Friday, December 18, 2015

Mixed Workouts & Why Single Focus Is Often Better

VO2 Max Repeats

If you are a regular reader of this blog or have read much of the information on my websites, you will know that I believe all training come down to the stress and recover principle.  It is simply the basis behind all physical training.  We must stress our body in a certain way, then allow it to recover and when it does it will be better adapted to that stress.

When we look at the stress workouts we do to cover the stress side of stress and recover, it is important to clearly define what we are after. As you may have read before, here is how I define our goal in doing a stress workout:

Stress Workout:  These are running workouts in which we significantly stress a system or systems of the body in order to produce a targeted adaptation so as to improve certain aspects of our fitness.  Our goal is to do sufficient and specific enough work in order to elicit the adaptation we are seeking, while still being able to recover from that work relatively quickly so that we can quickly target another adaptation.  To accomplish this we want to finish our stress workouts feeling like we have worked very hard, but not having all out raced out efforts.  In order to keep the training process moving forward and to be able to target all necessary systems with adaptation on a regular basis, a stress workout should be able to be recovered from with 1-3 easy/recovery days.

There is 1 specific line in this definition that I want to focus on today:
"Our goal is to do sufficient and specific enough work in order to elicit the adaptation we are seeking"

This means that we must know what adaptation we are seeking, and then know the type of work to do to achieve it and then how much work is sufficient and specific enough to elicit that adaptation. Think about that, that is no small hurdle.

Mixed Workouts

Most of us have seen and done mixed use workouts before.  Those are workouts that consists of work at multiple different intensities and works multiple systems in 1 workout.  An example may be a short tempo run to work our lactate threshold followed by a some speed intervals to work VO2 Max.  Or a pyramid workout that includes some intervals are at lactate threshold, groove, VO2 max and ever fast interval paces.

These mixed use workouts are popular among some coaches because they sound cool and complex and there are countless variations that can be used.  And they are popular among some runners because they are fun and interesting to do with changes in speeds and intensities that change things up several times during the workout.

But the problem with these mixed use workouts is that they often fail to meet the hurdle stated above, they are not "sufficient enough in order to elicit the adaptation we are seeking." They simply don't allow us to do enough specific work in any one system to elicit a desired new adaptation. Rather what they are good at doing is allowing us to do enough work in multiple areas to maintain existing adaptations.

Lets look at an example to help us see what I am talking about.  Here are 3 different workout possibilities for one of our stress days:

Workout #1:  30 minute LT Tempo Run
Workout #2:  8 x 3:00 VO2 Max Repeats
Workout #3:  15 minute LT Tempo Run + 4 x 3:00 VO2 Max Repeats

Workout #1 should provides us with sufficient and specific enough work to elicit a new adaptation which improves our lactate threshold

Workout #2 should provide us with a sufficient and specific enough work to elicit a new adaptation which improves our VO2 Max

Workouts #3 likely does not provide us sufficient and specific enough work to elicit a new adaptation in either lactate threshold or VO2 Max but likely does provide sufficient enough work in each to maintain existing adaptations.

Single Focus vs. Mixed Use - When To Use Each

So the question then is when is it best to use a simple single focus stress workout and when to use a mixed use workout.  Here is what I recommend:

The vast majority of your stress workouts should be single system focused stress workouts, those are the best way to elicit new adaptations and improvements in fitness.  This doesn't mean you can not change up how you attack that system within the workout (such as doing a tempo run followed by tempo intervals all targeting LT or AT or doing a cut-down workout or pyramid intervals all at the same pace/system target) but the focus of the work remains on the same system.  This is simply the best way to consistently improve our fitness by eliciting desired adaptations in targeted systems.

Use mixed use workout in situations in which you need to touch base on several systems in order to maintain existing adaptations and prevent backslide in those areas. Often this will be late in a training cycle (think Specific Phase) when you can not afford to spend entire workouts working systems that aren't primary to the goal race distance but you need to do some work in those areas in order to prevent backslide in those areas which could impact primary focus fitness.  Another time I will often use a mixed use workout is early on race week where I am not after new adaptations but rather just want to touch base on a few areas to make sure existing adaptations are shore up.


