Tips to stay mentally tough during a run

Running is so much a mental sport. It can be just as important to train the mental part as the physical part. Putting a ton of pressure on a goal or specific paces can cause us to under perform because the pressure is too high!

Here are 4 tips to incorporate into your mental training:

1- Ignore the garmin

Pace based on how you are feeling instead of having the garmin dictate how you should feel at “x” pace. It is good to be internally focused on how you are feeling rather than externally focused on your garmin data. A few decades ago, garmins did not exist. Sometimes it is better to cover your watch. Your body is the best judge of pace.

Starring at your garmin during a race or workout can also cause a runner to ‘surge’ the pace. You might read a pace slightly slower then you want, so you speed up. Then your pace is slightly faster. These ‘surges’ will lead to a decrease in energy and performance. Let your body do it’s thing & check the garmin data after the race or workout 🙂

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2- Training Smart- Make Adjustments

Anytime you go on out the door, be ready and confident to give your best effort.  Giving your best effort does not always mean leaving everything out there every day. The two biggest focuses here are:

1- Training Smart

2- Digging deep when it counts

Some days our paces feel effortless. Somedays they feel harder. Ignore your garmin and put forth your best effort.

Other days, something might be ‘every off’. When you recognize that things are feeling ‘off’,  you can adjust the plan accordingly early on. Instead of forcing yourself to hit “X” pace even when it feels wrong, you can modify by moving the workout to another day. Part of training smart is allowing your body time to rest and recover and not forcing yourself to grind through a workout just because it was ‘on the schedule’.

3- Positive Self Talk/Expecting it to be hard

Racing and workouts are NEVER supposed to be easy or feel easy. Nothing about racing is comfortable. When it hurts and you are in pain, embrace it & understand that you are strong. You are ready for the pain!

Every day you race/workout, you can look in the mirror and say “this is going to be a really hard run, but I can handle it“. Let yourself know it’s going to be hard! Set yourself up for success by expecting it to be hard. Sometimes when it starts to get hard, we panic and think “if this feels hard then how am I going to do XYZ”. Don’t overthink it. You are capable. If your mind starts to doubt, your body will be unable to perform. You cannot let your mind control your body. Body is much more capable than the mind allows it to be.

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4- Read a Book/Self Reflect

What is really holding you back? Have you ever thought what is the event or reason for the negativity in your mind? I think we all have a different ‘dark place’ we go to in our minds when things get tough. Instead of letting that dark place victimize you, make it work for you. Use those negative events or ‘dark spots’ in your life/mind as fuel. Someone said something mean to you? Use it as fuel to show them how strong you are. Someone hurt you in your past? Take out your anger on your run!

If there is no enemy within the enemy outside can do you no harm.

Good Books:

1- You are a Bada$$

2- How bad do you want it

Hope these tips can help you can channel your inner strength


How to develop a strategy for a race and set goals.

When approaching a race it is important to have goals and to set a strategy. You must make your goals challenging but attainable. I encourage runners to set levels for their goals.

Level 1

A goal that is well within your reach. If you have run 1:45 for half marathon an appropriate level 1 goal would be sub 1:42.

Level 2

A goal if training is going very well and you are having great workouts and long runs. For the same 1:45 individual a good Level 2 goal would be sub 1:40.

Level 3

A goal that seems a very challenging. If all things are going great and you are having an incredible training cycle. For the 1:45 half marathon runner a great Level 3 goal would be sub 1:35.

Why Goals Are Important:

If you start a program with these three levels you have plenty to work for. After you have achieved any of these levels after a big race, you should re-evaluate and always set new goals. It is always important to dream big. Far too often people subscribe to the belief that; “I couldn’t do that” and then it becomes a reality.

“Do or do not there is no try” -Yoda

“Whether you can or can’t, you’re right” -Henry Ford

There can be many different kinds of goals. You must always keep resetting your goals. Never settle. Far to often people go about their life without a sense of purpose. If you don’t have a purpose how can you succeed? With running you must have a purpose. Every step has a purpose. You have to ask yourself why? Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish?

It is easy to be fired up at the start of a training season.. But every part of the training plan is important. The recovery run is making you better and stronger. It is easy to be fired up for the workout but it is all the little things too. Consistency is key to success as a distance runner.

Race Day Strategy 

When making a strategy for a race it is important take your goals into consideration. It is very tempting to take off fast when the gun is fired. This will come back to haunt you in the second half of the race.

