Calum Neff: Mileage Motivation


“Practice makes perfect”, it couldn’t be any truer than in running. To become a better runner, you have to run, a lot. Gold Coach Calum Neff is no stranger to mileage and has some tips for staying motivated when your schedule says to “go long”. Why run mileage?

A majority of any training program will consist of “base running” with a few workouts trickled in-between adequate recovery. The reason for running mileage is not only so you can handle the hard workouts without injury but your aerobic energy system takes years of consistent work to improve.

When I look at my athletes profiles I almost always see they are not able to run an equivalent marathon time based on their performances in shorter distances like the 5k. For example, if you can run a 5k in 20 minutes, you should be able to run 3:15 in the marathon, but this is rarely the case for a new runner. This is because the athletes various energy systems are not equally developed, and that’s why we are here as your coaches!

Benefits of Mileage

  • Building aerobic base (endurance)
  • Becoming more efficient
  • Burning fat: Your body uses higher percentage of fat for energy during long slow workouts, rather than carbohydrates/sugars, this type of running is great for weight loss
  • Mentally prepares you for fatigue experienced during workouts and races
  • Injury/soreness resilience

How to stay motivated?

Hopefully you were not discouraged to learn that it can take years to build your aerobic capacity. Most programs, depending on the athlete, will have an initial month or two to build up your base, preparing you for the race season. Seeing long runs on your calendar, week after week, can be challenging mentally. Here are a few tips that work for me:

The Route

  • Pre-plan your route using online maps, picking out water and bathrooms as needed.
  • Pick a destination: Personally, I am very “objective based”, give me a target and I will do everything I can to get there. Choose a new park, a bridge, monument, a mountain, anything!
  • One-way routes: Getting dropped off away from home is huge motivation to get your run done, you have no choice. Have your running gear handy on family outings, on return you can get dropped off and fit your run in to a busy schedule.
  • Loop routes: Committing to a large loop is another great way to force yourself to complete your run.
  • Out-and-return: If you have a 20km run all you have to do is get 10km away from your house!
  • Run commute: Doubling your run as a method of transportation saves a lot of time (hopefully you have a shower at the office).


The Motivation

  • If your body is feeling tired and sore a long slow run will usually help, give yourself a few easy miles to loosen up.
  • “I regret that run” – said no one, ever.
  • Doubling: If a single run during the day is too much to try and reach your mileage goals, start adding in an easy couple miles every other morning as a double run for the day.
  • Give your coach a call! That is why we are here. If you are a Gold Program member you have a great resource at your fingertips. As coaches we always have ways to motivate or adapt a workout to suit your needs.

“I regret that run.” – no one, ever.

The Goal

As we head into summer, these next few months is where you lay the foundation for your running in the Fall, from cross country athletes to marathoners. This is the time where you can cut out a lot of intensity and just run long and slow. With summer comes the heat and humidity depending on your climate. Be prepared to run early or inside and if you are out in the heat remember to hydrate and adjust your pace and distance accordingly. Heat running and high humidity (also called “poor man’s altitude”), while tough, can be especially beneficial to your base building so try and embrace it. Your efforts will be rewarded in the Fall, sign up for a Gold Coach today and let us help you achieve your goals.


Neff_KatyHalf16_WR_BillBaumeyerThis blog post was written by Calum Neff, canadian born running.COACH gold coach in the U.S., 2:22h marathoner and Guinness world record holder for the fastest half marathon pushing a stroller in 1:11:27. Are you interested in a personal running coach? Click here.

Performance fluctuations


Fluctuations in the performances of athletes can amount to 25% within the course of one day. This is what a study conducted by German and British bio scientists put forward recently.

The phenomenon has been known for a long time and it has already been subject to numerous scientific investigations. There are the “early birds”, the people among us who are at the top of their activation level in the mornings, while others can be put in the category of the “owls”, being active late at night but not at all in the mornings. While the former might already be happily whistling in the shower after their regular morning session, the latter are still facing the challenge of overcoming the seemingly insuperable distance between their bed and the bathroom, from where they will probably return soon after their arrival due to the discouraging sight being presented in form of their reflection in the mirror. However, those different types are not necessarily indicators for the actual state of fitness – the presumed morning grouches may as a whole be in the same shape as the happy early birds, or in an even better one. The only difference is that the two types access their performance capacity at different times of the day.

Early bird or morning grouch?

Not so long ago, the general opinion was that it was possible to shape biorhythm through discipline and a certain accommodation time. That is, theoretically, those who tend to have problems getting up early would only need to force themselves to do it for a while and to get used to it and they would soon happily join the early birds for a pre-breakfast session in the forest. Pretty obviously, this seems to be true for many owls – as strong will can move mountains. However, it has been found more recently that, even if people may force themselves into new routines, this does not change the original pattern of their physical capacity. Or, put differently: Early birds stay early birds and owls remain owls, regardless of discipline, self-control or training.

Genetics decide

The reason: A person’s biorhythm depends on genetic predispositions and it can only to a minimal degree be influenced by external factors. The “circadian rhythm”, the biological clock, is a tiny cluster of cells, situated in the diencephalon. The so called “suprachiasmatic nucleus” (SCN), placed in the hypothalamus, sends signals to the brain and it either encourages organs to work or forces them to rest, depending on the time of day and the organ in question. This process is different from person to person and it seems to be highly fixed for each individual. This makes it possible to determine the ideal time for efficient training and starting times in competitions for each athlete. The widely held assumption that athletes are especially capable of performing at their top level in late afternoons or early evenings is only true for the owl types. For the early birds, the level of their performance capacity falls significantly the later it gets.

For each individual, there are significant performance fluctuations during the course of a day

Study with hockey players

At the beginning of this year, the British biomechanic Elise Facer-Child and the German Roland Brandstaetter from the University of Birmingham published the results of a study conducted in 2014 together with (initially) over 120 top athletes. The scientists first determined the biorhythm of each and every test person. This was done by asking them about their sleeping rhythm as well as the perceived peaks in performance capacity during the day. Secondly, amongst all participants, a group of twenty athletes was chosen as a representative sample, standing, at least statistically, for a “biorhythmic average”. The study, in which the label “top athletes” exclusively comprises hockey players, may seem one-sided at first. However, hockey players are especially suitable subjects for studies in sports science, as the sport unites endurance, maximum strength and also coordination. Of course, samples from other sports would have been interesting to include in this study for purposes of comparison. Furthermore, a group of 20 people can hardly be called representative. Nevertheless, this study from Birmingham has some interesting approaches and certain points may show to be crucial for future research.

Training quality depends a lot on the hour

Differences of up to 26 percent

An interesting knowledge gained from the study is that of a varying behaviour of the activation level of different biorhythmic types. In the study, early birds or medium types reached the top of their physical capacity about six hours after getting up, that is, noon or early afternoon. The owls on the other hand reached their top level a lot later- only after eleven hours of being awake. The latter also showed the biggest fluctuations in performance capacity within a day. The levels could differ up to 26% between low (morning) and high (evening). The early birds and the medium types in comparison only showed differences of eight to ten percent within a day. Hence, early birds and medium types capable of performing more equally at all times of the day than owls. It is striking that the owl types are able to perform up to one fourth higher in the evenings than in the mornings. What can we learn from that? “We need to get away from the conventional day times and pay more attention to the inner rhythm”, Brandstaetter recommends. As Facer-Child adds, it should not be all about the clock on the wall but rather about the clock inside each individual, our “circadian rhythm”. She states that training is one thing, but knowing when one is able to perform the best is another.  This is a finding that might play a crucial role in the quality of training. Because even for the early birds, runs in the morning only make sense as some kind of stimulant or for base training, but not as an efficient key session.

This blog was written in collaboration with Fit for Life, the Swiss magazine for endurance sports.