We help Tarryn improve her marathon time by running shorter and faster
We help Tarryn improve her marathon time by running shorter and faster
On this edition of RUN with Coach Parry we help Tarryn Coutts put a strategy together to run a fast marathon 6 months from now. If you’d like us to help you become a better runner, become part of the Coach Parry community now.
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BRAD BROWN: Welcome back to the next edition of Run with Coach Parry. I’m Brad Brown and we’ve got Lindsay Parry with us once again. We’ve got some great feedback from the change of the podcast. If this is the first one you’re listening to and it’s new, guys welcome. Our goal is to dig deep and help runners as much as we can around the planet.
It doesn’t matter what you’re training for. Whether it be a 5k or if you’re planning to do your first Parkrun, or if you’re training for a half marathon PB. Or you just want to finish your first marathon, we definitely want to help. That’s a little bit of background.
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We’ve got another guest on the podcast today. Before we introduce her let’s touch base with the Coach. Lindsay, welcome back. Nice to touch base with you again. Welcome back.
LINDSAY PARRY: Looking forward to chatting and catching up with another runner and helping them on their journey and making it a successful one.
BRAD BROWN: Well, let’s get straight to that runner and she joins us now from my old stomping ground, Krugerfornia on the west rand of Joburg. Tarryn Coutts, welcome onto Run with Coach Parry. Thanks for joining us today.
TARRYN COUTTS: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to join you.
Running fits into family life
BB: Tarryn, before we get into what you’re training for and what Lindsay can help you with, tell us a little about yourself workwise, what do you do, why do you run, what sort of distances are you focusing on?
TC: Workwise, I’m in the animal health industry. So, I’m a medical rep who sees the vets. Lot’s of travelling. I started running because it was convenient to fit in with the family life and it just continued. From training, trying to do a 10 to a 21 to a marathon. And then decided to try Comrades which I did my first one last year. Then after Comrades, I decided let’s just go back a bit and try and fix the speeds and try to get better PB’s on the shorter distances. The 21’s and the 42’s and that’s where I am now.
BB: Awesome stuff. How long have you been running? When did you start?
TC: I started in January two years ago, so I’ve been running for 3 years.
BB: A couple of years, you’ve got a nice base. I’m going to hand you over to the Coach. Lindsay, jump in and let’s see how we can help Tarryn.
LP: Cool. This is another great call. We’ve clearly got the typical South African journey. We start running and then we have to run Comrades because you’re not a runner in South Africa unless you run Comrades. But you have made, in my opinion, the very wise decision to first become a good runner or a better runner at the shorter distances.
Improve your short distances to get better over the long
One thing that I can assure you is that the faster you are over the short, the better you will be over the long. The problem that most people sit with is they are trying to balance both ends of that stick. So, in South Africa we tend to spend the first 6 months getting good for long. And then we want to spend the second 6 months getting fast. But we actually should be recovering properly from Comrades. You’ve already made quite an important decision and step in making this successful, because you’re giving yourself every chance of success. A couple of questions for you from me. How many times a week are you currently running? Give me a rough idea of what that structure looks like from Monday to Sunday.
TC: For Comrades, I actually followed your finishers program which said run 4 times a week. So, I run now typically a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The weekday runs will be 1 fast, so we’ll do a speed work over an 8k, you can call it your time trial if you want to. A little bit of a slower run. And then on the weekends I’ll do between 10 and 15 on a Saturday, and 20 or more on a Sunday at a slower pace.
LP: And your specific goals now, you want to get faster over the shorter stuff but you have some specific goals. Where are your PB’s sitting roughly at the moment?
TC: Last Thursday I did my PB at the Cradle race on the 21km, which was 2:06. Prior to that was a 2:10, so 4 minutes faster. And right now my PB on a marathon is about 4:38. But that was before Comrades.
LP: Have you got a marathon lined up that you’ve entered that you’re training for?
TC: Yes. Kaapsehoop in November.
Is 4 day training weeks enough to improve your run?
LP: Again, the basic ingredients are in place. You’re getting a little bit more running experience. I do find that people can improve a lot by maintaining a 4 day week training program. Once you start to get more specific about your goals, there is room for maybe a 5th day but I wouldn’t hurry into that 5th day. It does depend on how you are handling the training and how you are recovering from that training. You’ve got loads of time. We’re talking to each other in May, your goal marathon is only in November.
From a structural point of view I wouldn’t make a lot of changes to your training program. But there are a few things that I would look at doing. The first is not to start training too hard, too soon for the marathon. Over the next couple of weeks you still want to maintain quite a general preparation phase. So, doing the odd hard run on a Tuesday and slowly building up your mileage. Particularly for one run, being your Sunday run. You would build that up over the time.
What you want to do in terms of targeting that specific marathon, is your last 2 to 3 weeks will be a taper. Your 10 to 12 weeks preceding that will be what we’ll call your peak training period. Up until then you really just want to build a body that can handle 10 weeks of hard and slightly intense, training.
Building strong glutes and quads for a downhill marathon
The other change that you may want to consider if you’ve got the time to do it, is because you’re training for a downhill marathon, you do want to get into a gym and get nice strong glutes and nice strong quads. That’s going to help you out a lot when you get to the race.
The Tuesday I would keep as your harder run but as you get more into the specific cycle of the training, you wouldn’t just keep doing a hard 8k or a time trial type of thing, week after week. I would look at breaking that up into doing some fartleks, some time trials, some hill work. But essentially you’ll have that one day a week that will be quite hard. You’ll have the easier recovery week run which will be somewhere between 8 and 12. Maybe it’ll get to about 15k when you hit your peak marathon training.
Your half marathon strategy
On the Saturday, I like the fact that it’s a longish easy run, but it’s not long, long. Then on the Sunday you’re going to have to gradually build that up. So that, in those peak weeks you will run at least 25k’s, up to about 36k’s. If you stick to those things then you’re going to improve a lot. You’ve got to the point now where I think you can start thinking about a sub 2-hour, 21k.
TC: That’s what I want to do by the end of winter.
LP: It is possible. Again, you are going to up that mileage just a little bit on the weekend, but not ridiculous. Get it up to a regular run of 20 to 25. And as I said start throwing in a little bit of fartleks. But you also don’t want to do too much of that too early. You will get close to 2-hours. Which will then put you in a position to run a 4:10 to 4:15 marathon. Obviously, that will depend on how close you get to under 2-hours. If you end up with a 1:50 or a 1:55, then that puts you in line for a 4:00 to a 4:05 marathon.
TC: Okay, perfect.
LP: Have you got some specific questions that you’d like to ask? Or things that you are battling with that we can maybe help you with?
Should you only do strength training on the weak side?
TC: I was born with a left clubfoot which has been fixed. But what I battle with especially when I look for shoes, is that my left foot pronates really badly, and my right foot is completely neutral. So, I’m in pronating shoes at the moment. I’m in Brooks. Which up until now I haven’t had an injury related to shoes. I’ve basically been injury free for the 2-years of my running but I am a lot weaker on my left. My left calf is smaller than my right calf, so there is definitely a weakness there. Do I do more strength training on the left side? How do I approach it?
LP: This is a fantastic question. You don’t do extra strength training on the left hand side. What you do, is whatever strength training you do, you always do it single leg. So, for example if you’re in the gym, you would do single leg presses. Or you do step ups onto a bench, or you do single leg squats. You don’t do exercises where your strong leg can help the left leg. And you always do your repetitions first with the left leg, or the weak leg.
Work on your weakness to catch up with your strength
So, if you’re doing single leg squats for example, perhaps you’d start with body weights initially, but maybe start adding some lighter weights. But you always do the left leg first. Whatever weight and whatever number of repetitions you can do with the left, you then repeat with the right. It’s quite important to do it that way, because what will happen is obviously the exercise won’t be nearly as challenging for the right as it will be for the left. But it means that at some point in time you will get close. And when the left catches up to the right, you can progress them both together. Otherwise you’re always going to have an imbalance.
If you specifically target and do more on the left, it’s also difficult to figure out when does the balance shift. So while the right is stronger than the left, it’s always going to do more work. And it actually becomes more at risk of injury, than the left. Not the other way around. So, if we do it this way and you work the left hard, it will catch up to the right eventually.
Work on stability to correct weaknesses
The other thing that’s very important for you to do, is stability type of exercises. When you are in the gym it’s not all about strength. They always have hedgehogs or stability pads or bozi-balls. You want to spend a little bit of time doing single leg balance. Always right and left. Whatever the left does, the right also does.
And if they’ve got a mini-trampoline in the gym, you want to do a little bit, you don’t have to do it for long. Do each thing for about 30-seconds, but do a bit of running on the trampoline, then jump twice, jump three times. Jump on one leg for 10-seconds. Other leg for 10-seconds. Those are really great stability exercises. And really that’s one of the areas that you’re going to battle with. Particularly when you’ve had that much surgery to correct that foot. Your stability is one of your weaknesses.
Down the road, if you build up sensibly, your good leg will adapt to those anti-pronation shoes. You shouldn’t have to worry about your shoes as long as you’re always building up slowly over time and doing your strengthening exercises. If you were to get to a point in time where there were some problems that cropped up, then you could get to a podiatrist where you would have neutral shoes. The left foot would then get specifically adapted and they’d build a specific insert. But the way that you’ve gone about running and being sensible, I don’t foresee that being an issue. It’s just that if the problem does ever crop up just know that that is an option. You can get a neutral shoe. Your right foot will be fine in it and your left foot can get an orthotic or something similar made for it.
Why do my hips hurt?
TC: Perfect. Thank you. And then my hips. They just hurt when I do the long runs. Your 42 +. That’s when it really starts to hurt.
LP: So, that is linked to 2 things. One is that you haven’t been running for that long. Two, you do have quite a big biomechanical challenge. So the combination and the way you’re going to deal with that hip pain, is to make sure that you build up gradually in your long runs. But you do need to get them up to a certain level that you will consistently do longer runs. Part of the issue will be taken care of over time. If there are too many situations where there is that sudden increase and you are getting sore hips consistently, then you are risking getting an injury.
That’s why it also needs to be tackled from the other side. Get into the gym. Do strengthening work. Particularly of the glutes, the lower abdominals, lower back, quads. Those are the muscles you’re putting intense pressure on when you are running. If you strengthen that and also just gradually build up that mileage, and stay with 4 days a week. Just taking that into account is quite important for me. Certainly, for the next year. Perhaps when you’ve been running for 3 or 4 years there will then be place to add a 5th run in the week. But for now, it will also give your hips the break and the recovery that they need.
Strength training is important to avoid injury
TC: I have been doing a lot of strength training with resistance bands for my hips. You put it around your ankles and you walk however many paces to the left, and then to the right. And then a lot of side planking. Apparently, side planking is also very good if you battle with your hips. I don’t know how true that is, if it is true.
LP: It is. I’d continue with doing those. Squats are also really good for strengthening your glutes and your hips, as are step ups. So, you’d start on a low bench and you’d then move that to doing step ups on a high bench. And the proprioceptive stuff that I told you about. Balancing on one leg, that’s really good. When you get quite good at balancing on one leg, if you do get to that point, just standing on the bozi-ball is easy, you can close your eyes. That will totally throw you out, but it is the right stimulus. And once that’s no problem, you can get someone to hurl objects at you while you catch them and really improve the stability.
TC: Then one thing I wanted to add to my training is spinning. Is that something in cross-training that you would recommend?
Add spinning into your cross-training to get stronger
LP: When you’re going into the gym, it’s no problem adding up to 2 spinning sessions, certainly 1 would be a good idea, possibly 2. But then you would need to see, how am I responding? Does it make me too tired, push me over the edge, etc, etc.
TC: Generally I keep Monday as a complete rest day where I do nothing. A Tuesday and a Friday I try and do something different. I didn’t know if I start the spinning, should I start with it on a Tuesday and see how it goes? And then maybe incorporate it into a Friday class as well?
LP: Absolutely. A very sensible way of doing it. If you do the first one and you respond well to it, then you try the second one, yes.
TC: Perfect. That’s where I’m battling.
BB: Cool, that sounds awesome.
TC: Great advice. Thanks for the advice and the help. It just puts everything in line that I need to do. So, thanks.
BB: Tarryn, thank you so much for joining us here on the podcast today. And to the coach as well, thanks for your advice.
Don’t forget if you’d like to be part of one of these calls head over to coachparry.com/join and become a member of the coach parry online community. You can get all the details there. If you’re looking for training programs as well, head over to coachparry.com/start.
Tarryn, best of luck in the build up to the marathon in November. And coach, we look forward to catching up with you again next week. Have yourself a great week.