Finding Motivation to Run When You’re Not in Shape

Finding Motivation to Run When You’re Not in Shape

How runners stay motivatedMany new runners give up early in the game because they feel that they’re not going to be shape in time for the race.  It’s understandable when injury or sickness is the reason for not being in shape. However, what’s more common, is that life gets busy and 5 runs/week turns into 1-2 per week.

Suddenly the reality of not being in shape for the race can “sinks in.” Inevitably, the motivation to get “back on track” diminishes and self-confidence takes a hit. In this post, I will provide proven strategies that help runners get past that point in the training schedule where self-doubt about one’s performance lead to lack of motivation and low self-confidence.

The Importance of Goal Setting

First, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself.  Although how to properly set goals is a topic for another blog post, my point is that if you’ve set a goal that requires more time or even athletic ability than you realistically have, you may be setting yourself up for big disappointment.

Setting goals involves more than just a specific finishing time, it may also include the race itself or simply being able to run a certain amount of workouts. For example if the farthest you’ve ever raced is a 5k, it may not be appropriate to sign up for a marathon that’s 3 months away.  Give yourself adequate time to build up towards a 10k, then ½ marathon and finally a marathon.  It may take 12 months or more depending on your current abilities.

By setting reasonable goals and committing to a training plan that’s personalized to both these goals and one’s athletic ability, we stand a much better chance to succeed.

Learn how to run slow

Another reason many new runners struggle to get in shape is that don’t know to pace properly.  They simply run too fast. The result is that they associate running with pain.  Since running hurts every time they do it, it’s no wonder that beginner runners get frustrated and end up losing the motivation to continue to train.

In my marathon training book, Crushing 26.2, there’s a complete section on how and why it’s important to run slow.  Although it takes time and practice to get fit and learn how to pace yourself, it’s a skill most experienced runners have mastered.

I’ll admit, for beginners, running feels tough when they first start, I can assure you that this agony won’t last and although early on you may feel exhausted, you will progress.

Most runners are different, so they get in shape at different rates. Before training for a race such as a 10K, ½ or full marathon, the body needs to build a solid fitness base.  The best way to accomplish this is to run at an easy pace for as much as 85% of your running.

It may take 3 months of running 4-5 times per week to be able to build up to 3-4 miles without stopping. The good news is that unless you become injured or sick, most people, if training properly, will quickly improve and be able to run further than 3-4 miles without stopping.

The other benefit of running slow is that it promotes recovery.  You can’t run fast all the time and expect to stay healthy.

Having the patience to run slow and build up a running base, will pay huge dividends when it comes time to complete a 16-20 week training plan.

How to Beat the Excuses Not to Run

We all have busy lives with daily or weekly challenges that can make it hard to get out and run.  Successful middle age runners have figured out how to deal with potential obstacles by employing some creative thinking.

Following are a few of the most common “barriers” my clients have presented and the solutions we’ve devised to keep them training.

  1. I’m too busy with work that I don’t have time to run – We’re all busy, but if you’re serious about your running and it’s important to you, the best solution is to schedule your exercise.  At the beginning of each week, I look at my training plan and determine how much time will be needed to complete each workout.  I currently coach a runner whose only time to run on weekdays is if he runs to the train station. He completes his strength training and mobility exercises before his run.
  2. I’m injured and can’t run – Definitely understandable, but I recommend asking your Dr. or Physical Therapist if there’s alternative exercises that you can perform. Most injuries require some kind of rehab. Ask if non-impact exercises like swimming, cycling or rowing are acceptable. I’ve coached people who actually return to running stronger than before their injury.
  3. I’m too tired to run when I get home from work – Try exercising at lunch or early in the morning before you leave to work. Running early requires getting to bed earlier, but finishing your workout by 7-730am and then heading to work is a great feeling and typically makes you more energized the rest of the day. You will also be tired and ready for bed early when you workout first thing in the morning.
  4. It’s too hot, cold, rainy, snowy (the weather obstacle) – I’ll admit that it’s tough to run when it’s single digits or 90+ degrees outside. When it’s really cold, you may have to simply use indoor equipment at the gym (treadmill, elliptical, etc) or if you’re lucky enough to have access to an indoor track. If you dress warm-up enough and don’t leave any bare skin to the elements, you can actually handle single digits, just be aware of the direction of the wind.

