Category Archives: training tips

How to Build a Run Training Plan

When it comes to building a run training plan, one size does not fit all.

What works for one of my clients may not work for another.

This is why I always like to take care of all the minor details because, to me, details are very important and they are what sets my plans apart from the generic training plans.

Although a more generic training plan is designed when I do small group training, I still give people the option to make minor adjustments to it in order to best accommodate individuals’ needs.

When designing a training plan, below are the things that are important to take into consideration:

1. Current Fitness Level: this determines the difficulty of the plan. It has to be both challenging and manageable at the same time. Therefore, I can’t tell a beginner (who hasn’t completed their first 10k) to start out with doing 30km long runs.

2. Schedule: how many times a week you can realistically commit to running given your current obligations such as: work, family, social life, etc.

3. Time before your target race: Ideally, the more time you have before a race, the more elaborate your training plan will be. You will also be able to spend more time on each of the following: aerobic base development, strength training/hill training, and speedwork while still incorporating recovery weeks into your schedule. The more time you have to train, the more likely you are to reach your goal and do so uninjured because you are allowing for a more gradual build-up to race day.

4. Injuries (current and past): If you have dealt with injuries, you must proceed with caution which often means setting a different type of a goal (such as finish the race without re-injuring yourself) and implement other training into your program (to stay strong and to defend your body from injuries). If you are clear to run, give yourself plenty of time before you begin training for your target race so that you don’t run the risk of re-injury. See my previous post on how to prevent running injuries  before you proceed with a training plan.

5. Other training you do. This will affect the amount of days in any given week you can dedicate to running. Although other training is encouraged, it’s very important that it’s complementary to running. As I found out in 2013, it’s not very fun to train for a fitness competition and a marathon at the same time because they both require different types of training (although I still managed to survive). However, If you strength train (specifically for running, rather than for bulking up) or bike or cross country ski, for example, then your running will be complemented by that training.

6. Goal: your running plan will be tailored specifically to your goal and it’s very important that you set a realistic goal based on your schedule, time before your target race and current fitness level.

Once you have established where you stand with the above, it will be a lot easier to design a plan that works for you and your life (which is why I refuse to just copy and paste training plans and send them out to clients).

Every training plan has the basic elements or phases. Every good coach will be able to answer the main question, which is “why” we do what we do when we do it. Every workout has a purpose and that purpose must be known.

Below are some basic rules that should be considered when building a run training plan:

1. You can’t build a pyramid without a base. A pyramid without a base will fall over. Aerobic conditioning is the foundation that allows you to handle the hills and the speedwork that will come later in your plan. Without it, your plan is just an upside-down pyramid. We have to teach our bodies how to use oxygen efficiently in order to achieve peak performance.


Above: This is what the ideal Lydiard Peak performance pyramid looks like. I even got it from the material that was given to me when I took the Lydiard coaching certification course. Note that it calls for 24 weeks to peak performance. Given that we don’t have 24 weeks all the time, the aerobic conditioning phase can last between 4-16 weeks. The Hill Training phase lasts between 2-8 weeks and the anaerobic development stage (aka interval training) lasts between 2-6 weeks. Then, you are at the coordination/integration stage where you are well-developed aerobically and anaerobically so you can combine the previous phases. Finally, you taper leading up to race day (taper lasts between 1-3 weeks), in order to feel recovered before your race.

2. It’s response-regulated. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you feel and how your body is responding to the training. If you are suffering physically and mentally as a result of the plan, then the plan is not right for you and changes must be made. On the other hand, if you are finding the plan is too easy and you’re not being challenged by it at all, then your plan also needs some adjustments.

3. Don’t do 2 hard workouts in a row. Never schedule back-to-back hard interval and hill sessions. Those types of sessions take about 48 hours to recover from and you should not overdo them. Doing more interval sessions throughout the week will not necessarily make you faster and could lead to disaster (if you burn yourself out).

4. Increase your weekly mileage gradually. Going from 30km a week to 100km a week is like asking for injuries. Your weekly mileage increase should not exceed much more than 10% compared to the previous week.

5. Sequential development. The training plan must be followed in the correct order. First, you start with increasing volume at low intensity to develop aerobic fitness and then you do higher intensity but lower volume when you get into hill and interval training. The order is as follows: aerobic conditioning, then hill training, then speed training and then taper.

 6. Understanding what your body is telling you. You must learn to distinguish between good sore vs. injury pain. You must also learn to recognise the difference between tired from training vs. overtired from overtraining.

7. The majority of the long runs in your aerobic phase should be easy. Don’t try to hammer out a long run at your desired race pace. You should be able to maintain a conversation during your easy run.

8. Don’t spend more than 20% of your training time in the Red Zone in any given week. After all, 80% of all your weekly volume should be done in the Green Zone (aka aerobic) or slower. This means that you should be able to pass the “talk test” for about 80% of your training week.

9. Pay attention to the total distance of the fast portion of your interval workouts. If you are training for a marathon, the sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 7km. If you are training for 5 or 10k, then the total sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 5k.

10. The run training schedule is a guideline. At the end of the day, nothing is ever set in stone and “it depends” is the answer to almost everything. The most important thing is understanding the principles rather than just blindly filling in some numbers and hoping it will work.

11. Don’t overdo it on the workouts in the 2 weeks leading up to race day. This is where you gradually decrease the workload, also known as taper. It will allow you to feel recovered going into race day rather than burnt out.

Please note that there is so much more that goes into building a running plan than what I’m able to cover in this post. If you have something to add or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

11 Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

Running injury prevention is one of the most important things that I like to cover early on whenever I coach running clinics or take on new clients. Chances are, if you run, you have been injured before. If you have been injured before, you know injuries are not fun.

Injuries take all the joy out of running. So what are some things you can do to prevent them?

1.Understand your injury threshold, which is different for everyone.

You have to avoid the “terrible toos”, which are: too much, too soon, too fast. Some people can get hurt running 15 miles per week, while others can run 150 miles a week before they experience any issues.

I have worked with people of all levels of injury threshold and have successfully helped them reach their goals through progressive approach to increasing their weekly mileage.

If you’re in doubt, then I recommend doing less because sometimes “less is more”. The safest way to build up your training volume is to not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.

2. Build your base first.

There is a reason why I don’t shove hills and intervals down people’s throats when they first start training with me. Your body needs some time to adjust to your new training schedule and that’s why I tell people to spend the first 4-8 weeks (depending on the total length of your training plan) to do easy runs.

Building your base will prepare your muscles and joints for the hills, drills and speedwork thrills in your future. Think of your training plan like a pyramid. With a strong and wide base, it’s less likely to fall apart.

3. Don’t do two hard workouts in a row.

Your body needs about 48 hours to recover after a hard interval or hill workout. If you do a hard workout, then you should do an easy workout for the next two days (or even take a rest day if it was very hard).

If you do too many hard workouts in a row, you will not recover as fast and are more likely to get injured. The body needs time to adapt to the stresses of a hard workout and to recover.

4. Avoid Over-striding.

Over-striding can increase your chances of injury because it often causes you to land heavily on your heel and puts a lot of pressure on your joints. If you are over-striding and landing on your forefoot, that causes a lot of pressure on your calves and Achilles tendon. Therefore, regardless of which part of the foot you are landing on, over-striding is not good for you.

In addition to putting pressure on your joints, it also reduces your running efficiency by causing a breaking action with every step. This prevents you from smoothly moving forward.

With that in mind, work on shortening your stride and increasing your cadence. Aim for a cadence of about 160-180 strides per minute. Land with your foot directly underneath or slightly behind your hips, rather than in front of you. This will help you run with less effort and less impact on your joints because you will be able to land softer.


Above: Running Cobble Hill 10k 2016 and I’m noticing that my foot is touching right under my hip (possibly even slightly behind it). I’m also leaning slightly forward. When I looked at the cadence I also noticed that my average cadence was 176 strides per minute. I was happy with that.

5. Strength train to balance your body.

Runners who just run all the time end up getting injured because of the repetitive nature of running. It’s important to keep your core, glutes and back strong if you want to continue improving as a runner and avoid potential setbacks. It’s also important to balance out your quads and hamstrings.

You are far less likely to get injured when you have balance around your hip, knee and ankle joints. In running, some muscles are overused and some are not used enough, which is why strength training is an important part of every running program. By “strength training” I don’t mean that you need to lift as heavy as you can or do curls for the girls all the time. What I mean is functional movement that increases core stability, glute strength, back strength, and balance.

Contrary to popular belief, strength training will not make you too bulky to run fast. In fact, it will make you lean, toned and serve as a defence against injuries. In order to get “bulky” from strength training, you’d have to do something completely different from what I have the runners doing. As far as I know, no one accidentally developed a body-building physique.


Above: Core exercise using the bosu ball.

6. Listen to your body.

If something hurts in a bad way, take 3 days off. Then, try an easy jog to see if you still feel the bad pain. If you don’t feel any bad pain, then you may resume your training program. If the pain is still there, take another 3 days off. If you don’t feel it after that, you may continue training. If it still hurts after 6 days off, then you should see a physiotherapist.

7. Run on an even surface.

If you are consistently running on a slanted road or sidewalk the same way, then you will develop leg length discrepancy because one foot will hit lower on the slope than the other. This can cause hip and knee injuries because your pelvis is no longer stable combined with the impact of running. If one hip is higher than the other, your likelihood of injury increases.

You should also avoid constantly going the same way on the track when doing intervals. Continuously going around the curve of the track causes a similar effect.

8. Don’t forget to stretch.

There is a correlation between tight calves and Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis. Additionally, there is a link between hamstring and hip flexor tightness and hip and knee injuries.

If you sit at a desk all day, it’s very important that you pay attention to hip flexor tightness. Because of where the hip flexors attach (the vertebrae of the lower back), tight hip flexors can correlate with lower back pain.

Also, you should take care of your IT band to make sure it’s not too tight, or else you will experience pain on the outer side of the knee.

9. Cross train.

There are several ways to cross train to maintain your fitness, including: swimming, stationary bike, outdoor cycling, Nordic Track, elliptical trainer, and the rowing machine.

10. Get proper shoes.

If there is one thing I know, it’s the importance of proper running shoes. Although shoes can’t cure injuries, proper shoes can help prevent them. Every foot is different so it’s very important to get fitted for shoes by an expert. If a shoe salesperson tells you that “Shoe X” is perfect for you, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They have to be able to tell you why they believe that it’s the best shoe for you.

If you’re a pronator that wears shoes designed for someone who is a supinator, can you see where the problem is? It’s amplifying the problem you already have making you even more susceptible to injuries.

11. Foam rolling and massages.

They both help decrease muscle tightness. When muscles have their full range of motion, they are much happier and healthier. Don’t forget to foam roll your IT band (it really hurts the first time you try it).

I hope that you found this information helpful. Please share with all your running friends so we can help each other prevent running injuries.


Top 10 Running Articles of The Month: October 2015

Every month I highlight the Top 10 Running Articles that I come across. They focus on topics like injury prevention, race tactics, training tips as well as inspiring stories.

1.Why Can’t I Run Faster?  by Runner’s World. This article discusses all the different sensations we experience while running that keep up from maintaining a fast pace. It also talks about the importance of understanding what goes on in our brains when we run. Why do we feel like stopping? Why do our legs feel so heavy? I’m quite impressed by answers to these and other questions.

2.  Exercise Tips: Circuit Training by Canadian Running Magazine. Personally, I love circuit training. This article covers a few awesome moves that you can use when you build your own exercise circuit. It’s a challenging, yet effective workout that alleviates boredom. It can be done any time anywhere.

3.  The Science of Running by Canadian Running Magazine. This article is very interesting as it covers topics such as whether or not running is bad for your knees, the difference between road and treadmill running, interval training and the benefits of strength training for runners.

4. Over the Hills by Canadian Running Magazine. Consistent and progressive hill training will help you become a better and stronger runner. You don’t have to kill yourself on the hills in order to reap the benefits.

5. The Ups and Downs by Canadian Running Magazine. This article talks about proper techniques for running up and down hills.

6. Running on the Road by Canadian Running Magazine. Just because you have a busy travel schedule, doesn’t mean that you should skip your run. You can stay on track even if your work requires you to travel a lot.

7. Over the Hills: 5 Hill Workouts to Make You Stronger and Faster by Canadian Running Magazine. Ideally, it’s good to have a variety of hill workouts in your training program. Examples include: short/power hills, medium/pace hills, long/endurance hills, acceleration hills and downhill running. Every type of hill workout will help you improve as a runner and this article does a great job at explaining each of them. It’s almost like an “add-on” to #4.

8. Marathon Training and Weight Loss by Canadian Running Magazine. Many people choose to take up a marathon training program in order to lose weight. However, research has shown that people who choose to train for a  marathon in order to lose weight are less likely to complete their marathon program. Part of the reason is that there are other factors that contribute to weight loss and a marathon program alone is not always enough. Therefore, it’s very important to train for a marathon for the sake of training for a marathon rather than looking at it as a way to simply lose weight.

9. Training Tips: Hot-Weather Hydration Planning by Canadian Running Magazine. Proper hydration is very important. Dehydration negatively impacts your performance. Over-hydration is dangerous. The key is finding the right amount of hydration to maintain your electrolyte balance.

10. First Steps: No Excuses by Canadian Running Magazine. This article is inspirational in the sense that it’s real. It’s written by a real person who knows how to relate to others. A lot of times, we come up with reasons not to run, especially when it’s cold, rainy, snowy, icy out and when we are tired. We need to find motivation from within.

Understanding Overtraining

People sometimes get so caught up in “training hard” that they ignore all the warning signs of overtraining.

Truthfully, “invisible training”, also known as “recovery” is a vital component of your fitness journey.

It literally is the thing that will make or break you, when all other things are kept constant.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard. Of course you should.

What I’m saying is that there is a point where training more and harder will not help you reach your goals faster. There is a point where training more and harder will lead you to injuries and misery.

The good news is, your body is very good at giving you signals before you truly experience the negative effects of overtraining, if you know what to look for.

So, how do you know if you’re overtraining?

You’re tired all the time. If you’re eating properly, staying hydrated and sleeping enough, there is no reason you should feel tired all the time. Chances are, you’ve probably been training too much, too often and your body is craving a few rest days.

Your heart rate is consistently higher than normal. If you’ve been tracking your resting heart rate (in the morning) and notice that it has been 10+ BPM higher than before, chances are you’re fatigued from the cumulative effects of your workouts. Add a recovery week to your training schedule where you do easier workouts or even take a few more rest days than you normally would.

Your weight. A sudden drop in weight can be a sign of dehydration, which compromises recovery. Dehydrated blood makes your heart work harder to move it. A sudden increase in weight can be caused by sleep deprivation because lack of sleep affects glucose and fat utilization in your body.

Your sleep pattern analysis. How many hours do you consistently sleep? Ideally, you want to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep increases cortisol levels (stress hormone). Having too much cortisol in your system is not good for training nor performance. The number of hours you sleep before midnight is very important.

You feel an injury coming on. If you’re training hard for a long time and then you feel unusual aches and pains, which are different from “workout soreness”, then it’s time to back off for a bit.

 You’re easily irritable. When you’re over tired, you’re more likely to be moody and irritable. Therefore, it’s time for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the more common signs that you are overtraining.

Take a look at your training log and be honest with yourself: Have you been pushing your limits too far for too long?

If “yes” and you’re experiencing the above, then it’s time to add recovery to your schedule. If you have not been training that hard and you’re still experiencing the symptoms, you should see a doctor because they could be signs of an underlying health problem.

Top 10 Running Articles of the Month: August 2015

If you are looking for some inspiration and running tips, check out this list of articles I read and liked during the month of August. I LOVE to promote other running writers 🙂

How to Set Good Running Goals. Meb Keflezighi tells Runner’s World the 5 step plan to reach any goal. It all starts with an internal desire to do so. YOU must want to achieve the goal only for yourself and not to please anyone else. Then, it must be specific, challenging and realistic. In addition, it must keep you motivated to keep working towards it.

The Big 7 Body Breakdowns. This article discusses some of the most common injuries that many runners deal with. Not only that, it also discusses ways to prevent these injuries and recover from them. Keep in mind though, that what works for one person may not work for another and that this article only offers general guidelines. It does not, however, replace physiotherapy.

Train Your Brain to Run Your Best by Michelle Hamilton. Many times, runners psych themselves out of personal bests because they are unable to silence their own inner critic. This article explains how just doing the work is not quite enough to see the results. We have to train our brain the same way we train our body.

Should I Start a Running Streak?  by Canadian Running Magazine. There are definitely some advantages to being a streak runner, because you never skip a run and you run every day. However, recovery is a big part of becoming a better runner. Running every single day can cause overuse injuries and is definitely not for everyone, especially if you are just starting it.

Training Tips: See a Specialist for Expert Advice by Canadian Running Magazine. Whether you think you are getting injured or you need some extra motivation, find an expert to help you. Strictly relying on information from websites and magazines is not enough.

Dylan Wykes Shares his Tips on Surviving a Stress Fracture by Canadian Running Magazine. Dylan Wykes is a Canadian Olympian with a sub 2:11 personal best in the marathon. Although he hasn’t had too many injuries, he has had a stress fracture before. With that in mind, Dylan shared some tips on how he survived it in order to come back stronger and faster than before.

Injury Prevention-When to Run and When to Rest by Dan Way at Canadian Running Magazine. This article helps runners of all levels decipher when to take a couple of days off and when to continue training. It’s very difficult for some runners to take rest days, but rest days are very important. Recovery days help prevent overtraining, chronic fatigue and injuries which can cause serious setbacks down the road.

Test Your Flexibility by Canadian Running Magazine. Mobility and proper range of motion around the joints are very important for preventing running injuries. This article is very easy to understand and find out how flexible you are.

Tibial Stress Injuries by Canadian Running Magazine. Shin pain should not be ignored because it could be a sign of a more serious issue. Tibial stress injuries are common amongst runners and quite often runners are in denial that they have a problem. It’s very important to understand the cause of shin pain and get it taken care of before it causes you to take several weeks off running.

Lies Beginner Runners Need to Stop Believing by Canadian Running Magazine. There are always preconceived myths about running, such as “you always need to go fast” and that “if you run slow then you’re not a real runner”. Who cares if you are not a morning person or a sub 18 min 5k runner? What you need to do is stop believing all the BS that you hear about running and start actually enjoying your running.

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