Monday, November 23, 2015

Goals vs Dreams

Dreams are great things you want to have happen and really hope happens.

Goals are dreams you set as a priority in your life and sacrifice and work your butt of daily to make happen.

Dreams are the birth place of goals, but not every dream becomes a goal.  If dreams are the seeds then it is hard work and sacrifice that are the water and fertile ground that help that seed blossom into a goal.

Dreams are wonderful, but dreams do not change the world unless someone believes in them enough to make them their goal.

When MLK Jr. gave his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech, what made it so impactful is that it planted a seed that he and many others believed in it enough that they made their goal.

As a coach I am blessed to hear many people's dreams.  But what gets me really excited is when I see them take that dream and transform it into their goal.  Some of what I do is help them identify what they need to do in order to take that dream and turn it into a realizable goal.  Sometimes they don't like or don't accept my answer.  But when they do and take the steps to make their dream their goal, that is when I really roll up my sleeves and drive in as a coach to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal.  My goal is to use my knowledge and passion in the sport of running to help others take that step to transform their dream into a goal, and then to help them realize that goal.

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Brisk" Pace Runs

Marathoner Alana Hadley enjoying a "Brisk" run

Today I want to introduce to you a type of workout aimed at improving your energy system efficiency. This is an enjoyable workout that, when incorporated into your program, can help you become a stronger and more successful marathon runner.  I call it the "brisk paced run".

The Brisk Paced Run

Duration:  60-90 minutes

Pace:  4-5% slower than aerobic threshold (AT) pace.  For the sub 3:00 marathoner this will be a slightly slower than marathon race pace.  For a mid 3 hour marathoner this will be marathon pace to 10 seconds a mile slower and for the 4+ hour marathoner this is will roughly marathon race pace. 

Here is a chart of "brisk pace" for a neutral predisposition marathon runner of different marathon times.

2:15 marathon (5:09 pace) = brisk pace of 5:20 - 5:27
2:30 marathon (5:43 pace) = brisk pace of 5:52 - 5:59
2:45 marathon (6:18 pace) = brisk pace of 6:24 - 6:32
3:00 marathon (6:52 pace) = brisk pace of 6:56 - 7:05
3:15 marathon (7:26 pace) = brisk pace of 7:28 - 7:37
3:30 marathon (8:01 pace) = brisk pace of 8:00 - 8:10
3:45 marathon (8:35 pace) = brisk pace of 8:32 - 8:42
4:00 marathon (9:09 pace) = brisk pace of 9:04 - 9:15
4:30 marathon (10:19 pace) = brisk pace of 10:07 - 10:18

Execution:  use the first 10 minutes of the run to warm-up and slowly ease into your brisk pace range, then hold the pace steady at brisk pace for the remainder of the run.  The focus of the run should be on running as relaxed and smooth as possible at this pace range. Rather than see how fast you can do the run, focus instead on how easy and relaxed and you can make this pace feel.  

This should not be an overly fatiguing workout, but rather an invigorating run in which you finish pleasantly tired.  While it is recommended you follow this run with an easy/recovery run the following day, it is not meant to be an overly hard stress workout requiring significant recovery time.    

Use:  This is a great workout to use periodically in your marathon training to help practice and improve your ability to run as relaxed and smooth as possible at a quicker pace.  Since it is not an overly hard workout it can often fit periodically into a runner's weekly schedule along with a quality workout and long run.  

Benefits:  The main benefit of this run is increased energy usage efficiency, which is of great importance in the marathon.  In this run we run at or semi-close to marathon race pace with our primary focus on staying as smooth and relaxed as possible.  Learning to stay smooth and relaxed at a quicker pace will make us more efficient in our energy usage at that pace and similar paces (i.e. marathon race pace).  But while providing this benefit this workout is not overly taxing in itself and so can be regularly incorporated into a schedule along more taxing or intense workouts.  

Fueling:  You can increase the usefulness of this workout as race day nears by practicing your planned marathon fueling (drinking and taking of gels) once or twice during the run. This will help you practice what you plan to do during the race and at a similar pace.  It is a great time to train the stomach as well as the legs.  

Happy Marathoning!

Coach Mark Hadley

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Multiple Paths To Improvement

Alana Hadley in a weekly track workout

Far too many runners and coaches view the path to improvement (increase in fitness) as simply an increase in training volume.

"I ran 40 miles a week last training cycle, so if I run 50 miles a week this cycle I will get better."

Often this simple approach can work .... for a while.  But an increase in volume is not always the best and certainly not the only way to approach improvement.

Our bodies get fitter through the Stress and Recover Principle, which simply says that if we stress the body in a certain way and then allow it to recover, it will be better adapted to that stress (i.e. fitter).  An increase in training mileage is just 1 possible stress we can use.  But an increase in quality is also often a very effective method.  If we are doing 40 miles a week and it is all done at an "moderate" pace one training cycle, and then in the next cycle we start adding in a weekly quality workout (such as a tempo run or speed workout) each week into that 40 miles, we'll see improvement in our fitness and performances even without an increase in mileage.

The key to knowing which stress to add or increase is to understand the individual runner and their goal race distance and what is the limiting factor that is holding them back from running faster at that goal distance. This is where an experienced coach, with a firm understanding of the physiology of the sport, can be a huge asset to the runner.  They are in a position to objectively see what that limiting factor(s) is/are and focus on improvements there in your next training cycle.

As a coach who focuses primarily on the marathon and half marathon distances, many of the runners I work with will benefit most from an increase in volume, as endurance is a primary element of those 2 races.  But this isn't always the case.  Sometimes what the runner needs is to keep their volume the same and tweak or increase the quality components of their training.

This is now the case with one young emerging elite marathon runner I coach, Alana Hadley.  A couple of years ago, when Alana made the choice to pursue the marathon as her primary event focus, we tweaked her weekly training schedule to allow her to put more focus on building up her workout volume and mileage level to allow her to build the endurance needed to compete in the marathon distance at a national class level. Before this, she had been running 3 stress workouts per week (2 quality workouts and a long run) and in order to allow for more mileage and volume we adjusted that to 5 stress workouts every 2 weeks, 1 less stress workout per 14 days than before, which allowed her to more easily build her mileage level and workout volume to that of a elite marathoner.  This adjustment proved effective as she was able to increase her training mileage and move effectively to the marathon distance, running 2:41 in her first year (2013) and then 2:38 in her second year (2014) focused on the event including a big marathon win and getting a qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

But now that her mileage level had grown to an elite level for her event (she runs 115-120 miles per week), we are looking elsewhere for future improvements ..... back to the quality components.  An increase in volume from here is likely to have significantly diminishing benefits, so we are instead adding a new stress by going back to the original 3 stress workout per 7 days micro-cycle, but at her new mileage level.  So after an initial focus on building volume we are now focused on the quality elements again.  This means that she once again is getting out on the track for a speed workout once a week in addition to her weekly tempo run and long run.  This change has only been in place for 6 weeks now but we are already seeing benefits from it with returning speed and improvements in most of her workout paces.

As a coach I had been under fire the last several years, by some critics, for my focus on building volume into Alana's schedule.  To me it made sense as she wanted to pursue the marathon as her primary event.  I found it very bizarre that often one looming question from critics was "if she is at a high mileage level now at a young age, how will she improve in the future, there is no where to go".  The answer was obvious to me, she'll continue to improve by a focusing on quality once her mileage is at the desired level.  Until then endurance was a bigger limiting factor in the marathon so volume was the first thing to work on.  To me the critics had fallen into the trap of looking at the path to improvement as only being one-dimensional.

I had a chance to discuss this with legendary Coach Renato Canova at a conference a couple of years ago.  He had noted some of the critics and their question and he suggested to me was to answer them with 1 simple word "quality".  His advice to me was to continue to slowly increase volume to roughly 200k per week (roughly where Alana is at now) then switch future improvement focus back to improvement/increases in quality.  Which is exactly what we have done, starting 6 weeks ago, with the switch back to the 3 stress workout per 7 day micro-cycle and weekly track workouts.

As you look to future improvements keep an open mind and look at the big picture.  What are your limiting factors and how can you best address them.  The answer may be an increase in volume ... or it could be an increase in quality.

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aerobic Titans

I sat down over the summer to design a new coaching product that would greatly help the vast majority of runners.  I wanted something that was as comprehensive as possible, customized to the individual and their specific situation, and was a great value for their money.  Something that could be used for one training cycle at a time, or repeatedly for years.   

