Train Smarter: 5 Ways to PR Running Three Days a Week

Personal Record. PR. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? For many runners, setting a personal best time in a race is their ultimate goal. It also may seem unattainable, requiring hours and days of training that just aren’t possible for some athletes. While running five or six days a week may seem the ideal way to train hard enough to set a PR, there are many reasons why that may not be possible or even desirable.

Race Finish


There never seems to be enough, does there? Whether you work full time, raise children, go to school, or do all three, time is always at a premium.  We’re so busy getting the important things done that there is rarely enough time to devote to less vital projects.

Even if you have made fitness a priority and found the time to fit it in, it may be difficult to devote as much time as you like to improving your performance. If you’re a runner, this lack of time might make you feel like you are destined to “just finish” the events in which you participate. That you can’t run faster, place higher, or set a personal record, because, well, you don’t have time to train.


Injuries, or being injury-prone, is another factor that can limit your training time. Obviously, you should not be training for a PR while you’re injured, but as you recover, training smarter, on fewer days a week, can help you avoid further injury.


Unfortunately, it happens eventually to all of us, no matter how fast, no matter how strong: we all get older. Suddenly, the body that allowed us to run five, six, or even seven days a week starts to break down at that level. It doesn’t have to mean the end of our training though. We just need to learn to train smarter.

Train Smarter, Not Harder

Race PR

Whether it is time, injury, or getting older that seems to be interfering with your racing goals, there is some hope out there.  Training smarter means making the most of the time that you have. And don’t think that you won’t be training hard, despite the title. You just won’t be wasting time with training that will not help you reach your goal. Yes, you will be working hard, but it will be focused and deliberate, not random and excessive, and will help you make the most of your time, and stay healthy and injury free.

1. Key Workouts Any race training program has several key workouts each week. These are the workouts that will adapt your body to running faster and longer. Generally speaking, the other runs during the week are not essential. These recovery runs are just that, designed for recovery, which can easily be switched out for training that fits better into your schedule or that will cause less trauma to your body. These key workouts are:

  1. VO2 Max training, usually faster intervals on a track or road.
  2. Lactate Threshold training, also called Tempo training, frequently done on the road.
  3. Long run. Depending on your race goal, one day a week should be focused on gradually increasing the distance that you run.

Here are three workouts that will help you reach your goal.

2. Build a Base Even a three day a week program needs a solid base. Before you begin the training described above, spend four to six weeks building your endurance. Each run is completed at an easy to moderate pace, and the distance increased by about 10% per day/week. This is important, a building block on which to create your training plan.

3. Coordinated Cross Training In order to replace running days, coordinated cross training will provide the benefits of a recovery run without the pounding and training time required. An easy bike ride, walk, or a swim is a good replacement, and will allow your body to rest and prepare for the next running workout. A strength workout is also helpful to strengthen and balance your muscles and that, along with flexibility training, will help you avoid injury.

4. Rest Well Rest not only means taking your recovery time, but also sleeping well. Sleep is vital to improving your performance, enhancing recovery, and boosting your mental outlook.

5. If you can, add a fourth day Yes, you can reach your goals on three days a week. But, if you’re training for longer distances, like a half or full marathon, you will benefit from an extra day on the road. It can be an easy day, but should increase to medium long length as your training progresses. Running longer distances requires your body to adapt to more mileage, so that fourth day will really help.

Race Start

While the ideal scenario for training is a schedule and body that allows you to train five or six days a week, it is possible to train smarter and achieve your goal of setting a new personal record by running three days a week.

How many days a week do your run? Do you make the best use of your training time? Do you include cross training?


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A Multi Purpose Speed Workout

As most runners know, doing some kind of speed training can really help your race times improve.  Interval training can improve your VO2 Max, increase your lactate threshold, correct your form, and is an important part of your strategy to improve your overall running performance.

Many speed workouts are goal specific. Generally speaking, your speed training for a 5k will not look the same as for a marathon. Different distances have different physiological requirements, and focusing on the workout that will help you achieve your goal is important.

The beauty of this workout is, that while it is most specific to race distances of 5-15k, it has benefits for any distance, even the marathon. This workout will teach a) Acceleration, b) Sustaining Race Pace, and c) Improve your finishing kick. All within a simple 600 meter track interval.

