Listener Q&A: May 2019


The end of May means one thing to many people:

Of course, if you live in Florida (or a dozen other states) summer has already been here for weeks!

Either way, before May gives way to June I’ve got some Qs to A!

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?

Your Questions

Do I really need to untie my shoes to take them off after every run?

Seriously?

How fricking lazy are you that you can’t untie your damn shoes?

Laziness aside, you really should untie your shoes to take them off after your run and then retie them before you head out for your next run.

And if that means you need to cut your run ~60 seconds short, I promise you’ll still be ok.

Sliding your foot in/out of a tied shoe can really degrade the integrity of the heel cup of your shoe.

Or, if your shoe is tied loosely enough that you can slide your foot in and out without messing up the heel, then there is no way your foot isn’t sliding around as you run.

Unless you’re younger than 5 years old, it takes about 30 seconds to tie your shoes. It’s worth the 30 seconds.

Are trail shoes necessary for running on trails?

What kind of trails are you running on?

If they are overly technical and/or prone to be muddy AF, then it is probably worth getting a good pair of trail shoes.

But if the trails aren’t anything too fancy, then your road shoes are likely just fine.

If I’m supposed to change shoes every 300-500 miles, what do I do if I need new shoes in the middle of a training cycle?

I push back on the idea that for every running shoe in the world, or at least in America, you need to retire them after 300-500 miles.

Some shoes? That’s the right amount of time.

Others? I have several shoes that I’ve gotten well over 700 miles in before it was time to put them on the shelf.

But whatever the actual life cycle of your shoes turns out to be, what do you do when you need to change shoes mid-cycle?

You have options.

If you know that your current shoes aren’t likely to make it to race day, but you really like them, try to find a new pair of the same model.

Not available? Grab another pair of shoes and rotate them in well before your current shoes give up the ghost. That’ll help to extend their life long enough that you can still wear them without issue on race day.

Honestly, rolling out a new pair of shoes is pretty much the same process no matter when you do it.

Get a few shorter runs in them, and gradually start building up the distance in them once you’re confident that the shoes work for you.

One of the worst things you can do is run a pair of shoes into the ground and then get a new pair of shoes when the old ones are deader than a doornail.

If you’re paying attention, you know when your shoes are starting to get to that point.

Replace them before it’s too late. Your body will thank you.

How important is the whole 180 cadence thing?

The Rock Says It Doesn't Matter

Seriously.

As I discussed with Mike Swinger a couple of months back, that number isn’t some gold standard.

It’s simply an average of elite runners in the marathon.

And if you know anything about math, you know that averages mean that some had a higher cadence and some had a lower one.

If you’re pushing yourself on race day? Then being pretty close to 180 is probably a good thing.

On your easy runs when you’re not pushing the pace? You’re fine being WAY below 180, provided your form is still good.

How do you get enough miles in while training for a marathon and still working a full time job?

Make It Work

There really isn’t any big secret here, you just have to make it happen.

It really depends on what works best for you and your schedule.

Does it make more sense to run longer but not as often? To run most days, but keep the mileage lower? What about adding in some double days?

There are positives/negatives to each situation, but the key is figuring out what works best for you and then just doing it.

How do I get faster if I’m using a run/walk on race day?

Run longer.

Increase your speed while running.

Shrink your walk interval.

Pick up the pace of your walk.

These are all viable options.

The key is to play with them a bit during your training, especially for your longer runs, and figure out which one works best for you.

When is it appropriate to take a mental break from running?

The mental side of our sport is definitely something that is easily and often overlooked.

But make no mistake, mental fatigue/burnout is very real. And if you don’t recognize what is happening, you can find yourself in a pretty dark headspace about a sport that is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

How do you know that you might be in need of a little mental break?

For me, I know it’s time when running becomes a chore.

If I really don’t want to go for a run for several days in a row, that’s when I back off for a week or two and simply don’t run at all.

At least as it relates to running, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. After a few days, I’m usually chomping at the bit to get back after it.