As always, in your training carefully plan out what systems you need to work on and improve and then design workouts that are sufficient and specific enough to elicit the adaptations you are seeking.  But never forget that without sufficient recovery afterwards, those adaptations can not and will not happen.  Recovery is just as critical as the stress, be sure to honor each.

Happy Running.

Coach Mark Hadley

Monday, December 7, 2015

Marathon Training - Aerobic Power, Aerobic Resistance and Specific Endurance

How it is best for an athlete to prepare to race a marathon depends largely on what their limiting factors are in terms of marathon fitness.  In order to make this determination I find it helpful to look at marathon fitness as being made up of 3 categories I have borrowed from legendary coach Renato Canova:

Aerobic Power:  think of this as a marathoner's horsepower.  It is how well you can run at 4-12% faster than your marathon race pace.  This category includes your lactate (or anaerobic) threshold and your VO2 Max.  If runners were cars than Aerobic Power would be the size of our engine and how much horsepower we could produce.  Good tests of Aerobic Power in a runner is how fast they can run at races between 15 minutes to 90 minutes in duration (or from 5k to half marathon in length).  VO2 Max, Groove and Lactate Threshold workouts are all primary workouts in improving our Aerobic Power.

Aerobic Resistance:  think of this as the marathoner's endurance.  It is the basic endurance the runner has; their ability to run a long ways without bonking.  It is built up through weekly mileage and long runs at 4% to 20% slower than marathon race pace.  If runners were cars then Aerobic Resistance would be the size of their gas tank.  A good test of Aerobic Resistance is how much mileage you can handle and how far your long runs are.  Long runs, moderate pace or steady state runs, easy runs and increasing weekly mileage levels are all primary ways to improve Aerobic Resistance.

Specific Endurance:  think of this as the marathoner's efficiency at race pace.  It is the how much energy they must use in order to run at goal marathon race pace and how long can they do so.  If runners were cars than Specific Endurance would be how many miles can they can go (efficiency) at a certain speed before running out of gas.  It is built through running at longer distances at between 4% slower and 4% faster than marathon race pace.  The ultimate test of your Specific Endurance will come in the marathon itself.  Aerobic Threshold, Brisk Runs, Marathon Pace Runs, Tempo Long Run and Fast Finish Long Runs are all primary ways of improving Specific Endurance.

How strong our Aerobic Power and Aerobic Resistance are are both large factors (bases) in Specific Endurance, so for that reason the focus on building our Specific Endurance usually comes after we have worked on our Aerobic Power and Aerobic Endurance as much as we can or are going to.  This is why for most people I advocate a Fundamental Phase in which we work on Aerobic Power and Aerobic Resistance (to the extent and in the proportion needed based on your specific limiting factor) before a shorter Specific Phase where we work on Specific Endurance leading up to the marathon.

A common mistake I see many runners make is getting to caught up or pre-occupied with 1 of these 3 categories and focusing on it to the detriment of the others.  It doesn't do you any good to have incredible Aerobic Power (horsepower) going into the marathon if you don't have the Aerobic Resistance or Specific Endurance to utilize it (picture a race car with a huge engine but runs out of gas before the finish line).  And it doesn't do you much good to focus mainly on Aerobic Resistance, building up your endurance to be able to run the long ways, but not have a powerful enough engine to be able to do it very quickly (picture a Prius in the Daytona 500).

The key is to work on each in the proportion to what it is your limiting factor in racing a faster marathon.  If you have primarily been a moderate to lower mileage runner focused on 5k's and 10k's then your Aerobic Power is probably high and your limiting factor will likely be in terms of your Aerobic Resistance and Specific Endurance.  But if you are someone who runs lots of mileage and long runs but does little to no speed work and tempos, then your Aerobic Resistance is probably high and your Aerobic Power and Specific Endurance is probably your limiting factor.

