Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 103 - Jason Fitzgerald - STRENGTHEN YOUR RUN

Yeah. And you know what? Your best efforts on an easy run doesn’t mean you’re running your fastest. It means you are trying really hard to run easy. And when we grew up without GPS watches, I remember as a track and cross country athlete in high school, the instructions from the coach were: go out and run in easy 45 minutes.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 103 - Jason Fitzgerald  - STRENGTHEN YOUR RUN

JASON: [00:00:00] Yeah. And you know what? Your best efforts on an easy run doesn’t mean you’re running your fastest. It means you are trying really hard to run easy. And when we grew up without GPS watches, I remember as a track and cross country athlete in high school, the instructions from the coach were: go out and run in easy 45 minutes. Or go out and run and easy 30 minutes or an hour. We didn’t know how fast we were going.

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JESSE: [00:01:15] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a man after my own heart for sure. He is a certified USA track and field coach. He’s the founder of Strength Running and the host of the Strength Running Podcast. To add his credentials, he’s actually a 239 marathoner, that’s two hours and 39 minutes for those of you who are not familiar with the running lingo.

If you aren’t on the YouTube version, you’re missing out, ’cause he is also a budding botanist. He has tons of plants in his office, which — so I feel a little bear with my office and just kind of books in the background, but maybe I’ll get some tips from him on that later in the show. Welcome to the show, Jason Fitzgerald.

JASON: [00:01:54] Jesse, thanks so much for having me. I am so glad that you appreciate all these plants. They are just keeping me company while I’m alone here in my office.

JESSE: [00:02:04] Well, it’s something nice about it. I mean, I haven’t really thought about it. You know, if anybody says anything about my office setup, it’s always there’s a penguin hanging up behind me. And that’s kind of a conversation starter. But it’s like this tiny thing and often, my head’s in the way so you don’t see it. But the plants are obviously something you can talk about among the medals and race bibs.

I do want to ask you about the race bibs because I’m sure like me, you’ve got — I mean, I’ve got, I don’t know if it’s in the hundreds or — I mean, a lot. You know, I saved most of mine since high school and on. You’ve got three on your door there. How did you choose those particular three?

JASON: [00:02:45] So, I have run four marathons in my life. And the bibs that you see behind me are the three big marathons that I’ve run. So, there’s the Boston Marathon bib, there’s the New York City Marathon bib. And then there’s the Philadelphia marathon bib, and that’s where my PR was from. Now, I did run another marathon in Washington, DC, that was just like a tiny little marathon.

There were like, maybe 50 people in it. So, I don’t have a super fancy impressive bid from that race. But yeah, I mean, these bibs are, you know, every big marathon that you run is such an experience, it’s such a memory. And I love that the bibs are worn, they’re wrinkled, they have rust stains from the metal pins on it. They’ve been through some stuff, and I love seeing that. It just reminds me of the battle that went on those days.

JESSE: [00:03:39] You know, I tried to do a — I did a video actually a while back trying to figure out for people that have all of their bids, or have a number of them, what do you do with them. Some people hang them up, some people make a collage out of them. I just have — I have trouble — because I have so many of them and some of them I can remember the race I’ve had particular memories tied to them. I have trouble figuring out which ones I think are the most important. So, that’s why I was curious how those in particular got picked out.

JASON: [00:04:13] Well, you can’t see it now but there’s another bib that’s on my wall that is my original cross country number from high school. And this is something that I got back in the 90s, really showing my age here, but I’ve had it since then. Since I was a freshman in high school, I had the same number for all four years of high school and cross country, and that is such an amazing memory to me. So, whenever I look at that I just — really brings back some of my fondest running memories from when I was younger.

JESSE: [00:04:44] So, this is — I don’t know if this is interesting to the listeners or not but now I’m going to go down a rabbit hole. So, you got assigned a number and that concept is a little foreign to me because like the way we did it here is just you go to the race, you’re assigned almost basically a random number kind of like you are typically to any general race. So, is that like conference wide where you grew up, you got assigned a number, and you’re just dedicated to that, the number throughout your career?

JASON: [00:05:14] I think that’s how it worked. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty sure that it was throughout the conference. And so every team in our league was giving out a certain series of numbers. And they went into the triple digits. But I got lucky number 13. And so 13 has been, ironically, a lucky number for me for a long time.

JESSE: [00:05:37] You know, that’s — I think about it and I know that you thinking about teaching, or coaching young athletes how to race, how to pace, things to think about. One of the things we often got advice about was like, coaches would find a runner from another team and know, okay, you’re similar speed, like stick with them. And sometimes it would be hard to pick them out.

So, I’m just thinking about how much easier it would be if we were racing, my coach was like, okay, Jason’s about the same speed as you. He’s 13, just stick with 13. Like, the ability to pick out your high school rivals, and something along the lines of that, to me, feels like there’s going to be more of a like a team and kind of fun competitive spirit to it than just having a random distribution at any time.

JASON: [00:06:26] Well, cross country is such a good team sport. And I certainly remember exactly that. You’d go to a race and your coach would be like, okay, these are the top guys on that team, they’re probably going to finish in this order. And so we would have a really good idea of who our competition was, who was close to us. But you know, now that I think about it, I don’t remember anyone’s number. We more looked at hairstyles, I think.

JESSE: [00:06:48] Okay. That’s fair. That’s fair. So, I mean, you get tons of questions all the time, about running, obviously, because that’s kind of your specialty. If you’re on the YouTube channel, you know I also do a show called Runner’s High. I’m not as storied as Jason is at this point. But that’s okay. What I’m hoping is to get some tidbits out of your brain about running that I don’t already know about. Which isn’t to say that I know everything, but that it’s hard to ask about what you don’t know to ask about, you know what I mean?

