Category Archives: Training

Your First 5K

So you are about to go on a 5k run for the first time? This article is for you.

I see many people saying all the time that they’re going on their first marathon, a simple 5k – many times as a special event, a family gathering of sorts or even for a good charitable cause.


Now, that’s all fine and I’m sure you’ll have fun as much as you will feel good after running BUT… even if you signed up for that 5K just for a good time with friends you still HAVE to prepare your body first. Specially if you’re not a regular runner! Many times we see 5k’s advertised but no one takes the time to insert a small indication of “caution: you have to prepare yourself before!”. I’ve had countless friends who were not physically active at all go for a 5k (because it was a special occasion type-of-marathon): some fainted, others quit, those who finished lay in bed for several days after. You CANNOT go for a 5K, just for fun, without preparation.


If you are indeed close to running your first 5K (which can be a painful 3.1miles if you aren’t used to it) or you just signed up for one, follow this guide to keep you safe and painless (as much as possible)! — Create a running and walking routine the weeks before the race.


You have to get your body ready some weeks before the actual race. Target two months as optimal for getting yourself completely ready. You have to get some endurance and you have to learn how to maintain a steady pace and not losing your breath while running (efficient breathing is one of the key factors to running as you know).



The 8 Week Routine Cycle


Spend some time figuring out a routine that you will carry for 8 weeks and it should go like this:


(ALWAYS heat up those muscles, don’t walk or run without proper exercising)


  • You will walk and run for half an hour every day (except a day to rest);
  • On the first week, give yourself a break while alternating running with walking — you can run 20 seconds for each 40 seconds walked. Or even less if you’re really unprepared (10 seconds being the minimum). Walking is as much important as running;
  • As you feel more comfortable with the running cycles, prolong that time — instead of 20 seconds of running and 40 walking, make it 30 seconds each. See how your body deals with those bursts and maximise the time you spend running;
  • Keep this cycle going in your week but do have one day a week of rest for your muscles to relax. If it’s been a bit hard on you, you can add a “softer day” after the rest day — just walk after relaxing, don’t run the day after. The other 5 days of the week should be spent on a steady cycle rhythm with increasing times of running vs walking;
  • If you want to see what the distance is really like or how it really feels, walk those 3.1miles in a steady pace. It’ll give you a chance for having a better perception of the true distance and how you are going to approach it;
  • In the final week you should spend the same amount of time on walking and running (30 seconds cycles);
  • Through all preparation time you should add blocks of running for 5 or 10 minutes.

Don’t forget! Besides the physical preparation in motion you have to eat healthier — have more frequent meals with less quantities – bet on more lean protein, fruits and vegetables and a bit of fat too (you’ll need it for combustion).

In the week of the race day

Let’s say that your race is on a Sunday – how should the last days of training go?

  • Thursday (3 days before race) — it should be your last day of running before the race. Go for a 30 minutes training with balanced time between walking and running;
  • Friday (2 days before race) — go on your 30 minutes training but don’t run — just walk at a steady pace, keeping velocity and controlling breathing;
  • Saturday (1 day before race) — give your body a break and rest. You’ll need to repair and relax all your muscles before that stretch. No running the day before!
  • Sunday – Race day! Try to not be late, get your attire ready and get the most comfortable running shoes. Have fun and be healthy!


Fit Challenge 2015 – June

Fit Challenge 2015 continues into summer with the June challenge, push-ups, led by Meredith O’Brien of

Meredith is a certified coach with a wide range of disciplines including USATF Level One, ACSM CPT and Crossfit Endurance.

An avid and passionate runner, Meredith relishes guiding members of the Hampton Roads running community on their journeys from beginners to experienced athletes. She also enjoys supporting local events including the Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K, EquiKids Cross Country 5K and also travels in an effort to run 50 Half Marathons in 50 States (and Washington, D.C).

Always active, Meredith was a competitive equestrian for many years as well as competing on her high school Cross Country team and being a part of intramural athletics each season during her undergraduate tenure at the University of Delaware and throughout her graduate program at Old Dominion University. Being a part of various fitness communities led Meredith to develop a love for helping people achieve their goals and she has dedicated her career to making people’s fitness dreams into reality.

