Ask the Coach Q&A

In this episode we bring you an ask the coach Q&A as Angie answers questions about hydration, heart rate training, over-training, cadence, pre-race fueling, leaky bladders, and more!

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Ask the Coach Q&A

Running in the Heat

Any advice on managing increased heart rate while running in the heat. -Stephanie

Part of running in the heat is accepting that your pace will be slower, especially as you’re adapting to hotter conditions. It’s important to focus on effort and not on pace because your body will be working harder to cool itself during exertion. You can make the effort feel easier by pre-cooling your body before heading out for a run. Ways to do this include using cold packs on the back of neck, feet, and armpits and drinking cold water.

You should also dress in light breathable gear, wear a hat to shade your face, and run during the coolest part of the day. It’s a bonus if you can find a nicely shaded route. The good news is that the gains you make by training through hot weather will really pay off once the temps cool down.

Heart Rate Training

My question is: When I run in HR zone 2 my easy and long runs, will I get faster some day? -Hanna Knapp

Running at an easy pace or in Zone 2 can help build your aerobic endurance so it’s a helpful part of training. When you consistently use Zone 2 runs over a period of time you should start to see that your pace improves at the same heart rate. I recommend working with a running coach or using the Maffetone Method if you’re looking to do a period of endurance building. That way you can track the effectiveness over time and eventually start to add focused speed work to your solid endurance base.


I’m looking for thoughts on hydration. I find that I struggle with my runs due to dehydration. Looking for ideas on how to stay hydrated and how much water I should be drinking before and after a run? -Stacey Ann

It’s smart to start developing a hydration strategy to avoid dehydration since it’s something that you struggle with. I always recommend pre-hydrating before your run. Start your day first off with a big glass of water and then drink 8-12 oz before heading out the door for your run. Calculate your sweat rate so that you can learn how much fluid to replace during your run.

  • Here’s how to do this: Weigh yourself nude pre-run and record the amount. Then do a 60 minute run at race pace. Note the amount of fluid that you consume during the run.
  • Immediately after running towel off sweat and weigh yourself nude.
  • Subtract your post run weight from your pre-run weight and convert the difference into ounces.
  • For example: pre-run weight=150 pounds, post-run weight= 148 pounds, fluid consumed during run= 12 ounces. 150-148= 2 = 32 oz + 12 oz water = 42 oz You will need 42 ounces of fluid per hour to replace fluid needs. You can break this down into how much to drink every 15 minutes (you’d need approximately 10 oz).

Then make sure to keep your hydration on point the rest of the day. You can easily tell if you’re staying well hydrated by the color of your urine. If it’s dark colored you’re probably not drinking enough.

Tired at the Beginning of a 5k

When running a 5k when I first start running it feels like I am already tired just starting out, any pointers on what I can do so I don’t feel tired in the beginning? -Tracey Richard-Wallace

Two main components that can cause fatigue are mental fatigue and physical fatigue. Often the messages we tell ourselves leading up to a run can be negative. Things like, “This is going to be so hard” “I’m going to be so tired” “I hope I can make it” all send signals to your body that maybe it is over its head with this running thing. Try to feed yourself positive thoughts pre-run. This can actually give you more physical energy.

Also realize that during the first mile or two of a run the body can feel stiff, heavy, and a bit draggy. This is normal and not necessarily a sign that you’re physically tired. To help combat this sluggishness stand up tall and do some dynamic movements to loosen up the body. Then start your run at a conservative pace and start to get faster as you warm up. Make sure that you’re well hydrated and have had a snack within the last 3 hours. Sometimes fatigue during running can be worsened by mild dehydration and hunger.


How do you know how much you can push in training runs and not overtrain? 

-Stacy Welk

It’s important to remember that not every run should be a PR in distance or pace. Often when runners start out it’s so exciting to see progress that they push themselves hard each time they get out to run. This can lead to overtraining, injury, and general burnout over time. So make sure that you’re picking 1-2 key runs per week to either work on increasing speed or distance. These runs should be interspersed with easy efforts and strength or cross training. Following a periodized training plan is a great way to safely improve and reach your goals.

