Monday, March 23, 2015

Run Like a Hobbit

I get asked more and more these days to share my training secrets. There really isn't anything fancy to my methods. I just run "there and back again", many, many times. All hobbit tales aside, it is and isn't that simple. I became a student of running and applied what I had learned and let time and hard work do the rest. It's become a wild ride to see all the progress made.

The first step into becoming a better runner is to become more consistent. There are no gains to be made if you spend every other week sitting out with an injury. Sure there are cross training exercises you could do, but nothing fully replaces the gains made by running more frequently. Your body adapts to stress so you need to apply that stress at regular intervals in order to keep receiving gains. I took things to the extreme by decided to run every single day no matter what, but you should stick to your own plan whether that is 3 days a week or 7.

Learn about yourself and your limits. We are trying to push you to new limits here, but it isn't going to help if you go off the edge on every workout. In order to run everyday I learned that I needed to slow my training pace down. I started running with a heart rate monitor and did a little guesswork on the heart rate zones to get myself down to a manageable pace. Everyone's ticker is a bit different and so my heart may beat faster than yours. General rule of thumb is you should be able to easily carry on a conversation.

To get better you also need to sprinkle in some speed work. You don't want to over do things though. The rule of thumb is that 20% of your weekly mileage should be at a faster pace. If you're only running 20 miles a week, this means only 4 of those miles should be faster than conversational pace. This includes tempo runs, intervals, repeats, and fartleks. My personal favorite workout is to head to the track and run 800m repeats with a 400m jog for recovery. It strikes a good balance between developing speed for shorter races like 5Ks while still providing benefit for an endurance event like the marathon. There are so many different workouts out there that you shouldn't have trouble finding one you like on Google. Just make sure to change things up a little bit to give your body a new challenge.

After consistency and proper pacing you should really work on increasing volume. By getting out to run on a consistent basis and making sure I wasn't over-taxing my body with pace I was able to reach new levels of weekly mileage. Getting into the 40-50 mile per week range is where I really started to see tremendous gains in speed and endurance. The key is to not build up too fast and to also take a cut back week every 3rd or 4th week to allow your body a bit of recovery to adapt. It can be tough to find the time to run this much, but if you're like me and run every day then that's just 7 miles a day. I tend to vary that up a bit and have a longer run on the weekend though.

Don't forget the basics of running. Make sure you continue to have fun or the hard work really will become hard work. You should also do enough cross training to keep your body in check. I'm prone to muscle imbalances caused by a desk job and therefore have to work out my hips and glutes a couple times a week. I also tend to develop a sore right calf caused by repetitive stress and over pronation. It helps to learn how to massage out sore muscles. Make sure you have proper shoes too.

Keep it up and you too can find yourself celebrating new PRs and finding yourself able to do things you didn't think were possible before.


  1. Great tips. Yes, getting to 40 - 50 miles per week is a good cap for someone who works full time and who wants to maintain a semblance of a social life. Staying injury-free at this mileage can be problematic, but as you wrote, working on muscle imbalances a couple of times a week helps tremendously. One more tip: Don't do too much too soon. Take a long, long term perspective to running. It takes runners years of training to get to a point where they can run fast and long and stay relatively injury-free.

  2. Great tips!!! Can't wait to hear about your next accomplishment.