Listener Q&A: February 2020

And just like that, another month of 2020 has pretty much come and gone!


But before we officially bid February adieu, let’s do a little Q&A, eh?

You Ask, I Answer!

In case you’re new to these parts, here’s what’s going on.

At the end of every month, I do an episode dedicated to you and your questions.

Want to get a question answered in future Q&A episode? Come join our FB group, watch for the post asking for Qs, and put your query in the comments.

Basically, whatever you ask I try to answer!

Sometimes, the answers aren’t worth a whole lot. But every once in a while I like to think (or at least hope!) that I hit the nail on the head!

When it comes to free advice, there are no guarantees that you won’t get any more than what you paid for it.

That said, I promise to do my best!

And if nothing else, there are usually at least a few decent memes/GIFs to make it worth your while.

Let’s get into this month’s questions, shall we?

This Month’s Questions

Can you explain the different types of speed workouts?

In truth, the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to variations of speed workouts.

That said, most of them boil down to just a handful of general varieties, so I’ll try to explain those a bit for you.

  • Intervals/Repeats: Some combination of running hard followed by walking and/or an easy jog to recover before hitting it hard again.
  • Fartleks: A variation on intervals where the hard/recovery intervals are a bit less structured than your standard set up.
  • Tempo Runs: A hard effort, that some would argue belongs in a different category than speed work, where you’re pushing your effort to just below red line and hoping to sustain it for several miles.

When it comes to choosing which of these workouts to include in your training, please don’t stress too much about the perfect mix of workouts.

For most runners, ie pretty much all of us that aren’t running at an elite/sub-elite level, the specific workouts are less important than you might think.

Is water the best liquid to maintain hydration levels?

Yeah, water is probably the best option.

But it’s hardly the only option.

Lots of liquids, even my beloved coffee, have a net positive effect on your hydration levels.

How useful is the “Grade Adjusted Pace” feature on Strava?

Probably not much.

I suppose it’s useful if pace is your end all be all metric to judge the quality of your workout.

But from where I sit, pace is about the least important metric to consider.

I worry about my “GAP” about as much as I worry about my cadence, which is precisely zero.

What are your favorite racing flats for the 2-mile through the 5k?

I’m not fast enough to use/worry about racing flats.

If I were to race a 5k, heaven help me, I’d probably just wear a pair of Altras that I already have. Probably a pair of my Escalantes?

No one would class those shoes as racing flats, but they would work just fine for me.

How do you train for a warm spring race when it’s legit winter where you live?

This is a tough one.

That said, there are options.

The most obvious option, that may also be the least appealing, is to take some/all of your training inside.

Running on an indoor track or on the treadmill inside is obviously going to be much closer to expected race day conditions than trudging through the snow outside.

You can also layer up a bit, whether you’re running inside or out.

This isn’t always the most comfortable, and you might get a few sideways glances if you’re dressed for the polar vortex when it’s 40* outside, but it can help.

If you could only run one more race in your life, which would it be?

What are your favorite mantras for when things get difficult?

The one that I go back to the most is take the next step.

It serves me on the run and it serves me in my life as well.

My Constant Reminder

Why am I getting slower? Is it just the inevitability of age, or is there something else going on?

Lots of variables here, obviously.

Yes, there are some expected pace declines as we get older.

But how much you slow down and how quickly your pace drops are influenced by a dozen factors.

Depending on the situation, if you address those factors you can reduce and/or reverse the impact that getting older has on your pace.

How do I know if I’m being lazy or need to take a break?

The line is definitely a bit blurry with this one.

For me, I focus less on how I’m feeling on any particular day and look more for trends over several days to a couple of weeks.

If I’m really struggling for several days in a row, odds are it’s not that I’m just being lazy or just not feeling it for that particular day.

But it’s hard to know for sure in the moment.

What is the best way to maintain 13.1 fitness after running a full and/or ultra?

This really isn’t overly complicated, I promise!

Make sure you’re continuing to run consistently, obviously.

Try to make sure your long runs are regularly in the 10-12 mile range.

You don’t have to hit that mark every week, but more often than not is what we are shooting for.

If you want some extra credit, maybe extend a long run out to ~15 miles every 4-6 weeks.

Do that, and you can jump into a half marathon with absolutely no notice and still race it well.

What are the chances that a recurring injury is due to a strength imbalance? How do I correct said imbalance?

Nothing is ever 100%, but depending on the specifics there is a very real possibility that the two are related.

It’s a bit cliche, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right?

So if you have an imbalance, there’s your weak link.

As for correcting the imbalance? It’s probably not as difficult as you’d think.

Do some exercises where you’re working the different parts/sides of your body individually.

This will do two things for you. One, it’ll show you just how much of an imbalance you are dealing with. And two, it’ll force the weaker side to do some work as opposed to letting your stronger side make up for the weaker side.

