A Guide to Carb Loading

by Ruby Wyles

So you’ve trained long and hard, your running shoes are practically glued to your feet, and the marathon start line beckons. But before you take off, there’s one crucial step many runners and sports dietitians alike swear by: carb loading.

What is Carb Loading?

Carb loading is a dietary strategy designed to maximize your body’s stores of glucose, known as glycogen, the primary fuel source for muscles during exercise. By strategically increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to your race, you aim to have a “full tank” of energy ready to power you through those arduous miles.

Why Carb Load for a Marathon?

During a marathon, or any race over 2 hours, your body will deplete its glycogen stores. As your body burns through its fuel source, you might experience the dreaded “hitting the wall” – a sudden drop in energy levels that can derail your entire race. Carb loading helps prevent this by ensuring your body has enough readily available glycogen to sustain a strong pace.

How to Carb Load Like a Champion

Carb loading isn’t about stuffing yourself with donuts and pasta the night before. It’s a calculated approach with specific timing and food choices. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Timing: Aim to start carb loading 3-6 days before your race. This window allows your body time to convert the extra carbs into glycogen. It also allows for a more conservative increase in carbohydrate intake as opposed to a dramatic ramp up the day or two before, risking negative GI symptoms and feeling uncomfortable.
  • Quantity: The recommended daily intake is 7-12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. So, a 70kg (155lbs) runner would target 490-840 grams of carbs each day. However, instead of simply adding in extra carbs on top of your daily diet, think about rebalancing your normal meals: reduce the amount of proteins, fats, and high fiber foods like vegetables, and replace them with carbohydrates.
  • Quality: Not all carbs are created equal. Focus on easily digestible, low-fiber options like white rice, potatoes, bananas, bagels, and cereals. These provide a steady stream of energy without causing stomach upset.
  • Don’t Ditch Other Nutrients: While carbs are king, don’t completely eliminate protein and healthy fats. Include lean protein sources like chicken and fish, and healthy fats from nuts and avocados to support muscle recovery and overall health.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t experiment with new foods during carb loading. Stick to meals and snacks you’re familiar with to minimize digestive issues on race day.
Blueberry muffins make a great high carb snack! PC: Ruby Wyles

Example meals and snacks:

  • Bagel with avocado and eggs/ banana and peanut butter
  • Baked potato with cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Sports drink or fruit juice
  • Low fiber cereal with milk
  • Gummies and other candies
  • Spaghetti/ other pasta
  • Chicken or fish with white rice
  • Oatmeal with mixed berries
  • Yogurt with berries and nuts
  • Muffins or waffles 

Remember: Carb loading is just one piece of the nutrition puzzle. Proper hydration and a well-practiced race day fueling plan are equally important for marathon success.

By following these tips and consulting a registered dietitian for personalized advice, you can ensure your body is optimally fueled to conquer your endurance goals!

Ruby is a runner, triathlete, and passionate coach, who is most fulfilled by helping athletes overcome limiting beliefs with joy. She is also a proud science nerd, and advocate for athletes’ mental and physical health.

Building the Perfect Shoe Rotation

As a runner, having the right pair of shoes can make all the difference in your performance and overall comfort. However, many runners underestimate the importance of building a proper running shoe rotation. 

Why Rotate Running Shoes?

Rotating running shoes offers numerous benefits. First, it reduces the wear and tear on each pair, extending their lifespan. Second, different shoes have varying features and support structures, which can help prevent overuse injuries by reducing repetitive strain on specific muscles and joints. Last, rotating shoes allow you to match your running shoe to the type of run you’re doing, whether it’s an easy-paced Sunday long run or a tempo run.

Assess Your Running Needs

Before building your rotation, assess your unique running needs. Factors you should consider include your weekly mileage, running terrain, foot strike pattern, and any specific biomechanical issues you may have. Understanding these factors will help guide you in your shoe selection process.

Choose Your Shoe Types

Ideally, your rotation should include three types of shoes: a cushioned daily trainer, a lightweight speed trainer, and a supportive stability shoe.

  • Cushioned Daily Trainer: This shoe provides ample cushioning and support for your everyday training runs. It’s designed to absorb impact and offer comfort over long distances.
  • Lightweight Speed Trainer: Perfect for tempo runs, interval training, or race days, this shoe is lighter and more responsive, promoting faster turnover and agility.
  • Supportive Stability Shoe: If you overpronate or require extra support, include a stability shoe in your rotation. It helps correct your gait and reduces the risk of injuries associated with overpronation.

Start Small and Gradually Expand

Begin by purchasing one pair of shoes for each category in your rotation. Invest in quality shoes from reputable brands that suit your specific needs and preferences. As you accumulate more miles on your shoes, gradually expand your rotation by adding new pairs while retiring older ones. This gradual rotation ensures that you always have fresh shoes in your lineup while allowing you to become familiar with each pair’s feel and performance.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how your body responds to each pair of shoes. If you notice discomfort, pain, or signs of wear and tear, it may be time to replace or retire that particular pair from your rotation. Regularly reassess your shoe lineup to ensure it continues to meet your evolving needs.

Key Takeaways

Building the perfect running shoe rotation tailored to your individual needs is essential for maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injuries. By following these steps and listening to your body, you can create a rotation that supports your running goals and keeps you feeling comfortable mile after mile. So lace up, hit the road, and enjoy the benefits of a well-curated shoe rotation!

Elaina is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners

Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners – what is it, why does it matter, and how you can use it to become a better all around runner, by Coach Elaina Raponi

Picture this: You lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement for an easy jog. Your legs are light, your breathing is steady, and you feel like you’re practically floating while jogging at an easy pace. 

Fast forward to the next day. You’re running the same route, the same pace, you’re even wearing the same shoes – but everything feels different. Your legs feel heavy, your breathing is labored and your brain is trying to convince you to stop. What gives?

Your body’s perception of effort can vary wildly from day to day, even if you’re running at the exact same pace. Rate of Perceived Exertion, or RPE for short, is a subjective measure of how hard an individual feels they are working during exercise. Factors like sleep, stress, hydration, nutrition, and even the weather can all influence how hard you feel like you’re working on any given day.

Here, we’ll delve into what RPE is, why it matters, and how runners can use it to optimize their training and racing strategies.

What is Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners (RPE)?

RPE is like having an internal Siri to tell you how hard you’re working during exercise. It’s a subjective measure that takes into account factors such as breathing, heart rate, muscle fatigue, and overall discomfort. RPE is typically measured on a numerical scale, with values ranging from 1 to 10, where 1 represents very light exertion (e.g., walking) and 10 represents maximal exertion (e.g., sprinting at full speed).

Why RPE Matters

In endurance running, where athletes are required to sustain prolonged efforts over long distances, understanding and effectively managing RPE is essential for optimizing performance. Here’s why RPE matters:

  1. Pacing Strategy: If you’ve ever hit the proverbial “wall” in a race or a workout – keep reading. RPE helps runners gauge their effort and adjust their pace accordingly during training runs and races. By maintaining a consistent RPE throughout a run, runners can avoid starting too fast, ensuring they have enough energy to finish strong.
  2. Training Intensity: RPE serves as a valuable tool for monitoring training intensity. By paying attention to their perceived exertion during workouts, runners can ensure they are training at the appropriate intensity for their fitness level and goals. This helps prevent overtraining and reduces the risk of injury.
  3. Environmental Factors: Weather, terrain, altitude – they all play a role in how hard you feel like you’re working during physical activity. By adjusting their effort based on these factors, runners can adapt to varying conditions and optimize their performance. Who knew Mother Nature was such a sneaky coach? 
  4. Mental Toughness: Sometimes, it’s not just your legs that need convincing; it’s your brain too. RPE can help runners develop mental toughness by teaching them to push through discomfort and fatigue, ultimately improving their ability to sustain effort over long distances.

How to Use RPE

Now that we understand why RPE matters, let’s explore how runners can effectively use it to enhance their performance:

  1. Listen to Your Body: Your body is like your very own GPS. Pay attention to the signals it’s sending you – whether it’s heavy breathing or heavy legs – and adjust accordingly. 
  2. Practice Self-Assessment: Regularly assess your RPE during training runs to develop a better understanding of your perceived exertion levels at different paces and distances. This will help you fine-tune your pacing strategy and optimize your performance on race day.
  3. Use RPE as a Guide: While RPE is a valuable tool, it’s important to remember that it’s subjective and may vary from person to person. Take it with a grain of salt and use it as a guide, not a gospel. 
  4. Experiment and Learn: Every runner is unique, so take the time to experiment with different pacing strategies and training approaches to see what works best for you. Pay attention to how your RPE fluctuates under various conditions and learn from your experiences to become a more efficient and effective endurance runner.

So, while yesterday’s run might have felt like a victory lap, today’s run might feel more like survival mode. That’s the beauty of running – it keeps you on your toes. So the next time you lace up your running shoes, remember to listen to your body, trust your perceived exertion, and enjoy the journey one step at a time.

Coach Elaina Raponi walks the talk! Utilizing rate of perceived effort is a big part of her personal training, racing, and coaching.

Elaina is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Post-Marathon Recovery

By Team RunRun Coach Elaina Raponi

Crossing the finish line of a marathon is an exhilarating moment, filled with a sense of achievement and relief. However, the days and weeks following a marathon are crucial for both physical and mental recovery. What you do during your post-marathon recovery and the steps you take for navigating the transition after your fall marathon may well determine if you are PR-ready in your next season. 

Marathons are awesome! But what do you do for post-marathon recovery so that you learn and grow, and come back stronger than ever?

Physical Recovery: The First Step

Your body has undergone immense stress and deserves time to recover. Here are some strategies to aid physical recovery:

Rest is Key: Allow your body to rest completely for a few days post-marathon. Avoid running and opt for light activities like walking or gentle stretching.

Nutrition Matters: Focus on a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to repair muscles and replenish energy stores that were depleted during the race.

Hydration and Sleep: Drink plenty of fluids and ensure adequate sleep to accelerate the recovery process.

Evaluating Your Performance

Once you’ve begun to recover physically, it’s time to reflect on your marathon experience:

Celebrate the Achievement: Regardless of the outcome, completing a marathon is a significant accomplishment. Acknowledge the hard work and dedication it took to get to both the start and finish line.

Analyzing the Race: What went well? Where did you face challenges? Reflecting on these questions helps identify areas for improvement.

