Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Strength Training For Marathoners & Half Marathoners

Aspring Marathoner Alana Hadley
As I have stated before, I am a firm believer that a static training program is eventually an obsolete program.  So while some basic principles (such as the 4 tenets of my training philosophy outlined on the website and disucssed on this blog) are unchanging, our understanding of them, interpretation of them, and experience in using them in various situations continues to grow, and as such our programs need to continually be refined to accommodate this expanded learning and thinking.  By doing this, our training programs stay current and on the leading edge of improvements in the sport. 

So in tune with that belief, I am refining and more clearly defining and explaining my beliefs and practices in regard to strength training for marathoners and half marathoners.  There are not major deviations here from what I have advocated previously, but rather simply some small but beneficial additions and a better explanation of the program and why I recommend this approach to strength training.   

As with all elements of training, we should start by clearly defining what we are trying to accomplish. For marathon and half marathon runners I believe that strength training should have 4 purposes:
1) Reduce the risk of injury while training and racing
2) Enhance or improve our running form
3) Increase our stride power to weight ratio
4) Recruit new muscle fibers to the running motion

I believe that the most effective way to accomplish these objectives is to strengthen the muscles we use in the proper running form in the same ways (motions) we use them in running. By doing this we are sure to strengthen ancillary muscles and opposing muscles in proper proportion to the main muscle groups, specifically for the act of running. 

In order to accomplish this we need to break down the running stride and look at in 3 major sections. The first section is the A – Motion in which the upper lead leg drives up and forward, as the opposite arm swings back in counter balance. The second section is the B – Motion in which the lower portion of the lead leg extends out and reaches (paws) towards the ground. The third section is the C – Motion in which leg contracts (hamstring) as the foot is on the ground, driving the body forward and then continues contracting to raise the lower leg to a tucked position under the body, as the opposite arm swings forward in counterbalance.  

 In order to accomplish our 4 stated purposes of strength training, we need to focus on finding ways to enhance the power and efficiency of these 3 motions of the running stride.  

I seek to do this through a combination of a drill & strength circuit, a core circuit and supplemental exercises. The drill & strength circuit is designed to strengthen the lower body (legs, hips and glutes) components of the running motion. The core circuit is designed to strengthen the torso and upper body components of the running motion and its ability to stabilize and support proper running form. And supplemental exercises to address any areas of excessive weakness or mis-function what needs extra work to correct and/or strengthen.  

Let’s take a more detailed look at each: 

The Drill & Strength Circuit
8 primary exercises + any supplemental exercises needed
The primary exercises utilize the 3 motions of the running stride

