Today I want to help you avoid the most common mistakes among new runners. These "unforced errors" derail your progress, invite injury, and make running harder than it needs to be.
Simply not doing the wrong thing can be the difference between success and failure.
It’s like Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said:
“It’s not the great play that wins the game. It’s eliminating the dumb play.”
Here are three of the most common mistakes I see beginners make with their running – whatever you do, avoid these at all costs!
For more on beginner running, get our Bonus Podcast for new runners at https://strengthrunning.com/new/
Pam is a Team Strength Running member. Every month, I get the team together for a live video coaching call. We talk about workouts, scheduling races, planning around vacations and injuries, and how to strategically plan a season.
I recently asked the team if anybody was planning a BIG goal and wanted to come on the podcast to talk more about how to achieve that crazy goal.
[These opportunities are only available to Team SR members. Learn more about the team here.]
Pam stepped up. She’s not new to running but wants to run a marathon even though she’s never run longer than about 9 miles. Her longest race has been 10k.
This is a unique place to be: an experienced yet low-mileage runner who wants to make the leap to running 26.2 miles.
We’re left with a lot of questions:
These are the questions we’re answering on today’s podcast episode about running your first marathon.
This is a behind the scenes coaching call that I occasionally do for team members, highlighting their unique goals and struggles and how they can keep improving.
The format of the call is three parts:
First, what is Pam’s background as a runner?
Second, what are her goals and current training like?
Finally, we strategize on how she can make those goals a reality.
To kick off 2018, we’re focusing on strength training for runners. And there’s an undeniable advantage from getting the fundamentals right before you learn how to start lifting weights:
Progress is faster (you get better sooner!)
Risks are mitigated (far fewer injuries!)
Results are more substantial (you get stronger!)
My goal is to help you limit the early mistakes as you start lifting weights so you can enjoy all of the benefits of strength training exercises:
We cover a lot more on Strength Running’s free weight lifting ecourse here – don’t miss it!
If you don't know Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, you're missing out.
He’s a professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine and a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force Reservists. He designed the US Air Force Efficient Running Project and has presented running workshops on over 50 military bases.
Mark has been a national-level Masters runner, completed more than 100 marathon and ultra-marathon races, and is a two time winner of the Air Force Marathon. His PR? A staggering 2:24.
He's also strongly involved in the local West Virginia running community:
Mark's new book, Run for Your Life: How to Run, Walk, and Move Without Pain or Injury and Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy is all of his expertise and experience distilled into one manual for preventing injury.
He's also on the Strength Running Podcast to discuss these topics in more detail.
We're focusing on three main areas of prevention:
Tempo runs are beneficial for virtually every runner – from milers to marathoners, tempos are nearly ubiquitous.
Of course, they’re a staple for longer distance runners training for the marathon and beyond.
If you’re not familiar with this type of workout, there are three popular definitions:
1. Comfortably hard. A pace that’s faster than “moderate” but not exactly “hard.” If you have a high training age and prefer running by feel or perceived effort, this may be the most helpful definition for you.
2. The pace you could race for an hour. For some runners, their tempo pace is similar to or about the same as their 10k pace.
This definition is best used for more advanced runners.
3. 85-90% of maximum heart rate. If you train by heart rate (learn how to calculate your max heart rate here), this is a valuable way to ensure you’re in the right range for your tempo run.
More scientifically inclined runners know that tempo workouts are run at or near your lactate threshold. This is the pace at which you’re producing the maximum amount of lactate that your body can clear from your muscles and blood stream.
In other words, tempo runs are done at lactate threshold which is the fastest you can still run aerobically.
Most coaches - including myself - don't have the tools to discuss this serious issue. I have no personal experience or training with eating disorders in runners (though I have friends with disordered eating).
So I brought on someone who does: Annyck Besso.
The goals of this conversation are threefold:
Annyck is a Registered Dietitian with expertise in the treatment of eating disorders in private and academic medical center environments. She has a Bachelors degree in nutrition and dietetics, a Master's degree in dietetics, and specialty training in approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family Based Treatment (FBT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
She's also quite the speedy runner, recently running 3:07 at the hot and humid Wisconsin Marathon.
Resources & Links from the show:
Thank you Annyck for coming on the podcast to share your expertise about the topic of eating disorders in runners. There are a lot of resources included that I hope all of our listeners will find helpful!
Trail running is a welcomed alternative to road running because it's a different type of stress that helps you become a better runner:
Plus, let's not forget that running trails usually means that you're going to run slower. And that can actually be a very good thing!
When used appropriately, train running can aid recovery by forcing you to run slower. A lower heart rate - on a softer, more forgiving surface - is how to structure a great recovery day.
From injury prevention to athleticism to recovery, trail running can help improve the quality of your training (and your race results).
To help you make the most of running trails - and get started with the least amount of stress - I spoke with trail and ultra runner Doug Hay.
He's also the creator of the Trail Runner's System (today's sponsor).
Our conversation covers a lot:
We also include a challenge for you - so don't miss this episode.
Dr. Ryan Smith is a lead instructor for the Institute of Clinical Excellence in the Fitness Athlete division. He specializes in treating individuals who participate in CrossFit, Olympic Lifting, powerlifting, and other recreational sports like running.
He also specializes in pelvic health therapy, utilizing an external approach that focuses on education and management of diastisis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and post-partum issues.
Ryan is an avid supporter of the Senior Rehab Project and promoting individuals to strength train throughout their lifetime.
You might recognize his name - he contributed to an earlier article on bodyweight strength training for runners.
And I'm excited to introduce a longer discussion with Ryan on many related topics:
Enjoy my conversation with Dr. Ryan Smith!
Show Links & Resources:
Jonathan Marcus is to running as Charlie Munger is to investing: a coach that uses “elementary, worldly wisdom” to mold his athletes into high-level runners.
His past coaching and running industry experience includes:
He was appointed USA Track & Field High Performance Coordinator for the men’s middle distances in 2011 and his national role with USATF included serving as co-meet director for the prestigious USATF High Performance track meet held annually at Occidental College.
Currently he’s the Director of High Performance West, an elite training group in Portland Oregon. He also has an incredibly enlightening and action-packed podcast with fellow coach Steve Magness called On Coaching that I highly recommend.
What I most respect about coach Jonathan Marcus is that he’s a lifelong learner: always reading books, learning, educating himself, and connecting with others to improve his ability to perform at a high level as a running coach.
Our wide-ranging discussion might surprise you because we talk about some interesting topics that, on first examination, don’t appear to be truly about running or coaching!
For those who want to transcend beyond an elementary understanding of running, this conversation is a fantastic primer on the nuances of high-level running achievement.
I think you’re going to love it.
You might recognize Tina from Episode 31 of the podcast. She’s an 11-time All-American athlete and elite athlete for Great Britain who’s run in two British Olympic Trials.
Tina recently overcame amenorrhea by taking a break from training, had a daughter, and is now returning to competitive running.
But we’re not here to talk about Tina. We’re here to talk about YOUR questions, problems, and struggles.
In this conversation, we’re discussing:
Nichola - or Nic as her friends call her - has such a long list of credentials and accomplishments that I simply can't share them all here.
But just a sampling of her education and experience demonstrates her expertise:
Her blog has also been voted as the UK's best health blog in 2015! Clearly, we're in good company.
In this conversation, Nic and I discuss a wide variety of topics important to runners:
Use these principles to focus on big-picture principles and thrive!
I’m a proud omnivore. I firmly believe that eating a balanced, “whole-foods” diet is the key to both long-term health and improved running performance.
But the issue isn’t which diet is best, but the results that a certain diet can give to you.
Over the past decade, I’ve been borderline obsessed with discovering the optimal diet for running performance.
I’ve read many of the best diet books, interviewed Registered Dietitians, pro athletes, and best-selling diet authors:
I’ve also heard first hand from elite runners, USA Track & Field instructors, and world-class coaches about the best approaches to eating for endurance runners.
And they all include meat.
But… not one person (anywhere) thinks we should eat a meat-based diet.
Whether you’re vegan or an omnivore like myself, we should all eat a plant-based diet. Here are 3 strategies that work well for me.
Angie and Trevor Spencer are the hosts of the Marathon Training Academy podcast and have helped thousands of runners over the years successfully run their first marathons.
Angie ran her first marathon in 2008, promptly got injured, but turned things around in a big way: since then, she's run 51 marathons and 4 ultras with not a single injury (!). A Registered Nurse, she also has USATF-Level 1 and RRCA-Level 2 coaching certifications.
Trevor followed in his wife's footsteps and went from couch potato to marathoner in just a few short years. After his first marathon in 2011, he's since completed 14 marathons, 15 half marathons, and a Spartan Trifecta.
They've both joined me on the podcast to talk about the subject of "Couch to Marathon" or how to:
Every year, about a half a million runners finish a marathon in the United States (and most of them - nearly all of them - aren't elite athletes blessed with marathon-friendly genetics).
The marathon can be conquered. Success over 26.2 miles just needs a more strategic plan than your neighborhood 5k.
This is how you do it.
Over the years of coaching hundreds of athletes to new personal bests from 1.5 mile military fitness tests up to the 50-mile ultramarathon distance, I’ve been given a “private look” inside how runners approach their training.
And most of the time, I’m horrified! There’s no progression. They avoid race-specific workouts. I see pacing mistake after pacing mistake.
If you want to run faster you need to take the next logical step in how you prepare and plan your training schedule. Even though you might think the 5k is short, it demands very specific workouts.
Good 5k training includes three distinct aspects of running fitness: speed, race-specific fitness, and endurance.
Over-emphasize endurance and you won’t have that “higher gear” to hammer the last mile.
Skip the specific 5k workouts and you’ll feel flat with no power.
Balancing all three ensures that you’ll feel powerful on race day and accomplish your race goals. So if you’re wondering how to train for a 5k, here’s how to execute each one (no matter what fitness level you’re at right now).
Learn more about SR's training programs if you'd like to race faster! See https://strengthrunning.com/coaching/ for more.
Alex Hutchinson holds a PhD in Physics from Cambridge, a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia, and is a former national-class runner in Canada. He’s written for Runner’s World, Outside Magazine, The Globe & Mail, Popular Mechanics, and many other major media.
I’ve been pestering Alex to write another book after Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? became one of my favorite exercise science myth-busters (if you haven’t picked it up yet, I highly recommend it).
And he finally delivered! His new book, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance has quickly become my favorite running book from the last few years.
Our conversation centers on the psychological limits of endurance:
Alex’s book showed me the many factors that limit endurance – and practical methods for overcoming those limitations.
Often, it’s not your training that predicts your race performances, but what’s between your ears.
Warrior Dash is a fun vacation from more traditional road racing. If you’re bored and need a new challenge, an obstacle race might be just the cure.
They’re fun – but you need the right training to prepare yourself for the challenge of completing a difficult obstacle course. With obstacles every few hundred feet on courses that are almost always hilly with uneven terrain, it’s downright difficult to maintain your pace and get in a groove.
For most runners, it’s a challenge just to run in between each obstacle!
But there are specific ways that you can train to ensure you have a successful race. Make no mistake: whether you’re running a Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder, these aren’t your typical road races. It takes a particular mindset to conquer them. Here’s how.
Sam started running in 2002 to lose the weight he put on in college. But his training really picked up years later when he started racing more in 2015.
He told me:
I set a goal to run another marathon in December, 2016 with a goal of a BQ. I dumped weight lifting and boot camps, to focus on running. I jacked up my miles going from running 10-15 miles and week quickly to running 30-40 miles a week.
Leading up to the marathon I developed plantar fasciitis but was able to train through it. A week before the race I developed ITBS and ran the marathon anyways. It was a horrible race that left me sitting on the side of the road at one point.
But I finished (actually setting a PR in 3:30) and could barely walk afterward. After 2 months, I started training again and decided I wanted to try triathlons.
I jacked up my miles and completed a Half Ironman. But I didn’t take time to recover and developed ITBS. And I've been battling with issues ever since.
Listen in as we strategize how to get control over this injury cycle so Sam can focus on racing faster.
Sam is a member of Team Strength Running and is able to talk over these issues with me on our live coaching calls.
If you'd like that opportunity, sign up here to see when the team is accepting new members.
Heather Caplan is a Registered Dietitian, certified running coach, and host of the RD Real Talk Podcast.
She’s also the former Head of Nutrition and Coaching at tech startup Spright, Inc. She’s also worked in corporate wellness coaching and public health nutrition counseling.
Her work has been featured in national media such as Runner’s World, The Washington Post, Women’s Running, Outside Online, and others.
Heather is on the podcast today to answer YOUR nutrition questions:
This is a very wide-ranging discussion based on your answers to my Twitter question here. If you like this format of podcast, we have two more you can download here!
Running uphill (against gravity) stresses your body in a unique way that you can’t mimic on flat land.
That stress results in some fantastic adaptations and benefits:
While hill sessions aren’t too race-specific (unless you’re training for an entirely uphill race), they have a valuable place in any training program.
This episode discusses these benefits, when hills should be incorporated into your season, my 3 favorite types of hill workouts, and the type of runner who will benefit most from hills.
In reality, we have to make time and shuffle our schedules to accommodate all of our responsibilities:
It's no easy feat to train well, work, have a family, and find some free time to read or have fun.
I remember back to one of the most challenging times of my life: the year after college when I had a 75-minute commute and a 9-hour work day.
That meant I was running 80-85 miles per week at 5:30am in the dark, in the freezing winter of Massachusetts. I had no time to do anything besides work, run, and ensure I slept 8 hours a night.
Now that I have a family, that's not a possibility. Hard decisions have to be made...
To help with those tough decisions, I want to introduce you to Keira D'Amato.
She was a 4-time All-American at American University in Washington, DC, specializing in events ranging from the 5k to cross country.
After college, she worked for years as the marketing director for Potomac River Running and today she's the "running realtor" for the northern Virginia and DC areas.
But she never quit running. Just last month, she won the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Washington, DC.
Keira is running after the Olympic Trials marathon standard of 2:45 - and she's close with her 2:47 PR!
Oh, and she's married with two kids...
In this conversation, we discuss:
was a competitive Division III runner - but certainly not a multiple All-American or other kind of standout performer.
But that never stopped him from chasing big goals.
After graduating from Tufts University, Tyler kept training and improving. He's since qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials and currently holds the world record for the fastest half marathon ever run on a treadmill (63:38).
Now he has his sights set on another world record: the 50K ultramarathon distance.
And this Friday, he'll be making that WR attempt in California at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays. After 125 laps on the track, we'll know if he was ready to topple the 30-year record of 2:43:38.
In this far-ranging conversation, Tyler and I discuss a host of issues:
It’s no easy feat to run a marathon under three hours. It’s faster than the fastest Boston Qualifying time of 3:05 (for young men) and according to one analysis, only 4% of men and just 1% of women achieve this level of performance.
An article from LiveStrong notes that:
“the nonprofit organization RunTri used the times of 230,251 finishers in 25 races to determine that in the 2011-2012 marathon season the average time for any person, regardless of gender or age, was 4 hours, 24 minutes and 0 seconds.”
I’m not familiar with either of these sources so we should be careful with the results. Let’s take them with a big grain of salt.
But still, they underscore the general idea that a sub-3 marathon is really hard! And especially for women, who weren’t born with many of the biological “tools” that aid performance (higher muscle mass, more testosterone, etc.).
So this coaching call was particularly exciting for me. Lindsey has a 3:14 personal best but that wasn’t under ideal conditions – in other words, she knows a lot of improvement is possible.
In this conversation, we discuss her training background, past race performances, and the training upgrades required to make her sub-3 marathon dream a reality.
Henry Wynne has an unusual origin story: he’s a former lacrosse player who had no interest in running but his parents encouraged him to stick with the sport in high school.
Fast forward about 10 years later and today, he’s an elite middle-distance athlete sponsored by Brooks. A former runner for the University of Virginia, he's had several notable accomplishments over the years:
His personal best in the mile is 3:55 (from less than two weeks ago!) - and he's going to let you in on how he prepares to race.
Resources helpful for milers and other middle-distance runners:
I had the pleasure of getting to know Maggie last fall when she modeled the exercises for our new strength training program.
We spent a few hours at a weight lifting gym called Barbell Strategy in Boulder, CO. Maggie and Addie Bracy (2x Mountain Runner of the Year) demonstrated 40+ exercises and we had a videographer to capture all of the magic.
During her time at the University of Arizona, she won the PAC-10 Steeplechase Championship (she'll also tell you that she's twice won her beer in weight!).
Her PR for the steeple - one of my absolute favorites - is 10:03 or the equivalent of about 10:45-10:50 for 2-miles (with 30-inch barriers and water jumps). It’s quite impressive.
Now, Maggie trains under elite coach Brad Hudson. Brad, as I’m sure you know at this point, is the author of my favorite book on running - Run Faster: How to be Your Own Best Coach From the 5k to the Marathon.
If you don’t own this book, go buy it. You won’t regret it.
Back to Maggie: just last month she got on the podium at the Arizona RnR Hlaf Marathon, running 1:17:20 for third place.
And I'm thrilled she's on the podcast to talk about her running and the benefits of strength training she has personally experienced.
Dimity is the cofounder of Another Mother Runner - one of the largest communities you'll find for women runners.
Besides the blog, the AMR ecosystem includes a helluva lot:
Dimity is on the Strength Running podcast today to talk about the many issues that are more unique to women. As you can imagine, I'm not the best person to address this topic.
As a man, there are a lot of things I'm simply not aware of or privy to in the sport of running.
It's not just women's issues; I bring in outside experts on everything that's outside of my wheelhouse:
And I'm thrilled to introduce you to Another Mother Runner and the great work they're doing for the running community.