Mental and Emotional Recovery

The Post-Marathon Blues: It’s common to feel a sense of emptiness or loss after a marathon. Setting new goals can help maintain motivation and focus.

Give Yourself Credit: Running a marathon is not just a physical challenge but a mental one as well. Appreciate your mental fortitude and resilience.

Planning Your Next Steps

Before setting out on your next marathon journey, ask yourself, do I have the coaching to get ready for my next race, and what are my coach and I doing between builds to make me a better runner. Some questions to think about are:

Short-Term Goals: Consider shorter races or different challenges to stay motivated without the pressure of another marathon.

Long-Term Planning: If you’re eyeing another marathon, give yourself enough time to recover before ramping up training again.

Cross-Training: Engage in non-running activities that you enjoy. This can help maintain fitness without the impact of running.

Listen to Your Body

Returning to Training: Gradually ease back into running. Pay attention to any signs of injury or lingering fatigue.

Seek Professional Advice: If you have any concerns about injuries or recovery, consult a healthcare professional.

Embracing the Journey Ahead

Remember, post-marathon recovery is not just about getting back to running; it’s about giving your body and mind the time they need to fully recuperate. Whether you’re planning your next race or taking some time off, embracing this recovery period is essential for long-term health and enjoyment in the sport.

Coach Elaina Raponi is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Fueling for Long Runs

By Team RunRun Coach Laurie Porter

Dialing in your nutrition and hydration goes hand in hand with all of the important aspects of training for long distances. This is particularly critical if you are training for and planning to race longer events like the Little Backyard Adventure 6 or 12 Hour Race in Olympia, WA. The more you practice fueling and hydration during your long runs, the more accustomed your body will become to handling it. Does this mean you will get it right every time? Certainly not. While exact fueling methods are largely anecdotal and tweaked by trial and error, it is important to recognize that the longer the endurance event, the greater metabolic demand on your body. 

Fat stores are the dominant fuel source during low-intensity training, including long periods of easy to steady-state running. The fat stored in your body is in the form of triglycerides. During exercise such as running, your body breaks down stored fat (triglycerides) into glycerol and free fatty acids. Cells can use free fatty acids to make adenosine triphosphate, (ATP). Your muscles also store triglyceride molecules, made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Stored triglycerides can be broken down during running to make ATP which is the energy source used to drive muscle contraction. 

Your body also utilizes glycogen as fuel during running, but the fuel source that predominates depends on the intensity. As intensity increases, glycogen use increases and fat utilization decreases. Your body converts carbohydrates to glycogen that is stored in your muscles and liver. Your body can store up to 100 grams of glycogen in your liver, which is around 400 calories, and about 350 grams in your muscles, totaling about 1600 calories.  All day long, your body is consuming glycogen to fuel everything including: brain function, respiration, digestion, exercise and so on.

Timing is Everything

If your run is going to take longer than 90 minutes, fueling during the run is going to become important. Always take in fuel every 30-45 minutes during a run longer than 90 minutes. It usually takes about 60 minutes for your glycogen stores to be depleted. Ideally, you always want to stay ahead of depletion. If your glycogen stores are depleted, your body will break down muscle protein and convert it to glycogen. If ever you smell ammonia during or after a long run, your body is signaling that your muscles are being broken down for fuel. After your body’s available energy sources are expended, it begins consuming muscle protein by breaking it down into urea, an ammonia compound. This should be avoided! Maintaining lean muscle mass should be your top priority. Ideally you are consuming at least 250-350+ calories per hour. Honestly, the more calories the better. Depending on your size and the intensity of the run, you may need to take in more than that. Always think long term. Adequate fueling is huge because it will improve performance, prevent muscle breakdown, and enhance recovery in the days following your long run.

When fueling for long runs you have tons of options.  Test things out in training and find the best options for you!

Options, Options, Options

There are a myriad of fueling options out there, including whole foods, gels, gummies, bars and sports drinks. A great resource for whole food fuel recipes can be found here.

There are loads of convenient fuel options:  Spring Energy, Maurten, Hammer, Gu, Gummies, Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger or sports drinks like Tailwind Endurance, Gnarly, and Scratch, just to name a few. The pros: pre-measured, can be rapidly metabolized by the body, providing quickly available energy, very convenient. The cons: Some are very expensive, and some have additives that can wreak havoc on your digestive system. This doesn’t mean you should avoid them entirely, but use them sparingly if possible.   

With whole food options, the sky’s the limit: dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, homemade purees made with fruit and or veggies, baby food pouches, cereal, cookies, potatoes or sweet potatoes, pb and j’s, pickles, crackers, and the list goes on and on. The pros: healthy, variety and inexpensive. The cons: not as convenient, some are not as nutrient dense, they can take up a lot of space, and they require running the math to figure out how many calories or grams you are carrying.

Hydrating throughout the day, EVERY DAY, is critical for optimal health and performance. To determine your hydration needs, just measure your bodyweight in pounds, divide by two, then convert that number to ounces. Example – a person weighing 140 lbs should be drinking about 70 ounces of water per day. This is a ballpark figure because exact hydration needs are determined by sweat rate and the weather. Also, some people are salty sweaters. You may want to consider having a sweat test done if you are curious about your sweat rate. Drinking water throughout the day and not all at once is the proper way to hydrate. On your long runs, you should be sipping fluids at least every 15-20 minutes. Take in about 3-6 oz at a time or about 2-4 good long drinks or several sips. Keeping your electrolytes in balance is also very important and in addition to electrolytes, many sports drinks also contain carbohydrates. There are a lot of good sports drinks out there such as Tailwind, Gnarly, Scratch and so on. Or you can make your own if you prefer. Here is a great tasting recipe you may want to try. 

Issues, Issues, Issues

It can be common for runners to experience gastrointestinal issues during long runs or races, so it is important to experiment and practice your fueling and hydration to discover what works best for you. Unless you have a digestive system that is made of cast iron, you may experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heartburn or even diarrhea at some point. If that happens, the first thing to check is your effort. Sometimes just dialing it back a little can resolve any of these issues. If decreasing effort or taking a break doesn’t solve the issue, it’s always good to be prepared with other ways to treat gastrointestinal issues. You can carry candied ginger to chew or suck on if you’re feeling nauseous. If you experience heartburn, have Tums on hand. Always make sure you have extra powdered hydration with calories for those times when you are unable to stomach solids. Extra electrolytes are critical for replacing fluid loss with diarrhea or vomiting.

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

Of course logistics are always important to consider during a long run or event. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a trail system right outside your back door, so your home makes a perfect aid station and the need to carry all your fuel will not be as much of an issue. Consider yourself very blessed if that is the case. Another option is to stash water and fuel along the route ahead of time that you can access during your run. If you’re not able to have an aid station or a stash, you will need to do some smart packing and carry all your water and fuel. Always carry more than you need just in case you end up out there longer than planned. The extra fuel you pack can be in the form of powder, highly condensed fuel to save space. The longer you go, the more important it is to have a good hydration vest with room for your fuel. Having a checklist is a good idea to make sure you have all you need before heading out the door. There is nothing worse than not having enough fuel and finishing completely depleted!

The wrapup!

Next time you head out the door for a long run or for an awesome longer race, practice fueling and hydrating! Explore a variety of options. Keep a log of what works, and what doesn’t. Pack smart, and be ready because adventure is waiting!

Laurie Porter is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

How to PR in the Marathon

By Team RunRun Coach Brant Stachel

Achieving a personal record in a marathon is a blend of meticulous planning, adaptable training, and understanding the nuances of marathon running. A 12-16 week training period is generally recommended, but it’s the approach within these weeks that makes all the difference. This “How to PR in the Marathon” guide provides an in-depth look at how to strategically prepare by highlighting the importance of personalized coaching, training hierarchy, and race day strategies.

The Role of a Personal Coach in Your Marathon Journey

Adaptable Training Plans: Unlike static training schedules, a personal coach tailors your 12-16 week plan to adapt to your life’s unpredictabilities – illness, soreness, or personal commitments. This flexibility is key in ensuring consistent progress without overtraining or undertraining.

Human-Centric Approach: You’re not just a spreadsheet entry. A good coach recognizes your unique needs, strengths, and limitations, offering a humanized approach to training that respects your individuality.

Marathon Training Hierarchy Explained

Total Easy Aerobic Volume: The foundation of marathon training is building aerobic endurance. A coach can determine the right volume for you, considering your capacity and suitable cross-training activities.

Marathon-Paced Long Runs: These are crucial for simulating race conditions. Alternating these every two weeks with regular long runs helps in familiarizing yourself with the marathon effort.

Tempo Runs for Metabolic Efficiency: Positioned a level above marathon pace, tempo runs are integrated every two weeks to boost your metabolic efficiency, preparing your body for the sustained effort of marathon running.

Faster-Paced Intervals: Though beneficial, intervals at 5K pace or faster come with increased injury risk. They should be incorporated judiciously to enhance, not hinder, your marathon training.

Coach Rez Nguyen rockin’ the New York City Marathon 2023!

Long Runs as Dress Rehearsals

Simulating Race Conditions: Treat every long run or marathon-paced run as a trial run for race day. This includes testing your gear, pre-race meals, hydration strategy, and even your bathroom routine.

Building Confidence and Familiarity: Repeatedly practicing these elements reduces race day surprises and builds confidence, making you well-acquainted with what to expect.

Mastering Marathon Pacing

Course and Condition Considerations: Take into account the course profile, weather conditions, and available pacing groups. These factors will influence your pacing strategy.

Starting Conservatively: Aim to start at or slightly slower than your marathon pace. Remember, the most successful marathon strategies often involve even or negative splits – rushing at the start seldom leads to a PR.

Controlling the Controllables for Marathon Success

The marathon is as unpredictable as it is rewarding. By focusing on what you can control – training, pacing, nutrition, and gear – you set the stage for a successful race. And with the right weather and a strategic approach, you might not only hit your PR but surpass it significantly.

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun and a Registered Psychotherapist. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Strength Training for Runners

Unleashing the Power of Strength Training in Your Running Practice

As runners, we often focus on the miles we log and the speed  in which we achieve them, but there’s another critical element that can elevate our performance and prevent injuries—strength training. Incorporating strength training into your running routine can have a transformative effect on your performance. Below I will explore the significance of single-leg strength work for stability and power, and how it can bolster your running prowess. Additionally, I’ll summarize some of  the latest research on strength training as a recovery tool, its role in building tendon strength, increasing growth hormone and testosterone, and the importance of strength training for maintaining overall health as we age.

