Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Top 5 Reasons You Should Hire A Running Coach

After being asked recently by a casual runner friend why someone should hire me as a coach, it prompted me to write a blog on a slightly larger question:  What are the main reasons someone should hire a running coach?  Here is my answer.

1.     Knowledge - A professional running coach is someone who has studied and continues to study all aspects of the sport in great detail.  Being knowledgeable about the sport and how to train for it is how they make their living, so their level of expertise in this area will usually be beyond that of a most runners.  The professional running coach focuses on what we should do, and why we do it, and when we should do it, which leaves the runner to spend their energies focused on the actual doing of it.

2.     Experience – The frame of reference for a running coach is larger than that of most any single runner, simply because they have seen more situations through all the athletes they have coached.  Additionally, coaches are trained (or wired it seems) to analyze the various experiences they have with different athletes and different situation, and it is this analysis of these many and varied experiences that helps them continue to raise their knowledge and frame of reference in the sport.

3.     Objectivity – Many runners find that they are too close to their own training and racing to stay completely objective as to what they should or need to do to be effective.  But a running coach has the right blend of familiarity and distance necessary to remain objective about the situation.  This point has even prompted many coaches to hire a coach themselves to handle their training. 

4.     Accountability – Having a running coach provides an additional level of accountability that many runners find both motivating and helpful.  On days when they are having trouble getting out of bed for scheduled morning run, or are feeling impulsive and considering deviating from the training plan, knowing that they will report in to, and get feedback from, their coach provides a level of accountability that can motivate the runner and help reign in impulsive behavior.

5.     Customization – Generic programs found on the internet, or in a book, generated by a computer/app, or used by large charity focused training groups, lack the individual customization that is necessary to help a runner realize their potential and meet their goals.  A personal running coach can take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the runner, and make adjustments for the personal situation (work, family, travel, life, race schedule) of the runner.  This is something generic programs just can’t do, that often leaves their users scratching their heads, unsure how to best adjust it themselves.  The failure rate of runners on generic programs is vastly higher to that of runners using a running coach who has designed for them a custom program.
While there are obviously many additional reasons, many often specific to runners themselves, the 5 reasons list above are the main reasons I believe a runner should hire a running coach, and the reasons I most often hear from the runners themselves when they first contact me.
There are many levels of running coaches.  And all have their place in the market for helping runners.  Some are professionals that coach as their job and passion and some simply coach part-time or as their hobby, and there are all levels inbetween.  But not all coaches are created equal in terms of their ability to help with the 5 reasons listed above.  Additionally some coaches have specialties in terms of events, runner ability levels, and/or age groups.  Be sure to know what you are getting and ask questions so that what you get matches up to what you want and need from a coach.   
I offer a variety of coaching services to distance runners of all ability levels and ages at:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

3 Categories of Stress Workouts For Marathoners

We can break down the stress workouts we do in training for the marathon, into 3 categories: Speed Workouts, Stamina Workouts and Endurance Workouts. 
In this blog I want to define the purpose of each and recommend some workout parameters for how to effectively work in each category.
When and how often we use each category will depend on the training phase we are in and how close to our goal marathon we are.
Purpose of Speed Training For Marathoners
·       Improve/maintain the maximum amount of oxygenated blood that can be pumped by the hear t to the muscles and utilized.  (VO2 Max)
·       Improve the power and economy of the stride by engaging the muscles at a more intense level and activating a higher percentage of muscle fibers into use.
·       Keep other training/racing paces feeling slower and less intense in comparison
Parameters For Marathoner’s Speed Workouts
·       Repeats of between 400 meters and 1 mile
·       Total of repeats is between 4 mile sand 8 miles in total
·       Recovery jog of between 200 and 400 meters
·       Repeats performed at 4% to 10% faster than half marathon pace

Purpose of Stamina Training For Marathoners
·       Improve the pace at which the body before the slope of lactate production to speed increase moves to a steeper slope (lactate threshold)
·       Improve the pace at which the body before the slope of energy required to speed increase moves to a steeper slope (aerobic threshold)
·       Callous the body and mind to being in various amounts of physical discomfort for prolonged periods.
·       Get the mind use to the feel of half marathon and marathon paces.
Parameters For Marathoner’s Stamina Workouts
·         Even Pace Tempo Run
Ø  4-6 miles at half marathon pace to 1% faster
Ø  8-12 miles at marathon pace to 1% faster
·         Progression Tempo Runs
Ø  4-6 miles starting at 4% slower and progressing to 4% faster than half marathon pace
Ø  8-12 miles starting at 4% slower and progressing to 4% faster than marathon pace
·         Wave Tempo Runs
Ø  4-6 miles alternating half mile segments at 4% slower and 4% faster than half marathon pace
Ø  8-12 miles alternating 1 mile segments at 4% slower and 4% faster than marathon pace
·         Tempo Repeats
Ø  Repeats of between 1 and 3 miles done at half marathon pace to 1% faster, totaling 5 to 8 miles with 200 to 400 meter jog recovery
Ø  Repeats of between 2 and 6 miles done at marathon pace to 1% faster, totaling 10 to 16 miles with 200 to 800 meter jog recovery

Purpose of Endurance Training For Marathoners
·         Increase the amount of available glycogen the body stores
·         Improve the efficiency of the body in using various energy sources
·         Advance cardiovascular and circulatory development
·         Prepare ancillary muscles for running for extended periods of time
·         Callous the mind to running for extended periods of time
·         Practice / acclimate the body to various fueling/refueling strategies
*Burning fat for energy requires more work from the body – the more fat we have to use the slower we run

Parameters For Marathoner’s Stamina Workouts

·       Easy Pace Long Runs: 21-24 miles at 15% to 20% slower than marathon race pace
·       Steady State Long Runs:  18-21 miles at 5% to 10% slower than marathon race pace
·       Fast Finish Long Runs:  18-21 miles with the first 13-16 miles of the run down at 15% to 20% slower than marathon pace, and the last 3-5 miles of the run done at marathon race pace
Note:  For marathoners slower than 3 hours – cap easy pace long runs at 180 minutes and steady state and fast finish long runs at 150 minutes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Helping Young Runners Develop

About 15 months ago (January 2012) I gave a presentation at a coaching conference about "Helping Young Runners Develop".  I recently came across the presentation I had prepared and thought I'd share it here on my blog for those interested.  Hopefully some of you will find it helpful.