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Learning From the Young Guns
Adapting Your Training to the Summer Heat
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

We all have that grueling summer running story, the one we’ll never forget. Mine was during college, and I was home for the summer visiting my family in Indiana. At the beginning of preparation for my senior cross country season I had been getting up early to beat the Arizona heat, which by this point regularly topped out over 100 degrees. Now I grew up in the oppressive heat and humidity of the Midwest, but after the scorching temperatures in Arizona, I figured I should be able to handle sleeping in and running my easy 6 miles later in the morning. Of course I did, college kids don’t know anything. What followed was the slowest, most painful 6 mile run of my life. I knew I was in good shape, but afterward, as I lay sprawled on my parent’s living room floor fighting waves of nausea, I was having serious doubts.

 
The summer heat challenges the psyche, but if you can focus more on effort instead of pace, especially on your easy days, you’ll reap the rewards when the temperature drops. This is often easier said than done, but there are some workout tricks you can use to make it a little easier to get the most out of your summer training without running yourself into the ground.

Summer tends to be the season for shorter races, and one of the biggest mistakes we as coaches see people make when they train for shorter races is to cut out the tempo work and focus solely on speed. The tendency to gravitate toward shorter, faster workouts is compounded by the heat and humidity of the summer where longer, tempo based work is more onerous. Keeping tempo based work as a regular part of your program is critical to short-term and long-term success, even over shorter races like the 5k. And while going out for a long tempo effort in high heat can quickly turn an intended 85% effort into a race effort, you can break that tempo effort up into shorter pieces while still getting in a good workout. This will allow your body to cool a bit throughout the workout and prevent your heart rate from maxing out as it works double time to cool and propel. 
Tempo based intervals are a great tool to have in your workout routine year round, and the idea is to complete the interval distance, I frequently use 1 mile intervals, feeling like you could continue to run at that pace for twice the distance. In between the intervals you should take short recovery, for mile repeats use a recovery interval of 1-2 minutes, and even when you finish the workout you should feel like you could do a few more repeats at that pace. During the warm summer months you can use shorter intervals to get the same workout while reducing the risk of over heating.

 
Two examples of this type of workout are: 1) 3-4 sets of (4 x 400 meter repeats) with 45-60 seconds rest between the repeats and 2-3 minutes between the sets. Start the workout 2-3 seconds per 400 slower than 5k pace and finish at 5k pace. 2) 6-8 x 800 meter repeats with 90 seconds rest between each. Start this workout 4-5 seconds per 800 slower than 10k pace and finish at 10k pace. Remember to finish each of these workouts at an effort where you feel like you could do a few more without a problem.

 
The tempo-based component is even more critical for people that race frequently. If you race every week or two then you are getting a very high intensity workout every time you race, and if you’re coupling that with high intensity speed workouts every week the risk of burn-out, injury, and plateauing rises dramatically.

 
Being able to focus more on effort than on pace is an important skill, especially during the summer months, and the best way to do that is to make the design of your workouts effort based. Fartlek running is an excellent way to forget about the pace for a while and get in tune with the feedback your body is providing you. Fartlek running is designed to be effort based and the pickups should be based on duration rather than distance. Take that structure to the next level by determining the number of pickups you’ll do during the run ahead of time and then don’t even time them, use landmarks as to where you’ll start and stop. You’ll get a great workout without the added stress of hitting predetermined paces. 
Perhaps my favorite way to remove the stress of predetermined paces, especially during the summer, is to do a hill workout. Hills provide the aerobic benefit of a speed without the quantitative feedback that can shatter your confidence in the stifling summer heat. Hill running also helps improve running mechanics by strengthening your legs with far less impact stress of running hard on a flat surface. One of the best ways to mix up your routine any time of the year is a descending duration hill workout. For example, after you are warmed up and ready to run quicker find a relatively steep hill and do three sets of the following: 60 seconds uphill followed by an easy jog back to the bottom, 40 seconds uphill followed by an easy jog back to the bottom, 20 seconds uphill followed by an easy jog back to the bottom. Take 1-2 minutes rest between sets and try to start conservatively so you can get a little bit farther with each set.

 
In order to effectively navigate the heat of the summer in the southeast you must be sure to recover on your easy days by listening to your effort and not your pace, but it’s also important to do the same on your hard days. You’ll make much bigger gains and have more for race day if you keep the workouts a bit easier in the summer heat.  


Learning From the Young Guns
Nutrition for Performance
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

As our ZAP-Reebok resident athletes transition from college to the professional ranks we talk to them about doing all the little things right in order to take their performance to the next level. There are a lot of components to training that slip by the wayside when you’re in college: eating in a dining hall, cramming all night for exams, and living in a dormitory among others. Coming from 4 years of daily meal options consisting of french fries, burgers, and pizza new professional athletes often over look the role nutrition can play in performance. In the professional world we try to capitalize on all those little things to help runners recover better so that they can train harder and race faster. I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I play one on TV, but as coaches we look at how nutrition before, during, and after competition can improve your performance. Improving performance by improving your nutrition isn’t just for professional runners; there are a few practical tips any runner can easily implement into their daily routine to feel better and perform better on a daily basis.

Our ZAP-Reebok athletes receive nutritional consultation from one of the country’s foremost experts in sports nutrition, Dr. Dan Benardot. In 2013 Dr. Benardot authored a study that looked at energy intake strategies for optimizing body composition. This study changed the way we at ZAP look at nutrition for our athletes. The study looks at some of the hormonal responses that occur when you eat a big meal versus a small meal, and the results advocate easting smaller meals throughout the day to keep your energy levels in balance. When you eat large, infrequent meals your bloodstream becomes flooded with insulin, most likely resulting in an increase in body fat. Additionally, going long periods of time between meals creates a caloric deficit and leads the body to use lean muscle tissue as fuel rather than fat stores. The concept is that the body activates a self-preservation mode, similar to if you were starving, where it tries to shed the body tissue that costs the most energy to maintain, muscle, while preserving the tissue that has the lowest anabolic cost to maintain, fat. The study goes into far more depth than that, and at the risk of over simplifying things, the big takeaway is spreading caloric intake evenly throughout the day has a dramatic impact on body composition. Without even changing your overall caloric intake for the day you can improve your power to weight ratio by decreasing fat tissue and increasing muscle mass. 

It’s amazing to think that you can improve your body composition without reducing the number or type of calories you take in during the day, and this new information is a far cry from the traditional belief that calories in equals calories out. Obviously eating a well-balanced diet and limiting junk food could have a more dramatic impact depending on how bad your eating habits are, but with a little bit of planning and change in habits you could improve your energy levels throughout the day and your running performance.

The other aspects of nutrition we talk a lot about are fueling before and after the run. Even if you run in the morning you should eat something before you go out the door for a run; this plays into the negative impacts of caloric deficiency discussed in the Benardot study. You want to make sure your body is burning fat and carbohydrate during the run, and in order to do that you have to keep your caloric intake and output in balance throughout the day. If you’re running in the morning it’s imperative to eat before you run because your body is almost certainly calorically deficient after a full night’s sleep. If you are running for more than 90 minutes you should be taking 100-120 calories in during the run every 40-45 minutes. This will help maintain that caloric balance better and leave you feeling stronger later in the run or race. 

In training for a marathon you want to be sure to practice your fueling pattern during training. Find something that works well for you whether it is a sports drink, a gel, jelly beans, or one of a variety of other options. You should aim to take in 100-120 calories a few minutes before the start and then every 40-45 minutes throughout the remainder of the run. In addition to those calories make sure you are consuming a few ounces of water every 20-25 minutes, and on a hot day drink a little bit more. 

Post run and post race caloric intake is an after thought for many of us, whether it’s because you’re rushing off to shower before work or your stomach is upset and you don’t feel like eating for hours. As a result post run nutrition is an under utilized, yet important, recovery tool. Eating a few hundred calories within 30 minutes of finishing your run is critical in the recovery process. Those calories should include both carbohydrate and protein for glycogen replacement and muscle rebuilding. As a part of our daily training routine all of our athletes eat a few hundred calories immediately after they run. 

Fluid intake in important as well, particularly this time of year, and losses of 1-2% body weight have a dramatic impact on performance. You should be replacing fluids immediately, at the rate of 3 cups for every pound of weight loss. For runs over 60 minutes you should be replacing fluid during the run. 

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to take care of your body like an elite athlete. You may not have time for a 90-minute nap in the middle of the day like many professional athletes, but proper nutrition is simply a matter of reprioritizing the way you consume your food throughout the day in order to run faster and live healthier. 


Learning From the Young Guns
The Mind is the Athlete
By Ryan Warrenburg

All those who attend a ZAP Fitness Adult Running Camp leave with a t-shirt donning the phrase “The Mind is the Athlete” on the back. The phrase comes courtesy of ZAP co-founder Andy Palmer and stems from his background as a sport psychologist. All runners seem to acknowledge the importance of mental side of running, but most dismiss that truth when it applies to them. It’s as if the theory of mental training is important, but the practical application is always for someone else to work on. The reason people tend to ignore the mental side 
of training is it’s easier to implement physical change. It’s quantifiable, easy to see, and can be implemented on 
your run this afternoon. Changing our mentality takes much more time and effort, and because the physical and 
mental are inextricably linked, the opportunity to ignore the mental side and confine our attention solely on the 
physical side always exists. 

The linkage between the mental and physical components isn’t a simple cause and effect relationship, that 
misconception is another way people dismiss the mental side of training. It would be naïve to tell someone the 
mental side impacts the physical side of training but not the other way around, yet this is how most people view 
the mental side. Generally, when you are in great shape you have more confidence standing on the start line. If 
you truly believe in yourself you stand a better chance of racing well, but confidence alone doesn’t get you to 
the finish line. If you’ve ever played a game of pickup basketball you know what I’m talking about: the guy who 
believes he’s the Michael Jordan of YMCA basketball. Every time he gets an inch of space he’s shooting the ball. 
Every time. He may only make 10% of his shots, but it’s not for lack of confidence; he truly believes all those shots are going in when he lets them go. He’s got the mental side down, but he’s lacking a bit in the physical department. 

In the book Elite Minds, author Stan Beecham discusses the importance of expectation. To me this is the critical component of the mind-body connection in running. The very best athletes stand on the start line expecting to win. They don’t hope to win; they expect to win. Obviously not everyone can win the race, but only when you expect to win do you get the best out of yourself. Now if you’re running the New York City marathon chances are you’re not going to win, and it won’t help you to believe you will. As Stan puts it, “you’re not trying to be the winner, you’re trying to be a winner.” The trouble with this concept is most people don’t practice this mentality. If they do it at all it is generally in an attempt to work up some confidence the morning of the race. And while the thought of confidence is there, the belief may not be. As Stan explains, thoughts are conscious while beliefs are the unconscious truths we hold about ourselves. 

As a coach I’ve been guilty of fostering thoughts rather than beliefs. Before every big race I talk to the people I coach about going to the start line with confidence, I tell them to look back at all the hard training they’ve done in preparation. If the training has gone well then those thoughts can more easily create a belief in success, but that is the easy and less effective scenario. It doesn’t mean there’s no value in it, most runners would benefit greatly by just being able to calm the nerves of self-doubt that swirl around their head the night before or the day of a race. However, creating a belief system and expectation for success runs much deeper than that, and will put you in a better position on race day.

In order to create an environment that optimizes your chance for success that expectation must exist well before you are standing on the starting line. The expectation that you are going to succeed should be with you every day from the start of training. As Stan points out, that belief might start as a thought, but that’s the first step to changing an existing belief system. If you train with the expectation of success every day you will create a belief system built around that expectation, and elevating your daily expectation will elevate your end result. Train for what you will do on race day, not what you want to do or what you hope to do. It can be an uncomfortable thought. Having expectation makes you vulnerable to failure, and the fear of failure often overrides the belief required to be your best. 

