All posts by Aaron Engelsrud

Book Review: ‘Run Less, Run Faster’

Article Summary: A review of the Runner’s World book “Run Less, Run Faster” by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss

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run less run fasterI first heard about Run Less, Run Faster and the FIRST training program in a brief Runner’s World article in early 2007 and was intrigued by the training concepts presented. The article discussed a relatively new training program, scientifically proven over a few years and hundreds of runners, based on running three days a week with integrated cross training on the off days. This short note lead me to the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and eventually to this book (although at the time of my initial interest the book was not yet available). The concepts presented in this book, while not revolutionary, are definitely a departure from the classic “more miles is better” philosophy and the book has really changed the way I view my approach to training.

Run Less, Run Faster is a quick and easy read (only about 300 pages) that delivers a wealth of solid information at a level that is easy to understand and quickly allows the reader to put in to action the concepts and methods outlined. The book is broken down in to four main sections plus one bonus section:

  • Section I: The FIRST Approach
  • Section II: How to Follow the FIRST Training Program
  • Section III: Performance Factors
  • Section IV: Supplemental Training
  • Bonus Section: Getting to Boston

This format allows the authors take you though the basics of the program clearly and concisely. The reader will quickly come up speed on the 3plus2 method, the 3 core workouts, and correct pacing for all of the prescribed workouts.

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Section I lays out the basics of the plan, steps for new runners, and information on setting realistic goals. In reality, this is just a brief overview of the rest of the book—an introduction to the concepts explored in much more detail further on.

Section II dives much deeper in to the training program. The reader gets a full description of all of the core running workouts, what they aim to achieve, correct paces, and how to run them correctly. In addition to a detailed description of the program, there are plenty of pace charts and training plans to help the reader plan their specific training program. Finally, the authors provide important information on rest and recovery as well as year round training tips and tricks.

Section III covers a few topics that are common to all running programs. These topics include, running in hot and cold weather, training with and avoiding running related injuries, and basic nutrition information. These are all very brief sections but they include enough information to be helpful.

Section IV covers one basic topic—strength training for runners. The reader is given a clear plan that is fairly simple and easy to apply. No expensive weights or benches are necessary and the program, as delivered, should not take an excessive amount of time. A nice addition to any runner’s training regimen.

The last section of the book outlines what is necessary in terms of paces, training, and effort to qualify for Boston. It is broken down into the various age group qualifying times and gives the reader a few guidelines to look for to determine if a Boston qualifying run is possible based on past performance. I really appreciated the realistic view of what is necessary in terms of my current performance to qualify for Boston. Overall, this section is a nice addition to the book.

To me, this is a well written, well documented, and scientifically proven method to run faster on less miles. I am currently using the plan outlined in the book for my training plan for the 2007 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, so far the paces, distances, and volume of training have been just right. I really appreciate the change of pace from day to day and the inclusion of various forms of cross training, it really makes the program fun and interesting to work with.

Have you read this book? Why not click on our five-star rating and leave us a comment to let our readers know what you think of it?

[ratings]

Available on Amazon

Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster

Price: $16.95 (US)/$21.00 (CAN)

Web Site of the Week: Athlinks.com

(We did a quick review of Athlinks.com a while ago. Here’s a closer look.)

Athlinks.com is a unique and useful Web site for runners, multi-sport enthusiasts, or endurance athletes. The site combines the very popular social aspects of the Internet with race results and event listings.

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Some of the main features of the site include:

My Profile:
After a short registration process, you can create a profile that is unique and personal to you. Your profile includes your age, location, a picture of your choice, and a short blurb describing you and what you are doing.

My Results: When you register, the site combs through race results history (over 31,000 races and 13,000,000 results) to find events that you have taken part in. These results are then associated with your profile and can be found by looking at your profile.

Gear:
You can input any gear you use. For example, I have input my Polar F6 Heart Rate Monitor watch and my Asics as well. You can upload pictures of your gear and include as much detail about your favorite gadget as you like.

Photos: You can add multiple galleries of photos to either share with your friends, make public, or keep private.

My Friends:
If you find someone you know (or even someone you don’t) on Athlinks, you can ask them to be your friend and then easily track their race results and progress right along with them.

My Rivals: Athlinks knows other athletes that you have competed with at least three times and will list them as rivals. Then, like friends, you can track their progress and have a little friendly competition.

Search: Search the Athlinks database by name, event, or use the advanced search to combine a variety of criteria to find people and events that are important to you.

Overall, I really like Athlinks.com. The event results provides a very valuable service and helps me keep all of my event results in one easy to find place. The nicest part about this is that you don’t really have to work too hard to find the results—in most cases, they find you!

Take a look and let me know what you think!

Featured Web Site: MapMyRun.com

logo_mapmyrun.gifThere is a new—or at least a totally redesigned—player in the route mapping Web space. MapMyRun.com has been online for quite sometime but has just recently released a new and improved beta site. Route mapping sites have become an essential part of my training plan and I think—after a brief review—that this is my new favorite. This site features vastly improved functionality over the old version and other route mapping applications. It features great running specific features that will keep you coming back to the site for more than just mapping a run. Continue reading Featured Web Site: MapMyRun.com

Getting Fit with FitLink

I recently wrote a review of FitLink.com. The site impressed me and the review I wrote caught the attention of Chris Charlier, one of the founders of FitLink.com. With this, I took the opportunity to ask Chris a few questions about him, the site, and his team’s vision for the future.

With that, here’s the interview…

Aaron Engelsrud: First, let me start off by saying what a fan I am of FitLink.com and what an excellent job you and your staff have done with the site. With that, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for FitLink?

Chris: I have been a software developer and dedicated marathoner for years. I am one of the founders of FitLink.com, and am primarily responsible for the user interface design and for making the site runner-friendly. During development, I challenged myself to run 12 marathons in 12 months while leading a marathon training group. I am proud to say I recently completed my 12th marathon of 2006 (One was actually my first 50 mile ultra-marathon), and many members of my group successfully finished their very first marathon. I have FitLink.com to thank for keeping me motivated and helping me successfully manage the training group.

AE: How long has the site been in development and what made you decide something like this was necessary?

Chris: The idea for FitLink originated in my college days. One of my roommates was a dedicated weight lifter and liked to drag his friends along. He was the only reason most of us ever made it to the gym. Once we graduated and started jobs in different parts of the country, I missed that motivation. I realized that applying a social network to working out would be an amazing tool for friends to keep each other motivated. We started development of the site in 2004, but kept it quiet while we built the feature set. We finally released it just a few months ago.

AE: You offer so many services, no noticeable advertising, so much additional content, and right now it’s all free. What are your plans for the future in this respect? Will there be additional or different features for paying customers? More advertising?

Chris: We currently offer a premium service to health clubs who want to create a localized network for their members. The service also adds club management features, such as the ability to send targeted messages to members based on their interests. For example, a club could inform all female yoga enthusiasts who prefer morning workouts of appropriate upcoming classes. We also plan on offering premium services for personal trainers, professional fitness groups, and event organizers. In addition, you will see an integrated online store that helps people obtain the proper workout equipment for their needs.

As for advertising, I personally hate ads blinking in every corner of a site. We are going to keep FitLink.com as clean as possible. In the future we might allow tasteful and relevant ads on the site, but would have very strict rules on the use of screen space. I would much prefer a few key partnerships with larger fitness companies whose products or services are intelligently recommended when determined useful for the end user. Many of our members have commented on our uncluttered site and I want to work to keep it that way.

AE: What’s in the works for the future? Any new bits you can tell us about? Are you doing anything for blog integration or additional mapping features?

Chris: The list of ideas for the future is LONG!!! We have so much work to do. Members already have the ability to blog on FitLink.com in what we call a workout journal, and we are soon going to add the ability to publish it as an RSS feed. We are also considering adding other data to the feed such as workout results and profile changes. Route mapping enhancements such as marking water and restroom stops are also on the list. We will constantly be adding to our exercise library, including things like stretching, yoga, and any other activity related to staying in shape. I would also like for people to be able to create custom exercises and share them with the community. Many improvements are planned for personal trainers as well. Currently a trainer can assign workouts and track the progress of a client, and we will be adding session scheduling and billing services. These are merely a sampling.

Finally, of course, we listen to all the feedback we get from our members and implement ideas as quickly as possible. One of the truly great things about working on this site is the community. We get to let people using the site dictate what the next feature will be.

AE: There are a few other sites in the same space as you—weendure.com, traineo.com, plus other sport-specific logs. What sets FitLink apart. What makes you the best?

Chris: There are a number of sites that have workout advice, sites that let you track your workouts, sites that list upcoming races, or sites to find exercise partners and personal trainers. To me, these are all related tools that help people stay motivated and fit. We want to build a single community with all of those things, and a whole lot more, in one place. It matters that I can find very contextual things, such as experienced runners at my gym who are training for the Chicago Marathon in the evenings. I love the fact that on FitLink.com, groups can discuss ideas, schedule runs, find new members, and share their progress … all in the context of an upcoming local race.

The goal for me is to create a vibrant community where people can find all the resources they need and have the motivation to use them. We encourage anyone with expertise to write articles and share their ideas. We encourage event leaders, athletic trainers, health club owners, group leaders, equipment manufacturers, and every fitness enthusiast out there to take part in the community. Adding all of these participants together with meaningful tools at their disposal is what sets FitLink apart.

AE: The Complete Running Network is home to hundreds of runners and fitness junkies from around the world. Tell us how we can benefit the most from the services that FitLink offers.

Chris: In the end, FitLink is about staying motivated. I get excited about my training when I get to see other friends of mine working hard towards their goals. I have already made a number of new friends and I have helped some people achieve their goals. For an established group such as The Complete Running Network, FitLink enables your readers to create a profile, set goals, and communicate with each other efficiently. In addition, the ability to record workouts and track others’ progress is a nice complement to your resources. You or your readers could also post some articles on FitLink to help make others aware of your terrific network.

AE: Finally, I seem to find a new and interesting tidbit over at FitLink almost everyday. What is your favorite hidden or under utilized feature, and how do I use it?

Chris: One of the coolest things that many people have not found or understood is our subscription service. Much like RSS feeds that you subscribe to, in FitLink we made it possible to be notified of updates. However, since we take into account personal relationships and affiliations, you can track changes at a much more fine grained level than with a typical feed. For example, you can watch the discussion attached to a single article, journal entry, photo, group discussion topic, or even watch for pictures to be added to a particular gallery. Any time you see the “subscribe” action you can choose to be kept up-to-date. You will then be notified on your home page as your friends add new journal entries or comment on articles, for example. We want to let people indicate exactly what they are interested in reading and help filter out the noise you find on social networks today.

AE: Anything you’d like to add?

Chris: I would just like to say thank you for your interest in FitLink. I hope to see more of the fitness junkies who enjoy The Complete Running Network participate in our community. And, as always, let us know what we can improve for you!

A few things of note. First, please feel free to visit my FitLink site and check out what it has to offer! You can find me at http://www.fitlink.com/aengelsrud or subscribe to the FitLink RSS feed. I have also set up a Friends of the Complete Running Network group for all of us to share our workouts and find out what everyone is up to. I hope everyone can find as much value in FitLink as I have.

Streakers!

inspirationA recent article by Mark right here on CompleteRunning.com got me to thinking about what it means to be a consistent runner. Those thoughts and a short excerpt in Runners World led me to this site: the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., which allows membership only to runners who have logged at least one mile every day for a period of time. Beansprout—you’re eligible—way to go!

The association defines a streak as:

  • running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).
  • Running under one’s own power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy.
  • Ownership of a running streak, either active or retired, entitles you to a USRSA membership.
  • Once that streak reaches a year in duration you then qualify for USRSA listing of your streak.

The streaks listed on this site are truly amazing an awe inspiring. Here are a few examples of amazing feats of running (this is the top 5 from the active streak list):

1. Mark Covert 14,011 days (38 years 132 days)
2. Jon Sutherland 13,704 days (37 years 190 days)
3. Jim Pearson 13,438 days (36 years 289 days)
4. Kenneth C. Young 13,298 days (36 years 149 days)
5. Stephen W. DeBoer 12,962 days (35 years 178 days)

Wow! Anything over two days is good for me. Thirty-eight years of running every single day is simply amazing and unimaginable all at the same time. All of these runners are true inspirations. Nice work and keep running!

Nike + iPod: What if You Don’t Run in Nike?

running tipsWhen the Nike + iPod kit came out, I thought it was really a cool idea. The thought of integrating your music and a time/distance tool in to one neat little kit was really intriguing. The downside for me was the fact that I don’t really care for Nike shoes. Never have. Even when I wasn’t a runner, I didn’t really wear Nike. They just don’t seem to fit my foot.

This is no longer a problem. A few enterprising folks have come up solutions to allow you to use your Nike + iPod combination with ANY shoe. Take a look at some of these solutions:

  • Switcheasy.com: This is a neat little idea and looks like it would work very well. The hard case keeps your transmitter safe and the clip on the back makes it easy to move from shoe to shoe. $7.99
  • Shoepouch.com: This is a little more basic, but should do the trick. Nothing fancy, just what you need to attach your transmitter to your shoe. $5.99
  • [ad#Adsense]

  • Podophile.com: Podophile has a homemade solution that uses Velcro and a little ingenuity to attach your transmitter to any of your shoes. This has the benefit of being free and fairly secure.
  • Sportsuit Sensor+: This is a nice little neoprene pouch that attaches to the laces of your shoe. Designed specifically for the iPod transmitter, it looks like it should work well. $9.95
  • Nike Shoe Wallet: This is a product direct from Nike, that may work to hold your transmitter. It’s not designed specifically for doing this (obviously Nike would rather sell the shoes) but it would most likely do the trick. $8.00 (Out of stock)
  • Bottom-line, you no longer have to wear Nike shoes to enjoy the benefits of the Nike + iPod transmitter system. Any of the solutions noted above should work to manage the transmitter securely and get you out running in your New Balance, Puma, or any other brand shoe you choose.

Podcasts for the Endurance Athlete

EndurancePlanet.com

Over the course of the last few months I have been subscribing to the RSS feed from www.enduranceplanet.com and listening to their weekly podcast. Every Monday a new athlete or endurance sport expert is interviewed and the resulting interview posted to the website as a podcast ready for download.

Some of the recent interviews include:

* Perry Romanowski – a jogging juggler( 12/11/2006)
* Sam Wilkinson – Author and triathlete (11/27/2006)
* Michael Cook – runner, cyclist, and triathete (11/13/2006)
* Peter Reid – 3 Time Ironman world champion (10/26/2006)

This is just a small assortment of the podcasts available. There are literally dozens and dozens—hours and hours of informative listening. These are always top quality and interesting to listen to. They are professionally done and put you right in the middle of the interview. Each interview can easily be downloaded and added to your iPod or MP3 player for easy listening while running or biking. Learn while you workout!

Book Review: Guide to Road Racing

I first picked up Alberto Salazar’s Guide to Road Racing while I was in the beginning stages of training for a marathon, I have gone back to it numerous times for various information. This is a solid reference for any runner as well as a good cover to cover read for anyone interested in starting to run. The book covers all of the following in good detail:

  • Base training
  • Speed training
  • Nutrition
  • Avoiding injuries
  • Mental conditioning
  • Race preparation
  • Weight training
  • Treadmill training tips

Walking the line between too advanced and technical and not advanced or technical enough is difficult for any running book. Alberto Salazar manages to do a great job of finding just the right balance between advanced topics for the seasoned veteran and great nuggets of wisdom for the beginning runner. This is where this book shines.

In addition, the book manages to cover a wide range of topics in a relatively short time frame. This is not huge tome that rambles on for thousands of pages. With the index and appendix, this book comes in at under 300 pages. Easily manageable in a few days of easy reading and well worth the time.

If you are serious runner looking for a good reference to find those tasty bits that will put your running season over the top and help you achieve your goals, this book is for you. Also, if you are a beginning runner just looking to avoid injury and to keep running interesting and fun, this book is for you also. Bottom-line this is a book that should find a place on every runners bookshelf.

Also, this is a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift for that runner in your life. Run out to the book store and buy a copy today. Or, even better, click the link on this page and buy it online!

Alberto Salazar’s Guide to Road Racing

By Alberto Salazar and Richard A. Lovett
ISBN: 0071383085

Making It All Work: Integrating a Fitness Plan Into Life

running tipsI’m a busy guy. In fact, I’m really, really busy. During the course of a typical day, I’m many things. I’m a full time student, a father of three young boys, a husband to one loving and patient wife, a dedicated employee, a paid on-call firefighter, a moderately consistent writer both here at CompleteRunning.com and at my blog engelsrud.com, and—when time permits—I’m an avid fitness junkie. I’m sure I’m not alone in this scenario, everyone is busy—more things to do then there are hours in the day. Literally, if I could eliminate time wasted sleeping, I could actually get everything done, maybe.

With this busy life, I have been forced to come up with some creative ways to squeeze runs, swims, bike rides, or other fitness activities into my over all schedule. So, I thought I share some of my best tips with you, and hopefully, you can share some of your best tips with me. I’m always looking for ways to make things easier.