A periodized training plan should include building phases with step back weeks to allow the body time to adapt. Another good way to gauge if you’re recovering effectively is to keep track of your resting heart rate. If you notice that your resting heart rate is more than 8-10 beats higher than normal it could be a sign that you need more recovery time.


Cadence, how important is it to hit the magic 180 and what tips to increase it so as to run faster? My times are ok but I’m stuck on about 160 and can’t seem to increase, thanks. -Stephen Dunbar

There was a lot of scrutiny and studies of the cadence of elite runners a few years back and it was found that they maintained an average of 180 steps per minute. Naturally this was applied to all runners and the “magic 180 cadence” was promoted. But because each runner has a somewhat different structure and movement patterns it may not be ideal for everyone to aim for 180 steps/minute.

If you’re not sure what your cadence is you can count every time your right foot hits the ground for 1 minute and multiply this number by two for your cadence per minute.

If you want to increase your cadence it’s a good idea to work on bringing it up gradually, maybe 5 steps per minute at first. A good way to do this is to download a cadence app and set it for 165 beats per minute. Run in place to this beat for 1-2 minutes before leaving for your run and then work on staying at this rhythm for the first part of your run. If you do this for a few weeks your cadence should naturally come up and then you can reset your cadence app to a higher number if you desire.

Leg Strength

What exercises can I do to increase the strength in my legs? I just can’t seem to push harder. I physically feel like it is impossible. -Callie Rich Neal

Having stronger legs will definitely benefit you as a runner by giving you more power and endurance. I recommend incorporating two days of lower body/core strength work per week into your training schedule. Good strength building exercises include squats, a variety of lunges, hip thrusts, and plyometric work. Make sure you build a base of strength and core work before adding in plyometrics. Some examples include split squats, jump squats, standing long jumps, and high steps.

Weak Ankles and Shins

My ankles/shins are weak. Have been doing yoga exercises and stretching out my runs. Any other suggestions? Thanks. -Domonique Lewis

Having stronger shins and ankles will definitely improve your running and help prevent rolling your ankle. I recommend doing the Ankle Resistance Exercises by physical therapy doctor Ben Shatto. If you incorporate these over time you should see a noticeable improvement. Other exercises you can do include: calf stretching, wall shin raises, heel hops, heel step downs, walking on your toes, walking on your heels, skipping, balance activities, and strengthening your hip, pelvic and core muscles.

Pre-Race Fueling

Will you discuss pre race fueling please? I’m sure it is different for different races. -

Margot Dye Plonk

It’s definitely important to develop a solid pre-race fueling strategy. A great time to work on this is during training. You can figure out which foods settle well in your stomach and give you solid energy. Pre-race fueling often start the night before your race. Try to avoid eating anything untested, overly spicy, or with high levels of fat. I also advise eating dinner a bit earlier so that your GI system has time to process and eliminate before your race.

There are two different schools of thought when it comes pre-race fueling and both can be effective depending on your needs. The first method is to not eat a pre-race breakfast and simply start the day with coffee or tea. Then approximately 30 minutes before your race have a small easily digestible snack or fueling product. Then you can jump directly into your race fueling strategy.

The other option is eating a pre-race meal approximately 2.5-3 hours before your race. You’d want to focus on easily digestible foods with a higher percentage of carbohydrates, some protein, and low fat. Popular options include oatmeal, bananas, toast, bagels, etc. You want to be able to consume this breakfast and have time to digest it before the start of your race.

