Since I know this is a hard concept to believe, we’ve invited elite marathoner and Olympic Trials qualifier, Camille Herron, on our show today to share her story of how she overcame multiple stress fractures (7 during a 2.5 year period) and inconsistent training to drop over 10 minutes from her marathon PR and qualify for the Olympic Trials – all by slowing down the pace of her easy runs and changing her outlook on training.
For those who may not know Camille, she is a 2:37:14 marathoner and represented the United States at the 2011 Pan-American Games. She has a fantastic blog where she shares her insights about training and racing.
In this interview, Camille is going to share both the physiological reasons keeping your easy days easy works as well as her personal experience and what helped her “flip the switch” and realize running slower allowed her to stay healthy. Also, Camille is going to share her experience and some of her research about preventing and recovery from stress fracture injuries.
If you’re struggling with injuries or find yourself hitting a plateau in training, this is a much watch interview. If you have questions, post them in the comments section and we’ll try our best to answer them for you.
Jeff: Hello, fellow runners. I’m Jeff Gaudette, Chief Running Enthusiast for Runners Connect, a community of expert coaches dedicated to providing runners the motivation, interest and training you need to achieve your goals. This is our interview series where runners, coaches and proven experts come on our show to teach you what they’ve learned along the way so, you can grab as much information as possible and apply directly to improve your running right now. All of our previous episodes are available at Runnersconnect.net. Or you can subscribe to iTunes feed to get updated as soon as we post these new interviews.
On today’s show, we have an elite runner and marathoner Camille Herron. Camille has a marathon PR of 2:37:14 and she also represented the United States at the 2011 Pan American Games. Today, Camille is going to show with us how she overcame multiple stress factors during her collegiate career to eventually allow herself to train healthy and run an average 110 to 120 miles a week. She’s also going to share with us the secret of training which actually allowed her to run an easy day slower and still race faster.
Finally, Camille is going to share with us her personal experience with stress factors as well as for research as her post doctorate and master’s thesis in stress fracture recovery. If you’re interested in learning from elite runners and finding some applicable training principles you can apply to your running today, get ready for this awesome interview.
Welcome to the show, Camille. I appreciate you are taking the time out of your schedule today to talk with us and share your infinite wisdom on training and we look forward to really learning a lot from you today.
Camille: Oh, yes. Thank you for having me, Jeff. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge and trying to help others. Yes.
Jeff: Yes, it’s a great thing when you can definitely help somebody improve their running that’s to share. To get started, I wanted just to give people that may not know you who don’t follow your blog and just a brief introduction into kind of who you are, kind of your a little bit of your running background, how you get started and then kind of where you’re at now. Talk to me about how you get started in running at a younger age and then kind of how things progressed from then.
Camille: Yes, I grew up in Oklahoma and then born and bred in Oklahoma. Both of my parents were really good athletes and my mom was a swimmer primarily and golfer and my dad and my grandpa played basketball at Oklahoma State. I grew up around sports and just knowing that my parents were athletes kind of inspired me to want to be like my parents and to get involved in athletics. I started out as a basketball player from an early age and I have seen pictures and videos when my dad playing basketball and I remember seeing the globetrotters on TV.
I think there’s a fear ongoing trotter back in the 80s and just seeing that a female athlete like that and I kind of aspired to be a female globetrotter at one point. I was pretty handy with the basketball. I used to spin it on my finger and dribble between my legs and that sort of thing. Yes, I grew up playing basketball and I think basketball taught me a certain level of toughness and just dealing with the aches and pains and playing through that, you get knocked down and just swung all over the court and I think my … I could have learned early on playing basketball and realize that I could wear out my opponents running all over the court and so that was kind of my strategy is I would just run all over the place and try to wear out whoever was guarding me, man to man guarding me.
When we got to junior high and we had everyone on the basketball team having go out for track through off season conditioning and I remember from the first day I could just run and run and run and then I get tired and I remember the other people on the track team would start getting tired and they start walking and I was wearily kept going and didn’t lose. Well, but the junior high it was pretty, pretty well known from the first day that I had a lot of endurance and I always just thought it was toughness. I always just felt like I was tougher than everyone and I didn’t realize that it was I’ve got the inherent slow twitch fibers.
I think I read about that in kids [inaudible 00:04:49] illustrated about slow twitch and fast twitch fibers and I remember pointing it out to my track coach and she told me, how you’re going to be a long distance runner. Yes. I pretty much started running in junior high and I actually – I never want to race in junior high, I always seem to get outkicked by somebody.
Jeff: Those were fast twitch fibers not kicking in there.
Camille: Yes. I didn’t quite understand the whole strategy of it and we only ran probably a mile or two– probably not even two miles totally like a mile a day. I wasn’t really conditioned too much in junior high. I think Sundays we just played basketball, anyways.
Camille: Those trackers and something that was really serious. It’s just something we just did for conditioning and then my eight– in the 8th grade, I went out for a cross country because we don’t have to go out for softball or cross country and cross country was the natural fit for me obviously. I remember the first meet that I went to 50, 100 girls and they all are always thin, tall and lean and my dad and grandpa were tall and lean and here I was surrounded by 50, 100 other girls that were just like me tall and lean. I pretty much made from that point of [inaudible 00:06:22] with sport. When I got to high school — I had a lot of successes with cross country. I was probably better cross country runner than track runner and when I got to high school I just decided to ditch the basketball and just take off with the running.
Jeff: Yes, good choice.
