Listener Q&A: March 2018

Don’t look now, but we are at the quarter pole of 2018!

Hopefully, the first three months of the year have been good for you and your running.

If they have, keep on keeping on!

If they haven’t, you still have plenty of time to pivot and get back on track.

Anyway, as March fades into April it’s time for me to do my monthly duty and A your Qs!

Bring on the Questions!

We have a good mix of questions this month, so let’s cut to the chase!

Related to HR training, what do I do if I can’t run slow enough to stay under my target HR level?

This is a tricky one.

According to Dr. Maffetone and the Primal Endurance info that has really started me down the HR training path, you should slow to a walk or maybe stick to some run/walk intervals in order to keep your HR below your maximum aerobic limit (180 – your age).

With time and consistency, your heart will get stronger/more efficient and you will soon be able to run more and more without your HR creeping above your limit.

That sounds good in theory, and it really does work if you stick to it, but it really can be difficult and/or frustrating to slow down that much.

My answer is going to vary slightly from what the “book” answer is.

I think that it depends on you a bit.

If you’re a long time runner and don’t like the idea of running slower, I think you need to suck it up. If you’re going to commit to heart rate training and the long-term value that it provides, you have to bite the bullet now and learn to run within your aerobic zone.

But if you’re newer to running, and any running at all sends you over the limit, what are you to do?

In this instance, I’d say it’s ok (to a point) to exceed your HR limit.

That said, I’d encourage you to focus less on your pace and more on your HR as you continue in the sport.

Instead of focusing on increasing your pace, work on improving your efficiency as a runner so that you’re able to maintain your current pace while steadily bringing your HR back into the desired zone.

And if you can do that, then guess what? You’ll get faster too!

How do I stay calm before a race?

Taking a Break from Running

As much as you might want to treat race day as any other run, there is no denying that the atmosphere around a race is just different.

Maybe it’s because you’ll have an “official” time with a race. Maybe it’s because you’re running with hundreds or thousands of other runners, instead of just running solo or with your normal pack of friends. And it could also be due to running a different route and (in most cases) not having to worry about traffic when you near an intersection.

Whatever the case, for many runners from complete newbies to grizzled vets race day just brings a little extra something to the table.

So how do you stay calm in that situation? Especially if the “something extra” on race day manifests closer to anxiety than nervous energy?

There are a whole host of options you can pursue, but here are a few that I would encourage:

  • Trust your training.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Have a plan in place to follow so you don’t have to think about what to do.

If you’ve done the work and focus your energy and attention inward instead of outward, hopefully that will help.

And if you notice that race day anxiety is a regular thing for you, doing some visualization exercises in the week or two leading up to the race may help as well.

Help me figure out how to balance strength training with distance running.

Are you trying to add more muscle mass, or simply get stronger?

Because these two goals are not one in the same.

If adding more muscle mass is the goal, then training for an endurance race probably isn’t the wisest thing you can do.

Adding muscles mass, at it’s simplest level, requires running a calorie surplus, ie eating more calories than you burn, on a regular basis. Running lots of miles training for a long race is going to burn a lot of calories.

So if your goal is to add lots of muscle mass to your frame, I’d say that you should cut back on your running and focus a bit more on your strength training. You can (and probably should) still do some running, but not nearly as much as would be necessary in preparing for an ultra.

If, however, you want to get stronger while also training for a long distance race, those two goals can absolutely be worked on in tandem.

The old wisdom is that endurance athletes should focus on less weight and more sets/reps to build some muscular strength and endurance.

Newer evidence shows that high weights and fewer reps can actually achieve the same goals in much less time.

Either way, you’re getting stronger and that is going to benefit you in your running no matter what distance event you are training for.

What speed workout is best?


I’m not sure that there really is a “best” when it comes to workouts.

Short intervals are great. Longer intervals and/or tempo runs are good too.

Different runs work the body differently, so it’s important to mix and match a bit in training to ensure that you are working different types of muscles fibers and different sources of energy production.

What is the most beneficial distance for a marathon runner to judge his or her fitness?

Again, I’m not sure that there is any “best option” here.

I really struggle with the idea of using a 5k or a specific workout to really judge how fit you may or may not be over 26.2 miles.

I just think that at that distance, there are so many variables that don’t come into play at the shorter distance races or time trials or workouts.

I think the better judge of fitness for any athlete is to look at the overall health trends, both as it relates to your running and to some of the other “biometrics” that are available.

Are your workouts trending in the right direction? How is your resting heart rate and HRV values? How stressed are you outside of your running? Are you feeling strong in your long runs, or do you fade after a couple of hours?

Looking at the bigger picture, instead of one or two other workouts, is I think the better judge of fitness for any person, including marathoners.

Why do the first few miles in a long training run always seem to suck?

It's True


I’m not sure why, but I’m pretty sure you’re right!

I’m sure it has something to do with your body trying to find steady state, and once you find your stride and settle into your run you’re better able to simply cruise.

But yeah, the first mile or two are usually a bit more difficult than the rest of the miles.

How much running can I do on slanted sidewalks before it starts to cause problems?

There is no doubt that running on a slanted sidewalk too often can wreck havoc on your hip/lower back alignment issues.

That said, some roads simply aren’t safe to run on, so you don’t have much of a choice.

While you may feel like you’re in a V8 commercial from back in the day while you’re running, there are things you can do to mitigate the potential problems that could lie in store.

Your best bet is also your most simple: run as close to an equal amount of miles each direction.

Meaning, if the sidewalk is slanted from right to left, run down a certain distance before turning around and headed back to the house. On the return trip, the sidewalk slant is now left to right which will help keep things closer to balanced.

Making that one little change, instead of always running the same direction and just doing one big loop, can pay big dividends.

And when you have the opportunity to run on flatter ground, whether on a quite street or on some trails, do it.

What is your biggest fear while running? And how do you overcome it?

I accept that this is me taking the easy way out, but I’m really not afraid of anything while I’m running.

Maybe that makes me naive, maybe that makes me ignorant, but I’m just not really scared on a run.

I’m aware of things that could happen, and I try to mitigate my risks as much as possible, but I can’t say that I’m ever scared when I head out for a run.

How do you get into a good breathing rhythm while running?

I read an article in Runners World several years ago that talked about how to best breathe while running, and it recommended an odd-numbered breathing pattern.

Meaning, instead of inhaling for two and exhaling for two, as an example, you should either inhale for three and exhale for two or inhale for two and exhale for one.

You can check out the link for the logic in this, but it’s how I now breathe and it definitely works.

Any suggestions on how to come back to running after a traumatic event such as being hit by a car while running?


This is me purely speculating as, thankfully, I’ve yet to be hit by a car or have other such scary situation happen while running, but I’d say that two things need to happen.

First, you need to be ready/want to run again.

If you aren’t ready to run, there’s no reason to try and force things.

Second, once you are ready to start running again you can either “return right away” to the scene or avoid it for awhile.

This depends on you, but if there are some PTSD issues at play you may not want to force yourself into a situation where you’d be at a heightened risk of a repeat occurrence.

So sticking to trail running, or a pedestrian-only path, or a treadmill. Somewhere that the chance of being hit by a car is basically zero.

If in the future you feel ready to run on the roads again, then that’s fine. But if you’re ready to run but aren’t ready to handle the possibility of cars passing by too closely, you have other options.

Any thoughts on the Total Gym?

I have a Total Gym.

It’s good, I guess, but I’m pretty meh about it.

I’ve used it a few times, but I really should get rid of it because I don’t use it often and it takes up a lot of space.

Want it?

Why do my times on the treadmill not come close to being the same when I’m running outside?

There are a few possibilities for this one, and the answer is probably a combination of factors.

One, when you’re running outside the ground isn’t moving on its own, you actually have to propel yourself forward.

Another factor is that roads/trails outside are seldom flat. Any elevation gain, even something almost imperceptable, is going to make it harder than being on Satan’s conveyor belt.

And last but not least, I NEVER trust the calibration on any indoor exercise equipment. There is a chance, and perhaps a probability, that the display on your treadmill may be off. So while it is telling you that you went a mile in 9 minutes, as an example, it may have actually only been .87 of a mile. So you think you can run a 9 minute mile pretty comfortably, when in fact you’re probably closer to a 10:15 pace.

How was your half? How is your wife’s training going?


My race went really well. It was my first non-ultra trail race, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I ended up at 1:55 for the half, which really wasn’t bad. I did that race after doing nothing but basebuilding for two months leading up to the event, and I felt really strong throughout.

Bek’s race was also last month (Princess Half) and it went pretty well.

She missed her PR by a few minutes, and was pretty bummed about that, but she also ran a 10k the day before her half so she wasn’t exactly running on fully rested legs.

Now she’s working on getting back into a good training routine when she doesn’t have a race on the calendar, and we are hoping to get her to really build up her base a bit so that when we start training for another race she isn’t starting from virtually zero again.

My wife and I are soon-to-be parents, and looking for advice on running strollers and how to prepare for running with a baby.

First, congrats!

Second, get a Bob.

A good running stroller, if you’re serious about running with the baby, is a must. If you can find a used Bob in good condition, grab it!

We got ours secondhand, pretty sure we paid $250 for it, and the thing is worth its weight in gold!

I don’t know too much about what bells and whistles to look for, but as long as it has big/inflatable tires it should roll smoothly and that is what you want.

What do you think of a “run streak” where every weekend/long run I ran half marathon distance or longer?

As long as you’ve built your base up to the point where you can handle 13.1 miles, I see absolutely no reason why this couldn’t become “a thing.”

I’m working on getting to the point where I basically average an easy 15 every weekend, so if you’re feeling good and strong and you want to do it, I say go for it!

And that, my friends, is that!

With a little luck, my answers to the questions this month were marginally useful.

Have a question you want me to address next month? Join the Tribe over on FB and get your question in!

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

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