Tag Archives: custom training plan

Next Level Running: Activate & Strengthen Your Glutes [post 2 of 10]

In post one of this series, I pointed out that glute activation and hip drive are the keys to getting to the next level of running performance.  If you have been running long enough to hit a plateau, however, you might be wondering, “How have I managed to avoid using my glutes all of this time?”  Good question.  You have used your glutes at least a little, but most runners do not use them as the powerful motor that they were intended to be.

Your glutes are the muscles that form that spot that you sit on… your backside, bum, or ass.  When activated, they straighten out the angle formed by your upper body and lower body.  When most people think about glute strength, they think squats and dead-lifts.  These are the big compound exercises that have the potential to build your glutes.  The problem is that too many people use nearby muscles, the hamstrings and lower back, to compensate for weak glutes.  Hence, even if you squat and dead-lift frequently, you may still have under-active and weak glutes.

Activate Your Glutes

In order to avoid this compensation and really decide whether or not we have been activating our glutes, we use isolation exercises.  The go-to exercises for isolating the glutes are the the glute bridge, the hip thrust, and a specific variation of the single leg squat.

I will let this video do most of the talking for me about glute bridges and hip thrusts.  I will just add this: when I first started this process, I kept one hand on my hamstring while I did one-leg glute bridges.  I made sure that my hamstring stayed relaxed, doing little or no work.  This ensured that I really was activating and building my glutes!

Build Your Glutes with Single-Leg Squats

After you have been doing glute bridges for a while, it is probably safe to move on to the single-leg squat.  The key here again is isolation.  There are many variation of the single-leg squat.  You must choose one that you know isolates the glute rather than allowing the hamstring to do most of the work!  Here is one good variation designed for that purpose:

What About Squats and Dead-lifts?

Squats and dead-lifts will always be the main exercises for leg strength, including the glutes.  Return to these after you have become strong at glute bridges, hip thrusts, and this version of the single-leg squat.

Next Steps

In post 3 of this series on Next Level Running, I will address:

  • How to coordinate your muscles to create hip drive
  • Full and proper running form

In post 4 of this series on Next Level Running, I will address:

  • A full range of strength training exercises to enhance your health and running performance
  • How to decide which exercises to do and how much to do

Until then…

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor




Getting to the Next Level: The Role of Patience in Your Training Plan

I am guilty as charged.  The crime?  Lack of patience.  The evidence?  My training plans from the past.  They are riddled with inconsistency.  Why?  Because I am a tinker.  I like to tinker with plans and try to perfect them.  Why is this a problem?  Because it takes months for a plan to fully unfold.  A balanced plan will have stages.  It will allow for the development of new speed as well as moving your lactate threshold, running economy, and much more.  You can’t do all of that at the same time.  Bottom line: It takes months to improve the variables that impact running performance enough to see a measurable difference.

What have I done wrong?  I have continuously tweaked programs based on how I was feeling rather than sticking to the original design of the training program.

Remember This!

You should stick to your training plan without major changes for at least 3 months.

It takes ten days to get the full extent of adaptations from a workout.  If your plan is ideal, then four weeks of work could possibly show a measurable difference.  That means that it takes about 1.3 months to see a perfect plan work.  Now throw in the idea that we have good and bad days.  If you have a bad day in the race where you expect to see the results of 1.3 months of work, you might reach the wrong conclusion that it did not work.  It is only after about 3 months of steady progress that you will see a significant change even if you have a bad day.  That is why I say 3 months is the standard.  Follow a plan with multiple stages and complete 3 months as it was designed before you draw a conclusion on whether it worked or not.

Looking back at my own running over the past 5 years, it becomes clear that the times I made the most progress were the times that I stayed with a program most consistently.  That is true regardless of the program I was following.  When I first started, I followed programs from Hal Higdon.  When I wanted to get faster, I followed the plan of Dr. Jack Daniels.  Then I heard about the innovative work of the Hanson Brothers.  I followed their program and got another big improvement.

Since that time, I have been tinkering with different types of workouts.  I have found several workouts that work well on changing some of the variables of running performance.  I have gone through several and been frustrated by my lack of overall improvement.  I just keep changing things.  When I was on a coordinated program for at least 3 months, I made progress.

training program picWhile I was tinkering with my own programs, I have developed training programs for many athletes during the same time.  When they have stayed true to the program I developed for at least 3 months, they have seen the improvements they sought.  Now I need to practice what I preach.  I have developed my Next-Level Training Program and personalized it for many runners, including myself.  I know that if we stick to the program, we will get the results and move on to the next level.  I just have to stop tinkering.  I have to wait for the program to develop.  I have to wait for all of the changes that come with all three stages of the program.  I have to stop evaluating the program in the moment and wait until for my next training schedule to make any changes.

I know that my Next-Level Training Program is a balanced approach that will get me where I want to go.  The components and stages are all first-class, trustworthy workouts.  The stages are in the right order.  I just have enough trust and patience to stick to the program.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor


 UPDATE: 9_24_2015

The training plan worked for me as well as it did for many others.  I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon fast enough to qualify again.  Boston is a tough course, so I was thrilled to BQ there!

Winners and Athletes: Runners Who Inspire Me

It is an honor to be the coach of any runner. To have that position of trust is a big deal. Runners love to win. Runners want their training to lead to special moments. It is an important position and I do not take it for granted. In the case of these athletes, it is a double honor. They are winners and athletes.