JASON: [00:07:21] Yeah, it’s hard to know what you don’t know.

JESSE: [00:07:23] Right, right. And I’m absolutely positive there are things in your brain that I can learn new about running in the next 40 minutes. So, I’m going to see if I can pick them out. I want to start with your warm up routine, what you recommend for a warm-up routine, whether we’re talking about going out for a long run or getting ready for a race or getting ready for speed work, if it varies, kind of what you do and your recommendations there.

JASON: [00:07:51] Yeah, sure. So, I think a warm-up is really important for runners before any kind of run that they’re going on. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a half an hour easy run, or a two hour long run, or a race or a faster workout or anything in between. I think warming up for the run itself, especially if you’re someone who runs, say, after work, and you’ve spent the last eight, nine hours sitting down at a desk.

It’s really hard to go from desk jockey to running athlete in just a couple steps. Let’s instead do a warm up, really activate all of our muscles and make sure that we’re metabolically primed for the run that we’re about to go on. So, I think it’s really critical, it’s been shown to improve your performance, it’s going to help you feel better. I think there’s also some injury prevention benefits from doing a good warm up.

But I think also look, you’re adding maybe 10 minutes of additional light strength exercises or dynamic flexibility exercises. That’s an extra 10 minutes a day and that’s going to add up. It’s going to make you a stronger athlete, it’s going to make you a more coordinated athlete that just has higher levels of general athleticism. So, I think a warm up is really important.

So, with all that said, I don’t think there’s one great warm up that every runner should do. It is really important to instead just think about metabolically priming your body for running. And so I have a couple of routines that I use. They’re on the strength running site, I call them the standard warm-up routine. I also have the Matic warm-up routine. And there’s a lot of similarities between these two routines.

They’re roughly 10 minutes in length. They include a series of light strength exercises, so maybe some bodyweight lunges, which is very specific to running. It mimics the motion of running. And it’s going to activate all the same muscles that you use when you’re out there running. And then some of the routines have a series of drills in them too.

And the real goals here are to let’s increase our heart rate, let’s increase our rate. respiration, let’s lubricate our joints, let’s improve our range of motion, and really warm-up our muscles. You know, when I first started running as a freshman in high school, we all sat around in a circle and did a bunch of static stretching every day before our run. And if you think about it, is that warming up from your run if you’re not actually getting warm from the activity? I mean, I think we should be pretty literal here. A warm-up should literally warm you up. And so that’s why a more active routine is much more important than, say, a passive routine, like static stretching.

So, a series of light strength exercises, dynamic flexibility, exercises, drills, these are all really great. You don’t have to do too much. Even 10 minutes I would say is maybe the high-end of what you can do. Even five minutes of a good dynamic warm-up is going to leave you feeling a lot better at the start of that run. And I think another good general rule of thumb is that the more intense that the run is, the more thorough your warmup has to be.

Because if you think about it, like I said, you don’t want to go from desk jockey to running athlete in just a couple steps. You don’t want to go from desk jockey to athlete sprinting on the track in just after 10 minutes of easy running, you’re just not ready for that yet.

And so the more intense a workout is, especially if you’re getting ready for a race, then I think there is a great opportunity for a slightly longer warm-up. A warm-up that’s going to leave you with a higher heart rate, your breathing is elevated. And then you can go do some easy running. You can follow that up with maybe some strides and drills. And then right then you are ready to go run fast. So, if we remember that easy runs, the warm-up is less important.

And the more intense, faster, more challenging runs, the warm-up is even more important. I think that’s a good framework for understanding the warm up routine. And we could talk about specific exercises. I’m somewhat agnostic when it comes to that. As long as we are accomplishing the goals of the warm-up, I don’t really care if you’re doing lunges, or you’re doing squats, or you’re doing single leg deadlifts, or you’re doing a series of leg swings, and skipping exercises. They’re all great, they’re all going to help you warm-up. They’re all going to build that coordination and athleticism, so they’re all part of an effective warm-up.

JESSE: [00:12:30] I’ve seen a lot more advice like yours. And I give similar advice, kind of building throughout the internet. But like you, I think you’re only a couple years older than me. So, we started running around a similar time. And I think if you look historically going back 70s, 80s, 90s, it’s all about static stretching and doing that kind of thing.

So, with the demographic of people that engage with you on the YouTube channel with your podcast, do you ever have to convince people to try the warm-up? Or do you get pushback where it’s like, well, no I’ve been static stretching for 20 years. And it’s the — You know, is there a hurdle to overcome? Or do they just say, all right, Jason, I’m on board. Whatever you say goes.

JASON: [00:13:19] Yeah, I do get a lot of people who they don’t necessarily think it’s not going to work or something like that. But it’s more of a time issue. Am I going to have time for a six to 10 minute warm-up before every single one of my runs? Especially for folks who might be running at 05:00 in the morning, or 05:30 in the morning, they don’t have a lot of time in the morning. And I also like to do a post run, strength or core routine. And the only pushback there is, again with the time.

And so I think a lot of runners, once they get consistent with these routines. And the consistency is critical. Because if you just do the routine for the next one or two days, you might actually feel worse. Because you’re not used to those exercises, you’re not used to those movements, you’re not used to moving in that particular range of motion.

So, you might come out of that warm-up feeling a little bit sore. You might be a little bit fatigued from that. Your muscles might not feel fully rested the next day. And that is actually great data that you should do more of it. We should be — as runners, we shouldn’t be getting sore from doing a 10 minute dynamic warm up. If we’re getting sore from that, we’re certainly not going to have the capabilities in a workout or race that we’d like.

And so, yeah, I think once runners are consistent with it, and they start feeling how good they feel, once they’ve adapted to it, once they’re fully used to the routine. I just have runners who once they get started, they’re like, oh, wow, there’s a whole other world of actually feeling good for the first five minutes of my run. And all it takes is this warm up routine.

JESSE: [00:15:00] You know, I think you raise a valid point that a lot of us run into, though, I find sometimes it’s kind of made up. I think there are some people that are busy. But the time issue, I don’t have time, how much time is it going to take? You know, I talked about this recently on one of my running episodes, I can’t remember which episode I talked about it.

But I think one of the things we have to get over initially is, do we actually have time. Because I know, on a personal level, sometimes I end up on like a social media rabbit hole and oh, there goes 45 minutes? Well, I mean, that’s 45 minutes, you could have done like 10 minutes of strength work and still had 35 minutes to have a social media rabbit hole.

So, sometimes, I don’t always believe people when they say they don’t have time. But that’s a little bit just me being skeptical. Now, assuming that they don’t actually have time, their time is crammed wall to wall. If, say, and maybe it matters, how long but say, my choices are between going out for a 45 minute run, warm up’s already taken care of; going out for 45 minute run or doing a 35 minute run and doing 10 minutes of strength. What would your recommendation be?

JASON: [00:16:23] If we’re talking about strength training, then I would much rather you see — I would much rather a runner cut their run a little bit and do the strength work. Because I think long term, that runner is going to be healthier, that runner is going to be more injury resilient. And what’s one of the worst things for runners? It’s getting hurt. And I like to say that consistency is the secret sauce of successful running. You’re never going to become a good runner if you aren’t first consistent.

And one of the big ways that runners lack consistency in their training is because they’re getting hurt so often. Depending on the study that you’re looking at, 60, 70% of runners might get hurt this year. And that’s just a staggering statistic. Way more than half of runners. And we’re talking recreational runners; these aren’t pro-runners, these aren’t runners doing 130 miles a week, these are your everyday recreational park-run type of runners. And way more than half of them are probably going to get hurt every year.

And what happens when you get hurt? You might miss a week of training, you might miss two weeks of training. A lot of runners will miss more than that. And so I would rather do slightly less on a day to day basis, but be much more consistent over the long term. Because I think that is going to be more effective in getting a runner to achieve their potential.

And there’s the consistency and injury prevention way of looking at this problem. But then there’s also all the benefits that you get from strength training. If you’re strength training appropriately, you’re going to improve your running economy, your efficiency. So, you’re essentially going to be able to use less energy to do the same amount of work. That should be very attractive of a thing to hear for most runners.

You’re also going to be able to build more coordination, build more power, and that’s going to make you faster, you’re going to be able to sprint faster at the end of a race and have a much stronger finishing kick. And then again you’re going to be healthier too.

So, there’s a lot of benefits with strength training. And part of those — some of those benefits will keep you healthy, some of those benefits will make you more economical, and some of them will make you faster. So, there’s a lot to love. And I like to say that strength training is not even cross training for runners. Runners need to think of it as just part of the training that runners have to do if they want to reach their potential.

Now, if you’re just a general health runner, you just go out three or four times a week for half an hour or so. And you know, you just want the aerobic cardiovascular benefits of running, then maybe we don’t have to do the warm up, maybe we don’t have to be so religious about the strength training.

But if you’re a runner who has performance oriented goals, you want to run a certain time in a race, qualify for Boston, run a new distance that you’ve never run before, those are all performance goals. And so we have to be more strategic and methodical about our training if we have those performance goals.

JESSE: [00:19:24] I have a couple specific strength questions and I’m not sure how to — I’ll try not to push them together. So, there are kind of at least what I think of as different schools of thought when it comes to strength training.

And so I’m curious whether you adhere to one of them, use a mix, in terms of thinking about when we’re getting ready to do strength training, are we doing bodyweight work? Are we doing resistance work? Are we doing anything with weight? Do you have a preference? Is it a mixture? What’s your kind of general prescription?

JASON: [00:20:01] So, it is a mixture. I think, if we were to design ideal strength training for an endurance runner, it would look sort of like this; they would get in the gym twice a week and actually lift relatively heavyweight. You know, this would be the squats, the deadlifts, overhead presses, and all the variations of those exercises. There should be this gradual move to more complexity, heavier weight, maybe potentially some power exercises.

Since running is a very ballistic plyometric sport, we need to be able to produce power. And that’s only twice a week. And runners don’t need too much time in the weight room. We’re not bodybuilders, we don’t need to spend two hours in the gym. If we can get 45 to 60 minutes in, twice a week lifting weights, that I think is perfect.

Now, that leaves all the other days of the week. What are we going to do on those other days? Well, I have this concept that is called sandwiching, let’s sandwich our run in between that dynamic warm-up that we discussed earlier, and a runner-specific core or strength routine. It doesn’t have to be very long, it doesn’t have to be very hard. 10 to maybe 20 minutes is really all you need.

And if you were doing that kind of — much easier, it’s a little bit more restorative bodyweight type of strength training after your other runs. You know, these are a lot of exercises that are taken from the world of physical therapy. So, if you’ve ever been hurt, most runners have, if you’ve ever gone to the physical therapist’s office, whatever your injury is, they’re probably going to have you go through a series of exercises.

And I’ve created a bunch of core and strength routines for runners that borrow some exercises from the world of physical therapy that you do regularly when you’re healthy. So, you’re not doing it as rehab, you’re doing it as prehab. It’s this prevention type of strength training. And it’s really great for helping runners improve their range of motion, yes, get stronger. It’s not as strong of a stimulus as the weights that you’re lifting in the gym, but you are going to get stronger.

