September 2018 – Week 2: Capable, Unbreakable…Indestructible!

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Are you as indestructible as an everlasting gobstopper? If you “can’t” do a basic body weight exercise, avoid trails like the plague, or skip a run because it’s raining and you don’t want to slip and break something, you are not as indestructible as an everlasting gobstopper.

We are capable of being unbreakable but we have to work for it. Feeling strong enough to battle the elements is part of gaining fitness, improving our running prowess and getting that PR that’s been eluding us. Are you willing to work hard to become indestructible? I know you are or you wouldn’t be here… so let’s get to work!

According to Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running,

There are a few things about running injuries that you have to know.

Fact #1: Prevention is about a lot more than strength exercises.

Some runners think if they just do strength exercises they’re being “smart” about injury prevention. But no amount of strength can overcome poor training. Your running program needs to be structured the right way – or else your strength gains will just be wasted.

Fact #2: RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is just the beginning.

Ask any runner what they do to recover faster between workouts – or when the early signs of an injury appear – and they’ll inevitably defer to RICE.

It’s a great first step. But it’s just a first step. Are you following a post-run recovery routine? Are you doing all the maintenance work that you should be doing? Or maybe you’re relying too much on one aspect of recovery (like icing).

Fact #3: Smart runners build prevention into their training.

A runner once told me that he doesn’t want injury prevention to interfere with his training. After an audible gasp, I shook my head sadly. Unfortunately, this runner is doomed to continue on the hamster wheel of injuries.

The runners you know that never get injured are incredibly smart about prevention. It’s automatically built into their training plan with strategic mileage increases, workout progressions, and runner-specific exercises. Their health is not an accident.

Fact #4: Consistent health isn’t about luck or genetics – it’s about hard work.

You are not destined to be injured all the time. Nor are consistently healthy runners lucky – they didn’t hit the genetic lottery. Instead, healthy runners work hard to stay healthy.

It’s not enough to run a lot of miles and blast those tough speed workouts. We have to make sure our training program is right for us, for where we are in our fitness and for the goals we are trying to achieve.

But is all we do is run, the risk of injury is higher and our performance will suffer. Think about it…have your heard of an elite runner who “just runs”? Nope, they all strength train.

We know that running builds our endurance, but what are the other key factors that help us improve our athleticism?

  • Strength: the ability to produce force
  • Flexibility: the ability to attain large ranges of motion at the joints
  • Speed: the ability to move the body and its parts rapidly
  • Coordination: the ability to accurately and efficiently move the body and its parts in order to accomplish some task

These skills make us capable of doing more: mileage, speed work, and (of course) faster racing.

Since running is admittedly a two-dimensional activity (we run straight ahead), if that’s all we do then our other physical skills will atrophy. Our strength, flexibility, and agility will plummet.

So while our endurance might be great, if we can’t utilize that fitness because we’re injured, unbalanced or uncoordinated, then we’ll never run fast. If we, as runners, focus more on how to improve athleticism, many of these problems wouldn’t appear at all.

Jason has heard it all:

“I can’t run trails! I’ll turn an ankle!” If we’re chasing a big goal like a Personal Best, ultramarathon finish, or maybe a Boston qualifying marathon, then we must be more anti-fragile! Trails are not dangerous if you’re capable.

“I can’t hold this bodyweight exercise…” Some bodyweight exercises are difficult. But so is running fast! When easy or intermediate exercises can’t be done by runners who want to stay healthy or run a PR, there’s a clear discrepancy. Increasing our movement fluency improves our capability. There are no fast, weak runners.

“My squat form is terrible.” Running is a series of one-legged squats performed in a ballistic, plyometric manner. How can anybody run well without being able to squat adequately? Poor form on traditional, basic, and fundamental exercises is a red flag that there’s a lack of movement fluency – and therefore, athleticism.

“I don’t run two days in a row because I want to stay healthy”

Running more is generally the most effective way to improve your racing performances and get faster. If runners take off 3-4 days per week for injury concerns, this is a major red flag. Why? Well…

  • Not much running can be done in merely 3-4 days per week
  • If a runner is truly so susceptible to injuries that they can’t run two days in a row, the problem is strength, not the running!
  • This is a self-limiting belief and I refuse to let you settle for average

Jason stresses that we must model our training after how the best runners train. This means developing new habits.