What I came up with was: 

It provides the runner with the comprehensive information they will need in their training and a custom training plan designed specifically for them, for their specific situation, their strengths and weaknesses and their personal work, life and race schedules.

I decided to specialize this product on the marathon and half marathon distances, as this is my specialty area in coaching, where I spend the vast majority of my time and do the vast majority of my research and training theory work.  

Each Aerobic Titans - Custom Training Program includes:
  • Detailed Custom Training Schedule:  detailed day-by-day training schedule with notes and explanations - takes all the guess work out of training, you know exactly what to do, when and how
  • Training Cycle Overview:  shows you how your training cycle will come together to have you ready for the goal race; this helps you see the bigger picture and that is valuable in building your confidence 
  • Training Pace Calculator with Heat/Humidity Adjuster:  easy to use pace calculator shows you what training paces to use for what workouts and what race times they equate to, and automatically adjusts those paces and times for warm and/or humid weather conditions   
  • Training Log:  convenient and easy to use training log so you can keep track of your training in the same place where your training schedule is located
  • Custom Race Plan:  as race day approaches Coach Hadley will design the right race plan for you, based on the course, forecasted weather and how your training cycle has gone, so you can get the most out of your hard work
  • Training Notes, Reminders & Tips:  invaluable collection of notes, reminders and tips from Coach Hadley to help you get the most out of your training and make the training cycle go as smooth as possible. Great section to read and re-read over and over again through-out training to keep everything in the proper perspective.   
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routines w Videos:  recommended warm-up and cool-down routines, complete with instructional videos of each exercise/stretch demonstrated by elite marathoner Alana Hadley
  • Strength Training Program w Videos:  recommended strength circuit and core circuit for distance runners, complete with instructional videos of each exercise demonstrated by elite marathoner Alana Hadley
  • Nutritional Guide For Distance Runners:  Coach Hadley has put together a 6 page Nutritional Guide to help you ensure you have the proper nutrition in place to get the most out of your training.

Program Length
Each Custom Program = 1 Training Cycle
Half Marathon:  8 to 20 weeks available
Marathon:  12 to 24 weeks available

The price for an Aerobic Titans Custom Program ranges from $120 for 8 weeks up to $240 for 24 weeks

How It Works / 3 Easy Steps
1) Choose the length of program you need and sign-up on the website at: 
2) Coach Hadley will send you a runner questionnaire to gather the information he will need in designing your program,  Fill it out and return it to him. 
3) Coach Hadley will design your custom training program and have it to you within 5 days of the return of your questionnaire. 

The value of any training program is in what results it brings. With one of the best success track records in the sport, Coach Hadley's marathon and half marathon training programs have produced the following results:
  • Hundreds of marathon and half marathon personal records
  • Hundreds of Boston Marathon qualifying times
  • Dozens of NYC Marathon automatic qualifying times
  • Dozens of successful first time marathoners
  • 6 U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifiers
  • 2 U.S. Top 10 National Rankings in the Marathon
  • 3 U.S. National Single-Age Records (pending)


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Major Key To Success & Happiness In Running

For the competitive runner, one of the major keys to success & happiness in running is understanding what we are trying to accomplish in training and how we are going about doing it.  By understanding this we can implement our training more effectively and catch and correct mistakes more quickly so that our training becomes more effective.  This in turn leads to improvements in fitness and success on race day which builds confidence and happiness. And it is often reassuring to us to understand the path we are on and how it will get us to where we want to go.  

"Stress specifically enough to earn a certain adaptation, then recover sufficiently enough to receive that adaptation."

This simple, succinct one sentence, when understood, can go a long way in explaining what we are doing and how we are best off approaching our training.  And this can help lead us to happiness and success.

As I talked about in an blog entry earlier this year, training for running (and all physical training) centers around the Stress and Recover Principle.  We stress the body in a specific way to elicit a desired adaptation (such as improve our VO2 Max or lactate threshold or endurance) and then we let the body recover from that stress and once it has we achieve that adaptation and become fitter than we were before.

When we get frustrated in training and stop seeing improvement or get run down or worn out, all things that can cause unhappiness, we need to objectively analyze each part of this stress and recover process and see where the problem is.  By identifying the issue early on we can correct it and get back on the road to success and ultimately happiness.

