Q & A: Mileage, Pacing, and Balls In/Out

I asked a lot of questions on the fly about mileage and pacing and whatnot, and I try to remember all of them so I can maybe answer one or two on the blog. Alas, my memory is dedicated to school and nothing else. But here are three that I get asked on the regular.

Q. What should my weekly mileage be during marathon training?

A. This is like asking me how you should take your coffee. Iced? Soy Milk? No foam? Foam? Whipped Cream? Stevia? Sugar in the Raw? Goat’s Milk?

Tell me, is this true?

Tell me, is this true?

Guys, I don’t drink coffee. I don’t know these things. I also don’t know what your mileage should be. I can give you a range (40-60, 60+ if you’re seasoned & healthy) but there are numerous factors that go into your training schedule. It would actually take me several days to put together a proper schedule for you, and that would be after you completed a page-long questionnaire (and possibly a phone call) and sending over your recent race times and training logs.

What I’m saying is that it’s specific to you, your goals, and your current fitness level.

Q. How should I pace my long runs. I’m going for a BQ (Boston Qualifying time) and I’m a 29 year-old female.

A. The qualifying time for your age group is 3:35:00, or EXACTLY 8:12 min/mile. Now, the BAA stipulates that it takes the fastest qualifying times first and fills the slots from there. So, you may technically qualify with your time but still not get in. Just be prepared for that.

(Good luck to everyone trying this year! Click here for the latest on 2014’s race.)

This would be so frustrating. (Image courtesy of the BAA and ADIDAS)

This would be so frustrating.
(Image courtesy of the BAA and ADIDAS)

Your long runs, on the other hand, do not need to be run at 8:12 min/mile. In fact, I would suggest you NOT run all of them as fast as you want to run the marathon. I do, however, suggest you get used to running hard when you’re tired. There are several ways to accomplish this during a long run:

  1. Chop your miles in half and run about 8:20-8:30 for the first half and run at or sub-8:12 for your second half.
  2. Do an Over/Under run.
  3. Do ONE of your longest runs at or under 8:12 goal pace (for confidence), if you must.
  4. Split your run into thirds: 1/3 comfortable pace, 1/3 sub-8:12, 1/3 8:15-8:30.

Long runs should feel relatively easy and be somewhere (not > 20 seconds) near your goal marathon pace. But they should feel very manageable and not leave you crazy-sore for the rest of the week.

Q. I was feeling so good on my “easy run” day that I decided to just go balls out and race it. Is that ok?

A. No. I repeat, NO. It is not ok to just go balls out cuz you feel like it. keep the balls in. Why? Easy days are there for a reason. To recover, give your legs a break, and to mix up the days. And when your coach makes your schedule, he/she puts those days in a specific spot for a reason (I hope). Switching workouts around is fine now and again, but changing workouts on a whim defeats the purpose of well-planned, thoughtfully drawn out schedule.



I know, it’s nice outside and you feel like a million bucks, but you gotta take it easy and bank some of that feeling for your deadly track workout tomorrow. Recovery miles should be easy. Save it for later. If you don’t, I promise you runner burnout, or worse–INJURY, will be right around the corner.

Hope you guys are having a great week! And as always, if you have a question, email (runstrongereveryday<at>gamil<dot>com) or Tweet it to me.

Now go out and run!

Workout Wednesdays: The Key to Fartleks

I’ve talked about Fartleks as a workout before here and here. They’re a no-brainer workout that can break up a longer mid-week run and get your legs turning over.

They’re also a great exercise to cover more distance in less overall time than if you were to go out and run at a consistent pace. Time efficient + no brainer = happy Abby. Seriously, when I run at 5/6am, the last thing I want to do is make it complicated and laborious.

At o'Dark Thirty in the morning, it had better be a no-brainer for this runner.

At o’Dark Thirty in the morning, it had better be a no-brainer for this runner.

But there IS one small little key to fartlek running that makes it effective and not just a bunch of random pickups. That key is your recovery pace.

And the key to that pace is that it’s NOT a “recovery pace”. Rather, the pace between your speed intervals should be about 7/10. Comfortably fast, I like to call it.

...like run hard and then run harder.

…like run hard and then run harder.

Fartlek runs are about working hard through fatigue without full recovery between sets. So, you sufficiently warm up and commit to an interval distance or time and race that interval at 5K pace. And that’s not so hard for, say, 200 meters.

The key is that when you slow down, you don’t slow waaaaay down. I tend to slow myself down by about 60-80 seconds or 7/10 pace, which is usually half-marathon pace for me so I make sure I’m still cranking out the numbers between sets.