The Speed Workout

You will be running 6-10 600 meter intervals. This workout is best performed on a track.  Six hundred meters is one and a half times around the track. Warm up for at least one mile (four laps). Perform a few drills, like skips, high knees, butt kicks. Find a measurable starting point, so that you can clearly measure out 200 meters. Each interval is divided into three equal parts:

Part 1 (200 meters): Accelerate. As you start running, you want to quickly accelerate to your race pace (this will depend on your goals). You don’t want to exceed your pace, just find that point and that effort level, that you can sustain for your race distance.

Part 2 (200 meters): Sustain. Now that you’ve reached it, hold that pace for the next 200 meters. It should feel hard, but you should be able to maintain the pace for the entire distance.

Part 3 (200 meters): Kick. This is the point where you are going to finish strong. As you accelerate toward an imaginary finish line, visualize the people you can pass as you speed to the finish. Your stride should be relaxed and naturally long, your arms should be pumping, and your feet should feel light. Run all the way through the finish before decelerating.

Recover: Walk/Jog the 200 meters back to your starting point.

Multi Purpose Workout

Striving for Balance: The Workout


I sometimes feel like I rush through my life on a tightrope with plates on my head and balls in the air. Excuse my mixed metaphor, but if you think about it (or picture it), it becomes quite clear. I work my (very) full time job, until two weeks ago I also carried two extra clients twice a week. I write this blog, and try to keep up with all the commitments and needs that go along with blogging. I run and now I’m training for a marathon. I try to work out and practice yoga. I care for my pets. And of course, I have a husband to think about, meals to cook, a home to clean.

Basically just like everyone else.

While some may say balance is overrated, I feel that if I could just balance my priorities a little better I wouldn’t be in danger of falling off that tightrope or dropping those dishes.

But then again, I’m happy. My husband is happy. And my dogs are definitely happy. So I guess I’m doing something right. Maybe this balance thing is overrated. Oh, I just said that, didn’t I?

While balance in your life may be important (or not), balance in your body is vital. Imbalance between muscles can lead to decreased performance and injury. General lack of balance can cause falls, which can also lead to injury.

The Striving for Balance Workout

The Striving for Balance workout addresses both your physical balance and your muscular balance. Several exercises are done standing on one foot while moving through a range of motion. Others are done unilaterally, one side at a time, which helps to equalize and balance strength. It is a total body workout, and strengthens all of your major muscles groups, thus creating balance.

Strive for Balance

One Arm Chest Press

Work ItKeep your core stable as you perform the movement. Do all the repetitions on one side then repeat on the other.

One Legged Bent Over Row

Work It 4Stabilize your core and keep your spine neutral. Make sure to alternate legs on each set.

Reverse Lunge with Balance

Work It 6Pause and hold your balance for a moment at the top of the movement. This is a reverse lunge, so you are stepping back into the lunge, then bringing the back leg forward and raising your knee. Do all the repetitions on one side, then repeat on the other.

Plank on Medicine Ball

Place both hands on a medicine ball and move into a high plank position. Hold for as long as you can.

One Legged Bicep Curls

Work It 3You can hold your knee up or just lift your foot a few inches above the ground. Stand tall and pull your shoulder blades together. Remember to change legs on each set.

One Arm Lying Triceps Extension

Work It 2Keep your core stable as you do the exercise. Do all the repetitions on one side then repeat on the other.

Medicine Ball Swing

Work It 5Keep your spine long and your chest up as you sit into your squat. Swing the ball up as you straighten your legs.

Side Plank

PlankOld picture, but you get the idea. The side plank can also be done on your forearms. Be sure to do both sides! (If you want the entire Plank Variations video, click here)

Do you work on balance in your fitness program? What’s your favorite balance move?

Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Coach and Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Coach or Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Saying Goodbye to Clients and Friends. Plus, Peg’s Last Workout…Can You Keep Up?

Twelve years ago, when I was fairly new to personal training, I started working with a couple who lived at a country club in La Quinta. They were in their early 70s and pretty active. Bob golfed several days a week, and Peg played tennis. I saw them twice a week during the season, from October through May, when they would leave the desert and go to their other home which was in Northern California.

