ASK the Running Coach! (Archives)

Here are some questions from previous years - please see the "ASK the coach!" page to submit your question!

Tuesday Dec 8th, 2015

Miles needed to PR at the 2-mile distance - Zach

I just finished my cross country season with a PR of 16:50, and have started training for track, mainly the 2 mile. Last year my PR was 10:30, but I want to get that down to a 9:45 as I have grown substantially. How many miles this winter will improve my time by that much?

Reply - Coach Janet

Since you have experience with this distance from last year you already know a good bit about what it takes to succeed. You might look at what you did last year and target a modest increase in volume - perhaps 20% depending on how your body is tolerating the training.  A 2 mile race demands good aerobic conditioning, so although you need to focus on speed -- you also have to focus some time on endurance work.  Talk to your cross country and track coaches and get some guidance from them on what aspects YOU need to focus on.  It may be different for you than for other members on your team!  Good luck -- the goal you've set is no small one!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Monday Nov 9th, 2015

Transition from 5k to middle distance - Zara

I am a high school athlete. I am a cross country runner and I have just finished my season. I am about to start my long winter training in preparation for track. I was wondering how to best utilize these winter trainings. I am transitioning from a 5k to middle distance (800 and 400 are my best).I was wondering how to best utilize these winter trainings. How should i go about training and how many miles should i put in a week?

Reply - Coach Janet

Your high school track coach is your best source of info for the specifics since they likely know what your individual strengths and weaknesses are.  For example if your weakness is fading in the second lap of your 800, perhaps they'll want you to work on the endurance and speed-endurance end of the spectrum whereas if your weakness is in the turns, or in leg turnover they may have a different focus.  From a generic perspective I like to start with the broad focus first -- paces for race distances above and below your target - and then dial it in with a more specific focus as the training progresses.   Keep endurance up with a generous weekly mileage and don't forget to focus some effort on strength training, eventually progressing to plyometrics.  Good luck, hope this is food for thought!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Saturday Nov 7th, 2015

Maintenance Mileage - Jan

Hi Coach,
I'm coming off a Sept. marathon and Oct. half-marathon, with no races on the horizon until early spring. I don't want to lose the endurance I've built, but I realize my mileage will need to change over the winter. What are your suggestions for winter maintenance miles? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Maintenance mileage depends a lot on the individual athlete but if your plan is to shoot for an early spring marathon I would walk back about 16 weeks and target a mileage of 25-30 miles a week with a  long run of 8-10 coming into that time frame. This would allow you to be ready to start the ramp up from a good base.  In the world of marathon training the best gift you can give yourself is TIME! Hope this helps.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Friday - November 6th, 2015

Why are my legs dying on a long run? - Elizabeth

I am in excellent triathlon shape and have been going long for a few years now...I have run two marathons and used solid traing plans in the process. I eat right, get appropriate rest etc...so here is my issue- On distances beyond 15-20 miles of running my legs turn to stone. No dramatic hamstring cramping, no calf issues, just a rigamortis type solidification of my legs from hip to knee. I feel totally fine otherwise when it happens...It is pretty much a stop dead in your tracks and make very little forward progress for 20 min or more...Any suggestions for combating this or getting through it faster would be awesome! TY

Reply - Coach Janet

One thing that might be worth looking at is your total mileage relative to your long run.  If your long run makes up more than ~45% of your total weekly mileage I’ve found that it’s tough to get beyond about 14 miles like that.  In other words you need adequate weekly mileage to support those long runs of 15-20. 

Another issue to evaluate is the pace you’re running on your long runs.  One technique is to take your 5k race pace and divide it by .7 to come up with a pace that’s appropriate for extra-long runs of 15-20 – most runners do their long runs faster than would be considered ideal. Just remember, you’re trying to build AEROBIC infrastructure here… and that take AEROBIC (read EASY) effort paces to do it. 

A third consideration is the fueling and hydration and electrolyte status – are you fueling and hydrating well in the 24-36 hours ahead of your long run? Are you keeping electrolytes in balance during the run?

Finally – since you mention you’re a triathlete – total training load… it’s hard to train for 3 sports like that without bringing on a level of training fatigue.  If you’ve pushed through it for years, perhaps you’re starting down the path of overtraining syndrome? I’d be happy to help with more info – but it would require gathering a good bit more information from you – if you’re interested in this let me know or check out the coaching services page.

Hope this is some food for thought? Coach Janet Hamilton, MR, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Friday October 23rd, 2015

Running a Half marathon - Julie

I trained for a 1/2 marathon this summer and was ready but I got sick so I ran a 10K instead. I have still been running 7 and 8 mile long runs and at least 3 times a week. It has been 4 weeks since the 10K and the opportunity to run a 1/2 marathon has been given to me. Will I still be trained enough for it? My run over 10 miles was 6 weeks ago. I ran 7 miles two nights in a row 8 days ago.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Julie- your ability to finish the half marathon sort of depends on how much longer you have to train up for it.  With a long run of 8, you should be able to build up to a long run of >11 within just a matter of a few weeks and that would set you up nicely with a little window of time left for taper.  If it's less than 6 weeks away - you might want to give some consideration to either picking another half a little further out, or perhaps doing it at a "training effort" rather than race effort.  You might be able to finish it on the training you have now, but it also might be a rough run...   I think you're always better to plan for your races and give yourself ample time to prepare, taper properly and give it your best shot.  Keep in mind that 8 miles is only about 61% of the half marathon distance... You've still got a way to go when you hit that 8 mile mark.  Best regards - hope this helps.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Monday September 7th, 2015

Explosive strength workout before track - Joachim

Is a short explosive strength workout 50 hours before a major track meet a good idea?

Hope to hear from you soon Best regards Joachim

Reply - Coach Janet

I generally like my athletes to taper off the strength work the week of a key event - so it sure wouldn't be my first choice!  The strength workout will deplete energy stores, and if it's intense it's likely to cause microscopic damage to muscle fibers which probably won't have time to repair in time to be at full power for the track meet.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach.

Monday September 7th, 2015

Long run interrupted - Yuki

I am into the 14th week of a 18-week marathon training. Last Saturday, we were scheduled to run 22 miles. At mile 16 we had to stop for a half hour as there was a thunderstorm and it was lightening and hailing. It was good to stop for our safety. But now I feel like I did not do the long run. (We have done 18, 19, and 20 miles. Also we will have another 20 in 2 weeks.) How would this interrupted "long" run affect the training? Would it be recommended to do another 22? Thank you.

Reply - Coach Janet

I don't think this interruption in one long run will be a problem.  You've done three runs now of 18 or more, and will do another one in two weeks -- I don't think it's imperitive for you to do 22.  It might help with your confidence, but from a training physiology standpoint, the difference is minimal between 20 and 22.  If you ran that 22 miles but just had a half hour break in the middle, that mid-run break doesn't negate the distance at all.  You were doing it as a training run and hopefully at training effort, not race effort -- so relax and don't worry about it.  Enjoy your final long run and enter your taper phase confident that you've made the necessary deposits to your fitness account and will have plenty to withdraw on race day!  Good luck on your marathon! Trust your training.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Monday September 7th, 2015

Training and fueling questions - Patrick

Hello, I am a missioner working in Bolivia and also a runner trying to qualify for Boston. I have a few questions as being abroad has provided me with what I see as equal challenges and advantages. I live in Cochabamba which is roughly 8,400 ft above sea level. I have been here since March and have slowly raised my quantity and speed of running to 25-30 miles a week and regularly run a loop around our "laguna" which is almost exactly 7k in under 30 minutes. Last year I ran my PR in the half marathon in 1:29:36, and I haven't run a full marathon in 3 years. The problems that I have encountered are a lack of running partners, meaning I have to do all of my training solo and I feel like I take it too easy on myself most days. Also, nutrition here is difficult, because all produce needs to be cooked, peeled, or boiled and the local cuisine is mostly fried foods. Delicious...but not ideal for a training athlete. We will be ending our mission here in mid February 2016 and moving back to the midwest US. I have been looking online to try to find Marathons to run within what I assume would be my ideal window of altitude training effect and am having trouble finding anything. Maybe it's still too far in advance? So my questions are....How do I continue to push myself running solo every day? How should I be training if I'm currently a "half-marathoner" to run a strong full marathon? How much time do I have after returning to lower altitude before the benefit of high altitude training wears off? And lastly, how do I ensure I'm getting enough nutrients from my food when there are no food labels and I have to cook everything to death? Thanks so much! -Patrick