Below are some key factors promoted by Strength Running:

  • A dynamic warm-up before every run
  • A cool-down before or after each run consisting of runner-specific mobility or strength work
  • Varied running surfaces like trails, grass, the track, and roads
  • Consistent strength training
  • Running drills to refine form and reinforce good habits
  • Hard workouts (fartleks, tempo runs, etc.) that increase our range of speed capability

Once we start training like competitive runners, even at scaled down levels for us, we’ll see dramatic improvements.

The Goal: Anti-Fragility

Anti-fragility is a property that’s defined as:

A property of systems that increase in capability, resilience, or robustness as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.

Anti-fragility creates more robust runners. The idea is to thrive off of uncertainty. To be able to go our for a run anytime, anywhere, without being worried about getting twisting an ankle, pulling a muscle or throwing out our back.

Where to start:

  1. Begin each run with a dynamic warm-up routine. (You should be doing this already!)
  2. Next, add a bodyweight strength or core routine at least 3 times each week. (We’ve been doing body strength workouts for a while so you should be used to this one. Now we are doing longer strength workouts 3 times each week instead of 4-5 shorter workouts.)
  3. Once you are stronger, start running on more varied, uneven surfaces. (Do you ever take your running off road?)
  4. Add running drills 2 times per week. (We are adding running drills this week!)
  5. When this is comfortable, it’s time to add additional strength training. (We’re already working on this week…this week we’re adding arms!)
  6. Add harder, faster workouts when you’re ready. (Don’t jump into harder, faster workouts before you are ready. Remember…being capable and strong means you are not fragile but you are ready to move forward with more work. Baby steps…)

Running Drills

It feels silly to do drills like skips, hops, and other form drills. Prancing around feels weird but once you realize how beneficial running drills can be you might change your mind.

Running drills can:

  • Improve the communication between your brain and legs – helping you become more efficient
  • Strengthen not only the muscles, but the specific joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful, fast running
  • Improve coordination, agility, balance, and proprioception – helping you become a better athlete
  • Serve as a great warm-up before challenging workouts or races

The best time to do drills is after a dynamic warm up and an easy running warm up. If it’s race day, drills should be done BEFORE your strides. If done before a regular run, same deal, drills should be done after a dynamic warm up and an easy warm up run. Stop and do your drills, then go into the meat of your workout.

We are going to do these drills AT LEAST twice this week (and each week going forward)

Below is a video of all the drills performed by Jason Fitzgerald. The video includes cues, instructions, and slow-motion footage to help you understand them in more detail.

The 7 drills we will perform this week are: (perform each of these drills once out and back for 30-50 meters or less than half the straight away on a track)

  1. High Knees
  2. A Skip – High Knee Skipping
  3. B Skip – High Knee Skipping with Leg Extension
  4. Butt Kicks variation 1 – Lift foot straight up under your butt (this is different from most of us think of as traditional butt kicks
  5. Butt Kicks variation 2 – traditional butt kick
  6. Straight Leg Bounds
  7. Grapevines

September 2018 Week #2: Adding Running Drills & Arm Strength

In addition to adding running drills back into our training arsenal this week, we will continue with our IT Band Routine and we are adding a quick arm workout that we will do right after the ITB routine. These 2 workouts will take about 25 minutes total and should be done 3 times this week. This is not a Strength Running routine from Jason Fitzgerald, but we need to add in some arms and this is a great one that is easily built into your day. We will add a new Strength Running routine next week.

First, follow along with Jennifer, Meghan and I below to complete the IT Band Routine then go right into this week’s arm strength workout. You should recognize this new one!

