HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Thu, 14 Nov 2019 17:50:40 -0600 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 Winter running https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/ https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/#respond Thu, 14 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/2016/11/17/winter-running/ Continue reading "Winter running"


You CAN run through the winter!

Winter is here! At least in this part of Wisconsin, it seemed to arrive on Halloween this year and hasn’t let up since!

That means it’s time, if not a little late, for your annual reminder: winter running can be safe and, dare I say, even enjoyable with a few precautions.

Frozen lungs?

First, let’s put to rest one of the most popular but most inaccurate myths about running in the winter, the idea that you can freeze your lungs. This is a completely false myth.

The fact is that you can’t freeze your lungs in any climate found in any populated parts of this planet. By the time the air you breathe in reaches your throat, just passing through your mouth warms it up to near your body temperature. By the time it passes through your windpipe and into your lungs, it is up to your body temperature.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some side effects to breathing in this cold air but it is important to stress that there is no evidence that the side effects are long term dangers.

Handling the cold, dry air

The main side effect is that the cold air is very dry. As your body warms it, your body also has to humidify it. This can lead to a dry, raw throat and at times a dry cough after running.

Some people claim that running in cold weather makes their lungs cold. The best explanation I can come up with is that the air they are breathing in is still dry when it gets to their lungs and their lung tissue may be drying out as it humidifies the air. This is not a long term problem, though, as your body tissues will recover with no long term damage once they are not being subjected to the dry air.

So what can we do about this dry air issue? The best advice I can offer is to look into a balaclava or ski mask. Cover your mouth and possibly nose and more of the warmth and humidity will be held in. This can be a significant help if you experience a sore throat or dry cough after your cold weather runs.

Cold air and exercise induced asthma

Another popular myth about breathing in the cold air is that this will give you exercise induced asthma (EIA). While there is minimal evidence that this won’t happen, there is no evidence that this will happen. The question simply hasn’t been given much attention by researchers.

The most likely explanation is that breathing in the cold air increases the symptoms of mild cases of EIA enough to make themselves known, while running in warmer temperatures might not be enough for the symptoms to be noticeable or a bother.

The best solution I’m aware of would be the same as for the dry air issue. Cover your mouth with a balaclava or ski mask.

Dressing for the cold

The next big question is always how to dress. This has gotten much easier in the past decade or so with all the great tech fabrics available to us now. Wicking, thermal fabrics may not be cheap but, if you run in tough weather, they are worth every cent.

Of course, if you don’t have the budget, you can work with the methods we used in the 1990s. One good wicking layer against the skin to get your sweat away from your body, then layers of whatever material you have available.

There is one rule that applies no matter what you’re wearing: layer. Instead of one bulky layer, go for two or more lighter layers. This will greatly help in the case that the temperature warms up as you’re out running or you go from running into the wind to running with the wind (more on that later). You can just take off a layer or two and aren’t left either over dressed or under dressed.

Running in the dark

Make yourself visible

With the winter weather come short days and long nights. That means running in the dark.

For running in the dark, the rule is pretty simple. If you are around traffic, make sure drivers can see you.

There are a lot of wonderful products on the market that are bright, reflective, have lights in them, and probably have other ways to make you visible. Take a look around at your local or online running store and you will find plenty of gear designed to make you very visible on dark mornings and evenings.

Depending on where you live, you may want to take other safety precautions. Ideally, having a running partner would be perfect but it’s not realistic for everyone. Other precautions involve running on well lit routes, carrying personal safety products such as pepper spray, and running in areas where there are other people or that are well patrolled by police. Of course, your needs and options would depend on where you live.

Make sure you can see

Depending on the ambient light available, you may also find that you need a source of light to see with. There are a lot of head lamps available these days. I picked up a cheap one a few years ago and, for approximately $10, it gives me all the light I need to see the road in front of me and, as a bonus, makes me much more visible to drivers.

Snow and ice

For many of us, winter weather means snow and ice. Running on snow and ice. That’s a recipe for disaster, right? Well, there are precautions that can be taken to minimize or possibly even eliminate the risk of these potential dangers.