Reply - Coach Janet

I'll start with the last question first - as long as you're eating as wide a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and proteins as you can, you're doing all you can do.  Your situation is what it is - and it's not like you have the choice of an organic grocery store you can just dash over to and shop! Some runners find that taking a simple multi-vitamin helps when they can't eat the way they'd like but I'm not sure if that would be right for you.  Running solo every day has benefits as well as challenges - the benefit is you build your mental strength to stay focused.  Running different routes might help.  You don't need to "push yourself" on every run.  IN fact most of your runs should be done at a nice easy conversational pace, working primarily on building your endurance first.  Adding in some hills once a week will help with hip strength and doing some intervals of faster running or perhaps some longer segments sustained at target race pace once a week is really plenty at this point.  You should be taking it easy on yourself most of the time at this point in training.  Measured doses of higher intensity will work just fine.   To run a strong marathon you'll want to get your total weekly distance up to 75-80 km per week with several weeks where you accomplish long runs of 28-35 km.  Motivation-- perhaps having a coach to help you orchestrate your training and give you some accountability would be a worthwhile option?   Spring marathon - I would look for one in the March or no later than April time frame if possible since much of your altitude training advantage will be gone within about 4-6 weeks.   If you'd like more specific help with this, please feel free to email me or check out the Services page for more information about online coaching.  I've coached athletes from Russia to Australia that way and it works great!  Best of luck to you - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach. 

Wednesday September 2nd, 2015

Scheduleing a long run after running a half marathon - Angie

I'm training for my 2nd marathon. Marathon is the second weekend in October. I did one of my 20 miles run last weekend. I signed up for a 1/2 marathon on September 13th, but would like to get a 21 mile run around that time. Is it too soon to run my 21 miler three days after the 1/2 marathon? I'm not planning of breaking any world records at the 1/2...just an easy fun run.

Reply - Coach Janet

Actually using the half marathon as part of a longer run might be the better option.  If your plan is to run it at an easy effort - you might consider just adding on some easy miles before and/or after the event, and bingo  you've accomplished both the enjoyment of your fun half marathon AND getting your target 21 miler in at the right point in your training cycle.   If your current training schedule has you doing long runs a couple of days after moderately long ones (for example a mid-week medium run of 10-12 followed by a long run of 20 a couple of days later) then running your planned 21 a few days after an easy effort 13 wouldn't be too much of a stretch. However, if you're following a plan that has you doing mostly low mileage in the middle of the week (runs of 4-6 miles) then trying to suddenly jump to a combination of higher mileage (21 miles 3 days after a 13 miler) would be risky.   If it were me - I'd just warm up with 5 easy before the half, run the half at my proper training pace, then add 3 at the end for cool down.  Good luck on that marathon!  Hope this helps - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach.

Friday - August 21st, 2015

How to succeed on an Army 2 mile test - Bert

hello, I am wanting to know what would be the best approach on a two mile run. I am not a natural runner, but have to pass an Army test.  My goal for my age group is finish the two miles in 18 minutes. So far I can do it in 21:00 at tempo speed. 
Here's what I need advice on - On test day, I've been advised on sprinting the sides of the track and slowing down to recover on the curves of the track. Was told this is the best approach. Another person told me to run with a steady pace and pick up the pace during the last two laps - and sprinting 50 yards of the final lap is best.
I just need to do it in 18:00 or better. What is your advice for me to perform best on the Event day?

Reply - Coach Janet

The answer to this sort of depends on the athlete!  Generally speaking, the best race results are had with an even-pacing strategy as long as the course is conducive to that (not hilly).  Since a "tempo speed" is kind of vague it's hard to tell whether you have the speed endurance to do what you need to do.  Best advice I can give you is train for endurance (get to where you can easily run longer than the test distance), work on some specific pace runs (so you know how to do the pace you need to do) and give yourself an adequate taper/rest prior to the test so you're starting with fresh legs.  Most of my athletes do best when they run a fairly even effort - so unless you're a really good sprinter I'd recommend doing each quarter mile in 2:15 - trying to keep your splits within 2-3 seconds of that. Avoid going out too fast early (especially if you're only marginally trained and 2-miles is kind of your max run distance already).  Good luck!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA. RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Monday August 10th, 2015

Dead legs on 20 miler - Chrissy

I am training for my 2nd marathon and training to qualify for Boston. I currently am going by the training schedule in "Run Less, Run Faster." I've been feeling great so far and have been able to keep the pace stated in the book, I have even run faster than the pace given! Last week, I ran 17 at 8:30 pace and finished strong and happy. I have to run 8:40 in an upcoming marathon to qualify for Boston. However, this week, I ran 20. The last 5 miles were killer... my quads felt SO HEAVY and I felt like I was going to fall asleep. I made it through now, but at 8:57 pace. Any suggestions as to why I felt this terrible this week? Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Chrissy,  First let me say up front -- all training works... some just works better than others, and some works better on some people and not so well on others.  Perhaps running 65% of race distance at a pace that's 2% faster than target race pace, then a week later doing 76% of race distance at 3% slower than race pace was a bit much.  You're basically goign out and racing every training run...  Perhaps you didn't have enough recovery time? Keep in mind that on race day, you'll be starting well trained, well fueled AND you will have tapered and rested so your legs will be fresh.  There are a lot of variables that go into how you feel on any given run - temperature/humidity, general state of fatigue (not sleeping enough), fuel/hydration/electrolyte issues, course terrain and profile, phase of training, total weekly mileage, etc.  Not all athletes do well with the run less, run faster programs where every run is at or faster than race pace -- perhaps you're one who would benefit from a different form of training.  Training is training, racing is racing.  No one ever got an award for the fastest training run.  Perhaps doing all your long runs at race pace is not the best choice for your unique characteristics.   Hope this is helpful and perhaps some food for thought  - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday August 4th, 2015

What ratios of training are best - Joel

I run at my weekly 5km parkrun, but also train around 5 times a week. What should I be doing in these training sessions to improve my times? (What ratio of long runs, tempo runs, hills, short/long intervals, fartlek, etc.)

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Joel, you may not realize it but your seemingly simple question is the outline for a full book on training!  The type of supplemental training you do depends on the event you're training for.  If simple general fitness is your goal - then there's no need to delve into the "fancy" stuff.  If you're training for a specific event - the training should be reflective of that. For example - training for a marathon you'll want to get your long run up to about 20 miles and in order to support that, a total weekly mileage of 45-55 is best.  If it's a first marathon, there's little need for speedwork - most runs are done at easy effort so you can safely build the volume of mileage to support finishing the distance without getting injured in training.  If you're training for a 5k - long runs should get up to a minimum of 3 to finish,  at least 6 if you want to run it at a true race effort.  Total weekly miles to support that distance of long run would be in the range of 18-20 miles a week.   Keep in mind this all varies GREATLY depending on the athlete's current fitness, the race they're training for, their injury history, and a whole host of other variables.   If you're truly interested in optimizing your performance, perhaps a coach is a good option for you.  Click on the "services" button above and surf over to the coaching page for more info.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday July 14, 2015

Struggling to run lately - Mary

I've been running for over a year. Until a few weeks ago I had no problem running 3-6 miles daily. I usually run about 20-25 miles a week. Recently I have been struggling to run 3 miles. I havent changed anything I can think of. Any ideas? Thank you.

