Tag Archives: Injury

Book Review: 80/20 Running – Matt Fitzgerald


This book will be released on September 2, 2014 and is available for pre-order on Amazon (Kindle or Paperback), or via Penguin books.

Read it:

  • You’ve gotten injured, perhaps more than once, when you were otherwise fit and still want to keep running (and improving).
  • You have been running 5k’s up to maybe a half marathon and want to train for a marathon (although the book caters to 5k – marathon distances).
  • You enjoy reading literature reviews and find it entertaining (and helpful) to know what current research is suggesting.
  • You’ve read some of Matt Fitzgerald’s other books (I think it’s fair to say he’s a prolific writer at this point) and enjoyed them.
  • You are a solely motivated by how many miles you log per week, and how much faster you logged them than last week.
  • You like reading books that dispel myths.
  • You’re a fan of the McMillan or Daniels training tools and templates (this book is totally compatible with them).

*I’d like to point out, as an aside, that this book goes very well with Fitzgerald’s “RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel”. My opinion is such that if you read both, and have been running for more than 6 months to a year, you can probably then self-coach with reasonable success.

Skip it:

  • You have a training program that works for you and you haven’t experienced; symptoms of over-training, injury, a performance plateau, a sense of malaise or apathy toward training.
  • You’ve been under the tutelage of a well informed coach, you’re injury fee and happy with the progress you’re making.
  • You don’t like hearing about what “science” says. (yes, I know you are real, and it’s ok)
  • You want to just be given a plan and told what to do, not react to how your training goes or have to spend time planning your runs. You aren’t interested in the why’s and how’s, just the do’s and don’ts.
  • You can only/are willing only to train 3 times per week (<4hrs, but still expect to improve. (ok, so the book doesn’t say this, but I formulate that this training philosophy requires increases over time to training volume)


Several points that might bias me slightly toward liking this book: If you’ve read my rant page on the state of product reviews on the internet, then please allow me a teaspoon of hypocrisy. I did not pay for this book. I asked Matt if I might be sent an advanced copy, and to my surprise he (and his publisher) obliged. Next, as a rather large part of my professional life I spend a lot of time trying to synthesize lots of research results into, basically, getting small or large groups of people to buy-in to some different way of approaching problems and other things, and so I appreciate how difficult this is to do, I appreciate that this is the approach this books embraces. Finally, I like reading about running, and about different training strategies even if I don’t agree with them (in this case I do, however).

That all said, I had a bias to dis-like this book as well. As you may be aware the 80/20 principle (know by several names) is a popular one in business, managing, and with various work/life evangelists. It’s frequently misapplied, misunderstood, or over-generalized (simplified?), and I think more recently has been boiled down to the really annoying “work smarter – not harder” mantra. In order to be able to skillfully select the 20% of any causes that will generate the desired results takes a heck of a lot of hard work…I digress.

My Summative Experience:

Given that I was set-up to love this book, (“Run”, and “Diet Cults” are books I’ve pressured probably 50 people into reading, my interns have all been made to read the latter), I was actually a little disappointed. Of course, I should temper that by saying it’s exactly the same kind of disappointment I felt when I read “Hansons Marathon Method”. Both books are marketed as an approach to marathon training (ahem ,– running) that are “revolutionary”. So of course, you’re expecting some sort of magic bullet. The thought of which, even if you (like me) are in love with the process of training, will still find alluring. But this book is not “revolutionary”, I’d say rather that it addresses a cornerstone of successful training that is a MUST for all runners who want to run better (faster, healthier, happier etc), but one that runner’s typically fall into (the 80/20 formula) as part of their evolution as runners. That is, they get injured, get burnt-out, and so on, and over time settle into this more natural, and happily, more successful ratio.

I am definitely one of these people. I haven’t used a heart-rate monitor while running in years, but in the spirit of the full experience I wore one over the week and a half I was reading this book (it’s actually a quick read – I just had life-ish things getting in the way). Even though I’m still a bit out of shape (week 3 of an 18 week training cycle) I found that once I calculated my training zones I am well within the 80/20 rule. And in fact, when I looked back to my two most successful training cycles in the past, they were too. What’s of great interest to me is that had I followed the plans as set-up at the time, I would not have been. I would have, as defined in this book, been working way too much above the ventilatory threshold, but because I have always been a big proponent of listening to your body, I was “skipping” a lot of the workouts.