So lets make a check list of the major things to look at when things start going awry:

Stress Side:
- Are the stresses specifically focused enough to elicit the desire adaptations?
- Are you targeting the right adaptations for the demands of our goal race?
- Are your workouts too big or too hard, thus requiring too much recovery time?
- Are you executing the workouts in the correct manner?
- Are you doing your stress workout before you have adequately recovered from our last stress workout?

Recover Side:
- Are you running too much to properly recover in a reasonable time?
- Are you running too fast to properly recover in a reasonable time?
- Do you have other life stresses (work/life/family/travel/schedule) keeping you from recovering as quickly?
- Are you running too slow on our recovery days (i.e. hurting our bio-mechanical efficiency & habits)?
- Are you running to short on our recovery days (i.e. allowing certain adaptations to back-slide)
- Are you properly hydrated so that the body can recover quickly?
- Are you properly fueled so that your body has the building blocks needed to recover quickly?
- Are you getting enough sleep/rest to be able to recover well?
- Do you have any vitamin or mineral deficiency or other health issues that may be compromising your ability to recover quickly?

The more predictable our life schedule is the easier it is to manage all these aspects, but life is not always predictable or routine so when something comes up we need to recognize early on how that will effect our stress and recover principle and adjust our training accordingly.  It is not a matter of toughing it out it and getting by like we all try and do sometimes, it is a matter of honoring the stress & recover principle and optimizing it to get what we are after (improved fitness).  Sometimes that may mean an extra recovery day when needed or by cutting back on a run or workout.  But better to do that then trudge on and get sick, hurt or burned out or even just go stagnant.

If you have a coach they can be a great help to you and managing many aspects of this.  They should know what workouts to do and when and how much is doable and how much is too much on the recovery days, but they need you help and input as well.  You know all the factors they can't see such as sleep, hydration, diet, supplements, work/life stresses.  So communicate well with your coach to ensure you are honoring and maximizing the stress and recover principle and thus promoting your success and happiness in the sport.

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Running Social or Solitary - It's All Good

Solitary Run

Some runners are social runners, they love to meet up with a group of other runners for the majority of their runs and workouts.  They relish the comradery of running with others and the chance to socially interact with and catch up with friends.  This can be an awesome experience that heightens the running experience for them.

Some runners are solitary runners, who love to do the majority or all their runs alone.  They relish the peace and solitude of solo runs and the chance to have some alone time with their thoughts while doing something healthy for their body.  This also can be an awesome experience that brings them peace mentally as well as physical health.  

Then there are some runners who are a combination between the two, they sometimes run alone and sometimes run with a group. They have a good mix between the 2 and in some ways get many of the benefits of each.

Their is no right or wrong way to run, with others or alone.  It is all a matter of personal preference, the opportunities available to you, and what your goals are with your running.  

I grew up running by myself mainly as a kid before I entered high school as there simply wasn't anyone to run with.  Then in high school I still usually ran by myself as no one on my high school teams could keep up (I went to a small high school - 87 in my graduating class).  So I learned to appreciate running alone.  After college, I again ran mainly by myself, and enjoyed my quiet time to think and reflect and day dream while I ran.  I did and still do enjoy running with others on occasion but I find running alone a peaceful respite in an otherwise hectic social world. Also I was a very competitive runner for many of my younger years, and it was always more important to me to follow my training plan than to alter it to accommodate others.  I enjoyed the social aspects of running but the competitive aspects were more important to me.  But I do understand and appreciate that the reverse it true for many runners, that they appreciate the competitive aspects of running but value the social aspects just as much or more.  Different strokes for different folks.

I guess my point to this blog is that it is OK to run alone and OK to run socially and we shouldn't put-down or judge someone for desiring to do one or the other.  Recently I came across a group of social runners who thought it almost criminal to run alone and they even made fun of and chastised those who chose to run alone calling them "anti-social outcasts".  I am sure there are similar people who run alone who simply don't understand or appreciate social runners.  This is so crazy to me, that people would judge and criticize someone else simply because they desire to do something differently than they themselves would do it. This type of intolerance is what spreads hate and bigotry in society. Come on now, we are all runners and we each are free to pursue it how we wish. Support your fellow runners, even if you choose to pursue it differently than they do.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Good Coach-Athlete Relationships

One thread that many of the best runners have in common is that they have had a long term coach-athlete relationship with the same coach.  Meb Keflezighi has worked with the same coach, Bob Larson, for well over 15 years.  Deena Kastor worked with Coach Joe Vigil for well over a decade from her college graduation to her rise to road and marathon dominance.  Galen Rupp has worked with Alberto Salazar since his early high school days. 