Reply - Coach Janet

Mary you don't give any hints about the weather where you are - but where I am the last 3 weeks have been brutally hot/humid!  Perhaps the weather is part of your challenge?  Heat and humidity take a toll on performance and there's no way around it other than to continue on - gradually adapting as you go.  Don't force it - just run by effort and let the pace be whatever it's going to be.  If you want more information on how heat affects performance, read an article I wrote about heat and marathon performance here or perhaps get some solace in knowing that summer running is a great way to boost performance in fall races -- I wrote about that here.   If you are not experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, perhaps something else is going on -- look into your sleep and nutrition patterns as well as the paces you're running to see if they might be contributing to your sense of difficulty.  Hang in there - slumps in training are usually short-lived.  Hope this helps.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday July 7, 2015

How to transition to half marathon training - John

I have been increasing my recreational running distance over the past year and now run regularly with two friends. We currently run 3 times a week going 6.5 miles at a 7:50 - 8:15 min/mi pace. After doing my first long run for kicks (10 miles at 8:41 min/mi pace), I am considering doing an October 2015 1/2 marathon. Can I just extend my third run of the week to a slower pace/ longer distance to increase weekly mileage and keep the other two runs the same or do I need to do a whole new training plan. Many of the online plans have me going down in mileage or doing much slower runs. I appreciate any help you can offer.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi John, running a half marathon will mean that you need to build your total weekly mileage. One way to do that is to run more days per week - perhaps 4 rather than 3 -- or even consider running 5 days a week.  Athletes I coach are encouraged to follow an "overload/recovery" schedule so that runs are not always the same distance or the same intensity.  Some runs are longer, some shorter. Some runs focus on target race pace or maybe focus on hills to build strength.  The long run each week is a key element and I recommend first time half marathoners get to a long run of at least 11-13 miles, longer if they're able to.  Being able to run 15-16 miles at easy effort does wonders for your confidence in running a half marathon.  The long run is usually at easier effort than the mid-week runs, partly because it is so much longer!  I think if you really want to do well at the half marathon, revising to a whole new training approach would be advised.  I prefer one long run, two runs of medium-long distance and one or two runs that are shorter (sort of like active recovery).  Can you get by on less?  Perhaps.... but nothing builds speed and stamina better than a big endurance base.  If you're interested in some personalized guidance, get in touch -- I'd be delighted to help you out!  Best regards and good luck -- you're well on your way to success based on what you're doing already!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday July 7, 2015

How to track weekly miles - Dianne

I have my week training from Saturday - sunday to calculate mileage per week...my husband says it should be a rolling week...he calculates m-sunday and then on tuesday counts tues-monday...on wednesday counts wed - tuesday and so on..so his weekly mielage is constantly changing...which is the better way to count weekly mileage when training and why?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Dianne, I don't think there's ONE right way to do this.  For my purposes I find it easier for me and my athletes to track mileage in a static fashion like you do -- from Monday to Sunday or Saturday to Sunday or whatever.  I do think there's a reason some people might want to do a "rolling" week like your husband does - especially if their life or work constraints mean that their key workouts are always happening on different days.  It also might make sense for people who only wish to do a long run every 10 days rather than every 6-7. I think it's just easier to do it the way you describe -- but if it works better for him to track a rolling week I don't think it matters.  Just as long as you track it and make sure you're following sensible training progressions!  Best of luck with your training!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to improve 3 mile run time - Michael

I'm currently training for a 3 mile run for the USMC. Right now I run a 22:30 3 mile and I want to get down to a 21. I run 4 times a week. 2x3 mile runs at 8 min mile and interval training of 8x400m and a long run of 6-7 miles. All with a day in between for rest. What and how can I change my schedule in order to be a better runner?

Reply - Coach Janet

If your previous 22:30 3 mile time was a "best effort" time then the pace you're running in your training runs (8 min pace) might be a bit fast for the purpose of developing the best aerobic condition to run a 3 mile race faster.  It isn't that you never run hard in training... it's that you run hard in measured doses in training... not all the time!  Your current (22:30) race pace is a 7:30 pace and training at 94% of that effort (an 8 min pace) means you're training at paces that are too fast.  You might consider easing the training pace back a bit for your long run and for your mid week runs that are not scheduled to be interval training.  Then for your interval work - you might mix it up a bit and do both 400 meter repeats at your target race pace as well as some 800m repeats and even build up to the point where you're doing 1600 meter repeats.  Your target pace would mean you do the 400's in 1:41, the 800's in 3:22 and the 1600's in 6:44.  As you get stronger you can shorten your recovery intervals. For example if you're doing 400 m recovery between each 400 m at race pace, you could shorten that to 200 m to increase the difficulty of the workout.  Keep in mind that the speedwork you're doing is the icing on the cake. The REAL work of building an aerobic infrastructure to support your goal is the easy effort pace you run on the majority of your runs -- and building that long run.  I would recommend you consider easing the pace from the 8 min you're doing to something a bit easier -- perhaps something in the 8:30-8:40 range. Build your weekly distance up at the easy effort, and focus the "hard work" on your interval run day.  Good luck and let me know if I can be of assistance, and thank you for your sevice to our country! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach

Thursday April 9, 2015

Run performance question - Tripp

I was running really well in September to december and then at christmas i just really went down hill, i had a bit of calf trouble which i think was from a quick transistion from long distance (4km cross country) to speed work (800 and 1500m indoors) my indoor season was not good and in training i just feel i can do the first half easy and then i just suddenly drop off half way through and i strughle the last bit. My legs feel heavy and flat and my breathing is not too good. I dont know if i am over training because i havnt changed anything, i know for the training im doing i should be preforming better. I was diagnosed with asthma at christmas and i was put on an inhaler, could this be affecting me? I do 1 hour run a week, 2 x30 mins, 1x 45min, hills, and an intervel session in a week and my 1500m pb is 4:45 . Do you have any idea why i am after getting slower? Or why i cant maintain a good standard throught a session? Do you think i need more speed endirence training???

Reply - Coach Janet

Tripp, its not clear from your question what event you're tryign to train for right now but I'm assuming you are trying to train for the 800 and 1500 meter events? If this is the case, those events are very different in their physiological demands from the cross country distances you were doing.  Perhaps it would be good to look at your strengths and weaknesses.  You've identified that you fade in the second half of your event distance -- so yes, working on all aspects of training but especially some focus on speed endurance would be a good start.  With the asthma issue - perhaps a follow up with your physician to insure that the inhaler and the dosage are still appropriate would be a good idea.   Make sure that the paces you're working in each of your runs is appropriate to the purpose of the run -- long runs usually at easy effort - interval workouts and hills will be based on the distance you're training for.  Talk to your coach about specific paces and see if there's some fine-tuning you can do.  Best of luck! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-Certified coach

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Is one 20-mile run enough for a marathon? - Leyla

I am training for my second London Marathon. I did 20 miles comfortably with five weeks to go (having worked my way up, following a plan). Almost a week after the 20 mile run, the night before I was due to do 20 miles again I started to experience knee pain which I believe to be ITBS. Consequently I missed the second 20 mile run in order to rest. I am now due to do 22 miles as my final long run this weekend (with three weeks to go) but don?t feel that my knee is quite right. Obviously after this weekend I am due to start tapering. My question is?should I do the long run this weekend or not? Is one 20 mile run enough when marathon training? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Leyla, This isn’t your first marathon – so you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Obviously multiple runs of 20 or more are ideal for marathon training but you can easily get by with just one – you just have to adjust your goals based on your state of training (one 20 miler), your injury status (recently injured) and any other things like weather that you can’t control. 

I’m personally not a fan of racing injured or racing when an athlete has just recovered from an injury.  It’s usually not going to be a great performance and there’s a risk that they hurt themselves in the process of doing the race.  With that said though – if you’re smart about it  you may be able to complete the marathon and not set yourself back. 