IT Band Strength & Rehab Routine

Nike Runner’s World Arm Strength

Speed Work: Train Negative 

This week’s speed workout is the same for everyone, but depending on what you are training for, your distance will vary. First let’s talk a little more about what a negative split is and why it’s effective.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to run faster in the second half of a race. In fact, anyone can and should run negative splits. Unfortunately, most runners don’t. Instead, they start in a near sprint, hang on through the middle and resort to a survivor’s shuffle at the end. But those who opt for negative splits patiently run a bit slower for the first third of a run, pick up the pace in the middle and finish with strength and speed.

The reason this works is because it can take your body several miles to get warmed up. After that, our muscles are charged, our joints lubricated, and mood-boosting endorphins flood our system. We’ll find ourselves running faster without feeling the additional effort. While 5-K racers DO benefit from this negative-split technique, marathoners will find it even more beneficial. Since a 5K race is relatively short, your warm up miles should be done before the race. But you still don’t want to go all out when the gun goes off. So how do we learn to slow down and the beginning of our run or race, then speed up to finish stronger and faster?

Trust the method. Many people are so used to charging out and then gradually slowing down that they don’t trust their bodies will ever speed up during a run. Trust me. It works. If you conserve your resources during the early part of a run, they’ll be available to you at the end.

Train negative. To build confidence, practice negative splits during training runs. Instead of starting your run, fartlek workout or interval sessions at the pace you want to average, run the first portion of the workout 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower. By the end of the session, you’ll be running faster than planned and will probably be feeling better than you’ve ever felt during a speed session.

Start slow. Depending on the length of your race, begin 20 to 40 seconds per mile slower than the race pace you’ve predicted. Don’t be tempted to speed up when you notice all those other runners flying by. Instead, hold back by imagining yourself comfortably passing them later in the race.

Gradually build speed. As you near the middle of the race, 4-5 miles into a half marathon, or 10-12 miles into a marathon, you want to hit your race pace. Then, toward the end, use those fresh legs to pass as many tired runners as you can.

A lot of us use this method already during our everyday runs, but this week I want you to  really focus on it and FEEL the pace early on, during the middle of your run and in the final miles. DON’T forget your warm up and cool down. The negative split portion should be smack in the middle! It should be obvious when you start the workout portion of your run. Keep your warm up nice and easy, then go into a pace that is a little faster than warm up but NOT at your race pace, slowly speed up to your race pace, finish the workout strong with a pace BELOW your race pace, then do a nice easy cool down.

Train Negative: Negative Split Speed Workout 

  1. Warm up – 1-2 miles at conversation pace
  2. Running Drills & Strides
  3. Negative Split Workout (see distance options below)
  4. Cool down – 1-2 miles

Training for a:

5K – 10K:

  • Do a warm up long enough to make you feel ready to run faster. That means your body is warm and your breathing is stable. This will depend on you. Some people are able to warm up faster than others. For me, I don’t start feeling good till at least 2 miles in.
  • Workout – 1-4 miles of negative split miles. If you are new to speed work and just dipping a toe into going faster, even doing a mile can get you ready for more. If you are only doing 1 mile of speed work break the mile into smaller segments like .25 miles and go faster for each quarter mile. Your last quarter mile being your fastest. If you have done speed work before, you should be doing at least 3 or 4 speedy miles. Again each mile should be faster then the previous mile.
  • Cool down – .5 – 1 mile cool down

15K – Marathon: Same warm up and cool down. Your speed will suffer if you cheat yourself out of a good warm up! 4-8 miles of negative splits

If you are training for a:

  • 15K = 4-5 miles
  • Half Marathon = 5-7 miles
  • marathon = 7-8 miles!

One caveat, if you are training for your first marathon and are just getting into your training, go for the lower miles. You don’t want to burn out or jeopardize your long run (the most important workout of the week) early in training.

I know it seems like a lot of miles, but when you run your goal race there’s no shortening the distance so you might as well be ready for it!

September 2018 Week #2 recap: 

  1. Daily Plank & Wall Sit (Minimum :60 each)
  2. IT Band Routine – 3x
  3. Nike/Runner’s World Arm Strength – 3x
  4. Running Drills 2x
  5. Speed Work

Are you indestructible? I know you are capable…I know you are getting stronger…but if you’re not indestructible…it’s time to get to work!

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