What was wholly not disappointing about this book is that I think I could go back twice and find additional interesting component topics to look into. Fitzgerald just does a plain old great job weaving in heaps of research notes.

Also, let’s just go ahead and acknowledge two things: first, the use of the term “revolutionary” is clearly a publishers’ favorite buzz word, and second, that sense of disappointment I had after reading the Hanson’s book? Well, I then used their training templates for 3 PR races, sooo…kettle, meet black.

Target Audience:

This is actually a little tricky to address. Normally I excel at pairing specific content with specific audiences (again, this is an element of my professional gig), but this book has left me a little stuck in the “der, well, everyone who is running should read this”. Let me explain: I hinted at this above, we all have to learn about what our bodies respond best to, and how they respond in general, to training. There is some trial and error to that. The thing is, we actually DON’T have to do the whole trial-and-error fumbling around in frustration thing because it’s been done for us, by other runners over many decades. If you read the books, and spend some time assessing and strategizing, then you can in large part avoid the misery of trial and error training. Reading about running, and the science of running, is a great component to that. I say reading, rather than talking with other runners, intentionally. Often runners get defensive, rather than grateful, when you start to pick apart their chosen training method.

I’ve learned this the hard way. So now, instead, I (try to) make only references to how I’ve contacted success in training, and then I recommend books. My rate of impassioned debates regarding marathon training has greatly decreased. But my recommendation library has grown. This book is perfect for it.

Key take home points (my favorite bits):

  • It is not as simple as arbitrarily delegating 80% of your training volume to easy running, and the remaining 20% to hard running.
  • There isn’t one most efficient way to run (stride, cadence etc), moreover your most efficient run is different given different workouts and other conditions.
  • There are people researching training loads and components of training, and slowly the populations they draw from are broadening (I’m being optimistic here).
  • To get better results over time in racing, you need to increase your training load/volume over time (i.e. run more).
  • Currently training models aren’t ousting old ones: they are building upon them.
  • Cross-training is supportive training (my words) – and has some positive effects beyond potentially injury prevention (I won’t give away the punch line!)
  • The point of diminishing returns in building fitness and skill is a real thing, so is genetic potential (for running fast).

Warnings and potential mis-use:

Within the book Fitzgerald makes the assumption (he might take exception to my use of this term, but I have a word limit here) that most people are running harder than they need to for optimal returns on fitness, I disagree, just a bit. I think within the running population there are people definitely people who fit that bill: I think these people tend to be beginners, or/and fairly competitive age-grouper types (this is where I fall, for a reference point) who tend to get stuck in a work-horse mentality and don’t realize they’re working in the realm of diminishing returns because the metrics like weekly mileage and individual workout stats are so damn reinforcing. Additionally, I think there is a population of runners (many perhaps falling into the 4:45 – 6:30 marathon finish, training 30-45mi/wk) who underestimate their rate of exertion, and aim too low in how hard they should train. It would be another 3,000 words for me to fairly elaborate this point, but I mention it here because I think there will be people who read this book and actually lose fitness gains by over-correcting.

Next, unlike the plans that typically appeal to beginners, where the whole 16-24 weeks of training is all pre-planned, you need to calibrate your training. This book includes great training plan templates and other key element run templates (tempo runs and the like), but you do need to first establish what your training zones are (i.e. easy, moderate, hard – the book will break them down into sub-sections for you), and then you’ll need to calibrate them over the course of training as your body adapts and becomes more fit. That is, as you improve. Call me a negative Nancy, but I can absolutely see people skipping the assessment work, assuming where their paces fall, and then blaming the system (er – Matt Fitzgerald) when they don’t improve.

Overall, this book is a great addition to your training resource library, and I look forward to digging into some of the finer points even more.

Let me know if you read it!


A lesson in mindful measurement.

It occurred to me this week that in order to get into a steady training routine that will be consistent, rehabilitative, fat burning, mood enhancing, and also provide a strong foundation to begin a new round of marathon training in late May or early June, I need set up an environment that supports enjoying exercise and training. I have been speeding along in the wrong direction and am looking for a U-turn permitted sign.

When working out, I usually try to maintain a focus on my body, the in-session goals, and my performance. I typically do not employ distraction techniques unless I am really crunched for time and need to multitask during cardio (usually this involves reading articles for school). In which case I usually use a gym-boss to keep my intensity high (it vibrates every 2 minutes and I check and correct my performance, based on HR).

This morning I decided to set no workout session goals other than to enjoy the act of moving, sweating, and breathing. I cued up “Stranger Than Fiction” on my DVR and hopped on my spin bike. While watching the movie I rode for about 30mins, then did 12 sets of lower body exercises, got back on the bike for another 25 or 40 minutes, then did a short core circuit, then stretched as the movie finished.

I did indeed use my HR monitor, but my target was to stay BELOW 145 bpm. Typically my goal is to warm up in the 130’s, then remain ABOVE 145 for the duration of the session. My calorie burn for 90 minutes of activity was 550. In a typical spin class (50mins) I burn around 500. So in term of efficiency, this would be a terrible workout. But, I enjoyed myself. I feel refreshed, and I am looking forward to the next time I can workout again.

Can you really ask for more?

clicking the image will take you to amazon.com (I am not affiliated)

The idea to maintain an element of joy in training is not something that struck me from nowhere. I began reading Ryan Hall’s book about 5 weeks ago but stopped about half way through and likely won’t finish it (exuberant religiousity really turns me away). His main point is that to be successful an element of pleasure (joy) and passion is crucial and fundamental. I recommend the book, and I admire the work he and his wife are doing to supply clean water sources to those who lack access.

The lesson I would like to share with you all is that selecting when to focus on a particular goal is an underestimated element of success. There is a time to focus on strength and power, on speed, on form and accuracy, on weight loss, on further goal setting, on intensity, and there is a time to focus on the moment and yourself and on the joy of action. The pleasure of having a body that can do so many different things, and a mind that can wander or be wholly present, and that can create.

For the past year I have been working on creating systematic ways to help people select what to measure and how to measure it in their fitness and healthy living programs. My own experience today only further encourages my drive to continue working toward my dream of opening and operating a behavior analytic training facility. Because without that perspective I would never have realized that for the last three weeks I have been selecting the wrong measures. I have been under the impression that I was failing because I was gaining some weight back and losing fitness and motivation, but what I was gaining and should be measuring is a renewal in my love of sport, my love of working out, the joy of movement, and that my injured foot is growing stronger each day, even if I am not able to plug high mileage numbers into my charts.

Running in the woods always makes me smile, so as soon as my foot is strong enough I am going to sign up for some of the Chicago Trail Series races. Is there an exercise that brings you joy?


Separating the forest and the trees.

The past few weeks have been rough. I wish could fake it better and say that whilst side-lined from running I have focused on my goals of clean-eating and strength building. But I haven’t. The last two weeks, upon realizing that I wasn’t recovering quickly enough to prevent losing any training ground for Boston, I let my eating habits take a nose dive, and I got pretty lazy. Then I caught a cold. Not just any cold, but a can’t lie down without either choking on mucus when you fall asleep or coughing so much you have to sleep sitting up on the couch kind of cold. It’s been 10 days now and I still have a chest thumping cough. It’s a grand excuse to be a sloth. I have been working out, but only every few days, and at about 40% of my usual gusto.

My foot is recovering very slowly. I think perhaps because this injury is a rather cumulative one. I developed serious planters fasciitis over two years ago and it has never completely subsided (I have 3 different night splints, aka “boots” that I rotate and sleep in), because that injury when untreated for a long time I developed a small bone spur on the bottom of my right foot. Then, somewhere between miles 19 and 23 (I remember the moment, but the moments around it are a blur) during the Portland Marathon last year, I sprained my right ankle. Because of that injury I didn’t run at all between completing that race and beginning to train for the Boston Marathon. So, yes, I broke the golden rule of running (of training at all!), which is to increase your mileage (or workload) by increments of 10%. I went from ZERO miles per week to FIFTY within little over a month.