The most important thing is to deal with the underlying cause for the recent flare up of knee pain – look into issues related to flexibility, strength, footwear, and training errors to see if you can identify what’s behind the recent symptoms.  I’ll be happy to help but at this point your time is sort of limited. Let me know if I can be of assistance! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday March 26,2015

High heart rate when running faster than usual - Nicole

I run about 40-60 miles a week for the last 8 years and run in the woods on soft trails. Why can't I run faster than a 12 minute mile? My heart rate gets up to 180 beats per minute if I try to run a 10 min mile which I CAN do, but only for a mile at most. I am a 43 year old female

Reply - Coach Janet

There could be any number of things going on.  Certainly I'd anticipate that 8 years of running 40-60 miles per week on trails has developed your aerobic fitness base, but perhaps you would benefit from some intermittent bouts of higher intensity training to build your speed.  Do you know what your resting heart rate is? Do you know what your maximum heart rate is?  The oft-cited estimation formula of 220-age is not accurate for all -- it has a standard deviation of +/- 10-12 beats per minute. So at 43 - the formula says your max HR should be 177... but in reality you may have (likely have) a faster maximum than predicted.  What's your HR when you run your typical 12-minute mile pace? Another aspect to consider is your body weight - are you at/near your ideal range?   Do you have any history of heart issues (heart murmur, etc)?  It might be worth looking in to some of these things - you can get an estimate of your max heart rate either from a maximum treadmill test (your doc would be the one to do that) or perhaps running a 5k race and looking at what number you see most often on your HR monitor.  Once you know your true max, you can orchestrate your training more knowlegably.  Also keep in mind that fast running usually takes some specific training to develop. Often runners will do "speedwork" once a week to work on the aspects of running fitness that don't get worked with the routine training runs.  I'd be happy to help with this -- if you're interested drop me an email at "janet@ runningstrong dot com".   

Sunday March 22, 2015

Running a half marathon with back pain - Buzz

coach janet / running since november of '09 / run numerous 5 mile and 5K's. also have run the broad street 10 miler three times / ran my first 1/2 on 23nov14 in respectable time to me 1:56:45 for a 52 year old. pulled back muscle playing ping pong approximately sat. (21 feb 15). went to family doctor and said i will be okay for 2nd 1/2 (29 mar 15). concerned, i went to chiropractor yesterday (friday) and have next appt. monday (23 mar 15). pain really sprung up after running 11 miles with friend about two weeks ago! sorry, things out of sequence (TBI in 1984) bottom line i have just been running twice a week last four but about 80 minutes a pop! i truly desire to run 2nd 1/2 but am anxious to talk to chiropractor monday. race imminent, have the broad street 10 miler (3 may 15). what is your suggestion doc? thanks for your response!

Reply - Coach Janet

I am pretty sure you don't want to hear this - but... I'm never a fan of racing injured.  The best outcome you can hope for is to get through the event, likely in a sub-par time, and not be any worse at the finish. That is often not the outcome though - it's more common to get through the event in a sub-par time and then have to take time off because your injury is worse.  With that said - if your chiropractor can get your symptoms totally resolved and you can do your remaining training runs painfree (you're headed into taper anyway) then you might be OK.  I'd say - pick the race that means the most to you (the half, or the Broad Street 10 miler) and let that weigh into your decision.   I'd say that you're going into this half with a very low mileage base (running twice a week) and if an 11 mile run two weeks ago set off your back pain - you'd be wise to step back and focus on getting your back issues resolved, then training properly for the next event on your calendar.  Best of luck to you - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Wednesday March 11, 2015

Calf pain in new runner - Jenny

My friend is training with me for her first (my second) half marathon. In December, we ran a 10K together, and then started training for the half in January. Her ability, despite consistent training, getting the correct shoes, altering form, consistent diet, hydration, etc. has greatly diminished. This Saturday we run a 10K and the half is on April 11th. I don't want her to injure herself, but she can barely make it to the mile mark without her calves hurting so badly so she has to stop running. What other things could be affecting her running that we're not considering? There has to be something that has changed her body's ability to run long distance in the short couple of months since our last 10K

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Jenny, there could be several things going on here.  1) Are you doing your training runs at an appropriate pace?  Are you warming up a bit before you get into your training pace? 2) You mention "altering form" -- perhaps whatever alteration she did is not appropriate for her unique biomechanics?  Despite all the hype about this or that "correct" form -- there is no one universal correct form for all runners at all speeds.  3) Have you ramped up mileage quickly since January?  Is there a chance she has a tibial stress fracture?  If your target half marathon is in 4 weeks, the fact that she can't make it a mile means she probably needs to re-evaluate this race and possibly take a step back in training to address the underlying issues.  Without knowing a lot more about her and her recent training it is hard to speculate.   Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Saturday March 7th, 2015

Trouble with slow cadence and tight hip flexors - Sabrina

Hi - I read a quote of yours about how strength training can increase power and stride length and flight between steps. I am having trouble with slow cadence and also have very tight hip flexors. people have had me do lots of core stuff but it has made no difference. I have tight hip flexors and I think my hamstrings and glutes dont do much - run mostly off my quads. I'd really appreciate any help -Thanks!!

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Sabrina, one of my favorite ways to deal with cadence issues is to make very gradual adjustments with the help of either a metronome or perhaps music if you run with tunes.  First thing is to figure out what your "usual" cadence is.  This is easier if you have someone to help you -- just go to a track and run your usual easy training pace and have a partner watch and count your cadence for a full minute.  (It's easier if they just track one leg). Keep in mind there's no "ideal" cadence for everyone and studies show that changes in cadence (either up or down) from your naturally adopted one can result in increases in percieved effort and decreases in running economy -- so proceed with any changes gradually.  For example - if your typical cadence is 160 (80 footfalls on each side per minute) then you'd want to play with increasing that by no more than 5% -- so an initial target might be 168.  As for the tight hip flexors - I would look into adding some gentle back exercises to your routine as I often find tight hip flexors in conjunction with weak lower back muscles.  Hope this is food for thought.  My article about cadence changes can be read HERE if you're interested.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday Feb 26th, 2015

Returning to running after a hamstring injury - Allyson

I've been a distance runner for several years now, running anywhere from 42 - 64 miles per week. In June 2014, I was in terrible pain and went to see ortho. I was diagnosed , by MRI, as having a tibial stress fracture. I was out for six weeks due to the fracture in my left leg. When I returned to running, everything was okay. I was back up to seven miles per day within a few weeksonly to suffer some kind of hamstring injury that profusely bruised the entire back thigh of my right leg. During this time, I ran/ walked with a friend in order to heal the hamstring......about 8 weeks. Now, I am having more difficukty running than I did when I first began years ago. I am landing hard on the ball of my right foot and appear to be shuffling that foot. I also can only run a half mile, stop for 1 minute, repeat. My legs feel so very heavy and my attitude is growing skeptical of ever running again. This used to be so easy but now I can't get my pace or gait back. I work out religiously at very hard cardio at gym. Daily.... 40 mins stair machine at 102 steps per minute, 1 hour of elliptical average 10 miles when finished. Cardio never bothers me until I run. I have noted that. Even when walking breaks are added, I am still averaging nine minute miles......meaning I am speeding up very fast, then needing to walk. Any suggestions? I am totally exasperated and do not usually quit.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Allyson - that must have been a pretty bad injury to your hamstring to show up as "profuse bruising"... did you fall?  Did you see your orthopedist for that injury?  Your question is eerily timely... I just posted an article today on the rather uncommon injury of a traumatic hamstring rupture. You can read it HERE.  Bottom line - from your description it sounds like you may have injured the hamstring more severely than you first realized.  Your comment about having trouble getting your gait back and feeling weak and not balanced would make me suspicious.  If you didn't get some form of diagnostic imaging (MRI or Ultrasound) to rule out a partial or full hamstring tear - I think you'd be wise to discuss that option with your orthopedist.  Trust me - you can still have some level of function even if one of your tendons is pulled off the bone.  Read my post linked above and you'll see what I mean by that.   If you find out that all is well and everything is intact - then perhaps the issue is that you're trying to run your typical training pace (the 9 min miles you refer to) and perhaps you just need to take this a little more slowly.  Not all injuries heal at the same rate -- you managed to come back quickly after that 6-week layoff for the stress fracture but this recent injury is muscular and may take a bit longer to rehabilitate.  At the very least - some visits with a good Physical Therapist to give you some specific rehab guidance would be a good thing to consider.  Good luck - hope you're back to your old self soon!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach 

Monday Feb 23rd, 2015

Running a marathon with back pain - Laurene

I have been running for a couple years and ever and 2 half marathons this past year. This year I decided I wanted to do a full marathon next month. I have been training for the last 5 weeks, my last run last week was 15 miles. A few days later I have been I have been down with lower back pain, I havent ran in the week.my back is starting to feel better. My question to you is, is it possible to still try to run a marathon and three and a half weeks?