If you find yourself just mentally worn out, take a little break. It’ll be good for you, I promise!

Now, how long your break should be is totally up to you.

A week might be enough. Maybe you need a month.

It just depends on how much of a mental funk you are in when you finally recognize that your mind is spent and you need a bit of time off.

But just because you’re not running doesn’t mean you can’t still be working on improving/maintaining your fitness, right?

Get cracking on the little things. Play some hoops at the YMCA or in the local church league. Chase your kids around the yard.

Keep active and your fitness will be fine.

And then, when your head is ready, get back out there and enjoy your runs again.

How do you train for an event where you run a certain distance every hour for 24 hours?

Honestly, training for something like this isn’t any different than training for a marathon or an ultra.

Lots of time on your feet is what is required.

You may also want to practice running for a while, stopping for 10-20 minutes, and then running again to simulate the start/stop nature of this event.

But to prepare for an event like this you just need to log some serious miles.

How can I improve my mental toughness?

There is no shortage of books you can read on the subject, and those can be very helpful!

Here are some that I feel have benefited me:

I’m sure there are dozens of others, but these will at least give you some options to start.

And maybe the biggest way that I’ve improved my mental strength?

I don’t know that there is any better teacher than experience.

The more you go through those longer distances, both in training and during races, the “easier” they become.

What once seemed impossible becomes possible because you’ve done it.

And the more times you’ve done something? The less daunting it becomes.

If I’m training for a marathon following the plan I’ve been given (running with a charity) my longest runs are scheduled for 3 hours. But I’m a slower runner, aiming to finish the marathon in about 6 hours. Should I stick to the plan or ask for something customized to me and my needs?

I mean, you know what I think about one-size-fits-all training plans…

In short, I’m definitely in favor of getting a plan either created for you or tweaking what you’ve been given in order to make it your own.

Not sure how to do that? Good thing I wrote a book on the subject, eh? hehe

In my professional opinion, I definitely think you should go longer than “just” 3 hours for some of your longer runs if a 6-hour finish is where you think you will be.

I know some disagree, but I just think that going from 13-14 miles in training to 26.2 is too big of a jump for most people to make without really increasing your risk of injury and/or just making for a miserable race experience.

There really isn’t a magic “get to this point” number that you need to hit, but I’d say more than 3 hours for you would be a good idea.

How much of an impact, really, does weight loss have on speed?

This is one of those questions I almost can’t answer correctly!

Let’s talk facts, ok?

The facts are, the lighter you are the less physically demanding it is for you to propel yourself forward as a runner.

Less force required to move a lighter load, right?

That said unless you’re racing for a world record wouldn’t sweat a few pounds here and there.

Case in point, I do most runs/races with my hydration pack these days. If I have both bottles full, that’s adding an extra ~3 pounds.

Does that slow me down? Probably by a few seconds.

But on the flip side, I’m willing to bet that I save a few seconds by not having to stop for water on the course. Plus I can have a sip anytime I want instead of only during certain stretches of the course.

All in all, I think in that case the extra weight is, at worst, a wash.

What about your body weight?

It’s not quite as simple as thinking that if you just lose a few more pounds you’ll be able to run faster.

In theory that might be how it works, but in practice there are other variables to consider.

If you think that dropping a bunch of weight in the days leading up to the race is going to make you run faster, I’d encourage you to think about that a little more than just surface level.

How are you dropping the weight?

Are you restricting calories? If so, then you’re running underfueled and are at an increased risk of running out of gas before the finish line.

Are you trying to reduce your water weight? Our bodies function so much better when we are well hydrated. So cutting back on your liquids in the days leading up to a race isn’t a good idea either.

At the end of the day, body weight is a factor in performance. If you want to lose some weight and are able to do some in a smart/healthy manner, it’ll probably help you on race day.

But you know what else will help you on race day?

A good training plan. Respecting the taper. Being well fueled/hydrated. Getting enough sleep.

I’d worry much more about those things, and how they will impact your performance, than the number on the scale.

When is a good time to start mixing in some strength training for my legs?

