Newsletter: The Quarter

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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. 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Quarter No. 25 - PR Party!

The California International Marathon was today and two of my athletes were running. They both ran very strongly and got big PRs. Neringa Gafford ran under 3:00 for the first time, while Mani Subramanian completely destroyed his old PR by over 30 minutes!


They both worked extremely hard over the last months to run fast times. It takes a lot of focus and confidence to really push yourself over 26.2 miles. I am very proud of their work and very happy they ran well. 


The marathon is a fickle beast and perfect build-ups can often derail mid-race for virtually no reason. So, make sure to celebrate yours and your friends successes when they happen! 


December 2nd, 2018

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The Quarter No. 24 - What I am Thankful For

It is a bit late for a Thanksgiving post but I got thinking about what I am thankful for the other day. I am thankful for the athletes I have had the honor to train and get to know over the years. 


The athletes I train teach me at least as much about myself and training as I teach them. Each new athlete only ever reinforces how unique we are as athletes and people. Without this uniqueness, life (and coaching) would be a boring thing! 


Generic workout plans will never be my process, writing specifically for the individual helps challenge my skills and keeps the athlete in balance and continually improving. A part of this process requires that I learn as much as I can about each athlete, building strong relationships in the process. 


Upon reflection, it is these relationships which are most valuable to me as a coach. I find there is nothing more rewarding than seeing one of your people progress and grow over time!


November 25th, 2018

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The Quarter No. 23 - Go Slow to Get Fast

Life is full of oxymorons. Running has at least one oxygenated moron in myself and at least one oxymoron: you must run slow to get fast.


The slow, easy days are when you adapt to the hard days. If you only run hard you will quickly plateau, then gradually break down. To get fast you must master the cycle of stress and adaptation. Unfortunately, it takes confidence to feel good about taking it easy and running “slow.” 


Next time you’re struggling with the concept of an easy day, remember that it is on the easy days that you get faster. The hard days only make you tired: the easy days are when you adapt and improve!


So, if you want to get tired, run hard all the time. However, if you want to get fast, run your easy days easy!


December 17th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 22 - The Secret

All you ever need to know to reach your potential is encompassed in these three words: stress, recover, repeat.   


On paper it could not be simpler. In real life though, it often feels like it could not be more complicated. If it ever seems like training has lost direction or stagnated, look at these three elements in your program and see what is out of proportion. Generally the issue will be too little recovery to allow for adaptation.  


A program should be fun and varied but beware of losing focus and getting bogged down in the minutiae. There are an infinite number of ways to stress and recover but keep the basics in mind! After all, the formula for success is only three words long: stress, recover, repeat.  

 

December 3rd, 2017

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The Quarter No. 21 - All or Nothing: A False Dichotomy

It is hard to balance training when life gets busy. There may always be time to get out early and run (4 am is not that early, right?) But what happens to everything else? Do you make time for strength work, foam rolling, stretching, and all the other little things? 


Generally, these extras fall by the wayside.   


It is natural to think, ‘I don't have time for the gym, I won't lift today.’ However, this is backwards thinking. A new mantra of mine is a little often goes a long way. A ten minute strength circuit may not be as good as an hour in the gym but it is far better than nothing. If time or energy is regularly an issue in your training, these mini sessions will add up quickly over time.  


I try to be as pragmatic as possible with my athletes. While it is important to get good work in,  it is more important to remember that something is better than nothing. The gains from small, consistent sessions will always far outweigh those from big, infrequent sessions. Keep this in mind this week and don’t be afraid of a strength workout as short and simple as three sets of: 30 lunges, 10 push ups, and 60 seconds front and side planks after an easy run.


Pictured left is Gretchen Veling, having just run a massive 2 minute PR in the 5 km at Run with the Turkeys!


November 26th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 20 - Are You Enjoying Yourself?

What is your most basic goal in training?   


As a coach, I strive to have happy athletes who enjoy training and racing. Every other possible goal comes from this.  