When starting out at the beginning of the race aim for your Level 1 goal. If you have run 1:45 (8:00) pace start out with a 7:50 pace or slightly slower. If you are feeling great at the half way mark you can attempt to pick up the pace. It is always better to negative split a race than to go out too fast.

In training, I like to have my runners do a series of progression runs and pace work at the goal pace. It is key to find that race day pace and learn to feel ‘easy’ at the goal pace.  It is also important to train your body to run faster than the goal pace. A good coach will be able to develop a training plan keeping these factors in mind. Having a plan that incorporates these factors into training is key to success.

Remember to have fun and enjoy the process.

Written by:

Coach Ben Jacobs

Long Runs – Everything you need to know

We start introducing a “longer run” very early in a runner’s career. Your longer run is all relative to your weekly mileage & events you are training for. Most long runs should be between 25-33% of your weekly mileage. If you are running 25 miles per week, you can get an idea for how long your long run should be by (25 * 30%= 7.5 miles). It is best to not run over 33% of your weekly mileage in one run to reduce the chance of injury.

The benefits of the long run:

1. On a cellular level, you will develop an increase in capillary networks from the lungs & leg muscles. This means blood & oxygen can be transported better, so you can use the oxygen more efficiently.
2. Increase in mitochondria which power the cells to utilize the oxygen more effectively
3. Body learns how to become more conservative with muscle glycogen and opts to utilize body fat as a form of fuel
4. The fast-twitch convertible muscle fibers can be taught to act like  slow-twitch muscle fibers which allows enabling them to participate more in endurance-related events
5. Connective tissue becomes stronger between muscles, tendons & bones which can reduce the risk of injury.

Some Facts to know about duration:

Research has shown that your body gets the most physiological benefits from runs between 60-90 min in duration AND that runs over 3 hours start to have demising returns and the risk of injury becomes much higher. It is important to note these rules when training for your next big event.

Runs over 90 min- Glycogen Storages start to become used. You can add in fuel like gels during runs over 90 min. You should take a gel/gu at 45 min & then again every 30-45 min with water every time.

Runs over 120 min Fast twitch convertible muscle fibers begin to ‘act like’ slow twitch muscles allowing your body to make physiological adaptations which will benefit you in endurance events.

Marathon Training  I like to utilize 1 medium long runs in the 75-90 min mark during the week in addition to the weekend long run of 2-3 hours during marathon training. Having runs over 3 hours something I like to avoid if possible.

Half Marathon Training- I like to utilize 1 medium long runs in the 75-90 min mark during the week in addition to the weekend long run of 1.5-2 hours.

5k-10k Training- I will keep most long runs 90 min or under to insure we are not depleting our glycogen storages. The focus for 5k-10k training will be less on building the long run and more on quality sessions during the week.

How to Fuel before, after & during:


under 60 min- keep everything the same as a normal training run. Eat something light 90-120 min before your run & make sure you are staying hydrated as always throughout the day

60-90 min – keep everything the same as a normal training run. Eat something light 90-120 min before your run & make sure you are staying hydrated as always throughout the day

90+ min – add in additional carbs the 48 hours leading up to this run. Focus on getting complex carbs that will break down slowly like sweet potatoes, whole grains, quinoa. Don’t fill up on simple carbs like white bread or junk food- that is not carbo-loading. HERE IS A BLOG ABOUT CARBO LOADING 🙂


under 60 min- You can have water if you need it

60-90 min – option to take gu/gel at 45 min & again every 30 min. Take the gu/gel with water when possible

90+ min – option to take gu/gel at 45 min & again every 30 min. Take the gu/gel with water when possible


Muscles need to be repaired with protein & glycogen needs to be replenished with carbs. The best option after a run is something high in both carb & protein content. You could do a protein powder shake with a banana for example.

How mileage & training specificity effect your training

Cross training, running, lifting, yoga, fitness classes- it can be really overwhelming, right?

What should you be doing if you want to become a faster runner?

The system you stress is the system that improves. To run fast, you need to run fast in workouts. To run far, you need to be doing long runs. Just like shooting free throws will not help you become a better football player, doing yoga will not help you build your running endurance.

Practice makes perfect. To become a better runner, you must run more. Running more will increase your running economy and aerobic base. Running economy is the rate at which your body consumes oxygen. Running is aerobic sport. Aerobic means “with oxygen”. The more efficiently you can utilize oxygen while running, the better. Running more = teaching body to utilize oxygen better.

However, there are limits to how much you can safely increase your running mileage per week. Running is a high impact, weight barring exercise, so it is important to use the progressive overload principle. This is the gradual increase of a stress placed on the body overtime. By doing this gradually, you are allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger on a cellular level without increased risk of injury. The general rule is no more than a 10% increase in mileage per week. It is also important to integrate a 25% mileage cut back week 1 time per month.

You can continue to increase until you have found a “sweet spot” of mileage. This might be different for every athlete. I like to hoover in the 65-70 range. My husband like the 55-60 mile range. You might find 45 miles per week works well for you.

When Cross Training Becomes Important:

Cross training can help build your aerobic base (the rate at which your body utilizes oxygen) without the additional stress/impact of running. You can start with 20-40 min sessions of easy effort walking, elliptical, and cycling in addition to the 10% increase in running mileage per week. The goal will be to turn these cross training days into running days eventually with the 10% increase rule.

The best forms of cross training are the activities that make your body mimic the running motions. These activities are biking, walking, elliptical, stairs. Those would be more beneficial for building the muscles you will use while running. While rowing and swimming are also aerobic activities, they are not specific to using the same muscles you utilize while running.

When Lifting Becomes Important:

Lifting is always good to add into your routine to make sure there are not imbalances created in the body. Running is highly repetitive. If you have 1 side or 1 muscle group that is “stronger” or “weaker” than another, you will be susceptible to an injury due to the imbalances causing a change in your natural gait. To work on building stregnth throughout your body, lifting can be prescribed. Once application that is good for finding your “weak spots” is the Saucony Stride Lab. You can also get workouts prescribed by a PT or specialist.

When Yoga Becomes Important:

Yoga can be a strength and balance exercise. This is very similar to the imbalances we explained in the lifting section. Working on balance and engaging those weaker muscle groups will help you have a better stride and be a more efficient runner.

Want to be a successful runner? Make it apart of your weekly/daily routine.

Want to be a successful runner? Make it apart of your routine

The most successful runners I coach are not necessarily the most naturally talented runners. Natural talent can only get you so far without the work ethic and a solid routine to back it.

All of my successful athletes have 1 thing in common: a solid routine or obligation to run.

“hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”

Success is the sum of small things done day in and day out. If you can find a way to make running apart of your lifestyle, you will discover success.

Tips for forming a solid routine around running

1- Packing your gym bag or running clothes the night before & mentally planning for the next day

2- Watching your nutrition and hydration throughout the day knowing what run is coming in the next 24 hours and planning your meals around your run. If you are planning on an 8 mile tempo run @ 4pm after work, it might be a good idea to order something light if your co-workers all go out to eat at 1pm! All about planning it out and thinking ahead. It is on-going, but it will become a routine

3- Watching your activity level – Will you be on your feet all day? Are you doing exhausting manual labor? Sometimes we need to take a break between activities or make adjustments to the training plan based on the energy you are expanding during the week

4- Telling yourself it’s okay to ‘cut it short’. It’s mentally exhausting to think about ‘having’ to go on a run sometimes. Your body is hard-wired to want to conserve energy. Sometimes focusing too much on the distance or daunting workout can cause you to skip it all-together. I always say to myself and my athletes, “just go to the gym or go on your run and focus on just going for 1 mile”. It’s better to allow yourself that mental flexibility that will get you to the gym/out on the run… Then when you get warmed up, you will usually want to continue 🙂 And if you don’t, then cut it short.

How to use a foam roller to enhance your running

There are several different foam rolling tools out on the market for runners. There tools can be highly beneficial for aiding in the recovery & injury prevention process.

Some of the tools I use:

Classic Foam Roller– This is a great tool for all runners to add (target, amazon, your local gym)

Vibrating Foam Roller– A new level of foam rolling & totally worth the money (Hyperice)

The Stick– Better for calf & digging into specific spots (online or local running store)

Roll Recovery R3– travel sized roller that can really dig in deep to specific spots

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Why we foam roll:

These tools all work to break apart any adhesions or scar tissue that builds up on the muscles. When you train, your muscles get micro tears that will build back to become stronger. This process is on-going, and as athletes, we are always trying to get faster & enhance this process. Sometimes, the natural recovery process can lead to adhesions forming on the muscles as the cells go to repair. When adhesions build up on a muscle, athletes will usually start to experiencing pain on nearby tendons. Everything is connected.

