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A Coach Answers Six Common Running Questions

One runner asked her coach some of the most common questions that runners have—and now is sharing his words of wisdom here.

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Just over two years ago, I decided that it was time to hire a running coach. I felt in my heart that I had so much to accomplish in running and after years of grabbing onto various on line training plans, I needed to make a serious change.

I chose Mark Hadley because of his enormous depth of running experience—both as a talented runner and a coach—as well as his roster of talented athletes. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I hadn’t been formally coached since college. Mark’s extreme attention to detail, intelligence and love for the sport—plus his caring nature—have guided me to a place where I am running faster and better than I ever have.

As I get ready to run my second consecutive Boston Marathon, I was excited to interview Mark and share some of his insight with you guys!

Does the pace of your easy run matter?

Yes, it does matter but there is a sizable range as to what is appropriate or acceptable. The most common mistake many runners make is running their easy runs too hard/fast. We want to make sure we keep the pace easy and relaxed on those runs so we can recover well from our stress workouts (i.e. speed work, tempos, long runs), so taking it slow and easy is important.

On the other side of that, and this is usually far less of a problem, is that we don’t want to go so slow that the bio-mechanics of our stride breakdown and we get sloppy and pick-up some bad form habits, or go so slow we don’t get our heart rate up to at least 60 percent of maximum in which case we wouldn’t get any real cardiovascular benefits from the run.

The good news is that there is a big range between running too fast and too slow and we usually don’t have to worry too much about it, as long as we aren’t pushing the pace or completely slogging through the run. This gives us a range that of about a 60-90 seconds a mile (roughly about 1:30 to 3:30 slower per mile than your 5K pace depending on the speed of the runner) so let the pace vary in there depending on how we feel that day.

Everyone talks about the importance of strength and weight training. What are your top strength moves for runners?

Strength training is an important part of a runner’s training, it helps us stay away from injuries and improves the strength to weight ratio of our strides which can help make us faster and more efficient. I believe in strengthening the muscles in the way in which we use them in running, meaning using the same type of movements. For this reason I like exercises like walking lunges, step-ups and several plyometrics and exaggerated form drills in which we use the same general motions we use in running, except in either a weighted or exaggerated manner to build strength/power. Of course the exact program needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual runner.

How much should we be lifting weights?

As primarily runners, we are using strength training to enhance our running. It is important, but it is ancillary to our running so we don’t want it to take away from our running time. I have found the best way for most runners to approach strength training is to develop a manageable, well-rounded program that they can adopt at the beginning (or early on) in their training cycle and one that works to shore up any problem areas or weaknesses they have and builds their all-around strength. Then as the running training gets harder later in the training cycle as the goal race nears, then strength training can become more of a maintenance level as more of their time and energy need to be focused on harder running workouts. Just as we phase our running training we need to phase our strength work as well to achieve maximal results.

Does weight lifting make you a faster runner?

Yes, it can and in several ways. Improving your leg strength, if done in a manner similar to how we use the muscles in running, will improve the strength to weight ratio of your running stride and this will allow you to go faster and use less energy at most every pace.

Strong core muscles are important to maintaining optimal posture while running and that will help you stay relaxed and efficient, especially late in runs when fatigue is setting in and when “sitting” (dropping of the hips) while you run becomes a common form problem for many runners.

Lastly a good strength program can help you safe guard against injuries and that allows you to be more consistent in your training which will result in the opportunity to get fitter and faster.

For the runners out there looking to achieve a BQ, what would be one piece of advice to get there?

A BQ is a great goal for many runners, something challenging yet achievable. The best piece of advice I give to runner’s pursuing that goal is to be patient, plan ahead and remain diligent and determined in their pursuit. If you believe in yourself, and stay determined, you’ll get there.

What is the number one mistake you see runners make?

The number one mistake I see runners making is impatience. They want to be faster now, to run longer now, to tackle new challenges now. You have to love their enthusiasm and passion for it, but it often leads to increasing mileage too quickly, or racing back into training too quickly, or adding in speed, or tempos, or strength training too quickly.  Often this can lead to injury, burn-out or stagnation.

The human body is amazing in its ability to adapt to training stimulus, but it has to have time to make this adaptation before the next stimulus is added. Add too much or too quickly and it fails. But be patient and add it in small increments and with enough time for it to adapt between additions and we can have amazing transformations in fitness over time. So my advice is to stay patient and allow fitness to slowly build through time and consistency. Do that and pretty soon your ordinary will be what you once thought of as extraordinary.

A huge thanks to my coach for taking the time to answer a few questions. If you could ask Mark a question, what would you ask? Tweet to @WomensRunning and @natrunsfar

Mark Hadley has been a runner and racer since his grade school days in North Carolina,  He ran competitively in high school and college (Ole Miss) and then on the roads post collegiately.  About a decade ago Mark turned his attention to coaching and using his knowledge, experience and passion for the sport to help runners of all abilities pursue and achieve their running goals.  Now living in Oregon, Mark owns Maximum Performance Running and offers runners a variety of running resources including a blog in which he shares is training and racing philosophies, helpful charts and guides, custom training programs and personal coaching services.