Oh, how i have NOT missed you!

dear walking boot,

while i appreciate the pressure you take off of my poor little tibia, there’s nothing else about you that makes me happy. you make my hip hurt. you make my leg sweat. you’re certainly no fashion statement. you draw undue attention to me. you’re a constant reminder that i’m broken and unable to run. please, please enjoy your hibernation in my closet and don’t come out for a very long time.

your most loyal wearer

ok, so i’m trying everything in the hopes that something works. i knew a year ago that i had the beginnings of a stress fracture but i chose to ignore it. not just because i’m stubborn but also because the throbbing only came occasionally. i just assumed i had a weakness but that i could work through it. unfortunately that wasn’t the case. when the occasional throbbing turned into a constant pain and the pain was so severe after a short speed run that i couldn’t get up my stairs to take a shower, i knew i had let it go too long.

so, yes, i went to my ortho and became, what i consider, a pretty good patient. i took 7 weeks off, in the middle of marathon training and during 2 of my running groups. 8 weeks was what my ortho wanted but i really felt good after 7. i wore the stupid boot anytime i could (obviously couldn’t wear it while on my bike) and not only does it just suck, it really sucks when it’s 110 degrees outside!

so, fast forward to the marathon- completed and actually felt ok. my tibial stress fracture became the least of my worries. i know i should have taken some time off after the marathon but i felt pretty good so i ran the st. jude half 20 days later. really, no worries from my tibia. yay!

well, about 2 weeks after st. jude, after a run, i felt like a little person with a hammer had somehow gotten into my leg and was just banging (lightly but still a banging) on the exact same spot of my stress fracture. damnit!! i’ve walked, increased my time on the spin bike, decreased my time running…for 4 weeks. so, saturday i ran and now what. the little person burrowed in my leg has now decided to take the light hammering to a constant beating that is keeping me up at night.

it is soooo hard to take off, especially when i have a group. i want to run. i want to run with my group. i want to struggle with my group. i absolutely hate having to take time off. i’m not worried about my fitness level- i’ll stay active- but there’s nothing you can do but run that makes you feel the same as running. my body is officially warning me to give my legs a rest and allow for my stress fracture to truly heal.

so, i think i’ve made a decision. i’m going to take the next 2 weeks off from running and just go from there. if i’m able to run after 2 weeks, great! if not, i’ll add a week at a time of rest. my plan is to make sure i can walk about 10 miles a week without any pain (during and after) and once i can, i will start running again. i will implement a run / walk plan for myself that is structured. i’m going to really “coach” myself for the first time. this is a super tough decision for me, especially since we’re running trails and hills- my favorite types of running!! i finally had to ask myself, “do you want to run saturday or do you want to run all year?” of course, i want to run all year so i know i need to be a good patient now.

if you have any aches and pains that are concerning you, let’s take care of them now! don’t wait until it’s too late and you’re sitting on the sidelines like me.

Fire up those glutes

did you know that your butt is a muscle? yes, i’m sure you did. did you know that your butt (aka glutes, if i must) is really important to your runs. how often do you feel like you “ran with your butt”? you know what i mean by this- your glutes are sore after a run, you can feel them tightening up and working on the push off.

last year when i was diagnosed with hip bursitis, my sports chiropractor said that my glutes were not firing. this didn’t make sense to me since i spend plenty of time doing squats and lunges but what i learned is that when i run i tend to leave my glutes out of it all together. my hamstrings take on a lot of the work that my glutes should be doing. rarely do we think about what role our muscles play when we run but you’d probably be surprised at how important certain muscles are.

the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius are the 2 large muscles that make up our glutes (butt). the glutes are responsible for propelling us forward and supporting the hip joint and the pelvis while running. as soon as your foot hits the ground, your glutes should fire first, followed by hamstrings and then quadriceps. if the glutes aren’t strong enough to activate, the quads and hamstrings will have to pick up the slack. this throws off the alignment and mechanics of the entire leg and can lead to knee and foot problems.

