In this interview, we talk shop with Coach Jay Johnson, widely considered to be one of the leading experts on how to incorporate strength training and ancillary work into a running schedule. Coach Jay is the director of the Boulder Running camps, is a prominent writer and speaker for RunningTimes and Nike.com and has coached three athletes to US Championships in the last three years.
Coach Jay is going to tell you exactly how he approaches the balance between running and ancillary work, how to properly integrate strength and ancillary work into your schedule to help keep you healthy, and share some great insights and lessons learned from working with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world.
“Many runners think running is the cake and ancillary/strength work is the frosting, when in fact they are completely integrated in intelligent training.”
“If you have a plan to increase your mileage or the intensity of your training, you should also have a plan for how you can include more preventative work.”
Coach Jay uses the backwards lunge to identify when his athletes might be too tired after a hard workout. When fresh, his athletes can complete the movement easily. However, when the neuromuscular system is too fatigued, Coach Jay finds his athletes struggling and it’s his cue to consider the athlete may need more recovery.
“It’s better to miss out on 5 miles a week of running and remain healthy 100% of the year than to get an extra 5 or 10 miles one week but miss weeks and months of training each year due to injury.”
Those are just some of the actionable highlights from this interview. Coach Jay goes into even greater detail about how and why you can include strength training and ancillary work into your training schedule. If you’ve been thinking about how, or if you should, add strength training to your running routine, you’ve got to listen to this interview.
Jeff Gaudette: Hi everyone, I’m Jeff Gaudette, chief running enthusiast for Runners Connect, a community of expert coaches dedicated to providing runners the motivation, answers and training you need to achieve your goals. This is our interview series where runners, coaches and proven experts come on here to teach you what they’ve learned along the way, so you can grab as much information as possible and imply it directly to your training right now. All of our previous episodes are available at runnersconnect.net or you can subscribe to our iTunes feed to get updated as soon as we post new interviews.
On today’s show we’re interviewing Jay Johnson. Jay is one of the premiere coaches in the US and an expert on strength training in keeping athletes healthy. Jay is the director of the Boulder Running Camps, coach at Nike.com and has coached three US champions over the last three years. To say he knows his stuff is definitely an understatement. Today, Jay is going to help us understand how adding strength work, warm up routines and cool down routines can help keep you injury free and make you a better athlete. Jay is really one of the premiere experts in the field, so if you’re interested in the science and physiology of how, when and why to incorporate strength training into your running, you’re going to love this interview.
Without further ado, let’s get started. And to get started Jay I wanted to say thanks for taking the time to join us and share your expertise with us.
Jay Johnson: Yes, you’re welcome, I’m excited to chat about running, obviously I enjoy it and yes hopefully I can say something that’s helpful.
Jeff Gaudette: I’m sure you will you’re definitely filled with negative wisdom, so I’m excited about this.
Jay Johnson: Great, all right.
Jeff Gaudette: So yes, just to get started I want to give everybody a brief introduction into kind of your running and coaching background for those who may not know you. You know when did you start running, what were some of your notable accomplishments in running itself?
Jay Johnson: Yes, you know like a lot of people I started actually before … actually did track you know in elementary school, late elementary school in a summer program where you showed up maybe twice a week for six weeks in the summer then ran the Hershey Track Meet.
Jeff Gaudette: Okay.
Jay Johnson: And I wasn’t that good at it but definitely in junior high started to get better and liked it and then ran across country track in high school. I was fortunate to play on a really good basketball team and then got really lucky in my mind to live in the state of Colorado at the same time that Mark Wetmore was starting to coach at the University Of Colorado and just barely ran fast enough to walk on at CU. It’s just one of those things in life where I just feel really blessed and completely lucky that he was the coach in the state I was living in because you know obviously he’s one of the best coaches in our country if not the world and yes. So I ran much faster with Mark as my coach than I would have, we have to assume then had I gone to the Division Two School that was offering me a scholarship at the time so.
Jeff Gaudette: [inaudible 00:03:23] on your part?
Jay Johnson: Yes and so fast forward let’s see, I went to grad school at Colorado, my fifth year of running was my first year of graduate school and most of your listeners are probably familiar with this idea that you can use five years to complete four years of athletic eligibility.
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: So I was really busy that year, some of your listeners may or may not be familiar with “Running with Buffalos”, so that year that that book was written I was in Grad School.
Jeff Gaudette: And let me interrupt you really quick, if anybody hasn’t read the book and is listening, it’s called “Running with the Buffalos.” It basically documents the … is it 2001, Jay? Or 1999…
Jay Johnson: Yes it’s in 1999 and then 98.
Jeff Gaudette: 98, okay, and so it’s a phenomenal book, I probably maybe in my running years, here’s my running nerd coming out, I probably read it about 20 times and it’s phenomenal. So if anybody is looking for a great book to read in this fall, definitely check it out, so sorry just want to tell the people now a little bit more about the book.
Jay Johnson: Yes, and you know I just put it in there just to give people context. I was studying … the name of the department has changed but at the time it’s called kinesiology and applied physiology. Now, I think it’s just called applied physiology and that second year I wasn’t running on the team but I was doing a lot of trail runs, staying pretty fit, skied a lot that that second year of graduate school. You know I’ve worked on my thesis from like you know 2PM in the afternoon until 10 PM but would find a way to go for a run or maybe drive up and go skiing, get a few runs in, in the morning, so that was great year of life.
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, sounds like it.
Jay Johnson: And so then I went to junior college, I really wanted to coach, the only job I could get was at Pratt Community College in Pratt Kansas. After two years there, I was able to come back to the University of Colorado and coach and I coached at CU for six years. And that was really a fantastic opportunity but then it just made sense for my family and I, for us to have me pursue something else. So we had our first child and my wife has a pretty demanding job, so I had a bigger part in the child care and I did have enough time to start coaching some professional athletes. And so over the course of about three years I’ve coached some professional athletes. Three of them won US championships at various distances, so I was pretty happy with that.
Jeff Gaudette: That’s pretty successful I would say.
Jay Johnson: So you know I coached for three years and three people won national championships, that’s decent but you know I’m not coaching any professionals right now and that really makes sense in my life. I don’t know how to say this appropriately. It’s really hard for the athletes to make a living in track and field and so as a coach you can’t really ask too much of them financially for your time. But the flip side is I can ask a high school athlete’s parents for quite a bit of money for my time. And you know that’s not ideal either, you know to have me as some sort of club coach or private coach when they already have a high school coach but I just bring that up to kind of you know … we’re coming off in Olympic period where everybody’s watching on NBC or you know watching it online and thinks man tracks, so prestigious and it’s so cool.
And it is at that level but there’s like one wrong or two wrongs below it where there’s people who you know take this work very seriously but are barely getting by. We could talk you know for hours about what we could do to fix that but all I’m trying to say is that my focus in the next year to … if I can find the time to coach some post collegians, that’s great but it will have to be the right situation and really excited about the things that I had have going. I’ve been the director of the Boulder Running Camps for about ten years now and successful but we still think we can grow a little bit more. And then I have website called runningdvds.com and we have only two titles right now but in the next six to 12 months we’re really going to work hard to produce some more titles. We already have the footage for our next title, it’s just up to me to edit and produce that next DVD, and so I’m pretty excited about that.
Jeff Gaudette: Awesome, yes, sounds like you definitely have a lot going on and you know just from your background it sounds like you’ve been interested in that coaching/science side of running for quite some time. And that kind of developed in college or when did you feel like you really wanted to be a coach?
Jay Johnson: Yes, you know it’s funny. It took the dental in that missions task and had all the pre reqs to go be a dentist and have applied in the University of Colorado Dental School and had this you know looking back unrealistic kind of idea that I could in my fifth year start dental school but then commute back up to Boulder for practice. It really worked but yes, I mean it’s just … I don’t know, you know I was reading Phil Jacksons book, “Sacred Hoops” as we were driving the bus to the big 12 indoor meet. You know this is when I was an athlete and on the way back I don’t even remember if I ran well or not at the meet but yes, yes, if I ran, I ran mediocre at best just to put this on for say.
You know I was a 1425 gate runner so that’s pretty pedestrian these days but you know on the way back I remembered talking to Mark about it and you know he definitely had a positive influence there. You know, I think this is part of your question too, when I first started coaching I had a masters degree in basically exercise science; however you want to term it. I think I, I know I had too much of a desire to understand on the micro level what was going on. So for instance, I thought if I understood how the mitochondria help you run aerobically that I would become a better coach. I would have been better off you know hanging out with and I did do this finally when I figured it out. The baseball and basketball coach and just figured out how do they work with 18 and 19 year olds and be specific to my first job.
You know I wasn’t a kid who went to junior college and a lot of best athletes I had, you know they were non qualifiers, meaning they didn’t have the test scores to run in division one. Some of them definitely had the talent to run in division one or an NCA division two but the point is they were good athletes but you know academically they really struggle. And so just little things like had I been more empathetic to how hard study table was for them, you know compared to being it’s you where like my buddy Chris Savry could just sit on a bus during an eight hour ride. Like we drive eight hours, we get lunch and we drive another four or drive four hours get lunch, drive four hours. That guy will be hunched over in organic chemistry books studying every single minute where I would study an hour or gossip with you know Tom Reese for five minutes at my study break thinking I was working hard and my buddy. I can vividly see this in my mind right now, just looking like six rows up and seeing him hunched over a book just cranking it out.
Anyway, to bring this full circle, it’s just … I really like this coach, some of you probably aren’t familiar with Vern Gambetta, his roots aren’t track and field but he’s known internationally as a strength and conditioning coach and he talks a lot about communication and how important it is in the coach athlete relationship. And like I said when I first got into coaching I had this too … my view was too narrow and was really focused on the science and physiology and what not. And I think there’s a place for that but I guess my point is I don’t think it’s primary research you know white paper that you didn’t inform your coach. I think talking to other successful coaches and really understanding how people work and how groups work, you know? That’s what’s amazing at that like helping individuals become a group and then getting that group to perform you know for instance in cross country at the national championships. I mean he’s fantastic at that, so yes, I just think that when I first started coaching I was too focused on these micro level things.
But hey, this conversation I’m happy to talk about some of those you know in the weight room why I might do a box jump after a speed squat and why you might start progression with overhead squat before you go to a back squat. I mean there are some you know detail things in training that I do believe in and you know it’s taking me a decade to figure some of those out.
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, and I appreciate you being so candid about it. I do think a lot of aspiring coaches fall into the same track that you did. I’m thinking where the physiology of it is so important and really it comes down to communication and then you know learning how to handle logistics and organization and that kind of thing. But then I think as you get older and probably in this place that you are, it definitely starts … then you kind of come full circle and the physiology starts to kind of come back and like you said talking about you know when you’re going to do specific exercises at specific time of the year. So I think it’s pretty cool that it kind of came full circle for you and seems things have balanced out pretty well.
Jay Johnson: I’ll give you an example; I work with this athlete Brett Vaughn, all right? I don’t currently but I did and we went to the Houston Half Marathon which is the US half marathon championships and he just totally bombed. He was running great, pushing the pace a little bit and my theory is that he did went under this oak tree and he must have some sort of weird allergy. You know there at the time of the year, January there’s all this funky tree pollens and what not. Suddenly, he just couldn’t breathe okay? So for whatever and I don’t think it was nerves, I mean you know an intelligent listener might be saying you know, “He was at the lead, was he doing that because he was scared?” but a week later was the US cross country championships and we just did one work out in between.
We knew he was fit. We got a little bit lucky because a lot of the neuromuscular … like the rhythm of what we have been training at and I forget but when I looked at what I thought he could run for half marathon. It wasn’t that much different than what you had to run on grass over a hilly course for 12K which was the distance of the cross country championships. And so we just did a workout, he done a ton in his life, we did a work out that he’d done at the University of Colorado during cross country and it was snowy so I just shovel 500 meters on this Astro Turf Field which is fun and he ran great and I guess my point is like that week we were on the phone a lot. There’s a lot of text messaging but there’s a great example of my job then had very little to do with the physiology of the workout. And the workout we chose was a workout he had done a million times, so we weren’t getting cute with that but it was you know, it was … I mean he got … he really did a good job himself within an hour. So after bombing at half marathon he said, “I got to race again because I’m really fit.”
But I just think, you know, there’s an example of you know you spend a week either trying to get the athlete motivated. Not motivated but get them back in the mindset of I’m going to compete well and then try to rest up and all that has way more to do with psychology than it does physiology.
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, absolutely. Well let’s go and I guess kind of along the same lines, maybe a little bit you know kind of go a little bit back about to your coaching background and definitely stop me if this seems unfair but sometimes I think you’re probably characterized maybe running circles is like the strength running coach because you talk a lot about it and you have obviously some great videos and demonstrations and routines. And something I’ve always been curious about personally is just coming from kind of a [inaudible 00:16:58] system which is very where you’re based and it seems to be mostly focused on running with very little ancillary exercises at least from where I understand about it.
In terms of your progression as a coach how did you take that college experience that you had and kind of being exposed to that training environment and then coming full circle to kind of where you’re at now?
Jay Johnson: Yes, I don’t want to bore your readers but … your listeners but I’m going to have to give you a longer answer to really answer it.
Jeff Gaudette: Okay.
Jay Johnson: I’ll process it by saying yes, I don’t love the categorization of you know J. Johnson is the guy who just does ancillary work and doesn’t live in running. You can’t have people win national championships if you’re not running a lot at this day and age. I mean you go back ten years there are some … you can cherry pick some races and they were you know, pretty weak. But you know knock it off at tandem but there’s’ basically no US championship in either gender, whether it’s on the roads or on the track that’s easy now. So that’s cool that we’ve come a long way, but anyway, so is the middle distance coach at the University of Colorado and I felt I was really lacking an understanding of what to do in the weight room. And so I just spent a lot of time … I definitely made it a focus of the training but I definitely spend a lot of time trying to learn from the sprint coaches. And I’m embarrassed that I haven’t kept in good touch with him but this man named Vernon Stevens who’s now a strength coach with the San Diego Chargers.
So he got to CU about the time that I got to CU and we became close friends in addition to you know for our professional level…me really asking him you know why are we doing this and it started as you know you write the strength program and I’m going to observe. And then it came that it was more like why are we doing this? And then towards the end I had a pretty big say … I was working with this woman, Sarah Vaughn and during the last couple of years that she ran really well, first of all Vernon left to go to the chargers but secondly I just felt comfortable assigning the weight room stuff. And an important point to make to your listeners is I don’t view any ancillary work as separate from the running work.
Meaning, I think the analogy is that the running’s the cake and a lot of people think that this ancillary work is just a frosting on top of the cake. And I think of these things as completely integrated and intelligent training. So for instance you know there are some stuff I believe and now from Phil Worton, some active vice related flexibility stuff and I view that as the first stuff you should do let’s say in the first three or four weeks of serious … of any training. You know some [inaudible 00:19:55] when your clients and hire you as an online coach, I would recommend that they start this three to four weeks of ancillary flexibility. And then there are some routines that are on the internet that I’ve shared with Running Times or with Nike, a routine that people know is called the Myrtle Routine. It’s cheesy, Myrtle rhymes with hip girdle and your hip girdle is basically you know the hip joint but then all the muscles around that and we’re just trying to strengthen that area. We’re also trying to gain mobility in that area for the [inaudible 00:20:33].
But you know I mean it also strengthens your back, it strengthens your butt, strengthens your hamstring and that’s the most basic thing and then this is probably the point where I need to interject Mike Smith. Most people will know him, he’s the coach of Christian Smith and in 2008 at the Olympic trials Christian Smith was the guy that dove at the line in the 800 and just barely made the team in 800. Pretty dramatic race, Mike Smith was a Kansas State or still is a Kansas State and when I was at CU, I would see his athletes doing this warm-ups that you know they are using a med ball and they’re doing plyo’s and then I’d see him in the cool down process doing all this work. And so I just went up to him and started picking his brain and you know let’s be honest. There’s kind of … it’s probably easier when you’re coming as the coach, he would talk to anybody okay?
I’ll refer to another coach in a moment that I definitely had … I got lucky with my end with him but Mike was somebody who just would share everything, would send me copies of all this stuff. He might send me a list of exercises and a cool down or stuff they would do after the run and I literally would know half of the exercises. I might not know two thirds of the exercises, so it took me a while to learn it and this ties into the running DVD’s business. At one point, I realized I should just go and make a DVD with this guy because A, I think it would be popular and people would be interested but B, I just need to learn this work for my own, coaching edification. I need to learn the stuff and what better way to learn it than to try and edit that DVD and watch all those exercises, you know I put some together and do routines.
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: So Mike Smith was a really big influence and you know it’s probably fair to interject at this point, as a middle distance coach you know I might have had a half a scholarship or one scholarship and you know is on the men’s side. You know I was coaching several men with that one scholar, you know what you do and then CAA for people I don’t know is there are only 12.6 men scholarships but you need about 50 guys on the team. So you can take a full scholarship and let’s just for arguments sake say you’re going to get four guys on .25% of a scholarship. You know I had one guy who was on more than that but a couple of guys are 10% or whatever and I just felt like you know, the big 12 indoor meet has a 600 and 800, a 1000, a mile and DMR.
If you don’t have some bodies in the middle distance event you’re not going to do well, so there was at least indoor some crash or that people healthy and some of this was you know learning what I would turn preventive work to prevent injury. And so I felt and this is where I was just on the cost of understanding this but now you know however many years later I definitely a 100% devoted to this idea. That you should do preventive work while you’re training and if you want to train harder train more miles, you should also have a plan to be doing more preventive work. There’s a chance that later on your career you could get away with a little less preventive work which sounds kind of intuitive but if you don’t have enough of it, let’s say over a lifetime then you’d be fine.
If you watched the Olympics this year, in the women’s 800 I think there’s a really interesting … just fact that kind of would slap you on the face. You could only have three entrance from each country in an event and we saw on the track how Jamaica, the US sometimes can get three people in the sprint but in the women’s 800, Russia had three women and I just think that that really shows you know long term … well, I mean your listeners may or may not notice that in a … instilled in those former communist countries, they have a long term plan. They might identify an athlete at 14 and they have a plan for up to the time they’re 24 or 28 and it starts with a lot of exercises and you know athleticism. On our country you might be identified as a soccer player and then you start running and then you don’t do any of that work you know in the frontal plane, well there are three planes in motion. Sagittal plane is how you run primarily, there’s a little bit of transverse play in motion with your shoulders in your hips but the frontal plane is moving side to side, so you’d see that as a short stop in baseball or maybe somebody playing basketball or soccer.
Well, the point I’m trying to make is you lose some of that athleticism when you start just running, running, running and so that’s another way to view this. It’s that we’re trying to keep the athleticism and the runner’s kind of daily and weekly training. But to go back to kind of the story of how I got into this, my dad works at the University of Texas and there’s two things that came about from that … from his job basically. One is that he knew Dan Path on half as many people will know is one of the best … you know, I might argue is the best track and field coach in the world. But when he was at Texas, I just … you know he liked my dad and he was willing to talk to me and so I would just pepper him with questions and half the time they were over my head. But I kept listening and would go back in between meets and try and research stuff and that he was just … I mean just a few conversations with him really made an impact on me.
And then another thing is there’s a strength coach that works with the men basketball team in Texas named Todd Wright and Todd Wright was close to with the physical therapist Gary Grey. So Gary Grey, I was able … doing what’s called the lunge matrix as a warm up with the basketball team and now we don’t do it exactly the way he does it but we do a lunge matrix for runners that’s five different lunges and I really believe in that. I believe in it as the first thing you do when you get out of your car, you don’t have to trail head or at the track. You know and maybe after this interview we can reference like what a week might look like with all these work put into it.
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, definitely.
Jay Johnson: But the idea is that you know I didn’t understand the lunge matrix until my last couple of years at CU and didn’t even trust it right away because for the first two or three weeks it’s going to make your quads a little sore. I mean you are lunging but as you’re using again going back to kind of that hip girdle idea, you’re using a lot of muscles. I don’t usually term core quite as much as some people because I think it still has the connotation of you know six pack abs.
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: But those core muscles from kind of the bottom of your rib cage to kind of the middle of your thigh, if you look at that big area that includes our gluts and the you know upper hamstrings and you know people talk about the transverse abdominals and its importance in … there’s all these things. The iliacus muscle, you know you’re really stretching those things out, getting them to warm up, getting them to fire, yes and then let me just kind of top it off with this. In the last few years, I feel like I’m using some of this stuff as a diagnostic to figure out how tired the athlete is. So for example you might do a backwards lunge on a lane line. Or if you’re in a parking lot you can just do it on the painted line for the parking spots and the reason you might do this after a long run, well first of all you need to get to where you can do it when you’re rested. So try it as part of a warm up, it’s great for a warm up because it gets your gluts firing and running with your gluts not firing eventually is going to lead to injury.
I shouldn’t say a lot, I’m not an expert on this but I think most good therapist who deal with runners might say that you know whether it’s glut maximus or glut medias or whatever. Basically, if your butt is weak the chance of IT band goes way up. And if you look at ten people with IT band problems almost all of them would have weak gluts. So whether it’s strengthening the gluts or just getting them to fire, getting them to warm up a little bit but before you run I think the backwards lunge is great. I like to use the backwards and lunge then after a long run for the simple fact that there’s also a neuro-muscle on it and the more I coach the more I realize that you know like this professional athletes, they can do high level aerobic stuff even when they’re a little bit tired.
But you still can’t trick the nervous system, when the nervous system is tired, it’s done, it’s like it’s buying it, it’s either on or off okay? And so when the nervous system is done, when it’s off, you’re going to see somebody wobble in that backwards lunge even if they had let’s say a 20 mile run in the last you know six or seven marathon pace or 60 mile run where they were doing fork lift at half marathon pace. And I just think that it’s helped my coaching because a lot of times we do a long run that say on Sunday and then ideally we’d like to come back to the track on Tuesday or go back to the roads on Tuesday and then if they really suck at … excuse my language. If they do a poor job at that backwards lunge maybe doesn’t mean we always move the workout back to Wednesday, but it gives me food for thought that okay, maybe this athlete is tired. Maybe either we shouldn’t work out Tuesday or we should really water down the workout. And I think there’s going to be in the next five, ten, 15 years a lot of new things.
There’s some things you can do with I heard Brookes Johnson at the US ATF symposium talk about looking at the eyes and having some sort of like eye scan to tell what the nervous system … I think it has to do with alpha waves. Well, this is stuff I need to bone up on because I don’t completely understand it but there’s definitely … to kind of wrap this up. There’s things in the sprint world that distance coaches need to understand, so talking around that issue right now is that sprint coaches, all they deal with is the nervous system. From a metabolic standpoint there isn’t as much going on, so let’s say that the 100 meters, in the 400 you know that research out of Australia a few years ago showed that the 400 is fuelled by the aerobic system by about 33%.
But 100 you know is just a function of power and power releases strength and when you’re trying to gain strength that’s usually just the function of understanding how the nervous system works.
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, I think … sorry, I mean I think that’s phenomenal and if I can kind of build a little bit off what you were saying especially with the nervous system and identifying fatigue. One of the things that I have a lot of trouble with trying to incorporate strengthening into my own routines is trying to balance like when I was too tired. You know in trying to identify when something was more … just like okay, I don’t think or I don’t want to do this where you don’t want to be in the … you know I don’t want to be … you know I want to be done now. I’m balancing that with you know am I really too tired and you know are my muscles fatigued, is this going to affect my next work out. It sounds like using these routines is really actually a great way to identify you know when an athlete might be tired away they can self identify you know when they may actually need a little bit rest.
Jay Johnson: Well, I think there’s two issues here, the first one I’m going to speak as a coach who’s worked with professionals where time isn’t an issue. Meaning I have an unlimited time to practice. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have eight hour practices but it does mean we can practice for let’s say three hours. So in that and then I’ll … let me talk after that about what I assume most of your listeners and most of your clients have to deal with which is a limited amount of time and I think underlying your question is also this choice. Do I spend ten minutes on general strength or do I spend ten minutes getting another mile and a half and you know it’s seven minute pace they could get a mile and a half in ten and a half minutes.
Jeff Gaudette: Right and that’s great, I’m glad you’re bringing it up. You read my mind
Jay Johnson: But let’s go back to the first one, I said this earlier and I really believe is that for the western athlete or let’s just say that your American athlete. One thing when we had people in an agrarian society. You know, so farm boys who are chasing pigs and hay up into a loft. You can just give them a ton of training whether it’s integral training because they were a 400, 800 guy or you know let’s say in high school there are 30, 200 meter run and you can just have them go on miles and miles. Well we’re working with weaker kids and by the way I’m stealing a lot of this philosophy from Mike Smith at Kansas State.
But we’re dealing with people who are weaker, now their engines are very good okay? So you can have an athlete come out of college who has a very developed engine but has had some injury problems and to me I might even lower their mileage depending on where they are and yet if you counted the number of minutes per week that we’re doing work. So doing stuff with med balls, walking over hurdles, doing body beat stuff, you know body waist squats or again Phil Worton’s active isolated flexibility. It’s really boring, most people find it boring but it’s really, really essential in my mind. You do all that stuff and they’re working way more minutes per week than they would be when they were in college just running.
And so how do we know when we should stop doing that stuff or if we should continue if we’re tired. I think I kind of get misunderstood in terms of how much work we might do in the weight room or how much work is intense. So intense meaning like plyometrics or intense meaning speed squat where on your back you got your body weight or maybe 1.25 times your body weight. I was fortunate to work with a middle distance runner named Sarah Vaughn who could do a ton of work in the weight room. And if she’d done enough of it in college that when she was a professional I would let her do some of the … well because of time she had to do most of those work outs on her own and she could do … well what she considered a pretty easy day in the weight room would have been hard for most people.
We do that most days, I mean even if our workout was kind of flat you’d probably go to the weight room but the flip side is her husband who is more of a distance runner who is now you know going to move to the marathon and no doubt be successful. We would just do general strength stuff, postural like you can walk over hurdles and it’s more of a postural thing. You’re working more on those minor muscles to really get your posture right, to get your hips level. And if you’re really focusing on those things it doesn’t mean that they can’t get tired but it’s not, you know it’s not the same output, it has nothing to do with power. And I guess it has to do with strength but not strength in the context of like a max, you know, a max … what you can squat max or what your max bench press is.
Now, if we take it back to what an adult should do who’s let’s say qualify for the Boston Marathon. That athlete is so serious that I’m coaching a guy online right now who is going to run New York. He was a college runner who is often injured and he is just willing to do everything that I assign and I don’t know really how he fits it in with his job and his family and what not. I was actually reading something this weekend about all this CEO’s you know who do iron mans, run marathons and I just think there’s a certain personality in America that if you tell them … [inaudible 00:37:29] on time but you need to give me 15 minutes a day. Five minutes before you work out, ten minutes after you work out doing this ancillary stuff and I also … here’s an important part for your reader or your listenership. You have to value this work as much as you value running.
So I think what happens with what a post collegians and a lot of college kids is they value ten more minutes to running more than they value doing some of these routines for ten minutes or actually as you do in for 20 minutes, okay? Just to keep the numbers straight, I’m often saying, yes rather than ten more minutes of jogging, you know we do cool downs when we do skipping and though we do some barefoot running and it only adds up to like two miles. Well there’s some post collegians, professional runners that go cool down four miles or some people think they always have to do two mile cool down. I’m saying no, do a one mile cool down and then do the rest of this stuff for ten or 15 minutes and what I really ask you Jeff is that people add more minutes into their week.
I think that’s the one thing where you know I’d write articles for running times or I put stuff on my blog and I try and really cater to the person who says like don’t have more time. And I think the more I do this and see… kind of the cycle of injuries, with people where they get the same injury over and over. It just makes me trust the fact that if they did more of the ancillary work and I’m not saying … okay here’s an example. Let’s say you need to do ten miles of marathon pace and let’s say you’re going to warm up too and cool down too. All I’m saying is maybe cool down one and then add 20 minutes of general strength. When you really look at it, you’re really only adding ten minutes because you took off one mile running or you’re adding 13 minutes, you know however quick you would cool down.
So it’s really like risking the things, I mean it’s maybe ten less minutes with your family or ten less minutes watching TV show is really not that much time. [inaudible 00:39:37], the lunge matrix for everybody who knows it takes three minutes and 30 seconds and then I’d like to see some people do some leg swings against a wall or a fence that takes roughly 90 seconds. So we’re asking five minutes before the run. Where it gets a little trickier is with Phil Worton’s active isolated flexibility, you know sometimes if you have time you can interview Scott Douglas, one of the editors of Running Times. He’s been doing Phil Worton’s work for about a year now but I think it’s about a year and just thinks it’s … not thinks, it is totally revamped his running. He feels like a complete different athlete running but that stuff takes time.
You know Scott doesn’t have kids and can devote more time to it and you know I know with my own running and trying to get back into … I’m in horrible shape right now. Trying to get back into shape I know I need to do more of Phil’s stuff and yet it is hard to say I’m going to be stretching with a rope for 20, 30 minutes at a time rather than going for a run.
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: And that’s extreme, to finish this, what we’re looking at is over let’s say a seven day period is you’re not doing that much less running but you are doing a lot more what I would term general strength or general strength and mobility. And for the average Boston marathoner you’d never need to go to a weight room, you can do all this stuff at the track or at the trail head. You do need to bring a yoga mat because a lot of things you’re lying down or you know you’re assuming that that table position from yoga where you’re on your knees and you’re on your hands. If you can spend 20 bucks, it might be 30 bucks and get a nice mat-ball that bounces, you can do a lot of work with a mat-ball.
Jeff Gaudette: No, I think that’s a … that’s a great response and it’s definitely something that I have come around along in terms of you know my own philosophy in terms of training and running. And I think that’s probably the hardest thing that I see and you kind of identify is just where do you fit it in when you’re already you know getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning and trying to fit all the stuff in. But I think you’re so right when you talk about just … you know it’s really and the real basic essence of it you know really only needs to be ten, 15 minutes a day and it’s you know you can definitely cut some things out. You know one up here, a pull down there and add those in and it definitely goes a long way in long term in terms of you know keeping up. It tells me which is obviously the most important part, if you can get an athlete and I like to think of it this way. An athlete’s running five miles a week less but a healthy 100% of the year, that’s better than running an extra five miles a week but being hurt every three months, you know?
Jay Johnson: You highlight other important thing and I’m going to put you on the spot here, you don’t know about this, I don’t think. But I have a friend who’s also from Maine and his name is Patrick Wells Dinon and he wrote a great article on my blog about consistency. And I think it ties in exactly with to what you just said; you know you’re somebody who values consistency. I think every listener should really, really kind of burn this into their head, this idea of if I ran five miles less per week but I stayed healthy during the entire year that’s better than running a little bit more. And yes, there’s a chance I worked with a post collegian coming up here on the coming weeks, two months and if I do as I looked at their training, I thought you know what there’s no need for them to run more.
It looks like they don’t run very much right now but there are some big deficits in terms of strength and flexibility and mobility and they have a history of getting injured all the time. And so you know why try and bump up my legend, you know if you follow the sport closely, you can see even at the professional level, there are some people who seem to really bite off a big chunk of mileage at some point when they’re injured, you know?
Jeff Gaudette: Yes, I think … I’m on the same lines, I remember after the Olympics, Alberto Salazar was quoted somewhere I can’t remember if he’s an interviewer a paper or whatever about [Mofaro’s 00:44:01] training and saying that when he first met Moe he was the weakest athlete that you’d ever met. And over the course of the few years that they’ve been working together, all the work that they’ve done, I mean he said you know Moe is now one of the strongest athletes that he’s met and I think some of Moe’s old high school … old high school/club coaches well you know the different and oversees had said you know he has dramatically transformed kind of how he looks and his running form just in terms of how powerful he is and honestly that was on display in the final lap in the 10K and the 5K.
Jay Johnson: Yes, I think you know where I saw this personally is I work with this woman Sarah Vaughn who aerobically … I mean she couldn’t run a very good 3K at the same time where she was could make the US ATF final in the 1500. And not that you know, there’s other athletes like that probably but it just … it highlights that power, you know is an important power, posture are really important. There are obviously papers that you’re familiar with, the talk about doing plyometrics and they’re interesting because in both the test group and then the control group, the VO2 max, so basically a measure of aerobic ability is the same.
And plyometrics had a greater running economy and therefore ran faster. Or a better way to say it is they ran faster and then you attribute that to greater running economy.
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: You know, I’m not very good at doing interviews like this because I probably should have talked about running economy back in minute number ten of this interview instead of minute number 45 because running economy is just how efficient you are at a given pace. So we know that Frank Shorter for instance have one of the lower VO2 max when he was being tested where Steve Prefontane and the one highest yet for a merit honor he was so efficient that he can get away with a lower VO2. And ideally, you’d want both, right?
Jeff Gaudette: Right.
Jay Johnson: Ideally to maximize both ends and you know when you’re talking about Moat Moe and Gayland Rop coached by Alberto. I mean I think both are true. They’re really strong and they have great mechanics and I went to a symposium up in Canada in December where Alberto spoke and those guys are doing intense work outs. I mean they’re working really hard but then that begs kind of the chicken and the egg question. Are they able to work that hard because they’re doing so much strengthening stuff? I saw Gayland Rop after he won the US junior five K in College Station, this is when John Cook was assisting Alberto and I saw him walking over hurdles and then doing repeat K’s. This was after the race, walking over hurdles, doing some hurdle mobility then doing repeat K’s of probably you know half marathon pace or you know they were very aerobic, very smooth and comfortable and they’re coming back, walking over hurdles, doing some more. So just really improving his work capacity but also coming back to strength and posture.
And for your listeners out there, let’s see if you can choose between two tracks when you do your track work. If there’s five or six hurdles laying out at the one track, start choosing that track and I’ve got some example, hurdle mobility from the Nike video that hurdle mobility is just a great way to get gain flexibility and to improve your posture. And I need to put out some new videos because the Nike one only shows I forget three or four different exercises but there are many exercises.
Jeff Gaudette: Awesome, yes, we’ll throw up … we’ll touch basically, you know after this more throw ups at some of those links at the bottom of this … for everybody that’s just listening to this interview. If you go to the website you’ll see the … we’ll list some of the links to the routines so you can check them out and download them and incorporate them into your routine.
Jay Johnson: Great.
Jeff Gaudette: And just one … I guess kind of final question Jay, you talked a little bit about kind of building progression from this strength training side of terms of starting with some you know active vice leg stretching, some of Phil Worton stuff up and then progressing to kind of the Myrtle routine working with you know hips. Kind of you know chord in the end traditional sense of … in terms of you know everything from the hips, the gluts, the bone back and that kind of thing. And then kind of progressing into more advanced stuff but … and that’s probably on a micro level in terms of maybe each training cycle kind of thing. At least from the way I understand it but how do you progress in terms of from season to season from year to year. Is it adding more repetitions to the routines, is it adding more weight, you know how do you keep athletes progressing and as oppose to kind of getting stagnant?
Jay Johnson: Yes, and not to over complicate it but why don’t I answer kind of three ways all right? So with Phil Worton’s active isolated flexibility work, if you just did the flexibility you’re way ahead of the game. He has a progression then of strengthening work where you do things with ankle weights or things with dumbbells and again I’m really excited to produce the DVD, I’ll be producing this fall is showing this stuff. It’s with Phil and so I really think that’s a great example of start with flexibility. Move to a little bit of weight then he has a pulley system that you actually do some more intense work on or he might move you to things like step ups and lunges and squats, okay?
So that I think is a nice, nice progression of work. Some of my work that I believe runners should do. I think the lunge matrix is a great example of you’re going to do five lunges on each leg and there’s five exercises that’s 50 lunges and never have people do more. We don’t do less but we don’t do more. Year number two and year number three, you’re doing that as your warm up and thing is after you do that and I saw an athlete in Boulder who I no longer coach and saw him on the track the other day and he’s doing his lunges. Because at this point in his career he feels funny I mean I didn’t ask him this but I know it because I know it myself. You feel weird if you don’t do it.
So with some of this stuff you just hit your baseline pretty early and you never do more. I think the stuff that there’s … I said there’s three things, there’s maybe four so there’s the Phil Worton type progression then there’s the stuff like the lunge matrix where … or the Myrtle routine. They never add more reps to Myrtle, Myrtle should take just five or six minutes and from Myrtle then the next part of this would be more challenging cool down routines that add a little more general strength. So because the cool downs, and I think Jazz singers are cool, all my cool downs are named after jazz singers. So Cannonball Routine named after Cannonball Adderly, we have the Grant Green Routine and so these are routines that are more challenging. We have the Lionel Hampton routine. These are routines that are more challenging than the Myrtle routine.
I have something called the first 20 which is a 20 minute routine that involves mat-balls and throwing them and you know it’s a little bit challenging but it moves into more cool down stuff at the end of the 20 minutes. And there’s the second 20 which after you’ve done the first 20 for let’s say two months and you don’t only do this after your hard days by the way. I really believe in your hard days hard and your easy days easy, then that would move into the second 20 which is a little more challenging. Then, I think kind of the fourth area is what to do in the weight room and not to discredit the people listening but I just don’t see a large percentage of your listeners really needing to do this type of work in the weight room. But you might start with something like an overhead squat with a bar, then you might move to a front squat with a little bit of weight. I really like the speed squat at like a half squat knee angle, so the knot knee angle translates to about three K pace or 1500 meter pace. I don’t know if you can envision that but if you squat halfway down your leg is in the position it would be when your knee comes up in the air and you’re running faster, okay?
Take that same premise. You should go lower as a sprinter because your knee lift is higher okay? But you know after two or three years in the weight room we might do a speed squat progression where you go as hard as you can for 12 seconds. I’ll put box in the athlete’s rear end, so basically they can feel their butt hitting the box and then they go up as hard as they can. We might walk around for about 90 seconds then do some box jumps then we’ll take three minutes in between those [inaudible 00:53:10]. To me they’re just exercises that really complement one another. And by the way, the weight room I think for a distance runner you should be in and out, you know 40 to 50 minutes, you should get in there, you should warm up, you should go hard, take your appropriate rest to recharge in creatine phosphate system. Do some mobility before you leave the room and then leave.
So yes, those are some things and I guess a fifth thing could be circuits, I definitely and I’m not talking about circuits of weight, I’m talking about circuits where you run in between. So I did some videos for Running Times where you’re running circuits at … or the running isn’t about half marathon paced. Good for somebody who’s a novice could be marathon paced but you run let’s say 700 meters, you start jogging 50 meters or 70 meters and then you do a bunch of exercises, jog another 30 meters and then you go right back into that 700. And so that’s a great way early in a training cycle to get A, a bunch of general strength but B, keep the amount of running low at you can get a 40 or 50 minute workout that covers fewer miles.
So it’s a safe way to try and get fit, but I bring up the circuits because in year two I mean the exercises can be a lot more challenging and in year three I mean you should really be able to do some challenging work and still run you know half marathon pace.
Jeff Gaudette: Awesome, that was very helpful. I appreciate that and I think that was phenomenal.
Jay Johnson: Okay, yes, this has been great and obviously you basically can’t shut me up talking about this stuff.
Jeff Gaudette: No, I really appreciate you being so generous with your time and I know this is just something our audience is going to love to listen to and definitely take some notes. And again for everybody that’s listening and not on the website already, you know definitely check out the links. We’ll have some at the bottom to all the routines that Jay has mentioned to some of the resources that he’s gone over and you can definitely check those out. I definitely think adding him to your … you know Running Now is going to make a big difference and again like Jay and I talked about briefly you know consistency keeping it healthy and that kind of stuff.
Jay Johnson: Yes, that’s the goal of all this, if we could use one word to you know as our goal, it’s consistency and so this entire podcast if you can take one thing away from it, it’s the idea that some quote none running work can lead to consistency.
Jeff Gaudette: Awesome, I think that’s a great place to end it. That’s pretty awesome.
Jay Johnson: Okay, all right Jeff, thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it.
Jeff Gaudette: No problem, thanks Jay.
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