Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner: How to Use NBR Runs

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One of the questions we are asked the most by runners, both new and experienced, is which training plan is the best—either for a first 5K, a PR at a half, a first marathon or for experienced runners looking to hone their craft. Anyone that has been a member of NBR for a while will be very familiar with this debate on our Google Group twice a year as the spring and fall (or autumn to us Brits) marathon training seasons approach.

The truth of it is that no one plan is perfect for everyone, and that if you have seen success with a plan then that may be the right one for you. We also have many coaches in NBR who would be happy to talk with you about specific goals and can offer recommendations, thoughts, and perhaps even personal coaching if that is something you wish to pursue. 

What many of our members do not realize however, is that the foundation for a plan—for most any race distance longer than the mile—exists within our normal weekly schedule.

When examining almost any plan, from Pfitzinger to Jack Daniels to Hansons, there are a few key components that make up the base of all of them:

Easy Miles

These are the runs that are done at a conversational pace, often a minute or more slower than a goal marathon pace (MP) and slower still than a goal 10K or half marathon pace. These can be very beneficial to run with a group as it helps keep you honest, sticking to a pace and resisting the urge to speed up if things feel too easy.

Long Runs

The foundation of any plan, these are typically done at an easy pace also, but may incorporate MP (marathon pace) or HMP (half marathon pace) in the later miles as a goal race approaches. These are about building endurance and allowing your body to learn what sustained effort feels like.

Repeats/Tempo/Track/Hills

Some form of repetitive hard effort for shorter durations, or with periods of complete rest between repeats. These are all about working on form, pushing yourself into an anaerobic territory and learning your limits. The rest periods are to make sure you can recover before another hard effort. These repetitions vary but some form of this is critical to achieving a goal race time or distance.

Here are a few ways you can use the NBR training calendar depending on your goals. Of course, this can be amended however needed. For the full calendar of runs look here—and be sure to join the Google Group to get emails with exact mileage and routes for each workout and see some of our newer (Just Central) or up-and-coming unofficial (DNA, LIC, Just East) sessions!

Couch to 5K

Monday Morning Easy Run at 6:45 am

Wednesday Beginner run at 7:00 pm

Either of these runs, and eventually both, are a great starting point. No pace is left behind and they are highly social runs. Remember, you do not have to finish the whole run if you aren’t there yet, and you could leverage a run/walk strategy to head home (an early version of interval training).

Saturday As these runs become more comfortable, the Saturday Bridge Run at 9:00 am could be a great addition, and is a good opportunity to meet a lot of your fellow runners.

The form run in Prospect Park on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm can be a strong addition to this after you finish your first 5K.

Half Marathon Morning South Runner

Monday Cross train (strength training, cycling or swimming) or join Monday Night Plyo at 6:30 pm

Tuesday Tuesday AM Tempo (Prospect Park) at 6:30 am

Wednesday Just South Road Run (Prospect Park) at 6:30 am

Thursday or Friday Put in some easy pace miles depending on your overall volume needs. Take one of these days off

Saturday or Sunday Narwhals or Sunday Funday Long Run (times for both vary based on the season). As these runs get closer to certain marathons the mileage might be more than you need. Feel free to join and run only the distance you need!

Marathon Evening North Runner

Monday Monday Night Easy Run at 7:30 pm or Niteowls (for something a little longer and quicker) at 9:10 pm

Tuesday Tuesday Night Tempo at 7:30 pm (or run easy, and join Thursday Night Track)

Wednesday Wednesday Night Road Run at 7:30 pm 

Thursday Thursday Night Track (7:10 pm for warmups and drills; 7:30 pm workout). Or run easy if you ran Tuesday Night Tempo.

Friday Day off!

Saturday or Sunday Narwhals or Sunday Funday Long Run (times for both vary based on the season). Either is great for a weekend long run. Try a shorter, easy run on the alternate day. If you run the Sunday long run, the Saturday Bridge Run at 9:00 am is a great social NBR run to get some easy miles in with teammates!


Coaches Corner: Why You Should Try Plyometrics

Eight miles before the end of his first-ever ultramarathon, Tom Vrizi started to get a nasty case of IT band syndrome. He finished the race, then limped around in pain for the next month, trying to run through it.

Finally, he consulted Dr. Google, trying to figure out what was weak, and how he might fix the problem with the right strength training exercises.

The exercises worked, and made him realize something: Other NBR members were also suffering from running-related injuries that might be avoided if they started strength-training. “During a drive to pick up race bibs, while sitting in traffic, I had the idea to lead a workout for the club,” he says.

The first plyo class took place on Monday, April 13, 2015. “I remember because I was still sore on that Friday and had a race the next day,” Tom says. (It ended up being the most successful race he’s ever ran.)

Now an NASM-certified personal trainer, Tom leads a plyo class every Monday night, helping his fellow team members stay strong and injury-free.

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What can plyo do for runners?

  1. It helps strengthen the fast twitch muscles runners use for speed.

  2. It can work your cardiovascular system if you’re pushing to do the exercises quickly.

  3. It helps strengthen the bones—the stress from landing from a jump helps make them less brittle.

“I've had many people tell me that my plyo class is responsible for them being able to hit PR after PR without injury. Some people go on to conquer longer distances than they ever thought they could,” Tom says. And, although he admits that he’s hurt himself due to his own clumsiness, he hasn’t gotten a chronic “running injury” in years.

What is Tom’s plyo class like?

The class is built around three four-minute sets that consist of four exercises done for 30 seconds each, then repeated with no break. Between every set, Tom switches it up with some running drills. “This gives muscles a chance to recover ATP and clear any lactic acid that built up,” he says. “The longer break we take between sets is aimed at a full recovery so you can give each set your all.”

The class focuses on exercises aimed at strengthening the things that city runners typically lack. “One of the main problems with being a city runner is never facing steep challenging climbs (bridges don't count),” he says. “The other is the complete lack of lateral motion. Conga squats emulate having to get your knees up on a big climb. To help with lateral motion we do side-to-side exercises, such as side leg lifts, clam shells, lateral jump squats, etc. These were the key to curing my IT band syndrome. Additionally, we do pushups to keep our arms and chest strong to enhance arm swing.”

Class typically ends with core work, and a few stretches for the hips, hamstrings and calves. “Contrary to my previous incorrect stance, I’ve learned that stretching isn't evil.” 

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What's the best strategy to approach plyo exercises?

For the true plyo experience, try to spend as little time as possible on the ground between jumps.

Plyo exercises have three phases:

  1. Concentric: the time in the air

  2. Eccentric: the time recovering from your landing

  3. Armortization: the time between when you stop your decent and launch again

“You want to land softly and controlled with feet facing forward in the eccentric phase, and then quickly armortize and get off the ground. The more time that's spent in the bottom of a squat, for example, the weaker the jump will be.”

If I hate cross-training, what's the least I can get away with?

If you work on your feet all day: “5-10 minutes of single leg balance work combined with side leg lifts and clam shells.” 

If you sit in an office chair all day: “5-10 minutes of hip flexibility and mobilization followed by 5-10 minutes of single leg balance work combined with side leg lifts and clam shells.” 

“Neither scenario will result in you getting faster,” says Tom, “but it will help you avoid injury and keep moving.” 

How should I incorporate plyo into my training to get the most out of it?

Tom suggests doing plyo the day after a long run, and taking a rest day afterwards. “Long runs and plyo have totally different goals. You can then take a rest day to recover by taking a walk or another light activity.” 

Coaches Corner: Train for a 5K with Becca Ades

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Looking to nail a faster 5K? Look no further than NBR coach Becca Ades. She’s developed a 12-week training plan specifically for the 5K distance, adapted from legendary coach Pete Pfitzinger’s program. And she’s leading an NBR training group to help runners gear up for the Boston Athletic Association’s 5K (which takes over Beantown’s streets just two days before the Boston Marathon).

With a PR of 17:36, and a few recent local 5K wins under her belt, Becca loves the versatility of the distance: It can be a low-key fun run, or a serious test of your speed—and grit.

“And at the end of the day, if things don’t go as planned, you have what, six minutes to get through? That’s nice, too.”  

She created a program of speed, tempo, and lactate threshold workouts for runners who are serious about putting in the work to get a faster time.  

The furious intensity of 5K races pushes you past lactate threshold pace, with your body relying on its anaerobic system. Which means you need to train for it differently than you would for longer distances where you’re running more slowly and using your aerobic system.

“You will work your way up from both the top end (speed work) and the bottom end (tempos), and gradually start putting your 5K together through different track pace work and short time trials,” Becca explains.

Her other 5K tips?

Have a goal pace in mind. “This will help you mentally prepare during the workouts and give you the confidence you need for race day.”

Find a pacing strategy that works for you. “Word on the street is the best 5Ks are run with a fast first mile, slower second mile, and fast third mile. I think when I’m in the best shape, I view the 5K as a one-mile race: You’re running the first two miles at pace to get to the last mile and hold on for dear life. Prefontaine once famously said, ‘No one will ever win a 5,000-meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.’ So, you know, take everything with a grain of salt ☺”

Once you hit the start line, believe in your training, execute your race plan, and be your biggest supporter. “If things turn south, set mini-goals during the race, like, ‘I’m going to keep up with the guy in the orange shirt,’ or ‘I’m going to push as hard as I can to the big red building.’ The same things you do in a workout, do in a race.”   

Want to join Becca’s training group? Email her at rebecca.ades@gmail.com.

Becca Ades