our hamstrings are the powerhouse that propel us up a hill and our quadriceps are what help us maintain control on a downhill. if your hips and glutes are weak, it’s hard for your quads to support your knees and keep them tracking in the direction they should be. so, for instance, if you have knee pain, you tend to think it’s your knees while the actual culprit is probably your weak hips and glutes.

while your hips and glutes are crucial to proper running, your core cannot be forgotten. most people think running is all about the quads but that is absolutely not the case. when running an uphill, the glutes and lower abs support the pelvis, which connects to the leg muscles needed to get uphill. if the core is strong, the legs will have a stable plane to push from, for a more powerful ascent. when you swing your leg forward, the hip-flexor muscles, such as the rectus femoris, pull on the pelvis. as you push off the ground, the glutes and hamstrings are engaged. when running a downhill, you need strong gluteal muscles to help absorb the impact and counter the momentum of the forward motion but without the core strength to control your movement, your quads and knee joints bear the extra pounding of your body weight, which can lead to fatigue, pain, and even injury.

a strong core is also super important for speed and endurance. as you extend your stride or quicken the rate of your leg and foot turnover when you’re trying to pick up your pace, the lower abs-including the transversus and rectus abdominis-and lower back are called into action. the stronger and more stable these muscles are, the more force and speed you can generate as you push off the ground. as you’re nearing the end of a race, a solid core helps you maintain proper form and run efficiently, even through fatigue. with strong lower abs and lower-back muscles, such as the erector spinae, it’s easier to stay upright. if your core is weak, you may end up shuffling, slouching, and putting too much stress on your hips, knees, and shins.

lastly, be clear that your core is not just your abdominals. when i say core, i’m also talking about your back. think about this- the stronger your back is, the easier it will be to hold your abs in. therefore, a strong back (especially low) equals a flatter stomach as well as a better run. win win!


Congrats to Keith, Toby, and Thomas for taking the plunge!! They raised $937.47 for Special Olympics Tennessee. It was freezing outside but they were troopers. (oh, and don’t forget, thomas also entered and WON the pizza eating contest which took place after the plunge)

here’s a quick glance at post-plunge…


Food Rules

i had a talk with a few people this morning about nutrition and afterwards i thought, “oh, i should totally share michael pollan with everyone.” if you haven’t heard of Michael Pollan, you’re missing out. he’s a food writer (not to be confused with blogger) and he’s really pretty fascinating. he’s written several books but the ones i’ve read are The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules. i even have a hard time tearing Georgia away from Food Rules 🙂

to be honest, The Omnivore’s Dilemma was a little too scientific for me, In Defense of Food was a very interesting read and Food Rules is an easy ready with just what it promises- food rules. the thing i really like about Michael Pollan is that his main theory or mantra on eating is simple- to be a conscious eater. i was shocked to find out he is a meat eater. *i’m not saying being a meat eater is right or wrong; i was just a little shocked that he is a meat eater. he says, though, that he makes a conscious decision about the meat he eats- for instance, he only buys grass fed beef. eating healthy has gotten really complicated so he tries to break it down and make it easier for everyone

anyway, here are some of his Rules from the book that i like:

* don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food- ie- twinkies!
* avoid foods that have sugar or sweetener listed as one of the top 3 ingredients
* avoid food products containing ingredients that a third grader can’t pronounce
* avoid food products with the words “low fat”, “fat free” or “lite”- i know many people don’t know this one but often times a product that is fat free is loaded with sugar and is actually worse for you than the regular- ie- salad dressings
* eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature
* if it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t
* it’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language- ie- Big Mac, Cheetos
* treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food
* eat animals that have themselves eaten well- this is a good one! think about it. if your animal has grown up on preservatives and chemicals, that’s what you’re ingesting. organic meat is expensive but if you have some meatless dinners, start eating tofu occasionally, you can better afford the expensive meats, milks, and eggs
* don’t eat breakfast cereal that changes the color of the milk- i really hate them because i love fruit loops and cookie crisp!
* “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead”- this is simply a reminder to try to eat whole wheats and grains rather that the white stuff
* eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself- i’m a big believer in this one. when you bake brownies, cookies, bread or whatever, you have the liberty to make some healthy changes
* don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
* cook
* BREAK THE RULES ONCE IN A WHILE- this is the best one; if you constantly limit yourself and stress about food, you’re going to be miserable and you’ll never stick to it.

