Category Archives: How To

How to Start Running: Month 6


Congratulations!!! 6 months ago, you started with a simple 30 second run and moved for 10 minutes total. By the end of this month, you’ll be moving for 33 minutes and running for 30 (!?!?!) of those minutes. Let that sink in for a moment.

Week Workout Plan
Week 21 33 minutes (2:00 walk 9:00 run. Repeat 3 times)
Week 22 36 minutes (2:00 walk 10:00 run. Repeat 3 times.)
Week 23 34 minutes (1:30 walk 10:00 run. Repeat 3 times)
Week 24 33 minutes (1:00 walk 10:00 run. Repeat 3 times)

Once you get comfortable with this (expect it to take a couple of weeks), here’s how to continue to add to your running: increase the run section while keeping the walking section at 1:00 by a minute at a time. Thus, you would walk for a minute, run for 11 minutes and repeat three times for a week, then move up to 12 minutes etc.

Congratulations again! If you’re looking for additional training ideas, just drop me an email or a comment and I’d be happy to cook some ideas up for you as you look forward to your next fitness goal.

How to Start Running: Month 5

Somehow in the midst of moving back from Norwalk, I forgot to publish this so my enormous apologies for missing Month 5 just as peak, perfect running season kicks off!! 

This month will show off how far you’ve come, with you working up towards 8 minutes of running at a time in the middle of your 30 minute run. If you get discouraged this month, take a moment (or two) to reflect on the fact that you started this by running for 30 seconds at a time just 17 weeks ago. This month is all about stretching out the minutes of running. Next month will be about hitting the goal of 10 minutes of continuous running, then cutting down the walking intervals as you’re comfortable.

Week Workout Plan
Week 17 32 minutes (2:00 walk 6:00 run. Repeat 4 times)
Week 18 30 minutes (2:00 walk 7:00 run. Repeat 3 times. Walk 3 minutes to end.)
Week 19 32 minutes (1:00 walk 7:00 run. Repeat 4 times)
Week 20 30 minutes (2:00 walk 8:00 run. Repeat 3 times)

How To Structure a Training Cycle (When You Work Full Time)

I had a brief opportunity to live the pro life this fall but as anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a few months knows, that didn’t result in a huge breakthrough but instead left me disappointed and a little heartbroken after Philly. All’s well that ends well, but upon reflection, I thrive when my schedule is busy and struggle when all I have to focus on is training.

One of the biggest questions that I get from people in real life and people on the internet alike is how I fit training in around the horrendous schedule that is medical school. Third year has been the absolute hardest of the years in terms of scheduling (and thankfully I’m officially a 4th year Friday at 2 pm), but I’ve still managed to hang on to a fitness base and ramp up for spring races. Part of this is a systematic approach to a training cycle, which goes something like this:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. My goal race for the early Spring is the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in early May. It’s sponsored by Skechers and many of the new Northeast athletes are getting together to aim for a sweep. I don’t need it (or expect it) to be a PR, but I do want to put in a good performance. To run a solid half, I need to have some reasonable long runs under my belt, spend time at tempo pace and get in some general speed work. Whenever you approach a goal race, it’s also critical to know what that race will demand course-wise. For Plattsburgh, the course features a LOT of sharp corners (not unlike the middle miles of Vermont City Marathon), so I need to be prepared to have my momentum disrupted and get refocused quickly.
  2. How will I get from here to there? Between now and May, I’m also scheduled to run the New England Trail Championships in April. While this isn’t a goal race, it’s a great opportunity to challenge myself for approximately the same amount of time I’ll likely be on my feet for the half marathon. Because it’s on trails (a river trail with reasonable footing but dirt nonetheless), I’m making sure to get in plenty of trail work on my recovery days and will be hitting Balboa Park next week for both recovery runs and a trail tempo workout.
  3. Where will I go from there? After the Plattsburgh Half, my next scheduled event is the US Mountain Running Championships which are WAY out of my comfort zone. It’s safe to say that from May on, I’ll be running a lot more vertical feet than I usually do but even between now and then, I’m working on increasing the vertical feet I run every week. I’m limited on the treadmill, but when I do a recovery run, I do it at a serious grade. When I’m able to be outside, I choose the hilliest routes I can find. Once the half is done, I’ll be heading to the mountains for a workout at least once a week with long runs on the Long Trail. Why not start this before Plattsburgh? Because the muscles and skills that let you go uphill fast are not the muscles and skills that help you race on the roads.

