ASK the Running Coach! (Archives)

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

Thursday April 13th, 2017

Learning to pace properly in the marathon - Vincent

Last year I ran my first Marathon, the hilly Pittsburgh Marathon. I accomplished it using the Hal Higdon Novice-1 training plan. Before that, my longest race was a 10 miler, and my longest training run was 4 miles. I completed the Marathon in about 4:11 which was slower than my goal, but I did complete! :D A big problem was that I lost the 3:50 pacer around the 13th mile and looking at my chart in Run Keeper, my pace is all over the place once that happened. 
I would love to get to a BQ someday, but this year my work schedule prevented a lot of winter running that I really needed. I am playing catch up still. I hope this May to break 4 hours, but currently struggling with even my 20 mile runs. 
My question is - Assuming I loose the pacer again this year, how do I learn to keep pace myself? 10+ years of running shorter races has not helped me to get there. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

Congrats on completing your first marathon! First marathons are usually a “learning” process --  you learn what it takes to train for that kind of a distance and what it takes on race day to execute your plan. Each time you train up for, and then complete, a marathon you’re building on a foundation of fitness that keeps getting bigger and broader and better able to support your race goal. With your goal of a “sub-4 hour” marathon I’d advise you to NOT try to run with the 3:50 pacer but instead, run with a 4:00 pacer and then as the race unfolds and you get to the final 10k – if all is feeling good you can gently loosen your reins and let yourself slide on out in front of the pacer. This way you won’t be going out too fast (3:50 pace) in the beginning and then fall apart in the last 10k. Now – as for how to learn to lock into a pace – that happens during specific training runs that are called “PACE” runs. On these runs you practice running the EXACT pace you plan to maintain in training. The goal is to learn exactly what that “feels like” so that you can lock in that effort +/- 5-10 seconds on any given mile. Obviously this depends on the course profile. You mention you’re “playing catch up” because of low mileage over the past months. I’ll remind you that a marathon is not a test you can “cram” for . If you want to do well, you have to put in the work and build your base so that on race day you have the endurance needed to RACE the distance (not just complete it).  I’ll be happy to help with this – feel free to reach out to me via email (janet at if you want some guidance. Best regards and good luck in the upcoming marathon!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach

Wednesday April 5th, 2017

Racing the 3000m more than once a week - Job

I run the 800 and 3000 for my high school track and field team. I am one of the top 2 long distance runners in my school (I also run 5k in xc). I use the 800 as a warm up for the 3000, I don't run it at 100% and don't really care about my time. I save myself for the 3000, which is my favorite. My track coach will not let me compete in the 3000 twice in a week if we have 2 track meets in a week. I don't understand why and they don't explain why. Some of the other kids run 400, 800, 1500, and 4x400 in the same meet, which is the same distance as 3000 and they are allowed to run all those more than once a week. I told the coach I would stop running the 800 but she said that wouldn't matter, she just doesn't want me to run 3000 twice in a week. I'm frustrated and just want to run the 3000. I'm not even tired after the race. I could run it everyday, which I almost do working out. I have PE in school and sometimes run 2miles while everyone else runs one. I just don't understand and would like some advise on how to approach my coach with my frustrations. Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Job, it's hard to know exactly what your coach's reasoning is but I would encourage you to assume that she has YOUR best interests in mind as she makes these decisions.  Running a 3k is a different load/demand than running sprints like the 400 or even 800.  She might be deciding this based on things like your age/skeletal maturity level, or perhaps a previous injury history, or even deciding it based on having bigger goals in mind for you.  I think it's worthwhile to sit down and have a frank and open discussion with her to ask her respectfully to help you understand.  Elite athletes choose their races carefully and train with a long-range mindset, you'd be wise to adopt that same attitude since you're clearly gifted. You probably have many years of running success in front of you and the best way to achieve that is to train and race with a focus on the longer term horizon... what will develop me the most for my future goals?  Ask to schedule a time to talk when neither of you is in a hurry - then go into that meeting with an open mind.  Present your concerns just as you have here, and then really LISTEN to her response.  My guess is she's thought this out and has your best interests at heart.  Best of luck in your future!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Saturday March 25th, 2017

Racing a 5k - Justin

I'm a 39 year old male, thinking about trying some 5k races. I've been running since I was little, but have never tried any races. I like 3 mile runs, and can accomplish it in 28 minutes and 11 seconds. I would like to know how I would do if I was actually competing. I don't want to try if I would be at the back of the pack, if you know what I mean.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Justin - rest assured that if you're regularly running 3 miles in that time you wont be dead last in your 5k! Go, have fun with it and find out how fun it is to run in a crowd. If you want to do a little "preparation" - build your stamina a little by making one of your weekly runs a little longer than the target race distance - but do it at a very easy conversational pace.  On another run, you can incorporate some faster paced running.  You would start with short intervals of faster pace (perhaps quarter mile repeats) separated by recovery intervals.  This will give you the feel for slightly faster running.  On a third run you might start to do a few gentle hills to work on leg strength.  Mostly I'll just tell you to go and have some fun and see what you've got.  Sounds like you could easily go do this based on your current fitness.  If you find you like it and want to get better... hire a coach to help you with specific training guidance so you can achieve your best.  Good luck - let me know if I can be of assistance.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach. 

Tuesday March 14th, 2017

Can you excel at the 5k while training for a half marathon - Jan

I've registered for several half marathons in the coming months, as this is my favorite race distance. However, I really want to work on bringing my 5k time down over the summer. My long runs are usually in the 10 mile range, sometimes longer, so I know I'll be able to cover the distance comfortably in the halves. If my 1-2 weekly workouts are 5k based, is it reasonable to think I can run well for both distances?