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to tell from your question if this is your first marathon or not but either way - it's important to respect the distance. In my humble opinion it's never a good idea to run a race injured or just coming back from one - and it seems that you've certainly got something going in your lower back.  It would be my recommendation to take this race off the books and instead focus on getting well, and getting to the root of the underlying cause for your back pain.  If you've only 3 weeks to go - you should be starting your taper phase and with a long run of only 15 miles that's inadequate mileage in my opinion.  The question shouldn't be can I run a marathon in a little over three weeks.... but rather should I risk running a marathon in a little over three weeks?  Think about the risk-reward on this one.  The best case scenario is that you survive the marathon and you're no worse off when you finish than when you started.  That's not likely to be the outcome, especially if this is your first.... the outcome could be far worse, with a worsening of your symptoms and a miserable experience on race day.  It just makes more sense to me as a coach to have you step back, get the issue fully resolved, deal with the underlying causes, and then train properly for the next marathon attempt.   I hope I have interpreted your question properly - good luck with whatever you decide to do!  Best regards, Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified coach

Thursday Feb 5th, 2015

Pain in right hip - Dawn

I have been running for about 10 years. I usually run about 20 miles a week, mainly on tracks. Recently I have been suffering from pain in my right hip which is deep and feels like i should be able to stretch it out but can't seem to. My left foot has also recently become slightly misshapen at the the big toe joint, like a bunion. At the weekend I was running on a treadmill and noticed that I am landing much heavier on my left foot. I then tested my legs and my right leg seems to be slightly shorter than my left. I am just wondering what you think?

Reply - Coach Janet

Perhaps you'd consider transitioning off the track and doing some/most of your running on more varied terrain?  Always running in circles tends to lead to overuse issues and asymmetries and it sounds like you're describing just that! Leg length discrepancies come in two general forms: structural - the bones of one leg are physically shorter than the same bones on the other leg, and functional - one leg "appears" shorter but it's due to asymmetry in the spine or in muscle strength/flexibility.  The way you describe your hip pain and your history of running 20 miles a week in circles on a track for 10 years makes me think that perhaps you've become imbalanced in your back or imbalanced in your muscle strength/flexibility.  Perhaps a visit with a practitioner who can fully evaluate your spine and biomechanics would shed some light.  At the very least, you'd probably be wise to seek out a place to train other than on a track.  Hope ths helps - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 23rd, 2015

How to break through a training plateau - Ian

As you might remember I've been on here before. Since my last question I've done some research on my running. Unfortunately I've come to the conclusion that I've met a plateau. Over the past two months I've been in this plateau and haven't just stop progressing, but have gotten worse. I was at a point were I could run a 5k in 22:00 minutes. Now I'm lucky if I can run more two miles at a 8 min Mille pace. How can I break this plateau? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Training plateaus are not uncommon but the fact that you feel you've actually lost some progress may point to something worse - overtraining syndrome perhaps?  Improving your performance as a runner entails a balance of overload (to stimulate physiological change) and recovery (to allow the body to accomplish the change you've asked for).  If you've been hammering hard on the overload part (adding miles, working hard on speed, doing hills, etc) but haven't allowed your body adequate recovery time then you're simply breaking yourself down.  Look back at the training you've done in the recent 3-4 months and make sure you're giving your body the right balance.  If you're running all your runs at/near target race pace - that's a common error and easily fixed with a bit of discipline.  Since you've only been running since March (according to your previous post) perhaps you're still trying to run hard on every run?  Remember training is a balance!  Perhaps some guided coaching would help you reach the next level? Hope this is food for thought.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 16th, 2015

Legs fatigue on obstacle races - Marie

Hi, I've done a few long distance endurance obstacle courses. I set out strong and capable then about half way through I start to get severe pain in my knees and legs they then start to seize and I am unable to run downhill even running at all leaves me in severe pain. Someone mentioned glucose levels or something? What do you think? Kind regards

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know for sure what's the issue but here are some things to consider:  How's your overall endurance base?  Do you regularly run long runs that are longer than the race distance?  Do you do specific strength work for your legs, hips and core? Do you train on terrain that's similar to what you expect on race day? Certainly fueling properly may be part of it - do you practice your fueling and hydration strategies during training?  Hope this is some food for thought - let me know if I can be of help.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday Jan 16th, 2015

Training for first half marathon - Sara

I have been running about 12 miles a week for the past 5 years and just recently decided to start training for my first half marathon. I'm use to running 4 to 6 miles during a normal run so my first long run I started with 6 and I am currently at 10. Over the past couple weeks I started experiencing soreness throughout my legs (pretty much evenly distributed over the length of each of my legs). Prior to that I had run a 10 mile run three weeks in a row and have been averaging 20 miles per week. The soreness and pain in my legs is now present after my shorter runs during the week and is more consistent. When I took a couple day break the pain came back after a five mile run. Is this something I need to consult a doctor about or will the issue be solved by cutting back miles and increasing more gradually with more stretching and cross-training thrown in? Thanks

Reply - Coach Janet

Building mileage for a distance like the half marathon will take time, so perhaps you ramped up a tad too quickly?  The fact that you had been running for several years before taking on this challenge is a good thing - but you still have to ramp up gradually.  The thing that stands out to me in your description is that a 10 mile long run is 50% of your total weekly mileage of 15 miles a week. That's a very high percentage.  You might look over your training plan and evaluate how you can bring your mid week mileage up a bit to support that long run.  Also have you been consistently doing strength training?  Are you running your training runs at the proper pace (hint - not at/near race pace).  Are you being consistent with flexibility exercises?  There are a lot of things to address to insure a successful outcome - let me know if I can help.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Sunday Jan 4th, 2015

Tired legs on shorter runs - Ian

Hello. I've been running since March of this year. I've gotten much better, being able to go from not being able to run a mile, to running 6.7 miles! But my problem is with shorter faster runs. Like a 5k. Most days when I run (I run every other day) I can only run 1.5 to 2.2 miles, when I want to run 3. I have run three before but it seems I can only do this every now and then. Especially at a 7-30 to 8 min mile pace. It's always my legs that get tired and make me stop. What do you think my problem is?

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know exactly what the problem is, but my first suspicion is that you're trying to run your shorter runs at/near your race pace rather than at an appropriate training pace.  If you've run a 5k race - you have a known data point you can estimate from to determine what your proper training paces should be.  If you can run over 6 miles at a time but struggle on the shorter runs, perhaps it's because you're running them too fast?  Hope this helps.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday, Jan 2nd 2015

Multiple running injuries - Jas

I'm a bit frustrated at this point, and hope you can possibly shed some light on what I may be doing wrong. Over the past 3 years, I've had a stream of minor running issues - can't even really call them injuries. Hip pain, knee pain, piriformis syndrome...I've been to a PT, identified some weaknesses, and according to the PT, have corrected them and continue my maintenance exercises. I've had a detailed gait analysis, where nothing concerning was identified. I run in the appropriate shoes, don't make drastic increases in training intensity or volume, and train mostly by feel to really listen to my body. I've been running for almost 20 years, so I'm not a new runner. It seems like I'm doing everything right, yet I can't seem to shake these recurring pains. In your opinion, am I missing something? 

Reply - Coach Janet

It sounds like you're covering your bases pretty well but the missing piece that I'm not sure of is your training -- pacing, terrain, intensity, etc.  It may also be that some of the exercises you're doing for maintenance are too easy for you now and perhaps you're ready for a progression?  I'd be happy to help you work through this -- if you're interested, drop me an email to janet at runningstrong dot com.  

Friday, Dec 19th 2014

Resuming training after an ankle fracture - Jean

How would you approach training for a track & field event in August 2015 after a fractured ankle? Injured early October 2014, currently in physical therapy 2 x week to strengthen and regain mobility. Elite level masters runner.

