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Flipping the script on running

Fly Feet Running

After finishing my soccer career, I began running road races – even marathons.  I loved my long Saturday morning runs as the sun was coming up.  I got up to 80 miles a week.  But, injuries began to creep up.  As most of us do, I would just push through them, not recognizing the damage I was incurring from repetitive stress and overtraining.  I was living in the black hole of training {Read:  “Black Hole of Training” Post} where nothing changed and everything stayed the same.  


I wanted to get faster and improve my race times.  I began to research the science of performance. I dove into every study I could find and all the research pointed in one direction; run fast for short bursts and lift heavier weights. A light bulb went off. I used myself as an n=1 for every high intensity interval training study I could find.  I adopted a different approach to my training; less running longer, shorter distances, and more high intensity interval training that took less time.  I added speed intervals and incline intervals on the treadmill and mixed in a heavy dose of strength work.  I started seeing results; energy increases, faster times, and a much leaner and healthier physique.  


Running is a secret weapon that can be so potent when used correctly.  It’s a fantastic tool for weight loss, increased performance, heart function, oxygen capacity, and so much more.  However, a lot of us over train when it comes to running, which can be deleterious to our bodies, our health, and it can even cause us one day to not want to run. Here are my top four ways to use running effectively to hit your goals, stay healthy, and get out of it what I think we were meant to get out of running.


1.  Run fast and keep it short. 

Imagine you only have 10 minutes to workout and you want to sweat, get out of breath, feel the legs burn, shed some calories, and get a stimulus.  Here is what I’d do: 5 minute warm up run, 10 squats, 5 push ups, and then a one time effort of 3 minutes all out effort that would leave you gasping for air with hands on legs.  Done!  


2.  Bridge the gap from running slow to fast. 

Failure (yes, failure – as in you can’t do it anymore) in high intensity intervals is our success.  It’s how we get better, fitter, faster, stronger.  We really have to understand where that point of failure is so we can work close to it.  If you don’t know, then spend some time finding it by slowly testing faster speeds and paces until you eventually get there.  This is so important because you might think you are at your max, but until you really define that and get to failure, you will never know.  Could this be the reason you have plateaued in training or weight loss?  I see this more often than anything else.


3.  Build Strength.  

High intensity running requires strength and technique.  It’s like any other skill, in the sense that intensity is technique dependent.  Build strength through movements that directly relate to running.  This means loaded squats, loaded lunges, picking things up off the floor like kettle bells, barbells, and dumbbells, - the heavier the better.  This will allow you to build strength and strength means safety and injury prevention.  


4. Long Runs.

You don’t have to give these up.  As a matter of fact, these become better once you have followed the steps above.  In general I say live your life doing short aggressive high intensity interval training ranging from 10 seconds to 2 minutes of max effort and enough rest between efforts to allow for some recovery.  Then maybe do a longer run once a week.


This might sound counter intuitive to some of you who are endurance athletes, but the science shows us what works and I have lived it.  Sometimes less is more, especially when that less is done right!