When it’s hot out, you have to either run early or late in the day. Ensure you drink a lot of water before, during and after your run. Hydration is critical.

Remember that on those days when you’ve lost your motivation to run, just try to do whatever you can. 2-3 miles may be all you can “eek out.”  Accept the fact that sometimes your running simply goes back and forth with your lifestyle.

 

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How to wash your Lycra athletic gear

How to wash your Lycra athletic gear

How to wash Lycra

Photo Courtesy of Instagram

You spent a lot of money on that fancy running gear that “wicks” sweat or keeps you warm, even when it’s raining and 40 degrees.  The tags say “Handle with Care”  What exactly does that mean? Today’s exercise clothes like running shorts, shirts, pants and Compression Socks are often made of material called Lycra®.  For those of us who were around in the 1980s, you may remember some “rockers” wearing Spandex.  This is the generic Lycra® version. Lycra® is a brand name trademarked by DuPont.

After your workout

As much as we hate it, we’re all drenched in sweat after a good workout, which means our clothes are, too. If you don’t have time to wash your clothes right after your workout, or you’re too tired like me, then hang dry your workout clothes, making sure there are no wrinkle or overlaps. This prevents your gear from turning into a mildew breeding ground. It also helps prevent bad smells from staying trapped inside your clothes.

How to get the stink out

The best method for to care for soiled workout clothes is to give them a prewash. Soak your Lycra® outfits in one part vinegar, and four parts water for at least 30 minutes before hand washing, or putting them into the washing machine. Ensure that you rinse your clothes thoroughly before washing them to get rid of the vinegar.

Some Don’ts to Remember

Do not mix vinegar and bleach ever! If your detergent contains bleach rinse out your vinegar soaked clothes before throwing them in the washer. Do not use vinegar in the rinse cycle of your washer if your detergent contains bleach.

Do not use heat for any of your Lycra® garments. This is really important.  READ THE LABEL BEFORE PUTTING ANYTHING IN THE DRYER.  Heat will destroy the elastic properties of the Lycra® fibers in your outfits.  Just avoid the dryer, ironing and the sun. Remember: Heat is bad for Lycra.

Do not use chlorine or bleach. This will destroy the fibers of the fabric and you will get “bag and sag” syndrome.

Do not use Fabric Softener. These are used to soften clothes and will ensure your expensive garment will never again retain its shape.

Wash Lycra in your machine 

Although it is said that hand washing is always the way to go, most of us don’t have time for that. Don’t worry! It’s okay for your Lycra® garments to go into the washing machine, but ensure that you follow these steps.

  • First, make sure that all of your zippered garments are zipped all the way up.  This helps prevent the zipper track from snagging onto other fabric during the washing cycle.
  • Turn your clothes inside out.
  • Put delicate items into a mesh laundry bag, lingerie bag, or pillowcase to protect them.  I strongly recommend this for something like Bib Shorts.

Washing machine set-up

If you are worried that a pre-soak won’t get all the smells out, then simply put some vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of your washer. This will ensure your washer dispenses the vinegar in the rinse cycle. Always use cold water when washing your Lycra® garments. Don’t forget, heat will destroy them. Also, always set your washer to “Delicates” setting.  This helps to prevent damage of your clothes.

Less is actually more?

Use less detergent than you would for regular washing, when you care for Lycra® clothing.  Although detergent cleans your clothes, it can leave a build up on your clothes if you use too much. A build up of detergent will trap in dead skin cells and trap bacteria into the fabric. If you want to make sure your clothes last, try a detergent designed for washing workout clothes.  You can find this type of detergent at most running stores.

Finishing The wash

After the washing cycle has been finished, hang your clothes up, or lay them down flat to dry. Never put them in the dryer and try hard not to put them in the blazing Sun.  Lycra® is a fast drying fiber, so your clothes should not take too long to air dry.

This article was contributed by SLS Compression and Triathlon Gear.  No samples were provided.