Too Many Bathroom Stops

If I go for an early morning or mid morning run I inevitably have a potty problem. Either #1 or #2 but usually both! I always insure that I have a BM before leaving the house and usually visit the bathroom numerous time to make sure I am empty before  I run my shorter run (7 miles or less) fasted but with a cup of coffee. My longer runs start with a UCAN product (either bar or energy depending on mood) about 30 min before. I have tried everything and it is so frustrating because I basically have to plan my route to include porta pots or bathrooms (and since Covid these are sometimes hard to come by) it seems like I am cursed. I have been doing treadmill runs so I can stay close to the bathroom but this is not ideal. I don’t know what else to do. Do you guys have any other suggestions? -Arianne Keller

GI distress during running can range from an upset feeling stomach, gas, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is obviously very unpleasant and can be a logistical nightmare when you need to find a toilet fast. I used to deal with some of this in the early days of my marathon training and since I ran in the country I often carried toilet paper with me in case I needed to duck into a field. Not ideal, but necessary.

GI upset is more common to runners than other endurance athletes because of the high impact nature of our sport. The constant jostling can make digestion difficult. Plus, blood used for digestion and normal GI function is often shunted to the muscles during prolonged exertion. This can lead to dumping syndrome where the body tries to fast track any food or nutrition out as quickly as possible.

For many runners without underlying chronic bowel conditions GI upset certain foods and the timing of foods can play a role in this. Stastically more women deal with GI upset than men. Some research theorizes that our digestive tracks can absorb fewer nutrients at a time. Large concentrations of sugars can also be problematic, especially for women. Many women simply can’t take a whole gel at once without having troubles.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try to eat a blander (less fibrous) diet the night before a long run or race.
  • Eat foods that digest well in your body. Often high concentrations of fat and spices can be problematic.
  • Make sure that you get up in advance of your run to have a good bowel movement. Drinking something warm can often stimulate the digestive system. Be careful about caffeine. I know most coffee drinkers don’t want to hear this, but caffeine can irritate the digestive system. If you deal with GI upset or diarrhea it might be good to experiement with cutting back on the pre-run caffeine.
  • If you eat pre-run make sure it’s something that digests easily and doesn’t have a lot of fat (which can cause GI upset in some people).
  • Take a look at the fueling products that you’re using. Some people struggle with various sugars like sugar alcohols, fructose, maltodextrin, and even stevia. If you have a sensitive stomach try and find a product that contains mostly glucose which digests more easily.

Leaky Bladder

I am 48. I lost 50 pounds since 2016 and took up weight lifting 1.5 years ago and running since COVID. I have incontinence randomly (as in random days, some days none, actually can go a month with none then back to back days) – very embarrassing – any tips? -Donya Stubbs

Stress urinary incontinence is often caused by a weak pelvic floor or sphincter muscle when pressure is placed on bladder. This is something experienced by around 25% of women (especially post childbirth). The reason you might be noticing this intermittently is because of hormonal surges (as many women in their mid to late 40’s are in pre-menopause). The fact that you’ve been able to lose 50 pounds is fantastic because excess weight can often worsen stress incontinence.

It’s important for all women to strengthen your core and pelvic floor and perform regular kegal exercises. If doing kegals on your own isn’t effective you can work with a PT or someone certified in holistic core restore who can design a plan to help you do Kegals correctly and work on strength. It’s also possible that you might have a mild pelvic organ prolapsed. If so the core and Kegal work may be effective or you may need a pessary to hold everything in place during exercise. Surgery can also be performed for more severe cases of prolapse.

It’s helpful to empty your bladder completely before running. There are also protection products that you can use during exercise for occasional leakage. Many women who deal with this issue choose to wear black because it can hide the occasional leak better. Bladder retraining is also effective for many women.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

MTA Coaching Services -see how we help runners train smarter.


So excited to run a live race as my first of 2020 at the Jackson Hole Marathon in Wyoming. My higher expectations were humbled early with the combination of altitude, headwinds, and then pouring rain. I had a moose cross the path in front of me which was an awesome diversion for my mind. I finished 7th overall, and first in my age group with my second best ever marathon performance of 3:14:05. Many thanks again to Coach Dominique Hamel for her diligent work and wisdom that continues to elevate my running to much higher levels. Also thanks to Coach Jessee Naylor of Metpro for teaching me how to properly eat this year for the first time in my life. -Bill D.

The MTA Virtual Half 2020 – we have people from 44 US states plus Puerto Rico and 17 countries signed up so far.

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