Friday, July 6, 2012

Team AstraQom Training Tip, Week Six: Don't Do "Too Much!"

Good afternoon, Team AstraQom!  This week I am going to cut straight to the chase:  Let's talk about the law of diminishing returns when it comes to running.  I bet if we all were to go out to run the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K course again, after a month of working on our running or walking, our times would most likely be faster than when we ran it in May.

And if you were to run or walk it faster, what would be your first reaction?  Most runners would:

1. Become very encouraged with their increased fitness, and
2. Add more running or walking to their weekly training schedule, in the hope of getting faster.

If you did this you might get faster...  However, the fitness improvements would come in much smaller increments, until a certain point where there would be either no improvement, or you might lose fitness once that point is crossed.

So, here's my recommendation for the week:  Go out and test yourself on a stretch of path that's anywhere  from two-to-five kilometers in length.  Run or walk it as fast as you can.  Write that time down.  (If you want to add more time or distance to your training because you're feeling good, don't add more than ten percent.)

Go back and do that test again in about five or six weeks and see if you're getting better.  If you're still improving you can either stay where you're at (a great idea!) or add a little more running (not a bad idea!).  If you're not improving you'll want to stay at the level you're at or back off a little.

The goal is to get the best performance out of yourself without working "too much."  Have a safe, mileage-filled week!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Team AstraQom Training Tip, Week Five: Do I Need To Speed?

Hello, Team AstraQom! 

My wife tells me the weather in Ontario has been miserable.  I am certain a "dyed-in-the-spandex-and-tech-fiber" guy (who has lived in Florida for 25 years) might not think it so bad, but hot is hot no matter how you look at it.  If the weather is too warm during the time you originally planned to walk or run, see if you can adjust the time you walk or run to the earliest hours of the morning or latest hours of the evening you can tolerate. 

Our Sunday morning group, "The Breakfast Club," meets as late as 8:30 in the morning during the winter months...we slowly slide the time toward 7:00 a.m. as the weather becomes more warm and humid here.

If you can't change the time because of your work or family commitments, then ease up on the intensity and let your body adapt to the conditions.  Remember the focus is on endurance right now.  By now I hope you've developed a habit of (near-)daily walks and runs.  It usually takes three weeks to develop a habit, and six weeks or more to see physical change as the result of that habit.  You might ask, "do I need to think about speed work?"

My answer is 'not necessarily.'  New runners, young runners, and runners who are older, will develop and maintain speed by just getting out and running.  Adding a little more time as your body tolerates the walk or run develops endurance, which translates into speed when it comes time to do a (shorter) race.

Think about it:  If you, over the course of a year, learn to run at a comfortable pace for six to eight kilometers, and your race is a 5K, your body will most likely look at that as a simple accomplishment.  You've run more than five kilometers at a time for weeks and weeks, so you'll feel like running the race a little faster than your normal run.

I've had many runners come visit my training sessions in the past.  They felt the need to learn to run faster before they learned to enjoy just plain running.  Naturally, they were overwhelmed by seeing more-experienced runners blast by them, without realizing the very same folks who were making them look foolish were first-time runners only years before.

So, this week and in the future I want you to focus on the long run.  Train for the distance you want to run.  The speed will show over time...and with a lot less pain than what I endured as a new runner.

Have a safe, mileage-filled week!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Team AstraQom Training Tip, Week Four: A Change of Plan?

Hello, Team AstraQom!  Perhaps at a past job you had a co-worker who never took a sick day, especially on those days when they were miserable, sick, and fatigued.  It's possible you have even done the same.  If you think of those days when you (or the co-worker) went to work when you probably should have called in sick, it is most likely you didn't get much accomplished.  Spending the day bundled up in bed not only might have sped up the healing, but kept you from spreading the illness to someone else.

By now you most likely have determined how many times a week, and how hard, you can run.  Let's talk about days when the run is on the calendar, but it does not feel like a good day; you're tired, sore, ill, or something important has encouraged you to change your schedule.  That's okay.

Like I've said before, we control our schedule and our running; it doesn't control us.  You can adapt the schedule by shortening the run duration...twenty minutes (the minimum amount of time for aerobic benefit) is better than no minutes.  You can move the run time to another portion of free time in your day.

If it's a question of feeling poorly and you are not certain whether you can run, try what some athletes call the "two-kilometer rule."  Begin your planned run course as usual.  Run the first kilometer.  If you still feel unsure of whether to continue the run, turn around and run the kilometer back to the start point.  If you still feel badly when you get back to the start, call it a day.  If you feel good, turn around and continue your run.

From experience, I've had track workouts where I felt miserable for the first two or three kilometers of the warm-up, and then something released.  I've also had workouts where I called it a day at 3K, rested that evening, then had a great 10K tempo run the next evening.

Sometimes the best treatment for a bad day - or a busy day - is another day.  As always, don't hesitate to e-mail me with any questions - . 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Team AstraQom Training Tip, Week Three: Hard Day, Easy Day

Hello, Team AstraQom!  By now you've figured out how much time you can spend walking/running.  You also, hopefully, have taken a close(r) look at your shoes.  Last week, you learned and thought about how hard you want the intensity level to be for those runs/walks - and some ways to gauge how hard was "too hard."

This week I want to tell a brief story about a friend of mine.  He's a little older than I; he's chased after me at many races, and even beaten me at a couple of 5Ks over the past ten years.  We've occasionally had lunch together - he and his wife, Suzanne and me.  When we've talked about his training, he appears frustrated because he doesn't improve.  When I asked what workouts he ran during the week, he explained to me that he ran the same five kilometer circuit every day.  He would run the loop at the same pace as he raced.

I asked if he felt he could benefit from a little bit of variety in his training.  "I could tell you about the different energy systems which are used when we run; and how you might not be using them to their fullest capacity, but have you ever felt like you're going to burn yourself out?  What do you think would happen to a runner's muscles, joints and tendons?"

Naturally, I was talking from hard experience.  When I started racing a lot on the roads after college, I might have varied the distance of my training runs anywhere from seven kilometers during the beginning of the week; increasing to thirteen-to-fifteen on Sunday morning, but all of the runs were run as fast as I could run them.  I felt like I had to try to beat my personal best for each loop every time I went out.

My old coach, Jarrett Slaven, used to tell me, "Mike, you can run hard and you can run long, but you can only do one."  I've learned from many coaches that good training consists of varying distance, time, intensity or terrain - one or more of the variables - from day to day.  So you can alternate hard and easy days, shorter or longer distances/times, flat or hilly terrains, roads and grass or trails.  Even the difference between morning running and evening runs/walks will challenge your body - your muscles, joints, heart, lungs and your mind.  Many coaches and runners love the hard day/easy day theory.  Others - like me - have adapted the hard/easy one step further because they learned their body needed a little more recovery...they do what is known as hard/easy/easier.

Whether you do hard/easy, or hard/easy/easier, it's important to not work at the same intensity throughout your training. 

As always, if you have any questions, please e-mail them to me at or message me through Facebook at

Have a safe, fun, mileage-and joy-filled day!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Team AstraQom Training Tip, Week Two

Hello, again, Team AstraQom! Here's your second weekly coaching tip:

By now (I hope!) you know how much time you can spend walking or running, and have taken a close look at those shoes. This week, let's answer the question, "how hard should I run?" Better yet, let's ask that question in a different manner: "how easy should I run?"

Most entry-level runners...and experienced ones, for that too hard on the days which should be easy and too easy on the days which should be hard. In your case right now, everything should be easy. There are three ways to judge whether you are running (or walking) too hard:

The first and most technologically-dependent way is to use a heart rate monitor. The benefit of using a heart rate monitor is that you you can place a specific number to a subjective feeling. The down side is that a heart rate monitor cannot tell you what your maximum heart rate SHOULD be. That usually takes a treadmill test and a trained physician or physio. So, let's get a little more simple.

You can judge your effort on a scale of one-to-ten, with one equalling the feeling of "gee, I would be asleep right now if I were any more relaxed" and ten being "oh, gosh, if I were to take another step at this effort level my heart would blow up." Researchers have found many athletes, when telling their perceived level of effort on that scale, aligned with maximum heart rate estimates. That meant an athlete who felt their workout was a five of ten was most likely working at 50-percent of their maximum heart rate.

But, let's get EVEN MORE SIMPLE. It all comes down to conversation. If you are running at a speed where you cannot speak a simple sentence without being short of breath, you are running TOO HARD. Slow down until you can talk.

So this week, get out on the paths and trails and make like Dr. Doolittle...go out and talk to the animals. Or, you can make like Stevie Wonder and ...

Talk to me any time!
"Coach Mike"