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March 2009

Getting Faster-Part II: Interval Training

This is Part II in a series of articles about Getting Faster.

Part I discussed Repeat workouts and explained these points.

  • Repeats are generally shorter distances, e.g., 200s, 400s, 600s run at faster speeds that we can repeat multiple times without sacrificing intensity;  we “repeat” the distance with the same quality at the end as at the beginning of the workout
  • Repeats improve our anaerobic capacity, develop new muscles, build speed, and make us familiar with more rapid, efficient, and fluid leg turnover
  • Recovery between repeats is subjective, giving ourselves enough recovery to hit our time goal on the next repeat
  • Recovery guidelines for repeats are generally two to four times the amount of time spent running the repeat

Daniels Run Formula Intervals

Interval training is what many runners have in mind when we talk about speed work.

The key difference between repeat training versus interval training is the recovery period.  In repeat training we allow full recovery; in interval training we limit the recovery time.

Contrary to popular belief, the “interval” is not the distance we run, but the time between runs spent recovering.  So if you say you’re heading to the track to do 800s, that doesn’t make them intervals.  Again, the “interval” actually refers to the time spent recovering, not running at a high intensity.

The goal for interval training is to “accumulate” time spent running at a very high level and increase our body's ability to adapt and eventually run at a sustained, higher anaerobic pace for longer periods.  Over time interval training helps us string together multiple demanding efforts into that dazzling 5k or half marathon PR .  

Interval training is marked by running at a challenging pace, stopping to rest—but only partially recover—and then resume running while our heart rates are still elevated—and while we’re still sweaty.  Let’s say we’re doing 800m interval training.  By running five 800s at 4-minute pace, we accumulate 20 minutes of anaerobic training (high heart rate).

Recovery For interval workouts, a general guideline for the amount of recovery time between runs should be equal to or less than the time spent running. For example, if we’re running those interval 800s at 4 minute pace, then our recovery time is also four minutes or less before starting our next 800.   Between runs, active recovery, a blend of walking and jogging, helps prevent stiffness and keeps heart rate elevated. I remember as a high school and college runner our coach would holler for us to step up to the line for the next 800, while we would cling to and plead for every last second of recovery.

When designing our interval workouts, we can choose any distance we prefer ranging from 400 meters to 1200 meters, or a better rule of thumb might be runs ranging three to five minutes.   Regardless of the distance, we run roughly the same pace.  If we run our 800s at 4-minute pace, we would run our 400s at 2-minute pace, 600s at 3-minute pace, 1000s at 5-minute pace, etc.  The challenge and the benefit of running intervals always comes back to controlling the recovery time, not running faster.

I like to schedule intervals into my training after three to four weeks of building up my speed by running repeats.  I’m ready to ramp up my interval workouts when I’ve successfully run my workouts for three to four weeks or if I’ve proven my fitness level in a race. 

The biggest unanswered question is “how fast?”  To learn what pace to run your interval workouts, check out this training pace calculator, which is based on the research and expertise of Jack Daniels, recognized as “the world’s greatest running coach."  As for how much, interval running is typically limited to no more than 8% of weekly mileage. 

In his book Daniel's Running Formula, he provides a great deal of useful information about all forms of training, including tables and charts of what paces and intensities to run speed workouts, and tips for when to include speed work into your training schedules.  He also provides sample training schedules for popular racing distances for all levels of runners from beginner to elite.

Next in this Getting Faster series: Threshold Training

Interval recovering on Flickr by Gordon McGregor

Introducing Runners' Lounge Live! with Frayed Laces

We can't wait another minute to tell you about the newest addition to Runners' Lounge resources - Runnerslounge live Runners' Lounge Live!

The brainchild of a great friend of the Lounge, Frayed Laces, Runners' Lounge Live! are short video tip segments for runners.  Frayed will bring great ideas and running tips on a variety of running topics to Lounge member.

In addition to being incredible useful (and bite size), it is just another way the Runners' Lounge community is helping to build a stronger and bigger Lounge.  We are incredibly thankful for Frayed to share her quick video tip skills with our community.  If you haven't had a chance to meet her, take a moment to stop by her Lounge Profile, her blog or her YouTube page.  While you are at her YouTube page, you gotta' check out her recent tip on Quick and Dirty Recovery for runners.  Very useful!  And if you still want to learn more, don't forget to read her interview with the Lounge in April 2008.

And without further ado, to kick things off the first segment is an overview of the Lounge by Frayed.

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Extra, Extra - Run All About It!

Sunday news logo By Peter Washkowitz

Dear readers, let's take a look back at the week in running:

As reported in the Virginian-Pilot on March 22nd, when Rick Reyes fell to one knee last Sunday after finishing the Shamrock Half Marathon, it was not due to exhaustion or pain. Rather, as Reyes and his girlfriend, Michelle Fortuno, crossed the finish line, Reyes grabbed a box from one his friends who had been waiting for him and proceeded to ask Fortuno to marry him. Reyes, who was not a runner before meeting Michelle a year and half ago, had been planning for that moment for many months and had even gotten permission from the race organizers to have his friends waiting right across the finish line and had convinced the race announcer to announce to the crowd Michelle's positive answer to Reyes' question (it is unclear if the announcer would have announced a negative answer). Elated both from finishing the half marathon and from being asked to get married, Fortuno praised Reyes' efforts when she exclaimed "[Reyes] did a great job keeping this a secret...He’s been working really hard and we’ve been working out together for this race. So for him to do this here was absolutely amazing". Congrats to both of you on a great day!!

* As profiled in the Ottawa Citizen on March 23rd, 18-year-old University of Ottawa student Natasha Peters is prepping not for one marathon, not for 7 marathons but rather for seven marathons AND for flying around the world...all in seven weeks!! Having signed up for the extremely extreme 777 Challenge, sponsored by Hope Runs, an organization that works with AIDS orphans and impoverished orphans from around the world, Peters is already counting down the days until next January when her seven marathons on seven continents in seven weeks journey begins. Peters, who plans to raise $50,000 for the trip (with $42,000 going to Hope Runs and the other $8000 for her expenses), has been a runner since ninth grade and, once she started, never looked back, "“I really, truly like the runner’s high, and the endorphins that you get afterward. You feel so awesome. You feel accomplished. One thing about running is that you can set goals along the way, and it’s your own goals...It’s really flexible. It’s a sport that anyone can do, anywhere". While I agree with everything Peters says, one can't help but think she has taken her passion to an extreme. Sure, running is definitely a sport that you can do anywhere. But, is it really necessary for that anywhere to be everywhere at the same time!?!?! Anyways, good luck Natasha on your incredible journey!!

As reported on ExplorerNews.com on March 25th, in answer to several of his running friends who have recently complained of running's tole on various joins in their bodies, Danny Dreyer, a running coach and nationally ranked marathon runner, has devised a new running technique which he describes in his new book titled "ChiRunning". In attempting to allow for a less painful running experience that works to reduce new or recurrent injuries while running, ChiRunning, "involves the runner leaning slightly forward while running so gravity can work for the runner. The runner maintains optimal running posture where the ankles, pelvis, and shoulders are in alignment due to the slight forward leaning, which reportedly increases efficiency and reduces the risk of injury. In this posture, the mid-foot or ball of the foot, rather than the heel, makes first contact with the running surface. This is also combined with proper form, breathing technique, and using the body’s core section (abdominal and back muscles) to perform ChiRunning appropriately". While I am always interested in hearing of new running techniques that may or may not lead to a reduction in pain, I have to say that, from personal experience, it is usually very hard to change how you run and be able to maintain it. In each of the marathons I have participated in by around the 23rd mile, I am so sore and the pain I am feeling is so great that my only goal is to finish. That being the case, my running form and technique are all but forgotten despite a given technique’s promise of less pain.  While the jury is still out on the ultimate benefits derived from ChiRunning, this runner, for one, will stick with what has worked in the past!

Next Weekend's Marathons

Saturday, April 4th
Enviro-Sports Golden Gate Marathon (Sauslito, CA)
Rockin K Trail Marathon (Kanopolis State Park, KS)
Re/Max, Children's Miracle Network Trailbreaker Marathon (Waukesha, WI)
Yakima River Canyon Marathon (Yakima, WA)

Sunday, April 5th
Athens Marathon (Athens, OH)
Big-D Texas Marathon (Dallas, TX)
Hogeye Marathon (Fayetteville, AR)
Running Fit Martian Marathon (Novi, MI)
Ohio River Road Runners Club Marathon (Dayton, OH)

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Open Mic Friday: Meet Milano Runner

Open_mic_friday Deep in the heart of Texas, in a town with a population of 421, is a runner doing great things for her family, church, community, and for herself. This month's ExtraOrdinary Runner Award goes to Milano Runner, for her story How to Start Running, Over and Over Again.  She has inspired Runners' Lounge and confirmed that great moments in running happen every day, and there are amazing figures in running among us in our communities. 

A woman of deep devotion to her faith and family, she answers the call daily to others and to stretch herself as a runner.  Meet Milano Running Mom or Fawn Simpson.

You’re close to accomplishing a running goal that’s very important to you.  Tell us about it. 

When I started running again after the twins were born I wanted to really make a commitment to it. I knew that I would have to have short and long term goals to keep me focused and moving forward. So I decided I wanted to do a marathon in honor of each of my children, there are 5 of them. I was initially going to do three in three months but then I had an opportunity to add a 4th in the 4th month. Now I just have to do one more and each child will have a medal. After that, all the medals are mine! 
IMG_4058 cpd What are you looking forward to after April 11th?

Couch time and then training for the next round of marathons in the fall. Oh, and a pedicure.

Tell us what you’re doing for running in your community these days.

I have just started working for USA Fit Milam County. I am going to be bringing an awesome, life changing marathon training program to my small, rural area.
How are you a better runner or person since your comeback to running?
Without a doubt. But in what way? I have no idea. But because I feel like a million blessed bucks I must be a better person.

So what’s going in your life outside of running?

Kids Kids Kids. I am also a youth minister at my church so I'm always planning something for that awesome group of kids. I homeschool the twins, plus the big kids still need me occasionally. Yoga classes, playing with the dog, cleaning house. Oh sorry, I kind of got carried away there.
What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

They all think I am too competitive. But it just isn't true, mostly, sort of. Well, maybe a little. But only a little.
Fawn w kids What’s the hardest part of returning to running.  What about running makes it worthwhile?

I have no idea. I'm Catholic and we like punishment. Also insanity helps. Don't tell the kids this but I really run just to have an excuse to get out of the house occasionally. The hardest part about returning was trying to get shoes that don't make my feel look so big!
Best race experience?
First time I ran a 5K without having a walk break.

Any quirky running traits?

I stick kleenex in my running bra, but only for blowing my nose.
What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

I want to teach my 5 month old Great Dane/Mastiff mix puppy to run with me. Then I won't have to worry about snakes and hogs and dogs.
What gets you excited about running?

The pedicures.
IMG_4083 cpd What’s your secret to running success?

It only took one person to tell me they didn't think I could do it. My mind was set at that point. Just to prove them wrong I would have killed myself to complete these marathons. See I told you I wasn't competitive.

Favorite race?

Surfside Beach Marathon and the Bremond 5K Pickle Run
Favorite distance?

Couch to refrigerator.
Non-running and non-blogging interests?

Is there something else besides running?
Do you have a running hero?

My sons Zackry and Brandon.
Greatest running moment?

Last marathon. Almost dead at mile 24. The man in front of me senses this. He slows down and coaches me in the last two miles. Perfect stranger. He could have had a better finish but he stuck with me. I hugged him at the end but forgot to get his name.
Who are some of your virtual running friends you would like to meet up and run with?

Amy, Tom, therunningcoach, coffeebetsy, bostonjohn and others I can't think of right now.
Most embarrassing running moment?

That whole having to poop issue, before I exploded. I don't really want to drag that up again. 

IMG_4006 cpd If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

A run in every state and some of those countries across the pond with my family at each finish line.
Favorite running shirt?

I have a light blue tech shirt I bought at Goodwill 2 years ago. It never smells.
Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

Slow down when training - If you get tired it's ok to walk for a minute.
Best running advice you’d like to share?

Stretch before and after your run. And then every night after the kids go to bed have a glass of red wine or two.
If you were going to combine your enthusiasm for running with another interest, what would it be?

I would feed the working poor, the homeless and the helpless. I would start a spiritual retreat center for runners.

Do you know a runner you would recommend for Open Mic Friday? 

Pass along their name, contact info, and some background and we'll explore introducing them to the Runners' Lounge Community.

Send to Amy@runnerslounge.com or Tom@runnerslounge.com.

