ATC 279: Winter Motivation, 5k Focus For A Marathon Boost, A Quad-numdrum, and More

February 1, 2019


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Meagan says:

Motivation Thoughts

First of all, big fan of the podcast. I was listening to a couple of the recent episodes and the topic of motivation came up. I have been thinking about this a lot recently because one of my friends made a resolution to run a half marathon in May and has asked me for a lot of tips because I’ve been running (mostly for fun but a few marathons) for a long time. The main thing she struggles with, as far as I can tell, is motivation. At this point, she’s about 50/50 for completing her long run for the week. Not because she thinks the distances are too long for her current level of fitness, but because she has trouble motivating herself to get out of the door. As you can imagine, as your typical type A runner, I find this to be extremely frustrating and hard to understand, as I’ve never experienced this problem myself. Why would set yourself this goal when it seems like you don’t really like running??

Then I came across a book written by Gretchen Rubin called The Four Tendencies. In it she explains there are 2 types of expectations: internal (the ones you put on yourself) and external (the ones other people put on you). There are 4 combinations of ways you can meet or not meet those 2 types of expectations. Upholders have no problem meeting both internal and external expectations. If someone tells them to wake up and run 18 miles one day, they do it just as consistently as if they just decided to do that themselves. Questioners meet internal expectations but only meet external expectations if they’re consistent with internal expectations. Obligers can’t meet internal expectations but they do meet external expectations. And rebels have trouble meeting either type of expectation.

My friend is a classic obliger. And after I finished reading about what motivates an obliger, I recognized similarities between her and my aunt, who is an Ironman triathlete. Obligers do best when they have some sort of training group (external expectation) that keeps them accountable to their goals. My aunt has ALWAYS trained as part of a group (whereas I’m more of a solo runner), and it has worked really well for her. I suggested to my friend that she join a running group at least for her long runs and she has been much more consistent with them since then.

Of course, a tendency doesn’t explain away plain laziness (that, I absolutely have no sympathy for), but I think understanding someone’s tendency makes understanding how they’ll react to something like a goal or a resolution or even a training plan much easier. Anyway, I found reading about all of this stuff really interesting and thought as coaches you might find it valuable.

Gretchen Rubin has a (free) quiz that you can take to find out your tendency if you’re interested. She has also been on a number of podcasts (the one I found most helpful was probably Rich Roll’s interview)

Mark asks:

MAF Regression

Hello again – I thought I’d follow up on this question I asked last year because it’s not going well and I can’t put my finger on it.

So I scrapped my HM training plan in late July of last year and started doing all my runs below my MAF HR of 144.  At the beginning, my average easy run paces were in the 10 min/mi range, but Sept/Oct they were around 11, then by Nov/Dec around 12, and now I’m into January and it’s almost around 13 min/mi because I’m having to do a lot of run/walk.  I’m running a lot fewer miles each week then I was in the summer for several reasons, but mainly because it’s such a bummer to slog around that slow.

What I can’t understand is that during this time, not really much of my life situations have changed – other than now it’s winter and I live in Fargo (so it’s really cold and snowy).  Otherwise, my nutrition, sleep, stress, family, work and other factors are nearly unchanged. But despite all of this, it seems like I’m losing fitness instead of gaining it.  I’m trying to figure out if maybe my paces just keep slowing down because I was just overtrained and had “false” fitness, and now that I’m only doing MAF I’m just regressing back to where my actual aerobic fitness really is?  I mean, just 8 months ago I did manage to run a 4-hour marathon. Not great, I admit, but still would think that puts my fitness better than slogging around at 13 minutes/mile.

So I thought I would see what your thoughts were because I’m getting really close to scrapping the HR monitor and just getting after it.  I’m tired of jogging around and clearly, something is not going right.

The coaches say…

  • You are NOT losing fitness! Don’t equate pace per mile with fitness/health. Lucho suspects you are way fitter and healthier now than a year ago.
  • Tawnee points out that your body has been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past 2 years losing 50lb through keto and IF, plus a 4-hour marathon, plus life. All of these factors are likely catching up with you right now.
    • Beware of dropping the hammer on yourself because you’re not where you want to be. Don’t apply unnecessary discipline in training or any other aspect of life. Be gentle with yourself.
    • Find a medical professional to do your bloodwork or use a service like InsideTracker to get a better sense of what’s going on on the inside. Beware of pushing keto too hard if your adrenals are shot.
  • Keep the HR monitor and learn to adjust your RPE scale. Stick with it until you see your MAF pace come back down. It will!!!
  • Perhaps consider running on the treadmill during the winter. Winters are HARD.

Chad asks:


I look forward to this show and typically devour it immediately. I’ve been listening since 2012 and love it. Thanks for keeping it going! I get to laugh and be inspired for 90 minutes every two weeks.

I’m 50, been running on and off for the last 8 years. My body has been broken much of that time from overuse, or too much too soon. I tend to jump in and do whether or not I should. I’ve been working on building strength and endurance.  I am capable of and have jumped into ultras, R2R2R, some random adventures or whatever else seems like fun at the time.

Now I want to go into an event properly trained and not half-ass it. I excel at half-assing. But even undertrained and broken, I still do “okay”. But I want more. I want to do well.

I signed up for the San Francisco 50/50 Endurance Run on May 18th. 50 miles and 9,890 ft of gain and equal loss. I don’t fear the distance or the elevation, though I know it would be a grind and simply a “just to finish” situation if I did it in my current state.  I have a history of calf issues which I’m addressing. I used to not feel the downhills in my quads because I absorbed everything with my calves, but that was crippling. Now that I have been correcting this, my quads are taking the brunt of the downhill which to me is a sign that things are shifting to normal, though they are not conditioned as much as I’d like.

I know if I want to be good at hills, I need to run more hills.  So, I am. But to train my quads for endurance, do I need to pound downhills? Should I build quads of steel with gym time? Should I do one legged box jumps until I can no longer stand? We don’t need to talk about leg extensions because, well, obvi…

At my disposal, I have a 40lbs weight vest, dumbbells, TRX, access to treadmill and trails. If it matters, all my work is done in Altras.

I have 4 kids ages 1 to 15, the typical day job, a loving wife and not a ton of time. I squeeze in what I can. I have 7 to 8 hours to run per week and can slip in 3 or 4 x 30 to 60-minute strength sessions if I do them at home.

On a side note, I want to get a bike trainer or an exercise bike to help in building my aerobic base but I don’t have much to spend. Can I get cheap and still get something decent? We’re talking less than $200.

The coaches say…

  • Look at Craigslist or thrift stores for a bike trainer. An exercise bike would be ideal for your situation working out at home.
  • Eliminate the weight vest for downhill running. It’s not worth it; there’s just too much stress on your knees and joints. It also alters your gait in weird ways.
  • Avoid stressful eccentric exercises like depth drops. Lunges and squat jumps without weight are good. Another workout to consider, which combines aerobic fitness with strength, would be to bike (on the trainer) for 10 min in zone 1/2 then hop off and do wall sits to failure or Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, then hop back on the bike for 10 min in zone 3. Repeat.
  • You don’t need more than 3 strength sessions a week (that’ll help you with time as well); only 1 heavy leg session a week.
  • Continue to push the downhills on your runs. You will continue adapting!
    • Use hill repeats on a short hill if you don’t have access to a long hill.
    • Use quad soreness as your guide. Don’t do a long downhill run if you have quad DOMS.
  • Try getting some barefoot running in on your shorter runs. From a mechanical standpoint, this might benefit your stabilizing muscles and proprioception.

Bob asks:

Half Marathon to Prep for 2:40:00 Full Marathon PR?

A HUGE THANK YOU for helping me achieve my PR goal this past November. Sorry, this is a few months late, but I did want to let you know that you provided the confidence I needed to get me past my mental block to achieve a level I didn’t know I was prepared for, or, capable of.

You answered my questions back on episode 254…I had recently targeted a 2:50:00 Marathon goal/PR, but imploded on miles 21-26.  You imparted your wisdom by addressing key workouts, nutrition, and most importantly, the mental side of things. I read the book “Endure,” by Alex Hutchinson, and listened to Lucho say that I was a “2:50 guy, I guarantee it” on repeat…until, well, I believed it.

My prior marathon PR was 2:58:53 (aforementioned total implosion race November 2017)…and with your help, I crushed this November’s Marathon…2:47:01.  And I didn’t implode or have to crawl across the finish…I just grabbed a banana and headed back to my car so I could catch my daughter’s XC meet. It was a surreal experience…which leads me to believe, I could have given more.

I’d love to get your thoughts on preparing for a November 2019, 2:40:00 goal.

I followed JD’s 2Q 60m/week template for last years race and it did the job.  At 18 weeks long, that puts me starting in July. Just kicking off the new year, I have time to be more creative and specific in my training.

Would I benefit from preparing for a half marathon the first weekend of May?  That gives me roughly 16 weeks to prep for the half, and then 9 weeks to build back my mileage before starting the 18-week marathon plan.  I’m thinking that a half marathon plan would get me some more strength and speed to aid in my marathon goal, but not sure if I need to bother?

If you would recommend I take on a half marathon, would you follow JD’s half marathon template?  Should I target a specific time, a 1:15:00 – 1:18:00…What Vdot should I utilize…the target for the half or a more ambitious marathon Vdot…60-61?  OR, if you would not recommend I target a half-marathon, what type of periodization should I utilize to prepare me for the November 9, 2019 marathon goal of 2:40:00?

The coaches say…

  • Lucho prefers 24-30 week marathon plan over 18 weeks.
  • Your VDOT is YOUR VDOT 😉
  • In that 16 week period you might consider focusing on a 5K instead of 1/2 marathon.
    • 13.1 can put you in the dangerous “grey zone.”
    • Lucho recommends a creative half marathon training plan… finish with a half marathon but train with a 5K flair
    • Most important, in that 16 week period focus on what you’re weakest at. Reference your VDOT.
  • Refer to your old training logs and look for red flags. Those are things you have to improve.

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