Runners at the race expo for the Farragut Half Marathon were able to sign up for a chance to win a 12-Week customized training program designed by me. Melissa and Vickie 4I had intended to award this prize to just one winner, but that is not what happened.  All of the names were written on little slips of paper sitting in a big bowl.  When the time came, I turned my head away and reached in to pick the winner.  At first I had to many pieces of paper in my grasp, so I shook my hand gently until only one slip of paper remained.  It only had one name on it:  Melissa Peplow.  I knew immediately that I had given the plan away to two people.  You see, Melissa is 1/2 of a running team; two people that run as one.  Melissa and her running partner Vicky Wallace register for races separately.  They wear two bib numbers.  Still, they run as one.  Two bodies on three legs and a wheelchair.  Each runner serves the other.  Melissa is legally blind.  Sometimes she can see things clearly, but other times she can’t see much of anything.  Vickie serves as Melissa’s eyes.  Vicky suffered a stroke and presently only has control over the right side of her body.  Vicky wants to use her one good leg to be a runner.  Melissa serves Vicky by pushing the chair from behind.  Two runners working together so that each can give it their full effort.  Every time they finish a race they are winners regardless of what the final standings say.


It should not need to be said, but I will say it anyway: theseMelissa and Vickie 3 ladies are athletes.  Not everyone believes that.  The fact that each one has some assistance from the other is enough for a few naysayers to complain.  Any true athlete, however, will recognize Vicky and Melissa as fellow athletes. They are not heroes.  They are not zeroes. They are athletes the same as you and I.  They have grit.  They have goals.   Both of them are facing huge challenges.  Both are out there training to improve their performance.  Both of them give all they have during a race.  The vast majority of runners are not racing each other as much as they are racing against themselves, trying to get better.  That is what an athlete does.


Every athlete I coach faces challenges.  Every athlete inspires me as they find new and intersting ways to overcome those challenges.  These two are no different.  Yesterday I met with Vicky and Melissa to have our initial coaching session.  I observed their form, discussed their training habits, discussed their goals, and talked about how to move forward with developing their training plan.  That is what I do with all athletes.  I usually meet with runners one-on-one.  These ladies run as one.  I looked at their form as individuals and as a team.  I am giving them strength training to do as individuals and run training to do as a team.  That is what they need to do to improve.  That is what they want.  They are not trying to beat you in a race.  They are in a race with their limitations… and they are winning.

You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/With-a-Will-There-is-a-Way/581877085167519.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life




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Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?


Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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Enjoying Running: Run the Mile You Are In

garmin 2005I have heard it said from many sources for the last 3 years, “Run the mile you are in.”  When I first started hearing that, it did not mean anything to me.  My first thought was, “I have no choice!  I can’t run a mile that I am not in!”

I first began to understand this mantra better when I my Garmin 205 GPS watch broke.  When I started back into running in 2009, I was wearing a simple $15 stopwatch.  As I got more serious about competing, however, I wanted to watch my pace more carefully.  At that point, I bumped up to a Nike Plus wristband with a footpod sensor.  This was not as accurate as I need, so I bought the Garmin 205.  It could display 3 screens which could display 4 pieces of information each.  The numbers that I would watch closely during training and/or a race included current pace, pace of the current mile, and the average pace for the run.  Data is good, but I gradually became more and more obsessive about maintaining exact paces.  Perhaps this might be okay on a perfectly flat course, with a perfectly consistent life, and perfectly consistent nutrition.  My life, however, is not that perfect.  I live in East Tennessee (ridges!), eat imperfectly, and have a normal imperfect and unpredictable life.  Hence, exact, precise, predictable paces are a not going to happen.

Worse yet is the worry about the past and future miles.  In mile 20 of a marathon, I would be calculating what my average pace would have to be to reach certain goals.  This is not relaxing!  More stress and less focus add up to a slower pace.  Another scenario is the long run.  If you are struggling with a long run, thinking about the miles ahead is not going to help you relax and enjoy the run.

Thankfully, my Garmin 205 suffered a horrible accident and shattered.  I replaced it with a Garmin 110.  The Garmin 110 is just as accurate, but it does not display the current pace and overall pace.  I can only see the total distance run, the time elapsed for the whole run so far, and the pace of the current mile.  My stress level during runs has reduced significantly.  I am much better at enjoying the run when my only info and focus is on the current mile.  I am not trying to be exact, but I am aiming for a pace zone based on my goal for the day and the lay of the land I am running.  If I am in a hilly mile, I will give myself extra time for that mile.  If it is mostly downhill, I will speed it up.

Beyond the pace, I have also learned that this focus on the mile you are in does wonders for my mindset on a long run.  I do not waste time figuring out how much I have left.  That is a drag.  I do not worry about how tired I am and how far there is to go, I only worry about the mile that I am currently running.  This short-term outlook allows me to relax and to not focus on the pain of the coming miles.  I simply finish the mile I am in and then start a new one.

This has helped my overall mindset and does especially well for me in the marathon.  In the final miles, I try not to set goals based on my expectations for the day.  I have learned instead to set my goals on the run.  As I finish mile 21, I am setting my goal for my 22 based on how I feel.  I ask myself, “What is the best mile that I can run without cramping and getting injured?”  I can then check my Garmin periodically to see how I am doing versus how I am feeling.  This is so much more relaxing than the constant ongoing multiple forms of analysis that I used to go through.

Remember this!

Relaxing and enjoying the run leads to better performance.
Focus on running the mile you are in.
Not the miles before. Not the miles after.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book.

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

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Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:


Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

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