But it felt so good!

Until I couldn’t even walk, that is.

To run the Boston Marathon is on my list of life-time goals. And I have not wanted to give it up for anything. I have many goals, and right now my list of goals is growing so fast that I am overwhelmed and it’s hard to focus! I am a strong advocate for small goals, daily ones, as well as goals for individual workouts and projects. I think breaking larger goals into smaller milestones is of paramount importance. But sometimes, it’s a huge mistake to forget about the big picture.

Sometimes you have to step back, sit down, close your eyes, and think about the big goals. The goals that you feel silly calling goals, because you may never get there, but they make you grin to imagine. The dreams.

Although I want to run Boston, and I want to run it this year because I qualified at my first marathon attempt, my bigger (running) goals are to 1) run a marathon in 3hr15mins or less and 2) Win first place as an age-grouper in a 10k 3) run daily when I am 60 and 70. It is possible that by pushing through this injury and going to Boston this April, I will be sacrificing these bigger goals. So I will be sitting out.

Sometimes, courage is not to push through pain and hobble across a finish line, but to step away, start over from the beginning, and finish strong. Although I feel heartbroken rather than courageous, I am ready to set my eyes on some shiny new short-term goals.


Refocusing: don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

My intention is not for this blog to become a training log but I had such a great leg session tonight that I want to share for those who might want to try it out! I have several go-to workouts that I use when I am in a rut or want to test my fitness. This actually isn’t one of them.

Since I haven’t been able to run I am really getting an urge to do some strength building. I have been lifting 2 or 3 days a week all along during the marathon training for Boston but my focus really wasn’t on building more muscle, just on maintaining what I already have, and keeping my joints supported.

I set a goal to workout a minimun of 1hr with a goal of 2hrs, 6 days this week to start to simulate what I would be doing if I could run my regular program (and stop being bummed-out), so far so good. Yesterday and today my foot felt improved, but not run-ready.

Spin class at 6am today went smooth, I could stand on the bike without discomfort. YAY!

Before work I spent some time watching video’s of Nicole Wilkins Lee, who always inspires me to work hard!

An Arnold Champ!

The leg workout I did was me smooshing together some of her moves and combinations with some of my favorites.

Without further delay, here’s the workout:

Everything was done in pairs of exercises (sort of like supersets). 3 sets before moving to the next pair. Rest was just long enough for my heart rate to drop to 125bpm, or until I felt my breathing was easy (whichever came first)

  1. 10 min. warmup (stepmill)
  2. Smith Machine Reverse Lunges x12 ea. leg @ +50lbs / :30 Wall Sit
  3. Squat holding 30lbs x 15 / Switch (jump) Lunges x 30
  4. Bench Step Ups x15 each Leg / Stability Ball Laying Hamstring Curls x 10 double leg x 8 Right x 5 double x 8 Left
  5. Leg Extension x 12 @45lbs / Sumo Hops x 15
  6. Single Leg Straight Leg Deadlifts x 12 ea. holding 15lbs / Skater Steps (jumps) x 30

My plan was to do another high intensity 15 mins on the Stepmill to round things out but my foot started to hurt during the second set of skaters…it was great until then. I kept the weights lower than I would if I were a) not injured and b) not hoping to return to endurance running very soon. Also, I did this after work at 7pm. I am not a morning person. I love to workout in the late afternoon or evening, I always seem to be able to work much harder later in the day.


Elapsed time = 39 mins (not including warmup)

Calories burned in session (including warmup) = 428

Average HR = 141  Maximum HR = 168

Session Lesson: Use what you can, just because one body part is injured doesn’t mean you can’t still get an amazing workout and continue to make progress!

Oh, and, my butt is going to be killer sore tomorrow!

Finally it’s time for dinner: pork chops and veggies, hot apple-sauce with cinnamon for dessert. YUM!




Productive but panicked

Happy Sunday all,

Just a quick update on my Boston efforts. I still can’t run. Teaching my full-body class this morning I was able to perform a few sets of almost normal lunges, and I was able to go full force for 12 high intensity intervals in Spin class. But I can feel a lot of stiffness and soreness in my injured foot.

