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April 2018:  Coach Lundstrom offers tips for developing speed for shorter distance races.

TCM wants to help you get the most out of your running and training by providing access to one of the leading minds in our sport. A running coach can help by answering questions about training and racing, keeping you motivated and providing insight. TCM partners with Team USA Minnesota coach Chris Lundstrom to answer your questions and offer advice to runners of all abilities. Today, Coach Lundstrom offers tips for developing speed for shorter distance races.

Question: I’m mainly a half marathon runner, but I’m running the Medtronic TC 1 Mile to kick off a summer of trying to improve my shorter distance times. I do mostly steady miles and a little bit of tempo running now, but what can I do to get speedier for the mile and the 5Ks and 10Ks I want to do after that?

Coach Lundstrom: The good news is that you probably have a nice aerobic base under you from the steady mileage and tempo runs. To improve your performances in the shorter distances, however, you will need to do some race-specific workouts. That means, you guessed it, speed work!

Starting off the season with the mile is a great way to really hone in on that speed component. While you don’t have a ton of time between now and the mile, you can definitely make substantial improvements in your speed over the course of the next month.

I would suggest a weekly workout of 1-1.5 miles worth of running at or around your goal mile pace. If you don’t know what that goal pace is, these workouts will be helpful in figuring that out. For the first couple of weeks, allow yourself plenty of recovery between intervals, and as you get closer to the race day, shorten up the recoveries a bit to make the workouts more challenging and to more closely simulate the race. Below is a suggested progression of workouts that will give you a speed boost for the Medtronic TC 1 Mile. If you don’t have access to a track or measured distances, just convert the distances to the time you would expect these distances to take for you to cover. For example, if you expect to run the mile in 8 minutes, the 200m repeat at mile pace would be 1 minute of hard running. Here are the workouts:

  • Week 1: 8x200m w/ 90 sec. recovery
  • Week 2: 6x400m w/ 2 min recovery
  • Week 3: 8x300 w/ 1 min. recovery
  • Week 4: 800, 600, 400, 200 w/ 2 min recovery after the 800 and 600, 1 min recovery after the 400

After the Medtronic TC 1 Mile, you can continue working on your speed, but that needs to be balanced with working on your speed endurance and aerobic development in order to run well at 5k and 10k through the summer. We have already talked about some examples of the speed workouts you might perform, but what about speed endurance and aerobic development workouts?

Aerobic development workouts are the tempo runs you mentioned doing, or progression (“cutdown”) runs where you pick up the pace gradually throughout the run, and tempo-paced intervals, which are long (4+ minute) moderately hard runs, with short recovery periods of 1-2 minutes.

Speed endurance is about maintaining as high of a percentage of your top speed as possible for a distance race. In your case, since you are targeting 5k and 10k as your goal races for the summer, your goal is to improve your ability to resist fatigue at the intensities associated with those race distances. Again, interval workouts at or near your goal race paces are the best way to achieve this adaptation. As an example, a 5k specific workout to try out is as follows: 6-8x800m with 2-3 minutes recovery, starting at slightly slower than your current 5k pace and finishing at your goal 5k pace. A 10k specific workout would be 2x2 miles, 2x1 mile with 3 minutes recovery, starting at slightly slower than your current 10k pace and finishing at or slightly faster than goal 10k pace.

Performing a balance of these three types of workouts over the course of the summer should yield some great results at the 5k and 10k distances. It’s important to note that doing all three in one week is probably going to be too taxing, so I recommend doing 1 of each type of workout over the course of 10 days or even 2 weeks. Some people recover more quickly or more slowly from higher intensity training, so you just have to pay attention to how you are feeling and adjust accordingly. Most of all, enjoy the faster paces, and you will benefit from the higher intensity training when you return to running longer distances.

Chris Lundstrom has a Ph.D. in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise physiology, and did his dissertation on running performance. He has been a member of the University of Minnesota faculty for 10 years. As a coach, he has 18 years of experience at the high school, college and post-collegiate level including coaching seven women to the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, and coaching track and cross country at San Francisco State University in 2004-05 when he was on leave from Team USA Minnesota. He has also developed a marathon training class and taught some 700 novice marathoners.



March 2018:  Coach Lundstrom offers tips for returning to the marathon after a long time away from the event.

TCM wants to help you get the most out of your running and training by providing access to one of the leading minds in our sport. A running coach can help by answering questions about training and racing, keeping you motivated and providing insight. TCM partners with Team USA Minnesota coach Chris Lundstrom to answer your questions and offer advice to runners of all abilities. Today, Coach Lundstrom offers tips for a returning to the marathon after a long time away from the event.


Question:  I'm going to do it!  I'm running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon this fall, my first marathon in way too long. I'm only in so-so shape now – 20 pounds to lose, longest run in 2018 = seven miles, and 48 years-old (not mid-30s like the last time) – but I'm excited to devote the year to this goal. I know the basics of a good training build-up, but what pro tips do you have for me?"

Coach Lundstrom: First off, congrats on the decision to commit to returning to the marathon distance. Big goals require big changes in your life, and vice versa. Sometimes you need that big challenge to push yourself to return to a higher level of fitness. It will be an exciting journey, and probably a very different one from the last marathon you ran.

The first step is to devise a plan to set yourself up to progress gradually back to the fitness you will need to complete the marathon. Given that you have a little over six months until the marathon, it would be helpful to divide up the time into at least two training blocks. This will help keep you focused on the week-to-week progress. If your goal race is too far away, it can be too easy to miss days or lose focus because the goal seems far in the distance. So having at least one other preliminary goal race, like a half marathon in June or early July, will both increase your motivation to get going now, and also give you an opportunity to get a benchmark of your fitness mid-way through the training.

If we divide your training into these two training blocks, the focus of the first block should be more on general fitness, whereas the second block should be focused on specific (i.e. marathon) fitness. During the first block, gradually increasing your volume and frequency of running will be the primary goal. The exact amount of running you are targeting depends on your running experience and goals, but as a rule of thumb, you should be accustomed to running most days of the week before beginning a marathon training program.

Once you have a few weeks of running with the desired frequency, substituting in one higher intensity workout per week can help you improve fitness faster than you would by simply going out and running at an easy to moderate effort. Hill repeats are a great introduction to speed work. Fartlek workouts, where you are changing paces, but doing so according to feel rather than trying to hit split times, are another relatively safe way to introduce some higher intensity work. As you approach your half marathon, you will want to increase the distance of your long run to at near the half marathon distance, and you should run parts of your long run at your goal half marathon pace, if you have a time goal.

When you enter the second block of training, the primary goal is to increase the length and speed of the long runs. Most people find that completing 1-2 long runs of 20-22 miles gives them the strength and confidence they need going into the marathon. On the other hand, if simply completing the marathon is the goal, many people successfully do so on training plans that max out at 18 or even 16 miles. Maintaining one higher intensity workout per week is helpful as well, but be sure that these workouts are not so hard that they are affecting you ability to complete the long runs.

One major difference between being age 35 and 48 is that it may take a longer time for you to recover from strenuous efforts, so be mindful of this and don’t press too hard. On the other hand, no matter what your age, the human body can still adapt to the challenges presented to it, so be patient. The same practices that help a younger, faster athlete recover quickly also work for those of us who are a few years older. These include refueling with a snack containing a carbohydrate/protein mix within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, getting an optimal amount of sleep, and eating a diet comprised of high quality, unrefined foods with a full complement of nutrients. Commit yourself to not only the running, but also to the lifestyle, and you will enjoy the journey and reap the benefits on marathon day.

Chris Lundstrom has a Ph.D. in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise physiology, and did his dissertation on running performance. He has been a member of the University of Minnesota faculty for 10 years. As a coach, he has 18 years of experience at the high school, college and post-collegiate level including coaching seven women to the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, and coaching track and cross country at San Francisco State University in 2004-05 when he was on leave from Team USA Minnesota. He has also developed a marathon training class and taught some 700 novice marathoners.



February 2018, Coach Lundstrom offers tips for building up your fitness after a poor winter of training

Question: I have to admit to having a poor winter of training so far. I'm doing the Hot Dash 5K in about a month, so what can I do to have a good run there and then keep rolling for the spring and summer?  I'd like to do half marathon in the summer sometime.

Chris Lundstrom: You had a tough winter of running. Hey, you’re not alone. It was cold. It was snowy. You didn’t run as much as you may have liked to, but there’s nothing you can do about that now. Time to let it go and move forward. The good news is that it’s only February, and there is plenty of time to get ready for that summer half marathon. Having that Hot Dash 5k on the calendar is a great motivator to getting your momentum going in the right direction.

With only a month to prepare for the 5k, your primary focus should be on simply building your general fitness. Gradually increasing your frequency of runs and your mileage should be the first priority. In addition, increasing the length of your long run will help build aerobic capacity and lay the foundation for the half marathon training. Increasing mileage and the length of the long run need to be done gradually, and specific guidelines depend very much on an individual’s background. It’s not necessary to get up to your highest mileage or longest long run over the course of a month, but it’s important to be moving in that direction in a gradual and healthy way.

The 5k is a fairly short race, and while there is not necessarily enough time to do an extensive amount of interval training, it’s important not to ignore speed work. Jumping into highly structured high intensity interval training may be counterproductive, as you have to be very careful about increasing both training volume and intensity at the same time. I would suggest two higher intensity workouts per week – one day of hill sprints and one day of fartlek.

Hill sprints are very short (12-15 seconds) near-maximal effort sprints up an incline. These can be done at the end of a shorter run. You want to be thoroughly warmed up, but not excessively fatigued. A small number of hill sprints (6-10) is sufficient to activate your fast twitch muscles, improving your running form and increasing the power of your stride. The incline forces you to lift your knees and get up on your forefoot. Walk down the hill and fully catch your breath before going again to ensure that you are able to run at the proper intensity.

Fartlek training involves alternating periods of faster running with recovery periods of easy jogging. This is a great way to introduce interval training without excessive stress on the body. It’s important to go according to feel, running hard but controlled, and not “going to the well.” Fartlek workouts can be as structured or unstructured as you want – you can choose a landmark in the distance and run hard to it, or you can go by time (3 minutes on with 3 minutes off, for example). If you are just introducing this type of training, I would err towards a less structured format, and adjust your effort according to feel. A total time of 20-30 minutes is generally a good length. Aiming for an effort similar to your 5k race effort will give you some specific preparation for the Hot Dash 5k. Having a strong run at the 5k will set you up well to enter into half marathon-specific training as the longer days and warmer temps of spring arrive.


December 2017,  Coach Lundstrom offers tips maintaining a balance of activities within winter training

Question: "I need some variety in my fitness routine now. What cross-training activities do you recommend? I hope to run once or twice a week and cross train two or three times a week. I plan to return to "full-time" running in the spring, so I don't want to lose any more running fitness than I have to."

Chris Lundstrom: Winter is a great time to change things up and enjoy some alternatives to running. Done correctly, this "down-time" from full-time running can enhance long-term health and well-being, without sacrificing running performance. The most important consideration is maintaining a balance of activities within your training that will set you up well for the pursuit of your spring and summer running goals.

If, for example, you want to run well at the Medtronic TC 1 Mile in May, some higher intensity activities that improve muscular strength and anaerobic capacity would be helpful. Some examples of that type of activity include a high intensity interval spin class, strength training, and playing repeated sprints-based sports like hockey or soccer.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to run your first marathon later in the year, focusing on activities that can enhance your aerobic capacity are more important. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking are great aerobic activities for the outdoor-oriented. The traditional indoor forms of cross-training like getting on the stationary bike, the elliptical, or a stair-climber can also be great supplementary training that maintain aerobic fitness but give your body a break from the repetitive stress of running.

Whatever activities you choose, keep in mind that the same training principles that apply to running apply to everything else. Too much too soon can lead to overuse injury in other activities just like it can in running. Start with relatively short, lower intensity sessions of any activities that you are starting up, and increase gradually. Just as you don’t go out for a 20 mile run on your first run back from a break, don’t ski a marathon, play 3 hours of soccer, or take the hardest spin class at your gym on your first day out there. Similarly, too many hard days too close together can be a recipe for injury or overtraining, even if the hard days include a variety of different activities.

An objective assessment of your strengths and weaknesses as a runner can also be helpful in deciding how to structure your off-season training. Once you have identified those areas that need improvement, you can select some activities that will target those areas. If you can go forever, but struggle with speed and muscular strength, use the winter to work on higher intensity activities. If you’re fast but run out of steam mid-race, do some longer cross-training sessions at moderate intensities to boost your aerobic fitness.

Most of all, don’t worry about the fact that you aren’t running every day. Mixing things up, both in terms of intensity and type of exercise, can set you up for a great spring and summer of running. The break from daily running can be refreshing, and the other activities can actually maintain – or even improve – your fitness. 2018, here we come!



October 2017, Coach Lundstrom offers tips for training well through the winter

Question: "I've been an indifferent winter runner for years – never as dedicated from November to February as I am the rest of the year. What do you suggest for keeping me moving this winter? I'm not sure if it's the cold, the darkness, the lack of events or what, but I need to do something different this year."

Chris Lundstrom: Running through the winter can be challenging for a number of reasons, but I believe there is a common thread to what makes it tough: monotony. Running on a treadmill, being confined to the same small selection of routes, running in the dark, or running with no imminent event on the horizon, can all contribute to boredom. If variety is the spice of life, monotony is the enemy of motivation.

There are some easy ways to avoid this soul-sucking repetition. One easy way is to deliberately select a new winter event or two to increase your motivation to stay active. It could be a local road race (there are a few), an indoor running event, a race you will travel for, or it could be something completely different: an alternative to a running event like a ski, snowshoe or stair-climbing race. New challenges can help increase motivation, and doing something different from your usual routine can improve your health and fitness.

Finding a balance of different running and workout options can also help enhance motivation. If you are running approximately five days a week, consider establishing a routine that includes a day or two per week of each of the following: running outside, running on the treadmill, and running indoors (at an indoor track, stadium, or rec center). Group classes, cross-training, and strength training are some other alternatives to consider incorporating into your routine. Whatever fits your goals and lifestyle, the important thing is establishing a consistent routine.

Plan your workouts to maximize the benefits of each setting. Running outdoors in the winter, for example, is great for easy recovery days. The extra layers of clothing, less-than-ideal footing, and cold temps make it necessary to slow down and take it easy. Treadmill running, on the other hand, lends itself to workouts like tempo runs or other steady state, moderately hard workouts. Set the desired pace on the treadmill, plug in your headphones, and get down to work. Indoor running (especially if you have access to an indoor track) lends itself to shorter, faster speed workouts.

If at all possible, get outdoors in the daylight a couple of days per week. The sunlight may not seem to provide much warmth, but regular sun exposure is good for your mental health. The shorter days make it challenging to get out in the daylight, but there are ways to make it happen, such as running from work at noon, and blocking time on the weekend for a daylight run. Especially for outdoor running, adding a social component to at least some of your runs can also enliven your routine. Whether it is a training partner or a running group, knowing that someone is out there waiting for you to show up can be a great motivating factor to get you out the door even in the worst of conditions. Once you are out on the run, great camaraderie can be born from facing the elements together.



September 2017, Coach Lundstrom offers tips for a great race day

Question: "I'm entered in the Medtronic TC 10 Mile. I've trained really well and I know I have a good race in me. What tips do you have to make sure that happens. I'm really pumped about the race, but I worried I'm getting too excited."

Chris Lundstrom: Yes, marathon weekend is just around the corner. Spirits, and nerves, run high as the leaves begin to change. The fact that you are excited -- and even nervous -- is a great sign. It means you care, and have invested in your training and preparation for this event. The challenge you have to manage is taking that excitement and energy and putting it to a positive ends.

If left unchecked, that nervous energy can interfere with your ability to perform in a number of ways. Being nervous and filled with energy (as you hopefully are during a taper) can make it more challenging to sleep in the days leading into a big event. Use deep breathing and relaxation exercises to reduce stress and tension at night. If you don’t get as much sleep as you have been, don’t let this stress you out. Just make sure that you are maintaining the same number of hours of restful time. It is also helpful to use your excitement for things that will make you feel more prepared in advance of race day. Get your bag packed with all of the supplies and clothes that you will want on the day of the event. Write down some thoughts or key phrases that you want to focus on during the various sections of the course. For example, if you are worried about the big hill up to the Franklin Bridge, practice telling yourself, “I am smooth and strong on the hills.”

Nervous energy needs to be managed on race morning as well. Unchecked, this race morning excitement can lead to starting out the race way too fast, or putting in unnecessary and wasteful surges. Again, deep breathing prior to the start can help you reduce your anxiety and help you to start out at an appropriate pace. Remind yourself that you have 10 miles to expend your energy, so you want to make sure you are saving plenty for the last few miles. Focus on controlling the things you can control – keeping your arms and shoulders loose and relaxed, breathing in a controlled manner, and running the right pace for you.

During the latter part of the run, use that nervous energy to push yourself through the tough stretches. That is the time to tap into that excitement that you are feeling. Remind yourself that you did the work to prepare yourself for race, and trust in your ability to perform. Get out there, and enjoy the day!



August 2017, Coach Lundstrom offers advice about 10K training

Question: "I'm running the TC 10K. My running this summer has been spotty – not terrible, just inconsistent – but I'm motivated to train better for the race on September 30. What do you think I should focus on for the coming weeks?"

Chris Lundstrom: I always like to work backward when putting together a training plan. For the TC 10K, you have 5 weeks left to prepare at this point. That's not a whole lot of time, especially given that the final week should be pretty light so that you feel rested on race day. However, it is certainly enough time to improve your fitness. In fact, lots of scientific studies on various training methods are done over only 4-6 weeks, and often they are able to show significant changes in fitness over that period of time. Here are a few things that I would emphasize over the next few weeks:

  1. Maintain a consistent weekly running schedule. If you have only been running a couple days per week, it doesn't make sense to try to run every single day at this point. However, committing to 3-4 days every week would be reasonable, and that alone will do a lot to improve your fitness.
  2. Do a few miles of running every week at your goal pace. This will teach your body and mind to handle that pace. A great way to accomplish this is through interval training, such as 5-6 repetitions of 1 mile with 2-3 minutes recovery. Start with a smaller amount the first week and gradually increase the volume of running at goal pace, and then shorten the workout back up again during the week leading into the 10k.
  3. Do a weekly run that includes some harder than race pace running. This can be accomplished through a variety of workouts, including track intervals, hills, and the more flexible fartlek-style training. If you haven't been doing a lot of faster running, I would suggest fartlek-type workouts over track repeats. Fartlek running is basically interval training, but has the advantage of being done based on feel, rather than using strict distances and times. This makes it more enjoyable, and is less likely to lead to injury and over-doing the workouts. Basically, choose a landmark down the road or trail, and pick it up to a fast pace until you reach the landmark. Then, jog until you are recovered, and do it again. A fartlek workout of 20-30 minutes can accomplish a lot, and you can vary the distances and speeds according to how you are feeling.
  4. Focus on your recovery. Any time you increase your training volume or intensity, you need to be extra mindful about taking care of yourself between workouts. This means getting some protein in within 30 minutes of finishing a run, getting the hours of sleep that you need, and maintaining good hydration throughout the day.

With a few solid weeks of training, you may still not be in the best shape of your life, but you can go into the TC 10K feeling confident, prepared, and like you're headed in the right direction. Sometimes being on the upswing of a training cycle leads to surprisingly good race results.



July 2017, Coach Lundstrom offers advice about tapering for races

Tapering, or reducing one’s training volume prior to a race, is an effective strategy for improving performance and feeling better on race day. However, if you are racing very frequently, tapering before every event will leave little time for training, and may mean that you are gradually losing fitness as the weeks and months pass.

If you are entering races just for fun, then there’s no harm in training through them. However, if you do races in order to try to run fast, it is important to give yourself an opportunity to go into the race feeling good. It’s no fun toeing the line with heavy, tired legs, and over time trying to race in a fatigued state can lead to increased injury risk, or can even progress to overtraining. So generally speaking if you are going to try to run fast, you should taper. The question is how much to cut back prior to each race.

If you race once or twice a month, doing a traditional taper of a week to 10 days for every race would be excessive, and would compromise your long-term progress. For most of these races, I would recommend a “quick taper” of 3-4 days of reduced mileage. Keep doing the workouts that you have planned, but reduce the volume slightly on race week. This should allow you to race relatively well, feel strong, and reduce risk of injury during the race.

While the quick taper is a good solution for people who race frequently, a longer taper is generally needed to produce peak performance. I would recommend selecting one or two races to do a more extensive taper of roughly 10 days of reduced mileage. Selecting your peak races is an important part of planning any season. They should fall in the latter part of your build-up, at a time when you have had plenty of time to get into shape. They should also be important to you in some way, to ensure that your motivation will be high. Maybe it’s a race that you have run every year, and will allow you to compare versus previous results, or maybe it’s a course that you know is flat and will give you a good opportunity to run a fast time. Whatever your goals are, chose your key races carefully, knowing you can’t peak for everything.



June 2017, Coach Lundstrom offers his five top tips for training for a marathon.

  1. Run your pace. There are multiple meanings to this tip. During training as well as the marathon, don’t get caught up in doing what someone else is doing. Having training partners is great, but if they are going too fast or too slow for you, you will be sacrificing your training. Too fast, and you will struggle later in the run. Too slow, and you won’t be getting the fitness benefits that you could be. 2) Practice running your goal (or expected) marathon pace. During extended parts of some of your long runs, you should run as close as you can to your goal pace. This will help you improve your running economy at that specific pace, which will translate into a better outcome on marathon day. 3) On your recovery run days, let your body dictate the pace, rather than being a slave to your GPS watch. The long runs can be very taxing on your body, and it is okay to take it nice and easy on your recovery run days.
  2. Practice your nutrition and hydration. Rule number one of running is “don’t try anything new on race day.” This definitely applies to what you put in your stomach during the marathon. Practice drinking with the same frequency and amounts that you intend to do during the marathon. If you are going to rely on the aid stations on the course, find out what will be available and practice with the same thing…right down to the flavor. Fruit punch flavor sports drink may sit well with you, whereas lemon-lime induces debilitating cramps – not a good thing to find out on marathon day. The other important thing to note is that the gut is actually trainable – it becomes better at absorbing fluid and digesting fuel during exercise with practice.
  3. Prepare mentally. The marathon will not be easy. There will be some tough stretches, and you need to be prepared for that. Have some positive phrases or “mantras” prepared in advance to help you focus and get through the tough times. Just as you did with your fluids and fuel, you should practice using this positive self-talk during training. You can’t turn on a switch and become mentally tough on race day – it is a skill that has to be practiced throughout your training.
  4. Assemble a strong team. Both training for and running the marathon can feel like a long, lonely road at times. People tend to be much more successful if they have a good system of support around them. This can include family and friends who are understanding of those long weekend runs (and perhaps your subsequent desire to sit on the couch the rest of the day). Your team might include training partners who support and encourage you, and the list goes on: the local running shop workers who talk you through what you will need, the massage therapist or physical therapist who help you through the aches and pains, the neighbor who thinks you are amazing for even attempting a marathon.
  5. Train hard…don’t train too hard. It is important to get in the work to prepare you for the marathon. The long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, etc. are necessary to physically prepare you for the 26.2 miles ahead of you. However, you need plenty of recovery time between these efforts in order to continue to make gains from the workouts. Too many people give their best efforts during training only to find that they are exhausted by the time the marathon rolls around. More is not always better. Particularly in the last 2-3 weeks of the training, be careful not to over-extend yourself. You don’t want to go into the marathon feeling like you have just “survived” the training; you should be fit, rested, and feeling like a race horse in the starting gate, ready to bust out and run your race.


Chris Lundstrom has a Ph.D. in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise physiology, and did his dissertation on running performance. He has been a member of the University of Minnesota faculty for 10 years. As a coach, he has 18 years of experience at the high school, college and post-collegiate level including coaching seven women to the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, and coaching track and cross country at San Francisco State University in 2004-05 when he was on leave from Team USA Minnesota. He has also developed a marathon training class and taught some 700 novice marathoners.