Ask the Coach Episode . . .

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Welcome to the Marathon Training Academy Podcast where we empower you to take your running to the next level!

In this podcast episode we cover an array of questions from our community about base building, tight hip flexors, black toenails, what to do if you are under-trained on race day, hamstring pain, fuel and fuel belts, anti-inflammatories, treadmill recommendations and more things that inquiring runners want to know!

Ask the Coach . . .

Tight Hip Flexors

Any ideas on tight hip flexors after say mile 10ish. It killed me in my last marathon and I don’t want a repeat in April. Thx! -Mike

Tight hip flexors can really be a pain during long runs. One major cause of tight hip flexors is prolonged sitting (whether it be at work, on a commute, or relaxing at home). If you’re able to add more standing into your day that would probably help. Tight hip flexors and low back pain often go hand in hand as well and people with tight hip flexors often have limited hip mobility and decreased hip and glute strength. So you’ll want to strengthen your core muscles so that there isn’t compensation going on lower down the kinetic chain. Then consistently doing hip flexor stretches (like a kneeling hip flexor stretch and pigeon pose) would be another thing to implement if you haven’t already. It may be a good idea to have a physical therapist evaluate your hip mobility, strength and muscle tone and recommend specific exercises to address the issue.

Healing a Hamstring

How long do hamstrings take to heal and when do you know they are better? Any advice would be so appreciated. -Laura

So sorry that you’ve been dealing with this hamstring strain. Hamstring issues can often take a long time to heal (like you’ve noticed) and be very frustrating. Minor strains often take 1-2 months and more severe strains can take up to 9 months to improve. First you need to asses which part of your hamstring is strained (proximal- by the butt, middle part of the muscle, or distal- by the knee).

You definitely want to avoid doing anything that causes pain and avoid overstretching the area because this can keep it inflamed. Things like hill running and intense yoga or stretching to the area should be avoided until pain is gone. Hamstring issues often come down to having weak glute and hip muscles which is something that should be corrected as well.

Black Toenail

I am not loving the thought of a potential loss of a toenail. Any words of wisdom from those who have come before? -Jennifer

The first few days are often a bit painful with pressure building beneath the nail but then once the inflammation goes down it’s usually not too bad. In the beginning soaking your foot in an Epsom salt bath can help decrease some of the discomfort. If the pain doesn’t seem to improve it may be time to see a podiatrist and get the fluid drained from underneath the nail. For vanity reasons I often paint my toenails dark blue, green or purple so that my nails look more uniform since some people are grossed out by gnarly nail colors. As far as prevention goes try to make sure that the toe box of your shoes are wide enough and that you’re not wearing too small of a pair. But despite best efforts some runners still get bruised nails, especially on a downhill course.

Undertrained on Race Day

Officially freaking out … Tokyo Marathon is tomorrow! I know I haven’t done enough long runs, never over 25km. Words of wisdom for undertrained first marathon jitters, go! -Leslie

We often hear from runners who for a variety of reasons have undertrained for their event. When you get down to the last couple of weeks you can’t really add to your fitness base and can actually hurt your chances of finishing by overdoing it. If you’ve undertrained you’re going to need to rely more heavily on the power of the mind. So, focus on some positive mantras, do your best to keep moving forward in a steady manner on race day, and try to soak in the experience. You’ve got this!! Afterward: On a happy note Leslie finished her first marathon under the time limit.


How do you plan your fuel for long runs and especially for a marathon? Do you split by miles or by time or something different? -Lyndi

How much fuel you need definitely depends on what type of fuel you’re using and how your body metabolizes it. In general most people need some source of fueling every 35-50 minutes and this is not a one size fits all formula. That’s why you’re wise to start practicing your fueling strategy now. For training runs I start out in a fasted state and then I typically take a half serving of UCAN every 5 miles. For marathons I eat a UCAN snack bar 30 minutes before the race and then carry 2 servings of concentrated UCAN fuel with me in an 8oz handheld bottle. Again, this is what I’ve found works best for me.

Here’s the You Tube video I did to explain how I mix UCAN for long runs/races. Some people even find that adding less water works for them.

Use the code MTACOACH to save 15% on your order at

Base Building

I’m just getting back into running and working on building my running base. How often should I be increasing my mileage? Is it every week or small increments every run? -Chelsea

A 10% increase of mileage per week is what is generally recommended (called the 10% rule). That can often seem like small increases in the beginning but doing too much too soon is one of the fastest routes to injury. It’s also helpful to cut back your mileage a bit every 3-4 weeks to allow your body more recovery time. So you’d build by 10% for 3 weeks and then cut back on mileage during week 4.

I am a slow runner -about 11 minute miles are my natural easy pace. I’m just concerned that when runs get longer (I’m up to 4 miles now) that it’ll take sooo long to complete… but do you think I should just take it easy and stick to 11 minute miles? -Alicia

When you’re building your base you want to focus first on endurance. Trying to add speed at the same time that you’re building mileage can often result in injury. So just embrace your 11 minute pace for now and also look at including some strength work into your training to strengthen your knees and ankles and improve stability.

Warming Up Before a Marathon

Does anyone have any advice or recommendation as to whether or not I should do a warm up run before a half marathon? -Teri

It often depends on your goals for the race. If you’re looking to PR and hit very specific mile splits right away then being warmed up pre-race is a good idea. This can be accomplished by light jogging for 10-15 minutes pre race. Otherwise the walking that takes place to get you to the starting line is usually sufficient and you’ll gradually warm up within the first couple of miles.

