A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Coach Says

Last night my stomach decided to rebel against the salad I had for lunch and I almost skipped my monthly running club meeting. However, our speaker for the evening was a local running coach and a few people I'd talked to expressed some interest in what he had to say. So, I downed some Pepto (thank the gods for whoever invented that) and headed out.

The Coach talked a little bit about setting up your racing season and a lot about form and running efficiency. Throughout the presentation he reiterated several times that running and racing should be fun. If it's not fun, you're doing something wrong. Ways to make it fun?

*Run with friends
*Run in different places and vary your routes
*Vary your workouts. For example, don't always do the same workout on the same day. Don't always do your tempo run on Monday, your intervals on Wednesday, and your long run on Saturday. Mix it up as much as your schedule allows.

In terms of setting up your racing schedule he suggested splitting the season up into two major segments with a 3-6 week period of no strict training in between. You should still run, but do it without a training plan in place. He said this should be as much of a mental break as a physical break. I sort of screwed the pooch on this one as I just calculated that I need to start marathon training immediately after finishing the Soldier Field 10 Miler. Oops!

In terms of recovery, he suggested that racing 5K to 10K distances only requires 5-7 days of recovery in between races. Meaning, you could conceivably race those distances every weekend if you wanted to.

10 mile to half marathon distances require more like 10-21 days in between races. However, this certainly varies by individual, age, fitness level, etc. Plus, if you aren't "racing" all of them then you can do them more frequently.

Regardless of what distance you're training for you should focus on your "PAF". PAF stands for:

-Posture (stand up straight and tuck your tailbone in)
-Arm Action (arms should pump back as far as possible and another person should be able to see a triangle of daylight between your arm and your body when viewing you from the side)
-Foot Strike

He spent a lot of time on foot strike. He showed us a few drills that we can do to work on getting our foot under our center of mass instead of out in front. The two drills he showed us are called "standing pawing" and "backward walking".

In standing pawing you should stand with all your weight on one leg, hitch your opposite hip up a little bit, raise your knee slightly, and reach your foot back behind you and tap your toe on the ground. Do this 10 times each leg 10 times a day. This apparently helps rewire your brain to the movement so that it becomes second nature when running.

With backward walking you essentially bend your knee behind you in a 90 degree angle and then put your foot down behind you. Repeat with your other leg until you've walked a total of 20 steps backward (10 steps on each foot). Again, do 10 steps each leg 10 times a day. And don't try it on the treadmill!!

The issue is that when you heel strike (that is, hit with your heel first instead of your fore foot) you create braking motion and then you have to go up and over your foot. This makes you bounce, slows you down, and increases the amount of time your foot spends in contact with the ground. The key is to reduce the amount of time your foot spends on the ground. Less ground contact time equals fewer injuries and more efficiency.

Regardless of what type of race you're training for, you should have three key workouts each week: tempo run, speedwork/intervals, and a long run. If you supplement these with recovery runs, strength and core training, and stretching/yoga/Pilates you're doing great.

This particular coach has his runners train using heart rate instead of paces. I admit that I didn't pay a lot of attention to this section of the talk since heart rate stuff really gets me confused. I did take away one interesting piece of information, though. Your speedwork/interval pace should allow you to recover to 120 beats per minute in 60-90 seconds. If it takes shorter than that, you need to run faster. Longer and you need to run slower. Also, instead of saying "I'm going to run X 200s/400s/800s/etc" you should stop your workout when either your pace drops off or your heart rate can no longer recover in 60-90 seconds.

Finally, he stated that tempo runs are the most reliable predictor of racing success. One way to extend your tempo runs while training for longer distance races is to take your mile PR, add 40 seconds, warm-up, then run that pace for as long as possible. If that's only 10 minutes so be it. Each week try to add a little bit more time to the workout before cooling down. He said he eventually tries to get his marathoners up to 16-18 miles at that pace.

Overall, I learned a few specific things I didn't know before and heard some things I already knew reiterated. The key, of course, is to put it all into practice.


Lacey said...

wow that is all really interesting!!! thanks for sharing. i feel like i was there! you really remembered everything.

Stina said...

Thanks for sharing. The part about heartrate during speedwork is especially helpful to me. Speedwork (intervals, tempo runs) baffles me a bit and I'm never quite sure I'm doing it "right" (i.e. working hard enough, actually benefiting from it.)

I so wish I could run the Soldier Field 10 Miler! I think it would be so awesome. Sadly, it's Memorial Day weekend which I always spend at my family's cottage in Michigan.

kilax said...

I am so happy you wrote this up. Thanks!

Some info I knew, but some I didn't! I bet I need to work on my foot strike. I wonder if that is why the personal trainer has me doing so many balance exercises on one foot, and trying to run with my legs more "under" my body.

I like the idea of moving tempos, interval and long run days around. That is a good idea to break it up.

And duh, isn't running ALWAYS fun?!

I think I have marathon training starting for me on 6/7. Is that when it starts for you? Are you doing one of Hal's plans?

Hope your stomach feels better today!

lifestudent said...

I hear about the heartrate thing all the time, but thats just too much work for me ;)

kristen said...

Wow, those are some great tips. Some reminders and some I never knew! I def. have a hard time with the 3-6 weeks with no strict training plan during March - October. I always jump from one to another....not too good.

Bayjb said...

Oh my gosh I'm sorry to hear you weren't feeling well! I hope your shin is better too! The coach had a lot of interesting tips, I'm glad you were able to see him speak!

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