these are only a few of his “rules” in his book but i thought these were some fun ones to share. i’m not a big believer in diets, certainly not fad diets like the Atkins, but i am a big believer in eating what you want but making some healthy changes. switch out all of your regular pasta for wheat pasta. limit your intake of red meat by making spaghetti, tacos, etc with ground turkey or meatless crumbles. learn to like tofu. add spinach to your smoothies (no, this was not a typo). make sure your snacks are fruits and nuts. get your carbs!! do not follow a low carb diet- these are not healthy. however, keep in mind that fruits, veggies and whole grains are the carbs you want to get.

i love to cook, especially bake, and i love to eat but i really try to make a conscious decision about the food i ingest. you must have food. food is your fuel. you’re no different from a car- cars need fuel but if you put all crappy gas in them, eventually they’re going to get sluggish and not work as well. same goes for you.

feel free to share any great tips you have or ask any questions!

Coach’s Q&A

ok ok ok, in order to defuse some of the panic and buzz about the upcoming groups (as well as just some general questions), here are some questions i’ve gotten along with my answers: (by the way, i’ve gotten some great questions so thanks for taking the time to ask them- it helps the whole group!)

* what is the difference between the “spring” group and “nashville” group?
sorry to be confusing. normally, in the past, i have just had a “nashville” group from feb – april but i know that there are plenty of other people out there who want to run with us but who may not want to run as far as a half. so this year i’ve decided to also offer the “spring” group for those people. we’ll all run together and weekly runs will be the same for everyone. the only difference is going to be the long run distance on saturdays. also, if you’re NOT training to 13.1 miles, you don’t have to be as strict about your slow pacing since your mileage will not be increasing very rapidly. so, “springers”- most of the info below on slow pacing only pertains to you if you want it to 🙂 (definitely still good info for you to read!) those of you training to 13.1 but maybe not doing nashville, you’re still the “nashville” group in my head.

* why do we not stretch before we run?
never, ever stretch a cold muscle. this is the easiest way to injure yourself. the best way to stretch before running is dynamic stretching- walking lunges, butt kicks, high knees, nutcracker walks, and so on. you can, however, roll on a foam roller before running- this is providing myofascial (the tissue that surrounds muscles) release while massaging tight muscles and increasing blood flow and circulation.

* why is the Nashville Half program going to be different from the St. Jude Half program?
i love this question. well, i really have 2 answers for this: 1) they are 2 different races and, therefore, will require 2 different training plans. nashville is hilly and on a course we’re not used to. the word on the street is also that they’re changing the course again this year to add some more hills. i refuse to not be prepared! 2) in looking at everyone’s times from the st. jude half, the most glaring issue was the lack of endurance (not speed).

* to further elaborate on the above:
i looked at everyone splits from the st. jude half and nobody had negative splits- where you get faster on the last half than you were on the front half. (actually, there were 3 people with negative splits but i’m not counting these because there were circumstances in the beginning of the race that caused some stops)
negative splits are a sign that you have the endurance necessary for that race. the flip side to a negative split is that you’re slowing down as the mileage increases. now is this because you didn’t run fast enough or is this because you’re too tired to maintain your pace? obviously it’s because you were too tired to maintain your pace. this is an endurance issue, not a speed issue. what i saw when looking at those times was that we should have spent more time over the 10 mile mark and more time on our feet. i’m focusing on getting you to finish a half marathon strong. with strong, comes fast. however, you can’t have fast if you don’t have strong. make sense?