Ok. Maybe not right this very second.

But yeah, strength training is a good thing so making it happen is definitely a good idea!

When is the best time to hit your legs?

My personal preference is after a hard workout/speed session.

After a long run is also a decent choice.

Why? If you do your strength training before your run, then your legs will already be worn out for your workout.

But hitting the gym after your workout? Yeah, your legs are already cooked but so what? You’re not trying to gain a bunch of muscle mass, right?

Hit your legs when they’re already tired, get a good 20-30 minutes of exercises in, and get on with your day.

The worst time, in my opinion, to lift legs? On a rest day.

Rest days are kind of important, remember? And hitting your legs with squats and lunges and clams is kind of the opposite of resting, right?

I’ve gotten into slow/easy runs for most of my training. How much/often should I do some speed work?

It depends on a few variables, but in most cases, I think we tend to overdo the speed work.

And I say that fully aware that I used to be the king of running too hard too often.

Since I’ve gotten serious about HR training, I honestly do no more than two higher effort/intensity workouts most months.

And if you look at the data, I just keep getting faster and faster.

If you want to do one a week, assuming you’re getting enough easy miles in to maintain your base, that’s probably fine.

Much more than once per week, and you’re likely looking at rapidly diminishing returns with an increased risk of injury.

I’m thinking about pacing a half marathon for the first time. How do I figure out the right pace group for me to lead?

If it’s up to you, then I’d aim for the slowest/easiest pace that you feel like you can comfortably run without throwing your form all out of whack.

You definitely don’t want to be running at a pace that may cause you to blow up, because now you’re putting the other runners at risk of missing their goals.

Loose ballpark, one or two minutes slower than PR pace sounds about right.

But it’ll also depend on how you’re feeling about your fitness at the moment, how your training has gone, and a variety of other factors as well.

Any advice as I prepare for my first trail race?

To be fair, I’m not exactly a trail running pro myself.

That said, here are a few things to consider as you gear up for your first trail race.

Trail shoes can be a nice thing to have, but for most trails, they aren’t required.

So don’t worry about too many snickers if you roll up to a trail race in road shoes. No one will care.

You’ll probably want to bring some sort of hydration system with you, as aid stations/water stops tend to be a  bit fewer/farther between than for a road race simply for logistical reasons.

Double check with the race about whether or not they will supply cups at the aid stations, because you may need to bring your own if you’d like a shot of ginger ale or coke or pickle juice.

Last thing, remember that trail running and road running are pretty much completely different beasts.

Whatever pace you normally run on the roads? Odds are, you’ll be much slower than that on the trails.

Don’t worry about that. Just enjoy the new experience and have fun!

Do you have any tips for running one or two races, typically 5ks, per weekend in the summer?

When you only have one race for the weekend, it’s prettstraightht forward.

Show up, do your normal pre-race routine, and then run.

But if you are squeezing a couple of different races into the same weekend, or the same day, it requires you to be a bit more cautious in how you approach the races.

If you have back to back 5ks, it’s really important to get a good cool down in after the first race and then make sure you have plenty of time to warm up before the second race.

If you slack off on the warm up/cool down for these shorter races, you are almost asking for a muscular injury this summer.

You also probably don’t need to worry about doing any speed workouts mid-week.

If you’ve got at least one race just about every weekend, you’re getting plenty of speed work done in the form of races.

Focus your training more on keeping your base solid so you can keep getting after it every weekend.

Any tips for an “odd” distance like the 15k?

Just because it’s a different distance than you may typically race doesn’t mean that your strategy needs to be that much different than any other race distance.

You may need to adjust things a little bit, but it’s not that difficult.

If you have a good strategy that works for you for half marathons, use that as your framework and just adjust the distances/paces slightly.

The “phases” of your race strategy are the same pretty much every race distance.

  • A slightly conservative start.
  • Settle in and cruise.
  • Start tightening the screws with a few miles to go.
  • Kick when you can see the finish line.

Break up your strategy into these chunks, and you should be good to go.


There we have it, folks.

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.

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


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