How to foam roll:

When foam rolling, it is important to focus on the major muscles like quad, hamstring, glute, calf. Scan through the entire muscles and focus equal time throughout. Sometimes focusing on the spot that “hurts” is not the exact source of the problem. Always a good idea to scan through the entire muscle to break apart anything else that might be the source.

How Often to Foam Roll:

I would recommend foam rolling 2-3x per week for 5 min at a time. A quick scan through the muscles and breaking apart any adhesions before anything serious pops up is a great way to aid in injury prevention

Disclosure about foam rolling:

If you are experiencing pain, I would highly recommend seeing a doctor to assure it is not something serious. I always advocate for ART (active release) chiropractors and doctors. It’s important to remember that foam rolling is more of a recovery activity- it will not cure any serious pain you are having.

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What are strides & why you should do them

Strides might be a new term for some people, but they are the very basic foundation precursor to more advanced speed work. Strides are simply short, quick surges of fast running followed by a full recovery between.

Benefits of strides:

-acceleration build up leading to increased leg turnover. Have you ever heard of cadence? This is the amount of steps you take while running per min. Most people need to increase their cadence to be running at a more efficient level. Strides can help increase you cadence

-wake up the legs after an easy run for more advanced speed workouts to come later in the week. Sometimes strides can be used before a hard workout or a race. This will allow your legs to be ready to dive into a faster pace in the workout

-help improve running form- by running at top speeds, your body is forced to run with it’s most efficient form. You will teach your body how to run on your toes/forefoot

-Preparing your body to learn how to ‘change gears’. Strides are a great precursor to more advanced speed workouts. Incorporating strides early on in your running career can teach your body the different ‘gears’ you have.

When to do them:

  • During the very end of an easy run the day before a workout
  • After a warm up leading into a workout or race

How to do them:

During the end of an easy run or end of a warm up doing 3-6x 20 seconds @ 5k pace. Try to not worry as much about the pace but the effort. It should feel like a solid hard, effort. It should be short enough where you are not super fatigued. These are not meant to be a hard workout but rather a wake up call for your legs with fully recovery between fast bursts

Enjoy them!

Coach Ben Jacobs – Q & A

Run4PRs is so excited to have a new coach on board! Coach Ben Jacobs has over 6 years of coaching experience, and he is a USATF certified coach. He has several years of coaching at the high school level for xc and track, and he is on his 4th year coaching at the University of St. Thomas. In addition to coaching, Ben is a competitive runner. His PRs are 14:50 5k, 30:59 10k, 1:08 half, and 2:40 full marathon. You might recognize Ben from local races or managing the Run N Fun St. Paul store. If you ever need advice on shoes, Ben is your resource! 

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Q & A with Coach Ben

After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?

I continue to have the drive to improve.  I think that in life you can always be a better version of you.  I also just love being out in the running community and being around all the different backgrounds all with a common goal.

How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t feel like running?

If I am in a competitive cycle I tell myself that my competition is out running right now and I should be too.  If I am running casually it is just part of my routine and I know I will feel better after I run.

On average, how many times and miles do you run a month?

I typically run everyday and usually twice a day.  I typically run between 300 and 400 miles a month. In 2016 I will have run close to 3700 miles. 

What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?

I have always loved strength training and believe that it is incredibly important for long distance running.  I do a lot of high intensity body weight activity.

What’s the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?

There are tons of them.  One time on a run in college my teammates and I found a toilet by the side of the road.  We carried it back to school. It was rivalry week and we were playing basketball against a near by college.  We decided it would be funny to take paint the toilet our school color and take it to their campus.  To make a long story short the other college campus security didn’t find it as funny as we did.  Luckily the college president did.

Do you feel it’s still beneficial runners who aren’t competitive to have a running coach? If so, why?

I think that anyone can benefit from a coach.  Everyone can be competitive.  If you  have the drive to BQ you are competitive.  If you want to be better tomorrow than you are today then you are competitive with yourself.  It is important to have a coach so that you are training in the right areas.  You don’t want to overdo it. 

What’s your favorite types of fuel for running and why?

I am a big fan of Generation UCAN.  It is a slow burning fuel. Most of the products out there have too much sugar.  If you are training or trying to lose weight it doesn’t make sense to take in that much sugar.  Also sugar can make you crash.

What’s your favorite cheat food & drink?

I usually have a huge burger with all the fixings after a big race.

Do you like ice baths? Why or why not?

Yes I do.  I think that they are very beneficial in the recovery process. I am also a big fan of compression products for recovery.

What’s the most important tip you like to give new runners?

