Your Running Questions Answered - Live Slow Run Far

Your Running Questions Answered

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That we could go on and on and talk about running forever probably comes as no surprise, but it gets extra fun when our followers submit the questions and dictate what content will be delivered. That’s what we did here, and we’ll surely do it again. Read on for a great mix of questions with golden nuggets for everyone, no matter the ambition level, running experience or current status. Enjoy!

How do you balance giving a race 100% and not hating every moment because you’re trying too hard?

Such a good question and something many will be able to relate to. Tip over that line and a race turns into an awful experience – stay on the right side of it and you’ll be buzzing for days. I’d say the answer lies within your own question – if you’re hating every moment, you’re pushing too much. Your sweet spot lies where you truthfully can answer the question “am I doing my best?” with a YES! in almost every given moment during the race, while at the same time staying in a positive headspace and not wanting to throw in the towel and quit. (That is not to say you won’t experience dips and darker stretches – these are inevitable, and even more so during longer races.) And remember, doing your best isn’t the same as giving it your ALL all the time. I think a good place to be is where you have energy to kick things up one small notch more but choose to hold back just a tiny bit to have something left in the tank towards the end.

I struggle with other people’s opinions on how you should/should not train. I feel more confused the more I learn and know. Guidance?

Totally get that. I feel as though the more you know, the more others also like to chime in and point out what you’re doing wrong – and more often than not, those “others” aren’t totally content and confident in what THEY are doing. A few perspectives that might help – and that we find helpful as we navigate similar experiences – include reminding yourself that big picture wins over details any day of the week, that everyone is different and therefore will respond and progress differently (exercise physiology is NOT black and white) and that there are many more ways to do the “right” thing than the wrong, which heavily contrasts the message that comes through media. Humans love complicating matters so much, and training is yet another outlet for that desire.

How to improve running on trails? I’m a beginner.

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to becoming a more confident, competent trail runner – you just gotta get out there and practice! Start with non-technical terrain and work your way up from there, challenging yourself a little bit at a time with both technicality (i.e. the amount of roots, rocks, slippery surfaces etc. that the actual trails feature), vertical gain and the speed at which you’re moving. Try ignoring your actual pace (don’t stare at your watch or analyze splits after each run!) and remember that trail running is completely different than road running in many ways. Experiment with stride length (trail running requires an adaptable stride length as the terrain will demand a mix of long and short steps) and train your proprioception (your body’s ability to sense direction, movement and where it is in a given space – an example is the fact that you can close your eyes and then touch your nose). By looking about a meter or two ahead of yourself as opposed to straight down, you practice landing without looking directly at your feet, which will help you quickly develop confident feet and foot placement skills on trails as your proprioception gets better and better.

How much speed workout should you do, when training for some fast times in a marathon?

Everyone is different and can handle a different load, depending on your recovery outside of running, the phase of training you are in, etc. But in general, follow the 80/20 rule, meaning 80% of your training should be at an easy effort, and 20% hard effort (it works the same regardless if you count distance or time). That typically works out to 2 speed workouts a week if you are running 5 or 6 days a week for example. For marathon specific training, we like for one of those 2 speed workouts to be done at race pace in some way (e.g. 4x2k, 3x3k, 3x5k or 5x5k), especially as you get closer to race day. We also recommend peppering in some of your harder effort into a long run, in the shape of a 5 or 10k tempo stretch in the middle, for example.

How to get better at running hills? I feel like I can’t do it no matter how fit I get on flat!

Uphill running ability will largely depend on three things: technique, endurance and strength. And as annoying as it may sound, the best way to get better at running hills… is by running them. But let’s break it down. First, technique. Think tall and think quick and light. Eyes ahead of you, not down, and try embodying a tall posture. As far as your stride – which will naturally both shorten and slow down – you want to think shorter steps but more often. Keeping “quick and light” in your head is also helpful, as this mindset often translates into your actual running technique. Another tip is to start out running stairs a lot, before moving to actual hills, as stair running helps develop the aforementioned quick and light steps. We also recommend doing hill strides once or twice a week, where you do some 6-8 repetitions of 20-30 seconds of uphill running (mild incline). These aren’t all out sprints, but instead a controlled albeit slightly harder effort where focus is on running form, a forceful stride and a powerful push off. You would also benefit from regular lower body strength training, as well as various types of flat speedwork, ideally shorter intervals. Uphill running utilizes the same muscles as sprinting, to a large extent. And last but not least, start small and work your way up – don’t tackle big mountains before molehills are manageable.

I’d love a few recommendations to get rid of runner’s knee problems.

Ah, the dreaded ITB Syndrome and Runner’s Knee (they’re two different things but often mixed up, so covering both just in case), the two most common overuse injuries in running and something we’ve all dealt with over the years. We actually recently wrote an article on this very subject: Runner’s Knee vs. ITB Syndrome: How to Tell the Difference and Get Back to Running as Quickly as Possible. The treatment for either injury is essentially the same, with the only difference being where you’ll focus your stretching and massage efforts. For ITB syndrome, even though the pain is felt on the outside of the knee, the culprit is in the hip. Very often in runners, the two muscles that it attach to in the hip – tensor fascia latae (or TFL for short) and gluteus maximus are shortened and tight, which in turn will pull at the IT band, resulting in that friction on the outside of the knee. For runner’s knee, typically tight quadriceps are the issue, which causes improper tracking of the patella (knee cap), meaning it doesn’t glide evenly and as it should as the knee flexes and extends. So for ITB syndrome, focus on stretching and massaging the TFL and glutes, and for runner’s knee, focus on the quadriceps. And know that it WILL go away with diligent rehab.

I’ve lost inspiration to run. Have done marathon(s) but now I struggle to go out for 3-5 km. Any tips?

Absolutely! Everyone loses motivation to run at some point – it happens to us too 🙂 Here are 3 of our favorite tips to get motivated again: 

1. Set and work towards a goal. And as you work towards that goal, celebrate each small win, each session you complete, each time you head out the door, each last kilometer that you make it through, getting you closer to that goal. You’ll build momentum through these small wins which will motivate you to keep working towards that goal. How you celebrate is up to you!

2. Focus on the joy of running. Run in pretty places, choose only fun sessions, forget completely about pace, reward yourself with delicious snacks, plan runs with friends and overall make sure that every session you head out on oozes joy from start to finish.

3. Get intimate with your gear. Organize and clean all your running gear, give your running vest (if you have and use one) a deep clean, take stock of your running shoes and sort your clothes by season so it’s easy to find the right equipment for when you need it. Trust us, it’ll make you want to put it all to use!

Any idea to stay motivated during winter in cities?

See response above on motivational tools, which can help you get out of a rut any time of the year. With regards to specifically running in the winter in cities, two things come to mind. First, go explore paths easily accessible from the city but a little closer to nature. Plan a new route every weekend. Second, and this applies if you live somewhere where the roads can get icy and slippery, get a pair of studded running shoes. You’ll be flying by people slipping all over the place and it’ll make running in tough conditions fun again. Also check out this Guide to Winter Running we wrote.

Do you do cross training? E.g. cycling, strength training etc.

In general, no, we typically only cross train if we can’t for some reason run. And in those cases, whether it’s been due to injury or, say, pregnancy for Sophia, the spin bike has been our favorite form. We also do a regular amount of cycling, but that’s more for fun with our son and we don’t count that towards our training. In the winter, we also love to cross country ski but that’s obviously provided there’s enough snow to do so.

In running, the load on joints, tendons and muscle attachments is more or less what determines how much training you can do, as the body can only handle so much of the rather high impact sport that it is. With that in mind, there’s often room for more hours of training, to put it simply, and you can thereby stimulate your circulatory organs further and increase your overall load without exposing the vulnerable body parts to any extra stress. If you feel like you are on the limits of what your body can handle with running, then cross training is a great option if you have more time and space to train.

While not exactly cross training, we do make sure to do strength and core work every week, in addition to a good amount of wood chopping 🙂 

Your opinion on running streaks – running every single day?

Run streaks can be a fantastic motivational tool, especially for those who are in a rut and trying to find some momentum in their training. With that said, all runners need a rest day every so often, and we’re strong advocates for taking at least one rest day per week. Rest days allow for the body to soak up the work and rebuild itself stronger – don’t forget that training is a so-called catabolic activity, which means “breaking down”, and that recovery is anabolic, which means “building up”. You don’t get stronger during training – you get stronger after training, when you rest and let the body patch itself up a tiny bit stronger of a version. Without that rest, that building up phase can’t properly occur and it’s pretty obvious what happens then – the hard earned benefits from your training will be lost.

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Best vegetarian recovery foods (within half hour of workout)?

Who doesn’t love the post run snack, right? Here in our household in Sweden, we are big fans of rye crispbread, and eat a lot of that stuff. Hummus, peanut butter, butter and cheese, eggs, are all good options to put on crispbread post-run. We also like a yogurt muesli bowl or overnight oats with dried fruit and nuts/seeds, as well as homemade granola bars. We recently wrote an article on this subject, How and What to Eat Post Run For Optimal Recovery, which includes a whole list of example snacks as well as what to look for nutritionally in your post-run snack. 

How do you fuel well during races when eating a vegetarian diet?

