Monday, August 29, 2011

National Run@Work Day!


On September 16, 2011, the Road Runners Club of America will promote the 6th Annual RUN@WORK Day nationwide. Company-based wellness programs, human resources departments, running clubs, running events, running shoe stores, and individuals nationwide are encouraged to plan fun runs and walks around the country with their employers.

The goal of RUN@WORK Day, presented by the Road Runners Club of America, is to encourage adults to get 30-minutes of exercise each day, in accordance with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, either before work, during lunch, or immediately following work.

RUN@WORK Day also encourages companies to help employees schedule time for physical activity. Incorporating exercise into one’s daily routine can markedly improve one’s overall physical health.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates that 64% of US adults are either overweight (33%) or obese (31%), meaning they have an excess weight of 30 lbs or more. The causes of overweight and obesity can be complex. However simply put, overweight and obesity results from an energy
imbalance. Eating more calories and not getting enough exercise or physical activity results in the engery imbalance that causes obesity. The rise of overweight and obesity and the resulting health conditions has a dramatic effect on health insurance costs around the US. It is estimated that overweight and obesity health related medical costs have reached an all time high of $75.8 billion per year (
So, check in with your work's human resources department and/or wellness coordinator and see if they'll support you in spreading the word about National Run@Work Day. No wellness coordinator at your place of work? Then talk it up with your fellow colleagues and gather a group together. Who may turn into a weekly or daily gathering. What a great thing that would be!

Share information about RUN@WORK Day events you are planning in your community by posting information on the  RUN@WORK Day Facebook page..

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The RunnerDudes Do Battle at Battle!

I try really hard to keep RunnerDude's Blog and RunnerDude's Fitness separate. From time to time, I'll mention my running and coaching business and today is one of those times that I'm beaming with so much pride that I just have to share.

Saturday, 20 of my runners participated in the Battle of the Triad Half Marathon and 5K in Kernersville, NC. This is a great race put on by our awesome local running store Off'n Running Sports. Eleven of the runners are from my current half and full marathon training program at RunnerDude's Fitness and the other nine runners are from my fitness walking and beginning running corporate programs over at Volvo Financial and Volvo Trucks. Nine of my half and full marathon trainees won or placed in their age group and six of the Volvo runners won or placed in their age group in the 5K. For most of the Volvo runners it was their very first 5K!

My half and full marathon trainees were under RunnerDude orders not to run the half any faster than their marathon race pace (my goal to keep injuries at bay, plus give them a chance to do a pretty long distance at their marathon race pace giving their bodies a chance to get acclimated to their race paces). So, no telling what they would have done if they had ramped it up to their half-marathon race paces.

Pictured above are my half and full marathon trainees who participated in Battle, many of them holding their hard-earned age division awards. So, proud of you guys!!!

If you're in the Greensboro area, I'd love to have you join us in some race training! Also, if you work at Volvo Financial or Volvo Trucks in Greensboro, our next Fitness Walking, Beginning Running, and Intermediate Running groups begin on September 12th! Email me at if you're interested in joining one of the groups.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

7 Training Tips for Your First Half Marathon

So, you've run a 5K, maybe even a 10K, and now you’re ready for something more challenging like a half marathon. Good for you! The half marathon is a great distance. It’s long enough to feel challenged, but not so long that training for it completely consumes your life.

Below are a 7 good training tips for your first half marathon. 

1.  Build a base. One mistake new runners often make when paring for a half-marathon is thinking that the 12- or 14-week plan takes you from the couch to the finish line. All half-marathon training plans that range in length from 10, 14 or 16 weeks assume that you’ve already built a weekly mileage base of at least 15-20 miles. Your longest run should also be at least 5 miles. Anything less than this weekly mileage or longest run mileage will overwhelm your body’s ability to acclimate. If you have a solid base under your feet, then when you start your training, you’ll only be acclimating to the demands of the training workouts. If you have a weak base coming into the training, then you’ll actually be asking your body to build that base while at the same time as acclimating to the new training demands. That’s overtraining or an injury just waiting to happen. 

2.  Pick a plan. Twelve weeks is a common length of many half-marathon training plans, however do a Google search and you’ll find plans that range from 10 to 16 weeks. I prefer to use a longer plan (14 weeks) with my runners. The extra weeks allow for a little wiggle room if a runner gets sick or has slight set back or injury.  If this is your first half-marathon, I strongly recommend a plan longer than 10 weeks. This will give you more time to acclimate to the training demands.

Not only do the plans vary in length, they also vary in content (the types of workouts, weekly mileage, and the number of times you run each week). Study the various plans carefully before picking one. First, find one that meshes well with your work and family schedule. If the plan has you running every day and you know that’s not going to happen, then that plan is not for you. Second, find a plan that matches your running fitness level. If the first long run in the plan is 8 miles and your current longest run is 4, select a different plan. Often plans are labeled for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced or Experienced, but even then, read through the plan carefully and make sure it fits your current running fitness level. 