The faster you want to run a marathon the higher and closer to your ultimate potential each category needs to be, so you can't afford to ignore any category. Weakness in one area will ultimately hold back how fast you can race.  So as you and your coach plan out your next marathon training cycle, talk about what your limiting factors are that keeping you from running a faster marathon, then be sure that you arrange your schedule to get extra work on that area in during your fundamental phase.  It will lead to a faster marathon and happier you. :-)

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley

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

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.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MPR's: Training For Distance Running

I have been a student of the sport of distance running for as long as I can remember.  As a kid back in the 1970's I remember reading and re-reading Jim Fixx's "Complete Booking of Running" and checking and reading out every book remotely related to running from the Henderson Country Public Library.  I learned the dewy decimal system specifically just so that I could find all the books on running in the library's reference card catalogs. This continued on through high school and then college and decade after decade until the present day.  It is a subject that has fascinated me: how do we prepare and train in order to get faster at distance running.  It is so simple, yet so complex, it is like an onion with so many layers, yet such a simple straight forward favor to be savored.  

I have learned a great deal about the sport from decades of personal experience and the experiences of running friends and the athletes I have coached, but also from other coaches, and researchers who have been willing to generously share their findings and philosophies.  I have read their works, I have attended their presentations and debated with them various topics in the sport.  It has expanded my thinking, and even when I don't agree with someones philosophy I never fail to learn something by hearing them out and looking at things from a different perspective.   

I believe it is this open sharing by athletes, coaches and researchers that is what keeps this sport moving forward.  With this in mind, I have prepared a 30 slide overview of my training philosophy that I want to share and make available here in this blog and on my website.  My hope is that at the very least it sparks ideas and new line of thinking in your mind, and at the very best it offers you a solid, tried and true training philosophy to embrace to help you advance in the sport.

While it wasn't possible to cover every aspect of training in full detail (maybe that will be available in a book one day), this presentation gives you a good overview of how I think of and approach training based on my decades involved in the sport and from all the people (coaches, athletes and advisers) I have learned from along the way.    

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Finding The Mental Strategy That Is Right For You

The ultimate goal of a runner in training is to improve their running fitness so they can meet their goals.

The ultimate goal of a runner in a race is to be able to produce their best possible performance in the race.

There are both physical and mental components of training and racing that go into accomplishing these goals.  There are thousands of books and articles that talk about the physical aspects of training and racing.  These books and articles explore the workouts to use to best improve fitness in training and what physical strategies yield the best race performances. I talk extensively about those physical aspects here in this blog and on my website But what I want to focus on here today is the mental aspects that are often overlooked and under discussed.  

Mental Components
The mental side of producing your best possible training or racing performance is the area where the greatest variability is.  Runners are a diverse group and have all sorts of different personalities, have all sorts of different and varied life experiences and as a results often have extremely varied tendencies, strengths and weaknesses and stress and comfort triggers.  Because of this no matter how carefully crafted, no one mental strategy will work well for everyone.  So rather than spending our time trying to force square pegs into round holes, our time is best spent developing a hole that fits our own personal mental pegs the best.

So how do we go about doing this?  I think this requires personal honesty, introspection, and experimentation. 

Personal honesty:  I think the first thing we must realize is there is no right or wrong answers here.  We need to free ourselves from embarrassment in our weaknesses or pride in strengths, at least enough in order to be honest about them and recognize them for the role they play in our running.  We must do away with our defensive shields and illusions and be open and honest about what is happening in our own minds.  This will allow us to move forward.

Introspection:  once we have allowed ourselves to be honest about what is happening in our minds, we need to take note of the things that are stress triggers for us, what our comfort triggers are, and what are the underlying sources of our own personal motivation.  Warning: this can be hard to do so take your time and be honest and think of multiple examples of each to confirm the tendencies.  These each will be unique to us personally.  It is very easy to fall in to answering what we think we are supposed feel.  We need to make sure that we come up with what is true for us personally and not how we wish we where or how we think some great athlete is supposed to be.  Note:  a stress trigger for you may be someone else’s comfort trigger so there is not much use in comparing yourself with others. 

Experimentation:  Once we have been honest with ourselves and sought to understand better what is happening in our minds, then it’s time to use that and figure out a mental strategy to use our strengths, motivations and comfort triggers while staying away from our weaknesses and stress triggers.   Then try these strategies out in training (tempo runs can be a great place for working on this) and in races and fine tune them as you go to find which produce the best results both in terms of our performances and also our enjoyment of the performances.  The possibilities can be almost unlimited, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Personalize it and make it uniquely you.  Once we have done this and determined what works best for us, our running will be better aligned to us personally and as a result our training will and racing will be more enjoyable, and fruitful, and consistent. 

I almost hate to give examples because I don’t want to bias or limit the scope of our thinking, but at the same time I do think it can be good to help us realize the type of things I am talking about and how much individuals can vary in mental approach and still be very successful.  So let me talk briefly about 2 of the bigger example areas:

Motivation:  some people are externally competitive people, they enjoy racing others and beating rivals and going after records, and that competition is very motivating to them.  For other that external motivation is not as present and instead they are more motivated by a quest for personal betterment or some other aspect that running provides (such as helping others through running).  Each runner is best off examining and understanding their own personal motivations and then using those in formulating their mental approach.  For many people motivation will be a combination of things but it is helpful to explore those and understand which are dominate and which are more passive and in what situations.  Ultimately in order to perform our best we must find what way keeps us more motivated than we are tired and focusing on something that is not as motivating for you just won’t get the job done.   I have worked with very successful runners on all ends of the spectrum here and there is no hard and fast rule as to what is the “best” motivation, it is only a matter of which is the one that personally motivates you the most. 

Measurement:  every runner has their preferred way to judge or manage progress in training or in a race.  For a great many it is time or pace, but for some it is heart rate, and for others perceived effort or something else. Many runners like to use one method primarily and then have another method as a safety check or back-up. Experiment and know yourself, which way works best for you and produces your best performances.  There is no right or wrong way, so don’t limit yourself on the possibilities.  I have had runners win major races and have no idea what their time would be until they see the clock at the finish line (they used HR and feel/rhythm as their measuring sticks), and others who target, know, record and nail every split along the way.  The most successful runners are the ones who figure out what works best for them personally in terms of measuring and judging their performance. 


As you can see now, because of our mental, personality and life experience differences, there never will be 1 right mental strategy for everyone.  The key will be come up with your own personal strategy, tailored just for you.  The more fully you embrace that journey of finding and crafting that, the better the results you will have.  Be honest, and be true to yourself and you will be successful in your running, and in life.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Clearly Defining Stress Workouts and Easy/Recovery Runs

All physical training always comes down to the stress and recover principle so be sure you clearly define each component and remind yourself of what you are trying to accomplish.  Here is what the stress and recover principle tells us:

Stress & Recover Principle:  stress the the body in a certain physical discipline and then allow it to recover, and when it has recovered it will comeback better adapted to that original stress.

Running training then, is not about hitting a certain time, it is about getting the desired adaptation.  Here is what I think is a good definition to work from, and way to look at, both our stress workouts and easy/recovery runs:

Stress Workout: These are running workouts in which we significantly stress a system or systems of the body in order to produce a targeted adaptation so as to improve certain aspects of our running fitness. Our goal is to do sufficient and specific enough work in order to elicit the adaptation we are seeking, while still being able to recover from that work relatively quickly so we can soon after target another adaptation (as we have multiple systems to work regularly). To accomplish this we want to finish our stress workouts feeling like we have worked very hard, but not as far as having all-out raced our efforts. In order to keep the training process moving forward and to be able to target all necessary systems with adaptation on a regular basis, a stress workout should be able to be recovered from with 1-3 easy/recovery days.

Easy / Recovery Runs: These are runs we do in order to promote recovery and to maintain or advance our body’s adaptations to running and aerobic fitness while we recover from our stress workouts. These runs should be kept relatively short and slow enough that they do not significantly stress the body. 

Important Notes/Observations

- As a coach I can tell you approximately the pace ranges in which to do certain workouts at in order to target certain desired body systems for adaptation. But these are just educated assumptions based on many, many variables - it is not an exact pace and can vary based on changes to any number of variables.  The primary focus then of the stress workout is to get in significant and specific enough stress to gain the desired adaptation and not necessarily to hit a certain time or pace.  You should never judge the success or failure of a workout by if you hit a certain pace or covered a certain distance, but rather by if you put in the correct effort and executed the workout in such a way as to significantly stress the system(s) you wanted to target. 