The Power of Single-Leg Strength Work

Running is a dynamic activity of repetitive single leg hops that demands a strong and stable lower body and pelvis. Single-leg strength exercises are an essential component of strength training for runners, targeting the muscles that often get overlooked in traditional bilateral lifts. By focusing on one leg at a time, we can identify and correct any imbalances between the left and right sides of the body, reducing the risk of injuries caused by asymmetries.

Key Exercises for Single-Leg Strength:

  1. Single-Leg Squats: Develop quadriceps, hamstrings, and glute strength while improving balance and stability.
  2. Bulgarian Split Squats: Target quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, enhancing hip flexibility and stability.
  3. Step-ups: Strengthen quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, while also challenging balance and coordination.

By integrating these single-leg exercises into your strength training routine, you’ll not only enhance your running performance but also build a solid foundation for injury prevention and long-term joint health.

Strengthening Tendons and Muscle Recovery

Running places significant stress on our tendons and muscles, often leading to wear and tear injuries. Strength training for runners is a powerful tool for strengthening tendons and promoting muscle recovery. When you engage in resistance training, your muscles contract against resistance, stimulating the production of collagen in tendons, which enhances their strength and resilience.

Moreover, strength training improves blood flow to the muscles, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients necessary for tissue repair. This accelerates recovery post-run, reducing the likelihood of overuse injuries and allowing you to maintain a consistent training regimen.

Research Findings on Strength Training and Running Performance:

Studies have shown that incorporating strength training into a running program can improve running economy, which is the energy required to maintain a given running speed. This means that with improved running economy, you can run faster or longer with the same effort, ultimately enhancing your race performance.

The Hormonal Benefits of Strength Training

Beyond the physical gains, strength training offers unique hormonal benefits that can boost your running performance and recovery. Strength workouts stimulate the release of growth hormone and testosterone, both of which play crucial roles in muscle repair and growth.

Growth hormone is essential for tissue repair and regeneration, helping your muscles recover faster after intense training sessions. Additionally, an increase in testosterone levels contributes to muscle growth and enhances your body’s ability to synthesize protein, which is vital for muscle repair.


Strength training for runners can be a transformative ally in your running journey, providing numerous benefits that extend far beyond the track or trail. By incorporating single-leg strength work for stability and power, runners can develop a well-rounded strength foundation, reducing the risk of injuries and enhancing performance. Moreover, the role of strength training in tendon strength, muscle recovery, hormonal optimization, and healthy aging underscores its significance in supporting a lifelong love for running.

Embrace strength training as a powerful complement to your running routine, and watch as you unleash your full running potential, fortified by a body that is strong, resilient, and ready to conquer any distance. I know my running certainly got better when I consistently incorporated strength training!

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

The Mental Side of Running Injuries

As a running coach and a passionate athlete, I’ve experienced the exhilaration of reaching new milestones, the thrill of crossing finish lines, and the joy of pushing my body to its limits, but, I’ve also walked the treacherous path of injury—a journey that can be both physically and mentally grueling. I want to share through a personal recollection  the trials and tribulations of being sidelined by injuries, namely my two most common: Achilles and ITB injuries. Most importantly I want to share the mental side of running injuries – how doubt can creep in, how pain can shatter our dreams, and why having a compassionate coach is essential to overcoming these challenges.

The Darkness Descends

Injury strikes like a bolt from the blue, disrupting our carefully laid-out plans and leaving us in a state of disarray. As an athlete, there is nothing more disheartening than being confined to the sidelines, watching others conquer what you once could. The physical pain is one thing, but the mental toll can be far more insidious. Doubt takes hold, weaving its way into the fabric of our thoughts, whispering, “Will I ever run again? Can I reach my goals?”

I vividly remember the time I was sidelined by an Achilles injury in 2014 just 10 days out from the Philly Half Marathon. The frustration was suffocating, as every step I couldn’t take seemed like a step further away from my dreams. The fear of losing my identity as a runner loomed large, casting a shadow over every aspect of my life. It’s during these dark moments that the support of a coach becomes invaluable.

The Coach’s Light

A coach is not just someone who tells you what workouts to do or how to improve your technique. A great coach is a guiding light, illuminating the path ahead even when it seems engulfed in darkness. They understand the depth of your passion, having walked in your shoes as both an athlete and a mentor – they know the mental side of running injuries and how to keep perspective as you navigate these tough times.

When I turned to my coach during my injury, it was their unwavering support that lifted me up. They empathized with my frustration, validating my feelings of doubt and fear. Instead of dismissing them, they acknowledged the emotional turmoil that accompanies physical pain. Their presence gave me hope that there was a way out of the abyss—an assurance that I could reclaim my identity as a runner.

The Power of Empathy

Having experienced the dark side of running firsthand, I bring a unique perspective to my role as a coach. I understand the dreams and aspirations that drive my athletes, but I also empathize with the setbacks and obstacles they face. I know the burning desire to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement, even when your body tells you otherwise.

As a coach, I strive to be the person I needed when I was injured, and I have been there, I know the mental side of running injuries, and it’s not easy! I walk side by side with my runners, not only as a guide but as a compassionate friend. I listen to their fears, offer support in their darkest moments, and celebrate their triumphs alongside them. By having been there, I can connect with their struggles on a profound level, providing the understanding and encouragement necessary to navigate the road to recovery.

Running is more than a sport; it becomes intertwined with the very fabric of our lives. But when injuries strike, the journey can take a detour into darkness. Doubt, pain, and fear can be overwhelming, threatening to extinguish our flame. Yet, with the support of a compassionate coach, we can find our way back.

As both an athlete and a coach, I have come to realize that my role extends beyond simply training programs and race strategies. It is about being a pillar of unwavering support, a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. So, if you find yourself injured and lost, remember that there are coaches out there who understand your struggle. Seek someone who will walk alongside you, lifting you up when the road feels too long. Together, we can conquer the darkness and emerge stronger, more determined, and ready to reclaim our place on the open road, trails, tracks and startlines!

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun and a Registered Psychotherapist. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Should I get SuperShoes?

Welcome back to the Team RunRun Community’s ongoing footwear series! Coach Miles Bennett-Smith is here once again to dive into a topic that has been buzzing in the running world: SuperShoes. In this latest training tips article, we will explore the question that many runners have been asking: Should I get Super Shoes?

SuperShoes have gained significant attention in recent years, with claims of improved performance and faster race times, especially in the marathon. These high-tech shoes have sparked debate and curiosity among runners of all levels. So, let’s dive in and examine the facts, benefits, and considerations surrounding SuperShoes.

What are SuperShoes?

Before deciding if you should get SuperShoes, let’s first get some definitions. SuperShoes, also known as carbon-plated racing shoes, are a category of running shoes that incorporate advanced technologies to enhance performance. These shoes are characterized by their lightweight construction, responsive cushioning, and a carbon fiber plate embedded within the midsole. The carbon plate is designed to provide increased propulsion, energy return, and a more efficient running stride.

The Science Behind SuperShoes

Extensive research and scientific studies have examined the impact of SuperShoes on running performance and reported significant improvements in running economy and race times when wearing SuperShoes compared to traditional running shoes. In fact, when Nike launched one of the first carbon-plated shoes on the market in 2017 they called it the Zoom Vaporfly 4%, because a University of Colorado research team found that running economy (the oxygen cost of running a given pace) improved by an average of 4 percent in the Nike prototype compared to conventional Nike and Adidas racing flats. The combination of a carbon plate and responsive foam midsoles are believed to contribute to enhanced energy transfer and reduced muscle fatigue, leading to improved efficiency and speed. This can save your calves during long races, 

Considerations for Choosing SuperShoes

While SuperShoes have shown promising benefits, it’s important to consider several factors before adopting them as your go-to running shoes:

Purpose and Usage: SuperShoes are primarily designed for racing and high-intensity workouts. For everyday training runs or recovery runs, it is almost always more appropriate to stick with regular training shoes to ensure optimal comfort, support, and durability. Advances in foam technology in particular make for a variety of great daily trainers that are fast and yet not carbon-plated (or quite so expensive and less durable.) 

Speed and Running Style: Each runner has a unique running style, and SuperShoes may not suit everyone. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKwzjKhUwpo) It’s crucial to evaluate how your foot strikes the ground, your pronation pattern, and any specific biomechanical considerations. But a critical factor is also a simple one – how fast are you running? For those targeting sub-3 hour marathons, SuperShoes are likely a benefit. But a recent study from 2023 on slightly slower runners, those between 8-10 minutes per mile, found that running economy only improved by less than 1%, and a few runners actually performed worse in SuperShoes than in cushioned alternatives. Consulting with a running specialist or coach can provide valuable insights to determine if SuperShoes align with your individual needs. 

Transition and Adaptation: Transitioning to SuperShoes can require an adjustment period, and with the proliferation of shoe brands bringing SuperShoes to the market, each shoe has a unique design and responsiveness so it’s advisable to gradually introduce them into your training regimen. Some users have cited more frequent issues with plantar fasciitis, while others just noted additional strain on their feet, toes, and lower leg that arrived after wearing SuperShoes frequently. This is often a natural result of being able to potentially run faster in workouts. Start with shorter, faster workouts or races to allow your body to adapt to the shoes’ unique characteristics, and remember that rotating between training shoes is a good way to add variety to the training stimulus and potentially find slightly different neuromuscular benefits over time. 

Cost and Brand Differentiation: SuperShoes often come with a higher price tag (~$200+) compared to regular running shoes. It’s important to assess your budget and determine if the investment aligns with your running goals and priorities. Watch for new models coming out to potentially reduce the price on older models that might be nearly as good (or even better!) Additionally, remember that in the running category, cost is not necessarily an indication of higher quality or even “faster” shoes. Different brands have worked hard over the last 5 years to catch up to (and in many people’s minds, surpass) the initial Nike SuperShoes that took the market by storm. Adidas, Saucony, On, Puma, New Balance, and nearly every competitor has multiple carbon-plated options, and they are enjoyed by lots of hobby-joggers and professionals alike! 