Reply - Coach Janet

First step is to get the mobility and strength back - not only in the ankle but in the entire foot/ankle complex.  Often after an ankle fracture, the immobilization that's needed to heal the broken bone tends to result in lost mobility in other joints of the foot and this can affect biomechanics of running -- especially sprinting or jumping! Work closely with your PT and make sure that your mobility and strength are maximized.  It's also important to work on regaining balance and proprioception as these neuromotor functions are critical to insuring ideal biomechanics.  If your strength/mobility/proprioception are not balanced between your two legs it sets the stage for a compensatory injury above (think knee, hip, low back).  When you're cleared to resume some running - work at easy paces first and rebuild your tissue stamina, then when you've established your base you can ease back into the higher intensity stuff.  All of this is relative -- to the event you're training for and to the type of fracture you had!   Hopefully you'll be back on track (literally) soon! Good luck.  It's a process and you can't skip stages -- be patient and diligent with the exercises and get your body back to balance -- you'll save yourself a lot of future grief if you do that.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Tuesday, Dec 2 2014

10k performance not improving as expected - Mary

Dear Coach, I would like to have an advice or opinion on the following "problem" - I have been running for several years and last year I decided to find out how quick I could get in 10K distance. Training on my own, I managed to improve my 10K time from 50min down to 42:40 just in 3 months! After that, I was invited to a local running club and started to train by schedule created by a running coach. Now, after 1 year of training, I have improved my 10K time just by 7 seconds... I don't know am I just being impatient or am I doing something wrong. After reading lots of information about running and training plans, the plan created by my coach seems quite correct - I am doing easy runs, long runs, interval training each week and a tempo run every other week. I am running 150-200 km each month, 30-70km each week (depending on race schedule). Adittionally 1-2 times per week I am doing strength training. My times for shorter distances have improved during this 1 year (1000m from 3:38 to 3:28, 3000m from 11:46 to 11:03, 5000m from 20:57 to 19:01 (on track)), but the 10K results are not improving. My aim was to run 10K in ~40 minutes this year, but it looks like it will not happen. What could be the reason why I have stopped progressing? I have had no injuries whatsoever, I have a healthy diet and lifestyle and following the coache's plan very accurately.
Is it normal that last year I managed to drop my 10K time from 50min to 42:40 in 3 month, but now it's been a whole year of training and no improvement? Thanks very much in advance.

Reply - Coach Janet

Your 15% improvement in 10k time from 50 min to 42:40 in just 3 short months is quite remarkable.  Improvements in performance are rarely linear though, and subsequent improvements are much harder to come by as you've found out.  When I look at the data you provided, your 3k and 5k times line up nicely and both predict a faster 10k - something in the 39:42 range is possible.  Since your 3k and 5k times line up pretty well, but your 10k seems to be falling off, this usually makes me look into issues related to endurance and stamina. In other words you don't appear to have the endurance base to sustain a comparable effort in the 10k. Usually the best way to address this is to work on long run and total weekly  mileage for a bit, then return to the intensity stuff and fill in the missing pieces there.  Your total weekly distance of 30-70km per week might be a little conservative on the lower end - perhaps keeping it in the 55 to 70km range would help?  At the upper end of that, you'd be doing long runs of about 21-23 km.  Some athletes tolerate high mileage better than others, so it's hard to say what's right for you without knowing more about you - but that's some food for thought.  Also important is making sure that you respect the purpose of each workout and run the paces that are appropriate for the workout.  I think you have a faster 10k in you -- no doubt there -- just need to address your missing links!  Once your mileage is well established at higher levels (55-70km or more), you should be able to tolerate more aggressive intensity workouts like progression runs, longer pace runs, and sustained segments at/above threshold.   If you ever decide to try a different coach - get in touch with me, I think you definitely have unrealized potential!  Best of luck to you.  Hope this has given you some food for thought.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS 

Monday, Nov 10 2014

Avoiding injury with treadmill training - Janet

Hi Coach, Do you have any suggestions for minimizing the risk of injuries from treadmill running during the winter? I live in a part of the country where running outside, regardless of the quality of my apparel, isn't safe for weeks at a time during the winter months. I don't want to go for weeks at a time without running, but I also don't want to experience the usual injuries I seem to get from a lot of winter treadmill time.

Reply - Coach Janet - Really the best thing is to think about what you do with your normal running outdoors and try to mimic that as well as possible during the runs on the treadmill.  If you usually run a fairly flat course most days and do hills once a week, then that is a good place to start with the treadmill.  I generally do NOT like to encourage people to put the treadmill on an incline and leave it there to "make it more like outdoor running" - because it really doesn't make it more like outdoor running and it places additional loads on your legs and back that may not be well tolerated.  It's fine to put the incline up -- but don't leave it there.  You wouldn't walk out the door and look for the longest uphill you could find and say "I'll go that way!" -- you'd look for a course that had some inclines and some flat stuff.   Similarly, pacing on the treadmill should be similar to what you do over land.  You may be able to tweak the pace up very slightly since you're not having to cut a path through the air (you're running in place, remember?) but don't go overboard with it.  If you use a HR monitor you may be able to get a sense of pacing/effort by trying to run at a similar HR to what you usually have with your outdoor running.  Hope this helps - feel free to reach out via email if this didn't answer your question!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meniscal Regneration - James

Hi Janet, I am wondering if you knew much about regenerative medicine being used to treat meniscus tears. I tore mine six months ago and haven't run since but I can bike. I was unaware of the seriousness of the injury and though it was a mcl tear. Anyhow I am having surgery to remove a portion of my medial meniscus. I'm worried that this is the end my running career or at least it will compromise the level of intensity at which I can run and hasten the onset of osteoarthritis? Do you think that this type of injury will be 100 fixable with the advent of stemcell technologies? Example growing a new meniscus inside the knee? Thanks James

Reply - Coach Janet - I know there are a lot of researchers working on this but I don't know the status of the procedure at this point.  There are many runners who are able to return to running after menisectomy - it sort of depends on how much had to be removed. The best thing you can do is be diligent with your rehabilitation, get your hips and core as strong as you can since that helps alleviate some loads on the knee.  As you return to activity post-op, work your way through a walking program before you transition carefully back into running and make sure the paces you're runnig are appropriate.  Listen to your body - make your progressions very gradual.  Talk to your surgeon about getting a referral for some post-op Physical Therapy to make sure you get started off on the right foot.  Hopefully the amount of meniscus removed is small, your strength and flexibility are optimum and you're back running before too long.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Running NYC Marathon injured - Julie

I started training for the New York marathon in few this year, I ran my first 1/2 marthon on the 24 August, after completing I was struck down with shin splints that I could not settle (I had experienced them in my training but managed them by dropping mileage etc) however, this time I was limiping. Uktra sound and X-Ray showed no fractures, I stopped running for five weeks, and trained in the gym. For the last three weeks I have managed to build up to running 10 kms a week, with the longest run 10km. I have managed three PT sessions a week, one strength, 2 interval training, and train 6 days a weeks. I have transfered every run onto the elliptical, up to 25kms in one sitting. I foam roll daily, stretch, calm raise, clam, gluten strengthing, massage.. The marathon is in 4 weeks! Resigning to the reality that I will it run the entire marathon, I will be running a 10km run and walking 20kms, with the hope I get to the stage I can run 30kms and walk the rest..... Is tehre any stories of successful running with shin splints? I'm feeling mentally strong and fit, but nervous.

