Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tim and Adam Answer

Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano are not only efficient runners and authors, they're efficient interviewees too. They sent me answers to your questions yesterday, only two days after I sent them on to them! And because they actually visited your blogs and got to know you a bit before answering, I figured you'd want to see those answers as soon as possible.

Tim (left) and Adam also like stick figures, which makes them even cooler.
BUT before I get into their answers, I want to put in a plug for their new book, Running the Edge: Discover the Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life.

I've already bought the book (I did so before contacting them about an interview), and so in addition to the pre-interview peek at one chapter that Tim allowed me, I was sent a link to the table of contents and the introduction that I can forward to any of you who are interested. I am NOT big on most motivational books, but I am excited about this one because I feel it addresses my greatest weakness: belief in myself as a runner. If I had this belief, it would be powerful tool to help me achieve my tough goal.

If you'd like to order the book too, please click here.

Now, without further ado, here are your (and my) questions answered! The questions in bold are yours, the words in the answers are theirs, broken out individually where applicable.

From Chris at Heavy Steps:

1. What advice do they have for someone who is starting?

Chris - First of all congratulations on Heavy Steps and for losing so much weight running!  Stories like yours are always inspiring!  One of the main keys to getting started is to take it slowly.  Even a five minute run is better than a day with a zero minute run.  A very common mistake new runners make is doing too much too fast. All the enthusiasm and passion for getting started means they do more than their body is ready for and they end up getting hurt or losing their enthusiasm because running feels painful every single day. You need to have days where you allow running to feel good.  If this means running a minute and walking two for fifteen minutes, that is fine and still great exercise. Increase slowly and soon you will be running fifteen minutes straight and feel good about your progress.

2. What do you have to say when new runners become discouraged and want to quit?

This is a natural feeling to have for runners at all levels. Even the pros go through periods where they are frustrated and question why they bother running. The best remedy is to set a series of small and attainable goals. Maybe enter a race or join a running group. As long as you feel you are making progress motivation will come.

Check out a blog post we did about a runner named Ben Davis. He has lost over 120 pounds on his journey. We tell a more detailed version of Ben’s story in Chapter 15 of our book titled “Happily Ever After.” Perhaps his most important lesson is that he felt better about himself and his life the very first day he ran. He did not have to wait to lose a specific amount of weight or achieve a certain time in a race to be happy with what he was doing. As soon as he took control of his life and decided to move in healthy and positive directions, he felt better. Stories like his and yours inspire runners at all levels! Keep it up and know you are giving yourself a gift every single day you run!

From Marcia at The Studly Runner

3. Where did running all start for the authors? Did they always aspire to a career in running/coaching or was there something else?

Marcia - Congratulations on Boston and becoming “studly!” So if one of us qualifies we become “manly?” Also congrats on your most recent 5K. Your running skirt looked comfortable but we don’t think you looked like a “watermelon!” We will certainly come to you when we need running fashion advice!

Tim says: I am an accidental runner. I have always loved sports but never considered running as something I would do without chasing or carrying a ball. When I found out that I was good at running I didn’t automatically love it. I developed my love affair with the sport slowly. By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew I would be doing this for life! Coaching came later and was a way to share my passion with others. I get a similar sense of fulfillment now writing about running. There is actually a funny story in the introduction of the book about me trying to play football at 120 lbs. A single hit convinced me I needed a change in sport!

Adam says: I always did a bunch of different sports but I tried track and field for the first time in the 7th grade. I did hurdles and high jump as well as ran and won a city championship. I loved all of it immediately! By my 9th or 10th grade year I knew it running was my calling but I still did other sports like basketball and football but I knew deep down that I was made for running and track. Did I always want to be a professional runner? No. In 8th grade I learned how to fly sail planes and decided I wanted to be an astronaut. Imagine how fast I could have ran on the moon!

From Margot at The Faster Bunny for Adam:

4. I want to know what Adam's most effective favorite workouts are (so that I can copy them at slower pace)! 

Adam says: Margot, first of all, congratulations on hopping your way to your first sub-21 minute 5K!! The great thing about those types of achievements is that once you do it, nobody can ever take it away! The rest of your life you can say you ran a 5K in under 21.

Adam putting his fast workouts to work. Now Margot can too.
I have lots of favorite workouts but one of my favorite track sessions 1600, 1200, 800, 400 X 2 with a 400 meter recovery jog between each distance and the two sets.  What I like about this workout is that I get to run a few seconds faster per 400 each set.  So whatever my 400 splits were in the 1600 I run a couple seconds faster in the 1200 and a few seconds faster in the 800.  By the time I get to the 400 I feel like I am flying!

From Erin at See Mom Run Far for Tim:

5. What is the best part of being a coach? What is the hardest part about being a coach?

Tim says: Erin - You have five daughters and seven sons!  That is two full cross country teams so you must know what it is like to be a great coach!  For me the best part of coaching was getting to know my athletes on a very personal level.  Running reveals aspects of a person  you might never get to know otherwise.  Knowing your athletes on that level and knowing how hard they work to achieve their goals is what makes coaching so incredible.  I can’t keep dry eyes when I see an athlete achieve a new PR or breakthrough.  It is almost better than when I was the one running!  The hardest part?  Helping runners through injuries, and other running frustrations.  They are unavoidable but when you know how hard they have worked only to be derailed, it hurts and can be very difficult.  Good luck in Pocatello!

From me:

6. Do you eat well all the time? Differently when you're training? I have this perception that talented runners (elites especially) really have diet nailed, to the point where it's a non-issue for them. But trying to eat healthily all the time is a hard thing for a lot of us average types. Any advice on the food front would be appreciated.

Eating well is important, but even the elites do not have their diets “nailed.”  It is a constant issue and to be honest, eating healthy all of the time is not possible for most of us.  The key is balance.  You need to allow yourself some guilty dieting pleasures from time to time to keep your cravings at bay.

Tim says: My passion for running is only matched by my passion for cookies!  I must allow myself to have both.  By not denying myself something you don’t have to feel guilty when I eat it.  The key is to allow yourself to eat foods you enjoy but in moderation.  I might want to eat 15 cookies in a sitting but if I allow myself to savor two or three, I am just fine.

Adam says: I agree it is all about moderation.  I am lucky because Kara is good about planning and cooking healthy foods.  But we both enjoy evenings after hard workouts where we have earned our junk food!  I know the best tactic is to eat or graze every couple of hours all day long to keep the metabolism high but sometimes this is hard for me.  I also have a huge sweet tooth so I have my nights where I break out the candy, ice cream and M&Ms but obviously you can’t do that every night.  Eat your favorite foods every once in a while just don’t go crazy!

From Marcia:

7. Do they have any hip/glute strengthening moves?

Adam says: There are so many good programs and exercises available.  My advice is, if you are going to start a lifting regime, make sure you are using proper form.  Have someone who knows what to look for watch you. You want to make sure you are using the right muscles with the correct movements.  But I think the most important thing you can do is to have a good core strengthening routine.  There are lots of good plank exercises that will work your hips and glutes but you need to focus on other muscles as well to keep your body in balance.  Core stability and strength is the most important thing you can have as a runner because it leads to proper form and running technique.

From Cory at Fast Cory:

8. I'd love to get their thoughts on injury prevention while building miles.

Dear Fast Cory - After checking out your blog, we have figured out the key for you to stay healthy.  Stop jumping your way through marathons!  Your midair pictures are amazing but all that impact on landing can’t be good for the shins!  Seriously though our answer to injury prevention is going to sound terribly cliché but we will say it anyway.  Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to take a day off or add an extra day recovery when you need it.  Also follow the 10% rule and do not increase your milage or intensity too quickly.  This is the quickest route to injury.

There is a great story in our book called “The line between tough and stupid.”  Adam in particular has a very difficult time knowing where this line is, and has hurt himself numerous times by refusing to listen to his body and slow down or alter his workouts when he should have.  Some people have the opposite problem and use any ache or pain as an excuse for a day off.  The key is being tough enough to approach the line but not stupid enough to cross it!

From me:

9.  What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome? Feel free to answer this from a life perspective or a running perspective (or both).

Imagine a book or a movie with no conflict.  Imagine if there were no dragon to slay or villain to catch.  Nobody would want to read that book or see that movie.  We all have obstacles to overcome and personal dragons to slay which is what makes our life stories interesting.  Running shows us that through determination, tenacity, and hard work we are capable of achieving our goals, slaying our dragons, and overcoming those obstacles.  Sometimes we choose to do hard things just to see if we can!  There are so many stories in our book about this and we don’t want to steal our own thunder, so we will leave our answer to this question a little vague.

