Monday, January 26, 2015

Why Run the Mile? The Parade Day Mile!

By Coach Michael Cordi

Brooks Johnson was one of the best distance coaches in the USA. He coached Stanford University and National Teams. I remember he used to say, “Speed kills …. those who don’t have it."  Johnson was coaching runners at the highest level of the sport who wanted to win NCAA, National, and Olympic and World Championships. But his philosophy can be applied to any runner at any level who wants to improve.

There comes a point in any runner’s journey where “just finishing” is no longer the goal.  You’ve finished your 5K, 10K, ½ marathon, marathon. Now what? How about getting faster? Setting PR’s? Beating that Age Group Ace who finishes just in front of you every time you race?

To achieve your goals you need speed. A recent article posted on the Confluence Running Beginner’s Running Facebook page suggested that racing a mile might help you run a faster marathon!

Race a mile? Isn’t that intensely painful? Don’t young college age studs run that real fast?

Well, yes but so do thousands and thousands of Age Group runners all over the nation in all-comers track meets throughout the winter, spring, and summer. Just check out results posted on the Fingerlakes Runners Club and Triple Cities Runners Club web sites and you will see that, yes, anyone can and should race the mile.


I can tell you from personal experience. I used to be an 800 runner and I loved the mile. I could run 2:00 for the 800 and breaking 5:00 for the mile was a walk in the park. But there was a catch, I was young, real young, and had natural speed in my legs. I started my running career as a cross-country and track runner and had the natural speed of anyone from 14-20+ years old.

Then, I stopped racing on the track, I stopped running short repeats and I lost my speed. So, last fall I decided to go back to my roots and train for and run some 800’s and miles. I admit I’m not as fast as I used to be but I noticed something really cool. When I would go out for an easy 6 miles, what used to feel easy at 7:50-8:00 pace now felt like I was barely moving along at 7:20-7:30 pace!

What happened?!

I’ll tell you what happened - I got some speed back in my legs. You see the key to running to your personal potential is leg turnover- how fast your legs turn over from stride to stride. I was propelling myself along the ground faster than before with less effort because my legs have speed. After 15 years of neglecting that part of my training I actually felt fast again!!!

A lot of my Team Confluence friends will tell you that last fall I swore off any race longer than 5K. I just wanted to race fast (and I have to admit, being ranked #1 in the USA in my AG in the 800 for a few weeks got me excited).  But back to the easy runs. I got thinking (as I watched a 13:15 5k runner run his first ½ marathon in 60:51, one of the fastest times ever by an American): Hmmmm maybe I could run a faster ½ marathon because I have this new found speed in my legs!! I mean if I could “jog” 6 miles in under 47:00 on a cold and windy day after a long day on my feet at school, maybe I can run a decent ½ marathon!!!

Sign up NOW for 
the Greater Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon & 5k!

How do you get this speed?

It’s easy (ok, it’s painful but the idea is easy) you train for and race a 1 mile run. Check out local opportunities- the TCRC will offer meets in the spring and summer with runners of all abilities so no one has to be intimidated.

Parade Day Mile!

Coming up March 7 ( is a 1 mile race down Court and Main Streets right before the Parade! Confluence is bringing back this event from a few years ago for good reason - it’s fun. I know - I’ve done it. Running by thousands of screaming parade goers is a riot.

Bring your friends and sign up - if you’re 21 you get a free beer at the finish! Set a goal to run a mile March 7 and to get there add some speed to your weekly routine. You’ve never done it? It’s easy (ok, it’s NOT easy but figuring out a program is). Keep your mileage where it is (World Class Milers run mega miles, like 100+ per week). So, don’t decrease mileage, just add a couple workouts twice a week.

Parade Day Mile

Speed Work in Disguise

Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist and the guy who got this whole running boom thing going once said, “Hills are speed work in disguise.”

Warm up, cool down 1 mile, 2 miles, whatever suits you. I recommend hills once a week. Run up and jog/walk down. Over and over as much as you can/want to/have time for. Find a hill- roads, grass, sidewalk, it doesn’t matter. Keep it short (you want speed) 50-100 meters and do it. Or, you can run hilly courses- go out and run how ever many miles you want and make sure you go up and down as many long, short, steep, gradual hills as possible. Lucky me- Endwell is great for that!

Go Fast!

Then, once a week try something shorter than you’ve likely done. I think the perfect distance is 300 meters with whatever recovery interval you feel is appropriate for you and your level of fitness. Find a track run 300 repeats.

The time you should run? Honestly, don’t worry about it, you’re new to this plus the weather might not cooperate. But, as a guideline figure out the pace you can do (or think you can do) for a mile. Use one of those running calculators if you have to, but find a time. Let’s say you think you could run 1 mile in 6:00. Now comes the math- divide- 6:00 is 1:30 per 400 and it’s 1:08 for a 300.  If we're talking hitting an 8 minute mile, then you're looking at 2:00 per 400 and 1:30 for 300.  There you go - easy math.

Think like a Kenyan

No track? There’s snow on the track? The local high school team is practicing? Run them on the roads? You don’t how far 300 is on the roads? Run for your target time then rest. Then run some more- however many you can based on your ability and time constraints. Many of the great Kenyan runners come from an area with no track, so they improvise - no excuses. If there’s a secret to Kenyan success it’s that they make no excuses they just do what it takes.

I do them at 5:00 am - I am very lucky to live on a block that measures 409 meters around and it’s flat. I also live at the bottom of a hill that is about 150 meters long. Lucky me, again.

The point is, you can do them. Your time for the repeats doesn’t matter and do not overdo it. What you’ll notice is that fairly quickly your legs will start moving faster with no extra effort.

If you like it (I LOVE speed work) add in some 200’s and 400’s - all at mile pace.

One other thing that anyone can do, anywhere are 100 meter strides. At the end of your run, you do four or so 100 meter “runs” at about the effort you would race a 5K.

This is Important

At the end of a workout you should not feel all sore and tired (that’s for Gatorade commercials). You almost feel refreshed, like you just did something good for your body (because you did)!

You’re training your legs to run faster. These workouts WILL make you a faster runner at every distance (including the marathon) and you just might find that you like the shorter races more.

Running and racing is about a lot more than just finishing. It’s about finishing at the limits of your own personal potential be that a ½ marathon in 1:00 or a 2:00. Getting faster is fun and rewarding and completing a tough speed workout is a great feeling.

Change up your running and gain some speed and you can run the classic distance the 1 mile run! See you on Parade Day!!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eating Healthy is LAME!

by Matt Gawors

Nutrition, like exercise, is considered by many to be lifestyle, not a means to an end. What’s great about lifestyle is it can shift, but only in small increments. The human body craves nutritious and healthy food and good quality exercise. Yet because of the way we have evolved, it is easy to be self-destructive with the foods and activity patterns of modern society. I would like you as the reader, not to be defensive towards the ideas listed here. Read them, learn them, and even apply them if you wish.

I have been living a low sugar/carb, natural diet for a few years now. I stay away from most processed and high sugar foods. Though last week I visited my Aunt’s house in long island and fell away from my normal diet. She makes the greatest chocolate chip cookies known to man and just like crack-cocaine, the high of getting one is all about getting more. After eating about 12 cookies, I became nauseous (like I usually do) and felt sluggish for the next 2 days. It's easy to realize how un-healthy certain things are when you don’t have them often. But how can you move to a healthier lifestyle? It’s not as easy as a magical transformation or going cold turkey from all un-healthy foods… It’s about small lifestyle changes.

Below is a screen shot of a healthy lifestyle presentation I made for increasing athletic performance. The graph stresses the importance of taking small steps to change your lifestyle. You will notice you become stressed when your lifestyle shifts toward the less-healthy, you also become stressed (temporarily) when your lifestyle shifts to a healthier state. Only when this new stress dissipates and becomes part of your normal lifestyle should you include another healthy habit and stress the lifestyle again. (Athletes, does this sound familiar? Stress the body, rest, stress the body, rest)

How to: Try using the following steps to make small lifestyle changes healthier and happier living!

The LAME Method

Limit – Every 2-3 weeks, limit intakes of damaging nutrition. Find one “un-healthy” staple of your diet and greatly reduce your intake. Some examples would be Soda, Fast-food, or other processed foods that may be high in added sugars, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils. This goes for activity as well, for instance, you could limit TV to two hours instead of three.

Add – Every 2-3 weeks, increase your intake of healthy nutrition. Find a healthier food to try to regularly add to your diet. These can include fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, eggs, or even daily goals. Goals could be shown as “eating a fresh vegetable/fruit at every meal,” or eating a healthy non-sugar/carb-heavy breakfast every day. You can commit to add a 15-30 minute slow walk around the neighborhood after meals. These smalls decisions will add up over the weeks and months and slowly develop your lifestyle without stress.

Maintain – After your 2-3 week lifestyle shift ends and a new cycle begins, try to continue with the small lifestyle changes you had made recently and try to incorporate another cycle of changes with those. If you haven’t become completely accustomed to the new changes that were made, don’t incorporate anything new but take another week or two and get used to what you changed. It’s not perfect, but what lifestyle is?

Enjoy – You may find that over time you can’t imagine how you lived without the new changes. Your changes hopefully become routine and easy to remember over time. Just remember, it’s just a series of small, slow steps to healthier living. But the most important factor is to ENJOY what you are doing. If you don’t like tofu, try eggs, if you don’t like zucchini, try a cucumber instead. Tastes, preferences, and abilities all vary and there are endless possibilities to living healthy! Eat, Exercise, Enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Drills, Plyometrics, and Running Form

As most weathered athletes have heard, we do drills to increase our running economy, power production, and agility.  Though many of us don’t understand WHY we do these drills.  We go through the movements, have a picture in our mind, but can’t quite put two and two together of there specific purposes.  With 16 weeks to go before the Binghamton Bridge Half Marathon, form training is essential.  This article will attempt to put a clear understanding of the purpose of drills. 
Running speed is a combination of (Stride Length) x (Stride Rate).  The following drills allow for an athlete to develop different sections of his or her stride.  While not all the drills directly relate to a particular variable (Length vs. Rate), many of the drills increase general running economy and allow for a passive movement to be graceful.  

Passive Movements
"Increase Efficiency = Increase Stride Rate"
Unlike common perception, almost all movements of running should be passive, except for the push off phase.  These first few drills allow the runner to learn these passive motions in an active way.  The stride rate not only requires higher speed of passive movements, but the ability to “fire” and contract  muscles quickly. 

Drill                                           Focus                                                              Purpose
Learn how to do High Knees
This drill focuses on driving the knee forward
Form Movement
Learn how to do Butt Kicks
Drive the heel of the foot toward your butt
Form Movement
Learn how to do Egg Shells
Fire your legs up and down as quickly as possible
Muscular Adaptation

"Increase Strength = Increase Stride Length"
(3 Variations)    
Learn how to Bound.  This drill allows for an Athlete to develop a longer stride length.  Without worrying about stride rate, the athlete can focus on taking the longest stride per step possible.  This drill needs to be practiced properly as an athlete can develop an “overstride” which can lead to inefficiencies and injury.
High Skips
Learn how to High Skip.  High Skips are a variation of the Bounding technique where an athlete develops the push off phase of running.  The over exaggerated arm swing allows for a higher jump and therefore requires more strength on impact yet can develop a stronger push off phase. 
This drill is a variation of Skips and is used by many jumpers.  The only subtracted difference is there is no “skip” phase between push offs.  This drills focuses on force production rather than stride length, or rate.  This bounding drill requires and develops the most strength.  

Active Movements
"Sustains Momentum = Increase Efficiency"
Straight Legged Bounding
Learn out to Straight-Leg Bound.  While this drill does not focus on stride rate or length, High Kicks allow for an athlete to better understand how their foot should make contact with the ground.  The foot should have a constant “pulling” motion rather than the usual “stop and go” impact that usually occurs with most runners. 
Learn how to use the Falling Drill (“Segway” drill in Video).  This drill teaches an athlete the proper lean for running which is usually a neglected part of running education.  As described above, running is almost an entirely passive motion.  The proper lean forward recruits and allows passive motions to take place more efficiently. 
Tip: While on a treadmill, lean on the forward handle while running.  This will allow you to practice the forward lean while running without feeling uncomfortable and unsafe.
Backwards Running
Learn how to use the Backwards Running drill.  With this drill an athlete can more easily experience and recognize the “falling” motion that should be felt when running forwards. After the feeling is learned, the athlete can apply this experience of “falling” or consistent momentum when running regularly. 
We may do drills regularly, and may even execute them properly, but we don’t always actively think of each drills purpose.  We passively execute drill after drill without consciously thinking about what we are developing.  The next time you do your drills, actively think about what you’re doing to properly execute and learn the required movements and adaptations.  Tune in week to week for more information!