The Hidden Code of Massive Improvement: How to Accomplish the Impossible

by Jason Fitzgerald

Today, you’re going to get an ass kicking. I’m going to challenge you like I’ve never challenged you before.

Massive Improvement

When was the last time you did something incredible in your running? Maybe it was last year, or maybe you’ve never accomplished something great.

I believe everyone can go beyond themselves and achieve big things – or stretch goals. Goals that make your friends and family ask you if you’re crazy. Maybe you are - but crazy people are the only ones who wildly succeed.

I named 2012 the Year of the Stretch Goal to push you to run more, run faster, get healthier, and do things you thought were impossible. It’s time that you achieved something on your fitness bucket list.

Maybe it’s to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Maybe it’s running your first marathon.

Maybe it’s to get healthy and stay injury-free for the entire year.

These goals may sound unbelievable to some people, but they’re not if you take the right approach. If you’re here reading this that means you’re proactive. You take action to achieve your dreams.

I want to help passionate runners who care about their running. Not fast runners. Not just men or just women. I don’t care if you prefer to race 5k’s or marathons. Passion is the only thing I crave for runners in this community.

The PR System

The typical runner will always run within himself and never challenge himself to do something awesome. Most runners are often frustrated with injuries and not knowing what to do. They say things like:

I need to be realistic.

It seems that every time I try to increase my mileage I get injured.

I find myself trying to figure this all out on my own…and it’s hard.

I just lack the experience and knowledge to know what to do!

Does this sound like you? It’s not your fault – not enough runners use a system to promote health and consistent fitness development. They use random training tactics they read about in a magazine without understanding how they all fit together.

A long run here.

A few hill sprints the next day.

A visit to the gym.

But there’s no cohesion to their training. Poor performers don’t balance the need for recovery and rarely prioritize aerobic and neuromuscular development. They just…run. Random training will always result in random results and most likely, injured and frustrated runners.

There are four principles of training that lets you achieve stretch goals – and all three elude the majority of runners.

Consistency: Running fast, staying healthy, and feeling good during your workouts is dependent on you being a consistent runner. If you take a few weeks off “because you got busy” you’ll never be a good runner and feel discouraged. Try to always run at least four days per week to increase your running economy and make running feel like second nature.

I get emails all the time from runners who don’t understand why they feel like shit. Take this example:

I haven’t felt like myself in a long time. I need help to get over this bump in my training but I don’t know what to do. I have no direction.

Direction is something that Strength Running gives runners who need to know what to do next.

Aerobic Development: Sounds scientific but all this means that you’re consistently increasing your endurance through long runs, a (relatively) high overall volume, and workouts that are more aerobic, like tempo and progression runs.

Continuously focusing on aerobic development requires consistency in your training – these two principles go hand in hand. Without consistency, you won’t be reaching new fitness levels and running will always difficult.

Variety: You can’t expect to get different results by doing the same thing over and over again. As Einstein wisely said, that’s the definition of insanity. Variety is the spice of life and it’s also the key to a good running program. You need diversity with every aspect of your training:

  • shoes
  • effort
  • workouts
  • paces
  • terrain
  • surfaces
  • races

Not only will an assortment of training tools help you continue adapting to your workload, but you’re going to be stressing your body in many different ways. Overuse injuries happen when your body is tired from the repetitive stress of doing the same thing over and over again.

As runners, we have to run a lot. But the way in which we run should include as much variety as possible to promote health and more adaptation.

Accountability: Runners need help in accomplishing their stretch goals – you can’t be an island. When you combine a good training plan with the motivation that comes with real accountability, your results are going to improve to new levels. There are a lot of ways to make yourself more accountable:

  • Determine which workouts you dislike (and usually slack off on), then enlist the help of a friend to run them with you
  • Make a commitment contract with a service like Stickk.com - bet some cash money that you’ll run faster!
  • Join a community of other runners who have similar goals so you can learn from them and support one another
The last item there is really powerful. Motivational guru Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are you surrounding yourself with? People who mock your ambitious goals or supportive runners who want you to succeed?

By putting these principles into a system you’ll start running easier. Aches and pains won’t be as common. You’ll just feel better. Plus, you’ll actually be running more and faster! But don’t take my word for it, listen to a few runners like you:

“Thank you so much for helping me heal the right way the past month. My hips have never been this strong. Ever! All the kinks I’ve had for so long do not exist anymore and I am enjoying my runs so much more now.” – Sarah A, MA

“In 2011 I had one running injury, then I started reading Strength Running. I’ve been injury-free since!” – Tim M., Paris

Achieving the Impossible

The Road to Impossible

Five years ago my running had plateaued and I wanted to try something new. So I slashed my mileage by almost half and started training to run a sprint triathlon. I felt weird running so little, but I was cycling for five hours a week and learning how to swim more competitively (I sink like a rock).