10. What's the main thing you'd like runners of all levels and abilities to take away from your book?

This book is different in that it focuses on making you a better runner by becoming aware of your attribute set or personal characteristics as a runner.  All the interval training, strength and flexibility, diet and nutrition, etc. in the world will have little effect if you don’t have the initiative to get out the door, or the ability to know when to bend (back to that line between tough and stupid) or if you don’t have determination and perseverance to get through the struggles and hard times.  The book offers six mirrors or attributes that will help runners of all levels improve once they become aware and are empowered to make small changes that add up to big improvements.

One of the main things we want people to take away is that life and running are not two separate things but the qualities or attributes that make you successful in one will certainly help you find success in the other.

From Erin:

11. What is the most important life lesson you have learned from running?

That I can!!! Hard work pays off and leads to a happier and healthier life!

From me (one of my biggest questions):

12. I've set a really tough goal (for me it's tough: running a marathon in 3:45 or faster to qualify for Boston; running 3:40 or faster would actually be better, as due to the new staggered entry it's not enough just to barely beat your standard). When you two set tough goals for yourselves, how do you balance being realistic (and not setting yourself up for early disappointment) with being ambitious (because sometimes telling yourself "I've got this. I can do this" can make the difference--or at least that's what they tell me.....)?

Yes!  Positive thinking and self talk are extremely important but we must also have the integrity to be honest and realistic with ourselves and our abilities.  Chapter 10 in the book is called “Get Real” and deals with integrity and setting realistic goals that we have the ability to achieve.  Tough goals like a 3:40 marathon are wonderful and provide motivation to keep going.  Combine that with some attainable short term goals and lots of positive thinking and an unwavering belief in yourself and you should be able to get there!  We are fond of the Jim Collins notion of B.H.A.G.S. (pronounced “bee hags”) or Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  These are the stretch goals we set to hit on a perfect day in a perfect world.  Your marathon BHAG might be a sub 3:35 for example.  You know it is a stretch but believe and keep telling yourself you can get there!

And a bonus lucky number 13 from me:
So let's get real. Are either of you actually capable of running as slowly as I do? Do you have a 4.25-hour marathon in you? Just sayin'......:^)

There is no such thing as slow.  The last person to finish a race still beat everyone who didn’t enter.  When someone says they are slow, are they comparing themselves to the majority of Americans who don’t exercise or the 90% who can’t run a mile without stopping?  All runners are fast!


  1. Ooo, I love that last line the best! It drives me crazy when people compare themselves to others (I am 100% guilty, I have drove myself mental with this) but I think one thing positive that came out of my injury is that I no longer look at other's achievements as my failures - I'm now so focused on getting to the point where I left off that my babysteps are huge milestones for me - and only me.

    This was really great to read, thanks for doing this. I will definitely check out their book - so very cool (and I love that they are going to call Marcia for fashion advice! :)).

  2. O.m.g. They. Went to my freaking blog? Crap. I'd have cleaned or sucked in my gut or something!

    Seriously this was awesome. I loved reading it. It sounds like a must-read. Thanks so much!

  3. This was fantastic! And what a great question and answer to end on. I agree with Jill -- the last line is best!

  4. Holy Crap. I can die happy now. The day Adam Goucher (who I read about in Runners World when I was like 16 and thought "wow what an awesome runner") congratulates me on a 5k and gives me training advice is uh....all I need in life.

    Thank you Terzah, Tim, and Adam!!!!

  5. Good stuff....really good stuff...I'm going to stop calling myself a slow runner...

  6. these guys are great!
    they took the time to get to "know" the people asking the questions this is high class.
    I will buy their book for sure

  7. This was WONDERFUL! Thank you Tim, Adam and Terzah for some great info. I am going to order the book right now. :)

  8. I loved reading this advice from the experts. Can't wait to read the book!

  9. Awesome! I love the last part. Wednesdays are tough because that's my "sprint" workout where I run as hard as I can for 30 seconds and then walk for two minutes. Repeat a dozen times. My "sprints" are equal to a LOT of people's Long Slow Distance, and that gets rough. But it's nice to hear world class runners say that "all runners are fast."

  10. jessica (pace of me)February 3, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I seriously don't know how I missed this post?!?!?!?  Anyway, just discovered it and it is awesome!  I especially love the last answer.  ALL runners are fast!  So true!  I LOVE THAT.