Tag Archives: coaching

Form Drills

FormDrills

Form drills are a great way to keep your form in check and keep you healthy. You can make the time to workout, make the time to keep injuries at bay. There is a great list of drills and how tos here: http://trackstarusa.com/best-running-form-drills/ and here: http://www.byrn.org/gtips/rundrill.htm

The Most Forgotten Season

When I started running, I ran three seasons: cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. For much of the year, one season bled into another. Outdoor started as soon as indoor ended, and cross country ended after indoor started. I remember trying to convince our coach to let us take a week off, but we never did. We kept running, from August to the beginning of June. Sure there were periods of higher intensity, higher volume miles, but time off didn’t really exist.

Often times I’ll hear someone speaking of burn out. Of pushing too hard for too long and not being able to go any more. (Geoff Roes is a perfect example.) Most of the time, for the purely recreational runner, true burn out isn’t something we’re faced with, but there will be races that we fail miserably. We’ll look back at the miles we’ve put up for a year or two, the miles and hours we’ve logged and we won’t be able to figure out what the hiccup is about, and more often than not, we can’t figure it out.

The difference: The Off-Season. In high school and college, there is a sort of built in off-season. When outdoor track was over, school was essentially over and the summer began. We were supposed to run, and we did from time to time, but it came in floes, and more often than not, our attentions were turned to other thigns: frisbee, soccer, hiking, camping. What we didn’t realize at that time was that the summer provided a much needed off-season. It was a time when our bodies could take a break from the grinding workouts. Our muscles could relax and do something different. Even our minds needed it.

Unfortunately, as an adult, the world is a little different. There is no built in off-season to go relax and play frisbee for three hours with your friends, or take a week and go hike a bunch of mountains. Life brings with it many obligations, and it seems like many runners forget about the obligation to themselves to take time away. We go from one race to the next, one plan to the next. Fall races lead into a Christmas or New Years races, and before we know it we’re training for our first spring race.

It’s also important to understand that “off-season” doesn’t simply mean “go sit on your couch, eat cheese balls, drink beer, and watch the game on the TV.” That would be detrimental. Instead use the off-season to work on different aspects of your running. Cut down on volume, and lower the intensity of your workouts. Do 75% of your miles slower than your easy pace. Go out of your way not to push. Keep your muscles loose and in shape, but don’t kill them, let them recover. Do some form drills, do some mini-circuits. But force yourself to go easy.

Every runner needs an off-season. Some more frequently than others, but the key to a long and healthy running career is in those easy off-season miles. I promise.

The Common Thread to Running Success

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store without a list while you’re, you know how crazy and chaotic it can be. In the store you’ll be going up and down each aisle, carefully looking at everything on the shelves, running a mental checklist of sorts. Some aisles, you might even have to come back to. And when you come home you will immediately realize you forgot to buy laundry detergent, or now you have three quarts of yogurt instead of just two. You’ll end up buying junk you don’t need, but looked yummy on the shelf. If you really want to be efficient and get the most out of your trip to the market so you’re not wasting time and gas to make another trip just a couple of days later, you’ll probably make a list.

So is it a list that can help make us succesful runners? Sort of, not exactly. I’m willing to guess that 99% of the time any given runner will have a given goal. It could be a race goal, a mileage goal, whatever kind of goal. We runners set these little carrots out to help give us motivation while at the same time directing our efforts. So while our goals may not be the same, we all have them.

The trick is to know what goals are really important, which ones can be missed without too much worry, and how to set them realistically. Individually, it can be difficult to have the foresight to recognize and set longterm goals: yearly mileage, a 5-year marathon time goal, a rehab goal. We can think about them, and we may even set them, but working towards them can get lost in the shuffle and the completion of immediate goals that at the time seem much more rewarding. Having a third-party work through goals can help steer an athlete in the right direction and keep things on track. To the runner, it might seem more important to run their first sub-4 marathon despite running through injury. A good coach would see it in a different light and instead focus in on a 5-year goal of a sub-3:30 marathon.

Further, it is important to set realistic goals while at the same time, not setting goals that are sub-par. When I set out to make goals for a given race or a week or month of training, I give three different goals: an ‘A’ goal, a ‘B’ goal, and a ‘C’ goal. A ‘C’ goal is pretty low-end. It’s kind of a safety net. Not everyday goes according to plan, and sometimes, they go abysmally awful. A ‘C’ goal is one that would most likely be achieved even on one of your awful days. It allows an athlete to look back at their race, week, month, year, and come away with some sense of accomplishment. A ‘B’ goal is the most realistic goal. It takes into account little hiccups during training and race day. It leaves some room for error, it is achievable but still requires 100% of your effort. Finally, an ‘A’ goal is one of those goals that you can achieve, but don’t expect them to happen all the time. We all have breakout races, but not every race can be a breakout. ‘A’ goals require all systems healthy and working together, plus a little bit of luck.

It is important – and this is why having a third-party involved – that goals are achievable, but not too easy. If we set our goals too high, even our ‘C’ goals, get ready for some disappointment. Too much disappointment and it becomes all too easy to lose sight of what’s important and suddenly running has lost its joy. It’s also important not to set our goals too low. In part because constantly achieving your goals can also get boring, but because if we don’t fully challenge ourselves, we won’t fully succeed.

Goals can be anything. They don’t always have to revolve around time or miles. They can be measured by time, or heart rate, injuries, types of workouts. Maybe it’s devoting one workout a week to hills. Or forcing yourself onto the track once a month. All athletes are different and all of our goals will be different. The important part is to set them, and make them realistic while at the same time challenging ourselves. So get out your log book, and jot down some of your goals. Make a list and keep it handy; work with your coach and have them help keep you accountable.

Asking Questions

Whether you are a self coached athlete or an athlete that is working with a coach who is customizing your training plan leading up to your next big race it all begins with asking a series of questions. Much like composing an essay you have to define certain aspects of your training before you begin or you will most likely find yourself way off track somewhere along the lines.

Even if I have been working with an athlete for a period of time before writing a new plan for them I take the time to sit down with them and ask them several key questions to help define the training and racing seasons. First I ask them their goals, basically what do you want to achieve as a result of training this season? Some might list new pr’s or achieving a top 10 performance at a key race. We then discuss training times and where key races land in the season and how to train to maximize results on that particular day.

This kind of leads into the next question, where do you see yourself and your running in the next 1 year, the next 3 years and the next 5 years.  This is hard for more people than you might think, developing a 5 year plan is a lot to ask especially when injuries and life obligations tend to spring up and set you back a few months at a time. But at the same time it is important to lay out these long term ambitions so that from day to day and month to month you have an idea of where you are headed. This plan can be revisited often so that if an injury does set you back you can readjust, or if you achieve something sooner than expected you can set new goals to pull you further forward.

If I have a new runner I might ask them to define themselves and who they are. This might sound like a hokey kinda thing but it is interesting to see how people label themselves. It also helps to see what people value in themselves and in their lives. For example if I were to answer that question and I said I am a runner who enjoys running 5k’s and 10k’s you get a sense that I value running and I enjoy shorter distance races that are faster paced. If I said I am a teacher who enjoys going for a run after work as stress relief, it paints a new picture. Finally if I were to say I am a committed runner who dabbles in triathlon and wants to complete my first Ironman as a coach I might see that as a clue that this individual might need to work on their swim and bike in order to complete that Ironman triathlon. It is all about reading into peoples answers.

So far we have touched on many of the basics, who, what, where and when. The why is incredibly hard to answer and I have watched it stump a great number of athletes. Why do you run? Why do you want to finish an Ironman? Why do you want to run 100 miles? Even as a seasoned athlete sometimes I find it hard to answer the why question myself, and often the dialogue goes as follows.

  • Why do you run?-It is fun and I enjoy competition
  • Why do you find it fun and why do you enjoy competition?-It is good stress relief and I like the process of training and seeing how fast I can get and to see my improvements.
  • Why do you want to be fast?- Because I love crushing mile after mile and that feeling of satisfaction at the end of a race, and I want to finally break through that 16:00 barrier that I missed in high school by 3 seconds.
  • Why do you think you missed by only 3 seconds? Because sub 16 seemed like a big deal and deep down I thought that was for super fast people.

Now I know that this athlete probably needs to do some mental training to go along  with his physical training simply by asking why again and again.

The how portion of all of this comes down to the coach and the plan. How do we achieve those goals laid out in the interview process. Not every plan works and fits well with every individual. For example you might have a friend who ran a marathon pr with a certain plan. So you follow the same plan and actually run slower. why is this? well each person has a unique muscle structure and system that adapts to stresses differently.

Also blindly laying out a training plan for 24 weeks isn’t always the best plan. The best advice I think I ever got was to write your plan in pencil. This way if something comes up you can adjust. Or if you are having a killer mile repeat workout and you tack on 3 x mile extra you can, and also if you are having the worst workout of your life (we all know it happens) you can cut it off and readjust. Adapt your training plan to you and how your body is coping with the training regiment.

These are simple little ideas and practices that can be used by a self coached athlete and most certainly should be used by a coach. Coaching is all about problem solving, the athlete wants to achieve a certain level and the coach has to problem solve to get them there and without all of the information the trip can be a lot longer and harder than if you took the time to ask a few simple questions.

Good luck this racing season, check out or coaching packages and start working toward your next big pr today.

Coaching Options

Something of a repost (it’s a page on the top bar now), but figured I’d make it a post as well.

In an attempt to accommodate the many different needs and wants of athletes, we have devised a number of different levels. The levels do not pertain to the seriousness of Dead Skunk Racing or the athlete, but rather to the amount of involvment from DSR coaches. We believe we have covered most options; however, if there is a different manner in which you feel we could better suit your needs, please do not hesitate to email us: deadskunkracing2011@gmail.com.

Coaching at levels one and two offer eighteen week training plans, while three and four give you a twenty-four week option. Level five and six offer monthly plans with level six offerning in person contact. At level three, athletes are offered Dead Skunk Racing singlets, and at level four athletes gain access to discounts from our sponsors. You can also purchase DSR swag in our DSR store.

Level One
Level one is an eighteen week written plan. We will write you a customized plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be (as much as is feasible) on race day. Use this plan if you want a training plan to get in great race shape but don’t want the commitment of a coach or want to answer only to yourself. $50

Level 2
Level two is also an eighteen week training plan but you we will talk with you and modify your plan at four week intervals – 4, 8, 12, 16. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for what it is to train with the aid of a coach and to further improve your training and bring it to the next level. $170

Level 3
Level three moves from an eighteen week plan to a twenty-four week plan. We will also provide contact bi-weekly. It is a great plan to get you geared up for your first marathon or if you are working towards achieving a new goal at a key race. Level three atheletes will also receive a DSR racing singlet. $200

Level 4
Coaching at level four is also a twenty-four week plan, but athletes have have weekly contact with DSR coaches via phone, text and e-mail. Athletes will also receive a DSR racing singlet and DSR hat from HeadSweats. You will also recieve a 10% discount on all orders from our sponsors – including SKORA Running, Orange Mud, and Skout Organic. $270

Level 5
Level five coaching breaks things down into monthly periods. You will have constant contact with DSR coaches via phone, text and e-mail. We will work with you to develop and adjust your training to fit your schedule and whatever else life throws at you. This is a great plan if you have long range goals that you are willing to work towards, but need the guidance of a committed coach. You will receive a DSR racing singlet, and hat as well as the same sponsor discounts found in our level four coaching package. $50/month

Level 6
While level six is not for everyone, we are here to offer you in person training and discussion. Rates are on a monthly basis, but one of our DSR coaches can watch your race or work with you once a month during a training session so that you can maximise your time training and make your training more personable. $75/month

The Running Log

An old school notebook version.
An old school notebook version.

