February 2017

Listener Q&A: February 2017

Every month, I throw out a post in the Facebook group asking for questions from my listeners to answer in the monthly Q&A Episode.

February 2017

This month, we’ve got A LOT of questions.

Pretty sure this is the most questions I’ve ever received for a single month…

Challenge Accepted!

Let’s cut to the chase then, shall we?

This Month’s Questions

Here are the questions and my short answers. Press play above to listen to the longer version of my answers to each of these questions.

Need some advice/suggestions for mid-run fueling.

I’m always a fan of real food first and foremost.

Citrus works great for me, so grabbing an orange or a tangerine is always my preference though they aren’t always the easiest things to carry for a long run.

Dried fruit can also be good. Some raisons or some dried pineapple or mango (or anything really) may be a bit easier to carry and give you a good jolt of sugar for your run.

I’m also a tailwind fan, if you’re up for a liquid source of calories that you can sip along the way.

How do I rebuild my base after a long spell of no running?

Don’t overthink this.

Just go back to running short distances at an easy pace and rebuild your base a little bit at a time.

You may only start with 15-20 minutes of total time out there at first, but then over the course of a few weeks you gradually bump the times up. And it won’t be long before your “short” runs are pushing an hour and your long runs are a couple of hours in length.

Biggest thing: just listen to your body and act accordingly. If something is hurting a little bit, take a step back and get an extra day of rest or jump on the foam roller or do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re feeling well so you don’t have to deal with another lay off from trying to do too much too soon.

How do I balance coffee and water before a long run or race?

Just drink coffee?

Kidding, at least kind of.

I’ve actually been cutting back my coffee intake quite a bit, especially in the morning, since reading the Power of When.

But prior to a month ago, I would be mainlining coffee by the pot before any run or race.

Caffeine is actually a performance enhancing drug of the legal variety, so the more the better right?


But in terms of “balancing” the coffee and the water for you, I wouldn’t worry too much. If you want a cup of coffee before a run, go for it. It won’t hurt you in the slightest (the dehydration “impact” of coffee is so overblown it’s ridiculous) and it may actually help you.

Just be forewarned that a good cup of coffee and fire up the digestive system a bit in some people, so make sure you give yourself time to go to the bathroom before your run or plan a route with access to a public restroom if needed.

How much is “long enough” with foam rolling?

Not sure if there is too much time one can be on the foam roller, but any time is always better than no time at all.

Honestly, when you’re talking about time it’s going to depend on the muscle/muscle group that you’re working.

Big muscles like hamstrings and quads? Probably should invest a bit more time.

Smaller muscles like calves and IT bands (which aren’t muscles but work with me people)? A little less time is probably required.

The big thing with seeing a benefit from the foam roller is less about the amount of time you do it and more about being consistent.

You’ll feel much better with a few minutes a day EVERY day than you will with 10-15 minutes once or twice per week.

With young athletes, how much is too much speed work?

I’m going to stick with 80/20 for this one.

Depending on how you’re structuring the workouts, the probably means once per week. But it could also mean that a couple of days during the week you’re having them do some hard running, but keeping the number of repeats/time shorter.

The rest of the time, they should be building their base with easier running, doing some drills, practicing their starts, and other things instead of running hard every day.

A long run in Orlando, yay or nay?

Most hotel/resort areas in and around Orlando are the opposite of runner friendly.

No sidewalks. Idiot drivers. Not a good recipe for running.

Based on your list of options, it sounds like the treadmill is your best option, but why not just switch up your schedule a bit?

Do your 20 miler the week before you’re in town for your conference so you can run in a place where you’re comfortable?

That’s what I would do.

I like running easy, but do want to feel a bit stronger as a runner. How much speed/tempo work do I really need to do?

Outside of my standard 80/20 response, there is no set amount.

If increased speed isn’t your focus, but you do want to feel/get a bit stronger as a runner, I’d definitely say some tempo paced workouts and some hills would be in order.

You don’t necessarily need to make tempo pace or hill repeats the entire focus of one run per week either, you could simply mix them into your normal easy running a couple of times here and there.

How do you become a “better runner” if increased speed isn’t a goal of yours?

However you want.

Honestly, it simply depends on your goals.

If you’re not worried about getting faster, what are you worried about?

Running longer distances? Racing more intelligently? Not fading at the end of a long run? Not breaking down as often due to injury?

Whatever goals you have as a runner, if you’re working toward them you’re becoming a better runner, right?

What is your opinion on zero drop vs non-zero drop?

Zero drop, in my opinion, is the only option all day long.

That said, non-zero drop isn’t necessarily bad. Though a non-zero heel drop is, technically, a “high heeled”shoe, right?

What is the air speed velocity of a nut laden swallow? Real question: what food’s are a big no-no on race day?

African or European swallow?

As for food choice, it depends on the person and the only way to know for sure is trial and error.

For me, race day meat is a big no no.

I love a big breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and maybe a piece of toast, but if I have some bacon or sausage I just don’t feel very good when I’m running.

But for some runners, they prefer nothing more than a banana.

Ultimately, you need to decide for you but your best bet is to “practice” during your long runs so you know what will work best for you on race day.

What’s the best way for determining HR max and training zones? Still 220-your age?

Honestly, there is no true “max HR” to begin with.

If you’ve got some type of heart problem, your doctor may not want you to go above a certain level of activity, but if you’re healthy the idea of a max HR is fable.

When it comes to your training zones, everything needs to be customized to your level of fitness. So trying to do something like 220 minus your age and then multiplying that by various percentages is far from accurate.

Think about it: based on that formula my max heart rate would be the same as someone that is my age but that is 200 pounds overweight and chain smokes cigarettes all day. Does that make any sense?

It doesn’t to me.

Instead, I use the lactate threshold test to determine my heart rate zones for myself and my clients (on occasion).

The test is simple. Warm up until you feel ready to go, then run as far as you can in 30 minutes.

Once you get to 30 minutes, cool down and the test is over. Now, look at your heart rate data from the last 10 minutes of your 30 minute workout, and the average of that segment is your lactate threshold.

So anything above that number is a hard workout, and anything below that number is now an easy workout.

Then you can calculate zones based off of that.

So I’ll say 75-80% is zone one. 81-89% is zone two. 96-100% is zone three. 102-105% is zone 4. And anything over 106% is zone 5.

And the gaps, especially between zones two and three, are there for a reason. They allow you to make sure you’re solidly in the zone you’re supposed to be at, and never blurring the lines too closely.

Hope that helps.

I’m planning a move from Oregon to Louisiana soon. What do I need to do to prep for the climate change?

There’s no magic bullet, you just have to do it.

If you’re moving before summer really hits, it’ll help because it’s not that bad down south this time of year.

But as you get into the summer months, it can definitely get suffocating.

The biggest tips are to run early or late to avoid the hottest part of the day. Also, make sure you’re hydrating like crazy.

Then you just have to do it and you’ll adjust. You’ll learn to run in minimal clothing and enjoy sweating profusely quickly, I promise!

How do I convince my wife to get off the treadmill for a change and run outside?

Break the treadmill?

More seriously, just ask her to join you for a run. Use it as a time to chat a bit and spend a little time together as a couple.

Or just challenge her to a race and you can watch her blow past you!

How is your ultra training going?

It’s going.

At this point, it pretty much is what it is. I could be more prepared, but considering that I really only decided to do this a month ago I can’t complain too much.

I’ve done two marathon distance training runs since, and survived them both.

I guess we will see how things go on Sunday, eh?

Any suggestions for recognizing a salt issue during a run and addressing it on the spot?


It’s one of those things where you don’t realize you’re in trouble until it’s too late.

I didn’t put the pieces together until I was dead and walking and trying to figure out what the hell had happened. That’s when I realized I hadn’t taken in any salt at all during the race to that point but I’d had loads of water.

So I was overheating and out of salt, and once I cooled down and got my electrolytes rebalanced I felt fine again.

For me, lesson learned. Always take some salt if it’s available, especially in the form of potato chips.

What do you think about questioning things you’ve “always done” in your training?

I say go for it, within reason.

Why are you questioning what you’ve always done?

I’ve said before that if something isn’t broken you shouldn’t go about trying to fix it. Yet there is a caveat to that logic.

If what you’re doing is something you’ve always done and you don’t know why, and you see some research for doing said thing differently that makes a lot of sense it can be ok to give it a shot.

Try different fueling options. Try yoga. Try running on the trails once in awhile.

There are lots of things that can help you improve that you’d never know if you didn’t try them.

When running out of town, how can I best replicate my pre-run meal?

This is a tough one.

For me, I run best on a solid breakfast of eggs and potatoes and the whole nine yards.

So that can be difficult to come across pre-race.

One thing I’ll typically do is scout the area a bit the day before the race, looking for a place that I can get the foods I like to eat at 3 or 4 in the morning. So I’m looking for a Denny’s or an IHOP or something similar.

If you want to stick with what is working for you at home, I’d suggest you do the same.

How much running, in addition to other physical activity, is required to progress as a runner?

It depends on your running goals.

If you are working towards running a long race, obviously you need to prioritize your running.

If you’re in an off part of your training cycle, you can do much less running and focus on your swimming and biking and other exercise to maintain your fitness and hopefully squeeze in a run here and there just to keep the running muscles engaged.

Definitely no maximum or minimum in general, just depends on your goals.

If you could interview any elite athlete that is a non-runner, who would it be?

That is very interesting question!

First choice would probably be Steve Yzerman as I was a huge Red Wings fan growing up.

Some of the NFL players that have retired recently after only a year or two in the league would be interesting too.

Wow, that’s a really good question!

What is your favorite running movie?

It might be cliche, but I’ll go with either of the two Spirit of the Marathon movies.

They are perfect.

What is the optimal heart rate zone for racing and what is the minimum amount of training required for running a marathon?

Optimal heart rate zone varies depending on the race.

Based on the heart rate zones we talked about earlier, zone five is great for sprinters, where zone 2 is better for the marathon.

The longer the race, the lower the heart rate zone needs to be to allow you to complete the distance.

And as for the second part of the question, it really depends on your goals.

Do you just want to make it to the finish line in one piece? 2-3 months will suffice assuming you’ve been running regularly.

Want to race it hard? May need more like 5-6 months.

Coming off the couch as a non-runner? 5-6 months minimum.

Is pasta still considered a good pre-race dinner? If not pasta, what else?

I haven’t eaten pasta the night before a race in years.

In fact, I’m not sure if I ever have though I wouldn’t be surprised if I bought into the hype for one of my first couple of races when I didn’t know any better.

Instead of pasta, turn to real food that you enjoy.

I like a sweet potato, maybe some chicken or fish, and some green veggies the night before a race.

Lots of vitamins and minerals that I’m going to be needing the next day, and foods that I know aren’t going to leave me feeling heavy.

Try some different combinations before your long runs and see how it goes for you. Then you’ll know what to use the night before your race.


Pretty Much How I’m Feeling…


I think that’s officially the most questions I’ve had for a Q&A episode!

Hope the answers helped, and let’s see if we can get even more Qs for me to A next month, eh?

Massive Listener Q&A episode covering all things #running! #runchat #runnerds Share on X

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