My Final Thoughts

So, should you get SuperShoes? I love SuperShoes! They really do feel amazing for a variety of purposes – long tempo runs, intense workouts on the track, races of almost any distance. But I can’t wear them every day – they are too expensive, too fragile, and frankly I want to save some of their benefits for when I need them most, which is not everyday use. That’s my conclusion – SuperShoes can provide performance benefits, but they are definitely not the right choice for every runner or every run. Consider your goals, your speed, your running style, and your budget when deciding whether to incorporate SuperShoes into your training. And of course remember that the shoes are just one piece of the puzzle, and consistent training, proper form, and injury prevention strategies play crucial roles in achieving your running goals. Hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to find my profile on Team RunRun and stay tuned for the next installment of our footwear series.

Miles is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

How to Choose your First Pair of Running Shoes

Welcome to the Team RunRun Community, where we strive to empower and support runners of all levels in their pursuit of excellence. I’m Coach Miles Bennett-Smith, and in this training tips article, I am thrilled to kick off a series dedicated to one of the most crucial aspects of preparing to pound the pavement: footwear. Today we’ll focus on 7 key tips for choosing your first pair of running shoes.

As a coach and runner, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of the right pair of shoes. Unfortunately, part of this comes from watching way too many people out on the trails and roads putting in mile after mile in the WRONG footwear – and honestly, it’s not their fault! Carbon plates, cushioning, colorways, pronation, stack height, brands on brands on brands – buying your first or 100th pair can be exciting, but also overwhelming, considering the multitude of options available in the market.

Today’s blog post is targeted a bit more toward those at the beginning of your running journey, as I will help guide you through some dos and don’ts of making that first (real) running shoe decision and setting you up for long-term success in your running journey. Let’s lace ‘em up!

1.     DO… Get Fitted at a Specialty Running Store

Sometimes it’s just this simple – if you want running shoes, go to a running shoe store, at least to start. Because when it comes to buying running shoes, one size does not fit all. It’s vital to visit a specialty running store (like Fleet Feet, RoadRunner Sports, Heartbreak Hill, San Francisco Running Company, Brooklyn Running Company, and many many more), and get properly fitted by knowledgeable staff. They will analyze your foot type, arch shape, and running style (sometimes with a camera, or on a treadmill) to recommend shoes that provide the necessary support and comfort. In the golden age of online shopping, trying shoes on in-person with a salesperson is not some pretentious perk or unnecessary luxury, it’s legitimately important! If they don’t have the perfect brand/fit/colorway, you can always order from them online or even go to another shop. But finding a true personalized fitting ensures a better fit, reduces the risk of injuries, and enhances your overall running experience.

2.     DON’T… Choose Based on Brand or Look Alone

While flashy designs or hot new colorways may catch your eye, it’s crucial not to prioritize aesthetics or loyalty over functionality. Sports marketing is big business, but remember, your running shoes are a performance tool; their primary purpose is to support your feet and enhance your running mechanics. While certain brands may have a deservedly strong reputation, it’s a long list, and it’s more essential to consider the individual shoes especially as lines within the same brand can vary significantly. Look beyond the exterior and focus on features such as cushioning, stability, and durability that align with your specific needs. If you’re dying to support a specific brand, wear their shirts or bras or hats or socks even, but choose shoes based on what feels the best for your feet. And if you’re truly desperate (or still flush with pandemic cash), many obscure colors/designs can be found or even customized online.

3. DO… Consider Your Training Goals and Environment

Are you aiming to complete your first 5K, conquer a marathon, or simply enjoy regular runs to maintain fitness? Your training goals should influence your shoe selection. If you’re a beginner or focusing on shorter distances to start (2-5 miles per run), you may prioritize comfort and cushioning. For longer distances (7+ miles), you might lean towards shoes that offer more responsiveness and support for endurance running. See if you can hone in on what kind of surface you will be doing most of your training on as well – hard packed dirt? Asphalt? A track? These are important answers to questions your shoe salesperson should ask, but you also want to share early in the conversation.

4. DON’T… Be Nervous or Hide Who You Are (A New Runner 🙂

Yes, you might be a novice – but so was everyone when they first started running! Don’t let the intimidation of newness overwhelm you, and try not to slip either into a false sense of confidence (i.e. pretending to know more than you do) or underselling your own knowledge (especially about your body). Have an open mind, and ask lots of questions, as this is a great opportunity to learn a lot from potential experts who have worked with a lot of different feet and shoes. But if the sales team pushes you in a direction that you don’t feel comfortable, speak up.

5. DO… Brush Up On Basic Running Shoe Options Before You Go

As a natural follow-up to No. 4, make sure you’re putting yourself in a good position to optimize your experience at the shoe store. Lots can be learned from reading a few articles on foot type / arch stability (what’s the difference between stability, neutral, minimalist, motion control, maximal). Ask a few friends who run for their opinions, not to hold as Gospel but because it can be good contextual information. Get comfortable with some of the types of designs, brands and prices that are common in the marketplace, so that the emotional connection to any one element isn’t quite so heightened when you’re in the moment at the store.

6. Don’t… Rush Your Decision

When choosing your first pair of running shoes patience is key. Set aside an hour to go to the store – make sure you take the time to try on multiple models and brands, and go for a test run in-store or on the sidewalk if at all possible. Pay attention to how the shoes feel on your feet, as it’s one of the most consistent predictors of overall fit even after just a minute or two. Tune into the level of comfort they provide, and whether they accommodate any specific foot (pronation, supination) issues you may have. Rushing the decision may result in choosing the wrong shoe, leading to discomfort and potential injuries down the road.

7. BONUS DO… Buy At Least One Nice Pair of Running Socks

Relatively straightforward, but often overlooked. Socks are perhaps even more differentiated by personal preference, but just make sure you’re running in a sock that was designed for running and covers your heel!


Choosing your first pair of running shoes is a significant step on your running journey, but no matter how much you think you know or don’t know, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your unique needs and goals. Remember, investing in the right pair of shoes will enhance your comfort, support your feet, and contribute to your overall running enjoyment and performance.

In the next articles of this series, we’ll dig deeper into some of the specific elements of marathon footwear, shoe rotation, and speeeeeed. Stay tuned!

Miles is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Training for Older Athletes with Coach Des Clarke

I was working on this article when the results from the Jackpot Ultras in Las Vegas, NV came through. The race served as the USATF road 100 mile championships. David Blaylock won the 80+ age group in a time of 29:47:29, beating out three other finishers in the age group. David is not the first octogenarian, or nonagenarian, to turn heads with his running. Olga Kotelko set 30 world records and won over 750 gold medals in the 90-95 age group. You can read about her in What Makes Olga Run and Older, Faster, Stronger. George Etzwiler ran the Mt Washington race in 2019 at the age of 99, and was only prevented from running at the age of 100 by COVID cancellations. Clearly there is the opportunity for people to continue running well past the age when society thinks you should be knitting in your rocking chair, napping and playing canasta.

Even at the elite level we’ve seen recent indications that athletes who at one point would’ve been considered “past their prime” are still dominating. Look at Eliud Kipchoge still winning every marathon he enters at 38, or Sarah Hall setting the women’s American record in the half marathon at the same age. Trail runner Darcy Piceu won 4 major 100 milers in 2018 at the age of 43.

However, let’s bring all this back down to earth. Most of us are not going to run 100 miles, or set world records, or live to 100, and that’s perfectly ok. And these stories are inspiring, but they don’t teach you HOW to be successful as an older athlete. Since it’s not all rainbows and unicorns and 100 mile records out there I’m going to provide some suggestions for running your best as you age.

Before we get started I want to note, I’m not selling the fountain of youth. It is inevitable that we’ll all slow down at some point. However, by utilizing the tactics below we can remain healthy and consistent in our running and maintain our fitness as we age.

Strength training

I am a coach who promotes strength training for people of all ages. It improves power, increases bone density, remedies imbalances, and prevents injury. Strength training becomes even more important as we age. Both men and women lose about 8% of their strength each decade after the age of 30. This process is exacerbated in menopausal women as their estrogen decreases. The adage of use it or lose it applies here, if you aren’t working actively to gain muscle, then you’re losing muscle. While it’s aimed more at perimenopausal and menopausal women there’s some great information for strength training for older athletes in NEXT LEVEL: Your guide to kicking ass, feeling great, and crushing goals through menopause and beyond. by Selene Yeager and Stacy Sims

Here are a few quick lifting tips for runners:

  • Try to lift after hard running workouts. That allows your hard days to be hard and your easy days to be easy.
  • Don’t be afraid to lift heavy. Overstressing muscles is what stimulates them to grow and get stronger. As an endurance athlete, and especially for women, you would have to purposefully try to bulk up in order to do so.
  • Incorporate single-leg moves. We all usually have a stronger side, and this will help to ensure that you’re strengthening both equally.


When I was in college I could stay up late on a Saturday, get up early Sunday and bang out 10 miles without any food or water, and then trot over to brunch in the dining hall. If I did that today I would pay – dearly.

Sleep and good nutrition (see below) are two of the best performance enhancers out there. When we are training we are actually breaking our bodies down, which encourages the repair and growth while we rest that makes us stronger. The key is to make sure we get enough recovery, and as we age the need for recovery most likely increases. 

  • Get enough sleep. Some elites get 10 hours a night plus naps, you should shoot for at least 7-8 hours a night. Naps are helpful, and even if you can’t get them everyday, sometimes as little as 20 minutes after a long run on the weekend can help jump start the repair process.
  • Everyone is different, but I usually like my athletes to have at least one day completely off from running and strenuous activity (light movement is fine). Again, this gives your body a chance to repair and reap the benefits of the fitness you are working on.
  • We all train in cycles. Every 2-4 weeks we should have a week that’s lighter in mileage and speed work. Same idea here with the recovery and rebuilding.


I could have lumped this in with recovery, but mobility is important enough to give it its own category. As we age our bodies are less flexible in many ways. It therefore becomes even more important to make sure we’re doing what we can to keep everything moving well. There’s lots of stuff you can do on your own at home, however if you notice that something is a constant issue or seems to get worse it’s a good idea to see a physical therapist, massage therapist or chiropractor before it becomes a big issue that takes you out from running for an extended period of time and requires lots of sessions to correct.

Nutrition and supplements

Perhaps my favorite nutrition advice of all time comes from Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Having a base of good nutrition helps us in many aspects of life, and especially in training. We want to fuel our body mostly with healthy, whole foods that nourish us and help keep us moving. Processed food has less nutrients, more empty calories, and more negative “stuff”. That’s not saying that you can never enjoy some Oreos, but they shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your nutrition plan. If you struggle with nutrition, seeing a dietician can help guide you on the right path. You also want to make sure you get enough carbohydrates to fuel your activity, and enough protein for repair processes.