Check it out!

Fit Challenge 2015 – April Challenge


Fit Challenge 2015 kicks off April with a brand new challenge, burpees, from Steve Carmichael of

Steve began road running in 1987 at Ft. Benning, Georgia while attending Infantry School for the U.S. Army National Guard. After returning from training, he continued running for about 3 years and ran many short distance road races up to a 20 mile run. In 1991, he gave up running and lived a sedimentary, fast food lifestyle until a health scare woke him up in 2006 when he took up running again to lose weight, lower cholesterol and to get back into shape. He has gone on to complete numerous 5k races and half and full marathons. Steve is a RRCA and USA Track and Field – Level 1 certified running coach and has coached runners locally through his running club as well as privately coached runners all across the United States and abroad.

Steve runs the RunBuzz Radio podcast, where he shares running tips, and interviews everyday runners and experts so that we can all learn more about the sport.

Steve’s own story has been featured on two podcasts Diz Runs With … Steve Carmichael as well as Concious Runner Episode 20: Steve Carmichael–From Overweight, Borderline Diabetic to Passionate Runner and More Part 1 and Episode 21: Steve Carmichael–From Overweight, Borderline Diabetic to Passionate Runner and More Part 2.

Please make sure that you check out the challenge page to like the RunBuzz page and get directions for Final Surge so you can be eligible to win a monthly prize. Here is a burp demonstration:

Restoration of a Burnout

I will come out and say this: I do not practice what I preach. For years I have read and told many new runners, “Recovery is important and after a long, hard race one must actively recover to benefit fully.” For my entire running life (past 7+ years of running) I have failed to recover correctly after a long training run or race. I kept wondering why my gains were not where I needed them to be and why my feelings of burnout were ever growing.

I was young, invincible and winning age group awards at most of my California Ultra races. My usual training pace was reckless and never below a race pace. I decided to make a New Years Resolution to run one Ultra marathon every month for a year. During that year, I ran nine 50k trail races and two 50-mile trail races. I kept PRing in the 50k distance going from a sub 6 hours to mid 4:40’s. I made the decision to run a 100-mile race: the 2012 Rio Del Lago 100, finishing 3rd in my age group and feeling immortal! After the high faded along with the aches and pains, I tried to go out to the trails and train for my next race.

This is when I noticed something was off. My race times soon were much slower and my ability to psychologically tell my legs to move was no longer there. I have read many times on various running websites that too much mileage without much recovery is unsustainable. I did not think this would happen to me because, frankly, I am a young and healthy. But it did happen and my fall was hard and sudden. I suddenly could not run more than 10-miles at a time and my ever-growing love for this sport was ever fading.

It took nearly 2 years to regain my love of the sport. It started by training my wife from a newbie to a competent trail runner and seeing the spark grow inside her reminded me of the wonderful memories I had of “the good ol’ days.” Every step further was a new adventure eventually building her up to an 11-mile long run. Soon we were making plans to train for a trail half-marathon when we go back home for Easter.

While I was training my wife I helped her push through the highs and the lows that every runner has felt. The grit and the determination to finish a training run in the Shenandoah mountains made me incredibly inspired and wanting to take my training to the next level again. As I continued to support my wife with her new distances, I would break away once or twice a week to run a longer run – usually in the 20-30 mile range. For the first time in a while I was enjoying the sounds, smells and textures that nature offers. The finishing time didn’t matter anymore as the experience left a more lasting impression within my own psyche.


After a few months I made up my mind that I would run a 100k race in North Carolina. I decided to run a 50-mile trail race down in Tennessee called the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler as a training run for quality time on the feet. I was meeting an old California friend and we would run the first 20ish miles together and then run our own race. He ended up destroying me, passing me at the 24-mile mark and finished about 20 minutes ahead of myself. But my slow, methodical pace allowed me to feel “fresh” at the finish line with zero pains and most importantly: a positive attitude.