* why all the focus on slow runs?
mainly to allow for the recovery and increased pace. our long runs will be our “hard” runs from week 1 and it’s always important to run slow on long runs (unless we’re doing a race pace sim run). the slow runs during the week are important because we’re interested in base building (adding mileage) over the first few weeks and we only need 1 tough run per week while we’re doing this- this is the long run. also, it’s important to spend more time on our feet- to practice race duration more often than race speed. if the half marathon is going to take you 2 hours but you’ve only ever done one 2 hour run, you’re not quite adapted so it’s going to feel tough on race day. if we spend more time at that 2 hour mark (i’m simply using this as an easy example), we’ll be more used to it. so, does that mean we run 13 miles over an over? no, that means we run 10 miles in the amount of time it will take us to run 13 on race day. that way, we’ve spent the time on our feet but we’re not running as much distance every week.

* will running slow make me lose my faster pace?
no. if you only ran slow and only ran short then i would say yes but that’s not what you’re going to be doing. running fast is not the only thing, or main thing, that makes you fast. endurance is mainly what makes you fast. speed work certainly helps but in the long run, it’s strong muscles and endurance that will help you to maintain speed.

* won’t running faster make me lose more weight?
not necessarily. you burn approximately 100 calories per mile regardless of how fast you run. if you run 5 miles at a 8 minute mile (40 minutes), you burn 500 calories. if you run 5 miles at a 10 minute mile (50 minutes), you burn 500 calories. keep in mind, we’re working in miles, not minutes. now notice, if you were running for minutes only, you would burn the 500 calories quicker if you ran faster- 40 minutes instead of 50- but we’re not running for minutes; we’re running for miles.

* will this method cause my body to store fat or teach my body to store fat?
no. you will actually increase your body’s use of fat stores when running so that you spare your body’s carbohydrate stores. (prepare yourselves, this is going to be a long answer!) the body primarily uses carbs and fat as energy to fuel runs. the ratio of carbs and fat changes depending on your speed and intensity. for high-intensity running, such as interval workouts, the body will rely more on carbs for fuel than fat because they’re a quicker source of energy. for long, slower runs, your body starts using fat as an energy source. that would make you think that the slower you run, the more weight you lose but it’s more complicated than that. while you burn more fat, you don’t actually use as many calories as you do on a higher intensity run. if you’re running ONLY to lose weight, you’re better off with some high intensity workouts (keep in mind, you can do high intensity cross training workouts for this purpose!) but if you’re also running to run long distances, you’re going to want to run at an intensity in which you use more fats than carbs (because you want the carb stores to help maintain your endurance). low to moderate intensities use 85%-60% (respectively) of fat and 15%-40% carbs while higher intensities use 30% fat and 70% carbs. if you’re using all of your carbs, you’re going to fatigue and hit the wall. you know why i’m always on you about fueling during runs- so you don’t fatigue. you do this to avoid depleting your carb stores.

* to further elaborate on the above…
in order to provide energy in the muscle, fat must be converted to a fatty acid molecule, transported from the adipose tissue to the muscle cell, taken into the muscle cell, which requires transporter molecules, activated in a series of reactions that prepare the fatty acid molecule for the chemical reactions that will eventually produce energy from it, and oxidized (burned) to produce energy. so, if we can increase our body’s reliance on fat stores, we are in turn increasing our use of fat as energy.

* does the “fat burning zone” exist and is that where we want to be?
the fat burning zone does and doesn’t exist. people think that if you go too fast or too slow, you will no longer burn fat. not true. yes, there are zones in which you burn more (as discussed above).