Being uncomfortable, however, is what distance running is all about. Whether it’s the uncomfortable notion of facing fear right in the face or the uncomfortable feeling of pushing hard through the middle of a race. You could insert any number of “real world” analogies here, but I digress. My college coach always told us to “embrace the pain.” The last time Stan spoke to our ZAP elite runners he challenged them to embrace the pain. It’s natural to wish away the pain in the middle of a race or workout when it gets difficult. However, as Stan writes, “If you are wishing away the pain, you are also wishing away the thing that’s going to make you better. Pain is the desired state.”

Embracing the uncomfortable and creating a belief system of expecting success are two of many mental tools you can use to help improve your physical performance. You don’t have to rely on your physical progress to pull your confidence along, and teasing out the difference between the physical and mental is as difficult as it is futile. Rather than thinking about them as two distinctly different things, view them as one. After all, the mind is the athlete.


Learning From the Young Guns
4 Workouts to Spice Up Your Training
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

As runners, most of us have staple workouts we come back to over and over again (some of us even come back to them every single day). As an athlete I had key workouts that let me know I was ready to race. As a coach I have workouts I implement consistently during certain points of a buildup. However, despite what we may want to believe, myself sometimes included, the truth is there are no magic workouts. Having benchmark workouts are a good thing, they measure progress and give us confidence heading into races, but variance is an important factor in development as well. This month I’d like to share 4 of my favorite workouts and challenge you to give them a test spin and mix up your routine a bit as you prepare for spring races.

Workout 1: The Progression Run. Progression runs are perfect for the early stages of a training program, but they can also be used effectively throughout the buildup. The purpose behind the progression run is two-fold. Primarily, the progression run stimulates the anaerobic threshold, the cornerstone of higher intensity workouts for all distance runners. What I love about the progression run is the unique way in which it develops the aerobic system. The progression run allows an athlete to ease their way into the workout a little bit more moderately. Most athletes tend to start workouts too fast, and this can result in not being able to finish workouts or running beyond the intended scope of a given workout. The progression run tempers this problem because the intention is to start out slowly and gradually progress through the workout. Learning the discipline of being patient and methodical during training sessions translates to races, and this required focus is the hidden benefit of the progression run. 

Execution: Start the workout 10-15 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace and move evenly forward a few seconds per mile each mile so you are finishing the final mile 5-10 seconds per mile slower than 10k pace. 

Workout 2: Descending Tempo Fartlek. Fartlek runs are another great example of a workout that can utilized throughout a training program. The fartlek run (Swedish for “speed play,” go ahead, get the giggles out) is a continuous workout which alternates between pieces of quicker running and pieces of easier running. The workout, when run more moderately early in a training program, stimulates the anaerobic threshold and allows us to practice shifting gears during races. You can implement a fartlek later in a training program to replicate interval training by making the quicker pieces much faster and the slower pieces much slower.

Execution: Start with a 6 minute piece, run at or a little quicker than half marathon effort, followed by a slower 3 minute piece at normal easy day pace. For this fartlek the slower running piece is simply half the time of the previous quicker piece. The 3 minute slower piece is followed by a 5 minute piece, and the pattern repeats itself with each quicker piece being 1 minute less in duration than the previous. The duration of the quicker pieces are: 6-5-4-3-2-1 with the slower pieces being run after each quicker piece. The goal is to run each successive quick piece a few seconds per mile quicker than the previous, aiming for roughly 5k pace for the final 1 minute piece. The recovery pace should remain the same throughout the workout. To make the workout more of an interval workout start the 6 minute piece at 10k pace and make the slow pieces very easy.

Workout 3: 2 Mile Repeats. This is a workout I assign frequently during the specific preparation phase of a buildup for events from 10k to the marathon. The energy system at work during this session is similar to that of a progression run, but the intensity is higher for a longer period of time, making this workout more demanding and one you should avoid as you’re just getting started in a program. I will use this workout in the final 10 weeks of a training program, the specific preparation phase. The aim is to run these repeats at a moderate effort, not all out, with very little recovery.

Execution: The number of repeats depends on what event you’re preparing for as well as your overall level of experience and training volume. For a runner averaging 35 miles per week or less I recommend starting with 2 repeats. For a runner averaging 35-55 miles per week and preparing for a half marathon or full marathon I recommend 3 repeats. For the experienced runner accustomed to higher training volumes 3-4 repeats is appropriate. As with everything, the goal is to make each repeat a touch faster than the previous. Start the first repeat at half marathon effort and work down 5-10 seconds each repeat to where the last 2 miles are at or near 10k effort. The recovery between each should be a very easy 90-120 second jog. 

Workout 4: Tempo 400s. This is my favorite icing on the cake workout. This session should be done in the final month of preparation. It is intended to work on economy and put a little bit of snap in your legs. As alluded to in the name, it’s also an aerobically based workout in disguise, a recurring theme I’m sure you’ve noticed by now. 

Execution: The number of repeats should be based on the guidelines from the 2 Mile Repeat workout above, but can vary between 2-4 sets of (4x400m). The recovery should be 45-50 seconds between repeats and 2:00-2:30 between sets. Start the first set 5-10 seconds/mile quicker than half marathon pace and finishing the final set at 5k pace or even a few ticks quicker. You should finish feeling in control and comfortable.

Jump start your winter by spicing up your routine a little and realize the benefits of adding variety into your training regimen. 


Learning From the Young Guns
Boston Breakdown
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

You’re shuffling nervously among thousands of runners, being herded into your starting corral to await the crack of the gun that will begin your 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton, MA to Boylston Street in downtown Boston. The 26.2 mile journey could be from anywhere to anywhere, it could be your first marathon or your twentieth, but today it’s the Boston Marathon. The energy of the thousands huddled at the start and tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands along the course combined with the culmination of months of preparation can make even the most experienced marathoners come unraveled a bit standing in that corral. You enjoy taking in the experience, but remind yourself to focus on your plan and how you are going to execute the race in front of you. Wait, race plan, what race plan?!?


Let’s back up, you’ve still got a few weeks, and whether it’s the Boston Marathon, the Wenatchee Marathon in Washington State or anything between, it’s time to start thinking about your race plan. The Boston Marathon is a great illustration of how the course can influence your preparation and race execution so let’s look at the breakdown of the Boston Marathon.

I’m a huge proponent of running even to negative splits from the first half to second half of a marathon. Running the first 15 miles a touch slower than your goal pace is a great way to ensure a strong finish and to avoid crossing the line that can cost you minutes over the final 10k if it goes the wrong way. However, Boston is a unique course in that in the first 16 miles you lose over 400 feet of elevation. This might not seem like much over 16 miles, but I assure you that your quads and calves will beg to differ, especially when you start climbing up the Newton Hills. The trick to managing those first 16 miles is to make sure you don’t run them too fast, an easy mistake to make in the early stages of a marathon, especially when you’re running downhill.


The start of the race will be crowded. And because there is no way around this fact, you’re best to stay relaxed over the first 9-10 miles until the road will open up a bit. Boston does a great job of starting you where you qualified, so even if you’re hoping to run a bit faster you should be surrounded by people running about the same pace you are. If you qualified much slower than you’re attempting to run then you will have problems, but you’re still better off running with the pace of the pack during the crowded opening miles, even if it leaves you with a little time to make up after 10 miles. It’s not worth the energy you’ll spend bobbing and weaving and stopping and starting to make your way through the sea of people surrounding you. The road will open up, and while it might not be ideal, you’re better off waiting until you have room to run instead of burning precious energy zig-zagging across the street.


The first 3-5 miles you should spend easing yourself into your goal pace, and unlike a flat course, you’ll want to target goal pace or even 5 seconds per mile quicker than goal pace after those first few warm-up miles. On a flat course you’d want to target being 30-90 seconds slower than goal pace at halfway, but at Boston you’ll want to be at goal pace or up to 45 seconds faster than goal pace at halfway. As you’re rolling your way down to the 16-mile mark think about running with your feet landing underneath your hips. The common mistake people make in downhill running is to extend their feet out in front of them and lean their shoulders back in a braking motion. This will increase the pounding force on your legs and leave your quads shot the final 10k of the marathon. Think about keeping your repetition of foot strike high and that will help keep you from over striding and trashing your legs on the downhills.


As important as the first 16 miles are, the next 5 miles are the legend of Boston, the Newton Hills. If you set yourself up well the first 16 miles and have done a good job of getting on some hills in your long run you’re going to be fine up the hills. It is important however, to realize that even if you’re feeling good at 16 and excited to attack the hills, you need to approach them with caution. You will be tempted to charge up them as the first hill is preceded by the steepest downhill of the race, but the series of 4 hills requires patience and focus. You will work hard through here, make no mistake about it, but you need to get to the top of Heartbreak Hill with running left in your legs, as you still have 6 miles to run once you crest out just after 20 miles.

After mile 20 is where your early patience will pay off. After Heartbreak it is mostly downhill to the finish, which will give you a nice breather coming off the hills but will put your legs through a test they’ll need weeks of callousing and a smart race plan to endure successfully. But you’ve put in weeks of hard work, and you’ve read this far so you’re golden! It’s easy to overlook these final 6 miles and really struggle home so get to the top of Heartbreak ready to race. The final 10k you need to think about keeping your repetition of foot strike high and your feet underneath you. Let gravity be your friend and avoid the instinctual braking posture you often see in downhill running, you know it: the feet out in front of you-hips forward-shoulders back biomechanical nightmare we all become if we aren’t paying attention. Pay attention and turn what can be a course that’s brutal on your body to one that can be, when run correctly, surprisingly quick.


And most importantly, enjoy the run down Boylston Street into the finish. Whether you’re having the race of your life or struggling home, (which you obviously won’t be since we’ve established you’re fit and have a great plan!) savor the trip down Boylston Street because when you make that turn and the road opens wide, and the Boston skyline surrounds you, that’s a feeling you can’t prepare for. 


Learning From the Young Guns
3 Ways to Tempo
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

Running fast is fun. The lung busting satisfaction of a fast interval workout provides the immediate gratification we all crave. Part of it is the excitement of running fast and perhaps part is the convenience of track work, but I think most of the allure is the idea that the harder the pain the more the gain. Counter intuitively this isn’t always the case in distance running. You must work hard to perform well, that much is true, but I’ve found some of that effort is often misplaced. I’ve discussed the importance of laying an aerobic base before, the value of “conversation paced” running cannot be overstated and should always comprise the majority of your training. However, as you get into the phase of training where you are doing harder workouts 1-2 times a week (I would suggest no more than this) you will benefit greatly in events from the mile to the marathon and beyond by focusing most of your hard days on improving your anaerobic threshold.


The biggest mistake I see people make is spending far too much time doing “speed work” that focuses on all-out running designed, intentionally or otherwise, on developing the anaerobic system. Have you ever had that quick jump in performance and then plateaued for weeks or months or even years after doing consistent hard interval work? Or have you ever found yourself fatigued and worn out by the time your key race rolled around? Then a transition to more aerobically geared workouts might be right for you! Infomercial personality aside, these are a couple symptoms of overtraining the anaerobic system. Training the anaerobic system does have benefits, but it must be done sparingly, and those benefits are minimal when compared to the improvements you can gain by training the aerobic system through work commonly referred to as tempo running.
The traditional tempo run is designed to improve your anaerobic threshold by running steadily at or just below that threshold. For those of you who are heart rate runners, your anaerobic threshold is between 85-88% of your maximum heart rate. For those that aren’t it is typically the pace you could hold for about an hour-long race. While the traditional tempo run is a great way to stimulate the anaerobic threshold, it isn’t the only way to train this system, nor should it be. Below I have 3 different ways to improve your anaerobic threshold, including the classic tempo run, while adding variety to your tempo routine. The change of stimulus allows for greater gains while still focusing on training the aerobic system.

#1: Tempo Run. The traditional tempo run is a staple in many runners’ training arsenal, but it can still be a difficult workout to execute properly. The goal of a tempo run is not to run as hard as you can for the specified time or distance; that should be left for race day. We’ve all executed tempo runs that way, but again, the idea is to keep the effort at a place where you finish feeling like there is more in the tank. A tempo run should generally be somewhere between 15-40 minutes, depending on your experience level and event focus. For a tempo run under 30 minutes you should target a pace you could hold for roughly an hour. For a tempo run approaching 40 minutes you should run 5-10 sec/mile slower than that to keep it at the same effort level.

