Lessons from Elite Track and Field Runners #running

running-advice-bugAs we gear up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the fastest American runners are preparing to take on the world’s best competitors. At this past weekend’s USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, I got a glimpse of just how good, and how very fast, some of our talented American athletes are. Here are four ways they got so fast – and how you can boost your speed, too:

1. Build muscle.

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

The first thing you may notice about track and field athletes is that most look extremely strong and lean. You might think this is because they have to wear those tiny bun-hugging shorts; but in reality, their strength leads to their speed. A stronger body means more power. Sprinters, for instance, grip the track with spikes in the toes of their shoes, which pulls their front legs backward. Meanwhile, their back legs push their bodies into the air, making them literally leap forward. The greater the strength in their legs and cores, the more powerful these motions become. Generating more power means they go further with each step.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: To make your legs and core muscles stronger, incorporate strength workouts – think weighted exercises, classes like CrossFit or hill running – into your running routine one to two times each week. By augmenting your runs with exercise to make your muscles stronger, you’ll be a more powerful machine when it comes time to push harder.

2. Quicken your cadence.

When you watch runners on a track, you may immediately notice how quickly they turn over their feet. In fact, most track athletes do so at almost exactly the same rate. However, unlike the cartoon character “The Roadrunner,” these runners’ legs don’t just disappear into a blur of dusty circles. That’s because there’s a limit to how quickly we as human beings can physically turn over our feet. High-level track and field runners tend to run at that limit. Almost all of the rest of us, meanwhile, could stand to improve in this area.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: Focus on picking up the pace of your foot turnover during one to two runs per week. In order to quicken your cadence, you’ll need to shorten your stride a little – especially at first. Count your steps in a normal-paced run and focus on boosting that number when you’re running foot turnover drills. By increasing your cadence just a bit, you’ll improve your running speed quite dramatically.
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Video — Selecting Your Running Event and Distance (Episode 3-31)

running-advice-bugCoaches Joe and Dean shot this episode on location at the World Master’s Track and Field (Athletics) competition in Sacramento. The topic of conversation turns to picking your event. Is it always good to just go longer or are there other challenges out there? Maybe you’re a sprinter or should try something like the Steeplechase? This week we talk about picking a discipline that will work for you.

On this week’s show:
– Choosing a running distance that works for you.
– Does it have to be longer to be harder?
– What considerations should go into picking your distance?
– BONUS: Why is Coach Joe obessed with lumberjacks this week?

Watch and share on Vimeo or YouTube below.

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To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

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Video — Trying Out Track and Field (Episode 3-30)

running-advice-bugIn this week’s episode, Coaches Joe and Dean were still at the World Masters Athletics competition and we continued our discussion of track and field. We consider this week whether you might like to try out a track meet, an international competition or a master’s track event. It’s fun and somewhat addictive, so listening in as we talk about why.

On this week’s show:
-How are track meets the same and different from other running events?
– What should you know before you enter a track event?
– What different types of events and levels of competition are available to adults?

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Click here to link to our video series home page:

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Video — World Masters Athletics (WMA2011) (Episode 3-29)

running-advice-bugCoach Dean and I were at the World Masters Athletics competition in Sacramento this past weekend. The games brought together 5,000 of the world’s best track and field athletes — who have attained 35 years of age or more. Listen in as we talk about WMA, masters track and field and how exciting the world stage.

On this episode:
– WMA2011 — what are they and who comes to them.
– Are you a good candidate to go to World Masters 2013?
– What should you expect at a world track and field competiton?

Watch and share on Vimeo or YouTube below.

Click here to link to our video series home page:

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Quandary — Fastest of the Slow or Slowest of the Fast?

running-advice-bugNext week the World Masters Athletics competition heads for Sacramento, with almost 5,000 of the most experienced track and field athletes – including 1,900 from the United States — coming to show off their stuff. These runners, race walkers and field athletes are coming from all over the world are a diverse group from former Olympians to who knows what. One thing we do know about these folks who are still running circles around tracks in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s (or even older) is that they either love their sport or are darn serious about it.

So here’s where my quandary starts. I’ll be there next week with my good friend Coach Dean. When we heard about the event last year, both of us knew that we had to sign up. I threw my hat into the 5,000M and have been training hard for it since. But in entering the event, I didn’t really consider that there would be people that might be two or even three minutes faster than me running — and I’m pretty darn fast. Things got more interesting when meet organizers announced the participants in each event a few weeks ago. Of the 45 runners who had signed up for the 5,000M in my age group (M40-44), I was about half-way down the list in terms of my predicted finish time. Since there are limits to the number of people that can run in one heat in a track race, there would be two heats — one with most of the faster runners and one with everyone else.

Of course, then the question became — as a guy right in the middle of the field — would I rather be in the heat in which I would likely finish last or the one where I might finish first?

Hmmm… well, I’ve considered the question over the last couple of weeks. On the one hand, as numerous people pointed out, potentially winning the second (slower) heat might be fun, but might also be a case of being the “fastest of the slow” — not that anybody is really slow here. But, as they pointed out to me, is it any fun to win when you know that a whole separate race would be going on and all of those runners would be faster than you? Most of these folks were not themselves runners, I should probably point out.
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Track and Field — World Masters Athletics Heads for Sacramento

running-advice-bugMore than 4,800 athletes from 93 countries, ranging in age from 35 to 101, have entered the 19th World Masters Athletics (WMA) Outdoor Stadia Championships in Sacramento. The international track and field event will be held July 6-17.

This marks the first time in 16 years that the biennial event has been held in the United States. In addition to showcasing age-group athletes from around the world, the WMA Championships will provide the capital region with an estimated economic benefit of $23 million, according to the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Sacramento Sports Commission has been preparing for next month’s competition for nearly four years. Sacramento was awarded the event at the 2007 WMA Championships in Riccione, Italy.

“We want to showcase Sacramento in the best possible light while also providing the athletes with the facilities and organization needed to perform at their best,” said John McCasey, executive director of the Sacramento Sports Commission and chairman of the local organizing committee. “We’ve got a great team in place. I think it will be a tremendous event.”

The event kicks off July 5 at 6 p.m. with the opening ceremonies at Hornet Stadium. The parade of athletes will be accompanied by live entertainment.

Of the 4,804 registered athletes, 1,915 are from the United States. Canada has the second-largest group of entrants with 215, followed by Germany (212), India (210), Great Britain and Northern Ireland (195), Mexico (194), Australia (164), France (125) and Italy (101). Eleven of the 93 countries represented in Sacramento have one entrant apiece, including Senegal, Belize, Fiji, Liberia, Paraguay and U.S. Virgin Islands.
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Racing — Pace Yourself

running-advice-bugI know, I know. You’re thinking, ‘Coach Joe is writing another piece on pacing.’ (You’re correct.) And that he’s going to tell us how important it is to pace ourselves during races. (Also correct.) But I promise I’m taking a different look at pacing today, so bear with me.

I’m a big proponent of runners really knowing their race pace — training enough at it so that it is ingrained in their memories and that it almost becomes a part of their subconscious on race day. I say it all the time — practice your goal pace so that you know what it feels like and then you can just go out and do it in your race.

This weekend, I demonstrated for myself why this is so important. Let me tell you the story.

I was running in my first 5,000M race on a track. I’ve run more 5K road races than I can count, but I’d never run one on the track. I had a fairly good idea of the pace that I needed to run to meet my goal — I wanted to run about 1:17-1:18 per lap. This would have brought me in about 15 seconds faster than my road PR in the 5K and I really thought I could run this.

There were a number of my friends in the race, so before-hand we talked about the pace and there was an agreement that most of the group was going for this particular pace target. That was good, because it meant that I could follow along and let the group do the pacing. That’s always nice, but this is also where “pace yourself” starts to become important.

There was a fairly large field assembled for the race — at least 30 runners I would say — and at least 10 of them were going to try to run in the 16:00 range — so it was a quality field. The race got underway and the front group stayed together right about on pace through the first 400M. But then the group broke up and I was left with a decision to make. I hadn’t really thought about looking at my own watch on the splits and I was running behind someone that I know who runs about the same speed that I do. I also know that he is a good pacer with a solid sense of pacing. I made a decision to stick on him and let him do the pacing.
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Video — Interview — Chris Solinsky [part II] (Episode 3-23)

running-advice-bugThis week we have part II of our interview with American Record Holder Chris Solinsky. Chris ran 26:59 in the 10,000M on the track last year, becoming the first non-African man to run below the 27:00 mark in history. He crushed the American Record in the process.

On the show this week, Coach Joe English continues the conversation turning to how elite runners train, what their days are like and a look ahead at his Solinsky’s plans for the season ahead.

Thank you to Chris for joining us on the show.

Click here to link to our video series home page:

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Video — Interview – 10K American Record Holder Chris Solinsky (part 1)

running-advice-bugWe have a very special guest on the show this week as we are joined by one of America’s top runners: Chris Solinsky. Chris shocked some people last year when he not only blasted away the American Record in the 10,000M on the track, but also became the first “non-African runner” to drop below 27:00 minutes (he ran 26:59).

On the show this week, Coach Joe English talks with Chris about his background, his American Record and his career as a runner.

Next week, Chris will be back again and we’ll talk more in depth about what it’s like to train as an elite distance runner.

Thank you to Chris for joining us on the show.

Click here to link to our video series home page:

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Track and Field — Gay and Felix headline sprints in London

running-advice-bugTyson Gay and Allyson Felix will lead the way into the Crystal Palace as Team USA looks to continue their dominance at the Aviva London Grand Prix this Friday and Saturday. The two-day competition is the 11th of 14 meets in the prestigious Samsung Diamond League series.

Fresh off his big win last week in Stockholm, 2009 World Outdoor silver medalist Tyson Gay will be joined by 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix and 2009 USA Outdoor champion Mike Rodgers in the men’s 100m. They’ll have to watch for Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson (TRI) who could be a strong contender. The men’s 400m will showcase 2008 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 World Outdoor silver medalist Jeremy Wariner, who holds the second best time in the world this year, and will face off against world-leader Jermaine Gonzales (JAM).

Reigning World Indoor and Outdoor champion Christian Cantwell will lead the men’s shot put field along with 2007 World Outdoor champion Reese Hoffa and two-time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson. 2008 NCAA champion Cory Martin, with the second best throw in the world this year, 2009 USA Indoor champion Dan Taylor and two-time NCAA champion Ryan Whiting, who holds the third and fourth best world marks, will round out the competitive field.

Doubling in the women’s 200m and 400m, Allyson Felix currently holds the second fastest 200m time in the world this year. She has been running strong this season in both events, and currently leads the Diamond race in both events. Joining her in the 400m will be current world-leader and World Indoor champion Debbie Dunn.
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