Workout Wednesday – What Goes Up …

Workout Wednesday – What Goes Up …

I know how much you love hills! Pushing yourself up the hill to build that strength and endurance that only a hill workout can give you is FUN! In reality, you are sweating profusely and cursing Coach Jeremy. Trust me, I feel your pain.

But have you ever done the work in reverse? No, not running backward, although I may try that for next week’s Workout Wednesday. I’m talking about running down the hill instead of up. Downhill workouts usually get overlooked because it seems too easy. Just cruise down the hill, right? Wrong.

If you have ever run the Baltimore Marathon or the Boston Marathon, you know that the first half of each starts downhill. You fly down those hills with reckless abandon thinking how easy the second half will be. Then “BAM!” you start to feel your quads burning as you get to mile 16. By mile 20, you are toast. Calves cramping, hamstrings tingling. Why? You probably did not work on your downhill running to help your quads and calves adapt to the stress of running a decline.

Your body’s natural reaction to running down a hill is to lean back toward the hill and use your heels as a brake. Your stride also elongates because gravity is helping you cover more distance in each stride. This change in your stride creates a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. To avoid this, try to tighten up your stride and take quicker, choppier steps down the hill. Lean forward from the hips and keep your body’s center of mass over your feet as best as possible, not behind. Remain in 100% control of your body and your running form. Don’t let the pull of gravity helping you down the hill cause you to get sloppy form. Control the chaos and focus on your form to minimize the chance of injury.

Hills, whether uphill or downhill, are sometimes where races are made or broken.

A downhill workout you can try to learn how to fall in control:

  • 1-2 mile warm up to the top of a decent hill. Not a crazy drop in elevation, but a gradual, steady decline.
  • Run hard, but under control, down the hill for 30 seconds. Walk or jog back to the top. Take advantage of this recovery time.
  • Repeat this 6-10 times. If you work this into your normal routine, add a rep each time you do it.
  • Finish with a 1-2 mile cool down.

Just think of that burning sensation in your quads the first time you do this workout as a hug from the hill. You two have become such good friends recently! Admit it. You love hills!

Workout Wednesday – A fartlek by any other name …

Workout Wednesday – A fartlek by any other name …

As you know by now, “fartlek” is one of my favorite vocabulary words. Several of the athletes I am currently training for upcoming marathons have seen a lot of this word recently on their workout calendars. As I was thinking about and planning their upcoming workouts, I remembered a challenging workout that Calum Neff shared with me a while back. If you don’t know, Cal is the World Record Holder for the fastest marathon while pushing a stroller. The dude is fast.

So here it is, in his words.

“My favorite workout has been the Moneghetti Fartlek: 2 x 90 seconds, 4 x 60 seconds, 4 x 30 seconds, 4 x 15 seconds; all with equal but fast recovery in between. The first rep usually starts out around 5k pace and gets faster from there. It’s a great workout because it only takes 20 minutes total, hits on a ton of paces and energy systems. I think my best has been to cover 6,100 meters, that’s 5:17 per mile average INCLUDING the recoveries.”

Wow. Here is how I would prescribe the workout to my athletes:

Easy 2 mile warmup
2 x (90sec HARD, 90 sec REST)
4 x (60 sec HARD, 60 sec REST)
4 x (30 sec HARD, 30 sec REST)
4 x (15 sec HARD, 15 sec REST)
Easy 1-2 mile cooldown

For the HARD sections, progressively pick up your pace, starting around a 5k effort, until the last one is your best effort. For the REST come to a walking pace or jogging pace to gather your self for the next rep. Stop if you need to between reps. You can perform this workout on a track or on the road. The hillier the terrain, the harder the workout of course. So choose wisely, or just hit the hills and be a badass.

This workout makes you work hard, with a short period of rest in between. A lot of bang for your buck in this workout. It’s quick; you will build speed endurance and you will also be challenged to keep an efficient running form in order to hold those hard efforts. If your form gets sloppy, your times will not be as good. Once you have done this workout several times, you can compare to see if you have made improvements.

Good luck getting down to a 5:17 overall pace, but you never know (let us know if you do so we can recognize your badass-ery).

Want to impress someone? If anyone asks you what you are doing, you can tell them “Just the Moneghetti Fartlek.” They will nod and say, “Oh, yeah, the Moneghetti Fartlek, I love that one!” Then, they will most likely go straight to Google to find out what the hell a “Mona-whatever” fartlek is.

The workout is named after an Australian runner, Steve Moneghetti, by the way. More info and his bio here in case you get called out.

So get out there and kick it like Running Dad Cal! Post your distance and pace in the comments below.

Workout Wednesday – Jump Rope Fun!

Workout Wednesday – Jump Rope Fun!

This week’s Workout Wednesday is a full body plyometric workout that can help with your overall conditioning, coordination and cadence. You will need a jump rope and a towel (I was sweating like a pig after this one). I purchased my jump ropes from, but any rope will do.