* how do you come up with max weekly mileage? (is it just a product of the distance you are training for?)
weekly mileage depends on whether you are a recreational runner (which we all are) or a competitive racer (someone who goes to a half marathon with hopes of placing). it’s suggested by the RRCA (as well as many other training plans) to get your weekly mileage between 20 – 30 miles per week when training for a half if you’re a recreational runner, 35-45 if you’re a competitive racer. i was able to get us to 23 based on where we are now and safely increasing the mileage.

* how quickly does the mileage ramp up during the base building portion?
approximately 2 miles per week (all in the long runs); this may not sound like enough to warrant my incessant ranting about the slow pace but, trust me, it is!

* i have heard before that you aren’t supposed to increase mileage more than like 10% per week. If the rate is higher than this, does it not matter since we are running slow?
correct and yes, we will increase our weekly mileage by approximately 10% each week. don’t confuse this with daily mileage or single long run mileage. the 10% rule is per week.

* is heart rate monitoring something that would be necessary during the training or is that overkill?
i would pay attention to feel more than i would heart rate, unless of course, you have a heart rate monitor that you’re used to wearing and want to do both. regardless of what your heart rate tells you, go more off of how you feel.

* how do you balance speed and tempo training with maintaining distance in the second stage of the plan?
when we start the sharpening phase, we will cut back a tad on the weekly distance to allow for our body to adjust to the new stresses. also, we will have introduced our body to some speed by adding fartleks towards the end of the base building phase. also, we will only have 1 speed type run per week, rather than 2, since we are going to be running more miles than in the past.

* will we keep a similar template as previous plans ie one tempo run, one speed run, and one long run per week?
similar but we won’t have more than 2 hard workouts in a week and our long run will always count as 1. we’ll do some bridge drills, race pace runs, speed drills, and so on.

* will we ever do speed work again?
yes, you little crazed monsters! we’ll spend the first 3 weeks with NO speed work but, in the 4th week, we will introduce fartleks and we’ll continue to have 1 hard workout per week in addition to our long run.

* what is a “fartlek”?
this is the Swedish word for “speed play.” when you see “fartlek” on your plan, you should be excited. it’s a very flexible way to add in some speed work. they are unstructured speed drills. for example, if your plan says to run fartleks for your middle mile, you will decide for yourself what to do- maybe run sprints between driveways and slows at intersections or sprints for 4 light poles and slows for 6, etc..

* what if i CAN’T run the slow pace you’ve assigned me?
it’s simple; you CAN! it’s just a matter of not pushing off as hard on the back foot and making a conscious effort to slow down. if marathoners who run 5 minute miles can run training runs at an 8 minute mile, those of us running 10 minute miles (for example) can run a 12 minute mile. in order to do it you have to want to do it.

* what if i don’t want to run the slow pace you’ve assigned me?
i’m not here to MAKE you do anything. i’m here to coach you, encourage you and teach you, however, in the end it is your decision.

* where in the world did you come up with these slow paces?
YOU gave me your pace. it is a formula based on your last race (if you had one to give me). you cannot expect to run a half marathon at the same pace you run a 5K. why? well, because it’s just not possible. if you are running these at the same pace, your 5K is too slow- you’re not pushing yourself. your pace will naturally decrease as your mileage gets longer. with that being said, there are plenty of people who have the same pace for everything but that means the shorter distance race was not an all out effort. also, i understand some of your race times were not all out efforts and, therefor, you have some wiggle room with these easy paces. your easy pace is based on your most recent race (half marathon preferably) but your 5K and 10K paces are based on your race finish goal!

