One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles. With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.
It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”. Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base. But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.
One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races. These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal. However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.
There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).
I love sharing tips on Predawn Runner that help you save time. When you get up early to run, every minute matters. This is especially true on the (hopefully) occasional days where life even intervenes in your predawn time, due to an early work start, family issues (which often happens for me, when “predawn son” gets up too early), or, heaven forbid, you lose the battle with the snooze button. When Fitz offered a guest post on mini-workouts to deal with this situation, I was thrilled, and I hope you find his advice as valuable as I have. His blog is worth adding to your must-read list as well.
Jason Fitzgerald (or Fitz) is founder of Strength Running, a 2:44 marathoner, and online running coach. He’s currently training for both 5k and 10k races (stay tuned!) and enjoys strong coffee, cycling, and spending time on the trails. Strength Running unleashes Fitz’s passion for helping runners achieve their best and prevent running injuries. You can follow Fitz on Twitter at @JasonFitz1.
Sometimes, you just don’t have enough time to do the workout you planned. Life happens. Many times you’ll have about half the time you normally would. Most runners give up and forfeit the workout. Others will just go out for an easy run.
There’s another strategy that I use that’s effective for maintaining fitness: the mini-workout. It’s important to do a variation of your planned workout if you have enough time. If it’s possible for you to postpone the workout until later in the day, then definitely do that. But for many runners, it’s impossible to run later in the day because of other commitments.
This is an especially useful strategy for those who run in the morning. About four years ago I used to get up at 5:00am to run every day. It seemed like once a month I would sleep through my alarm but still wake up 20-30 minutes later. I decided to run shorter versions of the same workout in the compressed amount of time I had. I couldn’t run at night because of a busy work schedule and a long commute, so this was a great strategy for me.
When I have a workout scheduled that takes me about an hour, I’ll simply adjust the running so it fits into the amount of time I have. There are only a few occasions when I don’t recommend mini-workouts: for your long run, if you are close to an important milestone race like a Boston Qualifier or PR attempt, or if this strategy will make you stress over missed fitness. When you’re that dedicated, you’ll find time later in the day to run your workout.
How to Run Mini-Workouts
The first thing that I cut when I run a mini-workout are my long warm-ups and warm-downs. Usually I run for at least 20 minutes before and after my hard workouts, sometimes as long as 35 minutes. I will reduce my warm-up to 15 minutes (but never shorter or else you will compromise performance) and my warm-down to 10-15 minutes.
Time saved: 10-40 minutes.
A standard workout that I love doing is a 25-30 minute tempo run at roughly my half-marathon pace. If dawn is approaching and I need to run shorter, I’ll only tempo 15-20 minutes. When race day nears, your body won’t notice the difference between a 15-minute tempo and a 25-minute tempo. Just don’t do it every week!
Time saved: 5-15 minutes.
A lot of runners prefer workouts based on specific intervals on the track – like 5x1000m with a 400m jog recovery. This is a fantastic workout, especially for those training for a 5k. To save time, I’ll reduce the workout by one repetition and slightly reduce the length of the interval. This workout can become 4x800m with a 400m jog recovery.
This strategy can be used with hill workouts also; follow the same principle and reduce the number of repetitions and their length. You can continue using this principle and reducing the number of intervals until you can fit it into your schedule. There’s obviously a point of diminishing returns if you are only doing 1-2 intervals, so use common sense.
Time saved: 10-15+ minutes.
Before any workout, you should do strides – several 100m accelerations that help prepare your body for hard work. If you’re pressed for time, you can modify your strides so instead of taking about a minute each, they save you time. Instead of 5 strides run separately after your warm-up, instead run 5×30″ during your warm-up. You’ve just combined two parts of your routine!
If you’re adamant about running more during your warm-up, this strategy can help you run faster over a pre-determined route. Your favorite warm-up run will take a minute or two less time to complete when you include strides. For example, a 22 minute 3 mile run can be cut to 20 minutes with 5×30″ surges.
Time Saved: 5-10 minutes.
For many workouts I like to drive to a certain trail, park, or hill farther away. When dawn is approaching, you have to improvise. Look for areas near your home that you can run to that will provide the same stimulus. The time spent driving is time you probably don’t have to waste.
Time saved: 20+ minutes
Other small tricks I’ve learned include not changing into my flats or spikes for a workout. If I’m doing a short tempo or just a distance run, I try to negative-split the run and finish faster. Both strategies only save a few minutes, but they’re mentally helpful.
But what if you only have 15 minutes? While I believe any running is good running, your training would be best served by doing strength work in this short block of time. You can’t accomplish too much in 15 minutes or less of running. On the other hand, you can do a lot with 15 minutes of general strength and core exercises.
The right strength exercises for runners will help you develop core stability, stride power, and prevent injuries. During a mini-strength session, stick to basics like lunges, body-weight squats, push-ups, prone and side planks, and glute bridges.
Shorter versions of your planned workouts will help you maintain your fitness when life happens. Running isn’t the only thing in most people’s lives, so don’t feel guilty about shortening a workout. This strategy only works when you’re truly pressed for time – when you forgot about your early morning meeting, you slept 25 minutes past your alarm, or you need to take care of a family issue. Don’t use it as an excuse to run shorter workouts!
These tips focused on running for a shorter period of time. There are numerous other ways to save time in the morning before you head out the door. If you use all of them, you can run a great workout in record time!
It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe. But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.
First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store. My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes. While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients. My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before. The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss. Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »
Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time. This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves. Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.
However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.
A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach. My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…
Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »