Effort Based Running- Don’t let your watch rule your run

Have you ever had a run that felt great, but you looked down mid-run to see your pace/heart rate then your perspective completely changed for the worse?

It was not too long ago pace tracking devices did not exist. When I first started running as a broke college student, all I could afford as a 10 dollar timex stop watch. The only way to know how far or how fast I ran was to mapping out a route and divide the time by distance. No mile splits. No heart rate. Just overall pace.

Believe it or not, there are many athletes who still train using a simple stop watch which seems crazy when all sorts of gadgets that measure pace, heart rate, cadence, vertical oscillation are at our finger tips.

Why would someone not want to take advantage of that data?

When we tune into our paces and/or heart rate, we are tuning OUT how we feel. This is very bad for the sport of running. Running requires your mind and body to be in sync with each other. Your body is constantly sending you signals. Listen to it instead of listening to your watch.

Coach Ben Jacobs (1:08 half marathoner) rarely uses his garmin. He prefers to run using a stop watch. Coach Jason Phillippi (2:46 marathoner) did not start wearing a garmin until he was running his 3rd marathon!

“Just like to go off feel. It is important to learn your body so that you can regulate your runs within yourself. I wear Garmin on longer days and workout days so that I can be sure of the pace and can learn to feel that pace” – Coach Ben Jacobs 1:08 Half Marathoner without a garmin

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Ben with Timex watch & teammate Chase without a watch

” Before I had a garmin, it was cool because it made you do math in your head and didn’t feel the vibration each Mile, so you could get lost in the race and not have to pay attention to your splits.” – Coach Jason Phillippi 2:46 marathoner without a Garmin

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Jason After his 2:46 Marathon with only a stop watch

Tips for Running off Effort while using a tracking device:

  • Turn off auto-lap. Don’t get the pace alerts at every mile. Get out of the habit of looking down at your pace.
  • Flip the watch to the inside of your wrist. Don’t look at it. Cover it.
  • Run with friends! Talking to someone will help distract you from looking down at your watch. A true conversational pace will help you get lost in conversation and forget the pacing
  • Know what Effort different runs should be! Easy runs: 4-5 on a 10 scale. Tempo Runs: 7-8 on a 10 scale. Speed Work: 8-9 on a 10 scale. Race: 9-10 on a 10 scale

Tips for going off effort without a pace tracking device

  • Run a Route you know! This will be very uncomfortable to run without a pace tracker the first time. Running a route you know by heart will help you feel more normal. You have ran it several times, and you know the route! The only thing different will be not knowing the pace 🙂
  • Start with an easy short run. Next time you have an easy 3-5 miler on the schedule go watchless. It is better to start with shorter runs and ease into long runs without it
  • Focus on form and breathing. If you start to get worried about your pace/effort, focus on how you are feeling and breathing. This will help you get back into tune with your body. It might feel weird at first, but it will make you stronger.

Going off of effort is a great way to run because you are teaching your mind and body to work together independent of any outside gadgets. You will realize how strong you are. You don’t need anything or anyone else to pace you when you are in tune with your body! Be patient it takes time 🙂

Be in the moment. Enjoy the run. Don’t let a watch get in the way.


Goal Setting

Setting goals is very important in all aspects in life including running.  Goals must be realistic, specific and attainable.

Many times people begin training and set very big goals.  Big goals are great. However, you cannot expect immediate gratification for these long term goals. We live in a society of instant gratification.  If you want something you order it online and it is there the next day. You don’t have to work for it. When you set big goals, you need to recognize they will take time and you will need to work for it.  It may take a months or even years to achieve a goal. You must commit and invest in the entire process.  You must be willing to do what others are not doing. Many endurance athletes spend their entire lives working towards a big goal. You must have the patients and be willing to make sacrifices for those goals.

 Are you willing to make sacrifices?

Do you get your run in when it has been a long day?

What drives you?

Running is not an instant gratification sport.  

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Why does it take so long to see results?