Reply - Coach Janet

Nothing builds success like a nice big foundation of fitness!  With consistent long runs in the 10+ range you've built a nice foundation of stamina that also allows you to tolerate a higher dose of high-intensity speedwork.  However... your statement that you only run 1-2 times per week in addition to that long run means that your total weekly mileage is probably still pretty low.  You can probably tolerate up to 7% of your total weekly  mileage at "high intensity pace" (5k to 3k race pace) so if your total weekly mileage is 35-45 miles per week (a good starting point for a successful half marathon) then you could schedule up to 2.5 to 3.25 miles of intervals at 5k pace or faster and be pretty safe in knowing your injury risk from that higher intensity workout was relatively low.  If your total weekly  mileage is lower than 35 miles a week, I think your first order of business to improve your success at both race distances is to build your mid week runs -- perhaps trying to work your way up to running 4 times a week.  I'll be happy to help you with this, I've had athletes achieve PR's in both distances in the course of training for a half marathon or series of half marathons.   If you want to race your half marathons well - pick them carefully and allow yourself time to sharpen, taper, race and recover.  Racing too frequently doesn't allow for that and your performance won't be as good as it could be.  If your target is really the 5k and the half marthons are more for "fun" then the taper and recovery periods for that distance is much shorter and you can get away with racing more frequently.    Hope this helps -- good luck!  Done correctly, you can absolutely run well at both distances!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach

Tuesday March 7th, 2017

Questions about Marathon training plan - Pranav

I have a marathon training plan from Nike and I am confused by the arrangement of the long runs every week. After a 14 mi comfortable long run in week 5, they want me to do a 16 mi long run in week 6 where I push to maintain my pace, followed by a 14 mi run in week 7 at an easy pace. I don't get this. If the 16 mi run is the longest ever run undertaken till week 6, why do I need to push? Also, if I am reducing back to 14 mi in week 7, what is the point of running the week 7 long run of 14 mi easily as I would have already pushed through 16 mi in the week before?

Reply - Coach Janet

This is one of the reasons that I don't like "canned" training plans.  They can't take into account your unique variables: your fitness when you started, your experience with the race distance, your injury history, etc.  It is not out of the question to do alternating up-and-back long runs with one week being a progression and the next being a step back for recovery.  It is not out of the question to do a race pace specific segment in the midst of a long run... HOWEVER - that is a more advanced form of training and should NOT be done by an individual doing the distance for the first time!  If you've done dozens of marathons and you're consistently logging 50-70 miles a week, then you're likely easily able to perform a RP segment in the midst of a 16 mile run.  If on the other hand you're new to distances like this and 16 is the longest you've ever run -- you have no business whatsoever doing any of it at a pace other than "easy/conversational".  Build the infrastructure first, then polish the speed.  If this is your first marathon, perhaps using a coach to design a specific plan that takes into account your unique strengths and weaknesses would be a better approach.  If you want more information feel free to email me directly at "janet at" .   Hope this helps.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified

Thursday Feb 9th, 2017

Training pace and marathon performance - Tony

Hi Coach, I have run for many years and would consider myself to be a good to above average runner. For example I can comfortably run under 25min for a 5 km, 45min for a 10km and 1hr45min for a 21km. Recently I have decided to take the step up and try my hand at marathon running, as per normal I have taken advice from club members and relaxed my pace completely in the fear of blowing out (to above 6min per km). I have tried my hand at 2 marathons and although I have finished them, I have failed miserably in the execution. So much so that I start suffering (knee and ankle pain and cramping) even before I hit the halfway mark, a distance I would normally easily cover at race time or when doing my long slow distance running sessions. My question is this. Can I actually be running to slowly? Does this then affect my natural running form and overall endurance ability?

Reply - Coach Janet

Based on your half marathon of 1:45 -- I'd predict your marathon performance at around a 3:42-3:50  (5:15-5:25/km)  if all the conditions were right and the course was conducive to a PR.  Most people don't achieve their full potential in their first marathon though.  Using your half marathon as a data point,  I'd predict your easy runs mid week to be in the 5:50-6:00 per km  pace and the long training run (depending on the length) somewhat slower at perhaps 6:30-6:40 for the really long runs.  Marathon success is best built on a strong foundation of lots of training distance -- for a marathon I like to see runners comfortable with weekly distances >40 miles (>65km) per week with at least 3-4 long runs in the 18-20 mile (29-32km) range.  In my experience, those who get pain and cramping during a marathon often lack in strength - and when they crank up the intensity to race pace, they are unable to sustain it for the full distance.  Other things to consider - fluid/electrolyte balance, pre-race meal, did you taper properly?, what was the weather? did you go out too fast in the beginning? Training at an aerobic effort (training paces I mentioned above) usually builds adequate foundation, then adding on some volume of training at race pace or some elements of speedwork and hill work will usually stimulate adaptations in strength and running economy.   Without knowing more about the specifics of what went into your previous marathons it's hard to guess but generally I find that most runners are not guilty of training "too slowly".  Speed over ground is one thing, cadence is another.  If you keep your cadence, your form won't generally be adversely affected by easing your pace. If you'd like some specific help with this, feel free to drop me an email or check out the services page of this website.  Hope this is some food for thought.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach

Monday Jan 17th, 2017

Sore feet in marathon - Robin

Coach, my friend holds you in high regard. She told me to ask you my question. I have ran over76 marathons, I just finished Houston. I ran my worst time then when I started 30 years ago. What happened was I went out to fast. However, I felt great but about 12-13 the balls of my feet started hurting. I started to try and change my gait but by mile 18-19 my feet were killing me. It happened last marathon but not this bad. I thought maybe it was because I didn't train a lot on cement. So this time a did all my long runs on cement. Thank you so much for you time.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Robin, with 76 marathons behind you, you're clearly a veteran of the distance.  Houston had some pretty challenging conditions this year so you shouldn't really beat yourself up about your finish time.  To put it into perspective you might want to read my article on Temperature and Marathon Perfomance. 

Now to your feet...  there are several things you might want to investigate:  shoes - perhaps they were higher mileage than you realized? Activities prior to race day - were you on your feet more than usual or perhaps you've been wearing "dress" shoes more than usual?  We don't think about it much but the footwear we use day to day can make a difference.   Flexibility - sometimes when we train lots of miles per week we start to lose calf muscle flexibility and this can contribute to increased loads on the ball of the foot -- have you been pretty consistent with doing your stretching as you trained up for this marathon? One more thought - perhaps as your pace slowed due to the tough conditions yesterday, you made subtle alterations to your gait pattern and this resulted in increased stress to your feet?   Since it happened on a previous marathon it may not be related to pace but it's worth considering.  Also - have you evaluated whether the shoes you're using are appropriate for the type of gait pattern and training you're doing?   Just some food for thought -- I'll be happy to troubleshoot a little more if you want to reach out to me by email.  Congrats on surviving the steam bath yesterday!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified.   

Tuesday December 13, 2016

How to make the cross country team - Kris

Question for the coach: Currently, my fastest mile time is 5:59, and I run a 10k in about 44 minutes. I'm trying to work towards running in xc in college when I transfer (im in jc right now). I'm a male, so I have to get my time down by about ten minutes in roughly a year. I've been training and it's been going down, but is this do-able? I really want this. Also, trying to get into UC Santa Cruz D3 school. What will it take?

Reply - Coach Janet

Your mile time predicts a 10k in the range of 39:45 to 40:30.  Without knowing what sort of training you’re doing it is hard to know if you can get your 10k down from 44 to 34 – that’s an improvement of 28% which is clearly a high hurdle to clear.  Just improving from your current potential (a 40:00 10k to 34 min would be a net improvement of 17%) is still a huge target. 

Step one is to build your stamina with large volumes of easy paced running.  Mileage in the 60+ miles per week would not be considered over the top for a 10k runner.  Once you have your stamina and endurance built with easy paced running it’s time to work on speed and learning race strategies.  Speedwork is the icing on the cake though – if you focus on that and don’t build your stamina first you’re just asking for an injury. 

As for your question about what will it take to make the team – that’s a question best answered by the cross country coach at the school you want to attend. I’m sure he/she will be happy to talk to you on the phone! 

Good luck.  Build the infrastructure first, then polish the performance. Hope this helps - feel free to contact me if you want coaching help.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified

Monday August 29, 2016

Running a 5k after a fracture - Jimmy

I had a minor fracture in the growth plate in my left ankle in early July. I returned to running this cross country season on August 17, and just did light training. My first 5k is September 10, and even though I have been released to race by my doctor, physical therapist, and my schools trainer, my coach still wants me to wait till 2 weeks after that to race. He even said earlier that I would be in this first race but as I recovered faster and faster he kept pushing it back. What should I do?

Reply - Coach Janet

I am inclined to agree with your coach -- if you just returned to running 12 days ago after a layoff of several weeks, you'd be smart to give your body a little time to get back in the groove of training.  Wouldn't it be better to be a little more prepared before you toe the line? That extra couple of weeks will give you additional time to do some crucial tune up in the form of hills and speedwork as well as working on getting your stamina back.  Wouldn't you rather be more prepared than less prepared?  You'll be more likely to give the type of performance you want.  Pushing yourself too hard too soon will only increase your risk of future stress fractures.  The doc and PT and trainer all say it's OK to race but if your coach feels your performance will be better if he holds you out of this first race - I'd say that's pretty smart.  If you're not sure -- sit down with the coach and be honest about what you're feeling and how you don't understand his/her decision.  Ask them to give you an honest assessment of how you're doing and what they have in mind.  You'll both feel better for clearing the air!  Good luck - whichever race you do.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA certified.  

Saturday August 20, 2016

Battling to get speed back - Judy

I started running in 2008. I've never been a great runner, but got to where I could do a 5K in 31:00. Now, I can barely do it in 44:00! Since 2011, whenever I run, within 30-60 seconds my legs feel like lead, my stride shortens to ridiculously short, and I can barely lift my legs. I still see a neurologist, who has been no help. I've been to many doctors. No answers. I've even started acupuncture. Help!

Reply - Coach Janet

It's hard to know exactly what's going on because I don't have key bits of information. Your age, whether you continued to train consistently since 2008 or had training breaks, what sort of training you've been doing, whether you've gained or lost weight, what paces you use in training, whether you've had injuries, what medications you take, etc.  The fact that doctors have ruled out various conditions and illnesses is good news.  Now we just need to get to the root of the issue.  First things first -- your training should be done at aerobic effort... not race-effort.  I'd love to help but I need a lot more information than you've provided here.  Perhaps you'd be willing to send me a bit more info by email?  If so - send it to    Hopefully I can be of some assistance once I know more about you.  

Saturday August 20, 2016

Alter-G Treadmill - Brock

Previous question answered, thanks, next question , I have trained this week [Pain free} on the AlterG treadmill, I think this will be a great training tool , what is your thoughts on training 1 or 2 times a week with this anti gravity treadmill once I am back running

Reply Coach Janet

I think that's a great option!  It's another tool in your rehab and training toolbox and if you have access to it that's a real useful option.  I think that any work you do on this should likely be considered "recovery workouts" rather than trying to substitute it in for some of your higher intensity work.  Good news that you were able to get in a pain free workout!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Returning to running after time off - Brock

I had currently been training for cross country season, I have been off for a couple of weeks due to a stress edema, I will probably need another 2 weeks off before training agin, my question is this. .... how many weeks will I need to get back to where I was,17;15 5k

Reply - Coach Janet

How quickly you can resume running is dependant on several factors: how long you were off, how robust was your mileage base at the time you were sidelined, and what was the reason for the time off - these are the primary factors to consider.  With only a few weeks (2-4) off running, if you had a substantial mileage base prior to your injury you should be able to come back fairly easily.  Staying strong and fit with cross training that doesn't irritate your bone injury will help.  Ask your physician which forms of cross training are "OK" for you -- different bone injuries come with different restrictions!  Maintain any/all strength training that you can do, and keep your aerobic fitness with cross training forms that have been OK'd by your doc.  When it's time to come back to running, take it really conservative the first week -- make sure your injury is resolved.  Build your distance the first few weeks, then when you're back up to your previous mileage base, you can start to resume some higher intensity speedwork.  The length of time this takes is hard to predict based on the information you've provided.  Good luck and stay in touch with your cross country coach to insure that you're doing all you can do to recover quickly and get back on your game!  Best of luck with your cross country season -- Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-Certified.

