Running Advice from Ryan Hall

This weekend I went to meet Ryan Hall at Luke’s Locker in Houston. For those of you that don’t know who he his…he is the current American record holder in the half marathon and actually got that tile here in Houston in 2007 during the Houston Half Marathon. He is the first American to run the race in under an hour. That’s fast! That means he ran the whole 13.1 miles at about an average of 13.16mph (your treadmill maxes out at 12mph). He and his wife Sara were there to speak about running and also their new organization The Steps Foundation that is aimed at ending poverty and providing clean water to those that need it. They did a Q&A session with all of us and I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about both of them and how they train.

1. Take time to recover. Not much…but they do. He said he takes off 2 weeks every year (now) and doesn’t do any running. For you guys…this might just mean taking 3 days off or maybe your “recovery” is cross training or doing something different like yoga.

2. Cycle your training. Sara said they think of it as “banking” your runs with deposits vs. withdrawals. They do fast/slow/fast days and don’t want to take too many withdrawals (aka fast days) without giving their body time to recover (deposit).

3. They have off days. Ryan said he keeps a workout log and it’s funny because it’s “bipolar” with some days saying he felt great and others where he said he was done with running!

4. They eat healthy.  Sara said they actually love fruits and veggies and most of they year they eat really healthy, except for their recovery weeks or off periods and then they do eat “bad” but I find that hard to believe since they are both pretty small. She said she likes dark chocolate (a piece or two) where Ryan has to stay away from it because he is “all or nothing” when it comes to things.

5. Not being able to “finish” signals problems. He said he couldn’t “finish” his workouts for six weeks in a row, so he knew he was overtraining. He said this is what led to him dropping out of the Chicago marathon the other weekend. This was interesting to me because I’m wondering why they didn’t just slow down or cut corners like the rest of us do : ) But, this is their job. Their coach/trainer, etc. gives them a specific workout to complete and they have to finish it as planned.  He acted like it wasn’t just physical but also mental…which that’s usually the case with over training. You need to rest your mind and body.

6. They use the bike for cross training. I didn’t get the impression that they do a lot of cross training and I honestly doubt either of them do weight training (with the exception of core work probably). But, when someone asked abou this, Ryan said he will use the bike sometimes for cross training but he doesn’t do too much because he doesn’t want it to be too intense for his legs. Biking/cycling does work your muscles differently (quads vs. hamstrings) so he probably has to be careful not to overdo it. Although…if I were to give them a tip (not that they need it!) I would tell them to balance out those hamstrings with some quad work and also do some light upper body strength training. If not now…maybe later because as they age, they will lose muscle and bone mass. They are athletes but human just like the rest of us.

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