There are many physiological processes that go into training.  As you introduce a new stimulus to your body, it will take time for your body to adapt.  When your body makes adaptations, you become better/faster/stronger.  As your body adapts, you can increase the stimulus to go to the next level.  Everyone’s body is different. Some people adapt much quicker than others. It is important to not introduce more than one stimulus without allowing adaptation to occur. You should not increase your mileage and increase your intensity at the same time.  Too many new stimuli additions without your body’s adaptations could lead to injury.

It is also important to keep in mind that training must be progressive.  It is important to hit benchmarks to your goals along the way. In order to run a 4 hour marathon you must first be able to run low 1:50 for half marathon. It is important to work to develop speed in the shorter races in order to become most effective at longer distances races.
The longer you work at it and the more you invest the more rewarding it is to reach the pinnacle.  But remember there is always another mountain to climb.  No one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it.

The Benefits of a ‘Cut Back’ Week

One of the most common training errors I see is the lack of cut back weeks. Sometimes I hear “Won’t I lose fitness?”. Absolutely not. Cut back weeks are a critical part of every training cycle.

How to incorporate cut back weeks

Athletes should have roughly 1 week with a 20-30% reduction in mileage every month. If you are running 50 miles per week, you should cut back to 35-40 miles per week. Along with a cut back week, should be a cut back long run. If you are at the level of running 90+ min long runs, I recommend cutting back the long run to less than 90 min at a minimum of 1 time per week.

Benefits of Cut Back Weeks

💥Allows glycogen storage to restore.

When you run for over 90 min, your glycogen storage start to get used. You don’t want to run out of this glycogen stuff. Why? Because once your glycogen stores have run out, your body begins to break down muscle proteins to provide energy and to maintain blood sugar levels. This means your body will break down your muscles to keep you running. This is not how we want to train our bodies. We want our bodies to fuel off fat and glycogen. When you allow these glycogen storages to restore, you get to keep your muscle and your body has the proper fuel to keep running 🙂

💥Reduces risk of overuse injuries.

Most injuries in running happen because of under-recovery. Many athletes do 2 workouts per week with a long run on the weekend. This is A LOT to ask of your body. When there is not adequate recovery time, fatigue starts to build and build. When fatigue compounds on top of additional fatigue, it can lead to chronic fatigue or scar tissue build up. Most injuries in running occur because there is not enough time for your body to recover. You want to take a cut back week BEFORE you feel like you ‘need’ one. This will allow you to stay fresh and completely avoid the pesky injuries or flare ups.

When you cut down the mileage, your body is not as ‘stressed’, so it allows muscles, nerves, bones and connective a chance to repair from the building weeks. This process only takes place to this when the body has a decrease in stress.

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💥Reduces mental and physical burn out by giving your immune system a chance to rest from the constant repair activities.

Let’s face it, running can be hard!  When we grind too hard for too long, we can get to a place where running becomes too much of a ‘routine’. We lose our fire for the sport. This is something we can to avoid. By placing a cut back week in training, we are switching up the daily routine, and we are creating a desire mentally to get back out there and a desire to run more. It’s like the only saying, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.

When your body is training, it creates micro tears in the muscles which creates a small an inflammation response. This inflammation response requires your immune system to go in and repair the damage. When you have too much stress on the body, it takes a toll on your immune system. This is why if you are sick, it is important to take a break from training and allow your body’s immune system to take care of the illness instead of the muscle inflammation. By training through sickness, you are putting your immune system working on overtime!

💥Allows body to have better sleep cycles by brining your resting HR and adrenaline levels down.

When in a build period, your body is actually going through a period of ‘stress’. As a reaction to this stress, sometimes the body produces adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones can lead to interrupted sleep cycles. When we decrease the stress load, we allow our body a chance to destress and relax. This is important in training because it keeps our stress levels under control which will lead to better sleep cycles

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I hope you enjoy these tips. Yes, I am giving you permission to give your body a break once a month. You deserve it!



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!