Exercise #1: A – Drill (High Knees)
Strengthens the muscles responsible for the first portion of the running motion where the thigh of the lead leg is raised.
Primary Muscles: Hip Flexors, Quadriceps
How Performed: Mimicking but exaggerating the first portion of the running form the thigh is repeatedly and quickly brought up until it is parallel to ground and perpendicular with the body.
Variations: Easy – Walking; Medium – Skipping; Hard – Quick Run
Duration: 20-50 meters
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #2: B – Drill (Paw or B Skips)
Strengthens the muscles responsible for the second portion of the running motion where the lower leg is extended forward and driven down towards the ground.
Primary Muscles: Quadriceps, Hamstrings
How Performed: Mimicking but exaggerating the second portion of the running form the runner extends the lower leg forward (quadriceps) from position A (high knee) and drives the leg back towards the ground and body (hamstring) to propel the body forward.
Variations: Easy – Walking; Medium – Slow Skip; Hard – Quick Skip
Duration: 20-50 meters
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #3: C – Drill (Back Kicks)
Strengthens the muscles responsible for the third portion of the running motion where the hamstring continue to contract to pull the runner forward and pulls the foot/leg back under the buttocks in position to return to motion A.
Primary Muscles: Hamstrings
How Performed: Mimicking but exaggerating the third portion of the running motion the foot and lower leg is quickly brought up from the ground to a tuck position under the buttocks (butt strike is not necessary).
Variations: Easy – Walking; Medium – Slow Run; Hard – Quick Run
Duration: 20-50 meters
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #4: Walking Lunges
Strengthens the muscles used in the second portion (B motion) of the running motion.
Primary Muscles: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus
How Performed: start from a standing position with feet shoulder width apart, take a step forward, lowering your hips so that your lead thigh is parallel to the ground and your knees are bent at 90 degree angle. (Do not let knee extend forward past the lead foot). Then pull yourself forward until you are standing again at the position of your lead foot. Repeat with opposite leg leading.
Variations: the longer the step forward the greater the glute muscles are worked and the more the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles are stretched. Beginners may need to start with shorter strides and less than a 90 degree knee bend (but being careful not to let the lead knee extend past the lead foot).
Duration: 10-25 meters
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #5: Cone Hops
Strengthens the muscles used in the third portion (C motion) of the running motion.
Primary Muscles: Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Gastrocnemius (calves)
How Performed: starting 12-18 inches behind the first of a series of cones, set roughly 1 meter apart (1 large stride), stand with feet parallel with each other about 6 inches apart, pushing off equally from both feel hop over the cone, drawing your heels up towards your buttock while in the air, and landing equally on both feet in your original position and repeat over the series of cones.
Variations: cones are not necessary, any small object may be used, or the exercise can be done without any objects at all. Shorter people should lessen the distance between cones and taller people may need to lengthen the distance between cones. The exercise can be increased in difficulty by adding more cones or increasing the height of the object jumped.
Duration: 10-25 meters (10-25 cones/hops)
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #6: Diagonal Cone Hops
Strengthens the majority of the muscles primarily responsible for the second and third portions of the running motion with an emphasis on the adductors and abductors.
Primary Muscles: Adductors, Abductors, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus, Gastrocnemius (calves)
How Performed: Using the cone course from the Cone Hops (Exercise #5), move every other cone out (perpendicular 1 meter). Stand with feet parallel with each other about 4-6 inches apart, and just behind the first cone. Pushing off the outer foot (foot furthest away from the next cone) hop at a 45% degree angle so that you land on the opposite foot just behind the next cone in a semi crouched position, with your full weight transferred over that foot, then push of that foot hop (in 45% degree angle) to the next cone landing on the opposite foot (weight fully transferred) and repeat.
Variations: cones are not necessary, any small object may be used, or the exercise can be done without any objects at all. Shorter people should lessen the distance between cones and taller people may need to lengthen the distance between cones. The exercise can be increased in difficulty by adding to the level of crouch the exercise if performed at (more crouch is harder and more up-right is easier). Additionally the emphasis on the adductors and abductors can be increased by increasing the angle of the leap so that movement if more lateral.
Duration: 10-24 meters (10-24 cones/hops)
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #7: Box Step
Strengthens the majority of the muscles primarily responsible for the first portion (A position) of the running motion.
Primary Muscles: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius (calves)
How Performed: Using a sturdy wood or metal box, bench or steps (no higher than knee height) stand facing the object about 6-18 inches away with good posture and feet shoulder width apart. Place one foot up onto the object with a roughly 90% angle at the knee and step up onto the object with the lead leg, immediately bring the other leg up in the same fashion until you are standing on the object. Repeat the pattern in reverse starting with the lead leg again. Repeat the desired number of repetitions with one leg leading and then switch and do the same number with the other leg leading.
Variations: You can increase the stress (work) on the hamstrings and glute muscles by increasing the distance you stand away from the object, and increase the stress on the quadriceps by moving closer to the object. Additionally the taller the object the greater the stress on the glute muscles. Reminder: not to use an object higher than knee level to avoid excessive strain on the knees.
Duration: 10-25 repeats (each leg)
Sets: 2-3 sets

Exercise #8: Turn-Over Strides
Strengthens the running muscles by using them in the running motion performed at a high percentage of maximum velocity and at a more rapid turn-over than normal.
Primary Muscles: all muscles used in running
How Performed: from a standing position start running and smoothly accelerate to 95%+ of maximum speed focusing on running tall, getting your knees up, running on the balls of your feet and having a quick stride turnover. We want to try and run at a stride rate of 200 strides per minute or more (normal running stride rate is usually 170-190 strides per minute). Focus on running fast without straining.
Note: This exercise can be incorporated into the end of an easy run if preferred.
Duration: 50 to 100 meters
Sets: 4-6 sets

The Core Circuit
4 primary exercises + any supplemental exercises needed
The primary exercises utilize elements of the running motion.