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Why I switched from Garmin to Polar M400

Why I switched from Garmin to Polar M400

Polar M400

I’ve been training for the Portland Marathon with the Polar M400 GPS Running Watch for the last 7 weeks.  For the last 6 years, I have been using the Garmin 110 Forerunner.  In this article, I will discuss the features of the M400 that I have put to test, how they have significantly improved my training and why I’m switching to the M400 from Garmin.

The 110 is Garmin’s older base model. It’s a good watch and has served me well with basic distance and time tracking of my runs. I’ve also used Garmin’s heart rate sensor and monitor features, but I often have challenges syncing the watch and the heart rate sensor.


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The sample for this review was provided by Polar.


I started testing my M400 at the beginning of August. It was a little challenging to set-up and sync with the (Polar Flow) iPhone app, but by following the directions very carefully, I was able to load all my personal information (age, weight, running goals, etc) and complete the set-up so I could take advantage of the benefits of the watch and Polar Flow (the online 24/7 activity, training and sleep tracking web service that is also an app for iPhone and Andriod).  Downloading the app allows Bluetooth sync between the M400 and your mobile phone. Not only can I see workout details on my phone, but now I can see incoming texts and alerts on my watch (similar to the Apple Watch).

M400’s Amazing Technology

Once the set-up was complete and I started to use the watch, l felt like I had moved into the “21st Century” from the “Dark Ages” compared to what I was used to with my Garmin 110. I’m very impressed with the technology that Polar packs into this watch. It’s easy to instantly sync workouts to Polar Flow via Bluetooth to my iPhone.  This allows me to instantly see all the details of my workouts.

Polar Flow iPhone App

Following are a couple of screen shots of my watch and the Polar Flow iPhone app with workout details.  As you can see, basics of the workout are covered.  I didn’t wear my heart rate sensor with this particular workout.

polar-flow

Polar Flow Workout Stats

Polar M400

Map of Run

polar-flow5

Splits & Ave Heart Rate

Although I have not had the time to use all the features offered with the M400 GPS watch, I can assure you that this watch does far more than simply track your pace and distance.  It tracks steps, daily calories burned and your sleep at night. The watch is very smart. In fact, it knows when it isn’t being worn, when you are sitting, standing, walking, jogging or resting.

Heart Rate Sensor & Monitoring

When coupled with a heart rate sensor, the M400 is a heart rate monitor.  I really like this feature, I not only use heart rate zones during my training, but I rely on my heart rate monitor during the later stages of marathon training to keep me from overtraining.  One of the signs of overtraining is an inability to elevate your heart rate even though you may feel tired and unable to run much faster.  Although, there are many other signs of overtraining, this is the one I use where a heart rate monitor is essential.  The M400 shows your heart rate in big bold easy to read numbers. The watch can also verify which heart rate zone you’re in at any time during your run.  The benefit is that it provides a more accurate account of your effort level.

In my article about training with a heart rate monitor, I discuss these zones and how you can incorporate zone training into your workouts (3-5 are the most common zones that I run in).

You can get additional in depth information about Running heart rate zones by visiting the Polar Website.

Polar M400

Polar Flow Heart Rate Monitor

Cadence

Understanding your running cadence (steps per minute) and increasing it if necessary, can help you improve your running efficiency.  If you’re overstriding (low cadence) you may be at increased risk of injury. Measuring your cadence is easy with the Polar watch and increasing accordingly, can reduce muscle damage caused by overstriding.

Your height, weight, leg and stride length and running ability will determine your optimal cadence. Everyday runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute.  With the M400, just multiply the average cadence shown on the watch by 2.

Polar GPS watch review

Average & Max Cadence

Recharging the M400

Instead of using an awkward clip with wire/pin connectors like Garmin, the M400 has a small rubber flap on the back of the watch that covers a micro USB port. I used to have problems with my clip making a connection, so charging through this port is a great feature. The micro USB port and M400 watch is waterproof (up to 30 meters).  This is perfect if you’re training for or running in a triathlon so you can swim with your watch on.

Overall, I found that the buttons are easy to press and large enough to engage while running or other types of exercise. On the right side, the up, enter, and down buttons help you scroll through features such as your diary of activity, personal settings and even a fitness test. On the left, there are the light and back buttons. Managing the M400 with these buttons does not take long to figure out.

The Polar M400 gives you a considerable amount of information during and after you have completed your run.  Below you can see the details of my heart rate and the amount of time I was running in a particular heart rate zone.

Heart Rate Zone Training

Ave Heart Rate

Polar Heart Rate Zones

Time Spent in each HR Zone

You can view the start time, duration, distance, calories burned, fat burn percentage of calories, average pace, max pace, max altitude, ascent, descent, auto lap times, best lap time and average lap time. It will also keep track of your personal records and will notify you after you complete your longest and fastest runs.

Memory of Activity & Battery Life

The M400 can store up to 30 hours of past runs on its internal storage. All of this information can also be uploaded to Polar’s website. I really like how it’s easy to access details of previous workouts right on my watch.  Following images show the workouts for a particular week that have been tracked.  As you can see, I can easily scroll to any day and then click on it to view workout details.

Polar Flow Training Info

Diary of Completed Workouts

M400 review

Average Pace

 

I like the M400’s battery life. I run and use the GPS daily, but I found that the M400 goes 3-4 days before requiring a recharge. If you’re not using the GPS, Polar claims up to 10 days before a recharge is required. I found that my watch required juice the more often that I used the GPS.

Overall, the big selling point of the Polar M400 is that it’s not just a GPS enabled watch for running, but that it can be used to track other outdoor activities, like cycling and hiking. The Polar Flow is an amazing dashboard where I can track all of my personal results and progress towards my goals.  There’s also multiple tabs which can connect you to a vast Community of other Polar watch users around the world, a Program tab which can generates an individualized training plan for 5k, 10k, ½ and full marathons and the Feed tab which shows you details of all of your activities.

 

Polar Flow Training Suite

Polar Flow Feed Dashboard

The coolest feature on the Feed tab is the “relive” button. You can get a view of the sites of your workout and the times/pace of various intervals.  It literally helps you relive the experience of your run or race.

M400 GPS Watch Review

Polar Flow Relive Workout Feature

I plan on reviewing the Polar Flow web service in much more detail in subsequent posts.

For me, the M400 is a great tool to effectively track both my indoor and outdoor activities. I highly recommend this GPS enabled watch, the heart rate sensor and the Polar Flow website and iPhone app to not only track your training, but all daily activities.

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Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Tracks run distances by GPS
  • Water and sweatproof to 30 meters
  • Heart rate and daily fitness (distance + pace data)
  • Large numbers on easy to read screen while you’re running.
  • Polar Flow iPhone app and web portal with dashboard and suite

Cons:

  • A little challenging to initially set up and sync with your iPhone. Just follow directions very carefully and it will work.
  • Slow sync’ing if completed via Bluetooth to your mobile phone.
  • Uncomfortable to wear at night (not really a huge deal for me because I’ve never worn a watch to bed).

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Why You Should Run The Vancouver USA Half or Full Marathon

Vancouver USA Half Marathon

The Vancouver USA Marathon was voted top 10 New Marathons by Runners World. It’s a great small town marathon and among other claims, it’s the only marathon with a Summer Brewfest and it enjoys a relatively inexpensive under $100 registration fee. I ran the half marathon slightly over a month ago, but I wanted to provide a race recap and discuss some of my training leading up to the race.

I last ran this race at it’s initial running in 2011. My time back then was 1:28:18, which placed me 6th among Masters (40+) and 29th of 1,427 overall runners. In 2016, there were not as many participants and I didn’t run as fast, finishing in 1:31:29 which was good enough for 10th overall males and 14th of 1,161 total runners. Although, I’m 5 years older, I was hoping for a better time (especially because I ran 1:27:59 earlier this year). The course is USATF certified and has a lot of uphills. Start and finish are at the same location, so it’s a net 0 incline, but the last hill at mile 12 really gets your legs. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those completing the marathon (which finishes alongside ½ marathoners for the last 11 miles).

I usually post my splits, but I’m having problems with my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch (it won’t sync up to the Garmin Connect site). I observed that at most miles I was running 6:55 to 7:05 pace, which is right inline with my finishing time.

Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold at the beginning of the week. My frequent business travel finally caught up to me. Although I rested most of the week and ingested about 5 times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C per day all week, I don’t think my body was fully recovered by race day.

Enough with the excuses….the Vancouver USA half and full marathon are great races. Bart Yasso from Runner’s World attends every year and helps to promote the event with pre-race shakeout runs and talks. Race day weather this year was perfect (sunny and low 60s). There’s many helpful volunteers throughout providing water, Gatorade and even energy gels. The course is well marked and there’s plenty of spectators cheering racers on. The mid June timing of the race fits well for anyone training for a Fall marathon. I also enjoy how close the race is to where I live and the fact that I can park about 3 blocks from the start (so I don’t have to stand in a line and check a bag).

The organizers are strongly considering moving the race to September. They’ve taken some surveys and observed slightly declining registration over the years. The concern is that the race interferes with Father’s Day and graduation activities. Personally, I think that with the race finishing in the morning (as most do), conflicts shouldn’t be an issue, but that’s my biased opinion and evidently not how others feel.

Training Notes:

This was the first race that I incorporated a 9 day cycle into my training. You can read about this concept in a post I wrote a few months ago.  Because I view this race as more of a training run near the beginning of my marathon training, I didn’t start my longer (10+ miles) runs until about 45 days out from race day (beginning of May). I completed 2 x 10 milers, 1 x 11 mile and 1 x 12 mile run. I also completed 3 tempos of 6-10 miles (each with 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down). My track work consisted of 3 sessions where I completed a combination of 200m, 400m, 600m and 800m ladder style workouts to improve my speed. A week before the race (just when I was starting to feel like a cold was coming on), I completed a track workout where I ran 2 x 2 miles at 12:50 and then 12:38. I completed strength work in the gym once per week and plyometrics/body weight exercises another time each week. Overall, I was pleased with my workouts and conditioning. I think that I was simply worn down from all my travel and my illness.

Lessons learned:
1) Get more sleep in the weeks leading up the race.
2) Run more tempo/lactate threshold runs at ½ marathon pace, which will help my marathon pace

Vancouver USA Half

I hope this race doesn’t move to September, but if it does, it may be reason for me to run the marathon instead of the half. I enjoy training for Fall marathons (primarily because the weather makes it easier and the long days give me more flexibility to run early in the morning or later in the evening). Regardless of when the 2017 will be held, I strongly recommend you consider adding the Vancouver USA Half or Full Marathon to your schedule. Registration fees are low and value is high.

Let me know if you’re going to be in town to run this race, I would love to link up and complete a pre-race run a day or 2 before.

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How to build speed, stamina & strength in one workout

How to build speed, stamina & strength in one workout

Stair Climbing for MarathonersOne of the keys to successful marathon training is to vary your workouts. Unfortunately, many runners are challenged with having sufficient time to complete the types of exercises necessary to prepare them for the marathon. You can’t perform the same workouts at similar intensities and expect different results. The good news is, that for no cost, you likely have access to a “universal gym” that will allow you to complete exercises that not only advance aerobic conditioning, but also improve lower body strength and help prevent injuries. If you add some track work to your workout, you can actually build speed. In this article, I will show how you can benefit from incorporating a few different 20-30 minute stair climbing workouts into your marathon training.

Regardless of where you live, there’s likely a high school or college stadium, parking garage, apartment or office building nearby with enough stairs to complete some very challenging workouts.  For marathoners, the benefits of training on stairs include:

  • Improved VO2 Max which means you can run harder and for longer durations because you have improved the max amount of oxygen used during intense training because you now convert it to energy quicker.
  • Stronger legs, glutes, quads and calves gained without the same impact on your limbs from running.
  • Builds stamina
  • Variety for free. Stair workouts are like having a universal gym without the cost. Runners can complete numerous exercises like sprints, lunges, plyometric moves and various combinations of bodyweight exercises. See below for some workout suggestions.
  • Increase speed by warming up with strides and incorporating 200m-400m intervals between sets

One potential drawback of stairs is the possibility that your stride may be shortened when you’re trying to adjust to shorter step distances.  This can be problematic if you include stairs into your marathon training too often and effectively shorten your stride.  Longer and quicker strides help runners get faster, so when completing stair exercises, ensure you run up with quick leg turnover.  Also, incorporate lunges or “bounding” strides into your regime and try to skip every other or every third stair if you can (do so safely).