And it does act as a nice cool down from your run. Because I think anyone who, you know, you’ve finished a workout, you come in your house, you’re tired, you sit down in a chair, you get distracted by your phone. Next thing you know, you’ve been sitting in your chair for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. How do you feel when you get up out of that chair? If you haven’t done anything after that hard workout, you feel like you’re 85 years old, and you haven’t moved in days. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. We’re trying to get limber, get loose.

And I found that it’s much more beneficial than static stretching because it’s much more active. You’re using the muscles rather than just passively stretching them. And that’s more effective in, you know, building strength and coordination, but also just helping you feel better throughout the day. You know, if you do that routine, and you do a bunch of exercises, you move your body in all these other different movements that you really don’t get at all when you’re running.

Because let’s face it, running is a fairly two dimensional sport. You’re mostly just running straight ahead. All those other movements are just going to help you feel more athletic and feel so much better the rest of the day, and you’re going to go into the next run feeling more recovered. So, I think there’s huge value in the heavy stuff in the gym. And that’s what you really think about when you think weightlifting or strength training. But then the other days, it’s slightly easier, 10 to 20 minutes, and it really helps with other aspects of fitness for runners.

JESSE: [00:23:40] One of the things I think I struggle with and I don’t know whether you’ve gone through this is I know or I believe from your backstory, you were injured a number of times before you kind of got into this habit or building up doing these strength stuff to help be an injury prevention routine.

One of the things I struggle with in the number of times I’ve been injured, which has been greatly reduced when I moved from like collegiate running to triathlon, and wasn’t solely doing one sport so much, is that say I’m injured, I’m going through that rehab routine, like like a trainer would give or physical therapist. I get better. I’m back to running. I’m pain free and I stopped doing it.

But you and I both know I’m probably better off if I continue doing it so that I don’t reinjure that thing. And that’s something that came up when I spoke with Dr. Matt Jordan who works with Canadian Olympic athletes talking about — he works with, I think, skiers if I remember off the top of my head, the recurrence of injury happens nine, 12 months down the road past clearance.

And it’s the same thing over again because you think, “Oh, we’re good to go.” How do you deal with that mentality where it’s so easy to let off? Because you’re like, “Well, I feel fine now. I don’t need to do it anymore. How do you keep that routine going?

JASON: [00:25:09] Yeah. It’s admittedly difficult, because a lot of runners think that they don’t have to do anything extra or anything different when they’re healthy, only when a problem comes up. But I think it’s much better to make a small amount of time for prevention. Because if you don’t, sooner or later, you’re going to have to make a lot of time for treatment.

And I think that’s a really helpful way of looking at it. And I think it’s also helpful based on the injury. You really have to understand why you got injured, was it simply that you were ready for a 12 mile run, and you went for an 18 mile run, and that was just way too long? Or was it more like a typical running injury, where it’s honestly a little bit difficult to pinpoint? Maybe you’re going through your normal routine.

And you have to understand what are the issues in my training. And typically, when I talk to runners if they’re like, oh, man, I have Achilles tendinopathy, or IT band syndrome. And we talk about their training, we talk about the workouts they’ve done, and a bunch of things, sooner or later, I can pretty reliably pinpoint some of the issues that are probably contributing to those injuries.

And so getting healthy and then staying healthy, which I think is the hard part, is both a combination of being consistent with the strength work, and the rehabilitative exercises that maybe you got at the physical therapy office.

Maybe you don’t have to do them as much. Maybe instead of three times a week, you’re only doing them once or twice a week. Being consistent with that post-injury, even when you feel healthy is going to really help you stay healthy. But the other thing to think about is, if you know why you got injured, you can then start eliminating those risk factors from your training.

So, I know for me, certain types of shoes flare up my IT band syndrome. And I’ve learned that through some very painful trial and error over the years. And that’s one of those things that I now can control for. I know that if I run on the right side of the road, that’s going to flare up my IT band syndrome as well. Because the camber of the road essentially makes my right leg longer and my left leg shorter. And there’s obviously some issues with that substantial slope.

And there’s also a lot of other things. Are you starting each run at a nice, easy, comfortable, conversational pace to help yourself warm-up? There’s a lot of things that runners can evaluate in their training, from footwear, from the surfaces that they’re running on, the types of workouts, how they’re approaching pacing for all of their runs, not just their easy runs, but also their long runs, their workouts.

And if we can tweak a lot of those things, then we can really help prevent some of those issues from coming up in the future. So, I think it’s both an exercise, being consistent with that exercise selection, and then modifying your training in specific ways to your injury, that will help prevent it in the future too.

JESSE: [00:28:12] I want to ask you a little bit about shoes because this is something I get probably the most questions about. I spent a number of years working in a shoe store, fitting shoes for runners and people with health problems and all that kind of stuff. So, I’ve talked about shoes in a number of videos. And people often ask me like, “What’s the best shoe?”

And it’s like, this is a whole conversation to have. How do you give advice about shoes knowing that you know, in particular, hey, I’m susceptible to these particular shoes don’t fit well with me. You know, how do you get that information out to people? Because I know sometimes when people ask me and I say like, here’s my clarifying questions, things I might need to know about you before I can give a general recommendation, I won’t get anything back. So, I’m just curious how you approach it.

JASON: [00:29:05] Yeah, I keep things pretty simple. I deal with this issue by not really dealing with this issue. I pretty much don’t answer shoe questions from folks because shoes are so personal. We are all so unique. We have different mechanics, we have different mobility issues, we have different levels of strength. And ultimately, if you find a pair of shoes that feel good, that are comfortable when you’re out there running, that’s a good pair of shoes for you. Like, full stop. If you’re comfortable, if you kind of forget about them, I think that’s another good rule.

You know, for me personally, if I’m wearing a high heel toe drop, very restrictive motion control shoe, I think about the shoe constantly. It just feels like I’m wearing heavy cinder blocks on my feet. I don’t feel like I have any ground feel underneath me. And that is annoying to me. That is something that is not really going to make me feel good when I’m out there on the run.

Because it’s constantly in the back of my mind. And runners just need to go through a lengthy process of trial and error, experiment, find a lot of different shoes, wear them out for a run, and see what works for you. If you’re always getting hurt, and you’re always adamant about wearing the same model of shoes all the time, then that might be a good opportunity for you to try a different pair.

The other thing about shoes too is that no matter what shoes you’re wearing, I am a big proponent of rotating through at least two, but maybe three different pairs of running shoes. It’s something I’ve been talking about for years and years and years ever since I really started coaching. And it was interesting only maybe four or five years after I started giving this advice out, did the science catch up. And there was a couple studies that showed that runners who rotate their shoes have a lower injury risk.

And it makes sense, right? I mean, if you’re being a runner, you’re doing a lot of running, you’re engaging in a lot of repetitive motion, because after all, we’re just going running every day. And wearing different shoes really helps you vary the stress that your feet and lower legs are experiencing. So, every shoe has a different arch height, a different stack height, different levels of support, different materials in the sole of the shoe. And that’s all going to change how your foot interacts with the ground.

And it’s one of those great ways of reducing the repetitive stress of running. Because after all, what are running injuries? They’re repetitive stress injuries. So, anything that we can do to reduce the repetitive nature of running is going to be very helpful.

JESSE: [00:31:45] I think you basically said it in there, but for the explicit nature of saying it, you’re talking about different models of shoes, not just like — So, like I’ve gone back and there’s this shoe from Nike that hasn’t been produced for like four years now and I’ve found old pairs to wear. So, you’re talking about wearing that and like maybe a shoe from Saucony. And wearing completely different models, not just rotating, like through three pairs of the same thing, correct?

JASON: [00:32:16] If that’s all you can do, I would much rather you rotate through the same exact shoe but you have three versions — you have three pairs of it. Because I think that will be better than nothing. So, it’s not really a binary thing. It’s more of like a spectrum. If you have three pairs of Nike Pegasus running shoes, rotating through those is going to be better than wearing one pair of Nike Pegasus every single run that you do.

But yes, ideally, I would love to see, not necessarily different brands of shoe, but just different models. So, maybe you have the Nike Pegasus, and for one easy run a week you wear the Nike Free. And then for some other runs, you wear a different shoe. It almost doesn’t matter as long as the rotation is there, as long as the variety is there. But yes, ideally, I’d love to see different models of shoe.

JESSE: [00:33:09] And then that kind of leads me to the thought on to what degree of variation do you think is like appropriate or reasonable? So, like, you’re talking about that stack height differential. So, if you’re not familiar with shoes, the amount of difference of padding between the forefoot and heel of the shoe is the stack height difference. So, it’s often quoted in millimeters.

So, 12 millimeters means that there’s 12 more millimeters in the heel than there is in the forefoot, so on and so forth; eight, four whatever it is. There’s zero millimeter shoes. So, are you trying to stay same stack height differential between shoes, different stack heights, different support types? Is there any constraint there or is it simply if it feels good, rotate, you’re good.

JASON: [00:34:00] I think the only constraint is what doesn’t work for your body. And so for me personally, I really can’t wear a zero drop running shoe. Now, I have multiple pairs of zero drop shoes that I wear casually. So, I feel great wearing either pair of zero shoes. I had the CEO on my podcast a couple months ago and he was nice enough to send me a pair of shoes and they’re great. I can’t run in them because I know that there goes my Achilles, there goes my IT band, you know, I would be injured in a week.

But I like to wear those casually. And when I’m running, I like to be in the sweet spot of maybe four to eight millimeters. Maybe I can run in a 10 millimeter shoe but it’s probably not going to feel great on me. And so for me I want variation within the bounds of what works for my body. And I think that is what every runner should look for. What is the variety that I can incorporate in my training when it comes to footwear that still works for my body?

So, I’m not going to wear a zero drop shoe, I’m not going to wear a 12 millimeter heel toe drop shoe, all my shoes are probably going to be in that four, six, eight, 10 millimeter zone, because that’s just what feels best for me. And I also think it’s helpful to think of running shoes as training tools. They are tools that help you do a certain job. So, my background as a cross country and track athlete at the collegiate level, we ran in different shoes all the time, because when it came to workouts, we would put on our track spikes. When it came to races, we would wear those track spikes.

And so we were incorporating all this minimalism without really even thinking about it. And then we might do some barefoot strides a couple days a week. But then for most of our normal runs, we would probably have one or two different normal trainers that could be stability shoes, could be neutral shoes. A couple guys on the team even more motion control shoes.

But as long as you’re getting those different training stimuluses from different types of shoes/ So on track days, when we were doing a workout in spikes, anyone who’s run track remembers the first workout of the season, we wear spikes and your calves are shredded for like three days afterward. So, you have to adapt to everything.

But if you’re looking at shoes as training tools, okay/ I’m going to wear my spikes or my racing flats for my races and workouts, I’m going to wear this more cushion shoe from my long run. And then I have this neutral shoe that I can wear for all my other runs during the week. That’s a nice way of thinking about not only how to vary your shoes, but being a little bit more strategic about choosing the right shoe for the right job.

JESSE: [00:36:47] You know, you already lead into it, but you’re talking about the variation of shoes and that was the first thing my mind went to is, well, once we get on the track like, are you varying shoes? Are we going — Like, are you varying shoes on the track or is it simply like, hey, since you’re doing — If you’re doing like race pace type intervals. We’re not doing tempo or anything longer. We’re doing — You want to run 5K, you want to run 10K and you’re doing that pace, put on the shoes you’re going to racing.

Is that it? Are you still — Are you going to vary within that and say, hey, I’ll wear my trainers and still do 5K pace? Then some other days we can wear the spikes. And then another day, maybe it’s racing flats because it could be a road race instead of a track race. Is it varied within that environment, or is it just okay, this is specific work for a specific speed to perform a specific task?

JASON: [00:37:41] I think you can do both. And it really depends on the level of ability or competitiveness of the athlete. At the college setting, you’re probably going to want to do all your workouts or most of your workouts in your track spikes. Maybe if you do a tempo run on the road you wear your neutral trainers, something like that.

So, I would encourage people just to use a little common sense there. But yeah, there’s certainly an opportunity to have a little bit of variation within a workout even, especially if the workout is one in which you’re running a variety of intervals at a variety of paces. So, I’ve done workouts where you do some tempo, tempo running first, and then you do some harder intervals afterward. You might keep on your trainers for the tempo run and then change in your spikes real quick at the track for those faster repetitions.

So, it’s also something where if you’re not running track and field, you probably don’t have a pair of track spikes. And most runners today, when they think racing shoes, they probably think carbon plate, the super shoes that are out there. I just this morning saw someone who ran by me wearing those carbon plated shoes, but he wasn’t really going very fast. I don’t know why he was wearing them just on an easy run.

But you don’t necessarily need a different pair of shoes for racing, especially if you don’t run a lot of races. It’s not a huge goal of yours. Maybe you just like to run a marathon a year or something like that. I wouldn’t necessarily get in the weeds with trying to vary your shoes. It’s almost like cycling. You don’t need a time trial bike and a fancy time trial helmet. Although, if you’re really getting into the sport, maybe you want that.

JESSE: [00:39:29] Yeah, yeah. It’s just — it’s one of those things where, like, running from the outset of it is such a — I’ll call it a minimal sport. You don’t need a whole lot. But at the same time, it can get kind of involved when we’re talking about all these different kinds of shoes and specificity of it. And then there’s a whole rabbit hole of like technology we can get down with GPS watches and like the parameters on the shoes now and all that kind of stuff that comes into it.

I’m a big proponent of RPE, and using that as your base training tool. I often don’t bring a watch with me unless I specifically need to because we’re doing a fartlek. Or I’m going to the track and doing intervals. So, I’d kind of like your thoughts on do you also like RPE, do you prefer something else? Are you big on data? Like, what’s your — I’ll call it a core metric — What’s your go-to thing when you’re trying to teach people pacing and how to learn all these different speeds?

JASON: [00:40:38] Yeah. I do feel like I have an advantage over runners who have started running maybe in the last 10 years, because we’re similar age. We started running in the 90s back before GPS watches were even a thing. And I feel like that did give me an advantage in terms of understanding your pace and learning how to control your pace, and how I learned good pacing.

And I feel like after about eight or nine or 10 years, I was really good at pacing, I could just know the difference between 10K, 8K, 5K, 3K pace, get on the track and just run those paces. And the way in which I did that was running based on RPE, rating of perceived exertion. And easy runs are easy. They’re — actually, it’s not a pace.

A lot of runners will think what’s my easy pace? What’s my easy pace? And most coaches will provide a pace range that they think is appropriate for their easy pace. But ultimately, at the end of the day, your easy paced running is really an effort. It’s not a pace. It’s, well, does it feel easy? Do you feel in control? Do you feel comfortable? Is the effort conversational?

Then it’s probably an easy pace. And I think when it comes to workouts, then it’s time to, okay, we actually need to know exactly how fast we’re running. We need really specific splits. And so I learned all that not by using a GPS watch, but by going on the track. And you know, I like to say that the track never lies. The track doesn’t lie but your GPS watch lies to you all the time. It is not as accurate as you think it is.

And if you really want to know what your splits are for 200 meter, 400 meter, 1,000 meter mile intervals, you got to get on the track. Because if you’re doing that based on your GPS watch, it’s just not going to be as accurate. And I think a lot of runners just only focus on the pace on their watch. They don’t focus on how they feel. They don’t keep in mind the purpose of the run.

So, even if it is an easy run or a recovery run, they think to themselves, but my easy pace should be 830 a mile. And then they’re mad when it’s a little bit slower. Well, this goes back to the fact that your easy pace is really an effort. If you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, you didn’t have as much coffee this morning, you’re a little bit less stimulated than you normally would be.

And maybe it’s a little bit hot or a little bit humid. You’ve been under a little bit of stress recently. All those things are going to affect your ability to perform and even perform on an easy run. So, your easy pace is impacted by so many other things, especially your other training.

I mean, if you do an easy run the day after a long run, or race or a workout, the same effort is probably going to be a lot slower than the easy run you did the day before the hard workout race or long run because now you’re rested. You were much more rested going into that long run than you are the day after. So, you’re just going to be running a little bit slower.

And so what GPS watches have done is given runners this idea that I should be running a certain pace for my easy runs when I don’t think they should. I think it’s more of an effort. It’s very variable based on a whole host of factors. And it’s a big problem when runners try to run harder than what they should be doing during an easy run. It compromises their performance on upcoming workouts, and it really predisposes them to injuries. So, when in doubt, just go a little bit slower on your easy runs. I think that’s a good thing to remember.

JESSE: [00:44:26] Yeah, I often — You know, one of the early videos I did was like, can you run too slow on your easy runs? It’s like, well, I guess if you’re walking then like you’re no longer running. But basically, trying to ignore that watch. And you said the word should. And that’s not words out of your mouth, that’s quoting other people. I should be doing this for my easy pace.

And that — any time that word comes out of my mouth, I have to have this moment where I go, no, like that’s a dangerous word because I should be doing this, which means I’m not doing it. I just think that’s what is supposed to happen. And then it reminds me of — I was speaking with Aquil Abdullah, maybe a month ago, a little over a month ago. He’s an Olympic Rower, now retired. And he’s in his 40s now.

And we kind of talked about the word should a little bit, not specifically, but around it and this idea of like, lack of performance, where you’re not meeting that goal. And you have this idea of, I should be that way. And I really — I keep bringing this up because it just is stuck in my brain that his advice is, he’s not so hard on himself anymore and doesn’t think so much about I should be doing this and gets more curious.

And that’s the word he said. He said I’m curious. Why is it not working? Why is it that this performance isn’t up to spec. And I think if we try to eliminate the word should, and then become more focused on the curious part of why we help eliminate some of that, I’ll call it anxiety. I feel like that clock watching is almost like an anxiety of like this, like almost manic behavior.

JASON: [00:46:24] I can’t agree more. I remember when I first got my GPS watch I, of course, obsessed about it, like every runner who first gets a GPS watch. And I realized after a couple of weeks that it had really shaken my confidence. And what are runners if they don’t have confidence?

That is a mental skill that runners must have? And yeah, you’re right. It can certainly be something that impacts your psyche. And years ago, when I first moved to Denver, Colorado, we’re up a mile high, we’re at altitude. I came from sea level and I had to reorient my entire thinking about my easy “pace” because now it’s much different than it was when I was at sea level. It’s probably 15 to 30 seconds slower, just me running the same effort.

I go out there on an easy day and I looked down, oh, I’m 15 to 30 seconds slower than I was when I was on the East Coast at sea level. And I could try to make my easy running faster, but that wouldn’t be in my own best interests. That would be working against my best interests. And so yeah, you got to be curious. And in my case, it was really easy. Oh, you’re 5,200 feet up in the air right now. And there’s not as much oxygen. So, you’re just going to be running a little slower at the same effort.

And so luckily, that was an easy one for me to figure out. But yeah, no, I think it’s a great mindset shift to have because it forces you to be a little bit more introspective. It forces you to think back on your training. Am I running slow today because we just did a workout, because I haven’t had any coffee, because the weather is crap today?

There’s so many issues that can go into it. And if instead, you’re not thinking, I should be running this pace, if instead, you’re like, well, I’m curious why I’m running this pace. And then you can figure it out. You can solve the problem. And usually, it’s just an understanding that, well, my body’s just not ready to run that harder effort today. And that’s okay because I don’t have any performance expectations or goals during an easy run. It’s just an easy run. Just go run easy for a certain amount of time or a certain mileage. And whatever the mileage or time ends up being, then that’s that.

JESSE: [00:48:45] I think that’s the hard thing to deal with, is that if you’re not experienced through that kind of idea of curiosity where you go, why didn’t it work. So, like, as a good example, and this was, I don’t know, late winter, early January, something like that I was out for a run, there’s a trail near my house. It’s kind of a gravelly mud kind of mixture, depending on where you are. It had rained, there had been like work vehicles on the trail. So, there was like ruts, it was soft — [crosstalk]

JASON: [00:49:20] Sounds like a bad surface to train on.

JESSE: [00:49:22] It’s generally pretty nice. I mean, so you get the benefits — almost like the benefits of the sidewalk when it’s dry, but then also a softer surface, you don’t have quite as much pounding. But then when it’s wet, it’s not so great. So, I was out doing some kind of tempo, fartlek kind of workout. I can’t remember exactly what it was. And I just — I wasn’t as fast as I thought I should be. But came back and I was like, well, I thought I should be at like six minute pace for this tempo. I was at 6:20, there was snow on the trail I had to go around.

There was soft surface. We just did this — It’s like, you can come up with that. But that mentality, I think, may be difficult for people who don’t have our number of years of struggles, I guess I’ll call them, because it feels like excuses. And I find, often runners have this very A-type personality where it’s like, I’m going to get it done no excuses. It feels like excuses. And you touched on this where it’s like, no. And the way to get past that, to me, seems like that lack of expectations where you’re not outcome focused, you’re only internally, did I give my best effort kind of focused?

JASON: [00:50:47] Yeah. And you know what? Your best efforts on an easy run doesn’t mean you’re running your fastest. It means you are trying really hard to run easy. And when we grew up without GPS watches, I remember as a track and cross country athlete in high school, the instructions from the coach were: go out and run in easy 45 minutes.

Or go out and run and easy 30 minutes or an hour. We didn’t know how fast we were going. And of course, there were times where we were hammering the pace when we probably shouldn’t have been. And there were times where we were just dawdling along. And if — my God, if we had performance expectations, if we were analyzing every mile split on all of these runs for the first, even eight years of my career, even in college. We had no idea how fast we were running on our easy days.

And I went — remember going back to my college for my 10 year reunion. And I went and I ran the same trails that we trained on for cross country and track and it was just bringing back all these great memories. But one thing that I forgot was how technical they were. And I realized, we were under the delusion that we were running seven minute mile pace on these trails. There’s no way. And then that just made me think, wow, we were probably running 10% less mileage than we actually thought we were.

So, all those 70 mile weeks, 80 mile weeks that I thought I was running, it’s probably a lot less than that. But again, it’s almost like ignorance is bliss. You don’t really need to know like if that technical trail mile was 8:30, instead of you know what you normally think it should be. You know, who is really saying that that’s worse for you? You’re spending more time on your feet, you’re navigating more varied terrain, and building some low levels of coordination and athleticism. And I think that’s going to help you in the long term.