- Be careful to keep in mind the need to sufficiently target a system(s) with significant enough of a stress to elicit the desired adaptation.  One common mistake I think many runners and coaches make is to utilize mixed workouts too much in which they target many different systems in the same stress workout.  The end result of this often there is not enough focus or specificity to the work on any 1 system to gain a new adaptation.  Instead I think mixed workouts are better for maintaining the fitness of (adaptations of) many systems rather than improving any of them. 

- As a general rule, we do not gain fitness by pushing and improving the pace of our easy/recover runs, but rather the pace of our easy runs improves as we gain fitness. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lessons on Motivations

One of the best lessons coaching has taught me is that each person has their own personal motivations and stress and comfort triggers.  What burns some people out, can actually be comforting and motivating to others.  What some find stressful, others find reassuring.  What motivates some doesn't necessarily work for others and vice-versa.  As a coach I have learned to not assume other's motivations are the same as what mine were as an athlete, and instead to help them find and understand, embrace and use their own motivations in the best and most useful ways possible.

A few great examples of this:  I have worked with some very successful athletes who get totally stressed out by paces and times and race their best when going watchless and running strictly by feel, and other equally as successful ones who take comfort in and work best with very well defined and regular pace/time targets.  Some need/desire a well defined race plan and some a more general race plan.  Some runners are planners and draw a great comfort in having training and racing laid out in advance to give them a sense of focus and knowing they have a set path to follow, while others are more free spirits and spontaneous and need greater flexibility and don't like having a schedule hanging over their heads. Some thrive on competition and beating their rivals, while others thrive on the personal betterment of their own PR's or performances.   I can name plenty of successful runners that fall on all sides of these issues and more.

The point of this I guess, is that as a runner or coach we need to recognize that we are all different mentally and that is OK. And it pains me to see runners or coaches criticize or assume another runner or coach is doing it wrong because they are doing something that doesn't mentally work for them. We need to stop judging other's motivations and instead realize that what is most important is what works best for that individual runner, and assuming that what works for you in terms of motivation and burn-out applies to them as well just might not be true.  Sure we will likely find many who have similar motivations and stress and comfort triggers to ourselves, but we will also find many who are different.  In those cases be encouraging and understanding, not judgmental, and appreciate all the amazing variations we have in our great sport.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Elite Development Coaching Service’s “2016 U.S. Marathon Trials Project” has changed its name and broadened its scope.  Its new name is’s “Elite Development Coaching Services”. 


There are a several reasons for the change:
  • There are many elite and emerging elite athletes who have big goals but who do not have the Olympic Trials as their main goal, and the program does not want to force feed them goals in order to receive our coaching services.
  • The change eliminates artificial deadlines (i.e. Trials qualifying windows & cut-off dates).  The athlete can set what they feel is the appropriate time frame for their goals. 
  • Foreign athletes, who obviously wouldn’t be eligible for or interested in the U.S. Olympic Trials, can now be included on the program. 
  • Allows for the expansion of the event focuses served to include the 10k and half marathon as well as the marathon. 
  • Clarifies that this program is a coaching service and not a sponsored group as the word “Project” can sometimes be interrupted.  By not being a sponsored group we are able to work with athletes regardless of their sponsorship and the athletes have the full freedom to pursue whatever individual sponsors they want, without worrying about program ties. 

The Elite Development Coaching Services (“Elite Development program”) has the following mission and event focus:

Mission:  To help emerging elite and elite distance runners to continue to improve and pursue their goals in the sport by providing them with expert coaching.

Event Focus:   10k, Half Marathon, Marathon  (and all event distances in that range)

U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
We are still, and always will be, a big advocate and fan of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and believe it is an awesome goal and experience for so many in our sport.  We would expect, and have as a personal goal of mine, that many of the members of the Elite Development Coach Services will be trials qualifiers and we should be well represented on the start line in LA in 2016 and in future trials as well.   But that doesn’t have to be your goal to be part of the Elite Development program.  If you meet the qualifying standards for the program and want to improve than this may be the program for you. 