It won’t happen overnight.  It takes a lot of consistency.  You really have to work at it.  It may take months or even years to hit the breakthrough that you hope to achieve.  It took me 3 years to PR in the 5k and I was training hard.  I always believed in my training and knew that I could do it.  Too many people give up when it gets hard.

What is your favorite running accomplishment so far?

I have been fortunate to have received a lot from the sport. I have qualified for the national championships and US championships several times.  It is always a thrill to compete in the same race as the best runners in the country.  I have also been able to travel to many races around the country.  I am also very proud of the conference title I won in the 5k in college.  Finishing a marathon a year after a specialist told me I may not be able to run long distance races again.  The list continues.  Running has done a lot for me.

What is your favorite coaching accomplishment so far?

I have also been fortunate to coach many great runners.  Coaching St Thomas to the national championship meet two years ago and coaching them to 6 conference track titles.  Coaching my first athlete to a BQ.  Coaching an athlete that had never run and was in the process of losing 100 pounds to finish his first marathon in 4 hours.  I have coached countless runners at St Thomas and they all have unique stories.  Seeing them grow as runners and then move on into the work force has been very rewarding.

Tips for Staying fit during the Holiday Season

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so I thought it was only fitting to write a post about how to stay on track over the Holidays! Many people take this time as an “off season” from their diet and exercise. It is great to be less involved in the fitness world during this time of year, but the key is not falling completely off the bandwagon 🙂

This is my brother after the Turkey Trot in St. Paul back in 2014. It was a windchill of -20 degrees. It’s always a good time to see how cold of weather you can run in and brag about on social media HAHA

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Healthy Eating Tips

1- Load your plate with vegetables

Holidays parties and Thanksgiving dinners can be filled with some crazy unhealthy options. So many sweet treats. I like to load up my first plate with vegetables and leafy greens. This will help you get your recommend 6 servings of fruits and vegetables and allow you more time to scope out the other food options. I like to hear what everyone’s favorite is before I grab my second plate. You will also be more filled up and less likely to over-eat and feel sick to your stomach full by doing this 🙂 I always like to indulge in the treats, but I eat my veggies first 😉

2- Bring a healthy dish

I know, super boring. This will assure that there is a healthy dish at the party, and I am sure it will be something that other people will appreciate. When people think about brining a dish to a party, they usually think “dessert, wine, etc”. I would encourage you to think healthy and maybe experiment with a new recipe or just bring a veggies tray

3- Take your time eating

This is huge! Sometimes you can over-eat without realizing it. It takes your body awhile to figure out you are full. Spend more time talking over your meals and catching up with all your friends and family while you are eating. If you take your time eating, you are more likely to notice when you are getting full.

Exercise Tips

1- Get it done early

Holiday parties and Thanksgiving get-togethers can be LONG. Be proactive about being active in the morning so you can enjoy a nice long evening with the family. A lot of gyms will be open on Thanksgiving! Make sure you take advantage of your time off work and be active 🙂 This can help jump start your metabolism for the long day of eating 😉

2- Consider a workout challenge

Run4PRs had a 30 day circuit training challenge over the month of November. Some people like to do mileage goals for the month- ie “100 miles in the month of December”

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3- Holiday Themed Run of Turkey Trot

Check out some of your local races and sign up for these Holiday theme runs. You can even invite your friends and get new people into the sport! These themed runs can be a fun and healthy way to celebrate the Holiday season

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Shrimp Curry (450 cal. Protein 48g. Carb 47g. Fat 16g.)

15 min Shrimp Curry

Recipe Serves: 2 people

Time Takes: 15 min

Level: EASY


Ingredients Needed:

  • Shrimp (no tail)
  • Basmati Rice
  • Spinach
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Peanut Oil
  • Canned Coconut milk
  • Chilli Powder
  • Garlic Salt
  • Paprika
  • Chopped Chilles (optional if you want it spicy)



Step 1:

Start cooking the rice

Step 2:

Sautee 12 oz of shrimp with

1.5 tablespoons of peanut oil

1-2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 tablespoon of garlic salt

Dash of salt and paper


Step 3:

When shrimp is almost fully cooked

Add 1/2 cup of canned coconut milk, 2 cups of sliced cherry tomatoes, 3 cups of spinach


Step 4:

Put together everything on serving plates & enjoy!


Nutrition Information

1/2 prepared amount

Calories: 450

Carbs– 47 grams (36%)

Fat– 16 grams (27%)

Protein- 48 grams (37%)


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