#2: Tempo Mile Repeats. Everyone is familiar with traditional mile repeats, but this is a great twist that makes the workout a little more moderate with great aerobic benefits. The workout is simple: 3-6 x 1 mile repeats with 60-120 seconds easy jog or walk between each repeat. Start at or even 5-10sec/mile quicker than half marathon pace and work down to 10k race pace for the last 1-2 repeats. Aim to move a little quicker each repeat, and when you're feeling more fit try shortening the rest by 30 seconds instead of speeding up. A runner new to this type of work or running less than 35 miles per week should aim for 3-4 repeats with a touch more recovery while a more experienced runner training over 35 miles per week should aim for 5-6 repeats with a little less recovery. As your fitness improves try to reduce the recovery time before you increase the speed.

#3: Tempo 400s. This is my favorite icing on the cake workout. This session should be done in the final 4-6 weeks of preparation. It is intended to work on economy and put a little bit of snap in your legs. As alluded to in the name, it’s an aerobically based workout disguised as a more traditional hard interval session. The key is in the controlled pacing of the repeats. The number of repeats should vary, depending on your training level and experience, from 2-4 sets of (3-4x400m). The recovery should be 45-50 seconds between repeats and 2:00-2:30 between sets. Start the first set at or 5-10sec/mile quicker than 10k pace and finish the final set at 5k pace or even a few ticks quicker. You should finish feeling in control and comfortable. This is a great confidence booster in the final few weeks before a race as you will be surprised good you will feel running relatively fast.

There are a number of other ways to target this energy system and improve your aerobic ability, these are just a few examples to spice up your routine and make the most out of your workouts. Anytime I give a training talk, whether it’s about 5k or the marathon I always finish by saying, “when in doubt err on the side of being more aerobic”. Remember, the vast majority of distance races are dependent on aerobic ability; even a 5k is 88-90% aerobic in nature while the marathon is close to 99%. Your training should reflect the demands of the race. I know running fast is fun, but remember tempo work is the key to running fast come race day.


Learning From the Young Guns
Marathon Race Week
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

What do the marathon taper and the Ab Belt (the infomercial machine that sends shockwaves into your abs claiming to magically melt away belly fat giving you a ripped washboard stomach) have in common? On the surface you might be thinking they have nothing at all in common, but stay with me. Read the product’s fine print and you’ll notice the recommended exercise routine and nutrition plan you should follow for best results – ah ha! If you put in the hard work of exercising and eating properly you’ll lose weight and have a more defined midsection. Interesting. Similarly, the success of your marathon taper is dependent upon all the hard work put throughout the buildup. The taper won’t miraculously enhance your fitness, but there are some things you can do in the final week of training to get the most out of yourself on race day.

The biggest mistake people make in the final week of training is completely changing their routine. If training has gone well the worst thing you can do is change everything at the last minute. It’s not to say the taper isn’t important, it is, particularly for a marathon. In a race of 26.2 miles the energy requirements are much different than even a half marathon and ensuring your muscle glycogen stores are full is paramount. Truthfully, if you’re eating a well-balanced diet this shouldn’t be a concern, but backing off your training volume and intensity the final week is important to replenish muscle glycogen and to freshen up your legs heading into race day. You should cut your mileage back roughly 15-25% from the previous week, which should in turn be roughly 15-25% less than the week before that. I recommend doing this by trimming a little bit from your daily runs rather than drastically altering your weekly schedule. However, if you run 5 or more days during the week taking an extra rest day is a good idea. 
Part of maintaining your weekly routine should include a workout the week of the race if you normally do a workout during the week. A Wednesday workout isn’t going to boost your fitness come Sunday so this session should remain moderate and at goal marathon pace. The typical workout I use with athletes is 2 miles at marathon pace followed by 3 minutes rest and another 1 mile at marathon pace. The idea is to let your legs feel race rhythm and do something to turn your legs over a bit during the week so you don’t feel stale on race day. The main thing here is to avoid doing anything anaerobic where you are could have lingering fatigue carry over to race day.


Destination races are popular in the marathon community (for good reason – “Honey, it’s not my fault I have to go all the way to Berlin to run the fastest marathon in the world.”) If you are driving several hours or getting on a plane to go to a race there are a few things to keep in mind. You should do a short run the day before your race just to shake the travel out of your legs. We’ve all gone for a run after spending hours in the car… and it’s the worst run ever. Get the worst run ever out of your legs before you toe the line. There is nothing better for your race than to go for an easy run to stretch your legs out a bit and get the blood moving after sitting for hours in the same position. It won’t feel good, but it will go a long way in ensuring your race will. Important to note that doing something to loosen the legs up the day before does not include spending all day walking around the expo or said destination city.

If you are going to make a vacation out of it make the race at the beginning of the trip, not at the end. (You should be taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building anyway; only a runner would think the way to get the true experience was to walk up 86 flights of stairs.) Be selfish the days before the race and avoid spending a ton of time on your feet, it will have a negative impact on your race. Get to the expo, get your bib number and get out of there, those things are like Vegas casinos with no windows or discernable exits so beware! Next thing you know you’re buying a new pair of shoes and gummy chews for the race tomorrow. Which brings me to my next point; do not decide to do something, anything, for the first time on race day (or for dinner the night before - I don’t care that you’ve been “dying to try” those 7-spice thai tacos Guy Fieri was raving about on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.) You should have practiced everything: what time you’re going to wake up, what you’re going to eat for breakfast, certainly what shoes you’re going to wear, how you’re getting to the start line, what clothes you’re going to race in, and what fluid / nutrition you’re going to consume during the race. Coffee or no coffee, hat or no hat, compression socks or no compression socks – these are all decisions that should be made before you’re heading out the door to catch the shuttle to the start. Having to worry about all of those things at the last minute (I’ve been there) adds an additional layer of anxiety to the already anxious pursuit of running a marathon.


And don’t forget to have fun! If you’ve done the work then the hard part is over, the race is a celebration of all that work. If you start to doubt every step you’ve ever run, like many of us do the night before a race, look over your training log and review all the hard work you’ve put in. It will give you the confidence you need to go to the start line relaxed and ready to take advantage of your preparation. And if you’re well prepared then enjoy the celebration!



Learning From the Young Guns
Marathon Race Week
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

What do the marathon taper and the Ab Belt (the infomercial machine that sends shockwaves into your abs claiming to magically melt away belly fat giving you a ripped washboard stomach) have in common? On the surface you might be thinking they have nothing at all in common, but stay with me. Read the product’s fine print and you’ll notice the recommended exercise routine and nutrition plan you should follow for best results – ah ha! If you put in the hard work of exercising and eating properly you’ll lose weight and have a more defined midsection. Interesting. Similarly, the success of your marathon taper is dependent upon all the hard work put throughout the buildup. The taper won’t miraculously enhance your fitness, but there are some things you can do in the final week of training to get the most out of yourself on race day.

The biggest mistake people make in the final week of training is completely changing their routine. If training has gone well the worst thing you can do is change everything at the last minute. It’s not to say the taper isn’t important, it is, particularly for a marathon. In a race of 26.2 miles the energy requirements are much different than even a half marathon and ensuring your muscle glycogen stores are full is paramount. Truthfully, if you’re eating a well-balanced diet this shouldn’t be a concern, but backing off your training volume and intensity the final week is important to replenish muscle glycogen and to freshen up your legs heading into race day. You should cut your mileage back roughly 15-25% from the previous week, which should in turn be roughly 15-25% less than the week before that. I recommend doing this by trimming a little bit from your daily runs rather than drastically altering your weekly schedule. However, if you run 5 or more days during the week taking an extra rest day is a good idea. 
Part of maintaining your weekly routine should include a workout the week of the race if you normally do a workout during the week. A Wednesday workout isn’t going to boost your fitness come Sunday so this session should remain moderate and at goal marathon pace. The typical workout I use with athletes is 2 miles at marathon pace followed by 3 minutes rest and another 1 mile at marathon pace. The idea is to let your legs feel race rhythm and do something to turn your legs over a bit during the week so you don’t feel stale on race day. The main thing here is to avoid doing anything anaerobic where you are could have lingering fatigue carry over to race day. 

Destination races are popular in the marathon community (for good reason – “Honey, it’s not my fault I have to go all the way to Berlin to run the fastest marathon in the world.”) If you are driving several hours or getting on a plane to go to a race there are a few things to keep in mind. You should do a short run the day before your race just to shake the travel out of your legs. We’ve all gone for a run after spending hours in the car… and it’s the worst run ever. Get the worst run ever out of your legs before you toe the line. There is nothing better for your race than to go for an easy run to stretch your legs out a bit and get the blood moving after sitting for hours in the same position. It won’t feel good, but it will go a long way in ensuring your race will. Important to note that doing something to loosen the legs up the day before does not include spending all day walking around the expo or said destination city.

If you are going to make a vacation out of it make the race at the beginning of the trip, not at the end. (You should be taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building anyway; only a runner would think the way to get the true experience was to walk up 86 flights of stairs.) Be selfish the days before the race and avoid spending a ton of time on your feet, it will have a negative impact on your race. Get to the expo, get your bib number and get out of there, those things are like Vegas casinos with no windows or discernable exits so beware! Next thing you know you’re buying a new pair of shoes and gummy chews for the race tomorrow. Which brings me to my next point; do not decide to do something, anything, for the first time on race day (or for dinner the night before - I don’t care that you’ve been “dying to try” those 7-spice thai tacos Guy Fieri was raving about on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.) You should have practiced everything: what time you’re going to wake up, what you’re going to eat for breakfast, certainly what shoes you’re going to wear, how you’re getting to the start line, what clothes you’re going to race in, and what fluid / nutrition you’re going to consume during the race. Coffee or no coffee, hat or no hat, compression socks or no compression socks – these are all decisions that should be made before you’re heading out the door to catch the shuttle to the start. Having to worry about all of those things at the last minute (I’ve been there) adds an additional layer of anxiety to the already anxious pursuit of running a marathon. 

And don’t forget to have fun! If you’ve done the work then the hard part is over, the race is a celebration of all that work. If you start to doubt every step you’ve ever run, like many of us do the night before a race, look over your training log and review all the hard work you’ve put in. It will give you the confidence you need to go to the start line relaxed and ready to take advantage of your preparation. And if you’re well prepared then enjoy the celebration!


Learning From the Young Guns
Hips are the New Abs
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

A coach I had once told me that the best thing you can do be a better runner is to run. Those simple words have been surprisingly valuable, especially when it comes to trying to fit your training around an already busy life schedule. That being said, the development of core strength is an important way to improve running form and correct imbalances that can lead to injury. Core training for distance runners should be reflective of the muscles we use to stabilize and propel ourselves while running. In contrast to most core routines you see, this does not include crunches until your abs bleed. Most of the core strengthening you should be doing should be centered on hip stability and strength.


When we do video analysis on our campers at our adult running camps most of the comments we make refer to hip strength, stability, or range of motion. To have a stable platform for running, the best use of your time in the gym should be spent on hip exercises. However, it’s critical to perform the exercises in a way that is consistent with how your muscles work while you are running, and that means being diligent so you are executing the exercises correctly. A good exercise performed poorly is a poor exercise, and will leave you missing out on the benefits.

In order to do this effectively we must understand a little bit about muscle firing patterns while running. When your body braces for impact your body should automatically engage the transverse abdominus. An easy test to finding this muscle and activating it is to find the front side of your iliac crest and place your fingertips on your abdominals about one inch in toward your belly button on each side, then cough. When you cough you will feel the transverse abdominus flex and notice your belly button sink in towards your spine. This is the activation you want at the beginning of all the exercises because that is the first thing that should engage for proper stabilization while you are running.


In addition to activating the transverse abdominus it is also important to pay attention
 to your posture making certain your spinal position is long and neutral, just the way 
you want it while running. One of the most common issues with athletes performing 
core stabilization exercises is the collapse of the lower back. You want to focus on 
keeping the transverse abdominus engaged by keeping your hips tucked underneath 
your body so your lower back is relatively flat. You will have some natural curvature 
to the lower back, but we want to focus keeping the lower back as quiet as possible 
while stabilizing the core.


These two primary focal points are what you want to pay attention to regardless of 
what core exercises you are doing. However, I want to give you 4 simple exercises 
you should do 3-5 times a week that will help you become a more stable and efficient 
runner. When performing these exercises remember the execution is more important than speed or reps. If you find yourself unable to perform the exercise correctly as you fatigue you should stop and rest because doing the exercise incorrectly only reinforces bad habits.

Clam Shells: 2 sets of 10 on each leg, progress to 3 sets of 15
Start by lying on your side with your legs bent and stacked on top of each other. Keep your ankles together while raising your top knee up as you squeeze your top glute muscle. This exercise is a gluteus medius activation and strengthening exercise. You want to make sure that your hips remain stable through the motion and you avoid rotating your hips as you lift your knee, even if it limits the motion. You should keep your spine in a neutral position which means you want to rest your head even with your hips.

Hip Raises: 2 sets of 10, progress to 3 sets of 15
This exercise activates the entire stabilization chain from the transverse abdominus to the glutes to the hamstrings. Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start by activating the transverse abdominus and tucking your hips. This position will enable you to roll your spine off the ground one vertebra at a time and maintain a neutral spine. Focus on using your glutes to raise your hips, not activating your lower back to push your hips up. Hold the position at the top for a few seconds and then return your hips to the ground, again, one vertebra at a time.

Stability Ball Squat: 2 sets of 10, progress to 3 sets of 15
Place a stability ball between your back and a wall and lean into the ball. Begin the squat by activating your transverse abdominus to achieve a neutral spine position and maintain that throughout the squat. You want to think about keeping your center of gravity directly over the bones in your rear end, maintaining the neutral spine through the motion. As you squat down you will roll your back down the stability ball. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and positioned far enough from your body so that your knee remains directly over your ankle in the squat position.

Hip Hikes: 2 sets of 6, progress to 3 sets of 12
This exercise targets the glute medius in a similar way as the Clam Shells but with the addition of being in a single leg stance where posture plays a more important role. Stand on a stair with one leg hanging. Start with the glute relaxed and your non weight-bearing hip below the standing hip. Then, squeezing the glute in your stance leg, allow the non-stance leg hip to rise above the hip on the stance leg. Hold the position at the top for a 5 second count and return to the starting position.



Learning From the Young Guns
Jump Starting Your Economy
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

We talk to our ZAP-Reebok elite runners about how being a distance runner means sometimes you have to be selfish. To be your absolute best you often have to think about yourself and do what’s best for your own running. As an elite athlete there are a lot of weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, and other things that most people would value more than their own running that get missed. So in the name of self interest, while I could write an article on how to fix the broader economy that has been grinding along the last several years, I want to focus on your personal economy. And this may come as a disappointment, but I’m talking about improving your running economy, not your financial well-being.

We hear a lot about the importance of speed in distance running, and generally speaking, a more economical runner is a faster runner. Mo Farah, the double Olympic Champion from the UK, is the fastest finisher on the planet. And yes, being fast does play a role when you are closing 5ks and 10ks in 53 seconds. However, the more important factor at play, even at the highest level, isn’t foot speed, it’s strength. The runner who gets to the last lap more comfortably and better able to utilize their speed is often who wins the race. Mo Farah and the Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, Galen Rupp, are training partners under coach Alberto Salazar. Alberto readily admits that Rupp is the faster sprinter of the two; the difference is that Mo is the stronger athlete. For most of us mortals who don’t finish our 10k races with a quarter mile under 60 seconds, the strength element is even more dramatic. The most highly trained athletes on the planet race much closer to their maximum speed than most of the rest of us. 
The efficiency seen at that level is due to greater aerobic development and a more efficient means of movement; and the two go hand in hand. For most runners the best thing you can do to improve your economy of movement is to spend a little bit more time on your feet. Additional time spent running easy aerobic volume will help develop the aerobic engine that dominates distance running performance, and it will enhance your body’s adaptation to the movement. The more your body does something the more efficient it becomes at that task; its just like a jump shot: practice makes perfect. I emphasize the aerobic strength element because it is the single most important aspect of training, and when you discuss improving economy it’s easy to get distracted and neglect that fundamental component.

Before I introduce my three favorite elements you can incorporate immediately in your training program I want to briefly mention two additional training tools that can provide significant economical gains: weight training and faster interval work. As opposed to the traditional thought that distance runners should do high-repetition-low-weight gym work, most of the research indicates if you’re going to spend time in the weight room you should be doing low-repetition-high-weight neuromuscular training. This type of training doesn’t build muscle mass the way higher repetition training does, but does develop neuromuscular strength that translates to better running economy. That’s an entire 1,000 word article though, so let’s leave it there for now.

Incorporating some shorter, quicker intervals within a training program, typically with significant recovery, is another way to improve economy. During our adult running camps at ZAP Fitness we do a video analysis of everyone running at an easy pace and then again running at a quicker pace. Inevitably what we find is everyone is a bit more efficient running quicker. Which is why everyone should just run fast all the time…. just kidding!

Your body is amazingly adaptable to varying demands placed on it. When you ask more out of your body it finds ways to perform that task more efficiently. One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your economy is to include strides at the end of your easy runs a few times a week. To properly execute a stride simply take a few minutes after your run to catch your breath and then run 15-35 seconds at a time, accelerating from a relatively easy pace to nearly full speed for the final few seconds. Do between 4 and 10 repeats making sure to take enough time between each to fully recover. The purpose is to stimulate the high efficiency of movement you tap into when running quickly and reinforce that behavior through repetition. The difference between the shorter strides and fast intervals is you are maximizing peak efficiency because strides aren’t long enough for you to lose efficiency through fatigue like you do in hard interval training.

For an added benefit, do your strides uphill once or twice a week. The economic benefits of running quickly are amplified when running uphill. The added stress of running uphill increases muscle recruitment, further improving your efficiency. Referring back to my hill training article from last October (which I know is fresh in everyone’s mind), hills also improve mechanical efficiency by emphasizing proper posture and foot strike. The enhanced muscle recruitment will, over time, become part of your natural muscle recruitment pattern, even when running on flat ground.
The final tip, which I’ve discussed in this column before, is to include some pickups late in your long run. The idea is to pickup the pace for 1 to several minutes at a time toward the end of the long run, targeting somewhere between 10k and half marathon effort on the pickups. In between each pickup you should resume your normal long run pace for 5-6 minutes. The pickups recruit fast twitch muscles late in the run when your slow twitch fibers are fatigued. This strengthens the fast twitch fibers and helps improve running economy and leg speed through increased muscle recruitment.

You still may not be equipped to jump start the global economy, but incorporating some of these techniques in your weekly routine can help kick your running into high gear!


Learning From the Young Guns
Going Organic
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

We live in a grass fed, farm raised, free range, wild-caught, hormone-free world. Or at least we try to. Or at least we know we probably should. Yes, it’s hard in our actual hormone pumped, antibiotic injected, processed world. But we know that getting back to a natural, organic life would probably do us well. I’m inundated daily with lists of super foods, nightmarish videos of how Chicken McNuggets are made, and lists of foods that are certain to kill me, scrolling across my computer screen. So I know. We all know. But I don’t want to talk about organic food, I want to talk about organic running, in particular a terribly under utilized and grossly under appreciated workout – the fartlek.

There has been a strong push lately to get back to natural running, but despite the popularity of minimalistic shoes and Paleo diets we are increasingly attached to our GPS watches and data driven training method, an area some detachment would actually serve us well. I’m not hear to say data is bad and GPS watches aren’t useful, they certainly can be, but I’ve seen a growing disconnect between what our bodies are telling us and how that drives what we do on a day-to-day basis. The best runners in the world have an incredible internal gauge providing them with constant feedback that allows them to perfectly manage their effort, and that sense doesn’t come from watching the pace on their watch all the time. It comes from years of listening to and understanding the intricate signals their body sends them. The best way to develop your ability to understand your body like a world-class athlete is to incorporate some fartlek workouts into your training routine. 

Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play” and was developed in the late 1930’s by Swedish coach Gösta Holmér. The idea behind the fartlek is to organically change paces within a continuous run. It isn’t completely different than an interval workout with specific distances and rest periods, but the fartlek liberates you from the pace constraints and distance requirements found in an interval session. Most of us enjoy the structure of an interval session and the direct feedback of running a set distance in a specific time, but the fartlek forces you to disengage from the data and listen to your internal feedback. The lack of pace and distance specifications in a fartlek make it a workout you can do anytime and anywhere. Additionally, the flexibility of a fartlek allows you to implement fartlek running into your program at any point during your training.
In the early stages of a training program where you should be more focused on moderate intensity work like tempo runs and progression runs, fartlek can be utilized to introduce some quicker running at a moderate intensity. In executing a moderate fartlek the variance between the quicker pieces and easier pieces should be less rather than more. For example, if you were running a fartlek of 5 x 3 minutes with 90 seconds of easy running in between each you might run the 3 minute pieces at or a touch slower than 10k effort and keep the 90 seconds of easier running at your normal easy day running pace. You would want to finish this workout feeling like you could easily do a few more 3-minute pieces if you had to. If you were executing a fartlek closer to a key race where you were doing more specific work you would increase the variance between the faster and slower parts of the fartlek. For example, with the same 5 x 3min workout you would run the 3 minute pieces closer to 5k pace and take the 90 seconds jog slower than your easy day pace. This simulates a workout that would be akin to a specific interval session, but allows you the flexibility to listen to your body rather than focusing on what the watch tells you.

Gauging your effort rather than having a specific pace target does take some practice, but once you are able to do it effectively it will help you in all aspects of your training and racing. I know and coach many people who struggle to truly engage during their races because they are more focused on their pace than evaluating what their body is telling them. If you ask elite athletes what they are thinking about during a race you will inevitably get one of two responses (or both); they are either gauging their competitors in a tactical fashion or constantly evaluating and monitoring their internal effort gauges. This type of mentality and intuition allows for break through races. The nature of a break through race requires exceeding what you thought you were capable of. If you are limit yourself using external data rather than evaluating your internal gauges you will never allow yourself those breakthroughs. Obviously, pacing is important and there is a place for watches and set distances, but being able to harness both internal and external feedback is the space in which the best athletes operate.

Although the true sense of a fartlek is the spontaneous telephone-pole-to-telephone-pole type of workout, I suggest including some structure in your workout so that you can hold yourself accountable when its easier to stop than to keep going. In addition to the 5 x 3 minute fartlek I mentioned before; try a descending tempo fartlek. Start with a longer piece and as you progress through the workout decrease the length of the pieces and quicken the tempo. For example, start with a 6 minute piece at half marathon effort and then do a 5 minute piece, a 4 minute piece, etc. all the way down to finishing with a 1 minute piece. Each successive piece should be a hair quicker than the previous. For recovery, jog easily for half the time of the piece you just ran (i.e. 3 minutes after the 6 minute piece). For a different type of descending tempo fartlek, quicken the tempo within each piece. For example, run several 2 minute pieces starting easily and picking up the pace a little bit every 30 seconds. Take 90 seconds of recovery jog between each piece at your normal easy day pace. 

The possibilities are endless, and varying the workouts will allow you to get to know your body well. Get back to natural running and implement a fartlek every couple of weeks - embrace the freedom!

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Learning From the Young Guns
Summer in the South
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

Growing up in the Midwest I was accustomed to harsh winters, and as a runner the weather could be particularly cruel. I still tell stories from my younger, foolish days of running in shorts through the sub-freezing temperatures of central Indiana. I figured it made me tough. And if I’m being honest I still do. Somehow that stupidity feels venerable in retrospect. Regardless, this calloused Indiana boy thoroughly enjoyed his time at Arizona State with it’s balmy desert winters. Just as everyone touts his or her regional pride when living in a new part of the country, I made sure I didn’t lose my Indiana toughness out west. And now I tell the dramatic stories of grueling long runs under the searing summer skies of Arizona. Of course here in the south we are entering the heart of summer, and its time for us to work on our toughness in the stifling heat of the next few months. I am only half joking. There actually is evidence suggesting heat acclimation can have performance benefits in the same way (if not by the same mechanisms) as altitude training, even in cooler weather. Call it toughness, call it increased blood volume and glycogen use efficiency, but heat can be your friend if you take proper preparations this summer.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Obviously. But there are aspects of hydration that get overlooked and have a big impact on your performances. If you are starting your runs in the morning, which I strongly suggest in the summer, weigh yourself before and after your run to get an idea of how much water weight you are losing. Body weight losses of 2% or more can have dramatic impacts on your performance, and if you aren’t hydrating during the summer you are probably losing 3-4% or more. Finding out how much weight you’re losing helps determine your sweat rate, and an ideal replenishment strategy (replace 1lb of weight loss with 16 ounces of fluid) to stay within that 2% window. If your weight is significantly lower from one morning to the next I would advise taking the day off from running and making sure you focus on rehydrating before you get back to training.

Checking your morning weight is a good strategy for monitoring hydration, as is aiming for urine with a light yellow hue. Maintaining proper hydration during exercise (and consequently proper temperature regulation, blood plasma levels, and sweat rate) means more than just drinking water. In the Arizona summer I would lose water weight during runs, but my skin and clothing was bone dry at the end of the run. I’m sure many of you have experienced that nice salt encrusted forehead at the end of a hot run. The good news is that doesn’t mean your body is devoid of water, it means you need to take in electrolytes, primarily sodium, as you hydrate in order to replace all that salt stuck on your body.

In addition to flushing out water and sodium on a hot day your body also increases the rate at which it uses muscle glycogen. Caloric replacement is particularly important during longer training sessions (over an hour) and in preparation for longer races such as the half marathon and marathon. Utilizing a sports drink that replaces electrolytes and glucose is ideal for hydrating before and after exercise. I don’t want to get side tracked by post run nutrition (as I’ll assume everyone read my September article on recovery), but its importance is amplified during the heat of the summer when the body is utilizing more glucose and fluid during the run.

I understand the cringe-inducing statement I’m about to make, but utilizing the treadmill is better than putting in a run during the middle of a hot summer afternoon. In extreme heat most people will be unable to replace the 3+ pints of fluid that can be lost per hour of exercise. Additionally, battling those conditions day after day can dramatically decrease performance and prevent recovery day to day. Getting in the air-conditioned gym, while not the shorts-in-sub-freezing-temperature tough guy stupid option, may occasionally be the most prudent choice. Additionally, if your long runs are over 2 hours and you’re struggling late in your runs try starting or finishing the run indoors on a treadmill. Supplementing some running with cross training is also a good way to acclimate to the heat and build your aerobic volume during a base building phase of training.

If you are preparing for summer racing heat acclimation is critical, but minimizing heat exposure on race day will help improve performance. If you typically do a longer warm-up before races consider shortening your routine in warmer temperatures. A 10-12 minute warm-up is plenty for the days where you break a sweat walking out the door in the morning. Taking a cooler with some ice water and towels to the race is even better. Cooling the surface of the skin, particularly the back of the neck and wrists, has shown performance benefits with regard to lowering core temperatures and decreasing the metabolic cost of cooling your body. Chewing on crushed ice has similar effects and lowers your perceived effort in warm conditions. At the USA Track and Field Championships last June we had our ZAP athletes do their entire warm-up around the top of an indoor basketball arena to keep their core temperatures from skyrocketing.

Keep in mind its okay if your workouts and training runs are a little slower. Focus on maintaining your effort in the summer, not your pace; you’ll still reap the same fitness benefits. Otherwise you may end up overtraining or increasing the risk of injury. Embrace the challenges summer presents, and know that properly equipped, you can use the heat to take your fitness to a new level!

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Learning From the Young Guns
Boston Strong
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

This month is a departure from my typical monthly running advice. I was fortunate to be a part of the Boston Marathon several weeks ago and the experience expanded my view of our sport. I spent the better part of my running life attempting to get every ounce out of my body (my left hip will attest to this). I prided myself on competing fiercely every time out - don’t we all? Today I spend most of my time working with professional runners who compete against the best in the world. The competitive side of running has shaped me as an athlete and a coach. The allure of running, though, is that it doesn’t require the absolute dedication of a professional athlete or world-class talent to be competitive and strive for improvement. That communal spirit of struggle and achievement is what brought 1 million people to the streets of Boston to cheer on the marathoners, and it’s what kept them there hours after Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the race in 31 years. They were cheering on Meb and the other top athletes, but they were also cheering on their friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Competitiveness and dedication were on full display in Boston, which you could clearly see etched in the faces of the 36,000 participants.


However, the Boston Marathon, this year more than most, is more than just competition. It’s a shared celebration of achievement between participants and those cheering alongside the course. This year it was a cathartic celebration of different proportions, but perhaps in the most fitting tribute possible, it felt a lot like a typical Patriot’s Day in Boston. Several years removed from my competitive running days, I was inspired to run the marathon by cheering on the course last year and witnessing the incredible spirit of the race. My decision was forged in the aftermath of the bombings and the groundswell of support surrounding the recovery. This race would be different for me though, I wouldn’t be targeting a specific time, I was simply running to experience the spirit of Boston and contribute whatever amount of support and resilience I could by participating.


In the interest of full disclosure, running a race for fun is not something I had ever 
embraced or felt comfortable with. There has always been a little part of me that never 
understood why someone would run a race and not put forth a race effort. I mean, that’s 
why they call it a race right? 

I traveled up to Boston with a group of local runners from Boone, North Carolina. Some of 
us were running for fun, some were running with the hopes of turning in a PR. It was the 
first time I’ve traveled to a race as an athlete or a coach and not been fueled by 
competition. And it was strangely enjoyable. We coordinated a group run with ZAP 
friends Sunday morning and chatted our way down the Charles River before showering 
and meeting a larger group of ZAP supporters at a local restaurant. I made the comment 
during our gathering that I couldn’t think of a better place and a better time to get 
everyone together and share time. And then it hit me; the experience was akin to going 
home for the holidays and seeing old friends. The shared experience and community is what makes our sport so special. The communal experience of running is shared by millions of people around the country, many of whom were out on the course either running or cheering in Boston.


I’d never taken the time to enjoy that communal experience during the course of a race until this year. I’d never understood the value of taking time to enjoy the experience of a race outside competition. As I ran with friends over the first few miles of the course, I noticed a sign with the words of 8 year old Richard Martin on it, “No more hurting people. Peace.” Richard was the youngest victim of last year’s bombings, and his memory, along with those of the other victims, was celebrated to the best of Boston’s ability. It gave greater meaning to our run, and it was emotional to be reminded of such tragedy. But for everyone there, and everyone watching, the triumphant spirit of the race carried the day, as it always has in Boston. I know several runners who, despite having rough days, stayed on the course when they otherwise might have dropped out because finishing this race meant more. Giving up wasn’t an option, not on a day dedicated to the resilience of a community.


We ran past the various college campuses, kissing the Wellesley College co-eds and doling out high fives until our hands stung. I ate orange slices from kids on the street, tapped people’s “slap here for more power” signs, and came dangerously close to taking a beer from a Boston University student at mile 17. I ran down Boylston Street with Zika, ZAP co-founder, and my partner in qualifying last fall in Erie. We whooped up the crowd, and despite most of my body protesting, relished the moment. As simple as it seems, that was something new for me. I had developed an appreciation for participating.


Don’t get me wrong; there is great value to competing. You find out more about yourself in the final mile of a race than in many other places, and the struggle is what makes the victory so sweet. Sometimes though, it’s worth stopping to smell the roses… or in this case, kiss a Wellesley girl.


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Learning From the Young Guns
The Run Down on the Long Run
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

My junior year in college our cross country team had a breakthrough season. Reflecting back years later I attribute it to a variety of factors, but there are two in particular that standout: we started running more, and our long runs became a bigger priority. Last month I discussed the basics of building a base, addressed the importance of aerobic volume in starting a training plan, and the benefits of running a bit more. This month I’d like to delve a little bit deeper into the topic of aerobic development and discuss the importance and execution of the long run. The long run serves a number of purposes, depending on what event you are preparing for, but it should be a staple of any distance runner’s training program.
When starting a training program the goal is to build aerobic fitness, the primary purpose of the long run. The long, uninterrupted bout of exercise increases capillary density, improves your ability to transport oxygen efficiently to the muscles, and builds strength in the tendons and musculature. In beginning a program, when workouts should essentially be non-existent, the long run provides the best aerobic stimulus of the week. The long run also requires more recovery and should not be undertaken more than once a week. However, I strongly recommend including a “medium long run” in the middle of the week that is 15-20% of your weekly volume. The medium long run provides similar aerobic benefits without taking as big of a toll on your body. It also incorporates variance into your weekly routine, which, for many people who are used to running the same route and distance every day, provides an important change in stimulus.


If the medium long run should be 15-20% of your weekly volume, what percentage should the long run make up? This answer requires significant qualification as the duration of your long run will vary depending on your weekly volume and what event you are preparing for. The long run should be a minimum of 20-25% of your weekly volume, but could be as much as 45-55% of your weekly volume if you are running a 20+ mile long run in preparation for a marathon. Many people train for a marathon on 40-50 miles a week, and if you are limiting your long run to 25% of your weekly volume you will be grossly underprepared for the marathon distance. As you get closer to your key race the emphasis of the long run may change. In the final 8-10 weeks of training before a key race, the specific phase, your priority should reflect what you are preparing for. In the case of the marathon the long run will remain the most important run of the week as it is the most specific to your race. If you are preparing for a 5k, your most important workouts will be your 5k specific workouts.

Long run execution is a critical aspect to getting the most out of your long run, as well as not shuddering at the idea of a long run, which you may be doing right now. Most people start their long run far too fast. When I describe the idea of negative splitting a long run or a long race I inevitably hear, “it doesn’t matter how slow I start I’ll die at the end anyways.” People who say this start their runs too fast; it’s like Elizabeth Taylor giving marriage counseling. You should start your long run up to two minutes per mile slower than your marathon pace and work your way through the run where you finish the final miles near marathon pace. I promise you will feel better throughout the run if you do this. More than likely you’ll end up finishing the run faster overall as well. One of the secret components to the long run I learned from the former author of this column, ZAP Fitness head coach Pete Rea (who in all fairness got it from the great Bill Squires) is incorporating pickups in the long run. Pickups can range from 1 minute in length to several minutes and should be done in the latter stages of a long run.


For instance, I might prescribe someone to do alternating 1 minute and 2 minute pickups over the last hour of their long run with 5 minutes of running between each at the pace they were running before they started the pickups. The pace of the pickups isn’t important, but you should be able to resume your normal long run pace immediately, if you have to slow down to recover you’re doing them too fast. For most people, I suggest starting at marathon effort and moving forward throughout the sequence. The pickups serve two critical purposes. From a physiological perspective, the pickups recruit fast twitch muscles late in the run when your slow twitch fibers are fatigued. This strengthens the fast twitch fibers and helps improve leg speed, particularly improving ability to finish fast at the end of a race when you’re tired. Additionally, the pickups provide great psychological training as they force you to break up the run. Including pickups will make the last hour of the run go by faster because you are only focused on 1-2 minutes at a time. There is great application here for racing. If you can translate that idea to a race and focus on 1-2 minutes at a time the race goes by faster, and you’ll run much stronger over the final stages.


Prioritizing your long run and improving the execution will boost your performances in every event from mile to the marathon!

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Learning From the Young Guns
Building the Basics
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

It’s hard to believe it, but yes, summer is right around the corner. For many of us that means the summer racing season that you may feel under prepared for is looming. If you haven’t managed to dust off the winter cobwebs yet, don’t worry, you still have time to get in a proper buildup for your summer racing season. Whether your finish line is the Peach Tree Road Race, your local summer track series, or a fall marathon, everyone should begin at the same starting line. Over the last several months I’ve discussed some specific training topics, but this month I want to get back to the basics of starting a training program, from the couch up.

The same start line does not mean everyone begins with the same fitness or running background. It means the principles of the process should be the same for everyone, and your background and level of fitness will dictate how those principles apply. Let’s start with a short history lesson that dates back to the 1950s in New Zealand, with a man named Arthur Lydiard. I could write a book on the legendary coach, but he’s already done that several times far better than I could hope to, so I’ll make my point brief. Lydiard forever transformed the way distance runners train. His focus on aerobic development, volume based training, and periodization revolutionized the sport. Lydiard took an 800m / 1500m runner by the name of Peter Snell and turned him into a 3-time Olympic champion. Part of his training regimen was logging 100+ mile weeks, something unheard of at the time especially for a middle distance runner. Snell is just one example of many in a long list of Olympic medals won and world records set by Lydiard coached athletes.

Lydiard popularized what we now commonly refer to as the base period. This is where we will focus our attention this month. The early stages of any buildup are always the hardest part. You know that part where every run seems hard, even if it’s slow. Understanding the importance of building a base can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and stay committed through the get off the couch stage. The base building period should largely be made up of relaxed, conversation paced running. For the heart rate people out there, you should be looking at 80% or less of your max heart rate. There are several goals in the base building phase. Primarily, we are focused on improving our body’s ability to transport oxygen to the working muscles, basic aerobic conditioning. Conversation paced running helps develop capillary beds, improve oxygen carrying capacity, and improve mechanical efficiency through repetition, much the same way spending time at the driving range improves your golf swing. A less well known benefit during the base period is the development of strength in the connective tissue and the musculature, where most running injuries take place. The development of strength in the connective tissue and musculature is the foundation that enables our bodies to handle the more intense work later on in training without getting injured. More often than not it is the intensity that gets people hurt, not the volume, because people are eager to skip the boring base phase and get straight to the fast stuff. I don’t blame you, running fast is fun, but you can’t race fast if you can’t stay healthy.

The belief that increasing volume inherently increases injury risk is one of the biggest running myths out there. My experience, and that of Arthur Lydiard, says the truth is typically the complete opposite. For most people, running more will actually reduce your risk of injury by strengthening muscles and connective tissue, improving your ability to handle race specific intensity. The caveats are not dramatically increasing your mileage, making sure you do the vast majority of your running at a pace you can hold a comfortable conversation, and not increasing volume and intensity at the same time. What’s a dramatic increase? I like to break the year into two training segments. If you’re attempting to increase your volume from one segment to the next, a good rule is to bump your average weekly volume by no more than 10 miles from one segment to the next.


As much as I hate to admit this, the 10% rule is a good guide for increasing mileage from one week to the next, as long as you are running 20 miles a week or more - if you start at 5 miles a week and add 10% each week it will take 6 months to reach 20 miles a week. The 10% rule simply states you can safely add 10% more mileage from one week to the next. (Note: this is if you are reaching new mileage highs, if you’re getting back to volume you’ve reached before you can do it much quicker.) During all phases of training, including the build-up, using a “2 weeks up / 1 week down” format will keep you fresh and recovered week to week. Using this method, every 2 weeks of higher volume is paired with a week of lower volume. For example, the weekly mileage totals for a six week training block might look like this: 20, 24, 22, 27, 30, 24. The down week allows your body to properly recover and adapt to the 2 weeks of greater stress.


Usually when runners decide to increase their mileage there is some catalyst that motivates them to do it. Unfortunately, the catalyst is usually a Rocky-in-the-Soviet-winter type of motivation that is paired with a spike in training intensity. Overloading your body with simultaneous volume and intensity increases is a recipe for breakdown, and I don’t want to tell you I told you so, but I will. Increase one at a time and make sure when you’re adding miles those miles are at an easy, conversational pace. You’ve still got time to be your best this summer, but remember there are no shortcuts to success in distance running. Even if you have to do some earlier races off just base work that’s okay, many people surprise themselves how fast they run with just a little increase in volume.

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Learning From the Young Guns
Mental Approach to the Marathon
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

The anxiety of an approaching race can affect your performance and be difficult to manage, especially when it comes to the marathon. The marathon is a one shot deal that you’ve (hopefully) put months into preparing for. If it doesn’t go well you will likely have to wait a while before attempting another. If you’re thinking, “I was fine until I started reading this article. I’m putting this thing down,” don’t! Having a structured plan and taking time to mentally prepare yourself can help eliminate pre race anxiety, but these tools also put you in a position to run your best on race day. Whether you’re racing in 2 weeks or 2 months, it’s never too late to start thinking about your approach to the race.

The best piece of advice I can give people to calm their nerves heading into a big race is to understand that by the time you step on the line 98% of the race is already run. If you’ve arrived to the start line prepared you’ve already done all the heavy lifting. (If you haven’t, well… start slow.) Getting up early to run during the week, putting in an 18 miler on the treadmill because nobody can run outside this winter, icing your legs after a workout – that’s the hard work. The race is gravy, an opportunity to reap the rewards of all the hard work you’ve put in. Remember, it’s just a foot race, don’t make it rocket science. Control the controllables, everything else is a distraction. I am always amazed how much time and energy people spend worrying about things outside their control – the weather, how fast their running buddy goes out, the course. Prepare for the things you can control and don’t worry about the rest. You’ll sleep more soundly the night before the race and perform better.

A hand me down lesson I learned from the late exercise psychologist and ZAP Fitness co-founder Andy Palmer is to have a plan, but make it flexible. What if it’s hot? What if I start too fast? What if I start too slow? What if I miss a water station? What if my pace group starts too fast? It’s important to have a plan, but in most races things don’t go perfectly and you should be prepared for that. One bad mile isn’t going to ruin your race, but string a few together and you’re in trouble. Whether you run a mile too fast or too slow, don’t panic, just get back on track from that point. Panicking and trying to immediately make up for lost time is the worst move you can make. Dramatic movement in a marathon is the equivalent of alternately stomping on the gas pedal and brake, a poor move in a 26.2 mile race where fuel economy is paramount.

As you structure your race plan, break it up into 4 chunks. The first 5 miles should be the “warm-up.” For those outside elite athlete territory you don’t really need to run a warm-up beforehand, outside of your walk to the start line. Use the first couple of miles to ease yourself into the race, targeting 15-20 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace and working up to your target pace by mile 5. This will help you be more comfortable in the early miles and keep you from letting your nerves take over and starting too fast. Starting slower will make you 30-90 seconds slower than goal pace at halfway. You should aim for a negative split in the marathon. This takes confidence to execute, but will leave you in much better position to finish strong and avoid riding that fine line throughout the race where you are more likely to run into problems. Give yourself some leeway early and you’ll dramatically increase the odds of having a great race. Going out faster than your goal pace markedly decreases your margin for error and increases your chances of trouble late. The best runners in the world do this consistently; take a page from their book.

The second chunk of the race is “the setup.” Through this section focus on keeping your pace even and your body relaxed. This part of the race sets up the final 10 miles where the race is really won. You can’t win the race from miles 5-15, but you can sure lose it. Think about getting to mile 15 where you need to as easily as possible. This is the time to set your body on cruise control, stay relaxed and be energy efficient – Prius mode. You are setting yourself up for success later in the race. The next chunk is where the race really starts and where you shift your focus to race mode. From miles 15-20 you want to remain relaxed, but if you’re feeling good start moving forward a little bit. It takes a lot of focus to be engaged here, so save your mental energy for this part of the race. 

The final chunk of the race is the last 10k is where you can forget about the watch and focus on running hard – time for Ferrari mode. Break this section into small pieces and avoid focusing on the last 10k all at once. Focusing on the entirety of the race is an overwhelming thought, especially when it feels like getting through 4 more minutes, let alone 4 more miles, would be a monumental feat. Break it into small increments, a few minutes, passing the guy you’ve been tracking for 12 miles, the right hand turn ahead, whatever it is, but focus only on that task at that time. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you narrow your focus. Think about keeping your repetition of foot strike high and maintaining your composure in your upper body. This is going to be hard, embrace that, and know that it’ll be worth it when you cross that line at the end. 

Preparation is the race - the time on the course is your victory lap, enjoy it!

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Learning From the Young Guns
4 Workouts to Spice Up Your Training
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

As runners, most of us have staple workouts we come back to over and over again (some of us even come back to them every single day). As an athlete I had key workouts that let me know I was ready to race. As a coach I have workouts I implement consistently during certain points of a buildup. However, despite what we may want to believe, myself sometimes included, the truth is there are no magic workouts. Having benchmark workouts are a good thing, they measure progress and give us confidence heading into races, but variance is an important factor in development as well. This month I’d like to share 4 of my favorite workouts and challenge you to give them a test spin and mix up your routine a bit as you prepare for spring races.

Workout 1: The Progression Run. Progression runs are perfect for the early stages of a training program, but they can also be used effectively throughout the buildup. The purpose behind the progression run is two-fold. Primarily, the progression run stimulates the anaerobic threshold, the cornerstone of higher intensity workouts for all distance runners. What I love about the progression run is the unique way in which it develops the aerobic system. The progression run allows an athlete to ease their way into the workout a little bit more moderately. Most athletes tend to start workouts too fast, and this can result in not being able to finish workouts or running beyond the intended scope of a given workout. The progression run tempers this problem because the intention is to start out slowly and gradually progress through the workout. Learning the discipline of being patient and methodical during training sessions translates to races, and this required focus is the hidden benefit of the progression run. 

Execution: Start the workout 10-15 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace and move evenly forward a few seconds per mile each mile so you are finishing the final mile 5-10 seconds per mile slower than 10k pace. 

Workout 2: Descending Tempo Fartlek. Fartlek runs are another great example of a workout that can utilized throughout a training program. The fartlek run (Swedish for “speed play,” go ahead, get the giggles out) is a continuous workout which alternates between pieces of quicker running and pieces of easier running. The workout, when run more moderately early in a training program, stimulates the anaerobic threshold and allows us to practice shifting gears during races. You can implement a fartlek later in a training program to replicate interval training by making the quicker pieces much faster and the slower pieces much slower.

Execution: Start with a 6 minute piece, run at or a little quicker than half marathon effort, followed by a slower 3 minute piece at normal easy day pace. For this fartlek the slower running piece is simply half the time of the previous quicker piece. The 3 minute slower piece is followed by a 5 minute piece, and the pattern repeats itself with each quicker piece being 1 minute less in duration than the previous. The duration of the quicker pieces are: 6-5-4-3-2-1 with the slower pieces being run after each quicker piece. The goal is to run each successive quick piece a few seconds per mile quicker than the previous, aiming for roughly 5k pace for the final 1 minute piece. The recovery pace should remain the same throughout the workout. To make the workout more of an interval workout start the 6 minute piece at 10k pace and make the slow pieces very easy.

Workout 3: 2 Mile Repeats. This is a workout I assign frequently during the specific preparation phase of a buildup for events from 10k to the marathon. The energy system at work during this session is similar to that of a progression run, but the intensity is higher for a longer period of time, making this workout more demanding and one you should avoid as you’re just getting started in a program. I will use this workout in the final 10 weeks of a training program, the specific preparation phase. The aim is to run these repeats at a moderate effort, not all out, with very little recovery.

Execution: The number of repeats depends on what event you’re preparing for as well as your overall level of experience and training volume. For a runner averaging 35 miles per week or less I recommend starting with 2 repeats. For a runner averaging 35-55 miles per week and preparing for a half marathon or full marathon I recommend 3 repeats. For the experienced runner accustomed to higher training volumes 3-4 repeats is appropriate. As with everything, the goal is to make each repeat a touch faster than the previous. Start the first repeat at half marathon effort and work down 5-10 seconds each repeat to where the last 2 miles are at or near 10k effort. The recovery between each should be a very easy 90-120 second jog. 

Workout 4: Tempo 400s. This is my favorite icing on the cake workout. This session should be done in the final month of preparation. It is intended to work on economy and put a little bit of snap in your legs. As alluded to in the name, it’s also an aerobically based workout in disguise, a recurring theme I’m sure you’ve noticed by now. 

Execution: The number of repeats should be based on the guidelines from the 2 Mile Repeat workout above, but can vary between 2-4 sets of (4x400m). The recovery should be 45-50 seconds between repeats and 2:00-2:30 between sets. Start the first set 5-10 seconds/mile quicker than half marathon pace and finishing the final set at 5k pace or even a few ticks quicker. You should finish feeling in control and comfortable.

Jump start your winter by spicing up your routine a little and realize the benefits of adding variety into your training regimen. 

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Learning From the Young Guns
Avoiding the Winter Doldrums
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

It’s time to get off on the right foot with your New Year’s resolution, to get out there and have the best winter of training ever. However, if you’re like many of us and have a hard time following through on that resolution this time of year, then I’ve got some ideas to spice things up for you and eliminate the excuses. Being in the south, most of us don’t deal with the severe weather problems of the Midwest or Northeast, but it doesn’t take much freezing rain to keep me inside. For many, this is also the time of year that is the least glamorous, but perhaps most important part of training – the winter base phase. It’s not the excitement of running intervals on the track or doing marathon specific long runs, but putting in the base phase is the foundation for all the “fun” workouts you do as you get closer to your race. For those looking towards spring and summer races it can be easy to lose motivation this far out from your goal races, but there is no replacing the aerobic strength that needs to be put in during the winter. 

I’m going to get this out of the way first since, for most, this is the least palatable solution to your winter doldrums. I know its blasphemy to many, but here it goes… the treadmill can be your friend. Unfortunately, the snow and ice are not, and I’d rather have any runner I coach go for a run on the treadmill than slip and slide through injury inducing precipitation. Grab a friend, go to gym, and get side by side treadmills because after all, misery loves company. It’s not all bad though; you can get some great work in on a treadmill and have precise control of your effort while you’re doing it. Use the treadmill as an opportunity to do an uphill progression run, one of my favorite workouts we use up here in the mountains, and nearly impossible to replicate outside.

 Start the workout with a flat, easy warm-up then start the progression. The progression is broken into 3 minute segments. Within each 3 minute segment increase the incline every minute, but keep the pace constant. Do each 3 minute segment twice, and start the first one 10-15 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace. Begin the first minute of each 3 minute segment at 1% incline, move to 2% at 1 minute, and 3% for the final minute. After doing the 3 minute segment twice increase the pace slightly and stick with the same incline progression as before. This is a great strength workout that also incorporates the benefits of hill running I introduced back in October. It keeps you busy too; pushing a button every minute helps the run go by much faster. Even if you are stuck doing an easy run on the treadmill make sure to vary up the pace and the incline a little bit throughout the run to keep it interesting.

I also want to talk about some non-running options that can help improve aerobic fitness and keep things fresh by mixing up your workout regimen. I want to preface this with something my college coach always said, “nothing replaces running like running”. This is true, but there are some things you can do to improve aerobic fitness (and keep off some of those holiday pounds). While running is the best option for improving running performance, your heart doesn’t know the difference between running and anything else that keeps the heart rate elevated. My favorite non-running exercise for runners is deep water running, and who knows, maybe getting in the pool during the winter will help you feel like you’re at the beach.

Deep water running translates well to running because you’re mimicking the running motion while you’re in the water, with one slight variation. You should keep your shoulders in line with your hips, focus on driving your arms forward and back, and drive your knees as if you were doing a high knee drill (the slight variation). The most effective way to work out in the water is to do short, high intensity intervals with short recovery. I like to do break downs of things such as 10 sets of 50 seconds sprint with 10 seconds recovery, 10 sets of 40 seconds sprint with 20 seconds recovery, and 30 seconds sprint with 30 seconds recovery. These will keep your heart rate elevated and keep the effort short enough to where you can really work hard without losing focus during the interval. You will want to wear a foam flotation belt to ensure proper form; otherwise you’ll end up doing an awkward doggy paddle and lose the running specific benefits.

Jumping on an exercise bike or elliptical are great cross training tools as well, and your focus should be on keeping your RPM’s high. Once you get warmed up you want to keep the RPM’s up over 90 to get the best translation to running economy. This means staying away from those high gears that bring you out of the saddle and focusing on rotating quickly. Cross training is a good tool to use for running supplementation as well as if you get injured, but it can also be used to develop aerobic strength and mix up the scenery a little bit during times when you need a jump start. Happy New Year, and let’s start this year off running!

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Learning From the Young Guns, December 2013

Running Posture and Foot Strike 
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

Should I be a mid foot striker? A forefoot striker? Should I have a forward lean? Why do I get passed on downhills? That’s what I look like when I run?! So many questions with so many different answers. There is a lot of information out there on how you should run and it can be overwhelming to sort through with all the books, articles, and branded techniques in endless supply. Makes you want to forget about all of it and just cancel your internet service doesn’t it? Take a deep breath and let’s break down the basics of proper running form. 

I’m sure many of you can spot your running partners off in the distance just by their form. Everyone is put together a little differently, and everyone has a unique running style. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfectly natural, and understanding that is an important step to knowing how to improve your form while accepting yourself as a runner. I want to go over two key components to help you run more efficiently and give clarity to the complicated and contradictory subject of running mechanics.

Let’s start where the rubber meets the road with one of the hottest topics in the running community – foot strike. What type of foot strike should I have is one of the most common questions I hear from people. Forget about that for a second and let’s reframe the way we think about this issue. I’m not concerned with what part of your foot you contact the ground with. I’m concerned with where your foot contacts the ground as it relates to the rest of your body. This is the real question you need to ask yourself, and once we get that sorted out the foot strike issue becomes irrelevant. The two are certainly related, and to a degree they can be different methods of addressing the same problem, but I prefer to treat the problem rather than the symptom. If the problem is over striding then a symptom may be how your foot contacts the ground. You want your feet landing under your center of gravity; essentially your feet should land directly underneath your 
hips. It is possible to have a heel strike and still do this, so let’s stay focused on the problem. If your feet 
are landing out in front of you, your body is in a braking motion until your hips move over the top of your
 foot. This is inefficient. It slows you down and increases the stress on your body. We want your hips to
 over the top of your foot on contact. This will also increase your number of foot strikes per minute
 (you’re looking for a total number close to 180), improving efficiency.

Okay, so feet underneath the hips, got it. What if I’m running uphill or downhill? Interestingly enough, the
 terrain shouldn’t affect the way your feet strike the ground. Hills will change the way you position your 
body, but not your feet. If you remember back to October I discussed hill training and mentioned how to 
use uphill running to improve your ability to run with your feet underneath your hips. It’s very hard to 
over stride uphill, but it’s very easy to over stride downhill. Even downhill you want to think about your 
feet striking the ground underneath your hips, and this will require a conscious effort as its counter to
 most people’s instincts. Doing so makes you a more efficient runner and reduces the high impact of 
downhill running, especially the quad beating downhills that can ruin a marathon. 

The key to effective downhill foot strike is your body position. You want to think about leaning with the hill so you are putting your body at a perpendicular angle to the ground. If you’re leaning back and hammering on the breaks you’re increasing the load on your lower back and slowing yourself down. If you need to slow down take shorter steps, but avoid leaning back and over striding. Running uphill isn’t much different. You want to focus on leaning into the hill from the ankles up making sure you are remaining upright in your torso. Remember, you’re not leaning from the waist into the hill, but from the ankles. Leaning over at the waist will restrict the diaphragm and inhibit your ability to utilize the entire lung for respiration, the very thing that will be stressed the most running uphill. Increasing respiration while restricting the diaphragm is not a good combination, so be sure to stay tall up top. 

To understand proper running posture we need to address two things. The first is similar to hill running in that you want an upright torso, from your hips through your spine and head. You want to keep your spine in a neutral position with minimal lower back curve. A key cue here is to think about keeping the spine as long as you can. This will keep you tall with your eyes up without over accentuating the curvature in the lower back. Secondly, to find your proper position try standing barefoot on the ground. You want to feel your weight evenly disbursed throughout the foot. If you feel more weight on your heels then drop your sternum forward a hair until you feel even disbursement throughout the foot. This is your proper running posture. 
These tips take practice and having someone video you will help to understand your foot placement and running posture. I know that thought is horrifying, but I promise you’ll survive and be better for it. Focus on these two simple things and take a break from sifting through all the endless information on running technique.

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Learning From the Young Guns, November 2013

My First Marathon
By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

I have a confession to make: I’ve coached marathon runners for years, but until the middle of September I had never actually run a marathon. In fact, I’d never run more than 21 miles at a time. My competitive background was in shorter distances, as I was a track runner who dabbled in some road racing and cross country. My competitive career was cut short by a hip injury before I had a chance to test the waters of the longer distances. But when one door closes another opens and here I am doing what I love, coaching. Having trained and competed seriously for nearly a decade, and with my best days behind me, I had nothing on my running bucket list, least of which was a marathon. That changed when I was at the Boston marathon in April, and not entirely for the reason you may think.

I had never been to the Boston Marathon before I made the trip this year as ZAP had athletes racing the 5k the day before and one athlete running the marathon. Additionally, I had several coaching clients racing the marathon on Monday. On Patriots Day I posted up at the top of Heartbreak Hill five miles from the finish. I watched the elites go by and gave Alissa, the ZAP athlete running, a cheer as she ran by. I spent the next 2 hours cheering on runners I coached as well as others I knew. There was a college student standing across the street (his blood alcohol level is tangential to the story) and the entire time I was there he was cheering, high fiving, patting people on the back, and telling everyone he could that “you got this.” This inebriated college student showed me what this race was: a 26.2 mile celebration of our sport. And it was awesome. Jason Hartman ran by all alone as the first American male, sending the crowd into a frenzy, and I got goose bumps. When the Wounded Warrior Project Soldiers ran by in full combat gear I teared up. I had to be part of this someday. In the days that followed, as I sat morbidly glued to the television, tracking every detail with profound sadness, I knew that it needed to be in 2014. 

Fast forward to September 15th and the Erie Marathon where ZAP co-founder Zika Rea and I were jogging toward the start line in the dark questioning our very sanity. The day before on our shakeout jog I was full of energy, harkening back to my competition days where I would block out every other thought in the world, focusing only the excitement of the race. I had to remind myself this was not a 5k, this was a marathon, and I needed to stay within myself. I couldn’t help but feel the excitement; competition was the moment I always relished, putting all that hard training nobody saw on full display. This would be different though, for both Zika and I, two former elite athletes hoping our career ending injuries would hold up against the rigors of 26.2 miles on pavement. In the dawn of marathon morning the excitement dissipated and the anxiety set in – what on earth was I doing standing on the start line of a marathon? If you would have told me 6 months ago I would be here, 4 gels in my back pocket, finding my place among the crowd, I would have said you were insane! 

As the gun went off I reminded myself to treat it like the start of a long run, to spend the first few miles easing into things. Amidst the chaos of the opening miles I was able to settle into a good rhythm and execute my plan. I knew from looking at the results from prior years if I executed well I would probably finish in the top 30-40, and to my shock I was sitting in what I estimated to be well over 200th place at 5k! I preach patience to my marathon runners constantly, especially at the beginning because I know going out too hard is a common mistake. Despite that, I couldn’t believe how many people were sprinting in and out of traffic and breathing heavily in the first few miles. The name of the game is to use as little energy as possible to get where you’re going - hit the cruise control button and take your foot off the gas. I tried my best to do that, although my hip began to bother me and I ended up running fairly unevenly from mile to mile. So much for heeding my own advice. 

By mile 18 my hip flexors were as tight as banjo strings and my legs ached with every step, but I knew I could still change gears if I needed to. I started doing the math every mile after 15, calculating what pace I would need to qualify, and with 4 miles to go I knew I needed to move. I called upon my competitive instincts one more time, put my foot on the accelerator and poured by people all the way to the finish line. My patience had paid off and when I crossed the line the clock revealed a Boston Qualifier. Zika crossed the line twenty minutes later, well under her qualifier, and although my body was cursing every step I had taken, we were both excited to be part of the celebration in April that will be so much more than simply a celebration of running.

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Learning From the Young Guns, October 2013
Why Hill Training?

By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

At our adult running camp a few weeks ago we were doing our video analysis with the group and I said for the countless time this summer, “you would really benefit from doing some regular work on hills”. So this month I’d like to talk to you about hills – when, how, and why to use them. Go ahead, cue the collective groan, I’ve heard it before – along with the ashamed look that says you know you should be doing hill training but aren’t. Okay, now with that out of the way let me tell you why hills are important and how they can help take you to the next level in your running. Everyone knows they should be doing hill training, but do you really know why? Most people don’t, they just know they should, but not knowing the reason makes the follow through less likely. Well no more excuses, I’m going to lay it out here and get you motivated to tackle some hills this fall!

There a number of benefits hills provide, the most obvious being that they’re hard; they stress our lungs and cardiovascular system, providing a great stimulus for improving fitness. But there are a number of ways you can improve fitness that don’t include hill training. So what is it that can sets hill training apart from other types of hard workouts? One of the benefits is that while it provides a great anaerobic threshold stimulus uphill running isn’t all that stressful on your legs. It may feel very stressful on your legs while you’re running, but the impact stress is a fraction of what it is with a similar effort on a flat surface. We are fortunate enough where we live to be able to run several miles continuously uphill. Yes, that’s right, I said fortunate. We frequently do uphill tempo runs with our athletes. There are a variety of reasons for this; one is that we are able to get in all the aerobic benefits of a tempo run without the impact stress of achieving the same effort on a flat surface. Your body moves at a higher rate of speed on flat surfaces which means ground reactionary forces are higher, and therefore the force of your body impacting the ground is higher. By reducing the speed running uphill we still get in the tempo workout without those higher impact forces.

In addition to reducing the impact during hard efforts, hills also improve running biomechanics. When we look at running form on video with our adult running camps we tell a lot of people that incorporating hills into their weekly routine will help improve their form. One of the ways running uphill improves your form is through increased muscle recruitment. You’ll notice if you watch someone running fast they often look much more efficient than they do when they’re running slowly. This isn’t an optical illusion. Your body is very adaptable to stress and when you ask more out of your body it usually responds by finding ways to become more efficient. This adaptability is amplified when running uphill. With the added stress of running uphill your body increases muscle recruitment which improves your efficiency. Doing some hill running a couple of times a week will make that muscle recruitment pattern your normal recruitment pattern, even on flat surfaces. Think of hills as nature’s weight room for distance runners. The idea behind doing leg weights is to improve efficiency in much the same way we aim to with hill training. 

Running uphill forces you to land with your feet underneath your center of mass, which is something you should aim to do all the time while you’re running. This is particularly important for people who tend to overstride. By forcing you to land with your feet underneath your center of mass rather than way out in front you also increase your repetition of foot strike. You should be targeting right around 180 foot strikes per minute. Next time you run, take a foot strike count and if you are below 180 total foot strikes then doing some more hill work will help you increase your cadence and make you more efficient.

There are a number of ways you can incorporate hills to reap the benefits I’ve discussed. In the early stages of your training program where you are spending your time just building up easy base mileage you can still improve efficiency with hills. In addition to finding a hilly run a couple of times a week, finish 2-3 runs a week with 4-10 uphill strides from 10-30 seconds in length. You should take plenty of recovery between them, these aren’t intended to be strenuous; they are simply for improving form and efficiency. As you progress in your training and start doing some longer fartlek and tempo work you can include hilly fartlek runs, the uphill tempos I mentioned, or even longer hill repeats with a jog recovery. As you get closer to your race and your workouts become more specific to the race you’re getting ready for include some shorter, faster hill repeats. While hills serve an important purpose in training it is also important to do some running that is specific to your race as you get closer to race day. If you are targeting a flat 5k then you need to include some work on flat surfaces too. 

Include some of these tips in your weekly routine and the next time someone says hill work you won’t be part of the collective groan.

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Learning From the Young Guns, September 2013
Improving Recovery to Maximize Fitness Gains

By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

The fall racing season is upon us and many of you may be in the throes of training for a fall marathon or half marathon, or you may be targeting some shorter events in the coming weeks and months. Regardless, one important aspect of training that often gets neglected this time of year is recovery. In last month’s column I talked about the importance of taking easy days between your harder efforts and the role recovery plays in taking advantage of supercompensation, the body’s adaptation to stress that allows for fitness improvements. This month I will discuss some more specific ways to improve recovery and maximize fitness gains. 

Let’s start out looking at a few ways to improve recovery after a hard workout. The first thing you want to make sure you do is to eat and drink something immediately after your workout. Fluid intake this time of year is particularly important, and loss of 1-2% body weight can have dramatic impacts on performance. You should replace fluids immediately, at the rate of roughly 3 cups for every pound of weight loss. For longer runs over 60 minutes you should be replacing fluid during the run. Eating a few hundred calories containing carbohydrates and protein at roughly a 4-1 ratio in the first 30 minutes post run is key to starting the recovery process. Additionally, getting a full meal within 2 hours improves glycogen resynthesis and promotes quicker recovery. At ZAP we are adamant our athletes bring something to eat and drink with them after every training session.

One of the hotly debated topics in sports science is the benefits to stretching, a debate I will avoid for this discussion. However, many people claim that stretching post run improves recovery, and unfortunately there isn’t much evidence to support this claim. The best thing you can do to help facilitate tissue repair, or rather to maintain tissue fiber alignment, is to get yourself a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or one of a variety of other tools to self massage post workout. This is a battle that is never ending for distance runners, the 
knot in the quad, the tight IT band, the sore calf. But if you do some daily maintenance with self 
massage, or actual massage as you can afford it, you can stay on top of these little nicks and 
promote healthy running – the key to distance running success!

Always remember if you have an injury you are going to ice, or if you are going to soak your legs in
 cold water for an ice bath – my next tip for recovery – make sure you do any type of massage 
beforehand. Ice baths, soaking your legs in water that is around 50 degrees, are a great way to 
reduce inflammation after a hard workout or long run and speed up the recovery process. You can 
use a bath tub, or if you’re as fortunate as we are at ZAP, a cold mountain stream, to soak your 
legs for 10-15 minutes. It will leave your legs feeling much better in the days following a harder 
session.

One thing we do with our ZAP athletes after harder morning workouts and long runs is some kind of light exercise in the afternoon. On these days our athletes do a short recovery run in the afternoon or a light spin on the stationary bike. Getting out again later in the day for something very gentle to move the muscles improves blood flow and mobilizes the muscles to facilitate quicker recovery. The feedback from our athletes has been that they feel much better the following day. The alternative, as was my college routine, is to sit around watching football all afternoon hobbling on stiff legs back and forth to the kitchen.

In between those runs and most other days of the week our athletes take naps. I know for many naps, and sleep in general, is a luxury you may not be afforded. However, naps are a crucial part of an elite athletes training regimen – I know, tough life. Your body produces growth hormone while you sleep. This may sound familiar as many athletes across all sports have been busted for taking the synthetic version, but the body produces it naturally after 50-90 minutes of sleep. For athletes, being able to naturally produce growth hormone twice a day aids in recovery. Being able to get a full night of sleep is another crucial aspect of proper recovery, maintaining energy levels, and tissue repair. Everyone is a little different, but your goal should be able to get enough sleep that you wake up naturally. Yes, that means turning off Duck Dynasty and stop depending on the alarm clock. You can watch it online tomorrow.

Our weekly schedule at ZAP is to follow our long run day with 2 short runs the following day. Two shorter runs the day after harder effort is much better for recovery than one longer run. If you are finding yourself particularly beat up trying to fit in your weekly goal volume, try breaking up the days after harder or longer sessions into two shorter runs. We do it twice a week with our athletes and it provides much of the same benefits I described with doing a very gentle run or cross training session after a hard workout. Breaking up the run speeds along the recovery process by moving the muscles without subjecting the body to the type of breakdown you accumulate with one longer run. 

Another important training tool to avoid breaking the body down week after week is to structure your weekly training in a “2 weeks up / 1 week down” format. This is a three week cycle of 2 weeks at peak volume and then 1 week 10-15% down from that. A typical 3 week mileage cycle for someone running a peak of 50 miles a week might look like this: 50, 50, 43. This allows for a week where your body can properly recover and adapt to the 2 weeks of greater stress. Lastly, when you’ve finished your key race, take a true recovery period of 1-3 weeks where you do very little running with perhaps a little bit of cross training. Then start building back up into your next training cycle, knowing that the ability to recovery properly is what makes you a better runner.

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Learning From the Young Guns, August 2013
Fresh Perspective

By Ryan Warrenburg, ZAP Fitness

Many of you might be flipping these pages looking for the familiar photo of Pete Rea, who has penned the, “Learning from the Young Guns,” column for the last eight years. While still the “Learning from the Young Guns” column, I am obviously not Pete Rea. I am however, extremely excited and honored to be taking over this column. I have made a couple of guest appearances over the last few years in writing from the perspective of an athlete. Since then I have been working with the elite athletes at ZAP Fitness as Pete’s assistant coach as well as coaching a number of adult runners throughout the country. My experience of coaching athletes over the last few years has given me an entirely new perspective on our sport from the one I had as a professional athlete.

My journey as an athlete, and now as a coach, has been a continuous learning experience, much as is the case with any profession or passion. My intention in this column is to share that learning process with all of you and for you be a part of it. I know there isn’t a lot that is interactive about reading an article in black and white or on the internet, but the interaction I have had with athletes and coaches over my running career has been just as, if not more valuable, than anything I’ve read in a book. As Pete says to every incoming athlete we interview at ZAP, “every athlete is an experiment of one.” While I have a set of guiding principles that I believe are inherent in distance running success, I am also keenly aware that every one of us is a little bit different. One thing I would like to do with this column is for you to share your experiences with me and send in questions you’d like me to address. I want to write on topics that are meaningful and interesting to you and I welcome your input in letting me know what you’d like to discuss. 

Having worked with Pete over the last several years, his influence over my coaching is significant. However, I feel very fortunate to have worked with a variety of coaches over the last 15 years, and I’ve taken things from each one of them. My coach in high school went into teaching because he was motivated to be a better teacher than some teachers he had as a kid. While we learn what not to do from some, I have been inspired by the coaches I’ve had every step of the way and they have fostered my passion for the sport. 

One of the most important things I have ever learned in running is, oddly enough, something most people see as the absence of training, recovery. As we tell all of our adult campers at ZAP, recovery is not the absence of training, it is part of it. This concept was instilled in me as a young runner which likely helped me avoid developing the bad habit of being a “Tuesday All-American.” A Tuesday All-American is someone who shows up big on workout days or easy days and is nowhere to be found when it actually counts, on race day. Not allowing for proper recovery is one of the biggest mistakes I see among elite runners, but even more so among some of the adult runners that I coach. 

In talking to runners who come to me for guidance one of the common mistakes I see is that most people tend to do the same thing day in and day out. This often means all of their runs are of a relatively high intensity, and while they saw improvements in performance when they started, they have since seen a plateau in their training and racing. We talk a lot about the idea of waves in a training cycle, with the peaks of the waves being the harder workout days and the troughs of the waves being easy, recovery runs. This pattern of hard workouts followed by recovery is what creates improvement in performance. 

The recovery portion of the training cycle allows for something called supercompensation, the body’s adaption to the stress of training which results in an increased fitness level. To think about it in different terms, if you go to the gym and lift weights you get sore. If you go back to the gym and lift weights every day you actually see a decrease in your strength. You aren’t allowing for the muscles to repair and build up stronger than they were before; you are simply in a cycle of tearing the muscle down. The same is true of distance running, if you don’t give your body a chance to build itself back up you will end up seeing a plateau in your performance, or worse, end up injured.

The concept of pairing hard days with easy days is one that is familiar to many runners. In next month’s article I will delve into some specific ways in which we can improve our ability to recover and maximize our fitness gains. Additionally, I will discuss how this concept applies to improvements from training cycle to training cycle. I am incredibly excited about being part of this publication and sharing my perspective with you.

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