Top Fitness Tips

  1. Get up early. I mean really early. I’m up between 4:30 and 4:45 am most days so I can be at the gym or on a run by 5:00. This allows me to get a workout in, on my time, with little or no impact to my family or job. Plus, it’s done. I don’t have to worry about finding time to get it in for the rest of the day. Also, you will find by making this kind of sacrifice and showing your family you care about their time, the times you can’t make it work are much easier to deal with.
  2. Block out time. In addition to my morning workouts, some days I workout at lunch during work. I make this possible by consistently blocking out time on my calendar for my workout. Because of this I get scheduled for lunchtime meetings far less often and more often than not I’m actually able to go and workout. The benefit of this time slot is that I get to workout with zero impact to my family.
  3. Plan ahead. I make every effort to plan my week ahead of time. This allows me to let everyone in my life know what my plans are and plan around other activities as necessary. The old quote goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” I think this is really true, without a plan things will be more difficult and your results less dramatic.
  4. Post gym schedules near-by. I have copies of the group fitness schedule for the gym I go to at lunch at my desk on my cube wall. Also, at home, I have the group fitness schedule up on the fridge. How does this help, you ask? Well, if I find myself with an open hour, either at work or at home, I can easily look at the schedule and see if there is anything for me to do. Also, the schedules help me to plan ahead.
  5. Be open and honest. I’ve found that this has really helped in many ways. I have tried to be open and honest with my wife and my boss about how important my workouts are to me. This helps make things easier in the difficult times. Because they know it is a priority to me and I have made efforts to keep the impact on them low (see #1), they are more willing to be patient and work with me.
  6. Be flexible and know when to quit. Even with planning ahead and getting up early, and being open and honest, sometimes my plan just doesn’t work. When this happens I try to stay flexible and make changes where I can. Also, when flexibility doesn’t work, I know when I’m beat and I don’t get upset about it. Skipping a day or two (or even four like last week) isn’t the end of the world and I just do what I can.
  7. Make it worthwhile. I try to make sure that if I take the time to fit a workout into my day, I make it count. I give all I have at every opportunity and try to get as much as possible out of each workout. Not focusing or giving a second rate effort is wasted time and, if you’re as busy as I am, there’s no time to waste.
  8. Include the family. This past summer, I organized a weekly run with some friends I work with. The nature of this run made it difficult to schedule without some family impact—it had to be in the early evening. To minimize the negative impact of this, I brought one of my sons with me on the run in a jogging stroller. He loved it, my wife loved it, and I got a fun group run in every week!
  9. In the end, being busy doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your fitness goals. In fact, being busy can help you focus your attention on things that really matter and force you to make sure you are doing the fight thing at the right time. The most important part is finding the right balance between life, fitness, and family. Maintaining this balance will keep everyone happy – you included!

    Let me know if you have other tips or tricks for your exercise regimen. I’d love to hear from you!

Swimming and Running: The Perfect Combination?

I started swimming competitively when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Since then swimming has at different times drifted in and out of my workout regimen. I have always felt that swimming was a good way to stay fit, but it wasn’t until I started running and training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in 2006 that I really recognized the true value of integrating swimming into an overall fitness plan—specifically a fitness plan including running loads of miles.

Swimming and running compliment each other in so many ways it really should have been clear to me earlier on that paring the two was going to be very beneficial. Lets look at some of the ways that swimming and running work together to provide maximum results.

Impact: Let’s face it, running is a high impact activity. Every step has an impact on the whole body and this can, over time, take its toll. Adding swimming to your fitness plan allows for an intense cardio workout without the impact. Having these low impact workouts will provide more opportunity for rest which will allow you to not only run better on your run days, but run longer and more injury free over all.

Upper Body vs. Lower Body: I don’t think anyone would ever claim that running is a strenuous upper body workout. Mainly, running works your trunk and lower body, leaving the upper body out of the mix. Swimming brings the upper body back in to focus and allows you to create a more balanced physique. In addition to a great upper body workout, swimming provides a solid lower body workout (think of kicking for laps and laps around your pool), again improving your running by providing more power and endurance.

Lean vs. Bulk: Distance runners and swimmers have a remarkably similar body structure. Neither are looking for bulk. Bulk and excess muscle will slow down a runner and sink a swimmer. What both sports are looking for is strong, lean, flexible muscle and low body fat. These are the things that make fast runners (distance runners at least, I think sprinters are a little different) and highly competitive swimmers. Compare athletes like Paul Tergat (running) and Michael Phelps (swimming) – very similar body structure. The activities of both swimming and running promote this body type – they both burn huge amounts of fat, and build strength while reducing bulk.

Resistance: We all know that resistance training is good, right? Adding a little lifting to our workouts adds muscle, makes us stronger, and thus a better runner. Now think of being able to do resistance training for an hour or more straight without changing weights or messing with machines and working every muscle in your body. That is what swimming provides, consistent resistance training without the headache of a weight room. Keep in mind, weight training is good too, but swimming will help.

Bottom-line, swimming and running just work well together. They complement each other very nicely and each helps the other. For me, this is the best combination possible.

What do you think? Do I have you itching to get in the pool? If you want some help putting together a beginning swimming workout, let me know. I’d be glad to help. As I said, I have many years of swimming experience and would be more than happy to help you get started. Leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you!