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.
Two years ago, I was interviewed for an event called The Running Summit. I spoke about wide-ranging topics:
As you can see, we went DEEP on running and touched on nearly every important element of sound training.
This is an audio recording of our interview where you'll be able to glean insights from my experience as a runner, coach, and a coached athlete.
You might recognize Jesse as the dude who races in Aviators (there's never an inappropriate time for Aviators).
He was an All-American and school record holder at track and field powerhouse Stanford University. After graduating with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, Jesse started a company and got an MBA before going pro in triathlon in 2011.
You might say that Jesse likes to stay busy.
Today, he's the CEO of Picky Bars - a company he cofounded with his wife Lauren Fleshman - and an elite triathlete who's a 2x Ironman Champion.
After reading a fascinating article in Triathlete Magazine last year, I reached out to Jesse to learn more about his nutrition philosophy and approach to fueling for such a grueling sport.
As the CEO and cofounder of a company that helps athletes fuel their workouts, a pro triathlete, and a highly educated guy, Jesse has interesting perspectives about the nuances of eating 6,00 calories per day.
Jesse joined me on the Strength Running podcast to talk about these issues and a lot more. I hope you'll listen.
I've fielded hundreds of lifting questions from runners who all want to know, "How do I lift the right way?"
It's a great question. In fact, it's THE question!
Knowing how to lift properly will:
But without knowing WHY runners should lift then it's impossible to answer HOW runners should lift.
Do runners need to build strength? Or power? Or neuromuscular coordination? When is the right time to work on each skill?
Clearly, this is a complex topic!
Thankfully, we're featuring a top strength coach on the podcast to answer all of your questions about lifting for runners.
You'll recognize Randy Hauer as the strength coach behind the programming of High Performance Lifting - our step-by-step lifting program for runners.
Randy has over 30 years of strength and conditioning experience in a wide variety of disciplines and training styles:
He uses insights from these experiences to develop world-class programming for pro runners in Boulder, Colorado. He works directly with some of Brad Hudson's Hudson Elite team members.
In High Performance Lifting, Randy brings runners through a comprehensive 16-week strength program that periodizes strength training so runners will get strong, powerful, and (most importantly) faster.
And today he's answering the most common questions we've received over the last few weeks:
Cross-training is supplemental exercise that can be helpful to your running, like cycling.
But just like form drills, strides, or dynamic flexibility exercises, I consider strength training to be an integral part of how to train distance runners.
If you’re not strength training, then you’re not training.
Running by itself only gets you so far. It’s a fairly one-dimensional form of exercise, after all.
If you look at how pro runners train (hell, even high school runners), you’ll see a lot of “other things” in their training:
Whoever said runners just ran?!
All of this extra training makes you stronger, more efficient, and flexible with higher levels of coordination.
In other words, you become a better athlete. Because you’re not a runner – you’re an athlete that specializes in running.
I wanted to dive into the topic of strength training in more detail so you know what to do – and how to do it – to become a faster and less injury-prone runner.
I’m doing something a little different today in that I’d like to share with you what I think are the best gift ideas for runners this year. Now as a running coach, my focus is on improvement so I’m only going to recommend things that are going to help you improve. That’s why I won’t be suggesting sweatshirts, socks, shoes, or anything like that. Those are “nice to haves” but what’s in this episode are gifts that will help you get to the next level.
I also want to be completely transparent on three things:
#1 - If you follow any of the links that I mention or use the discount codes, then Strength Running is going to get a small kickback. It won’t cost you anything extra but it does help support the podcast so I can keep churning out episodes.
Ok #2. I’m only promoting products where I can give you a discount. The holidays can be a financially challenging time so I’m trying to hook you up with discounted and helpful running products.
FInally #3, I own, trust completely, or use myself all of these products and services. I will never promote something that I don’t believe in because life is too short not to be able to sleep at night.
Enjoy this episode and have a great holiday season!
I invited Nick to share as much detail as possible about his marathon training, race strategy, and post-race recovery so you can understand how an elite marathoner tackles the race.
Just recent he posted on Instagram:
To run your best, you have to put in the work, know your body, and keep reminding yourself that you can do it. Train both your mind and body.
And today, you'll hear what "the work" means to a professional marathoner.
This episode goes deep into marathon training - the nuts and bolts and nitty gritty details of how an elite marathoner trains and races 26.2 miles.
Note that our conversation is just an excerpt from the full interview available to Team Strength Running members.
I encourage you to learn more about the team here (we're opening soon!).
Depending on whether you started running today or last year, today's podcast will clarify the most high-impact training available to you.
Because certain training strategies and workouts are either too easy for some runners - or too difficult.
Like Goldilocks, it's important to plan training that's "just right."
And new runners are at an interesting time in their running careers. There's so much potential and improvements will come quickly as long as runners stay healthy and focused.
So first, don't get injured!
Next, run consistently!
If you're healthy and running consistently, now you can take "the next step" and start focusing on bigger goals.
Jenny Hadfield has been helping runners accomplish their wildest goals for over two decades with a regular column in Runner's World and her promotion of adventure travel around the world.
Even though started running later in life, she's become quite the endurance athlete with race finishes around the world:
With her coaching and running experience, we teamed up to help new runners with 0 - 18 months of running experience get their training started on the right foot.
Is that you? Don't miss this new episode of the Strength Running podcast.
If you can replicate the principles (not necessarily the exact workouts, mileage, etc.) that lead to personal bests then you can keep improving and setting personal bests.
The alternative is hitting a performance plateau. Stagnating. Running the same times over and over again...
And nobody wants that!
After working with a lot of runners for the better part of a decade, I've come to understand that there are three areas that most contribute to declining performances.
In this episode, we go over all three of those issues, simple fixes, and more strategies to help your speed keep increasing!
The best runners know when to get help and work together.
If you're a Lone Wolf, some things are inevitable:
But the runners who get the support, guidance, and camaraderie they need always seem to reach their goals.
Which one are you?
Today, my friend Mario Fraioli is joining me on the podcast to help me answer your toughest questions and give you the support needed to reach new levels of performance.
Mario and I competed against each other in college (he always beat me) while he was at Stonehill and I was at Connecticut College.
After graduation, he dove headfirst into the running industry. Some of his notable achievements:
Today, his main project is The Morning Shakeout, a weekly newsletter of commentary and thoughts on running, culture, writing, and media.
Despite his coaching, writing, and training duties, Mario made time to help members of the Strength Running community with their running questions.
For a lot of runners, what started as a way to get in shape or lose a few pounds turns into a lifelong passion.
Soon, you're going on running retreats and flying across the country to run a marathon. What did we do with all of our free time before running?!
Alas, not every runner gets to experience a lifetime of running bliss.
Some of us over train, burn out, or get so injured that we simply give up. But I will not let that happen to you!
Instead, let's learn from lifelong competitors who are still running after decades of workouts, long runs, and races.
These are athletes that have discovered the secret to unlocking a lifetime of racing, trail runs, and workouts (in other words... a lifetime of FUN!).
And Jonathan Beverly interviewed 50 of them to help you run for decades.
In his new book Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race, Jonathan Beverly discusses the universal principles that promote lifelong running.
He spoke with 50 "lifetime competitors" like:
But more importantly, he interviewed a lot of normal runners! Not just Olympians or previous Boston Marathon winners - but average runners who don't have elite genetics.
That's why this podcast episode is so important: it's what works for all runners - not just the best runners.
Last August, we witnessed the most electrifying track race in history at the World Championships: the women's 3,000m Steeplechase.
Before this race, no American woman had ever won a medal in the steeple at the World Championships.
This was also the first time any Americans had taken home both gold and silver at the World Champions or the Olympics in a race longer than 400m since the 1912 Olympics.
Both Emma and Courtney also ran faster than the existing American Record.
NBC Sports called the race "shocking."
Sports Illustrated described Courtney's effort "certainly one of the biggest surprises of the world championships."
And ESPN boldly proclaimed that this was one of the best races in the history of running.
I'll paraphrase ESPN:
Before this race, Courtney' fastest steeplechase time was 9:19. She beat that time by an enormous 15 seconds to win silver in 9:03.77. That's like scoring a hat trick in a World Cup soccer game after totaling only three goals all season.
No American had won a world title in steeplechase since 1952. No U.S. women had ever finished 1-2 in any world championship distance race. Track nerds -- why isn't there such a thing as a football nerd? -- are calling this the most thrilling race of the 2017 World Championships, and one of the greatest moments in American distance running history.
You sports fans can just call it amazing. Like a football game where -- nah, forget that. After a race like this, nobody cares about football.
A 15-second improvement? Over a race that's less than two miles long? INSANITY!
That kind of PR puts Courtney in the record books. She's now the 8th fastest woman to ever run the steeplechase.
Today you're going to hear directly from Courtney about this historic race.
But we almost never discuss the failures of the world's best runners.
What does it feel like to never achieve your biggest goal throughout your entire career?
How does an elite keep perspective? Do they ever think about quitting?
Most importantly... how do elites bounce back from setbacks? Do they have a different mindset than us normal runners?
What enables them to continue training at high levels for years?
How do they overcome a bad workout, long run, or race?
These are the questions that I couldn't get out of my head.
So I interviewed six pro runners to get their hot take on failure:
They're the stars of Episode 39 of the Strength Running podcast. I think you're going to love this episode.
We talk about their own personal failures, how they bounced back, and whether their approach to failure has changed over time.
Meet Devon Yanko. On August 19, 2017 she won the Leadville Trail 100 - a race where 9,200 feet altitude is the lowest you'll experience on the course.
She finished in 20:46:29, averaging 12:28 per mile - a half hour ahead of her nearest competitor.
With nearly 16,000 feet of elevation change through Colorado's gnarliest mountain terrain, the course is so difficult that in most years, less than half of the field finishes the race.
Having run in similar places, I can vouch for how strenuous this terrain can be (even for experienced runners). With precious air at a costly premium, the steep grades and uneven footing make traversing these trails a form of slow-motion torture.
Going uphill burns the lungs after just a few steps. Each muscle contraction seems to draw double the amount of oxygen to fuel their movements.
Running downhill isn't much better. The rocky terrain is a nightmare for those with weak ankles.
Try running fast on a technical downhill trail after running for 3+ hours (in the dark, no less). It's terrifying.
To win Leadville is like single-handedly winning the World Series or the Superbowl.
Leadville is one of the top ultramarathons in the world. Winning it is a career-defining moment for trail runners.
But for Devon, it's just one more race on her long list of achievements:
Not to be outdone, she's also the owner of M. H. Bread and Butter bakery in San Anselmo, CA with her husband.
Strength Running readers will also be familiar with Devon - she joined eight other elite athletes in sharing her best injury prevention and recovery advice for The Little Black Book of Prevention & Recovery (it's free - download it now).
You're going to love my conversation with Devon - but not just because she's one of the best long distance runners in the world.
She's also hilarious.