Training may not be something you love every day, but you should enjoy it and find satisfaction in your hard work. If you do not find joy in training, something is wrong. Athletes have to push through a lot of pain and fatigue and this requires motivation. A basic tenant of training is that a happy athlete is a motivated athlete.  


Play around with your process if you've lost enthusiasm. Experiment until you find your happy place! You'll perform better and will be happier, which, at the end of the day, is what really matters.   


November 19th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 19 - Because You're Worth It

The Quarter No. 3 talked about the importance of having goals. Today we are talking about the importance of goals, more specifically, the importance you assign to your goals. Let’s get this straight: your goals are important. Likewise, the effort put into achieving goals is significant and worthy of pride. 


Imposter syndrome is all too common in athletes. We denigrate our achievements and deflect compliments, always thinking that what we’re doing isn’t important. In reality the work put in towards achieving a goal is significant and worth a pat on the back every now and then!  


As a coach, I take time to remind my athletes that they are putting in good work and should be proud of themselves. It takes courage to explicitly state a challenging goal, it takes even more courage to own the task ahead and work towards it. 


Whether you want to build up to running a 5 km, or want to run a sub-3 Marathon, you are working hard and doing yourself proud. So be proud of yourself!  


Pictured is Jeff Brace, who just this morning ran a new PR in the Half at the Fort Worth Half Marathon!


November 12th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 18 - Know the Goal

How often do you lace up and go for a run without thinking about what specifically you are trying to achieve? 


It is very common to go run without thinking about the purpose of the run. A lot of training time is taken up with these suboptimal runs. I like to delineate clearly what each run is trying to achieve. If it is a hard tempo day, then do a hard tempo. If it is a chill recovery day, then focus on chilling and enjoy recovering! Don’t get stuck in the middle wasting gains.  


Knowing the goal of each day allows for efficient, effective training. It also allows you to get a sense of satisfaction from each day. Whether it was an easy jog or a big session, you know you did well and that you will reap the benefits!  


Take a moment before each run this week to focus and think about what specifically you are trying to achieve - then go achieve it!  


November 5th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 17 - Plans are Meant to be Changed

A common thought amongst athletes is that training programs are static and have to be followed at all costs. I see this all the time, as well as the resulting injuries, bad races, and unhappy athletes. I’ve been injured and missed goal races because of this mindset myself. 


In coaching, I try emphasize to my athletes that we can always change the program. I hate the saying, “a stitch in time saves nine” but it is very true. It is far easier to reduce load one day then pick it up the next, than miss five days being sick. A good way to think about it is that you will never regret missing one or two hard sessions during a build-up. I can definitely think of three or four sessions I wish I had stayed in bed for though!  


A coach is great in these situations as they can take away any self-doubt and instill confidence in the decision. If you find yourself struggling with these daily decisions then consider finding a coach who can help with them! You’ll be surprised how well you will perform when you take away this self-doubt and do what is best for your body (and not your strava profile). 


- Photo: Mark Hall on the way to a season opening 10 km PR on Saturday!  


October 29th, 2017

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The Quarter No. 16 - Perseverance

If you look at the best athletes, you’ll notice they never consider giving up or have any self doubt. This is a lie. No matter how good you are, self-doubt will always plague your inner thoughts. The best athletes simply know how to keep themselves positive and choose to push through when the going gets tough.   


The good thing about this is that perseverance is trainable. The decisions you make on a daily basis in training transfer directly to your decisionmaking in races. Choose to push through in training and it will come (more) naturally in racing.


I was reminded of this today as I watched the Tri4Him Junior Elite Team racing. The Monster Tri course in Keller was slippery and wet, and a couple of athletes crashed on the bike. The Tri4Him athletes are single minded in training, never skipping a beat no matter what might happen. They are the exact same in races: they were back on the bikes within seconds and when I saw them on the run, you could not tell anything untoward had happened.  


Think about this next time you are really hurting and want to quit: the decisions you make in training are the decisions you make in races. Don’t be distracted or waver in training and you will race the same way!


- Photo: Jonathan McAlister 300 m away from winning Monster Tri 2017!


October 22nd, 2017