There are also supplements that can help with performance and aging, although having a good base of nutrition is enough for many people. The key to these is to experiment with one at a time to see which ones seem to help you the most. Some of the supplements I like to incorporate include:

  • Adaptogens like ashwagandha and maca that help the body adapt to stress, including training stress.
  • Anti-inflammatories like ginger, turmeric, and tart cherry.
  • Joint-supporting oils like flaxseed and fish oils.
  • BCAAs to help with muscle repair.


While it can sometimes be frustrating that the messaging around aging seems to be focused on the negatives, we can definitely improve our wisdom and our self-knowledge. Sometimes it’s not the fastest runner who wins but the smartest. You can pace yourself, take care of yourself with hydration and fueling on longer runs, and use knowledge of the course and terrain to give yourself a competitive edge.

You can also set new goals for your running. Maybe you can’t place overall or set PRs, but you can strive to place in your age group, set a PR for your new age category, or maybe try to set a new distance PR by running longer. 

It’s also important to keep in mind your WHY. Yes, winning and getting faster can be fun, but it’s certainly not the only reason you started running. There are physical and mental health benefits that can be reaped at any age. And there’s also the community, maybe you can share stories and encouragement with younger runners. You also have the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community.

Final thoughts

While aging might slow us down a bit, it doesn’t have to put the kibosh on your competitive running days. Take care of yourself, set new goals, and give back to the community. You just might find yourself enjoying running in a whole new light. I also want to note that having a running coach can be a great way to navigate changes in your running and training, gain external insight into your performance, encourage you through rough patches, and have another voice cheering you on in whatever goals you choose.

Photo: Jo Ohm

Des Clarke is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Pool Running for Runners

Pool running, also known as aqua jogging, is a popular form of cross-training for runners. This low-impact workout is performed in a pool and provides numerous benefits for healthy runners, including improved cardiovascular health and increased muscle strength. In addition, pool running can help prevent common injuries that often plague runners, such as shin splints, stress fractures, and knee pain.

One of the key benefits of pool running is that it provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints. Unlike running on land, which can put a lot of stress on the ankles, knees, and hips, pool running allows you to move your legs in a natural running motion without the impact. This makes it a great option for runners who are looking to cross-train in order to prevent injuries and maintain their overall fitness.

Another advantage of pool running is that it provides a full-body workout. Unlike running on land, which primarily works the legs, pool running also engages the upper body. This can help improve your overall strength and endurance, which can translate to better running performance. Additionally, using a flotation device or pool running belt can help engage the core, which can improve your balance and stability.

Incorporating pool running into your routine is also a great way to add variety to your workouts. This can help prevent burnout and keep you motivated to continue exercising. By switching up your routine and trying new forms of exercise, you can keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom.

If you are a healthy runner looking to incorporate pool running into your routine, here are a few tips to get started:

  • Begin by setting a goal for your pool running workouts. This could be a certain number of minutes per workout or a specific number of workouts per week.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time.
  • Make sure to warm up and cool down before and after your pool running workouts to prevent injury.
  • Mix up your routine by using different flotation devices or pool running belts, and incorporating upper body movements.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your workouts as needed. If you experience any pain or discomfort, consult with a healthcare professional.

In my opinion as a coach who has used pool running with numerous athletes, incorporating this cross-training activity into your routine is a great way to add variety and maintain fitness levels during periods of injury or illness. Pool running has been an effective training tool for many of my runners looking to improve their performance, as it engages the upper body and provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints. Additionally, switching up your routine and trying new forms of exercise can keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom. While there is limited scientific research on pool running, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be a valuable form of exercise for healthy runners.

In terms of evidence to support the use of pool running for runners, there is limited scientific research available. However, a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that pool running was an effective rehabilitation tool for runners recovering from lower limb injuries. Additionally, many coaches and athletes have reported positive experiences with pool running, citing its benefits for maintaining fitness levels during periods of injury or illness and improving running performance.


  • Pool running provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints.
  • It engages the upper body and can improve overall strength and endurance.
  • Incorporating pool running can add variety to your routine and prevent burnout.
  • Begin by setting a goal for your pool running workouts and gradually increase the intensity.
  • Warm up and cool down before and after your workouts, and listen to your body.

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Tips for Making Treadmill Running Less Boring with Coach Sanne Lansink

By Coach Sanne Lansink

You’re not alone if you love running outdoors and despise running inside on a treadmill. Although the activity is the same in many ways, being outside offers a significantly different experience than running indoors. Yet many people find themselves turning to a treadmill at some point throughout the year: security reasons, dealing with extreme weather, or to escape air pollution, to name a few. 

Completing a run on the treadmill can be much harder mentally than completing the same run outdoors. Treadmills can sometimes be boring or offer less stimulation than a trail outside. But if a treadmill run is in your future and you find yourself dreading that treadmill, here are a few tips to keep it entertaining.

  • Listen to Music/podcasts– Listening to music or podcasts can be very entertaining. A good trick is to pick a playlist that you used to love. For example a throwback to high school or middle school. Songs from years ago are less likely to be overplayed on your playlist and the radio, so the chances of you getting bored of them are slim.
  • Watch TV- There is no better time to watch TV than when you are running on the treadmill. Save your favorite series for the days you are scheduled to run. That way you are excited to get on the treadmill to watch your show. Saving your special show for the treadmill will also have you looking forward to running indoors and will give you a positive outlook on the dreaded treadmill. Save movies for your long runs. Nothing is worse than finishing a show mid-run and not being able to find another one. Not only would that leave you bored but also frustrated! 
  • Phone a friend- Invest in good Bluetooth headphones and catch up on your calls. Since most runs are done at an easy effort, you should be able to hold a conversation. While running, call your chattiest friend, mother, or anybody willing to listen and have a chat. Before you know it, your run will be over.
  • Run Blind- A helpful but frustrating feature on treadmills is the screen that displays how far you’ve gone and how much time has gone by. If you watch the numbers carefully, you will notice that they change slowly. Watching the time tick by can be very frustrating and make the run feel much longer than it is. So cover the screen with a towel and check only when you think it may be necessary!
  • Treadmill features- Some treadmills come with video footage of scenic trails. If you have access to one of these treadmills then check out the different trails and places you can run in the world.
  • Run with a friend- Find a gym that has two or more treadmills available, and bring some friends. Running with friends is always more enjoyable than running alone. So pick two treadmills that are side by side and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Create an encouraging environment- Many people have their treadmills tucked away in their basements or garage. Typically a room or space that has been forgotten about. Organize this space so that it is a place you enjoy being in. Hang up your favorite medals, a chalkboard with your goals written on it, and some wall art with an inspirational quote. A little effort goes a long way, and before you know it, your treadmill will make you feel like an elite runner. Adding a fan to the space can also help with airflow and temperature regulation.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating a run, or avoiding it altogether because of the treadmill, think of all the ways you can make it more enjoyable. The best way to stay committed to running on the treadmill is to establish a routine and to set yourself up for success by creating an environment that encourages the habit you’re trying to create.. A positive relationship with the treadmill can be crucial to having a successful training cycle. especially when you’re subjected to all the things mother nature has to offer.

Sanne Lansink is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Elliptical Training for Runners

Elliptical training is a popular form of exercise that has been gaining popularity among runners in recent years. This low-impact workout provides numerous benefits for healthy runners, including improved cardiovascular health and increased muscle strength. In addition, incorporating elliptical training into your routine can help prevent common injuries that often plague runners, such as shin splints, stress fractures, and knee pain.

One of the key benefits of elliptical training is that it provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints. Unlike running, which can put a lot of stress on the ankles, knees, and hips, elliptical training allows you to move your legs in a smooth, circular motion that is easier on your joints. This makes it a great option for runners who are looking to cross-train in order to prevent injuries and maintain their overall fitness.

Another advantage of elliptical training is that it provides a full-body workout. Unlike running, which primarily works the legs, elliptical training also engages the upper body. This can help improve your overall strength and endurance, which can translate to better running performance. Additionally, using the upper body handles on the elliptical machine can help engage the core, which can improve your balance and stability.

Incorporating elliptical training into your routine is also a great way to add variety to your workouts. This can help prevent burnout and keep you motivated to continue exercising. By switching up your routine and trying new forms of exercise, you can keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom.

If you are a healthy runner looking to incorporate elliptical training into your routine, here are a few tips to get started:

  • Begin by setting a goal for your elliptical workouts. This could be a certain number of minutes per workout or a specific number of workouts per week.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time.
  • Make sure to warm up and cool down before and after your elliptical workouts to prevent injury.
  • Mix up your routine by using different resistance levels and incorporating upper body movements.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your workouts as needed. If you experience any pain or discomfort, consult with a healthcare professional.
  • Talk with your coach about how to incorporate this training into your overall plan. 

In conclusion, elliptical training is a valuable form of exercise for healthy runners. It provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints, engages the upper body, and adds variety to your routine. By incorporating elliptical training into your cross-training routine, you can prevent common injuries and maintain your overall fitness.


  • Elliptical training provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints.
  • It engages the upper body and can improve overall strength and endurance.
  • Incorporating elliptical training can add variety to your routine and prevent burnout.
  • Begin by setting a goal for your elliptical workouts and gradually increase the intensity.
  • Warm up and cool down before and after your workouts, and listen to your body.

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Marathon Fueling: What to eat during your Marathon with Coach Brian Comer

What is marathon fueling and what should you eat during your marathon? In sports and life, nutrition bears special importance for maximizing performance and healthy living. While good nutrition should be made a habit, there is particular emphasis that surrounds athletic competitions. The nutrition needs of the endurance athlete are unique and this is only emphasized more as race distances increase. 

As you get towards the marathon and beyond, you’re less likely to be able to get away with simply a pre and post run nutrition plan. That’s where fueling on the run comes into play. While not everyone is blessed with an “iron gut”, like shoes or other running gear, it often comes down to personal preference and what works for you individually. This article will seek to focus on marathon fueling, not so much for marathon training, but the pre-race, intra-race, and post-race considerations for marathon fueling as another spring marathon season looms on the near horizon.

Pre-Race Nutrition

Now when we say pre-race nutrition, while by default that would include nutrition during training, the purpose of the article is to look at the more immediate nutrition for the runner soon to embark on a marathon race. Nutrition is meant to nourish you and balance is key. 

