Tag: injuries

Harder is not smarter.

Harder is not smarter.

Training paces, especially in workouts, must have a high and low pace restriction. If the workout is written properly a goal pace, often an upper limit, is provided. However, I believe there must be a finite range. I think most amateur athletes would be happy to hit a goal pace and chip away at faster and faster times. On the day it can be a confidence booster and, maybe something to brag about. However, competent coaches use discretion and assess all of the variables before permitting this training habit. They know full well the extended recovery time following a really tough workout.

Too fast of a workout will cause the athlete to need prolonged recovery. Their legs could be dead for days, even weeks! Yes, they had a killer workout on Tuesday but their runs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have all been junk. Do they stand a chance in the weekend’s race? In the end what was really gained if so many days were unproductive?

I remember reading books by Dr. Jack Daniels, Joe Friel, etc. in high school and college. These coaches had calculations to figure out suggested paces for workouts. Every time, I thought “No way, that is too slow. I can go much faster than that. AND why is he/she suggesting so much rest!?” Then, like clockwork, I would run insane splits for the workout and feel flat for days after. Eventually, I tried the conservative paces and BOOM! I was feeling stronger day after day, week after week. The culmination of my quality weeks of training was making a difference opposed to attempts at blasting my legs on the track and recovering.

The same can be said about reduced recovery between intervals. Most of the time, a properly written workout is focused on attacking a specific metabolic system. Each metabolic system takes a known amount of time to recover. Chopping the recovery down makes it harder but does not facilitate the desired training adaptation and has increased risks of injury.

Harder is not smarter.

High doses of LSD

High doses of LSD

Don’t worry, we’re not back in the 60’s.  To me, LSD means long slow distance. I always get funny looks when I direct my team that’s driven to be faster that they are going to, “Run slow today.”

You can practically hear the reaction: “Coach, aren’t we here [at practice] to get faster? I can run the distance today much faster than you want! Let me run fast. Please?”

Far too often do distance athletes turn long runs into negative-splitting or tempo runs. 14 miles at 6:30/mi sounds so much cooler than the 7:35 they were supposed to run. I was one of those athletes. Chasing down any guy in the group who dared to half-step the pace. Before you knew it, we were in full flight, waiting for the next teammate to crumble from our blistering pace.  Although quite confidence-boosting, this was neither the time nor place.

As I began to understand and apply my education, I began to wonder why my coach would not rein us in? What pace is best for the body? What is the desired outcome from today’s run? I felt that was a really important piece missing from our training. I promised myself if I ever coached it would be with thorough instruction.

The goals for LSD runs are increased mitochondrial density, capillarization, and structural gains; in both connective tissue and our bones. In contrast, higher intensities of physical activity put too much stress on the body’s internal environment. LSD also offers a regenerative quality, flushing out and realigning muscle fibers. I feel it is easy for most to relate to the basic idea: back to back to back hard runs wear down the body.

But what, you may ask, am I getting out of LSD?  First of the adaptations would be increased number of mitochondria. Remember back to your high school biology class? Mitochondria are the power factories of the cells. It is their job to convert resources into energy through a series of chemical reactions. Let’s skip nearly all of the chemistry, for now.  The one thing you need to know is that these chemical  reactions require oxygen.

Running slow puts demands on the mitochondria, stimulates them, and stresses the body to make more. When energy needs are high for a long period of time, mitochondria will grow and divide. It is theorized that the particular enzyme responsible for triggering mitochondrial fission, AMPK, is not activated until the demands exceed the existing cells’ capabilities. Hard running switches the effort towards anaerobic metabolism (without oxygen). Anaerobic metabolism takes place in other parts of the cell and does not involve the mitochondria. That, of course, limits any stimulus of them. Anaerobic metabolism is also unsustainable therefore can not be performed long enough to stimulate mitochondrial development.*

*More research is suggesting High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can increase mitochondrial density. I am still hesitant to agree with the research. The information is too new. Just know HIIT is completely different than doing your 70 minute run as hard as you can. Explosive, fast training also leads to injuries much sooner than LSD.

Endurance athletes want MORE mitochondria. More mitochondria will result in higher aerobic metabolism output. In running terms, this translates into running faster at an easier effort. For example, a heart rate of 150 bpm produced an average of 8 minute pace. With LSD training athletes should begin to observe 150 bpm will soon be 7:45, 7:30, etc.**

**Eventually this linear efficiency does not continue at the same rate and begins to level off. This is why it is important to train/stimulate other energy systems.

With all of that aerobic energy production in the mitochondria, the cell is going to need a steady supply of oxygen, nutrients and waste management. A consistent aerobic exercise routine causes the human body to develop new blood capillaries in otherwise vacant areas. The result is a body more efficient at mobilizing resources and clearing waste.

This adaptation tends to occur further into a long exercise bout (75+ minutes). If an athlete is running too fast, odds are he or she will not make it to the duration of exercise necessary for capillarization to occur. Slow and steady wins the race of capillarization.

The final benefit of LSD runs is structural gains. Pretty easy to understand. The steady, moderate pounding LSD induces can increase the body’s work capacity. The bones become denser, the tendons tauter and muscles stronger. This is a slow adaptation that requires moderate, steady application of stress to avoid injuries: time on your feet.

Thank you for reading my brief overview of why running slower will make you faster in the long run (pun fully intended).

Hills! (Part 1 of many)

Hills! (Part 1 of many)


Could you ask for a better training tool? Don’t have the best weight room (if any?). Want to build speed, strength and aerobic capacity? Mental toughness? Confidence? Discipline and pacing? RUN HILLS!

When it comes to scouting a race course, hills have to be the area of most attention. How will the hill affect my race? Where is it in the course? What is the strategy to use the hill to my advantage? All things everyone considers when they are putting together a race plan.

To me, hills can be the perfect training tool. They offer so many variables they can be used to accomplish nearly every aspect of training. Hills can get a bad reputation because of the intensity they bring up and down the hill. I find their reputation is highlighted by those athletes who do not run them correctly.

Without a doubt hills put a lot of stress on your body. Uphill is exhausting and downhill is loaded with impact. Implementing them into your training requires some skill and the confidence to err on the side of caution. Without a doubt, overdoing hills can quickly lead to injuries. Especially if you are working with novice athletes OR athletes that come from flatter regions and are not accustomed to running hills. In future posts I will expand on each version of hills we use in our practices. This post will discuss two major, hill-specific variables.

Variable #1: Duration.

Based on how our bodies work duration is the single most important variable when it comes to training. I find so many coaches use distance to define workouts: 800s, Mile repeats,  200s, etc. If you are working with a diverse population adaptations will differ based on abilities. A slower client will be running a 200 in the time it takes a quick athlete to do a 400. Or 1 mile in the time it takes another to run 2! Therefore I prefer to use duration to achieve desired adaptations.

Research has pointed out a few duration landmarks, while not specific to each individual, they are good references when designing a workout. Everyone’s body is different. Luckily these durations are gapped far enough that they tend not to mix.

Layman’s terms for landmark duration:

A 1-10 seconds: Anaerobic, no “waste (lactate)”

B 1-30 seconds: All of the above + waste but not enough to impact performance. Depletion of readily available resources decreases performance.

C 0-2 min: All of the above + a full dose of waste without sufficient time to begin managing/clearing.

D 0-3 min: All of the above + waste is starting to be maintained. Athletes feel they are steady-stating/settling into race pace.

E 0-3+ min: All of the above + steady state effort and endurance. Effort begins to be impacted by the body’s ability to metabolise complex resources into necessities to meet demands.

Variable #2: Grade

What goes up must come down. The grade of the hill is not only important for the resistance up but also the impact down. Can your athlete handle both? Often times we coaches want to find really challenging hills to go up without considering the impact downhill can be 50-75% more than that on level ground. IE: 150lb runner is hitting the ground at 225lbs of force (50%). If their body is not ready for that it can do a lot of damage.

The grade of the hill will also change the athlete’s running stride. Therefore, it will activate muscles in different patterns and quantities. Too steep of a grade might not translate into effective horizontal running speeds. IE: stressing the quadricep too much giving less attention to the upper hamstring. Something to consider how it will impact your athlete.