Exercise #1: Push-ups
Great all-around upper body strengthening exercise.
Primary Muscles: Pectoralis Major, Triceps, Deltoids, Biceps, Latissimus Dorsi, Rectus Abdominis
How Performed: Laying in a prone position. Arms bent with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart (at shoulder level) and your elbows near your sides. Keeping your body straight/stiff, and press up straightening your arms, so that your body is in a straight line with your toes and hands only in contact with the ground. Then bending your elbows down towards your sides, lower your body (still stiff in a straight line until your chest is with-in 1 inch of the ground and then push back up. Emphasis is on a slow controlled motion and keeping your body in a straight plane.
Note: We bend our elbows down towards our side rather than outward away from the body in order to simulate the swing of the arms in the running motion and strengthen them in that plane.
Variations: if unable to do 10 repetitions using proper form, do this exercise from your knees as the lower point of contact with the ground rather than your feet, until strong enough to move to the harder positioning described.
Repetitions: 10-30
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise #2: Bicycle Crunches
This is an excellent abdominal exercise done in a position that mimics the running form.
Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominals, External Oblique’s
How Performed: Starting from a position laying straight on back with your hands loosely interlocked behind your head, contract your abdominal muscles raising your upper body and slightly twisting inward your right elbow and bending and rising your left knee until the two touch above your abdominal region. Slowly return to the original position and repeat the motion this time with the left elbow and right knee.
Note: This motion, raising of one knee and swinging of the opposite arm mimics the running motion, thereby strengthening the abdominals and oblique’s how we use them in running.
Variations: if the runner is not able to perform this exercise with proper form, they may need to begin with a standard sit-up or crunch and work up to this motion.
Repetitions: 20-50
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise #3: Prone Alternate Arm-Leg Raises
This is an excellent lower back and glute exercises that mimics the running movement.
Primary Muscles: Erector Spinae, Gluteus Maximus
How Performed: Laying prone on the ground with the arms extended overhead and the legs extended straight down, keep the body in a rigid straight line. Simultaneously slowly raise the right arm and left leg (keeping both straight) up 4-6 inches off the ground and then slowly return them to the ground. Then repeat the motion with the left arm and right leg. Repeat the motion
Note: This motion, movement of one leg and opposite arm mimics the running motion, thereby strengthening the muscles how we use them in running.
Variations: this exercise can also be performed on large Physioball using one leg and one arm (the ones not being elevated) for balance touching the floor lightly.
Repetitions: 10-25
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise #4: Dynamic Plank
The plank hold is an excellent stabilizing exercise for the whole core region, to which we add some dynamic leg movement.
Primary Muscles: Abdominals and all the stabilizing muscles of the core
How Performed: Get on all fours (on your hands and knees). Place your forearms flat on the mat (clasp hands together to create an upside down V-shape). Your elbows should be directly below your shoulders. Now straighten your knees and get onto your toes. Only your toes and forearms should be touching the floor. Aim for a straight line between your neck and ankles. Raise one foot slowly (while keeping the leg straight) 4-6 inches off the floor and then back down then raise the other foot and repeat back and forth.
Note: This exercise is an isometric exercise to strengthen the core muscles of the body so they can better keep us in alignment when running, but we add the dynamic element of the leg raises to keep the hip flexors engaged in motion as this is how we will use them in running.
Repetitions: 30-60 seconds
Sets: 1-2 sets

Additional Exercises
These are some of the most common (but clearly not an exhaustive listing) of the additional exercises I use with certain athletes. Any of these exercises can be added to either the Drill & Strength Circuit or the Core Circuit, in order to give any weak or problem areas the extra work they may need.

Exercise A: Barefoot Jog/Strides
This is designed to engage and strengthen the muscles of the feet.
Primary Muscles: all muscles of the feet
How Performed: Easy jog while barefooted (or in socks) on a soft surface (soccer or football field works well).
Variations: walking around during the day with minimalistic shoes that promote flexing and movement of the feet. Also doing moderate speed strides while barefoot can further strengthen the feet.
Duration: 500-1000 meters (on soft surface)
Sets: 1
Note: awakens and engages the muscles of the feet, often this can be added as a cool-down after a drill circuit or at the end of an easy run.

Exercise B: Lateral Lunges
Excellent exercise to strengthen the adductors muscles as well as the glutes.
Primary Muscles: Adductors, abductors, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.
How Performed. Starting in a standing position with feet should width apart. The runner takes a lateral step sideways (foot pointing forward) with one leg, gradually transferring the weight to that leg in a squatting position until the knee is bent at a 90 degree angle (with the knee over the foot and never ahead of the foot). Then slowly pushes themselves back up to the original position in a controlled manner. All repetition are completed on one side and then the other leg is used to perform the same number of repetitions.
Variations: hold hand weights or a wearing a weight vest can make this exercise harder.
Repetitions: 10-25 each leg
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise C: Single/Double Leg Bridges
Excellent exercise to strengthen the upper hamstrings, lower glute muscles and certain adductors.
Primary Muscles: Gluteus Maximus, iliopsoas, sartorius, quadriceps. Your hip adductors, including the pectineus, adductor longus and adductor brevis.
How Performed: Lay flat on your back, arms down by your side, and with your knees bent so your feet are flat on the ground. Raise your lower left leg until your leg is straight out, then pushing up with the right leg bridge your hips/torso upwards and then back down. Repeat until desired number of repetitions with one leg then switch with the other leg.
Variations: If needed to start with, a two leg version can be done to make it easier.
Notes: Do not stop or pause significantly, but continue movement to make this a dynamic exercise.
Repetitions: 10-25
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise D: Calf Raises
Excellent exercise to strengthen the calf muscles of the lower leg.
Primary Muscles: Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Tibialis Anterior, Peroneus Brevis
How Performed: Stand with the your feet even with each other several inches apart and with balls of your feet on a sturdy step, block or platform, and the heels of your feet hanging off the edge. Press upward with your calf muscles to raise your heels so only your toes are on the platform, then slowly lower your heels down past the level of the platform until you feel a full stretch of the calf muscles and then repeat the motion. Repeat until desired number of repetitions is reached.

Variations: You can angle your feet slightly inward or outward to work different calf muscles more heavily.
Notes: Do not stop or pause significantly, but continue movement to make this a dynamic exercise.
Repetitions: 10-25
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise E: Squats
Excellent exercise to strengthen the quadriceps and glute muscles.
Primary Muscles: Quadriceps, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus
How Performed: Standing up straight with your feet should width apart and splayed slightly, then begin to bend at hips, lowering push back the rear, until your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle and your knees are directly over (never ahead of) your feet. Then slowly push back up to original position.

Variations: You can add hand weights, medicine ball or a barbell to add weight and make this exercise more difficult.
Notes: Do not stop or pause significantly, but continue movement to make this a dynamic exercise.
Repetitions: 10-20
Sets: 1-2 sets

Exercise F: Karaoke Drill
Excellent high energy footwork drill to work the adductors and abductors as well as improve footwork and coordination.
Primary Muscles: Adductors and Abductors
How Performed: Turn your body so your right shoulder faces the target (or direction you want to run). Your head and chest should be perpendicular or at a 90-degree angle to the direction you wish to run. Moving quickly but under control, cross your left leg over your right and move forward, swiveling your hips as you go. Then, stride with your right leg toward the target but behind the left leg. You should be back to your original position. Then cross your left leg behind the right and continue to move toward the target. All the while, your head, upper body and arms continue to point perpendicular to the target and do not swivel or turn toward the target. Rather, it is the hips and legs that move and do the work. Cross and uncross your legs as fast as you can in an attempt to go at the target

Variations: beginner – walking, intermediate – running, advanced – fast running.
Repetitions: 15-30 meters
Sets: 1-2 sets

Time/Effort Considerations
The amount of time, effort and resources we put into strength training needs to be kept in proportion to its importance. That is to say that it is very important to our success but it is ancillary to our optimal running workouts and schedule. If there is a real time or effort constraint where either a running workout or strength training circuit can be performed but not both, I will always advise the runner to do the running workout. The only exception to that would be in the case of injury rehab or significant weakness is present which would elevate the need of the rehab/prehab strength work.  But under normal circumstances, strength work is ancillary to running workouts in our training programs.

To help satisfy the time and effort constraints we all have, especially when putting in the mileage required for racing these longer distances, I have designed as clean and concise of a strength circuit as I could while still fully satisfying the 4 goals of our strength training.  All of the exercises are relatively simple and easy to learn and master, are able to be done solo or in a group, and are free of the need of any equipment (except common cones and a bench, box or step), which saves the need for travel to or membership in a gym.  Additionally these circuits are relatively short in duration, with the strength & drill circuit usually lasting 20-40 minutes (depending on the number of sets and supplemental exercises done) and the core circuit usually taking just 5 to 10 minutes to perform.