3.  Think quality over quantity. Running lots of miles each week is one way to prepare for a half-marathon, but lots of miles can increase our chance of injury. I have my new half-marathon runners run four times a week. Two of these runs are what I call quality runs and two are base maintenance runs. The quality runs consist of a mid-week tempo run and a weekend long run.

The types of tempo runs vary, but basically they begin and end with a 1-mile warm-up /cool-down and the in between miles are run at a pace about 30 seconds slower than 5K pace. The Tempo portion is an uncomfortable pace. This helps your body increase VO2Max (your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen at the muscle layer to make energy) as well as push out your lactate threshold (that point at which you feel that burning sensation in your legs). Increasing VO2Max and pushing out your lactate threshold helps make you a more efficient runner as well as help fight off fatigue longer. A tempo run can range from 4 to 8 miles, and the types of tempos can vary.

Three good tempo workouts include: the traditional tempo (described earlier), race-pace tempo and tempo intervals. Race pace tempos are very similar to the traditional tempo, but instead of running 30 seconds slower than your 5K pace, you pull it down a notch to your half-marathon race pace.  This is a great workout for giving your body a chance to experience what it feels like to run at race pace. Saving your race-pace tempos for the longer 6, 7, or 8-mile tempo runs works well.  Tempo intervals begin and end with the 1-mile warm-up/cool-down, but the in between miles are broken into 5-mintue fast/5-minute slow intervals. The fast interval (fartlek) is run about 20 seconds slower than 5K race pace and the slow interval is run at your slow easy long-run pace. This teaches your body to learn how to speed up and/or slow down when needed during the race. Here are more specifics on these tempo workouts.

The long run is just that…long. This run should be run at a pace that’s about 1-minute slower than race pace. That’s hard to do sometimes, but by pulling back, you help your body build endurance without wearing it down. To help curb the urge to run faster as well as teach your body that you can pull out some speed at the end of the race, I have my runners up the last 1 to 2 miles of the long run to race pace or slightly faster. Most half-marathon training plans will take the runner up to 12 or 13 miles. There’s no need to do a run longer than 13 for a half.

The two weekly base maintenance runs are short runs (4 to 5 miles). These are designed to keep the weekly base miles going and to help keep the runner limber between the quality workouts. These runs are also run at a slower pace (45 seconds to 1-minute slower than race pace).

To read the rest of my tips (4-7) go to

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heart Rate Training: Is It For Me?

In my experience with runners, there seems to be two camps. Those who religiously use heart rate monitors and those who don't have a clue what they are. I think there can be a happy medium.

Heart rate monitors come in all shapes and sizes. Cheap and expensive. Most of the newer models look like a wrist watch that also includes a chest strap. In most cases the chest strap monitors your heart rate and sends a signal to the wrist watch component which provides a reading. Some models don't have the chest strap and are able to read your pulse from the wrist. In either case, both do a pretty good job of monitoring your heart rate.

So what does your heart rate have to do with running? Well, anytime you exercise or basically just move around in general, your heart will work a little harder or a whole lot harder depending on the intensity of the activity to keep up with the demand of oxygenated blood needed to produce energy in the muscle. As a runner, heart rate training involves knowing your maximum heart rate, your resting heart rate, and the various training intensity zones for the various types of workouts you'll be doing.

The key to accurately using heart rate as a training method is determining your maximum heart rate. Here lies the problem. Many of the standard methods for determining maximum heart rate are not very accurate. The most common method for determining your age-predicted maximum heart rate (MHR or APMHR )and target heart rate (THR) training zones is the Karvonen Method.

Karvonen Formula

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) = 220 - age
Heart Rate Reserve (HRH) = MHR - resting heart rate (RHR)
Target Heart Rate (THR) = (HRR x exercise intensity) + RHR

Looks complicated, but it's not too hard to use. For example, if a 40-year-old wants to calculate his target heart rate zone for a regular long run (65%-70% of your MHR), he'd do the following:
1. MHR= 220-40 = 180 beats per minute
2. RHR = 60 beats per minute (best to get this first thing when you wake up)
3. HRR = 180 - 60 = 120 beats/min
4. Low End of Target Heart Rate zone
    = (HRR x % of Training Intensity) + RHR
    = (120 x 65%) + 60
    = 138 beats/min
5. High End of Target Heart Rate zone
    = (HRR x % of Training Intensity) + RHR
    = (120 x 70%) + 60
    = 144 beats/min

So on an easy long run, this 40-year-old runner would want to keep his heart rate within 138 and 144 beats/min.