I like quick reps because the increased leg turnover helps to build speed and improve running efficiency.

Stadium Stairs Workouts for Runners

Start all workouts with a warm-up of walking up the stairs for 10 minutes or jogging a mile.  Many high school or college stadiums are built around a 400m track. Follow this with light stretching. Workouts include:

  1. “Bounding” up steps by striding powerfully enough to skip to every other step. Ensure you use your arms to keep good form. Walk down.
  2. “Hopping” up the length of steps on two legs. Use your arms to swing into each hop. Walk down.
  3. “One leg hops” are same as two legged, but keep them quick. Switch legs when you’re half way up.  Walk down to rest.

The hopping exercises will greatly improve your running strength.

CAUTION: If you haven’t done any hopping exercises, ease into this one.  Trust me, you may make it through the workout, but you’ll be “whipped” the next few days.

stair exercises for marathon runners

Following are my favorite stair workouts.  As your conditioning advances, you should challenge yourself by:

  • Climbing more flights.
  • Reducing your rest intervals.
  • Increasing the number of intervals or rounds.
  • Use weights (15-20 lb dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand).
  • Adding track intervals between sets/rounds (if you’re doing stadium stairs)
  • Completing body weight exercises between sets/rounds.

Traditional Stair Workout

a) Warm-up
b) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (skip other step/go half speed). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets).
c) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (go full speed/every other step). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets)
d) Repeat (b)
e) Repeat (c) except complete 4 times.

Walking Lunges – concentrate on proper form to maximize the effect and build lower body strength.

a) Warm-up
b) You don’t have to complete these as fast as traditional stairs. This will allow you to skip the additional step while maintaining proper form. Step up with your right foot and skip to second or third step. Ensure you bend both knees to a 90-degree angle and lower into a lunge. Next, push off with your right foot, then push up the stairs, step your left leg up to meet your right and then forward while lowering it to the next lunge.
c) Continue lunging forward until you reach the top of the stairs. Keep your front knee over your toes, and chest upright.
d) Walk down for recovery.
e) Complete 3 sets (each to top of stadium or 10 flights of stairs).

Skater Hop Steps

a) Warm-up
b) Start by stepping your left foot on the far-left end of the second step. Next, push off with your left foot and hop onto your right foot, placing it to the right side of next step.
c) Continue climbing the stairs, while alternating sides, until you reach the top or go up 10 flights.
d) Walk down for recovery
e) Complete 3 sets

Combination workout (1)-(3) – this workout really works your legs.  Be careful – the first time I completed this workout, I was really sore the next day.

a) Complete 2 x 400m at 10k pace after last round of Skater Hops
b) Complete as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute
c) 10 minute cool-down

Gym Exercises – when stairs aren’t available or weather is poor.

a) Stairmaster interval workout
1) 30 seconds hard, then 30 – 60 seconds of recovery
2) Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes or complete a tempo workout for 30 minutes at a comfortably hard effort (you want to break out into a sweat and get your heart rate up).

b) Treadmill incline interval workout (similar to stairmaster)

1) After 5 minute warm-up, increase incline to 5% and speed to 5.5
2) Round 1 – adjust your speed and incline each 2 minutes by .5% & .5 up to 7% & 7.0 after 6 minutes. Adjust back down to 4% and 5.0 for 2 minutes.
3) Rounds 2, 3, 4 – repeat round 1. On last round, go up by .5% and .5 the last 1 minute (so you’ll be at 7.5% and 7.5).
4) Complete 5 minute cool down at 0% incline and 5.0 – 6.0 or pace that allows you to slowly reduce your heart rate.

You can always add difficulty to these workouts by including body weight exercises between each rep. Consider adding push-ups, sit-ups, planks or burpees. To break up each round or set, I perform half the exercises at the top of the stairs and then the other half at the bottom. Remember that even when you’re fatigued, the most efficient conditioning occurs when you maintain focus on good form.

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Getting the Most out of Your Marathon Training

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