It’ll take time to even things out, and you may never get to an even 50/50 split. But if you can close the gap of any imbalances, it’ll almost certainly help you become a healthier and stronger runner.

What are your thoughts on Chi running? Have you ever tried it?

Good running form is good running form.

Kudos to Danny Dreyer for finding a way to label/market/sell the principles of good running form.

Have I tried it?

I guess? By the time I had heard about Chi running and bought the book, I had already overhauled my running form to where I was pretty much doing it without even knowing it.

Again, good running form is good running form. Doesn’t really matter what you call it.

What are some strength training exercises I can do at home, without any fancy equipment, that will target my hips, glutes, and core?

Not having lots of equipment is not a valid excuse for neglecting strength training.

Not having any equipment is not a valid excuse either.

Basically, there is no good excuse for not doing strength training on a regular basis.

To answer the question, squats, lunges, and deadlifts are all great exercises to work your hips and glutes using nothing but your own body weight.

Mix in some bird dogs, clamshells, and/or donkey kicks, and you’re pretty much good to go.

On the core front, it’s hard to do better than a good plank. Add some side planks, glute bridges, and hip extensions to make sure you’re getting your whole core and not just your abs.

And if all else fails, dial up YouTube to find countless strength training routines/workouts that you can do from home.

Any advice for racing at elevation when I train at sea level?

Obviously, there aren’t any crazy hacks/tricks that will help you be better able to pull the oxygen from the air when you’re higher up in elevation than when you’re at sea level.

That said, there are a few things I’d encourage you to keep in mind.

One, it’s obviously going to be easier to run/race at altitude when you’re fit than when you’re not fit. Be consistent with your training, and that is going to help you more than anything else.

Two, it would be wise to dial back your pace a bit for the race. The harder you’re working, the more you’ll notice the lack of oxygen at the higher elevations. Slow down a bit and enjoy those races instead of trying to hammer them.

Three, don’t psych yourself out. Yes, there is a difference between being at sea level and being a mile or so higher. But 4000-6000 feet isn’t nearly the same as 10k feet and up. I’m not saying there won’t be a difference, but I am saying it might not be as big of a deal as you might fear.

If you go into your race planning to run the best you can given the circumstances, which is always a good strategy, a little bit of elevation may prove to pretty much be NBD.

What are the pros/cons of returning to activity before being cleared by your doctor postpartum?

So wait, you’re asking me to mansplain how to come back to running/working out after having a baby?

Challenge Accepted!

Clearly, every situation is different and there should be no “one-size-fits-all” guidelines here. Yet, as you’re probably aware, most doctors follow a generic set of guidelines for returning to activity after having a baby.

One thing I’m not going to do is tell you to disobey your doctor’s orders.

But I will say that you know your body better than anyone else. And your doctor is there to serve you/help you.

So as you’re recovering from the birth and spending time with the baby, if you’re getting the itch to start running again talk with your doctor.

He or she may not clear you to start running again, but maybe they will give you the green light to do something else? Swim? Bike? Elliptical? Something that will at least help you scratch the itch of exercise and help you start building your fitness back up so that when you’re able to start running again you’re ready to go!

I know you’re not a Cadbury Egg guy, but what if Adi asked you to eat some of those nasty things with her?

Sorry kid, but it ain’t happening.

Not the first time I’ve told her no, won’t be the last time either.

And if she starts crying?

Any advice for how to get back into running after taking a few months off due to life?

The biggest thing I can recommend is to try and forget what you were doing (pace and distance, specifically) when you were last running regularly.

Too often, after an extended time off, runners get super frustrated at how much ground has been lost.

And the fact of the matter is, if you haven’t been running for a few months you are going to have lost some fitness.

So try to start with a clean slate.

Keep your pace nice and easy. Keep your distances shorter than usual.

Aim to finish your runs feeling like you could do a bit more than to be completely dragging ass back to the house for the first couple of weeks.

As you start to notice your fitness returning, then you can gradually start building back to where you were.

It’ll take a few months, probably, but you’ll get your fitness back. Just have to take it one run at a time.

I’m currently building up for my first half marathon, and I’m increasing my long runs by about 10% each week. Should I also be increasing my weekly runs? If so, stick to the 10% rule there as well?

Congrats on gearing up for your first half, that’s exciting!

When it comes to the 10% rule, that typically applies to your total weekly volume and not to each specific run that you do.

That said, I like to think of this as more of a rule of thumb and less of a hard and fast rule anyway.

But back to the 10% thing, I wouldn’t really worry about increasing every run by 10%.

Keep inching up your long runs, and if you want to add a mile to a mid-week run here and there that’s fine. But you don’t necessarily need to.

As long as you’re building up your longer runs intelligently, and  being consistent with your other runs, you should have no issues going 13.1 on race day.

I’m training for my first marathon this fall, and I’m struggling with the idea of not running 26 miles before the race. What are your thoughts on going 26+ in preparation for a marathon?