The intensity percentage varies depending on the type of workout. Runner's World describes the various training zone intensities as follows:

Easy Run (recovery zone)
Pace: One to two minutes slower than marathon pace
% Max heart rate: 65 to 70%
Perceived Effort: 3 to 4/easy
Talk Test: Complete conversation 

Training Run (aerobic zone)
Pace: Marathon pace or slightly slower
% Max heart rate: 75 to 85%
Perceived Effort: 5 to 6/moderate
Talk Test: Full sentences 

Tempo Run (threshold zone)
Pace: 20 to 30 seconds slower than 5-K pace
% Max heart rate: 88 to 92%
Perceived Effort: 7 to 8/hard
Talk Test: A few words at a time 

Intervals (VO2 max zone)
Pace: Mile to 5-K pace or faster
% Max heart rate: 95 to 100%
Perceived Effort: 9/very hard
Talk Test: Can'

The problem with the Karvonen Method is that it doesn't factor in sex. No, not whether you had any the night before, but whether you're male or female. LOL! Anywho.... sports scientists have worked on the formula to help account for differences between the sexes and have come up with  the following: 

Male = 214 - (0.8 x age)
Female = 209 - (0.9 x age)

Once you find your age-predicted maximum heart rate by your gender, then you simply plug that number into the rest of the Karvonen formula to find your heart rate training zones.

But alas, even with the gender modifications to the formula, it's still not 100% accurate for everyone. To really find your accurate Max Heart Rate, you'd need to go to a sports science lab under a controlled setting for safety reasons. That can be expensive, so most opt for one of the formulas above and rely on a heart rate monitor to keep track of heart rate.

I personally am more of a "run by feel" kind of guy. That's what I like about Runner's World's break down of the training zones above. It also includes the perceived effort scale of 1-10 as well as the talk test. I tell my runners all the time that if they can carry on a multi-word sentence conversation during a tempo run, then they're not running hard enough. Also, I already wear two motivation wrist bands, a sports watch, a runner's necklace my kids gave me, and my Garmin GPS. The thought of something else on my wrist and a strap on my chest is just too much to bare. But to each his/her own.

Heart rate monitors are great tools for checking in with your training progress. If you have medical conditions that warrant keeping track of your heart rate, heart rate monitors can be invaluable. If you're healthy, however, just try not to depend on them 100% of the time. Learn to read your body tech-free too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

7 Ways Runners Can Avoid Overtraining

Feeling the burn after a workout is a great sign that you've done your job. That burn is a result of pushing your body past what it's used to. Challenging yourself toward harder, more intense workouts over a period of time is called progressive overload. Progressive overload trains your body to adapt to the new conditions being put upon it.

The key, however, is making sure that along with the progressive overload you are also giving your body time to recover. Ever notice how most marathon training plans have you run a 20-miler followed by a day of rest and a shorter "long run" the following week? Or the plan may have you increase your long run mileage a little each week up to a certain point and then drop off and build back up again. That's progressive overload or stress adaptation. Build up. Back off a little. Build up. Back off a little. Overloading the body and then giving it a chance to recover, adapt, and heal before placing more stress upon it, is a great way to train.

New runners and seasoned runners both can get caught up in the excitement of training. Before they know it, they've peaked, burned themselves out (physically and/or mentally) or worse, suffered an injury before race day. Below are some good tips to follow to get the most out of your training without overtraining.

1. Follow the 90 percent rule. When doing quality workouts (hill repeats, tempo runs, intervals, long runs), push yourself, but always leave something left in the tank. Think about pushing yourself up to about 90 percent of your maximum effort, but never give push it to maximum effort. After finishing a quality workout, you should feel tired. You should feel like you've worked hard, but you should also feel like, "Hmmm, I could have done a little more." This should be a good feeling, not something to beat yourself up about. Knowing that you've worked hard (close to maximum effort), but not crawling away from the workout and needing three days to recover will greatly benefit you in the long run. Doing every quality workout at maximum effort is an injury waiting to happen. Just knowing that you have that "extra" in you can really help you beat mental and physical fatigue later in a race.

2. Enjoy the easy runs. Almost every training plan includes easy runs each week. These runs are usually designed to keep your base mileage going and to help keep you limber in between quality workouts. Problem is many runners blast through the easy weekly runs as if they were quality workouts. If every run is a hard run, you greatly increase your chances of injury, peaking early, or mentally burning out. Also, running your weekly easy runs at maximum effort can put a damper on your weekly quality workouts and so they're not benefiting you as much as they should.

3. Respect your REST days. Forget the idea that rest is only for the weak. Rest is equally as important as that weekly tempo run or long run. Your body needs time to rebuild the muscle tissue that's broken down with each workout. If you never let your body rest, your fitness level can begin to decline affecting all of your runs, easy and/or quality. No rest is basically a fast forward to overtraining and injury.

[Click Here] to read tips 4-7 at 

Monday, August 1, 2011

And the Winners are...

Congratulations to Kristen Bowles and Jessica Grammer, the winners of the $50 gift cards! Thanks to all that entered the contest and thanks to all who have supported and continue to support RunnerDude's Blog! Don't forget to check out RunnerDude's Blog on The 100 Top Running Sites and Website Top List!