Newsletter: The Quarter


Welcome to Stride Strong Coaching’s Weekly Newsletter, The Quarter. You should be able to read each edition in the time you run a quarter mile. Each week I will go over ways for any runner to get faster, race better, and enjoy exercise more. The first few editions will go over the very basics of running that we often forget! 

The Quarter No. 38 - Sleep Quality

Last week I wrote about Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and how it provides valuable, easy to measure feedback on stress and fitness. This week I want to talk about another sign: sleep quality. I am going to ignore sleep timing and duration for right now. What I am calling sleep quality today is super basic and easy to track. Essentially, unusually broken sleep or slow onset of sleep is one classic sign of overreaching.

If you notice you’re taking a long time to get to sleep or toss and turn, waking regularly, it may be an early sign that you are overreaching and need a couple of easier days to freshen up (and adapt to the load you’re under). Just remember, if you’re worried about backing off based on this, if you pick up on the signs quickly you’re probably still functionally overreaching. Freshening up in this state will allow for performance supercompensation (you get faster, whoo!). Pushing on will lead non-functional overreaching, which is another name for digging a hole which you don’t get out of quickly or happily. 

So, pay attention to sleep quality. Sleep quality, when combined with other feedback like RHR and training performance, can inform where your program goes and, more importantly, how quickly you are improving!

Pictured Left: Sausage, the best sleeper I know!

March 17th, 2019


The Quarter No. 37 - Signs

I missed last week’s Quarter as I was sick, for which I apologize. Happily, it spurred some good ideas for the next few weeks. I want to write about some easy signs to look for to monitor how your body is holding up.

I measure and track my resting heart rate (RHR) every day. Everyone should. It is very basic but provides a lot of feedback. Generally speaking, as aerobic fitness increases you should see a decrease in RHR. If your RHR is 5 beats or more above average then you should start considering an easy day. After you get a few months of data, you’ll see patterns emerge and will be able to make decisions based on daily readings.

The "reason" I got sick last week was because I bullishly trained through four mornings of elevated RHR. All the signs were there, low motivation, niggles, high RHR, reduced HR at usual workout intensities, and broken sleep. If it were one of my athletes, I would have hounded them to rest and recover. Unfortunately, I am not smart when it comes to my own body!

Knowing the signs to look for is the first step in smart training, recognizing them in practice is the second, but the third step is hardest: acting based on signs. Often our ego gets in the way and we think we need to be tough and just “push through.” That’s where having a coach comes in handy. Coaches are there to help recognize the signs and talk you down when you want to push. Regularly my job as a coach is to hold people back so they improve faster, not push them further.

Next time you’re stuck in a hole and want to keep digging, remember sometimes more work isn’t the answer. Instead, stop and listen to your body; it (and your coach!) will tell you what to do.

March 10th, 2019


The Quarter No. 36 - Tempos

Tempo runs are often misunderstood and feared as a result. Classic tempo runs should be run as close as possible - but under - your anaerobic threshold. Your lactate threshold is the point at which your body begins producing lactic acid faster than it is clearing it. You begin to tire rapidly and eventually slow down once you exceed this threshold. In well-trained athletes lactate threshold corresponds to around hour race pace. For everyday athletes, anything from 8 minute repeats to 20 or 25 minutes of continuous effort at this effort is very effective for increasing lactate threshold.

A well-run tempo is challenging but doable. You should finish feeling as though another mile or two at that effort would have been doable but you had to work hard. A tempo was too fast if you finish with tightening legs which are starting to burn. Properly executed tempo work allows you to run faster for longer before accumulating lactic acid, which, given marathon pace is approximately 95% of tempo pace, is always a good thing!

Pay attention to effort on tempo days and avoid getting above your lactate threshold. If you pace your tempo runs properly, you should finish feeling accomplished and confident - which is the goal of all hard days!

Pictured left, Staying fast while relaxed  is key

February 24th, 2019


The Quarter No. 35 - Don’t Think

I have been fighting my 4:30 AM alarm lately and it seems like I’m not alone with the Winter Blues hitting a few athletes I know. I’ve always found that running is a lot easier than thinking about running when you're low on motivation. This week's advice is to resist dwelling on upcoming workouts - excitement or visualizing is great but dread is not.

In the same way that breaking a 10,000 m into 200’s makes a huge difference, don’t wake up and see ten miles in the cold. Instead, just think about putting on your shoes; then walk out the door; then start running. While each individual step is relatively easy, the cumulative weight of all the steps can be overbearing.

If you find yourself dwelling on an upcoming session, accept that it is going to happen then let your mind wander onto your next set of thoughts instead of staying on the topic. You’ll find you’ve got a lot more mental energy to spend when you actually get to your session and you will enjoy it much more! 

Pictured left, The Wife staring down a 5 AM run

February 17th, 2019


The Quarter No. 34 - Get Strong

Strength is essential to running well. A strong runner will be less likely to get injured and absorbs training better than a weak runner. There are a lot of different ways to get strong, the trick is finding the training modality which gets you excited and you consistently do. My athletes do everything from bodybuilding, traditional gym work, boot camps, P90X, hills repeats, to yoga. 

The type of strength work you do is a lot less important than whether or not you do it consistently! If you have a strength program but don’t hit the sessions, consider trying some different types of workouts to find something you will consistently do!

A strong runner is a happy, healthy runner - so go get strong(er)!

Pictured left, Patrick Strong doing heavy deads in his gym (sorry neighbors)

February 11th, 2019


The Quarter No. 33 - Winning

I love winning, like, love-love winning. It is a great feeling to know you were fastest on race day, that all your hard work paid off, that all those cold, early mornings and brutal sessions were worth it. 

The thing is, not everyone crosses the line first on race day, hell, I haven’t even raced in years. I still make sure I get my share of victories though. A couple Quarters back (no. 30) I wrote about the importance of having some sort of goal each day. Following on from that, it is important to achieve and celebrate that goal!

I woke up at 4:30 AM on Thursday and instead of going back to sleep, I death-marched the recovery jog that meant my Friday session was perfect! I got back after struggling through a handful of 8:00’s, gave myself a high-five, and was happy about it all day. The slow roll of confidence and positivity from celebrating small daily achievements adds up over time and leads to better training and, eventually, maybe even winning races!

Set a small goal each day, achieve it, then celebrate it! Win every day and you’ll see increased motivation, more satisfaction in training, and better results.

Pictured left, Matthew Lambert on my favourite step of the podium a couple weeks back

February 3rd, 2019


The Quarter No. 32 - Consistency

I met Max Randolph in 2014. After swimming D1 in College for Georgia Tech he had switched to running. Max realized two things fairly quickly. He wanted to get fast and that rest days didn’t work for him as he ran best when he ran every day. Last week Max reached an amazing four years of running at least 5 km each day! Max has had PR’s in the 5 km every season we have trained together since 2015, a record not many people can boast.

Consistency in training is the single best indicator of performance on race day I know of. It isn’t that you need to run every day but you do need to run the sessions on the plan to hit the results. Adjustments and unplanned rest days happen to everyone (the mortals at least - I'm looking at you, Max) but getting in the consistent quality is what gets the PRs.

If you are ever looking at your training and wondering why the results are not there, consider looking not just at quality but also consistency. If you consistently hit average sessions you’ll always run better than hitting amazing sessions sporadically.

January 28th, 2019


The Quarter No. 31 - Direction

I’ve found knowing where you’re going is helpful (except when I write these and ramble about). 

Jeff Brace started training with me in late 2017, he ran a 3:28 in Houston 2018 for a 20 minute PR, them took another 15 minutes off today at the 2019 Houston Marathon with a 3:13:22! This is an impressive progression and it took Jeff knowing that his sole goal was a fast marathon to achieve it. He trained with a clear focus towards this goal, never wavering or getting sidetracked. I am willing to bet his next race will qualify him for Boston.

The focus derived from clear goals allows you to expend energy on what actually matters. Without a clear goal, you are often pulled in contrary directions and end up a bit lost. I like to tell athletes with a clear performance goal that we only ever want to put in effort towards what will make them faster. If you have a singular performance goal, consider looking at the work you’re doing and making sure it is focused on achieving that goal!

January 21st, 2019


The Quarter No. 30 - Another Day, Another Gain

The best teams and athletes are driven to constantly improve, they innovate and refine their process, always staying ahead of the competition. Applying this mindset to your running is actually really easy! Simply try achieve something each day to improve. It doesn’t have to be something big, little improvements add up quickly over time.

Having a concrete goal for each day focuses our attention and makes for more purposeful training. A few examples of achievable goals are stretching or rolling habitually tight muscles, improving form on drills or sprints, taking a second per mile off your threshold pace. Often my daily improvement is taking a rest day to allow my body to absorb the training I have been doing!

Training is all about gains, focus on one aspect of fitness each day and improve upon it. You’ll quickly see the gains stacking up!

January 13th, 2019


The Quarter No. 29 - New Year, New Goals

Tuesday will be the first day of 2019. With the new year comes new inspiration to hit bigger milestones and get faster. As we enter the New Year, take a moment to think about some short-, mid-, and long-term goals for this year. 

First, set a long-term goal that gets you excited just thinking about it, then some stepping stone goals to keep you motivated all year long. Try setting both process oriented goals and outcome based goals. Maybe you want to run a 4 hour marathon but also want to run even or negative splits. These goals will work hand-in-hand. Achieving the even or negative splits makes the 4 hour goal more likely. And, even if you miss the 4 hour goal, you might have paced well and achieved one goal still.

Once you have your goals set, share them with someone to help keep you accountable. The cold, early morning runs are a lot easier with a goal to strive for and someone to help you achieve them!

What are your 2019 goals?

December 30th, 2018


The Quarter No. 28 - Find Your Happy Place

Training is hard. The miles add up and the body gets tired - but that’s how you get faster. Often the body needs to be tired but the mind needs to stay fresh. Finding your happy place is key to sustaining a good progression in training without burning-out.

I have an athlete who loves running trails. We try get her on the trails a couple times a week, whether it is for a long run or recovery run, it keeps her happy and on an even keel. Trails are her happy place.

A fresh mind keeps you motivated for the hard days where training is a real challenge. Having a go-to pick-me-up is essential. Finish your run with tacos, take a post-workout selfie with your cat (guilty), run on trails; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it makes you happy! Your training will benefit and you’ll be a lot happier overall.

Where is your happy place?

23rd of December, 2018


The Quarter No. 27 - Mani

This week's Quarter is a bio from one of our athletes, Mani Subramanian. Mani has had an amazing year and an inspirational last couple of years! Read on below:

I started running 12 years ago as a way to lose weight. I hit the gym every day for 9 months and lost 40 lbs in the process. However, I had not run more than 5 miles until I signed up for my very first Half in 2016, the Dallas Rock n Roll. I met Patrick at Luke’s Southlake on the first day of half marathon training for a trial session. After a 5 mile trial run on a Cold Saturday in January, I felt that I could train and run on my own, I did and ran 1:58:47.

The running bug quickly caught me and I started training at Luke’s Highland Village for my first Full marathon but got injured with 6 weeks to go before the 2017 Dallas Marathon and had to shut down training for 2 months.

In 2017 I once again signed up for the Rock n Roll Dallas Half, this time training with Patrick at Luke’s for the duration of the buildup. During this time, I got to know him a little bit more in terms of his training approach, discussions with athletes and was super impressed.

I did my first marathon in Vancouver in May 2017 and completed it in 4:44:45, then my second marathon at Toronto in October 2017 in 3:48:48. I then ran the Dubai marathon in Jan 2018 but had to walk from mile 17 as I was nursing an injury for an entire month prior to the race.

I was so devastated and had to take a step back and understand that I was training for back to back marathons and never got to the starting line without being injured. I realized I needed help.

I run with some of elite coaches but wanted to get a coach with whom I would have accountability - and someone who I did not have much familiarity with. I met with Patrick in February of this year and discussed my primary goal of running injury free and staying healthy. Patrick built a plan that matched my ability level and kept me healthy. His program gives clear instructions on how to make me listen to my body and train more effectively and truly embrace the easy days and recovery days. He always actively encouraged me to continue with Camp Gladiator 3 days a week to build Strength training.

My half marathon times went from 1:52:13 before I met Patrick to 1:43:12 in March, 1:39:07 in May to 1:31:44 in November. 

I felt really strong during my marathon build up and was PR-ing in my 18, 20, 22 milers and was running a negative split with a couple of my elite running buddies who are track coaches. I ran CIM and completed it in 3:10:09 (38:39 PR) - I felt really strong and was able to bounce back from the marathon easier and I have no doubt that Patrick’s itinerary and training program clearly worked for me.

I would recommend Patrick to anyone looking to improve their running or get a start.

December 16th, 2018


The Quarter No. 26 - Consistency

Consistency is rarely an issue I need to address with my athletes. The majority of my people are self-motivated and I actively seek to foster their independence to make them robust. However, I think a lot about ways to explain things in my coaching as reiteration helps build understanding. Here is my new favourite way to explain consistency.

Training is like filling a bucket with water, every time we train we add a bit of water to the bucket. The trouble is, there’s a hole in the bottom. If we only put water in our bucket a couple times a week then it stays empty. 

How consistently are you adding to your bucket?

December 9th, 2018