ATC 302: What it Takes To Shave an Hour Off a Marathon PR, Building Durability (For Fewer Injuries!), Achilles and Calf Maintenance You Need To Do, and More

January 3, 2020


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MAF Meetup!

Join us for a MAF run in Orange County, Calif! Tawnee is organizing a MAF run meet up at the Laguna Beach High School track on Jan. 11 at 8am PT. Get there a bit early, as we plan to start the MAF run on the track at 8. There is free parking on the street by the track entrance(s). We’ll do roughly a 2-3 mile warmup and 3-5 mile MAF run test. Depending on your ability you can run more or less, as needed. Plan on about an hour of running. We’re in it together and there’s ZERO pressure! Just come out and have fun in a group environment and learn more about MAF testing if you are new to it or if you’re a MAF veteran join some like-minded runners!


  • 8am PT
  • January 11, 2020
  • Laguna Beach High School Track
  • 625 Park Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Study mention:

Listening to Fast-Tempo Music Delays the Onset of Neuromuscular Fatigue“:

Background info:

  • The potential physiological mechanism(s) underlying the effect of music on performance may reside in altering perceptions of fatigue as well as changes in brain activity. It has been suggested that emotional responses to the music such as eliciting a unique memory may also contribute to the observed increase in performance. What remains unknown is the influence of fast-tempo music on neuromuscular fatigue.
  • EMG looks at muscle function. EMG amplitude is influenced by the number of activated motor units and their firing rates.
  • The electromyographic fatigue threshold (EMGFT) is the highest exercise intensity that an individual can maintain for an extended period without an increase in the EMG amplitude.

The study:

  • 10 college aged men, EMG on their rectus femurs (quad).
  • Did a single leg knee extension exercise at increasing watts until fatigue criteria met.
  • Intervention included songs at 137 to 160 beats per minutes – songs were instrumental of popular songs (Beat it, etc). Music was asynchronous to activity (knee extensions 70 bpm)

The findings:

  • Fast-tempo music increased the EMGFT compared with no music.
  • Subjects achieved a higher maximal power output when listening to music.
  • Fast-tempo music did not influence absolute or relative end-exercise heart rate.
  • Most studies looking at this show an increased performance (higher watts, etc), this was one of the first to show an increased time to neuromuscular fatigue (increase in exercise tolerance).


  • Changes in brain activity.
  • Listening to music, during exercise influences brain regions that result in attenuating internal cues related to fatigue.

Increased activity w/ music in these areas:

  • Temporal regions
  • Insular cortex
  • LIFG [left inferior frontal gyrus]

Robert W. asks:

Dropping an Hour Off A Current Marathon Best to Get A BQ

I am looking to run a BQ next fall and am looking for your recommendation on how to spend this winter, spring and summer.  The goal race is the Erie Marathon fall 2020. With that time frame, it seems remotely possible on paper to cut my 4:05 PR time as needed to hit the 3hr qualifying time. What would you recommend as a periodized plan for getting my speed and endurance up enough while I have this time at my disposal?


I quit smoking three years ago just before turning 30 and began running as a means to overcome the addiction. Needless to say, I’ve become hooked and ran my third full marathon this fall.  I’ve logged a lot of races most at 10miles or more with a lot of Half marathons as training races. I’ve been self-trained, using Garmin training plans with a mix of MAF and mostly following the 80/20 model and daily 2milers with the dog(I don’t push him faster than 10min pace, so I don’t treat these as “quality” runs since I’m way under MAF).  So, just a mix-mash of everything.


This fall (2019) I ran the Akron Marathon and was pleased to PR 4:05:38 (previous PR in 2017 on  this course at 4:23). I felt stronger than in previous years leading up running between 4 and 5 days a week following a Garmin intermediate marathon training plan averaging 30-40miles per week. I only got one20miler before a 3 week taper, but raced four half marathons as my “long runs” over the course of a month before taper.  The issue I ran into during the race was a bit of a left knee niggle around 23miles. It caused me pain and I needed to walk a bit until about the last mile.

Since the race, I took some down time and recovery until my knee reliably wasn’t sore. Recovery was light running with the dog, but the second my knee showed pain, it became a walk.

Recently, I began a strength and maintenance routine. This includes a bunch of kettlebell work focusing on squats, lunges, and swings. I tend to do these while watching tv instead of sitting, I’ve been doing sets of 15 each about once an hour while tv’s on.

I’m doing a bit of treadmill work for interval speed work working on faster turnover and holding higher speeds longer.


My goal is to keep and improve my current fitness over the winter by increasing strength training as I  begin and focusing on intervals.

I do a lot of treadmill work over the winter, but I should get out more for outdoor speed work. I have access to an indoor track (13.5 laps= 1mi) and would love your suggestion on how best to use this asset.

There is a spring Cleveland Marathon I can run as a check-in in May ‘20. A 16-week Garmin plan tends to give me enough time to gain speed and endurance so I will engage that in the spring.

Do I run MAF this winter getting my 9:00 MAF pace down closer to goal race pace?

Do I do box jumps and squats till I throw up?

Do I have enough time?  I can dedicate as much time as needed as workouts usually start at 5am before work.


My nutrition is pretty solid, lots of whole foods and lean proteins like Salmon and Cod and turkey.

I’m working towards becoming fat adapted, and seem to be largely successful. I was running Most of my half’s last fall without needing fuel.  I used Justin’s almond butter packs during the marathon, and appreciated your recent discussion of other fat adapted alternatives.

I cross-train on the bike 1-2 days a week, usually on a trainer getting as many miles in zone 2 as I can in an hour.  I’ve been doing at least a mile run off the bike for the last two weeks. Would adding bike sprint and intervals here benefit my run as well?  I’m not a triathlete, because I don’t know how to swim beyond survival water treading. Masters swim lessons are on my to do list in the next couple years.

Currently I’m 33, 5’10, 165lbs and recently dropped 5 pounds in the last month while building muscle (12.7 %body fat). Do I need to try and lose more so I’m hauling less around the course?  Still a little excess mid-section.

Sorry for the shotgun blast of questions. I appreciate the time you took to read this, and any advice you are willing to provide.

I wanted, finally, to thank you for putting this podcast out regularly and packing it with solid information. I’ve learned so much and feel fortunate to have you guys to Sherpa me through my endurance infancy.

What the Coaches say:

  • Stop doing box jumps and squats; these won’t make you faster and will likely take away from your run volume.
  • Endurance matters more than speed.
  • Increase volume; don’t limit yourself to 30-40 miles per week.
  • Build the number of 20-mile runs you do in training.
  • Can you do one mile at 6:50 pace? If not, you might want to do a mile focus first to make sure speed isn’t the limiting factor.
  • Try to get up to 8-10 runs per week. You have an extreme goal, so your training is going to have to be extreme.
  • Consider loosening your goal timeline. Why the emphasis on one year? Maybe this would be better as a 2-3 year goal. You’re certainly not a failure if it takes you longer to reach the goal.
  • Durability and motivation are key factors here.
  • Polarized training could be a very helpful approach that complements MAF while still building speed.
  • Consider slowly moving toward zero-drop shoes.

Tonie G. asks:

How to prep for race-pace intensity when injury prone?

Hello everyone

I am a big fan of the show, especially ATC!

I love the down to earth approach or you both.

I have a question:

I am a 45 year old man from Holland (Europe) and I have a 25 year running background with a reasonably good level (33 minutes on 10 km)

In the last 10 years I have been struggling with injuries and have started cycling and the running volume has fallen sharply.

Nevertheless if im fit I can run for 35-36 minutes on the 10 km.

 During a triathlon / duathlon I run for about 40 minutes on the 10 km

The problem I am struggling with is that I can’t run much of the year because of injuries, especially achilles tendon and ankle injuries. Every time I am building up again and I add some intensity, the symptoms start again.

If I only do the MAF method I have no problems. (MAF pace is approximately  7.30 min / mile)

Now I am in training again for the national championships duathlon in May 2020 long distance (10-60-10 km) and a half ironman in June 2020.

I can imagine that I need intensity to run faster, but the risk of injuries is increasing and I have become afraid of intensity.

What is the best way to train with the knowledge that I am very sensitive to injuries when intensity is added?

Here is some data:

  • 188 cm long

  • 77 kg

  • Run 3 times a week 40 km, longest distance 20 km all MAF pace and 1 recovery run 10 beats under MAF

  • Bike 5 hours a week in 3 sessions, incl. 1 long ride or 3 hours, 2 rides or 1 hour with intervals (vo2, sweetspot, sprints)

  • Swim 2.5 hours a week in 2 session, 1 focuses on technique and 1 on long distance

What the Coaches say:

  • Lucho recommends a professional assessment of your foot plant to help select an appropriate shoe.
  • Get a pair of minimalist shoes and wear them casually.
  • Do some achilles tendon strength work–isometric stuff like calf drops, plus jump rope (build into it slowly) and single leg balances.
  • No speedwork for a while, at least until strength is built up.
  • Check your cadence. Is it low?
  • The soleus has a lot of implications for power and pronation. If it’s super tight or has adhesions then make sure you’re doing maintenance body work (Graston scraping is very effective, as is trigger point therapy that you can do at home).
    • You don’t necessarily need to go a professional. You can do this yourself every day for 10 minutes.
    • Don’t go straight to the point of pain. Work around the area.
    • Check out this video to see how.
  • Spending more time barefoot could help with your proprioception and help reduce injury.
  • Posterior tibialis is also relevant here.
    • Dorsal flexion against resistance band can strengthen that area.
  • Don’t rest when you have a tendon injury!
    • Do calf drops and isometric calf holds instead.
    • Concentric calf raises should be avoided.

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