Favorite Teaching Tips
I have been teaching for 28 years now, and there are three things that bring participants to my classes and keep them coming back:
- I make it a priority to know each person’s name. It may take me a time or two, but it tells them I care enough to make that a priority. They are important to me!
- Before I teach a new move or a muscle-conditioning type of exercise, I make sure it is safe for the general population. There are many ways to work each muscle, but the first question I ask myself when selecting a move is “Is it safe?”
- I try to find what motivates each person over time, what will keep that person coming back. I educate, give options and try to add a bit of a fun factor to each class. For example, I may use partner exercise so people meet each other; give out an ACE handout with information that is relevant to the class or the participants; or find a local event and challenge them to sign up and take part. Each person is different; with a little attention to each, you can figure out how to keep them exercising.
Love your job! Your passion will be shared!
Castle Rock, Colorado
I am an instructor at Extreme Fitness for Women. I also coach our running club, and the best advice I can give runners is to incorporate one day of speed training and one day of hill work into their weekly run program. Many runners just go out and do their mileage with no real purpose. They run the same routes at the same speeds with no hills and no pickups. Infusing speed work and hill work into my weekly run schedules has improved my first-half time from 1:59:55 to 1:55:54.
I suggest that on hill days, people find a hill that requires about 50 steps and tackle that about four times somewhere in their run for that day. For speed training, they can incorporate four to six sprints in the mix of their normal run. Running with a purpose—whether they are focusing on speed work, hills or running at race pace—can make a big difference in their time.
I am currently training runners for the Chicago Half Marathon in September. I have been a runner since I was in high school, when I ran track. If my more experienced runners are looking to increase their speed, I have them do different types of runs throughout the week; speed work, tempo runs and long runs. I also give my runners the following handout, which I wrote to help them understand the runs in their training plan.
Reasons for the Different Types of Runs
Why Speed Work?
Speed work doesn't just make you run faster. It makes you fitter, increases the range of movement in your joints, makes you more comfortable at all speeds and ultimately helps you to run harder for longer. The key is . . . not too hard. Speed sessions aren't about sprinting flat out until you're sick. They're about controlling hard efforts and spreading your energy evenly over a set distance or time, just as you would in a perfect race. You have to teach your legs what it feels like to run fast. Eventually your body adapts to the accumulation of lactate acid (burning you feel in your legs) and limits the degree to which the muscles become acidic, allowing you to run faster for a longer period of time.
Why Tempo Runs?
Tempo runs help you both psychologically (getting you close to the feeling you’ll experience during races) and physically (training your body to buffer against the lactate acid buildup and teaching your lungs to use oxygen). On a more technical level, you are physiologically hovering just below your anaerobic threshold. That is the greatest effort your body can put forth without building up so much lactic acid that you are forced to stop running. Tempo runs are done at a “comfortably hard” pace.
What Is a “Comfortably Hard” Pace?
- Recent Race: Add 30-40 seconds to your current 5K pace or 15-20 seconds to your 10K pace.
- Heart Rate: 85%-90% of your maximum heart rate.
- Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10).
- Talk Test: A question like "Pace okay?" should be possible, but conversation won't be.
Why Long Runs?
The long run increases aerobic base (improving endurance), improves running economy and boosts confidence. Just as important, the long run teaches your body to spare glycogen and rely more on fat as a fuel source. Translation: you delay glycogen depletion during a long race, so you delay bonking (hitting the wall). And the mental angle: To prepare for the psychological challenge of racing for hours, you have to train for hours. So the key aims of the long, steady distance run are to increase your ability to burn fat and store more glycogen, and to challenge the body and mind to continue running even when fatigued.
NASM-Certified Personal Trainer
Western Springs, Illinois
I’m a runner and also a running coach. I have a question regarding resistance training and training for a marathon. First, can circuit training be included as cross-training for a marathon? How many days per week, how many reps and how much load? How many exercises, and which specific exercises? And can I use creatine for my training? Also, my client wants to do a full marathon in December, and her longest race so far is a 10-miler. Can she make it in time?
An Expert Responds:
While anything can be considered cross-training, it won't help your client run a marathon. Cross-training by doing other cardiovascular activities may help your client improve her cardiovascular system while she increases how much she runs, but the focus of her training needs to be on the running. If your client wants to successfully run a marathon in December and has run only 10 miles so far, it would be best to focus on improving her endurance rather than doing circuit weight training. While it's humanly possible to run a marathon with only a few months of training, it's not the best strategy. It takes time to develop the characteristics needed for endurance.
As for creatine, no, it won't help you for a marathon. Creatine is helpful only for sprinters and weightlifters, who need immediate energy. Creatine phosphate is our immediate store of energy and is broken down inside muscles for their immediate use, but it doesn't help endurance activities.
Jason Karp, PhD
Exercise Physiologist, Professional Running/Sports Performance Coach