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Here are some recent questions that were posed for Coach Janet.  Feel free to go back to the ASK THE COACH page to fill out the form to ask your own question. 

Improving an 800m performance - Julie

Monday March 4th, 2019 

Not sure if this platform can answer this-it's about the 800 and I see most questions are about longer events. My daughter likes to run a fast 1st 400-last year it was about 1:10-1:11, this year should be about 1:08. But her 2nd lap is too slow. It should be no slower than 1:15 to give her 2:25 max, but last year it was usually closer to 1:20, giving her 2:30-2:33 average. Once she ran 2:29 but only once. This means lactate threshold conditioning/anaerobic ability that is lacking, correct? So what types of workouts are best to improve this?

Reply - Coach Janet

The 800m run is challenging because it not only taxes the anaerobic energy systems but it also taxes the aerobic energy systems because of it's duration. Most 800m runners benefit from a strong endurance base so perhaps if your daughter has only focused on running 400-800m at a time she might consider ramping up her endurance work a little. A better aerobic system will be able to clear the lactate produced in the high intensity, shorter duration anaerobic dominated world of 400-800m. The fact that she is fading by >14% in the second lap sort of implies that as well. Also if she's not currently doing it, some emphasis on lower extremity strength training is worth considering as well. Stronger muscles are more resistant to fatigue. Have her coordinate with her track coach regarding how best to coordinate her workouts - which days should be set aside for strength work vs. longer endurance work vs. speedwork.  Most of the middle distance athletes I've worked with are routinely logging 25+ miles a week in training and have long-run capability of 6+ miles on their endurance day. They also incorporate a fair amount of surge pacing and intermittent sprinting into their longer runs. Hope this is food for thought. 

Best regards- Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach   

Running a marathon 2 weeks after a DNF - John  

Sunday March 3rd, 2019

  I have completed 4 marathons (PR is 4 hours). I attempted my fifth yesterday and DNF. It was an unseasonably warm day, & I didn?t adjust my pace. I ran less than 20 miles. There is a local marathon in two week, & I would like to give it another try. I am 53, but my fitness is high. What interim training approach do you suggest. Thank you  

Reply - Coach Janet

I think you'd be smart to treat the next couple of weeks the same way you would if you were two weeks out from your previous marathon. In other words if this week was a "near" 20 mile run at race pace -- I'd think about doing something more like a taper-length long run next week and avoid the temptation to hammer out another 20 miler. If your normal pre-marathon taper is typically  20, 16, 12, marathon - you'd probably just do 10-12 next week since the marathon is the following week.  I'm not a big fan of trying to cram races so close together.  It's hard to perform at your best without adequate taper and recovery in the mix.  Good luck though! Be smarter about your pace strategy in this next one and hopefully it will fall in place much better!  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA certified coach

How long is recovery after a half marathon - Jenny  

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

How long can you take off after a half marathon and not lose fitness? I have low iron, and just ran a really poor half marathon. My plan was to rest a week and then start exercising again? Is a week too long to take off? 

Reply - Coach Janet

Recovery after a hard race is an important part of the training process.  I usually recommend  reduced mileage rather than full rest.  Most people can do low intensity stuff like walking the next day to help promote blood flow, and within a few days they're able to resume short/easy runs. The typical prescription is about 2 weeks but it differs based on the athlete's mileage going into the race, as well as any upcoming events they're trying to target.  A week is certainly NOT too long and you won't lose substantial fitness by dropping intensity and duration back for a week.  Respect that recovery phase!  Hope this helps - Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified coach.   

Trying to improve a 5k time - Kim  

Monday September 24th, 2018

  I am a female junior in high school. My PR is 19:11 and was set during my sophomore year. I trained really hard all throughout the summer. Now that it is cc season again and the season is halfway over, i haven't even been able to get into the 19's yet. Both my parents and my coaches are disappointed in me. The pressure is making me over think it even more. And because of this my heart and passion for running just doesn't seem like it is there anymore. If I trained all summer, why would my times be slower? And what advice would you give me for this situation as a whole?  