Reply - Coach Janet -- I wish I could give you some solid encouragement here but the fact is that it is usually a bad idea to race injured. The best case scenario has you completing the event, doing some form of run/walk and surviving without making things worse. That is proabably not going to be the outcome though... more often those who try to race injured end up with a very poor outcome, and their injury is far worse at the end -- forcing them to take extended periods of time off running and in some cases they never get back to where they were before. I just don't think the risk to reward is worth it. Perhaps you could contact the race director and see about deferring your entry to next year? If that's not an option and you're determined to go through with this, the smart move is to go in with a plan to run and walk at set intervals rather than trying to run as much as you can and then "just walk" the rest of the way in -- that's a pretty uncomfortable feeling. Better to go in conservatively, with the idea that you'll walk X minutes and run X minutes... then stick with it. Although your current diagnostic imaging didn't show stress fracture, keep in mind that "shin splints" are on the same continuum of injury as stress fractures and if you continue to beat your legs up you very well may end up with stress fractures. I wish you the best of luck with this, but my guidance would be to not race injured. Defer if you can -- then spend 2015 training up and if you can identify training errors (pace, mileage, etc) correct them this time around. This is where a good coach can be a big help -- we can look at your training plan and identify things that likely contributed, and then devise a more appropriate plan moving forward. You're certainly strong mentally -- but trying to do 42 km on a base of only 10k a week is not going to be fun. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Knee issues and shoe changes - Malika

Hi. I was recently diagnosed with grade 2 patellar chondromaliasis. i've been running for about 2 months now. i gradually learned running 5k, started with walk/run sessions then i was able to run longer distances. after about (probably) 6-7 runs, i changed my shoes, i was wearing Skechers running shoes (with elastic sole) and switched to Mizuno Wave Creation. while running 5k everyday on concrete pavement (not now because my doctor told me to stop for a couple of weeks), my feet was feeling pretty stiff but i didn't care at all. (maybe i should've, maybe that was sign of a problem.) could this injury be caused by shoe change? i thought my new shoes weren't able to absorb the shock properly like how it's supposed to, because the cushioning wasn't fine for my feet and leg anatomy and passed the shock waves directly to my knees. Is it possible? What do you think? I really want to go back to running. But i'm so scared now and don't know which shoe to choose or what to do. and more importantly, i don't know what i did wrong, i thought i was running properly. what are your advices? Thanks in advance...

Reply - Coach Janet - Hi Malika, sorry to hear about the knee issues. Shoe choices are about more than just cushioning -- the shoe needs to support your foot in a way that compliments it's natural structure. And, you can't expect the shoe to absorb all the shock/forces... that's the job of the muscles! I always say - the knee has two best friends: a strong butt and a well supported foot. In other words, the shoes need to be doing their job, but the hips are a key element as well. Most people with knee issues benefit from working on getting stronger hips (some simple strength exercises can be really helpful in this regard) and working on improving flexibility in the calves and hamstring muscles. The previous foot discomfort likely was an indication that things weren't as they should be. It's not just the shoes though -- you have to consider other training errors like adding mileage too quickly, doing all your runs at the same distance, (no recovery time), training at inappropriate paces (doing all your runs at/near target race pace), running on concrete for every run, etc. Running is a natural activity and as such it sometimes seems like it should be pretty simple to just lace up and start training... but there are things to consider that might make the difference between running well and getting an injury. Start now with some flexiblity exercises and some strength work for your hips, ease up a little on pace and take the approach that not all days need to be 5k. Transition off the concrete and onto some dirt paths from time to time.... If you'd like more detailed help, check out the "services" page of this website and drop me an email and I can get you started right away. Best of luck -- Don't just look to the shoe for solutions... remember that flexibilty, strength and training errors also have a role to play. Hope this helps. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Torn meniscus - Robin

I recently had a MRI and the doctor said he could see a partial tear in the menicus. I read on line that sometimes it will heal itself. my dr. wants to do surgery to remove the part that is torn so it won't tear more. I haven't ran in 2 weeks. It tried to run yesterday and I was limping the whole 3 miles. It doesn't hurt like it did when I was running.am a long distant running who runs about 50 miles a week normally. Thank you for your help.

Reply - Coach Janet - Sorry to hear about the meniscal tear! The surgery to remove the torn portion is usually relatively uneventful - done through an arthroscope and the rehabilitation is usually really pretty quick. I think you might be more confident going into the surgery if you get a second opinion though. It makes no sense to continue to run when you're hurting - and running 3 miles with a limp not only makes the initial injury worse (the meniscal tear) but it also sets you up for a whole host of compensatory injuries because of your wonky gait pattern! You can easily take one simple injury (the torn mensicus) and turn it into three injuries! The questions I'd have are -- how did this meniscal tear come about? Was it a sudden trauma or wear and tear? If it was a wear and tear kind of injury - then it will be really important to work through a rehabilitation process that deals with the underlying imbalances or deficiencies that lead to the original injury. If it was a sudden trauma, then the rehab can simply be to get you back to where you were before. Either way -- get that second opinion and then make sure your orthopedist refers you to a good PT for some rehab guidance. The PT's will give you a whole bunch of home exercises to rebuild you as quickly as possible. You might find this article helpful - it's one I wrote many years ago about communicating with your medical professional.  Good luck - hopefully you'll be on the other side of this very soon. As for the meniscus healing on it's own - that's not usually the case but certainly a question to ask your surgeon. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS 

Monday, August 25, 2014
Maintaining fitness through the winter - Jan

Hi Coach, This summer I focused on the 5k distance, and made great progress bringing my times down and learning to push into the "pain" zone. Do you have any tips for maintaining my gains over the winter? I run through the winter, and luckily own a treadmill, so I don't plan to stop training. Yet I know I won't be racing much (if at all) for about 6 mos. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet Although you mention a treadmill, I'll recommend that you continue to run outside as much as you possibly can. The treadmilll is a reasonable option if the weather is horrid, but it's not the same training load as running through the air over mother earth! Ideally training should run in cycles so that perhaps the cycle you'll focus on through the winter months is one of base-maintentance or base-building. In that case the focus is primarily on easy paces for most runs, with some occasional (once a week?) runs that focus on hills (build strength) and perhaps some fartlek (maintains some of your running economy at faster paces). The paces you use for these strength and economy workouts is based on the event you're trying to stay sharp for -- it would be different for runners focused on a half or full marathon versus those focused on 5k. The most important part of this phase of training is that you focus on maintaing your overall fitness level so that when the "racing season" comes around you're ready to resume hard training. Look ahead at your planned race season and back up perhaps 2-3 months... that's when you would likely start back into more focused interval-type training. The benefit of cycling your training like this is that you give your body some time to recover and build strength in the "non-racing" phases and this sets the stage for improved performance because you enter the "pre-racing" phase stronger than you were before! Good luck. If you'd like more detailed help with this, check out the "services" page on this website or drop me an email at: janet at runningstrong dot com. Best of luck in your next race season. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Monday, August 11, 2014
Increased mucous production - David

Why do I produce mucus every time I run or cycle? I do not get colds or blow my nose normally but as soon as I start working out (running or cycling) I start produce mucus.

Reply - Coach Janet That's a great question, and I'm not sure I have an answer for you! Perhaps a wise pulmonologist doctor or respiratory therapist will read this and weigh in? I can only surmise that since one role of mucous is to moisten and protect the airways that the increase in production is due to the increased air flow and this is a way to keep things from drying out and getting irritated. I think it's pretty normal. I certainly experience this and based on the number of runner's I've seen on long runs blowing their noses at regular intervals... it seems pretty normal for most people. Unless it seems excessive to you, I'd say chalk it up to normal physiology! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Saturday, August 9, 2014
Young runner with leg tightness - Melanie

My 14 yr old has begun training g for her first yr running high school track (2nd yr as a runner). She is complaining of leg cramps and a feeling of "not being able to stretch out her thighs enough" She is 5'6" and 100 pounds. What can you suggest to help her with this.

Reply - Coach Janet - at that height and weight she appears to be a bit thinner than would be ideal -- her body mass index is sginificantly under weight. So with that tidbit of info I'd want to check into her nutritional status and make sure she's consuming adequate calories and also make sure that she's taking in good quality nutrients and not overly restricting. Electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, fatigue, etc can all play into the issue of "cramping" so start with the nutrition and hydration end of it. She should be training at "easy" paces on most runs, with key workouts designed to work her a bit harder -- some running at faster paces is good, but if she's trying to do all her runs at a hard/fast effort she'll only succeed in breaking herself down and gettng injured. There are lots of stretches, but the trick here is to not only maintain/improve general flexibility but also to deal with the underlying cause for the cramping/tightness. I'd start with checking her training paces, and nutrition/hydration status and then move into a phase of working on strength and flexibility. Perhaps she has a school coach that she works with that will give her some specifics? Hope this helps -- feel free to reach out via email if you have more questions (janet at runningstrong dot com). Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Building mileage - Bethany

I am a highschool runner and it's my first year doing cross-country. Next week, I'll be gone for church camp, so I'm missing practice. I am trying to improve by a mile a week. So by the end of the week, I want to run 5 miles without stopping. I am very limited there. I basically just have a road I can run. I'll be there Mon-Fri. What would be a good training plan if I can currently run 4.5 miles?

