Runners Connect Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:56:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is the Secret to Running Injury Free Foot Core? Mon, 03 Aug 2015 09:00:00 +0000

New research points to the importance of strengthening the small muscles in your foot to stay healthy as a runner. This article analyzes the data and makes suggestions on how to implement this "foot core" into your training.When you think of core exercises, what comes to mind?

Probably sit-ups, planks, and back extensions.

If you’re really on top of your game, you might be picturing side leg lifts, the glute bridge, and other hip strength exercises, because you know that hip weakness been connected with a litany of running injuries. But a provocative new paper published last year proposed that there’s another core you need to worry about—the “foot core.”

Is Your Foot the Key to Running Injury Free?

Patrick McKeon and collaborators from four American universities laid out their theory in a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.1

In the article, the authors draw parallels between the core muscles of the abdomen and spine and the small muscles within your foot itself.

The authors state that although these “plantar intrinsic” foot muscles are very small and not very strong, their role isn’t to create motion. Instead, they stabilize the foot, providing a solid foundation for the larger, more powerful muscles in the lower leg to efficiently move the foot.

The biomechanics of the foot are a little unusual, because it has to alternate between stiff rigidity and springy flexibility during walking and especially during running.

The human body has developed a number of mechanisms that allow for this, and McKeon et al. argue that the small plantar intrinsic muscles inside the foot are one of them.

Another biomechanical quirk of the foot is that the major muscles which control your foot motion, and even your toe motion, aren’t located in the foot itself. The main muscles that scrunch up your toes, point your ankle down, or roll your foot outward are all in your lower leg, adjacent to your calf muscles.

These so-called extrinsic foot muscles are already popular targets for strengthening in rehab programs—think towel scrunches, theraband ankle exercises, and so on. But, as McKeon et al. point out, these exercise don’t do as much to stimulate the plantar intrinsic foot muscles.

Learning about Foot Core and how it can help you run healthy (and happy!)
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Fatigue in Foot Muscles and Injury Risk

The centerpiece of McKeon et al.’s hypothesis is that proper functioning of the “foot core” is essential to being able to walk and run without injury. With scientific research focusing mostly on hip dysfunction as a cause of injury in the past decade, the paper’s authors worry that researchers are missing an important piece of the puzzle.

There is some evidence that foot muscle function plays a role in biomechanics:

A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Virginia showed that doing an exercise that fatigued the foot muscles causes the arch to collapse slightly,2 and another study of eight people with plantar fasciitis in one foot found smaller and presumably plantar intrinsic muscles in the injured foot than in the healthy foot—though this could also just be the result of favoring the healthy leg.3

Since the idea of a foot core is very new, McKeon et al.’s discussion of the practical implications of this idea is rather brief.

In addition to calling for more research, the authors recommend the use of a special maneuver called the “short foot exercise” to begin strengthening the plantar intrinsics, as well as small, controlled amounts of barefoot activity (e.g. running on grass).

Remember, we interviewed Chris McDougall on our podcast a few months ago, take a listen if you have not already!

 Foot Short Strengthening Exercise for Injury Prevention

The foot shortening exercise is performed by sitting in a chair with your foot planted normally on the ground, then using only your plantar intrinsic muscles (the ones underneath your arch) to “shorten” your foot and raise your arch.

Here’s the deal:

This can be very tough to learn, since your first instinct is to flex your toes or just roll your ankle outward to accomplish this.

McKeon et al. write that establishing control of this muscle can be difficult, but once you’ve mastered it, you can try doing the short foot exercise while standing or even while balancing on one foot. The authors provide no recommendations on how often to do this exercise, or even how many repetitions you should do—this underscores the fact that these are only preliminary recommendations based on McKeon et al.’s hypothesis.


As for the efficacy of the short foot exercise, McKeon et al. point to a couple of small studies, including a 2010 doctoral thesis by Lindsay Drewes at the University of Virginia.

Drewes found that adding the foot shortening exercise to a standard rehab program for chronic ankle instability resulted in better subjective improvements in foot function among the study’s subjects who included the short foot exercise in their rehab program, though these improvements weren’t measurable through objective measurements, like dynamic balance testing.4

Wow! What an interesting post! Could Foot Core be the way to healthy running?
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The idea of a foot core in addition to your regular core is an interesting proposition, but there’s far too little research on it yet to fully endorse it.

As the focus of research swings back towards the foot, it will be exciting to see what new findings are discovered, but for now, the most you should do is think about trying out the short foot exercise and perhaps incorporating a little bit of barefoot running on grass into your weekly training routine, if you don’t do it already.


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How to Plan Your Racing Schedule for Success Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:00:19 +0000

It can be difficult to determine a racing schedule to allow you to reach your goals, and run fast when it matters, at your goal race. This article explains how to plan your training and racing, depending on how much you like (and have time to) race.When it comes to racing, there seem to be two types of runners; those who race often, competing in many marathons a year, thinking about their next race before they have even made it out the finishing chute of the last, and spending most of their training time recovering from races. These people essentially race themselves into shape, and truly make the most of racing while they can.

Then there are the others, and I fall into this group. Maybe you are an elite, maybe you are injury prone, or maybe you just can only fit a few races into your schedule a year because of other commitments. These are the runners who are very selective with their racing schedule, and only really race when they are ready to chase down some fast times.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to racing… long as you are smart with your 5k, 10k, Half-Marathon, or Marathon race day strategy that is!

At the end of the day, all that really matters is that you challenge yourself, have fun (need more of that? Try these 6 extreme and unusual races), and do the best you can with the circumstances you are presented with.

But we often get the question; how far in advance should I plan my races out, and as I am sure you can guess, there are two answers to this question based on which camp you fall into.

Both methods will get you to the same peak race ready to go, and both have their pros and cons (which I will go over). If we say that your goal race is 16 weeks from your starting point, I will explain the various factors that go into each.

If You Love to Race

If you like to race often, you probably enjoy the social aspect of racing, and this means that you may be running with friends during a few of your races. If you are doing that, you may not be pushing yourself quite as hard as you would if you were by yourself, or at least not emotionally racing as hard as you would alone as friends tend to keep those demons away a little more.

For that reason, you are probably able to bounce back from races a little quicker than those who race less often. Your body also gets used to racing, which helps it understand what is going on. This correlates with what we found in our research about weekend warriors and the success despite cramming miles into a weekend.

If you are in the race often group, you do not need to schedule your races as far in advance… long as you are prepared for the first few races to be a little sub par, as you are not yet at your peak fitness.

If you can swallow your ego and do this, then this method is likely best for you.

How to Race Often

Racing often involves just that; within the 16 week stretch, choosing 7-12 races of varying distances (and terrains if your peak race has any hills or turns). You will not taper for any of the races, and will use the races as a workout for the next. Each race should build on the last, and although some will go better than others (and not necessarily in order), your fitness should continue to improve as your peak race closes.

You may also find that you are able to handle pre-race nerves a little better than if you race less.

In the weeks you are racing, you will be able to do one other race specific workout each week. The race will be your second workout. A long run will depend on the distance you are racing, and the distance of your goal race.

Risks for the Race Often Method

If you are injury prone, this method can be risky as you are pushing your body very hard, often.

If you do want to race often, then you should probably consider either a long run or a second workout each week, not both. That way you are essentially racing and recovering for the entire segment. This also involves being very diligent with your recovery, not making these recovery mistakes, and listening to your body, even if it means backing off (or backing out of a race) if you have any pains that have last more than a few days.

Here’s the deal:

This method also calls for some restraint. If you are a runner who tends to give their all to their racing, this method may not be for you as you could end up burned out by the end. Racing to your max not only takes a lot out of you physically, but emotionally too, which can catch up with you by the time you get to your goal race.

This method is best for:

  • Runners who enjoy the social aspect of racing
  • Runners who are good at listening to their body
  • Those who are unable to get enough training in during the week due to schedule conflicts
  • Runners who enjoy being spontaneous

I love to race often! @Runners_Connect explains how to plan our your schedule for the season ahead.
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If You Need to Race Hard, Sparingly

On the other end of the spectrum are those runners who are not as in to racing. These are the runners who enjoy the race specific workouts, and like to have a detailed plan from start to finish.

If you, like me, fall into this group, you are probably a Type A personality. Or maybe you have other commitments (or maybe little ones running around) who determine your schedule weekend to weekend. Either way, racing often is not on the cards for you, and you need to make the most of every opportunity to race.

How to Race Sparingly

Runners in this group usually like to have a full schedule, knowing their goal race, and all the workouts in between.

If we use the 16 week away goal race, you would chose 3-5 races of varying distances during that 16 weeks. You are unlikely to race until you are in close to PR shape, although you should expect to be a little rusty in that first race.

This is where we usually advise people to change your perspective on racing, to limit the amount of pressure we put on ourselves when we do not race very often.

This works well when you have a few big races in mind, and you love to run them hard. You love to cross that finish line knowing you have given your heart and soul to the race. By racing less often than other running friends, you have more time to emotionally and physically recover between them.

Risks for the Race Sparingly Method

Firstly, be prepared for jealousy. This is one of the issues I personally struggle with being one of these runners, as you see friends with their medals and that post race smile on their faces what seems like every weekend, and you wonder if you should abandon your plan and race anyway. To use this method you have to be confident in your coach or in your plan, and trust that you are doing the right thing.

This method requires putting your eggs in one basket. With fewer opportunities to race, you are trusting that you are going to be able to avoid injury and get to that goal race. We never know when we are going to get injured, so it can be difficult to accept if you do have to pull out of your goal race, as you feel like you have gained nothing from the training segment, which of course, is not true!

I have fallen victim to this thinking many times!

This method is best for:

  • Injury prone runners
  • Runners who tend to race to the max every time they race
  • Runners who have other commitments/a busy schedule
  • Beginner runners
  • Runners who like to have a distinct plan (usually Type A personalities!)

I chose my races carefully. Which group do you fall into? Planning races with @Runners_Connect
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What’s the bottom line?

Unfortunately, I am not making this easy on you. There is no right or wrong method for planning out your races, it really depends on what your goals are, and how your body handles training. With either method, you need to make sure you are keeping your easy runs slow enough for your body to recover, which we talked about in our post about running 80% easy leading to 23% faster results.

This post will give you a few things to consider when you are planning out your next race, but 16 weeks generally the amount of time most people use to prepare for a peak race.

How much you race during that time, is up to you!

If you are looking for a specific training plan for your next race, you should give the RunnersConnect training plan a try. You can get a 2 week free trial, and we would love to have you as part of the team!

Not convinced RunnersConnect is right for you? Read about how we compare to Hansons, Hal Higdon, Pfitzinger, and McMillan.

Great post from @Runners_Connect about how to plan out your races #runnersconnect
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How to Run Like an Olympian in the Pool Mon, 20 Jul 2015 09:00:02 +0000

If you are injured, you will do anything to keep your running fitness as high as possible. Deep water running will do just that. This guide explains the correct technique for you to get back to running as quickly as possible when you get back on land.You knew in your heart something was wrong. You knew that pain was not the kind of pain you could run through, but you pushed it aside and kept going. Soon you were in the doctors office, and they said the one word you hoped they would not say, rest.

You haggle with your physician, and they agree to let you cross-train if it does not irritate your injury. You frantically begin to search the internet for the best way to stay in shape. Short of spending thousands on an Alter-G treadmill or an Elliptigo, what is the next best thing?

Pool Running.

We have talked about the research behind pool running in the past, and shared 7 workouts that will make you feel like your heart is going to explode, but today we are taking it one step further. Giving you advice from an expert who explains (and demonstrates) exactly how to pool run correctly, so you not only maintain your fitness, but you may even come out in better fitness than had you been running all along.

If you want to keep your running fitness during injury, this post is for you.

This guest post was written by Lynda Huey

When I took the first few UCLA distance runners into the pool in 1983, virtually no one was cross training in water. They found it an odd idea. But when runners can’t run, they become desperate – desperate enough to put on a bathing suit and try it out.

We started doing the full running motion, which included a foreleg reach, but we quickly discarded that. The resistance of the water slowed the motion so proper speed could not be attained. These days, we use that old “full running motion” for recovery, especially when hamstrings are sore. But during all other training cycles, we do the back half of the running motion only. That’s the technique that allows runners to reach top speed.

Deep-Water Running


In deep water, we do only the back half of the running motion; that is, there’s no forward reach with the foreleg and foot. In fact, I tell runners that if they can see their feet they’re not running correctly. One knee lifts while the other foot drives down and back.

Pool Shots 1 039

We use this running form so we can move quickly enough to duplicate the effort and speed of high-intensity running. Once you have mastered the Knee Up/Foot Down motion, start using the same good arm action as proper running form on land. Pull the elbows straight back. Pull the hand all the way back to an imaginary hip pocket. Keep the chest erect and the shoulders relaxed and down. Find a focal point at eye level ahead of them. That keeps the head level. Don’t let the shoulders wobble. Work to establish smooth, efficient running form without any extraneous movement.

Here are the most common mistakes:

  1. Swinging the arms across the chest. The arms should be pulled straight forward and back.
  2. Rocking the shoulders forward and back. The shoulders should remain stationary while the arms move at the shoulder. The whole torso should be solid and motionless. Only the arms and legs move.
  3. Bending and straightening the elbow. The elbow should remain bent at 90 degrees and the movement should take place only at the shoulder.
  4. Not pulling the elbows back far enough. Emphasize pulling the elbow back and your hand will come all the way to your hip.
  5. Rocking the head from side to side. Keep the head level without motion.

Uh Oh! I just realized I was pool running incorrectly. This article from @Runners_Connect explains how to do it right
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Without a tether, the tendency will be to lean forward and try to reach the other side of the pool. The point isn’t to travel anywhere but to focus on turnover rate and good form. So keep the chest lifted or get a tether to help with good form. You can attach it to a ladder, a starting block, or even your athletic bag placed poolside. If you’re in an outdoor pool, you can attach the tether to the leg of a lounge chair or even to a rope tied to a tree.

Pool Shots 1 041

Deep-Water Running on a Tether

If it’s a casual workout, I might let the runners move around the pool. The same is true for a recovery workout after competition or a tough workout.

But if the intent of the workout is focused, high-intensity training, I put all the runners on a tether so there are no distractions. Without having to think about turning or avoiding others in the pool, the runners can put their attention on the mental part of the workout.

Workouts Specific to the Distance the Athlete is Training For

I put runners together who run similar distances so they can calculate the correct cadence for the workout. If I ask elite distance runners for a 5-minute mile pace, they will find the right cadence that will translate to that pace together.

I will put the 5K and 10K runners together. They will run intervals per their coaches’ instructions and we will monitor the work based on time rather than distance.

For instance, if the coach wants the 5K runners to do 4 x 800M, I ask them each to hit the pace they could hold for 2 minutes and I will talk them through two laps of the track. Even though most world-class tracks have longer turns and shorter straight-aways than they did twenty years ago, I still use my same formula: every 15 seconds equals 100M, and I consider each 100M either a turn or a straight-away.


When the milers start their first 800, I’ll get them started at an easy running speed and make any corrections on form. Then I’ll say, “Ready, GO! Out around the first turn. Establish your speed.” I will keep up the chatter to help them internally visualize that they are running on a track. “Top of the turn,” I will say about 7 seconds into it, then at the 15-second mark, I’ll say, “Coming out of the turn. You’re on the first backstretch now. Maintain your good form and keep the pace you’re supposed to run.”

I will talk them through the second turn and the home stretch then do the same thing for the bell lap. When they hit the home stretch for the second and final time, I start clapping my hands and tell them to “Lift, go into your kick, use your arms.”

All the things their coaches would say to them during a race. I watch the clock, but I want them keeping their eyes forward, their heads steady. So I count down the last 50M for them. “40M, 30M, 20M, 10M….STOP!” Their effort ceases and they start their easy-movement recovery before getting ready for the next 800.

10k Runners

The 10K runners might do 4-lapper, 6-lapper, or 8-lapper repeats, so we’ll pace those out as if on a track, too. And again, I’ll talk them through each lap, which equates to 60 seconds on the clock.

The narrative I use to keep them motivated might put their biggest rival right beside them. I might say that the rival has pulled ahead to make the athlete I’m training work harder, both physically and mentally. Over the 8-lapper, that lead can go back and forth a few times to keep the interest level high.

At the end, I like to let my athlete edge out the rival. That builds more mental confidence.

Learning about how to use deep water running correctly to maintain fitness during injury
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Marathon Runners

On the other end of the spectrum, when I work with marathoners, we might simulate a 10-mile run that they can mentally picture over familiar terrain.

It helps if I know the course, but if not, I let them do the running at a specified pace and I ask them to keep me posted if we’re approaching an uphill or downhill.

If they tell me there’s a hill at the 9-minute mark, I start telling them about it at 8:30, asking them to summon up their strength, then push them verbally up the hill, asking for increased effort and force against the water.

Although they enjoy having training partners, they do equally well without a partner as long as I keep the commentary going so they can mentally be running on their favorite ten-mile loop.

We spend a lot more time in the pool running, because marathoners have to train many more miles (which are measured in minutes) than runners who race shorter distances.

The mental aspect of pool training can’t be underestimated. Anyone can do the running, but it requires the mental work to create training that carries over and shows up in the athletes’ first land workouts when they come back to land. The mental work gives the athlete confidence.

Other Exercises Using Deep-Water

Besides running, I use other deep-water techniques to provide variety, strengthen muscles in different ways, and break up all the forward and backward motion. Flies are a great exercise for strengthening the inner and outer thighs during the recovery time between intervals.


Have your runners lean slightly backward until they learn the balance point on this exercise. Then they can assume the upright position shown in the photos below.

Start with the arms together and the feet together (photo A). Then open the arms and legs wide to the position in B. The hands are in a palms-down position just beneath the surface of the water so that they “slice” through the water with little resistance.

Close the arms and legs again and continue with Flies. Use Flies for 30 seconds to two minutes of recovery. Virtually all elite athletes recover in two minutes, regardless of how hard they were working.

Pool Shots 1 013

Pool Shots 1 014

Power Walk

Hold one arm and the opposite leg forward. Now switch positions so the other arm and leg are forward. Keep both arms and legs straight throughout this motion. Turn the hands wide like paddles so that the palms face backward through the forward and backward motion of the arms. Then lift the toes up on the leg that is moving forward and at the same time point the toes down on the leg that is moving backward.

I use the commands: “Flex-Up, Point-Back.” When asking the runners to work harder on this exercise, I use the commands: “Push Forward, and Back, and Forward, and Back.”

Pool Shots 1 034

The muscles that are fairly neglected in deep-water running are the calf muscles. We add the pointing and flexing of the feet to create work for the calf muscles in Power Walk in order to correct that imbalance.

Distance runners often experience over-use injuries because of the repeated micro-trauma that comes from “pounding the pavement.” Micro-trauma is the repetitive stress placed on tissues over time that result in a cumulative injury. The minor pain at the onset of common over-use injuries is an example of micro-trauma that left unattended eventually leads to dysfunctional injuries. Below is a list of the most common injuries that plague distance runners – they all can be caused by over-use.

  • Runner’s knee – pain around or behind the kneecap
  • Achilles tendinitis – inflammation of the Achilles tendon
  • Plantar fasciitis – a painful, inflamed thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes
  • Shin splints –pain along the shin bone (tibia), the large bone at the front of the lower leg; often a first-year runner’s ailment
  • Iliotibial band syndrome – a tight or inflamed ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee, often causing knee pain
  • Stress fracture – a crack in a bone caused by repetitive stress rather than sudden trauma
  • Patellar tendinitis – inflammation of the patellar tendon, the connective tissue that attaches from the bottom of the kneecap onto the tibia

The best way to avoid these injuries is to turn to the pool at the first sign of over-use pain. By doing a high-intensity workout in the pool, you can “take a day off without taking a day off.” Start cross training right away and don’t go back to running on land until you can run in chest-deep water without pain.



Injured? This post from @Runners_Connect explains how to pool run in detail (with pictures and videos)! Very helpful!
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If you want to learn more about pool running, be sure to take a listen to our podcast with Lynda; 7+ Ways Cross Training Will Make You A Better, Stronger, Runner- Alan Webb, Darren Brown & Lynda Huey. This will really open your eyes, it’s worth a listen….especially if you are injured!

E90A5418Lynda Huey, M.S. founder of Huey’s Athletic Network and CompletePT, pioneered the use of water rehabilitation with Olympic and professional athletes in the 1980s. She trains aquatic therapists from Australia, Europe, South America and the Middle East as well as from private clinics, hospitals, and universities. Her five books on water exercise and rehabilitation are considered the foundation of aquatic therapy world-wide. Learn about her aquatic rehab online course at

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Do Runners have a Free Pass for Unhealthy Eating? Mon, 13 Jul 2015 09:00:16 +0000

Can runners eat anything they like and stay thin? We look at the research to find out if you can keep your weight low, run fast, and eat fast-food.When trying to lose weight, what is the first form of exercise that comes to mind for most?

If you said running, you would be correct. As runners we are proud of our sport, and we love to reap the rewards of our hard training and dedication to getting faster by indulging in some rewards after the race is complete.

We are told to eat healthy, and usually runners are pretty good at this, but when you are at that point in your training where the mileage and intensity are high, it can be tempting to get into the mindset of being able to eat whatever you want, as you will burn it off in that 20 miler you have coming this weekend.

Runner and author John L. Parker Jr. once wrote that “if the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn, even Big Macs”—meaning that distance runners could, if they ran enough, eat pretty much whatever they wanted and stay healthy and lean.

Does running give you a free pass to eat anything you like?

An editorial published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine explicitly and sharply critiqued that viewpoint, arguing that, as its title states, “you cannot outrun a bad diet.”

The authors, Aseem Malhotra, Tim Noakes (who was interviewed on our podcast last year), and Stephen Phinney, argued instead that the key to weight loss and overall health is a low-carbohydrate diet, not exercise.1

The editorial went on to criticize the food industry for marketing sugar-laden products while supporting the message that exercise is the best path to weight loss and health. They cited a number of recent scientific studies in support of their argument, including one which showed no significant change in physical activity levels over the last thirty years, despite obesity rates spiraling higher.


This puts runners in an uncomfortable position. Traditionally, we’ve relied on our prodigious exercise volume to counteract our carb-heavy and often less-than-perfect diets (post-race pizza and beer, anyone?).

If Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney are correct, runners might need to rethink their approach to maintaining good overall health.

Read about what the pioneers of the future in running discovered about unhealthy eating and…
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Is a healthy diet more important than exercise?

The BJSM paper attracted a horde of media attention, spurring articles with titles like “Exercise ‘not key to obesity fight,'” but it also raised some eyebrows among fellow medical doctors and public health researchers. The reaction among experts was a mixture of cautious endorsement and stern criticism.

Here’s the deal:

On one hand, Ian Broom of the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology at Robert Gordon University in Scotland said in an interview that he tends to agree with the paper’s point that high-carb diets promote insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), and that exercise does not have a significant contribution to weight loss, though he pointed out a few misconceptions in the paper.2

On the other, in a commentary for a group called the Global Energy Balance Network, Steven Blair, a professor at the University of South Carolina, criticized Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney’s interpretation of the data analysis, and Nicholas Finer at University College London claim the paper’s authors confused correlation with causation in many of their examples.3, 2

This is interesting:

When the BJSM temporarily retracted the paper because of “an expression of concern,” it only added to the controversy.

According to Retraction Watch, a website that reports on scientific papers that are withdrawn, the retraction occurred because of some undeclared conflicts of interest from the authors, though there were also grumblings about claims made from tenuous evidence.4

Being transparent about potential competing interests that might bias your results is one of the cornerstones of scientific research.

In this case, the BJSM reinstated the paper after it was made clear that two of the authors have written popular books extolling the benefits of low-carb diets, and one is a paid member of the Atkins Scientific Advisory Board (of Atkins Diet fame).

Exclusive bonus: Get the only runner’s calorie calculator that factors in your metabolism and the miles you ran to help you determine exactly how many calories you burned each day. Plus, get a breakdown of how many calories you need to eat (including how many carbs, proteins and fats you should target) to lose weight. Download yours for free here.

It’s important to note that this does not invalidate their research; in fact, it’s far from the only potentially confounding interest in this story.

Steven Blair’s Global Energy Balance Network, which criticized the study, is funded in part by The Coca-Cola Company, and another health expert who publicly criticized the article had previously given paid talks on behalf of a fruit juice company.

Just because you run, can you eat anything you want? @Runners_Connect covers both sides
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What does this mean for “you can’t outrun a bad diet”?

The good news is that there are a few points of agreement among researchers.

Even Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney admit at the beginning of their article that moderate to vigorous exercise decreases your risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

And some critics of the study pointed to a large meta-analysis published last year that found, while including exercise in a weight-loss program does lead to better long-term results than only dieting, it does not lead to more weight loss in the first several months of a program.5


But the real question, which may remain muddled for a while longer, is whether exercise can counteract the effects of poor dietary decisions.

On top of this, it’s not quite clear what exactly constitutes poor dietary decisions!

Does the very high carbohydrate turnover of a runner in training offset potential health risks (if there are any) of eating a lot of carbs in your diet?

You can probably guess what the soft drink industry and low-carb dietary institutions think the answer to that is, but uncovering the real truth will likely take several more years of patient, careful, and rigorous research.

As that process unfolds, it’s probably best to follow that old adage of “all good things in moderation.” It’ll be a while longer before we have any good answers on whether a lot of exercise negates a bad diet, so for now, better to hedge your bets and lean towards a healthy diet, even if you do run a lot.

Interesting! @Runners_Connect examines the 'furnace is hot enough' argument
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Struggling with your weight?

Losing weight is one of the primary reasons many runners begin the sport, although most runners then fall in love with the other benefits running brings, but what if you are struggling with weight? Can we remind you that you are not the only one! Not only does almost every runner worry about their weight in some way, but many runners even gain weight shortly after starting their training!

Check out our previous posts about weight for more information, and to hopefully put your mind at ease!

Why You Might Gain Weight While Training For The Marathon

How Much Does Excess Weight Impact Your Running Performance?

Why You Might Not Lose Weight While Running

Losing Weight Without Sacrificing Running Performance

Understand How Metabolism Works to Unlock the Mystery of Running and Weight Loss

If you want to keep better track of your calories, check this out:

Exclusive bonus: Get the only runner’s calorie calculator that factors in your metabolism and the miles you ran to help you determine exactly how many calories you burned each day. Plus, get a breakdown of how many calories you need to eat (including how many carbs, proteins and fats you should target) to lose weight. Download yours for free here.

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Why You Need to Take Care of Your Runner’s Knee NOW Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:00:21 +0000

Runner's knee is painful and frustrating, but could you also be doing long term damage and risking arthritis by running on it? We look at the research, and show you how to keep your knees healthy.When something hurts, and is coming in the way of you and your running goals, you are looking for any kind of solution that could make it go away.

We know how you feel, and that is why so many of our posts provide such specific recommendations on common running injuries like achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and of course runner’s knee.

Have you ever had runner’s knee?

If not, you probably know someone who has.

It’s a nagging, aching pain just underneath your kneecap, and it’s by far the most common running injury, accounting for one out of every six injuries in all runners.1

Runner’s knee, more properly referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome, can be tough to shake off. Scientific research has uncovered some solid rehab protocols to treat the problem, but even with these, recovery can take a while.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Runner’s Knee Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 10 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with Runner’s Knee issues. Download yours for free here.

Does runner’s knee cause long term damage?

The exact mechanism of injury in patellofemoral pain syndrome is unclear, but it appears to have something to do with the cartilage underneath the kneecap. The involvement of cartilage in an overuse injury is a bit alarming, since cartilage is known for its poor healing ability.

You might be wondering:

Could long-standing cases of runner’s knee lead to chronic knee problems later in life?

A lot of people get knee pain as teenagers or young adults, but knee pain at a young age has been traditionally chalked up as a mostly benign, self-limiting condition. Recent research has begun to question this, however, as a large percentage of people with knee pain at a young age appear to go on to have ongoing knee pain for several years.

Runner’s knee and chronic knee pain

These findings spurred a systematic review of the scientific literature by Martin Thomas and other researchers at Keele University and the University of Central Lancashire in the UK.2

In their 2010 paper, Thomas et al. highlighted seven studies that investigated the potential link between anterior knee pain (much of which was likely patellofemoral pain syndrome) and osteoarthritis of the knee later in life.

While having this many studies to look at seemed promising, most of them were small, low-quality case series whose findings are tenuous at best.

Here’s why:

Many relied on vague definitions of what constituted “anterior knee pain” or included both traumatic knee injuries (like twisting your knee playing basketball) alongside knee injuries that resulted from overuse.

Despite this, Thomas et al. evaluated six low-quality studies to estimate the annual risk of developing knee arthritis after having anterior knee pain.

Two studies with a combined thirty subjects had none go on to develop knee osteoarthritis after five to sixteen years (a zero percent risk), while annual risk in the other studies ranged from 0.9% to 3.4%.

Learning about the connection between arthritis and runner's knee
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Any relevant data?

One study, however, was of fairly high quality: three medical doctors at Southmead Hospital in the UK published a 2005 paper which interviewed 234 patients undergoing partial joint replacement surgery for knee arthritis about their history of patellofemoral pain syndrome-like problems when they were younger.3

Half the patients were undergoing surgery for arthritis isolated at the patellofemoral joint, while the other half were undergoing a different surgical procedure for arthritis isolated on the inside of the tibia-femur joint (so-called “medial compartment” arthritis).

This second group acted as a control group, since their variant of knee arthritis did not involve the patellofemoral joint, so presumably patellofemoral problems earlier in life didn’t influence their arthritis risk.

The researchers found that 22% of the patients with patellofemoral joint arthritis recalled having anterior knee pain when they were younger, compared with only 6% of the patients with medial compartment arthritis.

However, even this study has its limitations.

It relied on the patients to recall their own injury history stretching back several decades, which has the potential to be very unreliable.

Even though runners have a good memory of their own injury history, you probably have to check your logs to remember the specifics (“was that arch trouble I had back in college in my left or right foot?”). It would have been much better to rely on medically-diagnosed cases of patellofemoral pain syndrome, but the difficulty of assembling a long-term study like that is immense.


Whether having runner’s knee in adolescence or early adulthood leads to a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis later in life is still an open question.

Some research indicates that there may be an association between the two conditions, but if runner’s knee does increase your risk for arthritis, we do know that the magnitude of that increase isn’t enormous—after all, runners as a whole do not have a higher risk for knee osteoarthritis than the general population, so if the risk was very large, we’d expect to see a difference in that statistic too.4

Additionally, the risk of knee arthritis following injuries common in other sports is far greater. Research in soccer players, for example, pegs the risk of knee arthritis following an ACL tear at over fifty percent!5, 6


If you’re still worried about the connection between runner’s knee and arthritis, the best thing you can do until more research comes out is work to keep your knee healthy.

There may a link between Runner's Knee and Arthritis. Better get it taken care of NOW!
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Some researchers have hypothesized that the same faulty biomechanics that lead to runner’s knee are linked to knee arthritis as well, so the most logical thing to do is adopt a strengthening and stretching plan similar to one you’d use to treat runner’s knee. We actually created a prevention routine for you to keep those knees healthy, and reduce your risk of arthritis.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Runner’s Knee Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 10 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with Runner’s Knee issues. Download yours for free here.

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9 Ways to Overcome The Negative Thoughts in a Race Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:00:05 +0000

The mental aspect of racing is almost more important than the physical training you have done to get there. These 9 tips are great for switching your perspective when those negative thoughts emerge.We hear that running is 90% mental, and we know that once you let those negative thoughts come into your mind, they can quickly send you backwards as your thoughts spiral out of control. So why is there not more out there helping us with the mental aspect of running?

We have all been there.

That moment in a race when you start to believe the plea to slow down, and you start to actually believe the “I cant do this” thoughts.

Before you know it, you are questioning why you put yourself through this. Then you go even further and start to question your sanity; “why would anyone PAY to do this?”.

What feels like a lifetime later, the finishing line comes into view, and suddenly your second wind arrives.

You power past people in that straightaway, feeling strong, crossing the line and feeling that rush of endorphins; THAT is why we do this, but it is hard not to feel disappointed in yourself.

If only I kept up my pace, and didn’t have that funk in the middle, who knows how much faster I would have run.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Is there anyone not nodding their head?

Runners are in it Together

Before I go any further, I just described this situation, and I am an elite runner. EVERYONE has those thoughts from time to time. Everyone has had those races, even elite runners, and you should find some comfort in that, knowing that when you are struggling, if you look to your left and right, the chances are, those people are going through those same emotions you are.

Recently, I interviewed bestselling author and sports psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham, who gave great advice for how to get the most out of your racing, even when things are going wrong. I strongly encourage you to take a listen. It was a really interesting interview, and you will learn a lot about how successful runners are able to overcome those moments of doubt.

You might be wondering:

What can we do to make sure we do not let ourseslves spiral out of control? How can we give ourselves the best chance of success in a race, without changing anything physically?

Like your muscles in your body, your emotional state has to be trained to deal with that pain too.

1. Training the Body and the Mind for Pain

Have you ever noticed that it is much more difficult to push yourself in a race or a workout after you have not done it in a while. That is one of the reasons, actually, the main reason those rust buster races are usually not great.

It is not so much physically, but we forget what it feels like to push through the pain. We forget that running may bring us happiness, but it also hurts, a lot!

When you are forced to step away from it, all you can see are the good parts of racing, but you forget that in order to achieve that moment where your hands are in the air, beaming with pride, you had to go through some real pain to get there.

Like the old saying goes, anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Therefore, tip number one is that you need to keep doing it.

Persevere and trust that you will get stronger, you will get better at handling the pain, and each time you race, you are taking a step forward, getting stronger, even though it may not seem like it at the time.

2. Thinking about the Finish Line

When we are in that moment of a race where we have to make a decision of whether we are going to push through the pain, or give in to the voice telling you to slow down, as I mentioned earlier, we often forget why we are doing this.

Travis Macy talked about these “why goals” in much more detail in his podcast episode.

Remember, you want to get that feel good, hands in the air, proud moment at the finish. If you think about that moment, and how good it is going to feel, it may just be enough to kick you back into gear, and make you realize that you are actually not hurting as bad as you thought.

Or that you want that end goal no matter how much it hurts. If you visualize yourself crossing the finish line, huge smile on your face, you are probably going to wake yourself up enough to get through the rough patch. We talked about this in more detail in our post on visualization.

3. Take the Pressure Off

Often we go through these mental struggles because we feel like we are going to let someone down.

We wonder about what others are going to think or say if we do not have a good race.

We wonder what will happen to our self worth if we do not succeed in running. Especially in our sharing culture, we think about what we NEED to do too much.

Remember, at the end of the day, it is just running. It is just putting one foot in front of the other. It does not say anything about who YOU are, and you have more to offer this world than just being a runner.

You will still be you, and your family and friends will love you no matter whether you finish first, last, or even if you DNF. I actually wrote more about this on my personal blog post; Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You.

Reminding yourself of this before the race, or even during, can be a great way to change your mindset to see that there is no need to be nervous, this is just a reward for your hard work.

These mental tricks from @Runners_Connect are going to help me in my next race
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4. Run for Something Greater than Yourself

Running is an individual sport, yes, but that does not mean there are not other people involved.

We each have our own support network, filled with friends, family, physical therapists, coaches, or whoever else yours may include, but those people support you and believe in you.

Here’s the deal:

Sometimes when a rough patch hits in a race, it helps to take your thinking away from “I” and dedicate a mile (or minute) to each member of your support network instead.

This usually works best with the marathon as it shifts your thinking away from how long you have to go, but instead you are just focusing on one mile at a time, and giving your best for that person who has given you their time and support, and most of all, believed in you.

That being said, it can work in a shorter race, if you think about how much those people mean to you, and how good it will feel to hug them afterwards when you have accomplished your goal.

Another way of looking at this, is to think about your team. If you are a part of a team of runners, or running for a charity, you want them to be successful, you want them to earn the respect they deserve. By shifting your focus away from I, it helps you to  get rid of that whiny voice in your head, and focus on other people instead.

5. Use Mantras

This one is fairly well known, but different for each of us.

We all have our own phrases or mantras that help motivate us, and which one works for you will depend on the experiences you have had in your life.

For me personally, I love the Rocky Balboa movies. Cheesy, yes. Old, yes. Completed unrelated to running; yes, but I love it. I love comparing myself to Rocky, thinking that I am the one who has nothing but sheer grit compared to many other runners who have all the resources in the world. My favorite quote is this:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”- Rocky Balboa

As I am sure you can guess, this is a little too long to recite in a race (but I do actually know it word for word!), I therefore say to myself, “keep moving forward” amd that is enough to motivate me most of the time.

Here’s the secret:

Look around you. Think hard about a favorite quote, and find some way of reminding yourself of it, using one word or a few words. And do not be afraid to change if you find one is no longer working for you.

When I raced the London marathon, my word was “believe”, and I even went as far as to write it in big letters on the insdie of my forearm. When I struggled, I looked down at it, and it reminded me of why I was doing this.

This is one of the most powerful ways to overcome a struggle in a race, and you can personalize it to you!

6. Focus on Your Form

This one is often used by elites towards the end of a race. This is a great way of distracting yourself, while giving yourself the best chance of success. As we tire, our form tends to break down, which means we become inefficient, which makes it even more difficult to run faster, or even maintain.

By focusing on your form, you can focus on the mechanics, rather than the pain. This is especially useful for hills during a race. We have a great post on how to run up and down hills correctly. Think about those points when you are having a hard time. It may just be the distraction you need.

7. Counting as Distraction

Just like focusing on your form is a distraction, another tactic is to count. Paula Radcliffe used to count during the tough patches of her world record setting marathons. She chose to count to 300 as she knew that would be about a mile for her.

For most of us, 300 is not going to be enough to reach a mile, but the technique works the same.

Here’s the deal:

By keeping your mind focused on doing a cognitive task, it is not able to think about how much you are hurting, or spiral out of control with negative thoughts. I actually tried this in my previous marathon segment, and found that although it only worked for a few miles, sometimes those few miles, or even just a few minutes of distraction are all you need.

It helps you to focus on the present, rather than the future (or what you have left to go).

8. Think About How Far You Have Come

When we are running, it can be hard not to look at how far we have to go, instead of how far we have come.

This can be in the sense of the race itself, the training segment or even your entire running career. Everyone has setbacks, everyone has challenges, yet it is how we overcome those challenges that makes us stronger.


During that moment of doubt, you need to think about what you have overcome to get to this moment. Here are some of the important ones, and you can fill in the blanks yourself:

“I did not come this far to give up now”

“I did not spend all those hours…… to quit now”

“I did not overcome….to not make myself proud”

“I did not travel all this way for……”

Usually, by reminding yourself that you have been through worse, and likely been through moments where all you wanted to do was be able to run, to be able to test yourself and be in a race.

Well, now is your opportunity, and if that previous struggle taught you anything, it should be that we need to make the most of every opportunity as we never know what is going to happen. Now is your time to do it for yourself, not for anyone else, but because eyou were the one who put in all those hours of hard work to get here, so you are going to do it to get the result you deserve!

9. Have Fun!

This one is THE most important, yet the one we most often forget.

I was only reminded of this in the London Marathon this year, but at the end of the day, we run, and especially race because we enjoy it.

We WANT to be out there.

We all have our own sources for the joy in running; it may be the finish line, it may be the wind in your hair, it may be the comraderie with other runners, it doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you find YOUR joy in running.

Sometimes we can be tempted by other things, we can put pressure on ourselves, or think about the bad, but if you just focus on going out there and enjoying it, you will probably find (I definitely do) that you have a more positive experience AND you run faster!

9 Tips and Tricks from @Runners_Connect for how to stay focused during a race
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Unfortunately, at the end of the day, racing does hurt. It is going to test your mental strength, and no amount of tips or tricks will make it hurt any less. However, that pain is what leads us to the moments of pride; because we know the struggle we have been through to get to that moment.

Hopefully you will be able to use at least a few of these for future races of your own to stay strong in your weakest moments. If you have a tactic that you find especially helpful, share it with us in the comments. Maybe your suggestion will be what really helps another runner!


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Bone Stimulators & How to Return to Running After a Stress Fracture Mon, 22 Jun 2015 09:00:29 +0000

We research bone stimulators to see if they speed recovery of stress fractures, and provide a program proven to help you return to running quickly & safely.A stress fracture is a runner’s worst nightmare.

It can completely shut down any plans for a season of racing, and worse, the only treatment is that dreaded four-letter-word: rest.

Even one or two unplanned days off can be irritating if you’re a serious runner, but being required to take four, six, or eight weeks off to let a stress fracture heal can be truly agonizing.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to speed up that recovery period?

Recently, some doctors have been prescribing a special machine called a bone growth stimulator which uses pulsed waves of ultrasound in an effort to get stress fractures to heal more rapidly.

Today we’ll take a look at whether this technology can help you get back running faster following a stress fracture. Then we will discuss new research on how to return to running as quickly as possible once your fracture has healed.

The stress fracture treatment you have been waiting for?

Ultrasound bone growth stimulators have been used to treat regular bone fractures with fairly good success. A 1994 study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery randomly assigned sixty-seven patients with fractured tibias to either an ultrasound bone growth stimulator or a placebo device.1

Both the patients and the doctors were “blinded” to which treatment they received, so there would be no potential bias in interpreting how well the bone fractures were healing.

The patients who used the placebo device had fully healed from their broken bone in 114 days, while the patients who used the ultrasound bone growth stimulator healed in only 86 days.


Bone stimulators are also used to treat nonunion fractures, a situation where the bone on each side of a fracture does not heal back together, though the research is less clear on whether ultrasound bone stimulation is helpful in these cases.

A 2012 review study concluded that low-intensity ultrasound waves were effective at speeding up healing in “fresh” fractures, but a lack of quality studies prevented the authors from endorsing it for nonunion fractures.2

The pulses of ultrasonic waves generated by a bone growth stimulator claim to speed up bone healing by increasing the cellular uptake of calcium in bone cells and speeding up the rate at which new bone cells solidify.3

These claims are based on research in lab rats with artificially-induced fractures, so it’s unclear if these same benefits extend to stress fractures as well.

Does it really work for most fractures?

To date, only one peer-reviewed clinical trial has investigated ultrasound as a treatment for stress fractures.


A 2004 article by J.P. Rue and coworkers at Johns Hopkins University studied twenty-six US Navy recruits with tibial stress fractures.Many of the sailors had stress fractures in both legs, so the study involved a total of forty-three fractures.

Much like the 1994 study, half of the patients were assigned an ultrasound bone growth stimulator to use for twenty minutes every day, and half were assigned a placebo device that did nothing, and again, both the patients and the doctors were blinded to who received which treatment.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound treatment did not lead to any decrease in healing time—the sailors who got the fake treatment recovered just as fast as the ones who got the real thing.

It get’s worse:

Rue et al.’s study is particularly disappointing because it’s fairly well-designed. Though twenty-six subjects is on the low end of what’s acceptable for this kind of experiment, results from studies with significantly fewer participants have been trumpeted if the result is positive.

Navy recruits are also an ideal population, because recruits are all about the same age and live very similar lifestyles. Further, the training that was done which led to the stress fracture is also very similar from patient to patient.

Is it worth the price tag?

What’s the bottom line?

Because of the relative strength of this study, and the absence of any other research supporting the use of ultrasound waves for stress fractures, bone growth stimulators do not appear to be worth your time and money as a runner.

Some doctors still may prescribe them for stress fractures with a high risk of nonunion, like navicular stress fractures, but only your doctor can make that call.

Ultrasound bone growth stimulators are exorbitantly expensive, and worse, they are marketed as “single use” devices—you, or your insurance company, pays $2,000 to $4,000 for a machine programmed to render itself inoperable after only a few months’ worth of use!

Still, because of the research demonstrating the benefit of ultrasonic waves in stimulating healing in fresh fractures, more research should be conducted on using ultrasound bone stimulators to promote healing in stress fractures.

Ever considered a bone stimulator to heal your fractures faster? @Runners_Connect had some interesting findings
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What can I do to help my stress fracture heal?

Rue et al. suggested that future studies could try higher power ultrasound waves, treatments longer than twenty minutes, or multiple uses per day to see if a stronger dose would have a measurable effect.

Until that research rolls in, however, we still don’t have a “magic wand” that can speed up how quickly a stress fracture heals, but we can offer you our best advice on how to promote recovery.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Stress Fracture and Shin Splint Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 4 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with shin splints or stress fracture issues. Download yours for free here

Conservative Treatments

  • Use this time to reflect on your training. Look at what you could have done for this injury develop. Look especially at the past 3-4 weeks to see if you overdid it at any point. This helps to accept what has happened, and learn from it to prevent it occurring in the future.
  • By looking at images, or once your body recovers enough to run, look at your stride. Are you over striding? We have a great post on heel striking, over striding, and cadence to help you reach the magic number of 180 steps per minute or more. This will put less stress on your joints, and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Look into other health issues that may have played a part in your susceptibility to fractures.  Amenorrhea in females is a major concern, and also a major health risk even outside of running.
  • Once you have recovered, incorporate more lower-body strength training into your regimen. Muscle size and strength are linked to bone size and strength; additionally, there is some evidence that stronger muscles will absorb more shock, leaving the bone less vulnerable to high impact loading.
  • Consider your lifestyle. Are you trying to do too much? Maybe you are on the verge of overtraining. If your body is worn down, it becomes more susceptible to injuries.

Aggressive Treatment

  • If you have a history of tibial or metatarsal stress fractures, you could look into a custom orthotic. Some doctors have proposed that custom orthotics can alter how forces are transmitted up your leg, theoretically leading to lower peak stresses on the bone. Be aware that this theory currently has no experimental evidence to back it up! We have some differing thoughts on custom orthotics.
  • If you have a history of tibial fractures, consider running in thin, low-profile “minimalist” shoes. Wearing a thin shoe will force you to maintain a high stride frequency, and will also encourage a midfoot or forefoot strike, which should reduce impact loads on your leg.
  • If you have a history of metatarsal fractures, move towards the more cushioned shoes. Minimalist shoes put increased stress on your foot and metatarsals; some doctors have warned that wearing minimalist shoes can even increase your risk for a metatarsal stress fracture.
  • Take a calcium and vitamin D supplement that provides 200% of your RDV of both. This carries a small risk of kidney stones if your dietary calcium intake is already high, however.
  • Change the surface you typically run on. Try to run on soft, natural surfaces like dirt trails and grass fields. However, there’s no experimental evidence that runners that train on any particular surface are more or less at risk for injury. In fact, there’s some suggestion that soft surfaces may increase the loading on your bones somewhat, as they demand your body maintain a higher overall leg stiffness. You’ll have to experiment with running surfaces to see what type you feel is more beneficial for you.

I wish there was a magic wand to heal stress fractures, but this guide from @Runners_Connect is the the next best…
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How to return to running safely

We already know stress fractures are some of the most frustrating running injuries you can get. We have already discussed that the time off is non-negotiable, but worse, if you try to return to running too quickly, you could reinjure the stress fracture and have to take even more time off!

Until recently, there hasn’t been much in the way of guidance from the scientific literature.

However, a review article on stress fractures published last October in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy by Stuart Warden, Irene Davis, and Michael Fredericson, three of the top running injury experts in the country, outlines an easy-to-follow program to safely return to 30 minutes of running after a stress fracture.1

We’ll take a look at the program and discuss how to follow it.

Is this program for me?

Here’s the deal:

If you’re very new to running and 30 minutes is about as far as you’ve ever run, this program might be too aggressive for you.

Additionally, this program is only for low-risk stress fractures. Most stress fractures are low-risk, meaning that they tend to heal up quite nicely during your time away from running.

But a small subset of stress fractures are designated high-risk stress fractures, meaning they are known to be prone to delayed or incomplete healing, or can easily progress to a full-blown bone fracture.2

Fortunately, the vast majority of the stress fractures that runners get are low-risk. These include fibular stress fractures and most tibial and metatarsal stress fractures as well.

High-risk stress fractures include femoral neck stress fractures, navicular stress fractures, and talar stress fractures, among others.

High-risk stress fractures require more time off and a more gradual return-to-running program. If you’re not sure if this program is right for you, talk to your doctor.

Walking completely pain free?

This is important:

To begin the program, you must first be totally pain-free during and after walking unassisted (i.e. without crutches or a walking boot) and doing all of your usual daily activities for five full days.

Every run session consists of 30 minutes of activity with progressively more jogging and progressively less walking, and each session is separated by a rest day.

When doing your run sessions, it’s probably best to stick to a flat, even surface to minimize stress on your body.

How to return to running

The initial stage of the program involves progressing from a 30 minute walk to a 30 minute jog over two weeks.

During this stage, all running is done at an easy jog—defined as 50% of your usual pace.

If you typically ran at 9-minute-mile pace before your injury, your jogging during the first three weeks should be done at 13:30 mile pace (9:00 x 1.5).

Once you’ve progressed to 30min of easy jogging, the next two weeks are spent progressing from 30min at 50% of your usual running pace to 30min at your usual speed.

Finally, the last week is spent progressing towards running daily.

You must remember:

There is a caveat to all of this: as you progress through the schedule, you must remain pain-free both during and after your run sessions.

If you feel any pain, you must take a rest day and move back to the last session you were able to complete without pain, progressing again once you’re able to do it pain-free (during and after).


By following these guidelines, you can safely transition back to 30min of daily running at your usual pace in as little as five weeks.

This might seem like a long time to be away from training, but don’t forget, you can do as much cross-training (check out our podcast with Physical Therapist Jeremy Stoker) as you like as long as it doesn’t irritate your stress fracture.

Hopping in the pool for an intense aqua-jogging session on the “rest” days in this schedule is a great way to maintain your fitness while you transition back into running.

Returning to running after a stress fracture can be scary. This @Runners_Connect article is helpful
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How RunnersConnect Marathon Training Plans Compare to Other Popular Programs Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:00:31 +0000

Looking for a training plan for your next marathon? This comparison looks at why RunnersConnect is the best choice for you to run your fastest marathon yet, have a great support network & reach your running goals!Finding a marathon training schedule that works for you is an essential component to achieving your goals.

Not only do you need to find a plan that fits with your individual strengths and weaknesses, but you need to believe strongly in the philosophy behind the plan.

My biggest mistake early in my running career was believing I knew it all. As such, I never put my full faith in the training philosophy of my coach.

I thought there was a better way, I’d get caught up in the latest “fad” training idea, and I always wanted more mileage and harder workouts.

The problem with this approach is that it’s short-sighted.

I focused on the immediate aspects of one “training system” but didn’t try to think long-term about the philosophy – how did things fit together, how did it compare, what were the strengths and weaknesses?

Once I understood this, I was able to better compare specific training philosophies and training plans and find what worked for me. When that happened, I developed the trust in the system that allowed me to record new PRs after months of bad races.

As a coach now, I am frequently asked how our training philosophy and training schedules at RunnersConnect compare to some of the other well-known and popular training plans available.

This is a great question because I believe, like I was in my own training, you can only be truly successful if you believe in the plan. Having faith in your plan and understanding its nuances helps build confidence in your fitness and abilities.

In this article, I am going to outline the differences between our training philosophy or approach to the 5k and 10k compared to some of the more popular plans or programs available.

Some notes before we get started

1. I can only compare our philosophy to those I know well, have studied, or worked under myself. If I don’t mention a coach/program specifically, let me know in the comments and I can try do some research. However, the plan must be publicly available in some way.

2. It’s important to remember when comparing any two training philosophies that there isn’t only one way to train. While there are certainly training concepts that apply universally, the specifics of how to approach a race can be different. Obviously, each coach believes in their system.

3. If you have no intention of ever using us as coaches, that’s ok. I still think this can be a valuable read as you’ll get to learn different approaches to training and definitely some ideas you can implement in your own plan.

4. This comparison is in no means written as a way to besmirch any of the following plans or coaches. I actually really like some of them. It’s simply a means to compare our differing approaches to the same goal – helping you run faster.

5. Finally, I have no doubt that for the plans mentioned below that offer personalized coaching options they would accommodate your needs. This is simply a comparison of philosophies based of generally available plans and literature produced.

Compare @Runners_Connect, Hal Higdon, Hansons, McMillan & Pfitzinger training programs for your next marathon
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Ready to get started? Jump to the plan you’d like to compare…

Hal Higdon

The RunnersConnect philosophy

First, it’s helpful if you know our overall approach to training so you have something to compare it to if you’re not currently coached by us.

Our overall approach to training is that as a runner gets closer to race day, we want their workouts and training to become more and more specific to the demands of the race.

This progression is generally called “general to specific”. In essence, your training is split into two these two phases:

The general phase occurs at the start of your training cycle and is designed to slowly build each energy system to its highest fitness before starting the race specific phase.

During the general phase you slowly build upon each component (speed, strength, long run, mileage, etc.) so that no particular energy system is left behind. You start at whatever fitness level you’re at and by the end of the training cycle, your aerobic development, speed, and threshold are at their maximum levels simultaneously.

Here’s a good way to visualize how this works:

The general phase can also be broken down into subsections with a particular focus. For example, if you’re a little weak on speed, workouts can have a more speed development focus whereas if you need to develop your aerobic system, you can target more threshold runs in this phase

The race specific phase is typically 10-12 weeks long, depending on your fitness level and training history. It occurs directly after the general phase and comprises the last 10-12 weeks of your training before the race.

As the name implies, race-specific training means training to the specific physiological demands of your race distance.

In a marathon specific training phase, your goal should be to develop your aerobic threshold, improve your ability to burn fat as a fuel source when running at marathon pace, and increase your muscular endurance. The more you can develop and target these systems, the faster you will be able to race.

In almost all runners we coach, our goal is to build them up to their highest level of overall running fitness during the general phase and then target their training specifically in the final 10-12 weeks before their marathon.

Aerobic threshold

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Imagine you are a hybrid car.

Your muscles are the engine, glycogen the gas power and fat electric power. Just like a car, you can run using both glycogen and fats depending on how hard you need to work. And, similar to a car, your personal gas tank holds a finite amount of gas (glycogen). Fully carbo-loaded, you can store 1320kcal to 2020kcal glycogen in your liver, muscles and blood combined.

Depending on your size and fitness, running utilizes about 1kcal/Kg/Km. Let’s say you weight 175 pounds (80kg) you need about 3360 kcals (80kg x 42 km) to make it through the race.

Therefore, the stored amount of glycogen of 1320 to 2020kcal is far less than the 3360kcal needed to finish the race. Since it’s impossible to eat 2000 calories during the race, we need to find a way to conserve gas (glycogen) and run as efficiently as possible on electric (fats).


Like a hybrid car, the faster you run, the more you need to rely on gas (glycogen). Luckily, running aerobically requires only a little gas and is mostly electric. But, if you just run very easy, you’re not likely to finish in a time you’re happy with.

So, we need to find that optimal balance between electric (fat burning) and gas (glycogen burning) that allows you to get to the finish as quickly as possible.

Aerobic threshold is defined as the fastest pace you can run while using the aerobic system as the primary energy pathway

In essence, aerobic threshold is that optimal pace between fat and glycogen usage. Thus your marathon pace, and thus your finishing time, is directly correlated with your aerobic threshold.

Awesome! @Runners_Connect makes understanding Aerobic Threshold and how to fuel for a marathon easy!
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Burning fat as a fuel source

The problem with using fat as an energy source is that it’s not a very efficient provider of energy. It takes a while for your body to be able to oxidize fat into usable energy for the body. The faster you want to go (and thus the more energy your muscles demand) the less efficient fat becomes.

However, you can train your body to become more efficient at burning fat as a fuel source. This can occur by targeting this system specifically with workouts/mileage, the way you structure your workouts and long runs, as well as your nutrition.

Here’s the deal:

The big mistake I see a lot of runners make is not paying any attention to improving their ability to burn fat as a fuel source in training. They either don’t know about it, are following antiquated training methods, or are simply given wrong information.

Our marathon training philosophy is designed around training this specific system as often as possible in training. I don’t often see other training systems with this goal.

Improving muscular endurance

The final big piece of the puzzle is muscular endurance. You can have all the glycogen in the world, but if your muscles are not up to the task of running 26.2 miles, you’re going to have a crappy race.

The challenge is that running the full marathon distance in training is not recommended (due to how long it would take to recover). So, we need to get creative in training to simulate the fatigue and develop the muscular endurance needed.

To accomplish this, we can do two things:

First, we can implement what coaches call the theory of “accumulated fatigue“. Basically, this means that the fatigue from one workout accumulates and transfers to the next so that you’re always starting a workout or a long run a little tired from your previous training.

This type of training helps your develop the muscular endurance without needing to run the full marathon in training.

Second, you can implement specific workouts that are designed to fatigue your legs and muscle and then have you train and run at marathon pace. The nice thing about these workouts is that they occur all in one session and can help simulate different types of fatigue you’ll experience on race day.

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Long runs

As you may already know, I tend to believe that most runners and training schedules overemphasize the long run. Here’s why I think that is a critical flaw and how we approach things instead:

As we’ve discussed already, the primary goals of training should be to increase aerobic threshold, utilize fat more efficiently at marathon pace, and build endurance.

So where does the marathon long run fit in with these 3 goals?

Aerobic threshold

Research has shown that your body doesn’t see a significant increase in aerobic development, specifically mitochondrial development, after you’ve been running for 2 hours. As a 3:45 marathoner, your easy long run pace is likely between 9:30 and 10:00 mile. So, a 20-22 miler will take you a little over 3 hours to finish.

Moreover, running all easy pace, which you’ll need to do to run for 22 miles in the middle of training, never challenges your aerobic threshold. Not one mile trains you to run at aerobic threshold. You can’t improve an energy system if you never train it.

Compare this to what we suggest, which is instead running 16-18 mile long runs with a 4-5 mile fast finish (at marathon pace).

The total time running will be closer to 2:30, which still provides the aerobic development you need and is similar in comparison to a 20-miler due to how aerobic development flat lines after 2 hours. More importantly, you spend 4-5 miles running at aerobic threshold (while tired).

The added benefit is that reducing your long run volume makes you less susceptible to injury and reduces your recovery time.

This allows you to be more consistent, remain injury-free, and have the energy to perform marathon-specific workouts and more mileage through the week.

When running a 20-22 miler, it takes you almost all week to recover so you never have a chance to do the race-specific work you need.

Fat utilization

Here’s the deal:

It’s easy for your body to burn fat as a fuel source when running easy. However, to teach your body how to burn fat as a fuel as a fuel source you need to run at marathon pace while you’re already low on glycogen. This forces the body to use fat as a fuel source (at marathon pace) and therefore become more efficient at doing so.

20-22 miles of all easy running = 0 miles training to burn fat while running at marathon pace

16-18 miles with a 4-5 mile faster finish = 4 to 5 miles training to utilize fat as a fuel source while running at marathon pace.


You might be wondering:

Yes, running 20-22 miles is good for muscular endurance. But, the longer you run, the more you susceptible to injuries you become. Your form begins to break down, your major muscles become weak (thus relying on smaller, less used muscles), and overuse injuries begin to take their toll.

Moreover, you never run at marathon pace while tired.

Your muscular endurance is improved while running easy, but not when trying to run at marathon pace, which requires different recruitment of muscle fibers.

This approach is not very specific to what you’ll experience on race day and why your body isn’t capable of pushing through it.

Compare this to the muscular fatigue from a 16-18 miler with a fast finish.

You get 4-5 miles of running at marathon pace while tired.

Moreover, our long run philosophy is to always buttress the long run against a steady run the day before. For example, you may run 1 mile easy, 6 miles marathon pace, 1 mile easy on Saturday and then run your full long run on Sunday. Because of the harder running on Saturday, you start Sunday’s long run not at zero miles, but rather at six or eight miles, since that is the level of fatigue and glycogen depletion your body is carrying over from the previous run.

Compare our long run approach to the traditional 20-22 mile easy approach

Total miles at MP = 0. Total miles for weekend = 22

Total miles at MP = 11. Total miles for weekend = 26

Learning a lot about marathon training specifics from @Runners_Connect, you can too!
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Hopefully, that helped give you an overview of our philosophy and how our marathon plans are structured. Now on to some more popular plans…

Hal Higdon

Of all popular training programs, I’d say Hal Higdon is probably most different from our training philosophy. The two main differences are the focus (or lack thereof) of race specificity and the emphasis on long runs.

Race specificity


Our overall approach to training is that as a runner gets closer to race day, we want their workouts and training to become more and more specific to the demands of the race.

In a marathon specific training phase, your goal should be to develop your aerobic threshold, improve your ability to burn fat as a fuel source when running at marathon pace, and increase your muscular endurance.

The more you can develop and target these systems, the faster you will be able to race.

In Hal Higdon’s programs, I believe the idea of race specificity is somewhat ignored.

Here’s why:

The mid-week workout rotates between hill repeats, 800 intervals and basic tempo run. In my view, that’s a lot of VO2max and interval training for an event which relies very little on these two physiological elements (the marathon is 99% aerobic).

Since the marathon requires running at your aerobic threshold and burning fat efficiently as a fuel source at marathon pace, I believe swapping these workouts with lactate clearance runs, steady state efforts, and other more marathon-specific workouts makes better use of the mind-week workout day.

Long runs

Hal Higdon’s plans follow the traditional marathon philosophy of running multiple slow, easy 20 milers. As you already know, I tend to believe that long, slow easy runs are overrated, especially for those running over 3:30 minutes or who are running less than 50 miles per week.

This is interesting:

Research has shown that your body doesn’t see a significant increase in aerobic development, specifically mitochondrial development, after you’ve been running for 2 hours. As a 3:45 marathoner, your easy long run pace is likely between 9:30 and 10:00 mile. So, a 20 miler will take you a little over 3 hours to finish.

Moreover, running all easy pace never challenges your aerobic threshold. Not one mile trains you to run at aerobic threshold.

You can’t improve an energy system if you never train it.

Finally, research has also shown that the longer your long runs, the greater your chance of injury.

By reducing your long runs (and getting more marathon specific) you can reduce injury risk and recovery time (allowing you to do more mileage and marathon-specific workouts during the week).

Our approach is to use marathon specific long runs, such as fast finish long runs and surge long runs, to better simulate the specific demands of the race while reducing wear and tear.

As an example, it’s easy for your body to burn fat as a fuel source when running slow (the energy demand isn’t high). However, to teach your body how to burn fat as a fuel source at marathon pace, you need to run at marathon pace while you’re already low on glycogen. This forces the body to use fat as a fuel source (at marathon pace) and therefore become more efficient at doing so.

20 miles of all easy running = 0 miles training to burn fat while running at marathon pace

16-18 miles with a 4-5 mile faster finish = 4 to 5 miles training to utilize fat as a fuel source while running at marathon pace.

I’ll admit, running 20 miles is good for muscular endurance. But, you never run at marathon pace while tired.

What does this mean?

Your muscular endurance is improved while running easy, but not when trying to run at marathon pace, which requires a different recruitment of muscle fibers. This approach is not very specific to what you’ll experience on race day and why your body isn’t capable of pushing through it.

Compare this to the muscular fatigue from a 16-18 miler with a fast finish.

You get 4-5 miles of running at marathon pace while tired.

Learn about Hal Higdon (and others) training programs, & how they compare to @Runners_Connect
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Hansons plan


Having spent a few years training with the Hansons, a good portion of our marathon training philosophy echoes the Hansons plan. Specifically, as outlined above, we believe that the long run is an integrated part of the training, rather than a specific number you need to hit, and the volume needs to correspond to your weekly mileage.

Likewise, we believe that overall mileage and marathon specific work is the key to running your best – not long, slow 20 milers.

Our approach to the marathon differs mainly in how we approach the long runs.

Our harder long runs are always preceded by a steady run (marathon paced run) the day before. The volume of this run depends on experience level and mileage. In addition, long runs almost always contain some type of faster running – fast finish or surges.

The goal of the steady run the day before the long run is to capitalize on accumulated fatigue. By running marathon pace the day before the long run, you lower your glycogen stores and fatigue the legs in a very marathon-specific fashion so that you’re essentially starting the long run with miles already in your legs.

Don’t get me wrong, the Hansons plan has the same goal – I just think adding the steady the day before is more specific. Plus, the extra stimulus is needed to help boost the shorter long run for more overall quality throughout the weekend.

We also have a few workouts and long runs the Hansons plans don’t have, which I think help with marathon-specific readiness. For example, we include what we call “marathon surges” which are an innovative way to help teach your body to burn fat as a fuel source while running at marathon pace. These types of workouts can help you conserve glycogen and prevent bonking.

Finally, I also find the Hansons plan structures training on goal marathon pace (and 10 seconds faster) rather than current physiological fitness.

While this distinction seems slight, I think it’s critical and something most runners get wrong.

In order for you to become fitter, you need to run in the right effort and pace zones.

For example, if your goal is to run a 3:10 marathon, then under the Hansons plan you’ll be doing marathon pace runs at 7:15 or 7:05 pace. However, if your physiological fitness level is actually 3:20 for the marathon, then 7:40 pace is your physiological aerobic threshold (marathon pace).

Running 7:15 or 7:05 pace turns this workout into a high end threshold run rather than an aerobic threshold run. As such, you’ll have run 0 miles at aerobic threshold. Sure, your overall running fitness will improve, but your marathon specific fitness won’t.

Jeff Gaudette of @Runners_Connect explains why RunnersConnect plans are better than Hansons (& others)
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The main difference between RunnersConnect and McMillan is how we approach the phases and progression of training.

McMillan envisions the base or general phase like a pyramid. The pyramid model is based on the idea that you begin with a large aerobic base, transition to strength work such tempo runs and hill work, add in speed work, and then peak at the end of the training cycle.

McMillan’s methods are based mostly off the Lydiard system, which has been shown to be highly successful, specifically because of it’s focus on aerobic development.

However, my main argument against the pyramid model is the notion that aerobic development, lactate threshold, and speed have to be trained independently of each other. I believe, if done correctly, you don’t have to run months of just mileage or taper off your tempo runs as you introduce speed work.

When you train using the typical pyramid model, you’re forced to revert back to a base building period after each training cycle and you lose many of the of the strength and speed gains you’ve made at the top of the pyramid.

Therefore, you spend a good portion of your next training cycle just trying to get back to that level of speed and strength, instead of constantly improving the current point that you’re at.

My approach is to use what we call the “diamond” model in the general phase, which is designed to slowly build each energy system to its highest fitness before starting the race specific phase.

During the general phase you slowly build upon each component (speed, strength, long run, mileage) so that no particular energy system is left behind. You start at whatever fitness level you’re at and by the end of the training cycle, your aerobic development, speed, and threshold are at their maximum levels simultaneously. Here’s a good way to visualize how this works:

The general phase can also be broken down into subsections with a particular focus. For example, if you’re a little weak on speed, workouts can have a more speed development focus whereas if you need to develop your aerobic system, you can target more threshold runs in this phase

This post comparing training programs from @Runners_Connect is awesome!
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Pftzinger seems to follow a very “traditional” marathon formula, which is quite different from how we approach the marathon and is similar to the McMillan marathon training approach.

First, Pfitzinger begins the training plan with lactate threshold workouts and transitions to VO2max workouts as the race gets closer. This is the more traditional pyramid structure I discussed earlier with McMillan.

As you might remember from the outline of the Hal Higdeon approach, our marathon philosophy is focused on marathon-specificity. Particularly, I believe that the closer you get to race day, the more specific your workouts need to be to the demands of the marathon distance – handling the volume, burning fat as a fuel source at marathon pace, and improving aerobic threshold.

In the Pftizinger plan, you’re actually getting farther away from marathon specify as you get closer to the race. You’re working on your VO2max and anaerobic capabilities, which have little bearing on your marathon performance.

Second, weekly mileage seems to be a large component of Pfitz plans – it’s almost how you select your plan.


I feel that mileage itself needs to be individualized to the runner – background, tolerance and injury history. Otherwise, you’re often just running miles for miles.

More importantly, I believe the focus shouldn’t be on the total mileage you’re running, but rather the percentage of miles you’re running at race pace, easy pace, Vo2 max pace, etc. I think approaching mileage in this way helps prevent junk miles and helps keep the training marathon specific.

To illustrate, throughout the entire Pftizinger training plan, you’ll run 44 miles at marathon pace. This is a very small percentage of your overall mileage – depending on the specific mileage level you choose, only about 4%. While again, we don’t use “stock” mileage plans (it’s individualized) the number of miles at marathon pace three times (12%) that of Pftzinger.

Finally, as we’ve discussed a few times now in this comparison post, we focus on shorter, quality long runs that incorporate accumulated fatigue and marathon specificity whereas Pfitzinger follows the more traditional quantity and volume of long runs.

Since I have discussed this already above, I’ll simply link to those sections if you want a recap (or you skipped it).

Looking for a training plan for your next marathon? This comparison looks at why RunnersConnect is the best choice for you to run your fastest marathon yet, have a great support network & reach your running goals!

Why an individualized approach matters

Here’s the deal:

Like many coaches, I am not a big believer in stock or template training plans. I strongly believe that there is too much individual consideration that needs to be taken into any training schedule.

Yes, I understand I am in the business of selling training and coaching, but I still believe a personalized plan is always going to be better than a stock plan – regardless of the training philosophy.

Specifically, mileage, number of training days and paces are critical elements of a training plan that are trivialized by template schedules.

They simply assume that you’re running a certain number of miles or days per week based on your “experience level”.

However, beginner, intermediate and advanced designations for a runner can vary widely in mileage and tolerance for training. The only mileage progression and total that will work optimally for you is one that takes into account YOUR background and injury history.

Likewise, factoring in your strengths and weaknesses is critical to maximizing the effectiveness of a training plan.

By targeting your weaknesses and using your strengths to your advantage you can ensure that each and every workout is progressing you forward.

As an example, a session of 200 meter repeats is somewhat wasted on the runner who has an abundance of natural speed while it’s essential to runners accustomed to marathon success.

Finally, getting your paces correct is essential for targeting the right energy systems. A lactate threshold run performed at 10-15 seconds faster than your actual threshold means you actually ran zero miles training your threshold and improving that system.

It was a wasted workout.

By getting your training paces correct you can maximize each session.

That’s why we addressed all three of these issues with our custom training plans.

You get a plan specific to your strengths and weaknesses, tailored to your mileage levels, and assigned exact paces to target the right physiological systems.

If you’re interested in receiving a customized training plan based on our training philosophy, you can start a free 14-day trial of our RunnersConnect membership.

It’s a free opportunity to see what a customized, race-specific schedule can look like for you.

Plus, you get coaching support from our coaching staff, access to our live coach chats, our supportive community of over 350 runners, and out insiders library of articles that guide you every single day of your training.

The plans then start as low as $37/month (yearly) or $49/month monthly.

Hope you enjoyed this little comparison!

I signed up for the @Runners_Connect training plan after reading this awesome comparison, you should too!
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Menopause and Running: This is What You Need to Know Mon, 08 Jun 2015 09:00:18 +0000

Senior Couple In Fitness Clothing Running Along BeachThere are some running related topics that come up over and over:

What should I eat before I run?

How do I get rid of a side stitch?

What can I do about my shin splints?

But there are other topics you wonder if you are even allowed to talk about them as they seem to be so taboo. Yet these are the things that need to be discussed.

To date, there hasn’t been much attention given to menopause/perimenopause and the impact on running.

Perhaps it is because the number of female masters runners was much smaller in previous decades. Or it could be that there just isn’t much research into this area.

Whatever the case, I think it’s time we bring it out on the table, don’t you?

Female #Mastersrunners check this out, a post about menopause and how to handle it
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Masters Running and Menopause

My friends and I—masters runners one and all—can tell you that we have felt some of the typical symptoms of approaching menopause.

From insomnia to moodiness to hot flashes, we’ve all enjoyed the fun that comes along with this unique time in life. We at least have each other to commiserate, so that helps!

The average age for reaching menopause, which is defined as the cessation of menses, is 51 in the United States.

When you take into account life expectancy rates into the 80s, most women spend a good third of their lives combined in menopause transition (MT), which can last up to 10 years; menopause; or post-menopause. That’s quite a lot of time spent dealing with the fall out from the changes.
Here’s the deal:

A big drop in estrogen production, which causes most of the symptoms, accompanies menopause. Typical symptoms include: skipped periods, hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain, urinary incontinence, and headaches. Some women also experience anxiety and signs of depression.

Clearly, for runners, losing restorative sleep, gaining weight, and potential incontinence are not desirable conditions.

Many physicians offer patients in this category hormone replacement therapy (HT), which has been shown to offset menopausal symptoms. HT is not without its own potential downsides, however, so many women choose to go the route of acupuncture or herbal medicine.

The best news is that exercise does seem to help alleviate some of menopause’s detrimental effects. A 2006 Finnish study by Kirsi Mansikkamaki, et al, found that “physically active women showed higher quality of life, when compared with to inactive women.”

Similarly, the “Exercise Prescription for the Menopausal Years” by Kimberly Perez, et al, recommended that women in this phase of life should implement a comprehensive exercise program that includes cardiovascular, resistance, flexibility and neuromuscular training. Taken in whole, these forms of exercise can reduce the impact that women would otherwise experience.

For runners, specifically, the biggest issue with which to be concerned is bone health, according to Jason Karp, PhD, and author of Women and Running. “Estrogen is the single biggest influencer of bone health, so when a woman loses estrogen, she loses the protective effect on bones,” he says. “A post-menopausal runner needs to do everything else she can to strengthen bones to avoid stress fractures.”

That said, there are several steps you can take to ensure bone health, including:

  • Strength training—While running, a weight-bearing exercise, goes a long way toward promoting bone health, some studies suggest that resistance training is even more critical. If you aren’t already strength training twice a week, add it in now. It will also help offset the loss of muscle mass that occurs through menopause.
  • Get your vitamin D levels tested regularly—If you are deficient, talk with your doctor about how to make that up through some form of supplementation. Vitamin D is crucial to calcium absorption.
  • Eat a diet that includes multiple sources of calcium, including dark leafy green vegetables.
  • Get short windows of time outside, sans sunscreen, to allow the sun to help with your vitamin D stores. After 10 to 15 minutes without sun protection, however, it’s time to slather it back on.


As to other symptoms of menopause that can impact your running life, lifestyle changes can help offset them. Earlier bed times or naps, if possible, can assist with occasional insomnia.

Exercising before it is terribly hot out in the summer, especially as we found masters runners are affected by the heat more—and wearing layers in the winter—can help with those hormonal temperature swings. And seeking out help via alternative therapies like acupuncture can also be beneficial.

What’s the bottom line?

Menopause and its fall out are quite real. Finding ways to minimize its impact are key and within reach with a concerted effort.

Finally! A post about Menopause for Female Runners from @misszippy1 for @Runners_Connect
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]]> 4
How to Use Age Grade Calculators Effectively Mon, 01 Jun 2015 09:00:30 +0000

Age grading calculators are common for masters runners striving for improvement, but are they reliable? We find out and explain how to use them correctly.A few weeks ago we gave you some suggestions on how you can accept change and progress as a masters runner from our expert masters runner Amanda Loudin. One of the suggestions she made was to use age grading tables to keep your motivation levels high while competing against others. We even created an age grade calculator for you, which you can download yours for free here.

You might be wondering:

Are age grade calculators even reliable?

Today we are going to look into just that. We will dig deeper into the age grading system to clear up some misconceptions, and see how reliable age-grading systems are for determining how good your performance really is.

The emergence of age grade calculators

If you’ve run in or perused the results of a large road race recently, you have probably noticed percentages listed next to each runner’s time, labeled “AG” or “Age Grade.”

It’s no secret that runners slow down as they age. The slowdown is not as steep or intense as you might think, but it definitely exists.1

Age grading is a statistical attempt to measure the relative strength of a performance for an athlete of a given age. Most people agree that a 55-year-old running a 20:00 5k is a more impressive time than a 25-year-old running 19:00, even though the younger runner’s performance is faster in an absolute sense.

If we compared the best 5k ever run by a 25-year-old to the best 5k ever run by a 55-year-old, our 20:00 runner would be closer to the age group record.

Age grading systems quantify exactly where you stand relative to the predicted all-time best for all runners of your age.

Why a predicted best, and not the actual age-group world record?

Here’s the deal:

If you relied on the current world record, the age grading system would require frequent updates and revisions, and you wouldn’t be guaranteed a smooth progression when moving up in ages.

For example, if the all-time best 5k for a male 58-year-old was 16:00, but the all-time best for a male 59-year-old was 15:58, the same performance would be worse for an older runner, which doesn’t make sense.


To get around these sorts of problems, age-grading calculators use a smoothed curve to predict the best performance for a given age level. This curve is derived using statistical analysis of top performances, and is extremely close to the actual all-time bests for every age from about 16 to 50, but actual all-time bests jump around outside of that age range.

This post from @Runners_Connect is so helpful for understanding age grading for masters #runnersconnect
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Do you have it all wrong?

Age-graded performances are commonly misunderstood as being percentiles—e.g. an age-grade of 68% meaning you are faster than 68% of all runners your age.

What the percentage actually does is measure the fraction of your race time that is equivalent to the predicted all-time best for your age and sex.

This sounds awfully confusing, but all it means is that the age-grade calculator divides the predicted best ever performance by your race time.

So, if you are a 49-year-old woman who has run a 10k road race in 40 minutes, and the predicted all-time best for that age is 34 minutes, your age grade percent is 34 ÷ 40 = 85%.

How does that help me compare?

This is perhaps not quite as meaningful as a percentile, but your age-grade percent allows you to compare your current times with your PRs from when you were younger.

By converting your bests from high school, college, or your prime racing years into age-graded percentages, you can see if your times are as good or better than you were as a younger runner.

This is interesting:

Some age-graded calculators will even use the slowdown factor in reverse, spitting out what your equivalent time would be for a runner in his or her prime.

How reliable is age grading?

Age-grading as a concept is great, but there are a few drawbacks to the current methods used.

First, there are several different “versions” compiled by different statisticians floating around, and these will produce slightly different results when you plug in the same performance level.

Further, as records are broken, the models will eventually need to be updated. Though a smooth curve prediction of age-group bests will last longer without revisions, as more and more records get broken, the formula will gradually get less accurate.

The Howard Grubb / Alan Jones age grading calculator, which is probably the most commonly-used variant, gets updated about every five to ten years.2

Any method based on single-age all-time best performance will be significantly impacted by outlier performers. Often, great Masters athletes will go on a multi-year tear, setting single-age records for every age they pass through.

This is crazy:

In compiling the data for an updated age-grading table in 2006, Alan Jones writes that he was forced to toss out all of the performances of Olga Kotelko, who set dozens of single-age world records for several track events in her 80s and 90s, because they were so far superior to anything else.3

If he had included them, it would have skewed the entire prediction curve for women’s performances!

A better method would probably be to use a predetermined “depth marker” as a standard, like the 20th-best or 100th-best all-time performance, but this would massively complicate the data collection process.

You are probably wondering:

Age grading doesn’t take into account your actual rank among runners of your age. Even if your age-graded percentage hasn’t budged in twenty years, you’re probably still ranked much higher now relative to your peers—think of how many fewer people run at age 60 compared to age 40!

It would be nice if there were another method of rating performances by “age rank” (your position relative to all runners your age, not just the best). Maybe that can be the next big project for running statisticians!

Confused about how age grading works? Read this post from @Runners_Connect
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All in all, age-graded performances are a pretty reliable indicator of how close you are to the all-time best runners of your age.

As long as you understand how age grade percentages work and know how to use them, they can be help you stay competitive with yourself and with other runners well into old age.

Exclusive bonus: Download our Age Grading Performance Calculator. It’s an excel spreadsheet that makes it easy to calculate your age graded performance to compare yourself against those young guns or your former self. Download yours for free here.

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