So, there’s all these kind of factors to consider. And I think when we get anxious about not meeting those performance expectations that we have, it really kind of goes back to well, what is the purpose of the run? We have to be clear on the purpose of the run. Because if the purpose of the run is recovery, if the purpose of the run is to simply run five miles or 45 minutes at an easy effort, and then we start layering on these pace expectations; well, we’re not being true to the purpose of the run.

Just do the five miles and an easy effort. Whatever your pace is, is whatever your pace is, and you’re going to feel better for the workout tomorrow. Use the workouts, use the races as barometers of your progress, as barometers of your fitness, not your easy runs.

In fact, your easy runs will probably get slower as you’re building fitness because your mileage is high, you’re running the hardest workouts. When you’re at peak training, at the peak of a season, maybe you’re getting ready for a marathon or a half marathon, it’s at those times where your body is under the most amount of stress. And those easy runs might actually need to be slower, or they just will be slower if you’re running based on perceived exertion. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That doesn’t mean your fitness is backsliding. Because again, we don’t judge your fitness based on what you’re doing during an easy effort.

JESSE: [00:54:05] I think — we’ll wrap up here shortly. But I think I saw — I think it’s on your Instagram, showing the performance curve where we start working out and then we dip down into fatigue and then go back to recovery and you hit a new peak. I think once we understand that curve and have a little bit more consciousness of what that does to us, it’s a little easier to relax into that where we know there’s a lot of load on me.

I’m technically breaking down my fitness so that it can build back up to be higher later. Like, once we’re conscious of that, I think that helps a lot and bring that anxiety down about allowing those long runs to be slower, and knowing it’s okay. Like, trust the process. It’s going to come back.

JASON: [00:55:01] Yeah, absolutely. And that’s just a good example of being process-driven and knowing a little bit more about the training process, having more knowledge. You know, I say in my podcast all the time, knowledge is a competitive advantage.

Know more about the sport, understand the process of improvement, the training process, and you’re just going to be a better runner for it. You’ll make wiser decisions about your own training, you’ll make smarter decisions about taking certain risks in your training. And I think you’ll be healthier, you’ll be more effective, and ultimately, it’ll make you a faster runner.

JESSE: [00:55:35] Jason, I have a question that I asked everybody each season on my show, so you’re going to get to season three question this year. And I’d like to ask you, how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

JASON: [00:55:46] Oh, man. I remember — Now, I am admittedly not really chasing personal bests. I’m 37, I have three children, running a business, you know, I’m a little bit past my prime. So, I’m not really training 90 miles a week like I used to, and really going after PRs as hard as I was. But when I was for, I would say, the first 17, 18, 19 years of my running career, I just wanted to be a fast runner. It was something I wanted so badly that nothing else mattered. And I wanted the outcome. I wanted to always be improving. I got addicted to that improvement that happens when you’re a new runner.

You know, if you stay consistent for the first one to three months, all of a sudden, wow, you start feeling good. You start taking down your personal bests and you feel like every race you run can be a new PR. And that was so exciting for me because I was just thinking to myself, well, at this rate, I’m going to be an Olympian in two years. I was like a 14 year old. Of course, that didn’t happen. But that improvement and that process gave me a lot of just feelings of control. I felt like I was in control and I liked that.

And so for me, honestly, motivation was never really much of a problem because I wanted it so bad. I wanted to make the cross country team in college. I wanted to qualify for the New England track meet. I wanted to win the respect of my peers, my friends on the team, my coach. And so I was very internally motivated. I didn’t really need any motivation. But the motivation that did get me up in the morning and out the door every day was, I need to do this work to get good.

I wanted to be fast. And for me, that’s all I needed. I just focused on the process of training, I just put in the work. And it helped that I loved it. You know, I just really liked running. I loved the culture of running. I always loved every team that I was on, was just an amazing group of guys that I had a blast with. So, it wasn’t really hard for me to stay motivated. But it did come from this really strong place of internal motivation, because I just wanted to be fast.

JESSE: [00:58:07] Hopefully, this is a very short question. And we will wrap up wrap up, but it made me think about, you said, trusting the process. We, in the Midwest, there’s a saying with cross country coaches, when we get to say that the conference meet, the district meet, wherever that pinnacle meet is for the season, they’d say, hay’s in the barn. Meaning, training is all done, trust what you’ve done, it’s all done. Did you guys on the East Coast use that saying, or did you have something else that your coaches all said?

JASON: [00:58:38] No, we use the hay’s in the barn. Oh, yeah, that’s pretty universal. That’s a great one.

JESSE: [00:58:42] Okay. I didn’t — I just — I didn’t know if it was just a Midwest thing. Or if there were other, like phrases I should be collecting that meant the same things. So, I wanted to ask.

JASON: [00:58:50] Come on, Jesse, there are barns on the East Coast.

JESSE: [00:58:54] I know but this is the heartland. We grow all the corn, we got the cows, got all the things. Jason, where can people find you, get your books, your training, the podcast, all that kind of stuff?

JASON: [00:59:06] Yeah, thank you. is my home base. You can learn more about the Strength Running Podcast there. Pretty excited. We just launched a whole new design of the site. So, if you go to, you can see all the new stuff that we’ve put together for runners. And besides the website and our podcast, we have a very active and growing YouTube channel. So, if you go to, you’ll find all kinds of videos that we publish on a weekly basis about strength training and injury prevention and pacing and race strategy and all kinds of great stuff.

JESSE: [00:59:41] Awesome. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Jason.

JASON: [00:59:43] Appreciate it, Jesse. Thank you.

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