Reply - Coach Janet In my opinion it won't hurt you a bit to hold steady for a week and not build. Run what you're able to run - even if it's limited - and just take this coming week at camp as a "hold steady" week rather than a build week. Your body may actually perform better the following week because it had a little more time to adapt! Good luck with your first year of Cross Country! Best wishes - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Coming back to running after 5th MT fracture - Richie

67 male running for 30 years (5-8 miles). This was to be my first marathon year (NYC 11/14)Broke right 5th metatarsal on 5/29 and should be off boot/crutches by 7/18. I know marathon is probably out this year and that's OK. Once I'm cleared for running how far should I go and what frequency? Thanks

Reply - Coach Janet

Your long history of running will do you well as you come back. The type of tissue strength that you get from that many years of running is a wonderful gift! I recommend that when you're cleared to be off crutches and the boot that you spend a couple of weeks (at least) transitioning through a walking program and make sure your foot feels 100% symptom free. I like to have people accomplish about 10 miles a week of walking with no symptoms before they transition into running again. The transition phase also should start conservatively - perhaps only including 1 minute of running every 4 minutes of walking at first. As your body consistently proves it's tolerating the run segments (symptom-free during the workout as well as afterwards) then you can gradually bring the run segments up in duration and gradually shorten the walk breaks. How quickly you move from one stage to the next really depends on your body's response. No two training plans are created equal and this is especially true when we're talking about a return to running program. When in doubt - hold stead and don't increase the run segments -- you'll never hurt yourself by giving your body a little moe time to adapt to the training load. Good luck -- please let me know if I can be of assistance - you can always reach out to me via email at janet at runningstrong dot com. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Sharp knee pain, training for first half - Melody

I just started training for my first half marathon ..up to only 41/2 miles but I am having sharp stabbing pain on the inside of each knee. I thought I could just shuffle but even that I can't do without pain. I what can I do? I've had my running mapped and have had shoes fitted to me. Help! And thank you :-)

Reply - coach Janet There are a few things to think about here -- first of all, how long have you been running? Were you already running some solid mileage before increasing your training? Second thought - are you training at the proper pace for your current fitness level? It's important to realize that training is training and racing is racing -- and you shouldn't do all your training at race pace. Third thought - what terrain are you traning on? If you've added hills or perhaps transitioned from a treadmill to out door running then that may be factoring into it. It's important to listen to the symptoms and not force things. If you can walk without pain, then perhaps you can use walking as an interim activity while things settle back down. Typically knee pain like you describe is related to the following: lack of adequate hip strength, lack of adequate core strength, inadequate flexibility in the calf and hamstring muscles, lack of adequate support from your current footwear (even if it's been fit to you -- perhaps it's still not the right match?), adding mileage too quickly, adding hills too quickly, training at the wrong pace. Look over that list and see if there's anything that rings a bell with you. If you're not already doing it, get consistent with calf and hamstring stretches and also with some strength work for your hips and legs. Work in a pain-free range of motion on all exercises and gradually increase that range as your symptoms permit. I'll be happy to help with more specific details but I'd need to know a lot more about your specific injury and training history as well as a whole host of other things. If you're interested in that, check out the "services" page of this website or simply drop me an email to janet at runningstrong dot com. Hope this helps! Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA certified coach 

Monday, June 16, 2014
Follow up to hip flexor question - Jan

Hi Coach, Thank you so much for insights about my hip flexor issue. When you mentioned the low back, I remembered that I hurt my SI joint this winter doing forward bends in yoga - perhaps it isn't completely resolved. I also remember doing the clam shell exercise and feeling a sudden painful pull in my inner thigh on one leg. Maybe that's partly to blame as well. I've incorporated calf stretches and the reaching lunge exercise into my routine, and am searching for a PT to check out my low back. Thanks again!

Reply - coach Janet Glad to help! Use the links in the information above to get to a couple of search engines that might help you locate a good skilled orthopedic PT. The APTA search directory will let you narrow it by location (state and city) as well as certification -- you'll want to narrow it to "OCS" (orthopedic certified specialist) and then look at the stated practice focus of the therapist. If you can find one that's focused on manual therapy and lower back issues, you may find you get a much better result with their expertise. Good luck! Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Friday, June 13, 2014
Sore Hip Flexors - Jan

Hi Coach, For the past month or so, my hip flexors on both legs have been very sore after I run. When I do squats or lunges, I feel them in my quads rather than my glutes. I do isolated glute exercises (bridges, band walks, clams, leg lifts). It seems like I just can't get my glutes to take up their share of the work, even though I do the recommended strengthening exercises. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

There could be a couple of things going on but the first thought I had was - I wonder if something is going on in her lower back? One of the two dominant hip flexor muscles attaches to your spine - and so if there's any dysfunction going on there it can certainly contribute to a sense of tightness there. In addition it's not unusual for people with low back dysfunction to have inhibition of the gluteal muscles. Even if your back doesn't hurt, it might be worth checking in with a good PT to have an evaluation. Another thought -- do you stretch your calves on a routine basis? If not, that might be something to work on. It seems unrelated but it's not -- when your hip flexors are being stretched to their longest length in your gait pattern is the same time that your calves are being stretched to their longest length (the push off phase of gait) so tightness in one often results in tightness in the other. Final thought I had was: Are you training at the right pace? If you're running at a pace that's a bit too fast for your current fitness level, you may be taxing your muscles a bit too much. I think you're doing a lot of good isolated gluteal exercises but you might try to incorporate some balance and reach exercises. See this page for a picture of a diagonal backward balance & reach exercise that targets the gluteals. Good luck, hope this helps! Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Competitive racewalker with Left side issues - Karl

As background, I am a semi-competitive racewalker (8 half marathons since May 2012, plus a lot of 5K, 8K, 10K, 15K races, etc. I try to train, race, or work out 5 days a week, unless I am tapering for a long race (or recovering). MY PROBLEMS: I have noticed that my left leg (and the left side of my body, generally) doesn't even seem to be "engaging" at all when I walk. My right side seems to be doing all the work. I don't know if these other symptoms are relevant, but I have battled with an elevated right hip, plantar fasciitis in the right foot, a fallen left arch, and shin splints in both shins. Any ideas - either from a posture/alignment standpoint or a stretching standpoint? (Or any other "standpoint" you think might be helpful!)

Reply - Coach Janet If you have an elevated right hip, perhaps you have a leg length discrepancy? In my experience, the long-leg side (in your case perhaps that's the right leg?) tends to be more likley to get plantar fasciitis. There are two types of leg length discrepancy: Structural and Functional. Structural leg length discrepancy is when one set of leg bones (femur and tibia) is longer than the other side. In cases like this, the only "solution" is to use a small lift in the shoe of the short leg. What's more likely the case is a Functional Leg length discrepancy caused by a spinal/pelvic misalignment. This can be resolved with spinal mobilization and then follow up with exercises to strengthen the area so that the proper alignment is held. If it's an issue that's been going on a long time, it may take awhile to realign and to get your strength back. I'm thinking with your sense of "lack of engagement" on your left side that this is what you're dealing with because if your back is out of alignment it can cause nerve root impingement which would result in a decrease in strength on the involved side. If you have any symptoms in your butt or down your left leg, this would be even more likely to support the spinal alignment theory. If you can get in with a good orthopedic PT that has manual therapy skills, or perhaps a Chiropractor who has skills in not only manipulation but also exercise prescription -- you should be able to get this resolved. Good luck, hope this helps! Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Help for a 100m sprinter - Juliette

My daughter is a spinter and runs flat footed her feet ankles lean inwards. She rounds a fast 50 m and than last 50 slower. Can you help?

Reply - Coach Janet

There's a lot going on in that short distance of 100 meters but the quick answer is that the stronger your daughter becomes the faster she'll be in that last 50 meters. Sprinting success comes from being able to produce a lot of power, so perhaps you could consult her track coach about helping her with some strength training exercises. The second piece of the puzzle is stamina. That comes with aerobic training -- which comes from training distances much longer than the 100m. Hope this helps? Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS