Welcome to Stride Strong Coaching’s Not-at-all 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!
I am currently back coaching my wife, Sara, a little. She had a very successful career running D1 in college so she doesn’t need too much input. I just ask how she’s feeling and what she’d like to run each week then I write up a basic program to follow. The one thing we do each morning though is I ask what she has on her program and then I ask what the goal of the day is. It is a simple routine but a very valuable one.
It is essential to know the goal of each training session. It allows us to more effectively tailor our efforts, making sure we get the most out of training. It might look nice on Strava to run a quick recovery run but physiologically it is not achieving much! I love my easy days when I know I am getting gains for virtually no effort. Free money doesn’t exist but rest days come close.
When you look at your program tomorrow before heading out, take a moment to think about what it is you are trying to achieve. Then, get out there and get after it!
March 14th, 2021
COVID cases are only increasing in the US, so I figured this may be timely for some. I have only had one athlete come down with COVID and luckily it was a mild case. They followed their doctor’s recommendations and then we followed the proposed recommendations from this article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Happily, they are now back training and ready to ramp up!
The major points to remember are to always follow your doctor’s recommendations and to not rush things. Taking a few extra days to start a build up is not a big deal; ending up in hospital because you overdid it is. If your doctor is not familiar with runners, you can show them the linked article and they should be able to use it to guide you safely back into training.
Stay safe and train smart!
January 17th, 2021
Return to Play Infographic from BJSM https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/19/1174
I remember when I was in high school and I was reading about Arthur Lydiard training Peter Snell and co. back in the 60’s. They used to do relatively complex hill workouts on a hill with different grades of steepness and flat, running hard both uphill and downhill. I used to think, “Wow, it is crazy how that hill was exactly perfect for that workout!”
As I grew older I realized that it wasn’t the hill which was perfect. It was the session which Lydiard wrote utilizing that specific hill that was so good, not the hill itself. Coaching is all problem solving. Athletes will always have areas of strength and weakness. Understanding different races and their demands allows a coach to tailor training to each athlete, ensuring they are working on the most productive aspects of physiology and psychology.
An openness and willingness to learn and grow are essential in both athletes and coaches. It is rare that the best program for one year is the best program the next year, at least if it is exactly replicated with the exact same emphasis. Small adjustments can make a big difference but sometimes they are necessary. We do not want to needlessly reinvent the wheel but we also do not want to clunk down the road forever on a flat. If you are unsure how your wheel looks feel free to reach out!
November 8th, 2020
It has been a long time now since the COVID disruptions began, all the 2020 races we hoped would still happen in 2020 have been cancelled or postponed. Unfortunately, a lot of motivation evaporated along with the races. It is natural to feel lost when a big goal is cancelled. A week or two of mourning is fine - and beneficial - but eventually it becomes time to reassess and look to new goals.
A change of focus in training is valuable right now, especially for marathoners. It is a lot easier to train for a mile or 5 km time trial than to continue training for a December Full and “racing” it solo. The gains made now at other distances will only help come next Fall when, hopefully, the big races will be back.
As a case in point, one of my athletes made the switch to shorter work recently and set a 2:10 PR in the 5 km, running sub 18 on the track yesterday. He is loving the reduced volume and feeling fresher day to day. While motivation was low after his goal race was cancelled, he’s now seeing good gains again and is setting himself up to run really fast next Fall.
It has been a tough year but that does not mean that it needs to be a wasted year. If you’re lacking motivation try a change in focus. You may well rediscover your mojo and, as an added bonus, run even faster next year because of it!
October 4th, 2020
We all know how the mood of an athlete impacts performance on race day, but we often forget to encourage positive mindsets in the quotidian grind of training. Fostering a positive view of the work you are doing leads to a feeling of accomplishment and growth. If you stack enough productive-feeling days you tend to build momentum and you roll over the rough days without over analyzing them.
Try to take a moment after each session to reflect on the positive aspects of the session and how the work you have put in is going to help build fitness. Get (low-key) excited daily about working hard and getting faster. Remind yourself that your gradual gains in fitness relate directly to achieving your goals. Build the momentum of your mood and, over time, you will find you’re naturally more positive. You will also respond better to training and most importantly, race better.
September 6th, 2020
The Quarter No. 66 - Representation is now up on the website. Check out the link in our bio or read on below...
I saw this Instagram post from Olympic Marathon Trials winner Aliphine Tuliamuk a few days back. It got me thinking about how we view running and how we treat different performances. I found it thought provoking and well worth sharing this week, instead of a regular Quarter.
From @aliphine... LONG POST🤦🏾♀️ Let me make this clear, Racing and winning the Olympic trials in Atlanta was the highest breakthrough of my marathon career so far, I was elated after I crossed that finish line, I was grateful for the opportunity that being an American had given me, emotions were running high. The spectators and the fans along the course in Atlanta were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. They were loud, excited and cheered so well for us. I felt so much love and support while there, and from videos that fans took along the course or in bars, AND NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE THAT AWAY. Then a couple days later, I finally had a chance to watch the replay to see what people at home saw. I was definitely caught off guard, initially I was okay that I didn’t hear my name mentioned even when I was right there, while everyone around me was talked about, as the race went on, I became uneasy, and right when the move happened and coverage came back from break, I broke down, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I stopped watching the rest of the race till the next day. I spoke to my coach and manager about how I felt in that moment. When I resumed the next day, I still didn’t feel like anyone knew much about me. For starters, that was my 10th national championship title, I run for Hoka one One @naz_elite , a team that shares a lot on social media, I may have been the underdog but it wouldn’t take long before you saw this coming, from my last 3 marathons, heck you should have known that on my last podcast that week with letsrun, I was bold in saying that I felt ready because of the training I had had. Anyways If you haven’t watched the coverage go check it out on NBC or YouTube, make your own mind about it. I have watched that race 7 times, and I got enraged each of those last 6. I wondered if the reason was that I was a black woman, or that I am a Kenyan-American, (so not American enough?). I believe that any media covering a race should be fair and do their research, so that athletes can get the exposure they deserve, and fans can be educated on who they are watching; this can also make a difference in our careers in so many ways. Let’s all do better!
June 28th, 2020 Pictured Left, NAZ teammates celebrate with Aliphine after she won the Olympic Trials
There's no Quarter this week because this isn't the time to be talking, it is the time to be listening. Marielle Hall wrote this piece on Runner's World and it is far better than anything you will see me writing!
Please check it out, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, think of it like a tempo. It is good to be uncomfortable and come to grips with the hard things. Let it be a catalyst to change and grow, just like a hard tempo. We as a running community can be more inclusive and we should be actively striving towards that.
June 7th, 2020
I have a confession to make. I honestly do not care about my athletes' performances. I only care about my athletes. A couple weeks back I had a conversation with an athlete who was feeling a lot of external pressure to perform and it got me thinking. Too much or the wrong type of external pressure is generally detrimental to performance and is always detrimental to the wellbeing of an athlete personally. If an athlete is happy, it generally follows that they will perform well. At best, unhappy athletes perform suboptimally.
As a coach, I do not shy away from pushing my athletes as hard as needed. However, I always judge how hard to push based on the athlete as a person, not as a machine. Often I see this distinction lost in training, and the athlete suffers on both a personal- and performance-level.
It should be a warning sign if you ever feel as though a coach or someone around you values your ability to perform over you as a person. It definitely warrants a conversation at the least. I love coaching because of the relationships I build with my athletes and the growth I see in them, not the performances they achieve.
May 31st, 2020
In coaching there is no such thing as an intractable problem. At times one might lack knowledge or imagination but there is invariably a solution to all problems. I was reminded of this when I was walking with my wife last weekend. I was looking in a creek and saw the concrete embankment was perfect for steep hill bounds, hence the photo and this Quarter.
The trouble with being stuck with a problem is that it can feel like being stuck in the bottom of a hole. Don’t be afraid to take a minute, step back, and think it through. Often there is a simple solution. Google and others in the sport are always good resources to find solutions to issues. Other sports are also a good source of new knowledge and ideas. I am currently learning more about lifting and it is surprising how much crosses over to running beyond “stronger is better”.
Do not be afraid to look off the beaten path for an answer!
May 10th, 2020
Pictured Left: Bounds in a creek!
Motivation can be a fickle beast at the best of times but it is especially tricky now, with the malaise of shelter in place orders and canceled races into the foreseeable future. A race is always great motivation as there is a definite time-frame and the ability to set a measurable goal. With the cancellation of races it does not mean there is nothing to train for though!
One of the most valuable ways to maintain motivation is to have a specific goal. The first question I ask athletes when we plan new training phases is: “What goals excite you?” An exciting goal is an achievable goal. Below are a few ideas which would benefit the majority of runners.
- Focus on strength: now is a great time to compromise on running volume and work on building strength.
- Get faster: incorporate sprint work, it will transfer to longer distances with efficiency and power gains.
- Take a break: reduce training load and allow your body to recover more. Many people are not very good at taking a break from racing but this is a good time when there is no FOMO!
- In general, work on known weaknesses: we all know we have weaknesses, often we ignore them. Take time to strengthen your weaknesses.
Find a goal or area to work on that excites you; figure out a way to measure your improvement; set a goal; then go have fun getting better! A change of focus will feel refreshing and help give a bump in motivation. And, as an added bonus, you’ll probably come out of it more prepared than ever.
April 26th, 2020
Life is full of lessons, which is really convenient, as life and growth are all about learning. To make the most of life’s lessons it is important to have a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is when an individual treats every event as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each experience presents an opportunity to learn and become better. This is a valuable trait in all people - but especially athletes, as there are a lot of lessons to learn!