Today I trained Bob and Peg for the last time. They are now 83 years old, and have grown tired of being responsible for two homes, not to mention the strain of moving their household twice a year. Since their family lives in Northern California, the choice was easy. They sold their La Quinta home (in two days!), and they’re heading north.

After working with two people for 12 years, you become way more that trainer and client. I admire Bob and Peg in so many ways. They are hard working, honest, warm, and have put up with my “real job” hours and my liberal views for years (and that says a lot!). I am proud to call them friends. They, especially Peg, are who I want to be when I grow up.


Peggy is an active, forward thinking woman who loves to play tennis, read, and see movies. She makes sure that she and Bob eat healthfully and is the driving force behind getting them to the gym. When we work out, she always pushes herself, and even at 83 loves her workout to be challenging (check out her last workout below to see if you can keep up!).


While Bob needs that push from Peg to get him to the gym, when he arrives he’s ready to work hard. In spite of knee and shoulder issues, he completes each exercise with enthusiasm (sometimes telling me after the fact, that kind of hurt my knee).

I am very sad tonight. Bob and Peg shared stories about their lives and their children, I told them about my accomplishments and my plans. They cheered for me when I ran a race or rode a century, and they always saw every little mention in newspapers or television. We had many in depth conversations about who would or should win Dancing with the Stars. I helped Bob figure out his new iPhone, and introduced Peg to Angry Birds when she got an iPad. I feel like I know their children and especially their grandchildren. They are happy to sit through my photo show whenever I return from seeing Samuel.

Bob and Peg

Goodbye, my friends. I hope that you will stay active. If you need to, hire another personal trainer. I promise I won’t be jealous. I just want you to stay strong, fit, and healthy.

For those who want to give Peg’s last workout a try, here it is:

Pegs Workout

No Time? No Problem! 3 Workouts to Get You In and Out of the Gym FAST!

It is one of the most frequently used excuses for not exercising. I don’t have enough time. Well, you know what? Neither do I! I just know how to optimize my time and my workout to get the most bang for my fitness buck. Here are three workouts that will help you to do the same.

Workout #1 is perfect for runners. Grab a couple dumbbells, head to the treadmill and get ready to go.

No Time? No Problem! RunnerPower WorkoutWorkout #2 is an all-machine circuit. Machines get a bad rap sometimes in this era of functional fitness, and it is true that body weight, functional exercise has multiple benefits. But there is a time and place for machines. They are great for beginners, for focusing on strength building, and injury recovery. They are also perfect for a time efficient and effective workout that will get you in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes.

No Time No Problem workout - machine circuitFinally, the Seven Minute Workout is a high intensity, fast workout that you can do at the gym or at home.  It is based on an article in the  American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal that states that 12 high intensity exercises, combined with very short breaks, using only your body weight and a chair fulfills the latest mandates for high intensity effort.

No Time No Problem - 7 minute workout

I really understand that in this busy life we lead, finding the time to exercise can be difficult. But, if you make it a priority and find an effective workout that fits into your schedule, you can be successful.

What is your favorite quick workout?

The “Not Crazy” Workout: Perfect for Any Level

Sometimes it seems that the workouts that are on posted on the internet come in two categories. Either they are basic, step by step tutorials for beginners, safe but maybe a little bland. Or you look at the workout and say, “that’s crazy!”

Gym Workout3

Now, I don’t mean crazy in any kind of derogatory way. Not at all, many of these workouts are safe, fast, intense, and effective. And heck, I’ve posted a few myself.

But, not all of us want to do 100 Burpees. Twice. Or split squat jumps or mountain climbers. Some of us don’t want to move at the speed of light, powering through a workout in 30 seconds or less.

You may be looking for a workout that is functional, effective, but doesn’t leave you on the floor panting when you’re finished. Again, not that there is anything wrong with that. But if you’re looking for something a little saner than leap frog squats, you’ve come to the right place.

Don’t think that you’re getting off easy though. This functional workout will challenge you and has progressions to make it adaptable for all levels. All you need are a stability ball, medicine ball, and a pair of dumbbells. Perform the workout circuit style, moving from exercise to exercise with minimal rest. At the end of the set, take a short break, then you can repeat if you like. Beginners can do one set and get an effective workout. To advance, you can add more weight, more sets, or follow the progressions below. Just don’t do all the advancements in one day!