While I used to be an advocate for the night before the race carbo load, I’ve since adopted the strategy of carbo loading 48 hours before a race then leaning more towards lean protein the night before. I feel less lethargic and full on the start line this way than when I carbo loaded the night prior. The night before protein rebuilds muscles, while 48 hours out I still get the carb benefits for race day. But as I mentioned, everyone has their own system, needs and preferences along with what they can physically tolerate. 

Much like new gear, you don’t want to be trying something new on race day, just stick to what you know. It’s important to pay close attention to what time your race starts, not just from a practice standpoint in training, but to allow yourself enough time in the morning to get up, eat, and digest. You’ll also want to make sure you’re hydrating and consuming carbohydrates as the body’s quickest and main source of energy. As alluded to, this can be overdone so be careful but the general recommendation is a maximum of 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight times the number of hours before exercise.  

Before the race is a good time to practice race day nutrition strategies when you’re out crushing your long run. Here’s where you can find out if you can stomach energy gels or chews or if you’re more of a sports drink kind of person. Most traditional sports drinks tend to be loaded with sugar so if you have the time and ability, you can try making your own. I’ve found that the Endurance Fuel powder from Tailwind Nutrition works wonders, as advertised, no gut bombs. They also have recovery powder as well but that’s more relevant for the post-run and post-race nutrition. As far as energy chews, some come packed with a little extra caffeine than others, both cross brand and within the same brand as well. It’s important to pay attention because while some like the extra kick of the caffeine, others may be more sensitive to caffeine and can have stomach problems because of too much caffeine intake. With gels, you can generally take one at the start of the race and then again every 30-45 minutes during the race. You can adopt the same timeline for sports drinks or even consume a little more often, as often as every 15 minutes if keeping to no more than 4-8 ounces.

Intra-Race Nutrition

Fueling strategies have also evolved and developed over time as more products make their way to shelves and give runners more options than ever before. While the go-to strategy originally was fast acting carbohydrates, it has since morphed into an emphasis of slow acting carbohydrates or a combination of fast and slow acting. The fast-acting carbohydrate strategy made sense at the time.  Your blood glucose falls naturally after 2-4 hours and given that you’re running at least that long if not longer during a marathon, quick fuel makes sense given the natural decrease within that time frame. 

By intaking chews, gels and sports drinks during the race, you’re also bringing some blood back to your GI tract.  The fact that your blood moves from your GI tract to your working muscles while you run is often why your GI tract may be extra sensitive. 

Slow acting carbohydrates are a little more generous to your gut as blood glucose levels are maintained a little more steadily compared to the spikes of fast acting carbohydrates. Factor in that your brain triggers insulin to ensure your blood glucose doesn’t get too high and you have all hands on deck as you make your way towards the marathon finish line. The combo strategy of fast and slow acting carbs for marathon fueling brings the best of both worlds. For most of the race, you use the slow acting strategy then add fast acting carbohydrates in the last 30-45 minutes of the race. You have steady energy for the bulk of the race and avoid the GI issues found with the fast-acting carbohydrates but then get the big energy burst in the homestretch. 

To review a comparison of popular gels on the market, check out this article: Comparing Popular Running Gels

So many options!

Post-Race Nutrition

While often a little harder to get down, especially immediately following the race, protein is the top source for rebuilding muscles after being torn down and put through the ringer. Consuming protein right after a run helps with the recovery process. That’s when you could consider finding more palatable options like the Tailwind recovery powder or a shake. Not everyone can stomach them though and if presented with whole food options, always opt for that over supplements. Even then, many runners have a hard time getting anything down immediately following a run and need some time for things to settle. Besides, if you’ve just been consuming gels and chews for the past 4 hours or so, the last thing you’d probably be feeling like is a shake.  This may not be practical or worth it immediately following the race but you want to make sure you at least get something into your system within that anabolic window that lasts for about 30 minutes after finishing. This often looks like a banana with some peanut butter, which is a good protein source. Chocolate milk has long been a go-to for many but if the lactose puts you off or is something you physically can’t do, there are various milk alternatives in addition to sports drinks to top off your electrolyte stores. The key here is to not wait too long before fueling post-race. Like all the other categories, everyone has their own preferences, it is just a matter of finding what works best for you. 


To reiterate, just like how there is no one-size-fits-all marathon training program, there is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-all marathon fueling strategy either. Through experimentation in training, you can find the fuels and strategies that work best for you while keeping in mind the general principles for good nutrition and more specifically, good marathon nutrition. With the sheer number of products available to runners looking for a marathon fuel source, it can be almost overwhelming but on the bright side, it leads to a surplus of options as you determine what keeps you running and what gets you across that finish line.

brian comer running coach

Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

brian comer running coach

What is Base Building for Runners with Coach Brian Comer

What is Base Building?

When it comes to running, base building is often characterized by lots of easy running with some strides to maintain footspeed as a reintroduction into run training following a break. It is often incorporated at the beginning of a training cycle as a means to get back into the flow of training without doing too much too soon. Intensity stays low as the mileage gradually goes up. As a rule of thumb, mileage and intensity should rarely if ever be increased simultaneously as doing so can raise the risk of injury. Likewise, when starting a base building phase, one doesn’t immediately jump back to the mileage level they held at the peak or towards the end of their previous cycle. It is a gradual buildup that usually spans the course of a few weeks. 

As the name suggests, base building is intended to build a base, or in the case of distance running, to build one’s aerobic engine. This is due to distance running being largely aerobic in nature. But while base building does principally seek to boost a runner’s endurance, it can also train your central nervous system and improve muscular strength. While one may feel inclined to boost mileage during this phase, this can often be counterproductive. If one feels the need to increase training load, implementing cross training and strength training could work better as you’re likely coming off a period of either active rest or complete rest. 

Generally, more experienced runners can not only sustain higher mileage, but they can also get away with having a shorter duration for base building. This article will seek to not only dissect what base building is but also offer suggestions for how to do so, bearing in mind that not all runners are the same and thus, there is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all template.

Key Considerations

As mentioned in the intro, what base building looks like for one runner might not be what it looks like for another. While base building consistently calls for stacking easy, steady miles, it is imperative that all runners program it into their training cycle. It is the adaptations made in base building that help you absorb the harder training that is set to come.  Base building isn’t necessarily sexy and can seem monotonous and boring at times, but it pays off in the long run as you embark on the goals you have set in the coming training cycle. Strides during base building can help break up the monotony while scratching the itch for some fast running as you maintain basic footspeed. These are all truths that can be applied to a runner’s base building phase, regardless of experience, PRs, and prior training history. 

As for the differences, base building looks different depending on factors like prior training history, what goal events you’re training for in the upcoming cycle, and injury history. As you’d suspect, injury prone runners should be mindful of not using the lack of intensity to ramp up the volume. Running is a high impact sport and without proper preparation, you run the risk of not being able to handle that impact. With appropriate base training (running and strength training), the body can adapt to the impact by strengthening muscles, bones, and joints.  Regardless of varying training histories, a runner who is planning to focus on the 5k in their upcoming training cycle won’t have the same base building phase as a runner who intends to focus on the marathon. This is due to the difference in demands and priorities for each event. Even removing special considerations for the marathon, having the target race as a longer distance calls for more training volume throughout the program, base building included. Also, it is never too early to factor in what type of course you’ll be running in your goal race and homing in on the specific training needs it presents. Is it on the trails or the roads? Hilly or flat? These are all questions that can be answered and applied early on in your training, even during the base phase. 

How Long Should I Base Build?

When discussing training history, it dives deeper into the question of how long one should build a base. While experienced runners can get away with a shorter base phase, a minimum duration for all runners to consider would be to follow a base building phase for 4 weeks. McMillan Running even offers a suggestion of an even longer base phase, broken into two, 4–8-week increments. The first 4-8 weeks being the mileage base and the second 4-8 weeks comprising the workout base. The mileage base is exactly what everyone thinks of when they think of base building, where a runner is either going back up to a previous training load or building up to a new one. The workout base is a way to get prepared for the faster running that typically follows the base plan Likewise, if you’re coming off a lengthier break, say for an injury, then it would suit you best to have a longer base phase than if you had been healthy and taken a more standard break following the end of your last training cycle. Going back to the earlier point on goal events, the longer your goal event, the longer the base phase. 

What does it all mean?

There are well known hallmarks to base building in distance running that apply to everyone. The stacking of mileage and strides to maintain basic footspeed to reiterate a couple, but it is in the differences that tell a runner what they really need to know. Nobody knows you or your needs as well as you do so you’ll be your own best judge as far as what the base phase will look like for you. Just because something worked well for you in the past doesn’t mean it’ll work as well again. Our bodies require change in order to adapt and grow and by doing the same thing over and over again, you may be stunting your growth as a runner. The distance you’re focusing on in the upcoming cycle might not be the same as the previous cycle or you may be coming off a longer break due to nursing an injury. These are all factors that should dictate how you proceed with building your running base in order to determine how to best build your foundation and tackle the goals you have set for the season ahead.

brian comer running coach

Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Brian, check out his coach profile.

Off-Season Training for Runners

This article will answer:

  • What is the off-season?
  • Myths about taking an off season.
  • Why is an off-season important?
  • How to train during the off-season.

What is the off season:

Off-season is a time where training intensity and volume are reduced. For many runners this is between races or goals. It’s a phase in running that can last a couple of weeks to a couple of months, but there is no set duration. The duration and level of activity during an offseason are often determined by the upcoming season, but also by the previous season. The off-season is used to recover mentally and physically, as well as to reflect on the past season, and to plan for the next. 

Characteristics of the off-season include: 

  • Substantial reduction in training volume and intensity
  • Mental break
  • Rest
  • Skill/formwork
  • Goal setting
  • Structure training plans for the upcoming season
  • Cross-training
  • Assessing strengths and weaknesses
  • Trying out new equipment/clothing/shoes 

Myths about taking an off-season

“I will lose my fitness”– There have been many studies on detraining and training cycles. Studies have found that even after 2-4 weeks of inactivity the decline in Vo2max was about 6%, which is deemed insignificant (Coyle et al., 1986).

“I am running great, why change anything?”– Anything can feel good until it doesn’t. Training plans are designed to have peak moments and moments of recovery. Taking a planned recovery phase is important for your training plan to be most effective. 

“I won’t know what to do without my training plan”– Off-season training doesn’t mean you need to throw all planning out the window. You just need to listen to your body, and structure a different kind of plan. Many coaches help their athletes with a plan for their off season.  