Side Stitch

Anyone have much issue with side pains, is it something that is mental…too much water? -Jaime

While running there is more abdominal pressure pushing up on the diaphragm. Often at the same time you’re breathing more rapidly which is causing the lungs to expand as well. The diaphragm is getting compressed from above and below which can decrease blood flow and cause a spasm. If you get a side pain then it’s best to slow down (to a walk) and change your pattern of breathing to a slower and deeper rhythm. Pushing into the painful area with your fingers might help relieve the spasm or try reaching both arms above your head and stretching your abdominal muscles until the feeling subsides. Then gradually work your way back to a normal running speed.

Treadmill Recommendations

Looking at treadmills … Angie, I heard you just bought a new treadmill off Amazon. Would you share which one? -Stephen

Most of the smaller treadmill decks are made primarily for walking so you definitely want to find one that has a wider and longer belt for running, something that is geared toward your height and weight, and a motor that will hold up to the kind of use it will be under. Our treadmill is the Proform Pro 2000 (2016 model) which had the features we were looking for like a 22×60 deck, up to 15% incline and 3% decline, and a strong motor. We’ve been very pleased with it so far. Here’s the exact one we ordered. We got free shipping through Amazon Prime.


What do you think about very occasional use of ibuprofen/anti-inflammatories? Not referring to daily or prophylactic use. When, if ever, might it be appropriate? -Randy

Studies have found that a large percentage of runners take pain medication in the weeks leading up to a race and even before races. People assume that they’re safe because they’re over the counter and that taking NSAIDs before a race will boost their pain tolerance (many runners refer to it as Vitamin I). A 2006 study found that there was no statistical difference between race times, muscle damage, perceived effort, or reported soreness between the groups who took NSAIDS and those who didn’t. But some members of the medicated group did have one big consequence. “The ibuprofen disrupted the integrity of the lining cells of the colon; there was a leakage of bacteria into the bloodstream.” This can cause a condition called endotoxemia, which can lead to septic shock in extreme cases. What runners are more likely to experience is amplified inflammation and oxidative stress (the breakdown of certain cells), which can increase soreness and delay recovery.

NSAIDS like Ibuprofen, Advil and Aleve help control swelling and discomfort by blocking an enzyme that creates inflammation in the body. However they also decrease blood flow to the kidneys so this is not a good combination while running (especially in combination with any dehydration). They can also contribute to GI distress mid-run.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is a pain reliever but is not an anti-inflammatory. This means that it’s gentler on the stomach and kidneys but can be hard on the liver when taken frequently or in large doses. You also don’t want to mix alcohol use with Tylenol because it increases the liver toxicity. If you need to take a pain reliever near the time of a run then Tylenol may be the safest choice.

Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin) is an anti-inflammatory and low doses are often recommended for those with a risk of heart disease or stroke. However it can also cause GI distress during running and can impair blood clotting leading to increased swelling or bruising if you fall.

I sometimes take a dose of NSAIDs post-marathon (as long as I’m well hydrated). But generally having inflammation is a sign that the body needs more recovery time or better nutritional support and NSAIDS (or any over the counter pain medication) shouldn’t be taken for more than four days in a row without medical supervision. I am a big fan of Tissue Rejuvinator from Hammer Nutrition which is very helpful for reducing inflammation and great for the joints.

Foods that are good for decreasing inflammation include (but are not limited to): broccoli, berries, beets, ginger, tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, pineapple, green tea, salmon and fatty fish, garlic, dark chocolate, eggs, apples, spinach and green leafy veggies, cherries, chilli pepper, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, grapes, avocado, and olive oil.

Foods that increase inflammation include fried foods, soda and sugary drinks, refined carbohydrates, processed meats, margarine and trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Fuel Belts

How does everyone deal with carrying water and fuel on your runs? I’m considering a different belt or system of some kind. Any suggestions? -Lyndi

For 13 miles or less I usually carry a 24 oz handheld with water but for longer runs (and in warmer weather) I use a Nathan Hydration Vest with a 2 liter bladder. It also has lots of space for fuels and other necessities. I also find that a hydration pack doesn’t throw off my center of gravity as much as handhelds do. For me the waist belts tend to shift around too much and the constant bouncing drives me crazy. But it’s definitely a personal preference thing. Many people like to set out water or fuel bottles along their running route and some rely on drinking fountains if they’ll be running in a park area.

Staying on Pace

What do folks do for mental toughness to block out pain and staying on a consistent pace? I have the body type of a sprinter so I have a tendency to surge and slow down a lot. -Mike

Having an awareness that you have the tendency to start too fast and slow down is the first step to changing to a more even pace. And with practice you’ll learn to manage your pace more consistently. If you’re doing an easy run then keeping your heart rate in Zone 2-to low Zone 3 may be a way to rein yourself in and keep a more even pace. During hard speed workouts having a strong mantra can help you push past the discomfort. Many people also swear by using power songs toward the second half of a challenging workout to help them dig deep.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Bombas Socks – Every pair comes with a built-in blister tab, innovative arch support, stay-up technology, and a seamless toe. Get 20% off on your new pair of socks when you visit -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to to support the show and learn more

Generation Ucan -The revolutionary new way for runners to fuel. Ucan keeps your blood sugar stable and allows your body to burn fat. Visit and use the promo code MTACOACH to save 15% off your order.

Our Itenerary -see which races we will be at. We try to keep an up-to-date list on this page.

Academy Membership – Get your questions answers and train with our proven system and awesome online community.

Huge congrats to Academy Member Neal W from Kansas who is working with MTA Coach Steve Waldon. He smashed the Phoenix Marathon this past weekend! He got his first ever BQ in 3:04:11, a PR of more than 11 minutes. In his buildup to the race he also ran a 1:26 half marathon which placed him on the podium for a 2nd place overall finish! The most incredible thing is that he puts almost all his winter miles on a treadmill indoors (including long runs).

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