When I continued my training for my goal race two days later, my wife’s slower pace forced me to actively recover instead of letting my lactic acid continue to pool in my legs by being a couch potato or going too fast too soon. I was training her to become a better runner and she was training me to slow down and fully recover; it was truly something special. Instead of my usual race pace 30 miler the following weekend like I did a few years back, I was now running a conversational pace 10 miler. The recovery time to feel 100% went down to just a week and a half because of lowered intensity. It was something I have never thought about trying because before my head was far up my bum to listen to it.

mitch-beerA few weeks later came race day! I was amped up and ready to enjoy the entire day (and partial evening) ahead. I took the first 40 miles incredibly relaxed, taking pictures of the views and talking to all the runners and aid station volunteers. When I came to the 40-mile turnaround I learned that I was in 8th place overall and a few runners were just a few miles ahead. I ran harder than I think I have ever ran during this last 21.5 miles, catching 4 runners moving me into 4th overall by the finish line! It was by far the best race I have ever experienced but not because of the place. It was because of the no pressure attitude I had, enjoying myself and when it was time to put in work, I did.

Since training my wife, running is no longer monotonous or a chore. It is enjoyable because I can challenge myself sparingly while coaching my wife to become even better. When she crosses the finish line at her first half marathon this April, I will probably be just as excited as she will. The look on her face will once again reinvigorate my drive to feel the way she is at that moment. So we will continue to train together and lean on each other to keep each other healthy; for her physically and for myself mentally. I was able to learn how to recover not only my legs after a long run, but also to recover my love of this simple, yet so very complex sport of running.


Fit Challenge 2015 – February Challenge

Fit Challenge 2015 continues with a new challenge for February, conducted by the great Lisa Hamilton of Conscious Runner.


Lisa is a tremendous athlete with both a great record and a generous spirit. She started out as a swimmer and discovered running as covered in the article Lisah Hamilton: Swimmer to Champion Runner. She ran an amazing 2:43:59 marathon in the 2004 San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, set a Virgin Island Record, and nearly represented her native country of St Croix in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Now she is a Masters runner, host of the Conscious Runner Podcast and helps runners of all types find focus and connectivity with themselves when running. She describes it as “meditation in motion.”

Lisa will be leading everyone through bridges. It is a great exercise that strengthens the core and glutes. It is a stabilizing exercise and helps athletes focus on their center. Sounds perfect from the Conscious Runner.

Please check out the Fit Challenge 2015 page, like the sites involved and create a Final Surge account so you can be eligible for the end of month prize (if you already have an account, just keep logging). This will be a blast. Please share with everyone.

Just announced! The prize for February will be a training plan of your choice from Final Surge and Hanson’s Coaching Services. See all the plans available at Final Surge!


Mountain Climbers

For the first month of Fit Challenge 2015, I am hosting Mountain Climbers. I wanted to write a quick description of what they are and share a video of how to do them.

Mountain Climbers are a great full body workout that not only strengthen your core, butt, hips and thighs, but also provide cardiovascular benefit. As you do them, you will feel your heart rate increase rapidly.

To perform the exercise, follow these steps:

  1. Assume a plank position with your hands at shoulder width.
  2. Thrust your right leg forward to just under your chest.
  3. Return your right leg to full extension and repeat with the left leg.
  4. Continue alternating for each repetition.

See video below:

Introducing Fit Challenge 2015

It’s almost 2015, are you ready for a challenge? I am proud to be teaming up with some great Facebook sites to create something a bit different.

Have you done 30 day challenges? I have and they are really fun. The problem is though, what happens after the 30 days are up? Where do we go from there? That is the idea behind this challenge. Hampton Runner has teamed up with five great sites to offer a new challenge each month through each site’s Facebook page.

How does the challenge work? It’s easy. Just Follow the six Facebook pages involved; links have been provided below on the page. Each month one of the participating sites will post daily workouts on their Facebook page. Hampton Runner kicks off the challenge with Mountain Climbers for the full month of January – we will climb our way into the new year. February has The Conscious Runner leading us through Bridges. KR Endurance will then have us lunging into the spring. Next, RunBuzz makes us strong with Burpees. Running with Curves returns with Lunges. And FitNicePT takes us into summer with Push-ups.