With the name change, the Elite Development program is in the process of enhancing its offering to the athletes it serves.  Includes in these enhancements include expanded use of technology, the addition of more/better videos, ever expanding resource listings, and a monthly newsletter.

More Info
To learn more about the Elite Development program visit the website:

And follow us on social media at:


Twitter:  @FastMarathoning   #RunEliteDev

Monday, March 2, 2015

Positivity & Driven Personalities

Many runners are driven individuals who want to improve and have lofty goals and expectations for themselves.  If harnessed and used well this can be a great thing and lead them to exciting accomplishments, but if not held in check and used properly it can also be a source of endless frustration.

I think the key to using this driven personality to carry you to success is through Positivity.

To help you see if you are using positivity to help achieve success, here are some examples of how a positive approach and conversely a negative approach would look at training and racing.


Positive Way:  Looks at each workout as an opportunity to improve and gets better.  Reflects first on and appreciates the progress made in an area.  Notes failures or short-comings in a workout and thinks of them as opportunities for future improvement and growth.  Remembers the whole, and each activities place in the process.  Focus is on executing the now and then going forward and what is next.

Negative Way:  Looks as each workout as something that it is critical to nail in order to stay on track.  Reflects first on any short comings or failures in the workout.  Notes failures or short-comings in a workout and thinks of them as having undermined at least some of what they wanted to accomplish.  Seeks to make-up missed work.  Focus is on rehashing or correcting the past.  


Positive Way:  Reviews their training progress and successes and uses them to set their race goals and build up their confidence in their ability to achieve them.  Goes to the start line with a calm confidence knowing they are well prepared for the task at hand.  Stays positive in the race, focuses on the things they can control.  Adapts to any unforeseen challenges, focused on moving forward and staying optimistic on how they can make the best of the moment and what is left in the race. Only allows positive self talk and encouragement to take place.  Views success with graciousness and humility, allowing it to build internal confidence.  Views failure as an opportunity to learn and improve for the future.

Negative Way:  Establishes their race goals based on what they think they should do in order to meet other bigger goals. Seeks to convince or justify to themselves why they can achieve those goals. Goes to the start line determined to MAKE their goal happen. Gets mad or frustrated when any unforseen challenges happen that put their goal into jeopardy. Seeks to make up for mistakes or challenges. Allows negative self talk to creep in with adversity.  Views success as validation and as being deserved.  Views failure as crushing and devastating, and thinks they should feel this way or they some how aren't driven enough.

It can be very helpful for runners to do an honest assessment periodically of how they view training and racing and which pathway, positive or negative, are they going down.  No one is perfect but the more on the positive side we can stay the greater our chances for success will be.

Happy Running!

Coach Mark Hadley

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

8 Stamina Building Workouts

Here are 8 great stamina building workouts that for distance runners that I wanted to share with you in this blog post. These are workouts that will help improve either your lactate threshold (LT) or your aerobic threshold (AT) and help you hold a faster pace for longer in your distance races.  

Lactate Threshold Centered Workouts

Lactate Threshold Tempo Run (LT Tempo)
Workout: Continuous run of between 24 and 30 minutes at as even a pace as possible
Pace: Lactate Threshold (LT)
Benefits: improves lactate threshold, builds efficiency at and familiarity with LT pace
Use: Used frequently in the Fundamental Phase and marathon Specific Phase, and extensively in the Specific Phase for a half marathon goal race
Example:  A continuous 27 minutes at LT pace

Lactate Threshold Progression Run (LT Progression)
Workout: Continuous run of between 24 and 30 minutes at a progression pace
Pace: Starting the run at AT pace and gradually progressing to 4-5% faster than LT pace the end of the run
Benefits: improves lactate threshold, mirrors the effort profile (increasing effort/intensity) of a race
Use: Used frequently in the Fundamental Phase and marathon Specific Phase and extensively in the Specific Phase for a half marathon goal race
Example: A continuous 27 minutes starting at AT pace and progressing to LT - 1x pace by the end