On a week to week basis, my Sunday night is spent looking at my goals for the cycle and deciding how my week will work towards those goals. On a macroscopic level, I always know where I am (base building versus strength building versus specific training) but microscopically, it’s all dictated by my schedule and where my legs are at. It takes some flexibility and a lot of faith, but it always works out in the end.

Week of 3/8/16: Goal of 45 miles with 2 workouts (continuous tempo and hill intervals)

Day Workout Focus Strength
Day 1  Regular Run Chest and Back
Day 2  Tempo Effort (continuous) Legs
Day 3  Recovery Run (on trails) Core
Day 4  Regular Run Biceps and Triceps
Day 5 Interval Work (30 second hill repeats) Legs
Day 6 Regular Run Yoga
Day 7 Long Run (90 to 120 minutes relaxed pace with strides after) Core

How do you approach your training cycles? Do you have a bigger picture and tweak it week to week or take things a week at a time and see how you feel as races approach?

What to Wear for Winter Running: Men’s Edition 2016

Let me brag about my friend Carl for a moment. Carl is the quintessential athlete and I’m pretty convinced he’d be successful at any sport he tried, but he claims to not be a “real runner.” Ignore the fact that he once ran a 1:35 half marathon off almost no training or that he regularly runs with me at any time of day. Anyway, since Carl really is up to run any time, he enthusiastically agreed to join me on some pre-surgery 3 am runs…if I helped him build a winter running wardrobe. Hailing from southern California and going to school in New Haven, his wardrobe leaves him wanting for the months of November through April. So for Carl and for everyone looking to run outside as much as possible as we start 2016, here’s the rundown of what you need to run outside comfortably. None of this is sponsored and all comes from years of running, skiing and living in Vermont.

Baselayer: What you put next to your skin matters. The better the baselayer, the fewer overall layers you’ll need to wear and the less you’ll resemble the kid in A Christmas Story.

Warm? Yes. Conducive to running? Notsomuch.

Warm? Yes. Conducive to running? Notsomuch.

Windbriefs: Do not underestimate the importance of these. Every single winter, one of my male athletes will forget theirs or insist they don’t need them and spend many miserable minutes doubled over in the snow after a race. If you buy one piece of winter gear, MAKE IT THESE. My pick? Craft makes amazing stuff and it’s worth the investment for these.

Midcalf Socks: Another rule of winter running is creating multiple ways to tuck in your clothing and thus keep wind, snow and slush out. In my opinion, you can’t beat Darn Tough for running socks. Yes, they are pricey upfront but they have a lifetime guarantee. Literally. I send back many pairs a year as they wear out and they send back brand new pairs within a week. Well worth the $18. For winter, the material of choice is wool or wool blend.

Top and Bottoms: You can spend an enormous amount of money on baselayer and if you’re going to be a professional downhill skier or spend days in the back country, that’s probably a good call. If you’re going to run for 45 minutes a few days a week, it’s overkill. I spend a ton of time outside coaching and love Hot Chillys Pepperskins for their high cost-to-effectiveness ratio. Note: if you are planning on wearing a looser pant, you should invest in a pair of bottoms. If you are planning on wearing running tights on the bottom, you are probably good with just a top baselayer.

Tops: This is where temperature, wind and precipitation starts to matter. If it’s sunny and 30, one of your summer running teeshirts plus a long sleeve shirt or your jacket will be plenty. If it’s an active snowstorm, windy and 15, you’ll need a baselayer plus long sleeve plus jacket. In general, if you’re warm when you walk outside, you’re overdressed. Aim to be comfortable by 10 minutes into your run and you’ll generally be happy.

Long Sleeve Top: You’re looking for a medium thickness top that is fitted but big enough to fit over a baselayer. My pick in this category is the Skechers Godri Seamless Half Zip. It has thumb holes so you can create a nice barrier between your gloves and your skin, has mesh on the back to vent you and has a half zip to dump heat if you overdress. The price is also extremely reasonable and conducive to stocking up on an item that you’ll likely wear the most in your closet. The half zip long sleeve is my most commonly worn winter item; when you find one you like, buy two so you can wash them once in a while.

