Often, on Facebook or in private emails, friends and readers ask me specific questions about running terms and training tips they’ve encountered in their search to find a good marathon training program. I decided to put these questions to coach Carol Frazeyand let her expertise do the talking. Here are some of your Qs, followed by Carol’s As. A big thanks to her for spending the time clarifying and simplifying training advice for us.


  1.  What does it mean when training manuals tell you to run “at tempo?”

“At tempo” means that you are running at a faster pace than your comfortable pace and slower than your race pace.  I like to use Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to explain “effort” in a workout.  If you were to add a zero after each number in the chart, the numbers would correspond with an average person’s heart rate during different amounts of exertion.  So, for “at tempo” you should perceive your exertion to be about 14 or 15 “Hard”.

Running “at tempo” one time per week helps you to increase your cardio-endurance and allows you to mentally prepare for racing.  In a race, you are pushing yourself for a longer period of time and it will be uncomfortable.  Getting used to and pushing through this uncomfortable feeling combined with good training will help you improve your racing times.

Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)


                                7  Very, Very Light


                                9  Very Light


                                11  Fairly Light


                                13  Somewhat Hard


                                15  Hard


                                17  Very Hard


                                19  Very, Very Hard


  1. How about “cadence?” What is it?

Cadence can also be called turn over or stride rate. Cadence is how frequently you take a step; the time it takes for your foot to touch the ground, go up in the air, and touch again.  The faster your cadence, the fast you go.


  1. Can you talk about good pain versus bad pain?  Beginning runners will feel pain, of course, but how do you know which pain is a normal part of training for long distances and which pain is dangerous?

Know your body.  Achy pain is normal after a run or the next day or two.  Any type of “sharp” pain should be avoided and running should be discontinued if you feel something sharp and painful.  Whether you feel achy or have sharp pain, icing is a great way to decrease inflammation and decrease the pain.  I always recommend that if you feel pain, ice the area 3 times per day for 10-15 minutes each time.  A bag of frozen corn or peas makes a great, contouring ice pack.

You may experience “achy pain” after a long run or speed workout.  The best way to reduce this pain is to sit in an ice bath for 15 minutes after your workout.  It is very uncomfortable, but the effects of how well your muscles feel the next day is amazing.  I always use this technique when training for a marathon.  It allows your muscles to recover quickly.


  1. I get asked by a lot of people about Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. I’ve never really mastered using it and find it a little confusing. Can you shed some light on why someone might want to try it and what you think are the advantages/disadvantages?

Many people have successfully completed marathons by using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method.  I have never used this method, but many people love the idea of having rest periods to bring their heart rate down and get a mental break from the monotony of running for 26.2 miles.

Advantages:  brings heart rate down, allows you to physically and mentally rest, “I can do anything for 10 minutes!” Short walk breaks give you time to refuel for the next running period.

Disadvantages:  Some people “tighten up” when they go from a run to a walk.  “Tightening up” is when your muscles contract and it is difficult and painful to start running again.


  1. I always tell people that the long runs are the most important part of training for a marathon or half marathon. Do you agree? And if so, why are they so important?

The long run is the most important element when training for a marathon or half marathon.  The time on your legs helps build your muscles, cardio-endurance, and mental toughness. The hours of running on your legs helps your muscles to prepare for the hours of pounding they will endure during your race.  When you train, little tears  occur in your muscles.  Then the tears repair themselves and get stronger each time.  A long run of at least 18 miles should be done at least 3 weeks before your marathon. 

A long run also builds your mental endurance.  Pushing your body is a mental feat that takes practice.  Mentally preparing for the race is also important.  This is especially important when you begin to get tired and the negative self-talk seeps into your thinking.

Another suggestion for your long run is to make sure you run them on the same type of surface you will be running on for your race.  When training for our first marathon, my husband and I made sure to get our long runs in, but we did them on dirt roads.  At mile 18 in the actual marathon, our quadriceps locked up from the pounding on the concrete roads on the course, and it was a long and painful last 8.2 miles!  If racing on pavement, be sure to train on pavement!


  1. When you coach runners, you have us do speed work (and you’ve added speed work to your training program for my 2012 challenge). Why do we need to do speed work even if we’re happy running slowly?

Running at a faster pace (speed work), allows your body to increase your lung capacity and increase your cadence.  When you increase your cadence or turn over, your stride becomes more efficient.  Even on your long runs you will notice it is easier to go at your “normal”, slower pace.


  1. Talk about stretching and why it is important for runners.

Stretching keeps everything aligned.  If one muscle is tight, it pulls bones and ligaments slightly off kilter so that your body is not properly aligned and “things” may rub.  For me, I need to stretch every day or my kneecap starts to “catch” and I feel pain with every stride.  By stretching each day, everything stays aligned and I can run comfortably without any knee pain. Stretching keeps you limber and allows your running stride to be loose and efficient.


  1. What are your top three pieces of advice for new runners or for those who have decided to really amp up the miles and train for a full or half marathon this year?
  1. Get your long run in.
  2. Practice eating what you will eat during the race (gels, etc.).
  3. Have fun! – Enjoy the training, don’t take yourself too seriously. And once you’ve put in the work, REALLY enjoy the race!


Information from Fit School, Inc. and Carol Frazey should not be used to alter medically prescribed regimen or as a form of self-treatment.  Consult a licensed physician before beginning this or any other exercise and/or nutrition program.  Please visit www.TheFitSchool.comfor more information.


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