Running in high school and college, I never kept a log. I had allowed coaches to lay out and dictate a plan for me. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, and I had no idea why not. For the most part the importance of a running log was lost on me. And it wasn’t until I started running again that I realized the folly in not tracking anything.

When I started running again, I was hoping my times would get faster the more I ran, and eventually I might get to some semblance of the shape I had been in in college. Wanting to monitor my progress and times, I decided to start keeping a log. At first it started out fairly simple: how far, running time, and pace. Over time, my log has grown to include more information, while other information is removed. Recently I have been neglectful of my log and while I am still recording mileage and time, the details are left out. Sometimes, our logs can get too complicated, but at the same time, it is important not to over simplify them. For me, my log is an entity of it’s own that changes as my running and goals change.

In reality, there is no correct or incorrect way to keep a log, but for me, it should measure two basic things, subjective and objective measures. Objective measures are concrete a time is a time, a distance a distance, they will not change. For objective measures my log includes time, pace, distance, and the loop. (I also include weather just for chuckles.) You can also include weight as a rapid loss of weight can indicate overtraining. On a subjective level, it is important to include how our legs feel. While the feelings of our legs may be subjective, we should strive to give them an objective measure. While noting that your ankle is nagging, or your hamstring feels tight is good – give it a number. Ankle nagging – five, hamstring tight – three. Granted the scale may change, but ideally a seven should always be a seven. By giving things a number, we can go back and monitor pain and discomfort levels over the previous week, month, year – it’s easy to forget these things.

A log is of great importance to the runner, but it is also immensley helpful to your coach. A coach can give you workouts that typically work for the goals at hand, but as any coach will tell you, not all runners bodies function the same. What works for one runner may not work for another – your log helps a coach thresh that information out. Perhaps nagging injuries start to reoccur when a certain mileage is hit, or too much performance at one level of intensity, or maybe it’s your coach recognizing that you’re holding back. Being able to look at and compare data overtime is the only way to truly determine what works for the individual runner.

If you already have a log, go look at it and think about adding or subtracting information that may or may not be necessary or helpful. Think about how you can make your log more informative for you and your coach. One of my failings in terms of logging information is my lack of a weekly summary. I used to keep a weekly and monthly summary but that has gotten away from me. It is good to be able to compare any workout this year to last years workout, or this year’s Phase II Week IV to last year’s Phase II Week IV. A good log is an invaluable tool, from the highly competitive elite to the non-competitive weekend 5ker. And by all means if you do not have one, start one.

The Missing Ingredient

Working with my athletes I have been struggling to put my finger on what many of them lack. I found the answer looking through some videos while writing a lesson on goal setting for a class I teach.

Grit. That is the missing ingredient.

What is grit you ask?

Grit is the stuff on sand paper that smooths out the rough spots and polishes the surface. At least that is what I thought of at first, so I looked up what the real definition of grit is and found the following:

Grit is courage; resolve; strength of character.

Three things that any runner, athlete or hard working individual should have if they wish to achieve their greatest dreams. I then went on to define courage and resolve.

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. it is also strength in the face of pain or grief. As athletes we have all had those moments on the starting line with butterflies in our stomach, knowing the pain we are about to inflict upon ourselves. Knowing the battle that is about to rage inside our own minds and bodies and still we anticipate with excitement the sound of that gun and those first steps as we throw ourselves off the line and plunge into the abyss.

Resolve is the determination to do something or decide firmly on a course of action. Without resolve it would be easy to abandon those workouts that leave us staring up at the sky on our backs gasping for air. You know the ones I am talking about, that 400 repeat workout that leaves you hunched over a trash can waiting for the inevitable. Resolve keeps us from stopping in the middle of a race, unless of course your body gives out before your willpower.

Not only are these qualities a necessity for the athlete, but they can be used in our every day life. You need to not only train your body but your mind, your resolve, your courage to be a warrior on the athletic field, but also to be the same warrior in the office, board room and every other endeavor in your life.

So next time you are questioning a workout, signing up for a race or feel like dropping out of a race look deep inside and find out how much grit you have.

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