* how much of a stickler are you going to be about these slow paces?
like i said before, it’s up to you to decide what pace to run. i will remind you, of course, that you are risking injury if you don’t slow down tremendously on the long runs. if you are unable to finish a run, i’m going to ask you what pace you were running. if you end up injured, i’m going to ask you if you’ve been running 4 times per week at the suggested paces. i stressed this a ton with my marathon group last year as well. it’s crucial BUT i’m not here to babysit or scold. i may, however, throw out an “i told you so” every once and awhile if necessary 😉

* do we have to run slow paces during the week too?
your sunday run (yes, sunday run!) is super short and slow. it’s just a recovery run to get the blood circulating. for the first 3 weeks, all runs need to be considered recovery runs and should be run at a slow pace. this is because we are increasing our mileage quickly. once we enter the 4th week, please keep all runs slow except those that are specifically assigned otherwise. with that being said, i know nobody is going to want to run a 3 mile run on tuesday as slow as the 10 mile run on saturday so just keep this in mind- go slow enough for it to be a recovery and not hard work. you want to be able to talk. this is not a run to race.

* what if i don’t have anything that tells me my pace?
don’t worry about it (unless you just want to get something because it is kind of fun to see- i, for instance, have a nike plus that transmits data from a shoe pod to my ipod; keith has a nike sportband which transports data from a shoe pod to a wristband- there are all kinds of things out there). i say “don’t worry about it” because i want everyone to stop relying so much on what they’re little gadgets are telling them and more on feel. if you feel like you’re running faster than an easy pace, you are. if you can’t talk in sentences without being out of breath, you’re not running an easy/recovery pace. if you’re doing speedwork and you can talk in sentences, you’re going to slow. on sprint drills, you should only be able to say a word or two. on tempo or 10K pace runs, you should be able to speak a few words at a time but still not full sentences. on a long run, full sentences! also, there will be some days where a 10 minute pace will feel easy and some days it will feel hard. pay attention to how you feel more than what your gadget says- all things are taken into consideration- weather, hydration, sleep, food, etc.

* will these paces be reevaluated at any time?
the only way i will reevaluate your paces is if you do a race (of any distance) at an all out effort and give me the time. if that is done, i will reevaluate your paces. i can almost guarantee you, though, that they won’t change as much as you’re going to want. i’m happy reevaluating anyone at anytime though- it just has to be a race at all out effort to be scientific enough to be worth it.

* if i’m training at these paces, does that mean my race will be at this pace?
absolutely not! the goal is that you have built up your endurance enough to sustain the time on your feet and that, with the endurance, you have gotten strong enough to also sustain some faster speeds. we will do some “race pace simulation runs” in which you will run at your race pace but there’s no need in spending all of your training at this pace. this will simply fatigue you and put you at risk for injury. for instance, if your 1/2 marathon goal is 2:19:19, that’s a pace of 10:37. your 5K pace would be 9:36 and 10K pace would be 10:05 (because you should be able to go faster for shorter distances) but your training paces would be 12:34-13:24 because you need to do your long and easy runs at about 2 minutes per mile slower than your race pace.

* what is the schedule?
monday’s 6 am* (your choice- run or cross training)
tuesday’s 6 am- run
thursday’s 6 pm- run
saturday’s 8 am- run
*the plan also calls for a sunday run of 2 miles that you will do on your own. this is a recovery run to increase blood flow and circulation after your long saturday run. however, you don’t need to run 5 days per week so you can do your sunday run on monday’s if you’re not doing the cross training on monday’s and take sunday off.

* how do i decide if i need to run on monday’s or do the cross training with you on mondays?
do you currently cross train (strength, yoga, cycle, swim…)? if the answer is YES, you can skip the monday cross training; if the answer is NO, you could really use the cross training
are you absolutely unable to get your 2 mile run in on sunday’s? if the answer is YES, you need the run on monday’s. it’s important to get 4 runs per week

feel free to send more questions or post more questions in the comment section. each question you think of is certain to help someone else too. i hope i have clarified some things and calmed some nerves. as i’ve said before, there is no question that you shouldn’t ask and there is no question that is going to offend me. it’s my job to try get you where you want to be but also to help you understand the training.

lastly, as i always say, this is just a plan and plans can be changed if necessary. the plan i am giving you is a plan if all things happen as i would love, however, if we fall behind or just find an area that isn’t working, i will certainly look at making changes. have i forgotten anything?

keep ‘em comin!