Why is an off-season important?

There are a number of reasons for the off-season – here are a few. The off-season is used to reflect and to plan for your next season. You can use this time to plan your race calendar, work on weaknesses and develop an effective training plan. Mental burnout can occur for some runners and the off-season is a good time to rest, reflect, and find new motivation. Our bodies also need rest and the off-season is a great way to ensure that your body is getting the most out of training overtime by ensuring adequate rest. An off-season can also help to prevent overuse injuries and can allow for rehab of injuries acquired during the previous season. By taking an off-season, you’re setting yourself up for success in the next season. . 

How to train during the off-season

The intensity and volume should be lower during the off-season but that does not have to mean no running. Some runners will take some time off of running depending on how their season went and how much recovery is needed, while others may simply reduce their mileage and intensity. It is recommended that runners still maintain a healthy diet and exercise at least  3-4 times a week during off-season. 

When planning your off-season training it is important to evaluate your past running season and the plan you followed. 

  • After a rough season (A season troubled with injuries and aches, both minor and major ones included, or one with some mental burnout.) Training should include time off of running to heal the body and mind. Sometimes this may include time without any workouts if needed and then one to four weeks of low impact cross training such as cycling, rowing, swimming, or elliptical. Strength and mobility exercises can be added as well to work on strengthening weaker areas and rehab any injuries. Shorter easy effort runs can be added once the body and mind are feeling more recovered. Running drills can be added to ensure your form doesn’t get lazy with the easier efforts. The training plan should be reevaluated to see what can be changed to reduce mental burnout and injuries. 
  • After a so-so season (not an awful season but not an awesome season either) Training may include several weeks of easy effort, shorter running workouts. This will allow your body to  recover from the racing season and adapt to a lighter workload. Running drills can be added to ensure your form doesn’t get lazy with the reduced efforts. Low impact cross training should be added to keep training fresh and offer ability for moderate to high intensity workouts with less impact on the body. This time can be used to evaluate your training plan to see what can be added and tweaked to improve your next racing season. 
  • After a good season (a season where physically and mentally you felt strong, accomplished or got close to meeting your goals) Training may include several weeks of shorter, easy runs to allow time to recover from intense training and then can progress to a mix of varied intensity run workouts such as hills, intervals, fartleks, tempo and easy runs. Mileage will stay pretty steady to allow for quicker recovery after workouts. Running drills can be added to ensure your form doesn’t get lazy with the easier efforts. Low impact cross training, strength and mobility should all be parts of off-season training to keep things fresh and balanced. It is important to think of your priorities for next season to ensure you focus your training properly moving forward. 

Off-season is a great time to work on setting goals for the next season, look at your nutrition plan, sleep, develop some mental toughness, and simply deal with the daily stresses of life!  You may want to consult with a dietician, physical therapist, or mindset coach to optimize your plan for the next season. This is also a great time to work with your running coach (or to  hire one!) to help build out the plans for your next big running adventures! And once you are ready to resume training you should feel confident in your routine and plan. You’ll be healthy, with a strong and rested mind, and you’ll be ready to tackle newer and bigger challenges ahead.

Victoria Williams is a coach with Team RunRun. To work with her or to learn more about her, check out her coach profile.

Keeping your Run Mental Game Strong

Off-Season Soul-Searching for the Runner

While many of us are wholly acclimated to running long, grueling miles, and we’ve all had our grit, determination, and mental strength tested in ways non-runners can never fully understand, winter running is a beast of a sport unto itself. One that tests even the most experienced, hardened runners, and one that requires a little patience, a tolerance for discomfort, and the ability to think outside of the traditional training box. Subzero temps see a rise in cross-training runners; weights are dusted off, Peloton shoes are brought out of hibernation, and runners limber up in weekend yoga classes as they stare longingly out at the blustery cold and sheets of ice.

Though these icy conditions and serious snow drifts can make getting your miles in challenging, if not downright impossible, there are other opportunities to be had during the off-season. Even the most intense winter cross-training schedule is likely to be lighter than the average runner’s regular training log, leaving more time for….what, exactly? Reading? Catching up on a woefully neglected Netflix line-up? Or perhaps this relative abundance of free time during the running off-season is the ideal time for some soul-searching. A time for discovering – or rediscovering – your purpose as a runner.

Soul-searching is an awfully lofty term. Start throwing around words like “purpose” at the gym and you may be accused of being pretentious and out-of-touch. Fair? Perhaps. But spending some time really thinking about your why can have a lasting impact on your health and happiness.

As a coach, I have lost count of the number of runners I’ve talked to who discovered running at some point in their adult lives and feel compelled to train for a race because it’s just what you do as a runner. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with running goals that are race-focused. Having a specific target – both in terms of distance and date – can be incredibly motivating and provide a tremendous confidence boost once completed. But we can’t all live in a continuous ebb-and-flow of training cycles – or at least, our bodies will eventually protest if we do. And eventually, as with any cycle of work and reward, the reward loses its luster after a while and crossing that finish line becomes mundane. So, when we take away the bells-and-whistles of racing, what are we left with?

Personally, my big race days are behind me. I rarely race anymore, and when I do, it’s a low-key local race or a trail race I can do with my brother. Contrary to what I recommend to my clients, I run every single day without fail, averaging 10-12 miles/day. I do this because my running purpose has become clear to me over the years. Not only am I a better mom, wife, sister, daughter, employee, coach when I’ve taken that time for my physical and mental health, I have my best brainstorms for my coaching business – and life in general – while I’m running. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I know that many of my friends and neighbors are inspired by my dedication and willpower; in a sense, I run daily because we all need a little continuity and consistency in life. If I can be that source of consistency for even a few people, then I have done my little part in this world. And for some people, seeing me find time in my busy schedule to run 10 miles every single day is the inspiration (or guilt-trip?) they need to take some time for their daily self-care, too.

So take these colder months and challenge yourself in a different way. Keep the cross-training up, log those cold-toed miles when you can, but carve out some time to really consider why you started running – and why you keep running (and no, an excuse to eat more pie at Thanksgiving is NOT an acceptable answer). At the core of this process are fundamental questions you must ask yourself about your what, why, and how.

  • What are my talents, my strengths, my gifts?
  • Why do I push myself to be a better person, a more fulfilled person? Is it for myself, for my kids, another family member? What is my BIG goal in life, how I envision myself in 10, 20, 30 years?
  • How can I become this best version of myself?

Most importantly, be fully honest with yourself. There are no right or wrong answers here; we all bring something of equal – if different – importance to the table. And there’s no time like the present to figure out exactly what your why is.

arlington running coach

Kate Marden is a coach with Team RunRun. To work with Kate or to learn more about her, check out her coach profile.

What is Run Specific Core Training?

In 2008, Canadian Triathlete Carolyn Murray finally realized her dream of being selected for the Olympic triathlon team. Murray was often in the lead pack off the bike. However, despite being an excellent runner, she would fade during the run. After trying many strategies, Carolyn tried something different altogether. She doubled down on her core training. I recall her explaining that it was her stronger core, not more speed work or volume, that was the difference maker. She said her body could hold it together, maintaining a faster pace, as fatigue set in near the later stages of the race. 

This feel-good story always stuck with me. As an undergrad in kinesiology, it was exciting to see the relevance of a sound core training program start to be embraced amongst endurance athletes. Back then and still today, many endurance athletes fear strength training, including core training, thinking it will waste time or worse, reduce performance by creating large, bulky muscles. Done correctly and efficiently, this could not be further from the truth. 

Despite run training progressions, studies found that novice runners do not improve run techniques for greater efficiency or reduced risk of injury. 

They still showed a greater increase in trunk inclination (bending forward at the waist) and increased ankle eversion as the runners became fatigued.  Research indicates that poor core endurance can reduce your ability to maintain a trunk position, negatively affecting run kinematics. These trunk changes reduce run efficiency and increase risk of injury, indicating that core strength and endurance must especially be addressed. 

It is often said that every action each step we take is initiated from the core. It is often said that power comes from the core. When good technique is used during running or daily tasks, power is often generated through the hips and is transmitted through a stiffened or “braced” core. Lesser known or discussed, the core more often functions to prevent motion rather than initiating it, stabilizing and protecting the body. A “functionally strong core” is essential for injury prevention and optimal performance. 

What is the Core? 

We are not just talking abs here! Core encompasses your entire back, abdominal wall muscles, and glutes. It also includes your latissimus dorsi and psoas muscles, linking your core to the pelvis, legs, shoulders, and arms. You can essentially think of the core as everything aside from your limbs. Ideally, the muscles work together to create spinal stabilization, called “core bracing.” 

Unlike your limb muscles, your core muscles often co-contract, stiffening your torso so all muscles become synergists in your running and daily life activities. This is important, and this is the reason why training your core needs to be done differently than your limbs to be the most effective. 

Core and Run Performance

Is core training going to increase your V02max? Likely not. It will, however, improve something that may be more beneficial: running economy.  

Core endurance is a very important part of run training, as it helps to maintain an efficient trunk position. Studies have demonstrated that core stability training improves running performance. One of the reasons is, yep “core bracing!” With core bracing, the body becomes stiffer to accept the foot impact. 

Core endurance is especially important during long distance and/or high intensity running, as muscle fatigue is greater. Research aside, essentially every triathlete and runner I have seen with dysfunction, injury, and frustrating performance has had insufficient core strength and endurance, especially regards to spinal stability. Just look at a runner who is running, bent over. That was me when I started running! Not only does the bent over runner reduce one’s ability for oxygen exchange, the kinematics change, causing inefficiency and greater stress on the spine, hips, and knees. But this can be improved with a little consistent training. In the Ogaya study, for example, runners significantly improved their trunk muscular endurance after four weeks of training, three times per week. Their hip range increased, which can effectively open-up the stride, and angles of their lower limb angles improved, reducing risk of injury. 

How To Effectively Train the Core? 

Should you be doing sit-ups? Crunches? Isolating the obliques? Negative. 

In fact, doing repeated spine flexion (ie situps and endless crunches) are training the muscles in a manner they are rarely used, and performing numerous situps may increase risk of spinal disc injury. McGill, renowned spinal expert, states that “focusing on a single muscle generally does not enhance stability but creates patterns that when quantified result in less stability.” Your core is like a team: Together Everyone Achieves More. Effectively training the core means training all the muscles to work together.