Friday August 12, 2016

Does medication affect running in the heat? - Robin

Thank you for your feedback on the Texas heat. A follow up question. Do you think Levothryroxine and/or Tamoxifen would contribute to any fatigue or dehydration?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Robin, I'm no pharmacologist so keep that in mind. Your best source of info here is your pharmacist and physician.  To my knowledge the condition that Levothyroxine is prescribed for (low thyroid hormone) might contribute to fatigue, but I wouldn't expect the medication to contribute to that.  The info I have lists as possible side effects - increased sweating and sensitivity to heat -- so perhaps there is an issue with it contributing to dehydration?  Is this a new medication for you?  If so - certainly would be worth it to discuss your concerns with your physician.  Listed as rare side effects are things like anxiety, irritability, low energy and sleep disruption -- and if you're experiencing those then perhaps they'd contribute to fatigue.  Tamoxifen -- again the question is -- are the symptoms related to the reason for taking the drug or the drug itself?  If you're taking Tamoxifen I'm assuming you're taking at treatment for breast cancer.  "Feeling weak" is listed as a common side effect of tamoxifen - so perhaps there's a contribution from that drug?  Again -- your physician and pharmacist would be the best sources of information here.   I think talking over the issues with your physician is a vital first step. They should be made aware of exactly what you mean by "running" (they may be thinking you mean running short distances daily for fitness). Tell them about your weekly mileage, the conditions you're running in, the event you're training for... make sure they understand.   If you have time, send me a quick email to let me know what the professionals said -- I'm always interested in learning more!  Best regards - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified

Thursday August 4th, 2016

Losing ground when I take days off - Claire

Hi, I'm 17 and run on a team. I'm having trouble with losing a lot of endurance in short amounts of time. Usually I run 5-6 times a week, at about 3-5 miles each time, with 8:40-9:10 mile splits. But skipping sets me back way more than it does anybody else: if I skip one day, it's not too bad, just a little sluggish. If I skip 2, I really struggle to do an average run. However, if I skip 3 days in a row, it's nearly impossible for me to even reach 2 miles without walking - I'll feel out of breath, even often a little nauseous. Four days? It's terrible. And it takes me at LEAST a week to two weeks to recover. But other runners don't seem to be as affected by skipping days - in fact, in between seasons the coach will even RECOMMEND that we take one week off - but 7 days would take me MONTHS to work back up to normal runs! Why does I lose it so quickly, and is there something I can do to prevent that? Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a couple of thoughts that come to my mind -- first off: how long have you been running and what has your weekly mileage been averaging for the past year or so?  If you're relatively new to running (less than a year) then you're still in the foundation building stage and perhaps others on your team have a longer history of running?  Another thought - are the paces (8:40-9:10) appropriate for you right now?  They should be easy conversational paces if you're in the base building phase.  If you're running too fast you may be short-changing some of the aerobic endurance adaptation you're trying to accomplish.  Also, on the days you don't run - are you doing other forms of aerobic exercise?  If not, perhaps on some (but not all) of your off days you can do something other than run -- bike or swim?  These exercises help stimulate your aerobic system but stress your muscles and skeleton in a different way than running.   Finally - make sure you're eating well and staying hydrated every day and that you get good restorative sleep on a regular basis -- 8 hours a night is a good target.   Talk to your coach about these things and see if their first-hand knowledge of you can help identify any other areas to investigate.  Good luck with your team!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified

Monday August 1, 2016

How to hydrate for a summer marathon - Robin

Quick question Coach about how to properly hydrate during the summer in Texas. I recently had an 18-miler planned and went out for my scheduled run, but at mile 11, I was forced to walk and tonight, I am exhausted. I have a marathon in late August and am concerned as to what to do. Any advice to hydrate and prepare for my marathon this month is very appreciated.

Reply - Coach Janet

Wow - first off... hats off to you for training for a marathon in the summer Texas heat!  You're truly devoted and make no mistake about it, the heat training is vital for your success if you plan to run a marathon later this month.  Hydration, fueling and electrolyte balance all play into your ultimate success.  Staying hydrated between training runs is part of that.  If your urine is pale yellow, you're probably adequately hydrated but if it's dark you're likely dehydrated and you do NOT want to start a run dehydrated!  So - stay well hydrated on a regular basis.  Second - if you've never used electrolyte replacement beverages or tablets you might want to experiment with those for the next couple of weeks to see if they help with your ability to keep fluid/electrolytes in balance on your longer runs.  There are plenty of options available commercially.   Third - running in very warm temperatures tends to burn your glycogen at a faster rate, so you may want to adjust your fueling schedule.  If you fuel every hour on a long run you might experiment with backing that up a little and fueling perhaps every 45-50 minutes.  Finally -- you can't outwit mother nature... you would be wise to adjust pace relative to the heat/humidity!  There's an article HERE on how marathon performance is affected by heat and you can reasonably extrapolate from that data that training paces are also affected by heat!  Slow down a little.    You're doing all you can to prepare for a hot summer marathon -- getting heat acclimated is the best thing you can do! I typically advise athletes I coach to take fluid with them on any run that's expected to last longer than 45 minutes, and to use electrolyte replacment (beverage or tablets) on any run that's expected to last longer than 90 minutes.  If that means carrying your bottle with you or stashing it, or even adjusting your routes to allow for frequent fluid breaks... do what you need to do.  Dehydration saps performance and electrolyte imbalances can be even worse (fatal in the worst case scenario).  Respect the distance AND the heat....  Good luck in your August marathon!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified

Sunday June 19, 2016 

Trouble improving 5k time - Cate

I'm 16. Nobody in my family, especially me, has ever been good at anything athletic. But a little over a year ago, I started running - first on track, and then cross country starting in the summer. For whatever frustrating reason, I just improve way too slowly. I went from about a 29 minute 5K, to 24:25, but that was over both summer and fall training. I then trained over the winter - 5 to 6 day running weeks, whereas other girls on the team were running four days a week and still doing so much better. I was able to get up to about 4, 4.5 mile runs with 8:10-ish pace, and dropped only a little bit through track. Then, my lack of improvement really hit me hard in a different way: for me, taking only three, two, even one day off affects me horribly. With finals, then a week-long vacation with running every other day, I now struggle to do 2.5 miles at sub 8:45 pace. And I seem to be getting worse. Everywhere I read, it says you can take up to a week off and still be fine . . . but when I took 3 off in a row for finals, I dropped and haven't recovered. Why do I lose my distance and pace like this? Am I the only one? What can I do to get back up to my usual pace/distance before cross country starts, if it took my almost 3 seasons to reach it last year?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Cate - first off I want to congratulate you on the improvemen you have made! I'm no math whiz but that improvement from 29 to 24:25 is about a 17% improvement which is VERY respectable!   Let's look at what you were doing -- you had worked up to doing four 4.5 mile runs at an 8:10 pace.  Why were you running your training runs at 5 mile race pace?  Training and racing are not the same thing.  Training develops the infrastructure that helps you race but if you're hammering out hard workouts 4 times a week you're beating your body up and it can't possible improve.  Overload stimulates the physiological changes you're striving for but it's only during the recovery bouts that your body has the chance to do the hard work of actually making those changes on a cellular level. It'snot that you never run fast in training... you just don't do it every time you go out the door.  To build the aerobic endurance to run fast - you have to build in an aerobic fashion... training in an aerobic zone.  In other words, ease up on most of your training runs, and include one or maybe two runs a week where you focus on some speedwork.  You're burning yourself out in my humble opinion.  Take a deep breath... take a week and do nothing but super-easy, conversational paced running with no "agenda".  See if you can get your body recovered enough so that you can reintroduce some intervals at race pace once a week.  Remember, doing the same distance day after day (and at high intensity like you were doing) never gives you a chance to recover.   Build endurance first (all at easy effort) then introduce the higher intensity stuff in doses that are relative to your weekly mileage.  Too much speedwork too soon and too often will not get you the results you're looking for.  Hope this helps.  You can't win by beating your body up.   Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach. 

Sunday - June 19, 2016

Knee pain when training for a 5k - James

I'm a 37-year-old recreational runner - my usual run is a 5k around my neighborhood. I ran a 5k race last summer and I had a great time. I ran a PR and surprised myself in being able to compete with a lot of other more experienced runners. I decided to run the same race again this summer, and I found a training program to follow after about a month of not running much. For the first time, I'm experiencing some real knee pain. The race is in 4 weeks, and I'm reluctant to stop training, but I don't want to hurt myself in a way that will keep me from running for good. Advice on the internet ranges from getting braces to doing strengthening exercises to having a doctor look at it (I run because I can't afford a gym membership, so I'd rather not pay for a doctor!). I just want to know if I should stop training or pull out of the race.

Reply - Coach Janet

I'm not a fan of running through pain -- it usually doesn't work out well in the long-term.  Here are a few things that are commonly related to the onset of knee pain

1.  Increasing mileage too fast -- since you used a "canned" program from the internet it may not have been an appropriate progression for YOU.  If you started a bit too aggressively (i.e. ramped up training after an extended training break) then that could be playing into it. 

2.  Running at inappropriate paces - usually this means you're doing too many runs at/near target race pace.  Training is training, racing is racing... don't race your training runs.  The pace you run the majority of your training runs at should be very relaxed and conversational. It's not that you never do faster paces, but you do them in measured doses and only when your body is ready for it. 

3.  Inadequate strength - for knees, the common culprit is usually weak hips and in particular weak glutes and lateral gluteal muscles.  Another area of weakness can be the quads.  Simple body weight exercises are very effective and can be done anytime/anywhere without a gym membership (YAY!).   

4.  Inadequate flexibility - usually it's calves and hamstrings that are the culprit here but it could also be hip flexors and/or quads .  Stretching gently on a daily basis is usually a good way to alleviate this but it will take time.  Don't stretch to the point of pain. 

5.  Inappropriate footwear - perhaps the shoes are old, or just not the right match for your particular gait pattern.  If you've gone the route of the "minimalist" shoes that are ultra-lightweight and have zero drop, perhaps transitioning to something a little more supportive/sturdy would be worth trying  

6.  Overstriding - rather than focusing on how you run and trying to make a conscious change, you may find that it's easier and more efficient to simply use a metronome app or tunes to help you pick up your cadence a little. Don't strive to run faster... just work toward a slightly faster beat frequency.  This will insure that you keep your feet more under your center of gravity and less outstretched in front.  

Really the causes of knee pain are numerous and as varied as the runners that have it.   I'd be happy to help you iron out what's specifically going on in your case but perhaps some of the things I've mentioned above will strike a chord with you!  Let me know if you'd like more specific assistance. You can read about my coaching services on the services page of this website.    Let me know if you have questions.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach.

Saturday May 21, 2016

How to become a better runner - Stacy

I have never been a good runner. I started CrossFit in February and we do a lot of running however I am not improving at all. Anything longer than a 200m run and my legs hate me. I average about 3:15/400m. I tried the couch to 5k program 2 years ago and trained for 6 months off of it. I ran 5 5k's and my best time was around 35 minutes. It never got any easier even then. I'm frustrated. I skip CrossFit when we run any further than 400m because I wind up so far behind. How can I train to be better?

Reply - Coach Janet

There's this thing called specificity of training that might be coming into play here.  CrossFit is high intensity, very short duration bursts of activity.  Often the running done in those classes is high intensity sprints.  Doing hard sprints in between hard bursts of high intensity power activities would make anyone's legs fatigued!  Think about your overall goal here -- why do you run? Why do you do CrossFit? What is your overall goal?  If your goal is to have a faster 5k time, then the path to success is to build your aerobic ability (lower intensity running that can be maintained for 30-60 minutes in duration would help here).  CrossFit will build your strength and power, and this works to your advantage for sprints (100-400 meter).  But if you want to run faster for the longer distances (>400), you'd be wise to back the intensity down a notch on the runs and perhaps adjust your training to focus on stamina more than speed.   Please check your email for a more involved response from me -- but I hope this helps clarify things a little.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified coach. 