Not Crazy Workout - Fitness

Squat w/Med Ball Raise

Beginners: With your feet hip width apart, hold the medicine ball in front of you as you squat. As you stand up, raise the medicine ball above your head.

To Advance: 1) As you rise, lift one knee and pause to balance for several seconds. 2) Use a heavier medicine ball. 3) As you squat, touch the medicine ball to your knee, alternating sides (make sure to keep your spine neutral..don’t round your back).

Unilateral Chest Press

Beginners: Lie in a bridge position on a stability ball, with your head resting on the ball, your hips lifted and your core engaged. Hold the dumbbells with your palms forward and your elbows at about 90 degrees. Press up with your right arm bringing the weight above your chest. Return to the starting position. Press up with your left arm bringing the weight above your chest. Return to your starting position. Complete the movement with one arm before starting with the next.

To Advance: 1) Use heavier weights. 2) Start the exercise with both weights at the top of movement. You will hold one arm extended over your chest while you do the press with the other. Again, complete the movement with one arm before starting with the next.

Lunge w/Twist

Beginners: Holding the medicine ball in both hands step forward into a lunge with your right leg. As you do so, twist to the right (about two or three o’clock). Keep your spine neutral (don’t round your back). Make sure that your toes point forward, your knees stay behind and in line with your toes. You should be twisting only at the waist. Step back. Step forward with your left leg, twisting to the left. Step back.

To Advance: 1) Use a heavier medicine ball. 2) Define each movement by stepping forward with your right leg into your lunge, then twist right, return to center, then step back. Repeat on each side.

Bench Dips

Beginners: Sit on a chair or bench with your hands on either side of your hips. Scoot forward until your bottom is right on the edge of the bench, then walk your feet out until your knees are at about 90 degrees. Slide your bottom the rest of the way off the bench, then bend your elbows, lowering your hips several inches. Straighten out your elbows to return to the starting position. Don’t sit back on the bench until you have completed your repetitions.

To Advance: 1) Walk your feet farther away from the bench. 2) Stack your feet one on top of the other. 3) Elevate your feet, either on bench or a stability ball.

One leg deadlift w/dumbbell row

Beginners: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand and shift your weight onto your right leg. Start to bend at the hips, keeping the spine neutral and allowing the left leg to extend behind you. Bend over as far as you can with good form, the perform the row by bending your elbows and lifting the weights, squeezing the shoulder blades. Slowly release then return to an upright position. If you are doing one set of the circuit, switch legs halfway through. If you are doing two or more sets, alternate legs in each set. If you’re doing an uneven number of sets, repeat on the less dominant leg.

To Advance: 1) Increase the weight. 2) Bend a little deeper (maximum would be your upper body and lifted leg are parallel to the ground).

Seated Twist

Beginners: Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you and your knees bent. Keeping your spine neutral (don’t round your back), start to angle back a few inches, until you feel your abdominal muscles engage. Hold this position. Holding the medicine ball out in front of you, alternate twisting to the right and left with control.

To Advance: 1) Use a heavier medicine ball. 2) Elevate your feet while you do the exercise (watch your spinal position). 3) Perform the exercise sitting on a stability ball.

Knee Lift w/lateral raise

Beginners: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, elbows slightly bent. Lift your arms to the side to shoulder height. As you do so, bring up one knee. Hold for two seconds, then lower your arms and your knee. Continue, alternating knees.

To Advance: 1) Use heavier weights. 2) Do a Shoulder Press instead of the lateral raise. 3) Close your eyes as you perform the exercise.

Plank (with progressions)

Beginners: Do a forearm plank, keeping your body in alignment. When you can hold the plank with good form for a minute, try some progressions: Move your feet, out out, in in, without losing form. Try jumping jack feet. Move from plank to side plank, alternating sides.

Bicycle Crunch

Does this need instructions? Just make sure that you’re not pulling on your head and neck. Relax your head into your hands, keep your elbows aligned with your ears.


Note: I really don’t think that all workouts on the internet are either crazy or bland. There are tons of fun, safe, effective, non-crazy workouts out there. My statement was a generalization used as the opening sentence of my post to engage the reader (you). And you know what they say about generalizations.

Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Coach and Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Coach or Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Crazy or Sane (or a combination of both)? What is your favorite workout?