I keep seeing blog, Daily Mile, and Nike+ updates from people getting in their first and second 20 mile training runs for Boston. I have a lot on my plate right now so this time away from running is allowing me to get caught up in other area’s, but I just can’t get away from the constant disappointment and fear that maybe the right decision is to pull out of my Boston Marathon plans completely. It breaks my heart to even think of it!

To be honest, it’s been a long time since I have had this much self-doubt and it’s starting to spread into my habits as a caregiver, a student, and an instructor. I know that lack of exercise tends to allow my mood to darken, but I am trying to take the pressure off whenever my foot begins to hurt so my total exercise time last week was a measly 5 hours. I realize that is above the national average but pre-injury I was at 15-20 hrs.

I picked up a few new books this week, so be on the lookout for a new page on this blog. REVIEWS! I am really looking forward to sharing a structured look at some fitness tools and resources. Feel free to make suggestions! First up will be “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald and “The Great Fitness Experiment” by Charlotte Hilton Andersen.

The first part of this week is really busy, but I have a few articles in the works on Heart-rate training, nutrition (the great fruit debate), and some more workout idea’s.

I hope you are feeling focused and confident!


The goals are the same, the discouragement is new.

I have a pretty serious case of tendonitis in my right foot. I had xray on Friday upon arriving in California to visit my family. A stress fracture cannot be ruled out without another xray in ten days or so.

I likely won’t be able to run for 2 weeks. Which means I probably wasted $200 on the Boston Bound program (but hopefully not!). The doctor said to try running when I am pain free for most of the day. He advised me to go back to training at 50% then build by 10% each week. That’s the golden rule for training anyway, so I get that. Any activity that hurts, don’t do. Pretty common sense. Makes me wonder why I bothered to go to a doctor at all.

I was so upset about the injury that I didn’t bother working out at all, and arrived home feeling out of shape, beaten up, and fairly self-pittying. My plan for today was to wake up with that behind me and my focus back on my goals and each step that I need to complete to get there.

Step one for today was to workout for 2 hours. After 30 minutes on the bike, and 2 sets of a lower body circuit my thoughts were focused on the list of things I need to have done for school, how messy my apartment is, and from there it was like a flood-gate of all the things that are a source of anxiety right now.

I managed to finish a third circuit then felt so on the verge of screaming that I stopped. In my experience if I begin to feel angry whilst working out, I will likely get injury. Some people get a great workout if they are angry and need stress relief, not me, I totally fall apart.

The next thing that happens to me when stress snowballs is that I become paralyzed. This usually means that nothing will get done and I slip further from my goals, which in turn creates more stress.

I feel fairly confident in stating that many people experience either this cycle or one very similar. Here is what I do. I stop, take a breath and make a list. Yes, it’s a to-do list, and it is in order of priority. However, I rarely complete them in the order listed, and sometimes I do two things at once (or toggle back and forth). The important thing is that it makes the cascade of stressors smaller and manageable. Each time I cross a task off the list, I get to take a break or some other reinforcer of choice (often the reward I chose is to do something on the “if there is extra time” list).

  1. Thesis Edits
  2. Check and update client charts and graphs
  3. Finish reading for tonight class (only 1 article to go)
  4. Email remote clients to check and update self-monitoring and accountability programs
  5. Finalize training appointments for the rest of the week
  6. Meet with classmate to do final prep. for our presentation tonight
  7. Upload articles for translational class (I present in 2 weeks on ABA in fitness!!!)
  8. Finish new playlist for tomorrows 6am Spin class

If there is any time left:

  • sweep floors
  • do a load of laundry
  • sew 2 quilt squares
  • work out for another 45-60 minutes
  • groom the dogs

This Saturday the Boston Bound group is doing a 17-miler in Barrington (hills!). I have been really looking forward to it, and these training runs are the reason I signed up, I really doubt I will be able to run even a mile by then. My foot hurts just sitting here, but, I will keep stretching, icing, and compressing and hope for a (very) quick recovery.

I hope you’re having a successful week!