Then it’s back to Hampton Runner to start off the second half of the year with Planks. Conscious Runner continues with Push-ups, followed by KR Endurances with Side Leg Lifts!

Final Surge Tracking

Even better, all of your efforts can be tracked with your own free Final Surge account. As a bonus, each month there will be a prize given out to one of the participants who has completed all the challenges successfully and entered each workout in Final Surge. To have your workouts tracked in Final Surge, simply create a free account at Or if you are already a Final Surge user, simply click and login to your account.

To add a workout to Final Surge, click Quick Add either at the top right of your training calendar or on the date itself (located under the “+” sign) as shown below:




After choosing Quick Add, you can scroll down to the challenge workouts and choose the appropriate one:


Participating Pages to Follow

The pages to involved in the contest are listed here:

Hampton Runner

Conscious Runner

KR Endurance

Running with Curves



Now, one issue that you may run into is that Facebook does not always show all posts when you are following a site. If you find this happening to you, you can assure receipt of these by using the “Get Notifications” option on a page. This is accessed by hovering over Like on the Facebook page in question as shown below:



Please be certain to Like Hampton Runner so you can receive updates about the challenge and start things off in January. This will be really fun!

Also, please share this with anyone you know. We are trying to make this as big as possible. If you have any ideas or suggestions, we would love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook. Thanks again!

Back of the Pack Motivation

I tried something different for a 5K race this past weekend. I was supposed to run the Shell Yeah challenge as part of the Crawlin’ Crab weekend here in Hampton, VA. The challenge consisted of a 5K race on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday.

It was decided that I should run the 5K on Saturday as a shakeout run.  I have been dealing with some pretty severe leg and hip issues that have put a serious dent in my training block. I had actually only run one time in the past two weeks.


The other consideration was how was I going to run my race on Sunday. How was I going to place myself in the corrals — I was scheduled to be in Corral 1 for both races. This placement was problematic for me because I have a tendency to go out strong and then sag in the middle of the race.

I had to find a way to govern myself and not let my competitive nature run away with me. So on Saturday, I decided to line up at the back of the race. There were four corrals, and I was in the back of Corral 4. I then proceeded to run the race at a much slower pace than I normally do. This worked really well because at the back of the pack, there are many walkers and newer runners.

This meant that as I ran, I passed people the whole time. I may not have been going at the same pace as normal, but it felt fast. This was very nice psychologically. I felt really motivated. In the end, I wound up passing around 1500 people.

This idea of running from the back of the field came to me from an article I read about Meb Keflezighi doing the same thing at the Peachtree 10 Miler – Keflezighi runs down pack at AJC Peachtree. While I could never be like Meb, I got a chance to feel like I was.

Give this a try. It is a ton of fun and gives a whole new feel to a race. However, make sure that the race is chip-timed.

Crawl, Walk, Run

I was listening to the Diz Runs With podcast Episode 16 with Sarah Doughtry, and she was explaining how she started running.

Like myself, Sarah lost quite a lot of weight and was still heavy when she started to run. Since it was extremely tough for her, she started out by “running to the choruses.”


What a great strategy! I did something similar when I started. But I didn’t have it broken down so specifically.

I was listening to a really great song and felt to energized to only walk, so I ran a bit, walked again and then ran some more.

Over time, my walk intervals became shorter than my run intervals and eventually I dropped them. I did make it a point to continue with a good half mile or more walking at the end of runs to cool down though. That allowed me to more effectively recover.

It is very dangerous to go out, run hard and then just sit down. When you are just starting out, your body has to adjust. Running is a very intense, high impact activity. If you don’t condition yourself, you are headed for injury. And I have had a few.

In the army, they teach the principle of crawl, walk, run. You don’t become an expert overnight.

By using a method like Sarah’s running on the choruses, someone new can build up safely.

One of the keys to being a successful runner is to stay injury-free. If you hurt yourself, you won’t be able to improve. You will be stuck and never improve. Build up gradually, be safe and you will be more likely to enjoy running pain free.

Once you have built yourself up to running full time in a workout, please check out my post Training with Purpose to help extend your gains.

Training with Purpose

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result – Unknown

I have been corresponding with a couple of runners lately.  They have been suffering either with injury, or a combination of frustration and burnout. They were wondering what could be the cause. Running just wasn’t very fun lately.

When glancing at their history, I noticed that all their paces were the same. Even worse, the paces were remarkably close to their latest race times. That sent up alarm bells. There was no variance in training. This was likely the problem.

Sure enough, as I looked at the history, a pattern emerged. They would run at a particular pace and it would decline over a few days. Then they would be off, the pace would get a little better and the process would repeat. Overall, their pace was staying the same or getting worse. They were at a plateau.

This is very common, especially with very new runners. When I started running, I worked my way up to a 5K distance and then raced the distance every day adding a little bit more each time. I didn’t know how to run slow.

My only experience was in the military and I thought back to Army Physical Fitness Tests. I ran these tests as hard as I could to pass with the required time. My method – start out running hard, and hold on for dear life. Of course the splits were ridiculously positive with a drop off of several minutes.

In fairness, the army didn’t outright teach me improper running, I just selectively remembered the APFT. That was the only time I ran on my own while in the service. In actuality, we ran a lot. But it was longer, slower and in formation. That of course made it slow for the fastest runners and brutal for the slowest. I wouldn’t recommend doing it the same way now. We also mixed in different types of runs that I learned years later were speed work. The most common were fartleks and last man up (Indian) runs.

The most important factor in training is variety, or at least to not run fast all the time. There are times where you may run slow consistently — base-building and recovering from injury — but you should never run consistently at a high intensity. That is begging for injury or burnout, whichever comes first.

Each run should have a purpose. They should be essentially one of four types, endurance, speed, strength, or recovery.

Endurance is typically served with the long run and tempo runs (tempos cross over to strength as well). Strength has a heavy focus on hills. Speed typically involves intervals and fartleks. The article 3 Key Workouts Runners Should Do Every Week shows a nice balance of the quality workout types to run.

The quality runs tend to get a lot of focus, but often recovery runs are neglected. Some think of them as filler, or junk miles. When run correctly, they not only are not junk but actually an integral part of training. Matt Fitzgerald has written a great article, Workout Of The Week: Recovery Run, that explores them.

When you are training and find yourself in a rut, you may want to consider a nice varied routine. The one I fall back on is 4 days a week. I will do this for a month or two to help reset my motor and start building endurance and strength or as a maintenance routine if I am between training cycles. It was originally influenced by the Lydiard Foundation and the site

For simplicity sake, I like run on the Ts and Ss as in Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I like to run my tempo and long back to back so I can run long on slightly fatigued legs. This helps me develop fatigue resistance for later miles in races.

My schedule is as follows:

Tuesday: Recovery – Run in High Z1 – Low Z2 if using Heart Rates or 50-70% of 5K Pace. Distance of 1/3 Long Run

Wednesday: Cross-train – I will either ride my bike or use an elliptical trainer

Thursday: Easy – Run in Z2 or 50-75% 5K Pace. 50-70% of Long Run distance.

Saturday: Tempo – Run in Z2 for 10-20 minute warm-up. Run 30-60 minutes in Z3. Run 10-20 minutes Z2 cool down.

Sunday: Long Run. Run in Z2 or 50-75% 5K Pace.


Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect has written an excellent piece that will help you determine your easy paces and offers a calculator in his article How Do Easy Runs Help You Race Faster (and what exactly your easy pace should be). Another great calculator for figuring out training times can be found at

By running with variety and keeping the intensity down, you can prevent injury and maintain a healthy and fun lifestyle. Running doesn’t have to always hurt. To quote the legendary coach Arthur Lydiard, “Train, don’t strain.”