When running on snow and ice, there are two factors to consider: equipment and strategy.


For running on snow, the best solution I have found is to run with a shoe that has good tread. Trail shoes are great. The lugs are big enough to dig into the snow and give you traction and there is enough space between the lugs to allow the snow to fall out between steps. Road flats can be very poor on snow.

For running on ice, you want something that will cut into the ice to get traction. There are a lot of devices that are designed for this. Check out an outdoor sporting goods store and you’ll see various products that slip over your shoes and have metal spikes or coils to cut into the ice. You can also give the screw shoe a try.


As for running on questionable surfaces, that’s something that is best figured out with experience. The best advice is to be too cautious at first. After you gain some experience, you will learn how to run on slippery surfaces and what is slippery and what isn’t.

If I could offer a few quick tips, here they are:

  1. Take it very easy on corners if you aren’t positive they are clear.
  2. Every route has its trouble spots. Get to know those spots and be extra careful at those places.
  3. Sometimes it’s better to have a planned slide than an unplanned one. In other words, the best way to get past some slick spots is to actually purposely slide across them so you don’t unexpectedly lose footing and go for a tumble.


During the summer months, a nice breeze can feel great. During the winter months, even a gentle breeze could be dangerous if you’re not prepared for it.

The first rule of the wind is simple. Always start by running into the wind and return with the wind.

Sometimes I modify this to start for a short period with the wind, then turn into the wind after 5-10 minutes.

The idea is simple. You don’t want to warm up, work up a sweat, then turn into the wind and have that sweat freeze on you. Also, if you get in trouble, it’s better to walk back to shelter with the wind at your back than with the wind in your face.

If you absolutely can’t start into the wind, try to change direction frequently so you don’t spend too much time all at once running into the wind after working up a sweat.

Be safe!

Finally, there will always be some times when it’s just not safe to run outside. Running in the middle of a blizzard, unless you have a very controlled area where you can be certain a car won’t slide into you, is a bad idea. No traction device helps on a half inch of glare ice and, even if you have good traction, dodging sliding cars isn’t my idea of fun.

Don’t be afraid to take the occasional day off or use indoor options (the treadmill of course being the most convenient for most of us). It’s not the end of the world and it’s far better than getting hit by an out of control car.

So get out there and run this winter! I’ve been running through the Wisconsin winter for over 20 years now and have survived to tell my story. If you just take a few precautions and give it a try, you might decide you like winter running as much as I do.

Note: This is my annual winter running post, updated and resurfaced every November. If you have read it before, I hope the updates and reminders have been helpful.

https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/feed/ 0
Did it work? Does it matter? https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/ https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/#respond Thu, 07 Nov 2019 16:00:28 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64970 Continue reading "Did it work? Does it matter?"


It’s the most simple question that can be asked to assess the usefulness of a training concept: did it work?

However, is that always the right question to ask? What if it appears that it did work but for the wrong reasons? What if it appears to not have worked but some other variable was the problem?

There is so much going on in our training at any one time. Not to mention all that is going on in our lives that might affect our running.

While we should absolutely always be reviewing the things we did and trying to decide whether they worked or not, it can be difficult to know if any one single thing worked or not, just because the final result did or did not work.

We need to dig a little deeper. We also need to look at the bigger picture. Maybe something was a good idea but just didn’t combine with other variables of our training in a good way. Maybe something that was a bad idea didn’t cause major issues that derailed your running but didn’t help you as much as another method would have.

I know this makes it very hard to figure out how to look back over a season. If we can’t count on looking at the results to decide how something worked, what do we do?

We look at the big picture. Don’t dismiss something that seems on all levels to be a good idea simply because you had a bad season. Consider whether it was a good idea that just didn’t mesh with something else you were doing or something completely different resulted in the problems.

On the flip side, even the best season doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Not everything went as perfectly as possible, did it?

While it makes analysis of your season more difficult, it’s more true to life if you hold a critical eye to snap judgements. Yes, you do need to think about how things worked so you know what to keep and what to change going forward. However, don’t always fall for the first snap judgement. Dig a little deeper and really think about why things worked or didn’t. Maybe the thing that didn’t work is a good idea that shouldn’t be discounted too quickly and maybe the thing that did work isn’t the best way forward.

https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/feed/ 0
Do you use ice? https://www.hillrunner.com/do-you-use-ice/ https://www.hillrunner.com/do-you-use-ice/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 00:01:28 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64964 Continue reading "Do you use ice?"

I’ve written a few times about icing and what we now know about it. Let me do it again.

While we used to think icing an injury or even icing sore legs in general was a good idea, we now have enough evidence to strongly believe exactly the opposite is true.

It appears that ice does not help. It might even hurt. The evidence of this is convincing and growing rapidly.

On the other hand, strength training is good. And, while we constantly hear about how it’s difficult for older individuals to maintain, much less gain, strength, it’s never too late.

What goes through your mind when running? What should go through your mind? As it turns out, depending on the type of activity, different types of self talk may have different benefits. For what it’s worth, for endurance activity, both motivational and instructional self talk improved performance.

What types of intervals are best? As is often the case, I agree with Alex Hutchinson’s bottom line: I favor a mix of types of workouts.

https://www.hillrunner.com/do-you-use-ice/feed/ 0
Take some time off https://www.hillrunner.com/take-some-time-off/ https://www.hillrunner.com/take-some-time-off/#respond Thu, 24 Oct 2019 15:00:34 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64889 Continue reading "Take some time off"

This doesn’t look fun to me but, if it looks fun to you, do it for a while. If it doesn’t, is there something else you haven’t been doing as much of as you’d like?

Many of us have wrapped up our racing seasons some time in the last month or so. Those of us who haven’t likely will be in the next month or so.

So the logical question to ask at this point is – what next? What do we do between now and spring?

While I would strongly encourage that you take advantage of the winter to build a solid base in order to make your spring goals more attainable, that’s not what I would recommend immediately after your last race of the year.

In the more short term, give yourself some down time. If you trained and raced hard, you are likely both physically and mentally/psychologically/motivationally drained. You may not be injured or burned out (and I hope you aren’t) but you probably at least feel a little worn down.

I prefer a period of at least 4 weeks to rest, recover and get yourself back in a good place to begin training for the next year. If you don’t feel physically and motivationally ready after 4 weeks, then take more time.

So what do we do during these 4 weeks? Well, here’s what I would recommend.

Week 1: Do whatever you want. I would recommend some activity but, if you want to be a complete couch potato for this week, do so. I would actually recommend not running but, if you’re like me and running is such an integral part of your life that you’re lost without it, go ahead and run. Just keep it short and easy. Don’t even think of it as training.

Week 2: If you kept some light activity around, then continue with that. If you didn’t, I’d encourage you to do something. If you don’t want to run yet, don’t. Go for some walks. Go for a bike ride. Whatever you want, just so you’re doing something. If there’s something you like doing but you’ve been neglecting while in deep training, this is a great time to enjoy that activity. You’re still not training, though. You’re just keeping a healthy routine and enjoying your activities.

Week 3: You can do a little more if you wish. No pressure to do more yet but make sure you’re at least minimally active. If you are feeling ambitious, this could be a good time to add in some light strength training. Focus on good form, you don’t need to be maxing out at this point.

Week 4: Much like week 3, do a little more if you wish. Keep it easy for one more week, though. The hope in this week is that you will finish this week feeling physically and mentally recharged and ready to get back into your training.

Once done with these 4 weeks, if you’re feeling ready, begin thinking about training again. Make sure you start up gradually. You have plenty of time before your important races next year.

https://www.hillrunner.com/take-some-time-off/feed/ 0
Know your danger zones https://www.hillrunner.com/know-your-danger-zones/ https://www.hillrunner.com/know-your-danger-zones/#respond Thu, 17 Oct 2019 15:00:35 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64856 Continue reading "Know your danger zones"

Stress in your life outside running will affect your running

We all have them. Certain times when stress is higher, the schedule is busier, maybe things are so hectic that even your sleep suffers.

Maybe you have a deadline you need to meet at work. Maybe something is going on at home or in your extended family. During the holidays, there are simply so many things going on that we can feel overwhelmed.

When these things happen, what do you do with your running? Do you back off or “just plow through”?

So many runners think they are being “tough” by trying to just push through these periods. But they are not. Instead, they are playing with fire.

The problem is that your body can only take so much stress. When stress in one part of your life goes up, you need to lower your stress somewhere else or you risk burnout, extreme fatigue, or injury.

If you can balance your non-running stresses by lowering stress in one part of life when stress in another part of life increases, that’s wonderful. If you can’t, though, the only safe thing to do is to back off your running.

Make sure that, during those times when stress in your life outside of running increase, you’re giving yourself a little easier time with your running. Your body will thank you.

https://www.hillrunner.com/know-your-danger-zones/feed/ 0
Eliud Kipchoge: 1:59:40 https://www.hillrunner.com/eliud-kipchoge-15940/ https://www.hillrunner.com/eliud-kipchoge-15940/#respond Sat, 12 Oct 2019 14:33:10 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64830 Continue reading "Eliud Kipchoge: 1:59:40"

Eliud Kipchoge did it! The first ever sub-2 hour marathon

Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner of all time, did it! This morning in Vienna Austria, he ran a marathon in 1:59:40. Not the world record because this was not a record eligible event but an astounding performance regardless.

Before I go any further, I want to say this was an amazing run by an amazing runner. Kipchoge is a great runner and, by all reports, a great person. This run was astounding. Even if it doesn’t count as a record, who could have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago that this kind of run was even possible? Kipchoge just did the impossible.

I also want to point out that this event gained a lot of interest inside and outside the running world. Any interest in a positive light is good, right? When people who don’t follow running are asking me about the sport for something that doesn’t involve drugs or other questionable or downright bad behavior, I consider that a good thing. Maybe the sport would benefit from more of these exhibition events?

That said, I’m still a little disappointed that this event happened. Why? Because we missed a chance to see Kipchoge in his prime running head to head against Kenenisa Bekele in his prime, when both were healthy and ready for big things.

Bekele just ran 2:01:41 in the Berlin Marathon, just missing Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39 from last year’s Berlin Marathon. Imagine the race that could have been had Kipchoge, obviously primed and ready to go as he proved this morning, would have been in that race.

I don’t for one moment blame Kipchoge for running this event instead of Berlin. It’s a different challenge. It’s the opportunity to become the first person to break 2 hours in a marathon, record eligible or not. It’s a different challenge (finishing first every year in London and Berlin shouldn’t be getting boring but I suspect there’s a little “been there, done that” feeling to it for him by now). I have no doubt he was well compensated for this effort (even for Kipchoge, an elite runner’s career is relatively short and you need to make your money while you can).

However, to me, time trials are not exciting. I didn’t watch the event because I didn’t find the interest in watching a single runner with a rotating group of pacers on an optimized course run a consistent pace for 2 hours, no matter how fast it was. I might have lost a little sleep to see a Kipchoge/Bekele showdown in Berlin.

Hopefully we will see that Kipchoge/Bekele matchup in Tokyo next year. Hopefully both will be healthy and fit when they arrive there. Given Bekele’s recent history, though, I’m concerned that we may have just missed our best chance to see this matchup with both healthy and running well.

Again, I want to congratulate Kipchoge on the great run and I’m in no way going to blame him for doing this event. However, in the back of my mind, I’ll always question whether we missed one of the all time great races in order to have this event.

https://www.hillrunner.com/eliud-kipchoge-15940/feed/ 0
Take a moment to enjoy https://www.hillrunner.com/take-a-moment-to-enjoy/ https://www.hillrunner.com/take-a-moment-to-enjoy/#respond Thu, 10 Oct 2019 15:00:11 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64818 Continue reading "Take a moment to enjoy"


October is my favorite month of the year as a runner. The weather is cool and crisp, the trees are changing color, all seems right in the world.

These past few days have reminded me how much I enjoy October and I’ve made sure to take some time to let it all soak in.

Have you done the same recently?

Maybe not every run is enjoyable but, if you ever find yourself going for an extended period of time without having fun in your running, I can almost guarantee your running will suffer because of it.

Make sure you take some time to enjoy your running. Remember that it’s supposed to be something you do because it’s fun.

https://www.hillrunner.com/take-a-moment-to-enjoy/feed/ 0
Can you talk yourself into better performance? https://www.hillrunner.com/can-you-talk-yourself-into-better-performance/ https://www.hillrunner.com/can-you-talk-yourself-into-better-performance/#respond Thu, 03 Oct 2019 15:00:10 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64752 Continue reading "Can you talk yourself into better performance?"

An interesting question to think about: can changing your self-talk actually help you run better? I’m sure many of us just answered “yes”. If you have negative self-talk, that’s not going to help you run faster. Positive self-talk will, though.

What about more subtle differences? Can slight changes in how you think of things during races help you? As it turns out, they can.

When you refer to yourself in the second person (“You can do it” instead of “I can do it”) you actually do perform better.

Also of note is that more positive references were used in the study. “You/I have to do it” was replaced with “You/I can do it” for example. While it doesn’t seem like this was addressed as part of the test, I have a suspicion this would also make a difference.

This is just one small study but it’s worth trying.

Other reading from the past month (or so):

My daughter is running her first season of cross country (her last meet is actually today) so I found this article on how to support the cross country runner in your life interesting. If you have a child who runs, it’s worth a read. My only piece of advice: your child already has a coach. She or he doesn’t need two coaches with conflicting ideas. Be a supportive parent, not another coach.

Best running advice ever? Maybe a bit of hyperbole but it is very good running advice from some very good running coaches.

A double link: What the Ingebrigtsen brothers can teach us about nature, nurture and running and What makes Norway’s Ingebrigtsen brothers such exceptional runners? Both about some interesting research involving the three elite brothers. The second also includes results from some research into a more broad range of elite athletes.

Heat training could boost your cool weather performance. I’m sure many of us suspected this for a long time, I know I have, but here’s some evidence. There are some interesting timing implications to keep in mind, though.

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about how recovery modalities actually negatively impact your response to workouts. Well, here’s one more article on that.

https://www.hillrunner.com/can-you-talk-yourself-into-better-performance/feed/ 0
Three lessons from my difficult summer https://www.hillrunner.com/three-lessons-from-my-difficult-summer/ https://www.hillrunner.com/three-lessons-from-my-difficult-summer/#respond Thu, 26 Sep 2019 15:00:44 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64606 Continue reading "Three lessons from my difficult summer"


Last week, I mentioned that I had a difficult summer where I made some mistakes. The difficulties were self-inflicted and I wanted to take a few moments this week to discuss my mistakes, with the hope that some of you can hopefully learn from my mistakes and maybe avoid making similar ones yourselves.

So what did I do that went so wrong? Essentially, I didn’t listen to my own advice. As you read what I’m writing below, if you are a runner who has ever been coached by me, the lessons will probably sound familiar. I was not doing a good job following my own advice, something I’m ashamed of and I pledge to do a better job of going forward.

Lesson 1: If something doesn’t feel right, back off

The start of my issues came in May. I was gearing up for an early June race day that was going to include a 5 mile race, followed shortly after by a 2 mile race. In order to prepare for this race day, I was doing mix workouts of mile repeats with short recoveries, followed by pretty aggressive half mile repeats with longer recoveries.

These workouts started out going great. I was making some very solid progress and feeling outstanding. On my planned second to last one of these workouts, I put up some very solid times but I also was feeling the grind. I backed off the training in the coming days but, when the time came for the final planned big workout, I didn’t back off even when things were not feeling right.