I recover-ish. It doesn’t seem hard at first, but just you wait.

Yeah, I'm smiling but my half-marathon pace is killer during a fartlek workout.

Yeah, I’m smiling at mile 8 but my half-marathon pace is killer during a fartlek workout.

The difficult part isn’t kicking up the sprint, it’s maintaining the off pace.

So next time you’re short on time but need to get some quality miles in–or you just have no brain for your workout, hit up a fartlek workout. But make it a GOOD fartlek workout and keep that recovery pace in your half-marathon racing range.

Otherwise, you’re a lazy fartlek-er.

Now go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Change of Pace

In the running world there are all types of paces and pacing strategies.

Marathon goal pace.

Tuck in and surge at the halfway point.

5K race pace.

Draft off the leader.

Half marathon pace for first part, pace down :15 seconds every mile.

The paces and workout combinations are endless. Some coaches will try to tell you there’s a magic formula to pace workouts. I bet my money that for elite athletes, they are right. There is fine-tuning that happens at that level for those individuals that cannot be diminished.

My track workouts are nothing like theirs but it kicks my butt all the same.

My track workouts are nothing like theirs but it kicks my butt all the same.

But for the rest of us, it’s simple a matter of forcing a Change of Pace in our runs.

One thing I dig about a Change of Pace workout is that, by working really hard and pushing well outside of my comfort zone into my shorter race paces, suddenly, marathon goal pace feels like a piece of cake.

...or several cupcakes, if you will.

…or several cupcakes, if you will.

This is absolutely an exercise in confidence as much as it is an exercise to get your body in shape. And we runners love these workouts not only because they feel shorter, but because we sometimes surprise ourselves with the speed we can produce during them.

The 'ol clock and straight-up course of Summer Streets don't lie.

The ‘ol clock and straight-up Park Ave. course of Summer Streets don’t lie. 20 miles on the road is 20 miles on the Garmin is 20 miles on MapMyRun. And yes, those negative splits are real.

I don’t know about you guys, but I definitely was in need of a Change of Pace after this year. Summer has been blissfully and purposely slower for me.

I needed it. I needed it so badly. I needed to slow down, regroup, and recharge.

Peanut kisses recharge the soul.

Peanut kisses recharge the soul.

It’s good to have a Change of Pace every now and again. In running and in life, we get so wrapped up in one pace, one goal that it becomes a daily burden. 

And now that it’s marathon season, all you hear from runners is “marathon goal pace” this and “sub-whatevertheircurrentPRis” that. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of race pace anxiety three months out from the actual race.

But when you have a Change of Pace workout and speed it up or slow it down, suddenly you are no longer obsessed with the goal number, but your current number. You’re {maybe} enjoying and {definitely} living the workout you’re doing right now.

Right now, at this moment in the this 5K, I am hating it. It was hot. It was humid. It was close to the finish. But I did feel kinda badass PR-ing my 5K time in the middle of marathon training.

Right now, at this moment in the this 5K, I am hating it. It was hot. It was humid. It was close to the finish. But I did feel kinda badass PR-ing my 5K time in the middle of training.

Sometimes it takes a Change of Pace in our daily routine to appreciate the day-to-day things that make up lives. Sometimes it takes a Change of Pace to rejuvenate a love of the {seemingly} ordinary. Sometimes it takes a Change of Pace to gain perspective on what’s important.

It’s true in running for sure.

And when you go back to that goal pace, it somehow seems more attainable. You’ve done harder workouts, this pace ain’t nuthin.

And that feeling is certainly way Better Than the Alternative.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

Now go out and run.

Ask Me Anything

1. How should I prepare for an obstacle race (Dirty Girl/Tough Mudder/Spartan Race)?

These races are less about running and more about brute strength. Many races, the Dirty Girl and Tri-State Tough Mudder, have the obstacles listed so you know what you’re getting into.

This isn't my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

This isn’t my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

As far as training goes, I suggest a hefty dose of strength training, focusing on 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of heavy weight and major muscle groups. Think: lat pull-downs, push-ups, pull-ups (assisted works too!), lunges, squats, and step-ups with weight, if possible. Incline walking and running or the Step Mill (revolving stairs) for the muddy hills.

Short bursts of max effort repeatedly best mimic these types of races. A quick tip from my friends who have done these races: knee pads, elbow pads, fitted pants, and grippy gloves.

2. How about some ideas for incorporating simple strength training into my routine? Think I maybe maxed out on improvement from just running.

The most common mistake runners make: they only run. For the why of strength training, click here. For when and how much to strength train, click here. And for your basic Leg Day Workout, click here.

3. How about some IT band stretches?

Let’s be very clear: the Illiotibial band is a fascia, not a muscle. The fascia inserts into a muscle called the Tensor fascia latae (TFL)–>tenses the fascia. The IT band has negligible blood supply and doesn’t really stretch. The TFL, on the other hand, will stretch and, in turn, relieve tension on the IT band. Here are a few TFL stretches:

photo (6)

Bear in mind that most IT band problems develop because of weak hips and glutes. Deal with that with these exercises. When foam rolling, roll the muscle, not the fascia.

4. Chafe

Ouch. It hurts. Two things: fitted clothing and Body Glide. I may not look amazing in my compression shorts, but I don’t get chafe anymore. So there.

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

5. What do you eat before a run?

Most days it’s PB&J. Sometimes only PB if I’m out of J. Sometimes Eggo waffles if I’m going out for a long run. Hey, you asked.

6. What did you learn about PT and Myasthenia (Gravis)? There’s a lot of controversy…I need to do something, but so out of breath and needing a nap just from climbing my stairs.

Myasthenia Gravis and other auto-immune diseases wreak havoc on your body and leave you utterly exhausted, especially during flare-ups. Everyone is different and no hard and fast rules apply here. However, what we did learn is that even a little bit of exercise can help keep you fit, healthy, and mentally sane.

Some ideas:

  • Walking–nothing strenuous, like walking a dog or with your kids
  • Pool walking–in 3ft+ deep water
  • VERY light weight training (3-5lbs for all exercises)
  • 10-15 minute bursts of exercise throughout the day instead of 30+ minutes at a stretch
  • Taking longer rest breaks between sets
  • Hatha yoga or restorative yoga
  • Light stretching

7. How did you choose your career path?

I’ve been an athlete my whole life and a runner for 23 years. In college I took kickboxing classes and one day, the instructor handed me the mic and told me to teach. So I got my AFFA certification and taught throughout college. When I moved to NYC, I joined a gym and was approached to become a trainer. So I took my NASM certification and started training over 10 years ago. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn so I applied to my post-bac pre-med program at NYU in 2009 and then to the NYU DPT program in 2011.

Your body is my business!

Your body is my business…in the most professional way, of course.

The human body and how it moves just makes sense to me. Even before I took Physics and Anatomy and Physiology and Kinesiology, I innately knew the how and why of body mechanics better than most people. I can’t say the same about chord inversions.

8. How do I increase mileage (not the 10% rule or speed work)?

The 10% “rule” came out of nowhere and became the standard. Whatever. I generally add a mile or two to my long runs for 3 weeks and then I take it down for a week. This take-down long run should feel really good and really easy. If it does, bounce back up to your previous long run and continue the pattern of slow progression. If it doesn’t, go back and try a shorter distance.

You can also do doubles once or twice a week to add a few more total miles.

9. PT school: the good, the bad, the ugly.

  • Good: Lots of interesting (to me) classes and material for me to geek out over and have long conversations about body mechanics with my friend Birdie. Oh, my friend Birdie is also a good! The rotations are cool and I love applying what I’m learning in real life and the job is something I can do absolutely anywhere in a growing field.
  • Bad: VERY time consuming and some of the material is downright pointless. But you’ll find that with every graduate program. Long hours in a chair wreak havoc on my body and I’m so very, very done with being in school.
  • Ugly: Me during finals week. My student loans.
Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell.

Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell. Oh, and sanity runs on the East River.

10. Any speed work recommendations for newbies?

I got you guys. Click here and remember, it’s not about being fast but about being consistent at your fast.

11. How do you know if you are actually overtired and need a rest day or you’re just lazy, ie. mental barrier?

I think feeling consistently fatigued should be a big, red STOP sign for you. More than 50% of your runs should feel good–or, at least, you shouldn’t feel dead after them. Rejuvenated, you know? If not, you’re doing too much. If you’re mentally fatigued, get with someone who runs your pace and run with them for a little while so you can take a break from thinking about every single step you take.

12. Best strength training exercises for runners.

Always do your Minimum Leg Day exercises. Push-ups, Pull-ups, and Sit-ups are classic and great. Yoga is fantastic. Pilates is even better. What do I do? Refine Method, New York Yoga, Pilates Pro Works, Flywheel for cross-training, and I hit the gym on my own when I can’t get to class.

That's right. I FLY. #nevercoast

That’s right. I FLY. #nevercoast

11. What to eat for energy without gaining weight.

I’m not a Registered Dietician or a Nutritionist but I do work with one to meet my nutritional needs who specializes with patients with IBD. May I refer you to Lauren or Kim for that question? These two ladies are far more qualified than I to advise you on that.

I will recommend you get a full physical and blood panel that you’ve fasted for to have accurate vitamin, mineral, blood sugar, and cholesterol readings so your RD can better cater to your needs.

12. How do you mentally push through on a tough run?

There’s no secret weapon here for me. In general, I set out to do a certain number of miles and I do it. If I feel terrible, I get in a cab or on the train and I go home. Having a goal and a schedule is key for me because I know exactly what I have to do every day to meet me goal. Even if I’m not “training”, I still set a weekly schedule for myself.

13. How do I get myself running again after pregnancy? Totally realize no kids yet for you but figure you have friends. Or maybe after your surgery… how did you do it? I can’t seem to get back at it after taking 9 mos off. So out of shape. Where to start when my cardio sucks now?

Oh boy. Surgery and pregnancy are pretty similar in that you go through a major trauma, you are wiped clean of so much strength and endurance, and your body feels entirely foreign to you.

First of all, Square One is a scary, lonely, emotional place but acknowledging you are there and you are going to start is key. Get ok with the concept that it will be hard and you will be sore. But you’ll get stronger.

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!


Pick an event and work toward it–maybe with another mommy friend? I set a goal to run a 10-miler 3 months after surgery and I geared all my training toward that race. Twitter and Facebook can also be sources of encouragement while you’re training–they’re also a place to meet new workout buddies!

Don’t forget to celebrate your milestones along the way (1 mile without stopping? Woohoo!) and whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ll get stronger. It will get easier.

13. Why do I feel like I have to pee when I run even if I just went? Ha ha ha too much info but I want to know.

Common problem, don’t worry about TMI here. For women (this question was asked by a woman), it can be a two-fold issue. One, weak pelvic floor muscles. Need to start doing kegals and adductor ball squeezes. Two, the bouncing–this applies to both sexes. There’s really no way around that unless you do pool running. If you’re really concerned, talk to your doctor or wear a small pad when you go out for a run.

14. How you stay motivated to get out and run in bad weather?

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

If it’s cold, being properly bundled up and making a run date with a friend helps. If it’s hot, different clothing rules apply and sometimes I run naked. In the rain I wear a hat, when it’s sunny I wear shades with my hat, and I generally have my tunes on me if I get really frustrated.

Again, having a planned run and goal to work for helps, running with a buddy is always a plus, and being properly fueled and hydrated is a must.

Basically, you wanna be a Boy Scout about it: Be prepared.

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

15. How to keep a steady pace.

Set a reasonable goal pace in your mind. Get a GPS watch. Warm up for a mile at a pace slower than the pace you’d like to run. Ease into the pace. Maintain the pace. Simple, but not easy.

Phew! Thank you all for your questions. If I didn’t get to answer yours (or you’d like more information), feel free to email me: runstrongereveryday<at>gmail<dot>com

Now go out and run.


Philadelphia is a cool town. I like the little streets and the architecture is truly beautiful. It was even cooler at daybreak as me and 25,000 of my closest running buddies headed to the start line of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon.

I ran. I finished.

But first, I met Bart Yasso, Editor-at-large for Runner’s World Magazine and creator of my favorite marathon workout, Yasso 800s. Yes, THAT Bart Yasso.

Hey, Bart!

He’s only the most friendly guy in the world. He’s also very gracious. He signed my book, took a picture with me and chatted with me about our mutual love for lululemon run apparel. His favorites are the Run: Response shorts. He also promised to join us for a Wednesday night run club next time he’s in the city. We’ll be ready for you, Bart!

I spent Saturday afternoon napping at our hotel before we hit up our dinner reservation for some good ‘ol fashioned pasta. Thanks, Maggiano’s Little Italy for making a special dish just for me and my stupid colitis tummy.

Success #1. Drugs. On that note, I was completely hopped up on the ‘roids on race day. Whatever. Thanks to my fabulous drugs, the quick thinking of my awesome PA and last-minute freak-out emails with Ali when I fully should have been listening in Physics class, I was basically bathroom problem-free on Sunday morning. Basically.

Success #2. Corral starts were staggered and awesome. I was put in the perfect corral pace for me and enjoyed a fairly spread-out start. I was also dressed perfectly, thanks to  my favorite lululemon apparel: Energy BraCool Racerback Tank TopRun: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve (which I ditched at mile 5), Run: Mind Over Matter Pullover (from Spring ’11 line), Run: For Your Life Crops (from Summer/Fall ’11 line) and Run: Brisk Gloves at the start.

Ready to run!

Oh, but I totally bit it in the middle of the road at mile 5.5. Me and two other people all fell in the exact same spot, which made me feel a little better that I wasn’t he only klutz on the course. Super-cool part of it all is that I was fine and hardly spent any time on the pavement, as I was almost immediately drawn to my feet by three rather large male runners, each of whom grabbed my arms and promptly put me back on my feet. Thanks, guys!

I held myself back in the first 10 miles, which kept me at an 8:11-8:30 pace. I wanted to maintain an 8:30 as long as I could, knowing I’d probably end up slowing down in the last 6 miles even if I pushed harder. It felt slow to begin with and maybe I’ll tinker with going out a little faster on training run in the future, but I was really very ok with it yesterday. Saw JB at mile 7 (he looked pretty content with a coffee in one hand, waving at me with the other) and kept on truckin’.

Success #3. Only one POJ stop at mile 13.1. I’ll take it. I am sad that I missed seeing JB jumping up and down, waving his arms looking for me but I was probably too distracted and looking for the nearest POJ to notice a 6’2” Marine-looking dude jumping up and down, which he swears he was doing (for the record, I have NEVER seen him do this in my life so if anyone caught this on film/camera, pleeeeease email it to me so that I might see my husband cheering like a wild animal).

The scenery was really beautiful past mile 13. I know a lot of people hate an out and back and I’m normally with ya’ll on that, but this out and back was gorgeous! It was a beautiful run along the cliff-lined river on our way to Manayunk. Once in Manayunk, we were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans and a DJ nearly every mile. There was that point where they had beer shots out for runners and I almost gagged on the smell of stale beer being heated up on the pavement, but other than that it was lovely!

Success #4. Seeing my friends. I almost cried several times during this marathon. I blame my hormones. And my family. And my friends who came all the way from New York just to cheer for me at mile 24.5. And they made me my very own sign that was “3D”. They were cheering “Ab-by! Ab-by! Ab-by!” as I blew kisses and shuffled on by them and then met me at the finish with JB. I mean, seriously.

Best gals in the world. You shall remain nameless, but not faceless because you're too pretty for that. I hope ya'll don't mind.

Success #5. I did not lose it and cry. Phew. I damn near broke down when I heard several songs: “My Life Would Suck Without You” at mile 16 (weird, but there’s a reason), “Born To Run” at mile 18, “Gonna Fly Now” at mile 24, “Learning To Fly” at mile 25. When I got to mile 22, I knew I was going to finish and be just fine. This also made me want to cry, but I didn’t. No crying = success!

And then I was almost done. Since my name was written on my number as “Abigail” and not Abby, if I ever heard anyone yell “Go Abby!” I knew that they actually knew me! This was the case at the finish when I saw a friendly face from the city who had run the half marathon and stuck around to cheer us marathoners on. Thanks, AH!

I wish my Garmin hadn’t died at mile 24.7 so that I knew where I was in the last few miles, but whatever. Apparently, my computer has to be on in order for the silly gadget to charge. Whatever. It did it’s job for most of the race so I guess it’s ok. The finish line was around a corner and I didn’t see it until I was on top of it. This is a good mental note for the next time I do Philly: Finish line is around that big corner.

Success #6. I did it. Official finish time-3:56. Yippeee!

See? Told you I'd have this photo to show ya'll! Wow, JB, I really DO turn blue when I finish a race.

JB was there at the finish line (he tells me I looked great when I was finishing. Isn’t he kind? I know I probably had “the face” happening) where he helped me break the law and hop the corrals and whisked me back to the hotel where he promptly dropped my very cold body into a very warm tub. I know, I know, COLD water bath. Well, I was turning blue so hypothermia > muscular edema. Warm bath wins.

Success #7. We made our train and were home by 3:30 that afternoon. I was asleep on the couch by 8pm with a tummy full of (cheeseless) pizza and breadsticks. Mmmmmm…

All in all, a really great weekend. Thank you all who have cheered me on both near and far for the past few weeks, months and years as I truck along on this crazy journey we call life. I appreciate all the Tweets and Facebook comments of encouragement more than you will probably ever realize. I’m looking forward to lots of great races in the near future and maybe even a Spring marathon (any takers?).

Congratulations to everyone who ran the inaugural Brooklyn Marathon in Prospect Park on Sunday. I do not envy you on that course. Ouch.

Stay classy, Philly. And thanks for the memories.

Now go out and run!