Jacket: There are tons of jackets on the market but again, Craft takes the cake here. Will has this exact jacket and I’ve stolen it on a few occasions. It’s windproof without being stiff and water resistant. Be warned: this jacket is WARM. You won’t want it when it’s above about 25 so if you live somewhere a bit warmer, consider a vest instead of a jacket.

Bottoms: A bit of a personal choice for most men. I spend a lot of time with distance runners, so I’m used to men in tights but I know lots of men balk at the idea. Thankfully, they make great option in both loose and tight pants, so buy what you think you’ll be happy to wear. Again, it takes a little experimentation to find out what layers make you comfortable in given conditions.

Loose Pants: Unfortunately, the best men’s pants ever seem to have been discontinued. Thus, if you can find a pair of Brooks Spartan Pants in your size on a discount size, do it. They are so comfortable to run in and perfect warmth for 30 degrees with shorts or around zero with a baselayer. Sporthill SwiftPro and Saucony Boston are close in style to the Spartan.

Tights: The market for men’s tights is a little disappointing, as this is one area where they seem to just adjust women’s tights for men’s proportions. That being said, Saucony Drylete is a great all-around option for men with a zipper ankle (allows a nice tight fit around your socks, see above) and mesh behind the knees to shed heat as you go. I have the women’s equivalent of this tight and find them to be the best in terms of allowing natural movement.

Extras: Don’t be the dummy out running in your baseball cap with bare hands. Not only will you feel miserable, but your body will be wasting precious energy trying to keep your extremities warm rather than pumping oxygen to your muscles.

Hat/Headband: I actually prefer a headband because of the ear coverage but regardless of style, I’m totally and uttery sold on Skida.  They fit well, they are extremely warm and they hold their shape with as much washing as you want to do. Of note, the Alpine line is lined with fleece (my favorite) while the Nordic line is unlined.

Buff: I am more likely to wear a Skida neckwarmer on days when I’m doing a coaching/skiing hybrid but if I’m doing a workout on skis or on foot, I’m in a buff so I can manage my snot better. Sorry, but it’s true. Buffs are fantastic (but you should never borrow someone’s because of the snot issue) for giving you neck coverage, rolling up into a headband or stuffing in a pocket to cover changes in temperature.

Gloves: This is one place where I’m the wrong person to ask because I wear gloves when it’s 50 out, but these gloves are well loved by my team and my other running friends for “normal” hands.

So there you have it: the basics you’ll need to run outside all winter long. If you’re a winter runner, what brands and items do you love? Would you rather be a little cold or a little warm on a run?


How to Build a Runner’s Home Gym

With the New Year approaching, lots of people refocus on fitness and good health. For Will and I, one of the biggest keys to ongoing fitness is our modest home gym, the newest feature of which is a treadmill. Before we bought the treadmill, however, we had a fully functional home gym that cost us less than a month at a gym and was as convenient as walking down to the basement. With all the end of the year sales underway, now is a perfect time to start constructing your home gym AND set yourself up for a healthier 2016.

Functional, not fancy.

Functional, not fancy.

Space: We’re lucky to have a large basement where we can spread out. Our current set up is about 12 feet by 12 feet but if you have enough space to store the bench, you can condense into about 3 feet when you aren’t actively working out.

Equipment and Key Exercises: 

  • 16″ Step Up Box (optional: you can use your bench instead)
    • Step ups are one of the most effective exercises for runners. Start with either 30 seconds or 10 step ups and focus on tall posture and driving your knees.
  • Flat Bench
    • Tricep Dips
    • Seated Bicep Curls
    • Bench Press
    • Single Arm Row
    • Glute Raises
    • Plank Pushups
    • Bulgarian Split Squat
    • Adductor Thigh Lifts
  • Pull-up Bar 
    • Pull-up/Chin-ups
    • Hanging Pike-ups
  • Yoga Mat
    • All of the core, yoga and flexibility you can think up!
  • Speakers (gotta have tunes!)
  • Dumbbells (5, 10 and 15 pound pairs)
    • Unless you are extremely strong for a runner, these weights should allow you to do almost any exercise. Remember, higher reps, lower weight tend is more endurance focused while heavier weights, lower reps is more strength focused. You should include both over the course of a week.
  • Kettlebell (10 pounds)
    • This is a tool I didn’t entirely appreciate until I found some good kettlebell routines, but I find it irreplaceable for dynamic and rotational strength building. Check out half get ups, woodchopper and two arm swing to see what I mean!
  • Resistance Band
    • Monster walks
  • Foam Roller
  • Exercise Ball (you can use this as a bench for any exercise; added core work!)
    • Crunches
    • Reverse crunches
    • Forward tucks
    • Wall sits
    • Pushups
  • Balance Board

How To Build It Frugally!

  • Craigslist: Great source for things that don’t have joints like metal dumbbells or weight benches. Use caution with equipment like treadmills, exercise bikes or weight machines as they have cables and parts that can make them expensive (or dangerous) space wasters if broken.
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore: This store has been golden for us; our weight bench was $10 from here and when we got it, there were tons of others from a local gym that closed. You have to be a bit patient (and have a critical eye), but stores like this are a great place to pick up home gym staples at a low cost.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods or Similar: This is a place where you have to watch your prices, because you can pay a TON for basic items but their Hex Dumbbells are reasonably priced and durable.
  • TJ Maxx/Marshall’s: Much like their hidden wealth of exercise clothes, these stores often have great prices on yoga mats, resistance bands and exercise balls.
  • Your Local Gym or PT Clinic: Gyms and PT clinics generally like to have up to date equipment and replace their items more frequently than the recreational user. Although equipment like treadmills and bikes have a lot of use, they are also commercial quality to begin with and have almost certainly had appropriate maintenance. Similarly, the weights and other exercise equipment are top quality. Ask your club manager to let you know if they are planning on replacing equipment. (This also goes for hotels; worth a quick phone call)

Move That Ass

Since starting 3rd year, I’ve been living some great combination of standing, sitting and running all over the hospital in heels, clogs and on rare days sneakers. Thanks to this, my a** has been killing me since about March. Right on cue, another blogger friend sent me a great followup post about how to fix butt pain when all you do is sit. This applies to almost all of us, regardless of profession. In our culture, we sit. All the time.

Since getting his email and getting fed up with constant pain, I’ve been much more diligent about taking care of my rear. I get up when I sit for a few hours, try to use good posture when I have to stand (in the OR, on Rounds, in the ED etc) and stretch whenever appropriate, especially focusing on my hamstrings and hip flexors. It’s hard to stay on top of it but I’m much happier when I do.

How do you handle sitting all the time?

Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts

Let’s face it, the treadmill can be a little boring. Necessary evil in the middle of winter or heat of summer, but almost no one’s favorite place to run. That being said, the treadmill offers some great training opportunities that can also reduce “treadmill dread.” Because it’s a controlled environment, it can be a great place to practice a marathon pace or attempt a workout that you aren’t sure you’re totally ready for; after all, you can always tone down the pace if you find that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Here are my favorite treadmill workouts that don’t even require a towel thrown over the display:

1. The Progression Run. The ultimate boredom buster, this gives you a little workout stimulus and keeps you entertained. Warmup at your regular run pace then add .1 to your speed every minute for 15 minutes. Assuming you don’t do your regular runs incredibly slowly or your tempo runs fast (too fast, I might add), this should end you right around your tempo speed. Return to your regular run pace for 2 minutes and repeat 1 to 2 more times.

  • You can also do this as a pyramid; build for 15 and step back down by .1 for 15. This is a much harder version because you’re spending a lot more time at higher speeds but another great way to shove your fitness forward.

2. The Wave Run. Warmup at your regular run pace then begin sets of 1 minute at interval pace, 1 minute at cruise pace. Your cruise pace should be harder than your regular run pace but easier than marathon pace. I usually set my cruise pace about 30 seconds faster than my regular run. Repeat 1 hard, 1 cruise for 30 minutes. Although you get a “break” between hard segments, it’s much faster than you usually go and works on running fast on tired legs.

  • If you want to focus on endurance, you can swap to 2 minutes at interval, 1 minute at cruise. If you want to focus on speed, do 1 minute at R-pace (faster than interval) and 2 minutes at cruise.

3. Mount Von Gym. Warmup at your regular run pace then add 1.0 of incline every minute up to 10%. By the end, you should be working hard. If not, consider that your regular pace may be too slow! Recover for 4 minutes on flat then climb up to 10% again. Repeat up to two more times for a total of 40 minutes of climbing.

A note on treadmill effort: there are various schools of thought about what adjustments are needed for the treadmill to be “equivalent” to outdoors. I’m in the camp that finds treadmill running much harder than outdoors; the stagnate air really bothers my lungs and I feel that my effort is way above my pace most days. For other people, the treadmill is easier than outside. One commonly accepted strategy to compensate for the lack of wind resistance is to adjust your incline to 1.0. Another adjustment calculator is here if you need it. I don’t tend to use 1.0 when I’m doing more speed oriented stuff but I do for warmup/cooldown and for tempo oriented runs.

What treadmill workouts are your go-tos? How do you fight treadmill boredom?

20 Minute Leg Workout for Runners

This is my 20 minute, no BS leg workout that can be done at home or at the gym and hits the key muscle groups for building a strong drive train. Start with 8 to 10 reps of each exercise and 2 full sets. As you get stronger, add more reps in with an eventual goal of 20 reps per exercise. This is a little different from “traditional” weight training, where you usually top out around 12 before increasing weight. Endurance sports required a slightly different approach to lifting; because we primarily want muscle strength that helps us out when our bodies are exhausted, lifting for endurance tends to focus more on higher reps and lower weight. There are certainly times for lifting heavier weights (base building season, for example), but for in season strength training, stick to more reps and less weight.

One of the reasons I put videos** here (and WAY less than perfect videos) is to inject some reality into how hard it is to build real, functional strength. I’m not perfect at these exercises, they aren’t easy for me and it’s okay if they aren’t easy for you! #keepingitreal #nophonyrunningblogs

1. Single Leg Squat. It’s okay to hold onto something for balance here (I still do!) but your real focus is controlling your motion down and up and teaching your knee to track in the midline. Only go down as far as you can stay controlled.

2. Plie Squat.

3. Step-ups. Keep these to 10 reps and add an additional set once you feel fluid.

4. Plie Squat Jump. I don’t use weights for this because I like to use my arms to help get an explosive upward movement. Focus on landing lightly; if you are slamming into the ground, you’re missing a key part of the movement.

5. Donkey Kick.

6. Fire Hydrant.

7. Pendulum Squat.

8. Deadlift. You can do this with a straight bar or dumbbells. I usually use a straight bar at the gym, but don’t have one at home so use dumbbells at home. Focus on keeping your back flat (but not artificially straightened) and on driving hip bones up as you stand up.

9. Weighted Squat. If I’m at the gym, I use the Smith rack but at home, I rest the dumbbells on my shoulders for these. If you have a shoulder or rotator cuff injury, I’d recommend just using body weight instead. As with any squat, focus on keeping your knees midline and behind your big toe.

What other at-home exercises do you do? Hardest one of these for you?

**PS sorry the first two are sideways. It is just not my week for technology!

How To Run Through a Snowstorm

Our most recent storm has been more like March than December, featuring heavy wet snow and periodic showers of “ice pellets.” In short, it’s nasty out. The right gear makes all the difference, though, and we had a mostly enjoyable run through the snow and ice. The only thing I was missing was a pair of clear shade; the ice pellets were painful when they hit eyes!

Accurate facial expression for the weather.

Accurate facial expression for the weather.

My must-haves for snowstorm runs:

Skida Headband: Absolutely the best active headbands on the market. Vermont-made and worth checking out.

Brooks Nightlife II: Make sure plows see you!

Nathan Poptop Gloves with fully reflective top: Warm, water resistant and more visibility.

Saucony Omni Tight: The best winter tight I’ve ever owned; perfect for a single layer to 10 degrees.

Icebugs: If you live in snow country, invest in these. I ran outdoors throughout all of Ice-pocalyse last year without a single issue.