Camille: Yes. It was pretty awesome and my freshman year of cross country, I ended up making all state which was top ten and that was the first time when I won from our school have done that. My coach is like, “Hey, you’ve got to”– because I wasn’t involved in track actually. I thought you could just run cross country and you didn’t have to run track. I didn’t realize that if you didn’t win, you should do the others.
Camille: I have to drop French and enroll in track.
Camille: During track season, I won my first race which was a huge turning point for me because I love the feeling of winning and I just wanted to win everything after that point.
Jeff: Right, right.
Camille: Once I won my first race and I just kind of went with it and by state we won state in the 4×800 relay and I got second in the two-mile and got fourth in the mile. Yes, I think the seed did pretty much planted those pretty good at running and pretty good at the long, longer the distance the better I got and then my sophomore year I made also cross country again in one state in track in a mile and the two mile and then my junior and senior years I was really successful. I think I’ve won at one point maybe 36 races in a row.
Camille: To my sophomore to my junior and then I had my first injury. I had this first fracture in my foot two weeks before the state cross country meet and that pretty much started the whole string of injuries with me and I ended up having seven stress fractures in two and half years. One thing I’m going to point out is that I do have a huge gross spur — grown like five inches between my freshmen and sophomore years of high school and I was kind of like a [inaudible 00:09:07] coming into the world that really [inaudible 00:09:09] and just kind of wobbling and awkward and stuff, but just was naturally pretty talented.
Anyways, I think as it started increasing the mileage and the intensity that I started having a lot of problems and so I have lot of stress fractures in my last two years of high school and I wasn’t really able to show how good I could be because I was injured most of the time. My senior year, I made a comeback. I got a stress fracture in August and then I cross trained and start running in October and I made a comeback and ended up winning regional’s and made all state again in cross country and we had to run in all star meets and I finished second at that.
Camille: The humors were [inaudible 00:10:08] was at the meets and that following Monday, he gave me a call and had seen me run and he was really interested in recruiting me so, I was recruited by a bunch of schools and I went to like regional’s and also I finished 34th there. Yes, one thing I got to point out is in Oklahoma we only run two miles for the cross country.
Camille: So you got to feel [inaudible 00:10:36] that’s 5k and so it was — my first time during my 5k and I ran 19 minutes. Adventure at colleges, started recruiting me after that and I ultimately decided to go to University of Tulsa and because it was a good school academically and I really like the coaches at that time. Going around the freshman year, the coaches that recruiting actually left and went to Kansas and then they got a new coach. The first month of college that I basically went from 30 miles per week to 60 miles per week and it was a lot of intensity, a lot of mileage and I started having stress fractures again. I had three stress fractures, my freshman year of college and obviously as a freshman college, I ended up having stress and I was on pre-med so I eventually wanted to go to medical school.
I was having a lot of stress and just the training and everything was just breaking down my body. I ended up registering my sophomore year and then after that – they ended out giving me a medical register because they didn’t think that I could or that I should run competitively because they didn’t understand that I’m extremely stress fractures and they just thought my body can’t handle that sort of training mode.
Anyways, I pretty much resorted to being a hobby runner. In the meantime, I met my husband Connor who was basically a professional runner and he run at the University of Oklahoma. He’s a six-time All American, ran for A6 at Harvard. So he was a really successful runner and he had just — he’s from Ireland, but he got his U.S. citizenship. He was trying to train to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials in 2004. I was kind of his assistant and he would do his long runs every Sunday and I’d be handing him bottles and helping him with his own running and he ended up qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials and then went to Olympic marathon trials and I tell you, just being in the Olympic trials and I was just really, really inspired by being around all these stars and I remember meeting Beth and [inaudible 00:13:34]. It was just, I was exposed to this whole world of professional running through my husband and I think I just got really inspired by that and wanted to start training seriously and really just get back into competitive running.
Jeff: I just wanted to get the time correct, how long was the time between you graduated to college or I should say that you stopped running in college competitively and then went on to I guess 2004. How long was that break that you kind of took?
Camille: Yes. I would say it’s probably about three years. Around about three-year span I was a hobby runner and I just ran recreationally probably about an hour a day maybe an hour a day, six days a week like an hour and so I don’t know. It’s probably about 40 to 50 miles per week. I wasn’t keeping a training log or anything. I was just kind of running for stress relief and just for general health and stuff and I also did like straight training. I’d go to gym twice a week and do weights and that sort of thing so changed my mind set to just running for health and fitness. Once doing that competitively, so after I went to the Olympic trials in 2004 it was kind of over about a six-month time span that before I knew it I was — I don’t know what happened and I don’t even remember if I was keeping a training log at the time.
One day Connor and I went out for a run. We were training, we’ve gone the boulder to Colorado to train and I was actually running further the way Connor was going for. He’s like, “What’s going on?” He didn’t even paid attention to what I was doing and so he wanted to know how many miles a week I was running. We went through in like calculated it and that came out that I was running about 70 miles per week. He thought that was pretty serious. He thought, well, okay you’ve been running 70 miles per week. Why don’t we start trying some work out session?
This was like July of 2004 and I started doing some actual workouts and I took, I basically went from a 19-minute 5k that far went from 19-minute 5k and got down in. I basically skipped to 18 — like 1750 and ran my first 10k over 36 minutes and my first 15k like 55 46 or something like that. We were like stands, here I was, I’m just the kind of a hobby runner and just had finally gotten my body healthy and training consistently and I think — we were just kind of blown away thinking wow I’m finally making it happen and I was pretty much running faster than the girls in my college team and I was just running on my own or whatever.
Yes, I went to fifth year on college so I started college in 2000 and I went fifth year so I didn’t graduate until up 2005. In this process, I was got up to setting miles per week and started getting really fast and jumping time and it was my fifth year in college.
Jeff: If it’s fine, if you don’t mind me interrupting real quick, what was the turning point physically that you went from — obviously you struggled your freshman and sophomore to adopt to basically going from 30 to 60 miles a week which is definitely understandable a lot of college athletes have that problem, what was it physically that changed in you that allowed you to pretty much just go from jogging around 40-50 miles a week, just didn’t know if [inaudible 00:17:59] to being able to run 70 miles a week and doing some workouts. Do you know– can you include anything specifically?
Camille: Totally, probably the first thing that happened was in 2003, I met Frank Shorter and he signed a poster for me that said, “Ran for stress relief” and I don’t know. I don’t remember what the circumstances were if I told them, it’s pre-med and wanted to go to a medical school or whatever. He was basically trying to tell me just relax when you run and let running feel good and just run for stress relief. I start thinking about what he was trying to tell me. I’m kind of a deep thinker. I was like, is he trying to tell me something. I basically slowed down the phase and I just remember mentally thinking about what he was telling me and physically something like I started running more relaxed and enjoying my runs more and started noticing the scenery around me and like breathing the fresh air and I just thought like differently. I just felt differently because mentally I was thinking differently and then at December of 2003 I started reading–I was taking physics at the time and I was reading about the Kenyans and they have grew up running barefoot and training in worn out shoes and that sort of thing.
I have been hurt my whole, I’ve been hurt off and on a good during my running career and I was kind of wanted to put myself to the test and start training in racing flats basically because I figured they’re minimal shoes and didn’t have any [inaudible 00:19:57]. I ended up buying– I was also a really big fan of Frank Shorter. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers and I ended up buying some vintage racing flats. It was actually the Asics Onitsuka ultimate 81. It’s like a remake of a popular shoe.
I basically started from scratch on my mileage because I had taken a break at some point that fall and I just started training in racing flats. I figured I don’t have anything to lose. It doesn’t hurt the muscle. You just feel that happens kind of thing. Before I knew it, by that summer I’ve gotten up to 70 miles per week and that was the most I’ve ever run. I used all this get to that 60 miles per week and my body would start going kind of awkward and weird and stuff and here I was, made this change in my shoes and I was able to run more basically.
Jeff: You also mentioned that the phase slowed, do you have a recollection of what you are running — what kind of easy phase you’re running before and then what you are running afterwards when you kind of just relaxed about it?
Camille: Yes. I think I was probably running before that kind of turning point for me. I was probably going like seven minutes, seven thirty phase which is what my college teammates did and I think I had just gone and then that you go out and you run as hard as you can for an hour every day. I didn’t think anything about that when I kind of have this turning point for me where I just started running easy. I started probably running about eight thirty to nine minute mile phase. Because I went to University of Tulsa and Tulsa has riverside which is the strolls that’s marked every half mile and it’s marked every mile.
I know definitely — I probably went for about seven thirty phase and about eight thirty, eight thirty-nine minute mile phase and I just thought so different and so much better making that switch to running for. By that fall, I think I had gotten down. I think I’d gone maybe from like 19 minutes and I run like one — I didn’t race very often and so I basically only ran the race for the cure every fall. I think I bring in like 18, 29 or something like that and that was during at work out training thing. I just jumped in the 5k run. Yes, I think that’s kind of one thing sort of kind of click and here I was, I just slowed down the phase and just randomly jumped in the 5K and dropped like 30 seconds.
Jeff: It’s funny. It sounds like runners world headline like run slower or to run to race faster and it sounds too good to be true, but obviously it is and you’re not the only one that’s made that switch like that. Along the same lines, how did you — being a competitor of athlete you’re in college or college teammates where running a lot faster, you came from that background as running faster. How did you deal with those thoughts every once in a while when you’re like, “Oh, I feel like I need to push?” I wanted to get faster because I know even when I realize that running slower was better, I always had those days where I wanted to push because either it felt good or I kind of kept thinking like, “Oh, I do need to keep going here”. I know the athletes that I coached have that problem where even when they know they need to slow down they’re always wanted to push it to see themselves get better. Did you have those struggles and if so, how did you kind of overcome them?
Camille: Yes, because my degree was an exercise in sport science. I became really interested in wanting to know why running slower make me faster. I ended up going to grad school I basically decided because I did research in my last two years of college that I really like the research and the science and I really wanted to go — onto grad school to study all that and to understand bone and exercise and how I keep the body healthy.
I basically learned that the slower– I came to value why running slow works and basically it’s because of working through aerobic metabolism and your body learns to– use your slow twitch fibers rather than your fast twitch fibers and because you’re using your slow twitch fibers, you’re going to end up developing more mitochondria, more blood capillaries around the muscle, a greater blood volume to carry oxygen and so I came to value– I need to run slow because all these things are going to take place in the body that are going to ultimately make me faster. Even though I have this mindset, this college mindset and I kind of just threw it out the window and said that doesn’t work for me. I need to run slow because metabolically it’s going to develop all these changes in my body that are going to help me with endurance running.
Jeff: No, I think that’s a great way to think of it and that’s how I always thought of it too was I would say what’s the purpose of today’s run, if today wasn’t easy day and it was really to recover to just run easy then I have to keep telling myself this is the purpose is to run easy. One of the things that I always try to tell with the athletes that I coached is that, aerobic development really occurs– it’s the same whether you’re running.
For example, somebody is a 19 minute to 5K, it’s really the same if you’re running nine minute phase or if you’re running eight minute phase, but there’s way more stress on your body the eight minute phase and you’re not going recover as quickly so, it’s actually– it’s detrimental because you’re not getting anymore benefit and it’s only having potential risk for getting injured and not recovering. But that’s hard to get through to with people. It’s not something that’s instinctual, it’s always — if I run faster, if I’m breathing harder I getting fitter faster which doesn’t always the case.
Camille: Yes, exactly. You mentioned recovery and the way I think of it is that by running slower you’re basically resting your fast twitch fibers and you’re using different muscle grades so you’re using more slow twitch fibers. Yes, I think it’s from my recovery perspective that you move differently when you run slow and the benefits to that is that you rest your fast twitch fiber and so many actually do a hard workout, you’re able to go and you would faster because you’re so well rested.
Jeff: Now, that’s fantastic advice and I have to thank you for — you wrote a post. I don’t know maybe it was couple of weeks ago or so but I’m going to give a shout out to one of the athletes I coached, her name is Jamie. She read that post and she always really struggles, but even try to increase her mileage recently from kind of like the 60 miles range to 70 and she’s really struggle that being tired and always wanting to run faster and she read your post and she said, “I think it finally stopped”. I think part of it sometimes is no matter how many times somebody can tell you when you hear it from somebody who’s at your ability level and running at your level, sometimes it sticks a little bit more.
If you don’t mind, can you tell us what your current marathon PR’s and then what your current easy phases just to — because I think people would be surprised that at what it is and think of themselves, “Wow, I run 45 minutes slower from marathon and I run on easy runs faster so, I’m doing something wrong”.
Camille: Yes, I’ve gotten down to 237 in the marathon so far and my easy day phase usually starts out around nine minute mile phase. I would say I probably average around 830 per mile on my easy days so, I’m like started about nine minute phase and then I get down to about eight minute mile phase. You brought up a good point as people start to increase their mileage and they might struggle sustaining the same easy day phase and because the body will start to breakdown so, when I found this to hard my mileage minutes the slower I had to go on my easy days could be able to recover from the increase mileage, but when I found out overtime is even though that I had initially slowed down the phase as I’ve gotten fitter, I’m more comfortable handling and maybe slightly faster phase, but it was kind of an adjustment that I had to go through. Yes, I definitely think that as you increase your mileage, you got to slow down the easy day phase to recover better.
Jeff: Yes. When you’re increasing your mileage because you run anywhere between 120, 130 average now on a high training week. When you were increasing to that level, did you have any periods where you went through where you kind of just struggled where I was like your body was adapting and maybe your workout toward going as well or weren’t able to — you just felt more tired and if so, how did you kind of mentally work through that and I’ll ask that for now and I have a follow up question after.
Camille: Okay. My first hundred mile or I guess you could say fall of 2004 was when I started to drop a lot of time and we saw that my times said that I could potentially qualify for going to marathon trials. My husband between about 2004 and 2006 I worked on building up my mileage to over a hundred miles per week. I remember the first time I bring in a hundred miles per week. I remember just feeling like I [inaudible 00:30:33] like my body was more fluid and just felt loser and then all I had to do with the frequency knows running more often and running further and it just felt like I could run all day and not get tired. I definitely felt like kind of like “put the switch” with the mileage that I assume to drive on hundred mileage.
Jeff: I’m sorry just real quick. Two things
Jeff: So, it was about a two-year process when you went kind of from 6 – 70-mile week range to the hundred?
Jeff: During that time you said when you got to about a hundred clicks — during that increase did you feel like you struggle there was it a fairly gradual process where you felt like it went okay?
Camille: Yes. I felt like it was a gradual process that went pretty well. We started out in quality workouts and I was doing really well and I seemed drops in time and that sort of thing. It was kind of a process that building up to a hundred mile per week and I guess the only thing I struggle with that times was when I grad school and said there were times where I was really stressed and I couldn’t put in the consistent quality work so, I would just resort to running mileage and I might cut back my mileage if I was under a lot of stress. I was very consistent with my mileage. I always kept it really high and I would only cut back if I got really tired.
When I got to a hundred miles per week and I was in the middle of my master’s thesis so, I was basically running for transportation. I would basically run to the lab in the morning to starting experiment and then I would run home and then my husband would drive me back to school and I would work at the lab all day and then I would run home from work in the evening time. I found a way to get in my mileage by that. It was kind of a lifestyle for me to run and try to fit it in with my lab experiments. Yes, so, as far as from that point on and probably been the next year and half from about that November 2006 to about spring and summer of 2008, I had noticed maybe about like after about four to six months after I got every hundred miles per week that I started feeling tired and just feeling kind of worn down all the time and getting sick and dealing with kind of body aches and that sort of thing. I just thought I was under a lot of stress and I thought it was just a normal part of the training from running more miles.
Camille: When I found out was that I was low in iron and that I needed to start increasing my iron intake to not show that foot strike, the [inaudible 00: 33:49] your blood cells. You break down your blood cells to grow that foot strike.
Jeff: I’m going to interrupt real quick here. I making note for this, but we’re going to include a link. We have posted on our site and a link to your site. I think you have one as well about iron and runners. That way if anybody is listening to this, those struggle and maybe the triangle a bit well most in the two resources about exactly what’s going on and what the iron is, what’s its doing and how you can increase those store. Sorry, I just wanted to let the audience know that so go ahead.
Camille: Anyways, I started taking liquid iron every day. Prior to that I use to take — I mean I was big meat eater. I always thought that, “Oh, you know, I eat a lot of meat. Surely I’m getting enough iron through my diets and when I went got my body check then I found this out and it was kind of like a white bug went off in my head that hey, you know, I’m totally breaking down a lot of blood cells, I need to take more iron”. I started taking it every day and within a week my mile repeat times throughout like ten seconds off in my mile repeats.
Over the next few months, I basically drop three minutes of my half marathon PR and I drop like a minute of my 10K and I drop 3 minutes off my marathon time. I had a couple of turning points in my life and one of them was definitely getting on the liquid iron and it just made such a huge difference for me. But yes, I kind of like did you ever thought question or?
Jeff: Oh, yes for the follow up question I had was you kind of answered it, but it was kind of how long did you feel like it took– and one of the questions that I get when I have runners increasing their mileage is that they always want to know how soon they’re going to benefit from putting it all the extra miles because especially for runners who have jobs and all that stuff. It’s a lot of work. You went through that, it’s like you’re sitting there and saying, “Oh, my god all I do is run all day”. I run to work. I run back from work. I run to pick on my kids and its like and you always want to say and always wonder when is this going to pay off. For you obviously it was a long process of increasing your mileage. Overall it was four to five years, but did you feel like you going to fit it fairly quickly from it or did you feel like you had a couple of months sometimes for you like seriously I’m running a lot and I’m just tired and not raising any faster, you know, what’s going on?
Camille: Yes. As I pointed out when I got over a hundred miles per week, I definitely felt like it made a huge difference, but then within a few months I started to feel a little bit rundown and I really think it was because of stress and [inaudible 00:36:54] nutrition, trying to get enough calories to match all the energy expenditure and then also the iron. The iron was a huge part of it because I was breaking down a lot of red blood cells and I wasn’t getting enough to match it and I found like even now even though I got my iron back up and everything, I had to continue to take iron about five times a week. That’s the key [inaudible 00:37:25] at. I don’t get off the iron. I basically don’t want to get off the iron because [inaudible 00:37:32] to drop again and it’s something that I keep continue to do as long as I’m a professional runner because I have to do it to be able to do what I do.
Yes. I’ve actually found when I get to train at high altitude, I have to take more iron. Yes, that’s something else. I talk about that on my blog site and my experience going to high altitude and the concerns that you have to deal with when you go to high altitude. One of them is definitely iron.
Jeff: Right, definitely. Actually, you brought up a good point that we actually talked about briefly before we actually start the call here was that you have to eat a lot in order to obviously maintain running that much mileage. It’s funny it’s always a question people would ask me too when they would say, “Oh, my god, you run that much. How much do you eat meat?” and I would say, “Sometimes I’ve been early to eat two dinners”. You know, when I was in 150 miles a week, I would eat dinner like five and it will be a full of dinner and then at like eight o’clock, I’m like I would be starving again and I have another full dinner. I think that’s something that I have struggle with that they’re running a lot of times because they want to get fitter or lose weight and so there’s that conundrum they have. It was like, “Well, if I run more and then if I don’t eat then I’m going to lose a lot of weight” but when that happens you definitely break the body down a ton. If you don’t mind sharing and I think you do this on your blog as well but kind of what a daily nutrition intake would look like for you and that kind of thing.
Camille: Yes, definitely, for me to be able to run a hundred in twenty to a hundred and thirty miles per week, I have to eat a lot of calories so, I actually had my diet analyze when I was in grad school and at that time I was running about 80 miles per week and it came out that I was eating about 3200 calories a day. We found out that I was in energy balance by 70 kilo cals which is actually really, really good. You basically want to be an energy balance and if you’re within a hundred to 200 kilo cals a day what you’re extending then that’s pretty good.
Anyways, I’ve gotten into 120 to 130 miles per week. I would estimate I’m probably eating about 4000 to 5000 calories a day and I eat probably about six to seven small meals a day. I’m eating about every two to four hours and one thing I learned in grad school was they told me all about blood sugar. It’s all about blood sugar. If you eat frequently throughout the day, it helps to keep your blood sugar more stable so that when you run, you’re not backing during the middle of the run because you haven’t eaten for six hours or something.
They thought me all about eating, especially if you’re running twice a day and making sure that you’re gaining enough calories between your runs and so I basically eat before and if I’m running in the morning I eat before my run. I eat after my run. I have lunch and I’ll have a snack in the middle of the afternoon. I go for a run. I’ll eat after my run then I had dinner so, you get the point that I’m eating pretty much all day. It’s almost [inaudible 00:41:13] itself, I had to think about eating. When I used to work in the lab everyday for two years and I had to bring snacks to work because otherwise I will get hungry. I’ve been working the lab I’ll sit getting hungry and I had to go back to the office and eat something and so, definitely people that work, I think they have to be very proactive about making sure they’re getting enough calories throughout the day and I’ve had a lot of people contact me like teachers and staff and they’re dealing with kids and then the classroom. They’re starving. I just tell them catch some snacks in your desk. Make sure you always have a water bottle or two available. Hydration is really, really important and especially for I’m training in Oklahoma now and we deal with high humidity, high temperatures a lot of winds and I’ve had a really out my hydration because I really struggled with that when we first got here.
Jeff: Interesting. One thing I want to talk about is not only your research with stress fractures, but also your experience. I guess if anybody could say that you’re an expert, it might be you in terms of both your clinical application as well as your personal experience. I guess let’s start with how can athletes avoid stress fractures in terms of whether it be through diet, through training, through exercises, those types of things. What do you recommend to people and what do you do yourself because I’m sure it’s still a concern for you obviously? For people they don’t know, Camille is actually was just coming off a stress fracture herself.
Camille: Obviously, as I mentioned I had seven stress fractures between high school my first year college and for me the problem had more to do with mechanics and that intensity of my training. I believe that the intensity of your training is more about a risk factor than the mileage. The only way that the mileage will start to become risk factors if you’re not getting enough calories to match the energy expenditure and then your body will actually start to breakdown because of that.
I definitely believe the intensity is more of a factor and I was really running 20 to 30 miles per week and we did a lot of sprinting in high school and I don’t think it was very good for my body at the time because I had grown a lot and I had it put on the muscle to match in them. My bones had grown really fast that I had to put on the muscles and my body was really tight and muscle pulls on bone and if you’re doing a lot of high intensity exercise back in further caused the muscle to pull on burn and the muscle becomes the key, it starts to transfer the stress to the bone.
Definitely, I think that especially young kids, I mean, most high school college coaches think that they’re all afraid of running a lot of high mileage and I tell you, you will not get hurt from running easy high mileage. It’s going to be when you start running in all the speed work and all the four hundreds and the mile repeats and that sort of thing that is going to start to break you down. But as far as like being able to stay healthy, I think it really just comes down to a balance between stress and rest. You have to realize that your balance are always in every modeling state so, they’re always been broken down and build that cut.
If you’re applying a lot of stress to the body that stress can become so great that the bone will start to breakdown faster then it could be build back up. That’s usually how stress fracture happen is when the body is under too much stress and not just the stress of running, it can also be the mental stress that you’re dealing with. Being a student, being a college student and you’re not getting enough sleep so, your body rebuilds itself in your sleep because of the growth hormone release so, you had to think about the body and not just the stress fractures, the injuries in general. You had to take that stress versus rest and if the body is under more stress it’s going to start to breakdown.
Jeff: Yes, definitely. Unfortunately, let’s say somebody does got a stress fracture, what’s the return to running look like. I know obviously there’s different amount of time that you’ll need off based on where the stress fracture is. For example, smaller bones like metatarsals will need maybe anywhere from five to eight weeks whereas something like your femur is going to need closer 10 to 12 weeks, but what does the process look like when they’re coming and specifically something that I’ve heard is and I don’t know I can actually remember where I heard this, you can let me know if it’s that you feel it’s true or not, but when the bone heals itself, obviously there’s some calcification that’s leftover as kind of the way I’ve been taught to visualize it is kind of feeling in a crack with like think of it like icing. At some point, it overfills and so there’s a calcification there in the area and that sometimes leads to what they called phantom pains when returning to injury where you start running and maybe after a week or two there is some dull achiness after you run that [inaudible 00:47:16]. Have you found that to be true? Am I off on that or what’s your experience?
Camille: Yes. I basically did my master’s thesis on enhancing bone recovery.
Jeff: Okay. So, I’m asking the right person.
Camille: Yes. You’re asking the right person. We looked at the application of whole body vibration training and as a way of enhancing the healing process. I had to learn basically everything there was to know about bone recovery and trying to heal bone faster. Yes, you’re right. The bone forms of bone callus which is the calcification around the bone and as far as that bone callus will be around the bone for at least a year. It depends on the size of the bone and the severity of the stress fracture or the fracture. Smaller bone might only take like eight months for that bone to remodel itself and be back to normal versus femur might take like 12 months because it’s a larger bone.
Since you have that bone callus around the bone, it’s going to interact the surroundings soft tissue and nerves. It takes nerve longer to recover than the actual bone. Lots of the nerves will be irritated so, what happens is when people get back to running the nerves that irritated, the soft tissues irritated and the people are concerned that they’re going to redevelop stress fracture where that bone callus is and the truth is the bone is actually stronger than it’s ever been because it has that bone callus around the bone. If you’re going to develop a stress fracture anywhere it’s going to be in a different location to where that bone callus is. What happens is people get back to running and they start to try to push the phase and the mileage too quickly and because they have this little bit of pain from that bone callus in the surrounding nerves and they start to play stress elsewhere in the body and it can lead to compensation type injuries.
Jeff: So the more that concern is from the compensation where because you’re feeling the pain you maybe limping or just another part of your body is taking stress as opposed to a reoccurrence of the stress fracture?
Camille: Yes, exactly. That’s basically what happens to me with my stress fractures in high school and college whereas I would try to push the intensity to “get back in shape” and I was compensating. I ended up getting three stress fractures in a row in my left foot and so what happen was I gotten stress fracture in the second metatarsal and then my foot gate changed ever since slightly that I start placing stress. On the third metatarsal and I ended up developing a stress fracture on that one and then I ended up getting one of my fourth metatarsal.
Definitely, I think people need to realize that it’s a process for bone to heal itself and it’s going to take time for it be normal again and just because they feel pain it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to stop running and they just need to get back and be consistent with their training and the pains should go away as long as they progress back in the reasonable rate. I’m making a comeback right now with my own heel and I’m going through this process and because I know it’s happening with the bone and with the nerves and the soft tissue and so the hardest thing for me right now is the soft tissue basically braces around the bone to protect it when you’re injured and then when you start back running because the impact force and things are stretching and stuff and I could feel the muscle pulling on the bone and I’ve been running everyday here and now for the five days or so and the pain has started to go away. The pain is going away. The flexibility of the muscles is coming back and it’s a process that you have to get through. Kind of like when you become a runner for the first time and you kind of have to get over a hump when you get into running so, it’s kind of the same thing with stress fracture.
Jeff: I think the hardest part about it is determining what is determining what is– for the athlete is determining what is that referred pain that you’re talking about, you know what, the muscles and the nerve endings and when it’s possibility that the bones still not healed completely. What I always taught athletes is that if it’s a dull or pain that kind of goes away quickly or within like you go to sleep and you wake up the next morning and it’s not there and you start your running it’s not there then that’s usually a sign that it’s probably that nerve ending that calcification whereas if they feel either sharp pain or that it possessed that it’s like, they wake up the next day and it still hurts as soon as they start to run, it hurts. Is that an accurate assessment of a good way to determine which pain is which?
Camille: Yes. This is really good because I can distinguish between bone pain and muscle pain. The thing about bone pain will hurt and it won’t stop hurting. It will hurt all the time, like rod and hurt. Muscle pain is something that if you get back into running and it will go or will actually get better as you keep running because it starts to stretch out and more mad and that sort of thing. Yes, that’s pretty much I can tell you. I’m getting back from coming back from my stress fracture and my body actually feels better the more I run and when I wake up each day my foot is feeling a little bit better because the muscles are getting stretched out and at this point the bone is healed because I’m not feeling that like continue a sharp pain that’s pretty distinct with bone.
Yes, the muscle is something you’ll warm at. You’ll get to feeling better and I have a lot people write to me about like sheen pain and they want to know, do you think this is a sheen splints or do you think this is stress fracture? The way to delineate is a stress fracture like I said is pain that it will be there and it will get worst with time if you keep running on it. It will get so bad that you can’t run. You get [inaudible 00:54:36] versus shin splints is something that will actually the muscles will loosen at as you keep running. It might start hurting it first but as you continue to run you’ll actually get to feeling better. That’s how I distinguished between muscle and bone.
Jeff: Now, that’s fantastic. I think so many people are going to benefit from what you just said. I know even at my experience with that just kind of confirmed and it definitely it helps me already. I do have probably random question again. This is maybe a stress fracture of Laurel, I don’t really know, but I’ve noticed that I have few stress fractures is that they tend to hurt a lot when there’s a low pressure systems like thunderstorm going in. Have you ever heard that before or I’m just kind of making that up?
Camille: I’ve definitely heard that and I’ve had this discussion with my chiropractor because I notice during the wintertime I tend to train better and feel better during the wintertime and well, I don’t know, it’s kind of weird because in Oklahoma I felt better training in the wintertime. I think it’s because everything is kind of tighter and more compact and then during the summertime, it’s like I kind of feel like a wet noodle. I was walking all the over the place and start notice like things like going wrong and you don’t have to worry about hydration and it’s like I don’t know to saw these new things, but as far as changes in pressure, I’m not really sure.
Jeff: Yes. I don’t know. Like I said I’ve just heard that and I felt that I used to sometimes like when I had one on my foot when I would about a thunderstorm, I could definitely feel it. My foot would ache more than and even if it was healed. I would eat more, ache more than not. I don’t know if it’s just random or about was like thinking. I have it in mind that it’s supposed to happen and so it was.
Camille: Yes. Like I said it’s more of my feet and I notice this more overtime as I’ve gotten older that my feet feel better during the wintertime than I do during the summertime and I think that like I said I think it’s because during the wintertime everything is kind of tighter and it’s holding together better versus the summertime where things start to kind of spread apart and get looser and I start to notice more pains in my feet during the summertime than during the wintertime. I don’t know. I think like I said things it’s more air temperature of that and then maybe there’s something with the pressure changed.
Jeff: Yes. Oh, that’s interesting. Yes. Before we get into our last question, I do want to make one quick plug our new product strength training for runners. If you’re listening to this interview up to this point and to with some of the other interviews in the past, you’ve definitely interested in learning how to make yourself a better runner. You’ve listen to Camille today, talk about how she invested the time in learning how to become a better runner both from watching her husband and other elite runners train as well as diving into a lot of a research and clinical applications.
You’ve also heard about how Camille suffered from multiple stress fractures that resulted her body not being able to be quite ready to handle the intensity of hard running that she was trying to accomplish and that’s why we created the strength training for runner’s product. I’ve been a coach for over seven years. I’ve seen these types of injuries happened over and over. So I wanted to create something that will not only help runner’s state injury free, but allow them to train harder and run smarter.
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I guess that on my last question and I really like to ask this to athletes and coaches as well is what’s the — if you could go back to yourself maybe five, six years ago and I know you kind of work running so, the question might be different, but what’s one thing that you wish you would have done starting earlier. If you’re to go back four years ago or five years ago and tell yourself something, what would it be? What would you try to change that you feel would make yourself a better athlete now, a better runner now?
Camille: I actually grew up in training with my friend [inaudible 00:59:26] last year and she had a really easy going lifestyle and if she going to feel like running because she just felt tired or felt like taking a day off or that sort of thing, she would rest. I think I had this mentality, four to five years ago that you have to grind it out like all of the time and that to take a day off is like I’m just like a dirty [inaudible 00:59:52] or something. I learned from her and from my own experience the past year that when I start to feel tired and I wake up and feel like I will start to feel like running today. I will take a day off and I will actually bounce back and run faster because I took a day off.
I think I’d learned specially the past year in from living in training with Janet to be okay, but maybe skipping a run or taking a day off and I’ve seen a huge difference in my time and my ability to recover from marathons. I mean I dropped like I think that just my marathon repeats alone and dropped like 25 seconds the past year. I’ve grown. I dropped a lot of time and I think it’s just because I’m recovering a lot better. It’s just that simple little thing that simple little thing and if you know being able to be okay with taking a day off and skipping a run in a week. We will move workouts to round so I’m feeling tired or changing workouts so I definitely think that that’s made a huge difference for me.
Jeff: Yes. I feel the same way about my inquiries that I definitely just the same way I would just … every day I was like, oh, I got to run even if it didn’t make sense to run from how I was feeling kind of perspective a day off I’ve done so much better. I definitely wished I could have gone back and taken some rest days because there were some times where we’re just like I look back and I’m like what were you doing? But it’s funny obviously we’re not the only people that struggled with that. A lot of them athletes I work with like some of the hardest e-mails I have are when I need to tell somebody to take a day off because they’re feeling. I’m looking at their log and there are three days, felt terrible today, felt terrible today. I’m like, we need to take it out and I know it’s like, we’re just going to be like, no, you’re stupid. I’m not listening to you, but sometimes it always helps again when you have, when you learn like for yourself talking about how going through that process and making them [inaudible 01:02:10].
Camille: Yes. The other thing I was going to point out, I hear a lot of elite runners talk about consistency and I think if you’re generally consistent with your training like you’re keeping mileage relatively high. You’re being consistent with the cloudy work and that sort of thing. It’s really not going to hurt to take a day off. I think you have to be more — as you get more experience with the running, I think you have to be more in tune with what your body is telling you. It’s better off if your body is tired, you’re just going to listen to it and take a day off and it will make a world of a difference, how you feel thereafter.
Jeff: So true, so true. Well, Camille, I definitely have taken enough of your time today, but I really appreciate you taking your time of the day to share your wisdom and experience. This is a great interview. I would feel like I’ve learned a lot and so I know my audience is definitely going to appreciate it. If you don’t mind telling where — you mentioned your blog a couple of times, where can we find that? What’s the URL?
Camille: Yes. It’s Camilleherron.com.
Camille: Should I spell that out?
Jeff: Yes, why don’t you just spell it out and we’ll it include in the show note so for people that are listening through iTunes, you can just go ahead and visit our site, RunnersConnect and look for our video interviews and you’ll see it at the bottom where I’ll post it. Go ahead and spell it out for everybody and actually we get the transcripts so the transcriber will be able to spell it out.
Camille: Okay, so it’s my name camilleherron.com.
Jeff: Awesome, great. I also want to – obviously, you work professionally and I want to give you a chance to I guess plug some of your sponsors. I see how the power bar shares it on.
Camille: Here you go.
Jeff: I always– I think it’s so great like companies are supporting athletes like yourself who are trying to make that next step and make that jump. Who else is on kind of your sponsor’s team?
Camille: Yes. My primary sponsor is Marathonguide.com. Marathonguide.com is the main website around the world for getting information about the marathon and I mean there’s just everything you can want to know about the marathoners on that website. Probably, it’s the most popular thing is its calendar and the comments that people make about marathon.
Jeff: They do reviews just specific marathons, correct?
Camille: Yes, so they have all these information about every marathon and before I got sponsorship with them, I used to go to that website and read the comments and try to figure out what the courses like and that sort of thing. It was a huge stepping stone for me. I was really excited when I got sponsorship with them and then we have an amazing team of athletes. We kind of have a different tilt on running because we’re trying to run more — we’re trying to push the limits as far as running more marathons to the quantity of marathons versus quality of marathons. That’s kind of what I’ve decided to base my running career on just trying to test the limits of both quality and quantity. Not only in my training improved my marathon time, but I’m also trained to run so many marathons an average of certain time and that sort of thing and try to win a lot of marathons as well.
Jeff: That’s right.
Camille: As far as my other sponsors, you have PowerBar. It was pretty much a dream come true for me to get sponsorship with PowerBar. My first PowerBar when I was fifth grade [inaudible 01:06:10]. It was like eating astronaut food.
Jeff: That was pretty cool.
Camille: I thought that was the coolest thing. I was like this is so weird, but it’s so cool so for me to get sponsorship with them was– it’s made a huge difference for me and making sure them always staying enough calories and feeling myself especially when I’m traveling, trying to make sure I’m getting enough calories. As far as my other sponsors, yes, I’m also sponsored by 2XU who makes really awesome clothing and compression gear and then also Inov-8 who makes really awesome shoes and then Hyperwear they make a weight vest and then eyes vest and then I’ve also got a couple of other smaller sponsors, the Nalgene and let’s see, Wrightsocks, the [inaudible 01:07:09] and Oakley.
Jeff: Very cool. It’s always great to– like I said seeing those companies supporting athletes like yourself and like I said that are putting themselves out there so obviously glad that you got a chance to mention them and hopefully listeners of the podcast can check them out because they definitely make some great products and they’re definitely support the sport of running so it’s pretty cool.
Camille: Yes, I definitely recommend the other athletes look outside the shoe box and try to seek out other smaller sponsors that can help them with their running career. It’s been really fun for me because I’ve been able to test out a lot of really cool products and give feedbacks to the company and give a shout out to my friends, “Hey, I recommend this product to you”. It’s been a really, that’s probably been one of my favorite part of being a professional athlete. It’s the fact that I can help these other smaller companies and yes, it’s really fun.
Jeff: Cool. Well, like I said, thank you again for taking the time. It’s been an absolute pleasure and again, thank you for being a guest on our show.
Camille: Yes, thank you for having me, Jeff.
Jeff: You’re welcome.