I bought a few triathlon books and talked with friends who had competed in Olympic distance triathlons. I soaked up as much information as I could about the workouts I should do, how to transition quickly, and what to expect on race day.

As someone who previously rarely cycled and almost never swam, I didn’t know what to expect when I raced. I knew an open water swim with 100 other swimmers was going to be terrifying and my legs would feel like jelly after the bike leg. But I was confident that my preparation would work.

On August 12, 2006 I competed in the Dash and Bash Triathlon in Massachusetts, coming in 35th overall (out of 223) and running the fastest run time of the race. It was only my second triathlon ever and my run leg beat the overall winner’s run time, a semi-professional triathlete, by 25 seconds.

I was ecstatic. My achievement was something I never thought possible – my time over the run leg was something I’d be proud of if I were racing fresh (not after a half-mile swim and 12 mile cycling time trial).

For two months before this triathlon, I used a similar system that I do now to get in the best shape that I could. That’s what I want to help you with – checking off a massive bucket-list-worthy running goal!

It’s Time for Massive Improvement

To help you with your stretch goals this year, I want to make sure you crush your training, stay consistent, prevent injuries, and dominate your running. Don’t be a lone wolf – there’s more motivation and success when we band together to accomplish big goals.

Getting outside help is one of the reasons that some runners are getting disproportionate results. Look at some of the runners that are crushing it:

Lydia has lost over 80 pounds and taken nearly an hour off her half-marathon time.

Rob has new motivation to train and just ran a 5k PR “without even trying.”

Sam was over-trained and frustrated – now he’s winning his age group in races and couldn’t be happier.

Strength Running has helped hundreds of runners run faster, but more importantly enjoy their running by increasing their confidence and making it easier. Wouldn’t you love that? I’ve heard from a few runners recently who are thrilled:

“I used to have chronic pain in my left Achilles and a really tight right hip, IT Band, and lower back. After using your suggestions, I’m having more fun with my running because I’m feeling fantastic and been able to run multiple 6-7 mile runs with negative splits, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without your advice. I’m running 4-5 days per week and have no pain in my hips, knees, or back. The advice you gave has given me the confidence to increase my mileage and now my legs feel stronger.” – Mike S., GA

“So far I’ve knocked down about half a minute on my pace per mile. I’m so thrilled with that. I’m looking into running my next full on March 22nd at the the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon.” – Leo C., Texas

My only goal with Strength Running is to make running a better part of your life – something you look forward to doing because you’re good at it and you love the way the wind feels in your hair as you crush a good workout. Is that you?

Thank you for making this site such a rewarding place to hang out. I learn new things constantly by your comments and the emails I get – you’re the reason I do this! One runner emailed me and told me that “you make it feel like a running family for us all.” I am simply humbled by that – those comments are why I continue working so hard on writing articles here.

Later this week I’m announcing something new, bold, and exciting. It won’t be for everyone but for those who are ready to dominate it’s going to help you achieve the impossible. Stay tuned for the announcement.

Runners on my private list are going to hear about it first. You can sign up below if you want to be one of the first to know.

Now my question to you: What goal do you think is “impossible” but with the right system you might be able to achieve? Leave your answer in the comments – it helps me write better stuff for you!

Photo Credit

Join 10,000+ Runners and Get Faster!

Get the Strength Running PR Guide ebook and tips to run faster (without the injuries).

Share

{ 28 comments }

Amy

I’m 47 and set my marathon PR (3:28) in Boston 2010. My goal is to take some time off of it on April 16th.

Jason

Amy, that’s an awesome marathon PR – very well done! Good luck with your training the next two months and on your race this Patriot’s Day!

Josh Camson

My goal is to train for a marathon and run it in under 4:25. RIght now my PR is 4:50. But the trick to this goal is to not get injured or burned out on running during the training. The mental piece is really the toughest part for me. Although this silly foot injury doesn’t help.

Aaron

> What goal do you think is “impossible” but with the right system you might be able to achieve?

I set myself a “stretch goal” myself a couple of years back, and didn’t even come close. It was to run a sub-3 hour marathon, and my current PB is 3:19. I think I know what I did wrong during that time. I didn’t understand what it took to get there, and I’m still learning that now! At the moment sub-3 hours is the “impossible” goal, but with the right system (and time and staying consistent) I think I can get there, whether it’s next year or in 10 years!

Jason

Great example Aaron. 19 minutes is achievable, as long as you continue progressing!

Aaron

Thanks Jason. I’m aiming for sub-3:10 at Paris in 11 weeks time, but what’s different from last time is that I’m more consistent now (I aim to run every day), and running a higher volume than in my training towards the sub-3 hours a couple of years back (averaging 60 miles a week instead of the 45-50 miles that I did).

Staffan

I am a forty year-old runner that are very passionate about my training because it makes me feel so good and provides structure to my busy life with a full-time job and family with wife and four kids. With a big family I dont run such a high weekly mileage, in 2011 I averages 23,3 (37,5 km) miles per week. I did the 10k in 37:43 and the half marathon in 1:23:32 last season and now my dream goal is the marathon under 3hours (PR from 2010 3:09), but I wonder whether that’s realistic with such a limited mileage. On the other side, the last six months I have been on parental leave and in january I have done four long runs, two of them 20 miles and they actually went fine!

Thanks for a great blog that I discovered a while ago and one that I have linked from my (swedish) running blog!

Jason

Those are some quick times Staffan! If you keep your volume up I think you’ll have a very good chance at breaking 3 hours. To be a good runner (especially at the marathon distance) you have to run a relatively high volume. Good luck.

Steph

My goal is to run a half marathon for the first time this year. The most mileage I’ve ever logged is about 4 miles and 13 sounds so intimidating!

I took up running last year when I quit smoking and have a lot of learning to do still!

Jason

It’s all about progression – you’ll get there soon!

James @reddirtrunner

My stretch goal? Complete a hundred miler AND enjoy the journey. From the first day of committing to it until I cross the finish line and down that celebratory beer with friends.

Jason

Sounds awesome :)

Sherry

running a marathon is just beyond my grasp. I still struggle with the half marathon distance, so the thought of running a full marathon just scares me – and yet I REALLY want to run one. I know if I put my mind to it I can do it, but I’m still scared! I’m hoping to get over that fear soon…registration for the Chicago Marathon opens in a couple of day…

Jason

Good luck Sherry. It’s more than putting your mind to it though – it’s putting your legs through the practice!

Kate

My stated goal for the year is to shave 8 minutes off my half marathon PR to go below 2:00. My stretch goal? Run a half marathon at a faster pace than my best high school mile time: 8:40 (a 1:53 half). That would be a monumental achievement; I started running in 2010 with a 10:50 mile.

Jason

That would be huge improvement! We’ll be rooting for you Kate

Doug

I’ve just started running, and like Steph, a half marathon seems very daunting. Staying injury free sounds impossible to me, but with the right system and support, I feel I might be able to stay healthy and achieve the goal of running a half. I’m psyched to learn from your (and your readers) experiences.

Jason

Stay tuned!

Joe

Ran my first half-marathon two years ago in 2:35. Ran my first marathon last year with a 2:20 for the 13.1 mile split. I am gunning for 2:00 this year for a half marathon. First shot is in May. Working in tempo and interval work consistently trying to squeeze another 20 minutes out of this body. Time will tell!!

Matt

Ran my first marathon about a year ago. It was an indoor marathon, 204 laps around a 3/8 mile track. Ran my first outdoor 6 weeks later. I injured my achilles by over training in the process. Took a month or so off from running, but swam and biked. Slowly started building miles back up in early fall. I also started using the dynamic warmup and core work from your site. I just finished running my highest mileage month ever at 270 miles. I will be running the indoor marathon again in 5 weeks. This time I’ve trained smarter and my achilles feels fine. I’m also going to push myself, both mentally and physically, by running indoor marathon two times on back to back days. I’m really looking forward to it!

Jason

Back to back indoor marathons? You’re crazy :)

Scotty

My job makes it very difficult to be consistent, I work swing shift, go from days to nights every 2 weeks, 12 hours shifts, work 2 days on 2 days off ,then 3 on 2 off ,2 on 3 off. On my feet the entire 12 hours minus 2 short breaks. I struggle to get over 20 miles a week due to this crazy schedule and know this is my limiting factor.

Jason

That’s tough, no doubt. I just wrote a race plan for a physician who works 7 days, then 5 days, then has a week off. It got creative to get her marathon-ready but it can be done!

Lacey

I am 31 years old. My first marathon was 4:54. A year later I ran a 4:13. I have a busy life with 3 kids and a husband who works long hard hours. My goal is 4:00…..and eventually boston…but one step at a time!

Lacey

By the way I just found your site and I am inspired and so excited to be able to have all of this valuable information. Thank you Jason!

Kay

I’m running Boston in April and have hopes to run a 50 miler in October. I’m currently working through a case of ITBS so I’m thinking Boston will be about finishing, not setting a PR. After Boston I’ll start gearing up for some sprint tri’s during the summer and a half ironman in the fall. It’d be great to do all this healthy.

Chuck Swanson

Jason,

I want to qualify for Boston & have a PR of 3:17:04. I ran it at Chicago 2012. I was in best shape of my life and then wham I got injured in December. I am slowly coming back from said injury and really want to start running injury free and qualify for Boston. I’m 36 now and want to shoot for my BQ by 40. I was going to sign up for a PR plan with you but my stupid Achilles decided otherwise. Maybe fall… Thanks for all your help and advice. Since reading your stuff and incorporating things I’ve trimmed 19 minutes off my marathon time!

Chuck

Jason Fitzgerald

You’ll get there with that kind of improvement trend! Thanks Chuck :)

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: