How to Run Far, Without Running Far

Lately, my workouts have been different than they ever have. I’ve always lifted heavy, and shied away from anything that would make me sweat. I hated “cardio,” running was never that interesting.

A couple years ago, a set of deadlifts over 5 was considered cardio. My workouts have an aerobic-style to them now, I’m constantly moving, breathing and sweating. I am still lifting heavy, by having strength specific workouts or mixing heavy things into my aerobic work. That’s what I am going to highlight here.

You see, I have changed my workouts because I have a 25k trail race coming up in the end of May. I have never run that far in my life. Like I said, I’ve never been a runner and I played hockey, not exactly a sport that helps your running mechanics. Until recently, I the longest I had run was a little over 6 miles for a half marathon relay. Before that, 4 miles in training for the relay.

I knew that what I was doing was working when I effortlessly ran 9 miles, and I mean that seriously, not in an obnoxious way, but in a way to show you how powerful this style of training for endurance can be.

Each week, I am training about 4 days per week, but trying to move and do something pretty much everyday.

Mondays are usually my off day. If I fit something in I make it a small circuit or some light technique work.

Tuesdays are my hard workout days. A typical workout might look something like this:

A1. back squat 5×8 – only increasing weight if it feels good

A2. Running drill

B1. one arm db push press x6/side

B2. box jump x6

B3. Pull up x3

I’ll go moderately paced for 10-15 minutes

C1. running intervals 4x800m with 2 minutes recovery. Running at a pace that’s fast, but possible to maintain for the entire distance.

Wednesday’s are for aerobic circuits. Workouts that last about 20-30 minutes with a sustained pace and effort that’s possible to hold for the whole time. The goal is to finish these workouts “fresh.” An example:

A1. rack pull x 10

A2. bear crawl x20 y

A3. running up hill (treadmill) for 30 seconds

A4. medicine ball slam x30

After this, I’ll usually go for some harder, anaerobic style conditioning. Something like 60 second max effort rowing or on the Airdyne Bike. After 2-3 rounds, I’ll recover for 3-4 minutes and repeat once or twice more.

If it’s possible, I’ll get in some longer intervals on Thursdays. Something like 2-3, 1 mile repeats. I’ll recover for about 2-3 minutes and run the mile as fast as I can. I usually end up only doing these once every other week, but that seems to be doing the trick.

Friday is freestyle day for me. I just do whatever will motivate me to train. Sometimes heavy deadlifts, high rep squats or a circuit style workout. When writing this on Saturday, my workout yesterday was:

A1. axel bar overhead press x 10

A2. tire flip x3

A3. box jump x 5

5 rounds

 

Saturday is usually focused on Olympic weightlifting. I still enjoy doing this, even though it isn’t a requirement for endurance training. I just think practicing them is fun.

Now we get to the interesting part. On Sunday’s I’ve been going long. Longer than I ever though possible. This only started a couple weeks ago too. Before that, Sunday’s were for 20+ minutes on the rower.

On Sunday April 10th, the day after I really pushed it for a 5.5-mile hike, I ran further than ever. I ran 7 miles in 58 minutes. The goal was to run for an hour. I totally made up the route as I went and it just ended up working out that I finished in an hour when I reached my driveway. I was shocked at how easy it was.

Right then. I was hooked. I finally get it runners – that was worth it. The following week my training schedule was about the same, but when Saturday rolled around, I needed to make sure this wasn’t a fluke and I could repeat my efforts.

Off I went on what ended up being a 9.3 mile run in 1 hour and 24 minutes. This time I wasn’t shocked. I felt good the whole time.

The day after – no aches. No pains. Not even any sore muscles. Some tenderness in my calves and quads, but nothing out our the ordinary from a regular workout. Keep in mind – since my training has amped up, so has my recovery. I am dialed in with my nutrition, making sure to get more sleep and regularly doing mobility work, walking and taking ice baths 3-4 nights per week (more on that another time). I have also been working on my running mechanics not only during my warm ups but during my strength training workouts. I didn’t just start this though, I have been reworking them for almost two years now.

The take away for you is that you can train endurance without having to rack up miles. I know this goes again what most of you runners out there are doing, but my counter to that is how many times have you been injured? How many little tweaks and irritated spots do you have? And how do you fit in 30 miles per week while working full-time, strength training and maintaining a regular social life? It’s hard and it is certainly not a sustainable way to train.

Which gets me to the most exciting part – starting in June, the GAIN RUN TEAM will start training. More details will follow, but what it’s going to be is a 7-8 week, training and running program, designed to get you into to shape to run a race, improve running technique and form, and build your endurance without racking up miles. Spots will be limited and the official sign up will be open soon. The team is open for experienced runners and non runners alike, and members and non members of the gym. The program will commence with your choice a 5k or 10k race that we’ll all run together.

If you are a member, we will modify your finishers and strength training to accommodate the new plan. On the weekends, you’ll be responsible to run on your own, or we will do a group run together. Let me know if you have any questions!

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How to Run Far, Without Running Far

One Year of Standing

This month marks my one-year anniversary of a standing desk. You can read the details about how and why I transitioned HERE. The past 12 months of standing has taught me a lot – and not just about why sitting all the time is bad for you. It taught me how to take a hard look at lifestyle habits and make positive changes.

I can tell you right now. I will never go back to a traditional desk. I dealt with back pain, tight and sore hips and was frequently tweaking my shoulders while training – until I made the switch. Just standing everyday didn’t fix those problems, though. This is not a magic fix. Nothing that actually works is. This takes a lot of hard work, constant awareness and the desire to want to get better. Not being able to stand all day, “just because you can’t,” is a sure fire way to make sure it won’t be successful.

I see lots of people getting hung up on standing is better than sitting or standing all day is just as bad as sitting. Don’t think about it like that though. Moving is better than being stationary. If you stand, but you’re in an awful position, feet turned out, aches collapsed, hips tilted forward, spending the day there is no better than sitting hunched over your keyboard.

Standing is an easy way to do two things. First, it’s instant access to more movement. You can stand on one leg, cross your legs, put one leg on a stool or step, you can lean to one side or the other, you can stand with your feet together or narrow. All of that is fair game, it gives you positional options. Standing also allows you to access a better position easier. I see this all the time, someone tells me they can do a good job of sitting in a chair. They usually over extend their back, meaning they arch too hard to get upright or they cannot maintain the position for more than a couple minutes.

When standing, it’s hard to maintain the positions for more than a couple minutes too, but it is much easier to find and recognize the right, stable positions for you to be in. What I mean is that, if you screw your feet into the ground, squeeze your butt a bit, and make sure that your abs are on, just enough that if I slapped you on the belly it wouldn’t hurt – you’re in a good position. While sitting, it’s impossible to do those things to properly stabilize yourself.

It probably took me 4-5 months of constant standing to get comfortable in that position. I had to always be aware of what my body was doing. I have the tendency (as do a lot of people with athletic backgrounds) to be overextended in my lower back, or to have an anterior pelvic tilt. So, while initially standing, as I would get tired, my body would naturally want to find that over extended position. That’s how it was finding stability when I would forget to stand properly. I call this hanging on your spine.

The only cure for hanging on your spine is constant awareness. Every time I would feel myself starting to slip into that, I would adjust how I was standing and screw in my feet and squeeze my butt, which tilts the hips back towards a neutral position. Now, there have been some days where I stood too much, or just wasn’t cognizant of how I was standing. To combat that, I made sure to get myself into some flexion at night, either by sitting on the couch for a bit or hanging out in the bottom of a squat or hopping on the floor a spending a few minutes in child’s pose.

So, during those first 4-5 months, I would end up with a sore back every now and then, nothing serious, just enough to know something was off. In the first couple of months, I also had some foot discomfort. Not pain, or an injury, but my heels were a little sensitive at night and my arches would be sore every now and then. I combated this with regular maintenance to my feet with a lacrosse ball, dowel rod, pvc pipe or anything else I could roll them on. After time, they adapted. I haven’t had any issues with my feet at all after the initial discomfort. You body is going to have to adapt to the new positons it’s in all day. The change won’t happen quickly, but it won’t happen at all unless you’re willing to deal with them. You must be intelligent and listen to your body. Back off when you need to and pull up a chair.

You won’t be able to stand all day right out of the gate. I think two hours is a good starting point for most people. If you’re at your desk for 6 hours, try standing for 2 of those hours. For some people, consecutive hours are the way to go. For others, they may be more conformable standing for a portion of each hour throughout the day. You need to experiment and try for yourself.

The final downside, or possible negative effect, is that I developed a bad habit of shifting all my weight to my left leg. Always. It doesn’t help that when I’m coaching, I demo exercises on that side as well. Because of that, I developed a slight hip shift that I started noticing on my squat when I would go heavy or get fatigued. I am now diligent on which leg I am leaning on, trying not to over use the left side.

While there were a few negative side-effects I had to deal with along the way, the positives are too many to count. My energy levels are better during the day. No more sitting down to do work and not starting. I have better focus when I am standing. Although, I think sometimes sitting can help me think a little differently. What I mean is that if I’m editing a video or trying to write something creative, it’s sometimes easier to focus sitting. So, when I’m really not in the mood to stand, I’ll take the laptop to the floor.

My hips and low back have never felt better. I’m always at the ready to do anything. I used to take forever to warm up for a training session. Now, I know everything is operating smoothly and there are no kinks to work out. The way that I carry myself has significantly improved. People are always shocked when they find out I’m barely 6 feet tall. This was an unexpected benefit, but I have seen studies that show how much of an impact the way you carry yourself can have not only on your mood but the way that other people perceive you.