Reply - Coach Janet

There could be dozens of things going on.  Did you have a growth spurt between last year and this year? Have you continued with a proper progression of intensity training as well as a solid level of base mileage? Are you fueling properly?  Are you getting enough sleep (8 hours a night minimum at your age). Are the courses you're running in CC this year comparable in terrain and elevation changes to what you ran last year?  I'm always troubled when a young athlete feels excessive pressure from their parents and coaches.  It is important that you do what makes YOU happy. At this point in your life you're still finding your passion and if pressure is taking the joy out of running then share that with those who are pressuring you! There's a difference between support from loved ones and coaches, and pressure from those same individuals. Let them know you need their support, not their disappointment and artificial pressures! Hold your head high and do not apologize for this.  You are worthy of their love and support and you deserve no less. As the artificial pressures ease, focus your mind on the task at hand: doing your workouts to the best of your ability, respecting the purpose of each workout and not trying to "beat the clock" every time out the door, doing your mental training during and between workouts, paying attention to proper fueling and hydration and sleep.... put all of the puzzle pieces into place that you can and do the training.  Find your joy again!  If you need to take a step back from competition to recover from overtraining, do that.  Mostly take care of YOU.  You are worth way more than a finish time in a 5k - treat yourself with love and respect and let your passion for running come back.  Training is part of success, but there's a lot more to it than just training.  You can do this...   Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified Coach.  

Running after a Jones Fracture - RWS  

Friday August 31, 2018

Hi, I was recently cleared to run after having surgery for a zone 3 Jones Fracture. It's been a little more than 3 months since surgery. My doctor told me I could start by running 1 mile at about a 16 minute pace. I've run the last four evenings 1.25 miles the first two nights at a 12 minute pace, then 1.5 miles the last two nights at a 10:45 minutes pace. I dont want to over do it and move too quickly, but there is a 5 mile race in a few days that I'd like to run/walk. I did do a 5 mile walk last week. Is it safe to proceed? I dont want to re-injure my foot. 

Reply - Coach Janet

I don’t think going into a 5 mile race just a few days after resuming running following surgery for a Jones Fracture is a great idea.  A Jones Fracture can be troublesome and sometimes they don’t heal well and have to be pinned (which is apparently the case with you?)… so why risk it?  You’re wise to simply accept the fact that you had a very significant injury, respect that, take a nice slow and sensible path back to running and then when you’re running some solid mileage with no issues, look a few weeks ahead and schedule a fun run then.  I would be concerned that in the “energy of the moment” that you’d push pace and overdo it if you try it this weekend. Just not worth the risk in my humble opinion.  Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA Certified Coach.  

Issues from a prior ankle sprain - Samantha  

Wednesday July 25, 2018

 I have a question concerning an old ankle injury. I sprained my ankle a few times during HS, and during the last couple weeks of my senior year XC season was the last time I sprained it. I took off a couple months to let it heal, and I couldn't get back to running more than 25 miles a week without it swelling up again. This sadly led me to not do XC in college. 
Now after 3 years, it continues to swell up. Sometimes during less than 10 miles a week. I love running, and my ankle is the only thing holding me back. The swelling is on the outer side, near the top of my foot.
I have not seen a doctor because it isn't severe swelling or pain, and it goes away after a couple days of not running. I've tried some PT exercises I found online, and I try to incorporate leg strength training at least one day a week, I especially focus on single leg exercises. Maybe I'm not doing this enough? I'm a little worried that maybe I permanently damaged my ankle. Advice would be greatly appreciated!   

Reply - Coach Janet

  It’s hard to know for sure if there is “permanent” damage to your ankle just based on a set of symptoms. It would be necessary to evaluate in a hands-on environment – joint mobility, joint stability, and perhaps even use diagnostic imaging like x-rays to evaluate for things like bone spurring or “loose bodies”. Stability in the ankle (or any joint for that matter) is dependent upon ligament integrity, bony integrity, and muscular strength. Certainly doing exercises to improve both mobility and strength are a good thing to do – but you may also need to look into other things. For example you mention you sprained it “a few times” – which makes me wonder if perhaps there are issues with your biomechanics/form that play into this. It might be worthwhile to get this looked at so that you know what you’re dealing with and so you can start to deal with it more effectively. Perhaps starting with an assessment by a PT that specializes in foot/ankle biomechanics or maybe with a functional assessment by a running coach? Perhaps even discussing the symptom presentation with your physician to see if an orthopedic consult is needed? I’d be happy to help you out so feel free to reach out to me via email and we can certainly brainstorm this further. Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach  

Pain on side of foot - Vicki  

Tuesday May 15, 2018

 I hope you can help me. I have a constant pain along the side of my foot and the bottom of the foot. So when pressure is applied it causes pain and makes walking and running especially quite difficult. Would you be able to advise what o have done and what I can do to treat it?I will look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards,Vicki 

Reply - Coach Janet

Generally when someone tells me they have pain that alters their gait pattern (you mention making walking and running quite difficult) it's important to respect that pain and take some time off.  Sometimes if it's just a minor injury a few days will do the trick. Sometimes if it's more significant (a stress fracture for example) then use of an immobilizer boot and several weeks off followed by a sensible and regimented return to running program is what's needed. Look back at your training log and see if you can identify anything that might have set this off (adding mileage too quickly, increasing speedwork too quickly, etc). Check your shoes - are they old or worn? If you have symptoms at rest, that's a bit of a concern so I'd recommend you see your orthopedist for some diagnostic imaging to rule out the more severe issues like stress fractures, and then you'll have a clearer vision of how quickly you can proceed. If you want help with this, reach out to me via email.  Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach  

Running at Altitude - Ben  

Thursday April 19, 2018

I'm looking to B.Q. with a sub-3 at Sandia Crest in Albuquerque in September as it promises a fast race with a 4500 foot decline. However, I live and train in Texas and am worried about the starting altitude of 10,000 feet. How much will this effect me and what should I do to counter the altitude? Training masks? Special regimen? Maybe don't attempt at all?  

Reply - Coach Janet

Good luck on the B.Q! Altitude has an effect on performance and it isn’t pretty.  It typically takes about 3 weeks to fully physiologically adapt to about 5000’ and about an additional week per 1000’ after that so you’d be looking at about 8 weeks at altitude to get fully adapted.  Your best bet if you choose to do this race would be to get there as shortly before the race starts as possible. Don’t be thinking that getting there a few days ahead will help – it won’t.  Your body will be in the process of trying to adapt but you will actually be less able to perform than if you had run the race the moment you arrived. 

Though downhill running sounds like it will help – it too has some negatives.  Namely that the muscles that control your descent will be fatigued and this can affect performance in the later stages of the race.  You can somewhat overcome that negative by practicing a lot on hills and learning the fine art of downhill running.  Selecting some net downhill courses for your long runs will also help some. 

The good news in all this is that you’ll be training in the summer heat in Texas – and research shows that heat acclimation tends to improve altitude performance. The issue at hand is blood volume. When you train in the heat, your body recognizes the need for more blood because of the two opposing demands (shunt blood to the surface for cooling, and the opposing demand of needing oxygen supply for working muscles).  Your blood volume increases as a result and this increase comes in handy when you go to altitude because the lower atmospheric pressure up there means some of your fluid will shift from circulation to the interstitial tissues (you may have noticed that at altitude your fingers and feet tend to be puffy).  About the only other way to optimize your performance at altitude (in the absence of moving up there for the last 3 months of training) would be to maximize your aerobic capacity in training.

Good luck with whichever race you choose, but I’d encourage you to consider one that is not at altitude to optimize your chances for success.  If you’d like help with this – I’d be happy to help out. Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach  

Transitioning from marathon training to 5k/10k training - Bobby  

Friday March 30, 2018

I am just coming off 18 weeks of marathon training (avg 70-80mpw)and running a PR of 2:58:19 and I am taking the next 10 weeks to work on my speed and shorter distance times (5k-10k). 1. how can I maintain my aerobic fitness gained from my high milage without taking away from my speed work, and 2. whats the best way to transition back into my marathon training after the 10 weeks?  

Reply - Coach Janet

First off - congratulations on your sub-3 hour marathon! With your big mileage base (70-80 mpw) you have built a very big foundation which will support a strong volume of higher intensity training.  I generally try to keep my athletes within these guidelines: high intensity training (defined as 5k or faster pace) should be limited to no more than 7% of total weekly mileage with the occasional athlete tolerating 10% of total weekly mileage; and moderately high intensity training (defined as 10k to 10 mile race pace) is limited to 15% of total weekly mileage with the occasional athlete tolerating as much as 20%.  With that said - even if you drop your weekly mileage to 60 miles a week, you'll still tolerate a fairly large volume of training at those higher intensities.  By keeping a long run in the mix, and doing it at proper aerobic paces, you won't lose your aerobic endurance you've worked so hard to gain.  The good news is that after this cycle of slightly lower mileage and increased focus on faster paces, you'll return to your next marathon training cycle stronger.  Just don't overdo the volume of the speedwork relative to your total weekly mileage. If you do, you increase your risk of injury.Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach  

Heart rate in healthy 19 year old runner - Rod  

Tuesday March 13, 2018

  So i went out running with a friend of mine, 19 year old female, without any running experience, and definitely not an an athlete, we started running, some easy jogging, and her heart rate spiked up to over 170 bpm. Not unexpected since as I said she is not an experienced runner, but what surprised me was that she was able to maintain the pace without any struggle, and pretty much hold a conversation. That would indicate to me a much higher than 170 bpm Anaerobic Threshold, is that possible in an untrained person? How would you explain this?  

Reply - Coach Janet

I’m, not sure how you determined that a HR of 170 bpm would be above this person’s anaerobic threshold – perhaps you have blood lactate levels that you didn’t include?  Bottom line is that her HR of 170 is not out of bounds for a person her age.  Let’s assume her resting heart rate is 64 beats per minute and that she was running at 80% of maximum aerobic effort (which would be a bit fast for an easy training run but not out of the realm of reality).  If you plug in her age and a RHR of 64 into a Karvonen formula to estimate a HR associated with an 80% effort I come up with 174.   Understand that this would be an estimate based on an estimated max of 201.  If her true maximum HR is actually higher than that, then her exercise HR at that 80% effort would also be higher.  If you want to be accurate, you’d get a true maximum HR on her, get a true resting HR, and take serial blood lactate  measures while doing progressively faster and faster paces.   This would give you  accurate data from which you can determine proper training paces and heart rates.  If she’s just a beginning runner, I’d probably forgo all that stuff and just have her run at a comfortable, conversational effort for the first month and just track the pace and HR associated with that.  If she’s improving, then perhaps doing some more detailed assessment is worthwhile but ultimately the HR prediction tools are just that… PREDICTIONS and estimations – unless you’ve got accurate individual data to back them up. So – I’d say that yes, a healthy 19 year old may have a HR of 170 while running at a relatively comfortable pace – that wouldn’t worry me a bit. Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach  

Heart rate drift - Sal  

Thursday March 1, 2018

 Hi there, I'm not experiencing any cardio problems but am curious as to why on a run it takes about 20 minutes until my heart rate reaches a steady max, while my pace is constant.

As a trainee orienteering coach (and a runner for the last 35 years), I'm reading about the value of correct warm-up, but my pace and HR graphs would suggest I'm actually getting more from my heart during the first 20 minutes if it's beating 10-15 BPM slower than max (160 BPM for me), yet achieving the same pace? 

Any insights gratefully received - thank you  

Reply - Coach Janet

It is normal for heart rate to take a little time to reach a steady state in response to a given workload.  This is in part because there’s a gradual increase in the demand for oxygen to fuel the workload of the muscles.  Initially the stored ATP and stored CP can meet the needs, then fuel is supplied by glycolysis (breakdown of glycogen) and the oxygen demand for that process is not high until the product of that glycolysis goes into the next phase known as the Kreb’s Cycle.

So – you’re not “getting more” out of your heart  - you’re just seeing a normal physiological ramping up of the mechanisms that supply your muscles (and everything else) with the needed ATP to do what you’re trying to do. 

As you continue an activity (in your case you mention your HR doesn’t reach a steady state until about 20 minutes) you will be accumulating heat (a natural byproduct of metabolism).   The heat has to be dealt with – so the body will shift blood flow a bit so that more blood is going to the periphery of the skin so that it can be cooled.  The body now has a dilemma, it has to deal with opposing demands…. It needs to cool the core (send the blood to the skin for cooling) and it needs to fuel the exercising muscles.  The natural response to this dilemma is to increase the HR so that more blood is circulated per minute.  The volume of blood being ejected from the heart per beat is going to be relatively steady but now that you’re ejecting it 160 times a minute rather than, say, 145 times a minute – the blood volume circulated per minute is increased to meet that demand.   This is also seen when you run at the same pace in a cool environment (40 degrees F) vs. that same speed in a hot environment (80 degrees F).  The heart rate at a given pace will be greater in the warm environment because of the heat load. Hope this helps clarify it?Best regards - Janet Hamilton MA, RCEP, CSCS, USATF-level 1, RRCA-certified coach