

If the temperature on race day was warmer than you were used to – that could easily contribute to the quad and calf cramping/burning.  Heat increases the stress of running and if you’re not acclimated to it, your body shifts more blood flow to the skin surface for cooling, and also your sweat will contain a much higher concentration of electrolytes when you’re not heat acclimated.  This results in an electrolyte imbalance which definitely affects performance and might also contribute to cramping.    Give some thought to the things I have identified above and perhaps it will spark an idea of what might have contributed to your particular issues on this race.  Every race and every athlete is unique but it’s worth trying to troubleshoot this.  Hope this helps provide some food for thought -- get in touch if you have more questions!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified.

Tuesday April 19, 2016

Recovery from multiple half marathons - Melissa

I just completed 2 half marathons in 2 weeks, and the 3rd in the series is 4 weeks away. I ran 2 other half marathons 2 years ago. I followed a plan and felt really good for the 2. What is a "recover week"? How many miles would that include? Then, what should the next 3 weeks look like?

Reply - Coach Janet

Wow - that's a tight turnaround between half marathons!  The trick to doing multiple long races in a short time is to really pick ONE that means the most to you and then use the others as support/strategy runs to work on specific things like pacing, fueling and hydration strategies, etc.  Without knowing a lot more about you (your previous mileage base, the type of training you did leading up to the previous two half marathons, your injury history,etc.) it's hard to lay out a specific plan that would be best.  I can give you a generic response -- basically a recovery week after a hard race often starts with a couple of days of walking then a rest day, then a couple of easy days and the long run would be something similar to the length you did in the last week of your taper.  Typical taper for a half marathon is 10-14 days -- so back up from your next half marathon and plan out your taper -- and basically that only gives you one week or so of fairly "normal" training.  Let's say you were running 40+ miles a week in training and your long run previous to the half got up to 16 miles.  In the last week of taper (the weekend before your race) you might have done a long run of 8 -- so your first week back you might target a long run of 7-8.  The following week you might bring it back up to 12 and then based on how many weeks you have to train you might be able to get one more long run in before your taper phase.  As for speedwork -- I'd leave it off the first week (recovery) then based on how you're feeling you might be able to do some focused work at HM pace the following weeks.    I can be of a lot more assistance if I know more details!  Good luck with the next one -- and if you'd like more specific guidance, check out the services page of this website or drop me an email (janet at runningstrong dot com)  and I can tell you how to get signed up for some coaching guidance.  Best regards! - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach

Sunday April 17, 2016

Using exercise for torn meniscus - Trevor

I'm 57 with 30 years of running and racing. Torn meniscus both knees and I refused the scopes and used PT to get back to running. I have to say thanks to your book I use the "Reach" exercise to make my knees strong. I hold weights doing them. I go out forward for a set then I go out sideward for a set. Then switch legs.

Reply - Coach Janet

Trevor, it's great you've been able to rehabilitate your knees and get back to running.  Meniscal tears can be fairly simple, or very complex when it comes to surgical intervention.  Either way you go though - the stronger you are in your hips, the better off you'll be.  Even if you eventually have to have surgery to remove damaged meniscal tissue that's interfering with your function - you'll be quicker on the rehab and return to running if you've developed good hip strength through those exercises!  Glad they were helpful for you.  Best wishes and good luck on many more years of healthy running!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach

Monday April 4, 2016

Stressing out during race performances - Johann

I've been trying to get under 10 for the 3000m race. I eat healthy and work hard, but I get stressed out on race days and during races. My coach is disappointed when I fail to reach my goal and when I am running too slow during during my races he says that I should have been farther ahead and it is too late. I ran a 10:17 in XC season and have only recently made it back up to that this current track season. Also I feel like my slower teammates are getting closer to my times and my faster teammates are getting farther away. How can I regain my confidence and reach my goal?

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a couple of things to consider. Training -- I'm assuming your coach has you doing some but not all of your training at/near race paces?  Make sure you understand the purpose of the workout the coach has prescribed and do your best to follow the plan.  Trainining too hard all the time will leave you burned out and your performance suffers.   Second thing to consider is your mental preparation:  do you find yourself with fleeting thoughts of self doubt bouncing into your head?  Take control of those!  Any time you sense a negative thought or emotion, grab the opportunity to consciously replace it with a positive one. For example - you toe the line and you're feeling butterflys in your stomach and you think "oh jeez, I hope I don't screw this up".  That's a negative thought, which will lead to negative emotions and negative performance.  Instead - flip it around and tell yourself "that feeling... that's my motor getting revved up -- let's get this party started... I'm ready!".  This applies not only to the moments before the gun goes off but it applies in EVERY aspect of your life.  Academics, relationships, athletics... you name it!  If you find yourself having thoughts of doubt or negativity about a situation - quicky intervene to reframe those thoughts into something positive.   Train well, fuel well, sleep well, and train your brain to be a positive-image machine!   Talk to your coach about what is going on and let them know you need some help from them.  Everyone has "off" days but it's what you do with it that counts.  Hope this is food for thought -- Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1 coach, RRCA-certified. 

Monday Feb 29, 2016

Engaging the glutes while running - Janet

Do you have any suggestions or tips for getting the glutes to fire properly during a run? My quads seem to do all the work when I run, regardless of whether it's flat or hilly terrain. I do glute strengthening exercises 3x a week, and always pass any muscle testing with flying colors, so they're strong. They just don't do their share of the work when I run. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi - perhaps the issue is weakness in the quads and that's why you feel them fatigue during a run rather than the glutes?  Just a thought... if the gluteal muscles have been the focus of your strength work 3X week and always pass muscle testing with flying colors, perhaps they're plenty strong and doing fine and it's the quads who are in need of a bit of attention?  What makes you think your glutes are not "doing their share"?  Running is heavily dominated by reflexes and the duration of the contraction of the gluteal muscles is pretty short -- so trying to "consciously engage" them while running is likely not to be successful.  Certain exercises done in single leg stance position can sometimes get a "dormant" glute engaged but it sounds like you're already doing plenty of glute work already?  Perhaps working on some trail running where you have to keep your stride "collected" but are doing lots of quick adjustments for uneven terrain would be one way to work on more specific strength.  If you have a particular injury issue you're trying to address then the answer to this might be different.  Hope this is food for thought -- Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Monday Feb 22, 2016

Trouble with training - Rachel

Hi, last year I was running really strong, completing 3 1/2 marathons and a lot of hill running. I now have a running issue.....for the last 6 months I have run 3 times a week doing 7 miles on the treadmill in 56 minutes (due to it being late and work I have had to use the treadmill.) Then I started adding a couple of outdoors runs varying from 4 to 10 miles and then dropped one of the runs on the treadmill. I also do cross fit twice a week. My problem is now I can't manage the 7 on the treadmill anymore I just struggle from about 20 minutes in and then running outdoors I struggle doing 4 miles. My legs feel heavy and my breathing is terrible I can't seem to get enough air in.....so what do I do? And what's going on?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Rachel - As I'm sure you've already figured out - treadmill running is not the same as running on real terrain. I can't speak to the validity of your pace choice for the treadmill running you've been doing since I don't have any performance data to use for calculation but I'll just remind you that you'll get serious benefit from training at proper paces and you'll compromise those benefits if you train at inappropriately fast paces due to time constraints.  The fact that you've added in a high intensity activity like Cross Fit twice a week may also be playing into this.  Strength work usually compliments running, but the type of high intensity anaerobic strength work that you're doing in Cross Fit might be contributing to your sense of leg fatigue.  It develops the anaerobic capacity of the muscles and what you need for long distance running success is a high level of AEROBIC capacity in your muscles.  The enzymes and things needed to produce fuel from aerobic processes is developed by training in an aerobic fashion.  Perhaps one thing to try is to lighten up the weekly load by taking out one of your cross fit workouts, and transition off the treadmill and back onto "real" terrain. Run at easy/conversational efforts and get your stamina back up, and once a week do some running on some hills to build your hip strength.  As your mileage comes back up - make one of your runs more focused on faster stuff (intervals or perhaps race pace work).  I'm very much in favor of strength work but perhaps the twice weekly high-intensity Cross Fit isn't the right match for you.   If I can be of help just drop me an email!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF level 1, RRCA-certified.

Sunday, Feb 14, 2016

How to get 3 mile time back to previous level - Ian

Recently I've been dealing with a running injury. I've gotten past it but almost all the running I've done in the last year has gone down the drain. For the USMC we run a 3 mile run for score. I used to run a 22:00. Now I'm running about a 23:30 to a 24:00. What is a good training pace for a 3 mile run to assist me in getting my cardio back up so I can comfortably run a 3 mile run again? Also what are some good interval runs to get my 3 mile time back up to par, around 22:00 minutes?

Reply - Coach Janet

Now that you're healthy, perhaps the first item of business is to build your endurance back up so that a 3 mile race isn't a very long run for you.  If you're able to regularly run much longer than that (at easy effort) then pushing yourself for that distance won't be nearly as hard.  Endurance is best built at easy effort paces -- for example you could take your current 7:50-8:00 pace and divide that by .78 to get a good "easy run" pace  (about a 10 minute mile by that calculation).  Build your endurance up to where you're covering perhaps 20-25 miles a week and then start to add in some intervals at target race pace (7:20 pace).  Start with short intervals (200meters) separated by rest breaks that are about the same length, and work up to  longer intervals with shorter and shorter rest breaks in between.  Speedwork once, or at most twice, a week will enable you to capitalize on the aerobic foundation you built with the increased mileage at easy effort.  I'll be happy to help with more specific guidance but this is a general roadmap for success that works really well.  Best of luck, let me know if I can be of assistance. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF level 1, RRCA certified. 

Friday, Jan 15, 2016

How to manage back to back half marathons -  Dawn

Hello, I have signed up for two half marathons this spring. They are one month apart. What sort of training schedule should I follow after finishing the first 1/2 marathon before the second 1/2 marathon?

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a few things to consider in this situation. Are you experienced at the distance? Do you have a high mileage base? Are you healthy?  My recommendation would be to select ONE of the two events to be your "A" race - and let the other one be a "fun event" at less-than race effort.  If your "A" race is the first one - you take a nice easy recovery week afterward, then ease back into some more normal mileage over the next couple of weeks, then taper and do the second event as a "fun event".  If your second event is the "A" race - then you might consider doing the first one as a training run - and include a portion of it at target race pace but not the whole thing.   It's REALLY hard to be at your peak performance for two races so close together.  Hope this helps - let me know if I can be of more assistance.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF Level 1.    

Monday Jan 11th, 2016

How to improve race times - Shirley

My cadence is between 195 and 200 on average but my average pace and ultimately race times remain slow. I am short (5' 1") and my stride length is hampered by my short legs???? How can I improve my race times? My most recent 5k was 27:48 and 59:09 10k! My PRs: 4:06 marathon, 23:55 5k & 1:52 half marathon in 2012. Have not been able to get back to that level due to injuries. Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Shirley, the speed of your run is the product of stride length and stride frequency. Yes, at 5'1" you have shorter legs, but your stride length is not just determined by leg length but also by muscle strength/power.  In other words stride length is the distance between one foot contact and the next -- and this is affected by how hard you push off the ground and launch yourself forward!  If you're not already doing some strength work, that would be something to consider adding to your routine.  Not only will it potentially help with your injury issues, it may well improve your running economy and times.  I'd be happy to help with this.  If you're interested, check out the coaching offered on the "services" tab of this website or send me an email if you have questions.  Ultimately you'll need to balance your training with proper progressions of mileage, pacing and strength work in order to achieve your best potential.  Hope this helps -- Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF Level 1.

Monday Jan 4th, 2016

Knee pain with increasing mileage in training - Tania

I'm training for the paris marathon (april 3), and have been training and very gradually increasing my mileage (5-10 percent every other week), since june of last year. When I reached 16 miles I was unable to complete the last mile because of severe knee pain. After resting and taking it easy I tried running that mileage again but this time got to 13 miles before knee and hip pain made me stop. I tape my knees and also tried running with a brace but it didn't help. What's going on?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Tania, nice work with the gradual increase in your mileage.  What paces are you running your training runs at?  A common mistake is to try to run them at/near target MP -- which is a good bit faster than would be considered optimal.  Take your 5k race pace per mile and divide it by .78 to get your easy pace for runs of up to about 10 miles, and do a second calculation dividing it by .70 to get an easy pace for longer runs.  When you have those two numbers in front of you - you can establish a "range" of paces that insure you're running at a nice aerobic effort.   Second thing to look into (other than the pace issue) is perhaps your strength and flexibility.  It is important to do some gentle stretching and some consistent strength work as you work your way up to the marathon distance.   If you've been battling knee pain all along - it's time to get a handle on WHY your knees hurt!  You can't just plow through with training when you're battling an injury.  Let me know if I can help with more specific guidance.  Good luck in Paris!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF level 1