11 Questions Every Runner Should Be Able to Answer. Can You?

by Jason Fitzgerald

Are you growing as a runner, moving closer toward your goals?

Questions

Almost everyone thinks they are. But to truly reach your potential, there are certain things about your training you should understand.

When you know as much as possible about your past, current, and future running you can dramatically improve your training. Make sure you know the answers to these questions!

Why are you running?

There are a lot of reasons for lacing up your shoes and heading out the door every day. Figure out why exactly you run so you can get the most out of your training. After all, running to get faster is different than running to get cut.

Which goal below do you most identify with?

  • Health
  • general fitness
  • lose weight
  • get ripped!
  • run faster

How many miles have you run per month in the last 3 months? How does that compare with what you averaged last year?

What you did in the last few months helps determine what you can do this month and next month.  And what you do next month helps you build on what you can do next year. Picking up on the pattern here?

Running is cumulative, so make sure you’re improving year to year. Not necessarily more and more, but if you’re a new or low-mileage runner, you should be trying to run a little more every year.

What injuries are you susceptible to?

Know what injury (or, gasp, injuries) you’re prone to get and take consistent steps to prevent it.

ITBS? Try the ITB Rehab Routine.

Plantar Fasciitis? Be aggressive with your PF prevention.

In general, you should be implementing a well-rounded training program that includes a lot of variety to help you prevent injuries.

When do you need new running shoes?

Stay on a consistent buying schedule – or keep track of the mileage on your shoes and buy a new pair when they hit 300-500 miles.

Once you find a pair of shoes that works for you, you’ll know exactly when they start to break down. For me, I run in ASICS Speedstars and Adidas Adizero shoes so I know them well. Minimalist shoes will tend to wear down sooner than other types of trainers.

Who is in your running support network?

You need other runners for encouragement, motivation, and to bounce ideas off of. No runner is an island – build your running board of directors to help you reach your goals.

If finding friends or family to support your running sounds daunting (what, your friends don’t care about your negative splits in your tempo workout?), then hang out where other runners are. Sign up for dailymile, join the community at Nerd Fitness, or hang out at No Meat Athlete.

What training phase are you in right now (and when does it end?)

If you don’t know where you are in your training, you won’t know where you end up. I can give you a hint: probably injured or burnt out. Make sure you have phases to your training so you’re working on the right things, at the right times.

What are the top three “little things” that you do to prevent injury?

Core work, minimalism or barefoot running, gym exercises, dynamic stretching, foam rolling – pick your medicine!

I recommend all of them in moderation. Even though my wife calls me a “core whore” I rarely spend more than 10-15 minutes a day on body weight strength exercises. Variety with your “extras” is key.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

Whether you run with a group, watch inspirational races on YouTube, or constantly achieve little wins it’s vital that you stay motivated during long training periods or when the weather is tough.

Part of staying motivated is having a good support network (see above) so don’t be shy about reaching out to other runners. We stick together!

When is your next race?

If racing is your goal, make sure you know how you’re getting there! Get a custom plan or write your own – either way, have a roadmap to your next race.

If not, run a benchmark workout to gauge your fitness. A time trial on the track or a hard interval workout can help.

How are you improving on your past training in order to get faster?

First, keep track of your training with an online or hard copy running log. Then you’ll be able to compare what you’re doing now with what you’ve done in the past.

Working with a coach may sound like something only elite or highly competitive runners do, but more and more average runners are taking advantage of the benefits of personalized coaching. And if you ever do work with a coach, you’ll need to keep a training log so he knows what you’ve done and should be doing in the future.

How have you invested in your knowledge of the sport?

Have you read a new running book lately? Maybe had a personalized training plan written for you? Gotten a coach? Joined a running club? Set a big goal (with plenty of small goals along the way)?

If you’re not motivated to run your best, I don’t know how else I can help. Use these questions to improve on your own training and run your best race in the next month or two (if you do, email me and let me know!).

To your running success,

– Jason.

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Greg Strosaker

Nice post Fitz – I’ve never thought about the total balance of time one spends in running-related activities, but I’m wondering if around 40-50% of the time (in the long run – recognizing there are cycles in your training) should be spent in non-running activities – either strength/flexibility/mobility training or reading/planning/learning. No doubt that the higher proportion of time one can spend on the latter (without sacrificing the former – thus meaning more total time), the better the runner you can be.
Wondering if you have ever done a post on how to sort out the wheat from the chaff though when it comes to seeking input. There is so much garbage out there, some of it deceptively dressed up as “studies”, that it would be easy for a runner to get pulled in conflicting or flat-out wrong directions and end up increasing their injury risks. I plan to write about the “stupidity of studies” soon.

Jason

Interesting thoughts Greg. I read awhile back that elites spend almost as much time on “extras” than on their running. Clearly, there are few people in the “real world” who have that time luxury, but it shows how beneficial it can be if the best runners in the world are spending time on it. I’d say I’m in the 30-50% range for doing the strength/flexibility/mobility stuff, but that % goes a lot higher if you count any reading/learning/planning.

I’ve never posted on sorting out the running garbage that’s out there. For me, I think I’ve learned through experience what is credible and what’s not. For the science and technical stuff, I go to Steve Magness at http://scienceofrunning.com or Alex Hutchinson at http://sweatscience.com. Matt Fitzgerald is also an outstanding author – he co-wrote Run Faster with Brad Hudson and Brain Training, two books I refer to often. I try to stay away from the latest study findings, they’re usually fads or minutiae that doesn’t matter too much in real world training.

Kris

Lots of good questions to think about, especially the last question. One of the hardest things for is that the more you start reading & learning about running, the more “tips” you come across, and the more options you have. Which can be a good thing, but can also be confusing. There’s just not enough time in the week to do trails, tempos, intervals, strength training, long runs, easy runs, short runs, fartleks, strides, rest – yikes, did I miss anything?

Seriously, having only run for a few years, and only now really getting into it, its becoming fun (yet challenging) trying out all the new ideas I’ve learned to see how well they work for me.

Jason

Kris, definitely true. But of the 10 things you listed, two are really the same thing (easy runs and short runs) and you can easily fit in 8 of the remaining 9 (I do almost every week). But it depends on how much you run. Tough for a beginner, which is one of the reasons following a plan written by someone who knows what they’re doing could be a good idea.

Kris

I know, I was mostly kidding. The hard part is that I choose to run every other day, and do 2 days of strength training each week, so fitting in all the different runs is challenging, and none of the plans fit my schedule exactly. So, when I compare my schedule to the plans, it always seems that something “important” is always missing.

But I definitely appreciate the challenge of reading your ideas, it has helped my shape my own plan quite a bit!

RunTheLine

Great advice. Only through experience do we really get to know our own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to running. I know that if I don’t do at least one gym session a week where I do squats, lunges, core work and stretching then I really run the risk of my tendonitis coming back…I don’t plan on letting that particular injury raise its head again!

Jason

Good idea! I’m the same way with a few core and strength routines – if I don’t do them, I get hurt. So I do them!

Bryan

Good Stuff Jason, as always.

Good to know there’s at least one other ‘core whore’ out there.

Jason

Thanks Bryan. Proud core whore here :)

Vern

First question, you missed the obvious answer of “because I like running”. The whole thing kind of goes downhill from there. I find it strange how runners seem to exclude the segment of the running population who go out day in and day out, happily put in mileage and don’t race, “train”, or feel obligated to join a running group of any kind.

I put in 30 miles or so a week, my mile time is down at 5 even, my average distance speed is 7/mile. I do it because I like running. I don’t have a “support network” other than myself. I rarely bother running races.

Jason

Hey Vern, you’re absolutely right that running simply because you love it is a damn good reason to keep running. Simple oversight on my part! But keep in mind that Strength Running caters to those runners who do train, who do race, and who do want to train for specific goals. SR is not for everyone – maybe it’s not for you. Best wishes – Jason.

Tammy

Awesome Post Jason.. was avoiding reading it for a few days, as I was scared at what I may not be able to answer.. Phew! Made it! Add me to the list of ‘core whores’.. it is NOT a bad thing!

Heres to another upcoming season of successes for many of us!

David H.

Great post – I had saved this in my google reader to wait and read after my marathon.

Jason

Thanks David – and congrats on your sub-4! That’s awesome.

Bodyworks Family Sports Centers

Make running an enjoyable experience. Run for a cause is one way to be motivated. Make it an entertainment rather than a chore, it helps a person to keep running for an nth time.

Wheels

I second Vern’s sentiments… there is a part of society that says we have to be training, to keep track of time, to have goals, etc. and there are a very large group of runners who simply are out there, because we can, we don’t have to keep track of every minute, every second, every mile. We get faster and slower as life goes by, and sometimes we run a marathon just because we can, other days we go run trails, getting utterly lost for hours because we can and somedays we just run a mile, because we can. It’s good to jump off the training bandwagon every now and then, and run because we want to, because we can.

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