Lactate Threshold Wave Run (LT Wave)
Workout: Continuous run of between 24 to 30 minutes alternating every 2-5 minutes between 2 paces
Pace: 2-5 minute segments alternated at AT pace and LT - 1x pace
Benefits: improves lactate threshold, promotes focus and mentally staying in the moment
Use: Used frequently in the Fundamental Phase and marathon Specific Phase and extensively in the Specific Phase for a half marathon goal race
Example: A continuous 27 minutes alternating 3 minute segments at 4-5% slower than and 4-5% faster than LT pace

Lactate Threshold Repeats (LT Repeats)
Workout: Repeats of between 5 and 20 minutes, totaling between 30 and 40 minutes in total
Pace:  Lactate Threshold (LT) pace
Recovery: a very slow recovery jog of between 15% and 25% of repeat duration
Benefits: improves lactate threshold, builds efficiency at and familiarity with LT pace
Use: Used sporadically in the Fundamental Phase and Specific Phase as stamina work
Example:  3 x 12 minutes at LT pace with 2:30 jog recovery

Aerobic Threshold Centered Workouts

Aerobic Threshold Tempo Run (AT Tempo)
Workout: Continuous run of between 48 and 60 minutes at as even a pace as possible
Pace: Aerobic Threshold (AT) pace
Benefits: improves aerobic threshold, builds efficiency at and familiarity with AT pace
Use: Used sporadically in the Fundamental Phase and half marathon Specific Phase and extensively in the Specific Phase for a marathon goal race
Example: A continuous 54 minutes at AT pace

Aerobic Threshold Progression Run (AT Progression)
Workout: Continuous run of between 48 and 60 minutes done at a progression pace
Pace: Starting the run at 4-5% slower than and gradually progressing to LT pace by the end of the run
Benefits: improves aerobic threshold, mirrors the effort profile (increasing effort/intensity) of a race
Use: Used sporadically in the Fundamental Phase and half marathon Specific Phase and can be used regularly in the Specific Phase for a marathon goal race
Example: A continuous 54 minutes starting at 4-5% slower than AT pace and progressing to LT pace by the end

Aerobic Threshold Wave Run (AT Wave)
Workout: Continuous run of between 48 and 60 minutes, alternating 5-10 minutes at between 2 paces
Pace:  5-10 minutes segments alternated at 4-5% slower than AT pace and LT pace
Benefits: improves aerobic threshold, promotes focus and staying in the moment
Use: Used sporadically in the Fundamental Phase and half marathon Specific Phase and extensively in the Specific Phase for a marathon goal race
Example: A continuous 55 minutes alternating 5 minute segments in 4-5% slower than AT pace and LT pace

Aerobic Threshold Repeats (AT Repeats)
Workout: Repeats of between 10 and 40 minutes, totaling between 60 and 80 minutes in total
Pace: Aerobic Threshold (AT) pace
Recovery: a very slow recovery jog of between 10% and 20% of repeat duration
Benefits: improves aerobic threshold, builds efficiency at and familiarity with AT
Use: Used sporadically in the Fundamental Phase and Specific Phase as stamina work
Example:  3 x 24 minutes at AT pace with 3:00 jog recovery

Need help determining what your lactate threshold and aerobic threshold paces are?

Here is a quick guide:

LT Pace:  roughly the pace you can hold for 60 minutes in an all out effort (i.e. race)

AT Pace:  4 - 5% slower than LT pace.

If you are more distance oriented runners (i.e. a marathon type with high % of slow twitch muscle fibers) than you can use 4% to calculate your AT.

If you are a neutral runner (i.e. competes equally as well at 5k as you do half marathon or marathon) than you can use 4.5% to calculate your AT.

If you are a shorter distance oriented runner (i.e a 5k-10k type of runner who does better at those distance than the HM or marathon) than you can use 5% to calculate your AT.

Still need help?  Here is a link to my coaching training paces pace where i have some links to charts where you can use recent race times figure out your current LT and AT paces.