A Special Q&A With Paul “Crazy Legs” Stofko

Hello all:

I am Paul “Crazy Legs” Stofko running coach, race director, ultrarunner and member of the Saucony’s team Hurricane. My friends at Ice Spike ask me to put this post together to answer your running and fitness questions.

Have other burning questions? Please post them in the comments section below…

Question #1

Crazy Legs,
I’m new to running (couple weeks) and have a question about foot placement. I have tried running both ways ball-heel-ball, as well as heel-ball. When running for more than a mile h-b method makes my front outer calves hurt almost to where I cant walk. Also I feel like I’m struggling to keep my foot from slapping the ground. When I run b-h-b I feel like I’m stopping my legs and isn’t as smooth, but have less leg pain. I’m willing to run both ways but was interested in getting the dynamics right for a long runner, I’d like to run in marathons some day. Thanks for your time!

Jeremy

Jeremy,

As a distance runner, your most effective foot plant is one in which your foot lands directly under your hips or your center of gravity. You may land on the ball of your foot or flat footed. The ideal landing position is slightly toward the outside edge of your foot, just behind your little toe. Your foot would then naturally roll slightly inward while pushing off your big toe. The slight inward roll of your foot is called pronation and provides some cushion during the running stride. A small amount of pronation is normal and desirable, but excessive pronation can also be the cause of injury and stride inefficiencies.

Question #2

Crazy Legs,
How quickly does your body lose its conditioning? For example, if I run 20 miles a week, but take 2 weeks off, will I lose the base I’ve gained in that time? 3 weeks? I’d imagine there’s a rate of decline, but is there any studies or data on how the body loses its conditioning?
Thanks in advance!
Jim

Jim,

Some of the clinical studies come from research done with patients who were forced into inactivity because of injury or surgery. One study I saw had athletes on bed rest for a 20-day period. Here are highlights of that study:
• A considerable increase in submaximal heart rate
• 25% decrease in submaximal stroke volume
• 25% reduction in maximal cardiac output
• A 27% decrease in maximal oxygen consumption

Although complete bed rest provides the most dramatic decreases, even periods of light activity at a frequency of only once or twice a week are not sufficient to prevent the loss of cardiovascular conditioning. Bottom line is you need to remain consistence with your cardiovascular workouts.

Question #3
Crazy Legs,
You’ve said that ultras are all about building mental toughness. What, in your opinion, is the best way to build such mental endurance, or, more specifically, what are the most effective ways a coach can establish such toughness in his/her runners?
Amy

Amy,

Here are some techniques I use for my runners:

POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Positive self-talk is an easy way for an athlete to stay in a positive frame of mind. They also need to take the time to consider their motivation for running. Is it to increase endurance, lose weight or run a marathon? Anytime your athletes start slacking have them remember their motivation.
VISUALIZE.
Have your athletes imagine the way their body will look performing the movement, and rehearse each repetition in their minds.
MEDITATE.
Many forms of meditation have been used for thousands of years for almost any purpose you can think of, including reduction of stress, enhanced mental clarity, and simple relaxation. Have your athletes skip the candles and Enya tunes and instead just focus on clearing their mind of extraneous thoughts and mentally preparing themselves for the upcoming event.
GET UNCOMFORTABLE.
If your athletes never change their workouts they will never make progress. If they want to be tougher runner, then a couple of times a month they need to practice running a little longer or faster than they are used to. These workouts should be at random times throughout their training cycles
BE PREPARED.
There is a saying: “Nothing new on race day.” That means your athlete is prepared everything. Your athlete should know well ahead of a race what they are going to eat, wear, and even think about that day. Have them anticipate any problems that could arise, and have a solution in mind.

About Paul Stofko

Paul "Crazy Legs" Stofko is a Fitness Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, and Ultra Marathoner. Read Paul's full bio here and learn more from him on his website.

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