Friday April 29, 2016

How to improve my 2-mile time - Jung

Hello Coach, I really need your help at this point, and I'll do everything you say to this question.

I'm 27, height 5'11" and 145 lb.  Currently, I run 2 miles between 15'00'' and 15'30".  Monday, I do Intervals: 0.5 miles at 9.1 mph (x4) / 0.25 miles at 10 mph (x4) / 0.15 miles at 12 at (x4). Tuesday, Rest. Wednesday, I run 4 miles (average 8'50" per mile).Thursday, Rest. Friday, 2 mile timed. Sat, Sun Rest. My goal is to run 2 miles in 13 minutes within 1 one months.

If you can give me a weekly plan, or any specific training plan that would be appreciated.  Thank you for your consideration

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Jung, Your goal of having an improvement in your performance from a 15-15:30 2 mile time to a sub-13 mile time is an extremely lofty one.  That represents more than 14% improvement.  Unless you’re completely new to running, making that kind of improvement in that short a period of time is not realistic.   It’s not just about training hard – it’s about the physiological adaptations you’re trying to make on a cellular level inside your body…. Those things take time!  You can’t just push your body harder and force it to happen faster.  Physiology is what it is… and your body will try to adapt as quickly as it can.  

It appears from your question that you might be doing your training on a treadmill?  That would be something to wean yourself off of.  Treadmill running is MUCH easier than “real” running and ultimately any 2-mile race or event you run will likely be run on “real” terrain with “real” environmental conditions to deal with.  Transition your running outside as soon as possible. 

It also appears that you’re not actually running very much mileage – only a minimal 9.5 miles per week!  There is no way the low mileage you’re currently running will enable your body to realize its highest potential.  

In short – any plan I would develop for you would be much more focused on building your foundation of strength and stamina first, then transitioning to a phase of building your speed once that foundation has been established.  I could easily see that process taking 4-6 months to achieve a meaningful improvement in your 2 mile time.   You can’t force physiology.  You have to finesse your way to fitness.  

If you’re interested in a training plan – please check out the coaching page for more information on how to get started. Let me know if you have any more questions.  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Wednesday April 27, 2016

Young track athlete with sudden onset side pain - Debbie

My 14 year old son was running in track and felt a sharp pain on his left side and since then two weeks now has not been able to run fast with out it hurting. Is this something common or that will fix itself Thank You

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Debbie, I'm a little unclear about exactly where on the left side of his body your son experienced pain.  Was it his left leg? Lower back? ribs? hip?   Generally speaking things that are not severe resolve quickly but if he's still experiencing the pain (wherever it is) two weeks later would be of some concern.  If he's on a track team at school, perhaps you could discuss your concerns with his track coach?  If it were a leg pain, I'd want to rule out a stress fracture.  If it were in his torso, I'd want to evaluate his back.  At 14, he's probably going through some pretty big growth spurts -- so perhaps things are shifting a bit?  If you want to discuss further, feel free to email me at janet (at) runningstrong (dot) com.   Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level1, RRCA-certified

Tuesday April 26, 2016

Quad and calf cramping/burning during a marathon - Jon

I've been running long distance for 10 years, qualified for Boston and recently ran my 10th marathon on a flat course. When I trained, I focused on my core muscles, lifted weights and did plyometrics on top of my running. I felt prepared however when I ran my quads began to burn by mile 6 and the pain steadily increased over the race. In addition my calves eventually cramped and I had to stop and walk a 100 yards at mile 19 before running again. Why did this happen and I how can I prevent it from occurring again?

Reply - Coach Janet

If you’ve been running a long time, and you’ve qualified to run Boston – you’re no novice!  You did the right things in training in terms of focusing on core and adding some plyometrics to your strength routine.  Some things to think about when you’re trying to determine the factors contributing to the quad burning you experienced:

1.        Was your weekly mileage up where it needed to be prior to the race?

2.       Did you do adequate amounts of training at target race pace during training?

3.       Did you taper properly? (2-3 weeks of gradually reducing mileage is typical)

4.       Did you fuel and hydrate the same way you have for previous marathons where you didn’t have the quad symptoms?

5.       Were there any changes to your footwear?

6.       Did you sleep well in the week prior to the race?

7.       Had you been ill in the past 6-8 weeks?

8.       Was the temperature on race day what you were accustomed to?

9.       Were you adequately prepared for the hills

10.       Did you run at the proper pace for your goal or did you get pulled out too fast?

If the temperature on race day was warmer than you were used to – that could easily contribute to the quad and calf cramping/burning.  Heat increases the stress of running and if you’re not acclimated to it, your body shifts more blood flow to the skin surface for cooling, and also your sweat will contain a much higher concentration of electrolytes when you’re not heat acclimated.  This results in an electrolyte imbalance which definitely affects performance and might also contribute to cramping.    Give some thought to the things I have identified above and perhaps it will spark an idea of what might have contributed to your particular issues on this race.  Every race and every athlete is unique but it’s worth trying to troubleshoot this.  Hope this helps provide some food for thought -- get in touch if you have more questions!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified.

Tuesday April 19, 2016

Recovery from multiple half marathons - Melissa

I just completed 2 half marathons in 2 weeks, and the 3rd in the series is 4 weeks away. I ran 2 other half marathons 2 years ago. I followed a plan and felt really good for the 2. What is a "recover week"? How many miles would that include? Then, what should the next 3 weeks look like?

Reply - Coach Janet

Wow - that's a tight turnaround between half marathons!  The trick to doing multiple long races in a short time is to really pick ONE that means the most to you and then use the others as support/strategy runs to work on specific things like pacing, fueling and hydration strategies, etc.  Without knowing a lot more about you (your previous mileage base, the type of training you did leading up to the previous two half marathons, your injury history,etc.) it's hard to lay out a specific plan that would be best.  I can give you a generic response -- basically a recovery week after a hard race often starts with a couple of days of walking then a rest day, then a couple of easy days and the long run would be something similar to the length you did in the last week of your taper.  Typical taper for a half marathon is 10-14 days -- so back up from your next half marathon and plan out your taper -- and basically that only gives you one week or so of fairly "normal" training.  Let's say you were running 40+ miles a week in training and your long run previous to the half got up to 16 miles.  In the last week of taper (the weekend before your race) you might have done a long run of 8 -- so your first week back you might target a long run of 7-8.  The following week you might bring it back up to 12 and then based on how many weeks you have to train you might be able to get one more long run in before your taper phase.  As for speedwork -- I'd leave it off the first week (recovery) then based on how you're feeling you might be able to do some focused work at HM pace the following weeks.    I can be of a lot more assistance if I know more details!  Good luck with the next one -- and if you'd like more specific guidance, check out the services page of this website or drop me an email (janet at runningstrong dot com)  and I can tell you how to get signed up for some coaching guidance.  Best regards! - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach

Sunday April 17, 2016

Using exercise for torn meniscus - Trevor

I'm 57 with 30 years of running and racing. Torn meniscus both knees and I refused the scopes and used PT to get back to running. I have to say thanks to your book I use the "Reach" exercise to make my knees strong. I hold weights doing them. I go out forward for a set then I go out sideward for a set. Then switch legs.

Reply - Coach Janet

Trevor, it's great you've been able to rehabilitate your knees and get back to running.  Meniscal tears can be fairly simple, or very complex when it comes to surgical intervention.  Either way you go though - the stronger you are in your hips, the better off you'll be.  Even if you eventually have to have surgery to remove damaged meniscal tissue that's interfering with your function - you'll be quicker on the rehab and return to running if you've developed good hip strength through those exercises!  Glad they were helpful for you.  Best wishes and good luck on many more years of healthy running!  Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach

Monday April 4, 2016

Stressing out during race performances - Johann

I've been trying to get under 10 for the 3000m race. I eat healthy and work hard, but I get stressed out on race days and during races. My coach is disappointed when I fail to reach my goal and when I am running too slow during during my races he says that I should have been farther ahead and it is too late. I ran a 10:17 in XC season and have only recently made it back up to that this current track season. Also I feel like my slower teammates are getting closer to my times and my faster teammates are getting farther away. How can I regain my confidence and reach my goal?

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a couple of things to consider. Training -- I'm assuming your coach has you doing some but not all of your training at/near race paces?  Make sure you understand the purpose of the workout the coach has prescribed and do your best to follow the plan.  Trainining too hard all the time will leave you burned out and your performance suffers.   Second thing to consider is your mental preparation:  do you find yourself with fleeting thoughts of self doubt bouncing into your head?  Take control of those!  Any time you sense a negative thought or emotion, grab the opportunity to consciously replace it with a positive one. For example - you toe the line and you're feeling butterflys in your stomach and you think "oh jeez, I hope I don't screw this up".  That's a negative thought, which will lead to negative emotions and negative performance.  Instead - flip it around and tell yourself "that feeling... that's my motor getting revved up -- let's get this party started... I'm ready!".  This applies not only to the moments before the gun goes off but it applies in EVERY aspect of your life.  Academics, relationships, athletics... you name it!  If you find yourself having thoughts of doubt or negativity about a situation - quicky intervene to reframe those thoughts into something positive.   Train well, fuel well, sleep well, and train your brain to be a positive-image machine!   Talk to your coach about what is going on and let them know you need some help from them.  Everyone has "off" days but it's what you do with it that counts.  Hope this is food for thought -- Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1 coach, RRCA-certified. 

Monday Feb 29, 2016

Engaging the glutes while running - Janet

Do you have any suggestions or tips for getting the glutes to fire properly during a run? My quads seem to do all the work when I run, regardless of whether it's flat or hilly terrain. I do glute strengthening exercises 3x a week, and always pass any muscle testing with flying colors, so they're strong. They just don't do their share of the work when I run. Thanks!

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi - perhaps the issue is weakness in the quads and that's why you feel them fatigue during a run rather than the glutes?  Just a thought... if the gluteal muscles have been the focus of your strength work 3X week and always pass muscle testing with flying colors, perhaps they're plenty strong and doing fine and it's the quads who are in need of a bit of attention?  What makes you think your glutes are not "doing their share"?  Running is heavily dominated by reflexes and the duration of the contraction of the gluteal muscles is pretty short -- so trying to "consciously engage" them while running is likely not to be successful.  Certain exercises done in single leg stance position can sometimes get a "dormant" glute engaged but it sounds like you're already doing plenty of glute work already?  Perhaps working on some trail running where you have to keep your stride "collected" but are doing lots of quick adjustments for uneven terrain would be one way to work on more specific strength.  If you have a particular injury issue you're trying to address then the answer to this might be different.  Hope this is food for thought -- Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified. 

Monday Feb 22, 2016

Trouble with training - Rachel

Hi, last year I was running really strong, completing 3 1/2 marathons and a lot of hill running. I now have a running issue.....for the last 6 months I have run 3 times a week doing 7 miles on the treadmill in 56 minutes (due to it being late and work I have had to use the treadmill.) Then I started adding a couple of outdoors runs varying from 4 to 10 miles and then dropped one of the runs on the treadmill. I also do cross fit twice a week. My problem is now I can't manage the 7 on the treadmill anymore I just struggle from about 20 minutes in and then running outdoors I struggle doing 4 miles. My legs feel heavy and my breathing is terrible I can't seem to get enough air what do I do? And what's going on?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Rachel - As I'm sure you've already figured out - treadmill running is not the same as running on real terrain. I can't speak to the validity of your pace choice for the treadmill running you've been doing since I don't have any performance data to use for calculation but I'll just remind you that you'll get serious benefit from training at proper paces and you'll compromise those benefits if you train at inappropriately fast paces due to time constraints.  The fact that you've added in a high intensity activity like Cross Fit twice a week may also be playing into this.  Strength work usually compliments running, but the type of high intensity anaerobic strength work that you're doing in Cross Fit might be contributing to your sense of leg fatigue.  It develops the anaerobic capacity of the muscles and what you need for long distance running success is a high level of AEROBIC capacity in your muscles.  The enzymes and things needed to produce fuel from aerobic processes is developed by training in an aerobic fashion.  Perhaps one thing to try is to lighten up the weekly load by taking out one of your cross fit workouts, and transition off the treadmill and back onto "real" terrain. Run at easy/conversational efforts and get your stamina back up, and once a week do some running on some hills to build your hip strength.  As your mileage comes back up - make one of your runs more focused on faster stuff (intervals or perhaps race pace work).  I'm very much in favor of strength work but perhaps the twice weekly high-intensity Cross Fit isn't the right match for you.   If I can be of help just drop me an email!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF level 1, RRCA-certified.

Sunday, Feb 14, 2016

How to get 3 mile time back to previous level - Ian

Recently I've been dealing with a running injury. I've gotten past it but almost all the running I've done in the last year has gone down the drain. For the USMC we run a 3 mile run for score. I used to run a 22:00. Now I'm running about a 23:30 to a 24:00. What is a good training pace for a 3 mile run to assist me in getting my cardio back up so I can comfortably run a 3 mile run again? Also what are some good interval runs to get my 3 mile time back up to par, around 22:00 minutes?

Reply - Coach Janet

Now that you're healthy, perhaps the first item of business is to build your endurance back up so that a 3 mile race isn't a very long run for you.  If you're able to regularly run much longer than that (at easy effort) then pushing yourself for that distance won't be nearly as hard.  Endurance is best built at easy effort paces -- for example you could take your current 7:50-8:00 pace and divide that by .78 to get a good "easy run" pace  (about a 10 minute mile by that calculation).  Build your endurance up to where you're covering perhaps 20-25 miles a week and then start to add in some intervals at target race pace (7:20 pace).  Start with short intervals (200meters) separated by rest breaks that are about the same length, and work up to  longer intervals with shorter and shorter rest breaks in between.  Speedwork once, or at most twice, a week will enable you to capitalize on the aerobic foundation you built with the increased mileage at easy effort.  I'll be happy to help with more specific guidance but this is a general roadmap for success that works really well.  Best of luck, let me know if I can be of assistance. Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF level 1, RRCA certified. 

Friday, Jan 15, 2016

How to manage back to back half marathons -  Dawn

Hello, I have signed up for two half marathons this spring. They are one month apart. What sort of training schedule should I follow after finishing the first 1/2 marathon before the second 1/2 marathon?

Reply - Coach Janet

There are a few things to consider in this situation. Are you experienced at the distance? Do you have a high mileage base? Are you healthy?  My recommendation would be to select ONE of the two events to be your "A" race - and let the other one be a "fun event" at less-than race effort.  If your "A" race is the first one - you take a nice easy recovery week afterward, then ease back into some more normal mileage over the next couple of weeks, then taper and do the second event as a "fun event".  If your second event is the "A" race - then you might consider doing the first one as a training run - and include a portion of it at target race pace but not the whole thing.   It's REALLY hard to be at your peak performance for two races so close together.  Hope this helps - let me know if I can be of more assistance.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF Level 1.    

Monday Jan 11th, 2016

How to improve race times - Shirley

My cadence is between 195 and 200 on average but my average pace and ultimately race times remain slow. I am short (5' 1") and my stride length is hampered by my short legs???? How can I improve my race times? My most recent 5k was 27:48 and 59:09 10k! My PRs: 4:06 marathon, 23:55 5k & 1:52 half marathon in 2012. Have not been able to get back to that level due to injuries. Thanks.

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Shirley, the speed of your run is the product of stride length and stride frequency. Yes, at 5'1" you have shorter legs, but your stride length is not just determined by leg length but also by muscle strength/power.  In other words stride length is the distance between one foot contact and the next -- and this is affected by how hard you push off the ground and launch yourself forward!  If you're not already doing some strength work, that would be something to consider adding to your routine.  Not only will it potentially help with your injury issues, it may well improve your running economy and times.  I'd be happy to help with this.  If you're interested, check out the coaching offered on the "services" tab of this website or send me an email if you have questions.  Ultimately you'll need to balance your training with proper progressions of mileage, pacing and strength work in order to achieve your best potential.  Hope this helps -- Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF Level 1.

Monday Jan 4th, 2016

Knee pain with increasing mileage in training - Tania

I'm training for the paris marathon (april 3), and have been training and very gradually increasing my mileage (5-10 percent every other week), since june of last year. When I reached 16 miles I was unable to complete the last mile because of severe knee pain. After resting and taking it easy I tried running that mileage again but this time got to 13 miles before knee and hip pain made me stop. I tape my knees and also tried running with a brace but it didn't help. What's going on?

Reply - Coach Janet

Hi Tania, nice work with the gradual increase in your mileage.  What paces are you running your training runs at?  A common mistake is to try to run them at/near target MP -- which is a good bit faster than would be considered optimal.  Take your 5k race pace per mile and divide it by .78 to get your easy pace for runs of up to about 10 miles, and do a second calculation dividing it by .70 to get an easy pace for longer runs.  When you have those two numbers in front of you - you can establish a "range" of paces that insure you're running at a nice aerobic effort.   Second thing to look into (other than the pace issue) is perhaps your strength and flexibility.  It is important to do some gentle stretching and some consistent strength work as you work your way up to the marathon distance.   If you've been battling knee pain all along - it's time to get a handle on WHY your knees hurt!  You can't just plow through with training when you're battling an injury.  Let me know if I can help with more specific guidance.  Good luck in Paris!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, RRCA-certified, USATF level 1

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 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 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 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 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 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