Take It and Run Thursday: Tips For Getting Faster

Take_it_and_run_thursday Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday! 

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is .... Tips to satisfy the need for speed!... We have heard from many of you that you would like to get faster this spring and this running season.   And we know an equal amount of runners who hae found some great ideas on how to work on getting faster.   Tell us about a tip, technique, training idea or magical potion you use to help you become or stay fast(er). 

Just click here to add your name and URL.   We have moved the linking widget to the Runners' Lounge Know How section so you can be instantly saved and published as one of the articles in the Getting Faster section.

Next week's theme is ...  Ode to My Running Shoes.  Runners are crazy about their running shoes.  We know your friends and family stopped being interested in hearing you talk about your running shoes about six pairs ago, but your fellow runners just can't get enough.  Tell us about your favorite running shoes, why you bought them, why you love them and what they do for your running.   Only one catch - you need to do it in the same number of words as the dollars it took to buy them.

Looking for the magical linky widget to add your article on getting faster?  Look no further......click here and you will be taken right to it!  :}

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Runners' Loungecast: Episode 18 - Getting Started

This week kicks off the first podcast in a short series dedicated to Getting Started Running.   Joining me Loungecast logo (Amy) in this conversation were two runners who also go out of their way to support those runners getting started - Hammerbeck from the blog, A Viking Running and BigB (Brian) from BigB on the Road

In this podcast we talk about what got us off the couch and started in our running, what was hard about it, how we overcame and persisted and advice for runners who are getting started. 

If you are a runner who is getting started, restarted or just want to support newer runners, drop by the Getting Started Lounge Group.

You can find more Runners' Loungecasts on iTunes or on the Podcast section in the Lounge.

Download Gettting started episode 1

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Getting Faster: Understanding the puzzle of speed work

Running miles over and over gets you better at what?  The answer: it gets you better at running miles over and over.

And so it goes that running faster gets you better at, you guessed it, running faster.

Puzzle pieces But what is speed work?  What are repeats?  Aren’t they the same as intervals? And how are they different than tempo runs.  And where do Fartlek and hill training fit in?  Finally, when do we run different types of speed work in our training schedule?  Why? And how do we do speed work right?

This week at Runners’ Lounge we’re focusing on getting faster, which happens less as a result of running our friends’ workouts or old high school coach’s workouts.  Instead, getting faster happens by understanding and applying the right types of training.

For years I confused and threw around common terms of speed work interchangeably.  It wasn’t until I read Jack Daniel’s Running Formula that I more fully understood the different types of training and how to put them together in my own training plan.  So this is the first in a series of posts about how the whole puzzle of speed work comes together.

Part I: Repeats

Repeats are not intervals.  When we do intervals, the term ‘interval” actually refers to the time spent recovering.  More on intervals later.

Repeats are generally shorter distances, e.g., 200s, 400s, 600s that we run at faster speeds that we can repeat several times in a workout.  Repeats improve the speed, efficiency and fluidness of our leg turnover.  Repeats don’t improve our ability to run sustained speed; those improvements come with interval and threshold training. We run repeats to become familiar and comfortable with a higher intensity of running. 

The key to repeats is being able to “repeat” the distance with the same quality at the end as at the beginning of the workout.  For example, if you’re running repeat 8 x 400s, the goal should be to hit the same finish time pace for each 400.  However, if you’re trying to run each repeat a little faster each time and get a scorching PR on that last 400 to brag about, then you’re not doing repeats and you’re missing the maximum benefit of the workout.  

To do a repeat workout well means managing the recovery time. Rather than limit your recovery to a specific amount of time for recovery (that’s running intervals), you manage a repeat workout subjectively giving yourself enough recovery to hit your time goal without hitting the fatigue that slows you down. 

A general guideline when running repeats is to take two to four times the duration of your repeat to recover.  Between the first several repeat 400s you might need around three minutes to adequately recover.  But between the last several repeat 400s, you might need closer to four minutes. That’s okay because the goal is to run each 400 at a comparable stress level, not faster.

Simply, we should take enough recovery time to be ready to run each distance with the same quality as the first—so you can repeat the intensity and quality of the running!  We should step up to the line feeling confident we’re able to perform the next run as well as the ones before it.  That’s what makes it a repeat!

The downside to running repeat speed workouts is we can become a little tight and stiff while recovering. Plus the overall time for our running workout takes longer to perform.

The great thing about repeat workouts is you can create lots of different combinations.  I like 200s, 300s and 600s, but I don’t care for 400s—flashbacks of my high school track workouts.  A favorite workout of mine is 3 x 200 + 1 x 300, and do a couple sets of these. You can also do longer repeats such as 800s, 1000s and 1200s, when they fit into the race distance for which you’re training.  

A rule of thumb is to limit repeat training to about 5% of total weekly mileage.  Any more than 5%, plus any other quality speed training, leads to diminishing the quality of running the rest of the week, to overtraining, and to the likeliness of injury.

Daniels Run Formula Repeat training is often included more in training for 5k – 10k races.  In terms of placement in the training program, repeats generally come before interval training in order to help the body adapt to running faster with full recovery before adapting to limited recovery.

For the past few decades I’ve read everything about running I could get my hands on.  Overwhelmingly, some of the best technical information, explained in practical terms, is found in Jack Daniel’s Running Formula.  In the book, he provides a great deal of useful information about all forms of training, including tables and charts of what paces and intensities to run speed workouts, and tips for when to include speed work into your training schedules.  He also provides sample training schedules for popular racing distances for all levels of runners from beginner to elite.

Next in the series: Interval Training

Puzzle on Googe Images by Lydia's Old Disks

Spring Is Here and So Are Great Training Tips

Thank you to all the contributors in the forum, Take It and Run Thursday and the voice line last week.  Open or download the file at the bottom of the post and take a few minutes to listen to a few of the voices you "hear" on blogs!

With your help, we were able to compile a great article on Spring Training Tips for runners.  Take a minute to follow the link to the Training section and read through the tips.  Even though I have been through spring training many times, I was surprised how many times I caught myself in an "a-ha" moment as I was compiling the ideas into one article.   Winter is just long enough a season to make me forget some of my running wisdom.

And congratulations to Blaine (aka outrunning) for being our lucky winner of the Amazon gift certificate.  Because he left a tip in the forum and voice line, he doubled his prize and won a $40 gift certificate.  And while he is enjoying some free stuff, make sure you drop by his profile and then his blog - he has a great blog!

The topic in the Lounge this week is getting faster.  An open invitation to all you already speedy runners out there - how do you do it?  Any great posts in your blog that you would like republished in the Lounge?  Know of any great resources that other runners should be aware of or use?  

Please drop a note in this week's forum with questions or answers to help runners find the magic bullet for the age old "need for speed". 

And after you stop by the forum and still have more to share or learn, feel free to contribute to Take It and Run Thursday's topic on Getting Faster.

Download March voice line_0001

Extra, Extra - Run All About It!

Sunday news logo By Peter Washkowitz

Dear readers, let's take a look back at the week in running:

* The KansasCity.com published an article on March 17th that sought to answer the age-old question: what piece of cardiovascular gym equipment provides the most accurate calorie count to a user? According to the article, given the fact that "Caloric expenditure is mostly (but not entirely) a function of distance covered and body weight”, it is the exercise bike that provides the most accurate data while the elliptical provides the least. Interviewed to give credence to the findings, Ross Tucker, co-author of the exercise science blog, the Science of Sport, explained that, because the variation in people’s ‘mechanical efficiency’ is relatively low when using an exercise bike (as opposed to incredibly high on the elliptical), it is easy to convert the work one expends into the amount of calories burned with very precise accuracy. For those of us like myself who prefer the treadmill, results may vary as the speed, stride, weight and other such factors can significantly vary from user to user. Being an avid fan of the treadmill, I have always wondered what type of person actually bases their workout on the number of calories to be burned. While it makes sense to decide beforehand how far or how fast you want to run, it conversely seems odd to do so based on a set number of calories. And, hey, even if you don’t feel it is as odd as I do, maybe the fact that the calorie count isn’t particularly accurate will help change your mind.