We’ll point you to two posts we’ve written here that should answer all your questions. The first, How to Be a Plant Based Athlete, while mostly directed towards a vegan diet, still applies towards vegetarianism. In there, you’ll find everything from micro and macro nutrient considerations, meal and recipe inspiration, and our take on the protein obsession. The second post we wanted to mention, How to Dial in Your Race Day Nutrition and Create a Fueling Plan, gets into how to create a race fueling plan, recommended carbs per hour depending on the race distance, a few example fueling plans, as well as if you should be using gels or sports beverage. And if you are curious what we actually eat on a regular basis, check out this post – Our (actual) eating habits + what’s in our pantry.

How to take on stage races – how do you distribute your energy over the multiple days and how do you maximize recovery in between them?

Stage races are SO much fun, but also bring about their own set of challenges. First, there’s the “how hard do you go?” questionmark. Do you give it your all on day one and hope you can keep it together throughout the remaining races or do you hold back, purposely trying to conserve energy for what’s to come? Obviously, ambition level will to a large degree determine the effort you put in. For someone whose goal is to simply finish all stages, it’d be smart to play it safe and chug along from the beginning, perhaps kicking it up a notch towards the end just for the heck of it. But for someone who’s more interested in performing “well” and would like to test their limits in a different way, I think the best piece of advice is to not just assume body will be in its best form the first day and worst form the last, even though I understand that would be the logical assumption to make. There are so many factors that go into your physical form on every given day – sleep, nerves, motivation, self-confidence and immediate recovery from the previous race to name a few – that you could very well be feeling your worst on day one and finish the last stage your strongest. In other words, don’t be afraid to push your “normal” hard already on day one, and trust that you can ride high all the way through. Doing everything in your power to recover well after each stage to be well prepared for the next will also play a key part, and the things you need to be on top of include: warm up and cool down, pre and post run fueling, overall fueling, rest, sleep and positive self-talk. You can get away with a lot less attention on the above when you run one race, but you’ll quickly crumble and fall when you’re dealing with stages if you don’t take care of yourself. Making sure to go for a cool down jog after each finished stage might be hard to motivate when you’re dead tired, but please do. Making sure you eat (both protein and carbohydrates in ample numbers) within 30 min after each stage will be crucial. Making sure you eat properly throughout the entire event and maintain energy balance is hugely important. And making sure sleep is a priority can’t be stressed enough. Early bedtime has to happen. Throw in some positive self-talk, affirmations, meditation or something else that you know will strengthen your mind and you’ll be golden.

Do you plan your training around your menstrual cycle?

Personally, I’ve never really noticed any changes in my body, mind or performance regardless of where I’m at in my cycle. I can perhaps feel a tad off on day one and always feel a little *ugh* if I wake up on race morning and discover I got my period (happened last weekend, actually – last day of the 3-day stage race West Coast Trail, I had my first day of my period), but that’s about it. In other words, I’ve never felt the need to adjust or plan my training based on my menstrual cycle BUT in my (our) job as a running coach, I always make sure to have a conversation on this topic early on when taking on a new female athlete. Based both on personal experience and (the very limited) science there is on the subject area, there’s a huge range of experiences and preferences and variations are spread across a very wide spectrum. Some feel their best during ovulation, others their worst. Some perform their best coming off their period, some can’t run at all. Some can barely make it out the door the week before their period, some think that’s the best window. Conclusively, the best advice is to be aware of your own signals and observations and NOT be afraid of planning training around what works for you. I highly recommend keeping a notebook or training log with a special focus on cycle observations for 1-3 months to help discover any patterns, as these are easily forgotten about soon after they’ve disappeared.

After having a baby, it’s hard to find time for solo runs. Are stroller runs a good build-up? Any tips?

We have stroller running to thank for so much! Best advice we could ever give a fellow runner and new parent is to get right into it – or at least as soon as mother’s body and baby’s body are ready for it. We started around 8 months, as that’s when we felt T was ready for it, and we have run thousands (yes, thousands – many thousands) of kilometers with him. We have many tips for sure: plan your runs around nap time, but don’t wait until your kid is deathly tired (then it can turn sour). Make sure you’re somewhat close to home when you expect your kid to wake up. Utilize a rain cover for wind protection – wind has proven to be T’s least favorite weather and we know the same thing from many other parents. The rain cover also muffles noise. Leave headphones at home and stay present and able to hear everything and act accordingly. Recline the seat if possible – but wait until after your kid is asleep. Embrace gravel and forest roads – perfectly bumpy, less traffic and constant, soothing background “noise”. And forget about pace – effort will stay high but pace will drop, meaning there’s no reason to worry about training effect. It’s there – trust us.

Stroller runs have enabled us to maintain a relatively high running volume without it encroaching on other things too much at all – thanks to them, we’ve been able to get in 12-18k for “free” almost daily, which has maintained/rebuilt a very solid base. To that base, we’ve peppered in 1-2 solo workout runs per week – most often early mornings – and a long run, either with the help of grandma or by running part with stroller, part alone. For T’s first two years of life, this was our routine – and we can’t complain about loss of form one bit. Stroller running rocks!

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