If we are lucky, we learn lessons the first time (ideally just by being told). However, some lessons need to be repeated before we learn. I know I have learnt more than a few training lessons through painful repetition of experience, rather than listening to my coaches. If you miss a lesson the first time, don’t worry; the important thing is that you are open to new ideas and looking to improve.
Seek to learn and grow each day, whether it is in life or training. If you view obstacles as opportunities to improve and grow, life can suddenly become a vibrant place of growth, as opposed to the hostile beatdown it can sometimes feel like. A bad session or race is only a negative experience a) if you tell yourself it was, and b) you don’t learn from it. Remember, learn, grow, and get better!
March 8th, 2020
Pictured Left, Mark Hall on the way to a 10 km PR
It is rare that a motivated athlete will blow off a session and miss it for no reason. Invariably they miss due to feeling ill, off, or a work or family matter. In other words, they miss sessions if they have other stress in their lives which makes it unrealistic to add in further stress on that particular day. However, motivated athletes commonly will try to make up the session they missed the next day. In general, this is a bad idea.
A well balanced program has a specific cycle of stress followed by recovery and adaptation. Making up a missed session will usually remove a recovery/adaptation day from this cycle, in effect increasing total stress while reducing recovery. This makes little sense, as the very reason they missed the session in the first place was because they were overloaded with stress!
The trap people tend to fall into is under accounting for life stress. Your mind and body does not differentiate training stress from work or family stress. Therefore, when we think about training, we need to think about total stress, not just training stress. Remember this the next time you miss a session. Give yourself some grace and take the extra time to destress and get back to normal before going hard again.
February 16th, 2020
Pictured Left: Sausage, my cat, definitely knows how to recover
The attitude with which you approach your training significantly influences the outcomes. Going into a session with a positive attitude and a growth mindset sets you up for success. You will see great results if you aim to challenge yourself and use the work as an opportunity to progress. Contrast this with those who shy away from fully pushing themselves and pseudo-resent hard work. Often people will work hard, but without full buy in they see suboptimal results. This attitude becomes a negative feedback loop, with those people seeing ever poorer gains.
If you’re motivated to train but do not want to embrace a session there can be a few things at play: the session may be inappropriately hard; you may be slightly overreached; or you may just need to harden up and get it done. Filtering out these reasons is important - and is where coaching becomes important.
The next time you’re looking at your program and are dreading a session, try reflecting on your motivations and why you are training. Then remind yourself that the pain will be temporary and that you are blessed to be able to push yourself to achieve your potential - many people are not so lucky. Embrace the hard work and treat it as an opportunity to grow as an athlete and person. After all, we choose to do what we do and may as well get the most out of it!
Pictured Left: About to smash a track session
February 2nd, 2020
Recently an athlete of mine missed a session due to a stomach bug. The athlete asked if they should make up the session the next day. I said no, to which they seemed unconvinced. I explained the larger view of the situation: that it is better to let the body recover fully and nail the next planned session, rather than play catch up and add extra load to an already stressed body. They replied to this with, “logic wins, passion kills.”
I thought this was a great line and one that we could all do well to remember in training. Our training decisions should be made using logic, utilizing sound training methodology. People tend to get a bit crazy and end up overtraining if passion is allowed too much say in training decisions. However, passion - whatever it is grounded in - is essential in setting ambitious goals and for motivation when training gets really hard.
The next time you’re making an adjustment to your training plan, remember to keep the decision making logical and don’t let your passion carry you away. But.... the next time you’re deep into a painful session and wonder what the heck you’re doing with your life, draw on your passion and get the session done!
January 26th, 2020
Pictured left: Matthew Lambert back in another life rolling some track work!
It is a new year. A time when many people resolve to start exercising with various goals in mind. It is also a time when many people quickly fall off their plans and do not begin again. While many factors are involved, a significant issue is managing one’s expectations. I would contend that the first couple of months should largely be aimed at enjoying training and fostering consistency.
Performance will always follow good habits and consistent training. However, chasing performance from day one can often lead you to lose perspective and be too hard on yourself. If you are happy and treat each workout as an opportunity to grow instead, you will do well! It is not a big deal if once a week you miss a session or do not fully follow the plan. What matters is enjoying what you are doing and feeling good about yourself.
For example, yesterday I was planning 8 with my Wife, including a solo 3 mile tempo. Two miles in it unexpectedly started snowing! Instead of hitting a hard session, we just ran easy together and enjoyed the rare event that is Texas snow! I still ran 8 miles and did work, just not exactly the work I had planned. Most importantly though, I had a lot of fun and will remember the run for a long time!
Celebrate each day you do work towards your goals. But, just as importantly, give yourself some grace on the days you miss a workout, and *please* do not beat yourself up over it. Reset, then look to the next day as another opportunity to have fun, while improving and growing. With a little patience, you will see success if you enjoy what you are doing.
January 12th, 2020
Pictured Left: The Wife and I enjoying the snow on our run yesterday.