* As reported on Space.com on March 17th, the zero gravity exercise bike on NASA’s space shuttle Discovery broke while the shuttle was en route to the International Space Station to complete the outpost's power grid. Luckily, the exercise bike broke as Discovery was nearing its docking with the space station that has its own onboard gym complete with a space age treadmill (which I actually wrote about in a past post), exercise bike and resistance-based exercise gear. Because of the incredibly high stress put on any NASA space shuttle while in-flight, NASA is no stranger to equipment malfunctions and breakages and shuttle flight director Paul Dye told reporters late Monday, "We're in the very early stages of looking for a fix [for the exercise bike], but I'm pretty confident that we can fix that." While I can't recall ever having used a stationary bike (gravity or zero gravity) in a gym before, I was particularly drawn to this article when it began describing NASA’s rules and regulations regarding astronauts and fitness more generally. As both a lover of working out and a family man needing to provide for his family, I am always on the lookout for an employment opportunity that would enable me to combine both. According to this article, “Aboard the space station, astronauts have to work out about two hours every day to maintain their muscle strength during six-month spaceflights”. If someone from NASA with the ability to hire people is reading this, please consider making me NASA’s next astronaut!!

* As reported on HealthNewsDigest.com on March 19th, through the establishment of running-related programs offered through elementary, middle and high schools, the number of school-age children who are running on a regular basis has been increasing recently and now stands at around 2 million. The article goes on the review expert runner Marc Bloom's new book In Young Runners: The Complete Guide to Healthy Running for Kids from 5 to 18. Citing the paucity of running books geared towards children, the article praises Bloom's efforts when it notes "With the majority of books written on proper running and training techniques geared towards adults, school-aged children have little guidance when it comes to the sport. As one of America’s most respected running experts with a career spanning over 40 years, Bloom is endowed with first-hand knowledge of running’s long-term effects and is the perfect source to turn to when it comes to starting a life-long relationship with running". While I fully encourage any efforts at getting our young-ins running at an earlier age (and sure wish I had started running much earlier than I did), I must admit that this increasing trend does give me a little pause. With all these new and younger runners entering the world of running, my chances to dominate future races appears to be decreasing as the average age of the entrants continues to go down!!

Weekly Obama Gym Sighting!!

As reported on CNN on March 19th, while in Los Angeles to continue gaining support for his stimulus bill, President Obama was seen working out at the gym in the Beverly Hilton. Known for his love of all thing fitness, Obama entered the hotel gym "Wearing his trademark workout outfit-a black cap, black track pants, and a gray t-shirt, he warmed up with a walk while reading the newspaper and listening to his iPod. He soon started running in earnest, ditching the paper, along with the black baseball cap he sported when he arrived". GOBAMA!!!

Next Weekend's Marathons

Saturday, March 28th
Ellerbe Springs Inn Ellerbe Springs Marathon (Ellerbe, NC)
Enviro-Sports Napa Valley Trail Marathon (Calistoga, CA)
Olathe Marathon (Olathe, KS)

Sunday, March 29
Bataan Memorial Death March (White Sands Missile Range, NM)
ING Georgia Marathon (Atlanta, GA)
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon (Knoxville, TN)
Ocean Drive Run Club, Inc. Ocean Drive Marathon (Cape May County, NJ)
Virginia Creeper Marathon (Abingdon, VA)

Whidbey Island Marathon (Oak Harbor, WA)

Open Mic Friday: Interview with The Running Coach: Christine Hinton


After experimenting with our own running, its feels great to get some expert help.

This week’s guest is professional running coach Christine Hinton.  Christine has been trained and certified by Road Runners Club of America and the American Sport Education Program.  She is a contributor to Runners’ World and Women’s Running magazines.  In her community, Christine is active in her running and triathlon clubs, the author of articles for their club newsletters, and has coached local high school teams and running camps.  In addition to her coaching business and website, Christine also hosts The Pregnant Runner website.

A wife and mother, Christine takes a holistic approach to coaching runners, helping them integrate their running into the rest of their lives.  As a coach, writer, and speaker, she has a reputation for lifting and guiding runners to new levels of success and enjoyment.

Please welcome Coach Christine!

Christine Hinton 2 What are the key credentials, capabilities and experience runners should look for in selecting a coach?

I recommend runners look first for a certification.  Credible ones include RRCA (Road Runners Club of America), USATF (USA Track and Field) as well at USAT (triathlon) certifications.  This tells you that the coach has at least basic knowledge of the sport and training.  A good place to start when looking for a coach is the RRCA website’s list of coaches.

The coach should be willing to talk to you prior to being hired.  Ask the coach about their experience assisting runners like yourself as well as any other questions to help determine if this coach is the right match for you.

A coach does not need to be a past Olympian or even locally competitive in their day to be a good coach.  But, I do feel it is important that the coach have personal running and racing experience.  The knowledge and empathy gained from pushing yourself to run your best is an important component to understanding athletes.

Finally, I think it is important to find a coach that takes into account the life you lead.  I try very hard to accommodate my client’s obligations outside of running when designing their training.  If something comes up, they let me know and we rework the schedule.  Ask the prospective coach if they take the rest of your life into account while putting together a program.

Christine Hinton In your experience, what are most runners hoping to get out of coaching? Program design, motivation, discipline?’

Most runners want structure to their running. They want someone else to be responsible for putting the program together and adjusting it as needed.  My runners tend to be very organized and enjoy having concrete direction with their training.

Runners also want to be held accountable.  Most of us are surrounded by folks who could care less if you miss your run.  But, knowing you have to report back to your coach adds that motivation you may need to get out the door when weather isn’t perfect or the alarm clock snooze button is appealing. 

You use an interview process to learn about the athletes you coach.  What details are most useful to you in custom-designing a training program?

I do an initial consultation that usually takes about an hour.  During the consultation I go through a questionnaire and we get details of where the runner is presently and where they would like to be.  We talk through the questionnaire together because it gives me a chance to get clarification if needed.  People tend to open up more in conversation then they do writing out their responses.

I can’t say that one piece of information is more important than another.  I look at the whole picture and put the individual pieces together.  This is the only way to truly get a customized program. 

Blackwaterpic2 What typically prompts a runner to move from self coaching to using a professional coach?

Runners ready for a coach’s direction usually fall into a few categories.  Those wanting to take their running to the next level.  That can mean running faster or racing farther.  There are also runners who want to improve but are not sure how to change their current running program.  A beginner who has no idea how to start. Those wanting structure to their workouts without having to think about it themselves.  Runners who are losing motivation and need someone to hold them accountable or recharge their excitement of the sport.

What do you see runners are looking for when they come to you to be coached?

Runners are looking for personal attention and individualized training.  You can get a training plan for any distance in running magazines or online. Clients want assistance in making the training fit into their busy lives. They need someone to help them understand the results or lack of results they are getting.  To give them answers and learn about the sport of running.

In addition to the training programs you design, what else do you emphasize to boost runners’ performance? 

Excelling as a runner, whether your goal is to own a new PR or to stay fit, is a balance of many components.  A good running program will only take you so far.  You absolutely need to fuel yourself properly, stretch to increase and maintain flexibility, participate in core strength and general strength exercises as well as rest.  Each of these is crucial to success, no matter your ultimate goal.

Cross training can be an active form of rest.  I highly recommend mixing in cross training in place of some easy runs.  Cycling is my favorite and has been proven to be beneficial to running. 

What are some common mistakes runners make in terms of designing their own training programs? 

I find that one common mistake across all levels is training above your current level of fitness.  Runners, who are coming back from an injury or other time off, want to start training where they left off.  New runners assume they can do more or don’t need to rest because they are not running as much.  I have had a new runner run 7 days in a row (against what the plan called for) and then develop shin splints.  I have had seasoned runners bump up their paces to times from a few years ago only to be disappointed or injured as a result.  Running is a sport of patience and consistency.

Base training is often looked at as “putting in the miles.”  What can you tell us about base training and how to get the most out it?

I only employ the typical base training (mostly easy distance) for runners who are fairly new to running and just don’t have that time on their legs. These runners or those coming back after time off, need 3 or months of slowly increasing the time they run.  

Runners who have years of consistent running do not follow a typical base period in my programs.  Since my programs are individualized, everyone’s will be different.  But I will usually mix in some speed and steady runs into the base period.   It will usually be mini high intensity workouts and set according to their current fitness.  I think this helps maintain the fitness of certain systems while concentrating more heavily on base and aerobic development.

Get Finally, what’s the highest complement an athlete can pay you as a running coach?

I feel like I have done a good job when my runners get excited about running and discovering what they are capable of.  It brings me great joy to think that maybe I made a difference.  When a new runner crosses the line of their first 5k smiling, excited about their achievement and at the same time excited to open the next door.  And nothing feels better then my athletes hitting their goals.  But, even when they don’t, and that certainly happens, although disappointed, it never stops them from continuing on.

Having anything to do with people creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is a huge compliment.


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