The best way is to train the less glorified muscles. We are not talking 6-pack abs here, rather the deep pelvic and spinal stability muscles, referred often as “control exercises.” Exercises that truly enhance spinal stabilization are the exercises encouraging stiffening of the entire core musculature. The best way is also to include exercises that transfer into running, called “dynamic correspondence exercises.”  Dynamic correspondence exercises enhance movement patterns and other components of fitness to prepare you in the best way for your sport.

Three Core Exercises

Here are three great exercises for the runner toolbox that will improve your core strength / trunk stability specifically for running. Although I am also a fan of weight bearing core exercises (i.e. various offset carries), I chose these exercises as they do not require equipment, can be done anywhere, anytime, and are a great foundation to build on.  The dead bug and bird dog exercises especially mimic similar running movement patterns: Alternating mobility in one leg and stability in the other leg, along with opposing arm movements while core bracing, making these excellent dynamic correspondence exercises. 

Try and keep your training program simple, effective, and efficient for more energy and time to be spent doing what we love: Running!

  1. Glute Bridge Variations

Why: Promotes the correct firing sequence pattern of: Engaging your glutes before your hamstrings and lower back. This enhances your ability to produce greater force and reduces risk of injury. So common in runners, hip flexors, back stabilizers, and other smaller muscles take on the roll of the glutes if they are not firing properly. The hamstring muscles can take over too much of the burden as well, extending the hips instead of what should be – the glutes. Over time, without the correct firing sequence, this can lead to overly tight muscles and negatively affects your stride.

How to (Figure 4 Glute Bridge Demo Link): 

Lay on your back with feet approximately hip width apart or a little wider, perform a very mild pelvic tilt (just a couple inches or so for a “neutral spine”) and focus on squeezing your glutes. This is super important. We can easily use our back muscles to compensate and just power through this exercise, changing the glute bridge exercise from beneficial to detrimental. Sometimes literally placing a finger on your side glute helps to activate the right muscle group. 

Cross your arms over your chest to reduce the help from your upper body, and slowly lift up. Breathe out on the way up, breathe in as you return to starting position.  There are many glute bridge variations. Please see demo links to a variation that does not require any equipment and will facilitate a hip stretch at the same time.   

Keep movements slow and deliberate. If you are experiencing fatigue before your desired reps are up, stop.  Done correctly, you likely will not lift up all that high and should feel your butt burning. Feel the burn!

Sets and reps: Try 10-12 repetitions per side, 2-3 sets, 2-3 x week. This is a general guideline only and will vary per athlete. Again, if fatigue sets in and you are losing form, stop. It is better to do 5 good repetitions versus 10 bad ones.

  1. Dead Bug Exercise

Why:  The dead bug is an excellent exercise for runners! It resembles motor skill patterning used in running. The dead bug is a control exercise. You are teaching your body to control and stabilize your trunk- essentially reinforcing a stiff and stable trunk and pelvis – while your limbs are moving. 

How to: Dead Bug Demo Link Here

Lay on your back with knees bent approximately hip width apart and your arms raised in the air directly above your shoulders. Bring both legs up, with your hips and knees flexed at approximately 90o. Your knees should be directly above your hips, with your ankles dorsiflexed (opposite of pointing your toes, pull them back), and your lower back in a “neutral position”. 

From this position, slowly lower the right leg, maintaining approximately 90o flexion and touch the ground briefly with your toes. Bring your right leg up, and alternate with the left leg. Repeat for desired reps or until you get fatigued. Advanced versions include extending the leg out instead of touching the ground, and the very advanced version includes extending the leg out while simultaneously pulling your opposite arm away from the leg.

You should be performing this in a slow and controlled manner, breathing in as you start the movement and breathing out upon returning to start position. 

It is vital that you maintain a neutral spine, it should not change during the exercise. For a neutral spine: perform a very slight pelvic tilt or you can think of gently pressing your ribs into the ground, “keeping your rib cage down.” Don’t overdo the pelvic tilt though, another common mistake! If you are not sure about this, a friend can help. He or she could place a resistance band under your lower back and gently try pulling the band out as you are doing the exercise and if he/she can’t pull it out, then you are keeping the neutral position. If you are on your own, you can try placing a small rolled up towel under your low back to start. 

Tips: If you feel your back losing its neutral spine, try doing less reps or a lower-level dead bug. Examples: dead bug breathing- in start position, breathe deeply 3-5 times then relax and reset. Or, shortening your lever (ie touch the ground closer to your butt with knees at a greater flexion). 

Remember, dead bug is a control exercise. If you see people using weight and/or powering through quickly doing tons of reps, don’t be tempted. As in most of these, they are a great exercise performed incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. Done correctly, you should really engage your lower abdominal (pelvic region) muscles, even just getting into the ready position. Remember to move slowly and thoughtfully! 

Sets and reps: Try 8-12 repetitions per side, 2-3 sets, 2-3 x week. Again, this is a general guideline only and will vary per athlete. Remember, if fatigue sets in and you are losing form, stop. Start with fewer reps or the modified versions mentioned. 

3. Bird Dog Exercise

Why: The bird dog is another control exercise that emphasizes core bracing while moving limbs, making it an excellent exercise for runners!

How To: Bird Dog Demo Link Here

Start all fours in “table-top position” (knees under hips and hands under shoulders). Press your hands firmly into the ground and while maintaining a neutral spine, slowly extend one leg out with opposite arm, then the other side, keeping your hips stable. This means keeping your hips square, and not allowing one hip to shift. This is the most important part of the exercise.  

I would start with arms only, progress to legs only, then finally the opposites once the previous variations become fairly easy. You can also add a band for resistance. However, be careful not to overload yourself and change your mechanics. Remember: The most important part is to keep your spine and hips stable. If one side is dropping, then you are defeating the purpose. Remember: Core bracing!

Sets and reps: Recommend 5-6 repetitions per side, 2-3 sets, 2x week. As with all, use the modifications best suited to your ability, stop and reset if you are fatiguing and losing form.

Word of caution:

If you have back problems or are experiencing back pain with any of these exercises, stop and see your health care practitioner. 

A Little Goes a Long Way

Including a few simple exercises consistently can make a positive impact on your running, both in terms of performance and injury resilience. Doing these exercises consistently – i.e. 3 times per week for less than 10 minutes – is a better payoff versus one big session per week. You can do these before a run, after your warmup, or within your strength and stretching sessions. 

Incorporate some specific core training consistently and enjoy the benefits. Run on!

Tammy Kovaluk is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

The Ins and Outs of Tapering

Runners working toward a half marathon and particularly a marathon or longer often hear talk about tapering. They know it means they should decrease their mileage and scale back their workouts as the race gets closer; however, many runners avoid tapering because they fear it will negatively affect their race-day performance. Even when runners do taper, many of them do not have a full understanding of why they should taper, much less how they should taper. 


In general terms, tapering is a gradual reduction in training load. It focuses on adjusting the volume and intensity of training in preparation for an upcoming race to allow the runner to peak at the right time. It is most associated with longer races, from half-marathon to ultra but can happen to a smaller degree before shorter races. Recreational runners who do taper tend to focus most on tapering before marathon distances and longer, although some taper before half-marathons as well. However, studies have shown that most (64%) recreational runners tend to either not taper or not have a disciplined approach to their taper, which can negatively affect their race day performance. 


Many runners are afraid of tapering because they think it will negatively affect their race-day performance. However, the opposite is actually true. Tapering allows the body to start to go into a recovery mode of sorts, where the decreased training load helps reduce the physical and psychological stressors it endured during many weeks of tough training.  This recovery mode will allow the body to replenish your glycogen stores, revamp your immune system, and improve enzyme and hormone levels. The body has been taken to the limit during training, and the taper is designed to rebuild and re-energize it and get the athlete ready for race day.

Many studies have shown that race-day performance typically improves by about 3% when a taper is implemented. What better reason can an athlete have to taper than this? This improvement in performance is due to positive changes in the majority of body systems due to the decrease in training stress. Few fitness gains are made during this process. It is more of a way to allow the body to rest and prepare itself for optimal performance. 


Even when runners do taper, many know very little about exactly how they should go about it. There is a fine line between tapering too little and too much, and this line can be different for each person. However, there are general guidelines that everyone can follow and then tweak based on their own experiences. 

Most studies have suggested that it is optimal to maintain the training intensity during tapering (i.e. continue to run marathon pace tempo runs or appropriate speedwork), while training volume (i.e weekly and long-run mileage) is decreased significantly over the taper time and frequency (i.e. number of training sessions/week) is also usually maintained. It has also been suggested that consistent progressive tapers (i.e. where the training volume is gradually decreased by a certain percentage each week) are associated with better marathon finish-time results for recreational runners than a less disciplined taper (i.e. where volume is decreased one week but then increased the next). There are other ways to decrease the training volume but most studies seem to suggest that a progressive reduction in volume produces the best results. As far as length, multiple studies suggest 4-28 days as the optimal taper length, depending on the distance of the race. A meta-analysis found that the 2 week taper was optimal for competitive athletes before a marathon, while another study on recreational runners found a 3 week taper was optimal for this group. 

While tapering is a science, it is also an art. The art lies in finding the right balance of decreasing the volume to the amount that allows the body to recover while not decreasing it too much that it goes into full-on rest mode and the benefits of the recovery are lost. Too short of a taper will not allow the body to reap the benefits of full-system replenishment, where too long or quick of a taper will lead to a de-training effect, such as when an athlete takes time off when the season is over. 

There are various plans and suggestions for tapering that suggest the best percentage to decrease the overall volume and the long run volume each week. The meta-analysis mentioned above found that a reduction in volume by 41-60% was optimal for competitive runners. Again, this is a rather large range so there is definitely an art to finding the best range for each athlete. Some plans suggest fully resting 2-3 days before a marathon, while others significantly reduce mileage during race week, but suggest a very easy 2-3 miles before race day to promote better sleep and stress relief. 

This is where working with a coach can be beneficial. It will allow a runner to have assistance in knowing their training plan and how their body responds to help design the best taper for the individual. That being said, there is some trial and error, even when all the research is used. If optimal results were not achieved with one design, it is beneficial to try another design for the next race. 

The research is abundant on the fact that tapering is beneficial to race day performance. There are also many studies that suggest ranges of optimal taper length and the best way to progressively reduce mileage. However, there is no one formula that has been found to do this that fits every runner out there. In the end, like many aspects of running, it can be said that the science behind tapering is sound but that the art of tapering is individual to each runner. 

Carrie Neiman is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.