Running 101 with Chaski Coach Tyler Andrews
Note: This article was originally published by V Magazine
Chaski Coach and HOKA sponsored pro-athlete Tyler Andrews has built an impressive career. V Man got the running 101 with Andrews for those looking to pick up a new and healthy hobby while social distancing.
The perfect running coach, Tyler's complicated health history has helped him form an "overcome-anything" mindset. Through patience, practice, and pacing Andrews has not only crushed the goals he set — but ran past them. Tyler has attended the Olympic Trials, set world-best records, won championships, and orchestrated running groups. Giving you the push you might need to start your own journey, Andrew offers tips, tricks, and at-home workouts to help you to continue putting your best foot forward. In addition, Tyler Andrews' disclosed his favorite brand for running shoes, HOKA ONE ONE.
Check out the exclusive VMAN interview, down below.
VMAN: With social distancing limiting our exercise, many people have taken up running as a form of solo fitness. What advice or steps do you recommend for beginners that don’t have much experience?
Tyler Andrews: Well, normally, my #1 piece of advice for new runners is to find other folks with whom you can run, which advice is obviously less applicable given our current circumstances. That said, our world has become so interconnected that you can apply the same principle -- the motivation of a partner or community -- without actually meeting up in person. Say you’re in your apartment by yourself and can’t physically run with others -- try to find someone else who’s also a beginner runner (or a few friends; the more the better!) and start a virtual group. You can all chat before/after your run (video-chat post-run beer, anyone?), you can share your runs on websites like Trackster.us or strava.com (which both have group functionality), you can even sign up for “virtual races” if you want some extra motivation.
And that really gets to the point of all this: motivation. You need to find the answer to the question “why?” which question pops up when you’re debating about whether you feel like going out the door for a run. I’ve found that for many beginners, spending time with another person can be the answer to that question (hence the previous paragraph), but there are tons of reasons: I want to get fitter, I want to finish a 5K or a marathon, I want to run faster than I could last week or last year, etc. It’s all about addressing that “why”.
V: If we are not able to get outside, are there any exercises indoors we can do to improve stamina and keep the momentum going?
TA: Oh, I’ve gotten excellent workouts in the aisles and galleys of long-haul airplanes, so you can absolutely get a good workout at your house or apartment. When I’m exercising in a confined space (like the dark aisle of a trans-pacific 787), I first of all try to look at it as a relief -- something that I GET to do even though I’m stuck inside this small space. Having a great audiobook, podcast, or music playlist will help with all of this as well.
Honestly, running in a very small space can be a challenge. I find that the best workout methodology is to combine some light jogging (perhaps in place) w/ a simple circuit: a set of exercises that you can do with just your body and some space.
I actually recently wrote a blog post on this very topic with an example workout.
V: What are some of the benefits of running, both physical and psychological?
TA: You mean, besides the joy of a post-long-run Sunday brunch?! But really, there are myriad articles out there about the health benefits of moderate exercise, including running, so I’ll try to focus on the things that might not be so obvious.
First -- and maybe most important -- is the sense of community you get from being a runner; and let me be clear that one who runs is a runner. There is no gate-keeping, there is no minimum requirement. If you’re running, you’re a runner.
Now, I’ve had the joy of meeting people from all over the world in my decade and a half of running and the immediate connection you have with someone in Bangkok or Berlin when you’re both just running is powerful and lasting. Even now, without the physical companionship, the running world still feels like a tight-knit community, one where strangers can reach out with questions or encouragement alike. Though it may seem intimidating and your running (right now) feel might be solitary, it’s a community you can join online (for now) and then in person down the road.
I’ve learned an enormous amount about life from running. I often start sentences in serious conversations by saying “I’m about to make a bad sports metaphor,” but the truth is that’s how my brain has grown to think, which shows the universality of something as simple as running from Point A to Point B. I know runners of all levels who run for so many powerful reasons: busy professionals or parents for whom running is their “quiet time”, folks who run to connect with nature or their spirituality, or runners who look internally and see their workouts as a way to test themselves physically and psychologically.
I could write a whole book about the benefits of running (and others already have), so I’ll leave it there for now!
V: Is there a certain way to breathe to support longer distance running to get our lungs accustomed?
TA: Deeply! Really, though, I think your breath is more of an indicator than something you should be actively trying to control, i.e. more of an output than an input of the running equation. Your breath is essentially a function of your speed (pace) and fatigue (how tired you are), as well as a few other things like gradient (uphill/downhill), altitude, etc.
