HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Thu, 20 Feb 2020 00:04:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 How you approach running is how you approach your life https://www.hillrunner.com/how-you-approach-running-is-how-you-approach-your-life/ https://www.hillrunner.com/how-you-approach-running-is-how-you-approach-your-life/#respond Thu, 20 Feb 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68117 Continue reading "How you approach running is how you approach your life"


Are you late to group runs? Do you miss training runs or workouts regularly?

Are you late to meetings at work? Do you miss appointments?

If you answered yes to the first pair of questions, you probably answered yes to the second pair.

If you’re late to training group runs, you’re probably also running late to meetings and appointments in other areas in your life. If you follow through with your training, you probably follow through with commitments you make outside of running.

In short, what you do in running is both a reflection of and a tone setter for the rest of your life.

If you want to be the person who is on time or early for meetings and appointments and follows through on tasks in the rest of your life, consider your running an opportunity to practice. Show up on time for group runs. Make a point to get in your planned runs.

You don’t need to be perfect. Remember last week, nobody is perfect. However, barring injury or dangerous circumstances, the more consistent you are, the better. Practicing this in your running will give you the skill to do it in all parts of your life.

Note: I first thought of this as a topic when I heard it on a podcast for coaches. I flipped what they stated, which was that how a person approaches their life tells you how they will approach running. If they are late for recruiting visits or miss calls, expect them to be late for practices or miss team meetings. The point for coaches was recruit those who don’t miss calls and arrive late for visits because those are the people who will be late for practice and not meet their commitments to their teammates. The same applies in reverse, though, and I think is a better way for runners to think about how they can work on self improvement through running.

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Nobody is perfect https://www.hillrunner.com/nobody-is-perfect/ https://www.hillrunner.com/nobody-is-perfect/#respond Thu, 13 Feb 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68111 Continue reading "Nobody is perfect"

It’s hard to believe but even this guy isn’t perfect

If something goes wrong in your training plan, what do you do? Do you panic or do you roll with it?

How about if something goes wrong in a race?

We all make mistakes. We all have bad things happen sometimes. What matters is not whether or not these things happen because they will. What matters is how you handle these moments.

I’ve seen runners panic the moment they make any small mistake or anything goes wrong. The wheels fall off as soon as one bad thing happens and that one thing turns into a downward spiral. I’ve even been one of those runners at times.

Instead of panicking, accept that you’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. What separates the champions who overcome mistakes or bad circumstances from those who experience the downward spiral is how they handle those mistakes or bad circumstances. They don’t panic. They adjust to the new reality and find the best way forward.

Some people think how you handle these situations is an innate trait. I disagree. It’s a learned skill. You can learn to overcome these things. You can learn to roll with the punches and adjust the plan when something goes wrong.

The first step is to recognize that you’re heading down the path. Recognize that you made a mistake and are now feeling the panic. Take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Then, instead of thinking about how this is the end of the world, take a few moments to think about where you can go from here. Missed a long run or workout? Can you do it tomorrow or the next day without compromising your next big day? If not, was it really that important? What will happen if you skip it? Probably not much because it’s just a small part of a much bigger training plan.

Once you’ve come up with the best path forward, you have a new plan to follow and you can execute it to the best of your ability, adjusting again as circumstances require.

So, if you’re one who tends to head toward that downward spiral as soon as something bad happens, next time try something different. Accept that you’re human and you are allowed to make mistakes or have bad things happen to you. Then find the best path forward from the point you are at.

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How do you view your races? https://www.hillrunner.com/how-do-you-view-your-races/ https://www.hillrunner.com/how-do-you-view-your-races/#respond Thu, 06 Feb 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68126 Continue reading "How do you view your races?"


When you line up for a race, what’s going through your mind?

Are you looking at it as a challenge? An opportunity to see how well you can perform?

Or do you see it as a threat, fearing failure?

For both psychological and physiological reasons, you are far better off thinking of it as a challenge and an opportunity.

Psychologically, when you view your race as a challenge, you are more calm and relaxed. When things are going right, you can reach a flow state where you perform at a higher level. If things go wrong, you can think clearly and calmly through the problem and come up with a strategy to overcome the challenges.

If you view your race as a threat and fear failure, you are more stressed. When things go right, you’re spending energy concerned about what could go wrong instead of thinking about what you can do to continue having things go right. If things go wrong, you’re more likely to panic and make bad decisions.

Physiologically, when you are gearing up for a challenge and thinking of it as an opportunity, you have a challenge response. Your cardiac output increases and your peripheral resistance decreases, meaning that you allow more blood flow to your limbs. Levels of beneficial hormones increase and stress hormones decrease.

When you are feeling a threat, stress responses takes over. Your peripheral resistance increases, lessening blood flow to the limbs. Your blood pressure increases. Your stress hormones spike and beneficial hormones drop.

So, if you go into races fearing failure and not looking at them as opportunities, try working on changing your mentality toward racing. Make a conscious effort to flip the script. It will help you run better on race day.

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Can AI predict injury risk? Can professionals? https://www.hillrunner.com/can-ai-predict-injury-risk-can-professionals/ https://www.hillrunner.com/can-ai-predict-injury-risk-can-professionals/#respond Thu, 30 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68045 Continue reading "Can AI predict injury risk? Can professionals?"

Have you been convinced to try to change your running form because someone insists something about your form is sure to cause injury? How did that work for you?

For what seems like my entire running life, I’ve always heard about how certain aspects of one’s running form are sure to cause injuries. Some of the advice I’ve heard or read about is so contradictory that it would seem that we’re all bound to get injured on a monthly basis because, no matter what you do, you’ll find someone who will tell you that’s bound to cause injury in short order.

But is all of this actually true?

What if we ask computers?

AI can categorize form but can’t predict injuries based on form. It does a great job of correctly placing runners into categories based on their form. However, it can’t predict injury risk based on form.

What if we ask the experts?

Experienced coaches and sports medicine professionals also can’t predict injuries based on a popular injury risk assessment. Using a test that is commonly used for predicting injury risk, even the experts can’t predict injury risk.

What does all of this mean? It means all of our bodies have different ways of moving, also sometimes called our movement signature. This is how someone who knows you well can spot you based on your running form before you’re close enough for them to know who you are by seeing your face.

There are exceptions but, generally speaking, your body finds the best way for it to move and, without major efforts involving far more than thinking about moving differently, your injury risk will actually go up if you try to change your form.

Other things I’ve been reading recently:

Higher VO2max isn’t always better. With higher VO2max comes lower efficiency. Just a reminder that running fitness is very complex and multi-faceted. A comprehensive training plan is necessary to be your best.

Study: Don’t use ice baths for recovery. We’ve seen studies like this before. Here’s another one.

Could marathoning be good for your knees? We’ve also seen studies like this before. When will people accept that running is generally good, not bad, for your knees?

Saunas have benefits but those benefits aren’t free. There are definitely benefits, especially for anyone training in a cold climate for a warm weather race. However, they do add stress to the body and that stress does need to be accounted for in your training plan.

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Winter running gear https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running-gear/ https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running-gear/#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68071 Continue reading "Winter running gear"


Probably because I share so openly the kinds of winter weather I’ve run in (pretty much anything you can think of) I’m often asked what people should wear in given conditions.

I always struggle with these questions. Not because I’m trying to hold back top secret information but because I truly don’t know. Different people need different gear in different conditions.

If I tell you that I go from shorts to lightweight pants in the high 30s and from lightweight pants to thermal pants in the low 20s, that doesn’t tell you what you need. It tells you what works for me, which may be very different than what works for you. I’ve lived nearly my whole life in Wisconsin, I’m well acclimated to the cold. If you’ve lived your entire life in Florida, you will almost surely need to wear more than me even if we’re running together.

You can see this in Wisconsin very plainly when the temperatures are in the 30s and 40s. Some people will pull out the pants at 50 degrees, others keep wearing shorts until the temperatures are well into the 30s. It’s quite possible that people at both ends of the spectrum are doing exactly the right thing, dressing as their bodies demand.

When dressing for any weather, don’t worry as much about what someone else is wearing. Figure out what you need for yourself. This may require some trial and error. It may get a little unpleasant when you occasionally overdress or underdress. However, you will pretty quickly learn from these errors and find what is just right for you.

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Weight management: eat healthy and move https://www.hillrunner.com/weight-management-eat-healthy-and-move/ https://www.hillrunner.com/weight-management-eat-healthy-and-move/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68049 Continue reading "Weight management: eat healthy and move"


Some time ago, I was in a fitness center and overheard a conversation related to weight management. After hearing someone offer his advice, I wanted to go over and give him a high five.


Because he actually gave sound advice. Something that is very rare these days, especially in fitness centers.

What did he say? I’m paraphrasing but roughly this: “Eat real foods. Try to eat less. Move more. Find workouts you enjoy doing so you will stick to it.”

Conceptually, it’s very simple. Eat healthy foods, eat things that look as much as possible like they do in nature. If you’re trying to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. Putting this into practice is when it gets very tough.

It doesn’t even matter what you eat as long as you are eating healthy foods. I was recently reading a study on diets. Low fat vs. low carb. Vegetarian vs. vegan vs. those including meat or other animal products. What the study found was that all diets initially worked about the same for weight management and health improvements. For long term success, the deciding factor wasn’t the type of diet but how much people liked it and stuck to it. In other words, it’s not about what kind of diet you followed. It was about whether you liked it enough that you could keep it going after it wasn’t the “new thing”.

As for working out, if you’re here, you probably like running. Great first step. What else do you like? What will get you moving every day? It doesn’t need to be intense every day but even a walk on your easier days so you keep moving is great.

Put this all together and you have a weight management plan that looks simple. Just like the person in the fitness center said.

Just remember, simple is not easy. Conceptually, this advice is very simple. In practice, it’s much harder to follow, especially in our modern society that makes it far too convenient to eat highly processed junk food and be extremely inactive. If you’re here, you’ve likely overcome the inactivity part to some extent. However, the nutrition part may honestly be even a bigger challenge.

Remember, the most important factor for managing your weight and, more importantly, your health is that what you do is sustainable. Both with the nutrition side and the exercise side, make sure you are doing things that are enjoyable and not too extreme. This way, you can sustain them for the long term, which gives you the greatest chance at success.

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What are you adding? What are you removing? https://www.hillrunner.com/what-are-you-adding-what-are-you-removing/ https://www.hillrunner.com/what-are-you-adding-what-are-you-removing/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68019 Continue reading "What are you adding? What are you removing?"


Are you planning to try something new this year? If so, have you decided what you’re taking away?

It may seem strange to talk about removing something but, if you’ve already maxed out your training, how can you add something without taking something else away?

No, maybe you haven’t fully maxed out your training but you’ve probably maxed out what you can do within the current context of your life. If you haven’t, congratulations and you can stop reading now.

For the vast majority of us who are still reading, the math is simple. If you’ve already been training up to your full capacity and want to add something new, you either need to increase your capacity or take something away whenever you add something new.

If you’re a less experienced runner, you may still be increasing your capacity as you increase your fitness and you can, at least to some extent, add new components of training without removing others.

If you are making big additions, though, or if you’re more experienced and have less room to increase your training capacity, you need to think not just about what you’re adding but also what you’re removing.

So how do you decide what to remove? By doing the inverse of what you did to decide what to add. Hopefully you took some time for some deep thought on what your weaknesses were, researched how to address those weaknesses, then came up with a plan for what to add.

To decide what to remove, take some time for some deep thought on what you’re doing. What might be redundant? What might not be necessary based on your current strengths and weaknesses or your goals for this year? What just plain isn’t working?

These are the places where you find something to remove.

Remember, you can’t add new things indefinitely to your training without also sometimes removing things. There are only so many workouts you can do in a year. There is only so much time you can spend training. It’s just as important to think about what you are going to remove as it is to think about what you’re going to add.

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2019 at HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com/2019-at-hillrunner-com/ https://www.hillrunner.com/2019-at-hillrunner-com/#respond Thu, 19 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67987 Continue reading "2019 at HillRunner.com"

Team HillRunner.com
Team HillRunner.com – 2019 Al’s Run

It has become tradition for me in late December to write a recap of what has been going on at HillRunner.com over the past year.

While I don’t have a lot to write about this year, I’d like to keep the tradition going so here it is.

To be honest, it’s been a challenging year to get much done at HillRunner.com. There were simply too many other things going on. I have a few things in development but haven’t been able to commit the time necessary to complete them. Hopefully, with these things in the pipeline, this means 2020 will be a more eventful year.

What I can say is that I’ve been making some efforts behind the scenes to ensure HillRunner.com continues to perform well and look good for you. I made some formatting changes in the first half of the year to make the site more readable, especially in the forums. In the second half of the year, I did some database cleanup and made a few other changes in order to improve performance. I can say that performance tracking over the past month has shown a respectable improvement in average performance, especially when compared to a year ago. I hope these improvements have made the site better for you.

Probably the biggest change of the year behind the scenes has been a big step up in my efforts to combat spammers and stop them before you ever see them. I found a new tool that aggressively combats spammers and I’ve seen a change in traffic since implementing it. There have been a few false positives and I apologize for those. However, I do think that as a whole this new tool and my implementation of it has improved the overall experience at HillRunner.com while reducing the efforts I have to put forth.

About the only other thing I have to say about this year is that there have been some blog posts I’m very proud of and very happy I could share with you. Here are a few that I would consider highlights of the year.

How to do an easy run: Sometimes questions that need to be asked don’t get asked. I decided to answer one of those questions here.

The best recovery method: There’s a whole industry revolving around recovery but the best thing you can do is simply get enough sleep.

Happy 20th birthday to the HillRunner.com community! I completely forgot as I was writing this post but we celebrated 20 years this spring! Thank you all so much for making this happen.

There are no magic paces (or black holes): An important reminder that all paces are beneficial if you know how to use them.

What are you running for? Always remember your why. It will help you in many ways.

“See God” workouts and why I (mostly) don’t like them: I’m generally not a fan of these workouts. Here’s why.

Three lessons from my difficult summer: I did not have a good summer but I hope you can learn something from my mistakes.

Offline, Team HillRunner.com got together for our usual Al’s Run team event. As always, it was one of the highlights of the year for me personally. I’m always amazed by the great people who are willing to represent this site with their efforts. This year, the crew represented very well, bringing home not just our share of individual medals but some team hardware:

Thank you all for the support in 2019 and here’s to a wonderful 2020!

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SMART goals for the runner https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/ https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/#respond Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=938 Continue reading "SMART goals for the runner"


It’s the time of the year where we’re planning out our racing seasons for next year and setting our goals. How do you go about setting a good goal, though? You want a goal that will challenge you without feeling overwhelming.

In other fields, you may have heard of SMART goals. I think the SMART goal concept works very well for runners. But how does it apply to runners?

There are five aspects to a SMART goal. A smart goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results focused, and Time bound. Some of these aspects have a very clear application to runners, others don’t. Here’s how I recommend you think of these aspects:


For the runner, what does a specific goal look like? Well, it’s not “I want to run a fast 5K”. That’s a very vague goal. What’s fast?

A specific goal needs to be more clear. “I want to run a 5K PR” or “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K” is a much more specific goal. You know without question what you’re trying to do.

A specific goal doesn’t need to be a time goal, though. Maybe you’ve finished just outside of the age group awards several times at a race you do every year. Your goal can be to win an age group prize. Or you can go for the win in a race where you’ve come close but not quite made it. Just realize that these goals can be tricky because they aren’t all within your control.

So let’s say your goal is “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K”.


What does it mean for a goal to be measurable? Well, it means you have a way to measure whether you’ve made it or not.

As a runner, this is likely accomplished by making it specific. In our example, you have a specific time at a specific distance. You can measure whether you’ve run a 5K in 19:59 or faster.


This is a tricky one. We want to set a goal that is challenging but it should also be attainable.

If you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 20:01 in 2017, how challenging does breaking 20:00 really look? You should probably be looking for a harder goal.

If, on the other hand, you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 25:25 in 2017, how attainable is sub-20? Unless you can clearly see a path to huge improvements, something a little less ambitious might be a good idea.

Results focused

What is a results focused goal? It’s essentially outcome based, not process based.

This means you’re not setting a goal for your training. That’s the process. You should set plans for training but your training is the means to the end. Your goal should revolve around that end, the race result or other result you’re striving for.

Time bound

This is probably the easiest part for many runners. When specifically do you want to accomplish your goal? Unlike some pursuits, we as runners have a clear deadline in most cases: race day.

If you’re not targeting a specific race, just make sure you set some deadline for this goal. Don’t say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K some day”. Say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K in 2018”.

Why does this matter? If you don’t set a deadline, it can be too easy to put it off. “So I didn’t get under 20 minutes this year. I’ll get there next year or the year after or…”

Eventually, it just doesn’t happen.

It’s good to have long term goals but it’s important to have incremental short term goals with clear deadlines that will lead you toward those longer term goals. Your long term goal may be to break 18 minutes in the 5K but your 2018 goal is to get under 20 minutes, an important step on the way to going under 18 minutes.

It’s OK if you don’t get all of your goals. Things happen. But make sure you’re not leaving open ended time frames on your goals. Do that and things can slip too easily.

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Ask me anything https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/ https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67961 Continue reading "Ask me anything"


It’s that time again! Your opportunity to ask me anything you would like. As I’ve mentioned before, this is always one of my favorite things to do.

Almost nothing is off limits. Feel free to ask me about training, racing, my thoughts on the news in and around the sport, what’s going on at HillRunner.com. This is my invitation to you to ask whatever you would like.

As usual, you can reach out to me however you feel most comfortable. If you want to ask something publicly, you can do so in the comments, on Facebook, you can tweet at HillRunner.com or my personal account. If you want to ask in a more private setting, you can use the contact form or, if you are friends with me on Facebook or know my email, you can reach me through those methods.

As I’ve done in the past, I’d like to ask you something in return. I hope to get some feedback on this as I always want to build the HillRunner.com that you want. This is one of my chances to get the feedback on what I should be working on based on what you would like to see.

What I would like to see is more activity on the forums. A long time ago, this was a great place for the community to gather and there were some great conversations there. I know the internet landscape has changed with blog comments, social media, and so much more for communities to participate in.

However, it seems like the HillRunner.com community has to some extent gone silent. What would it take for me to get you to open up? What can I do to get that community going again? Honestly, I look to the forums but I’d be open to it happening on the Facebook page or anywhere else. I just miss the friendly community feel we had at the forums and want to do all I can to encourage that to rebuild itself.

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