Strength Workout Frequency
How frequently we do the strength & drill circuit and the core circuit in our training program will depend on the length of base unit and type of micro-cycle structure we are using. In a typical 3 day training base unit (Hard-Easy-Easy), I recommend getting 1 strength & drill circuit and 1-2 core circuits. In an average training week, I would suggest averaging 2 strength & drill circuits and 4 core circuits (each with any supplemental exercises as needed). In particularly hard periods of training this frequency can be reduced as needed.

One of the additional benefits of having these strength routines as part of our training program is it gives us another lever on which we can pull to help perk-up our legs or taper when the time is appropriate. For example, if I have a runner you regualry does 2 strength & drill circuits per week in training, when we get to a week of a important race, I can drop the strength & drill circuit and I immediately see a pick-up in their legs from the extra rest, before I even reduce other running workouts or mileage. It becomes another useful tool in my taper toolbox.

Progressions In Strength Training
Within the framework for the exercises I listed above, there is significant room for progressions to be built into our strength training program, in terms of number of reps or length/duration of exercises performed and the number of sets performed.

In general, I recommend a building up of reps/length and/or number of sets during the Fundamental Phase of the training cycle where we are working on all around fitness and progression. And then a maintenance or reduced level of strength work during the Specific Phase of the training cycle were we are focusing our efforts more on sharpening our race specific fitness levels.

I am in the process of filming and editing demonstration and instructional videos of each exercise listed above, and hope to have these added to the website within the next week or two.

In the mean-time I am leaving some of the older video clips I had on the site originally, for those who are using them as reference tools.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Long Run Fueling: In Marathon Training

How we fuel during our long runs is an important aspect in our marathon training that can have a significant impact on our performance on race day.   Fueling, for the purpose of this blog, is what fluids, solids or gels we consume during our run. 
I arrived at my methodology for fueling like I do most everything in my training philosophy, through a combination of understanding the science and physiology behind it, and real world experience of how it works and feels in the actual application of it.
In MPR training programs we have 3 types of long runs:  easy pace long runs, steady state long runs, and fast finish long runs.   First let me tell you how I recommend handling fueling on each of these long runs, and then I’ll tell you why and how it all works together to enhance our race day performance.
Easy Pace Long Run:  As the name suggests these are long runs done at an easy, conversational pace.  During these long runs I recommend not consuming any calories, instead consume water only (ideally 3-6 oz. every 20-25 minutes), with electrolyte replacement tablets/capsules optional during some (but not all) of the water stations.  I definitely recommend including at least some electrolytes in the warmer weather. 
Steady State Long Run:  These are long runs done at a pace roughly mid-way between easy pace and aerobic threshold pace (usually 5-10% slower than AT).  On these runs I recommend practicing fueling as you would in a race.  3-6 oz. (2-3 swallows) of watered down sports drink every 20-25 minutes, and a higher calorie drink/gel/solid once every 40-60 minutes.
Fast Finish Long Run:  These are long runs in which the first 70-80% are done at an easy pace and the last 20-30% are done at or close to aerobic threshold pace.   On these runs I recommend taking water only during the easy pace portion of the run, and then just before accelerating to AT pace switch over to sports drink/gels/solids as you would in a race for the fast section of the run.
Ok, so how do these recommendations help prepare us for race day.
On the easy pace long runs without calories, we are significantly depleting our glycogen supplies (our body’s preferred source), which cause us to have a burn a higher percentage of alternative fuel (fat mainly), the longer we run.  This has 2 desired effects, our body responds to this glycogen depletion by increasing the amount of glycogen it stores in the future.  Additionally, it helps the body become more efficient at (or at least more use to) burning higher percentages of fat for energy when it needs to.  So on these easy runs, we are building up our glycogen storage tanks, and improving our efficiency in low glycogen situations, both critical for race day performance in the marathon.  We don’t take in calories on these runs for 2 reasons: the intake of calories during the run tends to mute the body’s response to glycogen depletion, causing it not to increase the storage as significantly; and with a consistent intake in glycogen/calories, the body burns less fat as a fuel source, reducing our body’s chance to learn to operate more efficiently at higher fat burn rates.  But we do take in water on easy pace long runs to get the body use to absorbing fluids on a regular basis while running. 
Note: Be careful on these easy paced long runs with no calories, we want to deplete our glycogen supplies significantly but we never want to actually bonk in training.
On steady state long runs we practice our race day fueling routines.  We do this because we need to get our body use to and efficient at partially replacing its glycogen and fluid loss while on the run as that is what we will require of it on race day.  Our steady state long runs are a near perfect place to practice this because the paces we are running at are only moderately (5-10%) slower than race pace, allowing our body’s to learn to handle fueling at quicker paces.
Our fast finish long runs then become a combination of fueling strategies.  We take in water only (electrolytes optional) during the easy pace section of the run to enhance the depletion of our glycogen supplies, which allows us to practice running at race pace (or near it) in the fast finish section in a somewhat depleted state, while practicing our race day fueling at race pace during that section of the run. 
So now you can probably see how all of this begins to come together to help us out on race day.  We go into the race with a larger glycogen storage tank from our work on our easy pace long runs, and we are adept at partially replacing some of our fluids and glycogen during the race through our work on our steady state and fast finish long runs.  This combination a bigger storage tank and ability to partially replace energy puts us in the best possible position for having the most glycogen to utilize in the race.  The more glycogen we have to utilize, the higher burn rates we can maintain, which equals the faster the pace we can run at in the race.  When we combine that with other aspects of our training which improves our efficiency (calorie usage) at race pace, we have the makings for a best possible race day performance.
For marathon runners who are in a training cycle focused on a shorter distance (10k-HM), I still utilize these fueling strategies on our long runs, so that when they transition into a marathon focused cycle later on they are already comfortable with these strategies and their body more advanced in its associated adaptations.
It is also important to note that it is critical to refuel quickly after long runs of all types.  The better and quicker (to some extent) we refuel after our long runs the quicker our bodies will recover from the run.  Significant fluids and calories need to be ingested within the first 30-45 minutes after a long run and it’s recommended to have a balanced meal, if possible, within the first 2 hours after a long run. 
Before long runs, I recommend in-taking some moderate amount of calories, usually 45 minutes or more before the start of the run.  If doing your long run first thing in the morning, this may mean something light when you first wake-up.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Steps To Achieving Your Goals/Dreams

Sunrise or Sunset?

1)    Dream:  Without placing any arbitrary limits on yourself, dare to dream and establish big goals.

2)    Believe:  Believe in you and that you can achieve your goals.  If you do not believe it can’t happen, but if you believe it is possible.

3)    Plan:  Establish a great step by step plan to get you to your goal, seek help from a knowledgeable coach who believes in you to help you with this.

4)    Align:  Restructure your life as needed to align your daily actions with your long term goals.  As Edwin Moses said so well “I analyze every aspect of my life, because every aspect of my life effects how I run.”

5)    Execute:  Execute your plan one day at time.  Have a purpose for each day and stay focused on that purpose and executing it with excellence.  Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, stay focused on executing today. (Stay in the moment)

I could write a whole blog on each of these 5 steps (and I probably will) but let me start by saying a few things about the first one.

How many of us dare to really do this step, to step outside the box and dream without the arbitrary limits others have placed on us and what we are capable of?

As a coach who has talked with hundreds of runner I can tell you this: very rarely do I talk to a runner who has a goal or dream they can't accomplish because they simply don't have the talent or skills to do it.  More often than not, if they fail to accomplish their goal it is because they failed to execute one or more of the last 4 steps, it is not because their dream was too big for what they are capable of, but because they failed to do what is necessary to realize the potential they do have.

If anything, I see far too many people selling themselves short.  Shooting low so they can be sure to attain their goal.  And that is fine if that is all they really desire to attain.  But I suspect many do that simply because they have been conditioned that way, they have been told by their peers and by society what they can do, and what they are capable of, and what they should expect so much that they buy into it and so settle for what is expected and don't allow themselves to really perform Step 1. 

In the 2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project, I am seeking out and putting myself out there to be found by people who dare to dream and set big goals (whether it be to qualify for the Olympic Trials or to win the Olympic Trials) without buying into any arbitrary limits.  They set big goals and believe in themselves, and I stand firmly behind them using all my knowledge and experience to help them achieve those goal and maybe, just maybe, show them that even more might be possible.  There is nothing that stirs my soul more than seeing someone believe in a dream and go after it, and not settling for what they have been told they can or should accomplish, but rather laying it on the line to accomplish what they WANT to achieve.  I feel blessed to be able to help them in this journey.

So before moving on to Steps 2-5, make sure you take the time to really do Step 1, so that the whole process and outcome is as rewarding as it can be.