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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
MGBG Coaching Profile: Jasmine J.
Citizens, I really enjoy helping all of you experience the sport of barefoot running. Whether I'm answering a question online, or developing a plan to help you transition, I love training and educating people. But my favorite thing to do is personal coaching. I especially enjoy comprehensive work where I develop an all-inclusive plan to incorporate the barefoot and minimal lifestyle into your fitness goals. How's that for a fluffy mission statement?
Barefoot and minimalist running is uncharted territory for most people. Lucky for you there are a wealth of resources available nowadays to help educate you and ease your transition. One option that you may not have considered is one-on-one work with a barefoot running coach. I think that's mostly because folks probably have no clue what such coaching can involve. So to help lay it out for you, I thought I would do a profile my newest "client" Jasmine (with her permission of course).
NOTE: I'm not a certified personal trainer. I'm not a certified anything. I may be certifiable...but that's still debateable. I do like certifications, but also recognize that the only difference between me and a certified trainer is $500 worth of books, a 2-day class, and a passing grade on the final exam. What I do have is a lot of knowledge about what I'm talking about, or else I wouldn't talk about it. I suppose you already knew that though, or else you wouldn't be tuning in.
If you're interested in seeing what I can do for you, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know Jasmine from the Minnesota legal community, where we became friends through facebook. Jasmine runs her own general practice law firm. She also blogs about her life and running at the website Legally Blonde, Persuasive in Pink. Jasmine just started running in 2011, and built to the point where she completed two half marathons. Jasmine's initial goal was to run the Twin Cities Marathon last October, but she found herself sidelined by a minor IT band injury. She regularly ran approximately 20 miles per week before her injury, but really hasn't run since.
She became interested in minimal running mostly because of all of the crap I post about it on facebook. Apparently spamming people CAN be effective. Anyway, she began to think of me less as her crazy barefoot lawyer friend, and wonder whether part of her injury troubles could be a result of her running form and the shoes she was wearing. But she had a ton of questions. For example, would she be able to switch over to minimal running and still be able to run a marathon in 2012? How would she even get started?
So to help her meet her goal of running a minimalist marathon in 2012, I stepped in to create a custom training plan. Here's how I did it.
There's only so much information you can get over the Internet. The best way to get a complete picture of a person's fitness is still by having a conversation. Jasmine lives near me, so we could do the meeting in person. But initial meetings work fine over the phone or Skype as well. Although Skype is kind of creepy.
The initial meeting is all about figuring out where a person is with their fitness, and where they want to go. I ask what appears to be an over-abundance of questions regarding medical and injury history, diet, exercise, goals, personal life, and what have you. Fitness is very individual. So if you don't understand who you're dealing with, you won't be able to help them.
I'm a talker, and so is Jasmine. As such, our initial meeting took well over two hours. But that's okay. I had fun. And the Caribou Coffee we went to was brewing the holiday Reindeer Blend...which is only the most awesome coffee on the face of the earth. No really...it's the only item that I buy by the case.
The initial meeting is also about figuring out where someone wants to go with their fitness, and whether or not you think you can get them there. If someone isn't motivated, or has unrealistic fitness goals, the coaching relationship isn't going to work. So after talking about someones goals, I like to develop a proposed plan on which both parties agree.
Jasmine's primary goal is twofold. First, she wants to run a half marathon and finish comfortably. Second, she wants to run the Twin Cities Marathon in 2012 (comfortably would be nice, but it's a first marathon...it's not always in the cards). Her secondary goals would be to finish both of those races in minimal shoes. She'd also like to continue the progress she's already made on losing weight.
I think I can help her with all of those. Here's what Jasmine and I decided to do:
1. Cut mileage volume to 1/4 of previous totals
What concerned me most about Jasmine was her IT band injury. IT band syndrome (ITBS) is really tricky and can be devastating to your running goals. There are a lot of half-assed ways to treat the injury like stretching and some good ways like trigger point therapy. What most people neglect in that equation is just straight-up rest. Nothing good ever happens by running through ITBS, but a lot of bad can happen. So we decided that Jasmine would go from 20 miles per week to between 5-10 miles per week.
At this point, avoiding pain is more important than anything. She has plenty of time to build training volume and intensity to the point where she can complete a marathon. You can't do anything though if you're injured.
2. Incorporate high-intensity strength training
Injuries like ITBS have a lot of contributing factors, but usually it's a problem of muscle imbalance or weakness. Runners in particular usually have horrible glute and hip strength, and piss-poor hip mobility. In any event, strength training is essential for runners (especially injured ones) to balance muscle groups and prevent future injury. Not to mention improving running performance.
For strength training, we decided to incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts into Jasmine's plan. Not just because I'm a huge Crossfit fan. She also has some experience already with circuit strength training, and liked those workouts for the most part. HIIT is also hugely beneficial to runners who feel they need to lose a few pounds. The workouts provide more bang for your buck than traditional weight workouts in that department. They will also help improve Jasmine's running efficiency and aerobic capacity. Since she will be reducing her running volume, HIIT will help prevent the loss of all that aerobic base she worked so hard to gain.
3. Improve running efficiency
In my initial interview with Jasmine, I noticed a few things that could hinder her ability to have a successful marathon. For one, I noticed that even while running at what she considered a "slow pace", she had a heart rate pretty well into the anaerobic range. She mentioned that she occasionally finds herself short of breath at this pace as well. Because her heart rate is so high during these runs, she's likely using a fair amount of her anaerobic system. That's fine on short runs, but in a marathon we don't want her bonking.
Her pace should probably be a bit slower than she's currently running to be more aerobic. At the same time, she doesn't want to be out on the marathon course all day. So we decided to incorporate some speedwork along with her HIIT to raise her anaerobic threshold and give her a few more gears to work with. Speedwork will also give her some practice holding various paces, and give her a better idea of her limits.
4. Get some minimal shoes
Jasmine's current running shoe is the Saucony Omni. It's a big ole clunky stability shoe that weighs over 13oz...and that's just the women's size! I'm sure that this shoe did nothing for her ITBS, as well as her struggle to maintain her "slow pace". In fact, she indicated that her ITBS seemed to start when she switched to the Omni from her old shoe. We had to get her out of that shoe at all costs! There is absolutely no reason for someone to run in a stability shoe!
For a lot of people, transitioning to minimal shoes can be inconvenient to their fitness goals. Jasmine has a few things going for her that make the transition easier. First, she's injured...so she has to cut her training volume to appropriate transition levels anyway. Second, we're planning to have her run a half marathon in May or June. That's plenty of time to get her back up to her old mileage, and leaves room for setbacks along the way.
After I recommended a few options, she ultimately selected the Merrell Pace Glove.
These shoes purchased in no small part because they were "the purple kind".
I think this shoe is perfect for her. She should be able to use this shoe for everything and get several good years out of them.
5. Diet? Let's not do too much...
Jasmine already eats a healthy diet, and is making good progress towards her weight-loss goals. Her main issue is with consistency. She does really well for several weeks, then falls off the wagon big time and sabotages her earlier gains.
I made some suggestions to her as to how she can stay consistent on her diet, but for the most part I am going to leave this area alone. I think I can be most helpful here by providing some external accountability. The fact that I will get upset if she cheats will go a long way to getting her to her ideal weight. She is also motivated by the fact that every pound she loses is one less pound she'll have to carry around for 26.2 miles.
What comes next?
After forumlating a plan, I developed a week-by-week plan that I email to her every week. I also provide support to her via email if she has questions. Here's what the first week of her plan looks like:
Sunday: 1-2 mile run
Monday: HIIT (4 rounds of 10-20 pushups, 10-20 air squats, 10-20 situps, 10-20 walking lunges)
Wednesday: 1-2 mile run
Thursday: HIIT (4 rounds of 5 pullups, 20 air squats, 20 rowboats, 20 turkish get-ups)
Saturday: 2-3 mile run
We will be adding running volume, as well as HIIT volume and difficulty as the weeks go on. Speedwork will be added once she is further along in her transition. You have to go slow before you can go fast!
Based on her feedback and progress, I will be adjusting the program every week to provide maximum benefit. All of this will be done remotely, so that even if she didn't live nearby she could still benefit from my coaching.
For those who live in my area, I also suggest one-on-one sessions in both running and strength training. Jasmine will likely do one strength and one running session per month as her budget allows. I also recommended doing a gait analysis once she gets comfortable in her new shoes to see if she has any ongoing form issues. All of this is to make sure she is doing her workouts correctly, and also to provide a better ability to ask questions than could be done over email.
I'll be keeping you updated on Jasmine's progress as she approaches the Twin Cities Marathon. I think she's going to rock it!
Again, if you're interested in getting my help with a transition plan, training plan, gait analysis, or something as comprehensive as Jasmine's program, shoot me an email at email@example.com. We'll talk...you know...no big whoop.
Good luck in your fitness endeavors citizens! Cheers!