Apex Performance Running Blog

Goals of the Heart: An Afternoon Running Clinic With Ryan Hall

June 17, 2017

When the current half-marathon American Record holder comes to town, you go see him and learn what you can. At least that was my thinking when I heard that Ryan Hall, with a time of 59:43 at the 2007 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon and a legendary 2:04:58 finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon, was putting on a running clinic. The good folks at Houghton College, a small Christian school located in the southern tier of Western New York, asked Ryan to come and share his knowledge and spirituality. I'm happy to say it was time well spent.

Me and Ryan Hall at the conclusion of the "classroom" portion of the clinic.


The Classroom Session

Ryan gave a PowerPoint presentation and took questions from the audience of about 40 people as he went along. The room was on the second floor of the brand-new and impressive Kerr-Pegula Athletic Complex at Houghton. This facility is something that every college campus across America wishes they had.

A 200 meter 8-lane track, a 2-inch thick poured rubberized compound for a floor that has so much bounce that walking on it makes you feel like you want to sprint, LED lighting, and a videoboard. What a luxury! This should make indoor track season much more palatable during the winter months. 



I came to learn, so I took a lot of notes! Here are some of the highlights:

The training program should follow the athlete, not the other way around. Realize that a training plan is a "living document" that needs to change as things progress. Be flexible with training based on how the body responds; don't be afraid to change up a workout if it isn't working.

This is what Apex Performance Running is all about. Personalized coaching. A book or website that auto-generates a training plan simply cannot accommodate or keep up with the lives we live. Ryan gets it. He cited an example where his wife Sara, whom he coaches, was having an off day. So he adjusted the workout on the fly, and life went on. Just because a run is on the plan does not make it set in stone. Listening to your body is key. The difficult part can be knowing where the divide is between psychological constraints (e.g., self-doubt) and physical contraints (e.g., sleep deprivation, sickness).

A 7-day cycle isn't always the best, so I did a 9-day cycle.

Ryan Hall is a young guy. My last blog post (https://www.apexperformancerunning.com/blog/2016/08/how-aging-impacts-training-methodologies-distance-/) talked about how for older athletes, a 7-day cycle may not be the best bet. Sometimes the body just needs a longer period of time to recover from quality efforts - which could be a hill workout, repeats on the track, or a long run. Applying this to younger athletes was an interesting concept that I may explore further.

"Make hard day's hard and easy days easy. Use extra cushioned shoes on easy days to minimize pounding and use flats (the shoes that you plan on racing in) to get used to pounding on hard days; run on soft surfaces on easy days."

To my Apex clients or any veteran runner, this statement is a broken-record. Ryan followed up on this statement later in the evening at the dinner. He cited a conversation he had several years ago with Alan Webb (who holds the American record in the mile with a 3:46.91), a high school classmate. They agreed: "The easier the easy days are, the better the hard workouts go, and the better the race performance becomes." No argument there. Ryan also said that their "easy pace" was between 8:30-9:00/minutes per mile. Self-reflection time: Do you take it easy enough on your easy days?

"It doesn't matter how many miles per week you are running, it matters if you run the right mileage for you."

This statement really stuck out to me because runners are constantly comparing what they are doing to what other people are doing. Here's the deal: it doesn't matter what other people are doing, it matters what you're doing. Social websites like Strava are both a blessing and a curse. While they allow us to cheer on our friends and feel pride when we upload the killer workout we just did, the same pitfalls with all social media still apply: We are all slaves for "likes" and trying to get the fastest known time for a particular arbitrary "segment" of road or trail that someone made up online, whether we realize it or not. It's human nature.

Sometimes it can be tough to not let that stuff get to your head. The takeaway point here is to train within your means, not the means of others. Just because your friend is pulling double workouts and running more than you doesn't mean that you are a slacker.

"When racing, think about being relaxed while training and all of the work you put in. Find something to be excited about to encourage a good race performance. Reciting positive mantras are powerful while racing. Have an open mind at the starting line; be fully in the moment, focusing on what you are doing, instead of over-thinking the situation."

If you're not excited or confident in your upcoming race, your likelihood of achieving your goals is diminished. If you are internally focused instead of externally focused, you can push yourself further to do more.

The Weight Room