Have you ever trained for a race, whether it is a 5k, half marathon, or marathon and you think you did something wrong in the training? You either didn’t hit your time goal or worse you got injured and you just feel like your training was off…It was not right for you…maybe you are not meant to race or maybe you are just too old?
Maybe you should have done a 16-week plan instead of a 12 week plan? Maybe the plan you chose was too aggressive or it wasn’t aggressive enough and it was tailored to beginners?
Ever been there before? I know I have when I first started running faster half marathons back in 2013 and 2014 and was looking to find the secret sauce to get that next one faster!
Want to know the secret that got me that 1:33:56 PR time for my half marathon in 2015?
Yes, it was training (in order to) run (or race in this case) and it was understanding the value of base training.
In this training I am going to talk about the non-sexy part of being a runner. It isn’t the “marathon training” time period but it is the most critical time period in influencing what happens to you on race day.
Listen to the Podcast Episode during your next run!
In today’s training I am going to cover…
9 out of every 10 runners reading this right now will get injured, and one of the most common reasons for runners getting injured during their hard race training cycles is not building up the strength and resilience in their tissues to tolerate the demands that half marathon or marathon training offer.
Trying to train when you don’t have a race on your calendar can be challenging from a motivation standpoint and can be overwhelming on what is the best thing to do…
If you don’t have a plan for base training…
⁃ You are doing random runs that don’t have a purpose
⁃ You are trying many different exercises or classes to try and build strength
⁃ You are not enjoying running
⁃ Your running gets slower and you stop doing long runs
⁃ You waste time chasing fads or worse get injured trying to do this cool workout you saw on your watch or someone else posted online
⁃ You guess instead of following a process
And that leads to frustration and feeling constantly overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. We don’t want that for you.
We at Spark Healthy Runner have a plan on how to build a strong foundation as a runner so it can Segway into your race training so you can optimize your running for longevity.
and it is not a plan that most adult runners are following.
Spark Healthy Runner has given hundreds upon hundreds of runners a plan for getting stronger and faster (without injury). Our plan will work for you too!
– All you need to do is stay tuned and follow the plan
– Next, take action and implement this plan
– Share it with a running friend who is frustrated with stubborn injuries or they are only interested in training for races but are wondering why they are not getting any faster…
Here is what is at stake if you don’t do these 3 things
You will continue to get frustrated training for a race because you didn’t have the “fitness”, you got injured, or you are not getting faster on race day.
Base training is the single most underutilized period of training for most runners and most misunderstood.
Nearly every runner that I hop on strategy calls with has the same mentality that they want to work with our team for “half marathon” or “marathon training” because they want to have an end result that they can justify their investment from a time, mental focus, and financial standpoint.
However, I want you to start reframing your thought process, just like I tell these runners when we are strategizing when the best time is to work with our team.
The sooner your body corrects its current problem areas (whether it is running form, strength issues, mobility issues, training issues) then the stronger your body will be (without breaking down and falling into the injury cycle or worse needing to stop running after your race and “rehab”)
Investing your time and effort into base training is developing compound interest for your race day success!
Investing in base training is like investing your money in a high-interest savings account or CD that is both safe and will yield a solid return.
Investing all your time and energy ONLY into “half marathon” or “marathon training” is like investing in crypto or heading to Vegas looking for the big win. There is a chance you can win it big and get that magical PR but hedging your bets on an unpredictable outcome is just not something I am willing to risk with my health or the one avenue I have and love to help me manage my stress and mental health daily by running.
So, I ask you…which scenario is better?
The main point here is base training is technically the beginning of your race training, and it can be the most critical part of your running journey!
Trying to grow as a runner is overwhelming if you don’t have a plan… Your running gets slower or (worse) leads to injury. When you master the six key parts of your running journey, you’ll not only feel more confident in getting stronger and faster – you’ll stay healthy and enjoy the process of running again!
👉Get the latest Spark Healthy Runner E-book Free resource, How to Grow as a Runner (6 Step) Roadmap here with a ton of supplemental resources, visuals and video content that will help provide context to what you will learn about today.
These have been the tried, true, and tested strategies that have kept all the runners I work with on a 1:1 basis as their running physical therapist and coach to stay running during their recovery and then finally learning how to never have their pain or injury come back again.
Go ahead and download your free e-book by going to learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com and get the resource and get all the bonus content!
What is base training?
The introductory or foundational period of training is the first phase of a training cycle. This can either occur when a new runner starts running for the first time or an injured runner is coming back from not running due to an injury. This is also the time period between race training cycles (spring marathon and then fall marathon) or is the time period after you just finished your “race season” and now you are in the offseason (following recovery from your goal race)
What are the benefits of Base Training?
Nutrition benefits too! Brooke added: allows you time to focus on nutrition without all the pressure. Gives you time to experiment with different products to see what works well for you and what doesn’t. You can really focus on the basics without getting too high level
Your Running should be reliable and durable like a well-built house, For the purposes of this analogy, you need to implement the 6 parts to building a durable home that will last a lifetime!
Let’s apply my personal base training this past winter to our 6 steps to growing as a runner
My personal base training phase this year started in December/ January.
I ran a half marathon on November 20th after my October marathon and got a fast time that I was proud about. I then ran a fun turkey trot with my daughter on Thanksgiving.
Therefore, the month of December was more about recovery and January 2nd was the first Monday of the new year and the official start of base training which was the start of heavier lifting. I have just completed 12 weeks of base training this past week. Now I have 11 weeks until my spring half marathon that will happen on the first weekend of June. Before I take a couple of weeks recovery and then start training for my fall marathon race.
In applying our 6 steps to growing as a runner during base training we need to start with…
Just think about if we started to build a house without any sketches or blueprints? You just poured a foundation and started building the walls and then saw where it took you. Probably have some engineering and architectural issues and that house may collapse because it couldn’t withstand the forces on it whether it was a foot or two of snow on the roof or a tropical storm that came through. This is like trying to work on your mental toughness only during race season.
Training the mind starts way before official race training begins!
Training the mind helps to reduce anxiety, provides you more confidence and self-belief that you can do hard things. Having the proper mindset puts you in a position to overcome negative thoughts and beliefs that will creep in your head during training no matter if you are just trying to run for general health 3x/week or you have that big marathon goal and you are shooting for boston qualifying time or your personal best.
Here are some practical tips to boost mindset that I have been implementing during base training
Journaling to add in reflection on your training, how running impacts your life and express gratitude for your ability to train, run outside, be healthy enough to run, and it also helps keep running goals in perspective without putting too much pressure on yourself. Helps keep running in perspective so you don’t perseverate on your pace, time, what accomplishments your other running friends are doing during your base training.
Motivation to get out the door a problem (dark, cold weather, just don’t have that race goal close enough yet)…
Commit to doing half of your run and just getting out to get the body moving because you know your mind will feel better after who knows it just may feel good and you may finish the full run.
Develop a strong running body so you can enjoy lifelong injury free running
Why does strength have its own category in our 6 step plan? Why doesn’t stretching have its own category? Always been told that runners need to stretch?
Simple…strengthening has 2 main benefits…Performance & Injury prevention
Improves running economy: energy cost of running at a sub maximal intensity
Help improve anaerobic qualities:
⁃ Maximal Speed
⁃ Anaerobic capacity
-Improves bone density
-Helps reduce loss of muscle as we age
We don’t have sufficient evidence however 20 years of clinical experience as a physical therapist and empirical evidence suggests that it bulletproofs your body and your tendons!
For our clients who have not strength trained before…we have our restorative phase (to restore fundamental movement patterns of running) in our coaching program which teaches runners to activate and turn on their running specific muscles (hip stabilizers, the muscles that work when you are standing on 1 leg, and the small little guys like your soleus muscle that you normally would not get with a bootcamp or crossfit style workout). Then we progress into rebuilding the body to be more stronger and resilient in your running (phase 2 of our 16 week program) and the exercises progress to the next level where you aren’t doing any laying down exercises and you are now using those muscles with your foot on the ground (like in running) and integrating strengthening them in more functional based movements such as single leg squats, reverse lunges, Stepping down from a step, and we add in plyometrics (jump training into this phase).
If you have been following along my personal strength and running journey on the Healthy Runner podcast, I just reintroduced barbell squats and deadlifts into my gym routine for the first time since college (20 years ago) last year after my very informative chat with Scott Greenberg in episode 120 on the Healthy Runner podcast
Started lifting and working on my movement patterns in December but really started lifting with some significant weight for me in January.
Gym 3x/week (except short work weeks due to 3 day volleyball tournaments for my girls or getting sick for 7 days in February)
60-90 min (spending more time in gym then I do leading up to a race)
Pull day (Glute and hamstring focused, gastroc, back muscles)
Push day (Quad focused, soleus, chest and shoulders)
Plyo, core, hip stabilizers with mini band, arms
|Deadlift (hex/ trap bar)||185# 5 x 5||185# 5 x 5||135# 5×3, 155# 5 x 3||185# 5 x 6||185# 5 x 6||185# 5 x 3, 205# 5 x 3||Deload vacation||205# 5 x 6||215# 5 x 6||225# 5 x 6|
|Split squat||95# 3 x 8||Sick||95# 7 x 3||95# 8 x 3||95# 7 x 3||95# 7 x 3||95# 7 x 3||Skip ( no time )||135# 5 x 3|
|Front squat||135# 5 x 5||Sick||135# 5 x 6||135# 5 x 6||135# 5x 6||155# 5 x 6||155# 5 x 6||Squat machine||165# 5 x 6|
Lessons learned and Focus on my personal training:
– Knee’s over toes (letting knee cap pass over toes) to build up strength and resiliency in my patellar tendon and allow soleus muscle to do what it does running eccentrically.
– Got squat wedge block off amazon: Gogloo
– Progressive strengthening works and you get stronger where you can lift more (what seemed hard 4 weeks ago is now easy) and you do pack on some muscle
Run fast and far by properly progressing your run plan around 4 types of runs as the building blocks.
– Easy Run
– Long Run
– Tempo Run (Threshold Pace)
– Interval Run
During Base Training…
Aerobic fitness is the key! This is the priority and the focus on building mileage with easy conversational pace running and building up those long runs!
Building your aerobic base at the start of your season doesn’t just create a strong foundation; it also sets you up for harder and more intense workouts later on. Cycling base training typically takes between six and twelve weeks and starts at the very beginning of a training season—well before your goal events.
What is base training? First 500 consistent miles. If you have not built up your base (less than 500 miles then you should be doing 100% of your runs at conversation pace)
Can be short, medium or long
Perceived effort: 4-5 on scale of 10
70-80% of max heart rate (zone 2 or 3)
– Trains CV system and muscular system to efficiently absorb, deliver, and utilize O2 while remove waste products (CO2, lactic acid)
– At cellular level, increase the number and size of mitochondria, improving the muscle’s ability to receive and process oxygen and conserve stores of glycogen
– Allows muscles in your legs to withstand running forces and strengthen for running
– Adapts the tendons, ligaments, joints, bones to the stress of sustained running
What is a good weekly mileage for Half marathon base training…
Depends on if this is your first, 5th, or if you are where I am training for my 28th half marathon? Also mileage will gradually ramp up during the training
Advanced: In general our Healthy Runner advanced 12 week HM plan starts at 21 miles and peaks at 35 mpw. So if you are doing 4-8 weeks of base building then you definitely want to be up to at least 21 mpw 12 weeks out from your race.
Beginner: starts at 12 miles and peaks at 24 so if you are doing a 4-8 week base building then you definitely want to be up to 12 mpw 12 weeks out from your race
What is a good weekly mileage for marathon base training…
Novice: 18-22mpw last 6 weeks prior to starting 16 week cycle (peak at 34)
Intermediate: 22-28 last 6 weeks prior to starting 16 week cycle (peak at 38)
Advanced: 30-39 last 6 weeks prior to 16 week cycle (peak at 42)
BQ: 40+ last 6 weeks prior to 16 week cycle (peak at 53)
What does a well-balanced week look like?
Duane’s 2022-2023 Running weekly mileage:
March 2022: 103 miles
April 2022: 138 miles
May 2022: 160 miles
June 2022: 114 miles
July 2022: 142 miles
March 2023: 150
Frequency: 5-6 day run plan
Also added more tempo runs and strides to weekly runs making sure my effort is not going above my lactate threshold even more so then I do when I am officially race training and trying to hit some specific paces. Going on RPE and effort has been helpful.
Easy runs: even easier. Making sure I am keeping that HR in check and working on my breathing using my diaphragm keeping my mouth closed a lot of the time and working on nasal breathing.
Long runs: more double digit long runs to get my body used to running and getting all the physiological benefits of a long run and being outside between 90 min- 2 hours.
Implement a simple, easy strategy that ensures you never run out of energy or bonk.
During Base training I am really going back to the fundamentals and fueling my runs and workouts.
Brooke our Healthy Runner Registered Dietitian Nutrionist adds…
Not taking nutrition seriously. This is your time to hone in on the basics and get a good understanding of fueling and what your body needs. I am guilty of slacking with my nutrition while base building but it’s arguably the most important time to focus on nutrition as you’re trying to build a good foundation for racing season.
What are those fundamentals:
**Please remember that nutrition is highly individualized. If you have any questions relating to your specific situation, please reach out to Brooke within our healthy runner facebook community for clarification or if you want her to design your specific nutrition plan as your coach you can learn more about working with Brooke within our HR signature coaching program by clicking the link in the show notes.**
PERFORM from the Amino Company to amp me up from the hard strength sessions I mentioned as well as take the 2 doses throughout the rest of the day of essential amino acids to help my muscles rebuild and recover. Also love the mental focus it provides me during my work day which has been shown in the peer reviewed literature.
UCAN almond butter with Medrol dates (2 of them) before my strength + run days. UCAN snack bars before long runs or work out days as well to train my stomach and GI system to be able to run with food in it (going from the days of being a fasted and underfueled runner). Also love the granola for mid morning or afternoon snack to make sure I am not going too long without eating between meals.
Healthy Runner Discounts and Recommended Products
5. Recovery– Insulation, drywall & flooring which is your recovery
Just like Insulation helps to control the home’s climate and also helps with the home’s energy efficiency.
Feel fresh, reduce fatigue, and stay healthy by prioritizing proper recovery
(physical (muscles, tendons, feet, heart, lungs) and mental…
How have I been doing this during base training?
self-care tips (journaling, meditation)
foam rolling before and after runs
focused stretching for my problem areas which is a tight calf
Taking care of my feet! Short foot activation before all runs and integrated into my strength training workouts (barefoot type shoe in gym just started using xero shoes), Naboso toe splays to stretch the small muscles in my feet, Naboso recovery socks and compression socks after longer or hard runs, self MFR with the Naboso recovery ball.
Epson salt baths after long runs 1x/week to reset before the following week of training, NO RUNNING with Rest and Recovery day each week 😊
The perfect race day game plan, including a simple checklist can mean increased curb appeal.
What do you mean? I thought base training meant no racing??? So this may not apply to you if you do not race at all so you can just follow the 5 steps above to growing as a runner during base training phase. However, for me it was not racing to race but racing for fun 😊
I did a St. Patty’s day 5k with my daughter so I was pacing her and it was less than a tempo effort for me during the race so it was not race effort for my body because I should not be racing at race effort during base building 😊
Final take-aways and tips from some of our Healthy Runner Coaches:
Cat: A good coach can make sure your base training is the right intensity for your fitness level. And the base is vital to having a successful race even if it feels too slow! Trust the process.
Lu: Plan plan plan! What’s YOUR time/schedule that can be devoted to running, leaving room for unexpected? Be realistic and listen to your body. Do not compare yourself with others!
Brooke: don’t underestimate the basics! There’s so many fancy gadgets and products to try but the basics of strength training, base building and adequate nutrition will get you so much farther than focusing on the nitty gritty of data, supplements, fancy shoes, etc. KISS!!
Consistency is KEY with running! Having a great training program with consistent runs and smart exercises outlined will be very beneficial for you as a runner
When you execute the six key parts of your running journey during base training, you’ll not only feel more confident in getting stronger and faster – you’ll stay healthy and enjoy the process of running again and crush some races next training cycle!
(Just like your well-built home if will require little maintenance and bring you a lifetime of memories for you and your family)
You may be thinking you don’t need coaching for base training, but that is what Trevor thought prior to working with coach Lu before his Boston marathon training started.
Hear is what Trevor had to say about our Spark Healthy Runner Coaching program:
“I highly recommend Spark Healthy Runner. They match a solid strength training program and tailored advice for rehabbing injuries while continuing to run. They have videos that demonstrate proper technique for running specific strength exercises, and they have a range of certified running coaches that guide you on your personal goals. Plus they are group of supportive and nice runners!” We are excited to see Trevor crush his first Boston Marathon!
Or Laura who was dealing with a nagging hamstring injury
“I reached out to Duane and He was able to diagnose the issue right away and was very confident that we could deal with it without me having to take extended time off from running (which turned out to be true!). He gave me detailed, challenging strength programs that targeted my hamstring as well as some other problem areas. He was very responsive to texts/emails if I had questions and continued to be very encouraging during the months that we worked together. Just over four months later I am running pain-free and getting close to the fitness I was in back in the spring. I definitely feel like I would not have made this much progress without his guidance. Highly recommend!”
Or Dawn from the UK
“I started back my running journey with Duane back in January 2022 I haven’t ran for over 5 years due to an ItB issue and I came across Sparks healthy running podcast with Duane saying he could get runners back to running from injuries.
I had just been Accepted for the London Marathon in October 2022 and felt I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The process was very quick and easy to get onboard with the programme. I had a Personal call from Duane I told him of my injury and my goal and he was very encouraging that within 16 weeks I would be pain free and able to run 5 miles. I wasn’t sure if that was possible as I couldn’t run more that half a mile without pain in my knee. I had a programme that was tailored made for me which included strength and conditioning as well as walk/running to start with to build up my running time.
Duane was always on hand to reassurance and answer any of my questions no matter how small they were.
I live in the Uk but the online platform that Duane uses meant I could upload my training in real time and Duane was always able to track my progress.
After the 16 weeks I was pain free and able to run 5 miles.
I have since gone on to complete the London Marathon but I know without my base training with Spark healthy runner it would not have been possible. I can’t recommend his service enough and would say to anybody that has had to stop running due to injury that Duane is very approachable and will happily answer any questions you may have.”
These are just 3 examples from the hundreds and hundreds of runners who have implemented this Spark method of building a solid foundation during base training to grow as a runner.
It’s really been great sharing this with you today.
I hope my personal experience and sharing what I have been working on these past 12 weeks will be helpful for you to apply to your own training.
Don’t forget to download your FREE How to grow as a runner roadmap, I talked about today for you to implement into your training.
Now that you read through to this base training update…you took the first step! Congrats! Now remember the next step in growing as a runner is to implement it!
If you don’t know how to implement it and want to get clarity and focus like Trevor, Laura, and Dawn have that is exactely what we do within our high touch point 1:1 Spark Healthy Runner coaching program where I am your running physical therapist and coach all in one or you work with one of the coaches on our team and I serve as your PT consultant guiding the process.
Learn more about the Spark Healthy Runner signature coaching program and schedule a call now by going to https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/coaching
Lastly, remember earlier how I said that if you don’t implement these principles of base training, You will continue to get frustrated training for a race because you didn’t have the “fitness”, you got injured, or you are not getting faster on race day.
Copy the link to this blog and share it with a runner you know who is struggling with staying healthy or getting faster so we can help change the culture in the running community that this is the boring phase or garbage miles phase of running and reframe the thought process of how we REALLY PREPARE for races. I want our community to continue enjoying lifelong injury free running! Thank you for doing that!
Let’s maintain a strong mind, strong body, and just keep running!
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Connect with Dr. Duane:
Dr. Duane Scotti, DPT, PhD, OCS is a running physical therapist, run coach, host of the Healthy Runner podcast, and founder of Spark Healthy Runner and has been a leader in the rehab and running community for 20+ years.
Duane initially started running as an adult, wanting to add some cardio to his gym sessions. After having a hip surgery, his doctor advised him to get off the treadmill and run outside. Without having fully recovered, Duane suffered a running-related hamstring tendon injury and many others as a novice runner.
As a coach, he has guided thousands of athletes back to running, finishing their first marathon, crushing a personal best, and even the elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
He is truly living his passion educating the running community that they don’t need to stop running to get over a running injury. Through his signature 1:1 coaching program, weekly videos, and podcast episodes, he empowers runners to get stronger, run faster, and enjoy lifelong injury free running. Dr. Duane truly believes that anyone can run and that all runners should be treated differently when recovering from an injury. He is on a mission to change the traditional thinking that running causes “overuse injuries” or “your body is just not meant to run” and you must “take a break” to get better. Through strength and run specific training you can grow a strong mind, strong body, and just keep running!
Duane received his Bachelor of Health Science degree and Master of Physical Therapy degree from Quinnipiac University in 2001 and 2003. He then went on to receive a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2017. Duane is a board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, Certified Mulligan Practitioner, certified in dry needling and has advanced training in spinal manipulation and rehabilitation for runners.
As an athlete, Duane is an adult-onset runner, avid half marathoner, and enjoys challenging himself to learn and grow in his personal running journey!
A native New Yorker from Long Island, Duane currently lives in Cheshire, Connecticut with his wife Deb and his two teenage daughters who are competitive volleyball players. They all love to explore new beaches along the east coast.
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You can teach an old dog new tricks!!! I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach. I am soooo glad I made the investment in me! I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier! The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching. I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong. I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot! The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally. I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age. Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!
My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.
I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.
I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!
Wanting to run more consistently, and to increase my long run distance and total weekly mileage, I was concerned about hip pain due to hip alignment issues. This is an issue I had when I trained for my first half marathon several years ago. Having listened to the Healthy Runner podcast for the past couple years, I knew Duane Scotti could help. I signed up for the four-month strength and running training program and am extremely happy with the results.
The program Duane and Coach Whitney developed for me was exactly what I needed. It was tailored to my needs and to my target race. Coach Whitney was very helpful, and with the biweekly coaching calls, we were able to fine tune the program based off my performance and feedback.
At the end of the program, I completed a 10K trail race feeling strong and pain free.
I highly recommend Duane Scotti and the Healthy Runner training programs.