After setting out to run a minimum of one 26.2-miler per month in 2019, I’m clearly not opposed to doing some long training runs.

That said, it’s certainly not a requirement to go 26+ in order to be ready to race 26.2.

The argument against those long training runs is sound, you need to make sure to recover adequately after a training run of that magnitude unless your body is used to logging those kind of miles.

And if this is your first 26.2, safe to say it’s not something you’re used to.

So, in theory, doing a 26 miler in training leading up to your race is probably going to impact three weeks of your training. You’ll likely have a mini-taper, then the long run, then the recovery time.

That’s a pretty steep price to pay!

From my perspective, I think 22-23 miles is a good “upper limit” for most runners.

That’s close enough to give you confidence that you can make it the last 3-4 miles on race day, but it’s a little easier on the body (and mind) to recover from that effort as opposed to going the full 26+.

Ultimately, like most situations, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

If you think getting up to 26 miles pre-race will help you, you can do that.

If you feel like it’s too much, it’s not required.

What do you think about burpees as a cross-training exercise for runners?

There’s nothing wrong with doing some burpees, save for the fact they aren’t a lot of fun to do!

If you want to incorporate them into your routine, especially as a cross-training kind of thing, go for it!

Which weather situation would you prefer: ~65F and humid or ~75F and dry?

Honestly, neither sounds that bad to me.

I suppose, if I had to choose, I’ll take the slightly warmer but less humid option.

As a new runner, all I’ve purchased so far are good running shoes. I’m curious what other items you’d consider “must-haves” for your running?

I like to think of myself as a fairly low-maintenance kind of runner. That said, I’ve definitely blurred the line between needs and wants over the years.

Once you’ve got your shoes figured out, I’d say some running apparel is probably the next place to spend a few dollars.

Getting some good running shorts/tights as opposed to generic “active wear” will likely cut down on some rubbing and chafing down the road.

For the ladies, it probably goes without saying but a good sports bra (or few) is a must have. Some kind of sweat wicking top is preferable over a standard cotton t-shirt as well.

After that, the world is your oyster!

I’m a big believer that a proper GPS watch made for running is always going to be more accurate than an general fitness tracker or app on your phone.

That said, a good watch clearly isn’t a mandatory piece of gear.

I’m trying to help a friend with her training and I have encouraged her to keep her easy runs easy. She says she tries to slow down but always goes out too fast. Any advice I can pass along to her?

Yeah, I have a couple of suggestions.

One, you can encourage her to do a run/walk interval.

That way, even if she struggles to slow down on her running interavls, she’s still going to have that walk interval which will help keep her from starting her runs too hot.

If she’s really opposed to run/walk, you can put a mile target out there with the rule that if she gets to the mile mark before the pre-determined time, she has to walk until that time.

Confused? Don’t worry, it’s really not that complicated. Just kind of hard to explain in abstract, so let’s go to an example.

Let’s say we want her to be no faster than 10 minute pace as her easy pace.

So that’s the target. She goes out and throws down an 8:40 for her first mile. Now, she’s walking for 1:20 seconds because she can’t run again until she gets to the pre-determined time (10 minutes).

Then she can start running again, with the target of being at the 2-mile mark at 20 minutes.

If she gets to 2 miles before 20 minutes, walk.

Over time, if she really hates the run/walk idea, she will figure out how to slow herself down so she can just run at a steady, but easy, pace for her runs.

I’m not fat adapted (yet!), so will I still burn fat when I’m working in the lower zones? Or does that only happen once I’m fully fat adapted?

You’ll definitely still be burning fat for fuel at the lower levels of intensity, even if you’re not fully fat adapted.

You’re just not as efficient at burning fat for fuel yet.

As you become more fat adapted with time, it’ll be easier for your body to rely on fat for fuel for longer distances and at higher intensities of effort.

How do you know if buying running shoes online will work out for you?

Obviously, it’s a little tricky buying shoes online without being able to try them on first.

But, in all honesty, there’s not a huge difference between buying them online vs buying them at the store in terms of really knowing if they will work for you while you’re running.

Shoes can feel good when you put them on and walk around the store. But that’s no guarantee they will feel good 16-miles deep into a run!

Thankfully, at this point, almost any reputable shoe retailer (online or in person) is going to have a return policy that will allow you to run in your shoes several times and still return them if you find they aren’t right for you.

Some are 30 days. Some 90.

Double check the return policy before you buy, of course.

But odds are, you’ll have no issues returning a pair of shoes after a handful of runs if the aren’t working for you, no matter where you buy them.

Another month, another Q&A episode of the show.

As always, the answers in this post are the abridged versions. For a bit more, make sure you press play at the top of this post.

Or better yet, open up your podcast app of choice, subscribe to Diz Runs Radio, and listen to this episode (and all future episodes) on the go/at your convenience.

What Was Your Favorite Question and/or Answer this Month? Let Me Know in the Comments Below!

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