I like to add jumping rope as a form of cross training into my routine for several reasons. Jumping rope helps me stay on my toes, be light on my feet, build calf strength and increase the elasticity of the Achilles. The fast cadence of the rope also helps to improve stride turnover by training the lower legs to decrease ground contact time—a major component of speed. In addition, your upper body muscles get a workout as well as your abs since you must maintain good posture.

This is a good workout to do on your rest day when you are having that “I need to run, but coach said to take a break” moment.

A couple tips:

  • Be springy! Your heels should not touch the ground or should touch very softly.
  • Jumps should be very soft and rhythmic. Focus on quality and not quantity. Instead of 100 jumps at once, you can break down into 5 sets of 20.

Below is a workout I did recently. It took me around 16-20 minutes to complete. You can vary this workout to meet your own preferences. My workout consisted of 5 sets of 100 jumps with an exercise in between to create a circuit-type full-body workout. Some days I do sets of 200 jumps or switch to a heavy rope.

100 Jumps
20 Burpees
100 Jumps
20 Lunges (10 each side)
100 Jumps
20 Push ups
100 Jumps
20 Air Squats
100 Jumps
20 Burpees

Feel free to change the number of repetitions and adjust the exercises to suit your fitness level. Get creative! Put your variations in the comments and maybe I can learn from you!

Here is a video of my workout. The whole family, even the dog, joined in.

Please pay attention to your form on any exercises you do. Our form is not perfect and should not be taken for an example of the right way to perform the exercises.

Workout Wednesday – Cadence

Workout Wednesday – Cadence

A runner’s cadence is the number of strides in a minute. Having a quicker cadence can help to improve running form and prevent injury.

Shorter, lighter, quicker strides aid in preventing over-striding and encourage a mid-foot strike. Over-striding can lead to injury. You are more likely to hit the ground with your heel, which adds more impact to your joints. Having your body weight over your foot when it hits the ground, not behind it, will utilize your legs as shock absorbers instead of focusing blunt force on your legs and body. Shoe padding can only do so much.

A quicker cadence will also help you tackle hills; both the ups and the downs. Shorter strides on the up slope help conserve energy. On the decline, they keep you from reaching too far forward with your feet and using your heels as a breaking mechanism. Trust me, your quads will thank you.

Think “quiet” – you want to be as light on your feet as possible and if your feet are going slap, slap, slap, you are sending that force up through your whole body.

To figure out your cadence, count the number of times your right foot hits the ground in a minute. Then multiply that by two. That will give you the number of strides per minute.

An ideal cadence for most runners is 170 – 190 strides per minute. A lot of the elite runners have a cadence of over 200 strides per minute. I try and stay in the 180 range. When I focus on cadence in my tempo runs, I see improvements in my race times and overall conditioning.

If you listen to music while you run, pick something with a fast beat. There are even stations on internet radio or iTunes that have mixes specifically for runners that tell you the beats per minute.

What does a cadence of 180 steps per minute sound like? Listen below:

Want some music suggestions with 180 beats per minute? Click here

I’m a counter. I get a pattern going with steps and breaths. 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe … It’s a great way to quiet some of those voices in your head during a run or race.
“Man, it’s hot.”
“4 more miles?”
“Why am I doing this?”
“I gotta poop.”
“1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe …”

Like any new exercise, it should be added gradually into your routine. For this Workout Wednesday, do a mile or two warmup to reach a comfortable pace, then use the counting method described above. Come back here or to facebook and share your cadence.

After you have established your baseline cadence, you can start working on improving it. Start adding longer periods of time at an elevated cadence until it feels effortless. It is interesting to see how your cadence changes over time.

And you never know when your coach will call you out on it …

Workout Wednesday – Strides

Workout Wednesday – Strides

This Workout Wednesday isn’t necessarily a workout, per se, but an addition you can make to any run to change it up a bit. By simply adding a few “strides” in, you work on both your aerobic threshold and anaerobic power. Some people call them “striders” or “pick ups”. We’ll go with strides. Those other people are wrong.

What is a stride? A stride is a short duration of increased effort. It is not an all-out sprint, but rather a hard effort where you are in control and maintaining proper running mechanics. I usually do strides for 10 to 20 seconds, spaced out during an easy run. The easy running builds your aerobic capacity, which is the ability to use the energy in your muscles provided by the oxygenation of your blood. At an easy pace, those energy stores last longer and can continually build as your body adapts. When you go into an anaerobic state, you have used those stores up and muscles look for different fuel sources ,which leads to fatigue. By switching between the two, even for a short while, you are training your body to increase it’s aerobic capacity.

Enough science talk, let’s take a look at a sample workout.

EZ6 w/4 strides, 10 sec each.

For this run, it would be an easy pace, meaning you should still be able to talk comfortably. During the 6 miles, do a 10 second hard effort, then drop your speed back to an easy effort. Over time you will see your “easy pace” start to get faster and faster.

The other cool thing is when you look back at your run data, it will have your average pace and then your maximum pace. Those brief seconds of running in the sub 5 or 6 minute range are enough to make you feel pretty badass.

Workout Wendesday Photo Contest

Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!

Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RUNaissance Mom and I are challenging you during the month of May.
Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!

(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!

1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.