So, my advice to you, ditch the chair. Get rid of it yesterday and never look back.

You were designed to move, not to be fragile. Make sure that you know HOW TO STAND before you start. And take it slow, it isn’t a rush to the finish line. Incrementally adding standing time each week or month is a great way to transition. If something gets irritated or sore, most likely (I’m not a doctor) it is your body adapting to the change. Don’t ignore it, but be proactive and take care of it. Here’s a free tip – even if your feet don’t hurt after a week or two – spending 5 minutes rolling them while you’re standing each day. It’s a simple, preventive measure to ensure success.

 

Couple of my standing desks over the past year. Top left – was my first official one, standing to sitting, with moveable arm. Top right – using a step stool at home for a standing desk, also used books before I got the step stool. Bottom – Current standing desk made from 2×4’s. I also have the same set up at home now as well.

One Year of Standing

My First Month Standing (RE-POST)

***This blog was originally posted one year ago***

I’m currently working on a blog post about my first full year of a standing desk and the lifestyle changes that I’ve made because of it. Here’s a post I wrote last year, 30 days after I transitioned to a standing desk. Enjoy!

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Since I finished college I haven’t had to sit down much. I went straight from college into a job at a strength and conditioning facility. I was running around the 5000 square foot facility accumulating several miles of movement everyday just from going from one end of the building to the other, hundreds of times a day.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m a corporate fitness trainer living an active lifestyle. Once again, no sitting throughout the day, on my feet always moving around.

Then I opened a business. Sitting was now part of my job. I needed to be on a computer every day.

It was a world that I was no longer familiar with. It wrecked me, the back pain I had beat 3 years ago was starting to come back, my hips were nagging me, and I noticed my shoulders started to round forward. I needed a change. 

It wasn’t until a friendly competition with my friend, Patrick, that made me realize how much I sat everyday. I said to him, “ I think you sit much more than you realize.” He said the same to me, so there was only one way for us to settle it. Sitting competition.

For 3 days, we tracked how long we sat throughout the day. Driving, reading, eating, work on the computer, waiting in a lobby, sitting at a conference, it all counts and it all adds up.

When it was all said and done, Patrick came out on top with a few less hours sitting than I did.

I was bummed that I had lost the competition, but what the competition really did was bring awareness as to how much I was sitting each day. It showed me that I needed to make some changes.

The search for a standing desk started. There were absolutely no good options out there. Not one. It was either put a stack of cinder blocks under a desk and hope it worked or buy a $1000 standing desk with an electric motor. I got creative and used what I could. I stacked plyo boxes on the desk and that got me started. I used a step stool on the counter for work at home. After just a few weeks of replacing some sitting with standing I knew I needed to make a full time switch to a standing desk.

Simple do-it-yourself standing workstation.  

Simple do-it-yourself standing workstation.

It has been 31 days since I switched to a full time standing desk.

The first day was great. I had a big project that I had just started so I had something to dive right into and didn’t even notice the transition.  After a month of doing this, I never have any more back pain (I herniated a disc twice in 2012 and had often had flair ups from driving for long hours, sitting for a long time or from regular workouts). My hips feel great and are no longer super stiff when I got to demonstrate an exercise to a client.

I haven’t noticed much of a difference in terms of focus while working, but there are some people that say standing can really improve attention span. Check out www.standupkids.org for some studies that suggest standing may help improve focus in kids with ADHD. I would occasionally doze off while sitting and working. That obviously cannot happen anymore when standing. If anything I’m more aware of my attention span and my mind and body knows when it needs a break from the screen.

Standing throughout most of the day has made me more aware of my sitting position when I am forced to sit. The way I see it is there is optional sitting and mandatory sitting.

Mandatory sitting is when you are driving, out to eat at a restaurant, company meetings (unless you’re company is ahead of the curve and already holding standing or waking meetings). Optional sitting is watching TV, sitting down in a lobby or waiting area or sitting down when you and some friends are hanging out drinking some beers.

Now I limit my optional sitting, when I do sit I am much more aware of my posture. I make sure I don’t sit like a hunchback with my shoulders rounded forward and I try to keep moving into new positions while sitting.

So where to start?

Try cutting out some of your optional sitting each day. After the sitting competition, I decided to stand more while at home. Luckily I have an island counter than I can stand at while eating at or watch television. Over the course of a couple weeks I noticed I enjoyed standing there more than sitting on the couch. When I do feel like sitting now at home, I usually will sit on the floor since it is much easier to stay in a better position, but I’m also able to get some extra stretching and mobility work in.

Do you need to buy a standing desk today?

Probably not, there’s enough optional sitting you do throughout the day that you can minimize. Get up from your desk more, do some mobility work during long spans of sitting, and be aware of your posture. Once you get those in check, consider making the transition to a standing workstation. You body will thank you, and you will feel much better each and every day.

My First Month Standing (RE-POST)