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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Healthy Tacos in under 20 min (Carbs74. Fat14. Protein53.)

9 Ingredient Taco Bar

Recipe Serves: 3-5 people

Time Takes: 20 min

Level: EASY


Ingredients Needed:

  • Chicken Breasts
  • Brown Rice (1/4 cup)
  • Quinoa (1/4 cup)
  • Black Beans
  • Tortillas (whole wheat)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatos
  • Red Peppers
  • Taco Seasoning



Step 1:

Boil 2.5 cups of water & Defrost Chicken (if needed)

Step 2:

Add Brown rice (1/2 cup) and Quinoa (1/4) to the boiling water until fully cooked

Grill chicken on stove until fully cooked & add taco seasoning


Step 3:

While chicken is cooking & rice is boiling

Cut up romaine lettuce, red pepper & tomatoes


Step 4:

Put together everything on serving plates & enjoy!


Nutrition Information

2 Loaded Tacos

Calories: 650

Carbs– 74 grams (46%)

Fat– 14 grams (20%)

Protein- 53 grams (33%)

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Carbs & Running- Everything you need to know

 How to successfully carbo-load:

What we will cover:
glycogen storages
complex carbs
simple carbs

Glycemic index

First let’s note the cardinal rule of running:
Never try anything new on race day.

Why Do Runners Carbo-load?

The reason why people ‘carbo-load’ is to restore your glycogen storage levels in the muscles. Glycogen storages get depleted over time during your training. The more you run & the longer you run, the more depleted your glycogen storages are.

How are Glycogen Storages Restored?

When we take rest days and reduce mileage [taper] while maintaining your usual diet, these storages will slowly build back up to normal. To build up glycogen storages more effectively, athletes will increase the ratio of carbohydrates they are consuming 4-7 days before the race. It takes time for the storages to refill to normal, so it is best to span this process out to 4-7 days before the race.

 What is a ‘Glycogen Storage’?

The glycogen storages will NOT make you faster. The glycogen storages only come into play after going over 90 min of activity– for this reason you do NOT need to carbo-load before 5k-10k distance races. Glycogen will help you run longer & race without hitting a ‘wall’/running out of internal fuel during the race (given you run a smart race).

Should I just eat junk food?

The TYPE of carbohydrates you are eating is HUGE. All carbs are NOT created equal. 
Simple carbs and starches break down almost immediately in the blood stream into sugars and do not get stored in your muscles glycogen storages for a later use. 
Complex carbs take longer to break down and are stored in your muscles glycogen stores to get used at a later date when you need them (ie- when you are exercising NOT sitting on the couch tapering)

Simple vs Complex Carbs

When to eat simple carbs:

Simple carbs – take DURING or the race or right before the race or immediately after because they can be utilized right away.
Examples: baked potatoes, Soda, Gatorade, corn, white bread, white pasta, muffin, donughts, cake, candy, chips
Simple Carbs can be found on the race course of ultra marathons because they give your body the fuel it need immediately into the blood stream
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These are things ultra marathons really eat on the course. You might have wondered, “why do they eat junk food when they are running”- now you know!

When to eat complex carbs:

Complex carbs-  you would want to be eating in the week LEADING UP TO the race because they can be stored away from a later use.
 Examples- oatmeal, whole grains/whole wheat anything, sweet potatoes, vegetables, etc
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You can find great recipes for runners in this book Run Fast Eat Slow
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How much should you eat?
You will not be running as much the taper week, so no need to increase the amount of calories you are eating. Rather, focus on getting more calories from complex carb sources. 
I believe in intuitive eating. You should eat when you are hungry. Intuitive eating is best for people who watch their glycemic indexes in food.

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index is essentially how much your blood sugar increases when you eat the food. Foods with a HIGH GI index rapidly increase your blood suagar. Foods with a LOW GI index create a more ‘steady’ blood sugar level.
High GI examples: bagel, donuts, fries, pretzels, candy, dried fruit, white rice, rice cakes, graham crackers, waffles, watermelon
Low GI examples: apple, grapefruit, tomatoes, carrots, lima beans, chikapeas, oatmeal, special k , frosted flakes, lentil soup, banana bread, yogurt, 

GI index – key for weight loss & mood stabilization:

It’s not good to have massive spikes in blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes can cause you to feel hungry, lathergric, irritable, etc.
Feeling hungry when you are NOT actually hungry is the sensation that happens when you eat too many high GI foods throughout the day.
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You should probably try eating things that have Lower glycemic indexes to stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day.

Everything in Moderation:

You can obviously still have treats and indulge. You can still eat high GI foods. Just know that the high GI foods constantly throughout the day lead to huge peaks & dips in blood sugar which can cause you to feel tired, sick, hungry, etc. 

Summary How to Carbo-load 

(spark notes version)
-Stick with complex carbs & low glycemic index foods 3-5 days before the race.
-Simple carbs during and right before the race
-You can certainly have treats during your taper and indulge!
-Just eat with a purpose and know the impact of what you put in your body 🙂

4 tips to get excited about hard workouts!

Have you ever been ‘runner lazy’?

Runner Lazy: When you want to go on a run but you don’t feel like doing the prescribed workout for the day because it sounds ‘hard’

Here are signs you might be experiencing ‘runner lazy’:

-Have you ever just had a day when you look at your training plan and say to yourself, “I just cannot do that“. 

-Have you ever been on your warm up and felt your legs were heavy and tired- all you can think is “how the heck am I going to do this workout if the warm up feels hard”?

-Have you ever been on your easy run the day before and thought, “there is no way I can do tomorrow’s workout

We have all been there. It is completely normal to feel this way in the middle of training. The key to success is learning how to adjust. I am a realist. Our body is not going to feel 100% every single day. Learning how to listen to your body is super important in running. If you feel like you need a rest day, you should take it. 

There is no secret recipe to run a 18:00 5k or a sub 4:00 marathon. The workouts you see on a training plan or prescribed by a coach are not 100% set in stone. The paces are not set in stone. The mileage is not set in stone

1- “Easing into the workout” means you take the prescribed paces for the workout and tone them down by 10-15 seconds per mile. The end goal of the workout is to get down to “prescribed pace” by the end or second half of the workout. 

Easing in allows you to practice negative splits and will likely save you from ‘bonking’ during the second half of your workout

2- Mix up the location- Changing the location of your run can get your mind mentally fired up. Your brain and body sometimes go into “auto” mode when you do the same routine every day. If you run on the treadmill, maybe try the track. If you run on the track, maybe try a new route on the road.

3- Find a partner- Competition or friendship can help inspire you to finish your workout! If someone is out there running 800 meter repeats with you, you are less likely to leave until you are both done! You don’t need to even run “with” the person. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone there to hold you accountable and ‘suffer’ with you 🙂

4- Do your workout during a race- This is huge! Race day adrenaline can make you feel unstoppable. Doing a tempo or even intervals during a race is a great source of motivation- nothing like a whole crowd of people cheering you on during a workout