Why is a good long term coach-athlete relationship so important?  When a good relationship is formed it produces great fruits because of the synergy of experience and knowledge that is created and that synergy increases exponentially over time.  The longer the coach and athlete work together the better they know each other and more in-depth they can understand how and what works best for the athlete in numerous scenarios and situations.  Reaching your potential in distance running is much longer than a few month endeavor and so it helps greatly to work under the same general philosophy (even while the details are fined tuned) for a long period of time.   The coach provides the expertise, experience and an impartial and often big picture prospective, while the athlete provide the in-action perspective and feedback from training and racing, as well as the dreams and goals to be achieved.  This is not a synergy that can be maximized in a short period, but one that needs to grow and blossom over time.  As Meb, Deena and Galen (all Olympic medalists) have found out, that long term relationship can help them achieve new heights and realize dreams. 

Notes/Observations About Good Coach-Athlete Relationships
  • Whenever an athlete is pushing their limits physically to improve, there will be minor set-backs and injuries along the way, this is an inevitable truth of sport.  A good coach-athlete relationship should help minimize those occasions but cannot eliminate them all together.  An athlete or coach should not jump ship on the relationship because a set-back happens but rather communicate and work with the other to determine why it happened and how to prevent it from happening again.  This requires open and honest communications and analysis from both parties.  Often what is learned will produce greater results in the future, a benefit potentially lost if either party abandons the relationship, taking their perspective with them. 
  • Flexibility – Both the coach and athlete have to have a healthy level of flexibility in order for a good coach-athlete relationship to work long term.  While there needs to be an over-all philosophy and structure (such as what I outlined in my last blog post) that both parties buy into and believe in, there has to be flexibility in figuring out how that philosophy will best be implemented for that athlete.  This is something that can change slightly and will be fined tuned through-out their time working together.  Coaches who have a “my way or the high-way” mentality and athletes who have an “I’m moving on at the first sign of a problem” attitude never put themselves in a position to reap the benefits of a good long term coach-athlete relationship. 
  • Partners Not Adversaries.  Both the athlete and the coach need to view each other as a valuable and trusted partner in the relationship.  They are working together as a team to get the athlete to their goals.  This type of beneficial relationship requires good communication, openness, honesty and respect from both parties.  Athletes need to be careful not to surround themselves or give undue influence to people (often athletes who have had bad coach athlete relationships in the past) who view coaches as people to blame when problems arise or who encourage them to defy or hide things from their coach.  Coaches need to facilitate communications and remain as flexible as possible in order to help the athlete adapt to often less than ideal real world situations and scenarios.  Coaches need to be sensitive to the athlete’s personal situations and realize they are often dealing with many conflicting priorities in their life.  Athletes need to realize that the coach is there to help them reach their stated  goals, and are simply reminding and advising them what they think (from experience) it will take to realize those goals.  The better they communicate the better partners they can be in fine tuning the program, and greater their chance of success. 
  • Thoughtful.  Neither the athlete or the coach should enter a coach-athlete relationship lightly.  The athlete needs to research the coach and understand their philosophy and ask questions first.  The coach needs to talk with the athlete and understand them and their running goals and personal situation. Each needs to make sure that other is someone that they can work well with so that the potential is there for a longer term relationship.   

I have been lucky to have a few great longer term coach-athlete relationships, and I can say it is very rewarding to both parties.  I love to see the athlete develop and learn more about themselves and feel honored to be a trusted partner in that process.  I have also been a part of several potentially very good coach-athletes relationships that where regrettably cut short due (in part) to some of the reasons talked about above.  As much as the former is rewarding the later can be heart breaking for both parties as well.  But the rewards of 2 people, each passionate about the endeavor, working together to accomplish great things, always trumps the potential heart breaks and that is why I (and many others) continue to coach.