If you find that you’re out of breath or feel like you can’t catch your breath while running, it probably means that you’re running a bit too hard. A good general rule is that normal running should be conversational; you should be able to talk enough to chat comfortably on most days. Of course, you might be talking to trees, birds, or parked cars for the next few weeks, but it’s a good rule of thumb nonetheless.
If you want to push harder at the end of your run where you move beyond conversational and into the “one-word-per-breath” type of effort, that’s a good way to finish, but if you’re starting there out the door, you’re probably going to have a bad time. Always try to finish quicker than when you started!
V: Can you speak a bit about nutrition that favors runners?
TA: Oh gosh, this is another book-level question. There are definitely whole books and podcasts (and I’m pretty sure grad-school degree programs) that try to answer this question.
The short answer that I try to give is: eat to hunger, time your meals well, and eat the good stuff first. Eating to hunger is pretty intuitive. You don’t need to be forcing a massive intake of carbohydrates all of a sudden just because you started running. Your body is pretty good at telling you how many calories it needs. Listen to it and eat until you’re full.
Timing your meals is a slightly more sports-specific idea. There’s some science that tells us that it’s important to eat fairly soon (say, within 30 minutes) after you finish exercising, especially after a particularly hard bout. And eating the good stuff first is again pretty simple. Try to eat your “healthier” food (whatever that might mean to you) before whatever you might see as an indulgence. Eat your veggies and healthy fats/proteins/carbs first; if you’re still hungry and your body is craving that pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer (as mine does most days when I’m running 20+ miles per day), go for it.
V: What are some steps or ways to build speed/long-distance stamina? How often should one run to progress/maintain?
TA: The first step is to have patience! Running is an addictive pursuit because you’ll often find yourself improving gradually but consistently for many years. In order to progress, it’s important to have some way to track your progress. Only you can decide what the metric of that progress is. Do you want to run faster over shorter distances? Do you want to extend the distance you can run without stopping? Do you want to break 4 hours in the marathon? Run a Boston Qualifier? Run a 100 mile race? (Yes, those exist).
Let’s say you want to be able to finish a half marathon (13.1 miles) without walking and you’ve never run a step before. The most important thing to focus on is how long can I run without stopping. You’ll begin with a mix of running and walking and slowly begin to make the running bouts longer and the walking bouts shorter.
In general, you want to patiently increase the amount and intensity of your running so that you’re doing a little bit more than you were a week or a month ago. The best way to figure out what long and short term goals make sense (and how to develop a road-map to get you there) is to hire a running coach. Many professional athletes (myself included) work with beginners to help them set up goals and the training plans to get them there. It can help figure out how to take all that pent up energy and funnel it into something productive.
V: What type of sneaker supports running? Is there any style in particular that you recommend best? Why?
TA: Full disclosure: I’m a pro athlete and sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE and have been since 2014. I’ve only run in their shoes since then.
The short answer: running shoes! If you’re running a lot of miles in your hi tops or your flip flops, it’s probably not going to end super well. Another of my pieces of advice here is useless given the current situation (“you should go to a running store and get fitted by a professional”). The reason for that recommendation is that there are shoes that are specifically catered to people with different body types, running styles, or foot/ankle structure. That said, there are websites that can help you find the right kind of shoes for your body type. Or, call or write to the runner in your life -- that friend of a friend or weird cousin that runs marathons -- we’re always happy to nerd out about shoes.
I always recommend the HOKA Clifton as a great starter running shoe. It’s a neutral shoe that accommodates many body/foot/running types and comes in an awesome array of colors. It’s been my go-to daily running shoe for 5+ years and I love it.
V: Do you have any other advice on how to track progress or maintain short and long term goals?
TA: How you track your goals is up to you (and, in my opinion, less important). Having goals that are both big and small and measurable is the critical part. Make two sets of goals: a short term goal (something that’s achievable in the next few weeks to few months, e.g. run 5K without stopping) and another that’s a longer-term goal (maybe even years away, e.g. qualifying for the Boston Marathon).
The short term goal should be something from which you can work backwards and track your progress. Are you a socially-minded person? Try one of the running social media networks like Trackster.US or Strava.com. Are you old school? Find an old composition notebook and, boom, you’ve got a running log. The important thing is to get the positive reinforcement that the work you’re putting in each day is adding up and getting you closer to those goals.
Lastly, especially for beginners, I’d again recommend hiring a coach. I believe there’s no stronger motivation than having a pro athlete and coach helping you find and track your goals (and inspiring you with her own accomplishments in the meantime)!
— Tyler Andrews
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