I pushed through, even though both before and during the workout I had concerns. I can’t describe the before workout feelings, other than I just didn’t feel totally right. During the workout, on one of the mile repeats, I felt some tightness in my left hip. Still, I pushed through.

Then, in the last 100 yards of my last half mile repeat, the hip locked up on me. I hobbled through the remainder of the workout and my plans for the early June race were over.

In short, I had at least three opportunities to listen to my body and back off before something bad happened. I failed to do so every time the opportunity presented itself. The lesson out of this: listen to your body and, if something doesn’t feel right, back off. I would have been far better off skipping one workout than starting a cycle that would ruin my whole summer.

Lesson 2: When coming back, don’t rush it

In June, I was starting to feel better. After taking some down time to let the hip get better, I was building back up. Wanting to get back to where I left off quickly, I went from an 8 mile week made up of two 4 mile runs to a 16 mile week made up of 4 runs with a longest of 5 miles.

Had I carefully built from that 16 mile week by moving into the 20 mile range with a longest run of 6 or 7 miles but only one run over 5, I probably would have continued the successful return. Instead, I tried to go for 5 runs of 6, 5, 7, 6 and 8 miles. This was entirely too much and I strained my right calf muscle on the 8 mile run. In hindsight, of course I did.

Then, just to top things off, I was beginning to feel better in July, right before a family trip to Colorado. I got too excited about being in the mountains and again tried building up too quickly, all while spending a lot of time hiking in the mountains. I strained the calf again. Fortunately, it didn’t affect the family activities but, running wise, I was on the shelf again.

In short, I tried to pick right back up where I left off. I rushed back too quickly. The lesson out of this: when returning from a layoff, especially but not only if the layoff is due to injury, don’t rush back. I would have been far better served had I taken my time and worked back more gradually.

Lesson 3: What worked in the past may not work now

Why was I not following my own advice? Because I had many years of experience suggesting that the “normal rules” didn’t apply to me. This was probably never completely true to be honest. I just had a higher training capacity than most people so I could stretch things a bit.

However, circumstances change. While, for most runners, this means you build more fitness and generate a higher training capacity over time, there is another side to that curve and that’s what I’m experiencing. I’m not in my 20s anymore and I’m not training at the same level I did when I was in my 20s. I needed to adjust to this reality but didn’t do so quickly enough.

In short, I didn’t account for changing circumstances and changing fitness levels. The lesson out of this: always consider your current fitness level in what you do and never assume you’re invincible. Nobody is invincible and changing fitness levels can mean you are able to do more or, on the flip side, you have to be more gentle on yourself than you had to in the past.

https://www.hillrunner.com/three-lessons-from-my-difficult-summer/feed/ 0
Learn from your mistakes https://www.hillrunner.com/learn-from-your-mistakes/ https://www.hillrunner.com/learn-from-your-mistakes/#respond Thu, 19 Sep 2019 15:00:15 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64593 Continue reading "Learn from your mistakes"

We all make mistakes at times, what we do with them is what matters

In May, I made a mistake in training. I knew better but thought the “rules” didn’t apply to me. I then made another mistake in June and repeated it in July.

These mistakes cost me but they also taught (or re-taught) me some important lessons.

What lessons did I learn? For now, they don’t matter. I’ll write about them next week. For now, the important lesson is something else.

This week, let’s focus on the fact that I’m learning from my mistakes. Or, at least, I aim to prove over the coming months and years that I’ve learned from them.

Everyone makes mistakes. We feel foolish when we do it but it’s a part of life. The key is how you respond to the mistakes you make. If you learn from your mistake and don’t make the same mistake again, then it was a learning experience. You can move on with a deeper knowledge of how to do better in the future.

If you don’t learn from your mistake, not only did you just make a second mistake. You also almost guaranteed that you will make the same mistake again in the future.

So don’t shy away from your mistakes. Learn from them and vow to not make the same mistakes again.

https://www.hillrunner.com/learn-from-your-mistakes/feed/ 0